Fear Factor

Recently in the news, we have been bombarded with fear producing stories.  Stories out of the Dominican Republic of vicious attacks on a resort property, tourists dying in their beds, visitors disappearing.  The alleged murder of a US attorney general at a Club Med in Turkoise (Turks & Caicos) last October (by all accounts and pocket books, an expensive, high end resort), a Texas couple recently dying in Fiji, a cruise ship collision with a tourist boat in Venice, trouble with specific makes of airplanes, terrorism attacks, kidnappings and everyone is familiar with the scare tactics implemented to keep people away from Mexico.  In so many cases, as with most of the sensationalized news fed to us Americans, there are details missing that are important to know in order to speak intelligently about many of these situations, and yet, fear is what rules us.

Did you know that one of the original reasons the concept of an “All Inclusive” resort came about was because the builders/planners/innovators of this concept wanted to create a haven of safety in a place that might otherwise not be considered “safe” for everyone?  Many of these places are in the equatorial belt – the paradise islands with crystal blue water and lush tropical landscapes.  SOME of these places also boast revolutionary governments or no proper governments at all.  Some of these governments are corrupt and poorly aligned.  They have disgruntled and disenfranchised citizenry and poverty is rampant.  They are crossroads for drugs, dark undergrounds and unseemly characters – and this is nothing new.  But these places have and continue to provide the respite many Americans and Europeans enjoy, and yet, when bad things happen – many times out of lack of common sense, we are afraid.

Fear binds us.  It doesn’t allow us to grow and it keeps us stagnant in our learning and in our full experience of life.  Are there truly UNSAFE places in the world?  Well, yes.  And even more so, I think that depends on who you are and your purpose for going to a place.  People live and thrive in many places I would consider dangerous, and yet missionaries and humanitarians travel to these places all the time.

I once visited Bogota, Colombia (about 20 years ago) and the people I was visiting assigned a family member to me as a personal “guide” (bodyguard).  I was a cute, tall, blue eyed, blonde, young American woman – prime for the ransom/kidnapping market.  I did not go out at night and did not venture outside of public places or familial settings.  I was cool with that.  Precautions were taken for safety.  Don’t we do that all the time to mitigate dangerous situations?  We wear seat belts, force our kids to wear helmets, we don’t (or shouldn’t) walk alone at night, we don’t leave our buddy and we don’t take candy from strangers.  We don’t get into a stranger’s car, we don’t meet someone in private we met on the internet and we don’t give out our address on-line.  We caution our kids about on-line interactions and warn them about the dangers of drugs.  We implore them not to text and drive and beg them to call us instead of driving home drunk.  Bad things happen everywhere.  The occurrence of bad things will not be the guiding force in my life.

Some people cannot overcome the fear.  I think what it boils down to is that they are afraid of death; their own or a loved one’s.   I know people who have longed to travel to Europe – absolutely DREAMED of it and have the means to do it but will not go out of fear.  Fear of terrorism, fear of not knowing how to get around, the language, the culture, fear of what might be happening at home, fear of dying.  So, they stay and they dream and they fear and they miss out.  In my perspective, they will regret being held in place by irrationality.

There is no shaming here – just an acceptance of how our choices shape our being.  I personally have a low opinion of fear.  I have things I very much dislike – the dentist, for example.  It is irrational and I know it and I go to the dentist every six months anyway.  I am not fond of heights, but I like to fly, go on roller coasters and climb ladders, but I am cautious when I do these things.  I am not afraid of dying.  I am confident that the people I love know my love for them, and I am resigned to the multitude of things in this life of which I have no control.  I am confident in my salvation and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.  I know I could walk out my door this very second and die – die behind the wheel, die of some horrible and fast moving disease, die of carbon monoxide poisoning, die by getting kicked in the head by a horse, die by drowning, get electrocuted in my bathroom…..do I need to go on?

I choose life.  I choose adventure.  I won’t miss out!  That is MY take on fear.

TBT…The Best Cruise Ever, Part II – my husband’s pictures!!

Last week I shared with you a photo journal of our dream cruise of the Mediterranean in May 2015.  Here are some other pictures of that fabulous journey and the stories behind them!

20160206_173204046

On a 15 night cruise, one collects A LOT of towel creatures!

20160206_173304106

Cadiz, Spain. Churros and chocolate!!!! AMAZING!

20160206_173318213

Like a garden of Eden – Malaga, Spain

20160206_173523763

I *think* this was in Marseilles, France…but I could be wrong!

20160206_173602841

Scooting in Cinque Terre, Italy.

20160206_173706247

The Roman Colosseum

20160206_173731671

Villa-France-sur-Mer, France – this is where we moored and was the port for Nice and Monaco. The town of Villa-France itself is stunning and quintessential Mediterranean. I am itching to go back!

20160206_173736563

On board the Anthem of the Seas, moored off the coast of Nice, France.

20160206_173822622

Barcelona, Spain – On one of the main promenades. I love how Kelton is fussing with his sister’s hair!

20160206_173833759

We always find critters – Barcelona, Spain

20160206_173835413

The construction continues at Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

20160206_173905590

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

20160206_173933969

Anthem after dark

20160206_173956362

Gibraltar – long lost cousins? Oh and behind Kelton in the distance? AFRICA!!!!!

20160206_174013884

In the mountains of Gibraltar

20160206_174057342

ME! Flying in the iFLY – aboard the Anthem of the Seas

20160206_174114197

Suspended in the North Star – a fabulous way to see the Anthem!

 

 

Throw Back Thursday…the best cruise EVER!

When I turned 40, I said to my husband that I would love to go on a Mediterranean cruise.  At that point in my life, I had been to northern and central France, England and Scotland and really had the Europe bug (I still do!)!  I wanted to see more and the best way to do that, is on a cruise!!!  Think about it – you only have to unpack once, your hotel goes with you, your meals are already set and you can see multiple countries in a short period of time.  It was SPECTACULAR!!!!

We chose Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas – this was in 2015 and she was brand new!!!  This was her first REAL voyage (not the quick, work-out-the-kinks 3 or 4 night turn around) and we were beside yourselves with joy.  This was my kids’ first cruise and it was a 16 night out of Southampton, England.  We departed in early May and hit Gibraltar, Barcelona, Malaga, Cadiz, Villa-France-sur-Mer (Nice/Monaco), Marseilles, La Spezia (Cinque Terre), Civitavecchia (Rome) and Lisbon.

Words cannot describe how awesome this cruise was, so I picked SOME of my favorite pictures to share so you get the idea.  The Mediterranean in spring is something wonderful to behold and I hope you get a chance to see it someday, too!!!  Wanna go next spring?

11012913_10206227101253422_4411933138266584445_n

Barcelona cathedral rooftop. Spain

10525735_10206227099253372_2560738451731410840_n

Sagrada Familia – needs no introduction!

11259318_10206227094973265_6196495776166304779_n

Kelton posing in Barcelona.

11062796_10206250418676343_5434086544528785200_n

We rented scooters in La Spezia, Italy and toured Cinque Terre. It was absolutely incredible!!!

11235437_10206250416276283_215477495846541004_n

Cinque Terre

11209428_10206250420836397_7051414999006107467_n

Cinque Terre

11295719_10206278773425194_8318269951715806487_n

Malaga, Spain is one of the most gorgeous cities we have ever seen!

11258210_10206278769905106_7047253312248548299_n

Malaga – breathtaking!

11228516_10206278774185213_3321640895440840500_n

Malaga

11124522_10206278770105111_7880820008437973717_n

View of the Med from Alcazaba fortress, Malaga

11053395_10206278773705201_6520605065594597865_n

Gardens in Malaga

11220069_10206278775265240_4861019405273704344_n

Char and Sable on a Segway tour of the city – in Europe, kids can do many things they aren’t “allowed” to do in the US.

11053395_10206278771065135_1008308765961506885_n

View of the Anthem of the Seas from Alcazaba

11013236_10206278770825129_6142799198323894350_n

Moor doorway at Alcazaba – the architecture was stunning!

11012080_10205987566395924_1227005428795728967_n

Marseilles Cathedral! Marseilles, France

10984116_10205987567035940_8357003093005162773_n

Plaza in Marseilles

10275338_10205987563835860_8753913751431969581_o

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, Marseilles

10436666_10206016842487808_4672195566418300_n

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

11151024_10206016843127824_7906732570911632022_n

Atop the battlements of Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George Castle)

11351294_10206016841447782_2749372419276204697_n

Outside of Jeronimos Monastery

 

We made so many memories on this trip and talk about it today!  These times with my kids were and are priceless!  I wouldn’t trade them for the world!

 

Desert in Bloom

The desert has always had a special pull for me.  It is probably because it is such an unusual landscape – living the majority of my life in the Northeast.  The idea of few trees and mostly small ones at that, rugged geography of sand or hard-packed red earth and little visible life seems so foreign to me that it is intriguing!  The seeming solitude of this place misrepresents itself – as easily as we do.   It can appear bleak and desolate – with little good going on – but below the surface lies an abundance of treasure if only we know how to look it!

I was amazed by how many minerals and gems were discovered in them thar hills!  Below the stark and lonely desert, where it seems nothing of use or value can be found, some of the greatest strikes in mining history were made!  In fact, the southwest cut its teeth on gold mines, copper mines, gem strikes and silver.  Who thought, “Hey.  Let’s start digging here in the middle of the desert!”?

Another gold mine is spring in the desert.  We visited the Desert Museum in Tuscon and were greeted with a beautiful display of cactus blooms and desert flowers.  April is a fabulous time to see the desert come to life – and there was so much of it!

Life finds a way where it persists; where it finds ways to adapt and embrace its environment.  We would do well to learn from the desert!

20190412_092505

A flowering barrel cactus, Sierra Vista, AZ

20190412_145011

The largest rose bush (tree) in the world – planted in Tombstone, AZ in the late 1800s – started from a rose twig sent from Scotland to a homesick new bride.

20190412_145044

The blooming of the largest rose bush in the world, Tombstone, AZ

20190414_083225

Driving through the desert – we were enamored by the saguaro cacti all around! Tuscon, AZ

20190414_083726

Saguaro cactus, Tuscon, AZ

20190414_084520

These little yellow flowers were popped up everywhere we looked. They blanketed hillsides and sprung out of rocks. This is a bunch in Tuscon, AZ

20190414_092423

There are a lot of thorns in the desert. This thorny fellow ended with lovely red flowers! Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

20190414_103443

Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

20190414_110022

Prickly Pear blossom – so many foods are made from prickly pear – candies, licorice, jams and jellys, beer…you name it! But look at those thorns!!! Tuscon, AZ

20190414_112552

I don’t know which kind of cactus this was, but is was one of my favorites.

20190414_135041

Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

20190414_135153

Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

Throw Back Thursday – Italy 2016

aperol at sunset

Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

20160419_152829

Looking down…..Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy

20160421_195852

San Gimignano towers through the window of our tower bedroom.

20160422_121256

Countryside view from Volterra, Italy

20160422_145218

Photo from the top of one of the towers – San Gimignano, Italy

20160423_121823_001

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

20160424_073053

San Gimignano in rain

20160424_184356

Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

In April 2016, my husband and I took our first week long vacation without our children!  They went to visit their grandparents on the West Coast (their first time traveling unaccompanied) and we took a long week to Italy!  Let me start off by saying it was everything I thought it would be and I loved every minute.

In a nut shell, we flew into Zurich, picked up a rental and drove to Rimini on the eastern coast of Italy, sitting nicely on the Adriatic Sea.  We spent our first night there and had the most wonderful seafood dinner ever!  The next morning, we headed towards Sorrento – but first we visited the micro country of San Marino and took time to stick our toes in the Adriatic.

We spent four nights in Sorrento and toured the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Naples.  We had our most expensive meal ever (the kind of place that doesn’t have prices on the LADIES’ menu!!) and also the best pizza in Naples!

We drove to Tuscany and spent another four nights in San Gimignano and toured that lovely hill town, Volterra, a winery, Florence and ate WAY too much!!!!

Finally, we spent a night in Zurich before we left the next day to return home, just ahead of our kids.  It was amazing and filled with wonderful surprises, character building struggles and joyful experiences that deepened the bond I have with my hubby.  Traveling does all those things for you and it is the main reason we enjoy traveling….it brings us together and challenges us!

Above are some of my favorite pictures from this fabulous journey!

 

EPCOT International Festival of the Arts

Disney has really branched out over the years, and I don’t mean into movies, marketing or memorabilia.  Those things are great, but not too long ago, Disney began to realize that if they diversified their game plan, they would engage whole new groups of people and bring them into the Parks.  A great example of this is all the festivals and yearly planned activities that have had growing attendance over the years – the Food and Wine Festival; Festival of the Arts; Flower and Garden Festival and the 5Ks, half and full marathons that are ever so popular.  The folks that work at Disney are geniuses….you can’t deny it!!!!

Twice now we have been lucky enough to be at Disney during the International Festival of the Arts and once during the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival.  These festivals are diverse – meaning they highlight many aspects of their theme.  For the Arts Festival, the “arts” is a broad term and is applied through the culinary, visual, textile and classical arts…and more!!  Disney weaves into these themes experiential opportunities to engage adults and children alike.  One of my favorite ways they do this is through the large color-by-number mural they do every day.  People are “assigned” a color and a number and are sent out to find their square on a large vertical canvas.  In the beginning, it is hard to see what the picture will be, but as the day goes on, the art materializes before your eyes and the idea that everyone plays an integral part coloring our world is as important as the next.  It is powerful on so many levels!

Here are some photos of this year’s EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.  I hope it encourages you to attend next year.  You won’t be sorry you did!

20190213_193728

A beautiful sight upon arrival! Remember Figment?

20190213_133225

Charlotte – pretty as a picture?

20190213_114005

The food during the Festival of the Arts is just as amazing as the sights! This delight is a palette of white chocolate accompanied by “colors” of painting chocolate and sprinkles. What fun!!!

20190213_133314

Scream? She fits right in!! hahahaha

20190213_133348

Brother had to get into the action!

20190213_151555

My favorite stop is right around Canada…the Bloody Mary’s are to die for and the poutine chips with lobster meat….magnifique!

20190213_151800

Yes, these were BOTH for me!

Post Vacation Reboot! Getting my brain to reengage.

So, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things after vacation.  My brain still wants to be on vacation!  And yet, I know I need to start writing again because it keeps my mind flowing!  So if my brain is still on vacation, I guess I should write about vacation!  Here’s an overview – details to follow in other posts!

This February, we departed the great North East during my kids’ February vacation with thousands of others and headed to a much warmer climate!!  We spent 4 days in Florida at the Happiest Place on Earth and then went on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the amazing Symphony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean’s newest marvel!  We had the best time!!  Let me highlight each day with my favorite photo from that day!

20190214_081147 (1)

We are members of Disney Vacation Club and this was our first stay at Bay Lake Towers. We love staying on the monorail line and being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom is wonderful!!!

20190214_145149

I cannot help but get a little teary eyed when the opening music plays at Magic Kingdom. It brings back memories that I cherish and makes me feel like a kid!

20190214_083248

To me, this photo says, “Follow your dreams.” What greater lessons can we learn from a man and a mouse?

20190213_160117

EPCOT is cool for so many reasons! My hubby was definitely rocking this Wreck It Ralph pose!!!

20190213_150349

I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations!

20190218_073124

Our boarding day on Symphony of the Seas – she blew me away! I marveled every day at her size, how smoothly she sailed, all of her wonderful amenities and how I felt at home on the giantess of the seas!! I cannot wait to go back!

20190219_144052

A day at sea means we get to play at sea! Ten stories above the Boardwalk, I zip-lined across a cruise ship!!!! How cool is that?

20190220_210827

Symphony After Dark! Stunning!

20190220_171009

My girl makes friends wherever she goes and this beautiful fellow wanted to stick around!

20190222_130530

T-Rex, know affectionately as “Rexy” in our family, made an appearance our last day at sea. We may or may not have a few videos of this!

20190220_165200

Sunset in the Caribbean. Do I need to say more?

 

Sunrises and Sunsets…iconic views of travel.

I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets.  They signify the beginning and the end.  They are an invitation to start anew and force us to put things behind us.  I have found great joy in witnessing these celestial spectacles and even though some of them happened years and years ago, they recall memories that I may have otherwise forgotten.

20181121_063854

November 2018. A sunrise in my backyard with freshly fallen snow.

Argenton sunrise

March 2013. Argenton-sur-Creuse. This was sunrise out the window of our charming 16 century townhouse at the end of the bridge.

IMG_20180727_081938_710

Summer 2018. Naples, Maine. Sunset on Long Lake.

IMAG1657

Summer 2016. Naples, Maine. Tubing at sunset on Long Lake.

IMAG0132

November 2015. Sunset over Monterey Bay, California.

IMAG0061

Fall 2012. Sunset on the amazing island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

20160228_173946

Unknown date. Sunrise on my street.

2013-12-25_08-00-33_632

December 2013. Sunrise over Mount Baker, Washington State.

2014-05-22_19-42-34_423

Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

2013-10-13_18-41-13_26

Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

2013-07-04_20-35-38_857

Summer 2017. Sunset over Balch Lake, Maine.

20190220_165200

February 2019 aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Sunset while docked off the coast of St. Marteen.

20190215_182414 (1)

February 2019. Man-made sunset on the Savanna in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

20190215_070703

February 2019. Sunset over the lake from our room in Bay Lake Towers, Disney World.

20180627_212428

June 2018. Sorrento, Italy. Sunset over Vesuvius.

20180626_072011

June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City.

20170312_185956

September 2014. Sunset in Eleuthera, Bahamas.

aperol at sunset

April 2016. Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

 

Sea Lions, Sea Urchins and Rays, Oh My!!!

While visiting the beautiful island of St. Thomas, my daughter and I went to a local marine reserve and enjoyed a fabulous Sea Lion encounter.  We not only got up close and personal with some adorable sea lions, we also learned a lot about how these animals ended up in St. Thomas, how they were affected by the hurricane 18 months ago and how that has changed their approach to care. Here are some fabulous photos of the Coral World facilities graciously provided by Coral World.

Coral World EntranceCoral World View 2Coral World ViewIMG_6985

We planned our sea lion adventure about two months out – I love to do research about our ports of call and find unusual and unique experiences that really make a memory.  Our sea lion adventure was about 30 minutes away from our cruise ship port.  We simply disembarked and sought a taxi!  We headed to Coral World and along with our sea lion encounter, we got to enjoy other aquatic life including urchins and star fish in a touch pool, a ray pool, an underwater viewing area, a huge indoor coral reef and an aviary where we could feed birds from the US Virgin Islands.  We also became intimately acquainted with some natives….iguanas!!!  They wanted our lunch, but don’t worry – we didn’t feed them!

20190220_17100920190220_163222

20190220_16350420190220_163812

Now on to the encounter.  I won’t say this was an inexpensive experience – it cost just under $200 per person, but I have to say it was worth it!  There was a small group of 10 of us – some people off cruises ships and some who were vacationing on the island.  We were first introduced to a lovie of a sea lion named Omar.  We learned about his diet, how he is taught “tricks” and how he is cared for and loved.  We gave this gorgeous fellow a nice rub down, got our picture with him and saw him smile, wave and clap!

2016-10-25 22.31.422016-10-25 22.31.49

After meeting Omar, we headed up to the pool area where we met another handsome fellow name Romy (Romulo).  He was considered the handsomest of the 3 males at the marine reserve – although I thought they were all pretty adorable!   Half of us jumped into Romy’s pool to enjoy a few swim-bys while the other half got a sweet picture taken with Romy to treasure!  This experience was so wonderful – to be up close and personal with such a loving and fantastic creature is a memory that my daughter and I will not soon forget!  I encourage you to engage in such experiences and share them with your families!  Char and I have this memory forever and I am so thankful for it!

2016-10-25 22.45.472016-10-25 22.48.282016-10-25 22.56.28-12016-10-25 22.57.04-1

Keep an eye out for more posts about my most recent family vacation aboard the Symphony of the Seas and Disney World!  My brain is still on vacation but I’m getting around to it:)

Top 10 Culinary Finds in Paris

Traveling with a rather picky 12 year old doesn’t really lead itself to a culinary adventure, but we did have a few of my Parisian favorites and a few standbys to get me through!

20190119_111510

10. At the airport upon our arrival, the child was starving! With a classic mixte brioche sandwich with ham and cheese and an eclair, we were ready to tackle the train to Paris!

20190121_123412

9. Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!!

20190121_103612

8. Speaking of Disneyland Paris…did you know they serve MEAT IN A CONE as a snack?

20190119_191250

7. Gelato. Need I say more?

20190121_142143

6. Coffee? Tea? Nope. Vin Chaud, or hot mulled wine. Only in Paris, people!!!

20190119_181618

5. Dinner our first night. While Charlotte enjoyed a hamburger (ugh!) I marveled at burgundy braised beef with shallots, button mushrooms, whipped potatoes and FOIS GRAS that absolutely MELTED in my mouth!!! I’m hungry now!!!

20190120_135118

4. Lunch for day 2 – a Hawaiian Poke Bowl! Confession – I do not even LIKE some of the things in this bowl – the avocado and mangoes in particular BUT…sitting outside in a Parisian cafe inspired me to try new things! It was delightful! I did NOT, however, eat the cilantro. I think it tastes like soap and you cannot tell me otherwise!! hahahaha

20190120_134750

3. Well, I am not generally a wine drinker but I was in PARIS!!! A glass of wine was a requirement. And they don’t have wine types that Americans are generally familiar with – no Chablis, Chardonnay and pino grigios on every menu. I cannot tell you what this one was named…but it was lovely!

20190122_190539

2. The Macaron. NOT a macaroon!!! The macaroon is made from coconut and generally does not have a filling. The French MACARON is wonderfulness in your mouth. A delicate dance of almond flour cookie shell and buttercream or ganache filling. Traditional French flavors include lavender, rose, pistachio, lemon and chocolate. If you haven’t ever tried this bit of magic in your mouth, check out La Maison Navarre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You will be delighted with authentic French cooking, macarons, crepes and the most amazing French Onion Soup on the entire planet!!!

20190121_212038

1. Last but certainly NOT least – my absolute favorite, most amazing French culinary staple….the crepe! And my crepe of choice is nutella and banana!! Every day/night of our visit involved at least one crepe! Our go-to crepe stand was just around the corner and was a part of an Gyro shop! The guys there were fantastic and I endeared them immediately with my elementary Arabic skills – we were fast friends and they were happy to see us daily!

20190123_120349

Our last crepe of the trip!!!! It was kind or our lunch that day!

 

I hope you enjoyed this picture journey of our culinary experience in Paris.  We weren’t fancy, but really enjoyed each meal we took together and really, isn’t that the point?