A Cow Bell, a Speech and a Bruised Forehead

You might be wondering what a cow bell, a speech and a bruised forehead all have in common. It’s really quite easy to understand.  Just read on. 

I was asked to be a contest master at a Toastmaster area contest, and of course, loving to try new things I said YES!  I have to admit, I was nervous as I had never done this before. 

I came up with a wonderful speech which required me to order a cowbell from Amazon.  Thank goodness my husband has learned over the years to just go with the flow, shook his head, and didn’t say a word. 


Tuesday night I tossed and turned all night.  Nerves were kicking in about my speech.  I finally gave up at 5:45 am and reached for my cell phone.  I turned on the flashlight, slowly manuevered around the bed and turned off the light. I crept out the door, down a long hall and turned left.  I made sure not to make a noise on the wooden floors. As I entered a spare bedroom I slowly closed the door and turned on the light.  

I then proceeded to practice my speech  in its entirety. Three times!

I was finally comfortable with the speech around 6:30 am.  I turned off the light and quietly opened the door. My bedroom was a straight shot down the hall. 

I proceeded to walk full steam to my bedroom where my forehead promptly met a closed door.  I flung the door open and shouted why did you close the door?

My husband shot up in bed and shouted why are you ringing a cowbell at 6:00 in the morning. 

I looked at him and said. Good point, you win this one!

You have to love a man that over looks all your Lucille Ball moments.  Monday we will officially be married 35 years and together 40 years.  Happy anniversary to a phenomenal spouse! 

 Love you Les. 

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First Day at Sea

Here we are, day 1 at sea.  Princess cruise ships have all the activities listed in the daily “Patter”.  Start the day with a healthy meal and a mimosa. 

We can use our phone to plan what events you will attend. Today was a day of firsts,  country line dancing, playing a cow bell and bingo.  

Country line dancing was fun and easy going.  Learned the vine, jazz box and lots of heel toe moves. I am ready for my next lesson.  

Afterwards we went to watch a bunch of ship games and Kathy volunteered to move 12 coffee beans with chop sticks.  Go Kathy.  She won a beautiful chip clip.  

Next it was on to playing a musical instrument.  I choose the cow bell,  “moo”, as it seemed easy and consistent.   Our instructor Erick did a wonderful job corralling my ABWA sisters to play to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”.  We discovered that we will be playing in the Piazzi on Tuesday night. We all left Eric singing and humming, looking forward to our premiere.  

Bingo was next on our agenda.  Let’s just say this, people take their bingo very serious. Me, I purchased the electronic sheets and just watched the boxes turn colors.  Many individuals were ready with their dauber and were completely focused. 

We all dressed up quite nicely for dinner, laughed and enjoyed the company.   I found out that Cyd has a sweet tooth for vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.  Yumm

We are planning one more day at sea and then we will be in Aruba.  

All Girls Cruise?!?!?!?!

I remember in January 2015 a group of ABWA sisters descended on Fort Lauderdale as the start to their annual cruise. I said to myself, “I want to do that!” It just so happens that the universe was aligned and the date was going to work for me.

I went home that night and sweet as syrup, asked Les the following. “How about we go on a Caribbean cruise next year? We could go with 30 ABWA sisters! We don’t have to do EVERYTHING with them, just the nightly dinners.” Based on the looks I was receiving, I checked the mirror to see if I had grown a second head. This cruise was going to happen, thank you to my BFF, Kathy Gallagher for saying YES! The best part, I didn’t have to coerce, bribe or beg!

 Don’t worry Kathy, I will take care of everything!. Number one on my list, get a suite, I love the perks you get with a suite and I wanted to be comfortable. Of course, I wasn’t sure if I would need to work (wink – wink) and would need the extra room.

 Packing was an exercise in restraint! I could not believe how much one person HAS to pack for 8 days! Pack 5 items, put 2 back. Wait, that cute red shirt is a definite must, oh and the green, the blue, the black… Ok, just pack it all! Shoes, shoes and more shoes.  How can 2 women bring 15 pairs of shoes?

 We waited for 40 minutes in traffic at the port before we could enter the ship. Finally, there she was, the Caribbean Princess, just waiting for us. Beckoning us to take pictures and do all the campy things you should do on a cruise.

 Our cabin is beautiful and we met Shiv, our wait staff who welcomed us with Champaign. 

 It just keeps getting better and better. Kathy and I toured the ship like two kids in a candy store to determine where all the cool places.  
 Met the gang for lunch, showed up for the “muster” station drill and went back to the room to relax. Dinner was complimentary at Sarbinos where we met Vicki, Pam and Janice. After a fabulous dinner, we enjoyed a 30 minute “Ric Steel” show and joined everyone in the casino. Not much going on here so we went to Skywalkers Lounge and danced for a while. 

 Back to the casino where I determined I am better as a muse than a gambler. First I visited Pam who immediately won $57.45, then I visited Joyce who won $70.00.  

 Time for bed because tomorrow plans to be a fun filled day. Thank you Kathy for getting up at 6am to go to the gym on the other side of the ship. At least I won’t feel guilty if I gain weight, I really did try and stay on my exercise plan.

 What’s in store for tomorrow? Line dancing, trivia, casino tournament, meet the captain, formal dinner, dancing to the 70s music and most importantly connecting with ABWA sisters!

But for now, let’s enjoy the sunrise. 

How Do you Know if You Still Love Your Man After 40 Years?

I remember after a few years of marriage, my husband, Les, decided to change the baseboards in our bedroom.   He went to Home Depot and purchased some beautiful wood.  Over the next few weeks he cut the baseboards to perfection, goes back to Home Depot purchases more wood, cuts, attaches and keeps repeating the process.  Unfortunately, after about 2 months we were short about 3 feet of wood.  Nine months later and lots of nagging, Les finally goes to Home Depot only to discover that the baseboards we own are not sold any more.  Being incredibly fast thinking, he simply moved the bed in front of the missing baseboards.  Problem solved.  Out of sight out of mind.

Unless like me you have a type A personality and continuously remember this story and politely, (with a hammer), knocks him upside his head every time he starts a project.

Fast forward to May 2015.  I come home on a Saturday after an event to find my guest bathroom magically transferred into my living room.  Yes, there was my beautifully huge mirror, bathroom cupboard, shower curtain, bathtub and other bathroom essentials.  All the stuff that was under the sink is now in Melissa’s bedroom.  Yuck!  “What’s going on here I ask?”  We are finally redoing the guest bathroom.  Great!  A project I have wanted to do forever.  In our defense we immediately tried to hire contractors, but no one “Gelled” with Les.  Really?  No One?  My friends tried to help me find a handyman, a general contractor… anyone!

Finally, it is February 2016 and I reminded him of the baseboard escapade, “Please let’s get this done.  Can we hire my ABWA friend Brenda Tucci, interior designer?  A fabulous resource.”  Les reluctantly said yes, he likes Brenda and we really needed to do something.

I tricked, I mean convinced, Brenda to take on this little bathroom project.  I mean really, who hires an interior designer for a bathroom?  My husband of course.  They are having a wonderful time selecting granite, flooring, sinks, ordering special cabinets… Great!  Les take lots of time off of work to meet all these perfect contractors.  When can we start?  June.  Again Les takes off time to be with the workers in June, things are moving along, bless you Brenda! June turns into July where we are on a 2-week vacation. It is difficult to get started back up I hear. Yes, Les promises, the bathroom will all be done by Labor Day.  Below is the progress to date, it is beautiful

On Labor Day the lawn company severed our air conditioning Freon.  (Squirrel, but stay with me on this).  We called our air conditioning company and they came out the next day and replaced the Freon.

One Saturday I came home only to find our gym is jam packed with stuff.  Yes, the gym I was planning to use to lose weight was not available… well rats (notice this is not in capital letters)!  Unfortunately, the Freon episode started the ball rolling on the fact that we needed to replace one of the air conditioning units.  Les not being a slouch had moved everything out of the attic into our gym.   How long will this take?  We should have the unit replaced on Tuesday.  I can wait 3 days for the gym, no problem.  I waited this long, what’s 3 days?

Tuesday we have our brand new air conditioning unit, yet the gym is still stuffed from ceiling to floor.  I figure this is a Saturday project.  Saturday I come back from a Toastmaster event to find pink stuff all over my garage.  Yes, Les has a new project!  We are now insulating the attic.  “Think of the savings on the electric bill.  Then we can finally drywall the attic.”  A project we have been talking about since 1999.

Les promised that his friend Mark would come over this week and we could use his truck to get the drywall.  A simple bunch of nailing stuff up and voila!  A finished project.  The week came and went without Mark.  Hmmmm.  What’s going on?  Friday Les and I are driving to an appointment and Carl calls.  Carl?  The only Carl I know is the handyman who worked on our kitchen 4 years ago.  The one-sided conversation sounded like this.  “It’s a small job.  When can you come see it?  Thursday great!  A few weeks, no problem, it’s waited this long.  Ok see you on Thursday.”  I believe I just heard a date.  After some silence, Les told me he is hiring Carl to drywall the attic.

Yesterday, September 24th, my friend Kathy asked me about the bathroom.  This is now a running joke.  I started laughing and said you are not going to believe this.

  • We are missing a high hat light (Les said no problem, he will put it in).
  • The chandelier needs to still be hung (Les is watching YouTube to figure this out),
  • The shower curtain and shades need to be ordered, though we know what we want and are ready to order it, but Les needs to measure something, I don’t understand this one.
  • On top of that, Les is now onto another project. The attic, which won’t be finished for another month, if I’m lucky.

How do you know you still love your man after 40 years?  If after not being able to use your guest bathroom for 16 months, losing your gym AND a second bedroom and recognizing the signs of another baseboard episode makes you smile, you know you are still in love!

What do I see as the timeline?  I am personally targeting February 2017 for the bathroom, but don’t tell Les… then it will be much longer.  The drywall in the attic, maybe December?

The real problem, this morning Les is talking about tackling OUR bathroom.  Run Brenda!

 

 

The Train, The Train!

I have never been on a train before so going to the “Gard” or train station would be special, if not a tad scary. We entered the train station and stopped to stare at the enormity of what we would be undertaking. Can you say “Harry Potter”?IMG_6666Train Station in Paris

Thank you Casey Coven at 411totravel.com for giving us detailed instructions to get our tickets. We waited 2 hours with our 2 large suitcases and 2 carry ons trying to figure out how we will get on the train with all of our stuff

The train is here!

Here we are… track 12… seat 103 and 104. Les was wonderman as he grabbed our large suitcases and found a spot for them. We then carried our other items upstairs, glad to find an opening for our remaining luggage and took our seat.

First Class

The TGV train was so cool as it barreled at 284km per hour or approximately 175mph.   The countryside was beautiful but it was difficult to fixate on one scene since we were going so fast.

Paris Countryside

We had a few stops and Les in his wisdom starting timing the stops. What?!?!? The train stopped for 3 minutes and 29 seconds. That means we need to grab all of our luggage rush down from the second floor AND get off the train. Uh oh! This could be difficult.

As the train slowed I asked Les to get moving (ok maybe asked is too subtle a description) — hurry — hurry —hurry. We grabbed our stuff and stood on the stairs rolling back and forth

It stopped! Go.,..GO….GO…

We made it and had a moment to look around in Basel Switzerland.

Train Station in Basel

Next task, find a taxi and get to the Ramada Hotel so we can connect with Uniworld and start our “Castle on the Rhine” cruise.

Louvre

So far everything has been on a grand scale.  Then you go to the Louvre. Now you need a word that exceeds the definition of “grand”, does this word exist?

The Louvre was originally a fortress and served as the kings palace for many years. When Louis XIV felt unsafe in Paris, he moved to Versaille. However, the Louvre is unsurpassed in size and value.  It has over 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century in over 60,600 square meters.  It would take you at least 3 months to see everything.

Massive buildings
Massive buildings

Our guide, Ana, was very knowledgeable as she took us through Egypt’s history, then Greece and Rome. I was in awe as I stood a few feet from Venus de Milo.   One reason for the popularity for this statue is the unknown.  Who is she? How would she be posed if she had arms?  Who created this beautiful masterpiece?

Venus de Milo

Venus de Milo

Art piece after art piece displayed the history of the world. I think by this point I was on sensory overload until I stood in front of Leonardo deVinci’s Mona Lisa. To think this painting was in his bathroom for 5 years.  Our guide was able to point out certain features of this painting that I would never see, such as the distance is at same level as the sitter’s chest, in warm colors.   We were privileged to view a few de Vinci paintings, some were not even finished around the edges.  The individuals in the paintings all looked alike and it is rumored that he had his 3 friends pose for all his paintings.

5 years to complete.
Mona Lisa

I love this pose of Louis XIV.  A strong man who made a difference in his 70+ years as king.

Here is Louis XIV's famous pose.
Here is Louis XIV’s famous pose.

A simple sitting room where people could enjoy each other’s company.

Relax in the sitting room.
Relax in the sitting room.

How about a dining room that seats 100?  Could you use this?

Seating for 100 of your closest friends.
Seating for 100 of your closest friends.

Paintings on the ceiling, gold leaf pictures, kings crowns, coronation paintings, it was all incredible and displayed a rich history. Thank goodness for students like Anna who passes down the stories from one generation to the next.  A great exhausting day before we head to Switzerland to begin our cruise.

 

 

Versaille

The Eiffle Tower, dinner at the Eiffle Tower with a romantic cruise on the Seine, catacombs, Notre Dame, the Louve, Versaille, the Concord and the list goes on.  Paris is a city that would take weeks to see everything,  I wish that we had more than our 3 days.

I have to say though, Versaille and Louve were absolutely amazing.  Today let’s chat about Versaille.

We took an 8 hour tour of Versaille with our guide, Juan, (Paris City Tours), from the South of France.  Juan knew everything there is to know about Versaille and it’s history. Versaille is absolutely breath taking. You cannot believe the size of this palace.  The picture below is one corner of Versaille and part of my first view.

At the gates of Versaille
At the gates of Versatile

Juan took us room by room through the palace After his speech he would disappear and we would find him in the next room. After a while it became a game to try and find Juan, he would just appear when there was something we should know. He didn’t crowd us or say too much.  Below is a picture of the famous room, the Hall of Mirrors.  Tall mirrors line one side of the room and windows looking out into the gardens are on the other side.  As you walk down the hall you can see the gardens on both sides.

Tall mirrors placed in front of the garden window provide a view of the gardens from both sides.
Hall of Mirrors

We visited Marie Antoinette’s home with the pink marble from the South of France. It was breath taking. Just think, years later, Charles de Gaule lived in Marie’s home. We saw Charle’s work area, his dining room and his imprint on Marie’s home.  Charles brought in the bright green items displayed below from the South of France.

Inside Marie Antoinette's home is displayed Charles De Gaulle's green bowl. Mixing our centuries.
Inside Marie Antoinette’s home

Louis XIV did not feel safe in Paris at the Louve, that was his original palace, and decided to move the royal court outside the city to Versaille. Versaille was actually built in 1623 as a hunting lodge of brick and stone Louis XIII, Louis XIV added drastically to the palace.  Louis XIV was a wonderful dancer and proud of his legs.  Many of his poses displayed his calves, some he is simply standing and others he is on a horse.

Les imitating Louis XIV's famous stance.
Les imitating Louis XIV’s famous stance at one gate of Versaille.

The gardens of Versaille are beyond description and the forests that were used for hunting and the flowers are incredible.  An exhausting day but one for the memory book.

 

Paris and All it Offers

We landed in Paris at 3pm and met our driver at the airport. We were immediately told, watch out for pickpockets and understand that Parisians are rude, it’s not personal. Not off to a great start but we had high hopes for a smooth action packed vacation. Those that know me will not be surprised that every day we have 2 or 3 excursions planned.

Our hotel, the Mayfair, is a quaint hotel off a main street and had everything we needed. It was small but perfectly located with fabulous restaurants all around.

The first day we took a Segway tour so we could get the lay of the land. Dani from Fat Tire Tours was one of the best tour guides as she offered a fun and educational tour.

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Fun facts included Napoleon being buried on the second floor of a cathedral. You see, he wanted to be worshipped, so anyone seeing his tomb from the first floor is looking up in reverence, and the anyone on the third floor is bowing down. Quite clever.

IMG_6432
Napoleon’s tomb

We received a history lesson about Louis XIV, his grandson Louis XV and great grandson, Louis XVI. We stood in the concord where Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were killed during the French Revolution. We were able to see a 3300 year old obelisk that was gifted to Napoleon from Egypt.

What was my take away from this tour, America is a baby with a short 240 year history. Europe’s history is thousands of years old. I knew this but it did not register until you see objects from the 13th or 14th century.

Paris? Really? Me?

Was I really going on this incredible vacation?  Les and I didn’t believe it would happen.  Dad has been sick, on and off and is now in a very nice assisted living facility.  Could we be selfish and take off 2 weeks?  Leave mom in the capable hands of our daughter, Ronnie?  This is a diliemna many of us caring for aging parents face.  If not now, when?  Should we take a chance…with our fingers crossed, in May we answered yes.

We paid for the cruise a year ago and took the maximum insurance, just in case we had to cancel.  Much to our travel agent, Casey Coven’s, dismay, we didn’t start booking excursions until mid-May.  Les and I didn’t really think we were going, so as not to bring on bad luck, we didn’t even mention it to our friends until June 1st.

Here it is!  Time to finally believe, I’m going to Paris!  I have never travelled to Europe and felt nervous about the upcoming flight.  We booked a first class ticket so we could enhance our experience.  I had my purse packed.  I was carrying the big Kate Spade black purse, you know, the one big enough to carry my iPad Pro and the kitchen sink.  I had my Beats headphone, a blanket, bottle of water, my iPad, charger, food, socks, camera and everything I could think of to make my journey across the ocean easier.  As you can imagine, the purse was heavy!  I stacked it on top of my luggage so I could roll it.

Never having flown first class, I did not know what to expect.  Needless to say,   I was just a tad over prepared.  We entered the plane and there in our cabin was a package including bottled water, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks and other niceties.  We had a nice pair of headphones, no earplugs.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Karen, our steward, brought over some champagne and made us feel very special.

Thank you Karen for a fabulous welcome!
Thank you Karen for a fabulous welcome!

The anxiety due to a 1.5 hour delay quickly fell to the wayside.  Karen asked for our dinner order, it was 10:00pm but hey, why not right?  You only live once and who knows if I will ever experience first class again.  We ordered drinks, appetizer and dinner… what? of course wake us up at 6:00am for breakfast.  It’s food!

We had the choice of over 150 movies!  Between the drinks, dinner and the smooth ride, I fell asleep shortly after dinner!  Really, how can I experience this luxurious cabin if I’m asleep?  Too bad… sleep was calling no matter how hard I tried to stay awake.

We landed early and our experience in entering Paris was simple!

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Passport stamped!  Woo Hoo!  Paris?  Yup!  Really?  Yup!  ME?  YUP1

How Did I Get Tickets to the Emmys

December 2014, my best friend Kathy Gallagher (KG) and I attended a gala at the Breakers hotel sponsored by our Financial Advisor, Thais Piotrowski. Of all things they had an auction!  One of the first items auctioned were tickets to the Emmys.  The package included tickets, a walk on the red carpet, airfare and hotel accommodations at JW Marriott. I wanted to bid on the package because my husband, Les, LOVES television and this would be the ultimate holiday gift.   I was scared and didn’t bid.

Why was I scared?  I am the worst person at auctions.  I become a deer in headlights and I have to win, there is no reason behind my bidding.  I realized this flaw when visiting the PTAC ABW Day celebration last year and ended up with a cute mug and a margarita mix for $50.00, I don’t even like margaritas. (Squirrel: Thank you Susan Murphy (SM) for keeping me sane at that event, I shudder to think what I would have brought home ).

No bid and the package sold for $12,000.  After that I mentioned to KG that I should have bid on it. This is the only thing my husband likes, tv. Oh well.

Wouldn’t you know it, the couple who bought the tickets couldn’t go and the package went back up for auction at the end. The couple was so nice that they donated the tickets back and the bidding started lower.  Now KG is NO SM and told me to bid on it, it’s destiny that it is available again, her philosophy, you only live once!  I swear, the auctioneer found me in this huge room and stood right in front of me. I knew I was doomed.  I tried to sit on my hands but he said, a smile and I will know you are bidding.   DOOMED!  DOOMED! DOOMED!

I walked out of there not believing that I really did this.   I was holding this piece of paper that said Emmys and a bill.  I didn’t tell ANYONE for fear that they would let it slip and Les would find out.  I presented the piece of paper to Les at Christmas and he was like ‘yeah right’.  Was it real?  I didn’t know.

Here I am on in LA waiting for Sunday so I too can have the red carpet experience. Real?  I am believing it more and more.  LACar