Monday, October 29, 2012

Quick Catch up and on to the Next Adventure!

It's been a whirlwind since I got home from New Jersey and we are about to head out again today!  I think I mentioned on here months ago that we made reservations for a repositioning cruise from Honolulu to Sydney, Australia.  Well, the time has come! We fly out this evening for Anchorage, spend one night there, fly to Honolulu tomorrow and leave on the cruise on November 2. We built in a little cushion in case we have travel issues out of Unalaska. 

Rich took this photo when we were on our Grumman Goose flightseeing tour and it has gone viral on Facebook with lots of "shares."  It also just won first place in the Convention and Visitors Bureau photo contest in the category of "Town of Unalaska."  Beautiful, isn't it?

So I hit the ground running when I returned from Mom's because our radio pledge drive was scheduled for October 19th and I still had plenty to do to get prepared.  This year, we had a 24-hour "rockathon" and I convinced Rich to go on the air with me from midnight to 2 AM to kick off the drive. We had a blast and who knew he had such a great radio voice!  Is there nothing the man can't do?  :)

It was a super busy day, but lots of fun, as always.  I went to sleep about 3:30 AM and went back to work around 9 AM, staying till after midnight on the 20th.  It's one of my favorite days of the year and definitely my favorite of our fundraisers.  It's always high energy with great music, people stopping by and calling, and just all around good feelings!  Thanks to all our generous donors, we brought in over $22,000.  Hurray!

Then I was also wrapping up my ESL/GED classes for the session.  We have been working on autobiographies so we spent one night putting books together, including a page for each student holding his/her photo and autobiography.  I brought in lots of crafty supplies and everyone decorated their pages--one for themselves and one for each of the other students to have.  That's lots of pages! We stayed late and had a great time creating memories to keep.  Above, Juanita, Rebeca and Susi.

No and Tuyet with Ahmed and Basha in the background

 Marcela and Champen

And last Thursday night, we held a ceremony to acknowledge all of my ESL students for their dedication and hard work, and a graduation ceremony for three students who completed their GEDs. It was so moving! I made a little speech and could barely get through it, I was so emotional!  I am so proud of all of my students and couldn't love them more!

Victor, Marcela and Rodrigo completed their GEDs!  Congratulations!  Victor and Marcela were in my class and Rodrigo (Marcela's husband) was in a different class. He actually passed his GED in the summer but did not have a ceremony so we included him in ours.  Michelle Cochran, UniSea's HR Director, and her staff did a fabulous job of planning a lovely ceremony; John Conwell, the Superintendent of Schools, gave a wonderful talk and Dan Masoni, School Board member, participated with us.  Community members loaned us caps and gowns and we did it up right!  I hope these students will always remember their special night.

 Basha and Victor
Ahmed and Susi

The last few days have been crazy with trying to finish up post-pledge drive and other work related chores, get the house in order for the house/cat/plant sitter, remember all the things that have to be done before a long vacation, and getting packed, etc. I worked all weekend and am hoping I will be ready to go today!!

The cruise stops in Hilo, Hawaii, then on to American Samoa, Fiji, and New Zealand for two days before arriving in Sydney. We will also divert to see the total eclipse of the sun!  Once in Sydney, we have 8 more days to see as much as we can before heading back to Honolulu on December 1 and then home. Internet on the cruise is pricey so I will not be blogging daily but will try to post along the way.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Last of New Jersey Trip--More Family Fun

My Mom's cute house and colorful mums in front

My niece Kristinn and her two adorable kids, Sofia and Gabe, came to visit after we returned from NYC.  They live in Virginia and had a three day weekend so we were happy to get to see them.  Kristinn is my sister's oldest child.

Sofia Jane

Kristinn and Gabriel

We had a great dinner at Bill and Patty's one night.  My Aunt Gin joined us. She was married to my Uncle Kirby, my dad's brother, who is no longer with us.  He was our fun uncle and always kept us laughing. Aunt Gin has lots of stories as well and a heart of gold.

Kristinn, Mom and Kathi
Mom and her two daughters

My great nephew Gabriel and my nephew Billy. Funny that they are only a few years apart!

My niece Becca

Bill had added an app called "Funny Movie Maker" and had us all laughing so hard.  It's pretty hilarious. You can choose various pictures (political figures, animals, cartoons), insert your own mouth into the photo and talk.  Kinda like those characters that Conan will sometimes do on late night TV.  I guess you had to be there, but we were all rolling.

Another day, Kathi, Mom and I had lunch at my cousin Ruth Ann's.  It was great to catch up and we were sorry we didn't get to see any of the rest of her family.

Then we had lunch with my Aunt Jeannette, Uncle Tom and cousin Pat. Aunt Jeannette is my mom's sister.  It was fun to hear all their family news, too. 

And we met up with Bill and Patty one night to have dinner with some more cousins. Whew! We have a huge family and only saw a small fraction of them. 

  Mom and Kathi

 My cousin Mary Jane with Bill, Kathi and me

Mary Jane's daughter Suzanne and her daughter Claire
Before we knew it, our visit had come to a close!  Mom had made plans to go on a "Road Scholar" trip to Delaware before I had to change my ticket so she actually left the day before Kathi and I did.  We saw her off and told her we were going to have a wild party at her house, leaving broken beer bottles on the carpet, tearing up a few lampshades, and throwing trash everywhere.  :)  Instead, we did the laundry, straightened up, and went out to dinner with Bill and Patty.  Oh, we are so old and sedate these days. LOL

I took Kathi to the airport at lunch time, came back home and did a few more things, then Patty took me  to Philly to catch my flight that evening.  I had a long flight (6 hours) from Philly to Seattle, but the middle seat was empty so my other seat mate and I could spread out a bit. I actually rented a digiplayer, which I never do, but I didn't think I could read through the whole flight.  I watched "Rock of Ages," which was pure campy silliness set to '80's music, but I really enjoyed it.   I had read several reviews about Tom Cruise doing a great job in the movie, which I pooh-poohed since I am not such a Tom Cruise fan.  However, I have to admit that he rocked it in a weird sort of way.  :)  Then I was able to get onto the internet so that helped me while away the rest of the flight. I overnighted in Seattle where I had a room at the Doubletree near the airport for $70  (yay, priceline) and vegged out.  Had an early morning flight to Anchorage and the plane was SO empty that most of us had all three seats to ourselves.  Wow.  I laid down and slept for a couple of hours. Arrived in ANC at 10:40 AM and was scheduled for a 2 PM flight home.  Sat in the airport on weather hold till 4 PM, then we were officially cancelled due to bad weather in Unalaska. Ugh.  Had to find a hotel and was really tired because of major jet lag and my early morning flight.  Checked in, got some dinner, watched the VP debate (love me some Joe!) and crashed.  Back to the airport at 8 AM on Friday, left at 9 for a supposed "non stop flight" that got diverted to Cold Bay because of more bad weather. Sat in Cold Bay till maybe 4 PM, one flight got sent back to ANC and we were sure we were doing the same, but after a little while longer, the pilot said we were loading up and going to "try" to get to Unalaska. That made my stomach churn because I hate those difficult approaches, circling, circling, and then trying to land.  However, once we got below the clouds, it didn't seem windy at all and we had no problem.  Yay!  Home!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Heart New York

Our original plan was to leave Mom's car at Buttermilk Falls and take the train from Poughkeepsie to NYC.  I swear, when I checked online from Alaska, the fare was $15 each way.  I didn't really want to drive in the city if I could help it, and no one else seemed that gung-ho either.  However, when we rechecked the train schedule, I realized the fare was going to be $48 round trip for each of us.  We already had a reservation at the Hotel Edison, which provides valet parking for $45.  Almost $150 compared to $45 seemed a little ridiculous so we sucked it up and decided to drive. Traffic was backed up at various points along the route and I was nervous about driving in the city, but we did fine, found the hotel, pulled into line and handed the keys over to the valet with much relief.  He told me the price and I said, "That's great! I don't care! Take it! I am tired of driving!"

We unloaded all of our stuff and the valet put it on one of those luggage carts for us.  He asked if we wanted a bellman and I said no, we could do it ourselves.  After checking in, I started hauling the cart when the bell captain stopped me and asked if we needed some help. I said no, we were okay, and he said, "Well, the carts are reserved for the bellmen.  So you can either take your things off and carry them or I can get someone to help you."  Because we had so much crap piled up, we opted for the bellman. Oops.  Didn't realize we were not supposed to move the thing ourselves!

So it was already getting late and we wanted to see a show so my sister and I walked around the corner to the TKTS booth to see what was available.  The good thing about getting in line after 6 PM is that the line is really short. The bad thing is that there's not a huge selection of shows left. We narrowed it down to "Rock of Ages" and "Chicago."  Our decision was made for us when there was only one ticket left for "Rock of Ages."  "Chicago" it is!

Not having much time and having eaten a snack at a service area on the highway, we decided to forego dinner and get something after.  The theater was only a couple of blocks away but we weren't sure if Mom could handle the walk so we asked for a cab.  When we got in, the cabbie was kinda rude and said "You don't really need a cab to get there."  I leaned over and whispered, "My 82 year old mother can't walk that far!"  Mom was not pleased that I "added" a year (well, really just a few months) to her age and made her seem infirm, but it sounded good. haha

The show was great--lots of fabulous singers and dancers and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  We did walk back with no problem, though we had an encounter with some guys pulling carriages with their bicycles. We thought, "oh, maybe it would be fun to ride one of those!"  We asked the price and were directed to a sign on the side of the carriage. We were trying to figure out how much it would be per block and noticed the sentence that said "$10 base rate per passenger."  So we were already up to $30, plus a per block fee and some other fee.  We told the guy it was too much and he said he would make us a deal but didn't want to give us an amount. I finally said, "Well, we need to know HOW MUCH before we can decide!"  He then said $35.  We just had to laugh since we'd paid less than $10 for a taxi, counting the tip.  Never mind.  We'll walk!

We stopped at a deli next to the hotel and got some sandwiches to take back to the room.  Above is the view from our window on the 11th floor.

After breakfast the next morning, Kathi and I took a little walk around.  I've never seen so many cartoon characters in the Times Square area--guess it is the new big thing.  This Minnie Mouse (one of several Minnies we saw)  kept coming toward me wanting to take a picture.  Of course, after we obliged, we realized it's a money making venture as she held out her little purse for a tip.

Honda was making a car commercial

The line at TKTS is much longer in the morning!

More characters

And a Smurf

A group of people having a big discussion

People giving their opinions, but I never could find out about what



Cops checking out something interesting

Riders and walkers out on the town

Taxis everywhere!

We checked out at noon and drove out of the city with no problem.  It was a quick trip,  but completely enjoyable, as always!  After sitting in more traffic on the way back to Mom's, we were happy to get out of the car and relax at her house again.

Fall Foliage Train Ride

We set off for the Catskills, which was supposed to be about a 45 minute drive, but ended up being a bit longer due to several wrong turns and unclear directions (none of it could have been our fault, right?!)  Nevertheless, the scenery was gorgeous along the way, and although we missed the train at 12 noon and added another hour to the trip, we arrived just in time for the 1 PM train, which was decorated for autumn.

The train had outside and inside seating and it was a beautiful sunny day.

Unfortunately, the tracks had been damaged by Hurricane Irene so the ride was much shorter than usual.

Still, we enjoyed the ride and the view of the changing leaves.  We also had a little bit of excitement when one of the passengers dropped his expensive phone over the side while taking photos. He told the conductor that he knew exactly where it fell so we stopped on the way back, the passenger got off, and sure enough, came back up with his phone in hand.


The train

We then hit the road for New York City, encountering more traffic and delays, and finally arrived around 6 PM for our one night in the Big Apple.