Juneau, Alaska

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Our second stop was the State Capital.  It was exciting to go out all day, get dressed for dinner back on board ship at night, and then wake up the next morning at a different port of call.  The most daring thing we had planned in Juneau was a tram ride.  It turned out Mount Roberts, with its six minute ascent of 3,189 feet, has one of the most vertical tramways in the world.  Once we got to the top I found the overhang fascinatingly sickening.  We ate lunch in the restaurant and then visited the nature center and Native Cultural Center.  Afterward we hiked up to a beautiful large wooden cross overlooking the Gastineau Channel.  The trail was lovely, easy and not scary at all.  They had several to take ranging from less than a mile to about three.  For us the end result of the path we chose had the most significance.

“It is to the cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master:  no path of redemption can make a detour around it.” ~ The Reverend Father Hans Urs von Balthasar 

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Ketchikan, Alaska

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After an entire day at sea it was our first stop.  We were excited to get our land legs back and walk around town.  Built around a creek that flows through its center, the name “Ketchikan” is the Tlingit word for “creek”.  It was the first time I had even seen wild salmon in streams — literally and figuratively.  I also saw a young brown bear choosing his future lunch.  It gave a whole new meaning to “fresh caught salmon”.  What I remember most about this port was that Burk and I went on a zip line “Canopy Adventure”.  Neither of us had ever done it before.  I also discovered a whole new meaning to the term “tree hugger”.  The zip lines were over 600 feet long and the sky bridges were incredible but frankly terrifying.  I decided if I made it down in one piece I would probably check this off my “been there; done that” list with gratitude.  It was so high you could not even see the ground at times and oddly enough that made it slightly less frightening.  We were in the Tongass National Forest where the trees were so dense, so lush, so thick, and so tall as to be unbelievable.  We did not just have a bird’s eye view; we had an eagle’s.

“The eagle has no fear of adversity.  We need to be like the eagle and have a fearless spirit of a conqueror!” ~ Bible teacher Joyce Meyer 

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The Seven Seas Mariner

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Growing up watching “The Love Boat” I had always dreamt of taking a cruise.  I could not have imagined it would be to Alaska instead of Mexico.  We went in August of 2006 aboard the Regent Seven Seas and it was spectacular.  Each stateroom was a suite with marbled baths and French doors that opened onto private balconies.  There was a comfortable sitting area, writing desk, beautiful vanity, surprisingly large closet, television, and an incredible mini bar and fridge.  I was greeted with a bottle of Champagne and my own private maid who kept my room in exquisite fresh flowers daily.  My suite was 770 and it was home for one glorious week.  I thought our ship was huge with its glass elevators, lounges, restaurants, casino, boutiques, swimming pool and outdoor jogging track, but I came to realize it was actually rather small — which is far nicer.  We attended a lecture on Alaska with an excellent slide slow in the theater.  And I loved the two Native American women who told of their history, talked about the region, and pointed out wildlife over the ship’s public address system as we cruised slowly by.  Each evening I took immense pleasure in the quiet refuge of the cigar lounge with its cozy fireplace and butter soft leather chairs.  I would enjoy a Romeo Y Julieta and reflect on the day’s outdoor adventures and activities.  An actor named Raul Julia once said a cigar is as good as memories that you have when you smoked it.  Those were some of my finest.

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Vancouver, Canada

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“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ St. Augustine

I was so excited!  It was my first real trip and I had to have a passport!  Granted it was only to Canada for a day but hey it counted.  I was getting to go with my boyfriend (who would soon become my fiancé) and his maternal family on a cruise to Alaska up the Inside Passage.  We spent a lovely day being shown about the city, seeing historical sights, doing a little shopping, and eating at Granville Island.  I was surprised at how modern the city was and delighted to discover totem poles along the heavily forested Stanley Park.  We would spend the night at The Pan Pacific Hotel before boarding our ship the next day.  A beautiful hotel overlooking the harbor, our dinner was magical, surrounded by a glassed in bird’s eye view of it all.  The next morning we got to dine outside while the gulls’ eyes prettily begged for pickings.  As someone who has grown up landlocked, I found them fascinating to watch as they gracefully swooped down to catch crumbs.  Vancouver’s cruise ship port was impressive — even a novice like me could tell.  And so we would embark on one of the best trips I have had the good fortune to take.  We were ready to set sail!

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My Addiction To The Spiralizer

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I love to cook.  I loved to cook for my parents when I got older and then just stopped after Daddy died.  Now I have a 178 pound husband in his forties that eats like a teenage boy.  Plus I have a little girl who adores spicy food like her mama.  And so my little triumvirate is complete once again.  I remember my mother once buying an “Everything Bag” in the ’70’s that was advertised on TV.  I was obsessed with that thing.  It had pockets galore and she proudly carried it until Dooney & Bourke became in fashion in the ’80’s.  I recently fell for this veggie spiralizer in an “As Seen On TV” catalog.  I have always had an affinity for thinly sliced anything … bread, cheese, vegetables; you name it.  (I’m a vegetarian.)  And so I thought I’d give this a whirl, no pun intended.  OH MY GOODNESS IT MAKES PERFECTLY MICROTHIN SPIRALS IN SECONDS!!!  No more chopping!!!  Part of the reason I haven’t cooked as much is because of the prep time.  I just heated up extra virgin olive oil with pre-minced garlic, added two spiraled onions, three spiraled zucchini and three spiraled squash.  I sautéed it all together in a large pan and then added my favorite tomato sauce that has wild mushrooms.  It was great if I do say so myself.  I always add salt and pepper and I should say I try to always buy organic.  So that’s it.  Let me know if you try it.  It doesn’t take long, I made it up myself, it is healthy, and no one had to die for it.  If anyone out there is doing Meatless Mondays you might consider putting this in your rotation.  Wolfgang Puck said, “Cooking is like painting or writing a song.  Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors – it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.”

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Our Tiny Garden

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Having grown up in an apartment, I did not get to experience the joys of planting, although both of my parents knew how. Daddy had a great knowledge of vegetables and Mama, flowers.  And so I have been trying my hand (or green thumb) at both in the eight years since I have been married and lucky enough to own a home.  It took me until a couple of months ago to muster the courage to try planting an organic, raised bed for tomatoes, basil and onions.  We had a little ceremony and all planted them as a family.  Frankly I had no hope of anything really appearing despite my research on sun and planting positions, regions, time of year, and companion plants.  The other day Burk came in and excitedly announced we had our first tomato.  “What?” I said in disbelief.  “Mommy let’s go see!”  Lo and behold, in all its glory was a tiny, orange tomato about the size of a quarter.  But it was perfect — and we grew it!  I am embarrassed to be so far removed from how food is cultivated and I want our daughter to learn along with us.  I reached up to touch the little thing and it plopped to the ground.  But she seems to have some bigger cousins coming in that are still green.  And so we wait and watch with hope and wonder to see what the fruits of our small labor will yield.  I found this quote by the English poet Alfred Austin which I really liked:

“The glory of gardening:  hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.  To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.”

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Still Sexy

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Some days I feel I do better than others.  It seems if the house looks great I look horrible from having cleaned it.  Or if I look great for some special occasion then the house has gone to pot.  If I was a great mother and painted with our daughter and read a lot to her the animals may have gotten a little shortchanged.  If I cooked a great meal for my husband I let our daughter watch TV so I could get it done.  But today was one of those rare days when I was on a roll.  To start with, I wasn’t simply sanitary; my hair was curled and I wasn’t wearing my customary uniform of sweat pants and the hub’s undershirt.  I was actually dressed … and somewhat coiffed.  I got up at my usual 6 AM, made coffee, fed the wolfies and the turtles, then waited for Maris to come down and help feed the gatos.  I didn’t get in my walk but I got our little one dressed for Chapel and to pre-school a hair early.  Her nap mat was clean, lunch neatly packed, and I could feel a sense of accomplishment already.  I didn’t have any rounds (I have owned and operated a pet sitting business for fifteen years) so I set to work on the house.  I got the beds changed, laundry (mostly) done, grooming appointment booked for Cheyenne, Dakota and Chin Chin (our one-eyed Shih Tzu), checks written (which I rarely have to do anymore,) dishes cleaned, fencing guy scheduled, organic fertilization of the lawn on the calendar, mail sorted, and — best of all — a trunk load of items purged to donate to Operation Kindness.  After checking the time I realized I needed to pick up my daughter.  I was running out of steam and Starbucks is a newly discovered guilty pleasure.  So I grabbed my reusable cup and headed out to get a little jolt of java.  “I’m sorry, I cannot remember your name,” the girl said as she scribbled hieroglyphs on a little tab.  “It’s Laura.  But you know what?  You can just call me ‘Sexy.'”  “Right on” she said as she scanned my Apple Watch for payment.  Imagine my surprise when my frappuchino came up under that moniker.  There was another girl who served it and she was playful enough to say it with feeling.  Everyone turned to look and we all grinned.  Such a silly, trivial thing but it made my day.  I got Maris shuttled to karate early and sipped my frothy concoction, having left my “Sexy” label on for pure enjoyment.  Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega said, “I think people are sexy when they have a sense of humor, when they are smart, when they have some sense of style, when they are kind, when they express their own opinions, when they are creative, when they have character.”  I’ve still got it.  😉

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Walks Around The Creek

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One thing my husband has gotten me into trying to make a habit of is taking a daily walk.  We live around a wooded area with a creek and it is always glorious.  In the early mornings you can still hear crickets; at night the occasional hooting of an owl.  We have two wolf hybrids who need the exercise and crave the walks.  When we had a baby it really became our little family time.  An agreed upon rule is no use of electronic devices (except I track our miles on Runkeeper from my iPhone and I like to get my heart rate up on my Apple Watch.)  But we talk to each other.  Sometimes we plan about the day ahead; others we reflect on what we did.  And so the seasons change, and with them our little girl is learning what that feels like and smells like and sounds like.  She knows summer is over when the cicadas stop their song.  Autumn is my favorite season and so short in Texas.  Mostly it’s pizza oven hot.  But each day holds its treasures.  And I have never regretted my husband coaxing us all out for a walk.

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” ~ English poet Lord Byron

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The Mall

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When I was a little girl, some of my happiest memories were going to the mall with my parents.  There was a huge, lit fountain I would watch for seemingly hours.  Mama and Daddy held hands as we walked around.  We couldn’t often buy but it was fun just to go.  In college I worked at that mall for Lord & Taylor, which is now gone.  I would save my money to eat at La Madeline and speak French with the cashier Jacqueline who was from Paris.  Now I walk that mall holding hands with my husband while our little girl gazes up in wonder at the same huge, lit fountain.  They have added restaurants, a movie theater and a park but it has still retained the same feel.  It IS great to be able to buy more things like new clothes or cookies as a treat.  But I want our daughter to know there is joy in simply walking around and spending time with each other.  We don’t ALWAYS need to buy something.  Happiness is what you make of it.  Growing up I always knew we were poor but very rich because the three of us had each other.  A Pastor named Charles Spurgeon once said it is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.  Now God has graciously allowed me to have a husband and a child of my own — and there is no price that can possibly be put on that.

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Prayer

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My parents taught me to pray before every meal and at bedtime.  Since we were very close the three of us were often together and we all held hands and heard each other’s prayers.  Now my husband and I do the same with our daughter.  I especially love the complines as I find them peaceful.  The matins are wonderful for starting your day with positivity, hope and direction.  I believe the sweetest prayers are often from children.  Our daughter just prayed for the little plastic hedgehogs that go in the dryer to soften clothes!  So God bless Spike and Tumbleweed.  And God bless you.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace. ~ 
Numbers 6:24-26

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