Our cruise to Canada & New England – part two

On this post we’ll cover days four and five of our cruise. Day four finds us in Northern Nova Scotia, Sydney to be exact, on Cape Breton Island.  Because many are not familiar with this region of the world (including me), I’ll insert a map.



Because I tend to research a thing to death, I read quite a few reviews of the port of Sydney saying that “there’s nothing to see or do here”. Hmmmmm.  One of the excursions that was actually offered by Holland America was a taste of the local music.  Scottish and Irish music, as well as Scottish dancing are common here.  Here’s what we saw upon reaching the port of Sydney…..


There you have it folks, the world’s largest fiddle!  Just seeing this thing let me know we were in for a musical treat! This was the view from the deck of the ship, zoomed in a bit.   Looking another direction we saw what is a very pretty little harbor town.


Here is a short, three minute video I made showing a few clips that I took from the music show. It starts with a bagpiper and then we go inside to hear the local musicians. If you are a fan of Irish or Scottish music, you’ll love this. We sure did!!!!!  I hope you’ll take a peek. Just click on the pic below and the video will start. Be sure and have your speakers turned on!

Talk about a delightful afternoon!! Not only were they talented, they were super friendly too.  Homemade Oatcakes were on every table, as well as coffee or tea to go with them.  I sat there and silently wished I’d been born on Cape Breton Island – I love when people are SO proud of their heritage!

Day five was another sunny one, and we were SO pleased!  Our port of call today was Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is the only port that was not new to us.  Back in 2009 we did a cruise that took us to Halifax.  We remember thoroughly enjoying the port, taking a tour out to Peggy’s Cove (stunningly beautiful) and around the town. This time around we decided to forego an organized tour and take a short walk down the street from the cruise port to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  We sure enjoyed it!   We particularly enjoyed watching the Bluenose II come in to dock after taking a group of school children out on a morning cruise. The Bluenose II is an exact replica of the Bluenose which was a celebrated racing ship and fishing vessel. Interesting facts: The Bluenose is featured on the Canadian dime and was one of the first ships involved in the now famous America’s Cup sailing race!zz5

Hubby, lover of America’s Cup and sailing ships in general was thrilled when we got to go aboard the Bluenose II and he got to grab the wheel!


After enjoying the Maritime Museum, we meandered our way back to the ship. The walk was less than a mile and so pleasant on a sunny day.  Here’s a pic of our ship, docked in Halifax.


On our walk back, we noticed a fishing boat come in to a small public dock. We watched in astonishment as they pulled up this MASSIVE fish!  People say that it was a blue fin tuna, probably headed to Japan or China as sushi or shasimi for BIG bucks.


Farewell beautiful Halifax!  The view below is looking back to the city.


Our cruise is now leaving Canadian waters and moving south towards the USA.  The third and final cruise blog will take us to Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Our cruise to Canada and New England – part one

Time to put up a blog post on our lovely cruise to (mostly) new places in Canada and New England!  I could probably do an entire post on how much we despised our red-eye flight out of Seattle to New Jersey… and then the long lay over in NJ, before finally reaching our destination of Quebec City at 2 pm Eastern time, the next day. All in all it was 19 hours from door-to-door, so to speak.  We were unable to sleep on that overnight flight so we arrived totally exhausted.  Oh heck, we knew that red-eye was going to kill us, but in the end it was SO worth it.  We left home on Friday September 16th, arriving in Quebec on Saturday the 17th. The cruise lasted until September 27th.

Here is photo of our ship, Holland America’s Zuiderdam.  The view is from the top of the “old town” in Quebec City.


This was our third cruise with Holland America and our second cruise on this particular ship. In regards to our cruiseline, we really like HAL. The service is always fabulous, the food quite good, and the other cruisers, nice. To be honest, HAL is not a popular line for folks with kids. Carnival, Disney, and Royal Caribbean have lots of kids on their cruises, and lots of activities catered towards kids. Let’s face it, we kind of like the “no-kids” feel.  Having said that, there were a handful of young children on our cruise and they are certainly allowed to cruise with Holland America, but you just don’t see that many – this is our observation from having done three cruises with them.

Next, I’ll say a word or two about our cabin. In past cruises (we’ve been on 7 now), we’ve always had either an ocean view cabin or a verandah (balcony) cabin. On this cruise we chose an inside cabin, mostly to save money, plus, we’d never had an inside room, so why not give it a try – we thought.  We were surprised at how small the cabin was and we took to calling it our “cubicle”. After a few days, we found we really missed being able to look out and see where we were or what the weather was like. We really missed the verandah for our own little “happy hour”. On past trips, we’ve enjoyed sitting on the verandah, sipping a glass of wine, and watching the world go by. Obviously that was not possible in “the cubicle”.  Take away from this: the extra $$ is worth it, get a verandah cabin!  Here’s a snap of our little room –


I’ve got to say, our cabin steward was wonderful, in there cleaning the place twice a day and leaving us cute towel animals at night. The bed was extremely comfortable. The bathroom was perfectly adequate. We just wished we had sprung for a larger room with a balcony, in hindsight.

Day two on the ship was our second day in Quebec City. What a gorgeous place! So clean you could eat off the sidewalks! We took a 2.5 hour walking tour that was billed as a “leisurely walk from the top of the old town, down to the lower old town”. Hmmmmm. It didn’t actually turn out that way. We walked up lots of hills and stairs to be able to see everything, there was no time to rest, go potty, or run in somewhere and buy a bottle of water (it was a warm, humid day). We still thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the sights that QC has – so much history here, as well as the stunning Hotel Frontenac which looks down upon the St Lawrence River from high on a cliff.  It is rumored that this is the place where Churchill, Eisenhower, and FDR made the decision to do Operation Overlord, AKA, “D-Day”.


Our guide was fabulous, and even made me want to come back and visit in the wintertime when everything is frozen over, including the St Lawrence River.

Next is just a random photo of some historic buildings I thought were pretty –


I can just imagine this with snow everywhere and all decorated for Christmas….🙂

After our lovely tour of Quebec City, we meandered back to the ship (pretty darn hot and tired) and went up to the Crow’s Nest Lounge. It’s nearly at the top and at the front of the ship, with huge windows everywhere. A great place to be comfortable and watch the sailaway. It was here we got in on the 4-5pm Happy Hour special. You can buy one libation at the normal price and get the 2nd for $1. On a cruise ship, that’s a pretty good deal. What we found out though, is…. I couldn’t have a glass of white wine and hubby a glass of red, even if they were the same price! Nope, you have to get two of the EXACT same thing to get the deal. Oh well, we worked through that, but thought that rule was a bit silly.

We wandered around the ship a bit after we got going and went up really high to the area where they rent out the “private cabanas”. I think these cabanas are only in use on Caribbean cruises. No one was using them that day, so we did!  Here’s a photo of me, hanging out in the private cabana, shortly before sunset. There wasn’t a soul around!


We stayed out there quite a while, admiring the gorgeous, and I DO mean gorgeous Quebec countryside. Talk about peaceful and pastoral! We loved it!


Sorry it’s a bit blurry… this was a big zoom-in photo and I don’t have a fancy camera. But you get the idea. Peaceful.

Day two was an “at sea” day, which had us going the length of the St Lawrence seaway and up around the top of Prince Edward Island. This was the only day that the boat really started rocking. We had “gale force winds up to 60mph” according to our ship’s captain!

Day three found us on Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately, the day dawned cloudy with the threat of rain, but we were still thrilled to be here. We took a tour called the Island Drive and Anne of Green Gables House. I didn’t remember ever reading Anne of Green Gables as a child, so made sure I read it just before we left on the trip. I’m so glad I did🙂  Next two photos show us at Cavendish beach, not far from Anne’s house.zpei1


The beautiful red earth is everywhere on the island!   We then hopped back in the bus and carried on to the Green Gables house. Obviously, Anne is a fictional character, but the author of all the Anne books, Lucy Maud Montgomery, lived on PEI as a child and this farm was owned by one of her family members. She visited the farm and apparently based the books on this lovely place.


Here’s a pic of the woods surrounding the farm. Just gorgeous, even on a cloudy early-Fall day.


I couldn’t resist this next one. I had to join the rest of the tourists and put on the “Anne with braids” hat and stand by the buggy.  It wasn’t all that much of a stretch really….. only a few decades back, I was a little girl with long red braids. No buggy though!🙂  PS, I still have the braids, wrapped in plastic, in my garage. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. Strange, eh?


After a lovely visit to Anne’s house, we hopped on the bus and the rain started in earnest. I tried to get some shots through the bus windows showing the stunning beauty of this Island, but the weather made it difficult.  I loved this place so much that I told hubby I wanted to pack up and move there. Forget about this crazy upcoming election and terrorists, and just live out our lives in such peace. Hubby’s a Canadian, so we actually COULD do this. Then the tour guide said that it’s typical for the Island to get up to 10 feet of snow a year. My friend Karen, who actually lives on PEI has since told me that that number is really a bit of an exaggeration, that they only get that much snow on the worst of the worst winters.  Well, it scared hubby (the 12 feet of snow scenario), so I guess we won’t be moving there.  It’s ever so tempting, though.


Okay, I can see now that this cruise blog is going to be a long one.  So, I’ll go ahead and publish this part now, and work on the rest of it in the days to come.  So far we’ve done 4 of the 10 days.  Many more ports of call ahead!! Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy remembering the fun on our recent trip.

Just a book reminder

Hello everyone!  Just wanted to remind you all that I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year and I’ve reviewed quite a few of the books that I have finished right here on the blog!  Just click the header up near the top of the page that says “Books 2016”.  I finished another one today, so I’ll post my latest review here as well as above just for the fun of it.  According to Goodreads, I’ve read 29 books so far this year!!  Woo-Hoo! I’m pretty happy about that, and needless to say, there’ll be more to come.  I have not reviewed every single book above on my Books 2016 tab, but a majority are on there.  I hope you’ll find one or two that may pique your interest🙂


September 9    A Painted House  by John Grisham            I went into “retro” mode with this book as I listened to it on audio cassette  over the period of a few weeks. I enjoyed it a lot and think it’s probably worth 4 stars – but I think I’d actually give it 4.5 stars, with the extra half-star simply for the awesome narrator in this audio book! I like John Grisham but have not read any of his work for a very long time. This one was published a long time ago (2001) and didn’t contain one word about lawyers – which may have been one reason why I was attracted to it. The story takes place in about 1952 in rural Arkansas, on a cotton farm. Life on a farm back then was pretty rough, and this novel does not sugarcoat it. I truly enjoyed listening to this book and the narrator did a fine, fine job depicting the southern accents, as well as different verbalization for each character. A lot happens in this rural community during the course of one cotton picking season… lots of things that little Luke (our 7 year old main character) hears and witnesses. It’s a good story, but I think I enjoyed it even more because it was an audio edition.

An Autumnal Getaway

cruise-shipBack in 2013, hubby and I took a very exciting trip to Europe and did a Mediterranean cruise.  We got to see lots of all new places and totally enjoyed it — well, until I got a really nasty nasty cold, two days before the end of the 10 day cruise….. but I digress.  We love cruising. I could write an entire blog post on Why We Love Cruising but instead of that, I’ll give a couple of the biggest reasons. Number One:  You get to see lots of different places and only have to unpack once.  Number Two:  Somebody else does the “driving” & your food, “hotel”, and some entertainment are all included in the price.   There are pages I could write on choosing the right cruise line for you, the cruise destination, the type of cabin, and how to get a good price on the cabin you choose – but instead I’m just going to talk about the cruise we chose.

We’ve decided to do an Autumn Canada – New England cruise this year.  It’s been three years for us and honestly, I’ve been champing at the bit to go again.  Last year we nearly booked a similar trip, but just could not justify the price we were going to have to pay, so we canceled it. This year, we found a slightly shorter cruise, 10 nights instead of 14, on a different cruise line, and a different class of cabin – one that was more affordable, AND, since we no longer had a sick kitty that needed twice-daily medication  :-(   well, we decided to go for it.  Some people when choosing a cruise, look at the ship and it’s amenities first. We don’t. We look at the itinerary first because we really enjoy exploring NEW places, and the ship itself doesn’t really matter to us (the cruise line does matter, but the particular ship, no).  In fact, this time we selected an “Inside” cabin to save some more money.  We have friends who have told us that having an Inside cabin (no porthole) is perfectly fine and comfortable – and after all you’re really only in your cabin to sleep, anyway.  In the past, I’ve loved having a Balcony Cabin, but we’re going to try an Inside this time. 

In 2009 we went on a similar cruise to Canada and New England, but this time we picked all new ports, except for one repeat, Halifax Nova Scotia.  We’ll get to Maine, Prince Edward Island, Massachusetts, Quebec City, & Newport Rhode Island. This will be our 7th cruise. Sometimes we’ve traveled with friends, sometimes on our own… this time it will be just the two of us.


I’m so excited to go on our little “Autumnal Getaway” this year!  I’m sure I’ll post some pics to Facebook along the way, and will definitely report back here with the full recap.  The pictures above show…. a lighthouse in Maine, the hotel Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, a pastoral scene on Prince Edward Island, and the waterfront mansions of Newport Rhode Island. 

A Tribute to Jinx, our cat

Two weeks ago we said goodbye to our precious kitty, Jinx.  It’s hard to put into words what a sad day that was for us. Jinx was our only pet and he adopted us back in July of 2005.  He started hanging around our house and lounging on our back deck for days on end that summer, till hubby finally agreed he could stay. We took him to the vet, checked to see if he’d been microchipped (he had not), and claimed him as ours. Much later on we would find out that Jinx’s first owner was a person who lived up the street. He’d come from a multi-cat home and apparently wanted to be the only feline, not part of a pack, so he found us. I was secretly thrilled to have a kitty again. All my life I’ve had cats, so at least for me he was a very welcome addition.  Here’s one of the first photos we ever took of Jinx:

July 2005

The vet estimated his age to be about 2 years when we got him. He was young, spry, and more than a little wild at times.   Hubby was somewhat reluctant to let him in the house (claiming he was allergic), but it didn’t take long before Jinx knew just which family member he needed to win over.

Aug 2005

In absolutely no time at all, “Daddy” became Jinx’s favorite human, and stayed that way all his life.  Yes, “Mommy” was okay, but Daddy was special to Jinx and pretty soon Jinx became special to Daddy as well.

Jinx loved to go hunting all his life. He had a lot of fun stalking birds, mice, and even an occasional squirrel. I think the word has gone around the birds in our neighborhood – “the threat is gone”.

Oct 2005

We live in a forest, and while we have neighbors on either side, there are nothing but trees across the street. Jinx had a very fun life as both an outside and an inside kitty.  Here he is, wandering through the woods near our house:

Jinx 02


On cold, wet days Jinx loved to “hug” the heat dish. We often expected his fur to singe, but it never happened.


He grew into a big, pretty boy.  At his heaviest we weighed around 12 pounds. Here he is, having a drink of water on the bathroom counter – forget the bowl of water next to his food, nope, he preferred drinking out of his cup.


A few years passed and Mommy & Daddy decided to buy a motor home.  It only took a couple trips for Jinx to morph into “Jinx the RV Cat”.  He adapted beautifully to RV life and wearing a harness/leash to go exploring outside:


We took a three month long RV trip in the winter of 2014, going from Washington state to California, across the southern USA to Florida and all the way back.  The next photo shows Jinx and Daddy looking intently into the distance…


We were in Florida, and they had spied an armadillo!!  Jinx desperately wanted to go investigate, but needless to say, that was not allowed.

Jinx was such an easily adaptable kitty!  When Mom and Dad bought a vacation place in Palm Springs, of course Jinx came along for several months a year.  This place was not “home” though, so Jinx didn’t get the run of the neighborhood. He enjoyed checking out his environment from high places and loved to walk the walls:



The water of the pool didn’t scare Jinx. No, he never went swimming, but he constantly wanted to drink out of the pool which we couldn’t allow because it’s saltwater. Here’s a pic of Jinx and Mommy (his 2nd favorite human):



When Jinx was about 10, he began to lose weight. It was very gradual, and for a long time we thought he was stressed over a stray male cat in the neighborhood.  But the weight loss continued even after the stray male was long gone.  His appetite really dropped off and he became an incredibly picky eater. He also did a fair amount of regurgitating, which, contrary to popular belief is not normal for cats.  You can see by this next photo that he had definitely lost some weight:  (still cute and engaging as ever, though!!🙂



When he lay down, all his bones poked through.  It was so sad and so hard to see him literally wasting away.



Jinx was diagnosed with presumed Inflammatory Bowel Disease in March of this year (2016). I say  presumed because there is no definitive test to rule it in or out.  He may also have had his IBD transform into bowel Lymphoma, which is common.  There are many, many cats – and dogs also – who suffer with and eventually die from this debilitating disease.  Unfortunately, veterinarians are not certain what causes this to happen, but it’s much like an auto-immune disease. There are plenty of theories out there…. too many carbohydrates in pet food from corn and wheat….. wheat gluten in the gravy of pet foods….. some of the “gums” like carrageenan gum in pet foods….. an allergy to a certain protein such as beef, chicken, or fish.  The vet prescribed a special pet food that Jinx flatly refused to eat after a few bites. He was also on steroids, probiotics, and antibiotics at times.  On his last vet visit, he was down to 5.5 pounds – such a huge difference from his once robust 12 pounds.

I know that Jinx had a very happy life – here in Washington where he could explore the great outdoors at will, in California where he enjoyed basking in the sun, and on the RV trips where he’d go out on his leash every day.  He loved cuddling with his Dad and sitting next to Mom on the top of the couch. He loved visiting all the neighbors (and their indoor kitties) on a regular basis, and was known and loved by all.  It will be quite a while before we can think of our special boy and not be sad…. and someday, I hope we’ll be able to open our hearts to another kitty who will love us back with everything they’ve got – just like Jinx did. We miss you, precious boy.


Jinx the Cat  2003-2016  RIP







My favorite YouTube Channels

About three years ago I discovered YouTube. I used to think it was just a site where a person could upload videos to keep, but quickly I learned that if you want to find out how to do something, there’s a video for that on YouTube!  One that immediately comes to mind is when hubby wanted to get one of our desk top computers going. The video suggested that you blow a hot hair dryer on the back of the CPU and it should fire up in about 5 minutes. It sounded crazy, but hey, it worked!  I discovered YouTube when I wanted to find a new way to style my hair (back when I was growing it out).  So I guess my first real discovery was–

33kateThe Small Things Blog    Kate lives in North Carolina and used to be a hairdresser, but now is a stay-at-home mom to two young boys. Her earlier videos are great for finding new and fun ideas for hair that is shoulder length of longer.

Please click on the name of each channel to view one of my favorite videos.     Here are some more of my favorites:

22freyThe Frey Life    Mary and Peter are a young (20-something) couple living in New England. Mary has Cystic Fibrosis and their daily videos document what day to day life is like, dealing with a serious chronic illness. Love these guys and their service dog “Ollie”, a standard poodle.

44emilyEmilyNoel83   If you enjoy makeup, product reviews, and tutorials, this is IMHO the best beauty channel out there. Emily gives great advice and honest reviews. She used to be in TV news, but is now a stay-at-home mom to an almost 2 year old and has another baby on the way.

55lindThe Lindquists    This is a young Canadian family, living in Ontario. Elle is a stay-at-home mom to two little boys and her husband Dan is a veterinarian. The video I linked is the vlog of the birth of their now 2 month old baby, Cohen. I was so impressed with Elle’s determination to go natural, with a midwife. Amazing video.  Oh, just so you know, there is nothing “gross” on the video. Edited beautifully.

wynnsGone With the Wynns    Niki and Jason Wynn used to be full time RVers.  About 4 months ago, they bought a catamaran sailboat and live on it full time with their two cats, while learning to sail and navigate.  I loved watching their RV videos (they did an extended RV trip to Alaska last summer that was super interesting), and wondered if I could “get into” their new sailboat life. Yup. I’m in.


Jeremy Ng    This talented young man plays the most beautiful piano music – totally relaxing and what a pleasure to not only listen to the music, but to be able to actually watch him play.  Love it!

nomadicNomadic Fanatic    Eric and his cat Jax live in a Class “C” motorhome and travel all over the USA. Eric is from Washington State (like me!) and is currently heading east towards Maine. His videos are extremely well edited and I love the views from his quadcopter/drone!

nikkiAt Home With Nikki    If you want a beautiful, organized, and clean home, just watch Nikki for inspiration. I love her style!

11dominiqueDominique Sachse     Dominique is a news anchor in Houston and has a great YouTube channel too. She does hair tutorials, as well as beauty and fashion tips. She’s so pleasant and professional, I can’t help but like her.

adamwooThe Daily Woo    Have you ever heard of “Adam the Woo”?  Well I hadn’t either, until recently. He’s a 41 year old guy who travels around in his van and explores the world around him with his video camera and his drone. He’s different and he’s fun.

leslieLipgloss Leslie    Leslie lives with her hubby and kitty in Dallas. She loves makeup and is just the sweetest thing ever. Sometimes she chooses colors that are pretty edgy, but she always stays her sweet self. She offers fun reviews of both drugstore and high end makeup and skincare products, plus informative “Get Ready With Me” videos, too.

So, there you have it, a list of my favorite YouTubers. It’s kind of an eclectic group, and I hope you’ll enjoy checking some of them out🙂

Mid-year update on New Year Resolutions

We’ve made it through half of 2016 already! Amazing how fast time flies by.  I made three “resolutions” this year and here’s how I’m doing so far:

Numero Uno: Decluttering my home.  Guys, I have done amazing on this!  We have donated many, many big bags of generalized stuff to charity.  I started in my kitchen and literally went through every single cupboard, cabinet, and drawer.  I’ve cleared out doubles of things I didn’t need, and oodles of items that I never used. My kitchen is now SO much better organized – and that makes me really happy. I went through the pantry from top to bottom and yes, I regretfully say I had to toss some items out.  With things better organized, I now know exactly what I have and where it is, so hopefully my days of throwing stuff out is over.  Then I moved on to the bedroom, going through my bedside table, dressers, and the closet. I parted with SO MUCH stuff that is no longer loved or useful. I cleaned out and organized under the bathroom sinks and all the cupboards and drawers in both the bathrooms.  I was UNABLE to clear out stuff belonging to my husband…. well, I could have, but that would be putting the marriage in jeopardy (I wanted to, SO badly, I’ll admit).  Hubby’s mantra continues to be: “I need everything I have”.  Obviously I strongly disagree, but… what can I do?  So, this leaves the third bedroom/office.  I am presently in the throes of working on this massive project and hope to have it in great order by the end of August.

Numero dos: Eat healthier foods.  Mixed results on this one.  I had hoped to be making my own fermentations by now, but I haven’t done it.  I AM still making my own milk kefir and not only is it delicious, it’s also full of wonderful probiotics.  When we spent two months at the Palm Springs place, I feel as though we didn’t do very well on general healthy eating.  We seem to go out to eat more down there and attend more social events.  Poor excuse, I know.  I do love this time of year when we’re getting oodles of wonderful fresh veggies which I include in our menu daily🙂 Bottom line: I need to do better.

Numero Tres:  Compute less and read more.   Up until the past two weeks, I have done great at this I’m happy to report!  I have already read more books this year, that in all of last year (25 so far!).  Then, two weeks ago I discovered an addictive TV show (which I’m watching on the computer) called “The Great British Bake Off”.  I can’t stop watching!!  I’m on season 3 of 5 so far.  I will admit that not only is it entertaining, I honestly have learned some interesting things watching it as well.  I mean – who knew what “choux” pastry is (pronounced “shoe”)?  I didn’t, but now I do!!!  And a myriad of other interesting things too.  Hey, it’s almost like reading a “how to bake” book!  At least it’s educational.🙂   On the book scene, I am presently in the process of reading 4 books, and loving them all.  It’s a little nutty to have four books going at once, but I guess it’s how I roll – at times. Last week I got to page 120 of a library book, thinking up to that point that it was pretty good, and then it went downhill FAST.  Some folks force themselves to finish every book they start, but not me.  That one went back to the library, pronto!  Too many good books, too little time!

So, there’s the mid-year update on my resolutions.  There is definitely still work that needs to be done and I will forge ahead!!