Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Week - At Sea

Ahhh...this is the life. Maybe.

View from the Balcony

Okay, I admit. I'm still a little anxious about not seeing land. But I am getting better about it.

I took my morning cup of coffee out on the balcony and sat and watched water and more water. The glass bottom of the balcony provided a even wider view of the endless water.

The night before during turn down service, our room steward, Bertino, left a booklet called the Cruise Compass on what would be happening on Day 2.  Activity schedule, dress code for dinner, Headliner show information and other fun little tidbits about the cruise. There is a plethora of things to do while at sea besides lounging poolside.

Take in a movie. How about a Spanish lesson? Ballroom dancing any one? Not into the foxtrot? How about learning Michael Jackson's Thriller dance moves? Learn to make a cocktail. Or play a game of adult dodgeball. If you get bored, it's your own fault. There is no lack of things to keep you busy. Or do what I did and take a nap. Relax...you are on vacation!

Dinner on our first full day at sea called for formal dress code. Yep, fancy dress and suit and tie type of dress code. Our tablemates included our friends from Alaska and three other couples from Texas and Minnesota who also had their seating mixed up. We had ten people seated at a table for eight. Let's just say it was cozy. The food was excellent however, with impeccable service from our server, Jovita and her assistant, Marcus. Our new dinner companions were very friendly and I think we all enjoyed each other's company.

You want pictures of us all dressed up for dinner? Too bad. I didn't take any.

Tomorrow - Cozumel, Mexico.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Caribbean Cruise Week - The Ship & Departure Day

I had never been on a cruise before so on that Sunday in March, departure day, I was excited, anxious, and even scared. My biggest fear was not being able to see land. How would I ever cope at sea? I would soon find out as I embarked on a seven day cruise to the Western Caribbean aboard the Mariner of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship.

The itinerary was as follows:

Sunday, 4:45 pm. - Depart Galveston, Texas
Monday - At Sea Day
Tuesday - Cozumel, Mexico
Wednesday - George Town, Grand Cayman
Thursday - Falmouth, Jamaica
Friday & Saturday - At Sea Days
Sunday, 7 a.m. - Arrive back in Galveston

The Mariner of the Seas is one of their Voyager class ships. While it is not one of the largest ships in their fleet, it is not the smallest either.

Mariner of the Seas (from the Royal Caribbean website)

Some basic facts about the Mariner of the Seas:
Length: 1,020 ft (310.9 m)
Max Beam : 157.5 ft (48 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Cruising Speed: 22 knots
Max Passengers: 3,11
Captain: Captain Flemming Nielsen (from Denmark)
Cruise Director: Mitch Merucci (from Canada)

15 Decks, 10 Pools and Whirlpools, 17 Bars, Clubs & Lounges, Spa, Rock Climbing Wall, Ice Skating Rink, Mini Golf Course, Basketball Court, Broadway-style Theater, Casino, Shopping, the list goes on and on.

The kitchen staff prepares over 105,000 meals every week to feed both crew and staff. As part of this, 300,680 desserts, 234,000 appetizers, and 69,000 steaks are consumed per week. (per Wikipedia) Now that's a lot of food!

We arrived at the port around 11:30 a.m. Talk about coordinated chaos! But the crew at the pier were very efficient and before long our luggage was dropped off for loading onto the ship and we were inside the main terminal checking in and getting our SeaPass cards. Passengers were allowed onto the ship in large groups and the time seemed to go very quickly before Group Six was called. Like cattle being herded, we made our way onto to the gangway and on board the Mariner of the Seas.

Our First Glimpse of the Ship from the Gangway

Once on board, all passengers are encouraged to head to the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 to enjoy lunch before the cabins are ready for passengers. Many people did just this as the cafe was very crowded and you had to wait for an open table. Others strolled around the Promenade (Deck 5) or went up to the Pool Deck (also on Deck 11).

Pool Area

After lunch, we headed down to the Guest Relations Desk. When the reservations for the cruise were made, we had requested to be seated in the main dining room with friends from Alaska. We found out that not only were we at separate tables, but separate dining times, too. Yikes! Not sure if it was our travel agent at fault or the cruise line. At any rate, we were instructed to talk to the head waiter to see about getting this corrected.

All I can say is WOW! I was totally impressed by the main dining room. Three levels of opulence with gold and crystal everywhere.

Main Dining Room (first and second levels)

Replicating the Sound of Music with a bronze statue of Maria and Captain Von Trapp

Our dinner seating arrangements fixed, we located our cabins (we were on Deck 7 and our friends on Deck 9) and then participated in the mandatory muster drill. After the disastrous wreck of the Costa Concordia in Italy two months earlier, the cruise lines made sure this was done before the ship even left the pier. Definitely a relief to this passenger! Then it was time to head up to the pool area for the Sail Away party.

Bye-bye, Galveston!

Passing the Ferry Terminal on the way out of Port

The Carnival cruise ship you see above left about thirty minutes before we sailed. It was turning around and then sat off to the side of the main channel as we passed by. We later learned from a crew member that they had a medical emergency and needed to evacuate a passenger. What a bummer. Hope the passenger was okay.

And off we sailed into the sunset!

Tomorrow - Day 2, At Sea

Sunday, July 29, 2012

InSPIREd Sunday & Caribbean Cruise Week - Galveston

This week I will be sharing photos from a cruise I took in March, back when I wasn't in the mood to do any blogging. Maybe this was the start of me getting back to photography. Who knows. But I sure did enjoy myself.

Since the cruise left from Galveston bound for the Western Caribbean, I will start the week off in Galveston. We had a day to ourselves before the ship was set to sail and we took the opportunity to explore downtown Galveston.

This set of spires is from St. Mary Cathedral Basilica on corner of 21st and Church Streets. It was built in 1848 and in 1884, these towers were heightened to eighty feet to bring them into proportion with a central tower on the church and the crosses were added.

St. Mary Cathedral Basilica - Galveston, Texas

Saturday, July 28, 2012

After the Storm

We had another thunderstorm blow through the Methow Valley Thursday afternoon. Lots of rain and rumbling in the air. It was close to sunset as it came and the sunlight coming down the Twisp River Valley created a double rainbow.

I stood sheltered on my front porch and watched the last of the remnants from the storm, camera in hand.

Front Porch Panorama with Double Rainbow

Vibrant Rainbow
The storm was strong enough that it knocked our power out for the evening. It came back on sometime in the middle of the night.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Weekend Reflections - Grand Coulee Dam

A sneaky shot while on my tour of Grand Coulee Dam. At the time they didn't want us taking photos because of the armed personnel accompanying our group that is mostly hidden by the window frame. It still made for a cool reflection shot, IMO.

At Grand Coulee Dam - Grand Coulee, Washington

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

SkyWatch Friday - Peekaboo

Passing by Rainy Pass high up in the North Cascade mountains on a beautiful sunny morning, this was the view out of my windshield as I drove west on Highway 20.

This was a stop and get out of the car moment

Clouds are clearing somewhat

Each week, the team at SkyWatch Fridays links up people from all around the globe. Click on the banner below and see what others are sharing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wanna Taste?

You can't go to an apple pie jamboree and not have pie ala mode, right?


But first I went to the quilt show and saw my quilt hanging in my very first show!

Seeing Red on the Right

Then I ate pie. And watched a little of the 3-on-3 basketball tournament...

Outta my way, purple shirt!

...and jet skiers practicing for the upcoming races.

Jet Ski Racers in Action

Either these two had too much apple pie, or not enough. I don't know who is sillier on these ATVs...Mr. Viking or the dude on the two-sizes-too-small pink one.

Silly Riders

All of these fun activities (and more) took place at the Apple Pie Jamboree in Pateros, Washington this past Saturday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Very Northwest in Feel

I saw this house outside of Cashmere and thought it was a nice looking place. Different, but in a Pacific Northwest kind of way. Maybe it was curves and river rock that caught my attention, or the green color. Whatever it was, I liked it.

Outside of Cashmere, Washington

Monday, July 23, 2012

Just Wait a Few Minutes

Don't like the weather? Just wait a few minutes. This series of photos shows a storm cell that blew through the Methow Valley last Friday afternoon. Watch the area behind the house in the lower left in photos.

12:43 PM

12:48 PM

1:31 PM

Sunday, July 22, 2012

InSPIREd Sunday - The Gathering Christian Church

Another typical Western Washington summer day - overcast in the morning but sunny in the late afternoon. It was still gray when I spotted this old spire.

The Gathering - Mount Vernon, WA

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alpine Golf?

I don't know why but when I looked at this meadow not far from Washington Pass in the North Cascades, I thought of golf. A verdant fairway and putting green interspersed with many sand traps. I'm sure there were water hazards, too. Namely small streams and waterfalls from melting snow channeling down the steep slopes. Fore!

Alpine Golf Anyone?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Liberty Bell in the Morning

I will say it again and again -- I never get tired of the North Cascades Highway, especially in the morning hours. Simply spectacular on a clear day.

Liberty Bell

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Skywatch Friday - Better Hurry

Look closely and you will see three paragliders. They were descending near the Beebe Bridge outside of Chelan, Washington. Behind them was a storm cell that was pushing through the area northwest of where they were coming down. A couple of hours after we passed through, there were a few lightning-caused wildfires reported in that vicinity. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be caught up in the sky with that kind of weather. We had thunderstorm warnings most of the weekend so it shouldn't have been a surprise.

Better Hurry!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Fisherman

On a hot day, it sure seems much cooler down by the water. Oh wait! It was. At least it felt about 10 degrees cooler on the dock.

Fishing at Beebe Bridge Campground / Park

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Locomotive Jackpot

There is a rail line that runs north from Wenatchee along the Columbia River and then up through the Okanogan Valley. I rarely see trains on the rails and when I do, it's a one-engine set up with a dozen cars or so. Not much to get excited about.

When we stayed at Beebe Park campground last week, we heard the train whistle and I grabbed my camera just in case. Yowzer, a REAL train was heading south with THREE locomotives, several tanker cars, lumber cars, and some hoppers filled with what looked like grain or sawdust -- easily fifty cars linked up. But three engines. I felt like I hit the jackpot.

Count 'em - THREE Locomotives

Monday, July 16, 2012

Peshastin Pinnacles State Park

Just outside of Cashmere, Washington is a small day-use state park called Peshastin Pinnacles. It is only a 1/2 mile off of Highway 2. I've passed by this park many times without ever stopping in to check it out, normally because when I travel Highway 2 it is in the winter months and the park is closed. Before heading home on Sunday I visited Peshastin Pinnacles.

It isn't much of a park to look at on the surface -- a few picnic tables, restrooms, a path to a gate with small rock spires beyond. There was one truck in the parking lot when we pulled in and things seemed pretty quiet.

Gate at Peshastin Pinnacles

The gate beckoned so off we went towards the nearest rock formation. Lo and behold, we saw a guy at the base in climbing gear. Of course this required further investigation. It turned out there were four guys and one was already near the top of one of the pinnacles. We watched for a few minutes and then continued on the path around the base of the rock.

Back at the truck, we could see the one climber at the top as he prepared to belay down. Soon he was out of sight and we were back on the road towards home.

"I need more slack in the rope!"

Climber at the Top

Today's lesson relearned: appearances can be deceiving. What appears quiet and boring on the surface is not always the case.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cashmere, Washington

It's hot here in Cashmere, Washington - home of Liberty Orchards Aplets and Cotlets factory. We drove into town this morning to take the tour, but alas, it is Saturday and the factory is not running. No tours, just a video to watch. Nah, not interested in watching it on TV.

Downtown Cashmere

We drove around town a little bit, made a quick stop at the local hardware store, picked up another bag of ice at the grocery and returned to the Chelan County Fairgrounds. No fair this weekend, just a place to camp since the campgrounds in the Wenatchee Valley are full. In fact, the county RV park in Wenatchee referred us to fairgrounds.

Chelan County Fairgrounds RV Parking Area

We've got full hookups - water, electric and sewer - for $25 a night. If you stay three nights or more, the rate is $20 a night. No trees here but it is a quiet place to stay. And the views aren't too shabby, either!

View Looking West

It must be the smoke particles in the air that are giving me another photo op for rays of light shooting from clouds in the sky. We saw them at home, at Beebe Park and again here in Cashmere.

More Rays from the Clouds at Sunset

There is one group fire ring in the RV area that we enjoyed to ourselves last night. No one else came to sit around the fire, not even the Good Sam Club Chapter that is camping here. We had a nice breeze blowing so it wasn't that it was too hot to sit around a campfire and swap stories.

This is a good place to camp if you want to explore the area. You are about 15 minutes from either Wenatchee or Leavenworth. Plus the town of Cashmere isn't bad either. They have a beautiful historic area that I'd like to go back and walk around.

Here's one place I want to come back and visit in town. It was too early this morning for this type of activity.

Mission District Wine Tasting

I thought about getting out my sewing machine this afternoon and setting it up outside on our picnic table to work on my quilt, but the humidity is high along with the temps. It would be a real sweatshop if I did so no quilting work today. We'll stay one more night here and then tomorrow we head home. Work beckons on Monday. Blech!

Friday, July 13, 2012

That Time of Year

Summer has finally arrived in North Central Washington and with it our fire season is ramping up quickly. The high temps (90+ degrees) we've had over the past week or so has brought with it thunder and lightning storms. Our vegetation is quickly drying out and it doesn't take much to start a fire.

As we pulled into the Beebe Bridge campground near Chelan late yesterday afternoon, we could see the smoke and even flames from a fire south of us near Highway 97. The online report was an approximate 100 acre wildfire. I don't know the cause of it though.

We kept an eye on things as we settled into our campsite. Occasionally a pumper truck would go by the campground to get more water and then return to continue fighting the fire. Luckily the crews were able to quickly contain the fire before nightfall.

Wildfire - See the flames on the hill?
Here is what the hillside looked like when we drove by this morning.

Fire Aftermath
Unbelievably, even with the high temps, we still had a campfire last night. Honestly, it was just too freaking hot out to enjoy it. No s'mores for me!

We did have a couple of small thunder showers overnight and the forecast is for more again this evening. One of my Washington DNR tweets received today reported over "8,000 lightning strikes in the region and more expected." Yikes! Lets keep our fingers crossed that nothing major pops up near where we are in Cashmere, WA tonight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Methow Valley Sunset

The ever changing view from my front porch was this earlier...

Methow Valley Sunset
Things were hazy today. The news reported it was from massive fires in Siberia (yes, Siberia!) and wildfires in Oregon. As a result, we have an air quality alert through the end of the week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rays of Light

I was standing outside earlier this afternoon and happen to look up because I heard a jet sound and saw this...

Rays of Light
The sun was just behind the cloud and was creating these really neat rays of light. I quickly ran into the house to grab my camera before the effect disappeared.

Don't forget you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Buzz, Buzz, Buzz

A unique kind of beehive that was a kiln, or so I think, left from the old Northwest Magnesite Company in Chewelah, Washington. Information is very sparse on the origins of this structure.

Beehive Kiln - Chewelah, WA, June 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Recycled T-Shirt Clothespin Bag

We put up a clothesline (you remember those, right?) to take advantage of the dry summer air here and bought a pack of clothespins only to realize we don't have a clothespin bag. Well, duh! Out to the internet to search for ideas on making my own. I came across a clever but simple bag by Maridith at Strictly Homemade that used an old t-shirt. Heck, I've got plenty of those so I went to work using a shirt that had shrunk and wouldn't fit me any more. I added some bias tape on the seams to keep the bag from stretching under the weight of the clothespins.

Less than 30 minutes later, voila! The bag was done. I used a plastic hanger that we trimmed down to fit into the shirt. The metal one I used at first was not strong enough to hold my 100 clothespins so we switched it out.

I'm sure the new bag will get used this weekend.

"New" Clothespin Bag

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