Some Quick Test Photos

I got Veronica a new camera for Christmas. I got her a Sony Cyber Shot DSC-H50. I looked out the window a little while ago and saw a colorful array of clouds. I decided to try out her new camera and these were the results.

Cut Out The Middle Man And Save Money

Veronica and I are scheduled to go on our first cruise in May of 2009. We will be on the Norwegian Pearl, departing Seattle WA, on 5/10 and we will be headed to Alaska. I have been busy setting up add on excursions, for the ports of call, that our ship will be in. On May 13th, we will be in Skagway. Since we arrive in Skagway at approximately 7AM and depart at approximately 9PM, we will be there for a full day. Originally I had scheduled 2 excursions for that day. Both excursions were booked through the travel agency that I had originally booked the cruise through. I also found out that the cruise company, NCL, also handles bookings for the same excursions. When checking out both of the web sites, NCL and Alaska Cruises, there were some changes in the verbage as far as describing each excursion and a small difference in the cost for each excursion. In reality, both companies handled the exact same excursions. After booking my 2 original excursions for Skagway, I recieved an email from a different company that actually handled the booking of the tours. They sent me a confirmation email about my booking. After originally booking our excursions, I was doing some checking and found the web sites for many of the companies that actually performed the excursions in Skagway. I wrote an email to one of the companies in Skagway and requested information on their tours. Last night I recieved a phone call from the owner of the business and we spoke for about an hour. She told me which excursions were the best and ones that you got your monies worth. She quoted me a price for 2 excursions...the same ones that I had previously booked through the travel agency and the promotional tour company. I was pleasantly surprised at how much cheaper it was to go directly through the actual tour company...the ones that do the actual excursion. The 2 excursions that we had originally booked, were going to cost us about $386 and was going to be about 6 hours total time of that day. Going directly through Frontier Excursions, we ended up getting a much better that would take us into the Yukon Territory, provide a bar-b-que chicken luncheon meal, a visit to a dog sled camp plus we added on a couple of extra stops at the end of the actual excursion for a very minimal fee. This excursion would be about 7 hours and it was a heck of a lot better excursion than what we had booked previously. By cutting out the middle men and going directly through the actual tour company that does the excursion, we ended up paying $218, a savings of almost 45% off the cost of our original booking. My suggestion for anyone going on a cruise is to do a google search for your port of calls. You will find the names of all businesses that offer tours in that port of call. By going directly through them and cutting out the cruise companies, the travel agencies and the promotional tour booking companies, you will be able to save some major money for the same tours that are being offered through a middle man. The major money that you save, can be given directly to your spouse for her foot message, at the spa on the ship. I guess that we could really save some money by me giving Veronica that foot message myself but unfortunately....I just don't do feet.

Oh For The Love Of SPAM

Years ago, I was kidding around with my friends and telling them about the culinary virtues of Spam. Last night, I was rummaging through some old plastic storage boxes and stumbled upon a Spam recipe book that my friends had given me. Just browsing through this recipe book got me to drooling like some long floppy eared dog that was involved in a Pavlov experiment. I mean....what is not to love about Spam...SPAM Poor Boy sandwiches, Sauteed SPAM - onions -green peppers and Andouille sausage over a bed of safron rice, SPAM omelet, SPAM fritters, SPAM pancakes, Hawaiian SPAM pizza, Chinese noodles with SPAM chunks, macaroni and SPAM, Panko encrusted spam- then fried and placed over a bed of spaghetti and cover with provolone cheese. I mean the delicacies go on and on. I could go for days firing off culinary masterpieces that involve SPAM. This world would be a sadder place if it were not for SPAM. Maybe it is time for all of you SPAM lovers to unite. Personally...I am really fed up with me and my SPAM being kicked to the curb like last years fruitcake!!!!! Are you with me on this???? If anyone out there would like to have a recipe from this book, just let me know. I will be more than happy to spread the SPAM joy.

Moose On The Loose- This Is Really Cool

Ken Gauthier, a friend of ours up in Canada, sent me this video clip. My wife is a moose lover from way back. I know she will love this video. Thanks Ken, for sharing this with us.

One Of Those Dreary Days

The last couple of days I have been concentrating on cleaning up the yard. We have a couple of rather large trees that dump tons of leaves every year. Sunday I raked the leaves up in the front yard and then mowed the front yard...hopefully for the last time this season. Yesterday I cleaned up the backyard of all of the downed leaves. The only thing left is mowing the back yard for the last time. Then I retire all of my outdoor tools for about 3 maybe 4 months, at which time I get to start all over again. Today was one of those days where you just want to stay in and nap all day long. It was rainy, dreary and cooler today. Not much else has been going I said.....just one of those dreary days.

I forgot to mention this....after all of the wheeling and dealing on the price of our upcoming Alaskan Cruise, we ended up with an on board credit of $600. That can be used to pay for anything on the cruise ship....even excursions. I am almost positive that some of it will go to Veronica, for a well deserved trip to the Spa. I can see a message in her future...especially a foot message. And while she is getting that done, I might just have a Pina Colada or 2 while sitting on the deck looking for whales.

Change of 2009 Vacation Plans

As for those of you that have been following my blog know, Veronica and I go up to Andy Myers Lodge on Eagle Lake in the Ontario province of Canada. The 2 weeks that we spend up there is very special and important to me. I truly look forward to those two weeks each year. Due to the economy and the fact that we had to replace a vehicle a couple of months ago, this years 2 week trip up to Canada needed to be cancelled. There is also the fact that Veronica's work decided to change things up a bit. No longer can she take 2 consecutive weeks off each and every year. Every other year is fine but not every year. The 2009 trip to Canada would have been our 4th year in a row. With all of this going on a tough decision was made. Man was I down in the dumps when it got down to actually accepting this decision. I am the type of person that needs something, anything, to look forward to throughout the course of a year. I knew that it was going to be a long time until I got to go back up to Canada again(2010) and I felt that I needed to find something special to take the place of that 2 week annual trip. At first, I thought about us driving up to Wickford, RI...a place where I used to live. I figured that we could drive up to Bar Harbor, ME after visiting Wickford. After checking out the mileage from here to there, it appeared that we would be spending most of our 1 weeks vacation driving rather than seeing and doing things. I also wanted to go somewhere that we would be able to take tons of photos and utilize our new HD Camcorder. After nixing the Rhode Island and Maine trip, I thought about the possibility of flying to Seattle. Veronica has been to Seattle before...quite some time ago but she still remembered how beautiful the area was with mountains and water and all of the natural sights to see along with Pikes Market and other sights. I had never been to the West Coast at all and thought that a trip out to Seattle might be fun and interesting. I checked into flights to Seattle and found them to be very inexpensive, especially since we live in Virginia Beach, VA. $200 a person sounded like a real good deal considering that we usually spend anywhere between $550 and $650 a person to fly to International Falls, MN when we head up for our Canadian adventure. After finding out the cost of our flights, I grabbed my AAA travel books and got on the computer to get some ideas on what we could do while we were out there. I found quite a bit to do out there in the Seattle area along with a trip to see Mt. Ranier. I figured that there would be plenty of great photo opps out there. I discussed my thoughts with Veronica and she seemed interested in that scenario. Then one night, while sitting around thinking of things to do in Seattle... the light bulb went off in my head .....Seattle ......water ......Alaska!!!!!! Veronica and I have talked about taking a cruise and going to Alaska. I knew that we would not have enough time to do Alaska real justice but neither one of us has ever been to Alaska at all. I figured that we could do an Alaskan cruise and then sometime in the future, maybe drive through Canada and into Alaska and do everything else that Alaska has to offer us. I did some initial checking on cruise lines and cost. I knew that we would want a cruise line that would allow us to dress casual and eat when,where and with whom we scheduled formal sit down meals. After doing some research, I decided on the Norwegian Cruise Line. I checked on dates and decided to do a week in May...what they consider the "shoulder" period....usually the lowest fares. After doing more research and making some calls, I had enough info to drop this idea on Veronica. Needless to say, she was very interested and excited. So currently we are booked to depart Seattle on the Norwegian Pearl, a newer vessel, on 5/10/2009 for a 7 day trip up to Alaska. Here is our itinerary:

Day Location Arrival Departure
Sunday, May 10, 2009 Seattle ----- 04:00 PM
Monday, May 11, 2009 Cruise Alaska''s Inside Passage ---- -------
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 Juneau 02:00 PM 10:00 PM
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Skagway 07:00 AM 09:00 PM
Thursday, May 14, 2009 Cruise Glacier Bay ---- ----
Friday, May 15, 2009 Ketchikan 06:00 AM 01:30 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2009 Victoria 06:00 PM 11:59 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2009 Seattle 08:00 AM ----
I also found out that NCL has what the call a Military Appreciation Program. Whether you are active duty military, retired military or a veteran, with proof of any of these, you get a percentage off of your total, depending on which type of room that you book.
Since this was most likely a one time deal for us, I decided to spring a few extra dollars and go for a Penthouse suite that had butler and concierge service.
Here is the description of the Penthouse Suite:
"This suite features rich cherry wood finishing, floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening to a private balcony, separate bedroom with a queen-size bed, duvet, living and dining area, CD/DVD library, TV, safe, refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, and a luxury bath with separate shower. Butler and concierge service is available".
Veronica and I decided to schedule some for each port of call. There were so many to pick from that it was a really tough decision.
In Juneau, we chose to do the ALASKAN WHALE WATCH. Here is a description of the excursion:
The adventure of a lifetime begins the minute you board our "mammal friendly" jet boat, with fully enclosed and heated cabin. Cruise to the playgrounds of these marine mammals where your captain will slowly approach the animals to provide as close an encounter as possible. Our captains are so confident that you will find a whale that they will offer a $40 cash refund if you do not! The entire tour time is app. 3 hours and we have three departures daily. (Times vary according to your ship's arrival in port).
In Skagway, we decided to do the SCENIC BUS UP/ WHITE PASS RAIL DOWN. Here is a description of this excursion:
SCENIC BUS UP/ WHITE PASS RAIL DOWN Times 8:30am and 1:00pm. Skagway’s most scenic ALASKAN experience begins with a relaxing 1 3/4 hour train excursion from Skagway to the top of the White Pass Summit and beyond! This excursion provides you with an opportunity to view the unparalleled beauty of Alaska from two completely different points of view -- one way by train and one way by bus -- you are exposed to even more picturesque beauty with this combination excursion. Along the way there will be ample opportunities to view and photograph waterfalls, majestic mountains, glaciers, historic sites and the pristine beauty of ALASKA! Upon arrival at the train depot at Fraser (Canadian Customs) you will be transferred to a comfortable bus and experience the beauty of Alaska while our entertaining guides amuse you with captivating stories of the Klondike Gold Rush! On your return to Skagway by bus there are many scenic stops all along the way for photo enthusiasts. Skagway Scenic Overlook, White Pass Trail of '98, Brackett Wagon Road, Pitchfork Falls, William Moore Bridge & Overlook, Tormented Valley ,"Welcome to Alaska" Sign, Bridal Veil Falls, Glaciers & Waterfalls. Enjoy the “Best of Skagway” with our rail and bus excursion to the White Pass Summit and beyond! It is the most comprehensive Skagway excursion! Since this excursion enters Canada, US and Canadian citizens must carry a passport or birth certificate with photo ID. Guests of other nationalities must bring their passport.
In Ketchikan, we decided to take the MISTY FJORDS WILDERNESS CRUISE. Here is a description of this excursion:
Experience Misty Fjords National Monument aboard our comfortable high-speed vessel. A cruise to the heart of the 3,570-square-mile Monument provides an opportunity to view Misty Fjords from a dramatic perspective. A naturalist will provide in-depth commentary on the natural history of the area as you enjoy an assortment of complementary food service including a continental breakfast in the morning and clam chowder and smoked salmon throughout the rest of the day. Bring your camera, as photo opportunities of spectacular scenery and wildlife opportunities abound! Watch for mountain goats at dizzying heights up the rocks or brown or black bears on the shore. We'll take you near seal rocks, the summer home for scores of seals. You'll see soaring bald eagles. Guillemots and Marbled Murrelets dot the waters of the fjords, and other seabirds nest in mossy niches on the cliffs. You'll be surrounded by cliffs towering thousands of feet and view waterfalls cascading into emerald waters. Your cruise includes many points of interest; an active eagle's nest, a mysterious Native pictograph, Punchbowl Cove with its columnar basalt formations and the colorful Mossy Wall bird rookery. Enjoy the dramatic landmark New Eddystone Rock, an ancient volcanic plug that juts up 237 feet from the water. Learn about Captain George Vancouver's exploratory trip through the area in 1794 and how the rock was originally mistaken for a tall ship. A day cruise to Misty Fjords National Monument is an experience you’ll always remember. Day cruise, narration, continental breakfast and snack will be enjoyed.

I plan on writing a journal during our entire Alaskan cruise so that when I return, I can share each days adventures with everyone, which will include daily writings, video and photographs. For additional information on the NCL PEARL, please visit the following links:
There will be more updates as the time gets closer to our trip.

Isn't This Typical

Usually during the holiday season, the retail stores slap some decent prices on some of their items and on some you can actually get a good deal. Usually those good deals are few and far between but sometimes you can find a winner in the lot. All of this is done by the retailers in order to lure the customers in and have them spend their hard earned money. And usually I spend the money and try to cash in on the "bargains". This year has been very different mainly because of everything going on with the economy. People getting laid off on a daily basis, businesses closing down everywhere you turn, people losing their savings in the stock market and IRAs, houses being foreclosed upon. On and on it goes. Quite a depressing time it is nowadays. And here we are again, in the midst of another holiday season. This time the retailers are really slashing prices because of everything going on and they too are hurting. I have seen some really great deals out there on so many things that I would love to have or give to others. So what is the problem? Very money and afraid to spend what little there is. All of those goodies out there and I can't afford them. Isn't that so typical of the way things go. I supposed I could succumb to all of these temptations, dig into my file box and pull out all of the old plastic credit cards I have and blow the dust off of them. Shine them all up and get them all prepared for the onslaught that I could reign down upon the retail world. Oh the fun I could have getting my instant gratification and the havoc I could reap. Being able to instantly fulfill my every materialistic fantasy, all due to the abnormally low prices. You betcha....I could easily be talked into such an adventure. But in the end, after all of the gifts were opened, the huge plasma tv has been hung on the wall, the home theater has been completed and the last Godiva chocolate has been eaten and after all of the receipts from all of those purchases have fluttered to the ground, piling up like a 3 foot snow drift, that special time of the month comes. Those credit card statements arrive at my door step and after reading them, I know that I am in deep doo-doo. I am so broke and in so much debt that I will never see the light of day again, even if I lived to be 200 years old. But as bad as it appears, I manage a wry smile and I chuckle to myself, knowing that by standing there with my hand out, by making a simple request to our government and by claiming that I will go under by years end.....I could be freed of this burden that I created and that a magical bailout would soon be on it's way. If it is good enough for the auto companies, then by gosh it is good enough for me. I will be free of any and all obligations to make good on those payments and I get to keep all of my purchased goodies as a bonus. All of these good tidings bestowed upon me by our government just for the asking. I next season when I knowingly and willingly do it all over again...why...because I know that there is a good possibilty that Uncle Sam will be there to help me out once again....just for the asking and by merely telling them that I have learned my lesson......again.
PS- I am feeling somewhat better and slowly getting over whatever cold or bug that I caught....can you tell???

Sniff Sniff Cough Cough Hack Hack

Do these words sound familiar to you? Unfortunately they do to me. I have been fighting off a cold or some type of bug for several days now. Usually I just work through it and I end up paying for it in the end. It will usually get worse and last longer. This time I am going to take it easy and let it run its course. I will be back as soon as I am sniffle free.

Another Thanksgiving

Well it's about 8 PM EST and another Thanksgiving dinner is done and over with. Thanksgiving always ends up being a long day and that is if all goes smoothly, which most times it doesn't. Today was no exception. Today I had to take care of cooking the turkey and making the dressing. My parents did not take the turkey out soon enough from the freezer. They put it in the fridge to thaw out about 3 days ago. They keep the fridge at a lower temperature than most people, so when I pulled the turkey out this morning, it was still mostly frozen. I ended up having to try to thaw it out in cold water. I started this process about 10 AM. Around 1 PM, I decided that I needed to get the bird in the oven. It seemed to have thawed out some. I tried to get the giblets and neck out of the inside of the turkey but it was still frozen in there. I went ahead and put the bird in the oven. It stayed in there for a total of 5 1/2 hours at 375 degrees and this was only a 13.5 pound turkey. About an 1 1/2 hours before the turkey was done, I made the dressing and got that cooked up in the oven. Everyone was scrambling around, trying to get everything timed and cooked around the same time as the turkey. It was all guess work because of the originally frozen turkey. Everything was finally done around 6:30. We were done eating by 6:50. Then of course it takes at least an hour to put leftovers in containers, clean all pots, pans, dishes, utensils and just about every other known item that one would stock a kitchen up with and a few extra ones just for good measure. When I look back on the long day, with everything that went into it, it all seems so silly. All the time spent in preparation and cleanup and spending only 20 minutes to eat.....I sure hope that by the time Thanksgiving comes around again next year, that McDonalds has decided to offer some type of Turkey sandwich or maybe some turkey mcnuggets and a side of fries covered with turkey gravy. Take my word for it...I will be there.

Fancy Rose

Another rose that I grew in Metamora, MI. One of my favorites.

Life In Michigan - My Days On Lake Metamora

Back in 1998, Veronica and I moved to Metamora, MI. It is a very small town that had several horse farms in the area. Metemora is about 35 miles from Auburn Hills, where the Detroit Pistons play basketball. We ended up living on a small lake called....what else...Lake Metamora. Our house was situated on a cove off of the main lake. The water was only about 60 feet from our back deck. The first year there, I would fish off of our neighbors boat dock. I would catch bass right and left from that dock. I also hooked into a huge Catfish and what I believe to be a Tiger Musky. The Tiger Musky was about 3 foot long, had silverish colorations and most importantly....a lot of really sharp looking teeth. The following year, Veronica bought me a Bass Buster style of "boat". I ended up wiring it for lights, bought a battery, a Minn Kota trolling motor and a Fish Finder to get me out and about on the lake, with fish on my mind. I definitely wasn't the fastest boat on the lake or the biggest but boy was I proud to be the captain of my vessel. This was an all sports lake which means that all kind of boats, pontoon boats, even jet skis were allowed on the lake. There were a few boats with 175hp engines on them that were way to large for this lake. Here I was with people jet skiing, people skiing, pontoon boats puttering around, huge motored boats whizzing around, waves everywhere all around me and I was doing maybe 3-4 miles per hour at best trying to keep afloat. I was quite the sight out there. A little pup out there with the BIG DOGS. I would get up early and hit the water before anyone else was up.
The only waves on the lake were the ones that I was creating...I would not really call them waves...maybe ripples would be a more realistic term. Either way, I had a great time on the water. The biggest bass that I caught out there was about 5lbs. I heard that they had walleye out there but as much as I tried, I never caught one. This lake was full of some really big carp. In the Summer you could see and hear the carp coming up to eat the thick vegetation that grew in the lake. Some nights you could here them eating all night long. I decided to try to catch some of the carp. They were really rather easy to catch. The carp would come right up to the bank and you could watch them with their face in the dirt trying to dig up vegetation to eat. I would take some canned corn and placed the kernels on the hook, enough to actually cover the whole hook up. I then would toss the hook right in front of where the carp were feeding. I could actually watch the carp come up to the corn that was on my hook and suck it up. Set the hook and hang onto your rod tightly. Those carp would take off like a flash and you could hear the line screaming off the reel. Those carp sure were fighters and a lot of fun to catch. They were solid fish and felt like a rock when you would touch them...they felt like they were all muscle. I remember one Sunday morning...I was out on the water real early in the morning...sun had just come up. I was floating at the farthest point in the lake away from home. While minding my own business fishing, I heard a motorized buzzing coming from the sky. The next thing I know, there was one of those homemade, single seat mini float planes landing on the lake, maybe 200 yards away from me. The lake was like glass before this plane landed. It was quite the sight with the plane breaking up the smoothness of the water with its small pontoons. I just sat there watching the pilot fiddling around in his little bitty cockpit that had a big bubble enclosing him. It was really a neat little plane. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me. The plane stuck around for 5 minutes or so and then the pilot revved up the engine and slowly gained enough speed to lift off and fly away. It was one of those sights that remain in your memory for the rest of your life. We used to be able to see many balloonists in the air too. Sometimes you could see up to 6 of those really colorful balloons slowly lifting into the air and you could watch them drift with the wind. In the Winter time, the lake would freeze up and people would be out there snowmobiling on the lake. All in all, Metamora and especially the lake, was a nice place to live.
Here is a photo of our house.
From this photo, you can see how close the waters edge was from our back deck.
A photo of our back deck. As you can see in this photo and the ones below, I was into gardening back then too.
I had many different types of flowers growing near the back deck and along the rock wall. Gladiolas and especially Dahlias of all types grew really well there.

Some of the many styles of dahlias I grew. Some of them were dinner plate size...10-12" in diameter...really large flowers.
These are called Spider Dahlias.

I forget what these are called but they sure were nice looking.

Closeup of one of the many dahlias. This little guy decided that he wanted to live amongst the flowers in the rock wall garden.
This is the only place that I have ever seen one of these machines. It is a harvester. The weeds would grow so thick in this lake that every year the Housing Association would hire this guy and machine to clear and cut out the weeds. This harvester machine was on a barge like floating platform. In the front of the harvester were these very large cutting teeth...very similar to the teeth that are on a hand held edgers that you would use to trim bushes. The driver would lower the front section lower into the water and he would start cutting the vegetation down several feet below waters surface. A lot of times the vegetation was growing right up to the top of the water. This machine could cut it down to about 6-7 below the surface. He would go back and forth all over the lake and small ours. As the teeth were cutting the vegetation, the barge had another contraption on it that would pick up the cut vegetation, move it to the back of the barge and pile it up where you see the caged sides of the harvester. When the back of the harvester was filled with vegetation, the harvester would go to one of the coves, where the harvester would back up and unload the vegetation into an awaiting dump truck, which hauled it away. It would take this single harvester months to finish cleaning out the over growing vegetation.
Her I am coming home from another fishing adventure.
Look at that wake that my boat is leaving behind.
Here I am with one of my many bass that I caught.
The proud captain comes ashore.
Another fine looking bass that was caught.
One of the numerous carp that I caught from the banks of the lake.

The Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch New Hampshire

While living in New Hampshire, we had several opportunities to head up North, to the Franconia Notch area. On one of these trips, we stopped of at the Flume Gorge. The Flume Gorge is located at the southern end of Franconia Notch in the Franconia Notch State Park on the flanks of Mount Flume where the water has carved a deep gorge. The trails take you up through this gorge "the flume" and then make their way around and under covered bridges and through the woods. This area is beautiful during the early Fall period, when the leaves are starting to change colors. If you are ever in the New England area, going up to the White Mountain area in New Hampshire is a trip worth making. For more information on Fanconia Notch and the White Mountains, please click on the links below:

A Trip To Mackinac (Mackinaw) Island

Back in 1999, when we lived in Michigan, we had the opportunity to take a day trip to Mackinac Island. We took the Star Line Hydro-Jet Ferry from the city of Mackinaw to the Island. The Ferry trip to the island took less than 20 minutes.
Upon our arrival on Mackinac Island we noticed that there were absolutely no cars there. Everyone got around by rental bikes or you can bring your own for a small fee to the Ferry company, walking or by taking the numerous horse drawn carriages. There are approximately 500-600 permanent residents on the island.
It iws approximately 8.3 miles around the island via a perimeter road. The island is really interesting to walk around. You can take a walking tour or a carriage tour of the island. There is biking and hiking. They have a drive it yourself carriage tour, golf course, historical park, haunted theater, a Butterfly Conservatory and a Butterfly House. Veronica and I went to the Butterfly House. You have to be careful going in and out because they don't want any of the butterflies to get away. They actually physically check your clothes front and back to make sure there are no hitchikers trying to make the great escape. For more information about what Mackinac Island has to offer, please visit the link below:

The Turbo-Jet Ferry to Mackinac Island

Part of Mackinac Island
Another view of the island
The Lilac Tree Hotel and Spa on Main Street in the heart of downtown historic area of Mackinac Island. This is one of serveral hotels/resorts.

Now let the butterfly tour begin: to get a closeup just double click on the picture that you want to enlarge.

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