Thursday, January 27, 2011

Smooth Jazz Cruise 2011

So, in November of 2009, John got a call from the local jazz radio station telling him that he won a cruise! He was sure it was a joke, he didn't even remember entering. So he told the lady to send him the info and he would take a look at it... he was sure there was a catch... to our surprise, He really won and there was no catch! We just had to wait 15 months and get to Ft. Lauderdale. We had frequent flier miles, so that was free too!

The Smooth Jazz Cruise is a chartered cruise of all jazz enthusiasts! You can find out more about smooth jazz cruises here. There were 1900 jazz lovers and there were about 40 famous jazz musicians on board. I must admit, I really didn't know much about jazz music before we left, i was just excited about going on a cruise with my husband and seeing new beaches! We really had no idea what we were getting into. The rest of the 1900 fans on board were there for the music and could have cared less if the ship ever stopped. There were about 10 different concerts through-out the day, autograph sessions, parties by the pool and then a main concert with 2 headliners each night. The concerts were amazing. I grew to love the music and the musicians and the fellow passengers. All of the people on board were friendly and so happy to be there. We were definitely in the minority being white and in our 40's. Most passengers were black and in their 50's and 60's. They were a very classy group of jazz lovers! Most of them had been on a jazz cruise before, there were just a few of us first timers. If I had the money I would go every year. It was a great experience.

My friend Stacy told me about this website that let's you make these cool mosaics with your photo's. I made one for each day... (you can make them here.)

Here are the day by day details of our trip... (please don't feel like you have to read it all, just look at he pics. I just want to document it so I don't forget.)

Saturday January 15th we flew to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We stayed at the Sheraton and then went to the cruise terminal in the morning. I will give details starting at the left and going around the middle pic.... 1 & 2 On the shuttle to the port. 3. The line we stood in to get on the ship. 4. The Bears playoff game was on as soon as we got on the ship. We went straight to the sports bar! It was a good thing they won, it helped things start off good! 5. Me watching as we pulled away. 6. The center pool. They had a lot of concerts here and we could never get a seat! All the older folks who wanted shade sat there all day. 7. Life boat instructions. We were happy to see that when the ship stopped they would actually go out and test a few of them! 8. Beautiful sunset. 9. Watching the sail-away party. 10. John and I excited to get going. 11. John showing us where we were headed. 12. The other pool. We spent a lot of time at this pool. 13. Center pic. Happy to be on vacation!

Did I tell you that our room was a suite with a balcony?? It was so cool to be able to go out watch from our room! The first two performers were Saxophonist Gerald Albright and Guitar player and singer, Jonathan Butler. David Sanborn and Marcus Miller were the hosts. They were all amazing!! I loved watching how the crowd got into the music. It was very entertaining.

Monday January 17th. Nassau Bahamas & Tuesday at sea

We started off on the wrong foot in Nassau. We had signed up for a snorkeling excursion and we were all ready for it. We got off the ship and found out it was canceled. No one else signed up... so we got off the ship not knowing what to do. We were overwhelmed by taxi drivers offering to take us somewhere, but we didn't know where to go. So we shopped for a while, then got a map and started walking. We saw a beach on the map that looked close so we found our way to it and hung our for a while. Pictures 1&2 are at that beach. Looking back, we should have gotten in a taxi and asked for a good snorkeling beach, or we should have hopped on a tour to paradise island, but we knew we had to be back on the ship by noon and didn't want to go too far away. We were able to get a taxi to take us back to town. We had walked about 3 miles... Picture 3 John shopping. 4. Me shopping 5. The MS Noordam, Holland America. 6. Heading into dinner. The concerts Monday night were saxophonist David Sanborn and piano player & singer George Duke. David Sanborn was amazing! SO talented! Tuesday was a day at sea. We slept in, went to the nice dining room for breakfast and then went to the pool for the day. I got a little sunburned, which was a bummer. It hurt for a few days! Did i mention that all the food was great! There was a little ice cream bar on the way to the pool. I think we stopped every time we walked by! There were concerts all day long, we listed to the ones by the pool. They were fun. We met some friends that day. Tom & Nancy from Connecticut. We had dinner with them and hung out with them several times the rest of the cruise. They were lots of fun! Pics 7&8 it was sports night. We were suppose to wear our favorite jersey. Lots of Bears fans on the ship! 9. Every evening we came back to a cute little creature on our bed. Our performers on Tuesday were Norman Brown and Rick Braun. I LOVED Rick Braun. He was an amazing trumpet player.

Wednesday January 19, St. Thomas US Virgin Islands

1. We woke up to this view! It was beautiful! We had room service and ate breakfast on our balcony as the ship came into St. Thomas. 2. These creatures were on the rocks as we got of the ship. 3. Trunk Bay on the Island of St. John. We got off the ship and took a taxi across the island to the Red Hook Ferry. Then we took the ferry over to St. John and then a taxi to Trunk Bay. We had heard that Trunk Bay had great snorkeling. It was the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. The sand felt like powdered sugar! We snorkeled all around that little island and on both sides of the bay. There were lots of fish! The coral and plan life was something we had never seen before. It was breathtaking! Pictures 4-10 are self explanatory. 11. We snorkeled around to the right of the bay and saw this little private beach. It was so pretty! 12-18 lots of pretty fish! We had fun with our new digital underwater camera! I will edit the video we took with it and post it soon. 19. Someone said this was called brain coral. It looks like it! Just don't bump your knee into it, or you will get stung like I did. Check out picture 20. I felt my knee bump it and I expected to come out of the water with a big cut because it stung really bad. I was panicking in the water that a shark might come because my knee was bleeding. But when i got out, I saw this nice mark on my knee! Ouch! Not as bad as my sisters jelly fish attack last summer. I can't imaging how bad that must have felt, because this hurt. We could have stayed at this beach forever! We can't wait to go back to St. John. It was a beautiful island! 21. We found a little snack shack for dinner. A funny thing happened, we didn't want to bring too much cash with us, so we brought $110 dollars and a credit card. We thought that would be plenty. The taxi from the ship to the ferry was $20. The ferry was $28 round trip. Another taxi was $25 round trip. $ to get in the park. Lunch only took cash, so another $20. We wanted to eat a light dinner in St. John and we had a hard time finding a little place that took a credit card. We tried to get cash from our credit card, but we didn't know our pin number! We only had enough cash left for the taxi and ferry back. I really wanted an ice cream cone, but they only took cash... i was sad! But good thing we didn't spend an extra 5 bucks or we wouldn't have made it back! When we got back to the ship we had $1 left! 22. Everything was so colorful! 23. Waiting for the ferry. 24. Our ship all lit up! 25. Another cute bedtime buddy! When we got back to the ship, we were still hungry, but we had missed our dinner time. We had debated on whether or not they would let us into the late dinner, so we decided to go to a bbq by the pool. We waited in long lines and when we got to the bbq ribs and chicken, they were all out. So we had a plate with chewy steak and cold corn. We sat down to eat it and looked at the food , it was yucky, so we decided to try the nice dining room. They didn't check our cards and they let us in and it was SO much better than the bbq. We felt guilty leaving our plates of food... oh well. We ate fast and made to the second half of our concert and heard Boney James. He was pretty good. I honestly don't remember what he played, I guess he wasn't one of my favorites. We missed Jeff Golub and heard he was great.
Thursday January 20th, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
I woke up and went to the balcony and saw this beautiful rainbow! wow! 2. Breakfast on the balcony. 3. We docked in Tortola and we headed off on another adventure. We were too cheap to pay for the ship excursions, so we created our own and saved tons of money. We did the same things that the ship offered and spent about 1/3 the price. We did a lot of research online before we left and figured out all the ins and outs of getting to all the places. it was totally worth it. We got to spend more time at the locations and saved a few hundred dollars. So this day, we took another ferry over to the island named Virgin Gorda. We went to this park called The Baths. It's this beach with all of these huge boulders that have created a big maze. You walk around through the maze and all of a sudden there is this beautiful bay of water. Part of the maze you had to crawl on your hands and knees to get through. It was pretty cool. 3. This was on the walk down to the beach. It looked like a skull. 4 & 5. The main beach. 6. Me walking through the maze. 7. One of the views from the walk. 8. Huge boulders. 9. King of the mountain! 10. One of the stopping points. 11-13. The snorkeling was amazing here! Better than the day before. You snorkeled around all of these boulders out in the water. So there were lots of places for the fish to hide and there were big drop offs. So cool. 14. More from the walk. 15. We had to be back on the ship by 3:30, so we didn't get to stay as long as we would have liked too. Oh well. We will have to go back someday! This picture is on the ferry going back to Tortola. 16. We made it back in time... we even had a little shopping time. All of the musicians played at our concert that night. it was so fun!

Friday January 21, day at sea

The days at sea were nice, no waking up early and nothing to rush too. Well, at least not for us. they had concerts all day and others were rushing around, but we hung by the pool and listened to the pool music. Very relaxing... just what John needed. When we got on the ship we put our phones and computers in the safe and didn't get them out until we docked in Ft. Lauderdale! We didn't call home once. It was strange. But we figured they were in good hands. (my parents came to watch them) 1. John's lobster and steak dinner. 2. My quail. It was delicious! I loved ordering things I had never had before! If you don't like it, they will bring you something else! This was my favorite meal. My favorite appetizer was escargot. My favorite soup was a cold berry soup. So good! My favorite dessert was... all of them! 3. Formal night! they made ice carving of our initials! How nice of them! Actually the ZZ was on the other side. 4. Our new friends Tom and Nancy. Tom, I bought all organic vegetables yesterday! 5. John on the balcony. 6. We took lots of self portraits... 7. hanging at the pool. 8. Formal night. 9. Another friend. 10. John and his shrimp cocktail. 11. the pool scene. 12. My favorite performer, Marcus Miller. He played the bass. I kept thinking that Mitchell and Tanner would love him, since they play the bass. Our performers that night were piano player and singer, Brian McKnight and saxophonist, Richard Elliot. Richard brought his kids on the cruise and his son and daughter came out and played a few songs with him. they both played the bass and electric guitar. They were so cute and he was so proud!

Saturday January 22, another day at sea.

We were supposed to stop at Holland America's private island, Half Moon Cay, but when we got there they sea was too rough and the captain decided it wasn't safe. There isn't a dock there, so they have you take you in on little boats called tenders, and they said it was too rough for the tenders. We were so SAD! We had signed up for a sting ray excursion and the beach looked so beautiful and peaceful! So we had another day at sea. They had free champagne for everyone to make up for it! Bummer for us.

1. Having a good time at the concert that night. 2. where we spent most of our day. 3. watching the concert going on below. see pic. 7. 4. one of the little performances in a lunge. Jonathan Butler and Rick Braun. 2 of my favorites. 5. Richard Elliott. What I loved about these performers is that they loved playing with each other. This concert was Jonathan's, but he kept asking other guys to come up and play songs with him. You could tell that they were all friends and they respected each others talents. Sometimes there were 4 different saxophone players on stage at one time. You would think that they would see each other as competitors, but they didn't. 6. Jonathan Butler. 7. A band called DW3 and Richard Elliott. They were really good. They played at most of the pool parties. 8. Yummy lunch buffet. 9. The best thing about dinner was that if you couldn't decide what to get for dessert, you could just order as many as you wanted! Our main concert that night was saxophonist Candy Dulfer and bass guitarist Marcus Miller. This was my favorite one. Marcus is SO talented. He has written songs for so many people! He had most of the other performers come up and play with him throughout the night. It was a great concert to end with.

On Saturday afternoon they had a breast cancer walk. You pay $15 and you get t-shirt and the money goes to the Susan G. Komen foundation. It was a 5k walk. We walked 9 laps around the 3rd level deck.

The 3 ladies in front were all breast cancer survivors. It was pretty cool. Holland America started this fundraiser a few years ago and they have earned over 2 million dollars. Now several other cruise lines do it as well. it was great to be part of this event.
Well, it was a wonderful trip! It was hard to pick my favorite pictures. I have 100's more! I had a great time with my best friend! I loved spending a week alone with him! It was hard to come home. Although much longer and I would have started missing my kids. It was great to get home to them.We kept thinking that we would love to take them to all of these places! Maybe someday when we strike it rich!

Monday, January 24, 2011

My baby is 13!

Tanner had his golden birthday on the 13th! I can't believe he is 13!! How did he go from this...

to this...

We celebrated by ordering BJ's take-out and by having Scott & Jenn and the kids over and my parents had just gotten into town to watch the kids while we were out of town... (more to come on that!)

Scott and baby Jack

Grandpa relaxing

Afton loved Snoopy on Tanner's card

What could be in this odd shaped box???

ohhh.... could it be for real??

Yes, it is real! A cell phone!

I was in a baking mood and made this fun Oreo cake! (thanks for the fun pan Kathie!)

Grandma with baby Jack...

John and Ashley

Jenn and Afton

A few of Tanner's favorite things at the age of 13...

Favorite food: pizza
Favorite band: christopher drew
Favorite tv show: Thursday night shows
Favorite iTouch app: flight control and angry birds
Favorite wii game: mario party
Favorite thing to do: listen to music
Favorite restaurant: taco bell
Favorite thing to wear: new hat / soft clothing

snow in vegas

On January 3rd I woke up to John telling me it was snowing... I didn't believe it until i looked out the window and saw this!

It didn't last long, but I think it's worth documenting!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

loving this...

I am having SO much fun with this!! I love all the things I can do with it! And it's so small I can take it anywhere! I read my scriptures on it, take it to institute, read my email, check all my blogs, play stupid games, i take it in the bathroom and play solitaire while i sit (TMI), i can look at photo's and all sorts of things! My laptop is now 7 years old! I have been whining about how slow it is for a few years now, but it's not in the budget to get a new one. So, the iPad is about 1/2 as much and it does almost as much. I wasn't sure if I would like it as much as a new laptop... but i do. Well, almost. There are a few things it can't do... but I can deal with them. I am a happy girl!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

so sad...

I am so sad for one of my Laurels from when I was YW president back in Spokane. Her name is Jenny and she is married and has 5 beautiful children. One of her babies died from SIDS a few days before Christmas. I am so sad for her. She and her husband live in Seattle while he is in dental school. They have had so many trials for such a young couple. Her husband had cancer the first few years of their marriage and the survived that. Then they were able to adopt 3 beautiful kids and surprisingly have 2 of their own. I can't imagine loosing one of my kids! She has amazing strength and I have been inspired as I read her blog. You can read it by clicking here or click on the Nygard family button on the side.

Her family was one of our favorites! They lived up the street and her parents had 10 kids, one of which died at birth. I think i loved them so much because they had 9 kids and so did my family, so i loved to watch them and remember my growing up. Her parents are rock solid and we learned so much from them. Kathy was camp director for many years and she is a super woman. She can do anything! I learned to make caramels from her. We were invited to their home on Christmas eve every year along with several other families in the ward that didn't have family nearby. I love the Wilson's and I am praying for them right now. We are so lucky to have the knowledge of the gospel to know that they will be with sweet Andrew again some day!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

read this...

read Ashley's blog to see what we are up too.... her blog is listed on the right... a little bit of this, a little bit of ash.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I wish....

I had my camera today! Tanner and I returned something he got for Christmas at Walmart and they gave him an $8 gift card. (don't ask me why they wouldn't give me cash... That's a whole other post.) Anyway, we are at Walmart and he wants to spend his $8 gift card right then. So we wondered around Walmart for over an hour looking for something. I think we looked in every department. He couldn't decide on anything. Way too many options. It was pretty funny to see his mind go from a ball, to a DVD, to an iTunes gift card, to pencils for school, to shorts, to a hat, to a game and then nothing... I finally told him i would trade him 8 dollars cash for his gift card so we could leave. (I found plenty of things to buy... : ) i would liked to have taken a picture of all the things he looked at.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's: Look Not behind Thee

I love this video... gives me hope for the new year!