Wedding in the Sand

Many months ago Mike and I received a wedding invitation for a destination wedding in the Bahamas. The trip would include a short cruise and a chance to spend time with many of Mike’s family. Mike and I have been husband and wife for 45 years so there really isn’t his and her family, we love and claim both sides. Our invite came during a difficult time for us, one very special aunt had just passed away and another aunt and uncle were very ill, both of whom passed away. I told Mike I thought we needed to grab the chance to make family memories that had nothing to do with funerals.

Our trip began in Oklahoma City, our first flight to Houston then on to Fort Lauderdale. From there we rented a car for the short drive to Miami. We stayed in Villa Paradiso in South Beach. It was very nice with a vintage South Beach feel.

DSC_5469_edited-1     DSC_5467_edited-1 We arrived a day early so we could enjoy a part of Florida neither of us had ever visited. We walked to Lincoln Mall, which was actually a long beautiful street lined with great shops and restaurants. We ate a Cuban sandwich at an outside café on Ocean Street. Of course we walked along the beach, splashed a little and collected a few sea shells and agreed it was the prettiest Atlantic Ocean water we had ever seen. I wanted to share the color of the water but Mike has me in every shot, sorry.DSC_5461_edited-1

Mike is and has always been an early riser. His early morning walk in South Beach resulted in this wonderful sunrise photoDSC_5452_edited-1

Janell and Don, proud parents of Kyle, the groom we eventually watched take his wedding vows, had planned a lovely dinner. They had made reservations at the Yardbird Southern Table and Bar. There are only three in the U.S. and it was a wonderful evening. The restaurant was gorgeous with long plank pine tables and huge wooden beams overhead. IMG_3402 Ten of us agreed it was the best fried chicken (with the exception being each of our respective mother’s delectable skillets) we had ever eaten. The sides were skillet cornbread, mac and cheese, waffles, spicy pickled watermelon and all were delicious. Thank you Janell and Don for a special meal and evening.

It was soon time to board our cruise ship and the wedding celebration to begin. This was our first Carnival cruise but our stateroom was nice and as spacious as our room had been on our previous Princess cruise. Photos are always a part of cruising, I know they are money makers for cruise lines but I actually liked our first picture as we boarded. Our first photo became our first purchase.

IMG_3403 We began eating almost immediately, in our defense it was actually lunch time. If you have ever cruised you know that cruise ships are really extremely large floating feasts. You can eat any time of day your tummy or maybe just your taste buds feel the need.

There were 42 people in our wedding group. Lots of family from both the bride and groom and an amazing number of their friends. I think it was such a testament to this young couple that so many were willing to spend time and money to be a part of the beginning of their journey together as man and wife. December is often one of the hardest times to work another event into people’s busy schedules.

The morning of the wedding was a nice temperature, a little cloudy with a pleasant breeze. Our big group met and debarked together. After a short walk into Nassau busses took us to Orange Hill BeachDSC_5499_edited-1 DSC_5503_edited-1   DSC_5508_edited-1                           As always a picture is worth a thousand words.DSC_5578_edited-1 We had time to enjoy the beach, wade in the beautiful turquoise water and simply absorb where we were.DSC_5536_edited-1 The wedding site was already prepared, complete with a decorated arbor and chairs for the guests but we weren’t rushed, there seemed to be scheduled time for calm and reflection.

Mike used some of his time to snap some family photos. Great looking siblings.DSC_5517_edited-1                                       Kyle with his Aunt Jane and Aunt Christi.   DSC_5533_34_merge_edited                                                            Don and his sister, Nancy.     DSC_5529_edited-1                                   Kyle’s brother Brian and his wife Amy.  Gorgeous couple!DSC_5539_edited-1                                                             The West FamilyDSC_5525_edited-1                     I loved this moment between father and son. DSC_5547_edited-1

It was a perfect day, a precious ceremony and the couple seemed incredibly in love. Their vows were unique and personal to each other, the officiate was thoughtful and sometimes humorous with his words. He offered them heartfelt advice, Kyle and Malisa looked into each other’s eyes as they held hands and committed their love and lives to one another. I felt honored to witness their beginning and will always remember the day.

A professional photographer took many photos which I am sure were amazing but Mike wanted to try and capture some of the beautiful couple. A blog about a wedding trip has to have wedding pics. DSC_5558_edited-1  When the couple is as photogenic as Malisa and Kyle many wedding photos are necessary. DSC_5594_edited-1 DSC_5595_edited-1 DSC_5593_edited-1

This picture is filled with lace and roses but my favorite part is the love you see. DSC_5552_edited-1 You could see on the parent’s faces how happy they were to be celebrating with this special couple.DSC_5563_edited-1

Eventually we all rode in the busses back to our ship where the newly married couple would be celebrated at their wedding reception on board. There was a delicious buffet and 3 wonderful layers of wedding cake. There was champagne for toasting and music and a DJ for dancing. DSC_5611_edited-1   DSC_5614_edited-1             DSC_5615_edited-1             I think everyone who attended had a great time and left with another happy memory of this special couple.

Our wedding day festivities were not over yet. Janell and Don, Kyle’s parents, had booked a sunset catamaran sailing excursion and the entire wedding group was invited. The views were spectacular, as the sun descended Mike snapped pictures hoping to capture the perfect view.DSC_5638_edited-1         I love all of the many sunset shots.DSC_5641_edited-1 DSC_5648_edited-1 We all had a fabulous time and it gave us time to get to know each other a little better.

Malisa’s parents, Flo and Bill, were charming, friendly and the type of people you could feel an instant connection with. I loved learning about the part of the world where Flo was born which was east Malaysia. She spoke lovingly of her family they would be visiting soon. Kyle and Malisa had a traditional Malaysian wedding a few weeks later. She and I promised to become Facebook friends since we were now family. Bill was a doting father and very proud of Malisa and Kyle’s union. He was having a really wonderful wedding cruise and seemed determined to enjoy every moment, I loved that about him.

I was able to take some cousin photos

DSC_5680_edited-2  DSC_5681_edited-2 Mike, Janell and Christi grew up in a close knit family who spent lots of time together. Growing families and distance over the years sometimes made staying connected difficult for these three but they were taught to value family and I think they share a forever bond.

The sunset cruise was a great success, I think each lucky guest left with one or many new friends and another wedding memory to treasure. After the cruise everyone was given time to enjoy Nassau in their own way. Janell had prepared a list of the top dining spots and the best of Nassau’s nightlife options. She was careful not to monopolize the newlywed’s time because she completely understood their desire to be with so many loved ones, family and friends.

Janell, having thoroughly researched the choices, chose an Italian restaurant in Nassau she wanted to try. Mike and I were happy to be asked to accompany the group of family taking the short trek to Cafe Matisse. It was a beautiful (I know I have overused that word) restaurant, and much to our delight they seated us outdoors.DSC_5685_edited-2                        The food was mouth watering, definitely another reason to revisit Nassau. Janell and Don’s generosity was astounding, we felt honored just to have been invited to join this wedding experience, to be gifted the incredible meals was over the top.

Our last day was a day at sea, the ship cruised its way back to Miami. We just had a lazy day to rest, shop, eat, or do whatever our hearts desired. We all ate together in the formal dining room that evening. There was an incredible sunset that evening, it seemed like a gift.     DSC_5688_edited-1 The day was perhaps anti climatic after the previous whirlwind days but we were actually ready for some rest and we had accumulated so many special memories our hearts were full.

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Red Cake Day

I have learned Red Velvet Cake is a tradition in many families.  My mother was an exceptional home cook and her red cake was something I looked forward to, it was always  my birthday cake.  I loved its moist layers and incredible icing.  She only made it a few times a year and I think that made it even more special.  My mom’s actual recipe card says Waldorf-Astoria Cake.  Even though the hotel in New York helped make the dessert famous it is actually widely considered a southern recipe.

When I met and later married my sweet husband I became a part of another family.  My husband’s Aunt Carol was also an excellent cook, she had lots of specialties and I am so grateful she taught me how to prepare what became some of my family’s favorite meals.  I never liked macaroni and cheese until I ate hers and her spaghetti sauce is legendary in our family.  Red cake was another of her delectable treats and one she always made for Christmas.  We usually gathered at my mother in-laws (another extraordinary cook) on Christmas Eve and sometimes Aunt Carol would arrive with her red cake still warm, oh my, delicious.

Food can gather people together, offer comfort and even strengthen memories.   Thinking back over the years  I really can’t tell you what birthday or Christmas gifts I received but I can close my eyes and see, smell and taste the red cakes my mom and Aunt Carol baked with love.

Carol’s daughters, Janell and Christi,dsc_1542-1_edited-1  and her sister, Luetta (Jane) have worked to keep the red cake tradition alive.  These three special ladies organized a December gathering.  It began as a small group and grows every year.  Lots of delicious food is involved with a beautiful buffet. dsc_1515-1_edited-1 Charity and her daughter Grace are making their choices.

Kara’s two adorable little girls were being assisted by their Aunt Katedsc_1514-1_edited-2   dsc_1514-1_edited-1.

Aunt Courtney helped Gabriel fill his plate and get him settled at a tabledsc_1517-1_edited-1.  Grace and Kinsey  dsc_1537-1_edited-1 (sweet cousins) ate their lunch together.

Kate’s daughter, Carson, brought her friend Hope  dsc_1513-1_edited-1, both beautiful girls.

The guys gathered in the living room near the television dsc_1510-1_edited-1   dsc_1511-1_edited-1.

I should mention we all enjoyed Christi and Jane’s new home.  It is really beautiful and has a gorgeous very large kitchen, perfect for gathering.  An added bonus was the Christmas décor, Christi had worked hard to fill the house with holiday cheer.

The new house had plenty of space for families to enjoy their meal, dsc_1527-1_edited-1 Glen, Kate’s husband, Jackson, Kate’s son and Carson.     dsc_1522-1_edited-1 Charity and her oldest bonus son, Tyler.dsc_1524-1_edited-1 Courtney and her husband Roy.  dsc_1526-1_edited-1 Janell and her husband Don.dsc_1525-1_edited-1 Charity and her husband, Mike.   Kara and her husband, Joe   dsc_1528-1_edited-1.

Jake and his Aunt Jane dsc_1519-1_edited-1.

I regret I didn’t get a photo of Kate and Glen together.   I was snapping these pics and forgot to ask someone to take one of Mike and I.  No matter how many images you capture there is always something or someone you miss.  I fully intended to take photos of the beautiful red cakes, one made by Christi and Jane and another baked by Janell, they were both delicious and I apologize for my ineptness as a photographer.

Gabriel loved getting to know his big cousin (his words), Carson.  She was patient with a five-year old little cousin and helped him with a game dsc_1530-1_edited-1   dsc_1529-1_edited-1

Grace is always willing to have her photo taken with her big brother, Tylerdsc_1516-1_edited-1 .


My dearest husband, Mike, had a great time entertaining and being entertained by little Avery, Kara and Joe’s youngest daughter.dsc_1538-1_edited-1.  I couldn’t stop snapping these two sweet sisters, Avery and Reese, both are incredibly photogenicdsc_1535-1_edited-3      dsc_1535-1_edited-2 .

Avery was such a happy girl, just can’t get over this facedsc_1540-1_edited-1    dsc_1539-1_edited-1 .

I loved this photo of Kara and Avery.  Their very natural pose so reminded me of thirty plus years ago when I would hold my son, Jake.  He always sucked his left thumb and twirled my hair with his right hand.  dsc_1543-1_edited-1

Grabbed one picture of Mike with granddaughter, Kinseydsc_1520-1_edited-1 .

Kate and her Aunt Christi paused briefly for this photodsc_1521-1_edited-1 .

I also took a few staged photos, beginning with Aunt Jane and a few of her great great nephews and niecesdsc_1534-1_edited-1 .

Then Aunt Jane and some of her great nieces and nephews.dsc_1531-1_edited-1 .

The last photo taken was to prove I was actually presentdsc_1544-1_edited-1 .

I think Aunt Carol would be proud of the group that gathered and happy that we continue to make memories together.  Red cake is a perfect combination of cocoa, sugar, flour, buttermilk, oil, eggs, vinegar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and red food coloring but Red Cake Day is a mix of families and hearts intent on keeping traditions alive.






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Summer Retreat with the Grands

On a hot August morning Mike and I loaded our four youngest grandchildren for a brief getaway, we were missing our oldest grandson, Tyler, but he is a working man.  Our plans were to go “camping”, not the cot in a tent kind of camping but the nice bed in a 5th wheel kind.  I mention that not to boast but to explain we are pretty spoiled, I really like electricity, air-conditioning, hot showers, and all the normal comforts, my grands enjoy those things too.

We had a two-hour drive to reach our destination, Fin and Feather Lodge on Tenkiller Lake.  The kids were good travelers, they were armed with Ipads and headphones.   I was quick to decide whoever invented headphones was brilliant and most certainly should have received a Nobel peace prize.

Upon arriving at the Fin our first stop was Soda Steve’s, the fun restaurant with delicious burgers and more.  We found a big table and savored and assortment of choices, the homemade onion rings were a big hit.  After lunch the little ones delighted in washing their hands, Soda Steve’s made that a fun experience.IMG_2215_edited-1 A great big bath tub instead of a sink is so much better.

Fin and Feather offers many choices for entertainment.  The three youngest, Kinsey, Grace and Gabriel chose the Fin’s swimming pool for their first activity.  They have a nice pool, a wading pool and a bubbly hot tub.

IMG_2219_edited-1     IMG_2224_edited-1       IMG_2221_edited-1  All three love the water, I am not quite ready to let little Gabe loose in a deep pool without a life jacket, although he wants to be free.

Colton had packed his fishing pole and a tackle box filled with all things “fishing”.  He was eager to throw a line in the pond so he chose to be a fisherman before swimming.DSC_0674_edited-1  Since Colton is now a teenager we give him more freedom, he is a great kid growing into a fine young man.

The Fin has a building set up as an arcade. DSC_0642_edited-2 The perimeter of the room has games of all kinds and the center of the room is a miniature golf course.  The games were probably not the most current but the kids all enjoyed them.  There were simple games that you just put a quarter in and out popped a ball, others you droveDSC_0606_edited-1   DSC_0601_edited-1

and some that required two great minds.DSC_0610_edited-1 .  Colton and Grandad played air hockey  DSC_0597_edited-1 All four tried the miniature golf course.  DSC_0617_edited-1    DSC_0616_edited-1  DSC_0631_edited-1   DSC_0639_edited-1   DSC_0629_edited-1

The ping-pong table was also a favorite.   An amazing August rainstorm trapped us in the arcade for a while but none of us really cared.  Mike and I loved watching a Oklahoma August rain  and were beyond grateful for the 20 degree drop in temperature that came with it.

The Fin has a very nice gift shop with a large selection, making it hard for 5, 6 and 9 year olds to choose.  Hard but not impossible,  they were up to the task.  They eventually made time to climb and slide on the playground, although we had to towel dry the equipment. This trip was not the kids first time to be monkeys on the Fin playground but the first to have it all to themselves.

As evening drew nearer the plan was group fishing.  going fishing  This was definitely more Mike’s department, which was totally ok.  I got to just watch and enjoy with the camera at the ready. I was amazed at the girl’s interest and their willingness to touch a worm. DSC_0667_edited-1          DSC_0679_edited-1

Both girls were patient, a necessary trait for fishing, but one I think my sweet girls are still learning.  One trait they share is a special cousin bond, makes my heart smile.DSC_0672_edited-1  Gabriel had a little trouble staying interested in the fishing but found a kitty to play with.  DSC_0678_edited-1 Little boys always find something to make them smile.  Colton took his fishing pretty seriously, he chose a spot with some quiet solitude to throw his fishing line.  Sadly, no fish were actually caught, only some moss.

I planned for us to watch a family friendly movie, Disney’s Parent Trap.  We rented it at the local video store because our copy is an outdated VHS, but unfortunately the DVD was so scratched it was unwatchable.  We eventually settled for another movie we had with us, I had grabbed and oldie but a goodie, Secondhand Lions.  The trailer was cozy with all six of us but when you are with people you love cozy can be nice.  The girls had matching nightgowns, this was little Grace’s idea.  She and I had purchased them a few days before our Fin trip, she wanted to surprise Kinsey with “twinsey” pjs.DSC_0689_edited-1  The new gowns came with matching outfits for their American dolls.  Luckily their new stuffed animals, purchased in the Fin Gift Shop, were happy to join in the “twinsey” fun.

Eventually everyone fell asleep, it was late enough that all four slept in the next morning. After muffins for breakfast we spent our second morning  in the pool.  We were suppose to be home in early afternoon so lunch was a little fast and crazy.  Before we reloaded for our return drive we snapped a group shot DSC_0694_edited-1

As we drove home I asked each grandchild what was their favorite thing on our short retreat.  Colton was very quick to say, “fishing”, Kinsey said “arcade”, Gabriel answered  “I need to think about it” and Grace said “spending time with Nana and Grandad”.  Mike and I are very blessed grandparents and we know it.  Time spent with our grands is special, I love making memories with them.





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Blue Hawaii, Kauai and Maui


On May 30, 2016, Memorial Day, Mike and I began our first vacation in Hawaii.  This was a trip I had wished for my entire life.  I grew up watching Elvis movies, Blue Hawaii being my favorite.  I love the ocean and beautiful foliage and flowers and have always imagined Hawaii to be one of the most picturesque places on earth.  My sweet husband didn’t really share my desire to see our 50th state but he loves me and tries to please me most of the time, a commitment I am eternally grateful for.
Mike retired from his teaching career 5 years ago but agreed to return (something he had said he would NEVER do) to the classroom to teach the last 10 weeks of this past school year.  His compassion for his teacher friends who were working hard to fill a vacancy and his desire to help struggling students motivated his decision.   His first week back at school he asked me to plan our 43rd wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii.
  I thought the photographer in Mike would totally love the photo opportunities Hawaii offers.   I was hopeful that would offset his big dread, the LONG flight.  Oklahoma is about a 3 hour flight to Los Angeles then 5 1/2 hours to Hawaii.  I completely agreed that was a lot of hours strapped in a chair beside total strangers with only pretzels and Diet Coke for nourishment.   I prayed the experience would be worth it.
We watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean for more than an hour before we arrived at Lihue  (pronounced LeHooey), Kauai.  The beauty had already begun.
Mike is an early riser, always has been and always will be.  One big advantage to that is you get to see the sunrise.  In Hawaii that is a spectacular event, these are some of his mornings. DSC_1168_edited-1DSC_1049_edited-1DSC_1176_edited-1  He took lots of shots of our resort, The Sheraton Kauai Resort, we stayed at Poipo, Beach, pronounced Poy-Pooh, wanted to share a few  DSC_1034_edited-1DSC_1189_edited-1         DSC_1191_edited-1
Having arrived after dark our sightseeing didn’t start until Tuesday morning, May 31.  After being advised of some not to be missed sights from a young resident of Lihue we drove to the old Lihue pier, near the airport.  Mike loved the ancient concrete and wood pier.DSC_1087_edited-1  Our next recommended destination was Alekoko (Menehune) Fishpond.  The first photo is the mountain beside the Fishpond DSC_1079_edited-1These next two are of the actual Fishpond.  DSC_1071_edited-1DSC_1080_edited-1   We enjoyed that view before heading to Wailua Falls  DSC_1097_edited-1DSC_1110_edited-1   This was our first Hawaiian waterfall and it did not disappoint.  Opaekaa’s Falls was another short drive awayDSC_1130_edited-1  Just can’t see too many beautiful waterfalls.  Across the street from this falls was a lookout for the Wailua River. DSC_1123_edited-1  Another beautiful site was one we saw every time we left or returned to our resort.   To enter or exit our resort we drove through The Tunnel of Trees,  DSC_1279_edited-1  built in 1911.   They were swamp mahogany eucalyptus trees, the tree tunnel is a mile long.  They make for a beautiful,  shady and fragrant drive.  I loved the drive every time we made it.  As you entered the tree tunnel there were Tarzan like vines and I grabbed this photo of Mike playing DSC_1286_edited-1
We attended our first luau, entitled Luau Kalamaku.  It was described as a mesmerizing dinner theatre with a dash of Cirque du Soleil.  There were hula dancers and fire poi ball twirlers and a show stopping Samoan fire knife dancer.  We enjoyed a lavish buffet of local delicacies, the main course was unearthed from an underground oven.   The theatrical performance depicted the voyage of the first families to leave Tahiti and journey to Kauai told with dance, story and song.  Being my first luau I had nothing to compare the experience to but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was moved by their story.  We didn’t take photos but Mike caught this one shot as I received my first Hawaiian lei, made from beautiful orchid blooms.DSC_1133_edited-1
June 1 was our wedding anniversary and we booked an air tour with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. DSC_1228_edited-1 When you have been married 43 years it is hard to give a unique and special gift.   Mike thought touring Kauai from the air would give us a forever memory of this anniversary, he was so right.
The journey began with a flight to Hanapepe Valley above the Hoolahee River where Harrison Ford took off in a small plane in the movie Indiana Jones.  We continued to what is commonly referred to as Jurassic Park Falls,  vlcsnap-error110_edited-1  as we experienced a milder version of the Jurassic waterfall drop the Jurassic music was piped into our headphones. Amazing!  Another highlight was the Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”,  DSC_1218_edited-1DSC_1212_edited-1  The canyon is 3 miles wide, 10 miles long and 3500 feet deep. The canyon has incredible color changes and beautiful waterfalls.
Brodie, our guide, told us The Hawaiian Islands is the most isolated piece of land mass on earth.  It is 2,400 miles away from the nearest continent, North America.  The islands consist of 132 islands, reefs, shoals, and atolls, stretching 1,600 miles.  If you took a map of the Hawaiian Islands and laid it on top of a map of the United States it would stretch from Texas to Alaska.
 Our pilot was also our guide, he gave us more facts than were possible to remember but the story he shared of the Valley of the Kings    I will never forget.  In ancient times when a Hawaiian king died a young warrior was chosen to be lowered into the cliff by a rope where he was to bury the king’s remains.  The rope was then cut and the young man would fall to his death, taking the secret of the burial location with him.  It was considered the highest of honors to be the warrior chosen for this task.
One of my favorite things we saw was the NaPali Coast.  I was and always will be in awe of that coastal landscape.  The color of the water was gorgeous, this is not the best photo because it had started to rain and this was taken through the helicopter window.  DSC_1222_edited-1   This might be a little better shot, I could not get over the color of the water.  vlcsnap-error448_edited-1 Brodie told us many of his own family members who have lived in Kauai their entire lives have never seen the Na Pali coastline or even a fraction of what we viewed.   Nearly 70% of Kauai is not even accessible except by air.  Another of my favorites was The Cathedrals, they stood above the NaPali coast, incredible cliffs.vlcsnap-error701_edited-1 I just have to share one more which includes the coastline vlcsnap-error375_edited-1
The tour continued to the pristine blue waters of Hanalei Bay  vlcsnap-error853   Our guide told us this was his favorite bay because of the mountain view behind the crescent shape Hanalei Bay vlcsnap-error817_edited-1  You can see the interweaving falls in this picture.
 Then it was on to the elusive Mt. Waialeale, the second wettest spot on earth, with an average rainfall of 450-500 inches annually.  The top of the mountain is only visible around 30 days per year, the pictures we took were foggy and from a rain covered window.  Flying into the center of the crater with its 5000 foot walls towering above and its 3000 foot waterfalls surrounding you was awe-inspiring.  The womb of Kauai was our last destination and our pilot said the weather would determine our ability to enter the area. We were able to fly into the crater and the views were “amazing on steroids” but the photos were not clear because of the rain.
 We were given microphones and headsets to be able to hear and speak with the pilot.  He encouraged us to ask questions but Mike and I and the four others we shared this experience with remained mute for most of the tour.  We all seemed at a loss for words, unable to communicate as we were processing such visuals.
We spent the evening enjoying a beautiful shopping area called “The Shops at Kukui-uli” just blocks from our resort. One day a week (we just happened to be lucky) the local farmers and craftsman set up an outdoor market.  There were dozens of beautiful permanent shops and there was live music with many restaurant choices offering outside tables.  One booth sold locally grown Sugarloaf pineapples, the most delicious I have ever tasted.  It was like a rich dessert that melted in your mouth.  After a relaxing dinner with live music we returned to the resort.  We wanted photos of the two of us on this special anniversary so we played “photographer” using Mike’s tripod and the timer on the camera.           DSC_1255_edited-1  We knew we would probably never have a more beautiful backdrop.DSC_1251_edited-1  The perfect end to our evening was the sunset over the Pacific.  We found a comfortable bench and watched the sky’s dramatic changes and listened as the ocean sang.  No pictures, no camera, just the two of us and a view only God’s majesty could paint.
We had saved our next day to enjoy our beach, we walked in the sand with the waves splashing us and just absorbed our surroundings.  DSC_1261_edited-1   IMG_2104_edited-1 I wonder if I was a beach bum in a former life, although I don’t believe in former lives and the word bum has always made me think “lazy”, I don’t think I could ever be labeled that.  I truly know my love for the ocean comes from happy childhood memories.  My Aunt Do took me to Santa Cruz every summer my family made the long drive to California to be with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Precious family memories.
Later that same day we had an afternoon flight to our next island experience.  We flew to Kahului, pronounced “Ka-who-lee”, Maui.  We rented our second vehicle and began the 50 minute drive to our resort, Kaanapali, pronounced “Ka-nah-paw-lee”, Beach Hotel.  The drive was such a contrast, the passenger side of the car was barren mountains  IMG_2166_edited-1 often draped in a chain fence like covering    IMG_2170_edited-1  to prevent rock slides with little to no vegetation but the driver’s side was the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. IMG_2175_edited-1  The terrain was so different from the island we just left.
We stopped at the very tourist friendly city of  Lahaina, pronounced “Luh-high-nuh”, and ate at The Hard Rock of Maui,   IMG_2117_edited-1 .  We sat at a window with no glass to hinder our view of the ocean.  We have dined at many Hard Rocks from New York City to Rome,  even Las Vegas but none with a view like Maui’s.  Lahaina is known as Maui’s historic jewel, an old whaling town.  Lahaina’s Front Street is filled with shops and restaurants.
“The journey is the destination” is the way most people describe The Road to Hana.  We had been advised by many to plan a day for this and it was certainly on our “to do” list.  It is a 42 mile road from the historic old plantation town of Paia to Hana, but the drive is an all day excursion.  We didn’t totally understand how that was possible since in Oklahoma that same number of miles could be traveled in around 30 to 35 minutes.  We learned quickly, 30 miles of the drive is a winding adventure with more than 56 one lane bridges and 617 hairpin curves.  One way took us a little more than 3 hours, stopping at the only 2 restroom stops on the drive, and a few brief photo stops .  The road had breathtaking and panoramic ocean views of the Pacific  DSC_1300_edited-1, there were jungle enclosed swimming holes  DSC_1310_edited-1, tropical flowers  DSC_0003_edited-1DSC_1274_edited-1    DSC_0113_edited-1phenomenal overlooks   DSC_1306_edited-1 and majestic waterfalls    DSC_1311_edited-1    At the end of the journey the small town of Hana was not very impressive but the Waianapanapa State Park with its lava caves, blow-hole and black sand beaches was incredible. DSC_1320_edited-1   DSC_1318_edited-1    DSC_1317_edited-1   DSC_1325_edited-1   DSC_1331_edited-1   When Mike noticed a sign in Hana that boasted “Airport” he said, “how much do you think it would cost to fly back?”  We both laughed but I think his question might help one understand the nail-biting very intense driving required to reach Hana.
That evening we dined at Leilani’s on The Beach.  It was part of The Whaler Village which was our neighbor resort.  The village was a group of shops, multiple floors, with two outdoor anchor restaurants.  We were there for sunset, I think this photo speaks volumes  IMG_2126_edited-1
Mike took a few photos of our Maui hotel.  It was not as private as the hotel in Kauai but it was beautiful too.  This was the view from the balcony of our room.DSC_0031_edited-1 From the beach in front of our hotel there was a view of a cliff  where people lined up to dive. DSC_0123_edited-1
The next morning we had reserved for our beach time.  As luck would have it the Maui Jim Oceanfest 2016 was being sponsored by our hotel and was taking place on our beach.  To get the audience involved they were taking people for outrigger sailing canoe rides.  Mike was quick to sign up.  IMG_2146_edited-1      Mike thought it was a smooth relaxing ride and the crew friendly and informative.  We spent the morning on the beach   DSC_0016_edited-1   DSC_0014_edited-1 IMG_2150_edited-1   watching men and women compete in water sports, many I had never heard of.  The announcer explained we were watching some of the best water athletes in the world compete.
At the end of our beach/rest day we treated ourselves to the chef’s tasting menu at the upstairs dining room at Leilani’s.  DSC_0033_edited-1 .    It was a delicious 3 course meal, one I would highly recommend if you visit the Kaanapali area of Maui.
We were a little sad that it was the last Hawaiian sunset of the trip.  Mike used his tripod again and tried to capture the sky and water one last time. DSC_0052_edited-1   DSC_0047_edited-1.  Here is that beautiful view without us DSC_0039_edited-1 We flew home the next evening and even though we had many hours of Sunday to explore we knew we would be Oklahoma bound before the sun set.
  The captain of the outrigger sailing canoe that Mike was fortunate enough to ride with had told Mike about a special Hawaiian send off that would take place Sunday morning and invited us to attend.  We gathered on the beach where all 10 vessels were lined up ready to depart.  DSC_0079_edited-1  There was a Hawaiian woman, she was the Director of Culture for Kannapoli, she asked all of us to form a circle around the 10 captains.  She spoke to the group and  sang a beautiful prayer then offered a blessing as she poured water on each captain’s head.  It was a touching ceremony and so spiritual I was truly moved.  DSC_0088_edited-1 .   Another couple told us they had been coming to Maui every summer for 26 years and had never experienced such a ceremony.
 After the send off we drove a short ways to another beach.  We walked in the sand at the shore’s edge searching for shells and found many pieces of coral.  DSC_0107_edited-1 .   I had received a very nice hat from Courtney and Roy and the kids on my birthday and it was perfect for the beach.DSC_0098_edited-1
The islands have such beautiful flowers and trees that bloom as well.  The plumeria DSC_0108_edited-1   DSC_0114_edited-1 tree blooms in many colors and their blooms are often used to make leis.  The hibiscus is gorgeous as well DSC_1263_edited-1  IMG_2147_edited-1, the yellow being the state flower of Hawaii.  Hawaiians grow plumbago as shrubs, their lantana and geraniums grow at least 3 times the size of Oklahoma’s.
As we headed back to the airport we stopped in Lahaina for a late lunch.  We became fans of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant on a trip several years ago to New York City.  Earlier this year we visited the Destin, Florida Bubba Gump’s.  It seemed only fitting we add the Maui version to our list.  It is a fun restaurant but also serves delicious seafood.  The wait staff is trained to entertain you and your Forrest Gump trivia knowledge will be tested.  Every table has a sign that you turn according to your needs, “Run Forrest Run” or “Stop Forrest Stop”. IMG_2158_edited-1
Mike and I did not turn a television set on for the 7 days we were gone.  I never crushed one candy.  We used our electronics to catch up on emails and post a few photos for our kids to see.  I was guilty of occasionally checking Facebook and played my Word Streak games with some down time but for the most part both of us tried to always be in the moment.
I have often heard Hawaii referred to as “paradise” and I now understand why.  I loved seeing the 2 islands we were fortunate enough to visit and certainly treasure the memories we made, BUT my real “paradise” is home.  Home means so much more than walls and furniture, it means roots, family and love.   Being away makes you incredibly grateful for all the loved ones God has blessed you with.  Mahalo (thank you) Hawaii for the wonderful vacation spot, but as beautiful as you are you will never be home.
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Oklahoma Waves

When you live in a land locked state and you love the water  you have to find your beach somewhere.  Since our grand children may have been fish in another life Mike had the idea to take a relatively short road trip to the Water Zoo in Clinton, Oklahoma. IMG_1312_edited-1 We planned it as a surprise for Colton and Kinsey.  Their parents were on a big trip celebrating their wedding anniversary and this was our conciliatory offering since they had to stay home. We arrived after dark, our first glimpse made us anxious for the fun ahead  IMG_1356_edited-1 .

The surprise part of the trip drove them both a little crazy.  They simply aren’t good at being surprised.  Even as we drove west they seemed tortured by the unknown.  I told them to think of the story they could someday tell, “our Nana and Grandad picked us up, mom had packed our bag, and we headed west for an adventure.  They wouldn’t tell us where but when we got there it was Sooooo Much Fun!”

You may have seen a television commercial advertising the Water Zoo and wondered what it would be like.  I think it is a hidden gem in our great state.  We had a great weekend, three totally different 5 story slides, a great lazy river   IMG_1305_edited-1, a large wave pool  IMG_1320_edited-1, a pool with a basketball net in the center, an amazing play area for toddlers and wonderful round rafts provided for our enjoyment.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express just a short sidewalk away from the water park.   The rooms were nice and Kinsey loved their breakfast buffet. Shortly after our arrival Friday evening Colton and Kinsey enjoyed the hotel’s Oklahoma shaped swimming pool.  Saturday evening we asked the hotel to recommend a restaurant and the four of us had very tasty Mexican food. IMG_1326_edited-1   IMG_1327_edited-1   We found Clinton to be a welcoming city and appreciated their small town charm and Oklahoma friendliness.

We were there in early December and surprised to find it not too busy, maybe being huge Disney fans has made us too accustomed to lines and crowds.  I loved the safe feeling the park provided, there were life guards every where.

Kinsey and Colton climbed the stairs more times than I could count always eager for the thrill awaiting them.  Mike and I joined them a few timesIMG_1289_edited-1 but the stairs were a challenge for us requiring short breaks. On two of the slides you could swirl down on a double raft, a treat for grandparents and grandchildren.     IMG_1311_edited-1

The wave pool was my favorite spot, there was a long line of lounge chairsIMG_1349_edited-1   with the feel and sound of a shoreline. IMG_1323_edited-1 Approximately  every 30 minutes a horn would sound and the waves would begin, you could close your eyes and imagine you were listening to the ocean.   I loved sitting there with a good book and my Ipad.

There was an area much like the Splash Pads we have close to home, one in Seminole and  Shawnee.  There was a large elephant container that was being continually filled with water   IMG_1303_edited-1, when it reached its capacity it would tip and pour gallons of water crashing. IMG_1308_edited-1 There was a tamer slide under the elephant splash.  This was a great area for children a little older than toddlers, kind of a “between” zone.

Near the “Welcome to the Zoo” sign there was a waterfall Colton and Kinsey loved to play under   IMG_1316_edited-1 . It was in a channel of the lazy river, a place all four of us found a great place to relax.  By late afternoon on Saturday Colton was using the river as a resting place    IMG_1334_edited-1, the stairs taking their toll on even him.

What I loved most was hearing my Kinsey say “this is the best zoo I have ever been to”  IMG_1295_edited-1 and my Colton say “I had a great time Nana” IMG_1296_edited-1 .

I don’t like swimsuits and cameras to be in the same room if I am involved but can’t not post this happy photo with my two oldest grandchildren and my sweet husband.  Life is about building memories with the ones you love and I treasure our shared experience at the water zoo.IMG_1331_edited-1

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Kinsey at Rose Hill, a Step Back in Time

My granddaughter Kinsey, 8 years of age, recently asked me to join her on a school field trip.  It was to Rose Hill School, located in the Cherokee Strip Museum in Perry, Oklahoma.  In all honesty I wasn’t looking forward to the trip, September is a crazy busy month for me and Perry is 100 miles away.  But I know my grandchildren will only be young for a short while and invites like this will not always be offered.  My years on this earth have given me the wisdom to accept “grand” invitations, the priceless memories are a bonus.

Most of Kinsey’s third grade class dressed in period times. DSC_0187_edited-1 The girls wore calico print dresses with bonnets and the boys plaid shirts and jeans, some with suspenders and cute hats.  The entire class seemed excited and eager to experience what a school day was like in 1910, more than a century ago.  Their smiling faces showed no dread of the long bus ride. DSC_0168_edited-1 I love a child’s ability to happily anticipate the unknown.

Shortly after our arrival we were given a guided tour of the museum, I snapped several shots. DSC_0167_edited-1   DSC_0165_edited-1 The kids were well-behaved but curious about many strange and unfamiliar things.DSC_0166_edited-1  Our tour ended with a trip to the gift shop, always a favorite with 8 year olds.  Ten minutes later my wallet was $20 lighter and Kinsey had a sack full of treasures. DSC_0163_edited-1

It was finally time for the children’s real reason for their trip.  After being directed to a long tree covered sidewalk we caught a glimpse of the wooden “time bridge”.  The children were informed when they crossed the bridge they would be going back in time and for the next several hours they would be living in 1910.  The school bell began ringing and the children followed the sound, eager for their first glimpse of the white one room schoolhouse. DSC_0170_edited-1     DSC_0174_edited-1

They were greeted by their school marm,  Miss Rupp.  She was exactly as one might picture a school teacher from 1910.  Dressed appropriately she was a stern, no-nonsense woman.  Initially her demeanor seemed intimidating, even foreboding but we quickly learned she was also caring, personable and even humorous.  Miss Rupp expected and required all of her “scholars” to use their best manners. DSC_0178_edited-1    Raise your hand, stand when you speak, yes ma’am, no ma’am, ladies first, be polite and always follow the golden rule.  Good manners in 1910 were much like they should be in 2015.

The scholar’s first lesson was penmanship with quill pens and glass bottles of ink. DSC_0173_edited-1  They wrote on handmade paper tablets, and practiced the correct curves and slants required for cursive writing.  They were introduced to the word “orthography “, defined (I googled it) as a set of conventions for how to write a language, including rules of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis and punctuation.  They ended penmanship with a lesson on the importance of listening.  The scholars wrote the sentence, “Silence is golden”.

The next lesson was spelling.  Their words were pantry, washstand, flatiron, parlor, waistcoat, bonnet, sash, drawers and breeches.  Many of these words had to be explained to the third grade scholars.  The marm referred to the parents and grandparents sitting in the back of the class as the older 8th graders.

Next the teacher asked all of the children to take their slates and chalk out of their desks and they began American Arithmetic. DSC_0181_edited-1 She walked around the room clearly enunciating story problems instructing the scholars to work the problems on their slates.  The third graders wore name tags and Miss Rupp referred to each one using Mister or Miss with their surnames, another lesson for the class.

The last lesson before lunch break was recitation.  Miss Rupp asked the group to get their McGuffey readers from their desks.  They were going to read from a poem in the back of the book. DSC_0184_edited-1 The boys set two by two on one side of the room, the girls on the opposite side, this arrangement had been designed by the school marm.  The recitation was divided just like the seating, the girls had lines to read then the boys followed with theirs.

After systematically washing their hands from a bowl,DSC_0185_edited-1 a bar of lye soap and a bucket of water lunch recess was an enjoyable break.  The children’s lunch was in a metal can, a smaller metal can served as a cup.  They had been given prior instructions on what food was allowed at Rose Hill.  Kinsey’s teacher had prepared their lunch, consisting of a biscuit,DSC_0194_edited-1 a slice of cheese, an appleDSC_0193_edited-1 and a cookie.  One of the young boy scholars carried a bucket of drinking  water to an old tree stump, the children took turns using a ladle to put water in their cans.DSC_0191_edited-1  After their meal the children were entertained by a variety of 1910 toys.  There was an old metal merry-go-round, DSC_0195_edited-1   swings, wooden rings, jacks, and I think Kinsey’s favorite, the handmade wooden stilts. DSC_0204_edited-1     DSC_0201_edited-1 I never heard the words, “I’m bored”, the children seemed happy and content with their shady 1910 school yard.

When Miss Rupp rang the school bell the children quickly formed a line to enter the school.  Their afternoon began with Oklahoma history. She expected them to know our statehood day of Nov. 16, 1907, making Oklahoma the 46th state.  The children must certainly know who was governor of our state, Charles Haskell and the president of the United States William Howard Taft.

The scholars final lesson was a spelling bee.  The school marm arranged the children to stand in the front of the classroom. DSC_0205_edited-1   Miss Kinsey’s words were barn, belt, pennies, parlor, sewing, churn and maple.  After these words there were only 2 children left standing, Kinsey was one of the two. DSC_0208_edited-2 Her final word was kitchen, she repeated the word and then said “c”, immediately shook her head and then correctly spelled kitchen.  The rules had been clearly explained, they were not allowed to change or correct themselves.  Kinsey finished in second place much to her disappointment.  Something in her DNA makes her competitive, a family trait she and I share.  Bless her heart!

The school day was coming to an end, it was time for the young scholars to cross the “time bridge” and return to 2015.  I think they carried good memories with them as they walked.  I am happy to say they are memories Kinsey and I share.DSC_0188_edited-1

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Fun Family Photography

We recently scheduled a photo session with Daphne’s Photography LLC.   Less than a year ago I saw this picture on Facebook  10800_855963241101912_1211518559571369667_n  and fell in love with it.   I knew there was an artist’s eye behind the camera that snapped this.  I also knew I wanted my grandchildren’s images to be captured by that artist.  My family and friends know that my own sweet husband, Mike,  has a passion for  photography and I love and appreciate his talent.  My desire to enlist Daphne’s services in no way diminishes my respect for his expertise.

We have the added benefit of Daphne also being family.  She is actually Mike’s “first cousin once removed”.  Isn’t google wonderful?  I never really understood second, third and once removed cousin terms but the magic of google explains it quite clearly.  Daphne’s grandparents allow her the use of their 160 acre farm as her backdrop.  Her grandparents are special people and have enjoyed nine decades of life, 70 of those years married to one another, that might be more amazing than google.   Thank you J.R. and Freda.

When we arrived at what has been fondly named “the farm” I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit I was a little concerned.  I hadn’t been there since Daphne’s grandparent’s health had prevented them from maintaining the incredible amount of upkeep required for a farm of this size.  The grass was mowed but the close trimming and the shrub and tree pruning was somewhat lacking.  I know the children and grandchildren are doing everything they can (Daphne included) but they all have their own jobs and homes and a place this size can be more work than 20 people could sustain.  Daphne quickly calmed my uncertainty,  she was professional and completely at ease with her job and the surroundings.  She arrived with the appropriate “props” and even “rewards” for cooperating children.  She is a mom also and understands the importance of candy.

The primary reason for this photo shoot was our grandchildren.  Our youngest, Gabriel,  is only 4, Grace is 5 (almost 6), Kinsey is 8 and Colton, the oldest, is 12.   Mike and I are lucky enough to have all four live near us, 2 or 3 miles is very close when you live in the country. Daphne was quick to understand the “cousins” bond our four share and made swift work of snapping great pictures. DSC_9320 For the next photo Daphne asked the cousins to make any silly face they wanted. DSC_9325 This was the resulting shot.  You can see Colton has that “really, seriously, silly?” look.   He is, after all,  12 years old and almost a teenager, the look on his face speaks volumes.  Still a cute picture.

The next shots were of the pairs of siblings.  Colton and Kinsey DSC_9308    and Grace and Gabriel    DSC_9307.

Charity and her husband, Mike, had come with the hope of a family shot.  Daphne chose this setting DSC_9312 and had asked the kids to take their socks and shoes off.  I love this “barefoot” pose, it seems so personal and very natural.   Daphne’s next idea was this pose DSC_9316, I love the old milk can that is so casually leaning on the tree in the background. Great picture of a sweet couple.

Courtney’s husband, Roy, wasn’t able to be with us.  We were also missing our son, Jake, and our adult bonus grandson, Tyler.  Since this was really a grand kids session I hadn’t arranged for our  “busy-hard-to-get” ones to be on location, that will be our next session.  Daphne took this photo of Courtney and the two who belong to her, Colton and KinseyDSC_9328 copy.  I love black and white photos and am pleased that Daphne’s editing eye chose this.

We always love to be in photos with our grands and hope someday they will look back and say “I love the picture of Nana and Grandad with me”.  This first shot Daphne posed us and then asked Mike to kiss me and told the kids to respond naturallyDSC_9343 then the “Ewwwwws and yucky’s”  began.  The laughter in this next pic was genuine     DSC_9346 .

Gabriel and Grandad are special buddies.  Mike is a wonderful grandfather to all of them but Gabriel has always been Mike’s boy.  The other three are a little bit of Nana’s kids.  These next two pictures are our youngest/oldest family membersDSC_9347    DSC_9352 .

The boards with peeling white paint make a great backdrop for these next photosDSC_9354 Kinsey and big brother, ColtonDSC_9362 . I was so glad Daphne helped Colton find his real smile.

These next two pictures were taken on a weathered and moss covered bench, Gracie was certain she saw a bug and had a little trouble getting comfortable DSC_9358 but bugs don’t bother Gabe  DSC_9359.

I hope I have not made this photo session seem systematical and structured.   It was not!  These four were running in different directions, exploring and searching for the next climbing toy, and often squealing with delight.  They love to be outside and a farm this size offered much to investigate.   Daphne seemed to know when to let them run and how to make them calm when she was ready.

One of the “props” available for this group shot was a hand crafted train engineDSC_9381 .  If you are four or almost a teenager you still like train engines.  Kinsey and I agreed this was our favorite group photoDSC_9304 . I was amazed that a rusty old blue school bus could made such great pictures DSC_9391.   If you change that blue bus to black and white this is the result  DSC_9392 copy. Gabriel and Colton are eight years apart in age but have a great bond.  Gabriel totally looks up to Colton and Colton is a caring, loving “big” cousin to Gabe.

A mother/daughter picture is always special, so glad Daphne captured thisDSC_9400 followed by mother/son DSC_9403.

Kinsey and Grace had stepped up on this old tram, the bus is in the background.  Blue paint must have been on special when these two received their last coating.DSC_9408.   Colton found the end seat of the same blue tram, guess they ran out of blue paint   DSC_9410 .  I am not poking fun at the unique items on the farm, I am actually grateful for each one and love the charm they gave to all of our photos.

We had found this cute blue hat when searching for the girl’s dresses.  There was only one so they took turns wearing it for pics.  Kinsey seemed to have a natural talent for posing, she has told me more than once that Daphne told her she night need to take her along for photo sessions.   DSC_9417, DSC_9421 .  As we were walking around Gracie held my hand and shared with me “Nana, I love our new photographer”, a direct quote.  You can tell, not her first rodeo.  She has been on this side of a camera lens many times.  I agreed with Gracie, Daphne was doing a great job, love this one   DSC_9430 .

Gabriel is very photogenic  DSC_9432, maybe he was saying, “Nana, I love you this much”.  After seeing this photo I asked Grace what instructions was she offering Gabriel   DSC_9435 . She told me she was telling him not to run away and stay right beside her.   She mothers him and he is lucky to have her for his big sister  DSC_9439 .

The last shots were more mother/son and mother/daughter ones, this time with Charity.DSC_9442    DSC_9448DSC_9449   DSC_9450

Thank you Daphne, for making it a fun afternoon and a great memory.

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