Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I know the blog posts have been few and far between lately. I don't have any pics to share because no one wants to see photos of boxes strewn around a house. Things are coming along nicely, and by the end of today, we ought to be completely, 100% out of the Norton house.

The Hopwoods are in town now and we're major excited to see them. Perhaps they'll even help with our move a bit (I have no shame at this point).

Among the many things for which we have to be thankful are a group of friends, the Kellers, Kings and Uckers, who helped us move last weekend. We can hardly express our appreciation for their help and sacrifice to help us set up our home.

Friday, November 20, 2009


In progress.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Packing and Park

Lincoln has been helping us pack.
We've boxed up what feels like most of our stuff, though there is certainly lots more to go. We're really ready to get the keys and start the moving process. That ought to come on Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, we took a trip to the park today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back from Vacation

Jenn and I are back from our vacation, and we had a great time away together. We'll share a lot of photos in this post, and tell some stories from the trip, but we're also going to include some tips and advice.
These tips and advice are as much to ourselves for future trips as for anyone else, but also for folks who may stumble on this post when researching things like "first cruise," "Emerald Princess," and "Caribbean Vacation."

Jenn and I were looking forward to this time with each other in a big way. With all that's been going on with busy-ness with work, getting our house ready to sell, the excitement surrounding getting the house that we really wanted, initially stressing about asking family to care for Lincoln while we were gone... there were just a lot of things going on and getting a short break was very appealing for us.
We chose Princess Cruises because Jenn had had a very good experience with them years ago, we knew they made great food, they had an itinerary that we thought we'd like, and the cost was very doable for us. We initially wanted to spend our anniversary on the cruise, but August 30th is in the middle of hurricane season, so we put it off until early November.

Our flight to Ft. Lauderdale was very smooth, and getting a cab to the port was actually very easy, and it was less costly than the pre-arranged Princess transportation. We got through the check-in process at the port very quickly, and realized that we had budgeted several hours for a process that we finished in less than one hour. So that left us plenty of time to get our stuff situated in our very small room and then explore the ship.

Holy cow. There's nothing second class about a Princess ship. The only arguable exception to this might be the cruisers themselves. Being on a cruise is like going to the State Fair... like a State Fair with lots of money. There are people, couples and fashion statements that you'd swear would be impossibilities. But I digress. The Emerald Princess was beautiful in every aspect: beautiful clubs and dining rooms, beautiful shopping areas, beautiful decks. Pretty soon after we finished scouting out the ship, we embarked from Port Everglades and started our sail.
It's apparently quite the big deal for the locals (in their multi-million dollar homes) to sit out and watch the cruise ships take off.

Our first stop on Monday was Princess Cays (pronounced "key"), Bahamas, and it was overcast when we arrived. There's no port at Princess Cays so we anchored out in the ocean and took a life boat to the shore. Right after we landed it began to rain. Hard. We figured that if we were going to get wet, we might as well be in the water. But the rain made snorkeling difficult, and the splashing from the

Jenn read a lot on this trip.
All of the books were novels
about cruise shipwrecks.
rain threw salt in our eyes, so after about an hour and a half on the island we returned to the ship, at which time it promptly cleared up and was pleasant for the rest of the day while we were on the ship.

The second day we were at sea. The Atlantic was unusually rough and the ship did a lot of bouncing up and down. We found it most pleasant to be outside either on the top of the ship or on the walking deck because when we were inside we felt "almost dizzy" with the rocking of the ship.

On Wednesday we went to Sint Maarten. We first took a bus ride to The Butterfly Farm on the French side of the island. Once we left Philipsburg and got away from the shore and the shopping, we found Sint Maarten/St. Martin to be an absolute dump. There was garbage everywhere. The cattle were literally grazing among and lying on beer bottles. As veterinarians with training in public health, we were appalled.

The Butterfly Farm was really fascinating, and the folks that give their time and lives to it were pretty neat. We saw all sorts of butterflies and chrysalises and caterpillars.

After we were through
there we went to Orient Beach on the French side and saw some of the things that you don't want to see on a French beach. The weather was perfect, though, and we had a good time relaxing. We did some shopping after our time at the beach, but no buying. Jenn has compiled a mental list of what it is that she wants to shop for on our next trip down to the Caribbean.

St. Thomas was our Thursday stop. There were some neat art galleries along with some nice jewelry stores there, and the costs on cameras and lenses in both St. Thomas and Sint Maarten were phenomenal. Still no purchasing, though. Our excursion in St. Thomas was aboard the Castaway Girl 2, a catamaran that took us to Buck Island for snorkeling over a shipwreck and some coral. (The reviews found here and here are consistent with our own experience.) When we boarded the Castaway Girl 2, we noticed that the crew was 4 guys between the ages of 20 and 25. They were highly entertaining, but we each had the same thought, "Do these guys know what they're doing?" They demonstrated their competence early on and we had a great time. Catamarans provide relatively smooth, steady rides, and the views around the bay and out in the sea were dazzling.
It was on Thursday evening that we noted at this point that each stop was better than the previous day. Friday did not disappoint. Grand Turk was absolutely beautiful, very clean and very enjoyable locals.
We took dune buggies (brand new Polaris RZRs!) all over the island on a guided tour and Jenn and I both agreed that we could spend a week on Grand Turk. After ATVing, and getting dusty, muddy and sweaty (a nice combo mix with the sunscreen that we started with), we got our swimsuits and snorkel equipment and hit the beach right beside the ship. There wasn't much sand once we got in the water, but rather rocky coral. The fish we saw while snorkeling were fascinating, and sometimes a little scary. The sun went down on us in Grand Turk in a stunning way.

I've spent the bulk of text to this

That's the Emerald Princess
way off to Jenn's left.
point talking about our island stops, but that was just one aspect of our fun cruise. No meal disappointed, and the servers, all of them very friendly and helpful, brought us anything we wanted. For instance, the appetizers were very good, but I heard that the Fettucini Alfredo was excellent, so I asked my waiter to bring me an appetizer-sized Fettucini Alfredo, and he did. I proceeded to have Fettucini Alfredo as an appetizer for the last four nights on the cruise... it was that good. We had most types of Caribbean fish, Jenn had lamb, we each had New York Strip, we regularly ordered two desserts and split them, etc. One could spend his entire time on a cruise eating in one dining room or cafe or another. We did not do this, though at times it did sound appealing at times.

On Saturday we went to a wine tasting event that was really neat. I'd never been to an official tasting with guides that knew lots and lots about the particular wines they were presenting. They gave us two whites, two reds and a dessert wine, which were all very good. It reminded me of when Jenn first introduced me to wine 7 years ago (7 years!) and I couldn't handle a dry wine. I've come full circle and nearly prefer the dry wines to the semi-sweets.

Twilight at Grand Turk

Each day they had fine art auctions and we found this to be one of the coolest ways to spend our times during the days at sea. When I say fine art, I mean originals by Alexandra Nechita, Wyland, and Pino. There was art that was worth more than half as much as our Norton house! Jenn and I have been art ignorants, but we learned a good bit from the auctioneer and with the thought of Forest Edge being a blank slate for us to decorate (with the exception of Washington Crossing the Delaware, we don't have any art), we were able to start brainstorming, though any thought of decorating with originals causes a chuckle.

The entertainment was very good. There was only one evening that provided entertainment that we just weren't into (a mentalist whose show just plodded along). There was an evening with a hypnotist, a stand-up comic,
a comedian/magician, and a couple of bands gave us fun things to watch and laugh at in the evening. There were some shows with song and dance, but we were doing other things when those were going on.

Jenn and I came to the conclusion that we're going to plan all future Caribbean vacations around the itineraries and not around cost. Additionally, sailing from San Juan usually allows for only one day at sea as opposed to two days at sea when sailing from Ft. Lauderdale or Miami or New York. Prioritizing itinerary over cost and sailing form San Juan may sound idealistic, and you know, it probably is. But when it comes to spending a week of one's life, pursuing idealism isn't such a bad thing, in my opinion.

On a completely different subject, we came home to learn that things are moving along nicely with our closings. We signed the closing papers on our Norton house, and we're set to sign the papers on the Forest Edge home this coming Friday. The closing dates have not changed, and we still ought to take possession of the Forest Edge home on Wednesday, Nov. 18, allowing us about a week and a half to get all moved. Our goal is to be all the way out of the Norton house before Thanksgiving.