23 April 2012

Fenway 100th Anniversary

We in New England have been blessed with bright sun and warm weather this spring.

From a business standpoint it is killing our sales, and from a volunteer firefighter perspective hubby has been very busy fighting wildland fires but alas people love warm weather regardless of the side effects.  But I digress.

My sister in law Sue works for Welch's juice company.  They made a deal with the Red Sox to do a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest toast.  They chose the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park to do the toast.  We were among the lucky few that got to go into Fenway early that day so we could place a sparkling juice under each seat in the stadium for the toast.

Sitting up on the green monster was a treat.  We were allowed just about anywhere in the park except the green monster after the game started.  The only thing we didn't have were seats.  So we ended up on the Budweiser bar deck above (right?) field.

It was a real family affair.  Sue brought more family members than anyone else, and to boot my nephew's sister in law also works for Welch's.  So Sue had ten family members and Kevin's sil had another two with her group!  We had a great morning wandering around the empty stadium after we had placed the juice in record time ;-)

 I am not much of a baseball fan but we had a good time hanging out and enjoying the day.    It was a good ceremony with so many old ball players turning out, the Boston Pops, and an F16 and P51 flyover.

Welch's had also rented a floor at Jillian's across the street.  After a while we went there for some beverages, snacks, and to play pool and rest. 

Art's Dad had a great day and since we were exhausted at the end of the day I bet he was doubly so.  But he never showed it.  Good day start to finish except the Boston Sox lost to the Yankees.

09 April 2012


We didn't have nearly enough time in New Zealand or Australia but I think we made the most of what little time we had.
Our hotel was in a pretty good spot again.  The Solar Tours tour company has yet to steer us wrong.  We had a balcony at the Cambridge hotel in East Sydney.  You can see the peaks of the Sydney Opera House in the distance.  We spent the afternoon on a double decker bus that tours around the city.  It is a great way to see all the highlights in one quick round, then you can hop off and on the bus at places you want. 

 We rode around in the afternoon and got off near Circular Quay that evening to walk around before heading to the observatory.  We also found a little family owned Italian place nearby for dinner.  Not lamb but delicious all the same.

The "Coat Hanger" was a pretty impressive bridge. 

Not quite as flashy as the Zakim bridge in Boston but very elegant as bridges go.

It was even more impressive at night.

We didn't make it in for a tour of the Opera House but it was a beautiful building.  I never realized that the roof was all tiled.  Amazing.

One of the unexpected surprises were the wild cockatoos that were flying around not only the Blue Mountains but also around downtown Sydney.  Our bus driver said they were a pest.  Unbelievable.  They were very cool!

We did take a bus up to the Blue Mountains.  Art's cousin had recommended that if you could only see one thing that was it.

We saw the Three Sisters rock and took a tram across a great ravine that was reminiscent of the Grand Canyon covered in jungle growth with wild cockatoos flying around.

There were breathtaking heights and falls galore.
We rode on a very steep rail-car into the canyon and hiked around a bit before going on another tram to complete the tour.

We were fortunate enough to be able to hike down to Wentworth Falls.
It wasn't a big walk but it was gorgeous.

The weather was perfect this day!

Koala bears sleep a lot, and in interesting positions wedged up in trees.

He was a lot softer than we thought.
Very woolly and warm.

Feeding the kangaroos was high on my to do list at the Wildlife preserve.

I thought they would just munch the greenery inside the cone so a little joey surprised me when he munched a big bite off of the cone!

They were happy to let you pat them.  Except for Momma.

She wouldn't let me pat her baby.  She gave me a dirty look then hopped off.

We spent a lot of time here...

I saw a lot of creatures I have only read about.
Wallabies, Kangaroos, Koalas, a Tasmanian Devil, Kookaburras.

We took a ferry back to Sydney that night.  An amazing coastline and a wonderful sunset.

A lot of colorful characters helped shape Australia.

One last meal before heading home.
Left Sydney at 1:20pm and arrived in Dallas at 1:45pm.  Longest 25 minutes of my life (somewhere near 15 hours in reality).
Another five hours to Boston, then shuttle and ride home.

Thanks for the memories!

Southern Cross

When you see the Southern Cross
For the first time
You understand now
Why you came this way

One of the things I looked forward to the most about this trip was being able to see the Southern sky and its varied constellations.  I was feeling a bit glum about my possibilities to see the stars in the Southern sky since it was rainy in Fiji and the city lights impeded all but a star or two in Auckland.
Seeing that there was an observatory in Sydney I booked a night tour then crossed all my fingers and toes that it would be a good night for viewing.
We got our wish.  After a day on the city tour bus seeing the sights we headed down (up) to the hill on the waterfront where the observatory was located.  We had a great tour and got to see many planets, nebula, and stars through the telescopes on site.  Then we went outside to look at the constellations.
On our way in that night Art commented that Orion was in the sky, and he was!  What was he doing down here?  He was rather lying on his side but you couldn't mistake his belt.  It turns out it is one of the few constellations you can see in both hemispheres.
Our guide also pointed out Sirius for the Harry Potter-ophiles in the group and a few others.  Then he pointed out the Southern Cross- finally!  I had struggled to find it myself and found what I thought was it.  Turned out there is an imposter in the sky.  The real Southern Cross has two "pointer" stars that help to locate it.  The brighter lower pointer star is Alpha Centauri.  The cross was lying on it's side above the two pointer stars on this night.  I tried to get a picture but with no tripod I could not get a long enough shot.  I borrowed this from online and thank the person who took such a good shot.  Follow the two pointer stars (in a mostly vertical leaning left line at the bottom).  Above them (looking for the top of the cross to be on the left and bottom on the right with the shorter cross section up and down) is the Southern Cross!  AAhhhhhhhh!!!
Alpha Centauri
above the C (center bottom)

New Zealand

Auckland's customs wins the most efficient award.  We landed, made it through passport control, got our bags, and out through customs in less than fifteen minutes.  Record by a very long shot.  We went right out the front door and onto the shuttle bus (which we did not reserve in advance) and it left promptly after we boarded.  We arrived at the Mercur in downtown Auckland just two blocks off the waterfront.  What a beautiful downtown.  We ventured out for a bite to eat then back to the hotel so I could do payroll- yay power, no rain, and wifi!  Our luck was turning.

We walked along the waterfront in the evening and found a great place to enjoy dinner.  We had enough Bounty fun in Fiji so we had sparkling water for happy hour and a great dinner on the waterfront.  We started with a mezze platter including shrimp, lamb, and calamari rolls.  Fabulous!  Then I had a lamb salad for dinner and art had a great coconut lemongrass seafood pasta.  We had died and gone to heaven.
We booked a long day the next day so we headed back for an early night.
The next morning we got up bright and early and hopped on the tour bus.  We were in for a 500km plus ride that day.  After a beautiful ride down the North Island we first went to the Gloworm caves in Waitomo.  Kind of like lightning bugs but worms in an underground cavern.  Very cool.  Then we continued down to Rorotua for a Maori concert and to look at the geysers, and mud baths.  We also stopped at a farm along the way.  Sheep outnumber people 10 to 1 in New Zealand.  We played with sheep, emu, cows, and Ostrich and got to see a sheepdog in action.  After a wool processing tour I spent the remaining time debating between yarns.  They had some mixed with possum fur which sounds a little gross but the fur is very soft and with it's hollow core is warm and light.  I decided on a Merino wool yarn instead because of the magenta and brown coloring that I liked.  We went out to the nearby neighborhood for a drink and a late light dinner. 

 The next morning we hopped a ferry to the nearby Rangitoto Volcano to go for a hike.  It was a beautiful day with a light breeze.  We got to the top of the volcano and were rewarded with beautiful views all around.  We headed down and decided for a low key afternoon walking around the town and shopping a bit.  I got a lamb cushion for Blizz (which she is afraid of btw, and a stuffed kiwi for Z).  Art got me a great shell kiwi pin. 

Off to bed and up early the next day to catch our flight to Sydney...


Fiji is a four letter word

We had always planned to go south of the equator for our tenth anniversary.  It seemed somewhat fitting that our tenth anniversary trip would occur after our 16th anniversary since our honeymoon didn't happen until after our 5th anniversary.
We planned this last summer when I got an unheard of deal from the tour company we used to go to the UK and Ireland a couple of summers ago.  We had booked and paid for the trip all through the fall.  Timing has not been our strong suit this year, however.
Our trip was planned for just over a week after Mom passed.  I really thought about not going.  No one wanted us to cancel though.  If we did we would not likely ever get the chance again.  So we went.
Getting there was not as tough as I had anticipated.  We had a six hour flight from Boston to LA first.  Then we left at 11pm on Tuesday night from LA into Nadi Fiji arriving at ~6am on Thursday.  The flight was not quite 11 hours.  I slept most of the way and Art slept some.
It was raining lightly when we arrived.  So we headed to the hotel and then off to a factory tour of Ugg footwear.  Good rainy day activity.  We'd hit the beach hard the next day!  We walked down to the Ugg factory which was pretty small really.  We got to watch them make my boots after I picked out the style I liked.  The cost was not quite half what I see at home but almost, plus I got to watch them being made.
They said that the Asian tourists liked to mix and match the colors on the boots.  I wasn't so bold and opted for the chocolate brown I have been looking at for years.  The girl who gave us the tour was very friendly and talked about a flood in January that had devastated the economy and that they were trying to repair from still.
When we were on our way out we were lucky enough to meet one of the Aussie owners.  We had a good conversation with him about why they were in Fiji and how hard and expensive it had become to do business in Australia.  Most of their boots were made in China now, but they had a few smaller shops still in the area including Fiji.  He dropped us off at a great local place for lunch.  Some of the best ceviche I have ever had and some interesting veggies.  We enjoyed our walk back planning our trip to come.
By the late evening the rain had really started to come down.  When we woke up it was pouring buckets.  We went to the tour desk and she said that no one would be operating that day, come back tomorrow.  Not really pleased as we were only there for four days we headed off to breakfast.  We decided to go out and walk around to see the town ourselves.  We got about a kilometer up the road when we noticed the waters rising in the road.  The people walking along were shocked by the rain and how part of the road was under water.  They turned around.  So did we.  We were looking for the beach.  We went down another road on the advice of a local.  We came to a couple of resorts.  My feet were getting a little chewed up from walking in the heavy rain and pooled water on the streets and walkways.  We waded in looking for the beach.  Waist high wading.  We never found the beach but our feet were pretty raw so we retreated to the hotel.
We picked up a bottle of Bounty Fijian Rum, fun in a bottle, and headed back to the room to play cards.  We saw a weather report saying it had rained 330 mm in the last twelve hours.  Around four that afternoon the power went out.
We had no idea what time it was for most of our trip.  While the hotel had a generator so the main lobby and restaurant had power we did not in the room.

The next day it rained even harder.  We went for a swim in the flooded pool.  We heard the road was washed out in both directions and Suva was under water.  Both the Ba and Nadi rivers had broken their banks and flooding was underway.  Tropical depression 17L had been sitting on us for over a day and a half.
The locals said they had never seen anything like this.  People were losing their houses, didn't have power, and were worried for their families.
The next day we finally got power back.  I am guessing they wired the generator through to the rest of the hotel because we didn't see many places with power outside the hotel.  No roads were open, flights had been cancelled for the second day in a row and the water was flowing brown out of our faucet at times.  We had one tv channel, no radio, no internet, no newspaper, no phone...  We went to the hotel mini-mart and got a six pack of liters of water and another bottle of Bounty fun.
We played cards and we ended up cutting my book in two because Art's kindle had no more power.
Then we saw that a tropical Cyclone Daphne was due to arrive the next night.  We were supposed to fly out in the morning but so many flights had been cancelled and even those that hadn't been cancelled didn't always get out.   

Oh, and I had to get payroll done by the end of the day we were due to fly out.  If we didn't get out I couldn't even get ahold of anyone to do it for me...

We got up early and headed to the airport with our fingers crossed.  By the luck of the rain gods we made it out!
We didn't get a total for rainfall, but going off of the initial 330mm in the first twelve hours we are guessing that over a meter and up to two meters fell during our four day stay.  Daphne arrived the night after we got out but most of the damage had already been done.  It will be a long recovery for this poor country in the middle of political transition.
We were so happy to see and be in Auckland!


When we arrived in Tucson Tuesday morning Aunt Marilyn picked us up from the airport.  She was very worried about my Father-in-law.  He has been working so hard to take care of Mom and they were worried that he wasn't taking care of himself.
We headed right down to the hospital.  Mom was somewhat lucid when we arrived and we were able to have a short conversation.  She seemed happy to see us and had a good bowl of soup for dinner that day.  She declined each day after.

We started to sort out the details.  The chemo was not working for the multiple myeloma.  She had severe sores from being in bed due to her back which was not healing and she had an antibiotic resistant infection called MRSA.

We talked to Karyn that day who wanted us to tell her if all the sisters needed to come down.  What a hard thing to have to do.  By the time we called to tell them to come Susan had already changed her trip and would arrive the next day.  Karyn and Pam arrived a day later.  Dad was not happy.
By the time Susan arrived Mom was less and less coherent and sleeping more and more.  Her pain was very consistent, however.  She was most lucid when she was in pain.  They scheduled an operation for her sores that Friday.

We all had to gown and glove up each time we entered her room.

I think she was afraid.
We all were.

 Over the next few days some there were some very hard realizations and decisions to be made.

We were all so grateful that we could be there together.

When we went to Peppi's Place the first time there was a calm feeling at last.

The impossible choice had been made.

But it was what was best for Mom.




It was a good place.

They were very kind and helpful.

They did their best to keep Mom comfortable.

It was the right thing.


 Mom passed away early Sunday morning.

March 18, 2012

She is no longer in pain.

 We miss you dearly and hold you in our hearts always.


Just a couple of days before our 16th wedding anniversary we headed out to Colorado.  This was going to be a special trip.  Our friends have wanted to visit (read ski) in Colorado for ever.  So we were going to show them around.  Karyn and Ralph heard about the trip and wanted to come and Zeb and Abbie were happy to hop on board.  We planned to stay at my folks house but with such a big group renting a house became an option.  So we got a great house just off of I-70 in Silverthorne for a week.
Our first couple of days we caught up with our friends from Denver and my brother.  We got to meet my brother's new girlfriend Dani.  She was very nice and as one would expect with my brother she was also very pretty.  Rachel joined us for dinner in Longmont.  It was good to catch up.  We stayed at my folks house.  I think it was the first time I had stayed in that house without them.
Saturday we drove down to Denver to pick Karyn and Ralph up from the airport (using my Dad's Avalanche) and then we headed up to the mountains.  Our friends had driven out and met us up there later.  Zabbie had come in a day earlier and were with friends.  This was Zeb's first trip back after moving to New York from Colorado the previous year.

 There wasn't a great deal of snow when we arrived but it snowed early in the week and then twice more while we were up there.  Over two feet fell that week making it "the week" to be up there skiing.

The first day they drove over to Steamboat to avoid the crowds.  Afterward they hit some of the local hot springs.

Sounded like a great way to start the trip.

The second day Zeb showed everyone around his old work/play place Vail.  The snow was so so but everyone had a great time.
The next day it snowed so hard that everyone took the day off.

Then they skied Copper and Art was able to show everyone one of his favorites- Arapahoe Basin.

 We took our friends daughter to an apres ski one night and she got to sit in with the band.  She did a great job and had a blast!  She was even more excited when she made tips :-)

The weather could not have been better for our trip.  As we were heading down the mountain to drop Karyn and Ralph off at the airport we saw traffic backed up all the way down through Golden.  We headed up to Loveland and avoided the weekend hoards.

This was a beautiful sunrise.  I do miss my Colorado sunrises and sunsets most.

We were also able to catch up with our old college friends in Denver at BeauJos pizza, and I was able to catch up with my old Lord of Honor Paul and another friend we used to work with.  Such good friends we have :-)

While up in Loveland we had great weather.  Sunny and dry.
The deer were in the yard to welcome us home.  The elk moved through the next day.
The bunnies were a little shy but did pop out to say goodbye as our friends left.

We headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park to sight see and do some hiking.  We ended up at one of my favorites around Bear Lake.

We saw some big horn sheep and I think everyone had a great day.

Picture Perfect Day.

There was little snow and a well packed trail so we all did a little hike up and around the area ending with Bierstadt Lake. 

Sadly it was this day that we got the call.

It was Karyn saying that Mom was in the hospital again and how soon could we get to Tucson.

We made arrangements to head down the next morning.  Our friends stayed behind to close up/clean up my folks house and take us to the airport.