Archive for the ‘Vacation Madness’ Category

Apr

7

2016

It’s Throwback Thursday Arizona Style

Filed under: Check-it-out, Family, Fun and Games, In the Wild, Stuff I Love, Vacation Madness

It’s taken me a bit, but I finally got my spring break photos put together and some I set up for your Throwback Thursday #TBT pleasure. Enjoy the trip back in time…

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First stop Tucson for my birthday on…

you guessed it–3/19 LOL! This was a very perfect room number.

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And my post about it connected me with a friend from home in the same hotel.

(We never saw each other in person.)

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Then it was throwback time! With a visit to the University of Arizona. I had a wonderful time getting my Masters in Special Education while we were stationed in Arizona roughly 18 years ago.

University Blvd.

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Old Main

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The Education Building where I took all my classes.

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Stadium

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And here’s a blast from the past…

The “old folks” in the family (out for a visit) in front of Old Main.

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Heading to a Wild Cats football game.

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My graduation in 1998 and hanging with my favorite professor Dr. Lane.

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The next day we headed to Sierra Vista, where we lived while stationed in AZ. And we found our old apartment…

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The trees have definitely grown and the paint colors have changed.

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Ask my brother–we used to have a much more open view during our epic BBQ’s when he came out to visit. LOL!

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More of the present and past in Tombstone.

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It was a lot emptier when I came out with my mom. I wonder if that has anything to do with the movie Tombstone?

Doc Holiday is everyone’s Huckleberry now.

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Also made  a new and old visit to the Crystal Palace. This time with the boys but last time with high school buds.

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And things had changed inside the O.K Corral too.

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My first time around the shoot out reenactments occurred right on the spot where the shoot out happened. Now they have a model in the same place and the reenactment off to the side.

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Back in the late 90’s.

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Clearly the new models are having a bit of trouble. All of the figures have very interesting feet. The heat?

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We then headed to the eclectic and artsy mining town of Bisbee. We didn’t make it in time to take the Copper Queen mine tour, but we did get to check it out and of course I had stories.

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Not too much has changed.

Grandma and my Dad.

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Mom and I.

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Here’s a different Bisbee before and after shot.

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And the rest of the pics are some quirky, random shots…

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And this was our favorite restaurant and it was still there!!! Had a yummy dinner <3

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Bisbee at night.

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Speaking the truth…

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Off to Phoenix…

These two cuties were not the best of friends.

The Easter Bunny?

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A Gorgeous Harris Hawk named Hitman who worked on the Falcon Force Squad.

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After an afternoon of swimming. This was one of our quieter days. We drove 1,200 miles from the southern part of AZ to Las Vegas, Nevada in a week.

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Old Town Scottsdale

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And the next morning, we hiked up Camelback Mountain.

Gorgeous views the whole way up and down.

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Can you find the critter?

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Meeting the challenge the 10yo was issued by a friend LOL!

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We all made it to the top.

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And then it was off to Sedona with it’s red rocks and a Pink Jeep Tour…

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Our friendly and fun driver PJ!

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Heading back to Sedona…

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And here are my #TBT pics from my first time in Sedona…

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And the next day it was a road trip to the Grand Canyon!

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It was just as beautiful the second time around…

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The size just blows your mind.

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A last night in Sedona–one of my favorites <3 before heading out.

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A pit stop at an IN-N-OUT Burger. I’d never been before. Yum!

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And then it was the Hoover Dam, which I’d never been to either. It was a fascinating tour and an incredible architectural feat.

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Some of the turbines.

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Where the turbines are housed.

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The Colorado River

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My camera was looking down–not me!

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You can see how dry it is and how low the water is in Lake Mead. This is the emergency spillway. It’s only been used twice–once when they tested it and only one other time. Not a risk at the moment.

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And last but not least we made it to Vegas!

And you know what they say…what happens in Vegas happens to your best friends too. No, really I mean it. Imagine running into your 10yo’s best friend and his brother at the pool in Vegas. We knew they were traveling in some of the same places we were over the break, but we didn’t know their schedule at all and they could have been anywhere in those 1,200 miles. Unbelievably we randomly bumped into each other at the pool!

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And a pit stop at the Stratosphere was on the agenda after a fun time here 18 years ago…

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Back in the late 1990’s

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He ate the WHOLE thing folks!

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See–what happens in Vegas happens to your best friends too. LOL!

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And some Vegas random. Very cool glass gallery.

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Kind of think I should own these chairs of birdie awesome.

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And after a night of David Copperfield and his magical illusions,it seemed like this New York, New York…

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was destined to turn back into this one…

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If you could do a Throw Back #TBT tour of a place you used to live or spend a lot of time, where would you go and what would you want to see while you were there???

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Apr

5

2016

Vacation From Vacation

Filed under: Family, Pondering, Vacation Madness

This isn’t my first post-vacation blog, but last week’s blogs were planned and in place before spring break. This is the blog that reminds me that I haven’t caught up from being away. It’s the realization that I could easily use a vacation from vacation.

As I’m sitting here I realized I still have piles of laundry to do, one stubborn suitcase to put away, running to help balance out the gluttony of vacation of and lots of writing to catch up on–just for starters. And although the weather isn’t cooperating at the moment, spring sports have started that means I am back to being a boy juggling taxi driver.

But, do you know what? Maybe I don’t really need a vacation from vacation. Maybe I just need to chill. In fact, now that I think about it, vacation was so awesome it would be a shame to stress about stupid stuff. Instead of harping on needing a vacation from vacation, I’m simply going to go with the flow and see how I’m doing on Thursday.

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Walk away from the madness…

What’s the hardest part of coming back from your vacations? If you could do one thing to stop stressing and chill, what would it be? If you could have a vacation from vacation, what would you be doing?

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Mar

17

2016

Taking a Spring Blogcation

Filed under: Family, Fun and Games, Vacation Madness

Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be taking a Spring Blogcation next week.

It’s #vacationmadness time!!!

I’ll be out and about, doing exciting family stuff, so I’ll be taking the week off.

No blogging on Tuesday 3/22 and Thursday 3/24.

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But I promise to fill you in on my adventures when my Spring Blogcation is over and the kids are back at school. Perhaps I’ll be a  slight bit sane by then–then again–maybe not.

Do you have any fabulous plans for spring break? What’s the best spring break you’ve ever had? I welcome spring break horror stories also–as long as you don’t jinx me LOL!

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Sep

29

2015

In JK Rowling’s Imagination

Filed under: Check-it-out, Family, Fun and Games, Stuff I Love, Vacation Madness, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

This past week, my husband and kids spent two days laughing at me. Or rather, my childish delight at being in Universal’s Harry Potter Theme Park of Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Gringotts. But they were pretty blown away by the awesomeness of the experience too.

We’re all HP fans. <3

But the thing that stuck with me the most was my husband wandering around, continually repeating how amazing it was to get to walk around in someone else’s imagination.

I can’t possibly agree more.

I wish you’d all been there with me too. Maybe we can have an SCBWI event there sometime, right??

But in the meantime, here’s a picture tour of JK Rowling’s imagination come to life…

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The Hogwarts Express

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Hogsmeade at night

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Hogwarts!!!!

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Butterbeer

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Honey Dukes for Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Beans

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The Sorting Hat

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Olivander’s Wand Shop…where the wand picks the Wizard.


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Then…

I unexpectedly rounded a corner into Diagon Alley. My 12yo is still laughing about the squeal he heard me make before he got inside. <3

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The Weasley Twin’s joke shop–Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

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And a fire breathing dragon atop of Gringotts

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I applied for an account!

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More butterbeer–because I could!

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Even the toilets were just right!

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There was also the Leaky Caldron

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And Flourish & Blotts for school books too.

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And there was so much more…

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It’s a tiny picture , but it’s all I could upload with a panoramic.

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And don’t forget the Knight Bus…

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For getting around on the Muggle streets of London LOL!

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And King’s Cross Station–Next time I’m going to get to go in. Platform 9 and 3/4 is on my HP Bucket list. <3

Ahhh I miss it already. I can’t wait to go back. What about you?

Have you been inside JK Rowling’s imagination? What was your favorite part? Are you planning to go? What is on top of your HP Bucket List?

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Aug

25

2015

Seasons: Love the One You’re With

Filed under: Family, Pondering, Vacation Madness, Writing

ONE WEEK FROM TOMORROW MY KIDS WILL BE BACK IN SCHOOL!!!!!

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(Me doing the happy dance)

Please don’t judge my enthusiasm–I really do sympathize with the back-to-school teachers. (((hugs)))

Truly, it’s not because I didn’t love having them home–we had a fabulous summer.

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I got some projects done around the house. Cleaned out and organized all my clothes and the closets and drawers that hold them. *fist pump*

Then it was vacation time…

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We went to Vancouver on our way to Alaska.

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Then on to the Disney Wonder.

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Tracey Arm, Alaska

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Skagway, Alaska

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Juneau, Alaska

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And Ketchikan, Alaska too!

We also did some local stuff with visiting family…

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The 9/11 Museum.

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Summer in NYC

And then it was off to LA SCBWI!!!!

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Caught a baby dragon <3

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And happily hanging with my tribe. <3

And then a road trip to Lake Placid with my Mom…

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Miracle on Ice


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AuSable Chasm

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And Whiteface Mountain.

But even when I was home, there was lots going on. Camps for the kids and just hanging out and enjoying the gorgeous Hudson Valley.

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And while I absolutely did lots of writing over the summer, it was always writing that was done in and around other things. It was moments stolen here and there.

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Which sometimes made it feel as if I was trying to type with a wee beastie in my way.

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So, as great as the summer was, I’m looking forward to some longer, quieter, uninterrupted stretches of writing time.

And while my boys are moaning and complaining about their impending doom…

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I think they’re secretly excited to see their friends again and perhaps to get away from their annoying mother.

(I know–hard to believe *snort*)

And of course, the trade off for that newly acquired work time will be lunches and homework and a never-ending schedule of after school and weekend sports and activities. But that’s okay. Although I have a reputation for hating change, I’m a seasonal girl–always more than ready for the next change of weather after the previous three months. And maybe, since I can’t slow down time (even if I wanted to) it’s a good thing that there’s some change I actually enjoy.

Love the one you’re with.

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How do you do with the change of seasons? Back to school? Did you get more writing done over the summer of less? And what’s your favorite season? Mine’s fall–I consider it my own personal new year. <3

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Jul

23

2015

Disney Wonder and Alaska

Filed under: Check-it-out, Family, Fun and Games, In the Wild, Pondering, Running, Stuff I Love, Touching the Surface, Vacation Madness

GRATEFUL EXPANSION: Vancouver, Disney Wonder and Alaska

I’m home! And it’s been a fabulous vacation and I want to blog about it for a couple reasons. First of all, I know a ton of people that are going on an Alaskan cruise in the next few weeks and a few are even headed out on the Disney Wonder. Since it was my first cruise and trip to Alaska, I would have loved a heads up on packing and protocol. Now that I know “stuff”  I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with everyone else. My second reason for wanting to blog about the experience is what I call grateful expansion. Many of you know that when I was first married, my husband and I were stationed in Augsburg, Germany for four years.

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Those four years were expansive for me. I learned to see the world and the people in it through a completely different filter and I am so grateful for that experience. Since then, this trip was the closest I’ve come to replicating that feeling. I saw amazing things. I met incredible people. And I was immersed in the experience with people I loved. Now I’d like to share a bit of it with you…

Vancouver, British Columbia is awesome. I swear the nicest people in the world live there. From the moment we stepped off the plane, people were friendly, helpful and welcoming. In addition to that, there are a million fabulous things to do. My favorite was to bike around Stanley Park. Bikes are easily available for rent and it’s worth the cost. But check with your hotel first because ours had a limited amount of free bikes available to sign out.

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The trip around Stanley Park takes roughly an hour and a half if you rent from near the conference center. But, there is more to do in Stanley Park than ride bikes. 

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The aquarium. (Buy your tickets at the booth where you can purchase horse and buggy rides–then you don’t have to wait on line at the aquarium. Score!)

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Check out the totem pole park. This was our favorite pole.

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And as I mentioned above, take the horse ride around the park. You learn so much interesting information.

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Just don’t expect it to be fast LOL! The walkers were passing us.

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But the horses were awesome of course.

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There’s also a gorgeous rose garden.

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And watch for the regrowth. The new trees spring forth from the old stumps.

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And don’t forget to walk through those majestic trees (off the exterior bike path, deeper into the park) to find Prospect Point. It’s an amazing view and there are refreshments up there too.

Stretching outside of the park into Coal Harbour there are lots more amazing sights…

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The view is gorgeous day or night. Watch the sea planes take off and land. If you’re hungry, be sure to eat here…

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The Cactus Club has the best buffalo chicken wings and lettuce wraps!

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And the view from inside is pretty amazing.

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Here’s the view of the outside looking in. Just like the Vancouver Conference Center, the Cactus Club has a living roof and you can climb up top and check it out after you’re full of yummy stuff. Other to-die-for restaurants in Vancouver were the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. They had an amazing breakfast. We also loved Gotham Steakhouse, Cin Cin and Black + Blue.

On the other side is the Olympic Cauldron and on your way to the Cactus Club Loo you can check out three Olympic Torches on display.

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You also don’t want to miss some fabulous gelato…

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Bella Gelateria was the 2014 North American Gelato World Tour Champion! Expect to wait in a long line if you go in the evenings, especially if the weather is nice. As you might have guessed, it was worth the wait.

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And at the end of the day, don’t forget to put on your plush hotel robe and take it easy. Because before you know it, your ship will have come in…

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This is Canada Place and the spot where two cruise ships are parked every day. It’s right next to the conference center. Outside of Canada Place is the tourist center with lots of helpful people, internet access and free shuttles and transportation hubs to all kinds of fabulous local places. We took a shuttle to the  Capilano Suspension Bridge, Tree Top Adventure and Cliffwalk. We bought our tickets right in the visitor’s center before we got on the shuttle.

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But now it’s time to get your head out of the trees and put your feet on the ship because you are going to ALASKA!!!!!!

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I was worried about checking in, but the Disney Wonder made it easy. Be sure to read the booklet you are sent by Disney ahead of time and fill out all your paperwork online and print it out in advance. Also don’t forget to sign up for your port excursions on line. Some of them will sell out before you get to the boat.

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If you have the chance, get a room with a balcony, it was lovely. We spent lots of time on deck, but we also used the balcony on a daily basis.

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The bathroom is small (and in our case happily divided into two separate areas) but things can roll. I recommend packing things in small Ziplock bags so you can group things together but are still  able to see what you have. A hair dryer was provided in the desk drawer. No need to bring one.

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The space is tight without luggage, so be sure keep that in mind when you are packing.

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Disney gives you all the information you need to know what’s going on on the boat. It shows up on your bed every night along with an origami towel creature AND CHOCOLATE!!!!

There is also a Disney Cruise app that you NEED to download ahead of time. Once you hit the ocean, internet and wifi is sketchy at best and expensive on the boat. Download the app NOW (the 12yo didn’t do this and it took us forever and some extra cash to get him straightened out) and when you get on board just follow the directions to get hooked up on Disney’s Navigator system. This is also great because in addition to activities, weather, and dinning menus there is a CHAT component on the app. THIS IS HOW YOU STAY IN TOUCH ON THE BOAT! Someone can help you set it up if you need assistance. But it’s pretty easy and once you have someone’s ID number you can chat with them. The only negative was you couldn’t group chat, so I spent a lot of time repeating my messages to each child. But that’s what copy and paste is for. Also, my 10 yo doesn’t have a phone, but he was able to use an old phone of mine as a fancy iPod.

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Space is used very wisely on the boat, so come prepared to use it as smartly as you can. The trick I used to survive five people in a tiny area was to be organized. The boy’s suitcases were completely unpacked and each child had a shelf that fit all their stuff. Their suitcases were stored open (they didn’t quite fit closed) below the master bed. Their beds were convertible and were taken down every evening and put up every morning for space. The 0pen suitcases worked out really well because that’s where the boys then put their dirty laundry after I yelled at them. *shakes head* I do have a fabulous tip I’m going to pass on to you. Put an XXL Ziplock bag in everyone’s suitcase for dirty laundry (when you get home, just drop all the bags in the laundry room) and bring an extra for a laundry bag because there are laundry facilities on this boat! This will help you pack lighter which is important because there are so many weather possibilities.

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Everything is done with a swipe of your card. Easy peasy, but I don’t recommend doing laundry ALL THE TIME. Don’t spend your fun time doing chores–trying to go home with a clean suitcase. It’s just nice to know your stinky workout clothes can be washed. It’s also great if you spill something on your only jacket or if you run out of a particular item.

Here are my best tips…

*Watch the times and the machines and be prompt or your laundry will get pulled out and dumped on the ironing boards, which I think is completely fair with so many people needing to use the machines.

*Use a bag for a laundry basket and check your machines twice for runaway socks.

*Detergent is available in the machines. Just swipe your card to purchase. But I guess you can bring your own, especially if you’re scent sensitive. I am, but did okay with the Tide.

*Try to use the laundry at unusual times for the best results. My kids were out late doing activities and it was a good time to get it done while I was trying not to fall asleep. That ship air knocks you out.

But let’s talk about what to pack. The weather is unpredictable and you’re told you need dinner clothing and excursion clothing and coats and swim suits etc… It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out. Grrrrr I talked to people who had been on an Alaskan Cruise the week before us and the weather was in the 80’s and they were in shorts. I’ve also heard about trips with lots of cold and rainy weather the whole time. Our cruise was somewhere in between but erring on the side of good weather. But since you’ve got washers and driers, in my humble opinion, this is what I would bring if I were doing it all over again…

*For outdoor gear–think layers. I brought a mid weight sweat shirt that I ended up using all the time. And then a heavier fleece that I also used a lot. Then over either of those, or both if needed, I had a thin, packable down jacket and a thin, water proof rain jacket. Along with a hat and gloves and fingerless gloves for extra photo mobility– I had endless combinations I could layer and peel off. I also recommend you bring a small waterproof backpack to carry those layers and other small items during excursions. I found a lot of success with these Geckobrand Waterproof bags I found at Dick’s Sporting goods.

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We all had one and the boys used them as carry on bags for the plane. They were inexpensive and every time we went out they packed up what they needed for the day and I ended up carrying less and everything stayed dry.

*I also had a lot of success with packing thin, versatile sports/hiking style pants. My personal faves are Athleta’s Shasta pants. I own them in every color. They can be full length or capri and they have multiple pockets with some that zip and are big enough to hold my iPhone 6. The pants are on the expensive side, but I asked for gift cards for Christmas and my birthday and they are worth every penny. You can also find other similar type pants at LL Bean, Lands End and Title Nine. But I think you can get them in lots of places if you look. Having said that, I did bring one pair of jeans and one pair of knee socks and I wore those on the days I had colder excursions. This was when the laundry came in hands.

*I didn’t wear any of my shorts, but I’d still throw a pair or two in knowing I had the washers if needed.

*Shirts–I wore a mix of short and long sleeves depending on the day and my layering.

*I went nuts, bringing the boys and myself enough dress casual dinner wear for the dinning rooms. In my opinion, a total waste of my time and packing space. We had one dress up night and then the rest of the time we all wore whatever we were wearing that day. BUT…having said that, there were some families that did dress up a little bit more because they wanted to but there were plenty of people in dress that was even move casual than mine. Whatever floats your boat is what you should do. My boat floats in comfy casual wear and sneakers.

*Speaking of footwear. This was my go to shoe…

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These are my running shoes and they were perfect for walking around on deck, running the track, going on excursions or even to dinner. I also brought a pair of flip flops for the pool and one pair of dressier shoes. I’d leave the other three pairs I packed home if I was doing it again. The boys had dress shoes, flip flops and sneakers with them.

*I never used my swim suit, but there were adults in the pools pretty regularly–especially on the warmer days. My kids went in often. I would still bring my suit on the off chance I decided to take a dunk, but I preferred running and reading on deck in my free time.

*Speaking of running, there is a gym and a running deck so feel free to bring a couple work out outfits. I brought two and had planned to rinse in the sink, but was happy for those washers again.

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Also, when you run on deck 4, in addition to the amazing sights of British Columbia and Alaska, you get to see all the incredible people who work to keep the ship clean and safe. These folks are amazing.

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Part of the run includes this room at the front of the boat which appears to function as a work room for repairs. It was always fascinating to watch and someone was always waving at me or smiling.

*Bring magnets! I should have taken a picture, but ALL of the doors in the endless hallways of rooms look almost identical. My kids tried to join other families on several occasions. The doors of the rooms are magnetic and lots of people decorate their doors with magnets or pictures hung with magnets so they could find their room. Brilliant!

*You also get a Key to the World card (kids too!) and that’s your room key, credit card and ID for entering and exiting the ship. Most kids wear lanyards with card holders around their necks. You can buy these at the gift shop (once you hit open water) but if you have a lanyard at home–bring that puppy and save yourself some bucks. You can see my 12 yo’s lanyard around his neck as he grabs a selfie with Mickey LOL!

 

 

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Now it’s time to go on some excursions!!!! First up was Tracy Arm Alaska and the South Sawyer Glacier. AMAZING!!!!

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We hit the opening of the Tracy Arm Fjord at lunch time, so we were on deck having a BBQ when I SAW TWO ORCA WHALES IN THE WILD!!!!

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I miraculously caught a picture (not as easy to see this small) but they are there. Start watching for those orcas as you enter and leave Tracy Arm. It’s my understanding that this is the best time to spot them.

Can’t you see how happy I was to have witnessed those beautiful creatures in the wild???? Bucket List–CHECK!

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Keep your eyes open all the time because everything is amazing.

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The further in you get the more icebergs you’re going to see.

And then you’re going to see the South Sawyer Glacier…

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All I can tell you is that these little pictures do not do it justice. You will be in awe. Be sure to get to the front of the boat early so you have a prime spot for watching as you approach the glacier. And be sure to dress warmly because it was cold, especially with the wind. Bonus, the fabulous Disney staff came around with coffee, hot chocolate and soup in bread bowls to help keep you warm. I love them. <3

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Can you see all the layers I’ve added as we’ve moved closer to the glacier? We made it to .6 of a mile, the closest the Wonder has gotten so far this season.

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If you can’t take the wind, there is a break in the front, but I was outside in front of the glass. I was willing to be chilly to fully enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

And while my kids thought the whole thing was amazing, they were also entertained by being able to play on the sports deck with the glacier in the background. The 10 yo would score a goal and then take a selfie with the glacier in the background. *head thunk*

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Disney also grabs a 200 yo piece if iceberg that had calved off of the glacier. Then they brought it aboard for the kids and *clears throat* me to touch and explore.

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And lastly, after a perfect day, don’t forget to look for the iceberg at the end of the rainbow. It’s magical.

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Our next excursion was to Skagway, which was our first trip off the Disney Wonder.

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Skagway is a tiny little town that I loved.

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Our first stop of the day was the White Pass & Yukon Route train ride. Learn all about the history of folks racing to Dawson City for the gold rush.

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Our train car came with a stove, bathroom and complimentary water bottles. This was also the first time we had phone service since we departed Vancouver (unless you bought a plan on the boat.)

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Each car had a platform so you could get outside pictures. Some of the drop offs were very high and steep, making me really glad I didn’t have the job of building that rail line.

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Gahhh!!! We are headed to THAT bridge and tunnel way up there!!!!

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Here we are–ready to go in.

And don’t forget to look backwards from time to time. The view is incredible.

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The ship to the left is the Disney Wonder.

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Near the summit, keep an eye out for the Trail of ’98. This was an original, primary route to the Dawson gold fields.

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On the way back down from Fraser (the stopping place for the White Pass) you get to freeze your butt off in front of 1 of the 5 Welcome to Alaska signs in the state. *fist pump*

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And once you get back to Skagway, known as The Place Where the North Wind Blows, it is much warmer than at the higher elevations.

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We decided this is about as far as we’d happily travel the Yukon Trail LOL! And just so you know the folks who made the trip were carrying enough food and supplies with them to last a year. (Canadian entrance requirements) Which meant that each person was toting 2,000 lbs of supplies.

Even though Skagway is small, it’s BIG in history and you’ll learn all about it.

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And if you get hungry from all that history and shopping, stop by the Red Onion Saloon for some awesome nachos. I’ve never seen food disappear as fast as those did LOL!

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And last but not least…

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Don’t forget to get back to your ship for all aboard–THEY WILL LEAVE YOU IN SKAGWAY WITHOUT 2,000LBS OF SUPPLIES AND YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND YOUR WAY TO JUNEAU ON YOUR OWN.

Next up on our trip was Juneau. Juneau is super cool because the only way you can get there is by boat or plane. You can not drive a car to Juneau. In fact they have one 60mile road in town that dead ends. It’s called *drum roll* The Road. They also have The Bridge and The Channel. Juneau is also in the rainforest, so they get approximately 42 non-precipitation days a year. Unfortunately for us,  I was told that they’d already used them all up for the year LOL!

Make sure you get out early in Juneau because the all aboard time is very early due to the distance the ship has to cover that night. To compensate for the early departure, we went into town for two hours before our 10:30 excursion meet up. My only frustration with this plan was that we still didn’t have enough time to explore the town the way I wanted to.

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But I did find a book store!!!! And of course I stopped in to say hello to the wonderful folks at Hearthside Books. Make sure you support Indie Bookstores and stop by when you visit. I’m sure they would love to see you.

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Next up was our excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier in Tongass National Park.

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We only had an hour here, so we didn’t have time to go to the museum and see the movie. Bummer. But we did hike out to Nugget Falls for an up close look.

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I also want to give a shout out to the best bus driver ever–Whitney Houston!!!! It was totally NOT your fault that those 10 people didn’t make it back to the bus on time. ((((hugs)))) She also taught us the five finger method for remembering Alaska’s salmon. You can quiz me later. And so many hysterical stories I may never love another bus driver more. Forever.

Next up was whale watching and lots of singing of the Gilligan’s Island theme song…a three hour tour. LOL!

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I may have been so hungry I ate a reindeer dog on the boat. So, an FYI, limited snacks are available on board. I suggest you grab them right when you get on the boat if you’re starving because the line can get long and then the whales start showing up and you keep jumping out of line…

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Even with the rainy weather we saw a ton of whales, including two mom’s with their calves. <3

And then there’s me with some of mine.

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Of course there’s the argument…seen one whale, seen them all.

Teenagers.

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As a reward for surviving our wet and hectic day, we set the kids free on the boat. (Okay–we did that every day and they loved it.) But this time, while they were ignoring us for more fun things to do, we headed out for an adults only dinner at Palo. YUM, YUM, YUMMITY, YUM. Do not miss this dinning experience.  All the food and service is top notch. Ask for Leo to be your server, he was amazing and tell him Kim Sabatini sent you. <3 All the food was incredible, but the gnocchi was heavenly and the white bean soup was delicious. I may have tasted the tomato caprese and fallen in love, too.

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But the star of the Palo show was the chocolate souffle. It’s to die for and let’s face it–I know my chocolate. Luckily calories don’t count on cruises, right? If they did, I’m sure I could have gained weight just sniffing this treat.

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Our last excursion was to Ketchikan. Rain was predicted but we ended up with gorgeous, perfect weather. So first on the agenda was zip lining in the rainforest of Tongass National Forrest.

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Safety before beauty :o) I’ve also got my Shasta pants on again.

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We had an amazing time and the staff of Alaska Canopy Zip Lining were wonderful and fun. It was the boy’s favorite excursion of the trip. Then it was into Ketchikan to hang out for the rest of the day. The weather was so gorgeous it was impossible to stop taking pictures.

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We even headed down to historic Creek Street.

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And of course I found another independent bookstore. <3 Parnassus Books, run by the sweetest former children’s librarian. I wish I had hours to roam the store.

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I found this book on their shelves and I can’t wait to begin reading it with the boys. A Tale of Gold by Thelma Hatch Wyss.

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After finding out the Fish House was closed, on recommendation we heard the Burger Queen was king. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday and the food barge doesn’t come in until Tuesday and this burger joint was out of burgers. Boo! If you end up going and getting a burger I want a full report. We did make it to Annabelle’s for some clam chowder. Yum!

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But sadly, all good things must come to an end and packing and laundry must begin. *sob*

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With our nose pointed home, we headed back to Vancouver, but not without our last day at sea being extraordinary.

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Over the course of the trip I saw two orca whales, numerous bald eagles, humpback whales and sea lions. And then of course there were glaciers, mountains, sunsets, the ocean, captivating history, new friends and so much more. It is beyond words or pictures.

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This was my favorite lounge chair on deck and I spent hours reading and watching an endless amount of beauty go by. I shall miss that chair.

It was also time to say goodbye to…

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Giant Jenga

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The 24 hour coffee and hot chocolate machine. And the soft serve ice cream machine. *moans in despair*

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It was also goodbye to first run Disney movies (Ant Man and Inside Out) and movies outdoors on deck. So much fun.

The hardest goodbye was to Quinten and Oscar, our servers for the whole entire trip. Table #70 RULES!!!!

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They were the BEST and we miss them already.

If you are going on the Disney Wonder, you MUST request to be at the table of Quinten (India) and Oscar (Columbia). Call ahead if you must. Or as you board the ship, go immediately to Triton restaurant and ask to speak to someone who can make that happen. Then be sure to hug them both for me. Twice if you can manage it. I consider them friends now.

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Phew I think it’s time to put a fork in it–this trip is done.

I’m going to be honest–this post has taken me two days to write and my brain is fried. I covered as much helpful information as I could think of, but I’d be happy to answer any additional questions that show up in the comments. Feel free to ask away.

I’d also like to take a moment to let you know about my YA novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE since people likely to be researching a cruise on the Disney Wonder have kids who are YA readers.

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Touching the Surface
October 30, 2012
Simon Pulse – Simon and Schuster
Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

“Sabatini creates an exquisitely tangible alternate reality, ordering the cosmos with impressive authorial derring-do, crafting answers to ontological questions with grace, disarming simplicity, and nary a trace of dogma. All while believable teens–teen souls, that is–tangle with affection, selfishness, and doubt. Thought-provoking and romantic, Touching the Surface takes risks with narrative and form, and succeeds on multiple levels.” –RBW (Chronogram)

“Soulful and inventive. A thoroughly original vision for what happens next.” –Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds

“This gorgeous, lyrical read will sweep you away.” –Jessica Verday, bestselling author of The Hollow trilogy

TOUCHING THE SURFACE is available here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Book Depository

If you would like a free signed book plate and a bookmark for your copy of TOUCHING THE SURFACE please drop me a line HERE and I’ll get one out to you asap.

If you would like a signed hardcover or paper back edition of TOUCHING THE SURFACE you can request one at my local independent bookstore Oblong Books and Music. If they do not have any signed copies in stock, I’ll be sure to make a special trip to the bookstore just for you.

And on a side note, I’ll also be sending out signed copies of TTS to the public schools in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. This way, at least a little bit of me will get to stay in Alaska. <3

I hope this blog post helps you have your very own grateful expansion. If you get the chance, let me know how it went.

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Jul

2

2015

The Summer Agenda

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Family, Pondering, Vacation Madness, Writing

Where have you been???

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Oh, wait, it was me that fell down the rabbit hole and got lost? Yeah, I guess it was.

I was busy surviving the end of the school year. I know normal people do this all the time, but let’s face it, I don’t consider myself normal.

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I’m a procrastinating, organizationally challenged mom who’s allergic to party planning. I harbor secret guilt about how excited I am the day after birthday parties and graduation events. But I love my people and I’m married to a host with the most, so I try to crawl out of my box when necessary.

But, summer is HERE! RITH NOW!!!!  Although you wouldn’t know it much from the weather. WTH humidity and rain???? And I have some things on my agenda for the vacation–besides spending quality time hanging out with my family and being foot loose and fancy free. Here are the BIG ones…

*VACATION!!!! I will be taking an Alaskan Cruise this summer. I am so excited. Major bucket list item. I VOW to pack and prepare ahead of time giving me a stress free lead up to the trip!!! Stop snorting!!!!!

*WRITING!!!! Well, no surprise there–I write all year long. But I’ve got some really great projects that I’m working on and I’d love to finish. And of course I’m off to SCBWI LA at the end of July.

*TIDYING UP!!!! I know I moved into my house a year and a half ago, but some how all the not so fun stuff to unpack and organize got shoved to the side and in the closet and into every available nook and cranny. My goal this summer is to utilize my boys to entertain my dog so I can get my act together. I read THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo and while not everything resonated with me, I certainly found lots to love and implement. More posts and pictures of my progress over the summer. 22318578

 

 

*AND BLOG MORE!!!!! Because I’ve missed you. <3

What are your projects, goals and big plans? What’s on your summer agenda?

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Apr

7

2015

Spring Into Writing

Filed under: Check-it-out, Family, Fun and Games, Vacation Madness, Writing

As much as I look forward to vacations, I always look forward to coming home and the familiar routine when I return. Last week I was away in St. Louis visiting family. It was a fabulous trip–the perfect mix of laid back relaxing with family and a super fun time seeing the local sights and eating ALL the food. Here are some highlights…IMG_0954 IMG_0955 IMG_1224 IMG_1200 IMG_1232 IMG_1226 IMG_0872 IMG_0943

And the nice part about this trip was we were able to build in enough days at the end of vacation to come home and straighten life out, before heading back to school and work. Of course, things are about to get hectic with spring sports and activities. My command central boy calendar is already starting to look intimidating. FullSizeRender

 

But no matter how fun vacation was or how hairy the future schedule. Writing is back at the top of my list of priorities. *does a happy dance*

My question for you…is it harder or easier to write in the spring when the weather starts getting nice? It depends on the day for me.

 

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Dec

23

2014

Santa’s Coming!!!!!

Filed under: #lifeofriley, Blogging, Check-it-out, Family, Vacation Madness

Life with Riley is starting to get a little bit more sane LOL! A little bit–he’s still a potty-training, chewing, puppy. But he’s quietly crating for about seven hours at night and ME getting a humane amount of sleep makes all the difference. He’s also learning to respond to his name, sit and go down on cue. He’s learning what off means and thankfully he hasn’t tested it too much at this point. Additionally he’s got a decent grasp of what easy and gentle mean and I’m happy to report he’s pretty darn good with his deposites. *fist pump*

 

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As you can see, we wear each other out some days. And even though I have to remind myself how far we’ve come in a week, I try to not get my panties in a twist about how much there still is to work on. I try to visualize the dog he will become when we’ve got the kinks worked out. It’s exciting to contemplate. I’m a behaviorist at heart and training him has it’s own special kind of rewards for me. But even though I’m pretty good at operant conditioning, I still get frustrated some days, but I’m learning to watch him closely–so I can “hear” what he’s saying. It’s all part of training positively. And you’re going to hear me talk about this a bit in the future and how it pertains to writing because my mind (what little I have left) is spinning at the implications. But even though I’m having a sleepy puppy moment right now in which to blog…

SANTA’S COMING!!!!!

And that means I have a TON of other things to get done that just can’t wait. So, hold that thought. Enjoy your Christmas and I’ll be back here over the holidays if I can. But you can be sure you’ll see my in 2015 <3

What are your big plans for the Holiday?

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Jul

29

2014

Sneaking up on Your Characters

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Vacation Madness, Writing, Writing Style

I promised you I’d be back today after my vacation and my blogcation. It was a good thing I took the blogaction (small break from posting) because the internet where we were staying could be a bit “moody” at times.

First off, it was a great vacation–lots of fun and sun and relaxation and roller coasters and yummy dinners and ice cream. And of course while I was away, I took some pictures. Not too many because I’ve started to learn it’s just as important to be IN the moment as it is to try and capture it, but I did take a couple. On our way home–driving for hours and reliving the vacation highlights, my husband gave me a great compliment. <3 He said he loved how I had started to learn how to sneak up on my subjects when I’m taking a picture. How I’m learning to capture the moment without interrupting everyone all the time. Of course I blushed and grinned and when I got home, I went to take a look at my pictures and tried to see what he was talking about. I tried to find you some of my favorite moments of photographic espionage to illustrate what he was taking about…

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*sigh* I have to admit that most of MY favorites are his favorites too. But don’t fret, there is still a time and place for a posed picture from time. Just ask the crew at Table 15 at a wedding I recently attended. *grin*

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See–posing CAN be fun and funny. But even so,  I imagine you’re thinking…”that’s lovely Kim, but what the heck does this have to do with writing?”

A lot!!!!! I swear. I’ve been thinking about that relationship (you know I always do *wink*) And what I’ve come to realize is that at the same time I’ve been learning to sneak up on my pictures, I’ve also learned to come at my characters in a more subtle way. Let’s give you an example of what I mean. In my earlier writing I was inclined to describe a character like this…

Amelia had blue eyes that sparkled every time she smiled and because she was so petite, it always looked like her eyes took up half of her face. Whenever she made eye contact with a boy, which was often, she ran her delicate fingers through her mop of blonde curls. She was such a flirt and it made me sick.

That’s not a bad description. For better or worse, it hits all the typical things like eye color, hair and height. The description is based on a lot of telling, not showing. It’s a posed portrait of a character.

Now let’s try coming at a character like Amelia from a more indirect route. Let’s sneak up on her and the narrator a little…

When the bell tinkled on the door to the school bookstore, Amelia tucked a curl of hair behind her ear. Then she smoothed down her already ironed skirt in anticipation. All of that preening occurring before she even saw who had stepped into the shop. The shop where she’d carefully stationed herself during back to school week at the university. When Amelia took in the college sweatshirt that the jock-of-the-month was wearing, she really threw it into high gear, batting her voluminous lashes like an exotic bird in the middle of a complicated mating ritual. After seeing that, I slunk down to the pet aisle to throw up a hair ball.

Now I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement here (I just met Amelia and the mysterious narrator 15 minutes ago) but I’ve come to love the second description so much more than the first. In just the amount of time it took me to craft the second one, I started to get a real sense of who these characters were and I developed a desire to see what else they were going to do–what they were about. I think that’s because I snuck up on them and really took a deeper look as I was describing what I saw from the shadows. I’m hoping you agree with me on this one. Yes?

Anyway, whether you’re taking pictures or developing with words, give the indirect approach a little bit of your consideration. Sneaking up on your subjects is a quiet, but powerful way to capture a moment or tell a deeper story.

Do you agree with me? What characters, books or authors do you think do this really well? Have you ever pictured a character one way only to find out that what you thought was never actually in the description?

 

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