Christmas Trees

This post was written during our month in Portland and should post while we are crossing the Pacific. We will be “live” again when we get back to having internet in Japan.

Those of you who actually know me have seen some of our Christmas trees over the years. I have always liked Christmas trees with lots of air in them (so you can see the ornaments better). When I was a child these were known in South Carolina as Balsam Firs.

The family I found on the innerwebs below is standing beside the tree I always wanted but my Mother said just wouldn’t do. She liked scotch pines as they were “full and pretty”. And they stuck your fingers and you couldn’t hang anything except little round ornaments.

When I was out on my own, I always got a NC fir tree but “full” trees were what Martha Stewart (the Joanna Gaines of her day) said everyone really wanted so I was know to sometimes trim branches off the tree to make it more airy. Actually Ms. Stewart gave me permission in one of her many television appearances to do this thing-why didn’t she just tell the folks to find trees without too many branches.

When Mike and I returned to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2006, we discovered that I wasn’t the only one who liked these trees. At the State Farmer’s Market each December, some of the tree growers would have “naturalized” trees like I wanted. Turns out that to make a tree full, they had to clip the tree every year. This would cause the branch to split into two and after a bunch of years you ended up with a “full” tree. But to get what Mike always refers to as “a happy free range tree” the grower basically leaves it alone.

So the title picture of this blog post is the 12′ tree we had the first year we were back in Raleigh. I had to stand on the 2nd floor balcony walkway to put the Star on and don’t even ask how many nights we spent on the lights! But it has enough air and will always be what I think a Christmas tree should be.

Of course that tall tree was natural and not popular so the growers charged more for it than for a “full” tree. Makes no sense except for supply and Damian’s I guess. Anyway, when we got to the Rockies I was flabbergasted by all the “Christmas” trees growing everywhere!

If I lived out west, we would never have to pay a grower, we would just be sure and have a saw in the trunk everyday after thanksgiving!

Just one more of our tree, the picture below was taken in 2009 and is of Niece Madison (she just started her senior year of high school) and Nephew Jack (he will be 14 in a couple of weeks) helping Uncle Clay light the candles on the tree. That’s right when you have a fresh tree (and a fire extinguisher nearby) you can on special occasions light it up with candles…at least for a few minutes.

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Flowers

This post was written during our month in Portland but should be automatically posted while we are crossing the Pacific. Hopefully it will keep you entertained while we have no internet and can’t post.

I have been amazed by the flowers we have seen both natural and cultivated since we left. The most amazing have been the Queen Anne’s Lace along side of all the highways and the Hydrangeas which seem to be everywhere this side of the Rockies. Below are some snaps I took.

Hope everyone is well-will be back “live” when we get to land!

Transpacific Cruise

This post was written while we are in Portland but should post while we are crossing the Pacific)

While we are out of internet range, thought you might like to see where we are each day. Below is the scheduled itinerary for our cruise.

I will try to post updates when we are in ports with internet but between Sitka and Otaru don’t expect to hear anything as Celebrity charges an arm and a leg for internet access.

This will be the first time for us crossing the dateline aboard a ship (did it years ago while flying to Australia) so it will be strange to loose a whole day. It seems even Celebrity can’t quite figure it out. Some of their information calls this a 15 night cruise and other places it shows as 16!

I guess it will be even stranger coming back as we are scheduled to land in Seattle 2 hours before we leave Hong Kong!

Look forward to a post on September 19th (which will be the 18th for us) from Otaru.

Sitka

Had a lovely day in Sitka. After a 10 minute shuttle from the pier where Millennium docked (last time here a tender was required) we arrived in “downtown” Sitka.

Our first stop was the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Sitka was at one point the capital of the Russian colony in America. The ceiling of the church is made of sail cloth to memorialize lost fishermen. The inside is filled with beautiful Russian icons.

From there we walked along the waterfront, stopping to watch the fish jumping-differing opinions on why they were. Sea Lion chasing them? the fish trying to catch flies on the water? Whatever the reason, it was entertaining.

From this spot we could also see the nearby volcano. Mike overheard a local relating an April Fool’s day joke from the past. The townspeople were all in on it fooling the coastguard. Apparently fires were lit inside the crater and the coast guard called to come help with saving people from the eruption.

Next and last stop was the National Totem Pole Park. Great film about the native people, the Russians and the current fisherman.

Then it was a walk back to the center of town (about 3 miles today total), shuttle ride and onto the ship for a late (very) lunch.

Vanna Burton is pointing to where we were for the sailin this morning covered in my earlier post.

Off to Japan! Konichewa bitches! LOL

From Sitka

Good Morning! We just docked in Sitka after a beautiful morning sail in. We saw whale plumes while having breakfast and then made our way to the bow of the ship to the heliport which had been opened to passengers for a great viewing spot.

We are currently have a cup of coffee/tea on the promenade while they are preparing for us to go ashore. We don’t have big plans, we were here 16 years ago so will mostly be hoping to see that this little village hasn’t changed much…but we fear that it will have become another cruiseport town full of bad jewelry stores and Sen├Ár Frog’s. Fingers crossed that won’t be the case.

So far we are enjoying the cruise. Despite the ship being full, it doesn’t seem overly crowded and most are generally well behaved.

We had our official Cruise Critic meet & greet yesterday morning with over 200 people in attendance. It had been a very active roll call! Our first informal gathering was at sailaway. It was a lovely afternoon as we went under the Lions gate bridge.

Yesterday while some of the group played card games, 30 or so of us went on a pub crawl/poker run. Good fun and a great way to chat with our new friends. Unfortunately, neither of us had very good poker hands so we didn’t win the $85 pot, nor were our hands bad enough to collect the $60 loser’s winnings. The ship was nice enough to provide us with our own bartender who led us to the various bars and made us a selection of Complimentary! drinks. We hadn’t expected to drink for free but since most had the beverage package I guess we really didn’t! LOL

Off to wander Sitka. I’ll post before we leave if able. If not, next time you hear from me “live” will be from Asia though there should be a couple of preschedule filler posts before then.

Around the ship

We toured around the ship and are pleased with the refurbished. The buffet was uncrowded which given most embarkation days is unusual. They have “stations” with lots of circulation space around them. We normally eat lunch in the main dining room on embarkation to avoid the wandering herds in the buffet so I was concerned that I was not going to like the fact that Celebrity only opens the dining room for lunch for guests in Concierge category staterooms. Thankfully it was not an issue.

That’s Mike’s signature pose pointing out the Canada Place Cruise Terminal sails.

We watched the sea plane base beside the ship which was interesting.

During our self Guided tour we stopped at the coffee bar and I had an espresso and Mike a fancy ice tea and we split the tiny tarts.

We came back and unpacked-lots of storage space! We’re now waiting for the emergency muster drill-known unofficially by some as the mustard drill-I like spicy brown please!

After that we will set sail. If I have cell service I’ll try and post some pictures.

Aboard!

After a nice evening last night with 27 of our fellow cruisers at Happy Hour. The bbq wasn’t really southern but it was tasty.

We aren’t used to getting up at 5:30 in the morning like we had to do to catch our train so I was dead tired-I think we were in bed by 10!

This morning we lazed around our suite until about ten when we walked the five blocks down to the cruise terminal and got the first look at Celebrity Millennium you see at the top of this post. Thr terminal is under the white “sails” you can see in that picture and below.

Vancouver is a beautiful city and has grown quite a bit since we were last here in 2003! I like the mix of new and old architecture. The first picture below is of our hotel, while below that are some shots from our room.

From dropping our bags until we were aboard only took 34 minutes and did not require a wait longer than two minutes anywhere! I like the way Celebrity does check in. If you elect to use their app, you do all the paperwork ahead of time and they issue an Express Pass (either paper or on the app). When you get to the port, they use an iPad to scan your pass, take a picture of your passport and send you on to security, followed by immigration and then onto the ship. The only issue is it is about a mile walk around and around and up and down the terminal building.

After a glass of pink champagne (it was nasty!), one can go to your stateroom where you key Card is waiting. There is a sign on the door saying “Perfection in Progress” requesting you drop any bags and head on to Public areas until 2 pm when the rooms will be ready.

While our upgrade bid to one of the aft facing balcony cabins (Celebrity calls them Family Verandas) wasn’t a winner, we are pleased that I correctly read the deck plan and selected a regularly priced balcony cabin whose balcony is slightly larger than most!

We sailed on her sisters, Infinity and Summit back in the early 2000s. Millennium just had a significant refresh and from what I can tell after a few minutes onboard, it was very well done.

We are now ensconced on the aft shaded deck outside the buffet having our first cocktail with the beautiful view of Vancouver you can see below.

We have a sea day tomorrow and then our first port is Sitka Alaska on Sunday followed by 10 (actually only nine I think due to the international dateline) before we port again In Otaru, Japan on September 18.

I’ve pre-scheduled a couple of posts during our time at sea when we won’t be paying for internet. Hopefully that will keep you entertained while I can’t.