Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Murder Mystery Birthday

Now that I am finally finished writing about my cruise, I can tell you all about our Murder!

Our cast

My friend Nikki and I have birthdays that are only four days apart in mid-October. Last year we had a joint party and invited everyone to dress up and come and play board games. This year we got the idea to be a little more structured. We hosted a Murder Mystery. Neither of us had ever hosted or even been to a Murder Mystery, so it was a little challenging.

First of all we tried to pick an easy game. We went with a Wild West mystery, since the costumes really easy to put together, and the plot seemed fairly simple. We made up a list of our friends and got the invites sent. After a few casting problems, we had enough people and everyone had their character info.

dancer, bounty hunter, saloon owner

We had the party last Saturday and it was a bit crazy getting all the clues together, finishing the cleaning, and getting the house set up, but we ended up having awesome costumes, lots of yummy food, and a really great set up with a dining room/bar, casino, and lounge. We made chili and cornbread with lots of other snacks and deserts for the party and everyone showed up within a half hour of the start time (with some of my friends, this is a major accomplishment).

The party was really great. Everyone got into character and as the clues were revealed, everyone investigated for all they were worth. In the end, we found out that my husband was the murderer, but that he was not going to get in trouble for doing it, since the victim had secretly been a criminal. Shane even got to apply for the bounty! I call that pretty sweet. :)

the solution

Our Anniversary Cruise - Part 2

We visited 2 towns in Alaska and 1 in British Columbia on our cruise Itinerary and saw 2 glaciers.

The first place we stopped was in Juneau. As Alaska's state capital, it had some neat buildings and some cool history. The ship was docked about 20 minutes walk from downtown (yes, Juneau has a downtown, it's not that small.) so we decided to walk in rather than taking a shuttle or the bus. Partly this was to avoid the HUGE line of people waiting, partly for the exercise, and partly because we were attempting to not spend every penny we had ever made during the course of the vacation. Once we got into town, we wandered around and made our way past the Courthouse to the City/County museum. It was a really neat little museum, with info on the gold rush, traders, and political history. Also, they had a huge chunk of the little building devoted to the local basketball team. Apparently high school basketball for them is what football was where I grew up (stands to reason, since it is indoors). When we were leaving they gave us a certificate celebrating Alaska's fiftieth anniversary as a state, which was signed by the governor. Very nifty.

Alaska State Capital Building

After the museum we walked past the governor's mansion, which was really pretty with a very nice garden, and onto a little park at the edge of a residential area. Cope park is a nice little park that runs along Gold Creek, at whose headwaters gold was first discovered in that area. We went there to try to find a letterbox, which we were unable to find. It was still a great walk through town and a really nice park. After that we went back to the downtown area and wandered through the shops. Shane bought me a really pretty necklace made of white quartz with gold veins through it as an anniversary present and souvenir. Once we were done in town, we grabbed a shuttle up to the glacier. Mendenhall Glacier is about a half hour out of town and you can easily walk to the base of it. We did not hike around to the glacier, but we did take a bunch of pictures and hike some of the little nature trails near the visitor center. After that, we headed back to the ship and went to the buffet for a late lunch. We kept it light, since it was only a couple of hours until dinner time. It was really neat and really weird having a set time for dinner. Normally we just kinda eat when we are hungry, but it was not really that hard for me to adjust. I just made sure not to eat too much too late in the afternoon. Since dinner usually took between an hour and an hour and a half to finish, there was plenty of time to eat all the food I wanted. :)

Mendehall Glacier

We were in Juneau on Sunday and on Monday we went to Skagway. Skagway is really focused on the gold rush and the tourist trade. There were tons of tours available, so we chose one that would take us up the White Pass Highway, the main route for the gold rushers. We crossed over into Canada (my first time in Canada, ever) and stopped to see some great scenery and a really cool cable suspension bridge. The driver told us lots of stories about the rush and also lots of really bad (and funny) bear stories. He kept us entertained as he drove us back into Alaska and to the last part of the tour, where we got to try gold panning and see a gold dredge. It was really neat to see the inside of a dredge that had actually been used in the Yukon and we even found a little bit of gold in our pans that we got to bring home as a souvenir.

Gold Panning in Skagway

Once we got back to Skagway, we wandered through town and looked at the shops and a cool little museum devoted to the gold rush at the National Park Service office. When we were finished in town, we walked back to the ship and again had a little lunch before resting for the afternoon. Shane took so many naps on this vacation that I am surprised he needed to sleep at night. He basically dozed whenever we were in the room for more than a few minutes. The bed was super comfy, which was awesome, since I have gotten spoiled by my sleep-number. We saw the show after dinner and Shane hung out in the casino for awhile before bedtime. We had to get to sleep early on Monday, because Tuesday was the day we were going to sail to a glacier and we would be there by 8 in the morning.

Dawes Glacier

We were sailing up to the Dawes glacier in the Tracy Arm Fjords wilderness and I actually set the alarm so that we could be up in time to get some breakfast before we arrived at the glacier. We found a seat in the buffet that was right at the front of the ship so that we could watch the cliffs and waterfalls while we ate. We went outside when we were done and found a spot to sit and watch the scenery float by. There were tons of little waterfalls cascading down the sides of the mountains on either side of us and lots of little bitty icebergs floating past the ship. We were originally scheduled to go the the Sawyer glaciers, but the channel there was too full of ice for a safe passage, so the captain got permission to reroute us. This was way better than just sailing around doing nothing, but now we have to make it back sometime to see the twin Sawyer glaciers. When we had sailed as far as it was safe to go, we got a great look at the Dawes glacier. It looked like a river of ice, with it's ripples just flowing down into the sea. We did not get to see it calve while we were there, but all the icebergs in the water were really great.

The rest of the day was spent sailing out to sea on our way down to British Columbia. Of course, the weather turned again and the seas got pretty rough, but I managed to keep control of myself and took plenty of Dramamine. That night after dinner the featured show was a couple of comedians/jugglers. They were really great, but had to work really hard with the ship pitching so much in the rough water. I got quite a scare when they pulled Shane up on stage. They were juggling machetes back and forth around my husband while the ship rocked and rolled! Let me tell you, my heart was in my throat. Shane was, of course, just fine, although he was terribly embarrassed about being pulled up on stage. It was a bit of a thrill, but I would be happy never having that happen again.

We spent a whole day at sea on our way to Victoria, which was spent relaxing on the deck, playing a game of shufflegolf (I took third place and got a medal!) and just generally wandering around the ship and goofing off. We had another formal night and I even talked Shane into getting a formal portrait done while we were all dressed up. Dinner was really yummy and, of course, we had a great time with our table mates. After dinner was a production show featuring the ballroom dancers employed by the cruise line. Shane was very NOT interested, so I went by myself. I said hi to one of the cruise directors staff and visited with her for a while. The show was super and afterwards I went and found Shane and we hung out for a while and then went to bed.

The next morning we made port in Victoria, BC, which is a gorgeous city. Again we walked into town and wandered around a bit while we tried to decide what we wanted to see. We ended up starting at the Royal BC Museum, which was hosting an exhibit from the British Museum featuring artifacts from about every culture throughout history that you can think of. It was a bit crowded, since there were school groups going through, but we really enjoyed it. They even had a couple of artifacts that you could handle! I found it thrilling to be able to hold a bronze figurine from India that was many hundreds of years old. I have always been fascinated by history and archaeology, so I think we really lucked out in going to the museum that day. This was the only stop in North America that the exhibit was making.

After the Royal BC museum, we went to the Victoria Art Gallery. It was really nice, although they had several sections closed while they changed exhibits. After the gallery, we walked up to Government House, which is where the Lieutenant Governor lives and where visiting dignitaries stay. We were told by someone from the information center that over the summer a member of the Japanese royal family had visited and the Price Harry of England had been to stay for a short while. Kinda cool! The house itself is not open to visitors, but the gardens are so we spent a great hour wandering around. The property is huge and there are all kinds of landscapes in it: a rose garden, a pretty duckpond, tons of lawns, a rock garden, and even a 70 hectare scrub oak forest. Following our usual pattern we walked all the way back to the boat for a late lunch. I don't know how much I walked on this cruise, but I do know that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted and I weighed the same when we got home as when we left. That is something!

This was the last night of the cruise and we saw the farewell show and went to the little scavenger hunt/game show that they host each cruise called The Quest. I am not allowed say much about it other than it should not be attended by children, that those were some of the prettiest men I have ever seen, and that if you ever go on a Royal Caribbean cruise, you absolutely cannot miss it. It was the funniest thing ever!!

On the last day of our cruise we sailed into Vancouver, BC to disembark. It was really quick and easy for us to go through customs, since we hadn't bought anything in Canada. We grabbed a cab to the bus station and took our Greyhound across the border to Washington State. We live in Washington, so a friend picked us up in Bellingham and drove us home. It was a long drive, since we took the scenic route, but it was great to be able to visit and have dinner with him. We arrived home late that night and were very glad to be able to flop down and not have anything else left to do.

The end :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our Anniversary Cruise - Part 1

Shane and I decided to do something special this year for our anniversary, since this is number 5. We finally decided to take a cruise and agreed upon Alaska as the destination. After months of planning and excitement (on my part, Shane pretty much ignored it and me) it was time to go.

The cruise lasted 7 nights and was really great. On the first day we drove to Seattle and, after going through security and check-in, boarded the ship. It was huge. the ship has 10 passenger decks and holds over 2000 passengers and 800 crew. So, as you can imagine, there was a lot to explore. We found the buffet restaurant, which was open for lunch, and got something to eat. Then we wandered around. We checked out the pool deck, which was right outside the buffet and the next deck up, which was open. Then we located the main dining room, wandered past the shops, and checked out a couple of the lounge areas. By then it was 2:00 and we were allowed in our rooms. Our baggage was already waiting for us, so I unpacked and Shane took a catnap. There was plenty of storage, even though the room reminded me a lot of my dorm in college. The bathroom was tiny, but sufficient for the week.

Centrum Sculpture

After Shane's nap we went up and wandered around on deck 10 (the open one) and found a good spot to watch sail away. Actually two spots. We watched them cast off the mooring lines from the front and then went to the stern to watch the engines stirring up the water behind us. There was another ship leaving at the same time and several smaller craft zipping around, but we had no problems getting out into Puget Sound.

We spent some more time on deck, but soon it was time to get ready for dinner. On our way down, we checked out the casino and the spa, even though I had no plans to use either. We tidied up and I put on a clean shirt and went to the dining room. The first night was casual, so my jeans were ok. We were sitting at a table for four, which was nice and cozy and met our tablemates for the cruise. There names were Patty and Blake and they were from Huntington Beach, CA. They are only a few years older than us, so it was great to be able to chat and had a lot of fun with them the whole week. Our waiters were Uzari, who asked us to call him Uzi and said 'fabulous' to every choice we made, and Jessie, who seemed to be there whenever we turned around offering bread and filling the water. They were both super.

There were shows each night in the theatre and the first night was a comedian who was super funny. Also they introduced the singers and dancers employed by the cruise line, who were really great. After the show they put on the movie "Watchmen", which Shane and I had been wanting to see, so we hung around for that. About 2/3 of the way through the movie, I started getting queasy since we were almost to the open sea by that time. The ship was pitching pretty badly and I decided to skip the rest of the movie and go to bed.

towel animals!

The next day was spent at sea and I spent half of it in my room being uncomfortable. I finally managed to down some Dramamine and make it out for lunch. After lunch we had a meet and mingle with some people we had been chatting with online and also got to meet the cruise director, Carlie B. Everyone was great and offered tons of suggestions for beating sea-sickness.

Shane and I did some more wondering and he showed me some of the places he had found that morning while I had been battling with my stomach. This was the first formal night so I got all dressed up in my pretty blue dress (saved from HS prom) and we went down to the dining room. Again (as with every night) dinner was great and then the show was super.

I can't even remember everything I ate, but each night we could have soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, and many as we wanted. Most of the time we each did a soup, a salad, and entree, and a dessert. Sometimes we were a bit greedy and went with 2 desserts, but that was usually the extent of the gorging. :) There was any kind of food you were in the mood for: fish, steak, pasta, Italian, Asian, Mexican. It was all very, very good. I could go on for days about the food, but I should stop now and post this.

Later I will come back and write about the next few days. Preview: Juneau, Skagway, and glaciers!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A New Post

In which I make lots of vague promises that I have every intention of following through on.

You guys are really the most devoted readers a lazy blogger could wish for. I know that you actually do read when I remember to post, so I always feel so guilty when I forget for such a long stretch.

To update you somewhat, I have to back up a couple of weeks and tell you all about my anniversay. Shane took me on an Alaskan Cruise for our fifth wedding anniversary! It was so much fun! The scenery was gorgeous (even though I saw no whales), the ship was tons of fun, and we met some really great people. ---I will now make my first promise.--- I have lots of pictures and notes and will find some time this weekend to show them to you. :)

Since we got back, I have just been doing the work and relax thing. I have also been doing some thinking, and trying to get some plans made for Christmas presents, since I only have three months left if I actually want to make things for people. I actually have to cut this short this morning because I need to get to the library to get some books for more ideas. :) ---Promise number 2.--- I will be showing you what I plan to do as soon as I get a better idea of what that is.

I have lots of plans for this month, from taking part in a 5K walk this weekend (even though it is supposed to be raining) to hosting another canning party for the boxes of apples I am wheedling out of one of our clients at work. :) ---And finally promised number 3.--- So, this month you can expect posts about all the great things I am planning and hope to accomplish.

I accept good wishes and ideas for Christmas and recipes for use with my apples and the pears we picked last week. I hope you all have as much fun as I am going to try to have this month. October is my favorite month, since it is my birthday (a murder mystery party this year, more on that later (ooh, I snuck in a 4th promise, look at me)) and Halloween, and fall is finally really here.