Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Matt's Playing Ball Again

Check out his schedule on the baller's blog at http://mattersports.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Justin ... I got to celebrate tomorrow yesterday!

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Happy Birthday, Justin! Hope you have a great day and all your wishes come true!

Celebrating the 26th on the 24th ~

Since Frank has to work on my birthday, we decided to celebrate on Saturday. We got up early and went to the 11:30 showing of Enchanted (if you click that you can see the preview.) The movie was absolutely ... enchanting! I loved it and Frank laughed and smile all the way through it, too. Patrick Dempsy is totally at home in the reluctant hero role and I love Amy Adams. I have seen her in Wedding Crashers. Junebug, and Talledega Nights and just think she is perfect at "over the top" acting. She made the perfect princess-to-be.

While we were watching, my cell phone started to buzz and I saw that it was Joanna's number. Thinking she might be calling about going into labor, I answered quickly, but it wasn't Joanna. It was Harmony singing the sweetest and most enchanting version of "Happy Birthday." Now how she knew I was celebrating today is just magical! I was whispering my appreciation when she whispered back, "Why are you talking like that?" I told her I was in the movies, and she said, "Oh you are in the movies? I will talk to you later!" She is so smart! So I called her back when we were done and told her all about the princess movie I had seen and she insisted I take her to see it, too. I'm not much on seeing a movie twice, but as a testament to just how good this movie was AND how sweet Harmony is, I may have to reconsider.

After the movie, we ate a late lunch at Cheddars and went to Kohl's, Barnes & Noble, & Dillards for a little birthday shopping. At Kohl's, I got two pairs of knee socks to wear under the boots Mama & Daddy got me for my birthday and a new scrapbook; at Barnes & Noble, the book, Basic Black; and at Dillard's, a beautiful Brown Le Suit suit in a size I need to lose about 10 pounds to get into but also a size that is 4 sizes smaller than in it would have been this time last year. The Le Suits are made really small and it looked really good on me, but I was afraid to sit down or let out my breath, so I think I will wait and lose the 10 pounds before showing it off. He also bought me two black skirts and a black pair of pants ~ between the book, two skirts, and pants ~ I was starting to see a trend ~ Basic Black! Well, it was what I wanted because I love my new boots so much that I wanted to have plenty of reasons to strut them! (Thanks Mama & Daddy & Frank!)

Before we left for Jamaica, Helen & Art gave me money to add to the money they gave me last year for my birthday and for Christmas and I bought the new Kodak Z812 IS Camera. Needless to say, I have been enjoying that birthday present since October! (Thanks Art & Helen!)

It is winter time again and I think the basement has finally cooled down enough for me to get back to scrapping so I was really thrilled with my sister's gift to me, a gift card to AC Moore! I am off tomorrow for my birthday so I thought I would take a trip to Fairview and pick up a few things to get started again. (Thank you, Angie & Gene and family!)

Look for Day Six: Jamaica later today or by tomorrow since I'm off, guess I should get you caught up. You should enjoy Day Six and Seven as we got some beautiful underwater pictures to show off.

Well, my breakfast is ready, so I'll sign off for now. Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Today ....

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For All That God Has Given Me ...
  • His Son
  • My Parents
  • Amanda, Amy & Matthew - the best children ever!
  • Frank
  • My Sister & Her Family
  • Frank's Family
  • A Nice Job with Good Friends
  • Lynelle & Angela
  • Cameras and the ability to use them
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Computers
  • My Car
  • A Safe Home
  • A Charitable Heart

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
(And if you have time, tell me what you are thankful for)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day Five: Jamaica

Halloween in Jamaica

Hump Day! 4 days down and 4 to go! So you all are probably wondering, "Are they ever going to get to dive?" I'm happy to report that Wednesday the water settled down enough for us to get on the boat and head out for a dive. FINALLY! No more mopey boy! LOL! He wasn't too bad, but I think if we hadn't got to dive on Wednesday he would have gone to ask for a refund (you, know like the front desk could have controlled the waves!) Anyway we, along with 18 others, on a boat built for about 16, finally made it out to the reef. The current was so strong and the boat was really rocking, I was happy to get into the water and couldn't wait to descend. I held on to the anchor rope all the way down even when the rope was covered with barnacles, which I had no idea would sting me. Ouch, the stings started about halfway through the dive when I realized I had not put my gloves on. Sometime along the way, I got stung by a jellyfish on the outside of my right thumb. Good news was that even though the current was strong, the water was clearer than I expected and I actually got to see some fish, a few crab. One really big Sea Cucumber:

And we had gotten to dive! EB says to us, who is going on 2nd dive ~ I knew Frank would say, yes, but I decided to go lay the alcohol to my hands and see if I could make the stinging stop. I also knew it would free up Frank to really explore and to help EB keep up with all the divers. It was a really big group and I thought Frank would be better at helping them than keeping up with me. So while I ran to the room, he played like employee and helped unload and reload all the tanks and bcds. I think there were guests there who thought he was part of the staff. That always happens. And he LOVES it! He fits right in and he understands the way they talk andWhen the dive was over and we got back onto the boat, my hands were stinging but I was so excited that everything. I will never understand how he says I talk and think to fast, and yet he can understand the Patois language that the Jamaicans speak so rapidly. I think he understands what he wants to! And I guess that is good when in Jamaica!

Frank went out on the second dive, but didn't take the camera due to so much scatter in the water. When he returned, we got to fill out our log books with the dives and then made plans for a night dive. Again, I decided not to go on the night dive, fearing I would just be in the way with the waters so turbulent. Frank was really excited, though, and was able to get a couple of good shots ~

While Frank was out diving, I was visited by some trick or treaters:

The picture is a bit blurry because they were jumping up and down, singing, "Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat!" I had brought play-do for the school children, but I had no candy, so they each got play-do. The next day, they remembered me! They were pretty funny!

Before dinner, we met with Dolores and Mike for a few more stories and then we headed off for the eats. Dinner tonight was buffet and since it was Jamaica night, there was delicious Curry Chicken and tons of braised oxtail. Frank promised to make more curry dishes when we return home and he made good this past week with the most delicious shrimp curry I have ever tasted. Maybe I can return the favor sometime and make some oxtail in my new crockpot.

Well, tomorrow we'll do day six - hint - lots more diving! Thank goodness!

Another Birthday - Happy Birthday, Shawn

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Happy Birthday, Shawn ~ Hope it was great!

Happy Birthday, Mama

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Happy Birthday, Mama, I love you so much! Thank you for all that you have always done for me. You are the BEST! I hope you have a great day today and I can't wait to see you on Saturday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day Four: Jamaica

Oops, I just read over yesterday's post and remembered that I forgot to include our bike ride. How could I forget that? Amazingly, I actually rode a bike uphill and down. I would like to say that I didn't have to get off and walk it a bit ... but sadly, I can't. Frank did though and he and our guide, were both nice enough to slow down while I walked up one of the hills. The ride took about 45 minutes and really worked up a sweat, but the view down to the ocean was well worth it. We rode through Cardiff Hall, the wealthy side of the golf course, which was lined with million dollar residences to match their million dollar views. Several were manned by security gates and some even had guards. Here are the pics from the ride ~

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Tuesday: The Shore Dive

Finally, it looked as though we would get to dive on Tuesday. There were several divers waiting and waiting at the dive shop and somehow they convinced the staff to at least try a shore dive. Jubilant shouts were heard everywhere! I decided a shore dive in that strong current was probably not going to be much fun for me and that I would just slow them down, so I settled for helping everyone suit up. When they were all ready it was a mad push through the current to get out to the reef. I watched , so happy that Frank was finally getting to do what he came for. I was also VERY HAPPY to be watching from the shore as it seemed very difficult for them to get out there. When they finally made it and I saw them descend, I thought to myself, FINALLY! What I didn't know was that they were all miserable. Within about 10 minutes they were all surfacing with really sad (and tired) looks on their faces. When Frank finally gets back to the shore his first words were, "That was the hardest thing I've ever done. I thought I was going to have a heart attack." Good thing I didn't go! Undoubtedly, the water was really rough and the silt was very thick so the dive pretty much sucked. Oh well, maybe tomorrow will be better.

Four-Wheelin It!

No more diving today so what can we do? Let's take Chukka Cove up on their "Buy One Get One Free" offer and go four-wheelin! The driver picked us up at 12:30 and we headed down to Chukka Cove. When we got there, I was searching high and low for Gene Lilly, the driver we have had on each of our previous three tours. I didn't see him or the zebra striped jeep anywhere, but guess who I did see? Tracy Wiggins! Isn't that wild? I had just said to myself the night before, "At least in Jamaica, you never have to worry about running into anyone you know from home!" Not that it would be a bad thing, it's just that everyone is always kidding me about how they can't go anywhere with me without seeing someone I know. Guess I was wrong about Jamaica. As we stood there, listening to our guide, I noticed someone looking at me and when I got a chance to look at her, she said, "Paula?" And I said, "Tracy?" Wow! It was so wild. She was there on her honeymoon with Jonathan, whom she had wed the Saturday before in Charleston, where her daughter, Hope, now lives.

Tracy and I haven't seen each other in years, but I had almost the same experience with her daughter, Hope, at this time last year, when I was taking the pictures at Nate and Nicole's wedding. Amazingly, Hope recognized me first and said, "I think I know you, you used to babysit me." Yep! Weird! Anyway, Tracy and I were among five others who were riding these four-wheelers for the first time. We hopped up on them and took a few trips around the pasture before heading up on our 4 mile trek up the side of the beautiful mountainside. It's hard to describe just how much fun this was - I mean getting dirty playing in mud puddles was always fun when I was little, but it has been a while! I laughed the whole time as I sped through puddle after puddle. I got so much mud on my shoes and socks that I ended up leaving them in Jamaica because they were just too dirty to put back in a suitcase.

At the top of the mountain, the view was incredible!






















The ride back down went pretty well, too. Here we are getting back on the ATV's:

Of course, I thought going downhill my be more fun, but it actually is harder because you have to ride the brakes so much. Everything was going great.

We traveled the four miles back down the mountain all the way to the sea. When we got to the place where we were supposed to get to "cliff dive," Frank told me he had been in close contact with a fence back on one of the big curves. Ouch, he was holding the video camera, which was okay; the video camera battery, which was NOT okay; and his side, which was bruised very badly. I was so worried, and he was just glad I hadn't seen the "wreck." I think I was glad, too. I probably would have wrecked, too, trying to get back to him. He said he was going to be fine and so we walked on down to the private cove where we hoped to get in a couple of dips in the beautiful water. To our surprise (though i am not sure why it surprised us) the water was too choppy for us to get in, so our beautiful dip in the blue water was cancelled. So instead of getting all that mud off in a really cool way, we ended up waiting in line to use the water hose back at the ranch. Oh well, at least I had my swimsuit on underneath my overalls and Frank let me wear the flip flops that were in his backpack. I was pretty sure my white shirt would never be the same!



Above are photos of Tracy & Jonathan; a little tiny hermit crab; Wayne, our driver for the day; and Oral, our Chukka Cove ATV Guide. And here are two of my favorite photos from the day:

On the way home, we talked Wayne into stopping at the supermarket just before the resort. There we were able to buy some candy, coffee, and rum at the Jamaican prices instead of at the high prices at the resort. We got back to the resort, washed the rest of the mud off in our wonderful 6 head shower and then went to dinner at the Starlight Grill with new friends, Dolores, Mike & George. We had a wonderful dinner of stir fried steak, crab, and chicken topped off with pineapple carmelized and wrapped in brown sugar glazed pastry. YUMMY! We also sat there laughing at all the stories Mike and Dolores told us! Those two are a hoot! You'll have to have Frank tell you some of the stories some time. Mike had us in stitches all evening!

And then of course, another day was done and another night we went to bed with fingers crossed.

Happy Birthday, Helen (Sorry It's Late)

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As you know, we were in Jamaica on Helen's birthday, but I wanted to be sure to post a happy birthday message for her anyway! Thanks for being the best "mother-in-law" ever and such a great friend. I really do appreciate you! Hope you enjoyed your family being here, can't wait to see you.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Okay, Back to Jamaica: Day Three

Amanda's comment has me realizing that I must have been busier than I realized. I have some catching up to do ... again!

Monday in Jamaica

We woke up early, of course, so we could check out the red flag and see if we would be diving. NOPE, it just wasn't happening. The water was still too choppy to get the boat through the channels and the water was just way too messed up. Guess we'll go shopping!

Not "We" exactly, Frank went to eat breakfast and I hurried to the room to get dressed to go into to town, that's Ocho Rios. Ocho Rios is the closest city and and a popular stop for cruise
ships so it is filled with shops just waiting to make you offers on the latest souvenirs. We boarded the bus at 9 am and were in Ocho by 9:40. They were all waiting for us. The bus driver takes us to a souvenir shop where nothing is priced .... ugh! You have to ask and then the deal making starts. I did get some good deals though, 4 t-shirts for $20; some hats for the boys and beach towels for the girls. The next stop was a shopping center called, "Taj Mahal." The buildings are painted with India themes and it is pretty appropriate name as most of the store owners are from India or Pakistan or somewhere over there. I'm not really sure their ethnicity except they were definitely NOT Jamaicans. The workers were, but the owners were not. I guess all are accepted as long as you employ the Jamaicans and add to the tax base.

Jamaican Craft Fair

The next shopping center was across the street from the Craft Fair. Otherwise known as the "Hi, My Lady, Will you come look at my shop," stop! This area is about 4 blocks and I managed to walk through it spending only $14 and that includes $2 for a bottle of water because it was so hot and humid. The ladies would try to convince you to buy something by fanning you. It almost worked! I was so hot and their little "stores" were just barely big enough for me to turn sideways in and they were open air - on one end - and dark and hot at the back. I did manage to get a picture of an adorable little boy eating crackers. His grandmother told me I should tip her for letting me take his picture. I gave her sixty cents ... literally all I had other than a twenty ... and then I asked her his name. I'm not sure if she was just protecting him or if she was telling the truth, but she told me she had too many grandchildren to remember his name. Oh my, I thought, that is just awful, did she even know the child. Then I thought maybe she just didn't want to tell me. Who knows? Anyway, he was a cutey and definitely knew that the camera lens was made to be smiled at.
All the shops had pretty much the same things as the stores, trinkets, bracelets, key chains,
jewelry and paintings. There were a few actual "Crafters" there. I caught one photo of a painter who had some really neat canvasses; a lady beading jewelry; and a woodworker carving masks.

Making New Friends

While on the bus ride back to the resort, I met a really nice couple, Dolores and Mike Frith, of Concord, California. They were really cool and Mike is a diver. He told me about diving off the coast of California in the colder rough waters of Monteray Bay. Sounds a lot like Jocassee, only he seemed to enjoy it (?)! The lived in San Fransisco, too, so they gave me all kinds of great tips for visiting after I told them it was the number one place in the US I wanted to visit. The recommended coming in October during Fleet Week because you can see huge boats in the Bay and said it was actually one of the warmest times of the year. Now I can't wait to start planning that trip, though I don't know if I can swing California and Jamaica in one year ... may need a
second job, both of us!

Sushi Bar



Monday night we had dinner at Munasan, the newest addition at the resort. The restaurant is open air, but covered, and features two dining choices, hibachi grill or sushi. We chose the sushi bar, of course. Our Chef was Edwin from the Philippines and he was great. We also met George, from Georgia, easy enough to remember. Turns out George was also there to dive.

How funny is it that normally we only meet divers on the boat and this time even though we hadn't been on the boat yet, we had still managed to meet two divers!


George is the General Manager at a Cracker Barrel in Brunswick, Georgia. He had been trying to get in his last cert dive off the coast of Northern Florida for the past few weeks but bad
weather hadn't made it possible so he, like the rest of us, chose Jamaica and Breezes because the diving was included and the waters were so clear and warm and CALM! Poor Guy, the yucky waters followed him here. Oh well, we still have days left, so maybe the waters will get better. Anyway, we all talked for a while and enjoyed huge boats of all kinds of sushi and sashimi. So much so, that we were stuffed and decided to turn in for the evening after we were done.

Crossing our fingers and saying our prayers, we fell asleep with visions of underwater fishes and beautiful corals dancing in our heads ...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day One Back to Work; Day Two Jamaica

Well, my return to work wasn't too bad. Lots of emails and phone calls to respond to, but all in all a fairly easy day.

Sunday in Jamaica

Noel skipped Jamaica but his passing left the waves crashing hard against the shore and stirring up sand and silt in the normally clear Caribbean. Sunday should have been our first day to dive and we were deeply saddened to get up early just to find the red flag waving high on the shore, the tanks and regs still neatly tucked in the dive shop, and EB standing there just shaking his head. It was a sad morning for 16 divers ready to hop on the boat and check out the Cayman Wall! Oh well, maybe Monday.

So, what to do next? We were in the dark completely. You see, we're always diving from 8:30 to 11:30, so we had no idea what the non divers do on mornings at Breezes. One look at the activity board and we were surprised ~ it seems there IS more to do than just dive! Imagine that! Frank says it was all just "passing time" until the water calmed, but when you get a chance to see all the pictures, you'll find that boy can really get into volleyball, too. I think maybe it's because the ball looks a lot like a soccer ball. Who knows? Anyway, he had a great time and I really enjoyed getting to use the camera even if it was above water. The picture below shows how turbulent the water was ~ truly the worst we ever seen in our four trips to Runaway Bay.


The rest of the day passed pretty quickly. We checked out the new infinity pool and the swim up bar. The sun came out and went back behind the clouds but it never did rain, well it did, for like two minutes at the most. Amazing! It's like a spritz from heaven just to cool you down for a few minutes. Very nice. I took two magazines and two books along with my journal. I've yet to open either of the magazines but I did somehow manage to read one chapter in one book. Guess lying around the pool with a good book is just not my idea of a good vacation. For some reason, Frank and I both think you "have to be doin' something!" So we walked. We explored! Then we napped, got ready and headed to the buffet.

First thing we did was hunt down a waitress to send Janice a message. The first year we went she told Frank shoes were required, she could rent him some, but she only had a size 12 and a size 7. She was kidding, of course. But to let her know we were back, Frank told the waitress to go tell Janice that there was a man at the door who need to rent a pair of shoes for dinner, one shoe size 12 and one size 7. It didn't take her long to coming running, "Frank and Paula!" And then hugs, hugs, hugs! She looked great. When we last saw her she was a week away from delivering her second child so needless to say she was a bit smaller this time. Hard to believe the baby born one week after Ivan hit Jamaica is now 3 years old and getting ready for school.

Janice and Frank are really funny together. She is pointing at him because last time when she was pregnant she pointed at him as I snapped the photo and it looked like she was trying to tell me something about that baby! Running joke is Frank and I are the baby's step-parents! Haha! Anyway, we will be getting together a little "child support" box to send to both her children, Ofelia who is 9 and Odelia who is 3. They both need crayons, paints, pens, painting aprons, school paper, and back packs for school. They have to pay for everything there including uniforms. The oldest, Ofelia, is really into crossword puzzles, so I am sure Amanda can help me pick out some of those to send to her. She said, "No, don't send those, when she is doing crosswords, she isn't doing anything else." I told her to look at it as educational. I know it helped me tremendously with my vocabulary and it should help her, too. Amanda loves them, too. Sometimes I think she buys the TV Guide and People just for the puzzle. BTW, Amanda, remind me to give you the Air Jamaica Magazine, it has two crosswords!

Well, I am getting sleepy and that pretty much recaps our Sunday. One last thing we did ~ walked on the beach and took a mini-swing in our hut covered hammock. The moon was huge!

Monday, November 05, 2007

We're Back!

Well, nine days went by fast and we are back at home now and already missing those we call friends and the beautiful country of Jamaica. We had a great time! Noel's winds caused the water to be a bit wavy for the first 3 days (delaying our dives) but we had no rain (except for 1 minute showers about twice a day) and beautiful sunny days the whole time!

I figure the best way to blog about the trip is to take it one vacation day per one blog day! So today I will tell you about Saturday - Arrival day! We made it through airport security with no problems. Frank had a great idea for getting through the "shoes off" part without feeling like we were taking everyone's foot germs with us on vacation ~ we wore two pairs of socks and ditch the outside pair after going through security and before putting our shoes back on! Made sense because you know they never wash those floors!

The Atlanta airport is great because of the tram that takes you all the way out to your concourse and when you are flying internationally that is the last concourse - 5000 feet from ticketing. That would be a long walk (even with your fancy dancy new four wheeled luggage!) Anyway, I like this airport a lot. The picture is of our reflection in the window we were looking out of to view them getting our plane ready.
















Cool shot - Frank's idea!


Okay, on to Jamaica, arrived 10:45 their time (which ironically, is our time now, too, since the time changed the day we got back!) Our driver picked us up along with 6 others and we headed out for the 2 hour ride to Breezes, but guess what? It was only 1 1/2 hours! The new road is completely finished from Jamaica all the way to Runaway Bay. No more Falmouth, no more bumpy bumpy roads through closer than you dare city traffic. They even have lines on the roads (definitely something new!) The driver tried to explain to us how the lines worked, calling what we call "passing zones," "overtaking zones." We just played along, acting like it was such a cool concept, never letting on like it was something we were totally familiar with. He seemed so proud!

POOL SIDE!
We got to the hotel and at first, they gave us a second floor room, but we talked with Julian and Stacy and they worked to get us a first floor room. We like being able to walk out the sliding door instead of the front. We were three rooms from the end and directly beside the great new dive shop and a hop, skip, and jump from the beautiful new infinity pool.


Of course, the first thing we did after dropping our things at the room was to go see EB, the Scuba Instructor. So glad he is still there as all the other divemasters are new. We met his new boss, George, and other instructors, Mr. Brown and Kevin. They were all very nice, too!

Next stop, food, and the hope of seeing Janice or at least making sure she was still there. We didn't see her but asked our waitress who told us she would be at dinner on Sunday. Yeah! Our two favorites were still there. So we had a nice salad lunch with some fruit and a little pasta and it was back to the room to get unpacked. I think this is the only trip I take where I actually use the dressers provided, most of the time I prefer to live out of the suitcase, but I guess this is more like home away from home.

The rooms have been renovated with a new bed, dresser, desk, and a flat screen television. In the bathroom area, they had taken out the tub and replaced with a marble shower with 6 shower heads! Wow! It felt really nice! Didn't think to take a picture, but you can imagine how good it felt after a long day in the saltwater and the sun!

That evening we had oxtail (Frank's favorite) and curried goat along with lots of other salads and sides and the normal choice of ice cream and petite fours for dessert. According to our scales we both gained weight, but happily only about 2 pounds each! Guess all the diving and walking on the beach cancels out some of the desserts and jerk chicken!

Tomorrow I have to go back to work but Frank is off until Wednesday. Hopefully I will have time to post a few more pics on Tuesday and tell you a bit more about our trip. We missed you all and have souvenirs for you, too! Will catch up soon!