Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cruise, Day 6: Stockholm, Sweden

Sailing into Stockholm was just spectacular because of all the islands we passed before docking. Stockholm, the capital city, is itself built on 14 islands, where Lake Malaren flows into the Baltic Sea. In fact, the city “promise” is that 1/3 of the city will always be water, 1/3 parks and 1/3 inhabited.

So here are some pics to give you a feel for the city through on-and-off-again rain. We took a 3-hour tour of the Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old medieval town from the 13th century.

After the old town, we toured the City Hall (below), built in 1923, and where the yearly Nobel Prize banquet is held.

As with everywhere thus far, I work on my photo albums while Donica naps or watches tennis.

Tonight we set our clocks one hour ahead (7 hours ahead of Atlanta) for our cruise into the Gulf of Finland, where we will be the next 4 days. It's hard to believe that we are only half-way through this cruise! We still have basically a week to go of incredible discovery and visual delights.

Tomorrow’s port is Helsinki, Finland.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cruise, Day 5: At Sea

Between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden, we’ve been in the Baltic Sea, resting for the next 5 days of go-go-go.

Resting, my eye! Our days at sea have been every bit as busy as our excursions into the city, flitting from one scheduled event to the next.

Last night we attended a spectacular entertainment featuring Samantha Jay, a Welch lady who now lives in England. Talk about a talented musician! Oh my. For an hour she took our breath away as she segued from the oboe to the alto sax to the violin, back-n-forth. Worth a concert anywhere, if you ever hear of her.

Today we attended a seminar on Baltic Amber (with tips on how to spot a fake), followed by bingo, of course. After lunch we heard about Russia's history from an Armenian man, now from the U.S., who used to be an ambassador. Very informative (since we'll be in St. Petersburg in a couple more days).

This afternoon I tried to blogroll, but after 15 minutes of getting nowhere fast (slow boat to China!), and at $.33/minute, I gave up. I guess I’ll have to wait to visit y’all once I get on land, unless I’m lucky on another day. Thanks for understanding. In the meantime, I am able to read your comments and greatly appreciate all of you who are visiting and leaving comments. I feel greatly loved and “followed” :) And when I can't be connected, I'm PhotoShopping my photos, getting them ready for their albums.

The next 5 days we'll be in one port after the other, filling up each day with excursions to see everything we can see in the time allotted. Tomorrow is Stockholm....

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cruise, Day 4: Copenhagen, Denmark

Today we were in Copenhagen from 8a – 7p, with on again, off again sun and rain all day. Since we never let it rain on our parade, we still got in some excellent shots of great memories from our 4-hour walking and canal tour. (And HI, Gustav! I waved to you :)

The Little Mermaid may be Denmark’s most endearing symbol, just a few feet away from where our ship docked. It was commissioned in honor of author, Hans Christian Andersen. And it was NOT raining!

Here's the flag of Denmark, of course, and one of the statues along the harbor walk.

From the harbor we walked to the Queen’s Amalienborg Palace (home of the Danish Royal Family since 1794), and saw the guards (guarding, of course), and then on to the elegant Amaliehaven Square nearby . There we saw Frederik's Chursch (popularly known as the Marble Church), having the world’s third largest dome. You know me: I'm a glutton for spires of any sort, especially of churches. The one on the right (above) is the Church of Saint Albans.

I'm also a glutton for the "commonplace" stuff that is unique when a bit different from what I'm used to. And for what's the same, like 'copters that are green!

Our boat ride through the canals of Christianshavn was charming, giving a hint of Amsterdam in many places.

As we go along, I'll keep working on full photo albums that I'll add later as links (probably once we're back in Hannover). But for now, these are the smatterings of photos that stand out for me as the memories that mean the most.

Tomorrow we're "at sea" again, on our way to Stockholm, Sweden!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cruise, Day 3: Oslo, Norway

Today was our first of 6 port-o-calls: Oslo, Norway, from 7a – 4p. We had a Viking Heritage 5-hour tour that gave us wonderful highlights of the city:

Our first stop was the Holmenkollen ski jump outside the city, built in 1892 at 60 meters tall and with a spectacular view of the fjord and city of Oslo.

Then we stopped at the Vigeland Sculpture Park, Norway’s most visited attraction, with sculptures in bronze, granite and iron. Once I publish my photo album, you’ll see how Gustav Vigeland depicted different aspects of human life. Unbelievable. Worth the entire cruise thus far!

The Viking Ship Museum gave us up close and personal views of the 1200-year-old boats, demonstrating daring initiative and shipbuilding artisanship.

Next door was the Open-Air Folk Museum, consisting of 150 buildings showing the way town and country people used to live in bygone days.

Back at the cruise terminal, where the ship docked, is the Akerhus Fortress from the 13th century. It was also a great vantage point for taking photos of our Jewel of the Seas.

What a gorgeous, sunny day for our first excursion! We were in heaven, to be sure.

[I neglected to tell you yesterday that our wireless connection on board is costing $.33/minute…when it works! So in order to conserve resources, I’m cutting blogging corners to basically post (writing up the text in Word beforehand!). Maybe when at sea again all day, after Copenhagen, I can have a fast stretch of catching up on all my Blogger friends. Please know I’m not forgetting you and am actually missing you.]

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cruise, Day 2: At Sea

I had planned to do several things today with a post, showing lots of little pics with snippets of info on what's happening but we've found out that we can't always get a signal for an internet least while at sea. So today I'm sending just this one pic with a bit of a blab!

We've had 2 great evening "main dining room" dinners thus far and have met the two other couples sharing our table: Jim and Delores are in their late 60's from Wichita, Kansas; John and Christina are my age from Perth, Australia. And all 4 of them are delightful. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we have long-term contact with them, as we have had with the couples from our last cruise. How fun.

We've been to a seminar on Faberge eggs and their family history (since we're going to St. Petersburg, Russia, at the end of the cruise). We've played Bingo and nickle slots in the casino. We've been to two art auctions and a shopping , informational seminar for Oslo, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg. We even walked a mile around the track on the top deck last night at sunset. All in the first 24 hours!

Our stateroom is on the 10th deck and this time (our first) has a private balcony. So we can see "the world" coming and going from our room. And because we are eating too well (still trying to be good but some things you just can't pass up, you know!), we make a point of climbing up and down the stairs everywhere we go.

It just doesn't get better than this, does it! I know I've been saying that a lot lately but it's true. If you've never taken a cruise, I hope you can do so some day/year soon. You'll certainly have all my best wishes and blessings!

Tomorrow we'll be in Oslo, Norway, all day. I can hardly wait!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cruise, Day 1: Embarkation

The other day I mentioned that we'll be on a 12-night Scandinavia and Russia Cruise this stint in Europe. It starts today! We fly from Hannover to London at 6:30a and then take a van with others to nearby Harwich for embarkation on Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas (click on parts of the ship to see what's there :)

As you can see from our itinerary, there are 6 main cities we'll see, with one/two excursions each day:

26-May: Harwich, England (5:00p Boarding)
27-May: At Sea
28-May: Oslo, Norway (7:00a - 4:00p Docked)
29-May: Copenhagen, Denmark (8:00a - 7:00p Docked)
30-May: At Sea
31-May: Stockholm, Sweden (9:00a - 5:00p Docked)
01-Jun: Helsinki, Finland (9:00a - 6:00p Docked)
02-Jun: St. Petersburg, Russia (7:00a Docked)
03-Jun: St. Petersburg, Russia (6:00p Docked)
04-Jun: Tallinn, Estonia (8:00a - 4:00p Docked)
05-Jun: At Sea
06-Jun: At Sea
07-Jun: Harwich, England (7:00a Departure)

When I asked Donica what she most looked forward to, she said "REST!" We have done 2 Royal Caribbean cruises before (7-nights to Alaska's Inside Passage and 10 nights to New England/Canada), so we know more or less what to expect. Rest for Donica means the entertainment shows, playing Bingo, the Casino, sitting out on the balcony, taking it all in, reading and listening to her iPod while at sea. And of course, the shore excursions!

All the above for me, too, since we do those things together. Plus, we both will have our laptops, so, yes, I plan to keep up with my blog, giving you a running commentary of sorts as I am able. I certainly don't want to leave it all until after it's over!

Bon voyage to all of us because, of course, I know y'all wanna come with us!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How Old Is She?

First of all, Happy Birthday to Susan (my sister), Bill (my ex-husband) and Christina (my blogger friend here in Hannover)!!! What is it with May 25?! And yes, I already know how old they all are.

(Photo taken 4/24/06)

But this fair lady in our nearby Tiergarten: how old is she? Guess. The sign says she's 500 years old. BUT, she's not! Uschi (our landlady) says they've since (since the sign, that is) "discovered" that she's actually 640 years old. That means that she, like Susan and Bill and Christina (and Lisa--whose birthday was a couple days ago, MerlinPrincesse, my MIL, Tim--yesterday's child, DreamWalker--the day before mine), is a true Gemini--looking younger than she is. (I'm glad to say that's also been said of me all my life, so it must be true!)

So, will all the real Gemini* please stand up and be counted. Happy Birthday season is HERE!

[* The dictionary says that "Gemini" is already plural (but of course--The Twins) but it sure doesn't sound right, does it! Learn something new every day.]

The Blended-Family Tree

I just found out this morning, via e-mail, that my grandson, Nicholas (5-1/2), thanks to his dad and step-mom, now has a half-brother: Ryan Jace, born May 23 in Atlanta.

This tree in our Atlanta neighborhood (taken on April 11) is the most convoluted tree I have ever seen. It reminds me of what our blended families look like these days. How do we keep each other straight (so to speak!)?

Does that make Ryan my half-grandson? Or is he related to me at all? Not by blood, of course. But as far as Nicholas is concerned???

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Somewhere Over the Rainbows

Yesterday was a chilly, low 50's, rainy day here in Hannover. The kind of chill that goes straight to the bone, even with a long-sleeved T-shirt and sweatshirt!

After supper, Donica and I started playing cards (which helps her relax more than just about anything) when suddenly she exclaimed, "Look at the rainbow!" And right there in front of us, outside the living-room window was this:

Remember that our windows are more like slanted, accessible skylights in our attic apartment. So once they're open, they're basically horizontal (like a table), reflecting what they see.

Since there were so many beautiful variations on the theme, I couldn't choose just one! The one above is Donica's favorite, not only because the rainbow arched the chimney but because of the difference in color inside vs. outside the bow.

This is my favorite, below, because within a minute or two, the second rainbow appeared. At one point, there were actually 4 rainbows because of the reflections.

I don't always post every day nor do I "ever" post more than once a day. BUT, sometimes there just have to be exceptions. Something else is ready for tomorrow AND Friday starts our cruise. So for today, you have Fire (previous post) and Rainbows!

Have Fire

The theme for Tuesdays Photos this week is "Fire." Last week the theme was "Moon" and, well, I just didn't have a moon photo and couldn't snap my fingers and make it happen. So when I saw this week's challenge, I thought, "Oh No! Not again!"

But the reason why these are called "challenges" is because they are! You just have to think and sometimes outside the box. Well, maybe this is a bit of a stretch but I DO think we take for granted FIRE for our everyday cooking/eating. Didn't there use to be a day (other than on "Survivor") when having fire was a life or death matter?

BTW: in natal charts, there are 4 elements (fire, earth, air, water). Sometimes a person can be lacking in one of the elements, at which point the report will say, "Want Fire." If the person has it, the report says, "Have Fire."

Another BTW, for inquiring minds: yes, this is our apartment stove here in Hannover. And our apartment pot. We "have Fire!"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Mother of All Kinder Eggs

OMIGOD! Donica had descibed this to me over the phone a couple weeks ago but seeing is believing. She had this Kinder "Egg" waiting for me here in Hannover when I arrived yesterday and watched as I unwrapped it, piece by piece.

Mouse over for the before and after.

First of all, in case you don't know this by now, Germany is host to the World Cup soccer/fussbol games this summer. There are 12 cities circling the country where the games will be played, starting June 9th. In fact, Donica was able to get tickets for us to the Italy-Ghana game here in Hannover on June 12th, the day before my birthday. Talk about a birthday memory!

So, rising to the challenge, the maker of the Kinder Eggs, Ferrero, has produced these Kinder Fan-Balls in honor of the games. It looks like there are a potential of 5 "surprises" in them, one of which is the Germany flag-pouch in the above mouse-over photo.

That is one humdinger of a giant uberraschung/chocolate "egg" and capsule, if you ask me. In all pics I have included a regular-sized Kinder Egg surprise capsule so you can compare the sizes. Oh, and BTW, we're talking about a difference in price of €0.55 as opposed to €5.99 ($.70 vs. $7.65)!

Just when we thought they couldn't get any more exciting!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Things That Count

Yes, I've arrived safe-n-sound at our Hannover apartment (thank you all), and while I adjust to the 6 hours I just lost, let me tell you something about our precious Big Little Boy (BLB).

This past Saturday evening was the end-of-the-season program and reception for Nicholas' 4-5 year-old T-Ball league (in Atlanta). Each team, one by one, went up on stage (in their uniforms) to receive their individual trophies. Lots of whooping and hollering, even with cheerleaders!

After everyone was seated, the moderator said he was now going to hand out the most prestigious awards of the night: the Solid Rock awards that would go to one person from each team that was chosen by the coaches. This award was for the child who showed "exceptional character throughout the season."

You know what I'm going to say, of course. But first, I had already shut off my camera (before going to the reception). But then I thought, if Nicholas was chosen, I'd never forgive myself for not having the camera ready! So yes, when the Yankees' team name was called, and "Nicholas Grannan" was named, I just about lost it! He had to walk from his seat at the back of the auditorium and join the others on stage.

Then, to add frosting to the cake while at the reception, with each team around their individual tables for dessert, the coaches handed out more awards. And Nicholas got the "Most Improved Over the Season" certificate.

I have no clue if the BLB understands what this all means. If you look at the last page (p. 3) of this album, there are several expressions of deep contemplation, as though he were taking it all in.

Hmm. The things that count. Over time we'll all help him understand, of course. Team spirit, good sportsmanship, having a great attitude, working hard, being kind, etc. It all matters. It all counts! How nice to start that so young!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Up, Up and Away

A week ago Saturday a man was flying humongous kites in an open field near us, just before what appeared would be a bombastic thunderstorm. And yes, I had my new camera with me and was able to zoom in (12x). This is one of them.

Today I fly to be with Donica in Hannover but via a circuitous route I've not made before (kinda like this kite!). I'll fly from Atlanta to Dusseldorf, Germany, and from there will take the 2-1/2-hour ride to Hannover by DB train tomorrow morning. This is World Cup season in Germany right now, so tickets of any sort were hard to come by when we booked my flight IN FEBRUARY.

James, BTW, from our blogging Neighborhood, lives in Dusseldorf, and loves taking the European trains, as do I. God willing and the creek don't rise, we plan to rendezvous for lunch in mid-June on my way home. Something to look forward to.

This will be a month-long trip this time around because we're taking a 12-day cruise for Donica's vacation (I'm always on vacation, right?!). I'll tell you more about that later, of course, but from May 26 - June 6 we'll be cruising from London to Scandinavia, Russia and Estonia. We can hardly wait. Like I said, more on that later. For right now, let's just get me to Hannover!

See you next over the pond, 6 hours ahead of whatever I was before!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Holy Blood, Holy Grail?

On my way home from Hannover last trip (April), going through the Paris CDG airport, I saw this poster and just HAD to take a pic of it, knowing I'd post it today--the day The DaVinci Code movie is released worldwide! And released, supposedly to lots of criticism.

You know by now that I was raised as conservatively as they come! Dan Brown's novel would have wreaked havoc in ME back in those days, but not now. Yes, I've read it and loved it and just now I've seen the movie. (I actually liked his prequel, Angels & Demons, even more and hope they decide to make IT into a movie as well!)

But why is there so much fuss in Conservative circles? First of all, it's based on a novel (even if Dan Brown quotes what he calls "facts"). Secondly, for those of us raised in the Christian faith, does it really change what we think of Jesus if he was indeed married and had children? And married to Mary Magdalen at that!

For me personally, it only makes Jesus more human, not less. Being MORE human does not make him less God to me. And if we're all gods (Children of God), what does it say about Jesus, our "older brother--the first-born," if the thought of his marriage and fatherhood makes him less, not more!

I'm sorry. I don't get it. Nor do I mean to offend anyone, please. I want the Figurehead of my religion to be MORE than I could ever think of him. I want him to pop out of every box I've ever put him in. I want him to send my imagination soaring, because that's who God is for me. Something, Someone BIGGER than I could ever imagine.

Anyway! Have you seen it yet or are you planning to, I wonder? It's very true to the book and from my perspoective, is very well done.

[BTW, I had promised Donica that I'd wait to see the movie with her when we're together in Hannover next week, but found out it's in English only on Sunday night. So while I'm in the sky flying to her, Donica will see it Sunday night.]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Something WICKED This Way Comes

Not the movie but the Broadway Musical (click on the image for the official website)! We first heard about it last fall when my niece Shari took her mom (my sister Susan) in Chicago just before Susan's wedding. Shari has worked with high school choirs for years and said this is the absolutely best musical ever! So we paid attention! It is now here in Atlanta and for Mother's Day, Donica got tickets for me, Amy, her mom and aunt for this afternoon's show (while she slaves away in Amsterdam!).

Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre is in Midtown and is where we have seen so many plays and musicals. It really is fabulous. A place you grow to love more every time you're in it. It has an atmosphere that makes you feel you're "big time." Okay, Kim, so it's not exactly New York or Broadway. But I'm guessing it's a close second, and we love it.

This particular musical is "the untold story of the witches of Oz," specifically of Glinda, the Good Witch, and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West (WWW)...the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, as told by Gregory Maguire in his novel.

Oh my! I won't give any of it away but IT'S WONDERFUL! Wickedly delicious. Wickedly delightful. Based on the musical alone (I haven't read the book), I'd pick the WWW to be my friend first before the "Good Witch." And I'd wear any of her paraphernalia with pride! Sometimes Wicked is Good; sometimes Good is Wicked. And that's all I'll say about that :)

Thank you, Donica! Wish you could have seen it with us!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Our Animal Guides

In yesterday's post I mentioned (under Agate) that the Turtle is Donica's Animal Guide. I have talked about mine before (the Wolf) but not hers.

Donica is park Cherokee, and thus keys into Native American spirituality that is so soulful to me. It has been important to me to surround myself with both hers and my Guides, as a reminder of where we're coming from and where we're going.

The key word for Turtle is Protection: "Many tribal creation stories say that earth was born on the back of Turtle. Since it carries its home on its back, it has also been recognized as having the ability to "manage" in difficult circumstances." So very Donica, whether at home or at work!

Interestingly, Donica is a Cancer sign, which is the sign of the mother and home (portrayed as the crab, also with the soft body and hard outer shell!). When the Turtle became her guide back in high school, it really WAS her guide, unbenownst to her at the time. She just collected them and liked them.

There's something to be said for studying Nature and learning from it. I don't do it often enough or when I do, I don't always just sit and listen. I'm too busy with my camera in hand! But when I do stop and listen, I feel transported to another world.

So now I wonder what YOUR animal guide is! Have you sensed that you respond to one more than another? Did you choose it or did it choose you?