Hawaii…in style!

I’ve visited Hawaii before. My friend and travel partner took a cruise there in 2011. It was an amazing trip. We visited four of the islands, snorkeling on the Big Island, kayaking on Kauai, swimming on Maui, seeing whales as we sailed into Honolulu, and watching lava flowing into the water as we were departing the islands (check out my blog from March, 2011). But this trip was totally different!

When my son and his wife decided to take a trip to Hawaii, I was thrilled when they asked me to come and join them for part of the time they were there. Now I know that they like to travel in style, but I had no idea how high in style they were going to take me!

Elegant entrance to the Halekulani Hotel

Tuesday, October 30th – When I arrived at the magnificent Halekulani Hotel my daughter-in-law Wendy met me and took me to a private elevator. I should have had a clue then what was in store for me but it still didn’t register. The elevator opened into a foyer where a desk sat for their personal butler (which I’m happy to say they declined to employ) and to the left was a beautiful suite complete with a queen size bed, sitting area, desk area, veranda with a plush lounge and a table and chairs overlooking the water, a magnificent bathroom with a dressing area, soaking tub, cozy terrycloth bathrobe, special soaps and lotions, and the list goes on and on. I thought this was our room. That I would be sleeping on the couch and I was happy! This room was bigger than my studio apartment I live in and I thought, man this is luxury!

My bedroom

After admiring the beautiful room, Wendy walked me through the double doors off the foyer. When I first peeked in I was confused. Here was this huge room with a formal living area complete with a grand piano, a cozy TV area, a full kitchen and dining area to accommodate 6 people, a wraparound deck with a view of Waikiki Beach and Diamondhead. I thought she had taken me to an elaborate corporate conference venue to show me what was available in this beautiful hotel. I was still puzzled at what I was looking at, and why she was showing it to me, when my Son Ben walked out of the kitchen. WELL, this was the rest of the suite! I hadn’t even seen the huge master bedroom off the living room with its grand bathroom with a walk-in closet and dressing room. This was crazy! The “suite” Wendy had shown me in the beginning was MY bedroom. And this was the rest of the Royal Suite, all 3300 feet of it!

The Royal Suite looking towards kitchen and foyer top picture, and TV and dining room bottom

The Royal Suite Livingroom and veranda

Next on the agenda? A spa treatment of course! Wendy had arranged to have massages for the two of us in the room. Soon the two masseuses arrived and set up massage tables in the master bedroom. We lavished in the calmness of a 90 minute traditional Hawaiian relaxation massage while Ben left to explore other things. What a glorious way to start out a visit to Hawaii!

Master bedroom

When I returned to my room, I found a lovely welcome basket of fruit and chocolates waiting for me. I devoured the delicious papaya and rested in my big fluffy robe until showering and dressing for the evening.

Welcome fruit and chocolates

We started out at the elegant L’Aperitif cocktail bar at the LaMer, Halekulanis 5 star, 5 diamond upscale French restaurant. The bar is famous for their craft cocktails paired with high end snacks to compliment the drink. We all ordered something different and sipped on our fancy drinks and snacks while sitting in the richly decorated, dark paneled décor with a view of Diamond Head through the open doors. Afterwards we went to dinner at A House Without a Key enjoying delicious prime rib and lobster dinners while listening to traditional Hawaiian music. As the sun set below the horizon, we finished our dinner with the light and creamy traditional Haupia coconut cake. Pure heaven!

Drinks and high end snacks at L’Aperifif

I returned to my room to find turn down service with a pair of terrycloth slippers by my bed, a small gift, a lovely quote for the day and an ever present orchid flower. I was pleasantly surprised to find that each night I found a new gift and quote. How lovely is that! I sank into my comfy bed with dreams of what a wonderful day I had.

Coffee on my veranda

Wednesday, October 31st (Halloween) I ordered room service to have my coffee on the veranda while watching the beaches come alive with walkers, surfers and sun bathers.

Halakulani Orchid pool

Then we put on our suits and headed to the pool. We spent most of the day lounging by the Orchid pool with the beautiful mosaic design of an orchid on the bottom, created from over a million blue, white and green imported glass tiles. The staff brought by little tidbits every hour…A mini muffin in the morning, a bite of pineapple, frozen grapes, little bites to enjoy while basking in the sun. And of course we had to have a Mai Tai which the hotel says it’s famous for. And I must admit it was pretty good!

Drinking Mai Tai’s at the pool

For dinner we went to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. I’ve never been and have heard how good it was but really wasn’t convinced that a meal could be THAT good. After all, I’ve had some really delicious steaks in my day. But believe me I was wrong! I have never had a filet minion like I had that night. It was absolutely melt in your mouth tender! Add the creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and side of succulent shrimp and wala! Dinner made for a queen!

Dinner at Ruth’s Chris

After dinner I walked along the streets going through some of the shops and watching all the fun people in their Halloween costumes.

Thursday, November 1st – Snorkeling day! One of my absolutely favorite things to do is snorkeling. There’s just something so magical about being in the quiet, serene waters and watching the sea life below you. And every time I go I think about my cousin Bruce who introduced me to this beautiful activity so many years ago. So of course Ben and Wendy arranged a day of snorkeling! We boarded the catamaran and cruised out to Turtle canyon where many, many resident sea turtles hang out. Not only did I see dozens of turtles up close and personal, but there were hundreds of colorful fish skittering around as well! I will NEVER go snorkeling without an underwater camera again!

Ben & Wendy on the catamaran

I could have kept snorkeling for hours longer, but since everyone had returned to the catamaran except me, I reluctantly made my way back to join the others. We then sailed around the bay having a great view of Diamond Head, the Waikiki beaches and a Hawaii 5-0 helicopter flying overhead as they were filming. SO Hawaii!

A happy snorkeler!

Friday, November 2nd – Our last day…We walked around the area finding the mall and a path to Waikiki Beach. Along the way we ran into some men and women picketing the hotels next to ours. Their grievance was that the hotels wouldn’t hire them full time so they weren’t eligible for benefits. The cost of living is so high in Hawaii and they couldn’t afford to work only one job to survive and pay their bills, most had at least two jobs. We sympathized with the situation and wished them well. And of course my generous kids gave them some money to help with their cause.

Picketers next to our hotel

We then whiled away the afternoon at the Tommy Bahama 2nd floor restaurant enjoying the cool breeze coming through the big open windows overlooking Kalakaua Ave. below. We watched people and birds in the park below, the traffic of tour busses, unique motorcycles, limos, and all kinds of vehicles passing by while enjoying drinks and the best scallop sliders on earth! Wendy re-created them when she returned home and served them as appetizers for Thanksgiving. I have to say she nailed it! SO DELICIOUS!

Last night in Honolulu enjoying scallop sliders at Tommy Bahamas

That evening I listened to the sounds of the ocean as I drifted off to sleep for the last time. What an experience of a lifetime!

Aloha Hawaii!  Mahalo Ben and Wendy! I love you so much!

My lovely daughter-in-law Wendy and son Ben

 

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December 1, 2018 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

Holiday Food Pet Safety Tips

As the holidays approach we are often excited to celebrate with family and friends and spoil our pets with extra treats.   There are many ways we can keep our pets safe during this busy season and make sure they feel extra love too.  Here are a few safety tips for all our furry friends.

Avoid Holiday Food Dangers Courtesy of ASPCA

Skip the Sweets: By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pet will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

Leave the Leftovers: Fatty, spicy and no-no human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends. Pets can join the festivities in other fun ways that won’t lead to costly medical bills.

Careful with Cocktails: If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

Selecting Special Treats: Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible.

Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy or the interactive cat dancer.

Article courtesy of Pet Sitters Associates November 2018 Newsletter

 

November 17, 2018 at 8:47 pm 1 comment

Cancun! Beautiful, Relaxing, and fun in the sun!

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to write about my trip to Cancun.  I suppose it’s because my friend and travel partner Susie and I took an amazing tour of the Cenotes while we were there and I had a terrible experience getting our pictures back from the company.  When I did finally receive them, after many weeks of correspondences with many people, some of the pictures weren’t even of us and we were missing many that were taken.  But that’s another story…

View from our room overlooking the pools and beach

My friend Susie and I have been going to Puerto Vallarta for the last several years but decided since we hadn’t gone to Cancun we would change it up this year and try the Caribbean side.  I am so glad we did!  It was a totally different experience for us.  We stayed in a little studio apartment at the Aquamarina Beach Hotel.  The complex had two pools, a relaxation pool, awww! and a pool for games and activities.  It also had three restaurants, one nicer one, a snack bar by the pool, and a buffet.  A bar in the lobby, a convenience store, a gym, I could go on and on.  Everything we could possibly want.

It also had hammocks on the beach which is definitely my thing.  I absolutely LOVE laying in a hammock with the ocean breeze caressing my face,  Double awww!

Relaxation pool, activity pool, kids pool and beach at the Aquamarina Beach Hotel

 

Crazy foam party in the pool

Susie at the foam pool party

Although Susie and I enjoy a quiet beach, I have to admit we had lots of fun with the music playing and all the fun activities they had at the complex.

Taking off in the golf cart in Isla Mujeres

We decided we had to spend at least one day in Isla Mujeres.  So off we went on the water taxi to the island.  We were told the only way to see the island was to rent a golf cart.  Apparently everyone else had the same idea.  We went to several places and all were totally sold out.  Finally we stopped at a place where they told us to wait a few minutes because one was due to come in.  It finally arrived and off we went!

Lunch at Captain Dulche’s

Pool at Captain Dulche’s

Sculptures, pelicans, herons & iguanas, Oh my!

We stopped at Captain Dulche’s to have lunch under the huge palapa while enjoying the ocean view.  Lots of people were relaxing in the sitting pool/swim up bar and cabanas.  There were swings for bar stools at the two bars and a huge ship in the center of it all.  What a kick!

Lighthouse and one of many cairns at Punta Sur

Statues and sculptures along the trail at Punta Sur

Magnificent waters at Punta Sur

Ruins of a Mayan Temple

Then we made our way to the south end of the island to Punta Sur Ecological park & lighthouse. We walked along the path amongst the many statues and sculptures to the crumbled ruins of a Mayan Temple. Not only was it an awesome area, but the waters below were incredibly beautiful!

Susie at Playa Norte

Finally we hopped back in our golf cart and zoomed back to El Centro to return the cart and walk to Playa Norte to get our feet in the Caribbean.

Ziplining into an open Cenote. Yes I did!!!

The highlight of the trip was our tour of four different Cenotes.  Cenotes are underwater caverns, tunnels or sink holes filled with crystal clear water filtered by the limestone surrounding them.  Some are up to 66 million years old.  The youngest ones are still covered overhead, the oldest are open above.  Not only was it an amazing experience seeing the caverns, but we had fun getting into them.

Snorkeling through a semi-open Cenote to find stalactites overhead along the edges of the pools

 

Kayaking through a Cenote

 

What a beautiful ride through a Cenote

You could either go down a zip line or waterslide to enter the next Cenote.  We opted for the waterslide.  What a rush!  Then we swam through a corridor lined with roots falling down to the water, beautiful flowers, and even a few turtles before ending in another cave.

Swooping into a Cenote on a VERY fast slide

 

The end of the line for this Cenote where the brave ones jumped off a cliff above.

The last Cenote we visited was the best of them all!  It was a huge closed cavern deep and dark in the ground.  Many rappelled down through the small opening above, including Susie.  She was the brave one this time.

Stairway to the closed Cenote below, and me hanging out in the deep dark waters

Basking in the serenity of the Cenote

I opted to take the stairs down to the cavern.  Before any of the others started rappelling down, I let myself into the cool, dark water surrounded with fiscus roots trailing down from the earth above into the water below and basked in the quietness and serenity of this spiritual place.  All I can say is it was absolutely amazing!

Brave Susie rappelling into the Cenote

Susie having fun jumping off a high platform into the water

Just another amazing trip!  I thank my stars every day for how lucky I am to be able to experience such wonderful places!

The end of an amazing tour of the Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

November 11, 2018 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

How To Be A Great First-Time Pet Owner

Photo via Pexels.

Congratulations, you have decided to get a pet for the first time! Being a pet owner can be an incredibly rewarding and joyful experience. This is particularly true for recovering addicts, who can find a loyal, unconditional friend and an invaluable source of stress relief in their pet.

However, having a pet comes with responsibility. You’ll need to be in charge of the well-being of a living creature and to love it as unconditionally as it will love you. Being a good pet owner will be important throughout your animal’s life, but it starts before you even bring them home.

Choose The Best Animal For You
Not all pets are created equal. Some take more work and money to own and some require a lot more hands-on attention. When choosing which pet to get, consider their budgets, but also their needs and natural tendencies.

For example, dogs tend to be more affectionate than cats, but they need to be walked every day and require more hands-on care. Cats, on the other hand, tend to be low-maintenance. Some experts even think that cats offer a more realistic model for healthy relationships than dogs.

Consider Your Breed Options
Once you have chosen what animal you want, you need to think about breeds. This is particularly applicable to dogs, where different breeds are almost entirely different animals. A Chihuahua is not the same as a Golden Retriever. A few things you need to consider:

  • Size of your home – Some dogs need more room than others, and some need large open spaces such as a yard. DogTime has a list of breeds that adapt well to apartment living, either due to their size or temperament.
  • Activities – What kinds of activities will you want to do with your pet? Choose a breed that goes well with the type of things you like to do. For example, if you like hiking and outdoor pursuits, get an active dog that enjoys being outside.
  • Allergies – If you have allergies to animal hair, you can still get a pet. You just need to make sure you get a breed that is hypoallergenic, or less likely to produce and accumulate dander and saliva, which is what most people are actually allergic to. This also goes for cats: breeds with short, fine fur – or no fur at all – are less likely to trigger allergies.

Prepare Your Home
Once you have chosen your new best friend, you need to make sure your house is ready. Make sure you have bought all your pet accessories, including plenty of food and toys.

Then, you need to consider the layout of your pet’s things. Where do you want your pet to spend most of its time? Where will they eat, drink, sleep, and play?

You also need to make sure your house is safe. Keep an eye out for anything that your pet could choke on, trip on, or fall through and keep anything dangerous well out of reach.

Make Them Feel At Home
Don’t worry if your pet takes a few days to get comfortable in their new home. This can be particularly challenging for rescue animals that will invariably be nervous in a new and unknown environment. According to Candidae, the best way to help a rescue dog get acclimatized is by providing constant food and positive reinforcement, giving them space and limiting their access to the house at first in order to not overwhelm them.

It may also take a while for your pet to bond with you – that’s ok. As long as you continue to provide them with love, affection and care, they will learn to trust you and develop the animal-human bond that makes being a pet owner so rewarding.

It is important to not rush into a big decision like getting a pet. Take some time to do your research about different breeds and what they need and to make sure both you and your home are ready for new addition. This will make all the difference in the world toward being a great pet owner and having a happy, long-lasting relationship with your furry friend.

Article written by Jessica Brody

June 20, 2018 at 10:16 pm Leave a comment

The Gentle leader Head Collar

Bear, a colossal size pup

There are so many training collars and harnesses for dogs these days, and being a pet sitter I have come across most all types.

Recently I was pet sitting a young, very large, rambunctious lab mix who I wasn’t able to walk because of his unruliness.  The owners were doing their best to train him but with his size and strength it had been a real challenge.

The next time I came to pet sit I found that they had decided to try the Gentle Leader Head Collar.  They instructed me on how to put it on Bear and properly use it.  It is so important to make sure the Gentle Leader is properly adjusted and fitted to your dog.  When on, it should look like a V and lay just behind the corners of the mouth.  The neck strap needs to be very snug and the nose strap loose enough so the dog can freely open the mouth but not loose enough to pull off.  If you decide to try this amazing product, be sure to consult with a trainer or specialist, and there are several videos and instructions manuals on the web to help you learn the proper way to use it.

Bear wearing the Gentle Leader

I have to say I was very skeptical, but when I took Bear out for a walk I was amazed!  I was totally in control!  He doesn’t LOVE this collar, but is very respectful of it.  A gentle tug and he’s right by my side.  It’s the most amazing transformation I have seen in training a dog to heal.  There’s no pulling, tugging or jerking the dog, which I love, just a gentle reminder of how he needs to act while walking with his human.  You can see that I had two collars on Bear.  I was instructed to have both on just in case I needed it, but I didn’t.

He has a ways to go as far as socializing with other dogs, but that will come with more training and maturing.  But for now, I am so happy that I’m able to walk this very large, highly spirited pup.

I would recommend the Gentle Leader Head Collar to anyone training their dog to heal.  It’s such a small, simple collar but the effects are huge.

January 16, 2018 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

Seventy Three Days

This is  a story of survival and perserverence,  written in the Chesapeak Bay Retriever newsletter.  I was given permission to share this wonderful story by Chris Shannon, a client of mine and one of the rescuers of this very lucky dog.

Jake, an 11 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, was alone and trailing his leash behind him in the hills near Wenatchee, WA for seventy-three days. Sometimes it was sunny, sometimes he faced a bitterly cold rain or snow.

It was not the first time Jake had been left alone to fend for himself. He had been picked up by animal control staff from a condemned home where he had been left to live under deplorable conditions since his owner became ill. He was undernourished and afraid. But it was during his transfer to a CBR Rescue foster home where his life took one more turn for the worse. He was scared, he pulled loose from his transporter, and he ran through a busy intersection and up a highway onramp with every bit of energy he had left.

Word spread throughout the area through both traditional print and social media outlets, prompting scores of people to be on the lookout for Jake. There were several sightings but it was not until almost two weeks after his escape that confirmation came that Jake had settled in a small canyon near the highway. He had apparently been subsisting on a roadkill deer carcass and was even more desperately thin. Once there was confirmation of his location, two local women who NW Regional Director Carol Williams calls “Jake’s Angels” and one Washington-based CBR Rescue volunteer took on the challenge of catching Jake.

Mary and Chris (and Chrisʼ husband Mike) kept an eye on him and made sure he had fresh water and nutritious food each day. They lost sight of him more than once when he moved to new locations, but they never gave up on the search. When a traditional trap didn’t work, a “Missy” style trap was purchased and set up.

They kept track of Jake using a motion sensor

Despite their efforts, the only thing the trap caught was a cat. Jake was too smart to be lured in. A motion sensor wildlife camera helped make sure he was coming in to feed each evening. No matter what the obstacle, Mary and Chris continued to make sure Jake had clean water and warm, nutritious food twice each day. He received warm bacon, roast beef, and kibble. Sometimes stir-fry steak strips with a side of kibble. Rib bones heated slightly because “he doesn’t like them cold” were also on his regular menu along with his favorite spaghetti and meatballs. Without all of the people who helped save him, Jake would never have survived 73 days alone in the wilderness.

After weeks of attempts to entice Jake into one trap or the other, a snare device was deployed. Mary, Chris and Mike crawled through an irrigation canal under the highway and waited for hours each night in the cold and dark to hear the “SNAP” of the snare. November 24, “SNAP”! They caught a cat. November 27, “SNAP”! Another cat. November 28, “SNAP!” and Jake was back in human hands!

Jake’s Angels never gave up. He was finally captured by a Humane Canine Snare system on the Friday after Thanksgiving — the 73rd day after his escape.

Jake happy again in his new home

Jake has since cleaned up nicely! He moved to safety in the foster care of Liz Krizenesky, a CBR Rescue volunteer in NE Washington. A very special thanks to Mary, Chris, Mike and Liz, and to all the folks in Leavenworth and Wenatchee for never giving up on rescuing Jake. There were some pretty special treats under last Christmas’ tree for Jake… a new home! Liz and her husband, Joe, have adopted Jake. They all remain friends with Mary, Chris and Mike.

For information on this rescue group, or to give a donation, contact:

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief & Rescue, c/o Carolyn Baughman, Treasurer, P.O. Box 2187, Poquoson, VA 23662

 

October 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm Leave a comment

Easter at Grandma Kathys

I grew up in a very modest two and a half bedroom, one bath stucco house that sat just across the street from the elementary school that my sisters and I attended.  I never remember my mother or father saying that we didn’t have enough room, enough food, or enough money.  They always welcomed friends and family into their home with open arms and an open heart.

For as long as I can remember Easter was a big day for our family.  Not necessarily for the religious aspect like it is for many, but more to celebrate new beginnings, of spring that had finally arrived, and a day to spend with friends and family.

Wonderful group of friends and family that gathered for Easter this year

Every Easter my sisters and I would get all dressed up in our new outfits and wait for the relatives to show up so we could go out to hunt for our Easter baskets to see what fun things the bunny brought us that year.

Mom loved taking pictures of us three girls.  How nice to be able to look back at these pictures and remember the special memories.

 

A yester-year picture of my sister Bonnie, me and my cousin Bruce all in our Easter best

After we grew up, married and had children of our own we continued the tradition, all gathering at the family home where we grew up.  We all felt so fortunate to be able to share this wonderful tradition with the next generation, in the same house.

My son Ben and niece Christi running to find their Easter eggs

Years went by and our kids grew up.  My dad passed away and my mom was no longer able to host the big gatherings so I started having Easter at my house.

Group shot of friends and family at my house on Easter of 2001

Eventually my sister Kathy moved back into our family home and started hosting Easter again.  There were several years that there were no small children so we decided to act like kids :-).  One year everyone wore bunny ears

Adults being silly and acting like kids

and one year we had an Easter Bonnet contest.

An Easter Bonnet contest, just for fun!

As the second generation grew up and married, along came one baby, then two, then before we knew it there was a whole group of new kids in the family!    Now my sister Kathy has never been married or had children of her own, but all the kids and grandkids have always called her “Grandma Kathy” and she truly is their special Grandma!

Grandma Kathy coloring Easter eggs over the years with LJ and his little brother Declan

And it makes the holiday all the more fun having all the little kids again!

Two new arrivals for 2012.  My daughter Heather with son LJ, with Christina and her son Oliver

 

Enjoying the beautiful spring weather of Easter 2013

 

Cousin Bruce with family, and little Declan in 2015

 

Asher and Declan having a quiet moment in 2016

And the bigger kids having a blast in the bouncy house in 2016

And this year was another successful Easter with kids, family, friends and fun!

Boys, boys and more boys! Braxton & LJ eyeing the chocolate bunny, and Asher, Elliot & Declan checking out the Easter basket.  (Photos taken by Jordyn Benson)

 

Our climbers LJ and Mason in the apricot tree.  (Photo taken by Jordyn Benson)

 

Ava, Oliver and Asher with their Easter baskets.  (Photos taken by Jordyn Benson)

 

The ever present tulips that arrive every Easter, and our newest arrival Mara with mama Grace.  (Photos taken by Jordyn Benson)

What a wonderful tradition!  We are so fortunate to be able to continue having these special holidays in the same house for generation after generation.  Thank you Grandma Kathy for welcoming us into your arms and your heart!

Three generations enjoying Easter at our family home.  Top photo was taken in the 1950’s, middle 1980’s, and bottom 2017.

 

 

May 3, 2017 at 3:23 am 2 comments

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