Praises, The Family, The Relatives, Traveling

Third Port-of-Call: Mohagany Bay, Roatan, Honduras

Our third port-of-call was another new stop for us in Central America in the country of Honduras. For this port, I arranged a snorkeling excursion to the jungle on the east side of the country.


We had another 45-minute van drive with one other family to the resort. The drive was very interesting to see the poverty of the country and the little gem of a resort hidden among the squalor. Our hostess, Barbara, fell in love with the country about 11 years ago and left corporate America to build her dream in the jungle of Honduras.


Her property includes a 7-room bed and breakfast and daily kayak and pontoon boat snorkeling excursions among the expansive coral reef. She also hosts yoga retreats in her large yurt hut.


The day started out overcast and gloomy and we had to wait for a passing shower to head out on the pontoon to the coral reef.


When it finally cleared enough to head out on the water, we spent about 45-minutes in the water around the coral reef for the best snorkeling we have ever experienced. There was so much living, vibrant reef and a huge variety of fish of every size, shape and color.

My favorite was the lion fish that looked just like this:

Lionfish (Pterois mombasae) in a Moscow Zoo aquarium

After we got back on the boat, it started to rain, making us all cold and miserable. It actually felt better getting back in the water for our second snorkeling location. The second time we got back on the boat was sunny and warm and felt wonderful!



Barbara served an authentic Honduran lunch in her dining hall/yoga studio before the driver returned us to the port.


Here are glimpses of our ship in the background.


Despite some rain, it was a great day snorkeling in this beautiful place!

Praises, The Family, The Relatives, Traveling

Second Port-of-Call: Belize City, Belize

Our second port-of-call was a new stop for us in Belize in Central America. For this port, Carl, Kelly, Avram, Zack and I took a private Ziplining and Cave-tubing excursion in the jungle. (Anthony was originally scheduled to go with us but decided it sounded too lame to him but boy did he miss out because it was so much fun!).


After an hour van drive, we started with our zip-lining adventure.


After getting suited up, we headed up onto the first platform in the jungle.



We did five different runs that were super fun and very high over the jungle and river.


It was way more exciting than we thought it would be and loved every minute, although I personally was scared to death for most of it, especially when I would turn backwards on the zipline and couldn’t see where I was going!


After a short van drive down to the river, we then began our cave-tubing adventure.



Although there were many groups in the river, it was just our family, plus another mother and son attached together for our trip through the cave.


Again, it was way cooler than we thought. This was a 45-minute journey through a gigantic tunnel full of interesting formations in complete darkness, except for our head lamps.


When we emerged from the cave, we then traveled another 20-30 minutes down the river.


Although we thought we would have plenty of time for this excursion, due to some waiting around, we ended the river excursion with just one-hour to get back to the ship (with a one-hour drive ahead) for the last tender back to the ship. We briefly stopped at the office, where they handed us lunch-to-go (it was supposed to be enjoyed outdoors at a BBQ) and our driver skillfully and speedily got us back to the ship just in time. However, since there were at least 1,000 people in line for the tenders, it turns out we really didn’t have to rush at all and had an hour wait to get back on the ship. Talk about worrying for nothing!

It was a fun day doing something unique that turned out to be way more fun than any of us imagined. So glad we got to enjoy this exciting adventure in Belize!

Praises, The Family, The Relatives, Traveling

First Port-of-Call: Cozumel, Mexico

Our first port-of-call, on Christmas Day, was in Cozumel, Mexico. Carl and I arranged a private driver for a 5-hour island tour so the whole family could be together.


Cresensio drove us through the city and along the west and east coasts, telling us all about Cozumel and answering all of our questions.


We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right on the water.



Since the drinking age in Mexico is only 18, Zack was thrilled to enjoy his first legal alcoholic beverage and as a true Russian, he chose a shot of vodka for his inaugural drink.


In a highly inappropriate and embarrassing Christmas day moment, our waiter served us all free shots of tequila from a male-anatomical vessel.


Beckoned by the waves, Anthony took a few moments to jump into the bay.


It was a fun and educational tour of Cozumel and a great way to spend Christmas day together!


Merry Christmas from Cozumel, Mexico!



Praises, The Family, The Relatives, Traveling

Christmas Cruise

After missing Christmas together last year due to my father-in-law’s broken femur, Carl, our kids (plus Kelly’s boyfriend, Avram) and Carl’s parents made up for it in a big way this year by celebrating Christmas together with a family cruise!

Kelly’s boyfriend isn’t in this photo since we met him on the ship a little later. Since he had to work through Friday, he flew into Orlando and took a shuttle to the ship while the rest of us drove down together from Jacksonville.

This cruise was also our celebration of Zack’s high school graduation this year.


Last March, when my mother-in-law asked when we would be having Zack’s graduation cruise (since we did the same for the older two kids), I mentioned that it would be harder since everyone was in different states now, we already flew the older two kids home for Christmas and Kelly, Avram and Anthony all had busy school schedules. Thus was the inspiration to do our family cruise over Christmas, when everyone would already be gathered together.


We enjoyed a week aboard the Carnival Magic, which happens to be the same ship the Carl and I sailed the Mediterranean for our 25th Wedding Anniversary in 2011.


It was a great cruise with lots of fun activities and excursions (which I’ll tell you about in posts all week).


We enjoyed cocktails together (which was fun since 2 out of 3 of our children can now legally drink…although that didn’t stop Zack from enjoying some drinks with the adults on occasion).




We played games nearly every day.



We enjoyed Christmas festivities aboard the ship.


We saw nightly shows.


We made towel friends.


It was a great week of family bonding in the Caribbean!

Praises, The Family, The Relatives

Christmas Celebration

We had an early Christmas celebration at home prior to leaving on our Christmas cruise on December 23rd. Anthony flew home from college break on Wednesday, December 13th. Kelly flew home on Tuesday, December 19th. Sue and Karl drove in on Friday, December 22nd.


We made our traditional Chicken Fricassee for dinner, with Kelly helping with the noodles.


We had cocktails, of course.


The kids opened their cards from the grandparents, as there were no other presents this year in lieu of the cruise!


Carl and I got one present from Sue and Karl…a jar of pickles for Carl and a candle for me. What more could we possibly need other than being together for Christmas?


We ended our evening with the annual viewing of Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation.

I hope that you all had a magical Christmas!


It's About Me, Praises, The Friends, The Husband

HG Christmas Party

On Saturday evening, Carl and I hosted the annual Christmas party for our home group that we are blessed to be a part of. It was a mild evening so the men gathered together outside.

David, Carl, Jeff, Ed and Lawrence (just missing John)

The women mingled in the kitchen and around the fire.

Me, Brenda, Claudia, Jeannine, Melissa (missing Michelle and Beth)

The children were all over but I gathered them together for a photo and somebody was apparently not happy about it.

Caroline, Emma, Maddy, Victoria, Jonathan and Andrew

We enjoyed a meal together before the highlight of the evening, a white elephant gift exchange.

In the version we played, each person rolled two dice to determine whether to open the gift you were holding, pass the gifts left or right, switch gifts with another person or have someone open their gift. This sweet couple ended up with these cute Santa hats.

I ended up with this cute scarf (that I wrote to church the next day) made by this sweet friend.

We ended the evening with some Christmas carols, led by our home group leader, Ed.

We are so grateful for these friends to share in life together. It was a great evening of fun, food and fellowship.

It's About Me, The Friends, The Husband, Traveling

Time with Friends

In addition to our time with family, we also enjoyed some time with friends. On Friday, Carl’s best friend from high school, Bobby, invited us to his brother’s house for their annual gingerbread house making contest. This annual contest involves the mothers against the teenage children, while the men watch football in the other room.


Each team comes prepared with their idea and supplies for a one-of-a-kind creation. Being from Florida, I was first put in charge of making palm trees, while Bobby’s wife, Jessica, created a rainbow.


When I was done with my trees, then put me to work wrapping animal crackers with fondant.


When all was said and done, here was our team with our amazing creation….

Bobby’s sister-in-law, Lisa; me; Bobby’s sister, Wendy; Bobby’s sister, Janice; Bobby’s wife, Jessica

I thought that we deserved first place with our “Noah’s Ark.”


However, the teenagers snagged the sentimental vote by creating a “Village” with houses for each family group.


Oh well, it was a really fun evening and I’m glad that we were able to share in the fun.

For the drive home, instead of driving 12-hours straight through, we stopped in Atlanta for the night to visit Carl’s other friends from high school.

Steve, Jeff and Carl

This gave us two 6-hour driving days with some fun in-between. Waaaay better!

Steve’s wife, Anne, couldn’t make it but Jeff’s wife, Waverly is shown

We arrived at Jeff and Waverly’s house in the afternoon, visited for a few hours and then met up with Steve for dinner. We slept in Jeff and Waverly’s amazing guest cottage and after coffee and breakfast in the morning, hit the road back home. We will make this our tradition when going to Memphis from now on because it was so much easier with the two shorter driving days. Plus it’s always more fun visiting friends!

We are grateful for all that we packed into our week and for the time spent with family and friends. Now it’s time to gear up for the Christmas season!