Singapore Surprise

Discover a different side of Singapore during the Christmas season.

We spent three days in Singapore walking, tasting and exploring more of the city we visited earlier this year.  We are here in Singapore because we will be leaving in a few days for an Azamara Club Cruise to Thailand, Vietnam and ending in Hong Kong.

Shopping the tourist stalls in Chinatown


Singapore can be a very expensive city, but there are so many inexpensive options to explore the city.  We walked and took the MRT (subway) all around town for only a few dollars.  We avoided Raffles, the iconic hotel and home of the Singapore Sling because we don’t feel a need to spend over thirty bucks for a drink.  We enjoyed shopping (of course) and eating at inexpensive hawker stands with locals in Chinatown.  We tried a ramen bar, tasting the most delicious noodles and soup that don’t remotely resemble the Top Ramen I enjoyed during my college years.

Delicious ramen, a very tasty treat

On our final night in Singapore we visited Orchard Road, home to gorgeous high end retail and hotels and restaurants.  We were so surprised to see the opulent Christmas decorations.  As we walked past Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany we were delighted with the sights of Christmas everywhere.  At a Christmas village set up outside a mall we were treated to a Christmas violin concert by school children.  Singers were eveywhere singing Christmas songs and top hits.  The lights and sounds with the magnificent backdrop of the architecture  were such a treat to us and a true Singapore Surprise.

High end stores on Orchard Road decorated for the Christmas holiday
The holiday lights along Orchard Road

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Sometimes it Rains, Sometimes it Pours

Remaining optimistic in spite of lots of unexpected changes

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I love a rainy day.  We live in the desert, and when desert storms begin there is a sweet odor of desert plants like creosote bushes that fill the air.  Following a desert rain plants bloom, washes turn to little streams and long silent desert color begin to blossom almost immediately.  So of course I love rain.  There is no raining on my parade.

We are getting ready for our first transatlantic cruise on Azamara Club Cruises. We’ve been looking forward to this cruise for a while because it was going to give us an opportunity to visit places we’ve never been and revisit some places we really loved. We will even be reconnecting with friends we made on a previous journey.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m an optimist.  But lately I’ve had to try harder to not be worried. Originally, the cruise itinerary planned to visit the islands of Saint Maarten and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Due to the devastation caused by two hurricanes the islands have been removed from the ship’s itinerary.  I am sad for the people on the islands living in very difficult circumstances with broken infrastructure and still dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster.  We loved visiting the magnificent beaches of Saint Maarten and delighted in exploring old town San Juan. I can only hope that the islands recover quickly and pray for the lovely people we met on our last trip.

The spectacular beach on Saint Maarten
A colorful street scene in old San Juan Puerto Rico

I don’t lose any sleep thinking about terrorists.  Being vigilant, aware of my surroundings and hopeful is basically all anyone can do.  I will not stay home, I will not be dissuaded from travel.  I love meeting new people and exploring new cultures.

Our transatlantic journey leaves from Barcelona and has stops at Madeira, Portugal, Gibraltar and Bermuda.  We visited Barcelona last year and fell in love with the gothic city.  The food and wine were fabulous.  It is such a walkable city with so many more treasure waiting for us to discover.  Unfortunately, Barcelona has been the victim of terrorist activity recently.    Currently half a million protesters are in the streets of Barcelona marching for a separate state of Catalonia, apart from Spain.  Hopefully the protests remain peaceful.   I am certain this cruise is not cursed.  The trip will be a wonderful experience.  However, I did read that there is concern about a tsunami hitting Madeira.  I will continue to be optimistic.



























The Brutal Truth About Pinterest

The truth behind Pinterest

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Many of you are familiar with Pinterest, also known as Crack for the crafty.  I can spend hours pouring through websites and looking at pictures of really great ideas on Pinterest.  It is set up like a magazine, you see something you like and want to return to and you just Pin the page as you would dog ear a page in a magazine.  Like millions of others  I follow the links to read the blogs and watch the “easy to do” hacks that will change my life in so many wonderful ways.  According to the hype these things will make great gifts, my life easier, tastier,  more organized, more colorful and richer in every way possible.  I have over twenty-two hundred items pinned.  I expected to tackle most of my pinned items once I retired.   When I was teaching, I pinned and used lots of classroom ideas.   At the time, I found it a great  resource for teacher made classroom stuff.  But since I’ve retired I’ve barely scratched the surface of the thousands of pins I have on my Pinterest boards.  Despite the fact that I don’t follow through on most of the items I pin, I have continued to add to my “to do list” of Pinterest crafts I hope to attempt in the future, I even created a list of retirement projects for my husband to do.  But the brutal truth about Pintrest is that it’s a major time suck.

I saw this at a winery in Temecula.  Just another reason to have another glass of wine.

Recently I embarked on the crafter’s  Lollapalooza, The Annual Pinner Conference in Scottsdale Arizona. I don’t consider myself an artist, but I enjoy creating artsy fartsy items.  I find crafting to be a creative outlet that is both relaxing and a good way to spend some free time.  Although I wasn’t born with the talent I see in so many artists, I make up for my limited talents with enthusiasm and dogged determination.

A “live edge” mesquite table with turquoise inlay that my husband is working on.  Easy to see who has the talent in our family.

I attended the Pinner Conference with friends and I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Classes and make and take workshops were EVERYWHERE!  The thing that was readily evident to me was how generous the craft artists were with both their time and their talents. Lots of vendors were selling different tools and techniques.  Everybody made their technique look really easy.  Who knew I really needed a rusty two tiered farm animal feeding dish?  I did and I love it. It’s covered in chalk paint now and screwed together with some finials.

My rusty two tiered animal feeding dish.

The reality of most of the crafting is you do it because you enjoy it, most people don’t make much money selling their wares.  After you purchase so many of the supplies and tools for the various crafts you would need to sell a whole bunch of thingamajigs to recoup your original investment. So you make really fancy cards that take hours to complete and cost four stamps to mail because you love creating unique items and giving them to people you love.

Holiday cards for loved ones.

Seven Secrets To A Perfect Cruise

Discover the secrets to a perfect cruise

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I have cruised a variety of ships from the intimate, boutique river cruises to budget friendly cruise ships with many thousands of passengers.  We have enjoyed beautiful state rooms with gorgeous balconies and cabins crammed with my husband, me and our three children.  On all of the cruises, we had a good time. We laugh now when we think about my youngest “accidentally” stepping on his brother’s face while climbing back into his bunk after a midnight pizza run.  But for all of the cruises we have taken, the one constant that seems to hold the key to having a good time is meeting interesting people.


We have been fortunate enough to meet people from around the world.  I value the friendships we have made because of these encounters. After meeting several people who had business cards made up just for the purpose of exchanging information with new people, I ordered some. It may seem a bit odd at first, but since it includes information like our email, contact information and blog address it has helped us keep in touch with new friends.

We have just completed our fifteenth cruise and although we’ve made mistakes in the past, we have learned and grown from them.
On our most recent cruise we took a back to back cruise onboard the Celebrity Equinox in the Western and Eastern Caribbean.

Cruising offer some conveniences and benefits over other vacations:

Unpack Once.                                                                                                                               You settle yourself in your stateroom and you are done for the duration of the cruise.


Visit Beautiful Locations.                                                                                                            On port days take a tour and see locals attractions, or stay on board and enjoy the amenities of a relatively empty ship.


Daily Maid Service.                                                                                                   Miraculously, when you are away from your room a Room Steward Ninja comes in and tidies everything up. Amazing.

Exceptional Dining.                                                                                                                  Choices on our cruise ranged from burgers on deck to buffet, and sit down fine dining. By the second day our waiter knew our name and the bread and wine we preferred.

Entertainment.                                                                                                                           This cruise offered production style shows, jazz ensembles, party bands and “Quiet Disco” where each participants listen to a variety of music genres on color coded headsets and danced to their own beat. This was a real advantage to those of us who are dance impaired.


Pools.                                                                                                                                            Our ship had large family pools, complete with party games and dancing and The Solarium, which was an adult only quiet enclosed pool and jacuzzi


Gyms.                                                                                                                                           The gym offered fitness classes, and a large variety of machines and weights. Now why didn’t I go more?

Spa Services.                                                                                                                   Everything was offered from massages to Botox.

Casinos.                                                                                                                                     Table games, as well as slot machines were popular. Lottery cards and Bingo were also offered on the ship.

Bars.                                                                                                                                             The Equinox had outside bars at the back of the ship, inside bars for quiet conversation as well as an ice martini bar, complete with flair bartenders. If you choose to drink, it may be a good idea to to check into an all inclusive alcohol packages before you book your cruise.
Otherwise, the cost of your bar bill may overtake the cost of your cruise.




1. Budget Ahead of Time For Your Cruise. Cruising can be a relatively inexpensive way to visit a variety of ports.  Look for deals, pick a cruise line and ship that you are comfortable with.    Some cruise lines’ loyalty programs offer perks such as early boarding, free laundry, drinks etc. Whenever possible, try to be flexible with your travel dates.

2. Smile and Relax. The entire point of a cruise is to have a good time. When you smile, other people reciprocate. Relax.

3. Participate in Activities That You Might Not Otherwise Engage In. Try something new, take a dance lesson, kiss a stingray, meet the locals, eat something you’ve never tried before.
4. Disconnect From The Outside World. As much as possible try to unplug and not think about your responsibilities outside of the ship. Life will still be there when you get home.

5. Talk To The Person Sitting Next To You. Regardless of whether you are sitting at a bar, a show or the pool ask questions and learn about someone else’s life. You will definitely learn something new, and maybe make a friend.


6. Look Out At The Ocean. It is calming, relaxing and beautiful.
7. Enjoy The Journey. Because that is exactly what this life is, a journey.

Must Do Miami

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South Beach is bit like Las Vegas. Both have lots of alcohol-fueled partying with young men and women celebrating their youth while destroying their livers, live music and the obligatory minute millionaires driving their rent by the hour Lamborghini for everyone to notice.  But South Beach is so much more than what you first notice. Take a longer look and you see and appreciate the diverse culture reflected in the eclectic food and music. There is a deep pride and respect for the past, instead of tearing down buildings, the Art Deco buildings are restored and the past is celebrated.


We chose to stay in a boutique hotel on Collins Avenue, right in the middle of South Beach. The Kimpton Beachcomber Hotel, a small three story boutique hotel. What is a boutique hotel you may ask? Most often they are small and have unique amenities. The lobby was unique and eclectic with live edge wood sculptures, bookcases, sofas and comfy chairs and lots of interesting art. This is not a homogenized hotel! As we are checking in we are offered wine at the complimentary happy hour. The hotel personnel are both friendly and genuinely helpful. The room is small yet beautiful. The beach is located behind the hotel pool area. The back area includes a bar, towel service and a variety of yard games, rocking chairs and sculptures of cows. I did say this place was eclectic.
The Kimpton offers seats on the beautiful sandy beach, as well as bar service. The bites and drinks were not exorbitantly priced, and who doesn’t enjoy a picnic lunch in the sand? There are several miles of beautifully manicured walking and biking paths just before the beach. We took advantage of the hotel’s free bike rentals and rode up and down the paths early one morning.
In South Beach you must try the diverse food offered. We were given the recommendation by a waitress to try a Peruvian restaurant called CHALAN ON THE BEACH. The uber fresh seafood was lightly seasoned and plentiful. We shared a sea bass ceviche which was nothing short of spectacular. The patrons were mostly locals ordering house specialities. We also enjoyed a seafood dish with rice, seasoned with Peruvian spices that seemed to sweeten the fish and rice.

When in South Beach trying some authentic Cuban food is mandatory. We visited HAVANA 1957 and ordered the daily specials of Cuban meatballs and rice. The dish was also served with soft, sweet plantain slices. The prices were very reasonable, except for the mojitos. At $15 and up they seemed pricy for lunch. No worries, we came back a couple of hours later and enjoyed delicious half priced mojitos at the bar inside
We also had chicken, lamb and steak kabobs as well as incredibly delicious deeply roasted Brussels sprouts at CLEO a Middle Eastern place. The bar was ornate and the restaurant was a cool respite from the Miami afternoon heat.

On our final night in Miami our hotel had a pig roast (but from the looks of the poor fellow I think he was deep fried). For only eight dollars we each enjoyed pork tacos, homemade tortillas, rice and beans. The beer was local and cold and soon the Latin band was playing music and everyone was dancing to the beat as the ocean breeze blew.

Jackie Gleason had a show many years ago that I watched as a child. He used to say how beautiful Miami Beach was as he began each show with the words “How sweet it is!”

A Day Well Spent

How finding a place to volunteer helped me find myself.

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There is a certain type of satisfaction that for me, has been misssing for much of the past year of my retirement. As a teacher, a mother and a wife I have always believed in service to others.  My career was so satisfying because every day I felt like I was making a difference in the life of my students.

I started looking for a place to volunteer where I could contribute and feel like I was doing good work in the service to others.  Recently, I started spending time with some new friends of mine.  Today I hung out with Joey, Jasmine, Kula, Ruby, Chocolate, Adam, Adriana and Candy .  These are the amazing rescued and trained horses, mini horses and pony at Kachina’s Place in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Kachina’s Place provides therapeutic equestrian activities for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and emotional limitations.  I started volunteering at Kachina’s Place about a month ago and immediately I knew it was going to be a great fit.  These are my people, I belong here.

Sweet Joey nosing around

I love horses and have always been aware of the keen sensitivity that horses demonstrate.  They are great readers of body language and can be very empathetic, not to mention the fact that they are beautiful, graceful animals that are lovely to watch.

Ruby, the former racehorse is a sweetie

Volunteering at Kachina’s Place felt right from the beginning.  The stables and setting is beautiful and the horses are sweet, calm, gentle and very endearing.  Franky Greaves the trainer is patient, kind and has set up a perfect environment for the therapeutic riding and equestrian activities.

Kachina’s Place is a special horse ranch with four horses, three mini horses and a pony.  The ranch is in a picturesque location complete with mountain views, a garden, a grassy area for yoga and eight very well cared for horses.  Special needs students taking lesssons may also be asked to groom, feed, clean up after as well as ride the horses.  They may complete a yoga class in the grass, groom a horse with help or help clean up stalls and the field as well as learning to trust and ride the horses.

Trainer Franky with a student practicing balance.

Recently several clients came and together we groomed some horses, did some yoga on the grass, cleaned stalls, took turns riding  and painted (with non-toxic paint) one of the mini horses, Adriana, who loves to be pampered and brushed.  We practiced teamwork, turn taking, responsibility and had such a wonderful time.  Everybody enjoyed themselves, especially me.

Cleaning up after the horses with my buddy.

I love volunteering at Kachina’s Place and at the end of the day I know it has been a day well spent.

Kachina’s Place is a non-profit organization, if you would like to donate or learn more about this wonderful organization I encourage you to go to:


The Often Bumpy Road To Retirement

The road to retirement often has detours and bumps ahead.

About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching.  I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave.  I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.

I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman.  My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement.  He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out.  At first I felt like I was floundering.  Lack of planning was not really working for me.  Where did my day go?  At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.

I needed to expand my world.  I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers.  I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor.  This was NOT my classroom.  I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.

Slowly, things have changed.  My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.”  After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year)  I now feel more at home with it.  It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.

When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home.  I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.

Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week.  I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group.  I don’t like change, who does?  But I was exhilarated with the new group.  I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards.  Unfortunately I hit a detour.  My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing.  I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.

I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout.  Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center.  I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools.  Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”.  These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years.  They ranged in age from sixties to eighties.   I was the young one in the group.  I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.”   I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water.  After sixty minutes I was beat!  This was going to be fun!

In addition, I started a watercolor class.  For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people.  Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented.  I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven.  I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude.  I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.

My hummingbird, a work in progress
Free form tulips
I make time to see my family and friends.  My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend.  My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs.  I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling.  I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great.  I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.

We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year.  They include:  Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.

This blog began about a year ago.  I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog.  Thank you for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.