Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Annual Priest Lake Escape

We returned a few days ago from a 10-day vacation to our paradise up north: Priest Lake. With the exception of two rainy, windy, and cold days, we were blessed with beautiful weather and some grand time with my entire family and alone with my parents after the group left. Lia had the time of her life playing with her cousins and Ron and I enjoyed some quality R&R time up there. We sure love Priest Lake!

Lia playing with her cousins Vivi, Riley, and Callie on the sand!

The two toddlers playing side by side.

Uncle Tip and big cousin, Spence, joining in on the beach fun.

Chris and Garrett paddling around out on the lake.

My brothers Eric and Brent introduced Ron to this passion of theirs while we were up there. They were able to go on two different adventures and Ron fell in love. Look at the smile on his face!

I was able to escape for the daily, morning water ski run for the two days that I overlapped with my brothers while up at the cabin. This is one of my favorite things to do with them and it is a rare event to sneak away with all three of them! We all had some beautiful water and some good laughs! Here they are attempting to look tough. Silly boys.

Lia enjoyed some quality girl time with the "triplets" including some messy crafts!

Lia discovered the art of hugging her cousins in the body tackle position. Not sure where this came from, but they were all kind enough to play along....especially Mae Mae who seemed to be the favored victim.

The whole gang (minus the grand patriarch who had to go home for a last-minute doctor's appointment) before the majority of the group departed on Sunday, July 11th.

We enjoyed a stop at the "Fairy House Beach" before Brent's family left later that Sunday. Lia enjoyed inventing a game with Spencer at her side that involved running in circles and splashing/crashing in the water. It's a good thing that 13-year olds have endless amounts of energy...

On her way down...

Stopping for a quick pic. Such a funny girl she is.

Ron and Lia and the glorious mountains in the background.

The Hartland fam enjoying some time back at "Fairy House Beach" later on that week.

We enjoyed a very relaxing cruise up the always-scenic thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake later on in the week with my parents.

Like mother, like daughter. Lia has discovered that she likes real whipping cream as much as her mother. As a result, we now fight over the beaters each time it is made. Here she is in all her glory...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cruising into Year #5...

Well, a few days and a few pounds later, Ron and I have returned from our Princess cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. As you can imagine, we had a glorious time! We were so grateful for this opportunity to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary AND the fact that Ron survived this past year! We thoroughly enjoyed all of the beautiful islands that we visited, the relaxing days at sea, and the incredible food. We came back rested and renewed and ready to see our little girl who my parents watched for eight days. Thanks, mom and dad. Here's a blow-by-blow of our week in paradise...

Day #1: Our firs day at Sea. After waiting three long and stressful hours for our luggage to show up on a later flight at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, Ron and I took a taxi to the port and boarded our ship by 1:30 pm. We quickly settled into cruise mode, eating pizza from the 24-hour pizzeria and swimming in the pool hours before the ship even set sail at 5 pm. Here I am eating pizza for the first of many times during the course of the week as the Emerald Princess leaves port.

Day #2: First port-of-call at the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Ron and I spent a relaxing day swimming, snorkeling, lounging, and eating on Princess' private, 40-acre, beach resort at the Southern end of the island. Pictured above is Ron and I with our floating hotel in the background. Oh, how I miss that ship! ;-)

Frolicking in that perfect, aquamarine water!

I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture this moment.

All dolled up and ready to go in the Grand Piazza before hitting dinner at the end of day #2.

Now, some of you may know how much Ron and I love food. In fact, I would go as far as to say that we have a relationship with eating. As a result, I knew that we would love this aspect of cruising. Every night, we spent a fun filled hour and a half in the formal dining room gorging ourselves on fine food. Since one can order as much as one wants without extra charge, we sure got our money's worth. Four appetizers, three entrees, and four desserts were the typical scene at our table every evening. A bit glutenous, I know, but it sure was great fun! Here I am with the FIVE desserts we consumed that night. Yes, a neighboring couple actually turned and stared and then laughed at us when our waiter delivered these sweet goods to us.

Day #3: A second day at sea. Ron and I lounged for hours next to this adult-only pool that we discovered on board. We LOVED the peace and quiet we found here.

Happy feet at sea.

Cruising through the Caribbean.

The evening of day three was one of the formal nights on our ship. One of the activities included the traditional champagne toast in the main piazza. Although we did not participate in the festivities, it was entertaining to watch.

Here we are in our finest duds with the waterfall in the background.

Day #4: Second port-of-call at the French/Dutch island of St. Martin. We took a tour of the island and hit a fabulous beach while on ground that day. Here are Ron and I standing in the port of the French capitol, Marigot.

Some local boys fishing in Marigot.

Fort St. Louis, originally built in 1767 to protect the settlement at Marigot from foreign invaders, overlooking the port that we visited.

Ron and I at Orient Beach, the fabulous piece of paradise that we visited and swam in while on St. Martin.

Does this picture capture the essence of the Caribbean or what? We passed this little, sleepy spot on our 20-minute walk back to the cruise ship in the Dutch capitol of Philipsburg.

The night of day #4, our ship hosted a luau party on the top deck. We joined in the festivities for a bit and even danced to a few songs. Shocking, I know.

Ron and I hanging loose at the luau.

Day #5: Third port-of-call at the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas. Once again, Ron and I took a tour around the island with a stop at another gorgeous beach. Here we are at a the Drake' Seat lookout point overlooking the stunning port town of Charlotte Amalie.

Ron and I were able to visit Magen's Bay during our day on St. Thomas which was a treat as it is rated one of the top ten beaches in the world by the National Geographic Society and it sure did not disappoint!

Soon after arriving at Magen's Bay, a dolphin appeared just a few feet off a shore for a few minutes before an obnoxious snorkeler chased it away. What a treat it was to see this creature in the wild!

Ron chillin' like a villain in the waters of Magen's Bay.

Does it get any better than this?

After visiting the beach and Blackbeard's Castle, we ended up in the bustling, shopping mecca of Charlotte Amalie for a few hours before our ship set sail. We stumbled across one of my favorite things during this time: a steel drum band (manned by all teenagers)! Ron and I sat down on the sidewalk and just listened for an half hour or so. I loved every minute of it!

Our second formal night was held on the evening of day #5. We stopped for a quick pic before heading off to our eating-marathon in the dining room!

Day #6: Our forth and final port-of-call on the island of Grand Turk in the country of Turcs and Caicos. Here we are fresh off the ship and ready to go.

Ron and I caught a cab up to the capitol of Cockburn Town where we spent a few hours exploring, shopping, and swimming in that stunning water!

We walked about ten or so minutes north of Cockburn Town to the gorgeous, secluded Pillory Beach. We shared the beach with only three other locals for a good hour or so before heading back to the port. Here I am with a lone boat, basking in the warm waters off this beautiful beach.

Ron and I about to board our home away from home after our last port-of-call in Grand Turk.

Day #7: Our third and final day at sea. Once again, we relaxed, read, swam, slept, and ate on our last day aboard our ship. We also celebrated our anniversary on this day, complete with cheesy balloons outside our stateroom and a singing quartet of waiters with a candle lit cake at dinner. What a perfect way to end the week!

Thank you, Emerald Princess, for a week of luxury and for spoiling us rotten! We'll never forget you and your five star hospitality! ;-)