Tuesday, July 7, 2015


After debarking the Disney Magic, we wanted to see a bit of Copenhagen since we did not have any time the day we arrived to depart on the ship. Our first stop was the statue of the Little Mermaid. It's in a park pretty much by itself, and there were tons and tons of tour busses from all of the cruise ships in the port. If you don't know, The Little Mermaid is a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, and every variation of the story stems from that original story.

Next we drove to this church we wanted to see because of the statues inside, but there was a funeral going on. We should have just waited for it to be over but we drove out of town a bit to get some Starbucks mugs, and then back into town to eat lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. Of course we turn the corner to HRC and guess what's next door??? Starbucks!  Brandon was less than amused....

Statue of Hans Christian Anderson

Tired of driving in all of this traffic. So many buses....
 We went back to the church after lunch, and there was a wedding! So we still couldn't go in. Dad and I sneaked in a little ways to take a picture, but this was about it. For a better view you can look at this blog and read the history and see photos of all of the statues.

After this we left Copenhagen to go to our hotel for the night. We drove about two hours to the ferry and took a 45 minute ferry ride to an island that is part of Germany and stayed in a beautiful wooden house complete with fire place. We relaxed outside while the boys played in the sand box, and had McDonald's for dinner because it was easy. Dad and Brandon got the fireplace going and we watched a move. Perfect way to end a busy week!

Relaxing on the back porch. Pretty sure Kyle took the pictures because this is the best one I have!

Copenhagen (and Denmark) is definitely on the list to go back to. There is really never enough time to see everything over here, so once the kids are grown and we can travel on our own, we are coming back to Europe to explore a whole lot more!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another Bucket List Update

Brandon calls it the dump truck list because I am always saying I want to go here, do this, do that, so this summer I made a list of what must happen in my life before I die.  Let's hope I have at least 50 years left to accomplish these things.

1. Go to Russia.  THIS WILL HAPPEN in 2014. Holland America has multiple cruises to St. Petersburg and my plan is to use our tax return to book one. Whether all 3 kids will be going has yet to be decided, but I am getting on a giant boat with delicious food and will be standing in palace square. I have always wanted to go to Russia and it always seemed like such a far away fantasy but not anymore!  We extended until 2016 so this is happening in 2015. My dad is also coming back that summer and is going to go with us! Done, done, and done!!! I still can't believe we went to Russia. It still feels like a dream. 

2. Catch a halibut in Alaska.  You would think after living there for 18 years I would have gone deep sea fishing, but I did not.  So now when we go back that will be on the Alaska trip things to do. Who knows when that will happen, but I have seen everywhere Brandon grew up so now it's his turn.

3. Catch a marlin and mount it on the wall.  This will happen in Florida or Cabo.  Both possibilities when we live in Florida in 6-8 years.

4. Visit all 7 continents. This goal came about when I made it to Africa, so now I have three left. Antarctica, South America and Australia.  All great cruising possibilities.

5. Go to Ireland. Because it's beautiful and we are already in Europe.  It can't be that much harder to go a little bit further. People do it all the time.  We are running out of time to see everything over here (there is just so much) so maybe down the road...

6. Visit all 50 states. I only have Vermont left. (and maybe Rhode Island? I need to check)

7. Go on a cruise every other year. This started in 2009. We won't be able to go next year but waiting one more year is fine. In my opinion cruising is the best way to spend a vacation and I want to do it as much as possible.  We didn't go on a cruise but we went to Greece!!  Cruising will resume in 2 years! Cruise for 2015 done. Cruise for 2016 booked. 

8. Live on the beach.  Hopefully in 8-10 years.

9. Finish my Bachelor's degree.  This should be done 14 months. I have exactly the right amount of money in my GI Bill as I have classes to pay for so it should work out perfect. DONE, DONE, and DONE.  Will brag blog about this when the paper is in my hand. 

10. Learn Spanish.  For when we move to Florida. And because I want to work for the Federal government and it can't hurt.

11. Go to Greece. Maybe before we leave, maybe after we retire. There's plenty of time for this especially since we can hop from the states for the rest of our lives as long as Brandon survives the next 8 years. Also done!  

12. Go to Egypt. Let's let things settle down over there first.

13. Visit 50 countries. I need to add to the list and see where I stand. DID IT!!! Sweden was number 50! 

14. Find a sand dollar on a beach. Brooke says go to Corpus Christi and it will be easy. 

15. Find some actual sea glass on the beach. After reading the book Sea Glass I want some of my own! Found some in Greece! 

Skydiving used to be a top priority, but I turned into a big wuss when Brice was born and I don't know if I could handle it anymore. I think I could do a tandem jump but I just don't know. My Grandpa flew skydiving planes and I rode with him one, even had to wear a chute, so we will see.
16. Skydiving is back on the list! Brandon and my Dad jumped on D-day and I think I could do it. 

It's a short list, not so much a dump truck, but those are the things I really want to do!

Cruising the Baltic with Mickey ~ Part 3

Day 5: Helsinki, Finland

Since we had such a busy day in St. Petersburg, we tried sleeping in! Unfortunately our kids haven't reached that stage in their lives, especially Kyle. We tried eating brunch in the dining room, but it was packed and service was slow, and the servers were not as friendly as those at the buffet. They just seemed stressed out. The kids didn't want to get off of the ship so we took them to camp, so the adults and Kyle got off to go look around. Disney has free shuttles that take you into town and drop you off, they run every 15 minutes back and forth. We walked around the city and went to a farmer's market where we bought some souvenirs and some amazing jam! The lady selling the jam showed us on the map where her and her crew pick the berries (above the Arctic Circle) and then bring them back down to turn into jam. I think she had about 6 flavors but we brought home Cloudberry and Lingonberry.

Senate Square

At the top of those steps

And inside 

Giant carrot statue on the way to the market

Market Square

When we came back to the ship, Brandon took Brice and Cody onto land just so they could snap a photo and say they had been on Finnish soil.

Semi-Formal night in Lumuire's. I tried Oysters for the first time and actually like it! Not at all slimy like I always thought they would be.

Day 6: Stockholm, Sweden

Another day where Brice and Cody did not want to get off of the ship! We took the free shuttle again. Walked around Gamla Stan (Old Town) which was adorable and smelled like steak :)  Then we walked to the Vasa Museum. Stockholm is made up of a bunch of islands so we had to walk around the long way to get where there was bridge. After an hour or so we were glad the boys didn't come because we did to A LOT of walking, and they would have been exhausted.

The Royal Palace. There were a few places you could go in and tour but nothing was open yet.

Old Town and walking to the Vasa

Brandon would not have done well on this ship! Looks how close his head is to the ceiling beam. 

Here is the information about the Vasa:


It took almost two years (1626-1627) to build Vasa. From dawn to dusk, carpenters, sawyers, smiths, ropelayers, sailmakers, painters, carvers, gun carriage makers and other specialists struggled to complete the navy’s great, new ship. The king, Gustav II Adolf, visited the shipyard to inspect the work.
Vasa should be splendid, a hull built of more than a thousand oak trees with 64 cannon, masts over 50 meters high and hundreds of painted and gilded sculptures.


The shipyard where Vasa was built was called Skeppsgården and was located in what is now called Blasieholmen in Stockholm. Skeppsgården was one of the largest workplaces in Sweden at that time, where craftsmen and raw materials from all over Northern Europe met. The workforce was about half Swedish and Finnish, with the rest mostly from Holland. Wood from Swedish and Polish forests was shipped to Stockholm to become ship’s timbers. Iron and copper were mined in Sweden, while hemp for rope, sailcloth and paint were purchased from abroad.


The work on Vasa was led by a Dutchman, Henrik Hybertsson, an experienced shipwright. In this period, Dutch ships were not built from drawings, instead the shipwright was given the overall dimensions and used proportions and rules of thumb based on his own experience to produce a ship with good sailing qualities. Hybertsson became ill early on and died in the spring of 1627, so he never saw the ship completed. Responsibility for construction fell to his assistant, Henrik “Hein” Jakobsson, already in 1626.


On Sunday, the 10th of August, 1628, Vasa lay rigged and ready for sea just below the royal palace Tre Kronor. Ballast, guns and ammunition were all on board.
On the quays and shores along Strömmen, an excited public waited to watch the ship leave Stockholm and celebrate her departure.
Over a hundred crewmen were on board, as well as women and children. The crew had permission to take family and guests along for the first part of the passage through the Archipelago.


For the first few hundred meters, Vasa was warped along the waterfront with cables from the shore. The ship did not begin to sail until she reached what is now Slussen. Sailors climbed the rigging to set four of Vasa’s ten sails. A salute was fired, and Vasa slowly began her maiden voyage.
Once Vasa came out from under the lee of the Södermalm cliffs, the sails could catch the wind, but the ship was tender and heeled over to port, then heeled again, even farther. Water rushed in through the open gunports and the ship’s fate was decided. Vasa sank, after sailing barely 1300 meters.
The crew threw themselves into the water or clung to the rigging until rescued, but not all managed to save themselves. Eyewitnesses differ on the exact numbers, but perhaps 30 of approximately 150 people on board died in the loss. After the ship was raised in 1961, the remains of at least 16 people were found.


The news of the sinking reached the Swedish king, who was in Prussia, after two weeks. The disaster had to be the result of “foolishness and incompetence,” and the guilty must be punished, he wrote to the Royal Council in Stockholm. What exactly lay behind the loss could not be determined with certainty in the inquest held in the palace, but the ship’s lack of stability was a fact: the underwater part of the hull was too small and the ballast insufficient in relation to the rig and cannon. The leaders of the inquest believed that the ship was well built but incorrectly proportioned. After Vasa, many successful ships with two or even three gundecks were built, so something must have been learned from the disaster.


Vice Admiral Klas Fleming, partly. He had been present before the ship sailed, when the captain demonstrated how crank the ship was by having 30 men run back and forth across the upper deck. On their third pass, the ship was ready to capsize at the quay. The admiral was heard to say that he wished the king were there.
King Gustav II Adolf, partly. He ordered a large ship with so many heavy-calibre cannon, and approved the ship’s dimensions.
Master shipwright Henrik Hybertsson, partly. He was a talented shipbuilder who had delivered several successful ships to the navy, but he had too little experience with building ships with two gundecks.
Captain Söfring Hansson, ultimately. Vasa’s sinking can also be blamed on the captain. It would have been safer to sail the ship with the lower gunports closed, since he knew the ship was unstable. It might have been possible to redistribute weight in the ship or even rebuild it. If the inquest were held today, the captain would probably be held responsible.


The engineer and wreck researcher Anders Franzén looked for several famous shipwrecks, including Vasa, for a number of years. He went through the archives in search of information and dragged the sea bottom for physical remains. On the 25th of August, 1956, he sat in a small motorboat with the diver Per Edvin Fälting, who had provided advice on a likely search area. On that day, his homemade coring device brought up a piece of blackened, waterlogged oak.  Fälting dived to the bottom two weeks later and could confirm the find – two rows of gunports meant that it had to be Vasa.
Franzén succeeded in enlisting support for salvaging the ship, notably with the navy and the Neptune salvage firm.


Vasa lay at a depth of 32 meters. The navy’s heavy divers were able to cut six tunnels through the clay under the ship with special water jets. Steel cables were drawn through the tunnels and taken to two lifting pontoons on the surface, which would pull the ship free of the harbour bottom’s grip. In August 1959, it was time for the first lift. There was great uncertainty – would the old wooden ship hold together? Yes! Vasa held. She was lifted in 18 stages to shallower water, where she could be patched and reinforced in preparation for the final lift, to the surface!


The day that Vasa was scheduled to break the water, all of Sweden held its breath. Newspapers, radio and TV from all over the world were there, and Swedish TV made its first live broadcast to Europe.
At 9:03 AM on the 24th of April, 1961, Vasa returned to the surface. A piece of the 17th century was suddenly back among us.


Just seven months after the salvage, the Wasa Shipyard opened as a provisional museum. The ship and all of the smaller finds were conserved, partly as a great experiment. Nothing like it had been attempted before. For 17 years, Vasa was sprayed with polyethylene glycol, PEG – a chemical compound that replaces the water in waterlogged wood to prevent shrinkage and cracking. The current Vasa Museum opened in 1990.

I am really glad we took the time to go to the museum and see the Vasa. It was well worth it!!!

Photos cannot even begin to portray the size of this. It is incredible to see in person. 

We came back to the ship and hung out, went to the show, and then to dinner. Dinner was our second night in Animator's Palette, and it was awesome!!! I am doing a separate post just on this restaurant because there is so much too it.

My mini Captain America; wants to be like his brother!

Dinner with Captain America!

Day 7: Day at Sea

The last day :( Brandon and I participated in a chocolate and wine tasting at noon while the boys went to camp and Kyle hung out with Grandpa. Then we saw Inside Out but I missed the end because Kyle was too fussy and I took him back to the room. Brice went swimming with Grandpa for about two hours after the movie and I think Cody went to camp. (He could sign himself in and out and go between two different camps)

I don't really remember much else until we went to dinner! (We will all be keeping journals next time and making daily entries!!!) There was a farewell from the staff followed by an Until We Meet Again Party in the Lobby.

Saying goodbye to our servers, Noel from India and Teresa from Seville. They were so patient with the kids (Kyle) and Noel gave the boys a puzzle to solve every night. They really made us feel special!

Goodbye Meeska!!!

This man was part of the entertainment cast and he was amazing! He was the evil fairy godfather in Twice Charmed and a few other villains. Great voice and great acting. 

Goodbye to the Princesses :( 

This is Kyle's friend Oksana from Ukraine. She gave the boys tons of pins to start their pin trading collection! She was so funny telling us about her kids back home. This was her last cruise before going home on leave; she will return to the ship in September.