Tea on a Cruise Ship

Anyone else love going to tea? I learned to appreciate the custom while traveling in the Middle East. We ran into a lot of British people and picked up the habit big time. Years later, a girlfriend and I tried all the great tea spots in D.C. So fun!

During the Baltic cruise, I had every intention of going to tea at least once, but we never had time until the end of the cruise. It was a special Indonesian tea, a nod to all the workers from there.


The waiters rattled off all the names of the pastries, but I didn’t take notes. The food was unusual, but delicious for the most part.


I do remember the round white one was mostly coconut.

So then, on the Alaska cruise I was again determined to have tea. I think we made it on the second-to-last day.


I thought maybe this was just a display, but we were actually served everything shown. Kind of a mistake so close to dinner, but worth it. :)


The scones with clotted cream and jam were fantastic, as well as the cream puff. The cookies and finger sandwiches? Just OK. The tea was very good.

There aren’t a lot of places to have tea in the San Diego area, but the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort does a nice one, so I might have to go back.

One of the most luxurious teas I’ve ever been to was at Huntington Botanical Gardens up in San Marino. It’s served in the beautiful Rose Garden Tea Room overlooking acres of roses. They have a buffet with all kinds of pastries, sandwiches and fresh fruit. My sister took me there years ago and I’ll never forget it. Oh, the library, gardens and art collections are fabulous too.

Great weekend, everyone!


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Denali Part Two

OK, I’m back! Actually, this has been good for me. I’ve been on the fence about switching to a self-hosted blog for a while and may finally be ready to pull the trigger. Flickr might not change their new policy, despite the outcry, and I don’t want to wait around for it.

Anyhoo, here are the rest of my Denali photos….


The ranger station for Denali National Park. A very young ranger got on the bus and gave us a brief talk.




“Tundra” refers to areas where the subsoil is permafrost, or permanently frozen soil.
It’s impossible for trees to grow, because they can’t put down deep roots. So, bare and rocky land can only support low growing plants like moss, heath and lichen.




In the summertime, the permafrost thaws just enough to let plants grow and reproduce, but because the ground below this is frozen, the water can’t sink any lower, and it forms lakes, marshes and rivulets.
It’s so strange to me that an area can have temperate climes in the summer and be pretty much frozen the rest of the year.



One flower that grows there is fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). It gets its name from the fact that it’s one of the first plants to show up after a fire. We saw them all over Alaska. Fireweed blooms from the bottom up, and when the last blossoms drop, the first snowfall will be in six weeks. We were in areas where there was only one blossom left and people were bemoaning it. In July.


This shot reminds me of the Badlands, just a little.



And the two images above remind me of the Na Pali Coast on Kauai.


I shot this through the bus window. See that gravel on the left? That’s right under the wheels. No guardrails.


The gray strip on the left is the road we were traveling. I decided to just enjoy the view and trust the experienced driver.




We stopped for photos near this creek. One guy filled his water bottle with creek water! I guess he didn’t realize the wildlife do all kinds of things in it.


Last look at Denali.

Now, am I the only one who didn’t know that birch trees are tapped for their syrup just like maples? At our lodge in Denali, we ordered salmon with a “citrus and birch infusion.” I imagined fish with bark or sawdust, but this was a really nice restaurant. Let me tell you, it was awesome. Can’t really describe the flavor of birch syrup–the citrus and fish flavors were dominant. Evidently people drink birch juice in Russia and it has healing properties. Ever heard of birch beer? I thought it was just a name.
Here’s an iPhone shot of the salmon:


Thanks for your patience, everyone. Hoping to straighten out the photo sharing challenge soon.


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Photo Sharing Problems

My apologies, but the blog post I prepared for today won’t show up until tomorrow. Flickr made some changes to their coding and WordPress doesn’t seem to recognize it. When I hit “Preview” at 11:30 last night, all my photos disappeared. I’ll go back in today and upload them directly from my computer. My free space for photos on WordPress is running out– that’s why I use Flickr.

Now Flickr wants to add a big white border with their name, the photographer’s name and photo title to each image, and members are in an uproar. I’m not thrilled with the idea either, so need to weigh my options. At any rate, I’ll see you tomorrow!


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Cactus Flower


I shot this about a week ago while on some cliffs above the beach.
This is a San Pedro cactus, I think. The black thing on the right side of the flower is a beetle.

Great weekend, everyone!


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Denali Part One

A few more shots of the lodge where we stayed in Denali:


The main lodge.


The lounge in our building that had a very nice coffee bar. We would sit here after dinner or wait for our shuttle.


The view from the lounge.



A couple of shops in the compound.


Nothin’ but moose.



I loved all the “log cabin” architecture.


Black petunias! A first for me.

So, in order to view Denali National Park, you have to ride old school buses run by the National Park Service:


My sons rode this type of bus when they were in elementary school.


Here’s a long shot of another bus. There weren’t too many on the road–that’s how they keep traffic and pollution down. Private vehicles are only allowed on the first 15 miles of Denali Park Road.


Our first view of the park.




As you can see, it was really cloudy when we started out. I wasn’t happy about the light, but it got better later on, thankfully. We were just glad it didn’t rain.


At one of the stops you could pose with moose or caribou antlers. This was a different group–no one on our bus wanted to do it. Now I kind of wish I had. :)
Did you know that male moose shed their antlers every year? Our guide said they eventually dissolve.


Caribou. The only animal I got a photo of that day. We actually saw quite a bit of wildlife, but you had to have binoculars or a powerful zoom lens to see most of them. I had neither, but didn’t regret it. I would have been miserable carting a heavy lens around everywhere.
Our driver had a video camera hooked up to monitors on the bus so we could see everything closer.
It was a little creepy to see huge grizzly bears, then some hikers not too far away. What surprised me was the nearly-blond fur on the grizzlies. I thought they were all brown.


The green stuff is moss or tundra. I’ve never seen a place like this, ever.




Such a beautiful, unusual place.

More next week. I have a lot of photos to sort, so I’ll be doing this slowly. I blew up Photoshop yesterday trying to resize and watermark too many images at a time. Luckily it’s OK.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Heading Towards Denali

We had some time to kill before everyone arrived in Fairbanks, so we walked around our lodge and the surroundings. Found something unusual:


This is a nursery. The plane parts look real to me. What do you think?

I still can’t get over the flowers. We joked that I would return to the Lower 48 (we heard that term a lot) with only shots of them. :)


The moose is everywhere in Alaska. You can find it on dish towels, t-shirts, sculptures, you name it….



I sound like a broken record, but these are the biggest marigolds I’ve ever seen. I should have put my hand next to them so you could see just how big.





I know a little bit about flowers, and these weren’t just thrown in a pot. Someone knew what they were doing. We saw beautiful arrangements everywhere, even in little podunk towns.

OK, the next morning we set out for Denali National Park. On the way there, we saw a female moose (cow) and her baby calf! We found out that it’s really dangerous to approach moose, as they can kick very suddenly and basically kill you. Females protecting their young are especially dangerous.



Sorry, not the best photos–shot through the window and blown up a few times.


We made a brief stop at a place called Nenana. Evidently, it’s a checkpoint on the Iditarod trail.


We could have gone for a ride with the dogs, but didn’t have time, and they were panting like crazy in the warm sun. Check out the abandoned train in the background….


Couldn’t resist a shot of the broken windows.


This was our lodge in Denali. Much nicer than the place in Fairbanks. There were two good restaurants, a theater and some nice boutiques.


Across the street, some t-shirt shops and such.


This was taken in front of our lodge.


Our view at lunchtime.


Our rooms were just steps away from this large deck. We got so lucky with the weather because July and August make up the rainy season in Alaska! It rained only when we were inside, except when we walked through a rain forest one afternoon.

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Fairbanks and a Surprise


I took this shot as we were approaching Fairbanks, Alaska. It was two a.m. and the sun was just coming up. So weird to be flying over such dark clouds with clear blue sky and a streak of sun above. We didn’t get to sleep until 5 a.m., but got there a day early to compensate.
No, our flight wasn’t delayed. That was the schedule Princess Cruises arranged for us. If they do the flight arrangements, then they’re on the hook to get us to our destination in time. Otherwise you can spend major bucks trying to catch up.


Inside the Fairbanks airport.

Fairbanks is much smaller than I expected (pop. around 30,000). We were able to do the entire downtown area pretty quickly. The Chena River flows through the city and there’s a nice plaza near it:


This “First Unknown Family” statue is dedicated to the First Nation Inuit people of Fairbanks. “Eskimo” is now considered politically incorrect.


Immaculate Conception Catholic Church was built in 1904. Our shuttle driver told us it was later dragged across the frozen Chena River to be on the more “reputable” side of town.




A few businesses downtown.


We could have taken an excursion to this place, but decided on the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center instead.


A typical exhibit at the center.


While there, we watched a short performance by some Athabaskan fiddlers. Fiddles were introduced by Scottish, Irish, and French Canadian fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the mid-19th century.
When one of the fiddlers said, “See what the Americans did to us?” it dawned on me that I knew nothing about native Alaskans. The whole time we were in Alaska, I kind of felt like I was in another country.
The map shows the main groups of aboriginal Alaskans.


The sign for the ladies room at the center.

What surprised me the most about Alaska? The flowers! They were huge and arranged so beautifully.





These are the biggest nasturtiums I’ve ever seen. Guess the 22 hours of sunlight don’t hurt. :)


The view from our lodge at 11 p.m. So fun to have the white nights again, just like St. Petersburg.

Fairbanks is kind of a landing spot for those going to Denali, as we did, or the Arctic Circle (just 120 miles north of the city!). Not a lot to do, but a good meeting place. Luckily our four friends all made it there on schedule too.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Back Home with a Preview

Hi there. We just returned from one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen: Alaska. Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to see one of our own states, but I’m glad I waited until I knew something about photography. Seriously, the place is beyond amazing. Here’s a glimpse of what’s to come:


Glacier Bay. Those little white things are chunks of ice that have broken off from a glacier.

I’d heard countless times how beautiful Alaska was, but I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude. We saw stunning landscapes not for hours, but for days. Truly, truly unforgettable.

I took loads of photos, so will need some time to sort and edit. Hope you’ve all been doing well the past two weeks!


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Hello Sunshine

I brought home some gerbera daisies from the grocery store the other day to see how they’d photograph. Plunked them down in front of a window in our office and got this:




The petals remind me of chamois cloth here.


I do like the way the light comes through them. Almost ethereal.


I just may have a new favorite subject.

Hope your week’s going well so far. We are going away for a couple of weeks, so I’ll be back around Aug. 7.


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Goofy’s Gas

Station, that is. :)
We went to Disneyland a while back and I took these shots in Mickey’s Toontown. Yes, I’m an adult, but I love Disneyland. I went the first time when I was around nine years old and it was probably the best day of my childhood. That stays with you forever.

Anyhoo, here is the Goofy’s Gas Station….


This part of the park was inspired by “Toontown” in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit and resembles a set from a Max Fleischer cartoon.
Fleischer was the creator of Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman(!) Ironically, he was a rival of Walt Disney.


According to Wiki, Fleischer patented a 3-D background effect called “The Stereoptical Process,” a precursor to Disney’s Multiplane. This technique replaced the usual flat-plane with a circular 3-D scale-model background–a diorama–in front of which the action cels were positioned and photographed.



I love the cartoon quality and the bright colors.



Time magazine named Fleischer the “Dean of Animated Cartoons.”

Great weekend, everyone!


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