Early in the morning, Mary and I went our separate ways; she went to her gym class while I went to Los Alamitos to have a blood test for next week’s appointments. We later reunited at home around 11:00 a.m. and spent the rest of the day putting up the last of the inside decorations and outside decorations. Technology can be quite challenging as the outside decorations needed to be powered and also waterproofed.
Mary and I spent a few hours at the office today. She was making phone calls while you were cleaning up and preparing our Christmas website for 2023. Later on, we got ready and went out to meet the gang at Elks for “Girls’ Night Out.”
The day’s problem was what to do for New Year’s Eve. We do not have a solution yet, but something will come up!
Italian cuisine is indeed something that can bring a lot of happiness and joy. From the amazing aroma of fresh herbs to the mouth-watering flavors of pasta dishes, there is something about Italian food that just makes you feel good. Whether it’s enjoying a delicious pizza with friends or savoring a hearty plate of lasagna with family, Italian cuisine has a way of bringing people together and creating wonderful memories. So, happiness can definitely start with Italian cuisine!
So we went to Franco’s Italian Restaurant before heading to the Cerritos Performing Arts Center to see Manheim. Everyone ordered, but I asked the manager to surprise me, which made him look worried.
The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later, you’re hungry again.
Dinner with dear friends. Mary, yours truly, Jim, Vicky, Ed, and Betty
We had a lovely meal and laughed for an hour and a half, but I couldn’t understand why Spumoni was so amusing.
Did You Know? Spumoni is a traditional Italian dessert that’s a milk sherbet. Sherbet is not quite ice cream and not quite sorbet and has the addition of dairy — usually milk or buttermilk. This gives it a slightly creamier texture than sorbet, as well as a lighter, pastel color. By law, sherbet must contain less than 2% fat. It consists of three layers: chocolate, pistachio, and almond. In Italy, it’s often made in a terrine, hardened in the freezer, and then cut into slices about an inch thick.
Chef-owner Francisco Gracia’s restaurant offers fresh, authentic, Italian and Continental cuisine. Chef Gracia has created the perfect menu blend that highlights his culinary rage and skill. Don’t be fooled by its exterior; a gem is inside Franco’s Italian Restaurant and Bakery. The delicious food, exceptional service, and family-style charm at Franco’s create a delightful dining experience.
Just us getting ready for the concert.
Off to Cerritos Performing Arts Center, where the Manheim folks made merry! Mannheim Steamroller is an American neoclassical new-age music ensemble founded and directed by percussionist/composer Chip Davis in 1974. The group is known primarily for its Fresh Aire series of albums, which blend classical music with elements of new age and rock, and for its modern recordings of Christmas music.
Wow, it was terrific.
Scout was upset he had to stay home, so I arranged for a local butler service to provide him with a relaxing night in.
Scout decided to stay home and rest!
The background was interesting. Manheim has six musicians and “borrows” local talent, making the entire group almost 16 strong.
The visuals were captivating.
2008, Chip Davis underwent surgery, preventing him from touring or performing with the band. Rather than forcing the tour to stop while he recovered, Davis hired additional musicians to replace him temporarily. He also created two different lineups of the band, nicknamed the “red” and “green” touring companies.
We had snow!!
LED backdrops make for excellent presentations
Listen to their fantastic music!
After the show, we went VFR (Visual Flight Rules) for home, where we crashed without even turning on the TV!
Mary had an appointment at the local gym, so she contacted Liles taxi service for drop-off. Later, I added some final touches to our decorations at home. At noon, we left for the Elks Lodge to have lunch with Bob.
Remember, “The Christmas alphabet has noel.”
The Lodge Tree was beautiful.
We got a gentle reminder of all the times we will visit the Elks during Christmas.
We have our reservations made.
Everything was decorated, including Mr. Elkl!
Mr. Elks was decorated for Christmas.
Paul had a problem with a loose implant, and the dentist needed to know the model and style of the implant. Unfortunately, Paul couldn’t recall the information as it had been over a decade ago. However, he managed to remember the name of the orthodontist who had done the work, so he decided to drive to his office.
We drove to the end of the 55 freeway as I remembered where the office was located. I found it!
Three sheets of paper containing all necessary information were provided from the office’s computer records dating back to 2011.
We went to the market before heading home. After unpacking, we binge-watched Hallmark Christmas movies until 9 pm, at which time we turned the lights out.
We both had dental appointments first thing. I went first, and then Mary followed. My crown did not fit so I have to return next week. Mary’s adjustment went fine!
Finally, she can’t talk!
The dental office had little versions of dentists; Dad, Uncle, and Daghter! Too cute!
On our way home we stopped at Rockwell’s for breakfast! It’s a local establishment and they have great food. I needed my morning coffee.
Their omelets are terrific.
We decorated and got most of everything done. Mary finally found her glasses. She loves the color!
Who is this masked person?
I was on repair duty as every year we open a triage center and get out the batteries and glue. Today it was the pyramids that needed some attention!
Dr. Paul, at your service!
Mary put together the other pyramid as it did not need an intervention!.
What is the story behind the Christmas pyramids? The name Christmas pyramid came about because the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt at the end of the 18th century brought pictures of the pyramids back to Europe and eventually to the Ore Mountains, where they reminded the people of the mining capstans and also of the Christmas constructions.
The Pyramid builder at work.
It is beginning to take shape! Every surface is covered and Scout is going crazy trying to figure out what to chew on first! Just kidding, he doesn’t chew!
The cleaning people can come tomorrow.
Major surgery is underway! Glue, tape, nails, thumbtacks…whatever it takes. Mary made me put on my nurse’s uniform (complete with the short skirt). I fooled her and put on my French maid’s costume instead; she was so busy in surgery she did not notice!
Repairs are sometimes frustrating.
We declared victory. Christmas is finally here but we did NOT do the tree yet, perhaps this weekend!
No open surfaces are available!
We changed the lights to alternating green and red! Love the Govee lighting system.
Easy to adjust from the iPhone!
We crashed after a couple of Hallmark Christmas movies!
We did some unpacking and decorating before we departed the house.
We have a lot of work ahead of us!
I found a new occupation: furniture delivery. Read on…
Mary had a gym appointment, and I met with Sydney’s customer, who was selling her high-end Ethan Allen furniture. Removing the seats from the van helped, but all I could get was a dining room table and four chairs. Packing them into the van, I departed for Los Alamitos and dropped them at Vicky’s new home.
When I returned home, Mary was done with her appointment. Mary then had an appointment with a doctor in Newport Beach, so I decided to see if I could pick up the other furniture Vicky wanted. Indeed, we could, so we stopped, got the remaining items, and took the second trip to Los Alamitos.
We also looked at a piece of furniture that Sydney thought we might want!
It was a bit too big!
We zoomed to Los Alamitos and delivered the second group. It was so late we decided to ask Vicky to join us at The Fish Company.
After a bit, the phone rang, and Sydney joined us for dinner!
Hal and Sydney joined us.
We had a marvelous dinner!
The sliders were wonderful.
We enjoy any time we have together.
Fun Fun Fun
We drove home in the dark, with a full moon and light traffic.
We finally got home and crashed! We seemed to have driven all day long.
We woke early to put away Thanksgiving and Halloween decorations we missed before Joe’s 8:00 a.m. arrival. Joe and the boys offered to take the Christmas boxes down from the garage attic for us, an amazing gesture.
After ten minutes of Joe and the boys being here, the guys had cleared the attic of Christmas decorations and had them ready to be unpacked in the family room, dining room, and living room.
The boxes kept on coming.
Joe, Charlie, and Alex kept bringing boxes in from the garage, and it felt like it would never end! The yellow/brown ones were from my old house, and the green/red ones were from Mary’s place.
It’s been three years since we started unpacking/packing our individual boxes and putting them together! Now, it’s hard to tell which decorations were whose. Mary is such an amazing woman. We have several decorations that we bought independently of each other ten years ago or more that are IDENTICAL.
Lift that bale; tow that barge! Charlie is at work!
Our son supervised the activity with assistance from Scout. However, we made sure not to get in his way. Joe knows our home just like his own. And the grandsons make moving these boxes look like child play! If we did that, we would need an oxygen bottle!
Joe will outgrow my lap but never my heart. Sometimes, when I need a miracle, I look into my son’s eyes and realize I’ve already created one.
It is challenging to get older and not be able to do the things your body once could. My mind says forty; my body says eighty! Feeling useless is not a great emotion to experience.
Or, as Mary often says:
He is off to the garage for another load!
We stacked the family room full.
The living room (TV Room) is filling up with boxes. This will be the last room we decorate as we must pull out the TV equipment cabinet to get to the electrical outlets.
The living room got the next load of boxes.
Finally, everyone sat down. Mary baked some blueberry muffins for the guys, and they quickly devoured them; we barely had enough left to take to Amy!
Time to rest!
Joe left for home to attend to some chores. It’s fantastic to have a loving son and grandkids who are always willing to drop their activities and come to our aid. Although Mary and I could have done the work ourselves, it would have taken us four days, but they finished in just 45 minutes!
I started decorating by placing the little lady in her honored spot. Scout, The Wonder Dog, led me to the room.
Time to decorate!
Scout likes to decorate because he lies down and watches us do all the work!
The chief decorator provides adult supervision!
Supervising is a lot of work and requires frequent naps! Notice his position at the intersection of the hallways so that we have to step over him!
At 2:00 p.m., we stopped and got cleaned up so we could be at the Brea Civic Center at 3:30 p.m. for the performance of the Alley Cats.
Did You Know? The Alley Cats are an American doo-wop group singing in a cappella. The group originated in 1987 when a concert choir program had a variety night at Fullerton College. When John Tebay, the choir director, suggested that Andre Peek (1st tenor and lead vocalist at that time) and Armando Fonseca (2nd tenor) perform together, both of them decided to take Mr. Tebay’s advice and form a quartet, an a cappella group.
Two additional members along the way, Royce Reynolds (bass) and Todd Dixon (baritone) got together, and the foursome gained notice. Since then, The Alley Cats have performed for many audiences, ranging from elementary school fun nights to being Grand prize winners on the Gong Show.
Performing on the Arsenio Hall show to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, as well as opening for Leno at his Las Vegas shows. The sound of the Alley Cats has also been heard at The White House. The Alley Cats appeared in the Richard Simmons workout video Dance Your Pants Off!
I have followed them since their inception in 1987 and started attending their events in 1988. The first time was at the OC Fair.
To the theater in Brea!
Get ready for a fun-filled experience! This group is known for their ability to make the audience laugh uncontrollably. During this year’s performance, we had the opportunity to sing along with them as they had lyrics for several Christmas songs.
Additionally, they included a number between one and twelve in everyone’s program, which involved singing “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.” Mary drew the number eight, so she had to sing “Nine Ladies Dancing.” It was an event that brought joy to everyone involved! They knew I was coming, so I drew the number 187!
Did You Know? The 12 days of Christmas is the period in Christian theology that marks the span between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. It begins on December 25 (Christmas) and runs through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings’ Day). The four weeks preceding Christmas are collectively known as Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 24.
The Alley Cats open the Christmas season for us!
After the fantastic performance, we went to the Cedar Creek Inn in Brea. Amazing food. All ten of us went: Jim, Vicky, Irene, Brenda, Carol, Gerald, Bob, Donna, and us.
We had a wonderful time with family and friends. Irene sat across from me, and I did not get her in the snapshot.
Family is a beautiful thing!
We enjoy each other’s company so much we can’t help but smile!
Dinner at the Cedar Creek Inn!
Vicky and Jim were also enjoying the evening.
Vicky and Jim
We left dinner at 8:00 p.m. and decorated before crashing at 10:00 p.m. after a long week.
Family is a beautiful thing!
After a long week, we left dinner at 8:00 p.m. arriving home 20 minutes later. Mary folded the last of the vacation clothes while I caught up on this Daily Diary!
We went to bed at 10:00 p.m. while watching a movie called NYAD. Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, and Rhys Ifans star in NYAD to tell a remarkable true story of athlete Diana Nyad who, at the age of 60 and with the help of her best friend and coach, commits to achieving her life-long dream: a 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida.
We had a sound sleep without waking up all night long. We kept the veranda door open to listen to the sound of the ocean waves, which added to our comfort. I woke up at 5:00 am, and we prepared ourselves to visit Ensenada Harbor, Mexico.
We got into port around 7:00 am, and by 8:30 am, we were on our way to taste wine.
The harbor was silent except for the chirping of birds and the barking of seals.
Every time we visit, the water appears crystal clear, and the city seems to have improved.
Mary attempted to communicate with the seals, but they didn’t respond. We need a guide on how to speak the Seal language. I tried, and two passengers threw me a fish!
“fut bat gom to bookie by diddle do” – It did not work!
The Carnival ship arrived after us and departed before us in the afternoon. Is there a message here?
We don’t even want to think about what happened there this morning.
Before heading downstairs, I stopped by the private Neptune Lounge to get the boss her morning latte and a sweet roll. I also grabbed some orange juice and a bit of salmon for myself. This was a quiet getaway from the hustle and bustle of normal shipboard activities.
The private areas are nice!
We met in the lounge and then headed out to the buses in the rain. There was a light mist, which everyone said was desperately needed. I am happy to report no one melted.
The buses were modern and clean!
The first winery was about a 20-minute drive up the coast on Hwy #1. It was spacious and served regular food like a restaurant, but unfortunately, the kitchen was not yet open when I visited, and I could not get a taco.
Many of the offerings at the winery included hot peppers, which we found interesting as we walked around and looked at everything.
The image captures why we want to cruise with our children and grandchildren!
We left the first winery and drove three miles to the second, which was more modern and had interesting displays. If we had space, we would have bought the wine bottle Christmas tree, empty of course.
Bring us wine, Santa!
No, wait! Maybe bring us this bottle of wine instead!
That is a bottle of wine!
We continue to taste, and Nick blends in well with the crowd. He’s quite a young man, and after taking a vote, we’ve decided to keep him!
We returned to the ship around noon, and it was misting again. We stopped for a picture. Bob set up his camera to get all five of us.
We were ready for a hot tub and hamburger session!
Mary decided not to get wet! Her trash bag became her best friend.
Setting a new trend.
We went to the hot tub in the adults-only spa area.
Always hand in hand.
We had a small pizza at the pool bar. I had a “Pain Killer,” Mary went for the Bloody Mary. We sat there and jabbered for a good hour before going to our rooms to get ready for dinner.
On our last night of the cruise, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the main dining room at 6:00 pm.
Mary wore green so she could wear her new jewelry.
Mary’s favorite color is emerald green.
I finally had my sushi! It was excellent.
What type of sushi does a soldier like? A combat roll.
It tasted as good as it looked.
We enjoyed dinner with the Dudas and discussed our wonderful vacation!
Bob took the pictures for us; he is an excellent photographer.
Look out, the steaks have arrived.
Dinner with my bestest friend.
Mental note: Hide the bathroom scales for a few weeks.
If Amazon sold meat, it would be Prime rib.
Mary asked me, “Do you know what all prime rib really is?” I replied, “A rib divisible only by itself and one?” The eye roll was audible.
My prime rib was outstanding.
We went to a magic show, and I even stayed awake.
The theater was packed.
On our way to the suite, we stopped and retrieved some photos of us. These are three out of about twenty we found.
We will return to the USA tomorrow and be home by 2:00 pm. Good night!
Our day started on a high note as we set sail towards Ensenada, Mexico. After refreshing coffee, we enjoyed a relaxing soak in the hot tub.
The elevators had rugs with the day’s name, which is very much appreciated after several days at sea.
Don’t pull the rug out from under us!
Mary brought our stuffed Thanksgiving animals with her, and they accompanied us throughout the day.
Breakfast with the bears!
The morning began with a delicious breakfast, followed by a relaxing soak in the hot tub. To enhance the experience, we sipped on mimosas, which have become a regular morning routine.
Aw! It’s so exciting! We brought ourselves some adorable stuffies! We had lunch at the grill and headed to our afternoon entertainment events.
Buleah and Buster had a wonderful time.
Someone had dessert for brunch!
Wild berry dessert!
After the hot tub, Mary, Nick, and Robin went to art class, where they did watercolors. I stayed in the room working on the daily diary. When I wandered to the art room, paint flew in every direction. Brushes struck the paper at odd angles, and the teacher ran for her life.
It was a repeat of Mary’s best 3rd grade masterpiece.
Note to self: Do NOT hire these folks to paint your house, inside or outside!
We plan to hang these on the wall when we get home, the wall in the garage!
After a short rest, Mary and I went ballroom dancing at BB Kings on the second level. We had four dances, but the DJ did not know ballroom!
We did NOT have the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving; we opted for Italian, but we finished the meal with pumpkin pie courtesy of the manager.
She is deep in constipation, oops… contemplation!
Mary had a salad for dinner and felt full for the rest of the evening.
We were tired and went to our cabin to finish a movie called “A Walk In The Woods.”
On my way back, I ran into my buddy, C-3PO. We had a chat before I left in a vacuum.
The towels were hidden from me this evening; rumors about the towel storm last week had been circulating!
As we entered our room, we were welcomed by an elephant.
It was an albino elephant, very, very rare.
Mary fell asleep after only 5.67 seconds into the movie, snoring loudly and shaking the paintings on the walls due to her fatigue.
The sun was up, and so were we. The sunrise was magnificent, as seen from across the bay!
We were up with the sun!
We got quite a show when the Pelican Air Force flew by in formation.
The Pelicans provided quite a show.
We got on the bus and began our journey to Sonoma and wine country. Sonoma County wine is wine made in Sonoma County, California, in the United States.
County names in the United States automatically qualify as legal appellations of origin for wine produced from grapes grown in that county and do not require registration with the United States Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. We had front-row seats, which was perfect. Robin met a new friend, Mary, three rows behind us.
On the bus, Sonoma, here we come.
We toured old San Francisco along the Embarcadero before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and heading to Sonoma through Marin County.
Sneaking upon the bridge.
The building of this bridge was impressive, considering it was almost one hundred years ago! The Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public in 1937 and quickly established itself as one of the most recognizable bridges in the world.
Almost done in 1936.
On the bridge, we bopped right along.
There was a scenic viewpoint at which we stopped. The bridge is always being worked on, as you can see from the scaffolding.
Always under maintenance.
We got some excellent photos of the bridge and the SF skyline.
A fantastic view of San Francisco.
We went by Sausalito and the boathouse community. Our tour guide lives on one of these babies. The pontoons are concrete and rise and fall six feet daily. There are approximately 425 floating homes in Marin County, the overwhelming majority in Sausalito. These floating homes can be found across several different marinas, each with its distinct style and personality.
I love those houseboats.
The Doobie Brothers manager owns the first winery and was quite impressive. An under-the-surface aquifer waters the grapes, and they seldom have to apply water.
Bruce Cohn, former manager of the California rock band The Doobie Brothers, purchased the original area in 1974. He named the property the Olive Hill Estate Vineyards after the grove of 145-year-old olive Picholine Olive trees, from which he continues to make ultra-premium olive oil.
After selling grapes to other wineries for several years, Cohn founded his winery, B.R. Cohn, in 1984. His first winemaker was the now-famous Helen Turley. Like other wineries, it maintains a wine club and public tasting room and hosts weddings and other events.
The leaves were turning and dropping off; the grapes had just been harvested a month ago.
The grapes were terrific.
The wine-tasting expert took her spot and pronounced the flavors she tasted: old tires, used socks, belt leather, and bird droppings.
Chief Wine Taster.
We tasted pretty good!
The olive trees are ready to be picked! Here is how you do it at home:
Place your picked olives in a food-grade container.
Pour your brine over the olives to cover. …
Loosely seal a lid over the container and place it in your pantry.
Leave the olives to ferment for three weeks, then tighten the lid. …
After 2-3 months, your olives will be ready to eat.
They had 500 olive trees.
Back on the bus, I could NOT resist this photo-op!
We had lunch in Sonoma adjacent to the City Hall. The Sonoma Cheese Factory has been a purveyor of award-winning cheeses in the Sonoma Valley for 90 years.
The Sonoma City Hall is located next to the city park, making it an excellent spot for a picnic.
Sonoma City Hall
Lunch was delicious. We quickly finished it before heading to our second wine tasting. Back on the bus for more wine!
Robin and Mary2
We got a picture of all the Marys! I see four of them!
Mary and Mary
We had more wine at Roche; we were almost snockered before we got there. Located just south of the town of Sonoma, the Roche family’s new winery sits on the valley floor within their “Tipperary Vineyard,” located on their estate in the Carneros AVA. This new 17,000-square-foot winery is built for the future of Roche Winery. With a capacity to produce up to 50,000 cases annually, this modern, state-of-the-art winemaking facility was also planned to provide a visitor experience showcasing our well-known Irish hospitality.
We finished a lot of wine at Winery #2
Back to the ship, we arrive just in time for dinner!
Hurry, or you might miss a meal!
We met in our suite and went to dinner!
We dined in the Rudi’s Sel De Mar! Since it launched on Koningsdam as a stand-alone venue, Sel de Mer has garnered guest and industry acclaim. Rudi’s Sel de Mer will build on this success with a version of the menu of classic French dishes, including locally sourced seafood served in a setting that will transform the Pinnacle Grill alternative dining venue into an intimate brasserie with custom décor, plates, menus, and uniforms reflecting the ambiance of the original Koningsdam restaurant.
We started with a mountain of fishies!
Piled as high as an elephants eye!
Almost too pretty to eat!
Of course we had wine with dinner.
We crashed soon after dinner; wine takes a lot out of you!
Crashing early means getting up at 1:00 a.m. and watching the ocean pass by!