It was our relax day today on the island. We had kindof a tough night dive last night so we and our friends decided to take a break today. We spent the day walking the island and lounging by the pool. It was great! Very sunny again and each day I am here I love this vacation even more. We are having such a good time. Tomorrow we are heading to another island, Caye Caulker, to check it out. My friend Yvonne was a tour guide in Belize and she strongly recommended us visiting there. Its smaller than Ambergris, more laid back (if that is possible). We are looking forward to the adventure.

Tonight we are welcoming in 2008 by having dinner in town and witnessing the many festivities that are planned for the island.
Happy New Year!

ruins







This morning, Tom and I and our friends Doug, Gretchen and Patrick hopped onto a boat that headed through the Belize jungle to start our journey to Lamanai--- Mayan ruins on the mainland in Belize. Our journey took us by boat to a small and very rustic island called Baboo where we hopped an old school bus--which was blue (not before getting some pics with the belizian street dogs) and headed to another boat that took us to the ruins.
It was a long day, but so worth it. Each leg of the journey was beautiful. The guides we had were amazing. I learned a lot about the Maya people as well as the animals and plants that make up Belize. (Did you know that the closest language to Mayan is Japanese?)

After the ruins and a trek into the jungle to find the howler monkeys that were making so much noise, we headed back to boat, bus and boat to call it an early night.

I am having issues with loading pics. I will keep trying.

diving





Yesterday and today we went diving. We have seen more marine life in the last 2 days than we saw on our entire trip to cozumel last year including swimming with a very friendly turtle (for like 15 minutes), getting close to stingrays and petting and holding sharks! Its been amazing! The weather is great and we are really enjoying spending time with our friends Doug and Gretchen. Its such a great thing to forget what day of the week it is. :-) Tomorrow we are taking a trip to some Mayan ruins. Can't wait!

To the right of this posting in the other sites we like area, we've posted a web page with info on diving in Belize, on Ambergris Caye where we are. So far we have been to dos cocos, mermaid, cyprus and hol chan marine park in case you want to look those up. belize has the second largest reef in the world second only to the Great Barrier Reef.

I am posting pics in the Belize folder in the photos tab (link above).

much happier today!




Today is a good day! Our luggage showed up around 3pm! We found out this am that it was due in today so we relaxed and just enjoyed the town. We had a nice breakfast at a local place on the beach, Estelle's and then spent some time shopping and sight seeing around the town. It was a beautiful day here--mid 80's and we both agreed that here, we are in our element.

Today when we went to check out the dive shop at the dock just outside our hotel we noticed a boat that had come ashore and looked as if it came out of a movie set or the show Lost. It was made of weathered wood with a rickety sail and had large black inner tubes tied on the outside of the entire boat. Inside was littered with random articles of clothing and some empty water bottles. We didn't think much of it as the island is a bit un-kept in some places so this looked like it fit in. I joked about "renting" this boat to a few local guys on the dock and they told us that 3 days ago it showed up with 10 people aboard who fled Cuba and spent 16 days floating their way to Belize. We didn't believe them, we thought they were joking. After getting confirmation from the dive master we realized that this story was real. We are still a bit in disbelief---it was a very grounding moment for us. Unbelievable. All passengers lived, although nearly starved and severely dehydrated. The Belize police and some doctors met the boat as it came in and took them to Mexico and then they will head to the US.
On a lighter note, tonight we went to a local bar down the beach to witness and partake in a very famous Belize event: the Chicken Drop. This is how it works:
There is a square pen outside the bar in the sand filled with randomly placed numbered tiles from 1-100. For $1 each (.50 cents US) you blindly choose a tile(s) from a jar. After all tiles are purchased, everyone gathers around the pen and a chicken (or sometimes a rooster) gets shaken and twisted and then dropped into the pen. Whatever tile the chicken "drops" (poops) in is the winner. As soon as the chicken gets into the pen everyone is yelling and screaming to try to get the chicken to move around the tiles. Tonight--we had a lazy chicken. It was "dropped" on one tile, took one step onto OUR tile (#61) and stood there for like 10 seconds then did his business! We won $100 Belize dollars! It was great! After collecting our money Tom was called back to the pen to do his duty as the winning male and had to clean up the "drop" before the 2nd round began. We got some great pics, but will have to load them when we get home so stay tuned.
After the chicken drop we met up with our friends Gretchen and Doug who had just flown in from LA and had a light dinner. We are diving tomorrow at 8 am!

We are engaged! I can't express how happy I feel! Tom surprised me during "our" Christmas on the 23rd when we opened presents. He spoiled me completely so i didn't expect anything more than what I had already opened... but he told me he had one last thing that may match the earrings he bought me. He pulled out the most beautiful diamond I have ever seen and I immediately started to cry. It was a very private, very touching moment for both of us actually and one I will never forget. Of course, I said yes!!!!! My ring is gorgeous. Tom spent several sessions with the jeweler designing and re-designing the ring. For a wedding band we are still deciding what we'll do. We don't have a date set yet and that is fine for us. We plan on having a very quiet ceremony some place tropical but for now, we want to enjoy being engaged for a while :-)

We had a great time opening all of the gifts our families had sent. Thank you everyone!

Christmas Eve for us was also fairly quiet which was great. It was a beautiful sunny day, had a nice dinner at home and then finished up packing for Belize.

Today, Merry Christmas by the way, we flew out of New York at 6 am to Belize with a layover in Miami.
Miami and American Airlines are the newest members on our black list since our bags are missing. Yes--all 3 bags, didn't show in Belize. We were one of many people in the same predicament off of our flight. Since we had to catch the final leg of the flight on tiny Maya Air to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye (pronounced 'key') we had no choice but to leave without our luggage. We remained positive and realistic--I mean, this is Belize, right? To give you an idea, most of the roads on Ambergris are still dirt (those of you who know me best know that I love it authentic and non-touristy, so that dirt road comment is totally not a complaint)! But needless to say we are a bit frustrated. Its hot here, we have no change of clothes, no toiletries, NO SWIM SUIT OR DIVE GEAR!!!!!! Worst of all--- American doesn't know where the bags are. A tracer was put on them, but as of tonight-still nothing. The $50 credit American offers to refund us for replacing all of our essentials covers at most toothpaste and shampoo here. We got Tom some shorts and both of us flip flops (luckily I wore capris on the plane) but we are not too happy right now. We have made the best of it though and tomorrow is a new day and I am sure the luggage will show up!! So tonight, after having some Belize beer and some tasty seafood, we are having a quiet evening inside of our very cute and quaint authentic Belize hotel listening to the palm trees blow, the ocean that is just outside our window and the Caribbean Holiday music that is blaring, just as it should in Central America on Christmas night, in the streets below. We will tackle this beautiful island --and our lost luggage tomorrow.

Keep your fingers crossed and your thoughts positive for our luggage... :-)

I have tons of pics to post, but am having issues somewhat with the wi-fi (yep--Belize has wi-fi and it works about 80% of the time).


Last night Tom and I headed into the city to meet some friends for dinner and a show. We met our friends Caroline and Andy at Uncle Jack's NY Steakhouse in midtown. The minute we walked in I loved it! It had a warm yet sophisticated atmosphere and the wine glasses seemed to never be empty (ugh. needless to say I am a bit more sluggish than normal this am). After dinner we walked to the latest Cirque du Soleil show at Madison Square Garden. The show was called Wintuk and it was about a boys quest for snow. (Sounds a bit lame I know, but that is the description on the program!) As with all Cirque shows, there are some amazing feats of acrobatics and demonstrations of super human flexibility---but also like all of them, it was odd.
Now we consider ourselves fairly cultured--open to a wide variety of theatre etc, but about halfway through the show Tom and I looked at each other and well, no words were needed. You just have to wonder what kind of artificial stimulation the creators of this were on when writing the show. :-)The end of the show made up for any weirdness... it dumped snow in the auditorium! We were covered and it was just a great feeling! Everyone in the audience was smiling and laughing as if we were kids playing in real snow. Very neat.

After the show we went to Stout for a couple drinks. Not much talking went on there---the music was SO loud. We felt old for even thinking that, but its true.
We had a great time with our friends though and of course---anytime we can get into the city its a good day.

Today Tom is going to brave the malls. Apparently he still has some shopping to do... brave.
I too may attempt the mall, but not for necessity---just for the thrill of it! :-)

Tomorrow we are celebrating "our" Christmas! 3 days until Belize!

very cool video

to the right of this entry are web sites that we like and visit often. my cousin ryan has a link on his blog for "redkev"- a blog kept up by a guy from seattle. Someone redkev calls "Jo" shot this video and something about it just makes me happy. Maybe its because its snowing in Seattle and that rare occurrence usually brings happiness, or because I miss the capital hill area of the city--or perhaps yet, maybe because the song redkev hooked to the video is a christmas song that I actually forgot about, and love. Thanks redkev and jo! :-)
Enjoy.

first family visitor!






Well, its official- the first family member to visit us in New Jersey is Tom's older brother Fred. He flew into NY last night for a meeting today and then is flying back to Texas. Time was short so we met him halfway. He didn't see the house, which Tom holds against him a bit in his "first family visitor" title... but I understand and we were just glad to see him! He should be up here again for work so its only a matter of time before the dogs meet Uncle Fred. Hopefully the whole family will come up this summer!

We (Tom) also decided that we should paint the kitchen on Sunday. He assured me "Honey, it will only take a couple hours". We started around noon and around 11 pm we wrapped up. Longest couple hours ever. We are happy with the color but feel it wasn't one of our better paint jobs. We need to do some touch up.
One thing is for sure: I can honestly say, without a doubt, that this was our (my) last paint job EVER. After doing the entire house in Seattle (and then moving)and then this kitchen--we are done. We have alraedy found a guy to do our bedroom.

Tom heads to Virginia tomorrow and flies home Thurs night.
We are keeping pretty busy this week and year end is always a bunch of work for Diana with last minute deals and contracts. Its beautiful out today-- 100% sun but cold. Our backyard looks like a pond thats been iced over. The dogs don't really like heading out there much. Today poor Frank walked gingerly through the ice yard to find the "perfect spot" but then sadly lost his footing and ice-skated about 7' before falling and sliding on his side another 10 into the woods. He didn't have far to fall--thats the one good thing, and he recovered fine. :-)

*pics: tom and fred at dinner, tom painting the kitchen

radio city music hall







We trained into the city last night to see the famous "Christmas Spectacular" show at Radio City Music Hall. This show is of course famous for the Rockettes which are in nearly every number. It was what we thought it would be--- cute and something we had to do at least once---but I think we were both surprised at how much we enjoyed it! The dancers were great, the back-drops for each scene were amazing and they really focused on how New York is such a magical place to be at this time of year.

"Snow" fell in the auditorium, they had a live Nativity scene (camels. sheep, mules) and of course Santa narrated.We left feeling very much in the holiday spirit. We wandered over (more like pushed our way through--tons of people out) to Rockefeller center and saw the tree in all its glory. It was breathtaking from each angle. I am not sure if it was really the tree that looked so great--or that our mood made it and everything else in the city seem perfect. We had dinner at an Irish Pub just blocks away from Times Square and then we headed back to the train. We mentioned quite a few times how much Tom's nieces (and not just the little ones Kristen :-)) would love this show. We hope they can all come out next year!

Today we finished up some Christmas shopping (Tom got me a beautiful red pea coat and when I brought it home he liked it too :-)) and Tom finished changing out every single doorknob, hinge, etc on our doors throughout the house.
We got brave and went to Costco too. That was crazy!!!!! What were we thinking?

Only about a week before we head for Belize so we are getting ready for that and enjoying the remaining days of the season out here. We had about 4 " of snow on Thursday and its still around--very cold so no melting. We had a chance to get about 2-3 feet of snow tomorrow--but it seems instead we'll just get a bunch of freezing rain. Not nearly as exciting. :-(

Have a great weekend and we are loving the Christmas Cards everyone is sending! Thanks! Makes us feel like we are with some family at this time.

pics: tree at Rockefeller, st Patrick's(amazing to see in person), and some from the show at Radio City!









I took the day off and went into the city today to play tourist. People say that there is no place like NY at Christmas and those people are right. It is amazing. People everywhere were bundled up (it was very cold today---20's, but perfectly sunny) and it seemed like every 5th person I saw was a tourist. The pace was the same as it always is there--hectic, but today it seemed not as stressful of a hectic rush. My goal today was to wander around toward Central Park and to stop and see all the Department Store windows decorated for the holidays. I saw Macy's, Lord and Taylor's, Barney's, Bergdorfs and Saks. Each had full blocks (NY city blocks are much longer than "regular" blocks) of windows decorated with different themes. Bergdorfs had a Green theme, L & T had the "5 senses of Christmas", SAKS had multiple snowman windows, but my favorite was Macy's. Each window was focused on Santa and his journey throughout the world. Old school TV monitors were set up that broadcast the window watchers periodically and flashed if they were 'naughty or nice'. Each window at most of the stores was fully animated and so fun to watch.

After, during and before I experienced the windows, I witnessed all of the other decorations around the city. Its hard to avoid-- the decorations are everywhere! I loaded some in the photos tab if you want to take a look.

I did a little art shopping today too at Bryant Park. They have an ice skating rink with better views of the city than at Rockefeller and a large Holiday Market with many shops. We are buying some paintings and photos of NY scenes mainly. I also bought a very cool stocking hat (or as Tom would call it, a 'Toque' (Canadian is still a new language to me) :-)) and a NY skyline ornament for our tree.

It was a great day. I would have loved for Tom or one of my friends or family to be there with me... but I do enjoy wandering the city alone. I think I could go everyday and never run out of things to see.

pics: skating at Bryant Park, window (above view) of Rockefeller Center, santa decoration, window at Macy's





NY got its 1st snowfall for the year (see pic from Central Park).

o christmas tree





Today the Christmas music we have been listening to since Thanksgiving finally got to us and we went Christmas Tree shopping. We agreed that this year we'd go with an artificial tree. Our reasons were simple: By doing so we'd save a real tree, sort of (our attempt at going green in the recycle-less NE), we'd get years of use out of it and the savings each year on what we'd spend on a real tree would add up. Plus-- the artificials look so real these days.
So we went to Home Depot and they had quite the selection. We decided on a 9.5ft pre-lit. It was beautiful!
As Tom went to pull it out and saw that the box was longer than our car he hesitated for a split second. As I offered to get a cart something shiny caught our eye... no it wasn't one of the twinkling pre-lit lights, but the hardware holding the tree together deep near the trunk. We instantly looked at each other and realized 'oohhhh yeeeeaaaahhhh, we have to put it together'. We looked a bit closer at the mechanical trunk (which seemed far more elaborate than any other artificial tree either of us had ever seen before) and decided that the building of this tree (and the predictable unpleasant unassemble after the holidays) would add a bit too much stress to such a joyous season...so we quickly headed to the outside nursery thankful for our realization and reminding each other how fun it will be to put lights on the tree ourselves.

We got the tree home and got it up and decorated! We had a great time! Christmas music in the background, the dogs sneaking drinks from the tree stand (for those of you who are familiar with the movie a Christmas Story, we are calling the dogs the Bumpus hounds)---we already know it will be a great holiday!! :-) Its cold here--cold and clear! Its not supposed to get over 35 all week. Its so great to see so much sun in the fall/winter. Something we were NOT used to in Seattle.

Just a little factoid about people out here... they go all out for the holiday decorations. We first witnessed this at Halloween and we wondered then what Christmas would be like. Today we saw a few houses that would rival Clark W Grizwald for sure. Extra large inflatable decorations (Santa's, snowmen, nativity sets with EVERY character etc) seem to be the big draw... which we don't totally understand, but hey, we are new here, so who knows----maybe next year we'll have a couple inflatables.
Kidding, totally. We will not.
:-)

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