It's been 2 years since we took family pictures, so it was time! Here we are on our way there - it was a miracle we all got dressed and did our hair and were only 1/2 hour late! Nicole has the only vehicle we can all fit in, so she drove us there.
The photographer suggested we do complementary colors instead of colors that were all the same. She is the same photographer who took our pictures 2 years ago when we did all the same colors, and I think I like that better. Here are a couple of pictures to compare. What do you think?
On Christmas Eve we all went to our church's candlelight service together - such a special time - loved it! One of the pictures we took looks like a kaleidoscope - not sure how that happened but it looks kind of cool! Then Christmas day was nice and relaxed - breakfast around 11 and then we opened gifts. By the look of the kids all stretched out , it's exhausting opening all those gifts - lol! Don't forget those stocking stuffers!!
We have 2 of the best friends ever - Lee and Marie Perrella! We serve together leading the marriage ministry at our church every Thursday evening, so we got that time in together on 12/21. Then the next night, Friday night, we went out to dinner together and then went ballroom dancing! Fun, fun, fun! Then the next night we attended our church's Saturday evening service, and had our pictures taken together. So thankful for these 2!!
On Sunday, 12/16/18, 2 days after arriving home from New York and 2 days before my birthday, Tim received a call from one of his corporate clients that morning asking us if we would like to join them in their box seats for the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert that afternoon. Are you kidding?! Yes! And what a great concert it was! They really know how to put on a show, with lots of pyrotechnics!! Very fun!!
2 days later, it was my birthday!! We started out the day together (the whole family!) with Tim making a very scrumptious brunch of pancakes (blueberry, chocolate chip, and plain) and bacon for all of us!! Followed in the evening by an incredible chicken dinner with veggies and salad (same seats everyone!)! I topped off the middle of the day with a ballroom dancing lesson of the waltz and the foxtrot - I felt like I was floating! LOVED it!! Should have gotten someone to snap a picture of my lesson but didn't think of it. Maybe next year!
We were in New York for 48 hours, so our last 36 hours did not disappoint! We started our 2nd day out at Macy's, and wow - what an incredible place! The decorations on that first floor we walked into was incredible! I didn't realize how many floors there were - we just started riding that old wooden escalator up one floor after another, exploring each floor along the way. I think we went to all 8 or 9 floors in that place - it's HUGE! Here are a few pictures we took while we were there:
Then it was on to Grand Central Station! WooWoo! Chuga, chuga, chuga, chuga! It really is such an iconic building. We kind of just stood in the middle and did a 360 like goofy starry eyed tourists. We found the 'food court' and imbibed in some delicious pizza and chocolate shakes - yummy!
We left Grand Central Station (as evidenced by this picture of Nicole with the Grand Central sign behind her) and made our way via the subway to the American Museum of Natural History (where the Night of the Museum movies take place) to meet my niece and her boyfriend for a quick walk around the museum before they headed out to meet a childhood friend of hers that was in town. It was really great getting that time in together!!
We had originally said we weren't going to go to a show in New York because Nicole and I had both experienced going to a show there before and we didn't want to spend all that money and take all that time, yada yada yada. Well, it was about 7:30pm at night and we had actually kind of run out of things that we had wanted to do, because we had done pretty much all of them! So Nicole said she would like to go to a show. Unfortunately, evidently most of the shows start at 7pm!! Wow - so early!! I would have thought New York would have had a lot of late shows. Not so. However, we found an off broadway show called Puffs that started at 8pm, and we made it there! It was really written for Harry Potter fans as it is about this little known group from the series (kind of like the story behind the story) and since Nicole nor I had ever seen any of those movies we thought we might not like it but decided to give it a shot. It actually turned out to be super funny, and even though I'm sure we missed some of the humor we understood enough of it to definitely make it worth our while!! The whole cast came out afterwards and took pictures, so Nicole got several pictures with them but they are on her phone and I don't have them. If I get them from her I will update this. For now - here's the picture of us sitting in the theater waiting for the show to start:
We made it back to the hotel, and since our flight didn't leave until the afternoon we decided to squeeze in a few more hours Friday morning in the city. So we got up early, grabbed the free breakfast in the hotel, and hopped on a bus to go into the city. Our first stop, at the recommendation of my dad since he watches it every morning, was the Fox News morning show. We stood behind the group of people and waved at the camera, and my dad taped it and said he could barely see us in the back, but he saw us!! They had local circus they were interviewing and highlighting so we got a picture of that, too:
From there was walked towards central park, stopping to take some photos of the big Christmas Lights and big Christmas ornaments displays:
We thought this was such a cool looking tree, so I snapped a photo of Nicole in front of it! Then Starbucks was calling our name, so we ended up there talking with a fellow Christian who was really on fire for the Lord - it was a great time of fellowship for sure!
Finally, we made it Central Park! We were just going to walk around for a bit and then hop on a subway to take us back to our bus that would take us to our hotel. Wednesday night we had gone to the Bryant skating rink where Nicole skated, but I didn't feel very comfortable because it was so packed! But this morning we stumbled upon the famous ice skating rink in Central park just as it opened at 10am and there was virtually no one there! Nicole insisted we go, and even paid for us to go, and we had a blast!! My final picture I took of our time in New York was this one of the two of us standing in the rink - what a great memory to leave with!
We left there was very little time to spare! We literally ran for like 20 minutes through central park to the subway, where we waited for what seemed like forever for the subway to show up and take us to the Bus terminal. We hopped on the bus and barely made it back to our hotel by our extended check out time at noon, but we hadn't even started packing!! The hotel staff was super gracious and said no problem when I asked for another 15 minutes. We then called an uber and got to the airport about an hour and a half before our flight, so at least that part wasn't stressful!! What an incredible trip with an incredible daughter! So very thankful!!
Well, Nicole and I had a B-L-A-S-T in NY! We flew out Wednesday morning, December 12 on Jet Blue. I've never flown on Jet Blue. It was really great not paying extra for a carry on (unlike other airlines I've flown recently - cough cough Spirit / Allegiant)! Here is a picture from the airplane and another at the Newark airport while we were waiting on our Lyft - brrr!
We arrived at our hotel around 1:00pm and check-in wasn't for another 2 hours, but they were super accommodating and let us check in! Maybe that's why they called it the Super 8? Lol. I found this hotel on the internet searching for cheap hotels in NY, and it was only $87 a night which included breakfast and it was only 4 miles from Times Square! There was an express shuttle that picked us up right out the front door of the hotel and then about 15-20 minutes later dropped us off in Manhattan for only $3.25! Needless to say, we checked in, freshened up, and were downtown by 2pm! Here we are on the shuttle bus:
The bus dropped us off at the Port Authority, and as soon as we ventured out we were swarmed by costumed people gesturing for us to take a picture with them. As soon as I snapped this picture of Nicole they asked for 'tips', so we learned to stay away from costumed people from there on out! (What's up with the dude on the right?)
From there, we walked to Times Square and just took it all in! I kept saying, "Look at all the screens!" I couldn't believe how they were everywhere!!
A friend of Nicole's told her about this great restaurant called the Stardust Diner where aspiring actors and actresses work and sing while they are waiting on tables (and waiting to be discovered!). The line to get in was pretty short since it was still basically between lunch and dinner, and we had fantastic seats upstairs where we could see all the action downstairs. And the food was actually REALLY good!! Here's a picture of our waitress performing a song from Frozen, and then us standing outside the diner afterwards. This was a definite highlight of the trip!
We then walked over to Rockefeller Center and captured this shot of the amazing tree and the ice skaters below:
From where we were standing in this picture looking straight ahead, we saw this incredible light display set to music on the Saks 5th Avenue building. I found a youtube video someone put out there of the whole show that is below this picture if you want to click on it to see it - it was pretty cool!!
We walked back to the 'tree' and took an elevator downstairs to discover shops and restaurants down there, and most of all, heat! We wondered into the Swarovski store, which we discovered is the largest in the world. They even have a couch worth a million dollars made of Swarovski crystals, so Nicole and I had fun on that:
Upstairs from there is the infamous FAO Schwartz store. Upon entering the store there was a huge teddy bear just begging to be snuggled with, so Nicole was kind enough to oblige:
We walked through the whole store, and just when we were about to leave, we came upon the 'piano', made famous by the movie BIG. That was a TON of fun! Nicole snapped a picture of me playing 'heart and soul', and then the store employee who was manning the piano laid down on the floor to get this picture of us with the tree behind us because he had to get the star on top of the Rockefeller tree in the picture!! He was awesome!
When we left that store, we headed directly to Bryant Park. We had heard there were 3 places to ice skate in New York: Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Bryant Park, and we were told Bryant was the best one. When we got there I got a little intimated by the crowd and decided to sit it out. But Nicole went, and she had a blast! Isn't she adorbs?
Well, like everything - all good things must come to an end. The ice rink closed at 10pm so we headed back to the shuttle bus and back to our hotel. But we packed in a ton of stuff in those 8 hours!!
And a lovely Thanksmas evening it was! I have 2 pictures to share of everyone around the dinner table. The first is a candid shot of all but 3 of us digging in. My father is on the right next to me, and my sister-in-law on my right with my niece, Leeann, next to her. Across from Leeann is her boyfriend, Matt, and next to him my nephew, Danny. Then there is Carol and Roger (my parent's best friends!).
This next shot has everyone in it!
I just loved being together with everyone there!! The time just flew by!
The next day, Wednesday December 5th, was my doctor's appointment. Tim and I, along with Nicole, drove into Detroit for my appointment with my urologist, Dr. Alanee. He did a cystoscopy on my bladder, and I honestly thought it looked much redder than I'd seen it. He explained and showed us that the red was just the blood vessels and were good indicators of good blood profusion. It also made the scars from all the biopsies I've had very easy to see. He said everything looked good to him and to come back in 6 months. The urine cytology came back with the same results I've been having - atypical cells - cannot rule out carcinoma. So, while I would love to hear a report like, "all normal cells - definitely cancer free!", I continue to be reminded not to place my trust in anything but the Lord. And while I'm doing that, I'm living life to the fullest! Next post will be about my trip to New York City with Nicole!!
Hello, Friends! Got a little catching up to do since my last update, so let's get to it. First, I have one more picture from Hawaii that I wanted to post. We were in the airport in Honolulu behind a lady with one arm who looked a lot like Bethany Hamilton whose life the movie Soul Surfer was based on. Well, long story short, it WAS her, and she was gracious to let me take a picture with her:
So that was pretty cool! When we arrived home I noticed our amazing avocado tree was suddenly dying. We consulted with an arborist who said that it had contracted a lethal fungus called laurel wilt that kills red bay type trees and a few other species very quickly, and there's nothing that can be done to save it. Here's a picture of it before we had it removed:
It had it's longest and most productive season this time since we bought our home 5 years ago. So very sad to see it go!
On a bright note, we were able to see Nathan play his ultimate frisbee championship games the Thursday after we got back from Hawaii! We had never been able to see him play since he always plays on Thursday nights and we have a commitment to our marriage ministry that we lead at our church that meets every Thursday night. But that was a rare Thursday we weren't meeting, so we were able to go see him play! His team lost in the final, but it was an exciting and close one! So proud of him!
Well, I mentioned a couple of months ago that we had kittens, and I just have to show you a few of the cutest pictures we took of them. They have all been rehomed so I'm already missing them. I enjoyed them SOOO much as I always do, but even more this time. My favorite thing of all time is to have a fire in the fireplace and a Hallmark movie on with a kitten in my lap! So I was going to have our cat fixed after this, but I think we'll go for one more time. Aren't they just the sweetest things ever?
We made our last WinShape trip of the year November 5-7 to attend a vision casting session with one of our favorite marriage ministries, Intimate Life Ministries. We don't have anything on the books for next year but WinShape sent us their schedule and asked us to let them know when we would be available to serve. We're going to volunteer to be the host couple for several of their retreats and host couple trainings, so hopefully some of those will work out!!
My brother worked for a company in Tampa for a few months, so I was able to see him more this fall than I have for the past several years combined! One time we met at the Tampa River Walk and took a nice stroll, and then Tim and Nicholas joined us for dinner. And another time he came over and helped Nicole set up a cool telescope she had received for free from her astronomy class! It was so great being able to connect with him!
And then, my dad actually drove up to spend the day with me and even spent the night the week before Thanksgiving. We had a very nice visit together, along with playing with the kittens! :-) This is Nicole and I seeing him off when he left.
Thanksgiving day was just the 6 of us and one of Nathan's friends, Haroon, from college. Haroon is from Pakistan, and this was his first Thanksgiving here, so we were very privileged to have him with us! It was such a beautiful day we moved the dining table out to the lanai and ate out there. After we ate we played a game I stole from a Hallmark movie I had seen where we all wrote out something we were thankful for or admired about every person around the table, and then put what we wrote about them in their cups, and they had to read them and guess who wrote what. That was really a special time - LOVED IT!!
The next day Nathan and 2 of his friends left early in the morning to drive up to Hickory, NC, dropping Haroon off at college on the way. The rest of us left several hours later and drove up to Franklin, NC. We stayed at Eagles Rest, a cabin owned by a friend of ours, and that next day, Saturday, was one of the happiest days of my life! Nicole and I sat by the fire and read and talked and listened to the piano guys, and then Nathan and his friends showed up around noon and then played some worship songs by the fire. A little later, Tim and I went and sat out on the front porch and just enjoyed being together. Then that evening a young lady whose grandmother lives next door who we met on one of our first visits to the cabin 15 years ago came over and we had a very nice visit catching up with her. It was just a very special day that I will cherish in my heart. Here are some pictures from our time there:
We drove back home on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and then Friday Tim and I flew up to Grand Rapids to attend a marriage conference in a small town called Zeeland, MI. We couldn't believe all the SNOW!! We went to the downtown area, and it looked like one of those towns you see in the Hallmark movies - so cute! The conference was Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday (yesterday) we went to church with the conference speakers and then to their house for lunch. Funny story, the family sitting in front of us at the church had twin daughters who were born 2 days after the triplets. So I snapped my picture with them (see below) and texted the picture to the kids, telling Nathan and Noah I had found wives for them! Lol! We had a lot of fun banter back and forth, and the final verdict was that Nathan was going to marry the girl on the right and Nicholas wanted the one of the left (Noah wasn't interested). Too funny! After lunch we drove to Lake Michigan and snapped a picture just to show we were there! From there we headed over to my parent's house near Detroit, stopping at my sister-in-law's home to have dinner with her and my nephew, Danny (sorry - forgot to get pictures of that!)
When I was growing up, my grandparents owned a mansion on an island about an hour outside of Detroit called Harsen's Island where we spent a large part of our summers. My grandpa sold it to a family friend, George, who has always said any of us in the family could go visit any time. So we picked up a key from George this morning, and first thing after that we drove by the motel my grandfather used to own called the Mel Plaza. I snapped a picture of that along with a picture of the convenient store he used to own right across the street. I remember my grandfather used to walk us over to his store, hand us a little paper bag, and tell us to fill it with candy as much as we wanted! From there, Tim and I drove out to the 'cottage' as we used to call it. The only way onto the island is via a ferry, which only adds to the charm. It was really great walking down memory lane today. The weather was cold and gray with a few snow flurries along the way, which kind of made it all the more special, if that makes any sense. After taking a tour of the house while I reminisced and told stories about each room we went in, we went to lunch at a restaurant just about a block away from the cottage that I had never been to before. We dined on yummy of cream of broccoli soup, and I had a perch sandwich. The big freighters go by right in front of the house, and one came by while we were having lunch so I got a picture of it!! After lunch we returned to the cottage for a luxurious nap, and then headed back to civilization. There was a sign right by the ferry that someone put up that cracked me up. It is the last picture in the group of photos below for your enjoyment:
Tomorrow Nicole is flying up and we're going to have a Thanksmas party at my parents house where we're staying!! These are relatives we hardly ever get to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with, so we're really excited to do a combo celebration with them tomorrow. Tim and I are making beef wellington and mushroom wellington, along with mashed yukon gold potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce and a salad. My sister-in-law and nephew, along with my niece and her boyfriend, and my parent's best friends (along with my parents and Nicole, of course!) will all be here! Can't wait!
Tim & Jodie