Lake House Fun!!!

Something happened this Father’s Day weekend that has never happened before! The entire immediate D’Elia Family was together in one place for 2 days! Two parents, three siblings, three spouses, and three grandkids! But first, we had to get there!

After a wonderful week in Ocean City with our two oldest Grandkids (https://rnewadventures.com/2021/06/25/two-kids-at-the-beach/), the four of us were looking forward to the weekend at Lori and Bill’s Lake House, on Roanoke Rapids Lake in North Carolina. Lori and Bill were going to pick up Uncle Kenny and Uncle Chris at the airport, and then drive to the house. Waze said that the trip would take about 6 hours for us, so we figured with bathroom stops and a lunch break, we’d all get there about the same time, if we left about 8:30 in the morning. On Friday, we all got up, Susie got Layla and Henry some cereal and toast for breakfast, and Grandma and I got ourselves, and what we were taking with us ready. Just after 8:30 we pulled out of the driveway, and thought we were in great shape!

Waze took us up the AC Expressway to Philadelphia and then down I-95 towards Delaware. When we stopped at the Delaware Welcome Center to switch drivers, we’d made great time, and were right on schedule, but traffic was getting heavy. Then, as Susie drove through Maryland, we were bitterly attacked by Cicadas! First one bounced off the windshield, leaving a white streak, and then Susie saw a swarm of them flying across I-95! Size-wise, somewhere between an insect and a small bird, three or four more slammed into the front of the car and the windshield with a resounding thud! At one point, our Granddaughter Layla cried out, “Come On Now!” in reaction! When we switched drivers in southern Maryland, the front of the car was plastered with their remains! Yuck!

Traffic was heavy, but moving as we crossed into Virginia, and thankfully the Express Lanes around Washington had changed directions, and we were able to use them! Regular 95 South was a parking lot, and we were happy to pay for the convenience of driving at the speed limit! However, as we approached the end of the southern express lanes, our joy was replaced with dread! Of course, traffic was heavy when the Express Lanes merged with regular 95, but unlike what usually happens, we crawled for most of the rest of our trip! A couple of times Waze took us off 95, but honestly the relief was short lived. Suffice it to say that the trip that we’d figure to do in 7 hours with stops, took 10 full hours! The kids were troopers (even when they had lunch at 2:30) and although Henry wanted to know a lot if we were in North Carolina, they did real good! Then, suddenly we saw the North Carolina border, and within miles had exited 95 and were near the Lake House!!

It was the trip from Hell, but once we pulled up outside Lori and Bill’s Lake House, it was so worth every minute of every hour on the road! Bill, Kenny and Chris met us at the car, and after hugs were exchanged, quick work was made of emptying the Honda! Then the fun started. We went down to the house, hugged Lori and 2 year old Annabelle, and quickly started making plans to head out to the lake and their pontoon boat! Some munchies, some drinks, and family time on the lake…what could be better!

We sat around the fire pit on the deck way too late that night, and with 3 little kids, morning was early too! Another beautiful day in North Carolina, as we anticipated the arrival of Aunt Krissi and Uncle Mike, and the completion of our family circle. As we had a couple of hours till Krissi and Mike arrived from New York, a little more boating was on the agenda after those who wanted it had breakfast. Problem was, the boat wouldn’t start! We tried everything from jump starting the battery to pushing every button on the dash, but nothing. Bill tried calling his dealer’s service department, but on a beautiful Saturday in mid-June, he was told that perhaps they could get to him in a week or two. Not what our son wanted to hear! None the less, after Krissi and Mike arrived, the lake was still the spot for everybody, and a great time was had in and around the boat house!

That night, we all feasted on wonderful Cheesesteak Sandwiches that Lori created, along with Grandma D’Elia’s macaroni salad. To top off a wonderful day, there were s,mores on the back deck as the sun set on another wonderful day of Father’s Day weekend!

Sunday morning, actual Father’s Day, dawned with a wonderful gift for our son Bill…He and Lori had found a boat repairman to come look at the dead pontoon boat! The second piece of good news was the problem was just a blown fuse, which he replaced, and showed Bill where it was and how to do it, and even left him a couple of spares! Even better, the guy wouldn’t take any money! He just asked for a good review! Lori and Bill now have a new pontoon boat repair guy!

Layla and Henry gave their Daddy the Father’s Day cards they’d made with Grandma as well as the flag, pole, and bracket they’d wrapped in Ocean City. Grandpa got several wonderful cards, gift cards to Chipotle (from Kenny and Chris), Omaha Steaks (from Bill and Lori), a custom made New Rochelle baseball cap from Krissi and Mike, and a Grandpa cup from the little D’Elias to match the Grandma mug they’d gotten Grandma for Mother’s Day! Great gifts, but the greatest gift of all was the weekend with our family!!!

Gift giving over, it was time to hit the Lake on the pontoon boat and have fun!! Now with a happy oldest son/husband/father because his boat worked!!

Early that afternoon, Lori and Bill’s good friends and neighbors from Wake Forest, Courtney and Adam, showed up to join in our Father’s Day celebrations. Not only are the four parents good friends, but Adam and Courtney’s daughter Violet is a good friend of Layla’s and their son Crosby and our Henry are good friends! We loved Adam and Courtney and what could be better for our two oldest Grandkids than to have people to play with, well, besides Uncle Chris, Uncle Kenny, Uncle Mike and Aunt Krissi!

It was a fun afternoon on the boat, enjoying it as a platform to swim in the lake as well as some adventurous tubing courtesy of Captain Bill!!

Dinner that night was under the direction of Chef Uncle Chris, as he grilled several tri tip steaks that Grandma and Grandpa had brought from Ocean City, along with all kinds of delicious sides. Full and happy, the night concluded with Layla reading her story of she and Henry’s time with Grandma and Grandpa, with an able assist from Aunt Krissi!

It was a wonderful weekend, and a wonderful way to cap off an incredible week in Ocean City with Layla and Henry! Grandma and I were tired, but oh so happy! Thank you to Krissi and Mike and Kenny and Chris for flying to North Carolina, and for making the weekend probably the best Father’s Day ever! A special thanks to Lori and Bill for being the perfect hosts and for coming up with the idea originally. None of it would have happened had you not bought the Lake House and the boat, and once again, we applaud your decision, and the wonderful family memories that will come because of that decision…including this great Father’s Day Family Reunion!

Family is wonderful, especially when 3 generations get to spend time together! We truly love our 3 kids, their spouses, and of course, the 3 most incredible Grandkids in the world! Color us proud and very happy!!!

Two Kids At The Beach

Late on the night of November 3, 1982, our oldest child, William Ryan D’Elia, came into our lives. About 7 months later, he had his first vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey, and his first exposure to the beaches and boardwalk I had known as a kid. 4 years later, he was joined by his sister and brother, and Krissi and Kenny’s Ocean City life started too! For the rest of their childhood years, part of every summer was spent in Ocean City. In a way, Bill, Krissi, and Kenny grew up here, as this was the beach and boardwalk they knew as kids, and still love today.

On Sunday, June 13th, Susie and I drove from Ocean City to the Philadelphia Airport (a trip that would have been immeasurably easier had the Yankees not been playing the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park near the airport) to meet a flight from Raleigh/Durham North Carolina. There were 3 special passengers on that flight…our son Bill and his two oldest kids, 7 year old Layla and 5 year old Henry, who were here to spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa, and get to know the town that their Dad knew as a kid! After getting Daddy to the correct terminal for his return flight to Mommy and youngest sister, 2 year old Annabelle in North Carolina, Layla, Henry, Grandma, and Grandpa headed to their week of fun under the sun!

Our son had brought up the idea of this trip to us several months before, and we had busily been making plans. I think it was a toss up who was more excited: Layla and Henry or Grandpa and Grandma! We’d made plans, and Susie had lists of things we could do, but in the end, the beach, boardwalk, front porch of the house, and just enjoying our time with the kids was the best thing we did!

Of course, there had to be trips to the beach, with romps in the ocean, building sandcastles, burying each other, digging holes, finding shells, and kite flying. Turns out that Grandma and Layla did a better job getting the kite in the air than Grandpa and Henry, but in the end, the wind pulled the kite handle out of Layla’s hand, and even though the kids (and Grandma) chased it, the wind dumped it in the ocean. A nice man retrieved it, but it was a total loss. Wind: one – Layla: zero!

There was a trip to Hoys on Asbury Avenue where the kids got the required Ocean City sweatshirts, hats to keep the sun off their heads, and water shoes. For Susie and I, suddenly we were back in the 1980s and trying to keep our kids focussed on what they were looking for, and not the toys that were in the next aisle!

Ice Cream was always a part of our beach vacations back in the day, and the same can be said for Layla and Henry’s time with us. Not one, but two ,times did we head over to Custard Hut, where the hardest part was deciding what they were going to get, and keeping as much ice cream as possible off Henry! I know Grandma and Grandpa loved it, and I’m pretty sure the two little D’Elias did too!

Of course, there are things that are almost mandated by law that have to be included in an Ocean City vacation, and we followed all those rules too! From playing Mini-Golf (Henry has a decidedly “Happy Gillmore” like swing), to visiting the Discovery Seashell Museum (it was much better when our kids were young and run by people who loved the ocean as more of a passion than business), to doing as their Dad and Aunt and Uncle did as kids, and enjoying the big playground on 34th Street, to watching them make Salt Water Taffy at Shriver’s on the boardwalk, and then filling a bag with your choices!

A family rule is that no D’Elia can visit Ocean City, New Jersey without having at least one meal of “Hose Pizza”, and as good Grandparents, we followed that rule! The pizza place (it’s real name is Manco and Manco) has been part of the Ocean City Boardwalk since the 50s, and was one of the pizza places my Dad liked when we first came to Ocean City way back when I was five years old. The name “Hose Pizza” was given to it by our son Bill when he was 2 or 3, because unlike most pizza places, here they apply the tomato sauce via a hose, and once he saw that, when asked what he wanted to eat on the boardwalk, young Billy always said he wanted to go to “Hose Pizza”. The one we went to is the newest on 9th Street that used to be the old Strand Movie theater. Great to see that old building still being a part of Ocean City’s Boardwalk life, and great that Henry and Layla love “Hose Pizza” too, keeping a 4 generation relationship alive!

Ocean City’s Boardwalk features two big Amusement Piers, and what kind of Grandparents would we be if we didn’t spend at least one evening at the rides!! Layla and Henry enjoyed lots of rides at Gillian’s Wonderland, but agreed that they are pretty much done with the “baby rides”, and that next time they come, they’ll concentrate on only Big Kid Rides! They really liked the Bounce ride, the Superman ride, the Fun House, and the Glass Maze, where Henry refused to walk with his hands in front of him, and kept bumping his head on the mirrors! When I got them on the Merry-Go-Round, I told them to find Grandma and I, and wave at us every time they went around. About the 4th or 5th time around, Layla gave me a look, and I said to Susie, “Layla just gave me a Krissi look!”, you know, the one that says, “Shut up Dad and stop calling out my name!!!” Message received! Who says history doesn’t repeat!

A tradition we honored each trip to Ocean City when our kids were young, was getting an Ocean City T-shirt. It was a very involved process, that could take days to complete. First, they had to agree on which T-shirt shop we should go to. Then there was the process of picking out the design they wanted on the shirt. Last, they’d decide on the color T-shirt they wanted. These decisions often lasted the length of the trip, with the purchase finally happening on our last night on the boardwalk. We were able to speed the process up with Layla and Henry, and do it all in one day…our last day, on the boardwalk. We ended up at the same shop we usually shopped at with our kids, Layla and Henry knew that the design had to say Ocean City, NJ someplace (rule worked out when their Dad was 2 or 3), and they made sure it did. Design picked out, the two of them then had to decide what color T-shirt they wanted. With that taken care of, then it was time for the lady to put the design and the T-shirt into the heat machine, and make their shirts. I think Layla and Henry enjoyed following in their Dad’s footsteps, and Grandma and I did too!

That was some of the big stuff we did, but as I said up front, just enjoying our time with the kids doing simple stuff was just as wonderful! The first night they were here, I read them a story before going to bed. It was a story I’d written when their Dad and Aunt and Uncle were kids, and our three kids were the prime characters in the stories. They were called “Three Kids” stories, and I wrote a total of three of them. The morning after reading it, Layla came to me and asked if we could write a story about their time in Ocean City. She decided that we should call it “Two Kids at the Beach or Layla and Henry Visit Their Grandparents”. After we’d come home from somewhere, Layla would dictate what we should write while I typed on the computer. Multiple times during the day, Layla would come to me and say, “Let’s work on our story Grandpa,” and off we’d go for 10 or 15 minutes, and do just that. By the time Thursday was done, we had 7 pages, including some pictures. Grandma, the best editor around, corrected what we’d written, I printed it, and then Grandma laminated it so Layla can have it for a long time. I’m gonna miss those, “Let’s work on our story Grandpa” words from my smart, precocious Granddaughter!

We’re gonna miss those times we sat on the front porch and watched the world of Pennlyn Place go by. Like the morning Layla and I watched our 99 year old neighbor Doie ride her scooter down our driveway and up to the boardwalk for the daily Ocean City Flag Raising. That led to a discussion of Doie being a Marine in World War II and what being 99 means. Or watching Christina our mail lady arrive and have Layla say, “I’ll go down and get the mail Grandma and Grandpa.” Or Henry running down the stairs to put the garbage cans away after the Garbage Men emptied them and saying, “I got them Grandpa.” Or Layla waving to Emma across the street and watching her new Jeep come and go, and then talking to Emma’s Mom and Dad (sorry Bittenbenders if it seemed like Layla was stalking Emma a bit…). Or watching our neighbor’s dogs Beach Boy and Breaker Boy getting walked, and wondering when Doc was coming home. I had fun on Flag Day telling them what we were celebrating, and watching the kids decide they wanted to get a flag and flag pole for their Daddy for a Father’s Day present. They both became very comfortable in our house and we loved that.

There was meal time fun with Grandpa making eggs or Grandma fixing their waffles or cereal for breakfast, making sandwiches for lunch, cooking mac and cheese and hot dogs, or heating up pizza. There was the night we ordered Chinese Food and Layla and Henry eating everything, and then having Layla tell us, “It’s almost as good as North Carolina Chinese!” Or the day we discovered, as we sat down to eat, that yes, Henry does like McDonald’s cheese burgers, but NOT with ketchup and pickles! Or Henry and Grandma putting a puzzle together and Grandma working with both of them to make Father’s Day cards for their Daddy.

There was the day we switched cars around, and rather than go out in the Honda CR-V, we all piled into Grandpa’s old 2000 red Mustang convertible with the top down to go to the Acme Grocery and drive around Ocean City. The kids loved watching the top go up and down, which they did multiple times, but to quote what Layla wrote in her story, “Too hot, too much sun, too much wind and no room for feet in the back seat!”

So those are just some of the highlights of a wonderful week with Layla and Henry! I’ve heard it said that Grandchildren are the reward for not killing your own kids before they became adults. If that’s the case, we were richly rewarded last week. To spend the better part of 5 days with our two oldest, to learn from them, to see how they’ve grown, to get hugs and kisses, and called Grandma and Grandpa was a delicious treat for the two of us. To be able to watch them experiencing Ocean City, and to remember back to yesteryear when their Dad was their age, and doing the same things for the first time, was just a wonderful time capsule for us. It was a great week, and I just hope that it was as wonderful a week for Layla and Henry as it was for Susie and me! Thanks Lori and Billy for lending us your two oldest for a week!

A great week, only needs a great weekend to cap it off, and that’s exactly what we had next! Look for our next blog, Lake House Fun, coming soon to an internet near you!!

Santa Lights

There was nothing better to do this time of the year, when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little, then to pile into the Ford Taurus station wagon, and drive around Mineola and the surrounding villages and look at what we called “Santa Lights.” That term came into being, because on one of our nights looking at the houses, one of the kids wanted to know why some houses were decorated, and others weren’t. Susie and I creatively informed our 3 little ones that the ones that were decorated had little kids living there, and the lights were so that Santa could more easily find the houses on Christmas Eve. Thus was born the term, “Santa Lights!”

Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny when we moved into the Mineola house, and Billy hadn’t had his 4th birthday yet, so we indeed did have little ones at home in those early years in Mineola, and did our best with Santa Lights! We must have pictures someplace, but in the late 80s and early 90s, years of everyone not having a digital camera in their pocket, the numbers of pictures we have of things like our house decorations are not large. The Mineola house had a front porch, and ours was the site of an annual Christmas portrait! Right in the center, there was a fireplace (a fake fireplace that was in the first house we bought in New Hyde Park, and although never used inside, traveled to Mineola with us) that included a burning fire (well, a nailed together group of logs and a carefully placed flicker bulb which made it look like a roaring fire), which was outlined with lights, and complete with stockings hung from the chimney with care! To one side was a Christmas tree (a fake tree that was a hand me down from my work friend Johnny Donovan) , and one of our porch chairs, that Santa was sitting in (Santa was a plastic type character suit, that was stuffed with newspapers every year). Of course there were presents under the tree, and Christmas music playing from a hidden speaker! To the left of the porch, on the lawn, was an illuminated manger scene complete with a creche I’d made with firring strips! Very fitting we thought for a house that had 3 little Santa recipients in residence!

As the kids got older, and tastes changed, we went from colored lights to all white lights out front, and the fireplace, tree, Santa and the Manger scene morphed into garland and wreaths and lighting up the fence around the house. Things were added and we refined the look as the years went on, and honestly, as we got older and the kids no longer lived with us, we went for ease of decorating too! The last year we decorated the Mineola house was Christmas 2016, before we sold the house after 31 years. Here’s a look at that!

Although we no longer have little kids, and that faithful Taurus station wagon is long gone, we now live down at the beach in Ocean City, and looking at Santa Lights is still a nice way Susie and I like to spend some time at Christmastime! In fact, as I write this, we’ve already made three passes at Ocean City in our Honda CRV to check out the neighbors and their Santa Lights!

Here’s a look at some of our Pennlyn Neighbors…

And here’s what we can see from our front porch.

Here are some of our favorites that we saw around town!

‘Atsa My Boat

Early in 1976, WHN Radio negotiated and signed a new contract with Local 1212 of IBEW. Because the WHN Transmitter in East Rutherford, NJ had recently been unmanned, the contract called for a reduction of 2 members of the Engineering Department. The contract detailed a generous separation pay of one year’s salary, along with one year of medical benefits, as well as the ability for those leaving to collect NYS Unemployment Insurance. One of the older guys in the department took the “buy out”, but when no one else was interested in leaving the department, after 4 years at the station, and being on the lowest rung of the seniority ladder, I was tapped to take the “buy out”. The one year of salary for me came to a figure somewhere in the mid $20,000, and what did I do with it? Well, I bought a boat!

For somewhere around $10,000, I traded in my 17 foot bow rider outboard for a brand new 1975 Wellcraft 21 foot Weekender. With a Ford 302 V/8 and an outdrive, a small cabin with two bunks, a place for a “head”, and a cockpit table, the boat was what kept me busy from my separation date in the early spring of 1976, till I started at WABC in August. It was a lot of fun setting up the boat at Coastwise Marine in Westport, Connecticut, and then when the weather turned to “boating weather”, getting a handle on running my new boat up and down the Saugatuck River, and in Long Island Sound! I was 26 years old, had money in the bank, a year of health insurance, and time on my hands. I immersed myself in the nautical way of life! In addition to buying and working on the boat, I took a Coast Guard Reserve Small Boat course, and joined a Nautical Book of the Month Club!

My book choices included things like Chapman Piloting: Seamanship & Small Boat Handling, Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, as well as other useful books in my endeavor to master the act of running my small boat. There were also books about adventures people were having in small boats, and one of them that I still remember to this day was Lin and Larry Pardey’s Cruising in Seraffyn. The book told the story of Seraffyn, their wooden 24-foot engineless cutter and and how Lin and Larry built her with the hope of setting off for a few months of true freedom in spite of their limited finances. Their few months turned out to be a lifetime of sailing around the world, but that first book also turned out to be a carefully thought-out guide to living aboard a small boat, with fun and good seamanship as guiding principles. It was a true love story of Lin and Larry and a boat named Seraffyn, and the life it gave them!

I was captivated with the story and their adventures of first building, then launching, and ultimately cruising in Seraffyn. I was so captivated that when I was finished with the book, I wrote Lin and Larry a “fan letter” and sent it to them care of their publisher! About 6 months later, one day in the mail, I received a very obviously foreign Air Mail letter that was postmarked from Spain. It turned out that their publisher had forwarded my letter to them, and had it had finally caught up with them in Spain. The letter I got was from Lin, and she told me how happy they were to get my letter and that it had showed up at just the right time. Turns out they were in the midst of re-writing the follow up book called Seraffyn’s European Adventure. They’d had a particularly tough day, trying to work through some re-writes that their editor had asked for, and were at the breaking point. They really wondered if it was worth all the work, and if anyone cared. Then my letter showed up in the mail! Lin thanked me to expressing just what they needed to hear….to know that there was an audience out there in the literary world that cared about their life aboard Seraffyn, and that the work they were struggling with was indeed worth it. I treasured that letter and my connection with these two people, and in the end, I was very happy that I’d taken the time to write them and to encourage their continued effort to share their story with the rest of us.

The reason this memory came back to me, and I’m writing this now is because at the end of August, I was very sad to read in the NY Times that Larry Parday had died at the age of 80. During his lifetime, he had circumnavigated the world twice on wooden boats he had built, and along with his wife Lin, had told the tail of the life they lived. They were an incredible couple, led an extraordinary life, and were an inspiration to many, including a 26 year old between jobs with a new boat, and a love of a good sea tale!

Thank you Lin and Larry for your spirit of adventure. I hope the warm memory of their shared 55 year adventure will sustain Lin as she moves forward in life. Thank you for living the life many only dream about, and for connecting with me all those many years ago via that thin air mail stationary that contained your kind words of thanks. I have never forgotten you, or your letter!

Fair Winds and Following Seas sir, and thank you for sharing a life well lived with us!

Lin and Larry aboard Seraffyn

Larry Parday’s NY Times Obituary from August 28th….
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/obituaries/larry-pardey-dead.html

Doubletree Resort, Hollywood Beach, Florida

Last week at this time, Susie and I were at what has become one of our favorite hotels, the Doubletree Resort in Hollywood Beach Florida. Located on A1A at 4200 South Ocean Drive in Hollywood Beach, right along the Intracoastal Waterway, and just next to the Hallandale Beach Bridge…it’s a perfect location.

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This is our 3rd year staying here, and our longest stay, and honestly, we were wondering if we were going to be bored staying from Monday to Sunday. Well, we soon discovered we had nothing to fear, and from the time the valet took the Honda CRV from us on Monday afternoon, we never left the hotel again! We treated it like an all inclusive resort, and since we’ve been to the area a lot, including several times in recent years, there was no need to do anything but relax on the property!

The property is beautiful, the rooms wonderful, and the view from our 7th floor balcony is just incredible! What a wonderful view to go to sleep to each night and to wake up with every morning.

Then there is the pool…and what a pool it is! With it’s location right along the Intracoastal Waterway, we liked nothing better than to stand in the pool, and watch boat after boat after boat go by. The entire pool area is wonderful and the Lava Tiki Bar right next to the Intracoastal is a place we’ve spent so much time…both day and night! Great drinks, excellent food, and great staff!

Speaking about the staff, to our mind they take an already good property and elevate it to Diamond Status! The first person we met was Joe, the Concierge/Bell Captain…. by the time I checked in, he and my Susie were best friends! He was from Brooklyn, had run a cemetery in Pennsylvania for many years, and knew exactly where Ocean City was. What a great guy and never failed to say hello every time we saw him all week!

In the morning we had great breakfasts in the Port South Grill, served by great servers including Jackie, and Stephen.

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Our afternoons were spent at the pool and bartenders Frank, and Calford made excellent drinks and were quick with a smile and a joke!”

Every night but our last (too windy), we were outside at the Tiki Bar (why not..it’s March and 70+ degrees!) and enjoyed the drinks and companionship of John, Ian, and Frank behind the bar, and the friendship of Serge the server.

In fact, after spending a night talking with Frank as he served us, the next morning, we were at the pool less than 10 minutes when he showed up next to us with two Bloody Marys saying, “Here are the Bloodies I promised you last night!”

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Then there was the pool staff! Casandra at the towel hut and the hardest working man in the hotel, Carlos the Majordomo of the Doubletree Pool! He never stops! Great work ethic and a very nice man to boot!

Somebody else we interacted with was Karl at the front desk, who was so helpful to us when we had a little problem with our room’s Do Not Disturb sign. On one of our last mornings, we’d left about 11:30 and discovered that someone had taken our Do Not Disturb sign while we were in the room. When we came back at 5:30, the room was not made. So we went to the desk and spoke with Karl to get new towels and a new Do Not Disturb sign. The next day, when we went to the pool, we put our new Do Not Disturb sign in the room, but when we came back, we found another Do Not Disturb sign on our door knob, which caused our room not to be made up! Can you say Gas Lighting? Bottom line, we got our room made up that day, and left with a story to boot!

Now, just as an example of how well this hotel is maintained, our last morning coming out of the Port South restaurant we passed this gentleman, who spent his days touching up the paint around the hotel! Incredible!

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So, I guess you understand we love this hotel, the location and especially the staff! We will be back to visit our “friends” again, because that’s what the staff is to us! Great job! Thanks for a wonderful, relaxing 6 nights! Sorry it’s over….oh, and by the way, we used Hilton Honors points and stayed for free! Winning!!

 

The First Christmas

No, not the one that took place in a manger in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  I’m talking about the one that took place in a small village on the North Shore of Long Island in the year 1979.  I’m talking about the first Christmas Susie and I spent as a married couple, in our apartment at One Firwood Road in the Manorhaven section of Port Washington!  

Back in September, we celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary, so this Christmas will be the 40th Anniversary of the first Christmas we spent as married people.  To back up a bit, right from the beginning of our relationship, I knew that Susie loved Christmas.  It was by far her favorite holiday, and she loved the music, the decorations, the food, and everything about it!  So, on Christmas Day, 1978, I asked her if she would spend the rest of her life with me, and be my Mrs.Clause, and she said yes!  So, with that as a background, I’m sure you can imagine how important that first Christmas was for us!

The first item of business was decorating our apartment.  One of the first purchases we made were two sets of red bells that blinked on and off in sequence, kind of like they were ringing.  These we hung in the windows  of our second floor apartment, looking out onto Firwood Road.  They were with us for years!  Of course, a tree was a very important symbol of the holiday, and I wanted to make sure ours was perfect.  It was going to be a real one, and Susie and I headed to Keil Brothers Florist on the corner of the LIE and Springfield Blvd, near my folks Bayside house.  So let’s talk about that tree.

We circled the tree lot multiple times, and looked at a lot of trees, before we found the perfect one for our first Christmas.  It was full, just tall enough, not too wide, and cost $75!  Now, that seemed like a lot back then, but I needed to make our first Christmas perfect for Susie.  As an aside, $75 in 1979 is equal to $265.71 in 2019…know any jerk that would pay $265.71 for a Christmas tree today??? So, we bought this perfect tree, had it tied to the roof of our car, and drove home to our apartment in Port Washington.  

Ginsu KnifeThen it was time to set the tree up in our living room.  We got the stand out and prepared to cut off an inch or so from the bottom of the tree, when I remembered that we were supposed to stop at my folks house in Bayside and pick up the tree saw.  We hadn’t done that!!  So what did we do?  Well, a couple of months before, we attended the NY Auto Show, and at one of the booths there, selling all manor of items, we watched a very fascinating presentation, and then bought a Ginsu Knife!  Yes, we cut off the last inch of our first Christmas tree with our newly purchased Ginsu knife!  Not only did it work (it took a long time but ultimately worked), but that very same Ginsu knife from 40 Christmases ago still resides in our utensil drawer in our Ocean City house!!  As it was our first Christmas, there were not a lot of meaningful ornaments, but we did a pretty good job decorating that first Christmas tree, placing it right in the middle of our living room’s picture window, for all of Port Washington to see.

Growing up, because of the fact that my folks both were members of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus, and might be doing one or two performances on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve had a bigger presence in our household.  That first Christmas laid the groundwork for what Susie and I would do going forward in our life…Christmas Eve with my folks and Christmas day with her family.  That first Christmas Eve, we celebrated with my folks, opening presents while eating Italian cold cut sandwiches.  My folks had a friend in Minnesota who worked for Litton, and our present from my folks that first Christmas was one of the first microwave ovens we’d seen!  Smartly, we chose to leave it at my folks when we headed home late to our Port Washington apartment.  

One Firwood Road

One Firwood Road, was a small 4 unit apartment building, just across the street from Port Washington Harbor in one direction and across the street from the Empty Pockets Bar in the other.  An Asian lady owned the building, and the woman in the apartment below us was the “manager”.  She also was an interesting woman, who would bring home guys from her Saturday nights out, and we heard EVERYTHING!  Well, on this particular Christmas Eve, apparently she’d decided that the crowd at the Empty Pockets was bit rowdy, so she decided to lock the front door of the building…a lock we didn’t have a key for!  So here we were, late at night (1-2 AM) on our first Christmas Eve, after celebrating with my folks, and we were locked out of our apartment!  It was late, cold,  wet, and my new wife and I were locked out!  So what did we do???  We banged on the door and shouted till she showed up and let us in!  I’m sure we disturbed her, and her latest biker “friend,” but we were in our home, and ready for the big fat man in the red suit to show up later that morning!

That first Christmas morning came very early for us, as we wanted to have some alone time to open presents in front of our first Christmas tree, while drinking a little champagne and orange juice, before joining the rest of the family.  What we thought was going to be a special treat for us that morning, turned more into a joke.  WABC Channel 7 had a special Christmas morning showing of Susie’s all time favorite movie, White Christmas.  This was back in the day before we had multiple copies of that movie on video tape, DVD, or digitally, so this was indeed a special treat!  Unfortunately, they showed the movie in a 60 minute time block, complete with commercials.  They probably had about 45 minutes or less, to show a movie that runs over two hours.  As you can probably imagine, the movie was cut to time rather than content, and frankly made little sense to us…and we both knew the movie!  As I said, a potential special treat that turned into a joke!

And that was how Our First Christmas went!  Later that day, we joined the rest of Susie’s family, and a great day was had, and for a brand new couple, Christmas #1 was under our belts!  40 years later, there are lots more Christmas Memories mixed in, but there will only be one first, and that was ours!!  The story of our Ginsu cut Christmas Tree, being locked out, and the very different White Christmas will forever be my memory of my first Christmas with my love, and the beginning of mixing the Johnson and D’Elia Families!  

Christmas Traditions

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In my last blog, I mentioned that we lived in a Hallmark Christmas Town, and that along the way, we’d been watching a whole lot of Hallmark Christmas movies!  Frankly, we are suckers for the movies because we love this time of the year!  Right from the beginning, I knew that Susie loved Christmastime, and that she’d make the perfect Mrs. Clause, so on Christmas Day 1978, I asked Susie to marry me!  Thankfully, she said yes, and started everything for us, including a heck of a lot of our Christmas Traditions!

Christmas Traditions, like all family traditions, are more often than, not born out of necessity.  Do you know the story about the young girl being instructed by her Mom about how to cook a leg of lamb?  Her Mom tells her to cut off the last 2 inches of the leg of lamb, and place it next to the leg.  The girl asks the Mom why, and she replies, “I don’t know, that’s just the way your Grandma always did it.”  The next time she’s with her Grandma, she asks the same question, and Grandma’s answer is, “I don’t know, that’s just the way your Great Grandma always did it.”  A couple of weeks later, she visited her Great Grandma in the Nursing Home and told her what her Mom and Grandma had told her, and asked her Great Grandma, why she cut off the last 2 inches?  Grandma’s answer, “I didn’t have a pan big enough!”  

When I was a kid, both my Mom and Dad were singers in New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus.  Holidays were just days on the calendar, and unless they fell on a Sunday, the Met gave a performance.  If it happened to fall on a Saturday, they gave two performances!  The last thing they needed was a little kid (me) waking them up at sunrise on Christmas morning, when they may have gone to bed at 2 AM, and probably had to work that night.  So, in our family the tradition of Christmas Eve became a bigger deal.  Once I was a little older, our Christmas celebration started as soon as my folks got home from their Christmas Eve performance.  Everybody would get into their PJs, we’d drink Andre Champagne, eat Italian cold cut sandwiches, and open presents.  On Christmas morning, I was free to get up, lay under the Christmas tree, and play with gifts, while they got to catch a couple of more hours sleep!

Whenever a family gets blended, traditions from both sides get shoehorned together, and img_1733the Christmas Traditions of that new family are born!  In the early years of our marriage, we’d celebrate with my folks on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day head over to Susie’s folks.  As time went on, there were new traditions born, and more blending took effect.  Somewhere along the line, probably in an effort to emulate the Italian Seven Fishes of Christmas Eve, my Mom and Dad started hosting a lobster dinner on Christmas Eve.  Within a couple of years, Susie’s folks were coming to my folks house on Christmas Eve, and my folks would join us at Susie’s folks’ house on Christmas Day.  The families were indeed blending! 

Then came the kids!  When you have three little kids, Christmas gets to be an even bigger day on the calendar, and the D’Elia Family, since Mrs. Clause happened to be the 3 kids’ Mom, was right up there with the best of them!  Christmas Eve’s at my Mom’s house in Bayside became a huge event, complete with Susie’s folks, lobsters for all, and a need to run to church, where the 3 kids could be a part of the Christmas Eve Pageant every year.  Eventually, as my Mom got older,  Christmas Eve moved to our house in Mineola, but the lobster traditions and the run to the Community Church of East Williston continued, until our 3 were too old to be a part of the pageant.  In later years, as the kids grew, and driver’s licenses were earned, a new tradition was born.  Billy, Krissi, and Kenny would head down to Jordan’s Lobster Farm in Island Park, pick up the lobsters and on the way home, stop at a local diner for breakfast.  

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It’s hard to believe, but it was 40 years ago this Christmas that Susie and I  spent our first Christmas Eve at my folks house as a married couple (we got a microwave).  Although our traditions have changed and been modified here and there, I think my late Mom and Dad would be proud that what started for them out of necessity, is still a huge part of our Christmas life!  While we kept the food traditions that were started years before with my folks, the opening of presents went traditional and landed on Christmas morning!  Dad would come down the stairs to open up the house and turn on the tree, while Mom kept the 3 little one’s at bay.  On the all clear signal, they’d come down the stairs, along with Grandma D’Elia, and everybody would take their “assigned” seats, and we were off and running!  

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Those 3 little kids that we rushed to church on Christmas Eve, and who ran down the Mineola stairs every Christmas morning, are all married adults now, with our oldest even being the Dad of his own three.  We no longer live in the same house, same county, or even the same state.  We won’t be together with all our loved ones this Christmas, but we will do our best to keep the traditions alive!

This year, Our Boys are with us for Christmas.  Kenny and his husband Chris, just back from an almost year long contract with Royal Caribbean, are spending some time with us before starting their new adventure in January.  Krissi and her husband Mike will be up in New York, as a mid-week Christmas doesn’t really lend itself to travel, and Billy is down in North Carolina with his wife Lori and our darlings Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, making their own Christmas Traditions!  Susie’s brother and sister will be home on Long Island.   So, it will fall to Susie and Me and the boys to keep the D’Elia Family traditions alive this year!

img_1732There will be lobsters this year, but rather than getting them at Jordan’s Lobster Farm on Long Island, they will come from the Fish Department at Shoprite in Somers Point.  Not sure about the boys having breakfast out…it may just be some Chinese Food from the hot bar at Shoprite!  The Italian Cold cut sandwiches, and the fried eggplant, and cheeses will be eaten at night, but not be coming from Aridito’s Italian Deli in Mineola, but rather from Shoprite’s Sandwich counter (one stop shopping!).  The cheap champagne however, still has an Andre label on the bottle, and will be drunken out of our Christmas Toasting flutes, that have been a part of every one of Susie and my Christmases!

So there you have it, some of our Christmas Traditions!  Of course, there will be tuning into Jean Sheppard’s Christmas Story on TBS all day, and the sandwiches and champagne will, as always be accompanied by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!  There will be a lot of time hanging in our jammies, laughing at each other, and just creating memories!  That’s what Christmas means to us!!  

Will we miss our other kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas day?  You bet we will, but that’s just the way life is.  One benefit is that it expands the Christmas holiday!  Billy and Lori and the kids will be coming here to Ocean City the day after Christmas, and we’ll get to re-live the traditions all over again!  Early in January, we will visit with Krissi and Mike in Astoria, and once again it will be Christmas!  Things change, but the spirit of those Christmases long ago live on, and I hope they always will in our kids and Grandkids!

So, from our family to your’s, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Chars!!!  Bonkers!

Family Life Changes

 

When our three kids were younger, we were very lucky that our immediate family lived minutes, not hours or days away!  Susie’s Mom and Dad were in Hempstead and later East Meadow. My Mom was in Bayside. Susie’s sister and family were in Huntington, and her brother and his wife in Merrick.  We, living in Mineola, were pretty much in the geographic center of our entire family.  A 20 to 30 minute drive, got us to any of their houses, so casual drop-ins were very easy to do.  

Then there were holidays.  The hardest thing to decide about most holidays was who was going to host, and what could the rest bring.  It seemed very normal and natural, and we never really realized how lucky we were.  Our oldest son Billy reminded us of this fact of his childhood recently, but now, as the title of this piece says, family life changes!

Life has indeed changed, and Susie and I are at the center of those changes.   We were both born geographically on Long Island…Susie in Amityville, and me in Jackson Heights, in the New York City Borough of Queens.  Our entire married life, we lived in Nassau County…first Port Washington, then New Hyde Park, and from 1986 to 2017, in the same house in Mineola.  Over time, Susie retired (June of 2013), I retired (January, 2016), and then we moved out of the Mineola house (November, 2017).  We not only moved out of Mineola, we moved off Long Island and out of New York State, and made the house we’d owned at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey since 2005 our forever home! 

Changes happened in our three children’s lives too.  First, they are all married!  Krissi and her husband Mike live in Astoria, in the NYC borough of Queens.  Krissi’s twin brother Kenny and his husband Chris have just finished  up a year long contract on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, but before that, they were in Los Angelos, and who knows exactly where they will end up.  Oldest son Bill and his wife Lori made the move a couple of years ago off of Long Island down to Raleigh, North Carolina, along with our Grandchildren Layla and Henry, and just bought a brand new house as their family has grown with the addition of our newest Grandchild, Annabelle, 6 months ago.  So, like many American families, our family is now spread out, and we no longer have the luxury of living 20 to 30 minutes from each other.

On a recent weekend, however, we made the effort and were rewarded by spending some family time with two thirds of our children, their spouses, and our three Grandkids!  Susie and I took the 8+ hour drive from Ocean City to Raleigh on Thursday morning.  Krissi and her husband Mike flew down from New York after work on Friday, and it was a weekend of family, fun, and babysitting!  Just the best!!

Some Additional Videos from Liberty

Here are a few videos, in addition to the ones already included in my two cruise blogs.

IN THE AIR

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THE 70s SET

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ANCHORS AWAY PARADE

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SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

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From Russia (and elsewhere) with love!

Anyone who knows us, knows that the two of us like nothing better than walking into a bar or restaurant, and feel like we are with friends.  We love that feeling you get when the person behind the bar looks up, smiles, and says “Hello Sue and Frank”!  While lots of people will constantly try new places, we love going back to places where we are known quantities, and where we can be with friends.  People like our long time bartender friend Ralph at the Eden Lounge at Harrahs AC, or Dennis, the bartender at St. James in Mineola, that we spent so many “Nail Nights” with!  Or our friend Sue Waniak, who befriended us at Charlies when she was a waitress, and has now turned into a genuine family friend, as has the rest of the Waniak clan!  We’re still doing it, like on our weekly visits to Angelo’s in AC and our favorite bartender/waiter Michael!

 

Based on our history, is there any reason to think we would have done otherwise during our recent 2 week cruise with Kenny and Chris on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas?  Ha Ha…I don’t think so!  So this is a tale of 5 young ladies, who enhanced our cruise via their friendship!  Some on the Liberty and some off.

The R Bar

This is the 4th cruise we have taken on the Liberty of the Seas, thanks to contracts the boys have gotten to perform on the ship.  The first time was out of Bayonne, New Jersey when we sailed to Bermuda, and the next 3 cruises were out of Galveston, Texas, heading to the Western Caribbean.  To say we are familiar with the ship would be more than true, and as such, we realize that when folks board on deck 4, and want a drink, the first place they see is Boleros Bar, just next to the gangway.  However, as seasoned travelers on the Liberty, we know that just one deck up, in exactly the same place, is a nice, quieter bar called the R Bar!  This is our favorite place to hang on embarkation day till the cabins are ready.  This is our standard MO, and one we followed this year, and there we waited for my cousins Jeanne and Walt to join us, while taking advantage of our drink package!

That first day, Joey was behind the bar, and he was both welcoming and easy to be with, and so the R Bar went to the top of our list of possible hang-outs during our 14 days on the ship.  Then we met the girls!  Neither Susie nor I have a clear memory of first meeting them, but we’re pretty sure we met Irena first.

Irena is a Russian young lady in her mid 30s.  Her command of the English language wasn’t the best, but then my Russian is non existent, so no complaints here.  She soon learned our names and what our drink of choice was, and she was always very welcoming when we walked into the R Bar.  The first week, when my cousins were with us, she always wanted to know where Jeanne and Walter were if we went in alone.  Soon she wanted to know where Kenny and Chris where if we showed up without them!  During our two weeks with Irena, we learned that she had studied to be a Criminal Lawyer in Russia, and upon completion of her studies, had practiced for exactly one month, as she didn’t like being involved with people who were “trying to hurt others”.  We also found out that before she signed on the Liberty, she had almost no command of English.  

62DB0789-FB6D-4D61-91C1-FD8A20BD4C4CShe would often times squat next to our chairs and talk to us when the bar wasn’t busy.  We discovered that she had a sister and mother in Russia, and two nephews she was very proud of.  We also found out that she had a boyfriend on the ship (another bar server from the Philippines) and that she liked pocketbooks (an immediate connection with Susie…the Queen of Pocketbooks!).  We also found out that she and Shannelle were roommates!  Oh Boy…trouble!

Shannelle was another one of our R Bar friends who we got to know very well during our two weeks on the ship.  From Jamaica, Shannelle is in her first contract back from a Maternity Leave, and is the Mom of a little one year old boy named Xander.  Because of the itinerary the ship is on, she gets to see him every other week when the Liberty ports in Falmouth, Jamaica, and for this she was very happy.  She obviously loved seeing folks on the ship with young kids (especially those close to Xander’s age), and both Shannelle and Irena seemed to have a real rapport with some of the kids on the ship!  Shannelle is a young lady who knows how to have fun, and honestly, we never saw her without a big smile on her face!  She told us about her family in Jamaica, and of course about her son, and beamed all through it!  By the end of our two weeks, she was calling us Mom and Dad!  What a sweet, wonderful person, and how lucky were we to get to know her!

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The third lady at the bar was Kisa, the bar manager.  She is from Granada, and was at the end of her contract, and signed off when our two weeks were over on October 6th.  We didn’t get to know her as well as Irena and Shannelle, because she always worked the bar, but the night the girls had us join in singing Happy Birthday to her, cemented our relationship with her.  After that, there were hugs and hellos, and she worked very hard to make several special drinks for Susie! 

The last night of our two weeks on the Liberty were very sad.  We were sad to go and Irena and Shannelle were honestly sad to see us go (Kisa was sad, but since she was leaving, it was not to the same level as the other two), as we felt we were leaving friends!  

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Just before our final hugs, Irena and Shannelle gave us a package, and told us not to open it till we were back in the room.  Two sweet young ladies that we were so happy to get to know, and become friends with!  Here’s the note they gave us…

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I’ve already mentioned Joey, but can’t forget Jay at the Casino Bar and Mo the first week at the Hoof and Claw, and the second week at the Schooner Bar.  All great folks that enhanced our stay on Royal’s Liberty of the Seas!

Captain Jack’s Roatan, Honduras

The forth young lady was not on the ship, but rather a “friend” from the island of Roatan, Honduras.  When we were on the cruise in 2016, the boys took us to a little shack called Captain Jack’s Ceviche Bar and Grill.  Hanging over the water, just outside the port, we had some great drinks and some very freshly cooked seafood, and loved every minute of it.  

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When we were back in March, the plan was to once again hit Captain Jack,s, but the boys told us that there had been improvements to the place since our last visit!  Boy, they were not kidding!!  It had doubled in size, the bar was bigger and in a new place, and it even had bathrooms!  Even better, it had a young lady holding court behind the bar named Babe, and it didn’t take us long to fall in love!!  We had a wonderful afternoon with great drinks, some delish “Babe Shots” and the best Coconut Shrimp and Conch Fritters in the world!  When we left, there were hugs and kisses all around and we told her we were looking forward to seeing her again when we returned in the end of September.

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On its current itinerary, the ship visits Roatan about once a month, so the boys get to visit Babe and we get to hear stories.  On their last visit, they told her we’d be there the first week in October, and when she saw them that day, the first thing we heard from her was, “Where’s Mom and Dad??”  Both Susie and I got a bear hug that we weren’t sure was going to ever stop, and we knew immediately we were in for a glorious afternoon!  

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Her given name is Darcia Johnson, and when Susie told her that her maiden name was Johnson, Babe started calling her her “sister from another Mother!”.  We once again had a great time, again the best coconut shrimp, conch fritters, and fried plantains in the Caribbean, and many special “Babe Shots” (first a pink one, then a blue one, then a green one, then an orange one).  It was an afternoon to remember, and a Facebook friend we will always hold dear to our hearts!  Love you Babe and thanks for the hospitality!!

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Patrick’s Bar – The Strand, Galveston, Texas

The fifth young lady is someone we have heard about for years from the boys.  As I mentioned, this is the third contract they have done on the Liberty, and the second with it porting in Galveston full time.  Way back in 2016, they wandered into a bar on The Strand on one of their Sunday turn -around days to get a beer.  They got a beer, and so much more!  They met a friend!

We have heard about Sophie for over 3 years, and although we’d never met her, we felt like we knew her.  Her boyfriend Carl (a Galveston Fire Fighter) would hang out at the bar on Sundays whenever he wasn’t on shift, and the boys loved hanging with them just before they returned to the ship.  There were lots of sad eyes when their contract ended just before Christmas in 2016 and they were forced to say goodbye to Sophie!

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Last February, when the boys returned to the Liberty, on one of their first Sunday turn-around days, they once again wandered into Patricks, and suddenly almost 3 years of separation faded away!  Sophie and Patrick’s was always their last stop before heading back to the Liberty for another week.  Sunday is their only day in the United States, their only day off in Texas, and there are always things to do like shopping, picking up mail, and of course having a cocktail or two.  One thing they didn’t miss was a visit with Sophie if she was working!

Susie and I tried to meet her last March when we went on the ship, but she wasn’t working the Sunday we were in port. This time she was, and we finally got to meet this lovely young lady.  She is everything Kenny and Chris told us about her, and someone who is no longer just a bartender, but someone who has become a good friend (hmmm…does that sound familiar?)!  So much so, that when the boys sign off the ship early next month, and travel back to Nevada, they are going to meet up with Sophie and Carl in Las Vegas and celebrate Kenny and Sophie’s birthdays together! So thanks Sophie for taking care of Our Boys on a lot of Sundays, and for being a good friend to our two wandering minstrels!  

So there you have it, our tale of 5 young ladies who were a big part of the enjoyment we had during and just after our two weeks on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas!  Susie and I always love getting to know people and getting to cross that bridge from server to friend, and I suspect we will continue to make friends in bars and restaurants wherever we go.  It’s just who we are!!!