Thursday, March 29, 2012

Los Colores de Cabo ~ The Colors of Cabo

We are sailing the Carnival Spirit towards the United States on this Travel Photo Thursday.  We’ve spent two days at Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. 

It was our first- but now, definitely not our last — trip  to this area that we’ve dubbed “Scottsdale by the Sea” because the leather-brown landscape and surrounding hills remind us of Arizona.

Cabo’s colors livened the muted desert tans:

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This corner in the Marina flea market doubled as an ‘internet cafe’and a souvenir shop.

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Even the trees were in bloom; blossoms in bright orange intensified against a cloudless blue sky.

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Cafe table clothes and chairs were fiestas of brilliant colors
carnival spirit 037    Fushia colored bougainvilla blossoms lined driveways and filled pots along the sprawling marina.

For more photos from around the world, visit Budget Travelers Sandbox, the host of Travel Photo Thursday. And I’ll have more cruise tales coming in future posts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Carnival Spirit: What a Difference a Day Makes!

The weather forecast for San Diego called for rain.

Not a good way to start a five day cruise that we booked because we needed sun.

We thought our forecaster was off base when Sunday morning we arrived at the cruise terminal under blue skies. There was a strong wind and it chilled to the bone but it wasn’t raining.  That was a good thing. My ‘carefree’ wind-blown hairdo illustrates the wind power (and yes I was holding the rail to fend off some of the stronger gusts).

carnival spirit 001 We were bundled up but determined the strong cold wind wouldn’t dampen our spirits.

But by the time we set sail at 4:30 we not only had wind, but rain as well. This is my shot of leaving San Diego:

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The decks were nearly deserted. . .of course many were closed:

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It was beginning to look like we might have made a mistake in picking this cruise.  One of the ship’s photographers told us, “I’ve sailed two cruises out of San Diego recently and they were warm and we had blue skies.  . . .Can you believe this?!”   No, we couldn’t.

But as we continued south the sea calmed and by today I am happy to report the Carnival Fun Ship Spirit is back:

And guess what?  It is Spring Break!  And not every college student goes to Florida. . .we’ve got a thousand or more of them on board with us.  I’ll tell you more of those stories as the week goes on. . .  for now I’m off to sun tan. . .

Friday, March 23, 2012

Waikiki’s SPAM® JAM Festival. . .no joke!


It's time to celebrate SPAM®. . . the kind you eat, not delete.

A conversation with two blogger buddies earlier this week found us in agreement on spam, those nuisance bulk emails that clog inboxes, but we had vastly differing opinions on SPAM®, the food. 

I’m the lone SPAM® fan in this trio.

Blogger Ann, who normally muses about life, mused about eating anything that slides out of the can in a wiggling gelatinous wrap.  Blogger Dick, whose focus is community and education, simply pondered SPAM® and its relationship to public education. 

SPAM®, we agreed, was a worthy blog topic for us all. Lucky for me, this announcement arrived in my inbox two days later:

10th Annual Waikiki SPAM® JAM Festival
is set for Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, Honolulu

DSCF0080More SPAM®, according to one of the conference sponsors, is consumed per person in Hawaii than any other state in the United States, which makes it somewhat appropriate for their signature food festival.

SPAM® stands for ‘spiced ham’; a product introduced in 1937 by the Hormel Foods Corporation.  The food cube inside the can is a mix of ham and pork shoulder and now comes in low-salt, spicy and original (simply salty) versions.

Two key statistics in the news release caught my eye:

* nearly seven million cans of SPAM® are eaten every year in Hawaii. (Hawaii’s population was 1.375 in 2011 – that’s a lot of SPAM® per person!)

* in the decade since it began, the Waikiki SPAM® JAM, has become one of the most popular festivals in Hawaii. More than 20,000 are expected to attend this year’s festivities.

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Waikiki’s main beach front drag, Kalakaua Avenue, will be closed to vehicular traffic. You can see why in this photo from a previous SPAM® JAM.

Some of Hawaii’s favorite entertainers will perform on two stages, and a dozen restaurants are serving up some crazy ono grindz (that’s ‘really good’ in Hawaiian) SPAM® dishes. A sample of the dishes being created and served include:

!cid_C212A5D2-207F-41A1-A7CC-1CFE8BFDF2DD@hawaii_rrP.F. Chang’s: SPAM® Lettuce Wraps and SPAM® Lo Mein

Duke’s/Hula Grill: SPAM® Loco Moco with Shitake Mushroom Cream Gravy.

Cheeseburger Beachwalk: SPAM® Babies

Aqua Café: Ono Mac and Cheese with SPAM® and a SPAM® Bento.

Atlantis Seafood and Steak: SPAM® Mahi Carbonara.

Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber: Will have three dishes including Hormel’s Grand Prize Winning Recipe from the Great American SPAM® Championship. . .drum roll. . .Mini Maple SPAM® Doughnuts (created by Jason Munson, at the Puyallup Fair right here in Puget Sound)!

Admission is free.  But if you plan to attend keep in mind,The Hawaiian Food Bank will also have a booth at SPAM® JAM.  Since 2004, more than 10,000 pounds of SPAM® have been donated to the food bank thanks to this festival.

For more information, visit,   Ever been to the festival? Tell us about it, or tell your own SPAM® story by adding a comment below or drop us an email.

Note:  Thanks to Wiki Commons and photographer Matthew W. Jackson for use of the SPAM® photo at the top of the post and to SPAM® JAM organizers for the other two photos used in this post.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TP Thursday: A Blooming Good Trip!

We had such a blooming good time on our trip last spring to Madrid, London and Paris that I decided to create a bouquet of memories today:


High above us on the side streets of Madrid, flowers cascaded over the railings of even the narrowest of balconies.


Parks were tapestries scattered throughout Madrid; their designs created by endless beds of red roses.


It felt as if we were staying in London’s Chelsea Flower Show each time we entered our Chancery Court Hotel.   The pungent peonies filled the lobby with a springtime aromatherapy.  (As well as providing inspiration:  “Why it’s simply flower stems and candles mixed. . .why couldn’t I do that at home?”)


It seemed all of London was in bloom – even the bench in the hotel’s courtyard.


A cold, blustery wind swirled street dust during our too-brief overnight stay in Paris. Despite the harsh chill that cut through our coats, balcony blooms reminded us that it really was springtime in Paris.



When someone asks, “But, . . .is there anything to see there?”  these are the images that come to mind. What every day images are in your bouquet of memories?

It is Travel Photo Thursday and there’s a lot of places to see in the world by just clicking this link to Budget Travelers Sandbox and see where our fellow travelers are this week. been.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

‘WA’ Wednesday: 'Our Kind of Place' at Copalis Beach

Heading to a new destination over an unfamiliar route in a downpour doesn’t make for a pleasant travel experience. Compounding the matter was leaving the road map at home. We use maps – the old paper kind. We don’t 'do' GPS.

We were heading to two destinations: one a resort where we would stay and the other a place where we planned to eat that night.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 008Windshield wipers flung rain off the windows as we traveled north on Highway 109, a two-lane road that snakes along Washington’s coastal North Beach area.

Our ultimate destination was Iron Springs Resort, where we were spending the weekend, but we were also seeking the Green Lantern Pub in the town of  Copalis Beach. We had just enough information about it to believe it was  ‘our kind of place’.

A handful of Yelp reviews and a hearty endorsement (“They serve the best steaks!”) from a cheerful lady in the tourism office at nearby Ocean Shores (where we got a map) convinced us to dine at the Green Lantern that night. 

The Green Lantern Pub

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 091

Easily spotted on the corner of Highway 109 and the road that leads to Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park, the place has had only five owners  since it opened in 1928. It’s also had the same name for all but two of those years.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 023We literally bellied up to the bar at the Green Lantern Pub – the place was packed with others who were there for Friday’s Prime Rib dinner special. Sitting on those old round seat-bottom stools without backs we were within arm’s reach of a shuffle board table and not far from the lone pool table.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 022I watched the woman next to me nurse a beer – served in a pint canning jar – for more than an hour while she tested her luck at a 10-cent pull-tab game (like the one pictured on the left).  She spent $40 but when she left, she carried a jackpot prize with her: a giant-sized box of Rice Krispy treat bars!

The Prime Rib dinner, at $14.95 per person, got us such large cuts of meat that had enough leftovers for another meal.  We passed on the large baked potato and still had a selection of five other sides from which to choose.  A dinner salad was included.

 Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 020The wine list – red, white, pink, - served from large bottle or box – didn’t impress, but the pours were hearty and with 10 brewskies on tap and a full bar from which to order, there was no room for complaint.

The “Daily Specials,” including barbequed ribs on Saturday night and a few days later, a $9.95 New York steak. . .had us nodding in agreement: it was our kind of place! 

We will certainly be coordinating our return visit to Iron Springs Resort with the nightly specials at the Green Lantern.

Perhaps during our next visit we’ll even meet some of the . . .ahem. . .tavern ghosts.  Our waitress  told us they have some regulars ~ she’s seen them. We didn't.

If You Go: 

Green Lantern Pub is at 3119 State Highway 109, Copalis Beach, 98535, 360-289-2297; because this place is a bar, no one under 21 is allowed.  It is an easy three miles from Iron Springs Resort, 3707 State Highway 109,, 1-800-380-7950.  Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is a 364-acre marine park with beach, and low dunes. For information, 360-902-8844,

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ole’! We are going to a ‘Carnival’. . .

. . . a Carnival cruise ship, that is.

The upcoming trip was prompted in part by the recent wet, dreary Pacific Northwest weather and in part by taking advantage of some of the great cruise fares currently available. 

An article in the Seattle Times newspaper about our weather, summed it up by saying, “Rain, rain, and, more rain. Then a new front moves in with - guess what – more rain!”

The day that article appeared I received some photos I’d requested from the cruise line for use here until until I could take my own.

We looked out our living room window . . . and then at the photos:

interior_spirit_serenity_17022012_0026 (1)

Hmmm, bare-feet, sun-tan oil. . .we started counting the days until we set sail for Cabo San Lucas where the temperatures are in the 80’s. 

We likely will not – at least I won’t be - -using this water slide, one of the new features on the ship since we last sailed on it five years ago.  But I sure will be found on one of those chaise lounges pictured above with a good book in hand.

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Joel, the researcher of this vagabonding duo, found a good price not long ago on this five-day getaway.  There are any number of good deals to be had right now so if you’ve got a cruise on your bucket list, you might want to do some shopping.

Just one example of the other deals we found was a seven-night Mediterranean cruise departing from and returning to Malaga, Spain in May on Royal Caribbean, and the price of a balcony room was only $444, per person – several hundred dollars less than an ocean view room on the same ship. 

Had it fit in our travel schedule, we would have nabbed it.

Click on this link, Travelnwrite’s Deal Finder, page for links to some of Joel’s favorite travel shopping sites.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

TP Thursday: One ‘clam’ good time at Copalis Beach

In the early morning darkness they began arriving. From our cabin we watched dark silhouettes armed with ‘guns’ and shovels wade quickly across Boone Creek toward the ocean’s receding surf. Others arrived in cars and trucks; a scant parade of vehicles easing into position on the hard-packed sand. . .

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 025

The ever-so-brief Pacific Razor Clam season had arrived on Washington State’s wet, windy, and oft-times wild Copalis (koh-PAY-lis) Beach.   The morning’s flurry of activity felt like a salt-sea version of  “Brigadoon” – the musical in which a place and time came to life for a matter of hours then disappeared as though it had never existed. 

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 049We city slickers, with mere rain coats, gloves and jeans but sans heavy duty rain gear, opted to be spectators during the search for this most sought after shell fish in Washington State.

Its popularity in past years has attracted some 300,000 people, who’ve made nearly a quarter million digger-trips to the ocean beaches and harvested between 6 -  13 million razor clams. 

As we strolled the beach, we learned to look for three types of ‘clam’ signs. One, like in the photo, is the donut  hole in the sand. . .it  could be an indicator of a Razor Clam below . . .or of a shrimp. . .it takes practice to know the difference.

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Sometime you just need to dig and find out.  That’s what the clam ‘gun’ or shovel is used for:

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But only to a point. Then it is time to roll up the sleeves and really ‘dig it’:

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The beach was alive with diggers.  There are five Razor Clam beaches in Washington and it is not unusual to have as many as 1,ooo people per mile on those beaches on a spring clam dig day.

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Step Two:  Cleaning the Clams

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First  a dip in the hot tub. . .

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Then a bit of a scrub . . .

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And then the little critter was ready to cook.

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Step Three: Eating the Clams

We celebrated the harvest at a Saturday night feast which included Razor Clam chowder with our hosts at Iron Springs Resort.  (The link above will take you to the recipe they used – if’s courtesy of Kevin Davis of Steelhead Diner at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.)

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Gathered around the table with Doug and Dustin True (owners of Iron Springs Resort) and an assortment of their clam digging friends we shared  food, wine, stories and laughter. 

It was Pacific Northwest life at its finest.

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A few afterwards:  Razor clam season comes in one- or two-day spurts each year; sometimes the season can be as few as 15 or as many as 35 days. Clam diggers are required to purchase a state license and are limited to 15 clams per person per dig.

The clam cleaning station is one of the new additions at Iron Springs Resort, the mid-century resort that re-opened last year after a years worth of renovation and modernization. (See yesterday’s  Washington Wednesday for more on the resort.)

Today is Travel Photo Thursday so be sure to drop by Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos from around the world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Washington Wednesday: Iron Springs Resort

The brochure for Iron Springs Resort on Washington State’s Copalis Beach says it’s the place, “Where Traditions Begin”.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 044It’s certainly true for us. 

A tradition has begun: we were checking available fall dates at this wet, windy, wonderful place high on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean before we’d completed our first stay here last weekend.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 010That in itself says a lot about the appeal of this mid-century resort turned new again by owners, the True family of Seattle. 

The Sun-seeking Smiths have long avoided  the Washington Coast for being too wet. . . too cold. . . and too gray.

And it was wet, cold and gray with cameo appearances of both the sun and moon.  Yet, there was also a certain spirit of place here; and it didn’t take long to be caught up in it.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 083Hours slipped past as we sat in those two chairs pictured above. The flat-screen television and free in-cabin WI-FI couldn’t compete  with watching the pounding surf  through our rain pummeled floor-to-ceiling windows.

We sat in front of the fireplace each evening sipping our glasses of wine as firs swayed outside our cozy one-bedroom, one-bath cabin to the wind’s haunting melody.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 005It was wild. It was magical.

Although new to us, Iron Springs Resort has been around since the 1940’s.  Comments in our cabin’s guest book told the stories of loyal guests who returned each year, despite the aging decline of both the former owner and her cabins. 

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 015Many of those same loyal guests have penned notes of  delight about the renovation and modernization of the cabin interiors by new owners, (brothers and their wives),  Doug  and Janet, and Bill and Ruth True, who purchased the resort two years ago; then closed it for a year-long refurbishing that included new floor to ceiling interiors: bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, furnishings and décor.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 012
We were guests of the True’s last weekend and while we had neither dogs nor family with us, both are welcome at this 24-cabin resort that reopened last July.

During a break in the rain, we bundled up against the elements and walked for miles on the flat, hard-packed sand.  Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 040Beach access was easy – with proper wading boots we could have cut across nearby Boone Creek, but we opted for a well-maintained access trail through the forest not far from the resort office (it helped us keep our city slicker shoe-clad feet dry).

The beach surface is so firm that portions of it are a state highway, open to vehicles, as well as, an airport landing strip in the summer months.

Our two-night stay gave us time to explore other small towns that are within an easy drive of the resort. I’ll tell you about them next week in Washington Wednesday.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 080If You Go:  Iron Springs Resort, 3707 Highway 109, toll-free 1-800-380-7850, phone 360-276-4230,  Seasonal rates range from $169 per night to $269, plus tax. There’s a $20 fee per dog  per night for the first five nights. (Three dog per cabin limit.)  Each cabin has a different floor plan (they are shown on the resort website  - just click the link above). One-bedroom cabins are perfect for couples or small families. A few adjoining cabins on the property are perfect for large families or groups of friends who want to be together, but still have some privacy.

Check back here on Travel Photo Thursday to come along on  a Razor Clam dig at Copalis Beach, (that is koh-PAY-lis, by the way).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Getting into the “Spirit” of Cruising

On a Sunday in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be setting sail from San Diego, California on our old friend, Carnival Spirit.  In all, our five-day cruise will give us two days at sea and two days to explore Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

It will be a rather quick trip, compared to a cruise we took on this same ship five years ago.  That one took us as far south as Acapulco on Mexico’s western coast.  This one will provide what we are seeking: a shot of sea and sun – a change from our slate-gray Pacific Northwest.  An added bonus is Cabo; we've never been there so plan to do some exploring during our short stay.

HAL 2009 cruise photos 026This trip is one of those that one minute wasn't on our radar and the next minute it was, thanks to a last-minute travel deal we couldn’t pass up – our favorite kind of travel.

Joel's travel bug was roused by the cruise price he saw in an email we received from Travel Zoo . We made a quick call to our cruise specialists at CruCon Cruise Outlet who offered the same good rate, so we booked with them.

Since our 2007 cruise, the ship has undergone some major renovations in preparation for its repositioning later this year to Australia. 

Our first day at sea we’ll log a few miles on the pedometer just exploring on board and getting into the Spirit of this 88,500 ton ‘Fun Ship” that carries 2,124 passengers.


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