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$500.00.

A weekend away in an unknown destination.

Details to be given once you arrive at the airport with your carry-on bag.

Are you in?

I said YES!

Last fall, my friend Cindy decided to put together a Mom’s mystery trip. She’s the director of the private school where I teach and my kids take classes on Fridays. She’s also an experienced world traveler, having led several educational trips abroad for high school students, and done some traveling of her own with her family. She excitedly made the first announcement to see if anyone would be interested.

The responses ran from “YES, YES, YES!” to “Are you crazy? I’m not spending money to go on a trip without knowing the details!”

In the end, it was a chilly January morning when five excited women met Cindy at the airport with our carry-on luggage in tow. (A very special thank you to my mystery friend who made it possible for me to go on this adventure! I can’t thank you enough!) After we gathered around, Cindy announced we were booked on a non-stop flight to Miami where we would spend the night in a luxury suite before driving to the Port of Palm Beach the next morning to board a ship for a two-day cruise to the Bahamas! It was more than I ever hoped or imagined! WOW!!!

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2016 Mystery Moms

We arrived in Miami and drove to the Marriott on Biscayne Bay. It was beautiful! We settled in a bit then talked and laughed our way through dinner at Primo Restaurant near our hotel. My friend Veronica and I ordered different meals so we could share. Delicious! I also tried crab cakes for the first time and loved them. Who knew?

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Marriott at Biscayne Bay

After dinner we drove our minivan down to south beach and cruised past all the clubs. Can you picture it? lol We were so cool. The traffic was insane! We came back to the hotel and took some pictures of the bay (and each other) and hung out enjoying the cool breeze. What a beautiful night!

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Miami Sunrise over Biscayne Bay

The next morning, we headed for Little Havana to eat breakfast at the famous Versailles Bakery & Restaurant. I tried Cuban coffee (yuck) and took lots of pictures of the architecture and my breakfast. I’ll spare you those particular photos. Not having seen palm trees since I was a little girl living in California, I loved the drive to the port! You could feel the excitement and energy in the van as we planned possible activities: A glass bottom boat tour, swimming with the sharks (Ellison was the only one up for that adventure), shows on the boat, and of course, shopping.

Then we arrived at the port and our trip took an unexpected turn.

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

As we were checking in, we found out Amanda had a copy of her birth certificate and wouldn’t be allowed to go on the cruise. The port only allows state-issued birth certificates or passports for re-entry into the United States. I suddenly felt like I had swallowed a pile of rocks. I have a military hospital issued birth certificate. Sure enough, when it was my turn at the counter, the guy practically rolled his eyes at me as he handed me my documents and told me no, I would not be leaving with my group.

Stunned, angry, sad, disappointed. I didn’t know what to feel. We were just told we needed an original birth certificate with a raised seal. That’s what I have. It’s the one I’ve used my whole life. But it wasn’t enough. It was a terrible mix up, and Cindy felt awful about it. My tender-hearted friend was beside herself trying to fix it.

It was a struggle looking into the sad faces of my friends. Everyone felt terrible. I love them and wanted them to enjoy their cruise. A few deep breaths and hugs later and they were off, leaving me and Amanda to form a new plan for a few days in Florida.

We were both in a bit of shock, but we pep talked each other into looking at it as another unplanned adventure. It worked! We had a blast! We decided to take lots of pictures and post them to Instagram so our cruising friends would know we were having fun, and they’d be included in our part of the trip too. We didn’t know they didn’t have internet and couldn’t see our pictures or share their own. My friend Ellison was the only one to interact with us at all, so now I’m convinced she’s either a spy, has her own satellite phone, or connections in high places. I’m leaning towards spy. 😉

Amanda and I found a nice place to stay in West Palm Beach and spent our two days walking, talking, going to the beach, visiting a state park, and attempting an Anthony Hernandez scavenger hunt. Our first night in West Palm Beach we happened upon a pretty cool wall mural of JFK, so I googled the artist and found out he had street art all over the city! (See above and check out his website, the ones below are other people’s art.)

The whole art district was pretty great. We stayed up late into the night talking, got sand all over the rental van, laughed, cried, shared the highlights of our lives with each other, ate great food, and relaxed.

And what is a trip to Florida without spending a bit of time writing at the beach and playing in the waves? The photo of my hands full of sand is me rescuing a stranded baby jellyfish. He’s the bluish blob on top. I carefully scooped him up and threw him back into the ocean and cheered him on with the hope he’d beat the tide.

Our vacation flew by and soon it was time to meet the other ladies at port and begin the uncertain trek back to Denver – which was in the middle of a snow storm. I kind of hoped our flight would get cancelled so we’d have another day with all of us together. I even bought this postcard and texted the photo to a few friends. Ha! No such luck. We actually arrived home early?!

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It was a fabulous trip! It was good that I didn’t have a plan, and even though it didn’t go according to Cindy’s plan either, I would do it again! And guess what? Last week, Cindy announced the next mystery trip is scheduled for February! I wonder how long it will take me to get my passport?

What about you? Would you go on a mystery trip?

Do you have any suggestions for great WARM places to visit while it’s freezing in Colorado?

 

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Leonardo da Vinci is arguably one of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, philosophers, and innovators. He was centuries ahead of his contemporaries. I’ve been so fascinated by him, he actually plays a role in my time travel novel – or will if I ever finish it. 😉

A few years ago there was an exhibit here in Denver celebrating the works of da Vinci. It is by far one of my favorite field trips I’ve ever led. We got to try out models of his inventions and learn about the rivalry between Leonardo and Michelangelo. I was especially impressed with his war machines, which he designed then purposely left key elements out of the printed plans so the machines wouldn’t work. We spent hours reading, touching the models, watching a film about him, and of course the tour ended in the gift shop. I bought each of my kids a “Think like da Vinci” rubber bracelet, and this book:

how to think like da vinci

His accomplishments are amazing. His creativity is inspiring. I can’t think of a more diverse man in history. He was the archetype of “Renaissance Man.”

You can read more about him here: leonardodavinci.net

Visit the other challengers here:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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I have a confession. I am not a groupie. There isn’t a band on the planet I’d wait in line to buy tickets for or put up with a huge crowd to see them in concert. My daughter begged me to attend some music festival – Warped Tour? I think my audible sigh was heard all the way in Wyoming when she told me her friend’s mom said she’d take them. Thank. God.

I don’t have anything against concerts or people who attend them, I just prefer a more intimate setting, like my earbuds in place. 😉 I have enjoyed smaller settings like living room concerts and jam sessions, and we just finished up the Resound Conference two weekends ago which is a worship conference featuring some great speakers and bands with an audience of less than 500 people. I can do that. That’s more my speed.

Confession #2: I’ve always had this annoying habit of falling for bands (their music and sound) without being able to name the band members. I mean no disrespect, it’s just not my thing. Maybe it should be. I can aspire to that, I guess. Is that surprising considering I’m a people person? If you want to know band member names, ask my daughter.

I LOVE MUSIC! I have tunes to suit my every mood. I’m friends with a lot of musicians and love them dearly. I even remember all of their names. Ha! For time’s sake, I can’t promote them all in this post, so I chose just one. My friend, neighbor, and the most peaceful man I’ve ever met. He’s one of my favorites:

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Photo by Jarrod Reno

Dave Wilton

He’s an incredible musician, songwriter, music producer, and recording/mixing/mastering engineer. Dave plays in two Indie Rock bands, A Boy & His Kite and Loud Harp. If you’re my real-life friend, you’ve heard me mention both many times.

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Photo by Ray Rushing

In 2011, Dave and Asher “accidentally” formed the band Loud Harp. I’m so glad they did. Their music soothes my soul! You can read all about them on their site: loudharp.com (Asher is amazing too! Check him out!)

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Photo by Jarrod Reno

In 2012, A Boy & His Kite’s single, “Cover Your Tracks” was included in the film and soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2:

Dave’s lyrics and music embody such depth of soul and spirit.

I don’t know how he feels about his Twilight fame, but I can tell you it is his joy to make great music and help others do the same. He is currently building a new studio and running a Kickstarter campaign to finish it. Want to kick something in? Click here: http://davewilton.com/newstudio/

We’re nearing the end of the challenge! Have you been checking out my other challenger’s posts?

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Spirits by the lake

I don’t remember where I first saw Leonid Afremov’s paintings, but I remember being caught by surprise by the emotions they evoked. I typically like soft colors, and not being a fan of yellow, I didn’t think I’d be drawn to an artist who uses yellows and other bright colors so liberally. But I am. He won me over.

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Mr. Afremov has been hailed a modern day Impressionist, which might explain another draw for me as one of my best friends absolutely loves Monet – even painting her bathroom like his water lilies. I like Impressionist art. While I don’t think I’d be able to fake my way through a gallery talk, I know just enough to say I appreciate the movement, reflection, and light Mr. Afremov captures with his work.

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“Leonid Afremov keeps the majority of his art politically neutral. His paintings are not offensive to anyone nor send any hidden messages. The paintings usually reflect certain personal memories and emotions. Leonid Afremov tries to draw the viewer to have a certain feeling rather than tell a story via the painting, or have the viewer see the world how he sees it.”

Fascination

I love art. Mr. Afremov is one of many painters I admire. I hope you’ll check out more of his work on his website, especially his dancer paintings!

 

For more great artists, check out my friend’s posts:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

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