Saturday, March 30, 2019

This Week - Fun times while saving money

 We have had a fun week. I thought I would share a few things I took pictures of.
I was invited to a baby shower on Thursday. I decided to make a dress and headband for a gift. I used some t-shirts that we had gotten for political candidates and that were pretty much new. It took me some time to make but saved money and I liked the fact that I was using something I had (and hence getting it out of my place) and not causing more things to be made. I made two sets as there were  two sisters having baby girls.

 My pictures aren't very good but it at least gives you a little idea of the play that our kids are in right now. They are performing in "The Reluctant Dragon". It is cute and funny. I hope to take better pictures next time we go. Our kids were given vouchers so Ken and I were able to use those and get in free.
This evening I cut into the fabric that Mara bought for her bridesmaids dresses. The first one (of 3) is cut out - now to get it sewn. It was a little nostalgic as I was using part of the pattern that I used to make the bridesmaids dresses for my wedding over 20 years ago. We are using a different skirt pattern but the same bodice pattern that my bridesmaids had. I did make the neckline a little different and both the bodice and the sleeves a little longer. So it will look different.

   We have been working out different details on the wedding which has been fun. There has been some money spent (Mara bought fabric and a vest pattern and she and Thomas bought stamps and invitations and I have bought some food) but we are spending way less than most do. I will have fun sharing some of our ways we have been frugal at some point.

  How was your week?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Foraged Bouquets

 So I had set the goal of making a bouquet from something I had foraged outside every week this year. I was also hoping to blog about it. That hasn't gone to terribly well so far. I have completely foraged 4 bouquets so far and partially foraged a couple more. I did share my pine cone bouquet and the bouquet I was able to gather while in St. Thomas (that did feel a little cheating to be in the tropics in February to gather a bouquet :-). 

  Before I had gone I had stopped by the side of the road one day and gathered a bunch of Highbush Cranberry branches with berries on them. I had kept noticed this large row of them as I drove by (they weren't by anybody's house or anything) and the bright red looked so pretty against the snow. I have been surprised that the birds haven't eaten them. Anyway I picked some. The stems holding the berries were a little fragile and the berries a little squishy but if you didn't mess with them to much they made a fun decoration for our table.
we had them there for around a week. I don't think I would really recommend using them (after being frozen anyway) for a wedding bouquet but you could if you wanted to.

This was my "Wedding bouquet" look with some white lace around the bottom.
 I did a woodsy theme at the Bridal show this year. I ordered flowers in for that but I also used some foraged items. In the bouquet above I had acorns that had been gathered, lichen from the birch trees and some highbush cranberry twigs that I had stuck in water and the leaves had sprouted on them. Which is a fun thing to do if you are feeling a little impatient for Spring to arrive. Cut off some sort of twig/branch around your place, stick it in water and it will probably start sending out leaves. Maybe even flowers.
 This bouquet had branches in it that I had gathered from our woods.
This centerpiece boasts  branches, wood pieces, a little canoe that Aaron made out of birchbark, moss, pinecones, a bird's nest, sweet gum balls (found when in North Carolina and saved) and acorns - all foraged. It is a super cheap way to make a centerpiece, the other parts were repurposed glass bottles and 3 stems of flowers and a little greenery.

 We still have very, very tall stacks of snow (we got around 6 more inches on Sunday) but it is melting some now. Flowers are a ways off but there is always beauty to be found.

  I am curious what is going on where you live - do you have things growing already or do you still have a lot of snow too?

Monday, March 11, 2019

"Minimalism, Spirituality, and Why it Matters" by Joshua Becker

We have still been working on getting rid of the clutter in our lives around here - through both going through what we have and getting rid of things and also not buying more. This video has a lot of good thoughts on why we should do this.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A Week in the US Virgin Islands

 A week ago Ken and I returned from a trip to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. We were able to spend a week there and we had a wonderful time. We went there to celebrate our 20th Anniversary (which was actually in December but Jan/Feb was a better time for us to travel).

I have found it super helpful when I plan trips to check out what other bloggers say about places (it seems to much more authentic to hear their thoughts rather than to look at a marketing website) and so I am hoping to make this post useful in that same way. I plan on sharing locations we went to, what we liked or not, various tips and how much we spent. Also, as I am trying to not create trash this year I will share some of how that went while traveling and some of my tips for traveling lightly.

 We started planning our trip in November. Our Anniversary is December 18th and usually we do something to celebrate and usually it does include a night or so away. Ken has done most of the planning through the years and that has been fun. Many of them have been surprise trips. That has gotten trickier as our lives have gotten busier and so in recent years we have tended to visit about it more. For our 15th Anniversary we went to the Florida Keys, Skiing on our 12th, - that was all that I could find posts about just now but anyway, on to our trip for our 20th.

 I told Ken that I was kind of  in the mood for "going" someplace. Exploring, adventuring, going someplace we had never been before. Being the frugal person that I am, I also didn't want to spend a lot of money. I knew my friend Lyndi is great at finding deals on airline flights and so I asked about some of her tricks. My friend Christy and sister Anna had tried out using AirBnB for places to stay and liked it, so maybe we could do that and save some money on lodging as well. Ken thought that all sounded fun and good so I started looking. Some of Lyndi's tips were to go to places that the airlines fly often, check out the individual airlines websites (especially ones that were based in Minneapolis since we would fly from there) and then try out lots of dates or look at their fares calendars and see when was the cheapest time to fly. So I started looking and I got rather excited. In the past we have spend several hundred dollars for tickets to go places but now when I wasn't being so picky about times I was finding round trip tickets for $100. This wasn't going to be to bad. We could have gone to Florida, Boston, Phoenix and Denver for cheap but then we got the idea of checking out something a little more exotic and I found tickets to the Virgin Islands for a total of $530.44 for both of us and one checked bag on Spirit Airlines. We decided that would be pretty fun and we booked it. Then we found this nice little studio apartment on AirBnB for $669.64 for the 6 nights we would be staying. I thought that to save money since we were on a (fairly) small island we could just walk places but in everything we read (especially on the Airbnb site) people said that wasn't a good idea so Ken went ahead and booked a rental car too.  The rental car cost us $280 for the week. We got a small white one (I have no idea what it was - I can name all sorts of flowers and plants but I know pretty much zero when it comes to car types - Ken and I laugh about our differences in this area).

   On January 29th we headed down to the cities (a 4+ hour drive) where we were going to leave Mara, Aaron and Megan and our van with my sister Anna and her family and then they were going to take us to the airport. The roads were pretty decent driving down but the temperature was steadily dropping. It was around -30 that night (colder in Bemidji and maybe slightly warmer in the cities) with wind chills around -60 degrees F. My brother-in-law, Travis, dropped us off at the airport around 10 pm as he headed to his job with the railroad. When we got there we got in line to drop of our checked bag only to have the people in front of us tell us our flight was cancelled because of the weather.  We stood in line around an hour while they talked to each group one by one. I was really impressed with how well everybody took the news. They said it was out of their control and blamed it on the weather. I don't completely understand as I know the planes can fly in that cold but it might have been because of the people that needed to work outside and somebody thought it might have been because of the wind as well. Whatever, the decision had been made and there wasn't anything we could do about it. By the time we got to talk to them they said the earliest we could get our flight would be Sunday, so would we just like a refund? That was pretty disappointing but Sunday obviously wasn't going to work (we already had things reserved for earlier and the plan was to fly back the next Tuesday) so we took the refund for the trip there. They gave us $341.22 back just leaving us paying $189.22 for the trip back. Then to figure out what to do next. Anna was going to come pick us up from the airport but then Ken found a flight with Delta that would leave at 5:30 am and so we would end up only being at Anna's for around 3 hours and then we would need to leave for the airport again. It didn't seem worth it. So we decided to try to get some rest in the airport.

That was easier said than done. We weren't able to get in the secure area as we had a bag that we needed to check and Delta wasn't opening up their counter until 3:30 am. So we found some fairly comfortable chairs in the baggage claim area. I did mention that it was cold out?? :-) Well we had left our heavy coats in Travis' truck but thankfully we kept jackets and I had a hat, little gloves and scarf. I still froze those hours - I pulled out another sweater too but the doors kept opening, and the cold would rush in and I was tired and get cold easily anyway. It was also brightly lit and loud music was playing and I was nerved up a bit so resting did not really happen. I did have fun playing on the grand piano for a while but that spot was even colder so I didn't stay there super long. Oh well, it left me even more appreciative of the warm weather we were to enjoy soon. Oh, by the way, the one way tickets with Delta cost $1,200. This trip just got a bit more expensive. I am just grateful that we had the money. God provides.

  In my goal to create as little trash as possible and to save money I had packed some food to take with us. I should have put it in our checked bag but I didn't - it was in my back-pack. Well that did cause an interesting time going through security. They pulled my back pack aside as it went through the scan and then once I came through they had me step aside while they went through it carefully. The food was what was questionable to them. They spent a while wiping down the little coffee packets and really studied the tiny bag of sugar and my bag of pancake mix carefully. They made some phone calls and ended up patting me down and going over my waistpack as well but in the end they let me have everything and we had plenty of time and I was on my way. But it would have been more convenient had I put it in the checked bag.

   Flying went fine and we slept a lot on the plane. I had packed food and water bottles (that I filled with water once we were in the secure area of the airport) so I didn't need to buy anything that way on the trip. Our short layover was in Atlanta, Georgia. Things were hopping there as they were getting ready for the Super Bowl that weekend. We arrived in St. Thomas at around 3:30 pm - 2 hours earlier than we had planned to arrive with Spirit (we were going to have a long layover in Fort Lauderdale).  We picked up our car and then the adventure began!
Our destination was up here - high above the shoreline.
  Our Airbnb host had told Ken to put a restaurant as the destination on his GPS as it doesn't really work to put in a specific address - as they don't follow addresses for the most part and they don't have hardly any street signs. So Ken did and right away from the car rental place the GPS started taking us on steep, narrow back streets (though in general most roads are steep and narrow). Horrible roads along with Ken learning to drive on the left side made this trip quite interesting. At one point we came to a place in the already narrow road where half of it had washed away down the hillside. I wondered if we would make it but we did. I tried to video it put didn't use my camera right. Then we were told to turn on a road that said it was closed so we headed off a different way and the route recalculated. The roads were something else but we did start to get a little used to them by the time the trip was over. I did a lot of closing my eyes and praying when we would hit steep areas that I didn't think that we could possibly get up (and our car seemed to wonder too) but we always made it. When we finally got to the restaurant we had no reception on our cell phones and I ended up having to ask to use the phone in the restaurant so that our host could come meet us. Then he led us to the apartment. When we got to the driveway for the apartment we didn't know if we could do it. It was such a steep drop down that we had no idea if there was anything in front of us or not. It totally reminded me of skiing on black diamonds where you just have to leap out in faith and trust that there is going to be something under your feet. It was a bit of a rush every time we went down the driveway. :-)

   The apartment was simple but nice. The view was super cool! We settled in, got some showers and then headed out to eat supper at "Sib's on the Mountain" the restaurant that was nearby. It was a nice place with outdoor dining and live music (a guy playing guitar). I had a hoagie and I think Ken had a burger. 

This cool tree with lights was above our table. Our meals cost $34.50. I believe I had water that night and Ken had a pop. We don't drink alcohol and so that naturally saved us a lot of money, because even though they said it was cheap on the island it didn't look cheap to me.
   After supper we made our way down into town and found a Pueblo supermarket. We felt like we were going back in time to go in there as it felt like a store from our childhood. It was run down and small. But we were able to get some food. Prices were a bit higher than here - some things were a lot higher. We got Mayo, sausages, chicken, coconut, milk, green beans, cheese, eggs, green pepper, ice cream, bananas, cucumber, corn chips, lunch meat, grapes and bread for $63. I brought a bag to put our shopping in so we avoided a plastic bag there but we ended up with a lot of plastic anyway - most everything at the store came in plastic. Then we went "home" and went to bed - before 9 pm I think which would have been 7 pm our time. 
Thursday (1-31-19) morning we got up in good time, I made breakfast and we packed a picnic lunch - it was nice because a lunch box was provided at our Airbnb. I made ice to go in it by freezing water in a container that was also provided. I had also frozen some water in water bottles that we had brought along. I filled them partway and froze it and then added more water the next morning so that Ken could have ice water like he prefers.

  We decided that we would just explore the island a bit that day. So we headed off to see if we could get to the top of the "mountain" first.
We ended up at this place, called "Mountain Top". It was a tourist store, a big place with lots of souvenirs and the ever present alcohol. If we were looking for souvenirs that would have been a nice place to shop as they had inexpensive t-shirts, hats, caps and such. But we weren't really interested. I looked at a little pottery they had but found it was made in China so I didn't get any. I do enjoy getting locally made pottery but not something they have shipped in. We did enjoy our stop here though because they had this lovely lookout deck that overlooked Magen's Bay and you could also look out and see the British Virgin Islands as well. They had some pictures that helped you identify what you were seeing.
Megan's Bay, Han's Lollick Island and St John are what you can see easily in this picture.

We found some pirates there too.
From there we continued driving west on the island (on 33 and then 30) and enjoyed seeing what there was to see. It is much quieter on that end of the island and more rural feeling. The roads were fairly decent for a ways and then at the end of the island it really started to peter out. We stopped and walked a little bit and decided it was best that we not drive any farther we don't think our car would have made it.
We did see this lovely area. This was a property that had a high up view of the ocean.
We saw this cool looking place called "The Preserve of Botany Bay". It sounded interested but it looked closed with this big gate and all. But we thought we would stop for a picture in front of the gate. When we stopped at the gate a guard stepped out of the guardhouse and said "You can't park there, if you would like to come in you will need to park on the (narrow) road". Okay, so the place wasn't closed after all. What was it, could we go down to the shore? He said we could and it didn't cost to come in we would just need to check in. So we decided to check it out but were wondering what we were getting into. Come to find out it is a private community with some amazingly expensive mansions, private roads, beaches and a gate with a guard. But the public was welcome to come in they just had to check in at the gate and they were just allowed to hike (we couldn't bring a car in) to one of the two beaches that were open to the public. We decided to do it. By the way - did you notice the chicken above? There are wild chickens all over the island.
This was a lovely flower on a tree we walked by. I think it may be a tulip tree but I am not sure. The hike was up and down hills and was a little over a mile. Somebody that lived there stopped and asked if we wanted a ride on our way there. We don't mind hiking but we said "sure". It was sweet of him to offer. We did hike back all the way but just part of the way there.
Enjoying our picnic lunch on the beach.
There was a ton of cool rocks, coral and shells.
The beach had a nice sandy place but out in the water was pretty rocky. We went swimming which was fun but I did rather scrape up my feet. We had fun playing in the waves.
This was a pretty place on that beach area.

A cool thing that grows in the ocean but was washed up on shore.
The cute guardhouse at The Preserve at Botany Bay.
After leaving there we stopped at a little road side food trailer in hopes of getting a fruit smoothie or fresh juice. They had a picture of fruits on the outside so we thought maybe they would have that. They did have juice but it was bottled in Canada. I got a glass bottle with passion fruit juice (I believe). Ken decided to be adventurous and got some "famous" homemade lemonade.  He wasn't impressed. It was super sweet but basically no flavor.
We went to Charlotte Amalie and checked out their market downtown. It was definitely very touristy oriented. I was really hoping to find fresh, local produce the whole time I was there and heard about some farmers markets but we never managed to find one. A lady was pulling a wagon of produce around and selling from it and I did buy a bag of tangerines from her for $5. At this Market Ken bought a cap (he had failed to bring one and likes to collect them anyway) for $5 and a magnet for $4. I bought a locally made mortar and pestle for $20 using some money I had been given for my birthday. I ended up just getting that and never getting any local pottery this trip.

We also had fun walking around a little in the more touristy section of Charlotte Amalie - near the port. We timed it fairly well and arrived there basically just as all the cruise people were loading up and leaving. That left it much less busy but it did also mean that some shops were starting to close up.

  We really enjoyed all their little picturesque alleyways that were only for walkers. In those alleys were businesses whose main door went into this little narrow alley. That didn't seem to be a problem.
There were so many jewelry stores there! I guess it can be a fairly good deal there but we weren't really interested. While out walking we did not find any public restrooms except one that charged a dollar per person. That isn't horrible but we decided we could go elsewhere. It did seem very strange however.

So a bit later we did need to use the restroom as we were driving to see the sunset on the beach and we saw this big and nice looking grocery store (much nicer than the one we had gone to the night before) and so we stopped at Westway Supermarket. They did have a public restroom but it was really odd because though it looked to be pretty new and nice the majority of the shelves were fairly empty - many of them were completely empty. We had thought we might buy some more things like perhaps a bread product - but they had none. They did have quite a bit of produce but that was there only well stocked area. I did pick up a can of Jumbo Calamari (squid) as a gag gift (perhaps literally - we haven't tried it yet) to take home to the kids. It cost me $1.99.
Then we went to Brewer's Beach - a pretty nice beach that I guess is used primarily by locals that had a nice bath house with changing area, toilets and outdoor showers. The sand was pretty and the sunset beautiful. We had brought along money belts/pouches so that we could put our money, ID and phones in a ziplock bag and then wear them while we went swimming. Ken did that this time and unfortunately the bag didn't seal well and the stuff got wet. That should have been fine because his camera is water resistant but unknown to him his screen was cracked so it no longer was(it was covered by a screen protector with a crack). So his phone wasn't worked right. We went "home" and made supper and then he figured that he should put his phone in rice. So back to town we went to buy rice. I had brought some along but I had just cooked it for supper. :-)
We checked out Moe's Fresh Market this time. It was smaller then Westway but pretty up to date looking and much nicer than Pueblo. They also had fairly well stocked shelves but there was a note up at a place or so apologizing for shortages as they were having trouble with suppliers.

I found these fun fruits at Moe's but didn't buy them. We spent $7.47 for Rice, Cream Cheese and Bagels.
On Friday (2-1-19) we got up early so that we could drive East to Red Hook and catch the car ferry for St. John. We ate breakfast before we left at around 6 am local time (4 am home time)
 Ken had purchased the pass online before we left the states.I believe it cost $50 round trip, then there was also a Port Authority fee of $3. There was a little confusion about timing (we figured out later that it was our confusion) and we left Red Hook later than we anticipated but it all worked out. To get on the ferry we had to all back our cars on. That was interested. Once on the ferry we got out of the car and went up on the observation deck.
 We landed at Cruz Bay but we didn't stick around there long. Since we had the car along that day we figured we would go driving around the island and explore the national park. We took the North Shore Road and this was an observation area that overlooked Cruz Bay. On this road we soon came across wild donkeys that were crossing the road. That was pretty cool.
We drove to the Annaberg Sugar mill and in the parking lot their were these two smaller donkeys that were quite friendly and greeted people as they got out of their cars. It was 10:30 in the morning at this point and Ken and I were feeling ready for lunch - so we pulled out our picnic lunch and ate it on the beach. We had a good laugh about eating lunch at 8:30 home time.

The Annaberg sugar mill was quite interesting. Their was a guide who told us the history of the growing of the sugar cane on the high hills, the harvesting, turning it into sugar and making rum. He also told us of the slave uprising that happened. I guess the Dutch (the people who were running the sugar mills) were good to their slaves compared to many plantation owners but still slavery isn't fun and when some slaves that used to be princes and people in authority in Africa were brought in they led the others in pursuing freedom. They were successful too.
 I loved the plants growing on the sides of the walls. So pretty!
More pictures of the ruins. 
 After that we changed to our swimming clothes and hiked down the rocky beach for around a mile to Leinster Bay beach. It was a nice place to go swimming.

After that we drove around some and we made it to Coral Bay where I did find a local pottery shop but it was fairly expensive. We hoped to find a gas station there as we were low on gas but they didn't have one so Ken bought a iced coffee at a little cafe that had hand written Bible verses posted all over the walls for around $4.
 On our way back to Cruz Bay and the gas station  going along the Centerline Road we stopped at Caneel Hill trailhead and hiked for a little while.
 We enjoyed the views while on that hike. It is steep hiking but pretty fun. We were glad to be wearing hiking shoes at that point.
 This was an interesting bit of wildlife that we saw. I haven't figured out what it is.
When we got back to town we found the gas station and got some gas for $22.02 (for around 6 gallons). Then we headed to the ferry port. We were going on the last car ferry of the day and we didn't want it to get to full for us.

 Here is our ferry. We got to see the sunset while on it.
We didn't get supper until we got back to Red Hook. There we discovered things were pretty hopping and it was tricky to find parking and then also not all restaurants had room. We tried an Italian place but they were full so we ended up going to the Caribbean Steakhouse and Saloon. I got some shrimp tacos and juice (and I don't remember what Ken got). They were fine but nothing to write home about. Our meal cost $48.70. They got us in very quickly and the hostess was super sweet. The waiter was interesting and not terribly good at his job.

Saturday (2-2-19) We ate breakfast at the Airbnb, I made scrambled eggs or fried eggs pretty much every morning and then we had bagels, oatmeal, granola or pancakes with them (the bagels we bought there but the other stuff I took along). We packed a picnic lunch and headed out. First stop was K-mart. Ken wanted frappucinos as the coffee I had brought along was running out. I had made a couple of homemade Frappucinos but he liked the idea of store bought ones and they were similar in price to buying coffee anyway. We also needed more sunscreen. We were dealing with sunburns and our sun screen was running out. Ken also ended up buying a watch and a calendar. The total cost was $52.52

 We decided to go to Megan's Bay to spend the day on the beach. It did cost us $12 to get in - $5 per person and $2 for the car. It was a big well maintained beach with nice restrooms and lifeguards as well.

   Our Airbnb provided beach towels for us as well as some snorkeling gear, little paddle boards (I don't know if that is quite the right name but you can see one sitting by Ken in the picture above) and the lunch box I had mentioned. That was all quite handy!
 Some selfies by the rocks at the far end of the beach.
 Down at this end we had a lot of fun watching some birds, brown boobys and brown pelicans do a lot of diving. They would just be flying along and all of a sudden would drop from the sky straight down into the water with a splash and up they would come again a moment later often with a fish in their beak. They were pretty cool.

 There were some mangroves down by the beach as well.
 After leaving the beach at around 5 pm we happened to drive by this cemetery. I had seen some bigger ones in the main part of town and down by the coast and I found them interesting with their raised graves. This cemetery was way up on the hill but they were still above ground graves.
 I picked some flowers out of the woods next to the cemetery. I had seen these growing wild all over. They are a really pretty pink that sends vines all over. I was curious if they would work well as a cut flower.
 Don't they just naturally make a lovely cascade bouquet?

I found some more lovely pink flowers by the side of the road as we drove and I added them to our collection. Now we had flowers for our table. I love flowers and had wanted to pick a bouquet while I was there.
I found a lot of Terminalia Catappa trees and nuts while in St. Thomas and St John. I gathered some nuts but was having trouble figuring out their identity for a while. Turns out they are very good for you and are considered the Almond of the tropics. I did bring some home so I will have fun trying them now. I just found this article which tells you all the benefits of this tree. If I had wanted to I could have gathered lots and lots of nuts. They were on beaches and other public places. Nobody else appeared to be interested in them. If I go to the tropics again you will probably find me packing a nutcracker and a hatchet (hopefully we will be checking a bag) so that I can actually use nuts and coconuts while we are there. I was able to find plenty of coconuts too and I will share later my story about getting into them.

  We ate supper at "home" that night. We ate chicken, rice and veggies the nights we ate at home. Simple but good and it did save a lot of money. We also had icecream some evenings.
  That evening we had fun just sitting out in on the deck in the beautiful weather and watching the ocean and city below. While out there I thought I should check in with the church of Christ that we were planning on attending the next day to make sure we would be able to find it okay. I had already communicated with them weeks earlier concerning times but after we got there and discovered the lack of street signs I thought it might be best to check on some landmarks. We found the following conversation rather entertaining and just gave a little insight into the culture there so I thought I would share:

Me: I just wanted to check about finding the church building tomorrow. As we head East of Charlotte Amalie on 38 what should we be looking for?

Church: Hi Abbi. Please call me in the morning or provide me with a number to call you. This is Bro. Terry.
You may even call me tonight if you wish. {Provides number}

Me: Our phones don't have service here. We are using the Wifi at the place we are staying to use Facebook.

Church: Where are you staying?

Me: At an Airbnb that is up above Charlotte Amalie on the Northwest.

Church: Well, for starts, head in the direction that will take you to Home Depot or the Movie Theatre. {Unfortunately I have no idea where these things are.}
Are you able to get a call to me?
Are you driving or taking a taxi?

Me: We can find road 38 just fine, I just wasn't sure if Estate Hoffman was going to have a road sign as many of the streets don't seem to. So I was wondering if there was some sort of landmark on the corner of 38 and Estate Hoffman or if there might be other roads we had to go on as well. I do not have a phone that I can use.

Church: The challenge I am having is I do not know which road is 38.

Me: It is also called Waymouth Rhymer Highway on the map.

Church: And neither can I relate to where is East, West, etc. on the Island. LOL
I bet you most local residents cannot relate to those formal names. Are you driving?

Me: Oh dear. :-) Well if I am traveling on the main road between Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook what do I look for nearby the church building? We are driving.

Church: Good night Abbi. {That is the way of greeting in the Island, instead of hello you say good _____ whatever time of day it is - I tried to adapt but didn't get very good at it}This is Michelle, one of the members of our congregation. When you take Weymouth Rhymer Highway from Charlotte Amalie heading East our church building will be on the hill to your right just before where the gas station is being constructed. There is a yellow church building on the bottom of the hill and once you go up the hill we are the second building on your right. It's blue and white adn there's a gate. Hope that helps. If you get to the Tutu Park Mall area you'll know you went to far. We don't have a lot of directions and we locals usually give directions by landmarks.
*Road signs :-)

Me: Thanks! I think we will be able to make it just fine.

Church: Wonderful. Have a blessed evening. We look forward to meeting you guys.

Me: You too!

And with that we headed to bed.

Sunday (2-3-19) 

 We had a morning visitor by the deck. The iguanas are pretty cool looking.
 We found our way to church pretty easily and in good time. We made it to Sunday School at 9 am with time to spare. We weren't the first ones there but we were close. The people were quite friendly and the preacher thought our communication from the night before was funny too. He shared it with the rest of the congregation. We started with a very small group at class time but people kept drifting in and then at church time there was a nice crowd. It is an accapella congregation. They sang pretty nicely and had the same books that we have at home and I had fun singing with them. Bro. Terry shared a good message about our need to fear the Lord. As I had guessed might happen it was a long service. We started class at 9 am and church wasn't over until after noon. I do really love getting to worship with other believers and study the Bible together wherever we travel. That is a highlight for me.
For lunch we went to Gladys' Cafe. It is one of those businesses that is stuck back on those cute, narrow alleyways. That doesn't seem to matter that it is off out of the way, it is still while known and touted in the travel guide.
 They serve Caribbean and American food. I enjoy Chicken curry with rice and black beans, white sweet potato, fried plantain and cooked vegetables. I had homemade passion fruit juice with it. All of it was delicious! Ken had a burger and pop. Our total was $40. The hot sauce here is homemade and said to be quite famous. I didn't care much for it.

 That afternoon we decided to take the ferry over to Water Island. Water Island is very close to the Charlotte Amalie Harbor. It is a small fairly dry Island. The ferry was a boat that wasn't terribly large that you had to climb down into and then there was bench seats all around the edge. The trip over was quick (10-15 minutes) and non-eventful. We spent $20 on ferry rides that day ($5 per person each way).
 When we got there this bus was ready to take people down to the beach. We did go ahead and ride down on it though the beach was less than a mile away. This bus was kind off rare on Water Island as there is no car ferry and most people drive golf carts around (though there were some other cars there as well - I guess just to use on the island).
 This beach was called honeymoon beach (I think basically every island has one named honeymoon). It was a nice beach but not super big and it was fairly crowded though my picture above doesn't show that. They had live music going on and plenty of alcohol available. The end of the beach where that was at was quite busy. We stayed the the less busy end. We did swim a fair amount. The temperature was truly lovely for swimming much of the time. I do not love swimming in salt water however. The taste is just horrible when you get it in your mouth or nose.
 We also took a walk on Water Island. There were a lot of plants that looked more dessert like.
 We saw a lot of turtles while out walking.
This looked like a fort up at the highest point on the island but I think it was just part of a residence.

 Since we hadn't gotten over there very early we chose to take the last ferry back at around 6:15 pm. That wasn't a great idea. A lot of others on the beach decided to do the same thing and the majority of them were on the drunk side. There were also more than fit comfortably in the ferry - but they took us all anyway. Thankfully it was a short trip. TIP: If you go to Water Island don't wait for the last ferry to leave. That is unless you like to go in a crowded boat with a lot of inebriated people.

 When we got back to St. Thomas we needed some supper. We looked around for some place unique to eat but didn't see anything handy so ended up going to Wendy's (which is a favorite of Ken's). As we made the decision to go there I had thought through what I could order that wouldn't create a lot of trash (which would be a sandwich wrapped in paper) but then when I got in there I kind of forgot about that part and decided a baked potato sounded good. I think in the past they have possibly come in foil which is what I think I was thinking. But when it came, check out all the plastic I had! Obviously I wasn't thinking straight and I probably ordered about the worst thing they had for using plastic. At least I used my own water bottle and didn't add more plastic for that anyway. Our supper at Wendy's cost us $14.
Afterwards we went to Moe's and picked up another 1/2 gallon of milk as we were running out. That was $4.

 Something I did to save a little money, and add a little nutrition without having to buy something with packaging was to bring sprout seeds along with me and grew some sprouts while we were there.

  Monday (2-4-19) was the day that we decided to take the passenger ferry over to St. John and hike to Honeymoon beach and go swimming and snorkeling there.  However we did have a little issue that made us not sure if it was going to work. We were running low on cash (I had taken $80 along but Ken hadn't found the time to go get cash before we left so he went with very little) and when we had gone to the ATM our card was declined. We had also failed to alert the bank to our trip and so they declined it since we were a long way from home. TIP: Let your bank and credit cards know where you will be traveling if you want them to work while you are away. So we waited around the apartment until the bank opened back home so Ken could call them using the internet that we had there. He thought he got things figured out but then forgot to bring his card with him (I can't remember just how that happened now). So we got over to Red Hook, went to the ATM and he discovered he didn't have his card.

  We did end up finding we could pay for the ferry with credit card (I think Ken had alerted the credit card company to our trip) so we were good to go.That cost $32.60 for both of us to go round trip. We just were still dealing with a fairly low amount of cash (like $25-$30 at this time). We had thought we might rent kayaks and snorkeling gear that day but did not have enough cash for all that so we didn't.

While in Red Hook I took these pictures of a business entrance. This was something we found very interesting about the Islands. When a place was closed it looked like the picture above and when we saw that at first we rather thought it was a boarded up business - there were no signs to be seen and padlocks on the door.
But when you came back when it was open it looked like this one. The signs were often on the inside. It made a lot of sense when you thought about hurricanes it just was way different than what we were used to.

 When we arrived in St. John we walked a couple of blocks over to the National Park Visitor Center. We wanted to get a National Park magnet here so we found one for $8. We tried to use the credit card to buy it but they said the purchase needed to be over $10. We looked around to see if there was anything else we needed in the $2 range but there wasn't so we ended up paying cash and dwindling our cash supply a little lower. They did have a place there where you could fill your water bottle with drinking water for free. That was nice as it wasn't very common on the islands.

 From the Visitor Center we just walked to the back side of it and found a stairway going up to the Lind Point Trail which would take us to Honeymoon beach. We took the upper trail which was somewhat steep and rocky but nice. It really wasn't too bad as Ken managed to do it in flip flops. The hike to honeymoon beach was close to a mile.

This is Honeymoon beach which is currently only accessible via hiking or boat. There were still quite a few people there but not overly crowded. Most of them had come in on rubber dinghys, there is a rubber dinghy taxi service which takes people back and forth from Cruz Bay. 

We found this lovely brushy area where I could easily find a place to change.
We had brought the one set of snorkeling equipment from the Airbnb that worked and then we did rent another set there for $10 (using cash again - we were now really close to out). They also had chair, kayak and paddle board rentals there. There was also a place selling food and drinks but we had brought our own in. There were also some nice patio furniture and a hammock or so out on the beach near the food seller that people could use.
We really had a lot of fun snorkeling here. On each edge of the beach area there were some rocky areas where there was also coral and the fish liked to hang out there. There were fish in all sorts of colors. It was beautiful.

 I did have some troubles with swallowing sea water every so often and that was nasty. After a while my stomach felt a little off from the saltwater so I took a break but I think Ken may have been out there for hours.

The businesses there (including the dinghy taxi) closed at 5 so most people left the beach at that time but we hung out a while later and just had fun walking on the beach and visiting. We stayed to watch the sunset and then hiked out. We took the lower Lind Point Trail this time which was nice as it was less steep and wider and easier to navigate as it was getting dark.
Our view of Cruz Bay from the trail as we hiked back.
We were ready for supper when we got back to Cruz Bay. We checked in an one cool looking restaurant but they were completely full. Then we just when a few buildings down and there was a Mexican restaurant called "Margaritas Mexican Eatery". We went there and there was only one other couple there. During the whole time we were there they were the only ones there. I ordered a Conch Quesadilla which was really yummy. I also got rice and beans with that. I had said I would just take water but she said that they only had bottled water so I opted for juice instead. She brought Ken's pop out in a plastic cup and so I asked if she could put my juice in my water bottle and she was happy to do that. Ken and I think that I got a lot more that way anyway and I didn't use single use plastic so that was a win. I had also requested no straws but was interested to find out that all the straws on St. John are required to be compostable and  theirs are made out of soy. I still skipped but found that interesting. They brought us some housemade hot sauces to try. The curry hot sauce and the cilantro hot sauce were delicious! I didn't care so much for the Marchino cherry one. Over all we were quite please with that restaurant and were curious why they were so low on business that night.

We then went and rode the ferry back to St. Thomas. We were careful to not wait for the last one this time. 😉 That would have been midnight anyway which was way later than we were staying up on this trip.

Tuesday (2-5-19) - Last day
 We decided to get up early and watch the sunrise from the deck at our AirBnB. While we waited we watched the cruise ships getting docked down below. There were a lot coming in - it looked like it would be a busy day. We found out later that there was a total of 6 that day!
 Beautiful, brilliant sunshine! We did enjoy that a lot (other than the resulting sunburn) while in the Virgin Islands.
 I had found some different coconuts various places and I really wanted to use them but my earlier attempts with little knives, rocks and a found nail were not working so Ken texted and asked Pierre (our AirBnB host) if he had something so I could get into my coconuts. He brought down a dull machete which wasn't the greatest (and he didn't claim it would be - I guess he doesn't normally use coconuts) but we got it to work. He helped me with one of them and then brought a drill down as well so that I could drain out the coconut water to use. That was fun to finally use them. I still wasted stuff because my equipment was not the best.
 This is a view of our deck and the view below.
 I cleaned the AirBnB - I think that is what you are supposed to do and it just seemed like a nice gesture anyway and emptied our trash. This is our bag of trash for the week. That has pretty much everything that we created except for a few bottles that we filled with water for the days activities and then had to dump before we got on the plane. If they would have had recycling our trash would have been much less but they didn't. I did also put things in trash cans at beaches but it was trash I picked up from others - not us.
 This was a view in another direction from our AirBnB.

We left the AirBnB mid-morning. We didn't need to be to the airport until after 3 so we had some time to do things.
 We checked out Fort Christian on the outside but we didn't pay the $10 each to tour it on the inside.
 Check out my sunglasses - they were a found object on our trip. :-)

We had decided to walk around the town of Charlotte Amalie and check out various landmarks that we hadn't gotten to see up close.
 We climbed the "99" steps. 
 This was the view from the top.
  We visited the St. Thomas Synagogue. It was pretty neat as it is the oldest synagogue in continuous use under the American Flag and the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere. It has sand on the floor in memory of the persecution that happened during the Spanish Inquisition. They also have a Torah Scroll that came from a synagogue that was destroyed in Europe during the Holocaust.
 The Rabbi gave a very interesting tour. They have tours most days which are free.
 I happened to see a little floral shop and I popped in to check it out. I had a lovely little visit with the florist and owner (I believe) and we compared notes about favorite flowers to use and where we got our flowers from.
 For lunch we went to "Hook, Line and Sinker" a restaurant right next to the water in French town. We had heard of it but had some trouble finding it but just as we were going to give up we spotted it. I had one of their specials of the day "Fish and Fungi". I was thinking mushrooms but it wasn't - it was a popular Caribbean cornmeal dish. It was an okra Fungi. It is the yellow bump on my plate close to me in the picture. I reminded me in texture to fluffy mashed potatoes. The fish (grouper, I think) had a lovely sauce and onions and peppers on it. I was also served red sour kraut and fried plantain. All of it was good. The cost for 2 meals was $42. We did spend more often because drinking just water at the restaurants wasn't an option as they didn't have tap water available. So I would get juice and Ken, pop.
This was near the restaurant. I thought the boats were really cute and the shore pretty gross. There was a lot of trash here and big and little pieces of plastic.
We did have fun going out in the Marina here and looking at Sail Boats and Catamarans. Ken is dreaming of owning one someday after our house is all paid off and we save up enough money.

   It was then time to go drop off our car and head to the airport. At the airport you have to go through customs. We were a little confused by that as we were still in an american territory. I had tried to take a coconut and a papaya home with me but had to declare them and they decided they probably shouldn't go - so I lost them.  In the airport they again didn't have any source of drinking water to fill our water bottles with so Ken ended up buying bottled water as we were thirsty and had dumped all our water to get through security. So one bottle cost $3.50.  We were flying home with Spirit airlines. They don't offer free drinks or snacks (I would have declined the snacks anyway as I had some along and theirs came packaged in plastic) but Ken did buy some pop as he was thirsty again. That was $3.

  The flight went smoothly. We had a short layover in Fort Lauderdale. We ate supper at Chili's. The host was also our waiter and he was super efficient. We were impressed. I had a cup or soup and I think Ken had a burger. Our meals cost $18.20.

 We made it back to Minneapolis around 1:20 am. My brother-in-law, Travis picked us up. We went to there home and slept for a while and then went home later that morning. It was a super fun trip but as always it was nice to be back. The weather was warmer than when we had left which was a blessing. There was more snow but that was pretty so all was good.

I started this a week after we got back but it has now been a month. I don't know if anybody will read this super long post but I like to have a record so if that is all it is that is okay.


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