The Inside Scoop on Alaska’s Inside Passage

Join us for daily updates while we head north to Alaska for a celebration of David surviving sixty trips around the sun and a cruise through the Inside Passage. All of our young’uns, along with their significant others, will be joining us, so we are looking forward to lots of laughing, eating, and amazing sightseeing… CONTINUE READING >> 

We are heading north to Alaska for a celebration of David surviving sixty trips around the sun and a cruise through the Inside Passage.

All of our young’uns, along with their significant others, will be joining us, so we are looking forward to lots of laughing, eating, and amazing sightseeing aboard The Royal Princess.

We had the remarkable good fortune to be on her maiden voyage across the Mediterranean Sea a few years ago and from that experience know just how fabulous she is.

Join us right here for frequent updates and fantastic photos of the incredible scenery that we will be sailing past along the way. We will also be posting fabulous photos and you can follow all of our adventure with us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

We begin by attempting to pack everything we will need for the journey in two carry-on bags. Are we crazy?

Probably, but it’s hard to say for certain…

Click here to find out if we pulled it off.

We will be too busy having shipboard fun, watching for whales, exploring the ports along the way, or gazing at glaciers to report all of our escapades in real time, but will certainly be updating as often as possible right here and across our social media channels.

So be sure to follow all of the adventure along with us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Then check back here over the next few weeks for in-depth coverage after the trip.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our previous adventures in Alaska!

A Potentially Preposterous Packing Proposition

We decided to challenge ourselves. Could we pack everything we need for a two week getaway in two carry-on bags? Adding to the conundrum is the fact that the trip includes a cruise to Alaska (where temps may dip down to near freezing) with a formal night… CONTINUE READING >> 

We have decided to challenge ourselves.

Can we pack everything we need for a two week getaway in two carry-on bags? Adding to the conundrum is the fact that the trip includes a cruise with a formal night.

That means this ain’t a throw a few tee shirts in a bag kind of a journey. On the other hand, we are loath to check a suitcase. So just how far will we go to avoid that?

Bagail Packing Cubes

Let’s find out.

Luckily, in our endeavor to make this happen we got some help from the folks at Bagail. They asked us to try using their system of Packing Cubes to organize and compact everything we will need.

Normally packing is not a problem for us; we do it all of the time. Depending on the trip, we just grab some jeans, shirts, and maybe some bike shorts or a bathing suit and we are pretty much ready to go. But this is journey will be a little different.

We are meeting up with our entire family, all three kids along with their significant others, for a cruise and sixtieth birthday celebration for David.

Here we go. How will all of this ever fit?

Not only will we need a suit and formal dress, along with the proper shoes, we are also going to Alaska. This means the weather could be anything from 30 to 80 degrees and sunny or pouring rain… maybe even a little snow, so we will be expected to have the ability to dress accordingly.

On a positive note, the ship does have laundry, so we can wash some things and won’t have to bring everything we require for the entire fortnight. That means we can get by with about half of some of the essentials that we otherwise would have needed for the whole time. Still, it’s a lot of stuff.

First we decided to lay out all of what we wanted to bring so we could eyeball it and develop a battle plan. Seeing it piled up, we were not feeling very optimistic about our prospects for success.

Everything for a two week trip has to go in these? Are we crazy?

Looking at the Bagail six piece system, which includes two of each large (17.5” x  13.7” x 4”), medium (13.7” x 9.8” x 4”), and small (13.7” x 5” x 4”) cubes, we were definitely apprehensive, but hopeful they could somehow give us enough room.

To provide a little more space, we also had two medium Bagail Compression Packing Cubes. These feature a dual zipper system that compresses the clothes to about half of their original size once they are packed inside.

Still we have to admit that we were more than a little apprehensive about our chances of fitting all of this stuff into our little rolling bags.

Our chances look even worse with everything laid out in the suitcases.

While we began to formulate our ideas of what might go where, we happily noticed that the cubes fit perfectly into our suitcases. The large ones precisely fill the bottom of our carry-ons, with the medium and small stacking exactly on top, since the size of those two cubes equals the size of the large cube.

That should certainly make things easier, so now all we had to do was start stuffing these babies like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Once we filled the large cubes things looked a little better.

We both started by filling our large cubes with a remarkable amount of said stuffing. David’s easily held a suit, jeans, ties, and half a dozen dress shirts while Veronica had no trouble with two dresses, jeans, cargo pants, half a dozen shirts, and some jammies.

She then chose two bulky sweaters, which are normally a real pain when packing, to load into one of the compression cubes and was pleasantly surprised that they squished down with no problems.

After stuffing the compression cubes we were getting downright optimistic.

Meanwhile, David fit all of his tee shirts and some flannel pajamas into the other compression bag.

With that accomplished we felt a rush of hope that we might just pull this off after all.

The medium sized cubes easily held two pairs of David’s pants, along with swimming trunks, shorts, a hoodie, and a heavy pullover. Veronica had no trouble putting three more dresses and, not to be caught off guard in case it gets pretty cold, a down parka in hers.

Looking good.. but wait… oh no, SHOES!!!

Socks and underwear all fit into the small cubes, so it looked like we got everything in, right?

Right.

But wait just a dad-blame minute. Not so fast there Gypsynesters.

Even with everything in the cubes, we were still faced with one last obstacle… shoes!

Turns out they fit nicely between the cubes.

Well it turns out that the cubes indirectly helped with them too. Individual shoes slid nicely between the cubes throughout our suitcases and much to our surprise everything fit.

We did it!

We have to say that so far we are loving the Bagail Packing Cubes system. Without it there is no way we could have managed to bring everything without checking a suitcase, which would break our One Trip Rule.

So, two thumbs up.

We did it!!!

Also, since these handy cubes are new to us, we will be learning more about them as we travel and posting updates along the way on our Instagram and Twitter pages.

Be sure to follow along with us while we cruise Alaska’s inside passage and celebrate David’s sixtieth.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A big thank you to Bagail for providing the packing cubes for us to try and, as always, all opinions are our own.

A Space for Grandkids by Grandkids & Grandparents

What if you had a spare bedroom or space in your house that you could reserve for your grandchildren? Wouldn’t it be fun to make it more kid-friendly? Not just the decorations, but coming up with an activity that all of you can do together to really enhance the experience… CONTINUE READING >> 

When I was younger, my grandparents always went out of their way to make sure their home was as comfortable for me as my own. While it wasn’t necessarily “KID-FRIENDLY,” they tried their best to make sure that my brother and I kept coming back. I sometimes think back on my childhood and reflect on all of the great things that they did to help us thrive as children and mature into respectable gentlemen. My grandparents on both sides (maternal and paternal) really helped form the foundational building blocks of what I think has helped me get where I am today in life. That really had me thinking though about some of the things they could have done that would have made our time together more fun. (Don’t get me wrong, we had what seemed like countless toys and games.) What I’m talking about is the space that we hung out and slept in.

What if you had a spare bedroom or space in your house that you could reserve for your grandchildren? Wouldn’t it be fun to make it more kid-friendly? They might just want to spend more time with you, and creating a space that they (and you) really enjoy can help toward that. I’m not talking about just the decorations in the room, although that can be a part of the experience with your grandchildren—picking out curtains, wall paper, paint, comforters, pillow cases, etc. that match their tastes. I’m talking about coming up with an activity that all of you can do together to really enhance the experience.

The first thing that comes to my mind is creating a chalkboard wall (because we all know that kids like to write on walls and just about anything they can get their hands on, am I right?). There are tons of different ways you can approach this, but the point is that you can have your grandkids help you with the project

There are DIY kits available that you can purchase, or completely customize that room the way you like. We’ve found that the simplest method is to purchase high-quality chalkboard paint and go to town with it! There are infinite possibilities for this experience that you’ll be creating with your grandchildren. You want to make the room magical for them—and this is definitely a great way to start.

If you’re absolutely stuck trying to figure out how to paint a chalkboard wall in your spare room, there are many resources available for reference. We, too, have created one to help people like you, who want expertise and guidance from a professional. PlatoDIY.com has experts in painting to properly guide you through the entire process. At the end of working with one of our professionals, our hope is that you’ll have learnt how to properly paint and design an awesome chalkboard experience for your grandchildren.

There are infinite possibilities for your grandchildren’s room at your house. You ultimately have to choose what best fits your lifestyle and goals. We think that enhancing your property for your grandchildren is something that all grandparents should think about, because it truly can enhance your life in more ways than you actually think or know!

David Peterson, PlatoDIY.com

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Mama Loves a Ball of Paint

In honor of Mother’s Day, and mothers everywhere, and in keeping with our love for anything and everything World’s Largest, Greatest, Biggest, or Best,we are revisiting this story of our very first Mother’s Day as empty nesters…

CONTINUE READING >> 

In honor of Mother’s Day, and mothers everywhere, we are revisiting this story of our very first Mother’s Day as empty nesters.

It’s Mother’s Day. This one is a milestone for me. It’s my first without chicks in the nest.

I’d received phone calls from all three of my children — the fast-walking, subway-chasing, black-wearing, taxi-flagging NYC urbanite daughters, The Piglet and Decibel, and The Boy sending their love and best wishes.

Each expressed their undying gratitude for spawning them and shared all the wonderful things going on in their busy lives.

Absolutely lovely, everyone remembered me, and no guilt calls would be needed for at least a week.

Now the rest of the day loomed menacingly. This GypsyNesting Mama needed a diversion. It had to be a well established diversion, something so spectacular that any sort of baby-missing hysterics would be averted.

A brunch at a really, really nice restaurant? The thought of just the two of us surrounded by long tables of celebrating families was just begging for a Chernobyl sized meltdown.

The very idea of food reminded me of those wonderful Mothers Day mornings with the pitter-pattering of footy pajamas, dry scrambled eggs with shell fragments and burnt toast served to me in bed. Planning in advance might have been the sensible thing to do, but hey, the plan is no plans.

After discussing a few scenarios, David and I decided that anything even remotely traditional would not do. So what TO do?

Eureka!

We hit the road and headed for the World’s Largest Ball of Paint.

Deep in the heart of Hoosierland lives a man with a vocation spanning forty-five years.

It all started with a happy mishap in 1964. Mike Carmichael and a buddy were tossing a baseball and it ended up in can of paint.

Cross sections of the giant paint ball.

Then an inspiration, — “What would this look like if I continued to coat the baseball, then cut the whole thing in half?”

Encouragement was given by neighbors and kinfolk — then they dissuaded him from splitting the coated sphere. Years passed and Mr. Carmichael was left with a massive orb hanging from a chain in a room of his house. Did his wife mind? Not a bit, Glenda has added over 8,000 layers herself.

After years of keeping his master work strictly among family and friends, the time had come to reveal it to the world. He decided to build a pavilion to showcase the ever-growing globe and the accolades soon followed.

Relocating the 3000 pound work of art meant knocking out a wall of their home and utilizing a forklift for the jaunt to the more fitting domicile worthy of a masterpiece of this magnitude. In doing this Mike proved the theory, “if you build it, they will come.”

People have come from at least twenty-five countries to add another coat of paint and receive a certificate to commemorate the event. One layer even included a marriage proposal (she said yes!). The ball is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not as well as appearing on several television networks.

The Carmichaels have met gobs of celebrities who have made the pilgrimage to add yet another layer of pigment. Once David Letterman
made arrangements for Mike to bring the ball to his late night show, but Mike declined, feeling that the orb must be seen in its proper setting. Besides, you never know what might happen to a ton and a half of dried paint turned loose in The Big Apple.

We knew that the 20,000th layer had been recently added and were eager to find out which layer would be ours. This would be a Mothers Day to remember!

The Ball of Paint is viewable by appointment only. We were pleased that Mike would see us on a Sunday (and Mothers Day to boot) with only a few hours notice. What a guy, he must have felt the pain brewing deep within my heart.

Entering the Pavilion, we were struck by the enormity of the situation. The ball is suspended from an iron girder, and is so large that a large mirror is set on the ground below so you can see underneath as you roll on the paint.

After viewing every angle, discussing every aspect and a quick tour of the Pavilion, Mike finally asked us the question David and I were aching to hear, “What color are you going to use?” With a scan of the dozen or so vats of paint, we grabbed our rollers and lovingly added layer number 21,823 which included a Mothers Day stick figure homage to our children.

After completing the task, and adding to the world’s record, we contently began to walk away with our souvenir paint chip, certificate of Coat # 21823 and commemorative tee shirt.

Just out the door, I asked Mike one more question, “What’s your regular job?”

“I’m a painter.”

Perfect.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Love and Spit-takes

Have you noticed that the older we get, the less we laugh? As a mother and someone who has worked in academic settings, I find myself envious of teenaged girls who can work themselves into hiccup-inducing hysterics over the slightest thing. Admittedly, the tears come just as fast, and I have to say I’m glad I’m past THAT nonsense but just witnessing a spontaneous giggle-fest sets my heart a-singing.

As a society, we unfortunately chalk uncontrollable laughter up to immaturity. How sad is that? I feel blessed anytime I’m with someone who can find humor in… CONTINUE READING  >>

Veronica Writes

Have you noticed that the older we get, the less we laugh?

As a mother and someone who has worked in academic settings, I find myself envious of teenaged girls who can work themselves into hiccup-inducing hysterics over the slightest thing.

Admittedly, the tears come just as fast, and I have to say I’m glad I’m past THAT nonsense, but just witnessing a spontaneous giggle-fest sets my heart a-singing.

As a society, we unfortunately chalk uncontrollable laughter up to immaturity. How sad is that? I feel blessed anytime I’m with someone who can find humor in everyday situations or can relate a hysterical life story. Give me somebody who can help me plot undoable practical jokes or an elaborate heist scenario any day. I have a criminal mind with, luckily, no guts.

But — alas — it is exceptionally rare that any of these encounters evolve into the kind of laughter that physically hurts. David and I have our moments, but it’s when I’m with my girls, The Piglet and Decibel, that the demented stuff really gets underway.

Twice during a visit to Manhattan, real honest-to-goodness public spit-takes happened.

The first, involving me, red wine and a really nice Italian restaurant where Decibel was a hostess on the weekends. The wonderfully charming restaurateur had just settled us in our regular window table with mussels, bread and Chianti, allowing Decibel sit with us as long as her duties didn’t require her to be elsewhere.

Feeling the effects of all day on planes, buses, taxis and trains — I was properly goofy when I started relating a story of an erstwhile Google search (no need to repeat it here since I’ve yet to find a single person that thinks it’s even remotely funny outside the three of us).

Filling my mouth with the delicious Chianti, I stupidly looked up at Decibel — not my smartest move — and the look on her face took me to the next level of mirth.

Realizing that swallowing had jumped out of the realm of possibilities, I raised my white linen napkin to my quivering lips in a vain effort to keep the red wine contained in my mouth. Not willing to let this situation pass, The Piglet upped the ante by tossing out an inappropriate comment.

The ensuing explosion was spectacular. The Piglet likened it to a scene from a horror flick, as if I’d been impaled and coughing up blood.

You can’t take me anywhere.

The next morning at brunch Decibel repeated the action with her own spit-take, this time with a spiced tea latte. At a communal table.

We’re quite the class act.

Unbecoming spit-takes aside, laughter makes life worth living. I am proud of my dynamic daughters, so full of life and youth, willing to turn me into a doubled-over mess of flying spew.

It’s hard to believe there were times during their teenage years when we couldn’t connect, were unable to share and when I was paralyzed with the thought that they would grow up and not love me anymore.

Now they graciously allow me to see the world they have created for themselves, tell me their stories, share their problems and fears — adult women who are secure enough to call me Mommy.

I fervently hope that no matter how old I get, I’m never too “mature” to chance a spit-take or two with my daughters. Cheers!

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR turn: Do you have someone that you share laughter like this with?