Thursday, June 1, 2023

Tales of the Traveling Tote 35 - Mediterranean Cruise Plus a Giveaway

Welcome to our June 2023 
Tales of the Traveling Totes.
Miss Madi K and I went all 
the way to the Mediterranean 
on a 12 day cruise.

This was our first trip back to 
Europe since Covid hit and we 
had a marvelous time.

We started with a three day 
pre-cruise trip in Rome 
where we stayed in the 
Hotel Twenty-One.  It was 
so centrally located so we 
could walk everywhere.  We 
lucked out and got a junior suite, 
which had a luxurious round 
bed and a soaking tub up 
behind the bed.  The flowers 
in the lobby were the most 
exquisite color of peonies.  I 
had to touch them, and sure 
enough, they were real. 

The first day we walked to the 
Spanish Steps and they had the 
most beautiful display of flowers 
going down the full length of the 
steps.  Alas, when we came back 
at the end of the cruise, they had 
all been removed.  It had been such 
a glorious sight.  We had been here 
in 2019, also in May and I knew 
they hadn't had flowers then either. 

We did a tour of the Colosseum 
during the day, but we got an 
Uber and went back again at 
night as our friends had never 
seen it at night. 

We were also able to visit St. 
Peter's Basilica, which had 
been closed in 2019, and 
the Vatican Museums and 
the Sistine Chapel.  We hadn't 
been there since the late 90's, 
so that was amazing.

We also got to visit the 
Rome Temple of 
The Church of Jesus Christ 
of Latter-Day Saints, the 
church we belong to.  Our 
tour group was mostly 
members of our church. 

We had been here in 2019 
with our kids, so I told our 
friends to get off the bus and 
quickly get pictures before 
9 other buses arrived!!! 

We sailed on the Odyssey 
of the Seas, a 
Royal Caribbean Ship.  
You can see my hat box and 
I watched videos before I 
left that suggested magnetic 
hooks for your wall, so my 
hats were displayed on the wall.

Our big motivation for taking 
this trip was being on the cruise 
with one of our favorite singing 
groups, Gentri - the 
Gentlemen Trio.  They are 
local guys that met while 
singing in Les Miserables and 
formed this amazing group.  
You can find their music on 
ITunes.  We especially love 
their Christmas albums.  

The first day at sea we had a 
private meet and greet with 
them and a mini concert.  

When I say private, there were 
400 in our tour group!  They 
ended up doing two private 
performances and two public 
performances, to a packed theater. 

The second night we had our 
first formal night.  We all loved 
dressing up for the formal nights.  
This wasn't a carry-on bag only 
trip for us!

Miss Madi K's first outing was 
in Cyprus, where we had booked 
a catamaran tour.  

After that we headed to Israel.  
Unfortunately, there was bombing 
taking place down by the Gaza Strip.  
The ship bypassed Ashdod and went 
up to Haifa because of the 
bombings.  We got off and went 
through immigration, took this 
photo which says "Israel
Vacation" and then were to 
stay on the ship until everyone 
had finished immigrations.  They 
stopped part way through the 
process and announced that we 
wouldn't be going to Israel!  

Now hubby and I have been 
multiple times to Israel, but 
our friends had never been, and 
along with Gentri, that had been 
their big motivation.  They had 
tried twice during Covid and 
hadn't been able to go, so that 
was a huge disappointment.  

Our tour had scheduled a 
private moment in the 
Garden Tomb and Gentri 
were going to sing there.  

So sad!!!  

But the cruise line changed our 
itinerary to now include Santorini!!
We had never been to Santorini.  We 
booked a professional photo shoot 
there, and that was a lot of fun.

Hubby carried Miss Madi K along 
so that we could have a change of 

We all agreed that 
Santorini was a nice 
consolation prize!

Our other consolation prize 
was Crete.  We had amazing food 
there.  I had the best gyro 
sandwich I have ever had.  It 
was chicken and the pita was 
so amazing.  I wanted to stop 
everyone and tell them to eat 

Next we went to Ephesus.  
We said we didn't get to 
walk where Jesus walked, 
except for on and off the 
boat, but we did get to 
walk where Paul walked.  
Ephesus is truly amazing.

Then we were off to Athens.  
Where we got to visit Mar's 
Hill and the Parthenon - 
again - we got to walk where 
Paul walked and talked.

My pictures in Ephesus and 
Athens don't show the hoards 
of crowds that were there.  
If you were patient, you could 
get a decent picture that looked 
like you had it to yourselves!  
In Santorini they said we were 
the only cruise ship there, as 
their season didn't start until 
the next week, so the crowds 
were very light. 

From our trip in 2019 I fell in 
love with Passion Fruit Gelato, 
so I was on a search for it.  We 
finally found it in Athens and we 
had it with a dark chocolate 
orange gelato.  
I have made both twice since 
we got home.  

The poppies were in glorious 
bloom in Pompeii.  Our guide 
told us before we got back on 
the ship we had to have pizza 
in Naples and especially we 
had to try their fried pizza.  

The fried pizza was like a 
fried calzone and it was 
amazing.  I don't think we 
would have tried it without 
her suggestion.  The pizza 
in Naples was by far our 
favorite pizza.  

We had been told there would
be three formal nights, but 
we only had two. 

So when we went to their 
specialty restaurant 
Wonderland, we 
used our third set of 
dressy clothes.  It is a 
take on Alice in 
Wonderland and 
was a pure delight. 

We loved it so much 
we went there twice. 

We also tried their 
Teppanyaki specialty 
restaurant and had a 
lot of fun there.  We 
had a singing chef and 
he asked if anyone was 
celebrating and we told 
him it was our 44th 
anniversary the next night, 
so we presented us with 
this rice "cake" with an 
electric candle and he 
pretended to blow it out.

Our final night of the cruise 
happened to be our 44th 
anniversary, and we ate at 
Wonderland again and 
Gentri gave their concert 
to the whole ship.  We got 
seats on the third row - our 
friend skipped dessert to 
secure those seats.  What an 

This is what he missed - 
a Chocolate Globe that 
they pour hot caramel over.  
Hubby wanted his own after 
we had it the first time.  the 
bottom left is another dessert 
and the bottom right is a 
vegetable garden.  This was 
an experience!

After the concert we saw 
another show with drones, 
went out on the deck for 
blue hour and of course 
had to stop for pizza! 
(It was our last night!")

We decided to leave our 
tip for our cabin steward in 
our own towel sculpture!

Even though we ate at 
specialty restaurants three 
out of twelve nights, the food 
in the main dining room on 
Royal Caribbean was outstanding!

I am so glad you were able 
to vicariously travel with 
us!  There was some 
disappointment, but we 
had a marvelous time.  

Now for the giveaway!

Visit lovely Sarah at 
and leave a comment to enter.

Visit all of the other ladies 
and their totes and see  
where they have been off to!

  Debbie with Miss Aurora @ Mountain Breaths 

Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch

 Patti with Miss Kenzie @ Pandora's Box  

Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron

Linda P with Miss Lola @ Life and Linda

Rita with Miss Luna C Panoply 

Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul

Jackie and Miss Madi K @ Purple Chocolat Home

Ricki Jill and Countess De Monet @ The Sketchy Reader


Monday, April 3, 2023

Mad Hatter Party - Relief Society

Each year we celebrate the birthday 
of the Relief Society, which is the 
women's organization of our church, 
The Church of Jesus Christ 
of Latter-Day Saints.  

I am in charge of the 
Relief Society parties.
We have about four a year.  
I chose the theme of 
Finding Joy in the Madness.

That felt so appropriate with 
all of the crazy things in the 
world and on the news.  

My good friend Karen also has 
the same calling, or responsibility, 
as I do.  I told her about my idea 
and she decided to do the same theme.  

Karen added to my ideas with 
lots of creativity.  

The activity is held in the church 
cultural hall, or gym, so it is 
a large space that can be 
difficult to make inviting. 

She came up with this idea 
at the entry with a wooden 
feature from her garden.  It 
made the venue so inviting.

On the other side of the entry 
I hung a photo backdrop that 
I found on Amazon.  They are 
my new favorite decoration items 
and so reasonable.  

Another great idea of Karen's 
was to take a PVC pipe and 
hang it from the basketball hoop, 
and hanging from it is inexpensive 
lanterns.  I just loved the 
mushroom shaped ones.  These 
are also from Amazon.  

I made 48 Mad Hatter hats 
using 12x12 papers, headbands, 
and paper cups.  They were 
time consuming, but were really 
a hit.  We told them they couldn't 
eat without their hats on, and 
everyone gladly donned them. 
(That was Karen's idea and 
hubby suggested I only make 
a couple per table so people 
could take pictures, but 
I was so glad I did one for

We filled the cups with different 
colors of cotton candy, 
then the ladies could pour 
pink lemonade over the 
cotton candy, as it changed 
the color of the drinks.  

The buffet table had mini 
scones, ribbon sandwiches, 
blueberry goat cheese 
crostini and chicken 
sandwich cream puffs.  

These delicious scones 
were glazed with an 
almond glaze.  We had 
raspberry jam and lemon 
curd on the tables to 
enjoy with the scones. 

One of our committee gladly 
took the assignment of 
making heart shaped 
chocolate covered 
strawberries although she 
had never done those before.  
We found these foam cubes 
at the dollar store to 
place them in as they dried 
and also to serve them.  
I think they turned out 

Another member of the 
committee made the 
painted roses cupcakes.  
These were displayed on 
the tables on adorable 
Alice in Wonderland 
tiered serving platters.  
You can find the cute 
paper products, tiers, 
runners and cut outs on 
Amazon also.  

I used two different tiered 
trays and will reuse them for 
a family party.  

Tables were filled with clocks,
rabbits, flowers and 

We haven't tended to 
take a group photo in 
the past, but with the 
hats on, we just had to.  

I think we need to make 
this a new tradition. 

Just before the group 
picture we had a speaker who did 
a great upbeat presentation 
on Finding Joy in the Madness.
  She used clips 
of Marjorie Hinckley, 
whose delightful humor 
had us all laughing and 
feeling joyful. 

This is my wonderful 
committee who stretch 
to try new things and 
follow all of my crazy 
ideas.  I love them!

And a great thank you 
to my dear friend Karen 
for all of her creative ideas 
and work.  

Thanks for coming to visit! 
I always enjoy your visits. 

I will be posting this 

Follow me on Instagram