Looking Back and Looking Ahead -New Year’s Day 2018


Despite our many health challenges in 2017, the year ended up treating us pretty well!  This year’s accomplishments and adventures included buying our first home (which drew a lot of great visitors from out of state!), Dan getting a recumbent bike with an electric assist, Carolyn travelling to London and the Caribbean (including her decade-long dream of attending the National Sweepstakes Convention), Carolyn teaching her first class with Boise Community Education, and about 7 months ago Carolyn started a second volunteer job with Spay-Neuter Idaho Pets (SNIP), while continuing to volunteer for the Idaho Humane Society.

For 2018, we hope to continue having adventures.  We applied for a local ACLU Activist Academy, and should be hearing soon about whether we will be attending. Carolyn is scheduled to teach her second Boise Community Education class in February.  And one of our major goals for this year is getting some work done on the house.

From our family to yours, have a happy and exciting new year!


Fall Fun at Twin Oaks Farms

We had a weeknight date night, spending our evening at Twin Oaks Farms in Eagle, ID.  The farm is the last operating of its kind on Eagle Road.  In the fall, they have a great Halloween-themed set up on the property, complete with graveyard, “log henge”, and much more. But what attracted us to visit was the farmyard animals and Bunny Hill!  Check out our photos!

Other Ways to See

I spent Wednesday morning at the Low Vision Clinic at the Idaho Commission for the Blind. I was assessed an needing a white walking probe to cut back on having accidents and falls due to vision loss, help with navigating terrian, and help with depth perception.

I am very excited because this ultimately means I will have more independence! Plus, they suggested I consider a dog for the blind after mastering the probe.

I wish I had been less proud and done this a long time ago. I have been making due for almost a decade, and trying to hide the extent of my disability from my friends and the public. But that closed off alot of my world. Hopefully this will open it back up again!

I’m not going to lie, I am still a bit self-concious.  But I will be working with a specialist from the Commission for the Blind, and I hope to join a low vision support group to work through the adjustment!

white cane

Sweepers Convention in the Caribbean

Cruise Overview

The 2017 National Sweepstakes Convention was held on a cruise this year (“The Sweepers Escape”) and I was lucky enough to be able to go on the week-long cruise with my fellow sweepstaking friend Heather. The event was held on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest and largest cruise ship called the Escape, which is larger than the Titanic!

There were two days at sea during which the sweepstakes convention was held, and there were four ports of call: Roatan, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico.  During our port stops, we participated in several very nice excursions.

Prior to boarding the ship, we spent an extra day in Miami and saw the spectacular Wynwood Walls, showcasing the greatest artists working in the street art and graffiti genre.

The Convention

The 28th Annual National Sweepstakes Convention started with a meet and greet aboard the ship’s Spice H20 deck.  It was a casual way to soak up some sun while introducing ourselves and chatting.

Day One of the Convention included an overview of the history of sweepstaking, different types of sweepstakes and contests, and the types of prizes that someone entering could win.  It also included a newbies session for people both new to the conference or new to sweeping.  And everyone was a winner on the first day of the conference!  There were drawings for numerous prizes, and I won a $25 restaurant gift card, while Heather won $100 cash.

Day Two of the Convention included talks by an author duo who recently published “The Expert Guide to Winning Sweepstakes: Sweepstakes, Contests, Games & Prize Promotion Handbook,” as well as a speaker that represented the companies who ran sweepstakes.  He had some wild stories about both sweepstakes winners and the sponsoring companies. The day ended with the “upgrade” drawings, which were for cash, lottery tickets, gift cards, and stamps. While I was not a lucky winner on the second day, the joy in the room was infectious as winners’ names were called.

The Excursions

Roatan, Honduras

Our first excursion from Roatan, Honduras was to take a boat to a little island called Maya Caye  (pronounced Key).  We were allowed to spend the whole day there until the time we had to be back at the ship, and there was much to do!  Getting off the boat at the dock in front of the gift shop/snorkel rental was a tree with a colorful Macaw that greeted every passerby with “hello!”

The island had a gorgeous sand beach with clear water for swimming and snorkeling, as well as a pool and bar area with patio seating where they served an island lunch of coconut rice, beans, fish, and banana chips (which taste neither like bananas or chips).

Maya Caye also was home to a wildlife sanctuary with rescued and donated animals ranging from birds and monkeys to large and small jungle cats, and even a friendly pig that loved scratches on its back and side!  This is also where I saw my first wild iguana as it ran out of the forest, and along the outside of one of the pens.

As the path meanders up a slight hill, at the top are replicas of Mayan temples and architecture, inside of which are museums.  “The Mayan Interpretation Center and Ethnic Honduran Art Exhibit Center provides a peek into Roatan’s history and culture through displays and artifacts.” (http://www.mayakey.com/)

Finally, down near the dock you can see sea lions and even pay extra for an encounter.

Harvest Caye, Belize

While waiting for our Harvest Caye excursion, we took a stroll around the island looking at shops, walking through the Wildlife Experience complete with Toucans, Butterfly House full of giant blue and orange butterflies, and the small botanical garden.

On this day we participated in a Lagoon Wildlife and Mangrove Estuaries tour.  What beautiful surroundings!  In the water from our tour boat, we saw giant rays, jellyfish, and the impressive mangrove trees with their roots growing out of the water.  We saw many birds including Cormorants, Anhingas, and Rosette Spoon Bills.

But the highlight of the tour was seeing the manatees come up for breaths of air every 3-4 minutes.  The country has a population of 1000 manatees.

Costa Maya, Mexico

The first of our Mexico stops was Costa Maya.  We signed up for a Catamaran Cruise and Snorkel, but since the meeting point was so far from the marina, along the ride we got a tour of the entire town.  Our awesome tour guide Michelle pointed out the local hotspots, culture, and history.

At the marina, many iguanas were basking in the sun on the dock.  We boarded our catamaran which was run by friendly “pirates” and off we went to the reef.  Heather snorkeled while I just enjoyed the boat (which was like a floating party bus complete with music and drinks) and scenery.

Cozumel, Mexico

Our final port of call was Cozumel. Our excursion for the day was called The Joy of Chocolate, and focused a lot on Mayan and native Mexican culture.  We spent the day at Discover Mexico, starting with a film about Mexican culture and history and then on to a museum exhibition.  From there we went to make chocolate at the Cacao Experience.  We learned how to make Mayan chocolate from grinding the beans and mixing the ingredients, through putting it in the mold and wrapping it up!  While we waited for our chocolate creations to be ready, we got to sample some delicious Mayan hot chocolate.  We were educated about the chocolate process and the importance of chocolate in the Mayan culture.

Outside of the chocolate kitchen we got to meet Sofia, a friendly donkey who liked to pose for pictures.  Then it was on to the winding paths of Discover Mexico park to view the miniature building replicas (dioramas) of ancient Mayan structures to more modern Mexican architecture.

Finally, we ended the day watching native Mexicans perform a ritual to call the rain which involved 5 teenage boys who were descendants of a specific tribe.  One sat atop a very tall poll and played a drum while the others swung in a circle around the poll suspended only by a single rope each.

The Onboard Entertainment

While onboard the ship, we caught several shows. The first was a comedy showcase featuring two opening comedians and a headliner.  The first comedian was formerly a writer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show and had won an Emmy.

Another night we saw a comedic juggler, and towards the end of the trip we caught the Mersey Boys at the Supper Club.  It was basically dinner and a show with the Liverpool four singing oldies (Frankie Valley, Beatles, Otis Redding, etc.) while we were served a three-course meal at our tables.

The Specialty Dining Package

Specialty Dining Packages were offered as an upgrade on the cruise, so we purchased one that allowed us three meals at some of the more exclusive and fancier restaurants on the ship.  We chose to indulge at Le Bistro, a French restaurant; Teppanyaki, a Japanese restaurant; and La Cucina, an Italian restaurant.


I have only included a couple pictures on this post.  I have not yet sorted out all the photos from my various cameras so I plan to do a separate blog post with just photos.  Look out for that coming next week!

200th Anniversary of the Bicycle

Today we went to see an art exhibit at the BSU Student Union Fine Arts Gallery called Cycling Through: A Story of Community & Change.  It was an interesting exhibit of artwork, photographs, bicycles, and more throughout the past 200 years.  The exhibition commemorates the 200-year anniversary of the invention of the bicycle.  Curiously, no one actually knows who came up with the first bicycle, but it is interesting to see how it developed as a means of sport, transportation, and environmental conservation over the years. There was also a bicycling postage stamp exhibit that included a recumbent trike!

Yellowstone Bear World

We took a fun little adventure to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary the first week of June.  We traveled from Boise to Rexburg, Idaho to see Yellowstone Bear World.  We arrived on June 1 and checked in to our hotel room which was a themed room decorated like a medieval castle.  On the morning of June 2 we set out for Bear World.  The nature preserve is set up in two parts.  The first part is the herbivores, such as the mountain goats, buffalo, deer, elk, and moose.  The second part has the bears and wolves.  The animals get to roam around and you drive your car though slowly to observe them.  You are allowed to drive around as many times as you like for a chance to see more animals.  We drove around twice, once taking pictures and once just enjoying the sights.

Beyond the gift shop at Bear World is a couple of pens where you can pay to feed the baby bears.  We had such fun watching them play and tumble around.  Beyond that there is a petting zoo where we got to interact with deer, a hungry pot bellied pig, goats, and chickens.  One of the deer had just given birth and you couldn’t pet that one because the mom was very protective.  But it was adorable!

That evening we decided to drive into Idaho Falls to have a nice dinner at the Copper Rill.  The restaurant overlooks the falls.

We drove home June 3 with promises to come back that way and actually go to Yellowstone!

Here are several of our video clips on YouTube:

Bear World on YouTube

Also enjoy our pictures below!



Goodbye 2015; Welcome 2016!

Hat Selfie

Each year we like to look back over what we did through the year, and then state our goals for the coming New Year.  Here is our list for 2015-2016!

2015 was our first year in Boise.  We moved here sight unseen after a few years in California.  Over our first eleven months here we did a lot of sightseeing and had many local adventures.  Perhaps best of all, we made some really good friends!  If you missed any of our blog posts from 2015, be sure to scroll down or look through the archives on this blog and check out all our pictures and words!

We have many hopeful dreams for 2016.  During 2015 Carolyn started many projects that she hopes to continue and expand upon in the coming year.  As you know, Carolyn is a hobby sweeper.  In that vein she started a blog geared toward engaging new and fellow hobby sweepers.  It can be found at youcanbeawinner.wordpress.com.  In the New Year, Carolyn hopes to build a bigger readership on that blog, as well as continue to maintain Boise Sweepstakes Club on Facebook.  She has also applied to volunteer teach a class for the local Community Education on sweeping.  She is hopeful she will get the opportunity to build some local excitement around this addicting hobby.  And of course, she hope to win more prizes in 2016!

And everyone knows Carolyn’s life would not be complete without helping animals in some way.  In 2015 she started volunteering through the Idaho Humane Society.  Her goals are to continue to make homemade fleece no-sew blankets for the animals.  She will also start her newest volunteer endeavor with IHS as a website writer.  This year-long commitment will have her writing website descriptions of the animals once every five weeks or so.  And her Facebook page, Idaho Dog Advocates will continue to be maintained.

Carolyn’s final two wishes for the coming year are to have more adventures and to finish writing another book.

Dan who has had an extremely difficult year dealing with pain and dysfunction in his leg, also has high hopes that 2016 will be better!  His first wish for the New Year is to see some improvement for his leg.  In addition, he hopes to lose weight, perhaps with the help of a trike equipped with electric assist.  His other big hope for the New Year is to be able to buy a house in our new hometown of Boise!

As you look back and reflect on the past year, what can you list as big events, accomplishments, and adventures?  As you look ahead to 2016 what are you most looking forward to?  We would love to hear your list in the comments!

From both of us to you, HAPPY NEW YEAR!