Travels in Aruba 2016 – part eleven

This visit to Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, I noticed something new was being offered to guests, a Driftwood Workshop.  Each Sunday during happy hour at the Sand Bar, they feature local artisans which is always fun. It’s where I met Maria Onni, who teaches the driftwood painting class.  One look at her work, you are enchanted and want to try your hand….I signed up the following day for the next class.

Maria is one of those artists who has natural talent and loves to repurpose driftwood, sea glass and other found items. Check out some of her creations:

I arrived for the class, set up in the Tara Lounge and learned it would be just one of the Bucuti and Tara Resort staff and myself for this class.  To my delight, it was Nicole (who I’ve enjoyed getting to know on both of our visits), who was the other student.  I loved the one on one attention Maria was able to give us as we learned how to work with molding clay (making eyes, noses and mouths) and mixing the acrylic paints as we fashioned our driftwood creations.  We each made two works of art and it was such a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Both Maria and Nicole are interesting and lovely, young women who I was fortunate to get to know over the two hours we spent together.  I would take this class again if offered on my next trip and would recommend it to anyone visiting Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort.  A truly fun day to be sure and special memories of this vacation!

Maria Onni sells her works of art in a kiosk in the highrise hotel area (across from Playa Linda) as well as teaching these classes.  She is so talented, if you are in Aruba, check her out!



Travels in Aruba 2016 – part ten

As mentioned, this visit to Aruba was planned in large part to celebrate my 60th birthday.  Heading down that morning for breakfast, I told Spence I’d like to start my day with a mimosa.  Martin, who greeted and seated us each day said he’d take care of that request.

We proceeded to fill our plates from the phenomenal buffet (see part six of this series for more about our daily breakfasts at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort).  I’d just finished my first plate of goodies when I saw Martin approaching with my mimosa, followed by Oriana and Sali, singing “Happy Birthday” and bringing me this delicious surprise:

I learned from Sali that Nakarid, who we saw most mornings, had the day off but had asked Sali to prepare this for me in her absence. It was so thoughtful and I got a number of heartfelt hugs as well.

Later that day…

We think Bucuti’s own Elements Restaurant is the best in Aruba so when Spence asked where I’d like to have my birthday dinner, it was my first choice!

Yolanda, our server, was so accomodating and our meals were perfection. She took the picture of us below.

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OMG – I can’t even describe this soup. I’d wanted to try it since our last trip here. Amazing!

On to the entrees:

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My choice, the duck!
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Cooked to perfection.
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Spence had Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables – yum!

As we toasted and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, the sunset was spectacular.

What a way to celebrate my birthday, from beginning to end.

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part five

Each morning at Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, we enjoyed the breakfast included with our stay (more about that in future posts, I promise).  Though we opted for indoor seating which provides a stellar view of the beach and ocean, many guests sit a bit closer outside on the deck.  On several occasions we saw this colorful bird and though we have no idea what kind it is, it didn’t diminish our enjoyment as he stopped in after the guests departed, looking for a bite of croissant or a nibble on a piece of papaya.

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part two

Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort is our home away from home in Aruba.  An adults-only resort, they truly cater towards couples and a romantic, care-free experience.  This year we were ready to experience something unique – a movie under the starlit sky.  Each Sunday and Wednesday, they select a movie and this time was An Officer and a Gentleman, a movie I hadn’t seen in years and Spence had never seen.  With front row seats, we lounged on the beach on a balmy night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  Very romantic!

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Projected on a large white wall, a very young Debra Winger and Richard Gere, wonderful performances. So enjoyable.

Lou Gossett Jr is wonderful in his role

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part one

Spence and I got home a week ago from a return trip to our beloved Aruba.  Last October we travelled there and had so much fun that four days later, we booked two weeks in May to coincide with my 60th birthday.

Those who’ve followed this blog may recall my 15 part series, Travels in Aruba from 2015.  Hands down, it collectively brought the most activity to Spence’s Girl since it’s launch. I’m hopeful that you’ll enjoy this series as well.

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Starting the trip with an airport mimosa as we traveled Flint to Atlanta to Aruba.
We awoke well before the crack of dawn to arrive at the airport to check our bags by 4:00 a.m. and took off shortly after 6:00.

Arriving at our final destination around 2:30, we picked up our rental car and headed a short distance to Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort.  Having stayed there last trip, there was no question that we’d return there, we’d even requested and got the same room.

Upon our arrival, we were offered cool, lavender scented cloths to wipe away the travel grime – and a glass of ice cold champagne.  Nicole, who we’d met last year at check-in, took care of the formalities this year and got us settled in.  As always, they’d provided lovely welcome gifts.

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Chilled wine, gouda, crackers, cookies & Aruba Aloe lotion!

Knowing that the first of two daily cocktail hours commences at 4:00, we scooted down to the Sand Bar for drinks and our first sunset of the trip.  Life is good!

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A little Prosecco

Exhausted but we made it! 
We opted for night one to have dinner at Elements, the restaurant at Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, which we think is the best on Aruba.  The menu is creative, food delicious, presented beautifully and excellent service guaranteed.

For our first night, we opted for a light meal and the selection of appetizers was very appealing…..what to choose???

Stay tuned for more in this new series……








I ❤️ Hydrangeas!

Spence and I went to the local greenhouse today in search of a replacement birdbath and mulch. While we didn’t see a birdbath that we loved, I bought the mulch while Spence bought me this gorgeous hydrangea. 


Spence also purchased this little flowering cactus on the left, full of white blossoms. 

We also got this little Pocketbook plant, named for the flowers that look like little handbags. 

And with my first greenhouse purchase behind me, so it begins…..

Travels in Nevada – Laughlin

Spence and I love Laughlin Nevada and just returned from a comped stay at our favorite Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino.

Located right on the Colorado River, in the middle of the Riverwalk that connects all hotels and casinos on the watr, we love the location. The comfort of the rooms, friendly staff, cleanliness of the casino and hotel, great restaurants, comped drinks and lovely landscaped atrium with hundreds of Bromelaids and trees with waterfall make this a desert oasis.  Having visited all the area casinos, hands down – it’s the best casino with the most fun and up to date slot machines.

This was EXCITING!!

Bubba Gump’s, Saltgrass Steak House and Claim Jumper are the featured restaurants as well as an on-site Starbucks and a deli!  Bubba Gumps has both indoor and outdoor, on the water seating.

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Saltgrass Steakhouse had Country Fried Steak which was delicious and for one of the happy hours, Spence and I split an appetizer with our drinks.

Range Rattlers, are shrimp and cheese stuffed jalapenos which were HOT!  Seriously HOT!

Good times to be sure!  We had breakfast every morning at the Claim Jumper – the best soft breakfast tacos (2) were a great start to every day.

The Riverwalk is a nice way to see both the Colorado River and visit other casinos.  We loved walking here, safe and a good way to get in some exercise! And as we did, you can take the Water Taxi anywhere up and down the river for $4 per ride/per person.

The pool area
The pool
There were a couple of visitors
Hello Ducky

Just a few more interesting photos….

Travels in Arizona – part one – Oatman

As mentioned in my last post, we were traveling in Laughlin Nevada last week when quite by accident (or fate…) we learned about Oatman Arizona.  Neither of us knew anything about it but our new friend Gary, a former Michigander, highly recommended it.

Gary had told us some of the history of this old mining town and how Clark Gable and Carole Lombard had honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel in an effort to avoid the paparazzi.  Gary said “you HAVE to go to the Oatman Hotel!” but he didn’t want to elaborate as to why. “You’ll see” he promised.

I googled Oatman to get a bit more background:

Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, United States. Located at an elevation of 2,710 feet (830 m), it began as a tent camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the area had been already settled for a number of years. Oatman’s population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year. 

After a few other names, Oatman was named in the posthumous honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who was taken captive by (presumably) Yavapai Indians and forced to work as a slave. She was later traded to Mohave Indians who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1855 near the current site of the town.

In 1863, mountain man and prospector Johnny Moss discovered gold in the Black Mountains and staked several claims, one named the Moss, after himself, and another after Olive Oatman. For the next half century mining waxed and waned in the district until new technology, reduced transportation costs, and new gold discoveries brought prosperity to Oatman early in the twentieth century. The opening of the Tom Reed mine followed by the discovery of an incredibly rich ore body in the nearby United Eastern Mining Company’s property in 1915 brought one of the desert country’s last gold rushes. The boom of 1915-17 gave Oatman all the characters and characteristics of any gold rush boom town. For about a decade, the mines of Oatman were among the large gold producers in the West.

In 1921, a fire burned down many of Oatman’s smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, the now-Oatman Hotel is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County, a Mohave County historical landmark and is especially famous as the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in Kingman on March 18, 1939. Gable fell in love with the area and returned often to play poker with the miners. The Gable/Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel’s major attractions. The other is “Oatie the Ghost.” “Oatie,” actively promoted by the hotel’s current owners, is a friendly poltergeist whose identity is believed to be that of William Ray Flour, an Irish miner who died behind the hotel, presumably from excessive alcohol consumption. Flour’s body wasn’t discovered until two days after his death and it was hastily buried in a shallow grave near where he was found. (source Wikipedia)

Today’s Oatman is rustic……

With the mines long since closed, what remains of Oatman is about a city block long of old wild west style buildings with all manner of souvenirs as well as leather goods, silver and beaded jewelry and antiques.  There are several saloons housed here including The Oatman Hotel.  It was the hottest day of our trip and so we made a bee-line to see it and quench our thirst.


When we stepped into the bar and the restaurant further inside, we saw what Gary had eluded to – every square inch of wall and ceiling space was covered by $1 bills, generally with a message or at least the name of the donor.  Needless to say, there were hundreds of thousands of dollars on display making it a one of a kind place.  The waitress (they call me “Dallas” she revealed) was quite a character in her mini dress and western boots.  I asked what kind of wine they had “Red, White and Pink” was Dallas response.  (I chose white) As we sat at the bar, Spence ordering a cup of their famous chili with his Miller Lite, a fellow patron remarked that the burros, (who roam the streets freely) were a bit frisky that day.  She said, “Oh that’s our only male – the one with the broken ear.  He’s been a real asshole lately.”  At this point, everyone at the bar burst into laughter.  She went on to say “He gets whatever he wants, he’s the daddy of all the young burros.”

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They are very tame
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Someone’s job is putting these stickers on the burros warning tourists  “Do not feed me carrots”
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Carrots have too much natural sugar, we were told
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They are really cute, I wanted to adopt one but Spence said no.
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This little burro was too tired and took a nap.
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This little guy was hanging out near the Kettle Corn stand….just in case.
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Just call him Clever

Oatman has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years thanks to burgeoning worldwide interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the town. Wild burros freely roam the town and can be hand-fed hay cubes otherwise known as “burro chow,” readily available in practically every store in town. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution. The donkeys are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the US Department of the Interior. (source Wikipedia)

It was a fun spot to visit, only about 45 minutes drive from Laughlin and a step back in time.  Spence bought me a lovely pair of garnet and turqouise earrings set in silver….which was very sweet.

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59 Candles, 59 Things – part thirty four


Forty second thing: For my next entry in this series about things that make me happy I want to talk about traveling with my soulmate and husband, Spence.

In my almost sixty years of life, I’ve gained a substantial amount of wisdom.  Many times I’ve shared this vital relationship litmus test with my girlfriends.

“Find out early on if you travel well together.  If not, the relationship is doomed”.


I have more than a few painful-at-the-time, hilarious-in-the-retelling stories from my pre-Spence dating/travels but this post is about the joy of travel when you find a partner that is simpatico. It truly makes every trip better.

Spence and I will celebrate 25 years as a couple later this week. During that time, we’ve traveled extensively both across the USA and internationally.  Spence’s fearless nature and grasp of languages has afforded me great adventures with lots of off the beaten path experiences.  Ever flexible, we don’t overthink where a trip will take us.  Less interested in tours, we’re inclined towards finding where the locals go and our own spontaneous exploration.  What I love about travelling with Spence is that we feel the same way about places, frequently going back to destinations that hold happy memories.

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Last week, we went back to Laughlin Nevada.  We’d last travelled there for a few days when en route from Las Vegas to a rental in Sedona.  We liked the laid-back vibe in Laughlin and in particular, the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. The hotel had sent us offers since our last visit and a few weeks into 2016, we booked a 6 day/5 night free stay.  Using Delta SkyMiles, we snagged two free tickets flying direct from Detroit to Vegas. We did tons of walking checking out other casinos, solidifying that the Golden Nugget is our favorite. While strolling along the Riverwalk (which is on the Colorado River), Spence struck up a conversation with a guy wearing a U of M t-shirt. Gary, who’d moved there from the Detroit area a few years back, was a wealth of knowledge, sharing local history and enthusiastically suggesting we visit Oatman, Arizona.

Oatman?” we asked.  He told us how to get there and since we had a rental car, we decided to take a road trip the next day.

We started the day with a delicious breakfast, mine – breakfast soft tacos with avocado, eggs, cheese, bacon, sour cream and pico de gallo, Spence – two fluffy scrambled eggs and a dish of fruit. Driving across the Colorado River to Bullhead City Arizona, we continued out of town and into the desert in search of this old mining town. It was a fun day in a unique old west town (I’ll be blogging about Oatman in the next post) and a fine diversion from the casino action.

My favorite thing about trips with Spence is that we make our own fun, enjoying each other in the process. Our expectations are alinged, the delight in places we love is shared and our flexibility to spontaneous side trips and discovery of hidden gems creates new memories.


What works splendidly in travel for us, may not work for others but isn’t that what makes our world an interesting and diverse place?

I hope that you find that soulmate who can make your journey better just by being part of it.


For more on my series, 59 Candles, 59 Things, check out “59 Things” under Categories.  What makes you happy?