British Labrador Retrievers

The Maloney family of Creekside Retrievers

A family business “Creekside Retrievers began in 2015 when Whiskey, Parker’s British lab became a mother and the family kept two offsprings River and Bear. These dogs were so smart, sweet, calm, and loving that Reneé and Craig decided to share them as family pets and hunting dogs.

People are always asking what is the difference between a British and American lab. So I will give you a little history about how this breed has become a firm family favorite across the world.

Parker and Whiskey

The original Labrador Retriever was neither British or American, nor was he from Labrador! The Labrador Retriever’s journey began in the 19th century in Newfoundland, Canada and was called the St. John’s dog. The St John’s dog was originally bred as a working pooch, primarily for working on water to collect ducks, fish and many other small water creatures. He is best known as being the fisherman’s friend with a natural affinity for water.

Bailey, Max, and Bear

St John’s dog rose in general popularity when visiting English nobles sailed him back to Great Britain. It was in England that they standardized, refined and renamed the breed. It is still unknown to this day why he is called Labrador Retriever and not a Newfoundland Retriever. 

The Canadian fisherman continued breeding him for his work abilities. While the English gentleman was impressed by his work ethic, they were particularly fond of his handsome looks. It is here that the two sub-species were created and why the perfect show Labradors are known as the British Labradors, and the traditional working Labradors are known as the American Labradors.

There is only one “labrador” breed, and both the Ameican “field Lab” a term for working Labradors & British “bench Lab” a term for show are bred across the world, but most commonly in the US and the UK.

The British Labrador is bred for show purposes. As such, they are bred to conform to Labrador standards as close as possible. They have a stockier frame compared to their American cousin, with deep barrel chests and shorter legs. Surprisingly they have thicker fur and a thicker otter tail than the working Americans.

River is a Fox Red British Retriever

River will have her puppies any day now. They will be ready for new homes at seven weeks old. In the meantime they will grow and play at their home in Poplarville, Mississippi by the creek.

River and Bear

River and Bear, were two sisters, from Whiskey’s only set of puppies! They are the the beginning of Creekside Retrievers. They are beautiful, magnificent, and dignified, and the best dogs a person could hope for. They are the stars of Creekside Retrievers!

Bear is a Yellow British Lab

Bear, a beautiful yellow British Lab, is also going to have puppies in about three weeks from now, approximately by March 17th. They may be St. Patrick’s Day puppies. This will be Bear’s second litter.

Both American and British lines produce very social dogs that are playful and intelligent and make excellent companions. British dogs may appear to be laid back when you are just observing them around the house or yard, but once in the field they will perform with the best.

Bear and one of her puppies

Both the British and American labs enjoy a good cuddle, and they both make a great family pet and are affectionate with their family.  Because of their easy going temperaments, they both love nothing more than to please their master.

Creekside retrievers are very proud to introduce River and Bear to the public in this blog! There is a waiting list for the puppies that you can get on by emailing (or) calling Reneé at 985/807-5747.



Savannah and Katy

I joke and say I’m going back to college while visiting Katy in Savannah. In truth I did do a great deal of online study about this fabulous city. I drove around and studied the architecture of some of the most wonderful homes I have ever seen. Savannah is a haven of architecture gems, they are everywhere, in ever direction and on every street. I will show you some of my favorites with a little history behind each:

Owens-Thomas Home

The Owens-Thomas Home is one of the finest examples of Regency Architecture in America designed by William Jay who was an English Architect from Bath. Originally this home was known as the Richardson House after the first owner, a Cotton Merchant and Banker from New Orleans. Mrs. Richardson was closely tied to William Jay by marriage. William Jay, the architect, moved to Savannah around 1817 to design and build the Richardson home. He lived in Savannah for four years until the Georgia economy collapsed in 1822 then returned to England. William Jay designed many of homes and buildings Savannah and was highly thought of as an architect. It is said that the Owens-Thomas home has a long history of tragedies and might be one of the most restless homes in Savannah.

Davenport Home

Master builder Isaiah Davenport, a native of New England, built and owned this American Federal-style home on Columbia Square. Sarah Clark Davenport converted the home into a boarding house in 1827. It is the oldest brick structure in the city and it remained in their family for 109 years. The home was saved from demolition in 1955 because of its architectural significance.

Mercer Williams Home

General Hugh Mercer began construction on this Italianate home in 1860 but the construction was interrupted by the civil war. The architect was John S. Norris. Hugh Mercer was the great-grandfather of the songwriter Johnny Mercer. The home was finally completed around 1868 by a new owner. No one in the Mercer family ever lived in the home. This home changed hands several times. Jim Williams restored it to an elegant mansion and it became world famous because of the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and evil,” with the shooting of Danny Hansford by Jim Williams. The home is currently owned by Dorothy Kingery, Jim Williams’ sister.

Green-Meldrim Home

Mr. Charles Green, an Englishman who came to Savannah in 1833 and built one of the finest and most lavish Gothic Revival examples in the American South. John S. Norris was the architect. In 1864 Mr. Green invited General Sherman to use the home as his headquarters when the Federal army occupied Savannah during the war. It was at this time that General Sherman sent his famous telegram to President Lincoln offering him the city of Savannah as a Christmas present. St. John’s Church now owns the home to ensure its preservation.

Telfair Academy

This is the oldest public museum in the South and the first art museum to be founded by a woman, Mary Telfair. It was designed and built by Jay Williams in 1818 in the Regency style by the Telfair family. The museum opened in 1886 and became known as the Telfair Academy. It was declared a National History Landmark in 1976 and is one of a small number of Jay Williams surviving works.

Katy and I have had so much fun times exploring the city and enjoying all many the gastronomic delights we had time to pursue. These scenes below are some of the various restaurant and the coffee shop we loved.

Sean, Namoni, and Katy are all study partners and friends of Katys. We enjoyed a couple of nights together. Architecture school is very intense and time consuming. Katy has class for 5 hours Monday through Thursday then she and Namoni worked the rest of the night until 1, 2 and 3 am almost every night. I went to Mass most mornings, toured the city, searched the internet for the history of Savannah, read my book, worked on my blog, cooked meals and was amazed at how hard Katy worked. Time seemed to fly and tomorrow we leave. I will be so sad to say goodbye to this city but happy I got to live and experience it as more than a tourest.

The churches in Savannah are beautiful. The daily Mass schedule at Sacred Heart and the Cathedral took place at noon so for me it was the perfect time since I stayed up most nights with Katy while she worked on her projects. After Mass I started exploring the city. The Cathedral was my favorite place for Mass!

Katy and I took a Valentine picture at the Ole Pink House. The Ole Pink House was originally the home of James Habersham one of the richest men in Savannah. He owned a cotton plantation and built his home to entertain. He loved big parties and guests and was known as a gentleman who oozed charm. He covered the red bricks of his home with white plaster but the red seeped through no matter how much plaster he piled on making the home look pink. He was mocked in town for his pink house.

Katy and I both love valentine’s Day and are want to wish all of you who read this blog (and) all our friends and family a Happy Valentine Day! We hope your lives will be filled with lots of love and happiness this Valentine Day 2021. Until we meet again in my next Blog, farewell from Savannah!

Christmas at the Ranch “2020”

December 22nd was “the Dongieux Christmas” which we celebrated at the ranch in Poplarville, Mississippi. Home of Renèe and Craig Maloney. The double gate is called Creekside where Craig, Renee, and I live. Several lakes and creeks run throughout this part of the property. It is also the home of the British Labs which Renèe and Craig breed. There will be Labs for sale in early Spring. If you are interested send us your contact information so we can put you on the waiting list.

The single gate where Renèe is Hanging the wreath is called Hillside. A great big lake and rolling hills greet you as you enter this piece of property. Bailey, Max, and Shep live in the house there since they sold their home in New Orleans and are finalizing their plans for the next chapter of their lives.

This was also Renee and Craig’s first Christmas living at the ranch. The weather was gorgeous the week before as Renèe and I decorated the two entrances to the property. We were so proud of ourselves and our decorations that we were talking, mostly in “jest,” about starting a decorating company to beautify peoples property. We also had a weekend party with family and friends to decorate the Christmas tree. We had so much fun we couldn’t wait for the Christmas celebration to begin.

Everyone begin arriving and they couldn’t believe the charcuterie platter Parker put together. We were thinking he would make a great chef. However that would be a little difficult since he is leaving at the end of January to go into training to become a Navy Pilot. Oh well it can be a delayed profession.

We tried to gather everyone together for a group picture but that was very difficult to do so in this picture we have from left to Right: Claire Crosby, Pam Dongieux, Bailey Rosenburg ( mother of the star of the day Shep), Renée Maloney (the hostess), her sister Jete’ Crosby, (way in the back) Ryan Crosby, Kosta Sevic and Katy Crosby (the sweethearts), and Gunner Dongieux.

Ryan is telling his grandfather Gene Dongieux about the work he is doing on robotic knee devices in Pittsburg. Bailey and her brother Parker enjoying a picture with Shep. And last but not least Shep and his lookalike dad Max!

Christian Maloney, Sebastian Solloa, Jete’ Crosby and Shep Hanging out on the porch. Mimi, Gunner, and Shep having a little talk. The day was so beautiful we just loved hanging out and catching up with each others lives and enjoyed the beauty that God and the Maloneys created everywhere you looked.

We hung out on the front porch, Gunner fed Shep his Christmas dinner, and Tommy Crosby showed everyone on the back deck how to shuck Oysters. After dinner, which took place around 6 pm, we had a small house decorating contest. Prizes were given for 1st and 2nd place and runner up! What a Christmas. So much fun!

Now you would think this was a full day but they had one more activity to end the day. At about midnight they ended our celebration with a big bond Fire in a field away from everything.

Gunner and Anita Dongieux speak for all of us, “this Christmas was a very special celebration. We had room for everyone to spend the night. The adults went to their room about midnight. The college kids and young adults, not sure what time they went to bed, all slept in a dormitory room upstairs that slept 10. Some of us spent the night at Bailey and Max’s home at Hillside.

We had a nice breakfast in the morning and we all agreed, it was one of the best and most unusual Christmases we have ever had. We spent almost 24 hours together, talked and played, ate and toasted all kinds of things, created and designed houses. opened presents, lit a bond fire and spent the night together.

Thanks Renee and Craig, we love the ranch in Poplarville, Mississippi and this very special time together celebrating the birth of Christ. May God bless the world in 2021!

The life of an Artist

Gunner Dongieux is a New Orleans born artist based in NYC.
After studying fine art at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Gunner went to Stanford to study art and computer science. 

Gunner is one of my talented artistic grandchildren. He is now 22 years old, hardly a child anymore, and he had an interesting life story. As a toddler Gunner always carried a pencil around and was always doodling. At an early age his teachers commented on his budding talent as an artist.

Gunner was a very easy child to be around. He had a fun nature and loved to entertain and carry on conversations with you. He loved to go the library and choose cartoons tapes to watch. We would spend weekends sitting around watching these cartoons which he seemed to never tire of watching.

He also loved comic books and spent hours making his own comic books. He and his cousin like to make short movies. Music was and still is one of his passions. He had a music club at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans. He had to talk the school into having it and the school was amazed when the attendance grew to 400 hundred students. It ended up being the largest club the school ever had.

In New Orleans we are proud to have the “Center for Creative Arts, or NOCCA.” It is a pre-professional arts training center for high school students in Louisiana. NOCCA opened in 1973 as a professional arts training center for secondary school-age students. Gunner attended half a day of school at Benjamin Franklin High School and half a day at NOCCA during his sophomore, junior and senior years of school. He received the Daniel Price Memorial scholarship awarded given to the top Visual Art Student his senior year.

When he decided to attend Stanford it was easy to see that Art and Computer Science would be his courses of study and communication in all forms would carry him forward towards his dreams. Gunner seemed to just run into opportunities, however it’s his personality and openness that places him in all kinds of opportunities. His mind is always working, always sizing up possibilities to create and explore art, music, and life.

Stanford is closed during Covid so Gunner is spending a year in New York. He had an art show “Pop Gun Art,” which he put on. During this gallery showing he met many interesting people in the New York Art World who were interested in his work. On the last day of Gunner’s show a group of French citizens came in and asked Gunner to put his art in their gallery “IRL” located in Brooklyn.

Starting TODAY December 5th 2020, IRL will be showcasing the work of over 20 NYC-based independent artists.
The “IRL SHOP” is designed to bring together works of art made by artists who for the most part saw at least one of their shows cancelled during the last few months. When buying some artwork, one directly supports the artists’ practice as well as a local platform for NYC’s creative community.
Hours will get updated but expect some late nights as we go deeper into December 🦉. For now, we will be open all weekend 2-7pm.

Gunner excited to be living in New York! He has a couple of interesting jobs and loves painting in Central Park. Selling his art really helps with living expenses. He has a great group of friends from Stanford that live together and enjoy the New York scene, although it is very different these days.

To view Gunner’s art click on the link below:

Summa Cum Laude

With Highest distinction! My granddaughter Claire Linnette Crosby made a 4.0+ gpa throughout her college career. She’s a young lady with a multitude of layers! She soft, charming, a devil at times, beautiful and has a heart of gold. Claire is determined, she sets goals, and loves to win. In fact her records as a runner at her high school in Mandeville, Louisiana and also her State records still have not been broken. Helping people is her MOTO! Learning is her “LOVE.”

Claire decided to go to the University of Kentucky because they were one of the Universities who scouted her to be on their running team. She liked their Athletic department and that became her focus. She decided before the end of her freshman year that her passion had shifted and she found herself in one of the “Top 20 public research institution” in the country. Claire loved research and worked for Dr. Kevin Pearson on how diet affected Mice. Now she discovered her path which was studying, learning, and serving people.

Claire’s field of study at Kentucky was Human Nutrition in the College of Agriculture. She worked in the research lab discovering how environmental factors affect health. She also participated in Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky which is an on-campus student service organization that provides a sustainable approach to reducing food waste on college campuses while also providing healthy meals to those struggling with hunger. In 2016 they were recognized as “Campus Kitchen of the Year” out of nearly sixty across the nation.

You could find Claire in the evenings cooking with her roommates, eating out with friends or running through the neighborhood. Claire still loves to run for exercise! Since Claire didn’t get to participate in a graduation ceremony, she and her twin Katy took these pictures on campus the day they moved her out of her campus home.

Katy and Claire drove to 2 1/2 hours from Kentucky to Indianapolis where Claire will spend a year working for AmeriCorps. What is AmeriCorps you ask?

I am confident that Claire will make a difference at AmeriCorp! I know she will decide on a career that will be challenging and will serve society and she will do it with style and grace!

Good and Evil

This painting in Emery Clark series reminds me of a world in turmoil and a small glimmer of hope appearing on the horizon. For six weeks now, I have been living in my home, running out for a quick trip to the grocery store, a quick run into my church, Mary Queen of Peace, to bring prayer request and get religious reading material like, “Rediscover Jesus.” I also take quick walks through the Sanctuary to get fresh air in a private and safe subdivision. I also every two weeks run a payroll check over to Gretna, Louisiana to my very devoted manager who is holding down the fort of my closed “Painting With a Twist” studio. I wonder like most of you what is this evil all about and can any good come out of this?

In this painting can you see peace and hope? I have a very dear friend Emery Clark, an artist extraordinary, who has giving me permission to use her art to tell my Coronavirus story. My story is a search of faith which I have been doing off and on for many years, actually since after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area on August 29, 2005. In the last two years I have gotten more serious in my search after attending a study in Kentucky with my dearest friend Starr, on the life of Thomas Merton.

Thomas Merton a Trappist monk

Thomas Merton was born in France in January 31, 1915 entered Gethsemani Abbey in 1941, Died in Bangkok, Thailand in 1968. His most famous Spiritual Classic was, “The Seven Storey Mountain.” This is a story of his seeking a deeper union with God. His life and search for God is inspiring and I want to have this hunger in my life. So in these six weeks of stay at home orders I have been studying almost all the time on rediscovering my faith!

Art has a way of speaking to one’s heart and soothes one’s soul. This painting reminds me of our beautiful world, one that only God can create and one that God gave to us! That is why I love Emery’s art so much. I have a piece of her art over my desk and when I am writing or studying or soul searching I sometimes sit back and just gauze at her painting. I’m a student of Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic fame, who teaches people how to become the-best-version-of-themselves. I’m doing a forty day study by Matthew Kelly of “Rediscovering Jesus.” I also love “Formed” the Catholic faith on Demand, where I am learning about “Divine Mercy.” It’s a 10 part series of the Divine Mercy miracle. I strongly suggest that it is a series everyone should watch or read about.

Faustina Kowalska was a Polish nun who joined the convent of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw in 1925 painted which currently hangs in the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Vilnius, Lithuania. Subsequently, Pope John Paul II established the Feast of Divine Mercy on that Sunday of each liturgical year. We are living in the time of God’s Mercy!

These two paintings in Emery’s collection remind me of hope! Even though this pandemic has been very painful, I feel our world will come through this and “a wonderful awakening will take place.” I feel I’m not the only one searching for God and a better world for our generation and for future generations. We are to be the guardians of our world; I think we could all be doing a much better job. Maybe our focus has been too worldly with temptations and evils occurring all around us all the time, “the devil at hard work.” We should instead focuses on the spiritual battle, “God’s work.” In John10:10 God says, “I came so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” I’m awake! How about You?

If you love Emery art as much as I do you can call her at 985/807-7828 or click on this link to read about her. Emery Clark | 64 Parishes.

Friendships paint the world Happy

On March 3rd I flew to Atlanta, Georgia to visit my college friend Starr and her husband Don at their new home at Lenbrook a retirement facility.

They live on the eighth floor of the newest tower of Lynbrook and their view of the Buckhead area is spectacular! Buckhead is known as the “Beverly Hills of the East.” It is an area surrounded by elegant tree-lined residential streets and some of the most remarkable architecture and landscapes in the south. It has great restaurants and shopping! Not a bad place to hang your hat.

Another reason I went to Atlanta is to wish another friend Gerry a 89th Happy Birthday! Actually Starr planned a little birthday luncheon with only four of her friends, since she had been recently sick. We had a great time and Gerry was surprised and very happy about the event.

Starr and Don brought a program to the attention of Lenbrook called “Backpack Buddies.” It was started two years ago by Ronald and Samra Robbins who launched a program that altered life for dozens of families at Dunwoody’s Kingsley Elementary School. Their Backpack Buddies program at Congregation Beth Shalom began by providing weekend meals for 50 children at a school where more than half of the student body qualified for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch.

Lenbrook embraced the program and I helped them pack up about forty eight lunches that were delivered to Dresden Elementary School.

Another program Don has been involved with for the last twenty-five years, through his Rotary Club, is hosting and being the Master of Ceremony of the annual Beauty pageant at Pruitt Health nursing home in Atlanta. Each year, between 25 and 35 nursing homes across Georgia elect to participate in the MS. GHCA Pageant. Each facility holds an in-house pageant to determine who will advance to the state-level event. These local pageants involve interested participants dressing in long, formal gowns, sharing their personal history of community service, career accomplishments and family achievements, and sharing or showing off their favorite hobbies. A panel of judges made of local community leaders pose questions such as what they like most about their skilled nursing facility and how they continue to help others in need. Family and friends are invited to the pageant, and the winner is presented with a crown, sash and flowers.

This lady was the winner! She was from Rhode Island, has a master degree and worked in the health care profession all her life. She said she has traveled the world and has had a marvelous life thanks to her lord! She was a charmer and will advance to the State Pageant. I’m so glad Don asked Starr and me to be one of the judges, it was emotionally rewarding!

Our last night in Atlanta Starr and Don invited Martha who also lives at LenBrook and went to Auburn with Starr and I. She also invited Maureen, another friend to dine. We all had dinner in the Fine Dining Room at Lenbrook and had dessert in their Apartment afterward. What a wonderful way to end a perfect visit with “bestest” friends!

Starr, Don and myself drove back to New Orleans and Mandeville, Louisiana for two days of fun and a Prayer Event we had been looking forward to for months. My daughter Jete’ and her husband Tommy’s turned their beautiful home over to us for the weekend after first delighting us with raw oysters and fried fish. Such a treat!

Starr, Don and I went to “The Dynamic Prayer Event” at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic church in Mandeville on Saturday, March 7th. It was an event we will not forget. It was powerful, soulful, deep, and emotional. I wish everyone I know and love could have heard it (so) if you click on this link you can see it and hear it. Get comfortable and be prepared to love the message and the messenger!

I’ll end this blog with this message from Matthew Kelly:

Thanks for following my Blog! See you again soon so stay tuned for Katy is Eighty and living life well!

My Period of Growth in Florence

I was speaking with Gunner today about his studies at Stanford in Florence. He said he was watching an artist at the Duomo di Milano- “Milan Cathedral” restore an old masterpiece painting by Tintoretto. The artist was stripping down the masterpiece to the original brush strokes of the artist.

He said being in Florence studying with teachers such as Monsignor Timothy Verdon and Fillippo Rossi has stripped all the layers of disbelief in his thoughts about his art and of himself as a person. He said his vision has grown clear about his art. He also said he has grown much more grounded as a person.

Born in the United States (New Jersey, 1946), Timothy Verdon is an art historian formed at Yale University (Ph.D. 1975). He has lived in Italy for more than fifty years and since 1994 is a Roman Catholic priest in Florence, where he directs the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Richly illustrated, Monsignor Verdon wrote Art and Prayer which explains that images work in believers as tools that teach them how to turn to God. 

Gunner loves this teacher and says as he walks on tours with him people are always stopping to speak with him because he is so well known and loved.

Filippo Rossi (1970), who has been exhibiting his work since 1994, has been exploring the themes of Christian sacred art for over 10 years. After training in the life drawing school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, he graduated in art history from the University of Florence.
Since 1997 he has been Visiting Professor at the Stanford University Centre for Overseas Studies in Florence. He also collaborates with the art historian Timothy Verdon. He is currently Coordinator of the Diocesan Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage at the Curia of the Archdiocese of Florence. His works are conserved in museums and collections both in Italy and abroad.

Gunner is so excited to have Mr. Rossi as a teacher and he promised to have Gunner attend one of his Gallery openings before Gunner’s term is over.

Gunner has made friends with a group of students at Stanford in Florence and they take trips on the weekend. This trip was to Milan! Some will be going with Gunner to Budapest, Venice, and Barcelona before the end of their schooling. Gunner will return to New Orleans March 17th before returning to Stanford for his senior year!

On January 1st Duke and I flew to Florence, Italy to meet Gunner and get him settled at Stanford in Florence for his Winter quarter of studies.

When we arrived in Florence and met up with Gunner at the airport in Florence; we got settled in our apartment and started our days of exploring Florence. We toured the Petti Palace and the Galleria dell’Accedemia where we had a wonderful guided tour with historical facts about the creation of “the David.” It was fascinating! We were to tour the Duomo but realized we made the reservation for the Duomo in Milan by mistake. Oh well! We had seen so much we were very tired and when I saw how big the Duomo was I was glad to call it a day!

Stanford is housed in the private residence of the Smelick Family. The university is located on the second floor and only thirty students attend each session. The students will have two dinners with the family and other dignitaries from Florence before they leave. They were also given passes to the Duomo, The Uffizi Gallery, and the Galleria dell’Accademis to visit as much as they like. Gunner has an internship at the Duomo which he says is pretty boring. He sits at a desk and greets people and give them a free 30 minute free tour of the main Chapel. “Thank goodness it’s only for 2 hours a week,” he says.

One day we venture to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower which is a freestanding bell tower of the Cathedral. It is known worldwide for its four-degree lean due to an unstable foundation. The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001 which reduced the tilt.

Duke and I enjoyed a dinner at the bar of the Four Season’s hotel in Florence the last night we were in Florence. It was the perfect ending to a great trip. Gunner was living with an Italian family who spoke no English. Gunner has taken Italian but found it difficult speaking with his Italian family. They reassured him he would leave speaking fluent Italian. He is now speaking like he is Italian and he is very proud of himself in so many ways. Duke and I will remember Florence fondly! Gunner will remember Florence as a “major period of growth in his life.”

Thanksgiving at Grayton Beach

Grayton Beach is a small quaint town nestled inside Grayton Beach State Park and spreads down to the Gulf of Mexico. These are photos of the incredible fine white sand beaches. Grayton has been called “the most beautiful beach in America.” You get the feeling that things haven’t changed much in the last hundred-plus years in this small community when walking down a well-worn road with historic cottages and picket fences.

Sitting on the back porch you see this wonderland of wild grass and trees that fall down to the small lake and feel like you are in another world. Maybe you will go exploring! Maybe you will just sit and listen to the birds and the frogs as they call out to each other. It’s so relaxing and inviting! This narrow channel is one of the way the Crosbys travel back and forth from home to beach each day. Ryan and Kosta take the boat and paddle board loaded with beach chairs and umbrellas down the narrow channels that will spill out from the dune lakes into the Gulf and to the beach.

I even took a boat ride which was quite a funny experience because the boys had to get me into the boat which was not pretty! But traveling down the channel was so very beautiful that I was so excited my grandchildren insisted I make the effort.

 Tommy and the boys set up our beach chairs every day, Thanks guys!

Our Thanksgiving week included bike rides on trails through the Grayton Beach State Park. boat rides, going to the beach, shopping at the farmers market, cooking, eating, and football! This back porch was enjoyed every morning and at night. Ben Soullier entertained us one night playing his guitar and singing like a someone on “the Voice.” We were amazed at his talent however his desire is to become an attorney.

My time with my grandchildren was so special! I was able to spend one on one time with them and talk to them about their work and their studies. We also all enjoyed the blooming romance that was unfolding before our eyes between Katy and Kosta!

Jete’ and Tommy Crosby were our host/hostess for this incredible Thanksgiving holiday. Marshall and Terri Soullier also contributed so much with delicious meals and their presence! Kosta Sevic, Ryan, Katy, and Claire Crosby, and Ben Soullier and I would like to say a great big “Thank You” to both families who went out of their way to make this a very special week! In so many ways it will be remembered as one of the best Thanksgivings ever!

Discovery by Christian Maloney

This port has been the one I was looking forward to the most since I got accepted into Semester at Sea, and it didn’t disappoint.

My first day in Dubrovnik, Croatia was spent in my field class for my Interpersonal Communication class. If I have not mentioned it before, this is hands down my favorite class that I am currently taking. The professor that teaches it is such a cool guy. He really does his best to be really very accommodating to the different lifestyle of shipboard education. For those of you who don’t know, the old town city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by massive walls. The walls were built during a Croatian war and was a defense mechanism. It still stands tall today. Our professor has us start the day by sitting right outside the wall and taking 30 minutes of complete silence. This exercise was meant to bring mindful awareness to the surroundings which we were experiencing. We all put our phones down and sat wherever we felt comfortable and just observed. As you could imagine, as a class of 25 plus students, who have not had any cell service, and who just arrived in a new country this was truly the last thing we wanted to do. At first the silence was hard, but after a while I found a sort of peace in the exercise. I really took the time to look around me at the new city and took in small details I would have never noticed before. After the exercize was complete we walked inside the walls. We spent some time exploring and visiting a couple of churches. The architecture was truly breathtaking. For lunch we stopped at a restaurant that had some of the best pasta I have ever tasted. The pasta was handmade and then topped with s slow roast that was marinated with a red wine sauce. The second it touched my tongue I felt I was back at home. It tasted almost identical to my grandmothers (Katy Dongieux’s) slow cooked roast. If you have not had the opportunity to experience her roast, I suggest you call her up as soon as possible and beg her for a taste.

In the afternoon my friends and I decided to go for a swim where we took our first dip in the crystal clear waters of Croatia.

We spent 5 glorious days in Croatia! Our last day in Croatia was bitter sweet. My friends and I spent the day indulging in as much food as possible, and exploring some more before having to return to the ship. For dinner we sat on the top deck and watched the Cratian sun set over the sea. Onto Morocco we go!

We started our Moroccan adventure in the city of Casablanca. It was not like anything I really pictured what so ever. I don’t want to be negative but I was glad to visit other cities in Morocco such as Marrakech. I liked it much better than Casablanca and while in Marrakech I got to hold a monkey and even had an encounter with a Cobra snake.  My time in Morocco was mostly spent viewing the country through a tour bus and riding camels through the Sahara dessert. I named my camel Abu and I grew very fond of him. I thought that riding camels would really be similar to riding horses but it was not at all. It was SO unconformable. I do not know how people do that all day long. The best part about camping out in the Sahara was when the sun went down and the stars came out. I have never seen so many stars in my life. It was an unforgettable experience!

My experience in Ghana was nothing short of life changing. I spent the majority of my time in a small village called Senase. We had the opportunity to stay in some of the locals houses for the duration of our stay. The children touched my heart in more ways than I can even begin to fathom. We spent the week getting to know the village children and working at the local school. I became very found of one little girl in particular named Benedicta. (She is pictured in the photo with the green wall background.) She had the biggest personality for such a little girl. The most surprising realization I had during my time in Ghana was that it really takes so little to have true happiness. These Senase villagers live a very simple life sometimes without running water, electricity, or even shoes to wear, yet they are the happiest people I have ever met. The United States culture puts such an emphasis on materialistic items and the hunger for those items are never ending. People are always looking for the next best thing and are never satisfied. It takes so little to really have what you need and you turn to the people around you and the smaller things in life for that joy. The lessons learned in Ghana will live with me forever. 

We began our Brazilian adventure in the city of Salvador (which is the old capital city of Brazil). We spent the first day there soaking up the Brazilian sun by the pool at one of the nice hotels in town. That afternoon we jumped on a plane and headed down to Rio de Jenerio. The next day was filled with touring the beautiful city of Rio from the comfort  of a van. Unfortunately it was POURING down rain so this was the best option. Our personal guide, Nelson, became like our second father for the time we spent in Rio. He showed us all around and made sure to keep us safe. On one of the days in Rio we took the cable car up to the sugar loaf mountain. It was beautiful! They had the option to take a helicopter over Rio and over the Christ the Reedemer statue… and when in Rio…. why not? The views were spectacular and I was very excited to scratch helicopter ride off of my bucket list! The last days were spent eating amazing food and indulging in the culture. Our last day in Brazil we were back in Salvador and we just had to go back to the same hotel for that beautiful ocean view. 

I hope you have enjoyed Christian’s colorful and heartwarming commentary of her travel adventures. I am blown away by her feelings and her insight of the varies countries she visited, the people, and their way of life! I am impresses by her wisdom and her perspective as she travels through various countries!

I’m sure it is rewarding to her parents, who gave Christian this opportunity, to know that Christian loves to learn and values a wise professor who introduces her to an exercise of learning to be quiet and mindfully aware of her surroundings in Croatia. A valuable lesson to take with her as she continues to discover other countries and life in general.

Christian is learning so many valuable lesson about life and happiness. Happiness can be as unforgettable as a dessert at dusk or viewing millions of stars at night! It can be a little girl that touched her heart and shows love to her regardless of her skin tone or as she observed the Senase villagers and learned that it takes so little to be happy.

This is the perfect blog to publish on Thanksgiving morning! Thanksgiving is a time for families to be together or to be in touch with each other. Most of all it is a time to just show love and concern to friends and relatives and even to those we will meet for the first time.

I am “grateful” to all of you who are reading my blog. I wish you a “Happy Thanksgiving!” I wish you “happiness” today and everyday!

God bless you and those you love!