TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part IV)

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It was a bittersweet moment, leaving Thulusdhoo atoll and the unhurried pace we have grown accustomed to (at least for a few days) in favor of the more urbanized city capital, Malé, where we will be staying for one night before flying back to Singapore in the afternoon.

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Thulusdhoo jetty. ‘Til we meet again!

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City of Malé as seen from the ferry.

I started the day still feeling out of sorts, but when Chris and I started our city tour, I began to warm up, little by little. Also, he was kinda clever, first, by offering to take my picture on the public artificial beach; then, buying me that irresistible chocolate smoothie; and just as my angry countenance started to melt away bit by bit, he maneuvered me into a conversation about Malé and some of the touristy sites he had marked on the travel map. And just like that, I was très heureux wifey again! Whew.

A bit of trivia: Malé is 1.7 km long and 1.0 km wide (shorter even than UP loop, can you believe that?!) and is home to over 100,000 making it the world’s densest city. Recognizing the serious lack of space to accommodate the growing population, as well as the tourists and visitors that flock to the island, the government of Maldives has started work on a new reclaimed island called Hulhumalé, just between Male and Hulhule.

The artificial beach, as the locals call it, is actually a small enclave of turquoise sea water adjacent to the jetty. It’s where the city dwellers swim and it being a public beach, wearing of swimsuits is strictly prohibited. That day, we saw some small children happily playing in the water as the parents look on and it was such a lovely sight to behold!

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Blue on blue.

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The artificial beach. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Here’s the public beach again from another vantage point.

From the beach, we walked the narrow streets of Malé in search of other famous landmarks. The city streets are congested with people, the ubiquitous motorcycles, and a few cars. You have to be careful when walking these narrow alleys to avoid getting side-swiped by the speeding vehicles. At this time of national elections, the whole of Malé is decked out with political banners, posters, and buntings. Pink symbolizes the Ruling Party and the Yellow color represents the Opposition. It’s interesting to note that the campaign posters are all of the same size and it has a uniform template – usually just a photo of the candidate, very few words, and the party affiliation. So unlike the complete state of disarray and pandemonium that Philippines is thrown into during national elections.

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Official color of the Ruling Party.

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Official color of the Opposition Party.

First, we went to Jumhooree Maidhaan or the Independence Square. It’s just a tiny park close to the market and it is marked by the giant Maldivian flag mounted on a towering flagpole. This is where political campaigns and demonstrations are held and it’s adjacent to the Police Headquarters and the Shaheed Hussain Administration Building.

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The Independence Square.

Close to the Independence Square is perhaps Malé’s most famous landmark, the Islamic Centre which has the largest mosque in the Maldives, with its eye-catching giant golden dome. The mosque is open to visitors outside of prayer hours of course but photography is not allowed inside. Plus, you have to be wearing proper clothes and absolutely no wearing of shoes and slippers inside.

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The famous Islamic Center.

The Fish Market is also an interesting place to visit. Here, you will see the day’s catch being sold or dried out in the sun. There’s a small lighthouse at the end of a narrow walk-path where you can have an unobstructed view of the Independence Square right across. It was rather off-putting seeing men relieving their bladder right on the sea next to the market. It reminded me so much of my home country where men can be quite imprudent (with) where they shoot their pee. LOL. But never mind that, the view, like I said is quite pleasant from this side of the island.

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View from the lighthouse. Behind Chris, you can see the Maldivian flag on the left and the golden dome of the Islamic Centre on the right.

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Catch of the day.

From the fish market, we went back to traversing the narrow alleys to look for the venerated tomb of the man said to have been responsible for bringing Islam to the Maldives, a Sunni Muslim visitor from Morocco named Abu al Barakat. According to the legend, young virgin girls in Malé were chosen from the community and left alone in a temple as a sacrifice to Rannamaari, a sea jinni. One night Barakat took the place of a prospective sacrificial virgin and drove the demon away by reading from the Islamic holy book, the Quran. The Maldivian king at the time was sold on Islam, and ordered that the whole country convert.

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The tomb of Abu Al Bakarat

Meanwhile, next to the mausoleum of Abu al Bakarat is the stately home of the President of Maldives. It’s gated, of course, but we didn’t see armed guards patrolling the area, however, there are CCTV cameras aplenty.

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Presidential House.

At 12:30, the three of us regrouped to have lunch at a local restaurant nearby. Chris and Eric ordered chicken and fish biryani and I got this ‘devil fish’ with roti. If the word ‘devil’ isn’t indication enough of just how spicy it was, the first few bites certainly set my tongue on fire. Eric, too, was unable to finish his biryani because it was on the spicy side as well. After lunch, we took the ferry to Hulhumalé, the reclaimed island close to the airport where we will be spending the night.

Thanks to Shaheem who made the arrangement for our last day in Hulhumalé, we found ourselves in this homey little beach house called COCO GILLI (contact numbers: +960 3350633 and +960 7 90633) which sits literally next to the beach! The hotel staff picked us up from the jetty (from Malé to Hulhumalé is about 20-30 minutes ferry ride) and took us straight to the beach house. Naturally, the three of us wasted no time in catching our last whiff of the Maldives sea. We dumped our luggage, changed into swimsuits, and ran to the beach all in under ten minutes! The island itself is fairly new, having been reclaimed only a few years, but the development is on fast track mode. Already the government has built several rows of housing blocks and are building more. The beachfront is also busy with a lot of beach house construction which, when completed, will certainly draw more tourists into Hulhumalé.

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There’s a lot of construction going on in the island so the beach here is not as well-kept as Thulusdhoo.

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I saw these children playing on the beach and I thought they were cute, so i asked if i can take their photo. Et voila!

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Playtime pour moi!

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…and ze Hubby!

Team Altaie.

Team Altaie.

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Christophe and Vicky. Maldives 2014.

And with that, we have officially concluded our first holiday in 2014 and indisputably one of the best trips ever! Maldives is such a beautiful country but don’t just take the travel junkies/bloggers/journalists’ words and photos for it. If you can, find a way to visit and no, you don’t (even) need to pawn off your home because there are now cheaper ways of enjoying the country and everything it has to offer. You just have to do your research well and make sure that you pack your adventurous spirit along with your sunscreen, after-sun cream (for both, I highly recommend La Roche Posay. It is the best product to protect your skin from the harsh elements of the sun and the beach. Of late, the combination of sun and the beach easily gives me painful rash attack but using La Roche Posay sun cream and after-sun cream prevents me from getting a massive rash breakout), and other swimming essentials. And in the event that you get all psychotic like me, hahaha, try to find your way back because Maldives is hardly any place for you to mope or get all worked up. I loved this trip for a lot of very obvious reasons but especially for the wonderful company. So to Emperor Eric and my hotsie-patootsie hubby Christophe whom I absolutely adore beyond words, here’s to us and the many more travel adventures we will hopefully have together! Ika nga ni Buzz Lightyear, ‘To inFIJI and beyond!’ Uuuuyyy, nagbabadya!  :)

xoxox

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part III)

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It’s Day Three and though it seemed at that point it would be tough to top our ClubMed Kani adventure, Chris and I woke up much earlier than the previous day determined to catch the sun rise majestically over Thulusdhoo. I was up by 4am, promptly downdogging on the floor while waiting for Hubs to wake up and join me for a walk down the beach.

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In praise of the sun(rise).

At 5:30am, we found the perfect spot to watch the sunrise just in front of Cokes Surf Villas. Perched on a fallen trunk of a mid-sized tree like eager petits singes, we watched with a great deal of fascination the old women of Thulusdhoo who were systematically sweeping dried leaves scattered on the beach – with very precise strokes of the broom. Not a word was exchanged among these women and they just kept sweeping the beach area to spotless perfection – even long after we were done with our walk. If you’ve never watched the sunrise on the beach, you are definitely missing out on one of the greatest moments in life! There’s just no substitute for it. Chris and I had a grand time stretching and doing breathing exercises while the sun was slowly peeking out of the dregs of the night clouds (is there such a thing?). Anyway, we both loved the sunrise experience so much that we made time for it again on our last morning in Maldives. This time, on the beach right next to our petit inn at Hulhumale (watch out for Part quatre). In Part One, I have shared some Thulusdhoo sunrise photos but here’s one more for good measure. :)

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Break of dawn.

We had snorkeling ($40 per person) and Chickens Island tour on our agenda for Day Three. Like the rest of the group, I was very excited to go snorkeling until I met a petit accident just after my first jump and the monster in me emerged. **tantadadaaaannn** I was trying to climb back up the boat when it lurched and I scraped about an inch off my skin – which again, would have been okay as I am used to getting injured anyway, YES, even when I’m asleep (scratched my face a few times while sleeping so I never grow my nails long enough for them to scoop my eyeballs out in some freaky sleeping accident, haha) – but the cut was right on my left shin, exposing a little bit of the bone there. I didn’t cry, no, but I was so furious I wanted to lash out at something or someone – and guess who was well within ‘lashing out’ reach? Uh-oh. According to Chris and Eric, the view underwater is so beautiful it’s as if scenes from ‘Finding Nemo’ have been replayed for their exclusive viewing pleasure. And I missed all that. C’est dommage.

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Here’s Hubby happily snorkeling while I was seething. LOL.

So anyway, my horrible mood ruled me until the following day when we arrived in Malé (I will only get appeased during our city tour when I’ve had my chocolate milkshake – Hubby’s peace offering, haha. He really gets me, my darling hubby!), so you can imagine how much of a downer I was for the remainder of Day Three. I did try to amuse myself by walking around Chickens Island (our next stop after Chris and Eric have had enough of snorkeling), taking photos, walking from one end of the tiny island to the other end looking at baby sharks and manta rays swimming close to the shore, and yet, I was far from pleased. Not even the idea of us having dinner at Tim’s washboard abs, errr, surf joint later that evening could jolt me out of my childish tantrum. Anyway, you know that thing in the movies where hot surfers prance around day and night garbed only in their board shorts worn so low on their hips you don’t need a lot of imagination to ‘see’ what’s going on down there? Well, I’ll have to say it’s pure fiction because that night, Tim was wearing a freakin’ shirt! Lugi kami, soli bayad! LMAO.

But back to Chickens Island. This tiny piece of isolated island just a few hundreds of meters off the coast of Thulusdoo was named so because the locals used to breed poultry there. But as the chicken population grew, the risk of poultry diseases that could be passed on to the consumers was also on the rise. And so the locals decided to stop breeding chickens on the island but the name caught on. According to this surfer guy, Chika (incidentally, the 5th best local surfer in Maldives) – who was also there on the island and was nice enough to show me the baby sharks and manta rays – some resort developer group has already won the rights to convert Chickens Island into an exclusive resort. If it happens, then perhaps it will bring more employment opportunities for Thulusdhoo residents. There is a fee of $5 per person at Chickens Island which you will pay directly to the caretakers over there. If you’re planning on spending a few hours on the island, be sure to pack food and water as there is nothing you can buy to eat or drink there. All in all, the island is charming in a raw kind of way and the beach does not have a lot of jagged rocks making it ideal for leisure swimming. Even though you might encounter a few baby sharks, I doubt if Mommy Shark is swimming close enough to bite off your limbs or other extremities. Here are some photos of and around the island:

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I love all these wharf things that you see almost everywhere in the beaches of Maldives.

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See that bloody spot on my left shin? That was the trigger to my tantrum that nearly rivaled the catastrophic Mt. Merapi eruption. Drama queen much, I know.

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In which it is proven that I can suspend irascibility for two seconds to do this.:P

Day Three was definitely not one of my best days and though on the surface, it didn’t look like I’d be able to bounce back fast enough for me to enjoy the sights and sounds of Malé the following day, I did manage to come around – but only after I had expunged all drama out of my system. Ouh la la. Thank you mon amour for being the soft voice of reason in the midst of all my irrationality. What can I say? I am a very lucky girl.

Malé, you’re next. :)

End of Part III

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part II)

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We were up early on our second day, brimming with excitement for our trip to ClubMed Kani in another nearby atoll – organised for us by the lovely staff of Dream Inn. After a quick breakfast, we made our way to Thulusdhoo jetty where our small speedboat is waiting to take us on the 20-minute trip to Kani atoll. The speedboat rate was US $125 roundtrip (if i’m not mistaken). On the boat, all three of us were ooohing and aaahing nonstop and almost in cadence while looking at the impossibly gorgeous blue waters. There’s the turquoise shade which reminded Chris and I so much of our Bali wedding theme color; there’s the pale blue color; and then, the dark royal blue tone which (probably) indicates the deeper side of the ocean compared with the other two.
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Endless blue.

ClubMed Kani

ClubMed’s very own private atoll featuring suites on stilts perched right on the turquoise waters, a garden path, swimming pool, beautiful white sand beach and of course, the French resort group’s all-inclusive travel package. Though we were only there on a day pass (usually until 5pm), we thought the US $108 per person fee is so worth it! Imagine this: Open bar for most cocktail drinks (the Mojito I got was bland to the taste but the mocktails were pretty good), beer, and house wine (I opted for the white variety and had about 4 or 5 glasses), an amazing buffet selection at lunch with a gourmet menu especially prepared by the Chef-on-duty, snorkeling, use of the pool and fun sports activities. They even had pool Zumba and yoga in the afternoon which we could have joined but didn’t because we were in our element taking photos (lots and lots of ‘em!), tanning on the beach, swimming, checking out hotties (or ‘Tibets’ as Eric would call them), and getting deliciously wined up (in my case, that is).

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No-filter beauty.

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Suites on stilts at ClubMed Kani.

Swimming in the turquoise water of ClubMed Kani is as out-of-this-world as you probably imagined it would be – if not more. The water is pleasantly cool on the skin and it’s just the perfect backdrop for nearly all obligatory Maldives photos you could think of. Chris and I swam a bit before finding our sunbathing spots, fronting the beach – because, really, you don’t waste a fabulous view like that by being somewhere else. Meanwhile, Eric got busy doing his photowalk and taking hundreds of selfies before going into the water as well.

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Happy campers at ClubMed.

Spending a day in ClubMed Kani was one of the best calls we’ve made during this trip. It was the closest we could have gone to a five-star treatment close to Thulusdhoo without selling one of our kidneys in the black market. haha. Maldives was the cover story of this month’s Tiger Air inflight magazine and according to the article, some top-grade luxurious resorts in Maldives would charge around US $15,000 a nightC’est incroyable! But when you’re there and you see what Maldives is all about, a part of you would probably understand why incredibly rich people are willing to blow that kind of money for a few days of pure, unadulterated pleasure in one of God’s greatest island creations.

As for Eric, Chris, and I, we got all the fun and exhilaration we set out to achieve with our short trip to ClubMed Kani. Though it pained us to leave the island shortly before nightfall, we consoled ourselves with the thought of returning to Maldives someday. I have a feeling that Chris and I will be back, but probably not so soon as we still have more destinations to tick-off on our travel bucket list which seems to be getting longer and longer. And longer still. So here’s to us, mon amour, and the many adventures and wonderful memories we still have to make. Je t’adore!

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Mon amour.

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Yoga anywhere.

End of Part II.

TRAVEL: Marvelous MALDIVES (Part I)

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The idea of Maldives came to me one morning in November last year while I was checking my personal email and got an alert from Tiger Air announcing its maiden voyage to Maldives from Singapore beginning January 2014. Not too long before that, I remember asking the Emperor if he had already plotted his 2014 travel schedules, in case I would be able to join him in one of (possibly) many trips this year. As you know, the Emperor and I have been to a few international and local travels together and knowing how he can be very flexible with his schedule (if he wants to!), I thought I’d mention Maldives when I saw him go online on FB. Et voila, in less than an hour, I had already booked Chris and I on a flight and Eric had done the same!

Knowing that Maldives requires no visa application (it’s VOA for a lot of countries, including Philippines!) made decision-making a no-brainer. Of course, the impossibly turquoise water surrounding the atolls and the promise of earthbound paradise go without saying. I mean, we would’ve gone still even if there was visa required. Maldives is just something you never say no to. What followed after that was a fun hotel hunting/booking. We had a reasonable budget to work with which, the three of us agreed, need not require us to smash our piggybanks open or you know, rob a bank.

After going through a long list of hotels and reading a lot of reviews on Trip Advisor, we opted to book our stay at Dream Inn Thulusdhoo for 3 nights and then spend our last night in Malé so we can explore the city and not be worried about missing our flight the following day (it takes an hour and a half from Thulusdhoo to Malé on the public ferry).

Finally, Maldives!

And so on the 12th of March, the three of us boarded Tiger Air bound for Malé, the urbanized capital city of Maldives. The flight was about 4 hours and 20 minutes long and by the way, Maldives is three hours behind Singapore. Soon as we exited the arrival hall, the first thing we saw was the exquisite turquoise waters dotted only by a few speed boats loading and unloading tourists. We had to physically restrain ourselves from jumping right into the water given the scorching heat outside. Gorgeous (easily three shades of) blue ocean water everywhere you look – and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before! It took a while for our airport pick-up to reach us and we were starving so Eric and my husband decided to get us some takeout meals from Burger King. An idea which we all would come to regret IMMEDIATELY as one meal costs a minimum of US $10! (The chicken sandwich meal Chris got me was $15!) Definitely one of the most expensive junk food we have ever ingested and I wouldn’t recommend that you try it. Unless you’re even more famished than we were at that time, or just plain addicted to junk. Ewww.

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Welcome to Thulusdhoo

It takes an hour and a half to get to Thulusdhoo atoll from Malé. I will not give you the wikipedia description of this charming little atoll but instead, I will try to paint a picture of Thulusdhoo based on what we have seen, heard, and tasted of the island. First of all, Thulusdhoo is also known as the Coca Cola island because of the presence of a Coke plant which is supposedly the only one in the world that uses aerated water to manufacture the carbonated drink for Maldivian consumption (Please feel free to verify that as I am rather lazy to Google it up). It is no surprise then that there is a hostel called ‘Cokes Surf’ in the island that specifically caters to surfers and backpackers. And in case you’re wondering why, it’s because Thulusdhoo is said to have the best waves in all of Maldives during surf season. Tim, the-hot-Aussie-surfing-instructor-with-six-pack- abs-that-won’t-quit at Cokes Surf, confirmed that when we all had dinner on our last night on the island.

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The cozy little inn we called ‘home’ for three days, Dream Inn Thulusdhoo, is such a great find! At first, we were disappointed when Shaheem (awesome travel organiser!) told us two days before we were to depart SG for Maldives that he had to transfer the three of us to Askani Villa because they have about 20 youngsters from Denmark arriving the same day. But Askani proved to be just what we needed because it only had four very spacious rooms and we only had to share the whole place with a nice Russian couple. We had good wifi connection in our villa – at least for my iPhone but my Samsung phone totally crapped out on me during this trip so I was struggling a bit doing some work while traveling. 100 points for iPhone, negative 100 points for Samsung S4! – which made it quite convenient for the social media junkies in us to post occasional updates on FB and Instagram. The hotel staff were very amiable and always ready to help make arrangements for our island hopping adventures. And I love how their English is almost impeccable – and how beautifully they enunciate words!

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Thulusdhoo residents take pride in their ‘Sunrise Beach’ and ‘Sunset Beach’ and by right, they should, because these two places certainly give you an awesome sunrise and sunset views. Look!

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Sunrise at 5:50am.

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Sunrise Beach at 6am.

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Sunset Beach at 6pm.

But if you ask me, the real treasure Thulusdhoo has is its charming people. Easily among the friendliest, accommodating, and well-mannered people you will ever meet, the residents of Thulusdhoo will make you feel welcome at any time of the day. Always smiling and often ready to greet you ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’, some will even inquire about your day/health. On our first night at Dream Inn, we were lucky to have been treated to a lively cultural song and dance production by the young men of Thulusdhoo and we were impressed by the passion and energy they put into their craft. The Danish group, as well as the young lady from Kosovo, had a great time jumping around and gyrating to the infectious beat of the drums. Being an old boring fart, I just sat and watched the revelry. Kidding! We had to turn in early that night because we were off to ClubMed Kani the following morning and didn’t want to be sporting eyebags to go with our lovehandles. Not at all great for selfies, haha.

Oh, one more thing that we noticed in Thulusdhoo are the colorful doors and walls in every home which truly fascinated us. But apparently, this love for bold colors is typically Maldivian as we would see more and more of these colorful doors around Malé.

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One great thing about living literally next to the ocean is that you get to enjoy fresh catch for your daily meals. Being just a tiny dot of an island (with only a little above 1,000++ inhabitants), Thulusdhoo does not have restaurants (though we saw one or two bars near the jetty) so we were only eating mostly at our resort and on our last night, at Cokes Surf Villas. There’s not much of variety here but the grilled fish we were served a few times was truly divine! It’s so fresh and tasty you don’t even need condiments to enjoy it!

If you are looking for some sun, surf and sand adventure with a little splash of culture, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this charming North Malé atoll called Thulusdhoo. And oh, good news to the ladies who might be wondering if swimsuit is allowed in the beaches of Thulusdhoo at all – the answer is yes, my sweetpea, you can wear your swimsuit on the beach! But please don’t go around the village in those tiny stringy cloths as you are definitely bound to offend the residents’ sensibilities and conservative ideals. Keep in mind that Maldives is an Islamic nation and all tourists must respect that.

End of Part One

I Do.

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I Do.

Christophe, I promise to love and care for you and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love, trust, and respect. I will always be honest with you, kind, patient, supportive, understanding and forgiving. Yes, even when sometimes being all of that is in itself a challenge. But most of all, I promise to be a true and loyal friend to you. I will love you through good and the bad, through joy and the sorrow, the ugly and the beautiful. Maybe not so much the ugly…kidding! I want to face all of life’s experiences and share beautiful dreams and goals with you. I promise to be your equal partner in a loving, honest, and nurturing marriage, for as long as we both shall live. Je t’aime enormement, mon mari.

P.S.: I will even learn to speak your native language to save you the trouble of translating each time we are in the company of French people.:)

***

Venue: Alila Villas Uluwatu

Photo by: Noel Abelardo
Gown by: Nikolai Jude Hernandez
Suit by: Cho Vittorio Iago Orlanes
HMU: Bali Makeup and Hair
Videography: Point One Designs

The One With Random Updates On Married Life

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I had just finished typing my last email with 33% battery life left on my laptop and thought of posting a quick one on my blog, which, upon checking the last update, might as well be a quarterly journal of heaping nonsense. My kind of nonsense.

If I could encompass these past few months that I have been sort of away, I could only think of a word: Wife. Married for four months now, I would have to say the new role suits me just fine – in a way that a person can never go wrong with a tailored suit or dress. It’s like playing house with a carefully-chosen housemate, only better, because you actually get to share a lot of intimate stuff and find delight in each and every moment. Of course there would be the occasional fights, mostly when I would lose my marbles for no reason (and let me tell you, I am pretty adept at that), but what’s marriage without excitement, right? I cannot be in a state of perpetual bliss 24/7. I need to lose it every now and then to feel alive. Thankfully, my husband loves me enough to understand and embrace my weirdness. But perhaps I shouldn’t push the envelope too far, ya?

So in between work and constant travel, I try to spend as much time learning how to fit into this wifey role – which I must admit, was perplexing at the beginning because I had been so used to just looking after myself and my own needs and now, I have a husband to cherish and look after. Suddenly, it is no longer just me or about me. I am now 50% of a life partnership and the more emotionally, mentally, and spiritually prepared I am, the better the journey will be.

A husband and these…

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… horticulture type of things, which I might be getting a little too obsessed with these days. You know how old folks would say you gotta try your hand at caring for a plant or a pet first before you even make an attempt to bring forth a child in this big, bad world? I guess it’s safe to say that I’m presently at that stage. Oh, have you met Perpetua my perpetually sleeping petit chat, yet?

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So there you go, big fat checks on both plants and a pet. I am sooo ready to become a Mom, yey! hahaha.

And then there’s also this…

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I have been spending some time in the kitchen on weekends (when I’m not downward dog-ging on the yoga mat or cycling and running around SG, that is) and I would sometimes surprise myself – and C – with the delightful dishes I would come up with in quick minutes. I’m no Nigella that’s for sure, but I don’t think I am entirely useless around the kitchen either. Ask C and I bet you he’d say without a hint or sliver of bias that my sinigangadobo, and four cheese pasta are the best he’s ever tasted! Haha.

All things considered, I would actually recommend marriage. But make sure to pick the right partner or life could be a lot more complicated than you would have cared to prepare for. But don’t tell anyone I said that — I (still) have a reputation to protect. LOL.

Goodnight Loves!