The night before Thanksgiving, my mother would call and lure the grandkids into coming over to her house – for tarts. She would take her leftover pie dough (made from scratch with no recipe – some of this and a handful of that and a sprinkle of salt – roll it paper thin and brush the entire thing with Crisco. ONLY Crisco would do. She would gently fold the thin layers until there were 4 flaky layers. After cutting them into uneven squares and triangles, she would shortening up her left thumb and make a thin indent on the top of each piece and drop a spoonful of her homemade jam in the dent. On the other half she sprinkled cinnamon, sugar and a bit of nutmeg. In the oven they went.
And only AFTER all of the grandkids had torn about a dozen loaves into inch size pieces filling about 6 Dutch oven pans – would they be offered the treat of one of each of the tarts. The grown kids and grandkids carried that tradition with my Mom as long as we all were around. I think of the one and only time Bob helped out. After he got out the cutting board and electric knife and cut 6 pieces of bread at one time into perfect little squares, he was banished. The next day at dinner, Mom and Grandma Tabor both complained that the stuffing was “not quite right” because some of the bread had not been “torn”. I think he did it on purpose. In fact I am sure of it.
Abby and I made a fairy garden. I set two planters up and filled them with rich dark soil and scattered a few plants here and there to give shade to our invited fairy guests.
I placed a few online orders and soon we were ready to set up a retreat to welcome our new residents. Abby called dibs on the top barrel and all of the fairies. She then told me I could do the bottom level and make an area for the mermaid toddlers. I told her, these are baby fairies. No, she stated. They are mermaids, but that’s okay. I look them over. They ARE mermaids. We agree that they are probably (possibly?) fairy mermaids and let it go at that. Mermaid fairies. Of course!
She takes great care in placing the little fairy lanterns on the shepherd’s hooks and distributing them around both levels. She places a bench here and a swing there and tucks tiny colorful toadstools around. She takes some small stones and makes a “fairy circle”, because that’s what they do, Nana. I work on my level and let her do her thing sprinkling fairy dust and planting miniature pumpkins and laying the smallest of stepping stones. And it looks good. Really good.
And then … “I have a great idea and you are going to love this” and her voice trails off, only to return several minutes later with some found treasures (from my found craft storage cubes) clenched in both fists so as not to drop any of her newest ideas.
The hands open and out falls a silver butterfly clip, several half “pearl” beads, a tiny corked bottle of green and gold rhinestones and my set of teensy-weensy glass teacups, saucers and creamer charms. She places the pearls on some seashells around the fairy mermaid’s pond and a butterfly on our homemade twig and string ladder. The bottle of rhinestones are semi buried in the dirt around a plant. Finally, she sets up a tea party area on the flagstone for the pond dwellers.
Looking over her new fairy dwellings, she seems pleased with her efforts and retreats to the kitchen for a jell-o fruit cup and a mini root beer. Well deserved.
At first, I was thinking we would have a remote Camp Nana. There is only going to be a few more years (if that) left of this tradition and I was really hoping the pandemic would not spoil yet another family event. Since the grand kids had been mostly quarantined and I had most definitely been mostly quarantined for the prior 2 plus months, we decided that we could hold Camp Nana at my home with no field trips. Never mind that. We have plenty of fun things to do. We have a clubhouse. We have a kitchen and plenty of crafting supplies. We have Pinterest. And we mostly have the imaginations of a 10, 7 and 5 year old. What else do we need?
So, the invitations went out in 4 little bags with a new Camp Shirt on their front doors. And here we are. 4 kids ages 10 to 1 – ready to be entertained. Max’s first responsibility as a Junior Counselor (yes – he has been promoted!) was to take everyone’s temperature. He was very good about cleaning the thermometer after each reading. He is growing up way too fast!
We also began rehearsals on our end of camp performance which I cannot disclose as we keep it super secret until the big day on which the parents and grand parents already have a good idea because those campers cannot keep a secret! Nonetheless, we pretend like it is still a secret.
A few photos from some of our first camp days activities…
Time for the Junior Counselor to present story time while Nana prepared a light lunch for the campers. Ginny brought some books to share for the first camp day.
After lunch, Nolan left camp for a well deserved nap in his own bed, while the other three campers designed and wrote Thank You cards to some first responders and essential workers.
Time for a bit of baking. I had not really prepared for this, so we ended up using prepared cookie dough and made enough chocolate chip cookies to snack on and send home with the campers.
Afterwards we practiced our super secret performance and I think we are off to a good start!
To wind down the busy day, we took in a bit of Boss Baby. Listening to the kids laugh always make my day!
I still managed to be productive! Slashing through my accounting duties and lowering the pile of paperwork. But accounting is not enough to sustain, so, periodically, I sneak away from my desk and actually do other things!
Like build a long planter and plant a tombstone rose (Home Depot delivers supplies and I bought the rose plant on Etsy!). And build a corner planter in the backyard and plant another Tombstone Rose. Still have to fill it in and paint it. Thanks, Etsy!!
Take a walk and trim up the hubby’s memorial tree.
Always a good feeling when your clothes closet is in good order. A bit of re-arranging and a floor rack on rollers from Amazon to hold 19 pairs of sandals and shoes does the trick. Yep – all of my blouses on the top rack are in order of color – light to dark
Gave out the “not this year” Easter party eggs originally for the egg hunt, to 6 different families to share or hunt or just open! And then I got a surprise gift! Thank you LeAna! If I ever get to go anywhere again, I have the perfect outfit to wear it with. Love it, but more importantly, the sentiment and thoughtfulness.
Tried on my new mask custom made by sister, Robyn. Attempted a bacon wrapped meatloaf (it will be better the next time – I think I have perfected it now!). Changed my blog design and still have some work to do on that! And scored big time with the world’s skinniest laundry hamper at just over 7 inches for the tiny laundry room in the tiny home. Easter decorations went back into storage bins. Reluctantly.
Participated in the Family Zoom meeting that Jeffry set up as a regular weekly event!
Almost finished a custom ordered lamp shade for lady’s black and white butterfly themed office/craft room.
And to top it all off, a surprise package from Isabel, Alexander & Victoria filled with Russell Stover DARK chocolate eggs and three hand-crafted cards. Pure Heaven!
Happy Birthday, my sweet, talented and loving Marluce. Grandma’s Girl. Always has been and always will be. Cannot wait to see what the world has in store for you – or should I say, what YOU have in store for the world. Love you oodles, Missy.
Abby and I embarked on a girls trip this week. On Thursday, we boarded American Airlines (Abby called dibs on the window seat) for Austin, Texas to join my sister, Robyn and her granddaughter (my great niece), Alina, for the 2020 Faerie Tea. Oh, but this is so much more than just a tea party.
First things first – the perfect faerie dress. This is no time for a costume. Etsy is the place to go for carefully constructed faerie gowns befitting the event. Always good to support small businesses.
Alina wore a tulle skirted gown in all of the blues and greens you could imagine on a beautiful peacock in all of it’s glory. With her fair complexion and thick black hair, this color pallet showcased this 8 year old beauty.
Abby’s “new favorite” color is green. So, naturally, a Tinkerbell Fairy dress was in order. https://www.etsy.com/shop/Emmasmagicalcloset had the perfect one. The workmanship was amazing, the dress was impeccable and the customer service was second to none. The colors were perfect with her blond pixie cut and sparkly green nails!
And now we were off to meet up with other fairies at the gardens.
Welcome to Zilker Botanical Garden —
located on 26 acres nestled within Zilker Metropolitan Park
in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas,
Zilker Botanical Garden is often called
“the jewel in the heart of Austin”.
First step was to sign in and select a Fairy Name. Alina chose Peacock Girl while Abby stuck with Tinkerbell. Way to nail the theme, ladies! After a few indoor games, the garden tour began with the guide imparting information about the gardens and their care. She kept it engaging by sprinkling bits of “fairy dust” particles of information on such things as what fairies eat and how they make their tiny houses. There were actual fairy homes here and there and each seemed to have a little theme. There was a sewing fairy house and a cozy gardening fairy home to name a few.
There were ponds to explore and places for fairies to pose and even a book to read!
All fairies got to plant their own plants to attract tiny fairies and butterflies. Aunt Robyn will plant Abby’s at her home and watch it grow. We cannot take it on the plane and cannot bring it into Arizona. Abby was thrilled that Aunt Robyn will watch over her plant.
A trip to remember. Loved every enchanting minute! Thanks to Robyn for the amazing photos!
Today I celebrate receiving my best birthday gift. Cuter than a puppy. Better than a new car. The gift that keeps on giving.
I had ventured to the OB ward at St. Mary’s Hospital four times previously just to meet this baby bundle. One day for 8 hours with pills shoved in between my lips and gums; small contractions here and there with no results. Returning another day for more of the same and leaving empty handed – but oh, so determined. Two days later, a 48 hour pitocin drip. Oh, I knew this would be the day. Alas…no bundle in blue. I was exhausted mentally and physically. Bob was exhausted. My doctor was at his wits end. Before being released, Dr. Mohler appeared at the door. His eyes were red and watery. He told me he was sorry, but if the next time produced no results, I would need to undergo a C section. I am a serious bleeder and hemorrhaged in previous deliveries, so a C section was a last resort. His face turned toward Bob – the already nervous daddy to be (again). I had never seen Dr. Mohler with a stern face before. He pointed at Bob. “4 weeks after she delivers, I want YOU in my office!” It was not a request. It was not a suggestion. Bob knew what that meant and so now he had a couple of worries on his mind. Poor guy. But, back to me.
On Sunday, February 5, 1984, my Grand Junction family descended on 30 Road with birthday cards and birthday gifts, cakes and wishes. I waited until the surprise gathering was almost over to reveal MY surprise. I was going back to St. Mary’s the next day on my birthday and was not leaving without a baby!
Monday, February 6th. 6 a.m. Bob was driving us back to the hospital. I am sure he was convinced by now, that this was all a hoax. I am also sure that he was replaying the doctor’s parting words to him over and over and over.
This day, the OB specialist and Dr. Mohler had come up with a new plan. After explaining that there would be no more Pitocin (an idea that I LOVED) and that there was an experimental drug in the form of a cream that would be placed (Jeffry – cover your eyes) inside my vagina that would soften the cervix and encourage contractions. Now this I could do! No needles! This was right up my alley (so to speak). We signed all kinds of forms regarding the risks and yes, yes we knew this was not an approved method yet and was still in testing stages. If it meant I would go home with a baby this time, I signed away!
A few moments later a nurse wheeled a little stainless steel tray up to my bedside with gauze and tubes and a giant syringe the width of a turkey baster with a long THICK needle at the end. Wait. WHAT?!? After pulling me back into a resting position, the nurse explained that it was used to place the right amount of the cream on to the gauze. Wiping my tears and trying to get my heart rate back under 300, I was thinking that information should be printed in large red letters on the side of the giant thing with the giant needle THIS GINORMOUS THING IS NOT GOING INSIDE OF YOU.
So, without going into the details of the actual birthing (you’re welcome), less than 9 hours later my best Birthday Present arrived. World, meet Jeffry Charles Gardner. The last Bob and Connie baby (on orders of the Doc). And he was a joy.
A few days later, we were home. The newness soon wore off for the older boys. “Do you want to hold him?” “Um, sure. Then can I go ride my bike?”
How could anyone resist this bundle of cuteness and joy. Jeffry was a perfectly content baby – as long as mommy was holding him. He never cried – as long as mommy was holding him. Yes, yes. Sheer perfection.
He is still perfection (save for his truck driver mouth). He has laughed and cried with me. Held me up when I thought I could not emotionally get to my feet again. Fills me with laughter and wipes my tears. He is a wonderful husband (so I am told) and a father that every man should strive to be. He is still my baby boy. He is still the best birthday gift ever and I get to relive it every year. Happy Birthday, Jeffry. I could not have imagined my life without you.
I love setting up for Christmas. Making sure a reason exists for a display here or a wall hanging there; it’s my own little design time (okay – also my obsession). And as I begin to dismantle the Christmas decor, another obsession kicks in. I re-organize and re-label the almost endless containers of my treasures. I have always repaired knick knacks and wreaths before I put them away in their newly labeled containers. That way, when I begin to decorate in a mere 300 days, there are no loose parts or Santas with missing legs. I also manage to refurbish (that’s code for embellish) something just for no reason.
That being said, I may or may not have added two dozen more ornaments to this wreath. Hope it still fits in the wreath storage!
Ignore the mess in the background. I had to hang it from the chalkboard to work on so I could actually reach it!
My little pixie of a sweetheart. Part cheeky Gdovin girl and part tender hearted princess. With a keen eye; a memory like an elephant and the smarts of her parents …
I met her when she was mere hours old. I have watched her learn and laugh and cry and argue and nurture. She has tried my patience until I had almost none. She has brushed away my tears with her sweet touch. She has made me laugh to the point of aching. And she has made me love more than I ever thought possible.
She argues with her brother and within seconds will tell him that she loves him. She can act like perfection one minute and spew out a verbal jab the next.
She is tiny, yet mighty. She is wise beyond her years. She has the whole world at her fingertips. Just wait and watch what she does with it.
She is my Abby. Happy Birthday my sassy little pixie. I love you beyond words. Nana
The kitchen is clean. The dishwasher is gently humming while water spills into the washing machine over the dozen cloths used as napkins and the many towels used for the meal prep. The wood scraps used as some type of Barbie yoga retreat have been returned to the wood bin. The patio and sidewalks are still alive with the vibrant chalk art of two little girls. The house is quiet as another Sunday family dinner is done.
I so love these times. The prep and cooking take a large part of the day. The patio tables are set with simple place settings and chairs are scattered between the two tables. As the house fills with greetings and conversation and baby squeals, plates are filled and drinks are poured as the house empties on to the patio. Conversation quiets for a bit except the clang of the silverware against the plates. (Yeah – we mostly use regular dinnerware out there. I can’t help myself.)
As dinner comes to an end and dessert has been served, kids are playing; guests are loading the dishwasher and we settle down for some evening conversation before everyone begins to head home.
Another evening of family time and my heart is full.
used to express the notion that something will be done in an uncompromising or brutal way, without compunction or hesitation.
go to the mattresses
to enter into or prepare for a lengthy war, battle, or conflict; to adopt a combative or warlike position.
so surprised that they cannot speak
So, last night was the second year that I opened my trunk (and yes – my heart) to the West Coast Karate annual Trunk or Treat.
The trunk was decorated with black lace and glittery purple and tiny green lights. There was a huge tub filled with over 100 goodie bags and 100 brightly lit glow sticks on strings to wear around the neck. I even wore a hat, for the love of Pete (whoever Pete is)! The crowds of kids began to ascend and there were lots of oohs and aahs over the decor. Jeffry was busy snapping glow sticks and taking orders of what color Cinderella wanted and making sure the Ninja Turtle got a green one, when something caught my eye.
What was this? Every kid with freshly made cotton candy on a cardboard cone. Just like at the circus or a carnival. WHAT?!? As I gaze across the parking lot I see a laser show in purple on the building wall dancing to the music of the Monster Mash. Why, it really was a graveyard smash! And Picachu dancing around and handing out Pokemon cards. This was not a trunk or treat! This was a really big display of awesomeness. What ingenuity. What creativity. What betrayal! I mean, after all, these tiny green fairy lights set me back 14.99 (free shipping!) and I spent 2 evenings stuffing each goody bag with 10 different candies (and NOT generics, either) and a tatoo to find it all gone to princesses and ninjas and turtles and jojo in less than 34 minutes. And this guy – this master of trunk or treat imagination – does this. Shameful, I tell ya.
Just you wait Mr. Cotton Candy Laser show Monster Mashing trunk or treat guy. Next year your display will look like a mere speck of a spectacle. I’m thinking a popcorn popper … No. Kids don’t want that when there is a plethora of refined sugars to be had. A hot dog stand with a clown to hand to the mini diners? Nah. Again, no sugar. Snow cones?? Ice cream???
No worries. The possibilities are endless. Wonder if I can find some of those cute miniature doggies that jump through those hoops. Ooh, I know. Pony Rides!! Although, the nature calls aspect may not be one with the walking around and noticeable odors and all. Hmmmm. Just give me a few moments and I will surely come up with something. In the meantime …
maybe next year …
I had better start planning for this right away! Cotton candy …hrumph!
Today was show my work day at Max and Abby’s school. I went to Max’s class and Aunt Megan went with Abby.
I am always amazed at the way the Khalsa Montessori works. Really I am amazed how calm the kids and the setting are. An old fashioned hand bell is heard outdoors and the kids calmly walk to their designated entrance. As they stand just outside the door, one child at a time walks to the classroom while the second child starts the walk when the first one is about 2/3 of the way there. There is no discussion. No pushing. No jockeying for a place in line. It is all rather … well … civilized. After the kids are settled in a circle on the carpet, the parents (grandparents and aunties) are all invited in. Max motions me to his table and instructs me to “stay right there” while he walks out of the room, returning with an adult sized folding chair that he sets up for me. Just a lovely reminder that at this school, Max’s consideration for me is not out of the ordinary. It is what is done. He is always considerate of others, but when he does something just for me, I tear up with pride and joy. He is really such a nice kid. And I am not the only one who thinks it as more than a few parents commented to me about his manners, intelligence and, of course, his humor!
Back to School. This Grammie, Grandma, Mimi, Nana and GG has a thing about buying school supplies. I started when Tristan began kindergarten. And now she is 27; so it has been a bit since I began this tradition.
Supplies are winging their way as I write, to Alexander and Victoria. Marluce should be getting some packages as well. Mateo does not have his school supply list yet. I am still shopping for Connor & waiting for information for AJ!
Max and Abby attend the Khalsa Montessori school and the school shops for and purchases all of the school supplies so every one has identical supplies. Since I cannot buy school supplies for them, I will settle for school shoe shopping. After Abby and I picked up Maxwell from his coding camp, we hit the Hungry Fox for a real lunch that had no resemblance to a box lunch with a toy.
Okay, sooooo, Nana may or may not have, picked up some sandals as well as a new purse. Thanks, DSW!
A fairly successful afternoon of shopping, I think!
This morning we have a lazy few hours with Max and Abby watching television cartoons. I am folding the clean laundry (I have a rule about travelling with dirty laundry) and when I need their assistance and call their name, they respond with a karate stance and a sharp “ma’am! Yes ma’am!!) They lighten my slightly sad mood as I realize this is the last morning of Nana Vacation time, and now I will have to share them again.
Packed up our beautiful little condo for 5 days and then out and about to say good-bye to Victoria before we have to head to the airport.
It’s a good thing that we are leaving the dangerous downtown of Victoria. The kids were almost eaten by a Canadian bear!! Poor little things were terrified.
To celebrate their survival, we hop on our final Victoria Taxi and made our way to the Victoria airport to meet up with Jeffry and Kerri in Calgary.
Almost everyone of these taxi’s we used (and we used them at least twice a day!) were all Prius cars as Victoria prides herself on keeping green. The Unites States could take some lessons from Canada. Going green is just one of them. The other major one is how British Columbia tries to save historical buildings – or at least their facades and architecture – even if they will be renovated for use other than what was originally intended. I understand how a sleek modern building may be the desirous effect of the moment, the beauty and history of the old is far more interesting to me. And I think by discarding them, we do our younger generations a disservice and rob them of the importance of our past. That is just this Gdovin Girl’s perspective.
This old Catholic church in BC was restored and has been used as an art gallery.
The Empress Hotel in 1908 and then today.
Late lunch at the White Spot in the Victoria Airport before winging our way to Calgary. Jeffry and Kerri met us with a rental car and the GPS loaded for our drive to Red Deer, Alberta – Kerri’s hometown, and then to our Airbnb for a week. Of course the little ones were very excited to get hugs from mommy and daddy and jabbered about their adventures and the plans for upcoming family get-togethers as we navigated our way to Red Deer.
Today is another pancake breakfast day with ham and fruit. Energy for our daily Inner Harbor excursion and our boat tour.
From the moment you step aboard, you’ll be greeted by the salty ocean breeze and the friendliest folks you’ll ever meet. Victoria Harbour Ferry has been connecting locals and visitors to the city’s waterfront neighbourhoods, parks and communities for almost 30 years. Our experienced captains are known for their love of the ocean, passion for storytelling, and unrivaled safety records. Join us on the water and see why our boats are the happiest little boats in the harbour!
Both kids listened intently to our Captain’s facts and interesting stories. He was a charming, unassuming guy. Actually is also a commercial airline pilot by trade – but enjoys this more. He made sure to mix in some humorous tales along the way. Sad to hear that even Victoria has a homelessness problem; and people who are down on their luck will find old discarded boats and try to live on them. Every couple of months, the government sweeps in and scoops up what they call the “derelict” boats and hauls them away; I would imagine with belongings the inhabitants have collected. In Tucson, we have homeless people in the parks – in Victoria, the homeless people are in the water.
The tour boats, unlike the little water taxis (called pickle boats because they resemble the shape of a pickle!) are all electric. Very quiet and no fuel smell – an easy relaxing ride. Maybe a bit too relaxing for Abby as I think she wanted to nap a bit. Got to see the float homes again and learn about the shipyards and the large ferries to the United States and to Vancouver. And because the tour boats are electric, they are 100% pollution free!
Your guide will share the rich history of Coast Salish peoples who have lived on the land for over 4,000 years. Discover the politics, culture, and everyday life of the early Victorian residents. Learn how the Gorge was nearly destroyed by decades of industrial pollution and about the extensive restoration efforts to return the fragile ecosystems to its natural splendor.
With only 10 seats per sailing, this intimate tour will get you up close and personal with some of our favourite things— ocean views, marine life, and history. And you can see it all safe in the knowledge that our eco-friendly, zero-omission electric ferries will preserve the environment for future generations to enjoy.
After a late lunch, we walked downtown to the Rexall Drug Store (yes, they have them here…however, no soda fountains with cherry cokes!) to get some Tums to calm Abby’s sensitive tummy. The kids went crazy. I guess we don’t really have many standalone “drugstores” anymore, so the whole thing was a novelty! Little things sometimes bring great pleasure. Waiting for our taxi, Abby spies a Ladybug, to which she exclaimed “Maxwell, there are Ladybugs in CANADA!”
The day began with a light drizzle, so we decided that the Hop On and Hop Off Gray Line tour bus would be a good option for today. Our tour began in front of the Empress. The kids were thrilled when they got to scurry to the upper level to the very front of the gigantic window to view absolutely everything in sight!
The tour guide told us all about the Hudson Bay Company and Butchart Gardens and the Johnson Street Bridge and lots more.
The drizzle slowly turned into a somewhat heavy rainstorm. The children were not deterred in their enthusiasm. They still found fun things to look at and things that made them giggle and while driving through Chinatown, a bright yellow-orange Asian paper umbrella to which Abby exclaimed … “Nana! Mahmaw has an umbrella exactly like that.” She was quite tickled over that fact.
But the pièce de résistance and the be all to end all, was when the rain dried up and we hopped off to spend an hour at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Our first stop was the bird sanctuary to see the tiny Zebra Finch and the apricot color tiny Canary. I am not a fan of larger birds and filthy doves/pigeons/seagulls. But these tiny little Aves are simply adorable.
The peacocks were gorgeous in their electric blue. The ducks were quacking their heads off. The llamas were funny. The miniature horses and mule were sweet. The Guinea pigs and the bunnies were a little smelly, but too cute.
But the very best part of the visit was the baby goats. Once the kids discovered that the goats would jump on their back if they got down on all fours, all you could hear was hearty laughter and little girl giggles. Both Max and Abby thought this was the best thing ever and the baby goats certainly enjoyed their cooperation. I had to keep a sharp eye out as the kids (goat kids – not grand kids) would go after a corner of a jacket (wanting to eat the fabric) or scratch with one leg the back of Maxwell’s jacket so hard, that I thought there would be shreds had I not stopped it. Both kids and kids enjoyed the experience and Abby hasn’t stopped talking about the baby goats.
After our baby goat time, we hopped back on the tour bus and passed by several other landmarks before ending up at Frankie’s Modern Diner on Government Street and enjoying some dinner. We meandered through a couple of stores downtown and, before making our way back to our home away from home, the kids took time to pose with the friendly hosts of Canada.
Max and Abby took showers and got freshly shampooed before donning their very cute matching pj’s we found at a local shop. And now they are just as adorable as the baby goats!
(this touching photography session was shortly followed by “OUCH! ABBY SCRATCHED ME AND SHE DID IT ON PURPOSE!” and then a quick response in a light small voice “you okay mama? you okay? want me to kiss it, mama? you okay??”)
After a pancake breakfast (why, yes. I did make the kids pancakes today) we begin our day – where else – the Inner Harbor. Can’t hardly begin the day without having a glimpse of the boats in the Harbor and breathing in the sea air. You just can’t!
and then … The Fairmont Empress began her story as Victoria, British Columbia’s, most iconic hotel on January 20, 1908. Famed architect Francis Rattenbury was commissioned to design the hotel after his success in designing the new legislative buildings in the relatively new Canadian province of British Columbia. Fairmont Empress was meant to serve business people and tourists, but after the Canadian Pacific Railway discontinued service to the area, it was successfully marketed as a resort.
A star from her beginning, Fairmont Empress did not have a sign over the front entrance. When a sign was finally raised, one irate Victorian uttered the phrase, “Anyone who doesn’t know this is the Empress shouldn’t be staying here.” However, it would appear many did know and appreciate the Empress. Edward, Prince of Wales, danced in the Crystal Ballroom in 1919 with many local ladies, whose obituaries mentioned that night over 50 years after it happened. When reigning royals King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Victoria for the first time, they stayed at the Fairmont Empress. Over the years, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, stayed at the hotel as well.
Celebrities came to the hotel in droves. Stars like Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny, Roger Moore, Katharine Hepburn, John Travolta, Barbra Streisand, and Harrison Ford have passed through the Fairmont Empress’ lobby. Shirley Temple came to stay in the 1930s after rumored threats of kidnapping. Her bodyguards stayed in the room across from hers and always kept their doors open.
By 1965, the hotel had fallen on hard times; it was faded and dowdy, leaving officials to debate on whether or not the Fairmont Empress should be torn down to make room for something more modern. Thankfully, it was decided that the loss of the Empress was far too great. Instead, there was a $4 million renovation and refurbishment, the first of many. In 1989, $45 million was spent in what was dubbed the “Royal Restoration,” which was also when the indoor pool, health club, and guest reception were added. In the midst of this restoration, it was discovered that the beautiful, Tiffany-style stained glass that makes up the roof of the Palm Court had been covered by wood. To this day, guests can now enjoy sparkling light on the shining marblefloors during weddings and other special events. In the 1990s, the Willow Stream Spa was added and became Victoria’s most award winning spa to date.
Behind the hotel grounds and down the block, is the Miniature World – which is exactly what it says. Looking at the entrance gives you the impression that you will be in and out in ten minutes – but looks can be deceiving! Room upon room takes you through history in tiny form. From the destruction of the war in Germany …
Buttons are on almost every display making trains travel, propellers spin, chandeliers glow, farmers plow, hoods on classic cars raise and lower and everything imaginable (or unimaginable) to make the entire experience unforgettable. Difficult to get good photos through the glass. You must really experience it in person.
Welcome to Victoria in floral glory!
Always some “Buskers” (street entertainers) in the Harbor. For many, this is their way of earning a living. They love the work, but I imagine it can be very physically and mentally challenging.
Victoria plays host to the “Buskers Festival” in July. Lots of street entertainment downtown as well all week long.
Head downtown for five days for live entertainment featuring local and international comedians, contortionists, magicians, musicians, and much more.
Four stages: Ship Point, Bastion Square, Market Square, and Centennial Square
An outdoor beer garden at Ship Point
A dozen performance artists
Five days of free all-ages fun
With laughter by day and excitement by night, the Downtown Victoria Buskers Festival showcases quirky, funny, and sublime international talent.
“Home” after a long and busy day to pork chops, broccoli and warm biscuits! More fun tomorrow.
Since we got to bed so late last night (or so early this morning – which ever way you want to look at it) we got a bit of a late start to the day. But, we are on vacation and have no timetable or schedule and are just free to be!
We leave our condo and prepare for adventure. Walking from the residence and through some beautifully landscaped areas, it seems as though everything parts and makes way for the Johnson Street Bridge; where we can gaze at part of the harbor. Amazing to see the tiny boats as well as the tallest of the sailboats.
It is a wondrous site and bittersweet memories flood my mind and heart as I remember my first visit here with my hubs thirteen years ago. Bob and I were in the midst of a terrible family crisis. This was one we could not face at the time. Our strength had been tested in ways we would have never thought possible. We “ran away” to Victoria to be by ourselves. It was a great comfort being in a place where we would never come face to face with anyone that we knew. Walking the Inner Harbor every morning to the downtown area or just to watch the street entertainers helped us to forget what we had to face when we returned. We were in a magical land and for just a couple of weeks, we had no fear or worries. It was just us. And we clung to each other certain in the fact that whatever happened, we always had each other. That is the way our marriage began and that is the way our marriage ended with Bob’s death.
I have to blink away the tears several times until I hear Maxwell tell Abby that I am remembering being here with Poppa. Then I have to laugh at the innocence of a 6 year old little girl … “oh yeah. You came here with dead Poppa, right, Nana?” Pulls me right back into the current and makes me laugh – knowing Bob would think that the funniest thing ever. I can hear his laugh now.
We venture over the new replacement Johnson Street bridge and ooh and aah at the mechanisms that will lift this bridge, effortlessly allowing tall ships to sail through. It certainly is an engineering marvel. At night, it is lit in a beautiful blue as a reminder of the powder blue bridge it replaced.
Our first stop was to get some food in the kids’ tummies. We found a cute little place called Picnic- a coffee house with locally sourced cafe items. The kids liked it and I especially liked the Portuguese style bun!
And now, we were off. We needed to get a few groceries for the Airbnb, but before that, we explored the Inner Harbor. Now, you cannot explore the Inner Harbor without going to Wharf Street and you certainly cannot visit Wharf Street without having your photo taken at the CANADA sign!
Now that we have that out of the way, we see a small closed trailer in bright red. A young lady is standing near the steps and asks us if we would like to see a free 3 minute play. She explains that she and her entertainment partner, students at the University, travel around doing these little 3 minute plays, but also teaches school children the art of acting. We enter the small trailer and to my surprise, there are a few theater style seats from times gone by and a little stage with the requisite heavy drapery. Max and Abby think this is quite a treat, so we all take our seats. A cute mini-play begins and near the end, one of the young ladies says she needs a volunteer to help rescue the other lady. Up shoots Maxwell’s hand and before you know it, he is standing on the stairs outside of the trailer and within a minute is hailed as the hero. Quite an entertaining few moments! And such a novel idea.
These are the little things that Bob and I found so endearing about Victoria. A bit quirky. A Little relaxing. And a whole lot of fun. I think that if Portland and Austin had a baby, she would be Victoria BC.
We take our remaining time to walk around and watch the boats and observe the life here. Then, we board the water taxi to get back to our side of the harbor and are on our way to the Country Grocer and home for dinner and relaxing time. Well, as relaxing as you can get with Teen Titans!
to beautiful Victoria BC. Jeffry and Kerri are driving Max and Abby and I to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. This evening, the grand kids and I will board Alaska Airlines (upgraded seats) to make our way to Seattle and eventually to Victoria – the cutest gem of a city that I have ever laid eyes on. After kisses and hugs and “see you in 5 days”, we checked our luggage and ventured into the general boarding screening area. The kids do not have known traveler numbers, so in the general line we went. Everything was smooth until the man said “all food items must be out of the bags and into one of the bins”. I thought, ‘no problem’ since I packed the snacks in a little lunch box and just placed it in the bin. All of the sudden, Maxwell was in a panic – going through his backpack pulling out 3 Starburst and a couple other small items. Crisis averted!
The kids were treated to a kid’s snack box with a turkey sausage stick, applesauce, cheese crackers, popcorn and a mini chocolate bar and of course apple juice and sprite. Happy Campers!! Thanks, Alaska Airlines! On the descent into Seattle, we watched fireworks shows all over the city from above. Believe it or not, the displays are not nearly as amazing from above as they are looking up at them. A new experience.
The transfer in Seattle was rushed, to say the least. After getting off the first plane, we had 20 minutes before we boarded the second one. Normally, not so much to worry about. However, we landed at one terminal and our next gate was C10D. Excuse me? Okay then – we find the train to take passengers to GATES B C D. That is what it said right there on the little red letters above the train. So there we await the little train to take us to our gate. We board the train. The doors close. And then a voice comes over the loudspeaker … “this train will not stop at gate C. To get to gate C, disembark at gate D and walk to gate C”. Well, now that was fun with all 3 of us – me with back issues and two children sleepy at 11 pm – scurrying in and out of crowds of people to get to our gate just as they called our group. We made it. Got settled in our upgraded-but-you-couldn’t-tell-it-was-an-upgrade seats and settled in for a quick flight to land in Victoria. Had no time to pick up a cute night shirt in the Seattle Airport that said “Sleepless in Seattle” and that is one of my favorite movies of all time!! (“hello, Howard!”)
Got to the Airbnb around 1:45 am.. The kids were both now alert and ready to explore the little condo…”look how these light switches work… the toilet lid closes by itself like ours … hey, I have dibs on the pull out sofa …”
By the time we got settled in and faces washed and teeth brushed, it was close to 2:30 a.m. and all three of us were exhausted and sleep came ever so easy. (shhhhh. more tomorrow)
Ginny is making her way to Portland to visit her childhood friends and family, so Camp Nana was down one person. And her smiling face was missed.
Max and Abby began the day by making their own wind chimes. We used mini pie tins (thanks, Pat) from a family dinner dessert, as the top piece. Holes were poked in the tin and in the center… a cute old bell. Hollow little tubes were added and various accouterments such as old keys and some moon charms until the chimes were just right in sound and sight.
Unfortunately, I did not think to snap a photo while we were working on them, Kerri did get a couple photo of the chimes which found a new home from the eave of their patio cover.
We barely had time to run a couple of rehearsals for our end of summer program (cloaked in secrecy as always) until the kids had to leave for karate. But, before our time was up, we managed to conjure up a very tasty lemon supreme cake topped with the family favorite French white icing for Max and Abby to contribute to their dinner time.
Since Camp Nana always runs in June – we began this camp day making Father’s Day Cards. They had different color cards to choose from. Changing their painted hands into little monsters – came out so good! When Nolan arrived with mommy to pick up Ginny for gymnastics, we used his little foot to make the monster. All 4 little monsters were just as cute as their contributors. They added some of their own artistic touches with drawings and words, as well as make good use of googly eyeballs and stickers. Very cute.
I made the mistake of asking Max to take a few photos during the day. When I downloaded them, this is what I got.
The kids then enjoyed a game of Scrabble Junior, and had lots of fun learning the new rules. Every family should play board games again!
I really do enjoy the swim meets There’s something about the smell of sunscreen and pizza and hot dogs. Brightly colored canopies and sun shelters dot the area, housing swimmers playing card games and snacking on strawberries and cucumber slices. Giggles are abundant and amidst all of the chaos, relays and medleys kick off the evening activities. Jeffry and Kerri always put in more than their required volunteer time – Jeffry manning the concession stand at home meets as a fundraiser for the Indian Ridge Swim Team. Kerri is on her feet for three and four hours at a time, donning an old favorite hat of her late father in law, and rounding up six to ten year old kids of every size and shape and color, all in navy blue swim attire, and lining them up for their events.
The afternoons are hot. The atmosphere is hectic. The announcements and the kids are loud. And it is 100% fulfilling. It lifts my soul, no matter how tired and sweaty I feel.
The three campers (known as Nana’s Camp Squad) all have many summer activities this year. We are squeezing in mini-camp sessions as we navigate through swimming, gymnastics, dance, karate and summer travel. And today was our kick-off with a morning movie of HOP at our new favorite Galaxy Luxury Theater on the far east side of town.
EB’s destiny was to take over the role of the Easter Bunny, as had been his father’s and his father’s before him. But his heart was set on becoming a drummer instead. And I have to admit, he was darned good at it! In fact, the most enjoyable parts of this movie for me, were the drumming scenes.
The campers were invited to bring their own bunnies along to enjoy the movie with us. Ginny and Abby stuck their bunny’s butts in the cup holders and would every once in a while “feed” the bunnies a kernel of popcorn or a skittles candy.
(Max had his bunny, Chocolate, in a “sleeping bag” while Abby’s bunny, Strawberry, and Ginny’s namesake bunny, Ginny, were more of the come as you are dress code.) Once in a while, Ginny would lean over and give me a short explanation of why the mouse did this or the chick did that. It made for a very sweet and enjoyable morning.
Ginny was off to gymnastics with mommy and baby brother, so Max and Abby and I headed over to McDonalds to get some energy expended and a few calories under our belts.
The Pima County Public Libraries are all giving away one free book to any teen or child stopping by this week, to encourage summer reading. Max and Abby need no encouragement as they have their noses in a book often; but hey, who doesn’t love a free book? They perused the books and made their choices and began reading their new material while walking out of the library door. I had to remind them that reading while walking could be dangerous! They took a minute to strike a library pose before departing the area.
Home for some quiet time and a game of Uno Attack while I gear up for a fun project on another Camp Nana day!
A bit of a leisurely morning before we hopped back on the tour bus to finish the tour that we got sidetracked on the day prior. I mean, we saw stores and boutiques and gelato and stuff … lots and lots of glorious stuff. Hmmm … anyway, we got back on the bus.
It was a cooler day with drizzle, so we had every intention of just staying aboard for the entire tour. However, we came to a sweet little stop on the tour – Piazza Mino da Fiesole, in the beautiful village of Fiesole. Fiesole is a metropolitan city in the Tuscany region, Italy. A favorite destination of many writers who have been attracted to Fiesole including Giovanni Boccaccio, John Milton, Percy Shelley, Alexandre Dumas, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Gertrude Stein. Fiesole was also a favorite place of Leonardo da Vinci who, reportedly, experimented with attempts at flight off its hills. (the Los Angeles Times)
Fiesole has become the go-to area to live of the very affluent of Italy. It is known for grand gardens and exquisite residences. This little gem is on the market for 20 million Euros. Today that is only $22,334,880. USD. A Bargain!
We took a few moments to enjoy a traditional Toscana lunch of burger and homemade chips. We were ready for that after 14 days – trust me!
Afterwards, we wanted to see more of the beautiful countryside, but the rain was drizzling and the wind was blowing really cold, We got a couple of shots of the clock tower of the Cathedral of Fiesole (Il Duomo), and the town. There are very few shops – maybe a couple cafes – not much more, other than the stunning gardens and homes.
Took a catnap on the bus ride “home” and spent time packing and doing laundry and getting ready to take the train to Rome in the morning.
Our 14th vacation day! We decided on the Hop On – Hop Off tour bus option, where we get on and off at 30 different points of interest. It turned out to be the perfect thing to do.
First stop – Piazzale Michelangelo. Beautiful panoramic views, replica of David and souvenir shopping for family. Listed as one of the best places to see Florence from above, it is “not just a perfect photo opportunity, but a moment of wonder. You are looking at the city that gave birth to incredible artists, amazing scientists and an enthralling history of discovery and power that has filled novels and movie theaters“. It certainly did not disappoint. Absolutely took my breath away.
Hopped back on the tour bus after a few hours and hopped off at the beginning of the bridge to begin the long walk to the Ponte Vecchio. “Built very close to the Roman crossing, the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, was the only bridge across the Arno in Florence until 1218. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. On November 4, 1966, the bridge miraculously withstood the tremendous weight of water and silt when the Arno once again burst its banks.” The history is rich, but let us not ignore the world class shopping! And, thank goodness, because since we bought so many family gifts, we had to stop in a luggage shop and buy two more suitcases to carry them all home.
After perusing and purchasing our way through several blocks in the shopping district, we found the best gelato in the entire wide world … probably.
Half salted caramel and the other half the darkest chocolate ever known to man – er – woman. Then, the long walk over the bridge and down to the tour bus stop, wheeling our newly purchased luggage behind us. We were stopped before we could take one step to board the tour bus, “Nessun bagaglio è permesso sull’autobus. Devi aspettare l’autobus della città.” We could not bring the luggage on to the tour bus. We needed to await the city bus. And, so we did.
Barely had enough energy to walk from the bus stop to our home base. Joyfully exhausted.
“Sure, Florence is touristy. But where else can you stroll the same pedestrian streets walked by Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Botticelli while savoring the world’s best gelato?” – unknown source
If Tuscany is the quiet diva of Italy, then Firenze is most certainly the diamond! A brilliant way to end a vacation in Italy. Florence. Firenze to the locals. A mesmerizing bouquet of art, architecture and rich history. Words, pictures – nothing can do this city justice. You have to experience it with your own eyes and heart. And four days was not even a speck of enough time to appreciate this diamond.
Day 12: Our first evening was spent waiting for the owner of the rental property to arrive (almost an hour late) and then listening to her go over each and every nuance of the apartment in the greatest of detail … “this is a butter knife … this is a cake knife …) She allotted us ONE roll of toilet paper for four days; 2 tiny trash can liners for a tiny trash receptacle and two dishwashing tablets. Kind of funny now. But then – not so much.
DAY 13: The following day we venture out from the little apartment (also Ikea-ized) and found a neighborhood restaurant – gorgeous inside and fun to listen and watch the locals there for lunch, sharing long tables and sitting family style. Ristorante Alla Vecchia Bettola Firenze.
Then we decide to search out the Boboli Gardens, a park in Florence, Italy, that is home to a collection of sculptures dating from the 16th through the 18th centuries, with some Roman antiquities. We walked and walked and walked some more. Making our way past a tall and winding stone wall – sure that the next turn would be an opening to the gardens. ‘Til we came upon this beauty – Piazzale di Porta Romana.
Note: A plaque on the external wall claims the gate was erected in 1327. Originally and as demonstrated on the 1584 Map by Stefano Buonsignori the gate had a lower outer wall with a small courtyard dominated by the larger gate we see today. And through that entrance is residential mixed with retail. And it is just this kind of place that makes my heart flutter! ! This is where, walking through that ancient gate, you leave the modern Florence and enter historic Firenze.
After absorbing the sounds and sights of this beauty, we made a run to the local grocery store and then “home” to make dinner and relax with a little sister time. Exhaustion has indeed set in!
“My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.” ― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
Toscana … Tuscany … whatever you call it, this region of Italy is stunningly dressed in every kind of green you can imagine. From her head to her toes, she is the quiet diva of Italy. After the hectic rush of the cities, she sneaks up on your soul and you instantly feel at home. Your body begins to relax and your mind is calm. Ah yes. THIS is the stuff dreams are made of. For mere dollars, you can buy a dilapidated home if you promise to rebuild/restore it within a designated time frame. Do not think I wasn’t tempted. There were times when the daydreams took over and I was outside of myself, cheerfully painting and hammering away.
Our VRBO was a gorgeous home from top to bottom. Beautiful natural gardens filled in with roses and statues. Little places tucked away for reading and taking photos, giving us little or no reason to roam too far!
Leaving Umbria in the beautiful region of Toscana, left me rather sad. It was one of the only times I have completely slept through the night since the death of my husband. I was rested. I was calm. I felt my heart and soul at peace. I wanted it to last. But after three days in sheer paradise, it was time to move on. I reluctantly succumbed to my sister’s repeated request to get into the car. And we were off to Florence – Firenze!
“There was a magical timelessness to Capri A special atmosphere, and a sense of history.” ― Kitty Pilgrim, Summer of Fire
What can I say except that Capri was everything I expected and more. A gorgeous view as the ferry slowly made it’s way to the isle. The smell of the water and the sea air was fairy-tale like. And of course … the shopping. It’s not a myth, people. The shopping there is the stuff of which shopping dreams are made. The famous Capri watches (my new one has a pink band and crystals for each number) … the designer handbags (my Valentino bag is pink with three other shades of pink on the side insets and is yummy) … as well as the obligatory I need to buy a tote bag from every place I have ever been adorable canvas tote. Maybe two.
The sweet smell of the water just makes the shopping and the sightseeing and the food all the better. One of the most relaxing days ever. Well, other than the fact that the tickets we bought on line for 115 Euros were not valid and the Ferry Port worker had never seen anything like them before. So, we got to buy more tickets and cross our fingers for a refund!
Here we are – a second train on our way to Napoli, Italy! But first, feast your eyes on this two-story glass wall bookstore in Roma Termini! Amazing. I could have spent oh so many hours there. Give me a comfy chair and a good book – the kind with pages with that new book smell. And I am good to go! But, it was time to board the train as we head to Napoli.
A quote from an American living in Italy … “I like to describe Naples as chaos incarnate. It has a life of its own, that seems to head in every direction at once, but then comes together into a sort of untouchable harmony that energizes your soul.”
As the driver begins our journey into Napoli, so begins the carefully orchestrated choreography of the automobiles, scooters and pedestrians. Clearly the autos are the Prima Ballerinas, always taking center stage and everyone and everything else, following their lead. An auto gives a friendly beep beep to remind a scooter that while they are indeed the soloists in the performance of this very narrow stage, they are not to interfere with the auto. However, scooters glide in and out of the dance: in front of and up the side and the auto drivers never flinch. No fingers thrust out the window. No cursing at the offending scooter. They all seem just to take it in stride. Streets are extremely narrow here and it is not uncommon to see a car drive up on the edge of a sidewalk so as not to have to stop. It is in the unwritten rules of the road. Pedestrians are, to put it gently, the Corps de Ballet and therefore must choose their positions wisely. As the owner of the apartment we rented told us, “signs in Napoli are just a suggestion”.A not so friendly BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP clearly advises the autos or scooters or pedestrians that the stream of participants need to move – and need to move NOW. That doesn’t happen very often as it seems that almost all know their place and stay in their positions. Very Smart, these citizens of Napoli. Very smart, indeed.
The neighborhood of the VRBO that we rented in Napoli was a bit on the sketchy side, if you get my meaning. On second thought, we should have rented in the historic district as it was more up our alley! But, the apartment itself was cute and had some really nice features. We would not have gone out at night alone – but we really didn’t plan on that anyway.
In stark contrast, the Historic District of Naples is enchanting. Enjoy the architecture and the sites. I only wish I could give you the sounds of the people in the piazza and smells emanating from the many pasticcerias. I shall surely miss this chaotic, picturesque and crowded city of Napoli. I rather liked it. Napoli has personality. Napoli is spunky. I like spunk!
(full disclosure – the first 4 photos are from the Internet of some of the sites we saw. My photos did not turn out as we visited the first time in the evening)
Sometimes, you just can’t find the right words to describe Rome.
The beauty of the Eternal City, the chaos, the mismatch of elegance and decay that is around every corner.
So very true. Even the decaying buildings are magnificent in their own right. The juxtaposition of the graffiti against the stunning gardens. Tiny ristorantes tucked into corners of the city across the crowded road from five star eateries. And so it goes.
Before our day really begins, we engage in a bit of goofiness – I show off a Christmas present blouse from Isabel & Ricky, while Robyn models her teeny tiny coffee pot, in the Price is Right style. (Note the adorable orange refrigerator door!)
This was truly a blissfully exhausting day of sightseeing. Again – Juxtaposition.
First stop was finding tickets to the hop-on hop-off bus tour. We walk and walk and walk some more, until we locate the ticket vendors and find the bus stop!
We began the tour with the amazing coliseum. The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum.
And now we continue our tour on to Vatican City. We keep seeing these initials on landmarks and light posts, and so we just had to research … SPQR (Latin: Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, “The Roman Senate and People”, or more freely as “The Senate and People of Rome”; Classical Latin: [sɛˈnaː.tʊs pɔpʊˈlʊs.kᶣɛ roːˈmaː.nʊs]) refers to the government of the ancient Roman Republic.
A little surprised to see all of the vendors pedaling their wares all along the walk inside the Vatican City. I would have understood more if there had been rosaries, crosses and things like that. Instead there were little cars that transformed into other things, stuffed animals, little race car toys and many other unrelated items. I just felt there should have been a little more respect for the area. And, did I mention the 1€ to use the toilette? All over Italy you pay to potty. The things we take for granted in the USA.
Vatican City, in full State of the Vatican City, Italian Stato della Città del Vaticano, ecclesiastical state, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and an enclave in Rome, situated on the west bank of the Tiber River. Vatican City is the world’s smallest fully independent nation-state.
Such a beautiful day In Roma. The sights and sounds are almost too much for the mind to absorb. But in the end, that is exactly what we did – we absorbed!
Our first non hotel stay is Largo Domus Leopardi 12. It is a private apartment with a delightfully orange kitchen (I highly suspect an Ikea influence here) and a charming living area. It overlooks a common courtyard shared by apartment owners as well as nearby connected restaurants. Very comfortable and authentically decorated. Martina met us at the apartment to show us how things worked and where things were.
While out wandering a bit, Robyn spied a church at the end of the street, so we thought we should take a look – and I am thrilled that we did. Behold the Church of Saint Eusebio on the Esquiline Hill. I am certain that the photos do it no justice as it is a magnificent spectacle of architecture and spirituality.
(The photo on the left – second from the top – is actually of the ceiling)
Such a beautiful and serene place.
Architecture in Rome is a wonder to behold.
In ancient Rome, the domus (plural domūs, genitive domūs or domī) was the type of house occupied by the upper classes and some wealthy freedmen during the Republican and Imperial eras. It was found in almost all the major cities throughout the Roman territories.
It is not uncommon to see flower and plant shops along sidewalks and streets on almost every block of business areas. The congestion of people, cars, scooters and shops is the way of life in Rome. People seem to thrive here and I can certainly see why. There are so many treats to behold and conversations to witness – even if you cannot understand the words; you can certainly understand the sentiment. The people of Italy are expressive!
We walked around sight seeing on our way to dinner – where the locals go to eat – snapping a photo here or there. Just two Colorado girls taking in the sights. Enjoy our little photo exposé Italia style!
We awake to a beautiful morning in Florence and are ready for our morning train ride into Roma! The train terminal is also the bus terminal and a very busy (and a tad bit confusing) place. After successfully determining our line, we board the
loading our own very heavy luggage and taking our seats. Huge windows allow for all the sightseeing oohs and aahs of leaving the city and making our way to the countryside and luscious landscapes connecting Florence to Rome.
The train ride was not long – just an hour or so (at 186 mph) to take in the countryside and for Robyn to experience a train ride – albeit a high-speed train ride! We arrived in Rome at another combo terminal and make our way to the McDonald’s inside – and yes, they ARE everywhere – where a private driver was holding the sign with my sister’s name. He spoke hardly any English, but went right to work taking the heaviest of luggage with a smile and nod and “follow me”. He left us at a curbside loading zone and retrieved his Mercedes in no time flat. He knew exactly where we were going and dropped us as close as possible. Exceptional.
We wheeled our luggage past a ristorante and just beyond a pizzeria was the door leading to our apartment for 3 nights. The owner met us and took just Robyn and one suitcase up to the 4th floor apartment in what has to be the world’s smallest elevator. When the elevator comes to a stop, the doors open to yet another steel type door that you then push open to exit. Very quaint. I came up in the elevator on the second run. Gave us a little chuckle.
It was disheartening to see Rome with graffiti in every possible space – almost surreal. In between businesses, the doors were a conglomeration of graffiti. Surprisingly, it seems as though the “artists” do not deface churches or fences surrounding churches or business establishments. But any vacant door or building becomes a public canvas it seems. I wondered why there was so much graffiti and in a city of such holiness. So, I (what else?) googled it!
ROME (AFP) – Scribbling emotions on walls has been a tradition in Rome going back thousands of years and even the word “graffiti” was first used for markings found in the ruins of Pompeii. The modern version could be the scrawls seen in maternity wards in the Italian capital: “Get a move on, auntie’s waiting!”, “Chiara is born!”, “Welcome little Mattia!”. From wealthy neighbourhoods in the city’s north to working class suburbs in the south, Romans are not shy about scrawling on walls – often with phrases in local dialect.
Not my cup of tea, but hey, I am only a tourist.
I love that city dwellers can find any place to have their garden. Balconies, rooftops and window planters are common sights here. I couldn’t get enough of them.
Tiny little cars and scooters dot the streets 3 rows wide and all parked within mere inches of the next. I seriously do not know how they move their vehicles in and out while in between each other. There seems to be very little in the way of street markings and yet everyone seems to know how to navigate the road, often moving within an inch or two to skirt past a scooter or bus and turning this way and that. It is a bit of a ride in a taxi that can really make you question if you should have used the facilities before tempting fate!
My nephew, Julian with Alina in tow, arrived perfectly on time to shuttle his mother and Auntie to the airport. Alina was sweet and playful as usual and Julian was ready with open arms and comforting hugs. Delta is in a newer part of the airport in Austin as they are expanding quite a bit. I sat down to get a bit of accounting done and before I knew it, we were ready to board the first leg of our flight: Priority business class from Austin to Atlanta. Newer plane. Exceptional service. And just as my sweet friend, Isabel said – endless mimosas and warm nuts. I just had orange juice, but I COULD have had endless mimosas had I wanted.
In flight, day 2 just sort of morphed into day 3 of vacation and we began our second leg (for Robyn – third leg for me!) in the beautiful Delta One airbus bed cubicles. Not only a semi-private cubicle, but a clean comforter, fluffy pillow and possibly the best peppered beef dinner I have ever had followed by pure vanilla ice cream topped with caramel and chocolate sauce. Just as I told the flight attendant, I never fathomed that the phrase; “best dinner ever” and “I think I ate too much” would roll out of my mouth on an airline.
After dinner, a bit of accounting in my cozy cubicle 4B and snuggled up in my fluffy comforter and pillow to catch a bit of much needed sleep here and there mixed with my Amazon music in my headphones, the time passed relatively easy and comfortably for an 8+ hour flight. Just as we were landing in Paris, the sun was starting to rise. We retrieved our luggage (and way too much of it by the way) then made our way to the taxi area. We noticed several polizia with automatic weapons across their chests and ready at a moment’s notice. Our taxi driver explained that the Italian President Sergio Mattarella was visiting Florence for the 500th anniversary of the death of Davinci. Hence the additional security. Good to know!Checked into the beautiful AC Hotel Firenze (the Marriott), relaxed with a hot shower and a nap before heading out for dinner. We walked to a Ristorante Pizzeria – very authentic. Cute and homey decor. Ordered two different entrees (one was wood fired pizza – Yummy!) so we could share and taste. Since dinner hours begin at 7:30pm and then takes three hours, we were more than ready for a little Law and Order in Italian and a regular night’s rest!
Surprising how quickly 5 a.m. comes when you finally get to sleep around 2 a.m. What is even more surprising is that I feel awake enough to finish the last-minute packing and alert enough to call Mr. Uber. The line at Tucson International was hella long – one of my bags was overweight by 1.5 pounds. Because I am too cheap (and too SANE) to pay $100 overweight fee, I wrestled the plastic protective cover from my huge bag, removing the packing cube which is labeled “BEACH”, wrestled the big bag cover back on the huge piece of luggage and proceeded to go thru the entire routine with the normal sized bag. Placing the packing cube (yes, everything IS in packing cubes and properly labeled BEACH, BOOBIES, BOOTIE, FOOTIES – I think you get the idea) in the normal sized bag only to find that I had to expand that bag and the protective cover would no longer fit; all the while holding up the very long line. Yes yes. I am one of those people – at least for today.
The best laid plans …
Going thru security was a breeze because I am now a priority one known traveler (courtesy of Homeland Security, 45 minutes of questioning and $75)! When I got my approval letter in the mail, I kinda felt a little like Steve Martin …
“The new phone book’s here… I’m a somebody now.”
And now ready to board in Phoenix to arrive in Austin just in time for my sister, Robyn to question my choice of taking eight pairs of shoes and my great niece, Alina to entertain me for the evening. And speaking of which, I find this at the airport!
Followed up by sweet little grand (great?) niece, Alina.
Max and Abby are normally at my home a couple of days a week. They have grown bored with the same old sand table and their outdoor toys were for the younger ones. I had the brilliant idea of making them a little “clubhouse”. Shouldn’t be difficult. After all, I have put together those vinyl sheds before and thought that would be the most durable and affordable way to go. AmazonSmile.com to the rescue. Free delivery and they put it right at the front of your garage door. Easy peasy – right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Picking out the shed was fine. Then, I got it into my head to buy this base grid to construct the shed on top. Brilliant!
And after taking great pride on seeing how the entire 8×8 grid looked and just how well the level sat … I realized that the ground was too hard and even if it wasn’t, I had installed the entire grid (wait for it) UPSIDE DOWN! Back on go the gloves and each grid piece is “unlocked” from another and stacked up for another day. Back to my accounting work.
It’s Saturday! I have half a ton of landscape sand being delivered. One of the hazards of not owning a truck is paying $20 for the sand and $49 for the delivery. The delivery, I soon discovered, only covered it being dumped on the driveway or curb. Well, that wasn’t going to fly as I do not own a wheelbarrow not to mention my back issues! Could you wheel it to the backyard for $50? Heck ya, they could. Then, as one guy loaded his own wheelbarrow, I queried of the other, Could you lay a foundation of the sand and then assemble the grid and fill with the rest of the sand? $100 good? Oh, hell ya, it was good!
Apparently, I needed to also tell them that it had to be leveled. Sometimes, just when you think things are going well …
Turns out that being uneven was not the worst of it. After laying the shed floor over the sand filled uneven grid, walking on the “floor” produced a lovely sound like sandpaper grating against your teeth. That would aggravate my OCD for years. So, thinking that the weight of the structure itself would get rid of that problem, I commenced to putting up all the walls by myself. Not really difficult, but a little heavy and awkward for one person to deal with. Using my patio lights as my guide around 10 pm, I began construction. Looked great! Everything was aligned and fastened together and ready to begin the roofing.
Except for that teeth gritting stomach turning noise was still there. That grid and sandy base had to go. Well, Scarlett, tomorrow’s another day.
The next morning I am up and taking the entire thing down to the ground again. Third time should be (and was) the charm. The following weekend, my handyman, David to the rescue. He surmised the situation, trying his best to contain his somewhat judgemental head shaking; made a list and off to Lowe’s he went. Back a bit later and in a couple of hours built a perfect base of 2×6 lumber and treated plywood.
Yeah, I will admit that another $390 later for lumber, nails, plywood and labor may now seem like the better idea. So it was level and made no sandy sounds in my teeth and so it only took about 30 minutes to install all the walls (again). Kind of surprising how much easier that part goes when the base for the structure is level and sturdy. David worked the next day constructing the roof and inside beams. Installed the double doors as well as an extra window I bought to give the kiddies more light and ventilation. Then it was my turn.
They have their art center with color pencils and water-color paint, lots of papers and books to work their designs. Legos and Barbies. A clock since their school teaches the kids how to tell time on such a non digital contraption! They have whiteboards and a rod with clips to hang important artwork and documents (one of which is titled “secret codes”). A couple of wires to hang artwork needing to dry. And 4 adorable battery LED lights that hang from the roof beams and turn on and off with the slightest of tugs.
Max and Abby love playing in the clubhouse. I think it is going to entertain them for at least a couple of years. And when they tire of it …
Besides my accounting business, making custom lamp shades & junk journals, there has been time spent with grandchildren & family & friends. Emails, Facebook & Skype have become the way of staying in touch. A beautiful Tucson spring brought my Annual Easter celebration. I enjoyed the company of family, extended family & friends and the photo booth area with the obligatory bunny ears & lots of food & drink. A face painter joined the party – a huge hit with the younger ones. For Mother’s Day, and in the company of the Mundle ladies, I enjoyed a day of pampering, courtesy of Jeffry at the most gorgeous resort & spa. A week later, I finally got my cast off my leg after 7 long months of weekly visits to the wound clinic. In no time, it was Summer, and I hosted Camp Nana for Max, Abby & their cousin, Ginny. We planted veggies (which didn’t survive the Tucson heat), painted ladybugs on rocks & rehearsed for our Camp Finale. In a few days, I will join the Mundles & more for Thanksgiving dinner. In December, after a family trip to the North Pole (well, sort of), the 5 Arizona Gardners will join the 3 Virginia Gardners for a family Christmas in Leesburg.
It has been three years now of living on my own. It is a strange place – this land of widowhood. But, with the love and support of friends & family, I put one foot in front of another & take life head on, one day at a time. I will never get used to not being “us”, but I enjoy what I have now, looking toward 2019 & a spring vacation in Italy with my sister and other adventures that may come my way.
Today we learned all about Ladybugs. Who knew they came in other colors besides red? Some are yellow and others are orange. The more common Ladybug is red with 7 black dots. There is even an orange one with white stripes and another orange with white dots!
Did you know that a ladybug lives 2-3 years AND they actually play dead to protect themselves from predators.
After making garden ladybugs out of rocks. We left them to dry before Nana sprayed them with an outdoor clear sealant. Now there are three yards with cute little garden critters.
Then we played a game using the letters from LADYBUG, All three of them came up with answers (sometimes with a bit of help) to:
L – If I were a Ladybug, my favorite place to play would be … (MAX – Lake Kalabonga; ABBY – Lily pad; Ginny – Lawn)
A – My name would be … (Alexander; Abby Jr; Abby)
D – My favorite food would be … (Durrito chips; Daffodil; Daisy)
Y – I would make a friend named … (Yelda Jr; Ybbythd; Yoo Hoo)
B – My friend and I would play … (mini-Basketball; Bug and Seek; Baseball)
U – I would hide under this to keep me from the rain … (Umbrella aka mini-leaf; Umbrella; Umbrella)
G – I would travel to … (ground; Grand Canyon; Grandpa’s)
It was such a messy fun day! Who doesn’t love a cute Lady Bug?
I noticed a growing phenomenon a couple of years ago when Max joined the Indian Ridge Swim Team.
It seemed that practices and meets were not just about swimming; and not just about winning. There is a camaraderie among Pokemon collectors who gather at these pools; so much so that every practice is dotted with Pokemon cards laying on beach towels; on the concrete and on tables under the ramada. Everywhere you look – Pokemon.
I find headlines like
Pokemon obsession leads to bans at schools
Pokemon Craze Challenges Docs | Psychology Today
Oh, my goodness.
I thought it only my duty as a Nana to delve deeper into the details of these strange beings called Pokemon. So, I listen – and pay attention to the games and the most important activity – trading. The wheeling and dealing that goes on is hypnotizing. These children who couldn’t tell you where they left their socks that they literally had just taken off – have memorized every name of the 807 characters and what their powers are and any other statistic, for when they need to discuss. The young traders rattle off names such as Empoleon and Phantump and Zygarde like they are speaking if John or Sally.
I was told today by a young man to “alert” him to any of the cards that had these numbers; these codes in the right hand corner, in red. I asked him to explain the importance of the red writing versus the black writing. Turns out, there isn’t any significant difference in value (according to him). He just really, really likes the color red.
It is interesting to watch young swimmer/collectors file in through the gate with a handful of cards with dog-eared edges from the wear, pouring out of their pockets. Some kids walk in with small containers of cards and then there’s Max, who has a ginormous 4 inch binder weighing in at 5 pounds or so. On more than a couple of occasions, I hear Abigail informing other children that her brother, Maxwell, is a “master collector” to which the reply is always an enthusiastic “I KNOW!” Seems like he is building his own brand. Hmm.
There is something else that I have learned. There is an unspoken, quiet honor among young Pokemon Traders and Collectors. Books are left open and unattended as the kids are called to their practice or event. Kids waiting for their practice sit atop one of the tables, turning the plastic pages one by one and commenting on this or that feature of the Pokemon character, sometimes removing the card from the sleeve to look at it more closely, and always placing it back in its rightful sleeve among the other treasures, bestowing the dignity of which it is apparently deserved. A white-gloved formally dressed Marine could not have done better.
I have not personally witnessed any violence over the game – only some tearful irritation from Ginny stating that she used to have three Pokemon but Abby took one and hid it and now she only has two – dotted by a few sniffles between words. I believe I curbed any violence by ordering Abby to give Ginny the card in question. Fanaticism? Not really. Make no mistake, there is an enthusiasm among these youthful swimmers. But when coach Jenny sounds her signature whistle (not from plastic – just from Jenny), the cards are dropped, collector notebooks left open and the kids are off to swim. I think it is healthy and it amuses me to watch the carefully thought out transactions.
I mean, if they can spout off the names and powers of hundreds of Pokemon, they certainly should have no trouble learning the scientific names for minerals in a few years. Am I right?
After clean-up, it’s time to retrieve little cars and animals and people – and use our imagination! The kids had to pick up one of the items and add to the story going in turn. Nana kicked it off with a giraffe and a railroad track.
I was honored to attend a morning session at the Khalsa Montessori Camden Campus to see a day in the life of Maxwell at school. Let me preface this post by admitting that when Max was enrolled here for Kindergarten, I was not fond of the idea. This is an older building. There is a garden area that different people maintain and some climbing things and sandbox, etc in the play yard. I had a school in mind on the east side that had a fancy playground, state of the art signage and a huge paved parking lot. Mind you, I had never been inside of either school, so I really was judging a book by it’s cover. That turned out to be a huge error in judgement on my part.
Walking into the classroom, the difference between Montessori and the “regular” 2nd grade classroom is startlingly evident. There are no long rows of desks lined up. Desks are scattered here and there for individual students. There are tables and chairs – some that seat 4 or 5 students and Max’s table that seats 3.
Class begins in a very calm semi-circle in the middle of the room. Laura, (the kids call her by her name) read a story about how Nome, Alaska got its name. The children all speak in quiet voices. One child has brought something to share. He described his item and then asked if anyone had questions. Immediately, Cristian (Max’s best buddy) raised his hand and when called on by the student, he inquired “how much did it cost?” I had to stifle a laugh while his mother turned around and apologized to the mother of the sharer. After the sharing time in half circle, the teacher stands and that is the student’s queue to find a partner in the room and sit down on the floor to solve some math problems and then grade each other’s work. The teacher doesn’t have to tell them what to do because they know their daily routine. There are timers (2 or 3 students with watches) and they calmly give the time according to their watch, when asked.
After this exercise, they are handed their own notebook with their weekly assignment sheet in the front. It is amazing to watch these kids make their way through their assignments – one right after another and then check the boxes to note their progress. I was there a bit less than 2 hours and in the time left after the group setting, Maxwell completed a math board for addition, subtraction, division and multiplication; finished an assignment in adding fractions;
read a story and had me ask the test questions; pulled out a money drawer and counted the money and had me check his answer (there is a hardware cabinet and each drawer has a different amount of money); drew a clock with the hands at 10:45; completed a “tower” worksheet where he had to distinguish the prefix from the root word; and then had permission to work with the bead board that teaches the decimal system. After each assignment was completed, he would fill in the box and have me initial his page. The one and only time he interacted with the teacher was to ask permission to work with the beads
On the drive home, I marveled at this concept of teaching. 2nd graders and 3rd graders are in the same class with different assignments, The idea is that the older kids can offer assistance to the youngers. While this class time was going on, kids were allowed to move about the room quietly and to even strike up conversations with each other. Not once did I hear a loud voice or a teacher reprimand.
And I wonder how more kids would have done in school without the chaos and rigidity. A calm and quiet environment giving the 8 and 9 year olds the decisions of which assignment to complete first and allowing them to move about to deter all the fidgeting that I remember in school – what a nurturing setting to make your way through a day at school.
This smart, funny, sensitive little boy – is no longer so little. He is grandma’s boy and I tell him that every time I see him. Even though, now, when he runs through the airport to greet me, he almost knocks me over; he will forever be grandma’s boy.
I was at the Virginia house when he came home from the hospital. A preemie at 3 pounds and 5 ounces, you would never know it today. At fourteen, he stands over his dad and takes much satisfaction in resting his forearm on his father’s shoulder. He has a tender heart and a sensitive soul. He also has a sly sense of humor and enjoys making me laugh when we should be serious; lovingly taunts his younger sister by flipping her hair or poking her side when dad isn’t looking.
When he was a toddler in Tucson, he was my Target buddy at least once a week. And he kept me in check, removing items from the cart when he was of the opinion that “we don’t need this, Grandma”. Later on in his tween years, he would accompany me to the Wegman’s, and it was my turn to keep him in check.
And now he is heading toward the middle of his teens. Still Grandma’s boy. Still his sister’s biggest fan and her steadfast gentle tormentor. Still a loving, sensitive, smart, talented and handsome boy er, young man.
But in my eyes, he is still the toddler stacking soup cans in my pantry or running down the sidewalk to my open arms and appearing out of the bedroom where I thought I had cleverly hidden his birthday gift, on the seat of his brand new red tricycle. So much for that surprise.
I love this child. This toddler turned teen. This handsome young man.
Oh – this child. She made her debut on November 8, 2012. She had not been breathing the sweet air for even one hour before mommy and daddy wanted her brother to meet her. Poppa and I took a very composed toddler boy (with a custom made big brother name tag) to the birthing center to assume his new duties.
After that, the ride began that we have come to know as the many faces of Abigail Anne. And oh, what a ride it has been. I have no idea what my life would be without her. I never even want to imagine such a life.
Together, we have crafted and cooked. Made messes and cleaned up. Shopped and purchased (boy, have we EVER purchased). She has made me smile and laugh out loud and sometimes even brought me to tears with her reflections. I watch her sleep and I see her impish grin before she attacks her brother. I listen to her with a vocabulary far beyond her years. I am her audience for her made up songs and dances. I am her cheerleader and her biggest and most loyal fan of all her endeavors. This kid knows how to make an entrance and make her presence known. And I am so much the better for meeting her and taking her into my heart five years ago today.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Nana loves you very much.
and I need to make sure that I complete even one simple holiday task each day. So, for this first day I wrapped 18 ornaments! These ornaments were already bought and paid for in July and August. I always think that I shouldn’t wrap them until after Halloween. They are wrapped now and tagged.
32 Family-friendly rides! High-energy entertainment! Tempting treats! Calaway Park has something for everyone! As Western Canada’s Largest Outdoor Family Amusement Park, Calaway Park has been offering affordable, family- friendly fun and entertainment for over three decades. Ever since the award-winning theme park first opened its doors in 1982, Calaway Park has built on our well-deserved reputation for excellence by offering the best attractions, no less than 32 rides designed for thrill-seekers of all ages and beautifully choreographed, high-energy entertainment. I enjoyed the outdoor shows and watching little ones on rides.
After a full day of rides and water and snacks and entertainment, it was time to head out to our hotel, which is attached to the Calgary Int’l Airport. Wonderful concept. Not only beautiful, but how convenient! We had a great dinner at
and we were so ready for real food instead of fast food, and Montana’s delivered. While Kerri and I relaxed after dinner, Jeffry and the kids made their way out to the escalators to discover just how and why the escalators would speed up and then slow down. Thank goodness they figured it out so that burning question would not be mulling in our minds!
The hotel was as expected for a Marriott – always beautiful and scrumptiously soft and yummy bedding. Also, very relaxing and quiet, given the fact that our hotel room windows looked out over the runways, landing strips and docks. Thumbs up!
We all pitched in and cleaned our little rental house, packed up the van and headed off for a day trip of sightseeing on our way to Calgary. First up – in Red Deer. Tim Hortons Inc. is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant known for its coffee and donuts. Breakfast sandwiches for the ladies and donuts for the kids and their daddy.
We weren’t too far into the trip when Jeffry confiscated my phone with my 136 songs because he determined that I was singing too loud. Jeffry doesn’t have much of a poker face, so it wasn’t all that difficult to figure out who took the phone!
He did make up for the theft by tuning the radio to the Beatles channel. Sightseeing beautiful Canada AND the Beatles – nothing better! First stop …
LAKE LOUISE and Mount Michener, with a 2,545 m (8,350 ft) peak, is a mountain on the eastern border of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Canada. It forms the northerly part of the Ram Range. The mountain sits on the shore of Abraham Lake. The waters are a light Tiffany green-blue. I have never seen that color water before. Pretty amazing. Photos do not do it justice. As the melt water from a glacier that feeds a lake starts to flow in the spring time it carries with it glacier silt or rock flour. The silt is created when rocks underneath the surface of the ice are grinding from the movement of the glacier. The rock flour is very light and stays suspended in the lake water for a long time. The sunlight that reflects off this rock flour is what gives the lakes their spectacular turquoise blue or green colour.
Note: Kerri is the only one who doesn’t look like a crazy tourist. She’s a Canadian.