DC Cherry Blossom Watch

I love that I see this at the beginning of the weather report part of the news in Northern Virginia.


One of my favorite things abut this area. Obviously, this photo is not from this year, but shows the tidal basin area and what to expect.

It is a big deal in this area. And should be. So fun to watch the predictions based on the “indicator tree” and where to park during the peak days of the blossoms. There are paddle boat rentals to view the blossoms along the tidal basin, festivals, tours, observations on where to stay for maximum view, the symbolism of the trees and so much more.

Brings to mind all things nice. Family. Friendship. Nature. History. Peacefulness.

I miss you, Bob

Alex made a little card one autumn day in 2021. On the front, he drew a man with glasses and a cane. A tissue paper flower was perched atop the card and below was written Grandpa Bob.

On the back of the card was the childlike penmanship of an 8 year old pouring out the thoughts of a poet, far beyond that of a child.

It read:

You died when I was just toddler. I knew you were sick, but I thought you had time. I should have savored those moments, for I would never experience that again.

(followed with a small drawing of a broken heart)

I miss you, Bob…

And such were the thoughts on the mind of a child who had only lived a scant eight years at that time. I cherish this little card. Alex is nine now (almost 10 as I would be corrected!). Just imagine what Alex will have to say in 10 years.

You have tears in your eyes right now – don’t you, honey?

Butterfly Tones Lamp Shade

Thanks to Anna in Texas for your purchase.

Vintage style ivory paper with butterflies and musical notes are decoupaged on a new shade and serve as the background for this sophisticated lamp accessory. Trimmed out with black fabric shabby/tattered roses; stringed trim with tiny black decor pieces; brass/black metal flower on a chain with rhinestones and hanging faux pearls; black lace on bottom.


Baby, I WAS amazed!!!

Fenway Park – Boston

Beautiful graphics; fun 2 hour pre-show music with graphics; and then Paul…what more can be said about this man? Almost 3 hours of solid singing and stories and his signature wit – old tunes, new tunes, in between tunes! Played bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, ukulele, piano and sang his heart out – never once wearing down. Fireworks and graphics during “live and let die” unsurpassable. Tributes to John and George were very touching. No other experience will ever equal this one. Flew from Tucson to Boston for the only thing on my bucket list since age 13. The audience was a mix of 70+ down to elementary school age. Just shows you what reach this man has. DO NOT miss seeing Paul McCartney!

Oh yeah – Fenway Park and Boston were pretty cool, too. More about that later.

Opulence Lamp Shade on Etsy

Thanks to Charm for purchasing this shade!

Who wouldn’t want this luxurious one of a kind lamp shade gracing their nightstand?

Sheer blush netting with alternating fans of tiny sequins and shabby chic strings in alternating colors of pale blush and ivory set the tone. Adorned with strands of tiny blush and white faux pearls, and pieces of upcycled jewelry set this shade apart from all of the rest. Top of shade is surrounded by light gold tulle, sheer fabric rose and rhinestones, faux pearls, enamel petal flowers, and gold filigree trim. Bottom of shade is covered with a medium gold leather trim.

I had so much fun making this lampshade. I never have a complete picture of a finished product when I begin – only a feeling. And when someone pays the highest compliment of all by purchasing a product and then writing such a nice review, it tells me this went to the exact person it was meant for!

cooking with Nana

Since the Tucson schools returned to “in school learning” (like that’s a new thing!), Max, Alex and Ginny went thru part of June at Khalsa Montessori. Then there were little trips here and there (socially distant and masked, of course), and in a blink of an eye, school started up again and time had run out for any Camp Nana 2021.

Recently, Jeffry and Kerri had decided to remove the kids from karate for a bit until this Delta virus had calmed down. Let’s face it – a whole new world is out there now and schedules are rearranged and kids and adults alike mask up when needed. Now we drive up and hit a few buttons on the phone and Safeway brings the groceries to your car and Lowe’s cheerfully loads the planting supplies in the trunk. Amazon and FedEx and USPS and UPS trucks are a common sight several times a day and the blue recycle bin fills up much faster with broken down boxes and packing paper. And what seemed like such unusual ways of life, are really not so unusual anymore.

AUGUST 18, 2021: On Wednesdays, I pick up all three Khalsa kids for early dismissal. Since karate is on hold for now, the kids stay with me and plan and prepare dinner (with Nana supervision, of course) and we sit down at the table, properly set and enjoy some fun chatter while we compliment each chef for their contribution. I get to hear about school and friends and teachers and just the life of a school kid, in general. It is a genuine treat for me to experience the favorite part of the day stories through their eyes. They help with clean up and relax with a little tv time while I finish. It has only been a two week schedule thus far. And I am amazed how big of a smile they have left on my heart. I know they miss karate. But this Nana is grateful for the bit of extra time they spend just cooking with Nana.

Week 1: Ginny was in charge of salad and she gave me instructions on just what she needed: apples, carrots, cucumbers, oh, and lettuce! Max was in charge of the main course and and had picked scalloped potatoes and ham with croissants. I think he just likes saying “croissants” with his accent français. Not to mention, he is quite excited about getting to use a sharp knife and punctuates that feeling with a Jack Nicholson wide eyed scary look and gleefully watches Nana’s reaction. Alex chose to make sugar cookies for dessert, because as they stated with exaggerated arm gestures “who doesn’t like a sugar cookie?!?” Indeed, Alex. Indeed.

I got to work – one on one – and things were right on schedule, when at exactly 3 p.m., Max drops what he is doing and announces matter of fact – at 3p.m. daily, they all get a snack. Without me saying a word, the utensils are put down and the refrigerator door opens and small hands are everywhere scurrying around for jello snack cups with fruit, or snack cups of peach chunks, etc. They are all three comfortable here and know where the snacks are in the pantry and in the refrigerator. The noise subsides and gives way to little slurping sounds and sighs of relief after the snack has settled into their school kid sized bellies.

A very successful week 1 with leftovers going to both houses and the plate of frosted sugar cookies, ala Alex.

AUGUST 25, 2021 – Week 2: Ginny took charge of the main course of Lil Smokies wrapped and baked in crescent rolls cut into thirds. Now, Ginny is not one for a lot of manual labor. Just not her thing. I was cutting the crescent rolls into mini size triangles and handing them off to Ginny, who rolled perfect little pigs in a blanket. We had about 2 dozen to make, when, after the third one, Ginny announces that she is tired and is going to need some help. Nana is going to help you out. No worries. Apparently she had not made herself clear. “no, Nana. Someone else needs to finish these!” I giggled inside and convinced her to “take one for the team”, and she did. But what a sense of relief for her when we finished and she was cheerfully off to wash her hands and settle in with a bit of cartoons. Finally! Some relaxation for the kids!!

Next up – Alex. They had decided on a side dish of baked beans because “baked beans go perfectly with Lil Smokies in a blanket!” Alex has a habit of explaining. It tends to make the stories a little longer, but I rather enjoy that. Alex’s father was an explainer and it sort of gives me some weird pleasure watching his eyes roll back in his head well into the seventh minute of the why and how and when of the story explanation. You’ve heard the old phrase of a loving mother to her son I can’t wait until you are raising a child just like YOU. Truer words were never spoken. Back to the side dish! The beans go into the mixing bowl. Then some brown sugar. Next some cooked bacon cut into mini pieces and a dollop of ketchup. After each and every ingredient and stir, I am asked, Can I taste a little?, Yeah, sure. Why not?

Alex made good use of the half pieces not being used in the side dish. Of course, some was offered to Max and Ginny as well.

Max was on desserts and he had chosen to make a fruit tart – which I have never made prior. So, we just sort of made it up! We used pie crust, strawberries, pineapple chunks, organic peach jam and cool whip. I found 6 smallish fancy tart pans with scalloped edges and removable bottoms – perfect for our tart project.

Max was very pleased with how the final product turned out!

First, Max used a bowl just a little larger than the tart pans as a guide, and cut out 6 perfect circles of crust. After greasing the tart pans, Max placed a crust inside each pan and made decorative edges. I showed him how to poke holes in the crust before baking to prevent big bubbles; and in the oven they went. After cooling the lightly browned crusts, we mixed the peach jam with cool whip (really tasted good, if anyone is asking) and spread it on the tart as a base. The tart crusts were placed on a salad plate. Max added just the right amount of strawberries and pineapple chunks to each tart and topped that with a small dollop of the cool whip / jam mixture. They were the hit of the night and there was even one to take home to present to the parents, and of course, Nolan.

I would say, this was a most successful dinner.

More cooking adventures are scheduled for Wednesday, September 8th, Cannot wait!

Every Day


I had a canvas of this print made a few years ago. I must have hundreds of photos almost the same. The look you had listening to the musings of one of the kids or grandkids. The look on your face just before the laugh out loud. Beautiful blue eyes with the twinkle under the thick light brown lashes. Your eyes never faded – even in the last days.

I often look up at the canvas when I hear a funny musing that I know you would enjoy or when I feel the intensity of that damn Blacklist tv show you got me hooked on. And every night before sleep, I see that canvas – that look – and I think my heart will just burst open from the pain. Knowing I have faced another day without you here with me is difficult. Knowing that I have to do it all over again the next morning is sometimes just too damn hard to bear. But that is what I do. I know it is what you want me to do – to face life head on just as you always did. And I try.

Every night.

Every morning.

Every day.

You have the biggest piece of my heart and soul. You always will. And I will keep trying to make you proud.

I love you.

a short story about a chair

Back in 1978 or so, I worked with a guy named – well, I will just call him Gary. Gary Berlin. That sounds like someone I would have been friends with in Grand Junction. For some reason, I was talking to my friend about my obsession with having a Bentwood Rocker. I thought these chairs were so unique and had a very interesting history.

In 1860, a German craftsman named Michael Thonet created the first bentwood rocking chair by steaming pieces of wood to effectively shape the rocking chair’s rocker into its graceful swoop.

It just so happened that Gary had one left behind by a former girlfriend and for a mere $25, it could be mine! I didn’t even have to see it. With a quick swipe of the pen, I handed him a check and Bob picked up the rocker and delivered it to me within a few days. It is not a stretch to say that my sweet husband was not at all impressed with this strangely shaped piece of furniture with it’s heavy coat of black enamel paint and somewhat shabby appearance. I, on the other hand, was smitten. Love at first sight, you might say.

Robin Bentwood Rocking Chair | Pepper Sq | Buy Furniture Online
NOT my chair, but a depiction of what
it would have looked like in pristine
shape – which it was not.

The paint was chipped and the cane was loose and discolored. It was a very lovely mess. But it was my mess!

After looking at it for a few months, I decided it was time to take action. Bob and I took it all apart carefully noting which screws went where and mentally picturing it being put back together. We spent weeks sanding the old enamel until the chair pieces were all back to their original virgin wood. I took the back and the seat to an upholstery shop and explained how I wanted it done. I picked an ivory with flecks of brown heavy nubby fabric (very popular in the late 70s) and left those two pieces in their capable hands. Bob and I spent the next few weeks painstakingly staining each separate piece of the chair a dark walnut and the week after, coating each piece with a glossy polyurethane. Probably took a month or two to get it all done with waiting for drying times in between coats. After retrieving the back and seat from the upholstery shop, we took on the task of putting the chair back together – no easy feat as we tried to remember how it all should fit. But, fit together it did, and when it was done; our very first real project together was a success. Not perfect, but perfection was not the point.

And so, here it sat … I mean rocked. For over 40 years. That is, until I was inspired by my pre-pandemic vacation with my sister, Robyn, in Italy. Ten glorious days in a surreal trance seeing the sites; listening to the sounds of a beautiful language; drinking in the colors and the atmosphere of it all. I was browsing on Etsy looking for some unique fabric for making lampshade designs for my Etsy shoppe – http://www.on2ndStreet.com (insert shameless plug here) and when I ran across some beautiful fabric that reminded me of Italy, my mind immediately turned to my Bentwood rocker. Well, when I get something in my head, I just cannot let go until I get it done, and I found myself ordering the fabric. Even though the seller lived out of the country, I received my shipment quickly with two masks and a tote bag – all expertly sewn and enclosed as a “thank you” for purchasing the fabric.

Step 1 was to partially take the chair apart to begin recovering the seat with new foam and batting so that I could use my gorgeous new fabric and piping. After the seat came out so well, I started on the seat back. The back of the chair had 2 sides – the back that you see from the back view of the chair and the front of the seat back where one rests one’s back while sitting in the chair. The back came out perfectly with a thin piece of foam and then the fabric. The front of the seat back was not so easy. It looked okay, but I didn’t like how thick I had the foam and some pleats around the corners and I preferred it to have it flat. I do not plan on recovering the chair again in the future, so I wanted it to be perfect. A local upholstery shop answered the call and worked it in to their busy schedule. Tucson folks, if you find yourself needing a reliable and affordable upholstery service, contact Unique Upholstery on Speedway.

And I am so obsessed with the new look of my vintage Bentwood Rocker.

it would have been

50 years.

It was difficult to imagine as two teenagers entering into adulthood and parenthood. As the years began to number in the double digits, it seemed more possible.

Our 2nd anniversary was celebrated with an evening drive thru Estes Park and a candlelight dinner at the Greenbriar near Boulder. The forest was a mere 30 miles from our apartment in Longmont and made for a beautiful detour. Another 40 miles to the Greenbriar Inn, nestled at the foot of the mountains. We were dressed as though we were headed to prom, and the staff seemed to enjoy pampering these two young marrieds with chateaubriand and baked Alaska served by vested waiters. We were out on the town with an 18 month old at home. So we did what most couples with kids do when they have the opportunity to dash from the normalcy of real life and into a special night of celebration – we talked about baby Cristopher. Even so, it was magical. So perfect.

We always thought we would return to celebrate other anniversaries.

We never did. Life took us on other adventures.

Bob was scheduled to attend a VW parts manager meeting in Albuquerque on our 5th anniversary. Ricky was only a couple of months old, but Mom took charge – “I think after six kids I am more than qualified to watch two kids, so just GO” – in her own not so unassuming way. On the evening of our actual anniversary, we had dinner at a local hotel restaurant; and I honestly cannot say in which hotel we were booked. But I remember it was a dressy, upscale restaurant with luxurious surroundings, white tablecloths, candlelit table settings; and of course, Bob had five long stemmed roses waiting for me, but this time 3 red and two yellow to represent our two sons. After the soup flambe was served, we enjoyed the light piano and the ambience of the entire evening. Just another of the many anniversaries we would celebrate, leaving us with memories to make us smile.

10 years was a real milestone for us. When you are so young, that seems like a lifetime. Bob had a special brown leather cowboy hat he loved and only wore once in a while – so he could keep it nice. I bought him a handmade hatband of beautiful feathers and a few beads. The colors were just as he liked and he oohed and aahed over the gift as I certainly did my 10 long stemmed red roses. We had a sitter for the evening and made our way to dinner at one of our favorite places – the Feed Lot on 2nd and Main. Their steaks were beyond tender and seasoned perfectly. A pianist was entertaining and a complimentary dessert was served, when they found out we were celebrating our anniversary. During dessert, you surprised me with a tiny box. A ring inside with four perfect diamonds to celebrate our family of four. I went to tears. To this day it is one of my favorite rings and I wear it often. I lost it for a few years. After going thru each pocket and drawer and handbag and wallet more than once, I resigned myself that I must have left it in a purse or piece of clothing that I had donated. After two years of searching and giving up, one day Kerri shows up and holds the ring out. “Is this yours?” It had been in some craft things I had given her a few years earlier and she was just going thru it to see what she could use for the kids or her students, and found my ring. I couldn’t hug her enough. My ring is home.

the ring

Our 20th anniversary was probably the most eventful of all of our 44 anniversaries. My mother’s death on November 26, 1988 hit me hard. I was left with unanswered questions and disturbing nightmares and feeling as though I was in a complete fog and in a dark depression. I returned to church and needed something traditional like St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Junction, as opposed to the “lighter” guitar masses becoming so popular at that time. I chose St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in our adopted home town of Tucson.

St Joseph’s Catholic Church – Tucson AZ

St Augustine’s Cathedral, Tucson Arizona

All of this paved the way for our marriage rededication. So, on Friday, April 5, 1991, we renewed our vows and were married in the Catholic faith at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Tucson, Arizona. Fr. O’Flannigan presided. My father walked me down the aisle this time. Robyn was my Maid of Honor and Cris and Ricky were Bob’s Best Men. I carried a very heavy bouquet of 20 long stemmed roses in ivory cascading down the front of my dress. We had a little party with a few guests back at our home and thoroughly enjoyed the company and conversation. Bob and Cristopher and Ricky selected a gold anniversary band of diamonds for the ceremony, which I cherish. At the party, Bob gifted me an amethyst rosary with a gold cross. That man always had good taste in my jewelry! It was a night to remember.

engagement & anniversary ring

We had many anniversaries. Some big deals. Many quiet with just us. I wanted so many more years with you. But I am so grateful for the years we did have. I would do it all over again, just the way it was. Sweet memories.

We didn’t quite make it to 50 years. You sure tried. And I love you all the more for it.

Happy anniversary, honey.

all for a tart

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.

thoughts of thanksgiving …

Easy Lime Curd Puff Pastry Tarts {or Lemon Curd!} - Num's the Word

a garden for fairies and a little girl’s imagination

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.

Well done, my little fairy Granddaughter. Well done, indeed.
And the fairies and fairy mermaids will live Happily Ever After.

The End.


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…

They made a cover for their journal to write notes about each camp day. They painted and waited for the covers to dry before decorating. Nana laminated the covers when finished.

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!

in spite of stay home & stay safe

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!

Not a bad couple of weeks. Not bad at all.

my Spring Yard

Ready and waiting for the time that family dinners resume,

Nicholas and Nikki got re-bronzed for the Summer.

The planters are flourishing.

The ground cover between the paving stones is peeking up.

A new loveseat for the backyard. I miss my multi-colored fence slats.

I may have to “colorize” it again.

Lots of room and ready for Family dinner.

a Faerie Tale come to Life

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!

the Hungry Caterpillar
a proper tea for the young fairies

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!

best birthday gift ever!

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.

it’s a ME thing

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!

and now she is 7

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

it is late

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.

trunk or treating

the gloves are off

  1. used to express the notion that something will be done in an uncompromising or brutal way, without compunction or hesitation.

go to the mattresses

  1. to enter into or prepare for a lengthy war, battle, or conflict; to adopt a combative or warlike position.


  1. 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 …

Image result for outrageous trunk or treat displays and activities
live jousting!
Image result for outrageous trunk or treat displays and activities
now what kid could resist candy from a life sized dragon?
Image result for outrageous trunk or treat displays and activities
make a grand entrance?

Or maybe just one of these simple treat displays.
Image result for largest candy displays
Image result for halloween cupcake war display

I had better start planning for this right away! Cotton candy …hrumph!

show my work day

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!

it’s that time again!

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!

up, up and away

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.

Abby asked for two small pancakes for breakfast. So, I made her some!

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.

happy boats!

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.

Abby reads the brochure.

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.

Vhf Logo Harbour Tours Cmyk

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!”

Home for our last night in Victoria.

A light dinner.

Packing and picking up.


RaiNy dAy adVentUreS …

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.

Why do goats like standing on things?
One reason is that goats are prey animals and it’s wired into them to get to the highest point to watch for predators. … It is best to keep any structures such as goat houses away from your pasture fence because goats will climb on top of those and make their escape if they can.

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??”)

Nana’s treasures.

a Wee Little Adventure

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 marble floors 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.

Image result for palm court window at Empress

Another must have photo in front of the iconic Empress.
Room rates range from $526 to $960 Canadian per night.
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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.

Back to the Inner Harbor to lunch at MILESTONES. Yummy! Kids got free ice cream sandwiches (minis) from our waiter.

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.

always something to see at the Harbor.

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.

a Day to Explore

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!

Image result for 29 Songhees Road in Victoria, BC.

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.

Image result for Johnson st bridge at night

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!

On our way …

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)

Camp Nana

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.

Camp Nana

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!

Swim Meets

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.

Camp Nana 2019 Ready, Set, GO!

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.  Image result for hop the movie EB drumming with the blind singers

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!


Day 15: Vacation – Last day in Firenze

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.

DAYS 12 – 15 VACATION: FIRENZE – continued

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.  Image result for Firenze hon on hop off bus

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.

Days 12 – 15 Vacation: Firenze!

“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.

our little neighborhood for 4 days …

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.

highly recommend

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!

  • to be continued …

DAYS 9 thru 11 – VACATION

“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!

Day 8 Vacation in Capri, Italy

“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!

Image result for jackie kennedy in capri
it is no wonder why Jackie Kennedy loved Capri so much.

DAY 6 and 7 Vacation – from Rome to Napoli

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!2019 04 19 LEAVING ROME FOR NAPOLI A  But, it was time to board the train as we head to Napoli.  2019 04 19 LEAVING ROME FOR NAPOLI D

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. Image result for traffic in napoliVery 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)

Robyn to the rescue with photos from her camera …

tomorrow …Capri.

Day 4 – “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”

Someone once wrote;

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! Image result for HOP ON HOP OFF BUS Rome

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 …  2019 04 17 D        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.    2019 04 17 E

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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.

2019 04 17 VSuch 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!

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Day 3 (yes – AGAIN!!) of Vacation

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!  2019 04 16 Z22

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Day 3 (continued) Vacation: On the Road Again!

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 Trenitalia

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!

(to be continued)

DAY 2 Fade to Day 3 Vacation

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.2019 04 14 B.jpg

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!

DAY 1 Vacation

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.


how to spoil your grandkids …

in only 173 steps…well, practically.

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 …

SHE shed!

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my 2018

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.

remembering July(s) from the past

an all grown up granddaughter comes to Leesburg to say good-bye before we move back to Tucson

weekend visit with a granddaughter

Old Glory

Wedding day for Lori & Jim

Tristan gets a little surprise from Uno Blast

Kerri’s Birthday

Maxwell visits Leesburg

Family get-together

Walking the town center in Leesburg Village

I have no idea what he is doing, but it must have been important!

Look at those little kiddos.

Parade in downtown Leesburg

Parade in downtown Leesburg

Parade in downtown Leesburg

He loved the Inner Harbour in Victoria

Bicycling thru Tucson

Family BBQ in Canada

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.


Week 4 Camp Nana 2018

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?