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

2019 04 17 F

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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!

2019 04 17 X

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?

I will trade Pikachu for your Archen …

I noticed a growing phenomenon a couple of years ago when Max joined the Indian Ridge Swim Team.

It seemed that practices and meets were not just about swimming;  and not just about winning. There is a camaraderie among Pokemon collectors who gather at these pools;  so much so that every practice is dotted with Pokemon cards laying on beach towels;  on the concrete and on tables under the ramada.   Everywhere you look –  Pokemon.

I find headlines like

  • Pokemon obsession leads to bans at schools
  • Pokemon expelled
  • Pokemon Craze Challenges Docs | Psychology Today

Oh, my goodness.

I thought it only my duty as a Nana to delve deeper into the details of these strange beings called Pokemon.  So, I listen – and pay attention to the games and the most important activity – trading.  The wheeling and dealing that  goes on is hypnotizing.   These children who couldn’t tell you where they left their socks  that they literally had just taken off  –  have memorized every name of the 807 characters  and what their powers are and any other statistic, for when they need to discuss.  The young traders rattle off names such as Empoleon and Phantump  and Zygarde like they are speaking if John or Sally.

I was told today by a young man to “alert” him to any of the cards that had these numbers; these codes in the right hand corner,  in red.  I asked him to explain the importance of the red writing versus the black writing.   Turns out, there isn’t any significant difference in value (according to him).  He just really, really likes the color red.

It is interesting to watch young swimmer/collectors file in through the gate with a handful of cards with dog-eared edges from the wear, pouring out of their pockets. Some kids walk in with small containers of cards and then there’s Max,  who has a ginormous 4 inch binder weighing in at 5 pounds or so.  On more than a couple of occasions, I hear Abigail informing other children that her brother, Maxwell, is a “master collector” to which the reply is always an enthusiastic “I KNOW!”  Seems like he is building his own brand.  Hmm.

There is something else that I have learned.  There is an unspoken, quiet honor among young Pokemon Traders and Collectors.   Books are left open and unattended as the kids are called to their practice or event.  Kids waiting for their practice sit atop one of the tables, turning the plastic pages one by one and commenting on this or that feature of the Pokemon character, sometimes removing the card from the sleeve to look at it more closely, and always placing it back in its rightful sleeve among the other treasures, bestowing the dignity of which it is apparently deserved.  A white-gloved formally dressed Marine could not have done better.

I have not personally witnessed any violence over the game – only some tearful irritation from Ginny stating that she used to have three Pokemon but Abby took one and hid it and now she only has two – dotted by a few sniffles between words.  I believe I curbed any violence by ordering Abby to give Ginny the card in question.  Fanaticism?  Not really.  Make no mistake, there is an enthusiasm among these youthful swimmers.  But when coach Jenny sounds her signature whistle (not from plastic – just from Jenny), the cards are dropped, collector notebooks left open and the kids are off to swim.  I think it is healthy and it amuses me to watch the carefully thought out transactions.
I mean, if they can spout off the names and powers of hundreds of Pokemon, they certainly should have no trouble learning the scientific names for minerals in a few years.  Am I right?

a Montessori morning with Max

I was honored to attend a morning session at the Khalsa Montessori Camden Campus to see a day in the life of Maxwell at school.  Let me preface this post by admitting that when Max was enrolled here for Kindergarten, I was not fond of the idea.  This is an older building.  There is a garden area that different people maintain and some climbing things and sandbox, etc in the play yard.  I had a school in mind on the east side that had a fancy playground, state of the art signage and a huge paved parking lot.  Mind you, I had never been inside of either school, so I really was judging a book by it’s cover.  That turned out to be a huge error in judgement on my part.

Walking into the classroom, the difference between Montessori and the “regular” 2nd grade classroom is startlingly evident.  There are no long rows of desks lined up.  Desks are scattered here and there for individual students.  There are tables and chairs – some that seat 4 or 5 students and Max’s table that seats 3.

Class begins in a very calm semi-circle in the middle of the room.  Laura, (the kids call her by her name) read a story about how Nome, Alaska got its name.  The children all speak in quiet voices.  One child has brought something to share.  He described his item and then asked if anyone had questions.  Immediately, Cristian (Max’s best buddy) raised his hand and when called on by the student, he inquired “how much did it cost?”  I had to stifle a laugh while his mother turned around and apologized to the mother of the sharer.  After the sharing time in half circle, the teacher stands  and that is the student’s queue to find a partner in the room and sit down on the floor to solve some math problems and then grade each other’s work.  The teacher doesn’t have to tell them what to do because they know their daily routine.  There are timers (2 or 3 students with watches) and they  calmly give the time according to their watch, when asked.

After this exercise, they are handed their own notebook with their weekly assignment sheet in the front.  It is amazing to watch these kids make their way through their assignments – one right after another and then check the boxes to note their progress.  I was there a bit less than 2 hours and in the time left after the group setting, Maxwell completed a math board for addition, subtraction, division and multiplication; finished an assignment in adding fractions;Image result for Montessori fraction tools

read a story and had me ask the test questions; pulled out a money drawer and counted the money and had me check his answer (there is a hardware cabinet and each drawer has a different amount of money); drew a clock with the hands at 10:45; completed a “tower” worksheet where he had to distinguish the prefix from the root word; Image result for montessori tower teaching tool for prefixes and root wordsand then had permission to work with the bead board that teaches the decimal system.  After each assignment was completed, he would fill in the box and have me initial his page.  The one and only time he interacted with the teacher was to ask permission to work with the beads

..Bead chains for Montessori math; number sense, place values, skip counting.

On the drive home, I marveled at this concept of teaching.  2nd graders and 3rd graders are in the same class with different assignments,  The idea is that the older kids can offer assistance to the youngers.  While this class time was going on, kids were allowed to move about the room quietly and to even strike up conversations with each other.  Not once did I hear a loud voice or a teacher reprimand.

And I wonder how more kids would have done in school without the chaos and rigidity.  A calm and quiet environment giving the 8 and 9 year olds the decisions of which assignment to complete first and allowing them to move about to deter all the fidgeting that I remember in school – what a nurturing setting to make your way through a day at school.

Color me impressed.


a teenager grandson

Grandma's Bebes

And now he is in his second year of teenager-dom.

This smart, funny, sensitive little boy – is no longer so little.  He is grandma’s boy and I tell him that every time I see him.  Even though, now, when he runs through the airport to greet me, he almost knocks me over; he will forever be grandma’s boy.

I was at the Virginia house when he came home from the hospital.  A preemie at 3 pounds and 5 ounces, you would never know it today.  At fourteen, he stands over his dad and takes much satisfaction in resting his forearm on his father’s shoulder.  He has a tender heart and a sensitive soul.  He also has a sly sense of humor and enjoys making me laugh when we should be serious; lovingly taunts his younger sister by flipping her hair or poking her side when dad isn’t looking.

When he was a toddler in Tucson, he was my Target buddy at least once a week.  And he kept me in check, removing items from the cart when he was of the opinion that “we don’t need this, Grandma”.  Later on in his tween years, he would accompany me to the Wegman’s, and it was my turn to keep him in check.

And now he is heading toward the middle of his teens.  Still Grandma’s boy.  Still his sister’s biggest fan and her steadfast gentle tormentor.  Still a loving, sensitive, smart, talented and handsome boy  er, young man.

But in my eyes, he is still the toddler stacking soup cans in my pantry or running down the sidewalk to my open arms and appearing out of the bedroom where I thought I had cleverly hidden his birthday gift, on the seat of his brand new red tricycle.  So much for that surprise.

I love this child.  This toddler turned teen.  This handsome young man.

This forever grandma’s boy.

Happy Birthday, Mateo.  Grandma loves you.

2017 11 25 VA Gardner Wall Photo


Happy Birthday, dear Abby …

Oh – this child.  She made her debut on November 8, 2012.  She had not been breathing the sweet air for even one hour before mommy and daddy wanted her brother to meet her.  Poppa and I took a very composed toddler boy (with a custom made big brother name tag) to the birthing center to assume his new duties.

After that, the ride began that we have come to know as the many faces of Abigail Anne.  And oh, what a ride it has been.  I have no idea what my life would be without her.  I never even want to imagine such a life.

Together, we have crafted and cooked.  Made messes and cleaned up.  Shopped and purchased (boy, have we EVER purchased).  She has made me smile and laugh out loud and sometimes even brought me to tears with her reflections.  I watch her sleep and I see her impish grin before she attacks her brother.  I listen to her with a vocabulary far beyond her years.  I am her audience for her made up songs and dances.  I am her cheerleader and her biggest and most loyal fan of all her endeavors.  This kid knows how to make an entrance and make her presence known.  And I am so much the better for meeting her and taking her into my heart five years ago today.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl.   Nana loves you very much.

50 days until Christmas …

and I need to make sure that I complete even one simple holiday task each day.  So, for this first day I wrapped  18 ornaments!  These ornaments were already bought and paid for in July and August.   I always think that I shouldn’t wrap them until after Halloween.  They are wrapped now and tagged.


Don’t judge me.



last day of fun and sun in Canada


Image result for calaway park

It’s About Family Fun

32 Family-friendly rides! High-energy entertainment! Tempting treats! Calaway Park has something for everyone!  As Western Canada’s Largest Outdoor Family Amusement Park, Calaway Park has been offering affordable, family- friendly fun and entertainment for over three decades.  Ever since the award-winning theme park first opened its doors in 1982, Calaway Park has built on our well-deserved reputation for excellence by offering the best attractions, no less than 32 rides designed for thrill-seekers of all ages and beautifully choreographed, high-energy entertainment.  I enjoyed the outdoor shows and watching little ones on rides.

After a full day of rides and water and snacks and entertainment, it was time to head out to our hotel, which is attached to the Calgary Int’l Airport.   Wonderful concept.  Not only beautiful, but how convenient!  We had a great dinner at Image result for montana's steakhouse in Calgary airport

and we were so ready for real food instead of fast food, and Montana’s delivered.  While Kerri and I relaxed after dinner, Jeffry and the kids made their way out to the escalators to discover just how and why the escalators would speed up and then slow down.  Thank goodness they figured it out so that burning question would not be mulling in our minds!

The hotel was as expected for a Marriott – always beautiful and scrumptiously soft and yummy bedding.  Also, very relaxing and quiet, given the fact that our hotel room windows looked out over the runways,  landing strips and docks.  Thumbs up!

on the road

We all pitched in and cleaned our little rental house, packed up the van and headed off for a day trip of sightseeing on our way to Calgary.  First up – Image result in Red Deer.  Tim Hortons Inc. is a Canadian multinational fast food restaurant known for its coffee and donuts.  Breakfast sandwiches for the ladies and donuts for the kids and their daddy.  

We weren’t too far into the trip when Jeffry confiscated my phone with my 136 songs because he determined that I was singing too loud.  Jeffry doesn’t have much of a poker face, so it wasn’t all that difficult to figure out who took the phone!


He did make up for the theft by tuning the radio to the Beatles channel.  Sightseeing beautiful Canada AND the Beatles – nothing better!  First stop …

LAKE LOUISE and Mount Michener, with a 2,545 m (8,350 ft) peak, is a mountain on the eastern border of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Canada. It forms the northerly part of the Ram Range. The mountain sits on the shore of Abraham Lake.  The waters are a light Tiffany green-blue.  I have never seen that color water before.  Pretty amazing.  Photos do not do it justice.  As the melt water from a glacier that feeds a lake starts to flow in the spring time it carries with it glacier silt or rock flour. The silt is created when rocks underneath the surface of the ice are grinding from the movement of the glacier. The rock flour is very light and stays suspended in the lake water for a long time. The sunlight that reflects off this rock flour is what gives the lakes their spectacular turquoise blue or green colour.


 Note:  Kerri is the only one who doesn’t look like a crazy tourist.  She’s a Canadian.

Look at the view from The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont hotel on the eastern shore of Lake Louise, near Banff, Alberta. The original hotel was gradually developed at the turn of the 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway and was thus “kin” to its predecessors, the Banff Springs Hotel and the Château Frontenac. The hotel’s wooden Rattenbury Wing was destroyed by fire on 3 July 1924, and was replaced by the current Barrot Wing one year later. The Painter Wing, built in 1913, is the oldest existing portion of the hotel. The Mount Temple Wing, opened in 2004, is the most recent wing and features modern function facilities; these include the Mount Temple Ballroom.  The hotel was first conceived by the railway at the end of the 19th century, as a vacation destination to lure moneyed travelers into taking trains and heading West. By the time airplanes and automobiles had displaced the trains, it had gained sufficient renown to have a life of its own. In 1999, Canadian Pacific Hotels (a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway) acquired Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and adopted the Fairmont name for all of its hotels, resulting in the Chateau Lake Louise being operated as a Fairmont hotel.  Rate is from $1199.00 CAD per room, per night based on double occupancy.  Offer is available for one or two bedroom suite bookings.

Oh yeah!  We will definitely stay there next trip.

Of course, we found our way to a cute shopping area near Lake Louise for a few souvenirs and some lunch.  Max and Abby were very happy to spend their Canadian dollars.






And we are off for more exploration!


  1. having or showing impressive beauty or dignity.
    synonyms: Statelydignifieddistinguishedsolemnmagnificentgrandsplendidresplendentglorioussumptuousimpressiveaugustnoble,


yes.  all of the above.

Off we go to Canmore and Best Western!  Beautiful hotel and amazing rooms.  Fireplace.  Walk in shower as big as my house…well, almost.  Reading and work nook.  Very nice.  “Okay, ma’am.  we have upgrades you to an executive room today and the charge is $289.  A little steep, but it is only one night, so go ahead and splurge.”  The little song from Moana is playing in my head “you’re welcome!”

Image result for canmore best western

Jeffry’s turn and since he booked way in advance, this should go fast.  “Thanks for waiting sir.  Okay, your standard room with 2 Queen beds will be $499.  Will that be check or charge?”  I watch the color drain from Jeffry’s face and I am wondering if he will pass out right here in the lobby.  A few seconds pass and he calmly says “that cannot possibly be right”.  Um, unfortunately it was.  After an hour on the phone with the booking company it was finally reduced to the same price as mine.  Whew.  For that price per room, they had better bathe me in bubbles, do my hair, mani-pedi and give me a new outfit with shoes and purse to match!

Tomorrow we hit Calgary – with some fun in between.

back in time

I worked most of today.  But, took a little time to visit Kerri’s childhood home in Red Deer – and I so want to restore this house!!  Look at those windows and the covered porch.

and then to Kerri’s Elementary school – Grandview – where we turned the grand kids loose on the playground.  I wish the school had been open, so Max and Abby could visit the classrooms where their Mommy most likely got her bug for teaching.

Waskasoo Park

Today, we ventured out to Waskasoo Park in Red Deer … featuring the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, the Aspen Parkland and the Cronquist House.   Seems like Red Deer and the surrounding area is peppered with natural areas like this and provide for an abundance of daily outings (and let’s not forget learning opportunities for the little ones)  without even leaving town.  After a quick tour through the Centre, we embark on a nature walk.

I fell in love with this painting.  Amazing to see what our minds are muddled with these days.  Something to think about.  Get it?? Think about?

Maxwell especially enjoyed knocking his daddy off of the rope.

After a picnic lunch, Jeffry and I opted to tour the Cronquist House (thinking it was a museum) while the others ventured out in a paddle boat.  We soon found the museum to be a tea house.  

Not really our thing, so we spotted a tandem that would seem to be a lot more adventure than sipping tea.  And off we pedaled.


say cheese

group photo

Morning photo shoot with Kerri’s big Canadian Family (and a couple of American’s tossed in for good measure) at her Aunt Arlene’s home.  Afterwards, an old fashioned BBQ picnic at Aunt Linda’s.  I must say that the family was wonderful and the food was great.  But, oh … the amazing gorgeous outdoor area was a whole other story!  I cannot really call it her yard because it was so huge!


This carrot cake was scrumptious – just a side note!

Doesn’t matter which country, Abby has Papa wrapped around her little little finger.

She knows it and he relishes it.

Chris Mundle rented a jumping castle for the day and kids of all ages enjoyed it.

Best idea ever.

There were lots of introductions and how are you related and great food.  There was water balloon fights between the cousins – a tradition as I understand it.  Lots of photography and clean up and long walks on a beautiful property with some really good people.  So happy to be invited along on this trip to our neighbor up north.

O Canada! Our home and native land!

Okay, it isn’t MY native land.  Still, when in Rome …



We made it!  Calgary International Airport.  I feel more relaxed already.  After a short pause for a photo-op, we are on the way to the car rental for the not too far drive to Red Deer, Alberta.

And this charmer is our home for 6 days!

An immaculate 2 bedroom home complete with a well stocked refrig and lawn games for the kids.  All of the kids!  Perfect!  As we settled in with luggage and setting up our little spaces, I decided I would share the room with Max and Abby and let Jeffry & Kerri have a bit of a break with their own room.   Not really much sharing as our room was ginormous – I had a double bed on one side of the room and there were twin beds on the other side – one with blue linens and one with pink.  Abby arranged her toys and books on her side of the table and Maxwell found a little cabinet which suited his Pokemon collection just fine.  They each put their clothes in little cubbies in the closet and were well satisfied with their areas.  It was so cute to see them try to carefully put their items here and there, and although it kind of looked a hot mess to me, they stood back and studied the progress they made and I could tell they were thinking “well done”.  So what if Max hung his underwear on the little hooks in the closet?  To him it was logical as he could just grab one each day.  Very handy!  They didn’t have to be told what to do – they just did it.  There was no fighting and lots of “here, Abby – you can put some stuff right here”.  That’s my grand kids!

camp nana – all about me


all about Me

We learned about each other today.  Paper people shapes were glued to some white cardstock paper.  We made the paper people to look like us.  Max decided he would dress himself as Captain Underpants while Abigail and Ginny took a more conventional approach.  Abby used yellow feathers for her blond hair.  Max drew his short blond hair with crayons.  Ginny dressed herself in a ruffled shirt and Abby made an entire outfit coordinated right down to the boots.

Then, we made notes all over the paper background about what food we like to eat or what color was our favorite.  We wrote what made us happy and also what made us sad.  That is how we learn about each other.

About Me

We learned about each other today.  Paper people shapes were glued to some white cardstock paper.  We made the paper people to look like us.  Max decided he would dress himself as Captain Underpants while Abigail and Ginny took a more conventional approach.  Abby used yellow feathers for her blond hair.  Max drew his short blond hair with crayons.  Ginny dressed herself in a ruffled shirt and Abby made an entire outfit coordinated right down to the boots.

Then, we made notes all over the paper background about what food we like to eat or what color was our favorite.  We wrote what made us happy and also what made us sad.  That is how we learn about each other.

Before Ginny arrived for camp, Max and Abby donned their Camp Nana aprons and made some yummy banana nut muffins that we sent to the swim meet that evening.  They squished up bananas and mixed the other ingredients.  Abby was in charge of locking and unlocking the big mixer while Max controlled the mixing speed.  They took their time and lifted the mixer up several times to scoop any unmixed ingredients from the bottom and sides of the large silver mixing bowl.  Down the mixer would go.  Abby would do her job and would loudly state “LOCKED!”  Max would then turn the mixer to the proper speed.  They alternated the muffin liners by color and took care in filling them with very little spills.  Abby ran back and forth from playing to the oven to check the progress.Image result for tap shoes

After cleanup, we practiced a bit for our dance review and had story time and play time.  It was a fun and productive day!Image result for tap shoesImage result for Storytime

Image result for Storytime


camp nana – dusty field trip

Max and Abby started the camp day early with a Trail Dust Town Excursion. Max took a 20 dollar bill and stood in a not very long line to obtain 2 wristbands.    Of course, the first stop was the railway station.  Max insisted on being in the first car after the conductor and upon returning, Abby exclaimed loudly with covered ears … “I am NEVER riding in that car again.  It was bidiculously loud!”


Next was a visit to the Stagecoach ferris wheel and the old-fashioned carousel.  Not really exciting rides, but very cute and the happy campers delighted in riding them as if they were in Disneyland.  I wish I could remember what it was like to see things thru a 4 year old’s eyes.

After two hours of rides and seeing all of the Farmer’s Market stands and wares, the kids were hungry for lunch, That’s when we came upon the Dragon Pizza Company.  They make a great cheese wood-fired pizza in the belly of a big green dragon.

The campers must have been hungry as there were no complaints of the sauce being too spicy or the cheese not the kind Max likes.  They devoured 2 and 3 pieces each!  Best I have had in a very long time.


Image result for dragon pizza oven Tucson Farmers Market

So what do you do after you eat some pizza and ride the rides and check out each and every vendor booth as well as listening to a great youth mariachi group …?

You get a triple flavor shaved ice with 3 spoons!

Image result for shaved ice vendors in tucson az

It was a great day.



camp nana – over the rainbow

Connor was our special visitor for our first day of camp 2017.  Off to a busy start creating beautiful rainbows from bits of tissue paper and lots of glue.  Max handled his own gluing and dutifully assisted Abby & Connor with dots of glue where needed. 20170601_123857-1.jpg

Max decided on a miss-mash of colors in the shape of a rainbow, taking creative license.  20170602_144732Connor took a more abstract approach to his canvas (paper) of work. 18871631_10209221513085627_783146094_n

Ginny went minimalist while Abby was precise and exact.  20170602_14475520170602_144809All in all, a succesful gallery of color, giggles and glue.  And keeping with our theme, our quiet reading time was HOW THE CRAYONS SAVED THE RAINBOWS.20170531_141210

Since Ginny attended camp after her nap time, she missed story time.  When she arrived, Maxwell picked up the book and got her a pillow and read her the entire book.  At one point,Abby and Ginny were giggling, and I overheard Max … “do you want me to keep reading the story or do you want me to put the book up and you can keep talking”.  They chose the book.

What should little campers snack on during a rainbow of a day?  Well, a rainbow of fruit, of course (with a couple of other food groups as well)  Strawberries, cheese, pineapple, cucumber slices, crunch berries, black berries and marshmallow clouds.  It was quite the success!20170601_114713

Have you ever painted with spaghetti?  Well, we did.  And the results were nothing short of spectacular.  After cooking and cooling the spaghetti, I placed it on a dish in the middle of the kids table.  I then got busy setting up 4 plates with 2 colors of paint each, and when I returned to the table with the paint plates, there sat a tiny Ginny with a single spaghetti noodle hanging out of the corner of her mouth.  But once she saw the idea, she was ready to go.  Just in case, I did give her a little plate of noodles so that if she was inclined to grab another bite, she had un-painted pasta at the ready.



The rest of the first camp day, was filled with music, legos and a short walk to find items in the neighborhood to make up the colors of the rainbow.  20170601_123814

After camp, loaded up my new pink Nana chair and headed off to watch Maxwell compete with his Indian Ridge Swim Team, where he took 3rd in the backstroke and the butterfly.  He literally has never done the butterfly before, so his coach had him go underwater and watch another swimmer and that was his training.  Off he went and was quite impressive for the first time.  Looking forward to many more swim meets.


photo stolen from  courtesy of Megan Mundle.

Camp Nana 2017 Kickoff

Tomorrow begins the 5th year of Camp Nana in Tucson, formerly known as Camp Grandma in Leesburg for 2 years.  It will be a short day, but for three and a half hours this tiny house will be filled with laughing and talking and some  “he took my paper and she knew I was going to use that one!”.  It will be loud and full of questions and quiet storytime and messy.  Connor, Ginny, Max and Abby will participate in all things rainbows.

Rainbow art.  Rainbow reading.  Rainbow  snack.  Maybe some rainbow songs, if there is time.

And then, just as fast as camp noisy began, 3 of the little ones will be whisked away to a swim meet … another will return to his Vail family and there will be scarcely a trace of the afternoon, save for tissue paper pieces floating around; sticky glue residue on the tables and chairs and bits of snacks abandoned on little plates and something squished on the floor over there.  Hmmm.

And as I drag the vacuum out, I will take another look around and picture the sticky fingers and messy faces and as though time had never even passed – I will hear his voice in my mind saying “good job, honey”.





a smorgasbord of an evening …


Ricky & Isabel each prepared a dinner casserole featuring pasta and I did absolutely nothing except enjoy the food and company.

Victoria was suddenly overcome with shyness at the “kid’s table”.

We take some time out to remember this evening in pictures.

Alexander decides the perfect way to end the evening would be to form a pyramid of kids… what could possibly go wrong with four kids in a stack on a hard tile floor?


oh my

Most afternoons when I am on pick up duty for the Tucson Grand-Angels, everything goes smoothly.  Oh, there may be the occasional complaint or spat between the two, but such a rare event.



(of an event, situation, or condition) not occurring very often.

Today, rare picked itself up, put on it’s shoes, and walked right out the door and disappeared without a trace.

After Abby’s swim team, we make our way to my house for some play time and dinner while daddy has meetings and mommy gets a well deserved pedicure.  I am busy in the kitchen area and I hear Abigail from her relaxed position on the sofa.

“Max, can you please get me a blanket and a pop up book and a cuddle toy because I went swimming and I have my pajamas on and I really really need to rest here.”


“Maaaa-ax.  But I am tired and I asked you nicely and you should do it if I ask you nicely.”

“no.  If I get you a blanket then I will have to fold it and put it back and I don’t feel like it.”

“But I will put the blanket back, I pwomise I really really will!”

Max gives in to the high-pitched whine from the little sister, and not only returns with the blanket; but brings TWO – count ’em 2 – pop up books and THREE cuddle toys for her to choose from.  Max is tired from a busy day at school and Pokemon discussion with some friends at Abby’s swim team practice.  He tosses a pillow on the big shaggy living room rug, and with a big exhale, commences to close his eyes and begin operation unwind.

Abby begins to “read” the spelled out numbers in one of the books … loudly … and punctuating each syllable.

Forty-Five.  Sixty-Three.  Fifty-seven.

Max is getting annoyed and then, reaching his breaking point … “ABBY!!  Please give me some quiet time for a few minutes. Read it in your mind.  You are not even reading it right!’

thirty-three.  seventy-nine.  Nana, am I reading it right?

“ABBY!  PLEASE just read it in your MIND!”

Well, you can surmise for yourself how Abby responded – or, didn’t.  Max was now near tears and broke down, marched into my bedroom and shut the door.  I gave him a few moments and went in just to check on him.  He had piled some pillows near my big craft cabinet, laid down on the pillows and open the large drawer above him to make a little sleeping berth.  I hugged him and asked if he needed anything and he dried his tears and said he just wanted to rest.  I left him to it and returned to the kitchen to finish cooking dinner.  All the while Abby is still “reading” loudly, only stopping once to ask me what was wrong with Maxwell.  I had to leave the room to hide my laughter.

After dinner, I turn on the television to watch a Disney show with them, and on comes the ID channel where I had left it the night before.  As I start to change the channel Max holds up his hand  “Wait Nana!” On the screen it showed a hooligan family tormenting a grandpa next door with a dangerous growly dog and fireworks and loud music.  On commercial, I explained to the tiny Grand-Angels that they were just taunting him to be mean and that they should be more respectful.

ABBY:  “Nana, you might give me a time out for this, but I just have to say I would like to knock the shit out of those mean people.”

I am trying not to laugh while looking shocked and thought this would be a good time for a lesson.  No, Abby.  I am not giving you a time out, and then went on to explain that I do not like that language from my granddaughter.  And then to engage Max in my teaching moment, I asked Max what would be a better way to express that same feeling of anger.  He thought for just a split second, and replied …

“I am going to punch you right in the face!”

Turning to Abby to solidify my argument, apparently Max was not done with his thought on the matter.

“You Bastards!”

i give up.

a mini-man with a MAXi-heart

Before he was 7 and before he could read … before he played soccer and before he went to Kindergarten … before he told jokes and before he knew his colors and shapes … before he danced to Cuban Pete … before all of that, he took my heart to places it had never known.

Together we have read books and colored pages.  We have gone on long walking adventures and out to lunch and in to nap. We have played tennis and badminton and t-ball.  We have painted and gardened and made home-made popsicles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We have laughed and giggled and cried together.  I have wiped his tears and he has wiped away mine.  He has patted me on my arm with a little hand when I needed it most.  He has helped me through the days; without even knowing it.  And I could not love him more.

He is 7 years old now.

He is Max.



confessions of a well meaning, but apparently negligent, Nana

Yesterday, I published this original post in a private message to friends and family; cringing at what I had allowed to happen …

16935610_1226389610763343_836463381_oKids were up before 7. Nana got up about 8 o’clock. The children fixed their own breakfast of cereal and milk . And when I say cereal, I mean the entire box. I couldn’t post it on Facebook because Nana ain’t no snitch. shhhhhhh

While the children were lunching with Aunt Megan and family, I was picking up the house, and opened the pantry door to find this …


What perfect kids!  They didn’t eat the entire box after all!  When I told Max the whole story he just laughed – in that same way as when Jeffry laughs at me as if to be saying “crazy old woman”.


The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this article are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

It was a lovely Thursday afternoon.  A Nana, (we’ll call her Lana) gently pulled the Impala with the tiny children (we’ll call them Jax and Gabby) secure and safe in their approved car seats, into the garage.  Lana was driving very slow and trying to judge how much room she had to inch around so as not to disturb the oh-so- adorable little bug car, also in the garage.

Lana sees the blue plastic recycle bin wobble just a bit.  Trying to ignore the issue in the hopes that the mini-passengers would do the same, she gingerly reverses in order to  endeavor a safe and careful position, once again calculating the available distance.

JAX:  ” Lana. You know you hit the recycle container, right?”

Lana takes time to reassure him that,yes, yes, she did notice that she barely touched the recycle bin.  No harm done.  Pulling forward again, she smiles to herself assured that she is missing the aforementioned recycle bin.  Oh … Lana sees a ladder begin to move.  With curse words on her tongue but not leaving her mouth; again a voice from the backseat.

JAX: “Lana.  You know that you hit the ladder this time, right?  Not the little ladder with the soft black seat.  The tall ladder that you stand on to put the color bulbs in outside.  Remember that you let me climb it one time when you were right there?  It was that one.  Did you see that you hit it?”

Apparently, little Jax has forgotten that Lana has been right in the same vehicle that he has, and although he has accused her of short-term memory loss in the past, she certainly does realize what she has done and responds to the six-year-old smarty pants that she certainly does remember the incident just seconds ago and that all is well.

Backing out one more time and inching forward so as not to disturb the parking police who has apparently completed some academy course since the last time I saw him two days ago; (okay, a curse word may have left my lips) as I see the big green canvas bag housing the  Christmas tree and Santa rug and wreaths dance a little jiggly dance, I sense another comment from the six-year-old Captain Obvious.  Instead, I hear the throaty roar of laughter coming from none other than a four-year old, as she loudly exclaims (as if I was not there) …

GABBY:  “did you see that one, Jax??  This time she crashed right into the Christmas tree bag!!”

and louder and longer laughter ensues.

I back the car out onto the driveway; shut off the engine; tell the kids that it is all clear to remove their seat belt harness and sheepishly retreat into the house, leaving the Impala just outside of the garage door with plenty of room not to hit anything.







Gilmore Girls Revival

makes its debut on November 25, with all four 90-minute episodes available for my binge-watching pleasure over Thanksgiving weekend.  I will not be answering the phone or email messages or the doorbell.  You can try to bother me, but unless you are my oldest granddaughter (Gilmore Girls fan(atic), you will not succeed.  She is the only person I know who understands the need for all things Gilmore.

Twenty days – less than three weeks – Hey, I’ve changed my mind. I want to be a ballerina.

I will park myself on the sofa surrounded with fluffy pillows – I will take a leap of faith that Amy Sherman Palladino will not let me down.

You jump – I jump, Jack. In Omnia Paratus.


eating at bars …

41 Days until the return of the Gilmore Girls.  I know them intimately – like family that I have lived with since October 5, 2000.  I know their quips.  I use their quips.  I drove my husband crazy with their quips and honey, come and watch this with me.  I don’t understand people who haven’t watched Gilmore Girls.  I am not sure they fully understand me.

Neither did the waiter at Texas Roadhouse when he offered us alternative seating …


Oh, Emily.  Can’t wait to spend some more time with you.

51 days … and counting …

October 5 has been a full day of celebrating Gilmore Girls. First and foremost, this day marks the 16th anniversary of the premiere of the series we all know and love. So 200 coffee shops around the country became  Luke’s Diners, where you could get one of Luke’s signature cups of coffee.

Gilmore Girls lovers are counting the days until we can return – albeit for a very short time – to Stars Hollow.  The town meetings; the park gazebo; Luke’s Diner; Miss Patty’s Dance Studio and so much more  –

Better grab your feather boas and all of the junk food you can muster and get ready.


with the Poodles, already!4




Camp Nana Kick-Off 2016

Max and Abby were raring to go at 8:30!  They were delighted with new Camp Nana shirts as we sat down to paint and design birdhouses.  Of course they each had to have their own paper plate with chosen dots of paints.  Abby chose mostly pastels while Max goes for the bright and vibrant colors.  The birdhouses are left alone to dry while O Canada Papa picks Abby up for her swim lesson.  Max plays with Legos until she returns.  They have carefully chosen some dried leaves from the back yard to adorn their birdhouses because “sometimes the birdhouses will be in the trees and leaves always die so new ones can grow and then the old leaves stick to the birdhouses and the birds don’t care”.   After adding the leaves to the roofs and a couple of birdies move in to each house, the glue is drying – on to the next project …

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With some rolls and deli meats and cheeses in front of them, Max and Abby are left to make their own lunches.  Listening to their chatter always brightens my day – no matter the content.

 “Abby, why did you break my giant chip?  Why, Abby.  Why?”

 “Oh Maxie.  It’s just a chip.” (insert heavy sigh)20160602_112856 20160602_112845









to be continued …

(… later that day …)

Max wants a nap.  It is Abby’s nap time anyway, so i put them both in my bed.  Abby is caught dancing around on the bed several times while Max just lays in the same position and place).  Max says he cannot sleep there.  I tell him he can lie on the sofa while I work.  From the bedroom, I hear the soft sobs of a 3-year-old, and I cannot let that pass.  “Why are you crying, Abby?”  The response breaks my heart and nearly brings me to tears.  “Brover left me and I want to cuddle with him while I nap.  He is my best friend ever.”  I then query Max on whether he might like to give this another chance.  He flatly states “no, thank you.”  Abby looks and me and softly asks if Max said no. and I barely nod my head.  The tears come easily as she literally falls into my arms.  What choice do I have but to carry her to the sofa to nap near her brother.

In the meantime, the birdhouses are dry and ready for their first showing to the awaiting public.  And so, without further adieu, I give you …THE BIRDHOUSE(S).

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note to self:

the next time I decide to pull the back of my  shirt up and ask the nice lady in Kohl’s what size is written on the bra that I am wearing …


I will make sure the nice lady actually works there and is not just browsing.

Embarassed Girl 1

every once in awhile

if you are very blessed; someone makes their way into your life and settles right smack dab in the middle of your heart and stays put.

Never mind that you may be acting the fool or laughing at the wrong times or drowning in your own tears and self-pity.  Never mind that a million things are swirling around her brain with kids and work and home and family and couple of dozen tiny humans vying for her attention eight hours a day.  Never mind that exhaustion is setting in and her eyes and mind are craving sleep, but is still inviting of family dropping by.

Yes.  IF you are very blessed, someone makes their way into your life and settles right smack dab in the middle of your heart and stays put.  And her name is Kerri Anne.  She engages with her child while engaging with you and somehow gives 100% attention to both.  And sometimes, she cries because she senses your pain.  And sometimes she smiles because she understands.  But mostly, she laughs.  She laughs at a husband who can be not so easy to laugh with all the time.  She laughs at his intellectual humor and she laughs at his goofy humor.  And as she hides her face in her hands, attempting to wipe the streaming tears, her shoulders are shaking and the high-pitched squeak of a laugh can be heard here and there.

And the husband knows that his mission is complete.  He has taken a beautiful and graceful young woman and dissolved her into a beautiful and graceful mess of laughter and tears and an occasional sniffle and snort.  And Kerri ends with the same post script each time …You are such an idiot.

and life is good.

Blog 2016 02 21

Call me.

Max wanted to play video games on my phone.  I had Judge Mathis on the television.  Whenever you watch a judge show, commercials for attorneys of all kind stream one after the other.  They always have catchy numbers – one has – 333 33 33 and 777 77 77.

I hear Max’s video game music stop, and I catch the familiar sound of cell phone touch tone dialing.

“Max, what are you doing?”  Thinking he was trying to get to a different game.

I gotta call these guys!”


777 7777333 3333

Connor brings his Mommy to Tucson

Such a treat to spend the day with my great grandson and my grand-daughter visiting all the way from southern Virginia.  Reviewing these photo pages are guaranteed to bring a little smile to your heart.  Enjoy.page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 page 8 page 9 page 10 page 11 page 12

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

Over the past 5 years, Bob has been in the hospital for a fairly decent amount of time.  After living together for 45 years, I find that I handle things better when I busy myself with a project.  This month, with a two-week stay, I visited my patient, did the laundry, kept the house and yard up, worked accounting for long hours – and then I would find myself wide awake at 2 a.m.  I was too blurry eyed to stare at the computer and numbers, so I chose to work on the bathroom.

Still with the original 30-year-old tile on the floor – faded and dulled and just, well, gross – I found my project.  After laying half of the floor in a darker penny round, I awoke later in the morning, decided it was too dark.  I retrieved the square spade shovel from the garage and commenced to pulling it up – tossed it in the dumpster and hopped in the car to the tile store.  I chose a bright white glossy hexagon classic mosaic and set to work.  Working only a few early mornings until sleep finally claimed me, it was done.  Some trim work and some grouting and using my trusty “haze-be-gone” mitt, I think it came out pretty good.  Feels so nice and shiny and CLEAN and fresh – what a difference.  Even 5-year-old Max noticed … “hey, Nana.  I like your new floors here.”  Lovin’ that kid!


Then I decided to freshen the bathroom door exterior with some Behr Marquee paint using the color cocoa.  Goes well with the decoupage I had done some months ago.


Still needs a few paint touch ups and a new faucet, but all in good time.  For now, that’ll do pig.  That’ll do.

date night … dinner, uber and the Beatles

A long and overdue date night began with a roaring downpour of a Tucson monsoon.  The east side of town was flooded and drenched.  By the time we reached mid-town and parked at the Outback Steakhouse, roads were dry and you never would have guessed that two minutes earlier, you could barely see in front of you because of the rain.  Mmmmm, I haven’t had the teriyaki steak medallions with peppers and onions for years, and it was just perfect with a strawberry margarita surrounded by a plentiful sugared rim.
combining form
  1. denoting an outstanding or supreme example
    of a particular kind of person or thing.
    We had already decided to leave our car parked at the restaurant after dinner, and to call Uber for the drive to and from downtown to the Fox Theatre.  We had never used this service before, and what a treat.  The car arrived within 6 minutes, nice and clean. What a relief not to have to find parking downtown and then walking back and forth to the car – and that is assuming that I would even remember where I parked!  Dropped right smack in front of the theater and the door politely opened for me, we step right up the curb to the will call window.  We have never been to the Fox Theatre, so this should be a treat!

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    The Fox Tucson Theatre opened on April 11, 1930 as a dual vaudeville/movie house. The Fox featured a stage, full fly loft, and dressing rooms beneath the stage. The combined effects of “talkies” and the Depression limited the opportunities for live performance, and the dressing rooms were never completed.

    Opening night, April 11, 1930, proved to be the biggest party the small community of Tucson had ever seen. With Congress Street closed and waxed for dancing, four live bands, a live radio broadcast and free trolley rides downtown, the party was one not to be missed. So began Fox’s 40 year reign as the “crown jewel” of downtown Tucson’s entertainment world. Originally, the Fox served as Tucson’s Movie Palace, presenting films on the big screen as well as community events, vaudeville performances and the Tucson Chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club.

    Competition for new theaters and the decline of downtown shopping led to the Fox closing in 1974.  After sitting empty for 25 years, the theater was nearly beyond restoration. Extensive water damage, vandalism, and neglect had conspired to keep the building dark. The owners, who had decided to let the building slowly decay, had little interest in selling the property to anyone. Following a two-year negotiation the non-profit Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation was able to buy the building in 1999 for $250,000.553ec922b92e6.image

    Stabilization and planning for the rehabilitation/restoration began at once with a new roof being installed to stop further damage from the elements. Small restoration projects such