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Thanksgiving Greetings

27 Nov

When I was a child my aunt and uncle had a farm. I remember one year when I was 2 or 3, they brought a turkey to our house before Thanksgiving. I named it Gobble Gobble. I had no idea it was going to be Thanksgiving dinner. And they had no idea I was watching from the window as they killed it. I ran from the house to stop the execution, but I was too late. This is one of my earliest memories, by the way. I was an adult before I ate turkey. I preferred ham.

The same uncle would let my sister and me “pick” our favorite piglet when a sow had a litter of pigs. We’d watch them grow up. I remember when I learned he’d taken them to be slaughtered. I was furious and old enough to tell him so. He presented my sister and me each with a “piggy bank” filled with pennies (which I still have) and the proceeds from “our” pigs went into our bank accounts. Interestingly, I didn’t stop eating ham. I wonder what that says about me.

Today is Thanksgiving and, as always, I have lots to be thankful for: a loving husband whom I adore, a sister I not only love but also like, a beautiful grandchild, three step-sons who are good people and two have married lovely young women perfect for each of them, several godchildren, two nieces and a nephew, great in-laws, other family that loves me, a comfortable home and lifestyle, good health, and too many blessings to count. So, on this holiday, I am thankful for much.

I hope you have pleasant Thanksgiving memories and that today will provide you with even more. From my family to yours:

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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~Kay

 
 

Strategy for Cyber Monday

24 Nov

I have friends and relatives who wouldn’t miss the after Thanksgiving sales. Not me. I don’t even want to drive in the traffic. I’ve found I can get as good (or better) deals online probably anytime but certainly on Cyber Monday.

I’ve been collecting catalogs and have started perusing them for things I might want to order as Christmas gifts.

I’ve learned through the years to always check to see if there are discount coupons or coupon codes I can use. If the website doesn’t show one, google the store name and ‘discount coupon’ to double check.

Another trick I use is e-bates. I don’t remember how I discovered this, but I’ve been doing it since 2007 — when I remember. You sign in to e-bates, then go to the store where you want to shop to see if there are any e-bates and they’ll take you right to the website. If you’ve already done your shopping and then remember you can go to ebates, sign-in, go to the store and it will pick up your shopping cart, so you’ll get the rebates.

The cool thing is it’s for places I want to shop: Amazon, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Macy’s, QVC, Best Buy, Sears, Macy’s, ToysRUs…over 1700 stores. I have my Amazon account tied to a charity and it doesn’t mess with that. It just sends me a rebate when I’ve accumulated a few dollars in my account. Yesterday, I deposited a check for $16.37 that arrived out of the blue. It was forwarded from our old address, because I hadn’t remembered to change our address with them. (I’ve done it now!) Since 2007, I’ve received small checks like this totaling a couple hundred of dollars. Not a fortune, but these little checks spend. And, I’ve forgotten to use e-bates most of the time, although I think they have a feature now to remind you when you go to a store tied to them–not sure how that works. I just downloaded the app today.

Right now they are doing a membership drive. For every new member recruited, I get $5 plus bonuses at certain levels. For example, if I really worked it (which I’m not going to do — I’m writing a book after all) and recruited 1000 members, they’d pay $25k. Now, that’s not chicken change.

I sent a few (40 or so) e-mails out recently and if those people sign up, I’ll get paid. I’ll put the link to sign up below — I’m not sure if I’ll get credit if you sign up from it or not, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important, is you can start getting these rebates and the next time they offer a membership drive, if you want to work it, you can make some big bucks.

If you know me personally, you know I’m not gullible (ok, maybe I am–a little), but I’m also smart, and I’ve been doing this for seven years. These checks spend and, just as importantly, they don’t send me spam (which is probably why I forget to sign in before shopping every time).

Here’s the link:

http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=3AmnRjZ9JTB0SQ3IoEXpPQ%3D%3D&eeid=

If you already have any e-bate experiences, I’d love to hear about them. Or, if after signing up, you do a lot of shopping and love your rebates, let me know.

~ Kay

 

 
 

Missing Daddy

20 Nov

It’s been a year since the death of my dad.

 

Maybe because he was the last of our parents to die, it was particularly difficult for me. I did some individual grief counseling with a Hospice Counselor here and then a five-day intensive workshop on grief as well. While the therapy helped, I’ve concluded, it takes time and sunshine to overcome the profound sense of loss after the death of a loved one. My mom’s been gone twenty-two years, and I still miss her.

 

Daddy died late in the evening of November 20th, but Hospice didn’t arrive to pronounce him until early morning on the 21st. Therefore his DOD was officially the 21st–or so I thought. I found out earlier this week that his local family made the decision to use the 20th instead of the 21st as the date at his gravesite. I have no objection to which date they used–one day doesn’t make any difference. It certainly isn’t going to bring him back. I guess I would have just liked to have been included in the decision or at least the thought process.

Oh well…

 

Here are a few photos of Daddy from through the years:

 

When it was just me:

Joel holding Baby Beratta Daddy and Kay

 

With my sister and me:

Easter Sunday BJ Dad Kay Nashville 1999

 

 

With Hubby and me — what’s with the Hawaiian shirts:

Daddy Kay and Greg May 2004

It was a theme party!!!

It was a theme party!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near the End:

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How I’ll Remember Him:

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RIP Daddy. I love and miss you.

~ Kay

 
 

Italy — Final post — What would I have done differently?

19 Nov

Hindsight is 20/20. Don’t get me wrong; our trip was great, but there are a few things I’d do differently if doing it over or if making recommendations for someone else. Therefore, I decided to make a list in case I have the opportunity to go back or if someone wants to use our trip as a guide for his or her own.

  • I would have postponed the trip until after my dad’s death. Of course. we didn’t realize it was imminent. We had cancelled it the prior year due to the illness and eventual death of Hubby’s mom. Looking back, I think I would have been happier had we postponed it again. But be careful with this one, because there’s always something, some reason you can find not to go. I’m talking life and death.
  • I liked the method of travel we chose with a travel company booking hotels, trains, and transfers. However, if we go back, I think I’d want a car to drive between cities to explore the countryside.
  • Six days in Rome was too much (for me). I would have done another out of town excursion.
  • I loved northern Italy and with three weeks, you really have to either choose northern or southern — you can’t do it all. I would, however like to see the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. We have access to a house in Sicily. How cool would it be to go there for a month or so? Maybe when we retire.
  • I love all of the movies set in Rome and saw many of the settings while there. I’d like to see more.
  • I would have packed less, but that’s true of almost every trip I’ve ever taken. When will I learn?
  • I think I might have kept a journal. I’m not good at journaling (odd for a writer) but I find a year later I’m fuzzy on a lot of the facts. Did this happen in Florence or Venice? What was the name of the place where such and such was? You probably picked up that I offered little history about specific sites and not even that many specific sites for that matter. We saw plenty, but your can get that information from a guidebook. You can’t get our impressions from a guidebook.
  • Maybe I’d make an effort to learn a little more of the language (though it was easy enough to communicate without knowing any). It would be a good growth opportunity for me.
  • Although I’d been told Rome wasn’t safe, I felt safe, certainly as safe or safer than in large American cities. I wouldn’t have been so concerned about this.
  • We didn’t have a problem but, you don’t want to get involved with the police in Italy, especially Rome. If you do, try to get the embassy engaged immediately. It’s best to stay out of trouble.
  • I would have catalogued my photos better, stayed in touch with the amazing people we met, written my blog posts soon after returning so I’d have a more accurate travelog of our trip
  • I would have gotten a phone/text plan so I wouldn’t have felt so isolated from home. I know that’s the purpose of a vacation, but in the world today we are so accustomed to being connected. I wouldn’t have to take every call. I’d just have access should I need it.
  • Start planning the next trip — oh, I think I did that!  :-)

~ Kay

 

 

 
 

Day trip to Switzerland

17 Nov

We took a day trip to Switzerland and, except that the driver drove 80 mph in the middle of curvy mountain roads, it was one of most fun days of the trip.

The trip was set up by Kate, our local host for Stresa. We split the cost with the other two couples left in our “group” and got a private vehicle and driver. We called him Mario. He knew the roads well, but his driving scared the living daylights out of all of us.

He drove us across the border. Then we took a train so we could catch another train to go up the Matterhorn Railway to a peak where we could almost see the Matterhorn. We needed Swiss clock accuracy to make all of our connections. If it’d been just a little less cloudy…

It didn’t matter, the trip up the mountain afforded us awesome views and once we got to the top it was as though we were on top of the world.

Impressions:

  • Switzerland might be right next to Italy as the crow flies, but the roads don’t go like crows. They are curvy, mountainous, and scary. The trip took a couple of hours.
  • While Italians were very welcoming and polite, the Swiss were downright rude.
  • It was difficult to find a place to eat because things closed during midday then opened later — we ended up eating at a McDonalds. This was true of shops too. We also found some of this in Italy, especially in the more rural areas. Wouldn’t you think they’d stay open during peak times to attract tourists? Oh well, that’s just my logic.
  • Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen
  • We hadn’t planned this outing, so we layered pretty much all the clothes we’d taken for warmth. We found a shop in Stresa for scarves, gloves and hats, which we didn’t need. There was snow and it was cold, but it didn’t feel cold. Maybe it was the excitement.
  • Switzerland is very expensive

 

At the top:

That's the Matterhorn you can almost see in the background

That’s the Matterhorn you can almost see in the background

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Kate, our host and guide

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Other Pictures

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About the only place open for lunch was McDonalds. It cost almost $40 US for three of us. This is the whole crew except Kate, the guide who took the picture…actually she took about 30 because my iPad didn’t “click”.

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After a hair-raising drive back to our hotel, our 12-hour field trip concluded. The pictures don’t do it justice. Switzerland was breathtakingly beautiful.

Recommendations:

  • Buy some Swiss Army knives (when in Rome…) It was one of the most popular souvenirs we purchased. Tip: be sure to pack in your luggage as you can’t carry though customs.
  • If you think you might go to Switzerland, pack some warm socks, gloves, and a scarf. You can layer other clothes to get by for a day.

 

 Final views from our room:

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Canceling Milan and staying a few extra days in Stresa gave us the opportunity to visit Switzerland and have some real down time before returning home. The perfect end to our almost three weeks in Italy. In my next and final post in this series, I’ll tell you what I would’ve done differently.

~Kay

 
 

Lake Maggiore in Stresa

14 Nov

Leaving Venice was sad for several reasons. It was my favorite city for one thing, but we also had to say goodbye to our new friends, John and Beth who were returning to home. I think I remember they were taking a water taxi to the airport, but I could be wrong. If not, how cool is that? We had a great time with them, and really thought we’d stay in touch. Greg and John have e-mailed a few times, but I dropped out of the communication world when I returned home to find Daddy so ill and never reestablished the relationships I meant to keep from the trip. I offer amends to them and to our travel partners for the rest of the trip.

The group dwindled after Venice and there were only three couples left. The other two were traveling together. It was a brother and sister (a little older than us) and their spouses. They’d traveled together a lot and had their routine down, but we jumped in the middle of it, and they were very welcoming.

From Venice we went to Milan then transferred to Stresa near Baveno, small villages in the uppermost tip of Italy on Lake Maggiore. I’d heard of Lake Como, but not Lake Maggiore, but I can’t imagine a more beautiful and relaxing place, and it was just what I needed. It was where I discovered how ill Daddy was and that he was having surgery. We’d planned to return to Milan for our final three days, but Milan is a big city and after relaxing at Lake Maggiore, we decided we didn’t want to return to the hustle bustle of a large city even though we had non refundable tickets to see the Lord’s Supper painting.

Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy. It is in the north west part of the country across the border from Switzerland. The lake was formed by two glaciers and is surrounded by pictorial hills. The pink granite from Baveno has been used in structures from Paris to Bangkok. Around the lake, Mediterranean species such as lemon, olive and bay will survive and the many gardens flourish with flowers like camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and trees like magnolias. The lake holds a number of freshwater fish including perch, pike, freshwater cod,, whitefish, and eels (uck).

Strata was known for tourism in the early 1900’s and built several luxury hotels. It is close enough to ski areas to also be a draw for that sport. After World War II, Stresa hosted the first ever Miss Italia contest in 1946 at the Hotel Regina Palace and hosted the Miss Universe Italian final in 2002. With the addition of three more grand four star hotels, Stresa’s is known as a world class resort town. However, when we were there, it wasn’t crowded. In fact, the hotel where we were booked closed “for the season” so we were moved to another 4-star hotel and to compensate us for our inconvenience, we our rooms were upgraded. We had balconies with magnificent views.

Our hotel was huge, though it didn’t have a big feel because it wasn’t a high-rise–it just sprawled over several acres. We witnessed a wedding. There was both a fabulous indoor pool and outdoor pool (and I mean fabulous) and the spa area was to die for. We got massages while we were there and except for the three mile hike (yes, a slight exaggeration), it was heavenly. The restaurants were small and quaint and this is something I don’t think I’ve mentioned before about Italian restaurants. Unlike American restaurants, they don’t rush you to turn tables. In fact, that wait for you to signal them to ask for a menu, to order, to bring your check — they don’t seem to care if you stay there all night. At first it was a bit frustrating…the waiting. But once we got with the flow and understood that was the culture (and learned to relax into their system, it was pretty nice. So be prepared when you go out to eat. If you want a quick meal, go to McDonald’s. If you go to a real restaurant, it will most likely take a while, but will be worth it.

I think we were in Strata when Greg asked what something on the menu was (after he’d ordered and eaten it). We were in a small local restaurant and waitress didn’t speak English. She pantomimed pouring watering into a large pot, adding the ingredient and constantly stirring. The best we could figure it was the Italian version of grits. We weren’t getting it, so she went to the kitchen and brought out the large box and it was indeed something similar to grits. It was experiences like that which were priceless.

I wish I could explain how beautiful Lake Maggiore and this region is, but words fail me. It is opulent but not ostentatious. You are away from the city so the people are a different breed. The pace was slower and along with Hana (Hawaii) and Banff (Canada) it ranks as one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Maybe some photos can give you an idea of why it was pretty close to Heaven.

 

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View from our room

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Another angle

 

Our room

 

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These pictures are from an opulent summer home off the cost of Stresa. We could see it from our room and take a ferry there.

Out to visit the summer home on an island just off the coast

Summer home – WOW

The gardens were fabulous

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Hubby really got into posing like status

Hubby really got into posing like status

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One of my favorite photos from entire trip — in Stresa looking over Lake Maggiore. Note tennis shoes!

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We found out Daddy’s cancer was back while in this heavenly place a world away from the trauma of what he was facing. As I said earlier, we decided to forgo our trip to Milan and spend the rest of our vacation here where we could relax and meditate and be in a more spiritual place. I was able to Skype with my aunt to keep up with what was going on and even say hello to Daddy, though he was out of it for the most part.

While here we took a day trip with the other two couples and our guide to Switzerland. It was a great diversion, and I had to add it to my most beautiful places I’ve been list. That’s the next post.

Til then

~Kay

 
 

Venice — Where beauty and culture meet

12 Nov

Of all the major cities we visited during our trip, Venice was my favorite. We only missed George Clooney’s wedding by a year.

Venice is a city of over 100 small islands, 150 canals or channels and over 400 bridges — which means there is lots of water. In fact, Venice uses the many canals as streets.

There aren’t motorized vehicles in the historical district, not even delivery trucks. Deliveries arrive by barge on the canal. People walk or use water taxis, or Vaporetto (public water buses), or Traghetto (public gondola to cross the Grand Canal between bridges) or Gondolas, which are really just tourist traps and very overpriced and overrated. OK, yes we did one and the guy didn’t even sing. Hubby did (of course) to the delight of all the other gondola passengers in the vicinity.

The Grand Canal splits the City and if you don’t have to cross it, you probably won’t get too lost, but our hotel was on one side of it and most of the things we wanted to do were on the other side. It wasn’t far, but there are a limited number of bridges which cross the Grand Canal. Finding them was a challenge. We walked miles (yes, on cobblestone) looking for a bridge to get us back to our hotel our first night there. The bummer was there was no way to admit we were lost (as in other cities), hail a cab, and take the easy way out. We were following our new friend John who’d been there once thirty years ago and thought he knew where we were going. We were ready to kill him when we finally got back to the hotel.

On the flip side, we saw lots of alleys and places we probably would not have explored otherwise.

I can’t find my notes from the tour packet, so I’m going entirely on memory here.

Impressions:

  • Wow! Beautiful! Romantic!
  • You really, really need good shoes here because you’ll walk for miles. The pace is slower and there are a lot of sidewalk cafes to stop and have coffee or gelato or some of the delicious pastries that adorn many of the storefronts.
  • Venice is beautiful and very romantic with its bridges, water and old buildings. Some of the pictures we took with our iPhone (our camera had broken by then) looked like postcards
  • Venice is small in comparison to Rome and Florence so it is feasible to walk everywhere–if you can just remember your route back. If not, retracing your steps is frustrating and tiring.
  • The signs are actually pretty good, once you learn the signage system
  • The culture of Florence extends to Venice in the architecture and art
  • Because of the water and the challenge of getting goods to stores, things are done on a smaller scale
  • You can find fabulous Murano glass or Burano lace. Good buys on jewelry.
  • Venice is a fun city — think extended Carnevale (Mardi gras)

 

They took us to a glass blowing demonstration and to the island Burano where lace is made. We ran into our friend from North Carolina on the trip to Burano and had lunch with her.

Boat to island

Boat to island

Our friend from NC who we kept seeing in Italy

Our friend Nancy from NC who we kept seeing in Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

At dinner that night, we were eating with our new pals near our hotel. Our table was near the window and, I swear, Nancy popped up in the window like a puppet. I was beginning to think she was like Endora from Bewitched. We loved having her around, but she showed up when we least expected her.  Our itineraries split the next day so we didn’t see her again until after we returned home.

We’d been told to look for a violinist in Venice. We knew he played on a sidewalk in front of a restaurant on the main square and that he was bald. We found him one night, but my phone had no charge to make a picture. The next day I snapped this one from afar. If you get out your magnifying glass you might see his bald head.

Believe it or not -- the violist. I'd have gotten closer, but my feet, even in tennis shoes were killing me!

Believe it or not — the violist. I’d have gotten closer, but my feet, even in tennis shoes were killing me!

We would have completely missed visiting a quaint section of the city had it not been for Beth. She is Jewish (John’s Catholic) and she wanted to go the Jewish Ghetto. It wasn’t far from our hotel. We found some amazing souvenirs in this historic area.

Beth and me

Kay and Beth at the waterfront

Greg and John -- two peas in a pod

Greg and John — two peas in a pod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Nashville friend, Erica was just getting her business, Pastry Babies off the ground so it seemed appropriate to stop and send her a photo of exceptional bakery displays. If they happened to have samples, we certainly accepted–research for Erica, of course. BTW, Erica (and hubby Dale) now have displays that are similar to these in places like Whole Foods. So proud of them!

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Recommendations:

  • I can’t say it enough — good walking shoes. By now you might need band-aids or mole skin.
  • Go to the island of Burano where they make burono lace. It’s a short boat ride away and a nice place for lunch.
  • If time permits, visit the Murano glass factory. If not, see if you can find a glass blowing demonstration. At a minimum, BUY some Murano glass. You can find inexpensive pieces that are the real thing.
  • OK, Go for a gondola ride–you’re a tourist after all. But be aware, the price is negotiable.
  • Find the bald violinist at the restaurant on the edge of the big square at the waterfront. He’s at the upscale restaurant across from the big clock. Someone told us to look for him. It was so vague I thought we’d never find him, but it was worth the search. He was amazing
  • Venice is on the water, so keep a jacket handy even if it seems to be warm
  • Take lots of pictures — this place is such a photo op waiting to happen
  • Take an evening stroll with your honey (but drop bread crumbs, so you can find your way back)
  • Now with GPS, the whole getting lost thing, might not be an issue, but I wasn’t using my data plan, so I did’t have access to my GPS. Another reason to check that out with your mobile provider!

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So sad to say goodbye to Venice.

~ Kay

 
 

Florence — City of Culture & Fun

10 Nov

Frankly, Rome was a bit much for me. I was overwhelmed much of time and found it difficult to comprehend its vastness. I was relieved when we left by high speed train to Florence.

We traveled through the Tuscany Region. I don’t know what I expected–to drink in the vineyards as we zoomed by or maybe a glimpse of Pisa, I suppose. But we went through lots of tunnels, and it was difficult to identify much of anything during our nonstop, quick trip.

relaxing trip

relaxing trip

 

Florence — I loved it!

My Impressions:

  • Florence is also old, but less intimidating than Rome
  • Florence was a journey into the Renaissance
  • To me, Rome seemed decedent while Florence seemed to have class and dignity
  • Florence felt safer than Rome although Rome didn’t feel unsafe
  • The streets were still cobblestone, and there were still crazy girls wearing high heels. Most sensible tourist stuck to sneakers.
  • Florence is based on a series of squares of piazzas. The three most famous are Cathedral Square, Signoria Square and Santa Croce Square. Those are the “happening places.”
  • Florence is the place to shop: leather, leather and more leather, jewelry, fine lace, linens…
  • Florence had some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen: intricate work, granite, marble, semi-precious stones
  • The art was amazing (paints, tapestries, and sculptures) by masters such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello, Leonardo de Vinci, Giotto, Francesca, Botticelli, Faffaello, Tiaiano, Caravaggio…the list goes on and on
  • David (by Michelangelo) is housed in the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. Too bad they don’t allow photos. It is just one piece of his work displayed there.
  • All types of food displays(confectionaries, breads, local cuisine) kept my mouth watering
  • Cool, unexpected things appeared when lease expected: a parade, Pinocchio, street art
  • There were silly traditions/superstitions like rubbing a boar’s nose for good luck

Did Hubby lie???

 

Art Everywhere -- even on the street!

Art Everywhere — even on the street!

 

 

 

 

 

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A mystical place

A mystical place

Hubby or David? At least he has his clothes on!

Hubby or David? At least he has his clothes on!

 

A couple of funny stories

We knew a business acquaintance would be in Italy the same time as us. In fact, Hubby had spoken at a conference she sponsored in North Carolina the weekend before we left town on Monday. We returned home from NC on Sunday, repacked and headed out. She wasn’t leaving until later in the week and was doing the tour bus thing. When we compared itineraries it looked like we’d intersect in Venice, so we planned to hook up for dinner there. But while we were in a leather store in Florence (I was in front of Hubby), she came in and put her hands on his shoulders. He knew I was in front of him and our new friends, John and Beth, were elsewhere for the afternoon, so it freaked him out a little. But when he turned around, there was Nancy. We joined her and some of her tour friends for coffee. The next day in the bathroom at the Academy of Fine Arts I heard someone call my name and say, “Wait for me.” Again, I knew my friend had already left the restroom so was there another Kay? Nope! It was Nancy. We were viewing David at the same time.

When Hubby was standing in line to buy tickets for a museum we really wanted to see. I was tired (of course) and wanted to do some yoga stretches on one of the benches while he waited to get our tickets. I really wanted to take a nap but knew others probably wanted to use the bench too so I did stretches upright. Sure enough an older couple, nicely dressed, obviously American, sat down at the other end of the bench. They were deep in conversation.

He: I don’t think we have time to stand in line, get tickets, see the museum and get back to our tour bus on time.

She: But I really want to see this Museum. Why don’t you stand in line and I’ll wait for you? We can speed walk through it. (I knew her game)

He: Why don’t I not get tickets and we not go in, and we just say we we did?

I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud.

HE (obviously embarrassed): Oh, you must be American.

I told them I was from Nashville and that my husband was almost at the front of the line. If they really wanted tickets, I could ask him to buy two more. They decided, the “just tell them we did” strategy worked for both of them. As it turned out the lady was the mother-in-law of the then head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Small world!

For me Rome and Florence were night and day, and I adored Florence. I had more fun there, I think because our activities were so varied. We never knew what would be around the next corner and that was exciting. We were getting to know our new friends John and Beth and we were spending time with our friend from North Carolina, Nancy.

Recommendations:

  • Buy something leather — hubby bought a leather bomber jacket and I got a beautiful red leather coat. They didn’t have the coat I liked in red, so they custom made one and shipped it to me. The merchant we purchased our coats from closed his shop, took us to his family’s factory down the street (4th generation) where we saw the process from start to finish. We chose him because he’d married an Alabama girl. (He went to school at Miami of Ohio.) If you don’t want (or need) a coat, perhaps some gloves. Seriously, this is the softest leather I’ve ever worn.
  • Don’t miss the Academy of Fine Arts to see David and some of Michelangelo’s other work
  • If you’re up for a hike, climb the interior staircase of the Cathedral Dome, the city’s most dominant architectural feature, constructed between 1418 and 1436. I confess. I didn’t do this.
  • Visit the Church of Santa Croce of the 13th century. This basilica is Gothic in style and holds the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo. This was fascinating.
  • Eat outdoors on one of the squares
  • Try homemade gelato
  • Find the boar’s snout and rub it’s nose for good luck — don’t know why. Our friends from home told us to do it so we did. If they told us to jump off a bridge would we? I hope not

 

Hubby wanted good luck, too!

Hubby wanted good luck, too!

Rubbing the boar's snout for good luck

Rubbing the boar’s snout for good luck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leather shopping!

Leather shopping!

Next up — Venice. Believe it or not, it just kept getting better and better.

~ Kay

 
 

Italy — Ah la Delicious

07 Nov

In Italy it’s all about the food. Well, not really. There’s the history, the culture, the art, the romance…but for today’s post it IS all about the food.

We decided at the last minute to see if we could find a cooking class to take. We found a “school” owned by the owner of the famous restaurant That’s Amouri. He offered classes at the restaurant, at another location in Rome and at his country villa about an hour outside of Rome. Well, of course I wanted the villa experience.

I called and they had two spots for the next day. We’d be joining three other ladies.

Monica, the chef who taught us (not the restaurant owner) picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the villa of about fifty people. There was a church that held ten. On the way we planned our menu.

Quaint buildings

Quaint buildings

Village

Village

Village

Village

Village

Village

Village of 50

Village of 50

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we arrived we stopped by the village meat market, the vegetable market, and the general market. We clipped herbs from yards as we climbed a small mountain to the chef’s country home. It’s interesting to note that although we made pasta from scratch there was a full wall of boxed pasta for sell in the general store.

We snitched herbs where we could find them

We snitched herbs where we could find them

Fruit Markit

Fruit Markit

GARLIC -- lots of garlic

GARLIC — lots of garlic

Only kind of tomatoes to buy for sauces

Only kind of tomatoes to buy for sauces

Veggie Market -- Each of these was a separate (small) market

Veggie Market — Each of these was a separate (small) market

Butcher

Butcher

Meat Market

Meat Market

Wall of pasta

Wall of pasta

Village Climb

Village Climb

on the walk to the villa

on the walk to the villa

Path to villa

Path to villa

walking to the villa

walking to the villa

village shot

village shot

Greg under an olive tree. He LOVES olives

Greg under an olive tree. He LOVES olives

Looking up at the villa

Looking up at the villa

finally at the top

finally at the top

front door of villa

front door of villa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we toured the villa, we met the sous chef, got our aprons and got down to work.

Stove

Stove

living room

living room

dining room

dining room

kitchen island

kitchen island

We were hungry so our first item of business was to make a small pizza and some bruschetta.  It was the best bruschetta we had on the trip and we know this for a fact because we ordered it everywhere we went from there on out. It was amazingly simply to make.

Pizza

Pizza

2013-10-03 11.56.32

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By this time the wine had come out. Only Hubby didn’t drink, but his share was consumed by the rest of the group.

We made three types of pasta complete with sauces. I did ravioli. It’s harder than you might think getting the stuffing just right.

2013-10-03 12.16.58 2013-10-03 12.59.36

pasta in process

pasta in process

long pasta

long pasta

3 types of homemade pasta

3 types of homemade pasta

All of the homemade pasta we made -- 3 types

All of the homemade pasta we made — 3 types

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also did two meats, stuffed tomatoes, some kind of peach dessert and probably something else. Monica and her sous chef served us at the beautiful dining room table overlooking the village. By the middle of the second course I was stuffed, but managed to try a bit of everything and all was delicious.

Pasta Dish

Pasta Dish

Pasta Dish I worked on

Pasta Dish I worked on

Pasta Dish

Pasta Dish

meat -- lamb and beef I think -- stuffed tomatoes

meat — lamb and beef I think — stuffed tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 2013-10-05 22.58.57

The wine continued to flow and the conversation loosened up. We learned of the details of Australian’s husband’s affair and her plans for a five-week European vacation to console herself. The other two ladies were long-time friends who lived in different cities (Denver and somewhere in Canada, I think) and who only saw each other every couple of years. They kept us in stitches. I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard.

It was a tad difficult walking down the cobblestone street to the van and even harder getting in the van which was parked on an incline. It took all of us to get one woman in. I was a bit concerned about Monica driving us back (she had partook of the wine as well) but we made it fine.

It may have been the best meal of the trip. When we got to our hotel, we lay down to take a nap and slept through the night.

It was a great adventure and I highly recommend it! We did this the day before we met our new friends John and Beth. The only thing that could have made it better would have been having them with us.

~Kay

 

 
 

When in Rome…

04 Nov

We spent our first day acclimating to Rome and woke up on Day Two ready to go. We put on our comfortable shoes and met our tour guide, Roberto, in the hotel lobby. (I have his card if anyone wants his information.)

We did a six hour tour and got an overall impression of the city. He spoke excellent English and, more importantly, was a safe driver.

There’s no way I can tell you everything we saw that day.

I’ll give you some of my impressions:

  • Rome is OLD.
  • There’s lots of traffic and no apparent lanes. It was pretty scary to watch.
  • The streets are cobblestone and uneven.
  • Though we saw many young women in high, high heels, I don’t understand how they didn’t break their necks. Take your sneakers.
  • Even after the above notations we did a Segway tour, but we did it on a Saturday night and stuck mainly to alleys and side streets. Segways are jarring on smooth surfaces–this was brutal. We could barely move the next day.
  • The capitol is shaped like a birthday cake and a great landmark — It’s near the Colosseum. You can climb to the top if you can find the stairs.
  • There’s hardly any green space inside the walls of Rome. It’s all stone, much of it pilfered from other places we learned.
  • There are many, many churches. We went in most of them (or so it seemed)
  • Italy is tourist friendly. They love Americans and go out of their way to accommodate us.
  • Vatican City which is a separate entity from Rome and  has its own police department, fire department, even its own embassy.
  • Things are more expensive in Vatican City.
  • There are no sky scrapers — nothing can be taller than the tallest building at Vatican City, the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. Vatican City is located on a hill.

 

After our “big-picture” tour, we felt confident enough the next day to venture out on our own, returning to several places we’d visited only briefly the prior day.

We started with a tour of the Colosseum. I recommend the tour because it will take you places you can’t go on a general admission ticket. But be ready to climb some stairs. This place is huge (I mean really big). I won’t pretend that I remember all of the history surrounding this ruin. It was overwhelming. We had a nice lunch across the street at an outdoor cafe then headed to the Vatican. Tip: Early afternoon is a good time to go to the Vatican if you don’t have advance tickets. We didn’t have to wait in line. However, The Vatican is a whole city and one could spend a week just touring it. I don’t recommend doing it and the Colosseum on the same day. We decided to do a “walk-thru” and absorb what we could. This turned out to be a good plan because we went back on a guided tour as a part of our Monograms package.

The Vatican is amazing. It’s where we got our first taste of Michelangelo’s unbelievable talent and skill. The Sistine Chapel is beautiful. Tip: take binoculars to look at the detail in the ceiling.

In St. Peters Basilica (part of the Sistine Chapel) is the PIETA, Michelangelo’s sculpture of Mary holding the adult Jesus after he’d been crucified. Unfortunately, some nut got went crazy and broke off Mary’s nose a while back. (Don’t worry it was repaired.) Now, however, the PIETA is behind a roped off area and must be viewed from afar. Even so, the detail is amazing. When Hubby made his way to the front of the line (with his binoculars) he saw an old man in a wheelchair next to him who was obviously moved by the piece. (Of course everyone was.) But, this old man, his hands trembling, looked like he needed to connect to it. In spite of the language barrier, Hubby loaned him the binoculars and the man gazed at the statue for several minutes. When he brought them from his eyes, tears streamed down the sides of his face. Hubby also had tears, not only from the beauty of the statue but from the reaction of the gentleman who was so appreciative of the use of the binoculars. Unfortunately for me, I was on a bench somewhere resting my feet…turns out hard marble is as rough on them as cobblestone and I was pooped.

We got to return with our tour group on a second trip through, this time with a guided tour. Our guide was a history professor. This was our first event with “the group” people on the same Monograms itinerary as us. It wasn’t a large group–probably less than twenty–and we almost immediately gravitated toward a cool couple from Pennsylvania, John and Beth, who became our travel buddies for the rest of the trip. Both were physicians about our age. It was fun having them to hang out with part of the time. John, a hand surgeon, said the veins on the hands of the PIETA looked real enough he thought he could start an IV. I didn’t miss the sculpture the second time around!

TIP: If you purchase items in the Vatican gift shop, you can leave them there to be “blessed” over St. Peter’s tomb and delivered to your hotel. We aren’t Catholic, but we did some significant Christmas shopping there.

Other things I recommend to do when in Rome:

  • Get lost is a residential neighborhood. Then find a restaurant where the “locals” eat. Great experience, especially if they don’t speak English.
  • Our favorite restaurant was That’s Amorie which was owned by the guy who ran the cooking class we took.
  • I can’t say this enough — wear comfortable, substantial shoes. Forget fashion. If that’s important, wear good shoes and just don’t let anyone take pictures of your feet. It’s probably a smart idea to rotate two pairs of shoes.
  • Tell a waiter to bring you something he thinks you’ll like–that’s not on the menu. Chat for a few minutes and tell him any preferences you have, and you might end up with your best dish of the trip.
  • Cab drivers don’t expect to be tipped. If you tip them they are very appreciative.
  • We went to a monastery for evening prayers, and I think they have them every night at sunset. There is a large black door on the grounds (outside stone wall) where you can look through a keyhole and see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the highest point in Vatican City.  The place is kind of remote so getting a cab back to our hotel was a challenge.
  • Try to see the Pope — it’s way cool.
  • Take a cooking class. That was one of my favorite things of the whole trip and the subject of my next post. It will include yummy pictures of the food we made.

~ Kay

Random shots from Rome

2013-10-05 18.12.33 2013-10-04 15.34.17 2013-10-04 12.21.38 2013-10-04 12.22.03 2013-10-04 12.19.26 2013-10-04 12.15.35 2013-10-04 11.32.40 2013-10-04 11.57.00