Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Well here I am, welcomed by 6 inches of snow and still going. It was an eventful trip, starting with an interpretation appreciation event followed by friends staying out too late, drinking too much and then an early 6am work day followed by cleaning, packing, flying, driving a small nap then playing, plowing, visiting, knitting, eating, tromping...etc. Let me back up just a bit...packed and ready to go my friend Cindy and I went out for fish and chips and then she dropped me off at the airport. Getting through check in was uneventful and the line through security was pretty much in holiday style; long and cheery! I got up to the belt and started "the strip." Off with the coat, off with the shoes, off with the belt (miss please take off ALL your coats) out with the laptop, three bins later I walked through the metal detector and waited for my stuff only to find that I was missing my suitcase. It was still sitting on the other end of the belt where I had left it on the floor. That stopped everything! "Red Alert on belt 3!" I was as red as their alert! All the belts were frozen and the whole long line was craning their necks to see what had stopped their holiday progress. After thoroughly going through my stuff, they called an "all green" and the belts started up again. I got 'redressed' and headed to my gate. I was definitely on an Alaskan flight, sitting at the gate there wasn't an empty seat in sight and many families were spread out on the floor having picnics in their parkas and bunny boots. The conversation was very different than you would hear on the typical Portland street corner. Connections were made the tales got taller with every telling. I enjoyed hearing names and places I knew so well. I was headed home. Then they started to board. The poor stewardess had to ask numerous times for people to sit down and wait their turn. There was no explaining to them that there was a boarding process. They continued to mob until they just let us on the plane. I think we were all just ready to go home. I slept most of the way and upon arriving, there was my mom, next to the cutest Athabaskan family in their kuspuks and furs. "Welcome home JEN!!!" After grabbing my luggage, dad pulled up in his one ton work truck pulling the 28 foot insulation trailer, half full of insulation and mom's mini cooper. While I was "sleeping" a blizzard had started in Anchorage and mom was in doing Christmas shopping, not wanting to plow home in the mini, dad had picked her up and took her to Cattleman's for dinner. It took us almost an hour and a half to drive the 45 miles home. The ditches looked like parking lots, minus the random over turned car. Eventually I crawled in bed after kissing my sweet sleeping nieces...Ahhh! It's good to be home!

I awoke to a big breakfast of home made sourdough cinnamon rolls and sausage! It was AWESOME!!! Then Kara, Lu and I went to the bank and saw Matt and Myrna and Steve...it was like old home week, can't go anywhere without see folks I love and adore! Then Kara and I went shopping at Target. Afterwards I went home with the girls for naps and to start a knitting project for Christmas while she went to the dentist. Eventually mom and I got the kids up and stuffed them in snow suits, hats and boots, and gloves, and we stuffed them all into the mini and drove down to Cameran. What were we doing? Why "trudging" of course! We trudged through the 2 feet of fresh snow, up to Emma's elbows!, looking for the perfect Christmas tree. We shook the snow off trees down peoples necks, made snow angels, caught snow in our mouths, and eventually found a tree that only had one bald side. Rusty was a good sport as I posed pictures and video ops. And we trudged back out with a 16 footer. It was a good day, arriving home, dad asked if I'd go "help" him plow some folks out, so I jumped in the truck and away we went. I visited while he plowed out the driveways, a few times I shoveled out the tricky hard to get spots, but all in all we got a lot done, though the snow was still coming down pretty hard. We got caught by a customer and had to go dig for C's in a snow bank, dad showed me his new shop and we got home just in time to catch the end of a BBQ rib dinner. Such a good day! So good to be home!


I got up early and went with mom to her dentist appointment. It was still snowing very hard. After I dropped my computer off at Renaissance to be worked on since it crashed the night before. We hit Fred Meyers for Christmas cookie fixin's then started to plow our way home. The windshield wipers kept freezing up and the snow was thick and the roads were disappearing under all the snow, three lanes became one and ditches were piling up with vehicles again. We missed our exit and couldn't keep the window from icing up long enough to get off the highway. It was the scariest ride I've had in a VERY long time. We were both VERY glad to be home and stayed there the rest of the day baking Christmas cookies, playing with kiddos, knitting and sitting by the fire. Watching the snow come down from inside a warm house is so much better than plowing blindly through a blizzard in a mini cooper! That evening we decorated the tree, ran out of lights so dad went out for more lights. We hung lights on the porch at 5 below zero and decorated the tree. Matt and Kaylee dropped in for a visit and all was well with my world. I went to bed feeling safe a cozy surrounded by love and Christmas lights.


This day was prep day for my book signing events on Friday and Saturday. I still wasn't too keen on driving as the snow was still coming down fairly consistantly so I asked Kara if she wouldn't chauffeur me around. We went to Naomi's house to visit. Sara Brown and her three kids were there so we had a nice visit and the 9 children had a great time playing in the boys bedroom. Reminded me of days gone by when we were young and went a visiting. After that, we went to Palmer and I met with the Fireside Bookstore staff and ironed out details for my event. Leaving there we drove to "Mc Jr. with a star" for play land and lunch time. We pounded out the plan for the rest of the day and headed off to pick up Eli from school. Up at Pandemonium I met Shannon and ironed out details for my second event and then went to Just Imagine Toys with 4 kids! Yes we are insane, it was so fun! I also got to see Shelly and her twins which is a big reason I go there every year. The kids were so good except when it was time to go, it was hard to tear ourselves away from all the wonderful toys. Finally we came home to find that the "other women' had been busy making candy all day! After dinner I sat down and finished off two of my leggings, 4 to go!


Today was Eli's pizza party.It had stopped snowing! We were all moving really slow so we had a lazy morning and eventually made it to Pizza Hut to celebrate their class reading over 100 books! Arriving back at school, we saw Logan Snyder (8th grader, facebook and family friend of mine) who was showing off his lynx he had shot the night before up in Tok. Only in Alaska...then Kara and I shopped for stuff for my signing table, now I'm official with a receipt book and guest book! Eli and I sat in these children sized sofa chairs while Kara ran around the store with an employee looking for hooks (or something like that) after gathering everything on our random list we headed home so I could get ready for my book signing. Fireside Books is a quaint little store in old town Palmer with both new and used books. Joy and Elias Davidson were my first customers. It was so fun to hold Elias for the first time, he was SO little!!! and warm. Myrna and Steve Reynolds came by, always good to see them and then Betty Bair, one of my biggest fans, stopped in, not to mention my mom, dad, nana and Kaylee. We had a great time chit chatting and catching up...and basically we FILLED the store. Sold 4 books too! Unfortunately I was reading the clock on my phone (still set to Oregon time) and we all left a half hour early. Kaylee and I headed to Tokyo for sushi and then home again to warm up by the fire. It was so good to spend some quality time with her catching up and gaggling like geese...girls! We stayed up late giggling about guys then slept in late...so nice to be on vacation!


We woke up to the shouts of the kids screaming that the lights were out...yep, power was out all over town. We lit some candles and went back to sleep. Lu showed up, not being able to work and the fact that the heat wasn't on at the salon and it was cooling quickly, came home to see if we had power or at least a fire lit. The power came on as she drove up but everything from Fred Meyers on was still out so she stayed awhile. I, with a lot of directions from Kara, made french toast and bacon. Yumminess!!! After cleaning up I dropped Kaylee off and ran home to get ready for the second signing event. I went early to have lunch with Betty Bair, mom and nana. Barely got my food and people were there ready to buy! And that was just the beginning of a long line of love poured out on me from my community. It was SO awesome, I can't even explain it. I sat next to this author who had self published her book and I gotta tell you, after hearing her story, I feel very blessed with how easy I had it going through Tate Publishing. Kirsten Ekren now Mason whom I hadn't seen since high school came by, and Rebecca Buchanan with her heart full of grace. All of the Knit Wits and a few teachers, family and friends, filed in with hugs and cheers for this big event. It's really quite amazing how many people were just as, if not more excited than me, even better, most of them personally knew Granddaddy and this was a testament to how great a man he was and how loved I am in this community. We started half an hour early and went an hour and a half later than scheduled but nobody minded. It ended with the sounds of click click clicking coming between to rows of books, my dear friend Carrie Lambing, now professional photographer and dear friends Matt and Nate, had just returned from a solstice party up at the cabin, Rosy cheeked and smelling of campfire, just in time to catch me at my table. This was definitely a great way to end my most successful book signing to date. It was also Pandemonium's best book signing event to date as their highest seller had sold 18 and I had come away with 24 plus the three they decided to put on their shelf. Thank you all for your overwhelming support. I feel truly blessed!

...BTW, the day isn't over yet.

I no sooner had arrived home as Carrie Lambing called, "what are your plans for tonight?" Nothing I said, and she proposed a drive to Anchorage to see the children's choir perform. Why not? So 20 mins later we were back in her car headed to town. It was so good to have an hour to just catch up and story swap. Upon arriving at the concert though, the parking lot was rather empty and the doors locked. After a quick call to Naomi, whom I happened to know was accompanying the choir, we found out that it had been moved from 7:30 to 2pm that afternoon. I was so glad I had agreed to go along! We decided to hit up Bear's Tooth for some dinner and some Apple Ale. Just a great time with a dear friend and good food! At the end, Brandon came bounding up to the table! What a surprise to see my cousin after a year...Alaska is so small sometimes! He was just as surprised to walk in the door and find me in the dining room! It was all around a very good, very long, deliciously delightful day. Oh yeah, I got home around midnight and spent some time on skype with Jeremy in Afghanistan. He comes home TODAY for good! Safe travels my friend! Unfortunately Evie was up crying half the night with a cold so little sleep was to be had by all.


I was woken up by Rusty knocking on my door, "bus leaves in 15 mins" AHHHH!!! I couldn't find clothes, shoes, brush teeth, make up, fix bed head, fast enough. I can't believe I remembered the camera since little Ellie was going to be Mary in the nativity scene "on stage!" We were a little late to Wind break. It was so good to see Kat again (our usual waitress). Breakfast for all, lunch for me, cups full of whip cream for the kids, Christmas presents and cookies from Kat and off to church we went. It was fun to see Naomi and Joel up there leading the service and choir. Dad is looking more and more like Santa Clause with his big gray beard, only now do I notice this as he is up there singing with the choir! The 3 year olds did their nativity scene and Ellie did awesome, only almost dropped "baby Jesus" once and started them all waving at the audience. Heidi Doner was accompanying them on piano and my does she sound amazing!!! Little Liam Brown, I mean "Joseph" was right there helping "Mary" down the steps on the way out! Best part was singing harmony's with my sister while she sang the impossible counter soprano solos over the top of O, Holy Night...ahh, I do love being home. There were so many people to see, hug, and catch up with. It's always a whirlwind of faces and then we moved the conversation down to Kaladi's so second service could proceed. I got to see Swaners and Davidsons and Veenstras...oh and had the most amazing conversation with Mr. Veenstra, who, I knew was a genius and a great adventurer, but first hand got to hear about his newest plans and adventures, and the beautiful boat that is right near me in St Helens that he has been working on! We were pleasantly surprised to find we had "boats" in common. I offered to be galley cook on any of his adventures.

And now I am caught up, hopefully Aunty Barbie this keeps you entertained and satisfied, I will try to keep a better account from now on. To all of you, I hope you are well safe and sound. I can't wait to hear about all you your adventures this Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Monday

Well, I can't say it wasn't good to me. Three jobs, two canceled billable, one very long nap. Now to forage for dinner. I hear the grocery stores are not to be contended with today. This week, millions of dollars will be poured into "the perfect meal." I love almost every part of that meal...minus the stuffing. I guess me being hungry has me reminiscing of the good ol days with lots of sisters in the kitchen preparing the turkey, baking bread and pies and all sorts of goodies like green bean casserole and yams topped with marshmallows. Ahh...yes I'm hungry...OH! Not to be side tracked! There was a reason for this Monday post! I am expecting a box of books, 100 copies, to land on my door step December 11th...that is exactly 3 days before I fly home. They are $8.99 apiece. So IF you are an Oregonian wanting copies for Christmas, please let me know via my phone between now and then and I will make sure you get them before I leave! Cheers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Stellar Weekend with the Girlfriends!!!

Well this weekend proved to be rather interesting, new and different...oh yeah and tons of fun. Started with a hike on Sauvie Island with my good friend Cindy. It was a nice brisk walk and of course I had to take a picture, we kept going but couldn't find Bud Dog. We ran around clapping and calling and it wasn't till I went back to where I had taken that photo did I hear yelping from down the bank. He had dove down the steep bank after some exhilarating scent only to find that he couldn't get back up to the trail. Obviously my dog does not know his limitations! Cindy crawled through all the brambles to hand him up to me. I was very happy to have him back but now ever time he dives into the bushes my stomach lurches. Later on the trail, Misla and Buddy started chasing birds and then this little mouse that was doing it's darndest not to get stepped on but illuding all snapping jaws. It was quite the funny little scene until Buddy stepped on it. Cindy screamed, I reached down to pick it up by the tail and toss it in the bushes when it came alive again. It was just playing possum and didn't like it's tail being pulled. It jumped up and hid under my foot. The dogs just looked at me then the mouse between my feet, and me again. It was like a stare down, the mouse climbed my leg, then did circles around my leg, over my foot and eventually just decided to stay between my legs till the danger had passed. I asked Cindy to take the dogs down the trail and maybe he would head for the bushes. I tried to take a picture of him but he didn't like the flash so much...he did head for the bushes and the heavens opened up and poured buckets upon buckets on our heads. We hurried as fast as we could but the trail was flooding and our jeans were soaked to the bone within minuets. We arrived soaking wet and laughing hysterically...never has a hike at Sauvie Island been so eventful!!! I ran home dried off and got ready to go out dancing...yes I said dancing. Saamanta decided to have a spaghetti dinner at her place before hand and we all brought something. Julie, Camille, Abby, Jen F., and a few girls I didn't know, her roommates and Amy and Yvonne. Everything was so yummy! After apple pie to top it off, 7 of us headed down to Holocene. There really weren't tables to sit at, it was all dancing floors...so after grabbing a drink, they headed out to the floor...I can't tell you what it's like to see 6 of your friends not caring about anything or anyone dancing together, it's like something switched in my head, and I wanted to join them. So I did. They couldn't believe it about as much as I couldn't, after a while, I couldn't figure out why I had never gone out dancing...my sisters love it, but I never understood why. Anyway, it was a great night. I slept till almost noon! Missed my hike with Cindy but had a good time playing music "who is this" games with Jeremy online. Cindy came over and we made dinner before heading to Kennedy School to soak in the spa pool. It was still raining hard but so fun to be in hot water while it was raining big cold drops on our heads. From there I went down town to listen to a free Jazz concert with Saam's friend Alex. When he was done working we met up with some friends at Good Foot to listen to JUJUBA- 11 piece funky afrobeat and juju led by master talking drummer, nojeem lasisi (king sunny ade)!! I re-met Amy which was fun and the band was awesome! The beer was terrible and I was pretty tiered so I headed home around 1am...(second night in a row!) If you want to know what good music is going on, just ask Alex. So here it is Sunday, I'm doing laundry and trying to get caught up before the last day of a non-stop entertainment weekend! Today, maybe some waffles from the little stand down the road, and then another hike, and then meeting up with more girlfriends to watch New Moon at Lloyd Center then dinner and finishing with the pinnacle: Trans Siberian Orchastra Concert with Jacquie at the Rose Garden. This has been one crazy fun packed weekend...what's next?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Them Boots were made for walking...

I had a great weekend: lazy, relaxing, inspiring...I stayed at the Garrett's with Liam while Coleen and Pat went on a mini vacation to McMinville for wining and dining. Gus and Buddy were very entertaining since they are always playing tug of war or wrestling each other to the floor. I caught up with friends online and watched movies and the history channel with Liam; Unfortunately, while we weren't looking, Gus ate my leather shoes and that left me in desperate need for some work shoes. I woke up Sunday morning uninspired to go shopping but my dear Aunt Coleen had just gotten home and was about to put on something a little more comfortable when I suggested a shoe shopping trip...her eyes lit up and her face glowed...shoes? really? I love shoes! Let's go! So we started out on our little adventure. We stopped at my house to show her the new pad and then headed to the mall. This shoe shopping adventure was a whole new experience for me. Boots are obviously the in thing because first stop was Macy's and I swear they had over 60 kinds to choose from ranging everywhere from $80 to $400. After grabbing some knee socks to purchase and try on boots with, Coleen started picking up boots and carrying them around so I followed suit. Soon we had 6 pairs, and the trying began. The lady measured my foot since I had no clue what size except in European sizes and she didn't know how to translate "40" (size 9.5 btw). One pair was okay but mostly it was a no go. Next stop (Cinnabon) JC Penny's and it was mostly a no go too. Three more stores later I was ready to quit. It was obvious that boots were made for looks and not comfort and I wasn't about to pay an arm and a leg for shoes that are going to hurt. Right before we hit Nordy's, we stopped at Shoe Mill and the gentleman there too me back to when I was a kid and we used to go shopping once a year for THAT pair of shoes. They seat you and ask questions about your feet, put the metal measuring unit under your foot and have you stand up, run to the back to find your size, come back and sit on a stool and unpack the shoes carefully and methodically then gently lift your foot into the shoe and any amount of effort on your part is phoo phooyed. First pair was horrible, second two pair fit like a glove and felt like they were made for me. They had support in the arch and were tall and no heel and I felt like a million bucks in them. I went for the pair that would look better with skirts. Brown riding boots-triumph! I wore them today and I must say I got a lot of looks, "she's got legs" went through more than one mind today. It was a very blustery day but I stayed nice and toasty in my boots and knee socks despite my choice of skirt rather than pants. They do need broken in though, my little pinky toes are complaining tonight but I'm content with my riding boots that were made for walkin'!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eagle Creek for Veterans Day

It was a great day, and after wishing all those vets and their families and the civilians that work for and with them a happy veterans day, I set out with a group of friends to hike Eagle Creek Trail. It was all very last minuet, when Tuesday night you realize that all your regular jobs are canceled tomorrow due to a federal holiday, what do you do? Why sleep in of course, and then pack up the dog and a day pack and take off for the Gorge. Yes it was raining, but I had wool socks and my ski pants and a NOLS fleece to keep me warm and dry. Cindy, Austin and Lola went with me. We drove out to exit 41, parked and headed up the trail. It was fun just walking and talking or rather signing till we got to the cliff part, okay so that was most of it, it's just a scary trail to be signing on but we all lived through it. The trail hugs basalt cliffs warn away by the mighty Eagle Creek. Since it had been raining the water was just pouring off the cliffs and onto the trail, one part was literally a waterfall you had to walk behind. We arrived at punch bowl and the river was so high you couldn't actually see the falls. We all sat down to have a picnic lunch and I kicked off my shoes and socks, rolled up the pants and waded out into the rushing river to some logs stuck in the middle. Climbing out I took some quick pictures with my phone then contemplated the return forge. I waited for the feeling and color to return to my feet before jumping back in and making my way back to the shore. It was such a nice day for the hike. I had been on this trail before in summer, 90 degrees, barely a trickle in the river, after 30 miles of hiking, we by-passed punch bowl, heads down one foot in front of the other just trying to get out and back home...nice to have finally arrived :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blustery Fall

Wowza! Fall hit with a monsoon! Wind storm and buckets of rain, kinda reminded me of an Alaskan fall, one day all the leaves were there the next day they were all in my yard. Fall also came with that nasty complimentary cold (ie sinus and broncitus) that took forever to go away. I FINALLY kicked it with the 2nd set of antibiotics, but not after suffering a cracked rib from all the coughing. One week later I ran a stop sign and T-boned the nicest woman ever. She had just dropped off her daughter at school and I had just been honked at for stopping at a no stop sign intersection and luckily nobody got hurt. So my crazy life continues...! I was blessed to have taken my truck to a shop that had a loaner car (rental covereage on your insurance is a good idea...if you're me. I didn't have it.) The seat belt re-injured my rib so that it hurt both front and back. But now I am three weeks out from it and it's starting to improve somewhat, meaning I can sleep through the night, not that my job is allowing that! This week I was working both days and nights (reminder to self, insufficiant sleep is not healthy on any level!) It will pay off eventually :) Last weekend I went to Grandma's and got to spend some time with Grandpa and Uncle Bill and Uncle Dave and Aunty Phyllis. It was so good to just sit in his comfortable room and watch the Duck game. We also got to see Colt and Austin in a puppet performance the night before. I came home to a pumpkin carving, Young Frankenstien, Mulled Wine Party at my friend Abby's place and then finished the weekend off with breakfast at Gravy's with Sara dreaming up all kinds of new adventures. Inspired by travel talk I got through a bunch of boxes and got the basement ready to rent out. Now with a little sleep I will feel like I have a new lease on life. I'm settled in and loving my new little place. (And I do mean little!) Wasabi has decided to become an indoor cat much to my delight and surprise since we are down town and it is a city of 2 million people (and probably twice as many cars!) Buddy has two new cousins, named Blue and Bella, the four sisters officially each have their own dog, which makes me laugh really. Especially when one is a taco bell dog rat terrier mix! (there is something so wrong about this and yet not so surprising!) As for the book it is ready to buy! You can go online to Tate Publishing Inc and order one yourself or wait for me to do a book signing in your area (requests welcome!) I do not have any on hand immediately but hope to by Thanksgiving. I am going home for Christmas and can't wait to be terrorizing Alaskans for almost a month, Dec 15-Jan 6th! Other than that I'm just enjoying the random highlights of living in Portland like finding fresh produce on the road...an onion named stewart and a tomatoe named bob...they were both very yummy :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

So here's the story

So I've been in Portland for 2 weeks now. First week was taking care of the Garret kids and getting back into my work mode. I had been sick for a while but figured the antibiotics were kicking in and I was getting better. No such luck. By the end of the week I was so much worse and found myself looking at a weekend of moving with my mom (lucky me!) who was also unfortunately sick my nana and my two pairs of muscled men ditched me last minute. When I got the keys to the place on Thursday night the place was so dirty there was no way I could move my stuff in, new game plan, I called mom and nana if they would go straight to the house in the morning to start cleaning, Cindy had asked if I needed help in the morning so she and Ian jumped on board and I called Eric to see if he could help. Unfortunately he came down with something as well so Uncle Paul stepped up to the plate. Mom and Nana, Cindy and Ian and Uncle Paul came to my rescue! With out the fve of them it would have been impossible. So I moved in and the next week began, still sick! After litterally blowing though a huge box of lotion kleenex, I hit the weekend wanting to sleep. Of course we started with Friday night, the big ASL Comedy night at PSU...it was a hit, 500+ people showed up for the event, it was a smashing success, I saw so many old friends and lets just say on many levels was an inspirational experience. I got to bed at 1am smiling and exhausted. I spent the next day in bed and that night went to Shane and Christy Lambings to watch the new 007 movie with Christy. I ended up staying the night, and sleeping most of the next day. I talked to Tom for a bit who had just finished up a week of forced vaccation and then Jacquie came over Sunday night and we tried one of the Pubs on Mississippi Ave. Bratworst with horseradish sauce, definitely cleared my sinuses for a few minuets. It was so good to just sit and chat in the comfort of my own place with a friend. And then surprise surprise I went back to bed. Now I'm awake even though I'd rather still be in bed and have a Doctor's appointment at 3:30 (Lucky me!) and my evening gig cancled so I'll be back in bed soon. I hate going to the doctor with a cold, I am always afraid they are going to phoophooey me and send me home to rest. But it's been 5-6 weeks now so, I'm kinda tiered of being sick. So here I go...

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Week of Searching

Well it has been a good, hard, exhausting, exasperating, exhilarating, informative, frustrating, sweet and very long week. We have seen 8 homes in varying distances, south Eugene to Albany and Lacomb. My Garmin wouldn't even find Lacomb. We got lost on back country roads, interviewed many interesting people, gathered good but sometimes vague information, cried, laughed, coughed (I'm on antibiotics!) talked, thought, drove, slept and calculated and now it's decision making time. Bill arrives today to visit the last two homes with us and dad arrives tomorrow morning. The boys will help grandma break the news to grandpa and then next week the chosen home will interview and move grandpa before the first of October. It is definitely crunch time.

Starting next week, I return to my work interpreting up in Portland for PSU and Sorenson. I also will be moving into the house I rented and getting myself settled for the winter. I have many fun things planned for October, the terp crew is getting together, Coleen and Brenna and her friend Breanna are going to come stay the night for a night on the town and then working on the yard and gardens before winter sets in. Cindy and I are planning on a girls night once she gets moved back up from Kalamath Falls mid October and then of course it's Halloween, a time of harvesting and sweets.

Marketing called...I missed their call and that will tell me what comes next. Looks like my books will cost $8.99 or $9.99 (they've told me two different prices) As soon as we have a publish date anyone can start ordering books online. As I know more I will post it here so keep checking back!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Capris Watermelon Salad

This is a bit of heaven if you dare to try!

Dice Watermelon
Dice Tomatoes
Dice Fresh Mozzarella
Slice Red Onion
Chop Fresh Basil
Toss together and drizzle Balsamic Reduction over the top.

Balsamic Reduction
Equal parts balsamic vinegar and sugar reduced in sauce pan to a syrup mixture.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I have in my hand...

...A book called "Granddaddy's Hands"

It is the final draft before sending it to print. I'm just slow on the sending it back! When I do, it will be 4 weeks and hopefully I will learn how to order them! So maybe around Thanksgiving I will officially be a published author. It's a very exciting and nerve wracking time. It still makes me cry.

Grandma is getting better, we are still getting lots done. Today was the clothes closet..Ahhhh!!! She needs to come help me with mine now! Speaking of, I've rented a house in a great part of Portland, 2 minuets from downtown. I get to start moving in October 1st. There is still much to be done at Grandma's so the timing is great. Now she wants to wash sand and paint the deck. All smiles here! We did have an unfortunate event happen while we were sleeping. Someone slashed all the tires on two tractors, one lawn mower and the old pickup truck in the shed out back. It's becoming near to impossible to find tires to fit the trucks old rims and to replace one of the tractors rear tires we have to order them from Japan since they are not produced or distributed any more!!! They are $750 a piece! What one learns when taking care of their grandma!

Grandpa turned 86 with 2 parties! It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. There were so many family members there and TONS of food. Grandma still hasn't decided what to do with grandpa other than come to the conclusion that taking care of him at home is not an option. We have been bringing him to church on Sundays and this time proved to be too much. Now the solution, we have till October 3rd to get it figured out. He is so cute too, he is happy and busy and loves it when we visit but still wants to know when he can come home. This is not an easy or nice decision but that's life..."sticky." It brings out the worst in people...and the best:

It was a lot of fun to hear grandpa singing and wheezing through the hymns at church. To watch grandma grab for his hands, inspect his nails and hold onto what's left of their long life together. I've never seen this side of my grandpa and as he forgets all his worries in life, I'm learning who this man is uninhibited. He is beautiful. I'm learning who this woman is as she fights through the quagmire of dementia and what's left of her life focused on caring for a beautifully complicated man. She is courageous.

Maybe in a couple of years I will see more positives in this experience but for now I will hold onto his funny comments and beautiful smile and the small glimpses of their 60 years of love for each other.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Day

New Day was one of my favorite choral songs back in high school. I've been singing it all day! Today really has been a new day...let me back up and explain...

Well, it's been a long week, or two or three, I've lost count now. Grandma and I had a very hard first week of her recovery. Spirits were low, outlook was dim, fever was high, energy nil...a week and a half after her discharge, on a Sunday morning, I took her back in to the hospital around 4:30am...on the way I hit a deer and she hit the dashboard with her nose. (not wearing a seat belt cause of her incision.) I didn't even stop...Anyway we went in and they almost sent her home since her 101 temp had lowered to 98.4. I almost begged, since I had just given her Tylenol to control it and so they took blood samples. Getting some results back abnormal (kidney, liver, white blood cells all at dangerous levels) they decided to try a cat scan. I watched her try to drink this nasty stuff that's supposed to light her insides up like a Christmas tree and try to keep it down. She puked in the machine anyway and they had a lot of clean up before actually getting the pictures, besides the fact that her fever was back by then (4hrs on the dot like I told them it would) and she was shaking and teeth chattering so bad I was shocked any pictures turned out! The Doc said he would be back in ten mins to let us know the results and ten dragged into 50 and then 60 and then at 75 mins (oh and she is puking every 5 mins or so) he comes back and says he is admitting her for an abscess that needs to be drained asap.

It is comforting to know that something was wrong because I started wondering if I was crazy, if I was over reacting. I was already not happy with the way they were brushing off her concerns and pains and fevers the week before, besides sending her home without antibiotics, eating solids or having a bm...I felt alone and ignored and almost vindicated with this last turn of events...not that I was happy she was back in the ER with another scary scenario. I went home around 2:30 in the afternoon and driving by Mary Lou's I decided to stop. She invited me in and started feeding me and I started talking for the first time all week...I'd really kept my mouth shut for a week, afraid to cry, afraid to yell, really not knowing what to say and once I started I couldn't stop. I ate so much and talked myself dry after 3 hours and went home to fall into bed...but the phone started ringing. I'm glad Mary Lou got me started, it helped me process a ton before family started calling. (Really Doctors speak Greek to me!) I also got a very upsetting call from Cherie about my pets so I was determined to head to Bend while grandma was in the hospital to bring them home to Brownsville.

Monday I went to check on grandma and visit another nursing home (we are trying to find an AFFORDABLE alternative to the one grandpa is in) and things went from bad to worse. The machine they needed to drain the abscess was in Corvallis and broke down. They were having a hard time controlling the fever and she wasn't keeping any fluids down, not having eaten in a week she was very low on everything nutritional...in went a nutrition pic line. I couldn't sit there and watch, they didn't want to transfer her out of the Samaritan Hospital system to try a different machine, the nurse told my dad I was overreacting so I decided it was time to leave...of course I had to stop at Wal Mart for a couple items grandpa needed and dropped them off. The head nurse caught me and talked for me for two and a half hours. Grandpa had taken a bad fall with his walker and they were concerned about how to get him up and moving his artificial hip and lessening the fall risk factor. Then they went over the fact that they had heard through their sister facility that we were calling around looking for another facility and were concerned we weren't happy. Plus they had a bunch of good dementia material to give me. So by the time I left for Bend the sun was casting an orangy glow on everything and I knew it was going to be a long night. Exhausted I picked up the animals around 9pm and headed south to Klamath Falls to spend the night with Cindy King. It was so good to see her and even though I arrived at 11:30pm she had Thai food waiting for me. I slept in and stayed in bed till she got home at 5:30pm. (minus two walks to the store) We ate at the local brew house and spent another night.

I hated to leave that morning, but I thought I had better get back to my duties at home. The corn and flower beds needed watered and grandma's pets needed fed and the carpets needed cleaned before she got home. I know Aunty Carol was supposed to be holding down the fort while I was gone but I felt rested and ready to go back. I arrived at the house to find carpet cleaners just leaving and Carol and Jerry smiling saying "Great! It's all yours! Vacuum the carpets when they are dry and put the furniture back before grandma gets home." And they were gone. I found out that the radiologists machine had been broken for Monday and Tuesday and they couldn't get her in till Wednesday and Mary Lou had heard me mention I wanted to clean carpets during my Sunday Chat so she called and had cleaners come Wednesday...it was CRAZY!! Lucky Mary Lou had picked up Angel the dog (Gracie is good at fending for herself). It had been in the 90's for the two days I was gone and the corn hadn't been watered because of a hose mix up and the flowers looked burnt...it was all I could do to put the place back together (and trim all the bushes and trees) before grandma came home on Friday.

Saturday and Sunday we both crashed, lots of sleeping in, lots of naps and to my pleasant surprise, lots of eating...she was finally keeping down food! Monday she was feeling better. We had a doctors appointment in the morning to remove the drain tubes, made our trip to Wal Mart (can't go to Lebanon and not stop!) and then went and visited Grandpa. He still thinks Grandma is his mom and today thought I was his wife...he is really confused. He is always really glad to see us just not sure who we are. He keeps trying to give Missy the Mustang too (I think she is getting the better end of the deal in all this confusion!) I did get permission to bring Buddy the next day. We arrived home to find that the phones were off the hook and nothing, NOTHING I could do would make them work!

Mary Lou to the rescue called the phone company and gave me instructions how to fix the problem (reboot, duh Jen!) So, today (after fixing the phone saga) we went to Wal Mart to change the battery in my truck and pick up sinus meds (yes I'm fighting my 3rd sinus infection this summer) and then took Buddy to the nursing home. He laid his head on little old ladies laps while they exclaimed over him. He put his paws up in grandpas lap and I was so glad he didn't do that to anyone else!!! We took him outside and grandpa and another client threw the ball for him for 2 hours! I'm so glad Granddaddy taught him to put the ball in his lap right where he could reach it easily...it helped everyone really enjoy his company and be able to join in the tossing even if it was just straight at his nose (which he caught of course). About the time Buddy wore out, it was time to go back to the hospital to remove the pic line. After that we headed home and I made carrot soup.

It was SUCH a good day!

Oh! And I almost forgot! Tomorrow Coleen, Brenna, Beth, Tawni, Barb, and Nana and I are going to open the final proof of my book...(drum roll please!)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Not What I Expected...

Well here I am in Brownsville Oregon. Aunty Barbie stopped by to visit me and encouraged me to update my blog with all that has transpired in the last 3 weeks since I got home. She says she keeps checking it to see what I'm up to and if there are others this might be an easy way to keep people up to date. So here I am, not sure if there are readers, but this ones for you Barb and Gary!!! So much has happened since I got home but none of it was what I expected. I spent the first week working very little and sleeping a ton. I went to Bend and visited Cherie, Ricki, Buddy and Wasabi but since I still haven't found a place to live I had to leave them there. We had an amazing couple of hot days there and Cherie and I and the dogs hit the reservoir for a wonderful swim. Buddy still afraid of the water explored the shore line and Ricki spent most of her time swimming in circles chasing her tail and fetching a ball. Then next day Cherie and I left the dogs home and floated the Deschutes River...AWESOME!!! I hated to leave but I headed back to Portland. I was finally getting over jet lag and realized that I needed to clean up my rooms (both aunts spare bedrooms) and pack for Alaska when I got the call that Grandma Morris was in the hospital. For a week I drove back and forth between Portland and Brownsville, working, visiting Grandma, helping Uncle Bill take care of Grandpa and the gardens and keeping everyone fed and help Melissa find a nursing home for Grandpa. The day before Grandma came home, we found a place for Grandpa. I brought Grandma home canceled my ticket home and 3 days later Bill and Sharon went home. Margaret and Zach showed up that day and helped me clean all the windows inside and out and clean up the flower beds. The week Grandma was in the hospital it was above 100 degrees and fried a bunch of the flowers, tons of dead heading kept us busy and in the sun. (she picked a perfect week to leaver her house with no AC!) To back up a little, Grandma took Grandpa and Gunner and Angel to the beach, lost Gunner, lost the keys to the car, lost Gunners shoes...eventually found all three lost items and headed home. Melissa picked up Gunner and about the time she arrived home Grandma called and asked her to come back and figure out what was wrong with her. She had sat down with a stitch in her side which had a turned into a sharp pain in her gut and couldn't get up off the couch. Melissa took her to the hospital where the doctor asked her what she thought was wrong. Grandma said she thought it was appendicitis so the tests started. He came back saying good news it's not appendicitis but bad news it was worse and as soon as his team arrived they would be putting her under for emergency surgery on a perforated intestine. She was going septic and they had to take all her "stuff" out wash it and put it back. As you can imagine, anything that comes out of a box never goes back in the same way and her biggest complaint is "it just doesn't feel like he put it all back in in the right place!" Grandpa is really confused and his story changes all the time. The most disturbing part is he doesn't recognize Grandma, he thinks she is his mother Merrill. Anyway, starting Monday this week, it was just Grandma and me. Food isn't sitting well in her stomach still so food is interesting. This week: The corn has grown taller than me and watering the garden takes almost 2 hours each night. The deer are eating the zucchini plants that aren't in the dog run (grr!) I have transplanted many baby plants around the house inside and out (we'll see if they make it!). We have run around town shopping, visiting the doctor and Grandpa. We have cleaned out the fridge (trust me that was a big job...expired 2007??? I'm so glad I move a lot!). We have canned 20 lbs of green beans, put up zucchini and tried to figure out what to do with Grandpa...

For myself I have read 3 books and have a couple more checked out from the library. Started knitting again. Walked Angel every morning. Finished approving the graphic design part of "Granddaddy's Hands." And slept in EVERY DAY! Oh and officially caught up on my blog :)

Things left to do? Clean carpets. Go through closets. Clean out Pantry (both!) Go through and clean out meds. Figure out finances and Grandpas future. Paint living room pink???

Grandma is frustrated at her slow recovery. She is only 14 days from going under the knife and 7 days from arriving home. The Doctor said it takes a young sprite 6-8 weeks to get back to normal. She is doing great and now I know where I get my shear determination and stubborn streak (and my habit of being way to hard on myself!) Grandpa is doing great too, the home is very good to him and he is doing well even though his memory is worse. Uncle Bill tells the funniest stories about Grandpa in the nursing home...wish I would have wrote them down while they were still fresh. I have two more weeks without work after this weekend. I am wishing I had my animals with me, other than that, I'm getting rested up but frustrated at my limitations as a grandchild. I'm enjoying the down time and the special moments hugging my Grandma when she needs it and making memories...more later :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back on American Soil

I'm home! I'm exhausted! I'm going to bed...and when I wake up I will let you know more. For now, I'm home, safe and sound.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Last day!!!

I thought this day would never come! Im so ready to go home. So after I blogged yesterday, I went down to the grand canal to join in the feasting and festivaling...I promptly dropped my phone (the blackberry one) in the grand canal and lost it. I called mom crying, I was so flustered, tiered, and not thinking. So I made my way back to the bus to catch a ride home only to find 3 stubborn bus drivers that had no intention of going back when they were scheduled to until the firework show was over! So I sat in the parking lot and listened to the booming fireworks, couldnt see anything either!!! unless I wanted to find my way back to San Marco Square, for an HOUR!!! Then they took me back to the campsite. I had a tent alone for the first time ever...slept like the dead. Got up when my Italian phone accidentally called home, so I talked to mom again, got some of the travel info I needed and now Im checked out and have to wait for a train at 8 tonight to Paris. Good times! So I wont have a phone till Monday or Tuesday and have lost all of your numbers, addresses, birthdays, my calandar, notes, lists, etc. Never put all your eggs in one basket??? See you all soon!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Venice a place of charm and full of delight!

Okay so yesterday was rough...beyond rough! We missed our boat off Capri so not only did we have to repay 16 Euro each to get off the island we were late getting to the train station. In a quick decision we decided not to splurge on the coach with beds (sara warned me not to do this!) and we sat up all night trying to sleep. We both got little sleep on already exhausted stressed out sore people this was enough to tip me over the edge. I was bawling in the train station over our luggage locker not being secure. PV wanted to puke all day cause he drank too much sea water in Capri and so we strolled the streets of Verona (I ate the biggest plate of spag!) and we just took it easy. Back on the train to Venice PV was feeling a little better and wanted to eat. He decided to dash out on one of the 2 min stops and grab a sandwich...he didn't make it back on the train.

Now here is my side of the story.
Pv jumps up with the change can. I say "No! (He gives me a look) Oh fine go ahead" and I go back to reading my book. All the sudden I hear banging on the door and I try to run down the stairs but there is this guy and his bike that won't move and I argue with them to push the button to open the door. I hear loud knocking on the other side of the car and it starts to move away. I'm so shocked and pissed at the biker and don't know what to do so I go sit down and pick up my book lest I begin to cry. Then I think of all the things I should have or could do. Pv is standing with nothing and I'm sitting with everything. Let me paint a picture first. I am on a train with two huge packs and one carry on and both of our money pouches, passports, and ticket. Pv is standing on the platform with the keys to all the locks on the bag and a can of change. I could have thrown him my purse. I could have tried to throw him the ticket. I could have gotten off at the next stop and tried to come back. I kept reading. Every time I tried to stop and think the tears overwhelmed me. All I could come up with was this

He knew where I was headed

He is the kind of guy to jump a train

God is in control

So I headed to Venice with strangest looks from all the peddlers sitting in our car. They kept looking at me and his empty seat and back. Upon arriving I somehow got my pack on my back maneuvering pv's pack on my front and grabbing the carry-on in one hand praying it all stayed on. I walked to the front and center end of all the platforms and is started to rain. Then it started to pour, lightning thunder, marble size hail! (Seriously!) I was so in awe and totally dumb found as to what to do. So I waited.

I have never been happier to see PV's silly grin coming through the crowd, I totally lost it! (Ask him for his side of the story. He ran the gambit of emotions as well.) 2 and a half days of absolute craziness! This was the last straw. But no the saga does not end here.

We eventually got over the swapping of stories and started to look for our shuttle to the hostel, checked in and went to grab dinner before the bar closed. Upon returning to the room there were two more travelers there (in a 3 bed dorm). They were from Seattle and said they had just been back to the registration desk to figure this out but the woman insisted that there was only one girl in our room. We went back and explained what was up and the woman was put out and gave us a key to another tent. We arrived and found another woman there who was not happy with sharing a tent with a guy. So we went back to the original tent to tell the 2 girls to move and they had already made themselves at home and had no intention of moving even though we had been there first and it would have been more comfortable for the other woman who was expecting a female dorm not mixed. Needless to say we gathered our stuff and crashed (the woman was pissed!) At 6am she moved out very upset and banging stuff around. I promptly went back to sleep after she left. I was too tired to care. PV had considered just taking the day to relax but I had over heard him telling two girls that venice was ugly and dirty, knowing that he had only seen mainland airport and train station, I decided he needed to experience the real thing. He agreed and quickly changed his mind. It is definitely a city with its own flavor. We went to Murano, blew a bunch of money on glass and headed back to the main island and walked furiously to catch the bus back to camp to get his stuff, my room and send him off to the airport. I don't leave till tomorrow night (but I bet I make it back to portland before he does!) Now I'm back on the island waiting for a bathroom and for the festival to begin! Bring on the feast!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Alas I've lived and seen the acclaimed balcony of Juliet and took a picture of loveless tourists rubbing her bronze statues breasts in hopes of finding true love I guess. (Who ever thought of starting that tradition was the same crack pot that thought itd be funny to watch tourists climb a waterfall holding hands in Jamacia!) Verona was beautiful quiet clean and I'm glad I stopped for the morning. Now I'm off to Venice. I'm so tiered I could cry but its been a beautiful trip. One more city to go!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm in Verona

Yesterday we spent at Capri in the sea. We really had ment to explore the place but once we got in we didn't want to get out. (Okay so we did for lunch but then ran right back in!) There were rocks to dive off and if a person got tiered of swimming one just had to roll over on their back to take a nap. It was awesome! It was fun trying to dive when your body wants to be a bouey. Anyway, we took the night train to Verona and are here waiting to check our bags at 7 and explore to town. Maybe go to the lake before we head to venice tonight. I also am being pestered to make a decision on the cover design of my book. I can't believe how time is flying!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Okay, so last time I wrote, I wasnt anywhere near Naples! I left Cinque Terre and traveled to Siena. I spent a day recouperating while the Siena School of Language was finishing up. I slept in, did laundry, met another guy who was meeting up with one of the students to explore Europe for the next 30 days. We explored Siena together while the students were taking their last final. We went on a scavenger hunt looking for all the fountains of the different contradas, I think we found 6 out of the 17. Then we sat in the compo for 2 hours eating lunch. That was a nice change to eating on the run. We went into the compo museum and climbed a tower that had a nice view of Siena then raced back to the school to meet up with the students. They were headed out to a very nice 6 course meal and Chris and I tagged along till we knew where they were going to be and then trekked out on our own to find Kebabs...it took us and hour and a half to find the place, then we sat there for two hours chatting with the owner...(she was from Iraq and his mom is from Serbia so they had a lot to talk about.) Then we retraced our steps to the restaurant and the school STILL wasnt done with their meal! We ate gelato on a door step and finally the students came out fat and happy. The next day PV and I headed to Roma. Two days to see Rome is not enough to scratch the surface but we were happy with as much as we did get to see. There is still so much more and we really ran through everything we did see so I have to go back! From there we headed to Naples (where we are now). It was a crazy day as it started out packing and leaving the hostel early in the morning. Dropping off our bags at the train station, picking up a ticket for Naples and starting out to see everything we could before we had to leave. We hit St Peters square and then I tripped and fell, yep, it hurt. Needless to say, I think my ankle will not recover till I get home. We saw a lot of stuff we had seen in the night but not in the day, trevi fountain and pantheon were my favorites...and then we headed back, not realizing how late it was. In the train station we split up, I went to find our train and PV to get our bags. It was one of those race against the clock moments where PV is wearing two huge backpacks pushing people out of the way and hop along me is trying not to loose him but still get us on the train on time. We made it, 4 mins early! Arriving in Naples it was late and dark. The train to the metro was fine but after that things got a little sketchy. We missed our stop along with another couple from Turkey but they found a women who walked us straight to our hostel...here they just put garbage out on the street at night to be picked up and people are out drinking in all this filth so it looked scary. (I will not go into detail about all the crazy scary things we have encountered here!) During the day its much better looking and feeling. We were happy to hit the hostel that was much more clean and safe feeling. The next morning we met back up with Chris and Stephan (from the Siena School) and went to see Pompei. WOW!!! They were being hosted through couch surfing and their host was a linguist of dead languages. He also had a guest from America and one from France. They were awesome too Jeff and Baptist. I cant tell you how awesome it was to explore this place with a guy who can read the writing on the walls so to speak. He had plenty of other historical information too but kept saying that wasnt his area so if we wanted to know more we needed to talk to an expert. It was funny, Bartec was absolutely fantastic. He is studying for a year in Naples (latin and greek) and is actually from Poland. He is going to give us a tour of Naples today and a few castles and maybe the beach. Since all his guests are leaving today he has invited us to stay at his place tonight and then head to the east coast tomorrow, I cant believe how the time is flying! 6 more days for me, 4 for PV. PV has a friend in Venice and we are trying to be in Venice for Friday night. That leaves one night up in the air. I will let you know when I do!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cinque Terre

This morning I had to say goodbye to Jacquie, it was sad to see my friend go. We have had such a great time and this last place was stellar above and beyond my wildest dreams. I don't think any camera can catch the rhythm of this place. I'm sitting here in an internet cafe, reveling in typing on a real computer instead of my blackberry, trying to figure out what to do next. Roma is the obvious choice but I'm so ready to crash by the sea and never leave it, it's hard to focus. (I will tell you about Cinque Terre, don't worry!) It's really hard to find words right now...even though it's easier to type!

Note to self:
Directions to Roma Hostel
From Termini train station you just have to take the metro direction BATTISTINI (Linea A) and get off at CORNELIA station;follow the exit signs direction 'Piazza Irnerio' and then follow the signs for 'Via Aurelia'. Once you are outside the metro you can see in front of you some bus stops next to a Mcdonalds; from there you can catch bus # 246 and get off in front of the camping village.The bus stops in front of a supermarket, please use the footbridge to cross the road to the camping village.

Please ignore, I don't want to pay for printing it :)
Okay, gotta go, will catch you up from my black berry on the train to Siena or Roma!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Pv got up real early this morning and caught a bus to Siena. We eventually got up, packed and headed into town waiting forever for a bus as usual. We caught a train to Bologna and then a bus to our hostel which ended up being 20 mins out of town. Unfortunately for us we missed our stop and ended up way out in the country. The bus driver said we could get off and wait for the next bus. I needed a toilet and we were hungry so not thinking we jumped off the bus. It was 100 degrees out and sunday. NOTHING was open (I walked for a mile and saw nothing!) We had to wait 2.5 hours for the next bus and it was the same bus driver who had told us to get out and wait. I could have killed him! It was nice to have AC for the next 20 mins and then he let us know we were there. (A redeeming quality!) The hostel was great! No awesome view and or happy hour but there were hot showers and beds and lockers and Ciara our host was full of great information. She sent us down the road for dinner and it was some of the best food we have had so far. We went to bed tired and happy. There really isn't much to say about Bologna. It has the oldest university in Italy. All the sidewalks are covered with pillars on street side. Very cool affect as well as pedestrian/rain friendly. Portland could learn some thing from them. We climbed a tower that had worn wooden steps and plaques at different heights, for example at 55 meters it said "tower of pisa". It was pretty cool and felt safe at the top since you were surrounded by stone walls instead of flimsy fences. We walked around a lot and it all seemed to be the same. It does have the oldest university in Italy and we met one of the conservatory students at our hostel. He was playing the stand up bass outside and it was fun to sit and listen while I read. We did check out restaurant row that Ciara had recommended and after walking a ways down the deserted alley with questionable characters I freaked out and practically ran back to the busy streets with lots of people. I am sorry we didn't find what she was talking about but at the same time it wasn't worth feeling unsafe. We did find this wine and sandwich bar where the gentleman that waited on us and kept shoving more food at us was amazing! We tried a rosso we both loved and an interesting champagne and sheep cheese with balsamic and parmesian with marmalade and real bologna! It was so yummy we were full after all the taste testing we didn't even need lunch! We left bologna and traveled to cinque terre where I fell in love! This is a place I could live out the rest of my life by the sea! Tiny towns, great trails, terraced gardens, delicious food, wonderful people! - Jacquie just left :( I need to figure out where I'm going next and get packed before check out time. To be continued!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

PV comes to visit

Even though we got to bed at one am and had very little sleep the night before, the insanity continued. PV was showing up on the 8:15 bus so we got up early and went to meet him. Now when I say early I mean accounting for a few things. Me not waking up. The bus not being at its stop when it says it will (or the next one!) And the 30 min ride around town to get there. All happened and when we got there he wasn't there. I checked my phone (I had forgotten to turn it on again) and he had emailed saying he missed his bus and would be there in an hour. We walked most of the way back to our site to hit out favorite cafe ("bar") for cappalloni and cappachino then back to the station where he was waiting for us. We went to the Duomo Piazza and toured the baptistry. It was amazing! Its ceiling was all tiled andhad gold behind clear tiles in places where it just sparkled. Its floor was a hodge podge mix of different patterns which was explained in the commentary I rented. It had been erected on the site of some homes and they just kept the original floors of the homes and built the baptistry as a special place to carry out this one (missing a catholic word, it will come to me). After seeing that it was time to book over to the Muse de Academia to visit David. First we went into the instrument part. That was cool! They had an old harpsicord and piano forte there and beautiful violins and cellos and this weird snake horn. They had some things you could manipulate your self and I learned that technically a piano is a percussion instrument because a mallet on the arm hits the string and a harpsicord a stringed instrument because it is plucked by the arm. Then we entered a huge hall. Now there are statues of David all over Florence. There is a huge Bronze one next to camp and a stone one in a piazza somewhere in town but the original marble David is unfathomable. I walked into the hall and it looked like every picture I had ever seen of him. I took some shots mydelf to document I was there and walked down the long hall. The closer I got the bigger he got. His demeaner stayed the same, thoughtful, older after having slayed Goliath, but he was bigger than life. His hands were incredible! The veins and nubby bones and tendons were all there as if you were studying a giants hands. His eyes were not solid like all the other statues we had seen so far, they looked real like you could loose yourself in them. He was the best part of my day. There wasn't anything else in that museum worth seeing besides a wonderful special collecting showing by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. We left full. Then we went back to the Basillica to climb the Duomo. Okay so the leaning tower of Pisa was scarry. This was almost worse. There were aswesome moments lke when we were so close to the fresco painted ceiling you could touch it and whe you realize you are walking between the ceiling and the roof of the dome and there is hardly room to stand straight. There are places so small I don't suggest a clausterphobic person go! The inside of the church was beautiful and in describable. When we finished climbing the 453 steps (something like that) and emerged at the top I almost lost my nerve. The breze was strong and there was a flimbsy fence separating us from certain death. I was not the only one hugging the columns on the dome behind me. I did not like being that high up with so many people excited and carelessly jostling around for a good picture. After it thinned out. I found a quiet spot near the fence and listened to a hispanic women giving a group of kids a history lesson about christ and peter and paul (in English!) That's where Jacquie and PV eventually found me. PV tried to get me to stand near the fence for a pic. I'm sure it didn't turn out well. I was not a happy camper. I took forever getting down the tight steep skiny stair rails. I'm glad it wasn't a ladder or everyone would have known my legs were shaking. I was happy to be back on the ground at long last. We made our way to the famous "gold bridge" that is full of jewlers selling very expensive pieces. Then I bought my Florence jacket and we nade our way to camp. My foot is huge. All this walking on a sprain is not fun at all but I'm trying to ignore it as much as possible. We got back to camp in time for happy hour. They have this one really good italian beer called Poretia that I wish we had at home. After taking a break, enjoying the view and the sun going down we went back to the piazza where the play had been and eat at a Doner Kabab place we had noticed the day before while looking for Michealangelos house. After that we found gelatto and rushed back to the bus station only to find it closed. The lady who sold PV the ticket had given him the wrong time apperantly so we took him home, snuck him into camp and we all crashed. Itd been a really long and wonderful day.

Beautiful Florence!

I love Florence. Its just beautiful and full of art, history, life and every corner has some discovery in it. Today we went to the Uffizi museum. I was thrilled! I saw some of my favorite paintings and talked Jacquie's ear off about different techniques of the times and cliches found in their art. There was paint and sculpture mixed and it was in this beautiful palace...oh! Speaking of palaces! Its been so long I forgot to tell you about the other palace we went to and its extensive gardens and sculptures and costume museum! Another time. Anyway...Uffizi was quite the experience. And from the top it had an amazing view of the great Duomo (whose top wasn't put on till much later due to not having the technology to build a dome that big!) Then we had lunch at the cutest yellow and red cafe outside and ate really good food but I don't remember what. I just remember tomatoes and balsamic and so far every meal with those two have been delicious! We moved onto the Science museum where Galelio's stuff (including his finger) had been moved to an alternative sight during restoration. We were bumbed but went and saw a bunch of cool gadgets from centuries past. Out side we wandered around and happened upon Dante's house (that was cool and unexpected!) We stopped for gelatto everywhere but after a while got smart and started researching our gelatto places and asking around. That's when we really found the pleasure of true tuscan gellato! Walking around we saw a sign for a play. It was in this huge piazzaand they had been setting up for a few days (we'd walked by a few times) and this time I asked Jacquie what the play was about (her italian is so good, I don't know what I'm going to do without her!) It was Dante's Divine Commedy put to music and dance. Now this is one of Jacquies favorite author/books. You should have seen her when we happened upon his house (no surprise to her, just to me.) So even though we were exausted we couldn't pass up the chance to see the piece he created in the place he created it in. I got a literary lesson over dinner and we were off to see Dante's greatest work. Dinner! We past this mexican restorant and I had a hankering for a margarita. (I know, no surprise!) The guy yelled happy hour and we went in. I ordered some chips and salsa to go with and the salsa was oddly italian more than it was mexican. It was so yummy! Then we went to this cafeteria style place and I ordered way to much food from this kind boy who was teasing me about my choices and indecisions and so on. He wrinkled his nose at my defacing his cooking with balsamic vinigar and olive oil. It was fun but totally weird too. Wish I'd had someone to share a traditional florentine steak with! It was too much and I couldn't have put a dent in it. (Inch and a half thick as round as a dinner plate!) After we were done we walked back to the piazza, poured some wine and sat down to watch.

I can't even begin to describe what this was like. There was a huge church at one end. Projected onto it was the backgrounds for the different scenes (the woods he is lost in, the sea he has to cross, the flames of hell, satan himself, the clouds in heaven, etc. There were basically two movable platforms on stage that made up the set. The main characters sang while a dance troup did ballet and acted out the characters in the different levels of the inferno, pergitory and heaven. The voices were bigger than life! I still get chills thinking about it! I called dad and let him listen in to a trio by Dante, Beatrice and Virgil. He was on Doner's Beach in Clam Gultch and he loved it! Technology amazes me! Jacquie and I were both falling asleep but it was too awesome to leave early so we stayed to the end where they let these huge balloons go and watched them disappear into the sky. It was phenominal! Walking home at 12:30 we realized that we had been sleeping through Florences night life. The streets were bright, outfits where wild, and drinks were flowing. We made it up to the statue of David and again there were tons of people cars and music. The city lights The club outside our campsite had a line a mile long waiting to get in. Arriving at our campsite, we could have been anywhere and it wouldn't have mattered. We were OUT!

Palio continued...

So here we are, 20 deaf and hearing: LIS/ASL/Italian/English mix, hanging out in the campo as close to rail as possible at the highest point possible. People keep strolling in and the compo starts to fill up. A cannon announces the beginning and end to everything! Trials, parade, false starts and race. Even as the parade is going people are still filing in. I can't even describe what 2 million people in a square looks like with more people pouring in. When the oxen went around and the championship flag was hung over the officiating stand the doors were closed and there was no way in or out of the campo. We had been discussing through out the day our bus situation and the race start time. This is when we realized if we miss the last bus there is nothing we could do about it! We stood for two hours while the horses and riders jostled for position in lining up. There were 3 false starts. This is how it looks on tv. Cause I couldn't see anything from where I stood. There is the "ref" box (he gets escorted out of town as soon as the horses start off for sure. It is too dangerous for him to stay to see the winner in case one contrada is upset with how he handled the start of the race.) There is a rope from him to the inside of the track. Each contrada has a mascot (Turtle, eagle, worm, etc.) And is given a number (1st slot, 2nd slot,etc.) The ref waits for complete silence for the first line up. He calls out an animal and that contrada goes wild and then quiets down. This is crazy too. 2 million go from noisy and fidgety to silent is seconds. Way faster than any assembly at school or game at the Rose Quarter. He continues to call animals and they continue to line up in their respective "slot" there are no stalls just a rope. There is a lot of pushing shoving side stepping and smack talk going on. Each rider is dressed in his contradas colors with the animal on their back. Their horse has a set of reigns and head piece to match. (A horse can win the race without his rider as long as this head piece and reigns are still attached to the horse.) The riders carry a switch that cannot be used before the rope is dropped but after that any horse and or rider is fair game! Porcupine keeps shoving turtle out of his number one slot as far as I can tell. Shell might have had something to do with that too. If it takes too long to line up the ref tells them to all back out and do a lap on the leg right in front of us (I get to see more smack talk up close!) This goes on for an hour and a half until 9 are lined up in front of the rope. A second rope is raised most of the way across the track behind their butts and finally the last horse and rider (in red and green) races past them to start the race! When the short rope is at the middle of the red and green horse the front rope is dropped and they are all off. (I wish I could have seen all this but I got to observe it later on the tv in the pizzaria.) Three laps is all it takes. There were no mishaps at the corner with the mattresses (the only part of the track I could see) and the winner was a good horse length or more ahead most of the way! Turtles won! As soon as he crossed the line people poured over the fence and ran in front of the racing horses to get them to stop. It was insane! The turtle flags went up and the rest of the 17 contrada flags followed behind during the victory lap. (The last place rider gets 550 Euro first place got 150,000!)Then all the cafe's on the outside of the track bring out tables and chairs and feed everyone really fast! Not something I've experienced here, nothing is fast about food here!) The parading and music and partying carries on all night long. Everyone who is not apart of the winning contrada puts away their scarves. And all you see is turtles everywhere. Jacquie and I were exhausted having gotten up so early so after some pizza and shots, PV took us home and put us to bed before returning to the throngs of merry makers. I guess there was a water pump running that kept Jacquie up all night and she tried to wake me but I was dead to the world. It was a long hard night on her. We woke up extremely early to catch the first bus home at 630am. What a day!

Monday, July 6, 2009


So its been a while and as Tawni has so kindly reminded me "catch up with your blog!"

I will try my best to recall and help you to live vicariously through the extremely historical experiences I have happened upon so far.

July first.
Jacquie woke up VERY early. She did a lot before I even stirred including climbing the hill behind our camp site. Oh yeah! So we are staying at this camp site up on a hill overlooking Florence in an old olive grove. It has the best view, great beer, hot showers and a huge set of stairs to climb to get home every night! I did eventually wake up and we set out to explore Florence. We found a "bar" (as in coffee bar) and had capelloni (I think) Jacquie is so much better with this language. It was like ricotta cheese creamy delicious with mini chocolate chips rolled in a semi crunchy shell. A bit of heaven to go with our cappuccino. Then we set out on foot and made all kinds of discoveries. Like where the science museum is not :op we took lots of pics and strode down many streets and got the lay of the land. We had terrible pizza for lunch and were scared to try pizza again after that. (Don't worry we eventually did). I really don't remember much from this day except my feet hurting from all the walking. We pushed like we only had one day to see Florence and covered a ton of ground.

July 2nd
Today we got up extremely early (5:30am) to catch a bus to Siena at 7. We practically ran to the bus station and I sprained my ankle pretty bad on the way. Not wanting to slow down or think about how tight my shoe was becoming, I tried my darndest to keep walking. Once in Siena, we met up with PV and he showed us around. Siena is definitely a town anyone could fall in love with. Its cobble stone goes up one hill and down the next. Its tall brick and stone buildings are hardly spaced wide enough for a tiny car to pass through. Today it was adorned with the flags of different contradas (neighborhoods as far as I could tell) and everyone was wearing a scarf to show their colors. There were gangs of the same contradas parading through the streets following horses all dressed in matching colors. A lot of pride was being flaunted and history being replayed. You didn't wear a flag and walk alone without getting roughed up by another contrada. We met a lot of hearing and deaf students from the states and deaf people from all over Italy. We learned as much italian sign as fast as we could. It was one of the top experiences of my trip so far. So many different dialects too! The older deaf folks relied heavily on spoken Italian so that made it hard for us folks that didn't speak it. Jacquie has been interpreting for me since she got here. I'm so surprised at how much she learned in such a short time. I don't know what I'm going to do when Jacquie leaves me. I know nothing of the language here. Maybe ill go to England instead. They sorta speak english :)

Anyway, some deaf folks cooked our group some great Italian cuisine and then we all headed to the Compo. We stood there for 5 hours total. 2 hours waiting for it to start so that we could have a good view of one corner of the track. Then the parade started. It lasted one and a half hours! Each contrada had their own group of flag bearers that waved and tossed and put on quite a show and their own drummers and knight and horse and all kinds of midevil weapons. There were 17 contradas in all. They were all dressed up like pages and wow I can't explain but someday when I get home I'll show you. At the end of the parade was these 4 HUGE white oxen that pulled this wagon with the bishop of whatever church this race was dedicated to and other important people. After the parade the horses and their riders came out (bear back mind you) and started their way around to the starting line.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Trip to Florence

After waving goodbye I went and found something to eat, found the restrooms (50 cents!?!) Then heard blah blah blah geneva platform 4...I ran. By the time I got up there most everybody was already on the train. (Did I mention they only stop for two minutes?) In my seat I watched the country side change again from following river valleys to winding our way through gorges. The architecture changed as well from stacked rock and clay tile roofing to more white wash walls with verigated tin and scrolly wood accents. We had arrived in Switzerland. At the train station I immediately left to see what I could see during my 2 hour lay over. I was taking a picture of a church across the street when a woman approached me and asked if I wanted a pic of me in front of it.

Meet Veronica. Older woman with 3 children ages 27-36 who looks in on her disabled neighbor and walks their dog for them. She has lived in several countries and speaks 4 different languages and asked if she couldn't show me around. I was thrilled! She told me how the church I was looking at had just had a big celebration for its 150th birthday. She took me to this river with a huge fountain and pointed to a huge old church on a hill. That one she said was 1500 years old. Then she told me to walk down to the lake and not to miss my train and not to trust people and to be careful with my bag etc...she was my Switzerland mom for an hour. Very sweet. She had to take Wendy the dog back to her neighbors and make sure they had everything they needed and then her son was coming for dinner so we parted ways. What a beautiful soul!

I saw men playing roller hockey on old roller skates (not the in line kind) near the lake. It was beautiful as the sun was going down but then I realized I must have misplaced my memory card for my camera in Avingon France when I downloaded my pics at the station before the fam left :( 16GB down. Back at the train station I got a little nervous. The only train at my departure time was going to Roma. I met a woman from Texas and her two sons headed to Rome celebrating one sons graduation. The other was a sophomore in high school. They had just come from Paris and it sounded like they were having a great time. The train pulled up and thankfully had a piece of paper that showed all the stops. Florence was one so I hopped on and found my berth. Inside was a boy from Belgium. Right after me came in to guys from Pakistan. Next stop we picked up a very old man from India (his feet where amazing! Dry wrinkled and looked as though he had never worn shoes in his life!) He coined the phrase "its salty" meaning its hot where's the AC. And last but not least a guy from Rome headed home. I found myself in a sleep car with 5 men. Not what I was expecting.

The guys from Pakistan where cousins on a crazy wild trip fitting in 5 different countries and multiple cities into 9 days. We were all getting off in Florence then They were headed to Pisa then Florence then supposed to be in Vienna that night! Crazy men! Javid was studying in Lead, England getting his PhD and come to find out he is a part time note taker for Deaf students at the university. Zulfia works in the oil fields for an Italian company in Pakistan. They invited me to take a quick tour of Pisa with them. Arriving at 6am with nothing to do till 1:30 I was game but told them as long as we get back before Jacquies plane I was cool with it. They said they still had to see Florence too and catch a train at 6:30 so we went. It was awesome!!! They were very fun to travel with. We arrived walked to the square with the tower and church and old wall. Took tons of silly pics. Their philosophy was to follow the chinese people because a they stick out and have very innovative picture taking ideas. We bought tickets to climb the tower the steps are marble and worn down a ton! The top was a little scary if you don't like heights. But they don't let you stay long. Its weird to climb down a leaning building! I was happy to have my feet on solid ground again! I had to pay to pee again and then I realized I'd lost my new wooden ring (set it down while applying sun block) I was very disappointed but it had been a good day so far. We sat down to a meal of light Italian beer and pizza. It was so good! Making our way back to the train station we just missed the train to Florence that would have gotten me to the airport on time. I started to get nervous. Jacquie and I had no way to contact each other and our plan was to meet at the airport. Javid debated the validity and authenticity of "they" and that helped me keep my mind off the fact that JQ would be sitting there forever wondering what my fate was. We arrived and finding and waiting for a bus shuttle became excruciating! When the bus pulled up to the station there she was waiting to get on! I couldn't believe it! I had almost missed her! Poor thing. I was so sorry I hadn't been there when she landed. We made our way to Campo Michelangelo and life was looking up. We freshened up a bit and headed to town for dinner taking one of the Rick Steves walking tours. It was an incredible night and we saw the old gold jewler's bridge. We decided to have diner in a whole in the wall place that turned out to have incredible food hearty house wine and stellar service.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

24 hours + 24 hours = one very long day

When I look back at where this day started and how much ground I've covered and all the people I've met I'm exhausted and full filled with all the wealth that is in my life. As a new friend told me...this is where our story begins and ends...but I think he was wrong. This is just one chapter that jumps around a lot. The chapter ends but all the characters show up later again in a distant place a and time. So this chapter begins in St Remy with my alarm telling me I've actually slept till 9 and need to get up and pack. I hit snooze a couple of times knowing that even though I have a birth in a train car that doesn't mean I know when I will next sleep. Packing my extra bag for Aunt Beth and stuffing some stuff in nanas bag I'm officially ready to depart my group. Its still quite a while before that happens but at least I'm ready. Mom, Nana, Coleen and Brenna are at cooking class. The girls and I decide to go into town to grab a few more pics and souvenirs before we hit the road. We drove down to the roman ruin excavation site to see what we could see without paying. It wasn't much but I climbed up through the scrub brush and out onto a pillar of rock and WOW! It took my breath away! You could see forever! Not so much right in front of you where they excavated but everything else, villages with spires piercing the centers surrounded by fields and orchards to the next town. I was about to yell to my sisters to join me when I heard the car door shut. They never heard me. Now I'm in a dress pretty sandels on an out cropping of rock and shale and there are stinging nettles and brambles everywhere you look. I try to pick the easiest way down but I realize its lead me to the wrong ravine. This is when Kara finally gets out of the car and calls my name instead of just honking the horn. She was thinking the same thing I was...stranded with a broken leg would suck right now, is she lost or hurt? Anyway, found my way down, went back to the hotel, loaded the cars and waved goodbye. Beth and I in one car, Tawni and Barb in another, the sisters in the van and all the luggage made our way to the train station. We left very early and it was a good thing cause we did get off the beaten path and stuck behind an accident in traffic with weird round abouts (4 lane highway going straight thru the middle) I hailed a non-english speaking semi truck and asked him how to turn around. Thru gestures we got our selves straightened out. One more stop for directions and we were there. Barb Moe and I stayed with the bags while the rest turned in the cars. That's when Coleen started calling frantically. They were lost "okay I followed the signs to Nice and never saw a TGV sign where do I go?" We had followed signs to Avignon so I was no help. Our porter was not worried. "Ah Nice! Its only like...mmm...30 mins away! Plenty of time! Do not worry they will be here!" Our train leaves in 45mins now. I'm totally worried! Needless to say Tawni runs back to collect a cd from the rental car coleens group showed up 7 mins before departure and nana found her train ticket 2 mins before the train pulled up. Tension was high and for the first time I was feeling a little teary. It was hard to let them go. When they took off, the silence on the platform was deafening! My body was buzzing. I was so used to being in tune with 11 other women and now I was just overly conscious of just me...to be continued!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

St Remy

Today is Sunday. We have one full day here so we made the most of it. Breakfast was served at 8am so we made sure we were ready to jump in the car before we sat down to a VERY scrumptious breakfast of granola, croissants, fruit, orange juice and cafe au lait. Then we were off, first to a Market/flea market (antiquing) and then to the lavender fields. The market was amazing, I've never seen anything...no wait, the Alaska State fair on a sunny, non-school day...INSANE! I finally burnt to a crisp, Se la vie! It had to happen sometime. There was so much color and noise and movement! Linens, legumes, jewelry, clothes, trinkets, you name it, it was there. Even a box with a baby pig and rabbits they were wanting you to buy food to feed them! (seriously, everything!) It was a little overwhelming...especially the antiquing, everything was old, and I mean nothing was less than 100 years old! And most of it was over 100 Euro...it was fun to look through the old furnature, linens, crystal, paintings, books, etc. So much to see, so little time. We ventured on to another town (I'll fill in the blanks later when I remember) that was older than anything we have seen yet and built into cliff. It was awesome and got everyone excited! We drove onto the lavender fields only to be surprised at how they were mountain pastures and just small funny shaped fields here and there. The abbey was absolutely stunning just like in the pictures but not at all in the setting you assume...when they say fields, you just don't picture the drive to victory bible camp and end up tucked in a closed valley. Lots of fun pics later we headed to explore that fun village on a cliff, only to find pay parking, being cheap some of us jumped out, while others drove to a different angle and parked in a no parking zone with the rest of the tourists...LOL! So French! We got some ice cream (glace) and headed home (missing the McDonald's!). Back at the hotel we hurriedly got ready for the next venture. Back in the car we drove to the insane asylum where Van Gough spent his final year before taking his life. He lived there for one year and 8 days and painted over 150 canvases and did over 100 sketches! (the beginning of art therapy?) It is still a working hospital. Walking across the street we saw some Roman Ruins that were built around Christ's time. Very cool. THEN WE WENT TO DINNER...(it's 7:30pm, we haven't eaten-minus glace-since 8:30pm)...10:30pm we still haven't gotten the bill...I have to the bathroom but there isn't one...Evie is vacillating between crying and sleeping...we are all so tiered from the fun day that even finding our way home is a challenge. (oh, and I keep loosing stuff!) Arriving home I take a cold shower, felt so good on my burn, and we all went to bed, well, I'm there as soon as I post this! Tomorrow Coleen Brenna Mom and Nana are taking a cooking class offered here at the hotel. I am personally going to sleep in, run some errands for mom and pack. If there is time, I would love to see the excavated roman ruins but I am headed to Italy so we'll see. Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to the family...I'm not ready

Goodbye Villa in the Vinyard - Hello St Remy

Today we said goodbye. It was so sad because we were just feeling comfortable and brave and could have stayed there another week without running out of things to do. Mom and I went out to Chateau Verez for one last bottle of vin while the girls lazed around the pool one last time. They met us in Vidabaun at another winery where I got my wine glasses and carafe. Thru town this semi rode two inches from moms bumper laying on his horn as if we could go any faster than the car in front of us! This place is crazy! (I personally love it!) The plan was to head to the lavendar fields. There were toll boths and highways and round abouts, dodging across 9 lanes to stay together. We decided to skip the fields and find our hotel first. (This ended up being the best idea) We drove around for hours, or so it seemed, in and out and thru St Remy. We even stopped at the office of tourism to ask for directions and still got lost! Driving around we met a guy in a truck who flagged us down by yelling Tawni's name. It was our hostest. He was going to the market and when he noticed 4 cars full of women driving around. He figured it must be us since a group that big especially all women is an extremely rare sight. It was a good thing. We only had coffee that morning and it was 4pm. We were all tiered and hungry. After settling in and getting the intro to the house and grounds and town we went to town for dinner...only to find that no one serves food till 7pm! It is a beautiful town with tintsie wintsie alleys and the old arches to the old walled city still standing between buildings. There was a huge church and while paying for parking we saw three different sets of brides and grooms leaving their weddings! (More soon)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Johny Depp aka Stinky Cheese

This morning we woke up and the 'Morris' girls made breakfast. We had potatoes and onions again with ham this time and scrambled eggs! It was so yummy and nice to have everyone together again on the veranda. I must say our meals have been amazing. Salads with lots of stuff in it. Cherries and nectars. Cheese and bread with balsamic vinegar and oil. Coleen made a yummy chicken noodle thing one night. Beth made a yummy ham noodle salads. And tonight Coleen is making fettecini with our yummy expensive cheese and Beth is making sauteed vegetables. Oh and lots of vin!

Anyway today we went to La Plan De La Toure. Home of our favorite pirate Johnny Depp (aka Stinky Cheese). We found parking and walked the streets looking for stinky cheese. It was a very cute and very nondescript. Extremely small we didn't dare mention his name so stinky cheese became the code word. It had a fun boutique. I bought an extra suitcase to send home with the ladies and french fries. We looked all over for stinky cheese but never found him. We saw what we assumed was his house but nobody really knows. From here we all decided to do different stuff. Lu's car went to the sea and shopping in St Maximes. Tawni's car went home and to the turtle preserve, which ended costing an arm and a leg so we declined going inside and to the butterfly caves, which ended up being a beautiful winery under construction, and to go horse back riding. YES, I, Jen Morris, rode a horse and did fine! It was very uneventful which was perfect in my mind and we rode down to a crick and up through some vineyards, up where you could see over the valley. We even saw 2 turtles (very lucky our guide said). Coleen said they even gave us real horses, not the retired trail riders but competition horses that jump and race! It was very lovely and my horse Ferrell did very well. The guide wasn't so bad either even though he didn't speak very much english and I even less French between our gestures we carried on great throughout the ride. Mom's car went to La Garde Friene and visited a cemetery and went home for a swim then back to our "butterfly cave" and to the super market.

It was a lovely day. We ended with the best fettechini and sauted vegetables I have ever tasted. A nice blanc from Chateau Verez. The sun went down as big storm clouds threatened to rain in us. We ran to the vineyard to get pics before our light was gone. Brenna found the biggest spider, I didn't go look, she had already danced and spat and stood speechless for long enough and that was good enough for me :)

Back inside the packing began. More piano playing and dragging of feet. We didn't want this week to end. One last skinny dip and 3 falling stars and tons of satellites. A perfect ending to our villa in the vineyard.