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Monday, February 29, 2016


One of the bonuses (as if they were even necessary) of being married to Paco is that he periodically does magical things like slip me a spring festival ticket to Maryland to visit the monkeys.

Rosie is a one of those monkeys--a full-time four year old.  She works cheap, doesn't shy away from overtime, and has fleeting moments of true brilliance.  I am completely a fan and will drag doll clothes for her across the continents until she goes to high school if necessary.  

Her textbook scowls at the Hershey Chocolate Factory were prize winning (but probably not the best of advertising).

Somewhere in the course of my intermission, someone suggested we should all eight of us jump in the van and set off for Civil War battlefields in the midst of the lowest temps of the year.  Mr. Lincoln was stunned at our naked bravery:  "Five kids, four states, and forty seven pounds of car snacks ago..."

Late morning jammies and motel cartoons!

The highlight for at least one of us was kicking it up in a shallow bathtub.

Lorelai was a major cave fan.  We did two down old Virginny way.

Caroline in her zen cave mode.

Skyline Caverns near Front Royal, VA,

and Luray Caverns not too far away.

It is no easy task being Pete...or his mom.  He tackles the task with aplomb each day.  Who would ever guess that under his bouncing rambunctious seven year old exterior, he's an artist!

He expresses himself in all manner of mediums.  I got to bring this smashing giraffe back to Beijing for our "gallery".  We're thinking that a little of the Uncle Tom gene leached out in the family gene pool and got sucked up by Pete.  

Charlie has taken to scouting like a duck to water.

I left my heart wrapped around this little pumpkin's tiny pinky finger.

Thanks for the good times, monkeys!
It was all worth it...

in the end.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Faces in the Places

Roman sisters of the cloth on their way to "work".

A bit of early morning "nunsense"... and a slight wimple adjustment.

Our trip took a bit of a James Bond/Mission Impossible twist when Meghan (fresh off the plane from Xi'an!) had her pocket picked on a crowded city bus in Roma!  A plainsclothes carabineri requested that we immediately exit the bus!  The questioning took place in this bakery.  Two young girls were apprehended, taken away in one carabineri car, while Meghan was sequestered in another!!  A true sting!!!  They'd been following the girls!  We trailed behind in a taxi to headquarters fearful that that would be the last we saw of our brief traveling companion!  Exhilarating!  To quote the reaction of Kayleen's awesome Uncle Fester lookalike kid, Tristen:  Just think of yourself as a vital part of the justice system that's helping to bring a crime ring down. And tell the story like that in the future. No, seriously, imagine the reactions you get about "That one time I helped catch two crooks in a crime ring while I was vacationing in Rome."

Who doesn't love a Roman delivery boy who doesn't even take time to remove his chef's hat?  Now, THAT'S fresh!!

A blockhead by any other name.  Actually, I almost missed her, camouflaged among the Roman ruins near the Colosseum as she was.


Smiles this broad...priceless.

Italian Boy Scouts manning a bake sale table in the village of Tivoli.  Their kerchieves gave them away, lest you suspected their motives.

 Italian beauties in training

I met this Korean girl in Tivoli Gardens--traveling the world solo!!

I love this picture--not because it is so Italian (which it is), but because it looks like Paco is about 8 months pregnant with a box of Triscuits!

Smiling for all the world like she DOESN'T have a record on file with Roman law officials!!!

This recent American college grad was touring Europe prior to his first job.  Part of his tour included visiting the parish priest of his childhood who is currently in residence in Assisi.  They were high above Assisi (as were we) strolling around this medieval fortress. We four UNANYMOUSLY voted Assisi as our #1 MUST return destination. 

Ah, Fabrezio--had I met you 35 years ago, my sons would not be Taggart and Thomas.  They would have BOTH been named Fabrezio!!!!  I LOVE your name, and I love your closet-sized gourmet sandwich shop complete with the Rick Steve's endorsement plaque at the entryway.  I adored your generous cheese samples.  And your sandwich...oh, your sandwich.  If you ever tire of Assisi, if you hear the clarion call of distant unknown places...I'm sure Idaho will grant you immediate citizenry...complete with whatever amenities accompany such a status.

A Francescan monk and his friend at the Church of St. Frances of Assisi

And from the front!  I'll bet you a bowl of ceci beans that they're brothers.


Happiness impossible to contain in front of the Duomo Cathedral in Milano. (And yet Another jaw-dropping readhead!)

Africa meets Firenze!

This beautiful baby DOVE for a banana I offered her.

My brief encounter with this gorgeous Muslim woman in Firenze revealed that she made this dress herself.

Anytown, U.S.A.?

Soaking up some late afternoon winter sun in Lucca.

Some morning when you're dragging your bones out of bed to face a mundane day of whatever, stop and think about this gentleman who every day places plumes in carousel horses and  cranks up his business at 10 A.M. in Firenze.  At 2 Euros a whack, it's not a bad gig.

A most congenial scarf merchant in Firenze.  In another life, I picture her as a film star?  model?  MaryKay?

Oh, oh, oh.  My new definition of TORTURE is having to bid farewell to these gentleman and their ravioli paradise just blocks from the Doors of Heaven, Michaelangelo's David, and the Duomo in Firenze.  Not only were they unfiltered eye candy, their ravioli came steaming and cream laden and illegally delicious.  I'm going to return for a summer and volunteer as their dishwasher.  When I waddle home 200 pounds heavier, I will have known nirvana...

After several weeks of classic Renaissance sculpture, we rounded a corner in Siena and found this whimsical exception.  Closer examination revealed it as the creation of a Chinese sculptor!  These tourists are Korean, but for a brief moment we were whirled back to our current life!

A Firenzian shopkeeper and his wife--notice the family pictures hanging all around.  This indoor market was abuzz with singing and whistling as they prepared for the day.  The produce, meat, and cheese were so vivid.  Those pictures will receive a complete posting.

A delightful pair of honeymooners from China sharing pure Firenzian air with us!  I hear the Canadians are bagging air for import to about a license to print money.

In Paris you twirl on a central tile in front of Notre Dame; in Milano you pivot on the ahem....testicles of a bull; in Firenze you rub the snout of this bronze bore.  All in the name of ensuring you a return trip.  Whatever it takes...

A random passing Venezian shot.  I love to imagine the conversations and the type of life that surrounds them every day.  The gondolier has beefy shoulder muscles, no?  

Paco was initially stumped by the location of our digs on the Grand Canal in Venezia.  He went off into this quiet corner and focused on the map.

Along chanced this magnificent American woman ("I came to Italy for three weeks 40 years ago, and couldn't find a good reason to ever leave!") angel,

and as the bugles of the  cavalry swelled over the horizon, led us to our destination!!  We hope her husband's procedure in the hospital ("Oh they're marvelous!!") went well.  Isn't she wonderful???

In my next life, I'm coming back as a gondolier...

Meghan exerting all her Chinese guangxi towards these Africans on a Venezian bridge

I captured these exuberant friends singing robustly on an early Sunday morning in awakening Roma.  I have video if I can ever figure out how to load it.  It will be worth the wait.

Yes, I paid to pose with these cheesy Roman soldiers in a magnificent park high above Roma.  As you can see, I was deriving great glee from plunging that dagger coldly into his heart.  Apparently, so was he.

This little gal is "Let it Go!"-ing in a Roman park as she feeds pigeons.

And the last little face.  We shared our sandwich bread and watched her feed pigeons as well for more time than most kids would have been interested.  

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley