Sunday, November 29

Let the Holidays Begin

Was your Thanksgiving dinner wonderful? Did your teams win? I am clueless about football but USC beat UCLA this weekend and I do pay attention to that, even though I don’t actually watch the game. Thanksgiving came late this year and our time leading up to Christmas is short. Thanksgiving was the 26th and that means less than 4 weeks.

Our son-in-law Chris served up a perfect dinner and Michelle set a gorgeous table. I only had to make whipped cream for the pumpkin pie, which we bought at Costco, and we also took an apple pie and vanilla ice cream. I love that it is our turn to just show up; oh yeah, that is so nice.

With the short window, thankfully the Christmas shopping is 90% done. I don’t handle pressure well so I always do things way in advance. I have not yet decided if I want to put up a tree; it’s a lot of work. I wish I could go poof and it would be done. We aren’t having any dinners or parties, so I’m thinking of skipping the tree this year.

I have been working shoulder to the grindstone on the table runner for our friends in Plano. Maybe if they like it they will invite us back?

I listen to music that helps my free-motion quilting be fluid.

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I am starting back playing golf tomorrow. It is cold now and I am looking forward to getting out there in my argyle socks! I have not played in well over a month, maybe two. I had been feeling sluggish and crappy, and I wasn’t sleeping. I thought it was jet lag, but three weeks? Uh, no…that’s too long! A week before we left on our trip our doctor put us on statins and it took me this long to realize that it is the drug that is making me feel fatigued and off-kilter. Last week and the week before, I had no energy for golf. I was slogging through my day, falling asleep at 9 PM, waking at midnight and not able to get back to sleep until 4 AM. That sucks.

So I quit taking them. To see if I felt better. And by golly I do! I feel like my old self again—chipper and full of it, and sleeping! It is so nice!!

J is taking it too, and he is zonked out on the couch every afternoon. He has been sleeping 12 hours a day and he’s still tired.

Monday, November 23

Around the House

We are back to “normal,” whatever that is. JJ was sick with a cold/sinus infection for three weeks, but with the help of a Z-pak (antibiotic) he’s back on his game. I think he has had 3 or 4 colds in the 32 years we’ve been together. I, on the other hand have probably had 30. I used to get a cold every year until I stopped eating wheat. But then, I used to work in an area with three other people who had kids and they brought the little buggers’ bugs to work. So maybe it’s that.

Okay, I promised some pictures of the new window treatments. This is what we’ve got so far, the bedroom ones come tomorrow.

This is the Africa Room. I would like to paint the walls darker. Some day.
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And this is the office. Southwest is passé, or maybe it’s in again, but the colors were right. We have cherry desks and bookcases in there. Our walls are not white, they are actually a sand or khaki color.
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These are the cornice boxes in the main living area. I was afraid the stripes would freak me out but they’re hardly noticeable and the dots add a touch of whimsy. I would have preferred a swirly, paisley-type design, but the other half of Us hates paisley. IMG_2794

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In the studio—I am making a table runner for our Dallas friends, a very belated hostess gift for putting up with us for six days. IMG_2797

This is the other side, just for fun. They can flip it over for a party.IMG_2799

That’s all for now! Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19

Getting Back to Real—Please?

We had 7.5-year-old Savannah for the weekend. I will readily admit that I am not your perfect grandma. Doesn’t mean I love them any less, but I am not used to having them around. Savannah is a willful child with a mind of her own, and her parents joked about that when they came to pick her up. “How long did it take you to figure that out? Two minutes? Three? Ha ha!”

Ha ha indeed.

She knocked at the bedroom door at 6:45 Saturday morning, ready for fun and games with Grandma. I’ve been having a very hard (impossible) time readjusting my circadian rhythm ten hours from the Europe trip, and this wake-up call set me back to completely upside down. I was off-kilter all day. It wasn’t her fault, I had neglected to set the guestroom clock back—the time change occurred while we were away. Sigh.

JJ is more temperate and jovial than I, and usually provides half the support, but he’s been sick (getting better now) and was down for the count. Oh well. I survived. Next time, we establish a wake-up curfew.

The next part of the travelogue is not terribly exciting. We had some nasty weather for a few days and we missed a few ports for a variety of reasons.

This is Portofino, you’ve probably seen a million photos and paintings of this iconic scene. But we’ll look a little deeper.
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This is really all there is to it, a place to sail your boat to, and shop and dine. Our ship was too big to get close and there is no dock for a large ship, so we had to take a tender boat to shore. The entrance to the village center is lined with pink plastic meerkats. This caused me wonder. I don’t get it.
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And some other odd statuary, these looking rather Picasso-esque.IMG_2651

We had wine and olives at the sidewalk café with the green awning. Two other passengers we knew joined us and we had a nice visit. They had tiramisu and said it was outstanding.
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We hit the fine ($$$) shops, didn’t buy anything ($$$), then went back to the ship to play bridge.

The next day we went to Cinque Terre (”Chingkweh Terra”) It was raining and the seas were rough, so the ferry wasn’t running and the only way in to these five little isolated gems was by train. We had not booked a tour here because we had planned to take the ferry (which was not running) on our own. This is Monterosso al Mare, which [I’m guessing] translates to Red Mountain by the Sea.
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It was pretty cold and wet, so we ate lunch (delicious), marched around the only street, and trekked back to the train station in the rain. We had those teeny-tiny folding travel umbrellas, which are worthless in that kind of downpour.

I love the way they left the brick/mortar exposed here. We saw a lot of this.IMG_2659

Just another photo and then the camera went into my rucksack to stay dry.

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After Portofino and Cinque Terre, we hit really bad weather and rough seas and had to change a few ports. We had arranged a ride into Florence and the driver never showed up. We stood out on the dock for 40 minutes in the cold, driving rain before we gave up. Turned out there were two ships in port, both sort-of named Oceania (ours was Oceania Riviera) and of course the driver went to the wrong one. He finally caught up with us but by then we would not have gotten to Florence in time to see David, which was our sole reason for going (we had timed tickets), so we said no thanks and kept the 80 euros per person, which was too high anyway, and played cards. And then Deborah and I both caught colds. But that’s travel.

I had been playing fast and loose with the bread over there and on the ship because it’s not as high in gluten as American wheat, but it’s not gluten-free and eventually it did catch up with me. I was actually relieved when we missed Capri (weather) and docked in Naples (big city) instead. I was able to walk ashore and buy some cold meds and a rescue inhaler for my asthma, which was getting a little scary. Four euros ($4.25—it would have cost $60 in the US plus a doctor visit) and it worked like a charm.

I avoided wheat after that. Which is really challenging in Italy because pizza is everywhere. Pizza and pasta—it’s what’s for lunch and dinner. Oh, and biscotti. Sniff sniff…oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

In other news, there is quilting going on in the studio. Pictures soon.

Thursday, November 12

Monaco

One of the things I never understood was, which came first? Monte Carlo or Monaco? Or are they the same place? According to Wikipedia, Monte Carlo officially refers to an administrative area of Monaco, specifically the area where the Monte Carlo Casino is located.

This is a shot of the famed casino (“Bond. James Bond.”), zoomed in from the ship.
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And here is the opposite, entrance side. It was a Monday afternoon, so we didn’t see any zillionaires coming or going, but there were several expensive cars parked outside. And throngs of tourists taking selfie photos with the Maseratis and Ferraris. So many selfie sticks wherever we went. Meh.
 
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We went inside (10 euros each) but no cameras were allowed. There are two sections, one where the common people are allowed to gawk (dress code strictly enforced), and beyond that, the massive gold-inlaid doors where only the swells were permitted to enter. We could not get a glimpse beyond the doors as they were guarded and never opened while we were there. We had originally planned to return that evening for dinner, but it seemed more reasonable ($$) to have dinner on the ship.

To the left of the casino is the Café de Paris, where you can sit outside and have a cappuccino or a glass of wine (I chose the wine).
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To the right of the casino, across from the Café de Paris, is the very shi-shi Hotel de Paris. Note the fine automobiles. Is that a red convertible top on that Mercedes? I think it is. We went inside but were swiftly (and politely) shown the door. Given the bum’s rush, as it were.
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The thing about Monaco that struck me was how densely developed it is. It’s very steep! With my big lens I can zoom in but I can’t get a wide shot, so this is just a piece of it. Also, the Grand Prix is raced through the narrow, zigzag of streets every spring.
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This shot, taken from the top of a Hop On Hop Of (HOHO) bus, is of the Parliamentary area where Prince Albert currently sits.
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Prince Albert, you probably know, is the son of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. Gee that’s a lot of medals! Her picture is everywhere; a self-guided tour.
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This is the church where the wedding took place. It’s up on that escarpment in the Parliament, the happy couple could have walked home from the church.
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Prince Albert is a handsome lad. Not as many medals as his papa, though.
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Here is a picture of our ship, Oceania MS Riviera (lower right) nestled in among the fine yachts. How did the captain get it in there!
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That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 9

Barcelona

Barcelona is a hip, young, university town. It’s easy to get around on foot, at least in the tourist areas. It is one of my very favorite European cities. It’s fun.

Like so many European cities, it got its start during medieval times. The original walled city is called the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). A few parts of the wall still stand, but they are almost obliterated by the more modern, cosmopolitan city that surrounds the Gothic Quarter. It is a delight to walk through the narrow lanes that are full of funky shops, cafes, and tapas bars.
Barcelona Gothic quarter, Carrer del Bisbe

Today’s Barcelona is the city that the 1990 Olympics built. This was where the flame once burned, outside the stadium.

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They transformed a former quarry into a vast Olympic venue. I was captivated by the artistic way they incorporated gears, gaskets and other findings into the pavement.
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Before the Olympics, Barcelona was a dot on the map. But what they built for the Olympics made the city what it is today, so it is an important part of the history of this place, strange as that may seem. They built a marina, a beach, and a modern cruise ship terminal that can handle several monster ships.
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Another thing that jumps out at you is the architecture. Barcelona beyond the old city was being built up during the Modernism era around the turn of the century, and several architects built houses for the nouveau riche at the time. One of them was Antoni Gaudi (“gowdee”), whose works are all over Barcelona.
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All well and good, but it’s his jaw-dropping, astonishing La Sagrada Familia that steals the show. It’s a work in progress, still unfinished since it was begun in 1882.
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It lanquished for several decades, but now they are working day and night to finish it by 2026, which will mark 100 years since Gaudi’s death. HERE is a short film if you’re interested.

We went inside. It is like being in a magical forest. IMG_2496

The stained glass windows cast soft colors on the pillars. I don’t need to tell you that pictures do not begin to do justice to this place.
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The outside is pretty amazing too. It tells the life story of Jesus. IMG_2495

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Flamenco is not Barcelona. Flamenco is Sevilla, but our companions had never been to Spain so we went to a flamenco show. It was the real deal.
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Next up is Provence and Monte Carlo.