It Takes A Village

So incredibly grateful for the friend who says, “I’d like to include your daughter in the fabric store shopping; tape-measuring; sewing machine practice; here’s a new dress time I’m having with my daughter.”

Yessa loves the dress and she loves the time with this best buddy and her mom.

It takes a village…

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Furry Surprise – Update

Editor’s note: Post contains video. Click through to watch at the website.

We borrowed a trap from an internet acquaintance, and we finally managed to capture the kitten out back.

Trapped!

Trapped!

A luxury stay at the vet brought much good news:

He’s a boy.
He’s negative for all the deadliest cat viruses.
He had worms. (Gone now.)
He had fleas. (Gone now.)
He weighed 1.75 pounds. (This morning he weighed 2.1.)

We kept him locked in a bathroom for a day or two to help him settle, but now “Jake” has free roam of the upstairs of the house. He and MoonStar have formed a fast friendship. Waffles is a little more skittish in personality, so he’s pretending Jake doesn’t exist.

Jake has proven himself to a be a well-mannered, snuggly, purry kitten. It’s already more difficult to feel his tiny little ribs, which makes us proud.

Such a tiny little thing.

Such a tiny little thing.

Getting some snuggles.

Getting some snuggles.

It didn’t take him long to settle into the comforts of indoor living with gourmet food delivery and adoring friends around at all times.

And no raccoons.

When we return from our upcoming trip, we’ll have him neutered, then he’ll be put up for adoption. It will be fun to foster him, and we’ll be glad for him to find a loving, forever home.

Italy Trip – Day 47 – Let’s Go To The Beach!

We were driving from Agrigento to our Agriturismo, and our host from the gorgeous apartment had told us a splendid beach where we could easily stop and spend a few decadent hours in the water.

We had to hunt up a pharmacy to purchase sunscreen, but it was worth the effort to find one, and then to hunt up the beach.

The beach was free, we had it mostly to ourselves, and the one restaurant that was open right on the beach was staffed by friendly folks with good food, and it gave us plenty of time to visit. I’ve already written a post about one of our conversations while we were at the beach.

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Buds trekked around at the beach much more than the rest of us, and found some superb white limestone rocks that created a perfect natural beach. This “Sicily Compilation” video shows everything from part of our ferry ride and the train being loaded on the ferry to our time at the beach.

Italy Trip – Days 44 – 47 – Agrigento

We were so sorry to be leaving Ortigia. How could another location in Sicily measure up to the beauty, comfort, and learning we had done in this incredible place. Not only did we want to return, we didn’t want to leave.

But, leave we must.

We packed up our backpacks and food bags and walked across the bridge off the Island of Ortigia to the rental car location. It was another red Panda that would be our vehicle for the rest of our time in Sicily.

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The rental car agent did us a huge favor by telling us to return the car at the airport in Catania because it would be easy to get a bus to take us to the train station. Returning it to the rental car station in Catania would mean an expensive taxi ride to the train station.

The kindness of strangers once again…

The drive wasn’t very long, but we’d had a little trouble connecting with the owner’s son for our next apartment home. We ended up parking at the local train station, and he and his girlfriend were able to find us there. We then followed them through the incredibly twisty-turny roads to our apartment. (More on these roads later.)

I found this beginning to a post I wrote right when we got to the Agrigento apartment, and it captures our excitement in this newest home:

We made the move from Syracusa to Agrigento yesterday. This week finds us in Sicily, which is a part of Italy, though it is often spoken of as if it is its own country. We’ll be on this island until Monday when we board the train to Rome for our last week in Italy.

The drive was a leisurely 3 hours with the children squished in the back of yet another Panda.

Hillier than I expected.

Hillier than I expected.

Lovely views on the drive.

Lovely views on the drive.

Why yes, I would like to sit in your pocket.

Why yes, I would like to sit in your pocket.

We were met at the train station by the son of our host so he and his girlfriend could lead us to the apartment which was up and down a warren of one-way roads. This was the most intense driving I’ve done so far, and I’m glad we are only here for two days, but the apartment is amazing.

We are the very first visitors staying in this completely refurbished home. We’re on the top floors and the bottom is still being redone. (Interesting note to self: Our door to our upstairs apartment is on an entirely different street from the people downstairs. That just occurred to me.)

The alley in front of our door.

The alley in front of our door.

The "intersection" closest to our front door.

The “intersection” closest to our front door.

In part because we are only here two days, this is the location where it feels most likely that we’ll get lost. It’s an absolute labyrinth up in here.

But inside the house is a sheer delight. Here’s the AirBnB posting.

The view  of the entry way.

The view of the entry way.

Looking down on the entry way.

Looking down on the entry way.

We took extra pictures here because there are parts we’d love to emulate.

Living room

Living room

Book case and stairs to the left of the entrance to the living room.

Book case and stairs to the left of the entrance to the living room.

Fireplace

Fireplace

Dining room/Living room

Dining room/Living room

Looking at the bookcase while standing in front of the fire place.

Looking at the bookcase while standing in front of the fire place.

Looking back toward the kitchen. Front entrance hallway and stairs on the right.

Looking back toward the kitchen. Front entrance hallway and stairs on the right.

(Disclosure: I took all these pictures on Buddie’s phone. My glasses were lost sometime around Venice, and I’m realizing all these pictures are blurry because I was holding the phone too close to my face to be able to tell they were blurry. Jeesh, eyes…)

On to more pictures:

Full frontal of the fireplace.

Full frontal of the fireplace.

Gorgeous kitchen

Gorgeous kitchen

Kitchen sink and window

Kitchen sink and window

They stocked the fridge.

They stocked the fridge.

The bottles of water in the fridge alerted us that drinking water from the faucet was not a good option.

We didn’t know what these were at the time:

Peeled Prickly Pear

Peeled Prickly Pear

We were to learn at our next Sicilian home that they were Prickly Pear, and are beloved in Sicily. After we knew what to look for, we saw them everywhere:

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Monkey's bedroom. Dad added for scale.

Monkey’s bedroom. Dad added for scale.

Downstairs bathroom. It was very orange.

Downstairs bathroom. It was very orange.

Upstairs living room. Yessa stuffies enjoyed the crib.

Upstairs living room. Yessa stuffies enjoyed the crib.

Parent bedroom.

Parent bedroom.

Bunk bed for littles.

Bunk bed for littles.

Fantastic master bath.

Fantastic master bath.

Loved the soaking tub and burnt umber tile.

Loved the soaking tub and burnt umber tile.

The view from the upper balcony.

The view from the upper balcony.

This apartment was gorgeous. It was in an ancient (truly) section of town, and the doors we walked past to get here gave testament to that.

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As much as we loved this space, we’ve got to take a minute to discuss the drive to get to this gorgeous apartment.

As I mentioned above, this was the most harrowing driving we’d done. Steep hills, one-way roads, blind corners, and incredibly tight spaces. My heart palpitates thinking about it even now…10 months later.

Here’s a visual to try to explain:

Heart Palpitations

Heart Palpitations

If you click on the picture above to make it larger, you can see there was parking very close to the apartment. That’s where our host led us for our initial unload.

Here’s an example of the streets we drove up to get to the apartment parking spot:

One of the streets we had to drive up.

One of the streets we had to drive up.

Steep, tight, and if you met a car coming down, a battle of wills over who would back up to let the other pass.

So, after we went out for our tour of the Valley of the Temples (More on that shortly.), our tour guide led us to a different place to park. It was a long walk, but it didn’t give me stomach pangs, so it was a win.

Enough of the traumatic driving experience, on to the beauty of Agrigento.

The highlight of this stop was a tour of The Valley Of The Temples.

We had a wonderful tour guide here, yet I cannot remember her name because I only got about an hour with her. Buster and Yessa were done after that time, so we left Buds and Monkey to enjoy the remainder of the tour in peace while we headed back to the car to snuggle in with games and stories.

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Again the magnificent light.

Again the magnificent light.

While we were still all together.

While we were still all together.

Starting the tour.

Starting the tour.

The long road linking the temples.

The long road linking the temples.

The "u" shows where the rope would have been inserted to lift the huge rocks.

The “u” shows where the rope would have been inserted to lift the huge rocks.

Interchangeable statues: Old ruler out, swap out the head for the new ruler.

Interchangeable statues: Old ruler out, swap out the head for the new ruler.

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Buds just said last night, ten months after this trip, that this was the most beautiful sunset he’s seen in his entire life.

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He had brilliantly booked our tour so we’d be at the temples for the sunset, and it was worth it.

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Our walk down to our apartment after we've driven back from our tour.

Our walk down to our apartment after we’ve driven back from our tour.

Buds and I did make time on our last morning to head out on an early morning walk to find a coffee shop and to see some of the other sights.

A church near us that was closed for renovation.

A church near us that was closed for renovation.

This felt like the most rushed of all our stays in Italy, but it was worth the effort.

Upcoming, our final stop in Sicily: An Agriturismo Bed and Breakfast. It keeps getting better!

Italy Trip – Days 41 – 44 – Ortigia

We arrived late at night in our first apartment in Siracusa (Syracuse), Sicily. Stumbling off the train, miming our need for a taxi, and Buds showing the address on his phone, the kind, non-English speaking taxi driver bundled us all into his taxi on this dark, rainy night, and off we went.

We were all laggy from the long, long day of travel and subsisting on saltine crackers and no water for the last several hours. It was with an air of disbelief when the cab pulled into the empty courtyard of a church and indicated with gestures that this was where we should disembark.

“Are you sure?” I asked Buds.

How could he be sure? It was dark. It was late. We were trusting in the kindness of strangers once again, and as it always had been, it was the right decision.

We were on the Island of Ortigia, on the Island of Sicily, in the city of Syracuse.

Let’s take a digital look at where we were:

Italy, with Sicily in the very bottom.

Italy, with Sicily in the very bottom.

Just Sicily. Notice Syracuse on the bottom right.

Just Sicily. Notice Syracuse on the bottom right.

Zoom in on Syracuse.

Zoom in on Syracuse.

Ortigia is the upper snaggle tooth of the witch’s mouth underneath the c in Syracuse.

Zoom in on Syracuse to see Ortigia.

Zoom in on Syracuse to see Ortigia.

The taxi driver pointed down an alley to the right of the church courtyard. With repeated motions he indicated that was the way to our first Sicily home.

Later we were to understand how close we actually were:

Ortigia Apartment

The kind owner was waiting for us. She had stocked the kitchen with food we needed for a late night meal and an easy breakfast in the morning. A quick tour, and then she left us to settle in.

The first apartment.

Lots of pictures in the link above which do a fantastic job of showing the apartment, so I’ll not give my normal exhaustive tour. A few highlights:

The alley from the church courtyard to get to our doorway.

The alley from the church courtyard to get to our doorway.

The kitchen that gave us the vision for our new kitchen.

The kitchen that gave us the vision for our new kitchen.

He matched his shirt to his chair, which I'm sure helped his productivity.

He matched his shirt to his chair, which I’m sure helped his productivity.

The toilet was so tall even my feet wouldn't touch the ground, hence the helpful chair to use as a footstool.

The toilet was so tall even my feet wouldn’t touch the ground, hence the helpful chair to use as a footstool.

The water was fine for drinking everywhere we had stayed, but I thought this water dispenser we found in an alley over from our apartment was cool:

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With only 2 full days here, Buds got us out on a tour our very first morning in town.

This was a walking tour with archeology student Enrica and she was great. The children had about 3 hours of walking in them on this first day. Buds and I took a tour with her the next day where we got to just absorb all the history we were surrounded by.

We started with the Temple of Apollo.

Overlooking the Temple of Apollo, built before 550 B.C.

Overlooking the Temple of Apollo, built before 550 B.C.

History.

History.

Duomo di Siracusa

Duomo di Siracusa

The amazing thing about the Syracuse Cathedral above is that it began as a Temple to Athena, and the inside and parts of the outside show many of the original features of the temple.

Saint Lucia is the patron saint of Syracuse, and we also toured her church just across the courtyard from the Cathedral. In her church we saw the Caravaggio painting explained in this Wikipedia post.

Also on this tour was the glorious moment when Yessa asked me how St. Lucia got three arms.

Our beautiful setting for lunch:

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The next day Buds and I toured alone. We took a taxi to the Archeological Park, and Enrica took us around this place she knew so well for several hours. This website has a great write up about the three main areas of importance we saw: The quarry, the Greek Theater, and the Roman Amphitheater.

The Archeological Park- looks a little like Pompeii.

The Archeological Park- looks a little like Pompeii.

The map of the park.

The map of the park.

Erika led us through the quarry first.

Yup, looks like an ear.

Yup, looks like an ear.

The Ear of Dionysus

The Ear of Dionysus

Yup, looks like an ear.

Yup, looks like an ear.

The lines from the hand tools of the slaves who mined these walls are still visible.

The lines from the hand tools of the slaves who mined these walls are still visible.

This locally famous plant...

This locally famous plant…

Appears on lots of columns and decorations.

Appears on lots of columns and decorations.

We started at the top, looking down into the amphitheater.

We started at the top, looking down into the Greek Theater.

Obligatory shot.

Obligatory shot.

Notice the teepee shaped building in the background. We’ll visit it later.

The bubbling "fountain" at the top of the Greek Theater where patrons could get a drink.

The bubbling “fountain” at the top of the Greek Theater where patrons could get a drink.

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The elite families had "box seats" with their names on them in the front row at the amphitheater.

The elite families had “box seats” with their names on them in the front row at the amphitheater.

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These are plants.

These are plants.

Enrica picked up a few pieces of pottery off the ground and told us they were from a certain archeological age. No way of knowing if it’s true or not, but it sounded good.

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Buds and I decided to walk the couple miles back to our apartment from the tour. This gave us a chance to visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Tears. We visited respectfully, but still found ourselves in jaw-dropping awe at the curious space. It was beautiful, in its own way, but it would not be a soothing place of worship for me.

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One of the evenings, Buds and I settled in the children in and popped around the corner to a tiny restaurant that served delicious food and wine and seemed to only be open due to the interest and whims of the jovial owner. We told him to bring us whatever sounded good to him, and we loved it.

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We wanted to go back the next night, too, but he wasn’t going to be open because he wanted to be with his family instead. Can’t argue with that.

Whenever Buds and I talk about Ortigia, we always speak in reverent tones about “the light.” The light here was so golden, so beautiful, it makes my heart ache to think about it.

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It was really bright, too.

This was Buds attempting to take a picture of the rest of us, but since he couldn’t tell what the screen showed, we got this squinty-eyed selfie:

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One of the afternoons The Buster and I wandered around in the church at the end of our alley.

For a small church by Catholic standards, it had many beautiful pieces, too.

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I love the comfortable homeyness of the priest’s glasses sitting on the side table, ready for the next worship.

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This statue/coffin/display would be carried through the streets on holy days. In the following picture you can see the metal slots at the bottom where the wooden posts slide in to be lifted onto the worshipers’ shoulders.

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And since we haven’t had many pictures of Monkey so far, here’s a reminder that she was still taller than Buster during this trip.

She's not taller anymore.

She’s not taller anymore.

This was a perfect beginning to our Sicilian Adventure. From the little cafe where Buds, Yessa, and I (and maybe Buster) would grab an espresso and a croissant each morning, to the golden light that greeted us by the Cathedral, to the gelato shops we tried out by the center fountain, this is a town Buds and I hope to return to.

Reunited

My Dad was the fifth child out of 17 in his family. That means I have a very large extended family, which has always intrigued the children.

Because of the death of several family members this last year, it was important for me to attend the annual family reunion. There’s a picnic, then we swim.

It was so good to see cousins and aunts and uncles I haven’t seen for so long. So much love and many hugs. And, as I warned the children, lots of people who hugged them and said, “I can’t believe how tall you’ve gotten.” And, “You look just like…”

It was good to talk about my dad, or to share my sympathy with folks who understand.

One of the best parts was getting time with my sister-in-law, Faye. My brother wasn’t feeling well, but having the time to visit with her was awesome.

She and Yessa have a similar, quick-witted sense of humor, and to watch them bounce off each other at dinner was a delight.

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It was good to be with this crowd who shares my genes. So much to love.

Grannie Comes For A Visit

Mom settles into our regular life with us so easily, I sometimes forget when she’s here that she doesn’t live with us all the time. We did do a couple touristy things on this visit, just to be sure she didn’t feel we were keeping her prisoner at home, chained to the laundry basket. (She kindly takes on folding laundry and litter box cleaning when she’s with us. Not being able to smell can be a blessing.)

Celebrating Monkey's birthday.

Celebrating Monkey’s birthday.

At the Frist.

At the Frist.

The car exhibit was intriguing.

The car exhibit was intriguing.

Making some art together.

Making some art together.

Water colors are fun.

Water colors are fun.

Joined for lunch by Buds.

Joined for lunch by Buds.

The whole family was glad she was here.

The whole family was glad she was here.

She's willing to learn about Magic.

She’s willing to learn about Magic.

Started out reading together.

Started out reading together.

Ended like this. The boy can still sleep anywhere.

Ended like this. The boy can still sleep anywhere.

Another great visit in the long line of visits and trips. I recognize how incredibly blessed we are for this time.

Tennessee State Museum

With Monkey visiting my mom, the house is a little empty, so it seemed like a good chance to do some exploring of new places and spaces with the youngers.

We headed to the Tennessee State Museum in downtown Nash. I had heard great things from friends, but with two skeptics on my hands, I wasn’t sure how things would pan out.

It was a hit with all of us.

The museum is housed in a formal state government-looking building, so there’s little idea of what to expect. This was Buster’s opinion of the outing before we began:

Just leave me here for dead...

Just leave me here for dead…

I had to muster enough enthusiasm for all three of us:

Crazy-eyed Mom drags children along for ride.

Crazy-eyed Mom drags children along for ride.

On a side note, Buster did say this shirt made me very “huggable.”

The view from the balcony overlooking the first floor of the museum looked very promising.

Wagons and houses and exhibits...oh my.

Wagons and houses and exhibits…oh my.

Forever ruined by Darcy and Dan’s wedding Conestoga Wagon:

Darcy and Dan's Conestoga Wagon.

Darcy and Dan’s Conestoga Wagon.

both children were immediately asking, “Can we get in that?”

You can’t.

But, you can plan out what you would take in your Conestoga Wagon for your trek across the country.

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Furniture?

Nope.

Seeds?

Yes.

Mattress?

Nope.

Ice Sculpture?

Nope.

Cow?

Walking along behind.

We also saw this awesome Native American canoe:

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Since it can hold 15-20 adults, seems perfect for the annual trip we do with Buddie’s family.

The children were not amused by this suggestion.

(80% of the things I do are for my own amusement anyway.)

Lots to learn about Nashville:

Who knew?!

Who knew?!

And these two spent 40 minutes playing checkers while I was able to leisurely explore the exhibits around them to my heart’s content.

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Rather than use the blocks, they spent a fair amount of time re-enacting the “singing on the steps” scene from The Sound of Music.

Do, Re, Mi...

Do, Re, Mi…

We’re artsy that way.

There was a fantastic photography exhibit by Benjamin Walls.

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They were attempting to mirror each other across the frame, but it devolved into punching and laughing:

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There were the Smithsonian-esque wax-faced exhibits:

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A splendid quilt display and activity area:

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An old fire engine pumper:

Can't climb on this either.

Can’t climb on this either.

And in an unexplained “Why the heck?!” the museum also sports an Egyptian Mummy and a mummified cat.

Cats may have been considered holy back then, but mummified they look like a large piece of…something.

It's a CAT!

It’s a CAT!

The children insisted I show them reclining on the 360 degree chair (their description):

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And, finally, we were laughing about these royal-looking thrones that look so luscious and comfortable. They are, in fact, made of incredibly hard plastic.

Looks aren't everything.

Looks aren’t everything.

After the museum, we headed over to Pied Piper Creamery to try some local ice cream. They were making fresh waffle cones as we walked in the door, so the children had warm waffle cones with their delicious ice cream.

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It was a lovely day, only missing the Monkey to make it complete.

Furry Surprise

For a couple days I had been hearing a kitten crying outside. Each time I would go out to try and call to it or find it, the mewing would stop.

Finally, last week, this little creature decided food was more necessary than complete safety, so it came knocking on our back door.

S/he was thirsty and hungry.

S/he was thirsty and hungry.

We tried to capture her on Friday for a vet trip, but she’s outsmarted us so far. We picked up kitten food and vitamins, and she’s so little she seems inclined to stick close to her sleeping spot under the deck and come up and insist we put food out if she’s not happy with the current offerings.

FOOD!

FOOD!

We’ve devised an ingenious food bowl to keep the ants out of her food, although I believe the raccoons may have visited last night so we’ll need to bring the food in at dark.

Bowl of water with food in the center...no ants!

Bowl of water with food in the center…no ants!

In the evenings I believe she’s decided we are her personal entertainment system. Initially she was only fascinated by MoonStar and Waffles. (MoonStar spends a fair amount of time looking at her through the glass.) But now she seems to think we are all the best show on television.

Perched on the couch, entranced.

Perched on the couch, entranced.

What's that funny Buddie up to now?

What’s that funny Buddie up to now?

Life…always interesting.

Monkey Has A Birthday!

Monkey would be in Iowa on her day of birth, so we had some pre-birthday celebrations. She chose dinner at Five Guys:

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Dessert at Yogurt Mountain:

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And time at Game Stop to spend some of the generous birthday cash she was gifted.

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She’s planning for ear piercing when we are all together in Iowa later this month.

Thanks to the kid who made us parents and is a splendid big sister. We love you!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

We love you!

We love you!

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