August – One more thing to do BEFORE summer ends.

DO A PUZZLE!

Puzzle of choice – BEACH FUN. I like the White Mountain brand. This one looked challenging, lots of kids/sail boats and color.

MY REWARD!

When I opened the box, RIGHT ON TOP, a puzzle piece with a HEART on it. So darn CUTE!

I immediately searched for the heart in the puzzle picture. WHERE did that piece go? It took me FOREVER to find the heart in the picture.

HOW FAST —->>> Can YOU find it??

Lets have some summer fun!

Memories – HAUSER, Waltz No. 2

HAUSER the famous cellist…. Waltz No. 2 was written by Dmitri Shostakovich, a Soviet-era Russian composer and pianist. This Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2 was written in 1938 for the newly founded State Jazz Orchestra of Victor Knushevitsky, and was premiered on 28 November 1938 in Moscow (Moscow Radio) by the State Jazz Orchestra.

When Shostakovich began piano lessons at the age of nine it was clear he had musical talent. He was one of the major composers of the 20th century.

After reading Dave’s post, ”Child’s Play,” on Life In A Word, I was inspired to listen to Hauser play Waltz No. 2 on YouTube. Thanks, Dave. I hope you all enjoy it too.

Have an enjoyable weekend everyone!

Italy – Sending postcards…

When was the last time you sent a postcard? For me, it’s been years. It’s so easy to snap a photo and send it via text or email. DONE! Taking time to write a postcard, buy the stamp and mail it seems “archaic.” Real EFFORT would have to be put into that process, right!

At my hotel, they had a small entry way. There were people ahead of me to check in. I was standing next to — drum roll — a bunch of postcards. To pass the time…

I started looking them over, remembering how my daughters send me postcards when they are on a trip. I always enjoy the surprise card in the mail. EFFORT = LOVE

So, I decided, I should surprise them in return. I bought two Trevi Fountain postcards.

I wrote:

Just threw THREE COINS in Trevi Fountain. ONE was mine. ONE was your Sister’s. ONE is YOURS! MAKE YOUR WISH! Love, Mama XOXO

Hopefully, they receive the card, so they can make their wish.

When I asked where to buy a stamp, I was told to go to the newsstand. At the newsstand, the fellow gave me my stamps and when I asked WHERE to mail the cards, he pointed to this little yellow mailbox below the postcards.

I had a BIG smile, going back in time.

I admit, I wondered if it was legitimate. It looked cute, but it was in such an odd place.

I asked for confirmation.

The fellow nodded his head — YES!

So, in the box, my postcards went.

Now, to see if they will be delivered!

I made MY WISH! They need to make THEIRS!

I enjoyed THINKING of something clever to write.

Oh, I learned that the Vatican area has it’s own stamps. So, if you mail something through a Vatican mailbox, it must have a Vatican postage stamp on it.

GPS mail — I think on the receipt there was a bar code to scan. If I can find that, I might be able to track my postcards. That would be interesting… right!

Beloved Pizza — NO MORE

Something STRANGE happened when I was in Italy.

I did not like the pizza!

I KNOW… How could that be?

I’ve ALWAYS enjoyed the Italian pizza, but this time. NOPE! In Florence, the pizza crust was terrible. Maybe it was meant to be a healthy version, don’t know, but it’s texture was like cardboard. I could barely eat it. This is a place I have frequented over the years, so it should have been delicious. My heart sank.

In Rome, the pizza crust was so thin it made the pizza soggy, I could barely eat it. Also, they had big chunks of mozzarella cheese on top. When I took a bite and tried to swallow, I thought I would choke. My daughter said the same thing happened to her when she was in Rome. She could not eat their mozzarella cheese. This has never happened before. Soooo… has the texture of mozzarella cheese changed?

I felt the SAME about the sandwiches. I used to LOVE and CRAVE salami, prosciutto, mortadella. It’s the BEST in Italy. We would have this with my grandmother at home at lunch. Put the bread on the table, cut slices and open all the different lunch meat packages, pick and choose what we wanted.

What sadness, really!

I had to think. Had the food changed or did COVID change my taste buds? I’ve never tested positive for COVID, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have it over the past 2 1/2 years. Was it the weather, high 90s, little interest in food?

Oh… it GETS WORSE!

I didn’t care for gelato either. My gosh, this is a major Italian taste bud issue, right! Who doesn’t enjoy a gelato. I did eat it, but I had no sense of this is so fantastic, like I did BEFORE COVID.

GOOD NEWS — Drinking a Fanta with ice cubes was enjoyable and my tastes buds were working. PHEW, so it wasn’t a COVID issue.

Oh, and my FAVORITE cookies — Atene, my grandmother would have these. My taste buds were GOOD. Thank goodness!! I would have been sad to have those memories taken away. Here is what they look like. They are a heavier type of cookie, good with coffee or tea.

I do think that the taste of food is changing around the world. They, whomever they are, keep trying to genetically enhance meat, fruit, vegetable products and more. There are constantly fraud issues with prosciutto. If you Google, you can read about it.

So — I’m hoping it was the extreme heat that changed my taste buds. I was happy that my daughter said she experienced the same feelings on her trip to Italy, so it wasn’t just “me.”

Soon we will all start having our own organic gardens, so we can trust our produce!

Italy – Hotel v.s. Monastery stays…

When I tell someone I stayed at a monastery, they give me a strange look. Am I overly religious OR becoming a Nun. It does make me smile. I know they are missing out by being narrow minded.

A few years ago, I was in Florence for an extended period. Given that, I searched hotels, hostels, etc. for a more economical way to stay there. Up popped this website — www.MonasteryStays.com. You can see from the Home page, it looked interesting. I was intrigued.

To date, I have stayed at three monasteries in Florence, one in Assisi, one in Cortona and one in Rome.

The monastery in Cortona felt like a boutique hotel. You would not know it was a monastery. FABULOUS!! In fact, I did not see any Nuns around. Don’t quote me, but I think they had TVs in the room.

Here’s what you should know. While each monastery is different, they do have similarities:

  • Breakfast served at a certain time. Sit where your name is placed on the table.
  • Breakfast – bread, butter/jam, yogurt, lunch meat, cereal, fruit, coffee/tea. Unique to each stay.
  • When you leave monastery, leave your key at reception.
  • Curfew, need to be in by 11 or 12 pm, depends on the monastery.
  • TVs, some monasteries have them, some don’t.
  • Wifi — yes, most of them.
  • Summer – check if they have air conditioning.
  • Note: Sometimes the Nuns only speak Italian or at reception they have an English speaking person.

WHO CAN STAY? Anyone – single, married, parents with kids, workers who are on assignment stay there. Now, honeymooners??? LOL – if you are loud at sex/love making, you certainly would have ALL of us entertained and in shock. In fact, I imagine the cross hanging in my room would start shaking. The monasteries do tend to be quiet.

HOW ARE THE ROOMS? I must say, quite spacious and nice. Great bathrooms.

This was my place in Rome. Nice, very clean and a balcony. LOVE the white pressed sheets! Resembled some normal hotels I stayed in Munich.

Trying to think if I missed anything. If you browse the Monastery Stays website, you’ll see ALL the rooms, read through what they offer. Good rates too.

Any questions… leave a comment, happy to answer.

REALLY love the monastery stays. Wish they had this type of website for Germany.

Rome – St. Peter’s Square

They say people are having REVENGE travel right now. I don’t know. Before COVID people were traveling as they are now. The streets in Florence were so packed with tourists, it was hard to see the sights. I honestly thought, I don’t need to come back, it’s no fun.

Fast forward to now. So much turmoil in the world, I wanted to see Florence once more. I would be sad if I didn’t see it again. It’s my mother’s birthplace.

Normally, I would fly into Florence connecting through Munich. Now, with fewer flights, the best deal I could find was either flying into Milan or Rome, not even Pisa. I decided to go to Rome.

Being Catholic, I felt I should see the Vatican again too. Say a few prayers, visit the Nuns. I like the Nuns in their habits, they each have unique personalities. In fact, I got scolded at breakfast one morning by a feisty Nun. I had sat at a random table not realizing they had placed name cards at the tables. She KNEW immediately I was at the wrong table, because there were two priests names at my table.

She had to BELLOW out, so everyone knew my mistake. In Italian she said, ”Why aren’t you HERE?”

I apologized, saying, I did not see the name cards. She sighed heavy, picked up my name card, banging it on the table for emphasis and said in Italian, ”TOMORROW YOU SIT HERE!”

She was cute, shaking her head, thinking such dumb tourists, can’t follow simple rules.

The next day, as soon as she came in, I SMILED and in Italian said, ”LOOK, I’m at the right table!”

I was staying in Rome at Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina, a monastery. Did you notice the AMAZING view of St Peter’s Square that I had from the monastery’s rooftop. WOW – it can’t get any better.

Also, look at the square, NOT many tourists. The taxi driver told me in May/June many tourists like before COVID. I got LUCKY, beginning of July, maybe because of the heat, not many tourists. WONDERFUL!

Trivi Fountain was a bit crowded. People had to make their WISHES! Taking a picture with so many people in front of the fountain was challenging. I did my best. Even through a coin over my shoulder. Hoped it made it in the fountain. I was up a few steps with a lot of people in front of me. FUNNY if my coin ended up in someone’s fluffy hair, right!

Well, that’s all from Rome today.

Oh, I got lucky with my flights. Direct flight from Chicago to Rome and back, no delays or cancellations. Going there I even had three seats to myself. It was a full flight, it just happened that way. GREAT!!

In case, you are wondering about masks policy. I didn’t have to wear my mask anywhere except the bus. Even on the plane, we didn’t have to wear them. Some people did, but most did not.

So — traveling, I got LUCKY and enjoyed seeing Florence / Rome with few tourists. Many traveling horror stories, I wonder if that is the norm or that’s what the media focuses on. I had an easy pleasant trip. I do recommend direct flights if you can do it. Less stops, less chance of lost luggage. Also, I took a small weekend carry on suit case, ended up working fine. Did not need a bigger one. Traveling was EASY!

Glad I went, but also GLAD to be home!

Sun Protection – Hats, hats & more hats!

When you have a big hat collection, you need someone to protect it. In walks, Isabella, the Christmas mouse. Actually, this was a funny photo. My daughter saw this and said, “Mama, you’ve got a lot of hats!”

I explained that I had even more. It was becoming a storage dilemma. Global warming has made it impossible for me to go outside without sunblock, a scarf, long sleeve shirt and hat. Within 10 minutes, I look like the color of a lobster. No kidding, my skin feels like an egg in a frying pan, the sun is so hot.

Then add style. If I’m working out, wearing a stylish straw hat doesn’t work. If the weather is windy, now I need a hat with a tie around the neck. If it’s raining, I need a waterproof hat. If I’m gardening, I need wide brim, and cleanable. You get where I’m going with this. I’m slowly learning which hat works with which outfit/occasion. I’m lazy, ideally, I wanted 1-2 hats for ALL purposes. Grab and go! I learned that didn’t work.

Oh, and hats are seasonal. I can’t wear a woolen hat in the summer. So, now I have all these hats, and I’m not sure how to store them. They can’t be in hat boxes, my gosh, my life would be a nightmare opening each box. I need them in a pile, so I can pick and go!

I did see a hat tree rack like they have in retail stores. I liked that, but it takes up an entire corner of a room. Do I want to do that? Hum… still putting thought into this.

Any hat lovers out there. If you have ideas. SHARE THEM!

Chicago – NEW Chinatown Mural – Rich Lo

I happened to catch NBC 5 Chicago news recently and this segment by Vi Nguyen caught my attention. An amazing mural by Chicago artist Rich Lo. For this mural, he chose three famous Opera characters commonly seen in Cantonese opera. They are legendary warriors. Lo’s father was a rising star in the Chinese Opera. He saw his father perform on stage, so this is close to his heart.

The Chinese American Museum of Chicago donated this wall for the mural which is in the parking lot. What is also interesting is that Rich Lo went to grammar school across the street from the site of the mural. Fate / destiny at work when he was a child. Interesting how life works, right!

This is such a special tribute to his Chinese culture and family legacy to create this beautiful work of art! I’m excited about this.

It’s time for me to head to Chinatown and see this mural in person!

Buddhist Temple – Yesterday Offerings

I was driving my car when I saw these monks yesterday. How beautiful! I immediately pulled over to find out what their procession was about. I spoke to a Vietnamese woman who said that once a year, the monks come from around America to walk a certain path, praying and people offer them donations. Back in Vietnam, the monks would walk barefoot, but not here.

This lady was on a mini bike and was following the monks on their walk. She had been a Catholic and converted to Buddhism. Anyone is welcomed in the Temple, go visit, she said.

There is something very spiritual about seeing the monks walking in prayer. I immediately felt a peacefulness come over me. Entering a zen state.

Passing this along. May you feel at peace today too!

Colorado – Nature

Recently, I was in Colorado. Imagine my surprise to capture a picture with an eagle, moose and mountain lion all at once. One of my daughter’s thought I had actually seen the moose on a wilderness trail. That means she QUICKLY looked at photo, did not analyze it.

I love this moose. Perfect taxidermy work. I do feel as if I met him on the banks of a river. The mountain lion is cleverly hidden to the right coming out of the cave.

If you are wondering, I was in a Sporting Goods store called, “Scheels.” First time I have been in one. It was similar to a Bass Pro Shop, if you’ve gone there. HUGE – hard to leave without buying something.

Case in point, I found these orange ON gym shoes. I’m not familiar with this brand. Turns out they are from Switzerland, founded in 2010 by three guys who wanted a good running shoe. They’ve been worn by a lot of athletes who have won in their fields. I tried to find out what the logo on the shoe stands for, but couldn’t find anything. If you know, leave a comment.

These are slip ons, so not meant for running. So far, so good, they feel comfortable. Although, I need to tighten up the laces. I love the color.

I’m all set for more walking. We have a heat wave coming though, that might have me indoors, let’s see!

Happy exercising!