Thursday, April 29, 2010


This has been one of those weeks. You know the kind that I am talking about; the kind of week that has been so full of activity that you don't know whether you are coming or going. Can you identify?

It is already Thursday and the week feels as though it has gone on forever. Being busy would be okay if I felt as though I had accomplished anything, but the activities I have been involved in are the kind that you can't look back and see results. Most of them involve trips to appointments and such.

I have found that when I have stressful events occurring in my life, the best thing I can do is take a walk. Needless to say, I have taken several walks this week. I try to grab my camera once in a while just in case I see anything interesting as I amble about. This week I decided to try to capture serenity in my photos to help me to remember to relax. I thought that maybe others would enjoy a relaxing moment as much as I do, so here it is. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the walk.

My gravel driveway is about a fourth of a mile long up hill. The hill actually gives a pretty good work out, but at the top I am rewarded by a pretty little bluebird that has made her home in the box that my dad put up for me. Until we put up the box last year, she tried to build a nest in my mailbox.

At the end of the driveway, a look to the right shows the solitude of where we live.

A look to the left shows even more of the solitude of our country life. We do have neighbors within a mile of our home, but we do not see them very often. During my walk, I may see one car (on a busy day).

I do not like to walk listening to an ipod, instead I enjoy listening to the sounds of nature and spending time with the creator of it all. Telling Him my problems always seems to make them much more bearable.

Of course what goes up, must come down, so the walk back down the driveway is probably the most relaxing part of the stroll. The wild blackberries growing around the pond look very promising this year.

The sounds of the birds, scent of the blooms, and the feel of the gentle breeze is enough to melt away any amount of stress that one may have.

Well, I am off to another busy day. Hopefully, I will find time to walk and relax. May you also find a little time in your day to relax and enjoy your surroundings.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." John 14:1

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Face of an Angel- I Think Not!

Living in the country definitely has its ups and downs. Although they are cute and fun to play with, our goats can be a handful sometimes. In fact, at one time or another, all of our animals have been in trouble.

Meet Lulu. She is one of our two Nubian goats. Our youngest daughter, Carson, decided several years ago that she wanted some goats to milk. We purchased two goats with dreams of making soap. It didn't take long for her to realize that milking goats is a full time job. You can't take a vacation from it, ever. Needless to say, after coming to this conclusion, the goats just became big pets like every other animal on this farm.

The trouble with goats is that they are loud! Every time we go outside they start trying to get our attention. Have you ever heard a goat's Maaaaaa? People who visit us say that it sounds like a man dying. There is another problem with goats. If they ever escape their pen, they can cause some major damage.

Does this look like the face of an angel to you?

Before you answer that question, consider this. Last year our azaleas in the front of the house looked like this.

Aren't they so pretty when they are blooming?

Near the end of the summer, our two goats pushed up against the wire of their pen and pushed it out far enough to escape. After several hours in our yard, five of my front azaleas looked like this. John and I were not happy. He was ready to rip them out of the ground certain that they were ruined.

However, this spring, low and behold, new growth. Isn't that amazing! There are no blooms, but at least they are alive. I hope that after some tender loving care they will be back to normal soon.

As for the goats......they are living happily in their pen. (which we frequently check to make sure they are secure)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Broccoli Troubles

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I have started a vegetable garden for the first time this year. We have enjoyed harvesting and eating the wonderful romaine lettuce that we planted and have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of some delicious broccoli. There is just one problem.

Today I went out to check the garden, as I do every day, and this is what I noticed.
The leaves are big and beautiful. They are the prettiest color of green imaginable.

But, there are no broccoli spears developing.

It rained a little last night, and some of the broccoli plants had fallen over on the ground.

So, my questions for all of those experienced gardeners out there are...............
What is happening with my broccoli? Will it ever produce? Any suggestions are welcome.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bringing the Beauty Inside

Yesterday was one of those rare relaxed days around the house. I took a few minutes to cut some of the flowers from my snowball bush to bring into the house for us all to enjoy.

I simply cut the flowers and placed them into a soaked florist square that I purchased at the local Walmart.

The container is one of my favorite ones to use. It is a McCoy vase that I purchased years ago at an auction for a song.

I put the arrangement in the sunroom at first, but then decided that I wanted to keep it on the kitchen table since that is where I spend most of my time.

Bringing flowers in is an inexpensive way to enjoy the beauty of nature that is all around us. It only takes a few minutes and they can be enjoyed for days.

I don't know why I usually wait to do this when I have company coming. It really makes every day feel special. So why has no one else in my family even noticed them sitting on the table?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Harvesting Lettuce!

We have been very busy for the past couple of days. Yesterday was John's birthday and we spent the entire day together. We had some business in Charlotte so we spent the day in the city. When we were finished we came home and grilled a nice dinner to celebrate his birthday. I love this time of year when we are able to get outside and enjoy the evenings.

We have been adding some things to our landscaping. One of the new additions is some Blue Sensation Salvia. We had some areas that needed color and I just love the blue/purple color of these plants. They are supposed to attract hummingbirds. I hope they do okay.

Today was a very exciting day in our veggie garden. We decided that one of our romaine lettuces was ready to be harvested. I waited for John to get home so that we could cut the plant together. I just felt that he needed to be a part of such a monumental event.

After we cut the lettuce I brought it in and washed it and cut it. After a few spins in the salad spinner, it was ready to eat.

John ate his with tomatoes, cucumbers, and ranch dressing. Catie likes hers with Italian dressing, cheese, and croutons. I personally love a Caesar salad, so I made mine accordingly. It was delicious! We had some shrimp linguine left over from Monday when my parents brought us some fresh shrimp from the coast. Dinner was fantastic. There is nothing like eating something harvested fresh from the garden. I think I am going to love my new vegetable beds. Now, If the broccoli will just hurry up, life will be perfect!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back to my Ordinary Life

I really appreciate you all taking a walk down memory lane with me for the past week, however, it is good to get back to blogging about my ordinary life. Seeing far away places and making memories is always fun and exciting, but I have found that it is in the ordinary events of my life that I find the most joy and peace.

I have actually found that my reminiscing has served to remind me of how blessed my every day life truly is. It is important to remember that when one travels to a distant place that seems extraordinary, to the people who live there it is just home. And speaking of home, I may have been blogging about last years trip; but I have been at home the whole time working in the flower beds and vegetable beds enjoying the beautiful weather. We have had a lot happening in our little corner of the world, so I thought I would catch you up on a bit of it.

My snowball bushes are really showing out this year. They are only a couple of years old and not very big yet, but they have had a lot of blooms. I may try to bring some inside tomorrow.

Our broccoli and lettuce is getting very big. I don't know how much longer the broccoli will take to be harvested, but I am just about ready to make me a romaine salad.

We lost a cabbage, so John decided to put a couple of tomato plants in its place.

Our Encore Azaleas are finally blooming! I always enjoy the color they bring to the yard. I do have five that the goats got a hold of last year that do not have any blooms. That's a story for a future post!

Hostas are coming up all over the place. Our front yard is shaded and I can't seem to get enough of these plants. The beautiful greens and blues of these never disappoint.

Ordinary life can be extraordinary! It depends on how you view things.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beautiful Florence

Our last full day in Italy was spent touring beautiful Florence. This city in the Tuscany region of Italy was home to many of the country's notable historical figures. One day is not nearly enough to soak in all of the beauty that is displayed throughout this area.

Since this was our last day of our trip, we were all pretty exhausted by this time. I did not feel as though I could fully appreciate everything that Florence had to offer.

We did enjoy touring the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. I stood in awe of this marble statue depicting David right before his battle with Goliath. The detail of this masterpiece was unbelievable. I though it odd that his hands were so big. Some people believe that he was meant to be placed on a church's facade or large pedestal which would have made all of his features appear normal to the viewer. We were not allowed to photograph the actual statue inside, however, there was a replica outside which I did manage to photograph. (I did not include it in my blog to keep it kid friendly.)

One of the highlights of the day was visiting the Basilica of Santa Croce. It is a magnificent church in Florence. It is the burial place for many of Italy's famous people including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Rossini. The weather was cloudy on this day and it was hard to get a clear picture.

Aren't the streets of Florence gorgeous? See the dome of the Basilica in the distance?

I just loved the stained glass windows in the church.

These pictures do not do the church justice. The overcast sky really hindered the photo opportunities.

The drive through the Italian countryside back to Rome took my breath away.

Although I loved my time in Italy, I was beginning to miss home a little. I will never forget the time spent with Catie seeing places I had only dreamed of until now. However, it was time to travel back to John and Carson and the place that will always be my favorite- Home! Hope you didn't mind the trip down memory lane, but it is time to move on. I have some more of my ordinary life to share!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hello Rome

Our first day in Rome seemed like a whirlwind. The tour was carefully planned to fit in as many sites as possible. It was also planned with a bunch of teenagers in mind. (They didn't think about the chaperons and the fact that we were so out of shape.) I was determined to keep going and to see everything that I could possibly see on this once in a lifetime trip.

Our first stop that morning was the Vatican City. The first word that comes to mind to describe this place is magnificent! I had never seen so many beautiful structures and beautiful artwork in one place. There were statues and paintings in every corner. I think that is one thing that I loved about Europe in general; there were beautiful pieces of art in every place.

There was a long hallway in the Vatican lined with statues. Most were stately and grand, but my favorite was a simple statue of a little girl and a bird. If I could have a replica of any of the statues, this would be the one I would want. Isn't she pretty?

There are no words to describe St.Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. I won't even try. I will say that I think you could spend an entire month there and never see every detail. I loved the fact that guards would not let anyone speak in the Chapel. It was very quiet. I would just love to have been in there alone to soak it all in. The fresco's were so very detailed, one could never see every detail.

Of course, when you step back outside and see a scene like this with the clouds peeking through an archway; you know that God is everywhere not just in the beautiful chapels and cathedrals of the world.

The Roman Coliseum was our next stop. It is an amazing structure that was capable of holding 50,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial games, animal hunts, executions, and dramas. Can you imagine being in attendance for one of these events? If those walls could talk......

What trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain? According to legend, If you toss a coin into the fountain with your back turned, you will return to the Eternal City one day. The fountain was full of coins, of course, Catie and I tossed our own for good measure. (I wonder who gets to clean out the money?)

After a full day of touring, we were taken to enjoy a pizza dinner Roma style. This establishment still used the authentic pizza ovens. I'll post on that later. Just remembering all of this activity has made me tired!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pompeii- History Preserved

From my window in Sorrento I could see the beautiful Bay of Napels and in the distance Mt. Vesuvius. Such a magnificent sight! The view seemed peaceful and serene, however, the history of this volcanic mountain was not so much. Today would be the day that we learned more about a place that has been ingrained in my memory since I was in elementary school. I think everyone at one time or another has spent time in a classroom learning about the almost forgotten city of Pompeii.

The drive from Sorrento to Pompeii provided more gorgeous glimpses of life in rural Italy. We passed by many country houses, all with Mt. Vesuvius looming in the distance.

I think I could live in a country house like this one, couldn't you?

We we arrived at Pompeii I couldn't wait to see this place that intrigued me so as a child. My first reaction was one of amazement at the size of this ancient site. One thought that stood out in my mind was how I had always misunderstood this place. The city was much more advanced than I ever imagined. When I thought of early AD I pictured something very different. Instead, this was a thriving city in its day with all of the activities that city life affords.

The city was complete with places to eat, sleep, be entertained, and even find some companionship (if you know what I mean). This really opened my eyes to how people in Biblical times really lived.

Catie had to take a picture of me in one of the kitchens in Pompeii. I think she sees that as where I belong.

As I walked around and listened to our guide, I tried to imagine living among the people that she described. It is hard to imagine a situation where all of the inhabitants of a place are going about their daily tasks and then a catastrophic event ends it all. It is a very sobering thought.

This visit to Pompeii has forever changed how I view life in the time of Christ. Although I may never visit the Holy Land, I think I now have a better understanding of what a typical town was like during the height of the Roman Empire. When I read scripture, I now have a mental picture of city life during that time. The people of that time were very intelligent and had developed many conveniences that made their lives easier.

I think the few hours that we spent were not nearly enough to take it all in. That is one of the disadvantages to touring with a group with every second planned out; it only gives you a little taste of the places visited. I would have loved to have spent more time at this interesting ancient city, but Rome was calling our name. We loaded into the bus and traveled through more beautiful countryside before rolling into the capital city of Rome.

Hello Rome!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh Sorrento!!

"Enjoy the calm waters of the Mediterranean as you cruise toward the heel of Italy and the port of Bari. Drive through the olive groves across Southern Italy to Sorrento." That was the description on the trip itinerary. Doesn't it sound inviting?

It was actually very relaxing after the three busy days spent touring Greece. The night on the ferry gave me some of the most restful sleep that I had had the entire trip. As we were leaving Greece, we enjoyed some very picturesque views of this beautiful country from the sea. Although there was some sadness from leaving it behind, there was also an air of anticipation waiting for that first glimpse of Italy's shoreline. After breakfast aboard the ferry, we ventured on deck anxious to see land.

Finally, the wait was over. As Italy's coastline came into view, our excitement grew. We came into port and unloaded to take our first steps on this new land. (We were somewhat disappointed because, although we had to show our passports often, since Europe has open borders we did not get them stamped anywhere except in the airport in Germany.)

We traveled by charter bus from Bari to Sorrento. The drive through the countryside of southern Italy was amazing. There were olive groves and vineyards everywhere. It seems as if every home has its own olives and grapes. (I wish I could have an olive grove. It would save me a lot of money at the grocery store!)

The sights that took my breath away were the steep cliffs of the Almafi Coast. I think I am just partial to the sea. (I wonder if that is why I have a pond in my front yard?) The drive to Sorrento was full of views like this.

As Sorrento came into view, I knew instantly that I would love this area of Italy. The town overlooks the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. I was very fortunate to have a beautiful room with gorgeous views of both. (More on Vesuvius tomorrow)

This is a tourist town, so there are a lot of shops and places to eat. Two things that I noticed as I explored the streets were lemon trees and huge lemons. I mean really big ones. I have never seen such big lemons. I guess that is why Sorrento is famous for its production of lemoncello. It is a very sweet digestif made of lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar. It is best served cold. I brought some back and kept mine in the freezer. If you watch Food Network you may have seen Giada use it in some of her recipes.

Of course you can't go to Italy without eating gelato. We fell in love with this precious lady who ran the Old Taverna Sorrentina. She had many different flavors of gelato and let us try every one. After spending some time with her in conversation, I continued on. Later she passed me on the street and gave me a big hug and kiss. In our country most people are much slower to open up to others. Wouldn't the world be a better place with more people like her. To me, meeting wonderful people is the most interesting part of travel. People really are the same everywhere. I wish everyone could open their hearts and minds to that simple fact.

Food, food, food! Italy is all about the food. (So was Greece. In fact every vacation I have ever taken is about the food!)

Catie has always loved gnocchi and couldn't wait to have some in Italy. She was in food heaven.

I just had to try the pizza and to my surprise, my homemade pizza is very similar to the one I had that day. I was very excited about that. Now, every time I make it I remember my trip to Italy.

There is so much more that I could share about Sorrento but my post is getting rather long. We only spent one night there and it wasn't enough. As I am writing this post, I find myself longing to return. Maybe one day......

We had to move on the next morning to Pompeii and then to Rome. More on that later!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mystical Delphi

A year ago today, I was spending my last full day in a country that had already stolen my heart. After only three days in beautiful Greece, I was sure that I wasn't ready to move on. However, it was time to say goodbye to this lovely place.

On that last day we traveled through the mountainous region to Delphi, home of the great oracle of Apollo. It was rainy and misty as we drove thought the mountain roads. The weather seemed to only add to the mystical feeling of this place.

Delphi sits high on the slopes of Mt. Parnassos. It was one of the most important sights of the ancient world. People would come from all over to seek the advice of Apollo, given through the oracle.

The temple of Apollo is an amazing sight. I couldn't help but think about all of the gods that were worshiped in ancient times. People have always known that there is a higher power. The Greeks built temples to every god imaginable, even temples to unknown gods. They did not want to leave out or offend any one. It is said that when the Apostle Paul traveled to Greece, he found it very easy to convert the Greek people because they were almost relieved to learn that there was only one true God to please.

After taking the steep hike from the temple to the stadium where the Pythian games (second only to the Olympics) were held, I had a chance to just sit in that mystical place and converse with the one true God, thanking him for the beauty that surrounded me.

After leaving the ancient site, we visited the archaeological museum nearby. The artifacts there were mind blowing. I had still not gotten over the amazement that I originally felt in Athens when viewing objects with that kind of history.

Of course our time in Greece was drawing to a close and it was time to leave it behind. However, we had a few more memorable moments before calling it a day. We had a wonderful lunch at this taverna. I was able to get a picture, but there was no sign out front so I didn't get the name. From the road you would not even know that it was a restaurant.

This memory brings be back to the Greek food. Oh my, what wonderful food! At this particular taverna I had Stuffed Aubergines (eggplant). The waiter called it eggplant shoe, because they look like little shoes. It was heavenly! Catie ate the traditional Moussaka and said that it was delicious. I bought a cookbook from the gift shop and tried the eggplant dish at home. It was pretty good, but not nearly a delicious as the original (maybe because the recipe used measurements very different from our own.)

After our wonderful last meal in Greece, we traveled down the winding road through olive groves with trees as far as the eye could see. No wonder the olive oil was some of the best I had ever had. We finally came to the place where the mountain meets the sea, Patras. There we would board our overnight ferry and leave the glorious beauty of Greece behind.

On a side note: If you visit Greece, you must purchase worry beads. These have no magical power, they are just stress relievers that many of the Greeks carry around with them. You can hold them and there are even different tricks that you can learn to do with them. A very nice man in the Plaka taught Catie how to do a few flips and such with her beads that Greenie is holding.

Leaving Greece was difficult, but I was ready to open my mind and heart to another place - Italy!