"The City By the Bay"

I fasten my seatbelt and peer out my window as we taxi down the runway. I love the liftoff, and I equally hate the landing at the other end. I always find myself wondering, are all three wheels going to touch down together, or is the plane going to land just a little off balance and we'll skid into the gate on one wheel and a wing. You know the wing and a prayer thing. I'd be the one praying. I always give a big sigh of relief when I hear the pilot announce, "you can take off your seat belts.

It's a sunny fall day as we walk into the terminal in my favorite city - San Francisco. It is also my favorite city to land in. As we approach the airport the plane seems to become one with the bay as we glide so close to the water you can almost smell it. I let myself dream that as the wheels come down they skim the water just before touching down on the runway.

Our days in San Fran are always filled with visits to Golden Gate Park and the Japanese Gardens for tea and cookies, driving down the crooked street, wandering Union Square, the farmers market on the wharf, shopping at Pier 39, dining at our favorite restaurants and taking pictures of the fancy bellman in his red suit and top hat at our hotel. And of course a visit to the "City by the Bay" wouldn't be complete without a "hot fudge sundae" at Ghirardilli.

I get caught up in the energy that fills the air in this city, the cultural diversity, yes, even the crazy street people that make me wonder if I should view them from a distance. The locals that look like they just stepped off Wall Street mixed with the tourists in their San Francisco sweatshirts. Each in their own way adding to the ambiance of the city.

All too soon it's time to head home. As our plane takes off and lifts us above the clouds I look forward to returning to my little cottage on top of a hill near my own little "City by our Bay".

Italian Memories

It was a year this past Wednesday that we were in the air flying over the ocean making our way to Paris and then onto Florence where we picked up our little silver car and headed out into the countryside of Tuscany. When I look at this path that I walked on last fall in a park in Cortona, Italy it's easy to take myself back there and feel the excitement I felt of just being there, and remembering the peace and tranquility that filled that space. Even though the path is absent of other people, (I think my husband removed them to show the beauty of the path - photographer that he is) we met many Italians that afternoon who were strolling and visiting or reclining on one of the many park benches scattered throughout the park and enjoying the views of the vineyards and rolling hills that lay just beyond the brick wall. The thing I most love about Italy is that people gather every day to walk, sit together and often sip a glass of wine along with their Italian bubbly water. By the way, we fell in love with their bubbly water and brought their custom home with us. But I think their real purpose is just to connect with others. It wasn't as if they needed to work at making that happen, it's just the "Italian" way. There was always a sense of community wherever we went and I noticed how laughter always accompanied these gatherings. Most Italians are extroverts, at least the ones we encountered and as we passed them on the cobblestone walkways I could feel some of their energy and passion attaching itself to me. I look back over this past year and realize how we so easily fell back into the busyness of our western lives that we promised ourselves we wouldn't do when we returned home. We wanted to incorporate more of the "Italian" lifestyle into our life. I miss the simple little villa that became our home that was so easy to maintain and yet so full of ambiance with it's tile floors, and wood shuttered windows that opened up to rolling hills and vineyards that lay just outside our front door. And our new farm friends, Leo the dog and his pal, the farm cat, who showed up at our door every morning to share breakfast with us. Even the animals knew about the importance of gathering. Or at least they knew there would be milk and bread waiting to be shared with them if they just showed up. Isn't that how life is sometimes? We are rewarded if we just show up.
As I settle into the new fall season that seemed to arrive overnight without warning, replacing the warm summer days with blustery winds and rainstorms, I find myself moving into my winter nesting mode and cozying up in my office to make time for creative writing, filling mugs with hot chocolate, and giving time to daydreaming about my next trip to Italy. What I've realized is that the pleasure of a trip isn't just for that particular moment, but the memories feed our spirit for a lifetime.

Saying goodbye once again to my niece as she heads back to NDSU. I sent her off with this poster I called "How to Survive College". (Click on picture to make it readable)


"Girls Night Out"

Love shows up when we least expect it in the midst of ordinary days. Especially on a Greek Island. Oh, well, who couldn't fall in love on a Greek Island? Surrounded by sparkling blue water, dotted with lush green islands, and of course the sun that never quits shining. Only late at night when it moves over to give the full moon some airtime.
And of course, somehow Abba's there singing in the background. And those white-washed villas that just seem to be suspended in space on the cliffs edge, hanging on for dear life so they don't end up in the water below. I'm thinking there's got to be a trip to Greece somewhere in my near future. And while I'm there I think I'll just stay for a while and run a quaint little hotel "on a cliff" the way Meryle Streep did in the movie. And I don't even care if it falls in the water. I'll just keep a life vest close by and end up with a floating hotel. . Hmm?? I think I'm already mentally there. And of course, I want Abba singing in the background filling my new world with music. I can see it now. Waking up in the early morning, throwing open my wood shutters, (just like the ones I fell in love with in Italy), and inhaling the fresh smell from the ocean just below my window, while the sun performs its morning dance as it skips and sparkles across the water. OHHH. I think I hear my husband calling me. You remember?? The guy with the broken leg. Doesn't he know I'm temporarily visiting Greece at the moment??

O.K. I'm trying to stay focused here. Mean while, back at the theatre. . .

We avoided the usual seats in the middle of the theatre and headed to the back top row
because we all knew once the singing and music began we'd be rockin’ and singin’ and we were hoping to avoid being removed from the theatre in the middle of the movie. We managed to keep it to a low roar until the final song began. What's a group of rockin’ girls gonna do? I knew it was all over for us. As far as having any self control that is. It began like the wave at a football game. First my daughter was on her feet singing at the top of her lungs and dancing, and then my niece. It didn't take long for the rest of us to fall in line.

We danced our way out of the theatre with hearts bursting with Abba music and visions
of this wonderful love story tucked away in our hearts. And plans to have our own Mama Mia party with all of us dancing and singing to Abba's music.

Mamma Mia!!

4th of July in Montana

"Born on the 4th of July" I think there's a song by that name and why it's playing in my head at this early morning hour is a mystery to me. But then nothing is real clear to me at 4:00 in the morning.

What is it with this 4 a.m. business? I find myself once again putting my mouth in gear and committing to rising at 4a.m. before engaging my brain to really think this thing through. O.K. I think I just want to grumble about it, because if you remember from an earlier blog, I really love rising while the rest of the world is still asleep. I pull on my shorts and tug my tank top down over my head noticing the numbness in my body, as it knows it should still be tucked under the warm comforter sound asleep. I shiver as I make my way down to our over packed car, but I know somewhere out there the sun is going to be shining before this day ends.

We head to Mukilteo to pick up our daughter who immediately curls up in the back seat with her pillow and blanket to finish her night's sleep. Joining my hubby who is already reclined in the passenger seat off in his own la la land somewhere. And I have to remind myself that I did consciously volunteer for the first shift of driving. But that's ok because now I can have the sunrise all to myself. Also delusional thinking as it is pouring down rain outside my car window. We meet the rest of our caravan at the Starbucks in Lynnwood. Eight of us all together in 3 cars. It is easy to spot them in the parking lot because of course we are the only humans that would think of rising at this hour on this cold, rainy morning. We fall in line as we head to the freeway, I turn my heater up full blast, crack open my window to smell the rain and feel a few drops as they wash across my face. For the moment, I think I'm in heaven. . .

As my car makes its way to the top of Snoqualmie pass, I spot it. The sun, waiting there to greet me. I take this personally. I let myself think it rose just for me. I think I must have been a bird in an earlier life because I love the smells and all the elements of nature. Not just to observe them through a window. I need to feel and experience them. As the day progresses bodies find homes in each other's cars and new memories began to form as laughter fills the air. There are ice cream stops along the way, picnicking with lunch at a park on a hillside and then excitement filling the cars as we come closer to our destination, our son’s home in Whitefish, Montana, where we would be spending the next four days.

There are these special pockets of time that only take place when you sleep under the same roof together. And this beautiful bonding begins that could never happen around the dinner table at a family gathering. People rising at different hours, finding each other around the kitchen table sipping early morning coffee, gathering in lawn chairs outside the front door, early morning dog walks around the neighborhood, and sharing crowded bathrooms. Tolerance levels go up and emotions warm. Only a mother's heart can swell in this special way as she watches her family mingle and flow together.

The evening of the fourth we have plans to head down to the lake to take in the fireworks.
As we head across the park it feels like every inch of grass is covered with stretched out blankets and bodies and bodies of people and then by the lake I see an empty spot that I'm sure must have been reserved just for us. We spread out our blankets and quickly take ownership over this special spot right at the waters edge. I let my eyes wander over the surrounding area absorbing the ambiance surrounding me and they land on a sign not more than 15 feet to our left that reads, "hot donuts". Well, I guess you know that got my attention! Before I could get the words out of my mouth the rest of my party had noticed the sign too. We wore a path between our blanket and the counter during the next hour carrying our little treasure bags filled with freshly baked bite sized donuts dressed in powdered sugar. We ate more donuts than I think were legal or at the least "humanly healthy". As the sun set over the lake and fireworks decorated the sky above us I noticed so many legs were intertwined I forgot which ones were mine. Bodies reclined on each other and found familiarity in this family outing as darkness fell around us and sounds of the 4th filled the air.

The week-end filled with go-cart racing, riding water bumper boats, miniature golf, midnight bowling, barbeques, all night game playing, came to a close all too soon. Early Sunday morning, tired, silent bodies crawled into cars ready for a silent, sleep-filled ride home. There was no car hopping this time, fewer stops, and did I mention?, my hubby was now reclined in the back seat nursing a leg that was broken in two places. That's a whole other story and I know there's not room for it on this page. As we backed our cars out of the driveway they were not only bulging with luggage, but with memories that will be with us for a lifetime and renewed connections with each other that would not have happened in any other place.

As I tucked myself into my own bed that night and pulled my warm, cozy comforter up around my neck I went off to sleep with memories dancing in my head and anticipation of our ski trip already planned for January back in Whitefish. Did I mention my hubby broke is leg?? O.K. I think I did. . .


In March a friend emailed me asking if I'd like to do a half marathon with her the end of June. I'm always up for an adventure or new challenge, so without thinking this thing through I said "yes". Later that afternoon I went on line, paid my registration fee and signed up. As I hit the send button a feeling of exhilaration flowed through me and remained my constant companion in the following months until the morning of the marathon. The morning of June 29 arrives with the
harsh sound of the alarm going off at 4am. As I cracked my eyes open the feelings of exhilaration quickly were accompanied by thoughts of "what in the world was I thinking?" Our spring and early summer had been filled with unusually cool and damp days. The kind of walking weather I like to participate in. But the week prior to the half marathon the temperature hovered in the 70's with forecasts of the 90's for the week-end. That sent a tremor of fear through my body as I'm not a hot weather walker. I entertained thoughts of how to not participate in the walk. But then reminded myself, I'm not a quitter. I glance over at the clock and it's 4:15. The air already feels warm and sticky. My husband was joining my friend and I and I could hear him stepping into the shower. I sat up on the edge of the bed and as my feet hit the floor, I thought, "you can do this". I have found that often the best times begin with feelings of trepidation.
I headed to the kitchen to prepare a protein drink for each of us to drink on the way, and mixed up
whole wheat pancakes to fill us with fuel (carbs) for the trek.

We climbed into our car and as I was clicking my seatbelt my husband glanced over at me with a smile on his face and said "this is going to be a great day". We headed down the steep hill from our home that took us around the lake. As I caught site of the lake a layer of fog hung lazily over the water like a patchwork quilt. Overhead patches of clouds dotted the already blue sky. I had secret hopes that maybe the weatherman had miscalculated and there was a little rain in store for the day. A girl can always hope, right? I immediately got pulled into the silence of this early morning hour and I had forgotten how private and fresh these early morning hours feel. I have always loved rising early before the rest of the world wakes up. For those brief moments the world belongs only to you. My husband breaks into my thoughts to tell me to look up at the tree tops, the sun has just broken through the clouds. He sounded so pleased with his announcement. OK, once more I tell myself, "you can do this".

Not far into the drive we are both chattering, happy to be up in this early morning hour, excited for the challenge that lay ahead. For most of the drive we have the road to ourselves as we speed towards Bellevue where we will board a bus that will carry us to the University of WA where the walk begins. We meet our friend at the Bellevue park where already lines of participants are waiting for the arriving buses. I feel myself gaining energy from all the people around me, and yes, I am excited to cross the starting line.

The marathon runners take off first, followed by the easy runners and then us walkers fall in behind them. The air is still cool and my excitement returns as I fall into step with those around me. We head across the 520 bridge which provides us with startling mountain views, sail boats
already lazily carrying their passengers across the flat, shimmering water. I tease my friend, do you suppose we could just pay a boater to carry us to the finish line"? After all, with all these people, who would know?

The next 4 hours and 15 minutes are filled with sprinkles of hills to climb, water sheds to share cups of cold water and glucose water to keep us refreshed, spectators cheering us on, and friendly neighbors with hoses to cool our warm bodies. At mile 7 we were offered energy gel. Just the thought made me quiver. As I watched my husband squeeze his into his mouth the look on his face quickly told me to retire mine to my pocket. After all, I only had 6 more miles to go.

At the end of the day I was happy I chose to go. And somewhere in the midst of the walking I failed to feel the heat of the sun, and the 13 miles melted away with ease as I chatted with strangers, losing myself in the beauty of nature that surrounded me, and pushing myself to do something I had never done before. Yesterday my friend emailed me to say, "let's do this again next year!" And before I could stop myself I hit the reply button and typed in the word "YES!".

I started this quilt for my niece last summer before she headed off to North Dakota State University. It was as hard for her to leave as it was for all of us to let her go. But you know how it is when these special people in our lives start growing up. We need to take our hands off and give them wings. I thought about what to give her that would remind her of how much she would be missed and was loved. One of my favorite past-times is wrapping up in a snuggly blanket. So I thought what better gift than to make her a quilt that she can wrap around herself and feel the love that it was made with. My goal was to have it done by the time she came home for Christmas. Well, you can see that didn't happen. My next goal was for spring break which was last week. Sad to say, she left empty handed. So I have committed this week-end to quilting. She needs to be able to wrap up in it at least once before spring. I don't know. . . I'm trying. And I'm close. If I can keep myself from getting distracted the rest of the day from the other things I love doing, I should be close to finishing it soon.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

Earlier this week I was driving home one afternoon from running errands in town and as I started across the bridge that leads to our home rain was lightly beating a steady rhythm on the roof of my car and the air outside my window felt balmy and was beckoning my spirit. So I put all my windows down, turned the heater on full blast and let the raindrops wash across my face. The ride was exhilarating! And my spirit felt free. In that moment I was removed from the chaos and congestion of the city behind me and I began transitioning into the countryside that lay before me. As a few straggling cars passed by, I'm sure they wondered what planet I thought I was on, but you know, somehow that didn't matter. Whether I'm being warmed by the summer sun or lost in a thunder storm, nature has a way of speaking to my spirit.

Even though I was born in Minnesota I've lived in Washington long enough to have become a northwest girl at heart. In the fall I wait impatiently for the first rains to begin so I can curl up in front of a warm, crackling fire, sip hot chocolate, with whip cream of course, and just be. My office window faces our front yard that I think of as my "SPA GARDEN". When I need to de-stress, that's where I focus. It is filled with ferns and ivy with sprinkles of flowers cascading out of pots tucked away under palm trees. I love coming in here on rainy days, opening my window wide open and breathing in the fresh air that accompanies the falling rain. Somehow with the rain comes permission to let go of my normal daily duties and just settle in, in front of my computer and get lost in my creative writing. Do I need an excuse? Do I need permission? Hmmmm? Maybe not. . . But somehow that all goes together. Rain falling, warm, cozy room, the sound of the water splashing in the fountain below my window. And somehow the neighborhood feels quieter. It's kind of like wanting to eat that second skinny cow ice cream bar before crawling into bed at night. If my husband will eat a second one with me, it somehow seems ok. By the way, if you haven't tried a skinny cow, I highly recommend them.

Several friends have been calling lately with the winter blues. I pass on my Sandy remedies and remind them. . . Breathe in. . .Breathe Out. . .Springs next!!

Beach Strolling

As the chilly winter rains pelt against my windowpane, I seek solace in front of a warm crackling fire. As much as I love to surround myself with people, I equally love to separate myself and take time to nurture my spirit with relaxation, reading and journaling and sometimes just letting my mind wander aimlessly. As the days grow longer and the sun rises higher in the sky I am drawn to a different kind of solitude. One that nurtures the soul and satisfies my senses. Having just found this new beach, I am excited about returning to it. And today seems like the perfect day to go beach strolling. So I head to the beach.

I pull into a parking spot and turn off my motor. The sun overhead gives me a false sense of the temperature outside. I wrap my warm scarf tighter around my neck and brave the winter chill waiting for me outside my car door. I step out into the cold and the crisp smell of salt water washes over my senses as white puffy clouds dot the blue sky overhead.

As I walk along the waters edge I gather shells and keep adding just one more to my already bulging pockets. I remind myself to leave some for the next "beach stroller".

Two crabs, washed up on the sand, lay silent…

A mother runs along the shore with her young child…

Down the beach I pass a woman perched on a log. I notice the contemplative expression on her face as I pass by. I wonder… has she recently lost a friend or lover or is he waiting at home for her return. Is she happy? Sad?? Or just here to soak up the ambiance as I am.

As I walk closer to the shore my eyes wander out over the smooth, glassy water and I catch sight of a sail boat as it is being propelled across the water with its small engine tilling the water sending rolling waves crashing against the shoreline at my feet. I am tempted to not move and let the water wash over my feet, but think better of it as I remember the cool temperatures of the day. I get lost in the sounds and the smells as my eyes catch a glimpse of more perfect shells that lay resting on sand just out of my reach under the water.

It's getting late in the day and I sense dusk is quickly approaching. As I head back down the beach towards my car I spot a young couple tossing rocks out into the water, competing with each other and lost in the moment unaware of passersby. I pass careless bundles of driftwood Mother Nature has placed in unsuspecting places to add to the already perfect ambiance of this place.

As the sun begins to set, I feel a loneliness settling in alongside my contented mood and I long for the warmth and familiar sounds of my home.

My pace picks up as I spy my car and I am excited for its warmth. As I settle in behind the steering wheel I feel contented and refreshed, ready to return to my busy world.

Winter Wonderland

Snow-kicking Walk

Early one morning a couple of weeks ago I woke up to my phone ringing. It was my friend who lives just a block down my street. We're walking buddies. Actually I was probably awake. I just had a feeling it was cold out there and wanted to draw out this early morning snuggling under my warm, cozy comforter as long as I could. She asked me if I'd looked out my window yet. She's a teacher, so I knew if she was home there must be snow outside. So I crawled out of bed, walked over to my window and opened my shades to a beautiful winter wonderland. She said, let's go walking! I'm beginning to sound like the lines from the story "The Night Before Christmas", where it reads, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to my window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shudder and threw up the sash. And something, something on the new fallen snow. O.K. anyway. . . A few minutes later she was at my door.

One of my favorite ways to talk with friends is to walk with them. Conversations flow easily mixed with moments of comfortable silences. As we walked that morning the world around us fell silent. The only sound was the crunch of snow beneath our feet. It was absent of the everyday sounds of rubber hitting the pavement as cars climb the hill in front of my home and the chatter of kids running to catch the school bus at the corner of our block. I walked with a sense of "wonder" that morning at the beautiful picture mother nature had painted for us. As we passed shade covered windows I knew families were probably still tucked under their warm blankets, because for this moment the world had stopped. For this moment - it felt as though it belonged to just me and my friend.

Last week-end my friend moved into her new home they just had built eight miles from my home. I know we'll still walk. We'll just have to work a little harder at it.

Serendipity - Chance Encounters

We arrived at the airport in Florence at 8:30 am for our flight home at 10am that morning. As we stood in the check in line I suddenly sensed chaos at the counter. It wasn't long before an attendant was walking down the line asking everyone where they were headed. When she got to us and we replied Seattle, she said, "not today you're not". Air France just went on strike. She then went on to tell us that the strike would probably last at least 4 days. My first thought was, "well how bad can this be, having to spend 4 more days in Italy". There was still a lot of Florence we wanted to see. And it gave me one more opportunity to eat, you guessed it, gelato! I got busy designing new plans in my mind when I find her standing in front of us again, asking if we would mind being re-routed on our way home. If not, we could possibly still head home that day. So we headed to the next counter and quickly found ourselves holding new tickets to Munich, Germany. (with a layover) From there we would fly to London (with another layover) and then on home. That sounded perfect to both of us and interesting. It was a clear day as we flew over Germany and I felt gifted with an aerial tour of this beautiful country where rows of houses were graced with red tile roofs surrounded by lush gardens and I caught a glimpse of the snow covered Swiss Alps. I traveled between Munich and London with my nose pressed against the window as our plane silently carried us through the air. I'm sure at times the stewardess thought I might have been trying to escape the plane through that little window.
We arrived in London and found ourselves in the middle of the most amazing shopping mall. Nothing around me resembled any airport terminal I had ever been in. The first store I saw was Mohamed Fayad's (Dodi Al Fayad's father) chain of exclusive Harrods stores. I don't know, but I think there was probably a cover charge just to get in. Well, probably not a cover charge. I just didn't want to take the chance of falling in love with something that I couldn't even remotely afford, so I headed to McDonalds for a Big Mac. The first American food I'd eaten in 3 weeks.

We boarded our plane for home late in the day and I was ready to enjoy a little dinner (someone was serving me, so I wasn't complaining), settle in and enjoy the view as we flew over the English countryside, and then turn off my light and hopefully sleep most of the 10 hour flight home. I was hoping for a quiet seatmate that didn't want to visit. The plane was quickly filling up when this beautiful young lady sat down in the seat next to me. We smiled at each other and she immediately curled up and closed her eyes until dinner was served. Somewhere between the salad and the entrée we introduced ourselves and spent the next 4 hours exchanging stories and becoming friends. She was a TV producer from Lebanon coming to visit the U.S. for the first time. Somewhere out over the ocean in the middle of the night she looked at me and said, " it doesn't make any difference what color our skin is or where we're from, as women, in our hearts we're all the same. I think at that moment something in our hearts connected. The next week we met in Seattle for lunch and on Thanksgiving she called from Texas. The day she flew back to Lebanon she called from the airport and said "let's keep in touch". Today we connect through email. What if. . . Air France had not gone on strike and circumstances had not changed our plans. I would have missed this incredible encounter. What I have learned in life is that most things happen for a reason, and that it's just easier to go with the flow. . .and see what surprises life might have in store. Webster says "serendipity is a discovery almost by chance".

Vacation - Italian Style

2007 came to a close walking through Tuscany, Italy with my husband. A walk I had dreamed of for a long time. We rented a little apartment on a winery/farm tucked away on a hillside just outside Montalcino, with shuttered windows that opened to rolling hills filled with vineyards and perfectly planted fields. And miles of curving roads that wound in and out of this breathtaking Italian countryside. So with more enthusiasm than words can truly express, we began our discovery of Italy. I invite you to come with me for an edited version of my walk through Tuscany. Did I mention, I stopped at every gelateria to sample yet another flavor of gelato. And found there is never too much when it comes to eating gelato.

It's market day in Montepulciano. We park our car outside of town (as you do in most Tuscan towns) and walk up the hill into town. Most all of the old towns we visited in the Tuscany region were built on hilltops in the form of fortresses to protect its citizens from the ongoing wars that seemed to go on for centuries. After spending time around these fun-loving Italians it's hard to believe that these loving people didn't always love each other. The marketplace is filled with laughter and chattering and smells of Italian sausage, fresh baked pastry and people strolling and bumping into each other. (The vendors that make up the Marketplace travel from town to town throughout the week with each town having their designated market day). After hours of strolling and bumping we head back to our car with bulging bags tucked under our arms filled with Italian sausage, and cheese, (of course!), Italian leather shoes (my husband's), a new skirt and wool jacket (for me), many scarves and a nagging desire to bring home so much more.

As I strolled the streets of these Tuscan towns their ambiance washed over my whole being like a warm rolling ocean wave caressing the sand as it washes onto the beach. I daily fantasized of living behind one of the doorways surrounded by Italian pots filled with trees, vines and flowers. I wanted to bring every pot home with me including the plants that were trailing out of them and finding their way over doorways and around windows. I pictured them around my doorways. But I guessed somewhere in customs they would all be taken from me.

We embraced life on our farm Le Chiuse and quickly found ourselves settling into the rhythm of Italian living. Eating pecorino cheese for breakfast, sipping wine with lunch and dinner, always with a glass of Italian bubbly water which the locals refer to as "gas" water. Lingering over lunch for at least two hours and even longer over dinner. Arranging site seeing from noon to 4pm when all the stores are closed. Experimenting with the few Italian words we had learned, Buon giorno (good morning), buona serra (good afternoon), buona notte (good evening) and grazie (thank you). My husband tossing in bits and pieces from his slight knowledge of French. We found ourselves daring to communicate with our new Italian friends.

I have found that if we pay attention to the details in life, ordinary moments turn into extraordinary adventures. Italy was filled with both of these and my camera was constantly clicking because I didn't want to forget any of them. So as I settle into my seat on our plane heading home, I click my seatbelt and begin revisiting the memories of our Tuscany tour. These are some of my favorites: Leo the farm dog who showed up at our door every morning in time to share breakfast with us, usually bringing the farm cat along with him; trying to drive as fast as we could to stay ahead of the Italian drivers, but no matter how fast we went, they went faster and always passed us; the extraordinary colors and flavors of Italian food; the walk to Frances Mayes' home in Cortona; cutting clumps of grapes from the vineyard just outside our door to eat with our meals; washing laundry by hand and hanging it out on the communal clothesline, and sitting out by the pool early in the morning with my new friend Rosie the artist from Denver, CO, (also a guest on the farm), watching her draw and paint water colors of the surrounding landscapes and sharing our life stories. And taking a cooking class with my new Colorado friends - Rosie, Karen and Linda. Did I mention that I love gelato?? Ok, somewhere in there I think I did!

And I haven't even mentioned our stay in Florence, visiting the Acadamia, the Boboli Gardens and the Duomo, walking on the Ponte Vecchio, just to mention a few. But, that's for another time.