Week 245 December 8, 2018

This week was a whirlwind, with many more cherished memories made. At the beginning of the week we were still in New England, staying with a dear Bikram Yoga studio owner and her husband in their warm, inviting home. It is always fun to have a dinner date out together with them. During this visit to their house, one of their cute kittens climbed right up on my chest as I was working on my laptop…

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It is always heartwarming when Loren and I can introduce our friends to each other. This week, while having coffee with a Bikram Yoga teacher friend, we were even able to reconnect longtime friends who had lost touch. When we mentioned that we had stayed overnight in her same home town with friends who we had met in Italy, she asked with who…  and we had a nice telephone conversation to facilitate reviving their connection. Then Loren had a private Bikram Yoga lesson, picking up tips to improve his practice.

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We also had dinner with a dear friend, her husband and adult son. She had moved to New England some years ago now and it was good to catch up with her again. We had fun too with the family’s lively puppy.

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Then Loren and I drove to back to New York, stopping near Albany to stay overnight with good friends. They indulged us in my wish to visit Cherry Hill, an historic home that was showing a play about World War I called Dutch. I had no idea that the event would also include period snacks and tea sandwiches along with a complimentary historic WWI era cocktail. I chose the French 75 while Loren and our friends each had a Sidecar. In addition, we were treated to a Virtual Reality clip, a precursor part to the live play. While other audience members had their VR experiences, we toured the historic home. In the end, I believe our friends enjoyed the whole experience as much as I did!

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In the morning before our departure we joined them in attending their church service, which included celebrating the 1st Sunday of Advent, then we had a delicious brunch out afterwards. 

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From there we headed to Connecticut for an evening visit with cousins… it is so nice to be able to see and catch up with so many family members and friends who we do not get to see very often.

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The next day Loren and I returned to Albany where my younger niece is in her first semester of college. We had time to stop at the Capital Region Welcome Center before taking her for a lunch date, then stopping to see her dorm. I have no idea how she became such a mature 18 year old already? She was just celebrating her Sweet 16 yesterday and was a 6 year old soccer player the day before that, or so it seems…

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As if that is not enough, my older niece is now living in her own home! That evening we visited with her and her delightful beau, seeing their lovely home, decorated for the holidays. Then we enjoyed an evening together which included playing in a trivia quiz contest over dinner at a local restaurant, making more treasured memories to savor. We actually won one round which will give them a discount on their next meal there.

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On our last full day in New York Loren and I awoke to what became a gorgeous day.

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After we took a Bikram Yoga class, Loren joined me on a driving tour to a few of the places of my childhood memories. For example I drove on Buckout Road, which in my youth was a narrow, winding, hilly road where as a new driver I and my friends sometimes went for joy rides. It was not to be on Buckout Road so much this time, as it was to find the nearby property where the last farm in White Plains had been located. This has a special meaning because my grandfather, who was the estate attorney for the owner, had tended the farm for a brief time after his client died, so that it could be properly and judiciously closed down. It is now the site of a local community garden.

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I also drove by the house that my grandfather had built himself to sell to raise the cash to take my grandmother on their honeymoon. They bought a car, drove to California in 1928, then sold the car to take the train home to New York. One event they often recounted was how my grandfather was testing out how fast the car could go and was pulled over and given a speeding ticket in Pennsylvania. Aha! It is my grandfather who I inherited my lead foot from! The current owners of the house he built have it a lovely color, which is the same color that my grandparents home in a different neighborhood had been painted when I was a child. Then, we drove by the Washington Headquarters of my childhood. As we drove around the east coast, it dawned on me that while it is a familiar sight to me, it is not something we would see in California or other places west.

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That evening we enjoyed another wonderful dinner visit with my brother and his wife, just the 4 of us, which was extra special, though I regret not capturing the evening with a photo… Now Loren and I have returned to California, to stay in the same room in the AirBnB where we had been staying since June. We have already had a couple of visits with Loren’s Mom and sister, and especially enjoyed the remaining fall colors in their backyard.

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Loren and I spent our first full day back in California starting the day with a Bikram Yoga class, then paying a visit to the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens on a day with more gorgeous weather. Our docent guide pointed out that this is the only Botanical Garden in the world where on a clear day you can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the far distance.

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Even though the temperatures in northern California are in the 40’s and 50’s, we were still surprised to find that it felt cold out to us, given that we had just returned from weather in the teens, 20’s and 30’s. I hope you are keeping warm this winter!

 

Week 244 December 1, 2018

Loren and I started this week in New York at the lake house, graciously offered to us by my brother and sister-in-law for our stay. The day was clear and chill, with ‘Ol Jack leaving frosty reminders of his overnight escapades, until Ageless Sol – or Helios, or simply Sun, melted his doomed icy sparkles into droplets of water, to soon disappear.

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Meanwhile, from inside her own home, my sister-in-law texted how she was enjoying her coffee with my Thanksgiving gift of macaroons…

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We then spent a day in the financial district of Lower Manhattan with her, my brother and their younger daughter.

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We opted not to visit the top of the Freedom Tower, as the weather was too cold and the views would be too limited. My sister-in-law and I did briefly go inside to see the spectacular new building next door, which turned out to be a stunning entrance to the subway station that includes an abundance of glitzy shops.

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We spent the bulk of our day at the 9/11 Museum & Memorial. It was quite moving. Sadly, the photos of the events seemed all too familiar even though it has been over 17 years already since that tragic day. To put it in perspective, my younger niece was just an infant.

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This wall represents the color of blue that the people of New York chose for how they remembered the sky on that particular morning before the first plane struck the South Tower. Behind the wall the remains of many of the deceased repose. The Virgil quote honors their deaths with:

   No day shall erase you from the memory of time.

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We finished our great day together with a delicious meal out, in time to reach home before the predicted major rainstorm was to arrive. New York has had an excessive amount of rain this fall, and we have noticed overflowing ponds and fields that attest to their recent presence.

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The next day Loren and I drove north to New Hampshire to visit a couple who we had met while awaiting a train in Italy a couple of years ago. The weather warmed up to 38 degrees outside which seriously felt warm to us – in other words, we did not need our coats between our car and their home, even later into the evening when we retrieved our luggage from the trunk! The next morning we delighted at the magnolia buds outside our bedroom window, though, we felt the cold when we went outside again…

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After a leisurely breakfast with these delightful friends, we were off to visit near Concord with my wonderful cousin! Unfortunately her husband was away on business, but we throughly enjoyed our visit with her and her mother in their beautiful home.

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The weather app on my phone gave no notice of the 1-3 inches of snow that she was certain from her local weather report would arrive overnight. How right she was!

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Remarkably, the birds seemed not to mind the cold or snow as they continued to visit her generous feeders.

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My cousin later toured us with a drive around the area. In Henniker we lunched overlooking the Contoocook River which feeds into the Merrimack, the lower end of which is familiar to us from previous visits in Massachusetts. Later, in nearby Concord, the capital city of New Hampshire, we stopped outside the State House, as well as at some of the shops recommended by our friends. We too can now endorse the bakery and bookstore on S Main! It was another wonderful visit, for which we are most grateful.

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From New Hampshire we worked our way south to visit the gracious owner of a Bikram Yoga studio and her husband. Before we reached their home though, we enjoyed a wonderful catchup visit with another special friend who met us nearby for a good hike on Osgood Hill. Then, Loren and I attended the 4pm Bikram Yoga class. 

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We finished our week with a morning Bikram Yoga class, followed by a luxuriously long coffee date with a fellow yogi. At 82 she is a remarkable woman, seeming more to be a vibrant 42 than her actual age. I am disappointed that I neglected to capture the occasion with a photo to share. I will remember next time! 

 

Week 243 November 24, 2018

My thanks this week are especially for all our family and friends, and we hope and wish that you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your dear ones!

Loren’s and my week began with still staying at my brother and sister-in-law’s lake house in New York. We never tire of seeing the effects of the stars and precipitation interacting with the elements of nature, like neighborhood cats and migrating Canadian geese, in and around the lake. It is so often awe inspiring. 

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We were soon off to visit a special friend of mine from childhood and her daughter, who live in Pennsylvania. She had prepared Loren’s favorite – her eggplant parmesan, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Then we learned that she had planned to cook a turkey with all the trimmings that go with it for us to also enjoy together! So Loren and I had the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving twice this week, for which we are very thankful!! Not only were we appreciative, her cat has recently developed somewhat of a voracious appetite, and surprisingly yowled and paced to have some of the turkey too. After our eating, we enjoyed playing a few rounds of the rummy version May I together.

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My friend had remembered from when I had visited briefly in July that I had been interested in seeing an episode of A Crime to Remember, which my brother had alerted me portrays the murders of my grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law from before I was born. My friend had kindly arranged to have it available to watch, so we viewed the episode together. It was a more somber experience than what our smiling faces in the photo below reflects. On a happier note, she showed us a medal that she has, which commemorates her grandfather’s placing second in the New York State Division of the Spring Century bicycling race in 1909. If we calculated correctly, he was either 13 or 14 years old at the time. Both a tragedy and a treasure from events of over a half century and a century ago. In the end it was hard to bid our farewells for now…

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We returned to the lake house and were again enthralled with the changing scenery just outside our windows which must be kept closed for the unseasonably early cold spell… 

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Our Thanksgiving day began with a nice brunch with my family at the Veteran’s Home where my sister-in-law’s father lives, but where was my camera?! Then Loren and I took advantage of the gorgeous blue skies and an error of mine with our GPS that brought us close to the cemetery where so many of my family’s graves are located, including those of my parents. Afterwards Loren and I drove back toward the lake house stopping to see the two privately owned Frank Lloyd Wright architected residences that can be more easily viewed from the road when the leaves are down. What was interesting is that the design of so many of the neighboring homes in this particular area seem to have been influenced by FL Wright’s style. 

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Then Loren and I returned home to finish up my contribution to the Thanksgiving dishes. We were going to my brother and sister-in-law’s in the evening so that my one niece who had to work and her beau could join us for dinner. And what a delicious meal it was! We were joined for dinner by a neighbor family, and we all stayed for hours afterwards visiting. 

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One of my nieces has a new tattoo, I am thankful too that she has a good reminder for an alternative to fear.

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Week 242 November 17, 2018

We so appreciate our family and friends who visit this site as a way to keep in touch, we always love hearing that you do, and treasure your support and friendship!

Loren and I began this week on a hike with friends at Lake Chabot, but it was dicey to be outside with the smoke from Butte County’s Camp Fire 200 miles away, both visible and caustic. Our normally blue skies had been obliterated in haze daily recently as the smoke has coated the San Francisco bay area, and it is predicted do so for the foreseeable future. But, we pared down their normal 3.5 hour hike to just under 2, and to catch up with these friends was special and good.

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Then Loren and I got serious in packing up our belongings at our AirBnB. By being there 4.5 months, we had nearly completely unloaded our van and accumulated more items that had to be sorted and packed back into the van again. I am quite proud to have completed a shredding job of masses of papers that have been needing my attention as part of this packing effort. After a nice dinner with Loren’s Mom and sister, his sister drove us to BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit, to reach SFO – San Francisco Airport for our overnight flight.

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No, we did not practice yoga in the airport even though we had had enough extra time, but it was tempting. Then on the connecting morning flight from Charlotte to White Plains, we saw our first blue sky in weeks as we flew north along the east coast.

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When we stepped out of the plane onto the jetway we immediately felt the crisp and chilly fall New York air. Our California weather had been in the 40’s-70’s and we were already complaining about feeling the cold as the 10 day forecast was to shift down to the 40’s-60’s. Now here the weather is already in the 30’s-40’s. But that’s not all – we are heading to visit friends in Pennsylvania with forecasted temps in the 20’s-40’s, and, New Hampshire, where we are headed after Thanksgiving to see relatives and other friends, was already showing in the 10’s-40’s. Brrr! It is a good thing that we brought some warm clothing. After signing for our rental car, I stepped out of the airport and smelled… smoke! “What? No!” I thought. With relief I noticed it simply came from a cigarette.

We saw gorgeous red leaves on several maple trees as we exited the airport, but then saw barely any colors anywhere else! After we arrived to stay at my brother and sister-in-law’s lake house, she explained, “Last week the colors were full blast on the trees! Looked like a painting on the lake, sorry it didn’t hold out for you! We had a terrible wind storm that blew everything off.” So the vegetation and deciduous trees – which are everywhere in New York, look to be what I remember from childhood winters: barren and dead. On a brighter side, we have seen a whole flock of water birds with white heads, and a cat with similar coloring sneaking down the steps to the beach and out to the little point, even testing its paw in the water before going on through what appears to be its usual hunting ground through Pfitzer junipers. It is always so enchanting here!

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Then the local forecaster called for a “wintry mix” and road signs flashed warnings of “WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY.”  As the storm was due to arrive in the afternoon, we kept our morning plans with a dear friend to visit at John Jay’s childhood home in Rye for a docent-led tour. The house no longer exists, and in its footprint John Jay’s eldest son Peter who inherited the property had built a new one in the Greek Revival style of the day. Regardless, it was well worth the time, to further appreciate the acts of one of our seven Founding Fathers, as explained from our well-informed and devoted docent.

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As we and our friend parted ways after lunch at a nearby market, the storm began. Little did anyone know just how much of a wintry mix it would be. From soft flakes to wet snow to sleet pellets, it swiftly pummeled down, blanketing at least 6 inches at the lake house and causing massive traffic and transportation problems during the afternoon to late night commute. 

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In contemplating how to make it safely to our next day’s 8:30am scheduled tour of Ellis Island, I decided that we could not and would not, and so left a voicemail late in the evening to cancel. In the morning I had a return call, and found that we could still attend the 12:30pm tour. Yay! The snow then finally stopped at 10am as predicted, in time for us to shovel our car out and drive to lower Manhattan.

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The sun was already shining again and it was a beautiful blue sky day! In fact we had a perfect view of the Freedom Tower as we sought out a parking garage nearby, and, we had spectacular views all around Upper New York Bay as we sailed first to Liberty Island then to Ellis Island.

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So, our interest in visiting Ellis Island had been to visit the place where Loren’s maternal grandmother had arrived to the United States with her mother and then two siblings a bit more than 100 years ago. I had had a most difficult time in trying to find their records online the night before, therefore we were especially interested in stopping in at their records department for help. We first enjoyed a tour with a Park Ranger and visited a couple of exhibits which were worthwhile and informative, but then we learned that Loren’s grandmother had actually not come through Ellis Island! Her ship had sailed directly from Genoa to Boston. But now I am curious to find out about how Loren’s Italian grandfather, as well as his English and German grandparents arrived to the US… Once again, it was more than worth the visit, as we learned more about our US history.

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Loren and I finished the day in New York City with a wonderful evening out to dinner with dear friends who live in Manhattan.

[I will update this week’s post with]
[a photo of the four of us at dinner]
[here – once I receive from them a]
[copy of the photos that were taken]

We wish you and yours a fabulous Thanksgiving this coming week!

Week 222 June 30, 2018

While Loren has spent each day of the past 2 weeks with his mother in California, taking her to sit by a local lake on several occasions and visiting with a few friends, for me there were several highlights while I have been on the east coast. I left New York for New England, stopping to see my older niece on her job in Connecticut. I was so proud to see how professional and personable she is with the elderly population who she works with. She invited me to join her in a rendition of Heart and Soul, the piece I taught her to plunk out on a piano when she was just a little one. We then switched places and I was also impressed with how much she has learned to embellish the top part!

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Next I drove off to have lunch with a cousin-in-law who lives father north in Connecticut. We had a nice visit and I met the newest addition to her household – a rescue basset hound, coincidentally named Cali! Then I arrived at my friend and Bikram Yoga studio owner’s home in Massachusetts. She and her husband were already off to Boston to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and as there were no other visiting teachers there that night, I enjoyed cooking my dinner alone that evening. I was up early to take the first morning class, then I made my way towards New Hampshire.

A dear cousin of mine has been diagnosed with cancer and had decided to downsize her home. But just a brief few weeks before the move her husband had unexpected open heart surgery to repair a faulty valve, and his doctor limited what he could do physically. Given the fortuitous timing of my visit, I was able to help in a small way with settling them in to their lovely new home.

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Her daughter was also supportive with caring for my cousin’s mother overnight and providing sumptuous dinners, twice at her nearby home nestled in the woods and once delivered to my cousin’s home. My cousin and I were both delighted to hear the call of the whippoorwill on two of the three nights of my visit, the first night they were either not active or at least not noticeable due to an overnight storm. And she, her husband and I shared great conversations over the several breakfasts and lunches that she prepared. 

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One treasure for me while helping to unpack my cousin’s mother’s books was in finding a booklet of short stories and a few poems that our great-great-grandfather had written that I had never seen before. I was able to make photos for myself and other family members. I also found a meaningful travel quote on the front of one of her photo albums, as travel is a love that my cousin’s mother, my cousin, her husband, Loren and I all share. 

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I returned to Massachusetts to take my studio owner friend’s class, which always has such inspiring images around the studio. We had a nice evening together though we missed her husband as he was out of town on business. I was up early to take the first class of the morning, then she and I also had a wonderful visit over breakfast.

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I drove to New York mostly through another storm in time for an appointment to have our van’s windshield replaced. Can you see the crack that developed over a harsh winter? I was unable to stop into the Apple store while they worked on it as I had planned.More importantly I was also in time to celebrate my brother’s birthday dinner out! We missed my older niece as she was at home, ill in bed. That night I found the moon that my cousin’s husband said would be full on the 28th was indeed full as it was beautifully reflected in the lake near where I was staying.

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At the beginning of this week I realized that the 2 mosquito bites on my arm, and the new ones that appeared above and below my lips – which I wondered how I had not felt the pests in those places – were not mosquito bites at all but another bout of poison ivy reaction, like I had 2 summers ago in New York. Everything I have read says that the blisters may develop as long as 72 hours after contact with the plant’s oil – meaning 3 days, however, I am so allergic that small spots still continue to appear at this point now 10 days later. However overall it is improving and diminishing….

After a morning yoga class, I spent a brief time planning for my cross country drive to California. Now I have driven 4 hours of it to visit a dear junior high school friend and her daughter who live in Pennsylvania. 

 

Week 221 June 23, 2018

This week was a week of visiting with some very special family and friends!

Loren’s and my week began with spending time with Loren’s Mom and sister. We took Mom for brunch near where a new annual classic car show in town added an unexpected out of the ordinary element to the day. Later I was glad that I could help out by washing windows for them, which was much appreciated. Then Loren and I enjoyed a delicious dinner with a group of his long time friends which included great conversations, the evening of which regrettably I neglected to capture a single photo.

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The next day we drove Mom around her childhood neighborhood in Oakland, California. She seemed so tickled to see her high school and the house where she had lived just before her marriage. She reminisced, crooned “Hello House” commented on the home’s landscaping, and, asked to return to see it once more before we left that neighborhood.

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The next day Loren and I arrived at DMV 15 minutes before it opened to find a long line had already formed, all with heads bowed toward cell phones. We spent nearly 6 hours in all there to reactivate the registration for our van, persevering through to success!

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From there Loren and I drove to Monterey for an overnight stay. We had a really good visit with cousins of mine, near the setting of Steinbeck’s depression era novel, Cannery Row. It was delightful to have the opportunity for both a dinner date followed by a mid-day through evening spent together, with lots of memorable and meaningful conversations in a modern era setting of surf and marine life.

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From there, Loren and I had to split up again for our third period of extended time apart during our Journey. He dropped me at a BART station to reach San Francisco airport in time for my overnight flight to New York through Chicago, while Loren will remain in California. I slept well on the flights so had good energy after my brother picked me up and reunited me with Loren’s van, newly maintained thanks to my very dear bro. After he returned to his job, I visited the cemetery where close members of our family are buried, and worked until satisfied with clearing lichen and encroaching grass from their headstones. 

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My brother and sweet sister-in-law have again opened their lake home to me. It is so peaceful here. This time I have seen a large fish swimming along the water’s surface, heard bullfrogs, seen fireflies as well as a group of geese swimming noisily in formation.

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This week too my brother and his family invited me to enjoy a BBQ with them at their home, which was wonderful. I also had the opportunity with a dear friend to hike through Lasdon Park and catch up over lunch.

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Then, the biggest event of my week was the privilege of attending my younger niece’s High School Graduation ceremony.

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When my brother and I first arrived to reserve seats for the outdoor ceremony, my brother conveyed by text to my older niece that she was spontaneously invited by the band leader to add her immense talent on the flute to the band’s offerings to the event. She was delighted to sit with two other musicians who she knew from her high school band days who also each had a sibling graduating this year and who were similarly tapped to fill out the winds section.  

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The evening finished with photos and a beautiful family dinner. The weather could not have been more cooperative to enjoy the ceremony outdoors, including dinner later with views of the Tappan Zee Bridge that spans the Hudson River.

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Living 3000 miles away for so many years of my adult life makes participation in and witnessing some of the special events in my brother and his family’s lives that much more precious. And, with technology, Loren too has been able to join me here this week.  

Week 177 August 19, 2017

I have had one foot in family genealogy this week, the other foot in packing and preparing to again leave the United States. It has been a very full week. Loren and I took a break from packing to see part of a Bruce Springsteen tribute band concert in a local park while we were still in New York. We arrived to find little parking, but a policeman I asked who was standing near several cars parked near “No Parking” signs said they were “Overlooking the signs for a couple of hours, so long as cars are not blocking traffic.” “Great,” I thought. We spent less than an hour enjoying our picnic dinner, only to find a ticket on our car when we left! We decided to stop in at Police HQ to complain, and, later that evening the officer called to say that he had ripped up his copy of the ticket. Nice!
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Our final errands included having Flu shots… thanks to my cousin who insisted we should have them. Have you had yours this year? We read this in an email from an MD: “Patients who don’t get the flu vaccine have more heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses.” That said, the wildlife we saw in New York included: bat, muskrat, and wild turkey. I must mention how Loren was keenly aware of the multitude of cicada singing and cricket chirping – pointing out sounds I rarely notice for their continual background presence throughout my childhood. Farewell, New York, for now.
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After a last evening with my brother and his family, we rode in an Uber taxi to JFK airport. Here we found our packing work had paid off: Loren’s checked backpack was an allowable 21kg, while mine was just 18kg – less than 50 and 40 lbs respectively. I was grateful for the onboard movies as I could not sleep on the overnight flight. I enjoyed United Kingdom and Wild. I highly recommend them both! A gorgeous Mediterranean day greeted us at the edge of Lisbon, Portugal. From the airport we took a bus to walking distance to our AirBnB – which is coincidentally off Rua de Sao Jose – San Jose Street.
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We checked in, then quickly walked the several blocks to arrive just in time for our scheduled e-bike tour. Lisbon is similar to San Francisco in that it is near the ocean and hilly in parts. It was my first electric bike ride. It was dangerous -only- in that I would like to have my own e-bike when we return home. The appeal is for the boost it has for climbing hills. On our outing, guides Yann and Philippe took us and four fun young adult Persians who now live in London, to our first miradouro – terrace with a view: Senhora-do-Monte. We also rode up and down through the very, very narrow streets of Alfama – the oldest section – meaning neighborhood, because it survived the 1755 earthquake, and resultant fires and tsunami. We also saw other less noteworthy sites of their Lisboa.
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Loren pre-booked several outings for us to start off being in Europe again. The next day we took a Walk, Food and Wine Tastings tour. I learned so much more, and spent the good part of a day with another great group of people. I especially learned from our guide Pedro (said P-eh-dro, not the usual Pay-dro, or P-a-dro), about the Carnation Revolution, Portugal’s recent nearly completely nonviolent coup to end the longest dictatorship of the twentieth century. The event is memorialized by the 25th of April bridge, designed like San Francisco’s Golden Gate because of its ability to withstand ‘quakes. I was also introduced to The Lusiads, an epic poem of Luiz de Camoes to celebrate Vasco de Gama’s discovery of a sailing route to India. And, we learned that Nossa – meaning, to us, or, Saúde – health, are the ways to toast our Portuguese drinks.
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Over the course of a few hours we had the equivalent of a progressive meal – beginning with tasting Portuguese coffee. Fortunately a dear cousin’s friend had warned us of the strong espresso and pointed us to a lighter alternative called Galone. This we had with the bakery’s best pastry. We also tasted Ginjinha – Cherry Port, served with “Romeo and Juliet” which a square of white cheddar-like cheese topped with a square of cheerful marmalade made of quince fruit, which provided a delectable sweet and savory complement to the wine. Later we enjoyed a glass of Bohemia – an historical beer. We finished with a glass of champagne to go with dishes of shrimp and tasty beans.
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That evening, Loren and I saw a Fado performance. The advert describes it this way: “Fado is Portuguese and was born in Lisbon. A symbol of the nation, it tells stories of the sea, the people and nostalgia.” Another quote, more melancholy, that was displayed during the performance by Domingos Goncalves Castro also touched us:

   You ask me the meaning of
   Nostalgia, to you I say
   Nostalgia is what is left
   When all has passed away.
The next day we had a tour to Sintra, which we already knew had mixed reviews: Lord Byron in the 18th century wrote that the town was, “Perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe.” Maybe that was the case then. A friend of ours who visited more recently suggested it is, “Crowded with tourist buses, warnings about pick pockets, and very noisy.” I think our experience was in between those two reports, and, again we had a lovely group of co-travelers with our competent and very knowledgeable guide, Filipa escorting and educating us. We first visited Parque Pena to see the elaborate castle there. Then, we walked through Quinta do Regaleira – I wish my grandfather had been there, as it is full of Freemasonry symbols, and included an “Initiation Well.”
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We also stopped at Capo da Roca, where the R in the Portuguese language is pronounced much more like an H, to see the westernmost point on continental Europe. Last, we were at Cascais, (said Cash-case) to soak up a walk along the beach with gelato. Loren and I later finished our day with pork ribs that simply melted in our mouths and Bacalau – a type of cod found only in these Portuguese waters. To conclude our week, Loren and I rode a tram to nearby Belém to see the magnificent Jerónimos Mosteiro – Monastery.
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Afterwards, we had a snack of famous custard pastry that a friend had suggested we try, at Pasteis de Belem. And, after that, we saw the Tower of Belém, for another miradouro.
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Sadly our guitar concerto at a church that evening was canceled due to a car accident, so we hope to go tomorrow instead. Our trip to the cathedral was not all in vain as we saw two different memorable views of the setting sun over the 25th of April bridge.
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I have enjoyed hearing the calls of what must be a neighbor’s exotic bird – our AirBnB apartment butts up against buildings on either side, and our windows and outside patio are very close to the neighboring buildings on the opposite side of a quite narrow street. So, the echoes of muffled conversation and other sounds are quite delightful and entertaining – except when dogs fight or a neighbor has a party, like was the case this past Friday night. Wishing you Boa Noite – Good Night, for now!

 

Week 176 August 12, 2017

You may notice a tiny different look to our blog this week – tiny, but with a big change in viewing our site. I discovered “Categories,” thanks to a friend who asked for a way to see only the posts from when we were in Ireland. So now you, too, if you want, can select a Category like Alberta, Europe, Italy, New York, or South Africa, for example, to see what we wrote for when we were there. Just scroll down on the right side under Where In the World Have We Been? for Categories organized by Continent, then Country, and where applicable State/Province or Territory.  Then just click on whichever one you want to see.
In addition to making that change, this week included other highlights. First, we celebrated my brother’s wife’s birthday with a fun dinner out, just before my brother and his family left for a vacation in Florida. This is the first time that Loren and I have been in New York for her birthday. We have now, fairly recently, been here for both their daughters’ Sweet 16s, my brother’s 50th, and now a special day of hers. Very special!
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Next, I reached out by email then phone to another cousin who I had never met. I learned about him from contacts made through research in Albany, New York about my family heritage. I am so glad that I talked with him! He is a third cousin, once removed as I understand it – meaning that he and my mother have the same great-grandparents. This cousin actually has their Bible from 1865 which documents family Marriages, Births and Deaths. He lives in Louisiana, so it will be some time before we can visit in person.
This week Loren and I attended a UU Sunday Worship Service which was different, in that it included several good reminders for attending to the health of the mind, and, how to live in the present moment to stave off worry and regret – using positive humor. Three mantras I took away are:
   Your life is your garden, your thoughts are the seeds.
   If you life isn’t awesome, you’re watering the weeds!
   this moment
   this breath, and
   The grass is green, right here.
Speaking of UUs, we received from a dear friend brother this link to “Wonderful World” a video collage in memory of the beauty of our friend’s photography. We were invited to  feel free to forward the link for others to enjoy:
Otherwise our week included running errands, hiking – when the weather permitted, and Bikram yoga classes, which included my first silent class in a long time. One day an errand took us to Yonkers, said Yahn-kiz if you are a local. I have not been there in probably 30 years or more. When we passed by Nathan’s, Loren indulged me in turning around for a nostalgic hot dog lunch. He agreed, it was yummy, just like I remembered!
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Then, we stopped at a lemonade stand. I remember a motivational speaker once saying, “When you see kids with a lemonade stand, stop and buy something. It helps them start to develop their entrepreneurial skills.” So I try to do that when I can, paying forward from when people stopped for my childhood lemonade stand. This particular one had choices – lemonade or yummy sweet iced tea. Loren captured the moment for posterity…

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On one of our hikes I went off trail to photo a sunset – sometimes my photos do not do justice to the scene. Nonetheless, it was worth it though because when I looked down I noticed pachysandra growing. This is a ground cover that I have such fond memories of my Mom cultivating and tending it amidst our front yard shrubbery when I was a wee one. Another nostalgic moment this week.
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The wildlife we saw on this hike included a hawk flying near us – with effort – because it was carrying a rabbit off in its claws! We had noticed that the geese had left the lake since we returned last week, now we have enjoyed a pair of ducks in their place.
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And, near a school playground where we hiked, I was happy to see the US map, given our  recent travels across the states. And, we were privileged to receive some of the bounty of the summer gardeners who were pulling the remains of flat-leaf- and curly-kale, as well as Swiss chard. We have enjoyed kale chips, kale salad, and a veggie side dish this week!
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What else we saw that was inspiring were four helpful charts along the trail for identifying butterflies, trees, flowers and birds of the world or North America. How nice!
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Otherwise, travel planning, sorting and beginning packing rounded out our week. After nine months in the US, it is amazing that we will again head overseas next week. In our planning, we have had to remember to decipher hours and days from the notation that most of the rest of the world uses. For example time is expressed with the 24 hour clock, so 1600 hours is 4pm, and, days come before months – like 1/10/17 is October 1st, not January 10th. We could not have a lovelier place to be working on our plans! Even if every day is not gorgeous, it is usually peaceful. We will very much miss our time here.
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I will finish with what one of my cousins wrote a year ago:
“Will you ever return? … One saying goes ‘If you stay away more than 3 years you will never return,’ Soooo come home soon! … Please save Asia, India, China etc. for your next trip before travel fatigue takes over. We miss you and love you both. I have already had my say.”
Thanks dear cousin! I wonder, does our eight month sojourn in the US count for coming home? We did spend two months in California, just not in our own house… If all goes as we hope, Loren and I will see Egypt, India, Oceania, and southeast Asia this time, after Portugal, Spain and Italy again. We expect to be returning to the US in two years or so…

Week 175 August 5, 2017

I first want to say how nice it always is to hear from our family and friends, thank you for following us on our blog and keeping in touch with us! We appreciate hearing comments like, “You both have such a gift for sharing what your eyes see and your minds interpret,” and other encouraging and supportive words. Thank you! We especially love learning about what is going on in your lives, it helps us to keep feeling connected with you as we travel on this journey of ours.
We began this week still near Albany visiting dear friends with their newest family member – their cute dog. The doggie’s favorite toy is the adorable Lamb Chop from our childhood memories of the Shari Lewis show. I want to point out that in New York, this city’s name is pronounced All-bany, unlike the Albany of California that I hear pronounced more like Owl-bany. 
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Our friends’ brother and his wife came over too and we enjoyed their refreshing homemade sangrias, then we had a delicious BBQ dinner all together.
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And, as always, they have such beautiful plants growing in their lovely yard.
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Loren and I had a late night discussion with our friend about life and her beliefs on spirituality and scripture, which we always appreciate and gave us more to reflect on. Then we enjoyed a lovely Sunday Brunch with both of them with a beautiful view overlooking the Hudson River to bid them our fond farewell.
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On the way back to Mahopac, Loren and I visited 8th President Martin Van Buren’s home,
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and learning some about the history of his day.
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Afterwards we had a good hike on a nearby trail.
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Now we are back at my brother and sister-in-law’s lake house, enjoying the new blooms here. We had a fun BBQ with them and their girls, but where was my camera?

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A major appointment this week was for Loren’s new crown, to address the integrity of his tooth that broke in mid-July. I am excited too that I submitted the paperwork for my pension! Small as it is, I earned every penny of it, and am grateful to begin receiving payouts at 60 years of age. The rest of the week has been devoted to hiking, daily yoga and looking at family history. The wildlife we saw included an owl, bats, snapping turtles, a few fawns, a rabbit, and a squirrel.
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What is taking most of our time is planning, firming up minor travel details – like confirming our upcoming hike on the Camino, attending to loose ends – like obtaining more vaccines and travel medications, taking care of DMV records, car insurance, computer care, banking, IRS, etc.! In addition we are beginning to sort out our belongings and pare down again to just our backpacks and daypacks for when we leave the United States. We hope you are enjoying your August too!
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Week 174 July 29, 2017

This week’s highlights began with my teaching a Bikram yoga class in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts. That evening Loren and I watched the 1937 movie Snow White with our hosts and studio owner, their two beautiful young nieces, and another visiting yoga teacher houseguest. It was endearing to see it together. I always enjoy catching up with familiar other instructors when I visit, both those who are local and other traveling teachers, one who I first met when taking class in Edinburgh Scotland, as well as meeting others new to me each time that I come to visit.
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Another day I “did a double” – I took 2 90 minute yoga classes in one day while Loren visited a coffee shop during the second class. I do love this Bikram style of yoga! After our last class at this studio for now, our dear owner friend led a half hour long meditation group which was also delightful. At her suggestion – knowing we were heading to Springfield, Massachusetts – we visited the brand new Dr. Seuss Museum and its Memorial Sculpture Garden. What a trip down memory lane for us, with a little inspirational quote for our ongoing travels!
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Afterwards we sought out another Peter “Wolf” Toth Whispering Giants Trail statue, making it another of several we have seen in different states. Loren and I spent this night at an AirBnB where we had a lovely evening talking with the home owner. One thing we learned is how the name Mohammad spelled with “ad” at the end is the Pakistani version of this name. 
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What had brought us to Springfield was to see the Basketball Hall of Fame, where we spent several hours the next day immersing ourselves in its history and glory.

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Then, we drove to Mount Holyoke College. My father’s uncle had made a generous donation in 1951 when he died. So, Loren indulged me in looking over the lecture rooms in Cleveland Hall, which was built from his gift at this impressive campus.
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After we returned to New York State, we stopped at the Albany Rural Cemetary to see the graves of my great-great-grandparents and their family plot. For the first time, I also found the graves of my great-great-great-grandparents nearby. And, for the first time too, we stopped to see President Chester Arthur’s grave, in the same cemetery.
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Many small towns surround the cemetery that I had heard my grandmother mention so many times – Loudonville where she was born, Menands, Niskayuna where her grandmother was born, Renssalaer, Watervliet – such familiar names yet at the same time such foreign places to me.
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Then Loren and I spent another full day at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I kept looking for but did not find my favorite NY Yankees from my young adulthood – Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella, Bucky Dent, Willie Randolph, and others from their memorable team – who should all be honored, in my opinion! Who I did find were “Goose” Gossage, Rickey Henderson, and some of my father’s heroes. What we also found was the complete video of Abbott and Costello’s hilarious Who’s on First routine…
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On the way between our campground and Cooperstown, which are both in and among rural farmland and lush rolling hills, Loren decided we should stop at the middle-of- nowhere yet impressive Opera house to see what was playing. It was incredible that the opera I have been most interested in seeing – Porgy and Bess, was playing that evening. What a treat it was to see it, making another most memorable time. This troupe of actors sang their hearts out. Rain had chased away all the other campers, leaving our entire loop of the campground all to us that night. then in the morning we were able to convey our appreciation for the performance directly to a few of the actors as we all ate breakfast at one of only two local cafes in the rural area.
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Now we are near Albany, visiting dear friends and their newly summer-shorn West Highland White Terrier, as well as their son and new daughter-in-law. Whenever we visit, our friend – a culinary school trained Jill of many Trades, outdoes herself in making appetizing meals. It is such a pleasure to spend more time with all of them again.
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