Our Maple Tree

Keeping up with The Maples

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2013 Moments

It is hard to believe that 2013 is over. It is amazing how fast the years go by as you get older. I guess as you get older the more you appreciate your time.

2013 has been a wonderful year for Randy and me. Filled with some of the greatest memories of our lives (so far)! Let’s take a look…

1. We finally found a home church at the beginning of 2013. After a year of searching, we finally found where we belong. It has been a tremendous blessing and I thank God everyday for my church family/lifegroup.

Small Group Christmas 2013-22

2. We ran a 5k together on the airport runway! We also had a chance encounter with colleges from work! Go Eaton! ūüėČ

PicMonkey Collage

3. We bought a new washer and dryer. Our old ones went out on us while washing clothes… that was fun!

4. We went to a gala for the Blue Ridge Humane Society!

me and randy at gala

5. Randy and I both started new jobs within Eaton!

6. Randy traveled all over the country on business. He went to NYC, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Orlando – the list goes on. He got to see Third Eye Blind and Imagine Dragons on these visits…. lucky! ūüėČ

7. We refinanced our house this year! The house will be paid for in 15 years! That’s not so bad, right? Only 5,358 days to go! ūüôā

When we bought the house 2 years ago!

When we bought the house 2 years ago!

8. We both celebrated our 10,000th day being alive! Celebrate the small things, right?

9. We planned and went on our dream vacation to Italy! We got to experience a beautiful culture and meet the most wonderful people!

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10. In Italy, we celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary! These four years have been amazing! I wouldn’t change a thing! I hope to have 100 more anniversaries with you Randy!

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The Lord has certainly blessed us this year! We have been blessed with good health, great friends and we have the best family!

With all the wonderful things that have happened this year, all the crazy planning, all the travel, all the fun…. I feel a little worn out!

I haven’t really thought about a New Year’s Resolution or what adventures 2014 will hold. Right now, on the last day of 2013, I just want to sit back and enjoy the day. I don’t want to plan anything or wish away the time. Just want to relax with my loving husband, our fur-babies, a glass of wine in hand and reminisce about our amazing year together.

The planning and resolutions can wait till tomorrow…

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Ugly Christmas Sweater Party in Pictures

Our life group had an ugly Christmas sweater party where we exchanged white elephant gifts.

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They are so fun!

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All the ladies!

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Dancing around the Christmas tree!

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Group shot.


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Exchanged our white elephant gifts. He got a nice scarf! ūüôā

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She got a nice tie‚Ķ ūüôā

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They got toilet paper and snowman poop (white tick-tacks).

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Scary framed picture!

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A‚Ķ unique figurine. ūüôā

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Scary baby-head-plant-thingy!

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Looking snazzy in his new scarf!

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Redbox coupons!

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We had a wonderful dinner in this gorgeous dining room!




And we celebrated a birthday!




I love these group of people! They are the greatest!

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Passport to Italy: Rome Day Twelve

Our last full day in Italy. ūüôĀ

Being the end of our trip and after our exciting day yesterday, Randy and I were reaching our physical limits. So this day, we couldn’t push ourselves very hard.

We visited the Borghese Gallery this day, which was of course reserved a month in advance. I am glad we did because when we picked up our tickets, they were sold out for a week! The Borghese park was nice. There were people riding bicycles, others sitting on benches eating their lunches and you could hear saxophones playing in the distance. 


The Borghese Gallery houses most of the Borghese collection of paintings, sculptures and antiquities. It begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese between 1613 and 1615. Scipione Borghese was an early patron of Bernini and an avid collector of Caravaggio’s works. (no pictures allowed)

The best part, in my opinion, of the gallery were all the Bernini sculptures.¬†The Bernini sculptures that are in the Museo Borghese collection are some of his best works.They include “Apollo and Daphne,”¬†“The Rape of Proserpina,” and his version of¬†“David.” What Bernini does in his sculptures seem physically impossible: the way they move and show action. There is a reason why stone sculpture figures from previous times are stoic and still and it is because stone can’t be manipulated like that, to tell a story. And yet, that is exactly what he does.

We stood looking at his sculptures for some time. Another unique thing about Bernini’s work is that they were meant to be viewed from all directions. That is why they are showcased alone, away from any obstruction.¬†

One of my favorite sculptures is here in the gallery,which is the¬†reclining statue of Paolina Borghese by Antonio Canova. It was a very scandalous statue for its time, even for our time. But I think it is beautiful. And I kind of admire Paolina for her boldness. According to Rick Steves, when the statue was presented to the public, Paolina was asked, “How could you have done such a thing?” She replied, “The room wasn’t cold.”

After a few hours in the gallery we went back to the Roman Forum.

“It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of¬†triumphal processions¬†and elections; the venue for public speeches,¬†criminal trials, and¬†gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs.”

The Arch of Titus – “it was constructed in 82 AD,¬†to commemorate Titus’ victories, including the¬†Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.”
















Basilica of Constantine – “construction began¬†under the emperor¬†Maxentius¬†in 308, and was completed in 312 by¬†Constantine I.”


Temple of Antoninus & Faustina – “The temple was begun in 141 AD by the Emperor¬†Antoninus Pius¬†and was initially dedicated to his deceased and deified wife,¬†Faustina the Elder. When Antoninus Pius was deified after his death in 161 AD, the temple was re-dedicated jointly to Antoninus and Faustina at the instigation of his successor,¬†Marcus Aurelius.”









Here is the burial place of Julius Caesar.


People still place flowers and burn candles here.


Arch of Septimius Severus – “a¬†triumphal arch¬†dedicated in AD 203 to commemorate the¬†Parthian victories¬†of Emperor¬†Septimius Severus¬†and his two sons,¬†Caracalla¬†and¬†Geta, in the two campaigns against the¬†Parthians¬†of 194/195 and 197-199.”




Temple of Castor – “It was originally built in gratitude for victory at the¬†Battle of Lake Regillus¬†in 495 BC.”




Temple of Vesta – “All temples to Vesta were round, and had entrances facing east to symbolize connection between Vesta‚Äôs fire and the sun as sources of life. The Temple of Vesta represents the site of ancient cult activity as far back as 7th century BCE.”


House of the Vestals –¬†the residence of¬†Vestal Virgins





Today, remains of the statues of the Vestals can be seen in the Atrium Vestae.








Temple of Saturn –¬†“a¬†temple¬†to the¬†god¬†Saturn¬†in¬†ancient Rome. The original dedication of a temple to Saturn was traditionally dated to 497 BC.”


Walking around these ruins was a humbling experience. This was the seat of Roman’s power, where people met to shop and get news, where senators and caesars met to discuss politics and where people came to worship. It was amazing to think that I was walking around on the same stones as Julius Caesar and Constantine.

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Passport to Italy: Rome Day Eleven

Our second day in Rome was for the Vatican City.

I made reservations for the Vatican Museums two months in advanced, it is recommended to reserve in advanced; otherwise, you will be waiting in line for a long time.

The Vactican Museums are vast, to say the least. The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513). As the decades passed, more popes added to the already impressive collection of diverse artworks owned and displayed by the Vatican. Today, there are thirteen museums in the Vatican Museum complex. The building complex is worth a visit in itself as all rooms and hallways are lavishly decorated with marble and frescoes.

The view of St. Peter’s dome from the museum.




Yay! More scaffolding! ūüėČ



Randy said that this was one bust-y room! Haha! He is so adorkable!



View of the Vatican city and Rome.



The famous statue of Laoco√∂n and His Sons also called the Laoco√∂n Group, has been one of the most famous ancient sculptures ever since it was excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed on public display in the Vatican. Finding this statue was a defining moment in art history. Michelangelo and his protege/friend Guilio Romano where two of the first people to see the statue and it was one of the defining influences of Michelangelo’s life.




The circumference of this basin is 13 meters. Historians believe that this basin had once embellished one of the large public spaces of imperial Rome.


There in the distance, the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world! I was in nerd heaven!




There are four rooms known as the Stanze of Raphael, once the residence of Pope Julius II, feature the works of Raphael and his assistants.





The most famous fresco in these rooms is the “School of Athens”, a masterwork of perspective painting.


After the Raphael rooms, you are then lead to the most anticipated room of all the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel!

My first thought when we entered the chapel was, “This is it? It is so much smaller than I imagined!” But it was still amazing.

The chapel is long, skinny, poorly lit and packed full of people. We fought our way to the center of the room and started our Rick Steves audio tour.

No pictures are allowed of the chapel and they are Nazis about it! There are cameras located throughout the chapel watching for tourists taking photos. If they catch you sneaking in a photo, uniformed officers come to you and watch you delete pictures of the chapel. If you refuse to cooperate, you will get a one way ticket out of the Vatican city! One italian was escorted off the premises screaming at the officers in italian. That was exciting! ūüėČ

Standing in the middle of the chapel; my shoulders and back touching strangers; it was easy to forget where I was as a feeling of quiet respect wash over me. Standing here you know that you are standing in a place of unquestionable significance.

I leaned my head back and lost myself in the swirls of color. Michaelangelo painted this chapel between 1508 and 1512 under the orders from the Pope to tell the story of the “creation, downfall and salvation of humankind.”

After spending over an hour standing still ,on marble flooring with our heads leaned back as far as they could go; we were sore and exhausted. So we made our way to the exit of the museums.

The way out is by this beautiful staircase. The Vatican commissioned Giuseppe Momo to create this staircase.

The Spiral Staircase, also called the Momo Staircase, is made up of two wrought iron stairways ‚Äď one going up, one going down ‚Äď that curve in a double helix. Ironically it was created in a time before the double helix became a symbol for science, DNA and subsequently, all human life.





We had lunch after this tour in a small, hole in the wall pizzeria. After lunch we started towards St. Pete’s Square. We noticed that as we made our way to the square that the crowds were getting heavier. Little did we know what was awaiting for us at the square.

The square was packed full of people of all ages. Tour buses, policemen, camera crews, barricades – all of this with people pushing and tugging and yelling in Italian.


We finally made our way up to a barricade to get a glimpse of St. Peter’s basilica.


And we saw a bride.



I told Randy that this didn’t seem like a normal day for the Vatican. He didn’t believe me at first until he zoomed in with his camera and he saw a podium, lights and large TVs. We were tired, hot and nervous with all the people around us. So we left the Vatican City planning on returning the next day.


Little did we know, two hours after we left the Vatican City, the Pope came out and gave a speech. It would have been really neat to hear it and see it, but there was no way we would have lasted another 2 hours waiting for the pope in that blazing sun. We were just too exhausted.

We had intentions on returning to the Vatican City to properly see St. Peter’s basilica. But we just never made it back.

For next time we return to Rome, (since we threw coins into the Trevi Fountain), I would like to tour St Peter’s basilica and climb to the top of the dome. Also, I would love to get a private tour of the Sistine Chapel. I think it would be worth every penny to see the chapel again after-hours.

After a quick rest we explored Rome by night. This city is beautiful at night. It is a total different atmosphere at night. It feels calmer and tranquil. People leisurely walk around the city, take their time eating dinner and drinking wine and watch the world go by.









For dinner we stopped by a restaurant that Rick Steves went to in his show called,  Il Gabriello. It was a neat place. The entrance is at street level, but you climbed down some stairs to get to the restaurant, just like a wine cellar.



Our appetizer was mozzarella cheese. We were addicted to this stuff! The best cheese ever!




We each ordered filet mignon, cooked, of course! It had peppercorns, arugula, shaved cheese and drizzled with balsamic. It was delicious!




For dessert we had strawberries and cream crepes. Man, they were out of this world! My mouth is watering just thinking about them!




After dinner, we joined the crowds strolling around Rome. Here is the Trevi Fountain at night.




And the Pantheon.




It was so romantic walking around the city at night, with all the beautiful fountains and buildings all lit up and people playing music. *sigh* I miss it already!




Passport to Italy: Rome Day Ten

Our first day in Rome was dedicated to ancient Rome. We used Rick Steves, of course, to help us map out our day and used his audio guides. We started at the Colosseum.

To get to the Colosseum, we took the subway. We bought Roma Passes early this morning. Rick Steves suggests to buy these if you are going to stay in Rome for three days or more. You get unlimited rides on public transportation, two admissions tickets to your first two sites, and discounted rates on sites after your first two. Roma Passes costs us 30 euros a piece and they can be found at any IT center or train station.


Very dark, kind of creepy subway!


In our guide books that we I read, it goes into great detail about all the pickpockets. They are very bad in touristy areas, especially public transportation areas. So we were a little apprehensive using the subway at first. There were times when people would eye us and follow us around. But no one actually bothered us. I carried a pacsafe purse, which is awesome for travel. I don’t see how a pickpocket could take anything from this purse. It is like Fort Knox with all its security features! But I am sure that there are some people out there that can pickpocket this purse. I just didn’t encounter them. You just need to be smart when you are traveling in these areas and be mindful of your surroundings.

Moving on! The Colosseum! This is the one place I was so excited to see. It really is spectacular!



The construction of the Colosseum began under the emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor, Titus.

It is amazing how large this structure is, especially considering when it was built. It is 615 ft long, and 510 ft wide, with a base area of 6 acres. The height of the outer wall is 157 ft. It could hold 50,000 spectators which could be filled and emptied in 15 minutes. That is better than our modern day arenas!



The arena itself was 272 ft by 157 ft. It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand covering an elaborate underground structure of tunnels and cages. Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the tunnels are still clearly visible. 








Walking around the Colosseum, I couldn’t help but think about a book that I adore called, “A Voice in the Wind“, by Francine Rivers. She is a Christian-fiction author who can write like no other. Now historians say that Christians were not martyred in this particular Colosseum, but there was a time when Christians were fed to the lions and killed for entertainment. This book takes place in a time like that. The story follows a young woman who is sold into slavery and sold to a wealthy Roman family. She never once mentions she is a Christian, but they figured it out because of the way she lives. It is a very inspiring story, one that changed my life. And it does have a happy ending and of course, a love story! It is a wonderful book that I highly suggest.

But I kept thinking about this story the entire time I was there. I always loved that book but it felt more real there, in that Colosseum.

Archaeologists and historians have estimated that the human death count within the Colosseum reached 500,000. Can you imagine? That is so many!


After the fall of ancient Rome, the Colosseum was pretty much forgotten. It was many things over the years, a market place, a sanctuary for the homeless and a fort in times of distress. It has been pillaged and plundered and parts of it used for St. Peter’s cathedral. Earthquakes and fires have damaged it, but this structure still stands.


In 16 AD the Roman Catholic Church took pity on this ancient artifact and decided to save it. They erected a cross in remembrance of those who died for their faith.



On the second story, is a wonderful view of the Colosseum and of the ancient ruins of Rome.



Here is the Temple of Venus and Roma. Many Romans from ancient times and today have gotten married here.






The Arch of Constantine… I guess during the so-called slow season, they maintain all the sites. We saw scaffolding everywhere! ūüôĀ



As we left the Colosseum, we took a look back and got some of the best views.




This one is my favorite.


It is said, that as long as the Colosseum stands, so shall Rome.

After the Colosseum we tried to go see the Forum, but the lines were long and it was so hot. So we went to eat lunch instead! ūüôā

We stopped by a restaurant suggested by Rick Steves called Cavour 313. It was a wine bar type restaurant with an enormous wine list and a menu of just raw meats. Randy was in heaven! He order raw filet mignon this day (eww)!

The ceiling was lined with wood beams with wine bottles across the beams.



Our appetizer was some kind of boar meat stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.


Randy’s raw filet mignon! It had shaved cheese, arugula¬†and balsamic vinegar.


I had a spring salad with tuscan toast with slices of goat cheese and drizzled with olive oil. I was so excited to see a salad on the menu! It was the first time I had seen a salad on a menu since I had been in Italy!


And for dessert we ordered a chocolate mousse. Please excuse how I look in this photo. I was exhausted from all the walking, fighting the crowds and from the heat. And I had helped Randy with a bottle of wine! ūüėČ


And we almost licked this cup cleaned!


After our wonderful, long lunch we felt rejuvenated. We really didn’t want to go back to the Forum in the heat of the day. So we did a Rick Steves audio walking tour called the “Heart of Rome Walk”. It started at the Campo di Fiori and ended at the Spanish Steps.

Campo de Fiori translates to “field of flowers”, in ancient times this square was an open meadow. It is now a bohemian piazza that hosts a flower and vegetable market.



The colors in this piazza were beautiful.




Next stop was Piazza Navona. This square has retain its shape of the original racetrack that was built around 80 AD by emperor Domitian. This piazza was my favorite of all the piazzas in Rome. The people watching, the painters, the live music – it was just so lively and colorful.




In the center of the piazza is the Four Rivers Fountain, built by Bernini. Bernini was a genius when it came to stone! His sculptures are so life like; they all just take my breath away.

The four river gods, of this fountain, represent the 4 known continents that were known in 1650.



In the center of the fountain stands an Egyptian obelisk. Rome has 13 obelisks, more than any other city in the world. Romans brought the obelisks to Rome and set them up in key public places as evidence of their occupation of Egypt.




Behind the fountain is the Church of St. Agnes, built by Bernini’s rivalry, Borromini.


After the Piazza Navona, we walked to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome. It was built by emperor Hadrian around 120 AD. And it is one of the only ancient buildings of Rome that is still used today, as a place of worship.




The 40 ft single-piece granite columns of the entrance, shows the scale on which the ancient Romans built on .


The greatest wonder of this building is the dome which inspired later domes, including Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s and Brunelleschi’s dome.¬†Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.¬†The height and the diameter of the dome are the same, 142¬†ft.





The burial site of Raphael Sanzio, famous Renaissance painter.





From the Pantheon, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. Interesting fact about the Trevi Fountain is that no streets directly approach it. One minute you are walking along the streets and then the next minute, bam! you are there!


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The fountain was built by Nicola Salvi in 1762. Salvi used the palace behind the fountain as a theatrical background. I think he got what he wanted, it is very dramatic!


trevi fountain

The fountain represents “Ocean” who represents water in all its forms. There are 24 water spouts and over 30 different kinds of plants. The amazing part is that this fountain is still powered by Rome’s ancient aqueducts! Man, they really made things to last forever!



They say if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain that it will assure you a return trip to Rome. Randy and I definitely went through this ritual! Couldn’t hurt, right?



It was so very crowded, no matter when you came by! It is a little less crowded on the sides though.


And then, last but not least, the Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna. It is named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican, which has been here for 300 years!

There were so many people here at the steps. And the guys trying to sell roses were annoying as all get out. One of those guys almost got punched by me when he wouldn’t leave me alone. But I refrained myself! ūüėČ


Another couple was kind enough to take our picture, after yelling at one of those guys trying to sell us a rose. (He is the guy to the right of this picture in the white and red shirt.)


See the pink building to the left in this photo? This is where John Keats died of tuberculosis at age 25 and fellow romantic Lord Byron lived across the square at #66. Pretty neat, uh?


The street ahead is the street for shopping – Gucci, Prada, Versache – you name it, its there.



spanish steps

After this tour, needless to say, we were exhausted.

Stay tuned for day two in Rome!

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Passport to Italy: Travel to Rome Day Nine

We got up and had our last breakfast at Frances’ Lodge. ūüôĀ

I ordered pancakes and received crepes! They were delicious! No surprise there!

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We said our goodbyes to the other guests we had breakfast with and packed our things.

After settling our bill with Franco, he gave us two little cloth balls filled with home-grown lavender. He said it was a memento of our time spent with them at their lodge. It was so sweet and they smell marvelous! I keep it by my bed side table now so I can smell it while I sleep.

Frances said she would not say goodbye to us because she wanted to see us again. So she hugged and kissed each of our cheeks and said, “Till we meet again.”

We reluctantly left Frances’ Lodge and drove to Chiusi. I did a lot of research before we left for Italy on how to get from Siena to Rome. Driving to Rome was not an option. I decided to take the train since our hotel is a 5 minute walk to the train station. Chiusi was the closest town that offered a straight shot to Rome.

Again, getting to a city was easy, navigating in the city was another thing entirely. Chiusi is a very small town, but not one that is easy to navigate. We spent about an hour driving around this town to find the train station. You would think there would be signs or an obvious station. It took us forever to find it and almost just as long to find the Hertz office to drop off the car. Needless to say, we missed the train we intended to be on. Luckily, they had another one (the last one) later in the day.

The train ride was completely different than what I expected. It was tiny, crowded and old. There was only one walkway and that walkway was full of luggage and people. The people in the walkway were actually sitting on these little seats that were bolted into the floor. They actually sold tickets for these little aisle seats! I guess that is the norm but it was not what I expected.

We finally found our seats, after swimming through luggage and people. I felt bad for the people sitting in these seats because I kept accidently hitting them with my bag! I am so thankful that we had actual seats in a cabin and not those little seats in the aisle. The train ride lasted about 1.5 hours.

Here we are settled in our train cabin. They are terrible pictures of us because we were exhausted and stressed out to the max trying to get to this darn train! ūüėČ

randy train

jama train

We arrived in Rome and jumped out of that cramped train with earnestness. Rome was so much hotter than expected. It was suppose to be about 72 and cloudy. It was more like 80, sunny and 96% humidity! We were soaked by the time we found our hotel. We didn’t pack for this kind of weather. We had long sleeves and boots! We were hot the entire time we were in Rome. But all the Romans were wearing scarfs, hats and puffy jackets!

When we arrived at our hotel the porter did not want us to take the stairs. He was insistent that we take the one and only elevator, which could hold one person comfortably. Randy could barely fit into the elevator with his pack on and the porter shoved me into the elevator with my pack on as well. We tried to tell him that we could take the stairs but he pushed us into the elevator. Now when I say pushed, I literally mean pushed. He had his hands on my pack and pushed me into that tiny elevator till he could close the door. I felt like those officers in the movie, “The Fifth Element”, when Bruce Willis squeezes the officers into his fridge. This scene here.

After falling out of the elevator we finally get to our room. We immediately freshen up and change clothes.

After resting we went out to find a place for dinner. We didn’t take that many pictures of this day. Travel days are not all that exciting. They are stressful and exhausting.

Again, navigating in a foreign country is strenuous. I am glad that we rented a car. It was worth it when exploring Tuscany and the train was a unique experience. But I think if we ever go to Europe again, it will probably be with a  tour that gets you to all the places you need to go. All the fun of exploring without the stress of finding your places of interest.

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Thanksgiving Part 2

This year, my brother and his wife hosted Thanksgiving. They live almost 4 hours away from us, so we do not get to see them very often. We were very excited to see them and meet their new puppy, Indy!

We woke up to this beautiful view:


First snow of the season! I hope this is a good indicator that we will have a good winter this year! (Keeping fingers crossed!)

After a very long drive, we finally made it to my brother’s and got to meet this little bundle of joy! When we drove up she came running outside to meet us. Randy opened up his door to get out and she just jumped right in, onto Randy’s lap! I wish I had got that on camera.


She is a jug – which is a pug and jack russell mix. Isn’t she adorable? She is so sweet and a little ball of energy! She ran circles around us the entire time we were there!

My sister-in-law made a wonderful Thanksgiving lunch for us. She stuffed the turkey, which was a first for me. I have always heard of people stuffing their turkeys but I have never tasted one before. It was of course delicious!


And my favorite… dessert! Kathy made pumpkin pie bites. They were so light and wonderful! I ate more than I should have!


We did a little Black Friday shopping. It was madness! It is terrifying out there on Black Friday! I think I prefer to wait for Cyber Monday and do all my shopping online! Speaking of which, I ordered my first Philosophy purchase. I have heard so many good things about them so I wanted to try them out. I ordered the by the fire kit and a few bottles of silent night shower gel. The “by the fire kit” is amazing! I love anything to do with s’mores and this kit is my new favorite thing! I just wish I ordered more than one!

That night we were still so full from our Thanksgiving lunch we just had a little bit of cheese and wine for dinner. (I think Randy and I are missing Italy!)


Afterwards, Kathy and I painted our nails. I cannot paint my right hand to save my life, so I always make Kathy or my mom paint my right hand whenever they are around! (mustard scarf from kiki la’rue)


For dessert that night; because one cannot have too much dessert in one day; (I have a t-shirt that says, “Life is short, eat dessert first!” It is my life motto!) we had pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake ice-cream from Ben&Jerry’s. Yum!


Our Thanksgiving with my family came to an end all too quickly. ¬†ūüôĀ ¬†I always feel like I never get enough time with my family. But in a way, it makes our time together that much sweeter.

It is funny when you are young, all you think about is getting out of the house. As soon as you get out of the house, all you think about is being with your family! At least, that is how it is for me! Don’t get me wrong, I love my life just the way it is. But it would be nice to have my family a little bit closer so I could see them a little more often; like once a day! ūüėČ

I am so grateful for my family; without them, I would be lost. They are my teachers, my comedians, my loves, my best friends.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with good food, good friends, good times and most of all, family.

“The love of family is life’s greatest blessing.”


Thanksgiving Part 1

I am going to take a little break from Italy, mostly because we have not converted our Rome pictures yet! We are working on it though!

We started celebrating Thanksgiving the weekend before – Randy’s dad and girlfriend came up to visit us. We had initially planned to go camping, but a cold front came in, bringing 12 degrees wind chill! No thanks!

So instead, we hung out at our house and enjoyed our fire pit. Randy’s dad brought a turkey breast to be cooked in a dutch oven by the fire coals. It was our first time trying anything like this before.


Cooking the turkey this way was a lot of fun. We placed the turkey in the pot, filled it with chicken broth and all kinds of goodies – seasonings, potatoes, onions, celery and an apple. Then we placed hot coals from the fire on the bottom and the top of the dutch oven.


Then we just waited.





Tesla joined us too, away from the fire. She gets too hot around it.


After about 3 hours of cooking, we finally opened the dutch oven and this is what we found:


A beautiful turkey, that smelled amazing! Randy’s dad was so excited on how well it went. He has been wanting to try this for a long time.


I made some sides to have with the turkey. Made-from-scratch green bean casserole, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and anasazi beans.


Everything was delicious! It was a lot more entertaining cooking the turkey this way. I would love to do it again for Thanksgiving! We planned on s’mores for dessert, but by the time we finished dinner, the wind picked up. We could hear tree branches breaking off and trees hitting the ground. So we stayed inside and enjoyed our Thanksgiving inspired fireplace. ūüėČ


I made the “GIVE” banner with my cricut machine, the “M” book came from Altar’d State, the “THANKS” pumpkins came from Wal-mart (I drew the letters on with a sharpie) and the maple leaf garland came from yellowbirdyellowbeard.com.


We had a wonderful weekend with Randy’s family and enjoyed being outdoors for a least a little bit!

Randy and I are so very blessed and have so much to be thankful for. We know all that we have has been given to us by God and I thank Him everyday!

Psalm 9:1

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.