At the Candy Counter

What were your favorite childhood candy treats? A general store in the mountains stocks some candy that instantly transports me back to my grade school days. Neccos and Smarties and Moon pies, oh my!

My friends and I would hop on our bikes and race down to the corner store after school. I saved up the coins from my allowance to buy goodies. Junior Mints and red vines and wax bottles with a thimbleful of sugared drink inside.

Oh, look! Cracker Jacks! Did you go for Cracker Jacks? I didn’t eat them. I just dumped them out to get to the prize. Great fun.

This general store does have what you need to get by, like soap and candles and bowls.

Then I found this train case.

Today we choose luggage for its air travel features. We consider whether to buy a carry-on, what size will fit in the overhead bin on the plane, and whether the wheels will allow us to dash madly from one airport gate to another trailing our rolling bags. Train cases, on the other hand, are boxy and awkward. They are not really practical, but they fill me with nostalgia. My mom had one I still remember–tan with blue edging and a removable tray. I used to play “packing” it up at home in between trips. Old luggage stirs up a wanderlust in my heart.

I kept coming back to the candy section, though. I love remembering those carefree days pedaling around the neighborhood, laughing with friends, counting our coins and venturing to the candy counter. One of the blessings I enjoy is that I’m still in touch with some of these friends. We may have progressed from train cases to wheeled carry-ons, but inside we’re not so different. We still love to laugh together.

How about you? What candy brings back memories?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Opening photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Lilly.


Romantic Streets of Water

The streets of Venice carry boats, not cars. And oh, what a romantic, unique place that makes this ancient port.

Sometimes the canals shimmer quietly, waiting for the next vessel to stir up the water.

Other times, you witness a traffic jam.

The side streets have no names, but the main highway is known as the Grand Canal. This is the Venice depicted in art and photos. I believe it looks much the same as it did when Venice was the trade capital of the world centuries ago.

We arrived on the day of the annual regatta (totally by happy coincidence). Crowds cheered, boats of all shapes and sizes raced along, and a riot of color decorated Venice.

The ambulance motored up and down the canal, on call.

Of course the most famous vessel on the watery streets of Venice is the gondola.

With all the waterways come dozens of bridges, all sizes and styles.

The sun sets, our Perfect Day in Venice ends, but the charm continues.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Laura. Also linking up with the song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “Perfect Day.”

Enchanting Manarola

Well I was born in a small town,
Live in a small town,
Probably die in a small town.
— John Mellencamp

The small Italian town of Manarola hugs the mountainous rock face above the Mediterranean. This may be the most picturesque small town I’ve ever visited.

The clusters of houses cling to the land and lean into each other. Behind them, the green of gardens and vineyards reaches to the sky. You can hike up into the hills and take in the view.

The tiny downtown with its one main street goes from the sea up the hill. It’s lined with markets and restaurants that offer handmade pesto and fish caught that morning.

We stayed in a clean, inviting B&B. The friendly desk clerk chatted with us about the place. It was a home and shop, now turned into a hotel, run by the same family for generations. The grandpa tends to the garden. He takes pride in growing flowers — and giant lemons.

His son served us breakfast in the pleasant day room. He bustled to bring our cafe au laits and kept our basket filled with freshly baked breads.

We asked who tends the winding hills. The answer? Everyone who lives in this town. Each property comes with a plot of land far above the house. So each owner builds stone stairways and plants and harvests.

The problem, we learned, is that the older folks of the town aren’t able to climb the hills and keep up their gardens. What our friend yearns for is for more young people to move to Manarola and put their energy into balancing in the dirt and growing the grapes and tomatoes that help sustain the town.

I loved staying in Manarola. Our friend at the hotel called his friend at the best restaurant in town and asked to reserve a table for us. So we got the prize place by the window and enjoyed fresh seafood and local wine. Everyone knows everyone else here and they look out for each other (and guests!).

So much that’s good in a small town can be found in Manarola. If you have a chance to visit, you’ll love it. And you just may bump into our friend, who will still be looking for newcomers to put down roots.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Unscripted. Also linking up with a song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “Small Town” by John Mellencamp.

The hotel we stayed in is Hotel Ca D’Andrean. It’s simply perfect.

True Colors

I see your true colors . . . shining through.

Have you noticed how often it takes a while to see the true colors hidden behind the humble exterior? Take my visit to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. This is a smaller cathedral a short walk from the famed Notre Dame. My first glance showed a gray, dirty building almost hiding in the trees.

Built in 1248, the stone church appears past its prime. It does not impress as you head toward the entrance.

Inside, you can tell that at one time care and color were put into this building. After all, it adjoined a palace and the king attended here.

Chips and faded floors echo better days.

Ah, but then you enter the church proper and the beauty renders you speechless.

The light shines through, and the colors soar above you, up and up, their jewel tones sparkling, surrounding you with breathtaking beauty.

Sainte-Chapelle boasts more than 6,000 square feet of intricately colored glass. Each little piece lights up as the sun moves. During the French Revolution, this became administrative offices. Tall cabinets hid the glass. So when the choir stalls and other parts of the church fell victim to vandalism, these windows weathered the war. The rainbow of colors survived to be enjoyed hundreds of years later.

The surprise of the true colors of Sainte-Chapelle reminds me that too often I judge by outward appearance with people, too. I don’t make the effort to converse with someone because I’m preoccupied or in a hurry or don’t take notice. Beyond a tired, maybe humble exterior, though, most of us have a story just waiting to shine through.

The words to the song, “True Colors” say it well:

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small.

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow.

Here’s hoping you’ll take the time this week to discover the “true colors” of someone in your world.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Mary. Also linking up with a song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper.


The Magnificent Eiffel Tower

These are days you’ll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this.
And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky.
It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.
—10,000 Maniacs

One day I’ll remember forever is my recent visit to the Eiffel Tower.  All my life I’ve seen images of this icon of Paris. To come face to face with this immense tower–oh, my. What a wonder!

It is gigantic. You  hear that it is 1,000 feet high and the statistic flits right out of your head. But when you stand dwarfed underneath it, you experience how tall that really is!

The design is complicated and intricate, far more than it appears from a distance. The metal is held together with more than 2 million rivets. These metal pieces, each so small, work together to hold up the massive structure. And it’s been standing since 1889.

The tower affords a 360-degree panorama of Paris.

Look at the Seine flowing along, with its tiny toy boats.

The tan U-shaped buildings make up the Louvre, once home to kings and queens.

Can you find the Arc de Triomphe?

You see from up here the jumbled layout of the streets of this amazing city.

The Eiffel Tower is currently three shades of brown. When presented to Paris to commemorate the French Revolution, the tower was painted red. As much as I love it today, I think a return to  red would make it really “pop” in the sky.

Did you know that a park spreads out from the Eiffel? Parisians loll on the lawn, picnic, stroll. I suspect this scenery never grows old, even for those who live here.

The magnificence, the history, the universal recognition of this symbol of the City of Light — being in its presence touches something in me. If you get the chance, hang out at this tower. Marvel at the design. Travel up in it and take in the vistas of Paris. I think you’ll find it to be a day you’ll always remember–and treasure.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture May. Also linking up with a song-inspired party, Song-ography, where the theme this week is “These Are the Days” by 10,000 Maniacs.






FInding a Place in Paris

Planning a trip to Paris? One of your first decisions may be what neighborhood to stay in as your home base. Twenty arrondissements spiral out from the island in the center of the sprawling city. After some study, I chose the 4th, also known as the Latin Quarter. And we felt at home there on arrival.

Here you’ll find the Sorbonne, a university system that dates back to the 1200s. The school today is spread over different campuses, but the stately buildings in the Latin Quarter house the heart of the school.

We stayed across the street in a tiny, clean hotel with a friendly desk staff.

Every time we ventured out, we were treated to views like this.

Around the corner from our hotel you’ll find the Place de la Sorbonne. This is a square flanked by sidewalk cafes out of storybook Paris. People living here walk their dogs, take their kids to school, and rush to work.

We enjoyed a breakfast of croissants and cafe au lait outside, watching the neighbors plunge into their day. In the evenings, we dined in the same restaurant while around us local friends met and students held animated discussions.

The Latin Quarter holds layers of history. For example, during World War II, resistance workers built barricades of furniture in these streets to defy the Nazis. But today, it is home to Parisians whose lives may be much like mine. And for a few magical days, we were a part of life here.

No matter where we ventured each day, when we walked around the corner of the Place de la Sorbonne in the evening, we knew we were “home.”

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk-BB1.




Is anticipation part of the fun when you go on a trip? It is for me. The planning, research, finding helpful blogs, asking travelers for advice — I love every minute. We are heading to Europe soon. This weekend we worked on the details of our itinerary and practice-packed. I crunched numbers in our budget while my husband programmed the GPS.

I gathered everything I want to take and tried to fit it all in the 20-inch carry on.

I have (a bit of) room to spare. Amazing. Murphy decided to help by sitting on a packing cube filled with soft clothes.

Emily sat on the other packing cube. Maybe they are hinting to go along?

One item I’m taking is a last-minute addition. I read about this last week in my favorite travel blog, Travel Fashion Girl. Alex highly recommends compression socks for international flights. And I learned that these now come in colors and designs that make wearing them fun. Here’s what I chose. I love the bows.

Packing is hard work. Murphy took time out for a cat nap.

One item I’m taking with me is Flat Stanleys for each grandkid. The kids colored their own during our last visit. You may notice that Maddie loves horses and Hunter, Nico, and Tyler love orange.

We plan to take photos with the Flat Stanleys at the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum in Rome, and on the canals of Venice. Then we’ll share the photos with the kids so they can learn about some fascinating places.

We’ll soon journey thousands of miles from home. But we’ll take with us in our thoughts those we love. We’ll laugh about our cats helping us get ready. We’ll miss our family. We’ll look forward to seeing our friends when we return. Meanwhile, we will carry the cheery  figures of our grandkids. Our bags are full, and so are our hearts.

How about you? Do you love to plan getaways?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk-0411.



Dancing in the Summer Sun

A summer evening concert in the park on the island of Coronado. The Navy Show Band entertains with big band tunes. A cool breeze blows off the ocean that is just blocks away. People come with their camp chairs, blankets, and coolers of food. And they dance!

You see cartwheels and ballet.

All ages are welcome.

Even the tiniest tyke can lead the conga line.

The band plays the final number. The music winds ups as the sun sets.

We head home with refreshed and happy hearts.

How about you? Where have you seen joy this season?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photo edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Shine.



The Straggler

Do you have stragglers in your garden? I’ve noticed this one agapanthus bravely blooming out front. Most of these burst open in late May and finished a few weeks later. This one stands alone against a tree trunk, just as lovely as all those making up the bunches of purple a few months ago.

You see the same delicate design, the same rich color.

When I tromp down the walk each day, I feel like cheering on this garden straggler. It’s still opening, still decorating the yard. All alone, just being itself, better late than never.

A song by Colbie Caillat called “Try” talks about standing up on your own, being who you really are:

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing.

Why, should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

Just think what a difference one person — and one bloom — can make in the world!

How about you? Do you ever feel like you’re late? Like you don’t measure up to others? Like you don’t fit in? I’ve been there. The last verse of “Try” may give you a little boost:

Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you.

Here’s the song. Check it out and be inspired!

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. The first photo is edited with Kim Klassen’s texture Shine. Also linking up with the return of Song-ography, where the theme this week is “Try” by Colbie Caillat.





Summer Days

Here’s a recipe for fun in the summertime: Theater under the stars on a warm evening, with a live orchestra, in a venerable outdoor theater atop a mountain, sharing the joy with family and friends. Just look at the view as we arrived. And the show is my favorite of all–Les Mis. This story of freedom and redemption would soon fill the skies with its poignant music.

An added treat this evening was running into people who had flown in from other states to visit here and come to the show. We held a spontaneous, fun reunion with lots of hugs and chatter.

Then we took our seats and the director welcomed us.

He told us he first saw Les Mis at the age of 9, when his parents took him to New York. He remembered the impact the story had on him. Victor Hugo’s character, Jean Valjean, is a picture of grace and kindness. Les Mis contains all the elements that move us — injustice, illness, child abuse, adoption, sacrifice, unrequited love, battle, rescue, and a wedding.

The lights dimmed, and we were swept along in this tale. And the funny scenes — they are hilarious indeed. It’s good to laugh.

The main characters sing out the theme at the close of the play — my favorite line:

To love another person is to see the face of God.

We will long treasure this summer evening of stars, story, and song.

How about you? What are you up to this summer?

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, and Sweet Shot Tuesdays. Photos are edited with Kim Klassen’s texture kk-3003. Also linking up with the return of Song-ography, where the theme this week is “Hot Fun in the Summertime.”



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