Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted
according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or
slow to do the humble work.

- Mother Teresa

About Me

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Sunny Florida, United States
I am the proud mom to 6 kids: Natasha, 24, Nikolai, 20, Reese, 20, Maylee, 14, Erik, 10 and Violet, 7. The kids come from Russia, Ukraine and China; I'm so proud of my family sometimes I think I'll burst and I needed an outlet for it - so I've created this weblog. :o)
If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
- Mother Teresa

Motivation for Moms

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Very early on Sunday morning, Reese and I disembarked the ship and took an excursion tour, which would eventually drop us off in Rome and we'd find our hotel.
Good-bye, Mediterranean Sea...!!
 First stop: the Vatican. What a beautiful bldg! I've seen it on TV, of course, but being there in person, like most landmarks, is really awesome. 

The piazza was PACKED, as the Pope Francis was canonizing 3 new saints that day.  What an experience to be there to see that!!
 To our disappointment, we found out that our St. Peter's Basillica tour was cancelled as Pope Francis was naming 3 new saints today. But we were free to spend time in the Piazza just the same. To our amazement, the service was just beginning and we got to watch the Pope right then and there, give this service! 

A Swiss Guard (not a court jester).  Rumor has it that Michelangelo designed their uniforms.  Hmmm...
 We watched for an hour until our tour guide had us go, but what an experience! We were hoping we could wait until the end when the PopeMobile drove through the crowds (we had a good spot, too), but we had to leave. Still...!!

The pointed roof that is slightly illuminated in the center of the photo is the Sistine Chapel.
The top floor to the right is the traditional residence of the Pope.  However, Pope Francis chooses to live in the Hotel with other guests, rather than isolate himself in the Residence.  Every morning when he rises early, he goes to the Hotel clerk and hands her some coins to pay for his room for the night.  I love that guy!!

After that, we boarded the bus and went to the Roman Forum, which I knew almost nothing about. It was really ...amazing!!

We saw the grave (what was left of it) of Julius Caesar, the castle of Nero and massive miscellaneous ancient structures.

Julius Caesar's grave

 It was really amazing to sit there on a collapsed marble pillar and look around and try to imagine where I was and what happened there ~2,000 years ago. I tried to imagine the Roman peoples going about their daily lives, the dignitaries and politicians strutting around in their togas looking so important, and Roman guards, always looking for trouble. Really hard to imagine that I was THERE, and not watching some documentary on TV, or reading about it in books. I was touching the marble, sitting on a column, looking at the tomb of Julius Caesar, himself...

Ruins of the Emperor Nero's castle
Onward. Next stop, the Colisseum! Simply put, the Colisseum is massive. How these people built this collosal building in 8 1/2 years is staggering.  

We walked around the outside and entered.

Much of the Colisseum was plundered over the centuries.  This explains all of the holes (metal pipes were removed), missing marble (the place was pretty much completely covered in marble - only one small section of original seating remains as the seats were marble and they were all stolen), and general condition of the place.


Our guide pointed out small details and gave us the overview of the place. Death. Torture. Blood. The Colisseum was the place for it. Murders by the thousands while crowds cheered on. The entertainment of the Ancients.

  I wished for a more extensive tour, but alas, we had to move on. Time to catch our taxis and go to our hotels...

The taxi ride to the hotel reminded me a bit of car rides in Russia, but I have to admit, this time it was kind of fun.  Roman drivers are crazy, fast drivers, simply put.  I, while clutching the seat with all of my might, equated the ride to a ride at Universal Studios.  I think Reese put it better when he compared it to a video game.  Where in Russia, I think drivers tried to hit the pedestrians, it did seem that Roman drivers simply were aloof to pedestrians.  I actually witnessed cars braking and once even stopping to avoid hitting one.  That impressed me.

We were so tired that we did almost nothing the rest of the afternoon and evening but rest, much to Reese's dismay.

One more day in Rome, then it's back home...
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Changed our clocks fwd an hour as we crossed a time zone, heading back into Europe from Asia.  Good thing too, cause Reese didn't get in until almost FOUR o'clock this morning and he needed that extra hour!  LOL

It's been a beautiful morning - finally!!  Crisp, blue skies over sparkling azul waters - calm waters as far as the eye can see.  A perfect, beautiful morning for our last day here.


It was a very quiet, relaxing day.  Gorged ourselves again at Johnny Rockets and spent the last of my $100 shipboard credit on a sweatshirt.  Reese has $40 left of his to spend on something. 

I took a nap on my balcony in the sun - glorious!! and have begun to pack my suitcase and get organized.  I've been VERY proud of Reese and myself in how tidy and neat we've kept our stateroom.  :o)  The only real mess we've consistently left out was the increasing mountain of packages that we've collected at each port.  By now, the entire couch is completely covered.  Our stateroom attendant, Kenneth, surely is pleased with us.  :o)

Tomorrow life as we've known it ends, and we disembark into Rome to spend 2 days there on our own before returning... home.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Woke up to a raging thunderstorm!  It's an interesting feeling hearing the surf breaking against the ship (we have a blacony) while hearing also the rain peltingdown and thunder cracking sharply every few minutes!  The ship didn't seem to rock much - I could hardly feel anything different.

Before I forgot, I wanted to mention a bit about yesterday's Turkish carpets: the carpets are all hand knotted by Muslim women and a 6X9' rug can take 1 1/2 years to make!  When the dealer tried to sell me one, I told him I couldn't afford one, and he brought out smaller and smaller sizes.  The smallest one was about the size of 2 placemats and was still $100!!  While I could afford $100, what would I do with such a tiny rug??  I should have asked him if he had any rugs coaster-size...  LOL

Today, we are headed to Crete (hopefully the rain will stop!!!).  Not real sure what we are seeing today, but if it's anything 1/2 as fun as our previous port days, it should be a blast!


It's almost suppertime now and Reese and I just got up from our routine after-our-shore-excursion nap.  Our day was no where near as fun as previous excursion days, though it did have its highlights. 

After running through pouring down rain and deep puddles to our bus, our driver (who didn't introduce himself to us) took us deep into the island of Crete.  All of us were pretty disgusted by the heavy rain, and I said a quiet prayer that God would give us beautiful weather for the day.  We drove up, up, up a mountain and by the time we hit our first stop, the sun came out, and the day became absolutely beautiful!  Thanks, God!!  :o)
We even saw a beautiful rainbow, but I didn't get a good enough picture of it to publish here...
Our first stop was at a winery. 
I went ahead and let Reese try the wine cause he was of legal age there, and to let him discover for himself how terrible wine tastes...!  ;o)  He agreed.

We were served a glass of wine made right there, along with a plate of food that was almost entirely inedible - I won't describe it here (no point), but it was so bad almost no one did more than pick at it.  Reese made a design out of his:

After that, we saw the winery and a museum of old Greek stuff.  Then, we visited their store and I loaded up on more spices and olive oil products.  ;o)  Love me some olive oil stuff!!
Corner of the winery.  Sooooo pretty.
After that, we took the bus to an old ruinous monestary on the side of a hill.

Church inside of the monestary.

  It was incredibly cool, but I know nothing of it because our guide didn't tell us anything.  If he did, he only told those of us standing next to him.  :o(  But it was still cool.  There was a little bitty store there with an adorable monk selling icons and other religious goods, and I took the opportunity to buy a couple of Christmas gifts for my niece and SIL (they don't read my blog I'm sure, so it's safe to say it ;o)  ). 
Entering the monestary grounds.  Greek flag flying above.
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Though much of the monestary was in ruins, other parts were intact, like this church.

The countryside was beautiful and so peaceful.

Not sure what this stair area was all about, but it was fun climbing around on it.  
Yep!  I had fun climbing on it, too! 

Hangin' out at the ruins.  Just another ordinary day.

Taken from the top of the "stairs": Not sure what this long hallway was for, but you can see the roof is gone and you can see the arches that made up the supports for the roof.  It was cooler than it shows in the photo.
This was a courtyard of sorts.  The buildings surrounding it were mostly intact.  Very calm and peaceful here.  A good place for a monestary!
One more: near the edge of the monestary walls.  Once I get the yard equipment photoshopped out of this photo, this will be one of my favorites.
After that, our guide took us to the town of Vamos and pretty much just walked around.  Very boring, though it was very pretty and a charming little Cretan town.
I took this one for my Mom: it's a travel agency!!  "Simpson Travel".  LOL!  Inside was actually really modern, with modern furniture!  No people inside, though.

Along the streets of Vamos.  I guess lots of tourists stay here; the townspeople have no jobs here, so they rent their homes out to tourists.  Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess.
By now, most of the tour guests were tired and bored but we had one more stop - a shopping market.  Ugh.  So, in downtown Chania (KHAN ee yah), we shopped.  I'm sure the market was very interesting, but again, our guide either didn't tell us anything, or you had to be standing right next to him to hear anything, so we wandered around until we could board the bus and head back to the ship.  One interesting thing though: Reese found an Armani belt for 5 Euros (~$7.50) and I found a set of 4 nesting make-up bags by Chanel for 12 Euro (~$18).  We don't know if they are knock-offs or not - I'd like to sell mine on eBay or the like...

After we FINALLY got back to the ship, we visited with some ship-friends over pizza, and took a long nap.  Now it's suppertime!!  :o)

Sunday, May 19, 2013
This morning when we woke up, we were in Asia!  We had arrived in Kusadasi (koo shu DAH suh), Turkey.  It was supposed to be another cloudy day, but not cold. 70's.

THANK GOODNESS Reese let me convince him to turn in early last night - he was asleep by 10 or 10:30.  It made a nice difference today.  ;o)

Okay, so we boarded the bus and headed first to the house where the Virgin Mary lived out her last 11 years. 
The Apostle John brought her here, and he lived nearby, too (though we didn't get to see that place on our tour, unfortunately).  We went through the tiny little brick house and gathered some holy water.  There are 3 faucets, and each stood for either Health, Wealth or Love, but you didn't know which.  The tour company gave us little terra cotta pots with which to collect water, and so I filled mine up 1/3 full of each of the 3, mixing them.  ;o)  Reese chose one and filled his pot with it.  I also filled a regular plastic water bottle with water from the center one.  It is said that people have been cured of diseases and illnesses from drinking that water.  I don't know if it's true, but it's only drinking water, and it can't hurt.  lol  (We brought the waters home - yes, they survived the trip! - and haven't consumed them yet.)
The area where Mary lived her final years is beautiful.  Way up high on a mountain (not so far from Ephesus!) amidst lots of olive trees (olive trees are EVERYWHERE here and also in Greece), with birds chirping and clean fresh air.  It was super nice and peaceful. 
In the "crook" of Mary's house.
There was also a "baptismal" place that we never figured out, but it was cool, too.  (If anyone knows what this is, please let me know!)
I bought a beautiful small nativity scene there made out of silver and olive wood.  It's going to be a very special piece to put out each year at Christmas. 
An olive tree near Mary's house.  The camera I had didn't take a good picture :o(  but you can get the idea.
From there, we descended the mtn. a ways to Ephesus. 

I knew this place was going to be amazing, but not THIS amazing!!  Reese was astonished, too!!  Basically, you walked through an entire ruinous town.  Houses on the left, government bldgs on the right, a library straight ahead with a massive 24,000 seat amphitheater around the corner!  How AMAZING this place must have been in its day!! 

Yeah, it was super crowded, like everywhere we'd been on this trip so far!!  I felt like I was back home at Disney!!

Paul preached in the amphitheater and might possibly have lived up a little on the left, but that's not quite certain (they are constantly excavating).  It was jaw-dropping.  I liked how hardly anything was roped off and you could touch whatever you wanted (unlike the Parthenon).  The only horrible thing was that 1/2 way into the tour, my camera battery died on the new little camera I was forced into buying cause I left my real camera battery at home!  (Therefore, I didn't get a picture of the amphitheater.  I bought a postcard of it, but don't feel like scanning it right now...)

A Roman bathhouse used to be here.
A hospital was behind this stone.  See the snake on a pole symbol?  Similar to the one we still use today.
Can't remember what this was, but with the flowers, it shows that even in a ruins, there is still life.
This is a residence.  Our guide said that Paul's residence MIGHT have been behind here, but they weren't sure yet.  See the mosiac floors?  I wish I had mosaic floors like this in my house!!
The whole experience is just too much for words.  This place rivals the Parthenon, believe it or not.  If you ever get a chance to go here, DO IT.
Reese in front of a frieze of Nike, Goddess of Victory.  Can you see the "swoosh" in her robe?
After that, we went to a buffet lunch at a posh resort called Pine Bay.  It was good and I tried several strange things, some good, some nasty.  One thing I had were olives.  I have never eaten olives except out of a jar, and was surpised at how good they were - really interesting.  Of ocurse, I had baklava for dessert.  ;o)
Figs on a fig tree.
We went back to the port to shop.  Turkey is a place where bargaining is a lifestyle and despite it being totally against my people-pleasing personality, I love to bargain!!  I think it's a blast, so I was looking forward to this, and I wasn't disappointed.  I bought gobs of stuff, including a gorgeous 12g sterling silver bracelet, for less than 1/2 of what the guy wanted for it!  I also bought GOBS of Turkish spices (spices in Turkey are the best anywhere).  Reese commented, "Well, dinners at home should be interesting for awhile...!"  LOL 

I wanted BADLY to buy a hand-knotted Turkish carpet, but simply couldn't spend the money.  :o(  Even Reese was super impressed by those.  (A placemat sized cotton carpet was $100.  A 5X9' carpet was around $1500, depending on if it was cotton, wool, or silk.)

We had a really neat carpet demonstration complete with Turkish booze!  I think they give you the booze so you'll be more willing to spend your life's savings on one of their carpets.  Fortunately, I just had some Turkish apple tea...
By the time he and I were tired of being molested by venders trying to force us into their stores to buy stuff, it had started to rain and we headed back to the ship (very nearby).  We opened up our bags and recalled the stories of the day and rested a bit (and I'm journaling).  We will next walk around a bit and wait for supper (in an hour).  I know we will sleep well tonight!

Another absolutely awesome day!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013
As you can imagine, this port was a biggie!  Though the Parthenon is undergoing major renovations and is covered with scaffolding and other unsightly construction gizmos, it was really amazing.  Quite difficult to believe, really.  You are looking at the this incredible structure and trying to imagine that it has been there since 432 B.C. and imagining all the events that happened there, and it's really hard to do!  Our guide was wonderful, and full of information.

The narrow streets of downtown Athens. 
(In all of the places we visited in Greece, 98% of the cars were teeny tiny, like Toyota Yaris hatchbacks, Smart cars, FIAT's, etc.)

Ancient pillar

The Greek flag.  This is mounted (I'm quite sure) on the site of the Zeus Polieus Sanctuary.  From this spot you can see all of Athens.  Quite amazing!!

The front part of the Parthenon.  It has been under renovation for the past 11 years.  Kind of a shame.  They have even taken down chunks of the front facade, I assume to repair, then replace.  I'm sure when they are done, it will be great again.

Stray dogs were everywhere we went, but interestingly they almost all had collars, were well fed, seemed content, and very gentle!!  Reese had to pet each one, of course.  ;o)

Large stadium, just under the Acropolis, on the hillside going down from it.  For the life of me, I can't remember the name of it...!!  If anyone knows, please feel free to chime in!!

In front of the Erechtheion.  Just simply amazingly beautiful.

A closeup of the top of the colums of the Parthenon.  The detail work always fascinated me. In every city we visited, it was just incredible.  In America, we think something from the 1800's is ooooooh, so ooooold, but then you go HERE, and it just knocks your socks off.

From the rear side of the Parthenon, where the construction didn't show so much!  I love this picture!

Another one of my favs.  Reese, sitting on one of the walls of the Acropolis, overlooking the enormous city of Athens.

A picture taken from the tour bus (and I was not in a window seat!) of the Acropolis (left) and the temple to Zeus behind the light pole, center/right.  We did not get to visit Zeus' temple, which was disappointing to me.

Here we are in front of the 1896 Olympic Stadium, which is the place of the very first modern Olympics.  The entire stadium is made of marble.

After hanging out a bit there, we did a lot of shopping in town. :o)

During our shopping time, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant to rest.  I HAD to have some authentic Greek baklava, and it did not disappoint!!  YUM!!!

My little Spartan

Time for a nap!

Had the best crab cakes on the planet tonight for dinner (we LOVE our wait staff!), and saw an ice dancing show on the Ice Rink.  I'm back to bed for the night, and Reese is enjoying his usual beloved night life.  LOL

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If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
- Chinese proverb
It is not the will of your Father that any one of these little ones should perish. Matt. 18:14

Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. Matt. 18:5

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

My family

My family
Nikolai, Mark, Missy, Reese, and Erik

Nikolai, 19

Nikolai, 19

Reese, 19

Reese, 19

Erik, 9

Erik, 9





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