Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Trials of Santa Claus

Good morning,

My daughter just sent me the files for the photos that were taken of little LW for his first Christmas meeting with Santa Claus. 

I thought you might get a kick out of seeing how uncomfortable poor Santa was before BSB stepped in to take over holding LW. 

Santa looks like he might break out crying or maybe yelling.  It was obviously painful for him.  Poor guy. Not a job I would want to have.

Hope you get a chuckle out of the photo.  

Don't worry, LW was only upset for a very, very few seconds.  We snapped a shot and then mom stepped in.

LW was much happier when mom came to the rescue. You can almost hear him saying "Ah, yes. Mom!"

This last picture was taken of Hubbie (Opa) D and LW on Christmas.  Our friend KW shared an idea with us to take this picture every year and follow LW's growth. She has pictures of her son, HW from birth with his granddad. Great idea.  Thanks, KW.

Maybe next year will be a better Santa experience for LW. He obviously really enjoys his Opa and that is what really counts.

Brenda (Oma)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Some good and some bad, always a challenge!

This has been a really strange trip.  It was almost like life did not want us to come back to the United States.

Our flight from Kuwait to Washington Dulles had strong head winds and arrived late so we missed our connection to Florida. When we finally arrived at our little condo the water in the condo was not working. The hot water heater had burned dry because the cleaning people had turned off the main water valve but not the power to the heater.

If that were not enough, the car battery was dead in our car. The coffee pot was clogged up (from humidity) and would not grind beans or perk. And, on top of all that Granddaughter ML and Father-in-law DM’s flight was canceled from Houston to Orlando.

Oh, don’t you just love those first world problems?

We planned ML’s trip from the University of Oklahoma to Florida so she and DM (from Kansas) could meet in Houston. They would travel from Houston to Florida together.

ML made straight A’s AGAIN this semester (YIPEE – we are so proud) and we are so excited to see her and hear all about her time at OU studying engineering.  There is a young man in the picture now and needless to say we have a million questions to ask her about him.  She is a pretty picky young woman so he must be really special.

United Airlines would only schedule them on a flight to leave Houston for Orlando the next day.  Fortunately Hubbie DW has some pull with United and was able to get them rerouted through Ft. Lauderdale. Strangely somehow their luggage was able to fly to Orlando without them. United delivered the luggage at 3AM that next morning.

Grandson BSJ was very successful in timing his "driving from Jacksonville" arrival to match up with our return from Ft. Lauderdale after we picked up ML and DM.  Here is ML, BSJ and Grandpa DM. It was a great reunion as they haven't all been together in quite some time. Very sadly, BSJ's mom (my daughter AJ) is recuperating from back surgery and she could not come.

Somehow it seems natural to have two grandchildren in college studying engineering. I have been surrounded by engineers my entire life.  BSJ is doing really well in school. He might be working on a cyber security project in Texas next summer.

I understand more of what ML is studying than BSJ but he loves what he is learning and is doing great in school.  He has become a very responsible young man and we are very proud of him.

I was hoping with all my “please, please, please get better” thoughts that we had reached the end of the struggles and we could settle into a nice holiday. However, on Christmas Eve I came down with some sort of stomach bug.

Before I was sick, we did get to see little LW. Of course he went right to Hubbie D and gave him a big hug and smiles.  Unfortunately he cried when I said hello. I am not worried, he will come around to know I can be fun as well.

He is so cute, he stands and pushes chairs and toys all over the room.  He loves to see things move.  Cause and effect seems to be of great interest to him.  Maybe he will be a physicist.

At the first opportunity I stocked our condo with a few push toys and I was very successful with my choices.

Here is a video of LW playing with the new truck in the condo. If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog to view the video.

Cute -- Santa is on the move.  LOL

LW enjoys his bath just like his mom did.  Hopefully we will be able to go swimming with LW while we are in Florida.
BHB, ML and I managed to bake a batch of cookies so we could keep the  Hyde cookie tradition going. Great Grandpa D insisted we make a batch and Santa needed some as well.

As expected, LW was not happy when mom placed him in Santa's lap.

MOM!  WHERE ARE YOU GOING? Don't leave me with this strange man that has facial hair the same color as my hair.

As you can imagine, Christmas morning was a lot of fun. LW kept trying to pull over the tree or open gifts for other people. Finally he settled on playing with a hairbrush given to big sister MB. For a while, it looked like LW’s favorite gift would be the hairbrush. Fortunately his mom (BHB) let it quietly disappear and he became interested in the golf clubs we gave him.

Opa D was not excited to see LW playing with a shocking pink brush. 
Fun under the tree!
Guiness had a new toy and LW was determined it was going to be his.
Yes, Golf Clubs!  Just what a boy needs. Oops, mom thinks they might be a projectile hazard. Maybe he is not quite old enough for these bigger clubs.
Here is LW and his "baby" golf clubs. Thank goodness I thought to get these smaller clubs.

D wants so badly to make sure LW plays golf.  We both love to play golf and it would be so wonderful to play with LW.  Hubbie D even asked ML if she would be interested in taking up golf. She thought it was a great idea and she is going to take lessons this summer. Now that is a foresome I can get excited about!

D gave LW the cutest book about counting that was based on golf. I could tell immediately that LW wanted to devour every word.  A golfer in the making he is for sure.

Here is a video of his mom reading the inscription written in the book by Hubbie D (Opa as he is called).  Hint - when you watch this video, be sure to look at the carpet LW is sitting on.  It is BHB's Christmas gift from Bahrain.

If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog to view the video.

Our Christmas was wonderful, filled with fun games and conversation with ML and BSJ, exciting gifts for LW, fishing with DM and terrific food with the whole family.

We are having a good time in Florida and look forward to some golf of our own after the holidays are finished.

AND . . . I have to tell you, there are a few things I am enjoying RIGHT NOW that I have missed in Bahrain. I love my garbage disposal and large dishwasher and REALLY BIG refrigerator. It is funny how I never gave those things a second thought before and now I think how nice they are every single time I use them.

REALLY -- don’t you just love those first world problems?

We have said this many times since we moved to the Middle East, Americans do not appreciate what a wonderful life they have. We are a truly blessed country.

LW is still exploring every little part of our little condo and having a great time chasing the balls and truck all over the floor.

LW is perpetual motion. He wears me out!

He stood up by one of the chairs yesterday and considered taking his first step.  However in the end, he sat down and crawled. Look out BHB; he is going to start walking at any moment!

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

I hope you have many wonderful and happy adventures in 2016.

Remember, as Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.”


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Visits to Florence and Milan

The final segment of our Northern Italy adventure began early with another train ride to Florence from La Sepzia.

Our hotel in Florence was right on the Arno River's edge.
This was the view across the river from the balcony for our room.

We arrived at our hotel, Plaza Hotel Lucchesi just in time to catch a short downpour. Instead of taking our architectural tour that afternoon we quickly changed it to the next morning.  So we wandered around the city just enjoying the cool damp air.

Coming from Bahrain, the damp rain was a treat.

D is in the blue poncho and ES is in the green poncho. The dome for the cathedral is at the end of the street.

At sunset we went to the roof of the hotel to see if they had a view. I had heard the roof had a good view but I was still surprised.  One of the best views in Florence was on the roof of our hotel.  AMAZING!!!

Our first sunset in Florence.
That's a pool with a view!

The hotel had set up a frame for the perfect "Postcard" photo. I had fun shooting from all angles. 
I have to admit, it was a great idea to have the frame set up so you could take your own postcard shot.

After some great photos and wine, we ventured to the other side of the Arno River and had a wonderful meal in a local tavern. There was a taxi strike going on so we walked over and walked home again. 

Wandering around the old stone streets at night was great fun.
Check out the eyelashes on this little car.
Once again, our meal was fantastico!
I knew the morning sun would give us a perfect view of Florence from the roof of the hotel, so early the next morning we all met on the roof terrace for some pictures.  

It was my mom’s birthday so we took a photo of the rooftops holding a birthday greeting. The only problem was alerting her to check her email. She does not check email very often and I did not want to miss the opportunity to wish her a wonderful birthday.

Our architectural tour was again amazing. We wandered the streets of Florence looking up at the towers and stonework. Gothic architecture abounded.

Our guide, Aniko was wonderful.
Seems like I always take photos when everyone is looking up. 

One interesting fact that Aniko shared with us was the use of small openings in the walls of homes to sell wine.  These were called wine tabernacles or wine holes.  Here is a great article about the little doors and how they came in to being.  We saw them all over the place and kept hoping to find one that had some wine.  LOL

The small curved opening to the left of the door is the wine tabernacle.
Here is a wine tabernacle below a religious shrine.

When we reached the end of our tour in the plaza at the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s David resides, I started to think Florence had almost as much charm as Venice. The architecture was impressive. The statues and fountains were unbelievable.

Our selfie with Michelangelo's David. 

Leather roses - the leather shops were abundant.

After a day of visiting the sites in Florence, my legs were worn out (still EXTREMELY sore from the long trek along the Cinque Terre). 

Doug wanted to climb to the top of the Il Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers) but the rest of us begged off.  He headed up the 800+ stairs while the three of us sat and drank wine at a café in the piazza.

At the top of the cathedral is one of the Renaissance's great masterpieces, the Duomo's cupola. It was built between 1420 and 1436. 

Over four million bricks were used to construct the dome, all of them laid in consecutive rings according to a vertical herringbone pattern. The final product is 91m high and 45.5m wide. 

It is the largest brick dome in the world. I could certainly understand why my dear structural engineer husband wanted to see it up close.

We could see the brick dome from the roof of our hotel. It was extremely impressive.

Inside the dome.
The climb up the spiral staircase is relatively steep, and should not be attempted if you are claustrophobic. 

As you climb, snapshots of Florence can be spied through small windows. 

The final leg – a straight, somewhat hazardous flight up the curve of the inner dome – rewards with an unforgettable 360-degree panorama of one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

Hubby D took several photos at the top and I almost wish I had gone.
Read more:

That evening we enjoyed sunset on the roof again then ventured back to the old section of town. We ate one of the best meals of the trip at a local restaurant. It was over-the-top expensive, but fabulous.

Sunset with wine on the gorgeous roof of our hotel.
Fried zucchini flowers for an appetizer.

Very early the next morning, Hubby D and I left for Milan and our return flight to Bahrain. ES and NS were off to drive through Tuscany.

After we arrived in Milan and checked into our hotel, Uptown Palace Hotel we wandered around a bit. Finding ourselves at the Piazza del Duomo of Milan ("Cathedral Square"), we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon there. 

According to Wikipedia, this square is the main piazza (city square) of Milan, Italy. It is named after, and dominated by, the Milan Cathedral (the Duomo). 

The piazza marks the center of the city, both in a geographic sense and because of its importance from an artistic, cultural, and social point of view. Rectangular in shape, with an overall area of about 183,000 sq ft, the piazza includes some of the most important buildings of Milan (and Italy in general), as well some of the most prestigious commercial activities.

A photo taken of the piazza in 1909.

The Milan Duomo was built over nearly 600 hundred years in a number of contrasting styles and the quality of the workmanship varies markedly. Reactions to it have ranged from admiration to disfavour.

It is the 5th-largest church in the world and the second largest in Italy.

When Hubby D and I first saw it, we both said, “Fourteen Century Architect Gone Wild.”

We ended our evening on a roof-top bar overlooking the piazzo sipping cocktails as the sun slipped behind the ancient buildings. The evening shadow crept up the side of the Duomo and daylight finally bid us farewell.  

I have posted several videos from Florence and Milan on my blog. If you would like to see them, here is the link. Just click on "Video of Italy."  

It was a fitting end to a breathtaking trip to Italy.

Grazie to Italy and all the wonderful architecture. Grazie to our friends ES and NS for providing us the great information that made our trip the perfect adventure. Grazie to Hubby D for all the romance and beautiful memories I have of Northern Italy.

Molte Grazie for the adventure!


P.S. A very special GRAZIE to ES and NS for providing us with the motivation to go to Northern Italy, for taking us down the Cinque Terre trail and for making our trip the perfect adventure.

NS and ES at lunch in a wonderful outdoor restaurant in Florence.