Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I started this post in May.  Don had gone to the cabin on my birthday, but I had stayed home, waiting for Baby Mia.  She was supposed to be born about May 19, but I just knew she would be early - second babies usually are.  But every appointment I had made prior to May 19 were met, and I did get to go to Chase's graduation, which was great fun.

In the meantime, I cleaned the basement, painted some dried gourds, went to art class, had lunches, got ready to go (my suitcase was packed for the weather of mid-May, which was cool.  By the time I left, it was no longer cool . . . but I didn't change out the clothes.  Oops!), but still no baby.

Finally, on May 28, I was asked to come to Kansas City.  They thought the time was approaching, so after church, I headed out.  Melinda was having some contractions, but she didn't think they were that bad.  Through the night, and most of the next day, she was in labor.  Kenneth, Caleb and I played and had fun . . . though Kenneth was making sure Melinda was as comfortable as she could be.  Finally at 4:50 on May 29, she decided to head to the hospital . . . and Baby Mia arrived at 6:00.  Phew - barely made it! The wait was over.

Where did April . . . and May go?

Holy toledo!  It is already May . . . and between a trip to the cabin after returning from Spain, Easter, and another trip to the cabin, we lost a month, or at least it seems as if we did.

Construction on the new cabin addition began just after Easter, and they are moving along.  We discovered that this project is long overdue.  We discovered numerous rotten places in the bathroom walls, quite a few places where mice or bigger varmits could get in, and some interesting "old-time" plumbing.

Pictures will be posted along the way, but suffice it to say, this is one project that will be a terrific upgrade!

. . . and where did May go?  Between cabin construction and the birth of baby  Mia . . . well, it is now towards the end of June.  I have a lot of catching up to do . . . and I will . . . soon.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow

Two people recommended this book to me, both extolling the exquisite writing.  I decided it would be my next read.

As I began the book, I could not figure out why these two loved the book so much.  Yes, the writing was beautiful, but it seemed so slow and pointless.  But something made me continue.

And yes, I am very glad I read it.  Now mind you, I did not find it to be an exciting read.  Not a page-turner.  Yet at the end, it was a satisfying read.

This author, Amor Towles, very cleverly puts together a story about a Russian man who is exiled for the rest of his life in an upscale hotel in Moscow.  Just that fact is rather interesting, but what he does with his time there and the people he meets along the way, create the crux of the story.  Except . . . a little mystery weaves its way into the plot, and the author drops small bread crumbs at chosen times to remind the reader that all is not as it seems.

The unexpected ending took me by surprise, but as I consider it, I don't know that it could have or should have ended differently.

I prefer books that move along a little faster than this one, but as I get further from it, I realize how skillful the author is and how much I really did enjoy this book.  I am going to try his other one, just to see if he is as masterful in it as he was in A Gentleman in Moscow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

El Escorial

On Sunday in Madrid (after the Prado but before the Escher) we went to The Escorial.  Unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside.

El Escorial was both the Royal Palace of Spain and also a monastery.  It is now a monastery and tourist site.  When we first arrived, we were able to see the gardens of the royalty.

We were allowed to take pictures of the outside courtyard, as well.  The wind was whipping, so it was difficult to even hold the camera still!  This is the Plaza of the Kings, which has statues of saints throughout.

The Basilica and it altarpiece were stunning, but my favorite was the library.  On the ceiling are representations of the liberal arts.  My favorite was the one representing grammar:  the woman was holding a whip to use on those who used incorrect grammar!  In the basement are two Pantheons:  the Pantheon of the Kings and the Pantheon of the Princes.  All were marvelously decorated tombs of past rulers and their children.

Finally was the Hall of Battles.  In the hall is a long mural depicting a number of battles from medieval times.  It is supposed to be one of the most accurate depictions of the way battles were held.  We found them fascinating.

After we went through the palace, we went across the street to a delightful small bar.  There we had a lovely lunch, complete with creme brûlée and a chocolate cake!  Afterwards, the wind that had been whipping turned into a rainstorm, the likes of which reminded us of home.  The temperature plummeted, the rain was falling horizontally, and we had to run all the way across the large entrance. We were glad to get inside the store.

El Escorial is about an hour's drive from Madrid.  If we had had time, we would have visited the Valley of the Fallen, but we did not.  I think it would have been very depressing.

On the trip back to Madrid, we drove by these lovely little fields.  The rock walls enthralled us.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Olympic Village, Van der Rohe, and More

On Thursday, we logged 19,000 steps visiting Casa Batallo, Casa Perdrera, the Columbus Statue, and the area around the Olympic Village.

After visiting the two Gaudi houses, we met Diana's friends, Emily and Patrick, at a very fancy restaurant.  The food was quite fancy, with some exotic ingredients, including baked artichokes (yummy).

 Then we headed to the statue of Christopher Columbus, one of Barcelona's most famous.

Then we went to Mont Juic, where the Olympics were held.  The view from the top allowed us to see all of Barcelona, and the gardens in the park below were delightful.

At the bottom of the hill is a pavilion designed by Mies Van der Rohe.  I didn't know who he was, but Don did . . . and I do now.  Although I don't understand his minimalist look, I did appreciate his beautiful reflecting pool.

Our final stop was at a plaza near the hotel.  In the evenings, Barcelonans gather in the plaza to visit and talk.  Children were playing, adults were sitting, and the fountain was dancing.

It was a beautiful way to spend our last night in Barcelona.


Having not studied architecture, I am not quite up on architects of the current time.  So Gaudi really did not mean much to me . . . but now I know and understand his work.  Diana brought us to the Sagrada Familia first, and I must say, she was a great guide.  We also used the audio tapes, which were indispensable.  I appreciated that we began outside and looked at all of the forms created from nature, and then we went inside.  Although I prefer the old cathedrals, this one was pretty stunning.  My favorite part of it is the symbolism behind the altar where the spirit of Christ rises to God.  God is portrayed as the gold triangle, and in person, it is absolutely lovely.

The yellow triangle is at the top.

The columns look like trees and branches.

The columns in the church take the form of a tree at the top, and in one of the museums, the math behind it explains why it works.  It is all too complicated for me, but the forest motif within the cathedral spreads throughout.  It also spreads outside where animals, fruits, vegetables, and plants integrate every part of the exterior.  The Glory Entrance is not yet complete, nor are several of the columns, so work is continuing.  It will supposedly be complete in 2026 - a huge undertaking, but marvelous if it happens!

Then Di took us to the Parc Guell, which is a park that was designed for a wealthy Barcelonan.  The distinctive design makes the park unmistakeable, and again, Gaudi uses many elements of nature throughout the park.  His grotto certainly is exactly that, and his well-known lizard is even more beautiful in person.  The park is a lovely way to spend the day, especially on a gorgeous March afternoon!

On Thursday, we rambled up the Camino de las Ramblas to see two other Gaudi homes - Casa Perdrera and Casa Batallo.

Casa Batallo
Casa Perdrera
Gaudi-inspired street lamps line the walk, and the two homes are quite evident.  Casa Batallo is a lively, colorful place with a marine theme of blues and greens (though I thought it was more like a forest).  With its juniper-cone topknots and many mosaics, a person could not miss the home.  The Casa Perdrera was not quite as obvious.  A solid white exterior with only ironwork makes it a little less distinguishable . . . until one looks at the roof and sees the same helmet-like and juniper-like topknots.  I have never seen anything else like them . . .

Gaudi has made quite a mark on Barcelona - all for the betterment of those who live there.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


We left Tuesday morning for Barcelona, catching the high-speed train to Barcelona.  A bit pricey, but traveling about 185 mph makes the trip go very quickly.  The train was quiet, restful, and clean - what a way to go!!!

When we arrived in Barcelona, we learned very quickly that we would never, ever want to try to drive there.  The roads are so very narrow - it is hard to believe a car could ever go down some of them.  Our driver had a little difficulty figuring out where we were to go, and he could only drop us off a few blocks from the hotel because cars were not allowed any closer.  We had to drag our suitcases for a few blocks, which was just fine . . . more steps!

We first went to the Cathedral in the Gothic part of town.  In the plaza, many street performers are around.  We saw a band we especially thought was fun, and a bubble blower blew our socks off.

Diana and Gaudi

Inside the cathedral, we were treated to many different side chapels, lovely windows, a gorgeous choir loft, and a spectacular altarpiece.  We were able to go up to the top of one of the towers to get a view of the restoration and of Barcelona.  The crypt under the altar contains the remains of Santa Eulalia, the patron saint of Barcelona.

Afterwards, Diana led us down the beautiful Gothic streets to a lovely eating establishment, where we had Albondigas (no te dije?), canelones, a green salad, and roasted vegetables.  It was a lovely meal in a very fancy establishment!

We then treated ourselves to a scoop of wonderful ice cream as we came home for a few minutes of rest.  Then we went to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar.  Another Gothic cathedral, it is one of the most purely Gothic Cathedrals because it was built in 50 years - making it built without conflicting styles entering into its construction.  Unfortunately, between the war in 1715 and a fire in 1937, it lost much of its artwork.  Its barrenness, however, is what makes it stand out.  It is noted for its slender pillars that make it look taller than it really is, and for its beautiful rose window.  This one is a cathedral worth seeing.

In the cloister area of the cathedral, geese live in this little courtyard.  Can anyone say AFLAC?

Finally Di took us to a tapas bar Xampanyet.  We arrived at 6:50, and the line was already forming.  We managed to be one of the first groups in, and it was a good thing, because within two minutes all of the seats were filled and people were standing at the bar.  Diana ordered us some tapas - bread with tomato, stuffed pepper, stuffed olives (with anchovies), sausage, and manchego - along with a beer for Don and cave for Kathy and her.

Besides the busy-ness of the bar - it was standing room only - we loved the ambiance.  The walls were covered with beautiful tiles, there were funny sayings hanging over the tiles, and flasks were hanging at the door.  Our favorite saying is below.  It says:

If one drinks, he becomes drunk; if he is drunk, he sleeps; if he sleeps, he does not sin; if he does not sin, he goes to heaven.  Therefore, let's drink so we can go to heaven.

The bar was certainly a hopping place to go.  We could have stayed, but there were so many people in the place, we felt we needed to "flip the table," though no one else seemed to think so!  I think that is an American thing, but that's ok . . . we had a great night.