Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Board our Viking River Cruise

Starting with upgraded (you know I love that word!) room assignments
and "safety instructions" aboard the Viking Torgil .....

we soon realized that this trip was going to be first class with attention to every detail! 
The best way to travel with 3 other couples .... no decisions, everything planned with perfection!

Chef Pedro and Program Director Carmen welcomed us with a special dinner and a sunset scenic harbor cruise along the Douro River.  
Porto is most famous for it's historic port wine trade and it is the only city in Europe 
with six bridges! 

The guys got up early to experience going through the first lock.

only the first of many locks and low bridges during our week along the Douro River .......

The scenes along the river were spectacular,
with precision rows of port grape vineyards stacked up every hillside,
lined with olive and almond trees.....

and clear blue skies all week! 

Every night we dined together.....
with our attentive waiter, Emanuel. 
Who, by the way, enjoyed us so much that he quit after 
his last night waiting on us! 
He was a sweet boy but missed his Mama! 

We managed to celebrate a few special birthdays too! 

This was a sample of the sunset view from our dinner table.....

After our evening cocktail and a serenade by the piano player we would retire,
exhausted but eager to explore more of Portugal. 
Every morning, Carmen's voice would announce.....
"Bom Dia, your bus is boarding in fifteen minutes!" 

And we were on the road to another interesting sight!  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Melhor De Lisboa!

The best of Lisbon!
We checked into the Hotel Trivoli Lisbon, perfectly located within walking distance of the 'old city' and were quickly greeted by the program director of Viking cruise.  The shaded pool and a glass of something cool called to us while we waited for "the rest of the gang" coming from London ....

Let the fun begin!

Our morning guided Viking tour of Lisbon took us along the river front, 

Where modern meets ancient ...... 
Belem Tower was a welcome landmark for sailors returning home.

and to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos,

with a specialty of the area .... cinnamon-sprinkled custard tarts.
The nuns apparently used egg whites to starch 
their clothes so came up with this creamy treat with flaky pastry 
using the egg yolks! 

I say, "when in Portugal, taste everything!" 

Dinner that night introduced us to Portuguese cuisine and 
the interesting and dramatic music genre known as Fado. 

Our bus transfer to Porto, where we will board the ship, began early the next morning...
luggage packed and at the door at 7:00AM!
On the way we visited the University grounds of Coimbra University..... 

where graduates proudly wear black capes they have personalized,
and we visited an incredible library where real bats 
keep the bugs and mice from eating the books. 
They claim that THIS is where JK Rowling, while living here in her early life,
 got many of her
ideas for the Harry Potter series. 

On to the cruise ship and our first night on board!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tapas in Madrid

Following the lesson we learned in San Sebastian years ago, we booked a Tapas Tour (English speaking) for our first night in Madrid.  Not only did it keep us awake and engaged but a walking tour is a great way to familiarize yourself with a new city and some of the local food delights of the area.

In Spain, dinner is commonly served late, between 9 - 11.  So after a siesta, many locals will stop by one of the small tapas establishments and have a drink and an appetizer.

 We met our guide near the Plaza Mayor, by day he works for the British Embassy!  
He explained that the word Tapas comes from the Spanish word tapar "to cover". 
Small plates were set on top of a glass of sweet sherry or in our case,
sweet vermouth, to keep the fruit flies from settling.
Eventually small appetizers appeared on the plates.  

This restaurant specializes in Jamon Serrano....
thinly sliced dry cured ham.

One of our favorite tapas restaurants specialized in mushrooms......

.....filled with chorizo, garlic and parsley, 
and sprinkled with lemon olive oil
on a very hot grill.

We went back the next day for another round! 

Tapas may be cold like olives & cheese,
deep fried croquetas or calamari 
or served piping hot like these garlic gambas "shrimps".

After 5 or 6 stops we could not imagine 
going for dinner....
When in Spain .... Tapas is the way to go! 

Notes:  We stayed at El Jardin De Serrano
right on the Plaza de la Independencia
It was perfect, fantastic service, Hop on/off bus stop,
Who's who Night spot, shopping district!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Just Swing'in

It started as an idea, posted on my Pinterest under "Pop's Workshop".....

AKA  ~ Projects for the Retired Guy!

He "rocked" my world with this intricate trellis
and Swing! 

Perfect for "rocking" my grand babies.....
Too many chipmunks around for Solo to sit still.

and the perfect spot to think of more projects for 
Pop's Workshop......

In the mean time
enjoy 'summah' on the 'Rivah',
Good work Pop! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Perfect Tiny Nursery

Twas the night before 5/16/2015 and all through the house,
everyone waited as quiet as a mouse....or sheep in this case! 
The nursery was finished and cloud mobile hung with care,
in hopes that the Twins soon would be there! 

Lolly painted gold stars on the wall 
Pop worked on bookshelves & a window treatment....
(if you need some work done - just call!) 

A dresser repurposed,
A borrowed rocker recovered,


***FYI .... know any new mothers?
These little rockers have been life savers!  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

choosing a baby name is serious business....

These days baby names can be inspired by anything!
Celebrities are coming up with colorful names like Cooper Blue and Kingsley Rainbow,
Kim and Kanye choose North West .... Why?
The Royals have chosen family names .....  George and Charlotte.
Some baby names are inspired by fashion .... Yves, Coco, and yes, even Target!
TV Shows and Disney movies have always had an influence on baby names .... Belle, Elsa, Donald, Mickey.  How about music ..... Adele and Bruno, or Blake and Miranda?
I was Holly Hall in the days of Holly Hobby .... remember her?

I must admit, I am quite partial to Southern names like Jackson, Austin, and Emma Kate, or Georgia.
Coming from a huge Italian and Irish family, our kids had a lot of family names to choose from but in a BIG family most of their favorite names were already taken by cousins.
With a 'short' last name of Long (ha!ha!)....they had to watch the name jokes....
Miles Long, Bea Long, or after my brother ....
Skip A. Long

We finally welcome home our very special babies,
with very special names.....
Shane Kelley
Mackenzie May
"The Long Twins" !

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lolly and Pop!

May was an incredibly busy month...
Our daughter, Christy, at 7 months pregnant, was in and out of the hospital with scares of pre-term labor, contractions, and then weekly doctor visits and ultrasounds.  On 5/16/15 (love the date!) the nurses moved her from hospital bed rest, downstairs to labor and delivery "just to monitor her contraction" and in a few hours we had two, 6 weeks early, strong, breathing on their own, healthy twins! A boy and a girl!

I feel a special connection to these two already with the many hours of ultrasound ooh-ing and awh-ing!

I am in complete awe at the progress of neonatal medical care since I had my own girls 30 years ago!  The babies were able to get two rounds of steroids early to help with lung development. The doctors slowed the signs of labor so that the twins got an extra 3 weeks to grow.  Christy got excellent personalized care the entire time she was in and out of the hospital, and I can't say enough about the NICU unit at Brigham and Womens in Boston. All NICU nurses have angel wings tucked into their scrubs!

My husband and I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of grandchildren for a few years now and have secretly called ourselves Lolly and Pop. Or if they can't say L's (family trait!)......
"Wahwy and Pop"
either way we plan to indulge them with Lollypops!

So it seems only fitting 
to pass these out!

The babies are 2 weeks old today and changing every time I see them.
They remain in the NICU with the strictest security I have ever seen...
(and I have been to Russia!)