Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas To All

The holiday season always makes me feel giddy.  I love the idea of shopping or making gifts for others, putting up the holiday decorations, and getting together with family to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Everyone is jovial and reaching out to others, especially those less fortunate.  If only every single human being could be this way every day.

My year has been a lovely one -- filled with lots of travel (Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, Appalachia, Smoky Mountains, Nashville, Memphis, and Oahu), making memories with my awesome grandson, Kyle, and lots of hang-out time with my kids and their loved ones.  My husband, Gerry, makes my days merry and bright. He takes care of me when I need to be taken care of, especially after my foot surgery.  That was a blast.

We did have one low moment this year when our cat, Quincy, left us.  It was a very difficult decision to have him euthanized.  My son and I didn't want him to let him go and I cried and cried when my husband, daughters, and the vet said we had to.  I feel better knowing that he's with his buddies, Big Paw and Yankee, on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.  Run free, my furry babies!

I'm looking forward to new projects and exciting adventures next year.  It will be extremely busy! Thank you, friends, for following my blog and reading my posts.  It makes me feel good to share my thoughts and experiences.  I'm still learning blogging techniques and etiquette, and how to really get around on social media and to use it well, but that's what makes my days fun. Learning, always learning.

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones.  Hold them close, love them lots, and remember our special family and friends who have moved on to a better place, and to those soldiers who are serving our country. Furry friends count, too!

Remember the reason for the season.

Love ya lots.  Now let's celebrate!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Checking In: The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

To kick off the holidays, my husband and I decided to play at Disneyland and California Adventures for a couple of days, and stay a night at the beautiful Grand California Hotel & Spa.


The main entrance features a set of beautiful stained glass doors.  The doors open automatically, but with all the people traffic going in and out, it's difficult to see the doors fully closed.  Be patient.  It took me about 15 minutes to get the chance to see all this gorgeousness.

The true story is that we accepted an invitation to a special Passholders event (we've never been to one and wanted to check it out) and decided this would be a nice holiday kick-off now that the Christmas decorations are on display throughout the Disney properties.  Gerry doesn't like to drive the one and a half hours home after a long day walking through the parks, and preferred to stay overnight.

We stayed at the Grand Californian a few times before, and it still doesn't disappoint.  The hotel is located next to both Disneyland and California Adventures.  Besides the grand main doors to the 19th-century Arts and Crafts hotel, there are two other doors.  One takes you directly to the Downtown Disney District where there are lots of shopping and dining, and it also takes you to the walkway to Disneyland Park.  The second door takes you right into California Adventures.  So convenient for hotel guests!

The stand-out feature of the Grand Lobby is the enormous hearth to the left.  Inside is a cozy nook holding several comfy chairs to lie back on.  It's first-come, first-served.  The best time to come and sit is when the final parades and  fireworks shows are happening in the parks.
Just me, my Toms slippers, Starbucks, and my Christmas ornaments that Disney passed out to the guests at the Passholders event.
I love the architecture and decor of this hotel.  It's grand, woodsy, warm and the staff is welcoming.  The lobby beckons you to come and sit for a long while, which we do, by the grand fireplace, of course!  Especially after a long day of walking and playing.  Where's that glass of wine or hot cup of coffee?  The rooms are great, but they're showing some wear and tear.  I think it's time for a new makeover.  We've stayed in rooms that face the Brisa Courtyard, which is lovely and quiet and lots of trees and foliage.  However, I prefer a room that gives me a view beyond the property.  The view of Paradise Pier was great! This time we stayed on the Concierge Level but refused the Concierge Experience.  It's expensive and we knew we wouldn't be using the perks like the continental breakfast, and snacks and drinks throughout the day and night.  I think it's great if you have small kids, and you need a nice respite from the parks.

What I loved:
  • Location is so convenient
  • The magic hour -- getting into the park an hour before the general public.  Hit your favorite rides first!
  • Loved sitting in front of the grand fireplace
  • The gorgeous Christmas tree
  • The Disney characters at breakfast in the Storyteller's Cafe.  How can you not love them?
  • Route 66 and Cars Land!!!!
  • Free WiFi -- a blogger's dream.  No special PIN or pass code needed.  Just plug in!
What I didn't like:
  • Our room was so cold.  Gerry and I couldn't get a comfortable temperature to stay constant.
  • No full-length mirror.  A lady wants to check her appearance before she leaves her hotel room!
One word of advice before I leave you.  Before you book your room online, first call hotel reservations to see what special offers they have.  You're more likely to get a better rate dealing directly with the reservation agent than booking online.

Where do you stay when you visit the Happiest Place on Earth?

Life is a Highway visited the Grand Californian as a guest; however, my opinion, as always, is  my own.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bye-Bye November

I knew it was coming.  There was no way the sun would forever shine in San Diego through the end of December.  I had faith.  I prayed for rain, and finally it came!  Oh my gosh, I am so happy!  Does this mean the drought is over for the state of California?  Maybe not, but to see rain welcome the month of December just warms my heart and soul.

The month of November was busy.  Gerry, Gary Mike and I cleaned out closets, cabinets, drawers, and piles of stuff in the house, and in the garage.  While we did do our spring cleaning, there was more to tackle for a fall cleaning.  It felt good to see our good unused items go to people who can really use them, and our jumbo trash receptacle filled to the brim with the bad stuff.

We also got our house tented by a great pest control company, three days before Thanksgiving.  Yikes!  I did not enjoy the packing and taping of bags, and having things in our yards moved aside.  Too much trouble, but it had to be done.  I worried as we drove away from our covered house.  All I could think about was that crazy scene from the hit TV series "Breaking Bad", where Walt, Jesse, Saul and Mike break into a home undergoing fumigation and proceed to cook meth.  Why?  Because no one will bother them or question the strange smells.  They can hide in plain sight!  What if that happened in my house while we were gone??  Oh gosh, too much to worry about.

Thanksgiving Day was filled with laughter, food, and a myriad of thanks for the blessings we've been given. We woke up to see a clear, sunny sky.  Such a perfect day to be outside and spend time with Gerry's family, then to my side of the family in the evening.  Bringing family and friends together is the best!

Now that we're in the month of December, it is time to change my Thanksgiving tree, covered with golden glittery pine cones,  into a Christmas tree.  It is time to say goodbye to my sweet November, one of my favorite months of the year.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Winter Inspirations

Living in San Diego, I don't have the opportunity to experience the winter season like most Americans, unless I drive at least 1.5 hours to the mountains.  I'm talking about crispy cold temperatures outside, snowfall, icicles hanging from trees, roaring fireplaces.  I long for those experiences to be right outside my front door.  My early childhood was spent in Virginia, where we basked in the four seasons : fall, winter, spring and summer. I also experienced the four seasons living in Dallas, Texas as an adult.   I miss those days, but I do find inspiration in things to get into that winter state of mind.

  • Sipping wine after a long day of holiday decorating, gift shopping, and cooking and baking.

  • Plaids and flannels - a fall and winter fashion must-have, and they're so warm and cozy! 

  • Stowe, Vermont -- the most idyllic town no matter what time of year you visit.  It's the most iconic winter landscape in America.  I've never been there but it's on my Wanderlust list. When I look at this photo, I think of quilts, red, white & blue folk art, Ralph Lauren, old wooden things, woodpiles, hot chocolate, and sitting around a table playing board games.

There are traditional American films that I love to watch each winter.  These films combined tells us to make the best of every situation, that helping others is paramount to having that wonderful life, and that family and friends must stick together through difficult times.  A little romance doesn't hurt, either.

 What will inspire you this winter?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shoe Shopping After Surgery

Almost two months following my foot surgery, I am able to walk around but with a slight limp, and after a while, walking that way gets a bit tiring.  The scar is ugly but, in time, it will fade.  My foot is swollen so I'm not able to wear any of my shoes except my house slippers.  My orthopedic surgeon said I'm not to wear my thong sandals for a long time, not until I'm completely healed, which is like another 8 months!

So.........what to do?  I have to go to the shoe store and buy something new and comfortable!  YES, who doesn't love shopping for shoes??  I went to my favorite shoe store, DSW, to take a look around.  The doctor said to try clogs.  My foot couldn't fit well in any of them because of the swelling.  I walked up and down each aisle in the store, and tried on various styles and it was useless, even when I went up a shoe size.  It really was kind of hopeless, because what was going to happen is I'd buy a shoe size to fit my left foot, but my right shoe would be loose.  I had to find a style of shoe that wouldn't slip off my right foot when I walked.  I found it in the Clearance section, and it was a wonderful pair of black strappy sandals that would work well with my dressy and casual looks.  Great, but I soon realized that walking in them for four hours was a bit much, and was becoming quite uncomfortable and sometimes painful.  I needed another option.

Knowing that I'd be going to Disneyland next week for a special event, I needed footwear that would be uber-comfortable.  I already had something in mind, but instead of ordering it online, I thought I'd drive to Nordstrom to see if they carried it.  They did, I tried it on, and I loved it.  My husband said they looked like house slippers (well, they do) but the Toms catalog says the slippers work real well outside with their sturdy soles.  Besides, my jeans will cover the the fleece portion of the slippers, and the slippers will look like super-comfortable boots.

I don't know how, but I always make it work.  It's all about the little things you add to your outfit to make your style super-chic.  More important, it's all about "attitude".

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Foot Surgery Follow-Up: Blame the High Heels

I can't believe I'm doing it.  My fabulous shoes.  Being disposed of.  I'm sad.  But it has to be done.  First I got rid of five pairs, shoes I haven't stepped into in years.  Then I got rid of my 4" heels, pictured below.  I wore the black pair to a wedding to go with my red dress.  I just loved that slight curve at the top of the heel.  Real sexy-looking, right?  The gray heels got more use, and I sometimes wore them to work.  Yep, I worked in 4" heels.  Ouch.  But they looked so good on my feet.

That pin you see in the photo beneath the 4'inchers is the 4" pin that was inserted into the toe bone during surgery.  It was removed 4 weeks post-op.  How did my doctor remove the pin?  Before I knew what was happening, the doctor simply yanked the pin out.  Let me repeat.  He put his finger in the hook, distracted me, and pulled with a jerk.  I'm happy to tell you that I did not feel a thing.  That was crazy surprising!

For days, during recovery from the surgery, I'd enter my walk-in closet and stare at my shoes.  I have shoes on a door organizer, shoes in a wall organizer, and lined and stacked on the floor.  So many kinds of shoes, most of them with heels.  It was inevitable that I would no longer be wearing most of them.  It's been five weeks since my foot surgery for a condition called hallux varus, a deformity of the great toe joint.  I first posted an article about this a couple days after my surgery.  If you missed it, you can read about it here.

Basically, a hallux varus is the opposite of a bunion.  A bunion is where the big toe is forced inward (inside of foot), and the hallux varus is where the big toe is forced outward.  The hallux varus occurs following the correction of a bunion deformity in which there is an overcorrection.  Hallux varus symptoms usually occur while wearing shoes which crowd the tip of the big toe on the inside aspect.  It becomes very painful, believe me.

My foot didn't heal according to plan.  The sutures should've been removed two weeks following surgery, but the wound was looking infected.  My podiatrist/surgeon took two swabs of clear fluid draining from the wound to the lab for testing, and it tested negative for infection.  That's the good news.  The bad news is the sutures had to stay in another week.  Days later, the wound wasn't looking any better.  He removed a couple of sutures and an unbelievable amount of clear fluid flowed from the wound.  The wound wasn't fully closed, but he removed all the sutures anyway,  and said it was necessary for all of the fluid to drain well.  I was given antibiotics to help me heal.  Since there was no infection, the doctor and I agreed the slow healing process had to do with a disease I was diagnosed with in 1998 called lupus.  Basically, my body was attacking itself.  You can learn about lupus here and here, and in a future post, I will share with you what it is like to live with lupus.

It is almost two months post-up and my foot is healing very nicely.  Still swollen, and the bruises are almost gone. Soon, I will get rid of my shoes with 3" heels.  Then I'll try on the shoes with 2" heels.  Any that give me pain will be given away.  I'm having a hard time with this, but it has to be done.  I won't wear them ever again.  I don't want anymore foot surgeries.  Everyone should heed my advice -- avoid bad shoes.  If you have any questions regarding my foot surgeries because perhaps you're having issues with your feet, please let me know.

Be kind to your feet.    
Source:  Bing Photo Gallery

Saturday, November 1, 2014

My Summer Fashion Favorites

When I shop for clothes, I am very particular, as I'm sure you all are, too.  I don't head to the mall to buy a complete outfit, unless I want something completely new for a special event.  My favorite thing to do is to head to the sales racks.  I love rummaging for that one great piece that will go with what I have in my closet.  I am all about saving bucks, and I want that one thing that will look great with a jewelry set or denims, and so on.

I consider everything I buy a favorite, or else I wouldn't buy it, right?  Well, I want to share only the items that I received so many compliments on this past summer.  I'm talking about complete strangers who felt compelled to walk up to me to say "I just love that top you're wearing," and "May I see your watch?".  Then there's "Where did you get your bag?  It's so unique.  I love it!".  One more thing, I always receive compliments on my hair.  My layered style was waist-length until I trimmed it up five inches two weeks ago.  I must say that I feel so free and am happy to not have to deal with the length of it.  So here are my favs for Summer 2014:

I bought this Guess top on sale at Ross.  It's lightweight, comfortable, with eyelet detail in the neckline and sleeves.  My fish bag is a fair trade item from South America.  Summer, my oldest daughter, spotted it in a museum in Balboa Park, San Diego.  She thought I'd like it and wanted me to check it out.  This bag was so unique but not on sale.  I felt it was quite pricey, and I didn't want to spend the money on it.  My son took one look at it and said I had to get it.  Okay, so I broke down and bought it because we all know that this is how I roll in fashion.  Anyway, by buying fair trade, I'm helping a talented artisan build his/her sustainable business.  I like spreading happiness!  Unlike some women I know, I'm brave enough to wear things that are too bright, or have bold patterns or, well, this fish bag says it all!  I'm also wearing a Michael Kors gold-tone tortoise acetate watch that ladies just love.

This is my hair before I had it trimmed.  I asked to have 5" taken off the length.  My hair is naturally straight but this is how it looks after using a 1-1/2" non-taper curling wand.  It looks great, doesn't it?  I'm asked a lot how I get my hair to look like this.  I brush my hair and separate into four sections -- lower scalp, mid scalp, upper scalp and crown.  Taking my wand, I take small strands, curling the lower section towards the back center.  The next section up, I'll curl the strands in the opposite direction towards my face.  Next section up, curl towards the back center.  Lastly, the crown strands are curled towards the back.  Let cool, don't brush unless you want to style it up.  I hardly ever brush my hair.  Sometimes, I'll rise out of bed and not brush my hair all day long!

What were your summer favorites?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Casa di Giulietta in Citta' de Verona

Who doesn't love a little bit of Shakespeare now and then, with all that comedy and tragedy going on. Good versus evil, death and dying, loving and crying - oh my!  Reading Shakespeare is difficult, I profess. His poetic dramatic structure demands translation, don't you agree?  Anyway, I have to tell you about a place that tells the story of my most favorite Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo & Juliet.

During our vacation in Italy, my group left the hotel for a day tour to Bologna, but along the way, our tour director announced that we would skip Bologna, and instead drive to Verona for it was much cooler.  Apparently, Bologna was in the 90s with high humidity.  I looked to my husband with big eyes and said - what else - what?????  That was said quietly, of course, because I'm not a loud person. I was beyond excited, and to those seated around me on the bus who didn't know anything about Verona, they were excited, too, when I said, "I think we're going to the House of Juliet, you know, Romeo & Juliet!".  Applause erupted throughout the bus when the tour director did, indeed, say we were going to visit the famous balcony.  Be still, my beating heart.

Credit:  Jacobo Prisco
We walked from the parking area outside the city wall through modern shopping areas, and past medieval structures.  It is a bustling city with a large number of ancient Roman monuments, thus making Verona a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We followed the signs that directed us to the famous House of Juliet.  It was great until I saw this.

This short tunnel was dark, crowded, and the walls were covered with "love" graffiti, love notes and, for some reason, chewed-up gum.  Don't ask because I just don't know -- the gum, that is.  But wait, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  Just beyond is the talked-about courtyard of the home of the the dell Capello family, not too far removed from Capulet, right?  The house dates from the 13th century and the family coat of arms can still be seen on the wall.  Before you enter the courtyard, there is a red mailbox in which you can mail a letter to Juliet.  The volunteer secretaries of Juliet's Club respond to thousands of letters from the lovelorn, in different languages.  Another red mailbox is inside the house/museum.  If you want to take a comprehensive tour of the home/museum, it is 350 euros for 3 hours.  That's about $192.  We didn't have time to do the tour, but this is something I'll absolutely do on my next visit to Verona.  I would be honored to sit with the secretaries and to read the letters, even if for just a little while.

This set of three photos credited to Google Images

Every year hundreds of thousands of people trek to Verona to see the balcony where Juliet once stood while Romeo declared his love.  What most people don't know is that this particular balcony did not come with the original structure, back in the 13th century.  The balcony was added in the 20th century, but we don't mind. We don't care that Romeo and Juliet were only figments of Shakespeare's imagination. though not its tragic ending.  The  power of storytelling should never be underestimated!

Getting back to the family dell Capello courtyard, there is a beautiful bronze sculpture of Juliet. People rub her right breast for luck.  I didn't do it because #1, I found my love and he was with me, and #2, it just didn't seem right.  There is also an enormous iron gate where you can attach your padlock, a tradition for lovers.

Google Images

I was a young teenager when I first saw the 1968 British-Italian romance film Romeo and Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli.  I loved the film because everything about it was so beautiful -- the theme song, the costumes, the lead actors  (so young, and I couldn't get enough of their accents), the cinematography, everything!

The timing couldn't have been more perfect, and I will swear that I didn't plan any of this.  As I'm researching and typing this post, I find this article that was just released today, Italian time.  It appears the Italian authorities and historians are cracking down on people who deface the walls of the house and the tunnel that leads to the house.  People are no longer allowed to post notes or write on the walls, and I think that's just wonderful.  And guess what the chewing gum was for???  To stick love notes on the wall!!!  I remember during our time at the house that one of the guys in my tour group was very sternly reprimanded by the polizia for trying to write something in ink on the wall not far below the balcony.  The policeman ran up to the guy, pointed his finger at him, and yelled in Italian.  Um yeah, we all knew what he was saying.  There was momentary silence, then the tourists went about their business.  I don't think anyone gave it a second thought to try defacing the wall after that incident.  I really had a lovely time in that courtyard, and my husband and I had our special moment at the iron gate where we attached our lover's padlock.  That was special to us!

It's best to come here in the off or shoulder season, November through May, to avoid the influx of tourists. The courtyard is small and you'll want your space to truly appreciate what the Casa di Giulietta has to offer in getting that romantic photo or finding solace for the broken heart.  Or maybe to say "thank you" to the spirit of Juliet and her caring secretaries.
House of Juliet photo
Good night, good night!  Parting is such sweet sorrow.  That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

If you haven't seen this film, you really should.  So romantic!