Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vivian plays Santa.


Vivian's teacher just sent me these sweet pictures of Vivian delivering her Christmas gifts at school last month. I didn't know I'd be posting about them so I neglected to take a picture of the gifts, but they were some cute Christmas votives that I bought at Belle Cose, a wonderful home decor and kitchen store in Jackson Hole. As you'll see, Vivian has a LOT of teachers so I shop ahead for gifts at Belle Cose's fabulous day-after-Christmas sale every year. I also include a gift card for her main teacher and her two aides.

I have tremendous admiration and gratitude for these wonderful people who work with Vivian (and indeed for all people who elect to work with students who have special needs).

Image 1
Vivian delivers her first gifts to the principal and his assistant (Notice the reindeer gift tag. Vivian LOVES Rudolph; indeed she sees no reason to limit his movie or clothing featuring the famous red-nosed reindeer to the month of December)

Image 2
These nurses know Vivian well as they administer her seizure medication at noon every day. They refer to Vivian as their "triage assistant" because she checks on everyone else who's in the clinic that day to see if anyone needs a Band-Aid and to ask if they're okay

Image 3 Image 7
Image 8
Miss Misty, Miss Shamela and Mr. Carl work with Vivian in the Living Skills room

Image 4
"Ms. B" is Vivian's lead teacher. She is wonderful - so patient and creative in developing new ways to teach and motivate Vivian

Image 5
Miss Ruby is one of Vivian's aides - she has a kind heart and quiet, gentle manner

Image 6 Image 9
Image 10
Mrs. Kemp is truly an angel on Earth. She has worked with Vivian since preschool. Her husband, whom we love dearly as well, was Vivian's aide in middle school

Vivian could not deliver presents in person to her PE and Art teachers because it was finals week at her high school, but as you can tell, Vivian is blessed with many wonderful people who care for her and teach her every day!

Image 11

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Having a ball in New Orleans.


Robert and I went to New Orleans last weekend. I can't possibly put into words what a fabulous time we had, but hopefully these these mediocre iPhone pictures and I can give you a little idea.

Will is dating a wonderful girl named Page who is from New Orleans. Page's mother and I were friends at SMU. We reconnected at our 25-year reunion a year ago and discovered that we both had kids who were sophomores at TCU. After determining that her daughter and my son did not know each other, we arranged for them to have lunch. They have been dating ever since!

Last weekend Page was to be a "maid" in a Mardi Gras ball with Will serving as her costumed escort. Page's parents kindly invited Robert and me to be a part of the festivities as their guests and we excitedly accepted.

I flew to New Orleans on Friday morning. Robert had business in California, so he joined me later in the afternoon.

Page's mother picked me up at the airport, and we met two sorority sisters of mine who are from New Orleans for lunch at the St. James Cheese Company. I don't know when I have had such a great time catching up with old friends. One of the girls and I hadn't seen each other in almost 27 years, but we laughed and visited like our college days were just yesterday.

Me with my friends Molly and Jennifer. Molly and my sister Marian were roommates for several years at SMU

My "Ploughman's Lunch" - delicious!

After Robert arrived, he and I dressed for the ball and then we dropped Will off at the New Orleans Convention Center where he would be outfitted with his costume. Will texted me about ten minutes later, "My costume is pink!"

Ready for the ball!

The ball itself was a fantastic experience. I loved seeing all of the ladies dressed in their beautiful gowns and long white gloves and the men in their costumes de rigeur (essentially tails with white waistcoat, white tie and white gloves). All of the ladies were seated around the dance floor, with the maids' mothers and grandmothers comprising the front row (the men stood at the back of the room). Page's aunt sat next to me and patiently explained the pageantry and protocol to me as I didn't have any idea what was taking place.

Will and others in costume sat on the floor while the queen and her court were presented

Page and her dad

The Queen and King (by tradition she is a young lady around 20 and he is an older man)

These cute little pages helped carry the Queen's mantle. The woman on the left in the red lace dress was the Queen's mother

Masked man in a pink costume (guess who!) and his lovely maiden, Page

After the presentation there was a time of dancing. Will was given three "favors" by the Krewe and could call out someone to dance with him and present her with one (the favor was a pretty golden pelican pin). He gave his favors to me, Page and Page's mother. Page's mom had also provided Will with some miniature king cakes that he could give to Page's friends so that he could have an opportunity to dance with them.

Around 10 o'clock the king and queen processed next door to the "Queen's Supper." This was a lively party with a very fun band and a buffet of breakfast food. For this Will changed from his costume into tails. The Queen's Supper was quite a good time!

Robert and Will

The band was great! At one point the pages got on stage and the singers tried to teach them a few dance moves. It was really cute to watch

The next morning we met Page's family for breakfast at the New Orleans Coffee and Beignet Company across the street from our hotel. Page and Will left soon after to drive back to TCU for the spring semester.

Will is clearly dressed for a long car ride, not for breakfast!

New Orleans is famous for its beignets and café au lait - yum!

Robert and I spent the afternoon at the National World War II Museum in the central business district of New Orleans. What a fascinating place! A new pavilion housing WWII aircraft was opening the following day, and we were able to sneak a preview of it. We also really enjoyed the "4-D" movie showing in a theater in the museum. The film presented an overview of WWII that was enhanced with effect such as seats that shook as a tank rumbled across the screen and snow that fell on the viewers during the wintry Battle of the Bulge. The exhibits in the museum were very interesting and well done, with many providing opportunities for multimedia interaction. We were there for the better part of the afternoon (and Robert would likely have stayed much longer had the museum not closed).

WWII planes displayed inside the new Freedom Pavilion

A World War II veteran visiting the museum

Leaving the museum we drove briefly through the very crowded French Quarter

I hopped out to take a picture of the Bourbon Street sign

For dinner Saturday night Page's mom recommended a restaurant in the warehouse district called Annunciation. I'm not sure that bad food even exists in New Orleans, but this was exceptionally good. An added treat was that my cousin Jenna and her husband Don who live near New Orleans were able to join us for dinner.



On our way to the airport Sunday we stopped for Poor Boy sandwiches at the Parkway Bakery and Tavern. I had the roast beef and Robert had fried shrimp. We definitely did not lack for great food on this trip!



As I told Page's mom, if I lived in New Orleans I would be fat and tired! But, oh, what a wonderful place to visit.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Anniversary trip to Italy, part VI.

I inadvertently left out the pictures from the last few days of our trip, so I'm reposting that portion with pictures

Departing Positano

Thursday, October 18

Robert and I caught the 10:00 boat from Positano to Amalfi town this morning. We wandered briefly around the town square and admired the beautiful neo-Byzantine facade of its church before boarding a bus for Ravello.

Arriving in Amalfi Town


Amalfi's church

Ravello is situated some 1000 feet above the sea and is a charming town with fabulous views.




We walked through its church and past the ruins of the Villa Rufolo to the beautiful expansive gardens of the Villa Cimbrone. The "Terrace of Infinity" on the Villa Cimbrone's grounds afforded an especially magnificent view, and we also enjoyed the various smaller gardens with their little statues and lush vegetation.

The lovely Terrace of Infinity at Villa Cimbrone

I liked this inscription at Mercury's Seat on the grounds of Villa Cimbrone. It is D.H. Lawrence's version of a poem by Cattalus dating back to 60 B.C.

View from Villa Cimbrone

Lovely little statue of David in the gardens at Villa Cimbrone (well, lovely except for Goliath's head at his feet)

We caught a bus back down the mountain to Amalfi. Before boarding our boat back to Positano we stopped for some very tasty gelato at the Gelateria Porto Salvo on the main square.

School bus in Amalfi town

Stopping for gelato


The boat ride along the Amalfi Coast was beautiful. The towns were lovely to view from the sea, and it was fun to look up at where we'd hiked the day before.


Upon arriving back in Positano, we climbed the steps from the beach up to the Hotel Marincanto. As we passed the hotel pool, Robert and I remarked to each other, "That looks fabulous!" so we spent the afternoon relaxing at the pool enjoying a Bellini and snacking on some delicious olives.

La dolce vita!

We had booked dinner reservations at a restaurant called La Tagliata that was high on the mountain above Positano in a town called Montepertuso. The restaurant sent a bus to pick us up at our hotel. We met a nice couple on the bus from St Louis and decided to eat dinner with them.

Waiting for our bus. I liked the gas station tucked into the curve across the street from our hotel

La Tagliata

With our new friends Mary Lee and Mark

La Tagliata serves everything family-style, and they bring a huge selection of food to the table (you don't order; they serve everyone the same selections). There must have been eight or ten antipasto dishes, four pastas, five or six grilled meats and four desserts in addition to wine! Everything was delicious, and we ate way too much. Midway through our meal a lady broke out a microphone and regaled us with some Italian music. We also enjoyed a great visit with our new friends from St Louis. All in all a fun and memorable evening!

Pasta course - so good!

Friday, October 19

Robert and I enjoyed one last breakfast on the lovely terrace at the Hotel Marincanto before departing for Rome. The hotel had arranged for a driver to take us to the Naples train station where a fast train for Rome leaves every hour. We hit terrible traffic in Naples but were able to catch the 11:50 train which got us to Rome right at 1:00.

Mt. Vesuvius

We took a taxi from Rome's Termini train station to the Albergo del Senato and checked in for our last night in Italy. Our room was #212 (handy because it was the same number as our room in Positano and it had taken me three days to learn to say that in Italian!). This room was smaller and did not have a view of the Pantheon like our previous room, but it looked out onto a pretty courtyard and was still quite lovely.


Amanda Ruggeri, on her Revealed Rome website, highly recommended Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini, as a very cool, cutting-edge ancient underground site. TripAdvisor.com also cited Le Domus as the #1 attraction in Rome. Intrigued, I decided we needed to see it for ourselves. The English tours were sold out for the first weekend we were in Rome, but I managed to buy two tickets for the 2:30 tour today.


The tour began in a tiny office inside the courtyard of the Palazzo Valentini, which serves as the government offices of the province of Rome and is located just around the corner from Trajan's Column and the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument. The ruins of two incredibly opulent, Imperial Roman villas were discovered beneath the Palazzo when officials attempted to build a parking garage there several years ago.

Our guide led us down stairs of plexiglass situated several feet above an ancient staircase. We stopped in a room that had been used as a steam bath in one of the villas. As we stood on a clear floor above the ruins, a recorded voice described various aspects of the chamber while lights illuminated different areas to direct our attention and to recreate what different portions of the room would have looked like. In one room with a beautiful mosaic floor, the intact section was highlighted first, then a computer generated the rest of the floor as well as the walls, so we could picture exactly how the room appeared in ancient times. It was really neat! The tour continued through several rooms of both villas and finished with an explanation of some current excavations being done around Trajan's Column. The multimedia presentations were incredibly interesting and effective, and Robert and I both enjoyed this experience. I wish someone would duplicate it for all of the ruins in Rome!

You're not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibit, but I found this one on their website which gives you an idea of the plexiglass floor above the ruins

We left Le Domus around 4 and walked back to the Albergo del Senato. I stopped in a culinary shop to buy some food items to take home as gifts and souvenirs before retreating to the hotel rooftop to write postcards and work on my trip report (with my requisite Bellini and a bowl of olives). Meanwhile Robert relaxed in the Piazza della Rotunda in front of our hotel.

On our way back to our hotel we passed these Roman schoolchildren on an outing

Wonderful food shop near our hotel. I bought several bottles of balsamic vinegar as well as some truffle, olive and pepper spreads. Of course I also sampled a lot of items!

My view from the hotel rooftop - ah!

The view from Robert's chair

For our last dinner in Italy we ate at Ristorante Santa Cristina al Quirinale. My Aunt Martha had told me this was her favorite restaurant in Rome, and I would say it was our best overall meal of the trip (that's saying a lot because we ate very well everywhere we went).

Ristorante Santa Cristina al Quirinale

Robert and I shared a "mezzo" (half-liter) of the house red wine and a first course of mushrooms stuffed with various cheeses. For his entrée Robert had a filet in peppercorn sauce that was fabulous, and for mine I ordered an absolutely delicious penne pasta with a tomato vodka sauce. We also enjoyed a side of very tasty grilled vegetables. A neighboring table ordered an apple torta for dessert that looked extremely tempting, but Robert and I decided we needed one last cup of gelato, so we took a leisurely stroll through the Piazza Navona and stopped at Frigidarium before returning to our hotel to pack.

Our dinner


Saturday, October 20

Robert arose early to run around the streets of Rome, while I slept a little longer and then took a quick stroll in an effort to drink in as much of Rome's beauty as possible before our impending departure. We enjoyed breakfast in Albergo del Senato's pretty morning room before a driver picked us up to take us to the airport.

Inside the Pantheon - so empty this early in the morning!

Looking out from inside the Pantheon

What a wonderful trip this was! Each time I try to name my favorite part (the Path of the Gods, the Arco Naturale in Capri, the underground tour at the Colosseum), I remember at least as many other highlights (the Vermeer exhibit, Le Domus, dinner with Aunt Paula and Uncle Terry, gelato, the afternoon at the pool in Positano).

Robert and I are already plotting our next trip to Italy. Anyone care to join us?