Gathering Graces 6/26/2017

*Today was a big day in the kitchen.  But Kellee and I had so much fun spending the majority of the day in the kitchen preparing food, singing to 70’s rock music, and dancing around occasionally.


*Most of these recipes I am preparing this week I have never made before.  I  just go for it.  Like the zeppoles I made for breakfast.  Little balls of dough you fry up and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  I learned I needed to turn the oil down and make the balls smaller as I went along.  They were do delizioso!!

Panzanella Salad

*For lunch, Kellee and I put together a panzanella salad, which I have made before.  I love the fresh flavors of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil mixed with red wine vinegar and olive oil. 

Little Veal Meatballs with Artichokes and Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted Asparagus and Green Beans

Lemon Cake

*For dinner, the menu was more new items.  The main course was Little Veal Meatballs with Artichoke and Cherry Tomatoes.  I am not sure I have ever prepared veal before.  It got very hot in the kitchen.  So hot that Kellee would have to continuously wipe my brow with a paper towel.  We also had green salad, roasted vegetables and a lemon cake, which we used to celebrate Sherri Melson’s birthday.  Sherri is one of the retreat participants.

Roasted Cauliflower and Onions

Green Salad with edible flowers

*We thought clean up would be really hard in the kitchen, but it didn’t go too bad.  We had used some white wine in the sauce for the veal meatballs, so as a reward for the end of a hard’s days work, Kellee and I shared the rest of the wine before we headed to bed.
*What an opportunity to cook these meals.  The fun of it is this is our job.  This is all we are responsible for this week.  Cooking the meals, serving the meals,  and cleaning up afterwards.  I LOVE cooking new foods and new recipes, and serving them up and people enjoying the flavors.  So far, so good.  I think everyone has liked the food.  (We are also a bit of comic relief throughout the day, too.  You can’t leave the kitchen here at Villa Magnolia without a smile on your face!!)
*Zoe sent me a message, and said Mom asked her if I was sweating here in Italy.  After yesterday, I can say with a RESOUNDING YES, I am sweating here in Italy!! 


Gathering Graces 6/25/2016

*When I woke up this morning, I had the BEST POST greet me on Facebook.  My sister Christy hosted a dinner at her house on Saturday night, and she she shared photos from the evening.  It almost made me cry, and I looked at photos of the beautiful Mediterranean meal, and of my family.  Here are Paul and Zoe toasting me that evening.  I love this photo so much that I made it the background on my computer.
*I stayed at the villa to relax and get lunch ready, as Eric, April and Kellee went to pick up the other retreat participant Sherri Melson from where she was staying in Portovenere.  It was nice getting to know Sherri a little bit over lunch on the portico.
*I made focaccia bread in the afternoon to have with the evening meal.  I also got a nap in.  I think naps are a necessity for me here in Italy. 
*Kellee and I are sharing a room here at Villa Magnolia, and there is no one I would rather have with me on this adventure here in Italy.  We laugh, we sing, we dance, we have such a wonderful time.  April just rolls her eyes, but we know she loves us!!
*I love receiving emails from Paul.  He has such a great way with words, and he makes me smile as I read them.  I miss him more when I read the emails than I did when we talked on the phone.  Isn’t that interesting. 
*I appreciate the updates I receive from Bill and Christy regarding Mom.  It is nice to know on a daily basis how she is doing.  And I appreciate all the kind words people share with me and my brother and sister.  It is so wonderful.


Gathering Graces 6/24/2017

*Although I am in Italy, my thoughts continue to stay close to Kellogg as well.  As I think of my brother, sister, husband and daughter all taking care of Mom, part of me wants to be with them.  I love caring for Mom, and spending time with her, and would love to be a part of her daily routine.  I receive updates about Mom on a daily basis, which helps, but it is still not the same as being there.  I do write her daily letters that I email to Zoe to read to her about what is going on each day.  I hope she is able to understand some of what is being read to her.
*Today started off going to the Saturday Market in Aulla.  It was enjoyable walking along, and seeing the food vendors, the flowers, as well as shoes, purses and items of clothing.  I did buy a pair of pants and a new purse.  In fact all four of us bought new purses.  How can you help but get a new purse when it only costs $10 euros!
*When I returned from the market we had some lunch.  I never tire of the delicious meats, cheeses and breads that we are served each day.
*After lunch I took a little nap.  I am still not quite adjusted to the new time.  Once I got up, and made some Almond Hazelnut Biscotti that will be part of two of our breakfast buffets this week.  We got to eat some of the end pieces, and it is delicious!!
*Eric cooked some gnocchi for us, and we enjoyed that for dinner. 
*After dinner, we spent some time planning our trip to Rome.  We purchased the train tickets, then we went to buy a Rome City Pass, and found out we could not visit the Vatican with that particular pass on July 3 (we wanted to do this trip for my birthday).  So we had to cancel our train reservations, but we could only cancel the Roma to La Spezia tickets.  The other we have to exchange, but can only do that at the train station.  So we will do that next week.  It was all very frustrating, and we were all tired, so we will buy the Rome City Pass later, too.
*I finally made it to bed at a decent hour, if you call midnight decent.


Gathering Graces 6/23/2017

*Today we drove to Carrara to do some shopping.  We spent some time in the town walking around, viewing the beautiful scenery of the mountains full of Carrara Marble, and having my first Italian cappuccino.
*I finally felt like I was really experiencing Italy today as we walked the streets of Carrara.
*The shopping trip was a success as we found all the different produce needed to prepare the meals this week at April’s retreat.  It was quite she interesting experience trying to fit all the food in April’s refrigerator.

Sorrentina Pizza
*We arrived home and regrouped a bit, then went to a pizza place for dinner.  My pizza was delicious.  It was the Sorrentina, with Buffalo Mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil.
*For dessert I enjoyed Tartufo Nero, which was a ball of chocolate ice cream with vanilla ice cream in the middle and dusted with cocoa powder.  I was dragging a bit, so I ordered some Caffe to drink with my dessert.  But that is not the Italian way.  Instead, the caffe was poured over the Tartufo.  That was okay.  It was delicious!
*My thoughts and prayers were with the Ross family today as they celebrated the life of Joan Ross.  Paul said the service was beautiful.
*Around 11:30 p.m. Italian time, Paul called, and it was nice to hear his voice.  We both said it was odd that I was halfway around the world from him.  He was at Kindred when he called, so he gave the phone to Mom and we spoke to each other for a few minutes.  She had just woken up, so she sounded tired.  Then Coco and I talked about last week’s Youth Summit.  I briefly talked to Mom again, then said goodbye.
*Normally I am a pretty good sleeper, but not here.  Last night I was still wide away at 3 a.m.  I guess I have a lot on my mind.  Thanks again to all of you and your encouraging words regarding Mom.  It is very much appreciated.


Gathering Graces 6/22/2017

*My body is here in Italy, but my heart and thoughts are in Kellogg with my mom, who is combating the effects of her Vascular Dementia.  I appreciate the updates my brother has sent me, but it is hard with the time difference to know what is going on.  I am glad and very grateful I am here at my friend’s house with her husband and their wonderful hospitality, preparing to execute her dream of having a retreat, but as I read my brother’s Bill’s words that say,  For now, I try to enter Mom's world and answer her questions and I try to help her understand where she is and keep the conversation going. I think she's frightened. I hope that having family nearby during much of the day helps her feel more secure, part of me wants to be that family that is there helping her feel more secure and loved.  And with the traveling, and change in time, and rhythm of the days here so far, it is hard for me to even grasp all that is going on in Kellogg at this time.  After Bill posted in his Three Beautiful Things about dealing with Mom, there was such an outpouring of love from friends and family, many recalling their similar experiences with their parents.  It was quite encouraging to read all the love and support.
*As I was laying in bed first thing in the morning, doing some things on the computer, my phone rings, and daughter Cosette is calling.  She is in Pocatello at Idaho State University with five of my Gear Up students for a Youth Summit.  What a wonderful surprise to talk to her and find out how the week is going, and say hello to a couple of the KHS students attending the Youth Summit. 
*But my journey has taken another path during the next few weeks, as I am here in Italy, and continue to experience wonderful things.  A slow, leisurely start to the day.  Coffee on the terrazza.  A drive to La Spezia to go to a mall, and have lunch at a place where you grab your food off a conveyor belt, including sushi, miso soup, lime jello, tempura shrimp, egg rolls, potstickers, etc.  It was quite a fun experience.  Here is a look at some of the choices going by on the conveyor belt at  Kikko Kaiten Sushi La Spezia.
*I am still not used to the time change, and I was dragging a bit after lunch.  April gave me a piece of candy called “Pocket Coffee”, and it was amazing how it perked me right up.  That was good, because our next agenda item was shopping for groceries at a store April describes as Fred Meyer-like.  I really enjoyed going through my list, and figuring out the items I needed.  I did pretty good.  We didn’t get everything purchased we needed.  We will have another trip tomorrow to buy meats and fresh produce.  But before we left the mall, we did have time to enjoy some more gelatto.  Today I had one scoop of coconut, and one scoop of coffee flavored gelatto.
*Our shopping outing took about 5-6 hours.  By the time we arrived back at Villa Magnolia, we were ready to relax and have some dinner that Kellee and Tina  put together.  The day before I had purchased a bottle of wine called Capsula Viola so we could raise a toast to April’s mom Vi Vergobbi, who she is dedicating this retreat to, and was an inspiration to April for moving to Italy and renovating her beautiful home.
Saluti Vi!

Cheers Vi!
*As the day comes to an end, I long to be in two places.  But my path has taken me to a small village in the Northern Tuscany region of Italy, so I am making the most of this time here in this beautiful part of the world, enjoying my lifelong friends, and enjoying making new friends.  I continue to pray each moment I can for Mom, for my brother, sister, husband and daughter who are lovingly taking care of her, and for the moment when I will be reunited with her back in Kellogg.


Gathering Graces 6/21/2017

*I woke up to a beautiful morning here in Barbarasco at Villa Magnolia.  We gathered on the terrazza for coffee and some breakfast.  I am in awe of the fact I am here, and that I am in the home of my wonderful friend.
*After leisurely spending the morning visiting we headed out around 1:15 to go out to each lunch.  I enjoyed some pasta, salad and caprese.  Then we stopped and had some gelato on the way home.
*One of the things you do while living in Barbarasco is you go and collect water at a community fountain.  So I going Eric, April, Kellee and Tina for a ride to the park and April and Eric had their 18 glass bottles they filled with water from the fountain.  Here is what is looks like.  You can get natural or sparkling water.  They opt for the natural.
Water gathering
*When we arrived back at the Villa, it was time for a little nap.  I am still trying to get my body adjusted to the new time zone.  So I slept for a few hours, and woke up to the sounds of April, Tina and Kellee on the terrazza visiting and enjoying a snack.  I joined them, and we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the beautiful cool evening air. 
*Even though it was getting late, I was WIDE AWAKE!!  So I spent some time getting my space organized in the room Kellee and I were sharing, and of course sharing many laughs with Kellee, and April would pop in every once in a while to laugh and talk with us as well.  Once I got my clothes hung up and organized, I spent some time getting organized for our grocery shopping trip we will have tomorrow.  Then I was finally ready to wind down and go to sleep.  Buona notte!!

Gathering Graces 6/19 and 6/20 2017

*Monday and Tuesday all kind of ran together, so I am going to talk about them together.  My day was spent with my traveling companions Kellee Crall Mills, one of my oldest and best friends, and Tina Marshall, a new friend who is a friend of Kellee’s.
*Our days of travel were pretty uneventful.  We left at 6 a.m. for the Spokane Airport, and flew from Spokane to Seattle.  Our flight was a bit delayed, but no worries.  We arrived in Seattle until our flight left at around 7 p.m.  We hung out in the Food Court and people watched, and the boarded our plane.
*I didn’t realize the sun would never go down on our flight.  That was pretty cool, except they dim the lights on the plane at night, so you can’t open the window to see what you are flying over.  We arrived safe and sound in Frankfurt Airport.  Frankfurt was experiencing a rather hot day, and the airport was hot and humid.  But we made it through and waited for another delayed flight to Florence.  The Frankfurt Airport is HUGE!!
*We boarded our airplane and had a short flight to Florence. After we got our bags, we came through the doors, and there was our friend April M Lee waiting for us with open arms.  It seemed surreal!!
*Eric Lee loaded up all our luggage in their car and we went to a local grocery store to shop for items.  It was fun shopping in an Italian store. 

Italian Grocery Store

*Then we arrived at Villa Magnolia, the beautiful hope April and Eric have been living in and restoring since they arrived here last October.  It is so beautiful.  You may have been following the restoration on Facebook.  But until you see it in person, you have no idea how beautiful it is.
*And here Kellee and I are, with our best friend April, and it was as if no time had passed.  We are in Italy with our friend at her new home, and about to experience the adventure of a lifetime. 


Gathering Graces 6/18/2017

*We had a fun morning at church with Paul leading worship, and Cosette came and played drums and Zoe helped us sing.  Paul loved having all three girls home for Father’s Day, and two of them up leading worship with us at church.
*Cosette and I headed out to Walmart to get some last minutes items for our trips.  Cosette is taking my place and chaperoning five KHS students to the Gear Up Youth Summit at Idaho State University in Pocatello.
*Mom had a tough afternoon.  The plan was for her to come over to our house for Father’s Day dinner.  Paul and I went over to see her at Kindered, where brother Bill had been sitting with her.  She was not up to coming.  So the rest of the family gathered at our house and had a great Father’s Day dinner that Zoe prepared.
*After dinner, we got a text from Bill saying Mom was doing better.  Christy and Everett went to see her, then Paul and I and the girls went over, too.  Mom visited with us, and we had a nice visit. It was so good to see her doing better.  It was hard to say goodbye to her as I head on my trip tomorrow, because I am going to miss her very much, and my daily visits with her, but I know my siblings and family will keep me posted on how she is doing.
*When I returned home, I did my last minute packing, then spent some time saying goodbye to our sweet cat TC.  TC health has not been good, and I knew this would be the last time I saw her.  So I talked to her, cried, and told her it was okay, and that I loved her very much. 
*Then Paul and I said our goodbyes, which was also very tearful, because I am going to miss him very much.  But there are a lot of people looking out for him.  What a gift he has given to me to give his blessing on this incredible trip.


Gathering Graces 6/17/2017

*This morning was spent working on getting Mom’s bills paid and to write up information to share about her finances with my siblings.  It was nice getting that checked of my to do list.
*I went to see Mom around 1 p.m. and had a wonderful visit.  Around 2:30, my brother Bill arrived with Christy.  He had flown in from Maryland, and will be staying here in Kellogg for the summer.  We all visited with Mom for about an hour, then she was getting tired, so we left her to rest.
*Then Christy, Bill and I headed to Radio Brewery in uptown Kellogg for lunch, catching up, and talking about Mom.  It was a good conversation to have as we move forward with what is best for her and her care.
*I hadn’t slept well the night before, so when I returned from lunch, I took a nap for a couple of hours.  I got up, ate a little dinner, and joined Paul, Zoe and Molly in watching the movie Get Out.  It was an interesting thriller, but with a definite message from creator Jordan Peele about race relations and being a young African American man in a dominant white culture. 
*Cosette arrived close to midnight from Moscow, and it was nice having all five of us under one roof, the first time that has happened in quite a while.


Gathering Graces 6/16/2017

*Today the majority of my day was spent packing items for my upcoming departure on Monday morning.  My biggest concerns were making sure my baggage was not too heavy.  I think I have succeeded!
*My traveling partner Kellee Crall Mills came over to visit, and kept cracking Paul and Zoe up as she kept asking them the same question over and over....”Hey, do you know we are going to ITALY!!!”
*The rain poured and poured today.  At one point, I went into the kitchen, and the kitchen counter was really wet, and the rain was causing a drip to come through one of our kitchen cabinets.  Yes, we are in desperate need of a new roof on our house.  We are working on it.
*Since school is out, Paul has become the Energizer Bunny.  Zoe made a comment to me about how he never stops.  Yesterday, one of the projects he and Zoe worked on was putting up a little wooden fence in front of the flower bed off the back patio.  It looks great.
*Paul and Zoe are also constructing a fountain in the backyard.  I can’t wait to share photos once it is all done.
*Molly arrived this evening while we were over at Kindred visiting Mom.  Boy, we were a boisterous bunch in Mom’s room, with Paul, Zoe, Molly and myself.  I think Mom enjoyed all the energy and laughter surrounding her.  Mom had a meatball sub sandwich for dinner, and made Paul, Zoe and I eat part of it.  It was really good.
*Molly is taking summer courses as part of the PACE program through Lewis Clark State College, and it was fun to listen to her share about her first week of school, working with students and learning about education as she continues to pursue her teaching degree.


Gathering Graces 6/15/2017

  • Zoe and I headed over to spend time with Mom this morning, and to deliver some freshly cleaned compression socks that I had forgotten to take over the day before.  We got her up, dressed and ready for her day.
  • When I returned home, much of my day was spend making preparations for my upcoming trip on Monday.  I have a list of things to do, and keep working on getting things marked off the list.
  • Mom had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon, her monthly check up, so Christy and I joined her for her visit with Dr. McDonald.  She has been having bouts of confusion for many months now, and her doctor said it is Vascular Dementia.  When things happen in Mom’s body due to her heart condition, often blood flow or oxygen flow is reduced to the brain, and so there is some confusion and memory loss.  Then she may go a long for a while with nothing happening.  Then something happens again, and she loses some brain function and memory loss.  She explained it as stair steps going down.  Whereas Alzheimers has a more rapid decline, which is not what is happening to Mom.  I feel like Mom was glad she got an explanation about her condition, and why she was so confused at times.
  • After Mom’s appointment, I went to get my hair cut and colored before leaving Monday. 
  • Paul, Zoe and I went to see Mom in the evening.  After Mom being in Kindred for about one and a half months, we see a variety of people with a variety of conditions.  One thing with Mom is, she is always pleasant to be with when I visit.  Our conversations are always enjoyable, and she still has her sense of humor.  Christy said the staff really enjoy Mom, which doesn’t surprise me. 


Gathering Graces 6/14/2017

*Today my birthday celebration officially began when Nikki and I stopped at Jolt N Bolt for my birthday coffee.  My birthday is 19 days away, but I will be gone during that time, so we celebrated this morning.  We both had the Butter Rum Latte special.  It tasted like a Butterscotch Lifesaver.  Yummy!!
*I got home and prepared for a meeting I had at another coffee shop in town, The Bean.  The P.E.O. group I am a member of provides ways for women to receive financial assistance through grant and loan programs.  I met and interviewed a woman who was looking into applying for our PCE (Program for Continuing Education) grant and our ELF (Education Loan Fund) loan.  It was fun learning her story, and I love that P.E.O. is all about helping women fulfill their dream of a college education.
*There was much frustration added to my day because I lost two very important items.  One was a envelope with some important papers Molly needed signed and notarized that Cosette brought to me last Thursday before our trip to Boise.  I cannot find where I put it that day. 

*Paul, Zoe and I went to Jane’s house to pick up the bathtub and bring it to our house.  Paul and Zoe got it home in the backyard.  Now to decide where to put it.
*Paul, Zoe and I want to see Mom in the early evening.  She was tired, but we had a good visit telling her about our day, and she told us about her day as well.
*I started getting my clothes packed for my trip.