QC Blog: 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?

Hello everyone!  How are you?  As you can see from my title, I'm under the French influence, since my sisters and my husband and I just returned from France 3 weeks ago.  It was a wonderful trip, full of adventures and a journey into history that was awe-inspiring.

It always seems the worst part of a trip is the plane ride, hardly worth mentioning, except for the fact that my sister Chrissie, who has been practicing her French, got her first chances to use it here.  As we ran for our flight from Paris to Marseilles, and had to go through security check in again, we would have missed the plane, except that she asked an attendant (in French) if it was possible to make our flight that left in 45 minutes.  We were then fast tracked to an empty security check in and were aboard our Air France flight to Marseilles with time to spare.  The cutest moment was Chrissie telling the male flight attendant in French that she needed two waters because we were very thirsty from running for the flight.  He was smiling at her attempts to speak French and seemed to appreciate it.

We flew into Marseille airport and took a bus to embark on our ship.  We were taking a Viking Cruise of Southern France, starting in Avignon and stopping at several points along the way north.  When we arrived on the boat it was docked in Arles, instead of Avignon, because it had been raining for three straight days and they were not certain we'd be able to travel from our spot, unless the river went down.  After we arrived, we headed to the dining room for a splendid meal, and finally got some rest after traveling for 24 straight hours since leaving Pittsburgh.

The next morning, bright and early we were scheduled for a guided tour through Arles, a city that has roots back to the year 730.  We had receivers with earpieces to hear our guides, so we could follow at a distance to take photos.  As long as we could still hear our guide we were within walking distance of the group.

Portions of a wall that surrounded the city still exist and we visited a Roman arena from the 1st century that is still used today for bullfighting.  They have 2 kinds of bullfights there, one where the bull is killed, and the second, where the bullfighter tries to pin a rosette on the bull, and the bull gets to win in this fight, and is not killed.  We were able to go in and sit in the seats while they explained about the bullfights.  Imagine, here we were sitting in an arena that was around in the time of the Roman Empire.  Quite amazing, when you stop to think about it.

 Arles was also home to painter Vincent Van Gogh for a year.  During his stay, he painted 150 paintings and over 100 drawings.  We saw several spots that he made famous in his paintings and visited the hospital where he spent time after he cut off his ear.  This yellow cafe was one of his paintings.

 We passed the Antique Theater of Arles that was still standing and in amazing shape.  We visited the Cloitre of Saint Trophime where monks had lived.  The architecture was just gorgeous.

The streets are incredibly tiny and a car would come speeding around a bend when a tour group was walking down the street.  When we reached the center of town, an accordion player was serenading us in the town square.  We wanted to go in and look at the church, but it was closed at noon, so we missed that.

Our guided tour ended and with the afternoon free, we chose to shop a little before going back to the ship. 
Since this is the first day of walking, at this point, my feet were killing me.  I needed to stop and take some ibuprofen and put a heel pad in my shoe so I could make it back to the boat.  I put my camera away and we were on our way back to the ship.  I was concentrating on walking and how exhausted I was.  But when we walked past a set of steps I just sighed and said, stop, I have to take a picture of this.  It was calling to me.  I got my camera back out of my bag and took what Mark said is his favorite photo of our entire trip.  I took one shot, this is it.

Next:  Avignon and the Popes Palace

Friday, September 2, 2011

September Already?!!!!

I should have been enjoying my tomato harvest this time of year.  My garden is an overgrowth of weeds, since I was too lazy to plant on Memorial Day weekend. Somehow, the thought of putting anything outside that would attract even more stink bugs to my yard was utterly distasteful.  So I opted out this year.  Now I'm regretting that hasty decision and hankering for the taste of a homegrown tomato. (if you have any extras you can send them my way....)

We returned in early July from our vacation at the Jersey shore.  I took the opportunity to return my shells to the ocean, although at the last minute, I caved and kept some of the pretty conch shells we had purchased. I just couldn't stand to throw them away.  Zachary, my youngest son, who is always a good sport, went with me to help get rid of the shells.  I was ok with watching him pitch the shells back into their ocean home until he handed me

one and told me I had to participate in the ceremony.  He said it was symbolic, and I needed to throw a few in. That was harder, but I prevailed and we threw the last couple shells in together, saluting my honeymoon, our  vacations, their childhoods, and all the memories.

This photos is one of my favorites, fashioned after a painting that was in our beach house. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

I must go down to the Sea again.....

It's amazing sometimes what treasures you find when you start de-cluttering your house. Recently, I've found seashells from different periods of our life in my own room, my kid's rooms, and in our spare room. I'm sure I had thoughts of making some kind of clear jar with seashells in it that always look cool on vacation, but would never fit into my decor. I've finally gathered them all together and asked the family to help me decide what to do with them, without just saying, "Throw them out."

First there were the shells we collected on our honeymoon - almost 33 years ago.
There were various shells collected when the kids were little in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

Some were from Florida, on our trips to visit Grandma and Grandpap and Disney World.

 Some we purchased because the kids could never find anything this perfect and beautiful on the beach.
As the boys grew older, the shells were more select and fewer in number.

And of course there was the odd man out, a shell one of the boys bought because he thought it was gorgeous at the time, that made us laugh because of its' gaudiness.

What do we do with all of these collected shell memories?   That one shell holds the memory of our honeymoon and walking the beach together with stars in our eyes.  The other holds the memory of our children racing to the water's edge and digging frantically in the sand to find their treasures.  There's one that held a living thing when we found it, and one that Grandma and Grandpap found that was a perfect conch shell.  Some of those stones came from "digging for diamonds" in Cape May and Stone Harbor with my niece and nephew. Others bring memories of shopping at the shell store, searching for just the right shell to take home.  Some bring memories of driving home with clam shells smelling from baking in the hot sun in our car.  All bring memories of buckets and shovels and wonder eyed children who find life fascinating and joyous every moment they breathe.

Where do we put the memories of our children digging in the sand searching for treasures?  What happens to the wonder of finding that 7th clam shell, that looks just like the other 6 clam shells before it, but fills a child with elation?  Where do we throw the stones that are so smooth they make you rub them over and over again, just to feel their perfection, and keep them for a "worry stone?"  Do the memories disappear with the shells or are they in our hearts forever?

We've decided to keep our shell memories in our hearts and return the shells to the sea. This year when we visit the ocean, we're going to take the shells with us, and deposit them back in the ocean to thrill some other child in their quest for seashells. Even the ugly one. If someone finds that in the ocean they'll think they hit the jackpot. And they'll never have a clue how it got there.

Oh, wait, that last one is a soap dish! Surely I can find a place to put it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Steelers beat Ravens, and I Scored a Genealogy Win!

The Steelers had a big day on Saturday, and so did I.

One of my hobbies is Genealogy. Some days when you're researching your family Genealogy, you move forward in the game, by finding a name here, a small piece of information, a little hint that allows you to find out more. Other days, you score a touchdown, and find a huge piece of information that alters the course of your research. Once in a while, you score the equivalent of a Steeler Win and you find that piece of information that is the ship your ancestor came over on - the name, the date or anything related to that trip they took across the ocean that was the beginning of your life here in America.

My relatives took many journeys, some from Ireland, others from Germany and some from Italy. I do most of my research on my Irish side of the family, since those are the relatives most familiar to me. If you aren't famous, like the Rooney family, your poor Irish history is pretty difficult to find, combined with sparse record keeping in the 1800's. About 2 months ago, I did score a touchdown in my Irish history by finding a lead in where my Kelly family (the Smith's of Irish names) possibly came from. I was excited and thrilled because it's the first thing I really have "discovered" on my own, without help from my genealogy cousin, who's done a ton of research before me.

In the past two months, I've been concentrating on the Italian side of my history. This is the side I know the least about, but since they came here in the 1900's, there are likely to be more records to be found. Unfortunately, even though the 1930 census became available last year, I can't find my father's family at all. This should have been easy - I thought I even knew the street they lived on - but inexplicably, they aren't there. Where could my grandparents and three children (one of those is my dad) have been in 1930? I was disappointed and discouraged, but I continued to sign on to my Ancestry account several times a week, typing in names and searching for information. I've searched the Ellis Island site and can't find anything relating to my grandfather, even though I know the approximate year he came here. The thing about researching on the Internet is that search engines are not perfect. Sometimes, finding information depends on how you type a name in or how the transcriber read the words on the ship's manifest or the census report.

The big event for this past weekend was the Steelers-Ravens playoff game. Sometimes when I watch the game, I wear earphones to hear the radio play by play, so I don't have to ask so many questions (because even after 33 years of watching this game, I don't think I'll ever understand it!) After the first half, I was frustrated, so I got up and logged onto my computer and started typing in genealogy searches. There were 15,000 matches to my grandfather's last name and with the game proceeding in my ears, I started clicking through page after page of results. The Steelers started to do well, which of course means if you're not in the room when they do well, you need to stay where you are, so their luck won't change. I'm still searching, page after page.

The Steelers score a touchdown. Well, now I'm just staying right where I am, so I don't jinx them. When I reached about page 35 in the results, I started to see his name on citizenship papers, and opened one up that I knew the second I saw it - it was him. This was my grandfather and the ship he came over on was listed and the year was close, and I'm asking myself, could it actually be him? I then went to the Ellis Island site and typed in the ship name and the date I found on the papers discovered on Ancestry and there was his name and his father (I did know he came here with his dad), and it was spelled incorrectly in a way I wouldn't have even guessed. But it was him.

And here I was, while the Steelers were winning the game and my husband and sons were yelling and cheering in the other room, and the game is blaring in my ears and I'm thinking - this is it - the ship he came over on, the date, the name of the boat and I'm scoring my own WIN in my family history. In addition, I've discovered that he came over and stayed with an uncle, so there were relatives from Italy here that I didn't even know about before, so it's an entirely new family lead to research. And I found one of the most important finds in the family history game, another name. On the ship's manifest papers, his step-mother's name is listed, and the great grandmother who was a blank space on a chart before, now has a name. Her name was Frances.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tea, anyone?

I consider myself an avid tea drinker. My mom would give us tea when were were little - when you're sick, a little tea and toast is good for an upset stomach. On a normal day, we would have tea with breakfast in the morning, in the evening we would have tea with our cookie snack, and there was always a cup of tea before bedtime. My mother would drink her cup of tea at breakfast, a cup after work, before dinner, after dinner, with her snack, in the evening, and before bed (and that doesn't count what she may have had at work). She was able to drink tea like water, to quench her thirst. Back then, we were just drinking regular tea, whatever was on sale at the A&P grocery store.

I order tea when I go to a restaurant to have breakfast or sometimes as an after dinner drink with dessert. It's never good. The temperature of a cup of tea has to be hot, or it ruins the taste. There is nothing worse than a tepid cup of tea. I find myself constantly searching for the perfect cup of tea. There are so many factors that go into a good cup of tea.

First, the water has to be the right temperature. My family is driven crazy by my whistling tea kettle, as I won't pour my tea until the cup is ready, and won't turn off the kettle until then. I want it boiling till the last second, so maybe, just maybe, I can have a hot cup of tea.

Second, the tea has to steep for the right amount of time. After I put sweetener and milk in, the tea has to rest - about 3-5 minutes before you can take the tea bag out, then maybe another 2 minutes before you can drink it (because it's too hot to drink). Sometimes, I get it right. Most of the time, though, by the time I start to drink the tea, it's already cooled off too much and I missed the "sweet spot" - where it was not too hot to drink, but hot enough that it tastes wonderful.

Third, you can't over milk it or under milk it (assuming you use creamer or milk). My mom always took milk in her tea, and as a result, so do I. It has to be just the right amount of skim milk, not enough to take the heat out of the tea, but enough to cool it slightly. My sister mentioned the other day that it's hard to put the milk in for someone else. It made me think of making tea for my mom when we were living at home, just the two of us. I prided myself on the fact that I could pour her milk "just right, " to borrow the Goldilocks analogy. Maybe she just always said it was perfect so I wouldn't feel bad.

Fourth, don't forget the sweetener, or you've taken that first sip and it's horrible. Adding it afterwards never really helps the taste, and you've missed having the perfect cup of tea before you even started drinking it.

Fifth, it has to be the right flavor of tea. About 8 years ago, I started drinking green tea for my heart health. In trying to avoid cholesterol drugs, I was looking for herbal solutions. It has a bit of a bitter taste but I've become accustomed to using it. I often get tea as a gift from friends and relatives. Most of these are flavored herbal teas. Some are delicious (Can something be delicious if you're not eating it?) and some just miss the mark. I've discovered that I dislike strawberry teas and anything that is too fruity. I love orange teas and have just recently discovered ginger tea, which is a soothing tea to drink at night. If you're trying a new herbal flavor and take that first sip and it's gross, it's such a waste of all that anticipation for that cup of tea.

Sixth, you have to have the right cup, one that isn't so thin that it burns your hands and one that isn't so big that your tea is cool before you've even started. The cup has to have a lip that isn't either too thin or too thick. (back to the "just right" analogy).

Seventh, and most important, it has to be hot all the way through the cup of tea. If only the first few sips are hot, you've missed the perfect cup of tea, and of course, have to try again next time to achieve it. It only happens every once in a while.

Last night, I had 3 cups of tea in a row, with a new herbal flavor I tried. Chai Pumpkin Spice. They were all perfect. Hot to the very end.

The bottom line is this. My mom's birthday is this week, and I miss her more than ever. But I am grateful that I share her love of tea because every time I drink a cup, I think of her. Happy Birthday, Mom.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP