I’m babysitting tonight. A dear friend, who just had her third little girl, is experiencing some complications and her doctor thought it best she go to the hospital. Just as I was putting together the dinner I’d planned to bring her family, her husband called to tell me there had been a change of plans. 

So, the girls–who I’ve been babysitting for the past few months during their mom’s OB appointments–came to my house while I finished cooking and their parents (and new baby sister) went to the hospital. Afterward, we walked to their house with the meal on a tray. It’s never taken me quite so long to go just two streets over! 

In the past four hours, we’ve colored, eaten dinner, listened to Disney music, colored some more, brushed teeth and read a bedtime story. They’ve only gotten out of bed once so far…and all seems quiet at the moment. 

Thank you, Jesus, that I was home and able to watch over these little princesses while their parents are dealing with bigger things. Thank you, Jesus, for these little girls, who teach me just as much as I try to teach them. Thank you for their bright little minds, their playfulness and their enthusiastic spirits. Thank you, Jesus, for having us all right where you want us–in a hospital, in their beds, on a friend’s couch–this night.

Rome 2016

Last week, I went on a trip with my mom and brother, Josh, to Rome.  For the day.

(Disclaimer: my mom is a flight attendant. The tickets aren’t free, but they’re pretty cheap–especially when you get to ride in First or Business Class.  It’s livin’ the high life–pun intended–for sure.)

I left Buffalo on the zero-dark-thirty in the morning flight to DC, where Josh picked me up and took me to our parents’ house to hang for a few hours until our flight to Rome.  Along the way, he bought me Starbucks, opened up doors for me and divulged he intends to run for sophomore class president at Liberty University in the fall.  Then, my other brother, Aaron, wanted to take me to his new favorite coffee spot in Manassas, Jirani Coffeehouse, where we enjoyed sandwiches as an early lunch.  Who ARE these pseudo-adult, conversational young men who about three seconds ago were overgrown toddlers, waffling between tears and pummeling each other?!

Josh and I got seats next to each other in Business (praise God–it’s like a nine-hour flight) and we watched a movie together before he conked out.


Flights with mom are always fun; the entire crew knows who you are and treats you like gold, and it’s fun to see her in action.  She’s definitely the life of the party–joking around and making sure work doesn’t feel too much like work.

After we landed around 8 a.m. local time, we rode the bus with the crew to their hotel where fresh croissants and a cappuccino machine awaited.  We changed clothes, made a quick stop at a local grocery store for cheap wine to bring home and breakfast for the next morning, before heading out for the day.

I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but our first order of business was to get me the beloved souvenir I DIDN’T get when Andrew and I visited Italy in 2013: a mywalit wallet. Three years ago, I fell instantly in love with the rainbow-colored leather products and practically drooled over them our entire trip.  They’re made in Italy and obviously on the pricier side (but still probably less than Coach), so I didn’t end up getting one.  Well, I didn’t end up getting one this time, but it wasn’t for lack of trying; the only retailer we found didn’t have a large selection and I chose not to purchase without being sure of the one I wanted.

Again, to Italy, I must go!

Our main sight-seeing adventure for the day was outside the city, but along the way we stopped off for take-away pizza and a view of the (freshly cleaned!) Trevi Fountain:


We jumped back on the metro and then to a train to get to Ostia Antica, a ruined city similar to Pompeii and a Rick Steves must-see.  Surprisingly, Andrew and I didn’t make it there on our previous trips, so he suggested it as a possible activity.  Having visited Pompeii as well, I can assert that it is indeed better preserved and Rick’s walking tour is very enjoyable.  I can’t wait to bring Andrew here next time we visit Italy!

The preserved bath house mosaic floor:


A view of a main gathering area and existing walls:


We were pretty burned out after walking around Ostia in the heat, so we headed back to the room for showers before dinner.  Along the way, we walked the Via del Corso, a pedestrian-only shopping district and by the Pantheon, because, you know, it’s THERE. In the middle of a busy square stands this amazingly old structure that all but transports you back to the time of togas and sandals. It’s a simple coincidence that the emperor, Hadrian (our dog’s namesake) finished the building in 126 AD.


Our first stop was the ‘Steelers Bar.’  No idea if that’s its real name or not, but the inside is covered in Pennsylvania paraphernalia–including a Penn State flag(!!)–and seems to be the local hangout for ex-pats, airline crews and perhaps even some tourists.  We sat with some Air Canada pilots and sipped our drinks: Stout for me, cider for mom, moscato for Josh.  (He thinks he’s SO COOL because he gets to drink overseas.)  Speaking of drinking…  I discovered a new favorite drink: an Italian ‘spritz.‘ It’s made of Prosecco, Aperol (made of bitter orange, among other things) and club soda.  It has a surprising flavor that grows on you.


Lucky for us, the EuroCup was on and it was a great game.


Dinner was next door to the bar and just off the Piazza Navona, a public square filled with locals, tourists, cafes and men peddling selfie-sticks, glow-in-the-dark frisbees and caricature drawings. It’s magical at night.



Thankfully, all the stars aligned on this trip and travel was a breeze–which is not always the case.  I’m already excited to plan another trip with my mom in August!


France 2016: Aix & the Côte d’Azur 

Note: this is part 3 of 3. Part 1. Part 2.

With heavy hearts we left our b&b, L’Ecole Buissoniere, and began our drive to the coast.  Our sweet hostess, Monique, sent us on our way with kisses on both cheeks and a box of cookies for the road.  Our destination was the French Riviera, or the Cote D’Azur, and along the way to stopped in the college town of Aix-en-Provence.


Aix is a charming town with a rich history and lively people-watching.  The Cours Mirabeau is the wide boulevard lined with trees, shops and cafes.  We stopped for lunch, did Rick’s walk and grabbed some treats for the road.

Within a couple hours the coast was in sight.  We inched along next to Nice’s Promenade des Anglais with the bluest water you’ll ever see just feet to our right and as we rolled our windows down to take in the sea breeze, we found it very difficult to mind the congestion on the road ahead.


Our home-base for the next couple days would be Villefranche-sur-Mer, a small town just past Nice.  We rented a tiny apartment just a couple streets from the water–it even had a little balcony on which we ate breakfast each morning.  (It even came stocked with the essentials–milk, orange juice, fizzy water, snacks, WINE!)  The local grocery store and boulangerie (bakery) were just steps from our door, which made it convenient to get fresh croissants and fruit each morning. We grabbed pizzas one night and sat outside watching the sun set over the water.


The next morning, we drove our rental car up above Villefranche to Eze-le-Village to explore.  We’d packed a picnic breakfast and scored a *perfect* spot (thanks, Rick!) overlooking the water (and the gardens of an incredibly high-end hotel).


We stopped for coffee at the Chateau Eza, which used to be the vacation home of the Swedish Royal family.  I decided to take a photo to use as my iPhone home screen; last year’s photo from Collioure was now outdated!  Surprisingly, our coffees at $6 each, were quite reasonable considering our view.


After Eze, we drove up to La Turbie, home of the Trophee d’Auguste.  It’s super old–built around 6 B.C.–as a monument to Emperor Augustus for conquering the ancient tribes in the Alps.  Apparently it’s famous for having a very large inscription on one side.  Seeing–and getting to climb up the ruins–was a highlight for Andrew.  Even I enjoyed the video in the small museum explaining the restoration work.


Afterward, we headed back down the hill and stopped at Fragonard, a famous perfumerie in France. We saw their small operation–everything bottled by hand–and enjoyed the tour very much.  Fragonard sources many of their flowers from the French Riviera area, which is why they have a location there.  Andrew and I visited one of their shops in Paris last year, but didn’t feel like we had enough of an understanding to appreciate a souvenir.  This year, I took home a bottle of their ‘bleu riviera’ and a matching make-up bag to remind me of the Cote d’Azur (blue coast).

That afternoon, we dropped our rental car off in Nice (after the perilous switchbacks in the hills and increased traffic from Provence, we were ready to be back to public transportation) and took a tram tour, stopped for beer and ‘socca’ (fried chickpea flatbread), and grabbed gelato at famous Fenocchio’s before hopping a bus back to Villefranche.

The next morning we took a train to Monaco (as in, the richest country in the world MONACO), home of the Monte Carlo casino and the Grand Prix. In fact, the Grand Prix had just wrapped up, and as we alighted from the train station we saw the remaining guard rails and expended tires being cleared away from the road.

Monaco is where the richest of the rich call ‘home,’ which really means it’s just an address–or where they dock their yacht–to avoid higher taxes elsewhere.  The number of luxury vehicles we saw (we aren’t talking Lexus and Audi–we’re talking Lamborghini and Ferrari) was astounding.

We stopped for coffee outside the Monte Carlo and popped into the lobby for a peek.  It’s perhaps the only casino NOT open 24/7; in fact, there’s a dress code after 2 p.m. and the guards made it seem like you might even need an invitation to play at a table!



Monaco is pretty tiny–less than a square mile yet the most densely populated country in the world–and we were able to explore it in about half a day.  On a future trip, I’d love to see the aquarium there.  We returned to Villefranche and spent a little time at the beach (check out Andrew in the water–he said it was freezing).


We spent the last day of the trip enjoying our little home-base, Villefranche, then heading into Nice for lunch and more walking.  We went up to Castel Hill for views, walked the Promenade des Anglais with more gelato from Fenocchio’s.  We still had a bottle of rose left at our apartment, so we grabbed some take-out Vietnamese food for dinner, found a secluded nook in the rock’s along Villefranche’s little port and enjoyed the faint nusic coming from a yacht in the bay.

Au revoir, France!  A bientot!