The Euro has a 1 in 5 Chance of Survival

We've all heard of the chaos in Europe.  Several countries are in economic crisis and required cuts have citizens rioting in the streets.  The climate becomes very dangerous when the people demand the handouts they are accustomed to and yet the government can no longer afford to keep them up.

A December 31, 2010 Reuters article predicts that the Euro only has a 1 in 5 chance of surviving the next ten years.  It quotes CEBR Chief Executive Douglas McWilliams who says, “"I suspect that what will break up the euro will be the failure of most of the countries to take the tough medicine necessary to make their economies competitive over the longer term.”

It is not just the U.S. Dollar at risk here…


If You Have It - It Has Been on a Truck

If You Have It - It Has Been on a Truck. I heard that saying years ago and now found some information that actually shows some of the details that actually might support that claim. My research this week took me to the American Trucking Association website where I learned some very interesting facts that also made me go hmmm....

Did you know:

  • That the The U.S. trucking industry is comprised of more than 214,000 for-hire carriers and more than 276,000 private carriers, 95.9 percent with fewer than 20 trucks?
  • More than 80 percent of U.S. communities depend solely on trucking for delivery of their goods and commodities?
  • In 2006, the trucking industry hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight, or over 69 percent of total U.S. freight tonnage. Rail was the next busiest mode moving 13.3 percent of the nation’s freight tonnage.
What would happen if the trucks in America are slowed down, or worse yet, stopped entirely even for a short span of a week or two? What if those small trucking businesses that represent a large percentage of the trucks, can't afford to stay in business? That would leave us with only a franction of our existing trucking companies bearing the brunt of ALL of the trucking requirements! Not so good.

The American Trucking Association website had  a file available called "When Trucks Stop, America Stops" (downloadable Adobe pdf file) that outlined some pretty amazing scenarios for our economy, food supply, manufacturing, banking, and even just plain retail, should a disaster, either economic or natural, disrupt the trucking industry.  I highly recommend reading it.  They state "The unimpeded flow of trucks is critical to the safety and well-being of all Americans. However, it is entirely possible that well-intended public officials may instinctively halt or severely restrict truck traffic in response to an incident of national or regional significance." 

I took it a step further.  What would happen when these small business owners can no longer afford the fuel to keep the trucks running? What happens if/when inflation hits and fuel prices rise to such an extent they can no longer operate?

In 2008 when fuel prices skyrocketed, there were wide-spread concerns about independent truckers going out of business because they simply couldn't operate when diesel was bumping $4.00 a gallon. (see WKRG article here). CBS reported that Truckers even converged on Washington D.C. to protest record high gas prices in April of 2008. A 2008 article in the Orlando Sentinel stated, "Consumers may not realize it, but the rising price of diesel is hitting their wallets, too, as the prices of groceries, clothes and other goods are tied to transportation costs. 

"Everything that you see in the supermarket has to travel by truck," said Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations. "Everything you see in the mall has to travel by truck."

We probably all remember the fuel surcharges that airlines began to impose on travelers, later to be exchanged for permanent baggage fees, in order to maintain profitability.

Did you know that even safe drinking water is at the mercy of the trucking industry? The American Trucking Association's article goes on to say, "According to the Chlorine Institute, most water treatment facilities receive chlorine in cylinders (150 pounds and one ton cylinders) that are delivered by motor carriers. On average, trucks deliver purification chemicals to water supply plants every seven to 14 days. Without

these chemicals, water cannot be purified and made safe for drinking. Without truck deliveries of purification chemicals, water supply plants will run out of drinkable water in 14 to 28 days." 

Also think about who will deliver:

  • Fuel to the airlines what will also ship mail, manufactured good, and supplies
  • Medical supplies, medicine to hospitals and pharmacies
  • Waste removal - garbage
  • ATM's - a typical bank replenishes its ATMs via armored truck delivery every two to three days
The conclusion of the American Trucking Association's report was that "As demonstrated by the analysis of just a few key industries, restricting or shutting down all truck operations in response to a natural disaster, elevated threat level, terrorist attack, or pandemic will have a swift and devastating impact on the food, health care, transportation, waste removal, retail, manufacturing, and financial sectors."  (I notice that they don't mention any kind of economic disaster, like inflationary fuel prices that potentially eliminate many small trucking businesses.)

So what happens if truckers can't afford to stay in business? What if they can't afford to fill their trucks with fuel and deliver the 70% of America's goods? What if there is a disaster and trucks are forced to stop due to federal, state, or local edicts? Are you prepared for empty grocery shelves?  Or ATM's that don't have money to dispense?  Your prescriptions available at the pharmacy?  Or if gas stations that haven't been able to get a delivery of fuel in for days or even weeks?

Do you have your "insurance policy" of emergency preparedness in place?  Do you have a supply of food and water?  Have you thought of making sure you have enough cash on hand to last for several weeks? Have you considered what you would do if you couldn't buy anything at the store for weeks on end? Are you at the mercy of trucks?

Image: Bill Longshaw /


Food Prices are Starting to Spike

From an article today in the Seattle P.I. (Syndicated from the San Francisco Chronicle)

Food prices rise sharply -- and there's more to co
For the first time since 2008, inflation is hitting consumers in the stomach.
Grocery prices grew by more than 1 1/2 times the overall rate of inflation this year, outpaced only by costs of transportation and medical care, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Economists predict that this is only the beginning. Fueled by the higher costs of wheat, sugar, corn, soybeans and energy, shoppers could see as much as a 4 percent increase at the supermarket checkout next year.
"I noticed just this month that my grocery bill for the same old stuff - cereal, eggs, milk, orange juice, peanut butter, bread - spiked $25," said Sue Perry, deputy editor of ShopSmart magazine, a nonprofit publication from Consumer Reports. "It was a bit of sticker shock."
But it makes sense. Since November 2009, meat, poultry, fish and eggs have surged 5.8 percent in price. Dairy and related products have gone up 3.8 percent; fats and oils, 3 percent; and sugar and sweets, 1.2 percent.
While overall inflation nationwide was 1.1 percent, grocery prices went up 1.7 percent nationally and 1.3 percent in the Bay Area, said Todd Johnson, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics office in San Francisco. "The largest effects on grocery prices here over the last month were tomatoes, followed by eggs, fish and seafood."
There's more.  Read the whole article here:


Buy Now!!

Just a quick heads up on things you should probably buy up now if you can because prices are going up:

  • Food items made of sugar, wheat, corn, and soybeans. Articles here where experts are warning of rising food prices. San Francisco Chronicle states that "Grocery prices grew by more than 1 1/2 times the overall rate of inflation this year," and go on to say that experts predict that is only the beginning.  Here's another article specifically about sugar prices.  Bloomberg quoted the Wall Street Journal back in October that General Mills, Kraft and others are raising their prices on cereals due to rising prices in grain; another article talked about corn as the "other gold" that was going up.
  • Clothing. reports on higher cotton prices.  The article states, "The problem is a classic supply and demand imbalance, with the price of cotton rising almost 80 percent since July and prices expected to remain high. "World cotton production is unlikely to catch up with consumption for at least two years," Sharon Johnson, senior cotton analyst with the First Capital Group, said in an e-mail."  Another article in CNNMoney says "Attention T-shirt fans: Bag those deep discounts now because come January, stores could have you paying more for your favorite clothing."  They say that Cotton prices have nearly doubled this year, and have hit almost 15-year high.  This as a result of multiple factors in the Asian cotton producers sector that has resulted in a problem with global supply.
What do you do?  Buy up some food items in bulk now before the prices shoot up too high.  Store them in your cupboards so your grocery bill doesn't get out of hand later.  Focus on things like sugar So go buy up the t-shirts, jeans, socks, and underwear now.  It looks like we'll see those prices start to shoot up right after the first of the year.  If you have children, buy jeans and shirts in several sizes so you're good to go for the year.  Hit those after-Christmas sales hard and you'll be able to keep your budget in line even though these prices shoot up. Happy shopping! Image: renjith krishnan /


CNBC in 2006 - No One Believed

on CNBC Peter Schiff predicted our economic woes back in 2006 and even talked of the mortgage meltdown.  Again he talked in December 2006 on Fox News.  On each show other guests, who were experts, disagreed with him, argued with him, and one even made a bet with him!  Peter, I hope you collected on your bet. 

Ben Stein, you remember him (he's on lots of commercials) said that the sub-prime mortgage issue was only a "tiny" problem.  Peter Schiff fired back saying that "this will be an enormous credit crunch."  The others continued to argue.

Guess who was right? If you can't see the video below click here:


The Weather Outside is Frightful...Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

The Puget Sound area has been warned.  The Seattle Times had an article on December 3rd: "Prepare for a cold, windy La Niña winter, officials warn".  The article states "Seattle and the Pacific Northwest should brace for a colder and wetter than average winter due to the the effect of La Niña."  That's only one of several similar articles I have read in the last several months with the warning.  Well we have seen both the snow and tons of rain so far.  There are flood warnings for the Puget Sound for this second weekend in December.  And, we were lucky to also have our first snow storm before Thanksgiving this year.  That was a rare and beautiful occurrence.  Our temperatures even dropped to the teens. 

Well, I absolutely LOVE snow.  I find myself in the minority among my co-workers.  Most of my colleagues shudder when our highly-paid-and-frequently-inaccurate meteorologists predict snow in our area.  People go nuts.  Our freeways turn into parking lots and TV reporters stand on street corners all over the area showing snow in the lamp light and showing how deep it is in Monroe, North Bend, Washougal, or Olalla.  The schools close, libraries close, furniture stores close, and people rush to leave work early.   The radio and TV become minute-by-minute relayers of the closures.  I don't know if the insanity comes from the fact we don't get enough of the white stuff in a typical year for anyone to keep snow gear in their cars and learn how to drive in the stuff, or if it is because the terrain is so hilly and our DOT doesn't have a lot of snow removal equipment (so very rarely needed).  Regardless, the situation gets dire around here. 

But I love it.  I love the quiet sound of the snow falling at night.  Sometimes you can almost hear it.  I love the crisp crunch of snow under my feet.  I love the sound of kids, off of school, playing in the snow; laughing, shouting, throwing snowballs and making forts and snowmen.  It's a spectacular.

I'm also very glad we have prepared for the accompanying power outages and inability to make it to the store when the roads freeze over or they are closed due to flooding issues. 

Here's some ideas of things to do to prepare for the wintery weather we're predicted to have (compiled from a variety of sources (East Pierce Fire & Rescue Newsletter, Seattle Times, and Red Cross).  I won't re-create the must-have lists that you can find all over the internet, but here's a few other things to keep in mind:

1.  Keep your car fueled up.  There were many stories of cars running out of gas during the November snow storm as they sat in their cars in traffic.  Keep blankets and some snack bars in your car in case you get stuck.
2. If using a generator or other heat source make sure it is properly vented so fumes don't build up.
3.  Keep food, water and cash on hand to last at least 3 days minimum (FEMA and Red Cross recommendation).  However, I don't think 3 days is enough for around here. I would recommend that everyone have 7 to 10 days minimum given that there are times when power outages last much longer than 3 days.  If you are in an area with widespread outages, the cash machines and cash registers may not work, so having cash on hand is important to purchase items as you run out.
4. Keep a first aid kit fully stocked.
5.  I heard suggested that those little headlamp LED lights are very useful for power outages so you can still use your hands instead of holding bulky flashlights or lanterns.
6. Make sure you have your prescriptions and other medications on hand to last for the duration of an outage.

Other useful sites:

  • Check out the Red Cross site here
  • Disaster Preparedness Fact Sheet (from King County) - great source of what to do when disaster strikes for things like: how to find drinking water, what to do in the event of an earthquake, how to deal with hypothermia, etc.
Stay safe!  Stay warm!  Be full! Have fun!



In my recent weeks of researching what is happening to our economy I heard the term QE2 bandied about.  My first thoughts were that they were talking about the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth 2. But clearly that wasn't the case - it's too old to garner that much attention.  In my cluelessness I decided to check it out. I also asked a few people at work and was surprised at how little we all knew about it. What is QE and what is QE2?  Since it is a #2, obviously it has been done before.  Well, here's what I found out.

QE is an acronym for "Quantitative Easing".  What in the heck is that?  According to the Wikipedia, one of my favorite sites, "Quantitative easing (QE) is a monetary policy used by some central banks to increase the supply of money by increasing the excess reserves of the banking system, generally through buying of the central government's own bonds to stabilize or raise their prices and thereby lower long-term interest rates. This policy is usually invoked when the normal methods to control the money supply have failed, e.g. the bank interest rate, discount rate and/or interbank interest rate are either at, or close to, zero." 

Well that's alarming.  It sounds like it is a "Hail Mary" kind of move to me.

Wikipedia goes on to say ""Quantitative" refers to the fact that a specific quantity of money is being created; "easing" refers to reducing the pressure on banks."

A September 28, 2010 article in the BBC News website says "Lower interest rates encourage people to spend, not save. But when interest rates can go no lower, a central bank's only option is to pump money into the economy directly. That is quantitative easing (QE)."  Later in the article it states, "The way the central bank does this is by buying assets - usually financial assets such as government and corporate bonds - using money it has simply created out of thin air."  We sometimes hear this being referred to as "printing money" which of course in this digital age is not actually necessary.  No actual printing presses, ink or paper are harmed during this delicate process.

The underlying premise is that with more money out there the banks will be more likely to lend, credit easier to get and people and businesses more likely to spend with the end result of stimulating the economy.

Hmmm...I wish I could just add a couple of zeros to my bank account and use it to pay off my house, buy a new car, or lavish Christmas gifts!  Oh wait.  I can't. That would be fraud; or theft.  Too bad, so sad.

Well QE2 was announced a few weeks ago, so that means there must have been a QE1.  I had a harder time finding definitive info on that but it looks like that occurred in late 2008 and into 2009. I guess that didn't work, so they decided to try again.  which will be done over the next six months and put about $600 billion more dollars into play.

Many countries were not happy about the Federal Reserve Bank announcement.  Weeks before it was official, there were a flurry of warnings that this would cause a currency war (I'll blog on that another time) and started loud international murmurings. (UK, Brazil, China, France, GermanyChina).

I've even been reading articles by economic experts who don't think this will work.  I've attached links to a few for your reading enjoyment.

What do you think?

Image: jscreationzs /


Could We Lose Our Private Retirement Plans?

This has not widely been reported on, but Bloomberg has an article by Zolton Simon reporting on an ultimatum that Hungary has given its citizens: move your private-pension fund assets to the state or lose your state pension.

That's a huge deal for citizens in Hungary.  They either let the state take it or they lose 70% of their own retirement funds!

Argentina also confiscated pension funds in 2001 to help cover its massive debt. 

Did you know that there are those in the U.S. Congress that have actually had discussions on our private 401k plans?  CNBC reported in 2008 titled "Will Democrats Tinker With Mutual Funds, 401k Plans?" The topic has been on the table even before President Obama took office!

Remember that 401k's defer taxes that our government needs so very badly.

Look at the Gold Rush by China!

An interesting article in the Financial Times website pointed out that China has been buying up gold.  The article by Leslie Hook states, "Gold imports into China have soared this year, turning the country, already the largest bullion miner, into a major overseas buyer for the first time in recent memory.

"The surge, which comes as Chinese investors look for insurance against rising inflation and currency appreciation, puts Beijing on track to overtake India as the world’s largest consumer of gold and a significant force in global gold prices." (My emphasis.)

I wondered why gold had gone up and actually hit over $1400 an ounce today!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /


Why Prepare?

I love to travel.  I got the bug back in 2001 when my mother, sister and I visited Italy.  While it wasn't my first international trip, it was my first real glimpse at how other people live.  Up to that time, my only other international travels had been to Canada and touristy Caribbean hot-spots via a cruise which really didn't give me the true flavor of a different culture.  One thing that I noticed is that, here in the U.S, everything is super sized.  Huge grocery stores, huge refrigerators, big houses, big yards, big cars, and generally just lots of stuff.  The Europeans go to the market multiple times a week, many even on a daily basis.  The majority don't have big homes. They do not have the Costco to stock up in mass quantities, at least that I saw. 

Gone are the days where much of our population was more self-sufficient: growing our own food, cooking, canning, hunting, building, and sewing.  For most of us those only stories from the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Let me pose to you a question: what would you do if you could not get groceries at the grocery store for a week?  What about if you couldn't get groceries for two weeks?  Four?  What if you couldn't afford the food once you got there? 

What types of situations might make this an issue?

1.  Natural Disasters - the Red Cross, FEMA, and other entities all recommend having a minimum of three days supply of food, first aid, water, light, and more.  We never know when an earthquake, flood, storm, or other disaster might deprive us of the ability to head to the store. In my opinion 3 days is very short sighted.  Just days ago we had a uncharacteric snow storm here in the Puget Sound, with temperatures hitting the low teens.  People all over the area had power outages lasting more than 3 days!  I remember the "Inaugural Day Storm" on January 20, 1993, where over 600,000 people lost power; some in outlying areas didn't get power back for weeks. (My boss at the time lived out past Black Diamond and didn't get her power back on for nearly 2 weeks.)

2.  Inflation/hyperinflation - I won't pick Zimbabwe or even Germany's Weimar republic as examples of hyperinflation.  Germany's situation occurred after WWI, and Zimbabwe is a third world country.  I'll pick a country with more relevance: Argentina.  Argentina is not a third world country; at the beginning of the 20th century it was one of the richest countries in the world. It is one of the G-20 major economies and is currently considered an upper-income country. In 2001 Argentina's economy melted down (not for the first time either).  Government statistics show their current inflation rate at over 10% but many private analysts tag it more than 15% .    According to an article in the BBC News, "A deep recession foreshadowed economic collapse in 2001. This left more than half the population living in poverty and triggered unrest."  Internet site has a charting tool that spans multiple years.  It shows that in 2001 inflation spiked to over 40%! (See attached chart). Can you afford even a year with everything 40% higher? I can't.

3.  Food Shortages - has an article, that is not even a year old, by Bruce Watson where he quotes popular investor Jim Rogers.  Jim says "a severe food shortage is on its way." Jim spoke with CNBC in an article by Antonia Oprita, and said "Sometimes [sic] in the next few years we're going to have very serious shortages of food everywhere in the world and prices are going to go through the roof."  WorldNetDaily's website has an article that states there may even be a government cover-up of a world food shortage.  The article goes on to say that, "Stores have only an average of 72 hours of inventory on hand and very few families are capable of producing their own food, so even a temporary shortage of food supplies could be catastrophic."  This statement recalls to me news footage of empty grocery store shelves hours before a hurricane or storm is scheduled to hit the gulf coast region.  We've seen the footage where everyone heads for the store for food, water, batteries, beer, and whatever else they can grab that is left.

Below is a 6+ minute video from the National Inflation Association ( that outlines some of their theories on food shortages in our grocery stores.  They believe that not only are food shortages an issue, but firmly believe we will see hyperinflation within a few short years due to the U.S. economic condition. 

On the bright side, we CAN do things to prepare and be ready.  If nothing happens and life goes on, same-old-same-old, then we simply use up the resources we've gathered.  Nothing lost; peace of mind gained.


How Much is a Trillion?

It seems a week doesn't go by when I don't hear of someone warning us that the U.S. debt is out of control and unmanageable, even for our "wealthy" country.  I saw an article on CNBC's website that quoted an editorial from the Washington Post.  Sheila Bair, the chair of the FDIC thinks the "Next Debt Crisis May Start in Washington".

The U.S. debt is now estimated at about 14 trillion dollars.  How much is 14 trillion?  According to website, "The U.S. government spends more than the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Australia, China and Spain combined. If you laid one dollar bills end to end, you could make a chain that stretches from earth to the moon and back again 200 times before you ran out of dollar bills! One trillion dollars would stretch nearly from the earth to the sun. It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills."

There are several great videos out there, but attached is my favorite that helps put this into perspective. Keep in mind that 1 trillion is less than 1/10th of our nations debt!

Just some stuff for you to chew on.


That Didn't Take Long - What Does it Mean?

The U.S. Dollar is the "world currency", and is the currency oil is traded with; has been for many many decades.  It is estimated that China has about $1 Trillion dollars in reserves in order to purchase oil and other commodities that trade in U.S. Dollars. Russia is likely in a similar position. If these countries don't need the dollar to purchase oil and commodities, they will dump it, and fast. That potentially means a glut of dollars surging into circulation that lower it in value quickly.

Because the U.S. continues to print our money (fiat currency - not linked to any standard since the early 70's), China, Russia, and several other countries have threatened and even encouraged others to drop the dollar as the world currency.  There has been talk of using a "basket" of currencies that include the Yuan (China), the Yen (Japan), and the Euro (though the Euro is also experiencing a lot of trouble due to several Euro-nations huge in huge debt crisis).

What does that mean? It means that the U.S. will no longer be able to sell our supply of U.S. treasuries to pay for our its deficit spending. Of course, QE2 had the Fed creating the money and then using that money to buy their own treasuries! I still haven't figured out the math on that one. Either way, we have no way of paying our debt or paying the interest on our debt.

So what does THAT mean?  It means that they'll have to raise interest rates to gather the money back in.  They'll also have to print even MORE money so they can make the interest payments on our national debt. Bottom line: INFLATION!  Some experts believe it may even lead to hyperinflation.

What does THAT MEAN?  That means we need to prepare so we can still function when bread costs $10 a loaf (or more?), gas is $10 a gallon, and your monthly grocery bill triples or quadruples. 

So what am I suggesting?  Stock up. 

Why am I saying this now?

On November 23rd, in the China Daily News, there was an article that China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade.  While it is not a wholesale quitting of the dollar from a world-wide perspective, it is two of the more powerful countries making their first HUGE step towards the eventual destruction of the U.S. Dollar, which I believe will have a domino effect on other countries holding U.S. dollars.

Here's just some examples of what I've noticed lately about rising prices.  In some cases these increases haven't hit the consumer yet, but they will once the companies can no longer sustain the losses:

Sugar prices already rising over 70% this year alone
General Mills and Kraft to raise prices due to grain price increases
Rising Corn prices
Cotton going up


Where is the U.S. Dollar Headed?

 Things have really changed in the U.S. economy since 2007.  The real estate we've held has dropped dramatically, cutting into our networth in the hundreds of thousands. I am thankful for a good job that pays me well, but I don't even begin to assume that I'll have that forever.  I've seen some amazingly talented workers get laid off in the last 2 years.  I've watched them struggle to find jobs, make mortgage payments, and many have filed bankruptcy or simply lost their homes.  We've all heard the stories.  The lines at the food banks get longer each week while our country's leaders borrow more in a misguided effort to stimulate the economy.  Most of us know that with our own household budgets, you cut spending when you can't meet your bills; borrowing more simply leads to a bigger fall in the end.

So what do we do?  Do we sit back and passively wait to see what the Federal Reserve and the White House comes up with to try to save our economy?  Or, do we do some legwork of our own to find out what history can tell us about other countries that have struggled similarly?  How did the people survive when their monetary system crashed?  How can we personally avoid adding to the problem and actually become part of the solution?

Just some questions and thoughts that have been on my mind lately.  I'll post more with links to some research I've done of late.  I know that this is not a popular subject.  We all would like life to go on as it has for decades.  I just really don't think that is going to be the case.  I think the next 10 years is going to look dramatically different than the last 10 and I want to be as ready for it as I can possibly be.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /


We spent three days in Barcelona touring the main sights like La Sagrada Familia, the "Cathedral" and Park Guell. The architecture of the buildings are a beautiful blend of the old and the modern. The shopping in Barcelona was some of the best.

The main promenade, Las Ramblas, is about a mile of shops and street performers. We must have walked up and down that street a dozen times. Some of the street performers were very unique and would have huge crowds around them. There were angels, Atlas with the world on his shoulders, unknown characters, ogres, headless chefs, magicians, and artists. Every time we went down the street there was always something new.

We did try out these GoCars which were like two-seated mopeds that toured us around to famous sights. That didn't go over so well though. The one we had had a messed up GPS which meant we couldn't follow the route so we went back to get it fixed. It also had trouble starting. Once we got going we found that whichever one of us was following the other had to breathe the nasty exhaust of the other. We originally had reserved a full day, but one hour turned out to be more than enough.

The famous La Sagrada Familia, which started construction in the 1800's with Antoni Gaudi as the architect, was mind blowing. I have no way of describing the grandeur of the still unfinished church. It is likely to take another 50 years to finish. Gaudi died at the age of 76 after being hit by a tram. He knew he would never see it finished but said "God has all the time in the world".

Sent from my iPod


Bye Bye Les Baux

Yesterday we visited the Pont du Gard, the famous Roman aqueduct, and then on to Nimes. There we took about an hour whirlwind tour in a mini train that showed us the main sights in the city: the Roman arena, an ancient temple, and more. We walked around a bit, found a self service laundry, so made a beeline back to out car for our laundry bags so we could finally get some fresh clothes.

We decided to hurry back to Les Baux in order to catch the sunset on the town, hopeful for amazing photos. We were not disappointed. The town glowed.

The town, emptied of the day trippers, felt like it was ours alone as we wandered the empty stone streets. Our new suite was beautiful, had it's own terrace, and was very unique; very pleasant for our last night. We watched the stars from our terrace and drank in the night.

It did not rain.

After our breakfast, we took one last shopping trek through town before heading out. We drove East of Avignon to see some caves, but they were closed for a two hour lunch break which put us off schedule for exploring Avignon, so we left and headed for our last bit of sightseeing in France.

We toured the Papal Palace, the nearby gardens and two churches. We have found that the old churches have some great art: frescoes, paintings, sculptures, carvings, and more, so we try to wander into most we see. One in particular had a mass starting in one of the side chapels and they were singing so sweetly. There were two nuns dressed in pure white singing alternatively with one man. It was so simple, clear, and reverent. We stayed for quite a while listening to song after song.

After a nice leisurely dinner we headed to our hotel for an early night. We had a 6:00 am train to catch to Barcelona.

Sent from my iPod


Les Baux II

We have lost track of the days. I just know I have so many days at this location and so many at that and them it is time to go. However, I believe that it was the 7th, the night after the big storm, when we toured the chateau. WOW. The size of the castle had been huge and had survived multiple drives over the centuries. The views from various high points overlooking the valley, on all sides, were incredible. They had actual working trebuchet, a large version of a catapult, a battering ram, and the smaller catapult. It was extremely windy and nearly blew me sideways a couple of times! James figures it was gusting at least 40 MPH. There were dozens of very steep stairs that were worn with 6 inch divots carved out of the stone. We were exhausted afterwards and knew we would feel it in the legs later. One section was newly discovered in the 90's, and went way down lower than they thought the structure went and was full of more rooms and storage and cisterns.

After several hours of climbing and crawling all over the chateau, we headed off to Arles. Arles had several Roman ruins from the first century, including an arena. The wind was still very brisk and we were ticketed out, so we didn't actually stay more than about 2 to 3 hours and then headed back to Les Baux for a quiet dinner.

We pick a small restaurant, one of only about 4 to choose from. We ate indoors since it was a little too cool out. During dinner we were treated to a lightning show off in the distance, though there was no accompanying thunder. Our skies were starry and beautiful while the storm raged on the horizon. We did get some video and I did manage to catch one strike with my camera - which tool many tries.

Later in our room we threw open the window and watched for a long time before turning in. It was beautiful. James woke me up around 1:00 to say the storm had hit us, the 2nd night in a row! It was louder and more violent than before! We struggled go sleep. I did manage to doze off until...

Our entire bathroom turned into a shower. Water poured from three light fixtures and streamed down the walls and poured out (it had a raised floor up off the side of our room with a sliding glass door) into our bedroom. Unfortunately the power was out. Unfortunately, I needed to use the restroom. Unfortunately, I could not wait, so I ended up having a midnight frigid shower! We were afraid the ceiling would cave in, so I handed James everything out of bathroom, makeup bags, towels, hair stuff, tooth brushes, and the like. James figured a couple of gallons per minute poured into the bathroom. Anything on one side of the bed was soaked in minutes. We quickly packed up everything in case we had to flee the room and then laid back down and just waited. We could tell the storm was starting to move off and again I managed to doze off until...

James woke me up again and said our bedroom roof was leaking right onto his head. I turned my iTouch into a flashlight (yes, there's an app for that) for the second time that night and we located several leaks in our room, with the biggest being right over our heads. We grabbed the recently rescued towels and used those where our pillows had been and scooted down low in the bed to avoid the drips and finally fell asleep around 3:00 a.m.

Well the roof didn't cave in. We did survive, and the sun was actually shining when we unfolded ourselves out of our fetal positions.

Our B&B hostess, Ute was horrified of our ordeal and the mess and moved us to the suite for tonight. So while we have this strange story, we also have her nicest room for our last night in the magical Les Baux.

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Les Baux

We arrived at Les Baux after we left Cassis, though we did stop at Aix de Provence for about two hours. Les Baux is magical to me. There is nothing like it. It is a tiny town carved out of the mountainside with origins and ruins dating back to the 12th century.

Clouds had started to gather by the time we arrived; around six. After checking into our B&B, we ate dinner and wandered the now nearly vacant town (all the day trippers had left). The cobbled streets are very narrow and wind upward toasted the ruins of an old chateau that housed the barons or lords that were in power. The town was attacked several times in it's history due to it's excellent location atop a high hill as well as for limestone, bauxite and fertile green valleys it controlled.

We brought our tiny car into town after seven when it is allowed, and brought our bags in as you do not want to risk ruining them by bumping them along the uneven stones. James is very intrigued by how people built and modernized such medieval buildings.

A huge storm rolled in our first night and we were awakened by monstrously loud claps of thunder and blinding flashes of lightening. It went on and off for several hours making it hard to sleep. We could hear the deluge and saw the damage it made the next day when we visited nearby St Remy to try to do laundry. Many stores were mopping out and closed, including the one laundromat. We decided to try again the next day.

I will write more about Les Baux again when I have more time, but I will tease you by saying we didn't get much sleep the next night either.


Moving on to the French Hills of Provence

James got a little burned yesterday. I think he needed a couple of additional applications of sunscreen. He very proud of his international burn, and men says he "planned it".

We moved from our regular room to the suite for one night- sigh... very nice. We usually try to have one splurge night somewhere in the trip, and this is where it fit in.

We have gotten quite hot and tended to sweat more than we are used to, so whenever we found a cool breeze we would put our hands on our hips and make it look like we were having an animated argument. In reality we typically would be trying to decide in what flavor of gelato to try next, or what in the world to buy Ricky for a gift.

Yesterday there was some kind of regatta race in the little bay. There were 1, 2, & 4 person slender boats with the long oars that raced out to a large buoy and back for several laps. It seemed there were 2 separate races. Other than that the town was MUCH quitter on Sunday than it was on Saturday. The waterfront marina area with all the restaurants and shops was a throng of people.

We leave Cassis later today, but not until we take a boat ride along the rugged coastline first. This area has fjiord-like fingers if rocks jutting out into the sea that they call Calanques. We want to explore them some today.

Later we will head on to Les Baux, a tiny hill town that is very romantic and sill be our home base while we check out other towns and sights like Nimes, and the famous aqueduct called Pont du Gard.

I hope to finally get photos uploaded sometime during this portion of our trip.

Talk to you all soon!

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Cassis Part Deaux

My last blog post got sent in mid-sentence the mention my iTouch came into wireless range.

What I had been saying was that I did buy one pair of sandals in Venice. However, I was disappointed almost the minute I walked out the door because they looked so ordinary. Ordinary won't cut it. So the search was still on.

I found my "bling blings" in St Tropez where they have a noted style made famous by a leather artisan. They are called St Tropeziennes. They are like nothing I have ever had for sure.

Today we have rented chaises on the beach and will do nothing.

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We rented our car in Nice and them headed for Grasse where I had some fragrance on order. Back in 2006, when Mandy and I were there, we crafted our own fragrances. I really liked Mandy's, so I ordered a bottle for myself. They had the day mixed up, so we had to kill some time while they made it up. We found the old town and toured Fragonard, a several hundred year old fragrance company which has been in the same family the entire time.

After going back and getting my perfume, we headed on to St Tropez. We watched massive yachts go in and out of the harbor while eating lunch. After some shopping, we were off to Cassis. I had heard of this harrowing cliffside road called Road de Cretes that had amazing views of the Mediterranean. We found the road and photos will not do it justice.

Cassis is a small fishing village that has become a destination for vacationers in the 20 years or so. James thinks it is romantic. We walked the marina area to find just the right spot for dinner, then sat near the water to watch the stars come out and a few fishermen cast their lines. I agree with James that it is very romantic.

Tomorrow is just a lazy day on the beach, shopping, and a boat ride.

Oh, I have to mention that I bought what I call my "bling bling" shoes. You have go buy shoes In Europe. I bought a pair in
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It has been quite warm each day; probably in the 80's. Monaco was quite an experience with the 100+ foot yachts, the exotic cars, and the very wealthy people coming out of shops like Chanel, Gucci, Ferragamo, Bruno Magli, and the like. I made sure to give them lots of elbow room on the sidewalk so they wouldn't be sullied. When we were at the marina one young woman (probably in her early 20's) had three or four Helpers carrying about five or six garment bags, each with several hangers, plus probably another dozen or more shopping bags, onto a huge yacht. Everyone took their shoes off before boarding the boat.

Today we rent a car and head off to Grasse to pick up fragrance I ordered, then St Tropez for lunch, then on to Cassis for the next 2 days.

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I am sitting at a tiny cafe here in Monaco just killing time while James tries his hand at the casino, Monte Carlo. It is probably in the upper 80's in the direct sun. This email will send once I am again in my hotel with the free wireless service, so don't be confused if you start calculating times and time zones.

I figure I have probably gained a pound or two, even with the heavy walking (we avg about 7 miles a day).
I am doing salads for lunch now. Darn.

Tomorrow we rent a car and head off for St Tropez and then on to Cassis, a small fishing village on the coast.

James is really loving these high-end, classier towns.

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Monaco today

Today we head off to Monaco. James is really liking Nice; the ambiance is oh so fine.

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Finishing Venice - on to Nice

September 2st was our last full day in Venice. We had a leisurely day getting lost in the alleys; we made a point of hitting spots we hadn't explored before. We found several churches we had not looked in. They were beautiful. One in particular had the most amazing paintings on the entire ceiling; it actually looked 3D.

Marco, the owner of our B&B, was back for our last breakfast. This is the fourth time I have stayed there. I love his place. It is the best value to be found in Venice.

After a quick last minute shopping and bank machine dash, we checked out and headed to the airport for out flight to Nice. Now we start the French Riviera portion of our trip. We will meander Nice today and check out Monaco on Sept 2nd.

After arriving in Nice, we took the bus to our hotel and checked in. We were pleasantly surprised by the room. It was very modem with its updates and the bed doesn't feel hard!

We walked the beach boardwalk for a few hours then had dinner. we did find the "old town" which was a labyrinth of tight streets filled with shops. dinner was wonderful, better than any other so far.

Tomorrow we head off to Monaco.

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Finishing up Venice

We are about six days into our trip and we are already exhausted.  We are walking an average of about 7 miles a day.  I also managed to get an infection in one of my toes right from the start so have been pouring some antiseptic on my toe several times a day to try to get that shut down. 

Paris weather was spotty and cool, with some rain on most days, but not bad.  One day we did the hop-on-hop-off bus that gave us a good tour of the major sites like the Louvre, Arc de Triomph, Champ d Elysees (not sure of the spelling here), and the like.  It was good considering it was cold and rainy for most of that day. 

On Monday, at least I think it was Monday, we went on to Venice.  Venice was bluster the first day, but was pleasant.  Jackie and Dale leave on their cruise from here and only had one full day in Venice, so we let them pick what they wanted to do.  We mostly toured around looking for the best shopping deals.  Today, I think it is Wednesday, we are on our own now and we will take the day a little slower.  I want to visit the churches, some museums, and pick up a few gifts.  Tonight will be drinks in Piazza San Marco with the bands trying to out play each other.  I love that.  Tonight is all about romance.

On Thursday we head off to Nice and the South of France. I am excited to show James the cool stuff that Mandy and I found when we were there in 2006.  It should be warm and beautiful. 

Next time I will try to post some pictures.



Once in a Lifetime Pounds

We are down to less than 3 days before we head off to Europe - again.  We love traveling Europe.  I wish I could live in Europe.  We love to experience the food, the history, architecture, the food and the various cultures that are so very different than life here in the U.S.  And did I mention the food? 

Here is some advice on a more obscure preparation activity: weight gain.  Yes, you read that right.  I'm saving my pounds available to gain for France, Italy, and Spain!  The pounds gained in those countries surely are better than pounds gained here.  I can gain poundage here - anytime.  Any weight gain resulting from a European trip is truly special.  Each pound gained is a once-in-a-lifetime pound.  They are pounds I will never ever experience anywhere else.  With that philosophy in mind, it becomes very important to not gain any weight pre-trip that might minimize the actual trip poundage total available.  In fact, I recommend losing pounds just so you have poundage to gain in exotic locales.  When faced with excellent food choices pre-trip, I remind myself of the possibilities for truly exceptional pounds awaiting me just a few days away.  It definitely makes my food choices so much easier!


Cancer Diagnosis - 1 Year Later

August 20th marked the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. As the anniversary date approached, I found myself becoming emotional; I really wanted to say something to my family members who helped me through the hard times.  So, I had a BBQ dinner and asked them all over to join me.  After dinner I read a letter to them all expressing my thankfulness for their part in my life this last year. 


Sometimes, though not often, I am at a loss for words. This is not one of those times. Here around me, I have the most important people on earth – to me. Each of you holds a special place in my heart, some of you for more years than others, but no less special. I can’t imagine life without any single one of you.

These last 12 months have been tough and stressful. I’ve had 4 surgeries, about 24 x-rays, 43 radiation treatments, 212 doctor appointments, one missed Utah vacation, a new job that started out very ugly, two new managers, and 1 birthday. But wait, that’s not all! I’ve had good stuff too, here’s naming a few of them: two new granddaughters, a fixed foot, a missing 15 lbs, a birthday, 2 new managers, a new healthier body, and a great vacation with the love of my life to look forward to.

I’ve learned a lot in this last year. I’ve learned how to lean on others, how to cry again, and how to open my heart to help when I need it (only when I need it mind you!). This is the first year in decades that I can remember crying for myself rather than someone else’s troubles. I feel I’ve just begun to realize what is really important in life. It’s not my job, it’s not trying to stay looking young, it’s not how many things I can accomplish while I’m on this earth. It’s about my relationships with all of you.

This is the year that I learned how very much I really needed you James. I can’t imagine how I could have made it through this year without you holding me up. I felt sad for people who don’t have someone like you to help them through something like this. I remember the days and nights where you’d just let me sit on your lap and let me cry. You were so very reassuring to me; your love strong and sure. I was amazed at your willingness to accompany me to MRI’s, surgeries, radiation treatments, and doctor appointments, and then to even sell your car so we could go on a long vacation together. It wasn’t just me that had cancer – WE had cancer. You’re amazing.

Mandy - you were the first person I cried in front of. I remember being at your house sitting on the edge of your bed and actually opening up to you and letting myself cry. You had a lot on your plate, but you still took time to hold me and comfort me. You also presented me with a wonderful little wiggly distraction when I needed it most. Thank you.

Ricky - you were very caring to call me often and just say “I love you”. You do that so well. There’s something about a son looking out for his mom, truly role switch after years of Mom looking out for her son, which I can’t put into words. You were, and are, a constant comfort to me. Thank you.

Dad - your caring words and just knowing you were there watching out for me every day, ready to be helpful in any way you could, was a comfort. While my independent self resisted, inwardly it was nice to know you had my back on anything from taking me to doctors, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping; anything. Thank you.

Linda and Rod – just the effervescent life that emanates from your house: little girls, house decorating, lawn mowing, work, school, and the like; sure helped keep me focused away from dealing with cancer and onto living and being active. You showed me that life can’t stop and Ali and Sierra’s young lives, full of laughter and joy, filled the air around here and blessed me. I know I can just really be me with you guys. I can be sad, happy, or just plain quiet and know I’ll be accepted just the way I am. Linda, the cancer necklace gift was like my charm. I view it as my badge of honor now. Thank you.

Daniel and Rosemary – Thank you for coming into my life these last few years as new family members. You each bring wonderful qualities that I cherish; I feel very blessed to be your mother-in-law. I know I don’t say it enough, but I love you and I am very glad you’re part of my family. You both have brought a lot of fun, humor, laughter, and joy to my life. I hope that as the years progress our relationship can grow stronger and be full of even more blessings.

I found my silver lining through this trial of a year. I found a tiny silver thread, and then felt the tug as I began to pull. The thread of these relationships, with you, became a strong cord that I was able to cling to as a life line. That beautiful piece of silver cord is now interwoven into the tapestry that makes up the picture of my life. Thank you so much for contributing so richly to me.

So this next 12 months is going to be better than the last 12 months. I can feel it. I know I’m starting it out pretty good! I aim to be healthier, less stressed, more available, less overworked, stronger, more prayerful, happier, and more loving, more worshipful, and above all, more thankful.

Thank you everybody. I love you.

Several family members were not able to make the dinner, but would also like to send out a heartfelt thank you to them as well:
Shirley - you were so very thoughtful in making sure I had some great books to help me navigate the decisions I was facing.  You are a very caring and comforting person.  You're an amazing woman full of empathy and compassion. Thank you.
Stephanie - thank you so much for the wine in the pink cat cancer awareness bottle, and the books.  The bottle now sits in my bathroom full of bubble bath.  Thank you for coming over to spend some time with me and to help me out.  It was thoughtful and very sweet.  I look forward to running the 5K with you next year!
Janet - you hopped right in to help even though you live almost 3 hours away.  Thank you for loaning me your juicer and showing me the juicing "ropes".  Your willingness to drive on down and help out is amazing for a woman with as much on her plate as you have.  What a great sister!!
Thank you everyone for your love, comfort, support, encouragement, and prayers. 



I wrote this after my first trip overseas with James.  As I prepare for my next trip with him, I had to dig it out and fondly remember what is in store for me.


I’ve never spent more than 10 days alone, I mean really alone, 24x7, in the company of my husband. Now that wouldn’t be so significant if we were newly married, but we’re talking several decades as husband and wife, not to mention the fact that we knew each other since grade school days. Well, it wasn’t until 2004, after spending 37 days traveling through parts of Europe with him on The Big Trip and wondered exactly who is this man I married?

I guess I’m naïve, though I shouldn’t be surprised. There have been hints it before when we’ve gone on trips. It starts with the countdown. I can attest to that since the original countdown to our wedding and subsequent honeymoon. See, according to him you can’t count the current day and you don’t count the day you leave. So, depending on what time of the day you actually leave, you can shave off two days from the countdown right from the get-go. We’ve even had instances where we’ve been able to lop off almost a whole week. Vacations never got here so fast. I’ve tried to convince him to count how many more “wake-ups” we have before we leave. But apparently that is a flawed calculation technique. Of course this counting method is nowhere to be seen once you’re on vacation. There’s no fun in that. But now that I’m thinking of it, I’m going to try that next time we go somewhere. I can just hear it now:

“Hey Hon! Guess What? We only have 3 days left. You better start packing to go home.”

“What!! We just got here. What are you talking about?”

“Well, you can’t count today, and you can't count (insert miscellaneous and ludicrous logic here) whatever you do, don’t relax!”

Anyway, he’s one of Those people. You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s Those people who set their clock 15 minutes fast so when the alarm clock rings they can sleep in. They drive the rest of Us people - nuts. We know they’re fooling no one, but they blissfully ignore your attempts at logic, happy in their private deceptions. Well, God Bless ‘em.

So my master prevaricator begins his countdown usually weeks, if not months before the actual D-Day. The closer we get the more excited and talkative he becomes. He can’t sleep and he recounts the days just to make sure he hasn’t miscalculated. I’ve gotten emails at work from him with a cryptic “38 more days!!” when, in fact, we won’t leave for another 40. Silly man. He also begins packing days before I’ve even thought to pull out the luggage. Thankfully, prior to “The Big Trip,” he was working so hard to finish a construction project that he had no time to get too imaginative.

I noticed the first sign of distressingly aberrant behavior only a few days into our trip. We had left Frankfurt and were headed towards a small town on the Rhein River, Bacharach. James got downright randy; first a playful bump, then a grab or two, a pinch, and by noon – outright groping. Now I’m great with affection, but when there’s a surprise bout of forced tonsil hockey while in line for a train ticket, I decided I had to take action and headed for a miniscule gift stand some 50 feet away.

But wait, that's not all!  Not only was he being frisky, he started up the incessant talking; mostly questions actually.

“I wonder how many boats go up and down the river each day?”

“What do you think would happen if that guy there with the bad rug stuck his head out of the window? We could call him The Rooster! Remember the movie where John Wayne was called Rooster Cogburn?”

And my personal favorite: “I’ll bet this hill is 2000 years old” to which, interestingly enough, someone nearby argued was probably actually 4000 years old and the one next to it was at least 6000.

The whip cream on this particular sundae is his habit of reading aloud all the signs he sees. That is somewhat annoying driving around parts of the city we live in day in, day out, but when you’re in a foreign country, it sounds downright ridiculous. Oh, and did I mention that he has a loud voice? Think about the foreign pronounciations too.  It was quite funny - at first.

I thanked my Heavenly Father I had remembered to bring my MP3 player. I left our train compartment to escape for a few moments and dug around in my backpack for it. I stuffed those little ear-bud-headphone-type-things into my offended canals so tight that I was worried I’d have to find an apothecary store and buy tweezers in order to extract them later. Forward thinking that I am, I dug out my German phrase book and began to look for words to help me with that purchase. Hmmm, no tweezers listed. I picked the best alternative I could find and committed it to memory: “haben sie eine zahnstocher?” Or, “do you have a toothpick?” I figured I could stab the spongy part and simply pull them out. Though, I would have to be careful since I had always been told by my parents not to ever put anything smaller than football in my ear; like I’ve listened to that piece of advice given I’d been using ear buds, cotton swabs and shoved various and sundry other things in my ears for years (the eraser end of pencils work well if you’re trying to think). Anyway, if the clerk still couldn’t fathom my request, I decided to resort to mime by pinching my fingers and pantomime a painful eyebrow plucking session. Yeah, that should work. With that dilemma solved, I rejoined the ongoing monologue in our train compartment, activated my player and settled down, ever hopeful of a peaceful journey at last.

Unfortunately, the batteries were dead. I bobbed and weaved with the beat anyway. How was he to know the only tune I was hearing was the thump thump of my own pulse pounding in my ears? I could hear him chattering away to God knows whom.


4, 3, 2, 1...Count Down!

There are less than 4 weeks until I have the giddy pleasure of leaving the U.S. of A by jetting off to my favorite vacation destination: Europe.  My husband of 31 years (as of Wednesday 7/28) and I will be joined by his sister and brother-in-law, Jackie and Dale, and they will be with us for part of our 3 week journey.  They will be taking off on a Mediterranean cruise in Venice and then join us again in Barcelona, Spain 10 days later. 

Our journey starts with a few days in Paris and then a flight down for several days in Venice.  This will be my fourth trip to Venice in 9 years; James's 2nd.  It is a favorite of ours.  Venice is a fascinating city in a state of what I call elegant decay.  The premise of this city in the middle of a bay with no cars is pretty amazing.  We love visiting the churches with the incredible art captured within, find hidden piazza's (plazas) as well as just get lost while walking the city alley ways. Oh, and the shopping is amazing.

We have traveled with Jackie and Dale several times before.  Let me interject here that it is important to make sure you travel with people you get along with really well. You want to be able to be yourself and voice your opinions on the "what do you want to do today,"  or "where shall we eat" questions without letting yourself get shut out if there are more opinionated voices in the group.  That said, we've traveled with them before and get along fabulously.  We are very much looking forward to showing them the joys of traveling in the alluring Europe. We picked a good time of year to go as far as the weather.  It is also the tail end of the tourist season, so we'll miss some of the larger crowding typically found in June - August.

We start out in Paris, only for a few short days, and then head on to Venice for 3 days.  Jackie and Dale leave on the 2nd day for their cruise.  From there James and I head over to the South of France to Nice. We'll do some day trips to Monaco and St. Tropez from there before we rent a car and go to a quaint fishing village of Cassis (see photo).  Cassis will be our restful respite after lots of touring and walking.  We'll be able to meander the small town and hit the beach.  I also hope to take a boat tour of the Calanques, sort of like fjords, that make up the rugged coast line there.

After Cassis we drive up into the mountains in the Provence region.  There we'll stay in a tiny, nearly forgotten town of Les Baux.  Les Baux has ruins of a 12th century castle that was once a regional seat of power.  It was destroyed in 1632 by King Louis XIII.  The city is literally carved into the rock that rises up from the valley floor.  While staying in Les Baux, we'll do day trips to visit the famous Pont du Gard aquaduct, the city of Nimes, Arles, an other nearby towns.

Our next big leg of the trip is down into Spain.  After a quick night in Avignon to catch a 6 a.m. train, we're off to Barcelona.  This is where we catch up with Jackie and Dale who will finish up their cruise there.  I am very excited to see the Modernisme architecture made famous by Gaudi in the late 19th century, and Gaudi's famous  Sagrada Familia, still unfinished (slated for completion in about 50 years).

After Barcelona, we head down to the south of Spain, starting in Granada to see the Alhambra.  We've purchased our tickets to that structure in advance at the advice of several travel gurus.  After Granada we'll head even farther south and check out Gibraltar.  We hope to take the gondola up and then walk down and check out the Apes of Gibraltar.  We then spend the night in Tarifa in order to catch an early morning catamaran ride over to Morocco where we have a tour or Tangier arranged.  Jackie is very adamant about wanting to ride a camel, which we hear is available on the tour. I may opt to be the photographer and watch the others meander herky jerky around on the smelly, lurching behemoths.

The trip is rounded out with a nice stay at a Marriott resort in Malaga before we head on home.  From there I hope we have time to visit one or two of the white villages that dot the Spanish coastal area.  I've seen some really nice videos and pictures of the area so I do find myself conflicted about visiting that or laying on a beach.  I tend to bypass the beach because one can lay on a beach with closed eyes lots of places around the world, even at home, where I can only see these unique sights one place.  Hmmm... which do you think I'll choose?

So that's the trip in a nutshell.  You can see the entire itinerary, if you so choose, by visiting TripIt. You do not have to sign up to view the itinerary.  As usual, I will also blog as we go.  I also hope to post occasionally on Facebook.

Europe Travel Map

Travel Route
 Take a look at our itinerary on the map above as well as check out the details I've made available on TripIt.


The Weird, Odd and Ugly

God told her to move into a house - A woman moved into a new home and forged paperwork to show she owned the house because she said "God told her to".

God told him to go naked - When officers responded to complaints of neighbord, Mohamed reportedly explained to the officers that 'America raped him' and that God had told him to walk around naked in order to save his soul.

Bra Removing Contest - A Chinese shopping mall hosted a competition to find out who could unclasp bras the fastest using just one hand.  Of course, men were removing the bras off of women.

Dubai's Vending Machine that Dispenses...Gold! - You heard it right.  Dubai now has a vending machine dubbed "Gold to Go" where you can purchase gold.

Former French "Heart Throbs" are Beyond Ugly and They Like it! - Now Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff look more like the alien life forms they used to report on Thirty years ago they were the heart-throbs of French television with their own primetime series on science fiction.

One word: WOW


Loose Screw

What was thought to be a loose screw - is not.  My podiatrist decided to take the screw out of my foot thinking it may be loose or catching on ligaments thus causing the inflammation and pain.  Well, I went in on Thursday and he took the screw out.  I asked him to do it in his office because I had a problem with the idea of  paying 10K to go into a hospital for a 45 minute procedure.  He numbed me up and the proceeded to remove the screw.  It turned out it was not loose, rather very much embedded into the bone.  It looks like the screw may have even punched through the bottom of the bone and been causing problems that way.  No wonder the bottom of my foot was sore and swollen each time I ran!

So the screw is out and again I am bandaged up and healing.  My 5K Susan G. Kogem walk is 3 weeks away.  Clearly I won't be running.  I'll be lucky to walk the entire way. But  I am going to do it!

So, no loose screws here, and I hope to be running again soon.


What Did I Do?!

Those of you that have been following me the last few months through cancer and subsequent foot surgery to fix some issues, you know that I've been trying hard to overcome those events with a different mind-set.  I am proud of myself these last few weeks.

My change of heart has been through a test the last 3 weeks.  My foot, while it would ache and swell marginally after a long walk, or when I tried to step it up to run, I would press on.  My stamina has increased as well as my daily desire to actually fit in some kind of workout.  I can't call it guilt, but rather a knowledge that I would feel better, mentally and physically, once I did.  It really works!!  I highly recommend it.

Every workout, whether indoors or outside, includes my iTouch, full of music that moves me:  great beats, inspirational, motivational, and fast paced.  I talk to God during my workouts.  I pray for "my babies" (children and grandchildren), my husband, and thoroughly enjoy simply being thankful to God for my health and ability to even do a workout.  He is so very faithful.  Gone are the days of my lazy workouts where I barely break a sweat, lifting a few 5 or 10 lb weights.  I work hard - really hard.  It feels really good too.

My foot, though tender, was cooperating in general until about 2 weeks ago.  I don't know what happened, but each workout ended with the foot being more sore than usual.  It would start to hurt at night when I slept - actually waking me up.  Then I tweaked it on Wednesday and felt it give.  Now it hurts almost every step of every day.  I have rounded up some old pain pills from the surgery and have had to take those to get it quieted down to even sleep.  Clearly workouts on the elliptical or treadmill are out of the question.  I'm back to only 3 pairs of shoes even fitting.  I called and setup an appointment with my foot doctor for Wednesday.  I also didn't workout Thursday thru Saturday.  It really bothered me to not fit one in. I was very active given some activities planned, but no workout at all had me bummed.

Sunday, I woke up early and decided to try a short .20 mile walk around the neighborhood to see how it would pan out.  It didn't.  I could barely make it all the way around.  Determined, I went into my workout space and decided to craft a workout that would work with my bad foot.  I did it!  I worked out about 45 minutes using weights, and got creative with my workout ball.  Yippee!

I love it that I beat down a very good excuse to not workout and found a way!  I feel like I've turned a critical corner in my journey to healthy living.

So, I don't know what I did to my foot.  I'm concerned given I need it for a variety of reasons.  I'm somewhat worried about the outcome given I have a heavy walking vacation planned for the end of summer.  This same thing happened last time I had foot surgery 10 years ago.  I ended up needing full reconstructive surgery and bone grafts and 8 months on crutches.  I'm praying hard that is not the case again here.

Pray with me.


I'm Going to Whine a Bit Here...

I was at my favorite Sumner restaurant last month with James and I partook of their $5 wine tasting they have on Wednesday nights, or was it a Thursday nights, I forget.  Sorci's is a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant that has great food.  The owner is a wine afficianado and loves to have wine tastings and actually has a huge collection to select from, considering the tiny size of the place.  So this particular Wednesday, or Thursday, his offering was from his sweeter wine selections.  I love sweet wines, so this particular tasting was a go for me.

It was a lovely evening sitting at their antique marble bar (their other 5 tables were full, so we had to sit at the bar that night) enjoying our food and my sweet little tastings. While waiting for our food, I started reading some of the descriptions of the wines that were laying around in various holders there on the bar.  One hit me as particularly hilarious.  I dug in my purse and grabbed my business card and started scribbling the notation down so I would have it for later blogging.  I couldn't pass up the description for the 2007 Catena Malbec.

A sleek, polished style, with alluring mocha and raspberry ganache notes leading the way, backed by dark plum, hoisin sauce and graphite flavors that push through the finish. This has serious weight, but stays focused and driven.  (I didn't make up this punctuation - truly.)

What in the heck does that mean?!!??  Graphite?  Hoisin sauce?  I'm thinking that the vintners were sipping a little too much of the product before creating their little wine-blurb.  Answer me this: how does a wine stay focused and driven?  What does graphite taste like?  Did they throw in some pencils and left over sauce from their lunchtime chinese takeout?

It got me thinking about other descriptors and decided to go do some research.  Here are a few of my favorites that I found off of the Wine Library web site.

2006 Perrin Christins Vacqueyras - Very racy, with lots of red and black currant fruit backed by a great graphite spine. Offers nice hints of licorice, spice and iron on the finish.  Iron?  Graphite spine?

2008 Keller Klaus Westhofen Kirchspiel Riesling Trocken - ...On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very, very pure and seamless, with a rock solid core of fruit, bright acids, superb focus and a classic shape on the very long, racy and laser-like finish. Just a superb bottle in the making.

2005 L'arlot Les Suchots Vosne Romanee - Deep, bright red. Sexy aromas and flavors of bitter cherry, redcurrant, minerals, cocoa powder and flowers. Lush and sweet, with a texture of liquid velvet. Boasts wonderful subtle depth and explosive inner-mouth perfume. A wine of great class and finesse, but also has the strength for a brilliant evolution in bottle. This stains the palate with perfume in a way that just about no pinot made outside Burgundy can imitate.  My palate will be stained; oh dear. I wonder if that will ruin me for other wines in the future; though I would like to find out what liquid velvet tastes like.

2006 Chateau Pape Clement - The dense purple-colored 2006 boasts an extraordinary perfume of lead pencil shavings, creme de cassis, burning embers, and a sensation that can only be described as like walking through a damp forest on a hot, humid day...  Lead pencil shavings?  Burning embers?  Oh,  the walk through the forest sounds nice, unless of course, you're near a marsh with skunk cabbage, or you are in close proximity of some rutting elk; then not so much.

I'm sure there's some wine afficiando out there somewhere who could tell me that some of these words are really important.  There is probably some secret de-coder ring that other wine nuts know about, telling one exactly what to expect from the wine.  But hey, I'm not a wine afficiando.  They sound just plain weird to me.

Everything Hurts

In my inpatient quest to be fit, I've taken up running.  I hurt.  Every muscle, ligament, and bone from my waist down is in some kind of trauma.  My feet hurt (no surprise there).  The small of my back hurts - what's with that?  My left knee twinges every time I put weight on it; and my legs are sore and feel like they weight 100 lbs each (maybe they do?).

Running so far, feels like a love/hate kind of exercise.  Exercise in general is love/hate, but this seems more than normal.  I keep dreaming about the day, months out, when I am trim and vigorous and can run several miles without a second thought.  This is what keeps me going.

I also found a group on Facebook, called Couch-to-5K or C25K that has links to a site: where there is loads of info for runners; new runners in particular.  The Facebook site has been great with people starting out just like me that can offer support and agonize with me.  Pretty cool.

Today during my run, I was listening to my iTouch and a song "I am free to Run" popped on.  In a word: perfect.


Springing into Action

I'm more focused now than I probably have been in...well forever.  At least about fitness and health.  Oh, I worked out plenty in my younger years, but I sure wasn't as motivated as I am now.  Back then it was about being slender and also about the "me" time I could carve out.  Now it is about staying cancer free and active so I can run, jump, and play with my kids and grandkids.  I want to be full of vitality and not, as I see so many around me, too tired out to engage in anything after a long days work.

My stint with cancer which culminated in 6 weeks of tiresome radiaton and then immediately going into 6 weeks lolly-gaggin' around the house with pins in my feet meant that I had gained weight (again).  Within just a few days of having the pins out, I painfully began the walking again, determined to get fit.  I had been doing quite well prior to the surgery, but 6 weeks off my feet meant it was slow going for a while.  Well it is now 6 weeks later and I can pretty much walk as many miles as before.  I have even started to run a little.  I can't run far, mostly because my lungs start burning and my legs get heavy, but each week I know I'll do better.  The weight coming back off has been slow; or at least it feels slow.  But I now I just have to be patient, eat right and keep active and it will slowly come off.  I am determined.

I tried golf again the other day.  I hadn't done that in years.  Even when I did, I stuck mostly with the driving range, getting pretty intimidated when golfing with anyone since it took me a gazillion shots just to make it to the the par 3 hole, the one time I did play on a course.  Well, maybe I'll try again. We'll see.  I noticed that it worked out my midriff muscles pretty good.  I like that idea better than doing sit ups. :)

I am very excited about my upcoming trip in August/September to Europe.  The last time I went was in 2008 with James.  We visited Romania (spent a week helping with some orphanages) then on to fun in Istanbul, Kusadasi (near the Ephesus ruins), Greek Islands, and finally Athens.  This trip will start in Paris, then move to Venice where we'll say goodbye to a couple traveling wtih us (Jackie and Dale).  James and I will move on to the South of France to see Nice, Cannes, Monaco, and the Provence region.  We meet up again with Jackie and Dale in Barcelona, after they get off their cruise ship, and then head on down to the south of Spain to see Granada, Malaga, Gibraltar, Tarifa, and a day trip to Tangiers, Morocco.  All-in-all, a 3 week trip that is sure to be warm, beautiful, full of history and architecture: everything James and I love about traveling.

I have most of our hotel reservations done, the main flights to/from Europe booked, and the only thing that remains are rental car, one hotel, and then some smaller flights and trains between the cities. We typically walk a LOT when we travel, so this getting in shape will be important so we can stay energetic throughout our trip.

I am focused.  I am driven.  I WILL be healthy.  Watch me.


I Have a Weak-End

I know sounds strange; but I got you to look, didn't I?  The weekend is here and I can't even begin to tell you how glad. 

Our IT organization is in the middle of a big re-org.  We're going through layoffs and many were in the management ranks this year.  So now it is the big shuffle (like they don't shuffle all year long for other reasons).  The good new is that I have a better manager.  Our group was suffering pretty badly with a new management recruit that wasn't working out well.  We now have a seasoned manager who seems to be very congenial and lets people hunker down and do their work without throwing wrenches into it every other hour.  It's only been two weeks, but so far, so good.  He's letting me finally do what I've been trained to do: be autonomous and run my projects. Love it.

I have the pleasure of having Judah spend the night with me.  At 1 1/2, he's a bundle of fun.  Ricky and Rosie (my son and daughter-in-law) are finally moving into their new home, so having the energetic toddler at Grandma's should be helpful.  His vocabulary is growing every day by leaps and bounds.  He's a blast to play with.  I also got my pretty Kayla for a few hours too.  She sure is beautiful at 6 months.  I love getting her to belly laugh.  What a joy.

I'm up to 2 miles walking!  Yeah.  I still can't run more than a few steps, bending my feet that much is still painful, but each day it gets better. I suspect I should be able to start in about 2 weeks.  That's my hope anyway.  I would like to wait until a little nice weather (though last week was awesome).

So, week-end: HERE I COME!


So Far So Good

Well 2010 started out challenging but is shaping up nicely, so far.  After subjecting myself to foot surgery only 3 days after finishing my last radiation treatment, I ended up being mostly sedentary until about 2 weeks ago.  I had pins in toes on BOTH feet. Ugh.  What was I thinking?  I couldn't drive, and could only hobble about for the entire six weeks wearing these dorky shoe/boots.  I was fortunate in that my work let me work from home that entire time.  I am very much a home-body, so it didn't bother me at first, but after about 3 weeks I was getting very antsy.

I only have two pairs of shoes I can wear so far, but I can walk.  Prior to my surgery, I was doing regular walks; averaging about 2 - 3 miles a day, 5 days a week.  I went from that to ZERO in a week.  I started up walking again only a few days after the pins were out.  I moved slow, but I started.  Each day I was able to hobble faster and faster.  Now I can go about 1.5 miles before my feet swell up such that my shoes get too tight.  In only about 15 days, I'm about 80%.  I am hoping to get the flexibility back so I can actually start running.  We'll see :)

I am determined to lose the pounds I gained sitting on my duff, so I'm consuming inordinate amounts of vegetables and very lean meats; very low fat, no carbs, and no sugars.  Hopefully the weight will come off OK. It sure does get harder the older one gets.  I'm determined to keep working on my eating habits and minimizing those that contribute to cancer (sugar is a big no-no).

Regarding the cancer?  Well, I have to go back in again in March and have a baseline mammogram.  I then visit my oncologist quarterly for this year and probably 1/2 yearly next year.  They'll do blood tests to make sure the cancer hasn't spread elsewhere and that I'm still good to go (I'm believing I'm going to be just fine). 

I can't express enough how much everyone's support, prayers, cards, phone calls, emails, and hugs have all meant.  I don't now how anyone could get through a cancer diagnosis, or any other debilitating disease, without the support of family and friends.  I met several while doing radiation - they had no one.  My heart goes out to them.

As a result of seeing those lonely souls, I determined to find a way to help them.  I don't know quite how I'll find the right vehicle to do that, but I'm going to be searching.  My first order of action, now that I can walk, is to contact the cancer center here where I was a patient.  I know there are several volunteer groups that work with cancer patients.  I hope to get that activity started within the next 60 days. (Goals are a good thing to have.)

Thank you everyone for listening to my fears and helping me through the struggle of last fall.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Love Tons,