On The Road Again To…Warsaw!

Last month I shared with you my adventures in Prague. On that trip I also went to Warsaw.

Warsaw was… better than I expected. It has a terrible wartime past but it also has a beautiful Old Town and lots of fascinating history.

For instance, did you know that the Polish composer Frederic Chopin was so afraid of being buried while still alive that on his deathbed (he had tuberculosis and died at age 39 in 1849) he made his sister promise to cut out his heart to make sure he was really dead?  So… Chopin’s body is buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris (along with Jim Morrison of The Doors) but his heart was sent back to Poland, and is eternally encased in this pillar in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. Fascinating!

Warsaw is a very Catholic city, and has many beautiful churches…


And also, like Prague, Warsaw has some fabulous architecture…


It was also fascinating to see the Barbican, the ancient city gate and battlements (built around 1548) that protected Warsaw…  The walls have been painstakingly restored.

Front biew
Walls and old moat

Arrow slit
Warsaw is also the home of the astronomer Copernicus…

And here is the old Royal Castle…

Readers of this blog know I’m obsessed with (er, I’m a really big fan of) the Rolling Stones. So the highlight of Warsaw for me just might have been seeing this… In one of the Old Town squares, a husband-and-wife team built marionettes/puppets of the Stones, and had them “dancing” to the Stones’ music. Pretty good likeness, right???  LOL.

This is just a quick look at my 3-day stay in Warsaw. Hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse of this beautiful city and consider putting it on your bucket list!


What’s an Aperol Spritz? It’s Your New Favorite Drink!

Recently, I was in Europe at an evening party with my husband. The alcohol was freely flowing, but I didn’t want to get buzzed because there were a number of people I wanted to speak with. So I asked the bartender if he could make me something “light.” He took one look at my jacket (which was orange, red, black and yellow) and brought me a red-orange drink in a pretty stemmed glass, which he called an Aperol Spritz.

Little did I know it’s the trendiest drink in Europe. (And soon-to-be in the U.S. too, is my prediction.)

Aperol is a citrusy bitter liqueur that has been popular in Italy since the 1950s, but this summer its popularity seems to have spread like wildfire. Literally every person I stopped to speak with at the party said, “That’s an Aperol Spritz!” and seemed dumbfounded when I admitted I had never heard of it before.

The attention-grabbing orange liqueur is combined with either white wine or prosecco or champagne, and topped off with a splash of tonic water or club soda. Customizable to your own taste!

Now that I’m back in the U.S. (and asking friends about my new favorite drink) I’m finding out that an Aperol Spritz almost as popular in California and New York as it is in Europe. I understand someone has even created a frozen version, like a slushie!

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the spike in Aperol consumption is in line with a rising demand in the U.S. for herbal bitter liqueurs. Traditionally, these bitters have been produced in Europe, but now, American-made versions are taking off in popularity.

So… give this orange-y bubbly low-alcohol drink a try. It’s very refreshing on a hot summer day, and it just might become your new favorite drink! It's definitely mine.


On The Road Again To… Prague!

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited (and readers of this blog know I’ve traveled a lot)! History has it Prague was spared from bombing during World War II because it is so spectacular.

Prague’s Old Town Square is one of several highlights… 

Here's the Church of Our Lady before Tyn with its spectacular twin spires...

There's beautiful architecture, everywhere you look…

And below is Prague’s famous medieval astronomical clock. It was designed by clockmaster Jan Růže (also called Hanuš) around 1490. My tour guide recounted the story that the astronomical clock was such an impressive and beautiful piece of work that the Prague City Council was so jealous Hanuš was getting offers from other European cities to create similar clocks that the Council kidnapped Hanuš and gouged out his eyes so that he couldn’t create another masterpiece!! However, Hanuš – now blind and knowing his career was over – got his revenge by climbing to the top of the clock tower and throwing himself into the gears, killing himself but disabling the clock for more than 100 years!  (The clock IS beautiful... at certain times of day, little carved figures come out and parade around to mark the hour.)

The other major site in Prague is the Charles Bridge, named after King Charles IV who founded Prague (modeling it after Paris).  The Charles Bridge is pedestrian-only (since it was built in the 1300’s) and statues of saints and apostles line the bridge…

Statue of King Charles IV at the entrance to the Charles Bridge

You can see the statues of saints and apostles lining the bridge (above)…
There are quite a few bridges that cross the Vltava river.  This shot (below) actually DOES remind me of Paris!

Catholics believe the Infant of Prague (a statue located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious, said to originally been owned by St. Theresa of Avila) can grant miracles.  We all know someone who needs a miracle, so I stopped to say a prayer…

Remember I said King Charles modeled Prague after Paris? It seems tourists who come here are trying to make it more like Paris by “locking” their love to a railing near the Vltava river, then throwing the key into the water so that love lasts forever (i.e. it can’t be unlocked)…

I leave you with this spectacular picture of Prague at night…

Prague should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list! It is a beautiful city.  I'll have pictures of Warsaw next month!


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10 Things We Can Learn From Our Dog

It’s hard to concentrate on work (writing or otherwise) on lazy, hot summer days. I just want to be rocking in a hammock with a glass of iced tea! So today I’m taking a break and blogging about something totally different.

Recently I was reading the morning newspaper (yes, GULP, I still actually read a newspaper) and saw this sweet list I wanted to share with you:

10 Things My Dog Taught Me
-There is great beauty in the quiet stillness. Let it envelop you.
-Sniff it. Touch it. Feel it. Taste it. Hear it. Engage all your senses in the world around you.
-Plunge In! You can always get out and shake it off.
-Don’t be afraid. Just stand your ground (and bark when necessary).
-Trust that most people have an innate goodness.
-Forgive fully, then let it go.
-Love is unconditional. If it has conditions, it isn’t really love.
-Accept the inevitable with peace and grace (even if it’s a trip to the vet).
-It’s okay to feel sadness, but remember that joy is just a moment (or squirrel chase) away.
-Live in the moment. Embrace it. Feel it. Become it. Share it. Then repeat for all the moments that follow. Life is not about the quantity of moments; it’s about the quality of moments.
(Thanks to Dana Riley for this list.)

Powerful words to live by! So remember to savor every moment of your summer…


What’s Your "80/20" Number?

I read a fascinating article by a woman named Noelle Nelson that I want to share with you, because it can apply not only to writers, but to everyone in the world. How’s this for a fascinating fact:

Most of us spend 80% of our time on things that really don't matter and only 20% of our time on the things that really do matter.

WHAT, you say? Well, there's a concept in economics called "Pareto's Law," or the "80/20 Rule." In a nutshell, a 19th century economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noticed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land, and similarly that 20% of his peapods produced 80% of his peas. Much later, Joe Juran, looking to improve factory production during WWII, realized that 20% of the factories were responsible for 80% of all defective parts, and vice-versa.

What could the "80/20 Rule" possibly have to do with you? Simply put, most of us spend 80% of our time on things that really don't matter all that much to us, and only 20% of our time on the things that really matter. Huh . . .

Ask yourself, who do you spend the most time with? The people who uplift you, support you, cherish you? Or those who bore you, annoy you, cause you endless irritation or grief? What do you spend most of your time doing? Complaining, blaming, feeling sorry for yourself? Or praising, appreciating, finding value in what you do? How about activities? Do you spend most of your free time in activities that engage you, inspire you, thrill you? Or do you just go with whatever flow happens to, well, flow at the moment? Facebook, TV, surfing the web . . .

It dawned on Noelle that she’d rather work a little longer/harder to earn some extra bucks (given that she really enjoyed her work, like we writers enjoy our writing), so she could pay a house-cleaner to clean her home, an activity she did not enjoy. And when given the option of taking a dance class rather than spending an hour on the couch watching a TV program, the appeal of a dance class won out. Dancing is now on her list of "top things she loves."

What's your percent? When you sit down and honestly assess with whom and where you spend your time—which is the same thing as saying "with whom and where you spend your life?"—what's your 80/20? Noelle suggests that we deliberately cut out or reduce those things that don’t give you joy, so that more and more of your time is spent in the 80% of stuff you really like to do.

Take a look at your friends and social life, including your social media life. She suggests we deliberately reduce or cut out the time we spend with those who don’t make our “things I love” list. 

It may sound odd to take such a calculated approach to life, but time really is all we have. How and with whom we choose to spend that time very much defines how happy we are in life. So stop for a few minutes to consider your “80/20” and you might just change your life!

P.S. I am taking Noelle’s advice to heart. Readers of this column know how much I love to travel, so I just surfed the web for some cheap airline flights, and it looks like I’ll be travelling to Prague and Warsaw at the end of June! 

Now THAT makes me happy!!

Until next month,

Birthday Celebration Time!

Garden pictures, birthday flowers from my son, and a composite I did of the dandelion and fairy.

My SIL and I have a birthday celebration today!
Have a great one!

“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy is reality.”
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