Category Archives: grandkids

Florence – Day 8

Morning terrace time for me until our happy group’s ready to head out. Before we do, I walk in our Kat and our housekeeper discussing the dishwasher. This discussion is in Italian on the housekeeper’s part. It’s adorable to watch (even join in a little) as they communicate, or try, in two different languages. With some help from Google Translate on Kat’s phone.

Everyone’s cheerful about it, and somehow the gist of the issue gets across.

We part ways with Kat and Griffin as the rest of us aim for the Duomo. Lots of other people have the same idea, but the line’s not as long—plus it’s moving at a good pace.

Look up! Photo by Kayla.

It’s beautiful, the vivid colors in the stained glass windows, the elegance of marble, the towering ceilings. I imagine attending Mass there would be an experience. The smaller chapels on the sides are closed off to the public right now, and that’s a shame because I remember them as really lovely.

Candles lit. Photo by BW.

I love the look of the groupings of flickering candles, and have to hit BW up for a two Euro coin as I’ve forgotten my little change purse—again—so I can light one.

Soaring ceilings. Photo by j a-b
Altar. Photo by BW.

We leave the flickering light and quiet of the Duomo for the bold sun and crowds. Kayla missed breakfast, so why not think about lunch? Maybe a new place, new area. BW thinks of the area with the carousel, and that could be fun. A text to Kat to give her our direction, and I follow along, as I have no idea how to get where we’re going.

And here we are at the big piazza with its happy carousel and several restaurants to choose from. And here, almost as we arrive, are Kat and Griffin. We choose a big, open-air place and settle in. Our choice bustles with the lunch crowd, with family groups like ours. Kayla spies a huge calzone going by on a plate and wants one for her own. Pizza, pasta, wine, Fantas, water both still and sparkling.

Kayla’s calzone—just sauce and cheese for our vegetarian—is the biggest I’ve ever seen, and that lean, lanky girl does it justice. It’s sort of amazing. And oh, to have that metabolism!

Calzone bigger than the plate. Photo by Kayla.
More sedate pasta. Photo by BW.

We top off lunch with a trip on the carousel. We figure fifty-fifty that Griffin will go for it, but he does, and has a very happy ride with Mommy, with his cousin on a horse behind them.

Grandda captures the fun. Video by BW.
She’s thrilled to pose! Photo by Nora.

As we start to wander back—some for a quick market trip—Kayla reminds me of a very specific shop where she has a very specific gift in mind, so we split off. I have complete confidence in her ability to get us to the shop, then get us home.

It’s not misplaced.

It’s fun to watch her shop as she always has a vision for what the recipient likes, will enjoy, and she finds just the thing.

And look here, another shop just next door. Platform Converse! In we go as this gives Nana a very specific gift for Christmas for her girl. I would also love a pair, but my toe will strongly object to the trying on process. Another time for me. So white platform Converse and a pair of pretty Nike’s will be tucked away in the One More Room until Christmas.

Christmas gift goal met. Photo by Nora.

Kayla sweetly buys her Nana a raspberry gelato. And oh, my, my!

Home again where our gang is spread out through the flat. Foot up while I catch up on what’s happening in the world on my tablet. It’s mostly not good, so maybe I’ll crush some candy instead.

And maybe I’ll just stretch out here while Kat and Kayla (with Griffin an enthusiastic audience) go through many Mario games on the Switch. It’s a happy way to pass a couple hours. To add to the gaming adventure, Griffin likes to climb on the arm or back of the sofa then leap down on it. With sound effects.

Danger is his business.

This gives Nana palpitations, so she stops watching.

Griffin requests toast. Then more toast. Danger is also a hungry business.

Before long, it’s after seven and time to go out and find a spot for dinner. Continuing the danger theme Kat swerves and jiggles the stroller to entertain Griffin while we walk a narrow, empty street toward a piazza.

Danger Guy isn’t happy when we all settle down at a table. What kind of adventure is this??? DG must be on the move! So his partner gives Jason her order, and off they go.

Salads and soups—minestrone—pesto pasta, spaghetti bolognese, chicken parm-and some grilled chicken for the adventuring boy.

Dinner time! Photo by BW.

A breeze comes up, becomes a light wind. And that’s lovely for a solid, relaxing meal.

Now a day of Danger and Adventure has tired DG out. Bedtime, he says, hopefully. As someone who raised toddlers I find it amazing he’s not only willing, but hopeful to call it a day.

His parents take him off to make this happen while the rest of us linger a bit longer.

By the time we get back, Daddy’s finished his part of the nighttime ritual, and Kat’s not far behind. Danger Guy is down and out.

Kat sits and knits. She’s making knitted—soft yarn—breast inserts for women who’ve had mastectomies. [Ed note: for more info go to Knitted Knockers.]

Kayla’s using her phone to research and help plan a weekend birthday trip for her younger brother—Lego Land (Lego World?) in NY. Colt will be 12, and as she says, he never asks for anything. She Face Times him to make sure this is something he wants, so we all get to say hi.

Between FT and texts back and forth with their mom—and to Kayla’s boyfriend who’ll join them—the trip’s planned. The girl is good.

And now it’s bedtime even for those of us who try to avoid danger.

Quiet this morning as Griffin hasn’t yet joined me. It may be that he woke somewhere in the middle of the night and tried to talk his parents into a party. It happens.

Since cardio’s still off the table, I may try some mat work, then that morning terrace time.

Don’t know what, if anything, on the agenda for today. We’ll take it as it comes.


Today’s #randomkatness/Street Art Division.

And #kaylaseesasign (2!)

Florence – Day 7

A hearty breakfast for Griffin as Daddy offers Italian sausage, toast, cherries. He mows through the sausage, and asks for more.

A little morning reading on the terrace since working out is off the table. Ace Atkins’ realization of the late, great Robert Parker’s Spenser. For those who asked I read What We Harvest, Ann Fraistat—a friend of Jason’s—and her debut YA novel.

There’s a bird nearby who whistles like a human. It’s not the pigeon who comes to stand on the wisteria-smothered pergola, but I look up from my book to watch him apparently hunt for insects. He keeps slipping, flapping wings to regain his balance. Then it’s peck furiously in the wisteria, slip, flap, repeat.

He either gets enough or decides it’s not worth the flapping, and flies off.

I think my stupid toe’s up for a little outing before our big Uffuzi outing later, so off we go to wander. It feels good to be out again, soak up a little sun, a little shopping, and lots of Florentine sights and sounds.

Fountain of Neptune by Barolomeo. Photo by j a-b.

The buildings are so beautiful, the heat-soaked colors, the red tiles, as you go from wide, crowded streets to quiet, narrow ones. Bells chime as we go, and they say: Lunch.

Pasta for me today, and a perfect choice. Griffin, with a tummy full of sausage, glazes over and naps while the rest of us eat. And while we eat, what must be a school field trip swarms. They’re so cute!! Chanting and singing and obviously delighted with themselves and the day. The rest of us dig out memories of our own field trips.

Basic lunch. Photo by j a-b.

After lunch we detour to the big building with its bell tower on the edge of the piazza. I can’t remember the full details BW told us from the guide he read, but back in the ago, a monk stirred up the population to displace (temporarily) the Medicis. Then he took over that building, made it his home. Until the population turned on him, and he ended up burned at the stake.

At least he had a lovely home before going crispy.

We part ways with Kat who heads off to a yarn store she spotted. She plans to take Griffin, when and if he wakes, to an interactive DiVinci exhibit while the rest of us tour the Uffuzi. We head home first, and I put my foot up.

Oh, thanks to whoever told me about the Voltaren gel. Found it, used it. It works!*

Thanks to Jason who once again obtains our tickets on line then gets the paper ones, and we’re in, shuffling along, giving my foot a workout with steps. More steps. Hey, an elevator!

Laocoon and His Sons. Photo by j-ab
Body in action. Photo by Nora.

And here we are, that long, long, wide hall lined with Roman sculptures with rooms off it holding paintings. Pre-Renaissance, that fascinating flat style, all gilded. Madonna and Child are the most popular images. I wonder what churches or homes they came from, and isn’t it amazing we can stand and admire them centuries later. Look up, and the curved ceilings offer more art.

Coronation of the Virgin by Anna Maria Lorenzoni. Photo by j a-b.
Ceilin with grotescques by Alessandro Allori, Antoni Tempesta, et al. Photo by j a-b.

We wander, absorb, room-by-room, then the Botticelli’s show the evolution of styles, the light, the movement, the dimension and details. Religious imagery abounds, BVM and Child—who almost always has the face of a middle-aged man (as Jason points out). Odd to me are the works that show an adult John The Baptist with Toddler Jesus, but I suppose they’re allegories, symbolic.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Photo by j a-b
Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. Photo by j-ab

And there she is. The Birth Of Venus, just as glorious as I remember from our visit years ago. Everything about that work is magnificent. And what a difference to see it, really see it, rather than a poster, a photo.

(from l-r)The Discovery of the Body of Holofernes by Botticelli. The Return of Judith to Bethulia by Botticelli. Photo by Nora.
Fortitude by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by j a-b.
The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by BW.

I’m pleased to see my personal favorite, the sad, baffled face of the arrow-struck Saint Sebastian as we wander.

And here’s DiVinci, and oh, here’s genius in every brush stroke. Now Michelangelo, and more genius. The use of color, the brilliance of it, the magic pull of light created with paint and stunning talent. I feel blessed to be able to actually stand so close, and to share that with Kayla.

Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by j a-b
Doni Tondo by Michelangelo. Photo by BW

There’s more, so much. There’s the head of The Baptist on a platter. He looks resigned. Here’s Venus with Cupid, an odd couple when Cupid’s the little guy. Portraits of serene-faced women, stern-faced men. And lots of the BVM—The Annunciation, the Madonna, the Assumption.

Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza by Piero della Francesca. Photo by Nora.

We spend nearly two hours before Kayla, my toe and I call it. We’ll meet the guys back home.

The Uffizi Gallery. Photo by BW.
A view from above. Photo by BW.

They wind you out through the gift shop, of course, so when we get out, both of us are turned around. We head one way, stop, second guess ourselves, double back. Learn as we approach the Arno we should’ve trusted our first instinct. Double back again, and my toe’s not happy with me.

But the girl’s directional skills wind us back, and it’s home. Foot up!

Despite all the walking (and stairs!!) the bruising’s fading fast and the swelling’s actually down some.

Kat got her yarn—gorgeous!—Griffin got his first exposure to DiVinci, and we can hang out awhile. We had some plumbing issue in the morning in Kayla and Griffin’s bathrooms—apparently they share a Y thing. Anyway, the housekeeper called the plumber, and all fixed. But he left a dirty towel and some dirt besides in Kayla’s room.

There’s da Vinci, then there’s Super Mario. Photo by Kat.

Kat, also the best aunt in the world of aunts, cleaned and sanitized.

In her role of best dil, she makes me an ice pack.

Dinner! Close by with my toe in mind. This is the place of the earlier cheesecakes. Our waiter is Gianni, and delightful. Kayla and I both order side salads with our main—pizza for me, fettucini (I think) for her. I don’t know whose sides they came from because HUGE. And fresh as a stolen kiss. How about some Chianti with that?

Don’t mind if I do.

Another lovely meal on another lovely evening, though after the salad, I barely manage half of my lovely pizza—but that leaves room for vanilla gelato with strawberries. Many strawberries, so I share.

Then Gianni offers complimentary meloncino. Not a melon fan, so I pass, but Jason downs his, then mine, like shots.

BW’s dessert and cappuccino. Photo by BW.

A short walk home, a short hang-out time, then bed.

More wiggle in the toe this morning—if not I’d’ve sucked up a visit to the ER, but definitely more wiggle. So we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and not doing what we’re not doing.

I miss my workouts!!

Griffin and Jason have joined me, and there is hilarity in Cookie Swirl’s visit to Grandpa’s very strange house.

BW’s up, too, and Jason’s making Griffin’s breakfast. I might share the morning video amusement, then take my book onto the terrace.


Today’s #randomkatness.

#randomkatness – circle division. Photo by Kat
#randomkatness – street art division. Photo by Kat.

* Ed note: that’s Laurie Herman on the JD Robb FB page with a second from me. ~Laura

Florence – Day 6

I remain on the IL, but a day of mostly foot up brings improvement. Nobody seems to mind a primarily easy day. I spend a large part of it reading out on the terrace. Jason, Kat, Kayla and Griffin head to the market for more milk, fruit and whatever. BW straps on his camera for a walk about.

Settled in for the day. Photo by Kat.
Exterior niche Orsanmichele Church. Photo by BW.
South side of Duomo through BW’s eyes (and camera).

Jason and Kat brought their Switch, so they hook it up. Game time! Which entertains the participants and Griffin as on-looker. Hanging out, conversation, cheering on the gamers passes the day.

Cousins. Photo by Kat.

Kat and I discuss titles for the next In Death I’m working on in my head (just my head right now). Our fun favorite, Comeuppance In Death won’t make the cut—nor will He Had It Coming In Death, but we make our own fun. A year or so from now, you’ll be able to see what did make the cut.

Birthday girl and family. Photo by Kat.

We opt for dinner at the nearby place I had my famous steak. It’s the same restaurant where Griffin had a sad followed by a solid sleep. He does exactly the same this time. It actually works out well as Kat can now enjoy her birthday dinner without tending a toddler.

We arrive right after 7–and there’s only one other table occupied. 7-ish is about time for our American stomachs, but early for Florence. Kat actually has a splash of wine!

Birthday dinner table. Photo by BW.

I’d thought pasta for me, but decide on their grilled chicken, which is just marvelous. And we have a fine time being out in the warm evening.

Dessert choice is unanimous, and it’s tiramisu all around—with a candle in Kat’s. We sing Happy Birthday, very quietly, as we have a family pact regarding overt restaurant birthdays. No singing waiters allowed!

Birthday tiramisu. Photo by BW.

The dessert choice proves most excellent, as does the full round of cappuccinos.

Back home, and sleepy Griffin goes right down. More hang out time for us. Kat makes me another ice bag. Best dil ever. Still pretty swollen, but the bruising’s going down, and I can wiggle it just a little—seems better to me.

A lazy day into a lazy evening then bedtime.

Definitely less bruising this morning, and it seems like less swelling. Still very stiff though, so I have to be smart and skip working out for at least one more day. Griffin’s up after a solid night’s sleep. Daddy’s fixes his breakfast, and he’s again sharing his hilarity with his breakfast videos with Nana.

Some of us—not Griffin—are booked for the Uffuzi this afternoon. I really think my toe can take it. Maybe, with luck, a bit more walking around.


Not a #randomkatness, but a sweet Griffin photo.

Florence – Day 5

Bells ring in Sunday, and we’re off for our walk to the Pitti Palace. It’s a short hike though the crowds at Ponte Vecchio are thick even on a Sunday morning. Jason got our tickets on line, and the deal is you transfer those to physical tickets on arrival.

Roar. Photo by Nora.

You have to wonder what life was like living in this massive palace back in the day. There a very distressed-looking lion carving, and it seems he’s had enough of it all. Then there’s the massive courtyard inside, and Jason and I agree we’d enjoy such a space, with rooms opening out to it.

Garden view. Photo by Nora.

We’re advised—and thanks to the ticket taker—to do the gardens first before the heat on the day, and we’re directed around and about for a flatter entryway for the stroller. It’s still a challenge to maneuver it and its passenger over loose gravel. Then there’s the steep, steep incline which Kat manages and Griffin enjoys as it’s Up, Up, Up!!

Gravel is fun! Photo by j-ab.

Up, around, up more for our first gorgeous view where the city spreads out below and the mountains rise behind it. All those sun-baked colors, the red roofs, the domes and towers make a hell of a picture a camera can’t truly capture.

Florence view from Pitti Palace. Photo by Nora
Photo by Kayla.
Photo by j -ab
Kayla approved? Photo by Nora.

Then it’s up, up and up some more. If any of the residents regularly walked the gardens they must’ve had calves like stone and well-tuned hamstrings. It’s worth it for the views that never seem to end. At the top of each long stretch of stairs you can see forever, and thick green hedges, tall, thin cypress, huge old twisted trees line the walkways.

Group shot!

Up more stairs, curving ones, and we reach the top and the brave flowers that fight the unseasonal heat. Pictures here, and pictures there, take in the views after our long climb.

In the gardens – Nora’s happy place. Photo by Nora.

There are ways around for strollers, wheelchairs, but they’re not easy, and they’re longer. Griffin’s treated to a carry-down in his stroller by his parents. And LOVES it.

We pause awhile, a bench in the shade by a very interesting sculpture. And Griffin has some olives—a favorite—and a cookie.

Taking a look. Photo by Kat.

Down and down some more on the stroller-coaster ride, and that is, no question, the boy’s favorite part of the outing.

Photo by Kayla.

Into the slightly cooler palace now. Griffin and Company take the lift, the rest of us the stairs. A lot more stairs. And into the world of art. Glorious paintings, some massive, some small, and the light in them is magic. Heavy on the religious art, of course, and many paintings of the BVM and Baby Jesus. Saints and sinners abound, as well as portraits of serious-looking men and women.

Photo by j a-b.

The rooms themselves are art with their curved ceilings covered with murals, the marble, the ornate doors, gorgeous inlaid tables. You could wander for hours and still be struck with wonder moment by moment.

Photo by Kayla.
Photo by Kayla.
Photo by Kayla.
Photo by kayla.
Photo by BW.

We do a lot of that wandering, then Griffin spots a huge urn. To him, it’s a trophy and he wants it for his own. I can’t blame him.

Photo by Kayla.

We cut our palace tour short. With the hiking, the heat, the close air inside and the crowds, we decide to break for lunch—and sitting down.

Through more crowds and to a table in the restaurant where we had dinner our first night. And it is lovely to sit. Have food, drink wine, and water, water, more water.

Perfect pizza. Photo by kayla.

We also make a plan. We’ll head home, refresh, then the girls will head out to the stalls to make serious inroads in our shopping agenda.

Amothe the leather stalls. Photo by kat.

We do just that, and with great success all around.

It’s so colorful there, all the scarves, the bags, the belts, the leather jackets. Three females on a mission can get a lot accomplished. We’re loaded and satisfied on our walk back.

I decide it’s Bellini time on the terrace—seems fair. However, it doesn’t turn out that way. A cord’s on the floor in front of the door and somehow finds its way between my big toe and the next. Yanks hard. I catch myself—that’s good—but the cord’s dislocated my toe! Doesn’t hurt much really, but it doesn’t look right either. I go to sit on the terrace, elevate it while Kat fixes me an ice bag. While she’s at it, I decide to see if I can wiggle the toe. Hear and feel it pop back in place. But that little piggy’s had some trauma. Ice, ibuprofen, elevation.

Doesn’t take long for the bruising to show.

No walking out and about for me, so dinner in.

Jason, Kayla and BW head out to pick up some salads, sandwiches, pasta. Stupid toe’s stiff and some swollen. No racing with Griffin tonight!

Still, a nice little family dinner a fresco and a lazy evening at home—with some gelato that Jason goes out to bring back.

This morning, there’s swelling, stiffness and spreading bruising, so no morning workout, which I resent!

But Griffin comes out as I write this, and I take a pause to join his hilarity in his very strange Cookie Swirl video. You can’t be too cranky when a kid’s gut-laughing beside you.

I’ll surely have to pamper this toe today, so maybe hang out, read a book or start playing with one of my own.

We’ll find something fun today because it’s: Happy Birthday, Kat Day!!

Tons of love to the best daughter-in-law in the history of daughters-in-law!


Bruce sent a video tour of the flat which I’ll share at a later date. Somehow he wound his way to this guy. ~Laura

BW and Mao.

Florence – Day 4

Since we don’t head out until about noon, our plan is: Duomo, lunch, shopping. Kat and Griffin will catch up with us at lunch as navigating Duomo crowds with a stroller and toddler seems unwise.

Afternoon light at Palazzo Vecchio with outside David. Photo by Kayla.

We’ve got a bright, hot day, and a pleasant if seriously crowded walk. I hadn’t taken Saturday into the equation, figuring for tourists every day is Saturday. But when we arrive at the Duomo, we find this is clearly false as the line to get in stretches, stretches, wraps and goes on.

On the shady side of the street. Photo by Nora.
Dress day. Photo by BW
Look up! Photo by Kayla.

Though it’s moving reasonably well, we decide to try on a weekday. I imagine with Covid, they’ve limited the access—only so many inside at a time. So lunch after a little shop wandering sounds good.

The intrepid Kat and the much-more-rested Griffin find us, no problem.

Alternate use for a bottle opener. Photo by Kat.

After last night’s feast, I opt for a salad, and it’s just the thing. It’s a lively outdoor spot under a canvas roof with misters whirling to beat the heat. I’m fine with the heat, but the misters are lovely. When I order a glass of wine, the waiter asks if I’m over 18–and tells BW he’s a lucky man.

Lunch alfresco. Photo by Nora.
Nora and Kat. Photo by Nora.
Perfect plate. Photo by Kayla.

Guess who’s going to get a very nice tip!

More wandering—it really is a pretty day—then gelato!

Daily Gelato. Photo by Kayla.

It’s the girls and Griffin for shopping time. We have purchases to pick up at the leather shop, and Kat has somehow remembered a shoe shop I really liked on our last visit—nine years, but she remembers. And I score some pretty red sandals while Kat scores another gift.

I’ve been steadily crossing off names on my Christmas list and feel I’ve done a good shopping job in that area. We poke here, poke there, and I now have targets for the rest of my list.

Lego Vespa. Photo by Kayla.

We wind our way back home for a lazy early evening, and decide to put our leftovers together for a dinner on our terrace. The always dependable Jason heads out to the market for a couple things, and Kat and I organize our smorgasbord. BW’s working on photos on the second floor, Kayla’s watching TicTok on her phone, and Griffin’s very entertained with videos on his IPad. As every toddler ever he can watch the same thing a dozen times with equal hilarity.

Abduction of a Sabine Woman by Giambologna. Photo by BW
Slow reveal at Palazzo Vecchio. Video by BW.
Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by BW

I enjoy he likes to share that hilarity and often join him so we can give each other amazed looks, echo each other’s WOWs! Or Oh Nos!

The whole gang joins in on getting plates, etc, and we lay out our spread. A little meat? You got it. Some pasta, no problem. Pizza’s right here. Plenty of salad and veg. There’s music playing somewhere, and that drifts up. Bells ring, dusk slides in.

Buffet dinner at the flat. Photo by Nora.

A perfect little family meal.

Kat and Kayla deal with clean up, so I’ll have another glass of wine, enjoy some conversation with my guys, and amuse myself with Griffin.

Griffin decides to amuse himself with Kayla and challenges her to the evening race. Or it may be a chase tonight as Kat turns out to be his home base while the foyer stands as finish line. I join in for awhile. Then it’s back to the iPad for Griffin, Nana and Kayla where he clicks and swipes ten-twenty second previews with abandon.

His parents issue his One-More-Episode warning before bedtime. But he’s crafty and doesn’t settle on one, just click, swipe, laugh or Oh No! He does understand the rule, however, and when it’s bedtime, goes off without a fuss.

I’m not far behind him.

We’re heading out early (for us) today to explore the Pitti Palace and its amazing gardens. Fond memories here, and it’ll be nice to make new ones with Kayla and Griffin along.

After that, we’ll see what the day offers.


And now, a selection of photos that didn’t fit the narrative – Laura

In the lobby of the building – as per BW. Photo by BW
Palazzo Vecchio, Bruce’s version. Photo by BW.
Moody view. Photo by j a-b

And of course, some #randomkatness – which is more random? You decide.

Truly, #randomkatness. Or is it #randomartinflorence? Photo by Kat.
Astrological belt. Photo by Kat.

Florence – Day 3

It’s all about shopping, and eating.

First stop, the market. Fruit, bread—and a surprising score of peanut butter that makes Jason very happy. How about some jelly with that? Drinks including oat milk for Kayla.

The plan is the guys will take the groceries back, and the rest of us will hit the Ponte Vecchio for that shopping. It’s crowded, but the display windows do sparkle. It’s fun to look, and more fun to eventually buy. And of course, we stop for pictures on the bridge of the lovely Arno.

Ponte Santa Trinita photo competition! Photo by Kat.
Kayla’s entry.
Bruce’s entry.

I give Kat and Kayla full props for a much better sense of direction than mine—which isn’t hard—but they both really handle the twists, turns. And we wind our way to the leather shop where Kat has a pick up.

It’s wonderful! More scores there, plus a quick tour of the work area, which is fascinating.

Not quite #randomkatness. Balconies, flowers and vines. Photo by Kat.

We run into our guys who stepped out for a walk-around and decide: Lunch time.

Griffin’s mildly cranky—honestly for a three-year old who’s been plucked out of routine, shipped across the ocean and time zones—hauled around, etc, he’s been remarkably cheerful. And the crankiness vanishes when French fries appear.

Lovely wine, lovely food—Jason got a large Fanta. I think it was a solid half gallon. We hear thunder toward the end of the meal, and get a few drops of rain. In this unexpected heat, it feels pretty good.

A girl and her Nana. Photo by someone using Kayla’s phone.

Then back home for a respite. That equals a little terrace time for me.

I decide I’ll take my passport—which I forgot earlier—back to the shop where I scored a good chunk of Christmas gifts. I need it for the tax back deal. Ponte Vecchio is only two turns. My companions are unsure about me wandering on my own, so they install Google Maps, with a tracker so they can find me, on my phone.

Fortunately, I have no problem—even my shaky sense of direction can handle making two left turns going, two right on return—but I appreciate the concern. And I score two more gifts on my journey.

Some napping’s happening when I get back, so it seems like a find time for a Bellini.

Siesta time. Photo by Kayla

Kayla wants more Instagram shots, and I am the official photographer (in-training). Out we go. And here, my girl’s directional acuity far outreaches mine. I would have wandered lost for close to ever after we hunt for the perfect street to match her vision.

The first Nana-taken, Kayla-approved Insta image of the trip. Photo by Nora.

The streets, the buildings are all just lovely, but not quite the thing to match that vision, until one does.

The second Nana-taken, Kayla-accepted IG shot. Photo by Nora

I truly have no idea how she knew the way back, but am grateful to know if she should find herself alone in some unfamiliar city, she’d handle it.

The eye is always drawn up. Photo by Kayla.

She also spied a likely spot for dinner, and when that time comes, leads us back. Sadly, the little spot turned out to be lunch only. But there’s another steps away. A little outdoor area in a kind of alley. And it’s simply fantastic.

Now Griffin’s just sad. What am I doing here? I’m hot, I’m tired, I don’t know what I want. He makes sad noises—no temper, no tantrum, just sad. He holds Kat’s hand (with his monster school bus in his other) as she talks softly to him. And Mommy talks him to sleep. It’s so sweet, and he slept through the meal, through the walk home, and went straight to bed on return.

Tired bambino. Photo by Nora.
In dreamland, still holding his mama’s hand. Photo by Kat.

I’d planned to get a salad, some fries. But their specialty is Steak Florentine, and if you’re a meat-eater and in Florence, you absolutely must have Steak Florentine. I order the small portion. Perhaps I should’ve been forewarned by the size of Jason’s lunchtime Fanta.

Kayla, Nora (with a steak as big as Griffin — she’s never going to eat it all) and BW. Photo by j a-b

I’m served enough steak to feed a family of five, and their little dog, too.

Nora’s bistecca. She will eat leftovers for days. Photo by Nora.
BW’s more sedate ravioli. Photo by BW.

Jason’s wisely ordered that salad and fries, so I cut a chunk off for him, another chunk off for BW. I tuck in pretty well because OMG beyond delicious—and still have enough left-over to feed a a trio of hungry people.

The salad option. Photo by j a-b.

Plans for after-dinner gelato are postponed as everyone is stuffed.

I miss my night-time race with Griffin as he’s zonked, but we did get a brief one in during the afternoon.

Today’s sort-of-plan is a return to the Duomo to go inside, then more shopping—I have my own plan there. We have enough left-overs in our fridge to make a meal here if we opt to do that.

Now I’m going to work out, and hopefully work off some of that steak.


Kayla’s on a mission: to find as many Clet Abraham street signs as possible. #kaylaseesasign Photo by Kayla

Street art by Clet Abraham is all over Florence. (I couldn’t find a website, but that’s a story about him.) And Kayla appears to have a knack for spotting them.

Could this technically be a #randomkatness? After all she sent it. Will consider. For now we’ll call it #theartofgriffin

Art by Griffin. Photo by Kat.

Editor’s note: When Nora and family travel east of Command Center (my desk), they add photos throughout the day to a shared album. I look through, select what I think will work for the next day, set them up in the blog media library then match them to the copy Nora sends overnight. This year, I’m playing a little game: I caption the photos when they come in — without any reference to Nora’s words — taking the chance I know my group well. Pleased to say for this post I hit it 97.3% of the time (Kat captioned the one with Griffin holding her imaginary hand). <g> ~Laura

Florence – Day 2

Some of us pop awake, others stagger, but eventually we’re all up, and it’s time to roll out of here. Our first goal today is the Duomo. Lots of walking and window shopping along the way. I love the narrow streets, the cobblestones, the sun-washed colors of the buildings with their impressive doors.

Look up! Photo by Kayla.

Then those streets open up, and The Duomo dominates the world with its massive beauty. The white rise of it with its soft rose and green marble, the stunning detail work of carvings, the glorious red-roofed dome. And with the sky a perfect summer blue it’s just magic.

Roar. Photo by Kayla.

It’s closed to visitors today, but we walk around it, and we’ll go back. And for now we can just admire the glory of it, take in the spectacular gold doors of the Baptistry.

On we walk and admire the artists and their paintings lined up . Kayla chooses a beauty for a gift—a very good eye.

Signage. Photo by Kayla.

On we walk and walk—I’m having no luck so far in the gift department, but I’ll get there.

We want to head back to a place on another piazza where we had lunch on our last trip. We learn after this long walk they’ve erected a stadium—for traditional Italian soccer right beside it. This greatly hampers the view we remember—but the food doesn’t disappoint.

Perfect pizza. Photo by Kayla.

And, there’s gelato after. Strawberry for me today. Yum.

Daily Gelato. Photo by BW

Kat takes Griffin back while the rest of the group walks—and walks—to the river and more glorious views. The water, the buildings, the rise of hills and the distant mountains. Kayla’s definitely getting a taste—in every way—of Florence.

Tree of life by Andrea Roggi. Photo by Kayla.
Uffizi Gallery. Photo by Kayla.

Back we go for a little respite, and Kat sneaks out to pick up a gift—and spies a nearby restaurant for dinner—AND bless her, scores some Veuve for me! More Bellinis!

Kayla wants to tutor me on taking proper Instagram photos and has a vision. Down we go where she sits on the steps in front of our impressive door. But the light’s just wrong, and we both agree there, so we move down to the next impressive door.

I get an A plus from Kayla on my lesson! It helps my subject is so pretty.

A little terrace time, and it’s head out to dinner.

Kat also has a good eye, and the restaurant with its cheerful servers and outdoor seating under roof is perfect.

Indoor/outdoor dining. Photo by Nora.
Saluti! Photo by j a-b

So is the food. And the wine. And the company.

It’s busy and lively and just fun.

Table full. Photo by BW

Griffin and I both get spaghetti pomodoro, but I believe the boy out-ate me. He can pack in the pasta. Then there’s dolce—more mmmm. And complimentary lemoncello—BW and I are the only takers there.

We roll home, full to the gills.

But I work off a little of that lovely dinner racing with Griffin and Kayla.

And we all crash.

As I write this, Griffin runs down the hall from his room. A happy morning boy. BW’s been up to make coffee, and Kat’s up and dressed. I’d better gear up and get my workout on!

Not sure what the plan is for the day, but I’m determined to cross some names off my gift list.


And now I’m pleased to present everyone’s favorite feature: #randomkatness

Did she climb on a roof? Zoom in from afar? You decide. ~Laura

Florence – Day 1

At last, after a two-year delay, we’re off to Italy.

BW and I are so lucky to have our unflappable traveling companions, Jason and Kat, along with our youngest and oldest grandkids. This is Kayla’s high school graduation trip—and she’ll be a junior in collage next fall.

This is a three-week trip (!) so we have a LOT of luggage,

The minute the plane starts down the runway, Griffin’s smile spreads. The boy loves to fly. Kayla and I do not, at all, but seeing the kid’s shining face makes the takeoff easier.

It’s an overnight flight so before too long most of us settle down to get some sleep. Or try. I’m grateful for the solid two hours I went under before turbulence woke me up, and—as always—had me lying there wondering why the hell I was in this tin can bumping along at 50,000 feet.

The light on the horizon. Photo by Kat.

I love my house, my gardens, my dogs. Why wasn’t I home where I belonged?

In the morning as it’s smoothed out and we’re all waking up, I learn Kayla had similar thoughts and issues.

But all’s well that ends well, and we touch down into the Italian sunshine.

We’re early as our flight time moved up, so we wait awhile for our transportation. No problem! We’re on the ground and that’s what counts.

Then they’re loading up the ton of luggage six people need for a three-week trip. It’s awesome.

We weren’t expecting the flat we booked for our initial 10-day stay in Florence to be ready until late afternoon, but the gods looked kindly on us, and it’s ready when we get there.

We have a roomy two-level flat with terrace right in the heart of Florence in what was once a rich family’s kind of palace. It’s gorgeous—rebuilt after being bombed in WWII. The wonderful big entrance doors, the stone, the statues and light in the big entrance hall.

One view of the flat. Photo by BW.

We’re four flights up, and the elevator’s narrow. Our lovely hosts, Lucia and Serena, are undaunted by the mountain of luggage. It takes a few trips, then we get a tour of our Florence home. More art! Though the statue of Mao Tse Tung waving from the second floor balcony is a bit baffling to me.

Hello! Photo by Nora.

More light, streaming through windows. A sweet little kitchen, a generous living space, a second hang-out space on the second floor. And everyone gets to choose a bedroom that suits them.

The terrace is just lovely, and my goal is to sit out there drinking a Bellini.

But first, unpack!

Then let’s do what we came for and take a walk around, have some pizza or pasta.

Kat opts to stay back with Griffin, maybe sneak in a nap.

And out we go. We’ve stayed in this area of Florence before, so the feel’s familiar to me. Shops we’ll explore when we’re not so lagged, the piazza that’s only around the corner. The sound of so many languages buzzing around from others who walk. And that light that’s so brilliant and magical.

Wandering. Photo by Kayla

We pick a restaurant, sit outside in that light and air. Like Jason I decide on pizza, will save pasta for later. BW and Kayla do the opposite. I can attest no one made the wrong choice.

Choices, choices. Photo by Kayla.

I order a Pinot Grigio to go with it. Kayla samples a sip—thumbs down for her.  She’s just wrong!

It all feels a little dreamlike—part jet lag, part actually being here after the two-year gap. The food’s wonderful, the wine terrific, the service quick and friendly.

The guys head off, and Kayla and I walk. And isn’t it sweet to share my girl’s first trip to one of my favorite cities in the world?

We look at stalls filled with colorful leather bags, belts, tee-shirts. My head’s not fully in shopping mode yet so it’s fun just to wander and look. The girl does find a tee-shirt, so score one for Italy.

Then? Gelato. Mmmm. We both want mint chocolate chip—a taste we share—get a medium cone. So good, beyond good and into perfect. I plan to repeat perfection in different flavors every day we’re here.

Mint chocolate chip gelato with extras. Photo by Kayla

Back we go. Jason, Kat and Griffin have gone to the nearby market to try to score some Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke for me, and add to our food supply.

I sit down, chat with Kayla and BW. Then lie down on the sofa and conk. Out! A good hour at least before I wake up and find Griffin asleep in his stroller beside me, Jason and Kat on the other couch, BW zonked in bed.

All asleep except for Kayla. Pano by Kayla
Restorative nap. Photo by Kat.

They couldn’t score my usual cold caffeine, so bought some Coke Zero. I will adjust to the taste. They did score peach nectar, so I make myself that Bellini and go out to the terrace.

Just ahhh.

Bells chime the hour, birds wing across the sky, voices float up from the street as I sit under a pergola that must rival heaven in the spring when the wisteria that smothers it’s in bloom. Now I have hydrangeas, white as snow and the oak leaf variety pink-tipped.

We talk dinner, and it’s unanimous we stay in our first night. That sends BW and Jason out for a hunt, something take-out. Kayla and I just want a salad anyway.

They bring back enough to satisfy. Kayla manages a few bites before she calls it. The girl’s tired!

Griffin, not so much, and he and I have our first Italian race—or our first several. To add to the fun, there are little steps on our course. JUMP down the step from living room to foyer. Jump up it, down it, up it. Then RUN. Through the living room, into the kitchen, back to the foyer. JUMP!

Then he expands the course to jump the step to the hallway, back to his parents’ room. Where he adds hide and seek. Kat must seek, and when she finds, we must squeal and run.

I worked off that gelato.

Bedtime for Griffin, and I’m not far behind him.

Slept like a rock for a solid eight and woke to sunshine.

I’m going to workout, gear up. I think the Duomo is on the slate for today, and the all important shopping and eating. Add that glass of wine and I expect more perfect for our first full day in Florence.

Right now it’s quiet, and I’m pretending this Coke Zero is Diet Pepsi. I’m pretty good at pretending.

It’s just lovely to be here, and lovelier yet to be here with people I love.


Girls, Games & Griffin

Another Girl Spa Week in the bag! We missed Laura, who ditched us to attend her son’s wedding. Of all the nerve! And Pat who’s in the process of moving.

But the rest of us had a very fine time.

Every time I walk into the lobby after the drive, I feel my stress level plummet. Just ahhhh.

We’re back in The Chateau after a two-year absence. The first year, canceled due to Covid, the second year in a house on property, due to Covid again.

We’re all happy to be back in our traditional space. Settle in, pop a bottle. Slainte one and all. Relax, eat, enjoy watching Griffin explore the space.

The boy likes a good hotel.

Nicole and JoAnne just dancing.

And let the games begin! Just Dance comes first, and while Kayla and Sarah are neck-in-neck, Kayla wins it with top score. Bowling’s up next, and I crushed it! Hello, five strikes in a row. But I disqualify myself from Fabulous Prizes.

Games continue, but not the tourney, as Griffin wants to race. At home he likes to chase me around the house until we round back to the start/finish line. Then, he looks at me with puppy eyes and says: Ready? I must repeat it. Then Set, then GO!!! Usually at the finish there’s: Hooray! We did it. We win a trophy, and high fives. But he sometimes skips that and goes straight back to Ready?

Different track in the suite, but same game. Around and around we go. I bank a LOT of steps before bedtime. And slept like a rock.

Work out in the morning, then clean up for some shopping. They’ve painted big angels wings on one of the walls in the shop area, and Kayla poses. We have fun, Griffin especially in the toy store.

Then Kayla and I have massages. More ahhhhh!

Lovely, lovely. Let’s cap that off with a glass (or two) of champagne and a cookie.

Dinner order’s in, Jo and Jeanette arrive. They have to catch up with dancing and bowling. More Fabulous Prizes! And more races. It helps that Kayla joins in there.

And it’s great, seriously great, just to hang out with girls.

Another morning, another work out. Jo’s got a neck/shoulder deal going on, so I take it easy on her. We do a lot of stretching.

Elaine, Jo, Kat and I squeeze in Scrabble. I have words, but no strategy for Scrabble and they have my share and more. But they needed the fourth and Jeanette (who also kills in Scrabble) had a treatment.

I am the lamb to the slaughter.

Kat defeats all comers.

Kat’s win — I think, no one labeled these. ~Laura

I have champagne to sustain me.Meanwhile Nicole’s doing makeovers. She’s a Seint rep, and all her profits go to Distinguished Young Women–a scholarship program for high school seniors.

Nicole in action
Kat creating more art

Laura sends us pictures of the wedding. Oh, so beautiful! And our girl is dancing! Happy!

More bowling, more dancing–Kayla’s killing it. Jo wins her bowling heat, if I remember right. And Kayla and Sarah will face off in the Just Dance finals when we get to it.

We do some Wild Cards for those who have no stickers on the board. Everyone wins a trophy!

Morning workout, and a little more cardio of Jo as she’s down to sore. Lots more stretching.

Sunday is Paint Day. Griffin gets a sitter. He isn’t thrilled, but I distract him with a race so Kat can sneak out. Then I make my escape. And he has his Monster Trucks to sustain him, and takes a nap halfway under the couch.

I should add, Griffin is now seriously attached to the little lawnmower Grandda and I gave him on his first birthday. He often takes it to be with him. And this is essential to his race games. In the mornings, I can hear him coming from across the hall into the suite as the lawnmower clacks its way.

But now it’s paint time! We’ve chosen the painting–a pretty simple sun on the meadow sort of deal. I sit as far away from Kat and her genuine artistic talent as possible. I’m between Jo and Kayla, and we begin with the sky.

Kayla and Nora
Sarah, Elaine and Jeannette

A glance over and I see Sarah’s going for a night sky.

My sun looks like a six-year-old painted it–all it needs are the rays poking out. So I paint over it. No sun on my meadow! Kayla’s sun looks like it should, and even better. Jo paints over hers.

I try clouds, and I think I regressed to a four-year-old. Paint over them.

Sarah’s night sky has become a dramatic storm with a freaking tsunami instead of a meadow, and a rocky outcropping in the corner with a figure standing on it. It’s fabulously fierce.

I work on my grass. I’m fairly pleased with my grass and my sunless sky. I refuse to be unpleased when I walk around, see Elaine’s, Jeanette’s, Nicole’s. Even Kat’s.

We can add flowers, so I do. No, I tell our helpful instructor, don’t show me how to paint tulips as they will probably look like the work of a two-year-old. But I have fun mixing colors, dabbing, dotting, swirling. Jeanette does awesome daisies. Kat’s is, well, gorgeous. And no one’s looks like the template. They’re all just wonderful and individual. And every one of us leaves happy.

[Laura’s note: Since I wasn’t present in person, here are all the paintings for your perusal.]

Good job, girls!

Griffin continues his nap when we get back. It’s Scrabble for Nicole, Jeanette, Sarah and Kayla. Kayla inherited her Scrabble skills from her Nana, poor thing. Jeanette dominates.

It’s pizza and ice cream night! Who could ask for more?

First Round of Cards Against Humanity. It’s always ridiculous fun. I do well here as I know my individual judges and I get really good cards.

Elaine has to leave us Monday, early, so we say our goodbyes before bedtime.

Morning workout, then Jo, Jeanette, Kayla and I head off for mani-pedis. Or just the pedi for Jeanette today. I love knowing the hardest decision I have to make today is what colors on my toes. My feet are incredibly happy by the end of it.

Kayla and I make our way back as Jo has a massage after nails.

Dinner. I have to give kudos to the chefs. We have among us, two vegetarians, a shell-fish, beef and pork allergy, and a gluten allergy. It’s a lot to deal with, and they really come through.

I think we did some final rounds, more wild cards. I know Sarah and Kayla went head-to-head for Just Dance. Well fought, but Kayla nipped her for the final round win. Jo and Kayla are the finalists in Bowling. This time Kayla goes down.

Did I miss this? Um, no.

Workout morning, and Jo’s better so I don’t take it so easy on her.

More makeovers. It’s really fun to see the transformations. I make a palette–girl toys–and add their brush cleaner as it’s so much better than anything I’ve used. Ever.

Kat, Kayla, Griffin and I take advantage of a pretty day, go outside for a walk. That becomes many, many races. Then Hide-And-Seek.

This is particular fun as you can hide behind a skinny pole, and Griffin loves it. Or you can sit on a bench, cover your face with your hands. He’s on board. This is in a really spacious and pretty courtyard area we have to ourselves.

We race, and when Griffin needs a break, he pushes his lawnmower into the grass and pretends to be stuck. So Kayla and I use this ruse, pretend to be stuck. Catch our breath.

Dinner, more Cards Against Humanity. Kayla sneaks up on me this time. I blame my cards. Since she won Just Dance–every round– Cards twice, and finaled in Bowling, it’s no stretch to see who’ll get the crown on our last night.

Final Scrabble–Jeanette and Kat. The tension is palpable! The board is tight, neither combatant giving way. Though Jeanette came close, Kat remains undefeated.

Last day workout, hang out, enjoy. I take Griffin duty so Kat can finally have a much-deserved massage. Kayla assists. He really likes the kid dances on Just Dance, so is well entertained.

Last dinner, last races, last ahhhs before Kayla is crowned Queen of the Girl Spa. Youth kicked Experience’s ass this year.

The winnah!

One last morning workout. Everyone finishes packing. It’s a lot!! Even though I don’t have the three bags of clothes purged from my closet–they went Night Two. Or all those Fabulous Prizes.

Hugs all around. So glad to have had this time together. Then Kayla and I drive home where the dogs–and BW–are happy to see us. And my gardens have exploded in the week away. Big and beautiful and full.

I took some pictures yesterday. Laura can decide whether to add them to this–which would be a lot–or just do another blog of garden pictures. Or save them. I’ll let her surprise me.

That was our week, and it hit every note. We missed you, Laura, and you Pat, but we’re already booked for next year!

Treasure the women in your life. They’re the flowers that bloom all year long.


A preview of a garden gallery on Wednesday.

A note from Laura:

While I’d argue using the word “ditch” to describe missing Spa Girl week, I was definitely absent. Instead of a scoreboard, my focus was on flowers

Rehearsal dinner settings

water views

View from reception

and family

Me with daughter Clare & her partner Nate.
Proud parents of the groom
The happy couple.
There was a lot of other dancing, but the video isn’t in from the photographers yet.

New Year, New Page

A quiet, family New Year’s around here, and again no big open house with friends and family. Hopefully next year things will be safe enough for a gathering.

We did go away for a week—rented a house again to be safe—and stayed in. It’s lovely to spend that kind of time with family, and just hang.

The view from the house.

Lots of play with the boy time, jigsaw puzzles, a little work, room service—and a Nana makes spaghetti night. Griffin’s a fan of my pasta!

Busy boy.

BW gave me a weird, fascinating, unstructured jigsaw of a moose for Christmas. This would never, ever, never have been done without Kat, the Queen of Chaos. I helped, but she did the heavy work.

The moose

Griffin really enjoys the vacation space. One morning, BW got up and went downstairs before I set up to work out. I went down to get my caffeine and water, and the lower level is quiet but for Griffin, sitting at the dining room table watching Sesame Street on his iPad. Normally Jason gets up with him in the morning as Kat is on any night duty. (The boy occasionally likes to party at 3 am!)

I had heard what I thought was the boy and his dad tromp up the stairs at about six, and thought nothing of it.

I say hi, get my stuff, wonder where Jason is. Hunt BW up who tells me the boy was playing with his trucks on the couch when he came down. Huh.

I realize he got up, didn’t wake his parents, just came up from the lower level where they all sleep, and entertained himself until someone joined him.

So I made him breakfast, then left him under BW’s watch and went up to work out.

Once home, it’s back to work, and the start of my annual full-house purge.

Making progress! All the Christmas stuff is put away, and that’s an accomplishment. Weekdays are for writing, and progress made there, too. Yay.

I found a jar of applesauce of the counter Fri. BW hunts and gathers, and I cook. If I’m around I help him put groceries away, but he got home with them Fri while I was working out. He left out the applesauce which I decoded as a hint. Applesauce Cake?

So Saturday, after workout, after the purge of the One More Room (and organizing Christmas stuff), my office, I made the cake. The purging’s moving right along since I did a serious job of it the last couple years. And the cake’s a nice reward for both of us.

Applesauce cake!

Today, after workout, it’s bake Italian bread to replenish the supply, and get a tortilla soup simmering. Purge dining room and library while soup is simmering and dough’s rising.

Italian bread stocked up.

Snow—expected—starting falling about the time I took the bread out of the oven. Since we’re going nowhere, it’s very pretty. Falling faster and harder now, but still going nowhere, Sunday chores are done, and the house smells of simmering soup and fresh baked bread.

Tortilla soup!

Please stay safe. If you’re not vaxxed and boosted, get vaxxed and boosted. Our Laura’s had her hip surgery postponed twice since hospitals in our area are overrun with Covid patients—over 90% of them unvaxxed.

Take care of yourselves and everyone else, and let’s make 2022 a lot better than 2021.

Oh, and if you want to watch something to pass the time, check out Brazen on Netflix, based on my Brazen Virtue from way back in 1988! They did some serious updating!

Nora’s view of opening credits.

Good deal!


I’ll share some Brazen content tomorrow. For now, here’s an off camera pic of the stars.~Laura