Sunday, August 3, 2014

More landscaping projects in the Zen Garden!

So before we left for vacation I put poor Tommy to work before he's REALLY at work when football camp starts on August 1st. We have this side yard that was really never completed... at least to fit the rest of the overall Zen Garden theme! We had grass that would not grow on the side yard. And with three dogs we REALLY had grass that would not grow! So we decided (make that I!) that we should yank out the grass and continue the stone path, mulch, trees and perennials all the way around the house! Plus I thought it would be very cool to have Tommy build me a raised garden bed as well since the tiny patch I have on the side of the house barely constitutes a garden. So the raised bed was the first project. And my husband being the amazingly awesome guy and all around good egg can never seem to say no to one of my "projects" for him!

You can see where the grass tried to grow...unsuccessfully with 3 dogs

aforementioned dogs helping Dad build the new thing in their yard

at the end of this bed is a huge white generator that we had installed during the big power outage during Christmas this year

it's coming along really well

3 beds, the center one raised for tomatoes, pea pods, peppers, lettuce and squash

Done and fabulous!

I planted my little plants and the rest we will have to wait and see. I don't get a ton of sun back here so it's an experiment to see what does well and what does not

Had to fence it from running dogs who decided that running through it was great fun

Dangit! A fence! How are we supposed to play in this new thing with a fence around it?

The plants were looking great when we got back from vacation! Squash and peppers on this end...

clearly the partly shady backyard hasn't affected the growth of these at all. Tomato has completely
overgrown on the lettuce! I am making notes for more efficient planting next year

our tiny little patch up front with more tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, mint and cilantro
This was taken before vacation...

and now!!

not wanting to waste any space I even planted jalapeƱos, poblanos, cayenne
and matchstick peppers in pots on our deck rail!

Now onto the BIG landscape change back here! We had our favorite landscaper Instant Shade come out and finish the "Zenlike" yard for us with a stone path to the back, mulch, japanese maple, dogwood tree and quite a few other beautiful shrubs and perennials.

it looks so much nicer now! No more yellow grass with dirt patches! You can see the garden bed on the side is huge now!

some sort of bug got into my peppers and chewed off all of the lower leaves so I'm not sure I'll be getting anything from them. And the squash isn't doing too great either. Probably not enough sun.
More notes for next year...

I repositioned our birdbath and planted some more perennials around it

Love the side yard now!

This is where some of Drew's senior photos were taken! Better than MSU gardens!

Great setting for family and senior pics! 

We have loads of tomatoes now!

Love my little birdy sanctuary!

it's dog approved!

the final part was Tommy's designed pergola over the generator to hide it
For the record this was HIS thought up project and not mine!

I think it looks great!

He built a pop out panel for the front to cover it and we planted fall blooming clematis which
will in theory climb up and cover it

Open the gate and come on into the Zen Garden!

Our little backyard paradise!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rome and Capri - our last days in Italia!

Please excuse the long delay in finishing my last blog post of our trip! I hate when work gets in the way of my social life! :-) We ended our fabulous 16 day adventure and 7 day Med Cruise with 2 ports, Civitavecchia and Naples. I will start by saying that Civitavecchia is the port for Rome and is about an hour and a half outside of the city. That being said, it was a CRAZY day and the least favorite of our entire trip. The price tags for private or semi private excursions into the city were outrageous so I decided to save a few bucks and do all of our transportation and tours on our own. Hmmmm - based on the end results of the day I can tell you that was a BIG mistake!

We started out by getting off the ship and heading to the shuttle bus to the exit. OK so far so good. The port is currently under construction so they offered a shuttle from the exit to the train station for €.80 or about a buck. We arrived at the train station and bought our tickets to St Pietro for about €6 each and arrived in plenty of time to walk to the Vatican for our skip the lines tickets at 10:30. Now I'm feeling pretty smug about how much money we saved by this "do it ourselves" approach!! Most tours I had looked at that transported us into Rome and back were about $90 each so pricey! So far we've spent 9 bucks per person. Man am I clever or WHAT?!! Let'e just wrap this all up by saying that the subsequent rush to find the train station again to leave Rome was a NIGHTMARE! Finding our way to the metro - going the wrong way on the metro - getting back out and crossing the street to go the other way to the strain station (not nearly as user friendly as the tube in London where you get out and the other direction is just on the other side of the tracks...) and then finally getting to the train station only to realize it was the WRONG train station!!! OK - we are home and obviously made it back but sweaty, stressed out and in need of copious amounts of alcohol. The adults that is... the kids just had to ease their stress with smoothies and chocolate croissants! We would NOT do that again!

Here we are at St Peter's square
but where's the Pope waving from the second story balcony?!!

the lines were LONG to get in but yours truly outsmarted everyone with our "skip the line" 
tickets purchased online a month or so ago from the Vatican website!

Inside the Vatican was amazing... almost no square inch of wall or ceiling was unpainted


Tapestries along the walls dating back into the first century and earlier

we headed out and jumped a hop on hop off bus to see as much of the city 
in the limited time that we had

The St Maria Basilica

The Colosseum. If we had to do it all over again we wish we had toured this instead of the Vatican
Not many more photographs of Rome at this point. It was a stressful mad dash to find the train station to get back. I will say that we did not love Rome. Given our time in the Cinque Terre and
the photos you're about to see from Capri it was our least favorite. I think you need to spend a few days there. Even then I think Rome pales in comparison to Barcelona, London and Paris.
On our next trip we will spend the bulk of our time in the Amalfi coast area and Greece.


Every day on the cruise they change the day in the elevator. Too funny. I guess being on a cruise and going from place to place it's easy to lose track of what day it is!

Our ship made port in Naples and we were met by our driver from a FABULOUS tour company called
Capitano Ago that I found through Tripadvisor. We met up with another great family on the cruise
and headed to Sorrento for our private boat tour of Capri!
Here is our 40 foot boat...

and off we go to Capri!

We had the most amazing day swimming in the Mediterranean and the grottos

our own private waterfall shower!

Just pull the boat up and stand up front!

So the  Blue Grotto was a must do for all of us despite warnings from Francesco our boat captain that it was a ripoff for tourists

Once you get there you have to pay €13 each or something like that I can't remember
to have a guy in a tiny rowboat take you in the grotto

Here is the Lee family in their boat!

and here we go in our boat!

Drew is not so sure about this!

The gondoleer or whatever you call the row boat guys sing when you get into the grotto!

We made it in after everyone had to "ducka your heada...Lowla Bridgeda!"
You will show your age if you can remember where that line came from!

The grotto is quite amazing I'll give you that...

Then Francesco said to us (after being disgusted with the row boat guys fishing for big tips) "I'll take you now to the green grotto where you can go in and swim for FREE!"

He did not lie... it was fabulous! Sorry I had to do a quick grotto selfie of my hubby and me! :-)

The Lee family having a fun swim

Jen and me swimming in the green grotto

Coach Hoke finally gets some much needed R and R with an Italian beer!
What could be better?

We have decided that the Caribbean has NOTHING on the Mediterranean!
Amazing clear water that I think had about 200 feet of visibility.
Next time we come back we are diving here for sure!

We swam through to the other side and the shore

Tommy hiked up the cliff and declared himself King of the world!

Back on the boat and off to find lunch on the island

But first another beer! :-)

I wish I had taken a pic of the zodiac boat that came to pick us up from our boat
and take us to the cliffside restaurant on Capri for lunch... Italian taxi service!
This is us piled in it

Off the zodiac and head up the steps to the restaurant!

We sat right up on that fabulous deck

We walked in and could choose our seafood from a variety of baskets!

I would have loved to have dispatched this guy to lobster heaven but the price tag was a bit...
well let's just say it was the most expensive meal (and that was lunch even!) that we had during the entire 16 days! I opted for grilled calamari and let this lobster live to see another day

My vegetarian daughter was less than thrilled with the display of food choices!

This was our view from our table. Eat and then hit the beach afterwards!
I could get used to this

Our little cutie friend Sam ordered a huge plate of mussels!
I couldn't believe it! A six year old mussel eater! He even shared with me! Yay!

Drew was representing the Spartans in style with Rose bowl shirt and
football issued hat from last year's 2 a days!

Heading back to the boat for the rest of our fabulous day

Off to spend the rest of the day swimming and boating

the boat had a nice big area to chill and lay on the back

oh yeah...just another day boating through giant rock structures in Italy!

no big deal...

Georgio Armani's house on a cliff in Capri. What a dump!

Tommy with our awesome boat captain Francesco!

I wonder if Jen realizes that she got to take full advantage of Drew's senior trip!
I'm guessing he will insist on going on hers as well!

It was so sad to head back to Sorrento but this little fishing village was just amazing. 
We would totally spend time here in the future


Back onboard the fabulous Liberty of the Seas for a swanky dinner
at one of the ships exclusive Italian restaurants called Portofino's. It's an up charge restaurant 
on the ship and worth every cent!

beautiful table by the window

with an open kitchen

and tiramisu to die for!

all in all I think this kid did very well for his senior trip!

Back to our room and a day at sea for our last day onboard.
A much needed day of relaxation and also Drew's 17th birthday!
What a great way to ring in 17 and his senior year of high school!

Arrivederci Italia and Europe!
Until we meet again which won't be soon enough for me!

What an amazing trip of a lifetime!