Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And Now...Let Me Introduce You To PARIS...

Hubby and I flew into Paris and went directly to our ship.  It was misting rain that day but still just as magical as I always dreamed it would be.  We donned our jackets, scarves and hats and set out to do a little window shopping.  The next day, however, we went on a tour of the city and then set out by foot on our own to do a little exploring.  Today, I share my photo journaling of Paris with you...

You will find that LOTS of my photos, while in Paris, are centered around the Seine.  Do you see those swans?  They seemed to follow us around and I liked their presence.  It reminded me of the line from the movie, "The Notebook",  where it was mentioned that swans have only one mate for a life.
   The beautiful Seine!  Where our floating home would travel for the majority of our France trip.
Notice that at the beginning of our trip we were not wearing coats.  The weather started out unseasonably warm for November and we were loving the fall-like temperatures.
The architecture in Paris, and all of France for that matter, is just gorgeous.  And so many things reminded me of the French influence that can be found in New Orleans.  I cannot wait to watercolor some of the sites I photographed!

                                      And was I just a little obsessed with the Eiffel Tower!
     From near or far and basically just anywhere we stood this structure was just magnificent!

 And just when we thought things couldn't get any better, we learned that it was lit up every night AND began to sparkle at the top of every hour.  WOW...Just WOW!
                                              We were SO excited that first night in Paris.
On the opposite side of our boat, one could catch a glimpse of  the Parisian Lady Liberty; a smaller replica of the one that can be found in New York City.
                  As we toured the streets of Paris I noticed such diversity.  From the opulent...

                                                          To the quaint and picturesque...

                                                            To the downright quirky.
                                                                    Ahhh...Paris (Pa-ree)!!!

         And as we set sail from Paris at midnight, the swans were still swimming next to our boat.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How My Lovely Trip To France Ended In Ugly Terror

As most of you know, we have been planning a trip to France for the past 18 months. There have been cheerful emails exchanged between the six couples going, using our newly acquired French phrases in anticipation of being in this lovely country together where we would meet up in Paris for the trip of a lifetime. Two of us had daughters give birth just days and weeks before we left and everything had been purchased and packed as the day finally arrived for us to leave. 

In the days to come I will, of course, share all of the wonderful things we did while traveling around the French countryside, however, I feel I must begin my posts at the end of our trip when we were stricken with fear as Paris suffered terror attacks just a few miles from where we were staying. 

We ended our Viking Cruise Friday in the same place we started; Paris. Before setting sail, we had spent two days walking around the city, sightseeing, window shopping and eating in French cafes. It was wonderful and I would simply close my eyes, breathe in deeply and think of how fortunate I was to get to be experiencing this city I had longed to visit for as long as I could remember. 

As we left the boat, we caught a cab and headed to our hotel across town and immediately set out to explore the city some more. The weather had turned cool and crisp as we bundled up to shop the Champs Elysee and even visited the Christmas Market that had been set up while we floated on the Seine.  I was soaking up every minute of the day and must admit that it was truly magical...

We had promised to meet up with the other members of our group later in the evening for one last dinner together. We had a taxi drive us to Montmartre where we could capture the view of the city from the highest point in Paris. We were to meet everyone at the bottom of the steps and then planned to head out for dinner.
We set out for dinner but there was a bit of chaos as to where we would eat and we ended up having to wait on several people who were running late and as fate would have it, our party of four decided, after sitting down in a cafe that we would not stay.  Instead we grabbed a cab and headed back across the river...

I remember snapping this photo from the window of our cab and laughingly sending it to my kids saying, "How's this for a traffic jam?"  

The four of us found a quaint restaurant close to our hotel and feasted on escargot, French wine, soufflĂ© and creme broulee. As we heard the church bells ring outside, we decided to take in a French mass the next evening. It would be a wonderful way to end our trip. 

We leisurely walked back to our rooms, taking in the picturesque cobblestone streets and as we retired for the evening, Lori and I talked about our plans of meeting the other women the next morning for our guided shopping tour of the Paris flea markets. 

Robby and I went to bed, and as usual, turned our cell phones on silent for the night. Our kids back home had seemed to forget that we were on a 7 hour time difference and we didn't want to be awakened at all hours of the night. Suddenly we heard a knock on our door that startled me. Who could possibly be knocking on our door in the middle of the night?  Robby got up and it was Lori's husband, Lynn. He said, "You need to call your kids. They've been trying to get in touch with you. There's been a bombing in Paris."

All I could keep saying over and over was, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh..."  Upon looking at our phones, we had numerous text messages and immediately began messaging our family to let them know we were ok. We also turned on the television and found an English news channel where we learned about the awful news of terror unfolding. We watched the live account of the many people being held hostage in the concert hall and fear struck our hearts. We heard about the bombing at the soccer game, the shootings in the restaurants. The area we had been only hours before. 

Of course, we attempted to change our flight to come home the next morning, however, a state of emergency had been declared, the borders of the country closed and no flights were going out. We would have to wait until Sunday to leave.  As I tried to close my eyes and go to sleep, all I could think of was, "How do I know there will not be shootings or explosions where I am?"  I didn't know. I prayed. 

Needless to say, we cancelled our flea market trip the next morning as most of Paris shut down. I was afraid to leave my hotel room but then again I thought, was I really even safe there?  We decided to wander just down the street to get breakfast and coffee. The city was quiet but the French people were beginning to stir...

We stayed in a small area Saturday close to our hotel. As the day wore on, more people began to make their way to our area since the other area of the city, where the events of the previous evening, had been closed off.  As we numbly walked through the streets that yesterday had been so enchanting, we sought to find that same feeling. We needed to find it. And we did. In the beautifully resilient Parisians who slowly began the attempt to resume some sense of normality...

   We found the beauty in theses lovely flower shops that opened on such a mournful day, as if to say, "You cannot destroy who we are..."

We made it out of Paris Sunday.  Very jet lagged and still a bit in shock. Extremely happy to be back in the United States. However, I am drawn to the news channels every single day since leaving. I cannot forget what we experienced and left behind. Nor should I. Ever. 


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Are YOU a Groupon Queen (or King) Yet?!

Our family refers to my daughter as "The Coupon Queen".  Do you have one in your own family?  She's the gal you see price checking EVERYTHING.  If there isn't a coupon for what she's wanting, she's just not going to get it.  Surprisingly, however, she seems to be able to find one for everything under the sun.  And fear not, if you are with her and do not have the app downloaded on your phone, she will either insist that you load it immediately or loan you hesr for the discount.  You get the picture now?  You are NEVER going to pay full price for ANYTHING while she is around..  And that is precisely why when I was approached by the people over at GROUPON/COUPONS to create a post for them , I jumped at the chance to introduce my readers to the fabulous deals you too can have at the touch of your fingertips!
First, let me say that I'm really a techy person.  If I can't find it and keep it on my I-phone then just forget it.  And I believe that most of us have our smart phones with us all of the time.  So, I decided to check out the app store to see if there was a Groupon App and voila!  There is one...actually more than one (Hallelujah!).

If you go to the app store on your phone or just click right HERE, you can check this awesome app out and see what all it has to offer.  Whenever I checked it out on my phone I found that first, the app is FREE!  So it really doesn't cost you a penny to put it on your phone and start checking out all the great deals that are offered.  I also found out that there are literally any kind of coupons you can think of on there.  You know, I must admit that when the word "coupon"was mentioned my mind went back to the 80's when we were all grabbing a pair of scissors and the Sunday newspaper to clip coupons for our next trip to the grocery store.  Just let me say..."Coupons have come a LONG way, baby"!

What I found was that there are three apps on my I-phone: 

As you can see by the above list, Groupon has covered all the bases with their deals...AND I noticed that if you have the Apple Watch, there is an app on there too!  Now, how more convenient can you get?!

As I said, I'm a techy sort of person and enjoy the convenience of having my deals right at the tip of my fingers.  But what if you're not into all of that?  Well, you're in luck too because you can just go to GROUPON/COUPONS to grab your deals.  I'm thinking this will be PERFECT for online Christmas shopping!

Now I have just one question to ask you:  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!  Grab that smart phone and add the Groupon App today!  What do you have to lose?  Only the BEST DEALS out there on restaurants, activities, retail items, travel and much more!

***As before mentioned, I was enlisted to write this post for Groupon and received compensation for
      doing so.***

Monday, November 2, 2015

20% Off Code for Spartan Races!!!

We're getting into the Holiday Spirit a little early this year by giving out an AWESOME RACE CODE for ANY 2015 or 2016 U.S. Spartan Race!!!

Use the code:  RACE2016 for 20% off!  Click the link right here on my blog to complete your entry 

Below you can find some of the upcoming races and dates:

SACRAMENTO SUPER and SPRINT:  November 7-8 2015
CAROLINAS BEAST and SPRINT WEEKEND:  November 14-25 2015

                                     I hope you enjoy this early holiday gift...RACE AWAY!!!

Our Little Halloween Baby

Caitlin's due date (Oct. 29) came and went and that watched pot never boiled.  And so it was that she was induced Saturday morning and just a little less than 5 hours later gave birth to our second grandson and sixth grandchild, Andrew Grey...
                              Andrew weighed in at 6.5 pounds and was 19 1/2 inches long.
Poppi looking over the newest member of Our Big, Fat Southern Family.  He called him our little "Drew Boo"!
                                                          YaYa getting her snuggles in too.
                                                                     Mommy and Andrew.
Holli Bug is beginning to warm up to her new brother.  She touched his head, said, "curls" and laughed and laughed.
  I ordered this precious personalized blanket from Boco Baby.  Be sure to check them out on Instagram.
                                                                      Cutest hat ever!
  Welcome to the world and our family, Andrew!  Our hearts are full.  We already love you so much!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

5 Weeks of Traveling: Cleveland. Waiting on a Baby

Well, today is the due date for Baby Andrew.  But it appears that he has other plans for the day so far.  Robby arrived yesterday and said, "OK, I'm can have the baby now."  

Caitlin, who never rises early, was up first this morning with shower taken ready to go to town and "walk a baby out".  It was in the 40's with winds about 25 mph and the PERFECT morning for lazing around with hot coffee (sigh...).  However, that was not to be with daughter and dad chomping at the bit to get out of the house.
                                        Poppi and Holli having dessert after lunch today...

With the change of weather, Holli is currently protesting the change from wearing her favorite denim shorts to wearing a heavy coat.  I'm right there with ya, Holli.  We did get out and walk around most of the day but there are still no signs of a baby being born today.  The plan is that if in fact he does not come today, Caitlin will go on the monitor tomorrow morning and schedule to be induced on Halloween.  Yep, there's a good possibility we will have a Halloween Baby!

Meanwhile we wait.  And waiting for a baby to arrive is sort of like watching a pot of water and waiting for it to boil.  You know it's going to happen soon but it seems like forever...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

5 Weeks of Traveling: Cleveland. Trick-R-Treating!

After having such a fun day out on Friday, poor little Holli Bug started running fever that night and into the next morning.  Besides having a bit of a runny nose (which, unfortunately I have too), her tummy was bothering her.  However, as the day wore one and she began to feel a little better, Caitlin and I decided to take her to Crocker Park where they were having Trick-R-Treating.
                                  Doesn't this sad little face just break your heart?
                                                           Now, this is much better!
We keep taking a pictures of Caitlin with Holli saying, "This could be your last day as an only child."  I think, however, that Andrew is going to hang on until Poppi arrives on Wednesday.
                                         Crocker Park was all decked out for Halloween!
Tinker Bell had a great time and we ran home quickly to pick her daddy up so he could join us for a little more Halloween fun at the Expo Center that evening.
Caitlin was given tickets so we could attend this indoors Halloween event which was a lot like a carnival, complete with rides and Trick-R-Treating for candy. 
When we got ready to leave it had begun to rain.  And it was turning much colder.  We had gotten a lot done...Just in case Andrew decided to come early.

Sunday morning Kevin had to work so we girls decided to go out for brunch at First Watch...
It had turned much cooler overnight.  It was a crisp 54 degrees.  Yep...I should've worn my coat!
While we were waiting for a table this little munchkin was hugging me and saying, "My YaYa".  Hmmm...I think the others might have something to say about that. sure makes a YaYa feel good!

We grocery shopped after brunch and I was SURE Andrew might come on this lazy afternoon but NOPE.  We continue to wait...