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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge

The fall foliage was lit by the setting sun

That band of white is a huge gathering of migrating snow geese

Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge turned golden at sunset

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge 11.9.2007

(this is the post I wrote before Thanksgiving and didn't have a chance to post until now)

Late yesterday, after doing some shopping in Dover, around 20 minutes north of where we live, we decided to take a drive through the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, a short distance away. Entering the refuge, we paid our fees for a day's visit ($4 per car) and proceeded to take the circular loop through this lovely preserve that is part of a chain of waterfowl refuges that stretches from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

We were awestruck by the overwhelming number of birds, swooping and following each other around and around -- at one point the horizon was literally filled with birds -- over the marshes and streams that make up this 15,978-acre refuge for migratory and wintering ducks and geese. The gravel path through the refuge winds through tidal salt marsh, fresh water pools, swamps, timbered and grassy upland and farms. Huge flocks of snow geese had gathered for a giant convention across the marshy area to the east of us, towards the Delaware Bay and it literally was as if a blanket of snow had fallen there, lit by the golden light of the setting sun. It was simply breathtaking.

The fall foliage is in its glory days now as reds, yellows and flaming orange trees decorate the roads and highways. In the refuge, the setting sun cast a spotlight on these jewels that too soon was extinguished. The weather turned colder without the warmth of the sun and it was time for us to go. But not without promising to return to watch this incredible drama again. We want to walk the nature trails, look out from the observation tower and learn more about these birds: the egrets, herons and the glossy ibis, ducks and geese, bald eagles and hawks as they stop here during their spring and fall migrations.

Here's a website you can peruse: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/bombayhook/

Enjoying our life in Delaware,
Rosemary & Bob

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We just want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels if you are heading out for the holiday. We have more things to show you and tell you about like our trip to the Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge at sunset, watching huge flocks of migrating snow geese. We're new to this birdwatching stuff and don't have the lingo down yet, but it was amazing.

Happy Turkey Day!

We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with our daughter and son-in-law and our traditional menu will consist of one big turkey with my homemade gravy, Bob's Mom's recipe for bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams (boiled, then sliced thin, spread with butter and brown sugar and baked till the butter melts and turns the tops cripsy and sweet), peas, cranberry sauce and rolls, followed by apple and pumpkin pies and a nap! It will be wonderful to be with family after living in Italy for two years. Thanksgiving was a bit strange for us and we found ourselves explaining this holiday to our Italian friends who had heard of it but didn't quite know what it was all about!

Here's an interesting website for our non-American friends http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/feast/
and this one: http://www.pilgrimhall.org/f_thanks.htm


Saturday, November 10, 2007

At the Children's Museum

A fun time was had by all at the Richmond Children's Museum.

Kyla really enjoyed choosing materials, cutting & gluing - the process, not the product!

Gram and Kyla in the Apple Car

In the "soft rocks" area, snuggling

The artist at work - she really loves painting

Playing Grocery Store - ALL the kids loved this role-playing area

She loves to sing. These big cymbols outside the museum made a great echo-y sound

Halloween, Richmond, VA 10.31.2007

Our little Kitty had fun getting all face-painted

Grandmother Witch (not very scary, but it was fun!)

Kyla really loves her Daddy

She is really at good sharing

Heading out to go trick or treating

Friday, November 9, 2007

South Carolina (next to our last stop)

(this is the final leg of our trip to Arizona, which concluded with a stop in South Carolina and finally Richmond, Virginia in time for Halloween with Kyla!

Greenville, South Carolina. We enjoyed wandering around this lovely downtown with Carrie.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde with a cafe au lait. Yummm

Blue Door in the French Quarter

A Garden District mansion decorated for Halloween

GUMBO! at the Gumbo Shop in N'awlins

New Orleans wrought iron balconies dripping with greenery and decorated for Halloween

San Antonio & Houston, Texas

Remember "The Alamo"? This is it. I had to buy a coonskin cap for Kyla (although at 3 yrs old she certainly has no idea who Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone were!)

Riverwalk in San Antonio, relaxing after a seafood lunch

Tour boat gliding along San Antonio's Riverwalk

At the Space Center in Houston they have full size mockups of the different modules of the Space Shuttle with “dummy” astronauts. This thing is HUGE!

A scale model of the Space Station floats in the ceiling at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We were astonished at how enormous it actually is. (see model of the Space Shuttle “docked” on the left side. The museum was really interesting. Check out their website: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/about/index.html

More travel stories (Traveling across the U.S. cont'd))

We spent the night in Fort Stockton, Texas only because it was the right distance away from San Antonio, its Riverwalk and a visit to the Alamo. We arrived at the Alamo - now in the middle of the city and surrounded by the outer walls of the fort that once stood there alongside it - just in time to hear the story of how the Texans stood up to the army of Santa Anna and went down in a blaze of glory that led to Texas's independence from Mexico - even though the Texans had sworn allegiance to Mexico in exchange for the cheap land they were given. Here's an interesting site I found on the history of this event: www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/alamo/filmmore/fd.html

The Riverwalk in San Antonio was as lovely as we had imagined and is lined with tall trees, restaurants and shops - a beautiful way to spend an hour or so. Houston is only about two hours away and that was our goal for the night, staying with Larry and Shelly, American friends we met in Italy who own property there in Massa Martana. We toured the Johnson Space Center and they gave us a quick tour around Houston, a city that deserves further exploration. A late lunch at Galveston Bay while the sun was going down and large pleasure craft floated by was one of the highlights. We capped off the day at a local Houston bar listening to the sounds of an Austin band named "Guy Forsyth".

Next stop New Orleans - just a taste of this old city. We spent the afternoon walking around the French Quarter enjoying the lively streets, the plants and flowers spilling down and over the wrought iron balconies and peering into shops filled with voodoo paraphernalia and all sorts of interesting stuff. Lunch at the Gumbo Shop was a must for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of my chicken and anduille sausage gumbo. We grabbed a seat at the Café Du Monde and shared a plate of beignets, those wonderful fried doughnuts covered in powdered sugar and a scrumptious Cafe Au Lait. We took the bus (the streetcar unfortunately is still not up and running its full route since Katrina) to the Garden District and wandered around admiring all the big mansions that line Charles Street.

On the road again the next morning with a planned stop to visit friends from Phoenix, Carrie and Ken who now reside with their two lovely daughters in Piedmont, South Carolina, a short drive from Greenville and its revitalized downtown and river walk.

Thanks to all our friends in Arizona and beyond who treated us to meals and allowed us free and easy access to their homes: Liz and Mike, Diane and Michael, Ann and Bill, Shawn and Stephen, Jeff and Janet, Art and Chris, Maha and Nabil, Dennis and Peggy, Mary and Dick, the gang at P.S. Studios.

Thanks to our family as well for putting us up and putting up with us: our daughter Jessica and son-in-law Nick, my sister Suzanne and nieces Sam and Maddie and our son Chris, his girlfriend Lisa and our precious Kyla. Halloween was a blast (photos to come) and we were even lucky enough to have our granddaughter all to ourselves the day after at the Richmond Children's Museum! Life is good.

Now we're home in Delaware, resting and recuperating from all this travel and glad to be back in our own little corner of the world. It rained yesterday. The storm that was headed up the east coast touched us here too but barely. The trees are still changing colors and fall - with colder temperatures - is definitely here. Yesterday in spite of the weather we went to Dover to a Book Fair and listened to a group discussion on book publishing. Interesting stuff we couldn't pass up. Today we are laying low. Going through the piles of mail that were waiting for us, perusing magazines and catalogs that accumulated. From my studio window I can see the sun going down and neighbors out walking their dogs. Geese are honking and flying overhead, going south I guess. I think I'll go see what I can throw together for dinner.

Thanks for reading. We hope you've found something interesting here. We know it's not Italy but we're still looking for adventures. Stay tuned.

Rosemary & Bob

Along the El Paso Mission Trail

Cotton Fields in El Paso, Texas

The Historic El Paso Mission Trail

These landmarks are privately owned by the Catholic Diocese are are actively supported by the local parishes. They are listed on the National Register of Histoic Places.

Mission Ysleta, the oldest continuously active parish in Texas. The first Mass was said here in 1680 when the Spaniards built a temporary mission church. It was rebuilt after floods in 1740 and 1744. The present structure dates to 1851 and 1897 when the beehive dome tower was added.

Mission Socorro. The first permanent mission was established by the Franciscans in 1691 when the parish consisted of sixty Indian families and fifteen Spanish ones. Those same floods destroyed the original structures and it was rebuilt in 1843. The beautiful ceiling consists of decorative, carved cottonwood and cypress beams salvaged from the original.

Presidio Chapel San Elizario. The present day chapel was built in 1882 but a presidio (a fortified settlement) was established here as early as 1684 and included a small chapel.

A few more Arizona views

Picacho Peak, site of Arizona's only civil war battle (little more than a skirmish, but if you are a Civil War buff you can read all about it at http://www.wtj.com/articles/picacho/

Leaving Phoenix we passed Santa's RV and jeep. I guess it's more comfy than the sleigh.

View from my hike with Ann at Piestewa Peak Park (formerly and controversially called Squaw Peak)

Images from Arizona

Flagstaff, Arizona

Our friends Art & Chris at The Farm in South Phoenix

Phoenix palm trees along Central Avenue

Dinner Party with friends, Diane & Michael, George & Bitsy and Helene

George helping prepare dinner

Traveling across the U.S. (continued)

The weather was gorgeous, as October should be in Phoenix. The city streets are torn up everywhere as the Light Rail system takes shape and new shops and restaurants are popping up all over. What used to be Tera's Garden, a garden shop/plant nursery on 4th Avenue and Fillmore is now a restaurant called Palette with lovely outdoor seating areas. Cibo, a new Italian restaurant now occupies the property next door. The Phoenix Art Museum completed its expansion and the Heard Museum renovation (a Holly Street Studios architecture project) shines. Arizona State University is creating a Phoenix campus. The entire area is undergoing a transformation and I imagine we will hardly recognize it next time we visit. Cranes and scaffolding are part of the skyline as new office buildings and townhouse/condo developments fill many vacant or previously otherwise occupied corners of the city. It was exciting to see but we are also glad we don't have to deal with the traffic congestion created by all this new growth.

We went to all our favorite places. I spent a morning at the Desert Botanical Garden sketching and another with George, Bitsy and Michael at the DBG plant sale and stopped to say hello to Lynn and Amy from Southwest Gardener. I took a walk part way up Squaw Peak with Ann and another in South Mountain Park with Marie. I lunched with Julie and shared pizza at Pino's (Pino's Pizza Al Centro, 139 W. Thomas Road) with Lucia and Randi and their respective husbands named Steve, with the opportunity to speak Italian with Pino whose hometown of Ripacandida we visited in Basilicata. Art and Chris introduced us to one of their favorite restaurants on Elliot Road in Tempe, VinciTorio's - authentic Italian food - these guys are from Puglia and we had fun speaking with them in Italian too. Check it out at www.vincitoriorestaurant.com.

Bob and I also got to show off some of the work we did in Italy. He put a slide show together and I brought some of my watercolors and sketchbooks. It felt so good to be able to show our friends first hand what we did and talk about our experiences with people who seemed genuinely interested and eager to see and hear what we had to say. We welcomed their input and advice. Several of our friends bought paintings and photos from the collections we brought, which was immensely rewarding and very encouraging, hoping that there might also be an interest in the greater population for what we have done.

On the way home, taking a southern route, we stopped to visit the nine-mile, historic El Paso Mission Trail that once extended from Mexico City to Santa Fe and linked missions, agricultural communities, estates and forts to distant trade and supply routes. This is the oldest and was once the longest road in North America. We toured the three glistening white missions, Ysleta, Socorro and Elizario. Floods and fires destroyed earlier structures, which were subsequently rebuilt, restored and renovated through the course of the years, but the parishes continue. Ysleta Mission is the oldest continuously active parish in the state of Texas and the community of Ysleta is the oldest town. Indigenous peoples lived along the Rio Grande for thousands of years before the Spanish explorers arrived around 1598 and shared what is known in this area as "the first Thanksgiving" - a celebration between the Spaniards and the local Manso Indians twenty three years before the Pilgrims' feast at Plymouth!

We lunched at a local restaurant "Meson de Oñate" where the chips and the tortillas were homemade and the salsa just the right mix of flavors. Bob had the enchiladas and I enjoyed the chicken with Spanish rice. The service was warm and friendly. We love finding small out of the way local restaurants and this place was exactly what we were hoping for!

(to be continued: more travel stories)

Photos of our travels_1

The view from the entrance to our neighborhood when we left for Arizona

Milwaukee skyline from Lake Michigan near Jessica & Nick's apartment

The gorgeous Milwaukee Art Museum

Driving towards Denver with the Rockies barely visible in the distance

Eastern Colorado landscape

Traveling across the U.S. 11.04.2007

If you are still with us you may have noticed a definite lapse in postings in the past month or so. That's because we've been traveling across America. We returned to Arizona to visit, stopping to see friends and family along the way, most of whom we hadn't seen since February 2005 when we sold our house and moved to Italy.

Our first stop (14 hours in one go, without stopping for the night) was Milwaukee, Wisconsin to spend a few days with our daughter and her husband. Jessica is stage-managing the entire season at Next Act Theatre www.nextact.org/index.html and was working on "An Interview with Paul Robeson." It was fun to see her in action and meet some of her friends and co-workers and it was evident that they all love what they do and put their hearts into it.

We planned to continue on after a few days, stopping in Denver but our original plan was diverted when we received word of a death in the family and returned to the east coast to attend the funeral of Bob's nephew who died accidentally. We wanted to be with Bob's sisters and their families at this difficult time.

We modified our plans, cutting short some visits and eliminating others. Even though we have no time restraints as far as jobs (we don't have any!) we had promised to be in Richmond, Virginia to go trick-or-treating on Halloween with our granddaughter. So back on the road we went, making it to Denver in about two days, stopping for the night in western Pennsylvania and again in Independence, Missouri, driving through Kansas - with a stop at the state capital in Topeka.

The best part of driving across the country is the ever-changing scenery. The highways along the east coast are lined with tall trees and the colors had started to change as we headed west. The mountains of Pennsylvania were sprinkled with reds, yellows and the brilliant orange colors of fall we missed all those years living in Phoenix. We got a very early start out of Washington, Pennsylvania, through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We spent the night in Independence, Missouri crossing over the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers and watched the sun come up in gorgeous pink streaks over the green rolling hills of Kansas. We drove through the Flint Hills and saw a bit of the vast tallgrass prairie that still exists, unspoiled by modern civilization, were tempted to take the scenic road, but opted for the quicker highway route this time, with a promise to return when the wildflowers are blooming and we can take our time.

(We were informed by a blog reader that the Kansas Flint Hills was recently featured in a 22-page color photo spread in National Geographic's April Issue as a distinctive landscape.
Here's their Tourism Coalition's website: http://www.kansasflinthills.travel/ and a blog dedicated to promoting the area: http://flinthillsofkansas.blogspot.com/)

Eastern Colorado is flatter than the Rocky Mountain west side but as we approached Denver the bulk of that range appeared on the horizon, growing larger as we headed west. We arrived in Arvada, Colorado just west of downtown Denver, in the foothills, by Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with my sister and her girls. We got to see my niece Samantha all dressed up for her school's Homecoming Dance on Saturday and to just hang out with Maddie and Suzanne and walk around the very charming Old Town Arvada. It was hard to say goodbye, knowing it will be months before we see each other again but early Monday morning we were on the road again.

South of Denver taller mountain peaks glowed with the pink morning light, with silhouetted, purple mountains below. Rusty red mountains, fringed in green trees and shrubs, golden rolling hills contrasted against Black Angus cows and ranch houses filled our views. Driving through New Mexico the landscape was more rugged, painted deserts, terra cotta, with long, low mesas and sharp, craggy mountains. Outside Santa Fe a small town with a white adobe church perched above the highway, reminded me of the hill towns in Italy, small houses and buildings in browns, pinks, tans, spilling down the hillside.

Driving through northeastern Arizona, we stopped in Flagstaff for lunch and a little walk through this lovely town, home to Northern Arizona University at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and surrounded by pine forests. We have always enjoyed the laid-back, earthy ambiance of this college town.

Heading south into Phoenix, with population density growing the closer we came, the big sprawling metropolitan area that is the Valley of the Sun enveloped us. The next few weeks were filled with non-stop visiting and partying, lunches, dinners and afternoon chats with all our favorite people there.

One of the reasons we went to Arizona, besides going to see our friends was to visit our doctors and have all the well-checks and tests we hadn't had since we left for Italy so our days were also filled with this type of activity. We have pretty good health insurance but it's better (that is, it pays better) if we do these types of things in Arizona. It's a good excuse for us to visit friends and we were able to schedule everything in advance so it worked out fine. We spread ourselves around, two days here, three days there, so no one would get sick of us and we hope we were good guests and didn't get on anyone's nerves!

Thanks to our friend Janet who opened her home for a gathering of mostly former Willo friends and neighbors with a few special others included and it was great to catch up on everyone's lives. Sally and John, who had moved to Fresno, even drove down to attend. It was a little painful to see our old house but we were forewarned that the new owners had removed our meandering brick path along with the mature jacaranda tree in the front yard and the olive tree in the back. The house looks the same but the landscaping is so dramatically different (my wildflower garden is now just a grass lawn, sadly) it didn't look like my little house anymore. Life goes on.

Thanks also to Jeff and Janet who threw a party for our firefighter friends on another night. Both of these parties made it possible for us to see more people than we would otherwise have had time for and we appreciate everyone who came and all those who helped with the planning.

(FYI: the photos from the parties didn't turn out very good unfortunately, taken in the backyard, nighttime and all that so we decided to be kind to our friends and not post them!)

(to be continued: Traveling across the U.S. continued)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

TV Interview snafu

I'm sorry to say that we were never able to view the WHYY interview, as I heard from many of you. We've been told that it might air a second time and if that happens we'll let you know. The experience of doing it was fun and people who live in Delaware told us they saw it when it aired but they never did get the web part up and running. So I apologize for any of you who tried and appreciate your effort. We hope to receive a copy of the program but because of copyright issues (they own it) we don't expect to be able to put it up on the blog. That's the way it goes I guess.