Friday Favorites

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  • The beginnings of cooler autumn weather when the summer has been hanging on far too long
  • Breaking out boots and scarfs
  • A whole afternoon to snuggle up on the couch with a good book. This time it’s The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford, a thriller and a page turner
  • Netflix movies and series without any ads (can I hear a hallelujah).  Just finished binge watching The Five, a British cold case thriller, because British tv is always just better (sorry..not sorry)
  • Watching Toby on a walk chase through the leaves and pursue squirrels
  • Decluttering the house, we have one of those junk services coming next week to get rid of all our years of excess stuff and the purging feels soooo good.  Boys, if you have not picked up your childhood stuff by the 27th its goodbye to all that
  • Afternoon tea, hot steaming English tea with a side of flapjack, a childhood favorite of hubbys
  • American Football.  I am a bit of an addict and have been known to watch 3 games back to back on a Sunday, usually while I am in the process of making a huge Sunday roast dinner
  • Favorite blogs that I read almost daily.  Hungryrunnergirl.com and pbfingers.com
  • Lip gloss from Victoria Secret, I have one in nearly every jacket pocket, in the car and in every bathroom.  I can never be more than 2 minutes away from a tube of lip gloss
  • An inspiring yet challenging yoga class where Savasana at the end is well deserved and has an awesome meditation component
  • My new stovetop espresso maker after I gained that espresso habit in Seville, now I am hooked but what a great start to the morning
  • Gratitude journals, I started one about a month ago and not only does it lead you to find your gratitude but 3 things that you did well that day, even if it’s just making a cup of tea.  It is making a huge difference in enabling a positive outlook and not being so down on myself
  • Health snacks, pecans walnuts almonds and dried cranberries
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Things I Wish I Had Known in My 30’s

My 30’s were an especially challenging time.  I was still trying to get used to living in the foreign country, hubby had to travel a lot for his job which meant a great deal of single parenting, the boys were getting bigger and involved in a lot more extracurricular activity and to top it all I went back to University to gain a degree in Health Care Administration. Yeah - what was I thinking?

Here are my thoughts on my 30’s:

  • It’s important to put yourself in the family photo even if you are carrying a few extra pounds, your family wants you in their legacy despite the fact you are self-conscious
  • As your kids get bigger and are involved in more activities NO is a complete sentence when someone wants you to be involved in something else
  • As your kids get bigger and are involved in more activates and your husband is out of town on his thousandth business trip its ok to ask for help with rides, dinner, the odd glass of wine with a friend.
  • When you are crazy busy frozen pizza is a perfectly acceptable dinner, your kids will not be damaged and in fact they were not!
  • Give yourself a break, you are working full time and raising 2 amazing children, do not beat yourself up for not doing it all, treat yourself with compassion
  • You looked pretty good despite the fact you thought you looked like an old hag!
  • You don’t have to be your child’s best friend you will not damage them for life if you exert discipline in the strongest non-violent way
  • Do not care about what people think about as much, maybe you are not quite as beautiful/skinny/articulate/bright enough.  Who the heck cares!
  • Do not worry that your kids are not getting all the nutrition they need and beat yourself up if you are not cooking that 3-course meal from scratch every day.  French Fries and chicken bites or hot dogs are fine some of the time. Ketchup and bacon are a food group!
  • Do not feel guilty that your family is not near their extended family to spend time with grandparents and aunts and uncles, you make your own family right where you are even though they may not be blood

I remember parenting in my 30’s as such a pivotal time to develop two young boys into two amazing young men.  I considered it my prime responsibility and exhausted myself, unjustifiably when I felt I had failed (many times).

I recently talked to my boys about that time when life was chaotic, I was often irritable because life was a little overwhelming and they lived on processed food way more than I would have wanted them to and the tv was often the babysitter. Their reply, hey mom that was fun, don’t really know what you are talking about the tough times, did not happen as far as we as concerned we just loved our life and had tons of cool friends and stuff to do. 

Lessons learned:

  • My boys are awesome (already known fact).
  • And don’t have a weary state of mind for what you perceive you did not do.  Love is all that matters.

Option B. When Option A Goes Up in Flames Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg - A Review

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This book was recommended to me and it turned out to be quite the page turner.  Sheryl Sandberg was noticed by the world when she became COO of Facebook and then went onto be the first woman on the board at FB.  The topic of female empowerment was covered in detail in her book Lean In.

However, this book is about something entirely different.  Whilst vacationing in Mexico with her husband, he suddenly died of a cardiac event.  This book is about how she dealt with and recovered and is still recovering from this trauma in her and her children’s lives (who were aged 7 and 10 when Dave died).

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It’s about facing head on the elephant in the room, how do you talk to someone who has had a sudden trauma, do you ignore it, do you say something akin to a platitude or do you educate yourself to say something healing and comforting?  It’s for people who have been victims of abuse, have a mental illness, have gone through a messy divorce, have a difficult and combative relationship with family members and any number of yucky things that happen.  And which one of us have not been through these difficult times at some time in our lives? I know I have, and some of it is still unresolved so I was interested to hear what Sheryl had to say on the topic.

Sheryl talks about resilience which has been a topic I have been interested in for many years after working as a Community Nurse in inner city Philadelphia.  Why do two adolescents both exposed to poverty, lack of education, and access to firearms have a different outcome? One becomes a drug dealer and one goes onto university and breaks the mold of dysfunctional living.  If experts knew how to replicate resilience then many of those in at risk situations would have a very different outcome.

However, I digress, back to the book and how resilience is described.  It can work for you or work against you in a grief situation.

  • Personalization, a way of identifying this huge event, affects you and those near you OR a belief that the event is your fault, what could you have done to prevent it?
  • Pervasiveness, a knowing that an event is so huge you will always be affected by it OR a belief you will never be happy again because this trauma will remain incredibly disabling for all area of your life.
  • Permanence, the belief that you must always keep your loved one who has died or whatever the trauma is alive so you may learn from it OR a belief that this level of pain will last forever, till the end of your days and how can you possible function in that level of devastation?I

What a juxtaposition of ways of coping and ways of being crippled by an event. It involves blame, survivors guilt and a hope and wish that with time you will become functional again, one day.

When family, friends and the victim of an event stay silent there is a risk of isolation.  It takes a whole village of people to support a family in a difficult time and if we disconnect from that community it can seriously inhibit healing.  Being alone with your thoughts is a necessary solitude but not a long-term solution.

Anna Quindlen puts it well when she says:

“Grief is a whisper in the world and a clamor within.”

The fear of recovering from the acute grief seems like a betrayal of the person you have lost or the event that has happened.  But knowing one day the pain can stop may give a person permission to be in deep pain because one day you will have the tools to deal with it.

When my mother died in 2015 and we were estranged because of a history of abuse and lack of healthy communication, I felt so deeply depressed by her death knowing that there would no longer be a chance of reconciliation. I fully welcomed the 3 P’s into my life in the negative sense. But slowly with a lot of time (and that process is still ongoing) and a lot of help I began to embrace the 3 P’s in a non-dysfunctional way.

The quote from Sheryl is "don’t die while you are still alive."  Firstly, what a waste of a life and what a disservice to the one you have lost or giving more energy than it deserves from that traumatic event. 

And self-compassion, wow that’s a big one, whether you are going through a tough time or not.  I used to say to myself:

“Suck it up buttercup."

Now I say:

“You are doing the best you can right here, right now.”

It makes a huge difference to the perception of tough times if there is a non-blaming discernment.  There is absolutely no point in finding guilt and shame in your situation, what a useless waste of time.

Soren Kierkegaard (a well-known philosopher, wish I was as smart as him) said:

“Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forward.”

That makes a lot of sense to me, but can be hard to put into practice.

Sheryl also refuses to talk of Post-Traumatic Stress but rather Post Traumatic Growth. That is a mind-blowing concept.  How encouraging it is to think, to know that eventually lemons can be turned into lemonade.

This review is just a small part of the book, there are so many more nuggets of wisdom.  Those that not only spoke to me but yelled at me from the pages.

If you happen to read the book I hope it has the same enlightenment on you.

Have. Be a good day.

Restorative Yoga

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Restorative yoga is a form of yoga that seeks to find physical, mental and emotional relaxation.  There are props oh so many props, bolsters, blankets, blocks and many more.  I have been participating in several restorative yoga classes, usually when I am feeling extra stressed and have the need to be soothed. I have never left one of these classes feeling unfulfilled. I'm always glad that I went.

So, it was with some delight and trepidation that I was asked to be a regular teacher of a restorative class on a Sunday afternoon.  I said yes of course, then silently inside had a panic attack.  I have never taught one of these classes before and having a regular gig was just a little intimidating.

Thank goodness, I found a 30-hour training locally, what a godsend!  This training is giving me a framework for developing classes and learning more of the philosophy of this type of yoga.

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I have always said there are two prerequisites for doing restorative yoga, that is breathing and lying down!  But it is so much more, it’s about surrendering and enlightenment. In some of the faster paced yoga classes like Vinyasa and Hatha it’s about finding your edge and staying there.  Restorative is the complete opposite of this, it’s about finding your comfort level and relaxing using props or feeling support of the ground beneath you, it’s about meditation and slowing down in our fast-paced lives.

So off I went to teach my first class.  90 minutes…...whaaat!!  That’s an awfully long time to fill.  I had spent days putting together just the right mediation, researching restorative poses like a PhD student.

I was a bag of nerves when I arrived at the yoga studio, everything had to be right, the lighting, the music, the temperature of the room.

People started wandering in to take the class, yikes this is really happening I thought to myself.  We all got settled, I took a deep breath, invited everyone to close their eyes and started with a soothing meditation.  It was at that moment when I relaxed, threw all my expectations out of the window and decided just to be, just be present in the moment with my students and with myself.

The 90 minutes went by with comforting poses, feelings of trust and clarification and a deep support of the poses that were presented.  I felt like I was in my element, I had found my thing, and I was and am eternally grateful that all went well.

Now onto developing the next class and hopefully many more.

Things That Made Me Happy This Fall

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  • Cooler days, and even cooler evenings.
  • The smell of leaves falling and autumn coming.
  • Walking Toby around the reservoir.
  • Incredible week of traveling, shopping, & watching movies with my wonderful goddaughter Ruth.
  • An amazing two days in DC, years since I’ve been and it was wonderful to discover it again.
  • The Newseum in DC, what a wonderful presentation.  Favorite bit, Pulitzer Prize winning photos, dramatic, and beautifully disturbing.
  • Celebrating a family birthday Hubby had a great day/
  • Leaving for Seville to see Jenny and Elliot, what a trip of a lifetime that turned out to be!
  • Exploring Seville by foot, bike and bus. Such an ancient city, so rich in history.
  • Discovering what Tapas really is.  Introducing ourselves to real sangria.
  • Developing a daily espresso and gelato habit!
  • Exploring the cathedral and being in awe of the Christopher Columbus monument there. 

Sevilla, Part II

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Oh, so much to do and so little time - that was the biggest problem we had while in Seville.  The city is not that large and it is packed with ancient artifacts, which means we walked (a lot) and around every corner we did that gasping “wow”.

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One of my favorite things about these deeply historic European cities is that you may find on a tiny little cobbled street a pair of huge shabby oak doors and then you open them up and you find this dazzling church inside complete with priceless art, beautiful stonework and an indulgent alter.

 

 

 

Life at home can get frenetic and one of the things I love about getting away is it changes your perspective.  It gives you a chance to take a breath about those huge issues that are really small issues that are bothering you.  Heck, you can’t do anything about it from three thousand miles away.  I had not felt this chilled and relaxed in a long time.

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The gelato is so delicious.  I think I ate my weight in it during my trip.  There are gelato stores EVERYWHERE, so it’s just too easy to pick up a scoop several times a day.  I gave myself a challenge to try every flavor, I just may have succeeded. 

 

I managed to pick up a cooking class while in Seville.  It was so well organized and a wonderful experience.  The meeting point was in a local market and the first hour of the class involved searching for the ingredients we would need for the menu.

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Then we went back to the cooking classroom and started cooking.  We made gazpacho, creamed spinach and chick peas, but my favorite was making paella from scratch.  The whole process took about 2 hours (but did not feel that long because they kept us well supplied with sangria).  From making the chicken stock from the carcass, to deboning a chicken the right way, to just the right amount of saffron and how you toast and crush it, to the adding of the rice at the end. 

Little known facts.

  • When you add the rice do not do not stir it.
  • You simmer the paella until there is almost no liquid left and there is a crust on the bottom.
  • If you order paella at a restaurant and it takes less than 30 minutes to come out, it is not paella!!!

I think one of my favorite times in Seville was at night.  The locals all disappeared in the afternoon to miss the heat of the day (sensible people) but at about 8pm everyone appeared, the tapas bars were hopping, children were playing in the plaza, the light began to fade just enough that there is an ethereal glow over everything especially those ancient buildings.

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This is the cathedral, which has a mixture of Roman, Arabian and Catholic influences.  If you climb the tower (which I have) you will not find any steps, just lots of ramps…in case you want to ride your horse to the top…. which I did not!

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We were sad to leave but did so with many happy memories of spending time with Jenny and Elliot and exploring yet another striking and ancient city with a hope that we will return one day.

A Review of a Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan

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My very informed son suggested I read this, and as I always do what my adult children tell me (because they are usually right!), I bought the book, listened to the podcast, got the T-shirt!

The book is written by an integrative psychiatrist (holistic approach to mental health issues) especially written for women who have depression and anxiety issues.  I was so blown away by it to the extent that I have been buying extra copies and giving them away.

The premise of the book is the best way to heal the mind is to heal the body.  With some serious changes to diet and lifestyle, depression and other mental health diagnoses cannot just be helped but cured.  That’s a bold statement but she has anecdotal evidence from years and years of patients successfully implementing her guidelines and resolving all their issues

Kelly states that it all begins in the gut, if the gut flora is off then there is an imbalance in the body, especially the brain affecting mood.  She recommends that you eliminate gluten and dairy (oh boy no more pizza!), drink filtered water, because the water table is full of drugs and bugs and the EPA know and are doing nothing about it (this I think is outrageous), stop taking synthetic hormones like the contraceptive pill and incorporate meditation and yoga into your schedule and stop wearing perfume - now that is going a little too far, I am really not willing to give up my Estee Lauder habit! And absolutely no alcohol.  She also recommends adding an Omega 3, Vitamin B6 and B12 and a multi vitamin. 

So as a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety and a spring where I unexpectedly was struggling with this I decided to give it a go.   

Week 1: I was miserable, no cheese or wine what is the point of going on!  I was not too hungry but was craving dairy and bread all week, but I valiantly soldiered on.

Week 2:  Much much better, getting in my stride, beginning to feel lighter and glowing (skin clear and bright).

Week 3:  Becoming a lifestyle.  I think adding the vitamins has been key, Omega 3 and the B6 vitamins are closely linked to mood disorders and most of us are deficient in these so no wonder we are sad.

One of the points that Kelly is quite insistent on is getting rid of all psych meds as soon as possible.  I knew this was a no-go for me as soon as I read it.  She may be right but I will never, never give up my meds, I think it could be potentially disaster for me and my family may well leave me on a top of a mountain with no supplies and no chance of escape if I did that.  It would not be a gift to me or my family.

Kelly sees patients in New York and will not even see you if you do not eat meat (meat is rich in B vitamins) so I am not going to see her anytime soon because I am quite happy being a vegetarian/vegan thank you.

She also recommends you get rid of all the chemicals in your house.  Now steady on, as a self-proclaimed OCD cleaner I would have a hard time giving up my Lysol and my Bleach, but I am willing to do in baby steps so the dishwasher cleaner just went organic as did hand soap and shampoo!

All in all, a very very interesting read. Most of all it gave me a plan to make some healthy lifestyle changes on my own which gives me some sense of destiny of a lifelong issue with depression that I can control with certain interventions.

STOP PRESS:  Just had the results of some routine blood tests.  After a month on this regime my A1C (indicator of blood sugar) dropped over a point which I have been battling for a couple of years and the doc also recommended a cut to my thyroid medicine (which has never happened) because my thyroid is beginning to function better – yeah for healthy living!

Still doing the raw diet as much as I can and pretty much vegan 90% of the time.  Does not suit everyone but my body does seem to like it so we will carry on.

Until the next time, 

Angie 

Things That Made Me Happy This Summer

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Quilting.  I transformed our formal living room (for goodness sake who uses that anymore)  into my sewing room. It is the perfect space for a sewing desk and cutting table, an ironing board, a couch and many many completed quilts and a whole lot of whimsy.

Wet weather happy flowers.  It rained…a lot.  But I do not mind the rain, as long as I am watching it from the inside.  And yes, it was a bummer not to be able to get out too much (Insert sad face here from Toby).  But my flowers absolutely loved it, I have never seen them looking this great at this point in the season.

Longwood Gardens and its fountain display…with fire (how do they do that?). Last renovation of the fountains was in the 1930’s so you know this was going to be good.  All the amazing fountain displays are synched to a soundtrack. We went to the Beatles night (really good) and the Jazz night (even better).  I could do a whole post on Longwood Gardens. It's in the south of Philly with Italian Water Gardens, massive tree houses and just acres and acres of manicured flower beds.  Oh, and the beer garden, cannot forget the beer garden.

Walking Toby (when it was not raining). Seeing the pure joy on his face as he chases (and misses) squirrels and bunnies although he did catch a couple of ground hogs.  I never regret taking him on a walk.

Farmers Markets. Got to love that local organic produce.  My favorite this summer was the honey guy.  All the different flavors of his honey are yummy and I invested in some Royal Jelly Pollen which is a superfood and is tasteless so can go in tea, coffee, on your cereal, in your yogurt whatever you chose.  The anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties of bee pollen are off the charts.

Seeing Joe and Chelsea and hiking a beautiful mountain.  Climbing to the top of a mountain is physically and metaphorically thrilling.

Becoming a 2-dog family... even if it is for just 2 weeks.

Going to the movies.  We saw Dunkirk, this is very much a British film about 400,00 troops that got stuck on the beach in France and could not get home because they were pinned in on all sides by the enemy.  So, a flotilla of small fishing boats from UK harbors came and saved thousands of young soldiers.  Very moving and worth a viewing when it comes to On Demand.

Face timing with Elliot and Jenny and planning our visit to Seville to see them.

Teaching yoga – I have been hugely intimidated about teaching yoga.  Teaching kids can be a breeze (if it were not too crazy) and they do not care if you are doing it right or not because they have no idea.  But when I teach adults I want to give them a quality product that they paid for.  I have been subbing for the gym where I belong and getting over the nerves was not as bad as I thought it would be.  Rather, teaching is a joy and I am finding my yoga voice (it’s a thing!).  I look forward to teaching much more and developing as a yoga teacher.

Trying out some new workouts Pilates and Body Pump – which by the way hurt so you know it’s going to be difficult to walk the next day.  But you know what they say, no pain no gain.

And so, my summer was full and eventful. 

Until the next time, 

Angie 

Goddaughter Week

So, I have collected quite a few goddaughters in life.  A job I take very seriously in terms of keeping in touch with them and (attempting) to be a positive influence in their lives (sometimes easier than others with my wacky personality). 

It has become a wonderful event to have these girls come visit on their own for a week or two.  I have known these girls since they were babies and now to reacquaint myself with them as they are now young adults is a really special adventure for both of us.

Emily, Catherine and Sarah have already been on their trips and it was truly a magical and a distinctive event to spend that one on one time with them and get to know them as the amazing young adults they have developed into.

The most recent goddaughter week was Ruth.  Born a week apart from Elliot and the daughter of a very dear friend, we got to spend many, many hours together even though it was hard for Ruth and her family being in the UK and us being in the USA.  Somehow it was not too hard to stay in touch.

I loved watching Ruth develop from a small baby (gosh she was so shy) to a child to a preteen and now to a young adult (who is not at all shy!). Watching her grow up was just a joy.  To say she is rocking, it is an understatement.

I planned the whole week out with FUN in mind.  This is what we got up to: 

  • M Day – Manicures, Massage, Mall – one of many necessary shopping trips.  Retail therapy and all that.
  • Sculpture Garden tour – this turned out to be an epic fail as the heavens opened and it pelted with rain all day.  We licked our wounds, ran to the store to get popcorn and then settled in for a movie marathon.
  • Trip to DC - this was the highlight of the trip.  Ruth had never been and it’s been years since I was there so we wanted to pack it all in. Here are a few things we did.
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This is us standing in front of the Whitehouse.  We had hoped to get to as close to the South lawn as we could to get some good pics but the whole area was cordoned off by the secret service (why do they not smile when you ask them a question – so rude). So this is as far as we got.  It turns out President Trump was going to his weekend retreat and so he took off in Marine 1 (his helicopter) which we saw so that was a small (very small) compensation.

 

 

 

The Newsuem, new one to me, opened in 2007. This is a strong recommendation if you are in the DC area.  It was amazing, we were there for 2 hours only because we had other things on our wish list but we could have stayed there considerably longer.  So much stuff in there about news history and how news is made and broadcast but our favorites were the legacy of JFK and the gallery of Pulitzer Prize winning photos from journalists, outstanding, emotional provoking and some that just highlighted the injustice of so many.  We may have shouted…. on the inside!!

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The Library of Congress, must be one of my favorite places to visit.  Not only is the rotunda (the place where they keep all the book stuff) outstanding, but the architecture and the mosaics are spectacular.  Little known fact, we had lunch in the basement of the Capitol and we found a secret (well not so secret) tunnel to the Library of Congress that not many people find and we felt like we were in a Dan Brown book as we went on our adventure.

The Lincoln Memorial, we walked miles to get here but it was totally worth it.  The workmanship in the building is intricate and seeing Lincoln in that huge scale was truthfully inspiring.

We were weary but extremely saturated by American history (in a good way) when we got home.

The next day Hubby took over as I had lots and lots of papers to grade.  They went on an impressive 30-mile bike ride and they came back suitably exhausted and sun kissed, much fun was had by all.

The last day we went to a National Quilt Show, an event I have been looking forward to for months and it was so lovely that Ruth was here to share it with me.

All the way there I was shouting in my head “restraint Angie, show restraint”

As soon as I got there that went out the window!  So many beautiful fabrics and so many gadgets for quilting that I do not know how I lived without.

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I did come away with some gorgeous fabrics that I am very excited to turning into something beautiful and several knickknacks that I have no idea how I have lived without.

And then it was the last day (insert sad emoji face here).  We had a good sleep in, to help with Ruth’s overnight flight, and of course did one more trip to the mall for the last-minute needs/necessities/ok I just want it cause it's shiny.

I hope this trip was memorable for Ruth because for me it was a joy and a delight every single day.  Because of the 3000 miles between us not sure when we will meet face to face again but this is one girl (like all the other goddaughters) where FB messaging will be on overdrive.

Thank you, Ruth, so much for coming! 

Visiting Seville (Part I)

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Jenny and Elliot are currently living in Seville and because we live vicariously through our children we planned a trip for late September thinking that the temps would be perfect (we were wrong - still insanely hot), and the city would be bright and beautiful (we were right on that one). With over 300 days of sunshine we knew it would be a trip of a lifetime and we were not disappointed.

Seville is in the Andalusia part of Spain and is famous for its food, hospitality and flamenco dancing (more of that in Part 2).

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So many old old buildings. I mean 5th Century onwards with a prominent gothic style which we love.  Seville also has a large bull fighting arena (which we did not go to) and a great deal of Moorish buildings, which when the Moors abandoned their mosques, the Christians took them over and made them very Catholic and they were very, very beautiful inside and out.

Yes, the place was stunning but the biggest joy was spending time with these two.

Found a random cow that needed a kiss right after we found a Starbucks where I could get a decent cup of Earl Grey tea (deep joy).

Fish markets were everywhere. These were kinda creepy langoustines and all the crab, scallops and shrimp looked amazing but…. sigh…. due to my severe shellfish allergy, I could not touch any of them.  And yes, I go everywhere with my EpiPen and my stash of Benadryl.

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We went to Cadiz which is thought to be the oldest town in Europe.  It has over 150 watch towers and we climbed the tallest one to get this view.  I guess they wanted to see their enemies coming in every direction. 

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The day we were there, there was weird choir festival going on in front of the cathedral.  I would not say they were good but they were very colorful.

When we visit our kids it’s such a special time to get to know them better as young adults and these two are as much joined at the hip as they were when Elliot was younger. It is such a special thing to see a child and parent not only respect but like each other.

We made it to the beach and explored some of the outstanding architecture in Seville.  More to come in Part II. 

Until next time, 

Angie