Vacation with Friends

Our bestest friends (while Ron and I have known Joe for over 20 years, classmates and all; we have been "couple" friends for 19+ years - since Ft. Knox & his marriage to Terri) have finally arrived and joined us on a vacation in Florida. We have been talking about taking a vacation together for over 10 years, but have finally been able to pull it off.

Terri LOVES trains, so they took the AutoTrain down and arrived this morning. Since they couldn't check into their resort until 4pm, they came over to ours and we hung out at the pool all day until checkin time.

It was a very relaxing day at the pool.

More adventures tomorrow.

Mommie, I'm SO Happy!

If I could bottle the pure joy and happiness that Cara has right now, kinda like an Eau de Joy or maybe in a pill form (Take 1 each morning with a sipup), I would be a billionaire. It is infectious. From the moment that child woke up - HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY.
- Jumping up and down, yelling "Let's go, Vamanos" (way too much Dora)
- The squeal of excitement that she let out (blowing out everyone's eardrums at gate B7) when she saw the airplane.
- Checking to make sure everyone had on their seatbelt on the airplane so we could go (we were NOT getting put off the plane by this child - not on her watch)
- Yelling "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" as the plane gained speed and took off, and throwing her arms in the air when it went up - almost starting a wave.
- The ooooh, aaaah, at everything when we got to the resort.
- Jumping on the couch in our suite yelling - "Vaaacayshun house - Vaaacayshun house" over and over.
- Coming up to me and saying, "I love you mommie. I'm Soooo Happy."
I melted and as far as I'm concerned, that baby can do and have whatever she wants on this trip. I'm done in. Whatever Cara is taking, I want some.

I think I'll hang with her for a while and try to see the world through her eyes this week. Perhaps I'll catch it.


"Beside the Seaside"

I'm packing the family up for our trip to Orlando, Florida...a little family trip...kids and all. We leave Saturday morning. Cara is gonna drive me bat crazy talking about the trip:

Mommie? When do we go to Cindarella's House?
Mommie? Do we go on an airplane?
Mommie? Can I make an X on the calendar? How many day's left till Cindarella's House?
Mommie? I want to go to the beach and get sea shells?
Mommie? I wanna play in the water.

Lord Have Mercy.

And to top it off, Cara is an advid watcher of anything on Noggin (Wonder Pets, Dora, Diego, Oswald, Backyardigans). You know that they repeat the same shows OVER, and OVER, and OVER, and OVER again till I can sing EVERY dang song to EVERY show. Well, this little ditty below comes on during every commercial and it reminds Cara of our trip and the questions start over again. Now I have to sing the friggin song when we go to bed. I'm starting to ask, "Are we there yet?"

Even though I get irritated with all the questions, there is nothing like the joy in my baby girls eyes, the excitement of this adventure...I'm actually looking forward to the Tea Cup Ride and It's a Small World. Starting again with a small person at a different point in our lives when we can do more (spoil rotten is more like it) is just a blast...and YES, I know I'm creating a mini-diva monster, but she is the cutest mini-me on the face of the planet.

Stay tuned for Travel Diva Adventures at Disney

New Limited Edition "Baltimore" Barbies

Mattel recently announced the release of limited-edition Barbie Dolls for the Greater Baltimore market (If you're not from this area, you won't get it, but I'm sure there is a limited edition for your city coming soon):

The question is...which Barbie group do I belong to? I think I'm a combo Barbie (Roland Park/Columbia/Greenspring Valley Barbie). Is that possible? Soooooo, which Barbie (or combo) are you?

And...no ish, the Barbie's are white, don't even start...this is a humorous post, like funny - okay...don't get your panties all in a bunch. Yes, my daughter plays with dolls and barbies - all from one of the Royal Courts (Cindarella, Ariel, Bess and so on) and guess what, I don't think she'll be ruined for life. I played with Barbies...and Ken (and made them do all kinds of Law and Order: SVU offenses) as well as GI Joe's, Wheebles, and Legos. I kinda turned out okay. Yeah, I got issues, but my shoes are FIERCE, I'm beautiful AND I do know how to kill with my hands as well as assorted weapons!

N.E.Way...check out these new line of Baltimore Barbies:

'Roland Park Barbie'

This princess Barbie is sold only at Cross Keys. She comes with an assortment of Kate Spade Handbags,a Lexus SUV, a long-haired foreign dog named Honey and a cookie-cutter house. Available with or without tummy tuck and face lift. Workaholic Ken sold only in conjunction with the augmented version.
'Columbia Barbie'

The modern day homemaker Barbie is available with Ford Windstar Minivan and matching gym outfit. She gets lost easily and has no full-time occupation. Traffic jamming cell phone sold separately.
'Eastern Avenue Barbie'

This recently paroled Barbie comes with a 9mm handgun, a Ray Lewis knife, a Chevy with dark tinted windows, and a Meth Lab Kit. This model is only available after dark and must be paid for in cash (preferably small, untraceable bills) ....unless you are a cop, then we don't know what you are talking about.

' Greenspring Valley Barbie'

This yuppie Barbie comes with your choice of BMW convertible or Hummer H2. Included are her own Starbucks cup, credit card and country club membership. Also available for this set are Shallow Ken and Private School Skipper. You won't be able to afford any of them.

'Glen Burnie Barbie'

This pale model comes dressed in her own Wrangler jeans two sizes too small, a NAS CAR t-shirt and Tweety bird tattoo on her shoulder. She has a six-pack of Bud Light and a Hank Williams Jr. CD set. She can spit over 5 feet and kick mullet-haired Ken's butt when she is drunk. Purchase her pickup truck separately and get a Confederate flag bumper sticker absolutely free.

'Canton Barbie'

This collagen-injected, rhino plastic Barbie wears a leopard-print outfit and drinks Cosmopolitans while entertaining friends. Percocet prescription available as well as warehouse conversion condo.

'Pasadena Barbie'

This tobacco-chewing, brassy-haired Barbie has a pair of her own high-heeled sandals with one broken heel from the time she chased beer-gutted Ken out of Glen Burnie Barbie's house. Her ensemble includes low-rise acid-washed jeans, fake fingernails, and a see-through halter-top. Also available with a mobile home.

' Mt. Vernon Barbie'

This doll is made of actual tofu. She has long, straight brown hair, arch-less feet, little or no makeup and Birkenstocks with white socks. She prefers that you call her Wil! low &nb sp;. She does not want or need a Ken doll, but if you purchase two Mt. Vernon Barbies and the optional Subaru wagon, you get a rainbow flag bumper sticker for free. Of course, the femme version wears lots of makeup, alluringly coiffed hair, and colorful attire. So, you really can't tell. It's all fun in Mt. Vernon.

'Dundalk Barbie'

This Barbie now comes with a stroller and infant doll. Optional accessories include a GED and bus pass. Gangsta Ken and his 1979 Caddy were available, but are now very difficult to find since the addition of the infant.

'Catonsville Barbie'

She's perfect in every way. We don't know where Ken is because he's always out a-'huntin'.



DISCLAIMER: This blog is privately owned and operated. The contents of this blog, including words, images, and opinions are officially that of The TravelDiva, and NOT to be considered the views of anybody else - ESPECIALLY the Unit.ed. St,at.es Mil.i.tar.y Aca.demy, U.S. Ar.my, or Dep.ar.tme.nt. of De.fen.se. This blog is NOT and NEVER WILL BE endorsed by the above mentioned institutions. Visitors to this blog should and better accept and agree to this disclaimer in the use of any information from this blog. Or Else.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me explain. My classmate from WooPoo University has a very insightful and intelligent blog on Leadership entitled Black Knight on Leadership. Why Black Knight, you ask. BECAUSE HE IS ONE! The Black Knight is the mascot of our dear alma mater and EVERY grad refers to themselves as a Black Knight. We are part of the Long Grey Line, the 13th man at every football game, an Old Grad, an Officer & Gentleman/Lady (whatever). We are what we are. We are Black Knights. Nuff said.

Today, Joe gets a letter from some legal eagle at the Office of the St.af.f Ju.dge Adv.oca.te, United S.tat.es Mil.itary Acad.emy protesting the unauthorized use of the Academy's "Institutional Name and Identifying Marks" in connection with his blog and that "these logos, marks, and verbiage are the property of the U.S. Ar.my and protected under Federal, State and/or common law." Furthermore, if he did not officially apply for permission to use the logo and the "verbiage" (Black Knight) then additional action would be pursued.

Okay. I get the point about the logo. FINE. I wouldn't want anybody using my logos or pictures without permission, but I did not have the faintest idea that the words "Black Knight" were the property of the U.S. Arm.y.....and guess what...neither do over 5 million other people, places, things. I wonder if WooPoo is "vigorously pursuing" the other 4.99 million frigging ways that someone is using the verbiage without permission. I think NOT.

Let me give you just a small sampling of what is out there with the words or some reference to Black Knight in use:
- http://www.theblackknights.org/ (yeah I own the freakin URL, and have for over 10 years, not a peep, yet)
- 2 Movies (Monty Python and the Holy Grail & a 2001 Martin Lawrence Movie)
- A racquet company with a logo VERY close to WP's own mascot
- A martial arts school
- The internets biggest online gaming guild
- A prototype unmanned combat vehicle
- A system engineering and software development company
- A Marvel comic character
- A site dedicated to the breeding & stud service to Great Dane dogs
- A New Jersey bow hunting club
- A world of Warcraft character
- A single stage rocket
- A business term
- a Sw.ann 2.4 GHz Wireless Camera

...do you need more? The Administrative and Civil Law Guru for Intellectual Property must have one hell of a staff of clerks to go after the 5 million ways that people are violating the U.S Ar.my's ownership of the words - Black Knight. Gimme a freakin break.

Personally, I think it has something to do with the fact that Joe disagreed with the decision to rewrite two of the Academy's beloved songs - The Alma Mater & The Corp - to be more inclusive of women graduates. Despite his disagreement (and I was with him on that one), he did submit some suggestions for rewording a few lines. Guess he showed up on somebody's desk as a heretic. Ya know what, Imma be singing MY Alma Mater and The Corp the way is was written and the way I was taught. I ain't changing to the new words, and if your feelings get hurt SO BE IT.

As for this legal wrangling, I know Joe will do what he needs to do to be able to use the logo - if they will even let him, but not being allowed to use the words Black Knight without their permission - Kiss My Patootie. Start with the other 5 mil and get back to us.


The Soup to Nuts Progressive Dinner Blog Carnival

Fellow Bloggers & Innernet Friends...I am hosting one of the courses (Hors d'oeurvres & Cocktails) in a
Soup to Nuts Progressive Dinner Blog Carnival.

The way a progressive dinner works is...you start out at one house or restaurant to have hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, then move on to a different one for appetizers, and continue moving from place to place all the way through dessert.

Soup To Nuts combines the power of blog carnivals with the adventure of a progressive dinner, while adding a dash of whimsy.

You can enter as many as five posts in the Soup To Nuts PROGRESSIVE DINNER Blog Carnival. If you wish, you can enter a single submission; or two or three or four or five. (ENTER YOUR SUBISSION HERE)

How does it work that you can submit multiple posts to one carnival; and why would you?

You could say, Soup to Nuts is FIVE CARNIVALS in one. All five are connected, to make one megacarnival. Remember, there are five different host blogs involved. If you submit five posts, every one of the host blogs will have a link to your site.

Entries are being accepted NOW. Don't be one of the people who come to enter late; to find they have no seat at the table. {ENTER}

Dinner is being served 31 July
No entries will be accepted after 11:59 pm, Friday, 25 July

The Rules...
---(-)-> Only English language posts will be accepted.
---(-)-> It's a FREE FOR ALL! - meaning you can submit posts on any subject, no matter when they were written.
---(-)-> No posts with titles that include profanity or pictures of a sexual nature.
---(-)-> Posts will not be accepted from blogs that publish primarily adult-oriented material; that means no sex blogs.
---(-)-> Please do not submit the same post for more than one course

The individual portions, in the progressive dinner, are referred to as courses.
The lineup for the second Soup To Nuts PROGRESSIVE DINNER Carnival:

The Hors d'oeuvres & Cocktails course...will be served by here at Stories of a Traveling Diva {Enter} - Choose hors d'oeuvres category

The host of the Appetizer course...will be served by Jacob at Group Writing Projects {Enter} - Choose appetizer category

The host of the First Course...will be served by Marion at Herbal Connections {Enter} - Choose first course category

The Main Course...will be served at Kilroy_60 at Fear and Loathing: The Gonzo Papers{Enter} - Choose main course category

The host of the Dessert Course...will be served by Kimberly at Blog N' Butter {Enter} - Choose main course category

We would appreciate your help in promoting the Soup To Nuts Progressive Dinner Blog Carnival. Please email the url of your promotional post to kilroy60@gmail.com - you will receive links back in future announcements by the hosts. This is a unique event. Please follow the format of this post to make the submission process as easy as possible for all involved.{Enter}

The TravelDiva is Travel Delayed

It's my own fault. I should have checked online prior to leaving the house what the status of my flight was (going on a one day business meeting in Buffalo), but NOOOOOO...I piddled around the house, pulled some weeds and went for a run so that I ended up rolling outta the house at 2:15pm for a 3:20 flight. I wasn't too worried as I didn't have to check any bags.

Well, I get to BWI, check in at the electronic kiosk and WHAM! "You're Flight is Delayed" - by 2 friggin hours. Humph. What to do? What to do to kill the time.

With my handy, dandy notebook (laptop) equipped with a wifi modem, I am amusing myself by catching up on my blog visits and people watching. And um, I am looking at a guy wearing a plaid kilt (for real), navy t-shirt, and tennis shoes and he just goosed his girlfriend in the azz right in my face. WOW (uggah, my new crackberry doesn't have camera capabilities and I loaned my ma my purse camera)

Other interesting visuals of note:
- If your jeans are SOOO tight that they create a muffin top outta your midriff, you need to get a bigger size.
- Despite the fact that getting through security is daunting, it is NEVER appropriate to wear your pajamas to travel in.
- Yes, you CAN get so fat that your but cheeks will move independently of each other when you want. I couldn't help but stare.
- Knit pants that fit like spandex is a NO NO if your thighs and azz look like cottage cheese. GET SOME SPANX IMMEDIATELY.
- I know your handbag is a knockoff, no matter how you try to sport it, especially if the C's are actually G's.
- If you insist on wearing your toes and heels out for the world to view, FIX YOUR DAMN POLISH (you haven't changed it in two years) AND PUT SOME DANG LOTION ON. I just saw a live version of a picture oneblackman sent to CreoleInDC. It is just nastier in real life.

YEAH! My flight is starting to board. Gotta go.


Flat Tire

I was driving the Hummer today (despite the cost of gas) and the "Low Tire" light came on, which, to me, means one of the dang tires is low (go figure). I ask Ron about it and he says to not worry about it, that sometimes if it is too hot or too cold the light will come on, but eventually go out. Why did I listen to that bit of un-informed logic. Uh. Not so much.

I'm out near Baltimore taking care of some business, about to make my way home when I hear this cound like air coming out of a balloon (a big one). Hmmmm The Hummer ain't humming anymore...it sounds more like a rumble. Let me pull ove and see what I can see.

Ahhhh Hell! The fuggin tire is FLAT. Would the "Low Tire" indicator been an indication that a potential problem was brewing? You think? did youi knwo taht a Hummer tire, even a H3 baby Hummer, is as big as my whole freakin body. I'm all Rambo-ette and ish, but da hell with dat. Not in 3 in heels and a dress. And if I was to fugg up this manicure, hell has not see this fury.

I get Ron on the phone (cause he stopped the O.n.St.ar Service - oh we are gonna have a conversation later) and tell him to get me some service and get his butt out here and save me. I'm on a freakin exit ramp - make it so Number One.

And just when you think it can't get worse...it starts to rain. WTF.

Ron arrives in about 30 min and the auto club people arrive about 10 minutes after that. Ron and the auto guy stand out in the rain trying to figure out how to get the lug nuts off the spare and the flat. You just don't snatch a Hummer tire off...these suckers have some kind of key to unlock em. They find the key and in about 30 minutes, the spare is on. Whew.

Hey Baby, I think next time you see the "Low Tire" light, it be best to NOT ignore it. Especially if the Diva is driving it. Now you know.


There are only 4 houses in our little alcove of country living. Four families separated by a common driveway and an acre or two. Why is there always one neighbor in the bunch (no matter how big or small the community) that just HAS to be a complete azz.

Three of the four families get along beautifully. We are friendly with each other, help each other in times of natural disasters (flooding, blizzard, trees down etc), share glasses of wine together and more. Nice little community. We have one neighbor who we will call...JerkyBoy.

Nothing remotely friendly about him. When Ron negotiated with a landscaping company to mow all of our lawns for a reasonable price, what did he say - Hell No. I'll get my own person. When Ron arranged with a company to plow our long azz driveway every time we had a snow storm, what do JerkyBoy say...I get it done myself (FINE - you stoopit azz - he ends up getting plowed in EVERY time - Idjit). He has a huge party complete with illegal fireworks - doesn't invite not one of us - not even as a courtesy. He has moved the mail boxes to a place where it blocks the everyones ability to safely see the oncoming cars as we pull out of the driveway cause he didn't like it further in the driveway (safe for us AND the mailman) cause he thought it unsightly. JerkyBoy.

One of my other neighbors (the house closest to ours) just put their house on the market. They are moving out of the country for the husbands job and will get an incentive from his company if they sell it themselves instead of having the company buy it. Thus, it is priced well below appraised value and is, in my humble real estate opinion, being sold for a STEAL. 4.4 Acres, 5500+ totally finished sq ft. of beautiful property. You can't find land like this anywhere in Howard County for the asking price. If your in the market, email me and I'll send you the listing. We are setting up interviews of our future neighbors. You think I'm joking. Humph.

N E Way. The sign company comes and puts a For Sale Sign up next to the mailboxes. FINE. Not so much to JerkyBoy. he calls the realtor and says that the sign is on his property and he wants it removed immediately. Uh, Idjit, the sign AND the freakin mailboxes are on the easement. Do you want us to all move the mailboxes too? No. Just the sign. He says he's a lawyer (he is) and he knows the law (I would hope so) and if my neighbor didn't take it down he was gonna call the county and take action.

Now, if it had been me..."Call Em, you little shyt. when THEY call me & tell me that the easement is private property, that's when it will move. Till then, do what you do." It wasn't me who did the talking. My neighbor is a lot nicer than me. She tried to negotiate, told him she thought he practiced law selectively, when it suited him and when that didn't work, called us and asked if the sign could be put on our side of the easement. WHATEVER. Makes me no never mind.

As for the JerkyBoy...No More Mrs. Nice Girl. Put your damn trash cans on your property. Keep it off mine or Imma call the county and take action. Fugg the easement.


P.S. Ron is completely crazy...
"Lisa, [JerkyBoy] makes the neighborhood complete. He's like that little old lady in the hood who didn't want nothing in her yard. If your ball went into her yard, she kept it. You don't really have a neighborhood until you have a neighbor that will steal your ball."
He is a scream.


Happy Father's Day

I miss my dad. While he was an enigma, he had faults and foibles - he was my Dad. I was mad at him for a long time, I was even cold and mean to him, aloof and sometimes distant, but he never, ever returned the sentiment. I can't recall a time when we (or I) was going through our rough period that he ever had a cross word for me. He just let me be mad and I guess he figured I would finally get over it or let it go.

He was the proudest father on the face of the earth - of me. He would brag about me, he would parade me around to his co-workers and have the red carpet rolled out, he would take me to his synagogue (yes, my father was Jewish and could even speak fluent Hebrew), he would set up dinners for me with his friends to regale stories. He made a special trip to my first duty station when I was in the Army and met with everyone from my Brigade Commander on down to my Platoon Sergeant to see how I was doing.

He did some things to my mother that made me M.A.D. and I took sides, but he was always there for me, always a part of my life - he never let my attitude get in the way of being a dad.
He trusted me implicitly. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he asked me to come with him to meet with his neurologist and surgeon to hear what his options were and to help him make a decision. I remember that meeting like it was yesterday. We sat there listening to the options, I asked a bunch of questions and when they asked what course of action he wanted to take, my father looked at me and asked me what my opinion was - what did I think he should do. Wow. I did NOT want that on my shoulders and told him so. He said, "I value your opinion, your medical knowledge (okay Dad, Imma pharma rep, come on), and I want to know what you think. Please." I gave him my analysis, told him what I would do if it was me...and that was that.

Unfortunately, my father never left the operating room and he was buried on my birthday. The circle of life come full circle. So many things left un-said, but I think he knew anyway.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. I miss you


Just When You Think....

Just when you think you've heard it all, here comes a whopper....

My sister called today and asked a question that immediatly made me go WTF!!!!! She asked if she could borrow the conversion van for the weekend. I was stunned into silence. Have you lost your ever lasting mind? Are you smokin' crack on the job? You would have the audacity to ask ME of all people ---cause you "gonna have your license tomorrow". Crackhead.

The woman who stole my drivers license and....

....walked into 3 different banks in Bmore, using my id, asked for a counter check and withdrew all of the money we had, including in my company expense account. (The tellers were fired AND she did 3 years in the hoo-schow)
....also took all of her "childrens" money too
....used my identity while conducting her illegal activities which resulted in a warrent being issued in MY name and having a cop come to MY house to execute said warrent.

The woman who has totaled, had repossesed, burnt out, got stolen at least 6 cars in her lifetime...

WANTED TO BORROW MY CAR for the weekend while she was at a BK Training Seminar in Annapolis. F.uc.k NO!

She went on to say, "Well, I'll call you tomorrow morning. Would you ask Ron for me?" Stunned.

I called Ron (even though I knew what he would say) and asked the stoopit question. "NO! Are you kidding." Click. He promptly hung up.

Lawd Hab Murcey.


Back to Rome

We were supposed to go to the Galleria del' Accademia to see Michaelangelo's David on Monday, but found out as we waited for a taxi that the museums are closed on Monday. A phone call to the tour service and "oops, we are so sorry, we will issue a refund" later and we were off to do what only a Diva can do when the scheduled plans are waylaid and she has 3 hours to kill before the train back to Rome....SHOP! We we back down to Ponte Vecchio and just window shopped our way around the city. Karen tourtured some guy with a street booth selling belts for about 30 minutes making him take buckles off, put new ones one, changing them around until she was satisfied with the 4 belts she decided on. Very nice.

We then walked through a square next to the Uffizi Gallery (also closed) and was accosted by an African selling knock off LV luggage. He followed us through the square, offering us a "special deal" on the luggage (it was like a pull duffle bag) of 200 euros. I called him a crackhead and said I'd give him 10 euros - bout what it was really worth. No No he said, best offer is 300 for both (he had 2). I told him that crack kills, stop it. 10 eruos. Give me 100 euros, best I can do. Bye! There has to be a sucker born every minute - how do these guys make it. There is no way. Karen says that there must get somebody - sometime - even a broke clock is right 2x a day. We went by a flea market and if I'll be damned - there was the same knock off LV luggage for 17 euros. Da Hell! Now I would have been REAL mad had I got suckered into spending that money and there it was for 17 euro. Well, guess what? During our shopping excursion, we ran back into that same guy and I told him about the booth with the bag at 17 euro. He says okay give me 20. WTF! Have you lost it. We just shook our head and walked away.

We stopped for the most expensive Gellati in the world. 2 came to 20 euro! It was good and she gave us goo-gobs of the stuff which we couldn't eat all of, but damn, it wasn't really that good.

We went back by Davide Cevasi's so I could try on the White leather again. I was fretting and fretting, tried on one in black and had settled on the black, but really wanted the white. He said why not get both, I'll make you a deal...and it was a really good one. DONE. He wrapped up both and we made our way back to the Westin to get our luggage to return to Rome.

We made the train and when we arrived at the Cavalieri Hilton Rome, my mouth dropped open. We went from good, to gooder, to fantastic. WOW! The hotel is beautiful, our room is awesome and our view is spectacular. Everything else would have been slumming. I am in hotel snob heaven.

Today we went on a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and our guide was HORRIBLE. I could barely understand a thing she was saying and the information she gave was irrellevant and BOOOORING. Such a beautiful place with a boring tour guide. Uggah. We leave the tour and started walking back to get some final gifts for the family and we stumble upon this ice cream show with a line amost down the block. Karen gets in line and gets us two wonderful ice creams for a total of 4 euros. The most creamiest, lucious ice cream ever that didn't almost break the bank. This shop should be on the tour: "And to the right of the Pope's Crib is an awesome ice cream shop..." At least mark it on the dang map. Delicious.

We made it back to the hotel by 6pm and were too exhausted to go out to dinner. We started packing and getting ready for our flights tomorrow. It's back to the real world.

See you next time, Italy.


Florence & Venice

We left Rome on Saturday via the train and once again it was an minor ordeal - my mother and I went through the same thing - figuring out which is your train, what track, what car, what seat. After about a half an hour of wandering around, I finally figured out how to read the board. Karen and I had a coffee and danish and waited for the train to arrive. We were standing at the platform just looking around lost and what not, trying to now figure out which train car we were supposed to get on when some man (probably a gypsie) rescued us. He looked at our tickets, grabbed ALL of our luggage, walked us to the right car, put us in our seats, and loaded our luggage. 10 euros.

We made it to Florence without anymore fuss, arrived at the Westin Excelsior Florence, had lunch and embarked on another walking journey. We were sidetracked from seeing more sights as we stumbled upon a wonderful shop that sold reversable suede & leather coats. Davide Cevasi himself worked with us for over an hour and Karen bought 2 jackets. I think I'm going back for the white jacket. I had to think about it for a minute - white and all.

We took a tour of Ponte Vecchio -the oldest bridge in Florence filled with fine jewelry shops when it started to rain. Karen and I took refuge in the Piazza della Signoria and had some dinner. Karen and I make our way back to the hotel, stopping for a gellati and got some shut eye as we had to get up early for our day trip to Venice.

Today we had a Private Tour of Venice and our driver met us at 7am to take us to Venice to meet our guide. This is definitly the way to travel. Our driver, Marzio is not only a personal driver but also a body guard. (And handsome as hell). We had a leisurely day in Venice. We met our guide in San Marco Square and after a short tour of the square, I insisted she take us to see a Murano Glass demonstration. We spent about 2 hours touring the palace and Karen bought a beautiful statue and I bought some wearable art. Roberto, our salesman, directs us to a restaurant and orders everything for us - which was delicious by the way - especially the chocolate delight he ordered and the spumante. We spent some time just walking around looking in the shops and then decide to take a gondola ride.

We took a water taxi back to meet our driver and arrived back in Florence around 9:00pm. Tomorrow we go to the Galleria Dell'a Accademia to see David and then back to Rome.


9 Hours, 37 Min, 45 Sec & 1457 Calories Later...

I walked Karen through Rome for 9 1/2 hours with only a 20 minute stop yesterday. Our adventure begain with a trek to find some coffee. We endd up at the Tea Room at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Since finding a restroom that is decent is a rare commodity, Karen utilized the facilities in the restaurant. For the attendant, Karen leaves her Turkish coins as a tip. (She gonna get in truah-ble).

We decide to do some shopping on this rodeo drive of Rome and did some serious damage in a leather glove shop, where they have you place your elbow on the leather lined counter as they place the gloves on your hands. After an hour of pure delicious hand fantabulousness, Karen decideds that her coffee has kicked in and needs to revisit the restroom. We go back to the Tea Room, where Karen was promptly called out by the attendant about the change she left....

Attendant: Is this the money you gave me before? What is it?
Karen: (Embellishing) I don't know, but that's not mine.
Attendant: Uh Huh. Don't you just have doollars or something?

BUSTED. A scream.

We started zig zagging our way down Via Condotti with stops in Prada, Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari and more. THE HOTNESS! As I have a shoe fetish, my feet were in orgasmic heaven; Karen was diggin' the purses...we looked like two women on shopping crack. An experience in bringing sexy back....commercial deliciousness.

We had to move on as we had to meet our tour guide for our Roman Forum & Colosseum tour. The directions to meet our guide were not ideal, but after much deliberation and map wrangling we foudn the spot. The tour was long but awesome. The Forum was huge and magnificent. The tour even went over my walking limit and we desperatly needed sustainance. We stopped for some repast at a nice cafe called The Royal which had a beautiful view of the Colosseum. I woofed down a pepperoni pizza - Karean a chicken hamburger (?) and we enjoyed the view.

We commenced on our walkabout again heading back to the hotel. Stopping along the weay to purchase the picture book our tour guide used, I was accosted by Achmed (real name - Milan). I refuse to use his real name since he reminded me of Achmed- The Dead Terrorist and sounded like him too. Achmed seemed to not be able to take his eyes off my girls and offered Karen a "special price" on the book without even looking at her. He never even took his eyes off my abundance, even when he took Karen's money. Achmed offered to tak us out "all night for de dance moosic."...

Achmed: You are sooooo boootiful
Me: Well, thank you. How much for book.
Achmed: You want goo time? No probleem. I pick u up at 'otel and take you dance music. No probleem. I strong. I go all nigh long. No probleem. Give me address to 'otel, I have ca, pick you up. No probleem. 8:30?
Me: Thanks for the offer, but we have plans.
Karen: (pulling me from the breast death stare). Okay, we'll see you there. 830. No problem.
Me: (walking away) Da Hell we will, Achmed. I'll be damned if me and my girls get sold into bondage.

Why do I attract these jokers? The girls are like a dude magnet. Imma have to strap these suckers down better.

We make it back as far as the Trevi Fountain and I stop for a gelati. Tastebud Heaven. We sit on a bench and amuse ourselves with the humanity going by. But the true real life drama was watching the guys who were selling knock off handbags run from the police. I've never seen some guys snatch up a tarp of 30 bags in one fell swoop and run so fast in my life. What was really hilarious was watching these guys come back to the SAME EXACT SPOT they just got ran off from and resume business. It was like they were saying "I don't care what they say, chase me if you want, this is MY SPOT (my business location) - I will sell my ish HERE and that's that." They would lay these bags out on a tarp and start hawking their knock off Prada's. here comes some liensed vendors or the police and - SNATCH & RUN. Hilarity.

9 hours, 37 minutes, 45 seconds & 1457 calories later (yeah, Karen was wearing her heart monitor) we were back at the hotel where we promptly collapsed in a heap and relaxed for a hot second before we headed off for dinner at Harry's Bar.

Legendary Harry's Bar is the unique place that evokes tbc "Dolce Vità' as if it were a clip from the film, creating a vivid flashback to the golden era of the Via Veneto, when Frank Sinatra sang at the piano and all the stars made their appearance in this bar/restaurant full of glamour and style. As in the roaring sixties, you can still sip an aperitif, enjoy the live piano bar every evening and dive into tbc magic of the Via Veneto from the exclusive and fascinating Harry's Bar.

It was another great day!


Happy 21st Anniversary from Italy


A Day of Walking in Rome

Housekeeping woke me up this morning. So obviously I slept in. If you have to sleep in an alien bed, thenit has to be a Heavenly Bed. Pure Joy. While getting dressed, the phone rings and it's my new friend Armel, the Congo Protocol Officer. He wants to know if I've had breakfast. Nope. Armel has a little time before an 11:00 am press conference (the press is making a mess of the hotel) and watned to take me to breakfast. Free food is good food. We struggled through conversation in Spanglish & French over an omelette, strong azz coffee and mimosas.

Now this married African, whose wife is in Brussles on business (uh huh) wants to know if I'm married in the U.S. No, I'm married worldwide, I let him know. In 1/3 English, 1/3 Spanish and 1/3 French I tell him that there will no amore between mi and tu, solemente amigo's (and I prolly got that all wrong) but he got the drift. "Alas", he says, his loss. Damn skippy. A kiss on each check and I'm off on my walk about.

I headed toward the Spanish Steps and sat there for a while watching the crowd. I then headed down the most expensive street in Rome, Via Condotti, the center of Rome's fashion and luxury shopping where I promptly got my feelings hurt. I have found a shoe "salon" where I just have to have these shoes and I know that Erinwould die for, but at that moment I couldn't bring myself to drop $220 on a pair times 2. I marked the shop on my map for a return with Karen who will surley talk me out of it. RIGHT.

As I continue my trek, I stumble upon Gusto's a famous square of eateries written up in Bon Appetite several years ago and a place where my mother and I had THE best sandwich ever (well, next to the one we had on top of the Eiffel Tower). They weren't open at the time or I would have raised a glass to ya ma. I wished I could have called at that moment.

I continued on down Via Corso to the Piazza colonna where there is a huge column of the conquests of Marcus Aurelius with St. Paul on the top. I follwed the crowd to the Piazza de la Rolondo where the Pantheon is located...the oldest (27 BC) structure in Rome to survive in its entirety and contains the tomb of Victor Emmanuel II and Raphael. I stopped to have a beer and watch the afternoon crowd.

I was supposed to go out a photo class/tour at 3pm and we were to meet the guide at the Bronze Statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Piazza del Campidoglio. I make it there by 2:15 and walk through to take pictures and take in the view of the Roman Forum. By 3pm - NO GUIDE - I waited till 3:30 and decided to start my trek back to the hotel to cuss Expedia (who I booked the tour through) out. They tried to call the company, got no answer and refunded my money immediately.

Karen finally arrives and we went to dinner at this lovely restauant here at the hotel. Let the adventure begin.


Arrival - Rome by Night w/Dinner & Music

I arrived at the Westin Excesior Rome and all I can say is that staying at a Westin is like home. A gentleman took my luggage while another wisked me inside to the desk. I gave them my name and the young lady says, "Welcome back, Mrs. Steptoe. It's been two years since your last visit and we are glad to have you back." Well, slap me silly. I was immediately relaxed. Since my room was not going to be ready for an hour, she asked if they could "set me up" in the lounge while they readied my room. Sure!

Set up meant that they arranged a couch for me in the far corner and had a cappuccino with snacks brought to me immediately before I could even ask...on the house. MOM!!!! - Get on the plane, the service is the same. My room was ready in 30 minutes and I was up in my room. I swear I was taken to the same room my mother and I stayed in before as it looked exactly the same - Heavenly Bed and All.

I immediately turned on CNN, caught up on the excitement with the Obama nomination, made a few phone calls on my computer - how bout that (.01 cents/min), and collapsed under the covers for a nap.

After my nap, I got up to get ready for my Rome by Night Tour w/Dinner & Music. I had an hour to kill before my ride picked me up, so I went down to the hotel bar for a cocktail. There are a lot of VIP's at the hotel this week. The World Food & Agriculture Organization is having a conference here at the hotel. So, I'm sitting there watching people go by (Japan's Foreign Minister, Ambassador to the Congo, President to the Congo, South African Delegation & more). A man named Armel came over and introduced himself to me. He is the Protocol Officer for the Congo Embassy. He speaks fluent French, Italian and a some English (wasn't too bad actually). He invited me to some event tonight (as his guest of course) and I politely declined. He gave me his card and asked if I needed any help or a guide (like how are you gonna get time off during this conference) to call him on his cell. Uh Huh. Nice man, but it ain't gonna happen buddy.

I went outside to wait for my ride and there were police with machine guns guarding the front of the hotel all non-chalant like. Threw me for a loop, but I guess I was safe. I decided to go an wait inside the door so that IF anything went down, I didn't get picked off by some stray machine gun bullet. Alas, only traffic drama and some protocol issues on which dignitary leaves in what order. Whatever.

The tour I went on was so-so but the dinner & music was fine - right up to the moment when the singers asked us if we wanted to purchase their cd for 16 euro. Crackheads. I don't even pay that much for CD's in the US, I'm certainly not gonna give that much money to you. Humph.

I did get my picture taken with the gladiator and purchased it. He was cute.

When I got back to my room...lookey, lookey.....what was left in my room. Who can deny themselves some wine and plums (chocolate on the pillows) before bed. I love this place.

History is Made

I got on a plane to Italy still waiting to hear what the outcome would be. I arrived at the Westin Excelsior, turned on CNN and HISTORY WAS MADE! Barack Obama has become the first African-American in history to head the Presidential ticket of a major political party. This is just awesome and I am so proud and excited. WOW!

As for Hilary...she is just making me sick with her attitude of entitlement and refusal to concede. Anybody that devisive & arrogant doesn't deserve to be anywhere on the ticket. As Roland Martin said - "she gave a defiant speech and lost any chance she had to get on the ticket." Heffa.


WTF - Dollars vs Euros

What da Hell!!!!???? I just exchanged $1000 for euro's and all I got was 575 euros. DA HELL am I supposed to do with that? Nobody is getting any trinkets back from Italy. I need all the euros I have just to freakin' eat. DAMN. Puts a (small) damper on my joy, but I'm certain I'll get over it - right up until I have to pay for something.

UPDATE: I met a lovely lady at the cafe bar in the airport while killing time to board our respective planes. She told me that she just exchanged $4000 and got 1800 sterling (pounds) back. MORTIFIED. We had a wonderful time together, shared a drink or two and now are waiting to board. Me to Rome, Dawn to London.

Lisa & Karen's Excellent Italy Adventure Begins

Let the festivities begin. I'm off to Philly to catch my non-stop flight to Rome to meet my girlfriend Karen for our Excellent Italy Adventure. My Knight in Shining Armor called one of his friends & former business partners who started his own Executive Transportation Service (Larry Davis of LDS Executive Transportation):

Talk about totally awesome! My man Larry arrived early, got me situated in the car and we are off. This is so relaxing. So much better than having to drive myself to Philly, park my own car, haul my luggage onto a bus to get to the terminal. Sweet. I had ludded my baby. Thank you sweeting for this awesome treat for my adventure. I'm so excited, I'm about to burst.


Are You There God? I Will Rejoice & Be Glad

I WILL Rejoice & Be Glad....

Father God, please keep my heart & mind open to the blessings & opportunities that surround me. Keep me from being duplicitous in my thoughts and actions. Keep me willing and able to share the blessings that you have bestowed on our house, willing and able to listen when people reach out, willing and able to be polite in my dealings with people. Keep my heart pure with no ulterior motives so that I may be a blessing to many.

I will rejoice & be glad....

Oh, Lord - thank you for a wonderful husband that ushers me off on an adventure with my girlfriend in a foreign land. Thank you for his love, understanding and graciousness. Grant me travel mercies on my journey.

I will rejoice & be glad....

Thank you Jesus for giving my husband the gift of vision and bless him on his new venture. We will be a blessing in your sight.

Thank you Jesus for my mother - my best friend - my companion - who has the patience of Job. Bless me, oh Lord, so I may expand my territory and grant my mother her hearts desire. She sacrificed her dreams and desires so that I may have mine. Keep us whole, savior, so that her gifts are blessed.

I will rejoice & be glad....

I cry out sometimes, my God. I raise my fists to the heavens and ask "why me? I can take no more". Thank you for the strength to persevere when I think I can take no more. When I think I can't love one more child, when I think I can't give my sister another thing, when things look bleak - we are delivered through faith. Thank you.

I rejoice. I am glad.