Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Arms are Black and Blue.......Farm Girls Go to Italy Part Two

If you missed Farm Girls go to Italy...Part One, you can read it here.



First stop-Milano, the fashion capitol of the world!


We flew into Malpensa airport, got our first passport stamps (!)  and headed across the street to the Sheraton. We got our first glimpse of the kindness of the Italian people and started running into other ladies who were joining us on our trip.

I always imagined before traveling to Europe, I would spend months with my nose in guidebooks learning all about the areas I would visit and planning out a perfect trip. Turned out that was just a pipe dream.

Debbie and I headed out flying by the seat of our pants, which is the way Brad and I usually travel-it’s worked out well for us, most of the time.

And it did this time, too!

Before we got off the plane, we chatted with the people next to us who had been to Italy many times and were returning to visit family. They told us 2 things we definitely had to see and we saw those things and so much more.

Janice, one of our fellow travelers, had tickets for a walking tour which included viewing The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. We tried to book tickets online, but it was all sold out. We headed that way with Janice anyway, figuring we could tag along if we were willing to pay the money. 

Guess what? We couldn’t.



However, we ended up in Duomo Square, right where we needed to be to see the 2 sites our airplane friends had suggested! I love when things work out like that.

Dominating this square was the Duomo, or church, that is Milan’s most famous landmark. The cathedral was absolutely beautiful and took 500 years to complete. Can you imagine?

A couple of years ago, I read Pillars of the Earth, which was all about the construction of a Gothic cathedral in England. The book not only helped me appreciate the blood, sweat, tears and craftsmanship involved in such an undertaking, but also, the politics involved.


 I couldn’t help but compare the magnificence of the cathedral to our more simple churches in America. The Master Artists of the past created beautiful masterpieces of devotion to God. What are The Masters of today creating? Are we missing the boat by going the simple route? This church is quite a bit different than the "warehouse" style churches being built today.

OK. Now my head is hurting. I’ll think about that another day.




Next stop-Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 2

Translation-A FABULOUS MALL


This was a beautiful shopping area that connected Duomo Plaza and Piazza della Scala. (I am writing that as if I had the lay of the land figured out. Believe me, I didn’t! I am directionally challenged and have been known to get turned around in shopping malls and hotel hallways. Google is helping me!)


Debbie and I ventured into the original Prada store and had a great visit with a beautiful sales lady. But, SURPRISE! We didn’t buy a thing! Nothing had a price tag…..can you imagine?
I found this Prada bag online for $2025.00.

Gulp. I doubt I ever find one at TJ Maxx or Marshalls-my favorite stores, but trust me, I’ll be looking.

Beth, Debbie and I enjoyed a long lunch and had a BALL watching people. It was like a 2 hour fashion show. We were especially smitten with a woman who appeared to be in her 80’s who had on the CUTEST buffalo plaid skirt, simple blouse and adorable shoes with her hair in a flip.

TRES CHIC.
Proving style has nothing to do with age. BAM!

After lunch, we split up and the two of us began to make our way back to the train station where we were supposed to meet for our evening Canal Tour. We got a little confused about the direction we were to go and stopped to get our bearings.

A beautifully dressed woman began speaking to Debbie about the “ballot”. We soon realized that she was offering us 2 free tickets to the ballet which began in 15 minutes in the building right in front of us!

What?!!!!!!!

After thanking her profusely, we stepped into the most amazing theater and were treated to 2 hours of beautiful music and an amazing performance of Excelsior. I have only been to the  ballet twice before that. Once at EIU when I was in college and coerced Brad into going with me, which lasted about 10 minutes before he had enough and we left. He did take me to a kids' production of The Nutcracker a few years ago in Champaign. (He is such a good sport!)


So, my ballet knowledge is nonexistent. However, we didn’t need any to enjoy every second of this performance. A little explanation was given before the show began, but, of course, we understood none of it since it was spoken in Italian. At intermission, we tried to figure out the story line. I thought it was about the circus and cracked up later when we learned it was about the Industrial Revolution.

What a gift those tickets were! Two farm girls from Jasper County got to see a world class ballet in The Scala Opera House, one of the most famous places in the world.

Crazy.

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a walking tour of the canal area, getting acquainted with more of the members of our group who also were on the tour and the other lovely tourists from Helsinki, Finland, and England. The world became a much smaller place for me that night!




By then, we had been up for I have- no- idea- how- many- hours, and I could barely stay awake on the train ride back to our hotel.

Our experiences that day had our gratitude cups filled to overflowing and we could have gotten on the plane and flown home satisfied and happy.

But it was just the beginning!

(Part 3 coming soon!)

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Arms are Black and Blue....Farm Girls Go to Italy

Part One



Beautiful mountains.

Crystal clear waters.

Blooming flowers everywhere.

Lemon and orange trees.

Olive groves.

Dining alfresco with a grape arbor heavy with bunches of green grapes forming the ceiling overhead.

Sweet, sweet people smiling as I freely and happily practiced my Italian phrases trying to get the accent and the rolled "r's" just right. 

I'm sure I sounded like a fool. A very happy fool!

I have spent the last few days pinching myself as a reminder that I was actually awake and experiencing all this and not in some weird sleep experience in a week long dream.

Yes. This farm girl and her farm girl friend, Debbie, went to Italy!


Bellagio, Italy to be exact.-a place I’d never even heard of until March. And now a place I will never forget. During this trip of a lifetime, I made amazing friends and even learned that I enjoy making art. (After several days, I can now say that without giggling in disbelief!)

You may know that my One Little Word for 2015 is JOY.  Even in the midst of some very difficult times this year, God has graciously given me lots of joy to go along with the sadness.

Here is a bit of the backstory……..

Last winter, I signed up for Jeanne Oliver’s The Becoming of You series (which you should totally sign up for) and one morning while I was eating breakfast in Florida, I began watching the videos. I loved every one of them, but when I got to Laura from A Kiss on the Chic, I wanted to jump up and down.

Laura shared a bit about her Creative Retreats and described the Faith and Art Retreat she was planning for Summer 2015 in Bellagio. It sounded dreamy, but I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, and I had never traveled internationally except for a couple of trips to Mexico.


However,God put a HUGE and immediate desire in my heart to attend this event.

I told Brad about it when he returned from his run, and without missing a beat, he said, “DO IT!” I sent the link to my friend, Debbie, and she was as excited as I was when her husband also gave the thumbs up.

We signed up before we could talk ourselves out of it, with no real idea of how blessed we were going to be. Thus began several weeks of preparation for traveling abroad-booking international flights, checking cell phone plans, insurance, getting euros, new suitcases and planning what to wear. We also had quite a list of art supplies we were supposed to bring with us.


Gesso and mat medium, anyone?
I had no clue what I was asking for when I went to Michael’s to get my things. And who knew there were so many different types of paint brushes. See, I am NOT an artist!

This trip was way out of my comfort zone and out of my box, but I LOVE to do new things, and I was up for an adventure with one of my best buddies.

And I had a feeling God was in the midst of the whole thing. A win from EVERY angle!


So, Debbie and I packed our bags, grabbed our new cameras and passports and headed for Italy with our eyes and hearts open wide.

Coming Soon: Part 2: Milano


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Brighten Someone's Day (and Your Own)




Can you believe it?

I am the featured writer today over on My Freshly Brewed Life. I'm sharing what I've learned about hugs.
The power of a simple hug can change someone's day. It's a fact!
Barbie and I met through an encouragement swap a few years ago and the girls from California and Illinois have stayed in touch. Don't you love that? I do!

Hop over and read my post and stay awhile to enjoy all the goodness you will find there.

This busy gal not only maintains a great blog, she has even written a book, Coffee Talk with Jesus. I have provided the link so you can easily take a look!



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This post contains affiliate links but I only suggest things I think you will enjoy.
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Fighting Back with JOY


Have you ever heard of Margaret Feinberg? She was new to me until this spring when my friend suggested we do one of her Bible studies with our small group. I am so glad we met through the pages of her study.

She is ONE. WISE. WOMAN.
A flat-out gifted teacher of the word.
And I now know that she is a big deal in the Christian publishing/speaking world. She has written 4 books and Bible studies, has been featured in lots of media, and is a popular speaker at big events like Catalyst and Thrive. She was even named one of the 50 women shaping Christian culture today.

I used to wonder who would take Beth Moore's place when she wanted to step down, but God is raising up a whole new army of wisdom.

Of course He is!

We just finished Fight Back With Joy and I can't recommend it highly enough. It was right up my alley since Joy is my One Little Word this year. I wrote about it here. I have been so encouraged with the way God has brought this word to my attention over and over since January-the power of focus, I guess.

Margaret shares from experience how she was able to find JOY in the midst of struggles and weaves the scripture and life experience together in a way that makes it understandable and APPLICABLE. I love the practicality of her teaching.

Using lots of scripture, suggestions, and bonus activities, her words became more than just words. They became solutions to problems that were holding us back from the good things God has for us.

One of my favorite sections was Embrace Celebration as a Discipline. She reminds us that God loves parties and used scripture to prove it. NonChristians often have such a distorted view of God as a big party-pooper when in fact, he is the first party planner, comedienne, dancer, decorator, and cook. We are created in HIS IMAGE, so if we enjoy these things, it is because he planted the desire in us.

If you are looking for an encouraging study that will also challenge you, try this one!

Here are links to the book, study guide, and leader's kit if you want to check it out.

                  
This is a study that I will repeat over and over. I want to be a person who looks for JOY BOMBS, which God is throwing all around me if I will only look for them.

He is throwing them for you, too, friend!


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Disclosure: I am now an Amazon Affiliate and will be compensated if you purchase something from my links. My opinion is totally my own.
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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Baby Talk

This is Prince George, not a member of our family.......google images!

One of the best parts of being a grandparent is having conversations with our granddaughters. Those talks can be hilarious or innocent or disturbingly honest. 

Or embarrassing when family secrets are spilled. I'm sure we have all been there!

Two of ours are learning to sew this summer and I am helping them with their 4-H projects. We went to buy their fabric at Joann's the other day and after much searching and persuading that a dress with a chiffon overlay was probably not the best choice for our budding 6 year old seamstress, Amy settled on a very colorful fabric for her elastic waist skirt. As the salesclerk handed her the cut fabric, Amy sweetly asked, "Now where are the sequins?" 

I'm still laughing out loud over that one! This little doll is convinced she can do ANYTHING. And I want it to stay that way. Shame on the person who bursts that bubble.

I spent some time this week with our youngest who is just learning to talk. Her precious little babbling and talking in complete sentences or paragraphs of indecipherable language is the sweetest sound. In the midst of all the "words" are some that I recognize, including "Mammy" which is what she calls me.

She definitely is experimenting with sound, learning how to make her wishes and needs known to those around her.

I googled and discovered over 1,000,000,000 results to explain just how language acquisition happens. Educated people obviously have spent a lot of time trying to understand it. But, how can you explain the explainable?

To me, it's a flat out miracle. 

Imitation is the greatest teacher, and Hannah will eventually learn to talk just like her cousins did, by listening to language and repetition of language and being talked to by all of us. 

What a great responsibility speaking to a child is!

What words will ring in her ears?

Will she hear words of affirmation? Encouragement? Truth? That Jesus loves her sooooo much? That she is valued and honored and has a purpose?

Like her cousins, she has parents who love Jesus and her, so I am sure that she will.

Not every child is so lucky. That makes me so sad.

Soon Hannah will know the POWER of her words. I pray that all of our grandchildren use their words in a way that honors their Heavenly Father.

Maybe they will write songs that praise Jesus, or books that change people's lives, or devotionals that lead others closer to the Savior, or speeches that encourage and uplift and bring out the best in those who listen.

Maybe they will stand up for someone who is being bullied or speak life into dark situations.

Maybe they will lead their neighbors to the Lord.

May God may use their words to change the world!

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Sidebar: Our kids don't want me to post pictures of them on my blog, so you will just have to trust me-our grandkids are ADORABLE!

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Get Your Pretty On!

Happy Monday Morning!

I have a sink full of dirty dishes, gobs of laundry to fold, Brad's suitcase still packed after almost a week, dust in places it shouldn't be, a party to prepare for this weekend, but I'm not working on any of it. Instead, I'm thinking about FASHION.

To be more specific, I'm thinking of the Get Your Pretty On Summer Challenge! Have you heard of it?

A friend told me she thought I would enjoy Alison's blog, and she was right. When the email came out about the Summer Style Challenge, I jumped all over it. Who doesn't want to have cute outfit suggestions sent to her email box for 21 days? I'm planning to combine these outfits with the free outfits from a  previous challenge I also received, and I'm set for the summer.




Signing up includes access to a private facebook page and I can tell already I'm going to get some great ideas from the friendly challengers who are posting like crazy and VERY WELCOMING! They range in age from 20-70 somethings, so don't let those cute shorts in the picture above scare you off.

The suggested items can be found at every price point and at a variety of stores, including Target and Kohl's and JC Penney. I really like this feature because many of the other fashion bloggers I enjoy spend a bazillion dollars on clothes, which I am NOT willing to do. I want to wear my clothes, not marry them for life.

Early bird sign up for the Summer 2015 Challenge is open and is only $29.00 until May 28. That is just the price of a few magazines or a top that is bought and stays in your closet because you just don't have anything to wear with it.

So, what do you think? Want to join the fun with me?

You can read my other fashion ramblings here, or here.


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In the spirit of full disclosure, if you purchase from my link, I will be compensated. This is the first ever affiliate link in which I have ever participated, and I'm only doing it because I think you will benefit, too. I'm planning to use any moula I make to purchase large bolsters for my new restorative Holy Yoga class. Namaste!
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Monday, May 18, 2015

Fight the Frump: Camo Pants, Anyone?



We live in a land of hunters and I come from a family of them. My granddad hunted all kinds of birds and what he brought home was often the food for that day.An empty red or yellow shotgun shell was a familiar sight at their house, along with the dusty stuffed quail and the pheasant feathers stuck in a container on the desk.

My dad also hunted birds and his high school buddy, who became an airline pilot, often visited for a "hunt." To me, Jack lived a very exotic life, flying around the world. Our family wasn't able to take many vacations because LIVESTOCK, and we certainly didn't fly anywhere. One time Jack brought us sourdough bread from San Francisco-yum! I still haven't visited that city, but I sure hope to some day.

Anyway, I tell you all of this to bring up camo. When I washed my boys camo sweatshirts, coveralls, hats, and overalls, I never imagined that I would ever wear the brown, gray and tan pattern myself, but I started getting a hankering a couple of years ago when I began seeing them styled in adorable ways on the internet.

via pinterest

I resisted for a long time because I thought I was too old for the trend, but then I decided to live dangerously and jump into the camo pool. We live in the boonies, remember, and I didn't have time to drive close to an hour to shop for any, so I started looking online.

I found a pair by Kut From the Cloth on the Nordstrom website. I ended up ordering them from Amazon just because I could do it with one click and have them uber quickly since we are Prime members.


via pinterest

She Thought She Could

Aren't these outfits adorable? They are kind of winter-y, but you get the idea, and I'm sure you can come up with lots of ways to summer them up. To me, they have become my new neutral and I'm going to wear them with lots of different colored tops and shoes.

Not convinced? Here are some more ideas from Pinterest Told Me To, which is a great little fashion blog, by the way.


Yesterday, in the sermon, the speaker reminded us that as Christ followers, we are clothed in the righteousness or Christ. That, of course, is the prettiest outfit of all! However, I think God gets a kick out of HIS girls dressed appropriately in outfits that make them feel great. Afterall, HE DESIGNED THE FIRST GARMENTS FOR ADAM AND EVE!

Isn't that a cool thought?

So, what do you think? Will you join me in wearing cute camo pants?


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Linking up to.....


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