Saturday, July 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Even though we're apart on your birthday,

You're close in my heart and mind

Celebrating you today, Mom, with love. 
Happy Birthday!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Vacation Prep: Packing for Pets

It's fly week for us, and as new pet parents, we are anxious about leaving our sweet Gracie for longer than a weekend. 

We know she will be in good hands. We are blessed with friends who have offered to take her for an extended playdate with their own pup, Sasha. 

Nonetheless, we are making a list of everything Gracie and her caregivers might need while we're away. 

Here's what we packed.

  • Her crate and bed: Gracie still sleeps in her crate at night and will often spend time in it during the day, if she will be unsupervised. It's a matter of safety and comfort for our den-loving girl. 
  • Chew toys
  • Her heart worm and flea/tick monthly repellent
  • Her long lead and leash
  • Her favorite treats
  • Her food and water bowl (and food)
  • A copy of her vaccinations and vet information and her pet insurance information, in case of an emergency. 

We're going to miss our girl, but we both know that Gracie is going to have the time of her life. She has had a few play dates already and she and Sasha are now good friends. It puts our minds at ease. 

Pet parents, have we forgotten anything? 

Have fun, Gracie girl. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lovely Reads #4

Good morning, friends. Happy Sunday. 

Here are a few items that crossed my radar this week. 

The No-Brainer Purge: 20 Items to Get Rid of Right Now without a Second Thought

The decision to de-clutter is easy, but it's often easier said than done. This helps. 

How to Quit Your Job and Become a Digital Nomad in 90 Days

This isn't for everyone, but if location independence is your end goal, this free bootcamp from Rob at Money Nomad may be worth reading. If it's important to you, make it happen.  

Why Snapchat Matters

Aside from sending funny filtered snaps to my teenage niece, I don't understand this incredibly popular social media platform. Adventurous Kate helps to breaks it down and explain why it's important to anyone who wants to further build a brand. 

Even on Food Issues, Politics Divides Americans
This was a really interesting take on how our politics shape our attitudes on food, including sustainability, food safety, and trust in government programs related to food. 

When Breaking News Breaks Your Spirit, Is It Okay to Tune Out?

More and more, I encounter people who say they no longer watch the news because it is saturated with sadness and mean-spirited messages. What say you?

What was on your radar this week? Send me a link, if you so desire. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everybody. Cheers!

Special happy birthday wishes to the Señor, whose birthday was yesterday. 

Happy Birthday, love. 
¡Te quiero!


Friday, July 22, 2016

A Castle on the Side of the Road: Exploring Vimianzo in Galicia, Spain

Vimianzo is a town on the way to the end of the world, Finisterre, in northwest, Galicia, Spain. 

As you make your way into the center of town, you pass this...

Spain has its share of castles, and this one is a lovely find. 

Castillo de Vimianzo is a 12th century castle built by the Moscoso family of Mariño de Lobeira. The castle changed ownership through the years, following conflict and reconstruction. 

On July 1st of every year, the castle is remembered with the Asalto de Castillo, or Attack on the Castle, commemorating the Irmandiño War, during which people rebelled against the feudal lords who oppressed and abused them by attacking their castles and forts. 

Today, the castle is open to visitors who can observe traditional Galician handworks, including bobbin lace makers, called palilleiras, leather workers, pottery makers, basket weavers, and silver and gold smiths. 

There are plenty of photo opps in this historical "playground."  

It's a fun place to explore after lunch and a Spanish siesta. 

Vimianzo Castle is open Tuesdays through Sundays. It is maintained by the local government and it is free to explore. 

Rúa de Torre 22
15129 Vimianzo Spain


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Preparing the Littles for Kindergarten: A Teacher's Perspective

Walk through any big box store and, already, you can see the Back to School banners, and like every new school year, some parents of five year olds are anxious and unsure whether they are ready to send their children into the unknown world of academic kindergarten. 

I am not a parent, but I am an auntie, and I am a teacher in an elementary school, working with students in kindergarten through grade four. Kindergarten is not the developmental kindergarten of years passed; academic kindergarten has significant cognitive demands and high expectations of social and emotional behavior. 

Whether you agree or disagree with the trajectory of American education, the reality is that this is the climate of kindergartens in the United States, and in schools and districts marked by poverty, the rigidity of curriculum is inescapable. 

Every year, parents, in genuinely wanting what is best for their children, ask what they can do to prepare their kids for school success. 

In my opinion, the best way to prepare children for the demands of an academic, standards-based kindergarten is through engagement

Here are some ideas to help. 

1. Engagement in literacy and numeracy. 

  • Read to your child and model reading with your child...let them see you as a reader and the value you give to reading. Children can "read" the pictures, even if they can't read the words...and no, they do not have to come to kindergarten reading...but, they have to leave kindergarten reading. 
  • Can your child identify upper and lowercase letters and sounds? Can he or she identify the numbers one through ten? 
  • Vocabulary development is critical to literacy. Call objects by their names. Add descriptors related to size and color and degrees of comparison. 
  • Play with synonyms and antonyms and shades of meaning. Provide other ways of saying words. For example, explore shades of color and other ways to express various actions and emotions. Play with opposites and precision of language in self expression. 
  • Count forwards and backwards and skip count (by 10s, for example) and begin the concepts of adding and subtracting. 
  • Notice patterns and comparisons (for example, bigger or smaller, faster or slower) and make predictions based on those patterns.  

2.  Engagement in conversation and social skills. 
  • Meal time and drive time is the perfect time for conversation. Ask open-ended questions, like how, why, or why do you think that. Ask them to explain something to you and ask you questions. 
  • Talk about reading. Ask them to retell stories and make predictions. 
  • Allow them to make choices and encourage them to explain themselves. 
  • Allow them to play with others, unplugged and try to stay out of conflict as much as possible, allowing them to find resolution through words and logical consequences.

3. Engagement with their community. 
  • Visit the local library and take advantage or story and craft time. 
  • Use museum passes to local museums. 
  • Expose kids to experiences and build their cultural literacy. 
  • Travel as much as you can. Be a tourist in your own local community, city, state capital or region. 

4. Engagement with nature. 
  • Allow children to play outside, unplugged from technology and media. 
  • Let them get dirty and use their imaginations.  
  • Ride bikes, climb mountains, splash in puddles, grow gardens (and cook together), play in snow, and in wind, and at the beach. Learn to swim. 
  • Visit local farms or farmers' markets and teach them the connection between farms and food. 
  • Teach kids how to respect the natural world and plant seeds of stewardship. Recycle and clean up litter. 
  • Learn how to approach animals safely and treat animals with respect and kindness. 

5.  Engage with themselves. 
  • Allow kids quiet play, read-to-self time, and time to entertain themselves with imaginative play. 

The reality is that parents are their children's first teachers. The experiences children have with their parents and siblings set the foundation for their future learning. It's not all or nothing. Do what you can and we'll take care of the rest. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kayaking with Manatees on the Weeki Wachee River

One of the highlights of my trip to Florida, and one of my top experiences overall, was kayaking the Weeki Watchee River in central Florida. 

My sister-in-law, who knows me pretty well, suggested this excursion last year, but for one reason or another, we never made it out there. Admittedly, I was hesitant, having only been kayaking once, and my uncertainty over whether river kayaking was for me nudged me toward lazy days at the beaches Siesta Key and St. Pete/Clearwater over paddling downstream. 

How wrong I was. 

After suggesting it again this year, reassuring me of my alligator and heat stroke concerns, my sister-in-law (and kayak pilot) booked our reservation at Paddling Adventures at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on Florida's Nature Coast. Soon, we were on our way.  

From the moment we launched, I knew I would have a great day. It was so beautiful; the water was crystal clear. 

My niece piloted a kayak with her friend, and my sister-in-law piloted ours.

She's a pro!

A gentle current guided us down the stream, which was canopied by cypress, oak, and palm trees. The rangers told us that we could observe fish, turtles, and birds, and just after launching our kayaks, we saw this guy drying his wings in the morning sun. 

There are places to stop and swim all along the route, once you exit the state park portion of the 5.5 mile route. 

Checking out shells and playing with the Go-Pro. 

You can wade along the sandbars, swim in the cool river, or even jump from a tree into the deeper water of the crystal clear Weeki Wachee River. 

My daredevil niece and her friend had fun with this. 

We knew that manatees visited this area, but we didn't expect to see them, since they are known for visiting during the winter months, when the gentle herbivores migrate toward warmer water to feed on the river's grasses and plants. 

We were wrong. 

This manatee swam right under our kayak!

To see a manatee in her natural environment felt like a once-in-a-lifetime gentle, so graceful. What a thrill!

Once we arrived at Rogers Park, we were assisted out of the river by the Paddling Adventure guides, and after they stowed our kayaks and gear, they shuttled us back to our launch point. 

My Weeki Wachee adventure exceeded my expectations beyond measure. If you are visiting Florida's Nature Coast, make this experience a must. 

Paddling Adventures at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

6131 Commercial Way
Weeki Wachee, Florida 34606

What is an experience you had that exceeded your expectations after going into it unsure about whether you would even enjoy it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sobrado Abbey: A 10th Century Monastery in Galicia, Spain

The Santa Maria de Sobrado Abbey is located in the A Coruña province of Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain. It is situated on the original site of a Benedictine monastery dating back to the 10th century, but has since been managed by the Order of Cistercian monks. 

The newer, Baroque abbey church, built at the end of the 17th century, was dedicated in 1708, featuring the recognizable cupolas and domes. 

The original monastery was soon abandoned, but it was re-founded in 1142 as a Cistercian monastery, and it flourished through the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1498, the Sobrado Abbey was the first in Galicia to join the Castilian Cistercian Congregation.

Today, the Sobrado Abbey offers a guest house for spiritual reflection and retreat, and a hostel for peregrinos, or pilgrims, who are walking the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route across Spain, which ends in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.

If you visit, be sure to go into town for a drink or a tapa, where you are sure to share space with peregrinos sipping cafe con leche or drinking a caña (a refreshing glass of beer, mixed with lemon soda), playing cards or a guitar, or journaling about their experience. 

The Santa Maria de Sobrado Abbey was a lovely find, indeed. 

The Santa Maria de Sobrado Abbey
Praza Portal, s/n, 15813 Sobrado dox Monxes
A Coruña, Spain
+34 981 78 75 09

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Weekending with my Girl in Tampa

Greetings from swampy and hotter than hell Tampa, Florida. I am melting soaking up the rays and having a great time with my favorite girl. 

And, at 15, she is a newly permitted driver. 

Thank goodness for all of us, she's a natural. 

Driving in Florida is not easy. Making a left turn can involve 6-8 lanes of traffic. 

Thankfully, she is careful and aware of her surroundings; she is going to be a great driver.

I reunited with some old friends and met a couple of new ones. My niece is fostering kittens. 

She's a critter whisperer, for sure. She wants to be a veterinarian when she's older, and she even volunteers at a local animal hospital. 

Missing from this picture is Mizty, her older baby-faced cat. 

So far, it has been a fun, low-key, relaxing visit. 

We spent most of the weekend by the pool, dodging rain showers....but then there are the rainbows. 

We also have been playing games, like Rumikub, The Game of Life, and Monopoly Empire and watching movies, like The Maze Runner (and its sequel, The Scorch Trials) and If I Stay

The kittens like the game boxes...instant cat catchers. 

I found summer here, for sure, and the chance to spend time with my favorite girl makes this time cherished time. 

I hope you had a great weekend as well. What did you do? 

American friends, how was your 4th of July?