au revoir France

France has been great, especially Paris. We accomplished a lot: Louvre, l'Orangerie, Notre Dame, l'Orsay, Giverny, Montmartre, Versailles, Arc de triumph, and a boat ride on the Seine. It lived up to the kid's high expectations, and Pete and I finally understand why people love it so much! Having an apartment made a huge difference for us, especially one that was in a cute area (Latin Quarter) with a daily market that was always bursting with life. 

Packing up is on the agenda for the day. Leaving Provence after two short weeks just doesn't seem right. It has rained so much that we've only been able to get out a handful of times. We loved the cute provincial towns; my favorite excursion was lunch and market shopping in Lourmarin. It really doesn't matter which town you decide to visit in Provence; if it's sunny, the town in amazing!

Unforgettable moments of France...hearing my kids request an audio tour at l'Orangerie and l'Orsay (they didn't last long though), interacting with the older gentleman offered to give me his money after I asked for change for a 5 euro bill at the laundromat, seeing my kids work really hard on online school AND feeling like they might be learning something after Lea comments from the backseat on our 5 hour drive to drop off ski gear in Chamonix, that seeing the mountains makes her think about plate tectonics...what?

Forgettable moments...offering to leave Lea with construction workers for their ladder, bike riding in Paris (scary!), kids contemplating taking out their frustrations with each other with punches, and the unpleasant musty smell of our apartment emitted from the stone after it rains. 

So, we're moving on to Rome where we hope to duplicate our Paris experience- sightseeing and taking in the culture, plus a little safari shopping. My organized nature has been abandoned lately, and I've somehow managed to make it to the last stop before Africa missing a few items; clothes that don't attract the sleeping sickness transmitting flies, hats and sunscreen, and, the most important, mosquito repellent. We will be showing up for our safari as the most unprepared family ever.  The next few weeks should provide some interesting highlights to share. On Tuesday we'll be boarding an overnight flight to Arusha in Tanzania, where we hope to avoid malaria, dengue fever, sleeping sickness, and ebola. Bring on the DEET!

Life in England

I finally feel like we can catch our breath now that we have settled down. It has been pretty hectic moving so much, and we've had our share of obstacles. Pete has had tech issues in every town/city we've visited, playing school with 1 tween and 1 teen isn't easy, and figuring out how to use a combo wash/dry machine that doesn't disintegrate your clothes has been a challenge. This crazy contraption takes 4.5 hours to do about 4 items...stupid invention in my opinion! We've also had our share of dirty apartments. Our last property manager thought cleaning meant flipping the pillow over. We found most beds had many hairs on the back side of each pillow and most pots were put away dirty. Lovely.

Now that we have clean clothes, a clean house, and food in our pantry, I can go explore the cotswolds! Our first day in and I found a garden that was on a list of "must see gardens", and it was closing that day. No one wanted to join me and Pete wasn't jumping up and down at the idea of driving me. Left side of road, stick shift with my left hand, signs that make no get the picture. I did make it though, Pete was my co-pilot (he hates not driving). I persuaded him into tagging along to make sure I was doing everything right. The garden ended up being a dud, and wasn't worth the time or the petrol, but it gave me the confidence I needed to get out and explore. 

The Emerald Isle

Ireland is even better than I dreamed it would be. The weather has been perfect, with sunny skies and warm temperatures, for the most part. Our first stay In Ireland turned out to be the worst we've had so far on this adventure. Moldy bedrooms/bathrooms, bugs, and nightly barking dogs made me wonder what we'd gotten ourselves into. The area was our safe haven with cute, rustic towns to explore and idyllic streets to walk for hours.

Even though I was beyond ready to leave that house, I started thinking each of these apartments/houses we had rented would have their own unique type of nightmare to tolerate for the duration of our stay. These thoughts lead me to my first meltdown of the trip; possibly the only one to do so in the family (debatable). Thankfully, I was wrong, and everything was great, small but great, in the Kinsale apartment. The kitchen was about half the size of my mud room at home, and when you had five adult-sized bodies in there making lunch, it wasn't pretty. The town of Kinsale was amazing; excellent food, adorable shop/restaurant fronts, and loads of things to keep us busy. We enjoyed some Irish music, too; Shane and Friends, which we named Shane and His Sweaters, and my favorite, Kodaline, not live, but they play them on the radio often. Kodaline is my new favorite, and wouldn't you know it, they're touring the US this fall/spring. I do not have the luck of the Irish.

Our third stop in Ireland has been unbelievably nice! We are in Camp, which is about 45 minutes north of Dingle. Everything has worked out at this place; nice, big house; warm, sunny weather, and interesting things to see and do. It has been perfect, and we're all dreading the day we leave (Saturday). Some of our memorable experiences have been hiking 11 miles on the Kerry Camino from Camp to Annascaul, picking blackberries, and playing on the beach.

During our stay in Ireland, we've met "blow in's", as they call them; people that have transplanted here, and I can understand why. They hang signs in pub windows, "live music tonight, bring your instrument", friendly people, prolific fuschia, and, of course, the guinness.   


US Botanical Gardens in D.C


We are finally able to catch our breath and update everyone on our website. Yes, we're in Ireland, but I need to digress to D.C., as I really enjoyed some unusual displays at the D.C. garden. Once again, Pete and I left the kids and Grandma in our townhouse (in a very dodgy area) to do online school while we explored the garden.

There were the usual jaw-dropping flowers, but they also had an interactive sensory display that was done extremely well.  This exhibit explores the contribution of plants to human cultures around the world. In the work of art display, one can smell the aromas and watch videos on how they are used in each society.  Learn more at:

Missouri Botanical Garden


If you ever find yourself in St Louis, possibly spent from standing in line for the Gateway Arch, a trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens might rejuvenate the senses. We spent a very cloudy and humid morning there last week with just a few other garden enthusiasts. This garden is ranked #1 on my very short list of 3 gardens I’ve explored. It is meticulously maintained by hundreds of volunteers for hours everyday. You can observe many different landscape styles with each plant possessing identifying markers. This garden is home to the Climatron rainforest dome greenhouse that has been in existence since 1961; housing 2,800 plants (and many mosquitos!)