Merry Christmas!

“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing each others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays.”
– W. C. Jones

May the good times and special moments of now become your golden memories of tomorrow.
May your holidays be filled with happiness, love and understanding.
And may all your dreams for the coming year be fulfilled.

From our family to yours, have a magical holiday season and happy new year!

Becky & Chris


Fall Grape Harvest

Recently, a friend who has a vineyard asked for help with their fall grape harvest. I said sure, I’d bring six helpers! Our friend already had a winery expecting the grapes to be delivered that evening, so they were lucky to have a beautiful day and were happy for the extra help.

Our friend’s vineyard has 19 rows of beautiful Marquette grape vines that needed to be hand picked before they were weighed and loaded onto the truck. Marquette grapes are a deep, pretty purple color that are grown in the midwest and used to make red wine.

When it’s time to pick grapes, you have a narrow window when they’re at their peak. You need to wait until they have a high enough sugar content, measured in brix, but not so late as to lose fruit to bad weather, pests or even the berries simply splitting open. Luckily, the dry summer and fall has made this a great year for grapes.

The kids enjoyed helping out. Though they did treat the vineyard a little like a “pick-your-own,” tasting the grapes as they went (wine making grapes are sweeter than table grapes), I promise more went into their buckets than their mouths.

After feeding apples to the horses, my 11-year-old has decided that we need to move to the country, too. She says we can have a vineyard, and she’ll have horses, chickens and cows (but no pigs, because “the only thing you can do with pigs is eat them”). And, she said she dreamed we got a llama for the farm, too.

But, for now, I think we’ll stick with just lending a helping hand at other people’s vineyards when we can.

Grape Vines In The Winery Vineyard

grape vine in winery vineyard grapes for wine at winery

I started vineyard management classes last February. We are now into the summer management classes, working to improve the grape canopy. These are images of the Winery at Kirkwood’s vineyard, during yesterday’s walk-about. The grapes are growing well, and in about another 5 weeks, it will be time to start harvesting those grapes to make the wine!

Mother’s Day Humor

mothers day funny poem kid

Kids love potty humor.

My 11-year-old wrote me a poem for Mother’s Day. As she read it, she was laughing so hard, she was crying. She said I was “as funny as farts.” And because potty humor is hilarious to her, it’s the highest compliment she has to give.

I guess this would be considered a parenting win.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and those that fill a mothering role. May you make someone happy.

Legos: A Painful Story {And Why I Took These Photos}

Once upon a time, I didn’t have any children and I never stepped on Legos. Then, there were many children in my house and even more Legos. And now I find Legos in every room. Usually by accidentally stepping on them. Which really hurts. But one day, my house will stay clean and I’ll miss Legos. The End.

legos built by kids on display at window

Do you document the chaos in your house? Have you ever photographed the mess in your kitchen after you made an amazing meal? Or how about what your living room looks like on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when the kids have been playing and breakfast dishes are still on the coffee table?

I usually hate to have any photographic evidence that my house has been messy. I like to pretend that my house is always super clean and organized. (Ha! I have four kids–having an organized house is actually just a wish I have…) I’ll tidy up before I take a photograph or I’ll choose an angle that minimizes the background and all the toys, shoes or backpacks that are strewn about the floor.

So I don’t take photographs when the kids are playing. I don’t remember ever taking photographs of my living room with all the baby and toddler toys the kids had spread out everywhere. Which was my life every single day for YEARS. And I certainly don’t want you to see how my kids’ bedroom looks like it threw up on itself again ten minutes after they just finished cleaning it! (I seriously don’t even know how it happens. It truly baffles me.)

But aren’t those the photographs you love to look at? The ones that show real life? The ones that show what was really going on when you were pretending you had it all together?

My kids like to spread the Legos out, looking for the right piece in the right color. But, for some reason, it never occurs to them to pick the mess back up when they’re done playing. And after they have built their masterpieces, my kids hate to take apart any of their “creations,” wanting instead to showcase them on a shelf.

So, of course, Legos are everywhere and it drives me nuts. I find them in places you shouldn’t find Legos. Seriously, single Legos migrate to my office and my bathroom. A stack of Legos shows up on my bedside table. I even found a Lego in the bottom of the refrigerator.

Sometimes, you’re so ready to clean up the mess that you forget to enjoy it.

But it won’t be long before my kids no longer play with Legos, when they don’t have time for toys. What’s a pet-peeve today, I know I’ll cherish as a dear memory when my kids are grown.

You may not appreciate the messes at the moment. I know I don’t. But years from now, photographs of your regular, average day will be meaningful.

Today, I challenge you to stop and appreciate the chaos. Photograph the things that are part of your “every day.” Preserve these small little moments before they slip away.

I wish I had taken a photograph of my son’s walnut shell “family” that littered the sidewalk and patio for a whole summer (they looked just like little hedgehogs!). Or the play restaurant the kids made, with plastic food and tables and menus that overflowed to three rooms. Or even the huge mess in the kitchen after my daughter made her version of a gourmet breakfast for her brothers.

Take a moment today to snap a few photographs of what your life really looks like. Document the mess and the chaos. Years from now, you’ll be so glad you did.

legos close up on floor

piles of legos spread out on floor


Rome, Italy | Part 2

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Of course we drank wine every day of the trip. And, of course we ate a lot of good food. Every region of Italy has its own food specialties. Rome has spaghetti carbonara, which I ate every night for dinner. (And every restaurant served it differently!)

Our last guided tour on our trip was of the Vatican. I had booked at 7:30am tour so we could see the Sistine Chapel and get into St. Peter’s Basilica before the crowds. Just so you know, that is my illegal photo of the Sistine Chapel because photography is not allowed in the room (ask forgiveness, not permission…)

outside of st peter's church in vatican city in italy rome

the sistine chapel in the vatican museum in vatican city

The Pope was giving a speech that day, so our entrance to St. Peter’s was delayed, but it was worth the effort to see the church. I can’t even describe how magnificent and awe-inspring it is. Photographs do not do it justice to the vast greatness of the size, nor its beauty. Even when you’re there, it’s hard to comprehend that the altar structure alone is almost 100 feet tall.

inside St Peter's Basilica (basilica san pietro) in Vatican City

St Peter's Basilica where the pope says mass in vatican city italy

angel statue in vatican museum

Our last day and a half were spent wandering around Rome, taking in the sights. There certainly wasn’t enough time to visit or see everything. We visited the Villa Borghese gardens, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon (Chris loved telling other tourists about the domed ceiling with the 30 foot opening at the top!), and many piazzas and fountains in Old Rome. Even as the cold rain soaked us, we took it all in.

And I vowed I HAD to back. There is still so much to discover in Italy!

bust statue in park above piazza del popolo

outside of the pantheon in roma italy

the roof ceiling of the pantheon in rome italy

piazza del popolo fountain of mermen

statue on outside of building in rome italy

roman statue in italy

rainy day in piazza del popolo rome italy

street in rome italy on a rainy day

piazza navona in roma rome italy

piazza del popolo on a rainy day in roma rome italy

fountain in piazza navona in rome italy

piazza navona in rome italy

We hope you enjoyed our photographs of Italy (and maybe learned a little of the area and its history)! I’m already dreaming about my next opportunity we will go….

All posts in the Italy series are here, arranged by city we visited:

Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
San Gimignano, Italy
Volterra, Italy
Siena, Italy
Montepulciano, Italy
Positano, Italy
Pompeii, Italy
Rome, Italy: Part 1
Rome, Italy: Part 2

Rome, Italy | Part 1

All roads lead to Rome.

When you visit Italy, there’s no way you can go without a trip to Rome. The influence of the Roman Empire still has a hold over us today. I wanted so much to see the art, the architecture and soak up all that history, religious and otherwise, in person.

Twelve miles long and circling 5.3 square miles, the Aurelian walls were used to protect the city until the 19th century. Our 4-night, 3-day stay in Rome was all inside these old city walls. This walled area, Old Rome, was pretty safe and easy to walk–the only time we got a taxi was when we left for the airport at the end of our trip.

the city of Rome italy

roma rome city viewpoint overlook in italy

overlooking city in rome italy

We felt completely safe walking around, even at night. All of the tourist books had me so worried about pickpockets, but as long as you’re cautious, it’s not really a problem.

It was amazing how many people would be out late. Even at midnight, famous sites, like Trevi fountain were filled with locals and tourists. The city boasts that they have over 900 churches, most of them Catholic. The doors were unlocked, often propped open, and people would just wonder in to look around.

trevi fountain at night in rome italy

inside a church in rome italy

church in rome italy

I definitely recommend paying for a tour guide if you are visiting the Forum, which is known as Ancient Rome. I would not have gotten much out of walking through the area without a guide. This area is the original center of Rome, dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. Many of the oldest buildings are here, and knowledgable tour guides can bring that history to life as they explain what the ruins you’re looking used to be.

church ruins within the ancient rome italy

house of the vestal virgins ruins within the ancient rome italy

statue ruins within the ancient rome italy

one of three remaining arches in ancient roman forum in rome italy

ruins within the ancient roman forum in rome italy

Another tour I was happy that I pre-arranged and paid for was the Colosseum. Only limited tours that are arranged in advance are allowed to tour the lower level, where animals and slaves would have lived, or the top level with the best view. Again, having educated tour guides (ours had the equivalent of PhDs) made the tour insightful and entertaining.

colosseum in rome italy

basement level of the colosseum in rome italy

colosseum photo taken from the top level in italy rome

outside the colosseum in rome italy

before our tour outside the colosseum in rome italy

In Part 2, I will finish up the sights of Rome, including the Vatican and around town. To be continued….

All posts in the Italy series are here, arranged by city we visited:

Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
San Gimignano, Italy
Volterra, Italy
Siena, Italy
Montepulciano, Italy
Positano, Italy
Pompeii, Italy
Rome, Italy: Part 1
Rome, Italy: Part 2

Pompeii, Italy

The story of Pompeii holds the imagination of so many, from school children to adults. I remember, even as a child, being fascinated with the city that was destroyed by a volcano, so it was no surprise to me when my youngest son learned about it in kindergarten and it was all he could talk about.

Pompeii was still rebuilding from an earthquake that occurred in A.D. 62 when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. That eruption buried the city under 30 feet of hot volcanic ash. Over the following centuries, the city was forgotten until a chance rediscovery in 1599. Excavations began in 1748, giving us preserved examples of typical middle-class Roman life.

A tour guide would have been useful here (next time!) because the self-guided tour provided with our tickets was lacking. I became the substitute guide, reading aloud to our group from a travel book I had brought, so we got a lot of history nuggets there. It was interesting to see how this city once looked and imagine what life was like for the citizens of Pompeii. And it’s surprising how similar their lifestyle was to ours today.

The public bath houses even had an outdoor gymnasium for working out before they took a relaxing hot bath! Pompeii had over 130 bars, restaurants and hotels, 40 bakeries and 30 brothels. It had been a busy place in it’s prime!

rebuilding after earthquake in pompeii italy

building in pompeii italy

statues in pompeii government building

gymnasium outside bath house in pompeii italy

statue inside bath house in pompeii italy

hot water tub of pompeii italy bath house

excavated ruins of pompeii italy

pictures in brothel of pompeii italy

ruins of pompeii italy

ruins of pompeii italy

All posts in the Italy series are here, arranged by city we visited:

Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
San Gimignano, Italy
Volterra, Italy
Siena, Italy
Montepulciano, Italy
Positano, Italy
Pompeii, Italy
Rome, Italy: Part 1
Rome, Italy: Part 2