Thoughtful Gifts for Mom

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Next month, May 9, is Mother’s Day in the United States. The day celebrates and honors motherhood, with all its joys, blessings and challenges.

My big extended family includes many mothers, from the matriarchs…my mother and stepmom…to the newest mommy, my younger daughter, Adriel. My mother and stepmom, my sisters and sister-in-law, my nieces and nieces-in-law, my daughters and daughter-in-law, and me of course, all journey together, a sisterhood of mamas. We mother and grandmother well, helping each other as needed and always encouraging and supporting one another.

I’m excited to offer a selection of thoughtful gifts for mom. There’s something for every mama here, from the grandmother to the new mommy, the health conscious to the the traveler, the ecologically minded to the entrepreneur.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom title meme

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom

I’m an affiliate with all of these companies. I can suggest their products with confidence because I’m familiar with them, use them and appreciate each company tremendously.

Tough as a Mother Jewelry

The newest of my affiliate partnerships, Tough as a Mother offers beautiful necklaces and a fun bracelet.

Jennifer Cervantes built her company for all the women living through their own motherhood journeys, from finding the strength to endure miscarriage to the deep darkness of postpartum anxiety, through sleepless nights and physical and mental challenges of all kinds.
No matter what the  motherhood journey looks like, Jennifer knows we all deserve to call ourselves tough as a mother. From gemstone pendants to custom designed necklaces featuring the initials of children or grandchildren, find the perfect necklace for the mothers in your family.
Use this LINK to check out all the possibilities this beautiful company offers.
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom tough as a mother
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Tough as a Mother

Decocrated Curated Home

For the mama that enjoys home decor, creativity or the delightful surprise of subscription boxes, Decocrated makes an excellent gift. Four times a year a seasonal box arrives at your front door, full of curated pieces designed to work with any decorating style.

Order a single seasonal box…spring is currently available…or save money with a yearly subscription. Additionally, add-on boxes are available to subscribers only. Add-on boxes include Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Americana.

Click this link for a Seasonal Box and use my discount code CINDYLAUDERDALEMOORE to save 20% off of your order! Or type in the code CINDYLAUDERDALEMOORE30 to save $30 off the yearly subscription.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom decocrated
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Decocrated Curated Home Subscription Boxes

Wolfie Kids International Clothing

Based in Australia, Wolfie Kids is a small, international company, made up of moms and creatives. They work hard to provide their customers with carefully curated clothing for babies, toddlers and children.

Keeping little ones comfortable in ethical, cozy fabrics remains a top priority for Wolfie Kids. Most designs feature soft cotton and linen that won’t irritate delicate skin. Plus the company uses eco-friendly, recycled packaging, from green shipping methods to reusable cotton bags that arrive with the clothing lovingly tucked inside.

For the expectant mama, new mommy or busy mother of several kids, Wolfie makes a fun gift, because who doesn’t appreciate thoughtful, comfortable, well made clothes!  Check out their adorable outfits HERE . Use my code, CINDYBEYOND20, to save 20% on your order!

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom wolfie kids
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Wolfie Kids Clothing. Finley Grace modeling the Ziggy Jumpsuit

Four Sigmatic

The founders of Four Sigmatic grew up in Finland, foraging in their backyards and enjoying the benefits of all kinds of mushrooms. They recognized that perhaps the rest of the world didn’t use mushrooms as much as they did and wanted to change that.

Four Sigmatic includes familiar superfoods in their products such as green tea, cacao, hemp and coconut. And they include some less familiar, like Reishi, Cordyceps and Ashwagandha mushrooms.

This company’s health conscious products are for the mama who loves her coffee, tea or hot chocolate AND appreciates the additional health boost from high quality, nutrient dense foods.

Check out all the products Four Sigmatic offers HERE. And use my special code, CINDYLAUDERDALEMOORE, to save 10% off of your order.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom four sigmatic
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Four Sigmatic

Smartr Skin

Smartr Skin is a physician created line of skin care products. The company embraces a whole-person view of health. They believe that feeling healthy and confident is a result of caring for the whole self…body, mind and spirit.

They also believe that smarter, higher quality ingredients lead to better results. Therefore, they’ve created custom formulations from clean ingredients that nourish the skin, from the inside out.

I’ve been a customer of Smartr Skin for exactly two years and I LOVE their products. Their skin care line and jade roller are perfect gifts for the mother who desires to nourish and enrich her skin, no matter what her age.

Click this LINK and use my discount code CINDYM20OFF to save 20% off your order!

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom smartr skin
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Smartr Skin

Toad&Co

Toad&Co is a sustainable clothing company that’s woven their intentions into the very fabric of their company: to support communities, take care of the planet, and empower people to live their fullest lives. These long-term partnerships have shaped Toad&Co for the better, helping them to live well and do good every day.

The company believes that minimizing their environmental impact and helping clean up the apparel industry is an integral part of their business ethos. Therefore, they use 100% sustainable, ecological materials, 100% of the time.

Toad&Co clothing or gift cards are for the mother that is ecologically minded and yet fashion conscious. Click HERE to check out styles that are suitable for a fun night out on the town or for traveling around the globe.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom toadandco
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Toad&Co

CBD Living

Established in 2013, CBD Living is headquartered in Corona, California. The company uses only 100% organic hemp sourced from state-licensed farms in Oregon and Colorado

The secret to their superior products lies in the use of nanotechnology that reduces CBD into nano-sized droplets, without the use of emulsifiers. This technique allows the CBD to immediately penetrate the body’s cells, giving increased bioavailability at the cellular level with no waiting.

The company offers a HUGE range of products, from CBD infused water to gummies to energy drinks to pet products. CBD Living is perfect for the mama who appreciates the health benefits of CBD and who makes her health a priority.

Use my LINK to browse CBD Living’s 100+ products.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom cbd living
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – CBD Living

Mer-Sea & Co

Friends Melanie and Lina founded Mer-Sea & Co. They share the belief that life should be simple, like life at the beach. This attitude is reflected in all of their products, where utility, tranquility and simplicity reign.

Mer-Sea & Co offers mindful products such as artisan soy wax candles, Moroccan totes, travel accessories, bath and body necessities and beautiful sweaters, tops and wraps, crafted in the colors of the sea.

For the mamas who appreciate and enjoy well crafted articles and love the beach or travel life, Mer-Sea provides beautifully unique items. Use my LINK to explore their website and perhaps pick out something for yourself as well as your mother!

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom mersea
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Mer-Sea & Co. Me loving their tasseled wrap while in Edinburgh.

Voke Superfood Supplements

Kalen Caughey came up with the idea for Voke ten years ago, as he rode in a chairlift up a local ski hill in Montana. A competitive skier, Kalen wanted a healthy, convenient, portable energy solution for long days on the mountain.

Together with his dad, who has a PhD in biochemistry, the two developed an organic blend that is natural and balanced without sugar, artificial sweeteners or excessive doses of vitamins.

Voke Superfood Supplements have fueled expeditions on all seven continents, including climbs in the Himalayas. The benefits of the tablets go beyond adventurers to the health conscious and to health minded professionals.

I experienced the power of Voke supplements on my last trip to Scotland. They helped me overcome jet lag quickly while boosting my energy levels for days of walking and exploring. Voke is perfect for the mother who loves to travel and who values her health and wellbeing.

Click HERE for Voke Superfood Supplements.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom voke superfood
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Voke Superfood Supplements

BOOM! Makeup by Cindy Joseph

The late Cindy Joseph began her career as a makeup artist in the 70s in San Francisco. Even then she believed less was more. As she aged, she became pro-age, rather than anti-aging.

As she approached 60, Cindy entered into the cosmetic business, introducing BOOM!, a line of products that are rich in natural moisturizers such as olive oil and beeswax. She created makeup that was about revealing rather than hiding.

I’ve used BOOM! products for four years and it’s the only makeup line for me. BOOM! is perfect for the mom, of any age, who desires to nourish her skin and allow her natural beauty to shine through.

I’m excited that BOOM! recently became available on Amazon. Get the BOOM! Trio Sticks HERE.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom boom
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – BOOM! Make Up

Blogging Blastoff or Travel Blogging Blastoff

Not sure what to get Mom this year? Does she enjoy writing? Have an entrepreneurial streak? Eager to try something new?

Consider gifting your mother with a blogging course that helps her build a profitable blog, from the ground up.

I’ve taken both of these courses by Heather and Pete Reese, who are successful bloggers themselves. Blogging Blastoff changed my blogging career very quickly as I implemented what I learned. And Travel Blogging Blastoff is opening doors to new opportunities working with travel partners. I highly recommend both.

Click HERE for Blogging Blastoff and this LINK for Travel Blogging Blastoff.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom blogging blastoff
Thoughtful Gifts for Mom – Blogging Blastoff courses

Happy Mother’s Day

I hope you found something special for the mothers in your life, in this collection of thoughtful, unique gifts. I’m certainly shopping the list, for the mamas in my family.

Perhaps you even found something wonderful for yourself. Buy it! Sometimes we must nurture and cherish ourselves.

May you celebrate, with joy, all women experiencing their motherhood journeys. And may you be celebrated as well.

Happy Mother’s Day. Blessings to you and your family.

Thoughtful Gifts for Mom me and Finley
Snuggling my granddaughter, Finley.

 

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is an affiliate with Tough as a Mother, Decocrated, Wolfie Kids, Four Sigmatic, Smartr Skin, Toad&Co, CBD Living, Mer-Sea & Co, Voke Superfood Supplements, Amazon and Blogging Blastoff. These programs provide a means for sites to earn fees by advertising and linking to the companies, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

Ten Scottish Superstitions

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Superstition is defined as a belief or practice that’s not necessarily based in science. Instead, it’s a magical belief, a supernatural influence or a practice that’s passed down through generations.

I had fun researching good luck traditions in Italy and Ireland. When it came time to look at Scotland, I quickly realized superstition was a better word. Truthfully, most families hold to generational superstitions. Throwing spilled salt over the shoulder, not walking under ladders, knocking on wood or not opening an umbrella indoors are all superstitions I learned about in my family.

Scottish superstitions are deeply rooted. After all, Scotland is home to the Loch Ness monster and the country’s national animal is the unicorn. Magic abounds in Scotland as do fun superstitions.

Check out these ten Scottish superstitions and see how many you recognize or practice in your family.

Ten Scottish Superstitions title meme

May Morning Dew

On the first day of May, each year, Scottish women seek out the early morning dew. Applied to the skin, May morning dew becomes the ultimate moisturizer.

This practice harkens back to the ancient festival of Beltane. May dew is holy water. The druids thought of it as a source of beauty, vitality and good fortune.

In recent years, not as many women collect May dew. However, some Scottish women still rise with the sun to dab this elixir on their faces, hoping for a year of beautiful complexion.

Ten Scottish Superstitions may dew
Ten Scottish Superstitions – May morning dew

Black Sheep

The well known saying, “black sheep of the family”, originates from a traditional superstition among Scottish farmers and shepherds. The color black, long associated with Satan, means the birth of a black lamb foretells disaster for the rest of the flock.

Twin lambs, with black faces, indicates a poor lambing season ahead.

Ten Scottish Superstitions black sheep
Ten Scottish Superstitions – black sheep

Guising

Many Halloween traditions originate from the Celtic festival of Samhain. During Samhain, the Scots believe the veil between this world and the spirit world grows thin, allowing spirits to more easily pass through.

The Celts practice guising, putting on disguises, to pass unrecognized among the spirits. They also offer food as an appeasement, a forerunner of today’s trick or treating.

Ten Scottish Superstitions guises
Ten Scottish Superstitions – guising

White Heather

Purple heather covers the Scottish hills and mountains, blooming in early summer and again in late summer/early fall. The less common white heather, considered a lucky talisman, is worn by grooms on their wedding days.

The traditions comes from the folktale of Malvina, whose lover Oscar dies in battle. Before his death he asks his messenger to deliver a sprig of purple heather to Malvina, as a symbol of his eternal love.

Malvina weeps, her tears falling on the heather, which turns white in response. She proclaims, “May the white heather, symbol of my sorrow, bring good fortune to all who find it.”

Ten Scottish Superstitions white heather
Ten Scottish Superstitions – white heather

Birth of a Baby

Up until the 1950s, Scottish midwives attended the home birth of babies. They performed rituals, to ease the birthing process. The midwife unlocks doors and windows and ensures that no one in the house sits with arms or legs crossed, all to help a new baby into the world.

Ten Scottish Superstitions - baby
Ten Scottish Superstitions – new baby

Handselling

Another tradition connected to babies is handselling. A piece of silver, placed into the palm of a newborn, determines her future relationship with money.

If the baby grabs the silver item tightly, she will become frugal with her finances. And if she drops the silver quickly, she is destined to spend her money freely.

Ten Scottish Superstitions silver key
Ten Scottish Superstitions – handselling

Rowan Tree

The Scots plant rowan trees, with their bright red berries, on their properties to ward off evil. This tree is sacred to the Celts. It protects from all mischievous spirits and the “evil eye”. Plus, cooked rowan berries offer special properties for pregnant women. They protect the unborn baby.

Ten Scottish Superstitions rowan tree
Ten Scottish Superstitions – rowan tree

Fishing Boats

The fishing villages in the Outer Hebrides and Fife have strict traditions. If a fisherman passes a minister or a red haired girl, it’s a bad omen. The fisherman might choose to stay ashore that day.

He also won’t say the words “pig” or “rabbit” while onboard his ship. Both bring bad luck. Instead, if mention of these animals enter the conversation, they go by “curly tail” or “bob tail”.

Ten Scottish Superstitions - fishing
Ten Scottish Superstitions – fishing boats

Shoes on the Table

In Scotland, don’t put shoes on a table. This superstition actually comes from England. After a miner’s death, his boots rested on a table, as a show of respect.

Eventually, placing shoes on a table invited death to come, to the individual or his family. This tradition spread to Scotland.

Ten Scottish Superstitions shoes
Ten Scottish Superstitions – no shoes on the table. The bed is okay.

First Footing

First footing takes place immediately after the clock strikes twelve, on New Year’s Eve…or Hogmanay. According to tradition, the first person through the door, after midnight, should be a dark haired man bearing gifts of salt, whisky, shortbread, coal or a black bun. This dark haired man brings good luck to the household with him too.

It’s bad luck for a blond man to enter the house during first footing, as he is associated with the Vikings from ancient times, who were NOT welcome. After the first footing, anyone is allowed to enter, to exchange gifts and share food and drink.

Ten Scottish Superstitions dark haired man
Ten Scottish Superstitions – first footing

Do You Practice Any Superstitions?

Do you and your family practice any superstitions? Which ones passed down through the generations in your family?

I didn’t realize, until I did the research for this post, that “black sheep of the family” originated in Scotland. I’ll most definitely keep my shoes on the floor. And with the month of May approaching, I intend to collect morning dew from my garden, for my complexion.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into Scottish culture. It’s fun to learn about other countries and their peoples through their cultures, traditions and superstitions.

Check out Italy’s Good Luck Traditions and The Luck of the Irish posts too.

 

Click photo to order book.

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

Tough as a Mother Jewelry

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Thank you to Tough as a mother for sending a gorgeous necklace, for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

 

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences on earth. The joy and the love and the pride that our children bring us is beyond compare.

However, let’s be honest.

Parenting is also challenging. It’s tough. The worry, the sleepless nights, the energy drain, the intense desire for good things and happiness for our children is also beyond compare.

When I received info about Tough as a Mother jewelry, I immediately knew that founder Jennifer Cervantes got it. She understands what the parenting journey looks like and feels like. She unites with other mothers and also cheers them on.

Learn more about Jennifer’s mission in life and her beautiful, energy boosting jewelry.

Tough as a Mother Jewelry title meme

Meet Jennifer Cervantes, Founder of Tough as a Mother

Before she had kids, Jennifer envisioned motherhood. She saw herself at the park with her children, sipping a latte and wearing cute flats, with her trendy diaper bag beside her.

The reality is different, two kids later. Jennifer discovered the days are way more messy, loud and chaotic than she ever thought possible. Motherhood isn’t necessarily worse, just different.  It’s no wonder, she says, that we talk about being tough as a mother – moms need to be strong!

Jennifer built her company for all the women living through their own journeys, from finding the strength to endure miscarriage to the deep darkness of postpartum anxiety, through sleepless nights and physical and mental challenges of all kinds.
No matter what the  motherhood journey looks like, Jennifer knows we all deserve to call ourselves tough as a mother.
Tough as a Mother Jewelry founder Jennifer Cervantes
Tough as a Mother Jewelry founder Jennifer Cervantes. Image from her website.

The Birth of Tough as a Mother Tribe

Jennifer discovered her calling, making jewelry for mothers, when she hit the lowest point in her own journey. Working 12 hour days as a teacher to underprivileged children, her body began to shut down. Unable to nurse her five month old baby, Jennifer knew she needed a change. She utilizes gemstones to design pieces that honor the most joyous and the most raw parts of motherhood. And her personalized pieces allow mothers around the world to unite in a quiet, but strong, bond. Our triumphs and trials become shared experiences as we cheer each other on.

Jennifer shares:

“Whether you are buying for yourself, a first-time mom just embarking on her motherhood journey, or a third-time mom choosing hope as she carries her rainbow baby, you are in the right place. You are strong, beautiful and tough as a mother. Let’s honor your journey.”

Tough as a Mother Jewelry bracelet
Tough as a Mother Jewelry – bracelet to remind you just how tough you are

A Peek at the Tough as a Mother Jewelry

Intrigued by Jennifer’s story and her passion for encouraging mothers, I visited the website. I love what I found.

The gemstone necklaces boost energy in different ways, depending on the stone.

Cool Mama Necklace with Chalcedony Stone

This necklace with the light blue chalcedony stone helps mamas stay cool, calm and collected, even under the pressures of motherhood. The cool mama necklace is perfect for new mothers or those wearing many hats while they parent their children.

The chalcedony stone necklace calms racing minds, balances thoughts and increases communication between ourselves and others to help us find a clear path forward, no matter the circumstance.

Touch as a Mother Jewelry cool mama necklace
Tough as a Mother Jewelry – Cool Mama Necklace. Image from Tough as a Mother website

Balanced Mama Necklace with Quartz Stone

This clear quartz stone necklace helps mamas maintain patience and energy because motherhood requires both. The balanced mama necklace is perfect for mothers in all stages of parenting.

The clear quartz necklace helps mothers maintain balance – simply grab ahold of it whenever you need a tangible reminder to take a deep breath. Quartz also promotes positive energy and perseverance.

Tough as a Mother Jewelry balanced mama necklace
Tough as a Mother Jewelry – Balanced Mama Necklace. Image from Tough as a Mother website

Cool Vibes Mama Necklace with Labradorite Stone

This blue/brown stone necklace helps mamas live with clear minds, positive thoughts and a deep connection to their intuition. The labradorite gemstone enhances our ability to reconnect with ourselves and our true identity as a mother and only let the good vibes in, so all mama guilt can fade away.

The blue labradorite also clears worries, protects from negativity and promotes strength and perseverance. Every mama can benefit from this beautiful necklace.

This is the necklace I chose!

Tough as a Mother Jewelry tribe
Tough as a Mother Jewelry – Cool Vibes Mama Necklace

Initial Necklaces and Custom Necklaces

Tough as a Mother also offers initial necklaces. The initials are .925 sterling silver with 18K gold. They come on a 16″ or 18″ 14K gold-filled chain and may be customized with a gemstone of choice at the back clasp.

Wear your child’s initial on a necklace. Or customize a necklace by spelling out your child’s name or by adding the initials of all of your children or grandchildren, up to six initials.

Tough as a Mother Jewelry initial necklace
Tough as a Mother Jewelry – initial necklace. Image from Tough as a Mother website
Tough as a Mother Jewelry custom
Tough as a Mother Jewelry – custom necklace. Image from Tough as a Mother website

I’m Tough as a Mother…and You Are Too

I received my Cool Vibes Mama necklace, with the labradorite stone, and I love it. I’m one who appreciates the beauty of gemstones and also recognizes the benefits the stones impart.

The labradorite stone is perfect for me as I connect ever deeper with my intuitive side, distance myself from negativity and absolutely embrace who I am 100%. My wild woman nature rejoices as I wear my necklace.

I’m thrilled and honored that this company reached out to me. Jennifer’s mission and values align with my own. My mother and my daughters and daughter-in-law…all fierce and tough mothers…are receiving necklaces from Tough as a Mother, for Mother’s Day.

How about you, mama?

Which gemstone necklace draws you? That’s the perfect necklace for you.

Or perhaps, in honor of your children or grandchildren, you love the initial necklaces. How fun to create your own customized necklace, to wear near your heart.

Use this LINK to check out all the meaningful possibilities available, for yourself or for the mamas that you love and encourage in your life. These necklaces…and the bracelet too…are perfect for Mother’s Day or shower gifts or any special occasion.

Actually, every day is the perfect day to encourage mamas on their parenting journey. Because every day is another opportunity to mother our children well. Join the tribe.

Tough as a Mother Jewelry
Loving my Cool Vibes Mama necklace.

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is an affiliate partner with Tough as a Mother and may make a commission when you click on my links, all at no extra cost to you.

 

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Florence is one of Italy’s most visited cities. The capital of the Tuscany region, Florence is home to Renaissance masterpieces and stunning architecture.

At one time Florence operated as the center of medieval European trade and finance, making it one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Its turbulent history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici Family and many political revolutions. Florence served as the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871. And the Florentine dialect became the foundation for the Italian language.

With its numerous museums and art galleries, Florence attracts millions of visitors in a typical year. Its culture, art, monuments and architecture caused UNESCO to name it a World Heritage Site in 1982.

There’s much to see and do in this beautiful, bustling city. Whether there for a day or a long weekend, take time to check out these ten must visit places in Florence.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence title meme

Cathedral of Florence

Also known as the Duomo and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, this cathedral complex is a major tourist attraction. If you only have time to see a couple of places in Florence, make sure the cathedral is one of them.

In fact, the Duomo offers four of my top ten sites to explore, making it a great starting off point on your exploration of Florence.

Completion of the church occurred in 1367. The exterior is covered in colorful marble. Most of the stained glass windows, created between 1434 and 1455, include designs by famous artists such as Donatello, Andrea del Castagno and Paolo Uccello.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence cathedral
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Cathedral of Florence

Brunelleschi’s Dome

The dome covering part of the Cathedral of Florence is called Brunelleschi’s Dome. When it was designed it was the largest dome in the world. As the cathedral took shape, the builders left space for the huge dome. One problem existed. No one knew exactly how to build a 150 feet wide dome atop the existing walls. Masons feared the dome might collapse inward.

In 1418 a public competition for the construction of the dome promised 200 gold florins and eternal fame. The Opera del Duomo selected Filippo Brunelleschi to supervise the dome project. Construction began in 1420 and finished 16 years later. Brunelleschi’s Dome is ingenious and innovative, a marvel of architecture that still astounds.

Visitors climb the 463 steps within the dome, appreciating frescoes on the interior and marvelous views of the city from the top. Reservations must be made in advance.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence dome
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Brunelleschi’s Dome

Giotto’s Bell Tower

Also called the Campanile, Giotto’s Bell Tower is the tall tower attached to the Duomo.

Giotto began construction on the Florentine Gothic bell tower in 1334. Although the tower bears his name, Giotto died three years after construction began. Andrea Pisano, following the original design, completed the first two floors, while Francesco Talenti finished the tower in 1359.

Visitors climb the 414 steps inside the tower, with much welcomed rest stops built in, for gorgeous views of Florence at the top.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence tower
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Giotto’s Bell Tower

The Baptistry of St John

The Baptistry is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, believed built in the 800s over the ruins of a Roman temple.

Located across from the Duomo, the Baptistry stands in the Piazza del Duomo. The giant bronze doors are the main attraction, however beautiful mosaics decorate the interior of the cupola. The bronze doors decorate three of the four sides of the building. Three different groups of statues rest above the doors, copies of the originals.

The most famous set of doors are on the east side, facing the Duomo. Called the Gates of Paradise, the panels depict scenes from the Old Testament.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence baptistry
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – the Baptistry’s bronze doors

Uffizi Gallery

This world famous museum contains works of art by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo and many other artists. Uffizi is ranked 25th on the list of most visited museums in the world, with 2 million visitors annually.

The Gallery occupies two floors of a large building constructed between 1560 and 1580. The building originally housed offices for Florentine magistrates, hence the name. Uffizi is Italian for “offices”.

Within find collections of ancient sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages to the Modern Period. Additionally, the Gallery contains statues and busts from the Medici Family.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence uffizi gallery
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Uffizi Gallery

Palazzo Vecchio

Built in 1299, the Palazzo Vecchio, “Old Palace”, is the town hall of Florence. It overlooks Piazza della Signoria and shares space with the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi (see next paragraph).

Originally Palazzo Vecchio was built as a castle with a single tower. Within the tower are two rooms that served as prison cells. Today the palazzo houses a museum that offers Roman ruins and Renaissance chambers and paintings. The Hall of 500 is the largest room, important both artistically and historically.

At the entrance rests a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The original David statue occupied that spot from its completion in 1504 until 1873, when it relocated to the Accademia Gallery for protection from the elements.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence palazzo
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Palazzo Vecchio

Loggia dei Lanzi

Also located in Piazza della Signoria, the Loggia de Lanzi is a free open air museum that adjoins Uffizi Gallery. Designed in 1376, the Loggia features curved arches with a variety of statues resting beneath them.

Included is the statue of Perseo, holding Medusa’s severed head and the Rape of the Sabines, a unique statute containing three figures, all carved from a single block of marble.

Loggia dei Lanzi is a wonderful spot to take a rest break. Large steps leading up the to Loggia offer plenty of seating.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence loggia dei lanzi
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Loggia dei Lanzi

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio, “Old Bridge”, is a medieval stone bridge spanning the Arno River. Originally built in the late 900s, reconstruction occurred in 1345 after a major flood.

Shops line either side of the bridge, and have since the 13th century. Initially, butchers, fishmongers and tanners occupied those shops, until the stench caused Ferdinand I to issue a decree in 1593. Henceforth, only goldsmiths and jewelers could set up shop on Ponte Vecchio, for the betterment of all.

Ponte Vecchio is a popular bridge to stroll across and shop upon by day. At night it’s considered a very romantic spot with great views of the Arno River.

Special note: from the upstairs windows of the Uffizi Gallery, you have great views of Ponte Vecchio. It’s where I snapped this photo.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence ponte vecchio
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Ponte Vecchio

Accademia Gallery

Accademia Gallery, also called Galleria dell’Accademia, is home to one of the most famous sculptures in the world, Michelangelo’s David.

Located off of the Hall of Prisoners, so named because of Michelangelo’s unfinished statues, David captures the eye and the heart magnificently. Spend time studying this beautiful statue. Then explore Accademia’s botany, music, textiles and art exhibits.

The smaller, more specialized Accademia Gallery draws almost 2 million visitors in a typical year, making it the second most visited museum in Italy, after the Uffizi. It was founded in 1784 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence accademia gallery
Ten Must Visit Places in Florence – Accademia Gallery

Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace

More than just a green space in Florence, Boboli Gardens is the city’s greatest open air museum. Sharing space with Pitti Palace, the gardens contain centuries old trees, sculptures and fountains along with colorful flowers and plants.

The garden’s development, primarily by the Medici and Lorraine Families, spans 400 years and inspired gardens throughout Europe, including Versailles in France.

The enormous Pitti Palace, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was built in 1457 for the Pitti Family. The Medicis bought the palace in 1549, as their primary residence.

Today the palace is a museum, housing Medici household treasures, 16th and 17th century paintings, 19th century furnishings and a Gallery of Modern Art. The Boboli Gardens lie behind Pitti Palace.

Visit Florence Italy

This wonderful old city provides its visitors many opportunities for exploration, education and fun.

In addition to Florence’s culture and art, the city also offers fine dining and shopping experiences. And Florence claims the invention of Italian gelato!

My daughter, grandson and I enjoyed a night and a day in Florence, which feels very different from Rome. Mark Twain once described Florence as a “city of dreams”. With its art, history, culture and beauty, Florence is certainly a visit-worthy destination.

While COVID restrictions currently prevent most of these must see sites from opening, change is coming. I look forward to hearing of the museums reopening.

Have you visited Florence?

Ten Must Visit Places in Florence group selfie
Group selfie in Florence, 2017

Helps for Exploring Florence:

 


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The Father

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

It’s one of my favorite times of year…award season! The Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards presented their top picks in cinema. The Academy Awards air at the end of the month, on April 25.

Although it’s been anything but a typical year for the movie industry, I’m following my usual practice of watching the Best Nominated Films ahead of the Oscars. What a sweet joy to view The Father at Bookhouse Cinema recently, rather than at home on a streaming service. I loved the experience, which felt amazing after viewing only two films at a theater last year.

The darkened theater experience, combined with the incredibly moving story of this film, deeply impacted me. I’m still thinking about this movie.

This is the Best Picture Nominated film, The Father.

The Father title meme

The Father Cast

This drama stars Anthony Hopkins, Oliva Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell. The Father, which has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, is directed by Florian Zeller and carries a PG-13 rating for occasional strong language and adult themes.

The Father earned six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor for Hopkins, Best Supporting Actress for Colman, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Production Design.

The Father argument
Father and daughter trying to understand each other, in The Father.

The Father Storyline

Anthony (Hopkins), an 84 year old man, lives alone in his beautiful London flat. His daughter Anne (Colman) works and enjoys her independent life while stopping by frequently to check on her father.

However, the frequency of her visits increases as first one and then another of her father’s caretakers quit. Anthony doesn’t believe he needs assistance. Unconvinced, Anne notes that her father sometimes appears confused or forgetful. Daily, it seems, Anthony misplaces his watch, then accuses one of the caretakers of stealing it.

Anthony oscillates between confusion one moment and belligerence about giving up his flat the next, leading Anne to make the difficult decision to move him into her place.

The Father Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins as the father.
The Father Olivia Colman
Olivia Colman as the daughter.

A Confusing World

Although Anne spends more time with her father, due to his close proximity, Anthony’s perception of reality continues to deteriorate.

He finds it difficult to sort out timelines. To him, Anne appears younger some days and older others. Strangers appear in the flat and just as quickly disappear. One minute Anne tells him she’s moving to Paris, to live with her new boyfriend  Paul (Sewell). The next, Anne’s husband James (Gatiss) appears in the front parlor, even though she claims they divorced five years ago.

Realizing she needs help, Anne hires Laura (Poots), to stay with her father during the day. When Anthony meets her, he’s struck by her resemblance to his younger daughter, Lucy (also Poots). It causes him to wonder why Lucy never visits him. He charms Laura, dancing and engaging in witty conversation, leaving Anne smiling and yet confused herself about his condition.

A doctor confirms Anne’s fears. Her father’s episodes of confusion signal the onset of dementia.

For Anthony, who insists his memory is fine, the world becomes increasingly small, confined within the walls of a flat that might be his…or might be Anne’s. And the people living with him…is this his daughter Anne? And his son-in-law? Or is that man his daughter’s boyfriend? And where is his other daughter, Lucy? Doesn’t Laura look just like Lucy?

And where, oh where, is his watch??

The Father charming Laura
The father charming Laura.
The Father telling stories
When you don’t remember details…make them up!

My Thoughts on The Father

This film had such a strong effect on me. Perhaps it’s because Greg’s mother died of Alzheimer’s and we lost her, bit by bit, long before her body wore out. Or perhaps it’s because Anthony Hopkins physically reminds me of Greg’s dad, who joined his dear wife almost six years ago. And then, my own father’s death anniversary popped up March 30…gone 11 years now. Or maybe it’s because I’m in my 60s now and cringe every time I suddenly forget a name.

The subject of dementia is a scary one for most people. And you’d expect a film about that devastating illness to be dark and depressing. It is a heavy subject, undoubtedly. However, I’m so grateful for this outstanding film.

The Father confusion
The world becomes so confusing, in The Father.

My Favorite Best Picture Film So Far

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman both deserve their Oscar nominations. I felt completely undone by both performances, so much so that I sat quietly in my car after the movie and just felt all the emotions. And the emotions were many.

I laughed at times, delighted by Anthony’s charm, and I teared up, sympathetic to Anne’s pain and fear as her “Little Daddy” slipped away from her. Oft times, my body responded physically to what unfolded on the screen, feeling gut punched and breathless.

The Father is beautiful, edgy, difficult to watch and impossible to look away from.  Plus, it is unbelievably clever. This is the most intriguing film I’ve ever seen, about dementia. Anthony’s perspective on his confusing and ever shifting world instills in the viewer empathy and compassion for those in the grips of this horrible disease. The Father not only changes the way I perceive those with memory issues, it changes the way I respond to them.

See The Father. If you’ve ever known someone with dementia, or currently care for a loved one with this disorder, spend 97 minutes with this film. Allow it to upend your views and open your mind and soften your heart. And cry. Weep for those whose realities no longer make sense. Then offer them patience and unconditional love.

The Father daughter and little daddy
The father and his daughter.

Watch The Father at select theaters, or rent on Amazon Prime HERE.

Did you enjoy this review? Check out my review of the Bridgerton series!

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

My hometown, Joplin, Missouri, has a newly opened coffee shop…with a twist! Located at 2201 East 7th Street, Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center brings a fresh concept to the city. Customers can enjoy locally roasted coffee, tea or smoothies in the company of cats…or humans. Yummy treats are offered for sale as well.

This afternoon I visited this intriguing shop, to experience my first cat lounge.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center title meme

What is a Cat Lounge?

Cat lounges, also called cat cafes, originated in Taiwan in 1998. Japanese tourists took the idea back to Japan. The first cat lounge opened in Osaka in 2004. Since then, their popularity has increased. Japan has more than 150 such lounges currently.

Perhaps because of the “no pet” policies in many apartments, the Japanese people enjoy spending time with cats in the lounges. Pets, cats included, are known to reduce stress and offer other health benefits. Interacting with cats lowers stress and blood pressure and decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Plus we just feel happy, watching them play, loving on them and talking to them.

Cat lounges sprang up in other countries around the world, including the US. While Japan allows cats to be in the food and drink area, the US has more strict regulations. The cats must reside in an area completely separate from where food and drinks are served. Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center meets that requirement.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center logo
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center logo, on an interior wall.

Checking Out Nine Lives Cat Lounge

I arrived at the cat lounge mid afternoon, thinking it might be a lull time. I thought wrong! When you can’t find a place to park, you know you’ve come to a “happening” place.

After locating a spot behind the lounge, I entered into the coffee bar area and looked around while waiting to order a hot tea.

Large windows allow natural light to fill the interior. Concrete floors and walls covered with wooden slats create a clean, homey environment.

Groups of people, in twos, threes and fours, chatted at tables spaced apart to observe social distancing. Face masks are required for admittance and may be removed while enjoying a drink or snack.

Nine Lives offers coffees and teas, espresso drinks, sugar free smoothies and pastries, cookies and baked goods from local bakeries.

Two steps down from the main level is a cozy seating area. A large glass window allows a peek into the cat lounge. I chose to sip my tea in this inviting spot.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center coffee shop
Stop by the coffee shop first. Baked goods by B’s Breads & Bakery.
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center coffee bar
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center – coffee bar
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center seating
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center – cozy seating area

Visiting the Cats

The cat lounge is located in a separate, enclosed room. To enter there is a $5.00 fee for 30 minutes in the room. The fees help the cats live their best lives, while waiting for their forever homes. Lounge fees go toward vet care, food, kitty litter, cat toys and disinfectant for cleaning.

The living room style lounge provides the cats with a homey atmosphere, complete with climbing towers and a bridge, tunnels to play in, hammocks and a variety of toys. Furniture for humans includes a sofa, chairs and tables. A TV mounted on the wall features birds hopping about outdoors. And a sturdy bookcase at one end of the room holds books and games. Humans can play the games. Cats can climb the shelves!

At any time as many as 12 cats may lounge about the room, depending on recent adoptions and availability. Three cats call the lounge their permanent residence and are not up for adoption. Princess Pat owned the room this afternoon, reclining above us on the bridge.

To make sure the cats remain happy and unstressed, up to 16 people may enter the room at one time. Visitors receive a timer and when their 30 minutes are up, they leave so others can come into the room.

Because the lounge was very busy this afternoon, I only spent 10 minutes in the room. I had permission to take photos…no flash photography…and used my time wisely. However, I enjoyed watching the interactions between cats and visitors. We all had masks on, but I know there were smiles behind them.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center kitty
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center – sweet kitty
Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center loft
Princess Pat at Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center

Adoption is the Goal

At Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center, finding homes for kitties is the goal. Adopting a cat, versus purchasing one from a store or breeder, allows for an additional opening at an animal shelter so that another cat can be saved.

Nine Lives works with the Joplin Humane Society and local cat rescues to bring kitties to the lounge for adoption. Having the cats in a home-like setting allows people to see their unique, fun personalities better than if the fur babies were caged.

With the three full time residents, Sissy, Boots and Princess Pat, that means up to nine cats are available for adoption. One of the staff members shared with me that nine cats were adopted last week. That’s amazing! Click this LINK to see some of the recent adoptions.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center sign
Fun sign outside the cat lounge!

Visit Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center

Whether you want to play with the kitties, adopt a cat or enjoy a drink and snack, stop by this unique new shop in Joplin. Hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday and Tuesday. And 10:00 am to 8:00 pm Wednesday through Sunday.

If you have cat allergies but want to watch the cats, you can. That large glass window in the cozy sitting area provides the perfect vantage point. And if you just don’t like cats, stop by anyway. The fun atmosphere and yummy snacks and drinks make Nine Lives a great meetup or rest break spot.

There’s also a merchandise shop where you can purchase tee shirts and other fun items. Proceeds go toward caring for the cats and helping them find homes.

I enjoyed my time there and left with a light heart…and a half finished cup of hot peppermint tea. And although I’m a cat mom to three rescue kitties at home, I’ll return soon to sip a hot tea and peek into the lounge.

There is good going on in the world, if you look for it. You can find it here, daily, at Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge and Adoption Center store
Merchandise for sale in the store.

 

Fun Cat Finds at Amazon:

 


 

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Wolfie Kids Curated International Fashion

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I recently discovered this amazing children’s clothing company. Wolfie Kids snagged my attention when they commented on a photo of my grandbaby, Finley. Checking out the company, I liked the clothing and practices that I saw. It is a personal goal, to shop with ecologically minded companies as often as possible.

I’m delighted to introduce you to this company that focuses on clothing our youngest family members, with style and comfort. Finley joined the Wolfie Kids Pack, with the arrival of her first outfit. And I happily became an affiliate.

This is Wolfie Kids Curated International Fashion with Finley Grace modeling her adorable Ziggy Jumpsuit set.

Wolfie Kids title meme

Get to Know Wolfie Kids

Based in Australia, Wolfie Kids is a small, international company, made up of moms and creatives. They work hard, in home offices around the world, to bring their customers carefully curated clothing for babies, toddlers and children.

Keeping little ones comfortable in ethical, cozy fabrics remains a top priority for Wolfie Kids. Most designs feature soft cotton and linen that won’t irritate delicate skin. Plus the company uses eco-friendly, recycled packaging, from green shipping methods to reusable cotton bags that arrive with the clothing lovingly tucked inside.

I love that Wolfie Kids continues to work toward becoming an even kinder-to-the-earth brand in the future. In the next five years, their intentions include allocating more sustainable sources for fabrics, working with organic and recycled fabrics and collaborating with independent design artists.

They also partner with CarbonClick, a New Zealand company that makes it easy to to help fight climate change. Clicking the green button at checkout adds a small contribution to your order to help reduce the environmental impact of carbon emissions. Learn more about all that Wolfie Kids does to keep our planet healthy HERE.

Wolfie embraces leading the pack in fashion sustainability practices, and that’s important to me.

Wolfie Kids Finley in profile
Wolfie Kids Curated International Fashion – Finley showing off the Ziggy Jumpsuit set

Leading the Pack with Wolfie Fashion

Their sustainability and ethical fashion practices drew me to check out the company. Wolfie’s beautiful clothes for babies, toddlers and children made me a customer.

I chose the Ziggy Jumpsuit set for Finley, size 3 – 6 months. A handy sizing chart, based on weight and height helps you order correctly. Wolfie recommends sizing up for that adorable oversized look.

At almost five months, Finley is tall for her age. The soft, stretchy jumpsuit fits her perfectly.

And that cap! When my daughter put it on Finley, we all laughed with delight. It’s so cute. Finley looked from her daddy to her mommy to her grandparents, wondering about all the giggles. The jumpsuit is a winner, with or without the matching cap.

The Ziggy comes in several colors. Finley models dusty rose. The jumpsuit, made from ribbed stretchy cotton, features front buttons, snap fastening on the legs, a relaxed fit and long sleeves.

Wolfie Kids thoughtful
Wolfie Kids Curated International Fashion – Finley’s thoughtful look

Finley’s Photo Shoot

The warm, spring day provided the perfect opportunity for a Wolfie Kids photo shoot. Finley loves the outdoors and the new green leaves on the willow tree in her backyard filtered the sunlight beautifully.

My daughter Adriel…Finley’s mommy…and I snapped photos while Papa Greg and my son-in-law Nate…Finley’s daddy…watched. This baby girl is so photogenic. She already recognizes the camera feature on smartphones. We captured the moments as Finley looked around the yard with interest.

Finley’s gorgeous brown eyes seem so wise and that thickening hair is definitely red! She’s beautiful and BIG on personality. What a sweet blessing she is.

When not on her head, the cute cap gave Finley something to cuddle and chew on.

Wolfie Kids chewin'
Wolfie Kids Curated International Fashion – chewing on the cute cap

Get Your Wolfie Kids Clothes

Check out this wonderful company for yourself. The youngest members of your family will enjoy these soft, fashionable outfits while you appreciate the company’s values and practices.

Wolfie offers clothing for boys and girls, sized for babies through children. Choose from a wide array of styles including onesies, sets, tops, bottoms, dresses, rompers, pjs and accessories.

Purchase your outfits with this LINK. And with my code, CINDYBEYOND20, save 20% on your order!

I look forward to ordering many more outfits for Finley Grace. I appreciate Wolfie Kids…and I think you will too.

Wolfie Kids Finley
Wolfie Curated International Fashion – Finley Grace, Wolfie Kid Leading the Pack

 

 

 

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Easter Traditions from Around the World

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In the US, common Easter traditions include attending church and spending time with family, dyeing and hiding eggs, gifting children baskets full of goodies and dressing up in spring finery. Do you know that Easter is celebrated in 95 other countries around the world? And some of their festivities are quite different from those practiced here in the United States.

I love learning about other countries and others cultures. See how many of these Easter traditions from around the world are familiar to you.

Easter Traditions from Around the World title meme

Washington DC

Let’s start with a 130 year old tradition in the US. The White House hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn. Children roll colorful hard boiled eggs across the lawn using large serving spoons. The event also offers music, and egg hunt, sports and crafts.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Washington DC
Easter traditions from around the world – Washington DC

Australia

In Australia, rabbits are considered pests that destroy crops. In 1991, the country replaced the symbolic Easter bunny with the Easter bilby, also called the rabbit-eared bandicoot. You can purchase chocolate bilbies for Easter and the proceeds benefit Australia’s endangered animals.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Australia
Easter traditions from around the world – Australia

Norway

In Norway, the Easter season is a popular time to read detective novels and watch crime shows. The unconventional tradition began in 1923 when a book publisher advertised its new crime novel on the front page of newspapers. The ads, made to look like a news article, caught the attention of readers who didn’t realize they were promotions. The tradition continues today with new crime novels releasing around Easter and crime dramas playing on television. All over the country, people spend the weekend with whodunit shows and books. Even milk cartons carry short detective stories on their cardboard sides during this time.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Norway
Easter traditions around the world – Norway

Bermuda

Easter celebrations last all weekend in Bermuda. The holiday begins on Friday with the Good Friday KiteFest. All over the island, locals and visitors gather to show off their homemade kites and send them soaring into the sky. During the weekend people eat codfish and hot cross buns. Sunday sunrise services on beaches are a fitting end to the weekend.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Bermuda
Easter traditions from around the world – Bermuda

France

Every Easter Monday, the day after Easter Sunday, the town of Bessieres in southern France, serves up a giant omelette. Using more than 15,000 eggs, the omelette feeds the entire village. According to local stories, the tradition began with Napoleon and his troops traveling through the south of France. They stopped in this small town for a meal, eating omelettess. Napoleon enjoyed the meal so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all of their eggs and make a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.

Easter Traditions from Around the World France
Easter traditions from around the world – France

Russia

Easter meals in Russia include knobs of butter molded into lamb shapes. In ancient times lamb were considered lucky. The Russians believed the devil could take on the form of any animal, except a lamb. Their religious symbolism protected the lambs.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Russia
Easter traditions from around the world – Russia

Spain

In the medieval town of  Verges, in Spain, the “death dance” is held on Holy Thursday. Townspeople reenact the Passion, dressed in skeleton costumes. Passion comes from the Latin word for “suffering” and is connected to Christ’s crucifixion.  Processions wind through the streets with skeletons carrying boxes of ashes. Dancing begins at midnight and concludes at 3:00 am.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Spain
Easter traditions from around the world – Spain

Poland

Smigus-dyngus is a Polish tradition carried out on Easter Monday. People try to drench each other with buckets of water, squirt guns, water balloons…anything they can carry water in. According to legend, the girls who get soaked with water will marry within the year.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Poland
Easter traditions from around the world – Poland

Vatican City

Each year on Good Friday, the Pope commemorates the Way of the Cross. He begins at the Colosseum. People joining the procession carry candles and walk around the amphitheater and up to Palatine Hill, stopping 14 times along the way. This walk represents the 15 Stations of the Cross. Mass is celebrated Saturday evening. And on Sunday morning, thousands gather in St Peter’s Square to await the Pope’s blessing from the church balcony.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Vatican City
Easter traditions from around the world – Vatican City

Greece

Traditional pot throwing takes place on Holy Saturday, on the Greek island of Corfu. From their balconies and windows, people throw pots, pans and other clay or earthenware containers into the street. These pots are frequently filled with water. The custom originated with the Venetians who threw out old items on New Year’s Day. It also symbolizes welcoming spring crops in new pots.

Easter Traditions from Around the World - Greece
Easter traditions from around the world – Greece

Israel

Christians celebrate Good Friday in Jerusalem by walking the same path that Jesus did on his way to the cross. Many participants carry a cross with them, in remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion. On Easter Sunday a church services take place at Garden Tomb.

Easter Traditions from Around the World - Israel
Easter traditions from around the world – Israel

Italy

Locals in Florence, Italy celebrate a 350 year old Easter tradition called Scoppio del Carro, “explosion of the cart”. Fireworks fill an ornate cart. People in colorful 15th century costumes lead the cart through the streets, stopping in front of the Duomo. The Archbishop of Florence lights the fireworks during Easter mass, setting off a lively display. The custom dates back to the First Crusade. It ensures a good harvest.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Italy
Easter traditions from around the world – Italy

Hungary

A popular Easter tradition in Hungary is observed on Easter Monday. Boys playfully sprinkle perfume or perfumed water on girls, after getting their permission to do so. During the older version of this custom, the boys poured a bucket of water over the girls’ heads. Today they spray perfume and ask for a kiss. The young ladies dress up in traditional clothes.

Easter Traditions from Around the World Hungary
Easter traditions from around the world – Hungary

Papua New Guinea

This is perhaps the most unusual Easter tradition that I discovered. With the high temperatures and humidity in Papua New Guinea, eating chocolate during the Easter season isn’t a “thing”. Instead, the locals celebrate in their own way. They decorate the trees outside their churches with packets of tobacco and cigarettes. After the Easter Sunday services, worshippers divide up the tobacco. This tradition increases church attendance on Easter Sunday!

Easter Traditions from Around the World Papua New Guinea
Easter traditions from around the world – Papua New Guinea

What Are Your Easter Traditions?

When my kids were young, we dressed up and attended church together. The “Easter Bunny” delivered goody filled baskets and the kids played all day, hiding and finding colored eggs. Now, with my children grown and parents of their own babes, I simply gift my kids and grandkids with small presents.

I like the traditions of flying homemade kites, reading crime novels and watch out…throwing water! My children and grands better beware. Mostly, I love learning how other cultures celebrate holidays. It’s fun and educational too.

What are your Easter traditions? And did you find any in the list above that surprised you?

Happy Easter
Happy Easter. Cute frame, ceramic bunny and card art from Decocrated.

 


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How Are You Spending Your Life?

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Recently I came across a quote that resonated with me deeply.

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” Randy Komisar

These powerful words remind me to not wait. Because honestly, at age 63, waiting is a greater risk than going for it. I refuse to spend my days hoping for opportunities later.

Reading the quote one day, the words “spending your life” suddenly jolted me into a greater awareness. This post, “How Are You Spending Your Life?” is the result of much deliberation.

How Are You Spending Your Life title meme

What Does It Mean to Spend Life?

Have you ever thought about what it means to spend your life doing something?

Spending is defined as “an exchange of money, goods or time for something”. It comes from the Latin word expendere meaning “pay out”. Spend can also mean “to use up time”, as in “spend the day sewing”. And the past tense of the word, spent, means “used up or depleted”.

When we “spend life” we are using it up, day by day, moment by moment, until it is all spent…until it’s gone. And unlike a bank account, where we can spend and spend and then add more money or check the amount so we don’t overdraft, it’s different with life. We don’t know the amount of years deposited in our account. Nor can we deposit more time into it. When the life is spent, that’s it. We can’t hoard our time either.

On the one hand, I know these things. We all do. However, I’ve never thought deeply about what it means, spending my life. What am I spending my life…using it up…on? How are you spending your life?

I’ve already spent 63 years of my life. My desire is to spend my remainder…the balance of my life…doing the things that are most important to me. Using another financial term, it’s important for me to invest in myself and to invest in the lives of others, with the life that I have.

Spending Life Well

What does a life well spent look like? It’s different for each person. However, here are broad ideas for spending the years well.

How Are You Spending Your Life Personally?

Our personal lives include relationships with significant others, family members and friends. A good question to ask is, “Am I spending time with the people I want to spend time with?”

Time is extremely valuable. I don’t want to spend mine with people who are negative or unkind. We all get to choose who we spend time with, who we are exchanging moments of our lives for. Choose well. Spend well. I desire authentic connections that go beyond the surface. I gladly and willingly invest in the lives of my family, my friends and even people I don’t know but feel drawn to. Who are you spending time with?

Hobbies, fun activities, play, exploration and travel are all part of our personal lives. We must do the things we enjoy doing and take a hard pass on the rest. What activities bring you joy? Do more of those. What activities feel like a waste of time? Don’t do those.

It’s important that we know ourselves, to discover what we enjoy and what we don’t. It’s too easy to defer to others or try to please others. Know your own heart, mind and passions. Explore who you are. Find those things that light up your soul. Do those things, as often as you can.

How Are You Spending Your Life reading to Finley
How are you spending your life? I’m investing time in my grandchildren.

How Are You Spending Your Life Health Wise?

One thing that can make a huge difference in spending life well, is improving the level of health. We can’t add more years to life, as the saying goes, but we can add more life to the years. Quality of life feels more and more important, with age. The freedom to spend our years as we choose can come down to how well we take care of ourselves.

Find a health lifestyle that works for you. I’ve chosen a plant based lifestyle. Doing so has already added life to my years, in tremendous ways. (Check out my other blog, Journey with Healthy Me for more info about a plant based lifestyle.)

Feed your body with the most nutritious food possible. Those nutrient dense foods not only fuel the body, they help prevent diseases and disorders. Adopt a fitness routine whether that’s walking, biking, dancing, swimming or playing a sport. Get outdoors as often as you can. Create healthy habits that support the life you desire.

Health encompasses the body, the mind and the spirit. Care for all of you. Pay attention to outlook on life, energy levels, perspectives and mindsets.

Be the best you that you can be, to live the best life you can.

How Are You Spending Your Life veggies
How are you spending your life? Eating highly nutritious foods that fuel my body.

How Are You Spending Your Life at Work?

Is your work or career satisfying or stressful? Is it bold and fulfilling or lackluster and boring? We “spend” so much of our time, working. Can we spend that time and also find joy, purpose and passion? Yes we can.

This area seems to be one that people struggle with. Many people enjoy their work. And many just get by, day after day, year after year, spending away life in an unfulfilling career that drains energy and time away.

What does your ideal career/job look like? What needs to happen, to make it a reality? Write about that ideal job. Do the research. Find people who are doing what you want to do. Don’t fear change. If you don’t go for it now, when will you?

Discover your BIG WHY. Why do you want to do what you want to do? Keep asking why until you get to the deepest, underlying reason for wanting the job or career that you desire. Hint: money isn’t a big enough why.

Now set goals. Break them down into doable time frames. Create actions steps, even small, baby steps, that move you toward each goal.

How Are You Spending Your Life travel
How are you spending your life? Taking action steps toward my dream career that supports my Big Why.

Spending the Days Living Life to the Fullest

What does a life well spent look like? It might look like…

  • going beyond the edges of fear, comfort zones and limiting beliefs
  • being true to yourself, real and authentic
  • trying new experiences
  • forgiving someone, forgiving yourself
  • seeing every day as a fresh start and making it count
  • letting go of the past and living in THIS moment. There are no refunds for life already spent. Move on.
  • expressing creativity
  • exploring the world, your city, your neighborhood, your inner self
  • decluttering life, the house, that junk drawer in the kitchen
  • letting go of attachments and expectations of others
  • believing in yourself
  • having fun and playing
  • finding your passion
  • setting goals and taking action steps
  • taking breaks when needed and practicing self care
  • letting go of all that does not align with who you are
  • spending time with uplifting, positive, passionate people
  • developing a big picture mindset
  • going after what you want
  • living YOUR life, not someone else’s
  • doing good in the world…showing kindness, empathy and compassion to others and being mindful of the planet and caring for it
How Are You Spending Your Life self care
How are you spending your life? With self care practices that rejuvenate me.

Exchanging a Day of Life

The days of deep thought birthed in me a renewed passion for spending my days well. Truthfully, the days pass anyway, whether we consciously focus on how we are spending our lives…or not. I’m grateful for the greater awareness and even more  determined to spend my life in meaningful ways. This past week I invested in myself, set new goals and created action steps to reach them. This Year of the Wild Woman…it’s unleashing many things.

Today these words popped up for me, in an unexpected place.

“What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.” Elizabeth George

The quote made me smile and silently nod in agreement. Yes, I’ve given a day. I gave precious time from my account in exchange for this day. The awareness helps me choose what’s most important. It helps me gain clarity and fortifies my determination to do what I most want to do. And it fuels my actions for the next day…and the next…and the next.

How about you? How are you spending your life? Are you spending it on the things you most want to spend it on?

How Are You Spending Your Life hourglass
How are you spending your life?

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Ten Must Visit Places in London

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London, England…what an amazingly vibrant city. On a girls’ trip there in 2017, my mother, sisters, niece and I loved exploring the old town. We spent four, fun-filled days in London and only barely scratched the surface of all there is to experience there.

Certain well known landmarks and attractions draw first time visitors. And for good reason. They strongly represent the city, both historically and culturally.

As you explore the capital of England, check out these ten must visit places in London.

 

Ten Must Visit Places in London

Ten Must Visit Places in London

Arguably, more than ten must visit places exist in London. However, this list is a great start to all that London offers.

Tower of London

What a surprise the Tower was to me. This extraordinary site on the north bank of the Thames River contains not one tower but many, 12 of which are open to the public. At the center of the complex is the White Tower, built as a royal palace by William the Conqueror in 1078. The White Tower later became a prison and served in that capacity until 1952.

The complex contains many buildings worth exploring including dungeons, battlements and the palace. The Tower ravens live here. Read about them HERE. Plus, the Tower houses many historical artifacts including the crown jewels.

Plan on at least half a day here. A full day is better.

Location: St. Katharine’s and Wapping, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London tower of london
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Tower of London

Tower Bridge

Visible from the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of the city’s most iconic structures. Although not the oldest London bridge spanning the Thames River…construction began in 1886…it’s the most stunning, architecturally.

The roadway lifts up, allowing ships to pass beneath. Walk across the bridge. Or a tour of Tower Bridge takes you to the top of the structure where magnificent views, and a glass floor, await.

Spend one to two hours exploring Tower Bridge or 30 minutes for a walk across it with stops for photos.

Location: the bridge is a seven minute walk from Tower of London

Ten Must Visit Places in London Tower Bridge
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Tower Bridge

Westminster Abbey

Royal weddings and special events take place within this medieval church. The Poet’s Corner, tombs of half sisters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor and final resting sites of famous authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens reside within. Paid tours and free audio guides are available.

Plan on one to two hours to explore the Abbey.

Location: 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London westminster abbey
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Westminster Abbey

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The House of Lords and the House of Commons comprise the Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster. Guided and self guided tours take visitors through multiple areas including Westminster Hall, the oldest building on site, the House of Commons chamber and the Royal Gallery. Or you can simply take photos of the exterior, an activity that bestows upon the structure the title of “one of the most photographed buildings in the world”. One of the best vantage points is Westminster Bridge.

Big Ben, the most famous clock tower in the world, is located at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament. Learn more about this structure at Fun Facts About Big Ben.

Spend one to two hours inside the Houses of Parliament.

Location: Houses of Parliament and Big Ben is a one minute walk from Westminster Abbey

Ten Must Visit Places in London big ben
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The London Eye

Across the Westminster Bridge is London’s most famous attraction, the gigantic Ferris wheel located near the Thames River. The Eye’s purpose is to present spectacular views of London’s South Bank. Therefore, the wheel turns very slowly, and reaches a height of 400 feet. Know that lines for The London Eye typically require a two hour wait. For many a pic from Westminster Bridge is enough!

The ride on the wheel lasts about 30 minutes.

Location: Riverside Building, County Hall, South Bank, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London eye
Ten Must Visit Places in London – The London Eye

Buckingham Palace

The home of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace is open to the public during the summer months and during selected times in winter and spring. During the tour, visitors get a peek into 19 different rooms including the Throne Room. When the palace is not open for tours, visitors can still view the massive structure, built in 1703, through the ornate gates and fence. The beautiful statue of Queen Victoria, pictured on the title meme, is located outside the fence near the gates. The changing of the guard takes place in the forecourt, at 11:00 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

If doing a tour, plan on 2 to 6 hours here.

Location: Buckingham Palace Road, Westminster, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London buckingham palace
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Buckingham Palace

Piccadilly Circus

Located just 1 kilometer from Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus is reminiscent of Times Square in New York City. It’s an active, high energy spot, the meeting place for five busy roads, and considered the hub of London’s hustle and bustle. Located near Piccadilly Circus are many restaurants, shops and pubs. At night the neon lights from huge billboards reflect off of the Eros statue located in the center of the circle. Which, by the way, is why this area bears the name Piccadilly Circus. It’s not an actual circus!

You can easily spend hours exploring in this area. We walked to Piccadilly Circus after our stop at Buckingham Palace. Hustle and bustle is correct! And I totally failed to snap a photo.

Location: West End in Westminster, London

 

 

Ten Must Visit Places in London piccadilly circus
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Piccadilly Circus Photo by Adrian Raudaschl, Unsplash

Natural History Museum

London offers so many fine museum to wander about it. Honestly, we didn’t take the time to explore any of them during our short stay. However, first on my list when I get to return to London is this one, the Natural History Museum. Located in Kensington, this museum offers 70 million different specimens and exhibits, from dinosaur bones to simulations. Admission is free and there is an app to download that helps in navigating the massive building. Prepare for long lines if visiting on the weekend as the museum is extremely popular with families. The exterior of the structure is very photograph worthy as well.

Half a day probably isn’t enough time for this museum, however it’s a start.

Location: Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London

 

Ten Must Visit Places in London natural history museum
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Natural History Museum Photo by Julia Worthington, Unsplash

Jack the Ripper Tour

We experienced this tour on our first evening in London. What a great way to get to know the city and have fun with a group of people. We traveled in a double decker tour bus, busily snapping photos as we headed to London’s East End. The unsolved murders of the infamous Jack the Ripper continue to fascinate people. This unknown serial killer murdered and mutilated five women in the late 1800s. There are a variety of tours that include both riding and walking excursions in the Whitechapel area where Jack committed his crimes. We enjoyed this tour HERE. The night of our tour the overcast gray sky and light drizzle, created the perfect spooky atmosphere for learning more about Jack the Ripper.

Most tours last about two hours.

Location: tours depart from a variety of locations, however they all end up in the East End

Ten Must Visit Places in London jack the ripper tour
Ten Must Visit Places in London – Jack the Ripper Tour in the East End

London Dungeons

This fun attraction combines theatrical actors, 360 degree sets, storytelling, 19 interactive shows, 1000 years of history, state of the art special effects and two thrilling underground rides. Get up close and personal with Sweeny Todd and Jack the Ripper and interact with historical figures who are master storytellers. And enjoy several photo opportunities that are unforgettable. In fact, my sisters, niece and I still laugh over those photos due to my sweet little mother’s hilarious expressions. This is primarily a walking experience, in dimly lit surroundings. Make sure walking and low lighting isn’t a problem for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend the London Dungeons.

Tour is approximately 90 minutes long.

Location: the Queen’s Walk, South Bank, London

Ten Must Visit Places in London dungeons
Ten Must Visit Places in London – London Dungeons My dear mother’s expression seems to say, “Fire? What fire?”

Have You Visited London?

Please note, many of these sites and attractions in London are currently closed, due to COVID. I’m encouraged, however, that soon these places will open again and travel restrictions will ease. In the meantime, how fun to visit these places again, via my photos and memories.

Have you visited London, England? What place or attraction in the grand old city do you recommend from your must see list? Please share in the comments below.

Ten Must Visit Places in London tour bus
Enjoying the London views from the top deck of a double decker tour bus.

Necessities for your trip to London:

 


 

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