The Bridge of Sighs

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Ponte dei Sospiri…the Bridge of Sighs…just saying the name evokes emotions.

This bridge is one of many such structures that spans Venice’s canals. There are, in fact, 400 plus bridges crossing more than 150 canals in this unique city. Venice, Italy is a collection of tiny islands, connected by canals.

The oft photographed Bridge of Sighs draws a multitude of visitors each year. I enjoyed experiencing the beautiful and sorrowful covered bridge on a visit to Venice in 2017.

Discover the history of this iconic structure and learn how it received its name.

The Bridge of Sighs title meme

The History of the Bridge of Sighs

Built by Antonio Contin between 1600 and 1603, the Bridge of Sighs spans Rio di Palazzo. This baroque style, marble and Istrian stone bridge connects the inquisitor’s offices in the Doge’s Palace to the “New Prison”, a building designed specifically for detention.

Doge (Italian word for duke) Marino Grimani, whose family coat-of-arms occupies the center of the facade, commissioned the bridge.

While Ponte dei Sospiri attracts couples, who enjoy sharing a kiss near the covered bridge, it’s not romantic sighs that begat the name.

The name arose because prisoners stopped on the bridge and sighed at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice before entering the prison. The damp, cold, challenging conditions of the small cells often resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.

Peering out through the stone lattice windows, those escaping sighs surely carried regret, fear and grief.

The Bridge of Sighs closeup
The stone latticed windows in the Bridge of Sighs.

Stories About the Bridge of Sighs

Back to those romantic couples. The tale told is that if a couple kisses beneath the bridge, while riding in a gondola, their love will endure throughout eternity and they will know happiness. Some versions add that the couple must kiss at sunset, while drifting under the bridge, as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile ring out. As you can imagine, this is a busy route for gondolas.

The exterior of the bridge’s arch is adorned with faces on each side. A Venetian lion graces the middle, while ten other faces express anger or sadness. These grim faces supposedly scare evil spirits away. One happy face stands out. It is thought to represent the bridge’s guardian.

The bridge design is intentional, matching the style of the two buildings it connects. The Doge’s Palace, a huge, elegant palace overlooking St Mark’s Square, was the primary residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, and the location of the city prison. The palace occupies the site of a former fortress that burned in the 10th century.

The Bridge of Sighs remains the only covered bridge in the entire city. Its passageway is topped by stone, with four windows looking out toward the San Giorgio Maggiore Island and the Lagoon. Very little light passes through the windows to brighten the dim, cool interior.

The Bridge of Sighs canal
The covered bridge spanning the canal.

Visiting the Bridge of Sighs

Views of the bridge are limited. See one of Venice’s most famous landmarks from these vantage points.

  • Admire the bridge from one of two nearby bridges. The Ponte della Paglia is located near the Doge’s Palace, as you stand with your back to the lagoon. The other bridge is the Ponte della Canonica at the other end of the canal.
  •  Enjoy a gondola ride that travels beneath the Bridge of Sighs.
  • Take a tour of the Doge’s Palace. The Bridge of Sighs is included in the tour and you get to walk across it and view the prison located on the other side.

Otherwise, the bridge is not open to the public. While it can be viewed from gondolas and the above mentioned bridges, the only opportunity to step inside the bridge is via the palace tour.

The Doge’s Palace is gorgeous and well worth a visit.

The Bridge of Sighs Doges Palace
A room in the Doge’s Palace.

My Experience Crossing the Bridge

My daughter, grandson and I were part of a travel group touring Italy. Our group enjoyed wandering through the Doge’s Palace with a guide. From an interior room, I got my first up close peek at the covered bridge and snapped a photo.

As we quietly entered the Bridge of Sighs, the energy within settled thickly around my head, shoulders and upper back, sending tingles down my spine.

It’s difficult to see much through the windows, however I paused there to reflect. Over the centuries, many, many prisoners walked this bridge and paused to sigh with despair. The bridge interior is actually divided by a wall down its middle, creating two corridors. That way, prisoners coming into the prison or going back to the courtroom for trial did not meet.

The atmosphere within the bridge felt very heavy to me, weighed down by those breathy final sighs. Sadness tinged with the fear of uncertainty surrounded me. The prison cells in the attached building were just as gloomy.

I’m grateful for the redemption of the bridge through its exterior beauty and the promise of romance beneath its splendid arch.

Have you visited the Bridge of Sighs in Venice? I intend to explore this unique city again one day!

The Bridge of Sighs faces

 

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Decorating for Summer with Decocrated

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This is a paid affiliate partnership with Decocrated. All opinions are my own.

Can you believe summer is here? This out of the ordinary year just keeps counting down, day by day.

I love that as the seasons change, a new box from Decocrated arrives at my front door, to help me create fresh looks in my house. It’s fun, mixing in pieces from previous boxes and my own decor, showcasing my unique style.

Check out what I did, decorating for summer with Decocrated!

Decorating for Summer with Decocrated title meme

The Decocrated Summer Home

The Decocrated staff works year around, researching trends, watching HGTV and scrolling through Pinterest, curating the best in home decor so that their clients look like decorating pros. Subscription boxes ship out at the beginning of each season, offering fresh decor pieces to incorporate into any decorating style.

The summer collection is built around a palette of sunshine yellow and clear blue, with accent colors of gray, cream, black and gold. The decor in this box combines light natural wood and gold finishes with homey textiles.

The featured artists for summer are Kate Aurelia and Kasey Free. This duo met in college and combine their talents to create art inspired by nature and travels. They work with a mixture of techniques, from traditional paintings to collage to digital art.

Decocrated Featured Artists Kate and Kasey
Featured Artists Kate and Kasey

Decorating for Summer with Decocrated

Check out the fun unboxing video below if you want the surprise element before seeing how I used the pieces.

Shelf Top

I use the top shelf on this bookcase for seasonal decor. Except for Christmas, when the whole bookcase gets a makeover, I simply swap out a piece or two to reflect the new season.

I changed the runner on the shelf from a blue one to a red one. Leaving the framed print from the Decocrated spring box and my wooden inspire sign in place, I focused on the wood and metal tray, set on its side.

The fun trio of faux succulents nestle into a corner of the tray, sharing space with a cute print from Walmart. From the spring box as well, the gold canister holds another artificial succulent.

The vignette is playful and colorful and simple. It makes me smile!

Decorating for Summer with Decocrated shelf top
Decorating for Summer with Decocrated – shelf top
Colorful Succulents
Colorful Succulents

Two Vignettes

I love that so far, each seasonal box contains pillow covers for standard 18″x18″ pillows. It’s so easy to switch the covers on the two pillows I own.

Initially I created a fresh summer vignette on the vintage wooden chair near my armoire, using a mix of items from THREE Decocrated boxes. The pillows, in their sunny yellow covers, rest nearby in a vintage army trunk that belonged to my grandfather.

The mirror from the summer box features a natural light wood frame and has a metal chain for hanging. I decided to stand it up instead and include it in a vignette.

The gold tray and canisters arrived in the spring box. I tucked another faux succulent in one canister and added tiny artificial lemons and a yellow flower to the shorter one. The table top sign from the winter box rests easily on the round tray.

Decorating for Summer with Decocrated chair vignette
Decorating for Summer with Decocrated – chair vignette and pillows

I loved the overall look. However, one of the fun elements of decorating is playing with what you have and moving things around.

I moved the chair vignette to the entry way table, recreating the look atop a yellow checkered cloth. That’s where the vignette stayed. I love that the mirror reflects filtered sunlight coming in through the window across the room and the greenery there.

Which location do you like best?

Table Top Vignette
Decorating for Summer with Decocrated – table top vignette

Dining Room Table

Finally, I shifted my attention to my round dining table. Confession. I never eat at the dining room table. Instead, I decorate it, creating seasonal vignettes. I prefer walking by the table and receiving joy from the decor there.

As soon as I saw the two tray stand in the summer box, I envisioned my tea pot and cups on it. How fun to create a tea themed vignette on the stand, adding a sugar and creamer set along with a matching bowl full of more lemons. A votive candle holder and a couple of yellow flowers complete the look.

Tiered Stand
Tiered Stand with Two Trays

That tray is so versatile. I’ll use if for real tea times or to hold healthy snacks. And I’ll certainly decorate it for each season. It makes a cute coffee center or a receptacle for a variety of collections. The possibilities are endless.

The gold planter from the summer box is versatile as well. Hang it on the wall and add real or artificial plants or note cards and pens or art supplies. I chose to set it on the table next to the tiered tray. Different faux succulents fill one side of the planter while the other end holds lemons.  A gold canister from the spring box holds another succulent.

Gold Planter
Decorating for Summer with Decocrated – gold planter

Completing the vignette is the artist print from the summer box, tucked within a white frame with a cream and gold mat. The whole vignette rests atop the blue and white summer rug. I’m using it as a table runner.

Decorating for Summer with Decocrated vignette
Decorating for Summer with Decocrated – table vignette

Get the Decocrated Summer Box

These high quality subscription boxes are so fun! I look forward to the arrival of each box.

Not knowing what’s inside is part of the anticipation. I’ve already learned that I enjoy using whatever arrives, in many different ways. I love how Decocrated pieces are freshening up my decor and firing up my creativity.

Click this link for the Decocrated Summer Box, and use this discount code for $10 off the price of your first box:  CINDYLAUDERDALEMOORE10 

Or use CINDYLAUDERDALEMOORE30 to receive $30 off a yearly subscription. Once you are a member, there are additional items that can be purchased from the online shop, and special boxes available too, like Halloween!

What will you do with your Decocrated decor?

Decorating for Summer with Decocrated picnic
The roomy bag from the spring box held my picnic lunch recently, on a road trip! The summer rug made the perfect table cover.

 

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is an affiliate with Decocrated Curated Home. I may earn a commission for items purchased through my links, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

Philbrook Museum Gardens

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

One thing that I confirmed, while staying home more due to the pandemic, is that I REALLY want to travel. Feeling the itch to travel, during a time when travel as we know it isn’t possible, presented unique opportunities.

Since I can’t hop on a plane to somewhere, I channeled my desire to travel into other ventures.

I’m taking an online travel blogging course. And as a result, I’m writing weekly travel posts, based on past trips. Check out this example, The Tower of London Ravens. Today happened to be Take a Road Trip Day. Inspired, I set out on a road trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Philbrook Museum Gardens. Childhood memories of the museum drew me back to explore the gardens, which just reopened Wednesday. The museum is not yet open again to the public.

The Philbrook Museum Gardens were everything I remembered them to be…and more.

Philbrook Museum Gardens title meme

History of the Philbrook Museum of Art

The original museum is a former 1920s Italian Renaissance villa, owned by pioneer Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve. Kansas City architect Edward Buehler Delk designed Villa Philbrook. Construction began in 1926 and the house was completed the following year.

A stucco and ground marble exterior covers a reinforced steel and concrete framework. Kasota limestone, quarried in Minnesota, forms the corners and decorates doors and windows. At the rear of the house a spacious loggia with Corinthian columns overlooks the spectacular gardens.

The original villa featured 72 interior rooms, decorated with travertine and marble fireplaces and fountains, teak, walnut and oak floors and ornate ceilings.

In 1938 Phillips donated Villa Philbrook to the City of Tulsa, for use as a cultural and art center. Although the rooms on the main floor remain as they were, the rest of the villa received extensive remodeling for use as a public museum. In 1990 another wing expanded the museum, adding 70,000 square feet of space.

Philbrook Museum
Looking through the informal and formal gardens, to the former Villa Philbrook.
Philbrook Museum Gardens grand fountain
Philbrook Museum gardens – grand fountain and the loggia

The Philbrook Museum Gardens

Although I enjoy wandering through the former villa, imagining it as it was back when the family lived there, it is the gardens that appeal most to me.

The museum sits on 25 acres of formal and informal gardens. Originally designed by Hare & Hare, Philbrook’s gardens drew inspiration from Villa Lante, an Italian estate north of Rome.

Behind the museum, the original gardens extend through an expanse of formal gardens, pools of water and informal gardens to a classical tempietto, a stone structure similar to a large gazebo.

The gardens that extend to the summerhouse feature native Oklahoma plants and a nearby creek. This project completed in 2004.

Philbrook Museum Loggia
Looking from the loggia to the tempietto. It was the perfect spot for Ferni’s first travel photo.
Philbrook Museum Gardens tempietto
Looking across the pools to the tempietto. The far pool once served as the family swimming pool. Koi swim there now.
Philbrook Museum side garden
Another pool in the informal gardens.

Take a Tour with Me

Come with me on a photo tour of the Philbrook Museum Gardens. My desire is just to stir your curiosity. These gardens must be experienced, to fully appreciate them.

Italian style gardens
The Italian influence is seen in the main gardens.

Sculptures

There are 16 sculptures scattered throughout the gardens. They range from classical styles to contemporary. Here are three of them.

Philbrook Museum sculpture 2
Philbrook Museum Gardens sculptures – Nymph Holding Pluto
Philbrook Museum Gardens sculpture
Native American
Philbrook Museum Gardens woods
Tree sculptures in a wooded area. The orange leaves are made of glass.

Garden Cats and Wildlife

The garden is home to two cats, Cleome, a black and white, and Perilla, a calico. We saw Cleome, wandering about near the upper pond. She seemed intent on stalking something near the water. She reminded me of Rilynn, my garden cat!

And Greg and I spotted a variety of wildlife, including red squirrels, rabbits, a heron and several species of birds. The gardens are home to turtles, water snakes, foxes and beavers as well.

Garden cat
Cleome the Philbrook Museum Garden cat.
Wildlife at Philbrook
Heron in Crow Brook

Summerhouse Formal Garden

This area south of the museum underwent changes throughout the years. Officially completed after the family donated the property to Tulsa, this formal garden leads to a summerhouse. There are swings and benches along the pretty avenue.

Restrooms are located near the summerhouse. Greg gave the restrooms a five star rating! They are very clean. I posed on a rope swing in the little wooded area, From there steps descend to the path below.

Philbrook Museum Gardens summerhouse
Summerhouse formal gardens
Greg carrying our picnic lunch
Greg carrying our picnic lunch in my Decocrated bag.
Philbrook Museum Gardens swing
Swinging in the Philbrook Museum Gardens

Picnic in the Park

Multiple picnic areas exist in the park. Tables, benches, grottos and expanses of grass offer pretty spots to pause for lunch or a snack. We chose to stop for a picnic near the cabin next to the vegetable garden. The cabin is created from repurposed materials, including colorful t-shirts stiffened with resin for the roof.

Picnic time
Picnic time in the gardens. Bag from Decocrated spring box. Rug from Decocrated summer box. Watch for a review post of the summer box Monday.
Picnic lunch
Simple, healthy picnic lunch. Gluten free crackers, hummus, an assortment of pickles and olives, grapes, cherries and KIND nut clusters with almonds and coconut.
Philbrook Museum Gardens cabin
Cabin made from repurposed materials. Note the t-shirt roof!

Tiny Doors

As we wandered the grounds, looking for tiny doors attached to some of the trees, became a fun game. Fortunately, small green flags indicate where the doors are. Local artists created the little works of art and each door is unique.

Kids would enjoy this tiny door scavenger hunt.

In search of tiny doors
Looking for tiny doors in the Philbrook Museum Gardens.
Philbrook Museum Gardens tiny doors
One of at least a dozen tiny doors in the Philbrook Museum Gardens.

First Road Trip…But Not the Last

What a wonderful morning spent at Philbrook Museum Gardens. It’s uncertain when the main museum will open again, although special exhibits are opening July 1. However the gardens are available and well worth a visit. Purchase tickets online, selecting a date and time of entry. Masks are recommended, especially when entering the garden, talking to a staff member or encountering other visitors.

We found the park easily accommodated the number of visitors today.  People and staff were courteous and respectful of social distancing.

This was my first Road Trip Friday…but not my last. I may not be able to travel far, however, I can enjoy day road trips. My intention is one road trip, within 150 miles of Joplin, a month. My little VW Van will accompany me. Her name is Ferni, pronounced fairn-ee, from the German word fernweh, which means “longing for far off places”.

Beauty speaks to the heart and soul, I believe. And the Philbrook gardens spoke clearly today, soothing my spirit and reminding me of joys I experienced there as a child. In fact, I see Philbrook’s strong influence on my own desire to create a backyard paradise.

I even found a park bench that perfectly captures who I am now, inscribed with these words from Thomas Arthur Manhart:

“Learning something new everyday is what life is really all about.”

I left the gardens with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Philbrook Museum Gardens path to the museum
I can’t get enough of this view…

Visit Philbrook Museum Gardens

Philbrook Museum is located at 2727 S Rockford Road, Tulsa, Oklahoms.

Hop on their website HERE to order tickets, which are $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors and free for children 17 and under.

Want your own little VW van to travel with? Get one by clicking photo below.

 

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Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum

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

THis is a collaboration with SMARTR SKIN, who sent ME PRODUCT FOR REVIEW PURPOSES. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.

 

Almost two months ago, Smartr Skin sent me a couple of their products to experience. The Eye Treatment and Moisturizer impressed me greatly.  I use simple routines and practices to care for my skin. Smartr Skin is a perfect fit for me. The company produces products that are vegan, cruelty free and paraban and phthalate free as well. Plus, they include natural ingredients that deeply nourish the skin.

I continue to use the eye treatment and the moisturizer and love them.

So when Smartr Skin offered to let me try another of their products, I enthusiastically agreed. To my delight, the company sent me their Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum.

This is my first experience with a vitamin C serum. After using it daily for about a month, here are my results and my honest opinion.

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum title meme

A Better Idea for Skin Care

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.

 

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum product review
Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum – product

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum

This luxurious enriched serum smooths easily onto the skin of the face, neck and chest. Just a few drops is all that it takes.

The vitamin C serum contains skin supporting ingredients such as aloe, vitamins C and E, MSM, botanical hyaluronic acid, witch hazel, jojoba oil and horsetail, dandelion and geranium extracts.

The hyaluronic acid helps create new collagen, restoring the elasticity and structure of skin damaged over the years by the sun and harsh elements in the environment.

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum may be used twice a day, morning and evening. Check out my routine below.

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum dropperful
Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum – a dropperful, but you only need a few drops

Benefits of Vitamin C Serum

Regularly using vitamin C serum brings the following benefits:

  • moisturizes and regenerates skin
  • protects against sun damage
  • soothes sunburns and irritations
  • speeds the healing of acne and helps prevent scarring
  • lightens dark spots on skin
  • brightens and smooths complexion
  • minimizes pores and fine lines
  • tones and tightens skin

People with sensitive skin should test vitamin C serum on a small area of skin. Occasionally those with sensitive skin experience mild irritation. Use only a few drops and if applying during the day, finish with a SPF 50 or higher sunscreen.

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum just a drop
Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum – just a few drops

 

Applying Vitamin C Serum

I added the serum to my daily skin care routine. At this time, I’m only using it in the evenings.

After washing my face with a gentle foaming micellar cleanser and applying micellar solution as a toner, I add four drops of the vitamin C serum to the palm of my hand.

Beginning with the delicate under eye area, I smooth the serum gently beneath both eyes and over the lids and then down the bridge and sides of my nose. Using my fingertips I apply a small amount of serum to my forehead. Next I focus on the area around my mouth, including the tip of the nose. And finally, I apply serum to both checks and my lower face, including the chin and jawline.

I smooth any remaining serum over my neck and upper chest.

Truly, a small amount of serum goes a long way! It absorbs quickly into my skin without leaving an oily feeling or residue.

After the serum dries, I apply Smartr Skin Moisturizer over my entire face. That’s it for my evening routine. In the mornings, I skip the serum and apply Smartr Skin Eye Treatment over my whole face. Then I apply makeup.

You may use the vitamin C serum in the mornings too. Just make sure you apply sunscreen as well.

Smartr Skin Trio
Smartr Skin Trio

My Results

I love this addition to my skin care routine.

I’d already noticed improved smoothness, softness and clarity using the Eye Treatment and Moisturizer. Including the serum, my skin responded by becoming firmer.

My skin texture is better and my pores, which are large, are so much smaller. Fine lines are disappearing. Overall, my skin is brighter, more toned and elastic, and my complexion has evened out.

I’m thrilled with the results and the company’s high standards of quality. I just placed another order.

If you’d like to see how your skin responds to such nurturing and pampering, hop over to the Smartr Skin website. Use my special discount code CINDYM20OFF to save 20% off of your order. And please, let me see photos of your radiant skin!

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum results
Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum – results

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is an affiliate with Smartr Skin. I may earn a commission when you purchase products through my links, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tower of London Ravens

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Located in central London, snug against the northern bank of the Thames River, the Tower of London is full of intriguing surprises. During its long history, the Tower has served as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the location of the Royal Mint, a public record office, the royal palace and prison and home to a number of ravens.

The Tower of London ravens continue to delight visitors. Accustomed to people, the ravens flit about the grounds and seem to enjoy attention. Discover the ravens’ story and why it’s considered important that they remain at the Tower.

The Tower of London Ravens title meme

The Tower of London

My first surprise, visiting the Tower, is that it isn’t a single tower! The Tower consists of multiple towers. It’s a fortress, a complex. How did I not know this? Our girls’ group spent several hours exploring this fascinating place, rich in history and tales of royalty, executions, murder and intrigue, during the 2017 UK trip.

William the Conqueror built the White Tower that is now in the center of the complex, in 1078. That tower, considered a symbol of oppression against London by the Norman ruler, served as a prison from 1100 until 1952. However, the primary purpose of the complex was as a royal residence early in its history. Learn more about the Tower in this post.

The earliest known reference to the Tower of London ravens dates back to the time of Charles II, who reigned between 1660 and 1685.

The Tower of London Ravens one of many towers
One tower among many in the complex, and what I thought the Tower of London looked like.
The Tower of London Ravens complex
The Tower of London complex – what it actually looks like. Officially it is titled Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. (Photo from the Tower of London website.)

The Tower of London Ravens

A group of at least six captive ravens remain in residence at the Tower at all times. The legend goes that their presence protects the Tower and the Crown.

“If the Tower of London Ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”

Historically, wild ravens lived throughout Britain, occupying towns within their territories. Very few remain in London today. The Tower ravens exist with official support, receiving appointments by the Crown. The ravens are considered enlisted soldiers of the kingdom and issued attestation cards, just like regular soldiers. Interestingly, they are also subject to dismissal for unsatisfactory conduct.

The Ravenmaster of the Yeoman Warders cares for the birds. They cannot fly far because the Ravenmaster slightly clips the flight feathers on one wing so that they can only fly short distances.

Their diet consists of fresh meat, boiled eggs in the shell and bird biscuits soaked in blood. Occasionally rabbits with the fur intact are included for roughage.

Each raven is tagged with a colored band on one leg. Currently seven reside at the Tower…the required six plus a spare. Their names are Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina. In captivity, the life expectancy is 40 or more years.

White Tower
The ravens enjoy hanging out near the White Tower at the center of the complex
Card from the gift shop
Card from the gift shop

Origins of the Ravens

Several legends exists, telling how the ravens came to live at the Tower.

The earliest involves a war against the Irish leader Matholwch. Bran, King of the Britons, ordered his countrymen to cut off his head and bury it beneath the White Hill, upon which the Tower stands. The face pointed toward France to protect Britain against invaders.

The legend originates from Wales. Bran is the Welsh word for raven. Bran’s head beneath the hill and ravens residing in the Tower served as magical symbols of protection.

Another tale attributes the arrival of the ravens to the Great Fire of London in 1666. After the fire, survivors killed ravens in London to prevent scavenging. When Charles II heard that killing ravens was a bad omen and that the kingdom would not outlive the last killed raven, he ordered six birds kept at the Tower.

And another story suggests the ravens came to the Tower because of executions carried out there. Hint…ravens are scavenger birds.

Whatever the reason for their initial introduction to the Tower, the legend eventually became tradition.

The Tower of London Ravens ruins
Ancient ruins within the complex. The raven aviaries are near the ruins. See them in the lower left corner.
The Tower of London Ravens aviary
The Tower of London ravens – aviaries for roosting

Raven Stories

During WWII, ravens served as unofficial spotters for enemy bombers. During the Blitz in July of 1944, all but one of the ravens died, from bombings and stress. Winston Churchill ordered more ravens to bring the flock back to the correct size.

One of the ravens surprised Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2003. A bird called Thor greeted each person accompanying Putin with a cheerful “good morning”.

During the global pandemic of bird flu, in 2006, special aviaries constructed indoors protected the ravens from the virus.

The raven named Jubilee arrived as a gift for the Queen, during her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The birds can fall out of favor due to inappropriate behavior. Raven George retired to Wales in 1986 after destroying TV antennas in the complex. A decree issued read:

“On Saturday 13th September 1986, Raven George, enlisted 1975, was posted to the Welsh Mountain Zoo. Conduct unsatisfactory, service no longer required.”

In 1990 Chaplain Hood died in his rooms on Tower grounds. The ravens gathered on the Tower Green, near the chapel, called out and then waited there quietly, as if paying their respects. Ravens reportedly mourn their dead and cluster around a deceased bird in silent respect.

Tower of London interior
One of the streets within the Tower of London
The Tower of London Ravens
The Tower of London Ravens – note the bands on the legs

Viewing the Tower of London Ravens

The ravens freely wander within the Tower complex during the day and roost in their aviaries at night. Although they are comfortable with people and appear to show off for visitors and pose for photos, don’t approach one too closely or attempt to feed one or touch it.

The birds are territorial and preside over four different territories within the complex. Ravens may bite if they feel threatened in their territory.

As we walked along the battlements that circle the fortress and link the towers together, two of the ravens flew up to perch on the rail right next to us. People carefully edged nearer, thrilled to see the ravens up close.

The birds squawked and preened and strutted up and down the rail, cocking an eye toward us to see if we continued to watch. We felt honored that the ravens chose that moment to appear and provide a photo opportunity.

Look for the aviaries near the Wakefield Tower. And watch for the ravens on the green outside the White Tower, as that is a favorite territory. Or, as we discovered, they just might put on an impromptu show on the battlements.

Although the Tower of London is currently closed, due to the COVID pandemic, watch this post for a reopening date. In the meantime, enjoy this brief video of the Tower of London ravens!

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Movie Review Emma

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Just before movie theaters shut down in March, across the US, I anticipated seeing the new theatrical release Emma. I love this story by Jane Austen  and I’ve enjoyed previous film adaptations. In fact, the 1996 version with Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role is one of my favorite movies.

Imagine my disappointment when the theater closed the same week I intended to view this fresh version of Emma. Although I appreciate so much the big screen experience with new releases, I’m grateful for streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video. This weekend I settled in for an afternoon of entertainment, watching this film at last.

How did it compare with the 1996 version?

Here it is, my Movie Review Emma.

Movie Review Emma title meme

Cast and Characters of Emma

Emma stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy, Gemma Whelan, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Amber Anderson, Callum Turner and Tanya Reynolds.

Autumn de Wilde directed this period piece romantic comedy. And Eleanor Catton wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Jane Austen. Emma carries a PG rating for brief nudity and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Movie Review Emma friends
Movie review Emma – friends

Emma the Matchmaker

Set in the early 19th century, in the little town of Highbury, England, the story focuses on Emma Woodhouse (Taylor-Joy), the precocious younger daughter of Mr. Woodhouse (Nighy).

Emma is handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition. And she had lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She is also spoiled, stubborn and meddlesome, although she’s motivated by kindness and people are willing to indulge her whims. Content to never marry, Emma nonetheless believes herself an excellent matchmaker. After all, she successfully brought together her former governess, Miss Taylor (Whelan) and the widower Mr. Weston (Graves).

Encouraged by that happy union, Emma decides to make another match, this time with her new friend Harriet (Goth) and the town’s vicar, Mr. Elton (O’Connor).

Emma’s closest friend and confidante, the moody Mr. Knightley (Flynn) warns the headstrong girl to beware meddling in affairs of the heart. She pays him no heed.

Movie Review Emma Mr. Woodhouse
Movie Review Emma – Mr. Woodhouse

Emma’s Mismatches

What pursues are hilarious misadventures as Emma’s carefully thought out plans falter.

Harriet, a sweet girl of unknown parentage, is wooed by a young man who farms in the area. Although he is kind and intelligent, Emma persuades Harriet that he is beneath her. She convinces Harriet to refuse the farmer’s attentions and set her sights higher. While she pushes Harriet toward Mr. Elton, the vicar is actually hoping to impress Emma.

Meanwhile, Emma looks forward to meeting Mr. Weston’s handsome and mysterious son, Frank (Turner). When he finally appears, he leads Emma on, but it turns out he is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax (Anderson) the beautifully sad niece of the tiresome spinster, Miss Bates (Hart).

After an astounded Emma refuses a marriage proposal from Mr. Elton, the vicar snubs Harriet by marrying a snobbish woman he barely knows. She becomes the new Mrs. Elton (Reynolds). Harriet then turns her romantic attention to Mr. Knightley, much to Emma’s consternation.

Emma’s matchmaking creates a tangled mess of emotions until she does what Mr. Knightley urged her to do all along. When she steps back, and allows people to follow their own hearts, true love draws people together naturally.

And Emma discovers that love is waiting there for her too, if she will only open her own heart.

Movie Review Emma dance
Movie Review Emma – the ball

My Thoughts on Emma

It’s interesting watching a new adaptation of this classic story. I’m so familiar with the dialogue, which is lifted from the novel, that I can quote portions of it as the actors say their lines.

However, I enjoyed the freshness of this version. The scenes are slightly different to very different from the 1996 film. And the actors brings their unique perspectives to the roles.

I loved Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse. He is an amazing actor and his performances make me smile, or in this film, laugh outright. His delivery style is perfect for the role of the solemn, fretful Mr. Woodhouse. Hands down, he is my favorite as this character.

Anya Taylor-Joy shines as Emma. It’s hard for me to see anyone but Gwyneth in the role, however Anya conveys the good-hearted if spoiled Emma perfectly. She’s excellent at allowing her expressions to speak volumes while she remains silent.

And I never thought I’d appreciate anyone as much as I appreciate Jeremy Northam in the role of Mr. Knightley. However, Johnny Flynn, whom I enjoyed as Albert Einstein in the Genius Series, won my approval. He’s mastered that stern, brooding look. When he turns it on Emma, she listens. And so do I.

Movie Review Emma Mr. Knightley
Movie Review Emma – Mr. Knightley

Emma Delights

If you enjoy period piece films or romantic comedies, catch this one on Prime Video. I love that the roles of novel author, screenplay writer and director are all filled by talented women. It’s incredibly fitting for a film about a woman with strong qualities and values.

And, I appreciate the opportunity to actually see this movie. I’m currently very concerned about the future of movie theaters. The impact of COVID19 is keenly felt in the film industry as it is in so many other areas.

I’m grateful for services such as Prime Video and Netflix, that offer an amazing assortment of films worth watching. However, I’m not ready to give up seeing movies as they are intended to be viewed…on a big screen in a darkened theater. Movies have greatly shaped my life. I’m holding hope in my heart that the industry will continue on for many years.

Have you seen the newest Emma? Rent it HERE and let me know if you enjoyed it!

Movie Review Emma Miss Woodhouse
Movie Review Emma – Miss Woodhouse

Amazon Prime Video

Not a Prime member? Get a 30 day free trial, and access to thousands of movies and series by clicking HERE.

Already a Prime member? Watch the rental or purchase the Emma DVD HERE.

And if you’ve never read this classic, pick it up below by clicking on the photo:

 

 

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Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog

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When I visited Edinburgh, Scotland in 2017, along with my mother, sisters and niece, one site we all wanted to visit was Greyfriars Kirkyard and a nearby monument.

The monument honors a small Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. This little dog displayed an incredible level of faithfulness to his owner, earning him the title “World’s Most Loyal Dog”.

Learn his story, in this Tales from Scotland post, and discover visit-worthy sites in the area.

Greyfriars Bobby Words Most Loyal Dog title meme

Greyfriars Kirk

Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Greyfriars Kirk is a parish kirk (church). It stands on the site of a pre-reformation establishment of the Franciscan Order, the Grey Friars.

Built in 1612, the kirk is located south of Grassmarket and east of George Heriot’s School.

Greyfriars Bobby Worlds Most Loyal Dog kirk
Greyfriars Bobby, world’s most loyal dog – Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Kirkyard

The kirkyard is the cemetery surrounding the church. A number of notable Edinburgh residents rest there.

The kirkyard is moody, in a gothic sort of way, and fascinating to wander through. Elaborate mural monuments along the east and west walls of the oldest burial section feature intriguing symbols of mortality and immortality.

Many graves are protected with stone walls, iron railings or ironwork cages called mortsafes, to protect against grave robbing. In the early 19th century, resurrection men supplied Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection, in exchange for fees. The common practice of plundering graveyards provided those bodies.

And, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, drew inspiration from the kirkyard for character names in her stories. You can find burial sites for people with the names McGonagall, Moodie, Scrymgeour and Potter. Check out the grave of Thomas Riddell, whose name inspired one of the most terrifying villains in literature. In the Harry Potter series, Tom Riddle becomes Lord Voldemort.

Near the entrance to the kirkyard is a gravestone for John Gray, an Edinburgh City nightwatchman. And not far from that grave is another, marked with a similar headstone, for the dog known as Greyfriars Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby World's Most Loyal Dog John Gray grave
Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog – John Gray’s grave

Greyfriars Bobby

Although slightly different versions of Greyfriars Bobby exists, the most commonly told tale is the following.

Bobby belonged to John Gray, the nightwatchman. For two years they went everywhere together. When John died of tuberculosis 15 February 1858, burial took place in Greyfriars Kirkyard. The dog earned the nickname Greyfriars Bobby because from that time forward, until his own death in 1872, the faithful companion stayed near John’s grave. In spite of various weather conditions and frequent shooing away by the kirkyard caretaker, Bobby refused to leave.

Residents of Edinburgh felt compassion for the dog. They adopted Bobby, feeding him and caring for him. Each afternoon, at the firing of the 1:00 gun at Edinburgh Castle, Bobby trotted to a nearby cafe for a meal and then returned to the kirkyard. Although not officially allowed, kind people even built a small shelter for him near John’s grave.

Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, paid for Bobby’s license and provided a collar for him. That collar is on display in the Museum of Edinburgh.

Bobby remained vigilant near John’s grave for 14 years. After his death, the city buried him in the kirkyard, near his owner. The stone is red marble, like John’s. Inscribed are the words: “Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14 January 1872 – Aged 16 Years. Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Visitors leave sticks, for Bobby to fetch, on his grave and John’s. Occasionally dog toys and flowers adorn the graves as well.

Greyfriars Bobby World Most Loyal Dog grave
The grave of Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog

The Greyfriars Bobby Monument

A year after Bobby’s death, the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, moved by the story, paid for a memorial monument. William Brodie created it as a drinking fountain with an upper basin for humans and a lower one for dogs. A statue of Bobby adorned the top.

The city filled in the basins with concrete in 1957, due to a city-wide health scare. After damage by a car in 1985, the base is newly created, however it copies the original exactly. An attached plaque reads:

“A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858, this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872. With permission erected by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts.”

Greyfriars Bobby monument
Greyfriars Bobby Monument

Inscribed on the statue is “Greyfriars Bobby, from the life just before his death.” W.H. Brodie Sc RSA 1872

Greyfriars Bobby is a popular destination spot in Edinburgh. People gather around the monument, taking photos. And as attested by the shiny spot on the statue, they reach up to rub Bobby’s nose for good luck. Such superstitions necessitated two nose restorations for Bobby!

The Greyfriars Bobby monument stands near the entrance to the kirkyard. The pub behind it, affectionately known as Bobby’s Bar, is a popular tourist spot. You can find postcards, toys and works of art commemorating Bobby throughout Edinburgh. Additionally, Walt Disney created a film about him in 1961.

 

Greyfriars Pub
Greyfriars Pub – also known as Bobby’s Bar

Other Sites to Visit Near Greyfriars Bobby

These nearby sites are all within walking distance from the monument:

  • Greyfriars Kirkyard
  • George Heriot’s School, the inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter
  • Grassmarket, pubs and shops, and a rich history. This STORY took place near here.
  • Victoria Street, full of shops and cafes
  • The Elephant House, cafe/pub where J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of Harry Potter
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • The Royal Mile, containing many shops, attractions, cafes and museums
  • Edinburgh Castle, at the top of the Royal Mile

I hope you’ve enjoyed Bobby’s story. His loyalty and devotion tugs at the heart. If you see Bobby, the entrance to the kirkyard with his grave and John’s is right there to the left. It’s free to wander about the cemetery and well worth a visit.

Have you seen Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog or the kirk and kirkyard? Share your experiences in the comments!

Greyfriars Bobby girls trip
Standing in the Greyfriars kirkyard

Greyfriars Bobby Inspired Treasures:

 


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Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together

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We all appreciate companions in our lives, people who journey alongside, encouraging and supporting us. Plants, it turns out, enjoy a form of companionship as well.

Companion gardening is the practice of planting specific plants close together, for the mutual benefit of both. Our grandparents and great grandparents understood that plants thrive better when certain combinations are tucked into the ground together. I’m learning more about this helpful process.

Companion gardening, plants that thrive together, offers a list to try out in your own backyard or garden space.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together title meme

The Benefits of Companion Gardening

Tom Maloney, horticulture educator for Penn State Extension, says

“The theory behind companion planting is that certain plants may help each other take up nutrients, improve pest management, or attract pollinators.”

Flowering herbs and plants attract pollinators such as butterflies, bees, wasps and birds that improve the growth and yield of certain vegetables. Other strong smelling flowers or herbs help to deter pests such as beetles or aphids. Large leafy vegetables provide shade for smaller plants or give climbers support. While sprawling plants like okra or squash help keep weeds from springing up.

Try the following companion gardening plants that thrive together.

Cabbage and Chamomile

What a surprise this pairing presents! The flowering herb, known for its relaxing properties as a tea, draws beneficial insects to the cabbage plant.

In the fall, chop up any remaining chamomile, if you can bear to part with it yourself, and scatter the pieces over the vegetable garden to enrich the soil.

Tomatoes and Basil

This is a classic companion gardening combo and for good reason.

Basil and tomato plants share nutrients in the soil. The fragrant herb improves the flavor of the tomato plant and its strong scent, which I absolutely love, keeps pests away. Plus, experienced vegetable gardeners swear that they harvest more tomatoes when they companion plant them with basil.

Let some of the basil plants flower, to bring in those important pollinators.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together tomatoes and basil
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – tomatoes and basil

Tomatoes and Lettuce

Extend their growing season by planting lettuce crops, which prefer cooler temperatures, among taller tomato plants. The tomato plants shade the lettuce and help to protect them from too much sunlight.

Lettuce and Chives or Garlic

Those pesky aphids don’t like strongly scented herbs such as chives or garlic. Interplant chives or garlic with lettuce to protect their tender leaves. Consider adding the flower alyssum as well. It’s tiny white flowers attract beneficial insects. Or allow the chives to flower.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together chives and lettuce
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – lettuce and garlic

Radishes and Carrots

Since both of these are root vegetables, you’d think that they might compete for the same nutrients. However, radishes mature quickly and don’t grow as deeply in the soil.

Carrots mature more slowly and put down a longer taproot, drawing their nutrients from a different space.

Corn and Pole Beans and Squash or Pumpkins

This method of companion planting originated with Native Americans, who called it the Three Sisters.

Corn provides a framework for the beans to climb on. Beans convert nitrogen in the air into a form the plants use in the soil. And the squash or pumpkins sprawl out with their large leaves, preventing weeds from springing up and competing for nutrients.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together three sisters
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – corn, beans and squash

Melons and Flowering Herbs

Melons need pollinators to produce their fruit. Plant flowering herbs nearby to draw them in. Great herb choices include dill, fennel, thyme, mint or parsley. Provide a framework for melons to climb upon or give them plenty of space for the vines to sprawl naturally.

Broccoli and Calendula

The calendula plants produce a sticky substance on their stems that attract aphids and trap them. Planting the flowers near broccoli and related plants such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and collards, keeps aphids under control.

Plus, ladybugs are attracted to the calendula flowers. And they love to dine on aphids.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together broccoli and calendula
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – broccoli and calendula

Cucumbers and Nasturtium

Grow cucumbers up a trellis or platform and plant colorful nasturtium beneath them.

The scent of the flowers repels damaging insects while the colorful flowers attract pollinators.

Summer Squash and Marigolds

Similarly, planting nasturtium or marigolds with summer squashes such as yellow squash or zucchini helps protect those plants. Aphids and beetles are repelled by the unique scents of these flowers.

Marigolds enhance the growth of other garden favorites such as basil, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, kale, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Or pair them with melons as a way to deter beetles. Do not plant marigolds near beans.

Companion Gardening Plants that Thrive Together squash and nasturtium
Companion gardening plants that thrive together – squash and nasturtium

Flowers that Pair Well Together

If you love flowers like I do, you might enjoy pairing these flowers together, in containers or your garden space.

  • black eyed Susans with garden phlox or coneflowers
  • daylilies with yarrow or lavendar
  • bee balm with Russian sage
  • daffodils with irises
  • shasta daisies with coneflowers

Need help coming up with a garden plan? Check out free garden plans HERE.

I hope you discovered fresh ideas for companion gardening! We all like a win/win situation. Flowers, herbs and vegetables benefit from such favorable arrangements as well.

Have you tried companion gardening? What pairings benefited your plants the most?

Companion Gardening

Check out these posts from the Backyard Gardening Series:

7 Summer Gardening Tasks

10 Low Maintenance Annuals to Grow

6 Ways to Personalize Your Garden

Gardening Helps from Amazon:

 


 

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.

 

 

 

When Travel Plans Go Awry

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I spend many hours planning a trip and months anticipating the fulfillment of those plans. That’s part of the fun of traveling.

And yet, invariably, I encounter snags during the trip, when travel plans go awry. I’ve learned that when the unexpected happens, staying open and going with the flow helps me to find the good in the situation. New opportunities usually arrive. And at the very least, I learn from the experience.

These five lessons learned during recent trips offer great examples of well laid plans going awry and the take aways from each experience.

When Travel Plans Go Awry title meme 2

 

GPS Failure

Using a smart phone equipped with GPS is a popular way of getting around in unfamiliar places. Most of the time, GPS is reliable and accurate, taking me where I want to go without a problem.

What happens though when GPS fails? Then the journey gets interesting, or at least it did in 2017 while traveling by car in Scotland.

My sister Debbie bravely volunteered to drive our girls’ group around that gorgeous country. Remember that compared to the US, traffic flows on the opposite side of the road in Scotland and the steering wheel is on the right, rather than the left. Debbie expertly drove us all over the country, relying on the car’s built in GPS system to guide us to where we wanted to go.

Are We Lost?

Except….one day it didn’t. Driving from the Sterling area northward into the Highlands, with the Isle of Skye as our ultimate destination, we suddenly realized we were approaching the Firth of Forth. The iconic Forth Bridge appeared, paralleled by the newly built but not yet open Queensferry Crossing.

We knew then we were headed the wrong way. And this time, my sister was not at fault. (See Wrong Way Sister for more about my sister’s challenges with directions.) However, the magic began as we crossed the Firth of Forth and entered the Kingdom of Fife.

Both bridges and Fife were on my “must see” list for Scotland. And yet, I didn’t expect to see them this trip. As the rest of us appreciated the views of the bridges and the forth, Debbie startled us by exclaiming, “What is that?”

Looking toward the front of the car, expecting to see a bus careening toward us, my mouth dropped open in surprise at the sight ahead. Two large, gleaming horse heads towered over the trees. We “accidentally” stumbled upon the amazing Kelpies, 30 meter tall sculptures of Scotland’s mythical shape shifting water spirits. We were enchanted. And I got to check another item off my list.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes the GPS fails. Sometimes we get lost. And yet, that’s okay. Getting off track might lead to a new adventure or unexpected experiences. We never figured out why the GPS failed that day. It worked perfectly the remainder of our time in Scotland. I am grateful though for the detour. I’ll never forget the wonder of seeing those majestic Kelpies.

When Travel Plans Go Awry kelpies
When travel plans go awry…you find Kelpies

We All Fall Down

Or maybe I should say, two of us fell down. On the girls’ trip through the UK, in 2017, we almost didn’t make it out of the US.

At the Atlanta airport, the stuff of nightmares happened. Riding the escalators down a level, my sisters exited, pulling their carry ons behind them. My niece Ashley followed a few steps behind my mother and me. Like many people, I get a bit nervous as the escalator stairs disappear at the end, knowing I need to time my step off correctly. As I pulled my carry on closer to me and prepared to disembark, I saw my mother falling.

In slow motion, it seemed, Mom’s legs folded and she sunk toward the steps. Panicking, I reached over to pull her up. That was a mistake. Her carry on toppled, knocking my legs out from under me and down we both went, on the moving escalator.

Do you know that 17,000 people receive serious injuries each year, while on escalators and elevators? And 30 people die? I didn’t know the stats, as Mom and I fell. However, I knew that clothing and hair getting caught in escalators are the main causes of injury or death.

We Get Back Up

Instinctively, I stuck my legs into the air and curled my upper torso upward, trying to keep pant legs and my long hair from getting snagged. Mom’s snacks from her purse bounced by me. It felt important at the time to grab the container of hummus. My niece and the man behind her bounded up the escalator stairs, searching for an emergency OFF button. They never found one.

Somehow, I flipped over onto my hands and knees and crawled off the escalator. Debbie helped our mother up. We felt shaken, and received scratches and bruises, however we didn’t sustain any serious injuries. Well, my carry on was a goner. The fabric suitcase did get caught and it tore. However, tape held it together until I returned home.

I still shudder when I think about that experience.

Ironically, the trip ended with another fall, this time on the London Tube. It was my fault. I stood near a pole with my suitcase. Thankfully, my mother found a seat. When the announcement comes to hold on because the tube is departing, they mean HOLD ON. I fiddled with my carry on a moment too long. The sudden movement threw me off balance and I smashed into the closest wall, cracking ribs. Thankfully a man caught me and halted my journey onward to the floor. It took three months for my ribs to heal.

Lesson Learned

Never let your mother step onto an escalator pulling a carry on!  If someone falls, get yourself off the escalator and then turn to help the other person. Also, practice awareness on escalators and subways. Keep luggage secured. Lack of attention may result in pain and injury. And that’s not a fun way to start or end a trip.

When Travel Plans Go Awry london tube
When travel plans go awry – Mom seated on the London Tube, bless her

We Can’t Control What We Can’t Control

Weather played a significant role in several of my travel plans that shifted.

Tornadoes on the ground in Charlotte, North Carolina diverted the plane my grandson, daughter and I traveled on, during the first leg of our journey to Italy. We stayed in Chattanooga, Tennessee until the all clear sounded in Charlotte. However, we missed our connecting flight to Rome. Thousands of people missed their connecting flights.

The resulting storm of emotions inside the airport rivaled the storms outside. We witnessed crying, angry words, displays of temper and glum resignation. Rather than join the masses, we chose to stay calm and hopeful and open to opportunities. On a night when very few people flew out of Charlotte, we ended up on a plane to London. And from there, we journeyed on to Rome. We missed our welcome dinner however we arrived in time for the start of our tour. I believe miracles happened that night in Charlotte. Read the whole incredible story HERE.

Weather Delay Allows A Problem to Surface

Last year, Debbie and I found ourselves stuck in an airplane out on the tarmac at JFK Airport in New York City, awaiting departure for Edinburgh. Thunderstorms kept us grounded for five hours. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Shortly before we were cleared for takeoff, a horrible clanging noise filled the cabin. One terrified woman stood up and demanded to get off the plane.

It turned out a mechanical problem surfaced, as we waited for the weather to clear. Imagine if that problem had occurred, out over the Atlantic? Grounded as we were, mechanics ably corrected the issue and at last we took off, in the middle of the night. We arrived late in Edinburgh, and yet thankfully, we arrived safely.

Allergies in Italy

And one non-weather related incident happened in Italy, during the trip with my daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan. We discovered that Dayan is allergic to the flowering vine, jasmine. In late May and early June, jasmine is everywhere in Italy, vining over stone walls, archways and buildings. This situation, totally out of our control, necessitated new strategies. We kept hotel windows closed at night, avoided the vine as much as possible in villages and accepted that Dayan might sneeze…often.

Lesson Learned:

We really can’t control much of anything, and certainly not the weather or mechanical problems or allergic reactions to flowering plants. Staying open to possibilities and in the flow of life, and disconnecting from outcomes, frees us to accept what is and move forward. Believing there is a reason for everything, even if I can’t see what the reason is, allows trust to grow.

When Travel Plans Go Awry jasmin
When travel plans go awry – some people sneeze due to jasmine

It’s Closed

In spite of well researched plans, disappointments may occur. On the girls’ trip to the UK, everyone picked places to see and things to do. We found it very doable to please five different people by giving everyone a say in what we did.

In Dublin, Ireland, my mother chose Trinity College Library for us to visit. Built in 1592, the library houses the Brian Boru harp, Ireland’s national symbol, and the Book of Kells, considered one of the country’s national treasures. This ancient manuscript, created in 800 AD, contains the four gospels of the New Testament.

We arrived at the library a few minutes after it closed! Unfortunately, we flew out of Ireland the next day, Scotland bound.

In Edinburgh, we couldn’t get into Real Mary King’s Close or into a crowded Elephant House cafe. And in London, a sign on the door of the dungeons beneath the Tower of London proclaimed them closed for maintenance.

Lesson Learned:

We pre-selected certain activities but in the case of the Dublin library, we didn’t prioritize it that day. Mary King’s Close was a spur of the moment attempt and we had no control over the busyness of the Elephant House or the dungeons’ maintenance work. However, the library should have been first on our activity list for the day, not toward the end of it.

I like spontaneity while traveling. Yet there is a place for order, especially when scheduling tours or group activities. We learned to do both: arrive on time for events and wander freely when the desire to explore called. And when met with a “no” we always found other places to go and things to see.

When Travel Plans Go Awry trinity college library
When travel plans go awry – you miss touring Trinity College Library

Missed Opportunities

This is an important personal realization I’ve had, as I travel. Don’t let opportunities slip away. It’s one thing to miss getting into a building because it is closed or too crowded. It’s another to walk away by choice and then regret the decision.

Sometimes, my reasons for missing an experience are physical. My back hurt from lugging a huge suitcase around, the day my cousins climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I stayed behind and rested at the bed and breakfast. Five months later, one of those dear cousins passed away. I missed the opportunity to experience Arthur’s Seat with her.

I chose to stay on the ground in Italy too, while my daughter and grandson climbed the bell towers in the little villages we visited. Sure, I might have huffed and puffed my way to the top. Now, I think about the magnificent views I missed.

The three of us were too tired to walk to Trevi Fountain in Rome, having arrived so late the night before. My coin for the fountain remained in my pocket. And we stayed out of a gondola in Venice, because those rides are mostly sought out by romantic couples. Who cares? We did, while in Venice. Now, I wished I’d gone for a gondola ride alone, if no one else wanted to go.

I’ve visited Edinburgh three times and still have not experienced the Royal Military Tattoo, where bands of pipers and drummers perform in their tartans at the castle. Why haven’t I?

And…I never, ever take enough photos as I travel.

Lesson Learned:

This lesson is a big one for me, as I desire to live a life without regrets. If I want to DO something, then DO it. On my most recent trip to Edinburgh last July, I visited Dean Village, the Botanical Gardens and Calton Hill, all places I’ve wanted to see that I’ve missed before.

We don’t always get second or third chances. I’m learning to step up and do what I want to do, in all areas of my life. I want to write. So, I’m writing. I want to travel. So, I’m traveling. I want to visit the Edinburgh Christmas Market. So, I will make that happen.

I’m telling myself, don’t wait. If it is important, find a way to do all that I desire to do. Be ready, when opportunities arrive. And capture those magical moments with photos….lots of them.

When Travel Plans Go Awry gondola
When travel plans go awry – you miss riding in the gondola

The Traveler

Life is a journey…and for me, journeying through travel is life. I acknowledge and accept my gypsy soul and my wild heart. It is time to release the wildness and go where my heart will take me. And to take along the many lessons I’m learning as I travel.

Have you had travel plans go awry? Share your stories in the comments below!

When Travel Plans Go Awry on the tarmac
When travel plans go awry – tired but in good spirits, waiting for the storm to pass

Travel Finds from Amazon:

 


 

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Create Your Own Compost

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Composting is the process of decomposing organic material into a soil conditioner. Added to enrich soil, this nutrient rich humus restores vitality and helps plants grow. Plus, it’s good for the environment. Composting recycles kitchen and yard waste, diverting as much as 30% from the garbage can and landfills.

It’s simple to create your own compost, using a bin or container.

Create Your Own Compost title meme

Creating a Composting Bin

Several methods exist for creating simple composting bins.

Drill holes around the base of a heavy duty garbage can. Add organic material to the bin and stir every two weeks.

Build a simple box from wooden boards or slats. Make it at least 3 feet square and no more than waist high. Set it on bare ground, to encourage insects and earthworms to burrow in. If wild animals or the neighbor’s dogs getting into the bin is a concern, add chicken wire or pig wire to the top. Add organic material and stir to aerate every two weeks.

There are more elaborate systems out there that incorporate three bins for mixing, turning and storing. These aren’t necessary however if that design appeals to you, go for it! Google composting bins or search on Pinterest for ideas.

Or you can purchase composting bins from garden centers. If you don’t have the simple tools to build one, this is a quick option to get you started.

Create Your Own Compost
Create your own compost – my simple DIY wooden bin.

What Goes Into the Compost Bin?

Once your composting bin is set up, start adding kitchen and garden waste. The trick is to balance “green” waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps with “brown” material such as dry leaves, newspapers and cardboard. This is important because green materials supply nitrogen to the mix while brown materials are rich in carbon. Carbon feeds the organisms that break down the scraps and nitrogen builds the cell structure of the newly formed soil enrichment.

The compost pile also needs oxygen and water. Without oxygen the pile will simply rot and smell. Moisture helps the organic material break down. Sprinkle the compost frequently if it hasn’t rained. And stir up the compost as it breaks down, to help air move through the mixture.

Earthworms are welcome allies to the compost pile as they help to aerate and break down matter. I have TONS of huge earthworms in my garden. I toss some into the compost pile as I weed and undercover them.

Create Your Own Compost earthworms
Earthworms are welcome allies in the compost bin

Green, Nitrogen Rich Waste to Add

The healthy compost pile needs more carbon than nitrogen in the mix. Too much nitrogen creates a dense, smelly mixture that decomposes too slowly. The bulkiness of carbon material helps oxygen move through the mixture and nourishes the organisms living there.

A good rule of thumb is one third green nitrogen waste to two thirds brown carbon materials.

Create Your Own Compost scraps
Create your own compost – scraps

Check out these lists of green and brown materials

Brown/Carbon Materials to Add:

  • wood chips, pellets, bark
  • straw or hay
  • shrub, tree trimmings
  • shredded paper including newspapers
  • cardboard, torn into strips
  • pine needles (use in moderation)
  • leaves, chopped or shredded is best, or create a separate pile for leaves
  • dryer lint (best if from natural materials)
  • corn cobs, stalks
Create Your Own Compost newspapers
Create your own compost – newspapers

Green/Nitrogen Material to Add:

  • tea leaves and paper tea bags
  • table scraps
  • seaweed and kelp
  • lawn and garden weeds, that have not gone to seed
  • grass clippings
  • green leaves
  • garden plants that have not died of disease
  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • flower cuttings
  • coffee grounds (earthworms love these) and coffee filters
  • eggshells (which are really more neutral)
Create Your Own Compost saving scraps
Create your own compost – saving scraps

Don’t Add These Materials:

  • meat, bones, fish, dairy products
  • fats, cooking oils, grease
  • perennial or diseased plants
  • dog, cat or human poop or cat litter
  • black walnut leaves
  • machine or chain oils
  • sawdust unless it’s clean and then add sparingly
  • plastics
  • plastic coated paper or cardboard
  • anything treated with pesticides
  • charcoal

Tips to Create a Successful Compost

A few additional tips as you create your own compost.

Collect food, fruit and vegetable scraps in the house. I use a 21 cup plastic container that I already had on hand. Any container with a lid works. Because I am plant based, I can easily fill up my container in a day so I empty it every evening. When adding organic scraps, toss in carbon materials too such as newspapers, cardboard or leaves.

I love making my own veggie broth so most of my vegetable scraps go into containers in the freezer for this purpose. However I use the leftovers from juicing and blemished produce or veggies past their prime for composting.

Chop larger yard and garden wastes, to help them break down more quickly. And leaves and grass are excellent for the compost, however don’t add them in thick layers or they will clump together, slowing down aeration.

Use a spading fork to turn the mixture every week or two. If organic matter isn’t breaking down, add more green material and keep the pile moist.

If the compost pile is too wet and smelly, add more brown material and turn the mixture more frequently.

Create Your Own Compost
Create your own compost – after a month or so, this compost is coming along nicely

How to Use Your Compost

Your compost is ready to use when it looks and smells like dirt! This can take a couple of months or more, depending on what’s in your mixture.

Incorporate your rich new compost into garden beds or sprinkle it on top of the ground. Compost isn’t a replacement for soil but an amendment that nurtures it and your plants.

It’s that easy to create your own compost! Feel good about enriching your garden and easing the burden of wastes on landfills. And if you have any questions, ask in the comments.

Recycle or Compost

Other Posts in the Backyard Garden Series:

Create a Meditation Area in Your Garden

Six Ways to Personalize Your Garden

10 Super Easy Perennials to Grow

Gardening Finds from Amazon:


 

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