GROK Your World

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I have an affiliate relationship with Grok the World. All opinions are my own.


I love play as a form of learning and growing. In fact, play is an extremely important part of my daily life. I was introduced to the GROK card set by Greg. He purchased them to use with the book, Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.

Although I’ve not read the book, I’m familiar with Nonviolent Communication, also referred to simply as NVC. I’ll briefly share the four tenets of NVC below.

The GROK card game immediately intrigued me. Through play, discovery and connection, one can get to the heart of what matters most, indeed. It is possible to “GROK your world”, by learning more about feelings and needs with this lovely game.

Grok Your World title meme

The Story Behind GROK

Christine and Jean met in 2005 to brainstorm ideas as they launched their line of NVC products.

With a MA in Sports Psychology, Jean long held an interest in learning through playful engagement. She loves teaching cooperative games that stretch the imagination and spirit. As a life-long meditator with a MA in international relations, Christine pursued interests in restorative justice, mindfulness, and conflict resolution, from the personal to the global. With their similar backgrounds as small business owners and years of experience teaching Nonviolent Communication, it made sense to combine their strengths and talents and launch their GROK product business in 2006.

Through the GROK game, and the other products developed over the years, Christine and Jean promote a more peaceful and empathetic world.

Curious about the name?

In the sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Landby Robert Heinlein, grok is a Martian word that means “to drink”. Metaphorically it means “to take it all in”, “understand fully” or “to be one with”.

GROK Your World booklet
GROK Your World – game box with booklet

What is the GROK Game?

GROK is a set of interactive card games designed to heighten understanding, listening and connection in a fun and engaging way.

Playing GROK games can improve relationships with family members, friends and colleagues, along with deepening the relationship with self. It provides support in resolving conflicts, and opens doors of opportunities for making better choices, decisions and goals. And it promotes social and emotional intelligence while allowing players to practice the art of empathetic listening.

Included in the game box are 70 feelings cards, 70 needs and values cards, and a booklet. Within the booklet are instructions for playing more than 20 games, for 2 – 25 players. Also included are games to play alone.

GROK Your World cards
GROK Your World – instructional booklet, feeling cards and needs cards

Foundation for the GROK Games

The GROK games are built upon conscious communication, as developed by Marshall Rosenberg. Integrating NVC practices helps us act in harmony with our values. We can share what is true for us while still hearing and discovering what is true for another. Additionally, we share what we are feeling and needing, rather than judging, blaming or attacking.

Nonviolent communication focuses on:

Self-empathy and the ability to identify and connect with the feelings and needs in a particular situation, without judging, blaming or criticizing self.

Empathy for others and guessing another’s feelings and needs without judging, correcting, advising or criticizing.

Honest self expression, sharing observations, feelings, needs and requests.

The four tenets of NVC include:

Observations, which are different from judging, evaluating, labeling and analyzing.

Feelings, which are different from perceptions and “victim verbs” that contain blame, insults and attacks.

Needs, which are different from strategies, blame and “shoulds”.

Requests, which are different from demands, shame and manipulation.

(For more info, read the helpful instruction booklet included in game.)

GROK Your World games
GROK Your World – 20+ games included in booklet

Sample of GROK Games

The booklet includes a wonderful variety of games, for groups, couples or individuals.

GROK for Two – the speaker with the feelings deck decides on a topic and chooses 5 – 10 that express his emotions. He shares on his chosen topic for 1 – 2 minutes, while a listener, listens.  The listener then scans the needs deck and chooses 3 – 4 cards to guess the speaker’s needs. The speaker responds to each guess with more dialogue, allowing the listener to choose more needs, until the listener can say, “Thank you for listening. I feel heard.”

Feelings Charades – player draws a feelings card and without looking at it, shows it to the group. Group members demonstrate the feeling, using facial expressions or body movements, without speaking. Player then guesses the feeling.

I Have a Need When… – player draws a needs card and without looking at it, shows it to the group. Group members describe situations where this need might be active, without using the word itself. Player guesses the need.

Artfully Yours – choose 1 – 3 needs that are important. Go through magazines and select images and words that represent those needs. Glue onto a board. Write the needs or cut out letters to spell them and add to the board. Display board where it can be seen daily.

GROK Your World feelings and needs
GROK Your World – feelings and needs cards

GROK Your World

Greg and I have yet to play with the GROK cards together. However, I’ve enjoyed studying them and playing individual games. I recently played Celebrations. Thinking about a situation that brings me joy, I selected feelings cards that match the emotions around the situation. I narrowed those selections to 5 cards. Then I chose cards that represent the needs in the situation.

For the situation, I chose an upcoming solo trip, and selected the feelings: enthusiastic, excited, grateful, inspired and curious.

The fulfilled needs connected to that upcoming trip include: freedom, love (of travel), inspiration, fun and play, autonomy and choice, spontaneity, beauty and aesthetics, compassion and empathy, creativity, trust, appreciation and learning and growing.

Playing this game brought me clarity about why I want to do this solo trip and showed me the many needs that are fulfilled as a result. And going deeper, playing with these cards helps me to move beyond judgments, labels, “shoulds” and criticisms, of myself and of others. I feel lighter in my being, and open to so many possibilities.

Get Your GROK Game

Are you as intrigued by this game as I am? Are you eager to deepen your empathy and increase your ability to connect with self and others in a meaningful way?

I’m thrilled to offer you a discount code, to try GROK and to get to the heart of what matters most! This is an excellent game for families to play, and there is even a Kid’s Edition available.

Use my link to visit the GROK the World website.

Then upon checkout, use my discount code CINDYMOORE to save 10% off of your order. Code is good for any of the GROK products.

Are you ready to GROK your world? And the worlds of others?



Cindy Goes Beyond is an affiliate with GROK the World and Amazon. Purchasing products through my links may result in a commission for me, all at no extra charge to you.






Smartr Skin Summer Essentials

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

THIS IS A COLLABORATION WITH SMARTR SKIN, with whom I have an affiliate relationship. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.


Ah, summer! With the warmer temperatures and fun in the sun and water comes the possibility of skin damage. After a day of play outdoors, it’s so vital to take the time to care for our skin so that we don’t accumulate damage that results in wrinkles, fine lines, rough patches and dark spots.

I’ve happily used Smartr Skin products for more than two years now. And, I’m a raving fan. I love their serum and lotions. I use them daily and love the healthy glow they give my skin.

And I appreciate the jade roller as well, and the gua sha facial tool. Recently Smartr Skin also sent me their micro needle derma roller to try.

These Smartr Skin summer essentials are key to my skin care routine. And the company is allowing me to offer three of their amazing products at a remarkable discount!

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials title meme

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials Trio

These three products…Vitamin C Serum, Jade Roller with Gua Sha Facial Tool, and Micro Needle Derma Roller…are the perfect additions to your skin care routine. Together they help create healthy, glowing skin.

Read a brief description of each item. Then find your discount codes at the end of this post.

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials sale
Smartr Skin Summer Essentials – trio on sale

Smartr Skin Vitamin C Serum

A better idea for skin care is the driving force behind this physician created line of products. The company creates custom formulations from clean ingredients that nourish the skin, from the inside out. Check out my initial review HERE.

I started using their Vitamin C Serum in the spring of 2020 and I love it.

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.

Benefits of the serum include:

  • 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

I appreciate the way this rich serum smooths over my face, neck and chest.

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials C
Smartr Skin Summer Essentials – Vitamin C Serum

Smartr Skin Micro Needle Derma Roller

The derma roller, with hundreds of high quality titanium micro needles (0.05 mm in size), is a wonderful option that replaces expensive spa treatments.

The micro needle derma roller works with the body to create beautiful results. Micro needling stimulates healing by encouraging the body to produce collagen, naturally.  Needling helps to reverse the appearance of acne scars, stretch marks, wrinkles and fine lines.

Benefits of  weekly micro needling includes:

  • increases the absorption of topical skin care products to maximize their effectiveness
  • improves the skin’s appearance and texture
  • effective, affordable and safe skin care method
  • treats sun damage, hyper pigmentation, wrinkles, and aging skin
  • promotes the product of collagen to smooth, tighten and plump skin

This is a safe tool for at home use. I pour alcohol over the needles before and after using, to keep them sterilized. After washing my face and using witch hazel on my skin, I use the micro needle derma roller gently over my face. There’s no pain, only a mild tingly feeling, and absolutely no bleeding. The needles barely prick the outer skin surface, which is exactly what you want them to do.

After use, I apply the Vitamin C Serum, use my jade roller and gua sha tool and then follow with my Smartr Skin Moisturizer.

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials roller
Smartr Skin Summer Essentials – micro needle derma roller

Smartr Skin Jade Roller and Gua Sha Facial Tool

The jade roller and gua sha facial tool massage the face, boost blood circulation, and tone and rejuvenate skin.

Benefits of the jade roller include:

  • less puffiness from fatigue
  • reduces dark under-eye circles
  • boosts blood circulation
  • reduces swelling and facial inflammation
  • deeper skincare product penetration
  • smooths out fine lines, crow’s feet and wrinkles

Benefits of the gua sha facial tool:

  • stretches and tones skin
  • relaxes tense muscles in face, neck and scalp
  • smooths fine lines and wrinkles
  • eliminates fluid build up by promoting lymphatic drainage
  • promotes blood circulation

The cool, smooth jade stones, in the roller and the gua sha tool, feel wonderful against my skin. I start with the jade roller, using the larger end for jawline, cheeks and forehead. And then I switch to the smaller roller for the mouth and under eye areas.

I use the gua sha tool over my neck first, moving downward toward my collarbones. Then I  glide it over jaw line, cheeks and forehead, gently stretching skin. Finally, I “comb” the gua sha over my scalp, starting at the hairline and moving back over the top of my scalp. I finish with my Smartr Skin moisturizer.

Check out my entire daily routine for skin care HERE.

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials jade
Smartr Skin Summer Essentials – jade roller and gua sha facial tool

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials Sale

If these products sound ideal, I’m excited to offer you discount codes for the best possible price!

To individually purchase the Vitamin C Serum, Micro Needle Derma Roller or Jade Roller with Gua Sha Facial Tool, and save 25% off, use my code:


Click these links and apply the discount code at checkout:

Vitamin C Serum

Micro Needle Derma Roller

Jade Roller with Gua Sha Facial Tool

Or, purchase all three and save 40% off the trio bundle!

Use my code SmartrSkinCindyGoesBeyond40 at checkout.

Smartr Skin Trio Bundle

Smartr Skin Summer Essentials rilynn
Rilynn photo bombing my flat lay! The perils of an outdoor shoot.

Enjoy Summer and Nourish Your Skin

I hope you are having an amazing summer full of fun. And I hope you are caring for and nourishing your skin to keep it glowing with health.

Let me know which Smartr Skin product you decide to try! And if you have any questions about these products, drop them into the comments below.

Summer glow with Smartr Skin
Glowing skin with Smartr Skin


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.








My 12 Travel Essentials

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

As I think about traveling again…domestically for now and eventually internationally…I’ve put together this list of my 12 travel essentials.

I’m considered a “light traveler”, meaning I pack light and carry only what’s necessary, especially when I fly. I’ve spent 10 days in the UK several times and 12 days in Italy with only a carryon and my purse. Check out how I pack a carry on in this post. Then read on for the items I consider essential when I travel.

My 12 Travel Essentials title meme

My 12 Travel Essentials

For domestic trips and international ones, overnight road trips or a long weekend away, these are the items that travel with me.

Carry on Luggage

Starting with the most basic, my carry on holds the majority of my other essentials. My clothes, toiletries, shoes, supplements and documents go in here.

Over the last eight years, I’ve used three carry ons. The first one met an untimely end in an escalator accident.

I borrowed a carry on from my daughter for my most recent trip to Scotland, to try out a hard-sided suitcase. After I arrived home I purchased my current piece, a Samsonite carry on with four spinner wheels. I love its many pockets and deep compartment. Plus, it has a built in charger that can recharge my phone securely in an inner pocket.

My 12 Travel Essentials carryon
My 12 Travel Essentials – carry on luggage

Clear Toiletry Bag

Because I tightly roll or fold my clothes, Marie Kondo style, I don’t use the travel cubes. I do however pack my non-liquid toiletries in a clear TSA approved bag, like the ones pictured below.

Toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, makeup and deodorant get packed in one of these bags, while liquids go inside a clear quart zip lock bag.

My 12 Travel Essentials – clear toiletry bag. Click photo to order.

Earbuds or Airpods

Yes, they hand earbuds out on most airlines. While typically free, some airlines charge for them.  And I’d rather tote my own. I carry these in my purse for easy access while flying. Plus, I sometimes use them while in a hotel room, to listen to music on my phone.

My 12 Travel Essentials – earbuds. Click photo to order.

Travel Pillow

I don’t sleep well on long flights although I try. It’s often difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. What helps me is finding a movie I’ve seen before, turning the volume down low, and propping my head up with a travel pillow. I’ve used the typical U shaped pillows. I attach mine to the handle of my carry on. However, I want to try the Trtl neck pillow that slips around the neck and provides great support.

Has anyone tried one of these? Are they really comfortable?

Trtl neck pillow for support. Click photo for more info.

Phone Charger and Portable Charger

My phone is so important, for my work and for capturing photos and videos. It would quickly become useless without a charger. I use a charging disc at home and love the convenience of dropping my phone onto it. It travels with me.

And I love taking along a portable charger that I carry in my purse or backpack. When my phone battery runs low while I’m out exploring, I can recharge it quickly and easily.

The Battpak by OCTAVE is a portable charger with a secret compartment that’s perfect for carrying cash, cards or small items. It’s accompanying me on my upcoming solo trip. Get yours HERE and use my code CINDY15 for 15% off.

My 12 Travel Essentials portable charger
My 12 Travel Essentials – Battpak portable charger

Travel Wrap

I don’t know about you, but I get cold on airplanes. I carry on a lightweight wrap that serves as a blanket while I’m traveling. When I get to my destination, the wrap becomes a pretty shawl for those cool evenings out.

This wrap, from Mer-Sea & Co comes with its own cloth tote bag, making it easy to tuck the folded up wrap into my backpack or purse. The company has an assortment of travel wraps to choose from.

My 12 Travel Essentials wrap
My 12 Travel Essentials – wrap that doubles as a lightweight blanket


Do you take supplements for health? I do. And when I travel, I want to maintain my health and care for my body. It’s especially important since I walk all over cities while exploring.

I don’t carry all of my supplements when traveling. However, these must go with me: Cat’s Claw, MSM, MyKind Multi that includes essential vitamins and minerals plus plant based collagen, and Comfort Guard with turmeric, ginger and boswellia. The Comfort Guard is the best supplement I’ve EVER taken for joint comfort.

When I’m traveling internationally, I love these supplements from VOKE. They help me overcome jet lag quickly without losing a day for recovery. And they are made from superfoods so I know they are good for me as well.

My 12 Travel Essentials supplements
My 12 Travel Essentials – supplements

Backpack or Crossbody Bag

When out exploring, I carry a crossbody bag or a backpack to hold items I need. My portable charger goes in there along with a bit of cash, a hairbrush, sugar free mints and my phone.

I learned the hard way to wear my bag. Someone stole my purse the night before a cross country flight, while it was resting in a Walmart cart. Since that experience, I only wear backpacks or crossbody bags.

I’m loving this woven straw backpack from Kit and Wilder. It’s lightweight and perfectly carries all that I need. Order yours HERE and use my code Cindy15 to save 15% off of your order.

My 12 Travel Essentials backpack
My 12 Travel Essentials – backpack

Walking Shoes or Boots

I walk a great deal when I’m traveling. While hop on/hop off buses are helpful for an overview of the city, once I get my bearings I walk as much as possible to destinations. It’s such a wonderful way to really get to know a city, town or community. Plus there are botanical gardens or nature trails to explore.

A good pair of supportive walking shoes or boots are a must for me. And I prefer boots. They give my ankles some support too and I find them the most comfortable. Because boots are bulkier, I wear them onto a plane and pack my other shoes.

For boots or shoes, I only wear man made uppers or faux “leather”.

Faux leather boots…an essential for me. Click photo to order.

Metal Water Bottle

I don’t do plastic water bottles. However, I discovered on my last international flight that metal water bottles are allowed through security. They must be empty when passing through security then they may be filled with water for use on the flight.

No matter where I go, I carry a metal water bottle with me. It’s so essential to stay hydrated especially while out exploring.

My 12 Travel Essentials – metal water bottle. Click photo to order.

Universal Adapter

For international travel, a universal adapter is essential. These allow you to plug in chargers, hair dryers or laptops safely. I blew out the power on the whole second floor of a B&B in Edinburgh once, when I forgot to use my adapter for my hair dryer. Ooops!

These are small enough to easily tuck into a carry on.

Plug in adapter for international trips. Click photo to order.

Travel Journal

I like to carry a small journal along when I travel. It’s useful for jotting down information about places I intend to write about. I can also write out my impressions and thoughts about my experiences. And sometimes I do a sketch.

One thing I’ve learned, as I travel, is that I can’t have too many photos or too many notes about what I’m doing. When I get home I then have all I need to create my travel related posts.

What are your travel essentials?

Those are my 12 travel essentials, the things I absolutely make sure I pack for a trip. Of course my passport goes with me too, and any travel documents.

What about you? What items go with you on every trip? I’d love to know what is essential for you.

Travel Journal
My travel journal with my passport and my first carry on…may it RIP.


Cindy Goes Beyond is an affiliate with Mer-Sea & Co, Voke Superfood Supplements and Amazon. These programs provide a means for sites to earn fees by advertising and linking to the companies, all at no extra cost to you.


Yes Month Challenge

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How fun this month, to receive an invitation to join in on a challenge. A friend of mine on social media decided, during July, to say “yes” to something every day.

I was immediately intrigued. During my Year of Firsts, in 2014, I experienced a Yes Day. I’ve since done that a couple of times. However, I’ve never experienced a yes month.

My first yes for this challenge was accepting the invitation to participate. Check out what I’ve said Yes! to so far and join in on the fun.

Yes Month Challenge title meme

Why Say Yes?

Saying yes opens us up to new opportunities and experiences. And saying yes shows that we are willing to move beyond comfort zones and fears. It’s too easy to utter “no” as our default response to opportunities, requests and invitations. Plus fear crowds in, giving us all kinds of reasons why we should say no instead of yes.

Saying yes allows us to stop procrastinating and to adopt a growth mindset as well.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who just soared into space this week, shares this:

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes…then learn how to do it later!”

Saying yes also ramps up creativity and invites playfulness.

Yes to the trip
Yes to a solo trip and to afternoon tea while there.


In 2015 I attended a writer’s conference in Philadelphia. I enjoyed an improv class there that taught me a valuable lesson.

The instructor led us through a series of conversations. The first one involved saying “no” to all questions asked. No quickly shut down conversations and possibilities. Next we said “yes…but”. Those words limited conversations as well and made communication awkward and difficult. However, when we answered each other’s questions with “yes…and” conversations and creativity flowed. High level energy filled the room.

I witnessed that day how powerful the word “yes” is. It leads to collaborations, more invitations and fun experiences. Yes moves us forward, gets us out of ruts and shifts us into the flow of life.

Of course, there are times to say no. Inappropriate requests are met with no. Overextending oneself repeatedly halts with no. And boundaries are set with no. When no becomes an automatic answer though, it’s time to shake things up and open life back up with yes.

Yes Month Challenge river
Yes Month Challenge – my first yes after accepting the challenge…a walk along the river

The Yes Month Challenge

My online friend Jen, Go Family Adventure on social media, decided to say yes every day during the month of July. She chooses to say yes to things she’d typically brush off, put on the back burner or say no to.

I love her idea of a month long challenge and said “yes, I’ll join in”.

We are sharing our yeses in our stories on Facebook and Instagram. I believe Jen began on July 1. However, I began saying yes on July 5. That’s the beauty of a yes month challenge. It can begin on any day of the month. Simply continue saying yes daily for 30 days.

When I do one of my games, such as my birthday celebrations, I plan it out. Activities are written on slips of paper and dropped into a jar, where I randomly draw one out every day.

For the yes challenge, the idea is to stay open and see what invitations arrive. Opportunities can be as simple as “Want to grab lunch?” to the more complex “Want to collaborate on this project?”

What I’m finding is that multiple opportunities to say yes appear every day. I’m just more aware of them during this challenge. Some days, I say yes to one opportunity. Some days I’ve said yes multiple times.

Yes Month Challenge picnic
Yes Month Challenge – yes to a spontaneous vegan picnic for one

My Yeses

A week into the Yes Month Challenge, I realized I began saying yes! several days before my invitation to join in.

I booked a solo trip to a city I’ve never been to before. Several times I almost backed out of the trip, before I even bought my airline ticket. However, I recognized it was time to push myself beyond my comfort zone and any fears I had about traveling solo. I said yes! and booked that trip.

Other yeses during my first week include:

  • a walk along the river, something I have not done in a while
  • a spontaneous picnic for one in my backyard garden
  • attending the Boss Baby 2 movie with my grandkids, sister and her granddaughter
  • trying something new at one of my favorite restaurants
  • working a 1000 piece puzzle that arrived serendipitously from Scotland
  • planning an afternoon tea time in Charleston during my trip, after a city brochure I received in the mail made me aware of the possibility
  • caring for my teething eight month old granddaughter one afternoon, so her parents could work

And today I said Yes! to writing this post about the challenge.

The fun, for me, is that I do not know ahead of time what invitations or opportunities will arrive. More yeses have shown up, than those I’ve listed above. Being open to possibilities brings more opportunities to actually say yes to.

Yes Month Challenge shrooms
Yes Month Challenge – shroom bowl from The Veggie Table

An Invitation to Say Yes

Saying yes involves trust.

Fear wants you to believe that you will end up doing something you don’t want to do, if you say yes. Not so. You still chose what’s right for you. Fear wants you to believe it is safer to say no. There’s a difference between safety and holding back.

“Jump off this building?” That’s an easy no.

“Speak before this group?” That’s a no because you are afraid…to speak in public, that you will make a mistake, that no one will want to hear what you have to say. What happens if you say yes instead? You move beyond your comfort zone. And you might make a mistake. No one cares. People can learn and receive value from what you have to share.

By saying yes to opportunities, invitations and new experiences we say to the Divine that we trust. We trust that good is intended for us and that we can grow through the experience.

Boss Baby 2 movie
We all said yes! to seeing Boss Baby 2…and we enjoyed the shared experience. Photo shot before movie started.

Will You Say Yes?

Consider this post your invitation to join the Yes Month Challenge. If a month long challenge seems too intimidating, try a Yes Week or a Yes Day. You can start on any day and end the challenge whenever you want. Have fun with it. Invite your children or a friend to join in. Write about your experiences.

It’s your choice. I hope you’ll join me in saying yes!

Let me know if you accept the challenge. And please share some of your yeses with me!

Yes Month Challenge cuddles
A very easy yes, cuddling this sweet girl.

Check out these inspiring books from Amazon:

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Year of Yes Journal by Shonda Rhimes

The Surrender Experiment by Michael A Singer

I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn


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, all at no extra cost to you.




Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy

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

Burano, Italy is an island in the Venice Lagoon, about 45 minutes away by boat from that more well known sister city. Often called one of the top most colorful towns in the world, Burano is well worth exploring as a day trip…or even half a day…from Venice.

Learn more about this charming community of about 3,000 inhabitants. And discover things to do in colorful Burano Italy.

Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy title meme

Getting to Burano

Visitors to Venice can easily include a trip to tiny Burano via water buses. Our tour group took a large water bus to Burano, for lunch and an afternoon of exploring.

Half a day to a day provides plenty of time to experience the beautiful island.

What to do while on Burano? Read on for a list of possibilities.

Start in Piazza Galuppi

Burano’s main square, Piazza Galuppi, is a great place to begin your exploration on the island. Shops and cafes offer places to purchase goods and eat. Also check out the stone Istrian well that dates back to the 6th century. And note the statue of Baldassarre Galuppi, a famous composer from the island.

Because Burano is famous for its lace  making, visit the Burano Museum of Lace if you have time.

Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy
Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy – begin in the square

Watch a Glass Demonstration

Nearby Murano Island is famous for their glass, just as Burano is for their lace. However, you don’t have to go to Murano for a glass making demonstration. You can see one in Burano.

New Arte Fuga is a shop that sells Murano glass AND gives a glass making demo as well. We caught the demonstration in Venice, however, while in Burano you can check out this amazing art form.

Attend a Lace Making Demonstration

Although Venetian Lace became popular in the 1500s, its production ceased in 1797 with the fall of the Republic of Venice. During an extremely cold winter, in 1872, the fishing community of Burano suffered hardship due to the weather. The economy depended on fishing.

The art of needle lace revived and gained in popularity, easing Burano’s economic situation and improving the island’s quality of life. A lace making school opened and soon became the main source of income for Burano. Although the school eventually closed, women in Burano continue the art of lace making in their homes and shops.

From lace tablecloths to collars to umbrellas to shawls and scarves, there is a vast variety of Burano lace available for purchase. Visit any of the shops in the square or along the narrow streets to find a lace souvenir to take home.

Burano Lace
Things to Do in Burano Italy – purchase a lace adorned scarf

Take a One Hour Walking Tour with a Local

There’s no better way to learn about a community, than from someone who lives there.

If you have time, walk through Burano on this tour, with a knowledgeable guide. It’s a great way to learn the history, secrets and daily life in Burano, from someone born and raised there.

Photograph the Colorful Houses

Burano is known for its brightly colored houses that line the canals and winding streets. Made up of four small islands connected by bridges, Burano’s colorful houses are the other unifying feature.

Legend says that the houses were originally painted in bright colors so that fishermen could find their way home on foggy nights. The fishermen could also easily tell which house was theirs, as each house features a different color.

Today Burano’s painted houses are protected by law. If anyone wants to paint a house, he or she must get approval to do so from the community government first.

These softly hued houses make Burano one of the most photographed places in the world.

Burano's colorful houses
Things to do in colorful Burano Italy – photograph the houses

Try Burano’s Sweet Treat

Bussola…also called Buranelli…are dense cookies sold in the town. The cookies originated with the fishermen’s wives, who made the treats to send with their husbands on trips out to sea.

The cookies provided the fishermen with nutrients during a long day fishing.

You can sample one of these tasty treats. Look for them in Burano’s shops and cafes.

Take a Photo of Burano’s Leaning Tower

Pisa isn’t the only town in Italy with a leaning tower. Burano has one too!

The bell tower of the Church of St. Martin Bishop is easily seen from all over the island. It stands 159 feet tall on a square base and has an obvious tilt.

At one time an angel statue stood atop the tower. It came down during a storm in 1867. An iron cross tops the tower now.

Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy leaning tower
Things to Do in Colorful Burano – photograph the town’s leaning tower

Enjoy Lunch or Dinner on the Island

With its proximity to the sea, Burano features many fresh seafood dishes. Three of Burano’s best restaurants include Trattoria Al Gatto Nero, Trattoria da Romano and Riva Rosa.

The town’s specialty is Risotto De Go, a dish prepared with a local fish.

And if you are plant based, like me, no worries. I enjoyed a wonderful vegetable lunch, prepared with great care by our chef. It was excellent.

Walk Across the Tre Ponti

Burano has three lovely canals in town. Cross over them on any of the available bridges and pause to snap a photo.

The Tre Ponti is the most famous of the bridges. Made of wood, Tre Ponti is perfectly situated to catch many of Burano’s most scenic views.

Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy houses
Things to do in colorful Burano Italy – view from Tre Ponti

Wander Through the Town on Your Own

Our favorite thing to do on Burano was to explore the island, on our own. After a wonderful lunch near the square and time visiting shops, we struck out on our own to explore.

Burano is small enough that you can’t get lost. Or if you do, it won’t be for long. With it’s brightly colored houses, gorgeous canals and narrow streets, Burano is a charming, less crowded, much smaller version of Venice.

We literally walked from one end of the island to the other, enjoying a leisurely stroll. It was fun to watch kids playing and adults sitting together talking. We stopped to catch a gorgeous view of the sea, at the end of one of the canals.

When we reach a row of shuttered houses with fragrant, tiny gardens, we turned to walk back to the square. What an enchanting experience.

Have You Been to Burano?

This tiny island truly exudes fairy tale charm. The eye catching houses, tranquil canals and slower pace make it an ideal excursion while visiting Venice. And if you enjoy taking photos, it is a photographer’s dream location.

Have you been to colorful Burano, Italy? What did you most enjoy?

Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy garden
Things to Do in Colorful Burano Italy – explore

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Wild Woman Manifesto

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Two years ago, I wrote about creating a personal manifesto. You can read that post HERE.

As a reminder, a manifesto is a statement of intentions and ideals. Think of it as a mission statement or a declaration of beliefs, desires and values.

A personal manifesto helps us to evaluate where we are in life, and provides clarity on where we want to go. It can provoke change, encourage shifts and inspire forward momentum.

Each person’s manifesto is uniquely his or her own, reflecting journeys, beliefs, desires and wisdom.

The thing is as I grow, learn and settle more deeply into who I am, my manifesto changes, as it should. Recently I realized it’s time to update mine.

This is the perfect opportunity, during my Year of the Wild Woman, to make some changes. Here is my Wild Woman Manifesto.

Wild Woman Manifesto title meme

Growth and Change

A personal manifesto reflects an individual’s beliefs, desires and life values. Those naturally change as we learn and grow as humans.

Some of my growth the last couple of years, since I wrote the last manifesto, includes moving deeper into myself, shedding completely the “people pleaser” personality that I had and connecting strongly with my beliefs and desires.

I am becoming. And part of that process involves learning to stand solidly on my own, seeing my value and offering who I am unapologetically to others. I belong to myself, and to no one else.

Brene Brown says:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.”

She goes on to say that true belonging requires you to be who you are.

This is my journey. I am becoming the Wild Woman who loves her people fiercely, enjoys travel and creative play, values my alone time and marches to the beat that I drum.

Wild Woman Manifesto year
Wild Woman Manifesto – Year of the Wild Woman

Wild Woman Manifesto

Not all of my beliefs, desires and values changed. Some deepened. I’m keeping those. Some no longer quite align with who I am becoming. And some I’ve learned more about, as I discover my voice and open my heart.

You can click the link above, to see my original manifesto. Then check out this year’s Wild Woman Manifesto that accurately reflects where I am at this point in my journey.

I Believe…

  • in Divine guidance  and having a personal relationship with God
  • in a daily, ongoing, playful conversation with the Divine
  • I am called to live life beyond the edges, free from fear and playing small
  • self acceptance and self love are crucial to offering unconditional love to others
  • life unfolds for me in magical, oft times mysterious ways
  • ALL people are worthy of love and we are all connected
  • I am a guardian of the Earth and her precious resources
  • kindness toward others is a strong indicator of a person’s truest heart
  • my most authentic self is unfettered, untamed and free
  • I am a loner at heart…and that’s not a defect
  • happiness is my responsibility and no one else’s
  • I am manifesting a life that’s perfect for me, one day at a time


Wild Woman Manifesto making it up
Wild Woman Manifesto – making it up as I go

I Desire to…

  • follow curiosity
  • surrender to the flow of life
  • embrace all of my gifts and my quirks
  • live from my passionate, open heart
  • engage in new experiences
  • travel and work/write remotely from anywhere in the world
  • encourage my children and grandchildren to live authentically and joyfully
  • offer to others through my writing and my life experiences
  • express creativity in a multitude of ways
  • live in the moment, releasing the past and not worrying about the future
  • live a healthy, vibrant plant based lifestyle
  • stay true to who I am, always
  • create a peaceful environment in my home and garden that fully supports me
  • remain unattached to outcomes
  • dream BIG dreams
Wild and Free
Wild Woman Manifesto – wild and free…and ready for adventure

My Life Wisdom…

  • I accept that for me, the veil between this world and the Spirit world is thin
  • my intuition guides me unerringly
  • if I ask a question, I always get an answer
  • I have nothing to fear
  • if fear shows up in my life, it is an invitation to learn and trust
  • I must speak my truth…silence is seen as agreement
  • comparison and worry are thieves of joy
  • I’m 100% responsible for my life and my reactions/responses to life situations
  • I am open to everything and attached to nothing
  • others have the freedom to be exactly who they are at this moment in their lives
  • I’m not here to live someone else’s life or to abide by someone else’s expectations of who they think I am
  • I create change in my life by first shifting my thoughts and beliefs
  • my outer world is a true reflection of my inner one
  • I am the Queen of my own kingdom and it is ever expanding
  • challenging experiences create growth and expansion in my life
  • gratitude is the foundation of my life

Who Are You?

Would you like to write your own personal manifesto? Refer to my post about creating one HERE.

Then spend time reflecting on your life and jotting down what’s true for you under the headers of BELIEFS, DESIRES, VALUES or LIFE WISDOM. DON’T ASK ANYONE ELSE WHAT THEY THINK! This is your deep inner work.

And remain aware that as you grow your manifesto grows with you.

I’ve discovered that not everyone understands my journey. In fact, most people don’t. That’s okay. It’s my journey, my amazing life, my growth.

As I’ve grown and embraced who I am, I’ve lost friends and had people simply disappear without a word from my life, while others tell me I’ve changed so much…as if that’s a bad thing. Someone even said, “I liked you better before.” That’s because before I didn’t speak my truth.

You know what? None of that matters, to me or to you. What matters is that you…and I….live as our most authentic, most courageous selves. We continue the process of becoming. And other people…well they have their own journeys and growing to do. Their remarks or backing away has everything to do with them, not us.

Write that manifesto…and share it with me, if you want.

Wild Woman Manifesto crouch
Wild Woman Manifesto – unapologetically me

Recommended Reading

I highly recommend these books for the journey.


Untamed Journal

Braving the Wilderness

Untethered Soul

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Good Luck Traditions from England

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This fun series, looking at unique superstitions and traditions in different countries, comes to a close with this post. That is, until I visit more countries!

I wondered if England’s traditions and those in Scotland, Ireland and the US might be very similar. However, I found that not true. There are some similarities. For the most part though, England has their own collection of superstitions and good luck practices. Or, in some cases, the good luck traditions from England are the opposite of those in other countries.

You’ll see what I mean, in the following post.

Good Luck Traditions from England title meme

Pocket that Money

Putting money into the right hand pocket of new clothes brings good luck and fortune. The practice is thought to attract MORE money to put into that pocket.

Similar British traditions include wearing new clothes on New Year’s Day and on Easter Sunday, so that more new clothes arrive.

Cut Hair at the Right Time

This British traditions suggests that cutting hair as the moon is waxing ensures good luck. At the very least, the Farmer’s Almanac agrees that cutting hair during this time results in thicker, faster and longer hair growth.

Want to try it out? Cut or trim your hair during the first two days of a waxing (growing) new moon.

Good Luck Traditions from England waxing moon
Good luck traditions from England – cut hair during the waxing moon

Hang a Horseshoe Over the Door

Horseshoes are considered lucky because they are made of iron, which supposedly wards off evil spirits. And the horseshoes are traditionally hung with seven nails. Seven is the luckiest number.

It’s important though, how that horseshoe is hung. Make sure to hang it so that it resembles a U, to invite good luck into the home. Hang it upside down and luck runs out of the house.

Meet a Black Cat

In the US and some other countries, encountering a black cat is considered bad luck. However, the British believe it’s lucky to meet a black cat. In fact, black cats are often featured on good luck and birthday greeting cards in England.

Good Luck Traditions from England black cat
Good luck traditions from England – lucky black cats

White Rabbits

This tradition says it’s considered lucky to say the words, “white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits” on the first day of each month, before saying any other words.

Why though?

One possibility is that the word rabbit was an expletive many years ago. The ancient belief is that uttering expletives helps avoid evil. Another possibility is that rabbits are considered lucky animals.

This custom carried over to the United States. President Roosevelt apparently uttered rabbits, rabbits, rabbits on the first day of every month.

Falling Leaves

Catching falling leaves in autumn guarantees good luck for the following year. Each leaf caught equals one month of good luck. So for the best year possible, catch 12 leaves as they fall to the ground.

Good Luck Traditions from England falling leaves
Good luck traditions from England – catch falling leaves in autumn

Knocking on Wood

In the US, and some other countries, people knock on wood to keep something from happening. For example, someone says, “I’ve never had a car accident…knock on wood.” And they then rap their knuckles against something wooden, like a table.

The British tradition is the opposite. They knock on wood to make something happen. “I intend to travel this summer…knock on wood.” And they then touch or knock on something wooden.

Four Leaf Clover

This tradition seems similar in several countries, including the US. Find a four leaf clover, good luck comes to you.

This tradition originates in Ireland. The majority of clovers have three leaves. A more rare four leaf clover brings faith, hope, love and luck to the finder.

Get a lucky four leaf clover charm to carry always, HERE.

Good Luck Traditions from England four leaf clover
Good luck traditions from England – four leaf clover

Peacock Feathers

Those gorgeous peacock feathers are NOT considered lucky in England. It’s considered unlucky to have peacock feathers inside the home or to hold anything made from the feathers.

This tradition comes from the belief that the eye shape on the feather is associated with the Evil Eye and wickedness.


In some parts of the UK, encountering two ravens together is good luck.

Two ravens bring good luck or good news. Seeing one raven brings bad luck.

In Greek mythology, ravens are associated with Apollo, the god of prophecy. Ravens are also called God’s messenger to the mortal world. Seeing one means change is coming.

According to English legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens at the Tower of London leave or die. As a result, six ravens, at least, have resided there for centuries. Obviously, not the exact same ravens.

Good Luck Traditions from England ravens
Good luck traditions from England – ravens. I snapped this photo in the Tower.

Your Good Luck Traditions

Do you or your family practice any good luck traditions? My family has an assortment of sayings and traditions, passed down from generation to generation.

I have a fairly high percentage of English DNA. I enjoyed learning more about this country’s traditions.

You can check out the other posts in this series:

Ten Scottish Superstitions

The Luck of the Irish

Italy’s Good Luck Traditions

I’d love to hear about any traditions or superstitions that your family practices. You’ll find me out this autumn, catching leaves as they fall! And…I already have a lucky horseshoe, hung correctly, over my front door.

Good Luck Traditions from England peacock feathers
Good luck traditions from England – no peacock feather in the house



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In The Heights

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

How exciting, as movie theaters open back up, to experience a fun summer musical! I had the opportunity to attend a virtual screening for In The Heights ahead of its release date. This movie, though, deserves a big screen viewing!

I happily returned to my local theater, for the first time in over a year, for the thrill of watching this amazing musical as it’s meant to be watched.

Check out my review for In The Heights and then enjoy the first big hit of the summer in a theater near you.

In The Heights title meme

In The Heights Cast

This film version of the Broadway musical stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Berrara, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In The Heights is directed by Jon M. Chu. The screenplay is based on the musical and music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Quiara Alegria Hudes contributed to the concept and the screenplay.

The musical carries a PG-13 rating, for mild language and suggestive references, and has a run time of 2 hours and 23 minutes.

In The Heights dance
In The Heights – get ready to dance!

In The Heights Synopsis

The movie focuses on the lives of a variety of people living in northern Manhattan. Washington Heights, referred to simply as “The Heights”, contains small mom and pop shops, thriving and struggling businesses and generations of families.

Dreams of all kinds thrive in this close knit community too. Meet the dreamers and those who encourage them.


At the heart of The Heights is Usnavi (Ramos), who runs a little neighborhood bodega. Everyone in the community stops by every morning for coffee and perhaps a lottery ticket. Usnavi sells both while offering encouraging words of advice.

Usnavi nurtures a sueñito, a little dream he’s carried since his childhood. He dreams of purchasing and reviving his deceased father’s beach café in Dominican Republic. After saving and scrimping for years, it seems that Usnavi’s dream is finally within reach.

Usnavi’s younger cousin, Sonny (Diaz IV), helps in the bodega and pushes his cousin to ask Vanessa out. Sonny dreams of going to college, a difficult sueñito to fulfill as his family cannot afford it and the boy is an undocumented immigrant.

In The Heights Usnavi
In The Heights – Usnavi and Vanessa


Vanessa (Barrera), is Usnavi’s love interest, although she doesn’t know that. She works at the neighborhood salon. However the salon is relocating to the Bronx, due to increasing rent. Vanessa’s sueñito is to rent her own apartment downtown and become a fashion designer.

Her dream gets an immediate setback when her application for the apartment is denied, due to a lack of credit.

Kevin Rosario and His Daughter Nina

Kevin (Smits) owns and operates the neighborhood taxi company. He employs Benny (Hawkins). Nina (Grace) returns home from her first year at Stanford. She is fulfilling her father’s dream. However, Nina comes home to tell him that she’s dropping out of college due to loneliness and financial strains. Nina misses The Heights and feels out of place at Stanford.

Kevin sold off half of the building he owns, to pay for Nina’s college education. He is not easily deterred from seeing his daughter graduate from Stanford.

Benny loves Nina. With him, Nina finds life simpler. However, she worries about the future and struggles with self doubt. Benny reminds her of what’s important and tells her that she is destined for greatness.

In The Heights Benny, Nina and Kevin
In The Heights – Benny, Nina and Kevin

Abuela Claudia

The matriarch of the neighborhood, Abuela (Merediz) took Usnavi in as a boy and raised him. While not actually related to him, this kind and wise woman serves as his… and everyone’s…abuela. She remembers her childhood in Cuba, where she and her mother lived in poverty.

In New York, Claudia endured hardships and overcame challenges to get to where she is today. Her role is to encourage everyone else to pursue their dreams and never give up. Abuela’s favorite words are “paciencia y fe”…”patience and faith”.

In The Heights Abuela
In The Heights – the matriarch, Abuela Claudia

A Summer to Remember

In The Heights, summer brings record breaking temperatures. The whole neighborhood closes down early one day and everyone heads to the community pool to cool off.

On the way there, Usnavi learns that one of the lottery tickets the bodega sold won $96,000. When he shares the exciting news, the whole neighborhood goes wild, each person imaging what he or she could do with that money.

The heat continues. Mr. Piraguero (Miranda), who sells snow cones, sadly sings about how the new ice cream truck in the neighborhood is stealing his business.

A black out occurs, due to the extreme heat, and the whole neighborhood shuts down for days. It’s a breaking point for some…and a time of shift and change for others…and a time for making dreams come true for a few, in unexpected ways.

Summer In The Heights
Hot summer In The Heights

My Thoughts About In The Heights

As stated, this movie is a musical, which is one of my favorite genres. The characters sing much of the dialogue. And they dance too!

I love this musical. It beautifully showcases the richness of the Latin culture through music and dance. And it shines a brilliant light on the importance of family, community and encouraging one another toward the realization of dreams.

Those themes thrill me. As a dreamer myself, I love watching the different characters discover more about who they are as dreams shift, change and manifest. I appreciate the closeness of the community and how generations of people pave the way for each new generation.

This is such a fun film. I can’t help but smile and tap my foot over the musical numbers.  The movie goers in my theater applauded with me at the end.

We all have dreams. The time has come. Let In The Heights inspire you to keep pursuing yours. Catch it at your local theater or on HBOMax.

Time Has Come

Did you enjoy this review? Check out this one too: Nomadland

Get the In The Heights movie soundtrack HERE.


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Must Visit Places in Rome

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Rome, capital of Italy and the country’s most populated city. The area has supported humans for almost three thousand years.

Roman poet Tibullus called Rome the “Eternal City” in the 1st century BC. It’s also known as the “Capital of the World” and considered the art and cultural center of the world. Famous artists, sculptors, painters and architects flourished in Rome, creating masterpieces throughout the city.

Rome is the 11th most visited city in the world, the third most visited in Europe and the most popular tourist destination in Italy. And for good reason. Beauty abounds here. History, art and culture co-exist marvelously.

It’s a fascinating city to explore. While there…check out these must visit places in Rome.

Must Visit Places in Rome title meme

Vatican Museums

Vatican City is the world’s smallest independent country, located within the city of Rome. It is the headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church.

Within the Vatican Walls explore the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica (more on these two sites below), the palace and gardens and St Peter’s Square.

Visit the Vatican museums. They include the Picture Gallery, Museum of Secular Art, Etruscan Museum and others. Collections contain art of all kinds, from sculptures to paintings to tapestries. The museums are stunning in their variety and beauty. There are small group tours available and a skip the line type tour you may want to book in advance.

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, located within Vatican City, contains one of the most famous frescoes in the world. On the chapel ceiling, Michelangelo’s masterpiece inspires wonder. Security officers within the room encourage silence out of respect for the space. Truly, the magnificence of the paintings instill reverence. It’s not difficult to observe the silence.

Visitors cannot take photos in the Sistine Chapel either, to protect the vibrancy of the artwork.

Built between 1473 and 1481, the chapel was originally known as The Great Chapel. It’s currently the site of the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected.

Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling, completed between 1508 and 1512 is regarded as one of the major artistic accomplishments in human history. It’s the ceiling and Michelangelo’s Last judgement, painted between 1535 and 1541, that draw visitors to the Sistine Chapel.

Read fun facts about the Sistine Chapel HERE.

Must Visit Places in Rome Vatican Museums
Must Visit Places in Rome – a tapestry in the Vatican Museums

Trevi Fountain

This 17th century masterpiece is one of Rome’s most popular attractions. Immortalized in numerous films and stories, Trevi Fountain is a must see. Throwing a coin in the fountain continues a long standing tradition that assures a return visit to Rome.

This massive fountain, the largest in the city, is supplied by an aqueduct constructed by Agrippa in the 1st century BC, to bring water to his baths. The fountain was constructed between 1732 and 1751. It depicts the sea god Neptune with horses, tritons and seashells. The water collects in a large basin that is always filled with coins.

St Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s is considered the most famous example of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world, measuring the interior. It also has the world’s tallest dome.

Tradition says that the basilica is the resting place of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles. His tomb lies directly below the high altar. A church has stood on this site since the time of Constantine the Great. Old St Peter’s Basilica dates back to the 4th century. Construction began on the present day basilica in April 1506, with completion 120 years later, in November 1626.

The interior truly is magnificent, with its 150 foot tall walls and gold coffered ceilings. Michelangelo’s La Pieta is on display in St Peter’s. La Pieta depicts Christ lying in Mary’s lap, after his crucifixion. Due to a vicious attack on the sculpture in 1972, La Pieta now sits behind a bullet proof glass shield.

Must Visit Places in Rome St Peters Basilica
Must Visit Places in Rome – St Peter’s Basilica

The Spanish Steps

The historic center of Rome, Centro Storico is filled with palaces, art filled churches and beautiful squares. Trevi Fountain is located in this area, along with Piazza Navona (see below) and Piazza di Spagna.

Located in Piazza di Spagna, The Spanish Steps leads up to the French church Trinita dei Monti. The steps provide a favorite spot for tourists to gather. People sit and enjoy a gelato or bask in the sun.

At the base of the Spanish Steps rests the Barcaccia Fountain. Via Condotti, the road through Piazza di Spagna, is Rome’s most fashionable shopping street. Visit Cafe Greco nearby, where artists, writers and musicians like to gather.

Castel Sant’Angelo

This huge, round structure on the Tiber River began as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family, in 135 AD. Over the years, Castel Sant’Angelo served as a papal residence, a fortress and most recently, as a National Museum.

In its early years it protected the city from attacks. Located near Vatican City, popes fled to the Castel across a secret corridor during times of danger. They also stored their treasures there for safekeeping.

Travel across the pedestrian bridge to reach the Castel. Angel statues, created by Bernini, line the gorgeous bridge with its arches. Inside the Castel are five floors containing prison cells, a collection of weapons and papal apartments decorated with Renaissance frescoes. At the top is a terrace that provides beautiful views of Rome.

Must Visit Places in Rome Castel Sant'Angelo
Must Visit Places in Rome – Castel Sant’Angelo

Piazza Navona

Located in Centro Storico, Piazza Navona is a classic Baroque square. Within the square is the outline still of a Roman stadium built by Emperor Domitian. Festivals and horse races took place there during the Middle Ages.

Borromini rebuilt the square in the Baroque style. He also designed the palaces and the Church of Sant’Agnese on the west side.

The centerpiece of the piazza is the Baroque fountain, Fontana dei Fiumi, created by Bernini. The fountain represents the four largest rivers on earth at that time: the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata.

Piazza Navona hosts one of Rome’s  bests Christmas markets every December.

Roman Forum

Once the center of Roman life, the Forum was the heart of the city. What remains now are standing and fallen columns, arches and partial walls.

At one time the Forum housed courts, markets and meeting places. The buildings all fell into ruin after the 7th century. Stones from those ancient structures were quarried for use in other Roman buildings throughout the city.

Must Visit Places in Rome Roman Forum
Must Visit Places in Rome – Roman Forum

The Pantheon

This 2000 year old monument is one of Rome’s most well preserved structures. Rebuilt in 80 AD after a fire, the work is extraordinary. The height is the same as the diameter. And the dome appears to hang suspended, without support. Those are actually hidden within the walls. Additionally, the building’s central opening is the only light source for the interior.

Originally a pagan temple, Pope Boniface dedicated the building to the Virgin Mary in 609. It then became the burial site for Italian kings and other famous Italians, including the painter Raphael.

Pope Urban VIII  removed and melted down the bronze roof tiles, casting them as the canopy over the alter at St Peter’s Basilica and as cannons for Castel Sant’Angelo.

The Colosseum

This large Roman structure is the symbol of Rome, much as Big Ben is London’s and the Eiffel Tower represents Paris.

Construction began in 72 AD and the structure inaugurated in 80 AD with a series of games held within. The Colosseum hosted theatrical performances, festivals, circuses and games featuring wild animals and gladiators.

Court officials watched from the lower levels, aristocrats occupied the next level while the general population sat in the upper levels. The Colosseum held 50,000 to 70,000 spectators. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum housed people and supplied building materials for other structures throughout the city.

A massive restoration project, carried out over the last decade, restored the facade and just finished in the underground areas. For the first time, beginning this month, visitors can see the passageways and rooms that gladiators, animals and performers occupied before riding to the Colosseum floor in elevators and pulleys.

Recently the Ministry of Culture announced plans to build a wooden arena over the lower areas, returning the Colosseum to a usable structure for concerts and cultural events.

Must Visit Places in Rome Colosseum
Must Visit Places in Rome – Colosseum, interior shot.

Visiting Rome

My daughter, grandson and I visited Rome in 2017, the starting and ending point of our 12 day tour in Italy.

Our time there seemed magical as we explored sites I’ve read about all my life. Standing inside the Colosseum was a surreal experience. Remember the movie Gladiator? I could easily imagine such life and death battles taking place there.

Vatican City proved the biggest surprise for me, with its immense collections of art. And standing quietly in the Sistine Chapel, looking up at Michelangelo’s incredible work, brought tears to my eyes.

Have you visited Rome, Italy? Share your experiences with me in the comments!

Group shot in Colosseum

Fun Finds from Amazon:



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World Refugee Day

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June 20 is World Refugee Day. The day honors, respects and brings awareness to refugees around the world. The United Nations designated the day in 2001 to celebrate the strength, courage and resiliency of people forced to flee their homes due to conflicts and persecution.

It’s also a time to deepen compassion and empathy for those who are displaced and to recognize their efforts to rebuild their lives.

Read on for more information about the current plight of refugees worldwide. And to learn what I did to help this year.

Word Refugee Day title meme

Facts About Refugees

A person forced to leave his or her country due to war, persecution, disasters or violence is a refugee. Every minute, 20 people flee their homelands.

By the end of 2020, 82.4 million refugees remained displaced worldwide. More than half of the refugees are children. The number of people seeking asylum is high. Just last year, another 1.1 million people submitted requests for asylum.

Currently more than 6 million refugees live in camps. Although not meant to be permanent, some refugees live in camps for years. Basic needs are met there, such as food, water, shelter, medical care and emergency services.

Turkey hosts the most refugees, with 3.6 million living there currently. Columbia shelters 1.8 million who have fled from Venezuela.

Over two thirds of all refugees come from five countries: Syria with 6.6 million, Venezuela with 3.7 million, Afghanistan with 2.7 million, South Sudan with 2.3 million and Myanmar with 1 million.

This year’s theme for World Refugee Day is inclusion. Together, we can achieve anything.

World Refugee Day refugees
World Refugee Day – 82.4 million people are displaced

What I Did to Help This Year

I discovered a way to help refugees this year. I participated in a challenge sponsored by Church World Service (CWS). CWS is a faith based organization that transforms communities around the world through just and sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement and disaster.

The Ration Challenge began Sunday June 13 and concluded Saturday June 19.

There are three parts to the challenge.

Raise Money

I set up a fundraising page through CWS and began to share my goals and intentions via social media. Sponsoring myself with an initial donation ensured I received my ration package in the mail.

I set a goal of raising $679. Those funds feed three refugees in camps for a year.

It was important for me to express to others why I wanted to do a ration challenge.

My reasons include:

  • raising awareness of refugees, their struggles and also their resilience
  • learning what it’s like to be in their situation by experiencing it on a small scale. I wanted the eye opening experience. And I wanted to shift my perspective, enlarge it and then respond.
  • being an example. I felt confident asking for donations because I was willing to donate also and to share in the experience of eating rations for a week.
  • putting actions with my words is important to me. Walking the talk, stepping up, making a difference were all motivating factors.
World Refugee Day fundraising page
World Refugee Day – fundraising page


Eat Rations

By sponsoring myself with an initial donation of $100 before May 27, I received a ration box identical to what adult Syrian refugees receive. The box contained one week of rations: a can of kidney beans, 6 ounces of lentils, 15 ounces of white rice, 3 ounces of dried chickpeas and four coupons. The coupons replicate what a refugee receives. They are traded for food.

My coupons allowed me to add to my rations: 7 1/3 cups of additional rice (I chose brown rice), 3 cups of flour (I used gluten free flour), 12 ounces of oil (I used my Almeria Gold olive oil) and because I am vegan, I received a coupon for 3.75 ounces of tofu, rather than the standard can of sardines. I don’t eat tofu either so I substituted another protein, 3.75 ounces of red beans.

On Sunday morning, June 13, I began the challenge by eating only the ration food and drinking only water. Included in my box of rations was a booklet containing recipes created by refugees. The book proved so helpful. And it contains personal stories of refugees. Check out my experience doing the challenge, below.

World Refugee Day rations
World Refugee Day – a week’s rations

Save Lives

The money raised through the Ration Challenge helps in two ways.

First, by providing emergency assistance to meet people’s most urgent needs. Life is already difficult for refugees. Now, due to the COVID pandemic, refugees are experiencing lockdowns, job losses (for those very few who are earning a small income) and disruptions to aid. Hunger is rampant.

The money funds programs that provide food rations, health care and other essential support to people who need it the most.

And secondly, money raised helps address the root cause of injustice.

We must have empathy and compassion for others. In a world where there is enough for everyone, why do some go to bed hungry at night? Empathizing with others and feeling compassion for their situations are the foundations for “charity begins at home”.

When enough people feel strongly about caring for others, then we not only help out individually (giving, reducing carbon footprint, buying ethically from sustainable companies), we ask our governments for action as well (increasing international aid budgets and supporting international aid commitments).

By experiencing the Ration Challenge, I put myself in another’s shoes for a week, increasing my compassion and empathy. By sharing my experience, I hopefully increase others’ compassion and empathy as well.

World Refugee Day - recipe booklet with refugee stories

Eating Rations

My first reaction, when I opened the tiny box of rations, was sorrow. Tears filled my eyes. It looks like a small amount of food because it IS a small amount of food. The sorrow wasn’t for myself. I felt it for the refugees.

After swapping out my coupons for the additional food, I created a meal plan.

I ate three small meals a day…breakfast, lunch and supper. No snacks, except on Day Three when I experienced gnawing hunger between lunch and supper. I used some of my brown rice and a couple of spoonfuls of flour to create rice cakes that I fried in a small amount of olive oil. Eating two rice cakes satisfied my hunger and I saved the rest for future meals.


Every morning I ate congee, a rice dish made from 1/2 cup of rice and four cups of water. Boiling the rice for 45 minutes to an hour creates a large bowl of soft…some might say mushy…rice. It is very filling and I actually like it.

World Refugee Day congee
Breakfast every day – congee


This meal typically consisted of a cup of rice and half a cup of beans or lentils. I measured everything. Even so, by the end of day two I wondered if my food would run out before the week did.

Lunch during Ration Week
A typical lunch during Ration Challenge week


I increased my food slightly in the evenings. One night I made a soup from one cup of mixed legumes, using the cooking water as broth, and added half a cup of rice. However, most evenings I ate a cup of rice with half a cup of beans or lentils and added a small flatbread or rice cake on the side.

Rice cakes
Rice cakes made from one cup of cooked brown rice and two tablespoons of flour, fried in a little olive oil.


During Ration Challenge Week, it’s possible to earn rewards.

Refugees are resourceful and hardworking. Most are not allowed to have jobs, due to countries protecting local job markets. However, they find other ways to provide for their families. Funds from the challenge support livelihood programs in Jordan that help provide a small income for refugees.

The rewards allow participants to earn more food due to their hard work during fundraising.

Making a donation yourself earns an unlimited amount of one spice.

Inviting others to contribute, whether they do or not, earns teabags. Five people invited to donate equals one teabag.

$75 – unlimited salt

$200 – a cup of milk.

$400 – 6 ounces of one vegetable

$600 – 4 ounces of an additional protein.

$800 – canned tomatoes

$1,000 – one hot or cold beverage of choice

I went a bit beyond my goal of $679, earning rewards of cumin, salt, a cup of almond milk, 6 ounces of kale and I added 4 more ounces of red beans as my additional protein. Plus I earned tea for the week.

World Refugee Day kale
I was so excited to add kale to my rations on Day Five.

My Experience

Was the week challenging? Yes, although I really only experienced hunger on Day Three. After that day, my hunger subsided and my small meals sustained me.

However, by Day Five I felt tired. My energy levels were low because my calorie intake was extremely low. I had a slight headache. I took one of my grandsons out for his birthday dinner…and only drank water. It was a valuable teaching moment though as Joey and I discussed what life is like for refugees.

From Day One I expressed gratitude, thankfulness for the food I ate, thankfulness for the goodness of people who care for others. And daily, almost hourly, my thoughts turned again and again to refugees and what they experience.

By Day Seven, I admit I was glad to finish the challenge. Although I like brown rice, after eating rice three times a day for a week, I grew tired of it. But that brought my attention back to the refugees. My challenge week was ending. Their days and weeks go on…and on…and on…often for years. As a result, I’ll eat a meal of rice and beans at least once a week, to remain mindful.

How Others Can Help

I truly am grateful for the experience of the Ration Challenge. And I’m so incredibly thankful for those who contributed to this fundraiser and who left me encouraging notes.

Here are ways you can help:

  • look for refugee owned businesses in your cities and support them
  • watch a documentary on refugees, listen to podcasts, read books…all to learn more about the way they live and the lives they’ve left behind
  • speak up for government policies that support the rights of refugees
  • be mindful of the food you eat by not wasting any of it, by shopping sustainably and by sharing with others when you can
  • become a sustaining partner with CWS and make helping refugees a part of your monthly budget. Even a small amount each month helps such as the cost of a cup of coffee each week or one lunch or dinner out. Sign up here. Or you can make a one time donation on that site as well.

And…join me next year in the Ration Challenge. I want to create a team. Location and distance don’t matter, we connect via the internet and social media. Team up with me so that together, we can do more to help others. If you are interested, let me know in the comments below or send me a message. I’ll contact you next year…I promise!

Goal Met
World Refugee Day – goal met



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