Friday, June 29, 2012




1. What's your favorite childhood snack that you still eat as an adult?  Cottage cheese and applesauce, mixed together.  Maybe kind of weird, but I love it, and so does my daughter.

2. What food will you not eat the low fat version of?  Pop/soda, whatever you call it.  I cannot stand the taste of diet pop.

3. What's your favorite way to cool off during the summer? I guess going swimming would be the obvious answer here, but I really don’t like swimming that much really.  I spend most of my time on the beach or on the pool deck, not IN the water, so I just get even hotter.  So I’m going to say sitting in front of the a/c.  =)

4. What's your favorite summer read?  Particularly if I’m on the beach, I like to read “girly magazines” (Shape, Glamour, Self, etc) or the celebrity news ones.  They entertain me.

5. What are you doing to stay cool in this awful heat?  We keep all of our shutter closed in an effort to keep the sunlight out.  (We live in Italy.)  And we run our one small a/c unit on dehumidify most of the time and a/c when we get really hot.  But electricity is VERY expensive in Italy so we try to be conservative on how much we run our a/c, otherwise we’ll end up with a $500 monthly bill.  (And that’s just electricity, not including gas.)


Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A drive through Croatia

Croatia is another hidden gem in Europe, much like Slovenia.  It is an absolutely gorgeous country with rolling mountains and a beautiful coastline.  I took all of these pictures from the car.


The sign below is how the Croats say Croatia.  “Hrvatska”.  I had NO idea prior to entering the country.  Learn something new every day I guess!


I just couldn’t get enough of the beautiful scenery.  Everywhere you looked there were breath-taking views.



We were stopped on a country road waiting for construction and I snapped this photo.  I really like it!


These were the views when we were driving through Rijeka, otherwise knows as the Croatian Riviera.


Driving through Europe is fun because there are lots of tunnels and big bridges all over the place, and Croatia was no exception.  Abbie likes to scream “Tunnel!!” every time you drive through one.  It’s great…


You can see lots of quaint little towns from the highway, and we passed over a few rivers on our way to Plitvice Lakes also.


So then came the fun part.  Thank God I had printed off driving directions before we left, thinking our GPS might not work in Croatia since it’s been a few (4) years since we’ve updated the maps.  Our GPS ended up being a lot of help….  Not!


It was tough even with the directions printed because the distance on what I printed were in km, and obviously our cars trip odometer is in miles.  So it was a lot of guesstimating as to how far we had to go before the next turn.  And we were thinking we’d be on fairly decent roads since Plitvice has LOTS of visitors every year.  At least ones with lines painted on them.  Wrong.  We were on this road for about 40 miles.  It was very narrow and curvy and it was a little scary when you met an oncoming car.


Our driving directions had told us to turn (vs go straight) so we turned on to this road that was literally not much bigger than a cow path.  We were really wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into at this point and we weren’t sure we’d ever make it to the park.  And the ENTIRE time Mark and I were trying to figure out where we were and where we should be going we had Abbie in the back asking rapid-fire questions.  “Where are we going?”  “Why’d you turn here?”  “What are you doing?”  “Why are we turning around?”  “Why are we going this way?”  “We already went this way.”  “You need to turn there.”  “Go faster.”  As you can imagine, it definitely helps your concentration and nerves to deal with that on top of being lost…


The upside of being lost is that we got to see some more even prettier scenery.  There was a small house overlooking this little valley with the stream running through it.  I wonder what it would be like to live in such a secluded area, but be surrounded by so much beauty.


At this point we knew we were completely lost, but we wanted to see where the road lead, so we continued on until we came across this sign warning us of land mines.  We decided that was a good time to turn around.  Apparently during a war, Croatia was just coated with land mines and it will take lots of years for people to de-activate them all.  We saw quite a few signs on the curvy road that we were on saying beware of the land mines.


Sidenote:  My husband is probably one of the calmest guys on the planet when it comes to being lost (or in general).  He’s always up for an adventure and he never gets crabby when things aren’t going according to plan.  He’s a lot of fun to travel with.  One of the many reasons I love him to death.

As I said in one of my previous posts, Croatia has LOTS of sinkholes.  I’ve never seen landscape like this.  There were parts where it was just one huge sinkhole after another, but they all were old and had grass in them.  But they’re almost perfectly round so they look like a bunch of empty ponds.  It was interesting.


We passed lots of abandoned houses and buildings on our drive on the country road.  Most of them were made of the orange brick and it was hard to tell if they were building them or if they were really old at first.  And then we saw one with a huge hole in the roof so we’re assuming that was from a bomb from the war.  We probably passed 30+ of these houses that were abandoned.


We also passed buildings with lots of bullet holes on the side of them.  It was interesting and eerie to see history up close like that.  I guess I don’t think of past wars that often, accept when I’m passing buildings that have been destroyed by them.  Sad and fascinating all at once.


I truly hope we get to go back to Croatia before we move.  I would love to go to Dubrovnik sometime although that’s 10 hour drive from us, so I’m not sure the kids would do too well being in the car that long.  Maybe someday!!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The yard

I took these pictures right after we got back from the States and have been meaning to blog about them for the past month.  Time is just flying by right now, it’s crazy!!

The plants in the front of our house are somewhat out of control.  Admittedly, I have NO clue how to trim roses or my rosemary plant that is taking over.  I trimmed the rosemary bush WAY back, but it’s growing like crazy again.  And Mark put mulch down and we pulled all the weeds.  Looks much better!



I don’t know what this flower is, but it smells AMAZING!  We can open our front door or front windows and it makes the whole living room smell good when it’s in bloom.  (Right now they’re all dying and falling off the vines and getting EVERYWHERE!)


This is my wisteria that I planted on our fence.  It started with two small plants and is now much bigger.  And in the past month since I took this picture, it’s probably grown twice as big as this.  I decided to plant some flowers underneath them.


Here are a few pictures of some of the flowers I planted below the wisteria.




I got the area for my garden ready and filled it mostly with beans, since we eat them a lot.  I planted a few carrots and onions too, and also some squash.  I tried to plant some tomato plants, but I don’t think any of them are growing.

(the start of the garden)IMG_8629

(a week after planting my beans)IMG_8748

I started my squash out in a pot but then decided to move it to the hill behind our house.  It sprouted pretty quickly, and now these plants are over a foot tall!


Can anyone tell me how to deal with my rose bushes?  They produce beautiful flowers for a little bit, but they’re really out of control and I don’t exactly know how to control them.  And how do I keep the petals from falling off and getting all over everything else?IMG_8728IMG_8754

Baredine Cave in Croatia


I love visiting caves.  There’s just something really neat about being down in something that is hundreds of thousands of years old.  However, flash photography wasn’t allowed in this cave (or most caves since flashing can damage things down there) and it is REALLY hard to get clear pictures when you have the ISO on your camera cranked way up and the shutter speed super slow to let in enough light, all while wearing a baby who likes to wiggle.  In fact, it’s next to impossible to get a clear shot under those conditions, but we still tried.


Most of Croatia and Slovenia are riddled with caves, and I think they have some of the largest cave systems in the world.  There are lots of underground rivers in these countries, which creates all of these caves.  Europe isn’t quite as strict with it’s safety standards as we are in the US, so you can tour a lot of the caves.  Love it!!


This cave is near Porec, Croatia, and is made of limestone.  There is a tale that a couple got lost in this cave looking for each other in the thirteenth century and both died during the search.  I’m not sure how on earth they would have gotten down there in the 13th century anyway.  We had to go down narrow metal stairways and walkways that were pretty darn steep!


You walk almost 1000 feet into the cave, descending almost 200 feet.  It’s a LOT of stairs, some more like ladders than stairs, which again, is a little tough carrying kids.  I was carrying Ben on my front and Mark had Abbie on his back.  A few times Abbie had to really duck her head to keep from bonking it into something.  It was a workout, but luckily the cave is the same cool temperature all year round.


They explained how the formation above was made, but I don’t remember how.  I think it was water running down from somewhere.  The cave was first documented being explored at the beginning of the 20th century.  In 1973 a caving group from Porec when about 250 feet into the cave and in 1986 it was proclaimed a monument of nature.  They started preparing it for visitors in the early 90’s and it’s been open for visitors since 1995.


The cave apparently has 5 lakes in it, and we got to see one of them.  One of the coolest things about this cave is that we got to see one of the little worm/lizard things that are native to this area and only live in caves.  I’m not going to bore you with the scientific name, but their little eye-less worms with legs that live in caves in this area.  We’d heard about them before in the Slovenia caves we visited, and they had one in a tank there, but these ones were in this lake at the bottom of the cave.  So cool!  (The lake is pictured below.)


And they think the cave is named “Baredine” because of how “bare” the land is above the cave.  Every time I visit caves I find myself wondering what else you could find under the surface of the Earth.  It fascinates me!