Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Sweet Hailey Boo

Nothing gives me more joy, than the smile upon my Hailey's face.  This sweet girl has filled our lives with so much laughter and happiness. We will be forever thankful to call her our daughter.  Happy Birthday Baby Girl!  We love you so much!!!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Wiesbaden

Traveling through Europe over the past three years has been an amazing experience.  My family and I experienced new cultures, tasted new foods, and learned new languages. Our adventures will be forever treasured and our memories forever cherished.

Wiesbaden, pronounced "Vees-baden", was our home away from home for almost three years.  As the Capital of Hesse, Wiesbaden is located in central Germany near Frankfurt am Rhein.  It is named for
the many natural hot springs that flow through the city.  Wiesbaden was never a dull city.  Between the various fests, markets, parties, musicians, fireworks, races, ect.., something was always happening downtown. 



The buildings downtown are breathtaking.  Walking out onto the Schlossplatz (palace square) took my breath away every time.... for three years.   Wiesbaden has newer buildings, ones that are hundreds of years old, and even ruins of buildings that are thousands of years old.  We loved being able to sit on our balcony and see the Marktkirche (Market Church) and sometimes hear the outdoor concert playing down by the Staatstheater (City Theater).  Or heading down to the Farmer's Market to get fresh produce and flowers.  


We also loved the food in Wiesbaden.  And not only the German food.  We were treated to Irish, British, Italian, Japanese, Thai, and good old American Burgers at our favorite Das Burger.  Fest food was always a big hit too.  Nothing better on a cool day than warm potato pancakes or curry wurst with fries.  Delicious!  And if it is the holiday season, Gluhwein for all.


I hope you will enjoy some of our pictures from our home away from home.  Beautiful Wiesbaden, Germany.











Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Accountability

Accountability is about being responsible for the choices you make.  Our integrity usually motivates us to be accountable for obeying the law or doing our job correctly, but often we need someone to help us stay accountable for our personal choices as well. 


Years ago, I use to watch a show called Grey's Anatomy.  You may have heard of it.  The main character, Meredith Grey, had a best friend that she counted on being "her person".    The person she could depend on, cry to, laugh with, and continue to grow with.  I loved the way the characters held each other accountable for choices they made throughout the seasons.  They didn't shy away from giving the hard truth.  And they didn't miss an opportunity to build each other up.

If you have a person like this in your life, consider yourself lucky.  Keep them close and continue to encourage and support them. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.")  There are so many things in our lives that we need to be held accountable for.  Some out of necessity and some out of personal choices.  Maybe you have different people to help you with different aspects of your life.  Hold tight to whatever works best to help keep you accountable to be the person you want to be.

At school, children are held accountable by their teachers.  Teachers help students realize the importance of completing assignments in a timely fashion.  This prepares them for the real world when they no longer have a teacher, but now a boss.  Your boss will hold you accountable for completing your tasks quickly and efficiently.  If you fail too many times, it could cost you your job. But who holds you accountable for the rest of your life choices?

In my life, I've struggled with being accountable for a clean house, eating healthy, reading my Bible, and attending church.  These things are easy to dismiss.  They can wait until later.  Later won't make a difference.  But as I got older, I found people who wanted the same things out of life.  They helped hold me accountable, even if sometimes they didn't realize it. 

When you are a mom of young kids, keeping a clean house is nearly impossible.  Try as you may, it rarely happens.  And when it does, it doesn't stay that way for long.  However, messy and me don't mixed very well and I began feeling uncomfortable in my own house, but didn't realize it.  Inviting friends over for play dates was a way to hold myself accountable for a clean house.  Because there was no way I was inviting people over to witness my tornado impacted home.

Eating healthy is something many of us struggle with.  Many of us have found success with Weight Watchers, or something similar.   This is because the program holds us accountable.  If you are going to weigh in each week in front of others, you don't want to be the one who has numbers going in the wrong direction.  For me, it is a struggle to motivate myself to work out.  I use to love it, but as I've gotten older, it feels like a chore.  My husband, however, holds me accountable and helps motivate me to get to the gym. 

Perhaps most importantly, if you struggle with motivation to attend church or read the Bible, find someone to help hold you accountable.  For a long time, my husband and I used living in a foreign country as an excuse to not attend services.  We said it was okay because we still believed and still talked to our girls about God and Jesus.  But as the years went by, our bible reading time and discussions began to dwindle.   With this we grew more anxious and hopeless about every situation.  We felt isolated.  Since returning to the states in January, we've begun attending church regularly.  We've also resumed our morning and evening Bible studies.  The result is our faith has been renewed.  We no longer feel isolated and alone.  And we now hold each other accountable.  We continue to encourage one another.

Do you have "a person" in your life that holds you accountable?  Do you help keep that person motivated in return?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!


Friday, May 26, 2017

Merry Dublin

Traveling through Europe over the past three years has been an amazing experience.  My family and I experienced new cultures, tasted new foods, and learned new languages. Our adventures will be forever treasured and our memories forever cherished.

Last Friday, I shared a tidbit from our many adventures in Prague.  Today, we travel to Merry Dublin.  Dublin was a busy and upbeat city.  There was music and beer around every corner.  We had a wonderful time exploring the old churches, museums, the Guinness Storehouse, and the Jameson Distillery.

One of the churches we visited was Christ Church.  Founded in 1030, this church was located in the center of Medieval Dublin.  It has recently been used in television shows like, "Rein" and "The Tudors".  We were able to walk down into the crypts of the church where they had original costumes from the "The Tudors".  The main church had a passageway/bridge that leads to the former site of St. Michael.  Today, the bridge takes you to an interactive museum called Dublinia.  Dublinia teaches the history of Dublin from the Vikings to the Medieval period.  The girls had a blast will all the hands-on activities.












We also visited the beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Completed in 1191, St. Patrick Cathedral is the tallest church in Ireland.  As beautiful as this church was on the inside and out, we were a little disappointed that it had been turned into a money making museum.  As you walked around the church, there were numerous hand-on activities, artwork, and crypts.  Definitely not what we expected when we walked in.

The Guinness Storehouse was a fun, for the whole family, museum.  They allowed you to travel through their multi-level storehouse at your own pace.   Signs and videos throughout provided you with all the information you could ever want on how Guinness beer is made. The Storehouse was interactive and fun, even for the little ones who didn't get a chance to sample the famous Irish beer.  We learned how the beer was brewed and how the taste of the beer is changed depending on where the barley is
grown and even which water is used.   We experienced different sensory activities including feeling the barley, smelling the hops, and tasting the beer.   The kids were able to play around with different advertising characters and create their own advertisement. And when we reached the top to the multistory storehouse, we had a panoramic view of Dublin with a freshly pulled Guinness.

The Jameson's Distillery wasn't as child friendly.  It was interesting for my husband and I, but with
nothing interactive to do, it was a boring tour for the kids.  While Guinness is produced world wide, Jameson's is only made in Ireland, from a single distillery.  This is why Guinness can taste different depending on your location, but Jameson's tastes the same no matter where you drink it.

The girls were good sport throughout the trip, but their favorite spots were the wax museum and the leprechaun museum.   The wax museum began with famous Irish figures throughout history.  It continued with famous cartoons, movies, and athletes.  The leprechaun museum was an Irish story telling adventure.  We traveled through the magic Giant Causeway to become leprechaun size and heard tales that had been passed down through the ages.  Check out the pictures below.

Wax Museum

Wax Museum

Wax museum

Wax museum
Leprechaun Museum

Leprechaun museum

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Perspective

No two people see the same thing, the same way.   Our unique perceptions stem from our own life experiences.  Next time you are sure you are right, try looking from another point of view.  A new perspective may be eye opening.


 Point of view is an interesting thing.  Often we get stuck in a rut of our own doing.  We are certain that our way of thinking is right.  But sometimes, changing your perspective on things is all you need to change your life.  Although, dwelling on the negative is usually easier,  this allows the "what-ifs"  to pile up and take hold.  Let go of the "what-ifs".  Instead, ask your questions.  Find your answers.  Stop wondering, what if.

Last night, I had a conversation with my oldest daughter.  She is at the age where she is learning a great deal about the negative things of this world.  Our conversations usually start with, what if.  I usually try to show her different ways to think about things or facts that support why she doesn't need to worry.  She usually listens, but her point of view usually stays the same.

This morning, she saw a book I am reading on the table.  It is an autobiography by Helen Keller.  She picked up the book and flipped randomly to a page and started reading.  After a few minutes, she looked at me and said, "Wow.  This is really amazing.  I can't believe Helen Keller can write so beautifully when she was deaf and blind.  How did she learn all that?"  I explained that Helen Keller faced great challenges, but her perseverance and her understanding of how important knowledge was, helped her overcome all the obstacles that were placed in her life.

God has not promised us a world that is trouble free.  We will face countless trials and tribulations throughout our lives.  But if we can pause and look at those troubles from a new perspective, we too, may be able to overcome our obstacles.  (John 16:33 "In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the word.")

Do you find it hard to look from a new point of view?  What do you do when you are stuck in a negative rut and can't find a way out?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Power of a Word

Words hold great strength.  They have the power to encourage and motivate.  Words can bring joy in the darkest hour.  But words also have the power to hurt and destroy.  Words can bring sadness to the most joyful person.

As adults, we know the power of a word.  A simple word can effect a person positively or negatively.  (Proverbs 12:18 "Careless words stab like a sword, but the words of the wise people bring healing".)  Every day we get to choose the words we speak.  We are accountable for how those words help or hurt others.  A simple kindness to another may not seem important, but as Dale Carnegie said, "Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime".

For the last 39 years, I have worked on not being defined by what people say, or maybe more importantly, by what people don't say.  As an adult, it is still a hard concept to understand.  We all crave that encouragement and acceptance.  We all wait for acknowledgement of our accomplishments or progress.  But our children are having an even more difficult time.  They are not only trying to navigate where they belong, but they are also trying to learn to not let discouraging and hateful words bring them down. (Proverbs 15:4 "A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion crushes the spirit".

Every week I see how crushing those hateful words at school can be.  My heart breaks for my girls when they are faced with these situations.  My eyes fill with tears when I hear stories of nonacceptance.  And my spirit is crushed when I see my joyful, always smiling daughter resigned to having no one at school willing to have her back.

We need to remember to teach our children the importance of a kind word.  "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24)".  There are countless kids out there, that dread going to school each day.  A simple kindness can mean the world.  Let's spread this message throughout our neighborhoods, throughout our friend circles, throughout our social media outlets.  Challenge your kids to reach out to someone who is sitting alone.  Someone who is sitting quietly and usually keeps to themselves.  Someone they've never spoken to before.  Someone who may be just waiting for that kind word.

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Constant Worrier

Worrying can be a constant companion.  A companion who waits to steal your peace of mind.  It brings you anxiety and makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything else.  But why do we worry when it helps no one and fixes nothing?

Worrying has always been a part of me.  Is my family safe?  Will I get the job?  Is the upcoming call from the doctor going to be a bad one?  My husband constantly reminds me, that I don't need to worry.  Everything will work out the way it's suppose to.  Luke 12:25 reminds us that, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?".   In short, what is your worrying doing for you?

The simple answer is nothing.  But that doesn't make it easy for you to cast your worries aside. Despite our faith and trust in God, worrying is part of human nature.  However, if we try to remember that we aren't in control, we can begin to let God take our fears and anxiety (Peter 5:7).

As a mother, I struggle with worrying if I am raising my children the right way.  Will they grow up to be successful?  Will they be happy?  Will I leave them with a strong enough foundation?   Hundreds of questions have gone through my mind over the last 13 years.  Questions that can't be answered and can't be controlled.  Jesus said, "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own". (Matthew 6:34)

As my faith continues to grow daily, my worrying continues to diminish.  That is not to say, I have managed to rid myself of all worry, but I no longer get anxious and worry myself sick.  Do you struggle with worry?  Does it ever get the better of you?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sir, Please Stay Still

Being still is an impossible task.  Our body and mind are always moving.  But if we slow down enough to feel still, our heart an our mind can absorb so much more. 


About 7 years ago, I needed an MRI for my wrist.  Like any typical doctor's office, I waited for about thirty minutes before they called me back.  I changed into a lovely green gown and then was directed to a seat right outside the MRI room.  The nurses must have assumed the appointment ahead of me would move quickly since they brought me back and had me change.  Unfortunately, they were terribly wrong.  As I sat and waited for an hour to get my MRI, I heard, "Sir, Please stay still!" repeated dozens of times. 

The more they told the man to stay still, the more he moved.  Of course, I wasn't watching this, but all of their conversation was on a loud speaker so the man could hear them.  And although I was  tired of waiting, I felt so bad for him.  I know how hard it is to stay still, especially when someone tells you to do so.  But being still is sometimes the only answer. (Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God." God wants us to be still.  He wants us to trust him with our fears.  Sometimes giving up that worry, that control, seems impossible.  But if we remind ourselves God is in control, being still becomes easier and easier.

Everyone who knows me well, knows that I am not a big fan of small spaces.  I like to be able to move when I want to.  I like to feel in control of my own body.   So the more I listened to them say, "Sir, Please stay still!", the more I dreaded my turn.  However, when I finally did get in there, my silent prayers were answered and I managed to stay still for the entire 30 minutes.  My legs were tingling and asleep when they were done,  but at least I didn't have to redo any scans.

 Do you have a hard time being still?  Anyone have a similar experience where you discovered being still was the only answer?


Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

You Are Enough


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Modeling



Friday, May 19, 2017

Gorgeous Prague

Traveling through Europe over the past three years has been an amazing experience.  My family and I experienced new cultures, tasted new foods, and learned new languages. Our adventures will be forever treasured and our memories forever cherished.  


Last Friday, I shared a little about our Roman adventure.  Today I want to take you to the Czech Republic, to the gorgeous city of Prague.  Prague was one of our absolute favorite places to visit.  We visited for the first time in January.  And despite the snow, we loved it.  We actually enjoyed ourselves so much, we went back in October of the same year.

Our first stop was the Prague Castle. The Prague Castle, part of a
larger complex, dates back to the 9th century.  It currently is the residence of the president of the Czech Republic.  The castle holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest ancient castle of the world, at 750,000 square feet.  We took time to watch the changing of the guard and to explore the open rooms inside.

Within the Prague Castle complex, we also explored the St. Vitus Cathedral.  This cathedral is massive.  It is really hard to put into words how big it is.  The picture we managed to get on the right, is only the front view.  There was no way for us to capture the entire thing.  After admiring the countless details on the front of the cathedral, we decided to circle around it.  It took us a good ten minutes to make it completely around.  I encourage you to find a picture online that captures an aerial shot so you can get a better idea.  And while you are checking that picture out, look for the gorgeous one of the cathedral's interior.  The intricate stained glass windows, Gothic architecture, historical paintings and statues were enough to take your breath away.  Even our girls walked in and just paused in awe.

And speaking of pausing in awe, that is exactly what you do when you first wander into the Old
Town Square.  We could have just walked around for hours looking at all the buildings.  Right in the center of the Old Town, is Prague's Astronomical Clock.  This clock was first installed in 1410 and is currently the oldest of its kind still working.  Every hour between 9:00 am - 11:00 pm, you can see the 12 apostles appear and go for a spin.  By visiting the Old Town Hall, right next door, we were able to get a tour of the inside of the clock, as well as visit old government rooms filled with magnificent art.

Following our tour above ground, we journeyed below the Old Town Hall.  We discovered that there was an underground city.  Hundreds of years ago, the city of Prague actually sat at a lower elevation.  The problem was, it was continuously getting flooded.  As a result, they had tons of dirt brought in to raise the city's elevation.  It was such an amazing experience to explore such a well preserved historical site.  We could make out ancient roads, houses, wells and a prison.  If you ever get a chance to visit Prague, I would highly recommend this underground tour.

To avoid rambling on about how much we loved Prague, I will leave you with some pictures and captions of some of our favorite memories.
Church of Saint Ludmila

Church of Our Lady before Tyn



On the banks of the River Vltava


Old Town Square



Old Town Square


The Charles Bridge



View from the Charles Bridge




















Thursday, May 18, 2017

Patience

Patience with others is love.  Patience with self is hope.  Patience with God is faith. ~ Adel Bestavros


Patience doesn't always come easy.  Often times, we have to really dig deep to find some.  Maybe you have a coworker that gets on your nerves.  Or perhaps you have a child that is convinced they are smarter than you.  Maybe you are waiting to hear good news.  Or perhaps you feel bad news finds you too often.  Whatever tests your patience, you get to choose how you react. 

It is so easy to react negatively to a situation.  We blurt out hateful words in anger and frustration.  Our feelings, literally explode out of us.  But if we took a moment to pause, our word choice would be quite different.  (Proverbs  14:29 Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.)   By pausing and finding even a sliver of patience, we are showing wisdom and understanding.  We make it clear, that despite our anger, we care enough to speak respectfully.  When we neglect to pause, we find ourselves regretting our words and actions.

Unfortunately, we often find ourselves extending more patience to friends and acquaintances.  Our family, on the other hand, does not always get the same courtesy.  I believe that it is because we feel more comfortable around them and we drop our walls.  But these are the people we hold most dear to us.  They are the ones we would lay our life down for.  I don't know about you, but I definitely need to practice pausing with my family.  Sometimes my kids just push the right button and I get angry quickly.  But if I want to teach them the virtue of patience, I need to model it daily in our home. (Romans 15:5  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had).

Do struggle with being patient?  What tricks do you have to calm down before exploding?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!  



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happiness


This world we live in is sometimes unbearable.  It offers pain and hatred.  It promises sickness and death.  But this world also has great beauty and wonder.  And through Christ, there is love and acceptance. 


We all struggle to find happiness in our lives.  However, it sometimes seems almost impossible to obtain.  We continuously buy things we think we need.  Things that most certainly will bring us joy. We surround ourselves with family and friends. If we are surrounded by those who love us, we can't possibly be sad.   But often times the smallest of problems can strip us of our ability to feel content, and the larger problems completely consume us.

We must choose to find joy in the world...in our lives.  (Psalms 92:4  "For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.")   You are not finished in your journey.  God is not finish with you or this world.  Leave your ideas and plans behind.  Have faith that God's plans for you are perfect, even if you don't know the how or why. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite verses.  It is one that I come across often through reading books by Karen Kingsbury.  "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  When I find myself allowing my happiness slip away, I reread this verse and remember I am not in control.  When my chronic pain knocks me down and I'm not sure if I can get back up, I reread this verse and find new energy. As I struggle to find a new job and hopelessness sets in, I reread this verse and know there is in fact hope.  Do you struggle finding your happiness?  Are you feeling lost?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion! 




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Unknowingly Damaged

For many of us, a healthy lifestyle is something we strive for.   We may sometimes stray from our plan, but we somehow manage to steer ourselves back on track.  But what happens when what we thought was healthy, really isn't?

Everyday we come across an article or news report that informs us our favorite food or activity will cause us cancer.  Everything from eating the wrong kind of fish too talking to long on your cell phone is hazardous to your health.   In a time where science has opened our eyes to all the "danger" that exists right under our nose, it is difficult to feel confident in the most simple of choices.

I came across an article from WomensDay.com the other day that really made me stop and think.  It talked about certain habits of your day to day life that may actually do you more harm than good.   This article popped out at me because, of course, I have each and every one of these unknowingly damaging  habits.

The first habit they addressed I was already aware of the negative side effects, but still feel the need the do it.  Apparently, too much hand sanitizer will cause your body to build up a resistance against certain antibiotic medications.   I try to use soap when I can, but at times I just "need" to clean my hands immediately (I know, I know...don't judge me.).

Another one that really hit home was wearing flip flops.  What possible harm could flip flops do?  Well according to a Boston podiatrist flip flops don't provide you with the proper support your feet need.  The result is stress fractures or tendonitis (which I've experienced both).  And all along I've been wearing flip flops to give my feet a break from uncomfortable shoes.  Who knew?

It is a definite must read article if you tend to brush your teeth right after you eat, experiment with skin care products, drink bottled water, do only cardio when you work out, skip meals to save calories for later, clean with disinfecting products, or load up on vitamin supplements.  I do all the things on their list, do you?  Do you think we are unknowingly damaging our bodies or do you think it is just another thing being blown out of proportion?

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Influence

What kind of life are you choosing to lead?  What type of mark do you want to leave behind on this earth?  Do your actions have a positive influence on those around you or a negative influence? 

Yesterday at church, the pastor's wife delivered an amazing sermon.  She spoke of how we are influenced and how we influence others around us everyday.  It is not necessarily intentional, but every action and word spoken will influence those you surround yourself with.  Whether in person or on social media,  "are you living to be followed?" (K. Miller)

This simple question touched so many of us in different ways.  Mothers, daughters, old, and young could all relate.  1 Corinthians 11:1 says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ".  Our young children will follow our example without being told.  They learn our ways as they grow, just as they learn language.  But are our ways examples of living for Christ?   Are we teaching the lessons we want them to hold onto forever? (Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.")

My teenager struggles with wanting to fit in to a school where God is not a priority.  She sometimes makes questionable choices in order to feel like she belongs.  She left church today feeling that she can lead by example rather than compromising herself to be like others.  1 Timothy 4:12 says, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity".   You are never too young to be a positive influence in someone's  life.

So as I tell my 5th grader everyday before she gets on the bus, shine for Jesus today.  You never know when your positive energy will influence someone for the better.   "Are you living to be followed?"

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Breathtaking Rome

Traveling through Europe over the past three years has been an amazing experience.  My family and I experienced new cultures, tasted new foods, and learned new languages. Our adventures will be forever treasured and our memories forever cherished.   (John 1:3 "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.")


Our first major trip was to Rome, Italy.  It was absolutely breathtaking!   This iconic city's astounding architecture and history caught us off guard every turn we took.  From the elaborate churches to the historical ruins, we loved every minute of it.
With a single step out of our hotel door, our senses were awaken.  Fresh waffle cones baking in the neighboring gelato shops, church bells ringing a melodic tune, and weathered cobblestone paths darting in between buildings.  It was like stepping back in time (minus the men selling selfie sticks).

The first cobblestone path we took led us to the ancient Pantheon.  The Pantheon, dedicated in 126 AD,was originally a Roman Temple.  It later became a church in the 7th century.  This magnificently preserved  building stands as a circular dome on a beautiful plaza.  Despite the crowds, the plaza overlooking the Pantheon was a wonderful place to have lunch.   

Following the Pantheon, we headed up another path towards the Piazza Navona.  This plaza was a
huge space with street vendors, cafes, and beautiful fountains. Originally constructed in the first century, Romans used it as a space to watch "games".  It later became a market space and eventually the open public space it is today.  The buildings, churches, and fountains display examples of elaborate Baroque architecture and art.

The following day we explored Rome in the rain.  Not as comfortable, but no less memorable.  We passed a cute tea shop near the Spanish steps.  We discovered churches that we didn't even know
existed.  And we explored the Trajan's Market.

The rain was a great excuse to just wander the city.  Stumbling upon the Trajan's Market was a great discovery.  Possibly the world's oldest shopping
center, the Trajan Market, built around 100AD,  overlooks Rome.  From the upper levels, we could see Palantine Hill, the Imperial Forum, and the Colosseum. 

The Colosseum looks amazing in pictures, but when you see it in person, it just takes your breath away.  We were fortunate to book a tour that took us to all levels of the Colosseum.  Our tour guide was phenomenal and taught us so much about its history.  We explored the lower levels where the slaves and animals were kept.  From there, we could see how they raised and lowered the platforms to bring the animals and gladiators
to the center stage.  We later walked out onto center stage and were able to look at the seats and people surrounding us.  It was amazing at how small we felt.  Finally, we were taken to the top levels.  These higher seats were for the poorer citizens.  Funny thing is, they still had a great view but were out of reach from the wild
animals or swinging weapons.  From the top level, we could see out across the Imperial Forum, across to Julius Caesars' old stomping grounds, and even the famous balcony where Mussolini once stood.

Besides exploring the city of Rome, we also found our way to the Vatican.  Unfortunately, we traveled Easter weekend and the crowds
 were suffocating.  We did get some good pictures before making use of our skip the line tickets to get into the Vatican Museums and
the Sistine Chapel.  Michelangelo's art on the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel was detailed and mesmerizing.  Although many people were lucky enough to grab a photo of it, we followed the rules and refrained from taking a picture.

Rome was by far one of my favorite cities in Europe.  I have
hundreds of pictures and stories to tell, but I've probably rambled on enough.  Have you ever been to Rome?  What are your favorite memories?  Are you planning a trip to Rome?  If so, feel free to leave a comment with a question and I will be happy to help you out in any way I can.

Grab a latte, put up your feet, and join the discussion!