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Saturday, June 25, 2016

crepe paper

Just moved my arm and noticed my skin.  I looks like crepe paper.  Brings back thoughts of Chambersville and what I remember about the Halloween carnivals.  Best I remember was maybe a princess and her court.  It called for 'formal dresses' for the girls.  Mom would make my sisters dresses out of crepe paper.  Mom could be really amazing.....

crepe paper skin
draped over chalk bones
beauty of age

After a week of grandparent backup for working parents my mind wants to not think. But I must think and prepare for the next weeks activities, a few days on the lake with the family.  Pies, rolls and cookies to make and bake.  Groceries to be purchased.  And a little laundry.  By Thursday it will be over and grandsons will be off to Canada for the yearly summer adventure.  

cool lake waters
welcoming relief from heat
drifts of laughter

With all this activity I am still being able to work on improving my overall physical being.  Weight loss would be nice but it is proving to be very slow if at all.  The flexibility of my knee is allowing daily stationary biking.  The resistance on the bike is gradually increasing.  Went a couple of clicks too far on the resistance recently and had an uncomfortable day and night.  Back to expected normality now.  I have to remind myself that it has been only 5 months.

pushing boundaries
puppies nipping playfully
in warm sunshine

The pups will grow stronger.  There will always be laundry and dishes and groceries to buy.  Babies will be conceived and born.  People will die  entirely too young while others linger in the netherland of semi-consciousness into their 90's.  And the crepe paper skin will continue to sag.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 21, April 11, Osijek & Vukovar, Croatia, Part 2

Following the concert by the young lady at the Rising of the Holy Cross Church, we walked back to the tour buses.  The drivers of these buses were pretty amazing.  The next thing on the agenda were the home visits with local folks.  The three buses were each divided into two groups for the visits.  Heading into the street where the homes were located was easy peezy.  There was no turn around so the streets had to backed out from the homes.  Then a sharp right angle turn while backing....using mirrors....

The pinkish house is where we were dropped for our home visit in Bilje.  By North American standards the home would be considered modest.  By Croatian standards the house was considered large so multiple generations could live together.  Our hostess, Senka (not her real name), cheerfully greets us in perfect English.  On the bus we had been taught a few words which I consistently botched.  "Dubro Jutro!" each of us Yanks stumbled over as we returned Senka's greeting.

As we entered the home, a wheelchair was in the entry.  We turn to the left and enter a combination living dining area.  A compact kitchen was at one end of the room.  Magnets from different countries and US states were on the fridge, presents from previous visitors.  The opposite end has sofa, chairs and a TV.  In between are two linen covered tables surrounded by sturdy chairs.We squeeze into the waiting chairs and begin the visit.

Senka was sweet, beautiful and an amazing cook.  Her homemade coconut baklava was such a great twist on baklava.  Her FIL's homemade wine and brandy as well as her own grape juice and a tasty chocolate bar rounded out the tea offerings.  Oh, and two cups of Turkish coffee for Hubby.

During the visit Senka shares openly about her life and living situation.  She survived the Serbian/Croatian war of the 1990's.  Due to all the violent fighting in her home town of Vukovar as a young teen she relocated to this area with her family .  She noted she and her husband are considered a mixed marriage, one Serb and the other Croat. Her husband is still unable to find steady employment as a construction worker.

In order to have a home, Senka, her husband and 13 year old son share this home but do not own it.  It is owned by an elderly person that requires assistance, hence the wheelchair in the entry.  They care for the elderly home owner in exchange for the rent. From the money they make from running a bed and breakfast in one spare room they pay utilities.  By hosting the home visits for cruises and other tours their income is further supplemented.  A small garden has been dug in the back yard for additional food.  BTW we noticed most homes have small vegetable gardens and grape vines on arbors.  We never met the elderly owner of the home. The home owner vacates her living area for Senka to have room for the visitors from the tours.

Senka's neighborhood
Of course, we six visitors shared a little of our lives back in the States.  One couple from Michigan and one from Maine with plans to move to Texas.  We of course shared we were a mixed marriage, one Texan and one Show Me state Missouri mule!  All to soon the time for the visit was over.  Thanks are given and one last hug.  On to the bus and we watched the artistry of the three bus drivers' backing the buses down the narrow street.

Getting to know just a bit about what living in an area of war and the trauma of it all is sobering.  And heart rending. How does one ever recover? But Senka and the rest of Croatia are working at it. Obviously Senka held hope.  She was carrying a new baby due in late May.  

From the home visit we traveled back to Osijek passing a forested area marked with skull and crossbones.  This forest area is a landmine field left over from the Croatian war.  No stops in Osijek this time, just back to Vukovar and the ship.  Lunch on board and then time for a walk about in the nearby city center.  Hubby and I crossed the Drava on the main bridge using the taller buildings as a guide.  As we strolled the streets and walkways it was so pleasant. Cool enough to be a pleasant time just to relax and enjoy this small town.

The stroll took us past the shop with the lady calling to tourists.  We walked to the rebuilt area near the museum.  After another map consultation we headed back to the little shop for a look. The outside had bullet marks but the interior was filled with beautiful treasures. Local artisans' wares filled every nook and cranny. Glass salt and pepper cellars with a tiny matching spoons caught Hubby's eye.  A hand painted silk scarf and a clay replica of an ancient jug enchanted me. There was so much more that were just splendid pieces.  All were obviously unique made, not mass produced. We left with our bag of goodies heading into the central shopping area.

Restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores lined the street. My knee was ready for a rest right in front of an ice cream shop! What great timing, wink, wink. The shop was just opening so the ice cream was so fresh and beautifully displayed. The language barrier proved to be no problem. Pointing and smiles with a positive head shakes yielded two cones and freshly brewed strong coffees.  Sitting in the outdoor dining area gave opportunity for people watching. The owner insisted on taking photos of us together, one of the few together photos of the trip.

Snacks finished and knee rested we continue our exploration. We met several boat mates and recommended the little bullet riddled gift shop. Walking the many back streets yielded more damaged buildings and a friendly policeman. The angles and inclines of the streets proved good fodder for the camera lens. Eventually we decided to walk back toward the river and the small park adjacent to the Ingvi.  It is still early April and love was in the air everywhere it seemed.

A few more photos and we get back on board. We freshen up for the events of the evening. There had already been so many things to absorb from our day, my brain felt cramped in the confines of my skull. To be in areas where the atrocities of WWII occurred was looking at a history that was rebuilt from the ruins. That was not the case of this day's sights.  Meeting a woman whose family had to flee the violence of war is different, jarring reality.

In the US people speak of the 'war' on Christmas or 'war' on women. While there may be differences of opinions, it is mostly a 'war' of words. Not putting a Santa's face on a Starbucks' coffee cup is quite different than street after street, city after city of bullet riddled buildings. Or a beautiful tree filled area that is off limits because of landmines. It is not the choice of a mall manager to forgo putting up a manger scene in the middle of a temple that worships profit.

The aftermath of the Croatian War for Independence is a young mother's courage welcoming strangers into a home to simply have an income for her family.   It is a church still in use across from a bombed building.  It is a young man and his aged father starting an ice cream and coffee shop in a town of declining population.  Hope is alive in the aftermath of war.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Day 21, April 11, Osijek & Vukovar, Croatia, Part 1

Former luxury hotel closed
due to the war
With our arrival into Croatia we began having to carry our passports.  While in EU countries that was not being required. Border officers boarded the ship to check the passports.  Later in the day we would have to be face checked against the passports.  We were allowed to get on the tour buses and head out for our day's adventures, passport in hand.

The tour bus moved through Vukovar and the guide pointed out areas of interest we could visit in the afternoon during our free time. It was not 9 AM and vendors were setting up their booths for the day.  Of course modern shopping areas are always available as well as coffee shops and restaurants.

The guide was a local person and provided a great deal of information.  There were workers building flowerbeds and walks in a park.  The guide said they were part of the city's workforce.   She said the unemployment rate in Vukovar was about 34%.
Vukovar was overrun by Serbian forces after an 87 day siege.  The city of Vukovar lost almost 50% of its population during the war.  There are some once beautiful homes bombed out during the Croatian War of Independence just standing as a testament to the horrors.
We pass bullet riddled buildings in the city center.  One such we visited in the afternoon.  A lady stood in the door encouraging the obvious tourists to come in and see her wares.  Beautiful articles that made their way home with us.

The war damaged city water tower has been preserved as a symbol of the Battle of Vukovar and the Croatian War of Independence.

It is not all gloom and doom.  There has been a considerable amount of rebuilding and repair.  There is still a deep pride in the long history of these peoples. Pride in the fact they still survive after occupation by the Turks.

We leave Vukovar for our visit to Osijek.  The flatter geography and dark soil, again, makes me think of my childhood home area.   The green fields look like winter wheat to me.   We arrive to clear skies.  One of the few clear days we have during the trip.
We disembark near the Osijek Citadel or Tvrđa complex for a walking tour. Tvrđa is the best-preserved and largest ensemble of Baroque buildings in Croatia and consists of a Habsburg star fort built on the right bank of the River Drava.
Photoshop panorama 
After a time for looking around and photos we proceeded around the square and down another cobblestone street. Sidewalks are fair game for parking in the narrow streets.

We pass a school of music on our way to the Rising of the Holy Cross Church.   There would be a vocal presentation by one of its top students at the church.  Before entering the church there is a shop to be looked into for souvenirs. Nothing caught my fancy so I wandered around taking photos that might be used for some of the memes in which I participate.

Within the small courtyard are two memorials.  A cross made from artillery shells
 Jewish Memorial
Part of old fort wall

from the Croatian War for Independence.  The second is a memorial to the Jewish population lost during the Holocaust.  Prior to WWII Croatia had a population of 40,000 Jews.  Census in 2001 had 495 down from 2000 in 1991.   So life moves on in Croatia, just not for everyone.

The young lady arrived for the presentation and we entered the church.  I was just not prepared to see this level of ornate decor in a small church.  I grew up in small churches and early on they barely had heat and certainly no air conditioning.  And most assuredly nothing like this tiny gem.  It has managed to survive for several hundred years of wars with minimal damage.


I will close this part of the day with a couple of videos I very unprofessionally recorded with my still camera.  I have not used this feature much so the detail is not great.  But oh the voice and the piano if you could have been there in person!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fit for a Bit

Last Christmas I received a fit bit zip from Hubby.  I think he was trying to tell me something....  Well, I did spend most days on the sofa with a laptop.  The laptop and I had a real relationship.  I was needing to get off my duff.  Besides we had a big trip with lots of walking so I needed to get built up for that trip!

In early January the knee problem became worse.  Followed by knee replacement in late January.  Rehab for 5 weeks, 10 days off and an evaluation and dismissal.  Almost immediately on March 23 we jumped on a plane and headed to Europe for 26 days.  There was walking from 1.5 to 5 miles every day except one.  Climbing in and out of tour buses.  Made the bad choice of doing the upper deck one day.  I was told by the doctor before leaving to avoid any stair climbing, BTW.  That does not work so well when visiting a 10th century castle.  By the time we arrived at DFW on April 17 the operated leg was howling!  The thigh muscles felt like they were on fire when I walked very much.  Worse than immediately after surgery.  No, this will not work.

Rest with minimal activity other than the every other day exercises was all I would do.  The ice machine was brought back out of storage to reduce the swelling.  With a visitor for a few days in early May, we did more walking.  The next two weeks were more of the every other day exercises and limited walking.  By late May I began riding the stationary bike in our fitness center.  The ortho doctor had recommended the bike over treadmill or step machines as there is less impact on the legs.  After all that left leg is still healing!

The fitbit website has goals for one to set.  The step count goal is preset to 10,000.  I knew after the walking on the trip that would be too much too soon.  I set my goal at first to 4,000 and then 5,000.  I noticed fitbit was not counting but about half the motions of peddling.  I would walk to make the difference and record some peddling distance.  Here is the activity for the last month.

Today's steps are not all in yet as I was wiped out after sitting in the heat at a swim meet.  Yes, I stayed hydrated but the feel like temps were in the high 90's.  That is just too hot to do a bunch of walking for a fat, old lady.  As soon as I post this I am off for a few minutes of cycling to get the step count up over the 5K.  I want to see the green be consistently higher till I can maintain the 10K.  But I am surely pleased to be able to do as well and not be in pain!  Here is to getting fit for a bit.

PS:  am, also, recording what I eat on the fitbit sight.  Making me eat with some thought.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Personally, I am sick to death of the gun discussion.  I read feeds on facebook about "I have a gun in my back beneath my jeans.  I will protect myself and my family!  I would rather die in a pile of bullet casings than be blubbering and begging for my life."  That does not make much sense to me.  How is it any better to die either way?  

And I call BS on how these folks are going to stop the shooters.  Orlando's recent episode had an off duty policeman shooting at the killer before he ever entered the club.  A trained professional could not stop the shooter armed with an attack rifle.  So what make's all these everyday people that had 3 hours of certification training expect to fare any better than the professional?  Just asking cause I am pretty sure most of these savior wanna bees would soil themselves before getting off very many rounds.

Now there are former military persons that have handled weapons in war situations.  That would probably a different story.  Except, well, Chris Kyle, a professional that had a business of training military and police personnel.  The term used in old westerns of the 40's and 50's was 'getting the drop on someone'.  It sickens me that a person of Mr. Kyle's quality would be gunned down by an individual he was trying to help.

There is a segment of gun owners that use the firearms for hunting.  A long tradition and a food source for many.  Most of these folks I know have 'deer rifles', not AK 47's.  That is all I know about that.

I sickens me that the US is the biggest producer of guns.  Our nation exports 31% of all guns in the world.  Guns are big business.  Hate and fear are big business.  There are evil people and as the gun lobby points out, 'why punish the innocent?'  How does a person know the difference?  2007, Cho, a mental case, purchased guns and killed 37 people.  Some loopholes were closed to help eliminate the situation.  Then 5 years later another mentally ill individual uses his mother's legal guns to kill her then 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.  A legal gun owner with a mentally ill person having access to the guns.  That is not a responsible gun owner from my point of view.

Who is a responsible gun owner then becomes the question.  All folks will contend they are responsible.  Well until they no longer are responsible.  When does that happen?  When dementia sets in as with Charlton Heston?  No, that is when they are elected to president of the NRA.  Oh, I can hear the gun owners saying well only criminals will have guns if you take my guns away.  No, criminals and police and the military would still be armed.  And an underlying issue here is there are a lot of gun owners that disparage our government and police forces.

Maybe the answer is less production.  31% of the total weapons in the world produced in our free enterprise system.  Russia has a 21% share.  Even if the US stopped production, the other nations would simply ramp up their production.  Wouldn't it be interesting to know how many of the guns used in the recent wars and crimes were manufactured in the US?  Are we our own worst enemy?

How could a reduction in the availability of military style weapons to the general public be a bad thing?  Not wanting to grind all the guns up into a big metal pile.  Cause I still like seeing the double barrel shotgun of my Greatgrandpa Jones hang in my home.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day 20, April10, Kolacsa, Hungary

An overnight sailing with an early morning tour meant few photos of the Danube.  The River widened as the terrain become flatter.  8:30 AM departure found us at breakfast with Marion, my preferred waiter by 7 AM.   Marion, a Romanian, makes certain all is perfect.  Vitamin juice was very refreshing as well as the excellent coffee.  And all those pastries..... Our boat passes and guide assignments were picked up on our way back to the room.  Headsets, check.  Cameras, check.  Walking sticks, check.  Light jacket, check.  Keys to get back in the room, well maybe..

No fancy dock in a city, just a few buildings are visible as we pulled to the shore.  Even though it is Sunday, one gentleman has his souvenir shop open for visit.  We promise we will visit when we return as the guides are calling us to board the ever ready tour buses.

One thing Hubby and I notice is the electric poles are concrete A frames.  The wiring looks like something I would do.

Quickly we move into flat farmland.  It could easily be the area in which I lived as a young person. The fields were mostly black, fertile soil.  Most crops were not emerging.  Some fields did have safflower in full bloom.  The bright yellow fields added a cheery feeling to the gloomy weather.

Kolacsa is the first destination for today's tour. A town that appeared to have seen better days as the saying goes.  A city of about 17,500 souls that had two museums, The Paprika Museum and The Folk Art House were the attractions we visited,  So I figure you are thinking, 'a paprika museum?'.  I know, I did not realize that Hungary is known for paprika.  Did you know that paprika has more vitamin C than citrus fruit?  Neither did I.

We did not visit he Archbishop's Residence nor St. Mary's Cathedral.  I could have photographed St. Mary's if I had just looked that direction.  But I did not. I looked at all things paprika including burlap tow sacks and aprons.  Quite intriguing with dancing paprika on them.

Equipment used to plant, harvest and process the dried peppers.  I did get a photo of an interesting sculpture.  A few houses and architectural interest points in the neighborhood and the spring flowers needed to be captured.

Back on the bus for the short ride
over to the Folk Art House and gift shop.  A few snaps of the local homes.  

The bright blue trim of the museum was a beautiful contrast to the thatch roof and white stucco walls.  A thatched roof required inspection by Hubby.  Later research showed the stubby way trees were trimmed would produce new growth.  That new growth had been one source for thatching materials.  Once satisfied with the roofing materials, we entered into a tiled area and straight ahead was the kitchen area.  

Clothing in the 'pure' or unused room
To the left of the kitchen was a room that was unused except for very special occasions.  In the corner was a bed piled with blankets.  It was a symbol for suitors of the oldest daughter of the wealth of her family, very important for her marriage prospects.The host of the museum noted the walls were more decorated that a typical peasant home would have been.  The designs did represent the folk designs of the period.
To the right of the kitchen were the other rooms for the family.  Ceramic stoves were in different rooms for heating.  Beyond those rooms was a room filled with the needlework representative of the region.  The bottom line was the museum is a tribute to the handicraft works of the women.  It was explained the needlework and furniture painting had evolved from simple beginnings of white on white to the colorful designs on display. 

Wedding headdress
From the living areas we step into the display room filled with a beautiful array of needlework.  One area has pottery examples.  And the every present gift shop was just across the courtyard.  And the work of the items offered were beautiful.  My gift suitcase is getting awfully full but that would look so cute on great-niece ...... Then comes the call to board and the dress is left behind and my pocketbook is the same thickness.

Embroidery and cutwork combination
Onto the bus and we head for the next event, the Bakod Puszta Horsemen.  Of course there had been the brandy and rolls to welcome us.  More opportunities for crafts.  Then it was time for the show.


I grew up around horse shows that included barrel races, clowns, Tennessee walking horses and buggy races.  The exhibition we witnessed was different.  Much more emphasis on the relationship of horse and rider and the horse's training.  There were wagons being pulled at high speeds requiring one of the horsemen to hang off one side to keep the wagon upright.  The synchronized whip snaps were something that had the precision of a drill team.  The finale was a young 20 year old horseman standing on two horses with two sets of four horses in front.  He stood and guided the ten horses as they ran at breakneck speeds.  

With that the show ended, bows and applause followed.  Another sampling of local cuisine and more brandy.  Some guests choose to take the rides out into the fields and pastures.  I was good staying close in to the heaters and enjoy another savory biscuit.  
Back on the bus we head to the boat.  A few minutes with the first gift shop dude and we were back on board for lunch.  Later an afternoon Hungarian Tea.  Yummy stuff to keep ourselves stuffed!  While we could have watched another strudel making demo, we opted for a little rest.  In the evening we joined others in the lounge to hear our new program director describe growing up in Eastern Europe.  Director Lubo was in his early 40's so he watched as a teen the breakup of the Soviet Bloc and the ramifications for his homeland.  Tomorrow, April 11, we would visit in the home of a local person.  Come back to see our host.