Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mykonos, the Straights of Messina, Sorrento, and Pompeii

Mykonos, Greece was lovely with the white washed buildings trimmed in bright colors--the water was the bluest blue, and it was nice to play at the beach with the kids. We relaxed, ate at a cafe along the water, ate still more gelato, and did some light shopping. The next day we spent at sea, so I lounged at the pool and napped much of the day. The children continued working on their school work--both finished reports today which were emailed back to school.

On our way to Sorrento, we passed through the Straights of Messina (that's the toe of Italy's boot) this is the legendary home of Scylla and Charybdis. I watched for them, but they let us pass peacefully. We stayed up late on the deck to watch the almost constant eruption of Stromboli, one of Sicily's Lipari islands. We saw several flares of magma against the black sky.

We awoke in Naples, and boarded our tour bus at 7: 45 am. Mt. Vesuvius loomed over us as we drove to Sorrento for a trip to a local farm to see how they grow and process olives into olive oil and lemons for lemoncello. Many of the olive trees are believed to be over 500 years old--and they still produce heavy harvests. The farm also makes salami, cheese, and wine-all of which we eagerly sampled. (hic!) We watched a cheese making demonstration and headed off to into town for some shopping, strolling, and lunch.

We spent the afternoon in Pompeii, strolling the stone streets and listening to our guide tell us about live in Roman times. Did you know they collected urine at the laundry and used it as a source of ammonia to wash clothes? Personally, I prefer soap. . . I enjoyed seeing the communal bread ovens, some looked like modern pizza ovens. We ended our day with a visit to a tourist trap cameo factory.

Next stop: Rome!

Friday, August 14, 2009

My cruise--continued

Well, as you can see I am a little behind in my blog--but I took excellent notes and now that I've had a few more adventures under my cap I'm ready to sit down and tell you all about them.

Last time I updated, we were preparing to visit Istanbul, Turkey. (That's Istanbul, not Constantinople). We started the day at with a visit to the Blue Mosque named after the lovely blue tiles decorating the interior walls. The tiles were beautifully painted with geometric and floral patterns. and I was surprised at how large it was inside. We all had to remove our shoes and ladies had to have their shoulders and knees covered, but that was no trouble for me at all. As it was between prayer times, the mosque was very crowded with tourists and visitors.

Then we went to see a carpet weaving demonstration--including how they get the silk strands for the thread by boiling the cocoons of those poor little silkworms. I admit the rugs were beautiful, but once I realized they didn't have any flying carpets, and the carpets in front of me were made by bug spit, I just quietly sipped my apple tea and enjoyed the show. Afterwards, I tagged along with Blue to shop in the Grand Bazaar--she bought so many things I think she's going to need another suitcase--but I'll let her figure that out later.

Lunch was all Turkish food and was the most wonderful meal I have ever eaten. There were dozens of dishes including little lamb ribs, pearl couscous salad, candied pumpkin, saffron chicken eggplant salad, four types of hummus, local cured meats and cheeses, nuts, dried apricots, roasted potatoes, green salads, and so on. For dessert, there were trays of bakalava of all kinds of shapes and flavors including chocolate, pistachio, and walnut. There were little honey and pistachio cakes that melted in your mouth-and if that wasn't enough there was apple crumble, chocolate brownies, custard, and raspberry and green tea mousses. I ate so much I could barely fit into my cape. I left full, and with a great appreciation for Turkish cuisine.

After waddling to the bus we drove to Topkapi palace and where Sultans once lived and ruled over the Ottoman Empire. The treasury included the Topkapi dagger with three egg sized emeralds, the Spoonseller's diamond, and a shoebox sized crystal box filled with emeralds. It must have been good to be the Sultan--but not so good to be one of his many wives or concubines. The harem seemed like it would be a difficult place to live in with so many women vying for the Sultans' attentions.

Our final stop was to the Hagia Sophia, or Divine Wisdom. It was a Christian church built by the Romans to be the both the largest building in the world, and to have the largest dome. It was destroyed and rebuilt twice before finally falling into disuse. Eventually it was converted into a Mosque, and the beautiful mosaics were plastered over in keeping with the Muslim belief of not having pictures or statues of people within a building of worship. The plasters are now being removed so the mosaics can be restored and enjoyed by visitors. The four corners of the church are held up by eight of the marble pillars from the Temple of Artemis that once stood in Ephesus and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world

We returned to the ship for a relaxing evening. Next stop, Mykonos.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Skinny's Update! I'm on a Mediterranean cruise!

Greetings from the Ruby Princess!

Ahhh! I am enjoying myself with Bluestocking88 and her family. We spent four lovely days in Venice. We stayed in a little convent at night and enjoyed the city during the day. I toured St. Mark’s Basilica, the tomb of St. Mark the evangelist, the Doge’s Palace, rode in a gondola, toured Murano and enjoyed a busy morning at the Rialto market looking at all the fresh seafood and produce. We ate plenty of gelato and pizza—and I took lots of pictures. I really wanted a carnival mask as a souvenir, but we couldn’t find one in my size so blue and her daughter has agreed to help me make one when we return to Washington. The canals were lovely, and I very much wanted to dive in and go for a swim—but blue insisted it was too dirty to swim in and I didn’t want to offend my hostess so early in our trip.

Venice was so romantic I missed my beau, but must admit I struck up a conversation with the gondolier’s pole and he was very friendly—but a bit grubby after being in that muddy water all day. I loved the sunshine, friendly people, and beautiful scenery.

After Venice, we boarded a cruise ship and spent three days at sea. Well we were supposed to visit Athens one of those days but I’m afraid someone upset Poseidon and he blew so hard we couldn’t get through the wind to harbor safely. So I consoled myself swimming in the pool, taking tea with blue and the children, and resting.

Today we were able to port in Kusadasi, Turkey. I was able to walk through the ancient city of Ephesus—a beautiful place but with very little wood to be found anywhere. We also visited what is believed to be the final home of the Virgin Mary as well as St. John’s Basilica where St. John the apostle is believed to be buried. It was a lovely day and blue and her children kept me safe from the Anatolian shepherds wandering around town that kept eyeing me as some kind of toy. It was rather hot today, so I was carrying my hat and as we hurried through security I’m afraid I dropped it and didn’t realize it. Blue was frantic and worried she’d have to make me another but it turns out her scamp of a boy picked it up and quietly slipped it in his pocket. He saved my hat and worried his mother all in moment’s time. While swimming this afternoon he admitted my hat was safe, so I don’t have a care in the world. I can now say I have been to Asia-which is very exciting to me.

Tomorrow we will visit Istanbul, Turkey. I understand we’ll have lunch at the Ciragan Palace where I heard a rumor there will be a baklava buffet for me to sample. I’ll also visit Topkapi Palace with a tour of the sultan’s harem, St. Sophia’s, the Blue Mosque, and then we’ll go shopping at the Grand Bazaar.

I must say, blue’s children are taking excellent care of me—they are sure I go on all outings and are happy to hold my hand as we travel around. I have lots of pictures, but the internet is very slow and expensive. I will upload my pictures when I get back to Washington—but for now do know that I am safe and having a wonderful time. I think I may be the most traveled spurtle in the world by now!

I’ll update again soon—

Love, Skinny

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shhh! I'm hiding in a suitcase!

I'd upload a photo, but it's very dark here in blue's carry on suitcase, and besides I need to stay quiet so we aren't discovered. I overheard the children talking about going to Venice in the morning and I just couldn't bear to miss out on the trip so I slipped into the bag while the family was sleeping. I don't know where else we're going, but first stop--Venice.

Washington is lovely--very green and lush. I've enjoyed sitting through a Girl Scout meeting, driving the children to school, and watching out for the Golden Retriever that thinks I'm just a common stick. So far, Blue has kept me safe.

It will likely take a day or two before I log in, but hopefully I'll be able to share my favorite flavour of gelato. See you soon!

Friday, May 1, 2009

I've arrived in Washington!

Traveling light has its advantages, I was bumped up to First Class, and was hand delivered to Bluestocking88's home. She was so very excited to meet me, apparently her family is preparing for something exciting which they thought I would enjoy.
I felt the need for some fresh air, so Blue took me for a walk in the gardens. Her red tulips were grand, as you can see they are far taller than my dainty self. After helping Blue fix her fountain, I was rather tired and decided to take a nap in a flower bed.

Blue refuses to tell me her plans, she just smiles and promises it will be a grand adventure. She did express concern that the children didn't have passports, and I notice there are suitcases in the dining room. It seems to be a rather unconventional place to store luggage. . .

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On my way to Washington (the state, not the capital)

I'm flying first class, Priority Mail, to Bluestocking88 in Washington. I had to leave all my belongings in Alabama temporarily, but FancyHorse will ship them on later. All I have with me is my cape, my hats, my bathing suit, and six of my children. Bluestocking has some mysterious plans, which led to this abrupt departure. Can't wait to see what she has in store for me!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Fancy and the Mr took me to a restaurant called "Gators," which gave me hope that there might actually be one somewhere. There's a funny picture of a gator on the sign:

Gators sign

Gators Family Restaurant
(There I am standing in front of it.)

Underneath the restaurant, there looked like a likely spot to find an alligator or two.


We ate outside on the deck, all the better for seeing the sunset and looking for gators. MrHorse stood up, looked over the rail, and called to us, "There's two of them!" We jumped up to see, and sure enough, floating with just their heads above water, were two very ugly creatures! They tell me that they are as mean as they are ugly. Wow, I can tame lions, and I'm not afraid of tigers, but I don't want to tangle with these beasts!

There's an alligator!

Another one!

Look, Skinny!

There was a lovely sunset over the water, but it made me miss my Scottish mountains, and most of all my dearly beloved back in Delaware. *sniff*

Mobile delta at sunset

Skinny enjoying an Alabama sunset

Sightseeing in Daphne, Alabama USA

It's about time! I've been vegetating in FancyHorse's house for over two weeks now, and this is the first time Fancy and the Mr have taken me anywhere!

I've met Uncle Sam
A Scottish visitor meets Uncle Sam
(I'm standing right beside him there, but I'm hard to see. Look for my green hat and my tartan cape)

Admired MrHorse's flower garden
Skinny admires MrHorse's garden

And faced down the resident tigers
Facing the tigers

Today I finally got to leave the house! We went to a park in town, and Fancy said we might see some alligators if we're lucky. Nope, no alligators. We did see some pelicans and a squirrel, though.

Two pelicans

A gray squirrel in the parking lot

Fancy let me start a small nature collection: a sample of Spanish moss, some Southern magnolia leaves, and a twig with live oak leaves on it. Oh, and a pine cone, too. MrHorse found a glass jar in his garage so I could stand still for my publicity shots, and also admire the scenery better. That's where I keep my nature collection for now. When I'm ready to travel, it will go into a zipping plastic baggie.

Skinny and her nature collection

There was a playground with some cool slides and climbing things. Wouldn't my darling little toothpicks love this!?

Don't jump, Skinny!

At the end of a boardwalk was the beach, with a view of Mobile Bay. I thought I could see Scotland, but Fancy told me it was just Mobile. Besides, Scotland is too far away to see, and in the opposite direction. I'm missing my home, but there is so much to see in America that I am not quite ready to go back yet.

Skinny looks seaward

Look, braemar! I found some pretty orange Crocs! Can I have some, please, please, please -- pretty please???

Look, braemar -- Crocs!

Well, back to Fancy's house again. She's letting me use her computer to update my blog.

Back home again to update her blog

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Skinny's arrived in Daphne, Alabama April 11, 2009

Skinny Malinky Spurtle has arrived in Alabama!
Complete with all of her treasures and gifts, and three of her children managed to stow away, too. I posted pictures on Skinny's Flickr group:


Originally posted in Bookcrossing's chitchat forum by FancyHorse:

Friday, April 24, 2009

April 4, 2009 with Covert

Skinny M. Spurtle bad news - Not a joke

This is a somewhat difficult message to post. I've been preparing Skinny to head on down to FancyHorse for her next visit (I'd like her to get there by Easter). I had been keeping her luggage in a storage area that was cozy and safe from the weather...but had not considered the fact that it was a place to which critters had access. :(

Yep, the chocolates, etc, attracted somebody and have all been consumed or munched on (and so I've discarded them). There's been a bit of peripheral damage too- one edge of the journal appears a little munched, the Highland cow's horn is minus a bite, and [*sigh*] the edges of a couple of BigKat's kids' books have been gnawed a little. I've mended everything as best I can.
I am SO bummed about this. It was really very stupid of me to store her stuff there. So all I can say is, I'm sorry. At any rate, Skinny will be on her way, sans edibles, very shortly.
Sometimes I screw up.

Sorry, Skinny fans.


March 29, 2009 with Covert

Here's the skinny on Ms. Skinny

Well, those of you that were speculating about exactly what the heck that giggling I heard at night would seem you were right on the mark. I can only hope FancyHorse is correct about the nuptials having taken place. Gracious!


For discussion:

Skinny The Lion Tamer! March 15, 2009

Ohmygoodness!!! Look what Skinny's up to NOW!
Well, I HAD mentioned it as a possibility when BigKat asked what Skinny might do if she made a visit, but I never really imagined it would come to pass. But, there you are: Skinny has taken up lion taming! And, once again FancyHorse has kindly put the evidence up on Flickr for all to see:

What a spurtle! She's a credit to Scotland, is that one.


Originally posted in the Bookcrossing chit chat forum and includes comments.

March 13, 2009 visiting Covert

*Skinny Checks In* - It's About Time, Say Pundits

We had great plans last weekend for an adventurous outing for Skinny Malinky Spurtle. She let it be known that she's always had a hankering to try bungee jumping, so we piled in the car and headed to our local bungee bridge. Sadly, the staff informed us that they didn't have a proper harness in Skinny's size, so the jump was off. Skinny didn't let that stop her, though. The bridge spans the Brandywine River in Delaware, and as Skinny eyed the frigid water below, she got a glint in her (?)eye.

Those Scots are hardy folk, you know. The sun was bright, and you could almost tell Spring was on its way. Before I knew it, Skinny had thrown off her cape, stripped down to her bathing suit, and leapt out from the retaining balustrade of the bridge. Hearts in our throats, we rushed back along the bridge and down the embankment. Not to worry. There she was, dauntlessly making headway across the current toward the looming black rocks of the Brandywine Isles.
I believe she had a grand time, but you may judge for yourself at where FancyHorse has kindly p posted the pictures for me. Skinny's up to some other tricks too, so more pics should follow shortly.


Originally posted in the BC Chit Chat forum, which includes comments:

February 23, 2009 Visiting Covert in Newark, Delaware

Distressing moment with Ms. Skinny,

I've pretty much documented it in this journal entry:

I'm still a little uncomfortable about it with her, but she assures me she's quite past any ill feelings. As a matter of fact, she says she has a vague recollection of hearing stories of a rather unsavory old branch of the family named Sprutle. The tale is that they were an unprincipled mercenary bunch that found employment with the cooks of Edward's army at Bannockburn; they later tried to avoid censure by claiming they had only done it in order to introduce lumps in the Englishmen's porridge.

I suspect they were turned from warped stock.


Originally posted in the Bookcrossg Chit Chat forum, and includes commentary: