Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Birthday on Two Continents

The last two stops on our whirl around the world were so fun! After seeing our Hawaiian Family in Maui on the first stop and our London family in Moscow, we had such a great time with our Eyre family in Switzerland and then our Eyre family in New York City on our last lap! 

The Swiss Eyres are so lucky to have a working farm about five minutes’ walk from their home. The owners are happy to have their family enjoy it. Look at these cuties! 

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Their little daughter has taken up climbing every tree she sees and has become a little monkey! And it was such a delight to walk with her and her mom in their quiet, pastoral country town whether it was to her Kindergarten class or to her swimming lesson. 

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She also managed to ride her bike for a few seconds on her own for the first time while we were there. This was after wearing her mother out running beside her up and down this street many many times for multiple days. But the look on her face (and ours) was worth it! 

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We were also thrilled to watch this little cherub  being so brave and good at her swim lesson. She has come a long way since last summer at Bear Lake!   

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 Everywhere you look in Switzerland is breathtaking! Even the walk to the shops! 

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Anita is a fabulous cook and on the eve of my birthday, she made a scrumptious Tiramisu so we could celebrate before we left for our early morning flight. Mmmmm, makes m mouth water to think about it! 

 

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I must add that Tal is also a pretty amazing cook. His company sells a state-of-the-art machine that measures, stirs, cooks and completes the meal with the touch of a button. He cooked our favorite dishes in a blink! Sorry, you can only buy it in Europe! I might mention that he has a fascinating job the covers seven (or eight) countries and is also writing a book. Switzerland is positively “to die for” when it comes to scenery, but the “rules and regulations” take some getting used to! We are so proud of his abilities to not only survive, but thrive! 

I woke up on my birthday to a gorgeousl morning in Switzerland and we were swished to the airport by Tal. It was such a delight to catch up on the day-to-day life of our extraordinary Swiss family! 

About 10 hours later we arrived in New York City where it was about 1:30 in the afternoon. I got to have a once-in-a lifetime 32-hour birthday! Eli kindly picked us up in a zip car that he rented for the afternoon. When I got into the car, four-year-old Zara was there with her huge smile and darling purple glasses and about 8 big purple (my favorite color) balloons. We were so excited to see each other and she was especially excited that it was my birthday!  I must admit being just a bit tired from the flight but within minutes she had me laughing, almost hysterially because when we were snugging in the back seat she looked straight at my neck, pondered for a moment and then asked, “Why is your skin all squashed together?  Perfect for my 70th birthday! What a kick!  Every time I think of that it makes me either smile or burst out laughing. What a girl!  She says it like it is!  Gotta love that girl’s pizzaz!

 

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Zara adores her little brother with a deep purple (speaking of)  passion and has almost killed him with love every day of his short two years!  Her enthusiasm has moved to her toes(see below). Don’t you just those adorable purple glasses? 

 

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When we walked in the door of their cute NYC four story walk-up, the walls were covered with messages from children and grandchildren for my birthday! On the table were my favorite flowers (lilacs) and my favorite cookies (Levain). What a surprise and a special treat for a special birthday! 

 

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A tempting sight! 

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Wish you could see Eli’s extraordinary photography on the wall in the back,, but you can see all those great messages taped to the walls. Thanks everyone! 

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I love this picture. Right away Dean pulled out his favorite book!  Looks as though he’s reading it to Grandfather rather than visa versa! Oh the delight on both of heir faces! 

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Just before we closed my 32 hour birthday day, Eli disappeared for a while and came back with a very special video comprised  of clips from every family of Eyrealm including Josh’s family of kids at the elementary school wishing me a happy birthday. Each family had their own clever way of making their few minutes heartfelt and exciting, fun and funny! Could there be a happier birthday present? I was blown away and charmed! 

 

The following day was Sunday. Julie is the new Relief Society President so she leaves early for church meetings and Eli gets those kids ready, down all those stairs and then walks at a fast clip for about twenty minutes to join her at church…on time!  Hooray for Eli! What a guy!  After church we walked to Central Park, not far from the church  and had a delicious picnic lunch. Julie had to go back to the church before we got home so this was a lovely intermission! 

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Back at home, Zara and I got serious about reading a most amazing story…..

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And Dean showed us his favorite spot in the world…the window ledge in his parent’s bedroom where he spends a lot of time watching for “Trash Trucks” his favorite thing in the work right at the moment!  If he doesn’t see one right away, he resorts to playing with his trucks on the window ledge until one comes by. 

 

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One of he most fun parts of being there right then was that two days after my birthday was Dean’s birthday so we got to celebrate his birthday with him too! Note the excitement of his opening his “big” present: 

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Wish you could see the joy on this little boy’s face when he saw his very own scooter!  He was already experienced rider on this thing, thanks to a neighbor who let him borrow theirs. Who knew that a two year old could scoot down the streets of New York and all through Central Park with his mom and dad yelling “slow down” as he speeds up with a great big grin on his face. He is a pro I tell you! 

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That day I was treated to a post-birthday lunch at our favorite place in Central Park…The Boat House Restaurant!  Somehow we have managed to be in NYC for my birthday for the last three years and this has become a tradition! 

 

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Thanks heaven for electronics for two and four year olds at a linen-clad table and a gourmet lunch!  

 

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I’m not sure there are more spectacular cherry blossoms in all the world, including Japan and Washington DC, than the ones in Central Park. We hit the height of the season and had the most glorious walk through the most beautiful sea of pink blossoms imaginable! 

 

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This awesome picture was taken on Eli’s professional camera by a friend who was with us! Joy Joy Joy! In fact all the photos with really great quality on this post came out of Eli’s camera! 

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Grandfather found his favorite thing…a duck egg...at Zabar’s around the corner from Eli and Julie's while Julie made a special birthday cake for a party with friends whose little girl was born on the same day as Dean. Is this a cute “Trash Truck” cake or what?  Dean seemed was filled with glee while his birthday buddy just wants a bite! 

 

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What a great way to celebrate a two-year-old’s birthday in such a dazzling place! 

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Eli always does a photo shoot of the kids on their birthdays, in this same room, on this same chair in their apartment. I”ll just share a few of at least 50 spectacular shots, starting with the ones with his “dearly beloved” sister! 

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Gotta love those knees (above). He made them “fashionable" all by himself! 

 

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Love this boy, named after his grandfather who died when Richard was 15. Grandpa Dean must be looking down from heaven with pure delight to see his little namesake! 

 

On the day we left, while Zara was at Joy School, Eli, Julie, Dean and I walked over to the astonishing Guggenheim Museum, where the building is as spectacular as the art! Art museums are one of my favorite things in the world and it’s a special treat to go with the “artsy” Eli and Julie! Dean didn’t think it was as fun as we did so Julie pushed him on home while Eli and I finished. Julie, you are a such a heroine!
  

 

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There was a huge Kandinsky exhibit….which we loved! 

 

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A glorious gaggle of the great Impressionists were so elegantly displayed! At then end of the tour,  Eli and I were lucky enough to get tickets to the museum's special exhibit which consisted of entering a small private room on the top floor and  sitting in a staging area with two other people, surrounded by elegant foam cones. We sat there meditating in total silence for fifteen minutes. You had to be there to appreciate it! It was incredible! 

 

Well all great things must come to an end and this one did as well. We left NYC for our last four-hour flight after our whirl around the world with six stops, three days each, with so many new perspectives. We  made new friends, saw sights that we had longed to see all our lives and enjoyed four of our families who are splashed across the world. Still we were ready to go back to the real world of our day-to-day work with a special appreciation for….home! 

And our last surprise?  A blizzard. Such is life!  

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Magnificent Moscow!

Russia has been on my bucket list for a long time!  It’s a place packed with the history of the world and we had never been there!  When we emailed Charity and Ian to tell them that we were going to stop and see them in London on our way around the world, she said they weren’t going to be there. They were going to be in Russia that week. Serendipity! They would be in St. Petersburg while we were in Dubai and so we headed for Moscow on a day that fit perfectly with our plan to follow the sun west, and in this case about 8 hours of flying north as well. 

Ian is a guru on miles for flying and points for hotels after their extensive travels. He had free nights for their little family at the Ritz in Moscow already booked. It is a wonderful hotel located exactly two blocks one way to Red Square and  the Kremlin and two blocks the other way to the Bolshoi Ballet. He arranged for a room for us right next to them, which was definetly not free, but was certainly worth it considering all our other accommodations along the way were with our kids or free. Good deal! 

What we saw during our taxi ride from the airport was just what we had expected…lots of gray cement block housing built during a gray time in the history of Russia! 

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With an occasional magnificent building here and there:

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Our first view of Red Square as we walked through the gates far exceeded our expectations! We had a splendid reunion with the little Wright family and were completely dazzled by St. Basil’s Cathedral straight ahead. It was AWEsome to actually be there after seeing pictures of this place my whole life! 

 

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Is this baby about as cute as they come or what? He’s a keeper!  As you can see, it was cold. Really cold! In the 30’s but we were warmed by our wonderful adventure! 

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Charity, Ian and Moses had arrived a day earlier and were filled with glee to see this spectacular sight! Thanks to Charity for a lot of these beautiful pictures. iPhones just don’t cut it very well in subway halls. When you see a picture with great light (like the one below), It’s from Charity’s camera.  Check her blog posted on drippingwithpassio.blogspot.com posted on May 2, 2017  for a plethora of beautiful photos. 

 

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Here’s a glimpse of the astonishing of this grand old Cathedral taken by Charity:

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Here is that magical place at night! On the left is "The Gum", Moscow’s famous shopping/extremely high end shopping mall, right across  the pavement of Red Square from Lenin’s Mausoleum which you can barely see..This is an ironic and fascinating twist in history as the idea of that giant shopping mall is exactly what Lenin abhorred!  The large clock tower on the right is part of the Kremlin on the other side of the wall. 

 

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There’s Charity hanging out the window of our hotel with the Four Season’s hotel on the left and Red Square in the background

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The next morning Charity had arranged for a delightful guide to take us to the two most important tourist destinations in Moscow.The first will surprise you but was highly recommended by friends who had just returned from living in Russia for three years. It was the Moscow City Metro System!

Our guide was astonishing!  She knew everything about everything and was a young mother who was also enchanted by Moses! 

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Nobody can explain this amazing Metro system better than Charity. Here is a quote from her blog at drippingwithpassion.blogspot.com:  “We learned before our trip that moscow’s metro stations are actually a super impressive museum of art and history! forty four of the stations are listed as world heritage sites and are ornately decorated and almost palatial. the moscow metro, constructed in the 1930s, was one of the ussr’s most extravagant architectural projects, meant to show off russia’s prominence and power as luxurious “palaces for the people.” stations are brightly lit with high ceilings and include marble and bronze statues, stained glass, and scenes of industry, agriculture, warfare and leadership in frescoes and mosaics. it’s all pretty amazing and fascinating and we loved seeing this wild underground world – especially at rush hour! the crowds made it all even more dynamic and cool to experience."

We saw only four of the stops but each was a museum in it’s own right!  The concourses were enormous!  People hid here during the war and 217 babies were born in these halls! Now millions of people use this metro system every day! 

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We saw only four stops, this one with gorgeous brass statues on each of the four sides of many arches just like this….

 

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Another stop displayed gorgeous stained glass, another mosaics of Russian History and one stop was dedicated to the folk history of the Ukraine. As you might have noticed, there was not one trash bin anywhere, and also not one scrap of trash anywhere. When we thought of what this beautiful place might look like in NYC, our guide explained that the Russian people are very proud of the beauty of their Metro system. Each stop looked like a museum and each was treated like one. 

My iPhone just couldn’t do justice to these amazing pictures but you’ll get the idea! 

 

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I have to say that it was an absolutely incredible sight! 

 

From the Metro, Ian and Richard went back to the hotel to borrow a wheelchair for our tour through the Kremlin!  Richard  can play tennis for hours and jog forever, but his back hurts really bad when he has to stand or walk slowly for a long time. SO we headed out for our tour with a wheelchair, a baby stroller and a pretty excited bunch to see the famous Kremlin. 

 

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I was stunned by he number of churches on the Kremlin. I thought it was just going to be a massive bunch of political buildings. But no! The history behind what we saw is far too complicated to attempt here, but who we learned was amazing! 

 

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We were not allowed to take pictures in the National Armory Museum which is sad because it was filled with historical carriages, crowns, the clothing of queens and kings and even their collection of Faberge’ eggs! But we did get to take pictures of the biggest bell in the world which rests on the grounds. Sadly, it never rang and actually cracked and broke before they could use it! 

 

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There were cannons everywhere and a memorial to the destruction that occurred in the Kremlin during the war! 

 

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After exactly four hours we bid goodbye to our perfectly lovely guide. Ian and charity had a car waiting to wisk them off to the airport for home. These two are so fun to be with! Ian faked a kiss to thank Richard for our few hours together and this was the result: 

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Wow, did we have fun with those three. A couple of days that we’ll never forget!  

After they left we had dinner at a well-lovedl place called Dr. Zhivago a few doors down from the hotel and then we headed for the famous Bolshoi Ballet. It was an incredible Russia Ballet that kept us charmed for 3 1/2 hours in that historic building that is the home of probably the best ballet company in the world! 

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The next morning we enjoyed the lobby of our hotel before heading out for another very special hotel lobby nearby….

 

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Destination: the Metropol Hotel which was only a few blocks away. It was the. setting for a novel that Richard just happened to find before we left and had been enjoying immensely along the way.  It was about a Count who was imprisoned there during the Russian Revolution. After being isolated n an attic room for a long time, he was promoted to being the head waiter. Since it was the headquarters for party meetings during that time he garnered a wealth of information about the politics of what was going on during that time. It was a fascinating story that Richard had been continually updating for me on those long flights while I was working on my own book. It was a special pleasure to have breakfast there on our last morning. 

 

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…..and find the ceiling described in the book...

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From there we walked back to Red Square to walk through Lenin’s Mausoleum. No pictures allowed of course. We were not even allowed to put our hands in our pockets. But I have to say that he looked excellent for being dead for 146 years! (Cute photo bomber…) 

 

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Before we left we took a quick tour of the inside of St. Basil’s Cathedral which was truly amazing! I even got to hear a men’s quartet echoing their hymns thoughout the  many-cubilcled spaces!  Chills! 

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There is so much more to learn about icons and Russian history in general that I was committed to learn when we get home. I sigh when I say “History is wasted on the young.”  I used to think history was so boring. Now I just can’t get enough! 

What a country! My bucket was filled with the wonders of this incredible city.