Thursday, June 30, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - #25 Don't just think about it

After participating in Simple Mom's Project Simplify this spring, a fellow blogger introduced me to Org Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing challenge. This week Laura, the Org Junkie herself, touches on an issue near and dear to my heart (well, in my face and troublesome anyway)...procrastination.  She challenged readers to pick a small space in our house, an area that we've been avoiding because we either think it will take too long or that we're stumped about what to do with it, and get it organized.

I'm pleased to share with you a little organizing job I undertook last week as I turned my attention to my kitchen.  Anyone who has eaten at my house knows that we use cloth napkins (and if you are a grandparent who has been kind enough to stay with the kiddos while Running Man and I have been away, you've probably been frustrated by the lack of paper napkins and towels).  I switched over to cloth napkins several years ago and between that time and now we've amassed way too many.  Let me present to you exhibit A - the two drawers of cloth napkins and tea towels that are so stuffed to the brim that I had a hard time opening and closing them.

With about 15 minutes of effort, this is what I managed to purge.

And this is what my only remaining drawer of napkins looks like now.

I used the empty drawer to store Miss Intrepid's PlanetBox and our reusable snack bags in close proximity to her siblings' lunch boxes.

Two unorganized drawers down, a couple dozen throughout the house to go. In the meantime, I'm linking up to Org Junkie's 52 Weeks: #25.

Happy Thursday, friends!

"The best way to get something done is to begin."  ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Procrastination Files - Hey, is that my kitchen counter?

Two weeks ago I shared some of my procrastination "fails" and called out a specific action that I planned to take regarding a persistent home management issue that I'm challenged by - my ever cluttered kitchen counter.  

My I'll-just-take-care-of-it-tomorrow attitude led to this on most days.

Having acknowledged that simply saying "Hey, this is a problem and I should do something about it" isn't effective for me, I decided to publicly declare a clear plan of action to help hold myself accountable. I decided to attempt the 21 Day Trial Program to help cultivate better housekeeping habits in my kitchen.  Specifically, I committed that every night for 21 days I would not go to bed until all clean dishes had been put away and any dirty dishes had been hand washed or loaded into the dishwasher.  I also said that I would not go to bed until any other items that don't belong sitting on my kitchen counter were put back into their proper place.  One of the things that I thought would be helpful for me with this program is that if I were to miss a day, then the countdown would start all over again and I really didn't want to have to report back here that I was back to square one (honestly, that was what prompted me to finish cleaning up once or twice).

So how's it going?  Great!  I only got about 95% of the way there on night number one (as you can see from the photo above, I had a lot of work to do), so I started over the next day and I've gone through 14 days of leaving my kitchen picked up at the end of each night.  All my dishes have been cleaned and put away and the only things sitting in my drying rack are dishes that are still wet from having been washed.  Check out a sampling from the past 14 days.

Yes, I know there is a water bottle on the counter, but it was left out deliberately because E2B took it to a basketball camp that day and needed it again the next morning.

I've noticed a couple of things in looking back over the photos taken these past two weeks that haven't been obvious to me when I'm actually standing in my kitchen.  One is that I have too much stuff out on the counter - what you see in these photos is here by design, but I'd love to see more clear space. The other is that, while I have been good about picking up papers, books, toys, etc. that collect on the counters each day before I retire for the night, I have a collection of, well...random crap, sitting next to the sink in the foreground. Why I've been okay with it being a part of the landscape is a mystery to me. Over the course of the last seven of this 21 day push I'll tackle the clutter that I seem to be overlooking and I'll be back to share the results.  In the meantime, I wish you all clear and uncluttered spaces.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

"What may be done at any time will be done at no time."  ~Scottish Proverb

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ritual Roundup - End of the School Year

One of the tasks that I take most seriously as a parent, and that I most enjoy, is establishing and maintaining family traditions and rituals.  While there are some traditions that we enjoy as a family (having a fondue dinner on Christmas Eve - something that I did with my family growing up and that my mother did each year with her family - is one example), much of what I have tried to foster with my husband and children are rituals rather than traditions. When I first heard the word ritual used in this way I found myself thinking about religious rites and found it to be off putting in the context of daily family life.  However, I soon found it to be my word of choice when referring to the activities we undertake as a family after discovering Meg Cox's fantastic book - The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Everyday.

In her book, Ms. Cox states "...the dictionary says that traditions are 'beliefs and customs handed down from generation to generation,' whereas a ritual is 'an action repeated' or 'an established procedure for a religious or other rite.'  I think ritual can convey something more recent and spontaneous: something we've done just twice and plan to do regularly.  And something small and daily.  Ritual is a much more inclusive word, covering the vast range of life's compelling ceremonies, from a simple grace or goodbye hug, to elaborate festivities like Christmas and weddings."

She goes on to say that "family ritual is pretty much anything families do together deliberately, as long as it's juiced up with some flourish that lifts it above humdrum routine.  Repeated words or actions, special food or music, or a heightened sense of attention can provide the juice.  I wouldn't call it a ritual if you sometimes sit on the front steps and blow bubbles with your kids, but if you do it every Friday and then have graham crackers and milk and call it your 'welcome-to-the-weekend party,' that's definitely a family ritual."

Most recently we found a special way to celebrate the end of the school year. Ever since E2B started preschool, we would let him - and now he and his sisters - pick out a restaurant that he (they) would like to eat at for dinner on the last day of school.  Once E2B reached elementary school last year and he was to be surrounded by neighbors also running off the bus in excitement, I felt moved to help create a larger and more immediate celebration.  What has evolved is an excellent example of how collaboration can make a good thing even better.  It started with the idea of having an ice cream social outside when the kids got home, as we had done on the first day of school, with each family providing a different topping.  However, upon further reflection it made sense - because the last day of school is a half day with students arriving home just before noon - to serve lunch first.  In the end our excellent community of neighbors all pitched in to cover the cost of pizza, we followed lunch with ice cream, and then the kids enjoyed playing together.  Another family set up a slew of water toys and the afternoon quickly evolved into one big water fight.  It was a good, good day.  

This year we were a little bit more deliberate with our planning and, although the overall elements remained unchanged, it was even more fabulous than the year before.  One neighbor brought out towels and blankets for the kids to sprawl out upon.  Several provided drinks.  An intrepid pair filled hundreds of water balloons.  One family set up a slip and slide and pool in their front yard. We once again had a delicious lunch from the local pizzeria.  After eating their fill of pizza the kids joyfully engaged in water balloon battles and all manner of water play.  We parents learned our lesson from last year (when we ended up picking up most of the pieces of spent water balloons ourselves as the kids scattered) and announced to the kids that ice cream would be served only after they picked up all of the balloons.  About three minutes later it was done and the kids dug right into their sundaes.  Several hours after the end of school celebration commenced a storm blew in and it was the perfect time to wind things down and allow the kids to recover from their fun with some quiet indoor time.

In addition to the larger celebration, I wanted to do a little something for E2B and Princess Wonder (finishing up their 1st grade and kindergarten years respectively) that I had first attempted several years ago.  I made a "welcome summer" banner for the kids to run through.  The last time I tried this E2B was distraught by the prospect of ripping the banner, so we only admired it from afar.  This year both of the big kids, and Miss Intrepid in their wake, were glad to run through.

Banner number one - another is hung across the doorway behind it so that E2B and Princess Wonder would both get a chance to break through.

No aspect of this celebration was very complicated, or even terribly sophisticated, but it was tremendously fun for the kids (and parents, too!). These are the sorts of experiences I want to create for my children and part of what I hope will make up fond memories for them as they grow up.  This is the power of creating family rituals.

So I ask you - what rituals does your family observe to celebrate the end of the school year?

"Anthropologists have never found a human culture without ritual, and psychologists say it's the early comfort rituals we perform with our infants that give them the sense of security essential for human growth.  Knowing there is always someone there to pick you up and kiss the boo-boos makes it possible to keep taking steps into the vast unknown."  ~Meg Cox from The Book of New Family Traditions

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thrift Share Monday

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the Couroc owl plate giveaway from my last Thrift Share post is Denise over at ratty daddy dinkdum where she and her daughter, Beth, blog about their crafting adventures making fun and funky scrappy scarves.  As you can see from this post, Beth is a big fan of vintage owls so I know that their mother/daughter team will be excited to receive this little beauty.

While I didn't post much at all last week, I did manage to fit in one quick trip to Goodwill and I found something that I've been hoping to find for the past several years.  (More on that in a moment.)  What I have been doing a lot of this past week is rolling up my proverbial sleeves and purging things from the house - I look forward to sharing my progress over the next couple of weeks.

I know that I am not alone amongst thrifters when I declare that there are certain items for which I have a particular affinity - those things that will make me stop, look, and admire them even if I am not making a purchase. For me, this includes vintage Pyrex (especially bowls), vintage and antique serving platters, unique serving bowls, pottery, wooden housewares, knitting supplies, books, cast iron cookware, wool blankets, just about anything that is robin egg blue, and items of an unusual nature.  I happened to run into many items from my list of favorite things at the thrift this last week.  I am sure that I am also not alone in my recognition that more often than not I should simply admire these things and not bring them home because I don't need more stuff.

Here is some of what did NOT come home with me.

This appears to be the Pyrex Bramble pattern and it is one that I had not seen before.

In addition to this bit of vintage Pyrex goodness, I found a number of other vintage casserole dishes on nearby shelves including more Pyrex, FireKing, and some unmarked pieces.  I collected them in one place for the picture below and found myself asking another anxious shopper if she could wait for just a moment to take something from the pile while I photographed it.  Once I explained that I didn't plan to buy any of it and pointed her in the direction of the other Pyrex piece pictured above, she relaxed (after "joking" that she thought was was going to need to start a brawl to get what she wanted) and let me snap this regrettably blurry photo.

I saw an elderly woman proudly showing off a piece that matched the unmarked green dish above to a friend.  When I mentioned that I knew where she could find a companion piece she was thrilled to add it to her cart.  I may not have taken any of this home, but it was fun to help two fellow thrifters find things that thrilled them.

Although these plates, which looked completely unused, caught my eye (they very much reminded me of this set I put up for a Thrift Share giveaway last month) I left them on the shelves for someone else to buy.  They were very cool, but also very likely to end up in a cabinet at my house where they would remain unused were I to bring them home.

Like the other plates, these were made in Japan.  Instead of teak, though, these are made of suzuki wood.

I did find several items that made the cut and ended up in my cart.  The first is this super soft angora yarn made in France.  It still has the original price tag of $16.50 on it - I paid $2.25 and look forward to incorporating it into a knitted gift for a loved one.

Although it is a bit hard to tell from this photo, the yarn is a light green color.

I enjoy being able to share baked goods with others on pretty vintage plates - if they make back home to me that is fine, but if they find a new home where they are enjoyed elsewhere that is great, too.  This one begged to be brought home because of its simple design and lovely blue color.

I don't know that I'll keep this little wooden bowl, but I plan to use the scoop for loading birdseed into our feeders.

E2B was particularly enamored of this find.  My plans to find the bowl a new home may not be successful if he has anything to say about it.

 I was lucky enough to find these two pieces of handmade pottery.

This vase was made by a potter here in Virginia - I look forward to filling it with flowers during these long, hot summer months.
I see a delicious stew served in this to warm us when the weather turns cool later in the year.

And then there's this - the piece that I've been hoping to find for years.  This is a Cathrineholm enamel bowl.  (If you are unfamiliar with this iconic design, you can read a bit more about it here.)  I have been admiring this sort of enamelware from afar in the blogosphere and each time I visit a thrift store, or stop in at an estate sale, or go yard "sailing" on a Saturday morning I keep my eyes open.  This may be my favorite find of the year not only because it is something that I have been searching for, but also because it is this incredibly lovely blue color.  Most of the Cathrineholm pieces I have seen in photos are green or blue and white - I never even knew that it came in a blue on blue pattern until I stumbled across this.

I've decided to forgo hosting a giveaway this week, as I still have several previous giveaways waiting to be mailed off.  Not to worry, with all of the purging going on around here I will have more goodies to share in coming weeks.  In the meantime, I am linking up to Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday.

Have a wonderful week, friends!

"Blue thou art, intensely blue; Flower, whence came thy dazzling hue?"  ~James Montgomery

Friday, June 24, 2011

This Moment - Tower "Knitting"

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by SouleMama.  A single photo capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Miss Intrepid has been watching E2B and Princess Wonder churn out lovely creations over the last few days using knitting towers that they received several years ago (I believe that the Easter Bunny left them in their baskets) and eagerly asking...and asking, and asking, and asking...when she was going to get the chance to knit, too.  Inspired by this post over at Jonah Lisa Land, I made Miss Intrepid her own tower using a plastic plumbing connector from the hardware store, popsicle sticks, and electrical tape.  I started her out and offered to help, but she wanted - as do most independent three year olds - to do it herself.  Her finished product looks an awful lot like yarn wrapped around and around the outside of the tower, but after some Mommy intervention I hope to be able to leave her with a bracelet or headband.

"Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit either."  ~Elizabeth Zimmermann

Friday, June 17, 2011

This Moment - Sisterly Love

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by SouleMama.  A single photo (or, this week, two!) - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

"A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life."  ~Isadora James

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Um, excuse me, but didn't I just tell you not to do that?

Jamie over at Steady Mom recently wrote a very moving post about learning to think like our children.  She shares a moment that stands out to her from her own childhood and asks her readers at the end of the post whether there has been a time that we have misunderstood our own children's intentions.  If I'm honest with myself, then I have to answer that yes, I know that I have and I'm sure that it has happened more often than I've realized.

Jamie's post and question really stuck with me because I work very hard to be mindful about not projecting my own, adult interpretation of the world and experiences on my children.  Sure that Lego creation sitting in their room might not be particularly meaningful to me, but it may mean an awful lot to the child who created it.  The argument about whose turn it is to perform some task around the house may just seem like irritating background noise to me, but it may represent an issue of fairness and independence to the kids. Although I am not always successful in doing so, I try to remember that what may seem insignificant to me may be very important to my children and that they deserve for me to respect and honor what is in their hearts and minds.

As I thought about Jamie's question when I first read her post back in April, one particular incident came to mind from nearly three years ago.  For Running Man's job we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to live in Wales for about three months.  At that time E2B had just turned five, Princess Wonder was three, and Miss Intrepid was not yet one.  Just before returning to the States I managed to fit in a trip with the kids to St. Fagans, an incredible open-air museum in Cardiff.  We could easily have spent days there wandering around the many buildings (40+) that recreate a sense of Welsh life throughout history.  We only had the one day to do so and the kids and I had a grand time exploring.  When we got to the manor house, we particularly enjoyed wandering through the surrounding grounds.  As we got to the formal gardens, I had a conversation with the kids to set the expectation that we could look at, touch, and smell the flowers but that we were not to pick them.

You might have already guessed where this is going.  After just a few minutes of walking through the gardens I looked over to see Princess Wonder holding a large pink bloom in her hand.  It had already been a long day - a good day, but driving in the city on my own (on the wrong side of the road!) and taking my three young children through all there was to see made for one tired mama - and I was beyond frustrated that she had just done exactly what I had told her (quite reasonably, I thought) not to do.  This is one of those moments that my desire to understand what was happening in that mind of her's overrode my inclination to snap at her in my frustration.  I took a deep breath, reminded her that we were not to pick flowers, and calmly asked her why she had done so.  My sweet, sweet girl looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me that the flower was so pretty that she just couldn't help it.  And you know what?  I was SO glad that I had not reacted in anger because I could completely understand how that temptation was just too much for her three year old self.

I get it, what three year old could resist a beauty like these?

I look at this picture and I can't believe how little she is!

Part of the reason that I am on this journey to live more intentionally is to be a better parent to these children that I've been blessed with.  I will always be a work-in-progress, but if I can keep remembering to think like my kids, then I think we'll all do just fine.

Happy Thursday, friends!

"Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder."  ~Eberhard Arnold

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Procrastination Files

As I discussed in this post, I find that by indulging in procrastination - particularly when in tandem with the other activities that I engage in as I merrily skip down the path of living unintentionally (sleeping in, reading during the day, and spending time online) - I bring both inner and outer chaos to my life.  Although it is a bit tongue-in-cheek, I have described this blog to friends as a place to shame myself publicly into making some changes that I wish to bring to my daily life.  In all seriousness, this is a place that I wish to use for introspection and to engage with others who find themselves in a similar place.  I'm okay with the fact that my posting frequency has slowed down a bit from where I started earlier in the year, but as I look back over what I have been posting lately I don't see as much introspection as I would like.  To that end, I'm here today with the Procrastination Files.

Sometimes I end off putting something off because I don't take the minute (or less!) that is needed to complete a task intending to come back to it later and then forgetting about it.  This is a particularly embarrassing example of that. The kids and I came back the other evening after E2B's karate class to find that the cat had thrown up and had a bout of diarrhea in Miss Intrepid's room.  I immediately cleaned it up and while I worked on treating the spots on the carpet I moved the trash basket full of smelly sickness out onto the front porch so that the room could air out and I could then take the basket out to the large trash can we keep outside.  As you might have guessed, I forgot all about it.  Do you know when I remembered it?  That would be when someone came to my front door, in the heat of summer, and had to stand next to this.  Seriously, if I had taken 30 seconds to walk around the corner and throw it away instead of waiting until I completed the longer task of stain treating the carpet I could have avoided this procrastination fail.

Welcome to my house...sorry about the poop.

Sometimes I end up putting something off because I think that it is going to be more involved than it actually is and by doing so I actually make things more complicated and, in this case, more expensive.  Last March, after having both our washer and dryer worked on several times, we purchased a new and more energy efficient washer and dryer.  As soon as the good folks who delivered and installed them left, I noticed that the felt strip around the edge of the dryer lint screen was loose at the bottom right hand side.  It was easy enough to tuck back in and slide in without issue, so although I thought about calling the store where we bought them to get a new and undamaged lint screen, I just rolled with it and never did it because it seemed like the easier, and less time consuming, path to take.  Over the past year that strip has come further and further detached making the lint screen more and more ineffective. Finally, about 15 months after noticing that there was a problem, I called to see about getting a new one.  Because I didn't call within the first year, when the dryer and its parts were all under warranty and I would have been given a free replacement, I had to purchase one myself.  Rather than making one phone call that would have taken a few minutes right away, I spent more than a year trying to fix it and then I spent considerably more than a few minutes making calls and researching what part I would need/where I could find the most reasonable price online.  The fact that replacing a lint screen is more expensive than I would have guessed was frustrating as well.  Why, why, why didn't I just take care of it when it came up?

When your lint screen looks like this, you may as well distribute lint all over the inner workings of your dryer yourself because the screen isn't collecting all that much.

You're looking at my $50 lint screen ($37 on sale through an online appliance parts store).  Way to go procrastination!

And sometimes I end up putting something off because I simply don't feel like dealing with it.  Let me introduce you to one of the biggest clutter gathering areas in my home - the counter area around my kitchen sink.  Looking at this photo - taken this morning - you will see dishes in the drying rack, with overflow onto the counter beyond it, waiting to be put away.  You see a sink full of dirty dishes, overflowing onto the counter in the foreground, waiting to be hand washed and put into the drying rack or loaded into the dishwasher. Although you can't see that this is so, the dishwasher is full of clean dishes and for the past day and a half I've been pulling bowls, plates, and utensils out one at a time to put them on the table as we've needed them.  Oh yes, and there's the cup and saucer I took out to photograph for last week's Thrift Share post still waiting to be put away.  I also see the tops to some thrifted canisters waiting to be cleaned up from two weeks ago (I'll share them once I get my act together).  I don't know why I persist in ignoring trouble spots like this, but my kitchen counters look like this a lot more than I'd like to admit.

Of course, I know logically what I need to do.  Take care of things right away and just do what needs to be done in the moment.  What I don't necessarily know is how to change my patterns of behavior.  I do think that the first step is in admitting what the problem is and that's where putting this out there publicly comes in for me.  Much as I found that committing publicly in this space to cleaning up certain hot spots around my house during Simple Mom's Project Simplify helped lend me the motivation that I needed to get it done, I'd like to make a public declaration about my plans at this point.  I'm going to give the 21-Day Trial Program a try in managing my kitchen clutter.  Every night for 21 days I will not go to bed until all clean dishes have been put away and any dirty dishes have been washed or loaded into the dishwasher.  I will not go to bed until any other items that don't belong sitting on my kitchen counter are put back into their proper place.  And I'll check back in here to let you all know how it is going.  This isn't a life changing habit I'm cultivating here, but it seems a good place to start.

Happy Tuesday, friends!

"To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing."  ~Eva Young

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thrift Share Monday and Couroc giveaway

Congratulations to Lisanne, the winner of last week's giveaway for the groovy vintage skates - I don't have a brand new key for you, but the skates are all yours!

This past weekend was full of final soccer games of the season, family visits, birthday parties for loved ones, and picnics, so I didn't manage to fit in any yard sales.  I did take a little bit of time while I was "kid free" last week to drive down to the Goodwill outlet to prowl around for some hidden treasures.  As tempted as I was by a number of things that I saw, I only picked up a few items.

This vintage geology experiment kit was still wrapped in plastic.  Why someone felt the need to maul the box by ripping it open at the lower right hand corner in order to get a peek at the contents is baffling.  Fortunately I believe that most of it is still here.

I left the room after photographing the box for this post and returned to find E2B enthusiastically checking out the contents.

I don't think that any of these materials have been used, but clearly some of the liquids have evaporated over time.

I have several boxes like this that I really enjoy - the tile evokes a sense of time and place that speak to a quiet place.

E2B read about stamp collecting in a book at school this year and has been faithfully collecting his own stamps ever since.  At the bargain price of 25 cents, I knew that he would get a kick out of flipping through it.

I just LOVE cast iron cookware.  I received my first cast iron skillet from my parents a few years ago and it is, hands down, my favorite pan to cook with.  I'm always on the lookout for cast iron while thrifting and I'm really hoping to find a griddle to replace the electric one that recently died.

This one is just a little guy, but I have a variety of sizes.

A little touch of practicality - this will come in handy for keeping drinks cold when we're out and about this summer without having to drag along a big cooler.

And now onto this week's giveaway, this small vintage Couroc owl plate.  Ever since so many folks commented about the tray and glasses I left behind at a church rummage sale last month, I've been thinking about sharing this little number with another Couroc/owl fan out there.

If you'd like to win this plate for yourself or as a fun treat for someone else, please leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on Saturday evening and I'll draw a winner by next week's Thrift Share post.  I'm linking up to Apron Thrift Girl.

Happy Monday, friends!

"If you don't own a cast iron skillet, it's well worth the time and money to invest in one.  You can find them for sale...[at] thrift stores, flea markets, or you can scour the tag and yard sales for one that might look as if it has seen better days.  If the pan is rusty or encrusted with grease, buy it anyway.  Don't worry!  I'll tell you how to get that new or old one into shape so you can enjoy it for a lifetime of fat free cooking.  You'll be able to pass the pan on to your own children and grandchildren."  ~ (cast iron cookware page)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekending Roman-style (how Wifi and geocaching saved our last night in Italy)

Two weeks ago Running Man and I were doing the whole tourist thing in Rome and getting ready to head home to the States.  Before more time passes, I thought that I would share some highlights from that weekend.

On Saturday we slept in and then took the metro downtown to see some of the major tourist sites.  Rome is an amazing city and everywhere we looked we saw palaces, and churches, and fountains, and was more than I could possibly take in during one trip, so I tried to just enjoy what I could absorb.

We started at the Colosseum.

I was amazed to learn that they used to fill the Colosseum with water and hold naval battles there.  How did they get that much water and ships in there?!?

Next we went to the Palatine Hill (an area that over looks both the Coliseum and the Roman Forum where the rulers of ancient Rome built their palaces).

These red poppies caught my eye every time I saw them because I remember loving them as a child when we lived in Naples.

Can you see that little critter in there?

Here's a close up.  The best description I could come up with is a big ass hedgehog.  I don't actually think that it is a hedgehog (big assed or not), but I don't have any other ideas.  Does anyone else out there know what this is?

We passed through the Forum Romanum.

We went on to the Monument Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele (you can see it in the background of the first Roman Forum photo).

Of course, we had to stop for some Italian gelato.

The Fontana di Trevi might have been my favorite stop for the day (even if we spent the least amount of time there).

My favorite part of the Pantheon was the fact that it is open to the sky.

Despite Running Man's sore knee,  we walked up the Spanish Steps.

Rome from the top of the Spanish Steps.

On Sunday, our last full day in Rome, we went to the Vatican to see St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.  Unfortunately, for that day only, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel closed mid-afternoon, so we didn't get to see them.  I was okay with that, because - by not knowing about the early closing before/when we first got there - we started the day slowly and we didn't rush through St. Peter's.

The scale of St. Peter's is unbelievable.  I've been lucky enough to see some magnificent churches and cathedrals while traveling in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Italy, but the sheer size of St. Peter's (which reportedly has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world) is mind boggling.

I received a minor in Medieval and Renaissance in school and to see Michelangelo's Pieta in person was a dream. 

Although not open to the elements like the Pantheon, St. Peter's had these amazing domes up one side and down the other - the way that sunlight shone in was magical.

Look - it is another dome!

And another....

And...well, you get the point.

If I thought Running Man was a trooper for hoofing it up the Spanish Steps with his sore knee, that's nothing compared to walking up more than 500 stairs to the top of the cupola (with a quick stop in the gallery on the way up).

Check out the big dome from up in the gallery.  No worries, I won't make you look at all of the pictures I took of it!

The mosaics along the gallery were, as you might expect, magnificent.

A view of the St. Peter's Square from the top of the cupola. 
In the foreground you can see the top of one of the small domes that I love from the interior view so much.  The big dome, and the cupola, is in the background.

Can you see folks enjoying the view from the top of the cupola?

How about now?

Our final destination was to the Via Appia (I would tell you that it is an ancient Roman road of great historical import, Running Man would tell you that it is a road).

I had hoped to visit one of the catacombs that can be found along the Appian Way and eat at a restaurant that my folks highly recommended from a visit five years ago.  Good in theory, but not so much in practice.  This would be where my laid back, let's-just-roll-with-it approach (i.e. don't plan ahead and just hope that it all comes together) that worked so well for the rest of the trip didn't pan out.  By the time we found ourselves walking along the historic, um, road the catacombs had already closed and the restaurant was more than two hours away from opening.

How did we figure this out without walking the additional 2+ miles that would have been required to actually get there to either location?  Luckily, and randomly, we stumbled upon a municipal building that offered free Wifi.  Between the Wifi and iPhones were able to figure out that sticking with our original "plan" would leave us stuck out there twiddling our thumbs waiting for several hours before the restaurant would open.  Instead we looked up several geocaches that were along the walk back towards the metro and we turned an decidedly stressful evening into one that was truly enjoyable.

Never mind watching out for muggles (non-geocaching folk), on this trip it was more important to watch out for pigeons.

Here's to many happy trails to us all, be they close to home or a world away...happy weekend, friends!

"Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness."  ~Ray Bradbury