Week of Panos Day 4: Plaza of the Virgen

Today’s panorama: Plaça del Virgen, a beautiful open space of stone in the Northeast quadrant of Ciutat Vella, about a 30 minute walk from our house. We’ve relaxed here on several weekend afternoons.

Valencia's beautiful Plaça del Virgen. Click image for a larger version.

Valencia’s beautiful Plaça del Virgen.
Click image for a larger version.

The Plaça del Virgen panorama from left to right

Wherein I tease you with topics for future posts.

  • At extreme left, difficult to see, a Valenbisi station, part of a shared city bike network system. More on that in a future post (MOTIAFP).
  • Apartment buildings where we’ve observed residents hanging tapestries from their balconies to match the theme of decorations in the plaza during festivals. MOTIAFP.
  • A beautiful bronze fountain in the foreground, which we mistook for Bacchus. MOTIAFP.
  • La Basílica Virgen de los Desamparados — The Basilica of the Virgen of the Homeless. MOTIAFP.
  • La Catedral Metropolitana — The City Cathedral. MOTIAFP.
  • The headquarters of Valencia’s organization of seven irrigation districts. Believe it or not, MOTIAFP.
  • Umbrellas shading restaurant tables. Dozens more extend behind the camera — there are more just outside the left of the frame. We’ve spent hours seated here, enjoying this view, people watching, eating paella, drinking espressos, agua con gás (sparkling water), and pitchers of Agua de Valencia (MOTIAFP).

BONUS Panorama!

Here’s the view from 20 meters further back, including all those tables.

Restaurant tables at Plaça del Virgen

Ustedes quieren cervezas? Entran!
Click image for a larger version.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


Week of Panos Day 3: Valencia’s Old City

My panoramas are all just like COMING AT YOU. We’re saving some of the better ones for later, so bear with me.

Here’s Valencia, the city we call home this month. I took this on May 8th, I thought around midday, but the camera reports that it was at 5:36pm.

Valencia's Old City

Valencia’s Old City
Click image for a larger version

The back side of Torres de Serrano

The back side of Torres de Serrano, viewed from inside the historic Christian wall.

I took this panorama from atop the left turret of Torres de Serrano, pictured here. Torres de Serrano is one of two surviving gate complexes from the late medieval Christian era. They’re named for their view of a serrated mountain range visible to the north on a clear day. I stuck my camera out of a crenel for the panorama; the walls visible at the sides are the parapet.

In medieval times the Ciutat Veilla (“old city” in Valenciano) was walled to keep out invaders — or to keep in tax payers, depending on whom you ask. The Romans, a free republic, the Visigoths, crusading Muslims, and crusading Christians all took turns ruling here — each with their own infighting princes.

Each group in power cannibalized and built on top of the roads and structures left by groups they supplanted. The result today is a labyrinth of streets winding through buildings that incorporate Roman roads in their foundations, ancient city defenses in their structures, and in their walls, weathered marble plaques once blistering with political relevance.

If you blur your vision a bit while looking at a street map, you can make out rough concentric circles where these groups built ever-larger new walls in their times. The Christian wall is the latest, largest, and most distinct thanks to an unbroken ring of busy modern avenues. You can see this on Google Maps bounded by the serpentine river park on the Northwest and Northeast, Carrer de Guillem de Castro on the Southwest, and Carrer de Colón on the Southeast.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


Week of Panos Day 2: The Epic from Funchal

Today’s panorama is a kind of mirror image of yesterday’s: Viewing the Norwegian Epic cruise ship in port from a park in Funchal.

The Norwegian Epic in port at Funchal, Madeira

The Norwegian Epic (the huge one on the right) in port at Funchal, Madeira on April 27th.
Click image for a larger version.

The epic is massive. We spend 11 days aboard with more than four thousand other people, 9 of those days in a non-stop straight shot across the Atlantic, but we never once felt claustrophobic or crowded. Nor were we eager for the trip to end.

Objects in the photo are larger than they appear, so to give you more appreciation for its shear size, the Epic is 329 meters long, and it’s about half a kilometer away from my vantage point here.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


Week of Panos Day 1: Funchal from The Epic

They aren’t always the best photos, but I’m a sucker for the iPhone camera’s panorama mode. This week, I’ll post one panorama per day to share some of the best that I’ve captured in our last five weeks of travel.

To kick it off, this was taken April 27th aboard our cruise ship. Imagine seeing nothing but ocean over this deck railing for 9 days, then waking up one day to this.

Funchal, Madeira, Portugal from port aboard the Norwegian Epic cruise ship

Funchal, Madiera from the port side deck of the Norwegian Epic cruise ship.
Click image for a larger version.

Funchal on the map Funchal is the main port on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Our ship stopped there for about 8 hours on our ninth day out from Miami. Catherine and I disembarked for just long enough to find a public bathroom, enjoy high speed internet from a shopping mall, walk around a park, and head back.

We’ll have to go back if we ever want to dig in, but we’ll always remember Funchal as our first glimpse of Europe from the Epic.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

The Monastery of Valldigna

Today our friends Steve and Pura drove us about an hour south of Valencia to Valldigna. The valley is a long, gradual slope from lush mountains down to the Mediterranean, covered in orange groves. “It means dignified valley, if you like,” offered Steve, and it fits.

We stopped for an hour in the middle of the valley, at the municipality of Simat de Valldigna to visit its star attraction: An historic monastery nestled amongst the orange trees, called Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna.

The gate of Convento Santa Maria de Valldigna

Our new friend Juanjo (more on him later) stored oranges in this building as a kid.

Inside the Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

The floor of Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

La Iglasia Santa Maria de Valldigna

All of the vibrant colors are painted on recently-added plaster in an attempt to recreate something of what this place was centuries ago. Compare to the relatively bare stone above the doorway.

All of the vibrant colors are painted on recently-added plaster in an attempt to recreate something of what this place was centuries ago. Compare to the relatively bare stone above the doorway.

Why don't we build like this anymore?

Why don’t we build like this anymore?

Outside was beautiful, too:

Arches at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Arches at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Historic ruins at Convento de Santa Maria de Valldigna

Inside the Convento Santa Maria de Valldigna

Proof we were here. Remind me to lose 20 pounds.

Proof we were here. Remind me to lose 20 pounds.

After visiting the monastery, we drove further up valley into the mountains and enjoyed a home-cooked paella at the summer/country home of Steve and Pura’s good friend Juanjo. This was a special treat for me, because my parents met Juanjo on their trip here two years ago. He taught Dad to make his own version (which is fantastic), and Mom and Dad have raved about his paella ever since.

While waiting for the paella to cook, we enjoyed tapas with meat, cheese, bread, and olives, a swimming pool, good drink, and 360 degree view of orange groves, the company of new friends, and the energy of three young boys running around. The boys were Steve and Pura’s son Ethan, and their friends Rencho and Maria’s boys Enzo (short for Lorenzo, like his father) and Albi.

Rencho had heard Catherine was a singer, and he kept on playing show tunes until he got her to sing along to something from Grease (I think). Everyone agreed with me that Maria looked a lot like Kimbra when I pointed it out with help from the Internet.

We also enjoyed Steve and Pura’s other visiting friend Virginia, another fellow to reflect with on our experiences here. And our dear Alba — another American who’s in Valencia over twenty years. Alba understands (and forgives) my futile attempts at bilingual humor, and generally helps us with the subtleties cultural translation.

This post is part of the thread: Spain – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

Why I choose to opt out of the TSA scan

In April, Matthew and I spent an entire day traveling. Yup. From 8am until about 9pm Pacific, we were in transit of some kind or another. This is not uncommon, but it still can hurt.

For some reason, from start to finish, this was an especially tough day, travel-wise: kicked off by being a little behind schedule getting to PDX and having to rush through every line we hit. (By “rush through lines” I mean, rush to lines, and then stand, and wait……) When we hit the TSA screening, we did what we normally do and opted out of the full body scan.

This has been our MO for years, and is usually no problem, it just slows things down a hair. Today, it slowed things down, a lot. I watched as my items made it through the x-ray on the conveyer belt and then sat, and sat, and sat. Everything that was important to me waited on the other side of security, to be picked up by anyone quick (and malicious) enough to make a grab for it: my wallet, my backpack, my passport, my guitar, all ripe pickings.

There was even a woman in front of me in line for the opt out. And let me tell you, they are not staffed to serve a line of opt outs. It was a high stress situation for me.

Finally, it was my turn, and the female TSA employee gave me the standard run down about what she was going to be touching and with what, and she gave me the pat down.

This was easily the most aggressive / no-nonsense pat down I’ve ever received. Twice she had to ask me to spread my legs further apart so she could run her hands from my upper inner thigh to my feet. She fully inspected my bundle of hair, and when she got to my chest, she rammed her hand in between my breasts and did a thorough tactile inspection of my “cups.”

The stress of making my flight, compounded with the invasive “feeling up” I was experiencing, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “why am I doing this?!”

Great question. And it got me to review why I make this choice. (Read: it’s always healthy to periodically question why we do the things we do. Having a reason other than just Habit gives intention and purpose, even to the little things.)

I do this because from start to finish, I know exactly what is happening. 

1. Choosing not to expose myself to scanner radiation.

I’m not a scientist (nor do I play one on the internet) but I just don’t know what the extra radiation of the scanners could do to me, long term. Some radiation authorities like the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency recommend against their use for pregnant women and children, and if you watch carefully, you might see TSA directing kids through the metal detector, rather than the full body scanner.

Even if I receive 1000 “fairly invasive” pat downs at the airport, it won’t be enough to give me cancer.

2. Some (authorized) public groping will not hurt me.

Granted, I am fairly comfortable with my body, so this procedure will not leave me with any emotional scarring. Also, the fact that this is my choice is extremely empowering. I plant this choice like a shield in front of me; I feel my awkwardness as I request to opt out, I see people glancing over at me to see why I have vacated The Sacred TSA Line, and I allow a stranger to get to “second base” with me. But I am armed with my Shield of Choice.

And you are too. I do not write this to be political or even controversial. There are pros and cons to both choices, when you walk through airport security. My hope is that for those of you who would rather not have a grey and black image of your flesh show up in front of the eyes of a stranger, or expose yourself to unnecessary radiation, those of you who would rather opt for a professional (albeit invasive) pat down, you now know this is your choice.

I also hope that, in time, enough “disruption” from opt outs like Matthew and I will cause TSA to continue to refine their science and their process: to continue to find safer, quicker and easier ways to get massive amounts of people from the streets and onto the plane.

The Pumpkin’s Progress

A journey through pictures


“I am a pumpkin! Will you be my friend?”


“I am so happy to be a pumpkin! But it’s cold in here!”


“Oh yeah. This is much warmer. Loving this!”


“It is my disposition to be happy. But WHAT THE HECK?”




“Given a choice, I would have become a gluten free pumpkin pie. Dreams do come true!”


Matthew and I honored the sacrifice of our cheery little pumpkin and devoured him the day after Halloween. Slightly more custard-like consistency than pie, but delicious!


A pumpkin inspired hat

IMG_0098IMG_0099Last but not least, our little pumpkin created inspiration for this bright orange floppy cap. This was knit with a seed stitch for the body and a nice thick ribbing. I make these hats floppy and stylish, but on cold autumn evenings you can pull this cap snug over your ears.

Want one for yourself?

This pumpkin inspired hat is only $25 plus shipping. It goes to the first person to send me an email.

I love making hats this time of year, and I’m not normally a BRIGHT ORANGE kind of girl, but this was a fun one to make as the trees turn the same color and fall from the trees.

Our Halloween

This Halloween I learned: Matthew has amnesia.

Every year he forgets how much he loves Halloween right up until the moment when little children start knocking on the door. This tragic infliction results in never having a costume prepared in advance. A mad scramble in the closet for anything “costume like” ensues.

Though he does make a very cute “Architect” (no complaints!), next year we will make an effort to cure his “Halloween Amnesia” a few weeks in advance, and dress him up like something other than architect (Jeans and a knit sweater.)

One more note: We had approximately 20 young visitors demanding candy. Like Portland, smart Denver parents design costumes that incorporate thick jackets and gloves. One boy came to our door dressed with a cheeky variation on the warm weather costume: He was all in light grey sweatpants, with GHOST stitched across his chest. His costume was one of the few we didn’t need to wonder about.

Something Tells Me it’s All Happening At the Zoo!

On Monday, Matthew and I played hookie and went where? Yes! The zoo!

We’ve been looking forward to November 3rd since the week we arrived in Denver. I went online to find all of the “free days” Denver has to offer. In addition to the zoo, we’ve also been to the Denver Art Museum and we’re going to the Botanical Gardens this Saturday, all for free! (Though we did buy a much needed coffee that afternoon at the chaotic Kibongi Coffee Shop.)

Coffee in the afternoon? Are we crazy?

No. We were freezing. Monday was the coldest day we’ve experienced in Denver, hovering around 39 degrees. Im an “autumn optimist” (some would say “autumn idiot”) and it is my tendency to not bust out my winter ware until frost is on the ground. Somehow, I believe that if I don’t dress for the weather (thereby acknowledging it’s cold out there) I can hold onto the last remnants of summer. My big grey “apocalypse coat,” (a gift from my Mama) stayed home.

Denial is a powerful thing. Except it didn’t work Monday and is likely to kill me in the future.

But we were at the zoo! So it was worth it.

I find myself conflicted about animals in cages, but I have to say this about the Denver zoo: they care very deeply about conservation and animal sanity. Not only do they supply their animals with homes as close to their natural habitat as man can create, they are active participants in breeding and releasing programs to repopulate eIMG_0301ndangered species.

All that said, I would appreciate it if you could send some happy thoughts to Denver’s snow leopard. Of all the creatures I witnessed in captivity, this fellow seemed to have the hardest time coping. When we were outside, he prowled around the back of his cage, occasionally letting out this wail that would chill your bones. You know that sound that your cat makes when you put it in a carrier? That guttural, threatened sound? Imagine that from a 150 lb creature. Once he came inside, he lay down on the rocks, and I captured this image. Like I said, just send these beautiful creatures some happy thoughts.

My new favorite animal, however, was having much more fun. But at 4 months old, everything is fun. The Fossa (pronounced FOO-sah) resembles a cougar (it was in the Feline exhibit) but their closest relative is actually the mongoose. They have long bodies and a tail to match and at 20 pounds they are the largest mammals on Madagascar, putting them on top of the food chain. Here is little Rico and his mama Violet. Although still at nursing age, Rico doesn’t believe he should be excluded from the bone that’s larger than him. No way.

IMG_0404 The last time I went to the zoo with my mother, she called out at the roaming peacock and got him to open up his plumage. (My mom’s got the pipes to seduce a peacock. I’m a proud daughter.) In her honor, I called out at all of the peacocks I saw, but they weren’t interested.

IMG_0466Last but not least, we have Denver zoo’s Toyota model. I hope she’s paid well and has an awesome dressing room.


7 Day Challenge: After Final Day!

We kinda can’t believe we did it. But we did!

A year’s worth of casual work and it all came down to one hard push for one hard week. We are both blown away with how much we accomplished in the last 7 days!

This would not have been possible without all of you, holding us accountable, sending happy thoughts, digitally standing there with proud, smiling faces. Thank you, dear friends and family!

There were a few days this week when we would have preferred to spend the entire day in bed. Of course, this was compounded by the fact that Matthew came down with a sinus infection, and now I am feeling fluid in my chest that wasn’t there a few days ago.

“We’re going live right now,” Matthew just muttered at me, tired but triumphant. “We did it!”

We’ve come to our self-imposed finish line, 30 minutes after midnight, exhausted and sick (despite many glorious naps!) and infinitely proud.

And hey! Check out the new site! is a safe hub for present and future massage therapists to get the tools they need to succeed. The primary feature is a set of audio study guides recorded by the one and only, Bob Sterry. These were designed with auditory learners (like me!) in mind, to help them learn their kinesiology (aka muscle anatomy), and to pass their massage boards. Ideally, these will be useful for individuals studying to be chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and so on. We’ll see!

In the meanwhile, Matthew and I are celebrating with a quick whiskey, then hitting the sack with tea and kittens who’ve been after us to come to bed for hours.

This is such a great feeling!