Monthly Archives: September, 2015

Pic of the Week: Tiny Turf

We  spotted this photo-op on a post-breakfast stroll in Venice this past weekend; if you can’t make it out, the sign between the fountain and patch of astroturf says “World’s Smallest Front Yard”



Guest Blogger: Benchmark B-Day #2

By M.J. Dunphy

So one would think that a surprise trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico for a 70th birthday celebration would be enough adventure for one lifetime. Not so in my creative and over-the-top loving family.

It all began in November 2008 with an intimate dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Philly for 10399590_309585635625_3691039_nmy 74th birthday. At dessert I was handed a small red box. Inside was a tiny scroll informing me that I had a whole year to anticipate a week in Tuscany for my 75th. Just imagine what the imagination can do in a year!

In what seemed like the blink of an eye we were landing in Milan. We boarded the train to Arezzo, one of the most important Etruscan cities from Roman times, and gave ourselves over to the magic that is Italy!

As our taxi wound up the long driveway and reached the tall black iron gates, we got our first glimpse of Villa Rossi-Mattei that was to be our home for the next week. Dating back to 1800, this gem originally belonged to an ancient noble family and is situated on the archaeological hill of Castelsecco, surrounded by a beautiful green park, not quite a mile from the center of Arezzo. I felt like I had just dropped into a centuries old romance novel.

10399590_309252945625_1020813_nOur charming and knowledgeable brother-sister hosts, Liliana and Dante Masieri own this amazing property with its medieval and modern touches, its shimmering olive trees and 360-degree view of the legendary Tuscan countryside. These “youngsters” are the current generation of family who have lovingly cared for this jewel of an estate since 1860.

Arezzo is a walking town and walk we did. I can still taste the samples from the salumeria in the piazza. I even had a photo op on an antique fainting couch at the outside flea market — just like a birthday contessa!

Highlights? Too many to enumerate in detail for a blog, but of particular note: wandering down a tiny street and finding a cameo maker, stopping for an afternoon espresso, replaying “Room with a View” in my head and buying miniature Pinocchio drawings from the actual artist near the Ponte Vecchio.

10399590_309586345625_3439684_nAnd of course, remembering Siena, home to the famous Palio horse race, the historic clock tower and enormous square where we relaxed over chilled prosecco and enjoyed watching the passersby.

But I have saved the best for last: my birthday dinner. The chefs, my grand-son-in-law and his best friend, along with all the family and friends who were there (and it was a crowd, believe me), cooked and served and set a magnificent long table that rivaled royal meals in any castle. I was truly surrounded by love and warmth and good cheer spilling over everywhere. What a blessing to be in this glorious environment with the most important people in my world, enjoying and appreciating all of God’s gifts. Well worth adding another five years to my already brimming-over life! Abbondanza!

Battleship Museum a ‘Blast’

Iowa6We’ve taken the kiddies to many museums in L.A. – The Getty, LACMA, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Natural History Museum to name a few – but our recent visit to The Battleship Iowa Museum in San Pedro may have just topped them all on the child-friendly fun barometer.



I just probably should have given a little forethought to how I would describe our visit to this recently retired battleship-turned-floating museum because they wanted to know how long we’d be sailing on the high seas that day. (We had been on our first Carnival cruise the year prior so naturally to them ALL boats head out on the water!)

I did do a little last minute research that morning so they knew to look for Victory the dog mascot as we ambled up the gangway to board the ship, where they were each immediately handed a scavenger hunt map and Iowa5eventual gift at the end of the tour (dog tags, plastic green army men and stickers).

Beyond the scavenger hunt, the kiddies enthusiastically explored the exhibits found along the marked  path throughout the ship: the massive guns, multiple decks, gunpowder system and crew accommodations. Inside the officers’ quarters, they were especially enamored with the tub that was fitted in the private bathroom for FDR to accommodate his polio.

Taking turns trying out the captain’s chairs on either side of the ship sparked the kiddies’ best being-captain-of-a-WWII-vessel-is-serious-business impressions. Stacked three high, they also got a kick out of testing the crew bunks.

Battleship fanatic or not, this is a museum that deserves a 21-gun salute.


Guest Blogger: Miss A’s Disney Adventure

Frozen Singalong

By Miss Athena
4th Grader

I loved the Disney World trip me and my family went on. The first ride we chose was “It’s a Small World.” It was very interesting. I loved all the rides there.

We went on “Splash Mountain.” The drop on that was really scary. We also rode “Space Mountain,” “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad,” “Tomorrowland Speedway,” “Haunted Mansion,” and the “Astro Orbiter” rocket ride, which made me quite dizzy. Oh and who can forget the new “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train” — it always had a really long wait but it was great.

We also visited “Tom Sawyer’s Island” and “The Jungle Cruise,” which was very relaxing. We went to Adventureland and climbed the “Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.” In Fantasyland, we checked out “Under the Sea with Ariel” and in Tomorrowland, the “Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor” comedy show was funny. I got on the big screen as the character of Boo, the little girl from the movie. It was really cool.

We stayed in the Disney Dolphin Hotel for four nights. My grandparents from Florida came up to stay in the hotel with us and we had so much fun. One day we went to Disney Hollywood Studios. We went on this awesome ride there called the “Rock’n’ Roll Rollercoaster.” It went backwards and upside down. It was really cool. We went on so many rides I can’t even count.

I had so much fun on all the rides at Disney World. I wish I could have stayed there for a longer time. I liked that we went to Disney Hollywood Studios one day and the Magic Kingdom for two days.

I also had fun because I was with my family.

Mickey, Minnie & the Little Lippys

Click on the screen shot below to see my destination feature about our recent trip to
Disney World that posted on travel website Jetset today.