Sunday, August 27, 2006

And Away We Go

We are leaving Pocariça tomorrow morning and heading back to Lisbon where we will spend the last three days of our vacation. So, tonight we are packing up our 15 bottles of vinho tinto, 2 bottles of Port and our bottle of cachaça along with all of the souvenirs we bought for people. There will hardly be room for the clothes that we came with and we will have to get an extra suitcase once we get back to Lisbon. When we leave Portugal, we always play a little game called, "How much wine can we get safely back to the U.S."? We have had amazing successes (18 is our record) and terrible tragedies (watching the wine soaked boxes shooting out of the baggage carousel in Chicago, for one). Luisa´s father carefully chooses these wines from his private stock and gives them to us. They represent a connection to him and, obviously, to this place. This makes it all sound so simple but it is of course much more complex than I can explain.

Tomorrow, we begin the Farewell Tour. We will have to try to strike a balance between the familial obligations and entertaining the children if we are to maintain the hard won sanity of the past two weeks. There are aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and grandparents to visit. We are going to go to the Zoo and want try to go to the beach one last time. I feel unprepared for the rush of the next few days. At this point in our past trips, I have been ready to leave and looked forward to the goodbyes, knowing that each one brought me closer to home. This is the first time in 10 years that I feel that I could stay awhile longer.

This is my last post from here. We won´t have access to the internet once we return to Lisbon. When I get back to Minneapolis, I´m sure I will have lots of stories to share. There is an 8 hour flight ahead of us and the joy of a 7 hour layover in Philadelphia with jet lagged children. Admit´re jealous!

Friday, August 25, 2006


We have played a lot of Uno with Miguel since we have been in Portugal. It has become part of his bed time ritual. He has picked it up quickly and is pretty darn good at it for 5 years old. He is starting to get some of the strategy of the game and plays his cards well. I know he plays well because he can´t yet hold his cards up without me seeing them.

Tonight, we had time for 6 games. He won the first 3 easily. Then, I took the fourth. He took the fifth. In our final game, I was down to three cards when he called Uno. I looked over into his hand and saw that his last card was a Wild card. It didn´t matter what I played, so, I just threw down a card. He looked at me, shook his head dejectedly and said, "I guess I´ll have to draw. I can´t play". I said, "Miguel! Your last card is a Wild card. You know that you can play!" He said, "Mama, I have had a lot of winning and I want you to be able to win some too."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Caldeirada de Enguias

This is a delicacy in Portugal and one that we have every time we visit. It is a a juicy stew filled with potatoes, tomatoes, a lot of garlic and onions and eels. Yes, eels. The first time we had the eel stew, Luisa´s father and stepmother took us to a nice restaurant on the coast, a place known for its Caldeirada de Enguias. While they spoke with the waiter and excitedly placed our order, I went to my happy place, a place that did not have eels on the menu. I grew up in Kansas. Land locked. The only kind of fish I had was Mrs. Paul´s and the primary ingredient in fish sticks in actually textured vegetable protein. My family was all about the meat and potatoes and the cow reigned supreme in my childhood home. This is the context in which my palate developed. Fish and seafood are a gastronomical stretch for me. You try to feed me an eel and I get downright edgy. When the stew arrived at the table, the smell was phenomenal. The onions and garlic drew me in and I was ready to devour the whole pot until I looked into my bowl and something looked back at me. Heads or tails? Hey, with this stew, you get both! As I chanted silently to myself "you can do this, you can do this", I began removing the spines from my eels. I couldn´t poke around forever, I had to eventually take a bite. When I did, I was shocked to find that it tasted absolutely fabulous. I loved it. I ate several bowls of eel stew that day and brought smiles to the faces of my in-laws.

Every time we have visited since then, Luisa´s father and stepmother plan a day for us to have eel stew and I dread it every single time. Intellectually, I know that I will like it but there is just something about the thought of it that has me dragging my heels to the table. We had our Caldeirada de Enguias today and, once again, I enjoyed it. Zeca loved it. All of the vegetables that she normally eats in mass quantities sat untouched as she begged for more and more eels. Miguel ate his eels just fine, though he was more interested in examining the spines up close. I ate two heaping helpings. It did seem that there were a few more little eel faces looking at me than I remembered from previous times but I did my best to ignore them. We ate our stew and toasted with champagne and I´m set for a couple more years.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Slip Me Some Skin

A few days after arriving in Portugal, I noticed that I had developed a rash on the underside of my right forearm. There were numerous tiny, bright red bumps that didn´t itch. I shrugged and didn´t really give it much thought. Then, a few days later as I was washing my face, I noticed that it felt rough. I rubbed a bit more and the full horror hit me - my face was covered in a very fine rash. Now, I can live with a rash on the underside of one arm but when something hits my face, I freak. I could think of nothing other than possible causes for the rash and possible cures for the rash. The children popped into the bathroom asking for breakfast and I thought, "Breakfast? Breakfast!? Mama needs a dermatologist stat!" Having sensitive skin and having passed the gene for this onto our children, I always travel with my assortment of topicals - lotions, anti-fungal cream, hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic ointment, zit cream. I bring them all. I just couldn´t figure out which of these would be most appropriate for my entire face, neck and ears. Yeah, you read that right. Ears. I opted for nothing at first, thinking that I must first determine the cause of the rash before treating it. Then, when it worsened, I decided that it was simply extreme dryness and tried Eucerin. It did not improve. Then, I decided it was dryness brought on by the sun and the salt. My mother-in-law gave me some type of special sensitive skin lotion that smells like lemons and she is now my new best friend. As horrifying as my face rash has been to me, I am perfectly willing to admit that it is not noticeable to anyone else. Still, I know it is there and it is a rash.

I think one face rash is sufficient for a family of four while on vacation. The Gods of Skin must think otherwise because both children have now developed bumps on their faces. What could be better than 3 out of 4 family members having rashes on the most prominent parts of their bodies, you might ask? Well, let me tell you - each person having unique bumps. None of us are similarly rashy. Miguel has a couple of big pink bumps on his face. Zeca has several small red bumps on hers. We have already covered mine in depth. Luisa insists that Miguel has mosquito bites and Zeca has melga bites. Yeah right. Like I am going to believe there are two different biting bugs and each type has selected only one of our children as prey. And melgas? Never heard of them. I think she knows something. I think she knows the real cause of all of this and is keeping me in the dark because she doesn´t think that I can handle the truth. It´s leprosy, isn´t it?

Monday, August 21, 2006

To Market To Market

We left out children with their grandparents this morning, assuming that they could figure out ways to communicate with each other long enough for us to have a little time alone. There is a fair in Cantanhede, the city just up the road, and it was in full swing by the time we got there. There were people everywhere and most of them had cars. Thankfully, they were tiny European cars so we were able to find a place to park because you can fit about 2,000 of them in a postage stamp of a parking lot. Hey, and when the parking lot is full, they all just park on the sidewalk anyway. Parking? HA - we laugh at parking!

We crossed the street to enter the fairgrounds and by fairgrounds I mean big, dusty, gravelly parking lot. Let the deluge of the sense begin! We were moving slowly with the crowds. The sun was hot and there was no shade. I think I may have mentioned that there is the tiniest bit of reluctance by men here to wear deoderant. Yeah, did I mention the sun? I thought so. There were people shouting prices, clapping for attention from customers, on tables yelling to everyone. One man jumped on the back of a truck and started screaming through a megaphone. I have no idea what any of them were saying but I knew they must be telling me about their low, low prices. There was clothing, table linens, housewares, produce, farm equipment, pottery, furniture and live animals. They have everything that you could possibly want. How many times have I been out shopping for bras and thought to myself, "Now, if I could only buy a live chicken, I would be set"? Yeah, well, it wouldn´t be a problem for me here. We bought a soccer jersey for a friend but nothing else, though I did have my eye on a gigantic, hand carved wooden spoon. Gigantic - like three feet long. I could have stirred a whole lot of something with a spoon that big.

We took our leave of the fair and had to go to another little market to get tomatoes for Luisa´s stepmother. I´m not sure why she needed the tomatoes because there was a whole pile on the counter but Luisa was going to do as she was told. Fernanda instructed Luisa to go to the market, look for a stall in which they were selling vegetables, find the third woman from the right and get the tomatoes from tell her that Fernanda had sent her. This was one of the rare moments in which I was happy that I don´t speak much Portuguese because there is no way in hell I wanted to have any responsibility in solving this mystery. After knocking three times on a small door, uttering the words as instructed and doing the secret handshake while blindfolded, Luisa got the tomatoes. She then had to get bread but, apparently, there is no secret society for bread procurement so we just walked up to the bread stall and bought it. Luisa also bought me a chocolate eclair. We then left the little market and waded through the crowds. I am embarrassed to say that I didn´t wait until we got in the car to eat the eclair. I am even more embarrassed to say that I ate it in the most graceless fashion. I split the top from the bottom and licked out the goo and the chocolate was melting all over my hands and pieces were falling on my shirt and I was licking my lips and despite all the bras and the live chickens, I think I might have been more of a spectacle. I am sure that every single person I passed thought, "I bet she is American".

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I Think We´ll Stick with Twister

As we finished breakfast this morning, Miguel took his sister by the hand and led her from the kitchen. His voice was so tender and she looked up at him, all smiles and trust. The sun was shining through the kitchen window and we were sipping our coffee, glowing as we watched our beautiful children. Then, we heard Miguel say, "O.k. Zeca, let´s play slavery!" I sputtered coffee, Luisa and I stared at each other in disbelief and the glow vanished. It always happens this way. We are contentedly watching our children and thinking that they are gorgeous and talented and amazing and, slowly, we begin to think that no other children in the history of the world have ever done/looked/sounded like this and then - BAM. Reality hits. The universe has a way of keeping parents humble.

I assumed that Miguel had no idea what slavery was and had simply created a game using the word. So, in my most serious tone, I asked him if he knew what slavery was. He said that he did and launched into a long explanation of slavery including the concepts of ownership, perceived superiority, cruelty, abuse, separation of families and many of the other horrors. He then told me a story that he had heard in school about a young girl escaping to the north and the signs that were used to show that it was safe for travel and how she walked barefoot at night through pine needles before she made it to safety. As he described it all, I had to admit - it sounded pretty exciting. It sounded like an incredible adventure. Still, there will be no more playing slavery.

Luisa and I are white, middle class lesbian feminists that move in almost entirely white circles. There are no people of color in our inner circle and the people of color that we do know are only acquaintances. We live in the heart of the city in a neighborhood that is very racially diverse but we don´t hang out with our neighbors. We are aware of how white are lives are and I, for one, am sometimes freaked out by it. I am not well versed in the political issues around race and racism. I don´t talk much about it because I don´t want to look stupid and because I am never really challenged to do so. I do want my children to be more enlightened than I am but I often feel like I am in uncharted territory when it comes to discussions about race. Miguel notices skin color and sometimes describes people by the color of their skin, not with judgement but as true differentiation. I can generally handle that pretty well, though I would prefer he not do it loudly in public. It´s when he says things like, "Let´s play slavery" or "Dark skinned people can´t see me" - well, I fucking lose my mind. My rational mind tries to calmly grapple with the origin of the statement while the emotional part of me recoils in shock and then starts pacing, fueled by Liberal White Woman Guilt. My response can generally go in only two directions: Stepford Mother or Linda Blair. I can say, "My sweet little sugar plum...why would you ever say or think such a thing?" with a gentle pat on the head and a little sparkle in my eye or I can allow my head to spin and start spewing all sorts of things that have the express purpose of scaring the shit out of him to make sure that he never says such a thing again. I´m sure there are other options but I am still evolving as a parent, so, I go with Stepford Mother. Somehow, these talks do end up being conversations and seem productive in the end.

I started this post with the intention of writing about freedom. Luisa and I have been talking about how free our children have been since we have been here. Instead I opened with a snappy little anecdote about slavery and a discussion of race. Huh. I guess I´ll save that other topic for another day...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Rain in Spain

O.k. we are not in Spain but nothing rhymes with Portugal. It was rainy and cold again today. It reminds me of fall, a season that I absolutely adore when it is, you know, actually the proper time of year. I´m not a big fan of fall when I am on my summer vacation. We spent the whole day trying to find things to do and, in the process, had a pretty good day. Miguel spent time with his grandfather, Luis, feeding the pigeons. These are not random birds but racing pigeons and Luis takes them seriously. I am sitting here surrounded by the trophies that prove it. I don´t know what all Miguel and Luis do out there but it took up a lot of time this morning and Miguel felt very useful. Miguel and Zeca played in the yard for awhile making soup with water, rocks, sticks and weeds. The mess and the wet clothes made me edgy but also made me remember all the times I did the very same thing as a child. I realized that I don´t let my kids get dirty often enough. As I was letting go of my issues of control and starting to smile and enjoy watching them play, Zeca found an old chicken bone in the yard with some fatty meat still attached and promptly put it in her mouth. That was that. Then, we decided to go to the beach and walk around. We knew it was too cold to swim but we needed to get away from the house for awhile. As we were walking to the car, Miguel and I noticed snails...really cool snails with long shells (not the round spirals of my youth). We watched them for awhile and I realized that I´ve never seen a snail in Minneapolis. We must not have them there. I could have watched them for a long time but Zeca was strapped in her car seat (to prevent her from eating the beautiful snails) and she was not happy to sit there while we explored nature. We headed to the beach and the waves were enormous. They were those large, foamy waves that truly crash like misty thunder on the beach. There was a red flag flying today which means that the conditions are dangerous - no swimming because of the large waves and strong undertow. After walking around awhile, hunting for sea shells and finding mostly those of lupini beans, we headed back to the house. The lawn care people were working at Quinta da Loia today. One of the most striking images of my day was looking into the back yard and seeing an older woman in a dress that came to mid-calf with an impressively large gas powered weed whacker strapped on to her. The dress and the weed whacker - I had to stop and watch. The rest of the day is a blur of playing ball outside, playing cards, chasing Zeca and eating. Then, the kids went to bed...easily.

The weather is supposed to improve and we are hoping that we will be able to swim soon. Miguel is ready to get back in the water and, even today with the clouds and the need for jackets said, "You know what today is? A beautiful day for the pool!" We are hoping that Miguel´s eternal optimism is finally rewarded.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


We didn't do much today. It was a holiday so we didn't go to the beach. It was too cold anyway. We spent the day here at Quinta da Loia. When I considered blogging tonight, I thought I might skip it since we had no grand adventures. Sure, I could write about playing soccer in the yard with Miguel and watching Zeca dig in the dirt but that's hardly what people expect when they think of a European vacation. It's not even what I think about when I think about a vacation here. Somehow, I get sucked into thinking that it should be all castles, cobblestone, history, vineyards and sidewalk cafes. Once again, I have realized that I am a person that can get caught up in the idea of something rather than the actual experience of it. Tsk tsk...shame on me. So, I am blogging because of this realization.

I am sitting here at my father-in-law's desk. It's one of those enormous, wooden desks that makes you feel as if you are engaged in something of importance even when you are not. I am looking east and watching the sun set. It was a cloudy and cool day here and the clouds are purple, pink and orange dancing across the tops of the eucalyptus trees. The children are in bed and it is quiet. Not too shabby, huh?

I have been thinking about the word relief and its many meanings. On this trip, I have certainly been relieved of some of my work, my duties around the house, our routine. I've also been relieved to realize that I am enjoying my time here. Most people probably wouldn't understand how I could possibly be surprised by that, so, let me explain. When we came here last, I was about 11 weeks pregnant and was tired and nauseous and petulent. The food, the smells, the isolation, the overwhelming sense of displacement were magnified by the pregnancy. My biggest pregnancy related craving was for the familiar and I couldn't have it. It was such a strong experience that when we planned this trip, I felt sick all over - worried that I could never overcome the way I felt the last time. The relief came on our first trip to the beach this time. I stood in the ocean up to my waist, waves crashing into my back, the sun on my shoulders. I looked toward the sand where Luisa and the children were happily playing and I felt true joy for the first time in several months. A tremendous relief on many levels. It's a relief that things are going so well...that the children ate heaping platefuls of squid today without saying a word...that the children have eagerly sought out the grandparents they see so little...that I have it in me to try to speak and that my Portuguese is better than I remember. It's a relief to know that after all that has happened this year I can still be happy.

Monday, August 14, 2006

In Portugal

We are here. We were not affected by the Terrorist Plots but thanks to all of you who asked. In fact, I had not heard about said plots until I spoke with my mother who started the conversation with, "Oh my god, I´ve been SO worried about you!" I asked why and she told me about the terrorist stuff and I assured her that we are probably safer here in little Portugal. I still don´t know what´s been going on in the world...I am on VACATION, don´t you know?

I am rather bleary eyed from our drive up north and our visit to Obidos today. Oh yeah, and the wine. Plus, I am sitting here typing this on a lap top that rests on a desk that is about two feet higher than the chair. I feel like a toddler sitting at my father´s desk. So, this entry will be simple and there will be no pictures. Here are some random thoughts on things so far...

1)People are not very nice to small children running amok in airports. The people who are not nice just might include parents of such children.

2)You can survive two flights totalling 11 hours with two young children and your period.

3)Why do European men shun deoderant and why do they always stand right above my seat on the plane?

4)Everyone smokes in Portugal. Miguel pretended to smoke his Chupa Chupa stick today.

5)The bread is so good. Seriously, there is nothing like it. Why can I buy a bag of fresh bread here for a couple bucks and have to spend 5 on a single loaf of Artisan bread at home? We can figure out how to package meals with meat that need no refrigeration but we can´t figure out how to make great bread at a good price. I am going to eat my weight in bread while I´m here. Zeca feels the same way...that´s all she had for dinner tonight.

6)When you are 27 and you have no children, walking along castle walls without any railing is amazing and awe-inspiring. When you are 37 and you are walking those same walls with a fearless and twitchy 5 year old, it makes you want to vomit.

And, on that note, I will sign off. I hope to have more coherent thoughts as they days go by and maybe even a picture or two to share. Until then, boa noite.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Ah, vacation…relaxation, freedom from responsibility, quiet and sleep. I can almost hear the ocean waves gently lapping at the sandy beach, can almost taste the Portuguese wine and the crusty bread, can almost hear the children screaming – wait, children screaming? Oh, that’s right - I have children and that changes the whole vacation thing a bit. Vacationing is now parenting in a different place…with jet lag. This doesn’t mean that going on a vacation with your family is not fun – it’s just tiring. You see, children have their own ideas about vacation and they think vacation is all about the FUN!

Miguel: When are we going to do something fun?!?
Me: We just spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon at the pool. Wasn’t that fun?
Miguel: Yes, but what’s the next fun thing?!?
Me (spoken quietly to self): A glass of wine, a novel and about 18 hours of sleep.

Children expect a lot during vacation. They expect raucous good times, lots of activity and unusual amounts of ice cream. They do not expect rules or bedtimes or anything that can be construed as limiting to the FUN. Quiet, calm, sleep – they are, apparently, the harbingers of FUN doom. They are reviled by the vacationing child. This is, of course, unfortunate for the vacationing adults.

So, we are about to embark on one of these adventures. We leave for Portugal tomorrow at 12:35 p.m. There will be long plane rides and layovers and much wrangling of children. We will get to engage in fabulous games like “Contain the Toddler in the Airplane Seat with Minimal Amounts of Screaming” and “A Gazillion Questions” (because “20 Questions" is for wimps). We will arrive in Lisbon* on Thursday morning, haggard and mumbling to ourselves. Don’t worry about the children though, they’ll be raring to go. Let the FUN begin!

*We will spend the first few days in Lisbon before traveling up north to Pocariça. Once we are there, I will be blogging. I hope to have interesting things to say but, if nothing else, you can read about the food, the wine and how much sand Zeca has eaten...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Step Away from the Meerkats

Every weekday, I take the light rail to the Hennepin County Government Center where I work. As we approach the Government Center Station, the train’s crappy speaker system turns on and the driver gruffly announces, “Please remember to use the cross walks at this station”. Nothing says “good morning” like an aural assault. Sometimes I use the crosswalk and sometimes I don’t. My mama taught me to look both ways before crossing and I have gotten pretty good at it in the past 37 years. Should I suffer Death by Southbound Train, I take full responsibility for it - it would be my own damn fault. Similarly, Hennepin County has replaced the bricks in the courtyard twice because people slipped on them in the snow, fell and then sued the County. Millions of dollars have been spent replacing bricks because, it turns out, that most pavers get a little slippery when icy. Crazy, I know. Maybe we need the county commissioners to stand in the courtyard on winter mornings announcing, “It is icy. Please wear winter boots.”

Enter the meerkats. Yesterday, the staff at the Minnesota Zoo euthanized 5 meerkats because a 9 year old girl climbed onto a rock, put her hand down behind the protective glass in the exhibit and was bitten by a meerkat. This shouldn’t be that surprising. These aren’t kittens in a pet store. These are wild animals – plastic rocks and protective glass aren’t part of their natural habitat. You poke at a wild animal and the shocking truth is that it may bite you. In my mind, the parents needed to take some responsibility here. It is impossible to watch a child every moment, so, I don’t blame them for the daughter climbing the exhibit and for her attempt to touch the meerkat. The part that I cannot accept is that the parents then refused to allow their daughter to receive the rabies vaccine. There are laws and policies and all sorts of stuff that governs action in these type of cases and the Department of Health ordered the animals to be killed. The meerkats had no choice, the Department of Health had no choice and the staff at the zoo had no choice. The only ones with a choice were the parents and they chose to avoid any personal consequences for the incident.

The idea of personal responsibility seems to have been lost here in the United States. In Portugal, you can climb on the edge of a castle wall and do a little jig and no one will say a word. There aren’t ropes to keep you out or signs to advise you. They operate on the basic principle that people should use some common sense and, if they don’t, then they should bear responsibility for the outcome. In the U.S., when people do something stupid, they look around for someone to blame or expect others to clean up the mess. Maybe the parents should have had to kill the meerkats themselves – that might have changed their decision.

Read the article here: Minnesota Meerkats

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Little House on the Park

We lived in a town home, 3 houses, two mobile homes (insert trailer park jokes here) and an apartment by the time I was 12. Each time we moved, my mother would unpack our things, arrange the furniture, hang up the same pictures that, in retrospect, were no reflection of her and then go about her normal routine as if nothing had changed. I never once saw her show any regret about leaving a place or joy in the prospect of a new one. Each place was simply a place to live, never a place in which to create a life.

In early 1996, Luisa and I decided to buy a house. I don’t remember how we made this decision but I think my mother’s repeated insistence that we were throwing our money away on rent might have had something to do with it. Also, our good friends had just bought a house and that seemed so, well, cool. So, we started looking at houses in their neighborhood, Powderhorn Park. We looked at two houses. One house could have been used as a set for horror films and the other house was cute. The cute house lacked many of the things we wanted…an open front porch, a fireplace and other important things such as cabinets and counters and square footage. I’m not prone to the witchy-woo-woo but when I walked into the cute house, I felt at peace. I immediately told Luisa of my peaceful, easy feeling and announced that this was the house for us. She looked at me like I was a crazy person, which is not that uncommon. “Shouldn’t we look around?” she asked. “It’s not what we are looking for”, she said. “No”, I insisted, “This is the house we are going to buy”. Now, Luisa is no push over. There were more conversations about the house and we did eventually look at one more very ugly house with silver reflective wallpaper covered in pussy willows. Maybe she feared the pussy willows, maybe I wore her down. Either way, we bought the house, the small imperfect house in the sketchy part of town. And by "sketchy" I mean the first time my parents visited, they drove up to find the windshields of every single parked car on the street shattered. Gang initiation, it turns out. My stepfather sat stoically in their van. My mother clutched her purse. As we walked in, my mother said in her most chipper voice, “You didn’t mention that your new house was in the inner city”. Inner city was nice because I know she was thinking “hood”.

We have lived in this house for 10 years now. We have built community and created a family in this house. I nursed both of our babies here, sitting in our bedroom watching the wind blow through a beautiful elm in the backyard. Our children took their first steps here. We have built our identity as individuals, as a couple and now as a family around this house and the park and all of our amazing friends who have moved here as well. This is why we both sat down and cried when we realized that our house had become too small for our family and why, eventually, we realized that we couldn’t leave. Yes, we could have found another great house and maybe we would have been lucky enough to stay in the neighborhood. We could have unpacked our things and arranged the furniture and gone about our routines but it would not have been the same. We have created a life here and that seems amazing to me, this woman who lived most of her life feeling disconnected. I may take up cross-stitching just so I can make a little plaque for our entry way that says, “Home is where the heart is” in pink and country blue. Well, let’s not go that far.

This terribly boring missive is really just an excuse to show off the pictures of our finished addition and to sing the praises of our contractor, Paul Pope of Pope Builders. Paul not only made our vision a reality but did a fabulous job. Oh, and he left us gifts when he was finished. Good work and presents - maybe I should cross-stitch him a little somethin’, maybe a haiku. So, check out my construction photos on Flickr in the sidebar (Oooo, I am so fancy now).