Monday, February 01, 2021

Grandpa VanHook

 These past few days I have been flooded with good memories of my grandpa. He lived a long and wonderful life. I have memories of growing up and loving going to my favorite place, grandma and grandpa's house, the house he built with his hands. Looking through all the tools in his workshop, playing basketball with cousins on the gravel (no blood, no foul), kickball games at the sidewalk corner, his awesome tire swing, catching crawdads in the creek, baseball with the walnuts, and learning how to properly play with fire while camping. I have memories of high school, running down to Bloomington to walk the par 3 with grandpa after school, getting a quick dinner at grandma's during band camp week, and playing a little band music with him at church. Getting to visit his home in Texas and seeing all the areas he had built down there too. And I will never forget when staying at their house one Christmas in 2010 when I discovered the hidden closet area he built under the stairs and how he hid/designed the entrance. When grandma and grandpa sold their house, all I wanted was some tools and odds and ends from his workshop. Now, a piece of grandpa goes in to many of my projects.

I learned a lot from my grandpa. We taught me to work hard, but not to forget to enjoy the world around you. He helped inspire my love of travel, and I loved talking to him about places we had both been, and places I had not yet been to that he told me about. I learned how to loudly sing the bass part of hymns in church, especially the ones with an echo in the bass line. I will forever think of and hear grandpa when I sing "I Surrender All". 

Thank you God for the blessing of grandpa in my life. I am sure you have already joined the band in Heaven, and inquired about where the workshop is.

Richard "Dick" Van Hook

December 22, 1928 - January 27, 2021

U.S. Veteran

Richard Lee “Dick” Van Hook, 92, of Martinsville, passed away Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.

He was born December 22, 1928 to the late Jesse and Effie Zee Van Hook in Fountain County, Indiana.

Dick served his country in the United States Navy including a tour with the “Seabees”. He also served as a firefighter in Indianapolis and worked as a tool and die man for Jenn-Air Products. Dick’s passion was music. He played trumpet in bands in Martinsville, Greenwood, and Texas. He was also a skilled artist who loved painting, working with stained glass, pastels, woodworking, and even sculpting, having successfully restored the fountain at the Soldiers and Sailors Children’s Home by re-working fiberglass and re-casting. Dick was also a skilled craftsman. He designed and built his home for himself and his wife Marybeth where they spent several years of their life together. Dick was a devoted family man and a Christian. He was a member of Eastview Christian Church and spent much of his life traveling the world with Marybeth.

He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mary Elizabeth (Hunt) Van Hook who he married February 4, 1951; son, Richard Lee Van Hook, II and wife Charlene of Washington state; daughters, Karen Lynn Phillips and husband John of Mooresville, Marylee Maxwell and husband Kelly of Martinsville, Kimberly Kay Atnip and husband Bob of Westfield; sister, Mary Katherine Moody; 10 grandchildren; 18 great grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his parents; sister, Ruth Ellen Bryant.

Private services for the family are Tuesday, February 2, 2021 at Costin Funeral Chapel.

Entombment with military and fire department honors will be at Nebo Memorial Park Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Eastview Christian Church, 2745 Old Morgantown Road, Martinsville, IN 46151 or to Camp Allendale, 4605 South Allendale Drive, Trafalgar, IN 46181.

Private Viewing

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Costin Funeral Chapel
539 E Washington St.
Martinsville, Indiana 46151

Private Service

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Costin Funeral Chapel
539 E Washington St.
Martinsville, Indiana 46151

Saturday, June 08, 2019


We were really looking forward to spending a relaxing few days on the island of Santorini, and celebrating our 15 year anniversary! On Tuesday we caught our early 6:30am flight to Athens from Rhodes and ate some breakfast during our layover. We arrived to Santorini airport at 10 and even though we had to wait a while for our bags, we got outside right as a bus to Fira was getting ready to leave. We arrived at the bus station and in general I knew which way to walk to our hotel, but knew it was downhill too. After a slow decent down the steps, we arrived at Hotel Keti. I did something I don't normally do; I splurged on a nice hotel with an amazing view and didn't tell Kacey about it. It was a great room to relax for a few days with probably some of the best views in town; we could see both the caldera and town, but it was very private as well. The first day we just walked around and enjoyed ourselves. We ate an ok lunch at Select Cafe. Food, in general, is expensive due to Fira being a cruise ship town, but the view and food were ok. We found the supermarket south of town and bought snacks and drinks for the room; bread, olive oil, cookies, crackers, juice, wine, and beer. We also bought a little delicious Easter cupcake pastry from a small wine shop. We had a forgettable dinner at Fanari at the top of the port steps. While we didn't get a sunset due to the weather, it was still nice to watch the town go dark at night while sitting on our terrace. We also walked around a bit at night for views of the town. We stopped at a crepe place; the owner was quite fun and interacting with customers, and we talked with a couple from NC.

Panoramic view of our room and town view

The next day we just relaxed and hung out. I took a load of laundry for service, only 10. I went for a walk along the coast up to Imerovigli near Skaros Rock. The path was closed at one spot due to it completely collapsing but there was no warning and it took about 20 minutes to get around it, but I found an awesome view of the Three Bells of Fira. Kacey did nothing and basically hung out in the hot tub all day, with a book, a little knitting, and some of the snacks from the grocery.  She enjoyed this because doing nothing is a very rare occurrence.  For our anniversary dinner, we went to Oia and walked around town shopping and looking for nice views. Then we walked down to Ammoudi. This is supposed to be one of the best sunset dinner views, but alas it was again extremely cloudy. We still enjoyed our trip and walk around Oia. We called a taxi to return home and ended up taking a van up the hill and then shared a ride with an American family who had booked the van. We enjoyed some ice cream and baklava at Solo Gelato. I had the traditional baklava with Mastic ice cream (a unique acquired taste from tree sap - however it looked similar to vanilla) and Kacey had a baklava milkshake.

Three Bells of Fira

Thursday was another slow day, but we wanted to see a bit more of the island. Kacey found a yoga class at a hostel inland.  She enjoyed the views of the coast and ocean from up higher during the very non-challenging class. We then took the bus out to Santorini Brewery. They had 4 or 5 beers on tap but nothing was that great. At least they didn't charge for the tastes. Around the corner was Canava Roussos winery. We planned to walk around a try a few wineries since many are out in this area. We enjoyed sampling here and talking to the employees. We walked up the road toward Volcano winery and stopped at Chatiri for lunch. It was a small mom and pop place and we were the only ones there. We got a few sides and it was nice. We walked up to Volcanic Slopes but they really only offered high end tastings for like 45 each. Not really our thing so we walked toward what was supposed to be a nice, famous church. Panagia Episkopi was pretty neat and the caretaker let us in as Kacey was snooping around. There is a small blue-top church along the way that we took some pictures of. We then walked down to Argyros winery (and accidentally walked around their entire property). Kacey did their sample menu and I just relaxed. The tour here was nice too. We caught the bus back to Fira and ate at Naussa. It was once again cloudy for sunset and even tried to rain. We peeked in the large Orthodox church right before it closed.

Small church next to Panagia Episkopi

Friday we decided to drive south on the island. We had heard Greek police can fine Americans for driving but were assured by many people that on Santorini, this doesn't happen. So we got a Fiat Panda and first stopped in Megalochori as this was supposed to be a neat little village. Well, we didn't really find anything of note and moved on. Next we headed to Akrotiki Lighthouse. We stopped at a beautiful church along the way. The lighthouse had what seemed to be a bunch of Americans walking around the rocks, but it was still really nice. We could not go in as it was chained up. Next we went to Red Beach. People were parking quite far away but we kept driving and parked basically at the start of the hike. Many people carry stuff to go sit on the beach but we just enjoyed taking it in and listening to someone play the accordion for a while on top of the hill with views of the beach. On our way to Vlichada beach we stopped at bakery and loaded up on lunch food and delicious snacks. We were going to just relax at this beach and eat, but it was kind of run down and empty, and not really anything around except a small fishing port. So after we ate we decided to go relax at Perissa Beach. This was a great idea and the area is really built for just relaxing on the beach. Lots of food places and a long beach to pick our favorite area. I was interested in getting a jetski especially as no one was really using them; that was because they were terribly expensive. After a couple hours and relaxing and fruity drinks, we next drove up to the tallest peak, Profitis Ilias, which has a monestary on top. You can pretty much see everything and it was a nice view. After taking it in for a bit, we decided to get back to our hotel room to watch the sunset from there. On our way down, the road was closed through town for the Easter celebration parade. So, we rerouted south and around the town. Luckily, I was able to leave the rental car at the small lot super close to the hotel. We watched an amazing sunset from our private spa. It was so relaxing. Afterward, we went up and people were starting to congregate around the church, including a small marching band. This was the part of Easter week where people march around with relics from the church and a band plays some music. As it was getting late, I grabbed a street gyro and then we stopped in Dionysos for some meze appetizers and a large bottle of Donkey White from Santorini Brewing (this beer is only available in large bottles).

The view of Red Beach

Saturday, our last full day, we decided to do the hike to Oia. After a slow, relaxing morning, we started off around 11:30. We walked by Volkan on the Rocks to ask about Volkan beer. This is the better beer I had tried on the island and I learned that they were still building their large bottling and tour center. As I had already done this part of the walk, I knew how to get around the closed part of the path quickly and got Kacey up to the Three Bells of Fira. It is a really pretty sight and as there were no cruise ships as it was Saturday, the views were not obstructed by big ships. We stopped in Imerovigli for some lunch; I got a sandwich from a deli/convenience store and Kacey got a risotto from a restaurant named Vigla, that was so new they had only a verbal menu read by the server.  The server and Kacey jokingly agreed they would swap and live in each other's countries.  We left for our hike around 1:30 and made it to Oia by 3:30. The first hill climb had a small church on the cliff just down the cliff off the path. We didn't go down as it looked really small. Halfway up the hill path was a small church that we walked around the outside. At the top of this first hill climb was a beautiful blue topped church. The hike down was pretty rough with desert-like conditions and a loose gravel path. At the bottom we had to walk the road for a quarter mile or so. Before getting back on the path there was a small snack shop selling cold water bottles for only 2 euros, so we got one. At the start of the next hill climb we were offered a donkey ride but declined. There were some abandoned cave homes partially built. This was a pretty big hill climb but not too treacherous and at the top we were rewarded with a cozy little church and great views of Oia and the caldera. Once we got in to town we found the first place with toilets and a cold smoothie and stopped there. We walked to the bus stop and while waiting for the bus looked for another cold smoothie but could not find a good one. Once back I stopped at a bar and got 2 for 1 mai tais and Kacey bought rose and lavender liquour (to take home) and a little cake. We could not find any good take away dinner so we just got a little ice cream and went to watch another amazing sunset. After that we went to Nikolas for an amazing dinner; potatoes, cheese dip, octopus, pork souvlaki, Ouzo, and vino. We talked briefly with one of the owners (we think) and she was very nice and friendly and spoke some Italian too. Afterward we stopped for more yummy ice cream at Zotos; very interesting and delicious flavors, I wished we had found it sooner! We were up until midnight when the Easter fireworks started. All the bells were chiming songs and each village was setting off fireworks. It was quite a show!

Our sunset view

Sunday was our day to leave. We checked out and walked down the path to the port. We bought some tiles and a picture. We took the cable car back up and stopped in a few more shops as we hadn't bought much stuff at all. I got one last gyro and Kacey got a falafel. We also bought some wine, raki, and ouzo. We caught the 2pm bus to the airport and sat in this very small airport for an hour or so before flying back to Athens to catch our flight home.

Friday, May 31, 2019


Our direct flight to Rhodes has us landing around 9:15am. We learned the taxis in Rhodes are mostly based on a fixed price system, which was really nice! We were dropped off pretty close to our hotel in the old town, but I knew going in we would have to walk just a bit. We arrived at Petrino hotel around 10:30 and were greeted with orange juice and room that was almost ready. Our room here was amazing. I had purchased a deluxe room with a city view, but had no idea it would be a huge 2 story condo with a kitchen and a large roof terrace. This was possibly one of my favorite hotel rooms I have stayed in. Panos was super helpful in helping us plan out our stay. We decided to go to Lindos on our first day and stay in the Old Town the second day. We walked to the bus station and after checking the schedule for a bus, Kacey found good homemade spanakopita and they offered us both some yummy dessert for free that kind of tasted like persimmon. We got the 1pm bus to Lindos and arrived there right around 2pm. We were not quite sure how long the Acropolis would be open as it was a Sunday, so we headed down to town and straight back up to the entrance. It was open later than we thought, but a nice start to our visit of this town. We took in the views and wandered the ruins for an hour or so. We headed back down to town to check out the shops and hunt for a place for late lunch. We ended up at Kalypso and the view and food were both good. I had to run back down to a shop to buy new sunglasses as mine were missing and the sun was just too bright (they broke a few days later). After an enjoyable lunch as we were leaving, we ended up talking to an older British couple for about 20 minutes. They vacation in Lindos every year for a month or so and were sharing stories of Easter traditions and finding Greek yarn (she told us that we were just next to a hidden yarn shop in Athens - the only place she has found good yarn in Greece.  Sad to have missed it.). I was craving a nutella crepe, so I found one while we visited a couple more shops. We realized we were getting short on time but Kacey really wanted to visit the beach, so we ran down, took it in for just a few minutes, then ran back up to catch the last bus to Rhodes town at 6pm. The ride back took about 15 minutes longer due to more stops for people returning to their hotels, but we had a good rest. The Old Town was pretty dead by this time but we went to Taverna Kostas. This was a family run joint and while the food was just ok, we enjoyed talking to the owner and his son for a while. We stopped at the 24 hour bakery, Phournariko, and got a little sweets, including a very yummy orange cake.

Lindos Acropolis

We slept in a bit and packed our bags, as we were staying near the airport that night for an early flight. We walked west toward the clock tower and the Hafiz Ahmet Library. We stopped in a few shops along the way. A cruise ship had obviously arrived in the morning as the streets were filled with people. We walked north to tour the Palace of the Grand Master. After buying tickets, we decided to go grab a bite to eat first. After a pastry and a Greek coffee, we then toured the palace and its museum. Our combo ticket then had us walk east down the Street of the Knights to the Our Lady of the Castle church. We poked our heads in a special museum exhibit about death jars, but no photos were allowed. We then toured the museum, which was a lot of rooms full of ruins. We were a little tired of these by now, so we walked north toward the port. We walked around the windmills and the Fort of St. Nicholas on the east pier. Then after another (forgettable) snack at the Yacht Club we walked north along the west pier toward the beach. We saw a diving board out in the sea and two swimmers heading toward it. We waited while we watched them dive and then headed back to the hotel to get a dinner recommendation. Panos directed us to Pizanias "The Sea Star". We had a nice seat outside in the sun and next to the little charcoal grill where some food was prepared. It was a good meal of fava bean dip (traditional), smoked mackerel, symi shrimp, and grilled haloumi. We got a cab out to our airport hotel and arranged for someone to open the hotel at 5am for us to leave. We also walked toward the water and ate some dessert at Cake Box.

Rhodes Port, and possible location of the Colossus of Rhodes


Thursday was a very early start but we landed around 7am and took the metro to Syntagma Square. We arrived at Plaka Hotel around 8:30am and went to enjoy their breakfast! I booked a room with an Acropolis view and it definitely did not disappoint. The hotel also had a rooftop bar with amazing views, especially at night. Our plan for the day was to not do too much and relax and enjoy the day; we were planning on walking the Acropolis early the next day. We walked around the shops near Monastiraki Square and got a glimpse of the hustlers near the metro station (selling bracelets and roses by putting them on you without asking). We walked by Hadrian's Library and noticed people just walking in and out. We went to investigate and learned all monuments and historical sites were free today! The library was mostly a few small ruins, but we decided to go ahead and check out a few sites as we were not feeling too tired. We went to the nearby Ancient Agora first. Our guide book mentioned a few things and we strolled around the park looking at the ruins. It tried to spit a little rain, but it quickly cleared and the day was very pleasant. The views of the Acropolis the entire time really made the walk quite enjoyable. I then found a gyro street vendor, Bairaktaris, and enjoyed a big sandwich (with french fries inside) with a beer. After a little rest, we decided to walk to the Roman Forum and Tower of the Winds, as it was only a couple blocks from our hotel. The Tower of the Winds is in good shape for its age and used to house a water clock. We were feeling good so we decided to walk toward Hadrian's Arch, through the winding streets of the Plaka area. We walked down an alley and saw it straight ahead, across a busy intersection. We took a couple pictures and j-walked across the road to the park where the arch is located. Also in this park is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was also free today. We entered and walked around the grassy area for a bit. There is nothing much here except the large columns that still stand. We checked a map and saw that we were not too far from the Panathenaic Stadium, so we walked there next. This is the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. This site was also free so we wandered around, took photos, and checked out the small museum containing a lot of cool Olympics stuff. We were wanting a snack so we started walking toward the area of the Acropolis Museum. We found a place called Veganaki that looked good. We got a couple drinks and a falafel snack and rested for a bit and chatted with family while we waited. We then wandered toward the museum to investigate, as well as check out the southeast entrance to Acropolis. Along the way we found a dessert shop that was selling little baklava rolls filled with ice cream, they were so good! The Acropolis entrance was closed off for some reason, so we checked out the museum. It looked like we should probably visit at another time as it was getting late, so after using their WC we went to walk around a bit more. We were thinking about walking clockwise around the Acropolis toward our hotel, but noticed the entrance had reopened, and it was free, and had no line. We discussed and decided to go ahead and walk the Acropolis now as the crowds seemed to be reduced due to it being late afternoon. This seems to have been a good decision as we still had plenty of time to go at a slower pace if we wanted, but the crowd was smaller. We stayed up until close to sunset and walked down the northwestern slope to leave, toward Mars Hill, or Areopagus. We rested on the rock for a bit and slowly made our way down the paths back toward our hotel. We talked with the front desk about dinner options and were recommended toward Taverna Tou Psirri. This place was very good and were we first had tirokafteri (spicy cheese dip).  The table next to us told us that it is also in Rick Steves book as a restaurant recommendation.  Well earned!  After dinner I picked up some chocolate baklava from a dessert place called Nancy's Sweet Home in English. It was also very good. We did about 33,000 steps today!

View of the Acropolis from our room
Panathenaic Stadium

The next morning, since we didn't need to get up early for the Acropolis, we slept in. Kacey tried to go to yoga in the park, but couldn't find it and it was probably cancelled. She did find the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Parliament building on her return walk to the hotel. After some breakfast, we decided to go up Mount Lycabettus. We stopped in the large Metropolitan Orthodox church next to the hotel. We lazily made our way east and saw another changing of the guard. We also walked by some sort of protest, but couldn't figure out what it was about. We walked up the hill a few blocks to the cable car. It runs in ground, which seemed a bit weird. On top of the mountain is a small cafe which didn't seem great. We peeked in the small St. George church and took in the views of Athens. We could see the sea from the top as well. We took the cable car back down and searched out some food. We ended up at Kolonaki, a restaurant shop for Kostarelos dairy company. The food was pretty good here. We did some window shopping on our walk back toward Plaka. I ran ahead for coffee and rest while Kacey looked at a few more shops. With our new found extra time due to changing schedule, we decided to book a tour or event of some sort. We ended up booking a Greek Cooking Class, so we met at Chocolat Royal at 4:30, not really knowing what to expect. We were greeted by our host Sofia and lovely views of the Acropolis. There was another American family also attending the class with us. Five people was a great size and we lucked out that there wasn't 12. We learned several simple Greek techniques on things we have attempted to make before. Sofia was not a professional chef, which I think helped, as she talked about cooking experiences with her mother and grandmother. We learned about grape leaves, spanakopita, Greek potatoes, and made lamb, zucchini fritters, salad, and yogurt dessert. We then ate everything after the kitchen cooked it for us, with ouzo provided while cooking and wine with dinner. Once dinner was complete, we looked outside to realize we had the perfect view of Acropolis with a full moon behind it, quite amazing. We went back to the hotel and sat at the rooftop bar just relaxing and taking in the view of the Acropolis until 11:30.

Full Moon behind Acropolis

Saturday we slept in and packed our bags in the morning. We were going to spend some time at the National Archaeological Museum and walk around a bit more. We decided to taxi up to the museum and along the way we spotted the central Athens market. There was a pretty long line to get in to the museum, but it wasn't super crowded when we got in. We lazily walked around and checked out a few highlights. We decided to just grab a bite at the museum cafe which wasn't too bad. We got fresh squeezed orange juice and Oregano flavored Lays chips... they tasted more like garlic. We starting walking back toward the Plaka area and walked through the central markets a bit. There were dozens of meat markets selling whole and half sheep (for Easter) and lots of entrails.  Then we walked through the very busy fish market. It was an experience walking through both markets.  Lastly, we gazed at all the herbs and spices, wishing we could buy a bunch and bring them home. Next we went to the Herakleidon Museum, the science and math museum.  (We skipped the 'technology of war' side of the museum). This was a small yet pretty cool museum. We then walked around the Monastiraki Square to pick a touristy place for dinner. I wanted something with music, and we ended up at Dia Tauta. It was ok for the touristy area, but the ambiance was nice. We then grabbed our bags and took the metro to the airport and then attempted and mostly failed to take a taxi to our airport hotel.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


We had a short flight to Izmir at 7pm and took a short taxi ride to the DoubleTree. They had a restaurant next door so we got pizzas and went to bed.

Wednesday morning our tour guide Ozge met us at the hotel. I had prebooked a tour through a reliable company on trip advisor and as in the past, this worked out well. To our pleasant surprise, we ended up also having a separate driver, and our tour guide went through the exhibits and sites with us. We first toured the House of the Virgin Mary. Then we walked around Ephesus for a couple hours, including the Terrace Houses. Next we quickly stopped by the Temple of Artemis, which is mostly ruins. They took us for lunch at a little farm shop place. It was a nice, quiet, delicious outside lunch. We then watched how silk yarn is extracted and spun up, which was kind of cool. We were then shown a bunch of rugs and talked about the historical importance. We had no interest in buying an expensive hand knot rug, but Kacey did talk them into selling some silk yarn (something they hadn't done before). We got on the road to the Archaeological Museum and spent some time in this little museum. We ended our day at St. John's Basilica (which was pretty big) and the castle on the hill. We saw John's tomb and enjoyed the views from the castle. Our driver then offered to drop us downtown Izmir (instead of our hotel outside of town) to see the city and eat dinner. We walked along the water, saw fishermen, and then ate at Deniz Seafood restaurant. The food was ok but the place was full of men in suits eating multiple courses, while we had walked through ruins all day. We took a taxi back out to the airport hotel and got to bed so we could wake up early for our 5:50am flight to Athens.

Ephesus was a great site to visit and I feel fortunate that we were able to work it in. Getting in and out quickly can be difficult to work out, but it is possible.

House of the Virgin Mary

Library of Celsus
Fishermen of Izmir

Sunday, May 19, 2019


We started our anniversary trip with a visit to Istanbul. We arrived around 4pm to the new airport and had arranged a transport to the city, as the metro line was not yet complete and many stories of taxis ripping you off exist. It was a good decision to pre-book a transport and many good companies are in the business. Our driver could not reach the hotel exactly due to the street being blocked, but we were close, I had offline maps, and I took a picture of his phone map showing the walking directions (and he didn't speak english, but we understood what was going on). We made it no problem and our room at the Peyk Hotel was nice. We had a corner room with 2 balconies. After a short rest the hotel recommended Osman Beydagi Restaurant. I got a traditional lamb cooked in a clay pot that they break open for you at the table called Testi Kebabı, of which I took a video. We also got a big poofy bread and had our first taste of 11 spice tomato dip that we enjoyed throughout the rest of our trip in Turkey (Kacey remembers this as one of the best of the tomato dips) . We walked around down toward the Blue Mosque square and bought a couple little sweets. We also stopped back in Osman for their homemade baklava.

Flaming clay pot containing lamb, vegetables, and spices

For Sunday our plans were to see the big mosques and palace. We started the morning with the smell of burning plastic and the building across the street from us was on fire. Not a big fire luckily but the foam filled the street. We started out by about 11am and walked through the Hippodrome toward the northern entrance of the Blue Mosque. There was a long line for entry but it moved well. We entered around noon with shoes off (and wet socks from the wet carpet entryway) and were in a fairly small area, slightly smelly. Next we walked through the park toward Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofya). The line was a bit chaotic here (with many people trying to sell tours) but we made it in and really enjoyed walking around here. When we finished we decided to grab some lunch and just stopped at the Green Corner. We got some tea and Turkish coffee and sandwiches, and fed the cats too. It was nice. After lunch we went to Topkapi Palace. There were two different security checks and some serious weaponry by the guards. We toured several different areas, including the kitchens, and also the royal apartments. After an afternoon of walking around, we decided to eat at 360 Panorama Restaurant on the roof of the And Hotel. The views were amazing, watching the sun set on the mosques and their lights slowly turn on was a great end to the day. As it got chilly (or, when it became unbearably cold in Kacey's experience), we moved in side for desserts and coffee.

After dinner view, Blue Mosque at night

Monday we wanted to spend time exploring the Grand Bazaar. We walked by the Column of Constantine on the way there; this had quite a story behind it and is quite old. As we approached the gates of the bazaar, we saw the Nuruosmaniye mosque so we entered it. It was newer and bright. The Grand Bazaar just goes on for blocks and blocks. It is almost entirely covered as a full building, which I didn't know. Full of people walking around, leather shops, light shops, rug shops, junk shops, candy shops. There was not much food, which I was hoping for. Kacey did some shopping and we got a light. We considered a rug, but nothing truly wowed us. We also got a couple towels and some pillow covers. One interesting thing we noticed is the shop service that is offered. The shop owners order simple plates of eggs with peppers and spices, as well as coffee and tea. The shop owners will also offer apple tea to people shopping in their shop. This is all free, I assume part of their rent they pay goes to these shops. But you can't buy a drink if you want one! We picked up some take away sandwiches near the bazaar and went to our hotel to eat and relax. We wanted to try a turkish bath, or hamam. We wanted to do one together, though, but the traditional ones always separate the sexes. We decided to get a couples massage at Felicity (at a hotel) instead. Started off with a dip in a small (cool) pool where I talked them in to getting me a beer. Then we sat in a sauna for a bit. While cooling off we had a spot of apple tea. Then was the scrub bath, where your body is abrasively scrubbed and skin is refreshed and rejuvenated after the dead skin is removed. And finally we ended with a massage. It was kind of fun and relaxing. After the debacle of trying to taxi to this hotel, we just walked there and walked back to our hotel. (FYI, don't taxi in Istanbul). The hotel recommended Pierre Loti restaurant on top of a nearby hotel. It had nice views but was filled with smoke so we had to move to the inside room. We searched out Hafiz Mustafa for sweets after that.

One of the many streets of the Grand Bazaar

Tuesday we had to check out and then we went to explore the Galata Tower. In the morning we did just a little shopping for souvenirs. We then took the street car across the river to the first stop, then hiked up the hill. The line looked a bit long and we wondered if we would even have time to wait in it. It took about 35-40 minutes but we made it in. We made friends with an Australian couple who ended up paying our way in as we only had euros and credit card. Yes, I paid them back when we got out. The weather was nice and so were the views. We went back to the hotel and ate late lunch next door at Ortaklar of a wrap and mezze. We met our airport ride at 3:15 and arrived to a pretty empty airport with no lines.

We really enjoyed Istanbul and it is a fairly easy city to visit. The food is fantastic and we really enjoyed the spice palate. Do not use taxis and embrace the kindness and warmth of its people.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


Stella left us today. She had a good life with lots of adventures. She nested and cuddled with Kacey. She checked up on crying babies. She cleaned Mason. She was loved and loved us. She will be missed dearly and remembered fondly.

Baby Stella 2003

First Christmas 2003

Licking ice 2005

Why is he here? 2006

Mugshot 2006

Chillin 2008

Cleaning 2008

Helping with Nolan 2008
With Nolan 2008

Power struggle 2010

Helping with Liana 2013

Helping with Colin 2017

Nap time 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Maine and New Hampshire

This week, we visited Acadia National Park and the White Mountain National Forest. We decided for a last minute trip with the in-laws of the two areas. Booking last minute, needing two rooms, in Bar Harbor is difficult, but the Days Inn was good enough. We got in to town for a late lunch Saturday and went to the Finback, a place we ate at more than once two years ago when visiting. Following lunch we stopped by the Wild Gardens for a little hike on Jesup Path. Then we proceeded along the Park Loop Road to Schooner Head Lookout. We walked down for nice views of the coast, and Nolan and I went down to view the little cave. Then we stopped at Sand Beach. After enjoying a bit, we headed back in to town for some dinner. We walked around a bit and ended up at Lompoc. We ate here a couple years ago as well.

Sunday we first headed up Mt. Cadillac. The views were great! There was still some fog sitting over parts of the ocean. Next was Thunder Hole. The tide was out a bit, but it was still making some good loud booms for us. After some lunch at The Thirsty Whale we headed back out. Kacey, Nolan, and Liana went to spend some time at Sand Beach, while I drove Colin, Mike, and Maggie around a few more sites. We stopped at Otter Cove and the nearby overlooks for great views of the coast. Then after a quick stop at Seal Harbor, we went to Jordan Pond. The pond and surrounding mountains really looked amazing in the afternoon sun. I also cooled off with the local Old Soaker Blueberry Soda. After picking up everyone at the beach, we went in for dinner at the Bar Harbor Lobster Company. Everyone enjoyed their dinner! Unfortunately, I didn't feel too well that night after eating, which never happens.

On Monday the plan was to hike to Bubble Rock. There was no parking anywhere! I dropped everyone off and somehow found a spot a few miles south at Jordan Pond. I wandered around the pond for a bit before picking them up. We decided to head back in to town for lunch at Side Street Cafe. We started watching eclipse coverage on my phone and then after eating drove out toward Bass Harbor Head Light House to hike in the area and view the eclipse a bit. We hiked Ship Harbor trail out to a nice spot, and then hiked Wonderland trail out for views of the tide pools. We saw crab and a starfish. We also recreated a couple pictures we had done with the kids a couple years ago. After a not fantastic dinner at The Chart Room, we went back in to town for more ice cream and shopping.

Pictures from Maine can be found here.

After brunch at This Way Cafe Tuesday morning, we started the drive toward Mt. Washington. We got there in time to grab a very late bite to eat, check-in, and drive up. While the weather was quite nice in town, the top was completely fogged in, which happens a lot. So only a couple of us got out and walked around a bit and took a few pictures of stuff at the top. That night we ate at Mountain Fire Pizza, which was quite good! I had some of their famous bacon maple pizza.

Wednesday morning we headed for Diana's Baths. This place was packed too, and full of people bathing in the river. It is a site of an old mill. From here we drove

We finished up our trip at Mike's Pastry and Al Dente in the North End of Boston. It was a great finish to our trip!