Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Precious little pain in the patootie

Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  Truer words were never spoken.  I longed for a pet to keep me company.  Now I've got a Cairn puppy that seems to soak up every leisurely hour, minute and second I used to enjoy.

There's no denying... he is pretty danged cute.  On Sunday when we brought him home, he was all nervous and tentative.  Now he thinks he owns the place.  I'm trying to use my Cesar training on him and it's working... sort of.  I can already tell we're going to have a long row to hoe with "potty training" as the girls call it.  I would pay a big fat sum of money if someone would train the little guy to use the toilet.  He doesn't even have to put the seat back down since the other male in our house still hasn't learned that particular trick.  

The very short days at this time of the year in the UK are conspiring against my best efforts at housebreaking.  It doesn't get light enough to go outside until after 7:00 am and it's full on pitch dark by 4:30 pm.  The lack of light is a big deal for two reasons.  The first reason is that the back yard, though quite large, has become booby trapped with little piles of Ollie poop.  I don't mind sweeping up dead leaves that get tracked into the house, but I draw the line at mopping up dog doo-doo on a regular basis.  The other reason I won't frequent the back yard at night is because our neighborhood foxes might decide Ollie would make a tasty evening meal.  I've got a feeling the family would notice if I returned from an evening walk with just leash and no Ollie at the end of it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What a bunch of turkeys

Today is Thanksgiving... if you live in America.  For those of us in the UK, it was just another regular old school day/work day.  Yesterday evening I went to the grocery store for a few items and it was blissfully calm.  There were no folks dashing down the aisles in search of Karo, pecans, cans of cranberries, a spiral ham or those tasty fried onion rings you sprinkle on top of a green bean casserole.  It was all business as usual, which was so very unusual when Americans like me realized it was the day before Thanksgiving.

So how did we spend Thanksgiving?  We got the girls off to school and then headed into London to St. Paul's Cathedral.  Every year they have an 11:00 service of Thanksgiving for Americans in the London area.  We had been told by another expat that we should take the girls out of school for it.  However, I knew the younger one would be bored to tears while the older one would complain about having to make up the two tests scheduled for today in Spanish and environmental science.  

It was a very nice service, with the American ambassador to England giving a little speech before the sermon that was led by a pastor from the American church in London.  I knew the pastor was gonna do a good job at speechifying when he mentioned that southerners made some of the tastiest Thanksgiving birds since they deep fried them.  That got a chuckle out of the crowd.

One thing I wasn't expecting this morning was the sight as we rounded the corner of the cathedral...

What a bunch of copycats.  Barq's Root Beer and Velveeta Cheese can't jump the pond, but the Occupy movement can?  There's definitely something wrong with that little scenario.  The occupy folks didn't seem too busy today, though I don't think they really know what their role is at this time.  I heard recently that some surveillance was done in the occupy zone using high tech heat detecting instruments and that only about 1/3 of the tents were occupied at night.  I guess some of them got tired of sleeping on the hard ground in the cold and took their protesting selves home every evening for a good night's sleep.  So quit your ranting and raving about corporate America, those same companies that make all of the niceties and conveniences which make your life very comfortable.

And what did we have for Thanksgiving dinner?  Gourmet Burger Kitchen!  The husband and I had contemplated a "nice" lunch in the city, but then I felt guilty about not including the girls and suggested we just get a snack and wait for them to get home from school.  That way we could all sit down for a family meal at our favorite local Italian restaurant.  My dreams of mushroom risotto and prosecco were squashed when my darling little varmints rolled off the bus just starving and wanted to eat right then.  My Italian restaurant doesn't open for dinner until 6:00 pm and the girls assured us they would expire well before that.  So yeah, it wasn't traditional but I guess at least it was a very American meal... burgers and fries.

No Macy's parade, no football games, no delicious cornbread dressing made by my mother or tasty pumpkin pies made by my mother-in-law.  But then again... no crazed cleaning, last minute prep work and massive clean up.  Maybe we're on to something here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's difficult to be calm and balanced when you're middle-aged

Read all about it... that oughta be our family motto.  Lord knows we can't contemplate any sort of travel without consulting the appropriate Rick Steves book.  Heaven forbid that we booked any accommodations without checking reviews on Trip Advisor.  The planet would probably stop rotating on its axis if we purchased any sort of electronic device without first getting the scoop from Consumer Reports.  

It's no different in regards to the process of selecting and raising a puppy.  First we had to read a couple dog breed books and watch many episodes of Dogs 101.  That narrowed down our selection quite a bit and we finally decided on the Cairn Terrier.  

Never fear, Cesar is here!  Cesar with his lovely Spanish accented English is gonna teach us a thing or two about raising Ollie to be a wonderful dog.  

The day before we went to visit the breeder, I picked up a copy of this book and plowed through about 120 pages so I would know what to look for when selecting the right Cairn pup for us.  Here's how the whole thing went down.

First off, we left the house for an almost two hour drive through some patchy fog to an area east of Cambridge.  The breeder was a very nice lady and her adult daughter.  They had quite the set-up and lots of Cairns to choose from.  We started off by looking at some of the older ones.  They seemed very sweet, but our youngest daughter had come along for the selection process and she really wanted something puppy vs teenager.

The breeder trotted in three pups who were 10 weeks old.  They were a golden color and had the cliche tubby puppy bellies.  All of them were males, roughly the same size and seemed to have similar temperaments - rearing up on the enclosure, yipping for attention and tumbling each other about when we ignored them in order to see what they would do.  According to Cesar, you need to stand back and see what their reactions are.  We were looking for a pup that didn't have to be center stage, that seemed calm in the face of excitement.  

When the breeder saw that we were rather lackluster about these puppies, she then fetched another group of three that were only 8 weeks old.  These were more a red foxy color.  The obvious pick of the litter we referred to as "big boy" because you could tell he ruled the food dish.  He reared up on the side of the enclosure to yap at us and demand attention.  When that elicited no response from us, he then turned around to take away toys from his two siblings.  He quickly became bored with that and returned to bark at us multiple times.  Obviously he didn't have the calm submissive, medium level energy Cesar told us to look for when picking a pup.

The other two pups were more similar in nature.  However, one was really good at entertaining himself.  He was the runt of the litter, but very cute.  He would find a toy and play with it until one of his brothers would wrestle him down and take it away.  However, that didn't faze him and he would just find another toy and promptly start playing with it.  He was very good at entertaining himself rather than bullying his littermates or yapping and rearing up to demand attention from the humans peering down on him.

The breeders did a good job of training the pups to remain calm when picked up, so it was nice to pick up our first choice and get a chance to see him up close.  He remained still and didn't try to squirm away or lick us in the face.  When we put him back in the enclosure, he did rear up on it once to see if we would pick him up.  He waited about 15 seconds in silence and then got down to find a toy and get busy gnawing on it.  

Cesar's book was very helpful and I feel like we did a good job selecting a puppy.  I've been reading up on the next steps - crate training, creating a routine and housebreaking.  The next couple months are gonna be really interesting around here.  I just hope we're all up for the challenge of having a little one in the house.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

How much is that puppy on the breeder's website?

It's been a rollercoaster ride, folks.  Exactly one week ago, we were all excited about the prospect of getting a precious little griffon pug cross.  I messaged the puppy lady several times last Monday... she had one left and it would be available the first week in December.  I emailed her one final time that we were very excited about the puppy joining our family and asked her to send me the address so I could drop a deposit in the mail.

Two days later, I get a new email from her saying she had just received my email from Monday.  I may be from Texas, but I didn't fall off the turnip truck and bump my noggin.  All I had to do was check my SENT box to make sure the email went out on Monday when she claimed she just received it on Wednesday.  (insert some cursity cursing here - use your imagination and let 'er rip)  Whatever... the bottom line was that she had promised the puppy to another family and she was waiting on their check.  Of course, she was quick to let me know that if the other person's check didn't show up by Thursday, then we could buy the pup.  As if I could believe that.  Obviously we passed on her offer.

Since the spring, I've been snooping through animal websites on a regular basis.  There was one kennel that caught my eye because the breeder includes in all her ads that she never turns her back on her dogs.  She says that she is always available for advice and will gladly take any dogs that can no longer be kept for any reason and find a good home for them.  

This lady has bred Cairn Terriers for 30+ years and really seems to know her stuff.  She has many sets of breeding pairs and potential owners wouldn't have to wait months and months for a pup.  I've returned to this breeder's website over and over again to admire the fine looking Cairns and wonder if it would be the right breed for our family.

In the past, I would never have attempted to raise a terrier.  With our work schedules and kid commitments, the poor little thing would have had to live most of its life in a crate.  No doubt it would have displayed all of the negative Cairn traits that would drive us nuts - jumping on folks, barking its fool head off, chasing anything that moved (including our cats), digging up our landscaping and trying to tunnel out of the backyard underneath the fence.  

Now that I'm a (reluctant) stay-at-home mom here in the UK, I have plenty of time on my hands.  Plenty of time to clean up poop and pee, plenty of time to let it drag me along while I try to train it on the lead, plenty of time to babysit it in the backyard so it doesn't make a break for it or bay like a hound at the local squirrels that frequent our trees.

We drove up north, not too far from Cambridge, to visit the breeder yesterday.  She was busy grooming the Cairns, so we got to visit with her daughter.  Honest to Betsy, you would have thought she was from Texas - the wilds of Hardin County - if she lost the accented English.  She was mucking around in her wellies with the dogs following her out to the paddock, all very down-to-earth and without a snooty British bone in her body.  She was extremely patient with our questions and brought out two different sets of puppies plus the parents for us to see.  

We ended up choosing the little guy on the right in this picture.  Thanks to my speed reading through Cesar Millan's How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond, we were armed with some valuable information about the puppy selection process.  It seems that if you don't select the "right" pup for you, then you're gonna be neck deep in puppy poop from the get-go.   

We decided the little fella needed to be called something quintessentially British, so Oliver Twist (and our surname) will be the official name on his pedigree papers.  To us, he'll simply be Ollie.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And away they ran with it

You would think that at the age of 44 I would know better.  And just because the girls are a mature 10 and 16, it doesn't guarantee they won't turn around and act like kindergarten kiddos when you factor in a cute puppy.

He is pretty darned cute, though not so precious that you would lose your 10 and 16 year old heads over him, right?  At least I didn't do something REALLY stupid like decide to have another baby to fill my lonely days here at home.  I'll take the occasional pile of puppy doo-doo over a couple years of diapers any day of the week!

Little Mr. Snicklebritches' dad is a brussels griffon and mom is a pug.  Look at him and his brother all snuggled up, just 5 weeks old.  Ours is the one in the front, that looks a bit more griffon than his brother, who looks more puggy.

These same girls who have been pestering me for a kitten ever so recently immediately changed teams and are firmly in the puppy camp as of yesterday afternoon.  They shunned homework after supper so they could spend half an hour brainstorming dog names.  Thus far they like Gizmo, Otto, Oscar, Henry, Jinx and Ollie.  Contenders that got tossed out by me were Ewok, Quazzy, Rufus and Chewy... obviously inferior names.

If we want the pooch, we'll have to haul it up to Lancashire (about 200 miles to the northwest of where we live) to pick him up unless we can convince the owner to meet us somewhere in-between.  He'll turn 8 weeks the first weekend in December, which coincides with the birthday of our youngest daughter.  I can just envision the scene now, the youngest one claiming the pup as hers while the older one rants about how it's the family dog and someone else should get to hold it on the ride home and she can't be greedy just because it's her birthday, blah-blah-blah.  Ah yes, the true and abiding bond between sisters.  

Stay tuned - I'll keep you posted on puppy developments as they happen.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

They Call It Puppy Love

No job + no desire to clean the house obsessively + not wanting to volunteer at the school every other day = climbing the walls boredom

So what's a gal to do?  Consider getting a dog to keep me company for the umpteenth time since we moved to England.  Cats are great, but they're so aloof.  You can't walk them on a leash and they have a tendency to live for 16-18 years.  That's the length of a kid commitment and entirely too long in my book.  

I was surfing the net today, checking out dogs on some sites that won't cost me an arm and leg.  

How cute is this, a long haired brussels griffon crossed with a pug?  I really like this OR a cairn terrier.  

My husband wants something that will bark at strangers.  And we all know pugs bark at strangers for two seconds before taking them down so they can lick them to death.  Therefore, this might be a nice compromise.  Or maybe a pug/French bulldog cross?  Or maybe a pug/Boston terrier cross?  It seems there are lots of cute pug hybrids out there to choose from.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is there some sort of pill for this affliction?

Sometimes I wonder why the girls haven't plotted to sneak in the bedroom and shave off my eyebrows or draw a moustache and goatee on my face with a black permanent marker.  I don't mean to laugh at the two beautiful girls I brought into this world - I just can't help myself.

The folks who have known me for a long time will recall that I have this personality disorder which forces me to laugh when others stumble or fall down.  Not the nursing home crowd, the ones walking with the assistance of a cane.  Please - I'm not that cruel and twisted.  There's just something about people taking a tumble that makes me 'bout pee in my pants while tears course down my face.  I had to bite the inside of my cheeks, hard, when the younger daughter recently tripped and stubbed her toe on the fireplace hearth.  No broken skin or blood - just me trying not to bust a gut.

The other thing that makes me howl with laughter and snort 'til Diet Coke spurts outta my nose is when people mispronounce words.  The oldest daughter was reading aloud from her latest English novel, Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, yesterday afternoon.  Admittedly, the language is a bit of a challenge for most modern day teens.  Some of the words even give me pause and I'm not above admitting that I've had to resort to the dictionary a time or two just to clarify or verify meaning.  But to hear such formal writing get butchered every couple sentences with some obscure word getting garbled just cracks me up.

It's ridiculous stuff like this that tickles my funny bone and has me all but rolling across the floor.  I oughta be ashamed of myself, and I will be as soon as I can quit laughing like a loon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crete Was Neat

Our last shore excursion day was spent on the island of Crete.  

Here are a couple pics of the ship.  It's a bit smaller than the RC one we cruised on in the Western Med this summer, but it was still plenty big.  I'm a fan of the royal promenade/mall area, plus the fact that all of the ships have the same basic deck plan.  That way I'll always know exactly how to get to the champagne bar and gym, my fave places on the ship.  You can't go wrong with the coconut or tropical martini!

You can't travel in this part of the world without visiting the requisite fort, ruins and scenic vistas.  My husband and I were talking about how the hilly, scrubby, rocky terrain reminded us of the Texas hill country... if it had been settled a couple thousand years ago.  

We saw some amazing vegetation growing on Crete, namely pomegranates, olives and oranges.  The girls wanted to pick one, but I kept telling them that they don't belong to us so it would be stealing.  The people in these villages we visited lived a very simple life and I imagine they depend upon these things to either sell or put on their own tables.  

At one point we were walking through a little village and heard a woof.  We looked up to see a dog on a second floor terrace minus the railing.  That was kinda scary and I immediately cautioned the girls not to say anything to the pooch that obviously had no fear of heights.  He stayed at the edge while continuing to watch us shuffle down the street.

One of the towns we visited sat on the Cretan Sea.  The locals had gone out in their fishing boats early that morning and you can see the day's catch they're peddling right here along the street.  

While we were walking through this seaside town, we ducked into a little store for a snack before we had to reboard the bus.  I grabbed a couple sodas and some chips for the girls.  I thought it was a hoot to see familiar brands with Greek mixed in with English on the packaging.  

When we arrived back in the Crete port of Chania to board the ship, we had the opportunity to take a little look-see at a local market.  Pig, anyone?

We also ended up passing by a small toy shop and had to take a pic of the Play-Doh with the Greek written on it.  

The oldest daughter snapped yet another sneaky pic of me when I was unawares.  At least it's from the front rather than the usual butt shots she takes, which aren't usually very flattering for obvious reasons.  Throughout the cruise we were fortunate to have some beautiful weather - sunny skies with highs in the upper 60s to low 70s.  

Back on the ship that evening, we had our final towel animal in the room.  Here is the youngest daughter holding it up for us to see.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hear me now, believe me later?

Those twits at the local Nissan dealership!  I called last week to make an appointment with the service department, explaining that my SUV liftgate struts were no longer working and need to be replaced.  Nothing like almost getting decapitated when you're trying to load groceries into the rear of the car.  Good thing I've got some cat-like reflexes.  The Nissan service folks were all fine and let's make an appointment to take care of that.  

This morning I had to skip going to the gym (and believe me, my butt needs the workout) so I could spend about 30 minutes driving the three miles from my house, through the ongoing bridge construction and into the path of traffic that uses this route for Heathrow in order to get to the dealership by 8:30.  I plop down with my new book after handing over my keys and end up dozing on and off as the morning news drones in the background of the waiting room.  After about 45 minutes they called my name and I'm all excited because it didn't take as long as I expected.  Perky Mr. Service Guy, the Austin Powers look-alike with the same wonky teeth in need of some orthodontic work, tells me that the liftgate struts DO INDEED NEED TO BE REPLACED.  

Duh, isn't that what I told you when I made the appointment?  Did you think I was just joking, ha-ha, I want to waste part of my day sitting in your uncomfortable waiting room chairs listening to the old guy bitch about the cost of his brake job while a couple car salesman gather around the coffee machine to shoot the breeze about the latest soccer game?  Great... now I get to come back again to have the work done once the parts arrive.

That was the bad news.  The good news is that the struts are still under warranty.  With gas costing a bit over $8 per gallon, I'm all for free.  

Homecoming, sorta

Back in Texas, they know how to do homecoming... a week of dress-up days with a couple pep rallies and parade, lots of big homecoming mums that are heavy enough to pull you over unless you lock your knees, a Friday night football game and, if that wasn't enough, a dance.  The American/International school my daughters attend has tried to import this very rah-rah, USA set of festivities with only a bit of success.

Last week was homecoming week, so the student council arranged a theme for each day.  They couldn't adopt the ever popular BEAT THE HELL OUTTA _____ because there were no games scheduled for last week in the ramp up to fall sports tournaments, which is how they end the season.  Monday was class colors and 11th grade was assigned blue.  Tuesday was international day, so that meant the oldest daughter had to rustle up her American flag shirt.  Wednesday was spirit day, so she bought a commemorative school t-shirt and then proceeded to add some really cool flourishes with her rainbow colored Sharpies.  Thursday was decade day and 11th grade had the 70s, so she went in tie-dye.  Friday was wacky tacky day, so that just meant she went to school looking goofy in some mismatched clothes.  

Mums haven't jumped the pond yet, so that was disappointing.  Of course, there wasn't a football game for girls to wear the mum TO, so I guess there wouldn't have been a real point to that.  Maybe for her senior year next fall, we'll make sure we bring back some mum making supplies from one of the craft stores back in Texas and start a trend... at least amongst my daughter's friends.  Just something small, say less than 10 lbs.

Before the dance Saturday night, a big group of them went to a local Thai restaurant for supper.  Then they danced the night away in the school gym.  Or at least they danced from 7:30-10:30 until chaperones turned on the overhead lights and shooed the teens out to their parents waiting for them in the parking lot.  At least we didn't have to worry about anyone getting caught stealing or defacing the rival team's mascot.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

'Tis the season for a new holiday tune

I recently heard a catchy Christmas tune, which got me interested in traditional as well as modern English holiday songs.  I'm a big fan of Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" and figure the UK has its own set of Christmas classics.  I snooped through You Tube until I found the following video of the song I heard snippets of this week.  I think it still has a catchy melody, but I was a bit taken aback by the lyrics.  It was written and performed by an 80s Celtic punk band called The Pogues and the name of the song is "Fairytale of New York".  Enjoy!

You've gotta love a song that combines bells are ringing out for Christmas day with phrases like drunk tank, old slut on junk and cheap lousy faggot.  Gives you those warm fuzzies, doesn't it?  So what if the lead singer appears to be missing quite a few of his teeth.  At least he didn't have his false teeth resting in a glass on the piano.  I may have to add this to my iPod playlist.  Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole will just have to make room for my latest, and undoubtedly most interesting, Christmas tune.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oct break cruise, Tues-Thur

So where were we... Right, we were being diverted to MALTA instead of sailing forth to ATHENS on Tuesday because there was a transportation strike planned for the day we were scheduled to visit the Acropolis.  What a big bunch of Greek twits, demonstrating and running off eager tourists like me ready to bolster the economy with some cash.  Thanks to the BBC, we hear a lot of reports about the European Union (EU) and feel the member countries are justified in their anger about bailing out Greece.  You wanna strike because you're gonna have to tighten up your belt?  Just be glad the rest of the EU is willing to save your hides during this financial crisis.

Our port of call was Valletta, Malta, and it was really gorgeous.  Here is a picture of me Tuesday morning as we prepared to disembark for our excursion.  The port was very clean and our balcony afforded us a great view of the cute sidewalk bistros.

Come to find out, one of my newer Brighton pendants is actually a Maltese cross.  I ended up buying a new Maltese cross in Malta at a silversmith shop we visited... minus the Brighton bling.  It's simple, but I really like it.
Everything in Malta was a warm shade of yellow-cream.  Malta rests atop limestone and the majority of the older structures were built of it.  The minute I saw folks driving around on the "wrong" side of the road, I realized it had been a British colony at some point.  We visited Mosta to see the Church of St. Mary (below) where a bomb was dropped by the Germans during World War II.  There was a church service happening at the time, but the bomb was a dud and did not explode.  You can still see the area in the beautiful dome where the bomb pierced it.  The Lord was definitely on hand to protect his faithful that day.

We continued our tour of Malta when we visited the ancient walled city of Mdina, nicknamed the silent city. It is said that in 60 AD the Apostle Paul spent some time here after being shipwrecked on the island.  

In Mdina, we got to take a peek inside St. Paul's Church.  It was built around the turn of the century... the 17th century.

We hustled back aboard the ship and got dressed in time for me and the youngest daughter to have our picture made on the balcony before the sun set and we headed out for dinner.

The highlight of our next day at sea was my fire and ice pedicure.  There's nothing so relaxing as having someone snip your cuticles and pumice the callouses off your feet.  We ate a heart clogging lunch at Johnny Rocket's - french fries as well as onion rings with a side of ranch dressing.  That evening, we attended a show that featured an ABBA tribute band from England.  They were really good, so good that an older gay couple started cutting a rug right there in front of the stage.  One of the gentleman looked like Santa's long lost twin while his younger partner was sporting a guayebera shirt on his long lean frame.  They kinda reminded me of the nursery rhyme - Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his gay lover could eat no lean.  These guys were really into the music and it was cute to see them shakin' their groove things to the sounds from the '70s.  Dancing Queens, indeed!

Thursday was another beautiful day drenched in sun when we visited Kusadasi, Turkey.  We started our day with a visit to ancient Ephesus and it was truly awe-inspiring.  I've always been mesmerized by historical sights, but it was just amazing to me that I was walking in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.  Only a portion of the city has been uncovered to date.  I think we need to return every 10 years or so to check their progress.

Above is the Library of Celsius, constructed between 117-135 AD.  It is supposedly the third most important library from the ancient world, after Alexandria and Constantinople.  It was truly a sight to behold.

There were several places where the intricate mosaic floors remained intact, though behind the chain that kept us from trampling over them.  The colors were still vibrant all these centuries after they were hand-crafted.

I love the picture above because it looks like the column and pediment equivalent of a modern used car lot.  I got your doric, ionic and corinthian capitals here at a good price and you sure can't beat this selection.  Caesar himself would be proud to put this on the front of his current palace.  Fluted columns?  Sure, no problem.  I've got a couple options with only a few decades on them.  It's obvious that some slave really put his heart and soul into such a fine piece of craftsmanship.  I'll even throw in a pediment if you purchase a set of columns today.

The slab of writing above makes me wish I had the ability to decipher it.

And look - they unearthed the ancient communal latrines.  Call me a prude, but I don't think I would have enjoyed taking care of my "business" while perched on one of these toilets with my neighbor or boss sitting next to me.  

No discussion of our visit to Ephesus would be complete without mentioning the stray cats.  They were everywhere and the girls were immediately doing the here-kitty-kitty and getting all weepy because they were strays.  Couldn't we just take a couple home with us?  The way most security folks haphazardly pay attention to the x-ray machines, we probably could have smuggled a couple of them back onboard in a tote bag.  As long as the cats didn't have any replaced hips or knees - can't tell you how many old folks on the excursions had to be "wanded" because some replaced or repaired body part set off the scanner.  Sadly, we had to leave the kitties in Ephesus.  They seemed to be in good shape and none of them were rail thin, so I assume someone around there takes care of them.

And if you sat down, some of the friendlier kitties would climb into your lap for serious petting.  Cal plopped down on the ancient street of marble there in front of the amazing library and ignored every bit of it to focus on making the kitty comfortable in her lap.

For the remainder of the morning, we visited the remains of the Basilica of St. John, which was constructed by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.  As we toured the site and looked down at the cross-shaped baptismal pool built into the floor where Christians were baptized so long ago, it dawned on me that these powerful symbols and figures so central in our religious history reside in a country where over 90% of the inhabitants practice Islam.

Below you'll see the entrance to the grounds, the site where the body of St. John is buried and the baptistry where our tour guide with the orange umbrella was explaining what we were seeing.

I was pleased to discover there were no stray cats at this ancient site, when out wandered a puppy.  And alas the girls got all weepy again, not in awe of what they were seeing but rather in concern for the puppy, its mother and littermates.  Once again, I had to listen to the pleas and explain why we couldn't attempt to smuggle it aboard the ship.  I swear, if these folks were smart they would put out a puppy and kitty donation cup because they would rake in the money from folks like us.  

Our final stop before a very late lunch was at the House of the Virgin Mary.  It sits all alone atop a tall hill that's full of hairpin switchbacks and guarded by the military.  It was a very peaceful place and deceptively green because a spring flows beneath the site, so it was a true oasis amidst the rocks and scrub that surround it.  

We ended our day with lunch at a nearby resort that caters to Brits - many of them on holiday lolling around in their tiny Speedo swimsuits... such a lovely sight to behold, their big old bellies and butt cheeks hanging out all over the place before you sit down to eat a meal.