So, we’ve been just a little bit busy the past week. Let’s catch up.

Having arrived home from a trip to Oklahoma the Friday before, we spent the weekend cleaning the house and getting things organized for house guests. Last Tuesday night (well, actually early Wednesday morning) a family of five from St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean arrived at our house. They were staying with us for a week to and attend and celebrate their son’s graduation from Doane University in the town where we live.

Tross family photo

Mikey’s family came all the way from St. Kitts to be here for graduation. He’s in the middle with his two sisters and his parents, Calvin and Pearline.

We’ve known their son, Michael, for three years and had met the Tross family when we visited St. Kitts in 2016, so it was a real honor to welcome them to our home.

Steve and met Michael's parents for the first time when we visited St. Kitts in 2016.

Steve and I met Michael’s parents for the first time when we visited St. Kitts in 2016.

Wednesday was also my 49th birthday and can I just say thank you all for the hundreds of well wishes and Happy Birthday greetings you sent?

Birthday cake

The ice cream cake we got to celebrate Ann’s birthday.

I heard from so many old friends, new friends, family members, former colleagues, and high school classmates. It made for a wonderful day and I felt so loved. We had a busy evening as I presented scholarships at a high school awards banquet and then we cheered on our Crete High men’s soccer team at a pep rally before they left for the state soccer tournament.

We are so proud of our local Crete High School men's soccer team on their first trip to the state tournament.

We are so proud of our local Crete High School men’s soccer team on their first trip to the state tournament.

When we got home at 9:30 that night, Steve, Meghan and I had piece of ice cream cake and called it a night.

Birthday cake selfie

Let’s just say that it wasn’t easy to get a selfie while trying to hold a heavy ice cream cake with lit birthday candles.

We spent the next two days keeping the house clean, decorating, making meals, and preparing for Saturday’s graduation festivities. We made fajitas and guacamole for about 20 people one night, reminisced with friends, and entertained out of town guests.

Preparations for fajita night

Ann cut (and cut) fresh peppers and onions and made a huge batch of guacamole for our grilled fajita night.

As we’ve mentioned before, Steve and I, along with our friends Ben and Nikki, lead the college ministry at our church. Since many of the students and their families are not from around here, we offered to host a graduation party at our place after commencement for about 120 of their closest friends and families. In preparation, one of the graduates’ sister, Hannah, spent at least six hours at our kitchen table meticulously decorating more than 70 sugar cookies for the event. Aren’t they amazing?

Graduation cookies.

These hand-decorated graduation cookies tasted even better than they looked.

Then, it was the day of commencement! We got up early to prepare the house for the party before attending a mid-morning brunch for the international graduates. The commencement ceremonies were outside on the Doane University campus and we were so proud of those we’d served in college ministry as their names were read. It was such a joy to watch them walk across the lawn to receive their diplomas.

2018 commencement at Doane University in Crete, Nebraska.

2018 commencement at Doane University in Crete, Nebraska.

Sadly, the tables and chairs we’d so carefully set up outside and on the deck went mostly unused, because it was only about 52 degrees that afternoon, so we squeezed more than 100 people into our house for the party.

Graduation buffet

Our dining room table became a graduation party buffet.

It was an amazing celebration full of laughter and smiles. Our friends, Robby and Karrie helped with food preparation and were rock stars in the kitchen, so we actually had lots of opportunities to visit with guests and enjoy the day.

Some of the Doane University graduates who are involved in college ministry at our church.

Some of the Doane University graduates who are involved in college ministry at our church.

After entertaining 120 people, you’d think we would be done for a while. But we weren’t. Sunday was Mother’s Day and I was so happy to spend it with both my daughter and my mom. We went to church in the morning and as we do most Sundays, fed a large group of college students lunch at our place afterwards.

Ann with her mom, Carol, and our daughter, Meghan on Mother's Day.

Ann with her mom, Carol, and our daughter, Meghan on Mother’s Day.

Meghan and some of my college “kids” gave me a thoughtful gift (framed pictures of them all together) and we lounged for much of the afternoon.

Ann with kids

Ann with all her “kids.”

That night, Steve offered to grill Nebraska steaks for our out-of-towners and moms, so we prepared steak, baked potatoes, and salad for a group of 15 and enjoyed a relaxing dinner on our deck. Of course, the temps were back up into the 70s that day. *Smile

Mother's Day steak night

On Mother’s Day we grilled steaks and ate on the deck.

Monday morning we were up and around to clean (again) and prepare for one last celebration — a going away party for our daughter, Meghan, before she moved to Tulsa.

We had a going away party for Meghan and many of her friends, including Amy and Dulce stopped by.

We had a going away party for Meghan and many of her friends, including Amy and Dulce stopped by.

We had about 30 people over for another cookout on the deck and it was such a great opportunity for Meghan to visit with her friends and say goodbye before heading south to start the accelerated nursing program at Oklahoma University.

I won’t lie, we slept in Tuesday (’til about 7 a.m.) and over coffee that morning in the hot tub counted everything up and figured we’d served more than 250 meals out of our kitchen in a week. Time to get back to blogging or better yet, plan a vacation.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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