Monet’s Gardens

Many years ago I walked into a museum gallery and was surrounded by flowers and waterlilies and light reflecting off ponds and trees. I remember being filled with longing to visit those flowers. On June 11, 2018 at 7 am our group of fourteen walked into the gardens that I saw that day in paintings. It was chilly and rain threatened, but nothing dimmed the light or the quiet of Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France.

9741A762-826A-4EE0-B038-E6F6311CDADANot many visitors get to spend five days in the gardens before they are opened to tourists and after the tourists leave. We were privileged to do that thanks to Elizabeth Murray from Monterey, who in the 1980’s visited Monet’s Gardens and as she said, fell in love.  She persuaded the head gardener to let her work there.

Elizabeth is a gardener, an artist, a photographer and a writer.  We were part of her tour Discover Monet’s Passion – The Gardens of Giverny.

In Monet fashion we would leave the La Reserve every morning at 6.45 for the short drive to Giverny to enter the gardens to paint, draw and photograph in the cool air and to capture the soft light. We were the only people in the gardens from 7-9 am and again from 6-8 pm. We waited for the gardeners who walked down the quiet streets of Giverny to unlock the green garage doors to start their day and ours.

As we entered I was struck by the quiet and peace. All week in the gardens I heard the songs and calls of the birds. I couldn’t believe the lushness of the flowers, the colors and the scents.

We strolled the paths to the house which is at the top of the garden. Monet first saw it when he stopped in Giverny on his way to Paris. He loved the pink brick and the land it stood on. In 1883 he moved his large family into the house and began creating the gardens.

It is now a museum that contains many of his paintings and art of his friends, including Japanese wood blocks.

The wall of paintings. Some of his and some from his fellow artists.

The view from one of the windows.

This path of rose covered trellises leads up to the house.

Paths of lavender and roses.

John literally took hundreds of pictures, so enjoy a walk amongst the flowers.

Could double as a Chihuly glass sculpture.












The sun, back lights the bloom


Monet laid out the gardens the way he painted, working with color and light and shade. He bought land across the railroad tracks and turned it into his water gardens. Join me as we go through a tunnel and up the stairs into the woods

winding along the pathway






through the bamboo

past the pond with the rowboats

to the small bridge.

I spent most of my time in the water gardens, sitting on a bench near the bridge trying to capture the water, trees and sky in paint. It rained the first morning but I was sheltered under my rain jacket and by the branches of the willow tree. Many of Monet’s paintings capture the willows fronds dipping into the water.

There were other artists in the gardens and one woman set up her easel near me. When the light rain started her husband stood next to her and held the umbrella over her head and the easel. She smiled at me and said, “Best husband ever”.

The next day the sun rose over the pond.

Join me on the paths and the benches in the Jardin D’Eau.

A panorama


Monet was very influenced by Japanese artists. Today his water gardens still reflect that influence. These water lilies took my breath away.



Artists at work on the steps where Monet docked his canoe.

and on the only piece of grass in the water gardens

and some art work,



The gardens were smaller than I thought they would be, but I simply cannot convey the variety, beauty and all round gorgeousness (is there such a word?) of the place. So here are a few more of my favorites.

This is the oldest tree in the garden from the time of Monet.



The inside of a poppy after the rain

Reminded me of a sea creature.

Sun shining through the money plant.

The wall of roses

All things come to an end and on Friday at 8 pm we walk to the garage exit

and to our cars to return to La Reserve, our home for a week.

We prepare to gather outside before the final dinner.

A gorgeous end of the the day and the week.


Giverny is a lovely village (pop 500) with small restaurants, a hotel, another museum and flowers galore. It is an hour and fifteen minutes by car from Paris. There is a train to the town of Vernon and then a short bus ride.

The link to the gardens Click on the British flag icon for English.

If you cannot get there, enjoy the gardens through Elizabeth Murray’s book. She has written and published extensively, so you can tour the gardens through her eyes. Visit her website at


All photographs on this blog are the property of John Lonstein.

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A Visit to San Francisco

March 1970 was the first of many visits to San Francisco. The first thing I noticed from the window of the cab was that the grass and the leaves were green. Coming from the snowy, white of Minnesota I drank in the color.

Over the years of coming here I have lost that first thrill of seeing color, but not the thrill of noticing the  water, surrounding the land.


I love the colorful buildings climbing up the hills, the orange bridge and the sparkling lights at night.


We like to stay at the Embarcadero because it has wonderful water views


and is close to the Ferry Building. One can catch a ferry, a bus, a tram, Bart or the iconic cable car.


I also like it because it is flat and walkable to places like San Francisco MOMA


On our first morning we set out and walked past what looked like a bookstore. Now, no bookstore should go undiscovered, so we went in. We walked into the gift shop of the California Historical Society.


Given all the hype about Alexander Hamilton they have an exhibit abut his life. It was fascinating to stroll through his life of writings and pictures. This one really appealed to me given the state of our union.


The next morning we drove across town to view the Klimt and Rodin exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park.   This is a beautiful museum and one of the collection of San Francisco art museums. It is perched on a hill with gorgeous views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown. Definitely worth a trip.


100 years ago artist Gustav Klimt died of pneumonia in Vienna, Austria after the Spanish Influenza outbreak. Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. He is known for his sketches, paintings, and murals, many of which focused on the female body. He began his career painting architectural decorations in a rather conventional manner, but eventually stopped taking public commissions and developed the unique, symbolic style that he is recognised for today.

Here are a few of the pictures we took of the exhibit.






He loved painting women but also did scenery.


W viewed other exhibits. It is a beautiful museum and well worth a visit.


La Mar is a Peruvian resturant. This is what we ate.


Really looks too pretty to eat, but we were hungry and enjoyed every bite.

The recipe – Layered onto the piped, whipped, purple potatoes is Dungeness crab and avocado.  Salmon caviar is sprinkled on top and a quail’s egg tops it off. It was a party in my mouth.

We walked back to the Ferry building which is filled with small food stalls, cafe’s, restaurants and coffee shops. My drink of choice is a Chai spiced tea milk, from Cowgirl Creamery’s Sidekick Cafe.


One of my favorite bookstore’s in the country is Book Passage. Elaine Petrocelli opened her first store in Corte Madera in Marin County. Although there were tough times it has thrived and birthed two more stores, one in the Ferry Building and one in Sausalito. At 5 pm we attended a talk about the book, at the Ferry Building.


Best selling author Dave Eggers tells the true story about his friend Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni -American who decides to import coffee from the farmers in Yemen and finds himself caught in the civil war.


Dave asked questions and told stories about the book


While Mokhtar answered the questions he made coffee and passed it round for the audience to taste. Not being a coffee drinker unless it has chocolate and milk added, I could not give an opinion. However I can say the discussion was fascinating.  Port of Mokha is the name of the coffee. I cannot wait to read the book and learn more of the story. Both men have foundations that will benefit from the sale of the book. They are Benefit the Mokha Foundation and


We strolled back to our hotel in the evening chill, filled with words, pictures and tastes. I, like Tony Bennett, left my heart in San Francisco.










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Coming to America


On June 26, 2017, I went through immigration in Toronto on my way back to Minneapolis, MN. The official looked at my passport, checked his computer and said, “Welcome home.”

On June 26, 1967, I went through immigration in Boston, MA. The official looked at my passport and other papers that I carried and said, “Welcome to the United States of America” in a voice I had heard in the movies I watched, growing up in Messina, South Africa.

John and I were in our twenties, with an 8-month-old son, when we first set foot on a plane, to fly half way around the world. John had chosen to do a residency at a hospital in Boston. We left family and friends and all that was familiar. I wrote airmail letters that cost 13 cents and had a picture of President Kennedy. My mother saved the ones from our early years in Boston. Considering I wrote almost every day it is a history of my life fifty years ago.

June 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

At 7.20 the pilot announced that we had reached cruising speed and were flying over Messina and into Rhodesia. Did you sit outside and see the light? I waved.

 In the evenings before supper our family would sit in the garden as it was cooler than inside the house. I remember gazing at the night sky, watching for the twinkling light that was not one of the myriad of stars, but the light of a plane crossing the night sky. Now I was in that plane.

We stopped in Switzerland. The mountains were lovely and green. We got off the plane in Zurich, which was so clean and bright. We looked at the famous Swiss watches and bought some of the famous Swiss chocolates. Had to re board too soon. We had a perfect view of London as we flew in. It was just like the pictures, like a patchwork quilt of green. The London airport is huge and they are terribly efficient.

 We spent the day and night being shown around London by cousins who lived there. Started the final leg of our journey the next day.

Alan and birds July 1967

June 27, 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

 We flew over the New England coast. It is beautiful. When we landed, the agents were very helpful. We had packed our X rays and couldn’t enter the country without them as they proved we did not have Tuberculous. So, they got them from our suitcase. I loved that the agent lifted Alan onto the counter and asked him for his papers. It was funny hearing the accents – I felt as if I was in a film.

When we cleared immigration, I sat in customs with Alan, while John went out to look for Max, a friend who was picking us up. There were two policemen at the door and John asked if he could go out and return. They said yes. When he returned, they noticed a bulge in his coat pocket. They grabbed him and asked what it was. He said it was a folded rain jacket. Looking very skeptical they pulled it out and of course it was. They thought it was a gun. I didn’t know what to think as I watched this.

 They took us out and helped us find Max who took us to the hotel. Well it is a palace! As soon as we saw the room we phoned the desk for the rates, $25 a day just for the room, the food is extra and very expensive! We were furious because we had been misled by our travel agent. We phoned Max who said we were staying in one of the most expensive hotels in Boston. He picked us up this morning and took us to the Sherry Biltmore which is closing in four days. It is fine. We are paying $14 a day and the room has a mini kitchen.

We did not think we would have a language problem. After all, they speak English and we speak English. Just not the same English.

The hotel is in an area called the Fens. There are small cafes and supermarkets. We walked into a deli and decided to buy chicken and salad. The large black man behind the counter said in a booming voice, “Do you want coleslaw or French fries? “I want salad” replied John. He asked again “Well, do you want coleslaw?” John said, “What’s that? I want salad.” Exasperated the man said, “Coleslaw is salad.” I was standing there laughing, because I could understand his accent and knew what coleslaw was.

 Another language mix up – when we reached the room in the Hilton there was nowhere for Alan to sleep. John called the desk and asked for a cot. Was told that there is one in the room. No, he said there is not. I read the instructions behind the door and told him to ask for a crib. Magic, they sent one up.

In South Africa 50 years ago, babies slept in cots and were taken for walks in prams. As the baby got older and could sit up they graduated to what we called, push carts. We needed one for Alan and went to Sears. When we asked for a push cart we were given a shopping cart. We were told we needed a stroller, which, when you think about it is as silly a name as a push cart.

June 29, 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

 I’m so excited I can hardly think straight. We have found the most wonderful flat. It is a house converted into three flats. We have the upstairs on one side and it has two bedrooms. There is a large deck off the living room and one off the kitchen. There is a garden and a place to hang washing. (Important to me as I did not have a drier and had cloth nappies (diapers) to wash) The flat is something you dream of.

Across the road is a skating rink and grass and ponds. It is a lovely area and five minutes away from the hospital where John will do his first rotation. We are moving in tomorrow.

 Boston home 1968 

Reading this letter and remembering this apartment I was amazed at how quickly we found a place to live and were able to move in and get settled in just a few days.

We have bought new beds from Sears. The agent gave us a crib for Alan. The owners of the house gave us a kitchen table and chairs. It’s quite amazing how kind the people are. Whomever we have met and spoken to have been friendly and kind. They adore kids and speak to Alan wherever we go.

South African friends put us in touch with other South Africans living in Boston. One family took us under their wing.

L has just traded in his car and is waiting for a new one. He phoned the salesman and asked him to sell us his old car. It is a 1963 Chevrolet Bel Air with four new snow tires.

This was pre-seat belts and child seats. We took out the back seat, put in a playpen and would put Alan in it to nap and play. We traveled around New England in that tank of a car. We had an apartment, furniture and a car. We were ready to live the American dream.

John’s rotation was at the Veterans’ Hospital in the Orthopedic ward. He worked long hours and many days. Alan and I were alone a lot, including our first 4th of July. There were three bodies of water along the Jamaica Way where we lived. For some reason, they were all called ponds, although the one was probably about two miles in circumference. Many a day I would walk around it, pushing Alan in his stroller.

6 July 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

 On the 4th Alan and I had our lunch at Jamaica Pond. It’s beautiful there and Alan saw numerous dogs, babies, and squirrels. I saw sights! I’ve never seen such badly dressed people. They all wear Bermuda shorts, fat or thin, men or women. I saw a fat chap in a check pair and a different check shirt. The best dressed are the little kids. (Excuse my judging but it was 50 years ago)

 The Americans are not what I expected. They have been very kind and friendly. They chatted to us and invited us to join them at their picnic tables, or on a bench. I did not feel lonely or left out and enjoyed my first 4th of July in America.

Our lives settled into a routine. While John worked long hours, I took care of Alan and the apartment. We walked and picnicked at the Ponds, watched a lot of TV, shopped in the A&P a few blocks away on the main street. I joined the Residents’ Wives Club. We were all home taking care of our children so the occasional night out to play bridge or discuss books was very welcome. We entertained one another’s families in our homes. And of course, I wrote letters.

We also learned about the national sport.

1 September 1967,

Dear Mom and Dad,

 It’s like a carnival in Boston. It’s like South Africa when the Springboks win the big rugby test match. It’s so exciting that even John and I watch it on TV. Baseball! You see, the Boston Red Sox who for more than a decade have come nowhere are suddenly top of the league. The excitement is incredible. On Wednesday night, they played the Yankees in New York and they played for 20 innings, until 2 am.  Such excitement. Alan and I visited John at the hospital and all the radios and TV’s were blaring.

For all the baseball fans, out there I pulled this from Wikipedia.

“The 1967 Boston Red Sox season was the 67th season in the franchise’s Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished first in the American League (AL) with a record of 92 wins and 70 losses. The season had one of the most memorable finishes in baseball history, as the AL pennant race went to the very last game, with the Red Sox beating out the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins by one game. Often referred to as The Impossible Dream, this was the team’s first winning season since 1958, as the Red Sox shocked all of New England and the rest of the baseball world, by reaching the World Series for the first time since 1946. The Red Sox faced the National League champion St Louis Cardinals in the 1967 World Series which the Cardinals won in seven games.”

Now that we live in Minnesota we follow the Twins, but a part of my heart will always be with the Red Sox as I remember the sound of the neighbor’s radio on lovely summer days.

5 September 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

Watch out how you talk to us now. My husband met and chatted to the singer Judy Garland. She gave a free concert last night on Boston Common. I wanted to go but it was freezing and I heard that there were thousands of people there.

Apparently, a patient at the Veterans Hospital called her and asked her to come and visit the Veterans. She arrived in 8B.  She spoke to the patients and sang for them. Then one of them told her that the doctor was a South African. She went up to John and they chatted. He said she is very tiny.

Although I remember much of what I am reading in my letters I do not remember this and neither does John.

25 Oct 1967

Dear Mom and Dad

I love Autumn or Fall as it is called here. The days are clear and sunny and the nights cool. The trees across the road and around the ponds are orange and red. It is beautiful. Alan loves to walk next to me on the path around the pond. The other day a man walked towards us. Alan stopped and looked at him and when he passed, Alan turned around and started following him. Who knows what goes on in his head.

In November John learned that his next rotation would be in Providence RI for three months. We decided that as they had staff housing on the campus we would move there with him. We arranged to swap apartments with another doctor and prepared to move.

Speaking of November ….

Boston snow 1968

15 Nov 1967,

Dear Mom and Dad,

 Well winter is here with a real slap in the face catching everyone completely unawares and it has brought the whole city to a standstill. I’m watching the news and only one major highway is open. Yesterday the sun was shining and it was a lovely day, that is why we are so surprised by the storm.

I have been at my window most of the day and I think the snow is beautiful although the street is jammed with cars. Some people are just abandoning them and going, I don’t know where! As you know we are opposite a skating rink and I have seen skating kids and sliding cars. Fortunately, John is on call at the hospital and doesn’t have to travel so we are all snug and warm.

I did think the snow was beautiful even though it caused chaos. Fifty years later and living in Minnesota I still think it is beautiful but I’m not nearly as excited.

20 Nov 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

 We had a lovely day yesterday. We went downtown to Beacon Hill and the Statehouse which has a gold dome. We walked on the old cobblestone streets and saw houses built in the 1700’s. Mom, remember the book we read, Joy Street, by Francis Parkinson Keyes? Well we walked that street and I remembered the story. I just loved it all. I got some maps of old Boston at the Publicity bureau. Then we drove along Newbury Street which is full of exclusive boutiques and antique stores. I enjoyed seeing history.


Thursday is Thanksgiving. We are invited by a fellow resident to celebrate with them. It is a big thing here where families get together and have a huge meal with Turkey being the main dish. It’s a custom started by the Pilgrims to give thanks for the good crops. It is celebrated by all groups and in true American fashion they make sure foreigners like us are invited. Jim told John that we must have a very light breakfast and “nothing by mouth” after that. I am looking forward to it.

I wrote this on my blog, remembering that Thanksgiving

23 December 1967

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well we have got our white Christmas. We woke up this morning and John said, “I’m in trouble, look outside” He had not put his snow tires on. So, he went to the garage and did they mock him, because they had told him he would be caught short. I love the snow. I feel as though I am living in a story. All the things I have read about snow and white Christmas’s and icicles are coming alive before my eyes.

John took Alan out in the snow. He looked so funny. His snowsuit is too big for him so his pants are baggy.  He has knee high boots and can’t walk in them. He looked amazed when he took a step and his feet sank into the white stuff.

 Christmas day Boston

We moved to Providence, Rhode Island on December 31, 1967. We would spend three months at the Veterans Hospital. We lived on the grounds.

1 January 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sunday was so difficult. John went to fetch the U Haul, which is a covered trailer people use to move their belongings. Well, the trailers were snowed in and the snow plough wasn’t working, so John was gone for ages. When he finally arrived, it took another hour to pack the trailer. Poor John was exhausted as he had to carry all our stuff down the stairs, across the icy driveway to the trailer.

We finally left at 3.30 pm and as we had to drive very slowly we only arrived in Providence at 5.30. It’s only forty miles away, but it started snowing and we got lost trying to find the hospital. Then John had to carry our stuff upstairs again.

The building is brick and consists of four flats. They are all for permanent staff so we were lucky to get one. As John was carrying things up the stairs the chief of the hospital came out of his flat and took John in to meet his wife. She invited us to their New Year’s Eve party. Told us to come down at about ten. We put Alan to sleep and when we went down we left our door and their door open, so that we would hear him if he woke. They were mostly middle aged couples and delighted to have a toddler living there. The wives told me too ask them for any help or advice I may need. We left just before midnight because John couldn’t keep his eyes open. I must say Americans are very hospitable. We are both so happy to be here. John is five minutes away from the hospital. He can come home for meals and take call at night.

Today we went to return the trailer, but first we had to dig the car out! It snowed all night and it was simply beautiful, with the trees and the hedges covered in white lacy powder. 

I grew up in a small town in South Africa. It was very hot for most of the year. So, to move where it snows and is cold was a shock. Although as you may have noticed I thought the snow was beautiful.

9 January 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad

 Want to know the temperature here today – 5F below 0. Last night we broke a hundred-year-old record. It actually went to -4 for the first time since 1800 and something. I can’t believe it because it looks so lovely out, with the sun shining. However, I feel it when John comes home and insist on rubbing his frozen face on mine.

I’m taking bridge lessons at the YMCA. Although I play I may as well learn properly. I made friends and some of us formed a group and we played every few weeks in one another’s homes.

Although my life and the times seemed idyllic we arrived in a country in chaos. There were riots in many cities. The Vietnam war was raging and people were protesting it and President Johnson.

31 January 1968

Dear Mom and Dad,

 For the first time the war really affected me last night. One of my bridge friend’s husband is a soldier in Vietnam. He is in one of the zones being bombed. She was just sick about it. I felt so sorry for her. She is a young girl. I just hope he gets out alright.

2 April 1968

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well what do you think of that?…….President Johnson that is. America is simply astounded. What a political year this is, nothing has gone as it normally does and now this. I was playing bridge with the girls at Sharon’s and her husband tuned in to listen what everyone thought would be another “sticking to the policy in Viet Nam” speech. Lu Ann said she got sick to her stomach when she heard his voice. Then after he said he is stopping the bombing in North Vietnam, which was a big surprise, he said he was not going to run for re- election, because it was splitting the Democratic party and he wanted to show how sincere he was in wanting peace.

 We were so excited we stopped playing and sat and spoke till eleven. No one ever expected the President to do that and he caught the whole country by surprise. So, it looks like it will be between a Kennedy and Nixon again.

7 April 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

As they say, this will be the six days that will go down in history. America is still reeling over the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.  They and we are shocked for many reasons, the main one being that he preached and practiced non-violence. He was a young man with a family and a huge following, which makes it more tragic.

9 April 1968

Dear Mom and Dad

 What a terribly destructive week this has been. (Riots broke out in major cities around the country.) The funeral is being held now. It is the biggest funeral ever given to a citizen. I think that Mrs. King is amazing. She went to Memphis yesterday and marched in the march her husband was supposed to lead. She is very controlled today.

We returned to Boston at the end of April for two months. On June 4th Robert Kennedy was shot in California.

5 June 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

My God what is the world coming to? It was bad enough when Martin Luther King was shot and now this. I woke up and put the TV on to hear who had won the Primary and just could not believe what I heard and saw. That poor family really seem to be jinxed.

I watched TV for most of the day and of course that made me feel even worse. But I’m scared not to watch in case I miss something. So, I feel awful tonight. I’m just so tired with John away so much and Alan having so much energy. Now of course my problems seem so small. When John got home the three of us went to the Pond. It was lovely and Alan ran around talking to people and ducks.

We had been in America for  a year and John was given a two-week vacation. We embarked on our first American Road Trip, Boston, Washington, Chicago and Boston. We planned on leaving early on Saturday June ninth, however we overslept. This letter continues our story.

10 June 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

 We finally left at 10 am. We got about a quarter of the way to Providence when John realized he had forgotten his suit bag. So back we went. Just as we were leaving again he asked me if I had my raincoat. No. So, we only left at noon.

We listened to the Kennedy funeral service on the radio and the most touching moments were Ted Kennedy’s speech and when Andy Williams and the choir sang, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

The scenery was beautiful and although it was hot there was a breeze. We drove through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York State and spent the night in New Jersey. I loved driving through NY state and found the Hudson River unbelievably lovely. You simply cannot imagine the size of the rivers in this country and the amount of water. We arrived at our motel at about 6 pm, changed into our costumes (swimsuits) and hit the pool.


Swimming at the motel


In this letter, I describe the motels and how we loved them. This is the sixties remember, the era of highways, motels and roadhouses.

17 June 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

 We did Washington/ Chicago in three days and stayed at lovely motels. They are all air conditioned, beautifully furnished, a lovely tiled bathroom, television and a swimming pool with a kiddy pool. Most of them have restaurants that cater to kids. They have high chairs and booster seats. They have special menus. Alan liked the one with animals and the one that folded into a car. Kept him happy.

Another thing that fascinated us were the fantastic highways and how easy it is to travel long distances. You don’t go through any towns so you are not slowed down. They have a very good system if you want food or petrol. They are called service centers along the highway.

This is really a beautiful country. I loved the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, with red barns and gabled farm houses. We drove through the Allegheny mountains and the view was really something. Jack, you would love Indiana, miles and miles of farming country, colored yellow and green, exactly what you see in the movies.

 Over the past fifty years we have taken many trips to Washington, DC and Chicago but this one was the best. We saw all the important place in DC and although on that trip we did not love Chicago on subsequent visits we have enjoyed our explorations.


In July 1968, we returned to Providence RI where we would live for six months. We were housed in a two-bedroom house. I think at one time they were army barracks. We hit an unexpected snag our first week there.….

1 July 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

The temperature today is 90 with high humidity. I feel like I’m a big melting blob. We arrived here at about 8.30 last night and walked into the flat and ran straight out. Remember the temperature? Well the flat had stood empty and closed for two months and the heaters had been left on. Of course, we turned them off and borrowed a fan from the neighbors, but it never cooled down.

 5 July 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

 Well we certainly lead interesting lives. At the moment there are ten men, a truck, a haul away truck and a big hole, stretching from our flat to the middle of the road. Now there are three more trucks and more men.

Let me get back to the story of our lives. Before we came, they painted the whole place and laid new tiled floors. Remember that the heaters were on when we arrived? The first three days it was in the nineties outside. Then the heat broke but our flat was still very hot. Nothing cooled it down.

When we arrived, we stacked our boxes against the living room wall and noticed a rash of dots on it. The following day it seemed to have spread and by the next day it covered the wall. We called maintenance. The boss came over and said they would repaint it. At the same time, he noticed that some tiles were coming up.

By the next morning, the rash had spread to Alan’s room. The painter came and painted the two walls, but the rash immediately broke through. He got down on his hands and knees and pulled up some tiles and saw water under them. He called his boss and within minutes the men started pouring in to examine the beautiful floor that was only months old. They discovered that there was a broken hot water pipe under the floor that had created a dam and it was steaming up the floors, the walls and us.

Hence the big hole, the trucks and all the men. Early evening – It is all fixed now and I can’t tell you how different it feels.

 I remember this so well. How astonished I was by the rash. They first told me it was just blistering paint. Once the floor buckled they knew it was more than that. It was probably my first experience in a steam room.

We lived in Providence until the end of December 1968, and enjoyed the experience. There were other families, many from other countries. Alan made friends with the children. I became a sales lady for Avon Cosmetics. The hospital was in a neighborhood and I plucked up my courage and went door to door. Who could refuse me with the cute toddler in his stroller. It was fun and I made some money.

Early in his Residency John decided to switch from Thoracic surgery to Orthopedic surgery. He explored programs in the area and around the country. In September, we once again took a road trip. We drove in the afternoon and John would have his interview the next morning. We drove to Columbus Oh, Chicago Ill, Milwaukee WI, Iowa City IO and to Minneapolis MN. We traveled 3,700 miles in 9 days in the big Chevrolet, with Alan in his playpen in the back.

9 September 1968,

Dear Mom and Dad

 Here we are in Columbus Ohio, in a section known as the Midwest. The hospital is on the campus of the Ohio State University which is huge. This is a true Midwest town, wide open spaces, drawling accents and very friendly people. We bought a newspaper and checked out rentals and liked what we saw. I’m pleased now that we will have the chance to move and stay in another part of the country.

 John had interviews in Chicago and Milwaukee. I liked Milwaukee. I think because I was met by a member of the Wives Club who said they help find housing and have programs for wives and kids.

11 September1968,

Dear Mom and Dad

  We are in Iowa City and John is having an interview this morning. We only arrived at 11pm because we got lost. It is by American standards a village with 40,000 people. It is a university town. I thought I would like it as I am a small-town girl. But driving through the never-ending fields of corn I changed my mind. I felt like it was the end of the world and I would never get out!

12 September1968,

Dear Mom and Dad,

 The “Touring Lonsteins” are now in Minneapolis and we are rather tired. I chose this motel because we are here for two days. John interviewed this morning at the University of Minnesota. He liked the program very much and as it is a matching program he is putting them down as a first choice. Tomorrow he is flying to Denver for an interview.

The motel is across from a large green park and the Art Museum. Alan played on the swings and I enjoyed the beautiful trees that were turning orange and red. It’s a very pretty city and not as big as Boston. It has hundreds of lakes and parks and the cost of living is not high.

We chose the University of Minnesota and they chose us. In July 1969, we moved here and a new chapter in our lives opened. Our second son was born that winter and our third one, three years later. In 1977, we became citizens. We have lived in a town house and a house we bought and this one we built. John has practiced as a Spine Surgeon and through his teaching we have traveled to many countries. It has been a life we couldn’t have imagined fifty years ago.

In June 1967, as our plane circled to land in Boston, I gazed at the shoreline and the monopoly houses on the bluffs and thought, I had come home. And indeed, I had.








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2016 – The Good Times

To misquote Charles Dickens, “It was the worst of times, but with many good times.” It has been a crazy, difficult year, but we had some wonderful travels. I share them with you on this day, December 31, 2016.


Welcome to the new year said the Mama otter.

We enjoyed the first two months of the year in Carmel. Walked the beach, watched the birds,



And gazed at the clouds.img_2167

We love to walk in the spring and enjoy nature.



And our garden in the summer.IMG_2350.jpg

In June we traveled to London, York and Edinburgh with family. We have been to London many times for work and meetings. This time we were summer tourists.

We toured the Tower,

IMG_2633 (1).jpg

Watched the changing of the guard.dsc03718


We met cousins for a family tea and friends for dinner. We rode the Tube and walked and walked and walked! We also happened to be in London for the Brexit vote and sat in a Pub in York to watch England lose to Iceland in the World Cup. Hmm, we broke Britain.

We traveled to Edinburgh and what a beautiful city it is.



The view form our bedroom



We walked up the. hill to the Castle



The views were beautiful.DSC03748.JPG

And joined hundreds of others.


Toured Holyrood Palace and missed the Queen by a week or so.


IMG_1004 (1).jpg

Had a fun experience in the Palace. The last part of the tour is climbing up a circular staircase to a room, where it is believed a murder took place and then exiting. As I could not climb the stairs, a guide opened a door and told me to walk down the corridor. As I did, the door at the end of the corridor opened and another guide waited for me. I felt like royalty going down the hidden corridors and rooms to the secret exit. These are the guides who led me out.IMG_2427.JPG

I love ruins and Holyrood Abbey is a beautiful ruin. This is what it looked like


And now


IMG_2416 2.jpg

IMG_2420.JPGWe took the train from Edinburgh to York and stayed in a B and B in the Shambles, which is an ancient cobblestone road, free of traffic.


And with shops like this


The market still in the same place through the centuries


A must visit is to York Minster


And take a walk around the outside and visit the perfectly “framed” gardens.


Our family love trains, so the train museum was a must. It was definitely a highlight of our stay.



We bid farewell to the United Kingdom and flew home, but wait, there is more. We spent two days in Reykjavik, Iceland. It is really worth putting on your bucket list. Here are some pictures of the town and its environs. I will dedicate a whole blog post to this lovely place.

Colorful buildings


Interesting shops


Art in the streetsDSC03827.JPG

Bike and pedestrian streets


Culture is everywhere. Bookstores abound and a beautiful music hall for those long winter nights.


A stunning church


Geysers, waterfalls and horses are worth taking the drive to experience.

Waiting to eruptDSC03876.JPG

There she blows



Horses on the road


Beautiful countryside


If you travel for any length of time, especially with kids, you know that finding a laundromat is essential This is what we found in Reykjavik.


We took  our pile of laundry there and after depositing it in the machines downstairs


We ate breakfast!


It is also a bookstore, be still my beating heart, what could be more perfect. Love that they are arranged by color.


The only downside to the trip is that the airport is small and has difficulty handling the traffic. But it is a wonderful place to visit.

In 2017 I will do a blog post about our trip to Prague, another bucket list trip.


Back in Carmel we are enjoying walks on the beach and around town. The tourists are here too but the next month should be quiet. We will visit with friends at the coffee shop and sit in our backyard reading and watching the birds chase the squirrels.

I wish all a year of fluffy clouds in blue skiesIMG_2908.JPG

And wonderful sunsets,


Most of all I wish you good health, a safe planet and peace.









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Waves and beaches in Carmel-by the Sea

IMG_1715It is already April and in Minnesota it is cloudy, rainy and chilly. So if anyone else longs for the ocean you can join me in enjoying these pictures we took in February.




I love the gray ghost in this one.




Beach artIMG_1832

Sunning on the white sand beach in winter.


Views of Pebble Beach and the golf course.



The ultimate wave


One afternoon while walking on the path with a friend from home, I looked down onto the beach and saw this beautiful family. We thought it looked like a shoot for magazine cover. On our way back on the path we bumped into the mother and the two boys coming up the stairs. Given the plusses of social media, we immediately texted the picture to her. Never got her name, will never see her again but will enjoy this image.  Now you too are part of that connection.


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Musings while Traveling – 3/24/16


On this windy, snowy, Minnesota day I am tidying up my loft writing room. I am quiet and sorrowful about the horrors of yesterday, in Brussels and in Turkey over the weekend. I move objects on my shelves and discover things I have not looked at for a while.

I have a large collection of notebooks I use to write on a  variety of topics. I opened the one  called Small Stones. They are things I notice when I sit quietly and just observe.

At the Airport

Voices over intercoms, i-Pads on tables, people drinking at the circular bar. I sit across from a woman who has one hand over her heart, the other holds beads, her head lowered, her eyes closed. A red hair scarf, red top, jeans and red socks. The beads are white with flecks of blue. She counts. An oasis in the middle of chaos, in prayer.

At Carmel Beach

Pelicans soaring in a broken line, skim the water. Soar, dip, flap and dive. A three-month-old dressed in a leopard skin, long sleeved top with brown pants. A big pink rose on her sleeve and another on her head band. What all the babies are wearing this season. The water sparkles in the sun. The wind is chilly but the air is clear. Another day in paradise. Today the sky is gray. The snow is white. The trees are brown. I am quiet.

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Winter in Carmel-by-the-Sea – Clouds, Birds and Nature

As we take small steps into spring we end our stay in Carmel. What we saw this winter  was the sky filled with clouds that looked like an artist’s sketch. We watched huge waves break on the shore, sucking the sandy beach back into the ocean. We noticed a myriad of birds in the trees in the back yard, in the sea and in the sky. We took so many pictures I will do two posts. In this one come journey with me and enjoy the clouds, birds and nature of winter in Carmel-by -the-Sea.

Clouds and water


This one with a Z



A fish?

IMG_1825Chain link and white streaks.

IMG_476303965                     A wisp in a blue sky.

DSC03680The artists sky at sunset.

There are always birds at the ocean, but this trip they seemed to perform for me. On a visit to Point Lobos state park we watched these hawks. They came so close I felt I could touch them.


IMG_1744IMG_1741IMG_1739This one was so close I put out my hand to him. Breathtaking.

On a rainy day the sea outside the Aquarium  was awash with birds.IMG_1717 One morning we were walking along the path below the houses on Ribera Road. We watched a blue Heron stalking its prey. Apparently when the sea is too rough they come on land to catch small animals.



A few days later we watched an Egret swallow a mouse whole. We could see it working its way down the long throat of the beautiful bird.


One afternoon we dropped of laundry at the shopping center. I watched this gull pecking at the window of New York Life office.IMG_1779As I watched I saw the window open and he was fed.


So help me when we went to pick up our laundry I saw that he had brought a friend.

IMG_1791On a walk along Carmel Point I spotted this bird sitting stock still on the cliffs below one of the houses. Couldn’t get any closer and don’t know what it is, but I added it to my collection.IMG_1772I posted my favorite bird, the Pelican in my previous post but here I go again.


And on a different day.


Don’t even think of going past me.


Crows are everywhere. This is in a tree in a shopping center parking lot.

Crows in tree

These seabirds are on Carmel Beach. A little boy watched them flying, circling and landing and said, “Look at all the chickens”

IMG_2162The bird sanctuary is created by the Carmel River and part of Carmel River Beach. One afternoon we were walking along the beach and suddenly there was a flash mob. It starts with a few, like flash mobs do and then they were wheeling and flying all around us. All the dots are birds.

Flash mob birds

To change a quote from the movie, Love Actually – “Nature is all around us”. Of course the clouds and the birds and the beach all fit into the nature category, but I also discovered smaller examples.

This tree is on Scenic Ave.IMG_1628I have called this the Elf House. I would love to put a wooden door on it but would probably have to get a permit from the Carmel planning commission!

IMG_1763A tree heart

IMG_1844Art on the beach

IMG_1722The painted beach

IMG_1833Our back yard has about five California Live Oaks.

IMG_2186Steven Colbert has a segment on the late show where he pretends to lie under the starry sky and pose philosophical questions to his guest. When I lie on my recliner under the oaks I ponder what makes them grow such twisted winding branches.

DSC03696Spiders are the artists of the insect world.

IMG_476305952IMG_476305978Sitting on my patio I noticed something staring at me from the trunk of the oak tree. Nature took bark, spider web and a leaf and created this three and a half inch face. It has been there our entire stay.

IMG_2174And so we bid farewell to Carmel-by-the-sea.

Sunset 1




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