Mom and daughter prove that independence and bucking societal norms make for a happy, loving life!

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Christmas in Paris: A Dream Come True (Part 3: Cruise Down the Seine River, Christmas Day and Macarons Galore!)

As excited as I was to spend the Christmas holiday in Paris, I was a bit concerned that we might not find places open for business, but we were fortunate that this wasn’t the case. Cruise down the Seine River We purchased tickets for a […]

Christmas in Paris: A Dream Come True (Part 2: The Louvre)

Our visit to Paris, though short, was magical. There were several places we wanted to visit, and were determined to make this a reality. Three nights and four days? No problem! The Louvre Museum Since the Louvre would be closed on Christmas day as well […]

Christmas in Paris: A Dream Come True (Part 1: The Eiffel Tower)

Paris, the city of light (La VilleLumière), has been a dream destination for as long as I can remember. Portrayed in endless movies and described flawlessly in novels, the allure is very real.

Since Madrid is only about a two hour plane ride from Paris, we decided that this year we would give the gift of experiences and fulfillment in lieu of an abundance of material gifts by spending Christmas near the Eiffel Tower. Scarlett was more than happy to do this since she has been begging to visit Paris ever since she first saw the movie “Barbie, A Fashion Fairytale” when she was only six years old.

Expectations: There are moments in life when the expectations that are built up in your mind don’t fall in line with reality, and this can leave you let down for one reason or another. However, our Paris experience was happily not one of these times! Paris was exactly how I’ve always imagined it to be. The city was a beautiful mix of lights coupled with gorgeous European architecture that is symbolic in most European cities. The food was exquisite, and for all the hype about how “rude” Parisians are, I never experienced this. I found people in Paris to be very friendly and helpful.

The Eiffel Tower: My first view of the Eiffel Tower was on our taxi ride from the airport. As we rode past, and I saw the majestic tower in lights for the first time, my eyes began to well up with tears of joy. I turned to Scarlett and she was grinning with excitement. In that moment, I felt blessed and completely grateful for this opportunity.

Our first view of The Eiffel Tower from the taxi!

The next evening was Christmas Eve, and we decided to go into the tower. I debated on purchasing the skip the line tickets, but decided against it since I had read that the lines weren’t that long this time of year. The line to get into the Eiffel Tower wasn’t that bad, but the line to purchase tickets to the top level was about 30 minutes long. Apparently a thirty minute wait is not even comparable to the lines in the spring and summer though.

After we got our tickets we had to wait for the lift to get to the second level. We then had to get into another thirty minute line for the lift that goes to the very top of the tower. I wanted to try this once just to see it. Since it was cold outside, the best part of this experience was the actual ride to the top. I would suggest experiencing the top level once but on our next visit, I will most likely only purchase tickets for the second level since the view was actually better than the top in my opinion.

Here we are looking at the view from the second level.

The view from the second level is amazing! 

 The top view is majestic as well, but I didn’t really want to chance my phone falling down in order to get a photo without the safety wires, so there you have it!


After we had spent our time gazing in awe at the city of Paris, we decided to warm up a bit and check out the souvenir shop.

Believe it or not, the souvenirs weren’t completely overpriced. I purchased one of the white Eiffel Tower Christmas tree ornaments for 7.99 Euros. The hanging ribbon on the ornament has Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noel written on each side. This was a perfect addition to add to our Christmas memories. Before heading back to the hotel we ate a couple of macarons. All in all, we had a fabulous Christmas Eve in Paris!

Here is a quick video that I took going part of the way back down the Eiffel Tower. 

Stay tuned for my post on our visit to Laduree, the Louvre, and our cruise down the Seine River. 


It’s Christmas! Why Stress?

I have always loved Christmas. I have always loved everything about Christmas. Even with all of the commercialism, I still feel that there is a certain magic in the air during this time of year. I love the endless amount of Christmas music that can […]

What Happens If You Get Sick in Madrid?

Being sick is never fun. If you happen to fall ill while in another country, and don’t speak the language that well, it can be a little frightening. Typically, I am a very healthy person who hardly ever gets sick. Yes, I’m the person who […]

How to Embrace the Holidays While Living Abroad

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love virtually everything about it.

I love the constant holiday music that can be heard at most retailers, and the vast array of decorations and lights that can be seen as soon as you step out on your front door and into your car. I never seem to tire of it. As soon as Thanksgiving day arrives, this marks the beginning of the Christmas season for me and my family. Some years we put the tree up Thanksgiving night, but we always aim to have our decorations put up by December 1st. This has been my experience pretty much every year except for this one.

Christmas in a different culture

I knew that the traditions would be different while abroad, but I wasn’t expecting to miss the Christmas traditions in America as much as I have these past few days. After all, I wanted to experience the different cultures of Europe, and get away from some of the commercialism that has taken hold of Christmas.

What can you do to get in the Christmas spirit when living overseas?

In order to combat some of those homesick feelings for Christmas, Scarlett and I decided to visit one of the famous Christmas markets in Madrid at Plaza de Mayor.

As you can see, the market opened a couple of days prior to the advertised November 27th date. There were already several people looking around at the Christmas ornaments, nativity scenes, and array of Christmas hats and gag gifts that were for sale in the red Christmas themed shops that have been set up for the season.


Watching favorite Christmas movies

Another way we have tried to keep our traditions somewhat normal is by watching a couple of Christmas favorites on Netflix and Amazon. Isn’t technology great?


The best thing to do is to embrace the experience and opportunity you have and immerse yourself in a wonderful new experience of colors, language and food. 

Aside from maintaining a certain familiarity with your normal traditions, venturing out to see how other cultures experience the holiday season is the best way to get involved. It is easy to get sucked into the gloom of being homesick and apart from what you are normally accustomed to, especially during the holidays. The best thing to do is to embrace the experience and opportunity that you have and immerse yourself in a wonderful new experience of colors, language and food. Tis the season!

Christmas lights on the streets of Madrid, Spain





How We Get Around In Madrid

Before we left the United States to come to Madrid, I can’t tell you how many people asked me what I was going to do with my van, and if I was going to either rent or purchase a vehicle when we arrive in Spain. […]

Keeping Up With Your Favorite TV Shows While Abroad!

One of the thrills of traveling overseas is immersing yourself in a completely different culture. However, there are times when you just want to curl up on the couch or in bed and watch a familiar television series from home. Before we left, I purchased […]

My Ex-Mother In Law: A Wonderful Lady That I Loved and Respected

In laws are often thought of as annoying, meddling, and not welcoming. Couple that with a divorce, and most people assume that these people will no longer be a part of the lives of the splitting parties.

Non-Traditional Ways: Since I’m not typically accustomed to a traditional way of living, this was not the case for me. When my ex-husband and I got a divorce, I tried to maintain a relationship with his parents. I respected them, and they were still my children’s grand-parents. When his father passed away, it was hard since he was always more of a father to me than anyone else. After his father, dad, passed away, we all went to spend Christmas with his mother. That’s right, divorced family that we are flew to Las Vegas with all three children and stayed in the house where my ex-husband grew up. The sleeping arrangements were different, and I shared a room with my daughter, but the family unit was still there to fellowship and spend Christmas together.

Frances Lara remembered: My ex-mother in law, Frances Lara, mom, passed away a few days ago. The news hit hard, as I realized that I will never again be able to visit with her and discuss politics and everything else under the son. The past few years we haven’t talked as much as we used to, but I would like to think that she would be proud of my politics now. She was always a die-hard democrat, and up until about seven years ago, I have always been a “middle of the road” sort of girl.  Seven years ago I joined her party, and I often think back on some of the discussions we would have in the mid 90’s and early 2000’s. Those are the conversations where I thought I knew everything since I had just turned 20, had a baby, and was newly married to an Army man. Yes, since I had to figure out how to take care of a baby, pay the bills, and balance a checkbook when my husband was away for months at a time, I thought I knew everything. Looking back on some of our conversations, I was probably a little shit in some ways.

She Taught Me A Lot:There were times when we would butt heads, but I barely even remember why. She taught me a great deal. She taught me how to deal with the separation when I was a young military wife since she had gone through it at an even younger age than myself. She also had a total of seven children, and got married when she was 17, not 20.

It is because of her that I know how to make some of the best traditional Mexican Enchiladas, and will pass the recipe down to my children.

Willie Nelson: One of my favorite memories with Frances is when we saw Willie Nelson perform live at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Being a Texas lady from El Paso, she was always a fan of Willie Nelson, and wanted to see him live. I remember calling and asking about tickets a couple of weeks prior to the event, and they assured me over the phone that we could purchase the tickets at the door.

When we arrived, we were told that they were sold out. She was not a woman who cried easily, but I could tell she was holding back and was disappointed. She calmly said a phrase that Russell’s father would frequently use, “Oh well, better days ahead.”

I said, “No, we are getting in.”

Remember, I have always been kind of hard-headed, and I did not want her to miss this event! To make a long story short, we were able to purchase tickets in the box. I don’t remember exactly how or why, I just remember knowing that I was not going to leave until she had seen Willie Nelson live in concert.

Frances said, “Well, you are determined!”

My reply, “Yes mom, I am! We got in didn’t we?” 😉 It was a wonderful evening,

She was an activist with the head injury association, and also a devout Catholic. She was head strong, yet proper, and she loved her family. I believe that this is the most important thing. Loving your children and family and trying to do our best to live the best life we can live is basically what it comes down to.

It saddens me that Scarlett and I won’t be able to make it to her funeral since we are in Madrid, but her memories and the good times we had will linger. Dearest Frances, mom, I do hope that you are now happily re-connected with dad and your daughter Patricia up in heaven. May God bless you, and may you rest in peace. I love you.


A Short Video From Madrid!

Here is a short video of our boat ride in Retiro Park as well as footage of us walking through the center of Madrid near Opera, one of our favorite Metro stops.