Tuscany, Florence and Pisa

The trip to Italy was about to leave Rome, and we were headed to Tuscany where the landscape changed. Even while just looking out of the window of the van as the country side zipped by you could see the beauty of Tuscany. Marco pointed out the olive vineyards and grape vineyards–both of them were beautiful. Another thing that we noticed was that cars were getting larger. In Rome it seemed like everyone drove something similar to a Smart Car and/or a scooter. On the way to Tuscany, the cars became larger, and scooters were not seen very much.

I’ve been to beautiful wineries in Texas, Napa and Mendocino, but Tuscany was always on my radar–it lived up to my expectations. From the moment we entered the gates to Tenuta Torciano I was in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. The only thing missing was Diane Ladd.

After being greeted and given the history of the beautiful property, we were off to our wine tasting. The setting let us know that this would not be your run of the mill tasting. First of all it was set outside under a huge tent. The tables were beautifully set with each setting having a plate that had food that you were instructed to match with each wine. I have always been under the impression that if you like it, then you drink it.

The tasting was a lot of fun with everyone picking out their favorite wine. Then we had the honor of eating even more when they bought out what the host called “his mama’s lasagna”. With this dish he served a wine that he called the “Big Boy”.

The wine, food, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were all good, but the host made the experience even better. We even had fun with another group that was from Canada. Good food, excellent wine and great conversation made for an amazing experience.

Our next stop was to the the quaint looking town of San Gimignano. It seemed that each store had some likeness of Pinocchio in their windows or showcase. It was here that I finally purchased items that were needed (my luggage was still somewhere else).

After a leisurely walk through the town, we were on our way Impruneta which is a few miles outside of Florence. We would stay at the Bellavista Hotel in Impruneta which was situated in a neighborhood that was easy to walk around and see the sights. The Hotel Bellavista had a great rooftop where you could enjoy a glass of wine and look out over the town.

Florence was crowded with people, but not all of them were tourist. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we ran into a protest–it was very organized and seemed more like a parade. Florence is filled with great sculptures many of which are located in Piazza della Signoria. Most people would probably say that the replica of David was their favorite, but I think that my favorite was the one of Neptune. It’s just how he is looking at David–you have to see it to understand it.

Now many people go to Florence to shop for leather and jewelry, and there was no shortage there. ln fact so many people in our group purchased items that they shipped them home. There was so much that it all seemed to go together. The crowds seemed to grow larger because there was construction and preservation work everywhere. One of the highlights to Florence was an amazingly simple salad that we had. It featured watermelon, avocado, red onion, feta cheese and a little something drizzled over it. It doesn’t sound like it should go together, but it did. I’ve even made it since I have been home. We did have a Russell Crowe sighting–I only saw him walking away.

After two nights in the Hotel Bellavista we would be on our way to visit the city of Pisa. Before we were to leave Imprueneta there would be a Farmer’s Market in this huge parking lot in front of the hotel. My cousin and I took a quick look at the Farmer’s Market as they were setting up. There was the most beautiful fruits and vegetables that we had ever seen. The stems were still on the plants. There were food trucks starting to cook their foods. You could purchase clothing, cosmetics, plants and so much more. Our one regret is that we had to leave before they finished setting up.

Our visit to the town of Pisa was just that–a visit. A choo choo train took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cattedrale di Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli and more. One thing that we discovered was that after we saw the sites, we could just walk through the lovely area around it which had horse drawn carriages, restaurants, shops and more.

We had experienced wine, more wine, food, shopping til we dropped, history and more. It was time to move on to our next stop.

There is a disclaimer that I forgot to mention. All pictures of me are makeup free–it was in my lost luggage. So remember “thisisyourbestyear” you can get a natural glow without cosmetics.

**A special thank you to Ms. Fallon Alford for allowing us to use some of her photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia who freelances as a photographer.

First Stop Rome

Going to Italy has always been on my “to do” list, and this year I was able to visit and had an amazing time with my cousin, sister and new friends. We did five stops with the first one being Rome.

We won’t talk about my lost baggage–that’s a post in itself. But I will tell you that nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this trip–even the weather cooperated.

The cab ride through the streets of Rome actually took my breath away. It was not as pretty as a picture, it was better. Sure there was graffiti, but even that had an artistic look to it. The cab driver in his comfortable BMW taxi, nice suit and wonderful accent was a tour guide all by himself. He pointed out historical sites as we traveled to our hotel. It’s one of the times the cab ride could have been longer.

Our hotel was situated on top of a hill. The Hotel Barberini did offer a spa, but I don’t know of anyone in our group that took advantages of these services. The hotel itself was very nice. Every morning we gathered there to talk and have breakfast. The dining room was covered with windows that allowed you to have amazing views of the city below. There was a great balcony that we sat for cocktails in the evening while music flowed from below. The one thing that got me was that beds in Italy are very low to floor, and hotel rooms are small. But who goes to Italy to stay in a hotel room?

Rome reminded me of San Francisco with its hills, and shops everywhere. Our hotel was in walking distance to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, high end shopping–even discount shopping, and great restaurants. We were in the perfect location. Since I went with a tour group, when we went to places like the Colosseum we had transportation. All of our tours were scheduled. We had the best tour guide in Eladia. She was informative, funny and oh so helpful.

Our tours included the Roman Forum which included many structures that were still standing. Through the words of our tour guide, we could picture how it looked during the time of Julius Caesar.

As we continued to learn the history of Rome, we were on our way to the Colosseum which was not to far from the Forum. We were able to skip the long lines and go directly in to start our tour. At this time, they are still excavating at the Colosseum. As Eladia pointed out that there had been a covering at the Colosseum we all thought of old Texas Stadium with the hole in the middle–at least I did. Even though it is only a shell of it’s once grandiose self it is still something to see.

Vatican City is something to behold. Once again we were able to skip the long lines and go directly in. You need days to see everything that is in Vatican City. Again we were lucky to have Eladia as our guide. She showed us what she considered the “must see” items. You are not to touch the sculptures, but Eladia had permission to allow a member of our group that was visually impaired to touch them as she discussed them. Be prepared for a lot of people, but it is well worth it.

When you enter the masterpiece–the Sistine Chapel there are no words. The artwork before in other parts of Vatican City was amazing, but Michelangelo’s work is something to behold. Eladia had informed us on how to look at it chronologically.The only thing that could have made it better was if there were no crowds, and we could have sat and enjoyed the sheer splendor of the chapel. Even though you could take pictures without flash throughout Vatican City, you could not take pictures/videos of the Sistine Chapel.

Upon leaving the Sistine Chapel our guide Eladia left us, and our overall tour guide Marco took over. He took us to St. Peter’s Basilica. Be aware there is an enforced dress code. Women must cover their shoulders and everyone including men must wear clothing that covers the knees. When entering and going through men must remove their hats/caps.

This place is enormous and so ornate–again you need a while to go through it. One of my favorite places at Vatican City was St. Peter’s Square. I could just imagine the Pope coming out on the balcony.

After catching a little rest most of my group went off on their own to explore more of the city. Many walked since the hotel was centrally located, but others took taxis to places of interest. We decided to go to the balcony, sip a glass of wine and listen to the music.

Rome at least to me lived up to my expectations.The food was great, the history was amazing, the wine was good, and we even got our steps in each day. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Sometimes things live up to your expectations.

**A special thanks to Ms. Fallon Alford for sharing her photos with us. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta and a freelance photographer. You will see more of her work as we travel through Italy.

A Train Ride and Michelle Obama

The last two weeks have been hectic, fun, entertaining filled with laughter, good conversation and more. This post won’t be long since the pictures will speak for themselves.

We started out with a train ride to the Grapevine Mainstreet Arts Fest aboard the Trinity Metro from the T&P station in Fort Worth. We were able to meet new friends and have a great time walking Main Street, talking with the vendors, eating the food samples and more. Hopefully on our next excursion you will be able to join us.

The discussion of the Michelle Obama book “Becoming” that we held at Leaves Book and Tea Shop, lived up to everyone’s expectations. The participants sipped their ice tea while they discussed “Becoming” and life itself. There were no right or wrong answers which made it interesting. Once again we were able to connect with women that we didn’t know.

The participants were given a sway bag that contained items from Sephora (located on University). After receiving their bags, they were then presented with other items to add to their sway bags. Women entrepreneurs were then given a moment to tell about their businesses and products. They then had a surprise for each lady. Each participant received a beautiful gift box with a lovely bracelet in it from Melba Gordon Jones of Paparazzi Accessories. Ruby Powell of Ageless Perfection Skincare gave each of the ladies’ skincare products that were packaged in a lovely satchel. Beverly Gunter of Kay’s Hot Water Cornbread Mix bought samples to taste (they went fast), and then gave each lady a package of mix. Each of the entrepreneurs received a gift from Danette Wicker of Danette’s Urban Oasis. The ladies were then given tissue paper and ribbon to complete their sway bag.

Hope you can join us for our next event. Step out of your comfort zone because “thisisyourbestyear”.

Girls Trip To The Land Of Enchantment–Santa Fe, New Mexico

Going on a girls trip can be one of the best experiences, or it can be one of the worst ones that you can have. I have been very lucky, each time I have had a great time. Maybe it’s the girls I go with–they pick out amazing places, great hotels, fun activities, wonderful food and much more. Santa Fe, New Mexico did not disappoint even with the chilly rain on the first night there. My youngest daughter planned a great getaway.

We stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe, Hacienda & Spa which we both loved from the moment we arrived. It had that beautiful southwestern look. that I absolutely love. It is not a large hotel which made it a friendly place, from the front desk, to the bartender, hostess and beyond. Our room was comfortable with windows we wanted to be able to open (next time).

We sat in the lounge with its hugh wonderful fireplace which made it easy to talk with others as we all enjoyed the feel and smell of it. Nobody wanted to leave.

Our only full day started early with me going to have coffee and learn about the history of Sante Fe, New Mexico. The talk was given by Tours U Design with Nat Shipman leading the discussion. I am a history buff so this was right up my alley. They offered a tour, but I had other plans to see the city with my daughter.

The hotel runs shuttles on request that take you to the downtown area of Santa Fe where they dropped us at the Niman Gallery and the True West Gallery. There are so many great galleries in Santa Fe that it kind of makes it hard to pay and go into a museum. There were great paintings, sculptures, jewelry and more. Photos were allowed in some, but not others. Almost every weekend there is some sort of show in the downtown area, and this weekend it was the lowriders which my daughter loved. I even got into it. You can purchase native american jewelry from the locals while listening to local bands in the park. Santa Fe can be a walking place.

The choice of restaraunts is outstanding, you name it they have it except seafood. We couldn’t find a recommendation on one. There was a concensus that we try authentic New Mexico Food at Tomasito’s on Friday night. It was amazing, and we got there just in time. As we were leaving the line was out of the door in the rain. Lunch the next day was at this cute place called La Casa Sena that on my only other visit to Santa Fe my husband and I had visited. Since I love to sit outside it was perfect. The salads were yummy. Even with all of the walking we did during the day, our dinner was lite at a quaint Italian place called Andiamo. Everything looked great, but we settled for appetizers and even then we walked back to the hotel trying to walk off calories.

We did not have the opportunity to go to Ten Thousand Waves Spa (I hear they have a restaraunt now). This place is amazing, it is beautiful and the staff in fantastic. I had the opportunity to visit it a couple of years ago. You can even get your own personal hot tub. It has me spoiled, I can’t do the Asian spas anymore–I’ve had the best. Once you have gone to Ten Thousand Waves you can never go back to the chain spas.

On the way to Albuquerque to catch our flight, they even sent us off with a hot air balloon show.

In less than 36 hours Santa Fe, New Mexico proved to be enchanting. It made for a great girls weekend. As women of a certain age, we keep flying high and reaching for the sky because we know “thisisy(our)bestyear”.

Tea and Talk Discussion–Becoming by Michelle Obama

Join “thisisyourbestyear” on Thursday, May 23 at 6:30 pm at Leaves Tea and Book Shop for a sip of tea and great conversation of the Michelle Obama book–“Becoming”.

We will sip tea and have a great discussion of this important and honest story of the the former First Lady of the United States of America. Join us for an intellectual, though-provoking, honest, fun and real conversation about what we can understand, feel, and learn from this powerful book with some great networking too.

Registration is required. Tickets are free for this event. Go to Eventbrite and register.

Leaves Tea and Book Shop @ 120 St. Louis #101, Fort Worth, TX 76104

Remember “thisisyourbestyear” let’s relax and have great conversation while we sip great tasting tea.

What I Gave Up For Lent

Yep, I’m fasting–not eating meat from Monday through Friday, and only a small amount on Saturday and Sunday. You know for Lent you are asked to give up something, and most people give up some form of food. Does it bother me, not really, but kind. You know what I mean when you give up something then you tend to want it even more. I even went to the world famous Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with their huge sandwiches, and ate a green salad. Who knew they put French fries on their salad and name it a Pittsburgh salad–there is justice in the world.

Our visit to the world famous Primanti Bros
in the Strip District.

I not only gave up some form of food I decided to give up something else. Something that I have been talking about for years. I decided to give up self-doubt and second guessing myself. Even as a woman of a certain age I still have self-doubt and continue to second guess myself.

Not eating meat has led to some changes in my diet and in my overall health. Has the cutting back on the consumption of meat (in this case it does include fish and poultry) caused me to have weight loss–no, but I haven’t gained any either. I’m still maintaining.

But the elimination of self-doubt and second guessing has made a major difference in my life and attitude. It’s a freeing feeling, one that is hard to explain. It’s a good feeling.

Some people have given up shopping, eating sweets, eating fried foods, eating carbs–food, food, food. This guy told me he was going to give up exercising. The problem being he doesn’t exercise. Years ago a minister said maybe we should give up something other than food–something like maybe gossip so I tried giving up self-doubt.

Will I ever have self-doubt again? I’m sure I will, but it will quickly disappear because I’ve learned to control it. Will I ever eat meat again on Monday through Friday–you betcha. But I really don’t miss it.

As women of a certain age, we need to be in control of our lives to make them better. What are you giving up to make your life better? By the way in addition to giving something up, you are to pray/meditate more. Maybe that’s the reason I can conquer self-doubt and second guessing myself.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Instead of saying what’s the worst that could happen, ask yourself what’s the best that could happen–then make it happen.

Women Over 50 Are Starting Businesses Left and Right. Should You?

*Guest post by Lucy Reed

You’ve spent years in a career that doesn’t fulfill you, and frankly, you’re tired of it! Now that you’re getting older, you’re serious about spending your time in ways that count.

Does that sound like you? You’re not alone: Lots of women over 50 are chasing their entrepreneurial dreams now that they have the time, confidence, and financial capital to do so.

Why Women Over 50 Start Businesses

Some women start businesses out of necessity. Older women who have recently lost a job or who are reentering the workforce find themselves disappointed by job prospects and decide to create their own opportunity. Other women discover they finally have the time and energy for a passion project now that they’re older. And with fewer people depending on them, older women have more freedom to take risks and fully commit to a business.

The Traits of Successful Female Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to take on financial risk, put yourself out there, and juggle a ton of responsibilities. For some people, it’s a role that comes naturally, while others have perfected the art of faking it until they make it. But if entrepreneurial traits like tenacity, dedication, and risk-taking aren’t in your playbook, business ownership might not be for you.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a cutthroat business woman or a natural salesperson to be a successful entrepreneur. Plenty of over-50 women start businesses in the nonprofit sector or become consultants and solopreneurs. However, whether you’re running a multinational corporation or a one-woman bookkeeping service, you need to be comfortable with marketing yourself and maintaining a public image.

Financial Considerations for Older Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be a way to grow your income add to your nest egg after 50, but it’s no guarantee. Launching any business is a financial risk, and it’s even more so for women, who are likely to tap personal savings for startup capital. That’s because women entrepreneurs have a harder time than men raising startup capital for business ventures.

While it’s possible to tap retirement savings to start a business, the process is convoluted, and a mistake could lead to hefty IRS penalties. There’s also the risk that your business doesn’t succeed and the loss sets your retirement back years. Before going this route, explore other funding options like Small Business Administration microloans, alternative lenders, or even crowdfunding.  

Steps to Starting a Small Business

There’s a lot of work that has to be done before getting to the fun parts of business ownership, like building a brand and pitching your product or service. If you’re interested in starting a small business, take these steps to get started.

  • Assess the feasibility of your business idea. You have a great idea, but is it a profitable one? It doesn’t matter how much creativity or passion you have if you’re selling something no one wants to buy. Conduct research and surveys to evaluate who your target market is, what their needs are, and how much they’re willing to pay to have those needs met.
  • Obtain licenses and permits. The licenses and permits you need depend on the nature of your business. At minimum, you’ll need to register your business and file for an EIN.
  • Identify key partnerships. Strong networks make strong businesses. Establish relationships with suppliers, retailers, local businesses, and other partners who can help your business grow.
  • Create a marketing plan. Websites, social media, local marketing–today’s entrepreneurs have a lot of opportunities to get their ideas in front of an audience. Before launching campaigns, determine which marketing channels are best for your target audience.

There’s no expiration date on entrepreneurship. Whether you’re 26 or 55, if you have a good idea, you can turn it into a profitable business venture. While starting a business after 40 can feel like a leap of faith, sometimes that leap is just what you need to bring purpose and passion to your life.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”–look before you leap.

*Lucy Reed has been starting businesses since she was a kid, from the lemonade stand she opened in her parent’s drivway at age 10 to the dog walking business she started while in college. She created GigMine.co because she was inspired by the growth of the sharing economy and wanted to make it easier for entrepreneurial individuals like herself to find the gig opportunities in their areas.

New Isn’t Always Better

I am a sentimental person I will admit, but I can let go of certain things.  There are some things that make my heart smile , and I will always keep them. My husband does not understand this sentiment.  He believes new is better.

Take for instance this quilt that goes at the foot of our bed each day, and when the weather gets a little chilly it warms better than anything electric.

This quilt has been with me since moving to Fort Worth some 44 years ago, and was probably not new when I received it.  As I packed my car to come to Fort Worth, my neighbor Miss Callie came across the street with this beautiful quilt to keep me warm when I needed it.  It was not only meant to keep me warm during cold nights, it was meant to keep me warm from cold people, cold circumstances–it was meant to ward off the coldness of the world.  This quilt was meant to wrap the love of Della Lane around me. It has done all of this and more.

Over the years it has warmed my daughters and now my grandson.  This quilt has warded off all evil spirits. Everyone reaches for this one quilt.  It seems to warm you from the inside to the outside.  Miss Callie’s quilt warms your heart.

Maybe it’s the love that it was made from. Someone made it with love for Miss Callie, and she lovingly gave it to me. 

As the years have come and gone, we’ve had to mend “our” quilt.  My husband once, and only once told me that we should buy a new one.  But now even he knows that the coldness of life can only be warmed by a quilt made with love.  Each time I spread it, or wash it I think of my street on Della Lane, and it warms my heart.

Do you have a keepsake that warms your heart–if so share with us? Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. When you warm your heart it shows.

Cause She’s Not In The History Books

We at “thisisyourbestyear” take this time to honor those that should be in the history books, but are not. Their accomplishments, sacrifices and more all have to be researched and only given one month of the year recognition.

*Since we are a blog for and about women of a certain age, we chose this year to highlight women in American History who are Black. There were so many that it was difficult to narrow it down to one person, but we did. Her story is inspiring.

We are featuring someone that none of us really knew about, we are featuring Mabel Fairbanks who was a figure skater. Mabel was fascinated by skating when she saw a movie featuring then skating sensation Sonja Henie. As luck would have it she found a pair of skates in a pawn shop, and talked the owner down on the price. After purchasing the skates which were two sizes too big, she stuffed cotton in the toes and taught herself to skate. She would go to Central Park to skate in competitions making 6.0’s, but could not join a club because of her race. Therefore, she could not participate in any other competitions or practice at any rink.

She was persistent and eventually one skating rink allowed her to come in after the rink closed to practice. This story is about more than her finally finding her way outside the United States to skate, it’s about Mabel’s legacy.

She may not have gone to any competions because no club would take her, but she was finally able to skate in the Follies in the states, then barred from seeing her shero Sonja Henie by Sonja herself. Her legacy has come to the surface and lives on. Mabel became a coach. Not just a coach, but a coach of champions.

She is credited with helping the careers of US and world champions such as Scott Hamilton, Atoy Wilson, Tiffany Chin, and 1970s champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, whom she put together as a skating pair. She also coached Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist, in her early days, and also first paired her with champion Rudy Galindo.

She’s not in the history books, but she should be. Her strength gives us strength. Because of her, and people like her we can.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Black History is American History.

*Go to our Facebook page–thisisyourbestyear to see more Black women we honor during the month of February because they should be in the history books.

Mom. Sister. Friend. Go Red.

Go Red for Women turns 15 this year. It was started to bring awareness among women about the number one killer of women–heart disease* and stroke. The Go Red Movement is about more than wearing the beautiful color of red on the first Friday of February.

It is about women taking control of their own health. Women making the committment to their health. Learning that they can work together with others while helping them with their health concerns.

Fort Worth’s/Tarrant County’s Go Red Luncheon will be held on Friday, February 15, 2019 at 10 am at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth. While there you can gather information on heart disease, learn how to prepare heart healthy meals, have your blood pressure checked, hear from an outstanding speaker and more.

The funds raised will help to build awareness and support research and education initiatives.

There is still have time to purchase tickets to this years Fort Worth Go Red Luncheon.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

This year’s theme for Fort Worth’s Go Red Luncheon is:

Mother. Sister. Friend.

Together we can save the lives of women we love.

*Just reported today that over half of all Americans have some form of heart disease.

Check with your local branch of the American Heart Associaton to find tickets to their Go Red Luncheon or to donate.