Share Six: January 2023: New Beginnings

Happy New Year! Lets hope that 2023 continues to improve on the previous years. What a pleasure it is to be blogging another year with this fantastic group of bloggers. We have now been blogging at Share Six for 8 years.

The month crept up on us very quickly and it was my turn to pick the theme, so what was more appropriate than {New Beginnings}. I love the beginning of the year. It is a reset. I can look at what I see happening and evaluate what I need to do.

Each year I start out enthusiastically trying to loose weight. This year is no different. I lost some before we went to Macedonia, and then gained it when I came back. My work situation created a fair bit of stress and I, without doubt, am a stress eater. I am also a bored eater. However this year, most certainly for the first half of the year I am going to be eating a lot of lettuce. The reason for that is that we have potential plans to travel to Australia in May and I would like to be a lot thinner by then.

I have also decided that I am going to chill. I am going to work hard not to stress out. 2021 and 2022 were spent worrying about Richard and his health and then worrying about figuring out what I needed to learn for the additions to my job and making sure that I fully understood all of the intricacies of the multiple different tasks I was taking on. This year I am hoping that I can relax a bit more.

I am going to slow down, and cruise as much as I can. Richard is a go, go, go person and I just want to be much slower.

I am going to do my best to keep my head above water and take deep breathes when I need to.

I am going to do my best to not get my feathers ruffled. It takes a bit to get me ruffled but I really do not like it, so the goal is to avoid any form of ruffling.

I want to dance as though no one is looking…

And if I look foolish, oh well…

I am going to hang out with my loved ones, especially my baby boy, Luka. I hope to continue to show kindness and love wherever I can.

I am going to relax and take in the vitamin C. (Carefully though, as we all know Richard story of melanoma. Too much sun is not good for the skin).

I am going to attempt to get more sleep. Being a night owl that is really tough for me. I am awake at 1am and dragging at 8am. There is a up side to sleeping more and it has a lot to do with diet.

I am going to look to others for wisdom and guidance when I do not have the answers myself. But I am not going to be pulling my feathers out over things I cannot control. And if I see, someone struggling, I hope that I will always reach out with kindness.

I hope that I will be curious, but not where it affects others. I want to see as much as I can. Mr Lukie is now going to be going for more walks and outings. I am super excited about the plans for the trip to Australia. This is the homeland of my great grandparents and so I am eager to visit it.

I want to smile a lot more, enjoy the laughter and feel so much lighter in spirit. I hope that we lose some of the heaviness that we have been under the past two years

And when I can, I am going to do my best to have a flipping good time.

And maybe make a splash.

I am not one for resolutions. I know that I can never keep them, but I feel like I can manage these thoughts. New Beginnings are awesome. It means we can let go of the past mistakes, or sorrows or hardships. We can carry forward with us the goodness of life where we choose to.

New beginnings give us opportunities to learn something new that we may not have done before. One of the things I discovered I love is artwork with wood. For the last two years we have gone to an art studio for our work retreat and I hope we get to go again this year. I love the creative aspect of it.

At the end of each year I pull out a new puzzle and start to work on it. It helps to reset my mind, and to dig a little deeper to find those missing pieces. It makes me think again more logically. It helps me to get my mind off everything. When I have finished blogging now, I am heading back to my challenging puzzle.

I encourage you to look at what {New Beginnings} you can put into place in your life. Just make sure that they do not become a burden to you. Enjoy everything you can about 2023, and if life does get tough, try to find the positives within the negatives, those are what will get you through the challenging times. That, and family and really good friends.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Elizabeth of It’s Still Life by Elizabeth Willson is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_newbeginnings.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: December 2022: Color

Color is our theme for Share Six this month and I grateful for all ability to see Color around me. The world is a beautiful place. Color comes in so many diverse areas of our lives, from sunrises and sunsets, to flora and fauna, to places we visit. There is so many opportunities to experience color in our lives.

I am fortunate that there is a local national park near me which has this splendid view of the Florida Everglades. Many an evening I have witnessed spectacular sunsets. I am hoping that 2023 will have me getting out again and enjoying these beautiful evenings.
Gardens can create avenues of beautiful colors. I have a love hate relationship with these plants. I love the effects they create especially when there are waterdrops involved, but their leaves are not long lasting and I feel like I am picking them up every 5 minutes. When Richard was so sick I made a point of going outside and pulling of the leaves before they fell on the floor.
A box of pencil crayons is a wonderful place to find color. For this image I used a vase of pencil crayons to take the picture and then rotated the image to get this effect.
Even in winter I was able to find color in the leaves in one of the county parks nearby. I needed a photo for another project, but what I loved about this image was the various colors in the leaves.
Richard likes to grow pineapples and what fascinates me, is the color of the pineapple when it first emerges and starts growing. I always thought pineapples were yellow but apparently not.
Those trees that I have the love hate relationship created a beautiful contrast of colors in the background along with the reflection of the jacuzzi in the glasses.
I am not a fan of spiders, but what I do love about spiders is their incredible ability to make spider webs. The color in the bokeh of this image is a favorite of mine.
Travel is another place where you can find color and one of the most colorful areas we have come across in our travel is the gum wall at the Seattle Market. Kind of gross but it is a wall full of different colored gum.
Color also comes with emotions. This little guy stole our hearts and he has added so much color to our world. Sleepovers are always fun and I am normally exhausted the next day because I am constantly half asleep making sure that he is still fine.
Last but not least, this time of the year is all about color. I love using my lensbaby sweet 35 to capture the color of the Christmas tree lights.

Wherever you are in the world and whatever you celebrate, I wish you a blessed time. For me it is about Christmas, and celebrating the birth of Christ. It’s about family time. It’s about little Luka tearing into his presents. It’s about quality over quantity. It’s about sitting at the table over a meal and enjoying the celebration. This year we will get to celebrate with Daniel’s mom as well. She will be flying in to the US in 2 weeks and I am so excited for her.

Stay safe, stay well, enjoy the festivities. We look forward to seeing you in 2023.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Kathrine of Cobert Photography is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_color

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: November 2022: Nature

Nature for me is the wetlands. I haven’t been a lot lately because Friday has become my Luka day and it’s been too hot to take him in the wetlands until recently. However, it is our get out time, before sleep time. I cannot carry my big lens and push the stroller, so I have had to stick with the 70-300mm. Maybe next time I will give it a try. In addition, every time I stop, he grumbles. Our last walk we had to stop halfway around to have breakfast, and then a bit later for his bottle of water. Overall he is so good. Walking past someone I got the comment “he sure looks chilled”. There is Luka resting his feed up on the food tray. Gotta love this boy!

Woodpecker at the bird feeder with food in it’s mouth
Wood pecker back for a second round.
I’m loving the fall colors.
A red winged blackbird letting me know that I was too close.
An Anhinga looking for breakfast.
More fall colors
A Spoonbill in flight.
I love the defused colors in the background of this image.
A male grackle.
Waterdrops on a Palm branch.

Nature is everything that has life around us. It is getting away from the bricks and mortar and breathing in life. It’s the smells, the fresh air, the wildlife, the scenery that always captures my attention. Working on this blog makes me want to get out and go for another walk.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Janet of @wiredtothemoon_ is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_nature

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Share Six: October 2022: Moody

{Moody} is the theme for this month and when I picked my images I have to be honest moody was kind of where I was at.

That morning I had attended the funeral of a colleagues husband who had passed away of cancer. I felt sad, down and frustrated. But this funeral also felt very close to home. You see Richard, in February 2021, was diagnosed with melanoma, and for a while we did not know which way things would go. It’s such a lot to process and it is hard to know what to say to the person who has been diagnosed. Then things seemed to turn for the better for Richard, and we hope and pray that it continues that way. In the September 2021, my colleagues husband was diagnosed and the following September 2022, he was dead. Sitting there, reminded me that life is so fragile, it could have been me sitting in that position.

I went home that day and posted the following on Facebook “Life is short. I was feeling philosophical last night. I am sure the wine helped. I had spent time with a friend whose husband had passed away. He was so young. Today I attended his celebration of life. It’s these moments that remind me of how grateful I am for my family and friends. It is also a reminder to tell those I love, how much I love them. Give them the hugs they may not want because I don’t know whether I will be able to hug them again. Don’t let those moments slip away. Life is short and time waits for no one.”

Life is precious and the unexpected can happen at the drop of a hat.

My mood remained moody and reflective. We have recently had a lot of bad weather. Wet, overcast, depressing, rainy weather. I am fortunate that I work from home but sometimes I still end up driving in the rain. That kind of weather makes me stressed and somewhat moody. Tuesday’s pre-hurricane Ian weather was a fine example. We knew there was a hurricane coming in. Wednesday the office was going to be closed, as were the clinics. So Tuesday I decided after my morning zoom meeting to head across to the clinic. Mmm, here comes the rain again. It was so dark, and moody, and heavy that you could barely see in front of you. Even driving home it was not great. Already we were feeling the effects of the incoming hurricane’s outer bands.

You sit waiting for the path to become clear, then you sit and watch to see whether the path will change. Hurricane Ian did not change it’s direct path but it did wobble to the south. Had it gone a little further south, I think we would have felt a bigger impact.

From 8:30pm Tuesday evening the emergency sirens on the east coast of Florida kept going off. It went off 4 times between 8:30pm and 5am. I have to confess, hurricanes we have been through, tornado’s not so much. We have a couple of safe spots in our house – our laundry, our downstairs guest bathroom. and under our staircase. None have space for more than 1 person. I have to confess – I went downstairs for the first siren, stayed downstairs until after the second siren, and then I went upstairs to bed, only to be rudely awakened by the next two sirens. I could not see myself spending the entire night down in the bathroom or laundry.

It’s 5am and your mind is foggy. You walk to the bathroom and switch on the light and it is a huge relief that you actually have power. The wind, rain, lightning and thunder through the night was hectic, and it was only the outer bands of the north east quadrant of the storm that we were experiencing. Then you turn on the TV and discover that the tornado touched down 20 minutes away from where you live. In fact, halfway between where we live and where both kids now live. The touchdown was actually on the main road they turn off of but a little way away from them. The first thing you see is the damage to the communities where the tornado came down. It hit a big retirement community, possibly the one next door and the Home Depot. It hits home that it could have been you while you were sleeping. And while the emergency notice said “go to your basement of safe room” the reality is that no one in South Florida has as basement in their home.

This was a first hurricane for Daniel, and he said it was loud and scary. Little does he know what it is like when it actually hits you. 2005 we were hit by Hurricane Wilma, and it was bad. That was our first and last hurricane season without shutters. I watched Richard stand, with a towel wrapped around his head, a thick jacket on and jeans, pushing the bowing glass doors outwards against the wind. The eye hit us on both sides of our property.

That said you walk around in a fog. 5am is way to early for me. Luka was coming down. I was worried about what the weather would be like. Turned out that other than light showers, the day was okay. And then we waited and watch the storm go in on the West Coast of Florida and said a prayer of gratitude that it was not coming in to us. I have a photographer friend who lives in that area and she said this was the scariest thing she has ever been through and hopes never to go through it again.

The rose amongst all of these moody moments is Luka. We had him Wednesday to Friday afternoon. Amy was in Spain on business and Daniel is a teacher and so once the storm was passed, school theoretically would start, but the day care was closed. So he came to Granda and Nuala which turned out perfect in that our offices were closed Wednesday and Thursday and I don’t work Fridays. Each day we thought school would start again. Daniel did end up going in on Friday but they had no air conditioning or electrical power, so he came back home. Luka being in our home brings joy. His laughter and giggles are a blessing. Even those whiney moments are blessings. And when you try to put him to sleep and he is not tired (or even overtired) he is up and down on the bed like a crazy child. Just when you think he is about to go to sleep the cat jumps up on the bed and off he goes again. Eventually he will go to sleep with me almost asleep next to him on the bed. I shift him to the crib and then 1am his is awake and wanting comfort. So into the bed he comes. Richard did that one night and then complained that Luka sleeps like a starfish and he moved to the spare room. But to watch Luka wake up and see the smile on his face chases away the cobwebs, the moody feelings and brings a smile to my face.

And while we smile, our heart breaks. Our heart breaks for those who were severely impacted by Hurricane Ian. For those who have lost everything, – their businesses, their homes, their vehicles, and some, even their lives. Hurricane Ian has left devastation on the West Coast of Florida. One of the best ways to help is to find a reputable organization to donate to. We cannot go in there but we can financially help those who can. This is not a quick fix, this is going to take a long time to repair, rebuild or replace that which has been lost.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Janet of @wiredtothemoon_ is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_moody

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

30 Minutes in the Life: September 2022

For this month’s 30 Minutes in the Life, I am going to continue to share our trip to Macedonia. This is more than 30 minutes but I am sure the bloggers will understand. Once again these photo’s are a mix of camera pics and cellphone pics. Often it was hard to maneuver a camera in such tight spots. Added to that was the red and green reflection of the awnings.

In fact, today’s share is the whole reason we went to Macedonia. As I mentioned before Amy and Daniel were married in 2018 in a very small wedding in our back garden. Daniels family was unable to attend. So it has always been Daniel’s desire to go back home and have a reception for his family and friends. Today is Saturday in our time away and it is the day that the party will happen.

The way I understood the traditions, Daniel said that in normal situations, the groom would go to the brides house early in the morning and steal her away to his home, where there would be celebrations before the actual wedding. Of course, Amy’s home is a long way away from Macedonia so there was not stealing the bride.

The wedding party was split into two events. The first would take place at Daniel’s mothers home. When we arrived in the morning they were busy setting up the awnings and tables and chairs. There were two huge shop fridges outside filled with soda, water, beers, various forms of alcohol and their national drink, rakija.

In addition they had hired traditional Macedonian musicians to come and play music. One of the instruments looked vaguely like bagpipes

Poor Lukie was not quite sure what was going on. He had never heard such a loud noise before. But before long that little boy was the life and soul of the party and was past from one person to another. Here Daniel tried his best to block at least one of his ears.

It was good for Daniel to be back with his family and friends. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the celebrations. His two best men were awesome and really helped Richard and I to fit in. Both of them spoke English well and so we were able to communicate a learn a little more about Daniel.

As guests arrived, Luka got to meet and greet everyone of them. This event was relatively small, about 50 people who were either family or very close friends.

Bride and Groom are expected to dress up, but with temps of 105F, I suggested to Amy that she wear the dress that she was originally married in, and change into her new dress at the venue for the actual wedding reception.

Luka got to meet Daniel’s uncle, who seemed to fall in love with him.

Daniel’s mom went to so much effort to make not only this party, but also the wedding reception as special time for Amy and Daniel. She was so grateful to have them there to celebrate with.

Luka seemed to enjoy getting a little closer to the musicians.

Once or twice I ventured inside with him just to cool him down in front of the fan or to let him rest from being passed around. But before long he was back outside again.

This picture melts my heart. In the beginning of 2020, I was not even sure that Richard would be alive to see this little man, let alone get to enjoy every moment he can with him. I am so grateful to my God that he is. I am grateful that he was willing to travel that far to be a part of this event.

For these two special people, this three hour event was just the beginning of what would be an amazing day. It would also be a very long day. Look out for the evening part of the celebration in the next blog.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what  Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

You can also find me on Facebook, and Instagram.

Kocani, Macedonia

We had climbed Vinicko Kale, and now it was time for us to head to Kocani for the afternoon. Kocani is about 15 or so minutes from Vinica and we had the most interesting ride. When we got to the house, the car was already decorated in wedding finery in preparation for Saturdays event, and the main reason we were in Vinica. While everyone was working on wedding plans, Amy, Richard, Luka and I were playing tourist.

Kocani, on first impression, is much larger than Vinica. Reading about Kocani that impression was confirmed The population is almost 3 x more than Vinica, the number of people living there is around 28 000. The population is made up of about 90% of Macedonians, 5% Roma, 3% Turks, 0.5% Vlachs (I added a link because I have not heard this terminology before), 0.2% Serbian, and 0.1% other.

I noticed a lot more apartment complexes around the town.

The Kocani River runs through the center of town and creates a beautiful river walk. One block of buildings back from the river is a peaceful outdoor entertainment area, coffee bars, restaurants, shops, and a children’s play area.

I loved this – Life is too short to wear boring clothes. I also think life is to short to not be exploring everything around us. There is a whole world out there.

Below, the story of our vacation. Carrying the stroller up and down stairs, hills, walkways etc. Luka did not complain at all. I let them do the carrying and I took photo’s lol.

I loved this image below of Marilyn Munroe on the walls of what appears to be a restaurant in Gadsby style.

We were heading to an Irish Pub that Amy had been to a couple of times. The look was somewhat Irish but the beers and menu were not. We had the standard Macedonian beer Skopsko IPL. One of my favorite finds was the beggars in Macedonia. They came with four legs and were all feline. There is a huge population of what I assume are feral cats and they are the restaurant beggars. I loved them.

I got to chat with the waitress at the restaurant. She was an English teacher but she said there were no jobs so she was working as a waitress.

When we were leaving the Irish Pub I spotted this church in the distance and asked if we could make our way to it. Little did I know we were going up and down hills again.

Below is one of the views of the housing in Kocani. We walked the streets to the church because the sidewalks have cars on them.

I was fascinated by this tree growing up the wall of this shop. Turning around to take a fuller image I realized that this was a grape vine that had grown up the side of the building and the leaves and grapes formed the awning.

Back up hill and making our way to the church I had spotted. Like Vinica, I saw piles of wood stacked against walls and houses. This wall is the external wall to the church.

Church St George, is situated just outside of the main riverwalk area, slightly up on the hill. I could find little information on this church but from what I did find it was apparently built in 1915 on original foundations.

Church St George, is an orthodox Macedonian church. I loved the design of the building with stone and plaster and traditional red style tiles on the roof. The grounds were immaculate, and we were able to walk around without anyone stopping us. We did not, however, go inside.

One of my favorite things that I saw in Macedonia with the churches was that quite often there were miniature replicas in the gardens.

Lastly we stopped in at Restaurant Kaj Pace for a late afternoon meal. We were all hungry. This was a great restaurant, some of it undercover and some areas had a more garden feel. My favorite part, I have to confess, was that the wait staff moved a giant fan over to us. Phew, with 104F temps we were dying. That fan was a blessing.

Of course, it was back to beer again. For food we ordered shopska salad which is made of cucumbers, tomatoes, mixed in olive oil and covered with a salty cheese, not unlike feta but looked very different. This appears to be a staple salad in Macedonia and we would eat it many times in the days to come.

Amy also wanted cheesy chips, which sounded great. The first taste of the chips was a bit of a shock as the cheese was salty. Amy tells me there is two types of cheese in Macedonia, a gouda type cheese which they call white cheese, and salty cheese. In addition we shared ribs as well which were excellent. What I loved about eating in Macedonia was that we could order a number of plates of food, and all share that food.

We headed back home in the wedding car, to a wonderful evening of meeting new family members, Daniels brother, sister in law and niece. It was a great day, busy with the climb and then the tour of Kocani. It felt good to stop and chat and learn a bit more of our new extended family.

Heading back to the hotel and the air conditioning, we took a little bundle of love along with us. Luka was dealing with a heat rash and Amy thought it would be good for him to sleep in the cooler temps. I made him a bed on the couch and placed chairs along the edge so that he could not roll out. He slept like a log, through the whole evening.

Saturday is going to be a busy day. Rich and I took Luka for a walk in the lower side of Vinica, then we got to celebrate for 3 hours at the house, before heading to the wedding venue. If I thought Friday was a long day, Saturday was going to be even longer.

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Vinica, Macedonia, Hiking to Vinicko Kale

Today is Friday, the second day of our trip. The family is busy getting ready for the events that will take place on Saturday. Today Amy is going to be our guide and show us around Vinica. This morning we are going to walk to Vinicko Kale.

I learned about Vinicko Kale some years ago when Amy took some of her photography students up to the ruins to do light painting one evening. She also has a photograph of herself taken standing in part of the ruins and honestly it looked like she was standing in the map of Africa. So many overlaps to our growing up in South Africa and what we saw in Macedonia, although I will say I never spent time in ruins in South Africa.

Vinicko Kale sits above the village of Vinica. I am a bit of a romantic, with an appreciation of a blood thirsty battle. I love reading history of the Scots. Stories of the way they lived, and the battles that took place fascinate me. Stories such as Troy, 300, Braveheart, King Arthur, I love them all.

So when I think about Vinicko Kale, I think about a fortress built to defend a city. A beacon on a hill in a country where life could be threatened at any given moment. I think about men and women, living through these times. And I think about how much of a privilege it is for me to walk through these ruins and ruminate on life gone by.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, most of the walk was uphill. Aside from a short detour downhill to get to the road that went up to the ruins, it was an uphill climb. And I confessed, I am unfit!. I come from a family of asthmatics, and while I do not have asthma, this kind of exertion honestly makes me feel like I do. Add allergies and altitude and my breathing is the pits. So along the way, I would stop and take photos of the scenery, and the flowers and catch my breath. We passed some stairs and I gave thanks that we would not be climbing those but rather walking the road.

This was where we were heading – up to the ruins of Vinicko Kale. Reaching the top we were rewarded with the spectacular view of the town of Vinica. I mentioned previously that there are about 10, 800 or so people living in Vinica. Walking around the town, I would not image that many people, but the view from here makes it much easier to understand those numbers.

To be honest I wish I had a drone. What we saw is not the full picture of the ruins, they are far bigger. Vinicko Kale is situated at an altitude of 400m. The ruins themselves are about 250m x 150m, and spread across the hillside and onto the surrounding hills.

So what is the story with Vinicko Kale. According to what I have read, Vinicko Kale was discovered in 1954. Around 1978, 5 fragments of terracotta Christian icons were discovered. These icons dated back to Neolithic times, and through to the Middle Ages. This has sparked a real interest in the ruins.

The findings of the icons has sparked archaeological excavations since about 1985. What was found was the history of these ruins which they believe began around Neolithic times and stretched through to the Middle ages. It appears that various identifying features were found in amongst the ruins, such as “benches”, plumbing installations, walls of what appears to be a church.

There was a great site on the web that gave a lot more information on the ruins than I had found. You can learn more if you go here.

I read a number of sites that mention tombs and the excavation of a female tomb. In the excavation process they found glass and bronze gilded bracelets and bronze rings. Some of the icons found appear to have been mounted of the walls of tombs

Looking from where we stood, I believe we could see the town of Kochani, which we would visit later in the day.

As you look over the town of Vinica, the church that you see in the middle, is the church where Luka would be baptized on the Monday.

Above the hill of Vinica, and in fact many towns that we visited stood a tall Cross. Macedonia is made up of a number of religions. Most Macedonians traditionally follow the Macedonian Orthodox Christianity. However, the Albanians, Turks, & Roma are typically Muslin. One of the observations that I saw was there were many small Orthodox churches, and there were also many mosques. Since I managed to get a photo of the cross from the ruins, I opted not to climb another hill just to see the cross.

While we marveled at the beautiful ruins, this little man slept through. I was so amazed at how well he adapted to the busy schedule that we had. He was a real trouper. And his baby jogger was the best investment Amy made before traveled. Oh and the cheap octopus like battery operate fan that she could attach to his stroller to cool him down

Heading back down, I thought Richard and Amy would take the road. I optimistically thought I would take the stairs and meet them as they came around. But no they decided it would be quicker to carry the stroller down the flights of stairs. Below is an example of just a short section of the stairs heading up and down the hill, if you opted not to take the road up to Vinicko Kale.

Heading back into town, I was dragging, simply turning around and taking photos along the way. This always happens and before I know it Richard is way ahead of me. Amy is like her father. They do not walk slow. Me on the other hand, I want to take in what is around me.

One of the best moments of this morning, was right before I headed up the short hill back to the hotel. I was taking photos, and these two men below asked me to take their photo. I do not know them, I could not speak their language other than to say hello, but I got the message that they would like me to take their photo. These are the moments I love. They are spontaneous, they are moments that bring joy.

Vinicko Kale, in my mind, was the first line of defense for the ancient dwelling place. A place where the hustle and bustle of people made the fortress a thriving place of industry. Lying on one of the busiest economic roads, Vinicko Kale would see many travelers, and perhaps many who would want to subdue all and take over the fortress. In my mind, battles took place, and men and women rose up to defend, but, of course, that is all in my mind.

If you find yourself in Vinica, definitely take the walk up to Vinicko Kale, embrace the ruins of history, allowed your mind to imagine what it was like back in the day. Then go down to the village and enjoy the history that is found within this town.

Next blog we head to Kochani, a slightly larger town than Vinica, which was about 15 minutes away from where we were.

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Share Six: September 2022: Intentional

Liz from It’s Still Life Photography by Elizabeth Willson chose our theme {Intentional}. This was going to challenge me. I had to really sit and think about it. I have not had a lot of time to myself this past 2 weeks. Aside from my Luka days which always seem to be more than Friday (and I am not complaining), I have had a change in job description. I have been asked to take over two areas that our ex Finance Officer was handing, insurances & employee benefits along with HR. I may loose the HR later but right now it is on my plate. It has been a learning curve. So I had to go back and look at what I had been intentional about recently.

Macedonia was so different to what you see in South Florida. South Florida is so manicured that it is virtually impossible to see a weed. Whereas in Macedonia there was a wildness to the flora on our walk we were taking, and also plenty of wildflowers. On our walk to Vinicko Kale, the ruins of the fortress that sits on top of the hill, I was intentional about looking for the beauty that surrounded us. That and stopping every so often to breathe. The walk up hill was a killer. I am unfit, that goes without saying. However, while I am not asthmatic, I come from a family that does suffer from asthma. My allergies tend to play up when I hit dry climates and the altitude affects my breathing. So I would stop and take photos, and catch up on my breathing at the same time. As a result Amy and Richard were always way ahead of me on the hike.

Macedonia’s topography undulates. We were constantly going up and downhill. We had to go downhill to get to the point where we could go uphill to Vincko Kale. And then it all went uphill. While for many, the sides of the road may seem overgrown, I loved seeing all the wildflowers. Some of them may have been weeds, but they were beautiful flowering weeds. Nature has so many beautiful specimens to offer and I was seeing a good few of them here in Vinica as we walked.

About halfway up the hill I stopped to breathe again, and to breathe in the beauty of our surroundings. Florida is so flat that it is so amazing to be able to look around and see hills, valleys and mountains again. It reminded me so much of the countryside we used to explore in South Africa.

I have no idea of any of the names of the flowers sadly, but they definitely captured my attention. The image below is the ruins of Vinicko Kale, a fortress set on top of the hill that dates back to the Neolithic times. This is where our uphill walk was taking us.

No only were the flowers stunning but I was blown away by the spiderweb below. It appeared that the spider created this tunnel through to where it waited.

After huffing and puffing my way up the hill, with all my {Intentional} stops to breathe and seek beauty, the view from the top was spectacular. It was of the city below. Now while the walk downhill may not be bad, the last little stretch uphill had me huffing and puffing again.

Doing things {Intentionally} is not a bad thing. I intentionally plan before we go. I like to know where I am going and what there is to see. When I am there, I am intentionally looking for the beauty that is around me. Intentionally trying to connect with what the country has to offer. I loved our trip to Macedonia and a journey into an area of the world I have never been before.

This is a circle blog and as I mentioned, we have some very talented ladies in the group. The sneak peaks are stunning and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what they have for you this month. My incredibly talented friend Katherine of Cobert Photography is up next. I can’t wait to see what she has to share. You can see more of her work by clicking on her Instagram page. Definitely check out her incredible art.

If you want to learn more about the Fortress Vinicko Kale, then look out for the next blog due to go live later this week.

Come and share your images to  Facebook and Instagram tagging #sharesix_travel

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Macedonia: Vinica

Vinica was the town we would be in for the next 5 days. Today we are going to explore some of the town and a little bit of the history. We often have preconceived ideas of what to expect.

Like most of Europe the cities are full of history. I had already used my google man to do some exploring but Vinica was too small to explore. The town was so interesting, we loved meeting family but, best of all, the welcome in Vinica exceeded my expectations. Like most countries that originally formed part of the Soviet block there is not a lot of infrastructure and the income level is not high. Vinica is found in the north east of Macedonia about 1 hour from the capital Skopje. Vinica is also the center of the Municipality of Vinica.

Vinica is a small town with a population of 10, 863 inhabitants. Broken down the town is made up of predominately Macedonians, but there is also a small group of Roma, Turks and Aromanians as well. It is located between the Golak and Obozna mountains and at the foot of the Plachkovica mountains.

The name Vinica is derived from the word vine, and Daniel tells me that Vinica was at one time well known for it’s vineyards. Walking around the town you will see vines growing on awnings outside of the houses.

This morning we walked up the street above to Daniel’s family home to meet up with Amy. We were heading to the Park Hotel for breakfast. Breakfast was good. We had omelets that cost us about $4 each. Coffee was good and they accommodated my milk and hot water request. I drink tea but only certain teas. The coffee was strong for the most part, mainly Turkish.

Luka ate some tomato’s at breakfast and had a bad reaction to them so Amy rushed off to the pharmacy to get an anti histamine to settle the reaction down. Looking back she feels like the blotchy face may have been the second time he had a reaction to tomatoes. We later walked up to the fort so he slept most of the way.

What was interesting for me, and to some degree worried me, but I am sure that up north USA you will see the same thing in winter. The amounts of firewood stacked in the streets and against the houses is incredible and I am sure that in winter this is all used. But I have to confess I kept thinking fire hazard. Oh me, of the state (Florida) of eternal heat. And if I am confessing, I have to be honest and say “hats off” to anyone who can live for months in snow.

Vinica has fallen under a number of different times. Neolithic times, Byzantine times, the Ottoman empire and the Yugoslavia times. Neolithic times is defined as the Stone Age, in around 4500BC. Byzantine times was apparently when the Eastern Roman Empire split in about 395CE until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in about 1453. Last but not least Yugoslavia from 1929 after the war until the 1980’s when the federation broke up.

There are three schools in Vinica, 2 primary and 1 high school. Amy taught English, through the Peace Corp at one of the schools, over a 27 month period. I had hoped to travel over while she was there but that did not happen.

In preparation for traveling I pulled up a map of Vinica and plotted out what to do and see. I will be honest, there is not a lot of “sights” to see in Vinica but on my list of things was St Arhangel Michael (where Luka would be baptized), the school where Amy taught, the St Apostal Luka, the Mosque, the Fortress, known as Vinicko Kale, the City Museum, St Pavale. To be honest we did not get to all of them, but Vinica was about family and we did a lot of that. There is also a cross on top of the hill, but after hiking to the fort, I was not up to hiking to the cross. I am unfit, the altitude affected my breathing and it was just so hot. Temps were sitting around 103 F. However, walking around the town, there were many things of interest, parks, coffeeshops, general shops etc.

One thing I did notice about Vinica, which we are just not used to anymore, was the overhead power lines. I have to think it would be an American Electricians nightmare. Daniel’s brother told me that the power system was sold to an Austrian company and they are required to only use that form of power. As you will see in other images, in winter wood is their main source of fuel, and they have big stoves in the basement that heat up the houses.

Amy showed us the apartment above that she lived in for at least 18 months. It was the lower right apartment of this building. It was perfect for the quick walk to school.

Hotel Central was the hotel that we stayed at and I will say in all honesty that it was well worth the stay. Not only was the room comfortable, but they provided a breakfast for us each morning. They also offered a gym and a spa. As much as I wanted to get a massage, trying to fit it in with all that was going on was not happening. Below the hotel was a shop where we could go and buy water and any other items we may wish to snack on. It was very convenient given that the temperature on most of the days. I also loved that our hotel had air conditioning. It was good to be able to go and cool down when the temps got to high. I think Luka and Amy loved it as well. We are so spoilt. I forget that growing up in South Africa we didn’t have air conditioning either. That said I am not sure I could live without it now.

There are apparently three major hotels, but I only found the two, Hotel Central where we stayed, and Hotel Aleksander Park where we went for breakfast a couple of times. There are lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Very often in the mornings the coffee bars were full. Mostly men drinking coffee. We drank beers at the Park, and I will tell you that those beers were far bigger than the standard size you get in the US. Skopsko IPL was the beer we seemed to order most of the time. We also ate at one of the pizza restaurants one evening, but again most of the time was spent with family. More on the lower part of town in another blog.

The main farming production around Vinica is rice, which also explains the high population of mosquitos in the area. Nasty biting mean machines :). In addition to the rice farming, there is also is known for their textiles and wood furniture production.

There appeared to be two sides to Vinica, the slightly older side and then the more modern newer looking side. This we came across as we walked to the Vinicko Kale later in the day. What interested me was the solar powered water heaters on the roof.

In addition I noticed that while the buildings may be older, the owners loved adding colorful flowers to the balconies and walkways to beautify the area. They did a really good job of making the area around their homes look pretty.

While Vinica is a smaller and older town, we had a wonderful time there. We were welcomed by the family with open arms, some tears and a whole lot of hugs. Despite our language challenges we were able to meet all the family, and to see some of this historical town.

If you are looking for a place to stop over, then the Hotel Central is ideal. Take time to explore, visit the churches, climb to the Fort, and the Cross if you can, sit at the beer garden and try a Skopsko, do early morning Turkish coffee. Breathe in the smells, experience the beautiful culture, love what you see. That’s the only way to travel – with an open mind, and an open heart.

Next blog will be my Share Six blog, then we will be heading up to the Fort. Join me if you can. If you want to see the other blogs on Macedonia click on the blog tab and scroll down

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30 minutes in the life: June 2022

I am writing this early in the month so that I don’t get caught up with things later on. I work from home so very often I don’t venture out my office, let alone my home. Richard arrived home at about 3pm last Thursday and he mentioned there was a big bird out in one of the flower beds. I can see from the photo that it is part of the Peacock/hen family. I grab my camera and go out the back patio door and walk down the side of the house hoping to take some photo’s before she disappears. She spotted me and started walking away, then turned around and walked towards me. I got a little nervous as I wondered if she might peck at me. She didn’t, but I decided she may be hungry so I grabbed some of the duck seed and put it in a bowl and put it outside for her. She walked right back around and came to eat from the bowl.

She disappeared in the afternoon and Richard later found her on top of our double story house. I did not know that a peahen could fly that high. I always assumed that they were more ground birds

Richard saw her briefly on Friday on the back canal. Saturday she was spotted on our neighbors yard. Today is Sunday, and Richard told me that she had dug a hole and was settled in it. I got really excited thinking she may start laying eggs, but then Richard found her in the garage. So now I am wondering if the hole in the sand is a way for her to cool down. I am probably going to go outside and now and leave a bowl of water for her.

Monday she was back again, so I ventured out to take a few more photographs. This time I lay on the grass and watched her walk around me.

I think it is so cool when I get to see the different critters in the garden. I love all the birds and the animals that frequent our property.

Thank you for joining us, 30 Minutes in the Life is a circle blog and we have some very talented photographers in the group. I always love looking at the sneak peaks and I cannot wait to see the rest. Take some time to follow the links and see what Kristina of Hello Olivia Photography has for you this month, and I look forward to seeing what she has to share.

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