Noyzi’s new walking skills! And booze free treats!


Here’s another update about Noyzi, the street dog from Kosovo. He’s really come such a long way since four weeks ago. For the first couple of weeks in our home, Noyzi was terrified of leashes and harnesses. He was so scared he’d actually submissively pee and run away in fright. But, as you can see from the video below, he’s come around.

He loves to explore the neighborhood and is probably calmer than ever when he’s walking on a leash.

A month ago, prior to his adoption, his rescuer, Meg, sent me videos of Noizy’s first stabs at leash training. She described him as a big child and sent me a couple of videos showing him lying down while on the leash, completely shut down from the concept of being led. When we got him to our house, I spent about a week leading him around the fenced backyard. He didn’t like the leash at all and would rear up or backpedal.

I started taking a few minutes to brush him before our lessons. He liked being brushed. I’m sure it felt good, both because of the personal attention and because it scratched his itches. Noyzi had never had a bath before and was shedding something fierce. The brushing helped with that, too.

As you can see at the end of the video, Noyzi now walks like a champ, although he still needs the harness because he startles easily. I have a feeling it won’t be long before walks are old hat. I took a walk with him and Arran alone, too. It wasn’t as easy to walk them together without Bill, but we’ll work on it. Below are a few fall photos from our area. It’s not quite as pretty as Jettingen is, but it’s not bad.

I sure do miss traveling, but having Noyzi around is very rewarding and fun. It’s been great to see him progress over the last month. Every day, he gets more confident and adorable. Below is a video of him almost playing with Arran. Arran is still trying to get used to sharing us, but I notice that Arran has already taught his little brother a lot. For example, Arran taught Noyzi that treats are a good thing.

They aren’t too rowdy yet.

Moving on…

This week, Bill ordered a couple of alcohol free treats he saw advertised on Facebook. One product he ordered is called Lyre’s Dry London Spirit, a type of alcohol free gin. Lyre’s is an Australian company, but they have an outlet in Europe and specialize in producing alcohol free versions of libations. Bill likes gin, but is wanting to cut back on alcohol for health reasons.

We tried the gin, and while it didn’t taste exactly like the leaded version, it wasn’t bad at all. It has no burn, but it does have sort of a citrusy flavor– bitter orange peel and a hint of lemon. There is no taste of juniper.

He also ordered a bottle of Gimber, which is an alcohol free cold pressed ginger based mixer. It consists of ginger, lemon, herbs and spices and can be mixed with spirits or alcohol free beverages like sparkling mineral water. The Gimber is very spicy, but you can dilute it until it suits your tastes. Gimber also has a classic dream story behind it. Its inventor, Dmitri, was tired of sugary sodas and bad wine. He sank his last euros into buying a ginger press. Now he’s got a product he can sell on Facebook to bored Americans like us!

And finally, last night, I took a few photos of the “blue moon” as it appeared in Germany. This was supposed to be an especially rare moon, since it was visible across all time zones. I took several of these pictures with my digital camera, which I don’t get to use very often these days. For some projects, it’s better than my iPhone.

Well, that about does it for today. We don’t have much going on, thanks to the pandemic. I miss going on trips, eating in restaurants, and hanging out at naked spas. But maybe someday we can get back to it. For now, we have new products to try and a new dog to teach how to enjoy being a pet. Things could be worse!

In honor of my departed friend, Patrick… A review of The Singing Revolution


I posted on my main blog about my friend, Patrick Killough, who died yesterday after a battle with leukemia.  The review below prompted my first online meeting with Patrick, who was a delightful man who lived near Asheville, North Carolina.  He enjoyed the movie after reading my review, so I’ve decided to repost it here in his honor.

The Singing Revolution… a very moving film about Estonia’s journey to freedom

Jan 10, 2010 (Updated Jul 20, 2011)
Review by   

Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:Excellent

  • Action Factor: 
  • Special Effects: 
  • Suspense: 

Pros:Very inspiring and moving documentary about Estonia.


The Bottom Line:The Singing Revolution shows how the power of music can overcome oppression and despair.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie’s plot.

Last summer, my husband Bill and I took our very first cruise. Although we were both hoping for a trip to the Greek Isles, we ended up with a Baltic itinerary. One of the exciting ports of call we visited was Tallin, Estonia. I was particularly interested in seeing Estonia because it was once one of the fifteen republics that had made up the Soviet Union. In the mid 1990s, I spent two years of my life living in another former Soviet republic, Armenia. I wanted to see how Estonia was faring since the fall of the once great Soviet empire.

Tallin, Estonia turned out to be a wonderful place. Bill and I wandered around the old town, very impressed by how well preserved the medieval city was. Although we only got to spend a few hours there, I found myself mentally planning to come back someday. Then, the other day, while dreaming of my next trip to Europe, I read a CNN travel article about Estonia.  The author mentioned renting the movie The Singing Revolution, a documentary film about Estonia’s great love for singing and how it helped them achieve independence. Intrigued, I immediately went to iTunes and downloaded the film so I could see it for myself.

The premise

Estonia has a long, complicated history as a land that has been passed around and fought over by a number of different peoples. It has been a Swedish, Danish, and Russian territory at different times in its history. In the last 100 years, it was invaded by Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union as well as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In the wake of these invasions, thousands of ethnic Estonians were killed, sent to prison in Siberia, or just plain disappeared. Thousands more fled to other countries, hoping to be able to return to their homeland someday.

The Singing Revolution introduces viewers to several people who were directly influenced by Estonia’s history. We meet a conductor whose grandparents were killed during the Soviet invasion. We meet a female conductor who, along with her family, was herself sent to a Siberian prison camp at age 14. We also meet a man who was considered a “Forest Brother”; he and other men lived in the forests of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for years and worked against the Soviet occupation through guerilla warfare.

The film very touchingly paints a picture of the way Estonia was “Russified”; Russians were moved into the country as a way to homogenize the culture and stamp out the Estonian majority. People lived in oppression, unable to express themselves freely. For fifty years, life went on this way until the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev was the President of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev sought to reform the Soviet Union and improve its lagging economy through perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). Through these new reforms, more freedom of expression was allowed among the Soviet people. Estonians now had the power to protest.

Starting in 1987, Estonians began to demonstrate by singing. In 1988, as many as 300,000 Estonians aided by Estonian rock musicians were singing Estonian national songs and hymns that, under Soviet rule, had been forbidden. One man in the film quipped that when thousands of people start to sing, it’s impossible to shut them up. That’s exactly how the Estonian people started to be heard. Meanwhile, by 1989, formerly Communist Eastern Europe was starting to disintegrate. One by one, countries were rejecting Communism and demanding freedom. In 1990, Estonia openly defied the Soviet Union by offering aid to Estonian residents who wanted to avoid being drafted into the Soviet Army. And of course, by 1991, the Soviet Union was dismantled.

My thoughts

I found this film extremely moving, especially since the Singing Revolution happened relatively recently. The film shows how everyone– men, women and children– came together to reclaim their independence against a mighty opponent. I also found this film very informative. Although I was a teenager and young adult when all of this stuff was going on, I was woefully uninformed about it as it was taking place. It was very interesting to me to be able to see this story unfold in a powerful and beautifully filmed documentary. Finally, I found this film satisfying on a musical level. I am myself a singer, so I was very interested in hearing the music the very talented Estonians produced. I found it very inspiring on an artistic level.

And now…

I’m dying to go back to Estonia. In fact, I’d love to take a trip to all three Baltic nations to learn more about their history and peoples. The Singing Revolution was a very worthwhile film in terms of giving a perspective of what it was like for Estonians in the wake of World War II. It was fascinating for me, as well, because I spent time in Armenia, where the Russians were seen more as saviors than oppressors… the Russians saved the Armenians from the Turks.

Having just spent two years on a continent that was so heavily affected by World War II, I now find myself much more eager than I ever was in the past to learn about what happened during the war. There’s nothing like actually going to a place to develop an appreciation for it and a desire to learn more. Estonia is not one of those places that’s easy to visit, particularly from America. Watching The Singing Revolution may be one of the next best alternatives to visiting.


I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in history, particularly as it affected the Soviet Union and the Baltic region. I also recommend it to anyone who enjoys music, powerful, inspirational stories about triumph, and a good documentary. The Singing Revolution runs for 97 minutes and is unrated. It’s a film by James and Maureen Trusty.

For more information:

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 – 12

Repost of Rome Cabs review… and need a ride in Athens?


I’m reposting these reviews because I notice people are often wondering about private taxi services in Rome and Athens… Both of these services are excellent and get my whole-hearted endorsement! Since Epinions is going away, I wanted to make sure I saved these reviews.

Need a ride in Rome?

 May 24, 2013 (Updated May 24, 2013) 
Review by    in Hotels & Travel
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:Excellent

  • How informative was your tour? 
  • Transportation quality: 
  • Knowledge of tour guide(s): 
  • How strenuous was your tour? 

Pros:Excellent drivers.  Safe, prompt, courteous.

Cons:You have to pay in cash.  Pricey, but worth it.

The Bottom Line:RomeCabs will get you where you’re going in style and comfort.

My husband Bill and I needed a ride from our Roman hotel room to Civitavecchia, the pier where we would be catching our cruise on SeaDream I.  I frequent Cruise Critic and, in particular, the messageboard for SeaDream I cruisers.  When I asked about the best way to get to the ship, several regular posters recommended RomeCabs.  Indeed, RomeCabs is currently ranked #1 of 449 activities in Rome.

Not just a taxi service…

We used RomeCabs just to get to the pier, but RomeCabs can also arrange tours with a driver and a tour guide.  Checking their Web site, I see that they have a wide variety of tours available to places in and around Rome and Tuscany, as well as along the western coastline.  Looking back on our two nights in Rome, I kind of wonder if maybe we should have booked a tour with RomeCabs.  We tend to be lazy about getting out and seeing things.

Besides tours and transfers, RomeCabs also offers different levels of service.  For instance, if you book a VIP transfer from the Rome airport, you will get a mini-tour of Rome.  Your driver will speak English and can tell you historical facts about the best known monuments of Rome.  If you don’t book a VIP transfer, you will still have an excellent driver, but he may not speak English.


RomeCabs has a handy form on their Web site.  You choose your date of departure, destination, number of people, and time of service.    When you enter that information, you’re given a quote of how much it will cost.  The prices include Italy’s VAT and toll charges.  Our trip from the Relais Orso hotel to Civitavecchia cost 130 euros, which was to be paid in cash the day of service.  Once I booked, I got a confirmation email.  The day before the service, I got a reminder email to let them know if our plans had changed.

Our experience

I booked our service for 1:00pm on May 11th.  Our driver, Marco, showed up a little early and easily spotted us.  I guess it was because we looked like we were expecting him.  Marco drove a small Mercedes van, which was very clean and tidy, and he spoke excellent English.  As he drove us out of Rome, he was careful to point out some of the sights.  He also mentioned his company’s high ratings on TripAdvisor, which I told him I had already noticed.

RomeCabs’ drivers have a special permit, which allows them to drive right up to the ships in Civitavecchia.  That’s an advantage over regular cabs, which have to drop you off outside the gate.  Marco drove us right to the tent where SeaDream was set up.  He helped us with our bags and it was literally minutes later that we were on the ship.  Bill tipped him well, which I’m sure he appreciated.


We had an excellent experience with RomeCabs and wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again.   Marco was prompt, courteous, safe, and obviously knows Rome very well.  His vehicle was clean and pleasant and it was very convenient to be driven right up to the ship, rather than having to schlep our bags.  Yes, the service is pricey, but I thought it was worth every euro.  If you need a ride in Rome, I highly recommend checking out RomeCabs.

For more information:

Recommend this product? Yes

Best Suited For: Couples
Tour length: One Hour
Tour type: Individual

Very reliable taxi service in Athens…

May 25, 2013
Review by    in Hotels & Travel

Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating:Excellent

  • Knowledge of tour guide(s): 
  • Transportation quality: 

Pros:Prompt, professional, clean and safe cabs.  You can pre-pay online.


The Bottom Line:StarGroup Taxi Services is excellent and priced very reasonably.  I wholeheartedly recommend them if you need transportation in Athens.

A friend of mine who had sailed on SeaDream I with me in November 2011 tipped me off to StarGroup Taxi Services when I told him I needed to find transportation from the pier to our hotel in Athens and to the Athens airport.  He said StarGroup Taxi Sevices was very reliable and reasonably priced.  Having used their services twice in the last week, I have to agree with my cruising friend.


Booking was no problem at all.  StarGroup Taxi Services has a Web site which lists all its services and prices.  I needed a taxi to take me and my husband Bill from the Piraeus Port last Saturday and a taxi to get us from our hotel to the airport.  StarGroup Taxi Services charges  25 euros to get from the port to any Athens hotel.  They charge 50 euros to get from Athens to the airport.  I requested both transfers online and paid for them via PayPal, then got my husband to print out the vouchers.  The total cost for both trips was a little over $100, which was a lot less than what SeaDream was charging people who booked through them.

Our experiences in the cab(s)

We had two different drivers.  Both spoke excellent English and seemed very proud of their city.  One driver made a point of telling us that Athens is very safe, though we needed to watch out for the Romanian street people who try to scam tourists.  Both drivers pointed out places of interest and told us a little about Athens.  Both were on time and courteous. And both times, the yellow Mercedes cabs they drove were spotlessly clean, well-maintained, and safe.  Bill tipped generously and it appeared that both drivers were pleasantly surprised; they didn’t seem to be expecting a gratuity.

We did not use StarGroup Taxi Services for tours, but if we ever go back to Athens and have a couple of days to kill, I would not hesitate to hire them for that purpose.  They had reasonable prices and were set up to accept prepayment, plus they were very prompt and professional.  A number of different tours are available, including ones that are designed for kids.


If you need a taxi service in Athens, I would definitely recommend StarGroup Taxi Services.  They are very good at what they do and they won’t rip you off.

For more information:

Recommend this product? Yes

Best Suited For: Couples
Tour type: Individual

Guatemalan rum… and other boozy delights…


One of the perks of my husband’s job is that he gets to travel a lot.  So do his colleagues.  Bill’s co-workers tend to be pretty liberal with sharing things they pick up when they go TDY.  Yesterday, one guy brought a bottle of 23 year old Guatemalan rum.  He was going to give it to a friend, but the friend wasn’t at work.  He had another bottle at home, so he offered to sell it to Bill.

This bottle was full yesterday.  We enjoyed some of it on the porch last night.  It was actually pretty nice outside.  There was a lovely breeze.

The label…

23 years old!


This rum was very smooth.  In fact, it was probably the smoothest rum I have ever tasted.  Unfortunately, it also wasn’t very interesting.  It had kind of a minty flavor, but not a lot of body of depth.  It doesn’t quite hold a candle to El Dorado, which is my favorite rum.  I discovered Guyanese El Dorado rum in Bequia during my second SeaDream cruise.

Bill has another former co-worker who used to bring us brandy from Moldova, because that is where his wife was born and raised.  I was interested because I lived in Armenia and Armenia has some outstanding brandies.  I found the Moldovan brandy less impressive than Armenian brandy, but it was still pretty good.

We have also visited a beer spa in the Czech Republic, followed by a trip through the Pilsner Urquell brewery museum.   And we had a very enjoyable trip through Vinopolis in London…  Last year, we went to Scotland and learned all about Scotch, including tours of a couple of distilleries and the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.

Hmmph… we probably ought to take up some sports, lest we pickle ourselves.  Anyway, we liked the rum from Guatemala.  Makes me think we should take a trip there, though in all honesty, I am even more interested in Costa Rica.  Bill’s job may have him visiting there this year.