London, Paris, Rome… and I don’t want to come home.

On June 22, our family of three took a vacation once school finished for the year.  My husband and I traveled to London,  Paris, and Rome (and other destinations) during the late 1990s and early 2000s before the birth of our son, so this trip was going to be different with the three of us.

We waited to travel to Europe with our son until he could appreciate the sights, sites, and foods.  We gave him the opportunity to pick the cities. He chose:

London – We stayed at the JW Marriott in Mayfair with a king-sized bed and roll-out cot for our son. I loved the complimentary robes, slippers, and the heated towel racks.  The oddest amenity was that the hairdryer could not be used in the bathroom; the outlet for the hairdryer was in the bedroom without any mirror.  Odd.

Our first day in London, we jumped on the Hop-on/Hop-off bus for a tour of the city.  At one point, the skies opened and it poured.   Lucky for us, our bus driver had plastic ponchos for everyone.

We were there for BREXIT.  How exciting that was! My husband anticipated riots and angry mobs- and being kicked out of our hotel for journalists – but the situation was quite the contrary.   The British behaved very…British.  We visited all the usual sites – Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, National Gallery (where Matthew picked out a picture for his room), Trafalgar Square, and our own personal tours.  We walked up Oxford Street to the Nike Store where Matthew purchased two authentic soccer shirts from the money he made working last summer.  Needless to say, our walk back to our hotel necessitated a need for some Peroni beer.

My husband doesn’t like to meander far from the hotel for his meals, so we found some terrific cafes/pubs/restaurants around the corner from the hotel. At the Audley Pub,   Matthew experienced authentic fish and chips. We had the best – and I mean, the best – chicken caesar salad at Cafe Richoux the next evening.  It was sweet as opposed to being garlicky.


Our best dinner was at Corrigans.The sommelier took a sip, in a small glass, of every wine bottle ordered before bringing it to the table.  I want that job! My husband was in heaven because he had his Dover sole.  For dessert, we ordered chocolate souffle.  Matthew hated it – he felt the texture and flavor of the souffle tasted like a big, chocolate marshmallow.  We finished our last night with pizza at Delfino’s on Mount Street.  Naturally, after dinner, we found our way to the bar/lounge at our hotel for some wine.

Then, we took the Chunnel from London to…

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Paris – We stayed at the Marriott Opera Hotel.  We had a king-sized bed with a roll-out cot for Matthew.  We were there the day France beat Ireland during the Euro2016.  The streets were flooded with cheering crowds. I took a video from the Hop-on/Hop-off bus of the cheering crowd.


Matthew wearing the “gypsy” hat


Our son wanted to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so that’s what we did.  My husband and I have been to Paris together on three other occasions (one being our honeymoon), but we never did go to the top.


We grabbed a taxi to find another soccer store and our driver suggested that we go to Boutique PSG on Champs Elysee.  I didn’t know that we were going to the official Paris St. Germain team store.  My son picked up two jerseys.  Well, we needed a break from all that so we decided to have lunch/wine at an outdoor cafe.  Next, we took a cab to Notre Dame. After that, we walked along the Seine where Matthew bought a painting of the Eiffel Tower.

The next day we visited Musee D’Orsay and had lunch at Les Deux Magots.  Roger and I had drinks there during our honeymoon and we like to always go back.  After that, we went to Maison Georges Larnicol for chocolates for my friend Angela. I bought chocolates for us; and Matthew ended up eating most of it.

We found, for us, the best restaurant our first night – Cafe Cordial.  Roger and I ate pizza while Matthew ate ravioli.  Odd, I know, eating Italian in a French country, but, my two men are fussy eaters.  The next evening, Matthew wore his Paris St. Germain soccer shirt to Cafe Cordial and our waiter was eager to please Matthew. Another evening, we had dinner at Au Petite Riche.  A perfect French restaurant for adults, but not a lot of options for kids.  However, Matthew did great by ordering a chicken caesar salad.  After dinner, we strolled back to Cafe Cordial to have a bottle of wine while Matthew had dessert.

We flew from Paris to…

Rome – We stayed at the JW Marriott on via Veneto by the Roman walls and across from Harry’s Bar.  We walked into a round Junior suite.  We had a king-sized bed and this time, Matthew had his own sofa bed. And, the complimentary robes and slippers were back!

We unpacked and headed to the Spanish Steps.  Next, we walked to Trevi Fountain and wound our way back to our hotel.  The next day we took the Hop-on/Hop-off bus around the city and went in search of the Pantheon. Our third day we had a group tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel.  The Basilica was closed because Pope Francis was giving a Mass.  Our fourth day, we had a group tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Ruins. While we waited for the others to arrive, Gypsies were selling iced water bottles and hats. Naturally, we declined.  Within minutes, the carabinieri (Italian police) arrived to chase the gypsies away.  One left behind a hat, so I picked it up for Roger.


Roger wearing the “gypsy” hat

Even at 10 o’clock in the morning, it was too hot for Roger to handle, so we dropped out and found our way to having a Peroni and lunch.

After that great respite, we walked toward Piazza Popolo and stopped at another soccer store so that Matthew could get two more shirts. A few shops away, we stopped in to buy Roger some shirts.  The shop was having a sale – buy two shirts and get the third shirt for one euro.  So, we bought Roger three shirts!  Our last day, Saturday, we visited Castel Sant’Angelo.  This was my sixth trip to Rome and I have never been there.  The castle was not crowded at all and there weren’t any guided tours, so Matthew directed me and Roger as to which rooms he wanted to see and how high up the castle to go.  I think that was the best part of this portion of the trip.

Our first night, we had dinner on via Veneto at Baccala.  They don’t serve pizza, but they serve Bruschetta, which came to our table like a pizza.  Roger was in heaven again!  The next day during our sightseeing excursions, we stopped for a Peroni in Piazza Navona before heading to the Pantheon.  Somehow we got lost and what should have taken 20 minutes ended up being 2 hours.  So, we had an early dinner at the Pantheon.  After that, we taxied back to our hotel to have some wine at the bar in the hotel.  The next evening after sightseeing, we had dinner at another cafe on via Veneto.  Our last night we had dinner at the famous Harry’s Bar.  We didn’t see any celebrities. After dinner, we strolled around via Veneto and wandered into the Grand Hotel where Roger and I had another glass of wine and Matthew had dessert.

For twelve days, the three of us were rather much in each other’s pockets – we shared a bathroom, sleeping area, and closet space. All in all, we managed to get along very well.  We have funny stories amongst ourselves that don’t translate well to others. Thus, those are our memories.

On July 3, we had to head home.


At the airport gate in Rome


How to Look Tasteful (think, Fabulous) After Fifty

In my previous post, I mentioned my book was being promoted by bookSCREAM.  I noted that my book is not ‘erotica’, but tastefully written (particularly since my husband wrote those ‘racy’ scenes.  My friends tell me they will never look at my straight-laced and serious husband the same again).

Thinking of tasteful matters, fashion and health are important lifestyles choices here in the Philadelphia Area, particularly along the Main Line of Philadelphia. Making good choices is an indicator – albeit superficially – of intelligence, wealth, and manners.

Although fashion has relaxed a bit, it’s still important to look good.  As time has ebbed and flowed since giving birth over eleven years’ ago, my body and skin have changed. Fashion and makeup tricks that worked in my forties don’t always transition as well through my early fifties .

So, let’s take a look at today’s fashion DOs and DON’Ts for women over fifty. (Disclaimer:  I am not a medical/science doctor or nutritionist.  These are my and my friends’ opinions of what we have seen and what works.)

When Less is More:

  • Avoid plastic surgery and botox.  Instead, invest in monthly facials.  Anti-aging and anti-wrinkles creams won’t work if your skin isn’t clean.
  • Drop the Bling-Bling-Bling-Bling.  Pick up one great dress/outfit instead and wear only one ‘bling’, like a clutch, or glittering shoes, or one pair of diamond earrings.  Please, just not all three together.
  • Drink less/no alcohol and drink more water.  Alcohol dehydrates your skin. Too much alcohol ages your face.
  • Moisturize your body.  That includes your feet.  Soft skin is sexy.
  • Use sunscreen during outdoor exercising.  Or, better yet, add a hat with a wide brim or visor to protect your skin.

When to Change Beauty and Fashion Directions:

  • Wear what looks good on you, not what everybody else is wearing or what is trending.  I dress in a classical style because I am well-endowed (not by choice).  Certain styles and designer clothes (no matter how much discounted or trendy!) don’t look good on my body type.
  • Ditch the low-rise jeans, even if you own six-pack abs.  Instead, invest in a pair or two of NYDJ (Not Your Daughters Jeans).  They have many styles and colors from which to choose.
  • Wear your ‘best’ jewelry everyday. I do – even to the supermarket.  Why are you saving it?
  • Exercise clothes are not fashion…after Fifty!  Enough said.
  • Wear makeup. Not a lot, but some.  Mascara or lipstick. A little eyeliner.  As women age, our faces take on a masculine edge. Check out Pinterest for makeup idea and instructions.

I am a nobody, other than I was born Ellen Marie. I am not tall, thin, toned, or an athlete. I am average height, getting a little chubby now, and never had a desire to be a female jock. The greatest compliment I can receive – and have received many times – is when someone tells me “You look like you’re somebody”.

If you need help in the fashion department or want to update your look, I suggest you buy Charla Krupp’s book, “How Not To Look Old”.   I met her and had a one-on-one conversation with her when she came to Bloomingdale’s at the King of Prussia Mall in Fall 2008.  Her book still stands the test of time.

Thank you for stopping by.  So, tell me:  what are your suggestions?


My book OF MEN AND MONSTERS (by E M Bahnsen) is featured as one of the top four books to read on  ” bookSCREAM Newsletter ” ( ). The bookSCREAM Newsletter offers free and promotional books.  Follow them on Twitter as well:  @bookSCREAM

Although the book is categorized as erotica, it is NOT erotica.  It is tastefully written.

BOOK SYNOPSIS:  Meet Remy Alden and his slow seduction of Amanda Greene. He believes she is the one for him; his life partner; and the future mother of his children, even though she is currently married to another. The story doesn’t end with the heroine falling in love with the hero. Oh, no! The story continues as we learn about Remy and Amanda’s character and how this affects their relationships between colleagues, friends, spouses, siblings, past lovers, and exes.

Enjoy a story of love, roller coaster emotions, and fascinating and surprising revelations.

Skin in the City – A Unique Boutique … as mentioned in Entangled by E M Bahnsen

“Write what you know”, the experts say.  “Take something from real life and make it part of your story,” the experts say. My mother was born a McConaghy.  Jill is her family nickname. Therefore, I named my main female character Jillian McConaghy.  So, I asked my real-life cousin if I could use her name and business as well in my second book titled “Entangled”. She laughed, but agreed.

On page 290, I wrote:

“Can you spend time with me this weekend? We’ll hang out as if we’re just buddies.”
“I can’t, Graham. I’m going to Colorado this weekend.”
“For what?”
“My cousin Marnie McConaghy and her daughter Jenn Jankowski opened a spa in Denver called Skin in the City. I promised Marnie I would be there for the grand opening.”

Below is the one-year anniversary writeup about her real-life spa.  Congratulations, Marnie and Jenn.

Taking Care of Adult Siblings … where do you draw the boundary lines?

Everyone agrees that taking care of one’s parent(s) is a moral responsibility and duty. What about taking care of your adult siblings? Where do you draw the line in standing back or rushing in?

This past week was the moment in time which I really didn’t want to deal with. My parents live over an hour away in another state. Both of my parents are in the hospital. My father is in CCU in one hospital; my mother was placed in another hospital five miles away from where my father is.

As complex as that seems in time management to visit my parents, I also have to check in on my two disabled sisters. What an emotional roller coaster situation that was. I was met at the door with total emotional dependence from one and complacency from the other.

Let me tell you, I can take charge without direction. I collected my parents’ checkbooks and bills to take to my parents. I ran errands for my parents while they are incapacitated. I completed their laundry and put it away in their closets and drawers.

Since my parents have been in the hospital, neither of my sisters have cleaned up after themselves at home. It took me two days to clean the house. When I returned on the fourth day, someone dropped food on the kitchen floor and left it. I asked why neither of them didn’t clean it up. There wasn’t any answer other than neither of them wasn’t feeling well to clean up.

My older sister is intellectually disabled and has kidney failure which requires her to seek Dialysis treatment three times a week. She needs direction. Tell her what to do, she will get it done. But, she’ll never do it on her own instincts. She also smokes in the house and was told several times not to. It’s not a healthy environment for my parents who require oxygen. But, she won’t listen for reasons I don’t know. She believes that smoking in her room with the door closed doesn’t affect the rest of the house. When I left late one evening to return home, she was smoking in her room again even though I had politely re-explained the issue to her for the millionth time.

My younger sister, however, does nothing…especially when I’m there. I’m sure she’s thinking that if she stays out of my way, I’ll do everything that needs to be done. She’s right. If someone don’t take charge and do the work, nothing gets done. See the vicious circle that we have created?She was once so beautiful, brilliant, witty, and energetic. However, she currently suffers Chronic Illness, obesity, IBS, endometriosis, and the list goes on. She needs to make dietary changes and she won’t. To her, changing her diet means that she is being deprived. She doesn’t seem to understand that changing in order to feel better is winning. So why doesn’t she make the necessary changes?

For these emotionally fragile and sensitive individuals, I came across as high handed and not kind (so says my mother). On the long drive home Thursday evening, I pondered if my two sisters believe that when my parents are gone, their world won’t change… maybe just a change in their location from one state to another. Maybe they believe I’ll simply stand in for my parents and take care of them, driving them around, and giving them extra money to pay for their “wants.”

I love these two sisters as much as I love my brother and other, younger sister. They were my best friends when we were growing up. And, I miss the fun we had together. However…

…History has shown me that resistance to change is so much stronger than the will to change.

Dr Jekyll, Mr. Hide, and a Gray Wolf

I am thirty pages into my third book and I’m ready to throw it away. When I began writing my Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hide/Revenge story, my main male character was becoming Superman. I re-edited. Then, a gray wolf popped in. So, I began rolling with it.

The premise: M. Lucian Powers, Jr. (half Native-American/half Irish-American) has relocated to the Philadelphia/New York area and now is in a financial position to bring down the Littleton family who were involved in his father’s death and the two police officer involved in his mother’s trumped-up drug charges which broke apart his family when they lived outside Indianapolis, Indiana. The gray wolf shows up just as he starts the plotting the takeover of Littleton Cosmetic Company.

My husband suggested I give a bigger role to the wolf. One girlfriend didn’t like that M. Lucian Powers is half Native-American. “Why isn’t he Italian?” she asked. She’s all Italian. “Because Gray Wolf is his Native American name,” I responded. She gave me a scowl. Another girlfriend suggested I make the Gray Wolf an alter-ego, with M. Lucian Powers in a schizo ward at the end of the book. “But, where’s his happily-ever-after with his love interest?” I asked. Because if he doesn’t get his happily-ever-after, then the story line of the love interest changes.

Then, I searched how many books were named “Gray Wolf” or had it in the title to the book. Over 445 pages in alone came up. So, I had to change the name of the book to “Red Wolf”. I hate it! I hate it!

So…. I have decided to heed my husband’s advice. I will develop a relationship between the Wolf and Lucian. I am thirty pages into my third book and I’m ready to re-edit.

What do you think?

Book Review – Desperate Pursuit in Venice by Karynne Summars

***** (Five-Star Review)

What an engaging story! Suspense, champagne, plot twists, great character development, and romance. The otherwise dramatic story is occasionally lightened up by some witty dialogue.

Kataryna’s American company is purchasing an Italian company from two men – one is the owner; the other is the CEO – who are long-time friends. She will become their boss once the merger goes through. The two men are in love with Kataryna. Kataryna is in love with one of them; the other relentlessly pursues her.

The wrong word, the wrong business tone, the wrong misrepresentation of her feelings to her pursuer could cause her to lose the one man she was meant to love and ruin a long-term friendship.

Kataryna’s challenge is keeping all the business balls in the air while enjoying her new-found love and compassionately deflecting the advances of the other’s unwelcome affections.

I highly recommend this book.