A Magic Carpet Ride


       A Magic Carpet Ride is a travel book about family travels and personal journeys.

updated book cover

“It was hard to comprehend how blue the ocean was on these Rodos beaches. We parked our rental car on the side of a village road to take photos. Outside of a restaurant called Panorama Cafe, we stood there in disbelief to absorb the panoramic view. It was at that moment that I first realized that the ocean water in Greece has layers to its hues. Closest to the shore, the water is clear, then green, then Mediterranean blue, then navy blue and then, miraculously, purple. Together they make that Grecian blue but if you look closely, it’s layers of blue except on the island of Lefkada, where it is solidly the most turquoise blue the eye can absorb. It was opaque, thick, sensuous and shockingly turquoise blue.

On the boat cruises through the Ionian islets off Lefkada, all I can remember feeling is ecstasy of physical feelings of happiness and peace. The body was totally consumed with the feeling of happiness, separate and together with the mind and soul. Every fiber of my being was out there in that sea of turquoise, lapping up every breeze, every wave crashing, every beam and ray of sun shining on us.”

(photo by Patrick)

Click on link to order.  You can read the first chapter as well the back cover. Profits go to various charities. www.amzn.com/069271393X

from internet
Rhodos from internet
from internet

In writing this book, I learned even more historic facts about the various countries we visited. There are recommended hotels, restaurants, excursions and recipes  included as well as cultural nuances and historic factoids.…for those who are interested! There’s also a lesson plan for children illustrating how to implement itinerary building collaborations.

© Gina Michalopulos Kingsley

follow us on Instagram. gypsyfamilytravel

original book cover (which has now been updated)

Lost Canyon Trail at Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock, next to Big Cedar Lodge, has marvelous attractions. This clifftop Eden of an Ozark resort is every bit the valley of excitement. One of the attractions up at Top of the Rock is the Lost Canyon Trail which is a tour of a four story cascading waterfall. Driving your own golf cart through the trail lasts about 45 minutes long as you stop at waterfalls, drive through a big cave (with a beverage bar inside) and cross over a Amish covered wooden bridge.

our sons ahead of us
our sons ahead of us
our kids golf cart
our kids golf cart


k5khgr3rwucveqz3nxka_thumb_1515fThe paved road is easy to maneuver through as you enjoy limestone, glorious foliage and breathtaking vistas.unadjustednonraw_thumb_15171It’s so relaxing to let your mind and vision wander, taking in the  natural beauty and not having to process anything other than what legacy natural history leaves us….like the erosion of rivers, hot springs, rain, wind  and streams over time as they carved and formed the existing rock formations. It’s a bonus for me to have a husband who majored in GeoPhysics and a son majoring in Geology along for the ride to impart their geological knowledge to the rest of us!


Inside the cave, we saw stalactites and more waterfalls.




sinkhole that is leading to possible connectedness to the Lost Canyon cave system
sinkhole at Top of the Rock that is leading to possible connectedness to the Lost Canyon cave system

When we finished the Lost Canyon Trail golf cart ride, we departed to a fabulous lunch at Arnie’s Barn. The view of the Top of the Rock site from Arnie’s barn rooftop balcony is thrilling. You will definitely want to make a day out of visiting there. The sinkhole update below on video and on the website link is fascinating and possibly connected to the Lost Canyon cave.


photos by GIna Kingsley


Big Cedar Lodge

Cedars, pine trees, streams, waterfalls, moss, nature and luxury; adventure and relaxation…..all of these can be found at Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks! Just saying those three words invites a sigh of wonder and appreciation from anyone who has had the pleasure of staying at BCL! The best memories are made at this resort–ranging from rustic relaxation to luxury dining, golfing and holiday fun.aqdhsy7esoobmlcpcbu1uw_thumb_14f59We discovered Big Cedar Lodge fifteen years ago when our trip to San Diego and Los Angeles had to be canceled because of the events of 9-11 and airports closing down. What was supposed to be a week of Disneyland, Lego Land, Sea World and other California attractions ended up becoming a quick detour to Branson instead. I had heard about Big Cedar Lodge from friends or colleagues and this was a good opportunity to check it out. As we drove down into the resort area, we were astonished at the beauty of this hidden valley overlooking Table Rock Lake.pvm5faqgqegvmhqqghmfuq_thumb_14f4cWhat especially surprised us were all the amenities and activities included there. Our six year old caught his first fish at the marina– a blue gill! We were able to do paddle boats, canoes and fishing for water activities and hiking, exercise room, horseback riding and putt putt golf along with sports and playgrounds. We ended up returning annually for the next 15 years and staying in every lodging the resort offers. jypa92uxryko8icbmiwkgg_thumb_14f45So many additions were created over the years; chapels, skating rink, the development at Top of the Rock and more….Currently, they are building an activities center which is going to include laser tag, bowling, go carts, etc.

the chapel
the chapel

unadjustednonraw_thumb_155c9We didn’t just want to enjoy it alone so we went back with other relatives over the years. From small groups to large family trips, the best memories have been made there. One tradition that has developed is the Thanksgiving buffet at Top of the Rock.juvbdaiqlaslduny1zcw_thumb_15189

oro6ynsoebexedrfm69a_thumb_150fdWhile we’ve been there during every season, I have to say that Fall is my favorite time to go. I like to get my fill of Fall and closure on the outdoorsy time before having to “hibernate” during the winter months. Fall is a perfect time for us to go and do as many outdoor activities as possible. We start the mornings with a walk through the grounds, enjoying all the holiday decor.unadjustednonraw_thumb_14f3b



pahiwj2t8gdkk1pzaep1w_thumb_14f46We walk across the bridge at Devil’s Pool and take photos….and enjoy the waterfalls.unadjustednonraw_thumb_14f66


lrh5vbq9q0idefcso6utcq_thumb_1507aWhen we crave water time, we either enjoy the hot tubs or heated pools which is nice to do at any time of day but especially relaxing after an excursion.unadjustednonraw_thumb_14f41

etzxeqriqiqh07x0wuxpfw_thumb_14f4dAdmiring the landscape but also the interior and exterior design of this gorgeous resort never gets old. The photos are endless as I never get enough of the beauty.unadjustednonraw_thumb_15072


8rfpjmkq8ulhoegxjkaoa_thumb_14f5aAnother reason I love going there in the Fall is because there is a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas decor which is double the fun. Gingerbread houses and Christmas trees everywhere adorn the resort as well as pumpkins and gourds. This gingerbread house is a replica of the resort.9eamn7rcu6qjfkwmrclw_thumb_151a1


vuqohyvtcqna5cn4qd12q_thumb_14f01Thanksgiving Buffet reservations at the Osage Restaurant at Top of the Rock has been perfect for our group which is made up of two families of five. unadjustednonraw_thumb_1565aWe have dined at Buffalo Bar (the lower level of the Osage restaurant) and the upper level. The same buffet is offered at Arnie’s Barn which we also visit for a meal sometime during our stay. The vistas make you want to linger all day….so we do!unadjustednonraw_thumb_150df





sinkhole leading to a possible connection to another cavern system nearby

A walk through the cave-like cellar of Top of the Rock leads you to wine cellars and a whiskey tasting room.

the cave-like cellar
the cave-like cellar


whiskey room
whiskey room

Outside, there are numerous patios, fire pits, fireplaces and the imposing chapel–all overlooking Table Rock Lake. Mornings at Big Cedar are eerie and beautiful with an immense fog over the lake and dew all over your balcony patio table. The quiet and hidden valley is “just what the doctor ordered” and one of the reasons why we are always longing to return.

morning mist, fog and dew
morning mist, fog and dew

all photos by Gina Kingsley

Farmers Market Mornings

Nothing says SPRING like the opening of the Farmers Market.  April through October, you can shop the market and make it a weekly ritual…and you should! It helps make up for the winter months. My favorite one to go to is the Cherry Street Farmers Market in my own neighborhood. Reportedly, it’s the biggest farmers market in the area. (I think even the state, but I haven’t confirmed that, yet). Walking to the market puts me even more into the natural mood of the event. Although driving would be convenient if I needed to load many bags into my car to transport home, I purposely walk so that I become a part of my neighborhood experience. I enjoy the porches, gardens and different architectural styles of the houses. The simple pleasure of sidewalks is what many of us Tulsans rank high on our list of what makes neighborhoods great.

Carrying a few bags each Saturday also reminds me of the way they do grocery shopping in many European countries. You get the essentials; what you’ll cook that weekend. I dislike bulk shopping, anyway. It seems you throw away items or forget that you bought them and then you have to store them deep into pantries and fridges. There’s nothing like fresh vegetables and breads! Fresh honey from the local beekeepers is better for you, anyway, because of the local bacteria which is supposed to help you with allergies.  I like supporting the local vendors and also popping into the local boutiques along Cherry Street. There are so many chain stores, anyway….even on unique plazas in various cities. So this way, I support local stores and coffeehouses. One home decor store I went into was serving white wine sangria to all the window shoppers and customers. I had coffee in one hand and sangria in the other! So much excitement at 9:00 a.m. in T-town! Another week it was red wine sangria.

The live music is a bonus at the Farmers Market. Anyone who’s had a child with a rock band in their garage or bedroom knows how important it is to support musicians. It starts your weekend off right listening to the soulful beats of live music (before you read your newspaper – ugh.) I also thoroughly enjoy conversing with the gardeners who give sage advice about their herbs. (did you catch that? ha ha). It feels very communal to listen to novices consulting the experts about the best times to plant vegetables, why cilantro doesn’t grow long, how you eat the sugar snap pea straight off the vine, etc.

Highlights of the Cherry Street Farmers Market:

  1. breakfast tacos
  2. pastries
  3. live music
  4. herbs and veggies
  5. florals
  6. honey
  7. art and pottery
  8. wine
  9. cultural diversity- the Asian and Amish farmers produce stands are some of my favorite
  10. cheese and dairy
  11. eggs
  12. seasonal products; corn, pumpkins and gourds in the fall; seasonal fruits in the spring/summer
  13. ending up at Coffee House on Cherry Street for pastries, coffee, music and their charming patio.

Walking back home and quickly putting everything away in my fridge is so much nicer than unpacking bulk items!  Exercise, live music, a free community event, a little culture and fresh, natural produce is a perfect way to start the weekend!

cinnamon rolls from the Farmers Market

The area farmers markets;  dates vary. Google it for location and dates/times.

  • Cherry Street
  • Brookside
  • Guthrie Green
  • Rose District
  • Jenks Main Street
  • Jenks
  • Claremore
  • Downtown Tulsa

Where else can you see a chicken that has been trained to “play dead” by rural children? Strolling up and down the farmers market, seeing fresh eggs, local honey and fresh fruits and vegetables reminded me of the treats I enjoyed in my own childhood backyard. Years ago,  I mused to my husband, “I want our sons to grow up like I did—with chickens, beehives, veggie gardens, grapevines….” His answer was perfect, “Then, do it.” So I did! 5 chickens and a huge grapevine later, we are enjoying the inspiration from the neighborhood farmers market and the community of agricultural artisans who enrich our beloved Cherry Street!

photos by Gina

West Bottoms in Kansas City

It keeps happening. Every time I visit KC, I fall more in love and discover more unique areas to explore. I have heard about the West Bottoms but put it on the back burner because there are always so many other KC rituals that I like to fit in on my visits there. A colleague of mine knew how much I like antique stores and vintage shops so he directed me to the West Bottoms.

As soon as we crossed the bridge to enter the area, I was gasping at the old architecture. We found a place to park and started strolling not just store to store to admire the antiques  but also to study the structure of the buildings. Beauty and decay colliding into one… Artistic details on the facades and yet, birds flying in and out of holes in the rafters of some back alleys.We talked to merchants and soon found out that West Bottoms has its own first Friday crawl event. It is also known for having the scariest haunted houses in the U.S., according to one saleslady. (those start in September)Coffeehouses and decor shops were the majority of the businesses there. We found the old stockyards and bars nearby. A fashion shoot was going on under the gorgeous old bridge. 

Naturally, we became curious about the history of West Bottoms. It was originally called the French Bottoms due to its history of being a trading site between French trappers and Kansas Indians. Its location near the Missouri River made it a port for receiving goods from steamships when western immigration and Santa Fe trails trade took off. It had a definite feel of the industrial era.

The birth of the railroad brought about even more significance to this area and by 1871, the city grew around the introduction of the stockyards. The original Union Depot was built here which ushered in restaurants, hotels and bars. 

A majority of KC’s value was found in the West Bottoms (according to some info)..until 1905, when a catastrophic flood occurred. The stockyards seemed to flourish until the 1940’s  when WWII ended. The hardships of the economy caused a huge loss of jobs when military construction stopped. A few years later, a flood in 1951 caused more damage. Reportedly, in a few short years, the combination of the latter two events caused 50,000 lost jobs (approximately). In 1974, the building of the Kemper Arena hoped to revive the area. The 1976 Republican National Convention was held in the Kemper Arena. Now, the area flourishes with home decor boutiques, coffee houses, etc. Event venues were alive on a late Saturday afternoon and we even saw a bride in a warehouse window getting ready for her wedding photos.When you are in downtown KC, cross over the bridge into this time capsule of history. Take your camera.Next time we go, we are checking out the Stockyard brewery. Bottoms up!

Photos by Gina


(click on Get Started and then the West Bottoms graphic for a listing of events and stores)

Runway Tulsa & Oklahoma Fashion Initiative

Initiative is defined as inventiveness, imagination, ingenuity, creativity, enterprise, drive, dynamism, imagination, motivation, spirit, energy and VISION.

I attended a press conference for Runway Tulsa which released their 2017 event dates and explained its role with the Oklahoma Fashion Initiative.  My friend, Wade Bray; the creative director of Runway Tulsa, invited me to the event. I was instantly welcomed by so many bright staff members of this think tank. Tina Terry, program director spoke to me about the OFI- Oklahoma Fashion Initiative and last year’s OKC Fashion Week. This year, being the second year of OKC Fashion Week, spurred Runway Tulsa to turn it “into their own” with their own yearly events. Tina’s experience in event planning with SRO Productions and her  background in arts management seems to give her the confidence conveyed in directing this vision. 

Fair Fellow Coffee was the perfect space and backdrop for this event with its high contrast of black and white motif. As soon as I walked in, the sign Fashion and Coffee set the tone for two of my favorite things! I set up my “perch” for recording and blogging for this event and got my most important tool to start off with—cappucino, of course. After running into a college friend and asking Wade a few questions, I observed the energy of the environment. The verve of the guests and the space was not my typical Sunday afternoon. Something was a-buzz. (Maybe it was being so close to the Beehive Lounge, next door.)  The smell of coffee beans mixed in with chicly-clad guests and their creative spirit in the contrast of Fair Fellow Coffee ushered in the climate of this press conference. First, I asked Wade to tell me about the Oklahoma Fashion Initiative. He summarized that this is the first public intro into OFI’s larger goal. Jon Terry, producer, introduced Chera Kimiko, who emceed the event and named the sponsors. The proceeds go to benefit Martha’s Foundation which helps pregnant teens.The 2017 important dates to note for Runway Tulsa are:

Saturday, June 3, 2017 (10 a.m-1 p.m.) Runway Tulsa Model Call at Fly Loft- 117 N. Boston Ave.

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 Kick Off Event and Emerging Talent Runway Show– Lexus of Tulsa Showroom- 4210 S. Memorial Drive (invitation only VIP event)

Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Fashion in the Square– Utica Square-1709 Utica Square (free event open to the public)

Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 Runway Show Benefitting Martha’s Foundation– Cox Business Center Assembly Hall-100 Civic Center (ticketed runway show)

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 Runway Finale– Cox Business Center Assembly Hall-100 Civic Center

The finale will feature several designers, some of which are Nigerian-born, Canadian transplant Ese’ Azenabor, Tulsa’s Nikki Warren and current New York Fashion Institute of Technology student, Raul Flores. You may know Nikki Warren through her Mocha Butterly store and line.

The website includes good background info on the goals and mission of Runway Tulsa. “….Our long-term goals include building new industry in Tulsa, expanding the artistic scope of our city, supporting and increasing the fashion retail sector and mentoring and aiding our young talent in the fashion realm.”- Jon Terry, producer (from Runway Tulsa website).

(from Runway Tulsa website:) MISSION STATEMENT: “Promote and sustain Tulsa’s Fashion Industry by producing signature events that showcase local talent and collaborate with community partners to identify resources and opportunities that enable participants to shape their passions into a professional career.”

Along with learning all the paradigm and dates, I took in the ambience of the crowd. Look at this 3 year old boy with a cardigan and ripped jeans. He was the barista’s son, of course, and very fashion-forward.

Regarding the paradigm, I learned that Runway Tulsa is the face of the OFI which is a larger, ambitious program that they’re working on. It basically covers 3 areas:

  • Runway Tulsa events
  • Education Programs
  • Economic Development

Wade succinctly covered the three areas without over saturating us with jargon and info. I am most excited about the education programs and something he specifically said. “Part of the mission is to make fashion more accessible; less intimidating.” He went on to explain that fashion doesn’t have to be super high-end/coutre. There will be a monthly showcase they do in different locations including filmmakers, fashion designers, spoken word poets, etc…

The education program was initially for college level and high school students but they eventually want it to funnel down to elementary kids so they can foster that interest in fashion to a younger age through mentorships, etc. (That peaked my curiosity as an educator/psychometrist). I think it’s bold and smart to tap into that age group.  I also learned that the education programs will include design, merchandising, graphic design, photography, marketing, event planning ….(all of that falls into this realm.)

They’ve formed a partnership with OSU in this education area as well as Central High School’s fashion program, Clary Sage, UCO, OU and McClain High School.  Also, out of state schools like Baylor, George Washington in St. Louis and Syracuse have expressed interest , etc. (There’s a tiered scholarship program, too.) The goal is to take them from teen level to push them through all the way to designer.

He explained the economic logistics and stumbling blocks for the young designers starting out. It was definitely enlightening. 

When he and I chatted about this future fashion district idea, I mused to him about what undeveloped pocket of downtown might be a good area for this. I compared it to the districts of other big cities and why they work there. It was fun to just imagine where this could develop.

So…now that the informative details and logistics have been explained, I’ll tell you my other observations. In this climate of a mutual admiration society of creative collaborators and lovers of fashion, the following comments could be heard: “I’ve been looking for that perfect shade of purple lipstick. Where did you get it?”, “Is that coat vintage?” (ok, that was me who asked those questions) but also heard among guests was, “Hi, what’s your name?” (thrusting out their hands for a handshake). (That one was refreshing, I have to admit. It’s not commonly heard, anymore, in all circles. ) I observed a pea coat hanging perfectly from the frame of man, a boho hat and chic scarf casually decorating one of the guests, and the gravity-defying heels, white jeans with a sharp black duster on my platinum blonde friend .

The turquoise bolo on another guest drew me over to her and I discovered she has a jewelry store downtown.  These visual observations intrigued me and were certainly unique compared to the standard “uniform” of many but it was the talent and creativity in the air that was the real centerpiece of the event. I feel this vision is on the cusp of something empowering for Tulsa. We’re at a time now that our city has the landscape for this fashion district.

We have the dining, art galleries, music venues, bars, food trucks, beer fests, etc….but we don’t really have a fashion district. We pop into stores randomly situated around downtown or nearby areas but, personally, I’d love to see a blend of modern and vintage stores along a more pedestrian format. (not scattered but cohesive; where you can park and stroll.)

As I was taking it all in, hearing about sponsorships, meeting people in this creative community, etc., I was grateful for a break from a typical Sunday afternoon. Then, my phone flashed a text from my son checking to see about his ride home from track practice, and I was snapped back to reality. But then I thought—we can have both. We can have a more eclectic, bohemian environment in Tulsa mixed in with our traditional Tulsa lives and lifestyles. There are events where you don leather pants and have cocktails and there are other times you go to coffee houses for Spoken Word and Open Mic Nites and don vintage clothing items. It will be happening more and more in T-town, I think. The renaissance of downtown, in my opinion, is begging for this–the one pocket left we haven’t explored (at large). We have craft beer fests, murals, street entertainers and even a Boxyard with shipping containers turned into stores in a tiny strip mall of sorts. 

Tulsa may not have been ready for this a few years ago. There’s a statistic that there’s a certain fickle nature about new venues after about three weeks, (or so, approximately) I’ve heard. I see that changing, lately. Establishments are sticking around longer. Now, I feel our cityscape could  support a more fashion forward style. 

That’s a wrap on Fashion and Coffee. What could be a better combo on a weekend early evening?


photos by Gina

Gypsyfamilytravel.com is a travel/adventure blog which features destinations, interviews, cuisine, activists, enthusiasts, artists, vintage fashion and much more to showcase journeys; both geographical and personal.


Murals of Downtown Tulsa

Every time I go to downtown Tulsa, I see something new. It’s very exciting for a native Tulsan, like me, to see the growth and progression…..or “Renaissance “and “revival”  would be better terms for it, actually. I grew up hearing about how fabulous downtown Tulsa was in the days of swagger ( like the first half century of the 1900’s.) My mom was a teen in the 1950’s and told us tales of how people dressed up in formal attire to go downtown. Hats, gloves and lipstick were almost a necessity for going downtown. The streets were heavily populated and there was a hustle-bustle of activity.

(Most Tulsans know the following info but for those non-Tulsans, here’s some insight…) Eventually, the shopping activity transferred to Utica Square (when it was built in 1950’s and re-purchased in 1960’s, shopping malls of Southland, Southroads and in 1976, Woodland Hills Mall (Oklahoma’s largest shopping mall). Southland became Promenade Mall in the 80’s and very few stores were left downtown. I remember going to see movies in the late 70’s downtown and popping into a few department stores.  The Williams Center Forum was a groundbreaking center for us. It seemed to have everything- an ice skating rink, a movie theater and several levels of shopping and dining. Ice skating on the weekends to a deejay was a form of entertainment for several of us. Bridesmaids and graduation luncheons were held at The Magic Pan creperie. You could even get your camera film developed at a film developer store in the “Forum”, as we called it. After a decade, approximately, the Forum lost its popularity. People went further south for activity, it seemed. We still occasionally went downtown for concerts or special events in small taverns.

After several years…..slowly, downtown Tulsa saw a turnaround with the addition of a new Cox Convention Center, BOK center, Driller’s Stadium, Guthrie Green, revitalized warehouses and districts, bars, taverns, art galleries, etc. Festivals, Tulsa Tough, Hop Jam, parades, etc. are regular weekend attractions for people to go along with the traditional Mayfest, St. Patrick’s Day block parties, art crawls, food trucks, beer fests, pedicabs, coffeehouses, open mics, spoken word nites, etc.

What excites me even more than the establishments are the delightful new murals that are painted on so many buildings downtown! This feels like a big city to me. It reminds me of what I love about other cities and metropolises and now we have them right here in Tulsa! I think it’s just the punch of color we need amidst all our beautiful, stately architecture. The “street vibe’ of the murals gives downtown Tulsa a youthful and casual feel to balance out all that Art Deco glam.(A headless cowboy and horse was painted on this mural. Kind of thought-provoking!)

What a great combo: historic architecture and casual, whimsical murals….chic, yet, street. There’s no place like home.

photos by Gina

Romania….an Orphanage Mission Trip

A bright, effervescent and beautiful young lady at our church recently went on her second mission trip. I’m so impressed with her because of her commitment to our faith, the role model she is for our youth and her dynamic personality. As if I wasn’t already impressed with her volunteerism of being a Sunday School teacher, youth group chaperone, dance instructor assistant and Greek dance troupe member—(all in a new city and parish to her) she also raised funds to go on her 2nd mission trip for OCF! (Orthodox Christian Fellowship). I’m always inspired when young adults stay involved in our church but in her case….she LEADS the way! Here is her fascinating story about her mission trip in Romania.

What inspired you to go on this mission trip?

One of my Orthodox friends went to Honduras for a mission trip our junior year. After that, I got interested. Senior year I went on a Real Break trip to Alaska and thought, “I want to go on another one!”  I looked at different trips offered and which ones my friends were going on so I was able to go on another trip with the same people. Going to an orphanage stood out to me. One of my classes in college was on the Psychology of Trauma and we watched a documentary on Romanian orphanages, so that sparked my interest.

I knew Romania is heavily Orthodox but…I didn’t know Honduras had an Orthodox population! 

Yes, they have Orthodox orphanages set up by priests.

What was the process for raising the money to go?

I gave a speech at my hometown church about the trip and we passed  around collection trays. I told the priest that I would give a presentation afterward explaining what the trip was for and how it impacted me. I also sent letters to family members. The OCF website has a donation link. The trip and airfare from D.C. to Romania was included so I only needed to cover my flight from here to D.C. I paid the deposit and the rest was raised by donations.

What was the hardest thing about being there?

The hardest things…two things: Many of the kids were malnourished. Every meal was soup and bread for five days…but to realize that that is what the kids eat every day…they are not getting the nutrients they need to grow. They looked a lot younger than they really are which caught us off guard. We’d ask them how old they were and when they told us, we thought they were joking. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things. The kids became very attached to us. They’d put their arms around us during the services.

Can they come up with an inexpensive protein to include in the orphans’ meals?

We were there during Lent so, possibly when it’s not Lent, there might be meat in their meals.

How long can they live in the orphanage?

They have kids that stay their even past age eighteen. (They help them find jobs, etc.)The orphanage started after the communist regime because people couldn’t afford their children. Some of the orphans have siblings and family members who they stay in communication with.

Who funds this orphanage?

The people in the village area, Orthodox churches and the funds we raised support the orphanages.

So we should continue to support OCF so that the funds will reach these programs.

Yes. I want to do so much to help. There are schools they can go to, also. The kids were so sweet and it was so hard to say good-bye. The kids kept asking us when we’ll be back, why do we have to leave, etc… I had to explain to them that we have to get back to work. The hard part is how do you explain to the kids, “I have to go back to my family; when they might not  have a family.”

And they’ve already been abandoned…

That’s why they attach to us so much because they don’t have a primary caregiver or parents to be there.

The documentary I saw in the 80’s showed their deformities and deficiencies and how they’d rock themselves in their cribs.

That was in the documentary we watched in my class, as well. They didn’t get enough attention and they’d stay in their cribs way longer than they should’ve. Since noone was rocking them, they’d rock themselves and they couldn’t walk until they were older.

Tell us about Romania. Did you meet the Bishop of Kluge?

We stayed at a hotel where he stays at–it wasn’t specifically his apartment. We were in Bucharest for two days and we met up with the OCF equivalent. We visited churches and talked about what it’s like to be an Orthodox Christian. The churches were absolutely beautiful. They were on every corner! I followed our leader around the city. Bucharest reminded me a lot of Athens.

What was your favorite thing about Romania?

I think going to all of the beautiful churches and that the people there are very nice.

What’s the food like?

When we ate the hotel food in Bucharest, we had stuffed peppers, rice dishes, etc. At the orphanage, we had soup and bread but when we were in Bucharest we had appetizers, main course, and dessert.

What work do you do at the orphanage? What do you do?

Hanging  out with the kids, showing them love, playing frisbee….and also we took down an entire fence and organized their library. All of their books are donated so we organized them, set aside inappropriate books, sorted, etc. We don’t know Romanian so it was hard to decipher that. Priests helped us with that.

If you could influence anyone who is reading this article to go on a mission trip, what would you tell them?

I was impacted by my Alaska trip but this mission trip impacted me even more because the kids were so inspiring. They showed us so much love and it really put things in perspective. I look at the things I go through each day and it’s nothing compared to what they go through, yet, they’re so positive about everything. 

Photos provided by Kerri.

Kerri’s blog about her trip:

Romania-Where You Find Your Family

Orthodox Christian Fellowship website. Please consider donating. Donation tab in menu.


Kerri made this video of her experience:






Qutb Minar in Dehli, India

Mughal architecture is astounding. Color tones, textures, optical illusions…..are some of the many distinctive details. The 13th center “tower of triumph” as it’s called is still the tallest free-standing minaret in the world, according to an India travel guide book. The sandstone facades and arches (without any mortar) were built in the typical Indian dry masonry technique. The Arabic inscriptions and ornate details , carved inscriptions and geometrics in the patterns convey such diligence and artisan discipline but also have a subtle blending in to the rich, earthy tone of the buildings.

Qutb Minar (also spelled Qutub), was built by the first Muslim sultan of Delhi as a triumphant celebration of victory over the Hindu kings. It’s often referred to as the” tower of triumph” or “tower of victory.”  The cupola, which was originally on the very top, was destroyed by a 19th century earthquake. A nearby mosque on the grounds is believed to be the oldest in India, built with parts of demolished Jain and Hindu temples. There is also a 4th century iron pillar on the courtyard which impressively has never shown any signs of corrosion.As we walked the grounds and viewed the splendor of this architecture, we enjoyed seeing the people in their colorful Indian clothing. Our guide told us many facts and stories about this site which was on the first days of our itinerary. I can’t say that I remember them all because we were still quite tired from traveling long hours to reach Dehli, India. Although I wasn’t as alert to absorb the history and information of this site, I have fond memories of the sunny day and the intense earth tones of the sandstone amidst the landscape.All of the temples, forts, and monuments we toured in Delhi were powerful and fascinating. I can definitely understand how the “Golden Triangle” got its name. Getting to the sites among the busy and noisy streets, highways, etc. required energy and patience; especially on restless sleep. Devote time to each destination on the Golden Triangle, if you go.photos by Gina Kingsley

The Panoramic Beauty of Rhodes

Cobalt. Cerulean. Azure. Bluest of blues. After all there was to do in Athens, we flew to the island of Rhodes. I had always wanted to see Rhodes, or as the Greeks call it: Rodos. Flying into Rhodes (Rodos) from Athens was spectacular because you could see Turkey as well. Two continents in one glance –Europe and Asia. We rented a car and drove to Pefkos which was forty five minutes away. We didn’t mind being “lost” or unsure of directions because Rhodes is so mind-blowingly beautiful.

from internet

This gave us an opportunity to observe the terrain of Rhodes. We were so surprised at the greenery of this island! It resembled Colorado with its pine trees everywhere! I remember thinking I smelled eucalyptus trees, even.

Top things to do in Rhodes: (for those of you who want quick info and may not want to read my sentimental thoughts below)

  1. Medieval Town. Palace of the Grand Masters of Knights
  2. Acropolis of Lindos
  3. Donkey rides in Lindos
  4. Rhodes Ferry ride to Marmaris, Turkey;
  5. (day tour over there of gold center, rug factory, loukoum factory and bazaar)
  6. Monolithos Castle
  7. Mandraki Harbour
  8. Valley of the Butterflies

Villa rental: Milos Villas in Pefkos

Restaurant: Nikolas Tavern and any restaurant!!

I seem to remember reading somewhere about this “island of Helios (sun)” because it gets 300+ days of bright sunshine a year. Our rented villa’s garden was full of fruit trees which excited our six year old so much. He checked to see if the figs were ready. He’s learned this skill from his Papou (grandpa). We relaxed on our villa balcony while the boys played ball in the garden. In perfect timing, a billy goat from the adjacent property came right up to our fence. How perfect!

We found a Panorama Cafe which remains one of the best views of Greece I’ve ever seen. The royal blue water turns purple out in the horizon. Rodos takes my breath away like so many places in Greece. I know it’s the top three of islands for me. Our youngest son found lizards everywhere we went—this was his mission on the trip. While we absorbed other cultural highlights, our youngest remained focused on the flora and fauna of this geological wonder called Greece.

We bought local honey at a street side food stand–native Rodos honey–which is inexplicably delicious due to the unique cultivation of the area and the herbs from which the bees pollinate. A dollop of this clover honey became part of our breakfast ritual—in tea, on biscuits, etc. and of course, we brought some home as gifts. Rhodes has a uniqueness to it because of its Medieval influences. We walked through Medieval town’s cobblestone paths, fortifications and we saw where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood in the harbor. Although it’s not there anymore, to envision where this statue (one of the seven wonders of the world) stood, was a moment!

from internet

Our daily walks included a stroll to the zaharoplasteion (a bakery of artisan sweets), a purchase of tiropita (cheese pie) and spanakopita (spinach-cheese pie). One day, the boys all went to the beach in the late afternoon while I stayed at the villa in Pefkos, called Milos Villas. I wrote in my journal, tidied up the villa, walked through the garden and enjoyed the sea breezes, ocean view, safety, tranquility, and privacy of this existence. At night, I listened to the crickets and the late night parties in the distance as well as the occasional odd bird or animal sound.

Our favorite memory of Rhodes was riding the donkeys up through the village of Lindos. Looking into the shops and villas gave us an idea of the town combined with a recreational activity! I gasped as I peered into each shop or home. Rhodes was utterly beautiful and delightful. At night, we danced in Nikolas’s Taverna in the city of Pefkos (not far from our villa). As we ate our dinner and heard the soulful Greek music beating out of the speakers, the feeling overcame us to just get up and dance. The waiter called out to the owner inside, in Greek, saying, “The Greek- American mama is dancing with her sons” as my husband took our video. He eventually joined in the dance line along with the waiter and owner, too. The other customers enjoyed this spectacle. It was a great impulse in the middle of my journal writing while the family ate dessert. It was a revelation that crystallized the epiphany that the Greek school lessons, the Greek dance lessons, —they shouldn’t just be lessons—they should be a lifestyle; moments in reality. I knew my sister, back home, would be thrilled because she is our sons’ Greek dance instructor. This moment wasn’t about costumed dancers on a stage at the Greek Festival back home in Tulsa, but about feeling the impulse to get up and dance, in casual clothes, out in the sea breezes in a taverna atop the sea.

from internet

It was hard to comprehend how blue the ocean was on these Rodos beaches. We parked our rental car on the side of a village road to take photos. Outside of a restaurant called Panorama Cafe, we stood there in disbelief to take in the panoramic view.

It was at that moment that I first realized that the ocean water in Greece has layers to its hues. Closest to the shore, the water is clear, then green, then mediterranean blue, then navy blue and then, miraculously, purple. Together they make that Grecian blue but if you look closely, it’s layers of blues, (except on the island of Lefkada, where it is solidly the most turquoise blue the eye can ever absorb.) It was opaque, thick, sensuous and shockingly turquoise blue.

On Rhodes, we discovered the lovely city of Lindos. The donkey rides up the winding roads through Lindos beckoned to us. We waited on the town square for this magical donkey ride but what happened during that wait was even more magical for me, as a mom. My oldest son, eleven years old at the time, was conversing in a slow and carefully thought out Greek speech with a nine year old native boy. I listened carefully and intently from a few feet away to hear them. Luke asked him, “Pos se lene?” (how are you called/what is your name?) and the boy answered, “Me lene Nikos.” (I am called Nick) Success! Luke built up to “Poso hronon eisai?” and Niko answered, “Emai enaia hrono” (I am nine). Lastly, Luke asked him “Apo pou eisa?” (Where are you from?) and Niko answered, “Apo etho —Lindos” (from here, Lindos.) Three sentences! A conversation, nevertheless. My Greek-American son was communicating with a foreign child in Greece….a complete stranger; not a relative….and he was understanding him!

The boy, in turn, asked Luke some questions and I assisted Luke in his answers. This exchange could not have made me happier; not only as a mom but as a Greek School teacher, too. My sons were my Greek School students and this was the ultimate field trip for us! We were immersing in a culture of one of the most beautiful countries in the world which happens to be one of the most influential civilizations in the world.

from internet
from internet

What was a simple conversation, verbally, was really quite advanced and multilayered for us, emotionally. The local boy from Lindos and my son were patiently trying to understand each other. The native boy seemed impressed and respectful, almost paternal, with the efforts of my son who was carefully and calculatingly choosing his words and phrases. The Lindos boy was clearly in the driver’s seat with this exchange and my son was the guest in his country demonstrating a brave moment and encounter where he took a risk of stumbling on “broken Greek” with an Oklahoma accent. As the mom, I stood back and tried not to rush in with the rescue of my fluent Greek. I quietly guided my son from afar with possible vocabulary to interject but basically let him choose the questions and directions of the rudimentary conversation.

The global awareness symbolism that unfolded was the understanding that two boys who could look so similar in ethnic features were living different lives on different continents. Is there a kindred spirit between the native Greeks and the ones who descend from families who immigrated to America in the last century? Yes. In my experience, both citizenships of Greeks are fascinated with each other.

This was a  full circle moment for me. I grew up speaking two languages in the home; English to my parents and siblings and Greek to my  grandfather who lived with us. The receptive vocabulary of a bilingual childhood is uncanny and difficult to explain. There are words banked up that one might never use but you can always retrieve their definition and meaning and some are not even precisely translatable to English. Greek School classes at our church filled in the grammar, handwriting, poetry, songs and plays that home conversations could not. Witnessing this actual brief conversation between a local boy and my oldest son was rewarding and exciting. While my sons are not fluent in Greek and might never be, their effort was admirable.

The conversation that took place in the city center while we waited for our donkey ride was the first of several splendid moments in Lindos. No one could have prepared us for what was about to transpire next. The trail of donkeys lined up for us and others to join was so exhilarating for me, vicariously, with the boys. My husband trailed behind us on foot, as he preferred to run up the hill beside us. Each shop or pension we looked into on the right and left of us as we rode up the hill was a perfect lesson in Grecian architecture. The design of each alcove was a stunningly simple but breathtaking aesthetic of art and living. Everything about the shop or residence we peered into was designed to look out onto the view of the sea. Atop our donkeys, we looked through each shop, home or art gallery with a view that spilled out onto the open navy blue sea of Rhodes. I kept looking back at my husband, gasping at the beauty and asking him if he was catching all of this.

from internet

When we reached the top of the hill, we explored the Acropolis of Lindos -Temple of Athena which is a Doric structure and archeological site. We stretched our legs and caught our breath after that visually stunning donkey ride up the hill of this most posh town of Lindos. The donkey ride was a perfect excursion for the boys and a little archeology is always fascinating but ending the day at the beach in Lindos was perfectly appropriate. While the boys ran off ramps and jumped into the water, I caressed the sea shells and ran my toes back and forth in soft sand. I showed my husband each piece of what seemed like sea glass. The shells and glass were as clear and vibrant as the water. Lindos was a gorgeous surprise but it was time to return to our rented villa in Pefkos.

Our time in Rhodes ended with an enchanting day meandering through the streets of the Medieval town, sipping sweet and cold cafe frappe in a taverna and buying an ornate gold ring with a medieval cross on it for my birthday. The handmade ring was full of intricate details, Grecian royal blue lapis and enamel and even the band had details on it. The ring is always a symbol to me of our time in atmospheric Old Rodos Town in the middle of a majestic medieval fortress town draped under magnificent bougainvillea.adapted from the book, A Magic Carpet Ride. Click on link:


(updated book cover)

International Symbolisms of the Marigold

Sacred. Medicinal. “Mary’s gold”. After attending a wedding in India, so many new rituals and symbolisms inspired me to study these provocative traditions. The marigold leis (and other garlands) used in the Indian wedding we attended peaked my curiosity when I looked at my photos, off and on. Like many international symbols and rituals, several cultures share similar features and concepts. Nomadic exploration introduced and cultivated certain traditions from land to land.

As I wrote in another blog regarding the Baraat ceremony, “When we reached the meeting point of both families, approximately 45 minutes later, the bride’s procession was just as moving and spine-tingling as the groom’s procession. Garlands were draped on the bride and groom. The groom is given the marigold garland (like a lei) as are some of the family members. The marigold garland, reminiscent of a Hawaiian lei, (which is also presented at times of welcome), is a symbol associated with the vibrancy of the sun. The marigold is also referred to as the “herb of the sun” representing passion and creativity. In terms of the wedding celebration, the marigold is used as a love charm and a sign of a new beginning. It is also considered a sign of purity in Hindu festivals and worship ceremonies. When it’s presented as a welcome gesture at homes or hotels, (as it was to us whenever we arrived to each hotel) it is used as a sign of respect and honor. I felt this symbol of honor when I saw the marigold leis bestowed upon the families joining together in the wedding ceremony as the Baraat procession was completing and entering into another ceremony.” Since the Indian marigold garlands reminded me of the Hawaiian lei, I started to explore this connection. I learned that there are many international symbolisms having to do with the marigold and that one explanation stated that the Portuguese introduced marigolds into India. Marigolds are referred to as “Mary’s gold” which was derived from the practice of early Christians placing flowers (as an offering) on Mary’s altar instead of gold coins. Marigolds are used in various festivities that honor Mary. The marigold is referred to as the “herb of the sun” for various reasons and one of them is because the flower petals are open when the sun is out.

The marigold is also used as “love charms”. It was believed that the water from the marigold was rubbed on peoples’ eyes to supplicate psychic visions of fairies. The Aztecs treated the marigold as a sacred floral and used it in ceremonies, medicinally. They believed the marigold treated the hiccups and that it was a cure for people who were struck by lightning.  In the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), marigolds were used to commemorate the lives of the deceased. The Mexicans believed the souls of the deceased visit the living, so marigolds served as a way to guide them towards the altar. Apparently, the pungent scent of the marigold attracted the dead. The latter is why burial sites are often adorned with these flowers.

As often as I have had these flowers planted in various gardens over the years, I simply didn’t appreciate (or know) their historic symbolisms. Had it not been for traveling to India and attending such an unforgettable, extraordinary wedding, I would not have become interested in the marigold flower and its symbolisms. Now, a simple flower has the words “sacred” and “medicinal” attached to it. It opened up my eyes like the marigold’s petals open to the sun!

photos by Gina

Stories like this can be found in the book, A Magic Carpet Ride on link below.


Part 1 (The Baraat ceremony and the processions involving marigold leis), etc. is found on the blog below.)

India- Exotic Land of Ceremonies

You can subscribe to this blog to receive updated travel info.