Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gone Fishin'

The fishing poles came last Christmas. They were not opened from the packaging until last weekend.
Pitiful, but true.
When the holiday wrapping paper was cast off, when the new fishing poles gleamed with hope and desire of giant sunfish to be caught (and released), we promised the kids 'This summer we'll take you fishing. We promise‘. There’s little to say about adults breaking promises to kids.
As summer drew to a close and school days hovered over us, the time came to pay out our promise. A debt set aside for numerous errands, vacation days, more errands, and housework.

So, last Sunday, they anxiously bumbled down to the nearby pond with Strawberry Shortcake and Diego fishing poles in hand, with high hopes of catching the big one. Matt and I had high hopes that poles and lines would not tangle into an unmanageable mess. That rescue swimmers would not be necessary to insure we returned home with 4 children. That the kids would still want to go fishing when all was said and done.
 Henry David Thoreau said
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
Emory must be in good company then, because all he knew was this is not what he was fishing for...

The charm of fishing certainly lies in the desire for a tug on the other end of the line.
An elusive hopefulness for what could happen.
Watching the kids, observing their hopeful casts into the pond, even without bait or hooks, was a unique moment. One that I hope we can relive over and over, perhaps as bait and hooks are added in summers to come.




At least we've graduated from casting class in the back yard. We're not fishing in puddles anymore. At least their hopes of catching something with gills remain high. And more importantly, a promise wasn't broken.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tricking the Tooth Fairy


It's bedtime.
I fluff Stella's pillow a bit, only to notice that her tooth fairy pillow
is oddly laying beneath the pillow upon which she lays her weary head at night.
She hasn't lost any teeth in the last 24-48 hours that I'm aware of.
"Stella? What's this doing under your pillow?" I asked, quickly reaching inside,
because there was something stuffed where a tooth should go.
"Oh, I was trying to see if I could trick the tooth fairy. To see if she would bring me money."

Great. Just great. We're raising a kid who's trying to extort money from the tooth fairy.
Leave it to Stella. (at least she was honest eh?)
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Saving Summer

It seems like we're just trying to grasp the last little bit of sunshine around here. Hold on to the last few moments of vacation and freedom from routines.
Sipping the bottom of the lemonade pitcher, 
 and saving summer.

The Animals Went to See the Animals


Today, I promised the animals I'd take them to see the animals.
Rain or shine.
It rained, of course.
They wanted to go for the sake of going. But most importantly, they were curious as to how the new baby monkey was getting along. We visited in the spring, when the baby was less than two weeks. The kids have mentioned their concerns for the "tiny baby" occasionally over the summer, so it seemed a fitting end of the summer vacation to check up on progress.
Happy to note, mamma and baby seem to be doing just fine.
In case you're wondering, the entire zoo seems to be doing just fine.
 ( Not that you were worried or anything?)
We took care to maintain some of the puddles as well, making sure to splash as much water as possible from the bottom of each and every one.

New Do



Miss Venera came by to do school haircuts today.
This is the rockin' new do she gave Emory.
Fab. But he's not diggin' it.
Ironic.
As this was the child who, less than 2 weeks ago,
was so thrilled to be allowed to take the complimentary vanity set from the bathroom of a Milan hotel room,
that he walked out of the main entrance of that Milan hotel, wearing a shower cap.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Too Many Cooks-a kids cooking catfish video

Maybe we were bored.
Maybe we just need to get back into the school routine.
Maybe I just wanted to kill two birds with one stone.
Entertain the kids, and get dinner made. Whatever it was, ths process was comical, to say the least. Look out Emeril Lagasse. Take a back seat Martha Stewart. Sit down Rachel Ray. And Bobby Flay, you better reconsider your grocery list, cause this crew knows how to cook. (Or at least, um, dump some stuff from the freezer aisle into a bowl.)





 It turned out to be more fun than anticipated. Stay tuned, we may end up producing a summer cooking series. (or not :) Bon Appetite!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Restoring Order

A round of cleaning, laundry, and chores this morning led me to the kids a bit later than usual.

This is what I found.



Arleigh running the radio, (buttons are a favorite) and the rest of the posse playing freeze dance in their pajamas on Stella's bed.
Incredible. (Incredibly hilarious that is.)
School starts in 1 week.
We must restore order.
Fast.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Livorono to Liechtenstein and home to Belgium

It's hard to believe that one week ago today I was in the Alps staring at this...

and this...
(Matt thought this toilet was "the most ingenious toilet ever" because it's an "all in one" jiffy john. Basically, the toilet seat raised itself up after you finished your business, and a soap and water dispenser were strategically located, so that you could wash you hands into the toilet bowl. What can I say? Sometimes it takes very little to impress him.)

So we sadly ended our vacation in Tuscany. However, the grim faces didn't last long, because driving through northern Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein was utterly gorgeous. As if nature made an in car entertainment system for us. There wasn't a moment when we weren't calling to attention a waterfall crashing over the mountains, or a little chalet perched high up into the peak of a mountain, or the clouds, swiftly moving in over the mountain tops. Truly beautiful land.


As I snapped these shots at a rest stop, somewhere in the Alps, I couldn't help but to think about how naive these kids were. They had no idea how lucky they are to travel the world as they have. And to play at a rest area in the middle of the Alps was almost surreal for us, but just a day's work in the life of a kid to them.

 

We arrived in Liechtenstein, (the smallest German speaking country in the world and the only country contained completely within the Alps) in the early evening. Enough time to get our bearings and find dinner. Though based on the previous night's escapade, we were relived to have a hotel where there was a restaurant. This was the view from the hotel window...


However, when we checked in, the receptionist told us that the hotel restaurant was closed, because of a village festival. All restaurants would be closed locally, but we could catch a bus, and enjoy the festival, and find dinner there. With no choice but to join in the festivities or eat raisins and juice boxes out of the car for dinner, we followed the crowd to bus stops and found ourselves at the citywide celebration, in the rain.
We completely stood out- walking around in sandals and shorts, while the locals wore jeans, coats, even scarves.

We found it entirely amusing that what other activity should they have at a festival in the Alps but winter sports? Watching the locals try out in bobsled "time trials" was a hoot.

Another challenge to find dinner. Eat in the pouring rain, having the kids stand and hold a bratwurst? Or find a nearby cafe which might host us. We ended up squeezing into a little tent and enjoying bratwurst with the locals. Finishing the course with fresh crepes topped with apricots and cinnamon and sugar. Not the most well rounded meal, but it beat McDonalds.




The journey home continued at a relatively good clip the next day. We arrived home safe and sound, exhausted but exhilarated from our week long adventure. This trip certainly made us look forward to the next.

Carrara, Arezzo

Last day of the trip. We headed in opposite directions. First to Cararra so that just like Michelangeolo, the kids could pick out some marble to take home. We headed high into the mountains where there are marble quarries, and drove til the road was washed away. Then we let the kids jump out and pick 2 pieces of marble....


Marble was everywhere within 40 miles of this place, and beyond.
The day was wet, rainy, and dark. With nothing better to do, we headed out for Arezzo. Due to the weather, we decided to move indoors to the Museo Archeologico & Roman Amphitheatre.

Basically, just as it’s titled, a museum of Roman and Etruscan artifacts built on the site of a Roman amphitheatre. Frankly it was amazing how advanced the Romans were and a visit to this place made it seem as if we’ve not come so terribly far in the last 2000 years.



We wandered along in the dreary weather, stopping at the duomo and piazza, noting intricate details and beautiful facades. Though we needed to get back to the cabin to pack up for our adventures the next day. Heading home.


Perhaps the journey back to the cabin that evening was the most interesting. Many Italians don’t eat dinner until 7pm or later. Heading back to the cabin, we began searching for a place to eat. We pulled off the autostrada and traveled along a smaller, slower road though towns and villages. It was essentially the route 66 of Italy. We must have passed 200 pizzeria restaurants, but all were closed. Even after 7pm. Out of desperation, I offered that perhaps we should seek out a Mc Donalds and simply be done with dinner, as the hour was getting late and the kids were hungry. Matt refused saying “We don’t want to eat at McDonald’s on our last night in Tuscany!” He was right, we didn’t want to wind up at McDonald’s.


Searching for dinner became a major event during our stay in Italy. It seemed a challenge each day to find a place to seat 4 kids and 2 adults. At one point, Matt suggested the TV networks produce a reality TV show for just that purpose “Dinner Search- find dinner in a European country. Your challenge is 4 young kids, a budget, and time frame. Ready. Set. Go!” We ate breakfast at the cabin, packed lunch when possible, so dinners were the only challenge. It was just that, a challenge.

Moving onward, from town to town, surprisingly, we found nothing open. We think perhaps it was a holiday weekend, but we aren’t sure why no one was open for business. In the interest of time, we decided to get back on the autostrada and head back to a restaurant we had eaten at the first night we arrived near the cabin.


They were open! And couldn’t seat us until at least 9pm.

So we headed for the base, where we knew there was a little pizzeria which had hours till 9pm. We arrived at 8:40pm, …they had closed early for the night.

There we were, 9:00 pm, in a McDonalds drive thru. The last night in Tuscany, eating Mikie Ds. It seemed a sin.

Sometimes life makes other plans. Grazie.
 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Siena



On our way to Siena, Italy, I happened to pull our the trusty 'lonely planet survival kit', only to read the following excerpt...

"Il Palio~ This spectacular event held twice yearly on July 2 and August 16th in honor of the Virgin Mary, dates to the Middle Ages and features a series of colorful pageants, a wild horse race around the Campo, and much eating, drinking and celebration in the streets.... The race is run at 7pm in August. For not much more than one exhilarating minute, the 10 bareback horses and their riders tear three times around the Campo with a speed and violence that makes your hair stand on end."
We were travelling to Siena on the 15th, but had no idea until this enlightening moment, that there would be scores of people gathering for the weekend festivities.
Upon arrival, we grabbed lunch at a cafe where most people stood to drink their coffee (which is quite common in Italy). Then finished the meal with some cookies. Pictured below is the Panforte, originating in the region as a rich cake of almonds, honey, candied melon, or citrus fruit. Panforte, loosely translated means heavy bread and it was initially created as sustenance for the crusaders to the Holy Land.
With full stomachs, we braved the well preserved medieval city of Siena.
First stop - the Duomo. The cathedral as it stands, was finished in the 14th century, but intentions were to enlarge the building by using the existing church as a transept for a new church. The plague fell upon Siena however. The population plummeted and funds for the plan vanished.
This duomo is famous for its interior inlaid marble floors, which are so precious, they were mostly covered during our visit. The floors are displayed only one month a year for the sake of preservation.
Then on to the Museo dell’ Opera Metropolitana, which was conveniently next to the duomo, because by that time, there was a severe thunderstorm ranging outside. We waited in the duomo until the rain lightened and then rushed the kids into the Mueso, where the 12 statues of prophets and philosophers by Giovanni Pisano were standing by to greet us.


The baptistery, which seemed to speak for itself. The marble font was decorated with bronze panels in relief describing the life story of St John the Baptist.


Next, Il Campo. This is where the previously mentioned horse races, Il Palio, would take place a day later.
The streets were mud soaked and slushy, partially due to the lack of dry weather. Spectators were made to walk along planks to reach the Campo so as to not fall into the muddy race track.
Among the muck and mud, it seems timely to mention here, that we were given multiple recommendations from a variety of sources, not to drink the water from the fountains in Italy. However, at least daily, if not more often, there was always a fountain with someone washing or rinsing, or filling a water bottle.
This gentleman was using the water from Fonte Gaia, a landmark at the top of Piazza del Campo.
On another note- equally as mentionable, the kids seemed to be as amused with animals, as they were with Etruscan history and art. At every turn, it seemed there was a cat waiting to welcome them.
It seemed obvious that the upcoming Il Palio celebration was gearing up, just from crowds lingering in the main piazza. We did our best to stay out of the way. As we meandered along the steep streets, it was clear that Il Palio, the horse race of neighborhood competition, was going to be in full swing before long. At one moment, a large crowd came screaming, literally, through the streets behind us. For an instant I feared the kids would be trampled, though several polizia were standing by.

As Matt described it- Il Palio seemed to “be the NASCAR of Siena“.
This neighborhood was busy setting up a long table that wound up the street.
Surely the festivities would be roaring a day later.


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To see the city from afar offers a considerably different perspective from the close up, intricate details that a traveler may stumble upon around each corner.
So with activities ramping up, and feeling like we could sleep well having visited Siena, we drove back to the cabin, passing by beautiful scenes of Tuscan agriculture and meadows along the way. All in a good day’s adventure, we landed for dinner ¾ of the way home at a Pizzeria, where a Filipino woman climbed up on stage just after our food arrived, and proceeded to sing karaoke.
 The kids later referred to her as “the woman who sang teriyaki.”
They truly are cultured, and um, confused.