Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giorno del Ringraziamento a.k.a. Thanksgiving

Preparations were most difficult for this beloved American holiday. Italy just isn't made for this sort of country-wide gluttonous feast devoted to the red-wattled gobbler. Thank God for the Native Americans and all their delicious foods that helped the Pilgrims through the harsh winters of the New World.

Fearing to be alone on such a communal feast, we invited our Danish neighbors, with whom we have become quite good friends, to share our Thanksgiving. They were quite excited to be able to come and see a real American Thanksgiving, so we felt that we needed to put together a decent spread. This, of course, required turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, ample gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, bread, and pumpkin pie, at the very minimum. Having only decided 4 days before Thanksgiving that we would be hosting the feast (we were hoping for an invite...but it never came, so we resolved to have our own), I set out looking for the proper ingredients.

But to no avail. The Italians just thought I was crazy. You want a what? A whole turkey? No, no, no; we don't have those. I had resolved that if I couldn't find a whole turkey, which was a very real possibility because I had not ordered one from a butcher several weeks in advance, I would just have to settle for turkey breasts or simply substitute a whole chicken. In the name of authenticity, especially for the sake of our Danish invitees, I opted for turkey, in whatever form I might find it. After trying four stores, I finally found a very, very large turkey breast and equally enormous legs. The turkey they came from must have been an inimitable foul. Mashed potatoes were no trouble except that we had no masher, so I sent Matt out for a handheld blender at the last minute. It worked a little too well, and they ended up being very pureed, kind of like Outback's mashed potatoes. Fortunately stuffing turned out to be a cinch, even though I'd never made it before and couldn't find poultry seasoning anywhere. I had scoured the internet for a recipe that was fairly simple and had a limited number of ingredients, finally deciding on chestnut stuffing. As for green bean casserole. . . well, cream of mushroom soup and French's french friend onions. Rather than trying to make some horrible concoction of substitutes, I simplified it to garlic string beans. At least it's a vegetable, right?

The pie was quite an affair. It certainly would have been easier to do without. But really, can you? I think that second to the turkey, pumpkin pie is most essential. I searched high and low for pureed pumpkin. (I'm beginning to think that Italians have some sort of superstition about the evils of canned food. Maybe it's the temperature change that the vegetables must go through the be put in the can. Other than tomatoes, hardly anything can be found in a can here, and certainly not pumpkin.) Okay, fine. I'll make my own pumpkin puree. Let's see just how Martha-esque I can be out of necessity. I spy the zucca. Now, how much does one need? Which kind? Lost in puzzlement over the three types: two squash looking ones and a more traditional shaped pumpkin, although very white, I call Matt on the phone to see if Google can answer my question. I guess the man next to me understood enough English to eavesdrop, though, because he began to tell me in Italian which pumpkin was best. Being a bit confused, I ask, "For cake?" (Because there's no Italian word for pie.) "Si, si, si," he responds, without seeming even a little ashamed that he heard my conversation. "And the price is better. Get this one." And then he walks away. Very mysterious. So I bought two of the kind he recommended. Whipped cream is also not to be found so I bought a carton of cream. Our Danish friends had told me that you can make whipped cream by shaking heavy cream in a ziploc bag with a coin in it. Brown sugar also does not exist in Italy, so I hoped white sugar will be okay. I stuffed my backpack with turkey, pumpkins, cream, and various spices, hopped on the bus and hauled all my groceries home, ready to begin the big preparations for Thanksgiving.

In short, cooking the food was much easier than finding it. I brined the turkey in a honey-lemon marinade, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it only took up half of our refrigerator. Then I began on the pie. Per internet directions, I had cut the pumpkins in half and placed them fleshy side down on a buttered baking sheet. I had just put them in the oven when my Indian neighbor stopped by with her little boy. Inviting them in, I explained to her that I was just about to make a pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving holiday. Since she likes to cook quite a bit herself, she asked if she could watch. Of course, I say. It also dawns on me that she has a little food processor which would solve my problem of how to puree the pumpkin. So we made pie together. Scoop the baked pumpkin out. Strain it--with a t-shirt--several times. Puree it. Continue as normal. Other than being very messy and a bit flat looking (we only had a ten inch metal cake pan), everything turned out perfectly. I ended up with about 3 cups of pumpkin puree left after making the pie, however, so I decided I may as well whip together some pumpkin soup for the occasion. Pumpkin soup really is easy and delicious. Cream and pumpkin and some spice.

Everything else really turned out quite well, although while I was taking the turkey out of the oven my racks began to break and one side of the oven collapsed inward. Rather than panic, however, I took it over to our neighbors and let it cook with the stuffing that was already baking in their oven. The whipped cream also gave me a little trouble. When Andreas, Astrid, and Vilhelm came over, I was in the middle of desperately trying to shake this cream in the ziploc bag with the euro in it into something more solid. Was a euro too much? Should it have been twenty cents instead? Astrid just told me to blow more air in the bag. Oh. Then Andreas offered to take over the shaking. I was only too happy to delegate. Apparently you need to shake hard and fast. We ended up with cream in just a few minutes.

We had borrowed their table and set up a lovely spread in our little apartment. Although, to be honest, I was surprised at how little a Thanksgiving for 4 looked when we set it on a big table. It didn't matter; we set in to our feasting with great delight. I explained what all the foods were and apologized that cranberry sauce was missing. I had scoured the stores for it and could not find cranberries anywhere. They also asked about this Thanksgiving tradition of ours, and we got to tell them about the Pilgrims and their odd outfits, how they were dying of hunger and were given food tips from the Indians on how to survive these dreadful winters. We also told them about how it wasn't made an official holiday until after the Civil War. "Civil War?" they ask, looking confused. "Who fought in the Civil War?" So then we had a little diversion on the history on the enmity of the north and the south, and how Abraham Lincoln reinstated a national day of Thanksgiving for the abundant crops that were still signs of God's mercy. At Thanksgiving we still celebrate our unity and the assistance of the Native Americans. We also give thanks for all our blessings by having a long holiday and eating enormous amounts of food at noontime with dear family. Then we lounge around and watch football or It's a Wonderful Life, we visit, we nap, and then we eat lots of leftovers as soon as we feel you can eat again.

It was really hard to communicate just how lovely Thanksgiving is. We gave thanks for all our family and friends who could not share our skinless turkey breast and flat pumpkin pie with us. We drank many glasses of fine wine for you on this our Italian Thanksgiving.

New Blog Features

Just wanted to let you all know that I installed a YouTube video bar on the left side of the blog. It is directly linked to my YouTube channel and will automatically update with little images of the latest videos, so you can see whether you've seen them. Also, if they happen to have thumbnails of the fight against poverty, African children, or something else, just wait a minute and they should switch to pictures of people you recognize. If you click on it, they will load and you can watch each video. I uploaded four new videos yesterday from November. Enjoy!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Italy Thankfuls

Making my list of things I am thankful for in Italy, I realized that at least 1/3 of them were types of food. While the administration and efficiency over here are, well, "lacking," the food over here is superb. I am thankful for pasta in all its shapes and sizes, for the multitude of sauces in which one can deliciously smother their noodles. I am thankful for pizza with wine and then gelato for dessert. We have never had a bad meal in Italy. Never. Ever. Let's give thanks to the God who made Italian food. ;) Other things I'm thankful for are:
  • The abundance of fresh, seasonal fruit. (Although I am worried about what winter, when nothing is in season, will be like.) We have eaten 8 or 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of the delicious, seedless Clementine oranges this month!
  • Matt and his dedication to us and his diligent work going day after day to different archives and persevering in reading Latin and Italian books and manuscripts. Also, Let's get this straight. This list is not in order of importance.
  • The kids. See above comment. Plus, what would I do all day without them?
  • Beautiful Italian architecture. Does it elevate my soul just to live here? Perhaps. Petrarch, Dante, and Livy are from here after all.
  • Beautiful art, everywhere.
  • Being forced to develop our own traditions: chestnut stuffing, Settlers of Catan in Italian, new routins, etc.
  • Skype and cheap phone cards. A few conveniences that make the distance seem smaller.
  • Our Danish neighbors. They are fun and interesting and keep us from getting too lonely. They also have a two-year-old boy, Vilhelm, who Dominic loves to play with.
  • Our little apartment. I'm thankful that we got an apartment, that it is fairly inexpensive, that it is clean, that we have an elevator, that we have a nice view, and that we have heat.
  • A chance to see wonderful Italy. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. "White collar poverty" certainly does have its perks.
  • The opportunity and ability to learn Italian. It really is a beautiful language.
  • Wine. Good. Cheap. Abundant.
  • Funny things the kids say and do. I'll indulge you in a few recent examples:
  1. Just a minute ago, Dominic was buck-naked running off to go to the bathroom and shouting back to his sister, "I'll be back Cate!"
  2. Because Dominic was not sitting in his usual chair at the dinner table, I said, "You need to move, this is where Daddy sits." He responds, "Yeah, that's Daddy's Happy Birthday Chair." That's a valid reason for a two-year-old. I love it.
  3. Cate has started bringing me everything. She will pick up any toys/papers/bits on the floor and hand them to me one at a time, even if I'm across the room. The best part is the uber-proud look on her face every single time she hands me something. Then she claps for herself. :)
  4. Dominic has begun quizzing Cate, just like an adult. He points to me and says to her, "And who's that, Catie?"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things I miss Most About Home

This is sort of a pre-Thanksgiving post. While it could be considered to be a list of gripes about Italy, more important, it's a list of things I'm thankful for in the United States. As I was composing my list, I realized that most of them are matters of efficiency. Apparently, that's pretty important to me. I guess that's not surprising being an American and growing up with the 'Protestant' work-ethic. So, here's my list of American 'thankfuls'. I think tomorrow I'll do a list of my 'thankfuls' for Italy.
  • Family
  • Good friends with longstanding history
  • Knowing how everything works and where to find stuff
  • Whole turkeys at Thanksgiving
  • Cranberry sauce (cranberries are impossible to find)
  • Unlimited and free water at restaurants, ice
  • Second-hand stores, especially for kids clothes
  • 4-burner stove (we only have two)
  • Unlimited energy (we can only run either the burners or one burner and the "oven" or the power blows)
  • Fast internet and wireless(we have a single ethernet cord, and the internet powered by crippled hamsters)
  • Stocking up at supermarkets (going to the grocery store everyday was quaint at first, now it's a little archaic)
  • Being able to hop in the car and drive from point A to point B (not having to walk to a bus station, take the bus, take the train, take another bus, and then walk some more, especially with the kids)
  • Target (everything affordable, easy to find, and all in one building!)
  • The freezer (other Italians do have these)
  • Free shipping on Amazon.com
  • My sharp butcher knife and sharpener
  • Living space and multiple bedrooms

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Matt is Now 27

I hope you have all gasped at the fact my title has revealed. Some will gasp because Matthew Gaetano is already 27, well on his way to 30, over half-way to 50, and 1/4 of the way to 100. How fast it went. He's so old! How can this be?

Quite naturally, others will gasp because he is only 27. He is nearing the completion of his Ph.D., is married, and has two children. I remember when he was born. I remember his piano recitals. I remember him skipping around the house. How can this be?

So, thanks to Matt's wonderful Aunt Pat, this is a little blast into my dear husband's past.




Friday, November 20, 2009

Florence Revisited: Part I

I felt that I skimped too much on my descriptions of the individual cities we saw with my parents. So, in between other posts about current events, I'm going to do a series on Florence, Rome, Verona, and Padua.

If I had to characterize Florence--or Firenze (fee-Ren-zay) as it's called in Italian--in just one way it would be the 'City of Art'. Besides having two of the most famous museums in the world, every church is overflowing with resplendent art, piazzas contain gorgeous monuments, and even the streets themselves are extraordinary works of art. My dad, who is very skilled in the various construction crafts, just could not stop marveling over the intricate stonework of arched cobblestone patterns that was painstakingly laid on every street and sidewalk.


We set out to conquer Florence's major sites in just three days, but we were adamant that we would not sacrifice quality for quantity. The Uffizi was magnificent, although overwhelming in size. Room upon room in a u-shaped building of three stories, we took in Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Michaelangelo, and Boticelli. It was a stronghold of amazing artwork. Besides the famous paintings, which were obviously delightful to behold, I think my favorite was the unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci. I was able to see a master's painting in progress. It was like standing in a piazza, glancing over da Vinci's shoulder, and watching him make a portrait come increasingly more to life, layer by layer of successively richer shades of oil paint and . The Accademia was much smaller and manageable and housed Michaelangelo's famed David. I was astonished at just how tall he was. Not only larger than life, but so large he filled a two-story room, it seemed. I must admit, I felt a little sheepish sitting on the benches behind the statue and staring at his "buns of marble." Look away, look away. Well, to be honest...it was actually his lower calves that were at eye level.

Despite being an artist myself and truly loving art, I am always astounded at how exhausting art museums can be. I feel like, from the moment I set foot in an art museum, I begin to wilt. It's like Matt in any store. Does anyone else feel this? From the looks on everyone else's faces, I conjecture that I'm not alone. Perhaps I have thirty good minutes before my feet begin to drag. I console myself by saying it's just too much art all at once, and it's hard to fully appreciate art out of its original context. I still feel that I need to look at every painting and read every description, even though I can feel my blood sugar plummeting and my attention shortening. After all, they're good enough to be in the Uffizi and the Accademia, the hallowed halls of Florentine Fame! (Not to mention that because of my pecuniary heritage I feel even more compulsion to really do an expensive site right and see everything.)

My perspective on art museums and sight-seeing is beginning to change. I was talking a friend of mine, an Art History Ph.D., and I asked her how she feels when seeing museums. She told me that she enjoys the art immensely but finds museums very physically and emotionally taxing. She also confessed that finds her tolerance has actually gone down with every year of education! She just blows through museums now because she knows which paintings/sculptures actually deserve attention and she doesn't bother with the descriptions. Perhaps rather than trying to get an art education by going to museums and galleries, I shall delight my fancy more. Just truly enjoying a few masterpieces should be enough for me to warrant the expense and effort, and it won't leave me wilted and weary at the end. So it is my resolve, with the blessing of an expert, to stop trying to see everything.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My New Secret...

No, I'm not pregnant. Don't worry when the day comes, I won't announce it on the blog first. Blogs are good for some things, like sharing funny stories, cute videos, and potentially insightful or at least tolerable posts, but not for such personal and life-changing news as that. I do still know the value of real interaction.

That being said, I do have a new, somewhat shameful, secret: 'little Shuffy' (my ipod Shuffle). My brothers gave it to me last year for my birthday, and I used it for both entertainment and motivation. While I was pregnant with Cate, it was especially difficult to motivate myself to clean. So, I would download the FlyLady podcasts and just listening to them would inspire me to do as she instructed. Shine your sink! It will inspire you to keep going. Work 15 minutes at a time, then rest. Tackle those "hot spots" each night and they won't become "4-star alarms." And follow my daily "mission" to systematically go through the house and de-clutter. Little Shuffy got me through the sloth of pregnancy.

After moving to York, I primarily used it for my workouts at the 'Y'. I would download a podcast from BBC and a podcast workout from Podrunner with 140-150 beats per minute. After updating myself on the state of the world from the perspective of the Brits, which usually coincided nicely with the workout becoming unbearable, Podrunner was there to save me. I coped by just ceasing to think. I became merely a beat, leg circle after leg circle (I was usually on the elliptical). The mantra was: just keep up, don't think, just keep going, don't think, just do it..

I loaded Little Shuffy with podcasts and music to entertain myself on the flight to Italy, should the children perchance fall asleep, leaving me awake, and desperate for distraction. Unlikely as it was, it actually happened. Little Shuffy to the rescue again.

Up until now Shuffy has been there to help me, to hold me up when I simply couldn't do it anymore. When I tired of putting the toys away, sweeping the floor, and doing dishes for the umpteenth time here in Italy, I remembered my trusty ipod. I loaded that baby up with music and podcasts on grammar, news, finances, Italian, and prayers. Since then, doing dishes has become a blissful escape. Not only do I learn something and take my mind off the tedious work I'm doing, I successfully tune out children shrieking (I can still hear them, don't worry, they're just less...loud). I used to dread the thirty-five minute walk home from my Italian class. It was dark, cold, and I was bored. Now, thanks to Little Shuffy, I actually look forward to my walk home. It's a chance to stretch my legs and learn something new. Last Monday, I actually walked a few extra blocks just to hear the end of the podcast!

When Matt offered to trade me dinner dishes for getting the kids ready for bed, I jumped at the opportunity. He had no idea how much this pleased me. While he wrestled with kids, changed diapers, read stories, and cajoled them into bed, I got to stand there, tune the chaos out, and listen to something. I can't believe I'm letting my dirty little secret out of the bag.

Well, I think he was on to me, anyway. The offer of a trade didn't last very long.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brainwashing at Breakfast

Still flush with excitement over the recent discovery of "water"--it is apparently neither liquid, gas, nor frozen--on the Moon, Matt tries to brainwash our son at breakfast.

"So, Dominic, do you want to build a space ship?"
"Yeah," staring at his granola.
"Are you going to be an aeronautical engineer or astrophysicist when you grow up?"
"Yeah," he doesn't bat an eye.
"Dominic, do you want to fly to the moon with Daddy? It'll be awesome. It's the moon...in the sky!" Daddy clearly displays far more enthusiasm than his son.
"Okay!" After sixty seconds of convincing, he's finally sold. "We gotta get to work." Mr. Boss takes charge.
Adding my two cents, I chime in, "But you'll be far from Mommy."

Then the next day.
"So, you still ready to go to the moon?" Daddy prompts to see if his brainwashing has worked.
"Yeah. We'll go far to Mommy."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Four Star Alarm!!!

Alert: We have lost a ragged pink doggy and an even more ragged blue doggy. These are precious items and a reward will be offered for finding them.

I don't know where, I don't know how. But it's a problem, that I know.

I can no longer put the kids to bed at the same time for naps or bedtime! I must resort to waiting until one falls sufficiently asleep, clutching the sole remaining doggy (blue) or cushioning their head with its shapeless comfort, before I sneak in and pluck it out of their arms so that I can give it to the other child so that they can fall asleep with the precious--and indispensable--doggy.

We tried buying Cate a replacement stuffed animal. It's a plucky yellow ducky that is quite squishy. She likes it okay and will even sleep with it if she's in a happy mood, but if it's been a rough day and she really needs comfort, she goes right for Dominic's doggy. It's hard to defend it as Dominic's personal property when Cate lost her identical (though pink) doggy. What am I to do?

(It's Baby Gund "Spunky" #58377 if anyone ever sees one...)

Buying Furniture for Children's Minds

As I read the twenty or so children's books we have here in Padova, I am struck by the importance they have in the education of my children. At two and half, Dominic can already memorize large portions of stories. Every night he recites the story of Baby Moses/Adult Moses while we flip the pages in his little Toddler Bible. He anticipates the action and can name everything in the pictures. He understands humor and likes rhyme. I am often surprised by the books that become his favorites. They often seem more complicated than I think he should be able to enjoy. Currently, The Saggy Baggy Elephant is at the top of his list.

Stories teach children right and wrong. They should make them love good heroes and despise villains, praising virtue and condemning vice. It is moral training on the most basic level. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with reading a-moral stories. Silly Stories with Bert and Ernie is just that, silly. It may not develop their noble sensibilities, but it does foster a love of reading. I tend to think that this "lighter" reading is just fine, so long as the greater portion of their literature is more substantive. I certainly have a long way to go before having any sort of comprehensive view of children's lit. Thankfully, my future contains thousands more readings of children's books during which I will have the time to ponder these questions (at least between the kids questions of "Mommy, can you count them?" "What's that?" "What's he eating that for?" etc).

Anyway, I was wondering, what are everyone's favorite books from their childhood? Which books are so important or wonderful that you think my children will be deprived if they do not read them?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dominic Funnies

I've been collecting some of the funny things that Dominic has said lately. Here's a little recap of them.

Apparently, he's been assimilating the word "awesome" into his vocabulary:
  • He is about to climb a rock in front of the Colosseum and tells me, "It'll be awesome, Mommy."
  • Same day: "Are you awesome, Mommy?"
  • Then curious if he'll respond, I ask him, "Dominic, are you awesome?"
  • "Yeah...I'm awesome."
  • Same day: "Grandpa, are you awesome?" Grandpa, "Not so much, no. Only God is awesome."
"Can you 'finger out' the tv?"

While smooshing a pillow with all the intensity he can muster, he tells us through gritted teeth, "I wanna break it".

"Mi scusi," he casually says to me, as he tries to open a cupboard.

In an extremely adult way, he says to Daddy, "Let's see what's on here(tv)."

Peering into his pull-up he declares, "There's a lot of money in there!" (I gather that this is because I had explained that they were expensive and cost a lot of money...so he should use the potty...).

"Daddy, you gotta shave."

His most famous declaration of two-year-old will: "I want to not!".

"I gotta catch a bus" - when we were waiting for Matt so we could get on a bus.

"I give it for Catey. She loves me." - Dominic took cookies off the counter. He took one for himself and one for her.

Cate folded her hands at dinner, during the prayer. Dominic looks at her and announces, "Cate prayed a little bit. Yay!" And then he claps for her.

Dominic sneezed a hearty sneeze, leaving little droplets on the floor. He tells me, "There's God-bless-yous there on the floor."

In the middle of the night he somewhat anxiously said, "I gotta find grandma. I gotta find her."

I told Dominic he couldn't have any more juice. A few hours later he's playing with the broken phone in our apartment and starts talking into it. "Grandma," he says, "Can you bring me some juice?...And kalua (granola)?" Then he put in another call to Uncle Stephen. "Unco? Can you bring me some juice?"

When we were talking about my parents coming to Italy, I told Dominic that Grandpa was coming on the airplane in a few days. Dominic says, excitedly, "Grandpa is coming. He's bringing his mower to me."

1st Birthday

A few days before Cate's birthday. I thought you might enjoy seeing a picture from Dominic on his first birthday. They definitely did not get the same gene package. :) I wish we could have had a big bash for Cate's birthday, too. We miss you all.


Address for Packages

We finally got to the bottom of the package mystery. Packages are best sent to the below address rather than our usual address (Residenza Galilei, Via A. Magarotto, 16, 35136 Padova, PD, Italy). It's the other apartment building that has a porter who answers when mailmen buzz...

Amy Gaetano
Residenza G. Galilei
Via Tartaglia, 9
35136 Padova, PD
Italy

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Recap!

Aren't pictures worth a thousand words? Well, I'm going to save you the trouble of reading 75,000 words and have selected the best twenty percent for you to view at your leisure. Lots of things we weren't allowed to take pictures of, so, quite naturally, there are not very many pictures of some of the spectacular things we saw. Let's just say, it was a wonderful couple of weeks with Grandma and Grandpa!

Florence was crowded, rainy, and charming in its artsy way. We enjoyed a very central location and took in the local culture by eating at a late hour without the kids (we went as couples, taking turns watching the kids). The art museums were spectacular, but exhausting, as museums are wont to be.

Rome was, well, really old. It was sweet to see the ruins and imagine a thriving city there at one time, but honestly, Turkey has better ruins. Imagine that, better ruins. :) In Turkey they let you climb all over the ruins and really get close. But Turkey doesn't have the Colosseum or The Arch of Constantine. I really enjoyed seeing in person all of the things that hitherto have only been a page in an art history textbook. The process of getting to the Sistine Chapel was way more complicated than I ever dreamed it could be! We waited in line for 2 hours (our fault for not having reservations...but, as a plus, we went on a free day and saved a lot of money), then we were led through what felt like miles of anterooms gloriously decorated with frescoes, paintings, gold, carvings, etc. before we ever got to the Sistine Chapel. Once we finally got to Michaelangelo's masterpiece, you would have thought that we wouldn't have much art appreciation left in us. The man clapping his hands and bellowing out "SI-lence!" to the hoards below didn't help with that problem. Despite the downsides, however, it was still amazing. I have no idea how anyone, or even a group of people, could paint something so masterful and so beautiful. Extraordinary. St. Peter's Basilica blew my mind. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I love that it is still functioning as a church and not a museum or merely a destination for visitors. It was very prayerful and reverent as well as overwhelmingly beautiful and glorious.

The Colli Hills, about 40 minutes from us, are really quite lovely. It was nice to be out in nature and away from people after so many crowds, lines, and bustle. We enjoyed our hike to the top. Matt was such a trooper hauling Dominic up there in a baby backpack. Grandpa carried Cate in the other backpack and was a tropper too (she's just not quite as heavy). We saw some really gnarly vineyards, olive trees, and a persimmon tree. As a side note, we do not recommend not-quite-ripe persimmons. Psch, eckk, yuck! They taste like chalk and give you the worst cotton mouth you've ever had.

Verona was a charming city. It was a quaint little place full of its own wonders. The entire city is built upon Roman ruins. It has great shops, restaurants, and fun places to see. It was a joy just to wander around.

Lastly, we went to Venice. I know I've already posted about Venice, so I'll keep it brief. We went after a rainy day. The city had a slightly sewagey smell. But despite that, it was still a very endearing city. Because of the ill weather, we were able to walk right into St. Mark's Basilica without waiting at all. That was a miracle. It was a gold, Byzantine wonder. There are mosaics everywhere! According to Rick Steve's, who knows all, of course, the ceiling is as large as a football field and to do the mosaics would be like paving a football field with contacts (but of different shapes, etc!). We also took a boat ride to Murano island and saw a very brief demonstration on glass-blowing. I wish it had been longer because it was really fascinating. Mom and I gave in and bought necklaces with Murano glass beads. They're pretty cool, I must say.

At home, in Padova, we had a little (early) birthday celebration for Cate with a chocolate torte. She sure enjoyed that! It was wonderful to have Grandma and Grandpa here to celebrate it with us.

We had a fantastic time and wore ourselves out with wonder. Now it's back to the everyday grind, which is much less exciting...and exhausting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Almost Back to Normal

My parents have been here for a wonderful two weeks. We did a whirlwind tour of Padova, Florence, Rome, the Euganean hills, Verona, and Venice. Wow, did we see some amazing things! I will have to post more about each of the places individually and put up some of the highlight pictures (this may take awhile to sort out since I took almost 400! Ah!)

We are just about back to normal, or whatever "normal" means around here. I guess it means grocery shopping, cooking, sweeping the floor 4 times a day, taking a trip to the park, and entertaining ourselves. It also means lots of Skype calls to all of our loved ones, since they are not here with us. For Matt, it means leaving the house at 8:30 to get to the library when it opens and spend a full day pouring over Latin making (we hope) discoveries and taking (again, we hope) copious notes on his computer using his newest love, OneNote--the MS Office note-taking/organizing software. Then, after a full day of work, he hops on the 6:15 bus and returns home to a freshly baked supper. kids washed, and a clean house (it's the ideal, anyway).

It has been a real treat to have Grandma and Grandpa here to visit, explore, and help watch the kids. I think Dominic and Cate will go into withdrawal when they leave (we might too, actually). Whenever something is broken, Dominic takes it to my dad and asks him, "Can you 'finger' it out, Grandpa?" We thought he just messed up the word until he was trying to fix his "broken" bread and was vigorously twisting his finger in the middle saying, "I 'finger' it out."

More to come. Soon.