Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 29 and 30, Days 239, 240/365

It's the end of August. I'm hoping for some cooler weather!

But on Sunday, I enjoyed a chocolaty, whipped yogurt.
10.08.29 - Dessert

Truthfully, at first I was grossed out by the concept of the "whipped yogurt". Eww. My paradigm - yogurt should be thick, rich and creamy. But the chocolate whipped yogurt is like a mousse. And tastes like it. It's my new favorite dessert.

Monday, August 30 - another baseball game, this one at Travis Field, out by the cornfields. The farmers have started the harvest process already.
10.08.30 - Early Harvest


August 25 - 28, Days 235 - 238

Wednesday, August 25, Day 235 -
During a lull at tonight's baseball game, I wandered over to the city pool, struck by the emptiness there. A sign of transition away from summer.

10.08.25 - Nobody At the Pool

Thursday, August 26, Day 236 -
Must read books! The third installment of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been sitting on the kitchen island for at least two weeks. No time to read. And Jill was nice enough to pick up the newly released Mockingjay today. I think I'll read Mockingjay first, as it will probably be the easier read. With a 3 day weekend coming soon, it actually might get done!
10.08.26 - Must Reads

Friday, August 27, Day 237 -
George slept over tonight, and the boys set up in the basement.
10.08.27 - Sleep Over Prep

Saturday, August 28. Day 238 -
Erica and Jen at the local corn festival. Jen's cheerleading team was selling draft root beer and cheering on the crowd. Lots of fun!
10.08.28 - Sweet Corn Festival Goers


Friday, August 27, 2010

August 21-24 Photos - Days 231-234

I'm starting to skip more days as I head into the last part of year two, taking a picture a day. Really, I'm feeling a bit "pictured out". I'm pretty sure, however, that the feeling is temporary, and with the onslaught of fall, school, soccer, football and other "fall" things, I'll snap out of it.

But on to pictures captured last week.

Saturday, August 21, Day 231

Another "normal Saturday" of running, yard work, and housework. Oh yeah, Erica experienced her first "rock concert" - she went to see Selena Gomez perform at the local State fair. She had a great time, but didn't take any photos!
Brian took advantage of his sister not being around to get into a water fight with the boys next door.
10.08.21 - Ready for Battle
I'm not sure who has the upper hand here, George or Will.....
10.08.21 - Who's WInning?

Sunday, August 22, Day 232
Hey, who's that in the mirror? That would be me. I love the morning light in the bathroom.

10.08.22 - Self Portrait

Monday, August 23, Day 233
Baseball game tonight. Brian's team won easily (at times the innings seemed to go on and on and on). Scott started a new "tradition" of taking the crossword puzzle to the games. We work on them together, and it's quite interesting some of the answers we come up with. (Like tonight's "Woodland Creatures" - Scott insisted the answer had to be "bees". Umm, I don't think so!).
10.08.23 - Doing the Crossword

Tuesday, August 24, Day 234
I drove out of my way this afternoon, but picking up the first batch of Honeycrisp apples and an apple pie was totally worth it! So yummy and a great harbinger of the fall season just around the corner.
Bushel and a Peck Web


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back to Italy - Hit the High Road to the Mountains near Sestola

Sunday morning arrives and we’re not sure what the plan is – until I receive a phone call from Dave’s cousin, Barbara. They will meet us at the airport, at the rental car counter around noon, and we will drive up to the family farm house near Sestola.

Another plug for Hertz rental car in Europe – they set us up with this HUGE Fiat Doblo. I reserved a mid-size vehicle (the only thing they had available at late notice), and based on the specs listed, I wasn’t sure if it would fit all of our luggage. My only regret - not taking a picture of us by the car.

Note – the Thrifty / Dollar Rental Car desk was STILL CLOSED. Never rent from them overseas!!

Barbara and her husband, Robbie, identified us me right away (How many other Asian people have I seen since arriving in Italy? That would be zero. I guess there are advantages to standing out).

We throw our luggage into the huge rental car. We have a little trouble trying to start the darn thing - we thought – cars are different over here – isn’t there a button to push? Something special with the key? We over-thought the process. A rental car attendance thought we were crazy when we stated we couldn’t start the car – he showed us by simply turning the key in the ignition. Wow – this one starts up the same as the cars in the States – how novel!

We follow Barbara and Robbie up to the mountains of the Emilia-Romagna Region. Traditionally a winter ski-resort area, we climb higher and higher through winding roads. We travel to about 5000 ft above sea level, not quite as high up as what we experienced last year in Colorado, but close.

We arrive at Barbara’s family farmhouse, a beautiful property looking out to the mountains.


We are descended upon by the rest of Barbara’s family, just as if we are part of their family – with hugs and kisses on the both cheeks (kiss right first, then left). Barbara’s dad, Giovanni, has picked up Dave and Dawn in Florence and they are on their way! Yay! Oh, but they don’t have their checked luggage! Boo!

The long farmhouse table is set and the food is ready. Scott asks, “Should we wait for Giovanni?”, and the response from his wife, Elenor is “Oh, NO! We eat now!” and she points for us to sit, pours us some wine and starts putting out lots of food, including homemade taggliatelle with porcini, rabbit cacciatore, pancetta, prosciutto, salad, wine and more wine.
Table Setting

Prosciutto and Pancetta

Some Rabbit (Coniglio)

When Giovanni arrives with Dave and Dawn, we all go out to greet them. More hugs and kisses ensue. The last time I saw either Dave or Dawn was in 2004 – way too many years ago. The great thing with friends like them, you can pick up years later right where you left off. In no time, we are all laughing about their travel adventures, about the gorgeous view and taking pictures of it all.

I watch Elenor use a flat grill to make crescentine, a flat bread you eat with various spreads (bacon fat mixed with garlic and rosemary), prosciutto, and pancetta.
Later, we watch Barbara spread some Nutella on the crescentine, something that Scott then tries, and now we have a new Nutella lover on our hands.

We all sit down to eat and talk and laugh
Dig In And Mangia!
Talking with the Hands
Of the family, Barbara is the most fluent in English and serves as interpreter. I love how much she talks with her hands!

After lunch, we take time to explore the grounds, taking lots of group photos.
Dawn and Giovanni

Heading Down the Path
Dave and Scott

Goofing Off
Barbara, Robbie, Dawn, Dave

What Dawn Would like To Hit Air France With

The Travelers
The Travelers

Most of the extended family says their goodbyes (more kisses and hugs), and we follow Robbi and Barbara to Canavare, where we check into our hotel, the Hotel Gabriella. Then we drive to the town of Sestola, a quaint ski resort village to explore, take in the sights and walk off some of that big dinner!

Sestola Tower

The Street Scene

Local Jams

We finish the day with a light dinner at the Farmhouse before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow we will explore the village of Fanano, visit the properties where Dave’s family grew up and then head to the coastal area of the Cinque Terre.

More pictures from Sestola, Fanano and Canavare may be found at my Sestola, Italy Flickr Set.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to Italy - Stuck in Detroit

After our full day of travel, little sleep, revised plans, and good food, we collapse into bed for a good night’s rest, comforted by the fact that we can sleep in tomorrow morning, when my cell phone rings.

You know, I’m always confused when the phone rings in the middle of the night. But it is worse when I’m in a foreign country, in a foreign room and my internal clock thinks it should be up and running around after the cats in the house. Thoughts run through my head - “Where am I? Where’s the bathroom? Is it time to get up? What day is it? Who’s on the phone? What?”

Dawn was calling me. I think “Oh, they’ve arrived in Paris! Oh, no, did we oversleep? Where am I? What?” Then she informs me that they are still in Detroit. Oh. Not Good. More thoughts flash through my quickly awaking mind – “Wait – What day is it? What time is it? You mean I’ve only been asleep for 30 minutes?”

I’m inserting this picture that Dave took of Dawn while they were waiting in the Detroit airport. I think her expression says it all.

Dawn informs me there’s another new plan – their flight to Paris is still delayed and they won’t make the connection to Bologna. But they can make a connection into Florence. We don’t have the rental car yet (note – DO NOT book Thrifty / Dollar Rental Car in Europe – I made another reservation for Hertz. Thank goodness for Internet at the hotel) and feel a little uncomfortable trying to make our way 60 km south to Florence and then trying to drive up to the Sestola area.

Dawn think she can ask Cousin Giovanni to pick them up, they’ll have to try to reach Giovanni and his daughter Barbara.

I’m sure I mumble something incoherent to Dawn, because we hang up and she texts me later – they are finally on the plane and due into Florence at 12:10. I text her back about making sure they route their luggage properly and then try to shut my brain down to go back to sleep.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to Italy - Travel To Bologna - July 23-24, 2010

I'm still only 4 days into the trip pictures, but since it was exactly four weeks ago that we were there, I figured now is as good as any to start with the details of our trip.

Some background - We had been invited to travel to Italy with long time friends, Dave and Dawn. Dave has family in north central Italy, close to Bologna, near the ski town of Sestola. Since Dave and Dawn live in Michigan, they flew out of Detroit while we flew out of Chicago, with the plan to meet at the Bologna airport.

We flew out of Chicago on Friday, July 23, on an evening flight bound to Dublin Ireland. The only issue we encountered in Chicago was the strong thunderstorm that culminated after the hot, humid day, and of course, the thunderstorm rolled in 30 minutes before our flight's scheduled departure. I think we ended up being delayed about 30 to 40 minutes, really not too bad, and since we had a three hour layover in Dublin, we didn't worry.

Upon arriving in Dublin, we passed through customs, then back through security and then back to our gate. We passed by all the Duty Free shopping areas and I noticed the Guinness store - and how could one miss it? A store devoted to the love of Guinness. Of course, I was reminded of my former friend and work colleague, Barney, whose PC screen saver was a video of a Guinness commercial.

For Barney

When we reached our gate, I turned on my cell phone, only to be surprised by the following two text messages.

Sent late Friday night, from Dawn:

Omg. Cancelled flight! We won't arrive until Sunday am. Angry.

Currently plan is to arrive Sunday 11:15 am. Text of call me any time 2 tell us what u will do. Sorry. Call Barbara. U can talk 2 her to make plans.

Ummm, a flight cancellation was not in the plan.....

After some thought, we canceled our original Saturday night accommodations and booked a stay in Bologna, at the airport Sheraton. Our plan - stay in Bologna Saturday and meet Dave and Dawn around noon. Drive up to Sestola to spend the rest of Sunday with Dave's family.

We arrived into Bologna around 6pm. We couldn't pick up our rental car because the "Dollar Rental Car / Thrifty Rental Car" desk was closed! Everything else was open. Well, that's OK, we don't need the car until tomorrow. We can take the shuttle bus to the hotel.

Did you know the Bologna airport sells beautiful cheese and prosciutto? Yummy!
Selection of Goodies - in the Airport

Scott picked up these Ringo cookies because they looked good - and declared that they were delicious!
New Favorite Treat

We finally found the shuttle bus to the hotel, checked in, tried to get the details on the rental car (no luck) and decided to go into downtown Bologna for dinner. The hotel shuttle took us there as the sun was setting:
The Sun Sets Along the Streets of Bologna

We ate at a wine bar, Divini's, in the pedestrian district, near the San Petronio Bascilica.
Downtown Bologna

A Few Menu Items

A Small Glimpse of the Wine Selection

We enjoyed the wine, octopus, salad, bread and dessert. A great start to our Italian vacation.

Unfortunately for Dave and Dawn, they were still back in Detroit....


Thursday, August 19, 2010

229/365 - First Day of School

I now have a big 8th grader and a big 5th grader.

This means two "Advancement" Ceremonies to attend at the end of the school year.

Where does the time go?

Each year, it is getting harder and harder to take their first day of school pictures. But I know in the future, they will be glad I insisted.

Take One:
Not Quite Ready

Take Three or so:
Now He's Ready

At least they are both smiling!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

228/365 - Last Minute Assembly

School starts tomorrow, so we spent this evening assembling the kids' school binders.

But first we had to buy Brian a new baseball bat, new socks (navy blue to coordinate with his uniform), Erica wanted new socks for soccer, and I took advantage of a sale on Under Armor running shirts.

Then it we were off to the Wal-Mart to buy these special folders required for 5th grade, as I had held off buying them until I confirmed what Ms. J wanted. I warned the kids it could be crowded in the Wal-Mart, and they commented "But why? Who is going to wait until the very last minute to buy school supplies??".

Apparently lots of people wait until the last minute to buy school supplies as the store was packed, and we had to pick through remnants of folders to get what we needed. Note to self - never go to the Wal-Mart the night before school starts!

And the binders were assembled with care, the bags filled to the brim with pencils, paper and other "essential stuff".

10.08.18 - Last Minute Assembly

I'll be glad when I can reclaim the Dining table as a Dining table, not a holding platform for school supplies!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

227/365 - School Meet Up Night

Tonight, we went to Brian's school to meet up with his 5th grade teacher, Ms J.

Erica also had Ms. J in 5th grade, and she is a wonderful, energetic teacher. I can't hardly believe Brian is already a big 5th grader. It seems that yesterday he was just a little shaver in Kindergarten.

The event is a big social one - the kids seeing some of their friends for the first time since June, parents hanging out with other parents, older students returning with their younger siblings.

And an opportunity for the boys of the family to act silly.
10.08.17 - Silliness at Meet Up Night


Monday, August 16, 2010

226/365 - Fall Baseball

After a short break, baseball is back in swing, this time with the Fall Ball league. Brian is playing on the "Thunder" team, in the Suited League. Tonight, their first game of the season.

The hot, hot, hot weather of last week has been replaced by cooler, perfectly crisp temperatures. But I thought it felt slightly chilly in the shade tonight. At a perfectly chilly 80degF! What does that tell you?

And for the Thunder, down 9-4 in the bottom of the last inning, it wasn't looking good. But the boys rallied and put 5 more runs on the board to tie things up. Brian hit a nice one out to center field, bringing in one of those runs.

Brian determined that he needs a longer bat. After striking out once, he switched to one of his teammates 30" bat and successfully hit the next two times at bat.

10.08.16 - Start of Fall Baseball


Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Weekend - Days 224-225/365 - Around the House

Our first weekend home in over 3 weeks. And 4 weeks ago, I was frantically getting ready for our trip to Italy. [Note - I am still working through the pictures from that trip! I think I am half way through. I will finish them soon - I promise!]

As a result of the hot, hot, hot weather, and our lack of attention to the landscaping, the weeds have now grown to over two feet tall and I am sure the neighbors are all wondering if we will ever do any yard work.

It's just been too hot!

Fortunately, last night, a big rain storm came through. And it was cloudy this morning, which kept some of the oppressive heat at bay. It was still humid, but since I was already dripping wet after my morning run, it really didn't matter. I started clearing away the massive amounts of weeds by the pond, in the front and on the side of the house. I ended up cutting most of the squash plant down, too.

10.08.15 - Weeds Be Gone!

The weeds came up nicely because of last night's rain. Otherwise, I think Scott would have just taken the weed whacker to it. Of course, now we have three big piles of weeds on the patio. Time to get some landscaping waste bags.

After weeding, I took Erica shopping at the Outlet Mall. I managed to buy a pair of jeans, a cute scarf and a cool new kitchen tool - a Microplane!

10.08.16 - New Kitchen Tool
I used it to grate fresh ginger and it totally rocks! I don't know why I waited so long to purchase one.

And for dinner, Brian helped set the table, and when I instructed him to "fold the napkins", he decided to fold all of them into origami fortune tellers:

10.08.14 - Place Settings
They looked really cool on the table.

We cleaned, we ate, we watched TV the rest of the weekend. I went grocery shopping. We enjoyed our weekend at home.

(Did I mention it was hot? Waiting for cooler weather so I can wear my new scarf - please come quickly!)


Friday, August 13, 2010

223/365 - Cider Donuts

Last night I posted on Facebook that I was enjoying my first Apple Cider Donut of the season. And let me tell you, it was delicious! I think I had two....

This morning, it was Brian's turn.
10.08.13 - Enjoying the Cider Donuts

Oh, wait, he ate two last night.....

From the local orchard. Scott bought fresh Ginger Gold apples, too. Nothing beats apples fresh off the tree.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

222/365 - The Neighbor's BMX Track

Note - we love our neighbors. They are our friends and so much fun - they let me photography their house, their beautiful flowers (tons of iris in the spring) and now their impromptu BMX dirt track.

10.08.12 - The Neighbor's BMX Track

The track exists, not by design, but out of necessity, as they are starting the process of putting in a pool. How cool is that! They had an option to move out of the neighborhood, to build a new house on a new property, but they stayed instead.

And instead of bemoaning the fact that their backyard has been torn up (and it's been this way for over a week now), they've turned it into something fun for their kids.

Did I mention how much fun our neighbors are? And how lucky we are to have them around?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

221/365 - Random Stuff In the Landscaping

I admit it - our landscaping is a big mess. Weeds everywhere. I'm too tired, and it's too hot to deal with it. Next year, we need to put down the mulch!

We even have a large vine producing squash in our front yard. From a seed that Brian planted last fall. Amazing what can pop up and grow.

10.08.11 - Random Things Growing in the Landscaping


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

220/365 - School Supplies

School starts next week, so this afternoon we visited our favorite Wal-Mart store, armed with lists from each of the kids' schools. $100 later, we have 99% of what we need (or what the schools want - I don't know how my daughter could really need 3 dozen ink pens).
10.08.10 - School Supplies


Monday, August 09, 2010

219/365 - Tax Free Shoes

The state of Illinois is giving us a little break this back to school season - Tax Free purchases of clothes, shoes and other school necessities. But local county taxes are still in effect, so in reality, tax reduced, not completely tax free.

But still a reason to go out and buy a new pair of running shoes, because I've started to experience some pain in my feet and I'm hoping I'm just at the end of the usable mileage on my old shoes.

10.08.09 - Tax Reduced Running Shoes


Sunday, August 08, 2010

August 1 - 7 Summary (Days 211 - 217)

Scott and I returned home on Sunday, August 1, arriving into the hot and sticky O'Hare airport. When we pulled into the driveway, we could tell it had been hot and dry while we were away - the lack of green grass was the giveaway. Hey, at least there's less to mow.

Erica and Brian were glad to see us. Really!
10.08.01 - Home Entertainment

We unpacked, distributed gifts and started laundry. We had only one "fatality" in our luggage - the cute divided dish I purchased in Montepulciano. I'm planning to glue it back together. Everything else - the 3 bottles of wine, the bottle of balsamic vinegar, the cheese - all survived the trip (and customs!).

Scott and I collapsed into bed around 8pm, only to be wide awake at 5am [really, not too bad, considering I get up at 5am at least twice a week].

August 2 -
At work, my newly carpeted office, with newly arranged furniture was waiting for me:
10.08.02 - My Newly Arranged Office Awaits Me
Previously, the desk was close to the door, now it is next to the window. I moved out the week before we left for Italy in order for the carpet to be installed and as a result, purged several binders and files from the desk. Let's see how long I can keep it this clean!

August 3 -
Did I mention how hot and humid the weather has been? So humid that the windows were covered with condensation this morning. Yuck.
10.08.03 - Way Humid

August 4 -
Oops, no picture, but I registered the kids for school today. In the sweltering heat and humidity with no air conditioning. Still, I am thankful that Brian was assigned to the same 5th grade teacher Erica had, Ms. J, who I love.

August 5 -
Brian's last day of Sports Camp. We've been very happy with this camp - they use the beautiful facilities at the University and many of Brian's friends also attended. Brian swims every day, and started to fashion his swim gear into "swim dude":
10.08.05 - The Towel Guy

August 6 -
Another road trip! This weekend, to St. Louis, and Six Flags Amusement park, where our company picnic was held. We drove up late Friday night, passing through St. Louis. Fortunately, the traffic slowed down enough for me to snap this photo from the car on the highway.
10.08.06 - Passing through St. Louis

August 7 -
I don't take my big camera into the park anymore. Heck, I don't take anything I can't fit into a pocket. The park policies with loose articles have become so restrictive that I don't bother. I did take some pictures with my iPhone: The kids strapped in to ride "Mr. Freeze"

And even after a full, hot day of waiting in lines and rides, the kids were playing in the pool at 10pm:
10.08.07 - Late Night Pool Action

We drove back home on Sunday, starting the unpacking and laundry cycle all over again.


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All images on this blog (unless stated) are the intellectual property and copyright of SLPhotography and shirley319 (© 2009, 2010). Do not steal, borrow or pirate the images here.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) prohibits the use of digital property to be used without the consent of its owner.

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