Thursday, September 30, 2010

271/365 - Sam Hosts Downstairs

While we are asleep or out of the house, Sam is confined to the basement - but he shouldn't mind because it is a finished space with all the comforts of home. It's truly "Sammy's Lair", and he takes ownership of his space by "Hosting" visitors.

For example - in the morning, he "works out" with me - while I'm grooving to a workout DVD, he runs up and down the stairs. When Scott brings home the High School Boy's Bible Study Group, he takes up residence in the chair next to the study leader, intently listening, or at least appearing to be involved.

Tonight, as Scott was reviewing the Colts vs Broncos game on the DVR, Sam was there, keeping him company. I joined in and Sam jumped on my lap and proceeded to lick my face. I tried to take a picture of him on my lap, but of course, Sam was very interested in the camera. He finally settled down next to me on the couch.

10.09.30 - Sam Hosts Downstairs


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

270/365 - S'mores with Big Marshmallows

The kids sent me out to the store this evening to buy marshmallow, graham crackers and chocolate. In return, they cleaned the kitchen after dinner!

I found these HUGE marshmallows - Campfire Giant Roasters. Think double size marshmallows.

We roast the marshmallows over the gas stove, burning them for a campfire taste.

10.09.29 - S'mores Time


Back to Italy - What Happened in Modena, July 26, 2010

Continuing on the story of our trip to Italy. Please note that I am still only on Day 2 of the trip. At this rate, I'll still be recounting the trip a year from now! For previous entries, click on this handy-dandy Italy Trip Link

We followed the road signs to the “Centro” of town. [We found the road signs very helpful while navigating the cities we visited – when in doubt, head towards the “Centro” and you’ll get there]

We parked by the city park, on the edge of the "medieval or historical" center and set off to find a place for lunch – accomplished by Dawn asking complete strangers on the street.
[Dawn is not shy when it comes to talking to complete strangers – she had her Italian phrase cheat sheet in her camera bag.]

Of course, some of the details are always “lost in the translation” (Like the word “coniglio”, which means rabbit, but for some reason, we thought it meant “expensive” – imagine the quizzical looks on the Italians when we asked if a certain item was “coniglio”).

We were able to wind our way through the streets of Modena, but could not find the restaurant we were seeking. Until we walked around the block twice, and then down a random side street and viola – there it was!

Of course, I don’t remember the restaurant’s name – there are no big, neon lit signs in front of most establishments here. We enjoyed our meal with our funny server – to read about that, you’ll have to head over to my photography blog where I originally outlined our lunch experience when the trip was still somewhat fresh in my mind!

But I won’t leave this post without new pictures....

Gates to a private courtyard:

Looking into the Modena Duomo through a side window:
Through the Duomo Window

Before we headed back on the road, we knew we should all “go to the potty” and I had spotted a sign for a public “WC” in the park area. And thus we experienced our first paid WC encounter. Very bizarre and not such a good deal at 1 Euro for a trip to the loo. I’ll admit, we shared…..
We Paid 1 Euro to Use This Thing


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

269/365 - El Juggo

Brian's latest masterpiece - El Juggo, an Ugly Mug, created in art class, using coils of clay and paste.

10.09.28 - The Ugly Mug

The mug's smile incorporates Brian's signature "buck teeth".


Monday, September 27, 2010

268/365 - Autumn Sunset

I love days like today - sunny and crisp with just enough clouds in the sky to make things interesting.

10.09.27 - Autumn Sunset


Sunday, September 26, 2010

267/365 - Sun Beams

Our first real fall-like day, complete with bands of clouds that let the sun's rays pass through, beaming down on the prairie fields.

10.09.26 - Sun Beams

It's days like today that make me appreciate the flatness of this area, and the beauty from its simplicity.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 266 - Soccer, More Legos and Fall Festival Recap

It's Saturday, which means soccer. This morning's game was scheduled for 8:30, so I didn't get my long run in this morning. The weather was perfect - a crisp 50 degF and sunny.

I positioned myself along the Teams' side of the field, which is the east side. So much better for taking pictures of the action.
10.09.25 - Address The Ball

The green team won again, 4-0. Erica had a couple of opportunities to score on goal, but it didn't happen - she played the wing position towards the end of the game.

After the game, Brian set out to complete the Medieval Market Hotel. Once he finished, he set up market square scene and we took a picture of it. Oh, I stand corrected - Brian took the picture. We set the camera on the tripod and he clicked the remote control.
The Medieval Market

Last night, Brian's school held its Fall Festival Fundraiser. Games, dunk booth, inflatables, silent auction, raffles and lots of goodies. Erica served as a Middle School National Honor Society volunteer all night, working several of the games, and the Face Painting Area.

And she coerced Brian into her Face Painting area so she could paint a skull on his cheek. I was amazed by their cooperation!
Face Painting
And the finished product -
Finished Art Work
It was a great event and lots of fun!


Friday, September 24, 2010

265/365 - Medieval Market Lego Details

Brian has the Blacksmith house finished and set up little street people from the Medieval Marketplace. I love the details of this set. Even Erica started to play with the characters in the street.

Street Scene

The Fish Monger

Knights Carry The Treasure

Tomorrow Brian will complete the Hotel. I'm sure I'll take pictures of it, too!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

264/365 - 1600 Lego Pieces

With some of his birthday money, Brian ordered one Lego set from (and I thought B&H Photo’s on-line store was dangerous – but this one certainly tops it, or at least it seems more dangerous for an eleven year old Lego fan). The package arrived today and Brian got right to work putting together the 1600+ pieces of the Medieval Market Village. At the end of the day, he had the bottom section of the Blacksmith shop put together. The buildings are hinged to open and close, giving you access to the details inside as well as outside.

10.09.23 - 1600 Lego Pieces

If he doesn’t put it all together by the end of the weekend, we’ll have to move it to the dining room table as the cleaning lady is coming on Monday. But he may just get it all done by then!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

263/365 - The Details

Upon tucking Brian into bed last night, I again bemoaned, "Oh, how can my Baby be Eleven years old now?". This statement is usually met with an eye roll of sorts or a pillow over the head. But last night, as Brian was reading a book (Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters), he simply ignored me.

I looked over at my "baby boy" and marveled at his eyelashes and the spray of freckles across the bridge of his nose. I knew then I needed to capture these details before they faded away. And he let me take his picture today.

10.09.22 - Eyelashes and Freckles

What details do you want to remember? Make sure to capture them now.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

262/365 - Look Who's Eleven

I say this every year with Brian -

"How can my Baby be [insert current age here]??"
10.09.21 - Birthday Boy

Sigh, they grow up so fast.

To celebrate, we ate dinner out and Brian ordered his traditional Fish and Chips. He's so predictable!


Monday, September 20, 2010

261/365 - Party Remnants

Well, not 100% true. These discarded balloons are scattered on the grass because of the winds Saturday afternoon, before Brian's party. I had planned on a water balloon toss contest, but when the wind took them away, I punted on that plan.

But I liked how colorful they looked in the grass. And that glob of light green was some silly string from the party - a gift from George.
10.09.20 - Party Remnants


Sunday, September 19, 2010

260/365 - Fresh Basil

The warm spell has caused my basil plants to produce huge leaves, even this late in the season. I'm lazy - I don't use the basil in bulk until late September, when I'm ready to make a big batch of pesto, which means I am constantly pinching back the plants to prevent them from going to seed.

I hadn't planned on making any pesto today, but when I pinched back all of these gorgeous leaves, I went ahead and made a small batch.

10.09.19 - Fresh Basil

Hopefully I have more time next weekend to make a Big Batch of pesto. The weather forecast calls for hot weather, so I expect a great crop of leaves.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 259 - Soccer, Silliness, Cake and Dating Perspectives from a 5th Grader

Another Saturday in September, meaning another day chock full of activities.

I got up and ran 6+ miles.
Then I cleaned out the pond - I didn’t work on it last week, so this week there was a lot more to clean out.
Scott and Brian went to the football game.
I took Erica to her soccer game. In today’s game, she acted as one of the Team Captains (meaning she and two other Team Captains get to observe the starting coin toss). During the game, she played defense and wing positions, giving her ample exposure to the ball. The team won 3-1 against a strong opponent.
Over the Shoulder

After the game, I vacuumed the basement, family room and kitchen, in preparation for Brian’s big bash later on. Then out to the store to buy treats, food and (most importantly) the cake. I ended up with two cakes – an ice cream cake and a chocolate sheet cake. How I ended with two cakes would take too long to explain – just chalk it up to my poor planning skills and a picky birthday boy.

Before you could say “what time is it”, the doorbell started ringing with parents quickly depositing their kids at my door. The reality chaos of eight boys running around hit me like a tornado. Thank goodness for that bounce house! And the plethora of stuff we have in the basement. At least boys don’t go around screaming like girls do. Sometimes they will even sit still long enough for you to take a serious picture:
All Smiles

As long as you let them goof off, too:
Silly Gift Openers
They make the most interesting faces at this age – no “trying to be a cool teenager”. Adorable.

What I enjoyed the most was the conversation the boys engaged in as I drove them to the Laser Tag place.

“I heard that Alec is crushed because Emily broke up with him!”
“Were they going out together?”
“Yeah – for 15 minutes! Then Emily broke up with him…..”
“I would like to go out with Olivia, but I am WAY too scared to ask her. What if she says no? I’m just too scared.”

I, of course asked the question “Are you guys going out on dates with these girls?” and the answers I received: “Oh, we’re not old enough to go out on a date! We can’t even drive! In 5th grade, you get to hold hands and hug. In 6th grade, you might get to kiss on the cheek. I can’t imagine kissing a girl on the lips – I think that’s what you get to do in 7th or 8th grade. Eww!”

Ah, out of the mouths of babes.

As the Laser Tag attendant (a young, cute 17 year old lad) so succinctly summed up, “Things were so much simpler at the age of 10.”

Yes, indeed.


Friday, September 17, 2010

258/365 - Start of A Fun Weekend

Neighbor Bob is so nice to allow us to use his bounce house this weekend. The special occasion – Brian’s 11th birthday party. Somehow, I got roped into hosting 8 boys (including the birthday boy) for a sleepover party. I’m expecting nothing but high energy from the group, so hopefully, the bounce house will help them work it off.


Bounce Up and Down


For Today - September 17, 2010


Outside my window.... the combines are harvesting corn and beans, taking advantage of this beautiful end of summer day – clear blue skies, mid-seventies.

I am thinking.... September is more than half way gone? How did that happen?

I am thankful for…the changing seasons and all that comes with it.

From the kitchen…I need to make my big batch of sweet basil pesto this weekend. I hope I can squeeze it in on Sunday.

I am wearing…jeans and a dark brown tunic.

I am creating … still working on those Italy pictures! The last day in Florence – will I ever get it done??

I am going…to pick up the Bounce House this afternoon in preparation for Brian’s birthday party on Saturday.

I am reading…nothing right now, with the exception of the blogs I peruse. I need to get started on the Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

I am hoping…I can get it all done this weekend. So much to do.

I am hearing…my current favorite song – Uncharted by Sara Bareilles. And I am hearing it played in my head. Favorite line in that song –

Compare where you are where you want to be and you’ll get ... nowhere

Around the house…I need to vacuum the basement and family room so the boys sleeping over on Saturday won’t breathe too much cat hair in!

One of my favorite things…Pumpkin Spice Coffee for this time of year!

A few plans for the rest of the week…Book Club tonight, Then Running, Soccer, Cleaning, Brian’s Birthday bash, complete with Laser tag, bounce house and sleepover on Saturday. I think I’ll collapse on Sunday!

A picture to share -
Mostly Pink
After a prolific start, the hydrangeas faded quickly in the heat of the summer. Then the blooms started to dry and turn a deep pink, almost rust color. A sign of the impending fall.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

257/365 - Open House

It was Open House night at Brian's school. The last one we'll do at his current school! I think the highlight of the evening was the boys playing on the jungle gym:

10.09.16 - Yoga Poses?

Goofy kids!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

256/365 - End of Fall Baseball

Tonight's game ended the Fall Baseball season, and the our 2010 baseball experience. The boys won their game, and the coach placed Brian 2nd in the batting line up, so he was able to bat three times (three walks, although on one of the walks he was hit by the pitch, so I'm not sure what that's called).

This Fall Team wasn't as successful as the Spring Team, but Brian gained more experience playing with bigger kids, faster pitchers without the restrictions of the younger teams.

Brian with one of his coaches, Coach Lon:
10.09.15 - Brian and Coach Lon

And we'll start it all over again in the Spring!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

255/365 - The Tomato in the Sky

At the end of tonight's baseball game, we watched this hot air balloon rise in the distance. It was a perfect fall evening.

10.09.14 - Tomato in the Sky


Monday, September 13, 2010

254/365 - Soccer Practice

More like big sis bossing around little brother.

10.09.13 - Soccer Clinic

Yes, we ended said Soccer Practice after the kids started punching each other.

Next time, I'll just send them out to run a couple miles. That will tire them out enough to hopefully prevent physical blows to each other. Maybe.....


253/365 - The Finished Product

In addition to the color change, Erica picked out new window rods, tie backs and sheers. This change allowed me to channel my inner "Rosie the Riveter", as I broke out the power drill (the new Makita drill I bought for Scott at Christmas) to remove the old and set up the new. I even trained Erica how to use the power drill. I think she felt empowered.

The Finished Product - a nice, calming turquoise (Sweet Rhapsody is the official color - not sure which brilliant marketing guy thought that one up), deep brown rods to match the lamp and pillows. Circle-like sheers.

10.09.12 - New Walls and Curtains

We're not 100% complete with this improvement project, though. She still wants "large polka dots" painted on the walls. Yeah, large circles. I don't think she understands how hard that will be, but we'll give it the old college try.

But I think we'll wait a couple of weeks to recover from "phase 1" first.


Day 252/365 - Soccer, Sax, and Sweet Rhapsody

Saturday, September 11
Today must have been one of the busiest, activity filled days spent at home.

First, I ran six miles.
Then we got ready for Erica's opening soccer game.

Moving Forward

And they start the season with a win. She's moved up in the line up - she's number 8 this year (vs twenty something from last year). Still deep green in color, so in a pinch, she could wear last year's jersey (although if I suggest this, it would elicit the double eye roll response).

10.09.11 - Half Time Rest

Lunch from Jimmy John's and we're ready to start on the home improvement project of the day - repainting Erica's room from the standard "wheat" color to her chosen "Sweet Rhapsody" color, a turquoise / aqua.

A bit of the before view -
The Before Shot

And a curious Sammy checks out our actions:
Overseeing the Activities

While Scott and Erica start the process of painting, Brian and I set off to the music store to set him up with an Alto Saxophone. It's his chosen instrument as he starts 5th grade band.
Budding Musician

We managed to complete the painting in time for Scott and I to attend the Illini Football game.
The After Shot

I haven't been to a game in maybe four years. A perfect night, and the home team won!
Cheering on the Illini


251/365 - The Accessory to Wear This Season

Friday, September 10 -
It's cool enough to break out my newest accessory, the decorative scarf. I see people wear these even in summer, but I just can't. Inspired by Dawn (who bought several in Italy), I bought this one when Erica was shopping at the Aeropostale. I know it's mainstream, (even for my age) because Lands End has them featured on every other page of their Fall Catalog.

10.09.10 - The It Accessory

And lest anyone think that I own a seamless background / lighting setup, I'll confess that I snapped the picture in the master bathroom, against the drywall. I think it works for this simple picture.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to Italy - Family Properties, July 26, 2010

Note: Parts of this post were originally published on my photography blog.

After our trip up the Clock Tower in Fanano, Giovanni led us to the old property where Dave’s Grandmother grew up. Aunt Eva accompanied us, making for a truly memorable experience. Walking up the hill to the property, Aunt Eva, Dave’s grandmother’s sister, refused any offer of assistance – she is a strong, independent woman. We didn’t understand much of what was said between Eva and Giovanni, but her actions told us the story – that she remembered the large Oak Trees. That she remembered the times growing up by the fruit trees and grapevines. That she could see her sister’s husband reflected in Dave’s face.
Collecting Oak Leaves

We loved the old, rustic touches of this property and learned that Lamborghini makes more than sports cars!
Grapes on the Property

Not Just Cars

Next, we visited the farmhouse where Dave’s Grandfather once lived, and where we experienced the gracious kindness and hospitality of strangers. A beautiful woman and her grandmother served us a nice snack, even though we were foreigners and were traipsing around their property. All we could do was smile to show our appreciation.
Telling Her Story

Mid Morning Snack

Finally, we bid our goodbyes to Giovanni and Eva. Giovanni set us on our way to navigate the Italian roads alone, but well equipped to find our way to Modena and then to Cinque Terre.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Back to Italy - Morning Stop in Fanano, July 26, 2010

As time does not belong to me
Although I always tell it,
No certain time is yours, O traveller.
(Fanano Clock Tower, inscription dated October 20th, 1609)

Monday morning comes and we check out of the lovely Gabriella Hotel, but not until we’ve had some breakfast. I opted for a straight up shot of dark, strong espresso to accompany the rolls, muesli and yogurt.
Starting the Morning With A Jolt
Breakfast Conversation

Before leaving, we (Dawn and I) get to check out the hotel’s wine cellar and the other sections of the hotel grounds. I would be happy to stay another day, but we have a full day of travel ahead of us – we will visit the commune of Fanano, head into Modena and drive 3 hours to the west coast – to the Cinque Terre.
Wine Selection

The Courtyard

The Gabriella Hotel

It is a beautiful, cool morning in the mountains, and the Hotel Gabriella peeks out at us as we drive away, a ray of yellow through the forest of green.
The Hotel On the Hill

Giovanni leads us to our first stop in Fanano, where we meet up with Dave’s Aunt Eva. We walk into the town square, quite conscious of our “tourist” appearance (again, no Asians around in these parts). I snapped pictures of some of the local goods before we come to the large clock tower in the far corner of the town.
Eva and a Friend

The Streets of Fanano


Dried Porcini

What Time is It?
Some information about the Clock Tower and Palazzo Lardi, taken from a website on Fanano
Standing at the beginning of Via Sabbatini, it was built in 1340 as the headquarters of the Infantry Corps, later served as a gendarmerie with prison, and then became a private residence. In 1433 it housed Cosimo de’ Medici during his exile from Florence, and in 1439 it gave accommodation to Pope Eugene IV on his return from the Council of Ferrara. In the XVI Century the facade was decorated in Tuscan style, with the fine main doorway. In 1607 it was purchased by Pietro Lardi, a nobleman of Ferrara sent to Fanano by the Este family as Commissar; the building is still owned by the Lardi family. The adjoining Clock Tower, which once guarded the gateway to the castle, was raised in 1609 to create space for the mechanism of the clock with bell, the work of a skilled local craftsman. The Tower is still owned by the Municipality and was completely restored during 2005.

Admiring the tall clock tower, we are surprised when Giovanni appears with a set of keys, which he uses to open up a door at the base of the structure. We climb the steep stairs up and up through the structure for our own private tour.
Heading Up The Bell Tower

Looking Down

A beautiful view from up top – and then the bell started to chime – it’s 11am.
View from the Bell Tower
Looking down at The Church of San Silvestro

It's Loud When the Bell Chimes

Clock Gears

The Bell

Upon leaving the Bell Tower, Dawn notices the plaque above the doorway we entered through:
The Plaque above the Door

Oh, how fortunate we were to have Giovanni as our tour guide in Fanano.


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