About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Colorado Trip

We are in Colorado for Christmas. Its been a busy 4 days getting here.

We started on Saturday with packing and taking down our Christmas decorations. We didn't want to leave the tree up with the cat all alone in the house for two weeks.

The trip to Colorado was a bit longer than usual. We drove an extra 500 miles to avoid bad winter weather. It made for a long 3 day trip, but we managed and arrived in Colorado with no problems.

The first part of the week was spent with my family in Colorado Springs. We stayed at my sister Heather's house. Tasha was introduced to Rizzo, her new 'sister' that she will be living with for the next two years. She also figured out how to negotiate stairs. Its hard on her. She has arthritis in her front legs, so going down a flight of stairs is a little painful for her.

Christmas Eve was spent with Brooke, Jason, Tanner, Nana and Papa. We had a nice Italian dinner at Zio's then went back to Mom's house to open presents. Brandon came home with the mother load thanks to Nana and Papa.

We woke up early on Christmas day to open presents. Brandon and Dylan had the biggest piles, of course. The afternoon was spent with Heather, Rob, Dylan, Nana, Papa, Dee and Denny. We had an early afternoon dinner of fried turkey and all the fixings.

On Friday we met our good friends Jack, Sharon, Pam, Ron, Jackie and ? at a local Mexican restaurant. It was great seeing all of them and catching up on our lives. Rob and Dylan joined us as well.

Saturday morning we went over to Mom's house. Aunt Jane was expecting us at 10am. We had a nice visit with her. It's always interesting to hear her stories from long ago. She looks pretty good for 88 years old. Mom had sandwich fixings ready for lunch at her place. Katrina spent several hours fixing Mom and Dad's laptop. I ran over and got a much needed haircut, then Katrina and I ran a couple of errands. I accidently bought a movie theater gift card for Mom and Dad to theaters that no longer exist in Colorado Springs. We called while we were shopping and gave them a choice: a new gift card or a gig of memory for their laptop. They chose the laptop upgrade. The evening was spent hanging out with Mom, Dad, Brooke and Tanner.

When it was time for Brooke and Tanner to go home, Brandon had his first major crying of the trip. He didn't want them to leave. Mom and Dad joined us for dinner at Pei Wei and then came the second wave of crying. Its tough to leave family after such a nice visit.

On Sunday morning I packed up the truck while Katrina had an Italian lesson. We said our goodbyes to Heather, Rob, Dylan and our pupster - Tasha. Round 3 of crying for Brandon. I was sad, but not as emotional as I thought I would be about leaving Tasha behind. The hardest part was Tasha following me to the door each time I took a load out to the truck. She knew we were heading somewhere and thought she was going with. We left Colorado Springs and headed for part 2 of our trip, four days in Carbondale with Laurie, Jeff, Logan and Josh. Along the way we stopped in Fairplay to visit our friends the Vice's. We had a late dinner with a little to much 'spiked' egg nog - 2 bottles of egg nog + 1 bottle of red wine divided by 4 adults. We ended up watching Xanadu (I think you need to be a bit tipsy to watch this one) and didn't get to bed until almost 1:30am.

Monday was a lazy day at the Sabo's. We mostly hung out at home. Brandon and his cousins played in the snow and around the house. Jeff and I took a trip down to Glenwood Springs to run a few errands. Laurie made corned beef for dinner and we watched another movie. I think its called "Without a Paddle".

Tuesday was officially gift card day at Target. The three boys had Target gift cards from Christmas. We went to lunch at Beau Jo's for pizza, then headed to Target. Brandon ended up buying a Pokemon Ball and another Lego Indiana Jones kit. I think he has 4 Indiana Jones kits now. Laurie made a big spaghetti dinner and invited Jeff's sister and family, his uncle and nephew, and Uncle Gid and Aunt Sharon over. After everyone left we finished off the evening with another movie, 'Just My Luck'.

Wednesday was a day of hanging out at the house. I had an Italian lesson in the morning. Brandon and I dug a snow tunnel and built a fort in the afternoon. Katrina and Laurie went out for a sister's lunch. The late afternoon was spent getting ready for the evenings New Year Bunco party. What a blast. We had about 35 people show up. Food, drinks and Bunco set the tone for the evening.

Thursday was spent recuperating from the party and cleaning up. We spent some time cleaning up after the party. The morning was also filled by a game of Monopoly with Katrina, Ryan and Logan. I was the first one out and Katrina was the winner. Today was a snacking day. No meals were eaten, which is bad. I think you eat more when you snack than when you eat meals. Dinner turned into more snacking and then the drinking began. Mix Master Jeff was having fun coming up with all kinds of drinks and and several shots - names of which will not be repeated in this blog. We ended the night watching Blades of Glory.

On Friday morning we packed and hit the road by 9:30. It was a pretty uneventful trip home. We hit snow and ice near the Utah/Idaho border. We made it to Twin Falls on Friday night. On Saturday we hit snow packed roads over Santiam Pass in Oregon. We finally arrived home tired but happy at 5pm.

Vacations are great. Road trips are fun but tiring. Driving to Colorado in the winter is not that fun. Its good to be home...


It's time once again for another Italy update. Today's theme - FRUSTRATION. Katrina's work permit was supposed to be signed and ready to go on the 16th. That did not happen. The government official needed more paperwork. HP supplied the paperwork on the 19th. Still no work permit. Now they want a copy of the HP contract with the Italian company it is doing business with. This is not finalized yet, so our moving to Italy will most likely be delayed again.

We have already started preparing for our move. I've been getting the house ready. We've been packing some of our belongings that we are storing ourselves. We are in this grey area between just going on with our lives in OR and getting ready for a move to Italy.

This has me a bit on edge and not happy not knowing what to do or not to do....FRUSTRATION.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I've now made it easier for readers to leave comments on my blog.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Snow Day

We woke up to 4+ inches of snow this morning. Once again, enough to close schools here in Corvallis. Brandon has been to school a total of 1 1/2 days this week.

Brandon wanted to go sledding first thing, so we dressed and headed over to our new favorite hill, Long Hill near the country club. There was great packed powder with about 25 or more people sledding and having a great time.

I decided to try a video of Brandon sledding and hit it just right. He came down the hill and hit the small jumps. It was great.

We had a great time! Later in the day the Noel's came over to the hill. The boys were not fond of the sledding or the cold. Makenna and Brandon had a lot of fun though.

A snow day is a great day!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Italian Lesson #2

Ciao. E una bottiglia di vino. Wine, that's what my brain needs after lesson two.

We spent the first part of the lesson reviewing lesson 1: objects, colors, etc. Lesson 2 was all about counting to 10: zero, uno, doe, tre, quattro, cinque, sei, sette, otto, nova, dieci. I also learned the words di vino bianco (white wine), di vino rosa (red wine) di spumante (champagne), aqua, birra, bottiglia (bottle) and a few other words.

Its a pretty intense 1 1/2 hours for each lesson. I have homework as well.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lessons in Patience - Italian Style

Well, the big December 16th date has come and gone. We did not wake up with news from Italy that Katrina's work permit was issued. Honestly, I tried to keep it out of my mind most of the day.

This morning Katrina called from work to give me an update. Olga (our Italian representative) sent her a message that there has been a new wrinkle in our plans for a work permit. She apparently spent a great deal of time at the permit office doing her best to convince them that why we need a work permit. Apparently they have some issues with HP employees working on location at another company. The Italian government has been very strict lately concerning matters like this. Another formal document from HP had to be obtained and the paperwork has been resubmitted. We shall see.... At least they didn't formally reject the work permit.

I'm learning patience Italian style. I have learned that specific dates in our timeline aren't necessarily set in concrete. Its taken me a few steps in this process to learn to just go with the flow. What happens, happens.

I must also admit that I am now a little nervous that our move to Italy may not happen. We shall see....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Italian Lesson #1

I had my first online Italian lesson today. It went pretty well even though I was pretty nervous. I've only taken one semester of language, Spanish, in the past and it didn't really go all that well. The positive thing for me is that this is for fun and for learning to be a part of the Italian culture when we live there. Its not for a grade! That takes some pressure off.

I learned quite a few names for objects....ie: book, chair, coffee, dog, cat - libro, sedia, tazzo, cane, and gatto....as well as many others. I also learned the basic colors.

We are learning one on one with a live instructor online. It is done almost all in Italian, so it takes some time to understand an follow along. The instructor uses pictures and a white board to help the process along.

My next lesson is on Wednesday. I need to do my homework and listen to the recording of my first lesson before then.


Monday, December 15, 2008


Continueing on with our snow day. Brandon and I decided to go check out a sledding hill that one of Brandon's classmates told us about. It's in a neighborhood near the country club, just above Brandon's school.

When we arrived we found about 20 or more people cruising down the hill. Its actually a street, Long Hill, that the parents close off with cones to allow the kids to sled.

Brandon was actually a little timid on the first two runs. He doesn't sled very often. On the third run he got a nice long straight shot down the hill and came back smiling. He was hooked and became a bit of a daredevil from that point on. He even raced some of the big kids down the hill and actually beat them a few times.

Brandon did have three crashes. On the first one he hit someone on the way down who didn't move out of the way fast enough. This left Brandon crying for a couple of minutes. He was hit in the head.

The second crash was into the ditch. Uneventful.

The third crash was a bail out because he was heading off course towards a line of bushes. He bailed and rolled a couple of times.

He has so much fun he wants me to take him back later this afternoon.


We had a snow day today. We don't get much snow in Corvallis, so when it does snow it usually shuts everything down. We had about 4 inches of snow last night and now all the schools are closed. Tasha loves the snow and will roll and lay in it for hours.
Brandon went outside to play with Vivian and Jada. They have a small slope in their yard, so they tried sledding down it. Very short but sweet.

Looking west up Windflower Drive. This is just about the most snow we will get at any one time. Usually it will start to melt by mid or late afternoon. I'm not sure it will this time. The high today is only supposed to be 32 degrees.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Holidays

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


It snowed last night! I woke up in the middle of the night and went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. It was snowing outside.

This morning we woke up to about an inch of snow, mostly on the grass, trees and bushes. Brandon was so excited when he woke up that he immediately asked to go out and play. He grabbed some clothes and proceeded to get naked and change clothes right at the front door.

We all went outside to play. Brandon and I had a snowball fight. Katrina grabbed her camera to take some fun pictures. Tasha rolled around in the snowy yard.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

KINK FM Holiday Concert

We went to Portland on Friday night for the KINK FM Holiday Concert at the Roseland Theater. Its a benefit concert for the Oregon
Food Bank.
Our friend Andy bought the tickets and drove. We were able to see a great lineup: Matt Nathanson, Amos Lee, Augustana and The Pretenders.
Of course, Matt Nathanson was our favorite. He opened the show with a half hour set....far too short for me and Katrina. He was as entertaining, funny and musically great as the last time we saw him....only a month ago in Eugene (where he headlined and played for 2+ hours).
Amos Lee was good. He had a different blue and southern kind of sound. Not my favorite, but he was still very good.
Augustana also played about a half hour set - all acoustic. We all felt they got shortchanged and should have played a 'plugged in' set with the full band. They seemed to struggle a bit with the lack of acoustics in the building, but they still sounded great. Great enough that we downloaded a bunch of their music from Itunes earlier today.
The headline band for the evening was The Pretenders. They really rocked. The played a lot of new songs that we were not really familiar with. Their old 80's hits really got the crowd going.
Overall it was a great and late night. I think we got home at 1:30am.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Italian Language Lessons

HP has several benefits for us to take advantage of before and during our time in Italy. Language lessons are one of them. We each get up to 150 hours of language instruction from Berlitz Language services. They have language centers all over the US and internationally. They offer classroom and online instruction. The local office is in Portland. Since Portland is about 2 hours away, it is really not that convenient to drive there 2-3 times a week.

Thankfully we can do it online. Its a live session with a real instructor. We had to download some 'classroom' software and purchase a better headset/microphone.

I registered this week and have my orientation session this morning. After that, I can schedule language sessions as much as I want to. They suggest 3 90 minute sessions a week.

Katrina and I will begin working on the lessons this next week. Since the online program is not setup for children, we will wait until we move to Italy for Brandon to begin lessons. He also gets 150 hours of language lessons. Fortuanately Berlitz has a language center in Monza Italy, where we hope to live. Brandon will also have Italian lessons three times a week at the International School he will be attending.

Our Italian adventure begins in approximately 7 weeks...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Corvallis Society of Model Engineers

I've been a member of the Corvallis Society of Model Engineers for about 7 years now. Its been fun belonging to a group of great people who love to model trains, have years of knowledge and skills to share and are just fun to hang out with.

Every year we hold our annual open house on Thanksgiving weekend and the following weekend. We average over 1000 visitor each year and collect about 2/3 of our annual budget for the next year from the entry fees.

We are an HO scale (1/87th) club, the second largest in Oregon.

In 2009 the club will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. That is a pretty impressive milestone for a model train club, or just about any sort of organization.

I've had the priviledge of acting as president of the club twice, in 2005 and currently in 2008. Its been fun helping direct the activities and future of the club.

With our upcoming move to Italy, I will be stepping down as president for 2009. I fully intend to find a model train club to join or visit in the Milan area. I hear there are 2 or 3.

Weight Watchers Update 7

I had my latest Weight Watchers meeting this morning. I lost .6 lbs this week, for a 7 week total of 11.4 lbs lost.

I had a bit of a rough week last week. I used all of my points and only went over by 2, but I didn't make the healthiest or most satisfying choices. I also missed 2 days of exercise due to lack of motivation.

It's a new week and I will continue to go forward. I already exercised today. Its best when I do it first thing in the morning.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Italy Update

Time once again for another Italy update. The timeline I posted in my last entry is already proving to be fairly correct.

The relocation representative, George, booked plane tickets and accomadations for our 'preview' trip to Italy. We will be leaving on Saturday 1/10 and will return on Saturday 1/17. This is pretty exciting for us, especially Brandon and I who have never been to Italy.

We will spend our time looking for apartments, visiting the school Brandon will be attending and looking around at various areas of Milan.

Once again, all of this is subject to final approval of the work permit on 12/16.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Italy Update

Ok, its time once again for another Italy update. As usual, I must say that nothing is 100% yet and I've learned over the past few months to roll with the punches.

We have an unconfirmed schedule of events.

2 weeks of school/work/and moving prep
2 weeks in Colorado for Christmas
1 week of school/work/and moving prep
1 week in Italy for preview trip
2 weeks of school/work/and moving prep

Important Dates

December 16th: we hope to get final Italian approval for Katrina's work permit.

December 22 - January 3rd: Colorado Christmas vacation

January 10 -17: Preview (house hunting) trip to Italy for all three of us.

February 1: Move to Italy

I can't say it enough, but this is just our tentative schedule that is slowly looking more and more likely. The work permit and Colorado vacation dates are the only two items that are 100% as of today.

We'll keep you all posted.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Italy Update

Two weeks from today, on the 16th, we find out if Katrina gets her work permit for Italy. Its just a waiting game at this point. Once we know we will set up our preview trip, probably the week of 1/10 - 1/17, apply for our visa's, register Brandon for school and start thinking about packing for storage and Italy.

Its just patient waiting at this point......

Weight Watchers Week 6

I had my latest WW meeting on Monday morning. What should have been a tough week ended up being my best week and biggest weight loss to date. I lost 3.6 lbs for a total loss of 10.8 lbs to date.

I decided after last weeks meeting that I needed a plan. I knew I was close to the 10lb mark, but it would need to be a big week. My goal and focus: I reminded myself how much better I would feel if I reached the -10lb mark than how I would feel if I overate on Thanksgiving.

I had a great Thanksgiving. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, snacks, wine, and pie. All of this with moderation. I even walked/ran on the treadmill Thursday morning. Thats a first for me. That breaks one of my oldest rules "excuses"....holidays are a day off, so no exercise is needed. My reasons for doing it were: 1) It was only 40 min of my day, and 2) it would give me extra points I could use for all the food of the day.

Overall, I'm very please with my success. Now I need to focus on the next 10 lbs. That is my goal each time, no more or I just get overwhelmed. Hey, 10lbs lost is a moderately sized turkey!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Camping at the Coast

We drove out to South Beach State Park on Friday morning. It's amazing how many people camp on Thanksgiving weekend. We found a nice campsite and setup our trailer. It felt good to be using it again. Its been awhile....I think it was June since we last used it. We've been busy with travelling, work and life in general.
After setting up we took a walk out to the beach. It was cloudy but not too bad. I thought it would be cold, but it was actually pretty nice out. After walking for an hour or so we hopped in the truck and headed into Newport. Our destination, the Newport Cinema. Brandon and I went to see Bolt while Katrina saw Twighlight. We all had a good time.
Brandon had a rough night. He threw up all over his sleeping bag. What a mess. So, our first stop on Saturday morning was the laundrymat. I kept busy with my book while Brandon and Katrina played Pokemon. Brandon was back to his normal hungry self. For lunch we stopped at the Rogue Brewery. Katrina really loves the beer cheese soup.
The afternoon was spent at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We haven't been there in quite a long time.

Their feature exhibit was Oddwater. We think its a perfect exhibit for Brandon!
We woke on Sunday to sunny skies and a beautiful day. After packing and winterizing the trailer, we took a nice walk on the beach. Wow! This day was as good as or better than some of the summer days at the coast. Tasha had a good time rolling in the sand. I had a good time watching the waves. Katrina had a good time taking a lot of pictures. Brandon had a great time playing near and in the water.
It was great having some family time in our trailer. I will miss it while we are in Italy, but it is nice to know it will be waiting for us on our return.

Thanksgiving with the Noel's

We spent Thanksgiving with the Noel's again this year. Last year we did it at our house. This year was at their house.

We had a wonderful time. The kids played, the adults attempted to talk over the noise of the kids. There were great snacks and drinks leading up to the big meal. Since I am focusing on losing weight, I did a great job of staying within my Weight Watchers points. My focus was that I would feel better reaching my -10lb goal than I would feeling like a stuffed turkey on Thursday evening. It worked.

This year I am thankful for my friends, family and for the comfortable lifestyle we enjoy, even in these bad financial times. Oh, and we are going to Italy!!