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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day of 2009

I slept a bit better last night, although I woke up at 6am ready to start the day. I was able to go back to sleep and finally got up at 9am.

I headed out on another bike ride. It was 5 celcius outside. I didn't realize it was drizzly until I was already on the road, so I decided to make the best of it. My legs were sore for the first 20 minutes or so, but they warmed up and I had a good ride until the turn around point. That is when I began to get really wet. I was fairly warm overall. My legs stayed warm as long as I pedaled. My feet were the problem. I need to buy some cold weather booties to my cycling shoes. Anyway, it was a good last ride for 2009. I rode 1082.88 km in 2009. Thats not bad, but still pretty low. Thats 672.87 miles. I plan to double that in 2010.

Wow, what a year we have had. Here is a quick summary of the last year:

One year ago today we were at the Sabo's home in Carbondale CO getting ready for a New Year's Eve Bunco Party.

We moved to Italy in April. We've lived here for 8 months living our daily lives Italian style. We've also traveled so many places: Pavia, Torino, Como, Bellagio, Verenna, Bergamo, Verona, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Montepulciano and other Tuscan hill towns, and Milano - all in Italy. We visited Zermatt, Murren, and Lucerne and Lugano in Switzerland - and viewed my new favorited mountain, the Matterhorn. We visit mad king Lugwig's Neuschwanstein castle in Germany, enjoyed beer gardens in Munich, a castle in Heidelberg and many castles in the Rhine River valley. We also visited Amsterdam Holland. We saw the sights of Salzburg Austria, as well as rode on alpine slides and visited a salt mine in the countryside. In Slovenia we visited Bled and Lubljiano. We visited the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and other sights in Paris France.

So many places and so many wonderful memories.

So, what does 2010 have in store for us? Well, in two days we fly to Paris again, but this time to visit Disneyland Paris for a few days. We also plan to do a week long loop through Switzerland. We plan to visit Rome, Cinque Terre, and hopefully some bits of southern Italy and revisit Tuscany in the spring. We would like go back to Slovenia and head down into Croatia. We want to do weekends in Prague and Barcelona.

We have been given an amazing opportunity to live here in Italy and we are trying to take advantage of as much as we can.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2010 and hope to see many of you when we visit Corvallis in February. Happy New Year to all of our friends and family in the US and here in Italy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rainy Wednesday

I didn't sleep very well last night. I ended up on the couch watching TV until 3am, then slept in until 10am. Katrina said she got up thinking she would get an early start on her day and realized she had slept until 9am.

I had a plan to go for a bike ride this morning. I haven't ridden in about two weeks, a combination of holiday lazieness, snow and below zero temperatures. So, my ride today was a bit shorter than my usual 40 km. I rode 33.7 km, turning around at the beginning of Lurago di Erba rather than the far side of Lurago di Erba. My legs were tired and sore. Its amazing how quickly they go lame on me after just two weeks off. I know I will recover quickly and be doing my normal rides quicker. I started getting drizzled on during my ride home and ended up getting pretty gritty and dirty from all the road crud. My new layered jacket is great and kept me much warmer, although I still need to wear the shell jacket when it gets wet outside.

Katrina and I must have been on the same wavelength. When I arrived home she asked me if I wanted pizza for lunch because she did. I had passed a few people carrying pizza boxes during my ride and was thinking pizza sounded good. So, I showered and went over to our neighborhood pizzeria to pickup two pizza's da port via (to go). I had a Quattro Stagioni (olives, mushrooms, procuitto, and artichokes). Katrina had a Marinara con mozzerella. She really likes the marinara pizzas. They come with marinara sauce, olive oil, oregano and other seasonings - no cheese - but she usually requests mozzerella.

We thought about going into Milan again this afternoon, but once it started raining we changed our minds. Instead, we headed to Cinesello mall to shop for clothes. Brandon is growing to fast and needed some new pants and a couple of new shirts.

On the way home we stopped at the local gelatteria on our street for a tasty treat. We haven't been eating as much gelato lately. In fact, the last two weeks have had zero increase in our weekly gelato count. That is a first for us. Katrina and I both had cinnamon. Wow, that is a great flavor. Brandon had amarenna (vanilla with cherry sauce mixed in).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lugano Switzerland

We woke up with a plan to visit Lugano Switzerland today. We left the house around 10am and arrived in Lugano just after 11am. Yes, Switzerland is only a one hour drive from our house.

Lugano is the largest city in the canton of Ticino, the Italian-speaking province of Switzerland. It has a population of 53,000 and is located on the shores of Lurago di Lugano. Lugano is the crossroads of the William Tell Express and the Bernina Express, two of Switzerland's most scenic train rides. Most residents of Lugano speak Italian.

After finding a parking garage, we wandered down the waterfront in search of the starting point for the Rick Steve's walking tour in his Switzerland guidebook.

Statue of George Washingon. I'm not sure what significance it has here in Lugano.

Lurago di Lugano - photo by Brandon

Katrina the photographer. I really like this shot of her - photo by Brandon

Lurago di Lugano - photo by Brandon

Sculpture along waterfront - photo by Brandon

Lugano - photo by Brandon

We would eventually make our way to this mountain to ride the funiculare, only to find it closed for the season - photo by Brandon

Once we found Piazza Cioccaro, we followed the self guided tour in the book. The guidebook pointed out old shops and the Grand Cafe' al Porto, the most historic cafe in town, opening in 1803. It was in this cafe that Italian patriots met to plan their next moves to unify Italy. It was also here that US dignitaries, Nazi representatives and Italian representatives met to organize a smooth end to the war and German pullout of Italy. And, Clark Gable and Sofia Loren had coffee here.

Christmas decor - photo by Brandon

Swiss Army Cow

Swiss Cheese Cow

This place was very busy!

Oranges are in season in the south of Italy and can be found in all the markets

Our next stop was Piazza della Riforma. Lugano is the most liberal voting city in Switzerland, as the name of the piazza suggests. From here we made our way past the Church of San Rocco and on to Parco Civico.

Church of San Rocco. Inside are frescoes dedicated to the saint responsible for protecting the city against the plague.

Villa Ciani, which houses the city museum and is located in Parco Civico

Views of Lurago di Lugano from the park

The park is full of many unusual trees

We stopped at a very nice playground so that Brandon could play. What a beautiful day. The sun was shining brighly and it wasn't too cold. Many Italians visit Lugano due to its high number of sunny days, a break from the grey bleakness of northern Italy in the winter.

We tried to take a funiculare ride up Monte Bre', but it was closed for the season. Brandon was a bit bummed, but I know we will be back this spring or summer.

On our way back into town we stopped for Kabab sandwiches and ate them in the park. Brandon also got a little more playtime. Walking through the park I noticed a young guy drinking Dr. Pepper. We decided I should check a supermarket before we left town, but then I forgot. Dr Pepper is second only to Coke, but is not available in Italy.

Making our way back towards the parking garage, we stopped at the Church of St. Mary of the Angels. This church dates back to 1499 and was part of a monastery.

Church of St. Mary of the Angels

The Last Supper 1529, Bernardino Luini. He was nicknamed the 'Raphael of the North'

The Passion and Crucifixion of Christ 1529, also by Bernardino Luini. This painting is considered to be the finest Renaissance fresco in Switzerland.

My favorite sculpture. I just like the bold red

Katrina and Brandon goofing off in my shot

The waterfront park had a lot of interesting sculptures that I thought were fantastic.

We had a great time in Lugano and definitely want to go back. We are already thinking of a spring or summer long weekend. Lugano just adds more points to my ranking of Switzerland as my favorite European destination.

My top 5 European destinations as of today:

1. Switzerland
2. Bled, Slovenia
3. Munich, Germany
4. Venice, Italy
5. Verona, Italy

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vet Appointment

I had an appointment with the vet this morning. It was originally scheduled for last Monday evening, then the snowstorm hit, so I had to reschedule.

The vet office was recommended to us by one of Katrina's coworkers at ST. It is a small office, but they were very efficient and helpful. Stevie was given his annual rabies booster and a general checkup. No problems. I was in and out of there in 15 minutes. I loved it. And it only cost 40 euro. I cannot remember a time when a vet visit was anything less than $100 in Corvallis. That vet charges $60 just to see the pet.

I need to check into a pet passport. Having one and getting it stamped by the vet makes for less paperwork when travelling from country to country. Although it is likely that the only other country Stevie will travel to is back to the US.

We decided to go out for lunch and thought Cinese sounded good. Unfortunately, our the restaurant that we usually eat at was closed. We found another Cinese restaurant closer to home and it was open and served very tasty food. Katrina had pollo con curry, I had pollo mandorle and Brandon had soup.

We had planned on going bowling but the lanes did not open until 3pm, so we headed home for a couple of hours.

We went bowling this evening. Bowling is fun, even Italian style (which is the same!!) Brandon bowled a a great game. Katrina and I did ok. Katrina thinks I have the Sloma bowling 'genes' since they are from the midwest and all bowl. Maybe I do, maybe I don't. She also thinks I should get a bowling team together when we move back to Corvallis. I thought it was funny at first, but now that I've had time to think, it actually sounds fun. Guys night out! Beer, bowling, fried food. Who's in?...Andy?....Errol?

Katrina and Brandon just made lemon bars for our movie this evening. We are going to introduce Brandon to an American classic - The Sound of Music - since we visited several of the locations in Salzburg this past August.

Later in the evening...Well, we watched The Sound of Music. We really enjoyed seeing the familiar sights and locations from our trip to Salzburg. It made the film a lot more fun to watch. Brandon was excited about seeing the sights, but the story was a bit boring for him.

Tomorrow we are waking up early and heading to Lugano, Switzerland for the day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Metro Musical Stairs

Twas the Day After Christmas...

And all through the flat, not a creature was stirring, not even the cat.

We had a nice Christmas day at home yesterday. Brandon spent much of the day playing with his Lego train, and the evening trying to build an electromagnet from plans in his Dangerous Book for Boys.

This afternoon we drove over to Sesto and caught the Metro into Milano, getting off at the Duomo stop.

The stairway out of the Metro had these musical steps. Brandon was excited because we had seen something like this on Youtube. He played on the stairs for quite awhile.

Katrina wanted to visit an art exhibit in Pallazo Reale. I agreed to go toy store hunting with Brandon. We found the toy store but it was closed for the day, so we made our way back towards the Duomo.

Apparently Superman had business in Milano.

Once in a lifetime opportunity to ride a pink snail.

Only in Milano can you spot Superman and ride a pink snail!

We ended up wandering around the Christmas market until Brandon spotted cotton candy. He 'had' to have cotton candy and I relented.


We met up again with Katrina and walked down Via Dante through the very crowded Christmas market. It was soooo crowded. Italians were out in force, shopping and strolling. Near the Castello end of Via Dante they had a Christmas tree with several bicycles setup around the tree. The bicycles created power for the lights. Brandon jumped on one of the kid bikes and rode like he was in the Tour. He even got some 'Bravos' from people watching.

Riding a bike to light a Christmas tree

We spotted a City Sightseeing bus drive by. We've been wanting to take the tour for quite awhile now, so we chased it down and finally caught it in front of the Castello. We took the one hour tour, seeing a few sections of the city we had not seen before. Many streets were lit up for the season. After an hour on the bus, we ended up back at the Castello after dark.

Castello lit up for the holidays

There were two of these streetcars sitting in front of the Castello - obviously sponsored by Coca Cola. At selected times you could sit with Santa and have pictures taken.

Making our way back towards the Duomo on Via Dante, we stopped to enjoy some Arancino di Riso's. They are rice battered cheese and procuito, or rago (meat sauce), that are deep fried and make a tasty (and cheap) dinner treat.

Looking down Via Dante towards the Duomo. The red tree on the right is the one that is lit by bicycle power.

The Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo with the Galleria in the background.

The Duomo

Katrina and Brandon at the Duomo Christmas tree.

We also checked out the inside of the Galleria. The shops were closed, but the glass canopy roof was lit up with Christmas lights. We followed the light displays to the streets behind the Duomo then entered the Metro for the ride home.

Lights inside the dome of the Galleria

Streets behind the Duomo

Friday, December 25, 2009

Brandon's Christmas


Brandon woke us up at 8am. I thought he would be up earlier. He was excited and wanted us to get up. We have a white Christmas...sort of. There is still a moderate amount of snow on the ground from our Monday night snowstorm, although its been raining off and on for the last 48 hours.

We did get up. Katrina made some tea and we settled in to open presents. Brandon had the most, of course. He received some great presents from Meemaw, the Sabo's, Rosella and us. Unfortunately the gifts from my family did not arrive in time for Christmas. I guess Brandon has something to look forward to, possibly next week?

We made Brandon open a specific gift from us last. He opened it and found train track. He was a bit confused. He really wanted a Lego ICE train for Christmas, and we bought it for him, but we kept it hidden since such a big box would have been obvious to him. Katrina told him to look behind the couch and he was all smiles. He got his wish and spent most of the morning putting it together. Its an RC Lego train with sound and lights. He's already decided that this will be his new display at train shows when we move back the the US.

Katrina made a quiche for brunch. I helped by chopping all the veggies for her. It was delicious.

Brandon spent much of the day playing with his Lego train. We also watched Ice Age 3 this afternoon. Cute, but not as good as the first two.

Katrina and I spent a lot of time reading today. I finished my latest book, Hunting Fear, by Kay Hooper. Now I will start book two in the trilogy, Chill of Fear. Thanks to KC for the books she loaned Katrina. I'm enjoying some of them as well.

I made Bacialli con sugo di funghi for dinner this evening. Basically, its potato gnocchi with mushroom and shallot sauce. Tasty! We enjoyed some salad and Amarone wine with it. After dinner we had our first slices of Panettone, a very popular holiday cake here in Italy. The supermarkets aisles are stacked with boxes of these cakes. I saw people with 5, 6, and more of them in their shopping carts. They are a very light cake with candies fruits, nuts, chocolates and many other fillings.

I thought it was tasty, but agreed with Katrina. She thought it would be really tasty with the rum sauce from my Mom's rum cake recipe. Brandon didn't care for the cake all that much.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve and the Pizza Bread House

I was the first one up this morning. It rained throughout the night, but there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground this morning. Our snowman was still standing, but he lost and arm and his eyes.

I woke up on the grumpy side of the bed. I'm not sure why, but I felt on the tense side all day. Katrina thought it would be good for all of us to get out of the house, so we headed to Monza for some shopping and lunch.

We checked out the Christmas market, where Brandon bought a pretzel. He's been eating one each time we visit Monza. We checked out a few stores and ended up at a book and media store to buy some DVD's. We bought: The Santa Clause, NCIS season 5, The Sound of Music and Little Miss Sunshine.

Lots of candies and fruits to choose from at the Christmas market.

After shopping we headed to a pizzeria for lunch. We spotted the Mittermeiers leaving the pizzeria as we arrived. One of Brandon's best friends here is Amelie Mittermeier. We had a great lunch. Katrina and I each had pizzas and Brandon had pasta con pomodoro.

On the way back to the car we stopped at the Christmas market again and bought a snowman ornament and some Christmas candies and chocolates. The chocolate covered cherries are fabulous.

Katrina and Brandon worked hard on a homemade gingerbread house. It's our Christmas Eve tradition. In the past we have always bought a kit. Not here in Italy. I had to do some creative grocery shopping. I tried to find large flat cookies and failed. I ended up buying pizza crackers. They made great walls and the roof. I also found different cake decorating candies, gumballs and ice cream cones for trees.

The basic shape of the house is complete. The walls are made of pizza crackers that give it some Italian charm.

Brandon working on the house

Mixing more frosting

While the frosting 'glue' for the walls was hardening, we watched The Santa Clause. It was good, but not quite as good as I remember it.

Once the movie was over, Katrina and Brandon finished the "Pizza Bread House". It looks great!!

Completed Pizza Bread House

Now we are watching Ice Age 2.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas Eve...Buon Natale.