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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

March!...Where did February Go?

We woke up to sunny skies in beautiful Vedano. The forecast says it will reach 60 degrees today. It already feels warm in our apartment.

I made a run to Auchan this morning to pickup some sour cream. Its the only place I have found it. We are doing Mexican for dinner tonight and Mike will be joining us. Its English movie night in Monza, so Mike and I are going to see Sherlock Holmes.

I drove Katrina to work today. I'm not sure why? I had it in my mind that she could ride home with Mike, since he is coming over for dinner. I don't really have anything I need to do that required the car.

Time for a bike ride. I wonder how it will feel after two weeks off?

Well, I had a good ride. My legs were a bit tired and out of form, but I did ok. The snowcapped Alps in the distance were magnificent! I love sky blue days like today. I did overdress a bit today. Too warm for the clothing I had on, but I didn't feel like stopping to take off a layer.

Brandon had a pretty good day a school. This is Reading Together Week at school. The 4th graders read to the 2nd graders this morning. I hear that Brandon did a great job.

Katrina got a ride home with Mike since he was coming over for dinner anyway. I made fixings for burritos and beef fajitas since we have a block of cheddar cheese that we brought back with us.

After dinner, Mike and I went to see Sherlock Holmes at the Monza theater. Mondays are English movie night. One film is shown in English each week. In the past they have been movies that have been out much earlier in the US, but this film is a pretty recent release.

Weekly Count

45 Week Gelati Count: 195
45 Week Wine Bottle Count: 52

Katrina Arrives Home

I had another night of restless sleep, although it is slowly getting better. I fell asleep at 9:30 when Brandon went to bed, but wokeup around midnight and ended up watching TV for a few hours. Once back in bed, I was able to sleep until 9am this morning.

Katrina will be arriving back home in Italy today. Her plane is scheduled to touch down at 11:40am. Brandon and I are looking forward to having her back with us.

We left for the airport at 11am. The airline website said her flight would be arriving at 11:49am. She actually called us around 11:40 and said she was in and would meet us at the Hertz office. We had to return the rental I had and pickup the new rental under Katrina's account. When I turned my keys in we asked if we could keep the same car. I had a Lancia and it only had 1300 km on it. They did let us keep the same car, so that is nice. It is basically brand new and is quite nice.

Katrina and Brandon spent the afternoon watching A Series of Unfortunate Events. I think Katrina needed some quiet time. Brandon was so excited to see her that he talked her ear off all the way home from the airport. The movie was a 'quiet' diversion.

I guess I was tired this afternoon. Katrina finally gave up and went to bed. I was on the couch trying to watch West Wing and fell asleep for about an hour.

Katrina brought a book back for me that I had been wanting, Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Repair. Several friends have told me that it is considered the 'Bible' of bike repair.

I just sliced up a bunch of fresh pineapple. Tasty! The downside; I noticed that the tag on the pineapple said "Product of Chile". Wow, another big earthquake. My thoughts go out to the people of Chile.

I remember the earthquake that hit Seattle several years ago. I do not recall what year it was. I think it was before Brandon was born. Anyway, I remember sitting in the back room of our house in Corvallis, chatting on the computer with a friend in Tennessee. The monitor started shaking. I turned around and the window frame seemed to be moving in the opposite direction of the back yard fence. It only lasted for about 10 seconds, but it was a bit freaky...and a little exciting. That was from an earthquake over 200 miles north of us. It's hard to imagine being in an earthquake the size and magnitude of those that hit Haiti and Chile.

It's good to have us all home together again.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

First Bike Ride

Brandon and I slept in a bit this morning. He was up first and tried hard to get me up. I had another bad night of sleep. I was awake for a good part of the night - not even tired, feeling wide awake.

I base this sleeping problem on the following theory: 1) Arrived home from US with jetlag. 2) Got sick and spent most of the week in bed sleeping more than I should during the daylight hours. 3) Because of this day time sleeping, I didn't adjust to Italian time very well. 4) Now I am feeling better but my body still has not adjusted to local time. Conclusion: I need to stay awake and active the next couple of days so that I adjust back to local time.

Brandon and I wanted to do something today. What? We didn't know. We thought about going to Como, by car or train. Been there, done that a few times. We thought about going to Bergamo. We thought about going into Milan but couldn't think of anything new to do down there. We ended up going for a bike in Parco di Monza.

This was a great choice. Our first bike ride of the year (I've been riding on my own). We rode through the park and into Villa Santa for lunch at a Cinese restaurant I spotted quite a few months ago. We are always up for Cinese. Unlike Mexican food, there is plenty of Cinese and most of it is very good. This restaurant was pretty tasty, but not quite as good as the one closer to home. It was still fun to try a new place.

After lunch we hopped back on our bikes and took a cruise through the park. Ugh! Two weeks off the bike along with sickness and some weight gain add up to some uncomfortable riding.

I've been trying really hard not to obsess about my weight since we arrived in Italy. In the months leading up to our move I lost 20lbs doing Weight Watchers and was able to keep it off for the last 7 months and that was good for me. I rode my bike and didn't think about my weight too much. In the last three months I have slowly gained all 20 lbs back. Now I am thinking about it.

This evening Brandon and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I just needed some fresh air and though a walk would be nice.

We just received a text message from Katrina. She was checking in for her flight back to Italy and found out that the plane is overbooked and she doesn't have a seat assignment. Bummer.

We just received another text from Katrina. She was able to get a seat on the flight, so she should arrive on schedule tomorrow.

Friday, February 26, 2010


It's Friday. It was lightly raining when I walked Brandon to school this morning.

Well, this week can officially go in the books as one big lost chunk of my life. I spent most of it sick and much of it sleeping.

Today was no exception. Although I am feeling better today, I am completely worn out. My stomach still has some rumblings, but overall it is better. The achiness is gone as well. Despite all this, I still took a nap for most of the afternoon, waking up in time to pickup Brandon at school.

Wow, what a beautiful day. It was sunny and in the high 50's this afternoon. Brandon and I decided to stop at our neighborhood gelatteria on the way home from school. Even though food in general sounds really bad to me, fruit and ice cream sound refreshing. I had a small cup of bacio and Brandon had a small cup of fruiti di bosco and menta. Tasty! The gelatteria was busy, a result of the nice warm day.

This evening I took Brandon to our neighborhood pizzeria for the Marinara pizza he had been looking forward to.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I slept much better last night, only waking 2 times that I can remember. This morning, when it was time to get up, I started feeling bad again. My temperature was up, even after a cool shower, and my stomach was churning something fierce.

I drove Brandon to school and came back home to camp out on the couch for a second day. Once again, I had trouble getting comfortable and coudn't focus on any TV shows, so I moved to the bedroom. I ended up sleeping from 11:30 - 3pm.

When I woke up I really didn't feel any better, but I had to pickup Brandon. Off to school and home again. I'm not sure what kind of bug I caught, but its a nasty one.

Apparently there was a majoy oil spill on the Lambro River here in Monza that is affecting a large portion of the Po River.

This evening Brandon and I hung out at home. I was still feeling sick. Brandon was a great kid and kept himself busy with Legos and reading.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Roughest Night

Well, here I am at 1:20am. I went to bed with Brandon at 9pm and was able to sleep for about an hour before waking up to an extremely upset stomach. It had been bothering me through the evening. Now, I was also very achy. I managed to sleep for short periods, but my body just hurt. (I did take something at bedtime.) I wokeup again about 20 minutes ago feeling nausaus and a mixture of hot and cold. Time to check my temperature - 101.8. This sucks.

- Up again at 2:30am...

- and 3:45am...

- and 5:15am...

- and 6:45am.

I feel like s@#t! My stomach feels very upset and my body just aches and aches.

I drove Brandon to school this morning, all three blocks. I just didn't have the strength to walk. My plan for today is to camp on the couch, sleep and watch TV.

It tried to watch some TV but just couldn't get comfortable on the couch. So, I moved to the bedroom to get some sleep, stopping in the bathroom to take some Nyquil. I ended up sleeping from 10am - 3pm. Wow, two days of long naps.

This evening I was able to eat a little bit. I had some crackers, and later I had an orange.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rougher Night

I had a lousy night of sleep last night...dang jetlag! I wasn't able to fall asleep until almost 2am, then wokeup at 3am, 4am, 5am and 6am. Once again, Brandon seemed to sleep just fine. I hope that he is less tired today and has a better day at school.

Its rainy again in Vedano. The forecast is calling for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 52.

Brandon woke up pretty easily this morning and seemed like he was in a good mood when I dropped him off at school.

Today was a lost day. After I dropped Brandon off at school, I returned home to eat some breakfast and go for a bike ride. After breakfast I was having troubles focusing, so I decided to take a short nap on the couch. I'm really having troubles with jetlag. The next thing I knew, the alarm for picking up Brandon was going off. I slept for 4 1/2 hours. I am still so very tired. I hope this doesn't make it hard for me to sleep tonight.

I had a nice chat with my Mom and Dad on Skype this evening. They are both home sick with colds. They moved into a new apartment last Monday and are really liking it.

Brandon and I made brats and french fries for dinner. The brats tasted great! We finished off the evening with gelato.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rough Night

I had a rough night of sleep last night. I woke up at midnight, 3am, 4am and 5am. Thankfully Brandon slept through the night.

It is difficult to believe that it is the last week of February. Where did the month go? Where did the last 10 months go?

Brandon had a little trouble waking up this morning. He wasn't grumpy at all, just tired even though he slept for 11 hours. I'm very proud of his attitude since we arrived home.

It's raining today. I don't plan on doing a bike ride. I just don't like riding in the rain. I've decided to start walking on rainy days, so I will head into the park later today.

I went grocery shopping at Auchan this morning. We needed to stock up on a few things since we were in the US for a week.

Whew! I am tired this afternoon. Jetlag sucks! I sat down on the couch to do some reading and ended up falling asleep. Its a good thing I set an alarm to remind myself when it was time to pickup Brandon at school. I think I slept for almost two hours.

Brandon was in a good mood when I picked him up this afternoon. He did tell me that he had a bit of a rough day because he was tired. He had fun giving all his classmates boxes of candy Valentine's Day hearts. Several were eating them on the way out of school.

Brandon's first Mindstorm creation - Shooterbot

Brandon and I made hamburgers, mushrooms and mashed potatoes for dinner this evening. After dinner we watched 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'.

Weekly Count

44 Week Gelati Count: 193
44 Week Wine Bottle Count: 51

Arriving Home in Italy

We touched down in Amsterdam at 8am. Amsterdam was so foggy you could barely see out the windows of the plane. The wonders of technology and landing an airplane in heavy fog are amazing.

We made our connection with only 15 minutes to spare. The lines for passport control were crazy long. We were finally diverted into the Priority/First Class passport line when they announced that all 9:30am flights should head that way. If we hadn’t, we would have missed our plane.

The flight to Milan was only 1 hour and 20 minutes long. So, our total flying time was only 11 hours.

In fact, our flying time to Milan was less than our time getting out of the Malpensa airport. We touched down at 11am in beautiful sunny skies and amazing views of the Alps.

The first delay was at baggage claim. It took almost 45 minutes for the luggage to start appearing on the conveyer. The second delay was at the Hertz office. The relocation people had Katrina down as the primary driver, so they almost didn't rent the car to me. It took awhile, but we finally worked it out.

We finally arrived home around 2pm. Brandon was eager to open and play with his Lego Mindstorm. I did a little bit of unpacking then helped Brandon out. We both acknowledged that we were suffering from jetlag because we were both annoyed at little issues with the Mindstorm programming. We finally constructed a level one robot, so Brandon went on to turning it into the second recommeded robot. Very cool.

This evening we made gnocchi with pesto sauce and relaxed before bedtime. Its been a long day and we are tired, but doing our best to stay awake until bedtime.

We had a great trip to Corvallis. For me, it was a little strange to 'be home' but not really 'be home'. I was also initially bothered by the 'country' feel of Corvallis. I've grown accustomed to the urban life here in Milano. As our stay progressed I relaxed a bit more and began to think about life in Corvallis once our Italian assignment is over. It will be good.

We arrived hom

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Flying Home

Today Brandon and I fly home. Brandon was very upset and emotional this morning. Its tough! He really wants to stay here in Corvallis. We finally had to leave around 8:30am.

Katrina would be driving us to the airport. Brandon was upset, but slowly calmed down as we headed north towards Portland. We stopped at Target in Wilsonville so that Brandon could buy some Puffles for his friends in Italy. I also bought the first two seasons of The Big Bang Theory.

Katrina dropped us off at PDX. Brandon and I checked in and found our gate. We had 45 min before boarding, so we grabbed a bite at Wendy’s. Brandon has been good. He hasn’t been upset since we arrived at the airport.

Once we boarded the plane, it was only a short time until we were headed to Amsterdam. Brandon and I are in a two seat section. He has the window seat and I have an aisle. I slept for the first hour of the flight then watched a couple of movies. Brandon kept busy reading then slept for almost 4 hours.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Oregon Coast

View of Mary's Peak from the Noel's house

I woke up to Katrina and Thatcher hovering over me. Katrina was trying to persuade me to pickup some bagels from Safeway. I finally relented.


We headed to the beach today. What a great day! It was sunny, warm and oh so beautiful . It felt like summer. We had to take two cars, so Katrina rode with Katey and the kids in their van. I drove our rental car and Errol rode with me.

Sleepy Thatcher-man

We chose Nye Beach for our first stop. The kids piled out and we headed out on the sand. They had a great time digging. We also tried to fly kites, but there wasn’t enough wind. It was a short stop at Nye Beach.

Digging at Nye Beach

A tired boy

Watching the waves

We were hungry, so we headed across the Bay Bridge to have lunch at the Rogue Brewery. Katrina really wanted to have the beer cheese soup, her favorite. We had a nice lunch, but the kids were ready to head back to the beach.

Rogue, its whats for lunch

Katrina's wish, beer cheese soup

Brandon and Makenna, showing off the latest in Rogue accessories

We headed back to the beach. This time, Agate Beach. Katey chose to nap in the car. The rest of us played on the beach. The kids had a great time digging, playing in the water and get all kinds of sandy and dirty. Errol, Katrina and I played with Errol’s kites. Katrina also took a ton of pictures.

The boots came off in a heartbeat

Having a great time at the beach

Brandon setup a 'mortar' business

Working hard in the sand

Errol played with kites

After a few hours on the beach, Beckett and Thatcher decided they were tired and cold. Time to go. Everyone was really tired, so we rode home in our own cars so that everyone could sleep. We ended up stopping at Dairy Queen for Dilly Bars on the way home.

This evening we hung out at the house. Errol made a great dinner – chicken stroganoff. Andy stopped by to say hi and ended up staying for dinner.

Tomorrow, Brandon and I fly home to Italy. Brandon was a bit upset about it this evening. He wants to stay in Corvallis. He is emotional and even a bit angry.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beautiful Corvallis...or...Disaster at the Dentist

We woke up to beautiful clear and sunny skies in Corvallis this morning. It was also quite warm.

After a slow start to the morning, we finally got dressed and ready for the day. Brandon and I had dentist appointments at 11am. On Tuesday Dr. Travelstead prescribed some Valium for Brandon. We gave him one pill last night before bed and one this morning before the appointment. He was a loopy boy, but also very emotional. It didn't work. He was still too stressed and wouldn't let them do the work they wanted to do. He was supposed to get some sealant on his teeth. Oh well, at least he braved through the cleaning on Tuesday.

I had a small cavity to fill. Unfortunately, the first round of novacaine did't really numb my tooth enough. I immediately jumped when he began drilling, so we had to stop and give my another shot. All went well and we are finished with the dentist.

When we returned from the dentist, Errol was in the backyard constructing their trampoline. I helped him out with what I could and the kids were jumping within the hour.

Brandon jumps!

This afternoon Brandon, Makenna, Katey and Katrina went our for tea. I went grocery shopping at Safeway. Tonight I would be cooking some Italian for everyone. I also picked up some chicken burritos for Errol and I from La Roquita.

This evening I made pasta with Ligurian meat sauce, bruschetta, and salad for dinner. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. We also enjoyed a bottle of Nobile di Montepulciano.

After dinner we surprised Brandon with and early birthday celebration. He won't turn 9 until April 5th, but we bought his present here at the Toy Factory and wouldn't be able to hide it all the way home and through customs. We gave our 'inventor' boy a Lego Mindstorm. He was very excited. He also got a Lego Mindstorm supplement book from Meemaw and some Tin Tin books from the Noel's.

We also enjoyed cupcakes, ice cream and singing Happy Birthday to almost everyone - Brandon, Beckett, Thatcher, and Errol (he will be turning 40 this year!)

The kids went to bed. Katey did as well. Katrina, Errol and I stayed up till midnight talking and enjoying some beer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Adams and Train Club

Goodmorning from sunny Corvallis. We have a beautiful view of the peak here at the Noel's house.

Katrina visited her coworker Kellie this morning to take some pictures of her children. I spent the morning taking 8 practice tests for my Italian drivers exam. I actually passed 3 out of 8. I also watched an hour of 'Cooking with Giada'.

When Katrina returned, Brandon and I headed out to visit his old school, Adams. He was excited to see the secretaries, Mrs. McShane, and Mrs. J. He was also able to enjoy recess with many of his friends. Brandon was full of smiles.

This afternoon Katrina and I went shopping again. Brandon stayed home with Katey. Katrina and I started out at Cafe Yum for lunch, then hit Fred Meyer and Winco. We bought about $154 worth of groceries to take back to Italy with us.

What a fabulous day here in Corvallis. It is definitely shorts weather.

Brandon and I met Andy for dinner at Jade Garden this evening. We had a nice dinner then headed up to train club. Train club was a lot of fun. Brandon ran our new Italian train consist while I chatted with the everyone about model trains and our adventures in Italy. Brandon and I finally headed home at 11pm.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dental Adventures

Me and my buddy Thatcher

I woke up to Katrina trying to snuggle and get me to go buy bagels for breakfast. I gave in.

It's another cloudy and rainy morning in Corvallis. Surprise!

One happy, hungry kid...

...and two grumpy kids.

We had a few errands to run today. First stop was the post office to mail a box of books back to the Sabo's and pickup a package from Meemaw. Second stop was the credit union, followed by the dentist.

The dentist was the big errand of the day. Cleanings for all three of us. Unfortunately, I have a cavity and Brandon needs to get sealant put on his teeth, so we will be heading back to the dentist on Thursday.

After the dentist appointment, we were hungry for lunch. It was Brandon's turn to choose. We ended up at Jamie's Hamburgers. Tasty!

Lunch at Jamie's

The afternoon was spent renewing our International Drivers Licenses at AAA and a little shopping - shoes, jeans.

We spent the late afternoon and evening back at the Noel's house. Errol made turkey burgers for dinner. Our friend Shawn stopped by and ended up having dinner with us as well.

At 8pm, after putting the boys to sleep, Errol and I headed out to see a movie, Avatar. What an excellent movie. I really liked it and am bummed that jetlag took over for a few short periods. I think I missed a few small segments of the movie.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cloudy Monday in Corvallis

I had to wakeup early this morning. I have a Dr.'s appointment at 8:30am. I'm feeling pretty good so far. I stayed up until 11pm talking with Errol last night. So far I'm not really feeling any jetlag.

Last spring I had to get a prescription filled for 365 days so that I would not run out in Italy. I have enough through the end of April, but since we are in Corvallis now, I need to refill that prescription so that I have enough to get through another year.

I'm not sure what else is on our agenda for the day?

On my way home from the appointment I stopped at the Toy Factory to buy Brandon's birthday present. We are buying him a Lego Mindstorm. Sssh!....it's a secret.

When I returned home Katrina was waiting for me. She was hungry so the three of us headed to Qdoba. It tasted great!!

After lunch we went shopping for books at the Albany and Corvallis Goodwill stores. Katrina and Brandon found a suitcase load of books for Brandon to read.

We spent the evening hanging out with the Noel's. I ended up going to bed at 8pm. I guess jetlag finally caught up with me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day in Corvallis

We all slept pretty well. I woke up several times, but was able to go right back to sleep.

This morning we are just hanging out with the Noel's. Brandon and the boys are playing Wii.

It's a rainy and cloudy morning here in Corvallis, but the Noel's have a great view of Mary's Peak and it is visible below the clouds.

Brandon and the Club Penguin Puffles he bought at Kmart.

Katrina and Katey went clothes shopping for part of the day. Errol and I, and the boys, hung out at home for the morning. Before Makenna arrived home from her night away, we cruised over to Wendy's for lunch. It was tasty, but not all that I had hoped it would be.

We spent the afternoon watching the Olympics on TV - luge and cross country skiing.

Errol pulled out his Lego Mindstorm so that Brandon could experiment.

Katrina and Katey showed up with several bags of new clothes, especially Katrina. Katey rounded up the kids and presented them with Valentine buckets full of candies and prizes. It was quite fun to watch them dig in to see what goodies they had. Thatcher even insisted that I eat some of his chocolates. He kept putting them in my hand and would tell me to eat them..."with your mouth Patrick." I ate one and sneakily put the others back in his bucket. Later, Thather gave me a piece of chocolate shaped like lips and told me to eat it because he doesn't eat lips.

This kids and their Valentine buckets.

This evening Alyssa came over to the Noel's to watch the kids so that the adults could go out for a Valentine's Day dinner. We enjoyed a nice quiet meal at Aomatsu.

43 Weeks

43 Week Gelati Count: 193
43 Week Wine Bottle Count: 51

Friday, February 12, 2010

Flying to Oregon

We spent the day traveling to Oregon today.

We woke up at 3am, showered and hit the road by 3:30. Malpensa airport is about an hour from our house. We dropped off the rental car and checked in. We have three three large suitcases filled with books, gifts and wine. Two of the suitcases have small suitcases stuffed inside them. We have quite a bit of shopping to do, so we wanted plenty of room to bring things back to Italy.

Our flight to Amsterdam went smoothly. I think we slept for most of it. Once in Amsterdam we had to go through passport control and cross the airport for our next flight. At the gate we had to go through another security screening. This was the strictest security I have ever had to go through.

First of we had to be interviewed about our belongings, our destination and other general questions. Then we went through the x-ray machine, followed by a pat down. Everyone was patted down. They also chose every third bag or so to inspect. My bag was chosen, not at random, but because they spotted something. While all the other 'random' inspections were quick and easy, my guy pulled out each and every item until he found what he was looking for. Brandon had placed one of those little sand timers that you use for board games, in my bag. Apparently it looked suspicious.

Our flight to Portland was pretty routine. Brandon slept a bit. Katrina slept a bit. I dozed off now and then, but mostly watched the movies.

We landed in Portland shortly after noon. Our flight was about 10 1/2 hours. After going through passport and customs, we picked up our rental car and headed south to Corvallis, stopping along the way for a few tacos at Taco Bell. Isn't that just fantastic! Our first meal back in the US was Taco Bell!

Katrina had to stop at work to do load a program upgrade onto her laptop. Brandon and I drove over to Kmart to do a little shopping. I wanted to pickup a few things that were on my shopping list: socks, underwear, shorts, etc. We also drove over to Trumps to pickup the 2010 Walthers catalog so that I can dream and plan my new model train layout.

We finally arrived at the Noel's house around 5pm. It was fantastic to finally arrive and see our friends. We spent the evening hanging out. Katey made us a great taco dinner. We somehow managed to stay awake until after 9pm, which would have been about 5am in Italy.

It was a long day, but we arrived safely and are looking forward to a nice week with friends here in Corvallis.


It's Friday. The last of day school and work, and time to do final packing for our Corvallis trip. We fly out of Milano tomorrow morning at 6:50am, which means we need to leave for the airport at 3:30am...bleh! We have a two hour flight to Amsterdam, change planes, then fly to Portland. I think we arrive sometime around noon (which would be about 9pm Italian time).

Chiavi - keys. We have so many keys, and interesting ones at that. From left to right: Car key, apartment building key, garage key, mail key, apartment key, cellar key and inside door key (bedrooms, etc). I think the car key and the house key are the most interesting.

I spent part of the day getting packed up for the trip and running a few errands. This evening we packed up and loaded the car. 3am comes early...6 hours from now.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010


Acccording to a news post"Strong overseas sales put fizz in Coca Cola's 4Q" I'm afraid I may be partly to blame for that. Since we moved to Italy my consumption of Coca Cola has increased significantly. I am not proud of this, but it is fact.

What do you do when the skies are cloudy and there are light snow flurries? You pull out your bike and go for a ride, of course. It really wasn't any colder than many rides I've been on this winter, but I think snow flurries is a first for me. I did my usual ride to Lurago di Erba and back, this time on my Burley. It was sitting out on the balcony looking like a friend who was feeling blue from lack of attention. Or maybe it was the cold and lack of attention? Or maybe the bike is just blue.

Anyway, I rode the Burley today and continue to be amazed at how different it rides. The Pinarello is like a Ferrari. It wants to go fast and it demands power for its racing gears. Some of the steeper hills cause me to get out of the saddle and hammer my way up. The Burley is more like a Cadillac - a sporty Cadillac. It gives you a nice smooth ride with smaller gears for the hills. It likes to breeze up the hills in a nice smooth fashion, all while I just sit and enjoy the ride. It's not slow by any means. There is power in its gear ratio, but its a more 'gentle' power, unlike the raw power of the Pinarello.

I am planning to buy a couple of books on bicycle repair while we are in Corvallis. One for my road bikes and one for my mountain bike. I'd like to give my Jamis mountain bike some tender loving care before summer. It's like the forgotten child that waits patiently for attention. It needs attention so that I can ride with Brandon this spring and summer. Brandon and I are at our best when we ride. We are free to wander, chat and have fun with few restrictions and few boundries. We both share a love of riding. I'd love to nurture that love a bit more so that he can eventually join me on bike rides in Corvallis, and even some organized rides like the Monster Cookie. He could totally do that ride with the right bike and some miles in his legs. He is a good cyclist and I trust his skill.

Brandon and I had a pretty good Italian lesson today. We did some reading from a basic Italian reader book, then translated for Rosella. She also asked us questions about what we read. This kept Brandon fairly engaged.

Apparently McDonalds has caused a stir in Italy. You can read about it here.

Speaking for food, I made Pesto di Pistachi for dinner, along with brocolli and some red wine that Katrina's manager, Michael, gave us when he visited a few weeks ago. The pesto meal got three thumbs up. Here is the recipe:

Pistachio Pesto

1/2 onion finely chopped, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2/3 cup peeled pistachios, 1 clove garlic, 4-5 tbsps freshly grated Pecorino cheese, salt, 12 oz small penne pasta, coarsely chopped pistachios to garnish

Saute the onion in 2 tbsps of oil until softened. Remove from the heat and let cool. Process the onion, pistachios, garlic, remaining tbsp oil, and Pecorino in food processor until smooth. Season with salt. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Add 1 tbsp cooking water to the pesto to achieve a creamy consistency. Drain pasta and serve with pesto, adding more water as needed. Garnish with chopped pistachios. Serves 4

Katrina and Brandon spent part of the evening building a Lego for Brandon's ever growing town of Legono. Last night Katrina built a hospital. The night before she built a police station and jail.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Saints!

A Dodge Ram! This is a big vehicle for Italy. I spotted this truck in the Dolomites a few weeks ago.

The Saints won the Super Bowl! I always enjoy it when the underdog wins. I woke up in the middle of the night, so I went out to the couch and turned on the TV to watch the game. I ended up seeing very little of it. I guess I was more tired than I thought.

I spent part of the morning cleaning the house. It's amazing how three of us can mess up the place in a weekend.

At midday I took my usual bike ride to Lurago di Erba and back. The sunny day became more cloudy the farther north I rode, but became sunny again as I returned home. Unfortunately I got a flat just as I entered Vedano. I guess I could say that it was fortunate that it happened in Vedano since my emergency air canister was a dud. So, it was a short walk home.

I just made reservations for two nights in Montepulciano, in Tuscany. We wanted to return to see the Tuscan countryside ever since our first trip in October. This time we are going for a long weekend at the end of April.

I just took 5 more T/F practice tests and failed them all. Ugh! Do I have any hope of passing this test??

Brandon was in a great mood when I picked him up from school today. I wondered how he would be feeling after a morning of testing. The 4th and 5th grades are doing international testing today and tomorrow. He said he actually enjoyed it. He had two sessions of math and one session of creative writing.

We had piadinas and risotto for dinner this evening. Tasty and easy.

Lazy Sunday

C'e Sole. Its sunny today and its supposed to hit 52 degrees.

We spent a good part of the day in pajamas. Katrina worked on organizing her photos. I played on the computer and watched some TV. Brandon played with Legos, intermixed with sessions of homework.

This afternoon we all ran to Auchan (today is one of two Sundays it is open this month). We needed to get a few things for our trip to Corvallis. What a lovely day. Its sunny and somewhat warm outside. I should have gone for a bike ride.

One of our favorite wines - Amarone

42 Week Gelati Count: 193
42 Week Wine Bottle Count: 49

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Stazione Centrale

We have a bit of snow on the ground this morning, although its not as much as we had yesterday afternoon before it started raining. It was actually a few degrees warmer last night than it was during the day.

Last week we received our first piece of Italian junk mail. Katrina said it made her feel like an official resident of Italy. We still get junk mail from the US. Its amazing how much junk mail is sent first class, which the post office will forward all the way to Italy. Our favorite junk mail are the cards telling us that there is a new house for sale in our neighborhood. Ha!

I decided to pay a visit to Stazione Centrale, the hobby shop in Milano. Normally we take the Metro into the city, get off at the Duomo and ride the streetcar to the shop. Today I decided to give driving a go, since the route looked pretty easy on Google. It was and I made it just fine. We normally don't drive into the city. Driving is not that difficult, but parking is a nightmare and/or can be expensive. I found a lone spot, on the sidewalk, just down the street from the shop.

One sidenote concerning my drive. There is a toll booth on A51. It costs 1.60 euro each time you pass through. I only had 50 euro bills in my wallet and only .50 cents in change. I gave the attendant the 50 euro bill. He asked me for something smaller. I apologized and said that was all I had. He gave back the 50 euro bill, raised the gate and said "Arrivederci."

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the shop is under new ownership. All the trains are on sale, so I thought they were clearing them out for toys. I found out today that they are just thinning the inventory so that they will have room to carry other hobby products, Legos, model ships and antique toys.

I ended up buying an ACME Trenitalia locomotive Brandon and I have been eyeing since we moved here. I also bought two regional (different from commuter) passenger cars, also made by ACME. ACME is a 'newer' European model train manufacturer based in Milano. Now time for the great debate. Do I heavily, and I mean heavily, weather the cars and maybe even 'tag' them with graffiti so they look realistic? Or, do I leave them clean and beautiful?

Katrina and I watched three episodes of 30Rock earlier this evening. That show cracks me up. It's well written and totally crazy.

Ah, tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday. Unfortunately the game will be on at 12:35am, Monday morning. Oh well, go Saints!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Drivers Exam - Theory Test

We woke up to snow this morning. I didn't see it in the forecast, so I was a bit surprised.

Katrina and I had a 10am appointment to take our drivers theory exam this morning. We were placed in a room with about a dozen others, all sitting at computer monitors. All instructions were given in Italian. Thankfully the test was in English for us (actually it was in Italian with small English subtitles). We had to answer 10 three part true or false questions. Sound easy! Ha, not at all. The questions are tricky and the translation is not always the best.

Long story short, Katrina passed and I failed. Katrina will be notified when she can take the actual driving test. I can retake the theory test in 30 days.

I was in the mood to get our of the house this afternoon. Katrina decided to work from home due to the snow. I decided to go the the Cinesello mall and wander. After wandering the mall, I ended up in Auchan for a few groceries for the weekend and to see what DVD's they had. I found Disney's Robin Hood, an old classic, for 3.90 euro.

Snow in Vedano, starting to come down a bit harder.

On my way home from the mall, I stopped to pickup Brandon at school. It really started snowing hard by this time. Big, white puffy snowflakes.

We have a couple of inches on the ground this evening and its still coming down. Sometimes small and wet, sometimes big and fluffy.

Unfortunately, as the evening progressed, the snow turned to rain.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Choir Concert

Brandon's school choir traveled into Milano this afternoon for an 'All School Concert'. The evening was full of performances from all school levels of the International School of Milan, Milan and Monza sections.

This is one of the 4 songs that Brandon's choir performed. They were fantastic!!
(The video is not fantastic)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mercoledi - C'e Sole

It's Wednesday. It seems like we were just in the Dolomites yesterday. This week is flying by. In only 10 days we will be in Corvallis.

I spent the morning sweeping the house, mopping and studying for my Italian drivers written exam. I passed 2 out of 5 practice tests.

My bike ride this afternoon was great. It was fairly warm, sunny and very beautiful.

Brandon received his Kimono for Aikido today. He tried it on at home and we had to wrestle. He's very cute. I hope he keeps it up.

We had burritos for dinner this evening. Yum! I forgot to buy tomatoes for spanish rice. Oh well, next time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Studying

It is -2.8 again this morning. Brrr!

I spent the morning doing laundry, cleaning Brandon's bathroom and studying for the written drivers test.

I took 5 practice tests this morning and passed 2. That is 40%, up from 16% yesterday. If I just keep reading and studying I may reach 80% or higher odds by Friday morning.

My afternoon was not so great. I went for a bike ride but just didn't feel all that comfortable on the bike today, so I cut the ride short. When I returned home I tried 5 more practice tests and failed 4 of them. Ugh!

We had pizza for dinner this evening. We've really been enjoying pizza lately and it is much easier now that Brandon likes it too.

The End of Youth As I Know It

Well, the end of youth as I knew it smacked me in the face on Friday evening.

As I mentioned in Friday's blog, I got a haircut on Friday morning. My hair had grown pretty long and I desperately needed more than just a trim.

On Friday evening life took a big turn. Katrina and Brandon spotted grey hair on my beatiful blondish brown head. Not just one hair, but a little patch right on the hairline just above my forehead.

Katrina thought this was the most wonderful thing. She teased me all evening and thoughout the weekend. Of course, Brandon had to join in and help with the teasing.

It's really not a big deal, but a little shocking the first time you notice it. Does it mean I'm getting wiser? Ha! Does it mean I've been under more stress? Or am I just getting older...has middle age finally hit me.

A New Week

It's the beginning of a new week. The sun is out and the temperature should reach the 40's, although thats hard to believe as I look at -2.8 on the thermometer.

This morning I went shopping at Auchan. I spent much of the rest of the day doing laundry and studying for the Italian drivers written test that Katrina and I must take on Friday morning. It's not looking good right now. We have a study book and a book of practice tests. I took 7 tests and failed 6 of them!!

Here is what we understand about the test: 10 parts, 3 true/false questions each = 30 questions. You can only miss 4 and pass. My best was -3. My worst was -11. Most were in the 5 - 8 range. If I fail the test I can retake it in a month or so, but it will cost another 50 euro. If I pass, then I will be scheduled for a driving exam in a month or so. I can still drive during this whole process, so that is not a problem. Its just rather annoying right now. Why do I need to know what the speed limit differences are for a tractor with tracks or one with wheels?!?!

Here's an easy one...crosswalk