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.

Friday, April 30, 2010


It's Friday. Quite awhile back I blogged about Fridays and weekends not being all that big of a deal. Well, I guess I don't feel that way all the time. For some reason I've been really looking forward to the end of the week...this week.

We don't have any plans for the weekend, and that is a good thing. We love to travel, but we also love to be lazy at home. This will be a lazy at home weekend.

Brandon and I did meet Mike and Katrina at Mexicali this evening. We seem to go there about once a month. While it is still fairly tasty, its not as wonderful as when we were first missing Mexican food. I'm not sure why, but its not.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rain and Italian

8 out of the next 15 day forecast show rain or heavy rain. Woohooo.

After school today, Brandon and I went to next door to Parco di Matteotti to kick the soccer ball around. We took turns playing goalie and trying to score.

On the way back through the gate we stopped to chat with Anna, our portania. He husband came out and chatted with us as well. It was fun practicing our Italian. Brandon talked quite a bit. His Italian is amazing. He even said things that I didn't understand. They teased him about being a fan of AC Milan. They are Inter fans.

One of our neighbors, Marco, showed up with his son Francesco. Francesco is 4 years old. We ended up playing a little game of soccer in the lawn beside our building.

Anna invited me to stop by and talk more so that she can learn English and I can practice and learn more Italian.

This evening Katrina and Brandon pulled out a moving box and made a puppet theater. This weekend they are going to create some 'sets' and puppets. I'll try to record the performance for my blog.

Limits and Saying No

This morning I attended a presentation at Brandon's school on the "Importance of Setting Limits and saying No." It was a very interesting presentation and made me think about my approaches interactions with Brandon. Life is a learning experience, especially if you are a parent.

This afternoon I watched Stage 1 of the Tour of Romandia. This 6 day race takes place in the French region of Switzerland. I love how much cycling I get to watch here in Italy.

Katrina sent me a text that she was heading home, like she usually does. I was going to reply to her that we should do pizzas for dinner. Before I could send the reply, she sent another text asking if we could have pizza for dinner. Pizza for dinner...ah, I love Italian pizza.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Drivers Exam - Theory Test #2

Well, as many of you who have been following my blog know, Katrina and I took our written theory test in February. She passed, I failed.

Today I took the test again and, unfortunately, failed again. You can miss 4 answers out of 30 to pass. I missed 7! The test seemed harder this time, with several questions I had never seen before. I noticed that about half of the test takers in my session failed. Hmmmmm!?!?

Where do I go from here? I'm not sure. Technically, Americans living in Italy need to get an Italian license by 1 year of residency. On the other hand, I have my American license and I renewed my International license in February. Taking another test will cost 100+ euro. I'm not sure its worth spending that much. We only have 14 months left and I really don't drive that much.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday, Monday

Monday started out looking kind of rainy, but I had confidence it would clear up and it did.

I rode my usual 40 km route to Lurago di Erba and back, not seeing as many cyclists as I usually do. Today's ride was a good one. I felt strong, didn't get winded or tired on the climbs and cruised home in a respectable time.

This afternoon I spent time taking practice tests for the Italian drivers license written exam. Ah, tomorrow at 10:30 I take the test for the second time. My practiced tests are going well. I pass a good 60 - 70% of them. I feel confident I will pass this time.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekly Count

53 Week Gelati Count: 229
53 Week Wine Bottle Count: 65

Murano and Venice

This morning we had a light breakfast in the hotel before catching the vaporetto to Murano, the island of glass.

Brandon loves to draw on the maps we pickup when we travel. He can literally spend hours drawing and scheming.

In Murano we walked along the canals and enjoyed the many glass shops. Katrina especially enjoyed the glass shops, finding several necklaces for herself.

On the way to Murano we stopped at the cimetero. They don't allow pictures, but I snuck one for the blog. The graves sites are well tended and decorated with pictures, flowers (fake or fresh) and other interesting objects.

One of the local regatta teams

Mid morning snack - hot dog, of course!

Glass sculpture in Murano. I've posted pictures of this on previous trips.

We wandered through Murano for a couple of hours before finding a cafe for lunch. After lunch we headed back to Venice. The day was warm and the sun was out. Brandon found a park in an area of Venice we had not explored on previous trips, so we wandered through the streets and alleys until we came out on the waterfront.

The Arsenale, for centuries this was the backbone of Venetian power and the biggest industrial establishment in the world

Looking across the water towards St Marks Square

It must be laundry day in Venice

Brandon watches a Vaporetto go by

Katrina has become such an amazing photographer. If you haven't seen her work, check out her blog.

Brandon found the gardens and the park. He headed straight for the swings. Katrina and I found a bench in the shade and relaxed.

After sitting for quite awhile, it was time to head home. It took two Vaporettos, one train and three hours in the car to get home.

It was a fantastic weekend getaway for all three of us. I expect that there will be a few more trips to Venice in the next 14 months.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Earlier this week we decided to head to Vencie for the weekend.

This morning we woke up, packed a few extra clothes in a backpack and headed east to Venice, about a 3 hour drive.

We arrived in Mestre, the mainland train station, around 11:30. There is a convenient parking lot across the street from the station. For 1 euro a piece, you can catch the train across the causeway into Venice.

Ah, Venice. Entering Venice reminds me a little of Disneyland. At Disneyland you enter Main Street by walking under Main Stree Station. Suddenly, you are transported into a different world.

In Venice, you walk through the train station and down the steps into the old world of Venice and the Grand Canal, also transported into a different world.

It was lunch time and we were pretty hungry. Brandon suggested we have lunch at our favorite Cinese restaurant, so we headed that way.

Cinese, one of our favorite foods in Italy

After lunch we headed into the heart of Venice. We promised Brandon that this would be the Venice trip that would include a gondola ride. He begged the first two times. This time we relented. We wanted to ride a gondola through the small canals, so we had to head farther away from the Grand Canal.

Which way do we go to find a gondola!

On the way we crossed the Rialto Bridge. The Rialto is a grand bridge, but is very crowded and I don't find it very enjoyable.

The Grand Canal

Our our way to find a gondola, we stopped on the Rialto Bridge for pictures.

Our first gondola ride in Venice

Photos taken by Brandon

Brandon explains something about water levels

Heavy traffic

We had a nice cruise through the small canals then popped out into the Grand Canal for a short distance

The Rialto Bridge in the distance

Under the Rialto

Me, Katrina and our gondolier - photo by Brandon

We had an enjoyable time on the gondola ride. Many of our Italian friends told us to skip it because it's expensive and is 'touristy'. It is both of those things, but I think it is definitely an experience.

The sun was out after a partly cloudy morning. Katrina has never been able to take 'sunny' pictures of colorful Burano. We decided to head that way.

Hot dog break

Vaporetto ride to Burano


I love the colorful homes

Katrina says this house was a different color last time we visited Burano

The bell tower leans quite a bit

The sun was going down. It was time to head back to Venice. We wanted to have dinner at a restaurant we ate at when we took Carolyn, Heather and Laurie to Venice.

UPS, they deliver in Venice

We found the restaurant had had dinner. Unfortunately it was not as good as the last time we ate there.

Katrina bought a ticket to see a concert this evening featuring music by Vivaldi. I volunteered to take Brandon back to the room. After dinner Brandon and I decided to walk Katrina to Chiesa di San Vidal where the concert was to be held. We stopped along the way to enjoy some gelato and to take pictures.

Evening in Venice

We had a great day in Venice. Brandon and I wathed some TV, then he went to bed. I stayed up until Katrina was home, then fell asleep.

Tomorrow we visit the island of Murano and explore Venice a little bit before heading home.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Biking vs Jogging

Its drizzly and rainy in Vedano today.

I decided not to ride today. I don't like riding when its wet, plus it adds a lot of work at the end of the ride - cleaning the road grit and grime off my bike.

I ended up walking in the park. I even jogged for a short distance. Its hard to believe that the same legs that take me 40 - 60 km up and down hills on a bike, don't like jogging one bit. A little over a year ago I was jogging 20+ minutes on the treadmill. Hmmmm

Well, I got out there and exercised a little bit. That's what counts!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Our small washing machine

I do a load of laundry almost every day. Our washing machine is pretty small, like most Italian washing machines. I can wash about two days of clothes at a time, depending on how many pants/jeans there are.

Most Italians don't have dryers. We don't have one, and that makes life interesting. We had to buy a drying rack, which we usually keep out on the balcony. In the winter we set it up in Brandon's bathroom.

Add Milan's 'hard' water to the mix and you get stiff clothing. We use fabric softener, but try to use very little. We have found that anything with elastic or polyester seems to break down over time when you use too much fabric softener.

I don't mind washing and hanging a load of a laundry daily. In fact, I prefer it to doing multiple loads all at one time. I do look forward to using a dryer again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This evening after Katrina arrived home and changed clothes, all three of us went outside to play cricket. Brandon has been learning to play cricket at school and is obsessed with the game.

He taught us how to play and we all took turns at different positions. It was fun and he had a blast. He's getting much better at throwing and hitting a ball.

I wish I would have remembered the camera!

Now, according to Brandon's plan, I am keeping the car today so that he and I can go to Decathlon after school and see if we can find a real cricket set. We improvised: rubber ball, arrow for a wicket, frisbee for a base and a broken telescope for a bat.

Friend Comes Over

Brandon had his friend Vincent over after school today. They had a good time playing with Legos, chipping away at a dinosaur kit Brandon received for his birthday, and playing cricket outside.

Vincent and Brandon hunting for dinosaur bones

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day

If I were to use a song title to describe today, "Beautiful Day" by U2 would the it. The high this afternoon is supposed to hit 72 degrees.

Brandon spent some time swinging and playing in the park on our way home from school this afternoon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekly Count

52 Week Gelati Count: 224
52 Week Wine Bottle Count: 63

1 Year Anniversary

This past week Katrina celebrated her one year anniversary in Italy. Brandon and I arrived in Italy one year ago today. Katrina welcomed us at the Linate airport and drove us to our new home in Vedano al Lambro.

Here are some of my thoughts after 1 year:

- I love Italian pizza, especially Puliese and Quattro Stagione
- I love gelato
- I love pasta and hate pasta
- I love driving in Italy
- I hate the drivers test
- I love cycling in Italy
- I feel very lucky to travel to all the places we have been
- My favorite country is still Switzerland
- Even after a year, there are still things that suprise us in every day life
- Living in a city, even though we are in the suburbs, is fun. The city is full of life and energy
- I'm tired of looking at Madonna and child paintings
- I miss Qdoba
- I love the Cinese food here
- Coke tastes better with real sugar
- I don't miss yard work at all. I do enjoy tending the flowers on our balcony
- I don't miss havin two cars. I was worried about this when we moved here
- Italians are wonderful, passionate, opinionated, gracious people, but it is also very difficult to break into their social circles
- Brandon's teacher, Ms Partridge, is one of the best he has had
- Castles and fortresses are cool
- Brandon missed Nestle Crunch bars (thanks Aunt Laurie)
- I wish more friends and family would come visit and let us share Italy....free place to stay!!
- The Metro is great for getting into and around the city of Milan
- Roman history and art history are so much more interesting now than it was in high school
- The Catholic church is a large organization with many riches, monuments, churches and art
- Scooters are everywhere. More Americans should ride scooters
- I feel fairly out of touch with American news, but so much more in touch with news from the rest of the world
- Wine is good
- Olive oil is good
- Limoncello is tasty
- Grappa is not
- Chocolate from Switzerland is the best
- Tired of cheese, except parmesan, which we sometimes enjoy all by itself
- I thought there would be more model train stores in Italy. Not the case. Most hobby stores exist for diecast car collectors. Germany and Switzerland have great model shops
- I still cannot speak Italian fluently. That frustrates me sometimes, but most of the time it doesn't. I can do almost anything I need to do with simple language skills.
- I miss our friends and family, although it helps to know we will be going back in just over a year.
- I miss my pupster, Tasha
- Occasionally, and only recently, do I miss my truck

Well, I think that sums up most of my thoughts after living here for a year. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences in Italy during the past year. I will keep on writing and am compiling a list of topics for the year to come.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Today was a lazy day for us.

We ran to Decathlon to get some jogging clothes for Katrina and stopped at Media World to get a new external hard drive. We finished off with some lunch at our neighborhood Cinese restaurant, then spent the afternoon being lazy at home.

We love to travel, but its also nice to just hang out at home with no expectations of having to get up and go out. We have to take advantage of these lazy weekends because we have a lot of traveling scheduled for the next several months:

- We just added an overnight trip to Venice for this next weekend.

- Weekend in Montepulciano
- Weekend in Cinque Terre
- Long weekend in Barcelona

- Weekend in Lugano Switzerland
- Croatian and Slovenia road trip


- Switzerland road trip

- England and Ireland

- Weekend in Prague

- Naples, Pompeii and southern Italy with Katrina's Mom

It's a lot of travelling, but we are trying to fit in all that we can as we head into our second and last year in Italy.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I'm sure most of you have heard about the volcano in Iceland, but I'm not sure how big of news it is in the US? Here in Europe it is huge news. Most of our airports are closed and air transportation has ground to a halt. It hasn't really affected Italy yet, but it might. The ash has been detected as far south as Switzerland, so we might be next.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brandon's Birthday Bowling Bash

Buon Compleano Brandon

Today was Brandon's 9th birthday party. We originally planned to have it right before spring break, but Brandon got sick for three days and we postponed the party.

Brandon chose to have a bowling party. He invited his entire class, as is generally customary here. 15 of the 18 classmates enjoyed bowling, cupcakes, video games and general 8/9 year old crazieness.

Brandon and Tommaso

Brandon and Matilde

Left to Right: Joaquim, Brandon, Tommaso


Martina, Filippo and Giacomo

Joaquim, Brandon

Brandon, Amelie

The kids eagerly wait to see who had the top scores

As the birthday boy, Brandon received a trophy and a dart board

The top three scores received prizes: Brandon, Martina and Diego

Hooray for Brandon's birthday

9 candles on 1 cupcake

American (Betty Crocker) cupcakes were a big hit with the kids

Martina, Beatrice, Alice, Aurora, Matilde
Giacomo, Filippo, Tommaso


????Not sure what this reaction was for???

The kids pooled all of their winning tickets together and picked out a present for Ms Partridge.

On the way home from the party Brandon told me it was his best party ever. I'm glad he enjoyed it. All the kids had a great time.