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, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Un Giorno a Bologna

A day in Bologna.

Today we headed south to Bologna. Bologna is a city of approximately 380,000 inhabitants. It is the capital and largest city in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is home to the oldest university in the western world and is considered by many Italians to be the nations food capital. It has one of the largest and best preserved historic town centers in all of Italy.

A Toyota 4Runner. You don't see many of those in Italy...and this one has Maryland plates!

Bologna is about a 2 1/2 hour drive south of Vedano al Lambro and Milan, just off of the A1 autostrada. We hit the road around 10am and arrived just around 12:30pm. After finding a parking garage, we walked into the old city. Katrina took time to take many pictures along the way. Bologna has many porticos that captured her attention.


The look of a university town.

We found lunch at Pizzeria da Braci. Katrina had tortellinis, I cotoletta a Milanese, and Brandon had pasta con Bolognese.

After lunch we made our way toward Piazza Maggiore to start our City Center tour from Brandon's book, Bologna for Kids. Located on Piazza Maggiore at the Palace of the Podesta, the Palace of the Banchi, the Basilica of San Petronio, the Palace of the Notaries, and the Palace of the Commune.

Asinella and Garisenda Towers, built near the end of the 6th century. The tower on the right is leaning quite a bit.

Basilica of San Petronio

Just around the corner from Piazza Maggiore is Piazza del Nuttuno. The name comes from the huge fountain, which has been likened to a giant knick-knack. There is also a monument wall dedicated to the Bolognese partisans who were killed by the Nazi-fascists.

Piazza Maggiore

If you face the corner like Brandon and talk very close to the wall, a person on the opposite corner can hear you! It works, we tried it.

Portica ceiling in the Palace of the Podesta


Fruit and Vegetable Stand

Palace of the Commune

Brandon, our tour guide for the day.

Down the street we visited the Cathedral of St Peter. Founded in ancient times, this church has been rebuilt and restored several times. St Peter's is the seat of the bishop (since 1582 it has been the seat of the archbishop) and the spiritual center of Bologna.

Fountain in Piazza del Nettuno

Just down the street are the Altabella and Prendiparte Towers. These towers are both 60 meters high, with pinnacles on the upper sections, making them look like crowns.


On a side street nearby is the Palace Boncompagni. It was the residence of the family of pope Gregory XIII.

Door knocker at the popes palace

The Church of the Madonna di Galliera was founded in 1304 and rebuilt in 1479.

At the end our our walk we also saw:
- one of the old canals that once connected Bologna with the Adriatic Sea
- House Grassi, one the of the oldest buildings in Bologna with its Medieval wooden portico
- the Church of San Martino, butil in 1217
- and, the Palace Bocchi, an imposing palace designed by Vignola in the 16th century.

Somewhere along the way we stopped at a local gelateria for some of the best gelato we have had in a long time. Very tasty.

After a little window shopping we made our way back to the car for the drive home. Bologna is a great 'undiscovered by tourist' city just a few hours south of Milan. It was an interesting and enjoyable daytrip.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Il Suo Venerdi

It's Friday. This was a busy week for me. I had a lot of meetings at school, as well as volunteering in Transition, grade 2 and today in grade 5. I love working with the children and sometimes think that I would like to become a teacher.

But deep down, I feel my real passion is in event planning. I love to make things happen. To plan and figure out how an event is going to take place, then coordinate all the different aspects of the event until they come together to create a wonderful event for everyone. That is what I think my true calling is. Refering to yesterdays post, I think event planning is the cape I should put on.

This evening we shopped at IKEA. We had hoped to do some Christmas decoration shopping - they have the coolest decorations - but we learned that those displays will be setup starting November 1. We ended up buying a few things we needed, several things we didn't intend on, and we looked at sofas and entertainments centers. We plan to replace what we have at home in Corvallis.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Put On Your Cape...

This video was produced by our friend Jenny. I thought it was brilliant...simple and brilliant, so I asked her if I could share it on my blog. Thanks Jenny.

Jenny is a Life Coach. If you would like to see what its all about, check out Rising Sun Coaching.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Riunioni, incontri di molti ...

Meetings, many meetings. I had a coffee meeting with grade 5 parents on Monday. I had a coffee meeting with some grade 2 parents yesterday. I a coffee meeting with class representatives this morning and a coffee meeting (coca cola for me) with the Halloween party committee this afternoon. It's been a busy week of meetings.

We had to get up at 6:30 (thats 1 hour and 15 minutes before we usually wakeup) this morning to get Brandon ready and off to school. His class was heading to downtown Milan for a visit to the planetarium. They were leaving early to avoid rush hour and so they could arrive back at school by lunch time.

I spent part of the morning at DOC bar meeting with class reps. We had a productive meeting. I'm really enjoying the PAB Representative position. I like to think I'm making a difference for the children and the parents.

Brandon and I went for a nice bike ride around Parco di Monza this afternoon. We don't get outside often enough at this time of day, so I was amazed at how long the shadows are at 5pm. Bike rides seem to be a special time when Brandon and I have our best conversations. It was great...its been a long time. I think Parco di Monza will be on my list of things I will miss most about living here. It is a fantastic park. When you enter through its gates, your forget that there is a city surrounding you. You can get lost in the 'wilderness' and have fun, at a playground, on a road bike, on a mountain bike, walking, picnicing, or just enjoying some time away from life outside the park.

Bella Mercoledi

We woke up to beautiful sunshine and crisp cold air this morning. Katrina has some things she wanted to get done at home, so I walked Brandon to school since I was heading that way anyway.

Wednesday is when I read with 2nd graders. Actually, they read to me. It went quick today. I'm not sure why we were so efficient, but we were. It's been fun getting to know more of the students in Brandon's school.

The afternoon was beautiful in Vedano. I decided to go for a walk. I ended up walking some of the streets of Vedano before ending up at DOC bar to meet some parents from school.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Party

Today was the big Halloween Party for the International School children in Transition to Grade 5.

I spent the morning in Ms Partridge's Transition (Preschool) class playing a ladybug counting game with the children. We had a lot of fun, and I think we learned something as well.

The afternoon was all about getting ready for the Halloween Party. I helped finish the Haunted House and setup a few other various decorations.

Haunted play structure

Helga the Witch's hut

The party went very well. We had 105 children attend the party. The planning committee did an excellent job and the children had a great time. I have heard a lot of comments from the children and the parents as well. I'd love to post more pictures, but in respect to families privacy, I am just posting a few.

If you ride for Lampre and your wearing the yellow jersey, you must always look serious!

Tired this evening and I have a headache...I think its a pizza night!

Piove a Vedano al Lambro

It's raining in Vedano al Lambro.

I had a nice coffee in Vedano with a few of the grade 5 parents this morning. We chatted about school and other random topics. It's nice to meet together once a month.

Katrina worked from home today. She didn't have any meetings to attend, and she had work to catch up on, so working at home was nice and quiet for her. Since the car was available, I ran some random errands today.

Today I began to work on travel plans for a post Christmas trip to Portugal and Spain. So far I am just researching and trying to figure out the best itinerary.

Today is my Dad's birthday. Happy Birthday!! We can't wait to see you on Monday.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekly Count

78 Week Gelati Count: 286
78 Week Wine Bottle Count: 93

Nuvoloso e Piovoso Domenica

Its cloudy and rainy today.

Katrina was feeling creative today. She worked on a birthday collage. I worked on my Bronco mosaic and Brandon played Legos. Another day at home.

Early this evening Katrina and Brandon went for a walk in Parco di Monza. I was lazy, stayed in the house and worked on my mosaic.

I am looking at a week of busy mornings meeting with parents, class reps, and volunteering in Transition, Grade 2 and Grade 5.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sabato a Casa

We slept in this morning, or at least two of us did. I woke up at 8:45am and found Brandon playing on the computer. Katrina slept until almost 9:30am.

This morning was all about organizing for Brandon and Katrina. Brandon needed to organize his Legos that were all over the house. Katrina needed to actually unpack her suitcases after being home for a week already. I worked on my blog, then grouted mosaic #2.

Mosaic #2. I feel like it needs a name, but I'm not sure what to name it? Any ideas?

I spent the rest of the morning working on mosaic #3. This one is a bit more detailed that the first two.

Late this afternoon we headed out to Decathlon to see what fall and winter clothes they had. I found a couple of cycling jackets I would like, but didn't need, so I didn't buy them. Katrina found some warm walking clothing.

On the way home we stopped for Chinese food.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ramazotti Breakfast

The Ramazotti section (Transition and Kindergarten) of the Monza International Schools invited me to their Parent Breakfast this morning.

I had a good time meeting parents, and watching the children work with their parents on posters about their home countries. It's amazing how international the school is. There are families from Lebanon, Iraq, France, Holland, Germany, Taiwan, China, and several other countries. It's truly an interesting cultural mix.

Brandon stayed home from school today. He was pretty sick after school yesterday and had a case of vomiting in the evening. He was feeling much better today, but we kept him home to be safe.

This evening I began mosaic project #3 while Katrina watched the movie Emma. I have almost completed project #2. I need to grout the mosaic tomorrow then it will be finished. I will post pictures when its completed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our Visitors Go Home

We had to wakeup at 5am this morning so we could leave for the airport by 6am. Rob, Heather and Dylan's flight was at 10am, but we needed to miss rush hour traffic. If we left at 7am, we would probably get stuck. I don't envy them and the long flight back home.

I was sad to see them go. We have enjoyed having visitors and it was fun to see Italy through the eyes of 'tourists'. It made us realize how much of Italian life seems 'normal' to us now.

I spent the day cleaning the house, washing sheets and catching up on some school activity issues. We have a little over a week before my parents arrive on November 1st.

Fall is all around us

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lago di Como

Today we are heading to Lago di Como.

Katrina walked Brandon to school and went for her morning walk in Parco di Monza. I had reading time with the grade 2 children. I always enjoy listening to them read.

When I arrived home everyone was pretty much ready to head out. We drove Katrina to work then headed towards Lago di Como.

Heather really wanted to see some Italian countryside, so I drove up into the hills above the lake. We stopped at the lookout near Madonna del Ghisallo, the cycling chapel on the mountain. This spot offers a great view of the lake below and the mountains.

It was a beautiful day in the Italian Alps

Inside Madonna del Ghisallo

I showed them an Italian cemetery

From there, we drove up a narrow twisting road, past farms, cottages, villas and cows with bells. Heather and Rob loved it. Dylan slept for much of the drive.

We eventually ended up in Bellagio. The sun was shining, although it was a bit chilly, so we decided to walk around town a bit. Heather and Rob kept saying how much they loved this area.

A high speed ferry heads toward Bellagio

Dylan was hungry so we found a place for lunch, far_out Bellagio. Yes, that is how the name is written. Andrius greeted us and took our orders. Rob had pasta with a blue cheese sauce. Heather had bruschetta and a salad. I had brushetta and gnocchi al pesto. I don't remember what Dylan had, but we all loved the food. After we ate, Andruis chatted with us for quite awhile. It turns out that he is an partner of the Mexicali restaurant that we eat near our home. He ended up giving me a card for some free drinks next time we visit Mexicali.

It was 2:30pm and we needed to get back in time to pickup Brandon from school at 3:30pm. This time we took the faster and less scenic highway route and made it just in time.

Since Dylan loves gelato so much, we made a pitstop at Gelateria Jody's in Vedano before heading home. Heather really loved her gelato caffe. She said it was her favorite so far.

We spent the afternoon and evening at home. Heather packed up their suitcases and we relaxed and hung out for the evening.

Tomorrow they head back home to Colorado. We have to head to the airport early, at 6am.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Afternoon in Milano

Today we headed into Milano. I let Brandon pick one day off of school this week, and today was the day.

Rob, Heather and Dylan got to experience public transit in Italy. First off, we rode the bus from our house to Monza, where we had to switch buses for the ride into Sesto. In Sesto we caught the Red line Metro to the Duomo station in Milan.

Once at the Duomo, we let Heather, Rob and Dylan get a sense of the piazza. It's a busy and large area. We ventured into the Duomo. While the outside of the Duomo is one of my favorite in Italy, I don't particularly care for the inside. I find it too dark and bleak. We wandered around the perimeter before going back outside.

St. Barolomeo, a martyr skinned alive by the Romans, carved by a student of Leonardo da Vinci

Candles and prayers

Brandon wanted to take them up to the roof, so we paid the fee and climbed a ton of stairs. Thankfully today was a sunny day. The view of the mountains was pretty hazy, but the city of Milan was pretty clear. We hung out at the top for awhile, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.

On the lower roof of the Duomo

On the roof of the Duomo

Rob and Heather on the roof of the Duomo

Heading back down to the lower roof

A little frog. The roof of the Duomo is full of details that can only be seen if you are up here.

After returning back down to the piazza, it was time for some lunch. Brandon chose for us to eat at Ciao, sort of an Italian buffet. We've eaten at them on long car trips along the Autostrada and they are pretty good. Unfortunately, that was not the case today. The food was average and the choices were slim.

After lunch we walked through the Galleria, stopping to spin our heels on the mosaic bulls testicles. Locals say it brings good luck.

Brandon, "Why am I doing this?"

Dylan spins for good luck

We walked past La Scala, saw a statue of Leonard da Vinci, then headed to Via Dante so that we could get some gelato while we walked toward Castello Sforzesco. We stopped at Io Voglio for some gelato. Dylan loves gelato!

We spent some time checking out the interior courtyards of the Castello. It is such a huge fortress and was even bigger at one time. Many of the outer walls have been knocked down, but the main fortress still stands.

At the back of the castle I finally found a vendor selling Italian flags, so I bought one. I've been wanting one to take back home with me. We also bought an AC Milan/Inter Milan banner for Brandon.

Time to head home. We caught the metro back to Sesto, then the bus back to our apartment. We had a fun afternoon in Milan. Tomorrow we are heading to see Lago di Como.