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, December 31, 2010

Gingerbread House

I arrived home today just in time to find Brandon getting ready to destroy the gingerbread house.  I took a few quick pictures and let him go at it. 

New Years Eve

2010 has almost passed, with 2011 looming ever closer.  I've given a lot of thought about this blog post and have not been able to come to any conclusions about what to write.  I decided to just start writing and see what happens.

This time of year is a point of ending and beginning.  It also marks the start of a year that will once again bring big change to our lives.  2011 looks to be fantastic and bittersweet, all in one. 

In six months we will be returning home to Corvallis OR.  I must be honest.  Over the past year and a half, I have looked to this time with a bit of anxiousness and trepidation.  I love it here.  I love Italy and I love Europe and all that it has offered us.  On the other hand, I know we are living in a time of....well...it almost feels like suspended animation.  We are living life, yet we are sort of taking two years off from our normal lives and that can't last forever.  What has changed in the past few months is that, as we begin to make plans for returning home, I have become much more excited about it.  I look forward to being back in OUR house in our neighborhood.  I look forward to camping and visiting the ocean again.  I look forward to seeing our friends and reconnecting. 

It will also be a sad time.  I will miss our new friends here in Italy.  I will miss the continuous adventures of living in a foreign country.  I will miss the history and culture.  I will miss the pizzas and gelato.  I will miss the fantastic cycling culture of Italy and Europe.  I will miss the neighborhood shop keepers - the butcher, the baker, our gelato guy (ha, how many of you said 'candlestick maker'?  I don't know anyone who does that!).  I will miss the convenience of flying away to another country for the weekend, for far less than it would cost to fly to another state in the US.  I will miss the ringing of the church bells and driving in Italy.  I love driving here. 

So, what can you expect to read and see on my blog in the next six months.  I won't be writing about what I will miss or what I look forward to that often, but occasionally when the mood strikes me.  It's just where we are right now in life.  I will continue to write about our daily life and our travels (we are planning quite a few trips before we leave - Madrid, Lisbon, London, Sicily, Sermione, Parma, Lucca, Berlin, Prague, Greece, Hamburg, Norway, Ravenna, San Marino and return trips to Venice and Verona).  Some of these are week long trips, some are weekend and some are day trips.  As we make plans and go through the motions of getting ready to return home, I will also write about that.  I also plan to write about and take pictures of our friends and the business people that we have dealt with over the last two years.  We've met a lot of fantastic people here who have shared their part of the Italian culture with us. 

So now, back to daily life:

I spent the morning prepping for our trip. Tomorrow morning we are heading out for a week in Madrid and Lisbon.  We have become pretty efficient and quick at packing.  The biggest change we are making this time is to bring 3 carry on suitcases.  We usually only bring two and a backpack.  EasyJet only allows one carry on item per person (purse, camera bag, suitcase, computer bag, etc).  On the last two trips we almost ran out of space because of the souveniers we bought, so this time we bring the third suitcase. 

I spent part of the afternoon researching for our February trip to Sicily.  The first step is the hardest.  Figuring out what to see and do and narrow it down so we can see as much as possible, yet have a relaxing trip. 

Tomorrow we fly to Madrid!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Haircuts and Milano

I actually woke up fairly early for this winter break - 8:30am.  Brandon was the last one to get up today.  He slept until almost 10am, then stayed in bed to read until almost 11.  Ah, the lazy days of winter break.

Katrina and I both had hair appointments with Claudio this morning.  It sure is nice that he is located right out the front gate, across the street.  Very convenient. 

After my haircut I quickly changed clothes and went for a bike ride.  I rode 24 km today on my usual Lurago route.  Once home, I took a quick shower and we headed out for the afternoon.  Our destination, Milano. 

We took the Metro to the Duomo stop.  I was amazed at how crowded it was for a Wednesday afternoon. 


Katrina and Brandon in Piazza del Duomo

This building was new to us.  It's located on Piazza del Duomo, but its been covered by scaffolding and a huge video screen ever since we moved here. 

Galleria entrance and the Milano Christmas tree, sponsored by Tiffany's.

Katrina wanted to visit an art exhibit, so Brandon and I headed toward the American bookstore.  I needed to pickup a book on Sicily.  We are planning to go there in February. 

Along the way we spotted these works of art.  We've seen these before.  The man who makes these is an amazing artist.  He uses fruit and vegetables as his medium. 

After I found the book I needed, Brandon and I wandered the street around the Duomo.  We found some streets we had not been down before, so we just wandered aimlessly until Katrina texted us that she was ready to meet up.

Brandon poses in front of the Ferrari store

We spotted this light display inside a small Galleria - almost like lighted windchimes.

The windchimes changed colors.

Even in temps that are close to 0, people sit outside to enjoy coffee, hot chocolate and dinner.  Notice the propane heaters in the center.

Lights on shops near the Duomo

Department store window.  These snowflakes are made of rolled paper.

This display was setup in a tent near the Duomo. 

The dome of the Galleria

Lights in the Christmas Market area

Christmas Market booth

Lights on Via Dante

Brandon is happy and ready to go home.  The Metro ride home was great for warming up. 

We had a great afternoon in Milano.  I really like the energy of the city.  It's amazing how many people are out and about, even on these cold winter days. 

This is what 9 year old boys love...boy jokes about gas.  Interestingly, this photo idea was Katrina's.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The sun is out for the second day in a row.  It started out a littly overcast and foggy.  It's cold though, 1 C (33F).

Brandon and I made a trip to IKEA late this morning.  We needed a few things and we actually bought just what we needed.  We made it out of IKEA spending on 24 euro, mostly on candles.  Brandon has been obsessed with burning candles lately. 

After dropping Brandon off at home, I made a quick trip to Decathlon to buy some size 12 cycling tights for Brandon.  His size 10's are a bit snug.  He's been filling out a bit these past few months. 

Brandon works on winter break homework.  He has several items to complete and he's trying to get them finished before we leave for Madrid on Saturday.

This afternoon I went for a bike ride.  Brandon decided he didn't want to join me today.  I rode my normal route.  I haven't ridden in awhile so I've been doing shorter rides, not my usual 40 km rides.  Today I rode 22 km.  Not a alot, but enough to get out and get a little exercise.  It was 1 C when I returned home (about 33F).  Not too bad since I have stocked up on plenty of cycling clothing this year.  Having the right clothes really helps. 

This evening we headed to Saturn, a large electronics store in Carate Brianza.  Katrina was looking for a new case for her Ipod Touch.  I drooled over all the flat panel TV's.  I really like the LED TV picture.  It seems really clear.  I also looked at new laptops, notebooks and the Ipad.  The laptop I am using now is starting to have some serious problems.  I'm hoping it will last until we get back to the US. 

On the way home we stopped for dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant.  Great food! 

Brandon always orders Nuvole di Gamberi for an appetizer when we eat Chinese.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunny Monday

It's Monday and Christmas 2010 is behind us.  It's a bittersweet feeling in many ways.  Christmas is a magical time for our family.  We love to decorate our tree, share presents, build a gingerbread house, watch movies and see the Christmas lights.   Another Christmas has come and passed.  It was great, but I will miss the season until it arrives again next year.  It's also a bit sad to think that this was our last Christmas in Italy.  I will miss the traditions and festivities of this wonderful country.

There are the Christmas markets in each town that are filled with vendors, many of them international, for much of the month.  Each town seems to work really hard to hang lights and decorate.  Lights hang over the city streets, the pedestrian malls and store windows.  It's a fabulous time to be out and about. 

Next Christmas will be spent at home, in Corvallis.  It will be nice to be back in our house and I look forward to putting up Christmas lights and decorations.  I also look forward to seeing our European memories hang on the tree, so that we will always remember our experiences here in Italy and Europe. 

It was sunny today in Vedano.  With the sun comes colder temperatures.  That's ok, I'll take the sunshine. 

Brandon and I went for a bike ride this afternoon.  I needed to get out and do something after spending 2 days in the house.  I also needed to get my lazy butt in gear and exercise.  My weight has been steadily climbing again this winter and I don't like it.  We took it easy and slow.  The last time I was on my bike was in mid November.  It was cold, but we had the gear to stay mostly warm. 

This evening was a relaxing one at home.  We had a fend night for dinner.  Thats where its every family member for themselves.  Brandon had leftover stuffing.  I had a bratwurst.  Katrina had mac & cheese.  Katrina and Brandon bought the Quantum Leap box set of DVD's for one of my Christmas gifts, so I started watching episode 1.  Wow, takes me back a long time. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twas the Day After Christmas...

...and all through the house, there were Legos scattered.  I tried to finish this, but I just couldn't think of a good ending. 

I slept in until 9:30 this morning.  I honestly thought it was 7:30 when I woke up.  Katrina woke up after me, which is very rare, and noted that it was 10am.  That's when I realized I hadn't been up since 7:30.  I guess I woke up in a fog. 

It's raining in Vedano this morning and its about 4 degrees celcius (38F).  I'm contemplating a bike ride for later today, if the rain goes away.  I feel like I should get one more ride in before the end of the year. 

When we moved to Italy, we did not bring any of our Christmas decorations or ornaments.  Since we've been here, we have tried to find an ornament from each place we visit.  We managed to fill our tree.  I think we'll have to buy a large tree when we move back home.  Here are a few of the ornaments on our tree:

Nutella, its used like peanut butter here in Europe

Swiss Cow

Oktoberfest 2010


London England

Murano glass


Leaning Tower of Pisa

Eiffel Tower

This afternoon I took a short nap.  I was sitting on the couch with Brandon and it just hit me.  I couldn't keep my eyes open, so I went to bed and took a nap. 

Brandon and I watched a sad movie early this evening.  It was titled "Hatchi - Your Best Friend", at least according the the translation.  It's about a man and his dog and their relationship.  Every day Hatchi would go to the train station and wait for his masters return.  Then one day the Hatchi doesn't want him to leave for work.  The man ends up having a heart attack at work and dies.  Hatchi keeps coming  to the train station each and every day at 5pm for ten years, waiting for his masters return.  One night, Hatchi returns to the train station and passes away in his sleep.  It's based on a true story.  Today, in the town where this story took place, there is a statue of Hatchi the dog waiting patiently for his master to return.  It was a great story that made us both sad.

I made Mexican beef stew for dinner this evening.  It was great!  Brandon even ate two bowls worth after complaining that he wouldn't like it. 

Weekly Update

87 Week Gelati Count:  309
87 Week Wine Bottle Count:  108

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

"It's Christmas!".  That was what I woke up to as Brandon stormed into the bedroom.  He was very excited and wanted me up so that presents could be opened.  Katrina was apparently already awake. 

We took a few minutes to get ourselves alert and ready, then Brandon sorted the gifts into piles.  Of course, Brandon had the most gifts - from us, Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents.  

Lego firetruck from Meemaw

Brandon gave this Murano clock to Katrina

Lego helicopter and limo from Nana & Papa

Percy Jackson books from the Laurie, Jeff, Logan and Josh

Lego fire station from Uncle Rob, Aunt Heather, Dylan, Uncle Jason, Aunt Brooke, Tanner and Gavin

Lego police station from Nana & Papa

It was mostly a Lego Christmas for Brandon

We spent the day hanging out at home.  Brandon and I worked on building his Lego kits.  Katrina played with her Itouch.  We watched some TV and ate some leftovers for lunch and dinner.  It was a great Christmas at home...and its only Saturday.  We have one more day of the weekend to go.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I was the last one up again today.  I think I woke up around 9:15 or so.  It's another rainy day in Vedano al Lambro.  The forecast calls for a high of 6 degrees C (about 42 F). 

Well, today was a lazy day at home.  We didn't go out, except for a quick walk over to the supermarket for some Coca Cola and aluminum foil. 

We bought a gift basket for our portinia.  Katrina and Brandon went down to give the gift to Anna and her husband.  They are such nice people and always love to chat with Brandon.  When he came back upstairs he told me about all the 'wet kisses' Anna gave him. 

We spent the afternoon prepping for our Christmas Eve dinner - turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.  The turkey only took a little over two hours to cook - it was a 2.4 kg turkey, just perfect for three of us with some leftovers. 

Brandon opened one gift, as is our tradition.  He chose one he thought might be a book, and he was right.  It was a Horrible Histories activity book.  That kept him busy for part of the evening. 

Dinner tasted great.  We really enjoyed the mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Katrina says that we cooked a turkey so we would have drippings for gravy.  I think she is right. 

After dinner we finished watching "It's a Wonderful Life".  We started it the other night but were too tired to finish it. 

It's Christmas Eve.  I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Full Day of Break

I was the last one up today.  I think I finally woke up around 9:30am.  It's Brandon's first full day of winter break.  It's cloudy, 4 degrees C.  (38 F) and rainy outside.  I think the rain is supposed to stick around until Saturday night. 

Sometimes I think the universe likes to play jokes on us.  I was a very neat child.  I loved to keep my Matchbox cars in order, my Lego sets built in their original form, and my room clean.  My son Brandon is just the opposite.  He dumps his Matchbox cars in a bin, mixes his Lego sets together, and keeps a messy room.  I've come to accept this, with reassurance from Katrina.  He's his own person.  And although he mixes his Legos, he creates wildly imaginative new vehicles and structures.  His room is a mess, but he's happy.  Most of the time I can accept this, but once in awhile it drives me crazy and I think the universe is chuckling at me...and maybe trying to teach me a lesson. 

This evening we attended an aperitivo at a friends home here in Vedano.  It was nice to hang out, meet some new people, eat some delicious food, and enjoy some intoxicating bubbly.  The hard part was focusing on all the Italian being spoken.  I did pretty well, understanding the main ideas of what was being talked about.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I'm Looking Forward To:

I was recently asked, more than once, "What are you looking forward to when you return to Oregon?"  This question came from one person who reads my blog and from two parents at Brandon's school.  I was also asked, "What will you miss the most about Italy?"  Well, I'm not ready to deal with that one yet, so today I will answer the first question:

What do I look forward to when we return home at the end of June? 

1)  Our home.  I look forward to being back in our home.  I look foward to space that is ours again.  We live in a nice area of Corvallis.

2)  Friends.  I miss our friends.  I've made many new friends here and hope to keep them as lasting friendships for years to come.  I miss guys movie night, and hanging out with friends on holidays, or just because we want to hang out. 

3)  I miss my trains.  I'm looking forward to my new train room.  I will be dismanteling my current train layout and will be building a new one in our 'guest' room.  I can't wait to begin.  I've been planning for quite awhile now.

4)  This one is bittersweet.  I look forward to convenience, yet I don't.  The US is all about convenience.  Stores are open all day and late at night - some are open 24 hours.  You can stop at a market to buy a drink or a treat or fast food.  You can do just about anything just about anytime. 

On the other hand, I love the inconvenience of things in Italy.  Italians take time out of their day to enjoy life and enjoy lunch - usually for 1 - 2 hours.  Most shops are closed.  Restaurants don't open until dinner time.  The great thing about this is the slower pace of life, and you once you become accustomed to it, its nice.  It makes you think twice about really needing something before you head out and get it...the store might be closed!

5)  I look forward to traveling in the US again.  Travel will seem so much easier now.  If I can make travel arrangements in so many foreign countries, I'll be a wiz at making them at home.  We are really looking forward to using our travel trailer again - visiting the ocean, the mountains and new places.  We want to visit Glacier National Park, the Grand Canyon, New York City, Washington DC and so much more. 

6)  Being closer to family.  Although we see them about once a year, just as we do have here in Italy, it will be nice to just give them a call and not have to think about whether they are awake or not. 

7)  I look forward to a dryer for our clothes, and a full size washing machine.  No more stiff towels, socks and underwear.  No more hanging each item.  I won't have to do a load of laundry each day. 

8)  I look forward to Mexican food - I think.  I say this because it seems to be the one food we continually talk about missing, yet on our visit back to Corvallis last February, it just didn't seem like a big deal.  Maybe I'm no longer a big fan of Mexican food.  I guess we shall see when we return.

9)  I'm looking forward to going back to work.  I'm not sure what I will be doing though?  I will do whatever meets out needs, but I do have dreams and goals.  I'd love to work for myself...or...I'd love to work as an events planner or coordinator...or...I'd love to be the next director of the da Vinci Days festival...or...I'd love to own and operate a pedicab business...or...I'd love to build and operate a model railroad museum.  I know not all of these are feasible or sustainable, but I can dream.  I think event planning is my top pick.

10)  I'm looking forward to my truck.  We only have one car here in Italy and it's actually been really good, but I am starting to miss my truck. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Quiet Day

Katrina woke up not feeling very well today.  I made sure Brandon was ready for school and dropped him off before heading to Ramazotti to distribute gift baskets to the teachers and staff.  Whew!..all done. 

Its a cloudy, rainy and snowy day.  One minute it is raining, then snowing, then raining.  The temperature hit a balmy 3 degrees celcius (36 F.).  That is warm compared to the last few days. 

I spent much of my day sweeping, mopping, doing laundry and figuring out meals for the holiday weekend.  This afternoon I made a run to il Gigante for a gift basket.  We were short one at school this morning.  The school secretary forgot to add the school nurse to the list. 

Brandon had his last full day of school for the term.  Wow, it has gone by fast.  I really want time to slow waaaaay down.  I'm not ready to leave Italy yet. 

I made minestrone soup this afternoon.  It needed to simmer for 2 hours, so we ate around 6:30pm, our normal time.  It turned out pretty good, especially with the pane focaccia I bought.  Yum!

Katrina ended up sleeping until 2:30 this afternoon, then went to bed early. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gift Baskets

It's Monday again.  Today I was busy delivering gift baskets to the teachers and staff of the International School in Monza.  The parents donated money so that we could buy the gifts.  All the teachers seemed very happy and surprised. 

It was a sunny day in Vedano.  I think it may have reached 5 degrees celcius (about 34 F).  The roads were a mix of wet and icy.  That didn't keep anyone off of their scooters or bicycles. 

I guess a large area of Europe is having very wintery weather.  We have one friend whose flight from Paris was cancelled, and other friends who are hoping to fly from England to Italy tomorrow.  There are a few teachers at school who are hoping to make it home to England for the holidays.  So many flights are cancelled in England, France and Germany.  I'm glad we are not going anywhere until the 1st. 

I tried making chicken curry with vegetable and rice this evening.  It turned out to be a 6 on a scale of 1 - 10.  The curry could have used a bit more kick...or something.  It was my first time making it, so I will just keep practicing. 

For my Railfan Friends

This post is for my railfan friends.  I found this website and thought it was pretty interesting:  Monorails Society.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly Count

86 Week Gelati Count:  309
86 Week Wine Bottle Count:  106

Snow Day at Home

We woke up to continued freezing temperatures and snow on the ground.  We didn't really get any new snow last night, so this is what came down yesterday. 

We had another lazy day at home.  As much as we travel, its nice to have time at home.  Katrina spent the day working on her upcoming photography class.  Brandon mostly played with his Legos.  I cleaned up the house, watched JAG and worked on another mosaic project.  I think I have Mosaic ADD.  I have one completed project, the Roman dolphin.  I now have four other projects in various stages of completion.  My second project just needs to be cleaned up a bit and I need to paint the backside.  Maybe I'll finish it this week. 

This evening we watched the Polar Express, then played Labrynth and had pizza for dinner.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day at Home - Evening in Monza

We spent a lazy day at home today.  With temps down at 0 celcius and lower, staying inside just seemed like the thing to do. 

Katrina worked on her upcoming Photography course she will be teaching.  Brandon played.  I worked on a my mosaic projects, this blog and watched some JAG. 

This evening we all got dressed - yes, it was a pajama day at home - and headed into Monza.  Katrina wanted to take pictures of the Christmas lights.  It was amazing how busy and crowded the pedestrian zone was considering it was below 0 by this time of day...-2 to be exact. 

Monza Christmas Market

Brandon enjoys a pretzel from the German booth

KatEye Photography at work.

Roasted chestnuts are everywhere.  We tried them last year and didn't like them.