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.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Back Home to Italy


Brandon and new friends.  These were taken in haste as the kids were leaving for school.  Getting three children to smile all at once is very difficult!

Today seemed like a long travel day.   We left the house with the intention of riding the train all the way back to Gatwick.  Tom and Kirstin were going to join us for part of the journey.  Unfortunately, the train in Westcombe was delayed due to blockage of the lines.  On to plan B.  No, that wouldn't work.  On to plan C.  Kirsten and Tom drove us to a nearby Underground station.  We hopped on the Underground, heading to the London Bridge station.

Quick goodbyes to our new friends and we hopped off the Underground and caught the next train to Gatwick.

We arrived at the airport about 2 1/2 hours before our flight.  What else to do but enjoy some Cornish Pasties and do a little shopping.  We found a few more books and some chocolates to take home with us.

Our flight to Milan was uneventful, the way it should be.  I think I slept for a good portion of the flight.  Lately, I seem to get very tired the minute I board an airplane.

We arrived in sunny and warmer Milan.  London was VERY cold over the weekend.  On our past couple of vacations, we have arrived home very late at night.  We purposely arrived home earlier in the day this time.  This allowed some time to unpack, start some laundry and generally relax before going to bed.

It was another fantastic trip on this 2 year crazy Italian adventure we are on.  Our next trip will be a one night weekend trip to Parma and Lucca in a few weeks.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Old Friends and the Science Museum

Our 'home' for the weekend

Katrina was the first one up today.  She and Kirstin were heading into Greenwich Village for a photo walk with a few online photographer friends.

Brandon was up next and spent part of the morning playing a Lego video game with Miles and Ella.  Around 11am, he and I headed out to catch the train.

Our destination, visiting his old classmate Amelie and her family at their new home here in London.  We arrived at noon and Brandon quickly disappeared upstairs to play with Amelie and her brother.  I stayed downstairs to chat with Sue.  We haven't seen them since August when they made a quick and unexpected (to us anyway) move to London.  We had a nice chat, then Sue served a great lunch of roasted chicken, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cobb.  This was followed by a raspberry cake that the kids made.  Delicious! We are being spoiled by all the great meals on this trip.

After lunch I hung out and chatted with Sue, Pascal and his mother, who was also visiting.  Brandon disappeared again, this time to play outside.  What a great experience to visit a foreign city and be able to visit good friends.

Brandon and friends

We left, reluctantly, around 4pm and headed back into downtown London.  Katrina would be meeting us at the Science Museum.  It took us about an hour to get to the science museum.  Katrina was waiting for us in the lobby.  Like many of the great London museums, admission was free.

Brandon wanted to visit the large gift shop first thing.  He was looking for a door alarm that Ella told him about.  He found it, but decided to get a secret spy watch instead.

We headed upstairs to see the hands on displays first.  It's always fun to try the experiments.  This was a very busy section of the museum.  We spent most of our time in this area then quickly headed down to the space exhibits before the museum closed for the day.  This is a great science museum.  If you are ever in London, check it out.

This evening we enjoyed another great meal at Tom and Kirstin's home.  They made two roast chickens, potatoes with potatoes.  We enjoyed some fabulous bread pudding for dessert.  This was followed by bread and three varieties of cheese.  More great cooking from our London friends.

Once again, we spent the evening chatting and drinking wine in the kitchen while the kids played a Lego game in the other room.

It's been a super trip to London, making new friends, seeing old friends, eating lots of great food, drinking wine, and shopping in the city.  I only took a few pictures this trip.  I'm not sure why?

Tomorrow we will head home....

Pub Lunch and Shopping

After a late night of chatting and drinking wine, I was not that eager to get up early today.  Thankfully we had didn't have a busy morning planned.  

Katrina decided to join Kirstin, Ella and Miles as they headed to dance class.  Brandon, Tom and I hung out at home until dance class was over, then we all met at their favorite pub in Greenwich Village.  I wish I could remember the name??

What a great little pub with its long bar with many draft beers to choose from, its old wooden tables and benches, was well as tattered lounge chairs to relax and drink.  Us guys arrived first and ordered drinks, beer for Tom and I, Coke for Brandon.  The girls and Miles arrived soon after and we ordered lunch.  Fish and chips for the kids and myself.  Sandwiches and eggs for Tom and Kirsten.  Stew and mashed potatoes for Katrina.  It was all very tasty.  I always enjoy a good fish and chips.  

After lunch, Tom and family led us down to the train station.  We wanted to do a little shopping in the city.  This trip really wasn't intended to be much of a sightseeing weekend, but more of a shopping, photography and hanging out with friends weekend.  

Time for the shopping.  Brandon wanted to find a Disney store so that he could find a new blue Puffle.  All three of us wanted to shop for books.  We found ourselves in the huge Foyle's bookstore.  Brandon found a few Horrible History books, I found a mosaic book and Katrina found a photography book.  Success!

Unfortunately, Brandon was feeling pretty sick at this point, so we made a mad dash back to the train and back to our hosts home.  He ended up taking a couple hour nap.  When he woke up he was still feeling bad.  Eventually, he tummy felt really bad and he ran to the bathroom to chunder...throw up.  I was looking for a new word to describe it.  I came up with 'chunder'.  

As is often the case, he felt much better afterwards and spent the evening playing his new board game, Rotten Romans, with Ella.  

Once again, the adults hung out in the kitchen, chatting, drinking wine, and enjoying Tom's fabulous pizzas.  The best one was made with red onion and goat cheese.  Delicious!!  

Kirstin writes a fun blog called, A Cook Book a Month.  Each month she and Tom try recipes from one cookbook and write their reactions.  Katrina and I were part of the process for the cheesecake she made this evening, which was really tasty.  

It was another fun and fabulous day in London with our new friends.  Tomorrow we will get to visit some old friends who moved away from Monza this past August.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

Off to London

We are heading to London today!!  I never really dreamed that I would ever make it to London, and now I'm heading there for the second time in 6 months.

I had to run an errand to the post office this morning to pay our TV tax and gas bill.  I've mentioned this before, but in Italy, you pay many of your monthly bills at the post office.  You can also collect and cash your retirement checks, file paperwork for Visa renewal (we are doing that next Thursday), and send mail.  I also have to pay our TV tax.  In Italy you pay a tax for TV's and radios.  We don't own any radios - the one in the car is owned by Hertz - but we do lease a TV.  Its 110 euro a year.  It can be payed all at once or in two or three payments.  We will be paying for taxes through July.  And yes, we pay this tax at the post office.

We flew to London this evening.  Our mode of transportation - EasyJet.   We arrived at Gatwick airport and proceeded to follow the directions that Kirstin (Katrina's friend who is putting us up for the weekend) gave us.  It was easy as could be.  Two trains and about an hour later, we arrive at the Westcombe Park stop in Greenwich.  Kirstin was there waiting for us as we hopped off the train.

Kirstin and her family - husband Tom and children Miles and Ella - live in a lovely three story home just up the street from the train station.  After getting settled, they fed us a fantastic dinner of pasta with a sausage sauce.

Katrina had never met Kirstin in person before tonight, but we felt right at home the minute we walked through their door.  The kids headed off to play and the adults sat in the kitchen chatting and drinking wine until very late.

Tomorrow we will enjoy lunch in a local pub and go shopping in the city.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


On most days, I wake up at 7:40am.  I wake Brandon up, then make breakfast and his lunch while he gets dressed.  Most of the time Katrina walks him to school then goes walking in the park.  I usually goof around on the internet, start laundry, clean the house, etc.  At this point I am awake and ready for the day.

Today was not like that.  I woke Brandon up, made breakfast and lunch, then walked Brandon to school.  Katrina asked me to walk him today.  When I arrived back home I still felt like I could barely keep my eyes open.  I rarely do this, but I ended up going back to bed and slept until noon!

It's now 5:30pm and I already feel like I could go to bed.  I don't feel sick, just completely worn out.  I'm not sure why?

It's Thursday night, which is pizza night in our house.  I'll only be ordering 2 pizzas for dinner, for Brandon and Katrina.  I just don't feel hungry.  Am I getting sick?  I just don't feel like I have energy or hunger, but I don't feel sick.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not much to say...

And once again, its a sunny and very cold day in Vedano - -1.8 C = 28 F as we left for school.  I spent an hour reading with 2nd grades students this morning, as I usually do on Wednesdays.

We made an appointment to start the renewal process for our Visa's.  They expire in February and we are staying until the end of June.

I guess I don't have much to say today.


A cure for cancer is needed.  I'm not totally sure why this particular disease has caught my attention in the last few years, but it has.  I think because it is a disease that hits home for almost everyone.  Everyone I know has been affected by cancer in one way or another - friend, family member, colleague at work, etc.

When will a cure be found...or at the very least, when will better medicine be discovered?  I do not know the answer?  

I am sad to say that another person I know has been diagnosed with cancer.  I will not reveal their name, for reasons of privacy.  

What can we do?  I do know that we can support the people we know with love, prayers, support - physical, financial or emotional.  And, we can support research.  

That is why I am riding my bike on September 23rd,  in the Hood River Gran Fondo, an event that supports the Livestrong foundation and the Knight Cancer Institute.  

Please consider helping out.  I have set a goal of raising $250 towards cancer research and patient support.  

Sunshine and Cold Temps

We woke up to another sunny but cold morning in Vedano.  Why has it been so darn hard to wakeup lately?

Brandon had a hard time waking up as well, but he managed and was in good spirits at breakfast.  He decided to quickly do an experiment from a book he was reading, "The Dangerous Book for Boys".  He got all the materials together to make his own crystals:  glass, water, sugar, string.  We'll see what happens...

I spent part of my morning reading with Transition (preschool) students.  I actually do most of the reading.  Our goal is to get them to help tell the story from the pictures and help them recognize words on the page.  It's going well.  Some of the students are really starting to get it.

This afternoon I went for a bike ride, then worked on some planning for our trip to Sicily next month.  I also spent a little time dreaming up ideas for my new train room at home in Corvallis.  I'm looking forward to building a new 'permanent' train layout in a space that has heat, air conditioning and convenience.  More will be blogged about this when we move home.

After school today, Brandon attended a birthday party for his classmate Tommaso.  It was held at Joy Village, a game and bowling center.

I was going to make Portugese Beef for dinner, but when I read the recipe earlier, I somehow missed the part that it needs to simmer for 5 hours.  I realized this at 6pm, an hour before Katrina got home.  So, burritos are whats for dinner tonight.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chilly Monday

It's Monday again.  This morning as Brandon was getting ready for school he says, "Ugh, where did my weekend go!"

It's a cold (-1.7 C = 26 F) but sunny day in Vedano.  Its supposed to hit the 7 or 8 degrees today (low 40's).  I hope so.

I received an airline email the other morning that offered a good deal to a destination we were planning on visiting at the end of May - Norway.  3 of us, roundtrip to Norway for 200 euro.  We now have airline reservations Sicily, Greece and Norway.  It's going to be a great spring of travels!

I walked over to the Monza market this morning to buy some parmesan.  We bought some fresh Italian parmesan as a gift for the people we are staying with in London this coming weekend.  I also bought some Toma cheese and oranges.

I made pasta and olive salad for dinner, except that I forgot to buy olives.  It still has dried tomatoes and capers, so its pretty tasty.

I'm tired this evening....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekly Count

91 Week Gelati Count:  311
91 Week Wine Bottle Count:  110


All three of us slept in this morning.  I was the last one up at 9:15am.  The sun was shining, but it was cold.  Everything outside was covered in frost.

We headed to Sirmione for the afternoon.  It's located east of Milan, on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda), about a 1 1/2 hour drive.

Once in Sirmione, we walked into the old city and toured the castle first thing.  It was sunny buy the wind made it very cold along the lake.  The castle offered a nice break from the wind.

Lago di Garda

It was sunny, but the wind made it very cold

The Rocca Scaligera, built in 1277

The walls extend into the water to protect the enclosed harbor

The drawbridge into the castle

Wall around the protected marina

We climbed to the top of this tower

I love the outline of castle walls

Brandon crosses the pedestrian drawbridge

Looking down from the tower

The old city of Sirmione and the castle that guards in are strategically located on the tip of a peninsula.  This view is looking back toward the mainland.

Katrina takes some photos from the tower lookout

The old town of Sirmione

The stairs to the top of the tower

I really like these window shots

Back down from the tower.  I just noticed the cool wall shadow.

After leaving the castle, we basically spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the town, walking along the waterfront, shopping a little bit, eating focaccia pizzas and hot dogs for lunch, trying to stay warm and enjoying some very tasty gelato.  

Can you believe that local residents drive down these streets!

Brandon finishes his hot dog as we wander the town - he's a slow eater.

Interesting art

Brandon spots a swing in the park

Remains of a monastery from the 4th century

Lago di Garda

I like taking pictures of Katrina taking pictures

The castle as the evening sets in.  

We left Sirmione around 5:30pm, excited that the car heater would warm us up quickly.  We were COLD!  It was a great afternoon trip to this fantastic little town.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sunny Saturday

It's another sunny day in Vedano.  We slept in a bit today, but I slept in the longest, getting up at 9:15am.

Brandon had to get ready for school.  Several of the 5th grade students volunteered to be tour guides at the International School's open house today.  I dropped him off at 10 and picked him up at 12:30.  He had fun giving tours and hanging out with friends.

This afternoon Brandon and I kicked the soccer ball around in the yard.  This was followed by a 1 on 1 game on the basketball court.  Brandon won 10 - 8.

I made beef stroganoff with white rice for dinner.  It got a thumbs up from Katrina and I, but an average from Brandon.

After dinner we played Monopoly.  This was Brandon's first time playing real Monopoly.  Until now he's only played JR Monopoly.  I was the first to go bankrupt (after 1 1/4 hours of play) due to a bad deal with Brandon.
Katrina and Brandon played for 2 1/2 hours.

Countries Visited

I was recently asked how many countries we have visited since we arrived in Italy.  Here is the list, in no particular order:

1. Italy
2. Switzerland
3. Germany
4. Netherlands
5. England
6. France
7. Spain
8. Portugal
9. Slovenia
10. Croatia
11. Bosnia - briefly drove through part of it
12. Austria

Visiting before we head back to the US:

1. Greece
2. Norway

Friday, January 21, 2011


It's Friday, its sunny and its very cold outside.  It was -.9 C this morning (about 31 F).  Katrina didn't sleep well last night, so I took Brandon to school then headed over to Auchan to get a few groceries.

I finally figured out how we can get to Greece for spring break.  It will cost a bit more than our usual vacations, but we will make it.  We had two things going against us:  1)  It's spring break, so prices go up, and 2)  We are trying to get to the island of Santorini for the week.  About 8 or 9 airlines fly to that island, but only 2 fly there year round.  All the rest don't only fly there between May and September.  That makes it hard when spring break is in April.  We had the same issue with the ferries.  There only seem to be seasonal flights to the cities and towns that have ferry routes to the island, and many of the ferries are seasonal as well.  Possible, but difficult.  We are going to Greece for spring break!!

This evening we headed to Mexicali for dinner with Mike.  It's been a few months since we have been there.  We all had fajitas and daquiries ( the drinks were free because I met one of the owners in Bellagio back in October).  On our way out one of the other owners gave us tequilas shots for free.  It's all about making friends and relationships in Italy.  Oh, and the fajitas were excellent.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Sunny Day

It's another sunny day in Vedano al Lambro.  The forecast said it would be cloudy with some rain.  Maybe that will come later, but for now the sun is shining.

I spent my morning cleaning the house, doing laundry and catching up on dishes - I had fallen behind.  I also chopped up a very tasty pineapple.  I may have to buy another one for the weekend.

Last night I made chili con carne for dinner.  It was tasty, but I burned the roof of my mouth while taste-testing it.  That sucks.  Eating will not be the same for a couple of days.

I spent this afternoon researching Greece for our spring break trip.  One of Katrina's colleagues at work gave us info for the island of Santorini, where they stayed, and it looks fabulous:  beaches, white painted villages, a volcano to explore and short ferry trips to other islands close by.

Had a nice online chat with my friend Alyssa this evening.  Catching up on life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sunny Wednesday

We woke up to sunshine instead of fog!

I walked Brandon to school since I had to be there anyway.  On Wednesday mornings I read with 2nd graders.

Today was just a normal day - laundry, two loads of dishes (I fell behind), a short bike ride and cooking dinner.

I guess I just haven't been in the mood to write much lately.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 Top Blog Posts

I was looking at some statistics from my blog and thought I would share the top 5 posts for 2010:

1. Gardaland, Aug 13th
2. Anne Frank and Windmills, July 20
3. Boats, Trains and Castles on the Rhine River, July 22
4. Train to Bacharach, July 21
5. Museo del Ciclismo & Madonna del Ghisallo, Sept 19

It's interesting to me that #2, 3 & 4 are from the same vacation because that was one of my favorite trips since we've been in Europe.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Sickness

We woke up to a foggy day again.  We've had a lot of foggy mornings and a few foggy days lately.  Thankfully the fog burned off by noon.

I kept the car today.  I had a few errands I wanted to run.  Unfortunately, after doing a bit of shopping at il Gigante, I was putting the shopping cart away when I felt the sudden urge to hurl.  Thankfully, no one was around and there was a trash can nearby.  I felt really sick.

I headed home and ended up being sick most of the afternoon.  By evening, when it was time to pickup Katrina, I was feeling a little bit better.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Inter - Bologna Football

We have been in Italy for almost two years and today we finally went to our first 'football' game.  Mike, the other engineer here with Katrina, will be heading back to the US in April, three months before us.  He is in countdown mode.  He recently created a list of things he needed to do before going home. 

One of the top things on the list was to attend a football game.  He did some research and found the schedule for Inter, the top pro team in Milan.  Since we wanted to see a game as well, he bought tickets for all of us. 

Apparently buying tickets was an adventure.  Where would you buy Inter tickets?  At the stadium?  At a ticket agency?  No, at a bank!!  Who knew?  When he went to purchase tickets, he found out he needed our passport info and codice fiscale info (like Social Security).  So, he had to go back with that info.  Apparently our reserved seat tickets were printed with our names and info on them for security purposes and for ticket fraud purposes. 

When I told our friends we were going, everyone was excited for us.  They were nervous about us bringing Brandon to the game.  Apparently, at many matches the fans can cause quite a ruckus, but those are usually the big rivalry games.  We were attending the Inter - Bologna match and it is not a big rivalry.

One of the new red line Metro trains, compeletly empty

The game started at 8:45pm.  We drove to Sesto and caught the Metro to Porta Venezia, where we met Mike, then continued on to Lotto.  From there we rode a shuttle bus to the stadium.  The stadium is huge.  As big as or bigger than many NFL stadiums.  Outside the stadium were all sorts of the usual Italian food vendor trucks.  To get into the stadium we had to show our passports again, to prove that the tickets were for us.  Our tickets were checked and/or scanned three times before we reached our seats. 

Crew prepping the field for the match

Mike and Brandon

The crowd was lively.  The 'end zones' are the liveliest, with continuous singing, chanting and lighting of flares.  Yes, they light bright orange roadside flares in the stands.  It may or may not be legal, but its tolerated.  It's Italy. 

The game is about ready to begin - Inter in blue and Bologna in white.  That is smoke in the air from all the flares that people were burning

On our end of the stadium, up high in the 3rd tier, were the visitors from Bologna.  They were a loud bunch, despite their small numbers.  At one point they lit off a firework that sounded like a cannon inside the stadium. 

We found our seats, on the second level.  Not bad.  They gave us a good view of all the action. At times that seemed random to us, everyone would stand up, start chanting something we couldn't understand, and hop up and down. We are not sure what it was for or what prompted it each time.

At halftime everyone around us pulled out sandwiches wrapped in foil and began to eat. They also pulled out their cigarettes for a smoke. I didn't see anyone smoke during the game, but at halftime, everyone smoked.

The stadium vendors walked around selling candy, Coca Cola, snacks and viles of coffee with alcohol for sale. I didn't see any beer for sale, except at the vendors outside the stadium.

Shot on goal

Inter scores!

Banners and flags wave wildly

Flares are lit.

First goal scored a 9:13pm. 

When Inter scored a goal, the stadium went wild. Fans lit flares, jumped up and down and began to chant and sing. The scoreboard would flash the name of the player who scored the goal. The announcer would excitedly announce his first name and the fans would chant his last name, over and over again.

Chanting for Inter

Inter scores again!

The match lasted until almost 10:45 and was a blast.  Football (soccer) is so much more fun in person.  Inter is an excellent team and they ended up winning 4-1 and are undefeated this season.  Last year they won the championship.

An interesting note from the end of the match.  As the stadium emptied, we noticed that the Bologna fans were still just standing in their sections with security all around them.  Katrina said there was an announcement (which I missed or didn't understand) that they were to remain in their seats until the Inter fans were all gone, then they would be escorted out of the stadium. 

Bologna fans waiting to exit the stadium

At the beginning of the match and at the end, this song was played in the stadium and the words were displayed on the scoreboard.  It appears to be a theme song for the team.  Everyone was singing it!  

We had so much fun we want to go again.  We also want to see an AC Milan game and a Monza game.