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, July 31, 2011

Cousins, Eating, More Cousins and More Eating

This morning we said our goodbyes to Mike and Vic, then headed to the first of two stops for the day.  Katrina's cousin DJ and family had us over for brunch.  DJ made everyone cooked to order eggs.  We had a nice visit.  Brandon had fun playing with the kids.  I was able to try DJ's homebrew, green chili beer.  It was actually pretty good.

In the afternoon we headed to Dave and Tiffany's house for a BBQ.  Dave is another cousin of Katrina's. We enjoyed some hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner.  Brandon had a great time with the kids and playing on Dave's Xbox.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Model Trains and the Cedar Avenue Blues Band

Today was another hot day in Colorado.  In the afternoon it hit 102!

After a breakfast of quiche and fruit, we headed out to meet Katrina's brother Ryan for lunch at a BBQ restaurant.  We arrived early, so we hit Target and wandered around for awhile.

It was good to see Ryan.  It's been awhile.  After lunch, we wandered through a nearby sporting goods store.  Ryan bought Brandon a bow and arrow set.  Brandon was very excited and couldn't wait to try it out.

Katrina took off with Ryan for the afternoon.  Ryan plays drums for the Cedar Avenue Blues Band and they wanted Katrina to take some promo pics for them.

Brandon and I headed to Mizell Trains in Westminster.  It's a pretty good model train shop with better than average prices.  I ended up buying a few things for my new layout.

This evening we headed back over to the photo shoot, which was taking place at a Cab depot, to pickup Katrina.  Ryan ended up coming with us up to Mike and Vic's to hang out and enjoy some pizza and beer.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mountain Fair and Down to Denver

This was our last morning with Laurie, Jeff, Logan and Josh.  After packing up, we all headed into Carbondale to wander around Mountain Fair.  There were quite a few interesting artisan booths.  I even found a mosaic artist selling his beautiful works.

We stayed at the fair until lunch time.  After some tasty Indian food, we said our goodbyes and headed to Denver.

We will be spending the next two nights with our friends Mike and Vic.  They prepared an awesome meal of BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes, salad, corn on the cobb and cake for dessert.  Mike smoked the ribs in his new smoker and they were delicious.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Biking with the Boys

Today's big event was a 10 mile bike ride with Brandon and his cousin Josh.  We rode down the valley from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs.  We had a great time, but poor Josh really had to peddle since he was riding a much smaller bike than Brandon and I.

This evening Uncle Gid and Aunt Sharon came over for dinner.  Laurie made a great taco dinner, which was followed by  cake celebrating Uncle Gid's birthday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harry Potter

Today in beautiful (and a bit hot) Colorado:

Early morning ride up the valley towards Basalt

Lunch at a local Mexican restaurant in Carbondale

Matinee showing of the latest Harry Potter Movie.  This was a great movie.  We all enjoyed it and were a bit sad to see the series end.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rafting the Roaring Fork River

We woke up to cloudy skies and sprinkles this morning, our rafting morning.

We met the rafting guides in Carbondale, then drove to the river entry point.  We would be floating down the Roaring Fork River to the takeout point on the Colorado River.

We picked a mild rafting route, and it proved to be just that.  We had some rapids, but nothing too intense. Jeff and I did get pretty wet since we were on the front of the raft.  Most of the trip was relaxing, with very little paddling, almost a bit too mild.   We were able to see osprey and bald eagles along the way.

The Roaring Fork River empties into the Colorado River just west of Glenwood Springs.  From there we floated about a mile or two to the takeout point.  I guess Glenwood Canyon is closed to rafters due to really high water.

We enjoyed a BBQ lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, potato salad, cole slaw, brownies and chocolate chip cookies riverside before heading back to Carbondale.

What a great time!  Too bad it was too wet for pictures.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Need More Oxygen

I think I was the last person up this morning.  Katrina and I are sleeping in the travel trailer.  Brandon is sleeping on a bunk in his cousin Josh's room.

Today, Katrina and I celebrate our 18th anniversary!!

After seeing what was going on - Jeff and Laurie had work to do, Katrina had some postcard sorting to do and the boys were playing, I decided to go for a bike ride.

I brought my Pinarello on this trip to get some riding in.  I've only ridden 4 times in the three weeks we have been home.  I have two big rides coming up in September, so I need to get some miles in.

I left the house and headed south towards McClure Pass.  My plan was to ride at least 20 km (12 miles) one way before turning around, for a total of 24 miles.   That was my usual distance when I rode in Italy.  The ride up to the pass is basically uphill, mostly 1 and 2% grade along the Crystal River.  Add together a couple weeks of non riding when we moved, only 4 times riding since we arrived in Italy, and Colorado altitude, and my body was crying "Need more oxygen".  I did fine, but was downright exhausted when I returned to the house.  I wish I had taken my camera with.  It's a beautiful ride up the valley, with the river and Mt Sopris looming nearby.  I will probably head that way again tomorrow, so this time I'll take a camera.

I'm glad I went riding this morning.  This afternoon is warmed up to 95 degrees F.  It's hot here in Colorado.

I spent much of the afternoon helping Katrina apply postage and address labels to a couple hundred postcards.  She is hosting a postcard swap and wanted to get the first batch in the mail today.

We were supposed to go see Harry Potter this afternoon, but Jeff ended up needing to meet with a client, so we postponed seeing the movie until probably Wednesday.

This evening Laurie made a dinner of grilled trout, corn on the cobb, rice and salad.  She is keeping us well fed.  I need to make sure I ride everyday to keep from gaining any more weight.

Tomorrow morning we are going rafting down the Crystal and Colorado Rivers.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Idaho to Colorado

We left Twin Falls Idaho around 7:30 this morning and headed southeast into Utah.  Brandon and Katrina slept for the first 2 hours or so.  

Brandon was pretty cheery this trip

We stopped in Salt Lake City so that Katrina could meet an online art friend.  We met at a coffee shop just off the interstate and ended up talking for two hours.  She has lived in India and Brasil, so we had some international stories to share.  

Much of the drive through Utah is not much different than Idaho and Oregon - dry and flat.  As we headed into eastern Utah, we began to see more large mountains and rock formations.  

View from rest area just east of Green River Utah.  The temp in this area was 103 degrees F, the hottest of the day.

Katrina works on capturing some images of the landscape.  

Our ride to Colorado.

Colorado!  Only about 3 hours to go. 

I70 heading up to Glenwood Springs Colorado

We arrived at Laurie (Katrina's sister) and Jeff's house around 6:30pm, about an hour and half earlier than we expected.  It really felt like a quick trip.  

After getting settled and relaxed, Laurie made us a great dinner of rotisserie chicken, potatoes, corn on the cobb, salad and strawberry shortcake for dinner.  Delicious.  

1200 miles, 20.5 hours of driving

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Driving to Twin Falls Idaho

We left home and headed out on another trip.  It's crazy, we've only been home for 3 weeks and now we are traveling again.  This time to Colorado to visit family and friends, some of whom we haven't seen since we moved to Italy.

We left the house at 7:30am, stopped at Safeway for ice, chai and gas, then headed out.

Highway 20 east over Santiam Pass, through Bend and on into Burns where we stopped at Subway for lunch.  From there we continued east to Ontario and then into Idaho.  Through Boise and on to Twin Falls, our stop for the night.

Eastern Oregon, barren and mostly flat

Crossing the Snake River into Idaho

Idaho doesn't look much different than eastern Oregon

Overall it was an uneventful trip.  It even seemed faster than usual, although our time was about 11 hours of driving.  The high temp for the day was 95 degrees F.

We had fajitas for dinner at Chili's.  Chili's has now been added to our "DO NOT EAT AT LIST".  The food was not that good and we left feeling kinda gross.  By the way, so far on our list:  KFC, Safeway Chinese food, and Chili's.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pre-Trip Prep Day

We woke up to a sunny morning in Corvallis!!

Brandon spent the night on the floor in our room.  Poor guy had a rough afternoon and evening of sickness.  This morning he was feeling a bit better, but was very tired and not hungry at all.  

I spent much of the morning preparing for our trip to Colorado:  mowing, grocery shopping for road trip snacks and drinks, get the cat ready for two weeks of alone time, doing a last load of laundry, and packing.  

Brandon and I partially watched and totally listened to Coldplay this afternoon. They were playing live from the Itunes festival in London.  Pretty cool to see a concert live from 8 hours away!  The wonders of technology.  

This afternoon I mowed the lawn, trimmed some tree branches and started packing suitcases for our trip.  Brandon was feeling a lot better as the day went on, but was still tired.  He should be good to go by tomorrow.

Katrina returned our rental mini van today.  We were able to have it for our move and up to three weeks.  Now we are a one truck, one scooter, and multiple bike family and plan to stay that way for the long term.  Katrina started it off right by taking the bus home from work today.

This evening was more packing and getting ready to leave for Colorado in the morning.

One interesting habit that the three of us find ourselves having difficulty breaking is - in Italy most light switches are outside the door of a room or bathroom.  Here in the US, most are inside the room.  We have a light switch near our bedroom door that Katrina and I seem to try and use most nights and then we realize we just turned on the hallway light, not our bedroom.  Habits are interesting creatures.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Travel Trailer...and More Clouds

This morning I headed out to Blodgett to pickup our travel trailer.  My good friend Andy was very kind and let us store our travel trailer and my model train cargo trailer on his property while we were in Italy.

RV storage spaces are expensive, at least here in the Corvallis area.  The cheapest I could find, that had spaces available, was $110 a month, and that was just for one trailer.

Then I happened to check on a place just up the road from our house.  It's a newer storage place.  I didn't expect much, but was surprised to find out they had 60ft spaces available for $69 a month and we could park as many trailers as we wanted in that one space.  Deal!

Last week I moved my train trailer to the new spot.  Today I moved our travel trailer.  After two years of sitting in a grassy field, it is still in pretty good condition.  We did have mice get inside, but they really didn't do any visible damage.  We will need to clean the trailer inside and out, but I think it will come out ok in the end.  Even the batteries, which I forgot to take out, are taking a charge.   I will have to see how well they work in the long run, but there is hope.

I can't wait to go camping.  I'll have to see if Katrina and Brandon are up for a weekend of camping in late August or September.

A special thanks goes out to Andy for letting us keep them at his place.


On a different note, yesterday I started to finally feel a bit sad about leaving Italy.  It's starting to sink in and it's difficult to explain.

One thing that really bugs me is that I feel like I have woken up from a dream.  The past two years in Italy don't even feel real at the moment.  It's all kind of foggy, like when you have a really clear dream, then wakeup and try to remember it all, but can't!  That's how I feel, and it makes me sad.

So, I've been dealing with this for the past 24 hours.  I loved Italy and I loved Europe.  I miss it a lot.  I miss all the tiny cars.  I miss the passion and enthusiasm of the local merchants.  I miss Parco di Monza.  I miss Italian pizza, fresh and frozen.


Brandon came home sick from day camp this afternoon.  Poor kid.  His stomach was hurting and he ended up throwing up a few times.  He's relaxing and taking a shower right now.

I unpacked a couple more totes that I grabbed from my model trail trailer earlier today.  It's interesting to see what I had in storage and to start deciding what I want to keep and sell.

Don't get me wrong, there are many things I love about being home, but right now I'm missing Italy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Around the House

We woke up to sunny skies and warm temps this morning...finally.

After dropping Brandon off at day camp, I headed over to the Boy & Girls Club of Corvallis to sign Brandon up for day camp in August.  The Park & Rec day camp only runs until the end of July, then switched to Play in the Park, which is full.  So, we had to find another alternative.

I went for a bike ride this morning.  20 miles and one small crash.  My first in a long time.  I bloodied up my lower left leg, but my bike is ok.  Priorities!

I had an appointment for an oil change on the truck and to get the tires rotated.  Unfortunately, it has an oil leak and needs the front and back gaskets replaced...about $900!  It does have over 100,000 miles on it.  It's only a small drip right now, so I'll just watch it and check the oil often.

I also cleaned out the front gutters this morning.  What a mess!  We laughed when we saw weeds growing from our gutter.  When I climbed up there, I found them half or more full of crud - leaves, dirt, weeds, etc. After scooping it all out with a small garden trowel, I hosed them out.  A pile of junk came out on the street.  Next up, the back gutters.

I took Brandon to train club this evening and ended up coming home with a headache and a very stressed feeling.  Who knew that train club could be so stressful?  The short story is, I'm very passionate about my club and what we have built.  The club is planning a new layout to be built next year, but a select few have pushed a bad plan through and won't listen to club members for input.  It's discouraging and I just don't need or want drama in my life right now.  Unfortunately, Brandon loves going to club and, unfortunately, if I do attend club, I cannot sit back and just let it ride without letting my voice be heard.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Echelon Gran Fondo Fundraiser

Hi there,

I just wanted to remind everyone that I will be riding in the Hood River Echelon Gran Fondo in late September.  This is a cancer fundraising ride for the Livestrong Foundation and the Knight Cancer Institute.

If you would like to sponsor me, you can donate any amount to help support research and to fight cancer.
Just go to:  https://ssl.charityweb.net/echelongranfondo/hood_river/patricksloma.htm

I have set a goal of raising $250.  Please help me reach that goal.  Hopefully someday we can look back and say we did our part to find a cure.



New Couch

We woke up to more cloudy skies this morning.  When will the sun and summer return?  On the positive side, I have had the sprinkler system turned off for several days now.  

Below are some pictures of the progress I have made on my new model train layout.  The basic framing is going up quick.  I believe I will be starting some track work when we return from Colorado.   

After dropping Brandon off at day camp, I stopped at the AAA office to restart our membership.  We have had a AAA membership in the past and it always paid off for us - a few lockouts, travel books, etc.  

From there, I headed up to Portland and IKEA.  First, I made a stop at Whistle Stop Trains to see what is new and pickup a few supplies for my layout.  Then it was off to IKEA, the first of three trips I will take between now and the end of August.  

Today's objective, to buy this black leather couch.  

Our next purchase will be a matching black leather love seat.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Monday

Monday is here again, but this week it feels just a bit more normal and routine.

Katrina headed off early so that she could stop at the DMV to get her new license, now that she is certified to ride a motorcycle.

I dropped Brandon off at day camp, then ran some errands:  insurance, AAA, groceries, and a couple other things.  I spent the rest of the day doing laundry and searching online for employment opportunities.
Just a very normal day.

The sun finally popped out a bit this afternoon, but it was still mostly cloudy.  Now I'm beginning to understand everyone when they say "When will summer arrive?"

Tomorrow I will be heading to IKEA in Portland to buy one of two couches we are purchasing for the family room....I can only fit one in the truck at a time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rainy Day in Corvallis

We woke up to rainy weather in Corvallis.  Katrina headed out early for her last motorcycle class - rain or shine.  By this afternoon she should have her motorcycle certification, which she can take to the DMV and get her endorsement added to her license.

Brandon and I hung out at home, not wanting to visit da Vinci Days in the rain.  I worked on the next section of benchwork for my model train layout.

I spotted our first hummingbird this morning.  We love hummingbirds and have a feeder outside our dining room window.  I hung it up early in the week and expected it to take awhile before we would see hummingbirds again, but today, one showed up.

Brandon found our Chinese Checker board and wanted to play, so we did.  We had fun.  We played two games, and I beat him pretty easily in the first one.  The second one was much closer.

This afternoon I ran out of wood for the framing of my train layout, so I headed back to the Depot.  The benchwork for this layout is going up much quicker than I expected.  It's much easier than building modules.  I may have the basic benchwork done by Friday, which means I can then focus on the fun part, laying out the track plan.   I also need to paint the walls before I go much further.  I plan to build my layout with a fall evening theme, which means lots of all foliage, darker skies painted on the wall, lots of lighting features and interior building lights.

Early this afternoon Brandon and I headed over to a friends house to let their dog Dixie out of her kennel for a bit.  We let her outside to do her thing, then played tug with her for about 45 minutes.  At one point I swung around to get the tug toy back and she just swung in the air with the toy.  Too funny!  Made me miss playing with Tasha.

Katrina arrived home later in the afternoon from her motorcycle course.  She passed and can now get her Oregon motorcycle license endorsement.  Woohoo!

It's 9pm and its still raining...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

da Vinci Days

Katrina headed off to Linn Benton Community College this morning.  She had part 2 of her motorcycle course.

At 11 Brandon and I headed over to the da Vinci Days festival.  This 2 1/2 day festival of art, science and technology is held on the third weekend in July each year.  I actually volunteered with and was employed by the festival before we moved to Italy.

On the way to da Vinci Days we passed by this experimental solar car that caught fire on the way to the festival.  Not much was left.  The driver suffered some burns and was transported to the hospital. 

Before going in the gate, we walked through the Kinetic Sculpture area.  Kinetic Sculptures are works are art that move.  In this case, they race - over land, sand and down the river.  Each one has a theme.  

The two of us wandered around and checked out the exhibits.  Brandon was especially interested in the OSU (Oregon State University) booths.  In particular, he enjoyed the tsunami booth.  He tried to build some tsunami proof beach housing and did pretty well.  He also enjoyed building a paper rocket at the Evergreen Aviation booth.

A robot that was built with cooperation between NASA and OSU.

These students were doing demonstrations on the explosiveness of volcanoes.

Geology on display

Brandon runs a remote control car powered by hydrogen.

Building tsunami safe buildings.  

Learning how chemicals get washed into the water system.


Paper Rockets

And bubbles
We both enjoyed some Indian food for lunch, then Brandon spotted a friend and wanted to go play for awhile.  I sat near the Shady Stage and enjoyed the OSU Steel Band and a few other performances.  It was also good to see old friends that I worked with at da Vinci Days in the past.

The OSU Steel Band

This afternoon we headed home for a couple of hours to take a break before the evening music.

This evening Brandon and I headed back to da Vinci Days to see Rhys Thomas perform his comedy juggling act on the main stage.  He's always a crowd favorite and once again gave a great show.  Brandon didn't feel like sticking around for the music, so we headed home for the evening.   

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cars 2 and da Vinci Days

We woke up to a sunny Friday morning!  Brandon slept in today.  No day camp on Fridays.

Since we returned from Italy I have lost 7lbs.  The only change I've made so far is to watch my portions and not snack as much.  It's been fairly easy so far since I've been so busy, I don't get bored and look for something to eat.  I've ridden twice this week (I'm a fair weather rider and it rained most of the week) and hope to ride more next week.

Brandon and I went to the matinee showing of Cars 2 this afternoon.  We had a good time and really enjoyed the international locations in the film.  Seeing all the small Italian Fiats was great!  We enjoyed the film and had a good time, but the first film was definitely better.  Oh, and we ate too much popcorn.  We both have stomach aches.  No popcorn next time!!...

I was working on assembling one of Katrina's shelves and realized the house was awful quiet.   checked on Brandon and found he asleep in his bed.   Naps for Brandon usually mean that he is not feeling well.  Hmmm.  He finally woke up at 5:30 after about two hours of napping.

I just purchased tickets to see one of our favorite singers, Matt Nathanson, at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland this October.  Can't wait to hear him live again.

This evening I watched a marathon of Swamp Loggers on the Discovery Channel.  Tomorrow Katrina has her second motorcycle class.  Brandon and I will be attending the da Vinci Days festival.

Gone but not Forgotten

I was looking at old posts and happened upon one that left me very sad.  One year ago this past Wednesday I lost a friend and companion, our wonderful Golden Retriever Tasha.  I'm not sure I can write about it again, so here is the link:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Sun is Back!

I dropped Brandon off at day camp this morning, then returned home.  It's actually mostly sunny and in the 60's outside.  Not summer weather, but not rain!

I can't seem to wrap my mind around the fact that we are home and that we lived in Italy for two years.  It really feels like I just woke up from a dream.  I still don't feel emotional about leaving Italy, nor do I feel emotional about being home.  I don't know if that's good or bad?  I feel like I should feel something, but I don't.

I opened up my DCC console today - the model train readers will know what I'm talking about.  The box was full of ants.  The screws on my Digitrax DCS 100 are rust - same with the power supply.  I hope that is not a sign of what the insides look like.

Assembled the third and final bookshelf for Brandon's room.  He's going to have a lot of room for books.  Just what he wants.  I will probably take the old short brown bookcase for my train room.

I spent much of the morning assembling Brandon's bookshelf, Katrina's shelves, and searching for employment opportunities.  I forgot how much work looking for employment is.

Brandon had another great day at camp.  They went to Otter Beach for the day.  He talked about it all the way home in the truck.  'We have to go their next week Dad!'

Once Brandon was home, I decided it was time to do some work on my train layout.

This is the closet in my train room, as of last Tuesday.

This is the closet now.  Last week I installed a new desk. This week I started building my new model train layout.  

Newest section of benchwork being built as of this evening.  

It's difficult to take pictures in a 9 x 11 ft room.  I will do my best to post updates on the layout as I build it.  

Katrina is taking a motorcycle driving course at Linn Benton Community College.  Tonight was the classroom portion of the class.  Even though her scooter does not require a motorcycle license, she is taking the course to learn proper riding and safety.  The reward of passing the class is a valid motorcycle license.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Cloudy Drizzly Day in Corvallis

We woke up to clouds and drizzle again today.  I like the cool weather, but where is the sun.  I guess we can't have it all, and the drizzle and rain are watering my wildflowers, so that is positive.

After dropping Brandon off at day camp, I headed to Home Depot to buy a sliding screen for our back door.  Unfortunately, I arrived at the store and realized I hadn't measured the door - 30" or 36".  Dang.  Oh well, I was able to pickup some wood for the framing of my new train layout.

I also stopped at the grocery store for a couple of items.  Wow, food sure seems much more expensive than it did two years ago.  Overall, its cheaper than in Italy, but prices have gone up.

It's been raining off and on all day today, sometimes coming down pretty heavily.

This afternoon I checked out two storage businesses.  We have a travel trailer and a cargo trailer and need a new place to store them.  Our friend Andy graciously let us keep them on his property while we were in Italy, but now its time to get them out of his way and someplace a bit closer to home.  Storing trailers can be pretty expensive in the Corvallis area, but the second place I stopped at had a great price on a 60ft space.  I can fit both trailers in one spot.  And the best part is, its much closer than the rental space we had two years ago.

This evening Brandon and I headed out to Andy's house to pickup my cargo trailer.  After getting the trailer hooked up and inspected it (its been sitting for two years), we walked up to the pond to watch his dogs jump in and retrieve.  Brandon had great fun and wants to go back again soon.

We headed up to model train club (Corvallis Society of Model Engineers) this evening.  Not much was going on, a quiet night.  Probably because it is summer.  Brandon had fun running trains around the layout.  I sat and caught up with the few club members who were there.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cloudy and Drizzly Day

We woke up to cloudy skies and cool temps this morning.  It looks like its going to be a cloudy and drizzly day.

Katrina headed off to work.  I dropped Brandon off at day camp then headed home to do some online job hunting.

Pizza Observation:  I was at the grocery store this morning and noticed the frozen pizza section.  I know that nothing beats a fresh pizza, but sometimes frozen just has to do.  They have frozen pizzas in Italy and I noticed that they are cheaper (event with the exchange rate) than they are here.  You can buy good quality frozen pizzas for a euro or two.  The 1 or 2 dollar pizzas here are the cheap paper like brands.  The good brands here are 5 - 10 per pizza - much more expensive than in Italy.  I'm really going to miss Italian pizza, fresh and frozen.

I spent much of the morning alternating between job hunting and assembling bookshelves for Brandon's room.  I hope to find some employment that I can begin sometime after we return from Colorado in three weeks.

Brandon's computer desk in the front room.

One of Katrina's shelf units.

One of Brandon's new books shelves in his room.  He will have two more white book shelves, when I get them assembled. The old brown ones are falling apart and are not big enough for all of his books.  This kid could run his own library.  I'll post pictures when his books arrive from Italy.  

I just pulled a load of laundry out of the dryer.  Oh how we have missed a dryer.  Most Italians don't have or use dryers.  They hang everything.  That was not a big deal for me.  I didn't mind it.  What I minded was the combination of hard water and line drying that led to stiff clothing.  Our clothes are now soft again!

This afternoon the locksmith came to replace our front door locks and re-key the garage locks.  Now we are back to one key and its a new one - we didn't want to keep the same key that our renters have used for two years.

Brandon had another fun day at day camp.  I'm glad we signed him up.  It's much better than him sitting around the house and telling me he's bored...and I was able to get quite a bit accomplished today.  I even sent off another job application.

I made pesto con pasta for dinner this evening.  Unfortunately, I misread the recipe and put 1 tsp of salt in the pesto instead of 1/4 tsp.  It was a little salty, but not horrible.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Bit More Routine

Today our lives get a bit more routine again.  Katrina is heading back to work.  Brandon is heading to day camp, through the Parks & Rec program.  I am taking care of things at home, as well as beginning to look for work.

I spent much of day on random household items including:  assembling IKEA furniture, running a couple errands, updating our insurance, setting up autopay for utilities, and several other things.

Our friend Kate (who sold Katrina the scooter) stopped by.  We had a nice chat about travel and recycling.  Ha! It's good to have our old friends around.  I look forward to hanging out with many of them.  I do miss our Italian friends.  I've been thinking about many of them today.

This afternoon I made a trip to Home Depot to get a few things - new batteries for my power tools (wow, they are expensive) and some plywood to start phase 1 of my new model railroad build.

Brandon had a good first day at camp.  He was pretty happy and excited when I picked him up.  Tomorrow they are doing an obstacle course with scooters, bikes and skateboards.  Since Brandon's are all in shipment from Italy, we borrowed a scooter and helmet from friends.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Today we made a trip up to Portland.  Our first stop was at our friend Megan's house.  Her and her family have been babysitting our freezer while we were in Italy.  It was great to see them.  We plan to fill our freezer with lots of blueberries and strawberries for use in the winter.

Our second stop was IKEA.  We planned to shop for several things:  a small computer desk and bookshelves for Brandon, some shelves for Katrina, and couches for our family room.  We came home with bookshelves, the desk and Katrina's shelves.  We also found the couches we like, but waited on that so we could measure and see how they would fit in the room.  Our bonus was that we found a new entertainment/shelf system.  We had plans to replace our entertainment center, but didn't specifically plan to start looking until after the couches were purchased.  Well, we found one we like (actually, its several pieces that can be put into one).  We decided to wait  until we have our couch plan in place.

The trip to IKEA took most of the day.  I think we arrived home around 4pm.  Shopping is tiring!  I will post pictures of everything when I get it all put together.

Tomorrow, our lives get a little bit more routine.  Katrina will go to work.  Brandon will go to day camp.  I will put furniture together, take care of errands, be at the house for the locksmith and spend time looking to see what employment options are out there.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wonderful Corvallis - Farmers Market and Free Bus Service

One of our goals, now that we are back in Corvallis, is to buy more fresh fruit and veggies.  We have a pretty nice market on Saturday mornings in Corvallis.  There is also a market on Wednesday mornings, but I have yet to visit that one. Our plan is the visit the farmers market each week, so this morning we headed down there.  Corvallis now offers free bus service on all of its routes, so we took advantage.  

How is this farmers market different from the markets in Italy?  Well, this market is basically fruit, veggies, flowers, eggs, cheeses, plants and other edible goodies.  The markets in Italy sell all of this, plus shoes, household goods, candy, clothing, and deli service with cheeses and meats.

The market is held on 1st Street, down by the riverfront.  

There are usually several musicians playing for the crowds

Brandon bought a tomato plant to add to our garden.  He wants to keep track of how much it grows.  Notice that he is wearing his Italia jersey!

We ended up buying asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, salsa, cherry tomatoes, and some fresh made pretzels.  

This afternoon we hung out at home.  Our friend Kate delivered the scooter that Katrina is buying.  Its a Honda Metropolitan, 50cc I think.  Top speed of 43 mph.  I will blog about this in a few days.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Errand Day

All of our boxes are just about gone.  We have a few small piles around the house, but most things are now in their place.  The garage is even starting to get sorted out.  Our belongings sorted and stacked along the walls, and a big pile of garage sale items in the middle.  

Today I ran some errands:  picking up new keys for the mailbox, making an appointment for a locksmith to come rekey our locks on the house, picking up a few things at Home Depot - including a piece of wood for my new desk in the train room, picking up my bike from Bike & Hike, and a few things from Bimart.  Its amazing how many little things need to be purchased for the house when you have been gone for two years.

As you may have read a few days ago, I was pretty unhappy with the way the TSA inspected my bike box.  I wasn't mad that they inspected, but mad about the lack of respect for personal belongings.  I paid a lot of money to have it packed so that there would be no damage.  The TSA completely undid all that and then stuffed loosely back in the box.  

Bike & Hike called today to let me know they had reassembled it.  Thankfully, only minor damage.  The derailleur  was bent, but they fixed it.  I will need to replace it someday in the future, but it should work just fine for now for now.  I got lucky.  

I have the TSA notification paper sitting here on my desk and plan to write them an email about the treatment of personal belongings.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Unpacking - Day 3

Well, today was another day of unpacking.  The pile in the garage for our September garage sale grows by the day.  How do we accumulate so much stuff?  Must stop buying, must stop buying.

The house is just about unpacked.  More time is being spent setting things in their place.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Unpacking - Day 2

Today was another day of unpacking.  Katrina had to go to work for awhile, so I spent much of the day emptying boxes.  Brandon helped out a bit, but overall he and I were both happy with him off playing in his room.

Brandon and I had planned on attending the BBQ at train club this evening but completely forgot about it by the end of the day.  We were just tired and went to bed by 9pm.

Boxes in Katrina's future studio

Unpacking in the kitchen

Family room.  We already sold our couch and the recliner in the far background.  We plan to get two black leather couches soon.

Brandon's room

I've been asked several times how I feel about being home in Corvallis.  It feels comfortable.  I still don't feel emotional about moving.  I'm not extra happy to be here or extra sad to be away from Italy.  We have been so busy the past few weeks.  I have read a few things that say the emotional part of moving internationally will not hit for a month or two, when life settles down into a routine.  We shall see.  There is definitely no routine to our lives quite yet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Moving Day - Unpacking Day 1

Today was the day the movers brought out household goods that have been in storage for two years.  We moved to Italy with personal belongings, bikes, and two desks.  Our apartment was furnished, so our furniture and everything else was put in warehouse storage.

The movers didn't come until early in the afternoon, so we had some time to get ready for the wave of stuff.  For me, most of our belongings fell into three categories as we unpacked: 1)  happy to see item again, 2) Why the heck do we still have this?!?!?!, or 3)  I don't remember this at all.

Once the movers were gone, I started unpacking.  The kitchen was first, then the rest of the house.  Katrina worked on getting our bedroom setup.

Unfortunately, one 'pod' of our belonging was forgotten at the warehouse, so we still didn't have dining room chairs, part of Brandon's bed and two cabinets for the front room.  They will be coming back tomorrow with the remaining goods.

We unpacked until early evening when Mike, who was in Italy with us, came over for dinner.  Andy also stopped by to say hi and ended up staying for dinner as well.  Tacos, burritos, Spanish rice and beer were dinner tonight.  Yum!...and we don't have to ration the cheddar cheese!

When everyone was gone, we were tired.  I think we were in bed by 9pm.  Tomorrow afternoon the movers will return with the rest of our stuff.  I will be spending most of the day unpacking.  Katrina has to go to work for a few hours in the morning.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July

All three of us woke up early this morning.  Brandon wasn't feeling the greatest, but mostly seemed tired.  We got ready and headed to Winco to grocery shop for all the basics - our cabinets and fridge were empty.

When we arrived at our house, Brandon still wasn't feeling very well.  We put groceries away and Katrina worked on getting our wireless router setup.  Soon after, Brandon ran to the bathroom and threw up.  His prediction of us getting sick in the first three months was changed to the first three days, though I'm not sick yet.

We headed back to the hotel so Brandon could rest.  Katrina was still feeling very tired as well.  We were supposed to spend the afternoon at our friends house.  I ended up going alone.

It was great to see our good friends Errol, Katey, Makenna, Beckett and Thatcher.  We were also introduced to their new dog, 3 rabbits and 4 chickens - all new since we moved away.  Our friend Amy and her daughter Gorga came down from Portland to join us as well.

We BBQ's hamburgers and hot dogs, drank beer and had a good ole fashioned 4th of July.  Unfortunately, Beckett was knocked in the head with the swing - crying and blood.  Katey was not feeling well and ended up going to bed early.  No fun for her - hope she gets better.

Errol and I took the kids to buy fireworks.  When it was dark enough, we did our usual lighting of the fireworks, which is always fun.  It sure was windy though.  The kids had a good time.

No pictures.  I need to remember to carry my camera with me.  I almost always carried it with me in Italy.

After the fireworks, we headed back to our hotel for one last night.  Tomorrow the movers will arrive with our goods that were in storage.  It should be interesting to see things we haven't seen or used in two years.  I feel another garage sale coming in our future.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sickness and Errands

Brandon mentioned sickness on our first day in Oregon.  We have discussed how all three of us have been sick more these past two years and how some of it is due to being exposed to new 'germs'.  So, Brandon mentioned that it might be the same now that we are back in the US.  He even thought we would each get sick sometime in the first three months.

Well, last night Katrina got really sick...flu like symptoms...poor her.  She was up much of the night, so she ended up spending all of today in the hotel room, much of that time sleeping.

Brandon and I ventured out to give her some quiet time and to run errands.  We even ended up at the house for a few hours.

By this evening Katrina was feeling a bit better, but was very tired.  Brandon and I ate dinner at KFC without her...yuck.  I had forgotten how much I dislike that place.

We look forward to tomorrow, which we will spend at friends house for the 4th.  Hopefully everyone will be feeling better.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

First Full Day in Corvallis

Well, we all got up pretty early this morning.  We don't feel very jet lagged overall.  I think its easier heading west than east.

Today we ran some errands around town - things we needed for the house like: cleaning supplies, paper towels, some basic food, etc.

We also spent some time unpacking out suitcases at the house.

Life feels a bit weird right now.  I'm not sure when or if being home will suddenly hit me (or any of us) emotionally.  We have been so busy packing, cleaning, moving, flying, unpacking and living a hotel so far.  There isn't much time  for to think about it right now.  I thought I would be sad when we took off from Italy.  Instead I just fell asleep.  I thought Brandon would be sad just about all the time.  Instead he seems very happy to be home.

This afternoon Brandon and I went to the house for awhile so that Katrina could take a nap in the hotel room.  When we returned to the hotel, a small car pulled up with a huge box in back.  I realized it was my bike box.  My bike and our suitcase finally made it.

Brandon took the suitcase into the hotel while I took my bike to the bike shop so they could put it back together and give it a tune up.  At the bike shop we noticed that the box was taped up with TSA tape.  The TSA inpected my bike.  We opened the box to find that 50 euro's worth of special packing was all cut apart and everything was just put back in the box in a jumble!  I was initially very mad.  I'm all for security.  I'm don't mind my things being inspected.  I do MIND it when they are not handled with care.  This is the second time this has happened.  In February 2010 we flew to Corvallis for a visit and I brought a new Italian model train with me.  It was packed in its original box safely inside our checked luggage.  When we arrived in Corvallis I found an inspection tag in the suitcase.  The train had been taken out of the box then shoved back in = many broken detail parts.  Once again, I think the TSA should inspect.  I also think they should do it with care and will be writing a letter to them very soon.

...I won't know if there is any mechanical damage to my bike until later in the week when the bike shop works on it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flying Home - 13 Hours

We woke up at 3am so that we could be at the airport by 4am.  After loading all of our luggage back into the mini van, we headed to Malpensa.  We had a plan to make check in easier.  We would drive to the departure terminal doors.  Brandon would grab two luggage carts.  I unloaded the van.  Katrina returned the van to Hertz and met us at the check in area.  Brandon and I managed to fit all of our luggage on two carts.  I dragged my bike box behind.

We were the first in line for check in, our plan.  The woman checking us in was very kind and patient.  We did have a little scare when she said that Stevie's health records needed to be in English - they were only in Italian.  She checked her manual and seemed to decided that this was only for dogs in the cargo hold (We would later discover that it was for all pets, but it all worked out).

We checked our bags and paid the extra baggage fees and overweight fees and the cat fee and bike fee= lots of euro.  That's what happens when you move from Italy.

Passing through security also went very smoothly.  Katrina had to take Stevie out of his travel bag and carry him through the x-ray machine, but they did just fine.

Once through security, we had time to grab a bite to eat before boarding the plane.  One perk of traveling with a cat is that you get to board early.

Our flight to Amsterdam went smoothly.  I slept most of the way.  Stevie slept as well.

The most stressful part of our trip was the connection in Amsterdam.  He had a little over an hour to deplane, walk to another terminal, go through immigration, arrive at the gate and go through security (international flights from Amsterdam have security at the gates, which is kind of nice).

Security went well and we boarded the plane.  Our connection made us one of the last people on the plane, but we did fine.

By the way, I don't understand all the controversy about full body scans.  We had to go through these scanners in Amsterdam.   You walk in, stand for 10 seconds, then walk out.  I could see the screen and all it had was a basic body outline with some basic colors for body heat.  No details or body parts.  What's the big deal?  Why are people so upset by them?

Our flight to Portland went about as smoothly as a 10 hour flight can go.  Brandon played games on the personal screens in the headrests.  He also napped off and on.  I watched 3 movies and an episode of Big Bang Theory.  Katrina watched a couple movies, napped and read.

We touched down in Portland OR around 11:30am.  It took awhile to exit the plane, go through immigration, then collect our luggage.  We found all but two items:  one suitcase (of course, this is the one we packed with clothes and toiletries for our 4 night hotel stay) and my bike box were missing!  After making a claim, in which they told us they knew the missing items were on a Seattle flight, we headed out to the rental car area.

Our luggage, minus one large suitcase and a bike box.

We have a mini van for three weeks.  American mini vans are so much bigger.  We finally left Portland airport about two or more hours later.

When we arrived in Corvallis, we picked up our key and headed to Petco for a cat box and food.  We dropped Stevie and our luggage off at the house, then headed to the dinner.

Qdoba, oh how we have missed you.  Love their chicken nachos.  Brandon loves the tacos and Katrina loves the burritos.

This evening we relaxed in the room, reading and watching TV.  Katrina fell asleep first, then Brandon.  I stayed up for awhile catching up with my laptop.