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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Blog Post

Wow, today is August 31st.  Time to write my last 'regular' blog post.  I've been writing this blog for a little over two years now and I have a lot of mixed feelings about its end.

Almost three years ago we found out we would be moving to Italy for a two year assignment.  It took almost 9 months to process all the paperwork and make all the arrangements to live and work in Italy.  It seemed to take forever to get to Italy.  Time flies.  Now we are home and our time in Italy almost feels like a dream.

We had an amazing experience.  Italy was all that we hoped it would be and so much more.  So much more!  It was truly the opportunity of a lifetime.

I would highly suggest to anyone reading this to seize the opportunity to live abroad if it ever presents itself.  It will change you.  It will change your view of the world.

We were able to experience so many places and activities while living in Italy.  We climbed and toured more castles than I can count.  We toured more museums than most people get to experience in a lifetime.  We viewed many marvelous cathedrals.  We successfully navigated subway systems in over a dozen European cities.  We marveled at all kinds of architecture, from modern to early centuries.  We rode on trains, planes, boats, gondolas, alpine slides, mine cars, funiculare, bicycles, buses, taxis, tour buses, and much more.  We saw the Mona Lisa, the statue of David, and so many other greats I can't even remember them all.  We cruised the canals of Venice in a gondola.  Drank wine on the Grand Canal.  Enjoyed the views from the Eiffel Tower.  Walked through the Red Light District of Amsterdam.  Watched the Tour de France, the Tour di Suisse, the Giro d'Italia, the Milan San Remo, and many other professional bike races.  We cruised the waters of Lago di Como and walked the ancient streets of Pompeii.  During our two years in Italy we traveled 201 days.

I could go on and on.  In short, we lived two years of life to the fullest.  NO Regrets!  That was the motto Katrina came up with and lived by it.

So, with sadness and excitement for the next chapters in our lives, I sign off from our home in Oregon.  It's been an amazing two years and I thank all of you for joining and sharing in our journey.

Mike (our friend and Katrina's coworker), Katrina, Me and Brandon celebrating our last Friday evening dinner out at Mexicali.  

Arrivederci e grazie amici - Goodbye and thank you friends.

Patrick, Katrina and Brandon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Unpacking and Softball

I spent much of today unpacking, assembling the second part of our new entertainment center, grocery shopping and helping Brandon rebuild his Lego town.  

This evening we had our second softball game.  What a difference a week makes, in more ways than one.  Last week we were sweating profusely due to high temps and humidity.  This week it was cloudy and pretty chilly.  Last week we won 13 - 11.  This week we lost 18 - 2.  It was still a ton of fun and good exercise.  I am really enjoying softball and hope to keep playing with this team.  

Monday, August 29, 2011


Today was another day of unpacking.  Brandon and I did venture out to the grocery store, but otherwise, we were unpacking.  Well, I should say, other than some time spent putting his room in order, Brandon mostly played and I unpacked.

Unpacking our goods from Italy is really the beginning of the end.  Only two more days of regular blogging, then it will mostly come to an end.  I say mostly because, I will still blog occasionally if life presents activities or observations about Italy, our time in Italy, or comparisons of Italy and American life.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More Unpacking!

We spent much of today unpacking.  Unpacking is fun and it sucks!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Italian Shipment Arrives

Our shipment from Italy arrived today!!

We wondered if we would see this container again, or if our goods would arrive in a moving truck.

Everything looks just as it did when we saw it leave Italy.  I don't think customs inspected anything.

It took a little over two hours for the movers to unload.  

The family room.

Brandon is excited to have his books and Legos.  

Our bedroom.

The kitchen 

Katrina's studio.  

We immediately started unpacking.  Katrina was lucky.  She was heading to Portland for the day with her friend Becky.  They were going to see Mama Mia.  

Brandon and I unpacked...and unpacked....and unpacked.  I was able to unpack 26 boxes. 
 Tomorrow = more unpacking

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day in Portland

Brandon and I headed to Portland this morning.  Our first stop was at Pioneer Courthouse Square to check out Festa di Italia, an annual festival put on by the Italian community of the city.

We wandered around, checked out the booths, enjoyed some pasta for lunch, and listened to an Italian band play for awhile.  There wasn't much shade in the square, so we didn't hang around long.  It was looking to be a HOT day in Portland.

The Fiats are coming.

Our second stop was IKEA.  We needed to exchange a cabinet I bought last week that had a crack on the side panel.

Our third stop was at Whistle Stop Trains for a few items.  We had fun checking out all the cool hobby items.

The drive home seemed so much longer than the one to Portland.  There was a lot of traffic heading south, for unknown reasons.

Our belongings from Italy will be arriving tomorrow morning!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shipment Delivery Date!!

We just got word that our shipment from Italy can be delivered on Saturday!!  We are very excited.  That's a 9 week delivery time!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Model Train Club

Today was Brandon's first day at home.  He has been attending day camp for most of the summer.  He slept in, played a new game on the computer, and kept himself busy.

This afternoon we headed downtown to get the rear tire for my bike repaired.  My tire developed a bubble, and I really don't have tools to change it (they are all in the Italy shipment).  It turns out that the tire was worn, creating a bubble in the tube.  They fixed it for me, but it was flat by the time we arrived home.  I think the tube was damaged as well.  I guess we head back down to the bike shop in the morning.

Brandon and I attended model train club this evening.  Not many members there tonight, but we had fun anyway.  I spent the evening chatting while Brandon ran some trains around the layout.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Softball Tuesday

Brandon is spending his last day at day camp today.  He will be home for the next two weeks before school starts.

Katrina got word this morning that our Italian goods shipment should be released from customs by the end of the day today.  Yay!  We could have our belongings within the next couple of weeks, once we set a delivery date.

I spent much of the morning looking for employment.  Looking for work is a lot of work!   I broke up the time by occasionally watching the second day of racing at the US Pro Challenge in Colorado.  What a great finish in Crested Butte.  Levi of Team RadioShack timed his sprint perfectly.

This evening we had our first softball game.  Katrina signed us up for an HP coed team.  I always forget how much I love softball until I get out on the field to play.  We ended up winning in the last at bat, 13-10.  Our next game is next Tuesday evening...can't wait.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Leaking Oil

After dropping Brandon off at day camp this morning, I had to take our truck back to G&J Auto to have a gasket replaced on the truck.  It has an oil leak that is just getting worse week by week.  It bums me out that we have to spend so much money on the truck, but I realize it does have 110,000+ miles on it and really doesn't look like it.  

I spent over an hour working in the yard this morning - mowing, pruning roses, picking weeds and pruning a few tree branches.  

Today was the prologue start of the US Pro Challenge in Colorado.  I wish I was there, but at least I can watch it on my laptop.  My favorite rider, Levi Leipheimer of Team Radioshack, took 7th place today. 

I picked up the truck this afternoon and the total bill was almost $200 less than expected.  That was good news.  The other good news is that the second leak they spotted was probably not a leak at all, but residual oil from the first leak.  That saves us another $500.  

I made panko almond whitefish, roasted rosemary potatoes and salad for dinner.  

After dinner I worked in the train room.  Brandon played around on the layout while I glued some track down.  

RR tracks that head down the center of Corvallis in the middle of 6th St.


Sunday, August 21, 2011


For a lazy day at home, we sure did a few things.  This morning I picked up some bagels and cream cheese from Safeway, as well as a few groceries.  I find that I shop every couple of days, just like I did in Italy.  Our grocery bill is much lower here!

This afternoon we promised Brandon that we would go play miniature golf.  We did and it was fun.  Katrina and I bet $20 between us.  Of all things, we ended in a tie.

After golf, we stopped at Home Depot to buy some paint for Katrina's studio and a big bucket of paint for the rest of the house.  We don't like the yellowish color we painted in the kitchen and family room just before we moved, and some of the other rooms could use a fresh coat of paint.

We also stopped at Trump's so that I could stock up on some model railroad supplies.  Then it was off to Qdoba for an early dinner.

This evening  I spent some time working on the Twin Lakes & Western RR - glueing cork roadbed, building a bridge and laying track.  Fun Fun!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yaquina Lighthouse Ride

This morning we all got up and headed out the door by 8am.  Brandon and I were going to be spending the morning riding the Yaquina Lighthouse Bike Ride in Newport OR.  Katrina came along to walk around the waterfront and take pictures while we rode.

We arrived at the Yaquina Lighthouse Visitor's Center around 9:30, checked in and got ready to ride.  It turns out that this is a fairly small ride, at least compared to the ride we did last week.  There were not many riders there, although many had started earlier than us.

Brandon and I rode the route, passing both the Yaquina Lighthouse and the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  The ride took us 12.5 miles before turning around partway along the Yaquina Toledo bay route - not sure what this road is called.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Newport Bay Bridge

We enjoyed some treats (bagels, M&M's, cookies and bite size Snickers) before heading back the way we came.  Although our route today was only 25 miles, it had some short and steep climbs.

We met Katrina back at the lighthouse around 1pm and headed to Rogue Brewery for lunch.  Katrina loves their beer cheese soup.  Brandon and I had fish and chips.  I enjoyed an Irish ale as well.

This evening we attended the 40th birthday party of our good friend Katey.  Welcome to the 40's!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Has Arrived

It's Friday and I'm happy about it.  Job hunting has taken a lot out of me mentally this week.  My brain is tired.

I did submit an application today that I hope will get me called in for an interview.  Well, I guess I hope any application I put in will do that, but I'm especially interested in this position.

As I've mentioned before, this blog will be ending (for the most part) on August 31.  I will no longer be writing daily posts after this date, but may write a post if something interesting about our time in Italy needs to be written about.

I will be starting two new blogs, as well as continue posting occasional entries on my Mosaics by Patrick  blog.  I will be starting a blog called Giovanni Drives Again very soon.  It will chronicle the long term project of restoring a 1960 Fiat 600.  I will let you know when I launch this blog.

Today I launched my other new blog, Twin Lakes & Western Model RR.  It will chronicle the building of my new model train layout.  Check it out and see what I've been up to.

I made some pasta con pesto with sauteed squash for dinner this evening.

Katrina informed us this evening that our goods from Italy have arrived in the US.  She thinks they are in Portland.  We still don't know when they will be delivered.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Job Hunting Update

I've been spending a lot of time looking for employment since we returned home from our Colorado trip.

It's been a long time since I've had to look for a job, and times sure have changed.  Almost all of my job applications have been submitted online.  Almost all of them don't ask for a resume, at least not until they call you in for an interview.  I've submitted 3 applications, with two more in the works.  I've had one interview so far, which I thought went well, but have not heard anything yet.

I'm looking for work:

Event planning is what I want to do and have experience doing
Also interested in employment that requires driving.  I like to be out and about, talking and interacting with people.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Job Hunting and BBQ

I spent much of today doing two things:

1)  Looking for employment


2)  Assembling out new entertainment center.

I made progress on both items, but nothing final yet.

This evening we attended a BBQ and swim party for Katrina's new work group.  We had a nice time and I was able to meet her new manager and some of her coworkers I have not met before.  Brandon was able to swim and we were both able to try a Voodoo donut.  I had a maple and bacon donut.  Brandon had a frosted donut topped with crushed Oreos.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Truck Woes

I had to drop off our truck for some maintenance today.  We needed an oil change after over 3000 miles on our last road trip.  I also needed the electrical system looked at.  The plugs for our trailer lights were not working.  I tested the plugs from both of our trailers and neither one worked, making me think it was a truck issue.

We ended up having a water leak in our rear drivers side tail light, which is where the trailer plugs are connected.  The water was shorting everything out.

We also have an oil leak that is getting worse, so I need to return the  truck on Monday to have a seal replaced.  It is almost 9 years old and has over 110,000 miles on it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

IKEA Shopping

I headed to IKEA to pickup a loveseat and an entertainment center for our family room.  We bought a black leather couch a few weeks ago, but wanted a matching loveseat as well.  I also picked up the matching entertainment center.

The entertainment center is made up of 4 pieces:  two cabinets, one TV stand and a wall cabinet over the TV.  Unfortunately, the wall cabinet was not in stock.

Another unfortunate problem arose when I got home.  While opening one of the cabinets to assemble it, I found one of the large side panels to be cracked and damaged.  Now I have another reason to return to IKEA.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Covered Bridge Bicycle Tour

Today Brandon and I headed to Albany and the Linn County Fairgrounds for the Covered Bridge Bicycle Tour.

I have been riding a little bit.  Brandon hasn't really been riding much since last summer in Italy.  So, a family friendly 40 mile ride would be a bit of a challenge for both of us, but we were up to it.

We had a great time riding.  The 40 mile would cross over 2 covered bridges.  The longer rides crossed a few more.

Brandon really enjoyed the rest stops.  The first rest stop offered fruit, bagels and muffins.  The second rest stop offered watermelon, chips, muffins, Twizzlers, and brownies.

After the first stop, Brandon was revived and hammered his way up the biggest climb of the ride.  He was pretty proud of himself.

I could tell he was getting tired in the last 10 miles or so.  We took a couple of extra stops along the way, but when we reached the final mile or so, Brandon kicked it in and finished strong.

Rootbeer floats waited for us at the finish line!

I was so proud of Brandon.  It was a long ride for absolutely no training.  He did great!  We are now signed up for a ride on the coast coming up next weekend.

Brandon was apparently pretty tired this evening.  I found him asleep on our bed at 7:30pm.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dinner with Friends

Today was a day at home, for the most part.  Brandon and I hung out for most of the day.  Katrina met her friend Jenny for lunch.

This evening we met our friends Bill and Roberta for dinner at Sybaris in Albany.  We had a great dinner and a fun time.  We had a hard time deciding what to order - well, Roberta did anyway - so we had our meals delivered family style.  We enjoyed salmon, halibut with corn chowder, spicy shrimp, and duck breast.  It was fabulous.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Corvallis Benton County Public Library

We love our library here in Corvallis.  Brandon and Katrina use it regularly.  

Reading is knowledge and freedom 

This evening Mike stopped by to enjoy an Italian aperitivo.  Aperitivo is kind of like happy hour here in the US.  Italians will stop in at bars to enjoy drinks and snacks, usually between 4 - 7 pm.  Snacks usually consist of peanuts, chips, olives and sometimes little sandwiches with salami or proscuitto.  

We had a nice time hanging with Mike and reliving fun times in Italy.  He ended up staying for dinner - BBQ ribs...YUM!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Benton County Courthouse

Today I am posting a picture of an iconic building here in Corvallis, the Benton County Courthouse.  

No other building in Corvallis can be higher than this building.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Model Train Layout

I've been spending time each day looking for employment.  I have three positions I am really interested in, but have not heard back on any of them yet.  Does anybody want a 42 year old who has been a stay at home dad since 2000?  I hope so.

Brandon and  I skipped attending model train club this evening.  Instead, we held our own work session in our new train room.  Brandon even built some woodworking and some track laying.

Soon I will be announcing the start of my new blog, Twin Lakes & Western Model Train Layout.  Stay tuned....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Our Italian Goods

Katrina got word via email that our belongings traveling from Italy are set to arrive in the US on the 20th. Wow, they really are on the slow boat.

I'm not sure where we are going to put everything?  It seems as though the house is already full, and the garage is really full.  We have a big pile of things just waiting to find a new home when we have our garage sale in September.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday of Errands

Today was a day full of errands.  Brandon started day camp at the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis.  Katrina went back to work.

Our day.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Home Sweet Home

We made it home early this evening, driving from Burley Idaho to Corvallis Oregon.

Katrina sent a text to friends to see if they could meet us at the house to help unload the Fiat.  Errol and family showed up soon after we arrived.  The whole family pitched in to help push the Fiat into the garage.

It's always good to be home again after a trip.  Tomorrow is the start of normal life again, in so many ways.  I start seriously looking for work.  Brandon goes to day camp.  Katrina goes to work.  For the first time in a little over two years, we have no vacations on the horizon.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Driving Home

Today was a driving day.  After a slow start leaving Colorado Springs, we headed through Wyoming, Utah and into Idaho for the night.  We are staying in Burley Idaho.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fiat 600 and BBQ

Today we picked up the Fiat 600 that our good friend Jack saved for us.  He's had this car since the 1970's, when he 'rebuilt' it while living in Arizona.  It's a 1960 Fiat 600.  Jack had it painted in California Highway Patrol black and white.  He would show it off on special occasions and periodically drive it in the Colorado Springs St. Patrick's Day Parade.

A detailed account of the Fiat's life will be documented in my new Fiat blog when I get it up and running in the next few weeks (Reminder - for the most part, this blog will be ending on August 31st).

The following pictures are from our morning with Jack - all photos taken by Katrina.  

Jack and I check under the hood, which is actually the truck.  The trunk holds the battery, gas tank and a very small place for luggage.

The car has been sitting on the side of Jack's garage since approximately 1998.  The tires were a few inches deep in the dirt.

Overall, the body is in really good shape.  Little or no rust on the main body.

The engine.  This is a 3 cylinder engine with an average cruising speed of about 40 - 45 mph.  The engine needs to be completely rebuilt.  We are considering going electric.

Some of the original stickers can be seen inside the engine compartment.  That is also the original color, a tan-ish green-ish color.

The rear end engine compartment.

Jack in his Fiat 600 one last time.

The Fiat starts its journey by climbing up on the trailer.  The Fiat was just barely wide enough to straddle the gap in the middle of the trailer.

We had to winch the car up on the trailer.  

Notice how the car is just barely wider than the gap. 

Jack called this the point of no return.  

Jack and the Fiat one last time.  

We gave Jack a diecast model of the Fiat 600, painted in Carabinari colors (Italian police)

Loaded, secured and ready to hit the road to its new home, our garage in Oregon.

That Harley is the background has a bigger engine!

Rest stop in eastern Oregon.  

We received many looks, questions and comments during our two day drive back to Oregon.  

Now the car is safely parked inside our garage.  It looks so tiny.  We decided we could pack the garage with 5 of these cars, that's how small they are.  

Our plan is to rebuild the Fiat over the next couple of years, or less I hope.  You will be able to follow the progress on my new blog, which I will introduce very soon.  I also plan to share some stories from Jack about the Fiat's earlier life.  Stay tuned....