Monday, November 18, 2013

So this one time, during the government shutdown....

Sometimes the American legislative system can't get their act together.  During those times, the federal government shuts down.  Government shut down, you say?  I took that opportunity to buy a very last minute plane ticket to the States (like 19 hours before my flight last minute) to see my sister, Lauri.  She lived in Chicago (between that trip and now, she's already moved) and I hadn't ever been there before.  Nothing like checking off your major American travel bucket list from overseas! 

Off I went to see my sister, who was 8 months pregnant (due ANY DAY NOW!!!  AHHH!!!  ANOTHER NIECE!!! (no seriously, I'm not excited about this at all.  I certainly haven't had anything made from Etsy or bought every tiny outfit at the Navy Exchange.  Only freaks do that....)), in the ol' Windy City.  We ate, my goodness did we eat (I, too, was eating for two.  Me and Lauri.  See?  Two), Mexican food, American food, Thai food, more Mexican food... I had not one pumpkin spice latte, no I had 3!!!!  CAFFEINE OVERLOAD!!! 
The Bean

While she worked one day, I took myself on a walking tour of Downtown Chicago, strolling the rainy streets, taking in architectural feats that I wrote about as an undergraduate, seeing the mighty Bean, AND a Frank Gehry design (who I wrote my graduate thesis about!).  I followed in the footsteps of Ferris Bueller and saw priceless works of art, ate at my sister's yacht club (Sheesh, talk about fancy!), and then repeatedly hit my sister's dog in the face with her own tail.  Best aunt ever!!  And if that wasn't fun enough, I got my hair cut at Aveda!!  But then is THAT wasn't fun enough, my very dear friend, Kristine, was in town from San Diego for a conference and we met up for tapas and said hair cut.  Kristine, you are the only person that I've ever met who would sit and chat for an entire 3 hour hair cut.  I miss you so much!!  Kristine is the same friend who helped me explore the Amalfi Coast when we first arrived.  Oh the crazy that we got ourselves into.....

And then, things got crazy!  My dad showed up!!!  I swear, Chicago seems to be where you meet up if you are traveling from anywhere.  Centrally located, really good restaurants, not completely freezing in October.  What's not to love?  So my dad, sister, and I all three piled into her seemingly enormous SUV (I swear that they are bigger than SUV's were when I lived in the US.  I swear.) and drove Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of my sister's alma mater, the University of Michigan.  Now, my alma mater, THE University of Virginia, has never pretended to be a football powerhouse.  But UoM (not Units of Measure which is what that acronym now means in my super nerdy head), is a serious football school.  "The Big House," their football stadium, is enormous - to the tune of 112,000 people.  Mother of pearl.... that's absurdity!!!  It was so fun to get to hang out with my dad again on a trip.  First London, now Chicago.  He and I are such world travelers together!  Here we are, doing our best "Go Blue!" cheer.

The trip couldn't have been more perfect.  And then, it ended in a ridiculously stressful manner.  My sister's lovable dog, read the one whose tail I repeatedly shoved in her face, got too excited at the dog park and while rolling around with another dog, took my sister out at the knees.  Lauri and I spent the next 48 hours in the hospital, after I ran (barefoot) down the streets of Chicago to drop off Lauri's dog and grab both of our purses, calling Tom to re-book my ticket to the following night and calling Lauri's husband to tell him that we were getting into an ambulance.  Lauri and her baby are both fine, but I cannot tell you how incredibly terrifying the whole thing was.  Leaving my sister, hooked up to an IV in the hospital about tore my heart out.  But what's important is that it all ended out being fine.  So all of those prayers worked!!

Since then, I've been miserably homesick.  I try to focus on the positive but all I want right now is to be with my family.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, living abroad is so wonderful, but I feel like my family, my friends, and all of America is growing up without me.  Even as the magic of life in Europe tends to inspire and amaze me, I still long for the familiarity of home, the comfort of my sisters' hugs, the sound of my mom's voice, the way my dad goes "Oooooo, good song" whenever anything from the 1960's comes on the radio.  I could go on and on.  But I know that I can't and more likely, that no one will read my blog again.  I use this simply to stress that there are blessings all around us and even when they are very far away, they are always out there. 

From my home to yours, much love.

Remember that holiday back in September?? Yeah, me neither.

I seem to recall promising that I'd be back on the wagon after our trip to Tuscany.  That it was really and truly going to be the event that got me back into regular blogging.  And then... it was August.  And then September.  And then October.  And SHAMEFULLY, it's November 1 and I haven't blogged since July.  Oh my goodness.  Lynne, step your game up, girl!
To remember what happened that far back I a) went onto Facebook and stalked myself a little bit.  (Wait, not everyone does that??  Hmm... this just got weird...)  Anyway, several months ago there was this whole Syria situation, if you'll recall from the global news and basically everyone freaked out for a while.  With all of our significant others on ready alert, a group of 4 wives and 1 baby cancelled/changed our plans for a girl's weekend in Lecce, Italy.  I had searched the interweb far and wide for an epic hotel and found this faux-riad, which seemed just ridiculous enough to be Italian.  "This will do nicely."  When I assigned Tom to book the rooms, he booked us this absurdly fatty suite which was approximately the size of our entire apartment here in Naples. 

This place was totally a compound in the middle of nowhere.  It felt really fancy and relaxing and Moroccan, just kind of weirdly in the middle of the not-quite-developed section of Lecce.  There was an overly friendly bell-hop/generally lurky dude that was excessively ready to assist us with just about anything. Mohmed, said dude, would show up out of nowhere with some item that he thought you might want (towel, hooka, pillow, firewood (oh wait, no we did want you to build us a fire, Mohmed)).

This hotel has this enormous, I kid you not, like entire beach-sized, very shallow pool.  At its deepest point it was probably only chest-deep.  Low drowning hazard?  With these huge pillars in the water.  We basically spent two of three days in this pool, Mohmed showing up with bottles of water, prosecco, or snacks every once in a while.  "Thanks, Mohmed...  (where did he come from?????)" 
It wasn't one of those trips that changed my life or ended with ridiculous stories.  It was simply four friends and one ridiculously cute baby hanging out in a weird hotel in the middle of no where with one very lurky bellhop.  We shared so many laughs, whirled around in the spa, ate non-Italian food, and then some Italian food that was just different from Napolitan fare.  A successful, unintentional girl's weekend!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

So what else has been happening???

September, it came.  It went.  I didn't blog.  Here's an update on what happened over a month ago.

I had a birthday!  To celebrate, I found this hotel is Pietrasanta, Tuscany.  But it's not in the part of Tuscany that's close.  No, it's like 7 hours north.  This is why you should always consult a map before looking on Jetsetter and seeing a great deal on a beach-front hotel.  When you put it into your GPS and realize "Wow, this is going to be a LONG drive" that's probably too late.  Regardless, we drove northward, listening to my new favorite podcast "Stuff You Should Know" on NPR.  The trip flew by while we learned about really important things, like Dungeons and Dragons, Whiskey Runners, and Crystal Meth.  See?  So useful for life! 

Special birthday treat -- Dom Perignon!!!  (Not quite as good as I was expecting.  Perhaps my pallet isn't that refined??  Nonsense.  #dontbelievethehype

We spent a glorious day on the beach with my new birthday gift: his and her personalized beach towels!  Necessary for life!!!  Special thanks to my sister, Christy and my momma, for one of my favorite gifts this year!!

The food up there was fantastic, complete with God's gift to the human race: Florentine steak.  It's soooooo delicious!!  Throw in a couple seriously delicious bottles of wine, an evening stroll through this super cute little town and we were set!

On a whim (and to break up the lengthy drive back), we stopped into Perugia on the way back.  Finding parking was bit tricky and we barreled through, what I'm sure, is not supposed to be a road for regular vehicular travel.  But, va bene!  We're Napolitano now!

Here's a summary of our return trip:

Pocket coffee!!  The AutoGrill's finest!
Getting ready to have lunch in Perugia!

Tom models my new Furla purse.  Whilst sliding down a railing.  That's us, spreading America's good name overseas!  You're welcome, America!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

No seriously, this is our life.

July was an expensive and drinking-intensive month.  After Belgian beer and Irish Whiskey, we came back to Italian wine and dove right in to a ridiculously awesome launch party for a bottle of wine.  If that’s going to be a thing for life, I’m very readily available to attend as a seat filler.  

Il Palazzone is this vineyard up in Montalcino, Tuscany that is run by an Italian man and his Scottish wife, who, not surprisingly, is able to easily communicate with the hoards of Americans here in Naples.  Back when in May, when my mom was visiting, we went to this winery at the strongly worded encouragement of just about everyone of our friends down here.  When we were up there in May, the American owner was in town to sample the varietals that would go into their 2008 Rosso di Montalcino.  Again, not to nerd out too much on wine, this is normally like your crap table wine.  But Il Palazzone lets theirs sit in wood and the bottles for 5 years.  You can get a rosso for as cheap as 2 Euro a bottle at some places, but this one is actually legitimately delicious.

Into our little Honda Civic Tom and I hopped and raced northward to Toscana.  If there is one thing about Tuscany that is amazing, well that’s obviously wine.  But if there was a second thing, it’s steak.  Florentine steak is what I want heaven to be like.  Just heaps and heaps of Florentine steak and pretty much wine from Toscana.  

We stayed at this quiet (until we arrived en mass) agriturismo that had amazing wine.  Fear not, we bought 2 double magnums after learning that they age well.  It felt very, very necessary.  If in 15 years you get invited over to our house when we open one of those, you are a truly, truly good friend.  So, feel pretty privileged.

Il Palazzone has this ridiculously fancy infinity pool overlooking the valley of Montalcino.  The view is so horrible, I’m including a picture so you’ll feel sorry for us.  We do it all in the name of freedom.  You’re welcome.  And by “we,” I mean Tom.  I stand by him with a glass of wine in my hand and my TripAdvisor account active.  Dangling my feet into this fatty infinity pool, a glass of prosecco in my hand, a plate of antipasti in the other, it was pretty much the worst ever.  Ok, I’m 100% lying, it was crazy swanky.  Tuscan bread salad, rice salad, regular salad, pasta, and like 2 WHOLE COWS were on the menu for the evening.  Steak after steak followed bottle after blissful bottle.  Laughter was abundant as the sun set over the vineyards.  It was one of those days where I’d catch Tom’s watchful eye from across the table and see that glint that still makes my heart full.  We live a life that I could have never imagined and I share it with the most amazing man who loves me, flaws, crazy, and all.  

Now that we’ve been here for 2+ years, a lot of our original friends have come and gone and new people are taking their place.  We’ve met a ton of fun new people who I have hung out with a few extra times since our Tuscan adventure and had such fun with.  It’s funny how long it takes to feel like you belong somewhere, but it’s finally feeling that way here.  Don’t get me wrong, Bella Napoli has an expiration date and I’m kind of glad about that because it’s batshit crazy, but we have met some really wonderful people.  Each one that comes into your life, be it friend or foe, teaches me something.  I’ve found friends who would move mountains for me and for whom, I’d do that same in a heartbeat.  It hasn’t been the easiest path and, believe me when I say that there have been a lot of lonely nights and more drama than I ever thought possible, but from this comfortable perch where I sit now, the view is pretty spectacular and the blessings are more than I ever thought possible.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Land of Our People. Or... Tom's people...

Remember that time that I said I was getting back on the wagon?  Like most struggling bloggers, I keep finding things that distract me.  Like rewatching episodes of Criminal Minds or that pesky idea that I should finish my thesis, or those 40 hours of work that I am obliged to complete each week.  You see what I’m dealing with here?  Blogging killers.  I’ve also devoured the book, Divergent.  It’s Young Adult, so it’s not like it was nearly as dull as my Public Policy textbooks or my own, incredibly dull thesis paper with the short and concise title, which I no kidding just had to look up because I couldn’t even remember it myself after working on it for 6 months: “Redevelopment Models: A Comparative Analysis of European and American Adaptive Reuse of Failed Industrial Cityscapes.”  Trust me when I tell you that it is a real page turner.  I’ll sign advance copies for interested parties.


This is an incredibly long winded excuse for why my blogging has been at an all time low.  So, Public, I apologize.  I’ve been working.  And traveling.  And drinking far, far, FAR too much.  I have stolen my friend Katie’s “Healthy August” idea, hoping that a month of dedication to fitness can undo a month of dedication to good times and careless drinking & eating habits.  I am also adding the bonus of Facebook stalking myself from college to determine if I can tell from pictures that I’ve been careless for a month.  But then realized that I’m incredibly kind to myself and that my penchant for A-line dresses is helping my confidence.  That and that Italian men will still mutter “Bellissima” when anything in a skirt walks past.  “Thanks, boys, your extremely tight pants look good too.  Are those jeggings in August?  Respect.”  [we fist bump and carry on our merry ways.  At least, we do in my head.]

I’ve already covered our 4th of July in Belgium but one short week later, we hopped on a plane to Ireland!!  The impetus for this trip was to see Mumford and Sons who we foolishly missed when they were in Rome earlier this year.  Not making that mistake again!  But the added bonus is that Ireland is awesome.  Seriously.  The people there are so ridiculously nice, which my sister will quip, I said about 1,000 times in my previous Ireland post, but it’s absolutely true.  I’ve not met a kinder group of people, except for drunk Irish hipsters, to whom none of this applies.  You drunk Irish hipsters, you’re just as bad as hipsters everywhere.  You hear me hipsters??  I’m on to you.  And you’re corruption of even the most pure things, like Irish sweetness.  So go ahead and knock that off, you hear me?  And then ironically wear a Starbucks shirt and explain to someone why it’s ironic.  [grumbles profanity about effing hipsters…]

So we’re up in Ireland.  We started with a drive to Cork, Tom’s white knuckles gripping the wheel on the wrong side of the road.  Katie and I didn’t seem to mind and shouted “COWS!!  SHEEPIES!!” at each field of livestock.  I never thought of myself as a City Girl, but my Jane Austen-like love of the country rises up each time I see an expanse of open greenness.  After most likely numerous unbeknownst traffic violations, we pulled into Cork and wandered around to find a drink.  Like Belgium, the sun doesn’t seem to want to set in Ireland either.  But we found some fish and chips and friendly bar-keep followed by an evening of pub music.  The musicians seemed to just appear and overtake a large corner table.  Pints, shots, wine glasses, various instruments, chairs and bar stools and laughter all seemed to co-mingle in this section of the pub as song after song began and ended with no apparent break.  The group changed sporadically, some people plopping down on a bar stool with a violin and then equally spontaneously, leaving.  “Did that guy just walk in with a drum?”  No really, he did.

After discovering that Katie is my soul-mate of old man habits (drinking Scotch, drinking Irish whiskey, smoking cigars, wearing bathrobes), we decided to start an independent Irish Whiskey tour.  One shot, with one ice cube, from each bar.  Patty’s was our favorite, mostly because it was dirt cheap, about 2 Euros depending on the level of dive bar, and Middleton’s was the best, but significantly more expensive.  

From Cork, we traveled down to Blarney, kissing some level of the Blarney Stone and rolling our eyes repeatedly at the annoyingly whiny American family behind us.  “This is why people hate Americans.”  We decided to claim Canada for the remainder of the trip.  No one hates Canada.  Fun fact about the Blarney Stone – you have to hang upside down, a 90 year old man holding your midsection, to kiss the darn thing.  Despite (or perhaps in spite of)skydiving, I find myself absurdly afraid of heights and end up kissing about 2 feet about the darn thing.  Tom got more serious and believes that he kissed the grout between the Blarney Stone and the rest of the Blarney Castle.  But Katie, she got in there.  She committed.  

After Blarney, we wandered around more of the country parts of Cork, but I won’t bore you with that.  Flash forward and we were back in Dublin.  Here’s the thing about Dublin, it’s not really the most amazing city.  I mean, it’s cool and it’s in Ireland and they have pretty delicious burgers and beer, but it’s not like the destination that you think it’s going to be.  Prague, Budapest, hell, even Paris, are all such iconic cities and so remarkably different, poor ol’ Dublin just seems like a city.  Harsh truth, I know.  Look, I can’t always say amazing things.

Dublin gets the following notes: Phoenix Park, where we saw Mumford & Sons is enormous.  And about a 2.698047295 mile walk from anything else.  Once inside, after a significant amount of pub crawling pre-gaming, we found a pleasant spot, listened to the openers, (one of whom was Ben Howard who is no kidding awesome.  You should listen to him.  Right now.  I’ll wait.  Download hisalbum “Every Kingdom” and then come back.  I’m going to get a cappuccino freddo while you do this.) drinking crappy but expensive beer, and making fun of drunk hipsters in high-waisted jorts (jean shorts, which are apparently back in style???  False.  Take them off and find real pants.  Also, are you wearing a crown of flowers??  This isn’t Woodstock.  Not even Woodstock ’99.  Take those off.  You look ridiculous.)  Mumford was about as epic as you’d expect.  Upon the concert’s completion, our group somehow got separated in the mass of people, failed miserably at hailing a cab, and due to lack of seating, ate a bucket of fried chicken next to a fountain and mountain of trash.  At one point during the concert, someone walked into me, chin first, with an enormous beer.  Beer to the face is now one of my least favorite things.  I spent the remainder of the concert covered in that pleasantly pungent cheap beer smell and very sticky.  (I know, “that’s what she said.”)  Sitting next to the mountain of trash, drunkards walking through the fountain, in my beer-covered dress, I thought “This is how a vagrant lifestyle starts…”

So other highlights of Ireland: I finally met my sisters’ Irish friends, Caroline and Danielle.  We met up for Moroccan food and spent hours laughing harder than I can remember.  They are both planning on moving away from Ireland next year, their fearless wanderlust making me equal parts anxious and envious.  Being so far away from my family, it has been several years since someone has said “Oh my gosh, you look exactly like your sister.”  It was so nice to hear that and remember our similarities.


If you go to Dublin, skip the Jameson Distillery, just take yourself on a drinking tour of their various flavors, and instead go to Guinness.  And eat there.  Oh my heavens… it’s sooooo tasty.  Nom nom nom.

Our bank accounts drained and our livers drying out, we came back to Italy.  But I miss that beautiful island – covered in lush green, easily understandable use of the English language, and their embracing nature for international food.  Thai food, I miss you so much.  Let’s rekindle our flame…  Tom told me he didn’t mind.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

4th of July in Belgium!

When people think of the freedom of America, they often think of Belgian beer.  No?  Well, it was worth a try.  We hopped on a couple of flights and found ourselves in the land of beer, chocolate, and waffles for the 4th of July weekend!

Everyone has been telling us that we absolutely have to go to Bruges, Belgium.  And you know what?  It's true.  It's about the most darling little town ever.  Adding to it's adorableness (no, my sister confirmed it was a real word via text.  Just go with it.) are the following things:

1. Mussels.  I love mussels.  They are delicious.  I can, embarassingly, eat the shit out of some mussels in Italy.  And have on many occassions.  And then craftily attempted to hide the very obvious lack of portion control by pawning the shells off on someone elses plate.  "Geeze, save some for the rest of us!"  I never said that I was a good person. 

But mussels in Belgium had so many flavor options!  I got curry!  Curry, friends!  Living in Italy, we don't get a lot of curry, unless I make it myself.  But up there in Belgium, with my own entire pot of mussels, I ate myself silly (there is no photographic evidence of this.  I, instead, am modestly posting a photo of Tom with his mussels).  What's extra adorable about Belgium is this: you use your first mussels little shell as a utensil to pick out your other mussels.  Like a somewhat disturbing set of chopsticks, but made from the carcass of something you've already ingested.  No, seriously, and I thought that was adorable. 

2. Beer: Belgian beer had so many options!  Delicious options!  Dark beer, light beer, hoppy beer, ambers.  And we tried the hell out of them!  From mid-day on, we stopped about every other hour for a beer pit-stop and you know what, it makes traveling pretty fun!  Rochefort 10 was my personal favorite - really dark, very rich flavor, super SUPER high in alcohol content.  That's the problem I have with Belgian beer, sometimes you forget that 13% alcohol in a beer is pretty effing strong when you are sweating your ass off and bottles of water are an astonishing 6 Euro each!  Mother of pearl, are you serious?!?  Beer is literally cheaper to drink than water.  So we did.  And supplemented Excedrin Migraine for fluids.  It felt like a good life choice at the time...  My liver may beg to differ in the long term.

3. The Midnight Sun: Talk about messing up your internal clock - the sun in Northern Europe refused to set.  Just refused.  Crossed it arms and just stayed up.  "I'll go to bed when I'm good and ready!"  The sun setting at 10:30 led to many very, very late night meals.  Because we're so used to eating at 8:30 (or later) in Italy, it didn't seem that weird to go to dinner late, but the folks up north are used to the other side of the coin as well, those pesky cold months when daylight is scarce.  Despite the late setting sun, most people still ate at about 5-7 pm and when we went out for dinner at 9:30, we were the only ones there!  "Oh hey... are you still open?  Can you feed us?"

I'd say our weirdest stop in Brussels was the Magritte Museum.  Rene Magritte, famous for the faceless businessman in a bowler hat, was also really trippy.  Wandering through the museum, more than once I thought to myself, "Modern art is really weird.  And I like modern art."  I felt like my mom, wondering, 'what does this mean??'  If you're in Brussels and you really want to go to a museum, just take my word for it, and skip Magritte.  You're welcome, I just saved you 8 Euro.

Here are some pics of the midnight sun in Brussels and Bruges.  As well us Kim, Nathan, and Tom measuring street distances.  It's scientific, trust me on that.

Lovely, lovely places.  Bruges, definitely so.  Between the chocolate, the massive amounts of beer, the constant French fries and occasional Belgian waffles, my diet has gone to hell in a handbag and I'm look for more A-line dresses for the remainder of the summer. 

Coming up next, Ireland!

Team K

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back on the wagon

I admit it, it happens from time to time, but I fell off the wagon on this whole blogging thing.  Life was awesome, I did cool stuff.  I intended to write my thesis.  I watched a lot of Criminal Minds instead.  I'm now convinced that most everyone I've ever met or have passed on the street is plotting to kill me in some manner that involved duct tape.  Tom went to Germany for approximately forever.  My mom came to visit.  My bestie, Julie, moved back to America.  We had a harrowing scuba-diving experience.  I met Tom in Germany.  I submitted a draft of my thesis.  My thesis chair destroyed it.  I read the massive comments with an equally massive glass of wine and decided it could all wait.  With procrastination, blogging became an immediate necessity.  Not unlike organizing my photos.  SUPER high priority.  Procrastination makes the strangest things seem really, really important.

I'll now include 1 sentence and 1 picture from the past 3 months of my life and then I'll get back on the wagon and we'll all pretend like this never happened.  Agreed?  Good.

1. Lots of wine in Dugenta, this little town about 45 minutes from Naples, with lots of good friends.  It's like Tuscany but closer and less expensive.  I call that a win.

3 liter bottles of prosecco, they will really change your life.

2. Cantina dell'Averno: Located in Naples, wonderful hosts, amazing 15-20 Euro lunch with unlimited wine.  We seem to buy two cases as an apology for spending 5 hours getting drunk for practically nothing.

Melissa and I revive a game from her childhood: use fish heads as puppets.  It was clearly still as much fun as in her youth!

3. Julie left: Julie went back to America, which we celebrated/mourned over her favorite ristorante with almost all of our closest friends around.  It seems sad each time I think of her not being here but I'm sure that she's having fun being back in our homeland!

4. I sort of wrote my thesis.  No pictures to document that this event ever actually occured.

5. Relatives!  My cousin and his wife spent one day in Naples on their cruise through the med.  I toured them around Naples, took them out to an authentic Italian trattoria, and brought the most absurdly large bouquet I've ever purchased in my life.  Three people + this huge bouquet barely fit in our elevator!
Paul, Cara and I in Downtown Naples!

5. My mom came to Italy for 2 weeks!  Because she is my mom and this whole "one sentence per event" rule was of my own making, I'm breaking it.  I'd say I'm sorry, but this is my mom we're talking about.  She rates more than 1 sentence! 

We started off in Rome, dragging my bleary-eyed mother around.  "Keep going, mom!  You can do it!"  (She did, hilariously, doze off for about 3 seconds at dinner her first night.  Tom and I laughed for about 2 seconds and then woke her up and promptly requested the check)  Once back in Naples, we let her rest, strolled around our neighborhood, ate gelato (introducing her to the miracle of life that is Kinder gelato.  Seriously, it's amazing), and just chatted.  We saw super old stuff at Ercolano, went up to Tuscany, putzed around Rome, had a lovely lunch on the beach in Positano, and Tom and I got horrifically ill.  It was at this point, with a fever and the most horrific stomach virus man has ever known in a hotel in the pouring rain in Tuscany, that my mom, the retired nurse, really kicked it up a notch.  We watched old movies, the entire third season of Downton Abbey (seriously, Downton?  Seriously??  We just broke up.  But we may get back together.  But I'm still really mad at you.  It's going to require a lot of flowers to make this right between us), and just hung out.  Upon return to the US, my mom reported that she particularly loved that the medicine aisle of the commissary (our grocery store on the base) has a glass floor with Roman ruins in it.  She couldn't stop laughing about how the nail polish remover was on a shelf above 2,000 year old pots.
Mommy and me time while we wait for lunch in Rome.  The enormous sign behind us is inadvertent advertising.  I promise.  And the third glass of wine is obviously for Tom, who is taking the picture.  We'd never have 3 glasses of wine for 2 people.  Ever...

6. Tom spent 2 weeks in Germany while I was horrifically ill.  After a trip to the ER, TONS of antibiotics, and a week of chicken soup, I joined him for some R&R in Frankfurt.  It was beautiful, surprisingly new, and full of exciting food.  THAI!  Mmmmm!  Applewein = not so mmmm.
This was when we learned that Applewein is not that delicious.  Don't let Tom's smile fool you...
7. Beach daze: When it was too windy to go boating, 15 Americans decended upon the NATO beach in Miseno (in Naples) and spent the day drinking beers and juice box wine with baloney sandwiches (deep down everyone secretly loves them as much as I do) and inflatable duck floats that we bought from the guys selling stuff on the beach. 

So that sums things up here for me.  I'm officially back on the wagon!  Ready to blog on more regular intervals.  We're in our last year here in Naples and I'm starting to wonder both where the time went and how we will ever fit all of these trips into our last year.  While we may not be getting that much better at Italian, I've become less afraid of the life here.  The mystery of this lifestyle seems to be a bit less mystical and whatever level of logical I can make of Neapolitan culture.  Driving still drives Tom and I nuts and we mutter, perhaps far too often, "f*cking Italians" during car rides.  But that's a story for another blog.  Which will be coming shortly.  I promise.  Girl scout's honor.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Capri: Twice in April

I look out at Capri from my porch and have caught myself thinking, 'That island is so smug' on more than one occasion.  During my first few weeks in Italy, I went to Capri on a day trip with my dear friend, Kristine, and we had quite the day.  But we also had quite the snobbery and I hadn't gone back since.

Until my dear friend Julie went and raved about how we should all give Capri a chance and it was heavenly and blah blah blah.  Yet again, like in Barcellona, I rolled my eyes and thought "Sure, Julie..."  Well we went.  Twice in the month of April and I must say, publically, that I was wrong.  Capri, but more importantly Anacapri, is amazing.  Below is a picture of the Island of Capri, mocking me from our porch.  Anacapri is the higher part. 


Capri is the land where Kim Kardashian went on a mini-moon for her mini-marriage, where the Real Housewives of [Insert Major American City] travel for vacation, and where luxury yachts are never in short supply.  It's the place where the girls at Zara openly judge you even more than regular Zara (seriously, you're in retail.  I'm actively buying something.  Stop it with your judgment!), where gelato is 12 Euro a cone, and touristy trinkets are about 5 times what they cost in Sorrento or Amalfi.  But it's Capri.  There's a part of all of us that feels even more fancy being there, eating the food, strolling the streets, casually mentioning "Oh, I just spent the weekend on Capri." 

Which brings to mind the level of asshole that I know I've become.  Calling home, talking about the weekend I spent at winery or on a Mediterranean island makes me realize how ridiculous my life has become.  Looking back and comparing this to the joys I got in the States from a stroll through Best Buy - it's so far beyond the norm that I have to pinch myself to realize that this is still reality.  For now, at least.  Next month marks our two year mark in Italy.  From the beginning, the lows, the tears, the discomfort to now - finding a solid group of friends, cutting loose some of the things that held me back, and finding the hidden gems of excitement in our little section of Italy - I finally feel like I'm settled.  Funny how long it took, how much I complained, how the norms are so different from our life back in the States.  But somehow, it's all more normal now.  But I've digressed....

Capri: The island is a beautiful place but most importantly, for me at least, the food is what sets it apart.  Seafood is abundant in this part of the world.  We eat it more often than I have ever had seafood in my life.  And it's good in Naples, don't get me wrong.  But then we went to Capri (and Anacapri) and it's just so different.  The food is made with such care - the clams, mussels, squid, it's all so delicate, like it was made by a little mama in the kitchen of her house, making sure that her children and family were all pleased with her work.  Off the beaten path of Capri, where an American college student wouldn't dare trod, there are little trattorias which made food for the soul.  We ate at these little places, enjoying their unique version of the dishes we see daily. 

Here are some pics from weekend one and then weekend two, just girls, below. 

And the trip just with the girls....


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Runner's High and Humanity's Lows

This past weekend, four of my girlfriends and I went up to Scotland to run the Edinburgh Rock N' Roll Half Marathon.  If you aren't an avid runner and haven't done a race that requires that kind of training, you should think about it.  No matter what shape you are in.  It's a feeling of pride, of pain, of personal gratification that is rarely felt.  My girlfriends and I trained together, spending a few hours each weekend and several afternoons during the week chatting and running.  Through this training, I found out what kind of friends I have and what kind of friend I want to be.  It's more than just training for a race - it's also amazing bonding time.

After our race, through the wind and the rain, hail at a few points (seriously, Scotland?  Hail in April??  I was on your side with haggis.  I gave you a chance to be amazing.  And then hail??  That's not cool), we pushed and struggled and pushed some more.  We gave high fives to little kids, thanked policemen who braved the elements to stop traffic, waved to people on the street who cheered us on. 

And then today, I woke up still sore and groggy and checked Facebook while procrastinating work.  That was when I saw about 20 posts about Boston.  "WTF happened in Boston?"  My heart sank.  Who bombs a marathon?  My first thought was "May God bless our children and the world that they will grow up in."  Columbine happened when I was in middle school.  A guy killed himself in my high school parking lot when I was a senior.  A girl gave birth to a baby and drowned it in the girl's bathroom.  9/11.  Shootings at Virginia Tech.  Shootings at a movie theater.  Shootings at an elementary school.  Violence surrounds us.  My heart seems to sink lower and lower and I find myself wondering how we can ever change it.  How can we ever go back to a place that can simply celebrate what is good in our world, in our every day lives, in the simplicity of being happy?  After a weekend surrounded by Scots with their adorable accents where I would not have ever thought that I was in danger, I turned on the news to see violence in my home country at an event where people raise thousands and thousands of dollars for charity.  And someone bombed it. 

Whoever you are that did this, where ever you are, you are a hateful person.  You destroyed lives and families.  People will never be the same because of you.  I pray for those who were injured.  For those who were hurt.  For those whose lives will never again be as bright or as hopeful.  For you, I pray for happier days, for healthier tomorrows, for the support of your friends, for all of the good things that this life has to offer.  For you all, I say an extra prayer.  And for the person who did this to my country, to my fellow runners, I pray that God has mercy on you - because you must have no mercy of your own.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wine Tasting in Avellino

I decided that we don't go wine tasting enough locally.  We always seem to be driving up to Tuscany or Umbria to drink wine up there.  We've got land here in Campania!  We've got vineyards!  Let's save the gas and tolls and just drink here.  And so we did. 

I found this winery, Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, outside of Avellino - about an hour away from Naples.  But we got lost, so it took us about 2 hours.  Whoops!  Milena Pepe, the owner, is a Belgian-Italian and probably one of the sweetest women ever.  She took us around the vineyards, explaining the various different types of grapes, how they are classified, etc.  Her 3 or 4 year old son, Angelo, was riding around on his little plastic Ducati motorcycle screaming the whole time.  In true Italian style, this child was wearing about 10 layers of clothing, including a puffy jacket, despite the fact that it was nearly 70 degrees outside.  But Italians have this magical date, before which it is unsafe to walk around outside without a puffy coat.  
Because you'll probably die.  Never mind that they allow their children to ride on Vespas with no helmets, at least that kid is warm.  Angelo kept saying "Momma, fa caldo!"  (Mommy, I'm hot!)  and she would smile and say "Si, Angelo."  No wonder this kid is hot!  He's wearing like 8 layers of clothing more than he needs!!  Maybe we're foolish Americans.  Maybe we just don't understand how to dress appropriately.  But I was wearing dress pants and a short sleeved top at the time and was very comfortable.  And somehow, by the strength of my immune system, the amount of wine, or divine intervention, I'm pretty healthy right now.  It's a mystery!

So Angelo is dripping sweat and we're all hot, Milena judging some of us for wearing sandals in March.  After a glass (or two) of prosecco, we caravaned to lunch.  The thing about Italian meals that is hands down the most amazing is any time they don't have a menu.  This is when you know that you are going to eat very well.  The tour + wine tastings + lunch was 40 Euro a person and we definitely got our fair share of everything for the price!  Plate after plate after plate of antipasti arrived.  Sausage, eggplant, cauliflower, cheese, goodness upon goodness.  Milena brought a few cases of wine and about 10 decanters and they just kept arriving like clockwork.  Some were disappointing but consumed regardless.  No point in wasting it!  We tipped generously, convinced that Americans were being cursed everywhere based on the sheer volume of wine that was consumed. 

One gloriously long (read: 4.5 hour) lunch later and we stumbled back to the winery to purchase wine.  Milena loved us extra upon our return, seeing the growing boxes of stock that she was off-loading.  Our good names were restored, at least temporarily!  Below, our friend, Eric, photo bombed me with his butt.  This pretty well sums up the end of the day.

Monday came all too quickly and most assuredly, painfully.  But we had a lovely day with great friends, amazing food, and a hearty amount of laughter.

Cin cin!