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!