Sunday, April 27

mam mam and the zoo

{MamMam & Carly sitting in a bubble window watching sea lions}
My mom (aka "MamMam") came up for a couple of days.
Friday when she arrived it was gorgeous, and the weather was just screaming for us to do something outside.
So we packed a little cooler, picked Carly up from school and headed to the zoo. I was worried that it might be crowded because of the beautiful weather but nope, it was really quiet.
I have a rule about going to the zoo during April and May. I don't. But that is during the day when the place it packed with end-of-the-year field trippers. We got there about 3:45 and stayed until 6:00 and about had the place to ourselves. Just the way I like it.
Carly likes to be the tour guide. This trip she wanted to show off the polar bears, sea lions, panda bears, otters, gorillas, and hippos. And just like every trip for the past 7.5 years, we ended our trip at the playground.

home alone

Occasionally Kenny goes out of town for hunting or golfing, maybe work. This time he is on a boys' weekend at Talladega for the NASCAR race. Kenny leaving means I get a new sleeping partner. Thank goodness the older she gets the better bed-mate she has become.

Thursday, April 24

Field Trip

Carly's ACT class went on a field trip to the Biology Field Lab at the University of Mississippi. They were exposed to the concept of biology experiments and what the scientists in the lab are studying right now. That was everything from ground water pollution, turkey behaviors in the wild, wild bird migration, to salamander nesting habits. We took a van tour around some of the lab property and listened as the van driver/tour guide provided very interesting information about what goes on at the field lab.
..... Inside at the lab, the kids got to observe up close some experiments that were going on with fire ants. I did not pose the kids for these pictures. It was amazing how interested they were in those ants. I, on the other hand, started feeling a little itchy. I think they would have stayed for hours watching buckets of ants.
..... Carly has really enjoyed participating in her special ACT class this year. ACT stands for Accent on Creative Teaching Program. Carly spends 3 hours a week with this group of 10 other 2nd graders. The program focuses on creativity, thinking, leadership, research and communication skills. I've been excited with the exposure to science Carly is getting and critical thinking skills.

Friday, April 18

my first time

Kenny had bought some reduced priced veal chops at the grocery and we needed a plan for cooking them. I decided that it would be fun to get a bottle (or two) of wine and for Kenny & I to make ravioli (for the first time) to go with them. After making an ingredient list and going grocery shopping, I was on my way home after picking Carly up from school and Kenny called to tell me that his mother was coming for dinner and to spend the night with us. His mother, the gourmet Italian cook, was coming in a couple of hours!!
Okay, deep breaths, we could just go out and have Mexican food. Oh wait Kenny already told her that we were having veal chops for dinner. Okay, new plan, we could have rice or potatoes with the veal chops. Because right about now, the very LAST thing I want to try to make for the first time is ravioli (for the gourmet Italian cook). Oh yeah, no time to go back to the grocery.
$#*@, fine let's just do it, what is the worst thing that could happen. Right, don't go there, because there is a huge list of how bad this could go.
Step #1 pour a glass of wine and go take a bath - I know there is no time for this but I promise it is much needed.
Step #2 make the tomato relish that tops the veal - simple enough, build up a little confidence, drink another glass of wine.
Step #3 make the ravioli stuffing - recipe by Giada (you know Everyday Italian) and only has 4 ingredients, haven't even broken my 5 ingredient rule yet
Step #4 prepare to stuff the ravioli. I just got started when my MIL arrived. She was really excited that we were not only cooking (yes, I do have a reputation) but that we were making ravioli. I'm glad someone was excited about this. Then it hits me, she knows how to do this, put this woman to work - use her!
Step #5 make Celeste a cocktail and put her to work and take notes, boy this is getting easier and easier. Open another bottle of wine.

{Celeste and Carly stuffing ravioli}

Dinner was fabulous.

Veal Chops with 2-tomato Relish

Spinach & Cheese Ravioli

Grilled Asparagus

Here is Giada's recipe for ravioli stuffing: Whisk together 15oz ricotta cheese, 10oz package chopped spinach(thawed & squeezed dry), 2 large egg yolks, salt & pepper

Tuesday, April 15

SPT - What was I thinking?

Lelly's challenge.....
for tuesday, april 15th, the challenge is to provide a photo for the following caption:
..... "what was i thinking?!?"
"what was I thinking?"

Well, I was thinking, Mommy has to go to work so......

Carly's school had a vacation day on Monday. It was not a good day for me to take a vacation, so Carly got to go to work with me! Carly did fine. She brought all kind of goodies, but it just isn't much fun to be confined to a desk for 5 1/2 hours. And even though she was good it does seem to throw a kink into my routine. I think "going to work" exhausted her. She even fell asleep in the car on the way home. Today, back to school for Carly!

Saturday, April 12

last stops

Sirmione....we made a detour to this beautiful little lake town located on Lake Garda. A place where Italians vacation. A sweet village full of shops and a castle too. I had bruschetta for lunch and snagged mom her empty wine bottle for her bottle tree.


Castello di Tagliolo....another road trip this one to check out a winery in a castle perched on the side of a hill. 500 years of wine making in that castle. We tasted some red, and some white, and some dessert wine. It was a neat place and glad we got off the beaten path.

Genoa....Maurizio took us on a day trip to his home town. We shopped in the street market picking up scarves, ties, cashmere. We made a stop at a local jewelry shop and I bought my "mighty fine Italian purchase" - a new watch. I love seeing it and thinking about being in Italy. We initially had a difficult time finding a restaurant for lunch because it was Monday and that is a common day off in Italy. But, I think it was meant to be because we found a restaurant on the sea that was full of locals. We ate a delicious lunch of pasta with shrimp.

Our afternoon in Genoa was perfect. We walked along the waterfront and into "old" Genoa (12 to 14th century) in Christopher Columbus's old neighborhood. There were lots of little shops to browse in, old buildings to check out and some of the best gellato of the whole trip.


Turin.....a trip to Turin was a last minute decision. (location of the 2006 Winter Olympics) Our main destination was the Egyptian Museum. We were amazed at how much Egyptian history was tucked away in Turin, Italy. It is the largest museum of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo.


We also did some shopping in another outdoor market. I bought a couple pieces of stoneware. I love pottery! As usual, I wish I had bought more. There were beautiful stands with flowers, meats, and this fabulous table of cheese. We had a piece made from sheep milk. It was so strong and so good. Kenny didn't love it.

Friday, April 11

Italian family

{Clara and Celeste}
Next stop, Serravalle Scrivia the home of Kenny's cousins. I'll try to document this (Celeste let me know if I mess it up). Kenny's mom is Celeste. Clara is the cousin in Italy. Celeste's grandfather and Clara father were brothers. When Celeste's grandfather was young, he came to the States and Clara's father stayed in Italy.

{Clara explaining the family tree to her daughter, Lully, and me. Add that Clara speaks some English, Lully speaks only a few words of English and I only speak a few words of Italian.}

{from the left...Doug, Kenny, Lully, Maurizio, Clara, and Celeste enjoying anti pasta at Clara's home}


{Dinner out in Arquata...a wonderful experience}

Tuesday, April 8

Bolzano, Italy

Love, Love, Love this sweet little Italian town with an idenity crisis. Bolzano is in northern Italy close to the Austria border. An area with border and citizenship issues following WWII. So now it is an Italian town with a heavy German influence. It is nestled in a valley in the lower alps and has a definite alpine feel. I kept waiting for someone to break out in "the hills are alive......."
{Photo taken from the train on our way to Bolzano.
There was a dramatic scenery change. Alpine inspired villages surrounded by beautiful snow-covered mountains. Bolzano was a day adventure while we stayed in Verona, so we only had a few hours. Not nearly enough time!}

{duomo in Bolzano had an alpine look}


{windows full of pastries and chocolate}


{Bolzano's main mode of transporation}


{a wonderful little street market where my sweet hubby bought me a beautiful orange Gerber daisy - my favorite}

{probably my favorite picture of Kenny & I -

enjoying a beautiful day in Bolzano, Italy}


Oh, and we did see "Otzi" -the Ice Man, the 5300 year old body found in the mountains in the Italian/Austrian border in 1991. It was amazing how well preserved all the findings were from his body, to his gear, to his clothes. I mean, they found pollen on his clothes so were able to determine where he had been before his death and in what time of the year!

The guidebook said Otzi was the only site that merited your time, but I have to argue that Bolzano itself was worth more time than we had.

Sunday, April 6

Verona, Italy

We stayed in a wonderful little hotel
around the corner from the Piazza Bra'
which is dominated by the Verona Roman Arena.
I failed to take a picture of our room,
but the hotel owner described it as the romantic room.
Kenny said we were in the attic. I thought it had wonderful charm.

{you know we had pizza (several actually) but this local pizzeria was one of our favorite. I had the house pizza which had spicy salami, mushrooms, artichokes, onion, mozzarella and an egg cooked in the middle. Italian pizzas are very thin covered in fabulous ingredients and the best are cooked in a wood-burning oven.}

{Italians frequently eat and drink standing up at bars. There are places that your food/drink costs more if you sit because if you sit you pay a service charge. That might be some of the answer, but I think it is just the Italian way. Our second morning in Verona, Kenny and I had breakfast standing at a bar around the corner from our hotel. Hot chocolate again and a ham/cheese panini on oh-so-yummy foccacia bread.}

{Kenny and I in the street market in Verona. It was a beautiful day and we were able to walk all over Verona including down the pedestrian-only marble street, Via Mazzini which is lined with all kinds of shops.}

I loved this....

and this....

and this...

okay, one more...

Friday, April 4

Venice, Italy

"I'd rather be in Venice on a rainy day
than in any other capital
on a fine one"
Medville 1857
which seemed rather fitting
as we entered San Marco square
for the first time with a misting rain
I was really excited about going to Venice
and I was not disappointed
although it is much different than anywhere
else we have been in Italy.
Probably more accurate is
that it is unlike anywhere else on Earth -
literally a city in water.
{Some of the best canal views
were from the top of the Rialto Bridge.

There were boats everywhere from the vaporetto (city bus), to water taxis, food delivery, mail delivery, police, ambulance, gondolas and so on. Remember there are NO cars in Venice not even bicycles. If you don't ride in a boat, you walk.}

{Across the Rialto Bridge was the produce and fish market. Markets are one of the places we love in Italy. Venice's food market was no exception. It was such a vibrant, local experience. Booth after booth of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. The fish merchants were so interesting. Colorful tables with magnificent spreads with such variety.}

{we went to the top of the Campanile (bell tower) and were surprised by the breath taking 360 degree view of ALL of Venice. I love the rich colors and how domes and bell towers punctuate the skyline}

{From the balcony of St. Mark's cathedral which was amazing.

On the left is Doge's palace. It is an awesome building.

I could have stayed in San Marco square with my camera all day.}

{Gondola ride, check,

because how can you go to Venice and not?

An evening ride was might pricey

but it was worth it and I am so glad we did it}

{"cin cin" (cheers) from the whole gang

because you know what the saying is

"there is no bad wine in Italy"

Next stop....Verona.

Thursday, April 3

Milan, Italy

We arrived in Milan at 7 a.m. Italy time (1 a.m back home)
after traveling all day (18 hours).
But no rest for the weary there was Milan to see
and only one day to do it!
{Kenny and I in front of Milan's Duomo - Europe's 3rd largest church.
It was a masterpiece inside and out.}

{the inside of the duomo - 8 story marble columns. It was amazing- mosaics, stained glass windows, statues, and supposedly in the cross with the red light way above the alter is a nail from the crucifixion of Christ.}

{inside the Galleria - Milan's beautiful "open" mall. The glass roof was phenomenal. It was full of lots of pricey shops and cafes - wonderful place to window shop and people watch}

{gelato (Italian ice cream) -

if you have been to Italy and had some, you know.

If you haven't, then you will just have to go

because gelato just does not translate :)

But on every street you can find a gelateria

with a display much like this.}

{by late afternoon (27+hours on the go)

we were all struggling to be pleasant.

Especially as we tried to navigate the subway system

(I somehow managed to not have a single photo of that experience)

We decided that hot showers and pj's sounded like a great plan.

So, we went to a local grocery and bought the fixings for an Italian picnic - salami, cheese, marinated veggies, bread, and wine.

Ever go to your grocery and have to REALLY hunt for a butcher because you have a question. Not in Italy, every market you go in there is a fabulous meat/cheese counter and ALWAYS a smiling, helpful, knowledgeable butcher}

{our first breakfast in Italy - I love how all the little hotels we stay in have little cafe' areas. Kenny and I don't drink coffee which is HUGE in Italy, so we have the barista make us a "caldo cioccolata" (hot chocolate) to go with our croissants. We are looking fresh and ready to hit the ground running after a good night sleep. Next stop Venice!}