August 29 and 30, Days 239, 240/365

It's the end of August. I'm hoping for some cooler weather!

But on Sunday, I enjoyed a chocolaty, whipped yogurt.
10.08.29 - Dessert

Truthfully, at first I was grossed out by the concept of the "whipped yogurt". Eww. My paradigm - yogurt should be thick, rich and creamy. But the chocolate whipped yogurt is like a mousse. And tastes like it. It's my new favorite dessert.

Monday, August 30 - another baseball game, this one at Travis Field, out by the cornfields. The farmers have started the harvest process already.
10.08.30 - Early Harvest


August 25 - 28, Days 235 - 238

Wednesday, August 25, Day 235 -
During a lull at tonight's baseball game, I wandered over to the city pool, struck by the emptiness there. A sign of transition away from summer.

10.08.25 - Nobody At the Pool

Thursday, August 26, Day 236 -
Must read books! The third installment of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been sitting on the kitchen island for at least two weeks. No time to read. And Jill was nice enough to pick up the newly released Mockingjay today. I think I'll read Mockingjay first, as it will probably be the easier read. With a 3 day weekend coming soon, it actually might get done!
10.08.26 - Must Reads

Friday, August 27, Day 237 -
George slept over tonight, and the boys set up in the basement.
10.08.27 - Sleep Over Prep

Saturday, August 28. Day 238 -
Erica and Jen at the local corn festival. Jen's cheerleading team was selling draft root beer and cheering on the crowd. Lots of fun!
10.08.28 - Sweet Corn Festival Goers


I Heart Faces Photojournalism - Solo a Me Bacio [Just Kiss Me]

When I read this week's theme at I Heart Faces was photojournalism, I remembered the picture I took in a Sienna courtyard, a couple sitting on the concrete bench, surrounded by the lovely brick walls of the city. I think they had just taken a self portrait, when the woman leaned over for a kiss.

Solo a Me Bacio [Just Kiss Me]

You can check out the other fabulous photo entries at I Heart Faces, a great resource for photography.


Going North - Portofino, Italy

North of the Cinque Terre, the coastal town of Portofino boasts a rich history of catering to the rich and famous. Case in point - we heard that Paris Hilton was visiting the lovely village the same day we were there! I guess she doesn't hang out down at the Marina, though - too many common folk there.....

We took the train from Monterosso north to the town of Rapallo, a larger coastal resort than all of Cinque Terre. From Rapallo, we boarded a ferry destined for Santa Margherita and then Portofino.

We passed several large yachts on our short ferry ride and one part of the marina was reserved for some very large ones.

The Big Ones Dock Up Front

A Perfect Day

We walked up to the "Castello Brown" a 16th Century fort turned museum. The views of the marina below made the upward climb worthwhile:
The Entire Marina

Another picture perfect day along the Italian Riviera.


August 21-24 Photos - Days 231-234

I'm starting to skip more days as I head into the last part of year two, taking a picture a day. Really, I'm feeling a bit "pictured out". I'm pretty sure, however, that the feeling is temporary, and with the onslaught of fall, school, soccer, football and other "fall" things, I'll snap out of it.

But on to pictures captured last week.

Saturday, August 21, Day 231

Another "normal Saturday" of running, yard work, and housework. Oh yeah, Erica experienced her first "rock concert" - she went to see Selena Gomez perform at the local State fair. She had a great time, but didn't take any photos!
Brian took advantage of his sister not being around to get into a water fight with the boys next door.
10.08.21 - Ready for Battle
I'm not sure who has the upper hand here, George or Will.....
10.08.21 - Who's WInning?

Sunday, August 22, Day 232
Hey, who's that in the mirror? That would be me. I love the morning light in the bathroom.

10.08.22 - Self Portrait

Monday, August 23, Day 233
Baseball game tonight. Brian's team won easily (at times the innings seemed to go on and on and on). Scott started a new "tradition" of taking the crossword puzzle to the games. We work on them together, and it's quite interesting some of the answers we come up with. (Like tonight's "Woodland Creatures" - Scott insisted the answer had to be "bees". Umm, I don't think so!).
10.08.23 - Doing the Crossword

Tuesday, August 24, Day 234
I drove out of my way this afternoon, but picking up the first batch of Honeycrisp apples and an apple pie was totally worth it! So yummy and a great harbinger of the fall season just around the corner.
Bushel and a Peck Web


Monterosso, Italy - Orton Style

I tried something different tonight - a little Orton effect on some pictures from Italy. The Orton effect merges a blurry exposure with a normal exposure, resulting in a dreamy finished product.

Hanging off the Wall


Taken in the old section of Monterosso, very different from the newer section where we stayed.


Back to Italy - Hit the High Road to the Mountains near Sestola

Sunday morning arrives and we’re not sure what the plan is – until I receive a phone call from Dave’s cousin, Barbara. They will meet us at the airport, at the rental car counter around noon, and we will drive up to the family farm house near Sestola.

Another plug for Hertz rental car in Europe – they set us up with this HUGE Fiat Doblo. I reserved a mid-size vehicle (the only thing they had available at late notice), and based on the specs listed, I wasn’t sure if it would fit all of our luggage. My only regret - not taking a picture of us by the car.

Note – the Thrifty / Dollar Rental Car desk was STILL CLOSED. Never rent from them overseas!!

Barbara and her husband, Robbie, identified us me right away (How many other Asian people have I seen since arriving in Italy? That would be zero. I guess there are advantages to standing out).

We throw our luggage into the huge rental car. We have a little trouble trying to start the darn thing - we thought – cars are different over here – isn’t there a button to push? Something special with the key? We over-thought the process. A rental car attendance thought we were crazy when we stated we couldn’t start the car – he showed us by simply turning the key in the ignition. Wow – this one starts up the same as the cars in the States – how novel!

We follow Barbara and Robbie up to the mountains of the Emilia-Romagna Region. Traditionally a winter ski-resort area, we climb higher and higher through winding roads. We travel to about 5000 ft above sea level, not quite as high up as what we experienced last year in Colorado, but close.

We arrive at Barbara’s family farmhouse, a beautiful property looking out to the mountains.


We are descended upon by the rest of Barbara’s family, just as if we are part of their family – with hugs and kisses on the both cheeks (kiss right first, then left). Barbara’s dad, Giovanni, has picked up Dave and Dawn in Florence and they are on their way! Yay! Oh, but they don’t have their checked luggage! Boo!

The long farmhouse table is set and the food is ready. Scott asks, “Should we wait for Giovanni?”, and the response from his wife, Elenor is “Oh, NO! We eat now!” and she points for us to sit, pours us some wine and starts putting out lots of food, including homemade taggliatelle with porcini, rabbit cacciatore, pancetta, prosciutto, salad, wine and more wine.
Table Setting

Prosciutto and Pancetta

Some Rabbit (Coniglio)

When Giovanni arrives with Dave and Dawn, we all go out to greet them. More hugs and kisses ensue. The last time I saw either Dave or Dawn was in 2004 – way too many years ago. The great thing with friends like them, you can pick up years later right where you left off. In no time, we are all laughing about their travel adventures, about the gorgeous view and taking pictures of it all.

I watch Elenor use a flat grill to make crescentine, a flat bread you eat with various spreads (bacon fat mixed with garlic and rosemary), prosciutto, and pancetta.
Later, we watch Barbara spread some Nutella on the crescentine, something that Scott then tries, and now we have a new Nutella lover on our hands.

We all sit down to eat and talk and laugh
Dig In And Mangia!
Talking with the Hands
Of the family, Barbara is the most fluent in English and serves as interpreter. I love how much she talks with her hands!

After lunch, we take time to explore the grounds, taking lots of group photos.
Dawn and Giovanni

Heading Down the Path
Dave and Scott

Goofing Off
Barbara, Robbie, Dawn, Dave

What Dawn Would like To Hit Air France With

The Travelers
The Travelers

Most of the extended family says their goodbyes (more kisses and hugs), and we follow Robbi and Barbara to Canavare, where we check into our hotel, the Hotel Gabriella. Then we drive to the town of Sestola, a quaint ski resort village to explore, take in the sights and walk off some of that big dinner!

Sestola Tower

The Street Scene

Local Jams

We finish the day with a light dinner at the Farmhouse before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow we will explore the village of Fanano, visit the properties where Dave’s family grew up and then head to the coastal area of the Cinque Terre.

More pictures from Sestola, Fanano and Canavare may be found at my Sestola, Italy Flickr Set.


Trail to Vernazza - The Cinque Terre

After our lunch in Corniglia, it was time to hit the trail again, and we tackled rocky hiking path.
The Rocky Path
At this point, there are far less people on the trail. You feel sorry for those wearing flip flops.

Leaving Corniglia takes you through the olive groves, higher and higher.
Olive Tree

Make sure you look back, because the view back is as stunning as the view going forward.
Looking Back at Corniglia

Just when you think you can't go further, Vernazza reveals itself from behind the trees, and you know the journey has been worth it.
The View Once Reaching Vernazza


Back to Italy - Stuck in Detroit

After our full day of travel, little sleep, revised plans, and good food, we collapse into bed for a good night’s rest, comforted by the fact that we can sleep in tomorrow morning, when my cell phone rings.

You know, I’m always confused when the phone rings in the middle of the night. But it is worse when I’m in a foreign country, in a foreign room and my internal clock thinks it should be up and running around after the cats in the house. Thoughts run through my head - “Where am I? Where’s the bathroom? Is it time to get up? What day is it? Who’s on the phone? What?”

Dawn was calling me. I think “Oh, they’ve arrived in Paris! Oh, no, did we oversleep? Where am I? What?” Then she informs me that they are still in Detroit. Oh. Not Good. More thoughts flash through my quickly awaking mind – “Wait – What day is it? What time is it? You mean I’ve only been asleep for 30 minutes?”

I’m inserting this picture that Dave took of Dawn while they were waiting in the Detroit airport. I think her expression says it all.

Dawn informs me there’s another new plan – their flight to Paris is still delayed and they won’t make the connection to Bologna. But they can make a connection into Florence. We don’t have the rental car yet (note – DO NOT book Thrifty / Dollar Rental Car in Europe – I made another reservation for Hertz. Thank goodness for Internet at the hotel) and feel a little uncomfortable trying to make our way 60 km south to Florence and then trying to drive up to the Sestola area.

Dawn think she can ask Cousin Giovanni to pick them up, they’ll have to try to reach Giovanni and his daughter Barbara.

I’m sure I mumble something incoherent to Dawn, because we hang up and she texts me later – they are finally on the plane and due into Florence at 12:10. I text her back about making sure they route their luggage properly and then try to shut my brain down to go back to sleep.


Corniglia, The Middle of the Cinque Terre

Looking toward Corniglia, from the edge of Manarola.
The Next Destination - Corniglia

See how it is set on the hill? To get to the village, one must climb the Lardarina, series of stairs, comprising of 382 steps.

Or you can take a bus. We opted to experience the stairs.
The Steps To Corniglia
We made it to the top!

Corniglia seemed quieter than the first two villages we visited. Maybe because it was "siesta time", or maybe because it is quieter due to the lack of a beach front. We found it very quaint and relaxing. A perfect place for lunch.

The Alleyway


Back to Italy - Travel To Bologna - July 23-24, 2010

I'm still only 4 days into the trip pictures, but since it was exactly four weeks ago that we were there, I figured now is as good as any to start with the details of our trip.

Some background - We had been invited to travel to Italy with long time friends, Dave and Dawn. Dave has family in north central Italy, close to Bologna, near the ski town of Sestola. Since Dave and Dawn live in Michigan, they flew out of Detroit while we flew out of Chicago, with the plan to meet at the Bologna airport.

We flew out of Chicago on Friday, July 23, on an evening flight bound to Dublin Ireland. The only issue we encountered in Chicago was the strong thunderstorm that culminated after the hot, humid day, and of course, the thunderstorm rolled in 30 minutes before our flight's scheduled departure. I think we ended up being delayed about 30 to 40 minutes, really not too bad, and since we had a three hour layover in Dublin, we didn't worry.

Upon arriving in Dublin, we passed through customs, then back through security and then back to our gate. We passed by all the Duty Free shopping areas and I noticed the Guinness store - and how could one miss it? A store devoted to the love of Guinness. Of course, I was reminded of my former friend and work colleague, Barney, whose PC screen saver was a video of a Guinness commercial.

For Barney

When we reached our gate, I turned on my cell phone, only to be surprised by the following two text messages.

Sent late Friday night, from Dawn:

Omg. Cancelled flight! We won't arrive until Sunday am. Angry.

Currently plan is to arrive Sunday 11:15 am. Text of call me any time 2 tell us what u will do. Sorry. Call Barbara. U can talk 2 her to make plans.

Ummm, a flight cancellation was not in the plan.....

After some thought, we canceled our original Saturday night accommodations and booked a stay in Bologna, at the airport Sheraton. Our plan - stay in Bologna Saturday and meet Dave and Dawn around noon. Drive up to Sestola to spend the rest of Sunday with Dave's family.

We arrived into Bologna around 6pm. We couldn't pick up our rental car because the "Dollar Rental Car / Thrifty Rental Car" desk was closed! Everything else was open. Well, that's OK, we don't need the car until tomorrow. We can take the shuttle bus to the hotel.

Did you know the Bologna airport sells beautiful cheese and prosciutto? Yummy!
Selection of Goodies - in the Airport

Scott picked up these Ringo cookies because they looked good - and declared that they were delicious!
New Favorite Treat

We finally found the shuttle bus to the hotel, checked in, tried to get the details on the rental car (no luck) and decided to go into downtown Bologna for dinner. The hotel shuttle took us there as the sun was setting:
The Sun Sets Along the Streets of Bologna

We ate at a wine bar, Divini's, in the pedestrian district, near the San Petronio Bascilica.
Downtown Bologna

A Few Menu Items

A Small Glimpse of the Wine Selection

We enjoyed the wine, octopus, salad, bread and dessert. A great start to our Italian vacation.

Unfortunately for Dave and Dawn, they were still back in Detroit....



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