This was predestined to be a low-key Christmas. In fact, the most low-key Christmas either of us had ever experienced. When I was young, we would gather as a family and open mountains of presents before our grandparents came and joined in the fun. Jen’s experience of Christmas as a little girl was no different. Since we started dating over ten years ago, our two families have merged and we have always made the holidays the grand event it should be. Since it’s just the three of us here in Italy, we knew this year would be small in comparison. But at the same time, we were eager to set our own family traditions now that Julia is old enough to understand what’s going on.
Our low-key Christmas
We developed a plan based on our vision of how we wanted the day to unfold (OK, OK. Jen’s vision… Jen’s plan. I just helped when possible). Fortunately, our low-key Christmas did not disappoint. First we had to set up the tree, which we did well before the big day. We capped that evening off with popcorn (a real treat for Julia) and a movie (The Polar Express). Continue reading Buon Natale (Merry Christmas)→
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… and that means so many things! It means snow flakes and Christmas lights. It means cold weather and hot chocolate. It means Santa Claus and stockings stuffed with goodies. When you live in Europe, it also means tremendous Christmas markets and delicious vin brulè (cooked wine, usually sold on the streets). Over the past couple weeks, we have been taking advantage of it all! Because Christmas is only four days away – I will spend the next four days posting about our Christmas fun. In order to do that, I have to bend my “unbreakable rule” and publish blog posts out of order. I’ll fast-forward to Christmas and then flash back to some exciting posts that I have in the pipeline.
Oh bej! Oh bej! No, you don’t have to say “gesundheit”! I didn’t sneeze. That is the name of a festival held each year in Milan, spanning from December 7th through the following Sunday. How did it get that wonderful name, you ask? “Oh bej! Oh bej!” means, “oh so nice! Oh so nice!” in the Milanese dialect. It is by far, the most important Christmas festival held in Milan. December 7th is the day of the Patron Saint of Milano, Santo Ambrogio. The festival is said to date back all the way to 1510.
Admit it… you sang the title in your head, complete with the voice raising on the “and-a I”…
I love to cruise. Jen loves to cruise. And now… Julia absolutely loves to cruise. We have very few experiences aboard cruise ships, but each time we’ve been on one of these massive floating hotels (or mini-floating city’s… I couldn’t choose between adjectives – you pick your favorite), we feel like royalty. We know that we will chose this method of vacation many more times in our lives. Cruising requires little planning and you are always rewarded with the very best customer service, the opportunity to see many more cities than you normally could in a given time period, endless activities aboard the ship, wonderful food, the benefit of unpacking only once and perhaps best of all – a very affordable vacation (you can get very good deals if you hawk the last-minute deal sites).
Our ship – Holland America’s MS Nieuw Amsterdam
The first time that Jen and I took a cruise was on our honeymoon. We spent three weeks sailing around South America (from Buenos Aires, Argentina all the way around Cape Horn and on to Santiago, Chile). I chose Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for our first cruise, primarily because the itinerary was perfect and I found it to be reasonably priced. I wasn’t nearly the internet-nerd I am today and so I did little research beyond that. We had a wonderful vacation, ate way too much food, enjoyed some lovely scenery (I have thousands of pictures to prove it) and had an absolute blast. However, I had no idea how amazing cruising could really be until we recently boarded Holland America’s, MS Nieuw Amsterdam (pronounced, n-e-w); one of the newer ships in their fleet.
Julia has officially been our favorite little peanut for two years now! It seems like just yesterday that we were having fun at her first birthday party in DC and only a blink before that when she first held my hand in the hospital delivery room. And now it was already time for another birthday!
Our birthday girl one year ago
What a difference a year makes!
Also, what a difference a country makes – birthday cake last year, tiramisu this year!
Jen’s parents and sister were happy they were here for the big day. We’d already had tons of fun together, which you can read about HERE. We had just gotten back from a trip to Abruzzo the day before (HERE) and we had to make quick work getting everything together for her party. It was going to be low key – just some family over for a few snacks and cake. If you know my wife and mother-in-law, you’ll know that “low key” was not easy for them. Dominic and I had to keep reminding them it was just a small gathering – no need for their always impressive party-planning skills to be put to the test. Continue reading Our Piccola Principessa Turns Two→
It’s been a long time since I completed a blog post. So long, that for some reason – I’m a bit nervous (strange, my friends will tell you that I love to talk about myself). So I’ve been procrastinating. I have organized my DVD drawer. I carefully tended to the plants (I’ve discovered I love gardening…in small doses). And the past few days, I have been playing Mr. Mom while Jen is in California for work. I have done just about everything to avoid writing on the blog for the past month… and the only thing I’ve come to realize is that I now have a mountain of work ahead of me.
A mountain in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, not completely unlike my mountain of work
It’s not that I’ve just been procrastinating. We’ve been busy. I mean, very busy. Albeit, busy doing more of the same (traveling, eating, drinking, etc.) – but still always experiencing something new. So, please grant me the excuse of allowing the experience to get in the way of the blog – just this one time! In the coming days and weeks, you will hear of our wonderful trip to visit our good friends in France; the visit from Jen’s family and the upcoming visit with my parents. I’ll toss in a few food posts and hopefully a feature on where we’ve been living (which has been in the pipeline since I started this blog). So let’s get this party started… no more delays. And so, it begins with a trip to France… Continue reading What’s the French Riviera Without a Gold Yacht?→
I have no proof that when my sister, Michelle came to visit with her husband and daughter (David and Elsa) that he was the tallest man in all of Italy… but I’d say there’s a good shot! When I picked them up at the airport, I simply looked for the tallest/shortest couple combo possible (he’s a hair over 6’8″ and she’s a modest 5’2″). I spotted them instantly and helped them get some caffeine before taking them home for our big Italian lunch.
David, Elsa and Michelle – he’s crouching down to make it in the frame
Julia’s younger cousin, Elsa was her newest obsession and she had been excited all week leading up to their visit. She would wake up every day and scroll to some of the video’s or pictures we had on our iPad and scream “ELSA!” When the real thing walked (or rather, crawled) through the door – she was like a kid on Christmas. She couldn’t stop hugging and kissing her. Although, she had an awkward way of pulling her in by the neck – so much so that we dubbed Julia the, “Scranton Strangler” (you “Office” fans will get the reference).
The girls all reunited – Julia just wanted to kiss Elsa all the time
“Is my cousin trying to strangle me?!”
Michelle and David have a high-paced, action-packed lifestyle in Chicago and they were looking forward to a couple weeks of unplugging from their demanding jobs that they both do so well. We were happy to accommodate and show them a slow-paced trip filled with lots of good food and wine. We spent a couple days in the area, taking it easy. We visited the local park with the girls, we walked around downtown Como, we drove through many of the smaller lake towns. I showed David my favorite 5k loop and we went running together nearly every morning. Michelle cracked up one day after her privacy was invaded by our little Julia, somewhere in the beginning stages of potty training. She barged in and saw Michelle on the “potty” and declared to her, “Michelle… potty… YAHHH!” Continue reading The Tallest Man in Italy→
I know its really, “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” but it’s not his home in the middle of Verona that draws thousands of visitors each day; so I took a little creative liberty with the title. More on our visit to this popular tourist destination in a moment. Let’s back up and set the stage…
Soaking up the view
Verona is a beautiful city in the Veneto region of Italy, in the Northeast Italy. The capital of Veneto is Venezia (Venice) – the world famous city built on canals. While Venice is usually one of the most well-known destinations in this part of the country, it should not overshadow Verona – a charming and breathtaking city unto itself. Since Jen’s parents bought their home in Como a few years ago, Verona has been on our “bucket list” of desired destinations. Continue reading Wherefore art thou Julieta? Oh… Your Home is in Verona→
Our little bumblebee has been busy buzzing all over town – and we were right behind her with cameras and video rolling! Here are a couple of her recent adventures. Coincidentally, both stories fit in with the Easter theme perfectly; a fortunate blog occurrence given the upcoming Easter holiday.
Our little family likes it’s morning rituals. Jen and I enjoy drinking our American coffee (probably the one habit from home we don’t want to give up). Julia likes to chose her own breakfast and then eat it herself (even though half ends up on the floor). Continue reading Who Needs Petting a Zoo?→
What’s a good thing to do on a Sunday? We thought a stroll by the lake might be the perfect activity. Jen’s uncle Franco had been telling us about a lake nearby that is an exact 5k and perfect for walking and stroller pushing because it has a paved walkway.
Lago di Segrino
Jen and I had ventured off on our own half a dozen times this past week trying to find this nearby lake. First, we went to Lago di Alserio, because that was the closest. We discovered a charming new town and another “happy hour” place to try – but alas, the lake was not suited for walking. Next, we tried Lago di Montorfano and found a place to rent boats and a fun-looking beach bar for the summer time. But no walking trail. After a few more failed attempts, we realized that we were never going to find this place on our own, given that this area of Italy is often referred to as the Lake District of Italy. So Sunday morning we asked Franco if he would show us on google maps the location of the map. Instead, he volunteered to join us and personally direct us in the car. And fortunately, Claudia offered to stay home and cook us lunch for our return! Continue reading A Sunday Stroll→