Tag Archives: Julia

Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead

Before I’ve even written the first word of this post, my OCD brain is trying to figure out if this post should be categorized under the “Food” or the “Travel” sections of the blog.  I will be taking you along with us on our travel adventure to go eat some of Italy’s best food.  It’s quite the dilemma…

A selection of salumi (cold cuts), formaggi (cheese) and the cinghiale (boar) that gave his life to the cause

You may have read about part of our visit with Aunt Deb and Uncle S where we ventured into the wine region of Piemonte during the first portion of their visit.  Their two week sojourn in Italy included a mission to explore the best of what the country has to give.  It was no coincidence then, that their adventure had been neatly divided into three of the country’s best offerings.  Part I was Vino (wine).  Party II was Cibo (food) – the subject of today’s post.  Lastly, Part III was Storia (history).  Since they experienced the rich history of Pompeii and Venezia on their own, I will let them tell you all about it at their next dinner party.  I’ll simply report on the parts during which we were present… and luckily for us, we were present for a three day trip into Italy’s richest “food region”, Emilia-Romagna. Continue reading Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead

Our Final Days at Sea

We recently had the most amazing vacation aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam  and I have had a wonderful time writing about it.  I have discovered even more about each destination as I’ve researched them further and I have had the pleasure of reliving it all over again as I post the pictures.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time aboard with us.  Sadly, I will close this chapter of our overseas adventure and move onto the next story in an upcoming post.  There is still plenty more to come in the blog pipeline…

“Dad, wrap this up already – you’re putting us all to sleep!”

If you joined us thus far, you’ll know we visited Venice, Olympia and Athens in our first post and then Istanbul and Lesbos in the second post.  The final leg of our cruise transports us to Kuşadası,  Santorini and Argostoli.  As always, we’ll include some of our shipboard life and hopefully you’ll be able to stick with me – I’ve got a ton of pictures in this final post. Continue reading Our Final Days at Sea

Two Greeks in Italy

I don’t know anyone in their thirties that really goes around saying, “I’m Greek” because he or she was in a fraternity or sorority – but it was certainly fun to be a part of Greek Life during college.  Jennifer and I were both “Greeks” while we attended Virginia Tech together and we each established lifelong friendships that have opened world’s of opportunities.

Lauren and Jen in front of Lake Garda

One of Jen’s sorority sisters, Lauren recently came to visit – and they instantly fell into their old college routine.  We welcomed Lauren at the train station; she was arriving from Switzerland having visited another friend living abroad.  We went to downtown Como and had a nice dinner, before enjoying a few drinks in the piazza while a live band entertained us. Continue reading Two Greeks in Italy

Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!

When our friends, Nathan and Danielle had come to visit this past spring – Danielle pointed at a unique outdoor-oven-with-a-chimney-thingy in a neighbors yard and asked what it was.  I replied with all the confidence in the world that it was an Italian-style BBQ, but in reality I wasn’t positive.  I had seen the smoke billowing through the chimney and I had seen many of these things in other neighbors yards – but I had never inquired about it.  I asked my “go-to guy for all things Italian”… Jen’s uncle, Franco.  He confirmed that it was in fact a BBQ and a fairly typical one in Italy.  So, my educated guess was right.  Whew!

Classic Italian style outdoor grill

I noticed shortly thereafter that the typical gas Weber grills we’re accustomed to using in the States are non-existent here.  In fact, it’s possible you may see a round charcoal grill – but more often than not, it’s one of these large, permanent fixtures that people use to grill. Continue reading Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!

Recreating a Photo 63 Years Later

I’ve always been amazed by my father’s dad, even though I have very few memories spending time with him.  My “Poppy” was a career photographer for National Geographic.  He was born before the turn of the century (February 24, 1898… have you ever known anyone from the 1800’s?!) in a rural town in Delaware that even today only boasts a few hundred residents.  He raised his family in Washington DC and got to travel the world for his work (long before traveling the world was something you actually did).  These are all things that I find particularly fascinating and I have discovered we even have a few parallels in our lives.  Except, he was a rather short man and I’m basically what you call basketball height (5’9″ is about the tallest you’ll see on the court, right?).
A scene along Lago di Maggiore

Of all those attributes, his long-standing career with National Geographic is probably the most interesting to me (and one I’m happy to brag about).  On a whim one day (several years ago), my sister-in-law, Jessica googled his name and was surprised at the results.  Over 400 of his images appeared on websites like art.com and others (I’m still researching how I can lay claim to the royalties… lawyers feel free to message me).  Jessica conspired with Jen and they surprised me with an huge print of one of his 1950’s Washington DC images (I was living downtown at the time).  Since Jen’s parents, Dominic and Diane had just purchased their condo in the Lake Como, Jessica and Diane also purchased one of his more famous 1950’s lake images in order to surprise me twice, as well as Jen.  When the gifts were presented, my dad, beaming with pride ran out of the room for a moment and came back with the two original copies of National Geographic magazines that contained those exact images.  I kept one magazine with my image at my home in Washington DC, and we took the other magazine to Dominic and Diane’s condo in Italy to be with the print that now hangs above our bed.

My grandfather’s photo that appeared in the August 1950 issue of National Geographic

Continue reading Recreating a Photo 63 Years Later

Scotland – Where Real Men Wear Skirts

No, I didn’t wear one myself, but only because we were already half-way through our trip before I came across a store that sold them.  Real men also eat haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs encased in it’s own stomach) – I did do that!  Of course, so did my two-year old daughter… and she probably had more than all of us combined.

A scenic shot of the River Dee in the Scottish Highlands

Since living abroad, we’ve been able to get in touch with most of Jen’s roots.  Her father is Italian (hence us living in Italy) and we’ve gone to many of the places where he has or had family.  Since he grew up in Africa, we still have that left to do.  Jen’s mother grew up in Ohio, and having crossed that off the list multiple times – it was time to go a bit further.  Diane’s lineage is a mixture of Irish (we went to Dublin in March, HERE) and Scottish.  Now, it was finally time to go to Scotland!  And since Jen’s parents and sister were here visiting us, we would all embark on this adventure together. Continue reading Scotland – Where Real Men Wear Skirts

Our Piccola Principessa Turns Two

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


Since I’ll never be a movie producer, I finally have another outlet to satisfy my life-long dream to wrap something up with the simple phrase…

I think this is a fitting title to end our trip in France, which you can read about HERE, HERE and HERE.

Our little family recently journeyed into France for a visit with some wonderful friends, Michel and Shirley (read his blog HERE).  We spent a few days with them in their home in Sablet, France.  They were wonderful tour guides, packing in many activities that they knew we would enjoy.  After a day spent touring some of the most beautiful villages in France, we had a serious thirst to quench.  So the next day, we took advantage of our prime location in the Côté du Rhône region of France (arguably one of the most well-known wine producing regions in the world) and drank our way throughout the area.

Cool street art just outside of Sablet

Continue reading Fin

And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

Jen, Julia and I spent a few days exploring France – from the French Riviera (blog post HERE) to Côtes du Rhône (first blog post HERE).  I knew that the dining experience would be different than what we’ve grown accustomed to while living in Italy, but I think I underestimated just how different it would be.
I’ll point out a couple of the noticeable differences.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I have made many references to pranzo, or lunch.  While the literal definition is simply, lunch – it should be modified to be more along the lines of, large meal in which copious amounts of pasta are finished with meats and salads and where the act of gathering is as important as the meal.  Wine and grappa are a must.  Since lunch is usually the “big deal”, that means we partake in a very light dinner.  Whereas in France, dinner was the star meal of the day.  Although, many of our days in France we also had a big lunch, and so our stomachs questioned our brains when we sat down to a second coursed-out meal at dinner time.  Continue reading And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

The Tallest Man in Italy

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