Since the moment my wife Jennifer laid eyes on her baby sister, Jessica, they formed a strong bond that has only developed over time. Sure, Jennifer usually acts more like her mother than her sister and yes, there have been a few lively battles resulting in a couple “boo-boos”, but they are as close as any two sisters I have ever known.
That’s why we were thrilled when we learned of a last-minute vacation Jessica planned with her boyfriend, Matt. We were doubly excited because not only were we going to spend time with Jessica, but we were finally going to be able to meet Matt. Living in Italy comes with its obvious benefits, but we do miss out on a lot at home and so we are thrilled any time “home” comes to us. Continue reading Our Lil’ Sis Comes to Visit→
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
I don’t know who was more excited… Jen to see her parents or Jen’s parents to see their granddaughter. It was close, but judging by the suitcase of presents exclusively for Julia, I would give the edge to Jen’s mom, Diane. Of course, this suitcase (along with the 42 other suitcases Jen’s mom, dad and sister brought) got lost somewhere over the Atlantic and didn’t arrive for another two days (the airline had to hire a Mack truck to deliver everything in one trip).
Julia playing with Nonna on Day One
As you’ve no doubt surmised from above, Jen’s family came to visit recently. They wanted to see the country they love, their second home that has been overtaken by three squatters, their kids and their granddaughter (not necessarily in that order). And we were thrilled to see all of them. Since the timing was right with their work schedules and nursing school (Jen’s sister, Jessica had just graduated), they were able to stay a full month. We had plenty of down time relaxing and plenty of time on the go-go-go. Since so much happened during this month, the story of their visit will most definitely be broken into a few posts.
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→
On May 4, 2013 a tornado touched down in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. A path of chaos was carved throughout the area best known for a city that inspired a processed meat in the US nowhere near an authentic representation of it’s namesake – Bologna.
One day prior, a different type of tornado touched down in the Lombardia region just north of Emilia-Romagna. Our friends, Nathan and Danielle landed in Milan and a whirlwind of food, fun, wine was about to begin – our own path of chaos would be carved throughout northern Italy.
Our very good friends, Nathan and Danielle
I picked them up at the airport while Jen stayed home to prepare a proper welcome – an Italian pranzo (lunch) done right. We greeted them with an aperitivo (an alcoholic beverage used to stimulate the appetite) and then began stuffing them with salami, prosciutto, lardo (cured meat – basically just pork fat thinly sliced), cheese and olives. Then it was on to the pasta course, with a simple red sauce before our secondo, veal Milanese. Next of course were the salads and then dessert – fresh fruit and pastries we bought that morning. Plenty of wine flowed throughout the meal and we finished with grappa. The only problem… our large lunch had an effect opposite of our intention to keep them awake and perky in order to stave off jet-lag. They were both crying out for a nap, but we were merciless with our plans. We whisked them to downtown Como, where we walked off lunch and eventually made our way to a bar for happy hour outdoors under the sun. Continue reading Tornado Touches Down in Italy→