Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Type + Writer 2, Day Seven

What if???
What if Stacey Lewis is my means to becoming a rich and famous photographer to the stars? What if Sally’s Shih Tzu leads me to hand out my card to the head of the American Kennel Club? What if she wants me to photograph all 500 dogs being shown in Atlanta? What if I can support myself without having to teach? What if I went back to school to learn design? What if my family lived closer? What if we take that cruise at Christmas for two weeks and just put off visiting his dad? What if we decide to embark on redoing the kitchen and then hate it? What if I don’t finish my free calendar from Memory Maker by the due date? What if all of my students got the flu and were out for a week straight? What if these FreeMason conspiracy theorists are WHACK? What if Katie married Puck from Glee? What if Liv asks me to fly to the Phillipines to help teach a class? What if Jessica gets back to me about my ideas? What if I become a tshirt designer by accident? What if I am no longer afraid of success? What if I could lose weight without having to exercise? What if we could sell our house for a huge profit and move back to California? What if I finally write that children’s book? What if I scrapped more pages? What if I don’t finish my Christmas album? What if my family didn’t send me any Christmas presents? What if I get invited to be on Hell’s Kitchen? What if someone starts reading my blog? What if I finish with Julia Childs’s first book? What if I actually try an aspic recipe? What if I like aspic? What if Mia Michael’s regrets her new hairdo? What if my brother and sister can’t make it to Halloween Night at Universal? What if Robert Pattinson realizes that KStew is not for him? What if my parents LOVE my portraits of their child and ask me to do family shoots? What if Courtney hates me for stealing her customers? What if someone asks me to photograph a wedding? What if I take terrible pictures? What if Kit is a hardass about the shoot this weekend? What if I take too many pictures of BJ instead? What if it rains this weekend? What if it is so windy that my orange balloons never behave? What if I can’t find some gerber daisies that aren’t yellow? What if Gordon doesn’t want to come to the Dog Show with me this weekend? What if Sally accidently trips me and breaks my camera? What if the lighting is so horrible in the show that I can’t get a good shot? What if the dog doesn’t cooperate? What if this itchy spot on my face is skin cancer? What if I completely lose my hearing? What if this high pitched annoyance on the tv is put through on So You Think You Can Dance? What if she talks in this voice for the entire season? What if parents scream at me about grades?

October 21, Recipe #38

Puree Pommes de terre a l'ail

Wanna take a stab at what this one translates into? I'll give you the potato part. Go...
Okay, it's garlic mashed potato. Can't fault Julia for her comfort food. I got to push roasted garlic through a sieve and take out my secret weapon again. My loverly potato ricer. Add butter and cream and whip. I used it as a bed for my blue cheese meat loaf. I'm liking this thing called food.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20th, Recipe #37

Coq au Vin, Oignons Glaces a Brun, Champignons Sautes au Beurre

I LIT STUFF ON FIRE!Okay, it was cognac and only lasted five seconds. But MAN! I have always wanted to light my food on fire. Julia's recipe for the French classic seems a bit easy. It only took about an hour or so to finish. I was under the impression that this one was right up there with all day in the kitchen. My butcher massacred the chicken into ten weird pieces. I really had to watch the bones on this one. The onions and mushrooms were a nice base for the purple chicken.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Type + Writer, Day 4

Remember Me When
How funny is it that I was just thinking about my teenage self yesterday. I needed some photos to use on my JS template layout about traveling. I found some old shots of the trip I took to Canada with my French class. Out of TEN total pictures that I have. I can’t even begin to imagine how many pictures I would have taken if I went today. I wasn’t so involved in recording my life when I was 17. I was more consumed with living it. There’s a huge difference right there. I want to remember the little details and highlight them. Before it was all about getting out there and being in the moment, no thought to how this moment would shape my life. Let’s move on to another difference. As a teenager I was still wearing my kiddie pajamas. The green ones that were way too short on me. I used to pull up my athletic socks to hide the gap between them and the bottom of my pant legs. There’s a picture of me just like this scrunched up on the couch with a book planted in front of my nose. That’s what I remember most about myself then. I was always reading something or other. I still am. My tastes range from one extreme to the other. Take the last two books I have read: My Life in France by Julia Childs and Gil’s All Fright Diner by someone or other. One’s a biography of a great American chef, the other? A story about a werewolf and a vampire that travel the backroads of America ridding the world of zombies one head at a time. I was always so unattached back then. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I got to be an adult. I just took random suggestions from other people as to what I should do. Nowadays, I wish I could go back in time and smack the ever lovin’ heck out of myself. Why do they expect teenagers to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives? I certainly had no idea that educating wee minds would not thrill me to my fingertips and make my heart thump like the Energizer Bunny. I didn’t find my passion in life until I was 35 years old!! Such a travesty, I tell ya. Also, I took the easy way out of things when I was a teenager. That kind of mindset has gotten in my way too many times to count these days. I want to be successful, but when things get hard or weird I find ways to drop out and ease back. I think it’s a learned trait. One that I am working through. Another similarity? I still love horror movies. The creepier the better. I used to be okay with gore, but can’t seem to stomach the needless blood spatters going on in film today. I have so many of the movies I used to watch back then and drag them out every now and then to relive those moments when things were still dark and unknown.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Type + Writer 2: Free Write Day Two

First Trip
When I first saw this assignment to write about a trip to exotic lands, of course I immediately thought of Italy. The trip we took last June. It will probably be the highlight of my life for a long time to come. But as I thought more and more, I wanted to write about something else. The first trip that came to mind from my ‘gangly teenage’ years was the one my French class took to Quebec, Canada. It was the first real big trip I took away from my family. The first I completely paid for on my own. A bus packed full of my friends that travelled all the way to another country in eight hours was wonderful for me. I couldn’t afford the full trip all the way to France, but this would suffice. At that time I never thought I would travel anywhere further than a country attached to the one I currently lived in. I was happy to be traveling anywhere, though. If I remember correctly there were a lot of people I actually liked on that trip. People who hadn’t made my tween years hell in middle school. There was Les and Brenda, the fledgling couple. Irene, kinda odd girl from ROTC. Pete Laskaris who didn’t spend much time with us. Christa and Kerri. Boy, those two fought over who got to spend more time with me like a pack of hyenas working over a wildebeest. Snapping and yelling at each other. It was funny on some level, but then again watching your friends fight isn’t something you relish. I think we had more fun hanging out in the hotel then any of the locales we actually toured. Even the waterfall which was pretty awesome. Good thing I wasn’t into photography then, I would have totally missed out on the amazing sensation of standing underneath a torrent of water and feeling all of nature’s power. We were soaked for the rest of the day. It’s Canada, people! It was fah-reezing! Anyway, back at the hotel we were all teenagers alone in a hotel with no supervision. You can imagine some of the things we could have gotten into. Thankfully, we were all too innocent and pure to go there. However, Les and Brenda did spend an inordinate amount of time underneath those covers. Kerri and I turned up the faucets in the bathroom to scalding hot and closed the door. The ensuing steam made the others think we were up to no good. I can fully attest on the stand that NOTHING happened. I do remember wandering the city and coming upon the Hotel Frontenac situated on the hill up above Saint Lawrence River (at least I think it was that, Hudson maybe?). It was the first time I felt a vibration in my soul. The one that Nettie talks about in the Color Purple as she first views the shores of Africa. I had caught it, the traveling bug.

October 18th - Cassoulet du Porc et de Mouton

After reading the recipe I realized how incredibly time consuming it would be. So I've been holding off on this particular recipe. I woke up at 7:34 A.M. to feed the whiney dogs. I usually just go back to bed for a few more hours after the feeding when it's Sunday. Since I knew that dinner was going to be taking me a while today. I got started on it. Little did I know that NINE hours later I would still be in the kitchen layering and simmering the casserole from Hades. I shouldn't be so harsh on it. From the little tastings I've done along the way, I can already tell this is going to be an amazing dinner. Now I just have to wait for a crust to form so I can break it into the white beans with the back of a spoon and then ladle the yummy basting liquid over the top of the whole thing. Sounds delicious, right? I will have to let you know, in another 40 minutes.

Type+Writer 2: Free Write

Today I am going to tackle my first assignment for Liv Esteban's amazing Type+Writer course. Of course I am starting on the LAST day of class on my first assignment. Who knew my life would be this busy? Who had any idea that DSE would kick off a bevy of ideas and inspirations and thoughts and ideas and projects and stuff? I didn't realize how much I miss designing until I saw some of the amazing things going on in Provo that week. Maybe I just needed a jumpstart for my creative juices. However, getting a free class out of the deal didn't figure into my list of Things to Do. Oh, I was happy and excited to be getting free things. As usual. But I didn't have the time to focus and give this class my all. It only took two weeks to put a few eggs in my basket and get some balls rolling. I did research and looked up ideas. I emailed Jessica my few thoughts. Now I find myself sitting back and waiting for the fruits of my labors to fully flourish. I am not one to sit still though. So as soon as I found a few moments of peace, what did I do? Go running back to Liv's class, that's what! Before that, however, I had to volunteer to run a Bi-monthly challenge at my favorite website in the world:! It's going to be a Photography Challenge. I like being able to give back to the community that has always supported and encouraged me, no matter what crazy ideas I come up with. Just as an aside, my challenge is something near and dear to my heart - Horror Movies!! Uh, huh. I'm weird like that. I can be reading a sequel to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, whip up a mean cassoulet that takes 10 hours to complete and crave an all day Fright Fest at the same time. That's just me. So many things go into creating the package that is ScrappyGuy. People can say many things about me, but never call me BORING. Bit of a stumble here, so I am going to go into my next topic. This meal I am almost finished with. It's Cassoulet du Porc et de Mouton. After reading the recipe I realized how incredibly time consuming it would be. However, Gordon keeps asking for it. He doesn't ask for much, so I like to give in every now and then. It's only fittin'. I woke up at 7:34 A.M. to feed the whiney dogs. He also got up. This isn't our normal routine. I usually just go back to bed for a few more hours after the feeding when it's Sunday. He wanted to whip up a batch of Cranberry Orange Nut muffins. Since I knew that dinner was going to be taking me a while today. I got started on it. Little did I know that NINE hours later I would still be in the kitchen layering and simmering the casserole from Hades. I shouldn't be so harsh on it. From the little tastings I've done along the way, I can already tell this is going to be an amazing dinner. Now I just have to wait for a crust to form so I can break it into the white beans with the back of a spoon and then ladle the yummy basting liquid over the top of the whole thing. Sounds delicious, right? I will have to let you know, in another 40 minutes. Hmm, this 15 minute writing time set is awfully long. At least I have episode 8, Season One of Ugly Betty to keep me company. One request from the producers? Show more Henry. MUCH more. How could Betty have ever chosen Walter over Henry at the beginning is such a shame. Tick, Tick, Tick. Where is that timer bell? Did I tell you that I am going to Universal Studios in less than two weeks? Yep, another way to feed my Chiller side. Lisa, my sister, and Darrin, my baby brother are meeting down in Orlando for a full 8 hours of Halloween Horror ripped from the Screen. Oh, it promises to be a night of screams and thrills. I just have to decide if I want to drop $100 on a Nikon Coolpix because I am NOT bringing my SLR into a darkened den of iniquity. The Coolpix is supposed to work pretty well at ISO 2000. I bought Darrin one for Christmas a while back, but I don't think I can give up the creative controls of the camera to someone else for the entire evening. Especially when there's tons of gory goodness to be had. Okay, it has to be 15 minutes by now, right?? Right?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gary / Julia Project

October 17th

Lobster Murder

I did, I am guilty. I will sign my name to that confession!I murdered a live creature. Well, sort of alive. After I stuffed it in a closed plastic bag in the fridge for two hours, it wasn't exactly 'lively'.I had a completely different reaction to this process of slicing a lobster in half then Julie Powell did. It came very easy to me. The only surprise was how much liquid came squirting out of the poor creature!Threw the meat along with some shrimps into a chowder for dinner. Call the police, I thought it was delicious!

October 12th

Roti De Porc Poele

This one was EASY!! Just brown the pork shoulder, dump some veggies in there and let it sit in the over for two hours. Perfecto!The meat was so delicious, falling apart even. The veggies were mooshed into the sauce and then ladled over the top of the meat. FAN-tastic!

October 11th

Poulet Roti and Gratin Pommes de Terre et Saucissons

I be brave. I try Roast Chicken again. This time I discovered a nice and long sewing needle to use to truss the chicken. Amazing how easy it was today. The needle still needs to be a little longer to go through the breast section as I push the wings 'akimbo'. Can you believe she used that word? The illustration was a bit difficult to decipher, but I made it work. I am going to put a vote in now. Find an easier method of basting a chicken, please. Every ten minutes for two hours is a bit much. I do like the benefits of basting, though. Don't get me wrong. That chicken was so tender and juicy. The gratin was something to try because it involved potatoes, which I had. I think I should have gone with the bechamel instead of the egg and whipped cream route. It came out almost like a breakfast casserole. Especially since I put sausage and mushrooms in there as well.

October 9th
Filets de Poisson Bercy aux Champignons

I have said this before, simple and easy are NOT the same thing. Poaching some fish in white wine and clam juice sounds easy, doesn't it? But then you add the chopping and layering of veggies. After simmering the sauce, you pour it out and beat it with some pasty flour and butter. Very soon you have an amazing yummy sauce!

October 6th

First Dinner party (Krisy, Christina, Katie)Poulet Grilles a la Diable, Haricot Verts a la Creme

I finally had to break down and invite real people to come and enjoy the fruits of my labor. People were beginning to doubt that I was actually doing this. Gordon can't be the only one to benefit, right? That would almost be selfish. I am SO SO SO SO happy that I got half of the food completed yesterday. The kitchen was such a whirlwind as I made the rest of it. I know there's no way I could have completed this entire meal in one night. Oh, my gosh. That chicken came out so beautiful and terribly delicious. You should have seen us gnawing on the carcasses. Such fun!Green beans in a creamy bechemel was such a big hit. Everyone had seconds. Mainly because they didnt' taste like green beans. You should have seen my first pathetic attempt at making a crepe. The pn definitely wasn't hot enough because it came out as a goopy mess. But the other ones after that were fine. Shave some chocolate over those bad boys and your friends will love you for life. Trust me, I know.

October 5th

Ratatouille, Crepes Sucres Finees, Frangipane

I am getting ready for having pepole over tomorrow night. Had some time so I thought I'd getter started. It's a good thing too. Ratatouille took me like two and a half hours to complete. So much slicing and dicing and sauteeing and turning and basting and layering and basting some more. OY! I took Mary's advice and salted the eggplant to let it 'sweat' out some of its juces. Amazing what ended up in the bottom to drain away!Next came the crepe base and the almond cream filling for dessert tomorrow. Loved pulverizing the macaroons. Eating the leftovers is so yummy! The custard was a bit weird and thick. Maybe it'll be better tomorrow.

October 4
Boeuf Bourguingnon

Finally got around to doing Julie's inspiration. Her original recipe that made her think she could do it all. The one she cooked for her fateful visit from Jennifer Jones, who never showed up. Man, did she miss something.This was indded a labor of love. It took an hour alone to brown the meat. Two hour timeline to get it into the oven. And a five hour grand total. Yes! It took me FIVE hours to make this. In the end, it was all about the sauce. Absolute amazingly complex and delicious piece of work. Very proud of meself.

October 1
Campignons farcis, tomates farcies duxelles

Basically, these are stuffed tomatoes using the filling for stuffed mushroom caps. They were okay. I did use some yummy heirloom tomatoes and it was a nice combination against the rough savory filling.
September 28thPate Brisee (cooked), Gratin Aux Fruits de MerI know, I know. I've made the Gratin before. But this time I used scallops and shrimps instead. That cooked pastry crust was most amazing. All of that butter, mmm. I even had some leftover dough. So I rolled it out and baked it as well. It was like a delicious cookie, only better. The center was slightly dense and gooey. So good.I did make a mistake with rolling out the gratin crust though. I didn't want to roll it out too much, afraid that it would tear or what not. It cooked up and was really thick. Mistake noted.

September 21st
Pate Brisee, Pate a Choux and Gnocchi de Pommes de Terre

Today was a "Rain Day" of all things. It's been raining for a week straight and rivers are starting to flood now. Busses couldn't get through so they cancelled school. Of course, most of the teachers were already there. C'est la vie.
Needless to say I had some time on my hand. Which meant that I could attempt that elusive french pastry dough. Loved the frisage motion! I had to work fast and use the heel of my hand. Apparently the palm is too warm for all the TONS of butter up inside here. It's now a lovely big ball in the freezer to be used for some day I need it. Then for dinner I decided to try hand rolling my own gnocchi. Since Gordon loves them so much. Julia says that these things are simple to make. HA! If you call juggling four different pots at once simple, then go for it.I got to use my newest kitchen gadget, a potato ricer. This is the coolest thing EVER!She says to roll them out to 2 1/2 inches by 1 inch. These are much larger than what I am used to. simmer them in a saute pan for 20 minutes and you have some huge honking goodness. Oh yeah!
September 20th
L'Omelette Piperade
Complete and utter mess. I definitely don't have the finesse of Julia. My pan flipping skills are immature at best. However, if you throw some chorizo, queso fresco, sauteed tomatoes, onions and mushrooms at it. It tastes amazing!

September 17th
Carrotes a la Concierge
An hour (an HOUR) to make carrots? I am so glad I did. They were incredible. Simmered down, then fold in some stock and cream. Hit it with a little nutmeg and seasonings. Lastly swirl in some egg yolk and more cream. Taste of Heaven!
I served it with some juicy steaks and sliced tomatoes covered with kosher salt and purple basil from the garden.
September 16th
Gratin Aux Fruits de Mer

There was definitely not enough time left today to do what I wanted. Try reading the recipe for a french pastry crust at 5:30 P.M. when dinner is usually at 6:30. Yeah, you see my conundrum.So tonight I took some liberty with Madame Julia. I made a most delicious salmon bake with a nice bechamel sauce. To imitate the crust I heated up some potato rolls. I served this all with some wild rice and a mixed salad.
September 15thGratin DauphinoiseJust some regular ole scalloped potatoes. Just dotted heavily with butter and shredded smoked gouda cheese. Think MMMM!

September 14th
Timbales de foies de Volaille, Supremes de Volaille Archiduc, tomates a la Provencal

What do you do with leftover chicken livers? Why, make unmolded chicken liver mousse. That's what! I made my first bechamel sauce and mixed it in with pureed livers - not sure I will ever use my blender again btw. Then placed it all in ramekins to bake in a pan of boiling water for half an hour. Very savory. It was supposed to come with a bearnaise sauce, but I thought this creamy topping didn't go with the rest of the plate. And I was right!Stuffed tomatoes are a revelation. The homemade stuffing is so goopy and yummy. Add that to the softened tomatoes and you have a wonderful bite. The chicken was made with a smoked paprika sauce and it all blended so terrific together.
More chocolate cake for dessert. Whee!
September 13th

Poulet Roti a la Normande, champignons sautes au beurre, pommes de terre, Reine de Saba, glacage au chocolat

I have never trussed a chicken. Never. First of all stuffing a heart, liver and gizzard back UP the animal it came from doesn't seem very nice. Then I have to sew it shut. Umm, yeah. I would never have made a good surgeon. One ragged, sticky, barely closed hole later I attempt to wrap the entire carcass up in twine. The poor thing looked like the victim of a bad bondage bout by the end. Next I get to smear the entire thing with softened butter. Very sexy. After all that I get to spend the next two hours in the most tortorous manner imaginable. Turning and Basting and Turning and Basting and Basting and Basting. Gah! I never realized it took so much work to create a roasted chicken. I am very eager to find out how this thing is going to taste. Very eager and very hungry.
Through all this I create a Queen of Sheba chocolate cake that is supposed to have a gooey molten center. I think this is the cake that Eric smeared on his face in the movie. I can only hope it is that good!

September 12th

Potage Parmentier, Bifteck saute au beurre, artichauts au naturale, sauce mayonnaise

This was the first recipe that Julie Powell ever attempted for her Julie/Julia project. So it had to come out amazing, right? I even went out and purchased a food mill. It was actually more like mashed potato soup. The food mill helped it be a lot more thick. But it still needs more seasonings. I bought two t-bone steaks to saute in butter and pour a red wine reduction shining with melted butter over the top. This was a huge piece of meat by the way. It was easy to make, but maybe a smaller cut next time?Boiling artichokes in salted water isn't my normal routine. I usually steam them to death. They turned out okay once you got past the tougher leaves on the outside. Now I was ambitious and thought I could also handle making my own mayonnaise for dipping the leaves in. Everything was going along swimmingly as I poured the oil in slowly. Then I took the top off the processor and tasted a swipe. GROSS! It tasted something like feet that have been kept in the attic for the last six years. I added more lemon juice and salt and pepper. Tried again and it was STILL nasty. 2 cups of good olive oil and three eggs wasted.

September 6th

Hollandaise and Eggs Benedict

I woke up feeling like a challenge. After last night, I felt invincable. So I decided to tackle the dreaded hollandaise sauce. I've never actually had it before so this was going to be an adventure. I followed Julia through the steps and was amazed when the final product was great. It was a little lemony, but still good. Also, in this feat I managed to attempt poached eggs. I don't know what went wrong with that. I boiled the eggs in the water for ten seconds like she said to do it. I added the vinegar so that the yolks would sit up. But as soon as I slid them into the poaching liquid they sank to the bottom. Hmm. Anyway, I did get a nice poached egg at the end. Thought it was strange to place them on a clean towel right out of the water. But it helped make them smooth. For those of you who know me, you realize that eating runny yolks is NOT my thing. I was willing to try them for Julia though. The experience wasn't completely horrible. Eggs Benedict are interesting things just perfect for a sunday afternoon.

September 5th
Escalopes de veau a la creme, risotto, and petits pois frais a l'Anglaise
My first attempt of an actual recipe from Julia Child's MtaoFC had me making three recipes at once. Quite the task, let me tell ya. I like to cook and think I am pretty intermediate in my culinary skills. But these recipes kicked my ASS! I was rushing around the kitchen frantically trying to get pans to deglaze, peas to boil and rice to saute without browning. Yikes!But in the end, it turned out to be an incredible meal. The mushroom sauce for the veal scallops was fantastic. The fresh peas had a terrific texture and the rice was amazing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

DSE Day Three / SpragueFest

Sigh, our last day at DSE. How has it come this quickly? And why? I must struggle through this fog of despair and tell you about the fun we had today.

That full night of sleep has definitely helped. I felt refreshed and ready for the day of Digi Love. We ate some of Meg's hot pockets for breakfast and of course had coffee. Then headed down to our home for this event, the Bryce Room. When the nice lady, Pam started handing out huge boxes of the new Bamboo Fun, my mouth dropped. I assumed this must mean we get to keep these things, take them home, enjoy, love, thrill... But NOPE! Even though I held my fingers crossed the entire class we didn't get to keep them. Not even a door prize was given out. Pooh.

April Oakes, hmmm. Umm, well, yeah. She taught us about tablet techniques. She did that. But felt it necessary to have our undivided attention on her without once removing our eyes the entire time she was talking. She kept reminding us of this, a lot. I can say I know how my eight year old students feel now.

Perfect timing, Anna Aspnes just ran BACK by me. And I am about to blog on her class of the day. It was Digital Supplies extended. How if you buy one kit, it can be used over and over indefinitely. Tweak a color, change the hue/sat, place an overlay, place a second paper on top of another and play with blending modes. It's all good. I really liked the way she showed how to place a patterned paper over elements and combine the two. Very cool idea!

Lunchtime again. Already? Today was a different sandwich and salad, but still good. Meg was calling up the Chinese restaurant to order our dinner tonight. Shhh, don't tell anyone but we are going to have a surprise dinner and dessert for Candice's birthday after classes tonight!! Gail, Meg, and I sat outside in the sun again and took pictures of the flowers behind us. Had to head back for more classes, of course.

First order of business was Keeping it Real with Tiffany Tillman. She was incredible today. Not only did she serenade Candice for her birthday, but she brought down some excellent advanced techniques. Showing us some mind blowing ways to make our elements look more realistic on the page. I especially love the idea of giving an element a drop shadow and then moving that effect to it's very own layer so that you could warp and manipulate it to show off depth! Plus, she had some more incredible brushes to share with us. Loved the layout we created too.

The moment that Cell Block 4 has waited for has arrived. Class time with Jessica Sprague!! The second she walked in the door, she was greeted with intense applause, shout outs, and whistles to beat the band! She smiled through it all, even with a bloody nose. Apparently the last class tackled her and did a pig pile or something. I dunno. NO! Not really. This dry Utah air finally got to her and her nose decided to wreak havoc on her outfit. We spent about five minutes taking the Spragueground Group Shot.

Then it was onto class materials. That durn projector was not playing nice today. It kept blinking on and off during her speech. Which, by the way, was one of the most well thought out and easiest to understand lessons of the entire event. She was discussing the elements of design and how to manuever your layout viewers to see what you want them to see. Eventhough I've taken many an online class with Ms. Jessica, it was just different listening to her in real life. She is always so funny, down to earth, and attentive to her crowd. She even got Kristen to entertain us with some interpretive dance. All too soon, it came to an end. We had to let her go to her last class of the day. NO! Say it isn't so!!

OUR last class was with Laura Vanderbeek on improving your photography. She had some good advice, but her teaching style was slightly slower than I would have liked. Although, she did let me play with her wide angle lens so I could get a cool shot of what an event table looks like AFTER an awesome digital event. Box of Krispy Kreme a la Kari and all~

We had to rush out to the lobby directly after class to pick up the Chinese delivery. Gail and I dragged all our stuff upstairs to the room then headed back down to the amphitheater for Candice's surprise party. You should have seen all of the food that we had spread out for the twenty or so Spraguers. Oh, wait. I can insert a picture of it later on. Watch out for that!

But even the food couldn't compare with the luscious cupcakes that Kari brought in. OH MY! They were good. There was red velvet, lemon meringue, mint chocolate chip, german chocolate, strawberry shortcake, and many many many other goodies to try. I love me some cupcakes.

Next, we had to rush into the Grand Ballroom for the closing ceremonies. Prizes were given out, mostly to Kendra who won for one of the page contests, and to everyone at my table except me. But I was not sad. Lori Anderson found me and gave me a special treat all of my own. A Tim Holtz grungy alpha CD. Oooooh! Yeah.

Kristen came and tapped us during the slideshow so that we could sneak out and make it to the Comedy show that was known as the Thrillionaires. Jessica and Jared sprang these free tickets on us for all the love we give to them. Wasn't that way too nice? Yeah, I thought so too. We took over the tiny theater and monopolized the entire improv show with our shouts and suggestions. They were freakin' hilarious! Can I just tell you how funny it is to hear them sing, "Be nice to me, or I'll Crop you out"???? Hee, hee. Yep, it was that funny.

Or when they struggled to find a cure for the dreaded new disease, Scrapitis? The symptoms range from blurry vision, to weak wrists, to anxiety when not able to get online. Very scary indeed. But all was solved in due time and of course the end results was photographed and documented for the world to enjoy!

The actors were so nice that they even took many many photos with us afterwards. Dave, the big tall guy, had his mom take all of the shots. My favorite was the Spirit Fingers shot. Love it!

We wandered back to the hotel and into the lobby. Jessica told us her thinking for the next Spraguefest (no details yet) and how she was already looking forward to it. Joan presented her with a beautiful metal plaque from a nearby hotel display and we had Candice take a group shot of us all from above. Oh, I didn't want it to end.

DSE Day Two / SpragueFest

Can you believe I completely forgot to blog about Friday's adventures??? Beth M and I figured it's because we are having THAT much fun!!

I'll catch you up now.

Getting up at 6:30 A.M. on vacation is not fun. But we had tons of digi stuff going on to make up for it. We made it to our first class of the day with Amanda Rockwell. She taught some simple, yet eye popping ways to grunge up patterned papers. And how to make some shine on your stuff. Now I can get closer to my favorite real time paper Basic Grey. You should see what we can do with our gradient tool!

Next came Layer Masks with Anna Aspnes. How cool is it to learn about clipping from a teacher with an English accent? Actually she just jogged past me in the lobby. HA! I am off topic here. She is in the same frame of mind as Ms. Jessica. NEVER crop photos again if you know how to use your clipping feature.

Our minds were being fed with digi knowledge, so it's only right that we feed our bodies as well. DSE provided lunch for us. A huge hoagie with ham and cheese, a great pasta salad, cookies (with M&M's) and an apple, oh the soda too. We were all feeling kinda chilly so we sat out on the patio to defrost. Meg, JeninSF, Kendra (Terebene) and I sat out there and chatted. We may have hatched an idea for a possible class. Shhh!

After lunch we headed back in for the awesome-ness that is Tiffany Tillman. She of the strut and songtracks in her head. Funniest digi girl on two legs! She was here to let us play with Brushes and more Brushes. The floral framed brushes she handed out were so intricate and wonderful. I am going to be using them over and over.

Next was the quick mini album with Lori Anderson, my new favorite person in the world (mostly for her gracious attitude, thanks again!). I think I might be turning this album into a DSE book. I have tons of pictures to use.

Our final class of the day was Typography with April Anderson. Poor thing was so sick. Yet she hung in there like a trooper. She talked about how to attract attention to your titles with different weights and color. How to stay away from swirly fonts for entire journaling boxes, too hard to read. Which I found out when I was making that bridal shower invitation last month. She also discussed placement of fonts. Such fun.

We had plans to meet up with the Spraguers for dinner. 21 of us headed en masse down the street and descended upon Gloria's Little Italy. They never knew what hit them. I think we were louder than the band. Ask Joan about them, it seems they are from California. I managed to make a toast to Ms. Jessica, thanking her for giving us a home on the internet. She made a toast to all of us thanking us for supporting her. As if we could do anything else! Food was good when it finally arrived and we ended up taking some back to our little fridge.

I was very eager to be getting back in bed early. Going to bed past midnight and getting up at 6 is not my style. So I crawled into bed with Julia Child (hmm, that sounds dirty) and read more about her life in Paris. Such a hoot this girl is, let me tell ya!

Friday, September 25, 2009

DSE - Day One/ Spraguefest


I am sitting in my first DSE class!

Oops, sorry, wrong day.

Okay, Okay. So yesterday was the Kick Off for DSE. For those of you who aren't in the know, DSE stands for the BEST Digital Scrapbooking Experience. But, the goods didn't start until 2 P.M. or so. Which gave us the entire morning to jusy be lazy lay abouts. By 10:30, after reading in bed for the past three hours, my mind was going stir crazy. I had to get up and do something. You won't believe what my head came up with.

Work out? On Vacation? Uh-huh, that was me. Here's a list of my activities: Rode the stationary for ten minutes, lifted weights and such for 20, walked for 10, swam four rotations, sat in the hot tub for 15 (totally sinful!), the sauna for five (it was hot in there), then a shower. It was great.

I made it back to the room just in time for lunch break. Good, I was starving. As we were walking around we picked up Kendra, then Candice and Michelle Van Etten. Sushi was our mission. Somewhere along the way we lost both Candice and Michelle to DSE instructor duties. We compensated for some of the worst service available to us in Utah, and she blamed the Miso. Umm, it's powder you pour in chicken stock???

By this time it is 1:45 and we race back to the hotel for our first class, Tips and Tricks in Illustrator. I don't know how Carina Gardner did it, but 50 minutes passed without me noticing. None of us in the room were very familiar with the program so that took some doing to familiarize ourselves with the tools and such. I could have spent an entire day listening to her, the program is so awesome. Sadly, we had to leave for our next class.

Little did we know that we could have stayed for another half an hour with Carina. After listening to the Memory Mixer Calendar lady for five minutes, I wish I had. She rambled and backtracked and stumbled through her OWN program. Yeah, we never even touched the idea of making our calendar. Good thing I only paid $5 for this. Left early to register the DSE.

Racing back up to the room to change and get ready for Candice's class was fun. Thankfully we caught her in the hall and asked about bringing our laptops or tripods. Nyet on both. We get there in plenty of time, but then Laurie asked us for our class tickets. Grrr. I book it back to the room to grab both of ours and my hoodie as well. It is freezing in the class.

Then passed the next hour and ten minutes of absolute goodness I could imagine. I know for certain I could follow Candice around for an entire day and not feel a bit of guilt! Just listening in on her thought processes and the little tweaks she makes and the directions she gives to the model and how cute she is. Wonderful.

Meg and I practiced a little afterwards and then headed back upstairs to grab all of our equipment to have it ready for the Kick Off. Joan was so awesome to have brought us packed a most delicious chicken artichoke pizza from Brick Oven. It was great chewing and listening to Jessica introduce all of the characters we'd see this weekend.

Jessica's Kick Off speech was, as always, very moving. She reminded us why we do what we do. I love listening to her stories of how things come about, especially that tattoo! When she got to the part about the connections, I so wanted her to give out kudos to the awesome-ness that is the Spragueground. Disappointment is easy to take with Ms. Jessica. Her train of thought made total sense too.

Afterwards they gave out prizes. I love prizes, don't you? But I never seem to win good stuff at these events. It's very sad. I tell ya. Especially when they give out a wireless printer all-in-one, or a cricut with SIX cartridges. GAH!! My name was called for something. It was a paper pack of actual paper. I wasn't in the room for it, though. V. sad. We all got some time to explore the Digit-alley of sponsors and booths. That was cool.

To end this perfect day, we went out for incredible gelato. We ended up in the bar sipping merlot and chatting about our day. Off to bed at 12:30 to be up for 6:30 A.M.

Fun, Fun, Fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SpragueFest Day Two

A glorious day. One full of sight seeing, freezing falls, tours through the canyon, pristine aspen groves, a little Sun Dance, an autobiography, three hour lunches with an amazing group of people, a Fly Girl, naps, dinner with an amazing group of people, special surprises and churros filled with Bavarian cream!

You're probably wondering how all of this fits together. Let me back up and fill in some details.

The alarm went off at 7 A.M. MST. This translates into 9 A.M. EST, but it just didn't feel like it for some reason. Showers and breakfast in the concierge lounge. Terrific perk, by the way, thanks Bennett! Then it was time to meet up with the Spraguers in the lobby. Little pockets of groups wanted to go every which way, but we made plans to meet up for lunch.

Meg, Gail, and I really wanted to do the Alpine Loop tour and see the foliage changing in the canyon. The drive wasn't that far away and we started with Bridal Veil Falls. There are three of them which cascade down a sheer rock face. At this time of the day the whole area was in shadow. We took one step out of the car and about froze into popsicles. I am so thankful that I decided not to wear shorts today. Weather Channel said to expect high 70's all week, so I only brought one pair of jeans. I might need to go shopping later on. But I digress, we finagled another family to take our picture while we shivered in front of the falls, then we raced back to the car's warm embrace totally forgetting that we had promised to take the family's picture! Meg jumped out and saved us from purgatory.

On up into the canyon we drove. The next stop was Sundance. Yep, THE Sundance. The one of the film festival and Robert Redford and all. It was pretty up there with the ski lift looking all forlorn. The grounds crew was busy setting up tents for next weekend. We run into another Sprague group of Amy, NanaJeanne, and Joan S. Mix and Mingle then head out for a drive through this beautiful twisty turning road full of those white aspen trees. A forest of white birch is truly something to see (pictures inserted later).

The rest of the canyon was great, but please don't stop frequently to take pictures on the side of the road! We got yelled at several times.

Drove through American Fork and down through Cedar Hills (can't get away from school, can I?) then back to the Riverwood Shopping area. This is where we found Jessica and the crew hanging out in Borders. Beth and I debated the virtues of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies. Laurie and I tried to convince Tori she TOTALLY needs to finish Time Traveller's Wife. Then Liv saw me looking over "My Life in Paris" and combined it with her Buy One, Get One Half Off stash! Yay! Can't wait to read Julia Child's autobiography.

About twenty happily chattering woman and me head over to The Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. Thus proceeds the greatest three hour lunch as I sit directly across from Jessica Sprague and Candice Stringham. Could I go to Heaven now? At the end of the meal, we all scramble into the trolley car with Provo-Orem on top for a group shot. At this time it was discovered the many past lives of Ana Cabrera. She has trained the executive chefs of PF Changs, she has danced on In Living Color as an actual Fly Girl BEFORE J-Lo, she has worked with TuPac, sung on Arsenio, and has a design life as well. So when we asked her to climb up on the table to get in the shot, she was right there! So cool.

Back to the room, without having visited the Rocky Mountain Candy Factory, for laying around and napping.

For dinner we walk over to the restaurant called Los Hermanos just down the street from the hotel. We had been giggling and preparing for those delicious adult beverages. Our hopes were dashed when the 12 year old waiter, Kyle, hands us the menu with the words Non Alcoholic above the margarita list. Huh? What? Jessica explains that we can just ask and they will add some for us. She got my hopes up for nothing when I asked blondie to add some rum in my Peachy Rico, he denied my request. Huh? What? Hmph.

Dinner was okay, but the best moment came when we ordered the churros. Oh, My, God. They were warm and filled with a luscious cream and came in this tall shot glass that collected all of the dislodged cinnamon goodness. We debated on whether or not to lick that up too. They were so good!

Back to the hotel lobby where Jess and Liv surprised us all with a heartfelt and teary eyed speech about how wonderful we all were. Friendship is a sheltering tree! She gave us goodie bags that had some wonderful gifts in there. Then we broke apart and headed to bed.

Was that enough detail?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SpragueFest Day One

Good morning,
I am here with my good friends Meg and Gail as we stumble around getting ready for the day. By Utah standards it is only 8 A.M. so it's still kinda early. We didn't get in until 12:30 last night.

Let's back up a bit so you can hear all the ADVENTURE I had yesterday.

It seemed like so many things were conspiring to keep me from Provo. And gosh DARN it I wasn't having none of that! Of course the flooding of 2009 in Georgia was the first obstacle. Schools closing because they are under water would be an obstacle for anyone. They closed school again on Tuesday, which turned into a brilliantly sunny warm day. Go figure.

Thankfully the flood waters had abated for the most part. So I leisurely ate lunch and read my book. Around 1:45 I headed to Gail's house. The first road blockage came at the on ramp to 285. The next came at the on ramp to I-75. Then Gail is calling me frantically because we can't find Bennett who was driving us to the airport. I arrive 15 minutes later than I expected and lo' and behold, there is Bennett waiting in his driveway. Ta Dah!

We head over to get Gail and hit another snag. The on ramp to 285 is closed here too. None of us has a GPS to reroute us. Bennett drives around on instinct and eventually finds us an entrance to the highway so that we can manuever to the airport. At this time it is about 3:30 and he casually asks, "When's your flight again?" Umm, at 4:25.

His eyes widen incredulously as he steps on the gas pedal (Gail's contribution) and manages to get us to the airport in ten minutes. We scramble out of the car and race over to the curbside baggage. They take one look at our tickets and tell us we are too late to check. Huh? What? Apparently there is a rule that says if you don't arrive 45 mins before your flight leaves, you can't check. Therefore you'll have to be BUMPED to the next flight which isn't for another two hours!!

He tells us to go to the gate with our bags and check them there. We make our way inside and start going through the security when one of the attendants pulls Gail aside and makes her check her bag in one of those overhead storage size thingies. Yeah, it doesn't fit. She kicks us out of line and back to the front desk. Standing around for a bit we manage to get to an attendant who tells us to just try a different checkpoint. Which we did. No problems until...

Gail gets stopped again for having liquids in her bag. They search it and pull out her toothpaste, hair spray, face wash, and various other accoutrements. And hand her back her bag. Glumly, we proceed to the terminal.

By now it is 4:10 and we hear the final boarding call. Racing up to the gate we hand in our e tickets and make it to the ramp as they close the doors. GAH!

Being the last person to board a plane sucks. Everyone has already had time to stuff all of their baggage and their grandmother into the overhead compartments. I have to go five seats back to find an open spot for my camera, and then another three back for my bag. Gail? We take her bag all the way to the back of the plane and find nothing. As we stand around wondering what to do, we heard this announcement, "Would the lady with the BIG RED bag please proceed to the front of the aircraft." Mortification sets in as I scramble past everyone with the offending luggage held over my head.

One bright point in all of this? There were TWO open seats right next to me, so Gail didn't have to sit in between two other people by herself. The flight was uneventful. Although coming in over the Rockies was a beautiful sight.

We land and have to wait for everyone to get off the plane in order to retrieve our bags. Not bad when you think we no longer have to stand around staring at that rotating torture device known as the baggage carousel. Carousel implies something fun and jaunty, right? Not so much.

Meg and Joan are waiting for us and we walk right out of the airport and drive up to Provo to drop our bags in the room at the Marriot. Meg is a glorious individual. If you don't already know this, then you will learn when you meet her. Guess what she had waiting back in the room for us? Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade. Perfection!

We meet up with the other Spraguers in the lobby and pack into cars to head to Kari's old working place, The Training Tables, for their famous cheese fries and burgers. Can I just tell you that it is an experience to sit in a restaurant and eat when across the aisle sits Jessica Sprague, Candince Stringham, Ana Cabrera and Liv Esteban. I live the good life, let me tell ya.

Jessica is not feeling well these days. But that didn't hold her back from wearing super cute shoes and eating cheese fries. Get better soon!

Finally back to the hotel for the most amazing German Chocolate cake brownies and much needed sleep!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Provo, here I come!

The long awaited day has finally arrived. It is here. The time has come, etc etc.

What started as a glint in Annette Harding's eye at CKU-Houston when she so inadvertantly let it slip that a 'digi event' was in the works, has come to fruition.

In about four hours I should be at the airport waiting to board the plane to Salt Lake City, Utah. I will have my good friend Gail next to me and plenty of 80's tunes geared up on the Ipod. The flight is on time and no inclement weather is on the radar. So all is good.

I just called Meg, who arrived in Provo on Sunday. She's about to meet up with some other early Spraguers and the Ms. Jessica herself in about half an hour. They've got an entire fun-filled tour of SLC planned for the day. The flight won't land until after 6 P.M. and Meg will swing by to pick us up at the airport.

Then the fun begins!

I'm kinda upset at how all of my planning was in waste, though. When DSE (digital scrapbooking event) was announced and then the Spragueground decided to combine it with this year's Meet and Greet, I debated. Debated whether I could give up an entire week at school. This would entail all of my three personal leave days being used, plus two days without pay. I wanted to keep this trip's cost down as low as I could, so I opted to only take the three personal days. This way I'd be in school with the kiddos for the beginning of the week, have a day of fun with the other Spraguers and be there for the DSE extravaganza.

I felt even better about my decision when the (BLEEPITY BLEEP) furlough days were handed down from above. Surely didn't want to lose even more days without pay.

However, Mother Nature went on a rampage here in Georgia. It rained for an entire week straight. And not just any rain, but down pours. It was yucky, but livable since we needed the extra wetness. Then came Monday morning.

About 3 A.M. I wake up out of a dead sleep to flashing lights in my window. Freaky, I know. But it turned out to be a wacko lightning storm. Ran immediately to unplug the laptop because I definitely did not want that plugged in if a bolt decides to hit the house. (Could you imagine digital scrapping without a laptop??). Back to bed because it is a school day after all.

Get up at my usual time and arrive at school by 7 A.M. As I am squeaking down the hallway to my room, one of the fifth grade teachers says that school has been postponed for an hour and a half. There's been some flooding. Oh? Really? Hmm, okay.

Well, that flood just keeps getting worse and worse. If you haven't seen the news from GA, just youtube some of the footage. Entire schools and subdivisions under water. Very scary.

My thoughts definitely go out to the families that are suffering right now, but you could imagine how upset I was that they cancelled school entirely!

You mean, I could have gone for the entire week and not missed a single moment of Sprague-y goodness?

Oh, it gets better. They cancelled school for Tuesday as well....

Here I sit with nothing to do and four hours to while away until my flight. Everything is looking good for it to be on time with no delays - knock on wood.

So, I will enjoy the time that I was given in Provo and just make up for it by having an even better time!

See y'all there!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Last Day

June 27, 2009 1:05P.M.

After being humiliated by the fey flight attendant over a pen, I can write my final Italian entry. At the moment I am flying 536mph and 34,000 feet over the Adriatic Sea. The country I've spent three weeks hiking and enjoying recedes behind me. Yet, it won't be so easily forgotten. I wish I had thought to bring a pedometer to calculate the number of mile I've covered on this exploration. It feels like I walked from Rome to Venice and back. But the blistered feet and cracked heels do nothing to belittle getting to see Italy for myself.

The unique charms of the Cinque Terra town as they clutch to the rock face, the rolling hills and colors of Tuscany, the innate charm of the watery Venice, and the modern bustle of the ancient Rome were all as promised. Even the weather cooperated for the entire trip to make this an unforgettable foray across the Italian shores.

In the words of Ceasar, "Veni Vidi Vici". I too have come, seen, and conquered so much. It will always be Bella Italia.

I have arrived at 10:50P.M. Italy time. 4:50P.M. in the ATL. I have arrived with everything I left with. No one made any strange advances or even looked at us crosswise. We felt completely safe walking down dark dank alleys at all hours throughout Italy. My fears before the trip seem to be completely unfounded.

But I think I had to go through that period of trepidation in order to come out on the other end unscathed and completely in love with Italy. However, I never had that "Let's buy a villa and runaway to Italy" feeling come over me. I think I am too enamored with comforts to do that just now. Some day though, my feelings may change.

Gordon wants to try Greece or southern France next year. Hmmm

Day Nineteen

June 26, 2009 6:15P.M.

Nicola was just by to finalize things. She was kind enough to call us a taxi for tomorrow at 7A.M. (*GASP*). We whined about several things - the scaffolding blocking our view, the workers clanging at 7:00A.M., and not letting up for any possible nap, plus the seepage coming in from the windows that soaked all our souveniers- in hopes of a rebate. No such luck. I'll proably write to Ernesto to see if he will do anything for us.

Gordon just finished the evil business of paking. I'm listening to BBC once again explain how Michael Jackson died. How touching that he couldn't live in a world without Farrah Fawcett. We're going downstairs for a drink. Then maybe we'll see Angels and Demons as our last Roman Hurrah.

Today we didn't accomplish much. We planned for the Archeobus to take us out to the Appian Way. We were all coffeed and ready at the Piazza Venezia stop by 9A.M. awaiting the first bus. Yeah right. We heard from the red bus that the green bus no longer stops here at this stop. We have to race over to the Colloseo stop a half mile away and still have to wait 25 minutes. Strange business.

The ride was uninspiring to say the leat. The sporadic narration was garbled. We got off at the last stop. Walked on the original portion of the Roman Road to Herod's tribute to his wife Cecilia Metella. After he was cleaered of her death he wanted to show how much he loved her. Kinda like OJ.

Next came the worst decision of the entire trip. We both were really interested in ancient acquaduct park. Thus follows the torturous two hours of our lives. Two miles alongside speeding cars and skirting death around every corner we arrive in a very unnervy part of town. The park was full of graffiti and hardly had anyone in it.

We eat our paninis quickly while we ogle the shirtless jogger resting not far away. Then we walk back the same 2 miles again. We grab a lemon soda and an arancia fanta then go look at dead people.

The catacombs of San Sebastini were very interesting. As I strolled through the resting places of ancient Christians I had to wonder if 2,000 years from now will folks wander through our cemetaries in awe?

We only had to wait 5 minutes for the bus which we have to ride all the way to Termini since they no longer stop at Bocca della Verite. Grrrr. We hop on the No. 64 bus and get to use our Roma Pass finally.

Naps, showers, pack and Nicola. We tried that theater she suggested to see A&D but it's no longer showing the movie. Durn. So we wander around and decide on a place for dinner. I try carbonara and saltimbocca. Both were good.

the phone alarms are now set and the BBC still broadcasts MJ's demise. More tomorrow en route.

Day Eighteen

June 25, 2009 9:00P.M.

Tomorrow we're planning an early start, so I wanted to get a head start on this entry. It's been a semi-castle day since most of it was spent on a bus.

We got our cappuccino's this morning from our Piazza Eustachio. We paid only to stand at the counter today. I almost forgot there was a difference in prices for sitting at tavolos.

As we finished who do we literally walk right into? Allison and Bryson. It must be fate. We caught up with all that had gone on since we parted in Tuscany. A flood in Elba, train rerouted, disfavor with Milan, and the first impressions of our Rome streets (scary!) We walk towards the Piazza Navona to leave them at an Internet Spot. Then proceed to walk past them no less than six times. We couldn't figure out where the sightseeing bus stop was located.

With much relief we locate it 200 meters from where the Information Desk guy said it was. We ride this thing for two hours past sights seen and not. At one stop I wasn't properlly wedged in while I was taking a picture and almost flipped over the edge from a sudden stop.

We ride it through over to the Borghese Gardens stop. Picking up some paninis and lemon soda we explore the scruffy area. The lake, with boat (batiche?) rentals was the best. We walk back to the Spanish Steps in daylight. Then on back t the apartment for a nap.

If you can believe it we ride the sightseeing bus again. This time for different kinds of pictures. We were going to get off at Bocca della Verite for the famous Moment of Truth statue. But arrived too late. We ride the bus all the way back to Navona. Then drop off camera and change into long pants. We sit around til 7 P.M. then head off to a restaurant Gordon had noticed on Tuesday.

Thinking about the name, That's Amore, you would think the place would be complete kitsch. Well it did have candle dripped Chianti bottles and piped in Dean Martin. But the food was really good. The fettuccini tartufo nero and the grilled sausage were huge hits. We ended the fine feast with a a spot of limoncello and talks of what we'll take away from this trip.

Way too many memories, that's for sure.

Day Seventeen

June 25, 2009 11:43A.M.

I'm late in writing today. We tried to stay in bed as long as possible even with the workers dropping everything possible.

Yesterday was set aside for Ancient Rome Day. We were set to tour the Collosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Forum.

Once again Rick Steves was right with his advice on how to skip lines. With our Roma Pass in hand we strut past the throngs of sweaty tourists standing in line. The colloseo was great. you could almost hear the screams for blood and hear the cries of lions and the poor as teach was slaughtered for entertainment.

Palantine Hill was kind of boring so we found a spot overlooking the Colloseo for lunch. Then back in to finish up the Forum. Our last Rick Steves audio.

Since it's only about 2, we trot on over to the Quirinale and the National Museums of Rome. The Diocletian Baths were closed.

On the way back we decide to attempt the Trevi. Vicky was right in her assessment that it would be packed. We muscle our way up to the fountain in order to toss our coins. 20 cents for each.

Back to the apartment for nap and shower.

Oops, wait! We decide on an antipasti outside of the Pantheon. Expensive stuff.

We walk all th eway down Via Del Corso to the Poppolo for our last Angels and Demons tour. It was closed. We wander back to the Spanish Steps for some night time shots.

Dinner was pizza (with a hard boiled egg on it) and beer. Then gelato over the Fontane di Trevi at night. Such an experience.

Day Sixteen

June 24, 2009 8:54A.M.

Awaken to clangs and bangs outside our window. They're doing something to the building. Scaffolding blocks our view of the Pantheon. It hasn't mattered since we've been getting up early anyway. But today was a no rush one. We're up now.

Yesterday was a Vatican Day. Five horus and almost 300 pictures later I'm exhausted. Robert Langdon (Angels and Demons) was right. The Vatican owns a LOT of stuff.

We got there early in hopes of seeing Jim, Julie, and Allison for their 9:15 time. We figured out we were in the totally wrong spot for our tour. Scramble around a bit and discover the right location in time.Thankfully the reserved ticket line was much shorter. We start right off making our way to the Sistine Chapel. Through the Tapestry Room, through the Map Room, through the Candelabra Room (don't laugh), to reach our destination. A constant announcement reminded us that taking pictures was strictly forbidden. It was kind of hard to hear it though, what with all the shutter clicks and flashes going off.

After the Vatican Museums we take the shortcut to St. Peter's and get to skip security. (Take the Right exit as you leave Michaelangelo's masterpiece). Tour the pope's tombs and then step inside the Basillica. Oh My God - literally. the place was extravagant. Our final stop was the Cupola. Elevator only half way, crazy slanting walls and tight stairways the rest. But the view...oh! the view.

Castel du Sant Angelo was next. The Illuminati Lair. We toured all through this and even climbed to the Terrazza for a bite to eat. Finally eat cannoli. While I'm at it also cross off two people kissing on both cheeks, two Italian men holding arms, and nuns taking cigarette breaks. No, not really. But there does seem to be a priest on every corner.

Head back towards the apartment to tour the Pantheon. Then take a nap before dinner. Tonight's recommendation took us over the river into the yuppie Trastevere. Strange juxtapositioning of upwardly mobiles surrounded by heavily graffited walls.

After dinner we make the trek out to see the Cooloseum at night. Went the right way this time. Finally back to bed.

Day Fifteen

June 23, 2009 8:11A.M.

Eight hours on a train with every screaming child in Italy and no food spells = FUN! It was sad not to enjoy another catered breakfast, but we had a train to catch early. The station's cafe was odd. You have to stand in one long line to get a ticket to go stand in another long line. Confusion. I grab some apples and croissants to go with our cappuccino and board. It was supposed to be a four hour train ride. A littl down the coast and then turn inwards to cut across Italy to reach Rome. Thought it was odd when we just kept traveling down the coast. They made announcements over the intercom, but since they were all in Italian we didn't pay any attention. Well, not until the locals that surrounded us in 2nd class started making complaint noises. No idea what is going on. We turn on the gps and find our location is no where near we were are supposed to be. When it hits the six hour point I go to find the food cart. It's seven carrozza's back. After I push my way through all the legs and luggage in the aisle to get there I am told they have absolutely no food left. Not even a crumb or a can of Pringles. Oh, they have water though. Apparently those announcements in Italian alerted all the Italian speakers that it was going to be a long ride and they all invaded the food cart long before I show up. I am quite sad.

We finally made it to Rome and walk 45 minutes to the apartment to meet with our city manager, Nicola. The entire flat is no bigger than our bedroom at home. Allison was right. The pantry, complete with micro wave and 2 stove hubs sits on top of a small fridge. it's still bigger than our old place in the Marina district.

We wander off to Piazza Navona for dinner in front of Bellini's Fountain of the Four Rivers (that's and Angels and Demons stop if you recall). Then decide to see the Colloseo at night.

After walking in circles hopelessly for an hour we call it a night. After stepping over the drunk hobo lady on our stoop that is.

Day Fourteen

June 22, 2009 7:33A.M.

It was nice to be able to wake when we wanted. Took our time then went down for breakfast. A spread sort of like in Monterosso. Except the cappuccino comes from a push button machine and only fills half the cup. Eventhough I complained a lot, I miss the little Asian lady from Cinque Terra bringing us those cups full of a rich thick foam. A trade off, I guess.

Gordon and I walked over to the train station to see how long it would take us and to get our tickets for Monday. Good thing too, it was packed again.

Next was the Vaporetto No.1. This route travels from the train station, down the Grand Canal, and out to the airport. Takes about an hour one way. Rick Steves led us down the lane of decaying palaces. It was a nice ride, so nice we took it all the way back.

I noticed something on this boat. There is a vast difference between workers here and in America. Here you get hunky adult men who work as basically bus drivers. Now where in America can you find that?

Back to the room for a camera battery, then off to explore the Carnareggio area. We eat lunch in the garden of an osteria underneath grape vines, actual grape vines. At 2:30 they kick us out. First time that's happened.

After more walking we grab the closest bald muscular gondolier and take a 30 minute 80 euro ride around San Paolo area. It was an extreme leisurely pace and not as romantic as I expected. Weird having tons of people take our picture.

San Marco and Rick Steves had a date next. We wandered the square for an hour listening to his audio. We thought about climbing the campignale and once we heard that a lift takes you up, we grabbed it. The view did not disappoint.

since it's about 5:45 at this point we check into seeing the Basillica but it closed at 5. Run over to the Doge's Palace and are barred entrance. Apparently it takes two hours to go through before they close at 7. They won't let us in at 6. Oy!

So off to the hotel to hang out. Today wasn't well planned so Gordon suggested we do up one for our stay in Rome. He slept while I devised. It wasn't that hard since there's still so much to see.

We're both foot worn and exhausted from 13 days of non stop that we decide to venture out only for dinner. The concierge recommends a few places. One is too far, the other menu doesn't appeal. We end up at a local pizza joint where the waiter defintiely showed preferance to the locals.

One more gelato and off to LaLa Land.

Day Thirteen

June 21, 2009 9:25A.M.

Yep, I'm in Venice eating breakfast at Hotel Ca'D'Oro. Amongst the comforts again. No stairs, hair dryers, grocery stores, no stairs, elevators, buses (well, vaporettos), no driving, and no stairs.

We ended up leaving Allison behind at the castle because it was 6:45. Time to leave the parking lot. It's a good thing we left then. Crazy trying to drive thru Florence with tons of one ways.

Drop Jim and Julie at the train station then struggle to get back to Avis. We arrive there about 7:45 and have to wait for them to open. Anxious moments of, "Will we make the train?" ensue. Get checked out, they never mention the dented bumper, and race to the stazione only to wait in another line for tickets. Get to the window and are told 2nd class is full. Have to pay extra but it was worth it to get to Venizia 3 hours earlier. The train pulls in and Gordon says I have 5 minutes to find cappuccino. Being driven by mad coffee cravings I do it and we board in time.

The 3 hour trip was uneventful except for the rain and Gordon finishing Angels and Demons. We drive across Golfe di Venizia and enter the watery city.

I have found where all the tourists are. They're at the Venice train station. This place is mobbed with people. Well, the five cruise ships in the harbor probably don't help. We make our way thru the crowds, up and over seven bridges, until 45 minutes later and one nice shopkeeper full of directions we find the hotel tucked in some obscure alley.

Since it was only noon they were nice enough to let us have our room. the canal view is there and it's okay. I didn't heaer the angels trumpet when I threw open the shutters though.

What happens next involves six hours of constant walking. From the Rialto Bridge to San Marco, to Accademia to Gritti Palace and back. My feet are kililng me from all the topsy turvy concrete blocks. Venice is HUGE!

Naps before dinner aren't unheard of on this vacation. We take the concierge's recommendation for dinner. I've been cold all day so we moved inside. Check two more things off my Italian To Do List: Risotto (with shrimp, yum!) and Tiramisu (Uck!).

Back to Rialto and San Marco. So glad we did because these two sights lit up were fantastic. Especially since Saint Mark's Square was FLOODED! I got some shots of folks splashing through the above-ankle deep water. Hotel then sleep.

Day Twelve

June 20, 2009 6:08A.M.

The dreaded moment has arrived. Saying goodbye to the Castle Sweet Castle. This is going to be hard. I am just glad we got to spend an entire week here in Tuscany. We all agreed that this type of trip is preferable to a tour. Following an umbrella is not my idea of a vacation.

Yesterday was our last full day. G&G and J&J stayed for a castle day this time. Allison and Bryson headed off for the Boboli Gardens. We asked reception if we cuold view various rooms in Montegufoni and they were more than happy to drag us around.

La Grotto was first and the best. Amazingly detailed paintings covered every surface. La Cuppola was next and had more of a castle feel, but that domed ceiling was beautiful. Finally the Torre room. I wanted to go all the way up the tower but it was covered in pigeon poop.

Afterwards we walked around the vineyards. Looking at the baby grapes gave me a deeper appreciation of the hard constant work that goes into wine making.

Naptime was next. We awoke in time to leave for another tour. This time it was for Frattoria San Michele a Torri. A local award wining vino e olio factory. This wine tour just felt different than any other. More real somehow. It ended with deep rich olive oil drizzled generously over bruschetta and pomodoro. The guide also put out some amazing meats. We left with bottles for dinner and a case sent home. Really good Chianti Classico.

Our final dinner at Castello di Montegufoni was a quiet affair. Each already reminiscing about one helluva vacation. Promises to return next year were made. Happy places built. And lasting friendships made.

Arreverderci Toscana!

Things to Remember from Tuscany

June 19, 2009 11:00P.M.

- Julie having to complete online coursework
-Mosquito wars
-GPS voice
-Best food was at castle
-2A.M. wine chats
-Renaming places we couldn't pronounce
-Hot Nights
-King of the Castle
-One charger
-Castle Days
-Both Jim/Gordon reading the same book
-Pastry runs
-Noot sauce
-To Go Cups

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Day Eleven

June 19, 2009 11:15A.M.

Allison and Bryson opted for a castle day today. G&G and J&J drove off to Lucca as the final jot on our itinerary. Driving without having to coordinate three cars goes much faster.

We find the train station and park. We don’t know any better and enter the city through a set of steps in a tunnel. Not realizing one of the main entrances was right down the road. Oh, well. Looking at a map we realize we have to cut a swarth straight through the city for bike rentals.

Plodding along we pass Piazza di Napoleone and Piazza San Michele and old Roman Forum. Great little city to stroll around in. We choose three neon green and one bright pink bike to use for an hour.

Amazing! Simply amazing way to see a city. It was so fantastic on a flat surface that encompasses the entire city. Feel the breezes blow past your face as you ride through canopies of green. Smell the fresh mown grass and stop at a fountain for a refreshing drink.

After two rotations it was already time to bring them back. Next we find the Roman Amphitheater, a circular grouping of homes. We eat lunch then make our way to Torre Guigni. The one with trees growing on the roof. Spectacular views, again.

It’s about 3:30 now and our stamina is wearing down, so we head back. At the castle Allison relates her day in Montespertoli and an Italian hair salon. Also the fun to be see at the pool.

Dinner was ordered from the restaurant. All of our favorites, ravioli nocce, penne pesto, and grilled sausages. Don’t forget the wine. All four bottles of it. We sat around the table just laughing, sharing, and chatting. Julie and I were up til 2A.M.!

Day Ten

June 18, 2009 8:37A.M.

Time seems to do funny things in Italy. Days appear to fly by but then it feels like we've been here since 119 A.D. I'm enjoying this trip mostly because it is living up to my expectations and then keeps going. The sky has been blue, the birds singing. The fellow travelers have yet to be obnoxious or whiny or inconsiderate. Who knows, though. In the next two days it may all turn sour like year old milk. Somehow I doubt it though.

Our plans for Pisa yesterday went off with only a few hitches. The accident, horrible car and trailer wreck, that held us up a bit on the highway. Then the tiny spits of rain as we climbed the Leaning Tower. Everything else, perfetto.

We start off with pictures in front of the tower. The quintessential holding it up ones. And the one for school of all the CHES teachers reading a book, travel guides in this case. The new principal asked us to send her a picture of teachers reading. Thought this one was fun.

Our tickets to climb the tower weren't until 2P.M. and it was still only noon. We all broke off but ended up in the same place. At church, if you can believe it. The cathedral was holding mass because it was a holiday in Pisa. Beyond-gorgeous church filled with numerous priests and nuns conducting service.

We met up to have lunch at a pizzaria. Sadly it was already time to say Arriverderci to Vicky and Alan. Watching part of our little clan walk away was like cutting an arm off. Safe flight guys.

But we must plod on. Gordon and I had our tour first and clambered up the surreally tilting stairs. Waving to Bryson and Allison at each tier was fun. Out on top it starts to rain. Here I am on a 14% leaning tower on smoothly worn marble about to get slippery. Yep, I clung to everything I could rather than plummet headlong over the side.

Jim and Julie went up after us, yet we never bumped into each other. They made it to the top. You can tell because here is Jim doing the victory dance.
Julie was eager to see her hometown of Livorno, so we headed off to there. What an interesting drive. Especially past the military base. the GPS took us to the dockyards where cruise ships sail into. Julie recognized wehre her dad used to work and parks she used to play in when she was 8. A trip down memory lane.
At home (ie, castle) we did two loads of laundry and became more intimate with each others things. then we made reservations at Il Foculare.
The restaurant and a gas station seemed to be the biggest part of town. It was a great place. We may not have wanted to sit in il gardino because of the swarms of mosquito. But the fried veggie plate made up for it. I had this amazing house special that was meat and onions cooked in a broth inside of a terra cotta pot for DAYS! Oh, wonderful.
Home for limoncello and bed.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Day Nine

June 18, 2009 8:14A.M.

Just did a pastry run. It was Allison’s turn and she needed a guide. Good thing I went, lots of cute Italians hanging around.

Yesterday was spent in Florence doing the Rick Steves’s tour. We had downloaded free audioguides of both Uffizi and Accademia. There’s also a Renaissance Walk, but Gordon forgot his IPOD in the car. We had to take some time to go back and get it.

We got to stroll along the Arno up to the Ponte Vecchio. Beautiful ancient bridge overwhelmed with jewelry stores. Strange, but

Uffizi was not to my liking. The grouping of statues lining the halls of the original offices had little explanations and were odd pairings. I’m not big on religious paintings, so we rushed through most of it. The Botticelli’s were fascinating. I loved the da Vinci “The Annunciation” with its perfect converging lines. Moving on.

Piazza Vecchio was great for lunch surrouned by Posidon and Hercules and fake David. In fact I bought an apron with David’s torso and cookies on it, ha!

We meet up with most of the group at 4P.M. outside this graffiti covered plain building that houses the Accademia. Turns out it was a converted nunnery. Since we had to wait 30 more minutes before our entry time Julie made the best suggestion to sit in this shady grassy park and have gelato.

Rick Steves suggested we start with David, but he didn’t prepare us for the tingling sensation you get as you turn the corner and spy the statue at the end of the long hallway lit from above by the domed skylight that seemed made for such an exalted sight. Even though it’s strictly forbidden to take pictures, I snuck a few.

The entire group was meeting back up at the Baptistry doors at 6P.M. We arrive a little early and crowd watch. There were two poorly made up women dressed as white faced nuns who were going around the piazza smooching for money. That seemed to be the only cause for the dreaded pick-pockets or child-throwing gypsies that we saw.

Head home for leftovers and beer and ricotta cake (bless you, Vicky). Alan and Vicky bought me a second David apron as I found them the hat store they’d been searching for all day, Ciao Bella!

Day Eight

June 16, 2009 7:52A.M.

The hill towns of Tuscany. We hit the two big ones yesterday. Siena and San Gimignano. The shower thing wasn’t all that bad. We left maybe five minutes after our scheduled time slot. For some reason the gps was hell bent on taking us the shortest distance routes, which we quickly discover isn’t the fastest. At all. It took us backways and byways that in Italy translates to switchbacks and round abouts for days.

We had scheduled a 30 minute drive to Siena because it was only 33 km away. It took us an hour and a half. Finally we reached the crayola city and fought for stadium parking. Weird spots that surrounded the perimeter, yet nothing like a parking garage. Gordon dented the bumper pulling into a spot that finished right at the stadium steps. Good thing we paid for full coverage.

A short walk brought us to the Il Campo, the famous fan-like square. We stopped for some antihistamine for Julie’s squito bites that were taking over her elbow. Then to a cafĂ© called Bar Palio. Funniest little take away cups. They looked ceramic so we kept trying to get the counter guy to understand we wanted to walk around with them. Then we picked them up and “Ooooh,” they’re plastic. Cooling sleeve was built in.

Next we scheduled a time to meet back and split off into fractions for two hours. Gordon and I head right for the Clock Tower. Gluttons for punishment. Only 400 steps today, through the narrowest tightest passageways. It’s a good thing they made us put our bag in a free locker. The view was amazing.
We walked further up to the Siena hill to the Duomo (Doo-min-O). Then back down to meet up for lunch. I got a free taste of the local panaforte. Yum! Everyone else grabbed a gelato (JELL-ah-toe) and we were back into the cars. Can you believe that the heat of the day popped the bumper back out with hardly a noticeable scratch? Yeah!

45 minutes and 9 km later we reached the Renaissance city of San Gimignano. I liked this one better. It didn’t have the same touristy feel. The square was all done up with a MayPole for their festival this coming weekend. Vicky and Alan joined us on the Tower tour and again we got the grand sweeping vistas.

Gordon and I picked up some salami, cheese (formaggio), and tagliaterre pasta for dinner. Jim grabbed some olives and wines. The Coop (say it like chicken coop, NOT co-op, sticking tongue out at Allison) was closed. So when we returned, Vicky and Alan grabbed some salad and another pasta from the bar downstairs. We had ourselves a feast in a very over heated cucina.

After a cooling dip in the pool and some limoncello, we were ready for bed. An hour earlier than usual mind you.

Day Seven

June 15, 2009 7:26A.M.

It’s early. We’re all trying to figure out shower schedules and being ready to leave at a set time for our first destination as a group: Siena. I’ll let you know how it goes later on.

Yesterday was a do-nothing day that will be forever coined as ‘castle day’ and we wore it well. I already told you how fun trying to cobble breakfast together was, J&J finally woke up right after I stopped the entry yesterday.

It was pool time. Even the simple fact of sitting around a pool chatting within the beautiful grounds of your very own castle, it does something to you. The hours whiled away until about 5P.M. We had a snack and I emailed our city manager in Rome on the reception’s free internet.

Around 7P.M. after a rousing game of Sorry in which Ms. Vicky beat the pants off us all, I drag the victorious V, her new name now, and her royal subject (husband) around for a photo shoot. Then we did a group shoot out on the terrazza.

Dinner started after 8 with remnants of an earlier Baptisemo party still going on around us. It was a bit of a haggle trying to get a chicken or fish option tonight and not just carne (red meat). It was a loss and they brought out a caprese instead.

The meal again was incredible. I didn’t think it would take us three hours like last night, but sure enough it did.

To top our evening off the chef came out and poured all of us a shot of some orangey liqueur that came with a biscotti for dipping. Toscana con Piacere!

Day Six

June 14, 2009 12:20P.M.

Oh, so much to catch up on! It's been a whirlwind day full of wonderful treats and surprises.

Finally arrived in Firenze and used the gps to locate the Avis rental place. Incredibly nice gentleman helped us get our car and luggage packed away. He also let us leave it there while we toured the city for a few hours.

Meandering our way to the Duomo we happen upon a slice of Fiorentina Life. Church ceremony with folks dressed in period costumes and women in black mantilla. Wonderful.

Turn a different corner and BAM this gorgeous piazza full of incredible architecture. We found the Duomo and Baptistry. OOH and AAH time. Then hop in line for free tour of the Duomo. Thinking about climbing to La Cuppola. We decide however that once we saw the line wrapped around the building Plan B was called for. Thankfully, the second and cheaper option had no line.

After 414 steps (I know, right!) up tight passageways and complaining children we reach the top of the Campignale. Almost same height as the dome. Yay!

We head back for the car and drive the twisty curvy 30 minute road to Castello di Montegufoni.
All I can say is the website did not do this place justice. Absolutely incredible with beautiful sweeping vistas of the Tuscan hills. Yes, I was hopping up and down with glee. Man, did we hit the jackpot!

Gordon and I ran around snapping pictures of everything. The place originally was two palaces and five homes that were later encapsulated into one of the highlights of Florentine culture.
Figure out how to do our laundry, even with the strange coin and ancient key to open the door. So we sat down at the pool for an hour while we wait.

Vicky, Alan, Jim, and Julie arrived around 7P.M. full of stories from their travels. How sucky Paris is in the rain, how horrible flights can go really wrong. We got them settled into their rooms and then made reservations for dinner downstairs at the bar.

At 8P.M. we head down to the Terrazza. Thus begins our 3 hour tour of Italian cuisine. Starting with antipasti of melon, olives, prosciutto, artichokes, and spinach torte. Moving on to prima pasta of penne with tomatoes (delicioso) and a surprise favorite: ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach drenched in a ‘nut sauce’. We had quite the laugh over that as we tried to figure out what the waiter was trying to explain to us. Covered in peanut sauce? Ew. But it was incredible. A white sauce with ground walnuts.

Then came spinach and peas, carne (meat) mixed grill was approaching the busting point. But dolce is always a must. Lemon torte or ricotta cake. Hmm? We finish off with limoncello. By this time? It’s 11P.M.

Alan was walking around and found Allison wandering the parking lot. We had almost given up. Got her and Bryson settled and all crashed by midnight.

The next morning I was up at 6A.M. and couldn’t sleep, so I grab the Nikon and head out for some morning light practice. I even caught the sfumata encasing the Tuscan hills. After an hour I head back to the room and sleep for another two hours.

No breakfast was a real treat, especially no access to cappuccino. Gah! We had quite an adventure buying groceries. No anglais. I ended up with everything I needed though. Who knew facial tissues and jelly would be so hard to describe?

Right now it’s 1P.M. and we are sitting out chatting on the terrazza again. Jim and Julie have been asleep for 13 hours. They’d been up for almost 30 hours. Aaah, blissful castle day.

Day Five continues

June 13, 2009 9:29A.M.

On the train already past La Spezia and hurdling towards Pisa Centrale. I waved goodbye to the Cinque Terra. Hellacious but memorable.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day Cinque (pronounced Chink- way)

June 13, 2009 8:09A.M.

Well, here it is. The end of our first leg of Italy. It came, was grueling in parts, and went. In an hour we'll be on a fast train to Pisa to make our connection to Firenze.

Yesterday was another day of what the guide book promised as an "Easy" hike. I don't who the people are that decide these things, but they need to be shot. Trail No. 9 to Santuario Madonna di Soviore was almost straight uphill. The inclines were rough and the path alternated between uneven pavers on a mule trail to asphalt to rocky crags. Translation: grueling. Never have I sweated so much and had to stop so often to let my heart slow down. The church was interesting, though. The story of the doves revealing the wooden statue buried to protect it from WWII soldiers was intriguing. But too soon we had to replace our packs on our cold sweaty backs and go back down. It went faster buy try telling that to my legs.

Next was a boat ride over to Riomaggiore for some great photo opportunities. Then train it back because the next boat wouldn't be for two more hours. It's about 5P.M. Time for nibbles and then some tennis on tv, in German.

Earlier we tried getting money from the ATM but it kept saying our account wasn't available. EEK! We had to wait the our and a half for the bankers to return from lunch so we could get some money out. Thankfully we did this today instead of waiting til Saturday. Gordon's tip to Travel in Italy #4 (#1 one easily carried backpack, #2 clips for everything, #3 be early).

Dinner was decided on quickly once we noticed many restaurant tables had reservation placards up. It was the Belvedere for our last night. The food was very goo. Only two things spoiled it. A gaggle of drunk trust fund babies and a smoker who insisted on smoking through the entire meal.

Day Four

June 12, 2009 8:54A.M.

Oy, muscle ache is not fun on vacation. Gordon keeps feeding me bananas, something about potassium being good way to ward off crampings. I keep pushing for some beach time. Alas, no acquiescence (sp?). We found that the ferry does indeed stop at Riomaggiore. We train it over to Corniglia to continue the rest of Trail No. 2. Of course it was pretty smooth the whole way. A bit of up and down in Manarola. We didn't stay long there. Got right onto the Via Dell'Amore. Nice and smooth and blissfully SHORT walk. Think of the villagers voluntarily carving this out with picks and buckets. The Italians love their graffiti though. We found a cute Lover's Bench surrounded by tons of locks of love.

We meander through Rimaggiore finally finding the ferry ticket office at the bottom of these long steps. Only to discover the ferry had been cancelled due to rough seas. Of course they couldn't have put a notice at the TOP of the stairs, could they?

Nap upon return. Then out to explore the more resort part of Monterosso. Dinner was decided at Ely. Best food so far in Italy. Once it cooled enough not to scald my face. Ask to see the mark.

Day Three

June 11, 2009 9:35 A.M.

I am in pain. Real physical ouches. We came to the Cinque Terra to hike. Little did we know what were in for. Apparently they've allowed mentally unstable people assess their ease of trail ratings. Two hour long paths, paths as wide as a ruler is long, rocks jutting up from the ground every which way, and stairs. Stairs for days. We shouldn't have purchased a treadmill in prepartion for this trip. A rugged stair climber would have been more beneficial. It was like beating your calves with bricks on purpose. Just when you seriously consider falling flat on your face, you turn around to see a poddle coming up the path behind you. What a blow to the machismo! We walked this torture for six hours on only two of the paths. From Monterosso to Vernazza, stopping for lunch and water refills. Then on to Corniglia. Of course we didn't know the ferry didn't stop in this city (of course it doesn't). We see signs for Marina and walk down even more hellacious stairs only to witness the ferry sail right past.

Eventually arrive back at the top of the stairs and wait patiently for the Ecobus to take us back to our apartment and collapse. Guess what? It doesn't go to Monterosso. The train station lies at the bottom of... you guessed correct... stairs. 365 of them. One. For. Every. Day. Of. The. Year. The train ride? Yeah, it takes ten minutes. Sigh.

Dinner was at La Bella Anchor du Tortuga under the Torre Aurora watch tower. Dinner was better tonight and we even tried anchovies, which the area is known for. Desserts on the menu are not very eclectic. Ice cream or sorbet. So we found the only open gelataria. Sorry, no limoncello tonight.