Monday, January 21, 2013

Giving Thanks!

I'm not sure how we pulled it off, but we managed to host Thanksgiving dinner for 17 Italian guests this November. Several of the guys Cole works with had asked about Thanksgiving meals - so we offered to host an American Thanksgiving for our friends. The dinner was held on the last night of Jessica's trip - so it was a fun way to wrap up her visit and take advantage of having her help, too. The toughest thing about cooking this meal was probably locating the ingredients... 

"Cream of" soups don't exist here, so we made some from scratch. I had to haul our 8 kilo turkey (15 pounds) four blocks and had to order it from the polleria in advance. Canned pumpkin? What's that?! Our pumpkin puree had to be made fresh... We had to have french-fried onions to top the green bean casserole! So, of course, we had to slice and pan fry those onions! There is also no such thing as Stovetop stuffing. (Don't cringe, people. It's good stuff!) So... we cut up bread and made our own stuffing. So, basically, we had to do a lot of cooking the hard way. Thank the Lord for all of the food bloggers these days! We sure did a lot of "googling." :) On top of the tough ingredient searches, we have a smaller oven and smaller refrigerator and no microwave oven! Timing the cooking and fitting everything was like a high-pressure jigsaw puzzle! 

One of Cole's co-workers let us borrow her rice cooker -
which worked great as our crock pot / mashed potato holder! 
Our little refrigerator! Stuffed to the gills!

Aunt Jessi brought the cutest shirt for Eva's 1st Thanksgiving! 
Time to eat! We are so thankful for our Italian friends!

It was a lot of work, but so rewarding when our friends arrived and said they felt like they were in an American movie! Thanksgiving is something they've only seen on TV... The clapping and smiles when they saw our giant turkey were awesome! We even went around the table to each say what we're thankful for - and they all participated so graciously. We definitely have a lot to be thankful for, even if we weren't able to spend this Thanksgiving in the U.S.A. It was so much fun being able to share an American tradition with our new friends here in Italy! 

Rome: Girls' Trip!

Eva is a rock star... She gets just a little bit of attention from the Italians... especially the older crowd.
This was my third trip to Rome - Eva's, too! Hard to believe this little gal won't remember ANY of her time in Italy... I'm so glad we've taken photos or she would never believe us! After visiting twice before, Cole and I had chosen a hotel we really liked, mostly because of the location... It's only a short walk from Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, and a quick bus ride to the Vatican City. We had stayed there with Cole's parents, and found it was convenient - so we rebooked the same place. This time, we left Florence by train. Cole had to head back to work, so Eva and I showed Jess all we could in Rome! We had a wonderful time. The weather cooperated perfectly and there was only one time we had to duck out of the rain... We stopped for lunch and things cleared up after that. I was pretty nervous about this leg of our trip with Jess, but things really went smoothly, thank goodness!
The Pantheon! Love this picture of Jess looking up into the dome - wow!
On our first two trips, we hadn't made it to the Pantheon and this time we were able to see it, which was a really special memory for me! It was amazing! Over and over, the buildings in Rome just leave you in awe - this one, in particular, is the best preserved ancient building in Rome, with the largest concrete dome (that hasn't been reinforced) in the world! No metal bars here, folks.. just good old-fashioned engineering! The Pantheon was built in 125 A.D.

Ok, I suppose that's enough of a history lesson. ;) Here are some of my other favorite photos from the time Jess, Eva and I spent in Rome! Veni Vidi Vici! 

St. Peter's Basilica - and my sister, the hair model! Isn't she lovely?
Again at the Vatican - here we were waiting in line to enter! 

Inside the Colosseum!
Outside the Colosseum! 
Some more of my favorites! Pizza, Pinnochio, Trevi and more of the Colosseum!
I am so, so fortunate to have gotten this fun travel time with Jess! Sisters truly are one of life's greatest blessings! We had a fantastic time... and made some awesome memories. Maybe someday we can take another sisters' trip to Rome - only one thing will have to change! Hannah will have to join us next time, too! :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Firenze {Florence}

It makes no sense to me that town names change from language to language. If the Italians call Florence, Firenze, then shouldn't we all? It sure would be less confusing for everyone! I know bilingual people everywhere would think this is a crazy theory... But it kind of drives me nuts that city and country names aren't universal. Maybe that's just because I am still struggling to learn Italian! :)

Enough of that...

When Jess was visiting, our big trip was a train ride to Florence during the weekend - and then the girls headed on to Rome for a few days. Cole went back to Como for work. I was a little nervous about "doing" Rome with just Eva and Jess, but it wound up going very smoothly and being a great experience! More about Rome later...

Florence was beautiful! We scheduled a tour guide to show us the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia (home to Michaelangelo's David), Pointe Vecchio (a famous bridge), the Duomo (cathedral), Baptistery and surrounding area, as well as several other popular squares. We definitely don't love art enough to fully appreciate the many sculptures and paintings we saw during our stay... but we learned a lot and are definitely gaining more of an appreciation for all of the incredible artwork. Having a tour guide was extremely helpful. She was able to point out which paintings were most famous and recognizable during our time in the Uffizi... We could have been there for days! It's enormous!

Piazza del Duomo - Cathedral Square
The Baptistre's famous golden doors. The Door of Paradise.
Another shot of the Duomo...
Interior of Duomo - interesting geometric patterns on the floors throughout.

The bronze boar in Mercato Nuovo has a shiny snout because it's lucky to rub his schnauz.
Outdoor art gallery at Piazza della Signoria. These sculptures are all originals! Amazing!
After a long day of sight-seeing, Eva was a happy girl! 
... and Cole was happy, too! He was about to eat the best steak ever at Perseus.
A view of Pointe Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery. The terra cotta roof is a private passageway the Medici family built.
Pointe Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence - and the only bridge that survived WWII. It's said that Hitler's orders actually saved this bridge, which is a busy, busy place - covered with jewelry shops and lots of tourists today!

The highlight of Florence for me was getting to see Michaelangelo's David sculpture. Our guide really made that part of the experience incredible - she sort of prepared us for the sculpture by speaking about Michaelangelo's life and his belief that each piece of stone was divinely inspired and that he, as an artist, was God's tool for helping the creation to come alive. We weren't able to take photos of the statue, but it was absolutely incredible - so detailed and intricate. I'll never forget turning the corner and seeing the David sculpture under spotlights! It was definitely a "wow" moment for all of us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jessica's Visit {Part I}

Jess and Eva with Como in the background - taken from Brunate.
We have been so, so blessed to have lots of visits from family while we're living in Como. It has been neat to show everyone around our temporary home, as well as travel throughout Italy together. During November, my sister, Jessica was able to match up a trip here with her break from dental school - and it was so much fun having her visit! During her stay, we took the train into Milan, as well as Florence and Rome. We also hosted an American-style Thanksgiving dinner for our Italian friends and couldn't have pulled it off without her help! Neither of us had ever cooked food for that many people before, what an incredible challenge! It was a great way to end her visit. More on that later... here are a few photos from Milan.

In front of the Duomo in Milan!
Eva warmed up to Aunt Jessi pretty quickly and it wasn't long before Jess was teaching her to growl. Yep. You read that right. I'm sure it's only the first in a long line of... "Who taught you that? ... Of course it was your Aunt Jessi." :)

Jess in front of the Duomo.

Another picture in front of Milan's cathedral! 
Jess bought tickets to see Da Vinci's The Last Supper while we were in Milan, so that was a real treat! Unfortunately, we weren't able to to take any photos in the climate-controlled room where the painting is stored because it's deteriorating rapidly and they're doing everything possible to preserve it. Seeing the painting was amazing - and something we hadn't yet been able to do, so it was awesome to get a chance.

The REAL reason  Jess came to Italy. Alone time with her niece! :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fiesta Bowl

While we were "home" for Christmas, I didn't have a chance to do much blogging - so I wanted to backtrack and add a few entries about some fun times in December! One awesome Christmas gift this year was tickets to the Fiesta Bowl Game from my parents! This was everybody's first bowl game, so it was a special treat for all of us to be able to go. The whole environment surrounding the bowl game was exciting. Cole and I had missed an awesome season - we hold season tickets and usually get to see all of the home games, so we were especially excited to see the Wildcats play! We had an awesome time in Phoenix - we got to stay with Jess, see family we hadn't seen in a long time and enjoy the warm weather. We had great seats at the game. Only a Wildcat win would have made the trip better! ;) Here are some fun pictures from our time in Arizona!

All dolled up and ready to cheer on the Wildcats!
Lots of sunshine made us happy!! 
Auntie Jess with Eva.

Almost game time!
Say cheese! :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Back Blogged

We're back in Como! We reached Milan around noon today and took a nap as soon as we got home - a six hour nap. Probably not the best idea for getting Eva's internal clock back on schedule... but we were so. tired. After a long journey, it's 3:30 a.m. here and Eva is wide-eyed and full of giggles. Somehow, Mommy is hilarious this time of night... I just can't force her to sleep any longer. So I'm up with her, trying to help her burn some energy and get her back to bed. 

I've fallen so far behind with my blog over the past few months. Definitely need to write a few posts and "catch up" on some great memories from this fall. Our trip back to the States was fast and furious - and fantastic, too. It felt so good to spend time with family and celebrate Christmas at home! The trip back flew by, but somehow walking into our apartment, it felt like we hadn't been here for years. It definitely made me realize that the second half of our time here will fly by - and someday all of this will feel like a distant memory. So my New Year's resolution - and I'm not normally one for making resolutions - is to live in the moment. And to enjoy the remainder of this trip to the fullest! Shouldn't those be resolutions we all have - for life? 

So many people asked us how our time in Italy has been going... and we would be lying to say, "Fabulous!" But it's also hard to honestly explain the challenges we've had without sounding ungrateful. I know there are those who think we're just "living it up" over the pond. I guess the grass is always greener... The truth is, Cole goes to work everyday and Eva and I stay put... which is, of course, an enormous blessing and also provides me with great challenges, too. Like communicating with those around me only in simple terms, usually. It's hard to make new friends when you can barely have a conversation. Also, not having TV (that I understand) or a microwave or a drier, never having a babysitter. Not to mention the dramatic life-changes I faced right before leaving (no longer working, leaving friends behind, pausing my Premier business and the biggie - becoming a mom!). All of that (and more) has combined to leave me feeling sort of overwhelmed and probably even a tad depressed at times. But enough of the negative.

All of that being said, we recognize that this experience is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's been more than amazing to travel to places we would never otherwise see... truly incredible. I know I have let the challenges overwhelm me more than they should have. And I think Cole would say the same for himself. So I am resolving to stop feeling so paralyzed by any difficulties we've faced, and to enjoy the remainder of our time here to the fullest. And to put this little stinker to bed!