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Archive for September, 2010

Francesca’s families meet!

We are back from an unforgettable vacanza in Italia. I think we out did ourselves this time around. Every moment spent in the bel paese was amazing and absolutely delightful. What made this trip especially memorable however, is that this time we were greeted by friends and yes, family, every step of the way!

Our first stop was Roma where we over came jet lag by walking miles and miles through fashionable city streets, hiking up and down the ancient paths through the Roman forum, as well as the quaint back streets of la trastevere. In Rome we spent an afternoon with Sandy and Gio (sister and brother-in-law to Vic and Jenny, our good friends back home who were taking care of the kids for us during our absence) who live in Rocca Priora. They showed us the outskirts of Rome and gave us a grand tour of Roma by night.

We had a few romantic days alone in Tuscany in San Quirico in Val d’Orcia where we celebrated Pat’s birthday. We drove through the hills and valleys, getting lost and found over and over again. It was truly an idyllic time spent together soaking up the Tuscan sun.

In Umbria we had a fabulous day with new friends at the Casa di Cioccolato Perugina in Perugia. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to us and spent an amazing time with the master chef learning to create chocolate truffles. In Umbria we also got to meet many Facebook friends in person. We lodged with Letizia and Ruurd at the Madonna del Piatto and enjoyed a breath taking view of Assisi from our bedroom window. We had a delightful lunch with Rebecca from Brigolante Guest Apartments, and then spent an afternoon in the company of Giselle and Mark Stafford of Gusto Umbrian Wine Tours visiting vineyards and sampling wines. Later that night we enjoyed a party “Umbrian” style in the home of Gis and Mark and met Gabriele and Federica, Letizia and Ruurd and Helen Yuen! Facebook rules! Truly an amazing time spent with wonderfully interesting people.

Then we were on the road again headed to Garda and Bardolino to finish the remainder of our stay with my “sister” Rossella and her husband Massimo Balestrini and their 7 year old son Davide! Our long weekend with the Balestrini’s was comfortable and relaxed as time is when spent in the company of loved ones. We enjoyed long drawn out dinners, hours of great conversation and of course lots of singing and laughing and wine tasting well into the wee hours of the night!

Certainly however, a highlight of the trip for both Pat and myself was meeting Francesca’s family. The familia Mirabile made the long journey from Locorotondo in Puglia, not only to bring Graziana, France’s sister back to university, but to also meet us! How exciting, on our last Saturday in Rome, to step out of our hotel to find the entire Mirabile familia waiting for us across the street. The endearing group consisted of Vittorio, France’s thoughtful and delightful dad; Tonia, her quiet and reserved mom; Roby, France’s mischievous little brother; and of course the engaging and dynamic Graziana, France’s older sister. After an emotional greeting, complete with hugs and cheers, we were swept down the street to a small Neopolitan restaurant where we enjoyed a typically huge Italian lunch of aperitifs, antipasta and primi piatti. Pat positioned himself next to Graziana who speaks English and I sat in the middle and carried on animated conversations with the rest who do not speak any English, translating for Pat as we went along. We exchanged stories and became, well, we became family that day, bound by our love for Francesca!

As always, returning home after a trip to Italia is extremely difficult for me. The time vola via…it flies away so quickly and before you know it we are back where we started from. However, we are changed. We carry a part of Italy, everything that we saw, tasted and touched, back home with us. The memories that we created and the people that we met are with us for ever. Trips are like that. They may end, but they continue to live and give back even years later. We are better for having gone away and lived a different life, if only for a brief while. As my friend Mark said so well…it is better to have been and returned, than never to have been at all! So true. And this time, I come home with a little more Italy under my skin, a little more confident about my language skills and with a whole new family to call my own! And the best part…a little bit of Italy lives here under my roof and that makes coming home even more wonderful!

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One, two, three strikes your out at the ‘ol ball game! Too bad the Oakland A’s put that into practice one too many times and lost to the Boston Red Socks last Sunday, the day we took Francesca to her first American Baseball game. But, you win some, and you lose some! Better luck next time A’s. As for us, we enjoyed a day at the ball park in comfort, having been invited by the Kaye’s to sit in their VIP club box.

What a well appointed place it was too, complete with comfy seats, air conditioning and well stocked with hot dogs, wine, beer and Pepsis! I felt I was seated in first class, ready for take off. And what a view! We had a bird’s eye view right behind home plate. Of course a lot of this was lost on me, being the big baseball fan that I am…but still I can appreciate a baseball game if I must, seated in these idyllic surroundings! Francesca, I must confess, while she enjoyed the whole “baseball is the ultimate American sport” and “as American as Apple Pie” idea, she found the game in reality to be a bit “noioso” (boring) but quickly added “noiosamente rilassante” (boringly relaxing). It did however give her plenty of time to reflect upon her whole American experience (she has now been with us a total of 4 weeks and hasn’t asked once for a return ticket home), while nodding in her seat trying not to fall asleep.

While she might not have learned the subtleties of the game, like what is a”ground rule double”, or what an “in-field fly” is, she did marvel at the fact that Americans will risk life and limb to catch fly balls that wing up into the stands and nearly clock people on their heads. She got into the spirit and wore Ricky Henderson’s jersey, that Jenny (a die hard A’s fan) had lent to her just for the occasion. Not quite sure she is a die hard fan herself at this point…but she has gotten her first taste of the American pie and will have many more slices served up to her when Little League starts in the spring and her new little American brother starts playing again. Poor girl! Don’t have the heart to tell her that there are no club boxes in Warm Springs Little League…just nice, hard metal benches. Plenty of time yet to break the news.

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Labor of Love

Last week the kids started school on Wednesday. Yeah! But, after a grueling week, which consisted of just TWO AND A HALF days (!) the kids were all back home again for the long three day Labor day weekend. Just when I thought they were out the door and we were all good to go and had our groove on…there they were all back staring at me & looking kind of hungry again …and our fantastic new beginning came to a screeching halt! Ah, well. There is something nice to be said for turning off the alarm clock and sleeping in late for another three days.

So what did we do last Labor Day weekend? Let’s see. For starters we got hooked on Glee. We started watching on Friday night and have been watching episodes every night. (You have to love HULU!) We have started with the first season and it seems to be a hit with the teens, as well as the adults. (Of course we can’t watch a show with out enjoying the obligatory bowl of ice cream before hand! )

Sunday we celebrated Labor day with a casual barbeque with some of our nearest and dearest friends. Everyone got very creative and labored in their kitchens before hand, turning our impromptu meal into a veritable feast for kings. There were smoked barbeque ribs that Mark R. laboured over for six whole hours. There were scallops that Mike P. lovingly grilled to perfection. There were pasta salads, muffins, grilled asparagus, fruit salads and grilled pineapple to boot! We were stuffed after just sampling the appetizers. But, of course, that didn’t stop us from moving on to the bratwurts, the smoked salmon and of course…said BBQ ribs. As darkness fell, we started up the fire pit and made s’mores, drank some wine and regaled each other with stories and jokes, while the teens played basketball and/or watched Napoleon Dynamite on the tube. Good day, late night and all in all a great Labor Day weekend…and as with every American holiday, always better when passed in the company of good friends!

(p.s. next morning we all slept in REALLY late…gotta love those three day weekends!)

(p.p.s. kids are back in school and we have our groove on again!!)

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First day of school!

The much anticipated first day of school is finally here! The kids were up early, (6am to be exact) and anxious to get the day started. That is, Francesca and Kyle were fired up and a little bit apprehensive about the day ahead, after all, today they both start new schools. Kyle is attending 7th grade at Horner Jr. High and Francesca starts her new Senior life at an American high school. For Michael, who is starting his fourth year at Irvington, today was not that big of a deal…just like falling off a log! Been there done that! But, that is just as it should be. He is a big man on campus now…Seniors rule the school and all! He is such a good guy and will be a big help getting Francesca to and from school and helping her settle into the school routine. Before going to bed last night, the kids were plotting what time they should wake up this morning, who should take their shower first and what time they should get to school in order to beat the usual first day pedestrian and traffic jams!

Francesca is taking a full load of classes which will include: Precal, American Government, Physics, English, Cooking and Journalism. She and Michael will share many of the same classes, but unfortunately they will be attending them at different periods of the day. At least they can help each other with homework! The American school system is very different from the Italian system. In Italy high school lasts for five years, so even though the goal is for Francesca to graduate with the Irvington class of 2011, when she returns to Italy next year she will still have one more year of Italian Liceo to finish!

So, after the annual obligatory “Muldoon-kids-first-day-of-school” pictures on the front porch, everyone was off to their respective schools…and I was off to celebrate the start of a new school year at Mission Coffee with my girl friends. We toasted our kids with brimming cups of cappuccino, chatted about car pools, teachers, homework and the fact that our kids are growing up way too fast. Sigh! It seems like yesterday that Kyle and Michael were kindergartners… and just look at Francesca! Seems just like yesterday she stepped off a plane from Italy… and now look at her! A senior at Irvington! 😉

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