Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 19, 2009

So we slept late, which was great! On tap for today was our wine tasting tour, so we took a short bus ride half an hour outside the city to the Frascati region and the Pallavicini Estate. The scenery was just amazing.

We of course toured the wine cellar, and got to see the giant barrels, and learned all about wine making (add that to my knoweldge from Napa....)

Finally we tasted 3 types of wine: Frascati, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvigon, along with olive oil that is made at the estate.

Yeah for Italian wine! I only came home with two bottles of the Frascati (a light, crisp white) and two bottles of olive oil. It was all my suitcase could hold!

November 18, 2009

Had to get up super early this morning, because we wanted a good seat/spot to see the Pope at the Papal Audience. The audience was held inside in the audience hall, which was nice because it meant we got to sit down, and there wasn't any real pushing or shoving. It also meant I didn't have to be as worried about pick pockets in St. Peter's Square.

Here we are awaiting Pope Benedict XVI:

I have to say, I love the Pope's red shoes.

The Papal Audience was sort of interesting. They did everything in 6 languages, which made it sort of long, and supposedly at some point the Pope blessed any religious articles that we brought with us (although I really have no idea when this happened), I got to hear the Pope speak about art enhancing the religious experience, and we said the Our Father in Latin. All in all not too bad, and glad I had that experience.

After the Papal Audience, we decided to go into St. Peter's, mostly because I wanted my mom and sister to be able to spend some time in there rather than rushing around during our tour that was scheduled for Friday. On the way we passed the Swiss Guard...

I love their uniforms.

Inside St. Peter's is probably my favorite piece of religious art, Michelangelo's La Pieta. I could stare for hours.

Of course St. Peter's is gorgeous and every inch is amazing beyond belief, but I'll save some of those pictures for tour day. What I did find cool, was the body of Pope John XXIII. Which is on display, because it is believed he may be incorruptable, and as such not decompose, and be on the path to canonization (sainthood). His body has only been in this case since 2000, when he was beatified. Prior to that he was buried in the Vatican grottoes since 1963.

Before we took a break for lunch, I had to mail a postcard home from the Vatican post-office given that is its own country.

After lunch, it was over to the Vatican Museum, because even though we had a tour planned, you need much more time than a few hours. Here are some of my favorite paintings of angels.

Here is the security guard, Roberto, trying really hard to pick up my sister. It was quite funny.

But Roberto was not a complete waste of time, he did open up the ropes to one of the balconies so that we could get this picture:

After a long day, I love how St. Peter's looks at night.

November 17, 2009

Day 2, and it was time for a history lesson, but first up... a cappucino...

Ah, that is much better, and espresso in Italy is the best espresso in the world.
Now on to the Colosseum:

Our guide happened to be an archeologist, so that was kind of cool. I didn't feel as overwhelmed by spirits as I did the last time I was in the Colosseum, but I am still in awe of the size and complexity.

After the Colosseum, it was on to Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum:

Our history walk was nice, and it finished up early which gave us time to explore.

We went in St. Agnes en Agonne Church, which had some really nice carvings/sculptures.

Then we took a run over to St. Susana Church to pick up our Papal audience tickets for Wednesday morning:

And while we were there, we ran across the street to Santa Maria della Vittoria Church. You know, the altar of fire from "Angels and Demons". I was dying to see the Bernini statue Ecstacy of St. Theresa in person. I am still not 100% sure I agree her expression shows ecstacy, but in her writing about the dream that inspired this statue, she did say the ecstacy was pain, so maybe that explains it.

Also in this church is the body of St. Victoria, un-decomposed. Kind of creepy and cool all at the same time.

Finally dinner at Monte Carlo, a pizza place, with some of the best super thin crust pizza I have ever had.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

November 16, 2009

Flight landed in Rome at 8:20 am. Doesn't my mom look excited?

Of course there was no time to waste, there is just so much to do. So after we checked into our hotel and had some breakfast and cappucino, it was off to our first tour (I have a thing about doing tours, I like to learn about what I am seeing). It was called Crypts and Catacombs.

The tour meet at the Piazza Barberini, which of course has a fountain, and like good tourists, here we are in front of it.

Now the funny part is that as we were standing by the fountain talking to our tour guide, Daniela, about where we were from, some random girl leans over and says, "Where in Connecticut are you from? I'm from Bristol". Small world.

First stop on the tour was the San Callisto Catacombs (ancient Christian burial ground). This is of course a sacred place, and there are no pictures allowed, but here we are at the enterance before our descent:

The catacombs were pretty cool, I was surprised by how well they were designed. Who knew ancient Christians thought about acoustics?

Next stop was the Church of San Clemente (built over an ancient fourth century church built over an even older Roman house containing Christian artifacts and a pagan temple -- with ruins reaching 57 feet deep). Again, no pictures allowed, which sort of stunk. But it was pretty cool to keep going down flights of steps and into the past. I find it funny that Roman's say the city is a lasagna, it just kept being rebuilt upon itself, layer for layer.

The final stop was the The Cappuccini Crypt. Here is the Cappucin Order's crest. It is two arms one with a cloak representing St. Francis of Assisi and one naked, representing Jesus.

The Cappuccini Crypt is built within a church, and has several chapels decorated entirely by human bones. The story goes that the Cappucin brothers were originally located at one church, and then some rich person donated them land for a new church. Not wanting to leave their brothers behind, they took all the remains with them. One brother had too much time on his hands, and 4,000 human bones, so he decorated a bunch of chapels with them. Again, a sacred place so I couldn't take pictures, but take my word for it, it was gross. Particularly gross was the Altar of the Pelvises, made entirely out of pelvic bones. Eww. But, if you get a chance, check it out.

After our tour it was of course time to explore a little, walk around, and get some dinner, so we hopped on a city bus to take us from the Piazza Barberini to the Largo Argentina in the center of Rome. And what wandering would be complete without a trip to the Piazza Navona?

The largest of the two fountains is called the Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is also the Altar of Water in one of my favorite novels, "Angels and Demons".

The second fountain in the Piazza is the Fountain of Neptune, designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1574.

After we wandered around for about 45 minutes, in what I swear was a giant "s", we finally found the restaurant we planned to eat dinner at. Thank you Dad for teaching me to read and follow a map, which was actually quite handy once I started to use it.

I love the wine and prosecco on the table. Nothing like Italian wine in Italy.

November 15, 2009

Our flight was at 5:45 at night. I love overnight flights, because I swear if you sleep on them, you have less jet lag.

Here we are all seated and ready to go!

I made sure everyone had eye masks, because you can't sleep on a plane without them. Doesn't she look cute!

Almost there!

November 14, 2009

I should have taken a picture of my half empty suitcase. You all would have been proud, but I didn't. Sorry

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It's Thanksgiving, the quintessential holiday where everyone gives thanks. This year has been an amazing year, and I am thankful and blessed for it. I am thankful for, in no particular order:

My amazing husband, who makes life worth it

My family, who drive me nuts but make everything exciting

Our jobs, we were lucky to keep them this year

My parents dog, Smokey

My amazing group of friends, both internet and real life - without you I would be nothing

For reconnecting with old friends

For all of the beautiful babies my friends had this year, a true blessing

For the ability to make my life what I want it to be

For a special friend, who reminded me of the woman I once was and can still be

For everytime I get a chance to smile

And for blessings in disguise

~Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I am blessed (Rome part 1)

I am blogging from my hotel room in Rome. Where I am spending a week with my mom and sister. I am truly blessed to have this time. I am blessed that the finances worked out, I am blessed to be able to give my mom and sister this gift, I am blessed because the weather has been beyond fantastic, and I am blessed to get to experience things like the weekly Papal audience. We had some quiet prayer time in St. Peter's today, and it was very nice and deeply moving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 8 - 13, 2009

Not a single picture this week, but I promise to supplement when I get back from Rome. There will be far too many pictures on those days.

In the mean time, I have had these three songs in my head since Tuesday night.

"Body Language" - Jesse McCartney
"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
"Meet Me Halfway" - Black Eyed Peas

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it

This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.
It is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed. Here goes...


My father never drove a car. Well, that's not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car.

He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

"In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in: "Oh, bull----!" she said. "He hit a horse."

"Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars -- the Kollingses next door had a green 1941Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth , the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford -- but we had none.

My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines , wou ld take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home.. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. "No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that.

But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one." It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

But, sure enough , my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown.

It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it didn't make sense to my mother.

So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying more than once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps -- though they seldom left the city limits -- and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage.

(Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)

He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.

If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I'd stop by, he'd explain: "The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored."

If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out -- and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"

"I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

"No left turns," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."

"What?" I said again.

"No left turns," he said. "Think about it.. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer.. So we always make three rights."

"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support. "No," she said, "your father is right.. We make three rights. It works." But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

"Loses count?" I asked.

"Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.

"No," he said " If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week." My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90.

She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.

They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom -- the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.

A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred." At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."

"You're probably right," I said.

"Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.

"Because you're 102 years old," I said.

"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day.

That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.

He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said: "I would like to make an announcement.. No one in this room is dead yet"

An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, Or because he quit taking left turns. "

Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one's who don't. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance,take it & if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover - Sophie B. Hawkins

I love the song, "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover", but I cannot hear it without thinking about the scene on the original version of Beverly Hills 90210, with Kelly and Dylan in the beach house, when they finally realized that they could no longer stand to be apart.

This song came on the 90s on 9 channel on Sirius the other day, and I remembered that there is one verse that I never quite understood..

"Damn I wish I was your lover
I'll rock you till the daylight comes
Make sure you are smiling and warm
I am everything
Tonight I'll be your mother
I'll do such things to ease your pain
Free your mind and you won't feel ashamed
For me there is no other
You're the only shoe that fits
I can't imagine I'll grow out of it
Damn I wish I was your lover"

I don't know, the reference to being your mother just plain creeps me out. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way or has the same memory?

November 07, 2009

Time for a visit to the hairdresser.... too bad she didn't have a sink. I know, a hair dreser without a sink just seems wrong, well, in fact, it is.

My hairdresser is building out her salon in the basement of her house, and the plumber can't seem to get the sink installation right. So I got sent home looking like this:

That's right folks, it was like a more expensive version of a home coloring. LOL.

What do you think?

November 06, 2009

This is what is left of my summer garden. Sort of depressing isn't it?

November 05, 2009

Met up with a friend for dinner. She told me the great news that she is pregnant and due in March! How exciting!

November 04, 2009

I thought this reflection was really cool. I love the city of Boston.

November 03, 2009

The recipe for a fun night:

A bottle of wine (or 3...)

Some pizza:

One iTunes library:

Add a great friend and some good conversation, and you have the makings for a great evening. Thanks. You know who you are.

It's November and feel like I should post something every day...

although that might be a challenge with my upcoming trip to Rome, but today I am thankful for my sister. She came to stay the weekend, and we had a great time. Friday night we went to a dinner theater event at WCSU, Saturday we just chilled, and today she took some of my stress away by working out some of the detail planning for our trip to Rome! She is amazing and I love her!

Monday, November 2, 2009

You would think...

since it has been a month since my last post that I am not thankful for much, which is really not true. I have been going through a sort of "down streak" lately, but I have been trying to see the good and positive in every day. For example, I am thankful I get up each morning and have a whole day to live and I am thankful for my amazing Hubs who tries really hard to make me smile every day. Today it is really about the little things, but even though I am not so great about blogging it lately, I am thankful.

November 01, 2009

Got to see my roommate's kids today. They are getting big and so cute!

Future love interests?

This one passed out on the couch watching his favorite movie, Cars. Apparently this is what happens when you don't nap for 4 days in a row.

And here is the newest addition, what a cutie!