Italy Part IV

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More hills.  It was never ending.  This particular hill was watched over by the Black Madonna.  She watched over a short but fierce one.  We again didn’t stop because I just couldn’t.  It was intense.

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Our final destination on this final full day of biking was a castle and a picnic.

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We also got a little tour of their wine making processes and cellar.

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Our guides and the picnic they put together!

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Then we had our final dinner as a group.  There was maybe a bit too much wine and grappa involved, but it was so fun and such a great way to end the week with a great group of people.

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This is not my best picture, but there’s a story here.  Earlier in the week one of our companions asked what our last dinners would be if we were on death row.  It’s a go-to question of hers.  She’s asked it for years at all kinds of occasions.  It turns out I’m the first person to ponder how I got into the prison to have this death row meal before even considering my meal.  This seemed like an important detail to my answer.  I wanted to be able to hijack a really expensive car with a gun with Sean as a sidekick (he’d be needed to drive it since he can drive a stick and I can’t).  I wanted to have some fun without killing anyone to get to death row.  We all decided that the only way to get on death row was to actually commit a murder.  At our last dinner of our trip, there was an art exhibit in the building behind our table.  A few people went in and told me they had found my perfect weapon, so here I am trying look scary with my perfect weapon.  Sean and I decided both of our last meals would be Second Date Salmon (so glad I explained that before this trip so I could link it!).  And this almost doesn’t seem funny given some of the particulars, but it was fun at the time and a fun memory.

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Sean and I had two nights together in Turin before our trip officially ended.  Here’s my best picture of Turin, which is a great and interesting city that we really enjoyed.  Italy, such a good time and so needed in our lives.  More importantly though, unlike when we returned from France I was ready to be home.  I didn’t wish I was back in Italy at all.  I was 100% happy to be back.  And that was the best part of all.  That we got the break we needed as parents and partners and were just so delighted to be back with our sweet children as soon as we returned.  Thank you Italy and Rich and Beth!

There’s maybe a travel video coming, but I’m having the hardest time with music!

Parts I and II and III, if you missed them.

Italy Part III

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This bike trip through Italy was very fun and very satisfying, but so so hilly.  And much hotter than we expected.  We did a good job of keeping a positive attitude throughout, but the hills and the heat did get to you after awhile.  We were starting to feel it on our 4th day.  We made it to Barbaresco, where we stopped for just a bit before lunch.

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And here we have the church of wine!  Of course it started as a real church, but now contains all things wine.

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One of the big differences between our French trip and this trip were the group dynamics.  Group dynamics were exhausting on the last trip, although we did meet a family we really clicked with.  But this trip the overall dynamics were great!  And the particular group pictured here, we really enjoyed!

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After Barbaresco we stopped in Nieve for lunch on our own.  Sean and I decided we were done for that day.  It was hot, the hills were hard, we were going to enjoy our lunch and shuttle back for a massage.  Lunch was great.  While we’d been loving the food, Sean was craving a big plate of pasta and he got the perfect thing to fill that craving here.  And we had a really great conversation about our lives as a family and together.  So between the pasta and the conversation, it was a really satisfying lunch!  And then we got our couples massage and we didn’t regret taking the afternoon off from biking at all!

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Before dinner we took our Aperol Sprintzes to the chess room for a friendly game.

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We did not officially finish the game, but we got pretty close.  Sean declared me the winner.  I can’t decide if he was being nice, but I did have the upper hand when we stopped playing.  I view Sean as a strategic master, so I’m pretty proud of myself.

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Then dinner was outside again (the evenings were perfect even though the days were hot) with a beautiful sunset.  And this is one of my favorite pictures of us.  Although I got slack from everyone that I’m still carrying around this relic of a camera to take pictures when my iPhone X takes pictures that are just as good if not better….

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Here’s the iPhone version of the picture trying to prove the point.  Okay, fine.  I will probably stop using my relic camera.  I guess it is hard to deny that because I don’t understand my camera settings the color is far better in the iPhone version.

Last days of our trip coming up.  If you missed them, here are Parts I and II.

Italy Part II

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On the 3rd day of biking we did this massive climb pretty early in our day.  It was so steep and it went on seemingly forever.  But we did it!  Sean and I!  We did the whole thing and never stopped once!  We were going 3 miles an hour but we did it.  Now, I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been a success overall to have accomplished this climb even if you did stop.  But I just don’t get back on my bike very well, so the thought of getting back on was enough to make me not want to stop.  I’m just not skilled at it.  To the point it caused traffic slow downs at least once or twice and I know those Italian drivers were cursing me.  Anyway, others did make it up themselves, but not everyone, and I’m super proud of us for conquering it.

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Here we are with the road we came into town on.  But of course it doesn’t look like any kind of hill at all there.

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I know this is a lot of pictures of us but this one is funny.  Our group picked a stopping point that was also clearly part of the daily ritual of an older Italian gentleman.  He wasn’t giving his spot up for us.  When I asked someone to have our picture taken, he was very insistent that we wanted this angle because of the view instead.  I’m glad we got both views because my head is blocking what he meant and so we’re stuck with a bunch of cars here.  But he and his opinions about our group were funny.  I think some direction about how to fill bottles with water were also given (luckily our tour guides spoke Italian).

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Then we biked into the town of Barolo, where a group of us tasted some wines before our lunch.  We were able to talk to the winemaker at lunch, and that was the highlight of learning for this trip.

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Then back to our hotel for an Aperol Spritz before dinner.  It became our tradition to get ready for dinner a little early so we could have one before heading out with the group.  I found out about Aperol Sprtiz right before we left from my Instagram feed.  I’m so glad I did because what a perfect summer drink.  Luckily Aperol is easy enough to get here and we’ve already made a few of these for ourselves at home.

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We were in Alba for dinner on our own this night.  There were so many surprising things I learned about this part of Italy on this trip.  For instance Alba is the capital of Nutella and Kinder Eggs!  Sean suggested we get pizza and although it was high on my list of things to have before leaving Italy, I wasn’t initially thrilled by this idea.   But this pizza was the best!  We didn’t eat with them, but others from our group also made it over to this pizza place, and we all agreed it was some of the best pizza.

Up next, a church of wine and…more hills.

PS – Part I here.

 

Italy! Part I

In June, Sean and I left the kids at home (thanks, Rich and Beth!) and took a bike trip to Italy.  Same company and same idea as our trip to France a few years ago.  And like that trip, it was so great!  We hadn’t taken a vacation in 2 years.  We could feel the lack of a break and we can feel the difference in how life feels after getting a break.

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We went to Piedmont, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is in the Northwestern part of the country.  The draw for us was the wine.  This region produces Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and we were hoping to learn more about both.  We didn’t really.  This trip was structured differently than the last and teaching about wine wasn’t the focus.  But we tasted plenty!  I still felt we walked away with a good enough wine experience, even if we aren’t quite as knowledgeable as we were leaving Burgundy.  Plus, the trip itself was still so great.

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Before meeting up with our biking group we had a night to ourselves.  We stayed in a castle!  Sean’s dream.  Give that man any castle feature – a turret, a moat, a tall tower – and he’s happy.  It was a very fun hotel.  We wished we had two nights there, especially since we did not really sleep on the plane ride over and took a giant nap shortly after arriving.

The next day we got to biking!

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Although these pictures are really from our second day.  We biked through the Langhe Hills for this trip.  These vines here are for making Dolcetto.  I had never heard of Dolcetto wine before this trip, and I’m a big fan!  It’s a very easy drinking wine.  In the places in this region where you can’t plant the grapes that will become Barolo and Barbaresco wines, they plant these grapes for Dolcetto.  (One of the things I’m not clear about after leaving Italy are what the grape names are.  The grapes are not called Barolo and Dolcetto and Barbaresco, they have different names like Nebbiolo and Barbera.  I’m not always clear on which grapes are making which wines.)

The first day is always an easy biking day.  After Day 2 we quickly realized that we were in for some really serious climbs this trip.

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Serious climbs that did make for some pretty serious views, though!

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The food on this trip was so, so good!  So many delicious salads and breads and vegetables.  Not pictured here because I didn’t think I’d like it, is the Bergera salad.  I ended up trying some of Sean’s at this lunch and I never skipped it again!  So delicious.

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We had a truffle demonstration before dinner.  This region is also known for truffles.  The truffles we found were planted by the truffle hunter in advance, but it was still fun to hear him talk about the process and see how his dog found them (because she didn’t exactly know where they were…only the truffle hunter did).  Even more fun though, we got to have these ones from the demonstration on our dinner that night!

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And watching the sunset over those hills as we ate was just beautiful!  A perfect way to end this second day.  More to come from Itay!

41 Weeks

Madeline says boo! When we pull out the peekaboo type books – Dear Zoo, Pat the Bunny, and other flip-the-flap books – she says “boo” and gets so excited! It’s so much fun! It’s the first time that I have felt a real that’s-so-amazing-you’re-doing-that! moment with Madeline. I mentioned before that so many of the milestones I have seen before. It’s a little less amazing the second time around. But this one amazes me!

Much less fun was a little temper tantrum she had. I moved her away from an electrical cord and she really flipped. I was surprised by how long it went on….and worried… aren’t we a little early on this front, Madeline?

July 4th

How was your 4th? Ours was very quiet and I’m still going to write this post as a holiday post, but it was more just like a regular weekend night over here.

Sean made burgers for our July 4th feast. He grinds his own meat and for this burger we have ribs, hanger steak, and veal. If you have the time and desire to grind your own meat I highly recommend it! It makes a big difference.

And while he did that the rest of us were playing chase and investigating boxes….

fishing off the stairs….

(Do you see Madeline trying to climb up the stairs down there?! Yeah, we need to find that baby gate again.)

and building pirate ships/voyager boats (voyager as in Moana).

This was the first day of Madeline’s Hand Foot and Mouth, although I didn’t realize it was Hand Foot and Mouth. We thought it was a fever and some other rash. It always amazes me how curious and active socks kids can be. We had initially intended for everyone to have burgers, but because of her fever Madeline went to bed and we had burgers with just Wes.

I had meant to make a cherry pie for the 4th, but it didn’t work out. I’ll keep it short but between cutting my finger while making my first round of pie dough and a sick kid, the pie didn’t happen until Friday.

Pie crust is something I would really like to master. I did okay this time but added too much water. And obviously burnt my crust. We used these canned cherries and are a favorite among Sean’s family and you can’t get here on the East Coast, so Rich and Beth brought some to us!

Sean and I want to start a social media network called “Instagross” where people post their real life pictures of the burnt crusts and sloppy plating. I love the inspiration I can get on Instagram but am so tired of the perfection. Just post some burnt crushes already! I should probably just get off of it, huh?

Anyway, happy belated 4th! Hope you saw some fireworks! I think we are still many years away from going to see fireworks, but that is something I look forward to. I’ll just keep practicing my pie crust until then.

40 Weeks

40 weeksMadeline had Hand Foot and Mouth Disease for most of her 40th week. She still has it now but it’s getting better. This is our first experience with this disease and it seems like no fun at all. Madeline has certainly been fussier and had two rough nights of sleep early in her sickness, but otherwise has been a trooper.

Because of her sickness we had to cancel lots of things. And so instead of running around we had lots of quiet time at home. This sometimes drives me a little crazy but I tried to just enjoy Madeline and 9 months. The little noises and how she’s figuring out how to pick up different shaped objects. It’s hard work!  My favorite is when you ask her a question and her “ba” or “da” ends up sounding like a “ya” just at the right time.

Hot Sunday Night

It’s hot! Hot to point where we have heat advisories and “hazardous to be outside” alerts. Is it hot where you are too? On Sunday we got out the sprinkler to cool off and still be outside and at home.

Madeline was such a trooper here! She sat at the edge of the sprinkler for awhile watching Wes and feeling the sprinkles. She didn’t last that long, but a lot longer than I expected.

I bought these quick fill water balloons (I think I found my one package at Target, but I linked what I could find on Amazon, in case you’re curious). I somehow grabbed the bunch without the tag letting you know a smooth surface for their landing is critical. So note that if you make this purchase.

At least we knew for the second round. It was fun! Wes loved it. He’s never played with water balloons before. I would do this again, but what a mess! It’s fascinating to get the parent experience on these magical childhood moments. I loved water balloons. Thank you mom and dad for cleaning up my water balloon messes.

We finished the night with tacos! I love Sean’s tacos. (You guys have to check out these sweet posts from 2013 and 2014 about our adventures in tacos! Oh my gosh! One day when I have more time I need to read more about our newly married, pre-baby lives.)

Do you see Madeline?! She has a crude pincer grasp. She can eat small things. She is getting so big. She’s going to college tomorrow! Sometimes it’s too bad that I’m not a baby person because I wish for babies to get to about this point and then they get to this point and I don’t wish them to be little but I can’t believe how big they are. It’s curious.

Anyway, this Sunday evening was a nice end to our hit weekend.

37-39 weeks

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We’re having a good run with Madeline and as a family of 4 these days.  She’s pulling up and chatting and so smiley.  She’s got 6 teeth!  Sometimes in the past when I’ve seen her do something I saw baby Wes doing I’d think, oh you’ve reached that point and we’re hitting that milestone.  Okay check, what’s next?  I didn’t really delight in it before.  But these days, seeing her make certain faces and doing certain things I’m able to think about fondly on Wes and enjoy Madeline’s moment in the same phase.  I’m starting to feel more bonded to her and less obligated.  I went through the same thing with Wes for the first little while and it’s nice to be coming out of it.