Thursday, December 20, 2007

School Christmas Program







I've put up a little Youtube video of the kids singing and here are a couple of pictures. I've seen a lot of these Christmas programs over the years and these here are pretty typical of the ones in the US.

Life in Italy

What is it like living here. Maybe I should write a little about our life in general here, and also compare it to how our life was in the US. To a great degree it's not so different. In part because the daily routine wherever one lives has certain common elements, kids off to school, work, preparing meals, making order in the home, etc. One major difference here from San Diego of course is the weather. There the temperature did not vary that much from month to month but here of course it does, we have real seasons here. Another big difference is the amount of time we spend in the car. We have carried some of our California habits with us, so we tend to take the car and go to the grocery store for example that is 10 minutes away where they have a bigger selections and lower prices than the store we can walk to. And we buy for a week rather than going every day like Luisa's mom does. However, even so a tank of gas lasts us 2 or 3 weeks at least where as on our recent trip to San Diego we filled up the gas tank 4 times in two weeks.

Where we live the city, Belluno, is nice but it is not one of the prettiest of Italian cities. What makes it beautiful here are the surroundings, we are surrounded by mountains, forests, rivers and beautiful valleys. In every direction from here there are lots of outdoor activities. Of course in Winter the sport is skiing.

I will make this a bit of a running commentary, so I'll write more later.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Web Site Hijacked

My domain name northeastitaly.com got hijacked, stolen as far as I'm concerned. Maybe the time for renewal was up but I did not get a notice and now I find out that someone else owns the name. I'm guessing people do this as a business. They watch names ready to expire and jump on them hoping the owner will want to buy it back at a much higher price. Well I was thinking it might have given a bit too much personal information about where we live and so on so maybe it's better that it's gone for now. But the whole idea of it is very disturbing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The War on Iraq

One of my daughters has a step son in the Marine reserves. I'm just told he has volunteered for active duty and will be sent to Iraq. He is such a nice young man and I am pleased, and proud of his courage and commitment to the defense of our country.

But I have been opposed to this war from the beginning that has waisted the lives of some 4,000 US troops and killed undreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children. It makes me so sad to see him sucked into it. I just hope and prey that he makes it through this and comes home alive, in one peace, and is not destroyed mentally for the rest of his life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Our Christmas Tree


I didn't know where to go to find a tree here in Belluno, it's not like they have tree lots all over town. But I left with the kids thinking it was going to take a couple of hours and we might not even find one. Well about two blocks from our house at the local flower shop we saw some sitting out front. I imagined the price would be out of site. But hey they were only 18 euro. I grabbed the first one I saw and we were home in 15 minutes.


Now the tree is decorated, it's not a work of art but I love all the decorations that have been collected and added over the years. Many were made by my kids, the grown ones when they were 4 and 5 years old and now my little ones have added to the collection. There is one I found from a friend I went to college with, Bill Catron, back in 1970. Others given to my daughters 20 and more years ago. It makes a tree full of happy memories and reminds me of what Christmas is about, love of family and friends and the birth or our Lord .

Giovanni turns 6







We had a regular sit down dinner for a bunch of 6 year olds.

Davis


My grandaughter Davis, doesn't she look Swiss and beautiful! Well she's not Swiss but she does live in Switzerland.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Italian Families

What do I know about them. Some I guess. What I like right off which some expats don't is that whenever you leave or come home unless it was just a trip to the super market it's a big deal. You get a big send off when you leave and a big welcome back when you return with all the kisses and hugs. It's great. Another thing is that there is always this level of excitement when everyone is together, always two or three conversations going on at the same time.

Another thing I like are Italian mothers, yes they baby their kids too much and a lot of Italian kids are whinney cry babies, but still the moms are great. If you have any Italian friends outside Italy have you noticed how the these Italian moms greet little kids when you arrive at their house or when arriving at a get together, it's all full of joy and affection even for the kids they have just met. My wife she's a great Italian mom, always there for her kids too much in my American opinion because she just gets too tired, when they go to bed she is usually so tired she just drops off on the couch. Even after working all day, she doesn't short change them, and I think this is pretty typical.

I will write more on this subject.

Politicians

I've decided there are two types of politicians, both types are corrupted by the system that demands that they accept money from those would influence their decisions. But there is a difference in the two types. Type one is only interested in furthering their own wealth, and power. Everything they do has really only that goal. Examples would be G.W. Bush in the US and Berlusconi in Italy. Type two, though not without the first goal of gaining wealth and power is actually interested in governing as well. They want to do what is right for their countries and want to go down in history as having done a good job. Examples of the type two are Pradi in Italy and the Clintons in the US. We could name many on either side of the conservative vs. liberal issue. The two types exist in both camps. I think our difficult goal as voters should be to separate the two types and only vote for type two. The type ones destroy our countries, the type twos while making mistakes at least give us a government that is somewhat democratic.

Blog Comments

Seems that about 15 people a day look at my blog, not a lot but at least there is some interest. The thing is that few people make comments. I'd like to hear from those of you who come here. Tell my why you came, what interests you etc.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pizza Mexicana

Or what to do with the left over taco fixings. Take an extra large flour tortilla, or in Italy you can use Piada, those things that look like tortillas but are too thick for anything Mexican.

Put the Piada in a frying pan with a little oil, fry on both sides until semi crisp but not hard, put it on an oven safe plate, spread refired beans over it, then the taco meat, then chopped tomatoes, onions, what ever you like, top with a nice cheese that melts easily. Put in under the broiler until the cheese melts, take it out and serve topped with with salsa, taco sauce, avocados, sour cream (Greek yogurt works in Italy), whatever you like, use your pizza cutter to slice it - enjoy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Grand Children

Well now I have four all beautiful. I'd post some pictures, but their moms are doing a great job with their own blogs so if you want to see them just click on the links for my daughters.

Italian Citizenship


Here I am being congratulated by the Italian consulate in Los Angeles. Now I am officially Italian. Of course I am now a dual US and Italian citizen. I'd never give up my US citizenship. But living in Italy it's just make sense to be able to participate as a citizen and also not have any issues about being able to stay as long as I want. My whole second family and I are dual now. Luisa became a US citizen last March.

Taco Night at the Helm's

Yes, it was taco night. One of the few things we can't find around here are corn tortillas. So we brought about 6 dozen back with us from California. We left Italy with two and a half bags not that full. Returned to Italy with four all weighed out to the max 50 pounds. I bring a scale with me. At the airport check in the lady asked what I had in them that was so heavy, taco sauce and tortillas I said.

Tonight I cooked the "traditional" Mexican tacos - California style I suppose you would say. Do you miss refried beans living in Italy? Here's how to make your own. Take two or three cans of Bartollini beans, a medium brown looking bean. Drain all the liquid even maybe washing them in a colander. Put them in the food processor with some seasoning as you like, a little olive oil and pulse until they are pretty well mashed up. Put them in a pot and simmer a few minutes and there you go.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

California

So here we are for a couple of weeks in sunny So Cal, it's nice. We've (mostly I have) been pigging out on typical American food, that is Mexican fast food, hamburgers and fries and then there was the steak sandwich at an expensive beach front restaurant in Del Mar, but it was happy hour half price. So not too bad. Then the long walk on the beach watching the sunset. That's California at it's best.

Reminds me of another recipe that I used to make a lot for guests before we moved to Italy, we don't have a real oven in our apartment so I have not been able to do it there:

Garlic & Onion Focaccia


Ingredients:

Medium size pizza dough, make it yourself from a typical recipe or buy ready made at Trader Joe's. Plan or with rosemary and basil.

1 Medium onion
1 Tbls minced garlic (the type in packed in water is fine)
Salt
Olive oil
Grated cheeses, jack, cheddar, or whatever, cheese is optional.
Good quality Parmesan cheese

Cut the onion in half then slice thinly, saute the onion and garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent.
Lightly brush olive oil on a standard size cookie sheet, then spread the pasta dough over the sheet. It’s best if you let the dough warm to room temperature. Then stretch and pull like you would for a pizza. When it’s nearly the right size put it on the sheet continue to stretch until it covers the sheet.

Brush the dough lightly with olive oil and then spread the onion and garlic over it. Sprinkle cheeses lightly over the dough then grate a small amount of Parmesan over it all.

Bake at around 375 until done. You might put it under the broiler for the last couple of minutes to brown the top. When done you can sprinkle olive oil over it if it seems a little dry and then sprinkle a bit of course ground salt to taste

Note – you can experiment with various toppings, just, remember it’s not a pizza so go lightly. Leave off the cheese for a more traditional focaccia. Variations are limitless. Fresh pesto sauce is great brushed over the dough or drizzled on top.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Italian cooking

Well Italian style cooking is more like it. I like to cook, but slow food is not what I have time for. It's more like slow food cooked in a fast way. I'm thinking about making a new blog just about my way of cooking good things fast.

What do you think? Here is a example of something I copied from a recent meal in a local restaurant and adapted:

Pork Roast with Chestnut Sauce

Ingredients:
Pork roast about 700 gr.
Milk
Butter
about 20 or 30 chestnuts
Olive oil
large salt
Besciamella already prepared or make your own

Make a cut in each chestnut, put them in water and boil for 45 minutes, the peel them, that's the hard part.

Pour some olive oil in the bottom of a backing dish, sprinkle with medium size salt. Put in the roast and turn it over covering it with oil and salt. Now bake it at a fairly high temperature until cooked, check the temperature of the pork to reach 160 degrees f. You should get a nice salty crust on the roast. Don't use too much salt.

While the meat is cooking put the chestnuts in a blender with some milk and blend, ad the besciamell until you have a nice creamy mixture and an adequate amount of sauce, add some salt and pepper to taste.

Next put a bit of butter in a sauce pan let it melt then add the chestnut mixture, heat it cook it stirring constantly for 5 minutes or so. When done set it aside.

Slice the pork very thin. Reheat the sauce and serve it separately from the pork as a topping sauce.

You can use turkey breast as a substitute for the pork if you like. The real Italian recipe would use cream for the sauce but my version has much less fat.

Note that I won't give exact measurments, one needs to use a bit of judgement, taste and experience.

Friday, October 26, 2007

California Fires

Our condo and office were right on the edge of the fire zones. In fact I'm sure our renters had to evacuate and Solana Beach where our office is was also evacuated. The weird thing is that two of the local TV stations broadcast live over the Internet during the crisis and we were tuned in here. It was too much like being there. Normally all live feeds are blocked outside the US, so it was unique. It just was strange seeing all the newscasters we know from the past as if we were still in the area. The Internet never ceases to amaze me. We got updates on the fire coverage from the San Diego emergency services site as well as from my wife's brother in Canada whose wife is from San Diego and worried about her parents. Of course his information was relayed from another brother in law living in Orange county. Then there were the phone calls to cell phones of my daughter to find out how her horses and she were doing and then my sister who also evacuated. She was camped at the beach having a fine time, so much for the misery of evacuation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fear of the Bidet

So we had someone here renting the apartment of a relative for 6 days, a really nice retired couple. When he saw the bidet his comment was "oh a bidet great for washing the feet". Now I ask you why such a comment or any comment at all. Well I think it's out of fear of something that some people shall we say mostly American type people associate with that other nasty word Sex. To them it's this foreign thing that them darn foreigners use after having sex. And anything to do with sex should not be made so visible. Those things should be hidden like breasts at a Super Bowl game. But then there is the other source of fear that is the fear of the unknown, people just don't know what it's for and therefore they fear it and feel obligated to make some silly comment when they first see one.

So what is that nasty little bowl with the faucet attached? Well it's a sink close to the floor or a mini bath tub. What's it for, it's for washing stuff. Yes of course it's handy after sex. But once one gets used to it being there, one finds all sorts of uses for it. Short people as in kids use it to wash their hands, even dare I say brush their teeth. It is useful for washing feet especially the feet of the little rug rats who would otherwise go to bed with dirt ladden feet. It's good for soaking laundry, and depositing wet bathing suits. As you can see it has many many uses. But it's main use remains that of a good place to wash that area between the legs, Italian kids are taught, more in the past than now, to use it after going poop, and little girls and boys who are too tired to take a bath find it handy to clean themsleves a bit before going to bed keeping mommy at least somewhat satisfied. And finally I'll admit my love of the bidet comes mostly from the mini shower aspect, saving lots of toilet paper.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Milan

Another weekend in Milan. Our daughter has regular visits to her orthodontist who is an American trained in the US but practicing in Italy. I am disappointed to say we could not find an Italian orthodontist with the knowledge to treat her problem. We did try.

Anyway I still can't really decide how I feel about Milan. Probably my problem is that I've always been a small city or country person. Milan is an interesting city, and everyone tells me there is a lot to do there. We usually spend most of our time shopping or at least looking at stuff in stores. This weekend we arrived on Friday about an hour before her appointment, since it was early afternoon we had no problem finding a parking space in the private parking area of the condo building where Luisa's parents live. That's a chore that can take an hour on a late evening. The metro takes one right into the center of town which makes that part easy. In the evening we had the typical family dinner with our kids, Luisa's parents and her sister and her kids. It's always nice to sit and eat with all the family at table. Luisa's mom is a great cook. I had a moment when I looked around at the table, with four kids there ranging in age from 5 to 9 all being very polite and quiet, yet not hesitating to talk if they have something to say, when I thought, this is great. What wonderful children we have.

Saturday was mostly spent shopping for clothes for our daughter who is suffering from peer pressure and won't accept almost anything we like, because her school mates don't dress that way. Saturday evening the kids were deposited at the sister's house and Luisa and I went out for Chinese. Amazingly we have found this restaurant mostly frequented by local Chinese and can you believe, Peruvians. They cook Peruvian food on the weekend. Well we really stuffed ourselves for a total of 25 euro. It's not a fancy place, but the food is good and the price especially in Milan is great.

Sunday was mostly the long drive home. Three and a half hours on the autostrada. I'm almost getting used to it, at least on Sunday there are no trucks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sweet Italian Days

I suppose people are more interested in hearing nice things about Italy rather than my political views, which I will write more later. Anyway here is something. Last Sunday, we had started a lazy morning not sure what we would do. A friend who has two kids in school with ours called inviting us to go on a hike with them up on the Nevegal with is a local mountain we can see the top of from our windows. It's also the closest ski area. The hike was supposed to be short and end in time to come home for lunch. So after a bit of debate as I had not felt that good earlier we called them back and said sure we will go. They were by then half way out the door so we only had ten minutes to get ready and off we went.

It takes about 20 minutes to drive to the spot we started hiking from. It's a liesurely hike, that takes manybe an hour to get to the top. But with 4 kids and two chatting women the hike takes much longer. It was one of those perfect days. From that area one can see all of Belluno and the surrounding valley and mountains. The view was beautiful, the air fresh and clean. At the top there is one of those typical refugios, always amazing to see something so rustic and cute in the middle of nowhere. Of course by then we were all hungry so lunch at home yielded to some panini and I had a beer. We sat outside on a long bench facing the view and the sun. One of those moments when life seems like it can't get any better.

The hike down finally after the kids had a great time just rolling around on the grass and playing in the sun, equally beautiful. Form the ridge one can see Lago di Sante Croce and the autostrada on the other side of the mountains. Finally arriving at the starting point there is a restaurant and a playground. On the way down we were joined by another couple who also have a child at the same school and so the kids played in the playground and the adults chatted. The short two hour hike ended finally at 5:30 or so.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Call to from and all over Europe FREE

Why not sign up for the VOIP phone system we use and talk as long as you want from the US to Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia at no extra charge. You can even take the system with you when you move to Europe, hook it up to your internet connection and have a US number that friends can call as if you were still in the US.

We have been using this system here in Italy for two years. We also have the system in our US office. Clients and others call our office number and when no one is in the office calls are forwarded to our other US number which rings in Italy using VOIP. And finally we use it to call all over Italy and Europe free. We just dial a number as if we were calling from the US. The system works with a regular phone wireless or wired just plug it into the little box as if it were a normal phone jack. My daughter living in Switzerland also has the same system we can talk for hours anytime we like.

So, yes we get $25 for every person who is willing to list our email as the one who refered them. But I wouldn't mention it for a measly $25 if I didn't think it was a good idea. Send me an email and I will give you all the info. You don't pay me anything.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bringing the Troops Home

They ask me here in Italy what I think about Bush saying he is reducing the number of troops in Iraq. Well what I say is that it's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors, or to be more blunt lies. Those troops were already scheduled to come home. And the military can't really replace them because they are just stretched too thin. So Bush uses something that was already a given as if he just made are great decision and the media buys right into it. What a bunch of BS. I don't get it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just a Warning

As you see from a couple posts below, I'm starting to get away from the usual Italy is great stuff and voice a few opinions I have on other subjects. Don't get me wrong I'm not unhappy. I love living in Italy and I love the US, I'm proud of my family history which goes back to the very beginning of the US - we're even talking Mayflower people. I just think I need to start being move of a voice in the forest talking about some of the things that are going wrong in both places. Not that it will make much difference.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

General Petraeus

Here's what Admiral William Fallon had to say about him:

"Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickens**t" and added, "I hate people like that," the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior."

Quoted from an article in www.antiwar.com

And people wonder if Petraeus is giving an accurate report on the success of the surge - not.

Who is Fallon - Petraeus' superior, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM).

Fall & Politics

Seems like Fall has arrived. The kids are back in school, the air temperature has become cooler. I have this sense that I have to start preparing for Winter, even if the first snows are still two months or so away. My garden is going downhill fast, it wasn't a great success this year, partly because it was somewhat neglected and partly because the weather here just wasn't that hot and we had a lot of rain.

While in the hospital I finished reading "The Sack of Rome" by Alexander Stille. This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the sorry state of Italian politics. From this reading you will learn how vastly corrupt Italian politics has been and is. You will learn that money has controlled everything and Italy's richest man also one of the World's richest has used money to gain tremendous control over people and politics. You will learn how through graft and corruption Berlusconi gained control of the vast majority of information reaching Italians. You will see how his career from the start has been intermixed with the Mafia and that the main reasons he entered politics was to keep himself out of jail and to seize power for his own financial benefit after he lost his friends when the Christian Democratic party fell out power. Finally you will understand why the only times there has been any sense of actual governing in Italy during recent times has been when the center left was in power One can only hope that books like this might open peoples eyes and perhaps create some changes.

In the last chapter Stille points out how similar things have happened in the US and how the news media which is controlled by a very few people has influenced the thinking and the voting of Americans.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Italian Hospitals

Well I've been out for a while having a bit of surgery. Before you start worrying about me, it all went very well and I think the out come will prove to be positive. It was one week ago yesterday and I'm almost back to normal.

I went to the hospital in Padova because they have a top rated center and use the DaVinci robot aided laproscopy. Really the state of the art. I'd say that the Italians take a bit of an older view of surgery otherwise. They want you in the day before and want you to stay 5 days after. The doctors are great, the nurses too and the whole staff seemed to be doing a fine job. The food was iffy but hey who expects really good food in a hospital. It was actually ok sometimes even good just a little bland. If I had to complain it would be about the of level maintenance, but then I was told that they are starting a big remodel of the area I was in next month, even putting bathrooms in the rooms. For me it was down the hall. And then there is of course the 4 to a room concept. I'd advise anyone to pack along some ear plugs and an eye shield, makes a big difference.

Having 3 other beds in a room does give one a good chance to view a certain aspect of Italian life and values. I'm not making comparisons just observations. What I observed was a lot of care and affection, a willingness to help others and a true sense of sympathy for their pain. I guess I came away with a bit of a renewed faith in the goodness of the human spirit.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Val Pusteria


HERE are a few more pictures. This is a beautiful area of Italy, more German in character than Italian. We took a few days off and stayed in a small apartment. On Monday we took the famous 40k bike ride from San Cando to Lienz. It's a great ride, mostly all downhill. I also posted on Youtube a little video of our son Giovanni riding his bike. It's a chuckle. Click on the picture of him on his bike to see it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Poster Pictures of Italy

If you see any pictures on our site that you would like printed poster size I can print them for you at a reasonable cost. They are fun to hang up even printed on plain paper. But we can also print on glossy paper or maybe even canvas. You can also send us your favorites for printing. Our printer is an HP 1050C + which can print up to 36" wide by almost any length.

Civetta Alleghe


Our friends Steve Kathy and Christopher came to visit for a few days. We took them to see one of the areas we ski in. It was a beautiful day and I've posted some nice pictures. HERE

Il Centro Minerario Di Valle Imperina


About 30 minutes from Belluno near Agordo that for some 300 years was a copper mining area. In fact until the 1960's it was the major if not nearly the only source of employment in the area. What a life those people lived. We should never complain about the harshness of our lives now.


Go HERE to see more pictures. We also had a great hike which ended at an old home being restored as a weekend retreat. The main area of the mining operation is being partially restored as a museum and park.

Old Friends


Did I tell you that after more than 30 years I met up with an old friend, Paul Holland. He and Joe Scott were my closest friends from the 3rd grade through high school. I've kept in touch with Joe over the years and at one point Paul and I made a couple trips to Baja by private plane, we are both pilots, but that it turns out was over 30 years ago.


I decided to look him up last Winter and as I said in a previous post we managed to meet in Venice. Here is a picture. He still has hair. Not fair, that's his wife behind him my kids and Luisa behind me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Loving Italy

Well not always, but this last Sunday was a day to remember. There is a group here in Belluno that organizes concerts of various types of music, usually in or in the garden of one of the local villas. Sundays was outside a villa on the opposite side of Belluno from where we live. It's up hill from the city and from the garden outside one has a fantastic view of all the city and surrounding valley. We could even see our home. The weather was perfect, the setting beautiful. And the music very enjoyable, it was European jazz from the 30's performed by a young group featuring an excellent guitarist. Actually he was amazing. For a taste of their music you can check out their web site http://www.almaswing.it/ And the cost 5 euro can't be beat. So it was one of those I love Italy moments.

Otherwise, what's been going on. I haven't written much lately. Seems we are always busy and the day ends being too tired to sit down in front of the computer for anything other than a bit of reading. The Summer has past all too quickly. We haven't had much of a vacation. But then this is were much of the family here comes to vacation themselves. Maybe we are already on vacation. Luisa would not agree.

Our time has been taken up working, visits to the hospital for various tests for my upcoming surgery, and lunches and dinners with family and friends. Our big project was to make a connection between the two apartments that we occupy. The hole was cut by professionals and I took on the tasks of painting, and some finish woodwork. The biggest job was the clean up of the dust from jack hammering out the wall. It was everywhere in spite of our efforts to isolate it with plastic sheets. Then came the job of moving the furniture. We moved our bedroom into the room that was once in a while used for guests and converted our old bedroom into a room for Julia and a sometime guest room. In the process I learned the real reason why Italians rarely move. Their furniture is just too dammed heavy. To move one dresser with it's marble top and mirror down a floor of stairs is a major task involving the dismantling of the dresser, taking off the mirror, removing the marble top, taking out the drawers and then taking all the pieces one at a time down the stairs and then reassembling them. Do this for a couple of them and then take our four modern ones up the stairs and one does not want to do it again for a long time.

We have also taken some nice hikes in the fairly local regions. In my next post I will put up some pictures.

Monday, August 6, 2007

In the News

Well sort of anyway. HERE is a story written about us and our Bell Tower project.

Otherwise what's new. We have had some contact with friends from the US lately. Steve and Kathy Tanaka made a tour of France and Italy and stayed with us for 3 days, that was great. Steve got me into Geocaching, and kind of treasure hunt using GPS technology. I think it will be a fun thing to do with the kids.

Then a few months ago I decided to find a friend, Paul Holland, that I hadn't seen for it turns out 30 years. Thanks to the internet it wasn't that hard to find him took all of maybe 15 minutes. He and his extended family are currently on a cruise which started in Venice so we were able to meet him in Venice for a few hours and a pizza dinner. Wow eating in Venice has to be one of the biggest rip offs in Italy. But at least the pizza was good and it was great to see Paul again. He brought at our request 3 dozen corn tortillas and some other things which made the visit even better.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Julia ballet


At the end of the year they have a little test to graduate to the next level. HERE are some pictures.

Lago di Caldonazzo

About an hour from Belluno almost to Trento there
is this nice lake. It has camping and nice beaches.
PICTURES We took our bikes and road around
some then started off on a bike trail that runs
along a river for some 40k. We only did a bit of
it. But in all we including Giovanni who is only 5
did about 22k for the day.

BBQ with friends


In mid June some friends, mostly parents from Julia's school invited us for a BBQ HERE are more photos. Those Italians can get a bit wild especially the three woment siting in the sun.

Camping Bibione

Here a few pictures, our camp was one of the more primitive, we left home in a hurry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Italian Beaches

We took a short break and did some camping at Bibione Pineda, the beach is long and clean, the water warm, and clean but murky. The location is on the Adriatic about 30 miles or so north of Venice. I've never been a fan of this type of beach as there is no surf and not a lot to do. But I am starting to like them. They are good for the kids as they can play in the water without getting buried in the waves and the warm water makes it comfortable for them. The camp areas are full of pine trees, the one we stayed in has a nice restaurant, clean restrooms that have toilets with actual seats and hot showers. There is a big grocery store and most every night they some sort of entertainment. One of the nicest things is the long boardwalk that connects the city of Bibione with all the camps and resort hotels. It makes a great bike ride.

The week was a full one as we left on Tuesday morning after spending 3 hours packing up all the camping stuff arrived in the early after noon and put up our tent in the wrong place, we mistook a weird looking 3 for a 5, but it worked out and we had a better spot because of it even if we had to leave a day early as the site was reserved by someone else last February. We went to Pradipozzo Saturday. Unpacked the camping stuff and took off for Milan on Sunday with Julia for her orthodontist appointment on Monday. Then on Monday it was back to Pradi, a long drive as there was an hour delay in traffic. Spent another night there and then today back to Belluno. Overall though it was nice, we had some fun at the beach, some good family time both at the beach and in Pradi, and discovered a cheap Chinese restaurant in Milan where the food is good and the portions generous enough.

Now there is the mess to clean up. I have to admit that I'm a bit burned out on camping. The actual camping is fine, it's more the time it takes to pack up, unpack, setup, repack to leave (another 3 hours) and then the unpacking and cleanup at home. We are thinking about buying a travel trailer.

Friday, July 6, 2007

4th of July & Italian Healthcare

We pretty much missed it in fact it was totally ignored here. Were we are we only know of one other American a young mom married to an Italian. So it was hard to get into the spirit. I was hoping we could take the kids to Aviano the big US air force base not far from here as they put on an airshow and some good ol American activities. But I was disappointed to find out that only people with a DOD id card and their guests were allowed in. Seems totally unfair. Someone who happens to work in the kitchen can bring in any person of any nationality, but a US citizen with a US passport represents a danger to the US military. What happeded here.

I've also been absent a bit lately as I found out I have one of those diseases everyone fears, but the good news is that it's at a maybe, hopefully, probably totally curable stage. I'll be having some surgery the first week of September. It's been a couple of weeks of a lot of ups and downs. Living in Italy healthcare is very accessable, but it seems that it also helps to have friends and relatives who work in the system. I thank God for my extended Italian family.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bob Dylan

We went to a concert last night, billed as a tribute to Bob Dylan. It was fun and entertaining. Basically it's a yearly thing where local groups play for charity. The theater was full, the music too load. Lots of grey hairs in the audience and on the stage as well as young musicians. As one can imagine the quality varied from really good to wish they would stop now. There is a local guitar player who could have given Jimmy Hendrix a run for his money and some of the singers were very good. Overall enjoyable, but the Bob Dylan aspect was a bit disappointing, maybe I expected some imitators, rather than interpretations of his music.

We also finally had a bbq yesterday, invited some friends and their 3 kids. It's been raining every afternoon for the last two weeks. So we scheduled it for mid day and everything turned out fine. One thing I don't quite understand is that when one invites at least some Italians say at noon, they tend to stay the whole day and then even make excuses about why they have to leave at 7:30. I'm not complaining, it just takes some getting use to. In the US people would normally come for a meal, visit a couple hours after and go home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Weekend In Milan

Luisa's parents took Julia and her cousin Sara to Rome on Saturday, so we took her to Milan on Friday evening as they were leaving from there. Saturday we had the afternoon off from kids. Luisa's sister took care of Giovanni and he had his first ever sleep over at her house with his cousin Guido. And we went to the Renzo Piano exhibit. Wow that was great, he must really be an inspiring person to work with. That evening we had our first dinner alone together in months - Japanese food, good.Sunday we took the two boys to a castle near lake Maggiore, the castle is great as one can go up to the highest levels, they also have one of the world's largest collections of antiques dolls. I got a kick out of the mechanical one that is an old lady picking up her skirt and peeing, they have some of the mechanical dolls on video, showing them in action.In the afternoon we went to the museum of transportation. It's really amazing, and free. It's the private collection of one man and has everything, from trains, to ski lifts, to subways. It's a bit like being in someones giant garage, though it's all outside and pretty well organized.This is I think a bit amazing, at least for the catholics. Julia and Sara walked into St. Peters with their grandparents for the mass and were picked out of the crowd to deliver the host to the cardinal giving the mass. Can you believe it? Even more amazing is that Julia also had an unusual experience there the first time we took her when she was a baby. She started to cry during the mass, pretty loudly. An old nun who was near us came up and lightly caressed her forehead. After that she was silent.Now we are back at work in Belluno, seems like it's going to rain all Summer

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Good News

We won a competition for the design of a bell tower at one of the large churches in Belluno. I'll post some 3d renderings on our design blog. www.helpudesign.blogspot.com It's a big help for us to have this project as it's a kind of welcoming into the community. Hopefully it may lead to us getting other projects in the area.

We had a nice visit this weekend from a friend and client Phil Deane. He lives in Oceanside, California and is touring Italy mostly in the Southern half. So it was great that he made the effort to come up here in a busy schedule of touring.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back on LIne

We were offline for a few days as we switched Internet services. We now have Alice 20 meg or so they call it. So far we are only getting 2 meg or a little more but that is way better than what we had with Tele2 which was supposed to be 4 meg but rarely exceeded 1.5. It's been raining here the last few days and aside from everything being super green we also have some snow on the high mountains we can see out our window. It's very beautiful.

My garden has been growing very well and we are over run with lettuce. We even have some tomatoes. But they will be awhile before they turn red. Just hope the bugs don't get them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Polka

It was a nice weekend in Belluno. In town there were events supporting local industries and businesses. In the park there was a big tent in which they served polenta cooked the old way, in a copper pot over a wood fire. We had a nice lunch on Saturday there.

Today we went back the four of us on our bikes, Giovanni was a little nervous as he's still not that good on the two wheeler. In fact he fell a couple of times. We passed through the park for a while. In the big tent they were still serving the same good local food.

There was one of those two man bands, you know with the recorded accompaniment. A few couples danced to some polka music. They caught my eye, a couple somewhere in their eighties. He was thin and spry, with a lively look as he moved across the asphalt dance floor, she looked somewhat frail but very focused. They moved together in unison, their feet one inside the other, moving and turning in a dance they must have done more than a thousand times before. The music stopped and when it began again they were back, gliding through the room to the lively beat of the Polka in a way that could only be accomplished through years of ups and downs and the understanding that can only come through so many moments together.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Country Life


We went to the house in Pradipozzo for Luisa's dad's 70th birthday. The house is an old country home, 9 bedrooms. In the evening there were 4 families there spending the night. It was all pretty standard, birthday lunch, then dinner later. But what struck me was around 10:00 everyone just went off to their rooms. I had this feeling of being in a world of 100 years ago when large families worked the land and all lived together in those big homes one sees somewhat abandoned in these times. Each family had to find it's space.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's your day like?

I have noticed that even though we don't get a ton of viewers you are coming from all over the World. So tell me what is your day like. Mine is like this:

We get up at 7am, I make a pot of American style coffee from coffee we grind. Then I check the email and read a little news on the internet. Luisa and the kids get up she does most of the morning work with the kids as I'm not a morning person. It takes me some time to start functioning. At around 7:45 I take Julia our daughter to school either walking or in the car if we are late. Sometimes we also manage to get Giovanni going to preschool then too, otherwise Luisa takes him around 9.

Then it's across the hall to our office where we work until lunch time on some days I take off around 11:45 to swim at the local pool. It's a great facility, all enclosed so it's good also in the winter. When I swim Luisa eats lunch by herself and I eat when I get back. On the other days we eat together.

In the afternoon it's back to the office around 4:00 it's time to pick up the kids. They have after school sports, swimming lessons, dance classes etc. So it's always a bit hectic until around 6:30. On various days since much of our work is in California I'm on the phone or sending email in the evening. This can go on until 10:00 when I usually put the VOIP phone on do not disturb.

We share the cooking, kitchen cleaning, putting kids in bed, etc. so that takes us through dinner and until 9:30 or so. Around that time Luisa sits down for the first time in a few hours and almost immediately falls asleep. I watch TV, ck email or read and then it's off to bed. That's it, pretty standard, and not so different from life anywhere.

Of course there are differences here in Italy but they mostly involve things outside the daily routine.

So lets hear from you, what did you do today?

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Garden




How about a picture of my garden. Thanks to global warming, I'm 3 weeks ahead of schedule with it.

And the recent rains turned everything around here super green. Here is a picture looking out one of our windows.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

DRIVING IN ITALY PART TWO

This will probably end up being three parts so today I’ll talk about some general rules of the road and a few regulations.

Note, I’m just giving some personal thoughts on driving, so don’t depend on this as an actual list of the laws. I take no responsibility for these comments. Use them at your own risk.

First if you think you might drive while in Italy stop off at the Auto Club and get an international drivers license. It’s basically just a translation of your US license. It is required in Italy, you must also have your actual US license in your position.

If you get stopped which is actually pretty unlikely, and are ticketed you might have to pay a fine on the spot that is the law for anyone coming from a country such as the US that does not have an agreement for reciprocal licensing.

You can drive in Italy with your foreign license for 1 year before having to get an Italian license.

So now some general points, no matter what you might think about the craziness of Italian drivers you do have to follow the rules here. At least you do in the North where I’ve been driving. It’s not that much different than driving in the US. Don’t be afraid of driving, just pay attention and drive pretty much like you do at home.

Wear you seat belt, it’s the law
Do not drink and drive if stopped you might get the car taken away and arrested.
Do not talk on the cell phone, unless using a hands free setup.
Do not eat a hamburger, French fries and drink a coke while driving, just kidding. But generally, don’t take your eyes off the road things seem to happen faster here.
You can not turn right on a red light.
Look for the white line at the stop light it is well before the actual light if you stop too far forward you might not be able to see the light change.
If you see a pedestrian standing in the crosswalk you must stop for him. Some people actually do stop.
A stop sign does mean stop but it seems to be more of a stronger yield sign, rolling stops seem to be ok.
Drivers are required by law to stop and aid injured people in accidents.
No matter what you may have heard there are speed limits, so pay attention to them.
Italian drivers get really pissed if you don’t signal before turning, it’s mainly because they are usually following too close.
Round abouts are fun and all over the country, the cars inside them have the right of way, when entering there seems to be a bunch of confusion about who has the right of way. It should be the person on the right, but I don’t think anyone understands that, just be careful and a little aggressive.
You are required to drive to the right of the road. It means stay in the right lane, but more about that next.
When driving on the Autostrada or main roads you must have your lights on even in day time. So just turn them on all the time.
Get a copy of the European road signs and study them.

Now some general hints that don’t have much to do with the rules.
The Autostrada is pretty much like a US freeway. They are generally in good condition. I always use them.
But, you must be a little more careful than in the US. You only pass on the left, so no weaving in and out.
If another car comes up behind you move over out of it’s way so they can pass. Try not to get too pissed off, as I do at times, when they ride your rear bumper flashing their lights even if there are twenty cars in front of you going slow.
Trucks are the major hazard on the Autostrada. They will pass each other moving into the lane you are in cutting you off. So watch them, if you see one approaching another in front of him be aware that he will probably want to pass rather than lose his momentum.
I’ve discovered that it seems safer to drive fairly fast and stay in the far left lane as much as possible as on a three lane road the trucks aren’t allowed in that lane. If you drive slow in the left lane you will be constantly having to move over so cars can pass you which is a big pain in the ass.

Finding your way around is a lot fun, the good thing is that there are plenty of signs, almost too many. The main idea is to know what major cities are in your general direction. The signs will always point you towards those cities. If you have a portable navigation gps why not get maps for Italy and bring it along. We got one and use it all the time.

Driving in the city, good news is Italians don’t generally get too worked up if you cross three lanes to make a left turn in front of them and other such things that might cause road rage in the US. Seems to me like everyone is just trying to get where they are going. They can be pushy, my hint is to never acknowledge the presence of the other drivers. Just drive like you know where you are going. Of course you still have to look out for them and follow common sense driving rules. It’s just that if you get too timid you’ll get left behind.

I think that’s it for this chapter.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Hunting Club

A friend of ours along with his family owns a hunting club about 40 minutes drive South of Milan. It's really a big farm with one of the old farm buildings that is build around a very large courtyard. The original entrance to the building was through a huge gate that could be closed to keep out intruders 200 years ago. Now the building has been divided diagonally through the courtyard. Half belonging to the brother that farms on the land and the other half to the one who raises ducks and peasants and uses the land for hunting. They raise something over 40,000 birds a year and release them for hunting or sell them to other hunting clubs.

Here are some pictures. It's not hunting season so the pictures are just of the overall area, the pens, baby ducks and so on. http://picasaweb.google.com/HMItaly/HuntClub

And here is the website of the club http://www.venatoriaerbogna.it/allevamento.htm

Of course it's all in Italian but if you click on the various titles at the top you can see some of their pictures and get a good idea of what it's like.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Flying Tour of the Dolomites

Last November I did a little picture taking tour flying from Belluno up to Cortina and back click here to see the pictures. http://picasaweb.google.com/HMItaly/FlyingTheDolomites

You may have seen them before in an email, but here on the picasaweb picture site you can see the full resolution pictures.

Sexism in Italy

Well I started something about nudity in Italian advertising and then when I got a couple of heated responses decided to delete it. But now it's back. Maybe controversy is good. Anyway Italian advertising and tv is full of big tited small waisted young women. One might think they are just a bunch of bimbos, some I suppose are, but are many of them smarter than the rest of us. They probably make more money than we do. Driving through Milan this last weekend we noticed a completely nude profile in an ad visible as we drove down a busy street. In the mall here in Belluno is a big poster of a large breasted women.

Funny thing is I recently read about an experiment where they basically proved that sex does not help sell anything. Men remembered the ad but could not remember what it was about. Women were more or less neutral. It's true, I don't know what that girl in the mall was selling, but she sure has a fine set of knockers.

The thing that gets in peoples head is that all this nudity in advertising and on tv portrays women as just sex objects without a thought on their minds. I think that is just prejudice, when you can't think a person is capable of an intelligent thought because of their, face, skin and body shape what else is it.

Bottom line, beautiful women aren't going away, I hope, and people mostly men will always enjoy looking at them. Our last Pope John Paul wrote something to the affect that God created the human body to be enjoyed. It's lust that gets us in trouble.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Driving in Italy Part One

First most of my comments are directed towards the northern part of Italy. I have driven to the South but only along the East coast not in any of the cities. This part is just a general discussion. Part 2 will be more about rules of the road.

So, first I have driven a lot here over a period of many years of visits and now nearly two years of living here. We are making almost monthly trips from Belluno to Milan for our daughters orthodondist appointments and that is where Lusia's parents live most of the time. Driving here is not so different from driving in the US a few rules are different and some people tend to drive much faster on the Autostrada. Generally, though sometimes it may not seem that way no one wants to have an accident. And Italian drivers even or especially the ones driving fast pay a lot of attention to their driving. You don't see them eating a hamburger and fries while driving 150 k/hr.

Even though there is great public transportation driving a car is still the most efficient way to get around. It is possible to get around without one and if coming for a tour of Italy one sticks to the larger cities one can do well without one. And also if one is in a large city like Milan parking can be such a problem that public transportation becomes the best choice when possible. But once one gets out of the more dense areas moving about without a car can be a problem.

I will close this part by saying that if you are thinking of visiting Italy and want to get around as freely as possible don't hesitate to rent a car and drive.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Air Travel With Children

Traveling with children

I wrote this a few years ago, but nothing much has changed.

People who know us and know that we travel a lot with our children sometimes ask us for some hints as to what to take and how difficult is it. You see my wife’s family lives in Italy and I have older children from a previous marriage living far from us. In the last year we have traveled from San Diego with our 4 and 2 year old children twice to Italy, once to Tahiti and once to New Zealand. Our two little ones have been traveling with us mainly to Italy once or twice a year since they were just a couple of months old.

So what are the secrets to easily traveling with babies and toddlers and what about all the advice generally given. What works and what doesn’t? That is what I hope to answer is this short article.

First one must consider that age of the child. As children change so quickly over the first few years so do their needs and manageability when traveling. Also consider the length of the trip number of stops, and the possibility of getting stuck in an airport or overnight somewhere.

Now let’s get started. Stroller, car seats, backpack, toys, books, etc. which to bring and which not, depends upon where you are going and what will be available when you get there. If traveling by car at your destination, you have to bring the car seat. We bought a big nylon duffle bag to put two in and checked it in as baggage. But now when traveling to Italy we have the grandparents supply them when we get there, same with the stroller. You will need it, if you need it at home so either bring yours or have one available at your destination. The good news is that you can keep your baby in the stroller right up to the gate of most airlines. Then they will stow it in baggage for you and deliver it back to you just as you get off the plane. But be sure to mention it when you check in so it has the proper tags. You will either get it tagged at the counter or at the gate counter. It depends on the airline. Then you can use it while waiting to board.


With a young baby every parent already has the basics for the flight packed in that trusty diaper bag – diapers, pacifier, bottles, formula, wipes and changes of clothes. Not much more is needed for the trip other than enough of everything for the anticipated time in route. The breastfeeding mom has a bit of an advantage here as she does in all the other good things about breastfeeding. For babies on formula the powdered kind is most convenient as it is light and easy to pack. Bring some bottled water to last through the airport wait and then on the plane you can ask for a bottle of water and ask the flight attendant to warm the mixture up for you. Flight attendants are most helpful for a couple of reasons. One is that they want to make you and your baby comfortable, the other perhaps more important to them is that if you your baby is happy (meaning quiet) the other passengers are also happy. One can sometimes see the fear in the eyes of passengers near you as you approach with that cute yet potentially screaming little bundle of joy. And they will sometimes thank you at the end of a long flight in which you have made the heroic effort to keep your baby happy and calm.

How do you do you keep your baby calm during the flight. It starts at the ticket counter. You will have seats already assigned, but the airlines on international flights generally reserve seats behind a bulkhead for passengers who are either handicapped or traveling with an infant. In fact these bulkheads usually have a place for a small baby bed to be used during the flight. So as you check in tell them you would like the bulkhead row. Insist on it in a nice way. Getting to the airport early helps here as these seats are only given out at the airport on a first come first served basis. Bulkhead rows will have more legroom and no one in front of you reclining their seat all the way back. They become in a way your private space, usually having enough room to let the kids stand up and move about a bit without bothering anyone else.

If your baby is less than two years old you don’t have to buy her a seat and will have to hold her in your lap during take off and landing. An odd rule here is that US airlines are not allowed to give you the seatbelt for your baby that would attach to yours but others, British Airlines for example, do. If you can afford to buy that extra seat you can bring your car seat along for the baby. We have never done this but once our kids were over two and we had to buy the seat I have to admit that it was much more comfortable.

The most troublesome part of traveling with a small one is the take off and descent for landing as the air pressure changes can cause pain in sinuses and ears if not relieved. The easiest way of relieving the pressure with a baby is to have her nurse during these two times. So a bit of timing with feeding is useful. The pacifier is also helpful. One can also consider with a doctors advice giving the baby a bit of decongestant or a nasal spray like Afrin. Other passengers have told us that messaging the neck just below the ears is helpful. In spite of all your efforts your baby may still be uncomfortable and cry during these periods. You will just have to comfort him as best you can and know he will feel better in a few minutes.

During the flight, what about all those toys and things that most travel advisers suggest you bring to keep the kids occupied. We tried that a few times and generally they just end up making a big mess, in your seats, and on the floor. The attention span of these little ones is too short for the toys to really be of use on a long flight. So be very selective. Don’t burden yourself with backpacks full of dolls, toys, and coloring books. You will already have to much to carry on and off the plane and don’t forget that when you return you will no doubt have more to carry than when you left. A couple of books and a favorite doll, soft toy and blanket just to give some sense of security, is about the best you can do. So what does one do when the kid gets cranky and bored; well it’s difficult. Most international flights now have tv entertainment which works pretty well for those a little older. For the baby it’s mostly a matter of drawing upon the tricks you use everyday, play with them, sing, caress them, carry them around the plane. Making the circular trip around the aisles works pretty well for part of the flight and gives you a good excuse to get up and move around. Don’t be afraid to get out of your seat and take advantage of the entire area of the plane you have access to. When food is not being served you can stand for a while in the areas near the exits or at the end of rows where the flight attendants hang out. Let them look out the little window in the door, or perhaps talk and play with a friendly fellow passenger.

Hopefully they sleep as much as possible. It can help to arrange your trip for a time when they usually sleep. With kids a little older a bit of antihistamine should make them drowsy. Try it at home to make certain that it doesn’t have the opposite effect.

You won’t be able to sleep or read like in the pre-baby days. But hey you’re used to that by now. You and your spouse can take turns. Working together, patience and the knowledge that the flight does have an end will see you through.

Your reward is the pleasure your children and distant relatives will have in being able to maintain the family connections. Our children are fluent in Italian and English and it’s such a pleasure to see them playing with their Italian cousins as if they were playing with kids down the street. I believe that these experiences at this early age will have a lasting benefit in mental development and awareness and understanding of the greater World around them. Or if just traveling on a family vacation to distant islands, your own experiences can be so much greater when you can share them with those you love.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Good food in Venice



Whenever we go to Venice we eat at this place down a narrow walk a little hard to find. Luisa has been going there since she was a kid. You can stuff a family of four for 12 euro. Well that depends on appetites. You walk up and point to the things you want or if you speak Italian tell them, they hand it to you and then you find a place to sit amongst the crowd of locals and a few lucky tourists.

What I've always found interesting aside from the heavy deep fried food that I love is that they don't charge you up front. Even in crowded Venice, when you are done eating you just tell the guy what you ate and drank and pay.

Here is the approximate location: On the East side of the Rialto Bridge there is a little plaza, Campo San Bartolomia, from there walk a little more east near the end of the plaza turn left (north) on a little alley when you see the sign in the picture attached. We think the name of the street it's on is Calle della Bissa. Will have to check the names next time we are there. If you are coming from the train station just follow the Strada Nuova all the way around tell you get to the plaza. Or just follow signs to Rialto from wherever you are.
Note, don't go upstairs to eat unless you want regular restaurant prices and don't order anything that comes down from the restaurant. Just stick to the things you can see.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Paragliding in Italy





You drive to the end of the road going up a mountain above us. It takes maybe 20 minutes, the road should be one way, so one has to watch for traffic in the opposite direction then pull over so the two cars can pass. Then it's about a 20 min. hike to the spot where the paragliders take off. There is a nice flat area with a big view of Belluno and the surrounding area. We happened to meet Alberto who is a ski diving instructor here. I have talked with him a few times at the airport. He does the paragliding just for fun.
It was a warm, clear day with no clouds in the sky. We had a nice time with a little picnic and watched Alberto take off. He sailed around for half an hour or more then came back and landed in the spot he took off from. Said it was a little turbulent, but watching him it all looks so smooth and peacful. When we left he told he was waiting for a friend and would go up again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Summer begins today

Well not really, but for us today marks a mood change. This ski season has been a bit weird, plenty of snow in the mountains but none in the valley. So it's been hard to get in the mood. Never the less I managed to ski about 17 days, counting the two in Switzerland. Here in Belluno it's very warm today, at 5:15 this evening it's 74 f. outside. But since the final closing of the slopes is on Sunday, we took the day off to finish the ski season.

Turns out it was a lot of fun. We started for one spot but the lefts were closed so we went up ther road a bit farther and eventually skiied on the Mamolada which I think is one of or the highest point in the area at about 3,342 meters. I takes three gondolas to get there from the base, the first going almost vertical. I was always a bet afraid of it having never tired it and only riden up on the gondola in the summer when the view down is very long and steep. However, in reality it's just another intermediate run. The snow at the top was nearly perfect, the slopes wide and groomed with few skiiers and the views are too fantastic for me to describe. It was a short day as you can imagine with the warm weather the snow at the bottom can only be described as very heavy and wet.

So we closed out the season, finished skiing early had a nice cold beer and headed home. Now we can put the winter stuff away and get into the Summer frame of mind.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter in Italy

It's Monday the day after Easter. This is a national holiday in Italy so it's pretty quiet. The weekend and holiday gets a mixed review. Very good in general but bad in that there was a virus running through the family.

Erin our daughter who lives in Switzerland arrived late Thursday night about an hour after the virus hit me and I had to go to bed. Next day I was out. Luisa too wasn't feeling so good. Erin wanted to buy a stroller for her coming baby in Italy so luckily she found what she wanted on Friday and spent the rest of the day studying the complex workings of a modern stroller. Amazing how detailed they are. While, I groaned on the couch.

But Saturday was a pretty good day for everyone. It was sunny and warm. All the kids had fun playing in the yard, and we did a tour of the open market in town. Bad news came Saturday night when Erin and Ueli both got the fast moving virus in spite of having taken precautions. Luckily Davis did not get it.

Sunday, Easter a day of recovery for some. The mass at our church was nice. I always like going to the one that is geared towards the families with kids, the choir is accompanied by teenage guitar players and the singing is pretty lively. It has a nice warm feeling.

Friday, March 30, 2007

TGIF 03-30- 2007

Today, well not much new, we have decided to try and rent our guest rooms out for a little extra cash. And I'm working on our Help U Design blog trying to drive some traffic to it. All of this is about an attempt to create multiple streams of income. Doing architecture in California while living in Italy is a cool idea and works just fine as far doing the work is concerned. The problem is getting new work. What we really need is an agressive partner in San Diego who can pass on the work to us. Juergen the fellow who works for us more or less one day a week has been a life saver, but the time he can give us is very limited.

Yeah, I've added adsense ads here, hey every click counts. So go ahead click away.

What a life, my two oldest daughters are pregnant at the same time, I'll be going from a grandfather of 1 to 4 almost over night what could be cooler than that. At the sametime I have Julia and Giovanni to raise, life takes a lot of strange turns but these are all good.

Looking forward to Easter, Erin, Uli, Davis and 1b (no name yet) are coming down here Thursday night.

I am feeling too healthy lately, always makes me wonder what lurks beneath the surface waiting to raise it's ugly head at any moment. Get this I'm skiing better than I ever have and swimming a mile (1,700 meters) two or three times a week. Wow, at 63 the body can still get better. Now if my ankle would just stop hurting most of the time.

So Luisa just brought a glass of wine, salami, and cheese, that must be what's making me so healthy. I guess that's the signal to sign off for now, ciao tutti.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sella Ronda

We did the Sella Ronda which is basically a skiing day around a group of the Dolomites that takes one through four mountain passes. The skiing is pretty much intermidiate. The big challenge is that it makes a long day of skiing and one can't make too many mistakes or one doesn't make it back to the starting point and the car. It was the first time for Luisa and she was a little nervous. I did it last year with a friend. We did make a couple of mistakes that added about an hour total to our trip. In all it took
5 hours. More than half of that time is spend on lifts. It has to be one of the most
beautiful ski tours anywhere.


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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pre School Ski Lessons

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Carnevale

We went to Venice on Sunday for the last day of Carnevale. The costumes were fantastic and the crowd was so huge it was almost unbelievable. Walking around through most of the city was like leaving a theater after a big concert. At times one could not even move. The good part was that in general people were pretty nice. Julia had her Cinderella dress on and once we bought her a mask with feathers a few people stopped her to take her picture. I think she was pretty pleased about that.

Julia was out of school the last two days so Monday we went skiing with her while Giovanni wanted to go to preschool. Yesterday was his class party and they put on a big show. That was great, very cute. I'll post some pictures.

The weather here is Spring like, almost warm. If fact in the afternoon yesterday the kids and I went on a bike ride to the park then stopped off to have ice cream.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What we have been doing

The last big activity was three days of skiing the weekend before last. We went to Valdaora and stayed in a nice little apartment. A friend of Luisa's came there to spend their "white week". They came on Sunday but we just spent the weekend arriving on Friday afternoon leaving Monday afternoon. This area is in the part of Italy where most everyone still wishes they were part of Austria. German is the first language, though everyone also speaks Italian. The skiing there is wide open slopes and very long runs, mostly intermediate. The weather was sunny, cold and extremely windy on the top of the mountain, but lower very nice. It's a great place to ski except for one problem, too many people.

Big event there was Giovanni getting lost on the slopes. He was insisting on skiing ahead of everyone, I warned him the day before if didn't stay with us he would get lost and the next day guess what. We had a very tense hour but as I thought would happen, he started crying when he could not see us and a German couple took him up to the top and dropped him off at the Carbinieri so once we got the word out they told us where he was.

This last weekend I had a cold so we did not do much, but we did go to the "Carnivale" in a nearby town. I guess if the kids liked it must have been good. Anyway it was pretty boring. Basically they had this sort of parade in which they had about ten participants and somehow managed to make it last over two hours. Each group had to come up on the bandstand and have their picture taken with the town queen and get a little prize for participating.