10.21.2009

Whew!

What a couple of crazy weeks! It's been difficult settling in since we got back from our trip. They've been having mandatory overtime training at work because in a few weeks we're going to be switching to a new system called Module 1. It sounds very space-age-y but it's kinda of a pain in the butt to use. Between working so much and trying to get our finances back in order and trying to get and keep the apartment clean (which isn't really working) We haven't really had time to relax and just take it in. It feels like life is just rushing us right on through! I need to figure out some time management skills so I can get done all the things I want to get done!


Good news though; Spencer was awarded Driver License Division Employee of the Month for September! I'm so super proud of him! He works so hard and he brings his work home with him even though he doesn't have to, and he's always so focused on how he can be a better employee. I'm so proud!







We've thought up an awesome costume idea for halloween! Spencer is putting off his haircut and going as Dr. Who (the Tom Baker version; it's his favorite), I'm going as the sidekick Sarah Jane, and we're going to make us a K9 out of cardboard and duct tape! We're going to Lowe's this weekend to buy all the stuff for K9 and that's going to be a blast to make, but I've got some work ahead of me! Tom Baker's trademark accessory in that show was a mismatched scarf that ranged anywhere from 13 to 21 feet long. It's a hodgepodge of different yarn colors and looks really cool, but they're super difficult to find even online, which means I have to make one! I'm crocheting like crazy and am just praying that I'm gonna be finished before Halloween! But if I do, it sure is gonna be one great memory; I'm gonna have to take lots of pictures!

So to get all the yarn for the scarf I went to Joann's yesterday after work. While I was there I noticed that they were having one of their sales where their scrapbook stuff was ALL 40% off. I was able to pick up a few really cute things for not a lot of money. I'm still need to finish our wedding pictures, start and finish our honeymoon stuff, plus our anniversary pictures, plus we have the holidays coming up; I've got a lot of work ahead of me! But I want to get it done. I love looking through my scrapbook at the pages that are already done (even though I'm REALLY not good at it!) and seeing the memories put together in such a pretty way. After Joann's I couldn't resist and I made a stop in at Heartland Paper right next door. They're a scrapbooking specialty shop and I'd never been there before but let me tell you I definitely plan on going back. I bought a TON of travel and Italy and Spain embellishments and I only spent $35! and they give you a punch card; every time to spend $5 you get a punch, and when you spend $100 (that won't take long) you get $10 of credit to spend on anything in the store! This is gonna come in handy. But I've made myself an agreement; I will not let myself do ANY scrapbooking until I get the house in order. It needs to be deep-cleaned and starting up another big, distracting project and making another mess is not going to help! I have A LOT to do in the next two weeks. Hopefully I can get it all done!

10.03.2009

Happy Anniversary!

September 20th marked one full year of being married for Spencer and I! To celebrate, we went to Rome, Florence and Barcelona with my mom (we had never been to a foreign country before, and if you're going to get lost anywhere in the world, my mom is the one you want to have with you!).
The sunset in Rome, on our anniversary



Our trip got off to a rocky start. We were supposed to have an hour and a half layover in Boston. We fly into Boston, run to the check-in and find out that the plane left just as our last one was touching down. They had to reroute us through Madrid and then down to Rome. Well I’d forgotten that my migraines were triggered by tension and I freaked out about missing the plane. Sure enough, on the way to Madrid, I got a migraine. Seriously the worst migraine I have ever had. We were flying on Iberia airlines (instead of Delta) and while we were on board Spencer asked the flight attendant if they could arrange for a wheelchair to meet us at the gate to take us to our next plane. They said that they couldn’t do it because they require three hours notice to provide a wheelchair and we were only 45 minutes away from landing. So I figured I’d take my airsick bag and just walk slowly. Well the plane lands and we get off the plane and sure enough there’s a wheelchair there for me! They rushed us through security cause I was so ill; took us to the front of all the lines and we barely made it to the next plane on time. Even with them rushing us it still took an hour and a half to get to the next plane. If we had done it on our own, we never would have made it. The Madrid airport is BEAUTIFUL! Well, from what I could see of it. I was pretty much vomiting non-stop so my head was stuffed in a bag, but from what I could see it was gorgeous! LOL. I couldn’t understand why I had gotten so sick. We were literally about [] this close to spending the night in a hospital in Madrid. But my mom kept telling me that I was stronger than I thought I was and that there was a reason for everything and God would get me through it. She kept asking me, “who’s bigger: God or your headache?” Honestly in the moment I wasn’t quite sure; it was a pretty nasty headache! But I pushed myself harder than I’ve ever pushed before and somehow we made it onto the plane. I fell asleep right away; Spencer had to wake me up to get me to put my seatbelt on. I slept through the next flight, about two hours. And it was incredible: when I woke up my headache was gone. I was still a little queasy and really weak, but no headache! When we landed I told my mom that God must have given me the headache for two reasons: 1, without it we would have missed the flight. And 2, to show me that I am stronger than I think I am. We got into Rome and fell asleep about 2 in the afternoon; never woke up for dinner. Woke up about 1 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep! It definitely took some doing to get over the jetlag; we kept going to sleep at like 4 in the afternoon and getting up and like 2 or 3 in the morning.



Our first day in Rome we started off at the Trevi Fountain. It’s absolutely beautiful. Though I suppose I should stop saying that because everything there is beautiful. Anyway, the tradition says that if you throw a coin into the Trevi fountain, you will return. My mom threw a coin into the fountain 40 years ago and sure enough, there she was! The fountain is carved out of stone and attached to a building at its back, which also looks like it’s rising up out of the rock. It’s so cool. While we were at the fountain we met a Centurion! Ok, so it wasn’t a real centurion, it was just a guy who made his living by dressing up and taking pictures with tourists. But he was SO nice and SO funny! Definitely worth the money we paid for it! Then we walked a few blocks over to the Roman Parliament. The security there is insane! My mom wanted to get a picture with the police so she asked them. They gave her the dirtiest look! I’ll never ask a cop for a picture again! We made our way to Piazza Espagna, or the Spanish Steps. There’s a fountain shaped like a gondola at the bottom, then the steps, and then a cathedral at the top. It was really cool cause when we were there, there was a couple coming out of the church that had just been married and they were ringing the bells for them. Then we walked through a park that led up to the Galleria Borghese; it used to be the house of the Borghese family and was converted into a museum. Tells you what kind of house it is. It was very difficult to breathe in Rome. EVERYBODY smokes, and there’s so much traffic so there’s a ton of exhaust in the air and it’s so hard to breathe. But in this park the air was so clear; I could have spent the whole trip there and I would have been fine with it. Over at the Piazza de Sant’Giovanni, there is a particularly special flight of stairs. These steps were originally in Jerusalem; they were the steps up which Christ carried the cross on the way to be crucified. Emporer Constantine’s mother had the steps brought brick by brick and reassembled in Rome in the year 326. How incredible! That night when we got back to the hotel we tried to get the TV to work (it had been giving us trouble). We got it turned on and they were showing the Three Caballeros with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase. On Italian TV. But dubbed in German. It was too freaking funny.



By the time the 20th rolled around, my mom had really horrible blisters on her feet and they were so swollen that she couldn’t get her shoes on. So for our first anniversary ever, we were on our own in Rome! It was great though. We had a map and walking shoes and that was all we needed. We started off at Saint Peter’s Basilica. The square (which is actually round) is huge. It can fit 60,000 people, and the line to get into the Basilica wraps all the way around! But it’s so worth it. The inside of the cathedral is huge and absolutely gorgeous. The founts with the holy water have cherubs holding them up; the top of the cherub’s head is about level with mine. Absolutely huge. We were able to climb to the top of the dome and see not only the inside of the cathedral (watched mass) and outside we had a panoramic view of the whole city, including the gardens in the Vatican right behind the building. Unfortunately the elevator will only take you so far up the dome, then you have to climb the additional 329 steps to get to the top. We did it first thing in the morning cause I knew that was the only chance I had of making it. I made it to the top (it’s about an hour of non-stop climbing) and was pretty ready to kill someone. But it was a stunning view. From Saint Peter’s we walked over to Castel de San Angelo; Saint Angelo’s Castle. We didn’t go in (the line wrapped around the block) but we took pictures of the outside and hung out on the bridge over the river Tiber. It was raining but the temperature was just about perfect.

From there we wandered over to the Pantheon (which is cleverly hidden smack-dab in a residential area). The Pantheon was orginally built as a temple to the Roman gods ("Pantheon" literally meaning "all gods") but was taken over by the Catholic church and to this day remains the only cathedral with a completely circular interior. It also holds the record for the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The top of the dome is open and when it rains the water just pours right on in, and drains through 22 small holes in the center of the floor. You can't see it in the picture, unfortunately, but it was raining when we were there. We could look up and see the raindrops falling through the hole in the ceiling. The rain was silent and absolutely beautiful. It was an incredible effect.


After that we started walking to the Forum and the Colisseum, but got kind of distracted when we stumbled upon the Italian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It puts the American tomb to shame; makes ours look like a cigar box. It’s this large, white marble structure that’s about 10 stories high and takes up like a whole block. Absolutely stunning. That night we were able to drive by it in a taxi and see it all lit up. We climbed up near the top and took pictures of the statues. They had guards posted there for posterity, and people had lain flowers on the steps, plus they have the eternal flame burning. It brought tears to my eyes, it really did.

After that we wandered off trying to find the Forum. No wonder we had trouble finding it, couldn’t see the forest over all the trees! The Forum takes up about 6 blocks, and we were right in the freaking middle of it wondering where it was. We finally figured that out. After we realized that the ruins we were looking at were the ruins we were looking for, we loved it. It was so awesome to see the steps that we heard to many lectures about in Latin class in high school (for the record, that’s where Spencer and I met). We wandered down the street next to the Forum on our way down the Colisseum. When we got there, we saw a couple having their wedding pictures taken in front of it (THAT would be an awesome experience!). We got to see the Colisseum up close and personal and let me tell you, for what is essentially a pile of bricks that’s falling apart, it’s beautiful. We walked back up the hill to the Capitoline Museums, where we were able to see ruins of Constantine’s statue (same size as his ego) and the original bronze statue of the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus. Then we went our for a nice romantic dinner at a wine bar; our waiter looked like he could have been Kevin Kline’s little brother (good-looking and super nice). LOL. It really was a wonderful day.



We took the train from Rome to Florence. We got to see the Tuscan countryside with all the olive groves and vineyards. It was great because I had been told the train ride would be 3 and a half hours, and we ended up getting a faster train that only took an hour and a half. We made it into town around noon and checked into our hotel; the people there were SO nice I never wanted to leave! The guy at the desk when we checked in said to us, “there’s only one gypsy here and he’s my brother, and he’s working now so you don’t have to worry about him.” It was hilarious. The main site in Florence was the Basilica de Santa Maria Del Fiore, also called Il Duomo (The Dome). Even though the word Duomo refers to any current or former Cathedral, ask an Italian where The Duomo is and they’ll point you toward Florence. Il Duomo was built on a site that originally held a cathedral dedicated to Santa Reparata, but by the time the 1200s rolled around it was in horrible disrepair and couldn’t meet the demands of the growing city. Il Duomo was redesigned in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio and the first stone was laid on September 9th of that year. Progress slowed when Arnolfo died in 1302; the construction hit many roadblocks along the way and the cathedral and dome were both finally completed in 1436.

While in Florence we also visited the Ponte Vecchio, a famous bridge that crosses the river Arno. It was originally constructed out of wood in the year 996 but has been washed away by floods several times over the many years; the stone bridge that currently stands has been there since 1345. Part of what makes it so unique is that the bridge (which is only open to pedestrians, not vehicles, is covered with wall-to-wall jewelry shops. Of course, nothing we could afford, but lots of pretty stuff to look at! Yay sparkles! We also visited Gelateria Vivoli, an ice cream bar that claims (and critics agree) to have the “best gelato in the world.” Of course we had to go! We spent probably $15 or $20 on ice cream but it was SO worth it! They had your classic flavors like tiramisu, limone and stracciatella; but they also had unique ones like pear and fig. It was incredible. While in Florence we went to the Uffizi Gallery, mainly so I could see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (in this country referred to as Venus on the Halfshell, as if she were an hors-douvre) and of course to the Galleria Del’Academia, to see Michaelangelo’s David. Absolutely. Incredible. David is about 15 feet tall and he’s stunning. I literally started crying when I saw him. I just can’t even describe the feeling.

Barcelona was beautiful, but by far the largest city we visited. We started out try to go around on foot, but between the size of the city and all the hills, I just couldn’t make it. I was already so exhausted from the rest of the trip that I just couldn’t manage! So the first full day we were there, we walked down to the beach and rented us some bikes. It was kind of expensive, but well worth it! Barcelona is set up to accommodate bikes; there are bike lanes on almost all the streets and the drivers all pay attention and actually stop at red lights! LOL. We biked down the boardwalk along the coast and got to marvel at the view the Mediterranean Sea provided us. The beach was wonderful; the sand was soft and the water was actually quite warm considering that it was such a large body. We promised ourselves that we’d have to come back and spend some more time on the beach before our trip was over.

The taxi driver that drove us to our hotel from the airport told us that there were two things we absolutely had to eat while in Spain: Paella (a rice dish similar to risotto but spicier) and Tortilla de Bacalao (salt cod omelet). Well we went to a restaurant for lunch and that’s what we ordered! The tortilla de bacalao was absolutely delicious, though the paella was a little on the bland side. We ordered seafood paella and it was filled with scallops, mussels, clams, and WHOLE crayfish. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the crayfish, it was too close to a big bug for me to handle (probably the cousin of the cockroach that ran across our table at one point). Of course Spencer couldn’t resist the opportunity to play torture, and didn’t waste any time picking up a crayfish and coming after me with it. After screaming enough to cause a scene, he finally put the damn thing down. After lunch we wandered up the street called La Rambla; the only area of the town that isn’t primarily on a grid (easy to get lost there!) and the home of most of the street vendors and shops. We wandered onto a back street and stumbled on La Catedral (the city’s primary cathedral [I’m not counting La Sagrada Familia because it has not yet been consecrated]). Most of the exterior of the cathedral was under renovation but we were still able to get some good pictures of the building.

That night we got to go to a Flamenco show and a really exclusive theater. The handles on the doors were silhouettes of flamenco dancers! It was so neat. They served us sangria and the show was about an hour and a half long; I cried at the end it was so beautiful. The next morning we were starting to crave a good, hearty American breakfast, so we went to this restaurant that advertised eggs and bacon on the sign. We go in and discover that the restaurant is run by a Chinese girl who spoke about 4 words of English and only like 7 words of Spanish. That should have been our first clue that something was wrong. She gave us menus (which were in Spanish of course) but they had pictures so we had a general idea of what it was we were looking at. So I see that they have bacon, and I see this one dish that looks a lot like poached eggs with potatoes on the side. I’m thinking, that’s perfect., and even though I didn’t understand the description my mom assured us that they were poached eggs (I should have been worried when she promised me they were eggs and then ordered something else!) So I order that, with bacon. The lady looked so confused when I ordered it with bacon but decided to go with it. So we wait a few minutes and the food comes and I look down at it and something’s just not quite right. So I look at Spencer and I say, “Spence, why does my egg have tentacles coming out of it?” Turns out they weren’t eggs, they were CUTTLEFISH! We all burst out laughing and just couldn’t stop; it was just too freaking funny! We learned one very important thing though: Don’t let my mom order for us in a restaurant!

After breakfast we went to Fundacio de Joan Miro; a museum dedicated to the artist. I learned a lot about my mom on that trip. My mom’s art is very clean and concise and I wouldn’t have expected her to be so intrigued by art that was so chaotic. But she loved it and had a great time, and so did we! The real treat was when we went to Park Guell, though. My mom kept telling us the whole time that the reason she wanted this trip was to go to Park Guell. I couldn’t figure out why she was so excited. I thought it was just a regular park with grass and trees; nothing special. But it was important to her, so of course we went. Well we get there, and it’s nothing like I imagined! The park was designed by Antoni Gaudi, and is covered in funky structures and mosaics and buildings held up by leaning columns; I just can’t even describe it. It was so stunning. We climbed up to the top of the hill at the back of the park and were able to have a view of the whole cityscape, complete with the sea in the background. When we went to leave the park (which is on the outskirts of the residential area) I looked in my wallet and realized that what I thought was a 20 was actually a 5. You know what that means? No cab fare! The closest ATM was in the center of town, so we had some walking to do. We started walking in the general direction of our hotel (thank God it was downhill) until we finally found an ATM. We withdrew some money and set about trying to find a taxi. We finally flag one down and we get in the car and give him the name and address of our hotel. He just looks at us like we’re speaking gibberish (for the record, we WERE speaking his language). So we pull out a map and mark with an X where our hotel is. He takes the map and holds it upside down and looks at it like it’s written in martian. So we give him another map that’s more detailed, again with an X to show where the hotel is. He holds that one upside down, too. So we finally get him to start driving, and after a couple blocks (at least it was somewhat in the right direction) he pulls over. So we’re trying to tell him “este aqui” (meaning, go left here) and apparently what he was hearing was “esta aqui” (meaning, it’s right here). So he’s just sitting there, by the curb, staring at us. Finally we give up and just get out and set off to find another cab. Luckily, that one was actually able to get us to our hotel.

Our last day in Barcelona was a beautiful one. We started out at the Picasso museum. When you think if Picasso you generally think of cubism, because that’s what he’s known for. But he started off with realism, doing landscapes and portraits. It was until much later in his life that he moved on to cubism. It was fascinating to go through the displays year by year and see the progression of his style, and to be able to see the influence of other artists he apprenticed under.
After the Picasso museum we went to La Sagrada Familia. This was probably THE highlight of our trip. Also designed by Antoni Gaudi, the temple is dedicated to “the sacred family,” meaning Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It was designed and commissioned in the 1800’s and foundation was laid in 1865. The temple (when finished) will have three facades: The Nativity, The Passion, and The Resurrection. Gaudi knew that he would die before the temple was completed, so the first thing he had finished was the nativity fa├žade. He said that having it there would help inspire the workers and remind them of the importance of the project. It will be finished in 2030, and I have every intention of going back in 20 years to see it completed.

The last thing we did in Barcelona was go back to the beach. We spent all afternoon of our last day swimming in the Mediterranean. Spencer had never swam in an ocean before, so this was completely new for him, and I haven’t been to the beach in like 11 years. The water was perfect and the waves were just big enough to bob around on and bodysurf to shore. It was the perfect end to a wonderful anniversary trip.