Saturday, December 11, 2010

Italian Life Continues...

So, I think I'm getting kind of used to living here, because I forget that I randomly do some note worthy things... so, sorry that I continually fall behind, but here we go again...

I took a one-day cooking class offered through the base, at a local restaurant (forgot the name, I do apologize...), where we learned how to make an authentic Italian meal (Macaroni Grill who?);

Some kind of parm and broccoli pasta with pork (and no, there is no pesto despite the green look) and on the side- grilled eggplant and zucchini, and my favorite- bruschetta!
I don't remember the actual name of the main dish, but I do have the recipe! The chef spoke only in Italian, so we had an interpreter- though I'm pretty sure he knew English because he laughed at some of the comments people were making!

Later that week we were informed that if you want something here, just buy it. You can always take it back, but if you decide to sleep on it, it might not be there when you return to buy it, and then you have to wait possibly months before it's restocked. So with that, we decided to see if the NEX had the MAC we were going to buy for ourselves for Christmas... they did! And only one, so we took the advice we just received and had an early Christmas purchase!

Of course, we're not going to open it up and use it until Christmas... oh wait, no- we were definitely like little kids without parents that night ;-p

At the cooking class, I spend a lot of time talking to a fellow Navy wife and her visiting parents, and they invited me out for pizza with them at a later date. The pizzeria on the agenda was the place Julia Roberts ate at in her recent film Eat, Pray, Love...

The pizza maker-

I will return as often as possible and anyone who visits me can expect that to be on the itinerary :-)

I prayed, ate and loved that pizza!!! It's the best I've had in Italy yet!

My Julia Roberts pose...

Oh, and a guy (who worked there) decided to make me take a pic with him... thanks?

Hm... I kind of want it right now...

Speaking of food- Thanksgiving was great! A wonderful spread- compliments of our good friends the Fields! Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of all the food... nor all the tons of leftovers, however, I did capture a few moments of the fun!

We played the board game "Quelf." I didn't win, but I was definitely a good sport, as this me doing ballet for a minute... with my ninja headband/belt on... watch out! Oh yes, and Keda with her lovely helmet! Yeah, I know, we look a little SpEd here, but hey, it was fun! Oh, and there's a little glimpse at all the food in the background! Well, the containers and foil anyway...

Next on the menu - The Royal Palace at Casserta (or Palazzo Reale di Caserta).

It was modeled after the Palace of Versailles (you can refer to my Paris blog;, as Charles wanted it to be bigger and better than his rival ancestors in Versailles. Its's a beautiful place, and he may have succeeded in the bigger and better-ness but, the French know how to preserve and keep much better than the Italians... just saying. Although, it was very nice not to have to fight the crowds of Versailles!!!

Everything was marble, but what really got me was the patterns and different marbles used- especially for the floors!

Not gonna lie, I thought about stealing this birdcage/clock... how awesome?!?!

Can I get this tub installed in my apartment?

Gorgeous table!

Italians are very family oriented... thus explaining why they were the first to include everyone in their nativity scenes!

Nothing like an Italian crowd!
Unfortunately, we didn't dress weather appropriate, so we're saving the gardens for a warmer day!

Can't wait!

*Side note: This castle was used in Star wars and Angels and Demons
Oooh, Ahhh

I also couldn't wait to part with the "Mo."

I didn't greet the Mo, I mean James, with a razor that day- just some hair bleach (which only brought out the red)! What was the point of having it if you can't have fun with it! Then I kissed that thing goodbye!

Next stop... Christmas!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall fun...

To kick off October we had a little pumpkin party;

Mine was already rotting on the inside, so we decided to just leave him be. Instead, my task was the pumpkin seeds!

Gooey- Bleh! But once the seeds were cleaned, salted and in the oven we watched an episode of House. About 30 minutes later I realized I forgot to set the timer- Our little party was not a success on my end!
Not to mention the pumpkins all went bad in a about a week!

A few days after tossing the pumpkins in the garbage it was time for me to fly home! I was there for 10 days, and just in time for the arrival of my newest nephew Logan. He is such a sweet baby and I miss him already!

I also got to take my other nephew to our Church's Harvest party, which he was way excited about!

As was my bff, who helped out. That's one gorgeous pirate!

I also got to witness my nephew learning to use the potty, haha! How darling!

And finally, I had to say goodbye to a dear friend;

We had good times ol' girl, sorry to have to end it this soon!

It was great to hang out with the world's greatest fam and to see all my friends and church family. I landed back here on Nov 3rd, to James who was on day three of supporting "Movember" ( This pic is more recent, however...

I can't wait til November 30th! I just might greet him at the door with his razor that evening! Regardless, it is great to be reunited with my love again, though when I returned, I was even more homesick than before I went home. *Tear*

So, to help me get back into the excitement of being in Italy, James signed us up for a weekend get-a-way in Emilia Romagno. I must admit, I was excited to get out, but I wasn't sure I was excited about the different parts of the trip. However, it ended up being awesome!
After the eight hour drive, our first stop was at a Parma-ham factory. It's a top of the line ham here. We got a tour of the factory and an in-depth walk through of the process. Luckily we only saw pigs legs and nothing more! Though nothing on the pig goes to waste apparently. Parma-Ham is a two year process!
Ham Anyone?

Each leg is worth 350 Euro!

After that we went to a traditional balsamic vinaigrette place. Once again we got to learn how it's made. Traditional balsamic takes a minimum of 12 years to make! So, chances are, if you've only had store bought, you've probably never had the real stuff- now days they just make imitation because it's a lot quicker. I felt kind of lied to when I found that out! It was so good we had to buy a bottle. We bought the 16-ish year old bottle for 60 Euro! Kind of steep but well worth it! It's good for 25 years and you're not supposed to refrigerate it.
Taste test!

Finally, we grabbed some pizza and went to our hotel. The next morning we got breakfast in the hotel (Italian continental breakfast is no joke! Sorry I didn't think to take pics!) and headed out to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory/store. It's top of the line Parmesan cheese, Mmmm. For this kind of cheese, it has to age for at least a year but this place let's it age for two years! The flavor is so strong and oh so good!

Us with one of the owners and tons of cheese... and the mustache...

Each wheel is worth 300 Euro!

Then, our final stop was the Ferrari Museum!

Normally I wouldn't go for a yellow car, but I'd be willing to make an exception...

All the cars were, of course, amazing!!!

And now I want one more than ever!
They have a place where you can test drive them (15 mins for 60 Euro) but we decided that we would wait til we could bring my sister and her husband, as I'm sure they'd LOVE it! And maybe my dad too... we shall see! I can't wait!!!

And now we're back on track...Whew...

Monday, October 4, 2010


We finally visited the local volcano this weekend, Vesuvius- the one that destroyed Pompeii in 79 A.D. We can see it from base on a daily basis, well, as long as it's a clear day- so it's about time we made it there!

Little back ground: now there is Vesuvius, the volcano, and Mt. Vesuvius, the mountain right next to (semi-connected to) the volcano. Before it erupted in 79 A.D. "they say" it was all one enormous volcano, but the eruption was so massive that it caused it to split... Viola! And then there were two...
We had nothing on the agenda for our Saturday, and the miserable summer weather is gone so we were on our way! The drive to the base of the volcano is quick and easy. The drive up however, is about 15-20 minutes of slow driving, steep skinny streets and sharp turns. Not to mention there were quite a few tour buses going up and down- I would hate to be them on those hillsides! Although, it was of course worth it, and the views are incredible.

However, the volcano can be rather shady and the clouds like to congregate at the top, so when we got to the top the views weren't so clear... But that will come later.
Eventually the street dead ends into a parking lot, where you pay a few Euro, park and then hike up! (which you also have to pay for...) The hike is steep!!! I might have turned back but there was a group of old people behind us- that'd be embarrassing! So onward ho! The hike was about 15 minutes at my hurry-let's-get-this-over-with pace. Once at the top you can circle the top of the crater and check out the many views in...

and down the volcano...


Notice the clouds... so cool :-)

Once we were done, we thought that instead of walking back down, it might be easier to just roll down into the abyss...

Ok maybe not- we've all heard not to walk into the light...
But with the steam (or whatever that was) coming out of the center, I did question the trust we put into the people who say that this volcano is "dormant."

But hey, what do I know about eruption calculating?
PS. Please don't tell my mom ;-)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

24ish Hours with Chrissy and Ayesha

Chrissy and Ayesha (friends from back home) came to Italy for their annual vacation this year. They are going to be all over the place but they came down to see us, Naples, and Capri for a day... and of course, pizza was on the itinerary too. Can't come to where it all began and not have a taste!!! They got here late last Sunday night (09/26), we picked them up from the train station, said our hellos, figured out our Monday game plan and then headed to bed. On Monday we woke up at about 8:30am, drank Heather-made smoothies for breakfast, got ready and then headed out to Capri via Naples. We took the metro and got off at the closest stop to the port to get to Capri, but this Metro stop is not actually close to the port so we had a fun walk down. If we weren't running behind schedule it would have taken us longer to get to the port, as you have to walk through a market area and down some streets with good shopping! Well, it looked good from the sidewalk anyway! *Sidenote* I SO need a female friend who doesn't work so we can take adventures to these places and shop our hearts out while our husbands work!! So many cute stores! Moving on- the only pit stop with did make was so that I could get a delicious doughnut! It was a sugar doughnut filed with Nutella. Well worth the stop! Here the pastries are warm, fresh, and pretty much melt in your mouth if you get them in the morning... Sorry Krispy Kreme- your donuts will probably no longer do it for me like they once did!
Anyway, the weather was a little cloudy and we had a few raindrops on us but we continued our stroll to the port. Chrissy and Ayesha snapped pics of random things that got their attention and of course, the random castle, Castle Nuovo (I believe). I say random because there is tons of traffic, along with all these restaurants and cafes, etc, and then you have a huge beautiful castle right in the middle. Sweet. Regardless, to me, the castle means we were just around the corner from the port! We bought tickets and were shortly on our way to the wonderful Isle di Capri.
The first thing we did once we got to Capri is get on a boat tour of the Island so they could be sure to see the famous Love Arch... MUAH!

The boat only took us around half of the Island because they said that the other side was too rough and we were lucky to even be able to get a boat tour that day. I did notice there were very few other boats out, so we took their word for it, but that did mean no Blue Grotto. *tear*
After the boat tour we rode the Funicalore (cable car thing) up to the town center.

There we checked out the stores, hunted for the shoe store that some celebrities go to for their custom shoes (i.e. Julia Roberts...), and of course, admired the views and took pictures that could make people jealous!

After Capri, we headed back to our place, they packed up, bought Eiffel Tower tickets in advance for their short visit to Paris the next day, and then we headed out to dinner! We revisited Country House because they had a not-so-good experience with pizza in Rome and we knew Country House wouldn't disappoint! We just couldn't allow them to leave Italy without at least one Napoli-good pizza experience! It wouldn't be right! Then after dinner they were off- back to Rome! It was good to hang out with friends from home, even if just for a day!
Til next time...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We'll always have Paris...

I have never actually seen Casablanca, but whenever I think of Paris, I think of that line from that movie...

In case you missed my blog about this trip- James planned it as a surprise for us to celebrate our one year anniversary! I LOVE HIM! I really could just say "Paris, was amazing, you have to see it..." and stop at that- but where's the fun in that?

We arrived in Paris at around 10am and were on our way to figure out the metro system and head to our hotel! Figuring out the metro system wasn't hard (and the ticket machines had English options). So, we were on our way- ready to buy a "carnet" (set of 10) of metro tickets at a time, which we read is the way to go, rather than one at a time (the cost is 12 Euro VS 1.70 Euro per ticket, saving us .50 per ticket). The machine wouldn't take our card or bills so we had to get out of line and hunt down some change! Mind you, we had been in line for like 20 mins before realizing we couldn't pay, sighhh! So we went around the corner and found a pastry shop and got our first French pastries! We got two bread stick things, one with chocolate chips all over it and one with fruity chunks- both were incredible, and this got us more excited for our next 4 days in Paris! When we paid we asked that cashier for our change in coins and we headed back to the line at the ticket machine. We found that the lines aren't always that long but I guess we weren't the only ones who just got in from the airport at that time... oh and did I mention we had enough Euro change to buy two full price tickets but were so set on buying the carnet that we got out of line without thinking about it, only to wait another 20 mins in line for the same machine... well, yeah, that's what happened... it was early ok ;-)
After finally purchasing our Carnet we made it to the metro stop close to our hotel, only to then realize we left the hotel address at home- and in Paris, all the streets and buildings look the same! After about 15 mins of walking in circles we found our cute hotel Ares!

We got settled in then went out for some food at a little cafe we found while in search of our hotel. While there, we learned that entree is actually the word for appetizers not the main course like we use it back home, and bottled waters can cost 7 Euro!!! (Note to future Paris travelers, you can drink the tap water in Paris... and for free!). Here we had our first French Creme Brulee!

After our long and delicious meal (meals in Europe are quite the process!), we walked by the Eiffel tower (just because)and then went to Notre Dame. We were hooked. That place is ridiculously awesome! Lots of detail and history in that place! By the time we got there the bell towers were closed so we just walked around the inside. Mass was going on at the time which was cool but awkward- oh well, I'm sure they're used to it!

We ended the day at Musee d'Orsay. Tons of famous (and not so famous) paintings, which we really didn't know much about. It was enjoyable but we're not quite in to art (especially nude art), so the only reason I would go back is for another chance to take in the ball room! We weren't allowed to take pictures or I'd have taken far too many! It's like a palace's version of the Sistine chapel- on steroids. A must see... again!

First things first- food. We found a pastry shop around the corner, got some breakfast pastries and were on our way to a full day of Paris tourism!

We heard about bus #69 (one of their public transportation buses), which goes by lots of the popular sights so we rode that bus to the end just to get a little drive by of some of what Paris has to offer. While on our way back we found a Harley Davidson store so we stopped in to get James dad some Paris H.D. memorabilia! Such thoughtful kids we are! Then we hopped back on and back off close to the Lourve.
As we were walking, we decided we should probably eat before going to this huge museum. We passed a department store on our walk and I had noticed that whenever they talk about shopping they say "department store" and never mall, so we went to check it out. come to find out, their department stores are kind of like malls. In this one in particular (I forget the name), there were 7 stories and each one was something different. The bottom was like Home Depot, the next floor was clothing and accessories, one was electronics, one was a book and gifts type store, one had home goods, etc, very neat! We decided to eat in the cafe on the 7th floor with a cute little view over part of the city.
Finally off to the Louvre! It was yet another work of amazing French architecture. We admired the outside and as we worked our way to the entrance we decided to have some fun with the pyramid (entrance).

It's quite possible we spent more time on the outside of the Louvre than the inside...

Once finally inside we decided to rent the audio-guide to walk us through the "masterpieces" at the museum. We saw many incredible works of art including the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa. So cool. That place is huge, we probably only covered .05 of it that day. Oh and there is a Starbucks under the museum which I am proud to say I did not indulge in!
After the Lourve we tried to stop by the Rodin Museum (Rodin is the guy who made "the thinker") but it had already closed for the day. At that point we were ready to head back to the hotel for a break... but not before another snack of course. We stopped at a stand for some hotdogs and crepes! Their hotdogs were pretty cool. They used baguettes, poked a hole down the center, dropped some mustard inside, dipped the hotdog in ketchup then put the hotdog inside and viola! So not messy. So smart. And then we finished off our snacking with a strawberry jam and Nutella filled crepe! Magnific!
We got back to the hotel, rested up (I slept for about 20 mins), then headed out for more exploration. We tracked down Lady Liberty,

admired the Arc De Triompe and her wonderful views, and of course, marveled at the Eiffel Tower- who sparkled for us :-)
This would be me realizing there would be no turning back on our climb up the Arc...

Then we were super American and grabbed some McDonald's to go, grubbed it down and passed out :-)

Pastries for breakfast! Then we hopped on the metro, changed to the R.E.R. (their train system) then we arrived at Versailles!!!

Gorgeous and huge! Everything was matching on the inside -bed spread, walls, furiture...
(I want the queen's room!)

...and intricately kept on the outside.

The yard was miles long and all beautiful. I wish I could live there! It's like a community but it's just one palace!

There are also mini get-a-way palaces and little gardens within the yard- all so beautiful!
After Versailles we went back to the room to freshen up (and nap again... hi...) then headed out to see what was going on at the Eiffel tower, before going up!
How romantic! ;-)

There was a lot going on under the tower. Lots of people selling odds and ends- I got suckered into buying five Eiffel Tower key chains for 1 Euro. I am using one- now what to do with the other four? There was also this no-name American wrapper with a huge crowd around her, and some soccer guys showing off their skills. Around 7:15 we got in line (James pre-bought tickets online for us, which was way smart if I do say so myself) we made it to the top around 7:45pm and didn't come down until about 9pm. We decided to walk down the last two "sommets" to get a different, and more inside view of the structure. It was a lot to take in. It was breathtaking, romantic and really quite an amazing piece of work. After that we walked around and took pics, grabbed some food (I had my first truly French French Onion Soup- delicious!), then we crashed for the night...

Day four already? Oh well... HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Yay! One year of marriage, can't believe we're already here! To start the day we, of course, visited our daily breakfast pastry shop and got some more goodies and headed out to squeeze in some last minute stuff. First we headed to Notre Dame to go up the Bell tower.

Which took forever

but was well worth it!

Especially because I had a new found obsession with gargoyles

Next we stopped for lunch where I had French Onion Soup again
(this one was even better than the first! I melted in bliss...)

followed by boeuf bourguignon and a cappuccino! The perfect last day lunch!
Then as we walked along, we found the cutest book store!!!

The books were in English, they had cute seating (couches, day bed style seating, etc- too cute), a little typewriter room- I really can't describe it and do it justice, but we spent about an hour in there- Loved it!
Next we hit up Sainte Chapelle. It was built to hold the crown of thorns... yes, THE crown of thorns, and it's basically just an old style French chapel with ridiculous amounts of stain glass windows which pretty much sum up the Bible- Genesis to Revelation... AWEsome! (a sneak peak of the front half...)

After that we went home to get all pretty-ed up for our Anniversary dinner cruise on the Seine River. While getting ready I accidentally knocked James' ring in the toilet... whoops!

But we got it out safe and sound... and by we, I mean James. What a sweetie! There was a live band which sang fun songs- oldies AND goodies! The cruise was about two hours, our "entrees" weren't that great but the meal and sides more than made up for it! Mmmm!

After the cruise we took one last walk to say "au revoir" to the lovely sparkling Eiffel Tower before heading back to the hotel.

From Paris With Love...