After the Storm

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We've been having almost daily late afternoon thunderstorms.  (It reminds me so much of our beloved Colorado!).  Friday afternoon, I decided to grab my camera to catch some of the post-storm loveliness.  I think, in both life and nature, some of the best moments come right after the storm.

I hope you all are enjoying a nice, long weekend to kick off summer.  As we enjoy the pool, BBQ and birthday celebrations (at least at our house) may we not forget what today is really all about. 

This Week in My Kitchen

Once again I'm joining Heather for her This Week In My Kitchen blog hop (though I'm a day late).  

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This week we were back in our own kitchen but our week was a bit different as we had two evenings and one whole day spent at soccer tournaments plus a sick day.  I also helped with a bake sale for a new private organization I'm involved with.  Thus, there wasn't a lot of cooking and was much more baking that I usually do in a given week (aside from bread).  

Jack and I did make the Layered Panigacci with Pesto and Ricotta which all five of us liked a lot (a major win!).  Morgan and I dug out my huge binder of recipes and made "Jim's Cupcakes" for the bake sale.  This is a recipe that my dad got from one of his best friends at least 20 years ago.  It's been our family's go-to ever since.  Both my sister and I noticed immediately when Heather shared a very similar recipe with great updates in one of her workshops.  

Connor also joined me in the kitchen when we made snickerdoodles for the bake sale.  Just the old fashioned, Better Homes and Gardens recipe for that.  

I have high hopes for next week.  It should be a bit less busy and I plan to be more deliberate in making time in the kitchen a priority.  

 

This Week in My Kitchen

This week (and hopefully for many to come) I'm joining Heather in sharing images from my kitchen.  This past week our cooking moved south as we were on vacation in Tuscany.  We also had (many) treats that we don't usually cook including s'mores.  It's become our tradition to take them every where we go to share with locals and others who may have not ever had them.  Yum! 

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These Days

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These days I'm…

Planning :: A girls’ trip to Paris with my mother/sister-in-law and a week in Tuscany over Easter break.

Listening :: To birds chirping in the mornings along with Haim, St. Paul & the Broken Bones and a variety of podcasts.

Moving :: Thanks to yoga, Barre 3 and a crazy loop from our town, up a hill ( small mountain) to the next town and back.

Dreaming :: Of a vacation somewhere tropical, just Jeff and I and knowing that I need to be dreaming of southern Italy, Croatia and the UK (with kids).

Thinking :: About summer plans and our last year in Italy. 

Watching :: Scandal and House of Cards.  I’m no longer shocked by any news I hear out of DC. 

Enjoying :: Each of the kids’ right as they are at 10, 8 and 7.  (Though I could do without some of the sass.)

Noticing :: How easy it is to get used to the sunshine and how much I miss it when it goes away.  I think Colorado spoiled me and moving back to the Pacific NW may be a tougher transition than I think.

Pondering :: Love, justice, why people focus on “the minors” and grace. 

Loving :: That all three of my babes are downstairs making birthday "surprises" for me. 

Feeling :: blessed, grateful, loved.

 

Clean Slates and Expectations

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 I entered the New Year refreshed and energized, excited for all that was to come with the clean slate of a new year. 

I’m big on fresh starts, and clean slates. 

One reason I love Mondays is because they mark the beginning of 7 days of fresh starts.  My motiviation and enthusiasm is typically at its peak on Monday before reality (and the mundane) can kick in. 

The start of 2014 felt the same way. 

Our Christmas was lovely and the time off we enjoyed together was very needed.   I had some goals set for myself related to health, my volunteerism and getting back to my RHN program.  Jeff was eager to get back to work knowing that there were some big projects ahead. 

We knew that January and February would be a challenging 8 weeks as both boys would be playing basketball which meant two practices and a game for each every week.  On top of that, Jack would continue with soccer practice (and as it turns out a few games/tournaments we weren’t expecting).  

Sure, it would be crazy but we wanted to give the boys the opportunity to play.   Plus, we had all of these plans and new boundaries and goals.

We can do anything for 8 weeks.  It’ll be great.

While that’s true, now that we’ve lived those 8 weeks and seen how the hectic schedule affected us we’re reflecting on whether it’s something we’re willing to do again. 

Those goals and plans that seemed really realistic on January 1 take a lot of work.  Maintaining boundaries is hard when you’re already tired and overwhelmed.  Projects that you thought would go one way end up being something different.

It turns out, that 3 hours of drive time and 8 hours of practice each week while juggling Jeff’s schedule, ensuring homework was done and bedtimes were reasonable resulted in nothing less than craziness. 

We ended up in a state of constant rush and then, in an attempt to be respectful of the two kids that weren’t practicing, Jeff or I would hand them off to the other and hurry home for dinner and bed.

Jeff and I would finally meet on the couch at 8:30 or 9:00 exhausted (and often frustrated). 

March arrived with its sunny days, blossoming flowers and a little more margin in our days. 

We have had a few unexpected, challenges but I’m beginning to recover from the frustration and exhaustion and am now looking forward.

Yes, I now have with more realistic expectations but also the knowledge that I need to be firm in the boundaries we set as a family and those I set for myself. 

My goals and those of our family are important but they won’t happen on their own.  It takes time, dedication often going against the grain and sometimes saying no to good things. 

2013 in Review

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January :: basketball, lunch dates and Connor turns 6

 

Eiffel Tower, Feb 2013

February :: Carnivale, snow and Paris

 

March

March :: cooking classes, Jeff goes to Texas, Mom & Fred visit and I turn 36

 

April

April :: Jeff does Seattle, Portland and NYC, light returns

 

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May ::  Friends, Gymnastics and Jeff turns 37 

 

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June ::  Morgan turns 8, Summer kick-off with friends at Lake Garda, summer fun 

 

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July ::  Celebrating 14 years at the Opera in Verona, swimming, girls' trip to Florence 

 

Seriously.

August ::  Mondays at Barcis, more swimming, Switzerland 

 

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September ::  a bit more swimming, back-to-school (1st, 3rd, 5th) and Italian Soccer

 

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 October ::  More soccer, hikes, and Halloween

 

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November ::  Alice & Mindy visit, Jack turns 10 and we give thanks with friends

  

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December :: Jeff takes a quick trip to Belgium, we celebrate and let go.

This type of looking back is really fun for me.  Sometimes, it's hard to remember just how much fun we've had over the past year and this is a simple way to do just that.  While there is definitely a need to acknowledge the less fun aspects of previous 365 days, for me that's best done in quiet solitude.  (Also known as when the kids go back to school.)  

This past year has been especially full of connecting with friends.  New people have come into our lives and we're connecting more deeply with others.  For that, I'm especially grateful.  And the travel, Paris and Switzerland were huge highlights for all of us but there were smaller trips that were just as full of fun and memories.  

I do hope to be in this space more in 2014.  It's fun for me to write and share my images (and I know my mother-in-law especially appreciates my posts).  

It's strange to think about, but 2014 will bring us the first of our "lasts" here in Italy and with that will come the beginning of another shift for us and a reminder that if you want to come visit time is running out!  

  

 

Slow Living

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One of my most favorite things about life in Italy is how
Italians value relationship and living out the moments of life in community with those they care about most. 

It can easily be said that everything happens
very slowly here in Italy.  Projects that
we as Americans would think of as one-day jobs take three or more (and that’s
typically after several weeks of permit approval and coordination). 

Whiles it's true that some of this is  due to beauracracy.   I truly believe that much of is simply because of
the Italian pace of life.

Here, we don’t rush. 
It doesn’t matter if you’re headed to school, work or a vacation.  It will always be there.   It is safe to say that punctuality is a bit
different in Italian life.  I’m used to a
“15 minutes early is one time culture” as a military wife where here it can
easily be said that 15 minutes late is right on time.

Not only do Italians not rush for much but a high premium is placed on down
time and relationships.  I absolutely
adore that every business establishment (save some of the major grocery stores)
close for vacation, usually two weeks at a time.  Is it an inconvenience to find your regular
gas station closed when you’re running on fumes?  Yes. 
But it’s your own damn fault for not filling up sooner.  The same can be said for the fact that most
businesses are closed on Sundays.  The
world absolutely keeps turning while these businesses are closed and in the
meantime the owners and their families get to rest and rejuvenate. 

This is my ideal. 

Rather than spending Sundays pumping gas, selling groceries
or running in to the office, our neighbors are found relishing leisurely
afternoons with several generations of their family over pasta, sausage and
wine. 

The same can be said for riposo.  Each day between 1 and 3 (or so) most of our
community closes down.  This is similar
to siesta in that it gives families a time to enjoy the mid-day meal and
rest.  Again, can it be frustrating?  Yes but only when the perspective and value
in such a practice is lost. 

To me, these simple practices can change the world.  This blog post also shares a similar
perspective on the priorities we choose in life. 

While much of the impact is found in these routine, daily
practices (so true in all of our days!) after living here for two years I get
the sense that even without these default pauses in the day, relationship is
still number one.  

I see in how each person is greeted as you pass on the sidewalk whether you
know them or not. 

It’s in the ease of which a neighbor offers to make café
when someone stops by their house. 

And I see it when our community comes together on the first
day of school, at the summer camp program and at the movies in the piazza. 

It’s relationship. Slow and steady.  One minute at a time.

**I came across this blog post today and it resonated with me so much.**

Summering

Not a shabby view.  Lake Garda

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We're about at the half way point of Summer 2013.  It's hard to know for sure because unlike in the States, our school doesn't release any calendar information until about two weeks before school starts.  It's a big unknown until we see the sign posted outside the school.  My best guess is that the kids will head back around September 9th and, for now, that's good enough for me. 

This summer has been one for the books.  We've had a good mix of free time and scheduled activities and have really enjoyed our time together.  Some of the highlights have been:

:: "Camping" (we were in mobile homes) at Lake Garda with three other families.  Nothing kicks off summer like a weekend away with 8 adults and 13 kids in an amazing part of Italy. 

:: Lots of time at the beach, various rivers and ponds playing in the sun.

:: Reading tons of books.  I'm not sure who has read more, me or Jack.  

:: Board games of all kinds.  Yes, even the dreaded Life.  It's amazing how much I loved playing that with my siblings and cousins as a kid and now I say a little prayer every time I tell someone to "go pick out a game".

:: A night in Verona to celebrate our 14th anniversary and experience our first opera thanks to sweet friends that loved on our kids while we were gone.  

:: Enjoying 30 meters of pizza with friends and neighbors at our town's pizza festival.

Throw in BBQs, birthday celebrations, dinner parties, a day in Venice with friends and I'd say the past 6 weeks have been pretty amazing.