Yup, that’s about right

So the other day we had a really good weekend.  A nice mix of seeing friends, trying something new, and quality family time.  Then we had another.  And another.

I thought about how much the kids are enjoying school, and how I don’t freak out every single time I’m behind the wheel of the car.

I did the math, and it came together.  It’s been about six months.

So yeah.  That seems about right.

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What I’m into (January 2016 Edition)

Inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy, I’m sharing some stuff that I’m digging right now.  Could be a regular feature.  Who knows?  🙂

Cracking Nuts

With my renewed focus on paleo, I’ve been on Team Nut.  (Well, Team raw nuts or nuts not roasted in weird oils.  Natch.)

When visiting my in-laws in January, I fell in love with their mix of nuts in a vase alongside a cracker on the counter.  A beautiful display, something you couldn’t  nosh on mindlessly, and it provided endless entertainment for the boys.  I may have to do my own next holiday season.

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Isn’t this lovely?

Geox Shoes

In December, I paid a little visit to the Geox store.  My friend raved about her recent purchases.  Another friend mentioned she was interested because it is an Italian brand.

I was proud of myself because I tried on millions of shoes in different sizes and decided not to feel bad about just asking the salespeople to do something they are paid to do.  I really wanted to try on all of them because they were speaking to me.  Classic with a little edge.

In the end, I walked away with two pairs.  A pair of combat boots and some slip-on sneakers.

I’m in love with both.  Absolute love.  I packed additional shoes for my trip, but I shouldn’t have.  These two are all that I need.  They even did great in the snowzilla situation.

Yes, a little pricier, but I’ll pay for quality, particularly on shoes.  And one of my resolutions for this year (that I have yet to tell you guys about) is to buy more Italian stuff.  And to invest in quality things to boot.   (Hehe)

If you are in Italy, I’d definitely recommend a saldi visit to Geox this month!  I know I’ll be back.  Still no OTK purchase has happened . . .

Libraries

Any visions I ever may have had of myself as a SAHM definitely involved regular visits to the local library.  We have a lot of awesome stuff going on in Italy, but a library with English language books is not on the list.

On our trip stateside, we’ve been hitting libraries every chance we get.  The kids love perusing the books.  The toys there, of course, are way more exciting than any toys would be in our house.  And I love reading something besides the same old thing over and over and over.

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Driving in America

You guys!  Driving in the States is so easy!  After over a year of no driving, I have driven a few times in Italy.  Each time feels a little like preparing for battle.  Study the route beforehand, load the GPS and Google maps, strap the children in with lots of entertainment because I won’t be able to spare a second of attention for them during the trip.

But in America, it is fine!  Wide lanes, ample parking, the list goes on and on.  Granted, unlike in Italy, I do have to worry about being pulled over for a boneheaded traffic maneuver, but the necessity of making a boneheaded traffic maneuver is much lower.

I don’t love having to drive everywhere, but that’s another story.  For now, viva the automobile!

That’s about it for me.  What have you been into this month?

 

Want to hear something kind of crazy?

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I want to tell you something that is kind of crazy.  I, Melissa, mother of two, have never put both my kids in a car and driven them somewhere all by myself.  And these kids aren’t weeks old, mind you.  My “baby” turned one this spring.

The other crazy thing?  I haven’t driven a car since last August when we moved here.  I haven’t driven in Italy at all.

Back when we lived in DC, I was never a big driver.  When we were in Maryland, I sometimes drove to the metro or shopping or to visit my friends in Virginia, but I didn’t drive all the time.  Once we moved to DC proper, I mostly stopped driving.  I walked Henry to day care.  I took the bus or metro to work.  When we did family outings on the weekends, James would drive.  I did pull shifts–usually the early morning shift (no shocker there)–on our drives to SC, but I could still go months without getting behind the wheel of a car.

I’m a nervous person and a nervous driver.  Not driving much exacerbates this.  Living in cities exacerbates this.

I usually don’t mind it at all.  I have plenty of stores within walking distance.  Public transportation is still a challenge with the two kids, but it is there.  We can get where we need to go sans automobile.

But something happened earlier this month that has me reevaluating my no drivo status.

We visited Lake Bracciano on a weekend.  Although our trip out took longer because of a flat tire, this volcanic lake is only 45 minutes from Rome.  Motor sports are limited, and the lake is a pristine and quiet place.  It is rimmed by three towns to explore and an awesome (and free!) airplane museum at the sight of Italy’s first airport.

Even though the lake is crazy close, we opted to do an overnight so that we could explore more.  Our agriturismo, Agriturismo Il Castoro, sits on smaller, neighboring Lake Martignano.  You have to go down some serious dirt roads to get there.

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Even if you don’t stay there, you can pay a few euro to access the expanse of grassy beach lined with hammocks.  You can pay a few more euro to rent a paddle boat–some with their own slides–or grab some refreshing beverages at the small cafe.

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Because of uncooperative weather (I swear, it is always stifling except when I actually have aqua access), we didn’t frolic in the water.  (Although we did all touch it; Mac was particularly nonplussed.)

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We did enjoy some time swinging in the hammocks and feeling the grass between our toes.

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As we strolled, I could not help but think, I could do this.

I could load up the kids on a random weekday and hit the lake or explore a nearby town or do anything we wanted.  We have fun at the zoo and parks in Rome, and I’m trying to get better about picking off new sights with the kids, but we could just go.

Of course, exploring a new town with the adorable weirdos sounds downright frightening.  I’m not scared of my kids, per se; however, sometimes I am definitely intimidated by them.

But things change.  And faster than I think too.

Not that long ago, I could barely grocery shop with the two kids by myself.  Now we have a produce guy, an egg lady, fish dudes, and I can get around the store with the two of them if I need to.

Not that long ago, Mac refused to move anywhere.  Then I spent HOURS walking behind him holding his hands.  Now I walk beside him and sometimes dash to keep up as he darts off a few steps on his own.  (He still refuses to crawl though.)

At some point, trips with these guys may not seem so crazy.  I need to be ready.

Even if that means getting behind the wheel of a car.  I’m planning to force myself to practice when town empties this August.  Our car is already lightly “Romanized.”  No one would notice a few more scratches.

Deep breath.  I’m an adult.  I can do this.

Other Trip Highlights

  • We hit up Il Castello Odescalchi in Bracciano, site of famous weddings such as Tomkat’s.  The self guided tour involved some stairs, but went over well with the kids.  Shocking to NO ONE, Henry loved the weaponry.

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  • Historic Bracciano is fairly small.  We wandered, checked out views of the lake, and enjoyed lunch outside at Pane e Olio.  Service was slow (they were slammed), but the food was very good.

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Pistachio pasta FTW

Pistachio pasta FTW

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  • We drove through Trevignano, but didn’t get to explore this town.  Unlike Bracciano, which overlooks the lake from on high, Trevignano is down at the water.  Several restaurants on the water looked pretty sweet.
  • We enjoyed an evening wander and dinner watching the sunset over the lake at Il Vecchio Salus in Anguillara.  Although we didn’t go, Anguillara seems to have an expanse of public beach along with a jump park and rides area.

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  • If you have kids or any interest in planes, definitely check out the Italian Air Force Museum.  Fun (oversimplified) fact:  Italians built lots of seaplanes because they didn’t feel like building runways.  This free museum has several hangars of planes to delight the kiddos.  Even though half of it was closed at our visit, it was still worth the trip.  Did I mention it’s free??  Cafe inside.

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Also lots of old cars.  BONUS.

Also lots of old cars. BONUS.

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Other Bracciano Resources

Remind me not to live in the mountains

I was excited about our vacation.  I was excited to explore some new towns.  I was excited to taste some new foods.  But I was particularly excited about the drive.  Picture it: a scenic drive through rolling hills flanked by olive trees and vineyards.  It would be so picturesque, I just knew it.

Fast forward to actual drive.  We left post-lunch to try to align afternoon nap with the three hour drive.  (This was largely successful until we stopped for gas.)  The drive along the autostrade was uneventful.  Same for the smaller highway.  And then we turned off onto the local roads.

I had just been telling James that I hoped our kids wouldn’t be the carsick kind, thinking about those poor unfortunate types with delicate constitutions who had to stop frequently and clean their cars more often.  I didn’t think that *I* would be the weak link on the team.  But, alas, although I wasn’t sick, I was the one white-knuckling it around the curves and with an uncomfortable pit in my stomach.

First, these are not hills.  I suppose they aren’t mountains, but they have to be close.  Mini-mountains if you will.  Very tall.

Second, for the most part, the speed limit is 60 mph!  And people are doing it!

Third, people did not seem to be behaving as if they were dealing with very narrow, mountainous roads with high speed limits.  We’d come around a blind curve and a car would be parked in the middle of the road, the inhabitants off looking at some flora or fauna.  People would be walking beside the shoulder-less road.  Bikes would be cruising along, seemingly oblivious to the traffic bearing down on them.

It was gorgeous.  I will give it that.  Grape vines turning a golden yellow.  Clouds over the top of a mountain.  But the drive was intense.  And I wasn’t even the one driving.

We reached Volterra in the late afternoon.  Because there was no recognized address, James had punched the GPS coordinates into the navigator.  Unfortunately, the GPS tried to take us on there on a route without roads.  This resulted in some turns down very narrow roads with my saying things like “this can’t possibly be two-way!!!”  But we made it back on track and found our agriturismo down a long and bumpy dirt road.

The sun was setting and we watched it slip over the horizon.  It was, admittedly, gorgeous.  I could almost see putting up with the hassle of these roads for it, I thought.

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Then I realized we’d have to go navigate these roads AT NIGHT if we wanted dinner.  We survived.  My hand cramped a little from gripping the door handle all the way.

And then when we emerged the next morning, it was a truly breathtaking scene.  A perfect Tuscan day.  The sun shone brightly.  Clouds looked like they had been placed in the sky as props.  You could see the sheep grazing on the next mountain–even hear them baaing along through some trick of sound.  It was green and beautiful and wonderful.

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So I definitely do see the appeal.  I get it.  Just not for me.  A nice place to visit, but not to live.  I mean, it snows here, people!  I don’t even want to think about the roads then.