Milano

We started our Italian adventure in Milan, and decided to stay at an Airbnb because why not? We’ve never done it before, but we know lots of people who have, and decided to give it a try…

The apartment wasn’t ready when we arrived (we were early), but our host lived in the building also and told us to come to her apartment to leave our luggage. When we arrived (bedraggled and jet lagged, and in desperate need of caffeine) she had espressos waiting for us, and recommendations for good restaurants in the neighborhood while we waited for the apartment to be cleaned.

The apartment was wonderful, we had a lovely nap, and the next day we were ready to explore Milan.

Right around the corner was the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Church where the refectory has the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. We tried to get tickets to see it, ( I mean, y’all, it was literally a 5 minute walk!) but we found out you need to purchase tickets in advance. Like, 3-4 weeks in advance, at least. Oops. Planning ahead when traveling, not something the VK’s do well.

We went to the Duomo. It was beautiful. It was big. It was crowded with crazy tourists.

But then, we walked to another church I had read about, San Bernardino alle Ossa. The Church has an ossuary, a small side chapel, which is decorated with human skulls and bones. It dates from the Middle Ages when, apparently, they ran out of room in the graveyards due to the numerous plague victims. I know it sounds macabre, but honestly- it wasn’t. It was sad. But there was a somber, reverential feeling to the arrangement of the bones. It didn’t feel macabre or creepy; simply respectful. And, it was…lovely? I don’t know the right word. But I found it fascinating, and it was one of my favorite things in Milan.

After that we walked to see the Colonne di San Lorenzo, which is a group of ancient Roman ruins. I realize we’ll be seeing a lot more of those soon enough, but I never get tired of old stuff.

And finally we finished the day by walking to the Navigli, or canal area, where we had a gelato before heading back to the apartment and a lovely dinner in the neighborhood.

:

The last day in Milan we intended to go to a museum. We had directions on the phone and left , thinking it was a 20 minute walk. An hour later we were still walking. We were hot and thirsty and annoyed and confused. The roads kept changing names. There was road construction. The map app kept refreshing and giving different directions and different arrival times. Finally we found the damn place. And then I swear to God we couldn’t find the freaking entrance! We walked around that building I don’t even know how many times. I was about ready to spit.

So…long story short, we did not go see the Leonardo exhibit at the Museum of Science and Technology, as awesome as it sounded. We gave up.

But!

We did have dinner and a cooking lesson, sort of) with our new friends, M & A at their apartment that evening, where they taught us (tried to, anyway!) to make Risotto alla Milanese and Cotoletta alla Milanese (veal cutlets.) it was a lively evening filled with fun conversation, fantastic food, good wine, and new friends! Grazie mille!

Back to School (last time!)

Paige came home at the end of the summer for about 10 days of relaxation, interspersed with doctors appointments and dental checkups and haircuts. The time flew by, and before we knew it it was time once again for her to head back for all her sorority recruitment stuff…

Before the very last first day of school picture! (Selfie)

As she begins her final semester of college!

Tim and I drove over for parents weekend, and to attend her sorority’s “Red Dress Gala,” which benefits women’s heart health. Our drive over didn’t begin very auspiciously, but we did arrive eventually, and loved spending time with Paige and meeting her friends!

Summer

Summer was a bit of a whirlwind this year. Paige stayed in Tallahassee, working as a nanny for a local family and taking a class…coming home for beach weekends whenever possible. She also babysat for her cousins and a few other local families and managed to save quite a bit of money for the next semester.

Clay was working two part time jobs, sending out resumés and applying for jobs on handshake and LinkedIn daily, contacting recruiters…and hoping something would turn up. Let’s just say that the environmental field is not what it was a couple of years ago.

Tim and I traveled to North Carolina to visit my mom at the beginning of the summer and to Washington D.C. at the end of the summer.

Pomp and Circumstance

After much back and forth and (apparent) miscommunication about credits, at the very last minute we found out that Clay would indeed be graduating this spring.

Cue choir. Now all sing Hallelujah!

Seriously though, we’re very proud of him!

London

Over spring break Paige and I decided at the last minute to try to take a trip. We wanted to go to Edinburgh, but the flights were all full so by process of elimination (we could get on a flight!), we decided to go to London for a couple of days.

We love the Victoria and Albert Museum- it was full of fun stuff, and we wandered and meandered our jet lagged selves around until it was time for a spot of tea.

Of course we had to make the trek out to King’s Cross and visit Platform 9 3/4. It was très touristy, but it had to be done!

Girl’s night out!

We also went to Oxford and Oxford was AMAZING! I loved Oxford. It was charming. It was full of history, and gargoyles, ghost stories and interesting stuff, and statues, and even more gargoyles and I wanted to stay FOREVER! We only had time to visit one of the colleges at Oxford- Christ Church; and that was only a fleeting visit at best. But we made time for a visit to the Great Hall in Bodley Tower which was the inspiration for the great hall in the Harry Potter movies (they’re almost an exact replica!) The Hall was built in the 1500’s and has been in almost constant use since the sixteenth century. Even today, it’s used as a dining hall for the students at Christ Church.

We stopped to browse in Alice’s Sweet Shop, where Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice In Wonderland used to shop for sweets when her father (and author of book), Henry George Liddell, was the Dean of Christ Church.

We, naturally, visited the Tower. Yes, it’s also touristy. I know. I don’t care. We go every time we’re in London. I love it. I love the Yeoman Warders. I love the ravens.

And OF COURSE we visited my favorite place, The British Museum! If you’ve never been, and you ever get to London you should definitely make the time to go. The British Museum has an amazing collection of items, collected over centuries. They rotate their collections rather often as well (and the museum is so large and collections so extensive), that I find that even though we visit every time we are in London I always find new treasures to be enthralled by. And of course, they have The Rosetta Stone , they have the largest collection of Egyptian objects outside of Egypt, and a portion of the Parthenon (or Elgin Marbles), and the Sutton Hoo Collection, and the Vindolanda Tablets.

We were only there 3 days, but we crammed a lot into those 3 days (including a day trip to Oxford 😍), and we had a fabulous time!

Québec

For our (28th gasp!) anniversary, Tim and I decided to take a quick trip to…somewhere. We started to check the flights to see how things looked. We wanted to go to Lisbon, but alas, all the Lisbon flights were full. We checked Madrid, Barcelona – same. Finally, we found a flight we could get on that wasn’t full, and off we went…

In February. To Québec.

I know, maybe we should’ve thought that one through just a tiny bit more, right? We left our nice balmy Florida beach town (83 degrees) and arrived to holy freaking are you kidding me with this snow (30 something insane blowing winds degrees).

Our hotel was awesome though, and had this fabulous breakfast and a fireplace with a fire going in the lobby all the time. We ate breakfast in front of the fire every morning and that was truly sublime.

In spite of the holy cow-this-is-insanity temperatures, we bundled up and walked around and went to museums and markets and shopped and ate – we even tried poutine (sorry Canadians, I’m not feeling the love for poutine!)

A picture is worth a thousand words…

I’ve been remiss in my blogging, once again. Here’s all the stuff I wasn’t blogging about…

Before Paige’s college suspended all greek life, her sorority held their philanthropy event- a Red Dress Gala for women’s heart health, and had a couple of social events.

She also spent a lot of time studying…

We loved having the whole family together for Thanksgiving….

Tim and I decided to be tourists one day, and took a trolley tour in St. Augustine (We’ve never done that before! 😳😂) We walked all along St. George Street And did some Christmas shopping, had lunch, and had a fabulous day.

The family went for a nice hike in Guana over Thanksgiving weekend before the kids had to get back to classes. It was a great way to end the weekend (after eating all that turkey 🦃)!

Clay got to spend a day out on the water doing some research before exams, which he appreciated!

I spent a weekend tackling a couple of projects- repainting our patio set, and chalk painting this table. I love how it turned out!

http://gtmnerr.org/

Level Dance Company performed in the homecoming parade, and Paige had a reunion with her Paris friends (from study abroad.)

Charleston 

Tim and I decided to drive up to Charleston for a couple of days last week and have a quick little getaway. 


It’s been a stressful few weeks around here, so getting out of town was quite nice. Charleston was lovely, albeit hot and humid. But, we’re pretty much used to that, so we were fine. We ate (way too much) at some amazing restaurants (Husk and 82 Queen in particular- if you go to Charleston, try them!) We meandered, and wandered, and shopped, and went into museums and peered into old graveyards and sat on benches and looked at the water and talked sometimes…and sometimes we just sat in silence, and that was nice too. 




We also took a carriage tour (Old South Carriage, ask for Elliott!) where our tour guide told us wonderful stories about the history of Charleston. I especially loved learning about the earthquake that hit Charleston in 1886 (at least a magnitude 7) and about the earthquake bolts we saw on many of the older buildings. He explained that after the earthquake, many buildings were damaged and so they inserted rods through the houses which were tightened or screwed weekly to bring the walls together and into alignment. It seems to have worked, as the houses are still standing all these years later! 


It was a wonderfully relaxing, fun, and delicious few days. 

Men argue. Nature acts. *Voltaire*

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy- and a little bit stressful as well! Hurricane Irma was all over the place – tracking to the east, then tracking to the west, then back to the east…as a result, the entire state of Florida was evacuating…including us! At one point Irma looked like it was going right over Tallahassee, so Paige drove home to evacuate to the hotel inland with us. We packed up the house, rolled up rugs, put furniture on top of beds, packed books in plastic bins, tried to prepare (as much as possible) for the possibility that there might not be a house to return to. It’s a strange feeling. We froze gallon containers of water and put them in the refrigerator and freezer. We packed our cars with coolers of food for the hotel, and with flashlights and important papers and medications, and irreplaceable items and photos. And then we drove away. We waited as long as possible to leave…because…we were freezing water bottles and still trying to prep the house and because, honestly- I didn’t want to leave. It’s weird to leave your house and all your stuff and wonder if it’ll be there when you get back. 



The drive inland was crazy. The outer bands were already hitting us and the winds were starting to get really crazy and it was hard to keep the car on the road. Sand was whipping everywhere. Crazy! 

Once at the hotel, things were fine. We never even lost power! (Very unusual!) When we were finally allowed to come home, we found that our little beach town was just devasted. Homes were washed into the beach. Tornadoes ripped homes apart. The destruction was terrible. Thankfully, once again, our neighborhood fared pretty well. And our house only had minor soffit and screen damage and some minor roof damage. There was some flooding in the streets but nothing ever reached the homes. 


The good news is that we did not lose much food. Freezing the gallon jugs of water worked. While we did lose power for almost 5 days, our outside freezer had two frozen things of water, and everything in there stayed frozen! The inside fridge was still cold when we got home – we transferred most everything into the freezer – although we did throw out the milk and mayonnais, just to be safe. But everything else stayed cold and or frozen, so our frozen water jugs worked! 

We eventually got electricity and internet back, and in the meantime our battery operated fans were a lifesaver! Unfortunately, it took our neighborhood a month to get our beach access fixed (it was only restored yesterday), so that has been kind of a bummer. 

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In other news, Clay has started a new job, which he’s really enjoying. Paige has been having a lot of fun with her sorority. She met her “big,” went on a new member retreat, and she’s also been busy with Level Dance Club and teaching ESL to a local elementary student through FSU’s volunteer outreach. She also turned 21!


Oops

The summer flew by. The kids were busy working and saving money for school. They both worked a LOT. We enjoyed having the whole family together under one roof again for a few months (me especially) and tried to savor the days we got to spend together. 




Sadly, the summer passed much too quickly and before we knew it we were loading Paige up to head back to school…


A few days later, while she was busy going through recruitment, Clay and I (because we’re the most awesome mom/brother EVER) drove to Tallahassee and moved all her stuff from her storage unit to her new apartment. And got everything set up. We made her bed, hung her clothes, set up her printer, put groceries away! It was eighty gazillion degrees in Tallahassee And probably at least a trazillion degrees humidity. No, of course I’m not exaggerating! 🙄 Trust me, it was super hot and humid. 

But Paige got a short break and was able to run to the apartment so we were able to see her and have lunch with her before we drove back. It was wonderful to see her again (and amazing how much I missed her already after only a week!)


Both kids seem to be settling in nicely to their classes. Recruitment went well for Paige and she got a bid from Alpha Phi, which made her very happy. She’s also quite busy with Level Dance Company this year, as well as doing some volunteer work.