Monday, September 24, 2018

soccer madness

We have had two full weekends of nonstop soccer  - Liesl has played two games on two teams both weekends, Seb's team has played in various locations and twice this past weekend - the Portland Thorns had a semifinal and then championship games - soccer team photos and a Thorns photo contest...  We're all in. :) Liesl scored six goals in her rec game on Saturday, in the pouring rain.

The 2018 Blunicorns!!!

Go Thorns!! They didn't win the championship, but we had a lot of fun creating a photo to cheer them on (Courtney posted these on Instagram and Twitter, to try and win a contest.)

Random photo of Sebastian playing soccer, with his bright new cleats. His team played and won on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.
Me and Liesl and the Thorns game - the boys were also there, but elsewhere in the stadium.

And just for fun, a non-soccer photo. Sebastian had to do an artistic project about the autumn equinox, and after some stalling and whining, he really got into it. He spent a lot of time looking up info, drawing pictures, and getting excited about what he learned. It was really cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September swing

We are back in the September swing of things - school, work, homework, school events, soccer (lots of soccer), ballet, hip-hop, playdates and birthday parties ... and of course football season!
The Steelers are not off to a particularly good start, but that doesn't mean we can't get ourselves and Jasper all dressed up for game days.
Liesl had an afterschool playdate with Campbell that lasted through dinner - they are so sweet together. They played outside, they played dress up, they sang and danced, they made Lego structures, they took down an impressive quantity of food.
We had back-to-school night on Thursday last week -- an opportunity to meet this year's teachers and see the classrooms. I loved Sebastian's portable class - the peace corner, the MC Escher drawings, the funny puns and word play. And we loved Liesl's all-about-me poster. Favorite place: Italy.

This weekend was crazy and different for us. On Friday, Steve flew to NY for his cousin Danny's wedding, so he was gone until Sunday night (we missed him!). Sebastian had a soccer game in Bend, three hours away, so on Saturday morning he hopped in a teammate's car to get there - the game was at 2, there was a party after, and then he was staying the night with his friend Cason and his dad. (As it turned out, he got carsick on the mountain drive, and threw up, and sat out the game... but still had a great time at the after-game pool party and the overnight stay!)

So it was just Liesl and I together -- in the morning, she played in a rec soccer game with the Blunicorns, against a team that included our old friend Vivienne. I really enjoyed catching up with Crystal on the sidelines and letting our golden/labradoodles romp with each other. After the game, it was home for a quick change and bite to eat, and then off with Elena and Nora, and Campbell, on the Max train to the Portland Thorns semifinal soccer game.
They dubbed themselves Fierce, Fire, and Ferocious! So cute. (Elena and I were apparently Fun and Fast, no double entendres intended from the 7-year olds.) The Thorns game was fantastic, really competitive, really hard fought, and the Thorns won 2-1 to get into the championship game.

Back home again, and another quick change, and then Liesl was out the door to a sleepover birthday party at Elia's. It was unicorn-themed; there was a pinata and pass-the-parcel, and cake, and almost certainly too little sleep. But Liesl loved it and had a great time.
I proceeded to go out to a wine bar, Dame, with my friend Michela, and enjoyed the wine, food, and conversation immensely. I also enjoyed sleeping in until 8 - unheard-of luxury! the next morning, before I had to go and pick up Liesl in order to make it to her LYS competitive soccer team game. 
We returned home and reconnected with Sebastian, and ate some lunch, and then sweet Liesl did the most sensible thing possible and curled up for a long afternoon nap. Weekends are hard work! Back to the usual schedule this week --

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Labor Day weekend

We had a really lovely and low-key Labor Day weekend, with some adventure, some rest, some chores, and good times with family and friends. Mom and Dad came south for a quick visit - a chance to check in after our summertime travels, to go watch an LPGA golf tournament, to eat delicious Thai food together at Pok Pok, and to introduce the grandparents to the joys of the board game Clue. I was a little skeptical of going to watch golf - not sure it would keep the kids' attention, since neither plays the game - but it turned out to be quite fun to walk the course and watch these amazing women hit the ball so far and accurately. To top it off, Steve managed to catch a glimpse and a screenshot of mom and dad on NBC when they were broadcasting the tournament. Two seconds of blurry fame!
On Sunday morning we went for a longish hike in Forest Park along a trail we hadn't previously explored (Firelane 15 and the last few miles of the Wildwood), and it was good to reconnect with our forest after so many city days in Italy. We came home for lunch and playing Clue with mom and dad before they drove home. And then in the afternoon, I napped and Steve zoned out and the kids ran around with their neighborhood friends, setting up a club, exploring the forest, riding bikes. Some neighbors had an impromptu Labor Day party/BBQ, so we spent the evening hanging out with some old friends and some new ones, eating and drinking an assortment of food, while the children ran around outside and into various houses, a pack of 15+ kids of various ages, culminating in a kid talent and fashion show. It was the perfect end-of-summer evening.

We probably should have spent Monday on chores and errands and finally getting into back-to-school mode, but instead we ran away to Cannon Beach and enjoyed another sunshiny, gorgeous day of perfect weather and the ocean. Jasper was thrilled. We did all of our favorite things -- walked a couple miles, threw the football and frisbee, played beach baseball, dug some holes, flew the kite, ate fish and chips at Tom's, and got saltwater taffy. What a magical summer it has been.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

first day of school!

We were a little late - Sebastian by one day, and Liesl by two - but both children started school this week. I can't believe that we have a 5th-grader and a 2nd-grader! It's Sebastian's last year at Forest Park, and I am amazed by how quickly it's flown by.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

final thoughts

Some final thoughts and reflections on our trip to Italy.

We ate amazingly well throughout our trip - we usually enjoyed one restaurant meal per day and then the other meals were either at home, picking up a slice or sandwich, or replaced with gelato and pastry. It's so silly to say, but really, the pizza and pasta were truly amazing. But by the end, we were a little full of bread and pasta, and Steve and I were definitely finished with the daily gelato. It was good! But I can't eat like that regularly and am looking forward to more vegetables.

Given the amount of food we ate, it's probably good that we averaged 7 miles a day of walking during our two weeks in Italy (according to my inaccurate phone, anyway). My feet were certainly sore at the end of most days. Plus, we climbed so many hills and towers - all the Tuscan cities are on hills! - making even my legs tired. Our kids are such troopers.

Liesl has definitely gotten the taste for travel - we've sown the seeds of future wanderlust. She loved the castles and towers, loved seeing new things every day, loved the food in Italy. We talked (jested) about moving to Italy for six months, and she was all in for that, and for learning the language. And then we started dreaming about our next vacation, and where we would go and what we would see, and she was full of enthusiasm and ideas. She's also become a food snob, which tickles us immensely - talking about how the pizza, pasta, and ice cream in Portland just can't compare. 

We did not plan out much of our trip ahead of time. We picked our locations in March, but then didn't spend very much time after that deciding exactly which sights to see and when, and which restaurants or gelaterias were recommended, etc. But that just meant that we enjoyed a nightly ritual in Italy: Steve sat on his computer, researching and figuring out the next day’s itinerary, including food destinations, and I sat on my computer, culling the day’s photos and blogging about our adventures. I think he did an amazing job of finding us fabulous places to see, adventures to have, and food to eat. The swimming pool in the mountains near Bagni di Lucca stands out as a particularly amazing find.

I am so glad to be back in Portland, enjoying the clean air here - so many people in Italy still smoke cigarettes, and I was tired of walking through a cloud of it on the streets, of smelling it in some of our apartment buildings, of people puffing e-cigs in restaurants. What a dreadful scourge cigarettes are. 

Steve and I were so happy to walk into so many lovely old churches. He is particularly fond of the more simple ones, with less ornamentation and pomp. I love the feeling of being in a vaulted space, and looking up to see the ceilings. We had some good conversations about the amazing things that people can accomplish when they work together and are collectively committed to a project, and some sadness about the current state of infrastructure and collective action in the United States.

We were amused by the many tour groups in the most prominent sight-seeing areas, shuffling along as a pack, each person with their headphones on and thus collectively silent, looking like a zombie horde. The lack of chatter was the most distinctive thing - these huge groups, all silently listening to the voices in their heads.

We saw many dogs, but for the most part, they looked different than dogs here in Portland - different breeds, possibly, or the same breeds and yet somehow still different in appearance. Also, compared to Portland, many fewer big dogs, but that makes sense given size of dwellings and density of neighborhoods.

On a less happy note, there were a lot of mosquitoes in some areas - particularly Florence - and no screens on any of the windows in any apartment. So we got bit, especially Sebastian, which added an unfortunate itchy element to our first week.

At lunch on our final day, I asked everyone what their top 5 favorite experiences had been from our Italy trip. No one could limit themselves to only 5, which I think is a totally accurate summation of our amazing trip, so we decided on no limits - 

Sebastian's list:
Ferrari museum
high speed trains
climbing towers
seeing Sistine chapel
bike riding (family ride and Lucca ride)

Liesl's list:
family bike ride in Rome
swimming (both lake and pool)
climbing towers
looking at castles
the cats in Montepulciano
Lucca apartment and city

Stephen's list (making a guest appearance on the blog):
*Churches (never got tired of walking into them, loved how many there were, how different they were, how beautiful, old, grand...)
*driving through beautiful landscapes (around Montepulciano, the Alps, Emilia-Romagna)
*walking around hill towns (Montepulciano, Cortona, San Querico, Rocca D'Orcia, Barga)*Michelangelo piazza (first awe-inspiring experience of the architecture and beauty/grandeur of Florence)
*Meal at Bistro 3 Tavoli
*Cortona lunch, walk up to church, evening drive home to Montepulciano
*Montepulciano (the walks, alleys, views)
*San Querico, Rocca D'Orcia
*San Gimignano sandwich shop
*Biking in Lucca
*Barga: lunch, views
*ease and comfort of train travel
*Rome - diversity, life (similarity to NYC), differences from NYC and Paris, Rosciolo, geography hall at the Vatican, Le Levain bakery, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, dinner at home during thunderstorm, the walk I did alone (stopped in unknown but beautiful neighborhood church, Piazza Navona, Steelers bar, live music in each plaza, pedestrian bridge across the Tiber to/from Trastevere with live music and a bunch of people hanging out on a beautiful evening)
*Driving thru Emilia-Romagna
*lunch in Maranello
*how much everyone enjoyed being in Italy and exploring

Brianna's list:
climbing towers
biking the wall in Lucca
exploring Montepulciano's side-streets and back-ways
driving in Tuscany, especially to Cortona
the geography room in Vatican City
jumping from the high diving board in Bagni di Lucca
the morning and evening light in Rome
Castel dell'Angelo
the lunch in Maranello

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

car museums, castle capers, and a decadent lunch

For our final day in Italy (sob), we left Bologna directly after breakfast and headed west toward Modena. We had a surprise in mind for Sebastian; visits to the Lamborghini and Ferrari museums. He loves the idea of driving, and fast cars, and Formula One racing (especially Sebastian Vettel), and he was so happy and thrilled when we pulled into the parking lots (both times, because we kept the Ferrari museum a secret until we arrived there as well).
The countryside of Emilia-Romagna was a pastoral wonder -- makes sense, given the region's reputation for outstanding cheese and meat -- and was delightful to drive through.
The Lamborghini museum was mostly a car showroom, with cars from the past to the present, and then a special exhibit on Lamborghinis in the movies. That was the best part, actually — seeing clips from a dozen movies in which their cars were featured, and then replicas of those cars. Sebastian has some new movies on his list of things to watch, including a campy old classic, Cannonball Run.
The Ferrari museum in Maranello was next, and that turned out to be even better - cars from different eras, trophies from Formula One racing winners. We took a lot of happy photos of Sebastian with all the various cars. It was good to see how enthralled Sebastian could be when given the opportunity to be in a museum tailored to his tastes, and we were happy to make his final vacation day so special.
 And then it was lunchtime, we were hoping for something especially delicious for our last meal. Steve found a well-reviewed restaurant right in Maranello and we walked into an amazing experience. The proprietor and his wife (making pasta in the kitchen) were so kind and cheery, so helpful and welcoming - we didn’t actually order from the menu, we just put ourselves in their hands and an unbelievable tasting menu arrived. We had pears, cheese, and walnuts, cabbage rolls, carpaccio, and a vegetable flan; we had ravioli with black truffles and a pasta roll with leek and sheep cheese; we had pork milanese and guinea fowl. The wine was divine. The children had a sausage ragu over pasta (amazing), and then some of the best prosciutto I’ve ever tasted, wrapped in puff pastry. We stayed for two hours, laughing and talking, playing hangman and making lists of our favorite experiences in Italy. It was a truly memorable meal to close out the vacation.
Steve and I could have used a nap, but instead we drove south toward our next destination, the castle of Rocchetta Mattei. We had seen photos of it online, a truly remarkable and whimsical folly from the 1800s created by someone with more money than sense. We walked in the door and started wandering around, admiring the crazy structure, the domes, the views, the ornate internal decorations. It was like six different kinds of castles in one, the creation of an owner who couldn’t decide on an architectural theme or era or geographical reference. After ten minutes or so, it became clear to us that everyone else in the castle was part of a tour group. And they were all Italian. We decided to try and avoid the tour groups and guides, half in seriousness, half in whimsy. The children were utterly thrilled to be sneaking around a castle with us - we were all whispering and creeping and listening for the sounds of groups coming toward us, and giggling of course. Sebastian insisted that I call it the castle caper in my blog post. We managed to see nearly everything, and take some lovely photos, before a castle employee caught up to us. We played dumb (bathroom?) and were ceremoniously escorted (threading our way through all the other tour groups!!) to the exit — visits are only allowed by pre-arranged, timed tour, and none of the employees spoke much English. We apologized and departed, and then giggled madly once we were free of the castle walls. So funny. So naughty.
After that, it was a gorgeous drive weaving around and over hills to Florence, to a boring Best Western near the airport. We found a playground for the kids to get out some energy; we found a grocery store to buy picnic supplies for dinner (bread, fruit, yogurt, carrots, nuts); we packed for the long plane ride home and our 4 am wake up call.
 At the airport, at 5 am, leaving Italy behind.