Thursday, July 25, 2013

Well That Was Fun and Theme Thursday: Askew

Finding myself breathing the air of the Western Hemisphere once again, ruminating over a whirl-wind of an adventure for a middle-aged housewife from Florida, my interior compass is telling me it is time to write some of this stuff down before it becomes muddled in the mix of experience that is everydaynes: you know, the Colosseum by moonlight, kneeling in front of Blessed John Paul II's tomb, the exotic smell of Isaac's diaper, breaking up an argument over who ate the last fruity snack (the answer to that is invariably Jude), it all starts melding into one for those of the soft minded, like myself.

Allora...I went to Rome for a total of four days (after travel) to fulfill a decade long wish of visiting my little soul sister, Mary Nolan, who makes a living as the editor for the Weekly Edition in English of L'Osservatore Romano, the official paper of the Vatican.

Two days' worth of flights and the expense and the hassle, for four days of Mary and Rome? Worth it.

I flew into Rome FCO wide-eyed, lost-ish, and with little direction. Somehow I was supposed to bring myself from the airport to Mary's office in Vatican City with these instructions, copied and pasted without alteration from my last email from Mary:

(to get to my office you go to the Porta Sant'Anna of the Vatican. Proceed in through the gate and take an immediate right, walk down the street until you see on the right side a little sign that says photo service. Ask for the English edition)

She did give me the further instructions that Porta Sant'Anna was to the right of Saint Peter's, and that there would be a Swiss Guard who would stop me at Porta Sant'Anna who would ask where I was going, and I was simply to answer "L'Osservatore Romano" and that would be enough for him. Okay, good. All good.

So after roaming about the airport unattended, 

OMG! all alone for the first time...ever! do i look phased?

I discovered I could take a taxi to the Vatican for about 60 Euro, and be well looked after, or take this crazy shuttle bus for 6 Euro that would drop me of at their stop titled "Roma Centro / Citta del Vaticano." Takin' it. I'll get there somehow.

I was dropped off at a spot that looked, well that was, exactly this: 

And where drivers believed this to be a perfectly suitable way to park:

I therefore deduced I was in fact in Rome. At which point I began asking, "Scusi, Dove Piazza San Pietro?" (I can't figure out how to put the accent mark on the "e", mi scusi.)

Scusi? Mio Losto!

And ran into sites such as this:

On Ponte Sant'Angelo in front of Castel Sant'Angelo

Which I thought would be a perfetto shot for Theme Thursday: Askew! Va Bene!

For the record, asked a total of twice before I ended up here:

The Colonnade that denotes you have in fact made it to St. Peter's Square. GO ME!

And took this picture in case I died of a heart attack and wanted to prove to Mary that I in fact did make it:

quite possibly the worst tourist shot of The Basica of St. Peter's,
glad to have that distinction

From there, I asked a very nicely uniformed polizia in the Square, "Mi Scusi, Dove Porta Sant'Anna?" To which he answered in English, go outside the Colonnade, twenty meters to your left, it is the big iron gates." I felt like answering that I don't know what meters are because I'm American, but he obviously wouldn't recognize me as being so.

Porta Sant'Anna! With the Swiss Guard waiting patiently for me! I only tripped over "L'Osservatore Romano," about three times before he let me through.

Followed Mary's instructions, first street on the right, look for the photo sign..."

It's Foto, not Photo, Mary!

Asked for The English Edition...

And found...

L'Editrice Bellisima: Mary Nolan!!!

So yes, the journey goes forth from there, another day... For now, Buon Giorno.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Have I Been Up To, Anyway?

Oh, I just drove 1200 miles all by my lonesome with four of my kids up to Indiana. (Two of the kids I sent by airmail because they are trouble, but I am not naming names because I don't want to embarrass Jude and Joseph.)

Of course it was fun, why do you ask?

Well, we are here so the kids can do lots of this with their cousins:

...and I go off to Rome (the Italy one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) to visit one of my bestest friends, and just about the most interesting young lady ever to have had tenure at the Vatican. Really!  

Wish me luck, I will see you when I see you, Dear Web Log!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Theme Thursday: Rooms or Wanna See the Beach House Part I

Wanna See the Beach House Part II found here.

Tree House found here.

It's Theme Thursday with Cari and this week is Rooms, which I thought would be a great opportunity to start the Beach House tour. These photos are gwine be non-spectacular on the photography side, emphasis on content. Disclaimer, phone pics. So come on in!

When we decided to rent this rather small 1930's cottage, we realized it was going to take some downsizing, simplifying, creative thought and hard work. This is the front entry area, along with an oblong living space that spans the front. Originally, this entire space was an undoubtedly beautiful porch which was later enclosed to create more space. Our main obstacle with the house was the three bedroomness of it. With six kids, spanning all the age groups, this just wouldn't work. So Obi decided to put up a wall in the far corner of this space to create a very tiny but truly awesome teen bedroom.

He decided to put up a wall. In a rental house. That we will probably be in for a year. Dear Web Log, please don't inform the rental agency of this.

So here's what we got:

This is the tiny little doorway leading to le chambre de Peter e Jude. I would have given you a farther view of the wall from the outside, but I am ungenerously willing to give you a peak at that yet. But it looks nice. He framed the doorway nicely, put molding and base boards to match the original, and even textured the wall. Honestly, you would never know it wasn't there before.

View from the doorway. Very tiny. 

But come on. That be the Gulf of Mexico out there. (Not the puddle. That's from the rain.)

Ignore the unmatched bedding, the wrinkles, the inability to tuck around the guardrail. Ignore.  That is the Ikea bed we bought that was low enough and narrow enough not to feel claustrophobic. 
The window you see behind the door would have been the original window that would have looked onto the porch. If we felt like investing more time, energy and money into a one year rental for our teens who could care less, we could come up with some creative ideas of covering it. But we don't feel like it.

View from the bottom bunk. Happened to be an overcast, unattractive day. But the view is pretty spectacular. Sea oats, white sand, Gulf, sky.

There was also no closet, obviously, so we bought these stackable Ikea dressers and also some underbed storage that is still unboxed. 

This is nowhere near the storage they had in their old room, so lots of things had to go. Honestly, lots of stuff is  still unpacked, and they each have a separate trunk of goods that is being kept in the basement. But it was truly necessary for the comfort of the room to organize and just plain get rid of stuff. And a good feeling, to tell you the truth. The boys love the simple living and it means that they have to keep everything neat in order to make the space livable.

Jude made these Pinterest worthy labels all by heeself. He's almost as good an artist as Peter! Yes, they share clothes. All of them. 

But they do each have their own drawer to keep things that are their's alone. Above is Peter's...

...and Jude's. That kid is a genius.

And Ziggy will see you out. Thanks for stopping by, please come back for Part II of Wanna See the Beach House!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Five Favorites

Joining Moxie Wife for Five Favorites!

1: My New Coastal Glasses

Finally replaced my glasses that Isaac destroyed, oh, about three months ago. I am completely blind without them, so my eyes have been suffering from constant contact wear. But somehow, pain and suffering aren't even good enough motivators to get me over my chronic procrastination disorder, and I put it off this long. Only me.  These online glasses places are all the rage, so I was extremely excited to try it out. I went with Coastal, where your first pair is free! But if you are me, you have a mega-prescription with enormously thick lenses if you go with the free lens product. I super-upgraded and the total pair cost me about $70.

Within the first half hour of owning these beauties, I was called Granddad, Velma, and most annoyingly, Waldo.  By my children. Oh well. I thought they were pretty hipster, not Geek, and took the above pic to prove my point. Jean jacket, halter dress (actually it is a maxi skirt, but I am 5'2", and the only way it doesn't have a two foot long train is if I qualify it as a halter dress,) glasses, hipster. Rockin' it.

Totally intellectual. See how I am cradling my face in a bizarre knuckle hold? Hipster.

But upon further examination, the kids noticed that the little metal details on either end are...a multiplication and division sign. 

My bad. Not Hipster. Geek. Long live Geeks!

2: Neighbors!

On either side of us here at the Beach House are weekly rentals. Every week has brought a new family to each of them. Last week the greatest people were next door. They helped me wrestle our wily gazebo down in the pouring rain, we celebrated the 4th together, watching all the fireworks and setting off our own, and when they left, they brought us several bags of food!  And alcohol!  Pictured above! With one of those Bacardi frozen cans that you mix with rum to make daiquiris!  Well geez, thanks! 

3: Good Dogs

Our Craigslist doggie has been having the hardest time being house-trained. Boo!!! She is three years old and we were told she was house-trained. Not. Well, after trying everything in the book, AnneMarie noticed that the poor thing had blood in her urine, after her heat period had ended (yes, we are getting her spayed, long story.) We took her to the vet, and they have put her on a permanent antibiotic until we can have the operation, and the poor little thing has ceased having accidents. So sad what she must have been suffering.

4: Art!

A couple Christmases ago, Obi's artist parents gave the kids these great art sets, and boy do they get used. Especially now that it is summer, and the kids are still completely friendless after the move.

red handed

If you can believe it, Peter actually drew this picture all himself. Really.  He calls it, "Peter on Vacation!" I'm telling you, only 16 and this kind of vision, the. sky. is. the. limit.

5: 9PeasMom

You know the best blog you aren't reading? 9PeasMom! Yes, Brilliant 9 Peas Mom has 9 little (or big) ones, and guess what? 8 of them are boys! I'm pretty sure the paperwork for her canonization is already being filled out. But this mama is cute, the right mix of holiness and humor, and best of all, comes up with incredible, large family tested recipes with the actual amounts she uses to feed her amazing family. Most of all, I love her pictures and the joyful way she recounts her life and lives out her calling as just about the best mom around. Everything a blog should be, and just makes me so happy she takes the time to share all her knowledge with the rest of us. Check her out!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mystery Ingredient Monday: Nothing So Fine as Peach Wine

So excited to join Mystery Ingredient Monday for my first and perhaps only time! So sad for my children I am in no way a cook, or apparently someone who can even tell when something is inedible.  Naomi offered me a small bit of guidance the other day in a way to explain why she never eats dinner, "You know why I don't eat my dinner, Mom? Because your food is disgusting." Ah, bless her heart.

Anyway, onto the peaches! That come in a can!

That is in fact the exact can my fellas got, and decided to make... Peach Wine!

That's not my picture either, and it doesn't look anything like that yet, but that is what they are going for. Yum!

Obi has made beer a few times and so much enjoyed the process, and honestly, the kids really enjoy watching it all happen as well. This is viewed as chemistry around here, not delinquency. Peter especially was really interested in watching wine happen, so he and Obi researched and found that peach is a relatively easy and cheap first wine. 

 Don't worry, Web Log, I don't even know what they did, so I will not be recording a recipe or play by play, but I will force you to endure several pictures.

Here are the peaches (did you ever think anything so delicious could be made to look so disgusting?)  They emptied the can into their wine making container (what an ugly cask!) wrapping the actual peaches in netting. 

They added water and a TON of sugar. Like eleven pounds, I'm not kidding. Better be good. Then wine additives, like tannin, because peaches do not contain their own tannin like grape seeds would. I guess. Moving along.

After letting it sit and ferment for a bit, adding yeast and stirring whenever, I have no idea, they transferred the mush to a better, more sealable, but still extremely ugly container. I think this was after a week or so.

First they squeezed all the good stuff out of the peaches into the container, then discarded them because...yuck.

And this was the fun part. Obviously. They siphoned all the good stuff into the new container, leaving behind all the yucky yeast, etc.

You know you wish you were here for this part. Fun!  

Then the barrel was sealed, and banished to our foreboding, dungeon like basement to grow in wisdom and clarity.

The thingamajigger on top is an aerator I'm told, and it well, it bubbles and let's you know the wine is thinking deep thoughts.

The last step will be to bottle the contents of the above jug, and let it sit. Again. Lots o' sitting. The total process will take several months, and let me tell you, it better taste better than my dinners.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Double Link Up: Theme Thursday Freedom, What We Are Reading Wednesday, And This Title Isn't Quite Long Enough, So Happy Fourth of July!




Like I said in the title, double linking up with Cari for Theme Thursday: Freedom, and Housewife Spice's inaugural linkup of What We Are Reading Wednesday, which said Cari strongarmed Jessica into creating in the first place. So glad she did!

So what are we reading? Conveniently for the Theme and for my above pictures, us Bigguns of the Family Es are reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding. (SEE!!! ISAAC WITH A CONCH!) 

I picked this up at Target when we first arrived at the new house simply because it was there and I knew the big boys would get a kick out of it, especially as we are living on an island and all, and they are wild and barbarous. But once they started reading and talking about it, I couldn't resist, and had to re-read it for myself.

Basic synopsis, although I'm pretty sure this is generally known: British boys, escaping war by an airplane that is shot down, find themselves alone on an island. Ranging in ages from 12 to perhaps 5, the boys attempt order, survival, escape, and fun. Their island adventure brings out both the best and worst in them, and the plot unfolds as the worst of them takes over. 

Made for some excellent discussions with the boys concerning the nature of humanity, nature of civilization, nature of survival, nature of fear, nature of pig hunting. I am always so pleased when I am able to find something to use as a springboard to talk about deeper and more complicated issues with the boys, and this book definitely helped us think about character attributes and what brings out the best in ourselves. And because Golding kind of annoyingly imbued just about every aspect of the book with symbolism and just about every motif he could muster, I also enjoyed talking the boys' ears off about literary devices and book-nerd happiness. What fun!

But last week at Mass I was so struck with how LOTF so aptly demonstrates the Second Reading, as St. Paul tells the Galations:

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.

And spoiler alert: * yeah, that happens*.

So doesn't that all just tie a little too nicely together? Freedom, Conches, Lord of the Flies, Devouring, Clan Donaldson, Housewife Spice? 

I admit it, I'm good.