Wednesday, June 27, 2012


So as many of you know ( I mean really... how could you not with all of my obnoxious posts?), Sam and I are off on a new adventure this week.  We embark to Italy this weekend! To say that I am excited is an understatement.  Coming from two families where travel was not a priority or not always feasible (other than travel within the state), this will be both of our first trip overseas.

To be honest this trip was more my idea than Sam's, and I am lucky that I have a supportive husband who agreed to this "pre-midlife crisis".  About 7 months ago, I was in a funk one day and could not figure out why. I realized that travel abroad was a part of my life that I needed to experience.  I had always dreamed of travelling the world.  I am not really one for collecting stuff, toys, or material possessions. This is more my husband's cup of tea, which I understand; however, I would much rather go somewhere new and fun! I am appreciative that I have ventured through many of these United States, but I have always wanted to experience other cultures and lands. We needed to make it a priority, and he supported me in this dream. I am so grateful!

I am anxious to see beautiful landscapes and foreign seas, learn a new language (maybe a little bit...), try new foods (This is a challenge for me, but I am trying to get better.), soak in the ageless art and architecture, appease my inner history-buff, relax, and drink wine.  And did I mention drink wine?

As you can imagine, I will blog about our vacation when we return.  I hope to keep a log of our adventures, experiences, meals, tips, and more as we go, so I should have much to report!  I will log in and post pictures when I can access wifi, but will have a full report here. Just in case you are interested in our trip, I have laid out our overall itinerary below as a sneak peek.


We will begin by venturing to Venice with a brief layover in London.  I wish it was a longer layover, so we could actually poke about London while on "holiday", but that will have to wait until a future trip. Once we arrive in Venice (Venezia)- after an overnight flight- hopefully we can fight off the jetlag somewhat to enjoy St. Mark's Square and the striking views from the canal!  Most of our three days in Venice have been slated in the official itinerary as "wander".  Truly, we just plan to walk all over and soak in Italy.  We may take a water taxi out to Murano to check out the beautiful glass blowing if we feel so inclined!



Venice to Milan to Monterosso al Mare

Our next stop will be to take the train (I have never ridden on an actual train!!) via Milan to Monterosso al Mare- a small seaside town on the Mediterranean in the Italian Riviera.  It is one of five small towns - The Cinque Terre- connected by a steep water's edge hiking path.  We plan to relax by the beach and hike the entire trail seeing all five of the towns.  The entire area has been through quite a lot in the last year, as they had torrential flooding and mudslides last October, but now they are back on their feet. I feel that visiting this area is very important, as the people of this area need the tourism in order to make a full rebound. I think this may secretly be the part of our trip that I am looking forward to the most... everyday people in a quaint and charming atmosphere. And the beach helps.

Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre


Monterosso al Mare to Pisa to Florence

Next we will take the train, with a brief stop in Pisa, to Florence (Firenze). We will spend about three days here- soaking in the great works of Renaissance and Baroque artists, such as Bernini, Leonardo da Vinci, Carravagio, Raphael, Titian and many more. With ancient art and architecture abound, we will have a lot to see in a little bit of time! Some of the highlights include the Uffizi museum and then the Accademia, to see Michaelangelo's David. We also plan to climb the steps of the Duomo, walk the streets, and explore the gardens and outdoor markets.  We plan to meet up for a night in Florence with my good friends from college, Abby and Dogan, who will also happen to be there! I fully intend to eat obscene amounts of gelato while in Florence.



The path we plan to take (more or less) through Tuscany

After Florence, we will continue through Tuscany, renting a tiny European car and trolling the countryside, visiting hilltowns and wineries! We are staying at an agriturismo in Greve in Chianti. Agriturismo's are working farms that are given subsidies from the Italian government to also function as B & B's, fostering both farming and tourism.  There are many along the countryside, and the one we have chosen is a winery, as well as a producer of olive oil.  We will stay in their farm house for three nights, eating delicious homemade breads, meats, and cheeses while sampling the local wines and relaxing.  We have three scheduled stops over our three days in the Tuscan countryside- all arranged tours at wineries and castles. Otherwise we may just venture about from tiny town to town and see what we happen upon.  I will be sure to give a thorough report upon our return. 

View of San Gimignano in Tuscany


Florence to Rome

After our tour of Tuscany, we return the car to the Florence airport and then take the super fast train to Rome.  We will be in Rome the final four days and nights of our trip.  We are staying in a private apartment that overlooks the Colosseum! Some of the sites that we plan to see include the obvious must-see's such as the Colosseum, the Roman forum, and Palatine Hill.  We also plan to visit the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain among all of the numerous Piazzas and bustling neighborhoods of the city.  We have a day dedicated to touring Vatican City and St. Peter's Basillica as well. On our last day we may rent bicycles and venture along the ancient Appian Way to sight-see the ancient road that is preserved as it was so many years ago with a possible visit to the aqueducts and catacombs. We then fly out of Rome, again through London, and back to Chicago. 

I can't wait to go and although a bit apprehensive, I know it will be a vacation of a lifetime for us.  Stay tuned!  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Comeback Kid

So I realize it has been awhile since my last post...ok quite awhile.  Almost two months now.  Part of me is ashamed to admit that. However, when I thought more about it, I realized that my blog absence only means that life has been keeping me busy. And that is a good thing!

Near the end of April, my life started to get a bit hectic and I found myself adding "Write a Blog Post" to my never-ending "To Do" list.  After some thought and a lot of stress, I reassured myself that one of the reasons I started this blog was to keep myself busy- a sort of hobby.  If I was stressing about getting up the next new post, then it was not serving its purpose.  So I took a break- a long break. However, one reason I have been more busy is that I have been doing fun stuff with friends like Bunco, meeting with my nook club, and hosting fun BBQ's and parties on our back porch.

So now I will attempt to catch you up on my life over the past several weeks. I will be honest. Except for my dinner co-op meals, there has been very little cooking or prepping going in this household lately, since time was scarce. I hope to get back into that soon, and I am very excited to start making some fresh summery foods like fresh salads, guacamole, and fruit!

From the end of April through the end of May was a whirlwind.  Since I started at a new school in a new school district in a new state, everything is just a tad different than where I was before, and the end of the school year- especially in fifth grade- is no easy task.  The end of the year was filled with excitement- field trips to The Herbert Hoover Museum and Farm, Discovery Park, and the Muscatine Art Center, track and field competitions, field day, fifth grade graduation, spending hours upon hours creating an imovie slideshow, and writing an article for the local newspaper regarding fifth grade projects and curriculum-  all while trying to frantically finish up the curriculum- creatively.  Then there was "THE Talk", which I actually enjoy and get the biggest kick out of!  I know that sounds crazy, but after many years of being forced to discuss the birds and the bees with a bunch of adolescent, hormonal girls, you get used to it and make the best of it- slumber party style. It is fun to make them feel comfortable, and then say the words "vagina" and "penis" and allow them get all of their giggles out of the way before the dreaded video.  However, this year I ended up giving the boys the talk.  Don't ask me why... poor planning and a lack of males in our building perhaps?  It wasn't bad for me, but I really did feel sorry for them.  I think they just about died when I said the word "testicles", but that was no comparison to "ejaculation"...

In  addition all of my spare time for the past two months went into extensively planning a week-long technology course for teachers along with a co-worker.  We taught teachers how to use SMARTBoards in their classrooms and how to use the software to effectively create their own interactive lessons.  We are fortunate that almost all the elementary schools have saved up and bought these wonderful pieces of technology.  It has completely changed the way I teach in my classroom.  I can use it practically all day in some manner, and it allows students to get actively involved in a lesson. Unfortunately I do not think that the general public- or a lot of teachers for that matter- really understand what a SMARTBoard can do.  Check out these short videos in case you are a curious of just a snippet of how SMARTBoards can be used in the classroom:

Fortunately, the SMARTBoard class was a hit.  52 teachers took the class last week and over 30 have signed up for the August class so far! I have become pretty passionate about the use of technology in the classroom this year and am thinking that a future post will have to be dedicated to all the ways this can be done in the classroom, as I know I have grown leaps and bounds in this area this year. Just this year I have redesigned my teaching to include classroom blogs, used mobile labs for research and activities, had students use Google Apps/Docs on a regular basis to collaborate and present, as well as create Prezi's.  Inspiring! More to come... 

The following weekend, we were happy to attend the wedding of Sam's best friend, Lindsey, to Melanie!  Several months ago, Melanie must have recognized my OCD tendencies and knack for (over?) planning.  She asked me to help her out as her day of coordinator.  In the weeks leading up to the big day, I helped assemble programs and centerpieces.  Ultimately, last Sunday went off without a hitch! Although I had lots of help (thank goodness!), I was in charge of decorating, table settings, creating flowers in the centerpieces that day, arranging the set-up of the room, meeting and verifying accuracy with all the vendors, keeping wine bottles corked and beer flowing, cutting the cake, and clean up, all the while enjoying time with the bride and groom. It was much more exhausting than I ever imagined.  I don't know how those wedding planners do it!  It was fun to be able to help out friends, while gaining some experience.  It was very rewarding, and I received several compliments on how smooth everything ran. It was a beautiful wedding and a gorgeous day. I am very happy for Mr. and Mrs. Lorber! 

Then this past week I had my wisdom teeth removed!  Regrettably, my only two wisdom teeth (on top) decided to make a late appearance at the ripe age of 33.  I had them removed on Thursday.  I was a little apprehensive about it the day before, but all is well, as I have no issues at all!  No swelling, no icing, just a little Ibuprofin and soft foods the first day, and I was good to go!  I am now on my third day of recovery and still being cautious by eating softer foods, but all went better than expected! In fact, the doctor was able to get them out in less than five minutes- I was there for less than an hour total including time for the anesthesia to take effect and wear off.  

Due to the above, I have been glad to use the wisdom teeth extraction as an excuse to be a little lazy.  I have been avidly using my time to plan extensively for our upcoming trip to ITALY!  We have had this planned for about six months, but only had tickets and lodging booked.  Now, finally, all of the pieces are coming together, and I have a better idea of how this is all going to play out.  I am very excited, as this will be a first for us-neither of us have ever been overseas!  I will tell you all about our plans in an upcoming post, but it does include adventures to Venice, the Cinque Terre, Florence, Chianti, and then Rome. Good times!  

Well, now I mus go weed the garden....