Sunday, June 30, 2013

perfecto S C O M P I G L I O

At the end of a long day of sightseeing or castles or beaches, finding a place to feed hungry kids is not always easy in a foreign country.

Dinner is something that is not rushed and can take a long time to get through. Most places also open later.

We rented a house with a kitchen so we could cook some at the house. This always seems to work really well for us. Everyone is tired and hungry and ready to stay home.
We did shop at the commissary and bought enough to grill hot dogs/hamburgers for a couple nights.

We had to try some pizza.
Of course, we had to get pizza.

We also decided to have one nice dinner out.

After a day at the beach, we dropped everyone off at home and drove around in search of a nice place for dinner.

Gardens where most of the vegetables are grown
Affordable, not too fancy so everyone would eat, and open at a decent time.

As we drove from place to place, Jim would drive up to the door I would run in and check out a menu and attempt to get any other details.

After checking out four or five different places, we finally found what we thought would be the perfect spot in the center of Tuscany.

They were closed, but as I walked in and found them in the kitchen, they told me they opened at 7:00 for dinner.

Best of all, it was a ten-minute drive from our house.

I let the cute older man {who I guessed was the owner} know we would be back with our family.
It was perfect.
Perfecto, as they say in Italy.

Cucina Dello Scompiglio.

The restaurant is actually an old barn of the farmstead, once a meeting place for outside workers. We sat outside overlooking the vineyard, vegetable garden and the Apuan Alps.

Most of the vegetables used are grown there.

The water is sourced from the springs within the Scompiglio estate.

The bread is prepared by the chef using white and whole wheat flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, sunflower seeds, potato flour and Puglia grain- all without preserving agents.

It was fabulous.

I could have made a meal of the bread alone. Dipped in their olive oil and balsamic vinegar was divine.

Of course, we were in the middle of olive oil country and the olive oil was produced there as well.

It was fresh.
It was peaceful.
The view was magnificent.
We sat out on the deck and asked for the shady spot being that we were all a little burnt from our afternoon at the beach. It was hot, but cooled off as soon as the sun set.

It felt as if we were in a fairy tale- enjoying fabulous food in the most beautiful setting under the Tuscan sun, of course.
As we arrived, there was a birthday party going on with little Italian bambinos running around speaking in their sweet Italian language.

We were the only other ones there until later on in the evening. It was nice to not be in the middle of a crowd.
It was a happy place.
We were all so happy.

The service was top notch as well with the owner/chef coming out during our meal to ask how everything was and to visit with us. The older man did not speak English, but had a younger Italian man with him to translate.

He did not stop smiling the whole evening. You definitely don't find that in Germany.
So friendly. I'm the crazy one who had to have a picture with him.
At least I can admit I'm crazy!

I am in love with Tuscany.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

american B E A C H

Hitting the beach is always a priority while on vacation.
In Italy, the beaches are a little different. From the street, the beaches are all named and there are separate driveways to get to each beach.
Once you get in, the beaches all lead to the same coast/ocean. The only difference between beaches once you get on the other side is the color of the umbrellas.

Most beaches charge per person to enter. They charge for parking. Of course, they charge for an umbrella.

There is a section of beach along the Italian coastline called the American Beach, which is where we chose to go.
Using our military ID to get in the gate, we were the section of orange umbrellas tucked between the blue umbrella and green umbrella Italian beaches.

It was a little crazy to me.

We loved the beach.

The water was warm.
The sand was soft.
The sun was hot.

It was not crowded.
It was perfect.
Everyone was happy.

We are thinking we had a bad can of sunscreen on this beach day. Having coated and re-coated with sunscreen, we all had a little bit {or a lot} of sunburn at the end of the afternoon. Ouch.

Either that, or our skin just has not seen the sun for a L O N G time.
Jim's cousin, Scott and his girlfriend, Jazz flew in to Pisa from Illinois to spend a few days with us on their way to Croatia. They are above in the corner picture.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

the L E A N I N G tower of P I S A

Staying just twenty minutes from Pisa, you kind of have to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We were not impressed at all with the city of Pisa, but once you park and make your way past the extremely pushy peddlers, the leaning tower is a little cool and worth checking out.
A few fun Pisa Tower facts:
* construction started in 1173 on sandy silt
* tower started to tilt even before the 3rd story was finished in 1274
* Galileo climbed to the top to conduct his experiments on the velocity of falling objects

* In 1350, the tower was leaning 4 ft, 6 in
* In 1817, the tower was leaning 12 ft 10 in
* In 1995, the tower was leaning 17 ft 6 in

Of course, we had to take the posed photos holding it up.
* click on picture to enlarge
Justin- flexing, of course
Ty & Caden- working together
Coleman- not in a great mood, but letting me take pictures anyway
Ashten- so strong holding it up
Along with the tower, there is a beautiful Dom and Baptistry in the Plaza.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I T A L I A via Austria

We are home. 
We are cold.
We are tired.
The itinerary for this trip was not too crazy or intense, but we still manage to put some miles on the van. Driving a total of 1930 miles in eight days, we did some traveling!
The destination for this family vacation was Tuscany- a central region of Italy.
Initially, we wanted to try to see all of Italy but quickly realized that is absolutely impossible to do in one trip.
Instead, we broke up the nine-hour drive from our house to our rental house in Lucca, Italy with a one-night stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Rather than moving hotels every couple days to see the whole country, we spent the whole week in a 17th century farmhouse we rented.
It was a long drive down, but our house in Tuscany was the perfect landing spot for a fabulous week in Italy.
I think I'm in love.
In LOVE with all things Italian.
The people are friendly. They smile and talk to you and laugh and help you...
The language is beautiful. I could listen to it all day, especially the little bambinos ...
The food is yummy. Pizza and gelato all week...
The hills and countryside of Tuscany make you feel as if you are straight out of a movie.
Best of all, we had a SOLID week of sunshine, flip flops, swimsuits and family.
F A V O R I T E S  for this trip and blog posts to come:
Jim, Justin, Ashten and I: Cinque Terre
Ty: body surfing in the ocean
Coleman: swimming in the pool at our house 
Caden: swimming in the pool and the Tower of Pisa

Thursday, June 20, 2013

under the T U S C A N sun

Sunshine. Oh, how we have missed you. We are in our villa in the heart of Tuscany soaking up some sun, culture, pool, beach and all things Italy. It's been a long time waiting for summer vacation. It was an even longer winter. Long and dark.

We already love it here.

The Italians are so friendly, at least the ones we have met and talked with.
It is perhaps our favorite country in Europe thus far.

The view from our living room is complete tranquility.
True bliss.

We have taken so many pictures and have so much to share.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A S H T E N is here

Flying international for the first time, Justin's girlfriend Ashten arrived in Germany this week!

I made the comment when Justin first met her that if he still liked her when summer rolled around, he should invite her to come visit Europe. She's HERE!
Lucky for us, her parents agreed and we get to have her for a month. Having never met us, I'm sure it was not easy putting her on the plane sending her half-way around the world. She did great- her flight even arrived 45 minutes early.

Justin is the one who seems to be a magnet for any kind of delay.

They will fly back to Kansas together the beginning of July.

After flying all night, she arrived at 10:00 in the morning- stayed up most of the day and even made it through graduation {3 hours} and our grilling party afterwards. What a trooper!

This is the last week of school for the littles and I. Then, let the fun begin!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

T Y graduates

There is not much that can make this mom more happy and proud than to see my boys happy.

Graduation was Friday night. The weather was beautiful- our first week of sun and warmth this summer.

The ceremony was long {3 hours} but, really nice. With more than 200 in his graduating class, long is just part of the course.

Ty was so happy.

Once we found him after the ceremony, the smile on his face could not be wiped off.

He gave me the biggest hug while he picked me up swirled me around. Seeing him so happy brought tears to my eyes.

High school has not been the easiest for him, but he's done really well.

We are really hard on him because we know he can always do better.

Showing his work has always been more difficult than doing the work.

This last month was especially hard to keep his head in the game.

Switching high schools half way through his sophomore year was no fun, but I think both Justin and Ty now realize that our time in Germany and graduating from Ramstein High are experiences they would not trade for anything.
Change is hard, but it also brings growth.
Ty's growth has been phenomenal.
We can't wait to see what big things he does next...

We are so happy and beyond proud of him.