Monday, June 28, 2010

guess what landed in my mailbox today?

a little thing I like to call my new razor. I love the Razor Shoppe (wherever and whoever you are!) and I do so love my new Personal Touch!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

my lunch yesterday and today

Normally I hate making sandwiches at home because I normally only have things like peanut butter and jelly on hand and PB&J doesn't taste like a deli sandwich no matter how you cut it.

But yesterday and today I have eaten the most delicious sandwich. Here's my equation:

thick slices of Publix's delicious Italian bread (leftover from Friday night's
+ Boar's Head roasted turkey, thinly sliced
+ long strips of cucumber from my mom's garden
+ long strips of banana pepper from my mom's garden
+ lettuce
+ tomato
+ Athenos Spicy Three Pepper hummus slathered thick on the bread


European Vacation - VENICE

On Thursday, June 9, Mac and I took off on a high-speed train for Venice for 2 days there before we left on our cruise. What is a 6+-hour trip via the regular train is a 3-hour trip via high-speed rail. It was a no-brainer when traveling with a 7 year-old.
There are always lessons we learn when traveling. The one I learned on this train trip was one that I knew I was going to learn the hard way. Our suitcases were just too big to be manageable for Europe. Honestly the next time I go to Europe, I'm taking 2 outfits and a lot of laundry detergent. Will you remind me of this declaration when the time comes? This very nice older Italian man who was traveling with his wife, his mother and some other old woman (I couldn't figure out that relationship no matter how much I eavesdropped on their Italian conversation) helped me get one duffle up on the luggage rack and the other one under our feet. (As a side note, this guy was immaculately dressed and coiffed, handsome, all pressed and not sweaty - the perfect specimen of older Italian man. Mac and I were seated across from each other with a table between us and the old Italian nonnas sitting by us. I don't speak Italian so I couldn't understand everything they were saying, but they did say "mamma mia" a lot in their conversation, which endeared them to me forever.

Let me just tell you that the Italians have it going on with first class rail travel. (And I will only do first class train travel after some of the traumatic and less-than-first-class train trips Jimmy made me do in Peru.) Once the train took off promptly at the scheduled time, a nice man came through and gave me an English-language newspaper. Then a lady came through to hand out juice. Then she came through later to hand out amaretto cookies. Food and a paper? Completely worth the price of admission.

We arrived in Venice and it was everything you think of when Venice comes to mind. Water, water, water. The train station dumps you right out on the Grand Canal. We bought our boat bus tickets and away we went to find our apartment. Mac on the vaporetto (the public boat bus transportation system)

Imagine a regular town with regular streets and then in your mind, turn all those streets to water. There are no cars, just boats. Laundry boats, construction boats, garbage boats, DHL boats, taxi boats, bus boats, etc. Anything that requires a car or truck in a regular town has a boat equivalent in Venice. It was all pretty surreal to me, but it's a great city for wandering, getting lost and finding yourself again.
one of a million beautiful canals

Of course, the big highlight of Venice was our reunion with Jimmy. Mac made us get to the boat stop more than an hour before we knew Jimmy could possibly get there from the airport. That's a lot of waiting time, but Mac refused to leave. waiting, waiting, waiting for Daddy
The Grand Canal
On our one full day in Venice before the cruise, the public boat transportation workers were on strike, except for rush hour time because they "didn't want to inconvenience people too much." We walked around a bit to see the Rialto Market and the famous Rialto Bridge and then caught a private water taxi over to Murano, the glassmaking island. I have seen photos in People magazine of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in the private water taxis, and I'm pretty sure we looked every bit as glamorous, except without all those kids hanging around. the handsome men in my life in the back of the water taxi

We wandered Murano for hours and had a great tour at a glass factory. If you can't tell from the photo below, it was hot as blue blazes in this factory! Finally, some sweaty Italians!!

Some final photos from Venice -

the sweetest, juiciest peaches known to mankind, bought and eaten on the spot at the Rialto Market


a sweet little canal
Mac and me

European Vacation - ROME

Mac and I were in Rome from when we landed in the early AM of Sunday, June 6, until we headed out via train to Venice on Thursday, June 10.

I wasn't terribly impressed on Sunday, but I think that was a combination of not being able to get our bearings - I literally could not find where we were on a map at any point of that day and I really do pride myself on my map-reading and -following abilities - and just being really, really tired. The flight from Atlanta is about 9 hours, but it leaves late in the afternoon. So by the time our bodies were ready to sleep (partly due to having a lot of great movies to watch on the plane right at our fingertips), we were close to landing in Rome.

Monday was a different story. We got ourselves tickets to a double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus that were good for 48 hours and I can assure you we used the bus service to its fullest potential. We almost could have given the tour, we'd listened to it so much. Rome was VERY hot (so much for that cool weather forecast that I fretted about before going), so we took the bus around to get close to where we wanted to be in order to avoid as much walking as possible. (As a side note, one day a man with a monocle sat in front of us on the bus. How often do you see those??)

Rome proved to be a delight around every single corner.

Yes, the traffic is awful, but after you live in Sao Paulo, no traffic is ever as awful as that. Yes, there were lots of Vespa scooters scooting in and out. But again, after Sao Paulo, these Vespa drivers were so tame in Rome. Let's be honest, a lady in a business suit with a Louis Vuitton bag slung over her torso riding her red Vespa to work is a little more cautious than the kamikaze motoboys in Sao Paulo. So the traffic really proved to be a nonissue.

Which leads me to all the things that are issues in Rome.

1. The food
Pasta and pizza are two of Mac's and my favorite things. Really if you added french fries to that, you'd have our food triumvirate right there in a nutshell. We were in heaven from the beginning. We ate pizza everyday for lunch and a pasta dish every night. Mac supplemented his meals with at least two gelatos a day. His favorites: chocolate, mint and cream. I really was so hot in Rome that the thought of gelato didn't appeal to me. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but the thought of swallowing all that dairy made my throat feel like it would close up. So I sampled Mac's when he'd allow me and had one gelato on my own during our entire time in Italy. That is a travesty and I can assure you I will rectify that on my next visit. I won't bore you with more food photos. You get the idea from the ones I posted the other day. We ate very well in Rome.

2. The beauty of EVERYTHING
The buildings, the people, the architecture, the unexpected flower boxes on buildings, the detail on buildings, the monuments, the fountains, the squares, etc. are all amazing. It's a stunning city that defied all expectation for me. Seeing a grainy picture of the Colosseum in the Wall Street Journal the week before our trip does not do justice to the breathtaking beauty of it when you turn the corner and see it for the first time.
Mac in front of a fountain at Piazza del Popolo, one of his favorite squares The Spanish StepsMac in front of the Forum ruins with the white Palazzo Venezia (my favorite building in the city) in background
Trevi Fountain, into which Mac threw at least 8 coins with the hope that throwing coins in really does guarantee return trips to Romedifferent views of the Colosseum

3. The fruit and vegetable market, Fiori dei Campi

4. All the lovely squares

Piazza Navona - my very most favorite

5. The "water fountains" all over Rome that are fed from aqueducts and from which Mac filled up his water bottle at every opportunity
in square in front of Pantheonthe Vatican with guide Giulio (more about Giulio below in #7)
6. Villa Borghese
Did I mention Rome was really stinking hot? Sort of like SC right now but I'm not out sightseeing in SC everyday. We had no choice but to brave the elements in Rome. Villa Borghese provided a wonderful couple hours of shady respite. Our highlight? Renting this electric bike - the motor kicks in after you pedal a few times. It's a miracle I didn't flip us over! As we drove off, the man who rented it to us screamed "slow down, slow down, too fast." The bike really had a mind of its own, but we lived to tell the tale.
(As a side note, Mac and I sweated like crazy on this entire trip. Not perspired as my mother-in-law says, but just full-out, drowned-rat sweated. Why did every Italian I saw looked like they'd just stepped out of a magazine photo shoot with nary of bead of sweat on them???)

7. Our tour of the Vatican
A couple weeks before we left, I was reading the latest edition of Oprah Magazine, and there was an article about the private tour guide Oprah uses when she visits Rome. This gentleman is also used by other famous people and apparently knows everybody in Rome and can get you into places that no other guide can. He sounded perfect for us.

Except that famous people have lots of money to pay for such a tour guide and alas, we do not.

But I googled him anyway, just to see. And guess what I found out? His sons have started a company that does small group tours of less than 8 people as opposed to other companies that do groups of 20 people. Their prices were relatively comparable to the companies that do group tours of 20 people, so I booked them for a Vatican tour. Our guide Giulio met us at the appointed hour and it turned out we were the only people on the tour.

Almost like Oprah getting her private tour.

Giulio was fantastic and was able to keep a 7 year-old entertained for nearly 3 hours while answering his mother's irrelevant questions like does the Pope's brother get to come in and visit him whenever he wants. To see the Sistine Chapel took my breath away. Walking in St. Peter's Basilica was awe-inspiring. I can't say enough about this part of our Rome vacation. It was a perfect ending to our time in that great city.
Inside St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's Square
a Swiss Guard

I didn't throw coins in the Trevi Fountain to guarantee my return to the city because I don't need superstition to ensure my return. My love affair with Rome has begun and that alone will bring me back.

your homework assignment for today

Dear Reader,

I love you. I really, really love you. Except that I don't know who you are.

I know I have 5, maybe 6, loyal readers, namely family, but you see, they don't live in Norwalk, CT or Los Angeles, CA or Medina, OH, or Gaithersburg, MD or Union, MS or any of these other cool places that show up on the cute map to the right over there. So I'm flummoxed as to exactly who you are. But inquiring minds do want to know.

So I have a HUGE favor to ask. You can say no, but what fun would that be? And it'll only take about 3 seconds more of your time than reading this post.

Would you be so kind as to leave me a comment when you read this post. You can leave it anonymously if you don't want to reveal your secret identity - I have a thing for secret admirers so you'll still be one of my favorites - but I'd love to know if our paths have crossed before and if not, how you came to find The Story Tales.

The ice cream making fun is starting today. I wish you were here, my good friend Reader, to enjoy it with us!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

my family is full of Poohs

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh", said Piglet, at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.

-A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Friday, June 25, 2010

tonight's dinner

For appetizers, I made my version of that first picture in the post below (tower of roasted eggplant, sliced tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella drizzled in olive oil and adorned with fresh basil and some parmesan slivers). Mine might not have been quite as good or as pretty as what I ate in Italy, but it's a keeper (and soooo simple).

buon appetito

Italy was one great meal after another. Some photos to whet your appetite...

I hate to even admit this...

But the Walton family saved the day again. Mac and I went to the water park today to enjoy the refreshing, brisk 102 degree temps which made the water a petri dish as best I could tell. I put my wallet in the bag I took into the water park.

We got home, showered, and then rushed out to the grocery store to buy dinner fixings for my high school friend Dara who's coming over to break bread tonight. Naturally I forgot to put the wallet back in my handbag and naturally I didn't discover this until I'd put my groceries on the conveyor belt thing at Publix.

I had my checkbook and I begged the cashier to take my Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card as proof of identity. He said I'd need to take it up with the supervisor. Well this supervisor looked like he was about 17, but I begged and pleaded and showed him the insurance card (with Jimmy's name on it, of course, and not mine, but Jimmy's name is on the check as well so unless I was an estranged spouse, it would be okay, right?). He then asked if I had any other picture ID. I carry this little pouch with all those miscellaneous cards you always need, but I was pretty positive that none of them had a photo and I was 100% sure the insurance card was the only one that actually had a name on it. But I found my Sam's Card and wouldn't you know that on the back of it is a very grainy picture of me with my name. And for no apparent reason I was able to remember my drivers license number off the top of my head and that combination was apparently all the proof I needed. Hallelujah!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

it's the little things, right?

This post may be more than you want to know about me so you can stop reading now if you don't like TMI.

Today at Wal-Mart while shopping for essentials before our packout, it was as if the metal roof opened up and the sun came down to shine right on this:

I am the world's biggest fan of the Schick Personal Touch razor. Even after nearly 4 years living in Brazil, I'm still a leg shaver as opposed to a waxer, and the Personal Touch has been my razor of choice for 20 years. Personal Touches were eco-friendly before it became de rigueur; you just bought that big chunky razor and replaced the blades as needed instead of buying those orange disposable razors. We are talking smooth shaving that must have pulled the hairs out by the root because it took ages for stubble to appear. And it had a considerable weight and design that just fit in your hand right.

When we got home from Brazil and after I used up my supply of replacement blades, I tried to find blades and there were none to be found. I panicked. Maybe there had been a recall? Maybe they put too much aloe in the little strip above the blade or something? I searched for a long, long time and could not find any replacements anywhere. My beautiful brown razor sat on the edge of the tub, unused, forlorn, and sad.

What I should have done was search the internet.

But alas, I did not. I mean, if Wal-Mart and Target don't have it, then surely it must not exist, right?

(That was tongue in cheek before you fuss at me.)

After obviously buying the necessary replacement razor (which has left me stubbly about 20 minutes after shaving and therefore unhappy), I finally threw out my Personal Touch after months of not using it. It was a sad day for me. In 20 years, I've owned 2 Personal Touch razors - I had to buy a second one when I worked for the FDIC because we were working at a bank in Myrtle Beach and I forgot to put my razor in my travel bag. Fortunately I had the two of them because one fell off a shelf at a dive hotel in Mozambique and cracked in half on the tile floor. In case you can't tell, it's been a real love affair - can you remember the history of all your razors over the last 20 years???

I had given up on looking for the replacement blades since I no longer owned the razor. Until today. My moment of bliss came in Wal-Mart of all places. I was trying to figure out how many replacement blades I'd need for two years for the pink, plastic, stubble-producing razor I'm currently using. The answer was too big to figure out without a calculator.

Then all of a sudden, I saw the Personal Touch replacement blades.

There was no Personal Touch razor in sight, but I thought to myself that surely I would be able to find one somewhere if they still sell the blades. I went to my old friend,, and I have now ordered a new Personal Touch razor from some store called The Razor Shoppe. I am so thrilled that I probably won't be able to sleep tonight.

I am not a hoarder by nature, but I intend to buy as many replacement blades as I can get my hands on. A future crisis must be averted.

the latest in torture devices at Casa Story?

Pinky received her first real attachments today!! When I bought her, I received a free shredder/slicer attachment and it just came today by my slightly disgruntled Fedex man. I imagine the heat index of 110 had him down.

But even his grumpiness could not diminish my excitement for the new attachments. Mac and I just tested her out with baby carrots - not the best choice to show off the capabilities of such a fine, sleek machine - but she most definitely thinly sliced the carrots, just as promised by Attachment #4 (they're numbered on the bottom of the cup). (The best part is that Mac ate about 15 baby carrots, thinly sliced, without skipping a beat. Maybe I should shred all his food for the novelty?)

I have ordered the ice cream maker attachment and it should come tomorrow. We may be making and eating lots of ice cream this weekend because we shall surely have to test out this function as well. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood.

Oh, I do love Pinky.

P.S. Reports will be forthcoming soon on the most wonderful vacation EVER!

Friday, June 4, 2010

let the Delta games begin

I know I said in January that I wouldn't fly Delta again if it were humanly possible. But for a number of reasons, it's not humanly possible and we are scheduled to fly on Delta tomorrow.

I know I've packed much lighter than the Christmas trip, namely because I'm not toting along a bunch of Christmas presents, but I also bought a handy suitcase weighing tool and I really know I've packed much lighter. So we should avoid the ugly confrontation in the Charleston airport immediately upon arrival.

I already knew from when we booked the tickets a couple months ago that there were supposedly no two seats left together. So I chose two seats as close as possible and figured I'd deal with it at the airport.

I just did our online check-in and again there are no two open seats together. In fact, on the Atlanta-Rome leg, there are supposedly no open seats left on the entire plane. In an effort to avoid another worrying thought that would keep me up all night (last night's worrying thought was whether I'd packed socks to slip on during the flight, so no worry is too small!), I called Delta just now hoping that I'd get some sympathetic person who'd move somebody around so we could sit together.

But alas, I got a woman who didn't really care and said I'd have to deal with it in Atlanta tomorrow before boarding.

The worst case scenario as I see it is that if they don't move us together, I'll just jack Mac up on Coca Cola before boarding. How fast do you think somebody would trade seats with me then?

packing panic

The packing is almost done. I have some clothes for Jimmy, practically every stitch of clothing that Mac owns, and a conservative amount of clothing for me for the next two weeks. All packed into 2 suitcases with room (and weight!) to spare for things we might pick up along the way. I even remembered a box of zip-loc bags to safeguard the olive oils or cheeses or whatever else I might find.

And them I happened to look at the weather forecast last night for Rome, Venice, Athens, Izmir and Dubrovnik. Rome is the only one I'm really concerned about because really, how accurate is any weather forecaster that far out?

Guess what the night temperatures are in Rome right now?

Upper 50s and lower 60s.

I have not packed for such brisk weather.

I am trying to swallow the panic that normally would push me to throw in some heavier clothes.

After all, I'm sure Versace makes something in my size.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

definitely time to take Mac to Rome

Mac saw a photo of the Colosseum yesterday and said "it's half-broken". He, of the disposable culture, needs to see something that's been around for nearly 2000 years. Rome cannot come a moment too soon!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Silver and Gold

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.
Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;
Friendship never knows decay.
For 'mid old friends, tried and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas! may die;
New friends must their place supply.
Cherish friendship in your breast-
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

Mac and I had the great pleasure and fun of spending this weekend with Jimmy's and my oldest, ongoing friendships. I love, love, love that our children are able to develop a second-generation friendship while we continue ours. The only thing missing, of course, was Jimmy. I was going to try to photoshop him into the photos, but alas, that's beyond my technological abilities.

And finally, the proof that a good time was had by all: