Thursday, December 30, 2010

Regular Days

So, I haven't posted since Christmas day.  So much for posting a little something everyday we are here.
The truth is, there are days that we really don't do much of anything.  It is awesome!  We usually set Zoe up with some school work, read books, play games and take naps.  Rough life, I know.

One unusual thing about our life here is that we do a lot of shopping.  People usually just buy what they need for today or maybe tomorrow.  There is no big pantry here to keep all of our Costco sized items.  So... we end up walking into town a lot to just get some bread, or some fresh fruit.  Doug has his big backpack and we load all of the shopping into that and walk home.  We thought we would see more people walking but the truth is most people drive.  Driving could be a whole other blog entry so I'll just say that we prefer to walk for now - and given all that we are eating, we need to walk too!
Buon Appetito!

Getting home with the shopping (stores will be closed all weekend for New Years)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

Christmas day was wonderfully mellow.  Definitely in the spirit of Sabbatical.  We all slept in a bit.  Doug and I got up to walk the dogs and literally "Heard the bells on Christmas day"!  Somebody was really having fun ringing those bells - It reminded me a little bit of the Middle Schoolers on Sunday mornings in B'ham.

Most of the day was spent reading, playing games and being lazy.  Then at noon, we got a call from a very sweet woman whose name is Gigliola (Lily).  She is best friends with Diane who usually lives in this house, and she invited our family over for tea.  We were all a bit nervous, but we made it there and were able to hold down a few conversations!  We were there for two hours, so we must have done OK.  It was so kind of her to have us over on Christmas!  She loaded us up with some fruit from her garden and also some kind of pasta with ricotta and spinach to bake another day.

When we got home we tried to Skype with my family in Santa Barbara... but it just wasn't staying connected.  It was a bummer not to get to talk to them much, but great to see them for a quick minute or two.

All in all it was a great day.  Doug is starting to catch a cold.  Pray that he shakes it off quickly and that Z and I don't get it!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Zoe put up one of Doug's socks for her Christmas stocking... She got a 2 oranges  2 Baci candies a Kiwi and 2 Euro . Thanks Santa Clause!

Here is a little of what we did today!  Games, books, candy... a really great Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Bitter and the Sweet

Well... Here we are.  Another December 24th.  I'm not quite sure that I can actually form the words for "Six Years".  How can it be??

Today has been a very quiet day in Italy.  Yesterday the propane was finally delivered and the temperature in the house jumped almost ten degrees right away.  With the house warmed up and hot showers taken the three of us just hung out together reading books, cooking our big lunch and playing games.  It was very mellow... sooo different from the work day Doug usually has.  Today (of all days) I was really experiencing the Sabbatical.

The three of us took some time together this evening to look at all of the photos on the "Friends of Zachary Bunnell" page on Facebook.  If you haven't joined you should (and feel free to add any photos you have)!  So many great memories that bring amazing joy and amazing sadness.

I thought that I had the Zachary slide show from the memorial service on my laptop.  It has been a tradition to watch it every Christmas Eve.  Turns out it's not on here!  So instead we just thought through all of the categories we put the photos into and shared memories.  Here are some of mine:

  • Family Guy:  Zachary loved his family.  We have so many great photos of him with Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.  One funny memory we have is when we took him to Arkansas when he was probably 18 months old (see my FB profile pic).  Doug's side of the family was gathering for his Grandpa's memorial service and Zach got everybody sick. Now when we laugh about it we call it the season of "heaving and grieving"! 
  • Big Brother:  We have Zachary on video "showing" his new sister their room, right before we left for VietNam. He was pretty clear with which side of the room was his, and that he didn't want her to "suck on his stuff".  He did, however give her brown bear when we were in VietNam (he took it back later - but the thought was magnanimous for a 4 year old!)  He loved Zoe with all of his heart and the wonderful photos we have of them together tell the story
  • Great Friend:  We always say that Zachary was picky about who he liked to hang out with... but he always chose wisely.  One of my dear friends called him an old soul... I tend to agree.  From his earliest friends like Dave, Calvin, Jacob and Nolan (the list could go on and on) to his friends he made in B'ham right before he got sick like or neighbor Alec, Zachary always had great friends.
  • Theater lover:  I think the first Musical Zachary ever went to was Annie in maybe the first grade. But it was really teacher Juanita encouraging him through "Daughter of the Regiment" and the Martin Luther King play that set him on fire!  Who knew that he would be singing and dancing in Oliver and Pirates of Penzance a few years later.  Even his blindness couldn't keep him off of the stage.
  • Music/Sports/Disney... The list of all of Zachary's wonderful attributes could go on.  I remember when he was really small, we were listening to the Hanging of the Greens concert at First Pres Berkeley.  Every time one of the choirs would stop and the applause had died down Zachary would yell out "More Music"!  He wasn't the best athlete, but he had a deep love for basketball, for watching football with Doug and for all things Stanford.  He was a great fan.  Zach's love for Disney was admittedly thrust upon him, but he truly enjoyed the happiest place... At age 10 he had been to Disneyland, Disneyland Paris,, and took his Make a Wish trip to Disney World.
I could keep going on... but I can't go on... 
He would have loved Italy... I really miss that guy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Concert

While we were in Veroli on Tuesday I noticed a poster on a shop door advertising a concert at the church that night.  I really wanted to go and listen to some Christmas music... Z took a little more convincing.  But we did venture out again last night and I was so glad we did!  It turns out it was a middle school concert with student voices and band/orchestra instruments.  The songs were all ones that we recognized - mostly in Italian, but some in English too.

Here was the run down for the evening:
Deck the Halls
Silent Night
O Tanenboum
Jingle Bells
Jingle Bell Rock
Angels we Have Heard on High
We wish you a Merry Christmas
Oh Happy Day...

And a happy day it was!  I'm  going to try and attach some of the video... don't watch it if you have a weak stomach as it is a wee bit bouncy!  

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Market Day

Today we drove back up the hill to Veroli.  Every Tuesday there is an open air market where people sell everything from socks and underwear to kitchen gadgets to food... it's a little like an outdoor Fred Meyer!  At first I was a bit disappointed because there really weren't that many stands, but wouldn't you know we were in the wrong area!  We learn something new every time we venture out.  The market really was rather large and we walked the whole thing.  I found a small decorated Christmas tree at a flower stand and convinced Doug that it would be a great idea to bring it home!  It's our one small not to Christmas decorations!  

When we got home the sun was shining and we decided to sit out on the terrace and have our lunch.  The sun didn't last for long but it helped us to thaw out a little bit.  And the antipasta was delish!

While we were in Veroli today I noticed a sign for a Christmas Concert this evening... not sure exactly what we'll be in for, but I really want to go to some local events - so off we go again tonight.  Later this week I think we're heading back to Rome (as long as there is no snow in the forcast!!) to see a really large display of Nativity scenes.  I'll keep you posted!  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Roman Holiday and No room at the Inn...

It's been awhile since I've posted.  D, Z and I headed off for our first Roman adventure on Wednesday morning.  We were warned that the bus schedule is really just a suggestion, and now we know that's true.  It has been very cold here and we were just about to give up waiting for the bus and go for a coffee (but what to do with the luggage) when the bus finally came - maybe the first time I was glad to have skipped a coffee!

We got to our destination and made the train into Rome like clockwork!  A quick walk to the hotel (with an owner whose wife used to live in Chicago!) and we were ready to go. Just a peek down the narrow road next to our apartment gave us our first view of the Colosseum.

That first afternoon and evening Doug had us do a really great walk that took us down a main shopping road to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.  The Christmas lights made everything sparkle it was beautiful!

The next day we did our Roman "Shuffle"  from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum.  So much history!  It was really cool to do this with Z, especially after our trip to Israel last year.  After lunch we made a stop at the Mamertine Prison where it is believed Peter (and Paul) were both jailed.  The tour was a wee bit cheesy, but we were all glad to see the place where Peter baptized the guards.  Very cool.  Next a lot of night walking... maybe more than we intended, but we saw a really cool Christmas market, along with many more fountains and obelisks.  Doug however made perhaps the greatest discovery of the night when he saw a sign in a cafe that said they specialized in Hot Chocolate!  We were so cold!!!  The Hot Chocolate was awesome... more like pudding (Zoe didn't care for it, whose child is she??)  Doug and I liked it very much!

On Friday, our last day we checked out of our hotel and took a subway to the Vatican City.  There is one word for this experience... Art.  We saw sooo much, and Z really held her own.  It started to snow while we were there and it was very pretty! We started to leave Rome at about 5PM so that we could get back to our house and walk the dogs.  Let me repeat the word "started".  I may not have enough distance from what happened next to not exaggerate, but here it goes...
  • We went back to our hotel to get our luggage - no problem
  • Plan A: We walked to the subway station to get the the main terminal - it was raining, but we're from the NW  right??
  • We waited for and then tried and failed to get onto at least three subway trains that were completely packed... there was no possible way we were getting on with our suitcases
  • Plan B:  we walked to the main terminal maybe a 15 minute walk.  Now it's really raining and while D is wearing his very functional REI coat, Z and I have on our very fashionable Pea coats.  Did I mention that it is so cold that it was snowing a few hours ago??  Can you say wet?
  • Made it to the station and check the schedule to get to our next stop... hmmm many trains are very late.  It seems as though something is going on, but we have no way of figuring out what exactly it is!!  We wait in the freezing cold for our train for well over an hour.  Finally I ask a woman in a shop what "sopresso" means and we learn that our train has been cancelled. 
  • Plan C:  We know how to use the subway, and we know that if we take the subway to the end of the line then we can probably catch a bus to a city "close" to where we need to be.  OK, off to the subway we go
  • We get to the end of the line, and we find a sign that tells us there is indeed a bus to a town about 15 minutes from our final destination... we can take a cab from there, hooray.
  • We wait and wait and wait... outside, in the rain and freezing temperatures, ear splitting thunder and lightning... NO BUS!!
  • I am now in full panic mode it is after 9 at night. We are at least four hours in to our 2 hour journey home.
  • We finally ask (through a lot of sign language) and learn that there has not been a bus since 3 that afternoon and we won't be finding anything going to our destination tonight... WHAT?
  • Plan D:  Taxi!  We find one and he will charge a kings ransom to get us where we need to go... I'll pay anything. 
  • Our very nice cab driver who speaks very little English finally communicates that there has been snow in our area (very rare).  This is why the trains and buses have been cancelled.  Oh, by the way the roads are closed too so unless we can buy chains we aren't getting where we need to go.  One hour later we have gone 8 kilometers, there are no chains, we have to turn back.  It is now 11PM
  • Plan E:  Our cabdriver takes us to a hotel back where we started, in Rome at the end of the subway line.  There is "No room at the hotel"... are you kidding me??? Even the cabbie can't believe it!
  • Next stop a different hotel... this one has room... we crash at about midnight and pray we get home on Saturday.
So... with much stress (which I carry squarely in my gut) we made it home today at about 2PM, 21 hours after we began.  There are no photos, this is an adventure I would not like to remember.  

The bright sides are:  We now know how to use every possible form of transportation in Italy.  The snowy view from our balcony is very pretty, and I am about to go to sleep in a bed with a heated mattress pad. 

I promise my next post won't be even half as long.  Buona Notte!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Well today (Tuesday) was a sit around the house, school, laundry, read kind of a day so I thought I'd post a photo from yesterday.

On our way back from our day trip to Sora yesterday we decided to come in the "lower" entrance to the house.  The lower gate has a driveway that meanders up through an olive grove to the house.  Imagine our surprise when we got to the gate and saw a flock of sheep grazing on the grass and olive trees.  Now... we knew that this would happen.  Our "house-swap" family had told us that their cousin Roberto and his heard dog Jack grazed his sheep on the property every two weeks or so.  Still, it was quite a thrill to come home and see it happening.  We're already looking forward to the next time!

Sheep in the driveway!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Up, up, and away...

Today we did our second outing to a nearby hill town.  This one is called Sora.  We read on-line that there was a hike that you could take up to an old castle... so we thought we would give it a try.  We walked around for awhile and couldn't find a trail head, so I bravely tried to ask some men on the street how to walk to the castle.  They pointed the way and said "up, up, up!"  Off we went in the direction they pointed.  We found a very rough path in a slightly scary area, but we kept going in an upward direction.
Path going up...
We made it to the top and there was not a castle, but a small church.  The view was fantastic.

On the way back down we found a nice path with stairs!  So much easier... 

Next trip... We'll find that castle!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

La Macchina

Today was our first day to venture out in the little car that is at our house for us to use (and I do mean little!)  It is a sky blue fiat and we are so glad it is small as the streets here are very narrow. 
Our Little Blue Macchina
Narrow is one thing, but many streets are also "cobbled", people drive very fast and there don't seem to be any dividing lines on the roads.  All these factors considered, Doug did an excellent job of getting us 10 minutes UP the mountain to the old walled city of Veroli. Veroli is absolutely beautiful!  We took off at about 11 this morning, found a cafe, had our first cappucino and hung out until things were starting to shut down around 1.  I'm sure we will be back a lot during our stay. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


The house we are staying in is very modern.  It has radiant heat that is activated by the fireplace, solar panels etc.  However we have been experiencing some issues with the water since we got here.  Our first night after we got settled in we went to brush our teeth and there was no water - not even a drip.  So we used our water bottles instead and fell into bed.  The next morning the water pressure was perfect.  Hmmm. We figured it must have been a fluke - but no such luck.  We lost all water on both Wednesday night and Thursday night sometime after 8PM.

The most popular explanation was that the tank was not full, so as we used water during the day it got too low.  Then the tank would fill up during the night and we would have water again in the morning.  That didn't sound right to us because it was too sudden and at about the same time each night.

Today the mystery was solved (we hope).  It turns out that the city stops supplying water at night.  The tank system is in place so that the water to the house doesn't stop, but somehow a switch had gotten bumped and the tank system got turned off.  It's funny how we get so used to having things like water anytime we want.  Here's hoping for water out of the tap tonight!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day of the Dog

Today was a day full of doggie antics and it's only 3:30 in the afternoon!

There are three dogs at this house.  One the designated "principessa di la casa" or princess of the house.  Blackie is a very cuddly lap dog. She is the only dog that gets to be inside the house.  In fact she is not supposed to be outside without a leash.  She loves, however to dart out the door and then run away from you!  This is what happened this morning.  I thought someone was at the door and when I opened it up - there went Blackie.  She is just like a toddler!  Everytime she got within eyesight of me she would turn and run the other direction.  SO frustrating! At least an hour after her escape and with me walking all over trying to call her back, I finally gave up and came inside.  Guess who was back in the house minutes later? Blackie.

After we had finally gotten Blackie back in the house we wanted to walk into town to go to the bank and the grocery store before everything closed.  Stores close between 1 and 4 so everyone can go home and have a big mid-day meal.  We had been assured that the outside dog named Leah who is "vecchia vecchia" or "old, old" would only follow us a short way towards town and then turn around.  No such luck for us.  Leah followed us all the way to the bank and then tried to follow us inside the grocery store!  She was randomly crossing the street and stopping traffic... I was a wreck!

So today we have spent lots of time with the dogs.  One who won't come, and one who won't go. It will not surprise any of my close friends to hear me say that this is why I love OTHER people's dogs!!  

"Bad Girl" Blackie
"Old Lady" Leah

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Full Day...

We arrived last night in the pitch dark.  We were greeted by Gigliola, who helps cook and clean, and Leo who is the brother of the owner of this house.  Gigliola speaks no english, but she showed us all around and we picked up a little bit of what she was saying.  Leo is visiting from Long Island and speaks english with a wonderful New York accent.  He promised us that when we woke up we would see a "Million Dollar View".  He was not joking.  Today we spent time exploring, meeting the three dogs, and then Leo and his wife Maria invited us over to their apartment for fresh Gnocchi (made by Gigliola!) Everything is wonderful and we are excited to just chill out for a few days before we begin branching out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maybe too Optimistic?

Two weeks from today... I'm definitely counting.

So... a very kind friend of mine offered to share suitcases with Zoe and me that convert into backpacks.  This is a very appealing idea since we will be traveling a great deal within Italy and between cobbled roads and crowded trains a big suitcase is a dumb idea.  I'm very grateful for these handy bags.  However, right now it is 25 degrees outside and tonight the low is going to be about 16!  I'm all bundled up, and although I know it probably won't be quite this cold in Italy, it will be cold.  What makes me think I can get my bulky winter clothes in a carry on sized bag for a three month stay??  What am I thinking??

Doug's mantra these days is "pack light... pack light... pack light"  I know that!!  It just doesn't come naturally to me!  I'm giving it try however.  And, luckily we are bringing our giant rolling duffle bag to accommodate all our boots and other bulky items.  I am optimistic - not crazy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Three weeks and counting...

Three weeks from today the three Bunnells will be making our way across a continent, an ocean, and part of another continent to begin our Italian Adventure!  It is an exciting prospect indeed.  The packing still awaits, but we are making our way through the "To Do" lists as best we can.

My intention for this blog is to do a "photo of the day" format.  I will be trying my hardest to post at least one photo each day with a short reflection on why that particular thing caught my eye.  Feel free to hold me accountable... I really do want to make it work!

In order for it to work however... my next job will be to get my camera fixed!!  It broke very recently and now I have to make the decision to repair or replace.  Of course the environmentally friendly thing to do would be to repair - but with a three week turn around time it may not make it.

Wish me luck, and I'm glad you're along for the ride!