A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Fortunate Traveler progress

As promised, here's a 64-hour progress pic on Fortunate Traveler. I did the over-1 in Vicki Clayton's "Midnight Rainbow" silk floss. The detail pic is a little large for my blog, but there is a Picturetrail page of it, and of the overall progress pic.

All quiet on the eastern coast..

At the moment things are pretty quiet. I finished the over-1 title on Traveler last night - I'll post a progress pic soon.

I found this quiz through Annette's blog. There are a lot of people with waaaaaay too much time on their hands who keep coming up with quizzes like this one, but I thought it was kind of cute. That, and I'm stumped for ideas today.

I took the villain personality test

created by:
The Arch Villainess Gracie

Not too bad a fit, actually....

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Things that make you go "D'oh!"

About four years ago, DH, DD, our friend M, and I went to the UK for the millenium (hey, we figured it was our one chance to get stranded on the other side of the ocean if the Y2K bug kept planes from flying). On the way from London to York, we made a detour to Fotheringhay to try to see what might be left of the castle, and if we were lucky, to see the resting place of DD's namesake. Well, all that's left of the castle is a large rock with a plaque. It was still a rather nice location, despite the wind and rain we were experiencing at the time, but I admit I was a little disappointed about not finding a tomb. DD was 7 months old at the time, so she didn't really have an opinion on the matter.

Fast forward to last night. In browsing, I discovered that the resting place of several of the Yorks, including the one I sought, was in the church at Fotheringhay. A currently still active church. We'd driven by this church, and I even have a picture of the church from where the castle once stood. I was that close, and didn't know it.

Our friend M told me this morning that at the time we were there the church was under renovation and wasn't open for visitors, so I feel slightly less frustrated.

But next time we're in the UK, I want to go to Fotheringhay again. I also want to visit Middleham, but that's a story for another day.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Save a life - give blood

I'd almost forgotten the Bloodmobile was here today! When I remembered, I went out and donated (no low iron problem this time). I also got $15 in restaurant gift certs. That's not why I donate, of course, but it is a nice perk for my third donation - I have a punchcard (Club Red) that lets me get $15 in GCs every third donation. DD will be happy about the package of cookies I got, too.

I don't donate for the cookies and GCs, though. I donate because it's a small but important thing I can do to help save lives. If anyone in my family were in the hospital and needed blood, I'd certainly like for there to be sufficient blood to save them. And while my family may not need my donation at this point in time, someone else's family will. So I try to give as often as I can.

So today's public service announcement: Save a life. Give blood.

Just another manic Monday

I had a three-day weekend, this past Friday being an off-work Friday. My current employer lets us have every other Friday off. The price, of course, is we work 9-hour days every Monday thru Thursday (the work Friday is an 8-hour day). Rather a sweet deal, although when DH is traveling it's sometimes difficult to get in my 9 hours in between kid commitments.

Friday I managed to complete all my weekend chores (laundry, bills, that sort of thing), which left Saturday and Sunday free for stitching, reading, and other diversions. I'm about halfway through The Rose in Spring. I certainly like it so far - historical fiction is great for making a handful of facts into a good story. I've also managed to get in about 6 hours of stitching on Fortunate Traveler, most of it on the over-1 lettering.

I also went swimming with DD, and watched movies with her. Last night we watched Lady and the Tramp as a family - DD enjoyed it but was rather distressed by the rat scene, and needed some reassurances that no rat was going to invade the house and attack her. It's interesting what is frightening to small children sometimes.

But without further ado, the Stitcher's Five!

Stitcher's Five - Stitching and Travel (6/28/04)

1. Do you take something new to stitch when you travel - a special travel stitching project?
I have in the past, but usually don't anymore. Most of the projects I have in progress are too large or special to risk taking on a trip. Don't want to lose or ruin something I've already spent triple-digit hours on.

Besides, that's what books are for! I always take a book or three when I travel.

2. Do you plan your trips around stitching shops?
No. Although if one happens to be in the area it would be a darned shame to pass it up!

3. Do you believe that if you cross state lines you MUST buy fibers?
No, but I like the way that sounds!

4. Where have you stitched?
Um, on fabric? Seriously though. Hm. I've stitched in various places up and down the East Coast. I've occasionally stitched in a moving car on I-95, but haven't done that in years. I realize now that's probably not the wisest of ideas... (you could put an eye out! )

5. Do your friends/family bring you stitching related gifts when they travel?
Sometimes. DH brought me back two small kits from his alma mater when he's gone on recruiting trips. I eventually got the hint and did them up into a single larger piece for his office.

On the flip side, I usually try to bring back an example of local needlework when I've traveled overseas (hence the mission to acquire some Assisi work in Italy).

Stitcher's Five - Finished Stitching (6/7/04)

1. Do you give away any of your finished stitching as gifts?
Sometimes I'll give away smaller pieces, though I'm much more likely to give crocheted afghans for special gifts such as baby showers.

2. Do you sell any of your finished stitching?
No - there's no way I would be able to sell them for anywhere near the time and effort I expend. I suppose if I needed to I might sell some finished pieces, but that would be a most desperate situation and I doubt I could even recover the cost of framing.

3. Do you give any of your stitching away to charities?
I've given crocheted items to charities, and done squares for both OKC and 9/11 memorial quilts. I've thought about giving finished items as raffle items for fundraisers but haven't yet.

4. Do you keep any of your stitching for yourself?
I keep most of my stitching. I've got close to 20 framed pieces hanging on my walls at home, and I'm always trying to figure out how to fit more. I may donate some of them for charity sometime, and others will be earmarked for one or other of the kids.

5. Do you stitch anything as part of exchanges or round robins?
I've done an ornament exchange once, and wouldn't mind doing other exchanges. I haven't done any RRs, though I would like to someday.

That's all for today, folks!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Rose of Raby

It continues to be a pretty slow week which, while not particularly useful from a blogging perspective, is useful for relaxing and recovering the vestiges of one's sanity. I've stitched some this week, and started another book. I mentioned last week that I'd finally managed to score a book I'd been seeking for a while. The book, Winter's Rose by Eleanor Fairburn, is the last in a series about Cecily Neville, a 15th century Duchess of York and the mother of English kings Edward IV and Richard III. She was known for her beauty (which earned her the nickname "The Rose of Raby") and her piety, and appears to have been quite intelligent and politically savvy. DH has long been interested in the Wars of the Roses and in Richard III in particular, so when we were expecting DD he suggested we name her after Richard's mother. From what little we know about her, she seems a worthy choice for a namesake.

I am curious to see the picture that Fairburn paints of her. I first learned about the books from an article on her in a Richard III Society newsletter, and so I set about trying to acquire them all. Five years later, I have them and can finally start reading them! And there was much rejoicing. (yaaaaay!)

I am interested in other books about Cecily Neville, so if anyone has any leads on The Rose of Raby by Guy Paget, or if you know of any others, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Clioratha from A to Z

Greetings, dear readers! Judging from comments left here, there are at least 10 of you, including an old friend who recently delurked to let me know DD has some competition for Spiderman's affection! Hopefully I'm keeping things relatively interesting for all of you.

Things are pretty calm here - yesterday was busy in a non-eventful sort of way. Now that I have regular readership, I'll do what many bloggers do and pick one of the many memes and surveys floating around. Might be entertaining. So without further ado...

The ABCs of me (found on Lorna's blog....thanks Lorna!)
Act your age? Depends on whose definition. I don't act like the thirtysomethings one sees on TV, but I probably act consistent with most people I know who are of similar age and family situation.
Born on what day of the week? Monday
Chore you hate? Anything involving expelled biological material (diapers, cleaning up vomit, etc. Had I a cat, cleaning the catbox would qualify)
Dad’s name? Dad (or PopPop to the grandkids)
Essential makeup item? I rarely wear makeup, so none of them are 'essential'. I probably wear nail polish more often than any other cosmetic item.
Favorite actor? Don't have one, though in general Sean Connery or Sean Bean could make a movie worth seeing.
Gold or silver? Both.
Hometown? DC suburbs
Instruments you play? I dabble at piano and at Celtic harp.
Job? Software engineer
Kids? Three - 2 step, 1 bio
Living arrangements? Married with kids and house.
Mom’s name? Mom (or Grammy to the grandkids)
Need? Sleep or time to myself.
Overnight hospital stays? One - DD's birth.
Phobias? I don't think I have one. All of my fears are perfectly rational.
Quote you like? "Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement" - Rita Mae Brown, according to quotegarden.com
Religious affiliation? Roman Catholic (convert from Episcopalian) Which reminds me of the Monty Python "Dead Bishop" sketch: "RC or C-of-E?"
Siblings? One of each, both younger.
Time you wake up? Usually between 0600 and 0630.
Unique talent? Still trying to figure that out.
Vegetable you refuse to eat? I'm an equal opportunity herbivore. Bring 'em all on!
Worst habit? Grinding my teeth. Or accumulating trash in my car.
X-rays you’ve had? Dropped a barbell on my foot when I was 5 (nothing broken). Dislocated a shoulder in college. Don't remember any others. Oh, and dental x-rays numerous times, if those count.
Yummy food you make? Double-chocolate rum cake. Carrot cake.
Zodiac Sign? Aquarius

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


It's amazing what one can do with photo editors.

Yesterday on snopes.com, there was a rather convincing photo of a giant skeleton.Snopes listed the source as Worth1000.com, a site that sponsors image-editing contests. Then today, among the myriad diversions that find their way into my inbox courtesy of one of our test engineers, is a collection of images that are composites of two animals. Most of these came from Human Descent, and some were pretty impressive. Others were just creepy.

There seem to be a lot of people out there with too much time on their hands. Fortunately some of those people have talent. It must take a great deal of patience to be able to do some of the more finely executed images.

Speaking of patience, it's time for the Stitcher's Five!

Stitcher's Five - Stitching Firsts (6/21/04)
1. What was your first finished stitched piece?
Dusting off rarely used neural pathways here....My first finished stitched piece was a crewel kit my mom got me. It was a country-style piece of a girl and an old wood stove, and had those really awful 70s colors. I remember it took me a while because the girl's red (well, orange) hair was all french knots. I think I finally finished it when I was 8.

2. What was the first piece you used beads on?
Ah, an easier question! Teresa Wentzler's Diamonds in Squares. I did that one back in 1995, I think.

3. What was the first piece you used blends on?
Diamonds in Squares

4. What was the first piece you used specialty stitches on?
Unless I count embroidery stitches, this one is also Diamonds in Squares.

5. What was the first piece you stitched on evenweave or linen as opposed to aida?
You guessed it - Diamonds in Squares. Although that was a kit - the first piece I stitched on fabric of my choosing was TW's Castle, which was also the first piece I used metallics on.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Some like it hot...

Unfortunately, I am not one of those. Today is officially the first day of summer. Perhaps in my case, that should be 'simmer', although truth be told, it's been too hot for my blood since about March. For the record, it's currently 92° and feels like 98° (33C and 37C for my metric-savvy readers), and we'll probably get our daily thunderstorm this afternoon. Now, for the most part I like thunderstorms, and not just because they cool things down. Lightning can be strikingly beautiful as it crackles across the sky, and there's something visceral in the concussion of thunder. And growing up where thunderstorms are an everyday occurrence half the year, DD is very rarely afraid of thunder.

But enough about the weather. The weekend was good - Friday night we went out to my favorite Irish place. I had a couple of ciders, had great food, and listened to live entertainment. Not long after the evening's singer had started (it was early yet), he let some little girl start singing while he played guitar, and it took me a minute to realize that the little girl was my DD! I was flabbergasted. Though I will admit she did pretty good as far as kids go, and I have to admire her guts - I could never have gotten onstage like that!

Sunday was Father's Day - we gave DH some books, some chocolate, and a gift cert to a local massage therapy place. DD gave him a computer game, Superpower that she picked out herself (despite Mommy's attempts to steer her toward something else). It turned out to be a good call - he seems to really enjoy the game. We also went out to eat, and met DsS. DD was glad to see him, and this was the first I'd seen him since we got back from overseas. I'm a bit out of the loop as to what's going on with him, but he seemed to be fine.

As for me, I got a few hours of stitching in, and watched a Forensic Files marathon on CourtTV. In a way, forensics shows like Forensic Files, Medical Detectives, Trace Evidence and such are a bit of a guilty pleasure. I admit that sometimes the things people are capable of doing to each other disgusts and disturbs me. But learning that modern science provides a vast number of ways of catching those who do such evil deeds is a great comfort. That, and fields like forensic pathology and entomology are fascinating - viral strains and insect larvae can speak for those who cannot. And then other shows like Extreme Evidence go into investigative techniques that determine the causes of accidents and the like. Cool science without the malice.

Surprising, then, that I don't read mysteries very often. Perhaps I should more often.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Murphy's Law: Practical Applications

Since my last entry, Murphy's Law has applied itself. Twice.

When I got home last night, I looked for a while for the missing chocolate bars, to no avail. Later that evening, when I had given up looking for them, I found them while picking up after DD. They were in a bag underneath her knapsack in a corner of the living room. But at least I found the chocolate!

As for the second application, it was bound to happen. We'd gotten a lot of rain lately and our pool was close to overflowing, so earlier this week DsD drained it down some. A bit more than I was expecting, because by mid-week the water level was below the tile. And my dilemma was this: If I added water to bring it back to the tile, we'd get torrential rains the next day and it would overflow. If I didn't add water, it wouldn't rain for a week. That's the way Murphy's Law works at our house.

Well, after checking the weather reports and finding slim chances of rain for the next week, and no tropical activity, I finally added water to the pool last night.

And true to form, now it's pouring rain.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The case of the misplaced chocolate

Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate. ~Sandra Boynton (from quotegarden.com)

A few weeks ago, I bought some chocolate at the airport in Rome. Much of the chocolate was a mixed-bag of small pieces, which have since been given to friends at work. But I also bought three larger bars - one white, two dark chocolate (72%). Very good stuff, the dark.

However, I seem to have misplaced those bars (oh, the tragedy!). I've turned my office inside out, and while I have not yet done the same to my house, I have yet to recover them. And DH has been asking about them as well. *sigh*

Some of you may be wondering why I don't just buy other chocolate. Well, it wouldn't be the same, you see. European chocolate rocks. American chocolate just sucks. I used to love Hershey's, but not anymore. Hersheys kisses will do in a pinch, preferably their Limited Edition dark chocolate ones, but they're not my chocolate of choice. Sort of like eating stale bread when you want a loaf fresh from the oven. The only domestic chocolate I've really had a taste for the past few years is Dove, and even then only the dark chocolate ones. (And skip the cheesy sayings, please...although I did get one that said "Who needs therapy when you have chocolate?"). And we won't even get into the cheapo candy that comes out around Easter. Palmers? Now you're going from stale bread to moldy!

But back to European chocolate. While in Italy I had a bar of 85% chocolate. That was wonderful! A little too plain for DD's tastes, but that just means more for me ;) I wish I'd seen some of the 85% bars in the airport.

Although that doesn't matter at the moment because I can't find my chocolate in the first place....*sigh*

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Just some updates

Reading update: Finished Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy a couple nights ago. It was a good series, and it was well-written, but the ending seemed to be missing something. I wouldn't say it was anticlimactic, more that the ending wasn't as well developed as it could have been. That, and there was some bashing of organized religion that started to get to me. Now, he wasn't quite as heavy-handed about it as Sara Douglass' Wayfarer trilogy was, but I confess I am a bit more sensitive about that than I used to be.

I'm also rather sensitive about authors who go into detail about something horrible happening to a young child, especially when the event has no bearing at all on the plot. Maggie Furey comes to mind here. I enjoyed her Aurian series, but there was a scene in one of the books (Dhiammara, I think) that just completely turned me off to her. But that's just me.

Stitching update: Last night I finished 40 hours on Last Supper, and am about to pick up Fortunate Traveler again. I'm also toying with the idea of doing an Assisi sampler I have instead of Amethyst Elegance for my next 'technique/style' piece. Since I need to start one after this round of Traveler anyway.

I'm several Stitcher's Fives behind right now, so it's probably time I did one!

Stitcher's Five - Others and Stitching (6/14/04)

1. Is your DH/partner supportive of your stitching?

He most certainly is, for which I'm very grateful! He knows it's one of my major hobbies, and even bought me an Elan lap stand for Christmas two years ago. I hadn't stitched in several years at the time we got married, so his appreciation and support has grown as my involvement (addiction?) has grown.

Actually, I had a pleasant surprise while we were in Assisi. I was eyeing some of the pieces in the shops, and he started talking to one of our travel companions about my stitching. He not only knew what I was working on, but how long I'd been working on it and how far along I was, and it gave him a perspective on how long some of the store pieces must have taken. I hadn't realized he had paid that much attention.

2. Do you ever stitch in company?

I often stitch in the presence of others, especially when visiting relatives. That's not to say I always have my stitching out when people visit, but I do sometimes.

As for stitching with other stitchers, very rarely. DsD never really got into it, and DD is still a bit young though sometimes she's tried to sit next to me and stitch. Or as she calls it, 'needling'.

3. Been to a GTG (Get ToGether)?

Not yet, unfortunately. There are no fellow stitchers I know within a reasonable driving distance, given my current time constraints. I'd like to go to one someday.

4. Does anyone complain about your stitching?

Other than DD when she's wanting my attention ("MO-om! Stop needling!"), not usually. Growing up I'd occasionally get a few complaints that I was off stitching (or more often, reading) instead of "being sociable", but that probably doesn't really count. I've also gotten a couple of negative comments in the past about subject matter ("Don't you stitch anything other than dragons??"), but on the whole those around me tend to be fine with it.

5. Ever had a stranger comment on your stitching?

On the rare occasions I'm stitching in public, quite often. The summer before college, I worked in downtown DC and took the Metro every weekday. I did a few small pieces for a neighbor's baby afghan, and I often got comments on what I was doing. I also gave a hardanger pattern once to my dentist's receptionist when I was done with it, because she was interested in it while I was working on it.

On the flip side, I often comment/compliment other stitchers I happen to encounter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Spiderman's mother-in-law?

Yesterday evening, my 5-year-old gave me some surprising news...

When she grows up, she's going to marry Spiderman.

Obviously this came as a surprise to me. Not only have they not been dating (DD being rather a bit young for that), I wasn't even aware that she really even knew much about him. She hasn't seen the movie (nor have I, for that matter). Now, there are pictures of Spiderman on her Lunchables, and no doubt the boys in her class talk about Spiderman. And talking with DH this morning, apparently her crush on Spiderman is nothing new - her favorite song right now is Weird Al's "Ode to a Superhero", and she seems to know a fair bit about him.

She could certainly do worse for a mate. After all, Spiderman is intelligent, modest, altruistic, and hates injustice. And as DH points out, Spiderman does have a thing for redheads.

And there could be certain advantages to having a web-slinging son-in-law. Cleaning the gutters comes to mind.

Monday, June 14, 2004

There and back again (8/8)

The weekend was good - I got to read, I even got to stitch, and I finally made it to Curves this evening for the first time in seemingly forever.

But now....the part you've all been waiting for! The final installment of the now-infamous Italy trip journal!

<drum roll>

Italy - part 8 of 8
1 June 2004 - in flight(cont'd)

Monday we slept in pretty late, because we were all a bit exhausted. In the afternoon we went down into Trastevere, the southwestern part of Rome. We first went to St. Cecilia's, one of our must-see stops, but they didn't open until 4, so we went to St. Maria in Trastevere. It was a beautiful little church - outside were pieces of very early Church carvings. Inside, the area at the altar seemed to have a Byzantine feel to it, with gilt mosaics and iconography. One of the side chapels was very simple, with sparse decoration except for an icon of Christ. Another chapel had soem very nice frescoes on the walls and dome. At the back was a statue of St. Francis, and at his feet and in his arms with the Christ child were quote a lot of slips of paper on which people had written their petitions. That was rather touching.

From there we went to St. Cecilia. The church itself is small but lovely, and is part of a Benedictine conventcomplex. The exterior also has ancient inscriptions on some of the stonework. The interior had some frescoes and gilding, but was a lot simpler than many of the churches we've seen the past week. There is a statue of St. Cecilia at the altar, depicting the way her body was found when it was exhumed about 1400 years after her death. The sculpture was done by the person who had made the initial sketches of her body, so one presumes it to be fairly accurate. The whole church itself is graceful and serene, and apparently is a quite popular wedding spot in Rome. The side chapels were, unfortunately, closed so I couldn't see any of those. Underneath is a crypt with some early Christian/Roman ruins, and a small chapel richly decorated. This chapel was also locked, but inside under the altar are the remains of St.Cecilia and 5 of her sainted contemporaries, including her husband Valerian, and a friend of hers who became Pope Urban I.

The courtyard of the St. Cecilia convent had a fountain and some nice lawn areas, making a peaceful oasis in the bustle of the city. In general, Trastevere seemed a bit more calm than much of Rome. There was also a nice gelateria we found on the way to St. Maria. I had frutti di bosco (mixed berry) gelato, which was very good. The chocolate DH had was also intense and excellent. I should have thought of getting half and half with the chocolate and the fruitti di bosco.

We also stopped by a fine gifts store, where we got a nice fossilized marble port set.

From Trastevere we had rather a long walk along the Tiber, then to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps). The Piazza was very crowded, and the Steps were full of people. I bet the steps look nice in the early morning, though. After a brief pursuit by a pushy rose vendor, we stopped for dinner at a nice place called Sant'Andrea. I had a very good cheese and onion soup, and a stewed rabbit dish with herbs and white wine. I'd never had rabbit before - it's a little like chicken but more flavorful. DH had an excellent young lamb dish, which he says is the best lamb he'd ever had. Then dessert - DD and I had a mixed berries dish, and Dh and DsD had pineapple. The restaurant was a little pricey, but I certainly recommend it.

From there we went back by the Trevi, tossed in coins over our shoulders in the hope of returning someday, then evaded a couple more pushy vendors and returned to the hotel to pack and sleep.

We got an early start this morning, took a somewhat daredevil cab ride to the airport, and are on our way home.

It's a long flight, and DD hasn't exactly been the quietest passenger although she does seem to be settling down.

This has been a good vacation overall. I'm a little sunburnt, a bit footsore, but happy. Although as with all vacations there is something to be said for going home again and sleeping in one's own bed.

Going back to work tomorrow will be tough, though!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

When in Rome... (7/8)

Italy - part 7 of 8
1 June 2004 - in flight(cont'd)

Friday morning we left for Rome. G found a kitten at the villa, and DD went nuts over it. There was an interesting scene with the kitten and its mother - mom kept trying to get the kitten across the driveway but it was too big to carry. When she dropped the kitten, it'd scramble back under a bush and mom kept trying to drag it out. The whole episode was pretty funny.

The drive to Rome was uneventful - if Italian driving can ever be said to be uneventful! We checked into our hotel near the Trevi fountain, and met everyone there in the afternoon. The Trevi fountain was very big, and the place was packed with tourists and street vendors. Some of the vendors, especially the rose-sellers, are rather pushy!

After meeting up with folks, we went to the Forum and looked around. (Wish I could say something funny happened on the way there, but alas I can't use that line...) There were a lot of ruins in the Forum, and it was rather dusty, especially when the wind picked up. The remains of the Senate building were interesting, and we all could easily have spent more time there. We spent almost 2 hours as it was. From there, we went to the Colosseum. DH had already been in, and M wasn't interested, so only L, G and I went in. For some reason, admission was free this week, which made things quite nice. The Colosseum was in a way a bit smaller than I expected. I would have liked to have explored the area underneath, but it was still pretty neat walking around. There were some nice views of the city from there. All in all, it was neat but I wouldn't have wanted to pay €8 for going on. Then we walked back to the Trevi and got dinner at a place I think everyone but M liked. DD liked the green apple (mela verde) juice she had.

And then there were six - L and H went home on Sunday.

The family went to a Latin Mass at St. Peter's on Sunday morning. Two of the readings and the homily were in Italian, the second reading in French, and the hymns in English, but the Mass itself was in Latin, which was actually pretty cool. After Mass we went outside for the Papal Blessing. I didn't see the Holy Father, but DH saw where he was (inside one of the buildings, in an upper-story window), and saw his hand a few times. We'd gotten a few rose-scented rosaries, and those are blessed now.

After a quick stop for food, we met up with G and M at Castell S. Angelo. We didn't go in, but went from there back to St. Peter's and looked around for a while. St. Peter's is by far the largest and most ornate of the churches I've seen. There was a great deal of mosaic (especially on the floor and ceiling), gilt frescoes, baroque carvings in both stone and wood, and a lot of statuary. The side chapels were closed off so I didn't get much of a look at them, but the main sanctuary itself was overwhelmingly impressive.

Near the statue of St. Andrew was a staircase to the crypt underneath where many of the popes are laid to rest. Pride of place among these, visible but inaccessible to visitors, were the bones of St. Peter in a carved wooden box, lying under the high altar area. We passed several sarcophagi, including the most recent pope interred there. We also saw embedded in the walls markers for other popes, and remnants of the first basilica built by Constantine.

The path through the crypts led outside the Basilica, so after a bit of a rest, we went back to the hotel. It was a bit of a walk - I think I've done more walking the past week than I have the previous two months combined. We were all a bit tired and footsore - taking turns carrying a 45# kindergartner when she got tired didn't help any of our backs! We settled in, then the four remaining adults played cards for a while. The game of spades went a lot quicker than Friday night's game - the hearts game we played afterward lasted almost as long. A quick run to a fast food sandwich place (Mr. Panino, which was actually pretty decent), then we sat around chatting for a while.

And then there were four - M and G flew out way early Monday morning.

I finally got around to posting a picture of the Assisi needlework that I picked up in Assisi. I'll add the link to part6 as well..

Thursday, June 10, 2004

We drove up to Assi-si-si to see what we could see-see-see (6/8)

There's timing for you: DsD was going to take her car (a '91 Saturn SL1) to the dealership to determine the cause of some recent problems she's been having. DH and I decided that given the age of the car, if the cost to repair was too much, we'd get another car and DsD would get his current one (a '96 Saturn SL1). Well, DsD's car died on the way to Saturn, which pretty much made the decision for us. DH is now the proud owner of a storm grey '04 Saturn ION2. Fortunately my car (an '00 Saturn LW1) will be paid off in August. Yes, I know, we're pretty much an all-Saturn family. We like the no-haggle deal, and the dent-resistant panels have come in handy. That, and the Saturn dealership is only a couple miles from our house and we've always gotten great service from them.

Anyway, instead of driving you crazy talking about new cars, I'll drive you to Assisi....

Italy - part 6 of 8
1 June 2004 - in flight
Well, I have four days to catch up on. Since we have an 11-hour flight back to Atlanta, now is probably the time!

Friday we got an early start and drove to Assisi,which took us about an hour. Once there, we walked up a somewhat steep hill to the Rocca Maggiore. It wasn't open right away, so we admired the splendid view of the surrounding countryside until opening. The Rocca also seemed to be a popular gathering point for the local adolescent population - there must have been 50 teens hanging out, playing soccer, or making out. (I think the guys were admiring more than just the countryside, especially after being flashed by one of the teen girls there.)

The Rocca is undergoing renovation, so we were only able to get into two of the towers. The main one, a polygonal tower, was accessible via a long narrow corridor, then a steep spiral staircase to reach the top lookout point. M didn't go up because he's not big on heights, but the rest of us did.

After the Rocca, we split up. M, L and H saw one of the churches, and then went on to Spoleto. G, DH, DsD, DD and I stayed to see more of the churches. We first went to San Rufino, which like many of the churches I've seen has a number of frescoes. It had a rather ornate baroque chapel which seemed in very good repair. Beneath the church were the remains of some crypts, including the sarcophagus that originally held St. Rufino. There were some very early Church carvings down in the crypt, and it was a little eerie down there.

There was also a small museum at San Rufino. There were some vestments on display - I was impressed with the detail of the embroidery - and some other liturgical items. There were also several paintings. G was a bit disressed at how poor a condition some were in and hoped they'd go in for restoration soon.

After S. Rufino, we went to the Temple of Minerva. It had very old classical columns, but the inside was a bit more modern. Relatively speaking, of course. It had a very Marian feel to it, especially in the frescoes.

From there we had lunch, then to the Basilica of S. Francesco (yes, the St. Francis). Certainly can't go to Assisi and not pay our respects to one of its most renowned and beloved residents. The Basilica is very large and ornate, with frescoes detailing the life of St.Francis on the walls of the main sanctuary. There were mosaics and frescoes, and a lot of giltwork. Downstairs was the lesser sanctuary, which was also mosaiced but a bit more austere. Stairs from there led down to St. Francis' tomb. It was both thrilling and sobering to be in the presence of such a worthy man.

Afterward we made our way to S. Chiara (St. Clare, Assisi's other famous saint). It sort of took a while to get there, as we kept popping into shops along the way. I fulfilled my mission of picking up piece of Assisiwork *in* Assisi. There were some very beautiful pieces for sale, but €50+ is a bit out of my range, even if it is undervalued for the time involved to create them! We stopped in another small church on the way - nowhere near as elaborate as the others, but still very nice in its simplicity.

St. Chiara's is also nice, and less ornate than S. Francesco. Her tomb was underneath, and you could actually see her body. She was laid out as if asleep, in nun's attire, and there was a mask covering her face, and other coverings on her hands and feet. [Ed: I've since learned her remains are skeletal, hence the coverings. At the time, I thought I remembered her being one of the incorruptibles, but I had her confused with someone else.] Seeing her laid out was profoundly moving, if a bit unnerving.

Afterward, we walked back to the car and drove back to Il Borghetto. We needed to get up early to check out and head for Rome, but DH, L, G and I stayed up until 1:30am playing spades. It was a single game - DH and I hit 500 the same hand we sandbagged. Then G and L sandbagged and as it was already past midnight we decided that the next team to sandbag would lose the game if there was no winner by then. I think G and L ended up sandbagging again, but it was late and I really don't remember well.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Deja vu of sorts (5/8)

Since neither defrosting my freezer nor my code review are of particular interest to anyone, I'll just cut to the chase!

Italy - part 5 of 8
28 May 2004 - Il Borghetto
Yesterday was a fairly light day - we didn't leave the house until after noon. We drove up to Montecastillo di Vibio, a small walled town. It had a nice little church, and a park outside the walls. From there we drove to Orvieto and spent most of the afternoon there.

We actually got to go inside the cathedral this time around. The interior on first impression seems fairly simple, with the same black and white layers of stone as the exterior. Closer inspection reveals the remains of frescoes in all of the side alcoves. The north side windows were half stained glass, with the bottom half a yellowish brown material which the guidebook says is translucent alabaster. The south windows, at least in the main part of the church, are all alabaster. There is a pretty large and impressive baptismal font toward the back.

The high altar is richly decorated with frescoes and a large, detailed stained glass window. These were all pretty well preserved, and the effect was rather striking. I noticed an area for a choir, and G noticed sconces on the walls high above - seeing the high altar area in full candelight must be a very moving experience.

To the left as you face the altar, there is a set of pipes above the transept for the organ, and the pipes are surrounded by what appears to be carved and painted wood. Passing under the pipes northward, one arrives at the Chapel of the Corporal, which contains the altar cloth from the Miracle of Bolsena in 1263. The whole cathedral was built to house this relic, actually, and this side chapel contains an elaborate enameled silver reliquary to display the corporal. This chapel also contains frescoes, mostly of the Miracle, which were somewhat faded. I confess I paid most of my attention to the corporal itself. I was surprised to find it on display, and I was deeply moved just to be in its presence.

Outside of the chapel, in the part of the transept under the organ, was a Pieta that I really liked.

There was another chapel at the south end of the transept that was ornately gilt and frescoed, but there was an admission charge so we didn't go in.

After Il Duomo, we went into an Etruscan museum across the square. It's definitely a lot different seeing the figurines and pottery in person instead of viewing a photograph in a history book! After the museum we stopped in another small church, then at a spaghetteria for lunch. I had spaghetti with butter and sage, which was very good. Then a little bit of shopping (I got some dried kiwi, which was actually pretty good), a quick stop in Todi for pictures of S. Maria della Consolazione, and back to the villa. L and H made chicken piccata, which was excellent.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

On the road to ruins... (4/8)

I'm still riding the high from last night's game. Man, that was an exciting one! I wonder what it's like to skate the Cup. (Of course, I'd need to learn to ice skate first...) I bet it's a wonderful feeling.

Today's journal installment is a bit lengthy, so I'll get right to it.

Italy - part 4 of 8
27 May 2004 - Il Borghetto
Yesterday was another gorgeous day. We went to Carsulae in the morning. Carsulae is the ruin of a Roman city, still quite impressive for having been abandoned for centuries. The site was overgrown with clover and other wildflowers, and we explored the ruins to the persistent drone of bees. There was a small church (S. Damiano) which looked as if it might actually be used occasionally, and ruins of an amphitheatre, a large tomb, several arches in various states of repair. And of course, more sheep. I walked on the remains of a real Roman road - the Via Flaminia. We easily spent two hours there, and between the weather, the wildflowers, and the ruins, we all got some rather nice pictures.

After Carsulae, we drove around for a while, through small mountain towns. We stopped in a tiny place called Giano dell'Umbria, on the top of one of the mountains, which had a 13th century fortress and two churches. We went into S. Maria della Grazie, which was quite nice inside for being tiny. The stonework had an interesting marbled coloring - streaks of orange, black, grey, pink, and white. The other, larger church was San Michele Arcangelo. DH made it inside that one.

I am struck by how resourceful Italians are when it comes to housing. Every town we've come across that dates back to the medieval period has apartments in the old walls and fortresses, and many balconies and windows are covered with live plants. Right now everything is in bloom, and the high alleyways of stone and flowers are very beautiful, especially in Todi.

From Giano dell'Umbria, we drove through Bastardo (yes, it means what you think...) looking for someplace to eat. M and G took pictures of themselves by the Bastardo and not-Bastardo signs ('Leaving [town]' signs are simply the name of the town with a large red diagonal line through it.). Having no luck on our quest for food, we drove through several other small towns, eventually arriving in Todi. We had a somewhat steep uphill walk through narrow streets (bedecked with flowers and graced with the remains of frescoes) and arrived at the town square. We went into the Duomo in Todi, much of which dates back to the 11th century. That was pretty nice. We had a snack at a small cafe on the square (and DD had her requisite gelato), then we went up to S. Fortunato, another church in Todi. That was easily the thing I liked best in Todi - many of the side chapels had frescoes in various states of repair. It was a shame that so many of the frescoes were badly damaged. One of the chapels looked like it had been recently restored, and it was simply amazing. And underneath the main altar, reachable by steps, was a sarcophagus containing the remains of several saints, including the namesake San Fortunato. It was both impressive, and a little eerie.

There was a beautiful little courtyard near S. Fortunato that I liked. It had a small bench, and rows of roses.

We did see some...interesting...entertainment in Todi. There was a young woman whose clothing left little to the imagination, and seeing her with her boyfriend as we were leaving S. Fortunato prompted DsD to wonder how to say "Get a room!" in Italian. DsD claims she saw them being even more indiscreet later in an arcade at the back of the cafe on the square, but I'll be thankful I missed that.

After Todi we came back to the house, then went out for dinner (which was good but not quite as good as Saturday) before spending a late night talking about various things. G is also a gamer, so he and DH and I talked for a while.

Today our objective is a return to Orvieto this afternoon for a cathedral visit and shopping.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Stanley will get a tan!

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup!!!!

And kudos to the Flames on a well-played, hard-fought series! The game came down to the wire, and left me breathless!

It's a beautiful thing!

Less work, more hockey!

In half an hour, two teams, 15 wins into the playoffs, will face off to win the ultimate trophy....35 pounds, 110 years of history...

Okay, enough of the melodrama. Lightning vs. Flames, and someone is skating Lord Stanley's Cup tonight!


Happy endings (3/8)

I had some great things happen this weekend - won an evilBay bid on a book I'd been trying to find for about 5 years, and the Lightning won Saturday night to force a game 7. I saw Shrek 2 on Saturday - that was hilarious! And yesterday after Mass we went out to lunch and I had some awesome ribs. Yum! I finished The Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel, and started Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife. So all in all it was a good weekend. Haven't quite gotten back to stitching yet, but that should happen this week. But anyway, on to the journal!

Italy - part 3 of 8
25 May 2004 - Il Borghetto
Hallelujah, M's bag has finally arrived - at about 8pm this evening. He is seriously annoyed with Alitalia, but at least now he has pants.

Today we drove up to Lake Trasimeno to see some of the castles. The drive was a bit less stressful than yesterday, and the lake is very beautiful. Our first stop was Magione - we attempted to see the castle there, but it was occupied by the Knights of Malta, so we could only see the outside. From there we drove through small Italian towns and scenic roads bounded by wildflowers to Castiglione del Lago, a walled city overlooking Lake Trasimeno. We went to see the Rocca, but we hit the lunchtime closing so we wandered the town for a bit until we could get in. That is one minor annoying thing about places here - most of them close for about two hours at lunchtime, and we've seemed to hit those times more often than we'd like.

After Castiglione we drove to Passignano and walked around for a bit. We had gotten separated from G and M, but fortunately we met back up again with them at Passignano. From there we drove back to the house. Right now we have a fire going, and things are pretty quiet. Tomorrow we're planning on heading back to Carsulae and maybe a few other places.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Days of wine and spades (2/8)

The Wrath of Grapes

Well, I'm caught up with laundry and bills. Clothes are unpacked, though souvenir-type things need to be dealt with. I did take time to watch the hockey game last night. Unfortunately the Flames won in OT, so the Lightning are facing elimination this weekend. And the bad thing is that I nodded off right before the gamewinner. I guess I'm still adjusting to being back in my normal routine.

But hey, it's Friday so life is good.

Italy journal - part 2 of 8

24 May 2004 - Il Borghetto

Yesterday it was pouring rain as we drove to Podici. Driving in heavy rain on narrow, curving Italian roads doesn't seem like a fun experience - I'm glad DH is driving and not me. We drove up to Podici to see the castle there. I had forgotten my sweater and it was chilly, so I stayed back at the car with DD. The castle dates to the 9th century, and looked pretty impressive from the outside. It appeared as though much of the inside may have been converted to apartments. M managed to get inside and see from the tower, so I'm sorry I missed it.

From Podici we drove back down the narrow mountain road, passing, of all things, a high metal bridge that advertised "Bungee Jumping", and stopped in a town by a rather impressive waterfall called Cascata delle Marmore ("Marble Waterfall"). The waterfall is a huge tourist attraction, but is only open on weekends - during the week the river is diverted for industrial purposes.

From Cascata we went to Carsulae, the ruins of a Roman city, but we got there after closing. What we could see looked rather impressive, and we plan on hitting it again later in the week.

On the way home we stopped at a pizzeria in Todi and got food to go. We consumed those, and 7 bottles of wine, during the evening. I played spades for a while with L, M and G, then DH took over for me.

I had far too much to drink, and probably spent an hour or two emptying the contents of my stomach when I went to bed. My stomach was a little queasy this morning but that eventually subsided. I'm surprised I'm not hungover, considering how miserable I felt last night. [Ed: I also apparently couldn't shuffle but could still deal, while I was still playing spades.] But at least I'm in good company - G also, from what I hear, impressively painted the outside stairs, and he has been hungover all day. Neither of us have had much, if any, wine today.

Today we drove into Orvieto. The scenery was spectacular - we drove around a lake in the middle of rather impressive mountains. It reminded me of Scotland, but green. Orvieto is built atop a plateau, and dates back to the Etruscan period. The remains of a fortress, from which you can overlook a great deal of the surrounding countryside, have been converted into a park. What remained was still rather impressive, and on the walls you stand at rather dizzying heights. From the fortress, or Rocca, we walked past numerous shops in old buildings to the cathedral square.

The cathedral, or Duomo, is, simply put, rather breathtaking! The facade is gilt and mosaic (or maybe fresco) with lots of carved stone panels. The rest of the body of the cathedral alternates black and white rows of masonry, a rather striking effect. Unfortunately we got there right after the Duomo closed for lunch and we didn't have time to wait for it to open, as our parking expired at 3pm. So we had lunch at a cafe in the cathedral square, and headed back to the cars. DD, DsD and I stopped at a gelateria (ice-cream bar) for dessert. I had kiwi gelato, which was quite good. DsD had capuccino and DD had lemon. I guess G got her hooked on when he bought her a lemon gelato yesterday for her birthday!

On the way back from Orvieto, we hit a grocery store in Todi and H made spaghetti and salad for dinner. It was quite good.

M and G went into Todi again, and L and H are just driving around. I'm still a bit tired so I'm going to turn in early.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The journey of 5000 miles begins with a single step (1/8)

As promised, here is the first installment of my trip journal!

Italy journal - part 1 of 8

Our trip got off to a rather inauspicious start. My family was meeting our friend M, and three of his friends (G, L, and H) whom we'd never met. We arrived first, with M due to arrive second so he could find G, L and H as they arrived. We got to Rome at 9am. 11 came, then noon, and still no M. By this time, G was to have arrived. 1pm, then 2, at which point L and H were due in. DsD had the brilliant idea of making a sign saying "(M's last name) party", at which point we were able to meet up with the other three before M arrived. M arrived last, although his bag didn't, and by 4pm we were all on the road. Traffic wasn't too bad once we got off of Rome's ring road, and a very scenic drive up, down, and through mountains got us to our villa. Now, on to the actual journal!

23 May 2004 - Il Borghetto, near Ilci in Umbria, Italy

This week we are staying at Il Borghetto, a farm situated on an olive grove and vineyards in Umbria. It's private property, and this is one of several houses the owners rent to vacationers. From here we have a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside, including at least two castles. There are other houses scattered about, including a couple of small towns.

At Il Borghetto, there are many trees in bloom - I don't know what they are, but they have somewhat strongly scented white flowers. there are also large bushes of lavender and rosemary. On the drive up here, as well as on the property, we have seen a great number of rosebushes in bloom. Here at Il Borghetto I've seen red, white, yellow, peach, and pink roses. And that's just near this house.
Yesterday when we arrived the weather was beautiful - in the 70s, sunny with a slight breeze. Today it's a little cooler because it's raining. Storming, actually - I hear thunder, and it's a heavy downpour. But still, very beautiful for all that and already the storm is passing.

Last night we had dinner at a restaurant outside of Todi - I don't know the name, but the food was phenomenal. For antipasti we had a tray of roast pork, some very thinly sliced ham, some flatbread, and an herbed garlic bread. For pasta, I had a fettucine with asparagus - others had spaghetti or ravioli pomodoro or bolognese. For the meat, I had agnella al forno - a roast lamb chop that had olive oil and herbs, and was quite delicious. The hostess was also quite gracious, even though she didn't speak English and none of us know much Italian. I wish I could remember the place to offer as a recommendation.

Tune in next time to hear about our first drive around Umbria, Orvieto take 1, and my experience with wine and spades!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Well, I'm back.

To borrow a quote from Sam Gamgee. Or anyone else who's ever gone on a journey.

I had a wonderful time in Italy. I'm a little sunburnt, a bit footsore, and somewhat tired, but overall I'm happy. Well, happy about having had the trip - I can't say that I muster quite as much enthusiasm for being back at work.

I'm also pleased to discover that the Lightning are at least holding their own, having tied the series with the Flames Monday night. I'll get to watch at least two hockey games now.

I'm still in the process of getting settled, both at home and at work, so this will be a rather short entry. I do have a travel journal, which I will be posting piecemeal over the next week or two, so watch this space.

Meanwhile, I am still adjusting to having to breathe hot water. At the moment it's 91F and feels like 97F. Bleah...