April this year was all about time spent with our cousins (Janelle's brother Keith, his wife Cindy and their two sons Sam and Jack came for a 3 week visit in April).
The weeks leading up to it involved mapping tours and reserving tickets to museums, pre-making and freezing dinners (meat loaf, ragu, chicken stock for mushroom risotto, pizza sauce, tomato sauce etc.), borrowing mattresses from nearby friends and letting the school know: Anthony and Caleb will be taking off 2 1/2 weeks. Bummer for them, right?
What I loved about their visit was the experience of having well-laid plans, then just relaxing into them. By that I mean creating an over-arching itinerary, including: a mini road trip, Easter dinner, logistics to visit Venice and Cinque Terre, see a few key museums in Florence. But inside of those well-drafted plans (the 'skeleton') we created memories. We spent time together, relaxing and enjoying Italy and each other's company. We embraced 'one of the good parts of life.' And it is all the little moments strung together, the big smiles and cousins playing-while-waiting and 'lets just see what happens' that THAT is why we frolic.
Here are some of the teeny memorable moments, strung together and woven into this little window of time with family... that I want to smile about, years from now:
- Jack laying flat on his back---ears under---floating in a foot of hot water from the Petriolo hot springs. I watched him, while he watched the sky.
- The boys taking framed pictures off the wall, to deposit them safely in the kitchen---lest they break while they play dodge ball in the living room.
- Going on a walk with just the four boys and 'Aunt Janelle;' I had the boys take turns with my big camera and told them to each take 5 pictures of things that made them think 'Florence.'
- Same walk: Jack and Janelle shared a pair of macchiatos at a nearby bar. And I bought the four boys all 'matching' leather bracelets from one of the many vendors. Last I checked: they all still have them on.
- Easter Sunday: seeing the Easter cart, being one of thousands of people jammed into the streets leading to the Duomo. At one point we grabbed each others' hips (all 7 of us) and choo-choo'd our way through the crowds for a closer look.
- Easter Sunday: Easter egg hunt. All 98 of them inside our flat. (Easter dinner was good too! Right down to the tiramisu and Rubruhm---dessert wine I had picked up at a TASTE event).
- Helping Cindy garner a 2-for-1 deal on 2 gorgeous leather purses. 6 months of 'Buon Giorno' to the same vendor;).
- Walking with Keith to get a pastry early one morning, while his family still slept. When do we ever get one on one time? Very cool.
- Grappa. When I first tried it, I likened it to drinking Windex. During this 3 week stint---which included a few bottles of Grappa (Cinque Terre, Chianti Classico, Verrazzano)---it grew on me. I think it grew on all of us...
- Riding our 2 junk bikes with Keith to get our car for (mini road trip) the first time; we biked through seas of people, crazy intersections and on massively uneven cobblestone. After one of the larger/busier intersections I turned around to see if he kept up: and found him on my tail smiling from ear to ear.
- One night in Venice, Keith and Cindy went to dinner and Aunt Janelle stayed in with the boys: they watched the movie Sherlock Holmes and I made them steak and colorful pasta (first try for them all: BLACK pasta... cool!)
- Taking the family to climb the Duomo... and finding no line! Very exciting.
- Watching Anthony blow a glass candy in Murano---and him saying to me afterward that he was on cloud nine. So was I.
- Gelato in Cognilia; possibly our favorite gelato from the whole 3 weeks (and we had a lot of gelato). I found my new favorite flavor: honey.
- Falling in love with---and buying---a glass bracelet from Murano. Charcoal oval beads. My birthday present from James (grazie mi amore!)
- the church in Murano; it had [appropriately] an all-glass crucifix and everyone loved the floor tiles and circled-glass windows. Even better: spending just 5 minutes in the church with Jack---we lit a candle for Grandpa & Grandma Velt to say 'hello'.
- Cousins' arms. So often the four boys would put arms around one another.
- Sam saying thank you. He was so good at saying thank you whenever I made him a meal or a snack or took them somewhere for a walk. Made my heart swell with warmth. Its so nice to be able to say 'you are welcome.' And if you know Sam, you would do just about anything for him just to see his glorious, warm smile;).
- Evening on the terrace of Keith and Cindy's apartment in Riomaggiore; one evening I joined them for wine and grappa and a night of chatter and laughter. It was lovely.
- The red swim suit story. You had to be there. I was.
- Caleb and Keith together enjoying the same-love-for-rocks-and-beach-combing. Especially: when Caleb wrapped and presented Keith with black hematite sand from Elba Island.