frolicking friday foto: family fun!

Did I mention our family loves water slides? As part of our last-few-days in Italy, we found a huge water-park called AQUAFAN near the eastern coast of Italy. We spent a day and a half soaking up the sun and having fun! If water slides don't say 'family frolics,' I don't know what does!!?!?!


road trip: our last 10 days in Italy.

We are enjoying our last few days in Italy, together as a family. James landed a job, then shortly thereafter hopped a plane to soak up the tail end of our 'year abroad.' We have been busy closing up our lives in Florence, driving from Lucca to Parma to Bologna to the eastern coast of Italy until we hit 'beach.' Here is our itinerary:

June 14: leave Florence, visit Lucca, drive to Agriturismo near Parma. (dinner at agriturismo included some of the most amazing cured meats we have ever had!)
June 15: TOUR of Culatello/Prosciutto factory; TOUR of Parmigiano Reggiano factory; drive to Agriturismo near Bologna.
June 16: TOUR of balsamic vinegar factory near Modena (see picture), visit Modena museum, swim at agriturismo---see picture (huge delicious meals at agriturismo).
June 17-22: hotel near Rimini. Go to beach, waterslide park (AQUAFAN), play soccer/swim at hotel, watch World Cup games.
June 22: hotel near airport (James leaves 6am, Janelle/boys fly at noon).
June 23: board plane, return to states.

Quick notes: loved the tour of the Parmesan cheese factory; in the picture the wheels are still being submerged in salted-water (brining process). Later they age in rows, are regularly cleaned and turned and individually tested for DOP stamped-approval. The Modena factory was equally impressive (both tours were in all-Italian which means, the three 'boys' all caught the whole tour, and took turns translating for 'mom'). When else will you taste authentic 12, 25, 33 year-aged balsamic from Modena? Some were aged in multiple wooden barrels (cherry, oak, juniper, ash) while others were aged in successive barrels of the same variety of wood (think: 25 years aged in all juniper barrels). Fantastic.

More notes: we discovered the Po Valley is riddled with bike lanes, so already we are making plans to return. The Po Valley is full of agriculture, bursting with the production of fine meats, cheeses, white wines and more. We drove the stretch of it, and landed finally near Rimini for a spot of sun. It has been both sunny and rainy but we have managed soak up: 2-3 different nearby beaches, enjoyed a large water slide park (we recommend!), and found TV's-in-bars showing the next World Cup Game.

Our adventures will not come to end, even though we are wrapping up this long-planned, fully-enjoyed, worthwhile year abroad. When we land state-side, our re-entry will include sleeping at homes of friends and family, looking for a new home in Seattle, joining soccer teams and a family reunion in Montana.


frolicking friday fotos: artsy

Seem random? It is a bit. While living for these last 10 months in Florence, I push myself out the door and down new streets. It has been my goal to become super familiar with the history-rich, art-laden, tourist-loaded, fashion-hot Italian city. And while walking some of the artsy streets between Pitti Palace and Santo Spirito, I snapped this fitting pic in a shop window.


Happy Graduation ANTHONY! Your last day of school-in-Italy AND last day of Junior High!

You will always be able to say: I graduated the 8th grade in Italy. Perhaps the fan-fare will be a bit less, and your graduation dinner will have to wait until we reach state-side in a few weeks... but isn't it cool you can say you were in Italy in the 8th grade? 

You learned to speak a second language
. And saw countless works of art in Amsterdam, Paris, London, Florence and Rome. You rode your bike on average 8 miles a day: to and from school then to and from soccer. You tried every gelato flavor at our favorite shop on Borgo dei Neri; and tasted and tried various Italian wines, olive oils and cheeses, truffles, Belgium beer, Genovese pesto and wild boar. 

We watched Billy Elliot and Jersey Boys on stage in London, rode the tube and Eye; we enjoyed friends in Windsor. You tried croissants, toured Notre Dame and saw the Mona Lisa in Paris. You went on road trips to Venice/Murano, Cinque Terre, Rome, Elba Island (Napoleon's exile), Pisa, Lucca, 5 hot springs across southern Tuscany, countless little hill-towns, tours in Parma and Edam (cheese), Gouda (stroopwafels), Delft (ceramics), Modena (vinegar), Chianti (wine) and more museums than I can count. But you did count windmills as we cycled across Holland, didn't you? The final count: 132.

I guess your 8th grade year really WAS something to write home about. We look forward to hearing your perspectives going forward---as you learn your way through high school. When you talk about art, or take history, study geography and learn a third language... your high school studies will relate constantly back to this experience abroad---your 8th grade year. You may have grown over half a foot taller during this year; but I venture to bet you grew yards in your heart and mind.

We are so proud of you, for your adventurous spirit, for your willingness to dive into the unknown all in the name of learning. We will remember your enduring pace and cat-like reflexes on your bicycle (and give you the trophy for the tightest-packed panniers!), new soccer juggling records, your appreciation for art---including your talent for painting---your interest in mechanics, history, politics, creating a new dungeon and dragon class, architecture drawings and... chickens! (In case readers don't know this, Anthony started a blog about urban chickens---check out www.pickinachicken.com).

From Italy you will always remember your soccer goalkeeping coach Angelo, who was not only well-regarded as a coach, but as a person too. And you will remember Simone---your Italian language teacher---and all the special time you had with grandparents and cousins while they visited Italy for weeks at a time. And at school: Madre Christina and Madre Lupoi. Good-hearts in Italy.

Anthony, what 5 things did you like about Italy?

1. 'forced learning': you can't just take a break--you are always learning Italian because you are always around it.
2. Italian soccer: skill level/the talent, the keeper is highly valued/appreciated.
3. Feels good to be able to speak a second language (in a particular social context); presses you to think in new thought processes.
4. Culture: old towers and buildings, art, seeing the Duomo, history and antiquity in stone streets and walls.
5. Kindness: general Italian hospitality---we were even invited into a strangers' home for dinner when we were lost once.
6. Different Perspective: Italians look at/engage the world differently. How does Italy look at the US? At the world, life, etc.

Anthony, what 5 things do you most look forward to as we return to the states (Seattle)?

1. Being able to be able to communicate intelligently, and being able to show my personality more (in Italy it has been more about basic communication, since I was just learning the language).
2. Friends and family---seeing them and getting caught up.
3. Good water: drinking great, sharp and clear water from Seattle. All summer and year the water didn't taste very good---we bought a lot of bottled water.
4. Efficiency, timeliness, organization: clear schedules, guidelines, email communication, school expectations, practice times/locations.
5. 'Bigger is Better': larger homes, space for living, instead of small, compressed living spaces. Better for entertaining, stretching out, playing hard.

What does it feel like to graduate from 8th grade?

Its a new part of my life, when you start thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life (aka career, passion, interest). I feel older and more mature. It all feels new. New everything: new time in life, new friends, different/new classes, new opportunities, new skill sets will develop etc. Its a time of real growth and development (high school).

frolicking friday fotos: rustic art

For some reason I cannot seem to explain, I have a desire to take photos of old gates, door-knobs, locks, windows and bikes. There is something in them that is sturdy yet worn, artistic and beautiful but somehow harboring wisdom or secrets.

I often use them as screen-savers.


bye-bye Florence.

Its our last week in Florence. I cannot believe we are at this threshold, the tail end of our year-long adventure abroad. In case you hadn't heard: last spring we sold our home, cars and put our belongings in storage; we climbed a plane, landed in Amsterdam and assembled 4 bikes. Two panniers apiece, we cycled from Amsterdam to Paris, took the chunnel to London and finished the 2009 summer with a week-long soccer camp (for the boys) in Manchester City, England.

Then, we flew to Florence. Mid-August, we rented a temporary apartment, inserted the boys in an Italian school (aka full immersion) and they tried out/played soccer for a premier club. Over the first few months, James and I dealt with paperwork (many lines, many offices, many hours) for permission to stay. We toured every corner of Florence and much of Tuscany. Throughout the year, we had 3 week visits from both sets of grandparents (Dec, Jan) and my brothers' family (cousins!).

In February 2010, James returned home [early] to look for a job. For four months, February-May, Janelle and the boys stayed in Florence while James hopped couches and interviewed his way around Seattle. He recently landed a job, and is joining the boys and Janelle for a last 'hurrah.' We will all say goodbye to Florence on June 14, then take a road trip together: Lucca, Parma, Modena, Rimini then to Milan for our return flight to Washington state (June 23).

Our year was full of highlights and discovery, challenges from popped tires to circus dogs, logistics to art and wine and festivals, learning a new language (boys did, Janelle didn't, James already knew Italian) and so much more. I don't know where to begin, none of us can fathom how this year has changed and molded us; we will be digesting and re-integrating and reflecting for months---and years---to come.

James is working on canonizing our adventure in book-form; during our year, he did a fantastic job writing a post called 'top 5' for each month. Janelle 'canonized' much of the adventure here at familyfrolics, and also on her food blog, talkoftomatoes. The boys both kept journals, with lots of sketches and postcards, and observations along the way.

May: packed up lives state-side, boarded plan and landed in Amsterdam for a week.
June: cycling across Holland (windmill counting begins, baa-ing like sheep not uncommon)
July: cycling across Holland, Belgium, France.
Aug: London 10 days, Manchester United Soccer Camp, fly to Florence, swimming, soccer tryouts.
Sept: choose apartment, boys' school in Florence; tourist activities.
Oct: 3 week return state-side (unplanned---required for paperwork); visit Montana cabin, family.
Nov: daily life in Florence
Dec: 3 week visit from James' folks (Lucca, Orvieto, Civita, San Gimignano, Florence); Christmas festival

Jan: 3 week visit from Janelle's folks (Rome, Florence)
Feb: James returns to states; road trip: southern Tuscany/Elba Island (hot springs!)
Mar: daily life in Florence
Apr: 3 week visit from Janelle's brother/sister/nephews (road trips: Chianti, Cinque Terre, Venice)
May: daily life in Florence

I could put 50 links to the above months, but if you are curious and want to read more: in the left hand column there are archives by dates, click on any month to see posts for that month.

Our final month abroad [in Italy], June 2010 includes: finishing up the soccer season, saying goodbye at school, closing our accounts at the apartment, shipping home belongings, gearing up for the World Cup (what color will you wear?) and a final road trip (more about that soon).

By the way... just because we are returning state-side by NO MEANS means our frolicking is over. On the contrary we already have plans to visit a cabin in Montana, tour around our home city of Seattle, join up with soccer teams and pop up to Vancouver BC, Canada... all before the end of July.

Re-entry will no doubt be a whirlwind, and certainly we will appreciate the nuances of 'reality bites.' But even if we are sad that this chapter---this year long adventure abroad---is coming to a close, by no means will we stop embracing life to the fullest, at every possible frolicking moment.


frolicking friday fotos: world view

Sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words. Or sometimes you love a picture but words can't explain why. I like this picture; it was taken in Florence, Italy.

I think I will title it 'perspective.' Or perhaps: 'world view'?


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