Monday, June 30, 2008

Vacation Review-Day Two: VENICE

Venice. Loved it. It ranks a very close second to Rome for me.






When we got there, we were starving, so we got some pizza (and wine) for lunch. Now, sometimes when I get pizza at home, I ask for it without cheese. I get puzzled expressions, disgusted glances and the occasional death threat.

This place had "marinara" pizza right there on the menu. I was stoked, and it was DEE-licious. Plenty of garlic and basil on a cracker thin, crispy crust. The house wine wasn't too bad either.












There were pigeons EVERYWHERE. Not just in Venice, but here is where I saw people letting the nasty little flying rats perch on them for pictures. I don't mean to sound like a priss, but that's fucking nasty.




We had only taken the train in for the day, so we didn't hit any museums or indoor sites. Next time I go, I'd like at least a couple of days in Venice to be able to see more.

I love that the Venice itself is a work of art. I love the way the businesses fit themselves into the landscape as opposed to fitting the landscape to suit their needs. Also, to continue to inhabit a sinking piece of property takes balls...or maybe it's just the stubborn nature of its citizens.

The day after Venice, Laura (my cousin) and I decided to have a "lazy" day. We had breakfast, went to a farmer's market and I got to visit a military base where I got to send a quick email and buy some tax free cigarettes ($3.50 a pack! USD).

Next stop: Florence.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vacation Review-Day One: MILAN

`After a flight from Ohare to JFK, a 5 hour layover, and a plane that was 45 minutes late:

I finally made it to Malpensa Airport in Milan.

As soon as I got off my flight, I changed my dollars into euros and got a ticket for the shuttle bus into Milan's Stazione Centrale.

Everyone who told me that our dollar is weak wasn't joking. I was a little bummed at how little euro I got in the exchange rate.

The ride into the city reminded me a bit of the freeways in Chicago, except that every sign was in Italian. The bus had air conditioning which I would soon learn was a luxury in most of Italy.

I got off the bus at Stazione Centrale and found the baggage storage so I could explore the city for the day.

Walking out of the train station.

First, I found the Metro and took it to the Duomo.


A friend told me that when she went, she audibly gasped when she walked up out of the Metro, and I now understand why.



Because it is high season, there were so many people everywhere and so many people ready to take your money.

The birdseed sellers pissed me off. I was so hot and tired, I really didn't feel like being harassed in and around my personal space.

It was Sunday, so there was a service going on. I felt kind of disrespectful taking pictures while people were getting their jesus on even though no one else seemed to have a problem with it.






The floor was cool too.


I asked around for Jesus' email address, but no one wanted to give it to me.


After checking out the inside, I walked around the corner to get a view from the roof. Everywhere I turned, there was another picture to take.








It was SO hot, but I didn't care. This was so amazing to see up close.




I was wandering around, checking out the shops at the "mall"...





when I heard a screeching sound and saw a large flaming gay man approaching me with his arms out.

How did I know he was gay? Well, he mentioned it in the first 5 seconds of our conversation. That and he was also from Barcelona and a hermaphrodite who was taking hormones, and would be getting surgery to complete his "womanhood" in two years.


He wanted to see my tattoos. He asked me if I was from Australia. He wanted to know if he freaked me out. He wanted to read my palm.

He talked so fast and so loud, I was having trouble understanding what the hell was going on.

He wanted to walk around the corner to tell me my fortune, and before I knew it we were sitting on a bench in the hot sun and he was giving me a "special deal" for the reading.

Uh huh.

I was too weak from hunger, sweat and being in a completely foreign country to walk away from what was surely a con.

I kept a close hold on my bag and figured that even though he was full of shit, at least it was going to make for good blog fodder.

After spewing (literally. He spit a look when he spoke) a bunch of vague visions, he took me by the hand and wanted to show me the "gay park". At that point, I knew better than to go anywhere with him and told him I was going to go have lunch now--alone.

I had a salad and fruit at a self serve lunch place, then some gelato (strawberry).

I was starting to really feel the jet lag, and it was almost time for my train so I made my way back to the train station and found a place to sit down and drink a beer and smoke a cigarette in peace.

Let me just say this: While you cannot smoke indoors in Italy, you can pretty much smoke anywhere else, and most everywhere has an outdoor seating area. No one gives you dirty looks either like they seem to here in the states. It was kind of nice except that I smoked way too much while I was over there.

Milan was cool; maybe a little too fast-paced for me. Everyone was in a hurry, and it was Sunday. I can't imagine what it's like there on a work day.

I found my train and tried my hardest not to fall asleep (per my cousin's advice) so that I could sleep a full night when I got to their house.

It took a while to make it to them, and I had to change trains. It was all pretty clear cut and, even though everything was in Italian, I'd been in enough train stations to figure out where I needed to be.

I didn't get to my cousin and her husband until 10pm, but she only lives about 10 minutes from the train station.

I'm sure I looked (and smelled) like the train had dragged me there. I got a quick shower and went straight to bed where I slept like I've never slept before.

I basically woke up in the same positon I had passed out in 12 hours earlier, and this is the view out of her guest bedroom:

After that, I was good to go. Once I had a solid sleep behind me, the time difference (they are seven hours ahead) didn't really bother me.

We decided to go to Venice for the day, but those pictures will be in the next post.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm Home!

And more tired than I ever thought possible. I probably should have spent the night at my parent's house in the suburbs, but I really wanted to get home to my own bed.

I haven't watched (American) television in a week. What did I miss?

The flight home today was almost eleven hours. By the time I got off the plane and through customs I was ready to chew up a cigarette whole.

I'm better now.

I have 4 million pictures and lots of fun stories to tell...after a hot bath and a short coma.


Friday, June 20, 2008


I'm leaving for my parents' house in a minute, and will fly out early tomorrow morning.

I feel kinda' icky. It's the nerves. I wish I could just relax and go with the flow, but my body refuses to calm the fuck down. I couldn't sleep the other night, but made up for it last night by crashing at 9pm.

I'm going to try and find a computer while I'm over there, mostly to keep in touch with Jim. Don't know yet if I'll be able to call home.

I downloaded a few podcasts and new music to listen to on the plane.

I'm packed, and I really hope I don't forget anything important.

See ya' later!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I was stopped at a red light today.

I was second in line.

The cross street we were waiting at is a one way.

I noticed a woman off to the right, half on her street/half turned onto our street.

Our light turned green.

She tried to beat us to through the intersection, ended up swinging way wide and cutting off the driver in front of me.

The person in front of me tapped his horn to acknowledge her shitty driving.

Crazy lady driver gave him the finger...

before she realized it was a cop.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back in business

I got my laptop back today! Hooray!

It almost seems brand new too. New battery, new keyboard, soldered power plug (the old one wouldn't stay in place) and best of all, what amounted to approximately a half loaf of bread crumbs removed from the interior.

All's well, and now I can post entries on here whenever I want to.

This isn't necessarily a good thing. I might start talking about lunch again.

I'm debating whether or not to bring the laptop to Italy with me. Probably won't. If I need to dump pictures, I'll just find an internet point. Yes, that's what they call them over there. I'm so European already, see?

Apparently my in laws want to bring the girls back the day I get home. It wouldn't be such a big deal if I wasn't driving straight home from O'Hare (two hours at least) after a 14+ hour plane ride home.

I assume I'll miss them and everything, but I kind of wanted a few hours to sit on my couch alone and cry that my trip is over. Jim will gone that weekend, so I won't have him here to buffer the full force of my darling heathens after a week spent split between both sets of grandparents.

It's OK. I'll live. What am I even complaining about? I get to do something every stay at home parent dreams about doing. Leaving home ALONE for a week.

I'll shut up about that now, and share some funny shit that's happened 'round here lately.

Almost every time my kids go up to see my parents, they go to the mall and buy something from the Disney store...because my kids need more stuffed animals and/or princess shit. Right.

Apparently the one they go to is going out of business. This upsets Mina very much.

"Maybe we should go visit Grandma more so the store won't close."

That one's got an eye for business, eh?

Audrey has recently joined her sister in her obsessive safety scissor fetish.

Audrey cut a hole in her dress yesterday because she, "forgotted that it wasn't paper". Uh huh. She also cut a hole in underwear today.

Maybe she was hot?

Mina keeps telling anyone within earshot that I won a trip to France. I've stopped correcting her.

A few nights ago, at bedtime, I laid down next to Audrey to tuck her in etc. and she snuggled up to me all sweetly and asked, "So how was your day, Mama?"

Yeah, I'm going to miss them next week for certain.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

She acts all tough but...

Exactly one week from today I will be sitting at O'Hare waiting on the first leg of my fabulous Italian getaway.

Why am I so freaked out?

I took the girls to the library yesterday and picked up a bunch of travel books to try and do some research into public transport and hotels.

When I get to Malpensa Airport in Milan, I need to find my way to Stazione Centrale and find a place to stash my luggage while I see the sights for the day. Then I need to get back to the station and catch a train to Venice where my cousin is meeting up with me.

I tried to make reservations to see The Last Supper, but there aren't any slots left for the day I'll be in Milan. I did find a few guided tours that say they stop there, so I guess I'm going to try that out.

I will have a cell phone my cousin sent me that will work over there, so I won't be completely on my own, but...

I'm kind of lost as far as finding my way.

A book can only tell you so much. I know how to read a map, but how will I know one piazza from another?

After a few days with my cousin in Venice and maybe Florence/Tuscany, I will on my own once again in Rome.

I'm thinking of doing budget hotels while I have a travel companion, and maybe splurging in Rome. Then I feel guilty for spending so much money on myself.

I need to be talked off the ledge.

Who's been to Italy and can give me some real life advice?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Is there anything better than funnel cake?

I think not.

Last night we went to a little carnival at one of the local churches.

Those Catholics know how to rake it in, let me tell ya'.

It was "wristband night" which meant you could pay $14 dollars a person and ride all the rides you wanted to. Sounds good in theory except that there were four of us and, regardless of age, it was still $14 dollars a person. We decided that we would only get the girls wristbands and hope they were up for riding without us.

And they were.

They had such a great time that we were practically dragging them out at close to 9 o'clock.

There was a beer tent too, but we didn't make it over there. I was just tickled that a church function had alcohol. This would never have gone over at the churches I grew up in.

Aside from the guilt, the priest scandals, not letting woman get ordained, the endless 'rules', and the ridiculously long wedding ceremonies, those Catholics really know how to party.

I don't normally care if people stare at us when we're out. I don't think tattooed people are quite the novelty they once were. Hell, everyone seems to have at least one these days.

But, and maybe I'm projecting here, it seemed like the looks went like this:

"Oh my, that couple has a lot of tattoos!"

"But look they have two sweet little girls that they are actually looking after."

"They act just like normal people."

"Aw...those freaks are just like us."

I try to never think that people would treat us any differently because of how we look, but we did put ourselves smack in the middle of a church function.

Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised.

Or maybe they thought we were there with the carnies.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stuff and Things

Is anyone still checking in on me?

I'm lame and have slacked once again. Part of it is that my laptop is still dead (but I'm very lucky to have a friend who knows his shit about computers, and is graciously working on it for me--Thanks Rick!).

I had to miss Katie Schwartz's reading at the Pilcrow Lit. Festival because Mina had an end of the year picnic with her class, and I would have never heard the end of it if I had been the only parent who wasn't there. Sorry Katie. I had every intention of going until that came up.

School's out now, so it's been a nonstop circus of excitement 'round this parts. It's nice to not have to get up at any certain time and be able to enjoy the warm weather and the kick ass thunderstorms we've been having.

We planted all kinds of flowers and some vegetables too.

I finished my volunteer training and have the pager this weekend. I haven't gotten any calls yet, and that's a good thing.

A little while back I was having fun making fun little cards, and finally made so many that I put a few up on etsy to see what would happen. I sold one so far, and that pretty much made my year. Even if I don't sell anymore, at least I can say someone out there liked my stuff so much they were willing to pay actual money for it.

Here's a link if you want to see:

I leave for Italy two weeks from today, and I am nowhere near ready. I'm not even sure what clothes to bring. I've had a couple people tell me to bring something to cover my shoulders if I want to tour any cathedrals. My cousin said not to bring any shorts (I don't own any anyway), but that capris and sundresses were OK.

I have a 5 hour layover at JFK, and my brother is going to come out from his house in the Bronx to have dinner with me. It'll be nice to see him as I only get to visit with him about once or twice a year.

I fly into Milan where I'll spend the day wandering by myself, then I'm going to take a train over to Venice to meet up with my cousin. From there I think we'll make our way down to see this and that until we make it to Rome by the last day, where I'll fly out.

I'm excited. I don't think it will really hit me until I am on the plane.

Oh, and I'm going back to school in the fall. I signed up for one class at the local Community College (Intro. to Criminal Justice). I met with one of their academic advisors who went over my old ISU transcripts and plugged in the 90 credits to see what I had left for an Associates.

It looks like I only have a handful of classes to finish my two year degree. Then it's back to ISU for a Psychology major and Criminal Justice minor.

Most of my gen. ed. stuff has already been covered, but times have changed since I was in college last and I'm sure I'll need a few computer classes to catch up with the rest of the world.

I'm really excited about this new career path. I've done some research and found that there are professional vicitims' advocacy jobs out there. I'm just going to get those pieces of paper and go from there.

During training to be a rape crisis volunteer, we got to speak with two Assistant State's Attorneys and they were amazing (and really cool to boot. I would so go out drinking with those women). No, I do not want to go to law school, but helping to put sex offenders, child molesters and wife beaters behind bars very much appeals to me.


Yeah. I've had a lot going on.

Forgive me?

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I like stuff and things. I've been married for close to 14 years and have two miniature versions of myself running around (and it frightens me most of the time). I have never been nor will I ever be a vegetarian.