Friday, June 29, 2007

It Just Wasn't a Good Day

There's a well deserved, well earned and traditional little perk that active duty military in uniform get on base. During busy times, such as lunch time, they go to the front of the line at the BX, the commissary, the pharmacy refill, and so on. The theory is that they have to get back to such important work that they shouldn't have to wait. Fair enough. And in 17 years, I have never had anyone in uniform use that particular benefit.

Usually, I notice and offer for them to go ahead, which by the way, I do for older people, disabled, people on oxygen--I'm usually a friggin' nice person. But Friday, I just wasn't. It was almost 3:00 on Friday afternoon and there are more people heading home than actually in their offices, and I'm in a rush, just like everyone else, because I have a ceremony to get to.

First of all, the parking lot was closed for work, so I had to park in Iowa. And of course, I didn't give myself very much time to do this, so I'm on the verge of being late for the promotion ceremony I was heading to.

Then, there's only one clerk working. But, no big deal, I mean the line usually goes pretty fast, so I still had some time. So what if that poor older man is having trouble getting his prescription filled because he called in too early and they've got this ultra-confusing policy about when you can refill your prescription and when you can't.

Then, it's finally my turn and I'm going to make it! But no. There's a man in uniform behind me, so they ask me to step aside so that he can come up. And he did! Not only that, when he was finished, the other guy in uniform waived at the clerk, and she asked me to step aside again.


It's 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, and you expect me to believe these guys are going back to work? Yeah, for beer call maybe.

So, I was late for the ceremony, which thank goodness started late. And poor Al met me and walked in with me venting. Luckily, he was surprised too and thought it pretty rude that those guys actually did that. I told him that I would ask him to get out of the AF as soon as possible, but if there's anyone who gets treated worse than an active duty dependent, it's a dependent retiree.

There. I feel much better now. I would post this the day it happens, but I just posted the Venice stuff, so I'll wait. It seems kind of silly to wait, but I thought I better tell you I waited, or you'll think, Damn girl, obsess often? Which you may be thinking anyway, but really, I feel much better now. Really *eye twitching*.


I love riding on trains. Any time someone else does the driving is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. And when I can walk to another car and get something to eat and drink or go to the bathroom, well that’s just a bonus. I really wish the trains in our country where a more viable travel option.

Since joining the European Union (EU), the trains in Italy are reliable, easy to use, and almost always on time. We bought tickets for Venice from a travel agent near the hotel in Rome, but really, it’s so simple to buy them in the station at the self-service machines that you might as well do that. Just answer the questions on the screen, follow the directions, then insert your card or cash for payment. Easy peasy. You could even buy all the tickets you're going to need if you want to, but it's just as easy to buy the tickets you'll need next when you get off the train.

But, just because you have your ticket, you’re not done. You have to validate your ticket in one of the many yellow boxes on the platforms. Just slide it in before you get on the train, but not too early because the ticket has to be used within a certain amount of time from the time stamped. They will check your tickets on the train, and there is a hefty fine for not validating your ticket. There is also no excuse, they don’t care that you are a tourist and didn’t know. So, now you know!

I would recommend First Class when you can get it, just because it’s not that much more expensive and the seats are a little more comfortable, plus you get a drink and a snack like on an airplane. But I would recommend you not eat the lunch available for first class. It’s an experience and sure, the food is good (5 courses plus sides), and it’s kind of like being in one of those old movies when you’re sitting at the lovely table as the train races down the track, but it’s outrageously expensive. Really, I was just as happy walking down to the food car and getting a sandwich and a soda.

I was very excited about seeing Venice. I have several friends who said Venice was one of the highlights of their time in Italy, and it’s just so different that anything else I’m ever going to experience, so I couldn’t wait to see it.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Rome is the Eternal City with history mingled with the modern, Florence is the youthfu, bustling city influenced by the art created there and the college near there, and the Tuscan towns are quaint and scenic. But there’s just nothing comparable to Venice. I thought it the most romantic place I’ve ever been.

We got off the train and onto the vaporetto, or water bus. The signs are good, so you don’t worry about getting on the wrong one. Guidebooks will tell you which boat to get on, but it doesn’t hurt to double check when you get your ticket. And, like on the trains, you have to validate your ticket in a yellow box before getting on the boat. Since we were only going to the one stop, we bought one ticket, but they do offer all day passes that are good for sightseeing and getting around to the less touristy areas. The picture below is the waiting dock.

We packed in like the proverbial sardines, all going to the stop at the Rialto Bridge. I marveled at the colorful buildings we passed, an aged storybook come to life. I also got a taste for the only drawback to Venice—the thousands and thousands of tourists who all want to be standing where you’re standing and seeing what you’re seeing. It was easier to get out of the parking lot after a San Antonio Spurs game than it was to maneuver around all those people. But what could I do? I was one of those tourists, and I wanted to see it all, too.

(You can see a vaporetto in the left corner)

We got off the boat at the Rialto Bridge and did what every other tourist who comes to Venice does. We got lost. Yes, I had a map, I had even printed out directions from the hotel website, but it helps if the streets are labeled. It’s a little disconcerting to be walking on a street that dead ends at water. It’s a surreal maze, with a lot of retracing our steps and double backing. But this maze is lined with shops instead of hedges.

Luckily, it didn’t take too long to find our hotel, Casa Cosmo.

Casa Cosmo is fantastic. It’s small, with only about 8 rooms and no lounge area in the lobby, but the rooms are large and comfortable and breakfast is delivered to your room.

The hotel is family-run and they are very friendly and helpful. Unlike the other hotels where we turned in our key to the front desk when leaving, here we had to take our key with us because they lock the front door after 10 at night.

We decided to take a break and meet back up in a couple of hours to do some sightseeing. I was too excited to rest, so Al and I headed out to get the lay of the land. The signs to the Piazza San Marco were very good, so we didn’t get lost.

However, if they changed the sweater on the mannequin in that window on the corner, I would be lost because that was my landmark. And it was a cute sweater, too. Al’s landmark was the Ferrari store.

St. Mark’s Square is as beautiful and crowded as you would imagine. The lines to go into the basilica and the Doge’s Palace were very long, and there were clusters of tour groups listening to their guides. And don’t forget the pigeons—lots and lots of them. You can buy feed from different vendors and the birds will love you.

Our friend proved that if you want a picture of you with a pigeon on your arm but don’t want to feed the entire population, just put your arm out because they will assume you have food then fly away when they realize you don't. But some people took feeding the pigeons to the extreme.

We met up with our friends and started roaming around with them. We stopped at many shops along the way back to the square. Venice is known for it’s jewelry, glass, lace, stationary, and leather goods. I bought a beautiful leather-bound journal because I just couldn’t help myself. I love journals, as evidenced by all the partially written-in ones sitting on my shelves. But I just had to have this one!

We walked around the square and saw the Bridge of Sighs, so called because of the sadness of this bridge, which led to the prison making it the last time a prisoner could see the outside.

We also saw people being statues (bit disturbing) and ate some gelato. Of course, we ate gelato most days, so that’s nothing new.

After getting cleaned up for dinner, we decided it would be a night to splurge. We ate at a restaurant on the water, just off the square. We knew there would be an extra charge for the location, but we didn’t care. And we made a good choice because our meal was fabulous. We had the whole experience—the antipasto, the first and second courses, plus dessert and coffee and aperitifs. I had a white fish with the most luscious butter sauce. I was told by a friend that I had to have this dish, and she was right. We also had 2 bottles of wine and it’s amazing I was able to walk back to the hotel. It was a fun walk back as witnessed by my giggling the whole way. There was live music at the restaurant and twice our friends got up and slow danced near the table. It was so sweet, and Al gave me a “don’t even think about it” look. Oh well, Venice is still romantic, even without dancing.

Another quick note here. Venice is expensive, it just is. It’s as expensive for the people who live there as for the tourist. There are no roads, so everything has to be brought in on boats, then maneuvered down narrow alleys into small buildings that have to be restocked pretty much daily because there is no room to store things. So, be prepared for Venice to be a costly part of your vacation. Worth every penny—but still expensive.

The most common question I get about Venice is “does it stink?” No, it doesn’t. When we passed the fish market I could smell that, but it didn’t stink. It is sinking, however. At night, the church and parts of the square flood when the tide comes in.

Well, I slept very well that fist night in Venice. I don’t know if it was all the wine or just the contentment I was feeling. Either way, I slept well enough that I was up and ready early the next morning.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Arr, I say, Arr

Michelle has a pirate name and I want one too! And it's cool:

My pirate name is:

Mad Jenny Bonney

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

No one has ever called me unpredictable. I love that!

What's your name?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Everyone else is doing it

While I work on the next Italy entry, here's a quick MEME:

Use ONE WORD for each answer.

Yourself: Discombobulated

Your Partner: Safe

Your Hair: Curly

Your Mother: Unconditional

Your Father: Unresolved

Your Favorite Item: iPod

Your Dream Last Night: Erotic

Your Favorite Drink: Coke

Your Dream Car: Wrangler

Your Dream Home: Cottage

The Room You Are In: Comfortable

Your Fear: Burden

Where You Want To Be In Ten Years: Scotland

Who You Hung Out With Last Night: Al

You’re Not: Ambitious

One of Your Wish List Items: Prada

The Last Thing You Did: Ate

You Are Wearing: T-shirt

Your Favorite Weather: Cool

Your Favorite Book: Possession

Last Thing You Ate: Cheeeeeeeeeese

Your Life: Humdrum

Your Mood: Restless

Your Best Friend: Angie

What Are You Thinking About Right Now: Answers

Your Car: Infiniti

What Are You Doing At The Moment: Typing

Relationship Status: Cuddly

What Is On Your TV: MST (Mystery Science Theater 3000)

What Is The Weather Like: Humid

When Is The Last Time You Laughed: Just

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Turning Back to Italy

We thought we’d get an early start and go see the Popes’ Vaults under St. Peter’s.

Ha! You wouldn’t believe the lines. Miles and miles of people waiting to get into the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s. So, we just hung out at a cafĂ© until it was closer to our reservation time for the Borghese Gallery, which we were going to that afternoon.

Repeating an earlier tip: Get reservations for museums when you can. I got reservations for the Borghese online a few weeks before we went. When we got to Italy, there weren't any reservations available, so get them as soon as you know you want to go. We missed out on the Uffizzi Gallery because I didn't request reservations early enough--they needed to be at least a month in advance.

That afternoon we went to the amazing Galleria Borghese.

It houses the collections of Cardinal Borghese, who was an early patron of Bernini’s.

I’m not very good at describing art, so I won’t even try. But it was at the Borghese that I got a new appreciation and love of sculpture.

Bernini was the master of capturing emotion in stone. I could stare at these forever. The photos are from the Borghese website and the links take you their description:

Apollo and Daphne He captures Daphne turning into a tree after she begged her father to turn her into something less attractive to Apollo. His hand is around her waste which is already formed into a trunk. And her hair and finger tips are turning into limbs and leaves. It's amazing.

David This David is very different from Michelangelo's David. This one is full of action and determination.

The Rape of Proserpina was my favorite. You can see the way her hand is moving the skin up as she is pushing him away and the dimples created in her skin by how tightly he is holding onto her, plus the tear on her cheek. It’s moving and breath-taking.

There were also, as you can imagine, some amazing paintings.

Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love

Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath

Raphael’s Deposition

Ruben’s Deposition

The Gallery is on the Villa grounds, which are beautiful. It was nice to have a green area to walk around in for a while. When you’re in a large city like Rome, there aren’t that many green spots.

That night was very special. We went to a concert of opera arias at Chiesa di San Paolo Entro le Mura, or the Anglican Church of St. Paul's in the Walls. The concert was presented by I Musici Veneziani.

I know a little about singing but I don’t know much about opera, other than the biggies, which luckily they sang. We heard arias from Figaro, the Barber of Saville, La Triviata, La Boheme, Carmen, and Rigoletto. This was one of the highlights of the trip. Here's the inside of the church:

The next day we were heading for Venice. Our first train ride in Italy! I almost couldn’t sleep I was so excited. I love trains. And I was really excited about seeing Venice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Was Just Thinkin'

Johnny Depp is in my pantry and says good morning to me every day. OK, so it’s just his picture on the back of the Corn Flakes box and I’m the one that says, “Mornin’ love,” but it does make for a good start to the day.


Doesn’t it seem a little ironic that a guy known for his extreme characters and his fearless performances is on the back of something as mundane as a box of corn flakes?


I watched a Tom and Jerry cartoon while I was in Italy, waiting to hear them speak in Italian. It took me quite a while to remember Tom and Jerry don’t speak.


The Italians love their MTV, and they actually play videos. While we were there, Linkin Park’s new CD came out, so they aired a special on them. I really enjoyed that. I’ve always liked Linkin Park’s music but never really paid attention to the videos or them—just liked the music. Chester Bennington is kind of cute, huh?


You know you’re getting older when you get into a cab, and the driver turns the radio from a rock station to easy listening.

When we got into the cab going to the Rome airport, I was happy to hear rock on the radio. Then the driver switched it, and we were serenaded by Michael Buble. Now, Buble is OK; I’ve even downloaded a couple of his songs onto my iPod. I was just a little upset that I must have looked like someone who would prefer Buble to say, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Maybe I need a new wardrobe?


I have hobby ADD.

I’ve loaded myself up with knitting projects again. I just can’t help myself. I’d really like to knit my first sweater, but I have so many other projects going on that I never seem to have the time. Plus I have that block-of-the-month club quilt that I’m way behind on. I should have been done in March, but that didn’t happen. Plus, I have an idea for a quilt that I’d like to do, but it’s going to take a lot of work and thinking because I’m just not that good at quilting. Then, I have so many books I’d like to read that I end up not reading anything because I just can’t decide. And because I can’t read and knit at the same time. Oh, and don’t forget the travel scrapbooks that I want to do of Scotland and Italy. I even had the cool idea of doing a smaller album for our friends we went to Italy with for a Christmas present. And I’d really like to learn how to spin. And maybe weave.


I went to and my best matches are:

P Diddy 100%
Matthew McConaughey 100%
James Gandolfini 98%
David Tennant 98%
Norm MacDonald 97%

Norm MacDonald? Must be my fabulous sense of humor.

Gerard Butler was only a 48% match. What the hell do they know any way?


How big a nerd am I that I want these

I love Levenger.


Now that the trips are over and it looks like we’re going to be home for awhile, I think it’s time to start thinking about getting a dog. Or two. But it’s been a year since our Daily Dog passed away and I’m feeling a little anxious about getting another one. OK, a lot anxious. When we first got Daily, I was in a panic all the time that I wasn’t doing anything right. It was “new mommy syndrome” but with a dog. Al would leave for work and I would cry as he left, saying “I’ll try not to kill the dog while you’re gone.” But I keep going to and the local humane society website to see what’s available.


I really like The Closer, but after watching it I crave cake and cookies. And a Hostess Cup Cake.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


It was a beautiful weekend, if a little warm, but it was still beautiful. I don't know where it went. One minute it was Friday night and I was anticipating a fun-filled weekend and now it's over. Sad. But we can't go to VW car shows, have dinner with friends, learn how to play croquet, sleep in, eat a huge breakfast, and sit around drinking coffee and reading the paper every day.


I got my nerve up and thought I'd post a photo of me with the new haircut.

Just kidding. Here they are

So, that's done. Now I'm going back to working on the Italy posts.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's All Good

Al is home! He was gone a week and half, but it felt much longer this time for some reason. I can do about a week, but then I’m ready for him to be home. He had a good trip, everyone did well on whatever exercise and he ate a lot and drank some good beer. So, overall, he labeled it a success.

He was so happy to be home. I know this because he must have said it 10 times. At one time in my low self-confidence haze, I just took it as yeah yeah yeah he’s just a homebody so he’s just happy to be back in his own house. But then I realized, Hey! I made this a home! So, I take his happiness to be home as a huge compliment and something to do with the fact that I’m at home, too.

And of course, he was happy to be home because his new laptop had arrived and he’s a happy happy happy camper as he travels the world wide web in record time. Plus, he got a black MacBook, and it just looks damn cool.


When I was in Kansas City, I bought a brownie mix from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Oh……..God! They are so good. But how bad could they be when you melt really good chocolate chunks with a stick of butter then add it to a dry mixture with little chocolate chips in it. Wow. But be sure to have a glass of milk handy because they are so rich, you really need milk. I guess you could add the walnuts to the mixture like the box says, but why would you want to interfere with the chocolate?

However, considering the cost, I’d be just as happy with a Ghiradelli brownie mix or making some from scratch.


I had a momentous day last week—I cut my hair! Well, I didn’t, Katie at the salon did, but considering I had been letting it grow out for a year or more, this was a brave thing to do. And a smart thing—it’s really cute, if I do say so myself, especially since it’s been almost a week and I’ve figured out how to style it to my liking. I told her that I was bored and felt old and dumpy. I didn’t want anything that looked too young or made me look like I was trying to be young but I didn’t want a helmet of perfectly coiffed hair, either. And Katie’s good; she was honest with me about what my hair would do and what it wouldn’t unless I put a lot of products on it and spent a lot of time working with it. And she knows me well enough to know that I don’t want to do that.

I like where I get my hair done, but it is a little disconcerting to walk in and see so many really, really young women in really high-heeled shoes, wearing a lot of make up and with very bleached blond hair. It’s like walking into a Barbie hair shop or a Stepford Wives nightmare. Then getting the bill is always a little shocking, at least for Al. He was looking through the checkbook and unfortunately saw a day when I got my hair colored and cut. You know, we talk about eyes bulging out in surprise, but I’ve never actually seen it done until then. But I reminded him that I told him years ago that having my hair done is a luxury that I budget for. I love having my hair done. I don’t care that it cost him $7 to have his hair cut, considering how little he has, talk about over-charging. So he’s dealing with it.

And I know the next thing you’re saying—so show us! Well, I photograph horribly, but if I can get my courage up, I’ll take one and post it.


Yeah! It’s the weekend and Al’s home. What to do, what to do. If I can get him away from his computer long enough, we’ll find something to do.

Hope you have a great weekend, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We Interrupt the Italy Posts

Just a quick detour into Kansas City. I met Jay and our good friend JM there for the Scottish Highland Games. We had a blast, and I'm so glad we were able to go. Al was very, very jealous, as well he should've been because he missed out on a great time.

We got in Friday and had lunch at O'Dowd's Irish Pub, then walked around the Plaza. We didn't actually go into any of the shops, except the chocolate shop and the Better Cheddar, which is an amazing gourmet food shop. That night, we also ate at Lidia's, which is normally one of my favorite restaurants. But this night, although the salad and the dessert was great, the pasta was so salty I could barely eat it. I mentioned in to the server, but what else could they do?

Saturday was the games and we spent over 6 hours there, walking around, petting the border collies, petting the Highland Cows, watching the cute men in kilts throw heavy things, and looking at all the Celtic merchandize we could. We also ate meat pies and drank a lot of fresh squeezed lemonade. Also, my friend and her little boy came down and met us, so it was nice to see them.

After break and a shower to freshen up, we headed out for b-b-q at Smokehouse. It, too, was good, but not as good as Famous Dave's. I like a little spicier sauce.

Sunday, we were going to go to the Italian festival but it was a rainy day, so Jay and JM headed on out, and my friend and I headed to a very cool craft store called Urban Arts and Crafts. This store offers some beads for jewelry making, some yarn, some scrapbook stuff and stamps, some material, and books. It's not huge and overwhelming like Michael's, but it's not a one-hobby only store like a yarn shop or a quilt shop. And it was just so darn cool! The colors of the material, the kinds of paper, and the embellishments that they carry are different that I can find at other stores. They also have classes and rent out studio time, where you can use some of their tools to work on your projects. I would love to have a shop like this. I'm glad I made the time to go there.

So, here are some pictures of the trip. For a better wrap up and some more pictures, head on over to Jay's blog.

The Plaza

A man dressed for the occasion

Caber Toss

Sheath Toss

A carding machine for wool

Border Collie

Stalking the sheep

Leading the sheep to the ring for the demonstration

Highland Coo