Great Weekends

Last two weekends were great. Last weekend? One of the best Sundays ever. Sandwiches, then a solid nap. Then tennis for an hour with Miff. We leave the house and she’s in an old pink tee shirt, baggy St. James nylon basketball shorts, and school shoes. Not looking like a tennis bunny.

So. We hit the tennis pro shop and get her decked out in a new tennis outfit and cute little white and pink tennis shoes. She sparkles. We play tennis for an hour, dring ice water next to the court, and chat. Great fun. After running around in the sun her cheeks were so bright they looked like freckled strawberries. Couldn’t be cuter.

Home again and now it’s Macs’s turn. He decided recently he wants to learn golf. So we hit the driving range and then play an ugly nine holes. After bombing three or four holes I agree to be his caddy, and he happily duffs his way through the next five. Great conversation, he’s actually very funny.

Great weekend.

This past weekend was equally great. Friday night go across the street to a cocktail party for three new neighbors who have moved in. We’re no longer the ‘young couple’ with young kids; two of the three couples are pregnant, including our new next door neighbors.

Saturday morning Mac has two back to back lacrosse games. He’s dragging, it’s hot, and he hits a wall after the first game. Afterwards we hit Chick-fil-a and get takeout, bring home sacks of chicken nuggets and sandwiches for us and the girls. After lunch, a great nap for me. We have tickets to the off-Broadway show at Bob Carr for Beauty and the Beast; Diddy and Miff are going to go after we grab dinner at Citrus. We all go to dinner, watch the Gators beat LSU, Miff changes her mind so we drop off Mac and Diddy after dinner to watch the show. Bunks, Miff and I go home and watch Johnny Dep in Dark Shadows, I make some fresh Kava, life is good. Pick up Diddy and Mac, they’ve had a great night, get to hear them bubble recounting their favorite parts of the play. Home, bed, great Saturday night.

Sunday morning, make eggs and bacon for everyone. Kids have homework and projects, Bunky is awesome staying on them and making it happen. Mac reminds me I promised to take him golfing for 18 holes, grudgingly I take him to the course and get a cart. Something I would never do myself. Despite my bad attitude we have a blast. Seriously. He’s growing up and is hilarios; he’s cutting up and chattering the whole way, grinning his too big front teeth grin every time he beats me with a better score on a hole — which is most of them — or makes a good shot. Diamond Road stuff, was a day I’ll try to remember for a long time. It was that good. Have bonded with him more lately than ever before, he’s everything and more than I could have ever hoped for in a son.

Back home and I have points with Bunky for having taken Mac golfing. So I get to take a nap. Does a day get much better? Get up, and it’s time to put up Bunky’s Halloween house decorations. Spiders with a huge web, takes a ladder and lots of stick-on hooks perched precariously ten feet up over thick bushes. Miff flutters around while I hang onto the house, giving me directions.

After finishing swing her and best friend Sofi on our front yard swing.

Great weekends. Times to remember.

10 Things To Do Today

Saw this post from the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog tweeted a few days ago and keep coming back to read it again. It’s that good. I’m not going to re-post the whole thing but here are the basics. Really good stuff:

1. Make someone else smile.

2. Give up on being perfect and be at peace with becoming your true self.

3. Be enthusiastic about what your’e doing.

4. Spend some time simply being and breathing.

5. Learn something new and have a good time with it.

6. Look in the mirror and tell yourself what you love about yourself.

7. Focus on the qualities you like about those around you.

8. Forgive your past self. It’s over.

9. Make the best of what happens. The more thankful you are the more beautiful the world becomes.

10. Say “yes” to a spontaneous activity.

Great list.

Anacapri

Finally settled back in at home after being away from the kids for 10 days in Italy. Great trip but glad to be home. For posterity, wanted to write up the down and dirty story of where we did and were we went on our trip.

After our day of cooking in Sorrento we went to Capri. Took ferry boat over and met a private guide for a boat tour around the island. Choppy seas made for.. um.. interesting ride. Beautiful island, saw some of the famous Capri grottos. Lunch at a cool little restaurant next to some ancient Roman ruins next to the water. Caught a water taxi back to the port and caught a cab to Anacapri, which is a small town at the top of the island. Lots of tourists. Lots.

Walked around, most shops closed for siesta hour (I know, not the Italian word). But think they’re on to something. Maybe I really AM an Italian as Bunky likes to say because I love naps.

Saw a cool old red house built around a Roman tower by John Clay MacKowan, a former civil war lieutenant who traveled extensively after the war. MacKowan, whose brother was killed in battle at Vicksburg built the eclectic villa that looked to me like a gaudy little fort. Deteriorating now, the literature says it’s still filled with Roman artifacts MacKowan found on the island in the late 1800s.  Was a captivating story. Why Capri? So far away from the guy’s home in New Orleans. Back then it was a lot further away than today’s flight across the pond and Capri wasn’t the posh tourist trap like it is today. Would love to meet the guy and find out how it all went down. Apparently married a girl from Anacapri and after a few decades on the island went home and died. His house is now falling apart, seemingly privately held. Someone now lives in the house, saw clotheslines and crap on the back porch. Would make a great movie.

Wound our way through the narrow streets trying to escape the tourists. As the afternoon waned the tourists started to dissipate as the cruise ship deadlines for being back on launches drew near, giving us some respite. Remind me to never go on a cruise.

Found ourselves at the top of the town at Villa San Michele, the home built by Axel Munthe, a Swiss doctor who fell in love with Capri and built a sprawling villa around Anacapri’s peak. Munthe filled it with Roman artifacts — some real and some famously fake — and lived large. Entertained, told stories, and bullshitted in the best sense of the word. No question the guy had style and was a romantic. Would have liked to know him. Munthe was a big entertainer. The house and gardens could surely tell some great tales. Peering around the walled off very tip top of the peak was a tenth century fort whose origin is murky. The fort was once sacked by the Turkish pirate Barbarosa and now bears his name.

Unbelievable view from the top of the villa. Porch winds its way from the house along a ridge to the top where there is an old Roman ruin converted into a chapel  The path continues to Barbarosa’s fort that’s now a bird preserve. At the top it’s cool and shady. You can look a thousand feet below at houses and a soccer field and past that to the boats in the harbor. All the way across the very blue water is the mainland with Vesuvius.

Tiberius, one of the great Roman general emperors who ruled when Jesus died exiled himself to Capri during the latter part of his life. Built several palaces on the Island and was finally suffocated by his infamous nephew Caligula in one of them. Standing at the top of Munthe’s villa overlooking the island and sea I understand why he picked this place to escape.

Walked back down the hill and through a door leading into Munthe’s dining room and saw a mosaic in the floor which was a replica of the Roman original found at Pompeii. Architect Levente Erdeos, who spent years helping restore the Villa San Michele and its artifacts, described the piece this way:

The dining-room surprises the visitor with its replica of a Roman mosaic placed in front of the door. It shows a skeleton holding a carafe o wine in one hand and a jug of water in the other hand. The message could either be a call to moderation, or on the contrary, a recommendation to enjoy life to the full while there is still time.

Looking at the views, the art, the passion he put into building the Villa and his collection it was pretty clear to me what the mosaic meant to Munthe: enjoy life to the full while there is still time.

For me Anacapri smacks you in the face with a sense of time — it’s been there for a long time. So many people, so many stories, so many times. They’ve all come and gone. Found the island and fell in love with it’s views, it’s beauty, it’s ocean. Enjoyed it all “to the full.”

Drove back down the mountain in a rusty convertible taxi cab driven fast by an old Capri native in his late seventies. In broken english the driver asked us about our day and if we had ridden the lift that takes tourists up and down the mountain. “No” we told him, “we didn’t get a chance to do that.”

“You should!” he said with a huge toothy grin as his whispy white hair bounced in the wind that whipped through the car. He then started belting out his version of Quando Quando Quando in a happy voice while careening merrily around other cars and busses as he hurled us down the very narrow road. We held on with white knuckles.

Back at the Hotel we sat on the cliff top bar and watched the beautiful sunset while sipping prosecco and gnoshing on the free hors d’oeurves. Probably sat there for an hour and a half before a light drizzle set in and it started to get chilly. That night I read a book I had picked up at Villa San Michele gift shop about Munthe’s collection. Historical pieces he picked up from God knows where, some from legit sources and some obviously sketchy. Either way, sitting there in our beautiful room on our last night in Sorrento looking over the moonlit water I smiled thinking about Munthe. And all of the other folks who had lived and died on or around Capri for millenia after living life to the full.

 

Great Day

Winding down our first full day here at Sorrento.  Left Florida Wednesday evening, flew all night to London.  Huge headache landing, too many free cocktails.  Long layover at Gatwick airport, nice lounges but were out of sorts with the time change.  Finally boarded plane to Naples and made the short hour and a half flight.  Very cool, over the English Channel, over Paris, Lake Geneva and all across Italy.  Starkly different landscapes from flying over the US.  Small farms, very few highways, amazing geographic diversity.

Nice driver took us through the rain and dropped us off at hotel.  On the way a little apprehensive because really touristy and not particularly pretty.  Driving past the famous Pompeii under the shado of Vesuvius was disappointed; didn’t go inside but from what we saw looked like another tourist trap.  So when we pulled up to hotel, well, was a little wary.

Stepping inside; wow.  All good.  Gorgeous five-staresque hotel perched on top of crazy old cliffs overlooking the sea and Vesuvius.  Even though it was gray and blustery and sprinkling rain, we couldn’t have been more pleased.  Settled in, grabbed free prosecca and fresh snacks in the hotel lobby, and explored the hotel.  Walked through old feeling tunnels made out of stone onto a lichen covered balcony two hundred feet up over the ocean.  Straight down wooden Mediterranean style boats bobbing like corks in the swell.  Sun going down and lights coming up in Naples, twinkling for some reason we wondered about.  Not like the other hotels we’ve stayed in before, this place had incredibly new and luxurious rooms and finishes, but felt old in a very good kind of way.

Showered off travel grime, threw on some clothes and went to hotel restaurant for dinner.  Really nice old school restaurant.  Traditional, multiple courses, ordered the ‘local fare’ off the menu.  Had more champagne and some killer local red wine.  M, who usually never likes the red stuff, stole mine and ordered a second glass.

Finished dinner and absolutely and completely crashed for the night.

Up this morning, went to Alexia House for a cooking class.  Was sketchy at first, the driver took us to some random touristy looking storefront place where he thought we wanted to go… It was a cooking class, but of the plastic chair and foam disposable plate variety.  Not what we had anticipated.  Fortunately, Bunky asked him to take another look at the address and he realized, with a happy moment for us, we were at the wrong place.  Turn around, weave through busy Sorrento traffic on really skinny streets (think Bahamas but made of old cobblestones with buildings close on either side).  Up Sorrent hills, toward Amalfi.  Asked a few locals for dicections and finally found it because Lucia, the owner, was standing out front waiting.

Inside, open and cheery.  Started with another proseca, decided on the menu.  Just me, Bunky, Lucia and her son Ettero, who was 19 and just gradutated from navigation school.  M was into the cooking as a huge fan of all things Italian foodwise, making ravioli, meatballs, bruscetta.  All fresh ingredients from Lucia’s gardens, with tomatoes that popped with flavor.  Special.  Not your Florida mama’s Publix bought tomatoes.  Heirloom stuff, home grown from seeds handed down through generations.  Just not the same as the genetically patented Monsanto seed grown produce at home.

After finding out Ettero was a spear fisherman and lover of boats, I happily surfed the web with him looking at Youtube videos of huge ships and big seas.  Despite language barrier, shared love of the water and things nautical made for fantastic conversation.  Really enjoyed it.  Finally after several hours lunch came in courses and we ate way too much food.  Stuffed, Lucia brought some home made lemoncello with a homeade tart for desert.  Sick good.

Ettero drove us back, we crashed with food induced comas.  Rallied tonight, explored and wen to to a fantastic restaurant M found online, Li Boleta (I think).  More phenomenal food and great friendly service, me and M talked an enloyed being together.  Finally dinner done, feeling fat but happy.  Talked to Miffy, Diddy and Mac on Tango using WiFi and everybody is good.

End of a great day and night.

Kid Stuff

These are the good times, the good days, the amazing experiences with our kids.  Last night, which was Friday, went to Dexters with Bunnky, Miffy and her best friend Sofi.  Cold Guinness, talking to Bunks, watching the girls, perfect.  Mac was at lacrosse practice till I had to pick him up in the drenching downpour of a Friday afternoon late summer thunderstorm.

 

Sad night for Diddy.  Broke up with her first boyfriend of 10 months.  Inconsolable, many tears, her sweet mom being there.  Not so great a way to end a good night but part of the process of growing up as a family.  Sad for all of us because Diddy is heartbroken but kind of OK with the whole thing because we get her back.  At least for a little while longer.

Up early, Mac’s first lacrosse game of the season.  He’s on the “B” team and was down about it going into the game.  Today was different day and after scoring two goals and getting two assists, playing almost the whole game as attack, having confidence boosted to the sky, he was all smiles.

Few hours later then a soccer game with his school team and buds from class.  Got beat narrowly, in part because Mac ‘sort of’ kicked a guy on purpose and drew a penalty kick which was winning point for other squad.  Was all great though, good times with his friends from school, and cherry on top with a lunch with the soccer bunch at Wildsides’ restaurant.  Then home, and later this afternoon after a great Saturday afternoon nap, hitting golf balls.  Yes, Mac hitting golf balls.  Heard his buddies were playing and now he’s interested in getting dialed in too.

Meanwhile, Sofi and Miffy finished a scavenger hunt I had launched them on earlier in the day.  It began with “Daddy, will you hide some things for me and Sofi to find like we’re on a scavenger hunt?”  With Mac’s game schedule being tight, didn’t have time to find and hide goodies for them so quickly made up the following for them:

Instructions: Sophi and Miffy must do this together.  To win, it must all be accomplished by 5:00 Saturday, September 8th, and posted on Tumblr.  Here   

1.  Beauty Quest
One fresh flower

One vase 
Put the flower in the vase and take a picture of it with both Sophia and Grace’s faces in the picture
2.  Snack Quest
Two bite sized pieces of cheese
Two toothpicks
Put the toothpicks in the cheese and take a picture of it with the cheese in your mouth.  Both girls must have their faces in the picture.
3.  Home-made Lemonade Quest
Two straws
One glass of cold water
Three spoonfuls of sugar
One lemon
Squeeze lemon in the glass of water, stir in sugar.  Put both straws glass.  
Take picture with both girls’ faces drinking from straws.
4.  Creepy Crawlie Quest
A jar with a lid
A live bug 
Put the live bug in the jar
Take Picture with both girls’ faces next to the bug in the jar.
5.  Neptune Quest
A big plastic container (like an empty juice bottle)
One wild live minnow, fish or tadpole from Spring Lake
Lake water
Fill bottle with the lake water.  Catch and put the live minnow, fish or tadpole in the bottle.  Take picture with both girls’ faces next to the bottle with the live fish or tadpole.
Decided not to post up on Tumblr, but here’s the proof they finished…

Labor Day 2012

There Is No Spoon

Still hot but yep, that time of the year again: football season.  We are a house divided; I’m a Seminole and Bunky is a Gator (even though she denied being a ‘real’ Gator this weekend…!).  Diddy is starting to think about going to FSU and mentioned a few weeks ago that she’d love to go see a game…  We didn’t have plans so I snagged some tickets from Stub Hub and booked a few rooms.  Told her we were going and had a ticket for her boyfriend — you’d think it was Christmas.  She was giddy.

Packed up and drove to Tallahassee Saturday am, went to Bills Bookstore and bought some swag.  Friend who has box seats and couldn’t make the game (or didn’t want to bother; Murray State…) and gave them to me so we had those too.

Met friends at a tail gate part before the game.  It was hot but cold Coors lights from a keg made it all good.  Wings and dogs on the grill, chance to catch up with folks I hadn’t seen in a while, it was great.  Then to the box and more cocktails.  We let the kids go downstairs to the Stub Hub seats and they had a blast.

After the game one more at the tail gate, then home through traffic to the hotel.  Had to have a late night breakfast skillet at the Village Inn.   Up in the morning, breakfast at Steak and Shake.  Healthy healthy healthy.  And long drive home.

Great time was had by all, Diddy said was best trip she’s ever had.  Was because we took the boyfriend of course, but I’ll take it.

PS, today trying new habit.  Ran 4 this morning, then pushups and sit ups.  Try to keep it going.

Homework

Best Nest

 

The joke is over.  Two and a half weeks into the school year and we’re back into the family grind.  Today was easy.  Bunky had school board meeting, Diddy had tutoring.  I packed up all three in the truck, dropped Diddy off at Barnes and Nobles to meet her teacher, took the littles to Chick-a-lay.  Everyone was fussy and mean until they got their Chick-a-lay sammies and waffle fries.  All better.

Then back to the bookstore to get Sissy, had fun looking in the kids section for books.  Miffy got a puppy book.  Better moods all around on the way home.  Life is very good.

Home and homework, Mac claimed he ‘positivlio’ had no homework but Diddy and Miffy do.  Diddy put on her beats and settles down at the breakfast table, I help Miffy with her Geography.  It’s almost 8 and we’re about to start the time-for-bed ritual.

Bunky just got home, I asked her how the meeting was.  “Boring.”

“After eleven years, the only reason I went is because I’m on the Board.”  She doesn’t know it but she’ll miss it when she doesn’t have to go anymore.

Bunky and I have a little joke between each other; the kind that only the two of you find funny because it’s based on a unique experience that you’ve had with each other, usually kid related.  One of these involves the Dr. Suess book The Best Nest.  Sometimes when I get home after a trip and talk about how great it is to be home, M will chirp in a high pitched voice “in all the world this nest is best” in reference to the book we read to all three of our kids.  She says this in a funny voice trying to be cute.  But I’m buying.

It’s cheeky but true; ‘the journey is the destination.’

Good Weekend

Bunky and Mac walking to our car after Mac’s soccer game on Saturday.

Beautiful afternoon running around Lake Eola. Picture above of the Little River Band, which I found while running around Lake Eola.Found.  Later, still running, found a second band while running.

Great weather, great morning, great afternoon.