*I apologize in advance for the length of this post...hopefully the pictures will make it worth your while!


We flew into Rome on Saturday evening. Upon arriving, the baggage workers decided to go on an hour long strike. So typical. We finally got our bags and made our way to our B&B. Once we were settled, we decided to walk around Rome to get our bearings, and then found a pizza place for dinner. It was great, and so was the gelato :)

The next morning we attacked the Forum and the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and also the Spanish steps. They were all incredible, especially for myself because I hadn't seen any of them before. Apparently we missed Justin Timberlake by three days...I'm still sad about that. Can you imagine me running into him (those of you that know me know my affection for JT)? Ha! I digress...The weather was fantastic, so that helped as well. I think my favorite was the Forum. I have no idea how they were able to build such amazing things 2000 years ago. It still baffles me!

Monday morning we headed to the Vatican City. We rolled over and paid for a tour (still not sure if it was completely worth it...but it was informative). We toured the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peters Basilica and we even walked the 400+ steps to view all of Rome from St. Peter's Dome. It was a gorgeous view, completely worth it! Vatican City was truly incredible. The amount of money in that small little city is mind blowing. I took quite a few pictures of all of our adventures in the'll have to check them out here.


We rented a car in Rome on Tuesday drove to Ficulle, a town in Umbria near Tuscany. Our friend Ava has a really nice home in this small village, and she was kind enough to let us stay there for a few days. The house had incredible views of the wine country...we spent quite a few nights watching the sun set and fixing homemade Italian food while we were there.

On Wednesday we drove 20 minutes to Montepulciano. This particular "mountain" is really famous for it's wines. We were able to go to a few wine tastings and visit wineries. It was really nice, and the wines were definitely great! We loved the small village feel of this city...but there were a lot of American/English tourists there as well. Can't really escape it in Italy.

While we stayed in Ficulle, we were in close driving distance to a few cool locations:


On Thursday, we headed to Pisa. This trip was rather comical. It took a little over two hours to get there, and we stayed less than 30 minutes. The leaning tower and duomo are the ONLY things to see in this town. However, I'm glad we went! It's one of those "must-see's" that I can cross off my list.


After leaving Pisa, we headed an hour to Florence. I have to say this was probably my favorite city. There was a rich Italian culture, it wasn't very crowded (major points), we didn't have to wait hours to see the David, we could tour the Duomo with having to pay, we had a nice dinner with little interruptions, we was really nice. The weather was perfect, so we took some great pictures here. I would love to go back and visit Florence for a longer period of time. There were quite a few tourists, but more students doing semesters there, so the University feel was present. I liked the younger crowd. It was refreshing!

On Friday, we left Ficulle, drove back to Florence and caught a train to Venice. We arrived in the early evening, so we had time to get settled in our B&B and still have time to tour the city before the sunset. I was so shocked at this city. I think everyone has their preconceived notions about how it will be...and it was really nothing like what I had pictured. It's VERY quaint, the streets are so small and narrow, the water comes right up to the doors of homes, everyone buys into the gondola gimmick :), etc. I loved Venice, I just don't think I could stay there for an extended amount of time. It was too small for me...I felt a little claustrophobic to me.

However, I have some amazing pictures from these "small streets." They were very picturesque. We were able to get some sunset pictures from the Rialto Bridge, cruise around the city on the water bus (the cheap man's gondola ride, ha) and even let Gracie chase some pigeons in St. Mark's square (until we were reprimanded by a cop). We avoided the expensive restaurants like below:

(click picture and read text at the bottom...unreal)

...but we had some romantic meals and strolls along the water while we were there! It's really incredible, the whole idea of Venice...we watched an Ambulance retrieve someone from a house in a boat, the milkmen delivering their milk every morning by boat, a bride and her parents taking a water taxi to the's an interesting way to live. You have to see it once! If you aren't heading there anytime soon, you can live vicariously here.


Saturday afternoon we caught a train to Milan. We got settled in our hotel and then made our way to the center of town. We weren't able to tour the duomo here because we both had shorts on (we weren't really thinking about that one), but we did walk the major shopping streets (and drooled at most windows) and had a nice 'final' dinner together. Milan was really nice, but if you aren't a shopper, don't bother! Actually, let me rephrase that. If you don't have the money to spend at designer stores, don't bother. It was nice for an overnight trip, and I was happy to have seen it.

Our flight left Milan Sunday afternoon, and we were back in Brussels and then home by 5:30pm. I had a little "post-vacation depression" this past week...especially having to work on Monday morning. We had a great time, though. And I'm so thankful we live so close to these amazing places that we can visit with relative ease. We're lucky!

The Champion, my dad!

I would like to take the time to say CONGRATULATIONS to my dad! The 2008 Mens Plus Club Champion at Willow Fork County Club! I'm so proud of him! I know this means a lot to him and he totally deserves it. Unfortunately, he won't be available for a press conference or autographs. SO, please leave your comments of congratulations. AND YES, he has earned a front row parking spot for an entire year, reserved ONLY for THE Champion. Well done, dad! We're proud of you!

White Trash

A few nights ago we realized our washer/dryer combo wasn't cutting it. In fact, we think it's completely broken. I haven't been the best housewife ever, either, because I've let the laundry kind of pile up. Well, tomorrow we are leaving for something had to be done.

We hit up the laundro-mat, four trash bags in hand, and played cards while our clothes were being washed. It was actually kind of fun...if you don't count the fact that the lady kept talking to us in French and we couldn't understand a word she was saying...and that it cost about 20 euros to do three full loads.

Oh, and in response to THOUSANDS of questions concerning Gracie's passport: YES, it's official, NO she didn't have to include a picture (although I considered it), YES she has to have it on all flights/train adventures, and NO it's not like ours...though very similar! See pics above...

Beer Festival in Brussels

Last weekend our friends Kyle and Emily invited us to Brussels to partake in the Belgian Beer Festival. It was in the center of the Grand Place, and all of the major breweries were in attendance. We stood in line for quite a while for "tokens" and then Stephen went off with the guys to find "quirky" Belgian beers that we could try. The first few ones were nice...but there were some really nasty ones thrown in there as well. As the place got more and more crowded, the lines to get tokens got longer and longer. To make Jeremy and Lindsay proud, Stephen found a kink/weak spot in the line and slipped in...and we were able to enjoy a few more beers before the night ended. As we were walking out to get to our car, we passed a van giving free breath-a-lizers (with no policie I assure you).

Since I've never given one (and have always been curious while I'm drinking) I decided to stop and try it. I had only had 4 beers in about 4 or so hours. Stephen and Kyle had a few more than me. Here are our results. Please notice the legal driving limit. We learned later that if you move the decimal place over to the left one space you will have the TX legal limit. I was the lesser of the evils, so in Texas rules I was ok to drive. We'll leave it at that.* Plus, look at Gracie. She was hammered. Someone had to be responsible!! Afterwards we had Chinese food at Kyle and Emily's while watching College Football. It was nice. Stephen got his fix, I think.

*No, this is not a habit. Please, no lectures.

Sugar Flies 0 - Stephen 125,900

This summer we've had a problem with sugar flies being in and around our trash. It gets so warm, and without a/c our trash can is extremely warm. (I know, who notices the temperature in your trash can...but believe me, when you close the lid you can feel heat) The sugar flies have gotten ridiculous. They have literally taken over our we decided to clean the trash can, disinfect it, and pray they would leave. No such luck. So, I had an idea. And it worked. Stephen looks so "Ghostbusters" circa 1981!

Last few weeks in a few words...

The past few weeks have been a little out of control. Not only did I have two weeks of camp with children (I survived...needless to say) but work has been busy and we've had a beer festival, a few doctors/vet appointments, and a few long runs mixed in as well. Oh, and we had two GREAT visits with our cousins (on Stephen's side)...Sadie and Jolene. Sadie came a month or so ago, and Jolene came while I was at the camp. It was so nice to have each of them here...even though I wish I could have spent more time with both of them. I'll be able to see Jolene and the Holmes in August, but Stephen and I will have to plan a trip to Kauai (twist my arm) to see the Phillips again!

I would love to tell you that the long runs are going above "a few doctors appointments" and it pretty much sums it up. My knee has been killing me, and giving out during long runs. We'll see how I fare, but the doctor isn't exactly optimistic for the marathon.

Gracie gave us a little scare after her shots to fulfill her passport. I had her in the car with my 15 minutes from the vet when she had an allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock. It was the most frightening evening. The vet wasn't sure she'd make it (and later told us it was the worse case she'd seen). Those that know me know how special Gracie is to us, so it was pretty emotional. The good news is she made it through the night and has made a full well as having a full passport :)

The camp went well. The first week we had a younger crew (10-12 years old), and they were mostly amazing. The second week we had an older crew (14-17 years old), and they were a bit of a challenge. In the two weeks, I corrected the usage of most cuss words, intervened on a few "could have been a make out sesh" situations, assisted in taking a student to the doctor after he severely sprained a muscle in his neck, watched another teacher break her foot in three places on the trampoline (and even dared to say that it "didn't look that bad."), went horseback riding, played tug-of-war, rode ATV's in the mud, did a tree-top ropes course twice, shot a rifle (Stephen better watch out...I'm pretty good--see pic) and bow and arrows at a target...and even taught some English in there somewhere. It was a good time...and I got paid!

On the grounds there were 5 or 10 people that lived PERMANENTLY in American Civil War times...and clothes. Why the American Civil War in Belgium, couldn't tell you. They even have an Indian, who has an owl and another hawk'ish bird in captivity. Beyond strange. But great for people watching and picture taking. See pics!

Now Stephen and I are entering "holiday" season...we will be touring Italy for 10 days, then shortly after heading home together for some relaxation! We'll do our best to keep you in the loop! Until then...A Bientot!