Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Life In Numbers

700: minutes spent driving to and from work per week

18: pounds I have lost since October

1000: average number of photos I take per week

3: average number of times I get glitter, paint, glue or all three on myself per week

5: average number of times I say "potty" per week

28: average number of times I scream at Archie to "shut the fuck up" per week

600: average number of miles I drive per week

5: average number of blog posts per week

5: average number of times per week I threaten to throw my office computer out of the window because it is not a Mac 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dove La Estazione? Part Tre

If you are new to the story check out Parts One and Two.

Where did we leave off? Oh yeah, the vomiting.  Apparently the delightful focaccia from the night before was laced with poison because I was sick the entire time we were in Monterrosso.  There are a few pictures of me by the ocean when I could actually bring myself to stand up, other than that I spent my time horizontal on the bed or praying to the porcelain gods.  (I highly recommend traveling with a portable DVD player and the entire series of Sex and The City DVDs, really helps the time fly.)  
We decided to stay an extra day in Monterrosso to help me recuperate and cut our time in Florence.  When it was time to leave we got all packed up in the car and headed inland toward the place the Italians call Firenze (not a single sign with Florence on it. Confusing, no?).  It was at this point that I was grateful to have our own car.  We could pull to the side of the road if I needed to throw up and the rest of the time I could push my seat back and sleep.
The ride to Florence is understandably fuzzy to me.  It was mostly on the AutoStrade (what the AutoRoute is called in Italy) and seemed to go smoothly enough.  We found our way to Florence relatively easily, but then all hell broke loose.  Florence takes Fascism to a whole new level.  There are entire areas of the city, like the center of the city where our hotel was, that you cannot drive into without permission.  A camera takes a picture of your license plate as you pass and sends it to some main police database.  You have to have special permission to enter these zones.  What a pain.  
This is where we incurred the fine mentioned in the first part of this story.  Our hotel called in our license plate number to the main police database, but it didn't get recorded.  And 22 months later, like an elephant gestating, we get our ticket.  
But let's get back to the story.  I was on navigation at this point and I have to mention that I am a turner.  A map turner.  When the car turns, my map turns.  I need the road on the map to be facing the same way as the road in front of me.  That map got a workout.  The directions were roughly "turn left at Piazza Giovanni, and then right on Giovanni St. Then swing around Giovanni roundabout...".  Everything was Giovanni.  That is not very helpful when you are flying through intersections trying to spot tiny street signs on the sides of buildings.  One thing we encountered in Florence that we had not encountered before on our trip was the insane Italian roundabout.  We think of a roundabout as a one lane slow circle.  The Italians have said "Fuck That" and make them four or five lanes wide.  There were moments when we were on the very innermost lane of the roundabout just circling around.  I have very fond memories of one specific roundabout.  We got to know each other very well.  After finally finding our way back onto a street near our hotel, we were immediately confronted with a dead end.  We could clearly see the street continue on the other side of the cement barriers, but couldn't get there.  We circled this neighborhood for a Very. Long. Time.  We were convinced that there was a way around this insanity.  On our twelfth or thirteenth time around the block what do we happen upon? A horse.  A HORSE. Because the vespas and roundabouts were not enough, let's throw in a horse!  Two or three hours later we finally made it to our hotel.  They immediately offered mom a glass of red wine while I found my way to the nearest squishy horizontal surface.  We told the man at the desk how long it had taken for us to find our way to him and he said, "oh yes, sometimes I go on vacation, and when I get back I cannot find my way to my house because of detours". Reassuring.  Your name wouldn't happen to be Giovanni would it? Because I have created a lovely bonfire out of my Rick Steves books and would love to roast your ass over it.
We were relieved to be at the hotel, but couldn't get comfortable yet because we still had to return the rental car.  Getting up the energy to head out into that insanity again was not easy, but we did it.  We hopped back into the car (well, I sort of shuffled) and were off.  After several wrong turns down one way streets and one unfortunate accident with a little old lady (she had a full life, it's okay) we were back into the craziness that we had left behind only moments earlier.  We circled and circled and and cursed and cursed but couldn't find the car rental office.  We found another car rental office and figured that they would know where ours was, even if they were the competition.  I should mention at this point that the floorboards of that small car were littered with highlighted maps of Provence, Avignon, Nice, "Nice", Genoa, Monterrosso and Florence.  It was not a pretty sight.  The girl behind the desk at "Not Our Car Rental Place" saw how flustered we were and I will never forget what she did.  She pulled out a map and highlighter and said "It is okay, a map of Florence, a highlighter, tranquility".  Listen sister, I have been throwing up for days and just ran over a Vespa driver, I don't want to hear about your tranquility.
Amazingly enough, we found our way to the correct office and handed that car over like it was a General Motors stock.  As we were walking out of the offices getting ready to hail a cab (hallelujah!) we ran into a couple from Texas who were renting a 12 passenger van.  All I could do was turn to them and say "Don't do it.  You don't understand."

And here are a few photos of our adventures

The elusive Rue Jean Vilar

The AutoStrade


Map Turning

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Few Wine Country Pictures

I recently had the pleasure of photographing an event at a winery and thought I would share some of the pictures.  There is nothing like a cool wine cave on a warm day.  This is the best place on Earth.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Few Of My Recent Creations

Today, we are taking a break from the Europe driving stories so I can gather my thoughts.

In the meantime, I have finally gotten my children's clothes on sale at Etsy.  I figured it would be a good time to bring it up because I have a new button over there on the sidebar that will take you to my Etsy shop.  Here are a few of my recent creations.  Tell your friends!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dove La Estazione? Part Deux

Well, part 1 of this story was a big hit, so I sat down and hammered out part 2.  I guess the humor did translate after all.
I will pick up the story where we left off last time.  We had just made it to Avignon.  After staying a couple of days in that beautiful city we packed up the car and pulled out of the parking garage that we finally found the day after we arrived. The parking garage backs up to the hotel.  It took us an hour to find it.  There is a door from the garage into the back of the hotel lobby, but the drive is 3 kilometers.  Fucking France.  
The next step of the journey was to drop off the car at the train station in Nice and then make our way to Monterrosso on the Mediterranean coast of Italy.  Italy has insanely strict driving laws (not that you would notice given the way Italians drive) and we were told by our travel agent NOT TO DRIVE INTO ITALY!  We were going to drop off the car and take trains for the remainder of the journey.  That was the plan.  Ah, plans.  I now know that plans are for fools.  And I'm a fool.
The drive from Avignon to "Nice" was fairly uneventful.  We just took in the beauty of the French countryside and soaked up some of the last freedom of having our own car.  I will explain in a minute why "Nice" is in quotation marks.  We got to "Nice" and could not find the train station to save our lives.  Don't get me wrong, we had maps, we had good sense, we just couldn't find it.  We found a train station, but there was no car rental drop off.  Also, it was a very tiny train station, like something a train stops at for a few minutes to pick up and drop off commuters.  So, repeating my performance in Avignon, I jumped out of the car and asked a police officer directing traffic if he could point me in the direction of the train station.  I mean, he was already directing, why not.  I showed him my map and where we wanted to go and he looked at me like I was insane.  He didn't speak English, and as we have already established, I don't speak French.  So he said "Nice, no no" and wagged his white gloved finger at me.  What the fuck to you mean "Nice, no no"?  This isn't Nice? Then where in god's name are we?  That is where the communication completely broke down.  We had already missed our train and could not find the god damned car rental drop off to save our lives.  We called the travel agent (who was 9 hours behind us) and got no further information, being the middle of the night in California and all.  We called the car rental offices.  No luck.  But I guess we can't blame them, they were giving us directions in Nice and we were in "Nice".  There were some tears and some ugly words said before we decided with some help from someone at the travel agent's office that it would be okay for us to drive to Genoa, Italy and drop the car off at the train station there.  That's faith, isn't it?  Can't find a train station? Well I guess we will drive into another country and look for another train station.  That's sane.  After getting past the whole "If you drive into Italy without permission they will fine you a million Euro, take your firstborn, and spit on you" thing, we went for it.  We got back on the AutoRoute and headed around the coast to Genoa.  We passed Monaco, something we would not have been able to see in the train, and began to chill out.  We were back on the road and had a plan.  A Plan. Hah!  So we drive into Italy with French licence plates (and we all know how much the Italians love the French) and find our way easily into Genoa.  My Italian is better than my French so I quickly pick up some handy phrases from one of Rick Steves' books before I threw it out the window of the car.  (Listen Rick, I'm not packing a backpack for a 2 week trip and you can't make me.) Some of the handy phrases were "Atraversiamo" which means roughly "let's cross the street now and play a real life game of Frogger".  But the phrase I used most was "Dove la estazione?" which means, "Where is the train station?".  I got really good at asking this. Really. Good. Like when we circled the area for the fifteen or sixteen thousandth time the locals were saying things like "Oh there goes the American girl obsessed with train stations. Bless her heart".
Anyway, we got into Genoa and could see trains and train tracks everywhere.  We had smug smiles on our faces and thought "we are so awesome".  But could we find the train station that all of these trains and tracks were leading to? Yes. 
Did you really belive that? Sucker.  No, we didn't find the train station.  Not even after we rolled our windows down and asked a random Italian guy on a Vespa (yum) "Dove la estazione?"  He hung up his phone (Italians with their talking and motorbiking and drinking and Ciao-ing), and actually had us follow him to the station.  Then suddenly he veered off, went one way and pointed the other.  Now I ask you, how is that helpful?  After several hours getting to know the area surrounding the elusive train station really well (Hi Giovanni! Thanks for the use of your bathroom!  I kid.) we decided to just head onto Monterrosso.  Hell, we were already in Italy, why the fuck not.  What did we have to lose? 
And you want to know something? Getting to Monterrosso, one of five tiny towns over the mountains along the Mediterranean, together known as Cinqueterre, was the easiest part of the journey.  Can we find a train station when we are 2 miles from it? No? Can we traverse a coastal mountain range with donkeys and goats on the road and make it it less time than the book says? Yep.  Take that Rick Steves.  We breezed into Monerrosso like we were the Queens of Italian Driving.  We got checked into our hotel, a tiny little bed and breakfast with a balcony overlooking the ocean, and had focaccia and wine.  It was delightful. 
Until the vomiting started...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dove La Estazione?

Last Tuesday's mail included one of the strangest things my family has received: A one page letter from the city of Firenze, Italy (Florence) written in questionable English, demading we pay a 101 Euro fine for driving into the city. I could not stop laughing.  How Italian is that? They don't get around to sending us a ticket until 22 months after we left the country!

Seeing the ticket in the mail reminded me of the insanity of driving in France and Italy.  I decided that I would try to relate the stories and capture the humor.  It's not going to be easy.  Here goes nothing.

It all began when we left Paris, took a cab to Orly and picked up a rental car.  Renting a car was my idea.  I wanted to be able to see France and Italy at our own pace and not be on the schedule of the trains.  Man, do I regret being so stubborn about that.

So we pick up this adorable silver Alpha Romeo and think "we can totally do this".  We leave early and head toward our second destination on this trip: Avignon.  We fairly easily find our way onto the Auto Route, the amazingly long and wide freeway running through Europe, but called different things in different countries.  When I say that we found it fairly easily I mean that we only got turned around three or four times and only had to ask for directions once.  The ride through Provence was amazing and easy.  The speed limits are around 80 miles per hour and we were thrilled.  We found Avignon easily as well, but it is hard to miss.  A large walled city with castle like drawbridges leading in all around the city, not hard to miss on the horizon.  Once we entered the walls, the trouble started.  It was beginning to get dark and we got turned around.  You see, the street signs in most of Europe don't hang over the street on stop lights.  They are tacked to the corners of buildings, meaning that you cannot read them until you are in the middle of the intersection, which can cause, well, problems.  Our hotel was located right next to the Papal Palace, another landmark that you would think is hard to miss.  And it was.  We could see it, but couldn't get there.  I still remember the name of the street we were looking for, Rue Jean Villet.  That name will stick with me for a very long time.  I would guess that the distance from where we entered the city to our hotel was about a kilometer.  It took us two hours to get there.  Two. Hours.  Several times I jumped out of the car to ask someone in the Brasserie/Internet Cafe/Questionable Massage Parlor if they knew where Rue Jean Villet was.  Here's the problem: I don't speak French. I can say please, thank you, and count to three.  Not particularly useful.  But many many people in France speak at least a little English and tried their best to point me in the right direction.  At one point we were on some questionable back street that was clearly made for horses and carriages and the wheels of our tiny car were squeaking on both curbs. That was the point we gave up being frustrated for  minute and broke out into hysterical laughter.  We even tried heading out of the walls of the city and coming back in, like the change in perspective would somehow help.  It didn't.  We continually drove down the street that was supposed to intersect with our street, but could not find it anywhere, all we saw was a town square dotted with umbrella tables.  Finally we said fuck it, and turned into the square.  Once we weaved our way through the tables and completely non-plussed patrons of various restaurants, we spotted our hotel and pulled up in front.  We trudged into the lobby and the concierge took down our information and then told us we needed to move the car to the parking garage behind the building.  She started to take out a map and highlighter and my mother said simply "no, the car is staying right there tonight." The girl behind the desk could see that pushing mom was not going to pay off and told us we could leave the car there for the evening.  She also made the mistake of acting like it was perfectly normal to drive through the town square.  I had to stop myself from punching her in the face.

Tell me, doesn't this square just scream "drive through me"?

The story will continue as we make our way through the south of France and into Italy.
Many more laughs to come.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Enemies, Foreign And Domestic

Arrow hates squirrels.  Listen squirrel lovers, I love the little rats, please don't send hate mail.  I'm just saying that Arrow loathes them.  So what does my father decide to do? He puts birdseed right next to the sliding glass door so the squirrels will come right up to where Arrow's bed is.  Evil, I know.  You can send him the hate mail.  Anywho, Arrow and the squirrels are enemies.  The squirrels know that to get outside Arrow has to run through the house, out the dog door in the laundry room, around the side walkway, up the front stairs, across the front deck and onto the side deck where they are.  And Arrow is not stealthy.  Not even a little bit.  He runs scrambling and growling and the squirrels scatter.  Poor little guy wouldn't know what to do if he ever did catch one anyway.  
So, here are some pictures from a recent encounter.  Notice how Arrow avoids eye contact and take a look a the smug look on that squirrel's face.  

(Bonus: The first commenter to correctly tell me where the phrase "Enemies, Foreign and Domestic" comes from will be mailed their very own Arrow calendar!)

Friday, March 19, 2010


Feeling crummy. Sorry no posts.  Yick.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I went to a private elementary school with an Irish Catholic priest.  I went to a private all girls high school with Irish Catholic nuns straight from the old country.  Our school "mascot" was the shamrock.  I'm not sure how intimidating that was.  What were we supposed to cheer?  Maybe, "We are going to give you grass stains!"

My point it that I know a little bit about St. Patty's Day.

Here's a little Irish poem for you.

May the best you've ever seen 
Be the worst you'll ever see.
May a mouse ne're leave yer girnal
Wi' a teardrop in his eye.
May you aye keep hale and hearty
Till ye're auld enough tae die.
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye to be.

(In the Irish accent this poem is written in eye and die rhyme with see.  A girnal is a meat storage box.  If the mouse had a teardrop in his eye it meant the box was empty.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Sheep, Because I Like Them And This Is My Blog

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Coming To The End Of Ski Season

Friday, March 12, 2010

In The Tall Grass

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Modeling The Outfit I Made For Him

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Walking With A Friend

Monday, March 8, 2010

Three Bags Full

On my way home from work last Tuesday I passed these guys working in a vineyard.  
They are called 'Wooly Weeders' and are hired by vineyards to clear the grass between the vines.  Other places use them too, like Infineon Raceway which uses them to "mow" the lawns.  
They fertilize while they work, don't use fossil fuels, and are really cute.  Except for the one who kept staring at me.  Creepy Sheepy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mother Nature Is Da Bomb

Last Sunday I went up to the Ranch to visit mom (she is working Sunday through Thursday now) and to take some pictures.  Well, I got lucky because it was a beautiful day and the wildlife was out in full force.

These hummingbirds kept fighting over whose feeder it was.  They were zooming around my head because I was about 2 feet away from the feeder.  I could actually feel the wind from their wings as they flew by.  Pretty amazing. 

And I found a ladybug who wouldn't sit still, but I managed to get one good photo of her.

And since we have been getting so much rain lately, the creek was flowing pretty strong.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday.  Especially since the rain returned Monday night and is still hanging around.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Do YOU Think This Is?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

Monday, March 1, 2010

Random Thoughts

This list was sent to me as an email last week and I just had to share it with you.  I'm not sure where it came from originally so I can't credit someone with it.  (My comments are in parentheses.)

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2.  Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3.  I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4.  There is a great need for a sarcasm font.

5.  How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?  (I have actually been instructed on how to fold a fitted sheet but it still comes out like a ball.  I was also told that this is why hotels only buy top sheets and then fold them over the mattress.)

6.  Was learning cursive really necessary? (I am one of those freaks who really enjoyed handwriting class in school and still takes pride in my penmanship.  Sorry.)

7.  MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5.  I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.  

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

8.  I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10.  Bad decisions make good stories. 

11.  You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12.  Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blu-Ray?  I don't want to have to restart my collection...again. 

13.  I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to. 

14.  I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!), but when I immediately call back it rings nine times and goes to voicemail.  What did you do after I didn't answer?  Drop the phone and run away? (Actually they are probably in the process of leaving you a message.)

15.  I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day.  What a waste.

16.  I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.  (Um, yeah. That's why caller ID and a Contacts list were invented. Right?)

17.  I think the freezer deserves a light as well.  (My feezer drawer has one.)

18. I disagree with Kay Jewelers.  I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.