Thursday, January 31, 2008

Travel Thursday - More Itly

The rest of our time in Rome (at least, in the first part of our trip) was a series of highs and lows. By the third full day I was getting desperate for some protein, and after we experienced the Campo di Fiori market (way cool - I got some awesome photos, lost to the ether) we found a restaurant that had exactly what I needed - an "ensalata ricca" - fresh green salad with eggs, mozarella, tomatoes, tuna, all kinds of good stuff. Dan said that while watching me consume that salad he also saw my mood take a 180 degree turn for the better. MLE needs food, but she most especially needs good lean protein and not an abundance of carbs, to keep her blood sugar stable. It was a great lunch, though it cost more than I would have liked (he had pasta, and we split a chicken dish, and we had wine), and after my blood sugar and mood returned to normal stability, we wandered through the old Jewish Ghetto looking for the synagogue. We never did find it, but we did find these other cool old ruins just hanging out in the middle of the city. The rain got steadily heavier, and people disappeared indoors, so it felt like we had the whole city to ourselves.

We walked through the city passing major landmarks (the tridente, up the Spanish steps, the street of four fountains) to a place recommended by Simon; a church containing the bones of thousands of Capuchin monks which had been placed into interesting tableaux, and also along the walls and ceiling of the rooms. Some bones had even been made into chandeliers. The place didn't charge but just requested donations, and we were out of the rain for a while while Dan drew some of the bones (specifically, a child's bones holding a scythe and scales also made out of bones, with wings made out of bones). The rain didn't let up at all as we walked north and east trying to find another cool church recommended in our guidebook. "Further up xyz street," we came to realize, meant "a really long way up this street, far past where the maps in the book or any of the maps we have with us depict." This was one of the annoying things about our Rough Guide Rome - if you want to visit some of the places they list, they don't always have addresses and they list places that are not on any of the maps. We trudged through the rain getting more and more wet and more and more discouraged, as it grew darker and colder. Many of the sidewalks collected water to the point where my shoes and pants were soaked through. Eventually we bought some really overpriced cough drops (trying to buy something that would help Dan's cough) and asked directions to the church of the pharmacist. "Another 800 meters," he answered. We gave up and turned around, heading back toward the area shown on our map. It's too difficult to navigate a strange city (especially one as old as Rome with streets as irregular and narrow) in the dark, in the rain, with no map. We never did make it to that church or the amazingly cool catacombs that supposedly lay beneath it.

I was really glad we were staying in that hotel that night. When we got back and unpacked everything from our daypacks and changed into dry clothes, Dan realized that his sketchbook had gotten pretty wet. He was really upset about it, but I suggested that he use the hairdryer in the bathroom to dry it out and it worked pretty well - the pages are still kind of wrinkly but none of the ink ran, so the book was still viable. My shoes took three days to dry, even with the help of the hair dryer; I was really glad I'd brought a second (though less comfortable walking on cobblestones) pair. The next morning we took advantage of the free breakfast offered by the hotel (something we didn't realize was available before), and it was one of the best breakfast spreads I'd ever seen in a European hotel or hostel. There were multiple kinds of breads and rolls and pastries, meats and cheeses, nutella, jam, three kinds of cereal, yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and a machine that would make a variety of coffee, juice, and tea-related beverages. All for free! We waited around in our hotel room for most of the morning, hoping the rain would stop, and it did (eventually).

When we went into Rome, we realized it was Epiphany - the 12th day of Christmas, a holiday for Italians, so many things were closed. We spent some time wandering around the Trastavere neighborhood, eating some pretty good pizza and enjoying the sights. Eventually we meandered to another part of the city to find a gelato place famous for a particular gelato-based dessert called Death by Chocolate. It was worth every penny we paid, and we watched the Epiphany goings-on in the piazza with three fountains, a carnival for the holiday. There were booths selling witch dolls on strings, witch masks, and brooms.(While we saw plenty of Santas climbing buildings when we were in Rome, Italy's tradition is for La Befana, the good witch, to bring toys to children on the eve of Epiphany as she flies around looking for the baby Jesus). There were booths selling all manner of candy and these enormous donuts. Small children were enjoying huge candied apples, and everyone was in a festive mood because it was a holiday and the rain had stopped. Italians were on holiday for one more day, and many of them were gathered in the typical tourist places. Dan stood drawing Trevi fountain while I watched tourists of all stripes, but mostly Italians, standing next to the fountain but facing away, tossing coins over their shoulders for luck and to ensure a return to Rome. When Dan was finished with his drawing, we tossed in a couple of coins ourselves.

We completed our tour of the city at Termini station where we bought our train tickets to Florence and then found a suggested restaurant in our guidebook near the Coliseum. That meal was probably the best we had in Rome; I had a fantastic minestrone soup and Dan had a homemade linguine bolognese. We split a piece of lasagne that was to die for; perfect melting layers of fresh pasta, cheese, and a sauce so rich and flavorful yet light that put to shame every lasagne either of us had ever experienced. It was quite warm inside, as they had a pizza oven going and a guy efficiently rolling out and tossing dough, spreading with sauce and fresh mozzarella, and adding toppings as necessary. Each pizza was a work of art. The service left quite a bit to be desired, and the tiramisu was just okay, but that lasagne - oh!

Our last free hotel breakfast was equally as good, and we packed and checked out of our hotel, took the train into the city and checked into our hostel (dorm beds were 8 euro each that night, far less than before the holiday). After our luggage had been squared away, we set out to do more exploration of the city, heading back to the San Lorenzo area, seeing friendly stray cats all over the place in the cemetary we'd tried to see a few days before (the church, alas, was not open). It was a beautiful and moving cemetary, and very interesting to see the variety of gravesites, tombs, and headstones - in one area, it was set up almost like a military cemetary, with the graves of soldiers who died in World War Two. Other parts of the cemetary reminded me quite a bit of the Catholic cemetary in Louisville we visited with EEK when we were there in July.

After the cemetary, we found lunch in a restaurant nearby, which turned out to be very good. I was feeling mighty poorly at this point and we split a liter of real sugar Coke that made my throat far less painful. The tiramisu we shared for dessert was what I'd been waiting over seven years to have again - it was phenomenally good. We hung out by the old city wall a while so Dan could draw and I made him do some awesome madlibs my cousin had given me for Christmas. We went back to our hostel, which had one of the weirdest setups I'd ever seen, and were shown to our room - in a completely different building, up and through a courtyard in an apartment with a sign on the door that said "pink palace." There were only three beds in our room, and nobody stayed in the third bed, so we had the room to ourselves. Neither of us felt very well, so we relaxed for a while before going out and exploring a nearby church, the Santa Maria Nuovo. While we didn't have to pay to get in, there was a machine in which one could deposit euro coins in order to illuminate various artwork around the inside of the church. Someone chose to light up a particularly beautiful mosaic while we were exploring, for which I was very glad. It was a thoroughly lovely church and felt much more spiritual and holy than St. Peter's Basilica had, as it wasn't a series of homages to popes but instead just full of beauty dedicated to God.

One of the reasons we'd chosen to stay at this particular hostel, aside from its proximity to Termini station, was that they offered "free dinner and free breakfast." There wasn't any common area in the hostel, just a little vestibule where the computer and intake area were, and some rooms full of bunk beds. I wondered whether there was another room somewhere. When we arrived for "free dinner" we found that no, in fact, there was no other room, and the little ten by five area was stuffed to the gills with young backpacker types, all drinking "free wine" (horrible rotgut) and holding flimsy thin plastic bowls. There was no room for us, so we were instructed to sit on someone's bed in one of the dorm rooms by ourselves. Eventually we were served some sort of broccoli-ish soup, which tasted OK but was terribly hot and impossible to hold while standing/sitting. Several people spilled. After the soup, there was a serving of the worst pasta I've ever eaten, with a watery pink sauce, carrots, peas, and potatoes all mixed in. I ate three bites and promptly threw it away having an acute case of indigestion from the rotgut and the soup. We couldn't really socialize with anyone, since there was no room in the vestibule and nobody else in the room with us, so we just left and fell asleep super early wondering what surprises awaited us at "free breakfast."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wednesday Wedding Day - Less than 2 months, can I wig out yet?

Yesterday marked 2 months until we get married.

On the one hand, we've been together for over six and a half years. It's not like we're jumping the gun on getting married or anything - in fact, I bet a lot of people who know us wonder why we waited this long. And most of the wedding stuff is done, planned, taken care of, and those things that aren't are either going to be last minute (as in, taking place during the week before the wedding) or are currently in progress.

On the other hand, holy crap, it's less than two months until we get married! I feel like there's so much still to do, so many little detail-y things. Our invitations got sent out last week, and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback (Dan spent countless hours working on them). In fact, I have a little fluttery stomach moment every time his email client dings, because it means it might be an RSVP. Even though we have a pretty good idea who is coming and who isn't, I'm still really excited about it. Once we know for sure who is coming, there will be a few more projects to do. But since we now have the major things figured out, and many of the minor ones, I'm not feeling completely overwhelmed.

I've talked a lot about the wedding over the last few months (and in two weeks, we'll have been engaged for a year, so I've had a long time to think about it) but I haven't talked much about how I feel about getting married. I guess for me, it's a natural progression of a relationship that began many years ago. I moved to Colorado with a pretty good idea somewhere in my mind that we'd end up at this point eventually (otherwise, I wouldn't have spent a year and a half flying back and forth and conducting the bulk of relationship over the phone/internet). It was a leap of faith, sure, but I had a feeling from the very beginning that this could be a permanent deal. I was only 22 when Dan and I got together, so I wasn't willing to entertain the idea of "forever" at that point. It took a few years of us dealing with all of the things that life threw at us before I came around and started thinking that hey, yeah, maybe we should get married. I think it took Dan a little bit longer than that. I'm really excited for the wedding, to have so many of our friends and family all in one place to celebrate this thing we've created together, to have it documented for posterity. But in all honesty, in some ways I've felt married for quite some time - perhaps since we got engaged or even before. We committed to each other at some point in the years we've lived together, so the wedding is just a way to make it clear to society and community that hey, we're in it for the long haul.

Perhaps the most visible symbol of our new status of husband and wife is that after we're married we're going to share a last name, which is important to both of us. I'm not changing my name to his, and he isn't changing his name to mine; we're both changing our last names to a new name that combines letters from each of our current names. I'm not especially attached to mine, and don't particularly like his. He feels about the same way. Years before we got engaged, we started talking about what we might do with our names if we got married, and this idea came up at least two years ago. We've both had quite some time to get used to the idea and then both got really excited about it. We're lucky in that our names mesh pretty well together to create a name we both like. At some point during the ceremony, our rockstar officiant is going to say something about our new name, and why we chose to change to that name. I'm sure there will be people who don't understand why we would want to do what we're doing, but you know what? It's our names, and our decision. I can't wait to be a Stryker.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Variety hour (plus weekend update)

Today, for the first time in more than four years, my coworkers found out what I do. I did a presentation at our staff meeting today, adapting a presentation I do at trainings for new people in the school districts, and for nearly an hour people listened to ME for once. And asked ME questions. And paid attention to ME. It felt really, really good, in a strange way. I've spent more than four years attending staff meetings, having to listen to other people's projects and conferences and such, never having anything to do with my job or my program. Today, it was My Turn, and I got a lot of compliments on my presentation. Woot!

I'm also starting to feel a little better, like I have enough energy to do things like go for walks and work out. Yesterday, Dan and I walked to the ice cream shop (Lik's!) because it was sunny and over 60F, a rarity for January, so we took advantage of it. His assignment for his photography class involved introducing an element of randomness into two rolls of film. So I got to choose what he shot and when, which turned out to be a lot of fun. We walked around in the park after we had ice cream (which was good, but no gelato) and watched the doggies gamboling and the kids swinging and the people playing frisbee in the rare January warmth. It's supposed to get really cold again by the end of this week, so I'm glad we had a chance to walk around outside. Today I plan to go to the gym to work off some of the adrenaline-fueled energy I have from giving the presentation this morning. Plus, I'm feeling better enough that it's about time I get back to my routine. I still want that dress to fit, after all.

Speaking of dresses, this weekend was also full of Getting Wedding Stuff Done. I found a fabric store here in Denver with an Entire Room full of the kind of fabric I need to make the bridesmaid dresses, so I had quite a bit more to choose from than I expected to have. I'm really excited to start working on these; I think they will be gorgeous. And we also met with an independent jewelry designer-type person who will be making our wedding rings. My finger feels nekkid, since she's got my engagement ring so she can make a wax cast of it in order to fit the wedding ring to match exactly. I'm so excited to see what she comes up with for our rings, which were really the last big thing we hadn't figured out yet.

Also, we took down the Christmas tree, since it was our first opportunity to do so when we both felt healthy enough to put the effort into it (and it was light enough while we were both home). I don't think I've ever seen a tree that dry before. It's been drier than usual this winter, and the tree sat in our house for a month with no water, so I'm actually surprised it managed to leave the house with any needles intact at all. I took a few pictures of needle carnage with Dan's digital camera but I will have to wait until he gets home tonight so he can show me how to upload them and I can post them for you all to see. I'm just glad we mostly have wood/linoleum floors!

Thanks for all your comments on my previous post. I found it really interesting how people's taste seemed to differ in terms of which photos you all liked best. We chose our five favorites (with one alternate that we loved almost as much) and sent the list to the photographer. I have no idea what that means (he just asked for our five favorites), but in case you're curious, our top five were: 6233, 6292, 6858, 6973, 7000. Alternate: 6896.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yes Foto

I've never liked having my picture taken. In fact, I find it to be kind of a weird phenomenon, having someone point a machine at me and produce an image that I rarely find to be representative of what I think I look like (or at least, what the mirror tells me). I was a cute kid, and kind of a weird-looking teenager, and since then I've hardly had my picture taken at all. In fact, I never even had senior portraits taken, mostly because I was embarassed about my skin.

My skin's mostly better these days, but it's still blotchy and uneven, and I rarely wear makeup because it's so sensitive. I knew, though, that I would need to figure out something makeup-wise for the wedding because I would be having my picture taken all day long, a prospect that fills me with a little bit of dread. And I want those photos to look good, because it's probably the only time in my life I'll be paying someone to take photos of me (and Dan, of course, but he always looks good).

One of the other things about the California part of our recent month-away-from-home that I really stressed about was the engagement shoot. Though it might seem like somewhat of a narcissistic or unnecessary add-on to a pretty low-key and low-budget wedding, I really wanted to do it so I would have a chance to get used to having someone point a camera at me for an extended period of time (read: more than one snapshot). While I had every confidence in our photographer to capture great photos of other people (having seen his work), I was really nervous that I would hate the way I looked in the photos he took, because it's just how I usually react. I don't think I'm at all photogenic, and a while ago I just resigned myself to never looking good in pictures. But I wanted to look good in these pictures!

Luckily, the day we picked to take photos in San Francisco was one of the most beautiful days I've ever seen (there), not to mention it was late December. We had an appointment to meet at 2 PM at Baker Beach, and we were a few minutes late because I got us lost trying to navigate through the Presidio. Our photographer got there really early because he wanted to scout out the area, and I guess he felt bad for being so late when we met with him before (that wasn't his fault; it was horrible traffic in both directions). He found some really neat places to shoot, and after about 5 minutes I was completely comfortable with just playing on the beach, holding Dan's hand, and enjoying the gorgeous day. It was warm and sunny, with hardly any breeze. The colors were crisp and clear, very difficult to come by any day of the year on a San Francisco beach. We got really lucky that the day was so pretty, and I am thrilled that we had such a good time working with the photographer. I feel much better about the prospect of having my picture taken all day long now.

Yesterday, the photographer sent me an email with the link to our photos. I really wanted to put it up on the blog immediately, but Dan wasn't home until about 7 PM last night and I wanted him to get to see them first. After seeing these pictures, I am so glad that we decided to go with the photographer we picked - I think he's really talented, and I think we're getting a fantastic deal - but I'm also thrilled that he's so good at making us both feel comfortable around the camera(s). And I could not be happier with the results of the engagement shoot.

Which ones do you guys like best?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Travel Thursday: Oh yeah, we went to Italy!

Rome Part One - Sorry there aren't any pictures :(

We landed in Rome after two harrowing plane changes (luckily, we'd carried on all our baggage) and many many hours without sleep. According to our Rough Guide (more on this book later), we had the option of taking a cab or taking an 11euro train ride into the city from the airport. Luckily, we figured out that we could take a less expensive train to a different station and transfer to the metro line we needed to get to our hotel. So we did that instead.

We lucked out on a great hotel deal for Rome - $45 US/night for 5 nights, 3star hotel, which was cheaper than two hostel dorm beds would have been, and we had our own room with bathroom. It was not actually in Rome, but to the southeast of the city in a little town called Ostia Antica. We got to the Ostia metro stop and crossed the highway, to discover that it was a Really Little Town. Luckily, our hotel was on the one main street, so we started walking. And walking. There was no sidewalk for at least half of it, and the cars were going a good 40MPH along the street. We kind of feared for our lives and I had this mental picture of us as turtles on our backs in the middle of this busy road (we each had a larger backpack and smaller daypack, so wore the big one on our back and the small on our front). When we arrived at the hotel and asked if there was a back-road way to walk there from the station, the clerk looked at us in horror and told us to take the bus. Luckily, the bus system and metro system in the general Rome area are linked up, so one ticket is good on either system for 75 minutes. We decided not to try to walk between the hotel and the metro stop again, just because we preferred not to end up being roadkill.

Our hotel room was very nice, and we ended up taking a little nap, which turned into sleeping from 3:30 PM until about 6 the next morning. Ahhhh.

But of course, when we woke up I was starving. We didn't have much food with us, so we headed out for the metro and into Rome. Simon of A Girl and a Boy had loaned us a book full of walking tours of Rome, so we took the metro to Termini station (kind of a central point) and walked to where one of the tours started, grabbing some sandwiches in a little bar along the way. A note on food in Italy: you will see a lot of signs that say Bar. Mostly they sell a variety of things, including premade sandwiches/panini, cigarettes and candy, and booze and coffee. People eat standing up, and the ones that have tables, you have to pay extra in order to sit. Word to the wise.

Anyhow, we spent the first few hours taking one of the walking tours Simon had recommended (down Via Nazionale, around some ruins, up through the out-of-place Vittorio monument and down through the Roman Forum and around the Coliseum). Along the way, we found a grocery store and stopped in to provision ourselves. We found this was an economical way to eat in China, and it proved to be even more economical in Italy, since it was pretty much the only way we could eat three meals a day and not spend a ton of money (even take-away sandwiches and pizza are still 3-4 euro each, which translated to 4.50-6.00 US each - when it's two people, that can add up). So anyhow, the walking tour was really cool as it explained things about the buildings we were passing. Dan really enjoyed the ruins and the forum and walking around the Coliseum, and I really enjoyed getting to see them again, and sharing the experience with him.

For me, the Roman Forum is one of the most interesting things in Rome. It's fully amazing to me that this incredibly old thing, part of an ancient bit of Western Civilization, is just smack dab in the middle of the city of Rome. After more than 2000 years, it's still there - nobody has destroyed it, and thousands of people every year walk through the same pathways that the Roman hoi polloi walked through millenia ago. Nutty.

We decided not to stand in line/pay to tour the inside of the coliseum, but instead to walk around it and peek into the parts on the far side where you don't see many other tourists. Dan told me some interesting historical bits about the coliseum, and then we wandered over to the Arch of Constantine (more historical bits) and then attempted to climb the Palatine hill, where we got stopped in our tracks because we went the wrong way, and then it turned out you had to pay a bunch of money to get in (and it mostly just looked like a nice park) so we opted out.

One of the really cool things about Rome is that despite it being a really big city, most of the stuff you might wish to see as a tourist is within an easily walkable distance. We walked from the Paletine hill up to the Pantheon area and grabbed some take-away pizza (I think the best pizza we had in Rome, since it was hot and fresh from the oven, mmmm!), then went inside the Pantheon and marveled. I also find the Pantheon to be amazingly cool, even without knowing what an architectural feat it was at the time. Dan decided to draw the Pantheon, so we sat there in the afternoon chill while lots of tourists milled around and people trying to sell noisy things to tourists milled around after them.

We wandered by Trevi Fountain (more tourists, mostly Italian) on our way back to Termini station, and we looked for a place to go online to email our families and let them know we weren't dead. It took a while, since it was the 3rd of January and many places were still closed for the holidays, but we found one and then metro'd back to our hotel. We ate dinner in our hotel restaurant - it was decent and not terribly expensive - and then fell asleep pretty early after watching some so-awful-it's-funny Italian television and drinking boxed red wine (we didn't have a corkscrew).

The next day we were up pretty early and in the line for the Vatican Museum before it opened, eating our breakfast while we waited. It wasn't terribly cold (though I'd prepared by wearing warm tights under my pants) and the tourist-pushers were attempting to sell scarves and gloves to those who weren't wearing them. The line moved pretty quickly once the museum opened, and I'm pretty sure most of the people in line were Italian tourists (as all of Italy seems to be on vacation until Epiphany, January 6). If one planned a trip to Rome during high tourist season (read: summer) and one had specific time constraints, it might make sense to join a tour group, as that lets you jump the line. However, it's a really high price (I think I heard 90 euro?), so for people who have more time than money it really doesn't make sense.

The Vatican Museum was one of the things I skipped during my first trip to Rome, reasoning that I'd be back someday - and I was right. In a way, the museum is completely overwhelming, much like the Louvre, but in a way it's not difficult to see only the things you really want to see and go quickly through the things you don't care as much about. However, if you get there when the museum opens and you're trying to navigate between throngs of tour groups, it's a bit more difficult to actually see things you're trying to see. They have the museum set up in such a way that it is very difficult to backtrack, though I suppose if you were really determined you might accomplish it.

The most impressive thing about the Vatican Museum is that every single surface in the place is beautiful. No wall, ceiling, or floor is ungilded or unpainted or undecorated. In fact, it can be somewhat overwhelming and I ended up a little bit overstimulated by how much beauty was there. We both really enjoyed the Raphael rooms (Dan especially, since he'd studied so many of the works in his Art History classes - one of the paintings made his jaw drop and he just kind of marveled at it for about 10 minutes) and the Sistine Chapel, which is in some ways amazingly impressive and in other ways hard to be suitably impressed by, since the ceiling is so far from the floor. And it's packed full of people all the time, and the guards and intercom are constantly telling people to be quiet and not take photos, so the atmosphere of reverence they're going for doesn't quite seem to happen.

I would just like to note here that it is totally awesome to travel with someone who enjoys art and is more knowledgable about it than I am. It was like having my very own art tour guide, and I appreciated things a lot more when Dan told me about them.

We sent some postcards from the Vatican Museum, which was fun because Vatican City, being sovereign, has its own postal system and its own stamps. Apparently it also has its own euro coins, but we didn't check to see if we got any of them until it was too late.

After the museum, we wandered over to St. Peter's Basilica. When I was in Rome back in 2000, you could just wander in to the church and go wherever you felt like going within, but now you have to stand in a security line to make sure you aren't bringing in knives, and they have the inside set up so you can only walk around the perimeter. Or maybe that part was just because of when we were there, since they were setting up for the big Epiphany service. The Basilica would be much more impressive from the outside if there wasn't this enormous ugly facade tacked on to the front, and the inside is more a series of monuments to popes than a place of worship (to this non-Catholic, anyhow). But it, too, is adorned with beauty on all surfaces, and they had a mass or two going on while we were inside (sung in Latin, of course). And looking up is quite a celestial experience.

The one thing that really disappointed me about this particular visit to Vatican City was the dearth of nuns. On my previous trip, one of my favorite things about Rome (and the Vatican in particular) was how many different kinds of nuns I saw. This time, there were some nuns, but not nearly the amount or variety I'd been expecting. I guess they all make their pilgrimages in the summer just like everyone else.

After a lunch of uninspiring takeaway pizza (from a place recommended in the book) we walked across the city, up the Spanish Steps, and over and around the back side of the Termini station to a student neighborhood called San Lorenzo. I wanted to see a particular church in a cemetary in this area, but though it was described in detail it wasn't on any of the maps in the book, and then it started to get dark, so we kind of gave up. We had our first gelato of the trip at a chain place called Red Ice (still fantastically yummy, and not that expensive!) while we figured out what to do.

Because here is another downside to traveling in Italy in the winter: it gets dark pretty early, around 4:30 PM. And Rome is very much old-fashioned still when it comes to the hours of shops and restaurants. Pretty much all shops/restaurants/etc. close from about 3 PM to about 7 PM, and in most places it costs money to go into someplace that is open to sit down with your gelato or espresso or whatever. In the summer, this would not be an issue, as it would be lovely to stroll around in a park or something since it would still be light out and warm. In January, it is cold and dark. We thought about waiting around somewhere until we could find an open restaurant for dinner, but I was totally exhausted at that point (still dealing with jet lag) so we took the metro back to Ostia and decided to try to find a place to eat dinner there.

There was no place (we could find) to eat dinner in Ostia Antica. There's a small town with a post office and a butcher shop and a fruit stand and a few other little shops, but noplace we could find that was open and serving food in the evening. So we started to walk back toward our hotel, only we tried to go what we thought was the back way. We ended up on this wild goose chase, spending over an hour trudging through neighborhoods with unpaved streets, dogs barking at us, searching in vain for a place to eat (and then, eventually, for our hotel). Turns out that going the back way was an even worse idea than just walking straight to the hotel from the train station, but eventually we saw the blue neon HOTEL sign through the foggy mist and, completely exhausted beyond measure, we gave up and got horrible pizza and grappa at the hotel bar. Seriously, it was probably the worst pizza I ever ate, and man, we were in ITALY! There was no excuse for how wretched it was. At least it was food.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday wedding day: Trying to grok

So, while we were in California we got a bunch of wedding stuff done. We scouted out BevMo for beer/wine; we looked at fabric for dresses; I found makeup that will work (thanks to my sister, makeup maven and she of skin very much like mine); we had our tasting (yum! so excited about the food!); got a quote from the tent rental company; had our engagement photos taken (so excited to see these! I hope we get them soon), and I had my dress fitting.

I could talk for paragraphs about any of the above things. It was kind of amazing what all we did in the few days after Christmas before we headed out for Italy. The thing I was most concerned about was the dress fitting - after all, I ordered it in August and the fitting was in December after Christmas (read: rich food and no exercise for a week), and I won't have another fitting until about 5 days before the wedding.

The dress was too big.

Yes. It has a corset back, and the back was laced up as tight as it would go in order to stay up. Now, I'm pretty sure it fit me (at least, the sample I tried on fit me) back in August. And I can't imagine I was all that much smaller at the fitting. But I was smaller, somehow, and if I get any smaller the dress will have to be taken in a few days before the wedding (and cost boatloads more for alterations. Seriously, the absolute racket that is the wedding dress alteration - my bustle? $5. Extra boning in the seams because of how the dress fits me? $30. A one-inch hem? $120!!! WTF!?!?! I told my mom I could do the hem on her sewing machine, but she insisted on paying for it and said it was one less thing for me to worry about. But $120!?!?!?! It's just a basic hem; there's no lace or beading or asymmetrical lines or anything. Boo.)

The reason I am having a difficult time grokking this is because when I went to the doctor yesterday, they weighed me. I specifically told them that I did not want to know my weight, since the number always always freaks me out, and I specifically never weigh myself because of that - instead, I judge by how my clothes fit. Well, I didn't see the number on the scale, but they had to put it in the computer during my appointment, and it was on the printout they gave me with my prescriptions. Way to go, Kaiser people! Anyhow, it freaked me the hell out, because I weigh about 10 pounds more than I thought I did, and about 20 pounds more than I'd like to weigh. According to most height/weight charts, I'm borderline overweight. Yet my size 8 clothes are fitting fine (some of my jeans are even loose) and my size 10 wedding dress (the wedding dress industry being notorious for sizing their clothing higher than street clothes, seriously I thought I'd be getting a size 12 wedding dress) is too big. If I lose much weight the dress will be falling off and I'll have to have it taken in. Yet the number on the scale, well, let's just say that I can't fathom actually weighing this much.

But I have a (nearly) visible four-pack. The cuts in my arms and legs are pretty impressive. There are only a few spots on my body where I can pinch extra. So WTH, scale? I suppose I could subtract a couple of pounds for my clothes/shoes, but still. I know they say that muscle weighs more than fat, but this is kind of ridiculous. Brain not computing. Weigh lots. Dress too big. If lose weight, dress not fit at all. But - weigh lots! ACK.

OK, so, besides the whole MLE is totally neurotic about her weight/appearance/wedding dress crap, there's more to report on the wedding front. Our invitations got finished and sent out in the mail yesterday - yay! The *kerthump* as I put them all in the blue standing box was satisfying and yet made me feel a little funny, because it's all real now, we're really doing this. We put together our guest list for the rehearsal dinner this weekend. And we've already gotten some "no"s before the invitations even went out from people we'd thought were coming to the wedding :(. On the one hand, I'm very sad about this, because they are people we would both love to have there. On the other hand, we can't control other people's life events or choices, and we hope at least that the people who can't be there will be thinking of us.

Today I stayed home from work to recover a bit from the multiple infections etc., and in between playing on the internets I've been watching some of my christmas presents from my sister (she did an awesome gift for younger sis and I; she found copies of all these movies we watched a lot as kids on DVD and gave them to us for Christmas. So far from the collection I've watched Stand By Me, Adventures in Babysitting, Dirty Dancing and the Muppets Take Manhattan) and working on my big wedding crafty project (one of them, anyhow). I can't wait to take pictures and show you guys. I think it will be awesome. Speaking of taking pictures, I need to get a new digital camera. In a perfect world where we didn't have a wedding to pay for and we had lots of disposable income, I'd get a digital SLR, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. Dan did some research and found a camera that looks great, but I've not done much research yet. Anyone want to recommend a good P&S with at least 5 MP and a shutter that doesn't take forever?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guess what I've won?

Yes. I have not yet told you all the cool things about Italy (or California, for that matter). I have started umpteen blog posts in my head, but I do have a good excuse.

Remember how I mentioned that both Dan and I got sick in Italy? I'm still sick. Really, miserably, disgustingly sick. So sick that a 3-day weekend plus Friday as a sick day did very little to make me feel better (Me sitting around doing nothing for four days generally equals cabin fever, but I seriously had no energy for anything. Sorry your visit with your family was overshadowed by me being sick, Holla.) Anyhow, since yesterday was a holiday I couldn't call to make an appointment with Kaiser until this morning, which I did (yes, I went to work today. I've not been here in a month, except for Thursday, when I tried to go to the gym, did 30 minutes of pilates and about coughed out a lung, so gave up on that whole trying to work out thing). At my appointment, the doctor looked in my ears and nose, listened to my chest and listened to the laundry list of symptoms. I mean, I've had sinus pain in my teeth and jaw for the past week - that's how bad it is. And I haven't been able to hear well out of either ear.

Diagnoses? (Yes, multiple.) A sinus infection, two ear infections (one in each ear), and a perforated eardrum that has stuff draining out of it. I suspected as much, and for my good guess I get to take 3 horse pills twice a day for two weeks. I guess we'd better go to the store and stock up on yogurt.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No Foto

We're back in the Bay Area after one two-hour flight and one eleven-hour flight. And a solid 7 hours of sleep in QIR's bed (thanks for the bed, darlin!)

So, yes, we went to Italy and I will have many stories to tell. However, I will have no photos to show you. I lost my camera on a train between Siena and Empoli, and unfortunately neither the kind folks at the Florence train station lost and found nor the ones at the Pisa lost and found were able to give me good news, that someone had turned my camera in. So I have no photos from the trip. Dan took about eight with his film SLR, but he doesn't know if they'll even turn out because it turned out the film he bought was expired. So we'll see.

I would have rather lost anything else I had with me, including my passport and my new ipod, than my camera. But it was the camera, a gift Dan gave me for Christmas a few years ago, a gift that made me cry at the time and that I've used all the time since, that is gone. No foto*.

Also, we were both sick (he, the entire time, me, for about half the time). Also, it rained nearly every day. And Dan fell down some stairs.

But we still had a good time, for the most part, despite all the problems. I will be writing about the trip in detail, probably, but the hundreds of pictures I had to play around with and share with the internets are lost and gone forever, and I'll have to rely on my power of descriptive language rather than be able to show you all the awesome things we saw.

Hello again, internets, I've missed you.

* in reference to many sights we saw, including Michelangelo's David, where you weren't allowed to take pictures (even though last time I was in Italy, it was just "no flash". Guess it's really important that they sell a lot of postcards.