September 22, 2010

Grandma and Grandpa's visit

Brad's parents came back with us from Sicily to visit for a few weeks. We had a great time visiting some of the local sights with them. Here are a few photos.

The city of Tuebingen

The Mercedes Benz Museum, Stuttgart

Notice the things around our necks and the earphones? These were the self guided tours in English - we were sure to make a fashion statement!

September 21, 2010

The 26th Air Force Birthday Ball

Just a few fun photos from the Air Force Ball last weekend.

September 16, 2010

Brad's Promotion

The day finally came for Brad's promotion. Here are a few photos from the day!

Here you can see the changing of the rank from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.

Above: Madeline and Jack
Below: Brad's boss, Major General Sherlock, and myself

Madeline and Jack with the 100 cupcakes they helped decorate!

September 15, 2010

9 Days in Sicily

I'm not sure exactly where to begin telling the story of our 9 day adventure to Sicily. First and foremost, let me give you some much needed background information.

Our mission: relaxation, and to visit with Brad's sister, the twins and her husband's family. Brad's parents also joined up with all of us in Sicily after their Baltic cruise. So let's just call it a family reunion! We were going to be guests of our brother-in-law's family in the small countryside town of Ciminna.

Gabriella, Angelo, Filippo, Jen

A view of Ciminna

We were anxious about our vacation to experience Sicliy like a "local". Upon flying into Palermo we were surprised at the size of the mountains and how arid the landscape. In fact as it turns out most of Sicily is quite mountainous. For the moment we felt like we had arrived back in Las Vegas (minus the sea of course).

A view from Campania

We were greeted by Angelo's brother, Vito, at the airport. The only Italian we knew came from the handy Italian-English dictionary I had borrowed for our trip and Vito's English was about the same, so our 1 hour car ride to Ciminna was on the quiet side. Our first stop "Campania" - the countryside villa (or what we had pictured anyway) of Angelo's parents. As you can see it wasn't the type of villa that we were imagining, but we did learn to enjoy simplicity!

Here you can see Brad and Jack playing volleyball with a string used for hanging laundry to dry.

The sheep and chicken pens

We had a 5 course Italian meal for lunch, lasange, rabbit, salad, bread, and melon. If you know Jack and I very well, you know that we didn't eat any sort of strange meat! (Be sure you finish reading the entire blog for some interesting "meats" that were served!) Let me say that every meal is more than 3 courses, always includes bread, salad, pasta, meat and finished with fruit. Here's a peek inside the modest kitchen that we ate lunch in everyday. It's amazing what Angelo's mom can produce with such a small kitchen! Yummm.

Notice the only oven - a small convection oven and one light bulb hanging overhead. This room also served as the bambini's bathing room, laundry & storage room and Vito's bedroom after the kitchen closed usually around midnight!

Pato the guard dog amid the olive trees. This dog ate anything....when there was a question what to do with the was always "give it to Pato"!

I literally took over 250 photos on our trip and this blog entry will quickly become that of a novel so I'll switch to photo essay mode!

Making the Cheese

Angelo's family are sheep and olive farmers. They make a wonderful cheese called peccorino, which is made from the sheep's milk. Here you can see part of the process to make the aged peccorino and ricotta.

Madeline and Auntie Jen enjoying a bowl of ricotta

A mature olive tree - the trunk is amazing!

The Porcospino

First ,the kill - we were promised a meal of porcupine before we left!

Here, the porcospino hangs awaiting the "cleaning" process - yuck!


Up close and personal


What a nice photo....and then (below) the porcuspino arrives right in front of me!

I did manage not to "toss my cookies"!

Had to throw this photo in too. The remnants of what would be our going away lunch (sardine heads & tomatoes)!

The Bambinis

The cousins, Madeline, Gabriella, Jack and Filippo

The official weigh in for the twins as they've now added pasta to their diet!

Don't let the blue bib fool you, this is Gabriella!

Filippo, Madeline and Jack

Bath time for Gabriella


Angelo's Dad, Filippo, Brad and I during an afternoon BBQ in Campania
Menu: rabbit, mutton, lamb (and chicken thanks to my dear husband!)

Laundry al fresco! It's a 24 hour process out here!

A view of the house built into the hillside

We hiked the backside of this cliff and have some funny stories to tell. The views were beautiful!

Ciminna - the city

A typical narrow street in the city.

The view from Jen and Angelo's home in the city.

Here you can buy fresh fish (fruits too) daily. They announce their arrival each morning via megaphone!

Thanks to family friends, we were treated to a behind the scenes look at bread making

Another example of the tight and narrow streets. Who will win, Semi #1 or #2 oh wait...look another truck...interesting!

The Daily Happenings

We were able to find a deck of cards thanks to someone on Grandma & Grandpa's cruise. This deck of cards became a life saver for passing time in the late afternoons. Here Jack is playing "golf" with Angelo's cousin, Francesco. Although neither Jack for Francesco spoke each others language, we had a great time together!

Ice cream, a great late afternoon snack (especially since lunch was at 1pm and dinner not until 9pm)

The Ritz Carlton it's not, but the blow-up pool was a hit with all the kids!
Be sure to read the fine print when your hotel advertises...pool!

Jack and Francesco working to open almonds from the tree in the yard.

Everyday at 6pm we took our afternoon walk with the bambinis through Campania

A typical meal with around 30 family members each day!

Figs, figs, and more figs. The kids loved to pick them right off the tree!

Can't say I'd ever seen a fig tree before, nor did I know exactly how to eat one. You can see the kids' got the hang of it quickly.

While returning from our evening walk we noticed a ploom of smoke rising near the house in Campania. We later discovered that it was a wild fire, so of course we had to check it out! None of the family property was damaged.

The Mediteranean Sea & Roman Ruins

Forgot your beach floaty? No problems, this buggy made its pass several times a day!

Southeastern shore of Sicily

This is the northern part of the island, near Palermo.

Ancient Roman ruins

The family photo (minus Gabriella and Filippo)


So here's the story of the Pizzayolo! (If you notice this is the same room where the porcuspino was prepped a few nights earlier!) Brad was getting lessons from Lena, Angelo's mom, on how to properly cook the "Cu Di Runa" aka Sicilian pizza!

The Departure

One last photo of all the cousins. Madeline and Jack were in charge of the last morning feeding. What great helpers they were.

We had a wonderful and unforgettable trip! The final leg, the train from the airport home!