Friday, May 11, 2012

A Super Pink Bridal Shower

Last Saturday, my fantastic maid of honor threw me a most fabulous bridal shower.  It was held at my house, with about a dozen (dozen and a half?) people in attendance.  The theme was pink, so the decorations were pink, the cupcakes and lemonade were pink, and all guests were asked to wear at least one article of pink.  Almost every gift was wrapped in fabulous pink wrapping or tied with a pink bow.  It was definitely my kind of party!  But it's not about the gifts or streamers.  The event was so great because I realized that I've really surrounded myself with wonderful people throughout my life.  There are many who couldn't make it, and some who I haven't seen in a long time, but each one of these ladies is a delight.  My friend, Jen, whom I generally see only once a year (if not less), made the drive up from Berkeley.  And my sister left her four kids at home and made a long trek from the mountains to share the day with me.  (This was actually the first time all of my bridesmaids have been in the same place, at the same time.)  Melissa organized fun activities that allowed us to share memories, get to know each other, and have a great time.  The food was delicious, the weather was perfect...I couldn't have asked for a nicer shower.  Thanks, Melissa!!

Now, I'm checking things off my wedding to-do list and counting the days until I get to marry my amazing fiance (21 days, if you're interested).  Today was when we had asked people to RSVP by, so I'm updating my spreadsheet and will probably be contacting the slackers on Monday ;o)  We also got our marriage license today, which makes everything feel so much more real and official.

And just because the universe loves me, I am dealing with a random and stupid cold that has had me losing my voice since Tuesday.  Just what I need.  But hey, better now than in three weeks, right?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not your typical bachelorette party!

Wow, I am not good at this.  After promising to stay more on top of updates in a previous post, I have failed miserably at actually putting anything on here.

Things have been moving along.  We've had some trouble figuring out the officiant for the wedding.  We have two prospects now, so hopefully, it will all come together in the next week or so.  This lack of officiant has left me pretty stressed lately, as I am now counting weeks (not months) until the wedding, and there are only six left.

Last week was my bachelorette weekend.  I (and my bridal party) chose to omit the stereotypical penis-shaped candies and watching men undress, and opted, instead, for a high tea in San Francisco.  This was ridiculously fun!  After meeting at Melissa's house (where she had lovely, thoughtful baskets waiting for us), we drove into the city together, drank yummy tea blends, and ate delicious food at Lovejoy's.  The experience and environment were simply delightful, and we decided we will do quarterly high tea at different tea rooms in our area.  Across the street from the tea room was Lovejoy's Attic, the little gift shop where I bought two teas (including the chestnut one I had at the event...who knew I'd love tea with milk?), two whimsical tea strainers, and a deck of cards (it had the Nutcracker ballet on it!).

After tea, we headed into Dublin for some shopping at Ulta.  Yay for makeup and nail polish!  When our girly shopping whims were satisfied, we went back to Melissa's for a good old-fashioned slumber party, with pizza, cocktails, manicures and a movie (Bridesmaids, of course).  The next morning, I took my fabulous ladies out to breakfast.  The only bummer was that my sister couldn't make it to the festivities, due to last minute snow and an injury.  Hopefully, she'll be able to attend the shower in a couple of weeks.

That same weekend, Sam and I met with our baker for a tasting.  O. M. G!  Our cake is going to kick your cake's butt.  It's soooo tasty!

Tonight we're keeping date night pretty low-key.  Just some tasty noodles at our favorite ramen house, as tomorrow is Sacto Mofo 4, where there will be much gluttony.  There's nothing quite like eating off a truck.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Twelve weeks to go!

Things have been moving along swimmingly around these parts.  I have spent much of this afternoon sending out messages that will (hopefully) start to bring together the final details of this wedding.  I can't believe it's only twelve weeks away!  I'm contemplating beginning the addressing process for invites, even though I don't have them yet.  It might make things easier (and ensure that I get them out on time) if I have some of the work done in advance.  We'll see how I feel after this post, I suppose.  I've been super spacey this week, so I'm not sure anything productive will take place right now.  (For example, I just opened a new tab because there was something I wanted to look up...except I have already forgotten what it was.)

I've added a new page to the top of this layout, which contains links to photo albums (well, one for now).  I'm not madly in love with the setup, so I'm definitely open to suggestions on changes.  I know I want to keep the albums on a separate page, as opposed to posting pictures within entries.  It just seems neater that way, and easier to access.

Anyhow, I'm off to go on my quest for envelopes.  Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend =o)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Still Here

After transcribing all those entries about our Europe trip, I gave myself a bit of a blog hiatus, but I'm back!  Things around these parts are moving along quite nicely.  Save-the-Dates have gone out, and more and more details are falling into place.  We have one major thing to still figure out, but for the most part, things are coming together.  Quick, someone quiz me on things that need to get done when preparing for a wedding!  I want to make sure I'm not forgetting anything.

Sam is working in the insurance mines, as always, and I am teaching dance (and doing some other stuff).  Tonight, like almost every Friday night, is date night.  Not sure yet what we'll end up doing, but it's always nice to have some time in the week specifically set aside to spend in each other's company.  There's usually yummy food too, though I will not subject you all to further ramblings of every single thing we eat.  Speaking of date night though, we're always looking for new ideas, so Sacramento peeps, share your favorite haunts!

While you're in a sharing mood, also tell me what you're doing for Valentine's Day =o)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Part 11: The Long Road Home

November 1, 2010
We had to get up before 5am to get ready to head to the airport.  We were pretty efficient and headed out around 5:30, after saying our goodbyes to D.  The ride to Catania was pretty quiet.  It was, after all, the crack of dawn.  B got us to the airport around 6:30.  In other words, right on time.  We got our boarding passes, checked our bags and held our breath.  I don't know how we managed it, but we did not have to pay a dime (or a Euro) for the weight on our bags.  With everything taken care of and plenty of time to kill, we found our gate and settled in for some waiting, trying to figure out how to spend the last of our Euros.  Sam went for a walk to find something delicious and came back with a couple of sodas.  We sat back and enjoyed our beverages, and I snapped a picture or two of Moosie.  With still more time and Euros on our hands, Sam went off on another excursion.  This time, he returned with snacks.  I got to try the previously-mentioned Nutella Snack & Drink, and Sam had a croissant.  My snack was yummy - crunchy breadsticks with Nutella for dipping.  You really can't go wrong with Nutella!  The orange drink that came with it was not as much of a hit.

After some more thumb-twiddling, it was time for our flight to board.  This first flight went off without a hitch.  In fact, it landed in Rome a little bit early.  We were thrilled that on this stop in Rome, we wouldn't have to sprint through the entire airport.  We took advantage of this fact by making our way to our next gate at a more leisurely pace.  We got to the U.S. Airways counter to check in for our next flights, and things started going downhill.  The lady at the counter asked for our boarding passes (which had our baggage claim numbers on them) from the previous flight.  This is where poor Sam realized he must have dropped his somewhere.  We searched everywhere, to no avail.  Who would have thought you'd have to hang on to a boarding pass from a flight that already happened??  That had not been the case with any of our other previous flights.  Oh well, lesson learned, I suppose.  Thankfully, the lady at the counter was able to find all the information she needed.

After all that drama, we settled on the floor to wait for our flight.  We still had a tiny amount of Euros left, so Sam set out in search of a snack.  He came back empty-handed.  Right at the designated time, we were asked to line up to board.  The line took us to the center of the circular counter, and down a seemingly secret staircase.  We found our seats, stowed our bags and prepared for the flight.  We were right on schedule!  Or were we?

After some sitting around, the captain announced that he had made several requests, and we were waiting for the push-off machine. I'm not sure how long that took, but eventually, we got in line at our runway.  People were starting to get a little antsy, but after a while, the captain once again made an announcement.  This time we were told that the tower was having us wait for a short while due to heavy rain and high winds. In about fifteen minutes or so, we'd be on our way.  More time passed, and more people started getting twitchy.  Another announcement came.  We were cleared by the tower to take off, but we were about tenth in line, so it would take about twenty minutes before we would be up in the air.  A wave of grumbling passed through the cabin, and people began milling around.  The waiting was definitely getting old.  The captain came on the P.A. and made yet another announcement.  The wind had shifted, and we were getting redirected to another runway.  We should be in the air in about twenty minutes.  This time, passengers had chimed in on the "twenty minutes" part.  When we got to our runway, we ended up even further back in line than before (even though we'd been told we would not lose our place).  Boo.  By that point, people were wandering around all over the place, as the poor flight crew tried, in vain, to enforce the "fasten seatbelt" order from the captain.  I had been a good little traveler, with by belt fastened and my electronics turned off, so I don't know exactly how much time had elapsed.  I do know that, all in all, we sat on the tarmac for about 2-3 hours.  So frustrating!

Once we finally got up in the sky, the flight itself was pretty uneventful.  Sam and I occupied ourselves with various activities, including watching the last Shrek movie, napping and eating.  About halfway through the flight, we picked a most thrilling program to watch.  Are you ready for this?  It was a documentary on corn! We learned some stuff, took a break so I could stretch my legs, then learned some more stuff.  It was truly exhilarating.  We rounded out our viewing of in-flight selections with "Date Night."  We were pleasantly surprised and quite entertained.  Sadly, our screens turned off about ten minutes before the end because we were preparing to land.  Finally!  (For the record, we still haven't seen the end of the movie.)

As we touched down, we got one last announcement from our captain.  Because of our delay in Rome, we would have to speak to an agent at the gate about our connections.  It turns out, we missed our flight from Philadelphia to Sacramento by a mere thirty minutes.  Sam was furious.  Even more so when we received our boarding passes for our new flights.  For the next morning!  It was right around this time that I thanked my lucky stars for having the foresight to get subs for the following day.  Without much other choice, we started our trek through the airport.  First stop after claiming our luggage: customs.  We had filled out a form on the plane, where we'd been told members of the same household could do a joint card.  With this in hand, we found the shortest line, and approached the clerk.  "Are you two married?" he asked.  "No, but we live in the same household," we answered confidently.  "You need separate forms," we're told.  We tried to explain what we'd heard on the plane, but to no avail.  In retrospect, I think the announcement had said family members in the same household.  Darn it!  So the customs guy sent us away to redo our forms, and then told us when we were done that we "need to approach the counter separately.  I don't want any problems."  I really enjoy being made to feel like a felon over a simple misunderstanding.  Anyhow, we went through the process with our new forms n hand, and through another customs desk where they took said forms.  All the while, my paranoia was rising, as one of our suitcases felt somewhat damp, and I had visions of red wine and glass all over our clothing.

After passing through all the necessary checkpoints, grumpy and exhausted, we got in line at the ticket counter.  We would have gladly turned in our meal and hotel vouchers for an earlier flight.  After waiting in line, there was pleading for flights to anywhere in our general vicinity (no Sacramento?  We'll take Oakland, or SFO?).  No luck  Apparently, no flights leave for the West Coast after 6pm.  So we set out for the shuttle and headed to our free room at the Hilton.  First order of business upon checking in: checking for damage in the luggage.  When I discovered that all our bottles of wine and various other liquids had survived, I immediately felt better.  Sam jumped in the shower to try to relax a bit.  Both of us feeling better, we grabbed our meal vouchers and headed downstairs for dinner...only to be informed that the restaurant was already closed.  Thankfully, the adjacent sports bar was open and served food.  We were seated at a table in the center, surrounded by large flat screens, playing an array of sporting events (including the World Series, I believe).  I ordered a much needed glass of wine, and we both dove into some yummy cheesesteaks.  The sandwiches were pretty big, and I barely go through half of mine before calling it a night.

With bellies full, and feeling much less grumpy, we returned to our room, reassembled our luggage and went to bed.

November 2, 2010
Our last day of travel began with a 5am wake-up call.  We dragged ourselves out of bed, packed up and checked out, with a few minutes to spare before our shuttle arrived.  We partook in some of the free coffee in the lobby while we waited.  The shuttle came and got us to the airport with no incident.  The airport was quiet that early in the morning and we didn't have to wait very long to check into our flights.  Once again, I held my breath as they weighed our luggage, and again, no fees.  Whew!

At the security checkpoint, Sam and I both had our carry-on bags searched.  My dude seemed at least mildly amused by Moosie's presence in my suitcase, and buckled her in before sending me on my way.  Sam's bag got x-rayed again after being searched, then searched again.  Apparently, one of the souvenirs was raising eyebrows.  We were finally permitted to go and made our way to the gate.  We were pretty exhausted at this point, so we sat quietly, with smart phones in hand, catching up on the last two weeks.

Our flight started boarding on time.  We didn't have to be told twice to get to the gate, and were almost at the front of the line.  Of course, being allowed to just board the plane at that point would have been too easy.  There were TSA agents at the gate, and both of us had our bags searched again.  Seriously??

We shared a row with a gentleman whose slumber we had to disturb a couple of times, due to our demanding bladders.  We had some coffee, and after trying to get the fruit and cheese plate on multiple flights, we finally succeeded.  I only mention this because Sam ended up with a cube of cheese in his coffee. After many poorly suppressed giggles,, he consumed both the coffee and the cheese.  I probably would have cut my losses at that point, but he prevailed.  Other than that, this particular flight was pretty uneventful.

We arrived in Phoenix on time, where we made our way over to our gate for the final flight.  This was another relatively quiet wait.  We had exit row seats, but discovered that we were in different zones for boarding.  So odd.  Anyhoo, they claimed this flight was on time, but we most definitely boarded about fifteen minutes late.  Compared to everything else we'd dealt with on our journey home, this was not a particularly big deal.  The boarding was relatively quick, and the flight was short and rather comfortable, since we had extra leg room in our row.  We also had an empty seat next to us, which is always a plus.

An hour and some change later, we landed in Sacramento.  And sat there.  And sat some more.  After some further sitting, the captain came on the P.A.  We were at our gate, but the jetway wasn't extending.  The captain said he had no communication with the crew on the ground, but said he could see them trying to get the silly thing to work.  A little more sitting there took place, and still no luck.  Finally, we were permitted to exit the plane through the back (of course this happened when our seats were close to the front!) and go down the moveable stairs.  We found our way into the airport, found my dad, and claimed our (still fully in-tact!) luggage.  It was time to pile into the car and head home.  It had been amazing adventure, but it sure was nice to be back in our own abode.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Part 10: A Party, A Volcano, and a Feast

October 30, 2010
I'm sure D and B could have used some help getting ready for G's party, but they were kind enough to let us sleep in, instead.  We took advantage of this opportunity, and leisurely got ready for the day's activities.  When we finally made it downstairs, B had freshly made pancakes (from scratch) ready, with chocolate chips and banana.  There was sausage too.  A very tasty breakfast, indeed.

Shortly after we ate, D, who had been at the community center, returned and requested help in getting everything transported.  We loaded up the car with food and drinks.  Sam and D drove over, while B and I walked.  I pushed the baby in his stroller, B took the grill for a stroll.  Upon arrival, D asked me to deal with the decorations.  I hung up the banner and farm animals and set up some stuff on the tables.  People started showing up early, and everyone who was not already doing something was recruited to blow up balloons.  I rediscovered that I hate this task.  D's friend showed up with the cake.  It was a truly magnificent barn, with all sorts of little farm creatures.

The party began, and from what I could tell, went off without a hitch.  All the kids seemed to ave fun, the adults socialized, meat was grilled and consumed.  While I did not get to try the cake (I just wasn't feeling the need for much sugar at that point), Sam and I did share a Rice Krispies tire from the tractor.  There was also a pinata.  The kids obliterated the poor little cow with a Nerf mace (a Sam and B special).  The kids who were old enough for a blindfold wore a Jason mask with the eyes taped over (a B exclusive).  G started opening presents.  The first bag contained a soft rubber Tonka truck and some clothes...and that was the extent of the present-opening.  G was so into the truck, no amount of persuasion from B could get him interested in the rest of the gifts.  They were taken home with wrapping in tact, for later opening.

The party drew to a close and everyone stuck around to help clean up.  On the way home, we reshuffled our roles.  Sam walked back with B, G and the grill, and I rode with d and all the stuff.  As soon as we got back to the house, the baby went down for a nap, and the rest of us worked together to get everything cleaned up and put away.  The R's had made an appointment with a photographer that afternoon, to commemorate G's big day, so Sam and I had some quiet alone time while they were gone.

Dinner that night was a spread of leftovers from the party (ribs, coleslaw, beans) and sausages from the grill, which D had picked up from the market the day before.  Once again, cleaning up was a team effort while G got his bath and went to bed.

Since it was Halloween weekend, there was a haunted house and stuff set up in the neighborhood.  B had to go sell hot dogs at the event, which he was unbelievably thrilled about (by which I mean, completely bitter).  Sam and I walked over with him and, being total children, decided to go on the haunted hayride.  This was little more than a hayride, covered with a tarp, with some screaming children in the front.  When they didn't get attacked by water balloons at one point (which they were expecting) they started chanting, "Water balloons!" which soon evolved into, "Candy!  Water balloons!"  It kept us entertained.  When we got off the ride, we saw that B was still not fully engaged in hot dog selling, so we got some tickets for the haunted house.  It consisted of several military tents linked together.  There were strobe lights, fog and actors portraying all sorts of spooky characters.  I interacted with a zombie (I think) and woofed at a werewolf.  It was quite well done (the haunted house, not my woofing).

When we got out, B was still just supervising hot dog activities (and in all honesty, we didn't need to be eating at that point anyway), so we walked back to the house.  D was spending some quiet time folding laundry.  We popped in a movie ("Miss Pettigew Lives for a Day"), ate ice cream, and just relaxed for the rest of the evening.

October 31, 2010
We had requested a 7am wake-up call, because we needed to get an early start for our visit to Mount Etna. Morning rolled around, and we heard the usual household sounds - baby crying, dishes in the kitchen and other things of that nature.  After sometime, I finally peeled myself from bed to go look at the clock.  7:38, it told me.  Crap!!  B must have forgotten to knock on our door.  Or maybe we slept through it.  Crappity crap crap crap!  I flew around, trying to get ready.  I took the fastest shower on earth then rushed Sam along to do the same.  It was about 8:15 when we were both ready and made our way downstairs.  (We were supposed to leave by 8am.)  B was in the living room.  He looked up from playing blocks with G and said, "You guys know it's 7:15, right?"  Oops.  We had totally forgotten that the time change had happened that night (one week earlier than the States).  Since we had time to spare, we sat down to a light and simple breakfast of bread (from the excursion to the market on Friday) and butter.

Inspired by B's confidence ("If I go the right way, it should take about an hour to get there."), we embarked on our journey.  We had to make a couple of detours first.  Not all gas stations in Sicily are open on Sundays, so we set out in the opposite direction to get a tank of gas.  We started heading toward our destination then, with another quick detour so that I could take a picture of an amusing road sign.  At that point, we were all keeping an eye on the signs, as sometimes there can be easy to miss.  The drive to Mt. Etna turned out quite well, actually.  B made all the necessary turns and we made it there without much ado. Along the way, I took in the scenery one last time.  At one point, when we had almost gotten to the touristy area, B pulled over.  He wanted to show us a house that had been a casualty of the volcano.  It was half-buried in lava rock and ash, but still accessible and surprisingly in tact.  We climbed over the barricade and explored a tad.  Sam stood on the roof briefly, and we all went inside to look around.  After snapping a few photos, we got back on the road.

I couldn't help but notice the contrast in the landscape.  The whole mountain was covered in black rock.  But amongst the ash, there were lush tress with the most beautiful fall colors - bright yellows and oranges everywhere!  We arrived at our destination, a smallish flat area with shops and things.  This was relatively close to the summit, and we'd had no plans to go all the way to the top anyway.  We didn't have time for that, and it was quickly getting foggy, so we wouldn't have been able to see anything up there anyway.  (By the way, who heard that Mt. Etna erupted recently?  So weird that we were there not that long ago.)  This was our last chance for shopping, so we went from store to store, checking people off our list.  It's amazing how many sculptures and things can be made out of lava rock.  When everyone had been bought for, it was time to head back.  Did I mention that one of the shops offered us samples of grapa and some sort of brittle?  I partook in both.  When we emerged from the shops, we couldn't even see down the mountain, the fog was so thick.  It was quite chilly too.  Great timing to head home.

We managed to make it home without getting lost and only encountering some minor traffic.  We had a bit of down time before our next (and final) activity.  B and G took advantage of this and took naps.  Sam and I relaxed, and D worked on some chores.  Around 12:45, D declared we should get ready to go.  She went to wake up B, and apparently, startled him a bit.  We heard an exclamation from the other room, and D came in saying B had jumped in her face.  Anyway, I digress.  It was agriturismo time!

So an agriturismo is when a family owns a large farm and turns part of it into a restaurant that serves their own goods.  Except you don't get a menu and pick a dish.  You go in and they bring you course after course of amazing fresh food.  The meal lasts for hours, and is absolutely incredible!  We drove over and parked amidst some olive trees.  (We also saw the biggest, fattest worm I've ever encountered in my life.  Gross!)  We were seated right away and quickly realized the rest of the place was filled with a huge party of loud, happy Italians who were apparently celebrating a special occasion.  Almost immediately, food started appearing on our table.

First came bread, wine, water and olive oil that had been pressed just five days earlier.  And then began the appetizer course.  This on its own could have been a full meal.  It was similar to the lunch we'd had at our cooking class, but on a grander scale.  There were countless fresh cheeses, salami, olives (which I did not partake in...turns out, even the freshest, most amazing specimens just don't appeal to me), sun-dried tomatoes, many things I can't even remember them all.  After sampling a dozen delicious things, there was a short pause before the next course.

Pasta came next.  Big, thick noodles with a tasty tomato-based sauce.  This was followed by another pasta dish, which could have also passed for a very thick soup.  The noodles were short and skinny.  I couldn't begin to tell you what the sauce was.  I just know that we were instructed to pour olive oil on it, it was vaguely sweet, and I enjoyed it.  Throughout this course, B and D were in and out, taking turns entertaining the kid outside.  Earlier they had occupied him with unopened birthday presents, left over from the previous day's party.  B decided when the "non-course" of salad came out, that it was his turn for outdoor duty.  The salad was very simple (and thankfully, small).  Just some fresh greens with a light dressing.  I believe it was at this point that Sam and I decided to take a little break (or was it after the meat course...?).  We went outside, walked around a bit and enjoyed the beautiful view.  After a few minutes, D joined us.  She grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos of us.

The meat course came next, and just like the cooking class, this is about the point at which Sam and I slowed down.  Not that things weren't delicious, there had just been a whole lot of eating already done.  The dessert at the end of the meal was delicious!  A nice slab of hazelnut cream.  Have I mentioned that I am a true European and HEART all things hazelnut?  Full or not, I devoured my serving.  It was tempting to accept D's, who declared that she does not enjoy nuts in her dessert, but I resisted.  I had a bite or two, and let B have the rest.  Coffee was being served to finish off this feast, but by then, B and D decided that it was time to get G home, so we paid our bill and departed.  This was probably for the best, as I had been dealing with a headache throughout most of the meal, and it was getting progressively worse, despite taking meds.

When we got home, it was just about time for trick-or-treating to start.  I curled up on the couch upstairs and hid my face in a cushion while Sam and D passed out candy (B had left on an errand as soon as we got back from the agriturismo).  However, when I heard that the first kids were Belle and a Redskins player, I decided to tough it out and see what other cuteness came to the door.  I think my favorite was Mario, complete with a belly.  I sat on the porch with my companions, helped pass out treat bags, and walked G around the driveway.  We even discussed making one last gelato run.

As the day wound down, so did my headache, and the candy supply, so we went inside.  By this time, B had made it back home, but was preparing to leave again for a second night of hot dog sales at the Halloween festivities.  With him being gone, G sleeping, and everyone still so full they could burst, the final gelato stop never happened.  Oh well, it was probably for the best.  Sam settled in for some football and I prepared my luggage, wondering how in the world we were going to get our many fragile ("...must be Italian...") and liquid-filled items home.  I definitely stalled on the packing for a while, but eventually had to start.

D, who is apparently prepared for anything, supplied us with some bubble wrap, which proved super helpful.  I got everything packed up and secured, as did Sam.  Fitting everything in our luggage wasn't a problem.  I was mainly concerned with the massive weight overages we would surely have to pay.  Also the fact that we had several bottles of red wine that would ruin our wardrobes if my packing was not good enough.

Knowing that our flight the next morning was pretty early, I took my last shower in Sicily.  (By the way, the R's have the best shower door.  Even though it's only a small stall, the door has three sliding panels, with tight seals in between.  Totally fabulous!  And fantastic water pressure too!)  And that pretty much sums up our last day on vacation.

P.S. - How I was able to fit into my pants after this trip, I will never know!

Part 9: Catania

October 29. 2010
This being one of our last days in Sicily, D had offered to take us into town to do some shopping and such.  The plan was to head into Motta, but after we piled into the car and got on the road, Sam noticed the plan had changed.  D was braving driving into Catania so that we could see a few other sites and shop  (We were going to go to Catania the next morning with B, but it would have been quite a rushed trip.

We got into town with no incident, and only had to do a little driving around to find parking.  We walked to the fresh fish market.  It was madness.  There were fish, shrimp, snails and all sorts of other edible sea creatures.  This lead into the meat and produce market.  The place was absolutely bustling.  Vendors were showing off their goods, yelling out prices and trying to get everyone's attention.

The market was right next to Elephant Square, a large open area next to the cathedral, with a large elephant statue in the middle.  Sitting at the base of the statue, there was a gentleman, playing the Godfather themem on his accordion.  We were going to explore the cathedral, but there was a service going on, so we walked across the square to the pastry shop (which had been a goal for the day).  Sam got a granita and I, a delicious-looking pastry piled with whipped cream, which I saved for later.   We continued walking through the market, where we stopped by a tiny bread shop (dear lord!  Did we ever stop eating on this trip??).  We got a small loaf of crusty bread, a ring topped with sesame seeds, and a variety of rolls.  The whole lot cost us 2.55 Euro (about $3-4).  I felt like we made out like bandits.

As soon as we walked out of the shop, I tore into the bag of bready goodness (I assure you, I will never go on a low-carb diet).  Some of the rolls were still warm!  I took a bite of roll, and I'm pretty sure I heard music...perhaps heavenly choirs from above?  This roll was soooo good, I accidentally stabbed Sam in the mouth trying to give him a bite.  So we walked the streets of Catania, exploring, taking pictures and eating bread like the starving orphans in Aladdin.  The other rolls we got were, in my opinion, even better than the first ones.  (To this day, if Sam wants to instantly distract me and put me in a great mood, he tells me to think about the bread we ate in Catania.)

We stopped by a coffee shop, where we managed to order and pay for our capuccinos entirely in Italian.  Woo!!  We made it back to Elephant Square, and the service at the cathedral was over, so we went inside to look around and take pictures.  After the cathedral, D informed us that we didn't have much time left before we had to head home.  She was babysitting her friend's son that afternoon.  So, Sam and I went into one of the shops and started picking out souvenirs and gifts for people on our list.  D had opted to stay outside with G; too many breakable objects in the store for her comfort.  When we emerged from the shop, she presented us each with a chocolate bar (citrus for me, pepper for Sam), and we walked to the car.

On the way home, we stopped at the base, where our hostess need to drop something off, and we all needed to get some cash for that evening.  (I had attempted to do this earlier, but was not paying enough attention and ended up getting the wrong currency.)  We rushed home soon after, and Corbin (the baby - just a couple of months younger than G - that D was babysitting) showed up soon after.  It was an afternoon full of babies sleeping, eating, playing and (assisted) walking.  In my case, there was also pastry consumption.  I wanted to share my dessert with Sam, but we quickly discovered that it was soaked in alcohol (likely rum) and, therefore, off-limits to Sam.  Speaking of food, lunch on this day consisted of yummy, yummy bread and the past we had made at our cooking class the day before.  Unfortunately, the noodle had stuck together during storage, but were still very tasty.  In conclusion, our first pasta-making experience had been mostly a success.

Eventually, B came home, Corbin left, and D recruited help to make preparations for G's birthday party the next day.  Come to think of it, some of this started during G's nap a little earlier.  I was on coleslaw duty, as well as beans.  The guys were sent to the store.  When they got back, duties were reassigned, and somehow, I ended up being the one to feed G his dinner, which was totally fine by me.  When that was done, B and D gave him his bath and put him to bed.  Mary (whom we had met at the cooking class and was a good friend of D's) came over with her family to babysit.  The rest of us had big plans that night.  It was finally agriturismo time!

We drove over to the place, buzzed in at the gate and pulled into a completely dark and empty parking area.  The kind gentleman in charge of the establishment led us into an empty reception room.  Somehow, with his lack of English and our lack of Italian, we figured out there had been a miscommunication.  We thought we had reservations for that evening, but it turned out, they were closed.  The poor frazzled man tried desperately to get us to reschedule, but we had to be on our way.  D tried calling the other agriturismos they had been to before, but they could not fit us in that night.

We ended up driving to Motta to have dinner at Donna Fortuna, a restaurant the R's enjoy.  The meal started out with the most welcoming staff in the universe.  When we got to our table, we were served a champagne-like cocktail.  The guys, thinking they were hilarious, started pushing all the glasses toward me, a la mango liqueur in Germany.  Their plan was foiled, however, because D was partaking in drinks this time.  We had two glasses each of the light, refreshing beverage.

B, feeling particularly American, ordered his favorite - pizza with hot dogs and fries - and a Coke.  D had grilled swordfish (very good), Sam had penne with four cheeses (super good), and I had tortellini, served with peas, peppers and mushrooms (delicious!).  Let's not forget, there was fresh bread served with dinner.

When we were done (and trust me, every morsel was eaten), even though we were all quite full, we went for gelato.  Don't judge!  We were only a few doors down from the gelateria from the day before.  It would have been silly not to go.  This time, I had peach and hazelnut.  Another yummy excursion!  And so, another day in Sicily came to a close.