Friday, December 31, 2010

a long (and amateur) poem

Where We've Been in Two Thousand and Ten
by Katherine Blaine

In February we found it was written
we'd move to Italy, a place to be smitten.
We had four more months to enjoy the place where we were,
in love with Oklahoma, and sad to go for sure.

We promised Libbey we would visit Chicago,
in April we loaded a plane with our cargo,
and flew to the city people call "windy"
to ride on a Ferris wheel called "Cindy"(not really)

After that we were met with the very sad news
of Grandpa Condon's death, so we had to choose
to go to Spokane and grieve the loss of a man
whom many loved dearly, who showed us we can

June 1st came along in the blink of an eye.
We drove to Dallas after saying goodbye
to Amy and her boyfriend Cody who'd ferried
from Texas to ask if Amy'd like to get married.

Spokane is where we landed once again
to be with our family and loving friends.
We also went to Oregan to visit Gramps,
and then we hit up Seattle, where we lit some lamps.

With Uncle Michael, we had fun on our road trip,
and back in Spokane our stomachs began to flip.
We laughed and we cried before beginning our trek
to Naples, Italy, were we say "What the heck?"

From Naples, I flew to the United Kingdom
to be with Lauren and enjoy some freedom
from motherhood and the hassle of dealing
with finding a home and mold on the ceiling.

Since then we have seen the famous Tuscan sun
as well as Rome and Campania, a region of fun.
Let's never forget our trip to Barcelona
with dancing and art I wish I could have shown ya.

Assisi is where we spent our Thanksgiving
a place where you feel the saints are still living.
Onward to Germany, we stopped in Innsbruck,
a place I will reside, should I find some luck.

We also spent a day skiing in the Alps,
where it was so cold, we could not feel our scalps.
Then Stuttgart spread to us its holiday cheer,
So as we drove home, there was never a sneer.

At home, we celebrated the birth of the Lord,
and sang a few songs, that were a little off chord.
And now I am tired, so I need a nap.
So, this is the end of this poem of sap.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

my favorites

Just wanted to share a couple of my recent favorite pictures of Graham. It's hard to get a good one these days, because he always wants to make silly faces...

Anyway, have a good day!

Monday, December 27, 2010


Okay, so living in a poor region of a foreign country is not always, well, it's not always easy. In fact, it can sometimes be downright paralyzing, because when you go to do something, it rarely ever goes as expected. It usually takes about 15 extra steps to accomplish something that should have taken half a step. Or, sometimes, you are completely blocked from doing what you wanted and all you can do is roll with it.

We spent most of Christmas Eve day with some friends sharing stories about how we've had to roll with it several times. For instance, one friend said she wanted to purchase a sweater, but the store had already closed its register and simply wouldn't let her buy it. Not the way they do business in the US, right? Another very common sight around here are restaurants with their owners sitting outside around 6 or 7 pm-when we usually eat dinner-refusing to let anybody in until at least 8 pm. This is one that continues to surprise me. They take their rest hours very seriously here. Rest hours do not exist in the US.

So, the list went on and on and we laughed and moan and cried to help each other get through it and focus on all the positive things about living here. Like good tomatoes and beautiful views.

On our way home, our car busted. Completely.

Since it was Christmas Eve, we figured we would be walking home and dealing with the problem later. We absolutely did not expect for a police car to stop and help us, for the tow truck to show up in less than fifteen minutes, for a passerby to offer a ride to our other car at our house, for the police officers to let us wait in their car because it was pouring rain, for our Italian friend to suggest a good mechanic, and for the mechanic to show up right as the tow truck was pulling in to open his garage. Incredible efficiency. Unbelievable. I have had my fair share of car troubles in the US, and never, ever, has the process of towing gone so smoothly.

And so, I believe I owe this town an apology.

I'm sorry. I hope we can still be friends.

And thank you for continuing to surprise me.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

3 things I learned in Sorrento

We consider ourselves pretty lucky that Sorrento is a hop and a skip away from our home, because it is a hot destination for shopping, beach-going, and limoncello purchasing.

I got a lead from a good friend about the best Cannoli in the world residing at "Bar Rita," which sits in the heart of Sorrento, so I decided to follow up on it. I'm glad I did, because not only did I have a good time, I also learned a thing or two in this quaint town.

I learned that you should never, ever mistake a private parking garage for a public one after reading Gomorrah. You might get locked inside the garage and start wondering what, exactly, is inside those closed "parking" spaces. Then, you realize that things could go one of two ways. Either someone will come along and push a button to help you get out, or someone will come along and dispose of you because you stumbled upon their smuggling hide-out. Not a good situation to find yourself in. Next time, we'll just take a train to Sorrento and save ourselves from dying of fear.

I also discovered that, indeed, "Bar Rita" is the producer of the best Cannoli. I can't thank my source enough for this lead!

Lastly, I learned I have a "Christmas tree" setting on my camera. I know that Christmas day has come and gone, but if you're Catholic or Italian or both, you get to continue celebrating the Christmas season for 12 more days! So, enjoy these scenes from Christmastime in Sorrento.

And please keep quite about the whole Gomorrah thing... Wouldn't want any mobsters to find out I've been reading it...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Boun Natale and nostalgia

Nostalgia is getting the better of me this week.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

exchanging gifts

I just had lunch with our neighbor, who is Graham's babysitter when we go on dates, and who is quickly becoming our friend. I fed her an American lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gave her a traditional American Christmas gift of homemade cookies. She gave me some homemade wine and Graham an overly obnoxious toy truck. Both of which happen to be Italian Christmas traditions.

Lucky for me, this neighbor speaks English, so we could have us a regular conversation about the differences between American Santa Claus and Italian Babbo Natale. The main difference? Babbo Natale drives a motorini instead of a sleigh.

Just kidding. There really doesn't seem to be much difference. Santa is a Santa is a Babbo Natale.

I've also been meaning to tell you about the Nativity scenes over here. They're everywhere. They're unique. They come in all shapes and sizes. They include a whole village of people and animals, rather than the usual Holy Family scene. You are supposed to buy whatever shape you like and then you buy individual characters to fill it up. You can't find them in the US, and if you buy one here, you can't take it back to the US. Customs won't allow it on account of the fact that the type of wood and moss used to build them contain an unknown (in the US, that is) species. Apparently, they frown upon introducing unknown species in the US of A.

Anyway, I hope you're enjoying this week before Christmas. I also hope to show you some Christmas lights from Sorrento, because we are going to spend the day there tomorrow!

Monday, December 20, 2010

oranges and Christmas

You can't go far 'round these parts without seeing trees covered in oranges this time of year. They are such a beautiful contrast to the gray of winter.

Oranges will always make me think of Christmastime, because Santa always left one in my stocking.

This year, Santa (our generous landlord) brought me a whole crate!

We are having fun creating new traditions and passing on the old ones to Graham this year. He is really feeling the Christmas spirit. We've decided to stay home for the holiday, because I believe being home with family on Christmas is the best place to be. I think we'll stick to that decision. But, we are starting to feel the itch to do some exploring, so we might go somewhere on Thursday and Friday since Tony doesn't have to work.

So get ready for more Blaine family rambling.

When it comes Christmas morning, though, you will find me covered in a blanket on my couch eating oranges and watching Graham open gifts.

Where will you be on Christmas day?

Friday, December 17, 2010

the hardest part

about living in Italy is that I don't get to be with my good friends and family to celebrate things like the holidays and birthdays.

I didn't expect to make a best friend when we were told we'd have to live in Oklahoma, so imagine my surprise on "girl's night," when Amy arrived and we said, "Really, me too" about a hundred times and deemed ourselves best friends forever (bff) that very night.

Amy brings out the side of me that I love. She helps me come out of my shell and be fun and carefree and happy.

While she deserves a reputation for being fun-loving and carefree, I know she also has a big heart that cares deeply and is passionate about helping people.

One of the things Amy I have in common is our love for music-we even love the same type of music-, and so for her birthday, I would like to dedicate this song to her by Tom Petty, who always says it best.

Some days are diamonds
Some days are rocks
Some doors are open
Some roads are blocked

Sundowns are golden
Then fade away
But if I never do nothing
I'll get you back some day

Cause you got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down

And all around your island
There's a barricade
It keeps out the danger
It holds in the pain

Sometimes you're happy
Sometimes you cry
Half of me is ocean
Half of me is sky

But you got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down

And some things are over
Some things go on
And part of me you carry
Part of me is gone

But you got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down

Baby you got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down
They fall down

Happy birthday, BFF!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

enjoying the view

I get to spend several hours a day just staring at this out my front window. I believe that if you have something nice, you should share it, so I am sharing it with you.

Have a beautiful Thursday!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

wild turkey chase

Sometimes, Graham stumps me when he asks a question. I usually try to give him a reply, but sometimes I can't think of anything clever or nice to say, so I say nothing at all. When this happens he tends to repeat the question over and over until he gets some sort of response. Lately, rather than repeat the entire question, he has resorted to just saying the last word of his question.

For instance, we took the train into old Napoli over the weekend to check out Christmas Alley.

We have learned our lesson about trying to drive in the heart of Naples, so we found a train stop somewhat close to our house.

Exiting the train, we were thrown into the chaos that defines this city. Graham tried walking himself, but after nearly getting nicked by 3 mopeds cruising the sidewalks, I decided to carry him. Tony and I were focused on the street signs, or lack thereof, when Graham started asking me something about a turkey. "A turkey, mom?" "A turkey?" "Turkey?" "Tuurr---kkeeeyy??" I had nothing clever or nice to say, and it is difficult for me to talk and breathe at the same time while carrying Graham-he's heavy!- so I chose to say nothing at all.

We turned around to find a live rooster roaming the streets with two guys chasing after him. I dropped Graham and grabbed the camera, but they caught the turkey before I could get a photo to prove to you that, indeed, there was a rooster in the city. Notice the rooster in the man's hands, and the smiles on their faces. Who knows how long they'd been chasing that thing.

Graham still keeps asking about a turkey, and I still have no real explanation, except to say, "It was a rooster, bud. Not a turkey."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the perfect tree

December 12th is my dad's birthday, which also means it's time to hunt for a perfect Christmas tree. When I was a kid, my dad took tree-hunting very seriously.

This weekend, to honor the day of my dad's birth, we went out looking for a tree. It turns out that there are a few contrasts between tree-hunting in Naples and tree-hunting with my dad in the snowy mountains of Star Valley, Wyoming.

First of all, notice the greenery in Naples. This was never the case when I was a kid. There was always plenty of snow by this time of year.

Next, we did not have to purchase a permit from "Bart's" over here. Instead, we had to barter with the owner of the shrubbery.

In Wyoming, we would bundle up and hike all day long with no food or water until our snot and tears were frozen to our faces and we could not feel our toes. This year, we just had to drive until we found a place that sells live trees, and we got to stop for cappuccino along the way.

As a kid, after freezing to the point of numbness and finally deciding on a tree, we would have to cut it down and drag it all the way back to the car ourselves. This time, we had some help.

Believe it or not, there were some similarities I noticed, as well. We didn't just pick the first tree we liked, but drove around until we found the perfect one. My dad used to put bright orange flagging tape on a tree that he liked and then say, "Come on. We gotta look some more. There might be something better." And, even though I would cry every year when I was younger on account of my freezing feet, I remember feeling elated and giddy when we'd pick our tree, and I was always excited to do it again the next year.

I hope that Graham will look back on his tree-hunts as fondly as I do mine.

Thanks for making Christmas so much fun, Dad. Buon Compleanno!

And, War Eagle!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

he's gonna be a photographer

Thanks to a few quick lessons from Devin Francis, Graham started experimenting with photography. All of the above photos are unedited, or straight out of the camera, as true photogs would say, taken by the one and only Graham Thomas.

What do ya think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

adventures with mama graham part 3, 4, and 5

Last week, Graham and I had three days to explore and have adventures in the land of Stuttgart, Germany.

Day 1: We navigated the public train system together and found ourselves at the beautiful Christmas market. Graham rode the rides, and we stuffed ourselves silly at one of the many food tents.

This tent was particularly good, because you got a huge bowl of food, which I later learned was called maultasche, for only 4 Euro! And, a kind, local gentleman explained to us the tradition behind this food. He said that, long ago, the Swabians didn't want to completely give up meat on Good Friday, which is the usual religious custom. So, they found a way to chop it up and hide it in spinach and dough. They figured God couldn't see it, so they weren't doing anything wrong. All I know is that it was delicious and I kept hearing my German great-grandmother's voice telling me to "EAT!"

We ended up going back to that tent with Tony the following night for dinner. Tony had 3 helpings, because when he went back for seconds, it was only 2 Euro, and thirds was only 1 Euro! Tony can't pass up a good deal.

Day 2: I suggested we go to the dinosaur museum. It was very cold outside, so I figured an indoor activity would be just right. Graham stated that he had no interest whatsoever in going to a museum. He said he wanted to go swimming. Swimming? In the winter?

It turns out there are many indoor swimming pools in Stuttgart, so we picked one and tried to find it. It was a great cultural experience, because the place was packed with locals taking a break from the cold. The water was warm and there were tons of kids. It was the perfect Stuttgart experience. Nice suggestion, Graham!

Day 3: We couldn't resist the Christmas market, so we went back for some ice-skating and eating! Yep, I went back to my favorite food tent again. It was still very delicious, but let's talk about Graham on ice. He loved it, thanks to the little penguin he could hang on to. I also found myself giggling and saying "wee" like a little girl. We could have stayed all day, but mama graham was hungry and needed to get to her special food tent. Oh, there I go again talking about the food tent. Sorry.

I'll stop now, but first I want to tell you that I bought some potatoes and am going to attempt to make the kind I had from that tent.

Okay, I promise. I'm done.