Tuesday, May 31, 2011

R & R

The consensus on the all-inclusive weekend getaway?

It was, well, it was a little boring, actually.

But, it was also very relaxing and worth it to see Graham have so much fun with his friend.

Aaaand, okay, we just couldn't help ourselves from doing some sight-seeing along the way. I mean, who could resist seeing an ancient trulli village?

Then, we just had to leave the compound for a few hours to visit a local winery and receive a private tour.

Other than that, we enjoyed the boredom and the beach and the food and the time to relax with one another. 

It's a tough life over here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

uncharted waters

Tony and I like to think of ourselves as more of the adventurous traveler types, rather than the all-inclusive traveler types. We usually like to find our own inexpensive hotel, ride the public transit, eat the street food, read our own guidebooks from the library, and opt out of showering in order to have more time for sightseeing.

That's just how we roll. It suits us. We like it.

Tomorrow, the Ramblin Fam is embarking on uncharted waters, and not just because we are going to a part of Italy we have yet to see.

We are going to a resort.

On a beach.

An all-inclusive sort of thing.

With other American families (including Graham's good buddy) that are members of this special club.

We didn't have to do any planning, hotel searching, or guidebook reading. We just paid the ridiculously low price and we're set to hit the road in the morning. We'll arrive to a prepared lunch, then a prepared dinner, and when we wake up after sleeping in what promises to be a very comfortable bed, they'll have breakfast and beach shuttles and showers!

All we have to do is show up.


Let me emphasize three points in order to clarify why we made this decision, rather than sticking to our usual way of doing things.

1) Graham's good friend is going, which means he will have a really good time and not have to rely on his boring parents for entertainment.

2) The ridiculously LOW price. Truly unbelievable. This club just finds good deals. I don't know the details. I didn't ask.

3) It is in the region of Puglia on the Adriatic Sea. Um, I was about to go into an explanation about how we want to see as much of Italy as possible, but, well, I don't think going to the Adriatic Sea needs explaining.

I promise we'll go back to the adventurous side. We're just taking a little break. 

I hope you all have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend.

*Photo courtesy of Il Valentino, the resort where we'll be spending our Memorial Day weekend, which starts on Friday for us, because we're in Naples, and they military here likes to have 4 day weekends, instead of the usual 3 days. I might be rambling, but I am not complaining.*

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

up and running

It turns out that all I had to do was plug in a cord to make the internet work. Something's gone awry with the wireless, though.

Anyway, none of that is very interesting.

Guess what I recently discovered?

I can check out the Rosetta Stone from the library on the military base here. For free. I started today, and I'm already a little obsessed.

If you don't hear from me for awhile again, it's probably because I'm knee deep in learning Italian language skills with Graham.

He's a little obsessed with it, too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

technical difficulties

Dear Loyal Blog Readers of Mine,

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the incredible lack of content on Ramblin' Fam as of late. We're having some trouble with the internet here at the Blaine Villa. I'll let you know when things are working smoothly again.

Also, sorry for the lack of photo on this one. I think it would take around 10 years to upload a picture with the way our connection is working right now.

Please know that I appreciate your readership and promise to return as soon as possible.

I'll be missing you.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

one step closer


All of a sudden, this kid is about to turn four years old in less than a month.

I don't normally blog about Graham's milestones, but I just have to announce that it is safe to say he no longer needs a diaper or pull-up at night. I'm really happy about this. Really. I am.

Why am I crying, then?

Well, it's just that it's a huge step out of babyhood, out of toddler-hood, and toward full blown kid-hood.

It's all just happening so fast.

I need some time to process.

At least he's still young enough that when asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he responds, "Just... Play."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

final words on Istanbul

There hasn't been a whole lot of excitement in my life since leaving Istanbul, so I keep finding my thoughts drifting to the markets and the mosques and wishing I had some Turkish Delight or chai to satisfy my taste buds.

But, alas, all I have now are memories, and so I'd like to share one with you. 

One thing I learned during our visit to Istanbul was how to haggle down a price. We were warned that most of the prices seen in the markets are marked up and the sellers expect you to offer around 50% less than what you see. We also learned that most everywhere in Istanbul accepts Lira, Euros, and good old American dollars. If you carry dollars, though, be ware of the insane amount of solicitation you will receive. Everyone wants to help you spend your money and they can be rather convincing at times. You have to be careful to even stop and look at something, because if you look longer than one second, they assume you want to buy it and start shoving it in your face until you feel completely rude saying, "No thanks" for the thousandth time.

One guy even helped us get into the Blue Mosque (which we easily could have achieved without his help, but still) and then waited for us (I have no idea how he even found us again, because there were hundreds of people there) to take us to his carpet shop. There, we were served tea, Graham was given a balloon, and we were told to make ourselves at home. The next thing we knew, we were considering spending our life savings on a handmade rug. I'm not sure how we managed to make it out of there without spending a dime.

Must have had something to do with the fact that I have anxiety over spending 10 dollars, let alone 10,000...

After a day in the Grand Bizarre getting hassled and asked to pour all our money out of our pockets, I was spent. We excited the Bizarre and there was a 12-year-old boy selling a really neat spinning top toy. Graham and I were both enamored, so, of course the boy begged us to buy it.

I asked, "How much?"

He replied, "Ten Lira."

I exclaimed, "Ten Lira! No way! That is too much!"

He replied, "Eight Lira."

I exclaimed, "I only have two Euro. Will you take two Euro?"

He replied, "No."

But, he didn't walk away and kept begging me to pay. I remembered reading somewhere in my Istanbul travel research that if you really want something you literally have to put the amount of money you'd like to pay into the person's hand, grab the item, and quickly walk away. To me, this sounded a lot like stealing, but I really wanted this toy, because a good toy can keep Graham entertained for hours while we walk through museums and whatnot. I was a desperate mother who did not want to disappoint her only son. Just then, I realized I was already holding the spinning top because the boy had given it to me to try, so I put the coin in his hand, told Tony to grab the stroller and RUN. We ran for several minutes, my heart skipping a beat the whole time, before I dared look back.

"I think he's gone," I gasped.

"Fwhew," Tony gasped. 

I felt like a thief in the night. Every time I heard a jingle that sounded like a spinning top, I would run for cover. I'm pretty sure I'd still run if I heard someone approaching with one today.

I'm so guilty!

And that is how I handled my very first (and only) bargaining experience in a foreign country, and how I came to buy this wooden, spinning top that has now broken off its string, which managed to unravel.

Graham did get a few good hours in with the toy, but I'm sure glad I didn't pay 10 Lira for the thing.

Once again, thank you for listening and have a great day and goodbye.

Monday, May 16, 2011

JB goes to Istanbul

I think by now, you all know of Graham's slight obsession with Justin Bieber and how he likes to pretend to be JB from time to time.

Well, all of that changed in Istanbul...

A friend told me prior to going to Istanbul that Graham would receive much attention from the people there due to his blonde hair and blue eyes. I didn't think much of it, since we're sort of used to that around here. Most places we go, he is doted over and receives some sort of candy or trinket from at least one person on every outing.

Nothing could have prepared us, though, for the amount of attention he received in Istanbul. Everyone would pat his head, pinch his cheeks, give him kisses, or simply just stare at him. I noticed when we were standing outside waiting for a bus or train, everyone in the passing buses and trains would point and stare and smile. As we shopped, people loved handing him pieces of Turkish Delight, and one man even gave him a free fish at a restaurant where we ate.

At times, Graham was swarmed by people wanting to take his picture and have their picture taken with him.

The change that occurred was that I think Graham might have started believing he was actually Justin Bieber. Given that the majority of his fans were teenager girls, I can understand his confusion.

As a result, he became a little less shy and started putting on dance performances in the middle of the streets. Something he once reserved only for living room dance parties and weddings.

Look out Justin Bieber. You might just have some competition on your hands.

In a few years.

He needs some time to grow and learn to dance from someone other than his incredibly untalented and uncoordinated mother. ..

Saturday, May 14, 2011

a little taste of Istanbul

Istanbul is mind-blowingly




and delicious.

I was moved by the sheer breadth of its history,


the friendliness of its people,


and the depictions of Christian and Muslim religions colliding.


I've never been a history buff, but Istanbul changed me a little and now I am more interested in history than ever.

Change is good, right?

Stay tuned for more about Istanbul. There's so much to tell. And more to show.

Friday, May 13, 2011

where did it go?

I don't know what happened, but somehow my post about Istanbul got deleted or something. Anyone ever had this happen? Where did it go??

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

home sweet home

....and here we are pretending to conquer Constantinople by breaking through its protective wall...

After a rather exhausting trip to exciting Istanbul, it is taking me a long time to go through all the pictures and decide which ones I want to share with you.

For now, I just wanted to let you know that the ramblin' fam is home safe and sound and happy and tired.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

fava beans

I don't have much time to tell you what I did to make those fava beans taste good, because I am packing up to go to Istanbul (not Constantinople) this afternoon! I will just show you and you can use your imagination and pretend I wrote something.

Have a wonderful Wednesday. We'll be in Istanbul celebrating Mother's Day for about a week, so I'll see you when we get back. 

Happy Mother's Day to all you mamas!

Now, sing with me: "Istanbul was Constantinople, Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople ..."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the news

Back when I was in high school and first moved to Spokane, we spent a few months living with my grandparents. During that time, I witnessed my Grandpa's steadfast morning routine.  He'd wake up bright and early, except Sundays. He said my Grandma made him rest on Sundays. He'd lace up his sneakers, hook the leash onto the dog,  and jog around the neighborhood, rain or shine. When he returned, he'd shower, shave, pour himself a cup of coffee and a tall glass of orange juice, and open up his fresh, local newspaper that had arrived in his mailbox that morning, then sit at his kitchen table and read it. He'd absorb as much of it as possible before grabbing his briefcase and driving to work. I always admired this routine while simultaneously finding it weird. I noticed how he would leave the house feeling alert, exercised, refreshed, and informed, but thought it was insane that a person could do the exact same thing every morning (except Sundays).  Especially the whole reading the newspaper part. How boring!

This morning, I found myself jogged, showered, shaved (legs, that is), sipping tea and reading the news on the internet.


Guess the 'ol apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Or does it? Since, in this instance it skipped a generation. Can I even still use that phrase, then?


Anyway, in light of all the recent crazy events around the world, I have decided to make reading the news a priority for me in the mornings. I've discovered that I don't like being blindsided by information. I'd rather read it for myself in the comfort of my villa and give myself a few minutes to process before having to respond to anyone about it, or listen to other people proclaim their responses about it.

I wonder what sort of format the news will be in when my grand kids find me absorbing it in the mornings.


I'm not really sure why I'm sharing this with you. I was going to tell you what I did with all those fava beans, but it just didn't feel quite right in wake of the goings-on in the world.

I guess I'll save that excitement for another day.