Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rome!


Hi everyone! We just wanted to upload a few pictures and update you all on our most recent trip to Rome! We had heard that Michael Buble was coming to Italy, and since we're both such huge fans, we decided to do an overnight trip to Rome to see him there as an anniversary get away. It was loads of fun! We got there Wednesday afternoon and checked into the hotel, which was about a block away from The Vatican. We then did a little shopping (mostly window shopping, Rome can be expensive!), and had dinner at a little cafe that we've eaten at before. It's quickly becoming a favorite, and it just happened to be right beside our hotel, and we didn't even know it!

The concert was at 9pm, and it was packed! Michael is definitely a favorite here in Italy. They play his music on the radio all the time, and the crowd was singing his songs (in English even!) throughout the night. It was a very fun concert. He is a great showman, and you can really tell that he enjoys himself on the stage. He has a great voice, and there was one point at the end that he cut all the music, put down his microphone, and belted out a few lines of the current song! We were both amazed that even with the not-so-great acoustics in the building, we were able to hear him crystal clear up in the "nose bleed" seats! Amazing!

The group that opened for him was called Naturally 7, an American a-capella band of seven guys who have gotten to be fairly popular here in Europe. They are described as a gospel, R&B, and pop "band" that has covered songs like "In the Air Tonight" and "Broken Wings." They are amazing, and even though neither of us are fans of the genre, we couldn't help but be amazed at the "beatbox" style of music they performed. Every sound was done by their mouths and/or bodies, and it was amazing.

Here's a teenie taste of Michael:

video


On Thursday, we went to Saint Peter's Basilica, took loads of pictures, ooh'd and aah'd and generally had a great time. We spent two hours in the basilica, and Neal, the resident shutterbug (and people thought I was bad), took almost 200 pictures! Of course, not all of them turned out, but he was very pleased with the ones that did, and I'll be uploading those very soon.


Neal at Saint Peter's Basilica...beside a massive marble "thingie" for a former Pope. A lot of the Popes were buried there, and there were these huge pieces all over! We just kept gawking at the massive amounts of gorgeous marble!


This is me before we left for the concert, in our hotel room. It was tiny (probably about 10x12, including the bathroom), but for one night, it worked fine. I even slept really well! And the bed didn't have a huge gap in the middle (Italians will put two twin beds together and call it a King)!


Neal is working this weekend, but we have been told about a store near Naples that we can get lumber at, so we have plans next week to go and get the materials to make a cold frame or two for the garden. We're planning next weekend for our stay at home/gardening weekend.

The weather was bitter cold last weekend, mainly because we had wind gusting up to 25 mph (I think Neal was wondering if he was back in Whidbey Island, lol!). It was around 45 at night and 55 during the days. But yesterday it perked back up, and we're back in the 60's again, so it's really pleasant.


P.S. This is what we saw from our back patio last weekend, in the middle of 25 mph winds!


A close-up:


The Italians like to burn everything: grass clippings, trash, and apparently the mountainside! Amazingly though, it ended up burning a complete circle, then going out as quickly as it started. We asked one of the ladies on base what the purpose of this was (we see random fires on the hills regularly, although not usually that big and close), and she said the shepherds burn all the dead brush and weeds from their pasture land to allow for new stuff in the Spring. Although it is technically illegal, they don't really police it (surprise!), and she said there's never been a problem with one getting out of hand! But with all of the wildfires in California right now, that was just a little bit of a nerve-wrecking sight to see when you walk out to get firewood from your back patio!


We did have fun with the colder weather over the weekend though:



I am back to working out now, so the warmer weather is definitely welcome now that I'm traveling to base daily as well. I have plans next week to start personal training with Mikelauren (the Navy wife I mentioned from Easter Mass), so I'm really going to be busting my rear end back into shape hopefully. The two months off from my ankle sprain were no fun, and I really missed it. Luckily, it seems I haven't lost too much stamina, as I've managed to run three times this week already, and I only had to limit myself because the physical therapist said to do so. Otherwise, I could've kept going, so that's encouraging. Mikelauren is going to help me with weight training, and I'm going to keep running too, so I should be a hot mama in no time! Just kidding, I've got a personal goal to meet by my birthday next year, so Mikelauren's going to be keeping me in line. She's good like that.

Neal has his biannual physical readiness training (PRT) next month, so he's been running again as well. He told me yesterday he ran it easily with only a minute to shave off his time, so I'm not concerned for him at all. I'm sure he'll do fine.

So that's what's going on in our little world! We love keeping up with everyone, and hope you all are doing great! We love you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Minor update and pictures

I know I just updated, but I wanted to post some pictures now that Blogger is back and working. I still had tons of tomatoes left, so I talked to a couple of the Italian women who work on base, and they told me how best to can them for use later. So here are pictures of the process. Overall, I ended up with 15 cans of diced tomatoes, 4 (now 3) of sauce, and 2 of what I call "guts"(basically crushed tomatoes). So I think we're pretty good for the winter.

The tomatoes in the plastic bag were about half of what was originally in there. The ones that were already diced at this point were what I'd already taken out.


Even more, besides the ones in the bag. In all, over 25 pounds!


This was fresh basil that I'd just picked off our own plant. I put a few basil leaves, as well as some garlic in each of the jars with the tomatoes. So they are about 90% home-grown (the garlic wasn't ours).


The first batch, about to be sealed up and then boiled.


Doesn't that just look yum?!


This was the first batch, ready for boiling. The cans are about 24 ounces maybe, so we've definitely got plenty of tomatoes for chili, spaghetti sauce, salsa, marinara, pizza sauce, etc...


On another note, I had a couple of people ask how to post comments on the blog because they were having issues. I did some research and realized that when I set it up, Blogger automatically only allows fellow Blogger members to post comments. However, I've changed it now so that anyone can comment. I still moderate them, so they won't show up until I've approved them, but it emails me anytime someone comments, so it shouldn't take me long to get to them.

Thanks for looking!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hello again!

Hey everybody! Sorry it's been so long since I last posted. Somehow, I manage to let the pictures get all stacked up on me before I sit down to post again. But I'm loving the Shutterfly website, as I've posted all of our pictures there, and everyone can scroll through them at their leisure. I'll still post a few here, but I'll put the link below for the whole set.

Note: when I posted this, the Blogger site was having issues uploading pictures, so I couldn't add any here. But you can still check the link below, and you should get access to all of our pics there.

Well, it's been a crazy few weeks around here. We cleaned up the garden with the exception of a plant or two before we had two guests from Knoxville. One of Neal's college buddies, Chris Brown, and a friend of his from church, also Chris, came to visit for a week. We very quickly took to calling them Thing One and Thing Two, and though it was a whirlwind of a tour, we had loads of fun! I got to take them around the area for the first two days while Neal was working, then Neal had three days off and we all went carousing around the area. They had been in Scotland before coming to Italy, then were heading out to Germany and Spain, then back home to Knoxville.

The first day we went to Pompeii, then on the second we went to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Unfortunately, Neal wasn't able to do either of those with us since he was working, but we decided that he and I will have to take a long weekend to Positano on our own soon. You'll understand when you see the pictures! On our way back from Positano, we missed the last train to Naples, and thus ensued a hilarious comedy of errors for the night, during which we argued with train conductors, I learned I know more Italian than I thought I did, and poor Neal had to drive to the Naples base around 2am to pick us up after working all day. We ended up getting in bed that night around 4am, but were able to laugh about it the next day, so all went well. It was quite the frustrating situation, but all-in-all we learned alot from it, and are much more comfortable with transportation in the area.

Friday, the third day they were here, we slept in and just chilled. That afternoon, we walked around a local historic site, Minturnae, and then went to a WWII War Memorial near the house. It really was the most beautifully kept area we've seen in Italy. The Italians aren't all that big on landscaping and keeping grass healthy and weeds under control, but this area would've rivaled many golf courses back home, and was immaculately kept.

Saturday and Sunday we toured Rome, including all the big tourist spots. We saw the Colloseum, Palantine Hill, Saint Peter's Square and the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. We took loads of pictures, and really enjoyed all the sights of Rome. Having friends visiting was really nice, especially being able to talk about friends and family back home and how everyone is doing there. The house was definitely not as quiet as usual, and it was really nice. They left to finish their tour of Europe before heading back home before the UT-Georgia game.

After they left, Neal and I both managed to get allergy/sinus colds, so we've been taking it easy for a week or two. We had been noticing the yellow pollen everywhere, but even through allergy medication, still managed to eventually succumb to it. We're doing better now though, and looking forward to Neal's next few days off.

We're already planning our winter garden, and we've got big plans for a couple of cold frames with lettuce, spinach, onions, carrots, and whatever else we come up with before then. The garden is really looking great. This past week, we took down the fencing and expanded it for the winter garden. Neal's got plans in his head for landscaping the rest of the grassy area back there, and we're just waiting for him to get the time to be able to do it. He's enjoying playing back there, and it's making a huge difference. It's definitely relaxing, and has been a great way for us to do something constructive together.

Neal has just finished a couple of his business classes, and is finishing up week two of his next batch. They're keeping him busy, but he's really excited to be back on track with his degree. His estimate is to finish up the degree, including a real estate certificate by Spring of 2009. He's doing really well, and while the material isn't always the most thrilling, he's sticking to it!

I finally made it to see a physical therapist about my ankle. The news wasn't thrilling, but it was good overall. He informed me that I somehow managed to pull two of the three tendons in the ankle (go figure). But he did say they were healing well. He gave me the okay to ride a bike (Neal had just gotten me one the day before), get back to working out 100%, and only limited me on running. He said that I could use the elliptical, but the treadmill is definitely a no-go, at least until after Christmas, or he re-evaluates the ankle. I'm definitely at about 99% now, as I can walk/run as needed, and rarely feel any kind of soreness or swelling, so that's good. But I'm really ready to start running again, so we'll see how that goes. I have another appointment later this month, so maybe he'll clear me to at least run on the track. I can at least hope!

Other than that, there's not much else to update on. We have a couple of minor trips in the works, and we'll definitely update on those as we do them. There's a few classes and field trips that are being offered on base, as well as an Italian language program starting next week, so it looks like the Fall will definitely be busy.

We love you all, and miss you dearly! We are really looking forward to making a trip back home as soon as we can, and can't wait to catch up with everyone!

You can view the pictures at this site: http://nealandjaniephillips.shutterfly.com. You'll need a password, which I have already sent out in the blog email. If you don't have it, please email me at janiephillips@gmail.com, and I'll give it to you. Sorry for the hassle, but no need to deal with all the crazies on the internet. Thanks!