Sunday, January 20, 2008

We are alive, I promise!

(Back in Memphis, relaxing and loving being home again!)

I'm so sorry it's been forever since I updated the blog! We went home earlier this month, and it seemed like I got nothing done the entire month of December, leading up to our leaving. Since we got back, I've been having a hard time adjusting to the time change, and Neal's had a sinus infection, so needless to say, I've not really been able to update. But here goes!

We left for the US on Dec 28th, but hit a snag with our first flight. We got to the airport 45 minutes before the flight, but due to horrible Italian security, we got to the gate literally 2 minutes late, and the plane was already gone. Who knew leaving the house at 6am wouldn't give us time to catch a 10:45am flight?!? Travel is seriously interesting over here, that's for sure.

Fortunately, we were able to grab another flight to Amsterdam, but we weren't able to catch one from Amsterdam to the US until the next day, so we got an overnight vacation in Amsterdam. We thoroughly enjoyed the Dutch people; they are extremely pleasant, helpful, and almost everyone speaks English - a real plus after living in Italy. We ate dinner at an Argentinian steakhouse, then walked around the city center. We were also able to do some last-minute Christmas shopping for our families while we were there.

The next morning, we were able to catch another flight out to Memphis, and arrived around 6pm local time. We had belated Christmas dinner with the Phillips parents, and really enjoyed all the hugs and kisses and time together. We brought Mom and Dad P a couple of mugs and some chocolates from Amsterdam, as well as some of our canned tomatoes and dried basil from the garden, which was really fun!

Because we wanted to visit the Carcello family while Stephen and the girls were out of school, we left the next morning, and drove to Knoxville for the first half of the visit. We were so excited to see everyone again, and the hugs and kisses started all over again!

The first night we were there, we all exchanged gifts (the flight over was supposed to be our Christmas gift, but nobody sticks to that, including us!). Mama C loved her tomatoes and basil too, and we brought some blue and white wooden ornaments for the Carcello Christmas tree. We also were able to surprise Karen and Sarah big-time! Back in January of last year, before we left for Italy, they said that all they wanted from Europe were "some of those wooden shoes." We weren't sure at the time whether we'd ever get to Amsterdam, but we told them we'd try to get some by the time we moved back. Given our overnight trip there, we were able to find some adorably painted authentic shoes, and the girls were so excited! We had them close their eyes, and even Mom gasped when she saw them! They had completely forgotten about asking for them, and were walking around the house in them the entire time we were home (which we didn't think about Mom and Dad having wood floors - sorry guys!). Overall, they were definitely a hit.

While we were in Knoxville, which wasn't long enough at all, we also got to have New Years' Eve dinner with some of our college friends. We watched the UT bowl game on New Years' Day. And we went outlet shopping with Mom and the girls. Dad made his famous ribs on the grill, which were very quickly devoured. We finally got to see "Facing the Giants." And Karen and Sarah got to tell us all about the labrador puppy they're going to get! It was so nice to be back at home, and we really hated leaving again.

Back in Memphis, we had more shopping to do (there are tons of things we can't get over here, or are ridiculously expensive). We also got to just spend some time with the Herman and Peggy, which was nice. Daddy P took us out to eat one night at a local steakhouse, and we were served HUGE steaks! I also got to cook for Mama P one night while we were there (Chicken Marsala!), and we had a great time overall, though WAY too short!

Our trip back was not nearly as eventful, which was fine with us. After our flight into Rome, we still had a couple hours of train rides to get home. We got back just in time for Neal to get some dinner and get ready for work. Neither of us were ready to leave home again; it was much harder this time. But we're already planning our next trip home to be much longer and much more calm!

Unfortunately, as soon as we got back, Neal started having sinus problems. With being on nights, and the horrible sleep schedule that causes, it's really been kicking his tail. This past weekend he was coughing so much that he lost his voice. Luckily he seems to at least be feeling better, and with some rest of his voice, it seems to be (slowly) coming back. We're hoping that he can take the long weekend he has this week to rest and finish healing up.

Other than adjusting to getting back into our groove here, there's not much going on. It rained the first week or two after we got home, but it's been sunny now for a couple of days, and it's supposed to stay that way for the next week. Though it's recently been very windy, the temperature here is around 35-45 at night and 45-55 during the day, so we can't complain at all. Hopefully it will stay like this well into Spring.

Our baby garden grew by leaps and bounds while we were gone! The boxes really protected them from the elements, and they're doing really well! Unfortunately, so were the weeds, but I was able to get out there on one of the sunny days and tilled up the weeds, and babied the plants some. Here are some pictures:

The entire area, with our boxes open for some sun.

The box below has some parsley and chervil thriving well. The thyme is finally trying to peek out. There is basil as well, and I counted three sprigs today that are trying to break the surface. I'm afraid the oregano and mint that I also planted in here may be DOA's. The big bushy plant there right in the middle is a cilantro plant (I finally found cilantro for salsa!) that I keep in the box for the still cold nights. I have a second plant that I planted outside of the box just to see how it fares.

Behind the box, almost out of the picture, are three extra rows of carrots (on the right and center), and the one row on the left is more of the larger scallions. Those were extra seeds that wouldn't fit in the boxes, so I planted them outside to see if they survived. They're doing great, and are just growing a little slower than the box herbs/veggies. But that way, we'll have a second harvest of herbs/veggies.

The second box (below) contains two rows of carrots (on the right), as well as one row of two types of scallions! The bottom half contains the bigger scallions, which seem to be doing better, and the more sparse top half is the smaller ones we Americans are used to.

Back behind the box in the big square patch is where I threw the rest of the parsley seeds I had left, and they're doing very well! The row in the middle is another row of chervil. And the one small plant on the right is the second cilantro plant.

We're planning on getting some more tomato plants going soon (mid-February we'll be starting seeds), as well as some peas, bell peppers, squash, eggplant (maybe), and whatever else tickles our fancy. We're really looking forward to our garden this year, since we know how well the tomatoes did last year. We can't wait to start playing with it all. We're going to take pretty much the entire side of the yard here for a veggie/herb garden. Also, our landlords are letting us use some of the space behind the house for more tomatoes! We've already used most of our canned tomatoes, so we're looking to can even more next year. I'm going to be a busy bee this fall!

Last, but not least, we have some bulbs that we potted back in the fall that are starting to come up. We'll post more pictures as they start blooming.

I will try and update a little more often. We love you all and miss you dearly! Feel free to email us, or put comments on the page. We love hearing from everyone!

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