Monday, January 31, 2005

We're HOME!

Home at last! Six weeks is a LONG time to be gone from home and a VERY long time to live out of a suitcase! For various reasons, we moved around a lot on this trip, packing and unpacking over and over. Initially we stayed at my sister’s house for the first three days, simply because her house was closer to the airport and more convenient for the person who picked us up. (Thanks Sherry!)

On Saturday we moved to my daughter’s house. Nicholas had a hockey game that day, and later we would baby-sit while Angela and Duffy went to the U of L game. Because Nicholas was out of school for Christmas break, by staying at their house, we would be able to spend more time with him. Little did we know just how much time we would be spending together! We had some snow on Saturday afternoon, and Art cleared the driveway, although it took him quite a while to do it.

On Sunday morning we woke up to LOTS more snow! Angela and I had planned to make a trip to Sam’s so that I could use her card, and we decided to go ahead, thinking that once we got out of the subdivision the roads would be better. Wrong! Not only had the city of Louisville done NOTHING to clear ANY of the major roads, the city of Jeffersontown hadn‘t cleared any of their roads either! Most surprising of all was that even Sam’s had made no effort to clear their parking lot, or even the area by the entrance, even though they were quite busy.

I bought a few groceries to take back to Italy, but some of their packages are just too big. I bought some Splenda, ramen noodles, almonds, Ziploc bags, and a monster jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

When we looked out the door, we saw that it was snowing hard again, so I bought “Collateral” on DVD so we’d have something to watch in case we were snowed in for a while. Art had been wanting to see the movie, and I knew that I could watch Tom Cruise no matter what he was in. As it turned out, the movie was every bit as good as we had heard.

Once we made it back home, we were surprised to see that the subdivision hadn’t been cleared. Apparently we had an ice storm before the snow, then an ice storm AFTER the snow. The result was that the snow was 18”-24” deep, and we could walk on the snow without sinking through! It was pretty weird to be walking on TOP of the snow…especially since it was so icy and slippery.

The bad weather hung around all week. The temperatures were incredibly cold and the sun never came out, so the snow didn’t melt. Salt was totally useless, and even snowplows were unable to break through all the ice. We were wondering if we’d be able to get to my sister’s house for Christmas, but luckily we were able to manage.

On Sunday, the day after Christmas, my daughter and her family left for a week in Houston to visit with other relatives, and Art and I stayed to cat-sit, and also to have a bit of privacy. Although everyone makes us feel welcome, it’s still difficult to live in someone else’s house.

At least we were able to get out on the road, and because we now had the use of both my sister’s car AND my daughter’s car, this meant that I had freedom!!! I enjoyed wandering through stores like Target and Kohl’s and even Kroger. Although Art is a good sport about shopping (especially since he knows I’m not much of a shopper), I still feel the need to hurry along when he’s with me. Without anyone else with me, I can wander and look at anything and everything that catches my eye. After months in Italy it was fun to see the variety and familiar things.

One day the two of us stopped by the St Matthews Post Office to visit, and another day we went to the Hikes Point Post Office. We went early in the morning so that we could visit with the carriers…these are the people I worked most closely with, and I was glad to be able to get to see everyone.

I had an eye doctor appointment while we were in Louisville, and Art had a check-up with the two doctors who performed his back surgery. He also saw his dermatologist and our GP, and got all his prescriptions renewed.

Between the craziness of the holidays and the snow, we didn’t get to visit with as many people as we would have liked at first. Once the snow was (finally!) gone and the new year had begun, we were able to start making plans to see friends.

I’ve already written about the MANY different restaurants we visited, and this is something that we’re going to have to avoid on our next visit. Not only did we both gain weight on our visit, but to be perfectly honest, we just can’t afford to eat out as much as we did. We didn’t go to any place extravagant, but night after night it really adds up. I would love to be able to cook dinner and have people over, but when YOU’RE the guest, you can’t really have someone else as a guest! Since most of our friends still work, it’s not convenient for them to have us to dinner at their house, so I’m not sure what the answer is. I hope I can figure it out by the time we return in April!

One restaurant that I left out of my previous list is The Old Louisville Chili Parlor and Fish House on Poplar Level Rd. We used to go there quite a bit…it’s convenient to the main Post Office, and their fish is really good. Thanks for the reminder Dawn!

We did manage to get by to see our good friends Sherry and David. They went with us on our first trip to Italy, and hope to be able to visit us later this year. They just bought Taylor Rental on Preston Highway…David had worked there for years, and when the previous owner wanted to sell, they jumped at the chance. We hope they have a very successful first year so that they can take some time off and come to Italy.

Once my daughter and her family returned from Houston, we moved back to my sister’s house for the duration of our Louisville stay. Although her daughter and two year old grandson were planning to move back in with her temporarily, luckily that didn’t happen until after we’d left.

Our last week in the states was spent in Tampa. We stayed with Art’s best friend from high school, Van, and his wife Mary. We hadn’t seen them since the 1994 40th high school reunion, so it was nice to catch up with them. One day we drove up to Lake City to visit with Van’s mother, sister and brother. Art said that when he was in high school he spent more time at Van’s house than he did at his own, so he was very close to Van’s mom. It was nice for me to be able to finally meet the people I’d heard him talk about.

The last few days of our stay were spent with my son and his family. We hadn’t met our newest granddaughter, Maeve, who was born last July. Do I have to tell you how adorable she is? And Siobhan, at three years old, is a bundle of energy and fun. She’s bilingual, and switched back and forth between English and Spanish without a thought.

Frank has spoken to her exclusively in Spanish since she was born, and one day the subject of speaking English came up. Frank said something about speaking English and Siobhan said “you don’t speak English!”! Frank said “of course I do!”, and had a hard time convincing her, even though he speaks English to his wife, and to most other people, us included. I guess she just doesn’t hear the difference when he speaks English…she just understands everything he says effortlessly. What a gift! As we struggle to learn Italian, I wish that I’d had this wonderful opportunity when I was growing up.

We had the girls all to ourselves while Frank and Shannon took a well deserved, and I’m sure much needed, overnight visit to Orlando. They moved to Tampa in June, Maeve was born in July and had some medical problems, then they built a house and just moved in the week before Christmas. Since they don’t have any friends or family in Tampa, I know it’s been hard on them. They seem to handle everything with such grace….I know they can’t always be in a good mood, and that they have some serious things to deal with, but from what I’ve seen, they do an incredible job.

Our flight back to Rome was from Tampa, through Atlanta, then on to Rome. Apparently we got out of Atlanta just in time, because we saw on the news that the airport had to be closed due to ice a few days after we left. I remember when we flew out of Atlanta last January that we had to have the plane de-iced before we left….strange weather has become the norm.

As for what we brought back with us, well, we managed to fill four LARGE suitcases and two carry-ons. We bought Crisco sticks and dark brown sugar, chocolate chips and cream of mushroom soup. Sunflower seed KERNELS…although sunflowers, sunflower oil and sunflower seeds are everywhere in Italy, I haven’t seen the kernels anywhere. Splenda, decaffeinated tea bags, powdered milk, drinking straws, Brillo pads, Rolaids, cold medicines and hair color. A kitchen timer, a few pieces of Tupperware, some wire shelves, ice cube trays, hangers, computer supplies, plant food and garden supplies. We bought a few DVD’s (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was $5.99 at Target!) and the new Star Wars Trilogy on DVD. We received a few CD’s for Christmas….Etta James “Blues to the Bone”, “Andrea” by Andrea Bocelli, and one of traditional Italian music.

My daughter bought me a Pampered Chef baking stone….she swears these are the best, and made me take back the one I had bought at Linens ‘N Things. My daughter-in-law bought me a cast iron skillet that I had requested. I bought U.S style calendars that begin with Sunday, instead of the European style we have over here that start with Monday. I always get confused, and it’s just easier to buy the calendars in the states, especially when I can buy them for half price after Christmas. (Borders and Barnes and Noble had them for half price, but the person at Books a Million said they wouldn’t mark their calendars down until February!)

I bought a pair of shoes and a few cardigan sweaters, as well as three pairs of jeans. Art bought a few clothes as well, but mostly boring stuff like underwear and socks. I bought several books…”The Time Traveler’s Wife”, and the first four Patricia Cornwell books in the Kay Scarpetta series. I also brought back quite a few magazines to read.

I found some dried soup mixes that sounded good….a cheddar with broccoli and a potato cheddar. I hope they turn out to be good. At the recommendation of our friend Jill, we bought two one pound blocks of sharp cheddar cheese, froze them before we left, then put them in our checked luggage where we knew they’d stay frozen.

I bought a runner rug for the kitchen, a rubber mallet, and Art bought a new pillow. Thank God for those bags you can vacuum the air out of! We refilled all our prescriptions as well as vitamins and fiber tablets. Art got his new driver’s license and social security card to replace the ones that had been lost in Prague when his wallet was stolen. I bought the new edition of TurboTax and loaded it onto the computer. Once all our info arrives, my sister will just scan the documents to me and I can e-file from here and she can mail all the necessary forms.

And then there are just the odds and ends I picked up along the way…an extra pair of inexpensive sunglasses at Target. Some hooks for Art’s pegboard in the garage. Ranch dressing mix. Mascara….it’s $10 here and I can buy it on sale for $2.50 in the states. Plastic hangers that are 10 for $1. Cranberry sauce. Wooden kitchen matches.

We also brought back things that we still had stored in my sister’s basement, like Art’s snow boots, some VCR tapes, and clothes. We still have clothes at my daughter’s house, but hopefully we can bring the rest of the stuff with us in the spring. Except for refilling items as they run out, I think we’re pretty well set, although I do have a new list for April started already.

Most of these things can be bought in Italy, but usually they’re much more expensive….and even if the price were the same in euro as it is in dollars, that’s still an automatic 30% increase, given the current (ridiculously weak) state of the dollar. As long as we’re in the states anyway, and have the room in our suitcases, it’s much cheaper to buy most things in the states. Some of these things are only available in the U.S. Crest toothpaste for example, and antiperspirant/deodorant. Gallon sized pitchers for my iced tea. Ice cube trays to make large (normal) size cubes. Most plastic storage containers are much more expensive in Italy, and the one place I used to be able to find small wire shelves doesn’t seem to carry them anymore.

Some people think this is “cheating” and that if we’re in Italy we shouldn’t be missing, much less buying, stuff from the states. My answer to those people is that when we lived in the states we didn’t give up good imported olive oil or eating imported Italian foods like DeCecco pasta or Parmigiano Reggiano. Why should we give up our American favorites when we’re in Italy? It seems to me as if we have the best of both worlds….bruschetta with fresh olive oil one day, macaroni and (cheddar) cheese the next! Our friend Judith even gave me a recipe to make cornbread using polenta….I can’t wait to try it the next time we have chili!

We had seen in the paper that Rome had snow, and were later surprised to hear that snow was a problem even in southern Italy and Sicily. Again, strange weather is more normal than “normal” weather.

The roads were all clear, but there was still snow on the sides of the road, and the temperature was well below freezing. Wendy met us at the train station and told us that the cold weather would be around for another week.

The house was FREEZING when we got back late Thursday afternoon. Knowing that we would be gone for six weeks, we had turned the heat completely off, and hadn’t gotten Wendy’s email offer to turn it on for us in time to respond. Oh to have a forced air furnace!!!! Because we have radiators, even now, three days later, the house is still around 60 degrees…although this is a big improvement…when we arrived home it was FORTY DEGREES in the house! I think next year we may leave the heat set to around 55º or 60º, or arrange for someone to turn it up several days before we get home.

At least we’re able to keep the door to the living room closed so that it‘s fairly warm in there, and we’ve taken the electric space heater with us from room to room. Thank God we have the electric mattress pad on the bed!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home