Tag Archive: bucket list

Number 22: Travel to Italy (Part 1)

If you have been around my blog before, you know that this has been a pretty eventful year for me. In May, I celebrated a milestone birthday.  In preparation for my half-century anniversary of life, I made a list of 50 Things to Do Before my 50th Birthday.  Number 22 on that list was Travel to Italy.   I didn’t get to finish everything on my list, but in April of this year I managed to complete Number 22.  I tried to keep a record of my trip as I traveled,  but time was short so I never finished writing about my trip,  until now.  Thanks to NaBloPoMo, I have the motivation to get it done. Here’s the first leg of my trip:

LAX to ROME 

We arrived in Rome in spite of ourselves.  After making our travel preparations, which, by the way did not include actually planning our sight-seeing itinerary, we nearly missed our flight.  We arrived at the airport early and found a seat near the gate.  We began to wonder why it was taking so long to board our flight.   I was on the phone with Diego, who had called us for the 5th time since we left home, when all of sudden, just minutes before our flight departed, I heard the announcement, “Last Call for Mejia.” I then realized the airline changed the gate number.  I abruptly ended the phone call and raced to catch our flight!

Whew! We made it to the plane. Barely.

Whew! We made it to the plane. Barely.

Once we boarded the plane, we settled in for the long flight to Toronto and then onto Rome. I managed to sleep a bit while Juan stayed wide awake almost the entire 15 hour flight. When we arrived in Rome we found our rental car and tried to get our bearings.  Juan, my techie husband, did all kinds of research in how to use our smart phones for international travel.  He figured that he would use our unlocked iPhones and buy a SIM card for data usage.  This would allow us to use our phones as GPS devices.  It sounded too techie for me to be concerned about, but had I known how much we would need our smart phones as a GPS from the moment we drove out the airport, I might have given it more thought.

The ride from the airport to our hotel was enough to make me start drinking and made Juan start biting his fingernails again.  We were completely turned around, and had no idea where we were going.  We were tired,  hungry and we had to use the bathroom.  Juan drove and we kept circling the same roundabout looking for our hotel.  We finally gave up and decided we needed to eat lunch.  That was the best move we made.  We found a wonderful trattoria with delicious food, and oddly enough, no women in the restaurant. We ordered wine with our meal and began to relax and get into vacation mode.  Hey, who needed a GPS? We were on an adventure. In Italy!

Our first meal in Italy.

Our first meal in Italy.

By the time we finished our wine and our meal we were so relaxed all we could think of was getting to our hotel so we could nap.  We left the trattoria and got turned around walking to our car.  Without a GPS we were in trouble. Still, we tried to stay positive and paused long enough to take in our first views of Italy.

A vista from somewhere in Italy. If we had a GPS we would have known where we were.

A vista from somewhere in Italy. If we had a GPS we would have known where we were.

Back in the car we tried again to find our hotel.  Another three times around the same roundabout and we wanted to cry, or get a divorce. Juan wanted to stop at a phone store and buy the SIM cards so we could use a GPS, but we could not find a phone store that took credit cards. We drove around looking for an ATM.   At last, we found cash, bought the SIM card and were able to use our phones as a GPS.  Several hours after we landed in Rome, we made it to our hotel.  Our hotel was located about 25 minutes by train outside of Rome,  in Frascati.

Enjoying a rest near our hotel in Frascati

Enjoying a rest near our hotel in Frascati

 

Frascati, Italy

Frascati, Italy

We checked into our hotel,  fell into bed and slept.  We woke up two hours later. By the time we were ready to start exploring it was already 9:30 at night. Even with a GPS, after all we had been through navigating from the airport,  we knew we did not want to drive into Rome at night for a meal. Besides, we were hungry and when I am hungry, I am cranky.  Frascati is a quaint town with many restaurants that close early.  We walked and walked looking for an open restaurant.

Frascati, Italy. Near the main plaza in town.

Frascati, Italy. Near the main plaza in town.

Thankfully,  we found a local pizzeria and enjoyed our first pizza of the trip. I think the pizza was really good, but I was so cranky hungry by that time, I can’t say for sure.  At least the service was wonderful.  Our waiter Alessandro was charming and friendly.  Fed, and nearly rested, we returned to our hotel where I watched The Walking Dead and Juan slept.  The next day Juan and I would start our tour of the Eternal City.

The first of many pizzas on our trip to Italy.

The first of many pizzas on our trip.

 

 

 

Dreaming of Italy

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since I created my list of 50 Things to do Before my 50th Birthday. With my 50th birthday less than two months away, and a lot of my list unfinished, I have been thinking that my list is more of a Wish List than a To Do list. But, to be fair, even though I have not yet completed many of the projects on that list, I am proud of those things I have been able to attempt, some which I began to think I could never do.

Number 22 on my list–Travel to Italy– was something I began to feel certain was more of a dream than a possibility. Traveling to Italy is something I have wanted to do for the last 28 years. When I was 22 I saved my waitress tips and wages until I had earned enough to travel through Europe for six weeks. I was young and adventurous so sleeping on trains made possible for me to criss-cross the continent and wake up in a new country every couple of days. I traveled on $30 per day, making meals out of bread and cheese, and I economized, squeezing in as much as I could see on my limited budget. My first visit to Italy was brief but memorable and it left me waiting for a day when I could to return. Like most tourists, I dropped my coins in the Trevi Fountain and vowed to come back one day to soak up the wonderful culture, and dine on something beyond bread and cheese.

If I had I really considered what my trip to Italy without kids would cost my husband Juan and I in time, money and effort, I might never have made such a public proclomation to return to Italy. I guess I’d forgotten how expensive and all-consuming it is to raise three teens and an 8 year-old. Suddenly, it’s two months before my 50th birthday and Olivia is about to graduate from high school and embark on her dream to attend college. Nico and Erica are freshman in high school and are busier than ever. Diego’s schedule is packed full with baseball, choir and the school play. Yikes. What was I thinking? With college tuition on the horizon and the usual onslaught of end of school year events, Italy was looking more like a pipe dream. Juan and I discussed it and decided that travel to Italy would have to wait until, well who knew when?

Then, after a particularly stressful month involving all sorts of teen drama, coupled with a large dose of adolescent entitlement, I received an email blast from one of my favorite travel websites. Travelzoo was offering a reasonably priced package to Rome, Tuscany and Venice, complete with airfare, hotel and rental car. The trip itself was only 8 days but really that was about all I could spend away from work and home. It sounded wonderful, but not probable. I sent the email to Juan anyway. That night we looked at our budget, our calendars and decided we had to do it. The trip started out as my dream, but the more Juan and I talked about it the more it the more my dream became his wish too. We would be celebrating 10 years of marriage in June. Married life can be wonderful and challenging, and marriage in a blended family has more than its share of struggles. We really felt like we owed it to ourselves and ultimately to our family.

We went on-line and booked the package, along with the trip insurance that would refund the cost in the event of a medical emergency or death. It’s probably a good thing the insurance didn’t cover cancellation in case of unforeseen teenage angst, or 8 year-old son separation anxiety, because I might have needed to use it.

So, here I am on the plane to Rome. Juan and I have spent the last two days frantically trying to get ready for this trip. We want the trip to be unstructured to allow us some time to explore on our own, and most of all, slow down and soak up the Italian culture. It’s a good thing too, because we have had very little time to really plan where we are going and what we will see. We have a wish list but it’s just that, a wish list. I know we won’t do or see half of it, and that’s okay. I am mostly looking forward to reconnecting with my husband, celebrating nearly 50 years of my life and 10 years of marriage, and of course, eating some really good food, and drinking Italian wines.

I had to keep all my hopes for this trip in mind this last week as I coordinated with the other parents who will take care of Nico and Olivia and Erica, and as I did countless loads of laundry, shopped for groceries to keep Diego and our nanny fed while we are gone, created schedules, arranged childcare, carpools, wrote medical authorizations, jotted down endless lists, and even reviewed our Wills. At one point I was so stressed I joked that maybe we should fake a medical emergency so we could cancel our trip!

Last night Diego spent the night with his grandmother because we had to catch an early morning flight. He used his iTouch to call and FaceTime with us four times. He was trying to be brave but I could tell from the way he combed his hands through his hair and blinked his eyes, that he was already homesick and sad. He called us again early this morning, right before we boarded the first leg of our flight. He tried to hold back tears. I cut the call short for fear I would begin to regret this trip altogether, but before I hung up the phone I told him that I left a present for him at home. He seemed to brighten up at the idea of a surprise waiting for him.

I bought him a Dreamcatcher, and I wrote him a note. The Dreamcatcher is something he’s wanted since he saw his older brother’s hanging over his bed. In the note I wrote to Diego I explained that while his dad and I are gone, the Dreamcatcher would help him keep away bad dreams and we could see each other in his good dreams. We said good-bye and as I hung up the phone,  I was cheered by Diego’s smile and the thought of how happy he would be by the Dreamcatcher. Then, it suddenly occurred to me that giving him a Dreamcatcher as I travel to Italy is the perfect going away gift for me too.

A dream about to be realized.

A dream about to be realized.

Do you have any travel dreams you would like to see come true?

 

 

 

Making Lemonade From Lemons

Like many of you, I spend most of my weekends doing errands, catching up on household chores and chauffeuring kids to sporting and social activities. These days it seems even busier, since my kids have gotten older and I have to spend a lot of time taking them places to accommodate their busy lives. This past weekend was no different. Olivia had to attend a 6 hour college preparation workshop in Santa Monica, a beach city that is an hour drive from my hot, dry foothill community. I dreaded the thought of the freeway traffic–an hour there, an hour back—and two hours later, another hour there and another hour back. One long, wasted day. Lemons.

Juan suggested I take the time I would have spent sitting in traffic and stay in Santa Monica. He told me to use the time to write, or do whatever I needed. Brilliant! So, instead of sitting in my car all morning I packed my laptop, dropped Olivia at her workshop and then went for breakfast at a nice café and did some writing. Lemonade.

After awhile I realized that my laptop battery began to die, so I packed up my things and walked back to my car, which I had parked in front of a small public library. I went inside, found a nice table to continue writing and took out my computer charger. That’s when I realized I had brought the wrong charger. With 3 hours to go until I could pick up Olivia, 20 minutes left on my battery life, and a whole lot of writing still to do, I had no computer. Lemons.

I left the library and went out to my van. Good thing no one ever cleans their stuff out of the van, because I found this:

Old school writing device.

I walked two short blocks to the beach, found an empty chair with an umbrella and finished writing. Lemonade.

Lemonade

After I finished writing I still had over an hour left before I could pick up Olivia. I looked around and saw that there was a bike rental place behind me. I realized that number 17 on my list, of 50 Things to do Before my 50th Birthday, “Ride bikes along the beach”, was still unfinished. Unfortunately, the bike rental shop accepted cash only. I looked in my wallet and found a whopping $2.00. Lemons.

Then it occurred to me that I had bought a Groupon a while back for Venice Beach bike rentals. I looked on my Groupon App on my phone and found that the Venice Beach bike rental shop was less than 2 miles away.

I also noticed the Groupon had expired. More lemons.

Ah well, I decided to go there anyway to see if I could still use it. I left Santa Monica and drove to eclectic Venice beach. I quickly found parking and the bike rental shop. When I got to the bike rental shop the quirky man with the eye patch and Aussie accent told me I could still use the expired Groupon. Lemonade.

A spontaneous bike ride on the beach.

How do you make lemonade from lemons?

 

 

49. Officially.

It’s official. I am one year into my project of 50 Things to Do Before my 50th Birthday. On my birthday last year I decided to create a kind of bucket list, and I gave myself two years to get it all done. I have one year left to go. That’s right, that makes me 49 years old today.

49. That’s a big number. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but when my dad sent me an email last night saying he thought he read on my Facebook page that I was turning 50 this year, I kind of panicked. A little. I did the math just to be sure, and I quickly replied to his email that I am definitely not turning 50 this year. This is simple math, and even I can do basic subtraction, 2012-1963 = 49. See? I’m not 50. Not yet. Don’t rush me. I have a lot to do that’s still on my list, and I can’t wrap my head around using a new set of numbers yet. Seriously, I don’t feel like I have aged much past 30. Okay, maybe 40. I told myself I wasn’t going to obsess over a number and here I am writing 49 five times already! I will stop now. How about I just tell you about the two most recent things I did on list?

Number One: Take a Sunrise Hike

With my birthday looming on the horizon I did a quick check on all that I have accomplished and found out that I still have quite a bit to do. I have been wanting to check off “Go on a Sunrise Hike” for a long time, but I kept putting obstacles in my own way. The biggest obstacle was sleep. Every weekend when I faced with the choice of sleeping in or getting up early, I chose sleep.

I have started getting up earlier, but somehow rising before the sun and getting out on the trail just seemed impossible. Last Friday, I checked the internet for the time the sun would rise and I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier. I already knew where I wanted to hike, and luckily for me the trail head is only 5 minutes from my house. I figured all I had to do was roll out of bed and go.

Wrong. I had to roll out of bed, pack a quick breakfast-to-go, fill my water bottle and get the dog. Then, I ended up searching frantically for car keys and when I finally made it to the trail head I realized I forgot my water bottle. I drove home trying to beat the rising sun, got the water and headed back to the trail. I still managed to make the 2.7 mile hike in time to greet the sun as it peaked over the mountain. It was so peaceful as I ate my breakfast among the pine trees. I am so glad this was on my list, and I actually did it! In fact, if I could get my 49 year-old body out bed earlier, I would love to make this a weekly ritual.

I beat the sunrise and ate breakfast among the pine trees.

Number 46: Complete Covenant Two

When I first started attending my Episcopal church I took a series of classes to acquaint myself with the religion, and meet other people from church. Since I was raised Roman Catholic, the Episcopal faith already felt familiar to me and I loved everything about it, especially its inclusiveness. I completed the Covenant One classes and vowed that one day I would participate in the second series of classes, designed for those who wish to be confirmed or be received into the Episcopal church.

That was 12 years ago. Since that time I have introduced Juan and Olivia to the church and they have both been confirmed. I just had not gotten around to doing it myself. It was a big commitment since it involved twice monthly meetings from January to April, and a weekend retreat. Well, I am happy to say that I did it. I finished the classes and two weeks ago I was confirmed into the Episcopal church. For those who don’t know what it’s all about I will just say, it’s kind of like becoming an official member of a club.

Photo op with the Bishop, post Confirmation and still glowing with the Holy Spirit!

For those of you who never attended church or never attended a sacramental church like mine, you might consider Confirmation like a bunch of hocus pocus. The entire process involves kneeling before a bishop and the bishop blessing you. During my actual Confirmation everyone in my Covenant Two small group, my family and some of the church priests laid hands on me during the blessing. It was pretty powerful. Even my priest commented how he could feel the energy of the Holy Spirit during the blessing. Whatever. I’ll take it. Holy spirit. Love. Positive energy. I need it.

So, that’s it. It’s official. I am Episcopalian. And I’m 49.

Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook or Twitter to see my progress over the next year as I make my way through my list.

50/50 Friday – Week 49

I can’t believe in a little over two weeks I will be one year into my project of 50 Things to Do Before My 50th Birthday. One year down, and one to go. I have accomplished quite a bit, but honestly I thought I would be further along by this time. It hasn’t been easy to do much this month, since May is the month with Too Many Occasions. In this month alone, I will have 5 birthdays, 2 graduations, 3 recitals, Mother’s Day, prom, and the usual assortment of baseball games, scout events and church obligations. The impending one year anniversary of my project inspired me to get back on my cooking bandwagon–that and the purchase of the Pioneer Woman’s new cookbook.

The first new recipe I tried was Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp. There is one thing everyone in my family agrees on–we all love shrimp! I knew this was going to be a real crowd pleaser, and this recipe did not disappoint. I also loved the fact that it was easy and quick. The recipe said to serve it with bread for dunking into the juices, but I didn’t like the idea of greasy hands and dripping bread all over the table. Besides, there’s one more thing everyone in my family agrees on–we all love pasta! I put the shrimp over angel hair pasta. Yum!

Spicy Lemon Garlic Shriimp

The next recipe up was Peach-Whiskey Chicken. Once upon a time someone brought me a bottle of whiskey. I don’t drink whiskey. I don’t know anyone in my family who drinks whiskey except maybe my dad. The whiskey bottle sat in my pantry until the night I decided to stink up my house and cook with it. Unfortunately, it was also the night when Olivia invited her boyfriend over for dinner. Olivia, who has the nose of a bloodhound, was mortified when she walked into the kitchen. I reassured her that the smell would evaporate and her boyfriend would be able to drive home without risking a DUI. Then, I opened all the windows and tried to fan away the fumes. By the time her boyfriend arrived the odor had faded and the chicken was stewing in the oven. I thought the dish was pretty good, but it was not rave worthy. Fortunately, Olivia’s boyfriend is much too polite to say anything negative. The recipe called for chicken legs and I obliged. The chicken legs cooked until the skin was falling off so it was pretty messy to eat. Diego did not like it at all. He said, “I really don’t like naked chicken.” Well, I guess no more naked, drunken chicken for my family.

Almost naked, drunken chicken on a bed of noodles.

I have also been doing my part to check off two more wines from my list. My sister-in-law brought this one to a family birthday celebration dinner this month and I really enjoyed it. Robust but not spicy or tannic. On the extra positive side, it’s really inexpensive. It’s only $4 at Trader Joes. I picked up a couple of bottles.

Good, drinkable, any occasion wine with a good price point.

I also tried this one. I picked it up at Cost Plus for about $10. I like big buttery chardonnay and this one fits the bill. It’s a little bit of a splurge for me, but I loved the name of the winery and since I had been shopping for everyone else’s birthday presents I thought I would pick me up a little something too.

This one is better than any cupcake I've ever had.

The last thing I did recently was to take on a cause, number 27 on my list. I have been looking around for a cause I could add to my blog. A cause which really interested me. I have seen this organization before, but when I came across this campaign about giving up your birthday for charity water, I knew I found my cause. Clean water is something that most of us have available and something we probably take for granted. I know that when I have to bang on the bathroom door and tell my kids that 20 minutes is WAY too long of a shower, they are taking this resource for granted. I know that when I see several half-filled water bottles around the house and in my car, my kids don’t realize the value of a clean, constant water source. For this birthday and the next big one, I am asking for donations to this cause. I want everyone to have clean water. I want to impart this message to my kids. Besides, if I can pass up gifts for my 50th birthday, while doing some positive modeling for my kids, and contributing to clean water somewhere else, it almost makes turning a half-century bearable.

Two more weeks to go until my 49th birthday….One year and 19 days until the big one.

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