Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dining Room Update

We are still working on decorating our new place and though it is a bit slow going, we are happy with how things are coming along.  

The living room/dining room is so massive that it really felt bare and empty for quite a while.  Now it is feeling positively cosy!  Getting a dining table has helped fill the space and we love having a proper table for entertaining.  We found it at a local antique shop (Crystal Palace is known for its antiques!) and just love it.  

The base of the table is my favourite part:

I also put up shelves in the dining area to display some of our nice silver, assorted vases and other pretty things.  (I'm going to remove the third shelf at the bottom.  I thought it would work for some of Charlotte's toys but it just looked cluttered.)  

Speaking of dining tables, Charlie got her own little table and chair set, too!  She likes to sit there to play with her puzzles and sometimes we drag it into the kitchen for meals:

Another new addition to the living room has been these lamps that live on either side of the couch. They have really helped brighten things up in here and I absolutely love their green honeycomb bases:

A major decorating challenge continues to be this big expanse of wall over our dining table (with a little nook that looks into the kitchen).  We have talked about a number of different options, but haven't absolutely loved any of them yet, so it remains blank for now.  Chances are we'll just put up something we already own until we find the perfect piece of (affordable) art.  We've tossed around the idea of painting the nook or putting up wallpaper and have even considered hanging a large ceramic moose head, but nothing has been right.  Any ideas?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Italy Part IV: wild Italian greens . . .

One of the most favourite parts of our holiday in Italy was when the owner of the villa, Elda, invited us to help her pick a vegetable that grows wild on the villa property.  We can't seem to figure out what it was called, but it looked more like an herb than a veggie.  I failed to get a good picture of it while it was still on the stalk (you pluck the leaves off before eating it), but you can see a good shot of it in the video below.

Elda explained that the vegetable grew wild in the area and that it is generally eaten in risotto or a frittata or as a side dish.  But before you can eat it, you have to pick it!  Jason and Elda did the dirty work while Charlie and I picked flowers below.

The hill where it was growing on the property was extremely steep, but they both navigated it quite well!

Once we had bags and bags of greens, Elda explained how to pluck off the leaves and then sent us on our way with an enormous bag of the stuff!

You can see what the veggie looks like at the end of this little video:

And here it is once we picked it off the stalk:

Here it is again once Jason sautéed it in some olive oil (as per Elda's suggestion):

Though he cooked it up the greens as Elda suggested, he served it in a very non-Italian dish of lamb and hummus.  It was delicious!  

The veggie was very mild and vaguely spinach-like.  I have to say, our favourite part of it was picking it in the gorgeous Italian countryside!  

PS:  Jason also made this amazing focaccia bread for dinner that night.  We sampled something similar while in Italy, but I have to say that Jason's was better!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Italy Part II: Singing in Vicenza

When I was invited to join the English and Italian Lute Societies for a concert at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy, Jason and I decided to make a vacation out of it.  As a result, I missed out on some of the vacay due to rehearsals, but Jason and Charlie got to spend quality time together (Jason is working on that post . . . ) 

I had two days of rehearsal and then more rehearsals on the day of the performance.  Rehearsals were held at the Villa Caldogno which is just north of Vicenza.  There were quite a few people with cameras hanging around and I have lifted many of their pictures to post here.  

I had the pleasure to sing with two lovely sopranos:  Jenni and Rebecca

We were accompanied by fifty lutes, theorbos and baroque guitars.  For those of you not familiar with these instruments, it is very rare to have this many of them playing together at once.  The idea of it seemed a bit odd to me at first, but once I heard everyone together I thought the effect was interesting and really quite beautiful.  

Though our first day was spent in what was basically a large conference room, the second day of rehearsals was in the stunning Villa Caldogno.  

If you look beyond my silly expression you may notice some familiar faces lurking outside the window in the picture below:

Jason and Charlie would come around when I had breaks and Charlie LOVED running around and exploring the grounds of the villa:

We were not supposed to take pictures in the Teatro Olimpico, but those who managed to snap a few have shared them with the rest of us.  Before I share those, here I am in my dressing room.  I was quite relieved to have my own room given the strapless bra I had to navigate . . . 

I don't have a very good picture of me in my dress, but you can get an idea from the picture below.  Forgive the awkwardness of the photo below.  I was attempting to flirt while singing the most oddly syncopated piece I've ever sung!

And here I am angry a (the gorgeous!) Rebecca when she denies me her love:

Jason and Charlie sat up in the nosebleed section (right by a door, just in case) and Jason snapped this picture with his iPhone of my big solo.  He said that, despite it being way past her bedtime, Charlie sat on Jason's lap and quietly and attentively watched the entire concert.  When she saw me she would say, "mama" and point and she would applaud after every piece.  I can't tell you how much that warms my heart!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Italy Part I: Castello di Barbarano

We had a fantastic time in Italy!  We have lots of photos to share (though most are from our iPhones due to a dead camera battery.  Doh!) and we'll share them over a number of posts.  I'll start with our accommodations:  Castello di Barbarano.  This place was amazing and it was one of the cheaper options we were able to find in the area.  Seriously folks, if you're looking for a place to stay to get a true Italian experience stay here!!

We rented a small apartment in an 18th century building on the grounds of the villa.  It wasn't fancy, but it was just perfect for us.  Whenever possible, we always try to get a place with a kitchen when we travel.  We end up eating out less and we always have a good time exploring grocery stores in foreign countries.

Anyway, here is a brief tour of our accommodations:

The villa is on a hill overlooking the town of Barbarano Vicentino on one side and an expanse of Italian gorgeousness on the other side.  Here is the entrance from the street:

It took us a while to find the place because we were thrown off by the church next to the entrance.  We just assumed the entrance was part of the church grounds, but it turns out that the church belongs to the villa.  It is described as the "family noble chapel" and was built in 1709:

You enter the grounds through a small tunnel running through the main villa which was built in the 15th century on the grounds of a medieval castle (hence the name of the villa:  Il Castello).  

If you look straight ahead as you enter through the gate, down the long driveway lined with lemon trees, you see the 18th century building where we stayed:

This building has been broken up into four lovely apartments.  I didn't get any good pictures of the inside, but it was really lovely.  Trust me.  You can see pictures of the inside by visiting their website.

Beyond this building is a large walled in garden:

Charlie loved running around and inspecting the weeds vegetation:

She also took long, contemplative walks while pondering the meaning of life:

The grounds are absolutely stunning.  There is a lemon orchard and lots of old stone staircases and charming details everywhere you look.

As I mentioned, the villa is set up on a hill.  Here is the view from the grounds into the little city below:

The town is pretty sleepy, but they do have an excellent gelato shop!

Here is the view from the other side:

It is truly stunning there and the owners are friendly and helpful.  We hope to go back again!  In the meantime, stay tuned for more Italy posts!

R.I.P. Milton

Our beloved Milton passed away last week.  We received word from the lovely couple who adopted our cats that his kidneys had failed him.  Shortly after we moved we received word that Milton had been in a fight with a racoon and we thought we might lose him then, so this came as a surprise given that he seemed to be recovering just fine.

Here is what they wrote:

I 'm very sorry to pass along the sad news that Milton passed away yesterday. Despite that after his surgeries and being confined, his leg was doing fine, and he seemed be happy as always, we noticed he lost weight very rapidly over the last week or so. 

I have been home in Indiana for 4 days, and Garrick and I had a conversation Thursday night that Milty needed to be seen, he seemed sort of lethargic, just laying around and sleeping. So Garrick took him in yesterday morning for xrays, and blood work, and we found out his renal levels (kidneys) were off the charts, along with 2 others. The doctor had never seen levels so high before. His kidneys were failing and there was not a lot that could be done other than temporary solutions that would help for a little while but the problem would continue to recur. Looking back Milton's renal levels were high following both surgeries, at the time they said it could indicate a problem or it could have been aside effect of the surgery. They said kidney failure could be cause by any number of things and I guess there's just not much you could do about it. He drank water all the time, but it his kidneys weren't hydrating his body properly. So we decided against prolonging his life and putting him through more stress.

I wish this hadn't happened while I was away, I can't believe the timing. But Garrick was with Milton so he wasn't along at the vet, and to make him more comfortable yesterday. I called to say hi and I loved him over the phone. We're both a little shocked, I thought he might not be feeling well, but I never thought it he would have a condition that couldn't be dealt with. We are very sad, we'll be missing him around the house, asking for water at the sink, sleeping on my pillow, but we are comforted to know he won't be suffering now. We've got lots of cute photos and good memories to think about.

Needless to say, we are pretty heartbroken.  Milton was our first baby and we loved him very much.  He was a quirky cat who was full of personality.  He loved to cuddle and was SUCH a lover.  Though we had to say our goodbyes when we left DC, we loved thinking of Milton and Cowboy frolicking in the backyard and giving love and snuggles to their new owners.  I am comforted to know that he did lots of frolicking and snuggling over his nine years.  I only wish he could have had nine more!

We will miss our sweet cat.  Our dear Millpie, Millicent, Milly, Miltonion.  He lived a happy life and made our lives much happier as well.

Goodbye dear friend.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Charlie, Jason and I are headed to Italy!!  I've timed this to post on the day we arrive.  So imagine us sipping espresso or perhaps eating big bowls of spaghetti while you read this.

I was asked to sing with the English and Italian Lute Societies along with two other sopranos in Vicenza, Italy.  Vicenza is the home of the oldest surviving enclosed theatre in the world, the Teatro Olimpico (built between 1580-1585), and this is where we will be performing.  It is an absolutely stunning, drop dead gorgeous space:

Teatro Olimpico

stage of the Teatro Olimpico
We decided we wanted to stay someplace a bit rural, so we're a bit of a drive from the theatre and rehearsal space.  We found a little cottage on that is on the grounds of this villa that the owners refer to as Il Castello (The Castle):  

We will probably be making day trips to Venice and perhaps other nearby cities, but also plan to explore the smaller villages and enjoy our down time together.

We may have time to post from an internet cafe at some point, but don't worry if you don't hear from us.  We'll be back in a week!


Wednesday, 11 April 2012


After a very long month-and-a-half, Emily Bemily is back in London!  She (along with her parents, Mary and Rob) went to NYC for Rob's work.  Apparently Rob is some hotshot lighting guy for West End and Broadway shows so he was there working on Evita (maybe it was something else?).  Mary and Emily got to visit all their old friends (Mary used to live in NYC) and generally hang out with less-awesome people than Charlotte and me.  It seems they had a good time, but they were ready to come back to London.  Charlie and I were very ready, too!

Charlie was asleep when Emily and Mary arrived, so we were able to send Emily in on her own when Charlie woke up.  They seemed to recognise each other right away:

We're so happy they're back!!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Happy Easter!

We spent our second Easter in London the way we spent it last year:  church at St Marys and then dinner with Naina and Josh in Wimbledon.  The big difference this year was that Charlie was old enough to get an Easter basket!  I failed to make or get a fun bunny cookie to put in there, so she got a Malt Easter instead (which she loved!).  Here's what else she got:

That would be crayons, alphabet flashcards, two new board books and her chocolate/malt bunny.  She had a lot of fun digging through to see what she got:

The bunny got mixed reviews at first:

The alphabet cards were an immediate hit!

She was a fan of the books too:

unfortunately the only pics of me this Easter were while I was still in my pjs

Jason, a friend and colleague of mine from DC, was staying at Josh and Naina's with his wife and kids, so we got to hang out with them.  We actually met Josh and Naina through Jason and his wife, Elizabeth (nice names, eh?).  I was glad that Jason was in town, because I got to hire him to sing in a quartet at our church for Good Friday!  We sang the Allegri "Miserere" as well as some Victoria and other gems.  It was my music directing debut and I'm happy to say it went pretty smoothly!

Charlie LOVED playing with Jason and Elizabeth's kids Lauren and Patrick.  She had met them when we all went out to pizza on Good Friday and was happy to play with them again on Easter.

She also really took to Jason and his wife:

There was an adorable moment when Charlie climbed onto Elizabeth's lap for a nice long cuddle.  I thought at first that she thought she was cuddling on me, but it turns out there was no confusion:

We didn't end up getting a good shot of Charlie in her Easter outfit, but you can get the idea of the cuteness in this shot:

Can you believe how much she has grown in a year?!

Charlie was too excited to eat much, but she did manage to consume some grapes, cucumbers, cheese and olives:

Then we went in Naina and Josh's back yard for a quick Easter photo shoot in her little lamb jacket:

While the adults ate, Josh and the kids enjoyed some Dora the Explorer:

Okay, Josh didn't actually join them, but those who did watch Dora thoroughly enjoyed it!  Check out those zoned out faces!

All in all it was a great day.  We ate yummy food, got to visit with good friends and Charlie even got to wear toy glasses.  It doesn't get any better than that, folks.  

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...