Nostro Anniversario

As we plastered all over facebook and Google+, it was our anniversary last week.  We celebrated with a wine-tasting day trip that came with a bonus history lesson from our (amazing) tour guide.  For authenticity's sake, a small sampling of wine will be consumed by the authors during the writing of this post :-)

The first stop was a walk through the town of Mirabella Eclano culminating with the SanFrancesco Convent.

As you may remember from the Spartacus blog, literacy rates weren't super high in the Roman days.  Despite that, the Roman empire was still a thriving market and people needed a way to figure out where they could purchase goods and services. 

An elegant solution was devised~ they'd just carve a depiction of their profession into the wall of their business.  The guy on the right is an 800 year old sign to let citizens know a barber could be found inside. (How did the guy whose profession was 'Wall Face Carver' let people know where he lived?)

"Hold up", you're thinking, "that's so permanent. What about when they moved their business or family and then they've got the wrong sign outside... Poor planning, ancient Rome."

Below is a house we saw a few doors down from the old barber. 

~A home/ tailor shop, owned by the same family for the past 400 years~

Just to put that in perspective American-style, when their ancestors built this gorgeous house, John Smith had just met Pocahontas.  They still running a small boutique out of their first floor. (Not John Smith and  Pocahontas)

~some of the scenery on the walk, compliments of Scott~

The convent itself is a building from the 13th century, but currently serves as a museum for Marabella Eclano's Festa Del Carro, or Festival of the Wagon.  Originating in pagan times to worship Cybele, it was an opportunity to thank 'mother of the mountains'.  Cybele represented fertility and the duality of nature~ it's ability to abundantly give or ferociously take life.  Initially, followers decorated carts with braided straw and filled the carts with food for the goddess.

~example of how the straw braiding has progressed~

The food sacrifices didn't work so well, given that the population consisted of starving people.  Parading bounty through the town ended in a food stealing frenzy that they didn't think would go over so well with the goddess.  Instead, they began collaborating to create an elaborate woven tower which was pulled through the town by bulls.
~Scott took some pictures that are actually artistic~

The festival morphed when Rome became Catholic, and it is now a celebration of the Virgin Mary.  As the years have progressed, so has the tower.  It's now the equivalent of eight stories tall, and weighs 25 tons.  The straw tower is still pulled through the town every year by bulls on the third Sunday in September.  Yes, we totally want to go this year :-)

Eventually we made it to the winery where the owner and his wife took us on a nice tour through their facility.  They told us it was important to them that the wines have a nice environment, so they play soft classical music in their wine cellar :-) 

Much to the wine's chagrin/ our amusement, the pouring was heavy* and some of our fellow wine tasters had started their pre-party at 8 am.  What began as a polite "happy birthday" to a friendly middle aged lady visiting from Spain soon became "hey, do you know how to do the macarena?"  From there, iPhones were busted out, ear buds shared, and the grinding began.  By the time we were getting back on the bus, they were re-enacting bull fights, take turns waving flags/ charging.

In typical Italian style, the hour long wine, cheese, bread, and olive oil fest was followed by a three hour lunch.  All in all, a stellar anniversary.

~Oh, hey, more pictures of us~

Well, there you have it.  Education at the front, party in the back, a mullet of a blog :-)

Love from Italia!

*and by 'heavy' I mean 'the guys kept grabbing & distributing the bottles left on the tables'


Tetris, Spartacus, and Snuggle-cake

Everything we've been writing is true~ Italy is beautiful and amazing and we're blessed to be here.  It's also incredibly overwhelming a lot of the time.  New language, new customs*, new people... The past few weeks have felt like playing Tetris on the fastest level with the anxiety-increasing music playing in the background.  Not going forward with a purpose or goal of winning, just frantically trying to keep from crashing.  Then yesterday morning a beautiful thing happened, and I awoke to a world drifting by at a leisurely level 5 or so, slow enough to see the picture and arrange all the pieces so they fall into place**.

A portrait of the artist as a young Mom.

Visiting the Ampitheater of Capua helped put things in perspective somewhat~ for instance, that my life stressors don't include fighting a lion to the death while 60,000 people watch...

~ These are the ruins as they stand today ~

The arena was originally four tiers, second in size only to the Collesseum in Rome.  This is also where Spartacus made a name for himself.  It's a pretty incredible story worth devoting quality time to learning, but for the impatient types, I'll summarize.  With pictures interspersed.  You're welcome :-)

So around 70 BCE, gladiator Spartacus enters the arena.  More specifically, this arena.  Soon thereafter, he and some other slaves realize that fighting beasts and men with nothing to lose isn't a great career path, so they revolt.  Using tools stolen from the kitchen, they escaped the ludus (training school) and plundered the surrounding area, gaining weapons and commerades for their rebellion.  In true badass form, they made a volcano (Vesuvius) their base camp.

~ You know you've got it bad when one of these helmets on your head means you're having a 'good' day ~

Back to Spartacus...

From up on Vesuvius, the slaves & gladiators see the Roman forces sent to discourage (aka kill) them.  So they make ropes out of vines, descend from Vesuvius, and defeat the Romans. That made a name for them, and they were joined by other slaves and disgruntled locals until they were a force of around 70,000.  Insane.

 ~ Comic relief provided by Avalon ~

For a year or so, all goes well.  Spartacus continues to raid towns, train forces, and evade/ defeat Rome's attempts to thwart him.  Then things (literally) go south for the Third Servile War.  Spartacus is trapped between two segments of the Roman army, and the rebel forces are decimated.

The 6000 rebels who survived the battle were left crucified on the road from Capua to Rome as a reminder to those with traitorous thoughts.  That translates to roughly fifty bodies per mile.

 This arena has lingered in my mind over the past few days.  Imagining what it must have been like waiting at the base of these stairs.  Thinking of a population with an estimated 5% literacy rate, and 1/3 of the population enslaved.  How exotic animals brought in for games must have looked to a terrified and uneducated gladiator.  When the closest they'd ever seen to a crocodile or lion is in a drawing of the underworld, that coming into the arena must have felt like Hell itself had come to claim them.

I thought a lot about The Hunger Games~ panem et circenses, Peeta reflecting that the bright side of us killing each other off is that maybe a decent species would inherit the planet, and wondering if the games (gladiatorial or hunger) were a real, legal thing anymore... how many viewers would they have?

I am still not accustomed to Italy's take on its precious, ancient dwellings.  Everything open to the elements, lying in a state of beautiful decay.  Sometimes I'm tempted to make the girls walk carefully and reverently through these places.  Then I think of the horrors the arena saw, and maybe there's no better fate for it than to be a grass covered place where kids frolic and pick flowers for one another.

 Because little people are awesome and don't get mired in contemplation the way I do, the girls have been oblivious to all my musings and have instead been busy innovating.

Avalon has combined her two favorite activities~ eating and loving~ into one glorious catchphrase: snuggle-cake.  Began when merely eating the cake was not enough, she wanted to snuggle it.  From there, it became a cry for dessert, "Snuggle-cake!  I need snuggle-cake!"  Now it has d/evolved into a catch all exclamation that can be yelled as she sobs and refuses to take a bath, or lovingly whispered  when she wraps her baby arms around us.  Oh, little bear :-)

We love you, miss you, and hope these snippets make you feel like you're still a part of our lives.

~~~ Late-breaking update:  Some pictures of the girls' newly assembled princess bed, courtesy of Lindsey's hard work :) I think this bed may be their Most Favorite Thing® in the whole world.

"Wheee!" says the Ava.

Elephant Break.

A new strategy.

Climbing the corporate ladder.


*For instance, eating before the hostess is seated/ finished cooking.  She has worked hard all day preparing this meal, and it's bad form to not eat the food at it's piping hot best as she intended.
Or that while espresso can be enjoyed all day, cappuccino is a morning beverage.
That when you have an appointment for "tomorrow between 9 and noon", than can mean anywhere from 7 the next morning to three weeks from now when they finally get around to it.

**Why yes, I am a huge nerd


Getting Closer, Far Away...

Typically, this is the point in the blog lifecycle where we apologize profusely for being negligent in our update habits and spit out platitudes,  promising we'll be better about keeping things up to date and then like 2 weeks from now we post our last update and abandon this blog entirely.

That will not be the case.  The fact of the matter is we really *have been* extremely busy trying to get established in our new house and were basically Internet-less for several weeks.  There are plenty of nice things about being in Italy-- but one concept that has taken some getting used to is "Domani", the Italian word for 'tomorrow'.  Domani seems to be the most popular day to get anything done in this country, whether it is setting up a phone line, fixing DSL stations, paying bills, picking up trash, whatever.  There's really no big hurry to get anything done around here, with the exception of making sure you have your morning coffee.  It's not bad, it just takes some getting used to.

Nostra Casa

As alluded to previously, we officially moved in to our house a couple of weeks ago, and have been slowly, but surely wading through the mountain of boxes that separate our house from our home.  Its been a very nice change of pace from the living out of suitcases we've been doing for the last 6-8 months, and the girls have been noticeably happier and more comfortable every day having some semblance of a routine.  I think people discount how great it is to be able to relax on your own couch and throw in a movie from time to time!

Our landlords have continued to be wonderful, coming over pretty much every day to give us some impromptu Italian lessons, feed us, and teach us about Italian culture -- but mostly I suspect they just come over to play with the girls. :) A couple of days ago,  they even built us a garage in the basement of their house (we share a courtyard), so we've got a place to park our car and keep our tools. 

View from the office...

Ava still hasn't quite figured out how to use the bedais...

I want to ride my tricycle, I want to ride my trike....
Carmen Miranda wannabe.

Nostra Famiglia

Loretta (Lindsey's mom) mustered all of her willpower, and avoided flying across the world for almost 2 whole months... before breaking down and coming out for a visit.  It was nice to have her here for a week-- she helped Lindsey quite a bit with getting the house in order, and the girls had a wonderful time having their Lolo around who A.) could play with them nonstop and B.) speak English while doing it, so they could understand what was going on :).  There were a couple of setbacks with our car, so we weren't able to explore as much of the area as we wanted to, but we did get a chance to see CumaArco Felice, eat some terrific local pizza, and generally spend some time together.  I suppose she'll have to come out again sometime soon, so we can do more adventurous-type traveling when everything is a bit more settled (and we'll hopefully have a second car by then!)


Horsey! Horsey!!!

Oh right, 2000 year old cobblestone road is still in use...

Arco Felice.  Ironic, because arches always look like sadfaces to me (:

Off to the races again...

The Circle Of Life: Pink Vest Edition. 
Making the girls leave the beach...

Sweet Chariot...

Cuma: Beach, Forest, Ruins.

Also, along with the joys of having the internet again, we've been able to access XBox Kinect Video Chat and it seems to be a viable way to have conversations with our friends and family back in the states.  So, if you see me ( Beavbo ) or Lindsey (CookiePrncess16) on Xbox, be sure to say hello!

That's about all I have for the moment, sorry its been so long since we've updated the blog, we totally for real promise to be better about updating in the future, blah blah blah, here's some pictures of girls playing with bubbles :)

-- Scott

Kylie takes a stand.


Too much fun.

Soap + Jets = Awesome!