Saturday, April 25, 2009

Je voudrais aller en France.

! Phin slept for 10 hours straight last night! I got my first uninterrupted night's sleep in 5 months. I thought it deserved a blog post. Actually this post is woefully overdue. It's been about 3 months since our last. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, Phin turned 3 months old yesterday.

All is well here. The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster. The lack of sleep definitely took it's toll on us in the first couple of months after Phin's arrival. As my friend Sarah Drekmeier says, "There's a reason they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture". Too true. Eli took a bit of time to adjust as well. He hit the Terrible Twos about two months before Phin came along, but he seems to be coming out on the other side of it- thank goodness. Now he's entering a wonderfully fun Preschool phase. He's more articulate and curious than ever. He loves to say that his food is "Belicious!", and he's not fond of the rumbling noise made by the "washing macleaner". He's full of opinions. Phin is also doing well. At 16 lbs, he's an excellent sleeper. He's molto contento in his waking hours as well. He smiles all the time and is beginning to interact with us a bit. Of course we've eased into a nice routine with the boys just in time to move in six weeks. Such is life.

Our biggest news of late is our trip to France in early April. Sam's mom treated us to a week in Avignon and a week in Paris. She met Phin for the first time and got some quality time with Eli. Thanks to Mimi Lo, he can now Hokey Pokey with the best of them! France was incredible. Maybe it's because we're better traveled now, or because we're more design conscience, or because the kids open our eyes to things we wouldn't have otherwise noticed, but for whatever reason, France was more amazing than ever before. I now consider myself a Francophile.

Avignon is a beautiful town and the unofficial capital of Provence. We rented an apartment across the river in a sleepy little town called Villeneuve les Avignon. It was perfect for us. We did a bit of touring including trips to Nimes, Les Baux, St. Remy, Chateauneuf du Papes, and Gigondas as well as some lovely drives through the Provencal countryside. In the week we were in Avignon we happened upon two Michelin reviewed restaurants (no stars, but quality nonetheless). It makes me think they're around every corner in France, which they probably are. Anyway, they were both outstanding! Sam had a steak with bernaise sauce that was unforgettable. My mouth is watering as I recall it. We also grazed on sumptuous picnic lunches made from various selections at the town's market hall. The Roquefort and goat cheeses were unbelievable. The pates, the anchovies, and a puff-pastry-potpie deserve honorable mentions as well.

Paris was another matter altogether. At the risk of being cliche, Paris may just be my favorite city in the world. We didn't get to do much beyond strolling and taking in the atmosphere, but that was enough. At Eli's request, we rode the Batobus, the boat bus, up and down the Seine almost everyday. It was a great way to get around. We went to the Eiffel tower twice, also at Eli's request. Each morning, Lois went out in search of the best pastries in the neighborhood and brought them back to a happy jury of taste testers. We ate at some great places. Angelina's was a highlight, with their incredible hot chocolate and deserts, as was the steak frites at Relais des Entrecote. Sam and Lois feasted on Macaroons. Unfortunately, due to my allergy to almonds, I had to sit that one out. Yet another highlight was a visit to Berthillon, an amazing ice-creamery on Isle St. Louis. The caramel glace was right up there with the best gelato in Italy. (We are so spoiled- it's ridiculous.) Our best meal though, hands down, was at Le Comptoir. It's an unassuming little bistro, but there's a six month wait for a reservation. On a lark, we stopped in to see if there were any cancellations for the night, and, as luck would have it, there was one. Lois babysat for us so that we could have a romantic evening all to ourselves and celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary in style. We had a five course tasting menu that was to die for. A nice half-bottle of St. Emilion was a perfect complement. It was divine. We have a printed copy of the menu card. Perhaps we will post that in a later installment.

Now that we're back in Viterbo, it's time to start savoring all things Italian. We only have SIX WEEKS LEFT!!!

I'll write more soon. Sorry we don't have any photos with this one. Our iPhoto application is on the fritz. Until we find a fix, we'll leave you with a picture of Phin that we took with Photo Booth.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

He's finally here!

After our trip to Rome, we headed home to rest up for the arrival of the new baby. My due date was January 31st. Instead of waiting it out, we decided to induce because we live so far from the hospital. The trip takes an hour and fifteen minutes, and since this is our second baby, our doctor thought there was a chance we wouldn't make it there in time. Or at the very least, that we'd be in for several false and inconvenient trips to the hospital because we'd have to be so hyper-aware of labor starting. We were scheduled to induce on Wednesday, January 21st (the first full day of the Obama administration I might add). My mom was scheduled to arrive on the 19th. We were all set.

Then, with a week and a half left to go, Eli got sick. He had a fever and a head cold that lasted a full week. I caught the bug a few days later and the virus then spurred on a sinus infection. I was too sick to even go my doctor's appt that week. Finally when I was able to drag myself to an appt, two days before the induction date, it was obvious that I would be too sick to go ahead with the plan. We decided to ply me with antibiotics and delay the inducing until Saturday, January 24th (sigh of relief). It ended up working out well. My mom had more time to get her bearings, and Eli and I had more time to heal before the big event.

Saturday morning, Sam and I drove to the hospital at the crack of dawn. The doctor wanted us to get there early. It was a gorgeous drive on the Via Cassia and we got to watch the sunrise behind the Apennines. Once we got to the hospital, they started me on a Potocin drip, and so began the labor. All in all, I was in labor for 8 hours. It wasn't nearly as startling or painful as it had been with Eli. I was enjoying the controlled nature of it all actually. It was a lovely environment in which to have a baby. Dr. Trouve speaks English, as I've mentioned before, but the rest of the birthing team spoke only Italian. By the end of the day, my Italian was very good - blame it on hormones and Adrenalin. Not only that, I had the undivided attention of the birthing team for the entire day. My own doctor, midwife, anesthesiologist, pediatrician, and nurse - I had them all to myself for the entire eight hours. It was amazing.

I spent part of the day on Potocin and part of the day having my own natural contractions (spurred on by the initial dose of drugs). In the last hour of labor they started me on the Potocin again because the epidural I had was beginning to stall my labor. At this point the doctor and I made an agreement not to introduce more painkillers through the epidural so the Potocin could do it's job more efficiently. Because of this, I felt a great deal of the actual birth. It was the most painful and simultaneously wonderful experience I've ever had. How do you spell r-e-l-i-e-f! My God! And to top off our beautiful day, a double rainbow appeared in the window ending in a field just across the street just before Phin arrived.

And so Phineas Tevere Savage arrived at 5:37pm on Saturday January 24th.

The remaining three days in the hospital were heavenly, though, I admit, we would have liked to see a bit more of Phin during that time. The nuns that run the clinic kept him going to and from the nursery for hours at a time. They changed him, bathed him, weighed him, fed him sugar water, and cared for his every need. We almost had to beg them to see him. Even then we were told that Phin was on a schedule and would be returned to us in due time. A bit frustrating. Nonetheless, Sam and I both got some much needed rest.

Meanwhile Eli stayed in Viterbo with his Nana and great aunt (who was dubbed Big Nana by Eli upon their first meeting). We missed him a ton and were anxious to get back to him. He visited us once while were were in the hospital to meet his new baby brother. Eli was a bit nervous and shy at first. He hid behind my bed when the nuns wheeled in Phin's bassinet. But once Sam introduced them, Eli seemed very relieved. I believe his first words were "Ohh (I get it), it's a baby."

Now we're back home and nesting with our new addition. Phin is adjusting to life on the outside very well. Eli is still a bit "squirrely" (my friend Lisa's apt description) but slowly beginning to adjust to having a baby brother around. All is well in the Savage household tonight. It feels great to be a family of four.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Befana: Eli's last hurrah

Above: Eli enjoying a ride on the carousel.
Below: Eli plays in the fire truck inside the Explora Museum.

Above & Below: Eli and Caroline at the Explora Museum.

Above & Below: Fantastic pics of the Pantheon courtesy of Sam.

Above & Below: Views from our apartment in Rome.

Above: The Befana Feste in Piazza Navona
Below: Eli and Sam and Caroline ride the carousel.

Here we are finally getting the chance to catch up on our blog entries. I thought I'd start with our trip to Rome at the beginning of January where we got to celebrate Befana with Eli. Befana is primarily a children's holiday for Italians. It's the twelfth day of Xmas, January 6th. Italians have traditionally exchanged gifts on this day instead of December 25th (but now the British/American holiday traditions of Santa, etc, are becoming more popular). The Befana story has it that the three wise men stopped at a good witch's house for a respite on their way to meet baby Jesus. After their stay, they invited the witch to come along on their journey, but she declined. Once they left, she immediately regretted her decision and set off to find the baby Jesus on her own. Since she didn't know how to recognize the baby Jesus, she gave gifts to every baby she met on her way in case he/she was "the One". So now the witch comes on the night of Jan 5th and leaves candy and gifts for all Italian children.

In Rome there's a large fair in Piazza Navona to celebrate Befana and we had fun taking in the scene. I must say I'm getting pretty good at finding us accommodations wherever we go. This three night stay in Rome may have been the best yet. We stayed in a very elegant apartment on the fifth floor of a building with a view of the Tevere toward St. Peters. The apartment had a beautiful wrap-around balcony to take in the view. With comfortable accommodations, it was easy to take it slow and concentrate on Eli's fun (his last hurrah before baby brother arrived).

The first day we ate at a restaurant called La Campana. Really great food! I had artichoke ravioli in a pink sauce and Sam had papperdelle with a rabbit meat sauce. Both very tasty. We each followed that up with a fried seafood mix with a fried artichoke on the side - both of which were as light and fluffy as can be.

That night, and every night of our stay, we headed to Piazza Navona for the fair. Eli fell in love with the carousel. We rode the horses three or four times every night. There was food and trinkets and street performers galore.

The next day we went to the Explora Children's Museum. It was a hit! We expected a bit of a shabby science museum, but instead we were treated to a very modern toddler's play space/museum that's on par with some of the larger Children's Museums in the states. Eli played to his heart's content and then we went out for some Neopolitan pizza at Pizza Re. Heavenly!

Our next morning was spent at the zoo in the Villa Borgese. The zoo was a bit shabby, as expected, but Eli happily got his first live glimpse of all the animals we've been reading about in his books. He had a blast. That night we went for a nice hearty meal a very neighborhoody place around the corner from Piazza Navona. After dinner I finally got to try the famous Tartufo dessert at Tre Scalini. It's shameful that I've been here a year and half and haven't tried one yet - especially considering the gelato buff that I've become. Delicious!

Our last day in Rome was spent in doctor's appointments, but it was nice to see the doctor again and get a 36 week update on the pregnancy. Tutto benisimo.

After we got home from Rome it was time to start nesting and getting ready for the new baby. More to come on that topic in our next post.

Love to all...
The Savages

Friday, January 9, 2009

Buone Feste!

Above: Eli and Caroline play in the snow in Viterbo (and yes, we did not have mittens for Eli - who knew it would snow in Viterbo?)
Below: Our street covered in snow.

Above and below: Eli and Sam opening presents on Christmas day.

Happy Holidays or, as the Italians say, Buone Feste! It's been awhile since our last post and there's a lot to catch up on. The Savage 3 (and counting) had a great holiday here in Viterbo. We celebrated the season by cooking and baking up a storm. A few firsts included cupcakes and cookies for Sam's advisees and peppermint bark for friends and colleagues. I have to say that the peppermint bark turned out particularly well and will become a Savage Xmas tradition in the future. We experimented with lots of Italian dishes over the break and even hosted an Xmas Eve dinner for eight. Sam roasted an incredible Turkey with a pancetta-sage gravy (pancetta-sage butter was also used to keep the bird moist during the roasting process). The description alone is drool-worthy. It was a smash success! I made a delicious fresh wild mushroom soup (if I do say so myself) and our potato-gruyere pie was also a hit. Our guests rounded out the meal with some fantastic contributions as well. I had a strange hankering for pot pies all year so the next day I made turkey pot pies with the leftovers. It was a great Xmas day treat.

Anyway, enough about food and onto Xmas day. This year Eli started to catch-on to what Xmas and Babbo Natale mean in terms of presents. For days ahead of time he excitedly anticipated the big event. We had about 6 presents for him to open. The funny thing is that he took all day to open then. He wanted ample play time with each individual gift before moving on to the next. It made for a good day actually. His favorites included a Thomas train whistle and a Lego construction site. Sam got me a beautiful Max Mara scarf in addition to the Sculpture Studio workshop that I attended earlier in the month (big gift since it entailed the cost of the workshop and two full days of babysitting). My gift to him was a much-coveted leather messenger bag and an assortment of expat foods that kept the cooking trend alive for the rest of the vacation.

Besides the American food blitz, the rest of the week was a bit boring since all of Italy closes down for Xmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. In a fairly rare event we did get a bit of snow on the 28th which was great amusement for half the day. After the downtime that was forced upon us, we capped off Sam's vacation with a four day excursion to Rome. It was a fantastic trip! One for the books. I'll cover it in my next post. Until then, ciao belli!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Babbo Natale

Above: Eli meeting Babbo Natale for the first time ever
Below: Eli was not quite enamored of him.

Above: Eli munching on some of the chocolate Babbo Natale gave to him.
Below: Eli checking out the man in red.

Above: Babbo Natale handing out some treats.
Below: Eli playing around before the big man arrived.

Above: Caroline and Sonata waiting for the event to begin.

Hey there. Not a ton to report, but I'll try to make it interesting.

School just finished yesterday, and now I am officially on Winter Vacation. Caroline is sick with a cold, and Eli is just getting up from a nap. We don't have too many plans for the vacation. Caroline is 34 weeks pregnant and doing fine. We canceled some of our travel plans because she is not too mobile these days. All for the best, I think. We all are pretty wiped out after a pretty hectic fall semester. We do have an apartment booked in Rome for three days after New Year's. That should be fun.

Eli's school had a Christmas event last weekend while Sonata was visiting us. One of the dads dressed up as Babbo Natale, a.k.a. Santa, and handed out presents. Needless to say the kids were a little skeptical of the jolly fellow dressed in red. There were many tears and even more cameras. It was truly an event to behold. The upshot is that Eli is getting into the Christmas spirit for the first time in his young life. By "getting into the Christmas spirit," I mean waking up every morning, grabbing a present from under the tree and saying, "Open it. Open it." All consumerism aside, this is a nice time of year here in Viterbo. The students families are here visiting, the town is decorated for the holidays, the christmas market is in full swing and people are crowding the streets every evening for the passeggiata. The weather has turned sunny again after about three weeks of on and off rain. It is great to be on vacation and have loads of time with the family.

We are having a few people over for a Christmas Eve dinner. I am cooking a turkey (covered in sage and pancetta) for the first time. (Wish me luck. Any advice is much appreciated.) Planning for that meal is a nice project for the first part of this break. Other than that we are just trying to relax and get some quality time in with Eli before his little brother arrives in four weeks or so.

We hope that you all are well and that you are enjoying the holiday season. We miss you all and are thinking of you. We are off to a cafe to grab some hot chocolate. Lots of love,


Sunday, November 30, 2008

What Thanksgiving?

Above and below: Caroline's first attempt at sculpture, and the fruit of her labor this weekend.

Below: The olive harvest at Pat's house. The little girl in the photo is our friend Emma's daughter. A great playmate for Eli.


Below: Eli and Caroline check out some vintage planes.

I can't believe it has been a month since our last post. Tempus fugit.

All is well here. Eli is smack in the middle of his "terrible two's." He cries over spilled milk, literally, and he is pretty much a maniac most of of the time. We are slowly adjusting to the new reality and are hoping that we can make some headway before Eli's little brother comes on the scene in 8 weeks!!!!!

We have mostly stayed around Viterbo since we got back from Gaeta. Caroline, Eli and I have all had our bouts with sickness, and we are finally coming out the other end of that tunnel. We did manage a trip to a nearby aeronautical museum near Bracciano. Eli loved checking out all of the planes, and we had a fun time watching him. We also managed to fit in some olive harvesting at Pat's house (Pat is the director of the school and he has over 60 olive trees on his property outside of town.) and a short trip to Orvieto to eat pasta with fresh truffle shavings and do some shopping.

It has been pretty rainy over the last couple of weeks. We were awoken last night by a spectacular thunderstorm, although somehow at 3:30 am it was not that exciting. Caroline is in Rome this weekend doing a two day sculpture seminar. She is taking some pictures of the finished product today. Maybe I can convince her to post a few. Next weekend we head to Napoli for a three-day weekend. We are excited to eat lots pizza, drink some excellent Neapolitan coffee, visit the Museo Arcaeologico and do whatever else suits our fancy.

School has been a bit of a bear for me lately. I was acting director for a week or so while Pat was at a meeting in India (he got back two days before the events in Mumbai), and suffice it to say that all was not peaceful in his absence. This has been a pretty tough fall for a few reasons, not the least of which is that there have been no long weekends since school started. I got a bit of a break by staying home while the kids traveled to Torino for a four day trip a few weeks ago, but I am very much looking forward to the holiday break and recharging my batteries.

We missed you all very much on Thanksgiving. It was a normal school/workday for us here. We took out rotisserie chicken for dinner and watched an episode of Weeds or Gossip Girl or something like that. We feel lucky to have such great friends and family like you. We have a lot to be thankful for.

I hope that you all enjoy the pics and the post. We'll try to be better about posting more frequently in the next few weeks. Ciao! A presto,


Sunday, November 2, 2008

three observations and a pipi in the potty

A few weeks ago I had to get our annual smog check done. I took the car to the mechanic and asked him when I should pick it up. He said "Pick it up? This will only take a few minutes. Has your car been causing you any trouble?" I said no. He said "Ok then. Here's your certificate for 2008-2009." He never asked to see the car. This may be why Italy has an air pollution problem.

Last week we went for a walk one evening and saw that a fire truck pulled up to a small apartment building. Two firemen had climbed a ladder onto a second floor balcony and were breaking into a window. Presumably a rescue effort was in effect. A third fireman was at the foot of the ladder holding it for them - while having cigarette.

Yesterday, I found out that most Italian grocery stores provide a dedicated check-out line for pregnant women and the disabled. Brilliant idea, if I do say so.

In other news, Eli just made the move to a big-boy bed. The transition is smooth thus far because I don't think he realizes yet that he can get down from the bed by himself. It's only a matter of time before he figures it out so we're enjoying it while it lasts. He's also shown great interest in the potty lately. The other morning he got up and suddenly wanted to use it. He went pipi in the potty three times that morning like it was old hat. ...still waiting for a repeat performance.