Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our first home

The realtor's picture*

Ben and I bought a house!  We have lived in 3 different houses together, but this is our first home that we actually own.  We actually closed on May 31st which was a Friday.  Exactly one year earlier, we were arriving in Columbia to start our one weekend house search.  So technically we looked for a year.  When Ben was offered the job here, he accepted (I feel weird saying we accepted since it was his job, but he obviously made that decision with me), and I had never even been to the town.  Talk about a leap of faith.  And I'm picky!  Anyway, so the university flew us out for a weekend to look for a place to live before we moved at the end of July.  We did two solid days of house hunting, and I just wasn't comfortable buying anything.  Everything just felt so foreign, and I wasn't truly excited about any of the houses.  I also do not rush into decisions lightly so in retrospect I don't know why we expected to buy a house in one weekend.  Luckily, a friend of mine from Chicago has parents who owned a home in Columbia, and it just happened to be for rent.  It could not have worked out better for us.  Plus we got the "friend" no pet waiver so Ollie could live with us. Phew.

It's ours!
I checked the real estate sites throughout the year, and we became more comfortable with the town and where we would want to live.  Of course Ben would pick out in the middle of nowhere with acres of land but that wasn't in the budget (or my idea of the perfect local.)   To make a long search short, we went to an open house in April, loved it, and had to put in an offer the next day because there were already two offers!  Ours was chosen and the rest of the closing process went smoothly!
The day we closed.  It was raining.

We moved in last weekend, and I still hurt.  I much preferred having movers come and pack up all our stuff and carry everything.  If only the university paid for more than one move, right?  So far I've painted two rooms, and I'm so happy with the way they turned out.  I'll have to post before and after pictures.  I'll try to post more pictures at some point when I have unpacked (it might be a year or so), and you have to see the backyard/deck.  That was really the selling point.  Well that and the remodeled bathrooms.  Anyway, I'm so happy with it and can't wait to share more...eventually. 

*I'm an Indiana girl so I have to have the basketball goal in the driveway.  Wouldn't feel like home otherwise.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oh Venice (Part Two)

Venice part two starts half way between day one and two.  In the middle of the night while we were sound asleep in our third story bedroom overlooking that gorgeous view above, we woke to a bizarre feeling of shaking.  I am a deep sleeper once asleep so I don't wake up easily and definitely do not get up voluntarily at that time.  We both woke up, felt ourselves shaking again, and were quite startled.  We looked at each other, silently confirming that the other felt it, and tried to figure out what was happening.  Ben said, "I think we just felt an earthquake!"  I asked what we should do.  We laid there for awhile, didn't feel anything else, didn't hear anyone else up and about, and just went back to sleep.  As I said, it takes a lot for me to get up at that hour.  I feel sorry for my future children.  The next morning at breakfast Ben asked Marco if we really had felt an earthquake, and our experience was confirmed.  There was a huge earthquake in the Milan area, and Venice felt it as well!
My cute husband where we felt the quake.
We started the second actual day with set plans.  We wanted to visit the Doge's Palace and Saint Mark's Basilica.  St. Mark's Basilica is free (yay!), but we did pay the extra 5 euros to go upstairs.  It is well worth it if you are trying to make that decision.  There's much more to see, and you get to see the actual bronze horses which are inside, not outside.  They date back to at least Alexander the Great, and it was a bit surreal to see something that old and amazing.  The bronze horses you can see from the square are replicas.  You aren't allowed to take picture of the real ones though. If you pay the extra money, you also get to go out on the balcony and see the views.  It's basically a great picture opp.  While at the top, we took some pictures for a group of students, and they took our picture in return. In doing so we started talking about where we were from and the usual generalities.  However, it turned out we actually knew people in common!  One girl was dating the younger brother of a really good friend of mine from college, and the other girl went to the same haircutter as Ben did growing up. His mom still goes there and so does the girl, so they got their picture together, and I believe it is now hanging in the salon.  Small world stories are my favorite.

After the historical sites, we just did more wandering.  Venice is made for wandering.  We also tried the first Bellini's of our life.  For dinner, we ate at a restaurant that was one of the many tourist traps out and about in Venice.  We basically knew it going in so no excuses.  I wanted to go back to da Mamo for the second night, but Ben thought we should try somewhere new.  This place had a good deal even though it kind of looked touristy so we went for it.  It was fine, just not memorable.  We should have gone back da Mamo. :)  Yes, I am a creature of habit.  Another highlight was having my first glass of Prosecco.  Prosecco is my sister-in-law, Jenny's, favorite drink, so when in Venice I knew I had to try some or she would kill me.  I have had Prosecco, but it was always mixed with something else.  Anyway, it was delicious.  One of my favorite things to do now once we're back is to add pomegranate seeds to a glass of Prosecco. It is pretty much perfect.  And so ended our second day in Venice. 
The yellow house that always helped us find our way home.

Bronze horse replicas

Doge's Palace

In the Bridge of Sighs

Taking a picture of all the people taking pictures of the Bridge of Sighs.


Me with Prosecco and Ben with beer.  He missed his beers.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed our time in Venice.  It's funny because while there I went through some different emotions.  I was frustrated by the prices and the crowds, but I was also totally awed by the beauty and history.  It wasn't my absolute favorite location on our trip (yes, that was Cinque Terre as I expected), but once home I actually found myself thinking about Venice more than about any other place we visited.  It just had a magical and majestic quality, and I really hope I will get the opportunity to go back someday.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Silver Lining to Midwest Storms

It stormed a lot here in May.  Too much.  We're talking thunder and rain and hail every day for a week.  This means we're also talking sinus headaches every day for a week.  However, I am grateful we didn't have the tornadoes that so many other Midwestern towns had this year.  And sometimes the sinus headaches are worth it when you see a full rainbow.  Seriously.  Okay, the headaches aren't worth it, but they sure are pretty anyway!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Oh Venice (Part 1)

Oh Venice. What can I say about Venice?  Well a lot actually.  Venice was an interesting addition to our itinerary.  It was a city we were both curious about and wanted to see, but at the same time it wasn't at the top of our list (Cinque Terre was).  It wasn't in the exact same vicinity as the rest of our stops so we hesitated with whether or not to add that travel time.  In the end, we obviously did, and I couldn't be happier with that decision.

We took the earliest possible train from Siena to Venice.  We arrived early afternoon, and it was bright and sunny and wonderful.  I think I was most nervous about navigating Venice with the vaporettos and canals and winding streets.  I didn't know the half of it.  When we got there, we grabbed a slice of pizza around the train station and headed to catch a vaporetto to our hotel.  We were staying near St. Mark's Square, which I would highly recommend if you're only going to be in Venice a short time.  The vaporetto station was a disaster.  Chaos.  I don't know if it's a European thing, an Italian thing, a Venetian thing, but lines weren't such a "thing" there.  We waited forever trying to figure out what was going on.  People were pushing, attendants were yelling, and I hated every second.  My back pack was so heavy, we were sweating, and we had no idea why we weren't moving.  We eventually got on a (packed) boat, and that's when we found out.  The America's Cup Regatta race was in town, and it messed up all the vaporetto times and stops.  Many of the stops were closed, including the one we needed.  We got off at the last one we could and just spent a lot of time looking at the map.  Or actually Ben spent a lot of time looking at the map.  We could see some of the sailboats though which was awesome. 
We also kept seeing people stopping and holding up traffic on one of the foot bridges and couldn't figure out why.  Finally as we were crossing, it was all clear.  It was the view to the Bridge of Sighs!

Anyway, after about 3 hours, we finally made it to our bed and breakfast, the B&B San Marco, and it was lovely. We had a huge room, and even though we were sharing a bathroom, everything was clean, well located, and very well priced.  We ate breakfast in the family's kitchen the next day, and Ben loved getting to talk to Marco about the city.  He spoke English extremely well and was very informative. The view from our window helped release any frustration the initial ride took.  Check it out.

We changed out of our traveling clothes and took off to see the sights.  With Venice, we did a lot of just wandering and taking it in. The bad thing about Venice is that it is extremely crowded.  We were there in mid-late May so I can't imagine what it would be like in the summer.  In some of the narrow alleys, it would take awhile to make it through.  We found the Rialto bridge and saw the gorgeous, post-card views. 

The first two pictures of this post were actually taken from the Rialto bridge.  We continued to wander, seeing St. Mark's square, and sitting by the canals watching the gondolas go by.  It was relaxing.  We finally had to go back and change into warmer clothes and headed out for an evening on Venice.  We stumbled onto a restaurant that ended up being one of the best meals of our entire trip.  Best house wine of our entire trip, fabulous service, intimate, fun ambience, and delicious food.  Plus we only had to wait about 10 minutes.  It was a good thing because I think Ben was getting a bit frustrated at my indecision on where to eat.  Next time, we'll come prepared because we will just go back to da Mamo.  And I really hope there is a next time.

A huge lobster.  His name is Crusty. That's a joke for my family.

This caprese was ah-mazing.

Ben's meal.  Yum.

I hope to see you again da Mamo.
 We ended the night on the square of San Marco or St. Mark's for us Americans.  My mom's best friend, Kitty, travels to Italy a lot and adores Venice.  She said the number one thing we had to do was sit at one of the cafes on the square and listen to the orchestras.  You do have to purchase a drink to sit, and it is pricy, but we were so happy to indulge in the one drink.  The orchestras were so good, and it just seemed like such an Italian experience for our vacation.  It was quite chilly so there weren't many people around, but some were dancing in the square.  I imagine that when it is warm, there are people everywhere.  I hope to experience that someday as well. 

So that was our first day in Venice.  This post is already a bit ridiculous so Venice is going to get a part 2!  Yay!  Be prepared for the Doge's palace, St. Mark's Basilica, our intro to Prosecco and Bellini's, small world stories, and surviving the earthquake..dum, dum, dum!!


Monday, June 3, 2013

An odd day

Saturday was an odd day.  Plans had been made quite awhile ago to meet Ben's mom, step-dad, sister, and brother-in-law in St. Louis for the day and night.  They live, respectively, 6 and 7 hours from Columbia so St. Louis cuts 2 hours off that drive to see us.  Of course when we made the plans, we didn't know that we would be closing on our (first!) home on Friday, but oh well.  We have all month to move.  More on that later.

So we took off Saturday morning and arrived at our hotel on the west side at about 11:00am.  About 15 minutes out, we got a call from Eileen, Ben's sister, telling us there was an issue.  The power was out in our hotel, and they had no idea how long it would last.  Huge storms and tornadoes had gone through Missouri the night before and St. Louis had some damage, primarily on the side of town where we were staying.  We didn't see any damage until we about 5 minutes out.  They started calling places we wanted to go to see if it was the whole city or just sections, and then started calling other hotels.  We finally found one with 3 available rooms and booked it.  Luckily the other attractions all had power so we were good to go.

We ate lunch at 5 Star Burgers in Clayton, which, well if you like burgers, go.  Best bison burger of my life.  Then we headed out to the Anheuser-Busch brewery to do the tour.  We then had plans to go to the Arch, although you couldn't pay me to go up it again.  People with motion sickness should not go up that thing.  Then we planned to hit the City Museum and get dinner while hopefully catching the Bruins game.  The brewery tour was great!  The highlight for sure is seeing the Clydesdales. 

Those horses are magnificent.  They are ginormous and absolutely gorgeous.  We did the tour and ended up in the tasting room at the end when plans got a little, um, messed up.  My friend was letting our dog Ollie out while we were gone, and she called, panicked, because Ollie had pushed the gate to our fence open and made a break for it.  He ran to the woods around our neighborhood, and she saw him go through the creek.  Then that was it. She couldn't find him.  So Ollie is my baby which means I was internally freaking out.  He also won't listen to anyone but Ben or me.  It took us quite awhile to even earn his trust, and we knew he wouldn't come to anyone else calling him.  After some panic, a few tears in the tasting room (just a few--I was trying hard to stay stoic and respectable), and giving them about a half hour to look, we decided we needed to head home.  So we started the 2 hour drive back.  Ben's family decided to come too so we had to cancel our 2nd hotel room of the day.  That drive was not what I would call fun.  I was trying to stay positive--of course we would find him.  But there was also that part of me that couldn't help but worry that I would never see him again.

To make a long story short and sweet, about 15 minutes away from Columbia, we got a call from a neighbor that he was in their fenced-in back yard.  We have no idea how he got in there, but it looks a lot like our house so we think he thought he was in his backyard.  My friend went and got him, and he was waiting when we pulled in our drive.  That nutter.  He was soaking wet and covered in burrs but seemed to be quite happy.  I felt horrible for Christy, and I was a bit emotionally on edge.  So our plans changed quite a bit.  I am just so glad he is okay!!  And so that's the rest of the story.