Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Audrey Pictures

There are a few last pictures posted to the 12-18 month album, and now a new 18-24 month album. She's growing up too fast!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Italy Pictures

Some of our Italy pictures are now posted on PicasaWeb -- as always, all our photo albums are linked in the right column.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Florence I

Yesterday was spent traveling from Cinque Terre to Florence. We stopped off in Pisa along the way to see the so-called "leaning tower." Too bad we don't currently have the capability to post pictures, but let's just say it was worth the stop. The tower is on a campus with a church and baptistry, so we toured these as well. After another freshly made deli sandwich, we continued on our way to Florence. The evening was spent getting settled into our hotel, doing our own walking tour of Florence, and enjoying our first pizza dinner here in Italy - very tasty!

Today was our first FULL day in Florence, and I mean that in every sense of the word. We woke up early for our 9am reservation at the Uffizi Gallery, the largest collection of art in Florence. The gallery is huge and amazing. It begins with primitive-looking religious art from the fourteenth century, and progressing through the almost 45 rooms which wind their way in a horseshoe shape, ends up in the eighteenth century, so you can see the advances in style and technique unfold before your eyes. And of course, there are some big names there as well -- It boasts work by artists such as Botticelli (including the Birth of Venus), Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Rafael and Leonardo Da Vinci. It was a mentally-exhausting, nearly 5 hour tour, but a rewarding experience.

We had lunch at a delightful little wine bar, or "Enoteca" that we happened upon. We sat with our sandwiches and shared glass of wine, then after much debate and some wasted walking, decided to go to the Pitti Palace. Here, we toured a portion of the science museum which is temporarily on display, which details the scientific developments that occurred in Florence under the Medicis, including the rediscovery of Euclid's works on geometry, original discoveries of Galileo obtained using his newly-developed telescope (an original was on display!), and various tools developed during this time used for navigation, astronomy, and engineering. Our ticket also allowed us to tour the palace gardens, which consisted of well-manicured lawns and shubbery, sculptures, fountains, and a terrace with a beautiful view. This was somewhat different from what we expected (no flowers), but was still a nice escape from the bustling, noisy city, and the mental effort required by museums.

Dinner was at La Trattoria Marione. A very charismatic waiter ushered us in, and convinced us to let him surprise us with two pasta dishes. We ended up with ravioli and spaghetti with meatsauce. Both were excellent, as was the €3 wine. We topped off the meal with Tiramisu.

After a short rest at our hotel, we were persuaded to drag our tired feet out one last time to visit a unique-looking exhibit on the Impressionists just a block from our hotel. This turned out to be a terrific complement to our Uffizi tour, as it picked up where the Uffizi left off. Starting from one or two neo-Classical paintings, it walked you through impressionism, with a focus on the techniques and technology used by the impressionists to create their paintings. It also let you in on some of the controversy surrounding their work -- critics said that this new style of painting looked like mere unfinished sketches. By the end, combinded with the Uffizi, it felt like we had received a miniature course in art history.

So all in all, a very long day (three museums!). But it was worth it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cinque Terre

Despite last night being our first real sleep in two days, we woke up fairly refreshed at 8:00, had croissants and cappucino at the local coffee bar where we bought our phone card, and set out on our hike of the Cinque Terre. These five towns, part of a recently-established national park and World Heritage site, are connected by seven miles of hiking trail. Each town is set on a (steep) hillside by the sea, and consists of little more than a single narrow, uphill street, surrounded by colorfully painted buildings.

The first leg of the trail, from our "home" of Riomaggiore to neighboring Manarola, is called "la Via del Amore," after the young couples that frequent it. It is flat and easy, only about 20 minutes walk. In Manarola, which is prettier than Riomaggiore, we watched a short movie at the wine museum about the local dessert wine "Stracciatella." Evidently they have been making it for many centuries.

After a short walk around town, we continued on the trail to Corniglia. This trail was longer and slightly harder, taking a little over an hour. We got lots of great seaside views of the clear, blue-green water, and the amazingly regular boulders at the bottom. As we approached Corniglia, we skipped the nude beach (a decision, however, which we questioned somewhat as the day got hotter), and proceeded up the 384 steps to the town, which unlike the others is perched high on a hilltop. We bought a picture from a local artist camped at the bottom of the stairs. In Corniglia we ate our first deli-bought ham, (local) cheese, and (to-die-for) salami sandwich, which is a cheap, delicious, and fun way to eat lunch.

Onward to Vernazza! This section of trail was much hillier, much rockier, much longer (about 1.5 hours), and (due to the time of day) much hotter. Tara's flip-flops really got a workout on this one. This trail was more through the forest above the sea, so we didn't get as many views to go with our workout. We also passed an enterprising guy who set up a restaurant halfway along the trail, but since he wouldn't fill our water bottle we continued on. Eventually we made it to Vernazza, which was a little bigger and busier. We had our gelato of the day here.

We skipped the last trail segment, which is 2 hours long and even rockier than the previous one. Instead we took the train to Monterosso, which is the busiest and beachiest of the five towns. Having lost all of our posessions on the flight over, we were excited to find a few cheap clothes here -- a shirt for Tara and some shorts for Scott. After a stroll around town and some pizza focaccia, our tired feet carried us back to the train station to make our way home. Dinner in Riomaggiore was at a nice seafood place, with some amazing pesto linguini, swordfish with marinara, and a half-bottle of local wine.

We really enjoyed this day of our trip. The combination of hiking through the seaside scenery and strolling through small, tradition-filled towns was an ideal first day of our vacation.

(pictures to follow)

Monday, August 25, 2008

New videos

Okay, more videos are up! I've backdated some of them so they show up in the proper order. To see them all, click on the "videos" link on the right hand side of the page, under "labels." Or just click here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

For me?

Audrey teases.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rocking Chair Madness

Audrey also likes to play in the rocking chair.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I couple of things have contributed to this idea over the last few months. First, the recently skyrocketing price of commodities -- oil obviously, but also food. Second, the cyclically popular idea that there will soon be more people than the earth can sustain. And third, I've started reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse," which analyzes how societies can succeed or fail to overcome environmental challenges, and the consequences of that success or failure. The overall themes leading to this post are thus increasing demand for limited resources, especially food.

Now, something I've been thinking of increasingly over the last few weeks is that, while rich people can afford a doubling of food prices, poor people cannot. For example, while Tara and I are not overly wealthy, food accounts for only 5% of our monthly spending (rent and daycare are exorbitant in Boston). If that doubled to 10%, we would hardly notice. However, in poor countries many people spend the majority of their income on food. What happens to them when food prices double?

Unfortunately, while the poor suffer most from rising food prices, they also have the least control over them -- I think that rich countries essentially set the price of food. For, one of the greatest expenses involved in growing food is the fuel necessary to plant, harvest, and transport it to market. And it is rich and developing countries, with our ever-increasing demand for energy, that are driving the rapid rise in the cost of fuel, and hence, in the cost of food as well. (Note that I'm a fairly confident believer in efficient markets -- that is, for example, that the price of oil and food is more or less determined by supply and demand, rather than any conspiracy among oil companies.)

So the problem sounds depressingly complicated. But as I was doing the dishes the other day, I was convicted by the very simple fact that, in scraping some leftover food into the garbage, I was wasting food. And in cleaning out spoiled leftovers from the fridge, I realized that these, too, were wasted meals that could have been eaten. And what about meat? It's oh-so-tasty, I agree, but we eat far more than we really need, and it takes dozens of pounds of grain to grow 1 pound of meat (great article). Over time, these small acts add up, causing our contribution to global food demand to be higher than it otherwise might be. This undoubtedly increases prices by some not-insignificant amount, and we already saw that the poor suffer most for this.

So what can we do? Of course, in a nation where overconsumption of food is becoming a huge medical problem, it would be silly to advocate "cleaning your plate" if you're already full. But what if we simply put less food on our plates -- eating more, smaller helpings just until full, instead of piling the food on high initially (are you listening, Cheesecake Factory)? What if we diligently ate all of the leftovers in the fridge instead of letting them go bad? And while I have no desire to give up burgers and bratwurst, I could probably live with smaller ones.

Think about it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Spanish Tapas

So, I started off wanting some Manchego cheese, but Tara wanted more than that -- the rest just kind of emerged from the Spanish starting point. It really wasn't that hard -- things kind of pace themselves automatically. You slice the onion after starting the potatoes, and then do the shrimp while the tortilla is cooking, and it all finishes at abut the same time. It's a light and refreshing meal.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grandma's Banana Bread

A recipe from my late grandmother, preserved for posterity in that great repository of deliciousness, the church cookbook. This was also an excuse to try out the mini loaf pans that Tara persuaded me to order over the holidays (it took a lot of persuasion).

  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 0.5 cups butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar, then add bananas, milk, vanilla, eggs. Whisk together dry ingredients and fold into wet, stirring only enough to bring batter together. Pour into greased mini loaf pans, and bake at 375 until risen and golden on top (I'm not actually sure how long -- the recipe said 1 hour, but that got them a little burned).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Audrey's trip to the Hospital

On Monday, Audrey had a trip to the hospital to get tubes put in her ears. Since about Christmas, she has been having a hard time draining fluid from her ears, which results in frequent ear infections. It also has given her some degree of hearing impairment, leading to a slight speech delay. So after several failed attempts to clear the fluid with antibiotics, her doctors recommended tubes.

Everything went well -- apparently it's considered a pretty minor surgery these days, and she was only in the operating room for about 15 minutes. They just poke a little hold in the eardrum, suck out the fluid, and insert a doughnut shaped plastic tube to hold it open. Interestingly, the purpose is not to allow fluid to drain, as we had thought, but to allow pressure to equalize between the middle and outer ear, which prevents fluid from collecting in the first place.

They allowed one parent to go down to the pre-op area with her, and be in the operating room until she fell asleep. Mommy was elected for this. They gave me (Tara) a pair of scrubs to put on before going down (size XL was apparently all they could muster up). We sat with a couple of other babies going for different procedures in the pre-op area, met with the anesthesiologist, said a quick hello to our doctor, then it was time to go into the OR. They put a little mask over her nose and mouth for her to breath in the inhaled anesthetic, and after a few seconds of fighting the mask, as any normal child would, she fell peacefully asleep. They escorted me out to go back upstairs and wait for them to call me when she was done. I just barely had time to tell Scott how things had gone and change, when before I knew it they were calling me back to meet her in the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit, A.K.A. Recovery room).

They had warned us ahead of time that she would be a little "agitated" upon waking up from the anesthesia. Now this is a term that doctors, including myself, use often. Usually I use it to refer to some confused elderly patient in the hospital trying to get out of bed, pull out their IVs, etc., but I didn't really know what it would look like in a baby. Well, I found out as soon as I stepped off of the elevator and could hear my girl in the next room crying. She was wrapped in a blanket in a nurse's arms just flailing around, still with closed eyes. The nurse handed her to me, assuring me again that this was completely normal and to be expected -- it's just related to the disorientation babies experience after being under anesthesia. So I did my best to hold her, rock her and talk to her, but any attempts to calm her were really quite futile. We only stayed in the PACU a few minutes before going back upstairs to be reunited with Daddy. Daddy took over holding the flailing baby, and we managed to get her clothes back on, sign the discharge paperwork, and get on our way. She calmed down when we got outside, and crashed on the way home. After a long blissful nap, (for Mommy and Audrey), she awoke her usual happy self.

Many people have asked if we have noticed a difference in her now that she can presumably hear better. The answer is not quite yet. We expect that it will be a gradual process of catching up in terms of language development. We are in the process of looking into some speech therapy through a local early childhood intervention program. If she qualifies, then a speech therapist will come to her daycare one or twice a week and work with her. In the meantime, thanks to Aunt Diane Rush and a book about baby sign language, we are trying to teach her a few signs.

We thank everyone for their prayers and concerns through this experience. We are thankful it went well and looking forward to many fever-free months!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Italy Bound!

This evening, after a wine-and-cheese dinner at home, we purchased plane tickets to Italy for the first half of September! (above picture is from a trip I took in college). We've wanted to do this for several years now, and will finally have the chance to go. Obviously, we are excited. Humorously, we also received our tax rebate/stimulus check today. Which is of course great. But it means that, from a cash-flow perspective, we'll be spending our "save the US economy" money ... in Italy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Pictures!

In response to much ribbing for not posting in a long time, and many requests for more pictures, here is (a) a new post, which (b) announces that new pictures have been uploaded to our Picasaweb albums (available to the right). The 9-12 month album has been expanded, and a new 12-18 month album has been added.

Audrey has continued growing too fast -- we can't believe how grown-up she is already. She's walking (running, actually); playing on the kiddie swings, slide, and merry-go-round; feeding herself; and starting to talk a little bit. Unfortunately, she's also had many ear infections, and seems to have a hard time draining the fluid from her ears. This makes it hard for her to hear, and she's a little bit behind on speech development. But at this point, tubes seem likely, after which she should be back on track!

Scott has just finished his first year of teaching! It was harder than he expected, but was also a great learning experience. And while he is enjoying a summer to catch up on research, he is also looking forward to returning to the classroom next fall. Additionally, the spring weather means mountain biking with friends from small group on weekends, and possibly the occasional game of ultimate frisbee :).

Tara is almost finished with her first year of residency. It has been a hard year at times, especially when she doesn't get to see Audrey awake for several days. But she has persevered, performed well, and is looking forward to an ever-so-slightly easier year next year. Her final two weeks (end of June) will be easy, and she is looking forward to spending those weekends at home, with perhaps a spring shopping outing thrown in!

Car Envy

Behold, the 2009 Honda Fit! (Hint -- it makes a great background!)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bang Bang!

Warning -- obnoxious!

Friday, March 28, 2008

First birthday!

Audrey's first birthday! I missed "Happy Birthday," but got her destroying the cake :).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hot Tub

Audrey experienced swimming for the first time in Pops's hot tub over spring break.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Walking all around

Audrey is getting to be quite the walker! She can now pretty well walk all around the house, although she still falls frequently.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oven-Roasted Salmon

Welcome to Tara's first post on the blog. With the help of Cook's Illustrated, and a theoretical knowledge of "blanching" thanks to my stepbrother Reid, I made this amazing dinner tonight! The salmon was oven-roasted, and then topped with a tomato basil relish. With some wine from Trader Joe's and bread from the previous post, it felt like a gourmet feast!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

No-Knead Bread

I know I'm late to this party, but I finally came across a recipe for no-knead bread, which has evidently been delighting foodies for some time now. I actually made a revision of the classic recipe which just appeared in Cook's Illustrated. Short version -- this was the best bread I've ever made, and quite possibly, the best I've ever eaten. Crispy, crunchy crust, with a chewy, tangy interior. I'm celebrating with some Chianti as I write this.

Friday, February 15, 2008

First steps!

Here is the long-anticipated moment!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Photo Album

We've put some new pictures up in the 6-9 month album, including some Christmas ones. We had a great time resting up at home over the Christmas holiday, and both sets of grandparents were very happy to visit Audrey.