Saturday, September 20, 2008

Strolling about Santa Barbara.

This week has been long and trying. But, one thing that I have been looking forward to all week: spending today in Santa Barbara with my cousins from Italy!

I meant to get up early and get things done around my house before my grandparents arrived with Pino and Rosanna. I really did. Instead, the house phone rang at 8:15. Groggily, I answered. I didn't really sleep well because I kept waking up worrying I messed up something I served on Friday at work. (Maybe I should look into medication.) Anyway, when I heard my grandma's cheery voice saying they had just left the San Gabriel Valley, I knew it was time to get my butt in gear. I took a shower and picked up my house in record time. And, just as I was shoving the last random piece of scattered junk from my living room into the hall closet, there was a knock at the door.

My cousins and grandparents came in, and we gave them a little tour of our casa. After a quick shot of espresso (courtesy of the awesome espresso machine from Jackie), we were on the road, headed north.

Instead of taking the 101, we went down Malibu Canyon and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu.

We stopped at Zuma Beach to take some pictures and a little stroll.

The weather was absolutely perfect today. And the water at the beach was a gorgeous, deep blue.

"The Italians."

You know these folks by now...

We said ciao to Malibu and continued north. About an hour later, we stopped for lunch at the Summerland Beach Cafe, a favorite of Jackie's that serves some pretty kick ass breakfast (the bacon, especially).

Josh and Pino each had una birra.

We sat outside and soaked in the gorgeous weather and the smell of the ocean.

I had a breakfast combo with eggs, bacon, and french toast. The bacon was, of course, outstanding. The french toast was a little gooey for my taste, but that didn't really stop me from eating it!

Rosanna really wanted to go to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. I had never been, but she really, really wanted to see a Redwood tree, so when she read in her guidebook that there were Redwoods at the Botanical Gardens, off we went.

I really liked this oak tree.

My grandma rounding the bend with Rosanna.

Finally, we found the Redwoods.

Pino and Rosanna were really excited to see cacti. Weird to us, but I suppose it makes sense since there really isn't much desert plant life in Italy.

Our last stop was the Santa Barbara Mission.

The fountain outside.

Padre Serra.

I love this chandelier.

Say formaggio.

Inside the mission.

I thought this sculpture was especially beautiful and powerful.

The mission garden.

The palm trees surrounding the mission. It was an incredibly beautiful day to be outside.

After touring the mission, the cousins and grandparents were pooped. They headed south on the 101, and Josh and I stayed to wander around State Street. We window shopped and then stumbled across this little wine and cheese shop. Wine and cheese? Yeah, you know we stopped.

After sampling some pairings of wine and cheese (only one small bite for Josh since he really shouldn't have cheese), we bought some of our favorite things we sampled and headed to the car.

It has been a long, but wonderful day. One of those days that all my worries about work and life dissipated and my mind was calm and present. Soaking in the sun, family, and a little sightseeing in our own backyard has got to be one of the best ways to spend a Saturday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Big Fat Italian Reunion.

My lovely cousins, Pino and Rosanna, are here in Los Angeles for two weeks from Italy. This is their very first trip to the good 'ole U.S. of A., and the family has split up their trip to take them around and show them the sights.

When I was in Rome, Pino would pick me up on the weekends and take me to their house to spend time with him and his two kids who are roughly my age, Marco and Francesco. Pino and Rosanna live in Tuscany, in a town called Poggibonsi (seriously, that's what it's called -- I love it!) near Siena. They also have a beautiful farm house near a medieval city called San Gimignano. (Just typing that makes me wonder why the hell I live here and not in Italy. Hmm.) Since they have always been so good to me, I want to make sure they have a wonderful trip here.

Saturday, my grandma's entire family put together a brunch to welcome the Italians to America. Every person I am related to on my grandmother's side of the family was there. It was quite a scene.

Here is the room where the brunch took place, and my Uncle Anthony making a toast.

Josh's family and mine are so different in many ways. His quiet and polite Norwegian family is no match for my loud and boisterous Italian family. Most of the time, I think he loves them, but just for fun, I asked him to give me a I-have-to-hang-out-with-my-in-laws pose for the camera.

Ajax, Bug, and my cousin Leland (who is a total brain and just plain awesome)

Josh, my mom, and my cousins Hailey & Kelsey (you may recognize them as the flower girls in my wedding or the little devils who conned me into buying them Juicy Couture at the Camarillo Outlets).

Hailey, Mom, and Kelsey. It is so crazy to me that Hailey is a teenager now.

The guests of honor: Pino and Rosanna.

The head table with my grandma, her siblings, and the Italians.

The Italians wanted one group photo. Have you ever tried to assemble 50 tipsy, talkative Italians into a group photo? It took at least 15 minutes. Everyone talking, drinking, laughing, shouting to stand in 10 different places ...

But, finally, we managed. That is one, good-looking group!

My immediate family.

I love this picture of my Grandma and Josh.

My younger cousins decided that, since the camera was out, it was time to do a photo shoot. So, they dragged me into the hallway, despite my protests, and decided to show me their posing. Tyra would be proud of them, I think.

My grandparents are first generation here in the U.S. and never had a lot of money. My great-grandpa was a barber, and my grandma says they used to count quarters every Sunday night (a haircut was 25 cents) before paying the bills. She started working full-time at a department store after school at the age of 12, and she bought my great-grandparents their first set of end tables and their first TV.

Understandably, they are pretty much the thriftiest (and most generous) people you could ever meet. But, despite their improved financial situation, old habits die hard. And, it can be funny and endearing. For example, whenever we eat out, they usually get a to-go box and box up every remaining morsel of food, including every bread roll and the contents of the chip basket (I have even witnessed them ask for containers for sauce and salsa).

So, whereas most families probably eat at the banquet and go home, my family makes sure the leftovers are packaged up. Every single morsel.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Isn't she lovely?

Last Sunday, we drove north and spent the weekend in Ventura County for Missy's rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on Saturday and her "big and special day" on Sunday.

A little background: Missy is more family than friend. Bug, Missy, and I grew up together and have spent almost all major holidays together since we were about seven years old. Bug and Missy are the same age and have been bff since first grade. Growing up, Missy always said that, when she got married, Bug would be here Maid of Honor, and I would perform the ceremony.

After getting engaged last year, she called and asked me to officiate the wedding. I have never officiated, but this has always been her plan, so I was honored and said yes (even though I was, admittedly, a little nervous about messing up the wedding ceremony of one of my nearest and dearest friends, but hey, no pressure).

The wedding took place at the Mandalay Beach Resort on the ocean. I stole a quick shot of the girls, getting ready for their close-ups.

Bug in her Maid of Honor dress. She's so stinkin' cute.

Since I was officiating, Josh took some photos. However, I deleted the pictures of me officiating. I am telling myself that Josh was just taking the photos from a bad angle and not that I am the size of an elephant. I know, I am being that girl, but well ... the pictures were too depressing to post.

The ceremony went really well. Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous at all. I felt good about the way it went, and everyone was really complimentary, which was sweet. Missy was happy with it, which is all that mattered to me.

I almost got a little choked up when I pronounced them Mr. and Mrs., but I kept it in check.

The happy couple!

With the ceremony done, I was ready for the party. The ballroom, all set up for the reception.

Centerpieces. My entire, immediate family was invited as well as Jackie and PJ, and we were all seated together at Table 10. How...perfect? :)

The cake.

Mom and grandma.

Bug and Anthony.

Dad and Cathy

Our table was, hmm, how should I say this ... a little rowdy? We are fun when we all get together, what can I say. Plus, my Uncle Paul flew in from St. Louis, and he is an absolute riot, so needless to say we were having our own little party over at Table 10. (Yes, that's my Uncle with the napkin on his face. No, I don't know why.)

Someone thought it would be a good idea to take a group picture. My uncle, sans date, decided to ask one of the servers if he would stand by him during the picture. This photo was taken right as he asked the server to bear his children. Again, don't ask.

It's a funny picture though, no?

My sister's maid-of-honor speech was awesome!

First dance!

The wedding was such a blast. I busted my tipsy, uncoordinated moves out on the dance floor, saw a bunch of old family friends, and did not check my Blackberry once. It was such a blast!

Congrats, Missy and Ray!! Oh, and Happy One Weekaversary today!