Summer Storms

August 22nd, 2011 by matt

So, in the spirit of slowly waking up the blog and keeping in the theme of summer, let’s take a look at a little day trip we took. Our friends, Kara and Jim, have a lovely house in New Buffalo, the first town in Michigan when you come from Indiana. We wanted a little day out of the city, so we hopped Amtrak and spent a wonderful day by the sea—I mean lake. We had a couple of hours of warmth and sunshine, but there were storms afoot. Normally, being on the west side of Lake Michigan, we don’t get the bestest of views of our impending doom. On the east side, you end up sitting in bright sunshine until you see this coming:

Woah! That is a storm. The winds started to pick up, the black clouds swallowed the sky and then a big gust of cold air hit us as we were getting to the car and back to shelter. In the meantime, the wind was whipping the sand around and, let me tell you, that stuff hurts!

Anyway, we made the most of the weather and, even with some rain, had a wonderful time across the lake.

Cinque Terre

May 10th, 2010 by carolyn

Over the May Bank Holiday weekend, we had made plans to meet my parents in Cinque Terre, a series of 5 villages in the Italian Riveria.  The towns are accessible via train, boat and walking path but only a few can be reached by car.  My parents were going to be traveling in Italy and we arranged to meet up in Monterossa where my Dad and I hoped to hike the Cinque Terre trail, something we had talked about doing together “someday.”   Unfortunately, my parents were grounded by the Iceland volcano eruption and were unable to make it.  Because everything was booked and our flights were still scheduled Matt and I ended up going on our own.  We flew into Genoa and took a bus to the train station where we hopped a train to Monterossa.  We arrived on April 30th to beautiful sunny weather by the sea.

We set about exploring the town, had a fabulous seafood dinner and made plans to attempt the Cinque Terre trail the next day.  Saturday was another good weather day and we knew that the trail was shut down at times for bad weather so we jumped on the chance to get walking.  We started out from Monterossa and headed out to the next town Vernazza.  This is a view looking back at Monterossa from the trail.

It was amazing to see just how many people were out on the trail.  Matt had visited this area in 1998 when he was studying abroad in Florence.  That was before the area was designated UNESCO world heritage site.  Since its designation, the trails have been revamped, there is an entrance fee and the crowds have only increased (according to Matt).   When Matt was here in 1998 he walked most of the trail but ran out of daylight and had a bit of an adventure making it to the final destination.  I think he enjoyed revisiting the scenes of his old adventure on the trail, like this one.

After wandering by olive trees, grapevines and lemon trees stacked deep on the steep slopes, we arrived with in view of Vernazza.  It was a beautiful town with an arching harbor, loads of gelato and full of tourists.  All 5 towns are connected not only by the walking trails but by train as well.  You can catch a glimpse of the train in some of the shots as it peeps out from its path cutting through the mountains.  Its mostly in ground along this route.  The road is several miles up and doesn’t come to each of these towns, part of what makes them so unique.

Pretty huh?  After a quick stop in town we headed out to the next stop Corniglia.  This town is perched at the edge of a pretty big cliff and also is full of the colorful buildings seen in each of the towns.

Next up?  Manarola.  The trip between Corniglia and Manarola was a bit easier than the other two walks.

And finally we walked along the Via Dell’Amore a nice flat paved path to Riomaggiore.  The main feature here are lots of locks decorating the walls to signify peoples love.

The trail is about 10 km and takes 4-5 hours to complete.  We were pretty tired after reaching the end and planned to take a boat back to our origin point, Monterossa.  It was amazing to view the towns we had just passed through from the water.  We were super lucky with the weather also.  Just as we boarded the boat the clouds came in and some drizzle started to come down.  Here is a view of the towns from the water.

Riomaggore                                                       Manarola

Corniglia                                                               Vernazza

Monterossa                                                      Boat Trip

For dinner on Saturday we took the train back to Manarola and tried out another pasta/seafood place on the water.  It was a dreary grey night but still super enjoyable.  And we got to check out the Christmas decorations set up on the terraces, not lit up, but waiting for the holidays.

The next day, the day started grey.  We decided to try a shorter hike near the hotel.  Of course, once we started the walk the rain really came down.  We had a great time anyway and saw a very difference view of a cloud covered Cinque Terre.  Turns out they closed the path due to the weather so there was no hiking to the 5 towns that day =).

Before the Hike

The view from the top of the straight up hike we attempted……………

Enjoying wine after the workout

Burns Night 2010

February 15th, 2010 by carolyn

The 25th of January marks Burns Night, celebrated annually in Scotland as well as in other locations throughout the UK.  Burns Night Suppers celebrate the life of Robert Burns, Scottish poet and lyricist, and take place on or around his birthday the 25th of January.  Burns was considered the Scottish national poet and will be recognized by those less familiar with Scottish poetry by his works such as Auld Lang Syne, A Red, Red Rose and O Once I lov’d a Bonnie Lass.

I first heard about Burns Night Celebrations, such as the Hackney Cyclists Burns Night fundraiser, last year and was really eager to go to it.  Unfortunately, it had sold out before I could get tickets.  So this year, I kept a close eye on the website and saw the Hackney Cyclists celebration was to take place on the 30th of January.  Matt and I managed to get a few of the last tickets.  Since it had sold out before some other friends could get tickets, we ended up finding another celebration at the The Flask in Hampstead on the 25th.  So two Burns Night celebrations in one week.

The basic structure of a Burns Night Supper is as follows:

Welcoming speech

Entrance of the Haggis  (accompanied by bagpipes)  If you don’t know what haggis is – read here

Address to the Haggis (The address is recited and the haggis slashed open with a knife)

Supper (includes haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties (potato) – these days veggie haggis is a regular option)

Toasts with whiskey, usually including a toast to the lassies with a response toast to the laddies

Other toasts, speeches, recitation of poetry and/or singing of songs

Closing with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne

The Hackney Cyclists event included all the main components as well as some hearty Scottish dancing after the supper.  And yes, Matt did participate in the dancing (maybe that was down to the whiskey).  The whole event took place in a Hackney primary school and was a fundraiser for cycling projects.  It was a fun night full of a great sense of community.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of a good old square dance in an elementary school gym at home.

The address to the haggis


The bagpipes


The supper (veggie version)


Unfortunately, there is no photo evidence of the dancing!

Carolyn’s London Snow Day

February 3rd, 2009 by carolyn

So the city is still recovering from the snow storm yesterday.  Most train and bus routes were running today but side streets and sidewalks have become solid ice rinks as nobody here shovels.  All the walkers yesterday have packed the snow down nicely into ice packs.  I thought I would share a few photos from my snow day.

Looking out our window on Sunday night as the snow began.

Matt outside our front door on Monday morning beginning the journey to work.


Coworkers waiting for the building to open Monday morning.


More coworkers on the way to lunch.


A lovely snowman =).

Halloween in London

November 2nd, 2008 by carolyn

So, Halloween in London is not quite the same as in the US.  Most people generally ignore the day and if you do partake it is all about ghouls and gore and scary costumes.  No pumpkins or cute animal costumes here.  Needless to say, Halloween is much more about trick and not very much about treat.

Halloween happened to coincide with one of my (Carolyn’s) co-worker’s last days of work. She is taking a career break for 6 months to travel to India to work with a charity organization, Roshni UK, providing physiotherapy services for children.  So, we coordinated a leaving-do/Halloween bash to send her off in style.

Here is a photo of some of my coworkers decked out for the night.


And here is a photo of our feeble attempt at dressing up (Matt does have devil horns on).


RIP Anna 2002-2008

June 3rd, 2008 by matt


At about 4:20pm GMT on 3 June 2008, Anna took her last breath. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But she was sick and was just getting worse. Carolyn and I took her to the vet and pet her until the very end. She was a trooper. Words can’t express the sadness and emptiness I feel now. Chewy notices something is amiss. I hope he is healthy and has many more years left in him.

Anyone who has been to my house knew Anna. She was always at the door waiting to greet you. And, the second you sat down, she was in your lap, purring. She was a constant, loving companion and friend to Carolyn and I. She had the chance to travel and explore many homes and meet many other wonderful animals. I will miss waking up in the middle of the night to have her purring contentedly by my side. I hope I was able to provide a life, short as it might have been, that was caring and loving. She will be missed.

Evidence that this was one of the sweetest cats in the world. Rest in peace Annabelle.

Sorry for the absence

June 2nd, 2008 by matt

Hi. Sorry, I’ve been silent in the past few weeks. My cat, Anna, one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever had the privilege to know, has just been diagnosed with Feline Leukemia. Tomorrow morning, I have to take her to the vet and have her put to sleep. I can’t describe the sadness I’m feeling at the moment. She’s only 6 and all I can hope is that I’ve given her the best life she possibly could. 🙁

Regular postings will begin soon enough and they’ll be filled with all the happy things that have been going amidst this sadness.

Nothing Exciting

February 10th, 2007 by matt

For the four or five of you who regularly read this, sorry for the lack of any news. Everything is pretty routine right now. Carolyn’s parents are in town and we had a lovely meal at what can only be called either neo-american tapas or dim sum. Tasty stuff.

Anyhoo, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by all of this. I just try to get something accomplished every day that will get me closer to being able to leave the country on March 5th. I’ve only got 3 weeks to go, which is pretty daunting. So, until I get myself moved, things will probably just consist of “woke up, went to work, did some moving related crap, feeling stressed”. Hopefully, this will be sprinkled with plenty of “hung out with X and did Y for the last time before i leave”. 🙂 🙂 🙂