We were off to North Carolina in May for the long awaited wedding of Shawn’s niece, Sarah. We rolled into Emerald Isle Thursday evening after a fourteen hour drive and the fun began!

The groom and buds had been fishing that day and brought home a load of keepers. With four houses full of family and guests, there were plenty of mouths to feed! Friday was a beach day complete with volleyball tournament. As evening approached, we held the formal wedding rehearsal, outlining in the sand how we thought things would be set up.

Saturday morning dawned with showers but they soon stopped and the day only improved from there on. The crew set up on the beach while the wedding party primped and prepped.

The ceremony was awesome. Sarah wrote most of it (with a little editing help from John) and it was really quite nice. Traditional in format, it included a “Sand Ceremony” that was a real center point. Sarah and Jordan had carefully prepared with an engraved glass bottle and customized cork – they’ll cherish these items forever.

Of course, there were many pictures to be taken after the ceremony. The weather cooperated with striking clouds and an incoming tide that was just the topping on the beautiful venue.

Of course, a reception to be remembered followed. There was a smoked pig, toasts, keg stands, hula dancers, cornhole, and everything you could ever want in a wedding celebration. It was epic.

As the reception wound down, we all moved back to the beach for a late night firework display under the full moon. Though that would have been a perfect finale, there were those among us who chose to party into the wee hours and make the most of the glorious event!  “Rise up and see the moon!”

Sunday was pretty much a total waste as we recovered from the excesses and reveled in the beauty of what was. We saw videos, cleaned up, enjoyed the beach once more, and prepared for the return home. Up early on Monday, we were home late with tired muscles, full hearts, and awesome memories of Sarah and Jordan’s magnificent union ceremony and a family celebration we’ll never forget.

Shunned by the Queen

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Family, School, Travel

With Josh studying in London for a semester, we thought how nice it would be to spend Easter with Her Majesty. Yet, when we arrived at Heathrow on Good Friday morning, there was no car from the palace waiting and we were forced to resort to the Underground for transport to our hotel. We were sure she’d call later.

After being thrilled that The Zetter had a room waiting for us, we showered and were off to meet Josh at his flat. We then enjoyed what had to be one of the most fabulous weather days ever experienced in London! In warm sun, we saw Syracuse’s Faraday House, toured the British Museum, and then headed for Trafalgar Square for a spot of lunch, The Passion of Jesus, and a tour of the National Gallery. It was then on to a walk down Downing street to the Palace of Westminster before moving on to see St. Paul’s from the inside and, spectacularly from the roof of the One New Change shopping center, and finishing up our day on the Millennium Bridge. By the end of what seemed like a very long day, we were ready for early bed.

Saturday morning began with us starting to wonder why the Queen had yet to contact us. Undaunted, we trudged on. After a good breakfast, we headed out to tour the London City Hall and it’s surrounding plaza and buildings, followed by watching the Tower Bridge open for a passing ship! Next was a trip to the eclectic neighborhood of Shoreditch to visit the site of Josh’s major design project for the semester. We were then back across town to King’s Crossing for a walk along the Grand Union Canal to the Camden Markets. A traditional pub lunch at the Hawley Arms refreshed us for a walk up Primrose Hill for the beautiful panoramic view of London. It was back to Farringdon for pub and grub before a well-deserved rest.

Easter Sunday dawned with spotty showers and our confidence that the Queen would meet us at the services. We donned our finery and headed for Westminster Abbey arriving an hour before the service to stand in line and were then seated in the North Transept. Although the Queen never showed her face, we enjoyed a beautiful Sung Eucharist with boys’ choir and a wonderful brass section. Back to our hotel for a change and then a walk-around of Buckingham Palace before a quick run to Putney Bridge to see the men’s start of the one hundred and sixty-second edition of The Boat Race. We thawed in a cafe prior to touring the grounds of Kensington Palace and finally returning to Farringdon for dinner, a bit of pub time, and bed.

We awoke Monday morning still not having heard from the Queen and resolved to return to the States. After breakfast with Josh, we headed to the airport where we were granted a complimentary upgrade to Premium Economy – no doubt an apologetic parting gesture from Her Highness.

We had a whirlwind of a visit and a great time seeing Josh and hearing his take on the city. We were amazed at his ability to point out so many of the city’s landmark buildings and describe their design and designers. We’re so proud of him!

Beached in Barbados

Posted: February 16, 2016 in Travel, Vacation

With the nest now (at least intermittently) empty, Shawn and John took the opportunity for some adult vacationing at Sandals Barbados in early February. Traveling with pals Terry and Brian was awesome. We had plenty of fun both together and apart!

Activities included the gym, aqua-size, scuba diving, swimming, and, of course, eating and drinking. Sandals had some of the best resort food we’d ever had and we made sure to sample it all! Even the sushi!

We enjoyed the warm air, friendly people and pleasant company!  Can we go back now?

Christmas 2015

Posted: February 16, 2016 in Family, Holiday

Once again we were blessed with a crowd for the holidays!

Josh and Jake arrived home from school December 19 in Josh’s car packed to the gills! We were excited to have them home! The rest of the crowd began to roll in the next day including Shawn’s brother Scott, wife Susan, daughter Sarah and fiance Jordan, daughter Kim and boyfriend Kevin, son Pete, and, of course, Gramsie! Gluttony ensued…

Thor, Heather, Camden, and Madison even joined us for Christmas Day dinner!

We enjoyed warm weather and good company and can’t wait until next year to do it all again!

Empty Nest!

Posted: August 27, 2015 in Family, Home, School

Way back when as these guys were getting on the school bus, it was hard to imagine that someday both would be young men off to college. But it’s happened.

Josh is at Syracuse for his third year of architecture studies. He’s living in the SigEp Fraternity house this fall. Though it smells a bit like stale beer, we’re glad he has his “Brothers” around him and are sure he’ll have another great year.

Jake has just started his Freshman year studying criminal justice at the University at Albany. He’s got a great roommate he met online and got to know at Orientation and we think he’s poised for an awesome experience.

So that leaves just Shawn and John at home with the pets! No sports games or school open houses to attend, drastically reduced grocery bill, laundry volume way down… All a bit odd. We’re rattling around the house(s) a bit and getting used to the quiet. It’s certainly a new stage in our lives that’s going to take a bit of adjustment!

Lakeside

Posted: August 3, 2015 in Family, Home, Lakeside, Vacation

On July 31, we closed on our new place that we’re referring to as “Intorcio’s Lakeside.” For now a vacation home, we plan on this being our retirement home once things cool down with jobs and family.

The house has a nice lakefront on little Opechee Bay between the big lakes of Winnipesaukee and Winisquam in Laconia, NH. With 4.4 acres of our own and 30 acres of conservation land next door, there’s plenty of forests and fields to make us feel like we’re in the country while still being convenient to Laconia’s restaurants, hospital, shopping, etc. A perfect mix!

We spent the first weekend cleaning the place up but there’s a LOT of work left to do to make it ours. We plan to paint, replace some floors, trim some trees, add furniture, etc. before it’s ready to show off.  A grand opening bash in the summer of 2016 is planned and we hope for many fun times to follow!

Cruising Baltic Style

Posted: July 29, 2015 in Family, Travel, Vacation

We gave Jake several options for a trip to celebrate his graduation. When he chose a Baltic adventure, we were all thrilled!

After our good friend Bob drove us to the airport on Friday afternoon, we were off to Stockholm via Iceland. Our evening flight over Greenland was beautiful and we were hypnotized watching the ice flows. Landing on Iceland’s volcanic tundra, in daylight, just before midnight was surreal. Taking off, still with natural light, was just as impressive.

We rolled into our hotel in Stockholm Saturday morning to find our rooms available and showers very enjoyable. From there we explored the old city, took the ferry to Djurgården to see the amazing Vasa Museum, and enjoyed a historical canal tour by boat before finding a traditional Swedish restaurant near our hotel and sampling herring, reindeer, elderflower schnaps, and more.

On Sunday, we enjoyed the Hotel Reisen‘s vast buffet before a final stroll and a taxi to the cruise port where we’d meet the Serenade of the Seas. We’d actually sailed on the same ship back in 2006 so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar. We found our upgraded balcony cabins and settled into life at sea!

Monday was our first stop – in Helsinki, Finland. We rode a shuttle bus into the city and enjoyed our explorations. We strolled the Esplanadi and enjoyed its open air performers, crossed the Senate Square and climbed the stairs at the Helsinki Cathedral, strolled the waterfront and viewed the magnificent Uspenski Cathedral, and shopped the open air market before lunching at the Kappeli Cafe back on the Esplanadi, shopping a bit more, and returning to the ship.

Tuesday and Wednesday were devoted to the centerpiece of the cruise, St. Petersburg, Russia. We met up with our local guide, Kseniya, and our driver, Anatoly, who would spend the next two days showing us their home city. Anatoly’s English vocabulary consisted of “Vodka” and a few choice phrases, but Kseniya spoke fluent English and taught us all about the Russian Czars, the history of the city, and even told stories of her parents and grandparents. They were a great team.

We toured the city including the Rostral Columns, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Saviour of the Spilled Blood Cathedral, before driving to Peterhof, snacking on Russian calzones, and returning by hydrofoil to tour The Hermitage. Though we had plans for dinner in the city, the day was too much and we returned to our ship for a little rest.

Rested and ready, we started the next mornign at St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral and then took a tour of the incredible Metro System. We emerged to tour a farmer’s market before snacking on meat and fish pies and driving to the amazing Catherine Palace. We finished up at The Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral before, exhausted, returning to our ship.  Just wow.

Our next stop was the medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia. After a brief walk from the pier, we were immersed into the high walls and cobblestone streets of the old city. We strolled the market squares, St. Nicholas’ Church, and the 12th century St. Olaf’s before stopping at an outdoor cafe for local treats including wild boar stew. Though crowded with the cruise boat passengers, we loved the charm of this small ancient town.

Our final port was Riga, Latvia. Docked at the cargo port, we took a shuttle through stacks of wood and coal to reach the city where we rented some bicycles to tour the local monuments. We rode around the city and then found a midtown cafe for lunch (including Sea Red Mullet and Mussels in green curry for John!) and people watching. We finished with a stroll around the old city and a visit to the local churches including the Riga Cathderal, the magnificent St. Peter’s, and the awesome ceilings of St. John’s.

Want to see more?  Here’s a ten minute video that gives a taste of what we saw!

If you still haven’t had enough, even more photos can be seen here.