Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

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!


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!

Snowmageddon 2015

Posted: March 10, 2015 in Home

Our winter started so gently. Through the end of 2014, we had a cumulative total of 3.6″ of snow. Through January 24th, we’d gained only a single inch more. And then, it began: Snowmageddon 2015. Over the next 33 days, we received 95.1″ of snow! That’s practically eight feet!

By January 27, we’d had a couple of 6″ storms and, from the weather patterns, we knew we might be in trouble. The winds were from the north, as clearly indicated by the top of our smoker! (This was about the last we’d see of the smoker.)

Over the next two weeks, we got another five feet including dumps of 19″ (1/28), 13.5″ (2/3), 10.8″ (2/9), and 14.1″ (2/10). And nothing was melting. Observing his father’s reluctance to step off the ladder, fearless Jake went up to shovel the flatter rear roof of our house. Over spring break, he and his buddy would make a killing shoveling roofs at half the cost of the roofers and more than they ever thought their labor would be worth!

Three dumps the next week added another 14″ and we were digging backyard trails for the dawg.

Of course, just digging out our house wasn’t enough. We had to keep Gramsie’s clear as well.

And it stayed cold! February was one of the coldest months ever on record and nothing melted. The stuff just piled up everywhere. It was getting dark in our family room and we had to do a second round of roof shoveling.

Throughout it all, we managed to keep the grill functional (though the smoker went under) and thumbed our noses at winter by continuing to prepare food outdoors. (The snowbank on the right made a great beer holder while grilling!)

As things began to melt, we suffered the inevitable ice damns and one significant leak in our living room. We believe that battle is over now and tonight, a sure sign of spring!

That’s the ground peeking out above our septic tank! Hallelujah!

Christmas 2014

Posted: December 30, 2014 in Family, Holiday, Home

Weeks of planning resulted in a well-coordinated menu ready to go. Shawn decorated and John shopped. And as the guests started to arrive, we put the plan into action and the fun began!

Sarah, Shawn’s niece and our pastry chef, was first to arrive, flying in from South Dakota on Saturday. She immediately began cooking desserts. (Her boyfriend, Jordan, who was with us last year, had to stay behind this time and we missed him!) The trend continued through the week – we all gained at least a pound or two.

The next day, it was Shawn’s brother and his wife Susan arriving after a drive up from Greensboro, NC. Later the same day, their second daughter Kim arrived from Providence, RI with her boyfriend Kevin. While Shawn, John, and Kevin had to work Monday and Tuesday, the Duff’s headed north for a night to visit some of their old stomping grounds. On Monday evening, we picked up Ellie and Cleon from the Lake Shore Limited.

By Tuesday night, we were back at full strength for some nice pork roast with assuage & cranberry stuffing. And then on Wednesday, for Christmas eve, we enjoyed an early antipasto followed by seafood dishes including calamari, clams, baccalà, muscles, scallops, crab, and haddock – seven fishes in the Italian tradition. We even had fresh bread flown in from John’s cousin Larry’s Hearth and Stone Bakery!  John and Jake attended the 7:00 PM worship service at our church and later, Thor and Heather joined us for cookies, laughs, and limoncello. The holiday spirits were running high!

Shawn’s nephew, Pete, was expected in on Christmas Eve but, due to fog, couldn’t get out of North Carolina. He finally made it in late Christmas morning and joined in the Christmas day festivities including breakfast bread, opening presents, and a huge roast beast for dinner! It was a great relaxing day with all the family, even Marie, enjoying a good time.

The next several days were all about sloth and indulgence. We enjoyed movies, football, beer, chili, wine, old photos, family stories, and a general good time. We had visits from Heather and Thor and Camden and Madison. We installed a new stereo in Jake’s car and tried on new clothes. We all got in the new shower… It was a great time.

Come Sunday, Scott and family departed and things got quieter. We wrapped up things on Monday night with dinner at Ristorante Pavoratti in honor of Cleon’s 88th birthday!

We dropped Ellie and Cleon at South Station on Tuesday morning and Casa Intorcio began to settle back into its usual mildly chaotic state, preparing for New Year’s Day and Epiphany.

It was awesome to have all the family around on Christmas. We can’t wait to do it again next time!

The Month of Miguel

Posted: July 25, 2013 in Family, Home

At the end of June, we welcomed our guest Miguel, from Vigo, Spain!

Miguel was among four students from Vigo who had all arranged a month in North Reading through Holidays in America. Each guest had a “host sibling” or two and stayed with a different family.

A couple of days later, a few of them got together for the first group outing – ocean kayaking off the shores of Cape Ann.

This group of four – Miguel with Jake and Blanca with host Valerie, would spend a lot of time together in the coming weeks!

A few nights later, Josh came home from North Woods for a visit and to meet Miguel. We made calzones and when one dough hit the floor, Miguel took the opportunity to create a Spanish geography lesson. Vigo is the pink star in the upper left.

Jake and Miguel took off for a few nights with a half dozen other members of the NRHS Soccer Team to brush up some skills at the East Coast Soccer Academy at Weslyan College. They played a bunch of soccer, made some new friends, and had some fun!

When Shawn’s niece, Sarah, came to visit the next week, she and John and the boys went to Gillete Stadium to see the New England Revolution play!

The next morning, John and the boys were off to New Hampshire Motor Speedway to see the NASCAR race. Somehow, Miguel fit right in with the “Bubbas’!

Next it was a couple more group outings for Miguel to visit Gunstock Mountain and its zip lines and Canobie Lake amusement park!

Back in Boston, it was off to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox and the Yankees go at it!

Blanca and Valerie joined the guys for a hot afternoon in the bleachers!

The next night, we were back to the Cape Ann shore for a New England dinner at the Lobster Pool.

As the month drew to a close, we hosted the Farewell BBQ. Here’s Ms. St. Arnaud with her son Joshua.  She’s a Spanish teacher at the High School and worked with the agency to coordinate the students coming to North Reading.  She also talked us into being a host family!  Thanks Amy!  We had a blast!

Miguel was a great guest and we had a lot of fun getting to know him and learning about his home!

Here’s the big send-off with the whole crew getting ready to say goodbye!  Not a dry eye in the house!

It was a great month!! We had a lot of fun.  We hope Miguel will stay in touch and, who knows? Maybe we’ll go visit him someday!! Adios Miguel!

Joshua’s Graduation

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Family, Home, School

Nursery through Kindergarten at Puddle Duck, First through Fifth at The Batch (including two years of busing to Stoneham Central), three years at the North Reading Middle School, and then four more at the High School all paid off when Josh graduated (with honors) on June 7. At ceremonies held in the gym due to rain, he was presented his diploma by School Committee Chairman (and friend, and coach) Mel Webster.

We are all very proud of Josh’s accomplishments and know that he’ll continue to work hard as he enters the Syracuse University School of Architecture this fall.

The following weekend, we had a little bash in our backyard to celebrate…

The weather was perfect and we had a fun crowd great friends young and old on hand! Even a couple of Josh’s cousins from out of state made it along with Gramsie and many of our neighbors. Mario’s brought too much food and we all enjoyed the early summer afternoon.

Josh did the honors cutting the HUGE cake while our neighbor Sarah eagerly awaited her piece. She and the others would devour all but a small corner by the end of the night.

Corn hole, soccer, pool games, badminton, wiffle ball, lacrosse…  All had their participants and their critics. Check out Max’s follow-through!

As dusk approached, we fired up the projector, lined up the chairs, and got the Stanley Cup up on the wall.

The Bruins obliged with an overtime win and we all cheered into the night.

It’s been a great ride Josh! Keep it up at SU!

Out of Florida

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Family, Grampa, Home, Travel

Though he’d relocated to Massachusetts, at least seasonally, last year, John’s dad this spring sold off his house in Sarasota and was ready to make things permanent. So, in mid-March, John flew down on a Friday night to help Ralph get things squared away.

Saturday was spent on visits to the bank, calls to the utilities, identifying some of the overstocked items, and even a little time at the pool.

Sunday was Ralph’s farewell visit to St. Boniface where many of his friends wished him luck in his travels. On Sunday evening, Ralph’s little red Hyundai was picked up by the car carrier for its trip north.

On Monday morning, packers from the local moving office arrived and the fun really began. John had three standard questions he asked repeatedly:

  1. When did you last use that?
  2. What are you going to use that for?
  3. Why do you need 6 or 8 or 12 of those?

John’s favorite exchange… “Pop, why do you need two kitchen timers?”  Ralph’s reply: “Well, one doesn’t work!” Many compromises were made and in the end, the (three) machetes were packed along with the busted antique tape dispenser, and the power saws were left behind for the safety of all. There was a bit of damage along the way – it was a tough day for the ceiling fan…

Ralph treated John to a nice dinner that night at the outdoor sidewalk tables of Sam Snead’s. They enjoyed the gorgeous Florida weather even though Ralph felt a few pangs for the city he’d soon leave behind.

Tuesday began with breakfast at the Hob Nob Drive In – a place John had been driving by since Ralph moved to Sarasota and always said he was going to go to!

A little after 9:00 AM, the big rig arrived and the loading began. The movers were good sports as we kept adding things to the load and, about three hours later, the truck was loaded and headed north.

As the furniture rolled away, Ralph and John did a little final clean-up, took naps, and then headed to see Ralph’s niece, Virginia, and her husband Jack, who live just south of the city. They were treated to first class accommodations and a lovely dinner at Ophelia’s where they sat by the side of the Intracoastal Waterway and again enjoyed the gorgeous weather – despite a few sprinkles.

We even had a little celebration of Ralph’s upcoming birthday as he blew out the candle on his birthday salad!

Bright and early Wednesday morning, they were off to Sarasota Airport for the flight home. By the time they arrived at the Parker House, Ralph’s car had already been delivered and he quickly began to settle in!

We’re so glad to have Grampa close to us so we can keep him out of trouble! Well, maybe.

Stanley Cup

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Home, Sports

The Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup finals this year!

With the series tied at 3-3 and the B’s unable to win on the road, we gathered some friends to watch Game 7, for all the marbles,  in our backyard!

While Jake was away on a school trip to Washington, Josh got it in his head that we had to watch the final game outside!  He borrowed a projector and invited a boatload of his buddies.  We put up a white sheet on the side of the house, ran coax and power out the window, set up folding chairs, added snacks and drinks, and formed an outdoor theater.

By the end of the game, we probably had over twenty kids and a half dozen adults. Our neighbors may never forgive us for the air horns and vuvuzelas, but we sure had a great time! And the Bruins won!  Stanley Cup Champions!  Yaaaaaaah!!!!

The Guest House

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Family, Grampa, Home

We bought a new house! Well… More like another house. More like… We annexed another property! Yah! A guest house!

We’ve been looking for a bit for a place that might provide a nearby home for one or more of our aging relatives. John’s Pop is considering a move closer to family and we are hoping he’ll be our first tenant! We were looking for a place that would be suitable for a “chronologically enhanced” occupant (master bedroom and full bath on first floor, small enough to care for, etc.) while still being affordable, relatively nearby, and having some potential as a resale down the road.

When a little ranch just down the street came on on the market, we knew we had to go see it. It seemed to fit the bill, most everything on one floor, just a couple of steps in, reasonable condition, affordable price, and, most importantly, six houses away!

The nearly 60 year-old house is a little tired, needs some updates, and has a septic system that needs replacement but, it also has new siding, a new roof, a new boiler, and good structure. The proximity, the neighborhood that we love, and the generally good overall condition of the place were enough for us to make an offer!

When the offer was accepted, it started to hit us that we would be becoming “slumlords” or “real estate barons” or something. It also hit us that we would be doing some work and paying some additional bills!

It was right about here that John was notified his job at Motorola was being terminated. That certainly added to the excitement and we considered backing out. Instead, we signed the P&S contingent on a home equity loan approval. What’s life without risk?

We were then just left with convincing the bank that we were good for the loan. Sure enough, they approved an increase on our home equity line that would allow us to make the purchase. We signed for the loan on John’s official last day of employment.

We’ll have some work to do. We have to put in a new septic, remodel the bathroom, sand the floors, change the outlets… But, we have high hopes for both keeping some of those we love a little closer to us for a while and being able to recover our investment down the line!!

We closed on the house today.  Here we go!!

(And hey, our agent, Rita, and our attorney, Andy, made this all really easy for us – we’d heartily recommend them both!!)

Christmas 2009

Posted: January 3, 2010 in Family, Holiday, Home

We had a GREAT extended Christmas with plenty of family fun!  So we wanted to share some news of it with you!

While the nutcrackers looked on, John had the full two weeks off from work and Shawn had most of the same period, so our celebration really started with our annual Christmas party for benefit of the food pantry. We had a big crowd, a fun time, and warm hearts on Monday morning when we delivered the goods to the local food locker.

On Tuesday, Shawn’s uncle Cleon and his wife Ellie arrived from Rochester. Wednesday afternoon, Shawn picked up Marie and they all headed for Joshua’s basketball game while Jake and John went to the airport to pick up Grampa. With our gang all together, the real fun began!

Christmas eve featured lots of fish enjoyed leisurely around the family table. We managed to scoot off to the Christmas Eve service at our church before returning home for a nice visit with our pals Thor and Heather and some last-minute gift wrapping!

Christmas morning was grand chaos as we all ripped in. Santa seemed to have done right by all of us as each ended up with a pile of gifts to unwrap and, by the end of the morning, a satisfying stash of gifts!

We had a nice ham dinner to top of the Christmas debauchery!

Saturday featured shopping for bargains, a few errands, and, since we clearly had not had enough to eat yet, a night out to dinner to celebrate Cleon and Ralph’s birthdays! Though Ralph won’t turn 83 until March, Cleon hit the same age on December 29 so we were pretty on for that! And of course, it was more Italian food at a new local place!

On Sunday, we enjoyed the children’s pageant at church before heading to Bishop Fenwick to watch Josh play basketball. Josh had a really good day on the court and gave quite a show for Grampa! 

Monday, Grampa visited with his buddy Alan who drove out from Northampton to join us for lunch. He shared some great stories with us!

On Tuesday, braving forecast of cold and wind, John and the boys went skiing at Mt. Sunapee. When the arrived, the base temperature was 8° and would fall through the day. We skied about 90 minutes and then went in for cocoa. We skied another 90 minutes before the 50 mph wind guest drove us in for lunch. As we ate, we all looked at each other and realized none of wanted to go back out! So, we called a short, but fun, day and headed home.

On Wednesday, we got to see Josh play basketball again, this time at Wakefield High. This game didn’t go as well but Josh still played hard and we had fun watching.  Even Thor showed up to help cheer the Hornets on!

Thursday was New Year’s eve and began with a trip to Boston’s new Institute of Contemporary Art. Grampa, John, and Jake enjoyed the architecture and the funky exhibit of Damian Ortega‘s “art” (though we all thought it was a little weird).

Later that evening, Shawn and John would enjoy being hosted by friends at TWO New Year’s Eve parties before returning home in time to watch the Times Square ball drop with the boys.

New Year’s day was a lazy day. We all watched the Winter Classic and cheered the Bruins to victory before sitting down to the New Year’s Roast Beast and too much red wine. It was a nice last holiday dinner and a long conversation ensued as the family lingered at the table.

On Saturday, Grampa travelled through the snow to nearby Danvers to see Jake play with his Eastern League basketball team. The team played hard for the first half but then, weighed down by excess Christmas cookies and Egg Nog, the fell asleep in the second half and lost the game. Ah well, it was still fun to watch!

Sunday brought New England the tail end of a two-day storm. Even the cardinals were grounded at our back yard feeder. Amazingly, we manged to haul the Grampa to the airport and get him on board his flight that departed only a few minutes late and delivered him home to Sarasota.

Goodbye Grampa!  It was great to have you, Marie, Cleon and Ellie with us for the holidays!

And to the rest of our friends and relatives who couldn’t be with us – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! Have a great 2010!!