Senior Prom 2015

Posted: June 3, 2015 in Family, Prom

It’s Jake’s senior year and (most likely) our last prom!

The lacrosse team got out of pre-tournament practice a bit later than expected and there was traffic and rain and everybody was a bit rushed but nonetheless showed up at a friends house for the pre-prom prep and pictures.

Jake waited patiently for his date, Rachael, to arrive. She did, with a full entourage keeping the rain off her beautiful dress.

Flowers were pinned and re-pinned and shown off and photographed before they all piled into the party bus for a trip to the high school for the Grand March – relocated indoors because of the weather.

The prom itself is, of course, shrouded in mystery. We did see a couple pictures pop out, including this shot of lacrosse players and their manager, Rachael.

We’re pretty sure they all had a good time!

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!

Thanksgiving 2014

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Family, Holiday

Shawn did her usual  fine job of making sure Casa Intorcio was decorated for the season and we all enjoyed a bit of a break and a fun Thanksgiving!

Josh had the entire week off from school and made the drive home from Syracuse with several friends. It was great to have the whole family together again for a bit!

Thanksgiving Day itself started off with our first real snow of the season on the ground. But the sun was out and the North Reading 5k Turkey Trot didn’t feel cold at all. Though Jake remained sidelined with his collarbone injury, Josh, Shawn, and John all began the day with the race. Josh took family honors – firmly dusting his parents, while John out-leaned Shawn at the line.

Gramsie joined us after the race for a day of food and football. Our neighbor Dante and her daughter Miss Sarah joined us for the Thanksgiving meal. We all had much to be thankful for and enjoyed a relaxed and hearty dinner with good company.

Later in the evening, we walked over to the new home of our good friends Heather and Thor and joined their extended family for some post-dinner libations. It’s great having them right here in our own neighborhood now! Although, John did make Madison cry a bit…

Black Friday was a casual shopping day for the family. Jake and a buddy hit the mall when the Massachusetts stores opened at 1:00 AM, Shawn and Marie trolled for bargains, Josh got to the mall for some browsing, and John shopped online. We all did a little bit to help the economy!

Saturday, it was off to Boston College’s Alumni Stadium to see BC play Syracuse. The Orangemen didn’t play that well but we still got to celebrate Shawn’s alma mater’s win.

Sunday morning, Josh hit the road back to Syracuse and we finished up the weekend with some friends around the fire pit watching the Patriots get beaten.

Ain’t holidays grand? So much fun with friends and family.  Bring on Christmas!


Fall Sports 2014

Posted: November 28, 2014 in Sports

With Josh already off at college and Jake now a High School Senior, this is likely our final Fall Sports blog post. It’s certainly been Jake’s final season of High School Soccer – but what a season it was!

Jake and the Hornets came out of the hive buzzing and avenged last years opening game loss with a 7-0 stinging of Newburyport. One of those goals was Jake’s – and it was far from his last. The game set the tone for the entire season. The Hornets played possession soccer, capitalized on key match-ups, and never gave up.

By the time the regular season was over, Jake led the team with 16 goals. He led the Cape Ann League with 23 total points (Goals + Assists) and was named to the Cape Ann League First Team All-Stars, the Eastern Massachusetts All-Star, and the All-State teams, not to mention earning Hornet of the Week honors along the way!

Of course, all of this made Jake a marked man. He’d regularly be assigned an “escort” from the other team to go wherever he went. Sometimes it was a really big escort!

No matter, Jake still exploited his speed and scored regularly with both right and left feet – this one’s going in!

The Hornets finished the regular season at 12-3-3 and earned the #1 seed in the MIAA Division III North Tournament. With a bye in the first round, they began their championship quest with a quarterfinal match against Watertown – the same team that knocked them out of last year’s tournament with a 0-1 OT loss in the semifinals. This year, it was the Hornets who scored the 1-0 win in OT but, unfortunately for Jake, it would also be the end of his season. Ten minutes into the game, he challenged two defenders, went airborne, and landed on his shoulder breaking his collarbone. He’d watch the rest of the tournament from the bench.

The Hornets went on to win that quarterfinal as well as the semifinal that followed. But when they go to the finals, despite a mid-game lead, they were defeated by Wayland, finishing their season.

Jake’s season finished with being honored as the team’s MVP at the school’s Fall Sports Awards Ceremony.

Here’s a video that John made for the team summarizing their season…

We’re wicked proud of Jake’s accomplishments in soccer. We certainly had a lot of fun watching him on the field.  Congratulations Jake! (And heal up for the spring tournaments!)

The Death of a Salesjob

Posted: September 22, 2014 in Cars

We brought home the Blue Beauty in March of 2011. John’s dad drove it through that summer during his transition from living in Florida to becoming a resident of the Guest House.  Its 50,000 mile reading on the odometer never seemed quite right and we’re pretty convinced we got duped on that one.

After Ralph headed back to Florida for the winter, it became Joshua’s car to drive to school. Josh did manage to terminally damage a couple of tires after miscalculating a corner but the car more or less ran OK, albeit with the “Check Engine” light on most of the time. Then the horn stopped working. There were multiple electrical issues that apparently plagued the model. Our trusted shop, Foxy Auto, spliced around multiple shorts for us and kept the Sentra going.

When Grampa died, he wanted Josh to have his Hyundai Elantra and the Nissan passed on to Jake. It wasn’t much later that it failed the emissions test during an annual safety inspection and things went really downhill. Excessive frustration, a new exhaust system, several oxygen sensors, and too many dollars later, the car was back on the road.  Then there was the mouse that set up house in the blower motor. Then there was the factory defective blower motor.

By now the car was audibly tricked out with a new radio, new front door speakers, new rear deck speakers, and a thumpin’ subwoofer in the trunk. With likely more watts than horsepower, it at least sounded good.

Just last week, the death knell was heard. Jake came in hot, overshot a turn, and found a granite curb. Seems the front tow hook was the first thing to be grabbed by the rock and it dragged the whole front end off to an angle before the right front tire and rim were destroyed along with some suspension parts. Repair costs exceeded the expected residual value and, at 8:52 AM on September 18, the Blue Beauty was pronounced dead. Its remains were carted off as a donation to the American Heart Association.

And thus we welcome The Gray Ghost! It’s official paint color is “Moon Shadow Gray Metalic” – we’re hoping that it doesn’t haunt us!!

This puppy is a 2004 Toyota Corolla that we bought from a firefighter and part-time car dealer in an adjoining town. It’s coming to us with 105,000 miles already logged but it seems in good shape and ready to serve. Corollas get a great review from Consumer Reports and we’re hoping this is one of those “forever” cars.

Be on the lookout for the Gray Ghost and, if it’s taking a corner just a little hot, be sure to give it plenty of room!

Summer Tour 2014

Posted: July 27, 2014 in Family, School, Vacation

With Jake having been home less than 12 hours from the Spanish Exchange, we left home for our combination college tour and beach vacation under cloudy skies and drove through a mix of clouds, sun, and downpours. Our first stop was at the University of Delaware for a quick walk around the gorgeous campus.

We continued on to Fairfax, VA where we enjoyed a great meal at the Auld Shebeen, spent the night, and toured George Mason the following morning.

With half the college touring done, it was time for fun! We aimed the family wagon south and Headed for Emerald Isle, NC where Shawn’s brother’s wife’s family owns two lovely homes! We were treated like royalty throughout our stay! We were granted the penthouse suite, served homemade ice cream, fantastic barbeque, and more food and drink than we needed!

The real attraction, of course, was the beach, where we played and played! The 82° water made our pool at home feel cold!

Scott’s wife Susan was joined by her sister Gena and her son Nate and even 89 year-old Mrs. Burroughs was on the beach for the fun!

Cousin Pete was a great sport! He gave kayaking and surfing lessons and really kept the guys busy!

Scott and John chose a generally more relaxing approach to the beach – although John did give kayaking a try – much to the amusement of those on the beach!

Dinner out on our last night was a fun family night out – we sure wish we could see these folks more often!

Heading back north, we cruised into Times Square on Saturday night just in time for a nice dinner a Osteria al Doge and a great performance of Phantom. Our hotel was in the middle of it all making everything a quick walk – well, except for getting through the thick summer crowds!

Sunday morning it was a drive-by at John Jay and then a walking tour at Rutgers-Newark – both really cool places!

We arrived home tanned but tired with a pile of pictures and some great memories!

The Spanish Exchange

Posted: July 26, 2014 in Travel

Last year’s Month of Miguel led to a lasting friendship between Jake and his Spanish friend. Some of the other “host siblings” had similar experiences – in particular Jake’s friend Valerie and her Spanish guest, Blanca. So this summer, the Spanish Exchange was arranged!

It began with three of last year’s visitors, Miguel, Blanca, and Macarena, returning to North Reading for another two week stay. Because their visit overlapped with the visit of this year’s formal exchange students, they got to serve as ambassadors for them as well!

There were pool parties, graduation parties, people from Spain parties, and parties with no viable excuse that kept the guests busy from dawn to dusk and beyond. A trip to Six Flags, some beach time, another Red Sox game, World Cup soccer games from the pool, and a lot of fun made the fortnight fly by.

Before long we were packing the Spaniards back onto a plane – but this time their host siblings would be boarding with them for a two week stay in Vigo!

They all had a great time visiting homes and sightseeing. Miguel’s parents, Carmen and Cesaro, were awesome hosts. They took Jake to visit Santiago de Compostela – the capital of Galicia. They saw The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, toured the city, and saw a performance of Dralion by Cirque du Soleil!

Jake was also treated to visit at Castro de Santa Trega an “oppidum” dating back to the Bronze Age.

They spent a night camping on the Cíes Islands, part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park.

Though their bags missed a close connection in Lisbon, They all arrived home safe, tired, and excited to tell of their trip! We’re so grateful to our Spanish friends for helping make this all happen!

Spring Sports 2014

Posted: June 30, 2014 in Sports

It was a tale of two sports for Jake this spring. Some of his buddies talked him into going out for the Lacrosse team. So, never one to shy from a challenge, Jake decided to give it a shot.

With snow still on the ground, Jake set up a rebound board in the driveway and began practicing with the stick. He’d barely held a lacrosse stick before this year so many tosses went astray and there were many balls buried in the snow. But, after a bit, he began to get the hang of it.

Jake’s coaches placed him as a defensive midfielder where he could use his speed to stay with opponents’ attackers and to deliver the ball back upfield on a turnover. He took the field for the first time in a pre-season tournament in Woburn with borrowed equipment and only a vague sense of what was going on. He got burned once or twice but, for the most part, held his own.

Jake played most of the season with the JV’s, developing his skills and becoming a valuable player on both ends of the field.

Jake did get in some Varsity games including their playoff run in the MIAA tournament.

Jake really enjoyed the game and expects to play the whole year on the varsity team in his Senior year! No doubt that his speed and athletic ability will be an asset to the team!

Of course, over at the soccer pitch, Jake continued to play Striker for his club team. Their spring season began with an absolutely freezing tournament in New Hampshire. Kickoff temperature for the first game on March 1 was 5° F!

There was another spring tournament or two and than the regular season New England Premiership games. They’d finish third of eight teams in their bracket and proceed to the NEP Open Tournament.

The Mad Dog Mania tournament in Saratoga capped the season. A beautiful if slightly warm weekend made for some great play and good fun!

Hats off to the Knights!


Senior Prom 2014

Posted: June 3, 2014 in Prom, School

On a warm June evening, Jake had the honor of escorting Ms. Rachel Roberts to her senior prom.

The evening started at Rachel’s house for flowers and photos. Rachel, her twin sister Nicole, and a few other couples posed and laughed and primped.

And, of course, we had the obligatory family shots.

Next it was into the stretch limo for the couples and a short trip to Ipswich River Park for the Grand March.

Back into the limo and off to The Tewksbury Country Club for an evening of fun, the couples were on their own. Reports are sparse from the tight-lipped revelers but we’re pretty sure a good time was had by all!