Charlotte’s Soirée – July 21, 2012

After Charlotte turned 3 months old, we thought it was time to throw her a soirée and officially welcome her to the world.  It gave some family and friends the opportunity to meet Charlotte for the first time and, for those who had already met her, the chance to see her ever-growing sparkling personality and adorable face.  It also gave us an opportunity to express our gratitude to the village that will help raise Charlotte and share some of our thoughts and experiences from the time I found out I was pregnant to Charlotte at 3 1/2-months-old.  We thought it necessary to include the important people in our life on the incredible journey of parenthood so far.  I’m not sure you can ever put it into words, but we gave it our best effort.  We truly feel blessed to have such wonderful family and friends to share this beautiful day with.

We definitely wanted to share how we decided on the name Charlotte.  We started thinking of names as soon as we found out I was pregnant. We had agreed on the perfect name if it were a boy, but we weren’t having much luck with girl names. For Christmas, John’s mom gave us the movie 17 Miracles which is a dramatization of the Martin Handcart Company that emigrated from the British Isles to Utah in 1856 as one of the Mormon handcart companies.  We were reminded that John’s ancestors made that journey – James and Mary Ann Mellor and their 7 children. The second oldest child was a 15-year-old girl named Charlotte Elizabeth Mellor who carried a heavy load for the family as they crossed an ocean and a continent to get from Leicester, England to Utah. We fell in love with the name Charlotte.  What a great role model for our little girl to follow.  If she ever complains about life being hard, we will buy her a handcart!

Twas a beautiful day for a soiree.

Thank you, Courtney Grow, for the amazing flowers that set the mood for a garden soirée.

Charlotte loving her Grandma B.

Gladly entertaining both of her grandmas.

The best girlfriends a new mom could ask for.

Charlotte’s obviously enjoying her soirée.

Maxx, Kristina, and Angie… part of the village.

Great friends!

Simone and Stella, cousins enjoying the gelato.

More cousins taking a break from the party.

The horses are a sure way to provide entertainment for the kids.

Apparently Charlotte loves a crowd. She stole the show!

Grandma B enjoying Charlotte’s soiree.

Jackson Grandparents.

Thanks Meggan for helping us make Charlotte’s day beautiful!

We love our baby Charlotte! Thanks to everyone for sharing this beautiful day with us.

Charlotte’s Nursery

We had the pleasure of working with my talented cousin, Haley McCormick, in the decorating of Charlotte’s nursery.  We finally finished it a few weeks ago with the hanging of the “C” above her crib.  I just couldn’t be more happy about the way the nursery came together.  As a family we hang out in the room all the time, so luckily we have John’s approval as well.

Here is a link to Haley’s blog to see more pictures.

http://livingsplendidly.blogspot.com/2012/06/charlottes-nursery.html

Florence, Italy – July 3, 2012

Florence is only about an hour and a half away from Cortona so we decided to take a day trip up the beautiful Italian countryside to see the sites of Florence.  Now once we got into the city of Florence, our American driving skills were put to the test.  The Tom Tom took us deep into the tourist part of town where it is “traffic restricted”.  It sent us down a one-way road and people were nice enough to say, in broken English, “very dangerous, wrong way”.  Most likely the police cameras caught us and we’ll get a ticket in the mail.  Anyway, it was well worth the hassle.  Florence is a magical city.  We hope to go back someday.

Since we couldn’t get a picture of the real David, we’ll take this one.

Ponte Vecchio Bridge – the only bridge not bombed by Hitler.

Piazza della Signoria

Finishing off a good day of touring with some fine Italian cuisine.  Charlotte is dreaming about her first crush on a fellow named David.

Tuscany, Italy – June 30-July 6, 2012

After three action-packed days in Rome, we were ready to begin the rest and relaxation part of our vacation.  We got adventurous and thought we’d try renting a villa in Tuscany.  Our thinking was that this would give us more space to accommodate the baby, and less chaos so we could really relax.  We were super impressed and I think we’re now converts to the “villa” way of vacationing – we had our own kitchen to cook, our own pool to swim, and tons of space to stretch out.  The place we rented was about an hour south of Florence by a town called Cortona which was made famous by the movie Under The Tuscan Sun.  It was “molto bene”!

Traveling light is not one of our strengths. After dragging our 5 bags and 1 child the 6 blocks from the rental car “office” to the rental car “garage” we got to cram all this stuff into what Europeans consider to be a family car. Then, it was navigating out of Rome 🙂

We were hoping for privacy, but this place was seriously out of the way. The directions included stuff like “keeping the stone wall on your right, drive over the hump back bridge and turn right over the second bridge” – not exactly Google Maps. We got lost for about an hour, but finally arrived after 3 hours in the car.  The owner described this to us as an estate that has been in his family for over 100 years and the place we stayed was an old restored farm house. Not fancy, but exactly what we were hoping for.

The dirt road to the villa was lined with olive trees. This is when I knew John might never leave this place. I mean, European countryside couldn’t be a more perfect fit for him (or me).

Soaking it all in. Charlotte is content anywhere as long as she has that thumb!

We had a great view of the full moon to celebrate our true two year anniversary.  We got engaged under the full moon and married under the full moon. We prefer to go by the lunar calendar 😉

John’s description of this photo was “sell our stuff, we’re not coming back”.

This was Charlotte’s first time in a pool. I just couldn’t wait to dress her up in all of her adorable swimsuits. We were delighted to find that she loves the water!

Little Miss Charlotte was a fashionista at the pool!

It took Charlotte a little while to get use to her floaty. Daddy convinced her it was fun!

She’s so brave!

We like to call this one “Topless in Tuscany”.

Now onto the important stuff – FOOD! Our mission each day was to find at least one meal we could write home about. This little restaurant was called Osteria del Teatro and was inside the “old-town” part of Cortona. Most places don’t even open for dinner until 7:30 so we were usually the first ones there like you see here.

The top left pic is an appetizer including “pumpkin flower ravioli” – pumpkin flowers stuffed with risotto cheese. Who comes up with that? This was easily the best meal we had in Italy. We ate for almost three hours. Time doesn’t exist with Italians when it comes to eating.

Baby Charlotte loving dinner time too!  She was generally super good and just sat in the Bjorn while we ate.  It was pretty funny to look at the Bjorn after the trip and see all the little spills of food and gelato that must have happened while John was eating and Charlotte was sleeping on his chest.

Another amazing dinner along the side streets of Cortona. John looking more Italian by the day and I, of course, am enjoying my noodles.

We made several lunches and dinners ourselves. I think the funnest part was shopping at the grocery store and checking out all the ingredients. They had whole departments dedicated to salamis, cheeses, and fresh pastas. We were in heaven.

We took a short drive to the town of Siena for an evening to try out this amazing restaurant – Taverna di San Giuseppe.  The whole experience was very Medieval.  It’s based in an old cellar that feels like it’s hundreds of years old. This was a sampler of several appetizers – baked mozzarella, chicken livers (John ate those), mushrooms, and a pastry with cheese. Yowza!

Can you tell Charlotte is wrapping daddy around her little finger? This is the cutest picture ever! Oh, and amazing pasta again.

A yummy lemonade and a large pre-dinner snack of pizza and a bruschetta with lots of arugula and shaved parmesan. It was our last day in Cortona so we were packing it in.

We weren’t always eating.  Charlotte and daddy enjoying the park.

Charlotte and I taking a break to catch up on texts and Instagram in the Piazza Del Repubblica in downtown Cortona.

Plenty of uphill walking around Cortona.

Overlooking the valley.

Charlotte being cute, as per usual.

Our last night in Cortona. Love this baby girl of mine!

It’s always a little sad to pack up and go home… especially for Charlotte apparently. She had a little protesting fit on the plane for about 20 minutes which felt like an eternity. Yes, we were that family with the screaming baby on a 9 hour flight right when everyone was trying to sleep.  She didn’t go for the bassinet the airline provided, she just wanted her carseat.  Lesson learned.

One more little post from our day trip to Florence.

Rome, Italy – June 27-30, 2012

Every summer Adobe (where John works) shuts down for an entire week. Woohoo Adobe!  This means John can actually “check-out” of work which forces us to make the most of this valuable time.  This year we were super excited to be able to go to Italy, and we started in Rome.

It was our first family vacation with baby Charlotte and, at 3 months old, we weren’t sure what to expect.  What we found is that she is not only very well-natured, and a crowd-pleaser, but she is also our ticket to the front of the line – a nice way to tour Europe in high season.  Below is our self-indulgent recap of the trip told primarily through pictures. If anyone is planning a trip to Italy, we’d be happy to share specifics on places we stayed and, more importantly, places we ate.  Just send us a note. And, one more thing, John asked me to mention that he realizes he’s wearing socks with his sandals in all these pictures and he doesn’t care that he’s breaking fashion rules 😉

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, grabbing a snack at SLC Airport before the journey began.

Charlotte slept 7 of the 8 hours from JFK to Rome. When the pilot saw how young she was, he felt she had earned her first set of wings which we pinned to her seatbelt.  Thus began Charlotte’s crowd pleasing.

We arrived in Rome! Now the never ending task of fitting our luggage, five bags and one giant stroller, into a European sized car.  It should really be considered an art form.  In the West, we like things big, even our strollers – not sure we would do that again.

The trick to getting on Euro-time is to power through the first day. After forcing ourselves to shower and leave the hotel without a nap, we had our first meal in Italy – kind of a sacred event.

Strolling Via Condotti with baby Charlotte (also trying to stay awake the first day). Nothing says “we’re American” like a stroller that takes up 70% of the sidewalk.

Daddy keeping Charlotte happy.  Jet lag is setting in on all of us.

We spent the afternoon walking around downtown and seeing some sites.  Here I  threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and legend says that means a sure return trip to Rome.

Enjoying our first dinner in Rome. Jet leg was in full effect here. I started nodding off at the table. Charlotte is not sweating it over there in the stroller.  After this, it was off to bed around 9:30 and crossing our fingers we could all get on Euro-time.

The view from our hotel room of the Spanish Steps. It really was magical. On the downside, this was the night that Italy beat Germany in the semifinals of the Eurocup which meant cheering and air horns until 2:30 in the morning. Luckily, Charlotte slept through it all and got a great first night’s sleep in Europe.

On to day two – a walking tour of some of the key sites around Rome. We ditched the stroller and Charlotte spent most of the rest of the trip strapped to daddy in the Baby Bjorn. It looks uncomfortable and kind of silly, but she loved it.

One of the hottest days of the year – 90+ degrees and high humidity. Thank goodness for umbrella vendors.

Cooling off with a delicious Granita right across from the Pantheon. You can see our priorities when we take a picture of the food but forget to take a picture of one of the oldest temples in all of Europe. We learned these refreshing treats are packed with caffeine which we think explains why Charlotte had a crying fit instead of taking her afternoon nap that day. Woops!

Lunch break at Piazza Novana with some prosciutto and melon (one of our favorites).  Charlotte adjusting well to her new home, the Baby Bjorn.  She and daddy were very close this whole trip.

After a much needed afternoon shower, we went out for a family photo op at the Spanish Steps.

For our last dinner in Rome, we asked the concierge for a non-tourist recommendation for dinner. They sent us to Ristorante 59, a place with only 10 tables where you run into the locals and experience fresh-made pasta. I had my favorite meal – tagliatelle bolognese (basically spaghetti with meat sauce, but oh so good).  If I only had one meal left in life, it would be this.

Day three – we had a full schedule for today so we had to pack in a couple thousand calories before 8:00 am. If only breakfast were like this everyday.

Our first stop was The Vatican which had been closed the day before for a holiday. The line to get in was 2.5 hours long if you didn’t have a reservation, or a 3-month-old baby 🙂  Are you kidding?  We saw the whole thing in about 40 minutes (we’re not big museum people). That said, it was unbelievably beautiful.

The Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.  A lot of culture for baby Charlotte to take in, but as you can see she didn’t even have to move her head to take in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I promise she’s not uncomfortable.

St. Peter’s Basilica – another 2.5 hour line that Charlotte helped us navigate.

The Pieta inside of St Peters.  This is one of John’s favorite pieces of art. Michelangelo was 24 when he did this.

The Alter inside St. Peter’s.

This is a taxi! You can see the sense of accomplishment on their faces for getting all of our stuff into a taxi for the short car ride to the rental car office. Off to some R&R in Tuscany.

Tuscany post coming soon.  Stay tuned …