Monday, September 16, 2013

Another year here!

We started our 3rd year here in Palm Coast this summer!  Last year, I wrote about the changes we'd experienced. I think I'll continue in that trend...

  • In December, we adopted a 3rd dog!  Buddy (formerly known as "Chowder") is a Chow mixed with something (we think Shiba Inu...?) who quickly became a part of our family. He is such a snuggler! Loves to sleep, and bark. He really, really loves to bark...
  • We are still Disney Annual Pass holders, though we haven't been as much this past year.
  • We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Italy this summer!
  • Jason got married to Erin and they are expecting a baby this March!!
  • I am definitely no longer a rookie in my field, and am starting to establish myself and my reputation as a counselor. This is exciting to me, as I feel confident that I am exactly where I belong.
 All in all, we love living here. I am excited to see how many things have changed...and how much hasn't!

Viva Italia!

To say that we had a great time in Italy would be a gross understatement. We made memories that will last us for the rest of our lives. I kept a very detailed journal of our time overseas, and am thrilled that I took the time to, because already, 2 months later, I am already forgetting the details and love re-reading what I'd written. 

In a nutshell, and because I like lists, here are the highlights and the lows:

1. Meeting up with Kim and John Gridley upon our arrival in Rome, and spending the evening with them at a restaurant near their hotel, in the "Park Ave of Rome."
2. Realizing the moment I fell in love with Italy (while on a tour bus, driving through the city to the Vatican/Sistine Chapel) and seeing how utterly surrounded we were by sheer beauty! Every single place we looked - absolutely gorgeous.
3. The history...the incredible history of it all! During a visit to the Colosseum, we learned that in Rome, anything built after the 1600's was considered "new!"
4. Walking on a mosaic tiled floor that was built in the year 2 AD inside the Vatican. The year TWO!
5. Seeing where St Peter (from the Bible!) was buried - and experiencing the Sistine chapel. It was an experience, that's for sure. No talking or photos allowed in there! I'd been told that it was smaller than I'd expect...not so! It was enormous, and even the walls were ornate and impressive and I can't imagine how Michelangelo did all of that.
5. Sorrento was our favorite city, probably because it was on the coast. I am so proud of Andrew for doing the chair lift with me on the island of Capri, 1100 feet above the sea!
6. In Sorrento, we spent one evening in the best pizza place in the world, eating the best pizza on the planet! This was what it was all meal of the trip by far.
7. We saw The David in Florence and it was even more breathtaking than I could have imagined. I loved learning about Michelangelo's personality! He was such a total introvert and considered himself a sculptor (and boy, was he!) but he still was able to paint one of the very greatest masterpieces of all time.
8. We ditched the 2nd tour of the day and wandered all around through the city, including the leather market, and marveled in the marble structures that were all over.
9. Finding ourselves at the end of a street, and facing Ponte Vecchio - a place I'd read about and seen pictures of, and we simply happened upon it!
10. This was probably the most memorable part of the trip...Ponte Vecchio used to be homes/apartments, but were later transformed into shops (tanners, butchers, etc) but were now nothing but very, very super fancy jewelry shops. I was one of many, many women drooling over the shiny gold and diamonds in their display windows. Andrew and I saw one diamond ring in particular that was just so unique and beautiful - and he BOUGHT IT FOR ME! Andrew bought me an 18k white gold, made in Italy, diamond ring. It was a precious moment, and the shop owners were genuinely happy for me. It was a woman whose parents sent her to Boston to learn English and go to college, and her father, who spoke no English.We'd wanted to purchase something more than a trinket to bring home - Andrew reasoned that this (unlike the furniture and artwork we'd liked) would be easy to pack :)
11. In Venice, we took a water taxi to San Marco Square, where we'd missed a tour. We opted to walk (as opposed to taking the overcrowded, overpriced water taxi) back to our hotel. This ended up being a 6 hour walk where we got completely lost in Venice. It was so incredibly fun picking which street after gorgeous street to wander down, only to find a bridge that led to more exquisite beauty.

1. After all of that, I am having a hard time thinking of any!
2. Part of Italy's "charm" was that the tables were so incredibly close to one another. This became less and less charming as the time grew on, and we longed for our good ol' American personal space!
3. The bathrooms in Venice and Florence were unbelievable small! The toilets and sinks were practically IN the shower stalls!
4. Like a good girl, I'd picked my seats on our 3 return flights well ahead of time. The day before flying home, we found wifi and logged in to "check in" to our flights...however, at about 7am the morning we were to fly home (at 11am) I checked my email on a whim, only to find that our flights had been cancelled, "sorry for any inconvenience." Loooooong story short, we were re-routed 4 times, and had to RUN through Germany and Canada's airports to make it to our connecting flights as they were finishing up boarding...and our seats were all over the place, so we had to finagle that at the very, very last minute. BUT - we made it home, and made it safely.

All in all, we had a fabulous time and are eternally grateful that we were able to do all that we did. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for Drew and I - and to be able to celebrate 10 years of marriage in such a way was amazing to me.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

We leave for Italy....tomorrow! My bags are packed, we figured out airport parking (and snagged quite a deal, thankyouverymuch!) and have cleaned out the fridge.  My dad has graciously and generously offered to watch our dogs for the time we're gone, they're all set with food and treats. All that's left to do is slap on a fresh coat of toe nail polish, and hit the road! 

I have been preparing for this for months...looking up restaurants around our hotels and near the places we're visiting - poring over reviews and picking my favorites. We've converted what we assume to be a good amount of American dollars into Euros and have secret compartments so as to avoid pickpockets & gypsies. I've learned a (very) few Italian phrases, and have several translation and map apps on my iPhone. I know which Taxi's to use and which ones to avoid - and even how to order coffee (never order a cappuccino after breakfast, it's so uncouth).

In other words - we are ready.

I feel very much like I've felt the night before taking a major exam for my certification, or before an important job interview. I've done all the preparing that I possibly can. This is it! I can do no more - not only because I am now out of time, but I am also out of brain-space. I am as ready as I am ever going to be...

There is a very strong mix of emotions going on as we count down the hours. (It used to be months, weeks and days - now it is HOURS!) I have been looking at the 10-day forecast for Rome, and remember the feeling when I scrolled down and saw July 2nd - we will BE THERE on that day! I've been playing the "One week from today, we'll be..." or "one week from right now, we'll have seen..." and am just so excited!

But, at the same time, I have never been to Europe and don't speak the language. I've been told that, since we're in mostly major cities, not to worry. Our concierge staff at the hotels (all of whom I've emailed to insure we have non-smoking rooms) have been incredibly kind already. "What is there to worry about now?" I keep asking/reassuring myself.  But my emotions continue to vacillate between incredible excitement and borderline paranoia.  I've never been on an airplane for more than a few hours. This one is going over the Atlantic, and is 11+ hours long....GULP! I pray that the claustrophobia I feel during a facial when they put the washcloth over my face doesn't rear it's ugly head when I start to realize the confined (large, though it may be) space that I'll be in for half of a day...and did I mention it is over the Atlantic??

Ok...back to the positive realm. We have a few hours in the Frankfurt airport. While we won't technically "be in Germany" - I am looking forward to taking in as much of the culture as I possibly can at the airport, among the masses. I plan to forgo a stop at their Starbucks for the local "Erster Weiner" cafe that is house between terminals. My goal is to sample a German pretzel, and plenty of Kinder chocolate, before boarding our flight to Rome. 

So....tomorrow at this time...we will be waiting to board our flight!!!!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


On June 14, 2013, Andrew and I will have been married for 10 years. An entire decade.

To celebrate, we are going to Italy! I could not be more excited about this. Aside from our honeymoon, we've only gone on one trip, just the 2 of us, that does not involve family. It was a 3-day weekend trip to the Outer Banks, NC for our 5th anniversary. I am not complaining, we are truly blessed and have no regrets - but this is, undoubtedly, going to be a once in a lifetime adventure for us!

We began planning in February. It was Italy or England. What a tough choice! On one hand, England might be easier as first time travelers to Europe, as they speak the language. However, Italy seems far more exotic!

First step - we called Sandy Harrison, one of my mom's oldest friends. She has been a travel agent for approximately 1,000 years. We told her our meager budget, and our dreams. Her response was very kind, but not what I wanted to hear. She was encouraging us to try a Caribbean cruise, as it was more suited to our budget.  We looked at a few, but felt like we really wanted to do something much more memorable. After careful planning, on her part, she figured out how we could spend 10 days in Italy on a teachers' salary.

So - we're going to Italy on July 1st! We'll visit Rome, Naples/Sorrento, Florence & Venice. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but am so completely thrilled to get to see another part of the world. I'm very, very excited to see the Vatican City, the Trevi fountain and David - the Sistene Chapel! I'm also pumped about visiting the Amalfi Coast, and the Island of Capri, and all of the natural wonders Italy has going on. Our hotel in Sorrento has a view of Mt. Vesuvius! Are you kidding me?!

Then there's the food...Naples boasts having the best pizza on the planet (and if you've met me, this is a major ordeal for me - I love pizza) and if you've met Andrew, you know that pasta is his favorite thing in the world. We are going to be in heaven. We may come back 20 pounds heavier...but we recently joined a here's hoping that it works itself out!

Not only that, but we'll be celebrating a marriage that has been through the fire and has come out refined by it.

I already can't write about what our trip ended up being like. The sights, the people, the food...

No longer the rookie

Found this gem from last June:

So this was my first full year as a real, live school counselor. What a year it has been...

When we moved here last July, Andrew and I were 2 of the 5 new employees for the county. There are typically many, many more than that and training sessions are held, orientations are given, etc.  Not this year - instead, we were tossed right in and it was a learn-as-you-go experience.  Everything from signing up for health insurance, how to take a sick day, to daily job requirements was left up to us to figure out. Luckily, we're surrounded by wonderfully helpful colleagues who made life a whole lot easier for us. I'd be lost without them, that's for sure.

From day 1, I knew I was going to love the school where I was. I've had some ridiculously difficult days, and some incredibly rewarding ones as well. However, after one year, filled with challenges and breakthroughs, I can still say that I absolutely love my job!

If I had to pick a high point for the year, it would be difficult. I've had so many great moments with these students. One that comes to mind was fairly recent - I was in the classrooms and was having the students complete a "climate survey" about the school for our county. One young man, who I'd seen on several occasions for his anger issues, called me over to his desk and said: "Mrs. Hutcheson, look - all 3 of these questions are about you!"  With fearful trepidation, I looked at the questions. "1. There is an adult at my school who cares about me. 2. There is an adult at my school who I can trust. 3. There is an adult at my school that I feel safe talking to." 

It was all I could do to not get teary-eyed.  If students really do think that about me, then I've done my job.

I can think of two real low points right off the bat. One includes Baker Acting a student. That may have been one of the most difficult decisions I've made to date, accompanied by one of the most sleepless weekends. The other involves me painstakingly and meticulously planning an elaborate event for our students, only to have my carefully laid plans uprooted by my boss' boss - who then blamed me (read: yelled at and berated me) in front of a room full of parents and school board members. I may or may not have used the word "frickin'" in my response to her...because she's the one that caused the chaos in the scheduling, that I, again, had orchestrated perfectly. Not cool.

I know it's only my first year, and while I have several, several white hairs as a result of it, I can tell that this is where I am meant to be.

I joined a gym.

I joined a gym today.

I've never belonged to a gym, but today, Andrew and I joined Planet Fitness. It is new to Palm Coast, and in this relatively small town...we were patrons #942 and 943. Should be interesting.

In college, I went to the gym on campus a handful of times. I even went with my friend, Leah, over the summer when I was done with physical therapy for my broken leg. When we lived in an apartment in New Albany, OH, our complex had a small gym and we visited it a few times. I've never belonged to one before, though.

This is the dawning of a new era...or at least I hope it is!

Andrew bought me an elliptical machine one year for a birthday, and I have it, in my house, it couldn't be more easily accessible. But I don't use it. There's always an excuse.

There are so many benefits to exercising - better sleep, reduced stress, and the health benefits seem endless - so why don't I? I understand that my job is demanding and wears me out a lot of the time, and the only thing I want to do some days is crash on my couch and not see anyone else in the world...aside from Andrew...usually ;) So I hope this sticks. To be honest, I am not 100% dedicated, but I want to be. That's something...right? I have a secret goal of dropping 10lbs before I head to Italy in July. What have I done to reach that goal? Not a thing. Not yet, anyway...

Wish me luck...