Tuscan Hills

Florence in Bad Pictures (Part II: The Chianti Region)

Ahh, Chianti.

Jen and I took a one day trip into wine country as part of our exploration of the Tuscany region. Here’s a photodocumentary of our adventure featuring the worst photos from the trip.

We hopped in a van with 6 others and started winding our way out of downtown Florence. I was lucky enough to have a window seat as we soon began passing through beautiful tuscan hills. Olive trees and Vineyards extended as far as the eye could see. The landscape, peppered with castles and villas, was idyllic in every way. While we were zooming along the road, I leaned out the window with my camera to try and capture the scene and caught this first perfectly timed picture:

1. Tuscan hills: There is an amazing villa immediately behind that sign.
Tuscan Hills

The focus of this trip was Chianti.
Chianti was one of the first alcoholic beverages that I found myself enjoying. Defined by DOCG as a red wine with at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, Chianti is preferred by the locals with cheese or bread – almost never alone. It’s also conveniently cheap almost wherever you go! An expensive Chianti shouldn’t be more than about $35.

2. At the first winery, my face once again appearing fairly quasimodo.

3. Wine Cellar! Taken in shutter priority mode without proper timing.
Wine Cellar

Our second winery was at a beautiful villa, complete with gardens and dining room where we tried 6 different wines and enjoyed cheese, honey, and pasta. We relaxed in the gardens before venturing back to the city.

4. Jen took this gem of the gardens. I stepped in at the last second and she got this shot of my camera. That’s my chin in the upper right.

After a wonderfully relaxing day, we got back to the hotel.

5. Our hotel room. The lights switched off just exactly as I snapped the shot.
Hotel Room

Tune in tomorrow for terrible pictures from Cinque Terre!


Florence in Bad Pictures

After three days, I was pretty eager to get to Florence. Venice is a small small city and while it has a lot of charm and romance to it, after three days we’d seen most of it.

Florence was my favorite. We arrived and rattled our way through the cobblestone streets with our rollerbags. Our Hotel was GORGEOUS and just a stones throw from the Duomo.

Enjoy our worst pictures.

1. The Duomo – Build in the 1400’s it still stands as the largest masonry dome in existence. I was so enthralled by the Duomo that I took out a book on its construction once we got home. Here is the Duomo (translates to ‘home’ not ‘dome) taken with incredibly shaky hands.

2. The inside of the Duomo – One of our trip highlights was climbing the inside of the Dome. In addition to seeing the very cool construction methods, we got great views of Florence from above. The climb was tight spaces and narrow steep stairs coupled with mildly numbing heights. This shot shows Jen on the far left and some random lady in the tight spiral staircase to the top.

3. Tools to build the Duomo! Brunelleschi not only developed the clever means to build the huge masonry dome, he also designed many of the tools used for construction. Check out this sweet out of focus picture of a selection of his tools

4. Cacio Vino Trallalla – Perhaps our most beloved lunch, this little place is off a side road by the Ponte Vecchio. Run by a cute Italian couple, the restaurant provided top notch food and extreme charm. Here I am looking pretty dang Quasimodo.

5. Michelangelo’s David – A must see on any trip to Florence, Michelangelo’s David was impressive beyond all my expectations. This picture captures the SmartBrick, a device that monitors the cracking of the marble.

Thursday, get stoked for bad pictures from our trip out to the Chianti region!


Venice in Bad Pictures

We flew into Milan and on our first day in Italy took a train over to Venice. We had gelato and promptly got lost in the maze of streets and bridges. We stayed three days and checked out all of the standard tourist destinations. The problem is that it’s very hard to take a bad picture in Venice. The place is beautiful – still, let’s try.

1. Piazza San Marco – flooded. At night. With terrible exposure.

2. Ponte de Pune – translates to “fighting bridge”. Back in the day people used to fight and see who could knock the other into the water first. This selfie is very poorly aimed.

3. Street shot – Classic Mike D. Started the timer and set the time wrong.

4. Gondolas – Hilarious traffic jam.

5. Tourists go home! – Interestingly, tourism is Venice’s ONLY industry. Sure there’s Milano glass, but even that is deeply dependent on tourism.

6. List of Doges – A list of all the Dukes of Venice! Out of focus and completely uninteresting.

Next up? Florence.

and… We’re Back!

We are back from our Italian honeymoon adventure! It was an epic 11 day trip through Venice, Florence, and Monterosso (Cinque Terre). We have 1300 photos, so get ready for pictorial overload!

Well, not really.

Here’s the deal. We’ve all seen more than our share of beautiful vistas, impressive architectural feats, and flawless art – so instead I’m going to post a combination of our atypical pictures bustling with personality, and the comically bad pictures.

So get excited: The Italy 2014 recap is coming.

Luna di Miele!

Jen and I are headed off on our belated Luna di Miele!
Our trip includes: Milan, Venice, Florence, and Cinque Terre. It’s going to be a whirlwind tour!

There may be a brief pause in posting, but make sure to come back for pictures and adventure recaps!




Michelle recently took an educational trip to Italy to learn about cheese and foodstuffs. On Saturday Jen and I got the trip review, complete with epic pictures and videos.

Perhaps most striking was the parmesan factory. Check out the insanity:



Those cheese wheels are HUGE. They are about the size of a small tire and during the forming process take two people to lift before being split into this size. Each wheel is checked by a professional hammer guy* who knocks all over the place with a tiny hammer to determine if there are any voids in the cheese. Anything that’s deemed less than perfect is cut up and sold in a smaller form.

The wheels are aged for two years before being sold.

We did a quick guesstimate based off the height and length of these rows. Our estimate? 21,000 wheels of cheese in this facility.


*best job ever


Kitchen of Rock: Complete

The Kitchen is complete.

It has come so far from its point of origin when the drop ceilings and poor fluorescent lighting were marginally worse than the gross tile counters and the aging appliances. Eventually, everything was replaced. The first wave of changes came in 2009 with the new ceiling, lighting, and appliances. This weekend we finally completed the second wave of changes with the counters and cabinets.

Before (12/2004):


After (6/2014):


I am so relieved that it’s done.


Kitchen of Rock: Counters!

Today we look at the counter work at the House of Rock!

First, removal of the existing counters!

The peninsula came off no problem. Not so with the other counters.


I took this second picture during a frustrated break as I tried to figure out how I could possible get the counters off.


Finally, I made the easy decision: get help.

I hired a contractor to get the last counters off and help professionally install their replacements. The work is still underway, but this next picture shows where we are at the moment.

New Counters

Looking good! We still have to cut the holes for the range and the sink and get the last of the backsplash up and secured. This is heaps better than our starting point for sure.