Fun with the Fitels

A look into the life of (not-so) newlyweds Danny and Bethany Fitelson.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Vacations 2 and 3 - and Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.

With all the excitement going on, I'm very behind on blogging. So here's a quick recap and a few fun pictures.

Vacation #2 this Fall was a trip to Manhattan for Thanksgiving and to meet our 4-month-old niece! She's gorgeous, and despite screaming like an opera singer when we first met her (it was past her bedtime) she seemed to like us. She especially liked Uncle Danny and he learned how to "do the swoop" like her daddy does to calm her down. We miss her like crazy! Michael and Betsy don't want pictures of the baby online, but here's one of her adorable chubby hand in Danny's.

We had gorgeous weather, which made for great shots of the shimmery skyline. Tuesday night we went downtown to see the Christmas windows, meet Danny's cousin for dinner, and see the broadway show "In the Heights." "In the Heights" is about Washington Heights, the neighborhood on the north tip of Manhattan where Michael and Betsy live and are very active (and very well-known!). It's a largely Dominican neighborhood, so the musical had a fun Latin music feel to it. We loved it.

Vacation #3 was a Hall family trip to Texas for Grace's graduation from ACU and a Dallas Cowboys game. We had a great time cheering for Grace and my Boys. Grace is returning to ACU to do a Masters degree, so we spent a lot of time fixing up her new home. We also spent a lot of time eating incredible food! I got to catch up with close college friends I hadn't seen in years, and we spent time with my Dad's aunt and uncle and cousin and their family. It was a fantastic vacation with my family, and we got to see the last Cowboys victory of the season (boo on the rest of the season, you heartbreakers!).

In other family news, my youngest sister Trisha is engaged and getting married on August 15. We're all happy for her and I'm having fun planning a wedding where I don't have to make all the decisions! Our family had a fun Christmas together, including cutting down the biggest Christmas tree in Hall family history. It was literally 13 feet tall and we could barely see the angel from the bottom. Of course, it didn't look that big out in the woods! It was ridiculous, but a lot of fun and it looked great!

For Danny and me, our tree was a "small" 6 feet, but it was a lot easier to put up and decorate. We opened the storage boxes to find the treetop angel broken (it was ugly anyway) so we improvised with a golf club cover. I think Rowdy looks great up there, and there is a star on his hat, so it kinda fits.

Danny and I had a lot of fun with teens over the break, but we also enjoyed a break from the usual routine. I've been off work for a week and a half, and both work and the new Fuller quarter start tomorrow, so it's back to the grindstone. After 4 breaks in 4 months, I'm ready to take it on! (Check back in a month or so to see if I'm swamped in Church History reading and missing my magazines.)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our friends out there, all two of you who probably read this, haha!

Friday, November 21, 2008

10 Most Memorable Meals of My Life - Florence

Since Bethany provided the photos below, I will provide the story behind what was for me our most memorable meal in Florence.

Of course, Florence is known for fancy, expensive restaurants... but some of the best food we had there we got from a cafeteria! Just down the street from the Duomo is a place called Ristorante Leonardo. We read about it in our Rick Steves book and thought we would check it out since Rick said it was cheap and quick. We weren't expecting a cafeteria setting where you grab a tray and head down the line and point out to the person behind the counter what you want.

The book said that "Lucciano runs the place with great enthusiasm" and it didn't take us long to figure out who Lucciano was. He was a very kind and vibrant gentleman who dished up the food while a clean-cut kid in his early 20's worked the register. They were the only employees we saw that night, even though the place could probably seat over a hundred people. That night they were serving lasagna (we hadn't had any yet in Italy and I LOVE lasagna). But Lucciano was very well...enthusiastic about the osso bucco. I didn't even know what it was at the time and it seemed strange ordering such an exotic dish in a cafeteria style restaurant, but Lucciano was not to be denied. So we got that too. Both were really really good. And really really cheap. By the time we left the restaurant, I had concocted this backstory that made sense to me: Lucciano was a world-class chef who could be working at any 5-star restaurant in Italy, but he was at heart a man of the people who just wanted to serve the best food at rock-bottom prices, so he opened his own cafeteria in the middle of Florence. Until I hear different, that is what I am going to believe about Lucciano and Ristorante Leonardo.

We wound up going back for lunch another day, the only restaurant we ate at twice in Italy. This was partially due to how affordable it was, as well as how tasty and centrally located it is. If you're ever in Florence on a budget, you gotta go eat there at least once.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Few Italy Pictures

I haven't posted anything about our vacation to Italy yet, and with the exception of Danny's memorable meal post, our blog hasn't seen pictures from the trip. I won't take the time to write a full journal of the trip, but I will post a few pictures for those who are neither on Facebook or haven't seen the KodakGallery albums. I didn't include the artsy, pretty pictures, but the pictures of the two of us together.

Danny thinks it's hilarious to make weird faces when we take pictures together. This was in the Pantheon in Rome, which was incredible.

At Trevi Fountain in Rome - the legend is that tourists throw a coin over their shoulder and make a wish that they will one day return to Rome.

At the Colosseum

St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The Vatican was my favorite site of the whole trip!

In front of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

With the Duomo in the background. The Duomo church was gorgeous. Pictures don't do it justice!

Taken from the Ponte Vecchio, one of the few I didn't take myself!

An Unusual Week

Recently I've been listening to my dad's sermons regularly. I know I'm biased, but he's done two incredible sermon series in a row. The first was on Spiritual Formation in a Material World and the second on Forgiveness. If you want to listen, either go to or look up the Campbell Church of Christ podacast on iTunes.

Anyway, God really has a sense of humor. The series on materialism focused on "holding on to things loosely." Not just money and posessions, but anything that's temporary. Holding on to things too tightly is like making a fist - the stress and tension travel all the way up your arm into your neck and shoulders, whereas living with an open hand is much more relaxing. That resonated with me considering I had a reputation in high school for saying "Don't touch my stuff." Sure I've matured, but I'm still pretty posessive of "my stuff." As I said, God has a sense of humor because while I was being inspired to start holding on to things loosely, He was plotting to see if I really meant it.

Now, it really wasn't a bad week. But it was unusual. On Wednesday, our water shut off during my shower. I wasn't really clean and had to improvise by rinsing the shampoo out of my hair with water bottles. I still felt pretty spoiled since the running water I take for granted shut off so I pulled the case of clean water out of the kitchen pantry. After spending the weekend with FCC high schoolers ministering to the homeless in San Francisco, I couldn't complain about my water situation.

Then Thursday, while I was hurrying out of garage to get to a meeting, I took off the side mirror of my car. I'm pretty proud of (and OCD about) my car, so I was pleased with myself for not panicking, throwing the mirror in the trunk, and continuing cautiously to my meeting. I stopped by the Honda shop on my way to work, and miraculously they had a spare mirror in the right model and color! So my car was broken for less than 8 hours and I had a chance to experience that material things are just....things.

Then on Saturday our electricity was off all day (PG&E was working on the neighborhood). It wasn't easy to put on makeup by candlelight, but it was way better than having no shower by regular light. Also on Saturday we discovered that there is a wasp nest in our satellite dish on our balcony! We've found a few wasps near the balcony door but had no idea where they were coming from until it was so hot Saturday that they were buzzing around like crazy. Ewwww! (By the way, it was 80 degrees here all weekend, a record for mid-November. Those not living in California feel free to be jealous.)

So that has been my week of holding on to things loosely. All is well in the Fitelson home and we have a lot to be thankful for! We're especially thankful that in a week we get to meet our niece and spend Thanksgiving in New York with Danny's family! We're also thankful the Cowboys' season might still be alive after beating a division rival yesterday! What a great week.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

10 Most Memorable Meals of My Life - Rome

I have not blogged in quite some time. I guess I’m not really into the “here’s what’s going on in my life” sort of posts… that what Facebook status updates are for! But a long term project – that is something I get excited about.

This is the first of 10 entries describing the 10 most memorable meals I have ever had. Most posts will also double as restaurant recommendations, although only a few are local. Just like my movie list, the list has already been compiled and will not change… unless I have a truly phenomenal meal in the next few months (which is not out of the question with trips to Texas and New York on the horizon). Unlike the movie list, this is not a “ranking”, it is just 10 great meals that I have had in the course of my life that I remember. Note that it is not the “10 best meals” – in that case my mom’s cooking would be featured in almost every spot!

The first meal I want to write about was our first dinner in Rome, pictured below. We flew in that day from SF, stopping over in Amsterdam, and were pretty tired and jet-lagged, but decided we needed to push through it and not take naps so that we could get onto Italy time. It made it a little difficult in that Italians tend to eat late… many restaurants don’t even open until 7 pm. We consulted our trusty Rick Steves Guidebook that recommended a restaurant not far from our hotel called Est! Est! Est! Now, according to the Italian translation tool I just used, est is not even a word in Italian, let alone Est! Est! Est! So most likely, this is a restaurant that is catering towards tourists who don’t even know how to speak Italian. I don’t care. It was good.

As you can see from the photo, we ate outside on the sidewalk. The restaurant was located at the end of a cul-de-sac, next to an interesting stone façade (pictured in the background) that may or may not have been the phone company (we were trying to figure out what the sign said). Across the street was one of a number of Chinese restaurants we ran across in Italy, this one named Mr. Chow’s. Needless to say, we never got around to sampling the Chinese cuisine in Italy.

Onto the food: in Italy, you don’t just order one thing off the menu. It’s not like you pick the “steak and baked potato which comes with a salad”. Nah, you get to pick every little part of the meal. Which can add up if you’re not careful, especially since you have to pay for water! It feels strange to go to a nice restaurant and not have the waiter come over and pour you some ice water when you sit down. You have to order the water: and then they ask you if you want it “naturale” (regular) or “gesata” (sparkling). It usually costs a couple bucks per person. The funny thing is that often you can find wine on the menu that is cheaper than their water! Certainly you can find wine that is cheaper than soda in Italy, at one restaurant we visited (and it wasn’t even a fancy one) they were selling cans of normal, everyday soda for 4 euros, which is about $5.75!

So the way it works is you start with an antipasti, or appetizer. At Est! Est! Est! we went real traditional and got 2 – a tomato/mozzarella salad and a plate of sliced salami and prosciutto. The salami was just alright – the wild boar salami we had later at the panini place in Florence that Ginger D recommended was better – but the prosciutto was unbelievable, and I am not big on ham (although some would say a big ham I am). It was sliced so thin, it just melted in your mouth. Eating it reminded me of the scene in Ratatouille where there are fireworks going off in Remy's head when he tastes something. Next to the gelato, that was the best tasting thing we had the whole time we were in Italy, I thought.

Next up, you order a primi dish, or first dish. This is usually pasta or pizza. That night we had a pizza Marghuerite, which is just sauce, cheese, tomatoes and basil. But that was one TASTY pizza. Be warned, if you go to Italy and order a pizza with pepperoni, they’ll bring you a pizza with things like peppercini’s on it. There is another word for pepperoni.

Next, you get a secundo dish, or second dish. This is usually some sort of meat and is more expensive than the first dish. Italians generally agree that the secondo is less interesting than the primi. So we didn’t bother getting one that night. Although there were other nights where we did, such as the MASSIVE steak-for-two we got in Florence. But I agree, the pasta and pizza in Italy was more exciting than the steak and chicken.

So that sums up our first meal in Rome. I forgot to include the best thing about it: the price! A mere 19 euros, or about $26. And that included a glass of wine for each of us! So, when in Rome, visit Est! Est! Est!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mustache Night

For those of you who know that we just returned from a vacation in Italy, these might not be the blog updates you're looking for. Blog posts from Italy will be coming, but not today as my brain is too foggy from a nasty head cold. Instead, enjoy a few pictures of the things Danny does for youth ministry. Our first Tuesday night youth group after vacation was "Mustache Night," so he had been growing facial hair (against both of our wishes, haha) since our vacation. He shaved the day of youth group and created what he called the "mustbeard." It was a hit at youth group, but it was a hit with me when it was gone the next day! (I was glad he kept it on long enough to get some pictures, though!)

For more laughs, read the writing on Danny's shirt. He thought it was appropriate for the look.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tour of the Rock

For Danny's birthday, we did what native Bay Area residents rarely do and toured Alcatraz. People who live in this area are generally fascinated with the Rock but have either never been, or only been when they were little on school field trips. So this was a first for me and the first for Danny since he was about 10, and it was fun! The audio tour was really well done and the legends surrounding Alcatraz are fascinating. It was also a gorgeous day with (rare) clear skies and made for some great pictures.

Danny wore what he calls his "jailbird" shirt (because it has fat horizontal stripes) and enjoyed posing in the cells.

This barely conveys how small the cells were.

The commentary from the inmates on the audio tour talked about how the close proximity to San Francisco was part of the punishment. So close to freedom, but so far.