1 year update!


Wow, I’ve been away from this blog for a while. I have NOT abandoned it.

My laptop was being worked on for a couple of months and I don’t touch CJs laptop so, I kind of took a break from blogging. It’s funny to see my last post was about the blogging challenge I partook in, having nothing to do with Italy. I did continue with the challenge but decided to not post them for public view.

Yesterday, October 4th, marked our first year of living in Italy. It’s bittersweet. If we were only given this past year to live in Italy, I’d leave here disappointed in myself. So, I’m glad we have 2 more years to travel as much as possible. I personally have done some great tours and traveled locally but am dying to go to other countries. Germany and Iceland are the next big trips I have in the works right now. And London. And Ireland. With or without stingy hubby.

I’m going to randomly list some thoughts reflecting this past year of living in Napoli:

1. I didn’t achieve my goal of becoming fluent in Italian. It’s way too much work for busy little me. Although, I am getting better at understanding and I’m still trying to learn whenever I have time.

2. Leilani is doing fantastic in her Italian school. I am so proud of her when I hear her speak in Italian. She is about 50% fluent. The Summer break threw her off and she never had the chance to practice much and lost most of what she learned at the end of second grade. I know she’ll be 100% fluent by the first of the new year. I can’t wait for her to be my little teacher and translator!

3. Last year around this time, it was storming and we had power outages every night. This year, it’s transitioning from warm to windy weather. I’m prepared for future black outs!

4. I have great news to share but won’t mention anything until the end of the year when both are finalized. (NO, I am absolutely, positively, never-in-the-next-5-or-more-years, pregnant!)

5. I am a pro at driving in these streetz. I’ve become used to being honked at for no apparent reason from impatient motorists. I love shouting a stern “no!” with a pointed finger at them as though they are children. It’s a lot better than cursing. They just look at you with a puzzled look. So funny.

6. I’m waiting on my security clearance to be processed in New York and sent back here on base (by boat!) so I can start my job at the Child Development Center. I’ll be working with little ones!

7. CJ is doing fantastic. Keeping busy at work and still refusing to travel anywhere other than the pizzeria off base. A friend and I convinced him to come with us on a wine tour near Mt. Vesuvius last weekend. At least that was a start.

8. Caserta Royal Palace grounds is going to be frequented a lot by Leilani and I. It is the ideal place that makes for pleasant memories riding our vintage bikes (still need those), picnicking under tall, interconnected trees and reading a book. We visited once before and fell in love. That’s when we knew that place would be ours.

9. Last year I had 2 days to create Leilani’s Halloween costume. This year I have an entire month! I might be in over my head but I think it’s going to be epic. Also, they’re having a Halloween contest. I love me a challenge! My mother in law is a huge help in this process by sending me all the crafts I can’t find locally. Thanks, mumzie!

10. We semi-hiked Mt. Vesuvius this summer. It was surreal! Semi-hiked because while I was using the bathroom, CJ bought bus tickets to drive us half way up the mountain! That cheat. Once we reached the top, we breathed as much of the fresh air in as possible. The pollution here is awful. Have I ever mentioned that?

11. I went to Mykonos, Greece this summer on a girls trip. It was gorgeous. Definitely a one time only kind of thing, though. There isn’t much history there. I love history. But, we did stay in a classic white building with blue shudders! I’ll post photos of that in a separate blog later.

12. Speaking of photos, I won’t be posting nearly as many of them as I used to. Privacy is a concern now that I know my photos are being stolen by a source that hasn’t been apart of my life for years.

13. The two best things that have happened this entire year was getting my beautiful baby, Barbie, and putting Leilani in a local school. My dauggher is the cutest thing you’ll ever see and she is very popular on base. When we go for walks, every kid we walk by yells “It’s Barbie!!”. You’ll pretty much fall in love with her too if you saw her.

14. A year later and I still can’t get enough of the pizza and pasta!

That’s pretty much all I can think of from off the top of my head. Looking back on this past year makes me want to pack as much travel in as possible in this next year. So, the number one goal I have for the beginning of our second year in Italy is to TRAVEL EUROPE. Mark my words and by the power of positive thought, it will happen. OR, I can just live here permanently and not have to rush my travels. I’ve been seriously considering that option.

Here is a sneak peek of me in Greece!

Connecting with a sweet spirit animal in Mykonos, Greece.

Connecting with a sweet animal spirit in Mykonos.

Our first Halloween in Italy

– was a success!

Around early September, Leilani and I decided that a European inspired costume would be fitting since we were moving to Italy.

Ensemble in mind: The Mona Lisa.

Now, there were no Spirit stores, craft shops (oh, Michael’s how I miss you), or anything of the sort that would help me transform Leilani into Mona Lisa. I was discouraged and very close to giving up. But, the determined mother in me put my creative cap on and got to work on making her costume homemade – and I had 2 days to do it. Challenge accepted.

I picked up a tri fold display board, 5 cans of spray paint, a ruler, box cutter, gorilla glue, and a small bungee cord to make the frame that Leilani would be standing in. CJ and I measured all sides of the cardboard and took a box cutter to trim down the size and punctured holes in the center where the bungee cord would weave through, and where Leilani would hold the box up with her shoulders. We used the scraps as the frame and CJ spray painted the box in his Da Vinci best while I went on a hunt to find an outfit that resembled The Mona Lisa’s. The base thrift store was just the place I’d find what I was looking for. They had bins of old costumes that were impossible to dig through. But, I was desperate and had a vision of exactly what I needed. Then behold! A long, black, crushed velvet fabric vampiress dress was finally in my hands. I ceased my search for a black wig and was forced to come to terms with having a blonde haired Mona Lisa until upon checking out, I saw a black net collecting dust on a hanger behind the counter. Inspiration struck and this would become part of Leilani’s “wig”. Our thrift store experience was everything I needed on my steps to materializing our kid into the famed painting. The dress and net together came out to be only $3! Oh, and I managed to grab a fabulous red dress for myself as well ($3). Score!

I have never studied a painting [online] as much as I have as The Mona Lisa. I wanted to make The Mona Lisa come to life in Leilani as much as possible. So, wearing just a black dress wasn’t going to cut it. In the painting, you can see a brownish-gold fabric as her sleeves and silk draping over her left shoulder. I bought some leg warmers for Leilani’s arms and a black scarf to drape over her shoulder to recreate this look. Of course the leg warmers and scarf are something I can use in the winter; parts of this costume aren’t a complete waste! After frantically searching and shopping with one day left, Leilani’s costume was finally coming together. Except her wig. I ended up knitting the net to a headband but it wasn’t dark enough, so I added black tissue paper and tucked it under the headband to keep it in place. Now her costume was complete.

While Leilani and I studied The Mona Lisa, we also learned quite a few facts about Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece. Leilani read some interesting things about the painting and we thought it would be a neat idea to be a walking history lesson and give “fun facts” to those who liked her costume. At first, we thought it would be funny to use these facts as a means to get an extra piece of candy out of our neighbors by saying, “Yes! I am the Mona Lisa. If you share an extra piece of candy, I’ll share a fun fact about me!” But, everyone was so generous she never had the chance to do it. When she was done treating around base, she passed out candy and was able to recite her 5 fun facts to people who gaped at her costume.

Here is a quick video we made this morning of Leilani sharing her ‘five fun facts’. She isn’t in full costume but decided to throw on her “wig” and sit in the boxed frame to become The Mona Lisa one last time.

Leilani’s costume ended up being a hit and everyone loved it. We received many compliments and several people took photos of our walking Mona Lisa. CJ and I have a bet that there will probably be 1 or 2 Mona Lisa costumes next Halloween. We are happy to be an inspiration to families to use their creativity and stop spending 50 or more bucks on a costume your kids will wear for one night. Luckily, Leilani had the chance to wear her costume twice. Last Friday was the base’s annual Spooktacular where 2,000 service members and Italian contractors and their families got to trick-or-treat at booths, go on hay rides, enter in contests, and eat carnival food. This is where Leilani debuted her costume for the first time. Several of the Italians took a particular liking to her costume and would say things like “bellisima!” or “que bella!” among other things that we couldn’t understand. This costume might have helped us become a little more accepted by the Italians. Whew!

Here are photo’s of her makeup and outfit. I pasted the outer parts of her eyebrows down with a glue stick, went over them with concealer, and powdered the heck out of them with foundation to make the hair less visible. Up close, you can see her eyebrows. But from a short distance and in photos, they are barely noticeable – just like in the painting. I powdered Leilani’s face and lips, contoured her nose and darkened her eyes to bring The Mona Lisa to life. I also used a black eyeliner pen on her forehead to create the thin veil that Lisa Gheradini wore over her hair. The transformation was in full effect!


Here are photo’s of my little walking painting –

Leilani in full character!

Leilani in full character!

This was such a fun project to put together and a great first Halloween in Italy. We were sad to have to retire the costume so I had the idea of sticking the box to her bedroom wall where friends can use it to play and take pictures in.

We missed the haunted houses, smoke machines, fully decorated neighborhood houses, and pumpkins back in the states. But, we were so thankful to have spent our first Halloween together as a family in 3 years. I hope you had a BOOtiful Hallow’s eve as well and a night with less tricks and more treats!

Now, excuse me while I go ravage through my little candy fetcher’s pillow-case-full of sweets. Mwaaahahahhh!

Hooray, hooray, it’s moving day!

Friday morning we woke from sunshine hitting our faces after a night of down pour; a perfect start to an afternoon of all day travel – wretched weather of the Pacific Northwest, you will not be missed. Once I had my good morning stretch, I sat for a moment in complete gratitude for what I knew was about to lie ahead. Months of preparing documents and getting signatures from CJ’s command, having to deal with unnecessary grouchy, old witches [who clearly hate their jobs] having to sign, stamp, and deliver our visa applications and all 23543 others; a long and tiresome process, and moving every belonging we had accumulated in our entire lives (including our car) has led to this point- moving day.

Once we checked out of our hotel and moved all 11 of our bags (no, really)

2 months worth of clothes and other things to last us til our home goods arrive.

2 months worth of clothes and other things to last us ’til our home goods arrive.

into the shuttle, we were on our way to SeaTac Airport. Checking in and going through security turned out to be a smooth process – whew! We flew Lufthansa Airlines

which I couldn’t help myself but to repeat loof-thon-sah in low whispers because it was so fancy. Potential future pet name? I think YES.

Being conditioned travelers for the past 8 years now, we were prepared to endure a 10 hour flight to Germany and the hour and a half transfer flight to Naples. Leilani had a backpack full of activities to keep her entertained. Work books, huge sticker books (thank you, Siena!), her Kindle and DS, a blanket with 2 stuffed animals and a pillow pet were sure to keep her comfortable. I found a cubby full of magazines and pulled out the Oktober issue of Glamour – in German! (which gave me the idea of collecting European magazines while I’m here. OooOhh!) Of course, Lufthansa had TV’s with the best movies to make the time fly by… literally! We took our seats, got ourselves situated and about a half hour into the flight we turn our TV’s on.  As I’m about to watch Monster’s University (no shame!), Leilani pushes “play” on a BBC documentary called “Galapagos with David Attenborough” about an island and its volcanic landscape and species  that exist nowhere else in the world; completely intrigued by it. She ended up watching it twice. Really, Leilani?? Why that surprises me, I will never know. It is so like her to choose something educational. Needless to say, I was proud.

About 2 hours into the flight we are being fed dinner. I pass on “dinner” at that moment because I had just devoured a burger at noon, an hour before boarding our flight. You know, lunch time for American’s.  Later, they pass out small snacks and beverages. Then what only felt like a few hours later, they pass out breakfast. I felt like we kept being fed! There is no better way to acclimate to changing time zones than being fed more food!  It was all actually really good. Then again, what food isn’t delicious to me? Once Leilani had finished dinnersnackbreakfast, she changed into her Hello Kitty pajamas and sprawled out over me and fell asleep. Sure, Leilani. I’ll lose feeling in the lower half of my body as you drift off into pleasant dreams of unicorns and lollipops; because I’m not tired. Ah, the things we parents sacrifice for the content little hearts of our children.

10 hours and numb bottoms later, we make it to Frankfurt, Germany! We were there for all of 30 minutes until we boarded our next flight to Naples. Frankfurt Airport is one of the top 10 largest Airports in the world. It took 20 minutes after landing to drive to a terminal to unload. When we finally depart the plane, we head over to our gate for our final destination – Italy!

Before we knew it, a hop, skip, and a jump later, we had arrived! Leilani and I peer out the window and see such beauty beneath us (CJ was asleep, again. Go figure!). All the buildings were identical to each other; maybe 7 or 8 stories tall, and very, very crowded.  These buildings went on as far as the eye can see. My jaw dropping moment was when it looked like we were headed straight for Mt. Vesuvius – we were that close. Such a sight to see! However, what wasn’t so captivating was when we were descending through a thick layer of smog. I have never seen anything like this before; it was awful. I am convinced Naples is responsible for contributing to the majority of global warming and its imminent climate disaster. Are YOU thinking what I’M thinking? This place could use…CAPTAIN PLANET!

Let the 90’s cartoon theme song ensue!

“Looting and polluting is not the way!” Has Captain Planet and the Planeteers taught you nothing, Naples?

When we touch down, we are greeted by Matt, CJ’s LPO (Lead Petty Officer/middle management) of the pharmacy he will be working in and the position he will be taking over. He was a Godsend! He drove us around Capodichino Navy base and gave us a quick tour, which was walking distance from the Airport. When we drove off base, we got a feel for what it was like to drive around locals. We nearly got clipped by another car coming in the opposite direction. Rules here are… there are no rules. But to drive reckless! Stop lights and traffic signs are street art to these folks. My thoughts exactly. This could be fun! On our drive to the NSA base, we notice the highway is littered with trash. Everywhere you turn, there was garbage. We even drove past a small gypsy town of homes people used to build with left over scraps. Ew! A half hour later we get to the base we will temporarily be living on. Matt gives us another tour – which is quite large – then shows us to the lodge we stayed in for the night until our home was ready for move-in the following morning. He surprised us with a few groceries to get us started and had arranged plans for dinner at his house with his wife and 2 small children. As soon as we unloaded our bags in the front room, Matt took CJ to finish check in at the hospital while Leilani and I stayed behind. That’s when it hit. An overwhelming wave of exhaustion had completely taken over our bodies and we collapsed on the bed for the next 5 hours. Upon waking up, I felt guilty. Whoops! There goes dinner with Matt and family. But, there too was CJ, fast asleep next to us. It was now 10 PM and we were all refreshed. We were so thrown off by the time difference that we spent all of Saturday afternoon sleeping as well!

Saturday morning we moved into our house. The best way I can describe our home is psych ward chic. Here are some photos.

We plan on living here in under a year until the housing department allows us to live off base and we find the perfect home in downtown Naples. Housing gave us loaner furniture until our home goods arrive. It took me about 5 seconds to look for the flush on the toilet when I remembered it’s in the wall. A GENIUS idea. This would be perfect back home for all toddlers who try flushing jewelry and toys down the toilet. They can’t reach. Right next to the toilet was its brother, the bidet; because sometimes toilet paper just doesn’t do the trick. About an hour after we move in, it’s storming! The weather from the Pacific Northwest had followed us and came after us with a vengeance. Once the storm passed and after we had our late afternoon “nap”, we went for a walk around base. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to breathe here. Have you ever thrown out garbage in an overflowing dump, unwillingly taking in a good whiff of that awful stench that burns your nose hairs? That is exactly what it smells like everywhere. There is no escaping it. The freshest air I get is from sticking my head in the freezer. I might start a fashion statement with surgical masks around here. The people of Naples have got to get a handle on their garbage system. We have Italian contractors on base that pick up our garbage whenever they please. Our dumps are just as bad as they are out in town. If this were any other base in America, that would NOT fly in the slightest. We unfortunately don’t have control over it. The Italian Mafia does. Another thing we don’t have control over is feeding stray cats!! There is cat food and bowls of water around every corner of every building. The Italian’s that work on base feed the stray cats. So, if we accidentally step on a cat, it was on, uhh, accident. Yes, accident.

After our night time stroll, we come back home and watch Harry Potter on our laptop since we still had no cable, internet, or anything else to keep us entertained. Then we all drift off to sleep again, occasionally being woken by thunder and lightning, and later, a power outage until 7:45 on Sunday morning. Of course.

It is now Tuesday evening, we have internet up and running and I am finally publishing this post. As you can tell, I am adjusting to the culture shock here. If there is anything I have learned in the past 4 days, it is how fortunate we are in America to have all the finer things. So, the next time you inhale that crisp, fresh air, or watch Waste Management drive off with your garbage each week, think of us and the people of Naples who aren’t so fortunate to have something as simple as clean air.

These last 4 days have felt like they’ve come and gone; partly because we slept most of the time and also because we were trapped indoors from the terrible weather. Living in Naples hasn’t quite hit me yet. When it does, I’ll be sure to describe that moment I burst into tears of joy. Perhaps while I’m strolling in downtown Naples, nibbling on cannolis and observing locals using hand gestures while shouting in the streets. Haha! Imagine, a mouthful of cannolis and a few tears streaming down my face. This cannoli is just so goohood! – That’s when I’ll know we are finally awake from our sleeping spell and no longer in Kansas anymore.

In unrelated news, I’d like to leave you with a few wise words of my fellow natives…


Day zero.

‘Hello and welcome’ to our travel blog!

If you haven’t already, refer to The Hyland’s to get caught up on why I created this blog.

We are thrilled that YOU, our family and friends, and whomever stumbles across our blog, will get a glimpse into our lives as we document our adventures and feed our wanderlust through Europe. Being in Italy sort of demands several photo’s of Roman Architecture, heaping servings of spaghetti with meatballs, and “selfie’s” in a Gondola with a classic, black and white striped shirt wearing, gondolier in Venice. Our blog will reflect all of this, and more, accordingly.

My goal is to try to publish daily posts as often as I can. If I don’t, I am most likely being a Navy wife, romeing the town (corny pun intended) with my daughter, or being taught Italian by a tutor. Some posts will be amateur photography projects and others may have nothing but a sentence here and there. There might even be posts that don’t make sense to you, but are everything to our little family. Above all, this blog is ours and will serve as a pleasant place for us to reminisce.

So, this is it, guys. Day zero. Our last, full day in America. Rome and Milan, Spain and France, cheese and wine, & pizza and pasta are in our future. And, needless to say, a whole lota gelato!