Casa di Maul Guest Awards 2014

I’d like to take the time to give all of our readers a slice of the fun that happens when you visit Casa di Maul and Italy.  We love our friends and family so much and we love hosting people.  To our guests, enjoy our ode to you and to everyone else, becoming a guest of Casa di Maul only takes a plane ticket and ride, so hope we’ll see you someday too!

Pashby Dad and Mom inside the Arena di Verona

The Go-With-the-Flow Award: Chris and Clark Pashby (Alicia’s Parents) (15 December 2013–9 January 2014)  Mom and Dad came for 3 whole weeks to celebrate Christmas, New Years, and were even here for Orthodox Christmas and the Italian Epiphany celebration, La Befana.  Pashby Parents get this award because even though they were in Italy, they did not want to rush through things and were happy staying in our neighborhood and enjoying our beautiful countryside.  Dad and I had a great time working out on Post: I’d go to yoga and he’d swim in the pool.  While staying with us, Pashby Parents took in Vicenza, Venice, Verona, Como and Fana and Spilimbergo.  Highlights included: passing New Years at Lake Como (which is where Drew and I fell in Love over New Years 2011-2012), spending time with our Italian cousins in Fana and staying near there in a little medieval town, Spilimbergo while visiting them.  Mom had her Birthday while we were with our Italian cousins!  It was so great having my parents visit for our first Christmas together in Italy!!

Naomi and Craig on Gondola
Craig and Naomi Campbell on a gondola ride in Venezia.

The Oh-So-Brave-Picture-Perfect Award: Naomi and Craig Campbell (2–11 April 2014)  Naomi (Drew’s Sister) and Craig (her husband) visited us for 10 days in their first ever trip to Italy.  They are Oh-So-Brave because they left their 1- and 2.75-year-old babies home with Grandaddy Maul and came on a trip!  The second part of their award refers to Naomi’s ability to take amazing pictures.  She has a very artistic eye and always makes me look very photogenic.  This photo was taken by me, though, so don’t judge the shadows on Craig’s face!  While with us, The Campbells went to Venice, Vicenza, Verona for the opera and Rome.  We accompanied them on their Rome trip that can only be defined as EPIC.

The next 3 awards go to our Easter weeks guests.  All of these guests came to keep me company while Andrew was in Africa working and I greatly appreciate it considering that it was our first married Easter!  They were all troopers too, since we had a full house with all of them there at the same time.

Here are Paul, Rebecca and I outside the old Roman city gates in Verona.

The It’s-Been-A-Long-Time-World-Tour Award:  Paul and Rebecca Armerding (14–21 April 2014)  I knew Paul and Rebecca in Bahrain, where they were missionaries for the Reformed Church in America as Paul served as the CEO of the American Mission Hospital.  When they came to visit me we hadn’t seen each other for 5 years!  As you can imagine, we talked almost non-stop all day for 5 whole days.  They get the World Tour award because they came to Italy from Macedonia, left Casa di Maul to tour Pompeii, Naples and Rome, and were headed to Greece and Oman after their 2nd week in Italy for a total of about 7 weeks traveling!  While visiting me, they visited Vicenza, Verona, Soave, Nove and visited our church, Trinity Church Vicenza, for Easter.  Armerdings, how charming and amazing it was to have you with me!

The Nguyen Family on Easter Morning 2014.

The Our-European-Family-Award: The Nguyen Family (18–24 April 2014)  Living overseas causes you to regard your close friends as family.  Natasha and Anh Nguyen were two of my closest friends in Ukraine and their daughter Mila was our flower girl.  The Nguyen family now lives in Vienna and we consider them part of our “European Family”, which is how we label our close friends who still live in Europe.  I was so excited to watch Mila, who had grown up so much since we visited in October, and little Olivia who was the cutest 2-year-old ever.  While with us, the kids really enjoyed our countryside neighborhood where we organized an Easter egg hunt for them, we walked by Lake Fimon, saw downtown Vicenza, ate pizza and gelato, and Anh really enjoyed playing golf.  Of course, many different games ensued, always accompanied by laughter.

Olga Prytula and I in Verona.

The Greetings-from-Ukraine Award:  Olga Prytula (20–27 April 2014)  Olga Prytula is one of my best friends and since she lives in Ukraine, she’s also part of our European Family.  She showed up on Easter Sunday with a bag FULL of goodies for all of us from Kiev: Buckwheat in bulk (I was probably most excited for that!), painted eggs for Easter, chocolates from Roshen and most importantly goodies for Mila and Olivia from Natasha’s mom, who still lives in Kiev.  The most exciting part of these goodies was the fact that Babushka made Mila a Frozen princess dress, so we decided that after all of our other Easter festivities were finished, watching Frozen while Mila sang along in her dress was of course a necessary activity.  While visiting me, Olga saw Vicenza and Verona.  She also gets points because she’s the only of our Easter guests who got to see Drew as Drew came home one day before she left.

Lindsay and Jordan Alexander (“sister”-cousins) on the Spanish Steps in Rome, eating gelato in the same spot as Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

The Yay-Giddy-Smart-Girls Award: Jordan and Lindsay Alexander (4–18 May 2014) Jordan and Lindsay are cousins of Drew’s and they both had just finished their first year of college and it was their first trip to Italy.  As a result, Vicenza and Casa di Maul were not the only stops on their grand tour.  They visited Venice and stayed overnight in Mestre, Marostica, Florence, Rome and they took a train to Salzburg!  It was time to have a girl’s weekend in Rome, so I joined them and the three of us went all over Rome together.  Of course, the most exciting part of that for me was that I finally had two girls with me who wouldn’t mind doing the Roman Holiday tour of Rome.  We have many photos and memories of all of the places that we walked and posed for pictures from the movie.  Why are they giddy smart girls?  Because they got super-excited about art, architecture and history while traveling all over.  Jordan was our personal tour guide through the Vatican museum.  These are not your average college girls, so watch out world!  The Alexander cousins are SOPHOMORES now!

IMG_0147 1
Aunt Lynda and Uncle Roy celebrating their 25 wedding anniversary at Villa Michelangelo.

The Sunny-Side-of-the-Street Award:  Uncle Roy and Aunt Lynda Alexander (15-24 May 2014) Uncle Roy and Aunt Lynda stayed with us to celebrate their 25 wedding anniversary in the spring.  They took in Tosca at La Fenice in Venice, Verona, Vicenza and Florence.  Out of all of our visitors, they are the ones who had the most traveling hiccups: their flights were so delayed that they came an entire day late, they missed their train from Padova to Florence and it ended up taking them 5 hours to get there, and they had a flight mix-up on the way home too!  Through all of this, they did not make a fuss.  They enjoyed Italy and did not let any circumstance get them down.  We can all take a hint from them the next time we travel.  Thank you Roy and Lynda for staying sweet despite sour circumstances.

Drew and I with Steffi and Brian outside the Basilica of St. Francis. Probably the best “groupie” I’ve ever been a part of!

The Most-Researched-Meandering Award: Stephanie and Brian Armes (4–18 June 2014) For those who don’t know it already, I’m a twin.  Stephanie happens to be the best sister a girl could ask for, and her husband Brian is an awesome brother-in-law.  Since this was our big “sister sighting” for the year, Drew and I actually travelled quite a bit with both Stephanie and Brian while they were visiting us.  We saved up our Burano experience for when they visited, saw Malcesine, Verona, and went on a Toscana/Umbria adventure together.  Stephanie and Brian also did an epic tour of Florence without us for 2 days and managed to fit in 8 museums each day, I believe.  I could devote many blogs just to Steffi and Brian, so here’s the brief explanation of why they get their award: in short, they were the most researched couple that stayed with us.  They wanted to see things in Vicenza, our hometown, that I didn’t even know about!  With that in mind, they weren’t in a super hurry to get everything done and checked off their list, but somehow managed to meander through the tourist scenes in a very Italian way, without rushing.  If you want someone to plan your trip for you, I’d recommend contacting Brian!

The Insulator-Whiskey-Tour-of-Italy Award: Ed and Zandra Overstreet (29 June–3 July 2014)  Zandra is one of Rebekah’s (Drew’s Mom’s) first cousins.  She and Ed had a whirlwind trip to Italy and visited us on the tail-end of their trip.  First they saw Rome, did a Mediterranean Cruise, and then traveled to the Adriatic Coast, where they participated in a telephone insulator convention, one Perkins/Alexander family past-time.  If you don’t know what that is, Google Images can help you as it did me.  By the time they got to us, they had been in Italy close to 3 weeks and Drew was in Africa again. (In fact, Drew only got to see them for one day right before they left!)  It was so great to see them since the last time we had been together was our July 2013 wedding.  Zandra was the one who organized our rehearsal dinner, which 80+ people attended!  We enjoyed seeing Venice and Vicenza together, and our pastor’s daughter Annaelle stayed with us at the same time so it was a very “family” type of feel while they were with us.  We were so happy that Ed drank our whiskey, which we had been gifted at Christmas but we couldn’t stomach.  Ed, Zandra, thank you for your generosity and congenial spirit!  We were so happy to have you with us and the only reason you were previously left out of this post is because I don’t have a picture of all of us together.  Next time we visit, let’s remedy that!

Crystal and I at Arena di Verona’s production of Puccini’s Turandot. We lasted 1.5 acts before the rain came.

The Longest-Time-Since-Last-Seen Award: Crystal Lucas (21–28 July 2014) Crystal and I went on an exploratory mission trip to Kenya in 2006 that changed both of our lives forever.  Since that trip, we’ve both had the opportunity to live and teach overseas.  Crystal came for a visit to celebrate my Birthday (21 July) on her way home to the States from Tanzania, where she had been teaching children of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  It had been 9 years since we last saw each other!  Crystal had a great time eating as much proscuitto as we could find, traveling to Venice, Verona and Marostica on day trips.  We also went to the infamous Arena di Verona to take in an opera before it started raining.  Crystal’s the lucky girl who happened upon a dance dress rehearsal at La Fenice when we went on the self-guided audio tour.  Crystal was transitioning away from Tanzania as she was going back to the States for furlough, so it was a really great time for her to debrief (I peppered her with questions about all things Tanzania) and also have tourist time.  Crystal is living proof of my idea that a good friend once made is always kept.

Derek and Rebekah Vicenza
Derek and Rebekah outside the Teatro Olimpico.

The One-More-Cappuccino Award: Derek and Rebekah Maul (Drew’s Parents) (1–11 August 2014) Drew’s parents flew to the southern part of Italy first, where they took in Napoli, Pompeii and of course Vesuvius.  You can read all about their Italian adventures on Derek’s blog.  When they got to our place, they were enamored with the beautiful countryside after the chaotic mess that is Napoli.  We took them to Venice, saw an opera in Verona, Vicenza, and we took a weekend trip to the Adriatic coast where we stayed in Gatteo a Mare and visited Ravenna and San Marino.  They get this award because they were the most excited guests to soak up the ambience of the Italian bar scene.  (Remember that Italians call cafes bars!)  There was always room for just one more cappuccino to enjoy the ambience of whatever city street we happened to be on.

Mike and I after our uphill hike in Cefalu, Sicilia. Guess which one of us was more excited about that experience?

The Italian Family Award: Mike McDaniel (23-26 December 2013 and 29 August–1 September 2014) As I previously mentioned, we have some very close friendships throughout Europe.  Mike, however, is IN Italy, living in Toscana.  We’ve enjoyed hosting Mike several times and meeting him in other locations around Europe.  He joined the Pashby Parents Christmas celebration in 2013 and also stayed in Casa di Maul over Labor Day weekend.  Mike is very well-read and well-traveled so it’s always a treat to have him as a guest and travel with him.  As with Stephanie and Brian, he’s mastered the art of traveling without rushing.

Casa di Maul wishes all of our friends and family a Happy New Year!

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