Saturday, December 28, 2019

My Wondrous Yearly Experience at the Italian Consulate in Century City, California

Thursday, December 27, 2019

The Varese Skorpions like to do things the right and legal way.

Thus, today marked my third consecutive yearly trip to the Italian Consulate in Century City, California to file the necessary paperwork and pay the required fees in order to obtain my Work Visa for my upcoming six months stay in northern Italy to coach our beloved Skorpions.

Without this Work Visa, I can only legally stay in the European Union countries for a maximum of 90 days.

 As always, the organization
at the Italian Consulate is,
shall we say . . . interesting

The Consulate's hours are a bit quirky and one must get an appointment with the Consulate to get a Work Visa about three months in advance.

I arrived for my 10:00 a.m. appointment about forty minutes early armed with all of my paperwork, a cashier's check and a good book to read while I waited.

I found three ladies in line at the reception desk when I got off of the elevator. The first one had an appointment but the next two didn't.

The man at the reception desk informed these two ladies in perfect Italian that they could not possibly enter the Consulate without an appointment. The ladies pleaded their case also in La Bella Lingua and magically they were admitted to the Consulate without the needed three month in advance appointment to a different part of the Consulate from where I needed to go.

Ah, Italia, how I love you.

The first lady who did have a Visa appointment was done in about five minutes.

I was next up and finished in about five minutes too which was about 20 minutes before my scheduled appointment.

The only hitch was when the lady I was meeting with asked for my code number from the Italian Olympic Committee in order to get a Sports Work Visa. I told her that I did not have it because it was not mentioned in the six part set of directions of what to bring to my appointment. She nicely offered to look my name up on the Italian Olympic Committee's website and, wouldn't you know it, I did indeed have the now required code number.

I sensed the all-powerful hand of the Skorpions' Santa Barbara Zanella pulling strings somewhere in the halls of power of Rome.

The annual Consulate ordeal easily behind me, I was in the mood for more Italian culture and/or cuisine.

 There was an Eataly in the Westfield
Mall just across the street from
the Italian Consulate

I love the Eataly in Milano and was a OK with the one in Las Vegas. Let's see how this one stacks up to those two.

Panettone is a Christmas treat
in Italia 

We even enjoyed one as one of our dessert choices at Laurie's amazing Christmas Day dinner. 

is one of Italy's best coffees

Our coffee machine in Varese is made by LAVAZZA and has made us, goodness only knows, how many delicious cups of espresso over the last two campaigns in Varese.

I purchased a cappuccino
and a cream filled brioche

They were both MUCH larger than there counterparts in Lombardia and considerably MUCH more expensive too.

See, I told you that it was GOOD coffee!

 Oh the aroma of fresh baked bread . . .

I bought a loaf of Rustico Classico for myself and a loaf of Rustico Olivo for Laurie.

The bread is delicious but the price was somewhat outrageous by Varese standards.

 Interesting looking squash

Eataly's good looking butcher shop

Eataly has a HUGE
variety of Italian wines

These looked good but instead I bought
a bottle of white wine from Sicily for Laurie
and a bottle of red Barbera D'Alba for myself

I absolutely LOVE arancini
but the kitchen wasn't open yet

 Cheese and hams . . .

They had desserts . . .

. . . LOTS of rich, delicious looking
desserts but I was strong and
avoided temptation somehow

No, I can definitely NOT explain my resolve.

Lots of bread sticks

Those fabulous desserts were
still enticing me as I started my
trek back to Camarillo

A good day indeed for Italian bureaucracy, coffee, a pastry and checking out all sorts of Italian cuisine that beckons me from both near and afar.

Maybe we should go out for an Italian meal tonight at our new favorite dining spot, Made in Italy in Thousand Oaks . . .

A new EuroBall Adventure is now only a few weeks away.

Friday, December 27, 2019

A Very Merry 2019 Christmas

Tuesday, December 24 -
Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Yuletide season was in full bloom at Casa Contreras in Camarillo the past few days to be sure.

On Christmas Eve Jacob and Mary
came over to receive lots of gifts

Mary had a Christmas Stocking
chock full and waiting for her
excited exploration to commence

Here she goes!

The two grandkids were quite
busy opening their gifts

Hugging Gigi in thanks
for their new wonders

Anticipating their next
round of gifts

Checking our Mary's newest
toy from the movie "Frozen II"

She was happy as any
Disney princess deserves to be

Jacob sharing his joy with
his Mother Vanessa

The Christmas Eve present opening was a big hit, now it was on to . . .

. . . Christmas Day with the cousins

Max was eager to be my elf on this day and handed out the presents for me.

Leo was excitedly
waiting for another present

A cool UofW winter coat for me
courtesy of Mark Johnson

Nothing says Christmas to me like
Leo's ice breathing dragon

His brother Max got a dragon of his own, this one of the fire breathing sort.

Mike, Vanessa, Jacob and Mary joined us again late in the afternoon after spending most of the day with Vanessa's family.

When Mary arrived at our house
she was comatose . . .

. . . thus only Leo, Max and Jacob
were sitting at the kid's table for dinner

My sister, Linda and our Mom, Chuny

Mary was still asleep but not
for much longer

Mary was now awake and excited
to receive an angel pin from
Great Grandma Chuny

Mary wanted to know
what she had missed

A whole lot really Mary,
we reveled in so much
fellowship and food

For his parting gift, Jacob
wanted me to "Ding-Dong" him

Of course, Mary wanted a turn
swinging like a crazed bat too

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both relatively calm but of great joy to me.

A special THANK YOU must be given to my bride, Laurie for going the extra mile as always in getting our house to look like a Hallmark Christmas card and preparing the fabulous meal that we all shared on Christmas Day.

I hope that all of you had as wonderful day as we did!


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Washington Huskies and the Boise State Broncos Tangle in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl

Friday, December 20 -
Monday, December 23, 2019

Our beloved 7-5 University of Washington Huskies were invited to play in the 28th Annual Las Vegas Bowl against the 12-1 Mountain West Conference Champion Boise State Broncos on Saturday night.

Thus, on Friday afternoon after both Jacob and Mike finished their half-day school sessions to signal the start of their two week Christmas break, we were all off to Sin City to join Andy, Jenn and Kevin for a fun weekend in the desert.

On the way to Nevada, we needed to stop for dinner so we opted for the unique dining experience that is the famed Barstow Station.

Mike and Jacob went with Mexican dishes while Laurie and I opted for the wonders of the Chinese cuisine found at the Panda Express.

Afterwards, we all just had to have some ice cream.

Cotton Candy Ice Cream
for Jacob led too . . .

. . . his wanting to give Poppo
and Gigi a kiss

For once, we both said a hardy "NO!"

We pushed on to the Las Vegas version of Casa Contreras where we had a fun reunion that lasted well into the night.

Saturday morning was a meant
for a special Luhca libre moment

Who are these three wrestlers?

After a two out of three falls winner was determined, we headed to Sam Boyd Stadium to do a little tailgating before the kickoff of the Las Vegas Bowl.

For the Huskies, this would be the 40th Bowl game in program history with the first one having been the 14-14 tie with Navy in the 1924 Rose Bowl.

I did not attend that one.

For me though, it would be the 18th Husky Bowl that I've attended. Here is the list of the Husky Bowl games that I have seen:

1978 Rose Bowl win over Michigan, 27-20
1981 Rose Bowl loss to Michigan, 23-6
1982 Rose Bowl win over Iowa, 28-0
1985 Freedom Bowl win over Colorado, 20-17
1989 Freedom Bowl win over Florida, 34-7

1991 Rose Bowl win over Iowa, 46-34
1992 Rose Bowl win over Michigan, 34-14
1993 Rose Bowl loss to Michigan, 38-31
1996 Holiday Bowl loss to Colorado, 33-21
1999 Holiday Bowl loss to Kansas State, 24-20

2001 Rose Bowl win over Purdue, 34-24
2001 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas, 47-43
2010 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska, 19-7
2011 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor, 67-56
2012 Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State, 28-26

2013 Fight Hunger Bowl win over BYU, 31-16
2019 Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, 28-23
2019 Las Vegas Bowl . . .

So, entering tonight's contest I had seen the Huskies amass a record of nine wins and eight losses in the first 17 bowl games that I'd witnessed.

With Aaron

As is usual, when we parked our vehicle in the stadium's parking lot, we began talking with the other tailgaters parked near us.

That is how we met a group of American football coaches, wearing mostly Boise State blue and orange colors, from Yorba Linda H.S. in Orange County, California. They were all there because one of their former players is a Freshman Defensive End for Boise State.

Aaron asked me what my ties were to the U of W and I said that I had been on the Huskies teams the mid-1960s and somehow graduated in 1969.

Aaron then mentioned that his father-in-law was also at the U of W at about the same time and was also on the Huskies football squad.

Really, what is your father-in-law's name.

Gene Duncan.

Goodness gracious, Gene Duncan was my first college roommate in the Fall of 1966 in the Huskies' athletic dorm known as the Crew House.

What a small world!

Additionally, one of the Yorba Linda coaches named Jim had both played and coached American football in Poland. The EuroBall world is a small one too.

Sam Boyd Stadium in the distance

Andy was willing to use a
Los Angeles Rams cozy to keep
his beer cold

Andy is a die-hard Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland-Las Vegas Raiders fan, so this was a sacrifice.

As is usual at tailgates,
a football game started to break out

FS Jacob Contreras about to
light up anything that moves

Taking a Pick-Six to the HOUSE!

Kevin, Laurie and Jacob

With Mike Callahan,
Yorba Linda's Offensive Line Coach

Mike's son Michael is a Senior offensive lineman at Yorba Linda HS who just signed National Letter of Intent to play for Boise State next Fall.

Two young Corn Hole enthusiasts

Bundling up to enter
Sam Boyd Stadium for the
4:30 p.m. kickoff

Family friend Tim Marik
corrupting Laurie

Sam Boyd Stadium has been the
home stadium of the
University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels

The Rebels along with the Las Vegas Bowl will both move into the new $2-billion Allegiant Stadium, the future home of the NFL's Raiders, in 2020.

Jacob during the National Anthem

The Huskies took the field first

Here come the Broncos

Jacob was ready to fight the elements

Time to kickoff the
2019 Las Vegas Bowl

The Husky defense started off
the game playing superbly!

We were all excited to root
the Huskies on to VICTORY!

We were eight of the 34,197 fans at the game.

These cousins were having a
lot of fun again tonight at the game

The cousins enjoyed watching
the halftime band activities

Mike taking a selfie

As for the Dawgs, they came to Las Vegas not to compete but to KICK ASS as it turned out.

The Huskies were flying
around on Defense

The Offense was making plays as well

Still the Broncos were harassing
the UofW QB early on

At the Half, the Huskies had a commanding 17-0 lead.


The passing game made several
good plays in the game


It was a DOMINATING performance
in Head Coach Chris Petersen's
last game at the helm of the Huskies

My record at Husky Bowl games is now 10-8-0.

Meanwhile, back in Florence, Italy on this fine Saturday . . .

The now 8-0 U16 Skorpions won their
semi-final National Playoff game
in fine fashion over the previously
undefeated Guelfi Firenze!

In the other semi-final the top
seeded, now 7-0 Seamen Milano
routed the Cernusco Daemons

The U16 National Championship
Game will be played on January 5th
in Milano's Velodromo Vigorelli

On Sunday morning, Jacob enjoyed
playing with Kevin's new bulldog
puppy named Abbey

Since both Andy and Mike's families are 100% into the entire Star Wars franchise, we headed to the local AMC 18 theater to watch the just released Episode IX of the series, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. 


Oh my?

The boys were pumped!

They all had a great, edge of their
seats experience and relived/analyzed
the movie the rest of the day

After the movie, I just HAD to
check out this restaurant

On entering, I was quickly met by the owner, one Giovanni from Calabria.

I quizzed him about the name and he got a sheepish grin in telling me the story of the name.

I liked Giovanni and his sense of humor instantly!

We will definitely eat there the next time we are in Las Vegas.

On Monday, it was time to say our farewells to Andy, Jenn and Kevin and head home too Camarillo for Christmas.

A stop in Victorville at Emma Jean's
was, of course, MANDATORY!

Emma Jean's was busier than usual
but just as delicious too

All in all, another great weekend with family, friends, football and food!

Gene Duncan, WOW!