Saturday, March 17, 2018

Really Stable!

Those were the oncologist's words in February, at the latest MRI check up. So we are relaxing until the next MRI in May.

We haven't updated you since 2017! Here we are at New Year!

In other news we have been chasing snow and cold weather for the past few months. We had a wonderful Christmas and start to the year in Vail Colorado with great friends. Sadly the snow was nowhere near what those in Europe were enjoying! Still a lovely holiday and recharge. We faired better with snow in Park City, Utah during the February half term. The second day it snowed for 24 hours, when it stopped we were treated to 14 inches of pure powder. Wonderful, but old legs were exhausted. We had a wonderful week just the four of us but quite the coldest ski trip I've ever had, the warmest it got was -7C and on average it was -10 C and below plus wind. It just meant lots of warm up stops with hot chocolate etc.  We've had a cold winter here in DC but very little snow. Two winter treats were not quite enough for me! In January I jumped on a work opportunity to check out Antarctica. Hey, it's a hard job, I know ;-)

I began my Antarctic adventure in Ushuaia, at the bottom of the world where the scenery was spectacular overlooking the Beagle Channel. Then I embarked on a 10 day cruise around Cape Horn, across the infamous Drake Passage and down to the South Shetland islands and the Antarctic peninsula. Apparently the seas were moderate but after 48 hours of bobbing from side to side, some of us did not fair so well. At sunset on the third day we saw land and went ashore at Yankee Harbor. There were gentoo penguins and a few chinstraps for as far as the eye could see. The light felt surreal, it was as if we were in an Edwardian photo.

Aboard our expeditionary ship it truly felt as if we were on a voyage of discovery. One couldn't help imagining epic voyages of the likes of Shackleton to this harsh and remote environment. Here nature and majestic wildlife dominate. The vast icebergs were mesmerizing sculptures in tones of glimmering white and blue., while mountains and glaciers stretched beyond the horizon. The beauty of silence was broken only by the wind, the sound of humpback whales breathing or glaciers calving. Every day we went out on zodiac cruises or ashore to admire this vast landscape and enjoy close encounters with the wildlife, such as the magnificent humpback whale that came right up to our zodiac, tilted its head to look up at us before gently gliding by. Magic. Unforgettable. Watching the penguins waddle and slip along was adorable and one never tired of admiring the scene.

We visited some picturesque spots including Wilhelmina Bay, the Lemaire Strait, Paradise Bay and Deception Island. We landed at the former British Base at Port Lockroy, run by four women, where I sent some postcards from the post office - as predicted they took 6-8 weeks to arrive! (Considering my postcard from the Orient Express, posted in Venice on October 31st last year, arrived the same week, I'd say Antarctica postal service isn't bad!)

This was a trip of a lifetime and I feel very privileged to have been. We still have much to learn about Antarctica. I sincerely hope that we continue to protect and preserve this pristine and magical environment.

But enough about my travels. The rest of the family are well. Gregorio has a new toy - a red jeep (he'd been dreaming about it for 20 years!) and is slowly getting back into running after injuring his knee on the slopes at Christmas. Thankfully he has not had to travel this year.

Mati continues to do well at swimming. And some surprising hidden talents seem to be coming to the fore including the poem and letter she wrote for Gregorio and my wedding anniversary. She's also quite the baker. She and Isabella are helping me put together an afternoon tea baby shower for a friend tomorrow. The house has been turned into something of a Great British bake off. Talents they did not get from me - I am happy when my Victoria sponge rises and looks presentable!

Isabella did well in her mocks in February and now has her head down with eyes firmly on the finish line for her IGCSEs this spring. Oral exams next month and then written exams begin in early May and go on till mid June. Most week-ends she has been volunteering at the hospital and is pleased to gradually be given more responsibility.

We are now gearing up to the Race for Hope in early May. The team will be out in force to raise funds and awareness for this annual event. Please join the team!

More news when we have it.

Lots of love,
Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Matilde xxx

Monday, December 11, 2017

Happy Holidays!

Was it really August when I last updated this blog? Guess we have been busy!

Back to school for some
Dinner in the garden with cousins
The cousins came to visit in late August - lots of splashing at the pool, visiting the DC sites, zip-lining, solar eclipse watching and pasta making and a fun evening watching the Nats...loose that week. We then squeezed in a fun week-end in New York at the beginning of September where we saw Federer on court at the US open.
Girls in New York

London baseball fans!
School has been keeping the girls out of mischief, Isabella very focused on her IGCSE's next summer then it's IB and perhaps medicine beyond that. It's only 2.5 years away and she'll be flying from the nest! She applied to be a volunteer at Children's National Hospital - it's very competitive to get in, but she did. She has been helping out at the week-ends and is thoroughly loving seeing the hospital from a different perspective. Hopefully next year she will actually shadow a doctor or two - well she knows one or two there who are only too willing to show her the ropes. Next year she will also begin driving. Cue knowing nod from all you grandparents out there as I say "where did the past 15 years go already?!" Isabella continues to sing with her choir, last week they were caroling at the new in place to be in DC -  at the Wharf for the lighting of the Christmas tree, complete with surprise guest appearance from ...none other than Father C. Yesterday was the annual Christmas concert and I was in awe when she and one other girl sang the soprano lines of one song - beautiful but also incredibly impressive for a somewhat shy solo performer.

Christmas tree lighting at the Wharf
The singer!

Meanwhile Mati still lives in pajamas or swimming costumes. This week-end she's been swimming in a regional competition, four days on the trot and she's exhausted. Cue sick day today! A couple of weeks ago she was with her school down in Florida for a big sports meet and won three swimming medals. Unless there is swimming to get up for there's no way of getting Mati out of bed willingly before the sun is high in the sky.

Both girls have a new piano teacher this term who seems to have inspired them both to practice voluntarily on a daily basis, even to the point of fighting over whose turn it is to play! Sitting by the fire looking at the Christmas tree and listening to them play the other evening was lovely.

Emma meets a camel
Majorelle gardens
We have had a few visitors from across the pond in the past couple of months to keep us entertained. Gregorio and I have also been busy traveling a fair bit for work. He didn't enjoy his trip to Barbados as much I enjoyed my jaunts. I had a magical trip to Marrakech in September which was a feast for the senses. This was followed a month later with a trip to Europe - I was a guest on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. An indulgent and glamorous trip. We were with a fun group and were truly wined and dined in style and saw some wonderful places beginning in Budapest and then on the train to Paris. We even saw some celebs including Nadal in our hotel but I didn't have the guts to get a photo or autograph in my sweaty disheveled state! 'As if he hasn't seen sweaty people before ' was Gregorio's comment.
suppli al nero di seppia
It was fun to then embrace P & J in Paris and take a mini trip down memory lane before heading north to Normandy to suss out hotels for some D-Day trips complete with an indulgence of French cheese. And a day trip to Strasbourg completed a wonderful autumnal time in France - with perfect weather, some shopping and a couple of morning runs along the Seine and through the Tuileries gardens to try to work off some of the extra calories gained!

Cooking (and eating) continues to be a big family passion. Mati and Bella competing for master baker, while Gregorio continues to perfect his pasta making skills and other carbohydrate delights and Emma cooked the traditional roast turkey and trimmings for our annual Thanksgiving gathering, even if the numbers were rather depleted this year.

We are looking forward to escaping to the Colorado mountains over Christmas and just hoping that the snow does finally fall for our arrival. We had the first snow here this week-end and I know that much of England and Europe has also received a heavy dusting of the white's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Isabella continues to be off treatment and is blossoming. The last MRI in November showed that all was stable, long may it continue. There will be another MRI in February. In the meantime we wish our friends and family far and wide a magical Christmas and a brighter, happier and healthier 2018.

Lots of love,
Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Mati xxx

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summertime fun!

As the summer holidays draw to a close I realize I have been remiss in updating the blog for some time. A good sign! Isabella had another MRI at the end of July and all continues to be stable. We move forward for another three months. Another MRI is scheduled in early November.

Meanwhile we have had an action packed summer - featuring a lot of water. Isabella enjoyed a two week sailing course in Italy. She loves being on the water. She had a blast, made lots of friends and is already planning her return next summer. Before and after the sailing camp she was royally treated to a very special vacanze romane with the nonni. I think Gianna took Isabella to every corner of Rome by bus or on foot, experiencing the art and food of Rome at it's best. Isabella feels she really knows the city and I know how special it was by the enthusiasm she told me about the Caravaggio's she saw or the details of the different churches. Then there were the evenings out and the musical evening at Parco della Musica. Bravi nonni! Isabella also enjoyed some fun evenings out with Gregorio's friends and their children, including Mamma Mia in Italian! And the goodies - wearable and edible that she returned home with were received very enthusiastically!

Back in DC Mati joined a summer swim league. She enjoys being in the water - she trained most days during the week and swam in competitions most week-ends. Gregorio and I loved watching and cheering our "dolphin" on. It was a lot of fun, even if the locations were in the back of beyond, up to an hour away from home - and we needed to be there by 7am or earlier! Mati did very well and enjoyed the team camaraderie that a summer swim team provides. She is now looking forward to getting back to winter training but already planning on joining the summer league again next year. When she wasn't swimming (or sleeping or eating - she does a lot of both) she took a culinary camp  - cooking some impressive dishes.

After a month apart - we had an idea of what the future will be like - the girls were desperate to see each other!

As I write this, we are wrapping up our family summer vacation - seaside on the US Atlantic. We began with a very relaxing week at the beach in Lewes, Delaware. We stayed in a lovely little beach cottage, opposite the ice cream store and enjoyed morning runs or bike rides into the state park and relaxed by the shore later in the day. We sampled local craft beer and had some retail therapy when it rained. We then crossed the Delaware Bay and spent a week in Cape May, New Jersey, a delightful seaside town, with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants and quaint victorian architecture. Fun and lively but tasteful. It was a very pleasant discovery. Despite some wet days (providing time for Monopoly and lots of reading), the sunset cruise around the island watching many dolphins was magical, the seafood and local produce everywhere were delicious. We had some great food - cooked at home and  sampled at delightful restaurants and a local farm. We found some great beaches and had endless fun in the waves or flying the kite. A pure simple quality family vacation.

We are returning to DC refreshed and ready for the "new year". The English cousins will arrive the afternoon we get back. School starts again next week and so I will probably add another update this week.

Despite all the terrible events that continue to happen around the world, we hope you are all well!

Lots of love,

Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Matilde xxx

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring in DC

Short version: last week's MRI revealed that all is still stable, three months without treatment. Great news, we move on for another three months. Tune back in, in early August for another medical update.

Longer version: of course we have been keeping busy since we last updated you. We had a fabulous week skiing in Steamboat Springs Colorado in February. Nine days on the slopes was amazing, a real treat even if old bodies couldn't keep up. Gregorio and I are dreaming about retirement and how we can insure extended periods of time in the mountains... We had all weathers with the last two days of powder being pure magic, if a little chilly - 1F at the summit or -18C in some people's language!

In April Gregorio celebrated a half century!

I nonni joined us from Rome on a musical tour of Tennessee. The graphic designer in my office had turned the itinerary, planned by yours truly, into a rockstar magazine which Gregorio loved. See photo. We began in Memphis with a memorable gospel church service, quasi rock concert on Palm Sunday ("put your palms together for Palm Sunday") followed by a Love me Tender tour at Gracelands, to singing the blues on Beale Street. We learnt about the birthplace of rock n roll with studio tours and several great music museums and a tour of the Gibson guitar factory. We had tunes ringing in our ears or were constantly tapping our feet. In between we cruised down the mighty Mississippi on a paddle steamer, drove around in 1950's cars visiting Elvis haunts, saw the duck march at the Peabody hotel, climbed a pyramid, visited the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated and dined on delicious BBQ food and hot fried chicken. Then onwards to Nashville for the final few days, the home of country music - where there was music oozing out of every bar and museum in town. The songwriter's round at the Bluebird Cafe on Gregorio's actual birthday was particularly special. We had quite the best spare ribs we have ever tasted and the most original and indulgent donuts (bacon flavored?!). We even had a surprise visit to a small artisanal pasta factory that Gregorio has been following on instagram! It was certainly a memorable week. Back in DC we had an Easter birthday lunch to round out the celebrations with friends and family.

Oh but wait that was not all the birthday celebrations. He was 50 after all! Just last week-end Gregorio enjoyed one of our gifts - a drive in a Ferrari - all 5 minutes, but still he said it was pretty cool! Later this spring he is going to take an one hour flying lesson.

While the grandparents were here, we have been busy enjoying the sites of DC, including the hot ticket in town  - the Yayoi Kusama Infinity mirrors exhibition at the Hirshhorn. After several attempts we were lucky to get tickets, apparently most Mondays there were about 57,000 trying to sign up for for the 6,000 tickets that were released each week! A fascinating fascination with polka dots.

This past week-end we had the largest team ever for the annual Race for Hope. A cool start but it turned out to be a glorious afternoon and we had nearly 60 friends back in the garden for a celebratory BBQ. Isabella was reluctant to join the Survivor's tribute at the start of the race but Mati offered to join her. The team were surprised when we hadn't seen Bella stride by but they were delayed and suddenly made a dash appearance on their own at the end. Rather entertaining. Isabella ran her best time ever and was very happy. It is always a very emotional and moving event, so inspiring to see the survivors and as a family we draw great comfort from the support that our friends and family give us. Two friends flew in especially for the event, one from Italy and another from Belgium. The latter was a total surprise (that I still can't believe I hadn't cottoned on to) we were all truly touched that they wanted to join us for this special annual tradition.

The grandparents have returned to Rome and our home is a little empty! Meanwhile the school year continues at a fast pace with exams looming. Isabella is taking her maths IGCSE this year and both are getting ready for their piano exams. We shall be looking forward to slowing down in the summer. The plans are still coming together but we have booked Isabella's ticket to Italy (on her own) to see the nonni and take a two week sailing camp.

Lots of love to you all,
Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Mati. xxx

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Year - NO treatment!

Last week-end's MRI shows that the tumor is stable. It is smaller than it was when we started treatment last February. We have decided to stop treatment. Isabella is happy and positively beaming at the news. After a three week break over Christmas and New Year, she was rid of the darn side effects that had been building up and now she can enjoy the freedom from the treatment.

Next MRI will be in three months to monitor the tumor.

Till then we are free of medical visits. YEAH! We discussed treatment options if/when the tumor regrows. We will cross that bridge when it happens.

Brace yourself world for the event that really is happening in DC tomorrow...

Lots of love,
Emma & co xxx

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Look back and looking ahead to 2017!

It has been some months since we last updated this blog. The good news, as many of you have concluded, is that Isabella is doing well and we have been busy with many other things.

Flower girls this summer

I am writing this while sitting at the hospital for Isabella's monthly check-up. After a VERY long day we have concluded that Isabella's body needs a break from the current medication, 3 out of the past 4 years she has been on this medication, the toxicity is undoubtedly building in her body. We are able to take a three week break on this trial, she will then be due for her next MRI and we will assess whether she should continue with a reduced dose (and hopefully limit some of the side affects)  or stop the medication altogether. Stopping sounds pretty good but the unknown does cause apprehension as we don't know exactly what the treatment options are, should the tumor regrow. We will cross that bridge when we get there. In the meantime a Christmas break without having to remember to take the pills twice a day on a completely empty stomach or worry about the latest possible side effect will be a relief all round.

Ahhh, collapse on the sofa with a good cup of tea.

Time for Tea
Atop Rocciamelone
Looking back at the past six months - we had good summer that included a stop in London to catch up with friends and family. Cultural highlights included an evening at The Globe, getting lost in the maze at Hampton Court and afternoon tea at Kensington Palace. We then had two very relaxing weeks in the Italian Alps with i nonni and also a visit from the English nephews. We visited our favourite haunts, hiked our preferred trails and got our fix of gelato and other Italian goodies. The highlight was Mati conquering Rocciamelone at 3538 m with Gregorio and a couple of friends. Thanks to modern technology -  photos and messages were instantly beamed down to the valley and I think the whole of Susa, from the hair dresser to the post office knew about the granddaughter who had climbed the mountain and then written a very special message to the Madonna di Rocciamelone praying for the other granddaughter. An emotional day.

L'ultimo gelato all'aeroporto di Torino
Sightseeing in London
No matter the age, all want to climb up there!
We returned to DC at the end of August and dove right back into school and I think we are only now catching our breathe as we wind down for the Christmas holidays. Matilde traveled with the school to Florida for a week in November to participate in an inter school sports competition. She talked a lot about the swimming and archery in which she represented her school but I think Disney World and her first ever roller coast ride also left a big impression! Gregorio traveled to Turkey, his last work mission there, now that he has moved to covering warmer climes in the Caribbean. The girls and I took a whirlwind trip to New York to see an old friend - it was the perfect autumn Sunday in the Big Apple. I had two great work trips this autumn - a wonderfully luxurious whirlwind tour to
one of many in Italy!
with cousins in the Alps
Moscow and St Petersburg. I knew it would have changed since my last visit in 1988 but I could not have imagined by how much. The grey Soviet era is firmly in the dim and distant past. The beauty, opulence and great food were truly memorable. Sadly I don't see us sending American travelers to Russia soon. This trip was followed by 10 days in Oxford and London - a quintessentially English experience to feed my annual nostalgic needs. I managed some annual rituals with bonfire night, Remembrance day, stocking up on tea and treats from Fortnums and clothes shopping on the King's Road (thanks to the great exchange rate!) to name just a few non work related things I squeezed in.
Back to School Sept 2016

The girls are growing up and becoming very independent. They are both happy and working hard at school. Isabella has started her IGCSEs and will be taking a couple next summer - under four years and she will be flying the nest! Hard to believe. Swimming is Mati's life - practicing four times a week and then swim meets on many week-ends. The bathroom is filled with wet swimming costumes and towels everywhere! Meanwhile Bella continues to sing with the Children's Chorus of Washington. Last week's Christmas concert was beautiful, the new director has breathed some new energy into their repertoire.
Oyster festival in Maryland

2016 has been quite a year around the world. I was in London the night of the US election. The result was a surprise and shock for many of us. It was the second time this year, I have felt let down by 'my' country. I am at home in England and America though I have no voting rights in either. The US presidential election and the Brexit vote came after very contentious campaigns and left me, first with a major identity crisis (I have since filed my papers to become an Italian citizen) and the second, apprehensive of what the future will bring.

Kid's table at Thanksgiving
economic students...a few years later
As a dear English friend's father wrote recently, while the future remains uncertain, there will always be friendship. And this year we have certainly relished the friends we have. We were visited by the Italian friend who first introduced Gregorio and I - some 22 years ago - he certainly looked the same, not sure about Gregorio and I! We reconnected with a number of friends in London after several years to celebrate my birthday this summer and we were visited by other dear friends who previously lived in DC. This week we have sadly said goodbye (for now?) to some friends heading back to live in Europe. We've had plenty of fun times with friends to be thankful for this year. Thanksgiving at the Impavido household has become a tradition with our dearest DC friends, they are practically family - a big one at that, there were 32 of us sitting down to turkey and trimmings in November. For Christmas we will be at an equally warm gathering of close DC friends. Preceded, as always, by Gregorio's traditional Christmas Eve fish meal - Mati is not particularly fond of fish but she believes the menu is sacred and cannot be changed!
cena nel cortile!
The "usual" English walk in Virginia

We are looking forward to a relaxing Christmas break and ready for new adventures in 2017. We wish you all a magical time with your family and friends and the brightest and healthiest of New Years.

Lots of love,

Emma, Gregorio, Isabella & Matilde. x

PS can you ever have enough Emmas in your life?!?
Bonfire night - Up, Down & Sideways!
in NYC