Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ummm, I'm sort of blogging again...

I'm still trying to find the groove, but you can find me hardly incognito over here...
Grow family. Grow!

I'll probably take this down in a little while.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Little Gnoccho

And so, a whole month and two days after we landed back in the US I'm ready to end the Italy blog posts. I wish I could say I've thought long and hard over this post, but I haven't. Life here is more hectic than Italy and I wonder how people ever get to blog more than once a week never mind every day. How do they do it? Are they such natural writers that the words just bubble out, ready-made and beautiful? Not so much with me, I just spew and am done, but I did promise one more Italy post.
The view from Galileo's drying room.
If we were given the opportunity, would we do it again? Oh hell yes!
Would we do everything the same? Oh hell no.

Favorite places, things and people of Florence

Favorite Green Space to take a Toddler in Florence

Parco de Villa Strozzi - not far from the city walls, with some nice strolling among locals and spectacular Tuscan views from the Southeast corner and cool playground equipment. This is how a park should be.

Favorite Place to View the Firenze Skyline:

Giardino Bardini - This was a favorite haunt as you know. There were days when we visited on a Sunday morning and didn't see another soul there for hours. Then the tourists would show up, recovering from last nights big meal and the breakfast pastries ready to do the tourist thing and we'd give up our fanciful dream of the garden actually being ours.

Favorite Trattoria to take Guests:

Toss up between Quattro Leoni and San Agostino. Personally, I liked the funky twist on food that San Agostino did.

Best Place to buy Produce in Oltrarno:

In the morning market of Santo Spirito. It wasn't my favorite place to buy produce, that was down the road at a Ortofruta down on San Agostino, but it had the better produce. I enjoyed the joking and the bantered down at the Ortofruta and they did have the best mint.
Favorite Date Trattoria:

D and I would probably argue over this, but seeing as I'm writing the post I get to say Cavolo Nero. Their menu changes 4 times a year with the seasons. Go in Spring.

Favorite Trattoria to take a Toddler:
Trattoria da Ginone followed by any of those in Piazza della Passera. Da Ginone has straightforward good food, Nola (the chef) and Massimo (the waiter) were fab with our toddler too. We were always met with a smile and we left with one too. The Piazza della Passera sports 3 great eating establishments and lots of character. Music often in the evenings and a small square that a toddler can run around in a little after dinner.

Favorite Gelato: Nocciola or maybe fig. Yes, definitely fig or perhaps yogurt and nutella. Pistachio? I think I need to go back and try some more.
Favorite town or city:
Sienna - I'd love to go back

Favorite place to sit with child asleep in a pram

Osteria Santo Spirito. Okay, I had a very large glass of wine in my hand and a fabulous salad in front of me. Only a few lunches were spent like this. In fact that is a regret that more weren't spent in such a manner.
Must see big attractions
Skip seeing the inside of the Duomo. As my mum says there is no sense of God or anything else other than tourism there. You can find that ethereal beauty in many of the other places around town. See David. Take the double decker bus tour if you're in for a quick visit.
Favorite Neighbourhood: San Niccolo

Oh Lord, this favorite thing could go on forever. I should stop. What would we do differently?
Living right by the Arno and Ponte Vecchio meant that we did get to go out in the evening(not often because of my work) there was loads going on and that was fabulous. I wish we had spent more time exploring Florence in the summer evenings. It was a great apartment, but the lack of any outdoor space, any easy place to open a door and let Ila out in fresh, alright high particulate matter air, was frustrating. Another time we would rent something outside the city walls, and with a least a good size patio. We'd also try and get some beat up car for the time so that we could travel a little more. There was much to see and do in Italy and we both wished we'd seen more of Tuscany, a car would have afforded us more options to do that. (Potty training didn't make lots of bus trips particularly attractive.) I think I'd actually like to have a tv. I think I would have learned more Italian that way. I also would actually study the language before. I wouldn't say I was going to work 20 hours a week. It was definitely closer to 30 hours which after a day with a toddler was tough. Although, I'd also put said toddler in some daycare next time. That was the toughest thing about this trip, Ila's isolation. But Italy. Italy was pretty damn cool.

A note. This blog is called A Little Gnocchi. It was named before I had taken any Italian classes. After about the second one I realized I had a problem. Gnocchi is plural, gnoccho singular. For the sake of agreement this really should be A Little Gnoccho. Thanks for reading along and keeping me company.

A Little Gnocchi.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Good grief! How did it happen? It is almost a month since we left Florence and I've yet to wind this blog up. Perhaps, I just don't want it to be over, although I must say it is lovely to be home among friends, family and, as of this evening, our non-human animal companions.

The last week in Italy was, as you can imagine, a mad cap caper of packing, working and trying to fit that last trip into Bardini and it seems like it was so much more than a month ago and in a very different life.

We did make it to Galileo's last home so that I could be relieved of my envy of Doug's earlier visit. The visit was everything a wacky little science geek like myself could possibly have hoped for. Piero Salinari, the head honcho over at Arcetri Observatory gave us the private tour, complete with his insights on Galileo, the church, the status of science ( as compared to philosophy) etc. We picked yet more figs from the trees. Explored both basement and upper tower drying room. Drank in as much of some of the most picturesque views of Tuscany to be had. Fabulous.

Next: Top things to see, eat and drink when in Florence. I promise it won't be a month.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Tavolo

In Tavola

When I tell people that I have taken cooking classes in Florence I'm sure a pasta making class is what they imagine. I've taken half a dozen cooking classes, only one fits the bill. The rest have been Indian and Thai classes with The Spice Lab in the basement of the American church. The class that fits the bill, pasta making at In Tavola.

Unlike the Spice Lab classes, In Tavola's class was made up entirely of tourists, seventeen people, Australians, Brits, Americans, and some, I think, from Latin American. The instructor, an Italian and his Japanese sous-chef efficiently moved us through making a several different pastas:

a flour based sea shell type, labor intensive but yummy, called conchiglie covered with sugo al pomodoro, basilico e aglio

a couple of egg pasta based dishes:
Ravioli di Ricotta e Melanzane with Ragu' Toscano,
Tortelli di Patate with a simple sage and butter sauce

and for dessert, panna cotta.

It was a fabulous exercise in Tuscan cooking, simple flavors, good produce to create great food. The amount of dough required to make so much pasta was miniscule. Those little flour & egg delivery packets for cheese and veg were really impressive. To top it off, at the end we sat down with our classmates to consume the products of our labor. A bottle of wine, some fabulous conversation with Maggie and Elizabeth, our cooking classmates, a perfect ending.

What did I actually learn? Ball up parsley to chop it up. How to core tomatoes and cut onions, although I may have forgotten how to do that and that those who support healthcare reform come from all walks of life and from many different groups. Thanks Elizabeth.
Pasta we made!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Now when an individual with a medical history like me gets consistent chest pains it is not so unreasonable to be just a tad bit worried. Okay, I totally leaped to the worse case scenario. After figuring out what I'd need to do in the middle of this holiday period (Getting into a GP that speaks English to explain I'd like a 12 lead and blood work done would be difficult right now and explaining in Italian near impossible)other than going immediately to the ER* (did I mention how I hate hospitals?) I called a few of the medical professionals I deal with in the US. Now, with a history like mine they're always going to say go to the hospital, but I explained, this doesn't feel bad, or like the other times, just a little discomfort relatively frequently. My pulse feels as normal as it ever gets and I don't feel nauseous like when I'm having lots of PVCs.

Hmmmm, could it be heartburn? Have you tried a little mylanta?

Ummm no.

So I did and I charted when I had discomfort and it is almost entirely after eating. The Maalox doesn't seem to be an immediate relief, but it certainly seems to help.
The question is why? So I look up trigger foods ... for heartburn: Tomatoes, wine, cheese/fatty foods (aka gelato), garlic, chocolate: check, check, check, check, check. Lets just call this a little retribution for 6 months of indulgence.

*My friend W says she finds the ER here miles better than back in the US

Shoe Love

It is our last week here. I admit I had grand plans for this weeks of blog posts, grand plans that didn't accommodate for packing, fabulous family visits, last minute must go do things, and of course the first week of school back in AZ and a rather steady stream of emails and virtual meetings. Needless to say the blog posts haven't happened. More disappointing is not having caught up this week with the two women and their children who Ila and I have made friends with. I'm hopeful that we will before we leave. I'm also hopeful that if I keep these short I'll get the last little bits of experience down.

Image shamelessly borrowed from the Salvatore Ferragamo Shoe Museum
We did pop into the Salvatore Ferragamo Shoe Museum, that our friend B recommended, with my Aunt and Uncle (Happy Anniversary to them). The very sharply dressed man at the front desk looked decidedly non-plussed at our attire and the wild two and half year old tugging at my arm. Despite his frosty welcome, we thoroughly enjoyed the shoe love. From bizarre to exsquite this museum is a very polished and appealing display to lovers of shoes and even for those of us not so into heels etc. Ila actually had a glorious time picking out the shoes she liked and the colors. I'd definitely recommend a visit. For five euros it is worth a stop.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Galileo's Figs

We've had a spectacular day today. A trip to Boboli exploring areas we hadn't investigated before. Yes, there are still areas we haven't been in. A cooking class at In Tavola (I'll tell you more once I've digested it a little...) and tonight we're off to Cavolo Nero while my mum babysits Ila for a dinner not spent chasing a 2.5 year old.

My head is still buzzing from the half bottle of wine or so that I consumed at the cooking class. I'm not up to writing about the cooking class, which certainly is worth writing about, but I did want to share our geeky, celebrity connection, something that makes me absolutely tingle with excitement.

A couple of days ago, Doug had the opportunity to go on a private tour of Galileo's last home, the one he was held in house arrest at for the last years of his life. At the end of the tour, he was offered figs from the garden. Now, I'm pretty sure that life span of a fig tree is not 400 years, but still the idea that these figs have been nurtured and grown on the same ground as the father of modern science stood on, that they might be the descendents of figs that once were appreciated by!

I'm embarrassed to admit that my envy of Doug's tour was significant, but easily addressed as on Tuesday, Ila and I get to go too! Until then...

Galileo's Figs