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.

Best,
A Little Gnocchi.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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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

Retribution

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.
Maalox

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 Galileo...wow!

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bonbons and the rest...

Oh, yes this is the life. I spend all day lounging sipping a fine Chianti while Italian gods feed me bonbons and waft me with large palm fronds. Yeah, not so much.

Life here has tumbled into this less than ideal routine the past few weeks or months as the semester gears up and various work related problems arise that were unexpected. I'm not quite sure how to rectify it or if it can be rectified. Suggestions gladly accepted.

A quick run down of our routine:
We wake at 6-7am with the girl

9am Get out of the house for a few hours while it isn't so cloyingly uncomfortable. This is when the good stuff happens. Today we got to go play with Z and C and introduce them to the Park at Villa Strozzi. Yesterday, it was Mercado Centrale for some present buying.

Return for She, Who Must be Obeyed's siesta around noon until about 2 or 2:30pm (during which I work) although today I worked in the morning, while Doug worked with Ila.

Then packing/cleaning/doing laundry in a semi cooled apartment while trying to keep Ila entertained.

Around 4 or 5pm we brave the heat and humidity to find boxes or buy groceries (remember this is without a car). Did I mention the high yesterday was 102 degrees F, it is already up to 100 degrees today and average humidity for August is 66%?

We eat dinner, I go back to work and Doug gets Ila off to sleep. It seems I am rarely off work and in bed before 1am, and even more rarely getting to sleep before 2am. I'm not getting a hell of a lot of sleep.

Those few hours in the morning, those are what I look forward to each day. A chance to explore this great city, although I do it alongside throngs of hot, sticky tourists. Oh wait, I guess I'm a hot sticky tourist.

For our last week I feel I need a goal each day, something that makes me feel like I've experienced something that I wouldn't in the US. But what to do?

A few days ago, as we explored a warren of streets West of Santa Croce we stumbled upon the gelatari that is listed everywhere as the must go to, Vivoli. It is rather an unassuming place, with no outward display of its renown. I hadn't bothered to find it before, quite happy with our local gelatari, plus I assumed it would be heaving with tourists and very expensive. It was effectively empty, the prices more reasonable than those at Grom, the other big name gelatari, so what the heck! By the time I'd decided to go try their take on a couple of my favorites (noccolia and pistacchio) Ila had fallen asleep, so she didn't get any. My intentions were honorable, there are two spoons there!

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I just couldn't wake her...it would have been cruel, plus I would have had to share!


I took the smallest little cup out into the piazza ....a sweet, quiet little piazza that might become my favorite, and took my sweet time over some of the creamiest, most scrumptious gelato ever! Their name and position as number one is well deserved. While I savored my little indulgence I decided that perhaps the goal/challenge/experience that could be done easily and would bring me great pleasure...to try a new gelato flavor every day. It doesn't have to be from Vivoli, but somewhere with gelato made specifically for that gelatari. I take my duties very seriously.

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She gets her own Frutta di Bosco and Pesche

Yesterday from Vivoli: 1/2 a scoop of Fichi (Fig) and 1/2 a scoop of Riso (Rice)
It supplemented for breakfast. I know, rice gelato. It seems like a very bizarre choice, but imagine the richest, creamiest rice pudding and you can begin to conceive of its delightful flavor. The fig was my favorite though, little seeds along a refreshing fruity flavor. I am convinced that our yard in Tucson is not complete without an Italian Honey Fig Tree. And of course have fantasies of harvesting and making fabulous fig preserves that would be eaten along with a slice of apple and some Parmigiano-Reggiano. Oh God, I think that might be heaven especially if topped off with some homemade fig gelato. Think of all the fiber. It has to be good for you, right? Our rainwater harvesting efforts maybe able to provide for the initial water investment. Maybe while I'm waiting for a first fruit I could explore the use of Mission Figs, I'm reliably informed they do exceedingly well in our climate, certainly the ones on campus that are now gone were very yummy. I digress...

Today we stopped by another gelateria in the San Frediano neighbourhood on our way back from the park at Villa Strozzi and Gelateria Damiani did not disappoint. The choices were spectacular. I had a little taste of pompelmo rosa (pink grapefruit) which even tempted my anti grapefruit taste-buds, but settled on 1/2 a scoop of Pinola (pine nut) and 1/2 a scoop of Boreo (?) which was a rich chocolate and cherry. I'll be honest, despite my chocolate addiction I'm not keen on chocolate ice-cream and while this was rich and creamy, I preferred the pinola.

Not sure about tomorrow, but for now there is a short period of the day where I feel like I'm sipping Chianti, being fanned by Italian gods, and being fed the sweetest fruits of human creation. Let's just call it Gelato Time and hope it gets me through the next week.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Serenata

This evening trundling along to the store Ila and I saw this old geezer, leaning out of his third floor apartment window. Resplendent in all his white undershirt glory, reverse serenading the street full of tourists. I guess for a true serenade he should have been at ground level and us at the window, but details details...He couldn't really sing, but could he project! It seemed so, Italian.

I thought about taking a photo, but it just seemed wrong to meet such a gift by taking without permission...so we waved and shouted bravo.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Getting What You Pay For...

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Made in Italy! Not made in China.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told that since we've arrived. From the little Antica Merceria which sells yarn to bras, to the craft, fruit and veg stalls in the market in Santo Spirito, sellers are emphatic and passionate (it is Italy after all)about the Italian origin of their wares. The buy local and slow food movements are at a whole other level compared to those in the US. The participants in the movement do not seem to be restricted to any particular group of society, but a much larger cross section of the population appears to be involved. It isn't just pride in what they make, but there also seems to be a greater comprehension of the environmental and quality impacts when you transport your food and goods long distances from countries where enforcement of labor and environmental laws may be sorely lacking.

Several months back, over dinner, we got into an interesting conversation with an Italian friend who lives in the US about the cost of shoes. Every few years, when he is home in Firenze, he goes to a place around the corner from us and picks up a pair of handmade Italian shoes.

(Like the furniture restoration stores the area also has a fair number of cobblers. Now some cobblers strictly just repair shoes, others make and mend and there are a few who 'design' and create. The prices for handmade shoes where you can see the individuals making the shoes right there, varies widely. At one shoe store on the other side of the river well heeled young men and women work exquisite shoes that hang delicately in the window. I stopped once and asked how much a pair of shoes would cost.

Oh, all our shoes are custom made, but these (a gorgeous pair of red flats were a basic pair) start at 900 Euros.

Don't think about it too much, it hurts. The lady was very nice as I spluttered. Anyway, back to our friend, who I assure you isn't spending 900 Euros on his shoes.)

Wow, are they that much better? I asked. Surely they are expensive?

Yes, they are that much better.

Our friend buys a pair of shoes designed by his friend Stefano every couple of years. He wears them practically every day and, he was emphatic about this, not only do they last, but they are infinitely more comfortable.

But the price...
said I.

Ahhhhh,
our friend said, better to pay for one pair that is comfortable and lasts several years than 6 cheaper pairs that are not comfortable and do not last.

True.


But that wasn't the end of it. Our friend continued to talk about the value of knowing the working conditions of those who made what you buy and questioning whether saving a little money was really worth the karma points. Well, he didn't say it exactly like that, but that sums it up. Now, if you don't have the money to lay out anyway and you're scrimping to buy one pair of shoes, or you're buying them second hand (both of which I've done, the second more recently than the first) then this argument is null and void.

All this got me to thinking. So after dinner I rushed home and dug out all my shoes. Well all the shoes that I brought with me.** Where were they made? Did it matter how much I paid for them?

Shoes are the one item that I'll actually spend money on, well relatively speaking. Shoes don't know that I've put on a crap load of weight, they still fit me and don't add insult to injury when I try them on in the store.

The answer? China.
To a pair. The boots, the Ariats that are so damn comfortable, the MILFS (oh such a bad phrase), the red pumps, the flats, my sandals...all China.
Now, I don't have a problem with the Chinese and, other than the wish to invest in my local economy and to keep transport impacts down, no problem buying from another country. I know that it is the Big Corporations who add to the labor and environmental issues, the plight of the Chinese worker and their low wages is what keeps wages and conditions low elsewhere. In Tucson, I'm not sure I can be discerning, other than maintaining with new soles/ heels and buying second hand, but here in Italy I have a chance to buy something made from a person I can shake hands with, in a place less than 100 meters from our front door.

This is the window display at Francesco's
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and this is Francesco:

Francesco making someone else's shoes

So I did. I've eyed these shoes everyday for the past six months. They're not exactly glamorous, rather they're classic in that 'I can wear them when I'm an old lady' way. In fact, I'm pretty sure that they're something that my Granny H. use to wear. Okay, maybe they are old lady shoes, but they're very work friendly and after a little stretching they fit me perfectly and I love them. So I bought them. If they'd had them in my size in the aubergine color I would have got those instead. They cost a tiny, minuscule fraction of those over on the fancy side of the river, but it was really nice to purchase something from the family that made the product and who seem to be doing just fine.

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**My unsolicited assvice for the day: Packing for a trip to somewhere that oozes Old World charm? Skip the heels and the pumps. Forget trying to impress the locals, you can't. Wear something comfortable and flat. The roads and sidewalks can only be navigated in any kind of heel by some other species. Definitely not me, probably the same species that can wear white linen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chiuso per Ferie

Wahoo! Surfs up. We're out of here! Summer Hols.

Actually, we're not, but everybody else seems to be. The local Magi Market, my favorite greengrocers, both of them, the farmicia, the doctor's (hell, he has been gone since July 24th and will be gone until the end of August), all 'chiuso per ferie'.

Hey, but today I made a new discovery...a little mini grater in the nutmeg jar. Do they have these in the US as a regular part of nutmeg spice jars? I've never seen them before, but then I'm rather uncouth. I'll load a picture up as soon as the internet gets a move on. Gosh, it is painfully slow today, probably because near everyone has left for 'ferie'. Why not the little electrons involved in my wireless transmissions?

Oh, I've signed myself up for a pasta class this Saturday. I haven't heard back from them yet, but hopefully I'll be able to regale you with tales Saturday evening.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blackberries, fishing and relaxation

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Out the back window

There are few advantages to be had from living so far from our parents. However, one advantage is the appreciation of how much sheer joy our daughter brings to my mum and N which is matched only by her squeals of delight at seeing them again. Likewise, for her Granddad and Babushka and Grandma & Grandpa. I'm not sure how it would be if we lived in the same place. Would we recognize how sweet each others company is?

We're having a glorious time. Listening to tales spun over a few (?) stiff whiskeys; indulging in hearty breakfasts and pies with homegrown or foraged blackberries and apples; foraging for berries; fishing (with no success) and getting to take long naps. Oh, if it didn't have to end.

Back to Florence tomorrow, hope RyanAir doesn't screw us over like they did on the way here!

IMG_4256BlackberriesIMG_4312Fishing with Granny

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cool, green, and a tad wet

Cootehill Park Lake

We're in Ireland. At my mum and N's. The sun pokes out occasionally, but just occasionally and it is cool, green, a tad wet and we love it.

The view from the breakfast table:
View from the breakfast table. Not too shabby

Cootehill town park

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beer

Julie,
Doug says this is probably the best Italian beer he has had. Not very hoppy. We thought you might like it.
Salute


Beer for Julie

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What to do?

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Puff! Up in a cloud of smoke. I typed out this witty, sharp little post and it just disappeared. Alright, it wasn't witty or sharp, or even remotely funny, but I did type out a post just to have it vanish from all sight. Sigh. So now you're getting the abridged version. Its probably preferable anyway.

We have less than a month until we return to the US. We don't want to be like those inhabitants of a city who never have seen or experienced some of the city's sights, but at the same time not wanting to run through a list of items briefly glanced at then checked off. So what would you do? If you had say 20 days in Florence, or in any gloriously rich city what would you try to experience, to capture?

I have some ideas, but can't pursue all of them. Please tell me what you would do and suggest others:

1. Take an Italian cooking class
2. Check out one of the operas at a local church
3. Take a trip to Cinque Terre (our Italian friends say it is hot and you can't escape from the sun at this time of year)
4. Survey more gelato stores
5. Official walking tour
6. Sight seeing bus (eh.)
7. Tuscan wine tasting

Or perhaps just soaked up a little more of the Firenze we've come to know?

On the way to Bardini on Sunday
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Bardini

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dearest Desert Dame,

This post goes out to Desert Dame:

What do you think this is for? I'll give you one guess.

M, do you know what this is going to be used for?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vegetarians Avert Your Eyes. Gratuitous Cow Flesh Image Ahead

Hello Sunshine

To both to the South and to the North of Florence are these amazing, seemingly endless fields of sunflowers. It makes for a spectacular sight. D informs me that they are probably used for oil. I guess I never thought too much about how sunflower oil might be harvested before. Pamela of Red, White and Grew gave me the heads up to look out for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We had a fabulous time this evening. On Thursday we found out that one of D's colleagues who arrived from Spain in April, happened to be accompanied by his partner and their 2.5 year old child. How D & J managed to go for 3 months without mentioning their toddler children to each other is beyond me, but wahoooooooooooooooooo! You know, just a month before we leave, but still. Cool people. In fact, this weekend has been pretty much a social whirlwind relatively. Last night, we went to a lovely birthday party for a terrific two year old, the same one we had a playdate with last weekend and D & I got to meet and talk with really interesting people to boot! Sometimes it just takes a little time to meet people you connect with. Six months is a difficult length of time. It's a long time to be away from dear friends and perhaps too short a time to connect to many people here. I'm thankful for those friends we have met here though.

We've been fortunate to have plenty of visitors to save us from loneliness though. Last week it was my dad, Auntie C and Tio Pepe. Fabulous to see all. A little birthday celebration for my dad at Quattro Leoni. A bit of a stroll to the bridge my father describes as heaving with pubescent hormones because of the abundance of Italian teenagers making out on it. At least they have good taste with regards to the view. And, because it was a birthday after all, a little gelato.

Ponte dell'ormone
Family

Bistecca Florentina
This is THE dish. Every restaurant offers it and no it isn't really cooked at all. I'm purposefully making this a small image as it might be a little much for some.I will share that it was extremely tasty and we had difficulty stopping Ila from reaching over and grapping it. She has become a serious meat fiend.
Vegetarians avert your eyes. Bistecca Florentina

Friday, July 31, 2009

Living Green the Traditional Way

Stuffing the chair

Living in a city know for its art, statues and palaces it isn't surprising that there is a focus on antiques and restoration. The neighbourhood we live in is littered with furniture and art restoration places as well as little art galleries. I've no idea how the art galleries are making it, but the furniture restoration places seem busy. The thing is that there must be at least a hundred of these furniture restoration places in our neighbourhood an area a mile square. They're not just restoring antique furniture, but the furniture that people use on a daily basis.

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On our daily walks we pass tens of these places, smelling of hay, wood shavings, lacquer and wax. On piano terra (ground floor) below apartments, and with open doors, these places seem like throw backs to another time. Yet this is the way things are done well and so this is what the Italians do. Appreciating workmanship and beauty, the work is done by hand. Chairs and sofas live long lives here, I expect beyond the human life span. Why don't we do this in the US? Or do we? Is it just off my radar? I wonder how many furniture restoration places are in Tucson? Or even tv repair places? I don't see them any more. Such a disposable society. It happens here too, Ikea does exist, but not at the same level.

Oh and workMANship...while the furniture stores seem to be exclusively the domain of men, the shoemakers, art restoration and picture framers have a high proportion of women working too. I find this gender division, or lack there of, in certain areas flies in the face of my stereotypes of Italian gender roles. I like that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stocking up for those deep winter Tucson nights

We've just less than a month left. It seems unreal. I went to a few stores today and asked when they'd be closed...this Monday until the 20th, the 23rd, the 27th, until September. So I stocked up. You know, on the important stuff, cotton,alpaca,worsted wool and merino. Food, schmood. Then we got home and pulled out the rest of the stash I've accumulated since we arrived...

Oh dear.

Stash accumulated since being in Florence.

And to think, this is how it started.

In my defense, some of it is a gift for an avid knitter. The rest...I only have this to say:

Dear Family,

For the next few seasons all gifts from our household on the occasion of your birthday or various Winter holiday will resemble a knit or crochet hat, scarf or bag. I say resemble because I don't have a very good reputation for finishing my projects. Still, something to look forward to?

All my love,

Your wife/mother/daughter/daughter in-law/sister in-law/cousin/niece/aunt (Delete as appropriate)

ps. Dear mother in-law I will finish that hedgehog for you before this December. Honest.


I fear, however, that I may have imparted some of my less desirable traits to my daughter. This is how I found her after leaving her alone for just a few seconds in the living room with the yarn stash:

Mummy Yarn Love

I love yarn

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Clutching on to cool memories with sweaty hands

At some point in our plans to be in Florence this year, I got really excited by the idea of not being in Tucson this summer and getting to see a 'real' Fall. Mainly, I was under the false impression that I would be in a cooler place this summer rather than the blasting oven heat of my beloved desert. I had images of Ila and I prancing through parks, lined with trees and cool breezes. Well, we're not going to be here for Fall and if 96 degrees and 45-65% humidity is cooler...

The main thing is that air conditioning is not prolific here. You aren't jumping out of your air conditioned vehicle to be blasted for a few minutes while you make a dive for your air-conditioned office or home. Oh no, more like you step out of your barely-air conditioned home (if you're lucky)into a dripping semi tropical (without the green) environment to enter various business establishments that have no air conditioning at all, okay maybe a fan. This might be the reason why the locals escape for the month of August. Yes, that's right, the whole month of August! They're not stupid. They take off for the beach or the mountains and the city apparently slows to the speed of a snail. Hot, bothered tourists fly in for a day to do the usual and fly out. Shops close, cafes close, I'm assured there will be some supermarkets open.

I went into my favorite yarn store yesterday, and asked when they closed, Friday the woman said barely containing her excitement. She practically jumped up and down as she said it, a woman in her mid forties, typically reserved, jumping with glee! When do you open? I asked. September! Can you imagine what it would be like to take a whole month off? How relaxed you would be? How rejuvenated you would feel? Funny thing is, it isn't just Italy. The Germans do this, the French, the Scandinavians. While I'm a little concerned about what August is going to be like for us, I can't help think what a good idea this is. They think we're nuts for the lack of vacation time. The lack of balance. I think they're right. So, I'll be without the local English speaking newspaper, The Florentine, the neighbourhood American Bagel store, the sweet, but expensive, Danish kids clothing store along with a host of other now familiars for our last month. It'll be interesting.

Given the heat I think I'm going to ask D to print out a few rough copies of our Austria/Bavaria photos so that I can just imagine a cooler place. Thought I'd share them with you too. The top picture is from just by where we stayed on the Austrian/German border. I must admit I think this countryside some of the prettiest I've ever seen. We hoped to stay at a farm. D had done this on his visit here 15 years before with his sister and Aunt, but we didn't find any ones with room. So we settled for this Gastehause, which was none too shabby.
Ila's Heidi impression
Simple, clean, good food, welcoming family. A stream near by, cow bells, a forest to walk into, time to make daisy chains...
Ila and Mummy go for a walk
Bavaria/Austria
Daisy Girl
and even a little bit of snow
Yes we got snow driving home, in July.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Speed Demon

We had a play date yesterday afternoon with a little girl 6 months younger than our speed demon. I met her mum in a cooking class. It was fabulous.

The lack of interaction with kids of a similar age for our kid has been the biggest issue with our move here. Funnily, I felt so much guilt about having our daughter in daycare when she was 6 months old, and now I feel guilt about her not being in a good day care setting and with other kids her age rather than me. She desperately needs the company of other children of a similar age. You can't win. Is this guilt a generational thing? Would I feel so torn if I were 15 years younger? Or perhaps if this were 20 years ago?

I'm still behind with posts from Austria/Bavaria and last week to share, but for right now I wanted to share what my day often feels like.
Madness

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When I'm a parent I'll never...

never dress my daughter in frilly, pink crap. Then again, I also said I'd value/listen to her opinions too. Can't have it both ways really can you? I will publicly admit I think it rather sweet.

Look out Heidi

When in the Alps..

No really, I don't know how it happened

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Salzburg...you mean there is something else important other than the Sound of Music?

The view from the Guesthouse

Not that we just went because it was the location for the Sound of Music, but somehow a lot of our conversation while we were in Salzburg went like this:

"Oo! Oo! Isn't that where Maria sings in the square, right by that fountain before she meets the Von Trapp family?"

"No, I think it's that square with the horses. This is the one where she is with the children and..."

I feel confident....la la la

and...
"This is just like when Maria and the children are running along the river side..."

Salzburg

"Oh, lets sing "Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun." And yes, Ila does know most of the words now.

Doe a deer, a female deer, Ray a drop...

and "What do you mean? Edelweiss isn't an Austrian folk song?"
"Nope dear. Only if Rodgers and Hammerstein were Austrian folk artists."
"Oh."

You'll have to guess who was way out in left field about that one.

Oh, so we did stop by Mozart's birth place and inhale a few Mozart Balls, I mean Mozartkugeln. Chocolate, pistachio marzipan, etc. lovely.