Saturday, February 28, 2009

So much for no gelato

A day that starts like this....

continues like this...

and ends like this....

Can't be bad

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gastronomic Indulgences

I dreamed about gelato last night. I haven't had any yet, its too darn cold here, but I'm already dreaming about it. This isn't a good sign for my waistline. Unfortunately, (Dang you, B. for suggesting them) I did find another delicacy to tempt me until the weather warms up. Cornettis. Sweet pastries that really do melt like butter in your mouth. Could it be that they are full of butter? Ila and I stopped at a cafe on the way home from the park (We found the neighbourhood garden, which looks fantastic, we just couldn't figure out how to access it.) There it was calling to me. An apricot cornetti. Luckily, there was only one left and once we were home Ila called first dibs. Who could argue with this?

It would be so easy to go out for every meal living here. Easy on the taste buds that is, not so easy on the pocket book. So we've been cooking. Don't laugh! You make it sound like I never cook. Okay, maybe microwaving isn't really cooking. I'm just not really into it, more into the eating side of the equation. However, the local Magi Market is no Trader Joe's. So we're actually cooking from scratch. Alright, now really, get off the floor. The idea of me cooking isn't that implausible. Of course, we've kept it to low fat risottos and soups, so nothing particularly fancy. I'm working up to the gnocchi. No way am I hauling a bag of potatoes up these stairs.

That isn't to say that we're not indulging a little. We went out with Guido on Thursday night, to the place right by his apartment that I mentioned the other day. Absolutely sumptuous. Crespelle for the first plate, Wild Boar for the second with Fried Zucchini Blossoms for the side dish. Zucchini Blossoms seemed to be a commonplace here. You see them in the grocery stores. So may be with all my talk of cooking I should do something with zucchini blossoms this week? It would be hard to be vegetarian here, or at least a lot more limiting than in the US. Good thing I gave that up.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Peek-a-boo! Now you see me, now you don't.
We found a little public neighbourhood garden just north of San Croce complete with play equipment and a real to goodness Italian mother with her two children. Perhaps this is how play is done? In small public gardens dotted across the city.
Tomorrow, I'll go in search of of a neighbourhood garden our friend Guido says is in our vicinity. We ate with Guido this evening, but more about that tomorrow. Tonight, I've had too much wonderful food and wine to stay up any later. I'll share the gastronomic delights tomorrow.
Until then, here is Ila playing peek-a-boo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If we're not here when you call, we're at Boboli.

Today was Doug's first day at the Observatory. Ila and I were officially on our first day of this grand adventure, where I play at being a SAHM, who is also a WAHM. I think most SAHM are also WAHM. The weather was absolutely spectacular, the grey haze of the past couple of days had lifted and it would be a crime to have stayed inside. We packed a few snacks, the nice camera and then Ila and I walked to Palazzo Pitti to visit Boboli Gardens. For those who know Firenze, Pitti is about a 7 minute walk from where we're staying.

I admit when I saw the facade of Palazzo Pitti, I was not impressed. I think I might have made some crack about it looking like a prison. I take it all back. Don't judge a book by its cover and all that.

Beyond the frontage, Pitti is spectacular and in no small part due to Boboli Gardens which stretches south of the palace approximately a kilometer. There are carefully manicured lawns, fountains, statues and artifacts throughout the area that we walked. Between the lawns, the fountains and the stairs are a whole host of little back pathways walled by tall bushes, excellent for running through and looking for birds and insects.

We covered a tiny portion of the gardens in the two and a half hours we were there. We sat, we watched, we listened, we explored. Ila threw pebbles into a grate. She ran, with that fabulous toddler gait around a mini topiary maze. We ate cheese and the best tangerines I've had a long time. The fruit here, so far, is divine. I plotted our next trip back. Soon, very soon.

My concerns about the lack of outdoor space have somewhat subsided. This isn't our crazy yard, or my beloved wild high desert, nor the wind blown coastlines and moors that I dream of, but it is pretty sweet.

Oh, and while we were there we finally got a nice clear shot of The Duomo, to make up for the lack of a good picture a few posts ago.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm cheating today. Tomorrow, I promise, great things! Today, I share some art - an animation of a favorite poet's work found on YouTube: Roger McGough's Cinders. Something about it takes me back to being a child. McGough's was a voice from my childhood. You don't even hear his voice in this clip, but I can, in my head. Now, as an older parent of a toddler there are other aspects of this that resonate with me. So while in this city of great art, I share with you something from a few hundred miles away from here, but close to my heart. Tomorrow, Ila and I will set out to find a little art for us here in Florence. If you're not familiar with Roger McGough, check him out and to the animator - thank you.

Oh and this, a promise. M - I'm going to learn to make great gnocchi. Hope you're ready to be subjected to gnocchi constantly!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Brought to you by the letter V and the color purple

This post goes out to my cousin Nikki and my colleagues and friends Olivia and Cheryl. The first two, because they luuuuuuuuuuuuuv shoes, the third for her love of purple. 

One of Ila's first words was purple. Certainly, it was one of her first multiple syllable words, and Viola was a top contender for her name, so I'm a little partial to the color. Here, in Firenze, purple is everywhere. I'm not interested in fashion, but the difference in dress here as compared to Tucson is not completely lost on me. I saw a little purple in Tucson. I knew it was one of this season's colors, but nothing like here. Everyone, men, women, old and young is wearing some shade, violet, indigo, lavender, orchid....

Just down the street from our apartment is this fabulous shoe display, a shrine to purple and insane shoe prices.  You can't quite see it here, but the shoes in the center have some sort of metallic wedge heel. I can't imagine wearing any of them for more than a few steps, but they're cool to look at. While I'm not so sure about shoes that can double as torture devices, actually I am sure I don't like them, I'm not sure that I think fashion is all bad. As long as it doesn't hurt, confine, restrict, but allow creativity and expression in some format, I hope Ila will appreciate fashion as something to be playful with rather than a set of rules. I'm afraid I see it too much as a set of rules, so I  just shut down and ignore fashion all together.

Despite my aversion to fashion, I do love the color purple and so in honor of the color purple, of my almost named Viola, and in an attempt to use up some of the yarn stash I brought with me, I've started knitting a beret.   Yes, I did bring some yarn stash with me. Yes, to one of the global capitals of yarn, a place where it was the Wool Guild (Arte della Lana) that commissioned Brunelleschi to build one of the most famous domes (Duomo) and the cupola of the Duomo, I brought yarn. I guess, at this point, I should share a picture of the Duomo, but mine came out terribly today. Will have to try again, another time.   The yarn, Frog Tree Alpaca worsted weight, like the Duomo, is beautiful, the picture doesn't do it justice. It is incredibly soft (knitting should be confined to working with the softest yarns and only small projects) and the purple deeper and more vibrant than represented here.   I got the yarn on sale at Kiwi Knitting (my LYS in Tucson). I'm working on a beret from Baby Beanies by Amanda Keeys.  The pattern has some issues, but I'll subject you to those when the beret is done.

So the fascination with purple didn't occupy the whole day.  We started off visiting the San Lorenzo Central Market. Downstairs are fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses, upstairs leather goods. I didn't actually go upstairs. It was more like the markets I grew up, except with better (and more expensive) food.  We bought some very pricey, but amazing tortellini from this place and just across the way was this amazing dedication to cheese. Who couldn't be moved by that? Don't think about the last sentence for too long.

While getting to know where to buy everything is going to take a while, I love being able to go to a market like this again; to have specific stores for bread, veggies, meat etc. It seems so much more respectful of food. Thanks to my dear friend M, I have some cooking classes to explore too.  As for the lack of 24 hour supermarkets, Doug went out tonight and found a place that was open until midnight where he bought a bottle of not bad Chianti, chocolate and some milk for Ila. What more do we need?

With that, I leave you with my almost Viola, in true to form fuzzy mode and her dad. She is really into giving hugs right now. It is wonderful.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


It being the sabbath and us good church going folk,
we set off in search of a place of worship. At the first church we realized we were a little late as everyone was already exiting, and they were all dressed in fur coats. Apparently, a fur coat is a necessity when paying penance for your sins. Then we checked out our local church, Santo Spirito and the plaza in front which was missing the organic market that is supposed to be there on a Sunday. The feel was quite different, as was the clientele. 

We still didn't stay and went onto have a little lunch sandwich at a nondescript place just down from the Santo Spirito plaza. Eh, not bad. Cheap, filling, patient with our lack of ability to speak Italian. Nondescript enough that I've forgotten its name. It looked like it last got refurbished in the 1980s or maybe early 90s.

Today we stuck to south of the river, visiting
Porta Romana, the huge Roman gate, and a playground within the grounds of what looks like a decaying Istituto Statale d'arte di Firenze. You can see the Istituto in the background. In the next photo, Ila having a fine old time riding the elephant. She made trumpeting sounds to match.

We were the only family at the playground. Another came as we were leaving, but I wonder where the rest of the families are. Florence is a city of gardens, but most people do not have a garden associated with their home. Are there cool playgrounds in this city to be found? Places where children can run freely and play? Yesterday we went to another playground not too far away from this and there were probably four families there, only one of which was Italian. In a city, a dense, compact city such as this, where do you take your children to scamper and frolic?

While I'm really excited about this move, our garden, the Arizona mountains, and the desert are all going to be sorely missed. I think we're going to spend a lot of time in gardens. With that thought I leave you with the typical tourist poses.  This bridge is just minutes from our apartment and the view over to Ponte Vecchio.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I promise no literary brilliance, no wit, no fabulous insights, and no grammatical precision, any provided are a result of sheer bloody luck and probably attributable to someone else. That said, you asked for it and so here it is, a blog so you can experience Florence vicariously through us. Please note that most posts will probably written after a few glasses of wine and so your vicarious experience is probably one recollected by someone a little inebriated who tends toward the verbose when drunk.  Welcome to "A Little Gnocchi".

Despite our fears that our last transatlantic experience (18 unmercifully long hours with a screaming toddler, who never slept) would be repeated, we totally lucked out. Maybe it was the Benadryl, the brilliant travel bags prepared by Kerry (I'll share more about these at another time, but thank you Kerry), or  maybe it was the portable DVD player that made the difference, who knows, who cares, but the trip wasn't bad at all. 

We're staying at a temporary apartment until March 9th, when we get to move into our long-term apartment which is close by. We're just south of the river, the Arno, which runs through Florence. The river separates us from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist areas, but within a five-minute walk of Ponte Vecchio. We're surrounded by small trattorias, local artist galleries, bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, antique restoration places, and best yet, a yarn store AND a fabric store are just down the street. Now the yarn store is closing this month (must check out and see if they're having a sale), and the fabric store appears to be home decor stuff, but what a good start. 

The temporary apartment is great. A loft  with a kitchenette and a couple of bathrooms.  The owners have really accommodated us, providing a pack and play for Ila, some small toys etc. For your viewing pleasure, the photograph above is out of the window of our apartment.

My mum and her friend Jill arrived the same day as us, stayed in a hotel on the other side of the river and joined us for meals. It is twenty years since I've lived this close to my mum and the majority of my side of the family. I'm pretty excited about seeing them more. Mum, I owe you 200 Euros. I'm holding the money ransom until Norman comes over, or at least until your visit next month. 

We've done no sight seeing ourselves. Correction, we've done no intentional sight seeing, but it is hard not to see sights at every turn in this city. We've skimmed the edges of Boboli Gardens, walked past the Duomo, and walked across Ponte Vecchio multiple times. I love that this is a city for walking. 

So what can I share? Well, it's me, so what do you expect? Today- places to eat when you visit us (you are going to visit us, aren't you?):
Alla Vecchia Bettola
Just outside the city walls. This is one of Doug's favourite places. 
Good God, this place is great. It opens at 7:30pm, we arrived shortly after and by 8pm the place was heaving. The food was amazing. We ordered a crostini that Ila devoured, leaving little for me. Note to self, must get two orders if I expect to have any. The Penne alla Bettola is in a spicy vodka tomato based cream sauce. It has a nice kick to it and so we licked our plates clean. This is the time where I admit that we drank some wine before dinner, some while we were there and then I finished off dinner with some biscotti soaked in cognac. Sinful and yes I was toast. I'm guessing the smaller portions and our lack of car are going to be what save me from myself while we're here. 
Trattoria da Ginone
Just inside the city walls, south of the river this is close to our friend Guido's place. Guido introduced Doug to it last time they were both here. Little hole in the wall place. I had the Zucchini Blossom Fettucini, which was amazing, and because Ila has been demanding gnocchi morning, noon and night for the past 36 hours she had the gnocchi.  Which brings me to the title of this blog. What is it with kids?  I mean we've introduced her to gnocchi back in Tucson, but all of a sudden she starts demanding it, when we get to Italy? Not sure I blame her, all that potato goodness in a nice light puffy package. Trattoria da Ginone's was the best gnocchi I've ever had. 

Hey, just have to share, outside our window in the street there is a guy singing.  Somehow drunks singing in Italian sound so much better than English drunk singing. 

So beyond eating, I have the following goals for while we're in Firenze:
1. Check out the city for toddler friendly experiences
2. Learn Italian
3. Learn to cook

and a question...
What do you think, Ila's bedtime in Tucson is 7:15pm and she wakes between 5:30am-6:30am.  As we adjust for the time difference, I'm thinking of moving it to 8-8:30pm so she wakes after 7am or do I have no say in this really, am I just fooling myself?  Those with toddlers, is it feasible to move bed times around like this?