Monday, June 29, 2009

Nottarno - Kerry, can you remember any of this?

It was late. The wine was cheap. There was music and thousands of people in the street, mostly locals. Do you remember anything Kerry? It was fun, I remember that. Oh, and we stayed out past 1:30am which is unheard of now. That was Saturday night Notte Bianca in Oltrarno - Nottarno.

The amazing thing? The next day the streets were clean.

They look so respectable don't they? Don't be fooled. Hellions, all of them.

They look so respectable. Don't they?

Santo Spirito in Pink

Santo Spirito in Pink

Dance baby, Dance.

Want to lose weight? Mediterranean Diet!

Of course, the Mediterranean diet only works when you pair it with the same exercise that Mediterranean folks do. In Atrani the main streets were reminiscent of Who-ville a la Seuss; several hundred stairs up to the apartment; old ladies hanging their bags on sticks slung over their shoulders and us sweating sticky messes by the time we'd reached the apartment.

Starting the climb up


In case you're expecting a svelte Rachel upon my return, I hate to disappoint (I really do), but the gelato and wine is just too scrumptious.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Skiving off in Italy

I know, I know. I've been remiss on my duties: informing you of what we're up to so you can live vicariously through or laugh hysterically at us (please note: I didn't say with us). It's late so I'm going to stick mainly with pictures tonight.

This past week, after saying bon voyage to one group of Tucson friends, we joined our friends K, T & M & K's mum in Atrani on the Amalfi Coast. For those of you cretins who don't know where Amalfi is, think the front ankle area of the boot of Italy. Alright, I had no idea either. Craggy coastlines, blue oceans, wacky little seaside towns, wild lush terraces jam packed with grapes and lemons (All the better for making lemoncello with. Oh yes, we did indulge) It was spectacular (the lemoncello) and the Amalfi coastline was nothing to sniff at either. For those prone to motion sickness, when visiting Amalfi remember the Dramamine. Also, I had a fabulous picture taken at sunset that I was going to share, but it along with all the other photos from Wednesday and Thursday have disappeared. We don't know where. Any ideas?

View from the Atrani apartment
Photo by Tim. Scorpio setting.

Beach at Atrani 

The beach at Atrani, by Tim

View from Ravello 

The view from Ravello

View from Tranquility, Ravello
Terraces from Ravello

Lemoncello...and it was gone 
And it was gone

Monday, June 22, 2009


My lovely friend M is obviously out to make me very homesick and is sharing her impressive gardening inside an oven on a blog. The woman is a whiz when it comes to cooking and cocktails. I'm looking forward to some nice drink & food from the garden tales. Hint, hint.

pps. I've mentioned Help A Mother Out (HAMO) quite a few times here. HAMO was the inspiration behind the Mother's Day Diaper Drive.

These two women and their blog provided me (an individual of limited financial means and time) with:
a manageable objective: make a child's life a little easier, safer, and happier, at least for a little while and in so doing help a family
An easy way to do it: donate some diapers, by pointing, clicking and helping.
Ask your friends to help.
Which I did and you did. Thank you.
AND the hint of a possibility of doing something to close this stupid gap in the social safety network and people to work with on this.

So I nominated Help A Mother Out for the most inspiring blog on There are other blogs that make me cry or laugh, others that make angry about the state of our world, yet more that I read that make me feel rather feeble with regards parenting, activism, crafting etc. HAMO moves me from rhetoric to action from nearly 7000 miles away via the internet and I am very grateful for that.

If you have a sec and like what HAMO is doing will you pop on over and vote for them please.

And so the onslaught begins

We've only got a couple of months left, but we're going to be enjoying it with plenty of friends. This week we have a veritable gaggle in the vicinity. D's old roommates, partners and a couple of parents. Sweet. We went out to the place they're staying at, a castello outside of Impruneta. Fabulous scenery, scrumptious food, and tip top company. What more could a girl ask for? Oh wait, did I mention we're off to the Amalfi Coast this week too?

San Agostino is a sweet little trattoria close to Piazza di Santo Spirito on the street of the same name. Nice, funky, cool, friendly owners and great Tuscan food with a wacky twist...
The Via Roma Boys plus a kid, a couple of partners & a couple of parents

Vegetarians look away...

Honest, those are for us, not a pack of dogs

The converted farmhouse attached to the castle

Not quite Via Roma

With the olive oil press and vats

Olive Oil Press & Vats?

Someone stops for ants

A little jaunt around the Castle

and later still after splashing in the pool

You can't make me put on the shoes

Friday, June 19, 2009

Not quite a block party...

Yesterday evening down our street



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What to give Dad for Father's Day

Father's Day is this Sunday. At least in the US it is.

Now, if I'd had my stuff together I would have sent my dad and father in law sweet little hand-drawn/scrawled cards from Ila, but this is me and I don't. So, I'm going to do what I know they will both appreciate and donate to the Diaper Bank via the Help A Mother Out wish list. Come on, you can too, Dads love the good karma thing. Perhaps in honor of a granddad. Actually, maybe I should in honor of my late granddads.

Maybe I'll send Dad & FIL one of the colorful cute pdf cards we had for Tucson Mamma Mother's Day Diaper Drive. You know, except without the whole Happy Mother's Day thing. If you want to donate and send a little email pdf card let me know and I'll set it up.
While the badge says Help A Mother Out, groups like this help out FAMILIES; mums and dads, grannies and granddads, and children.

Check out this report from Florida about a dad having to decide between food and diapers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Santo Spirito


Before the whole family came over to Firenze, Doug came over for work and to find a place for us to live. Before he left we talked:

"I don't want to be way out in the boonies. No more than a twenty minute walk to a shop and ten minutes to a park. You hear? Ila and I will need some interaction with people."

Alright maybe I talked and he was patient. I think I was a little freaked out and maybe not trusting enough in Doug's ability to see what was reasonable.

Funnily, since we arrived in Firenze there have been times when I desperately wanted to be further out of town, even up by the observatory, which would break all those conditions. Certainly, if we were to come back again I'd be up for it. I know the bus system now. Having a door out onto a little green or even a little patio that Ila could just run out on to would be sweet, but then we'd never looked out onto this street and never seen these things...

1. Calcio Storico Fiorentino- Bianchi
Calcio Storico -Bianchi

We're walking toward our apartment, in front of us a bunch of men who look like a mix of soccer and rugby players. I know it isn't a soccer team, but it wasn't quite a rugby team either. (Yes, too many years spent around rugby players. I can spot them a mile off.) but they're all wearing the same emblem either on their skin or a shirt. They stop and start to put up a ladder, hoist a young boy in medieval garb to the top and proceed to prevent any traffic passing down the street. We get out of the way. It turns out it was a photo shoot of the neighbourhood team of a nice and bloody, violent traditional football game. Just the sort of thing I'd turn my nose up as a rule, but then this is Florence/Firenze and I get over myself for a few minutes to find out a little more.

The game has been around for 500 years. There are four teams in town, our neighbourhood has one, il Bianchi. It used to be the rich dudes, it still is neighbourhood guys. The games are played in June with a big ol' final in the Piazza di Santa Croce and a parade to begin with. It is apparently one of THE things to see in Florence if you're here. Which we won't be when it actually happens. Oh, and they play in medieval flavored pants and often bare chests! It fulfills all those stupid bad boy issues I had when I was younger and much more foolish. They get to head butt each other. And I thought Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football was rough. For more information check this out

Then if that wasn't a nice little neighbourhood oddity to find out about there was that evening.

2. After 11pm, the Santo Spirito bells are going nuts, but we figure someone just dipped a little too much into the communion wine. We're all cuddled up on the sofa watching an old episode of Chuck (we've just discovered Chuck) when we hear this incredible singing. Mass numbers of beautiful female voices coming from the street outside. So we rush to the one window that actually looks out on to the street and see this...

Actually we saw a lot more, but I didn't think about the video until several minutes in. You only hear the singing for a few seconds, but it went on for a long time and was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. There were nuns and priests and what looked liked monks, with a few ordinary folk to boot. I've no idea what it was. Any ideas?

This is an experience that would have eluded us if we had been out of town and it really is incredible.

I'm saving the best until last, the toddler picture. Those cherries at the top? Those were up at the hotel my mum & step dad were staying out this weekend, outside the city walls. This, having foraged for them, eating them? My girl. What a great Sunday.

Ila and Cherries

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Up Your Skirt

On the way to Trattoria Bordino we saw the below. It is warm. About 8 in the evening and pretty much perfect.

Up Your Skirt

I wish we had a window we could hang out our pretty skirts and fancy lace edged sheets out on. Unfortunately we don't have the window, nor the appropriate sheets and skirts. We did have a lovely meal though, my mum, step dad and I.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why despite walking everywhere I can't get to a healthy weight

In reverse order

10. Pasta, lots of it doused in olive oil
9. Parmiggiano Reggiano eaten in chunks not grated
8. Apparent inability to leave a dish with food on it, mine, Doug's or Ila's. Don't sit to close to me it might be your plate I go for next.
7. Cheap, good chianti pretty much every night
6. Gianduia chocolate. A certain colleague has a lot to answer to.
5. Limone gelato
4. Pistachio gelato
3. Yogurt and Nutella gelato
2. Nocciola pasta sauce
1. Nocciola gelato

ps. Stumbled a store that sells Young's Chocolate Stout & my mum brought Doug some Starbuck's Coffee over from England. Result a very happy man. Now if we could only find a nice IPA.

pps. Just found this recipe for Nocciola gelato

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Is it just my kid?


Or are all kids gaga over insects and dirt? I'm wondering if there is a genetic disposition for the love of entomology and soil? My dad, me, and my daughter? She isn't into dinosaurs or trucks (trains, bikes & boats that is a whole different deal), but all things insect and soil.

Looking for Odonata nymphs

Following the Ants at Bardini
My little entomologist

A little corner at Villa Strozzi

So what to do about the whole cocoon/chrysalis thing in The Very Hungry Caterpillar? You know, big important questions of the day. Despite Eric Carle's explanation below, I still change cocoon to chrysalis, just to keep it accurate. Doug keeps to cocoon and keeps the poetry. She'll learn to be flexible at least, unlike her mother apparently.

Eric Carle on the great Cocoon Chrysalis Debate
From the V. Occasional Newsletter called The Caterpillar Express

A number of readers of The Very Hungry Caterpillar ask,
Why does your butterfly come from a cocoon, not
a chrysalis? That’s a good question.
Here’s the scientific explanation: In most cases a butterfly
does come from a chrysalis, but not all. There’s a rare
genus called Parnassian, that pupates in a cocoon.
These butterflies live in the Pacific Northwest, in Siberia,
and as far away as North Korea and the northern islands
of Japan.
And here’s my unscientific explanation: My caterpillar is
very unusual. As you know caterpillars don’t eat lollipops
and ice cream, so you won’t find my caterpillar in any
field guides. But also, when I was a small boy, my father
would say, “Eric, come out of your cocoon.” He meant I
should open up and be receptive to the world around
me. For me, it would not sound right to say, “Come out
of your chrysalis.” And so poetry won over science!

Despite this egregious sin I still love Eric Carle, cocoon or chrysalis.

Monday, June 8, 2009

For all those bikers out there, it isn't La Milagrosa

it isn't La Milagrosa, but it'll do.

The man himself:
Wahoooooooooo! Finally Doug gets to ride.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lago di Ledro

Pollinator Heaven
They say there is no such thing as coincidence right? We turn into the drive of the Family Hotel Adriana in Locca and see this...
The first thing we notice at the Hotel...Coincidence
if you weren't sure what I was referring to it is the sign, good German beer. Along with the mountain bikes available for free to hotel guests I'm not buying that it is all coincidence. Doug?

We're in the Italian Alps for the weekend, in a valley above Lago di Garda near Lago di Ledro and it is fabulous!


Green Stuff

Skimming stones at Lago Di Garda

Lavender Girl

Buzz, buzz

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wisteria gives way to Hydrangea


The wisteria flowers have all but disappeared and now the Bardini Pergola is showing off with a massive display of different types of Hydrangea. I might as well just call this blog Ode to Bardini. I'm afraid we really do spend that much time at Bardini, as if we're afraid to waste time on other possible sights for fear they won't live up to our expectations. Come visit us and we'll surely use it as an excuse to go, as if we needed an excuse.


Last week it was one of my best friends from England and her family who were subject to our obsession with Bardini. It was fabulous to have them here, not only, but especially because we got to meet their little boy who is just 5 weeks younger than Ila. The two of them together were like a little whirlwind wreaking havoc, joy, mayhem and laughter wherever they tumbled.

We still haven't made a decision about our vacation, thanks for the suggestions though. We're taking off for a rainy weekend at Largo de Garda tomorrow. Wahoo! I'm looking forward to mountains. Doug is talking about taking off for a little bit of a mountain bike ride too. Did I mention the high chance of thunderstorms? We're renting a car. Not this one, but almost as small...I love Fiat 500s. Can you imagine driving one of these on the streets of Tucson? They make Smartcars look huge!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sans Camera

I need to have my camera glued to me. We always see the coolest things when we don't have it with us. The other day, walking through Boboli Gardens toward the southern exit Ila and I saw a beautiful heron perched on the tall fountain. It seemed so out of place in the middle of a city, even inside this glorious garden. We hung out there for a while watching this grand creature and getting progressively soggier as the drizzle refused to cease and desist.

I think I may have also identified who is practicing in the studio below our bathroom. Do you remember that photo of Ila in the daises and buttercups? It has now been covered by a massive stage and bleachers. Aida is being performed there this month. While watching the heron we heard similar snippets of music and singing to that we've heard everyday through the bathroom floor.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Room with a View & Survey

view from the window
Originally uploaded by rhubarbqueen
Well, not quite. More like room with a heady jasmine smell. The view from our bedroom window. I wish we had access on to this terrace, but we don't. I'll just enjoy the smell of jasmine, which has to beat the alternative, the smell of the septic tank. Apparently, inside the city walls all the houses use septic tanks which are then drained on a regular basis. Ours has just been drained, but that doesn't seem to help with the smell, the jasmine is strong enough to though.

My question for you is this:
The only time we have open when we don't have visitors is 5 days at the very end of July. We'd like to take one trip (we would have liked more, but don't have time) as a family somewhere on mainland Europe outside Italy. It has to be quick and cheap to get to, have water, and relatively cool temps. Where would you go if you had the chance?