Sunday, June 29, 2014

Anybody here?

It's been over a week since i changed this blog. I had an idea the other night for a subject and i knew i should have written it down (it was about 2 in the morning when i thought of it) but then i told myself i would remember it because it was such a good one.

Only i don't remember it. 

I just  downloaded this app about testing your brain. I had fun with it for awhile and scored well on the numbers recognition and matching symbols and shapes, but not so great on the memory (which object is missing, but you have to find it very quickly)...

My best ideas come to me in the early morning when i can't sleep. I have to do better about writing them down. 

Everyday i have had something going on with family/friends/ such as graduation parties, workouts, wedding planning for my niece my other friend Drew, special appointments (i.e. financial planner, etc), meeting a friend tonight from my Zama Japan high school who i've not seen in 20 years (which was very cool)....etc..... anyway,  i've been way busier than i want to be so far this summer and i haven't even started my volunteer work yet!

Tomorrow i am not doing anything. I am not going to even answer the phone. Because it's my only free day. I see what folks mean when they say retirement can be busy. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Good and Bad

My great nephew Brady with his Mom Adrienne. On Father's Day

My favorite nephew Brian and his son Brady. Brady is wearing a cape! 

Photos by my niece Ashley - this shows his cape! 
1. Good: It's good to be home after our trip. And my friend Bob took very good care of our plants. (I was so worried about my beast of a fern!)
Bad: I don't have another getaway until September, when we go on our flyfishing trip.

2. Bad: I didn't run for the 2+ weeks in Italy because there was no safe way to do so. In fact the whole time i saw only ONE runner.
Good: Nothing hurt, no lower back, no hip or nagging knee pain.

3. Bad: I gained a couple of pounds - i think most all of it in my face.
Good: I am still under my "Magic weight".

4. Good: The swimming pool is open!
Bad: Screaming Meemies. What the hell is the attraction for that stupid Marco Polo game anyway? They were playing it yesterday.

5. Good: I discovered a new author from my friend Beth and also Cat Petcher (why isn't she here blogging?): Loraine Moriarity.
Bad: I'm going to be finished reading everything she has written soon. Right now I'm reading The Husband's Secret.

6.  Good: I may have conquered a few anxieties about travel - maybe especially air travel since i only used 3 of the 9 Xanax pills that i brought with me to Italy.
Bad: I don't think i will ever totally get over having anxiety about being somewhere unfamiliar.

7. Good: I'm starting my YMCA workout again this Saturday.
Bad: I'm getting ready for new parts to start hurting.

8. Good: Going with my goddaughter niece Ashley and her mom and two friends to look for wedding dresses today!
Bad: Maybe too many opinions on the dress?... (I'm not going to be that awful aunt on Say Yes to the Dress who makes the bride cry because she doesn't like the dress that the bride loves.)

9. Good: Facebook. Thank you everyone who helped me with all of my dumb questions about traveling to Italy. What a great resource it has been for me.
Bad: I spend way too much time on Facebook!

10. Good: I took about 1000 photos in Italy. I have some very good ones that i like a lot. I'm not going to bore people anymore with them since i already put up 100 on Facebook, but I am going to go online and make up a photo album to print from Costco.
Bad: Organizing 1000 photos!

11. Good: Babies! I get to babysit Brady (photos above) on July 3rd in place of his nanny. He is one of the happiest babies I've been around in a long time.
Bad: Nothing!

Notes to Self:                                                                          
Word Count: 438 words
Sunrise: 5:14
Sunset: 9:09
High/low temp: 79/49
Longest run: 37 minutes
# of cat photos hidden on Facebook: 3, plus 1 video. (I left the one photo on Jon Stewart's site though.
Minor irritation on Facebook this week: Photos of 5 year olds in full graduation regalia.
Major relief: That i am retired and don't have to do all of the signature gathering on the class size initiative that my former colleagues are doing on evenings and weeknights!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cose Preferite

Favorite things about Italy: in no particular order.

1. The smells. There is an abundance of honeysuckle across our balcony! It smells so good every time we walk through the courtyard.

2. The sound of their language. I so wish i knew how to speak Italian. I love the words for everything.

3. The food and wine, of course. Especially the pinot grigios and vermentinos. It took us a few days after extracting ourselves from the family that is here who keeps eating at the same restaurant. The wild boar papardelle and my seafood risotto are my favorites so far.

4. It feels so safe here. The driving can be a bit harrowing since the streets are so narrow, but i love that unlike home, there is no real traffic.

5. The smaller cities: Siena, Pienza, Montepulciano, San Gimignano and Cortona. We like to arrive before everything opens up when it's quiet. We walk around and take photos.

6. The photo opportunities. I get tired of taking the same kind of photos of the scenery and cathedrals, though i do take those too. There are so many opportunities to take photos of the people. Brian will often ask them if he can take their photo and they always oblige. Everyone is so nice.

7. I really like our apartment here. Our bed is nice and firm. We have a washing machine. And air conditioning and each of us has our own bathroom. And the pool is great too after a really hot day in the towns.

8. We really like talking to the Norwegian couples two doors down. They own their apartment . Each late afternoon when we get home they are outside on the open balcony (that is shared by all) playing bridge and drinking wine. On the right of is a Swedish guy who wears bright red pants and two doors on the other side is a young Italian woman who cracks me up because she paces back and forth for the last few evenings talking on her cell phone. And she will be on the phone for about 2 hours sometimes. She's quite passionate in her conversation. I wish i could understand her.

9. We had our favorite meal at the Grotto in Cortona last night. When i talked about the wild board pasta the gentleman next to us said he was sorry for eavesdropping but they were told there was no more of that pasta. However the waitress was confused because thankfully we did get to order it and so did he. That got us all talking (there were four of them from New Jersey). Because there is no rush through dinner here we ended up having the best conversations. They were maybe 10 years older and had done LOTS more than we had. It was clear the woman named Margo was in charge of the itenerary and she was a hoot. She reminded me of Rhoda from Mary Tyler Moore.

10. I love how clean most everything feels here - not much litter. I love the cobblestone streets and the flowers and the clothes drying on lines outside the windows. I love how the Italian people dress so nicely even when it's very hot. I love the old feel of everything - when i think of our ugly box stores and mini-malls , ick. I love the colors of the stones.

11. I also love the grocery store/Italian deli which is just a walk from our place. They know us there now and they have the best homemade pesto, antipasto meats, homemade pasta, yogurts, breads. And they are so friendly. We only eat one meal out when we are here because we buy stuff from there about every other day.

12. I am so glad that i came here for my first International vacation in my adult life!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Italy Recoup Day.

Even though we are in an amazing place i am not able to do a major traveling sight seeing event every one of our 14 days that we are here.

Now that we have a car we have been the last three days in a row to Montepulciana, Pienza and yesterday to Siena. Today i stayed home. Brian's family is very into nostalgia and their geneology, something that has never interested me about my own ancestors. So he took off for Montecantini which is outside Florence, maybe two hours away. That is where is grandfather was born. From what i can tell Montenantini is probably like visiting Tacoma if you were touring Washington State.

So i stayed home.

And so i was able to use his laptop today to load up photos since i am not able to do that on my iPad. So i worked on that today so that i have a head start when i get home to make a photo book. So far i've taken over 700 photos and i get overwhelmed when there are so many.

Random Stuff about Italy....

1. My risotto with seafood at Siena yesterday was so good. I've made risotto on special occasions and it's not easy - my first couple of attempts bombed. But i'm pretty good at it now. This was better than mine.

2. The grocery store down the street is amazing! it's like a super cool Italian deli. I wish we had this store at home. We have been eating out only once a day and then making meals using their fresh homemade pesto, the fabulous mortadella and proscuitto meats, the cheeses. And i have never had better yogurt. They recognize us now when we walk in.

3. I was not a fan of Florence, too crowded, too big....but i have loved the car trips to the smaller towns i mention above. I found a really nice skirt yesterday in Siena without even looking for anything for myself. I think i'll forget about trying to find boots. For one thing - it is so hot i don't even want to try them on. The other thing is i know my fat foot won't fit in them.

4. I swear my feet have gained weight too! And they already were wide.

5. I cannot run here unless i want to risk my life by being hit by a motorcuycle. They are so annoying in the small villages - like mosquitos.

6. I find that i like taking photos of the people more than the cathedrals and churches. I know i should pay more attention to the history, but i'm not wanting a history lesson. I want to watch the people, eat the food, experience the wine. People are so nice here!

7. That might have something to do with my husband's bright happy face everywhere we go and he's always quick to try to say something to them in Italian, and often asks for the right prononunciation.

8. I went down to the pool today to write in my little traveling journal and one of the nice Norwegians two doors down came over and talked to me. He spoke English very well.and we had a nice conversation about traveling Italy and American culture. He was so nice. His name was Lasse  and he and his wife own one of these places. They are so cute all of them. They have been playing Bridge and drinking wine outside on the shared balcony the last two nights and have been so friendly to us. When i told him my grandfather was from Norway he said he would try to find out about our name because we know nothing about it.)

9. Tomorrow we are venturing out by train to Orvieto, which many have told me is a great place to go. Including my new friend Lasse.

9. The smells are amazing here. I wish i could record it and bring it home with me!

10. I have been trying to post photos on my blog but it is impossible. Google tells me others have the same problem so i give up.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Menu del Giorno

We have been here for 6 days. And we have both settled in to a weird sleep rhythm that has nothing to do with home. But it's doable as long as we don't have to be anywhere early since i'm waking up now at 10:30 am. And Brian got 10 hours of sleep last night also waking up after 10 am. My problem is i wake up at 1 am and can't get back to sleep for hours.

This is not really a Menu of the Day but it was easy to look up in Italian

1. pearl, i think i cured Brian of his sleep pattern by changing the scratchy sheets on our bed to the ones i brought from home! hahahaha.... Y'all can laugh all you want about my bringing me own pillow and sheets in checked luggage, along with our own aeropress coffee plunger pot and Starbucks French Roast but it was some of the best stuff i brought. 

2. The only problem i see is there is no vaccum to suck the air of the bags they came in. So i might just leave my pillow here, which is fine, since i brought my older down one instead of my heavier tempurpedic one. 

3. We have had a few bumps in the road because the family we have hooked up with here (Brian knows the woman through work contacts,  but not her husband and the four twenty-something kids who are with them....and i knew no one) seemed to think we needed to check in daily and do stuff together all the time. We traveled to Florence by train with them for a 13 hour excursion to which left us both exhausted because we just followed where they took us. The trip came with a long history lesson from her professor physicist  husband about all the naked statues and buildings, which after awhile got boring for me. And we had yet another underwhelming meal from a restaurant they chose. (I think they are trying to appeal to the kids?) So when we got home we decided we have to find a nice way of getting away from them and be on our own. They have been here for 8 years in a row and have taken to being our tour guides even as we don't want a tour guide. 

4. I have still yet to have a fabulous meal. Brian agrees. I think this family's idea of cuisine is different from ours. Maybe because neither parent likes cooking as she told me. (I get the feeling they might be Olive Garden eaters) and are looking for the cheaper meal. In fact today we are supposed to meet up again and they want to eat at the exact same restaurant of their friend from the first day where my gnocchi didn't taste as good as my own homemade. That caused a fight between me and Brian and then we laughed at how we must be getting into the Italian culture since we don't often fight like that. 

5. I'm feeling better about asserting myself now though. I do not know these people and was somewhat put off by their status, he is a physicist and a college professor, nice but boring. She has a doctorate and runs her own communications company that is on the college circuit. Speaks all over the country. Used to be a news anchor. Both brilliant. And she is a major extrovert, he is super nerdy and very professorial. (I feel like i'm on a school trip with my teachers. )

6. Enough of that. I have discovered that it is the white wines i like here better than the reds. And in Florence i found a wine shop next to where the kids were shopping for leather coats. And oddly enough it was owned by a woman from Chicago. She showed me how to look for bottles where the wine is made and bottled at the vineyard. DOC is what to look for: Denominazione di origine . 

She was right. Also i'm loving pinot grigios here. And the DOC ones are better.  Another is vermentino. They taste like summer in a glass. It is also getting too hot here to drink red. 

7. Brian is taking some amazing photos. I especially love the ones that he can capture of the people. So far I've only used my tiny coolpix camera but it has 10 megapixels so it's not bad. I plan to use my real camera today though when we walk to Cortona. 

8. I love the rural area where we are. It's a 35 minute walk uphill to Cortona and nothing much around us otherwise except for this pretty cool grocery store with great proscuitto and cheeses and the best yogurt i've ever had! It's called Yomo. I wish i could find this at home. It's better than gelato to me. 

9. Italians are so nice. I love how they say Good evening when we say Bueno Sera. I love how they dress. They seem to wear so many clothes! It's so hot outside these past days but they are walking around in layers of very smart looking clothes. And the women are wearing beautiful high heels. I don't know how they walk around on these stone streets in those things. 

10. We are going to rent a car maybe tomorrow and head out on our own (i hope) to some of the cities that my friend Aysin (who used to take people on small tours for Brian's college around the world) told me about. She knows we like the smaller villages with lots of culture. So far we have only been in giant crowds of tourists because we are following this family.

Monday, June 2, 2014

La vita e bella!

Random thoughts about Italy Day Two.

1. Brian and i are on different schedules. Because i was awake for 34 hours in a row while we traveled here i finally got to bed at 8 pm our first night here. And i woke up my usual time in the morning around 5 am. I get up for a bit, go back to bed and wake up again at 9 am, just like at home. Brian is still messed up. He didn't sleep at all last night and so at 9 am this morning he went in for a nap as i finally got out of bed. He slept for 7 hours straight and woke up at 4 pm, which is amazing because he NEVER sleeps 7 hours in a row.

He isn't even on our home time now. Not sure how we're going to fix this!

2. We hooked up with Brian's friend Pam and her family yesterday for a trip to Cortona. It was Sunday and very busy. Normally i don't like traveling with a group, especially when it's so crowded but this was fine, only i did start to fade near the end. That's partly why i don't like traveling with a group. You are not allowed to fade out and must hang in there.

I am not a hang in there kind of person.

3. If i am being honest, my gnocchi at our three hour lunch was good, but not fabulous. Not even close to what we get at Marzano's, our favorite restaurant at home which is owned by a real Italian. (I wish we had gone there the week before and asked her about Italy!) Brian said the same thing about his puttanesca. I think i make it just as well. The restaurant was the friend of our friends. And the owner was from Brazil. (Maybe that's the problem?) Either way, it was still fun and Mara, the owner, was a kick.

4. My favorite person, also a friend of our friends, was Gabriella. When Ginny and I got separated because we went to the bathroom we went back to the wine shop owned by Gabriella, from where we had tasted and bought bottles of wine from earlier. Ginny knews her from previous travels and tried to explain our family was lost. I got to practice my one sentience of Italian and she poured us a glass of red that i liked better than the others we tasted earlier because it was a blend. My iPad makes it tricky to post a photo of Gabriella, but i'll try later from Brian's laptop. He has a fabulous photo of her.

5. Many women are walking around those cobblestone streets in really high heels. I don't know how they do it!

6. Before we come back i need to learn more Italian. What i keep doing is thinking of Spanish words to describe what i mean and i realize i learned more Spanish than i thought and i would be so happy if i knew as much Italian as i do Spanish, which isn't much, but at least something.

7. This might be hard to believe but so far i haven't found a killer wine. In a way i am not surprised because i actually thought this might happen. Italian wines I have tasted are too harsh and have too much tannin for me. Maybe if they were aged longer? Like coffee, i am picky about what i like in wine. But then again, we haven't been here that long yet.

8. I did like the gelato yesterday a lot. It's weird that i am not a dessert person, actually no one in my family is...probably because they haven't made a dessert that goes with Coors Light beer... but i did like the gelato because it is not as rich or sweet as ice cream.

9. Brian got us some stuff from the local grocery store and i do LOVE their yogurt. I wish i could get this at home. It's fabulous! And light. So creamy.

10. We are getting a kick out of listening to Italian radio stations and sometimes hearing a Rolling Stones or Jimi Hendrix song on the radio in between the Italian pop songs.

11. I like the family we are hanging out with. Especially Ginny the daughter of Brian's friend. Ginny is 25 years old. Her boyfriend Miles is very funny, a redhead with skin prone to sunburn. He describes himself as an introvert and keeps saying, i'm trying new things! As he did when he had pate during the antipasto and gnocchi for lunch. Ginny is a recent graduate from Minnesota with a Masters in Communications. A free spirit and an old soul, all wrapped in one. They walked back with us from Cortona and we shared a bottle of wine until they got picked up later.

Today is some kind of holiday about the Republic and many things are closed we were told. We were going to walk back into Cortona but it's too late now since Brian hasn't been awake that long and we don't want to get lost in the dark out here. It's a little bit tricky with the turns coming down the road. We took a wrong one yesterday because Ginny (who has done this many times) forget which way. We'll figure it out