Archive | March, 2011

Excuses

31 Mar

I just want everyone to know that I still haven’t even unpacked from my trips with Noel. The blog (and correspondences and going through photos and cleaning my room) has taken the back seat this week while I’ve tried to get caught up on everything else. I promise photos and stories soon.

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Too much of a good thing

19 Mar

Speaking of diminishing marginal returns, this is a terrible photo of the delicious antipasti at our Bolognese dinner at Il 15 the second night. Tragically, I left almost an entire plate of pasta uneaten. Meal fail.

Noel and I have had a bit of a traveling fail. We need to rewind all the way to Thursday, when we were supposedly on our way to Florence to enjoy the free museums. Well, as Noel’s boyfriend put it when he heard the story: “Florence is so cool it sells out.”

Taking the sold-out morning train as a sign of overwhelming crowds on the Florence end, we opted not to take the slightly later train and to save Florence for another day, as originally planned. Instead we bought tickets for a noon train to nearby Ferrara and power walked back to the main square to catch Bologna’s parade for Unification Day.

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting all the military action, but it was neat to see the flags everywhere. I was almost sorry we were leaving Bologna, actually, because everyone seemed to be in a festive mood and enjoying the sunny morning.

With still a couple hours before the train, we climbed Bologna’s tallest tower. Coming in at a remarkable 97 meters, almost double the height of Pisa’s tower, the Torre Asinelli offers a fantastic view for those able to get up all 498 of the steep, worn wooden steps.

We eventually made our way to Ferrara, only 30 minutes away on the train, and it turns out they were celebrating Unification Day with free entrance to museums too! So we explored their castle (one of the few in Italy with a functioning moat—“functioning” in the sense that there’s still water, not that it keeps out invading enemies). We peeked in their duomo (the first time I’ve been caught touring a church when a service started). We shared a gelato (strawberry and some yummy white chocolate and fudge flavor).

I think every Italian city I’ve visited has felt less claustrophobic than Bologna because they don’t have the portici covering the sidewalks and hiding the sky. I have been grateful on so many occasions for the portici (I think they’re ruining my instinct to grab an umbrella when going out on a rainy day), but it’s a nice change to stroll without them, especially through Ferrara’s many pedestrian-only walkways.

OK but the plan for the next day, yesterday, was to try again for Florence. We didn’t have tickets, but figured if we arrived when the museums opened the lines wouldn’t be too bad. Unfortunately that meant catching a 6:45 train. Well, that didn’t happen. Noel met me in the kitchen at 5:30 looking like an absolute zombie: jetlag had struck again—she’d only slept for two hours. Today was not a day for touring museums.

"I don't trust them."

Venice, however, doesn’t require the intense focus of appreciating Renaissance art, nor does it require as early a start. We left for Venice around 10 and had a lovely sunny day strolling around the canals and listening to Rick Steves.

"I'm on a boat!"

But we should make it a fairly early night, we reasoned; we’ve got Cinque Terre tomorrow. Well…

I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if we’d made it, but I’m kind of glad I am. I feel a little bad: I’ll have another shot at Cinque Terre before I leave, but Noel definitely won’t. We are both bone-tired already, and that’s not the way we want to start our week in Rome and Sorrento on Monday. I think we need this weekend to regroup a little, rest these weary feet.

We will be leaving for Rome before the sun even comes up on Monday for six days down south—that’s the plan, at least.

Happy 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy!

17 Mar

So here is the skinny since I’m hopping on a train soon. Last night I found out I don’t have to work today, so Noel and I are heading off to Florence. As part of the celebrations, Florence has made all of it’s museums free today! Excellent way to save a few euros or an entire day spent waiting in lines? We shall see.

“I’m not so much a cook as I am an artist”

14 Mar

One of my favorite new websites is TasteSpotting.com, an aggregator of food blogs with a beautiful layout and photos that get your salivary glands pumping. For the last couple weeks, Garibaldi has been consuming much of my kitchen time (jobs: what a bummer), but I make time at least once a day to just click through the front page, where the most recent submissions are posted in a smorgasbord of recipes.

I’ve had lots of luck with the handful of things I’ve tried from TasteSpotting, and my list of bookmarked recipes to try grows almost every day. My timid food-blogging attempts are a direct result of this website. I have to say though, sometimes it gets a bit outrageous. Truffled celery root and potatoes puree. Hazelnut, homemade raspberry jam, and white chocolate ganache tarts. Cheesy chive bread with walnuts and white pepper. Almond-pulp crackers (gluten-free). Caramelized bananas and fig oatmeal. Yes, they all sound delicious (except for maybe those crackers). Yes, I admire these bloggers’ creativity. No, I will not be trying any of them.

I’m a simple girl. I’m not above dehydrated pasta and a jar of sauce, even on a weekend night. I have served friends beans knowing the bottom of the pot was stuck half-an-inch thick with charred beans. I don’t think they think any less of me; they have come back around.

I felt quite able to relate to a New York Times’ columnist who signed up for a Brooklyn food exchange and felt her chocolate chip cookies and samoa bars were a little underdressed sitting next to bottles of vodka infused with organic pine needles and jars of candied tangelo peels.

Tonight’s going to be a pasta-and-jar-of-sauce kind of night. I’m under the weather (thanks, babies) and behind on this editing project, Colin has class until 8:30, and Noel arrives tomorrow evening. After that, I plan to be eating quite well—in restaurants all over Italy.

Silence on the blog waves

12 Mar

Apologies for the extreme dearth of posts recently. I got myself a bit of a grown-up job last week and have been spending most of my free computer hours working on that. It’s definitely what I should be doing now, but I’ve missed you.

My new project is editing a book manuscript about the military history of Garibaldi. The typical response from people when I tell them that is laughter, some confusion. The Italians I’ve told have been utterly baffled.

I’m only 25 pages in, but already I think I know more about Giuseppe Garibaldi than I do about any other figure in history. (But I still had to look up how to spell his first name.)

As I toil through the roughly translated paragraphs (only 200 pages to go!), occasionally throwing up my hands in frustration, reaching for the thesaurus or my style guides or Colin’s better understanding of what an Italian might have actually intended, the weather gets nicer, Noel’s and my family’s arrivals get closer, our time here gets shorter.

This job is making my English better at least.

I’m no more sure about where we’ll be next fall, but I am sure that I’ll be arriving in the San Diego airport the evening of May 17. I am so excited to be going home, but there is a twinge of sadness that I will be leaving before everything wraps up here, plus that load of anxiousness about getting all my stuff into just a few suitcases. There will be casualties.

And I’m OK with that. Our vibrant-blue couch throw, purchased in Yonghe’s night market at a jacked-up price, will not make the cut; I know that. The next tenants of our lovely apartment will get to use it. Pass it on. Purge the baggage.

But I know when it comes down to it, I’m going to want to keep this stuff, my stuff. My name is Valerie, and I am a packrat.

Foto Friday: Fancy

4 Mar

Aaron and Colin looking super sharp.

Busted lip

1 Mar

I’ve had the super obnoxious problem of a painfully chapped and split bottom lip for the past several weeks. I can’t sneeze, laugh or even floss without my lip splitting open—and what kind of life is that? I thought I was doing everything in my power to fix it, but it turns out I wasn’t.

Since I am a person who generally doesn’t drink enough water throughout the day, I figured it was dehydration. However, with few exceptions during the past two weeks, I’ve been going out of my way to drink more and more often. No luck.

Another possible culprit is the cold weather we’ve had recently, but it hasn’t been particularly dry, and this weekend the clouds opened up and dumped rain down on us, so I don’t think that’s the problem either.

I didn’t realize that cracked lips can be caused by a vitamin deficiency. A deficiency in vitamins A, B2, or C could all be the troublemaker: vitamin A keeps skin from being flaky and dry, B2 helps prevent mouth lesions, and C helps produce our collagen.

I think I’m probably good on the B2 front since I have fortified cereal most mornings and get the rest of what I need from all the dairy I’m eating. As for vitamin C, well, it’s blood orange season in Italy and that’s practically the only fruit in our basket right now. I guess that means I need to seek out more vitamin A. Of course all things related to liver are high in vitamin A, but so are all those pretty red and orange vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Time for a trip to the market!

Just to be sure, I think I’ll pay more attention to my intake of both vitamins A and B2 and see if there’s any improvement to my sorry state.