“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. ” ― G.K. Chesterton

Ciao,

It was a fast trip to Germany and back, based on our 36 hour timeline, but we hadn’t counted on close to eight hours of traffic. When you take that into account plus another seven or eight hours sleeping and then five more hours home, well, we barely saw München (Munich) at all. Luckily for us it wasn’t a sightseeing trip but more of a food trip. So, quick trip or not we accomplished our goals for the weekend.

We took off around eight Saturday morning after collecting R & C from their domicile. Then we hit the bar for some morning cappuccino and croissants (yes, it was apricot). Then the trip got real; real and full of Germans heading back to Germany after holiday. Lots and lots of Germans heading north. Google just kept adding on delays and traffic, it was a long line of red. We took some beautiful back roads and avoided other travelers until we no longer had a choice. When there are only so many passes through the Alps sooner or later all roads must converge. So into traffic we went.

Austria and Germany are pretty green (despite the lack of rain and heat wave they are having) It really does make you want to sing “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music”. I didn’t (and everyone was grateful) but I wanted to.

We stopped in Innsbruck for a late lunch and it was fantastic, everything I had been missing about German food. Sauerkraut, slices of pork and knodel (bread dumplings, kind of like a round ball of stuffing).

And beer! Of course!

After some food and a quick stretch of our legs we loaded back up for the final stretch into München. We finally checked into our hotel by five-ish and set out for the wilds of Altstadt München (old city). We walked and came to a Augustiner Beer hall, stopped for another beer, then headed on down the street. We went into a couple of churches (Italy is not the only one with beautiful churches though München tends to have more gothic structures *in my opinion*).

St. Michael’s church is built in a Renaissance style with a beautiful statue of the Saint, himself, standing watch from the back of the church.

The Frauenkirche is famous for its gothic architecture but more famous for the Devil’s Footprint. A black footprint set into a paving stone just inside the entrance of the church. The legend says this is where the devil was when he realized he had been duped by the builder/designer Jörg von Halsbach. He (the devil) thought that Halsbach had built the church with no windows. Depending on the legend the devil’s derision was based on the idea that he had compelled Halsbach to build the church with no windows for financial help or maybe he  thought it had no windows and was a worthless place of worship. Either way if you stand in the “Devil’s Footprint” you can see no side interior windows and for several hundred years you also could not see the front window because it was obscured by a large altar. The “Devil’s Footprint” is either a stamp of glee or anger depending on your interpretation of the story but either way it has been there since the completion of the church around 1525.

From there we found our way into the side of the Rathaus (town hall) and found a great restaurant for more German food. With everyone full and happy we moved on down and scoped out the Hofbrauhaus.

 

 

The Hofbrauhaus is restaurant commissioned in 1589 by Duke Wilhelm V as part of the Royal Brewery. Despite its long history the interior reminds me of a Furr’s cafeteria, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furr%27s) a restaurant of questionable taste from my childhood. It was also hot and loud and just not over all appealing but that may because I am not 20 anymore.

Germany, unlike Italy, closes down early (by 22:00) and so we made our way back to our hotel for one more nightcap (I had water but it was like a nightcap because I was so tired). Our hotel was very nice and clean, slightly surprising as we walked past Hookah bars and several club erotica’s to get to it. Comfortable and cozy, lulled to sleep by my water nightcap I slept all to briefly before we got up Sunday to have breakfast.

Ah, Germany, the land where I don’t have to have filled croissants. I like my croissants perfectly flaky and I really like them plain, though I have accepted apricot marmalade in my croissants since moving to Italy I will never truly love them that way. Not only did I eat a croissant but I also ate a pretzel (another hard to get item in Italy). After breaking our fast we headed back to the Altstadt to watch the Glockenspiel. The clock tower in Marienplatz (one of the main squares) that plays/performs for the tourists a 2-3 times a day depending on the season. It consists of 32 life size figures that joust, dance or watch the proceedings in glee, this is all timed to the 43 bells that toll along with the performance. It lasts about 10-15 minutes, which is a long time to stand with your head cocked up at a strange angle.

After that was done we got back in our car and headed back to Innsbruck, where we just happened to find a Fish Festival. It was small and the day was hot but we were able to finish off our trip with Bratwurst on a roll, vegetable kabobs, beer, and ice cream.I could not have asked for a better finish to a German food weekend.

Now, we are just trying to recover from our quick jaunt and Will has somehow managed to catch a cold (in the middle of summer).

Not completely sure what the next weekend will hold but if it is exciting I am sure I will be writing about it.

Fino alla prossima (Until next time)

Ciao miei Amici

 

I don’t go crazy, I just go normal every now and then.

Ciao,

Some weeks I plan so much that Will questions his life with me, some weeks I plan so little I question my life with me.

This last week was one of those where I questioned my inner motives. I mean, sure it’s nice not to drive Will crazy with all the things I want to do, and yes the temperature has been hovering a little above and a little below 100 degrees (with disgusting amounts of humidity). But honestly, are those really reasons to not run all over creation? Apparently this last weekend the answer was yes.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t stay home all weekend crashed on the couch watching movies (though Avengers Infinity Wars came out on video and I still haven’t seen it!) and eating bonbons but there were a lot less shenanigans than usual.

I did put my new composter together this last week, which I found exciting, though I know that might not be every person’s bag of Snickers. I have been wanting one forever and since I have decided to explore growing lavender and heirloom vegetables having a good compost supply seems like a smart move. Not for the lavender really, I have never read about a plant that likes such crappy soil and so few nutrients but produces such loveliness. In comparison to lavender roses and and orchids are like the prima donnas of the flower world. I can still manage to kill a few here and there (lavender but probably roses and orchids if I tried hard enough). The hot weather this summer led me to overwater and root rot two of my plants. It’s a personal problem thinking that since I need water my plants do too. Some like my daily drink, some not so much. Sorry little lavender plants.

The heirloom vegetables are a next spring project but I am already prepping for them.

Saturday we ran some errands and bought patio furniture. It’s exciting since we have this lovely patio that I have been “nesting” (Will’s word, not mine) in and about since we moved in. The furniture is the ones we had been looking at AND it was on sale. A happy coincidence since I would have paid full price for it. Now, if only the weather would cool down enough for me to have my morning coffee out there.

 

Sunday was pesto day.

I have never made pesto from scratch. I am not sure why this has never happened but this was my first foray into the basil-y world of pesto. In true Karyn fashion I overcompensated by buying 7 more basil plants. Now I have 8. To be truthful 3 of them were the basil “plants” you buy in the produce section but I stuck them in pots yesterday morning and they seem to be happy as pigs in mud. If they die I am not out too much since I used leftover pots and they were throwaways. If they live… well, fresh pesto all winter!!! A win-win if I ever saw one.

I also made fresh pasta, I think this might have been a first for me too but since I have an Italian grandmother I am not prepared to swear to that. Pasta is not hard to make but it is a very delicate balance between too  much moisture (makes it too sticky to roll out) and too dry, making it crumble when you try and roll/cut it.

It took a little practice but with Will’s help we got it done. Dinner Sunday night was chicken stuffed with parmesan and pesto, fresh pasta with more pesto sauce, and salad (of course). The verdict? I ate too much. It was a little too garlicky for me so I would cut that back some next time but overall not too bad considering I haven’t done a lot of from scratch cooking lately.

Next weekend is about eating German food. We are making a quick run up to Munich to have some schnitzel. (Seriously, Italian food is delicious but even this half Italian gets sick of pasta and pizza).

So I will leave you with this short look at my normal week (no major adventures involved). We have this Germany weekend and then two “not planned” weekends before we meet A & C in Firenze (Florence). I can’t wait to see them!!! So a couple more weeks until our fall takes off and gets all sorts of crazy!! Stay tuned!

Ciao miei Amici

The best laid plans of mice and Karyn

Ciao,

For those of you who know me this comment will not come as a surprise, for those of you who don’t know me it may not be all that surprising based on some of my posts.

I tend to be a planner.

I know, revolutionary, right?!

In fairness I am a lot more relaxed than I used to be. (I swear, it’ true) We are talking about a woman who used to have the children’s packing list, for any and all trips on an excel spreadsheet. The pantry was also on a spreadsheet. In fact, my whole house might have been on a spreadsheet…you will have to decide that on your own. I already know I am neurotic, I don’t need confirmation from outside sources.

However, in recent years I have moved away from the spreadsheets (believe what you will), now, I just make lists. Daily lists, weekly lists, lists for my lists, and (sometimes) even lists for my husband. But even more important than lists, spreadsheets, and plans is the fact that I get ideas. Ideas of how something is supposed to go, turnout, look, happen. Well, those ideas rarely pan out the way I have mentally set them up to pan out. (It is really why I write, I get to edit my ideas until the plan works out perfectly, life never does that)

Our fare un’escursione (hike) on Sunday was much like the best laid plans of mice and men. You might remember that we had planned to hike last weekend but Will ended up sick so we moved it to this weekend. The temperatures are in the 90’s and the humidity is trying to catch the temperature so it seemed like a great time to go to the mountains. According to several websites finding hiking locations should have been a breeze. The way that some of the websites made it sound you couldn’t go into the mountains without tripping over a trail or two dozen. The reality was that you couldn’t go into the mountains without tripping over several dozen Italians (like A LOT of Italians). After Scotland, where we would go a whole day without seeing anyone, this was not what I was hoping for. I believe that exercise (hiking, cycling, etc.) can be a shared experience but I choose who to share my experience with; dozens of Italians (or people in general) were not on the top of the sharing list.

The trip into the mountains should have taken an hour and a half tops, add an extra hour to that for holiday traffic, then add a wrong turn (No Google Maps is not always right) to the bottom of a gully and a decision to walk/hike the 2-ish miles to where the restaurant area was supposed to be.

There was no straightforward trail and we ended up traipsing through the woods (this part was actually no big deal and the most relaxing part of the whole “hike”). We ran into an Italian lady who was lost and spoke no real English, since I speak no real Italian we communicated in one word sentences. We got her to the road and then left her with a bottle of water and people to converse (ask directions) with in Italian. Good deed done for the day.

We were planning to eat at the restaurant (bad idea on my part) it was crowded and no tables were available. I hadn’t packed much food beyond a couple of Clif bars. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. Yes, I know I become hangry easily. Don’t worry, Will is still alive! And No, I won’t be making that mistake again.

Anyway, we decided to take a short trail that was on a sign post and set off into the Italian wilderness… haha after Scotland the wilderness was well tamed and marked by white stone pathways, that were ridiculously slick from condensation.

Oh, quick note here, not only was this area a restaurant but apparently people take their campers there. They also spread blankets all over the hillside and have siestas. It was not organized like German campgrounds, which are neat and orderly with planned activity areas, but there was no wilderness to the camping. Other than it was a free for all park wherever and set up stuff kind of wildness. I was overwhelmed by the unorganized chaos. (Maybe because I was hungry.)

Okay, back to the trail. If I admit that I was huffing and puffing it is just because we haven’t hiked since Scotland and I felt ill equipped (and too hangry) to be hiking. The trail scenery was actually pretty, (minus some excrement) and we came across this big cavern that had been fenced off. It went so deep we couldn’t see the bottom from the side we were standing on. The trail was also lushly green, heavy on the moss and all the rocks were slippery with condensation from the air. I know this since I slipped and fell on my butt.

What I did not expect (and quite frankly, was less than pleased about) was how many people felt the need to use the sides of the trail as their personal bathroom. Oh, don’t get me wrong, nature calls to me while I am out hiking too, and I also must answer its call. But I know how to bury my poop, a skill that does not seem readily available on the trails here about.

Yeah, I was a little disgusted by it, okay maybe more than a little.

Needless to say I was not having the hiking day of my life and we decided to head back to the car sooner than later. It did start to rain on us a little as we headed back, making me glad that we cut our excursion short. Plus I was really, really, hungry (this is a problem I will take great pains to fix in the future, honestly, don’t know what I was thinking.)

We made it home much quicker than we made it up there. So with a quick pb&j then some emergency pizza to follow we kicked back and watched My Cousin Vinny. It is possible that I should have made it a movie marathon day instead of a try to find a hiking trail day but without the less than exciting adventure how can you really love the great ones?

Until next week

Ciao miei Amici

I know I said I wasn’t going to Venezia in the summer but…

Ciao

I know I promised a month or two ago I was not going back to Venezia (Venice) until the hot, humid, sticky, sweaty tourist season had ended or until A & C showed up in September. Oh, what a liar I have become. I could say Venezia calls to me; it is true that I love the city with its winding canals and labyrinth streets. But the influx of people, heat, humidity, and body odor… I mean it’s hard to think of a worse combination this side of hell. Still, as C pointed out to me in our chat today, I have not only lied once about going to Venezia during the summer (thanks M & B, totally your fault) but now I can blame J & W too!

And blame them I will!!!

Now, B is one of Wills oldest high school friends and so exceptions have to be made for a friendship that has endured that long but J is just a cousin. I mean an eighteenth cousin, six times removed on the fourth quadrant of the second lateral of his fifth family (does blood even relate when that happens).

HAHA! I am kidding of course! They are cousins and since Will remembers J as a baby and she grew hearing stories of his misspent youth (holy moly, if my husband had a misspent youth before I came along he must be taking the middle years of our lives with a charging cry of ADVENTURES R US!!!) it was imperative that we meet up with J and her husband.

Now I am going to be completely blunt and honest, when my alarm went off at 6:30 this morning I did not like J & W at all! Not even a little bit, family or not, I am so not 20 anymore, a fact which my body was all too happy to remind me of this morning when I blearily opened one eye with a squint to see if Will loved me enough (despite his own exhaustion) to bring me coffee. I can honestly say that if there had not been coffee next to my bed I would have said the heck with it and closed my one eye back up tight and ignored the fact that my alarm was tapping out a staccato beat on my nightstand. Fortunately, or unfortunately (as my body keeps clearly reminding me despite the fact that I am feeding it a steady drip of caffeinated gold), there was coffee by my bedside and I dragged, I mean rolled, stumbled, and fell out of bed to begin this beautiful Tuesday!

J & W are lovely!! I had a wonderful evening with them in Venezia, we had dinner, introduced them to Prosecco, limoncello, Italian pizza, and gelato. Everything a person needs to survive in Italy. Oh, wait, we forgot the caprese salad and the Hugo’s. I guess they are going to have to figure those ones out on their own.

But let me backup for a quick minute. We live close to Venezia, and by close I mean an hour in the car or on a train provided there is no traffic. And as I am sure you know from other posts, or maybe reading, or maybe you are just smart, Venezia doesn’t have any cars on its islands. The trains and cars stop on the edge of the island, in the station or car parks respectively, and then all people must take water taxis, water buses, or their own two feet to get where they want to go. Another thing to note is that though Venezia’s square mileage (of the main islands) is not huge, it’s also not small. Think back to those picturesque canals and narrow streets, now you have to wind your way through and over or around. Google maps is so sweet about wanting to take you the quickest way to anywhere, sometimes that way is across the water. (FYI water buses are 20 euro for a day pass per person, doesn’t matter if you are taking one trip or ten.) So, after Google took us to a water bus stop (in the wrong direction) and then to San Marco square (I swear to you that’s not what we typed but Google, much like Apple, has a mind of its own) we finally made it to J & W’s hotel. (And only 30 minutes after we said we would be there). I tried to blame it on traffic, oh wait… yeah, no cars.

Did I mention the hot and sticky part? Yep, walked around in that “bowling for tourists” as my father puts it. (I am constantly amazed at how rude tourists can be, taking up the whole narrow street as they walk 3 or 4 abreast and even stopping in the middle of the walkway to decide where they are going or just to talk to each other. I mean seriously, other people are on vacation too *not us, of course, but other people, you know people we don’t know and our cousins too* )

So, now that I have made that short story long, we had a great evening and hope that J & W schedule another trip back and hang out with us a little more next time.

All of that happened last night and we did do a couple other things last week, nothing too exciting since it was hot, humid, and miserable. (Italy in the summer!!)

I learned how to run our elaborate sprinkler system, which requires an attachment to get the water to flow. We have well water in the back but without the sprinkler attachment we can’t water anything in the front without filling very large water containers.

My landlord only squirted water into my face twice while trying to show me how to use it. I thought that was an acceptable amount of times to be sprayed considering we can barely communicate outside of pantomime.

We also said goodbye to our 2000 Volkswagen Golf. It was no longer cost effective to fix it, so adios, the junkyard came and picked it up today. We didn’t go hiking due to a bad case of food poisoning from some olio picante, maybe this coming weekend. I began to harvest dried lavender buds, still not completely sure what I am doing with them.

Other than all that and our Monday night adventure with J & W it was a slow week. Until next week, which I fully expect to be even quieter than this week…

Ciao miei Amici

Asiago’s WWI Monument and Monte Zebio

Ciao,

Here it is, another week gone by and I could almost call it relaxing. I don’t think Will would necessarily agree and I am not sure I could or should ever go so far as to say relaxing and Karyn in the same sentence. A dozen things happening at once… squirrel… back to projects… that is really more my speed. Luckily, Will balances me out most of the time. It’s a good thing otherwise I might just explode one day from all the activity in my brain.

But I digress, this last weekend I got the idea to head up to Asiago and check out the World War I Memorial and then take a drive up to Monte Zebio. I didn’t quite know what I was getting us in to. Luckily, neither did Will or he might have had a different plan for the day. It was a good thing he didn’t because it was really neat.

We grabbed Will’s music friend “D” and headed up the very windy road to Asiago. (Yes, D, the one that plays guitars but is no longer allowed to pick the adventure plans! I am kidding, he finds some good adventures. No seriously, the whole Nove chicken thing came from him and now his wife if a proud owner of an anti-assassin chicken too!)

The road to Asiago has 14 hairpin turns and it is the one road that I see the most concentration and the least line crossing by Italians. (They are horribly distracted drivers). Once at the picturesque mountain town we hit up a cafe for dinner. It was overpriced (though Asiago is like a Telluride, and everything but cheese is over prices.) but the food was really good. I also got the idea for dinner tonight from the restaurant, chickpea burgers with thick slices of mozzarella on top, they should be tasty.

After lunch we headed to the World War I Memorial. It sits at the top of a hill (a short walk) overlooking the town. The hours are strictly kept and the area guarded and gated when not open. After reaching the top and walking around the outside (several different artillery weapons were set up outside) we headed inside. It was overwhelming, I had not known it was also a crypt and that the remains of over 50,000 Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers were interred there. The inside was quiet, a place of contemplation and reverence for those that had made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries. I was able to find five soldiers that I share a last name with (maiden not married), and after searching through rows of names and visiting the small museums displaying artifacts and pictures from the Great War we quietly left.

My next idea for the day was to drive up to Monte Zebio because I had read there were still remains of trenches up there. The distance between the two was less than 10 km (roughly 6 miles) but I had no idea what I was asking my poor little two wheel drive car (CHIPS for short) or Will to do. The road started out winding up what I will loosely called a paved track. The asphalt had caverns in it that could swallow half my car but it was still asphalt so paved it was. To say it actually got better when we hit the dirt is a small stretch but there was some improvement. Anyway after about 40 minutes of winding our way up this hill/mountain that really was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time we came to the bottom of the trenches of Monte Zebio. The area is owned or maintained by a rancher with a large herd of dairy cows, we had to do the cow patty jump and avoid all the way up the hill. Still their bells gave the mountaintop a riotous symphony that was scenically beautiful. When we made it part way up the grassy green, wild flower covered hill we took a left instead of a right and found a track of trenches that surprised us (actually the whole trench line of the hillside was surprisingly intact). Me, being me, ignored the wooden sign that read “Pericolo” (danger) and jumped right in to walk the trench line. Some places were dug out of solid rock, then that rock was used to fortify other areas, creating a trench line of sturdy rock that helped protect the inhabitants from attack.

In fact, the Italians held this ground for over 40 months. After viewing their fortifications it is something that can be easily believed. Though there was a devastating accident of landmines set off days too early by a lightning strike, killing over 120 soldiers the area was so well fortified that the Austria-Hungarian troops were forced to find another way into Italy through other mountain passes.

After climbing out of our first set of trenches (Will couldn’t resist the lure of traveling the trails for too long but D took the high ground as our guide) we move back to the right and found another complex set of trenches and fortifications that included tunnels and storage depots cut out of the rock.

We cut some of exploration short due to the time and some concerns about a storm heading across the mountain (2-wheel drive car, narrow dirt roads, just saying) and headed back down to the Vicenza valley with the intention of stopping at the best ever (in the Vicenza area) gelateria for some gelato. So yummy!!

Sunday was a yard work day for me and a guitar day for Will. I potted plants that had outgrown their current location and added a couple new plants, turmeric, mint, and shockingly another lavender plant, as well as some succulents. By the time I cleaned up it was hot and I was ready for a couple hours inside.

Then out of nowhere, bam, Monday happened, wth? Where does it come from? Monday is always sneaking in without any warning.

But here it is Tuesday and I am already planning a low key weekend to write about next week.

Until then

Ciao miei Amici

 

Nove, Venezia, and Caprino Veronese & Chickens, Gondola’s, and Italian 4’th of July

Ciao,

I did it again! Booked us beyond adventure full! Will and I have been so busy I am unsure of how to fit our lives into a blog. I mean, ya’all shouldn’t worry too much, next spring I go back to school and then my posts will become much more boring. So, I guess that means we should soak up all this craziness while we can!

I think I can (somewhat) safely say that we are in a lull until September, but I have thought that before and it has come back to bite me.

Let’s start with where we left off, for it certainly seems like our lives blend one week into another, never stopping.

Will’s high school friend (B) and her partner (M) came back to stay a couple of days. (I have to start identifying our friends by initials because we actually have a bunch of them. Seriously, how did that happen?) They had a whirlwind trip through Cinque Terre, Florence, and Sorrento before we picked them back up at the airport Monday night. In between good food and lots of drinks we managed to make it to Bassano del Grappa, Marostica, Venezia, and Nove to grab a ceramic chicken pitcher.

What?! you ask, why would anyone (apart from those who decorate with chickens) want a chicken pitcher. The short answer…so assassins don’t sneak in and kill you and your family.

Sounds confusing right? Who has to worry about assassins?

Well, apparently Giuliano Medici, though I am guessing thanks to their wealth most Medici’s had to keep a vigilant eye. The problem was that in 1478 Giuliano wasn’t as interested in keeping a vigilant eye as he was in throwing a lavish party. The Medici’s strongest rivals, the Pazzi’s used Giuliano’s playboy ways to their advantage and waited until he threw an epic party. So much wine was imbibed at this hoedown that everyone passed out drunk. The Pazzi’s knew this was the time to send in their assassins. Too bad they had hired themselves some discount assassins. The fools made so much noise sneaking up on the partiers that they roused the suspicions of every chicken in the courtyard. Now, anyone who has had chickens as pets, egg layers, or future stew knows that chickens are a bunch of busy bodies that can’t keep their mouth shut. (I mean, who hasn’t read the story of Chicken Little?) So, these suspicious chickens took to making a racket, like a bunch of old biddies woken from their slumber while they waited up with their shotgun for their daughter on prom night. The racket caused by the chickens was enough to wake the previously passed out guards. Giuliano’s guards were still better at their jobs drunk and hungover then the cheap assassins the Pazzi’s had hired and they killed all the would be killers’.

Giuliano’s was so pleased with the chickens that he threw another epic shindig. For this frolic he had the local artisans make wine pitchers that looked like chickens. He then handed them out to the local populace stating that the chickens were a sign of good luck when warding off assassins. I notice none of the credit was given to the guards, that still managed to save Giuliano’s butt while still intoxicated. It was probably this exact lack of favor shown to the guards that allowed the Pazzi’s to make good on their assassination attempt in April of 1478. Nowadays, chicken pitchers are given to friends and family to ward of danger and trespassers. (FYI there are some major problems with the story as a whole, because of the timeline and the city where this was all purported to have taken place no longer existing, but all in all in makes a charming reason to buy a pitcher that looks like a chicken.)

Chicken pitchers purchased we also took our M & B to Bassano del Grappa and Marostica but I told you about those places last week so I will skim ahead to the next day (which happened to be July 4th). The four of us went to Venezia (Venice) for the day. We started the whole day with a gondola ride. All four of us were gondola newbies, so it was a new adventure for all. Our guide, Cristiano, explained all about the history and construction of Venezia. I learned some really neat things about how to date the age of the buildings and how some canal passages are only accessible at low tide. It was a fun tour.

We spent the rest of the day milling around, looking for masks (it is what Venice is known for), eating and drinking (I don’t know if my liver will ever recover from their visit but I plan to flush it with good old fashion water for the next month or so just to be safe). We ended the evening  back at our place on the front patio eating typical Italian fare. Mozzarella, tomatoes, salami, fresh bread, olives, and more wine. We said a fond farewell to our friends Thursday, and prepared for the weekend.

Another set of friends (E & W) were hosting a Fourth of July party Italian style. What does that mean you might ask? It means BBQ with copious amounts of Prosecco, guitars played by locals (and Will) featuring music we knew and music we didn’t. Tongue twisters in two different languages, lots of laughter, more food, dessert, food, and did I mention Prosecco. (I’ll tell you a secret, I just kept filling my wine glass up with water so I didn’t have to worry about anyone adding Prosecco to it). There were only about 7 of us that spoke English, we were definitely outnumbered by the Italian speakers (who mostly only spoke Italian) but we made it all work and had a wonderful time.

We stayed the night in a charming b&b with a gorgeous view of a church on hill. Our hostess served us breakfast that included her husbands first place winning salami. Now, you all know how I feel about salami but I must have eaten close to a dozen slices of this homemade wonder. After breakfast we headed back down the hill to W & E’s place and then went on a hike with them through the woods close to their place.

 

There was an art in the woods event where local artists (I am assuming local) have created displays for one to happen upon as they hike along. Some we liked, some we didn’t but overall, it was really a neat display.

Finally we headed back home to try and get some sleep to mentally prepare for the coming work week. Honestly, I don’t know how Will balances the adventures I keep dragging him on with being so good at his job but he does manage and for that I am grateful.

It’s thanks to him that we get to have these wonderful adventures!

This week promises to be a little quieter (I think/hope) as I try and figure out how to harvest lavender seeds and try and decide on what kind of composter I want to build. Not as exciting as Italian Fourth of July but I do need some recovery time before our next guests arrive!

Until next week

Ciao miei Amici

48 Hours Part 2 – Where did the Week GO?

Ciao,

This week and weekend went by in a flash, like zip, smack, blam, oh heck it’s Monday morning already?!

I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that this week was going to end up being pretty mellow and I would get to tell you all about my last Sunday’s trip to Maristoca and Bassano del Grappa. And I will give you the highlights but dang, it is getting crazy up in Italy for the summer. I am going to need a summer to recover from my summer if we don’t slow down soon. (Hopefully, that will happen in another two or three weeks and then I can catch a breather before we have friends and family start showing up for the fall).

When I left you last week we had just experienced our first Italian block party and we had a good time. Sunday we grabbed another one of our friends and headed towards Marostica and Bassano del Grappa.

Both cities (maybe they are too small to be called cities…villages isn’t right because they are too big for that, I am going to settle on towns) are within 30 minutes of us. Marostica is known for its living Chess Match, which takes place every other year in September. Yep, I said living! People dress up as the king, queen, bishops, pawns and knights etc. and then are moved around a giant chessboard in the town square. And yes, we already have tickets. Marostica is also known for its cherries. Soooo tasty! We climbed up to the top of the Superior Castle. Ruins where they have a B&B, a restaurant, and I am guessing a venue for weddings. It was a hot and fairly steep grade climb but well worth it. (I managed to hike it in my sandals, if I can so can you). The views were spectacular. After a drink at the top and a hike down (some in our group called it easier but they weren’t wearing sandals) we found a place for some pizza before heading towards Bassano del Grappa.

I am guessing by the name alone you can guess what Bassano del Grappa is known for. That’s right!! Grappa! Many different varieties and flavors. Yeah, I know I don’t like grappa but I still like the idea of experiencing the history of it. Now, speaking of history, the Romans settled in the Bassano area around the 2nd century BC but artifacts that have been found in the town place inhabitants in the area as early as 7th century BC and some suggest people had settled here even earlier than that. The town was originally just called Bassano Veneto named after a 2nd century Roman called Bassianus. Obviously over many centuries it became identified as Bassano Veneto, part of the original name from Bassianus and then Veneto as the region it was located in. In World War I there was a terrible battle on Mount Grappa where thousands of soldiers lost their lives. In tribute to these brave men the name of Bassano Veneto was changed to its present name, Bassano del Grappa in 1928. The symbol of the town is a wooden bridge the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) (yes, there are many old bridges in Italy) or Ponte degli Alpini (Bridge of the Alpini). The Alpini are an elite force of soldiers that are known for their mountain fighting. The bridge was designed in 1569 by Andrea Palladio (the same man responsible for designing the majority of historical structures in Vicenza).

Our friends from Florida showed up Wednesday morning and we spent the day with them before turning them loose at the train station to make their way around Italy. (We pick them up tonight and I am sure there will be some shenanigans over the next three days).

Friday night we accidentally ended up in a Street Fest downtown Vicenza. How do you accidentally end up in a street fest you ask? Mostly because we didn’t know it was happening until we got down there and then tried to look for a restaurant for an hour and a half. After tentative plans to meet friends down there (they had a friend visiting from Germany) we realized there was a lot of music and people (A LOT of people). We finally managed to find food and then I saw a little girl with a balloon that had lights on it. (I have a penchant for balloons). (I know they are bad for the environment but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them). Well, these balloons were plastic not latex so they will be easy to recycle and the string was fairy lights. Will loves me (I mean he loves me anyway but he also indulges my silliness) and for the very large grin he received happily purchased me a balloon with fairy lights. BEST STREET FAIR PRIZE EVER!!!

The next night we went to dinner with the friend we took to Marostica, because he also had a friend in from Germany (not the same German friend, in fact an American friend teaching in Germany visiting friends in Italy) (Yeah, keep all that straight, I barely can)

On the way out of his apartment he accidentally left the keys in the lock inside the door. Locking yourself out of your house actually happens a lot in Europe. I have done it twice, I know Will has done it at least once (but I left a window open that time). The problem this time was the keys still in the lock, so even though he had a spare set it didn’t do him any good at 10:00 at night. Our friend and his friend became our first overnight guests. Ha! The best laid plans and all that jazz. But I had clean sheets for everybody and that was the important part (and new toothbrushes which I think earns me extra brownie points). Seriously, a couple of errands, a nap, some dinner and early bedtime where did my weekend go?

Several loads of laundry and a quick house pickup, floor sweeping madness later, I am ready for the next guests and some more adventures. Oh! Oh! Oh! We also have another party to go to this coming Saturday an Italian Fourth of July party (don’t try and figure that one out, you will just hurt your brain) Italians don’t need an excuse for a party but they will use every one they can. I can’t wait to tell you about this coming week. It’s going to be awesome.

Till then,

Ciao miei Amici

A quick note… this handsome little devil turned 6 months!!! Oh my goodness so much cuteness. I can’t wait until his Mama and Dad bring him for a visit in September! Love my nipote (grandson)!

48 Hours – Part 1

Ciao Amici

Sooo much happened this weekend. I am still not sure how we fit it all into 48 hours. It was a whirlwind (a good whirlwind) and I am pretty sure that we started the week more tired than we ended last week. In fact, I will leave the telling of Sunday until next week just because I could go on and on!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit I didn’t finish my basket. It is sitting in my kitchen taunting me. I will finish it soon, hopefully this week but we do have some friends coming into town on Wednesday from the States and even though we are only picking them up, having lunch, and dropping them off, Wednesday is a no go. Monday and Tuesday I have to run some errands, clean, and organize the house (you know all the things I didn’t do this weekend) And lot’s not forget about this important blog post I must get out. Excuses? Maybe but Thursday is looking pretty positive for basket endeavors right now.

On Friday I learned that one of Will’s friends wanted to check out a music store he had heard about so we made plans to do that Saturday around 11. Now we had a block party Italian/American style (more Italian style) Saturday night but I was contributing two (yeah, count them 2) Texas chocolate sheet cakes and I needed to make those up before we went Saturday. I dragged my butt out of bed at the crack of dawn wiping the sleep crumbles from my eyes and bemoaning my husbands innocently sleeping form as I forced myself down the stairs and wearily made coffee to fortify my poor soul for the mixing and baking I was about to embark on.

Ha! As if I would ever do that.

  1. Will loves me and brings me coffee in bed about 99.99% of the time. If I could teach Jake (the cat) to make coffee I would never make my own morning beverages.
  2. Texas Chocolate Cake is the easiest sheet cake known to man for making a quick and sinfully over-sweet cake that you need to whip up at the spur of the moment.

Since I whipped these bad boys up in about an hour (baking time included) give or take a huge fight with clumping powdered sugar I had plenty of time to go with Will.

On my great sufferance (haha, as if I wouldn’t go on an a new adventure) I let the guys drag me down town so they could check out this music store. D-Music is a smaller shop than MezzaNota but just as jammed full of instruments and musically inclined stuff, as if in Italy they take every spare space they have and then add a couple more items so it looks a little like a music hoarders paradise with a little bit of sanity thrown in just to confuse wary shoppers.

I love finding things I haven’t seen before and I am sure that there are plenty of things a person who regularly visit music stores know about that I don’t but I loved the gold and purple metallic drum sticks, the 12 different kind of kazoos, a lavender colored guitar, plastic lips that do something for your drums and my favorite… MORE COWBELLS!! Who would of thought (don’t poke fun at my excitement music people) that they would create a drum pedal just to play the cowbell. Will Ferrell had to be so sad when someone invented this. He became obsolete (if you don’t know what I am talking about check out this Saturday Night Live skit https://vimeo.com/126322279)

After D-Music we headed downtown Vicenza (for real this time) and grabbed some BamBurger! Hamburgers are such an American staple that it might be hard to believe how hard it is to get a good burger over here in Europe. In my ranking of European burgers I will have to claim the Boozy Cow in Edinburgh, Scotland still takes the prize, besides delicious burgers the atmosphere and music were awesome.

The Laughing Cow in Heidelberg, Germany is a nice second, located on the Haupstrausse downtown they let you build your own burger. At the moment Bamburger comes in third they grill a decent burger and even though Europeans don’t understand the concept of bacon I won’t hold that against them (plus it is fairly close to where we live, unlike the other two). Just don’t order their version of a nacho chips (chips covered in cornmeal and fried with no flavor and minus anything resembling salsa, but I digress).

After food the only logical thing to do in Italy is find some gelato and maybe have a drink. We did both, finding a gelateria with fresh peach (pesca not pesce). Sorry, inside joke, since peach (pesca) and fish (pesce) are very close in spelling. After wandering about a third of the block with our gelato we spotted a bar. This is not hard to do in Italy and it should be noted that most bars start the day with coffee and end the day with drinks (wine cocktails, etc) In fact if you see the word bar (and every neighborhood has at least one) think about the locals heading their in the morning on their way to work or during a work break for their morning coffee. Usually an espresso served standing up, at the bar. I know of three bar’s in our neighborhood area though I will confess I haven’t been to any of them (Will brings me coffee, remember). But our friend wanted an aperitif called a Hugo not coffee so we sat down and order up. Well, two of us ordered Hugo’s, Will ordered his usual Aperol Spritz. Which is another aperitif with orange bitters that I think tastes like Robitussin but hey, I only judge him a little. Hugo’s on the other hand taste like a mojito made with white wine. I like them.

The afternoon heading to a close we headed home, mowed the lawn, showered and headed out for the bloc party. This block part was at another set of our friends (yes, we really have more than one friend over here). Their neighborhood apparently throws a block party at least once a year. This one was all about pizza. There were other Americans there and a bunch of Italians and you could tell who could converse in more than one language and who couldn’t as we grouped ourselves by the ability to communicate. But the pizza and other food was plentiful and the kids as well as the adults were very lively. Conversation flowed and our friends, who can speak more than one language, sat near us but many of their neighbors visited with them so we were exposed to many different conversations. And then the time came for alcohol besides beer and wine to make an appearance (remember in my post about what a bad Italian I am that I don’t like grappa, I mean not at all) so no grappa, but they tried to get me to drink saké and then some Slivowitz (some kind of plum brandy). The saké burned my nose just by smelling it but the Slivowitz was not much better. I know will just say I don’t like liquor, I don’t like drinking anything that feels like a remedy for nose hair removal just by smelling it, yuck! But others do, again, only slightly judging!

Then the host of the block party brought out paper lanterns. The kind that they light and the hot air fills the paper and they soar away. The kids loved it and I admit it was magically beautiful. I had no idea that you could even buy them just for personal use but I was glad that he had done so. We left and headed home to get ready for Sunday’s adventures. Maristoca and Bassano del Grappa. I will tell you more about that next week, with another small adventure thrown in. I want to give you a tiny bit of history about the towns and area and my daughter dislikes it when my blog posts are super long and this one is pushing the limits of her available reading time. So until next week and next adventure

Ciao miei Amici

 

Baskets and Stuff

Ciao Amici,

I am not sure where the weeks go, I think I am going to get so much done and then the next thing I know the week is over and I haven’t done half of what I thought I was going to. It is maddening; and the crazy part is that we didn’t have any adventures planned this last weekend so it should have lasted longer but, alas, it did not and here it is time to write about my adventures, or lack of them, again.

Did I ever tell you my mother weaves baskets? She has been weaving them for around 25 years. Not just any baskets but beautiful baskets. She has a wonderful teacher in Colorado; where she lives. She and some of her close friends spend many an afternoon making these fantastic beauties.

She has gifted many people with her creations over the years. I jealously guard, carefully pack and unpack, and move my baskets, handcrafted by my mother, from house to house and country to country.

To me baskets are like unique bowls, I love to collect them and fill them with… well if we are talking about bowls then I usually put rocks and shells in them.

Baskets might not get anything in them but I still love them if my mom makes them.

So, I don’t have the experience that my mom does but I tried my hand this week at weaving a basket. A very, very tall shopping basket. 

 

 

I haven’t finished yet but it is coming along.

 It is definitely lopsided but hey, I am 5,000 miles away from my master basket weavers and did the best I could. Just so you know, I am not displeased with my results. Not sure where I will put it but that’s a problem for another day.

I told you we didn’t go anywhere this weekend, which is sort of true, I mean we didn’t spend the whole weekend on the couch bemoaning the lack of a gelato delivery service in Italy. (Which would be awesome, just saying. I mean if you could get a person on a moped scooting around from place to place bringing you gelato…YUM… It would be like an ice cream truck but without the creepy music and over frozen treats).

So, no gelato on the couch but we did go out Friday night to the Taj Mahal, a pretty decent Indian restaurant in Vicenza. They forgot the spices this time so my mango chicken was more sweet than spicy but friends and camaraderie can make up for a lot of spice. The gelato place we hit later wasn’t too bad either. (I had fresh peach and mango) Not as good as the place we went on Sunday but I already knew that place was the superioriest! Sunday I had almond gelato with candied oranges, cherry puree and slivers of chocolate, it was divine.

But back to the time between Friday night and Sunday afternoon gelato. On Saturday, I decided we needed to move some furniture around and get ready for guests that will begin to arrive next week. We ran to the local Home Depot (except in Italy it is called Brico) and bought paint. Our master bedroom came with some uniquely painted walls. I tend to think of the kitchen and living room with their yellow, gold, and coral/orange walls as being fairly mediterranean I have never been quite down with the light blue circles with gold around them like halo’s. I definitely wasn’t about to sleep with one at my head like I was some sort of sleeping angel. That would be awkward and weird. Since we were rearranging our bedroom we painted that wall, or at least where the sleeping halo was. It is always a fun experience to try and conquer what should be an easy task made harder by a foreign language. Not that we really had any problem picking out paint, we even managed to get matte, and yes, it was white. However, there is always this feeling when standing in an aisle covered in your desired product but surrounded by a foreign language (or as they call it here, Italian) that makes your heart thump a little harder and maybe a small bead of sweat break out on your forehead. You know what I am trying to say? Like even after you have done all the translations and you know you picked up white paint you might open it up and find it to be violet. Or even though you think you bought a tomato you get it home and find out it was really an eggplant all the time. Weirder things could happen here but usually the heart pounding brow sweating is just a side effect and nothing is wrong. We did good and Will painted me a nice white wall that I was able to sleep next to Saturday night. Sunday was about Chinese all you can eat (but much better than a buffet because they make everything fresh), guitar lessons with Will’s friend and as I said earlier we topped it all off with a nice gelato.

Nothing too exciting but as I have said before, not every week can be about exotic adventures, some weeks have to be about covering the sleeping halo with white paint and eating Chinese food.

Till next week (I will do my best to finish my basket)

Ciao miei Amici

Old Friends, New Friends and a Trip to the Past

Ciao Amici!

Allora, (basically, well then, in Italian) it has been two weeks since the return from our hiking trip and Scotland and I really miss the cooler weather. With the temperatures jumping up to the 90’s (32 c) and the humidity staying strong at a soul crushing 70% I could use a cool ocean breeze. I have decided to cook only with slow cooker or electric pot with minimal use of the stove top and absolutely no oven. My oven may not get used for months in these temperatures.

So with the heat upon us I decided it was a good time to teach my Italian friend how easy it is to make tacos and guacamole (at her house, of course). Tacos, guacamole and too much wine. The argument could be made by some that there is no such thing as too much wine but I personally would have to disagree. I like my summer wine cool and refreshing without the added effects of a headache the next day. One of our friends does not believe in empty glasses, so while I cooked he made sure I had plenty of wine until I reminded him that I needed to drive home too. He then turned his attention to Will, this is the result…

Not his usual ride but he rode it with a certain panache.

The next day, a slightly headachy Will and I took off towards the mountains of Lake Garda. We made a quick stop in Verona for cheese.

Yes, cheese.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we discussed how aghast my father was about what a bad Italian I am? Well, he is such a good Italian that he and his wife have already eaten the 20 pounds (9 kilos), yep, I said 20, of cheese that they brought home with them last year from Italy. Apparently it was a cheese emergency, they were down to their last 400 grams and so I had to find a specific brand of parmigiano reggiano to send to them. Yesterday, I sent them 10 pounds to hold them over. Honestly, that’s the most cheese I have ever bought at one time in my life. Thank all the gods for self checkout so I didn’t have to try and explain my father’s cheese emergency in my terrible Italian to a confused checkout clerk.

After procuring the cheese we drove on up to Caprino Veronese and met some newer friends. The town is a smaller community and everyone seems to know each other. There is less English there and Will and I stumbled through the spattering of Italian words that we know. Our friends, showed us the house they have bought, it is a 400 year old pasture house surrounded by forest and pastures of sheep. It is a beautiful old building, which they will be doing some small renovations too, I would love to live there. Up on the hillside surrounded by nature. Though I would probably have to downsize my home again. We ate lunch with them, tomatoes and mozzarella, hard cheeses and nuts, grissini (breadsticks), crackers and fruit. It was a wonderful repast and very typical for Italy in the heat. Plus I do love me some tomatoes with some mozzarella on them. I don’t keep them in the house because I could honestly eat a mozzarella ball a day and that isn’t good for anyone’s waistline.

We drove up even further into the mountains to Mt. Baldo and looked at some WWI trenches and talked about some hikes and bike rides that we might do in the future. It would be nice to hike up in the hills and get out of the heat down here.

After exploring some of the area we headed towards Affi and the walled area of their Old City where there was a medieval festival happening.

Now, I have been to several kinds of medieval fests in several states and a couple of countries and each one has something different to offer you. If you want a party and good time I recommend the one in Maryland. Libations, singing, entertainment of various natures as well as scantily clad bosoms abound in this area (I may have participated in one or more of these areas when I lived there). In Arizona they had great villages set up but the Arizona fest seemed more geared to the children then the adults. (The exact opposite of the Maryland fest). Less music and entertainment over all.

When we moved to Germany we found that during the late spring, summer and early fall months you could (depending on how far you were willing to drive) got to a renaissance or medieval fest almost every weekend. We had a wonderful time exploring different towns and taking in the different levels of their commitment to re-creating a medieval or renaissance atmosphere. One of our favorites, Burg Lichtenberg, was great because they not only did the summer fest but also a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in the medieval style also.

A new fest every weekend is one of the things I miss about Germany. That’s not to say Italy doesn’t have their festivals, they do, but they are not necessarily centered around the renaissance or medieval period.

The one in Affi was more of a reenactment of life for normal people (You know, not nobility, because no matter how much some people would like to believe that everyone had a cushy rich life with servants in the renaissance some people had to be poor, really the majority of them. Cushy lives were not the norm).

So, what I didn’t like was that they had very few food vendors for snacking. They had a set eating time (7 pm) and if you were hungry before then you were mostly out of luck. The other issues was the only drinks seemed to be beer or wine. Kids (and those people that didn’t want alcohol) apparently just had to suffer until dinner time. There also didn’t seem to be very much for sale. I have found in other fests that artisan wares are plentiful but in this one it seemed harder to determine if something was for sale.

What I loved was the people dressed in hand sewn costumes, some with beads and buttons they had made from pouring metal into a mold. I loved the fact that many of them were working their crafts while we watched. They were also willing to explain their crafts to onlookers. Many of them spoke English but for those who didn’t they spoke slowly and gestured to what they were doing, plus we had several people with us that spoke both Italian and English.

My favorite? Whew, that is a tough question.

I liked the man that was making string instruments by hand (carving the wood for the neck of, well some kind of instrument) I really liked learning how they made paper from old rags of cotton or linen, that was then pulverized, mixed with water and then gathered on a wire mesh to dry. I enjoyed the companionship of the washer women as they beat the long sheets against the water before ringing them out. The man who designed leather cases for everything from glasses, to cups, to combs was neat as he walked us through the process of making a wooden mold and then stitching the leather before dying and tooling it. Then there was a woman who was re-creating buttons and jewelry. She explained making molds out of squid bone or soapstone and the process of melting down the metals and finishing them.

Everyone was interesting and it was another of example of how I can’t wait until I understand the language better so that I can learn more.

After a while we decided we were too hungry to wait for 7 pm dinner and took the short drive back to Caprino Veronese to the Pizzeria Olympia for a pizza and beer.

It was a great adventure all the way around.

We have nothing too exciting planned for the next week as we begin to get ready for the hordes of visitors we are hosting this fall but I am sure I will come up with some story to tell you

Until then

Ciao miei Amici

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