A New Year and Too Much Stuff Happening

Ciao a Tutti,

Oh my goodness, so much going on. The holidays exploded all over my best-laid plans and took me on a roller coaster ride of fun, family, laughter, and love. (and a little flu but, hey, you gotta take the bad with the good.)

I am not complaining but just a little saddened that my time with my blog friends is going to be changing. Of course, I am also happy because I think in the long run the changes will all be for the better. Let me tell you about my plans for the future of Karyn’s Corner before I tell you about the last month.

I am trying to get a better handle on how social media works so I am able to utilize it in my blogging, Instagram, and various other media outlets. To that end, I will be releasing only one blog per month and working to release 

more Instagram posts. (If you don’t follow me on Instagram now is the time to jump on that bandwagon – you can find me @ karyns_corner) 

I know some of you keep up with the crazy life that Will and I have by the blog but I encourage you to check out the Instagram feed and also ‘like’ my ‘Karyns Corner’ page on facebook. And please, please, please be a little patient with me as I work to get this whole social media shebang up and running. January and February might be a little bumpy with school starting but I am hoping to have a handle on my posting by March. (Fingers crossed, I think the learning curve might be a little steep.)

So, what have I been up to the last month?

Probably the same as many of you, holidays, too much food, a little too much wine, not enough gelato (apparently 32 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold even for my love of gelato). Family, fun, laughter, oh and did I mention my parents came to stay with Will and me for a month.

First, let me say that even though I love my parents and my parents love me (and Will too) 28 days away from your own environment might be too long to endure. It’s a weird feeling when you are still semi-living out of a suitcase and don’t really have your own things or your own routine. That being said we had a really good time. Minus the fact that my mom brought us the flu and Will had to endure being dragged all over northern Italy sick. Thank goodness for farmacia’s (The Italian version of a pharmacy but better in many ways).

So a quick review of the last month and then please check out my Facebook page and Instagram for some more information and photos.

We started with a week in Firenze (Florence). My parents loved the old streets as much as I do. We visited the Gelateria Castellina, as many of you know I judge all other gelaterias by this spectacular gelato. It is about 30-40 minutes outside of Firenze, up in the hills, but so worth every minute for the taste of this gelato is amazing. Okay, so I could wax poetic about Gelateria Castellina for days but for the sake of word count let me move on.

The Firenze Duomo was as awe-inspiring as the first time I saw it. (Though I admit this is not my best photograph.) It will always bring mist to my eyes when I view it after an absence. I read a great book on the construction of the Dome and if anyone is interested I would highly recommend Ross Kings’s Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. Though we did not climb the Dome this trip it is back on my ‘To Do Again’ list so I can look for some of Brunelleschi’s architecture in action. Will pointed out to my parents the safest spot in Firenze. There is a circle of marble on the ground commemorating the night of January 27, 1601, when the golden ball on top of the cupola was hit by lighting, detached, rolled down the dome and fell to hit the exact spot that the circle of marble now marks. Now, if you believe that lightning never strikes twice you know the safest spot in Firenze.

The holiday lights all over Firenze were ablaze and many of the shop windows were decorated in fun displays. We took a food tour with a group called ‘With Locals’ and our guide Christy was a great source of tasty information.

Will and I were also able to experience the Odeon Theater, a local old fashioned theater that plays the newest, hottest movies out – in the language they were filmed in- we saw Bohemian Rhapsody and I was very grateful to be able to see it in a giant theater, sitting in a plush golden chair.

Also, Firenze seems to have an agreement with Heidelberg, Germany and the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) was down in the Santa Croce Piazza. We like a good Weihnachtsmarkt and enjoyed the sights and smells of a mini German market.

Oh, and before we leave Firenze I need to do a quick shout out to one of our favorite restaurants in town Rooster Cafe on Via Porta Rossa. The food, the atmosphere, and the service are outstanding. Plus they have a house wine to die for. If you are in Firenze, even just for a night hit up Rooster Cafe for some tasty food.

After we came home to Vicenza we spent the days leading up to Christmas in a baking frenzy, fattigman, crispels, thumbprints, jammies, molasses spice, and chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies all made their appearance at our house.

Christmas came and went with a nice meal, presents from family near and far and a lot of love.

 

The day after Christmas we went to Venezia (Venice) to see the Moscow Ballet perform Swan Lake. It was magical, it took place in Teatro Goldoni, a theater built in 1622. Small but beautiful and pretty comfortable seats. Then it was a couple of days to prepare for a weekend in Milan.

 

Milan was hosting a Caravaggio exhibit in multimedia,

it was the story of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s life. He died in July of 1610 at age 38; he was a huge loss to the artistic community but his importance was lost and only rediscovered in the last century. The exhibit was amazing, audio and video while sitting in a room with large screens on three sides, immersing you in the life of Caravaggio. It was very, very well done. I may be a little biased since I am a huge Caravaggio fan but preferences are how things gain importance in our lives, so there you have it.

While in Milan my parents went to see The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, another painting worth seeing. (If you remember Will and I went to see it in October.) Then we all took a tour of the Casa degli Atellani where Leonardo’s personal vineyard was. It is an interesting house that has long times to the city and the Sforza family.

On our way home from Milan we stopped in Verona to take a tour of the Arena, get some gelato (of course) and my parents also went on a tour of nativities from all over the world.

Home once more we took a trip to Murano to see glass blowing in action, we also took a quick trip to Asiago to check outFort Corbin from World War I. Then back to Venice for another Leonardo Museum a quick view of San Marco Piazza and some shopping to round out my parents trip.

It was a long but delightful month and I am always happy when my family can visit me and I can share some of my life with them.

Now that the visit is over and school is about to start my life is going to undergo some shifts. There will still be adventures but probably more spread out and because of that and my commitment to school, I will, as I said earlier, be writing only once a month. But I am hoping to supplement that with my Instagram and Facebook. It’s going to be a great year and I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Ciao miei amici

 

Adhesive Ducks, Decorating, and the Pretzel Quest

Ciao,

Any Big Bang Theory fans in this group? If not, you should give it a try, honestly the episodes are under a half hour and great for a quick break from homework or work. Unless you are a binge watcher but that’s your problem. So anyway, one of my favorite episodes is called ‘The Adhesive Duck Deficiency’. In the episode *spoiler alert* (3rd season, 8th episode) Penny falls in the shower and dislocates her shoulder. She must ask Sheldon for help to get her to the hospital. He informs her that she should get some adhesive strips for the bottom of her tub so she won’t slip, that he has added whimsical ducks to his tub and so on it goes.

Well, I had my own Adhesive Duck Deficiency today while I was trying to shave. FYI I am fine, no need to make an emergency room trip.

Now, I have been complaining to Will that the shower is too slippery and I need to get some kind of bath mat in the shower, and I would dearly love to blame him for this but since I have the car as often as he does (sometimes more) the fact that there is no bath mat in our shower is really only my fault. Humiliating to realize that, to quote Sheldon, “…it seems rather ironic that for want of 99 cent adhesive ducks we both might die in a fiery car crash.” Or in my case have a perfect four lined imprint of my shaving razor on the side of my chest. Yeah, seriously not kidding about that, oh and I apparently triggered the shower pull (an alarm in European showers that is on a pull rope that sets off a buzzer to summon help) not that anyone was available to come to my aid if I had really needed help. To add insult to injury as I was getting dressed with my gauze taped chest I slipped on a slick spot on our hardwood floor (too much pledge to clean with yesterday) and… yep you guessed it. My butt hit floor for the second time in less than a half hour. Not quite sure why the universe has it out for me today but I had to get my whining out of the way before I could actually write about my holiday (or momentarily lacking) spirit.

I told you that in my family we have an ornament tradition, well this was really the first time that Will actually got to see my ornament collection. I know, it’s crazy but we haven’t had a real tree, or our own tree since we got together. I really missed the excitement of unwrapping each ornament and trying to remember the year I received it. It’s not that easy, you might remember the feeling you had unwrapping it or maybe how you had hung it on this tree or that one but other than the ones that have a date already on them or the one I know is my first ornament I am mostly at a loss. The moral of this tale is that if you give an ornament as a gift consider putting a year (and potentially where it was bought or its significance) on the ornament in an obscure area so that the recipient can savor the memory even more.

But back to decorating the tree, I had a great time telling Will what I remembered about each ornament and he shared the history of the ornaments he had acquired. I can say our tree is very unique and I love it that way.

I took pictures of the reindeer and trees decorated but I admit the trees look all shiny when their lights come on at night.

The tree is up and the house is decorated. I have put lights and garland on the balcony, and festooned my reindeer and trees outside.

The house is even clean, now I am just two short days away from my parents arriving for a month! Yep, I am pretty excited about that!

So with the house ready for Christmas, I am just waiting for my mom to show up so we can do some holiday cookie baking.

First we are going to spend a week in Firenze (Florence) and while we are there we are going to have dinner with my dad and step-mom. Crazy to have all my parents together in one city on the other side of the pond but I am looking forward to it.

But after Firenze it is back to slave over a hot stove for a couple of days, just kidding there will only be a little slaving and lots of goodies. I will probably even make a batch of croissants and try my pretzel luck again.

Pretzels have been my newest obsession since we came back from Austria. It is so hard, no let’s say impossible, to find pretzels in Italy.

Pretzels are not as easy as one would think, I have tried several recipes and I have found the same lack of outer chewy crust while keeping the inner pretzel dough soft. They just go soft, like mushy soft, not even a good roll crust.

After additional research I have learned that to make pretzels you need to dip them in a solution of water and food grade lye.

Yes, you read that correctly. Food grade lye!

I didn’t know that lye could be found in a food grade, I just assumed it was for making soap and burning peoples skin and intestines if ingested.

Like many other strange inventions I would have loved to know who the first person to make this discovery was and why, for all that is holy, did they decide to dip their bread in a dangerous chemical.

Plus how many people did they have to feed it to before they realized that they had to neutralize the lye. I am, of course, speculating, pretzels probably have a fascinating history; history about lye, that is, the history of pretzels as they exist in shape and soft versus hard and all that pretzely stuff is easy to find.

Back to lye, it is not easy to obtain, you can’t ship it from the States and I don’t know if I dare try and find it over here because I want to make sure I understand all the directions. (My language skills have progressed nicely but not to the point where I feel confident about not poisoning Will and I by Pretzel digestion) Plus the rumor is that baking the bread neutralizes the lye but should I chance it? Yikes! Maybe not, at least not if I am reading the directions in Italian.

After much research by Will and I we have learned that we can bake the baking soda and make it more lye-like. So that will be my goal for the holidays, to make pretzely-pretzels and other tasty goodies.

I might even take pictures of everything… because let’s be honest, I wasn’t so on the ball this last week!

Until then Ciao miei Amici

Life, it’s what gets in the way when you are trying to adventure!

Ciao

Sometimes the biggest adventure lies in just living. I don’t mean the highs and lows; though I know we all have plenty of those. I am talking about the drudgery of life; the house cleaning, meal preparing, laundry hanging, getting up and going to work, then doing it all again for all the days and weeks of your life.

In the spirit of that idea, guess what I did this last week or so?  – and because I always have a Honey-Do list Will was honor bound to join me.

Is my house cleaner? Not really, it is a house, we come and go, we have cats and shoes and a life, hence it is still dirty (always dirty) No, not dirty, lived in.

Laundry is a never ending battle between deciding to go pantless and deciding that I can hang out one more load of laundry today (but only if I don’t have to fold it until the morning).

And let’s be honest Will is awesome for doing the daily grind (it doesn’t matter if you like your job, some days it still means getting out of bed and putting pants on).

Meals are a weird paradox for me. I like food, the very fact that I have to spend so much time riding my bike is a testament to my enjoyment of food. I also like to cook and bake, new ideas, new recipes, a well kept secret is that even though I might make the same food more than once (lasagna, meatloaf, beef stroganoff, etc.) I almost never use the same recipe. Sometimes I think “oh remember that one time I made such and such, it was so good. What recipe was that?” The likelihood of me remembering which recipe I used, let alone finding it again are slim to none.

Baking is a similar problem though I do tend to follow the recipes much more accurately than when I cook. When you cook it is a moment to experiment, to wonder if you should add dill or rosemary and what will that do to the flavor. Was that too much pepper? Should I have added lime juice to the meat when I was tenderizing it? The questions are endless.

Try asking those same questions when baking and you end up with cardboard flavored cake and bread that you can use as a doorstop.

Long story short, cooking/baking is fun but not when I ‘have’ to do it. Too bad we still have to eat and I can’t hire a cook for the days when I don’t feel inspiration strike.

We actually had two good meals (that I didn’t cook) this weekend, one was at Trattoria Cortese. They specialize in less regionally common meat, such as kangaroo or bison steak (not a lot of either of those animals running around northern Italy).

 

Saturday night Will and I wandered downtown and grabbed an aperitif, did a little shopping, had a lovely meal at a restaurant in the plaza, then finished it off with some gelato. We did all that and still managed to be home before the hoards of Italians hit the evening for their dinner and drinks. (Italians eat late!)

This week I am helping my neighbor’s daughter get ready for an English grammar test and getting ready for September, which will be a guest laden month. (Really excited to see everyone that is coming).

And I am trying to survive the last weeks of summer. It is so hot here I am considering grilling all my food on the front walkway.

My life this next week or so is going to be more of the same, not terribly exciting but an adventure because it is life and that is the best adventure.

I know the fall is coming and I am not sure I will be able to keep up with all the blog worthy events that are upcoming.

So until September takes us all by storm (and hopefully some cooler weather) I will leave you all to enjoy your last days of summer. Talk to you in a couple of weeks!

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

Even small adventures make for a great week!

Ciao Amici,

Week two of writing on the blog, crazy I know, but I have a plan. A schedule even, colored coded and indexed on Google drive worksheets and it tells me today is blog day… so here I am ready to tell you all about our adventures over the last week.

Last week was a culmination of Easter weekend and April Fool’s Day. In Italy it means a four day weekend for most folks and you better believe that there will be no stores of any kind open on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday. ( I was told Sunday is for family and Monday is for friends). Ours was a quiet holiday but our neighbors had a houseful most of the weekend.

I did attempt my first tiramisu from scratch, ladyfingers and all, but first let me tell you about our Friday adventure.

On our way to the local grocery store two polizia waved red paddles at me and motioned for me to pull over. One of them came up to the window and asked for my papers (honestly he asked in Italian and I just surmised that he wanted the same thing a police officer anywhere else would want). I handed him my drivers license, American and Italian, and the car’s registration, followed by “Parle Inglese?” He shook his head no and I took a deep breath hoping that I would understand enough to get through this encounter. He asked for my insurance, and Will (sitting next to me) who has a much better linguistic ear caught the word for insurance and handed over the last necessary paper.

After several minutes of conversation between the officer and his partner the partner came up to the car and in broken english (which was much better than my italian since all I had said was Parle inglese) told us that our insurance didn’t show up when they ran our plates. As far as we can tell the police have a camera that runs the plates of passing cars, alerting the officers when a car needs a second look, apparently I needed a second look. It would seem that until we figure out why the insurance doesn’t link to my registration I may be getting pulled over a lot, Yikes!!

Saturday was a rainy day here in northern Italy, we decided to visit a garden center. I have been hankering for more houseplants and fresh herbs since I gave roughly a dozen of my plants away before we moved down to Italy. The garden center was beautiful.

*From cacti to succulents, with a fair amount of other greenery thrown in the whole center was beautiful*

Plants were grouped by types and at the end of a row of plants was a neat pile of the appropriate potting soil for the plants in that particular row.

 

 

 

*They have an entire section dedicated to Bonsai*

The herbs and vegetables looked well tended. But for me the real joy was when Will decided to buy me a lemon tree! I have always wanted my own lemon tree!

*Jake wondering why I keep taking his picture as he peeks through the balcony door*

I named him Murphy Meyer (don’t even know if he is a meyer lemon tree but I like the name). Murphy is now hanging out at our balcony door so I can put him out during the day and move him in during the night, at least for a couple more weeks and then he will be an outdoor lemon tree until fall!

We actually got out of the garden center pretty cheap considering I bought, herbs, lavender, a couple of small houseplants, potting soil, and Murphy. I know we need to make a return trip or two. Sorry, Will!

Saturday evening was for emergency pizza and starting tiramisu. So many parts to it that I was overwhelmed but in true Karyn fashion I plunged ahead, all the while having no clue what I was doing. I chose the hardest recipe in Jul’s Kitchen recipe repertoire. Or maybe it just seemed like the hardest.

https://en.julskitchen.com/dessert/the-daring-bakers-challenge-tiramisu

I see you nodding your head saying, of course you did.

As many of you that have experienced Karyn cooking at her finest, some of what I make is delicious, some is edible, some of it nobody but the trash can has ever seen. However, I moved forward making the zabaglione and the vanilla pastry cream and setting them to chill for the night. My opinion after making these parts –  man I need a double boiler, or at least a bowl that fits into my pan better. I would finish making the parts and assemble the final product for Easter leftover dinner.

After all the rain on Saturday, Sunday was a perfection of blue skies and bright sunshine. It was a little breezy but not overly so. I started laundry and with a couple of loads on the outside line and my savoiardi/ladyfingers baked we decided to go for a walk. The Scotland trip is a mere 50 days away and I feel unprepared.

*A plastic baggies is a perfect substitute when you don’t have a pastry bag*

 *The church in a neighboring village*

The day was made for walking and we followed the river trail by our house, it is really flat but we need to put some walking miles in and when our packs arrive we will be doing that walking with our loaded packs. What I concluded after a quick 3 miles was we live in a beautiful region of Italy and I am happy for the adventures that we have had and the ones that await us. Back home for left overs and tiramisu soup. All in all a great week!

 

*Tiramisu soup, but it tasted rich and creamy, so now I just have to figure out how to make it set*