Crafting

When you get a bright idea in the middle of the night and think “Let’s Do this!”

Carnevale is Here!, Well, almost…

Ciao a Tutti

Do you love to dress up and pretend to be someone else? I do! I always have; dress up was my favorite game when I was a child, even more than playing with dolls I loved to pretend I was someone else.

Someone famous, someone that made things happen, someone beautiful and exciting. Well, I am not famous but I have spent my life making things happen (some good, some bad) and my husband tells me I am beautiful and I keep his life exciting so there you have it. Regardless of my life, which really is wonderful, I still like to play dress up. That’s what Renaissance fairs are about, and when we lived in Arizona we spent several months acting for a nonprofit on the streets of Tombstone.

It has always been a lot of fun to dress up and now we get to start a whole new kind of dressing up!

Carnevale!

The Venezia Carnevale happens once a year. Much like Mardis Gras in Louisana or Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Yet in many ways Carnevale in Venezia is different.

All of them are precursors to Lent (the forty days before Easter, which is also a time in the church where the give up meat and other excesses). Usually, they are celebrated for two or three weeks culminating on Fat Tuesday the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnevale may come from the Latin ‘Farewell to meat’ but don’t try a google translation of this it only comes back as ‘flesh farewell’, which is a bit odd.

It is said that Carnevale in Venezia traditionally began in 1162 to celebrate a victory of the Republic of Venice against the Patriarch of Aquileia. It enjoyed many years of popularity and festivities.

Masks are popular in Carnevale but have been both banned and allowed depending on historical times and rulers. One of the things masks have allowed is anonymity that could not be achieved without them. For one day (or several) peasants could be nobles and nobles could be anybody. Masks have certain significance also, many of them date back to the theater such as the Arlecchino (Harlequin), the Colombina, Pantalone, and the Zanni. Others like Volta are the classic white porcelain mask, the Medico Della Peste (the plague doctor), and the Bauta with no mouth but a triangular projected chin so the wearer doesn’t have to take off the mask to eat or drink. In the 18th century, it was common to wear a black velvet mask over one’s faces when visiting a gambling hall or another location of ill repute. In 1797 Carnevale was forbidden and the use of masks became against the law.

Our masks come from a beautiful lady, Giuse, who hand paints and decorates all the masks she sells. She has been known to make them to order if you have a particular costume but she has so many extraordinary masks that finding a unique one is never a problem. She is an artist with color and flair bringing about the best of Venetian masks for her customers.

In 1979 there was a push by the governing body in Venetia to bring culture and history back to the city and so Carnevale was reinstated. Today millions visit Venezia during the Carnevale time and the streets become so crowded that it is almost impossible to move.

To this spectacular event Will and I, with friends will be going for two different Saturdays, one in February and one in March. It is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. The crush of humanity is almost awe-inspiring.  

Our costumes will not be the overly elegant of some that have worked on theirs for a year or more (no, in my usual order of idiocy I gave myself roughly a month, pretty typical for most of my harebrained schemes).

However, I am pretty pleased with my creation for the short time period I had. A couple pictures of my costume work in progress but for more you will have to wait until I actually go to Carnevale in a little over 2 weeks. Between now and then, well, school is eating a large chunk of my time and Will and I have a weekend in London planned (kind of an anniversary/valentines day, get out of the country trip if that makes sense).

 

In March I will be planning for one of my best friends to visit me and we will be taking a whirlwind trip of Italy (plus school work) and daily life as I know it here in Vicenza.

Check the Instagram feed or Karyns Corner of Facebook to see the London and Carnevale pictures. And until we meet again

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

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