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

Time Goes by so Fast

Ciao,

I know it has been a couple of weeks but I did warn you that with my daughter and her family in town I was going to be ultra busy.

And I was.

So busy I even neglected my house for two weeks, which, if you know me says a lot. I spent the last two weeks hanging out with my daughter (A), her other half (Z), Will, and the most adorable, and might I say, highly photogenic, grandson (Finnrito or F) anyone could ask for. It was a wonderful treat to have them here and it went by way too quickly.

We did so much I am just going to give you the highlight reel and it will still probably end up as a long post (Roll your eyes A!)

It took Finnrito about 2 days to shift his body clock to Italian time zone. It took A and Z a little longer. The first night after their flight we took them out for some excellent pizza with our local friends. Then we went for gelato at one of our favorite local places, Gelateria Rigoni. With that pizza and gelato as the ones to beat we began our adventures of sightseeing and lots of food.

On Saturday we took them to Malcesine Castle in Lake Garda. It was unfortunately hazy but we still had beautiful views and the kids enjoyed their first taste of Italian sightseeing. And F enjoyed dipping his toes in the lake!

I should have prefaced this with A has been to Italy before, in 2016 she came with Will and I on a 10 day whirlwind trip of sightseeing in Florence, Naples, and Rome. This was Z’s first time across the pond and also Finnrito (being only 9 months old) hasn’t made it over here before. Honestly, I am not sure how much F cares other than his new found love for gelato. However, I did try and take his picture in front of several notable places so he could say he has at least been there (even if he won’t remember it.)

We tried for several down days, as anyone who has done extensive traveling with a baby knows your time schedule is much different than when you are on a marathon “see all the sights, eat all the food, drink all the wine” trip. Your marathon days get pushed to nap time, which is okay. I also want to say that Finnrito is seriously the best, most laid back, easy going, happy baby I have ever dealt with. I have already told the kids not to have any more children as their next will most certainly been the devil’s spawn. Heck, even if he missed nap time his melt downs were nowhere near as bad as mine are when I am hangry.

I did try and make yummy treats on our down days, cinnamon rolls one day and fresh croissants another. Got to keep up that “I am a good mom” image!

Monday we went to Asiago, Z has an interest in WWI history and Asiago is home to a beautiful WWI memorial that is the final resting place for 50,000 soldiers. We managed to stop for some cheese but our plans to head up to Monte Zebio to walk the trenches was a bust because of road construction, then we tried to go to Fort Corbin but it was closed on Monday. (Totally my fault for not checking the open and closing times and dates) The same held true for the WWI memorial and I finally admitted defeat. The area of Asiago is beautiful and we did get to show them a little of the town so it wasn’t a total loss but I had made grandiose plans in my head of all the things I wanted to show Z, so my disappoint probably outweighed his.

Tuesday we went to Verona, I had promised A that we could go to Juliet’s wall. They have been doing some clean up of the area but it is still covered in colorful messages, bubblegum, and band-aids (which sounds much grosser than it really is.) I had Z & A rub Juliet’s breasts for luck, then while F slept they took a turn on Juliet’s balcony. They also explored the Verona Arena (much like the Coliseum but smaller, however, still used for performances. But not the gladiator or lion eating people type.)

Finnrito and I hung around outside and I got his picture in front of the Arena, just in case he had to prove his visit to Verona.

Thursday we took a trip up to Marostica and made the kids hike to the castle. It was a warm day but they made it to the top. (It is a pretty steep climb) This is the city with the giant chess board but Finnrito only hung out with chess pieces his own size.

On Friday we left for Cinque Terre. A drive to La Spezia to catch a train into Riomaggiore. We stayed at a great Airbnb in town (though a lot of stairs to get to it.) After a fantastic dinner we called it an early evening because we were going to try and go to a bunch of towns the next day.

A quick side note – Not only is Finnrito a good baby, completely photogenic, and a great adventure/traveler but he is also a ridiculous flirt!! Seriously, I think he makes it a mission to seek out every woman in a 2 mile vicinity and turn them into grinning idiots! We used this shamelessly to our advantage in every restaurant we visited.

Early-ish the next day we jumped on the train at Riomaggiore and took it to the top of Cinque Terre. The farthest town on the Cinque Terre tour is Monterosso al Mare. As suggested by the name it is a beach town and even at the end of September tourists and locals alike were baking themselves in the sun. Brightly colored beach umbrellas and beautiful scenery prevailed and there was nowhere to look that wasn’t gorgeous.

It was supposed to be a town of shopping and beach laying and though the beached people were very much in evidence the shopping was not so much. After taking in the views we called it and headed back to the train station to hit the next town on the list, Vernazza. This is a much more narrow town, nestled into a valley and pushing its way down to the ocean. The beach area is very small (though F managed to dip his toes in the water) the little stores and shopping were much better than in Monterosso. With a patient Will, Z, and F my daughter and I wandered in and out of many shops looking for treasures. We found just a few but it was fun to look. The views of the ocean were great, the rocky shore adding a dynamic that wasn’t the same as Monterosso. We enjoyed our time there but all too quickly we were hopping the train to the next town, Corniglia.

Before I talk about Corniglia I should mention two things, first F weighs roughly 22 pounds and secondly Corniglia sits on top of the bluff. It is 365 steps up to the town. I was the one carrying F in the back pack carrier at this point. I huffed my way up all those steps, F just enjoyed the ride. Corniglia was also spectacular but different than the first two towns. It sat away from the water so you looked down into the ocean. Made up of narrow winding streets that were really meant more for pedestrians than cars. Little shops and trattorias are everywhere. We stopped at one of these places at the last moment to get some lunch and they very kindly served us even though it was 3 in the afternoon. Will and I had pesto pasta with beans and potatoes. It was out of this world tasty! 

After eating we wandered around a bit but decided it was getting late so we headed back to the train and Riomaggiore to spend the evening in. (At this point F had only taken two micro naps, less than a half hour each time so he was also done for.)

Saturday evening we ate what might have been the worst takeout I have ever had in Italy (or ever.) Greasy and not heated all the way through,  none of us made it through our food, opting for yogurt from the fridge instead.

The next morning (as if to make up for the previous evening) we got a great takeout cappuccino, some donuts and muffins and headed to the train for La Spezia.

We had decided to take a detour on the way home and show the kids Pisa (courtesy of Z pointing out how close we were and some Google calculations that said it wasn’t really too far out of our way.) They enjoyed the sites and we all had a good time rolling our eyes at the tourists angling for the perfect picture “pushing” the tower back up. I gave them the Campo Santo tour (it was one of the main research points on my last college paper and holds a place near and dear to my heart). We took F up to the top of the Basilica but wouldn’t let him climb over the railing. 

The next two days were down days but then, as must happen in all visits, we went to Venezia (Venice.)

Z and A really enjoyed Venezia. I assume F did too by the waitress he made goo goo eyes at while we had lunch. The only disappointment of the day was the loss of the hands. A sculpture titled Support  was put in place on the Grand Canal by artist Lorenzo Quinn. Will and I were lucky enough to witness the sculpture first hand (haha pun intended) in February but it was removed, to A’s great disappointment, in May 2018.

Despite that heartbreak it was a great day and we returned home to prepare for the kids leaving.

How did the time go so fast??

On Thursday we drove back to Milan and got one last hurrah in before the trip was finally over. We were able to experience The Last Supper, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 15th century. It has suffered much damage, starting with Leonardo’s own decision to paint it as a dry fresco using experimental paint and pigments. It was also damaged by the humidity of the kitchen it abutted and the decay of the church due to wars, Napoleon’s sanction against the churches, and its use of as an armory and then a prison. In WWII it was almost destroyed when bombs caused the collapse of walls around it. Through all of this the painting remains but in such poor condition that they only allow so many visitors in a day for a fifteen minute peek at the famous work.

As with many other pieces of art and architecture that we have gazed or stood upon in our European adventures I was awestruck and admittedly a little teary eyed to be in the presence of something that was created almost 500 years before I was born. These moments speak to the historian in my soul and I continue to treasure them.

After that phenomenal experience we had to get some food and sleep so the kids could fly out the next morning.

It was with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I hugged Z one last time, gave Finnrito last minute snuggles and wrapped my arms around my daughter not wanting to let go. Too quickly they turned and headed for their gate and Will and I took our leave to drive home.

Though I am always and eternally grateful for the adventures and experiences provided by the choices Will and I have made in our lives my heart breaks to be 5,000 miles away from my family and no matter how long we spend together it will never be enough time.

On the bright side, the kids have seen where we live and can picture our lives as we describe them and I will continue to taunt them with pictures of my gelato every time we have the tasty treat.

Until next time

Ciao miei Amici