Wednesday, August 26, 2015

L'ospite e' . . .
My mother came to see us in Italy for the past three days. According to my friend Patrizia, three days is the perfect amount of time to have guests. More about that later.

The wait at the airport was tense because we knew that her plane had been delayed for several hours. All the other New Yorkers who got off the plane and made it through custom before my mother were grumbling and complaining.
There's no tension like an Italian who is waiting for something's tension.
This is F's shot from over my head at the arrivals gate. We stood there like that for 30 minutes. I lost about 2 chili in sweat.

 But she got here all spry and chipper.
And did some drop by mothering. . .

and in person back to school shopping . . .

 Then my mother met my friend Patrizia who was thrilled that she wasn't fat as she had unexplicably feared she might be. She said she thought all American mothers were obese. She had heard something about that on the news.

Guarda! Una mamma american ma snella come un giunco!

 They had a really long conversation for people who do not, in effect, speak the same language or have anything in common except for the fact that they both don't speak each other's language.

The above shows the actual amount of food my mother consumes in a day.
Charlie's Angels: It's never too late

Friday, August 21, 2015

Makeover, Bologna Style
This just in!
Natasha and Giorgia gave T a wowza makeover and straightened her hair. This is how it came out:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ah, the sweet violins!

And . . . we're back! F and I got an annoying summer virus and have been spending time downloading ESL lessons from the internet trying to get organized for the Fall English Lesson Panic or -- as some call it  -- FELP. Just kidding. No one calls it that.

Anyway, T got invited to go to see her New York sister from another mister: Savana. She was staying in Pesaro which is just around the corner from here -- about four hours away by car if you hit traffic, which you will. This is Italy.

It was a sweet reunion:

Savana & T

Kim, Savana's mom getting photos of Savana, & T.

Then T went to visit Natasha in Bologna with Giorgia for a few days. They had a great time swimming and shopping, and came back on their own on the train. (Pictures to follow. . if the girls release them to me.)

While our figlia was away, F and I tooke the drive to Cala Violina finally! I've been obsessed with going there even though everyone says that it is a mobbed in July and August, especially on the weekends. I really wanted to get an early start. We left late because F decided at the last minute that he needed to shave. By the time we got there, the parking lot was full and we had to walk a stretch of highway and through a wooded area where I peed standing up like a professional. Or a boy. Or a professional boy. To be fair, that lot had probably been full for hours.

Our beach tale is quintessentially Italian in that there were three beaches right next to each other and each one was  populated based on people's values: the materialisti, the chissenefregas that dance to their own drums, and the la grande bellezza party people who have to be where everyone else is.

From where we left the car,  the closest beach is called Punta Ala. It is for fancy people who want cabana chairs and to have their hair braided and a choice of woven baskets and beaded jewelry and other assorted wares to buy along with a kind of beach side restaurant bar.

It was super crowded at Punta Ala so we walked down the entire length of the beach until we got to the cliff at the end. We had to climb down sharp, slippery rocks and walk through a channel of water that arrived at my hips and F's knees until we made it around the bend to a second beach where the sand was ever so slightly less white and soft, but that was relatively deserted and tranquil. Some lady felt so badly for us that she helped F carry the bags across.

 Not content with this perfectly fine beach, we decided that we wanted to hear the sounds of mythical violins as the water washed on the shores at Cala Violina, our original destination; so we took a hike uphill through a steep and dusty trail over to the next beach.

Hi. My name is F. We were late due to my shaving and inefficiency and therefore we couldn't park at the right beach, and then I left all of K's stuff including sunscreen and hairbrush on the floor of the car.
Hi. I'm F and I think this cute pose and my dogged optimism will somehow get me off the hook, even though later I can't find where I parked the car and misplace K's cellphone.
I was so mad at one point that things got black and white like the Wizard of Oz.
Nice view, though, huh?

I eventually forgave him.
 This is the deserted beach being even more deserted because, charmingly enough, none of the Italians will go back into the water until half an hour after they have eaten their panini.

Thanks cutie Italians! The water is all ours!
I love this beach.

ME: You said it would only be up to my hips! This is my neck, dude.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

F's (coconut) bacon and egg ramen dinner
Food Network served as a little inspiration as did Food52's non vegetarian version.
 Just because we're in Italy, doesn't mean we eat Italian food every night!

Coconut Bacon is one of the best discoveries of 2015 other than thermal funk (see previous post.)

Anyway, this bad boy has ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, perfectly fried eggs, noodles, broth, and white wine. The bacon is cured coconut chips and it comes out with just the right amount of crispy chewiness and salty flavor. It was the best after beach meal we could dream up  for the girls; and it was scarfed down gleefully.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bagni di Petriolo: thermal funk

Grosseto is where there is this mythical, gorgeous beach called Cala Violina and where you can hear the sound of the violins playing as the tides come in. The only problem is that it is almost three hours away from Lucca and it is really popular so you have to get there super early to find parking:
Cala Violina from
We didn't go on Monday because it rained in both Lucca and Grosseto. We didn't go today because it was only raining there. In fact, the same weather site I used in Amsterdam with the hourly report and the colored alerts put an orange alert out for possible dangerous thunderstorms and I couldn't do that to T's friend Natasha who is living with us this week twice (see Amsterdam Hammam post). Tomorrow the girls have a special birthday party to go to (Giorgia's!) so we can't go tomorrow.

I didn't want to not have anywhere special to take them so I researched the internet for hours and came up with the solution: FREE thermal springs.  I chose what I thought was the closest one. It turned out to be two hours away by car. It was a frustrating two hours because T didn't want to go and I didn't want to have to convince her and then it started to rain and the GPS wouldn't register where it was and F's phone couldn't get any reception/campo and the air conditioner started blowing hot air. F got lost right at the end when he said we were only five minutes away. We were really twelve minutes away, but only if you knew where to make the left turn off the highway. Welcome to our family, Natasha; and sorry about the occasional grumping, snarking, and snapping. It happens.

And then we found it - Bagni di Petriolo. Unfortunately, due to the recent rain, it looked more like the Baths of Petroleum/ Bagni di Petrolio. Yellow petroleum, to be exact. But it was really sulphur. My new friend Lucia --who I met there, and who's an immigrant like me, except she's from Romania -- says that the sulphur has all of these healing properties. She works shifts in an old age home and goes there after almost every weekday shift to unwind and let go of the day.  I totally believe her about the thermal waters because  she was a no nonsense individual and her skin was flawless.  Also she swears that the water is as blue as that of Cala Violina if you come when there hasn't just been a rain storm.

If Great Adventure were a swamp like river encampment in Tuscany . . .

And baring your ass crack while you watch people get back pounding super hot water massages were a ride . . .

And you like the color slime yellow  and the smell of stinky sulphur. . .

(There are our girls, if you look closely.)
. . . then we nailed it.
It was not half bad. I would go back there in the autumn when there is a chill in the air and fewer biting insects. It could be romantic or restorative. The key is not to be a neurotic ex New Yorker and to embrace the slime factor. At least I got to meet Lucia. And, like Evita, I, too, kept my promise. Plus also my shins are weirdly silky right now.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Before & After
While we were in Amsterdam, I became a little obsessed with sprucing up our new apartment with some finishing touches. If we had moved to Amsterdam, we would have had the most fabulously furnished apartment of all time because the kitchen supply stores and furnishing stores with a mixture of global, bohemian, and vintage pieces were breathtakingly beautiful and temptingly affordable at the same time.

 As I breathed in the abundant second hand smoke and reflected on our new Italian kitchen, it seemed too much like the one I remembered from The Cosby Show. Sorry if that reference is in really bad taste given the current situation, but so was my kitchen, unfortunately.

Remember? Too late? Too soon?

(This is the floorplan from I love the internet.
 Anyway if you really want to put your marriage to the test, here's what you do. Buy some removable -- in theory, vinyl adhesive kitchen paper and try to smooth that on wooden shelves. One of you keeps the tension in the paper, while the other one uses a plastic triangle to smooth down the constantly appearing air bubbles that threaten to ruin the whole cabinet.

We also painted the chairs and the base of the table, neither of which belong to us, and put cushions on the chiars.

Here is our kitchen before:

Here it is after:

 Please only comment if you are Ricardo Montalban or if you like it much better now.

And thanks to my friend and computer and animation guru Ian for coming up with the Ricardo Montalban clip.

Today we ran around Lucca looking for a wood and faux leather director's chair to finish off the living room. It was one billion degrees here so after a couple of disappointing stops at used furniture stores, we hit up an air-conditioned chain store that is fairly generic called Chataux d'Ax. There was a wonderful lady who worked there who reminded me of Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the phone operator.

I would never have done this if there had been other customers, but I pretended to be very interested in some chairs we really can't afford. I made it as enjoyable a work experience as I could for her. I didn't set out to trick her for the sake of air-conditioning, but my pride wouldn't let me tip toe out of there with my tail between my legs just because the prices were prohibitive. F was alarmed at first because I was so convincing. As I suspected that the woman who was helping us could understand English, there was a funny moment where I had to tell him in pig latin that -Iay wasay kingfay-- I was faking. Also I don't know pig latin. He stopped playing bad cop, long enough to breathe a sigh of relief. I made it up to the lady by paying her some sincere compliments for her listening ability, her eye, and her taste level.

Sadly, we are thrifty and so I don't think I'll get to see her again.
We bought this chair for fifty euro:

and this fabric to recover it with for eleven euro:
I'll show you once it's completed.