Friday, September 30, 2011

What we eat!
I am always curious to learn what people are eating on a regular basis. This started long before my raging girl crush on the English foodie Nigella Lawson, the sight of whom in a cashmere sweater and pencil skirt eating leftovers out of her fridge and using luscious adjectives to describe her creations sends me into ecstasy.  I also am a huge lover of food narratives like the jewels written by Laurie Colwin and Bananna Yoshimoto. Hearing recipes read aloud by F before going to sleep is my favorite way to relax. Especially, cake recipes.

Since F goes to the ortofrutta every day to get fresh vegetables and fruit and Giusti to get fresh focaccia bread and goes only about once a week to get stock items from the Esselunga grocery store, we tend to have to figure out new ways to eat the six or seven in season vegetables that are mostly in stock in any twelve week period.

Lately, aside from F's famous gorgonzola bread, we are eating:

1. Crispy sauteed mushrooms, usually with a white wine and lemon sauce accompanied by either pasta, farro, or risotto.
2. Parmagiano breaded cauliflower, romanesco or artichokes also in a lemony white wine sauce, or sometimes in a red wine, balsamic vinegar reduction.
3. Fresh mushroom or spinach ricotta ravioli in tomato sauce or in hot lemon broth with parmagiano and fresh ground pepper.
4. Crispy eggplant with tomato sauce or capers.
5. Greens like chard, spinach, or beet greens cooked with fried onions, peperoncino, and lemon.
6. Truffle polenta
7. Salad with raisins, pine nuts, peppers, pecorino cheese and a fresh mustard vinegrette
8. Farro which is a typical Tuscan grain served with diced vegetables
9. Broiled asparagus with hard boiled eggs and gorgonzola bread croutons
10. Minestrone soup

T will either become a fabulous cook like her dad or have to marry a chef; we are so spoiled.
When we get bored of Italian food we usually have goodies from the Sri Lankan grocery store: 
8. General Tsao fake chicken, made with day old bread, in a spicy citrus sauce made with orange juice, ginger, soy sauce, wasabi, balsamic glaze, and a little corn starch to thicken it. Served with rice.
9. Vegetable sushi with avocado and mushrooms.
10. Japanese brunch of fried eggs on rice with sake, white wine vinegar sauce, and umeboshi pickled plum paste.
11. Indian curry with peas, potatoes, broccoli or cauliflower

There are still plenty of strawberries even though the raspberries are not around so much anymore, peaches, grapes, and now pomegranates.  T usually has hash browned potatoes for breakfast and I have cereal. 

When F and T get to baking we have chocolate volcano cake, lemon or apple ginger pie, brownies, or nestle tollhouse cookies.

And of course fresh water from the fountain. And wine from our friends at Fattoria Colleverde. What yummy goodies have you eaten lately?

Arrivederci, Brooklyn!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crazy Makeup

It started with Greta and Caoimhe and it continues on with Natasha: a little something T likes to call Crazy Makeup.  They put on these absolutely avant garde looks, that are oh-so-editorial, and then dare each other to hit the street, refusing to flinch if anyone stares at them. It is very day in the life of Lady Ga Ga. Take a gander:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy happy Happy gym or l'esibizione
Today I woke up with a migraine headache. It might have to do with my allergies and the dog, donkeys, and pollen from last night.  I had heard my music for today all night long in my head at faster and faster intervals. I had clenched my jaw so tightly that I couldn't open it. My rib cage hurt from the new side sit ups I did this week that I couldn't breathe. Then I remembered that due to my Chronic Reality Avoidance Psychosis (or CRAP, if you will),  I had kind of never gotten around to choreographing my part of the show for today in Piazza Grande.

When I rehearsed at home the music F had put together to me all the sudden seemed much too fast and I ended up choosing two different songs at the last minute. I drank a huge amount of coffee and took a pain reliever and warmed up.  Finally it was time to go down to the piazza.  When I got there I saw the set up for a ton of bakers selling their wares under orange awnings and a mat all set up for the Samurai Karate school. This was the same school where T had taken a sample class two years ago with us and a bunch of black belts and the main teacher had slapped me full across the face because I didn't understand his instructions. In Italian. With jet lag. Thank goodness for him F didn't see it because that could have gotten brutto. But we decided not to have anything more to do with him or the school. So it was a joy to see him there. Then fifteen minutes later in the adjoining piazza I saw the set up for my Happy Gym.  Ahhh Happy gym.

I tried to help one little girl get her hair done and then I asked Francesca, the boss, how many dances were going on and when my turn would be. She said she didn't know but that I would be teaching some of the other teachers even though we had never practiced together and they didn't know my technique. You might recall that we had a staff meeting in which we talked about the importance of wiping down the mirrors and stuff like that, but we didn't practice or discuss what we would be doing for the exhibition or with whom or in what order.  Instead, an announcer guy would read a description of the class and what time it will be taking place on the schedule and then we were to go out on the plastic stage and do our thing in front of about 75 people who I think were mostly parents of the kids in the show.  Almost all of the dance teachers were smoking seconds after they left the stage. In the video, I'm the one on the right, not smoking, and the two teachers on the left (contemporary and zumba) were very nice and good natured about jumping in and taking my pretend class.

In fact us purple t-shirted staff just spontaneously gave back up for other teachers for zumba and other classes. I did not do the Waka Waka zumba dance (see earlier post) even when implored to do so by Francesca because as you well know I am only one waka away from bed rest for my back going out.  I hopped in only once because they had called my name for the curtain call of the staff and while I was on the stage they all broke out into a crazy latin number choreographed li per li, then and there, by the hip hop guy. After my turn there were many more kids classes and it seemed that most of the audience were there parents and not prospective new students.  At one point, there was this pause while they were waiting for the belly dancers to get off the autostrada so I volunteered to dance a solo. I don't know why but I had an adrenalin rush and the hip hop teacher boy refused to do a duet with me so I just went out by myself.

At the end of the show, big, black clouds gathered and the wind picked up.  I ran with Francesca's husband and little daughter Gemma to my house were we were preparing a little after show party for the teachers. Gemma is a little darling and she kept looking out the window and shaking her little head in mock worry while saying dramatically, "tutto buio, tutto buio," which means "all dark." She liked to sit on our stairs and turn on and off all the lights and to take a hair rubber band and put it on and off all our wrists.  She called me mamma and T tata which means nanny in Italian.
Cuteness with natural talent to boot!
Finally, a bunch of the teachers and staff, I think, showed up soaking wet and we toasted to our futures by drinking prosecco out of the first place cup that Amanda won with her troupe in Roma this week. We served them F's homemade gorgonzola bread with the toppings. Then when we gave a tour of our home they went upstairs to see T's room where of course our laundry was still out on the line. The whole day was summed up for me in the moment in which I realized that my thong underwear was hanging on the line and that everyone was looking at it and trying to not look at it, including me. Awkward. Moving on.
Say "Formaggio!"
Now it's a party!
Right after the party we hopped in the car and took off for the house of my little fidanzato (see post from sept. 5) because it was Lorenzo's birthday celebration today.  I ate as much pizza as I could and then almost fell asleep in my plate.

P.S. Does anyone think that it is funny that out of all the gyms in the world, the two that I work at are called Happy and LIFE?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yaya is the name of our friend Alessandro's daughter. He and his wife Barbara run a Bed & Breakfast called Dreamers, like the film, in San Macario, Piano, which is about a ten minute drive from the city of Lucca.

They also have a two year old boy named Luccio who eats corn kernels by the can and loves to be swung around like a little Olympic gymnast.  They keep some little donkeys up there that the kids can ride and their sweet dog is named Lola.
We stole some of these photos from their website because it was dark out. . .

Luccio is in the background, I don't know the guy in the front.

F tutored Alessandro's nephews in English last year and we have become friends with their parents Claudia and Renato, who are journalists that moved here from Milan.


Zia Claudia

Yaya is going to take her first dance class this week and she is absolutely overflowing with joy about it. We had a very nice time and I was proud to have participated in a political discussion at the table that took place in rapid fire Italian, missing only small to medium sized chunks of information instead of huge ones.

Alexandro watching me uselessly try to protect myself from mosquitoes

Barbara and Alessandro

Between T & Yaya there was an instant bond as Yaya has all of the qualities of cuteness than anyone could ever want in an about-to-turn-four year old and T had wheels on her shoes and purple hair. Before long Yaya was sitting on T's shoulders while T raced from one side of the house to the other on her Heelys.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Seasons they go
Villa delle Rose,  Bagni di Lucca
round and round.

First thing this morning I woke knowing today would be blog-worthy.

Within moments of entering the car of the Hilfinger twins, really Johannes and Kristoff, I was holding something called a power tube made up of two battery operated cannisters of different widths that beep and were supposedly alligning all of my red blood cells, and I was listening to an audio tape that channeled the archeangel Kyron.

Kyron, for those of you who don't know, on tape sounds like a cross between Santa Claus and Charlton Heston when he took on the parts of Moses, Ben-Hur and Astronaut Taylor from the Planet of the Apes. Except he was crying. So there was that sort of awkward feeling in the car. It was like when you get home from school and you hear your father crying for the first time ever and it is both a moving, scary and embarrassing experience all at once. It never happened to me, but if it happened to you, you know. So he is both scolding us and crying and saying that we are beacons of light and that we should not have fear because we are the chosen ones who will guide the rest of humanity to the next level of consciousness and out of the third dimension and that we shouldn't worry about what our friends think of us. If they jumped off a bridge, would we follow them? Things of that nature.

"Of the world but not in the world..."
One of the twins, I don't know which, pulled the car over suddenly so that the twins could pee because they were doing a cleansing of their livers and they had just consumed massive quantities of apple juice. Before we knew it we were in the mountains where their friend Anna Maria Di Bona and her guests were awaiting us at her Bed & Breakfast for a blessing of Autumnal Equinox for our Mother Earth.

I felt like Heidi on her way to visit her grandfather . . .

We were the only guests who forgot to bring soil with us. I hate when that happens. We did a group meditation that involved envisioning a purple light rising up through our chakras and putting flowers into the soil and repeating some lovely poetry about Father Heaven.

Our hostess.

The meditation was followed by everyone hugging and wishing each other peace/pace.

Then we drank some spiced tea and chatted amongst ourselves.

People were a little star struck by the New York thing, but I hope we represented in a good way for those of you who couldn't be there in person.

I drink only the best coffee in the world. -Fabio
At the end Anna Maria called us back together because she had another message from the angel. And there was even more hugging. And I got a mosquito bite on my wrist.
Let them eat cake or
And, boy, are my arms tired 
1. I missed my first Italian tupperware party due to studying with T for her tecnica test. A persnickety test on every possible aspect of paper, fiber, and wood making from their chemical treatment in industry to the life of silk worm. I'm not actually kidding. (Then she didn't have the test, because the professoressa didn't show up.) It is okay because it wasn't real tupperware and there weren't even any strippers.

2. F is now teaching an English class in Marlia at a place that looks like a shipyard. It's actually a peppermill...

3. I missed my new student Jessica and possible future student Karin's birthday bash because I was teaching a double Metamorfosi class last night. The classes went really well, but I was bummed to miss a chance to meet new friends and celebrate with fun people. F was kind enough to bake and deliver a cake in my absence. (I do silently say prayers of gratitude in his honor before I go to sleep every night, so it's not that I am not appreciative. Possibly he did something horrendous in a past life and is now making up for it and I am just reaping the benefits.) I did the little squeeze icing design on the top, but the recipe belongs to T. F made a smaller version of the cake for Lorenzo whose birthday it was today. I bought my little fidanzato  (see sept. 5) every connect the dots book I could find in the whole city.

4.  T got scolded unfairly twice yesterday at school. The first time, the vice principal was substituting in her social civics class/ approfondimento. He kept telling her to pay attention. She kept reciting everything he had just said verbatim. Then he yelled at her for having glassy eyes. For lord's sake! Then another teacher yelled at her, and later apologized, because he was just upset not to be able to pick up his daughter from her first day of kindergarten. Listen people, she gets yelled at enough at home for things she has actually done wrong. You don't need to practice on her for no earthly reason.

5. When T asked me if she and Natasha could put on fake eyelashes in a tremulous, meek, she'll-never-let-me-do-it little voice, I cheerfully said sure. I expected for them to ask for something much more impossible. But then, this morning when T woke up with what can only be described as an eyelash Mohawk with half her eyelashes stuck to her eyelid I thought to myself, "Oooopsy... And there goes mother of the year."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

La Roller Club

We finally found an after-school activity that does not cause stress to anyone and is just a good way to scaricare energia or burn off some steam.  Plus we get to see our friends Aurora and Anna Maria so that makes it that much sweeter. T is a natural!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

L'Ego, parte 3
While we were sitting across from each other at the dining room table and F was bent over T's math homework and T was out buying a o,o5 point pen to trace a leaf with for her anthology homework, I turned to F and sighed and said: "I feel like a *Metamorfosi whore."
He replied: "Wouldn't that make you a **metamorfo-saur?"

* "Metamorfosi" is the name of my exercise class.
** Great, now I feel like an aging, metamorfosi whore.
Leggo il mio Ego, parte due 
Well, I got to the gym and I met with my jovial, sweet and savvy man of the hour named Giacomo. I also shook hands with the big boss guy with whom I had exchanged emails. He said he was happy I looked better in person than I did in the photo that I sent which was of me at my most muscular playing tennis a bunch of years ago.  Apparently the perspective of the photo gave him the impression I was an Amazon and he was happier that I come in a smaller package and that he could kick my butt if need be. Within ten minutes of doing my spiel about being a body designer and being on the cutting edge of fitness etc., I had to go to one of the gigantic, glossy classrooms and do a demonstration. It was pretty intimidating to shake a tail feather under those circumstances. I made up some razzle dazzley moves on the spot using some of the available equipment.

I had no idea whether the enigmatic  smile I got back was saying "you are ridiculous" in a complimentary way, or, you are ridiculous period. Back to the office we went for the business conversation where everything got thorny and awkward quickly.  They really are pretty serious about wanting an exclusive contract that you have to sign for a whole year. I got the impression that they pay double what I could make elsewhere, but they choose your hours and they don't make exceptions. I am not going to up and leave the commitments I made with my other gyms because that would not be nice of me and it would also be putting all the eggs I have left (at my age, god knows the number) in one very fancy basket.

In the end, Giacomo said he was going to call my current bosses to discuss the situation with them out of professional courtesy.  So the bottom line is that I am most probably going to get screwed out of professional courtesy. I tried to say, oh really, don't do that. But there was no stopping him.  It is like a big, massive boulder with the word EGO inscribed on it rolling down a really monstrous Tuscan hill. On my way out, the girls at the reception desk made the expression "look down your nose at someone" really come to life. I mean they have that move down to an art form. They literally look down their noses at you. I thought: message received b#@ch, either you lost a contact or your horse is too high for you.

So now my ego knows that the Ego liked me, but I have no idea if anything will come of it. All I know is that I have to have an awkward conversation with my current boss to prepare him for the phone call from Ego. In any case, if Ego gave me eight hours of work on top of the nine hours of work I am already doing I would have to have more time-bending abilities that Hermione Granger, and it is unlikely that they wouldn't choose the same hours that I teach the Guess girls or the Lucca What expat group. I hope they take me up on my suggestion to let me do limited contracts for intensive six week classes several times a year, but other than that . . . So what is a waffle lover to do?
I gotta get on the schedule. I gotta get on the schedule. I gotta get
The EGO, part uno
Why can't I resist this mecca of Freudian concepts?
(pronounced as in "leggo my eggo," a 1970s waffle reference) 
A random question to start: What does it mean that someone in searching this blog used the search term "pms bowling illustration"?

Last night I was told that four people were coming to my class at the house. Instead, eight people came. After the rather successful cardio portion, I got all my Italians scrambled and they kept going in the wrong directions, facing every which way, and generally kicking each other and giving me dirty looks.

I think they had a great time. I promised them that if they came back, I would be better organized. But in my head, all I could keep thinking about what the interview at the Ego today. And that is just sheer ego on my part because this is the gym I decided not to work at because it is too far from the house, they usually demand an exclusive commitment from teachers, and they are far too snobby. But, madonna, do I love a challenge.

Is it just me, or does this look like a scene from The Stepford Wives?
I wish I were fatter.
Turning orange is beautiful.
I've changed my mind . . . let me out.
Not exactly Body Reserve, in Brooklyn
Tempted, anybody?
That could be me.
Let's make s'mores!
This spa has done wonders for our marriage.

This vehicle takes employees to events. Imagine that blog post. Even Scooby Doo wants to ride this van!

I woke up before the alarm with my pulse racing and feeling, oddly enough, very pms bowling illustration-ish. My pre-audition schedule is: drink tiny espresso, eat cup of dry wheat flakes (gross, yet comforting), drink mint and lemon verbena tea, shower, put wet hair in pony tail, warm up, rinse off, put on waterproof mascara, lipstick and sun screen, print out CV/resume, panic, go to Ego.