Friday, November 30, 2012

The Staff Dinner, part. 1
I did it again. Laura at reception handed me one of those long scraps of paper with a save-the-date on it. There was to be an apertivo/cocktail hour at a bar near my house this Friday night to be followed by a staff dinner. I could not bear the thought of sitting at a table in a noisy restaurant, not getting any of the in-jokes or even the gist of any of the conversations, and watching even the new hires guffawing like part of the family while I nibbled at something by my lonesome. So I -- you guessed it -- offered to have the dinner at my house. I went so far as to offer without asking F first, which was bad. Really bad, given the fact that he would most likely be cooking the dinner. I justified that they wouldn't accept anyway. But um they did.

Then F told me he was working that night. Until eight.

The dinner, it turned out, was to start at nine.

I called Patrizia.

Patrizia, who takes food seriously, told me that this was too important to discuss over the phone. She told me she would give me a ride to work since she lives right behind my gym. She talked me through the classic dishes you can cook in advance and told me how to save money at the supermarket and what brands to buy. She talked me out of a lasagna and into pasta al forno which is the same as a lasagna but made with regular pasta so you don't have to lay it all out like a patient being bandaged on Dr. House. We added bruschetta and cous cous to the menu and then I found out that one of my colleagues is allergic to cheese, but in the nick of time to put some cheeseless pasta to the side.

Today I helped F to prepare the dinner. He cooked the pasta only halfway and made all of the sauces, including a red wine sauce for the cous cous, a tomato sauce for the pasta and a pesto for the other pasta. He made a killer, creamy beschamel to mix with the pesto, but I cooked the onions, artichokes and olives for the cous cous and helped with the seasonings and coating all of the pasta with sauce in the huge aluminum tins he got from Esselunga. He made a red wine chocolate cake and started the dough for the bread.

At work there was a mix of skepticism and skepticism, covered over with humor, or what passes as such. They trotted out the pizza dinner I did for the women of the gym. Remember that time that I had all the ladies over and  forgot that our Barbie oven would prevent us from getting enough out for everyone to eat at one time? I spent the whole night counting out slices and delivering them to my colleagues in a circular pattern from thirty small pies that F made on the spot. They were swallowed in single gulps. No eating disorders among the staff, that I can see, anyway. Then today my supervisor told me that one of the trainers is deathly allergic to cheese and he would hate for me to be offended since this gentleman had in mind to order a pizza for himself (cheese-less, I gather) rather than risk eating the unknown. I reassured him and my lactose intolerant workmate and called F at the same time. Then fellow trainer Mauro asked me a for a menu plan and when I told it to him, he said not to worry he would bring the meat, even though he knows all too well that we are vegetarians. 

I came home today with a throat that is swollen closed, a huge pimple right between my eyes and another one on my chin, and tomorrow I am supposed to go to meet with T's new Spanish teacher and then teach three classes back to back and then maybe get a ride home from Patrizia so she can coach me through phase two. I hear there is now a branch of Eataly, the Italian mega store masterminded by Chef Mario Batali, not only in New York and in Los Angeles, but also in Rome. I wonder if they deliver?

Monday, November 26, 2012

The International Day Against Violence towards Women
As fashion shows go, this one was very cool because the models were real people with normal sized bodies and it was for a very excellent cause. The music by the Progetto in La Minore was very soporific, but heartfelt. There were some great monologues by the Teatrogiovani Lucca. The fashion show had accessories that were vintage and new and some one of a kind pieces form the most famous stylist of Lucca, Piero Ricci. The event was sponsored by the Provincia di Lucca and Bianca was was one of the instrumental organizers.  It took place at the Palazzo Ducale which is stunningly beautiful. I felt bad I had to wear sneakers, but the insole of my left foot is refusing to be placed in a heel no matter how Italian it is.

This guy with the unlit cigar was the daddy of one of the models. He gave me insider tidbits about which model's shoes were too big and which was the most beautiful -- his daughter of course.

The most beautiful - Serena!

Here I am with Bianca.

The models walked by too fast for my Ipod so I tried to get as many pictures of them eating afterwards for you as I possibly could.

Mischief Managed!

It all started with a personalized acceptance letter to Hogwarts. The girls came in costume and T was Bellatrix. Unfortunately, she was dressed as Bellatrix when went to an appointment at the school with the principal to sort out why they think she signed up for religion class when she did not. Happily, she can now go home last hour on Fridays without F having to come in and personally sign release papers. Ah Bellatrix you are free to go.

Then the girls designed their own wands using glitter glue, metallic thread and sticks -- some of which came from my friend Serena's yard. Giorgia (on the far left) spoke with an awesome English accent as Luna Lovegood, but then again she always has one since she lived in London for years and her dad is English. Natasha was Hermione after an explosion and Caoimhe was Ginny which was kind of her since she has the right long red hair for the part.

Down to the details:

 The girls played an interactive video game of Scene It on Harry Potter trivia.

All the girls got matching lightning bolt necklaces with Harry Potter spectacles on it and laser printed T shirts with sayings on them. 

  I am most proud of the Book of Monsters cake. F baked it, and I sculpted out the fondant.

And at the end: All is well.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The BIG 13
T had a really really good day. She woke up and had chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and opened up her presents from Meagan, Stephen and Vivi. It was a green leather accessory with shoulder straps, filled with other accessories, which is T's favorite kind of gift.

She went to school with Natasha who had given her birthday cards from her and her sorellina Sofia the day before and went on to get elected class representative .

I think the fact that she had pitched in to help the boys with the pallamano match did not hurt at all in terms of vote getting.

At the hospital she got great reviews on her blood sugar averages and her use of the insulin pump. We brought F's famous gorganzola bread to the dottoressa and Antonio the technician and it was well received and very much appreciated. Antonio said he would bring us some of his dad's olive oil. That is what you call making the most of your time with the Medtronic technician. Take note, people. The next day T called Antonio because she saw on the forums that our model of insulin pump is one that is not yet available in America and it has a secret alarm that rings if you go too low and suspends your insulin so that you don't have to worry about going so low in your sleep that you will pass out. It turned out to be true. Nobody told us about it. Ever. But happy birthday to us.

Then T opened up her present from us in the car on the way home from the hospital. Thus making that part of the day less blechy.

 Natasha came over for breakfast for dinner, which is T's favorite meal of eggs benedict and hashbrowns with possibly the best and moistest chocolate cake ever made for dessert. It was a great, great day. And she still keeps on being taller than me and better than me in math, accessorizing, Internet surfing, hurdle jumping, pallamano (whatever that is), color coordination, current events, political analysis, the oh so subtle eye roll and um being generally AWESOME. But I'm cool with it because I totally take credit for all of that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The mother clucking chicken
Today F and I ran to school before work because we were supposed to have a parent teacher meeting with the math professoressa. She was sick. I had arranged the whole morning, and the extra pair of shoes, and the outfit, and the speech --which all and all took an hour. The school could have taken ten minutes to call us and the other ten parents to let us know that she wasn't coming, but this is Italy so they didn't. Then I went to ask the question even though I truly suspected I knew what the answer would be: So do we get to show up next week at the same time? The answer, of course, was no. 'Cause, again, this is Italy. We had to go through the sign up book and find an empty slot and start the sign up process all over again. F had gotten us a prime number two slot with the teacher and if you come third to tenth you can have to wait a long time and run the risk of being cut in line. More respect is shown to those feisty enough to get one of the top two times. 

At the mini desk in the school corridor where the sign up book is kept there was a mother with freshly blown out,  straight auburn hair. Her head was bent down over the red plastic sign up list. She was poorly organized. Everyone knows you have to take the letter the school sends you with the days and hours that each professor is available and re copy it on a piece of paper where you are also going to jot down what time slot you can enter your name for and and what time. This lady kept referring to the original letter and then the book and then back to the school letter and all the while she was taking to herself. She seemed schizophrenic, but really it was shrewd mommy technique which allowed her to hog the book and make other brooding and hovering mothers feel that if they interrupt your train of thought it will really f***k you up. I could feel myself loosing patience with every second and when she finally turned to the page where our math professoressa was listed, I asked her if I could just quick jot down my name. Well! She made a clucking chicken tskk sound with her little pouty mouth while exhaling like a slithery biforcated tongued viper snake. That mother clucker! Then F pointed out that instead of signing in as number eleven next week which could lead to being disqualified since there are only ten real appointments per week, we could sign up for the following week. I dropped the pen and walked away from her disdainful stare and walked over to the other mini desk and a rather fussy faced F. I couldn't tell if he was annoyed with me or with the chicken lady.

What happened next made it all worth while. We saw the mirage which is the hard to get an appointment with strictest professoressa of them all -- La Lucchi. She teaches Tecnica which is a subject that gets discontinued in high school, but involves difficult geometric drawing and memorizing how various things like paper and dairy products get made. She was putting on her coat. I rushed in like she was my long lost aunt Ethel and she told us T was doing fine and that after her hormones calmed down we wouldn't have to worry about diabetes anymore. Even if that may not be true it was oddly comforting to hear. As I left the room, two other chickens who wanted to have the palle to do what I had just done glared and me like they had mad chicken disease. I left with my crest held high and shaking my tail feathers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

La Palestra Compie 4 Anni

There were 500 people at the party. I learned from my mistakes last year and had a glass of wine at home before I left; I got my hair done professionally; and I wore a kick-ass dress. Then I proceeded to go on and make all new mistakes, not the least of which was reasoning that if I am marketing myself as a dancer I should go ahead and dance. I started out very reserved, but after the families went home and the more serious party people all went into the sala to dance I made mistake number two which was that it was okay to jump up and down repeatedly on my strained arch muscles in high heeled boots.

There was this one guy who I will call camera guy who followed me and my friends around the whole night because he is obsessed with one of them. I imagine his room at home is covered with photos of her as of this morning. He never danced, ate, drank, or talked with anyone. CREEPY.  I don't have a photo of him because he was too sneaky.

My colleague Francesca, and a guy who talks about the war in Yugoslavia, and a lady I don't know.

This year there was a festive fruit bar and a team of aggressive waiters who marched back and forth from what is usually the men's locker room with trays of parfait and other antipasti salati. The ladies room became unisex which was weird. At one point I had to pull my pantyhose up behind a curtain in the shower stall. At the end of the night as I was airing my swollen piggies on a bench filled with girls I don't know. I turned to them and said in Italian that I was never the kind of girl to go hide and smoke in the girls' room, but that it might be time to start. They laughed and said 'there is always a first time.'  In the aforesaid Unisex bathroom --which had a poster of a woman with a man peering in at her on the door-- a higher up person came very close to passing out in front of me. He was in a kind of exaggerated drunken state -- think Texas-- that seemed more like a parody of drunken boss. I put my valuables in an unlocked locker and nothing got stolen. That's how I know I'm not in New York anymore. I never even took a dance class where I got home safely with both leg warmers in New York, let alone my Metrocard. Randomly enough there was a Japanese calligraphy exhibition with pieces for sale and a chocolate fountain. The bar was almost impenetrable because the drinks were free, hence the massive number of cars out front and the doubled number of guests from last year.

On the left is my personal training client Martina and on the right is my Serena.
And this is Martina's daughter Giorgia who sometimes comes to the session and shows off her splits.

This year there was no staff photo or speech. Just a raffle. Unless they waited to do secret staff stuff for when I was out of earshot.

There was also a super high pastry tower of creme doughnuts covered with honey that I think are called struffoli. At the end of the nigh,t the floor was covered with slippery festive fruit and sticky sweets and several people hit it pretty hard. Next year they should have a foot massage station and some padding. F went to help them clean up on Sunday and the man who talks about the war in Yugoslavia kept him entertained although he only understood every third word.

Francesca has a super cute family.
This is my boss Fabio and my other boss's daughter Sara.
Patrizia was kind enough to give Giusy and me a lift to the party since her house is right behind the gym. She's not a real dancer, but she held on longer than I thought she would and was a great sport about the whole thing. She drives like Mrs. Magoo, but she is the most loyal sweetheart and I like dragging her out to places she would never ever go.

 The DJ was pretty good. When he went to the bathroom one of my students coerced Serena to take over the DJ booth and jam out with his headphones on while pushing some of his buttons. He definitely looked like he had some buttons pushed when he got back to the booth, but he sported that fake kind of fierce smile people make when they are in the party business and things are not going their way.

Our friends Adonella and Carlo had a pretty festive moment when Adonella volunteered her feather-light self to be carried around the room crowd surfing style and he grabbed her ankles. The worst thing I did was dance with the teenagers because they were the best dancers. I know they thought I was a weird old lady, but um I am.