Monday, December 30, 2013

Lazy days
My birthday was full of "adorable-ness" thanks to my two VIPs, F & T. They put photos of our family from the beginning on balloons and served eggs-in-homemade-toast for breakfast. Our budha mural looked extra cheerful as T tacked the letters to spell out "YAY!" over his head. F wrote me a beautiful poem and T wrote me a really nice letter to go with the picture she made me at Christmas. I got a photo of the earring cuff that I have been pining for which will arrive eventually; the promise is plenty good enough.

In the evening, despite all the good intentions, at dinner I had a brief collapse of morale that I chalk up to a mini midlife crisis sprinkled with questions like 'how has so much time gone by'? and a total panic attack that high school is going to end eventually and the knowledge that T will probably move very far away. To pick me back up we all got under the covers and had a very fun family gossip session that I will remember always. All in all, it was as good as forty-fourth birdays can get. Oh and F made us homemade oreo cookies that were very satisfying and, as he kept reminding us, all natural.

The other night we went to Elena's for pizza and a film. Our attempts to connect our laptop to their television were a failure so we went upstairs to Elena's father who I will now always think of as a pirate, hat and hook included, for his long list of illegal movie downloads. We didn't recognize many of the Italian titles, and he was pushing an obscure German movie, so I quickly steered us towards The Life of Pi. It was up for an Oscar, wasn't it? How bad could it be? I thought it would be a tranquil little boy and tiger make friends with a hint of Disney Buddhism thrown in for good measure. I would be wrong, really extremely, super wrong. The film started out very picturesque. So much so that Elena had her parents who live on the top floor of their palazzo send little Alice who is about 7 years old down to watch with us.

Alice provided the comic relief for what turned out to be a rather grotesque and tragic tale of the animal kingdom all wrapped up in a metaphorical punch to the jugular. Alice kept piping up, despite her father Angelo's reminders to do the opposite, with hopeful little questions: "But why is the boat filling up with water?" "Zebras are my favorite animal. Why is it being eaten to death by that tiger?" And then our favorite moment of the evening when the protagonist lands on an island swarming with meerkats and his tiger joins him and starts eating the cute little buggers left and right. "Ah well," Alice declared wistfully, "I suppose those meerkats could use the extra space."

T has since torn up our permission slip for her class trip on her Latin professor's boat.

In a burst of new year's exhuberance I asked my faithful student Francesca if she wanted to really move our workouts up a notch in the new year. I even proposed a holiday eating plan which she rejected out of hand. Then she surprised me by proposing that we start walking around the walls at 7:30 every morning, beginning January 6th. Not when it's raining, I said hopefully. She replied that it would be a fixed appointment independent of weather or anything else. I went online immediately and ordered an extra pair of sneakers and toe protectors and blister deterrents of every kind. F told me that I could even borrow his raincoat. All of this has made me feel super virtuous despite the fact that my workouts have been low key for the last two weeks due to laziness and some annoying cold symptoms like achey ears that just never fully go away for long. I posted our intentions with a general invitation on the internet only to receive every kind of indignant and totally unnecessary refusal from the most unlikely people. Every time I wrote a reply, I promtly deleted it. The main thing is that I get my behind out there first thing in the morning not everybody else's. I figure I can knock back my agoraphobic tendancies and my lack of cardio in one fell swoop. Well, I'll keep you posted anyhow. It will be a cruel awakening on cold mornings, that is for sure.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Xmas Bake Off?
You want to laugh? Try watching the Bake Off series in six languages on Christmas eve! It is so funny. We started with the Great British bake off which is extremely Great British. Everyone is polite and trying to say nice things about each other while being as secretly competitive about chantilly cream as a person can possibly be. Let's just as the Italian say, put una pietra sopra/a stone on top of the American version which has been reviewed in the press as having the biggest contestant tantrum, the worst winner, and the most irritating judges and host. Then we hopped over to Ireland where the host seemed much more passionate about having perfect hair and being on television than about baking. We missed the sweet loving silliness of the British hosts who make bad baking puns and put on funny voices. Than F said we had to check to see if they had a French bake off. Sure enough there is one and it is called Le Meilleur Patissier and it does not have subtitles. That said, in the first thirty seconds you can already tell that the French are all ringers with a skill level that is vastly above that of even the finale sof all the other series combined. The French host is animated and very well manicured, but at least she looks like she eats pastry occasionally. There was nothing left but to search for an Italian bake off which is on the Real Time channel. Being Italian, their website sucks. You can only see the last episode so we have missed the first three. The third one is advertised as being available to watch, but it won't load. The Italian host is extremely anorexic and if she eats any of the pastries they have to take a commercial break so she has time to throw up and brush her teeth afterwards. The main judge is not Italian and, while I applaud this open mindedness, his accent is not easy to understand. It turns out he is Austrian. He has this white tuft of hair in the front that is very distracting. His co-host and counterpart like sweets, but people, not so much.

After all that baking on tv,  F was inspired to make santa pancakes for T and me. They were "scrummy" which is a combination of yummy and scrumptious --  to quote the GB bake off.

F loves his new beanie hat.

Just for laughs here are the other shows we have been missing out on from real time Italia: Finger Food Factory; Grassi contro Magri (Fat vs. Skinny); Il mondo di honey boo boo (the world of honey boo boo), mia figlia e' un cheerleader (my daughter is a cheerleader); Non sapevo di essere incita (I didn't know I was pregnant); pazzi  per la spesa (crazy for shopping, Sepolti in casa (buried at home), Sex hospital, The cooking, Sing date, Ti prendo per la gola (I'll take you by the throat). I'm afraid to ask what Sex hospital is about . . .

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That's the spirit!
As our tradition holds into year three in Tuscany, we made snowman brownies and gave them out to our favorite people who work in town:

1. The ortafrutta
2. The fiorai
3. The guy at the edicolo
4. Everyone at the farmacie
5. The Forno Giusti
6. My friend who works at Tenucci where I pretended to be a rich American to whom we pretended that she had sold a bunch of elegant scarves in front of her bewildered boss lady.
7. My friend who works at a Scarpa Moda
8. The girls at Subdued
9. The folks who work at the two restaurants downstairs
10. The girls at Guess
11. The ladies at Louisa Spagnoli
12. Babbo Natale

Here I am handing off a sweet to a very happy Santa Claus. I think I'm officially off the naughty list!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Random holiday moments of delirium (rhmd if you want to start a trend)
1. I am really tired of seeing Olivia Palermo on Pinterest.  Did no one watch The City? She is a really mean and horrible person!

2. I don't know how to feel about nail art. It is beyond my reach.

3. T spilled a copious amount of water on my computer and on F's computer and we blowdried their internal naked parts while I had a panic attack because all the blogs say you shouldn't restart for 72 hours.

4. F untied the rope holding up our Christmas tree and broke T's favorite ornament, but then Super Attak/ Crazy Glued it back together.

5. I am taking a red wine and advil chaser to my cocktall hour/aperitivo with Serena and Bianca tonight.

6. You know it's Christmas when you are blowdrying your computer while mentally reviewing every bad word you have ever heard in two languages as people sing carrolls outside your window.

7. Really?????
Disco Inferno

Last night we drove around about 20 minutes away from our house into the countryside where we searched up and down this road for a place that could conceivably called Dancing Millenium. Then we realized that we don't live in New York anymore and this little brick building with a lit back porch door must be the spot. It was a place that would have been cool had there been good music or alcohol, but there wasn't. There were lots of cakes and some Coca Cola (insert trademark symbol here) and F had at least three different kinds of pie. More important than coolness is heart, of course, and there was plenty of that. Our friends Ilaria and Marco have started a foundation called the Associazione Pedagogica to help children with learning disabilities and they are doing really great work. The evening was a fund-raiser. Ilaria, while promoting her important work was sweet enought to recommend my English conversation classes to a bunch of her friends. In reality F is their group's teacher, but I guess she has faith in me. She is also the cutest English speaker ever.

T dressed me for the evening. Most of the ladies were wearing gray or black sweaters and dancing in a way that could work whether you are doing a line dance at a country fair or breakdancing on the mean streets in front of an old age home. So when the feedback for my outfit was that I looked like a teenager, I took it and ran with it. I plan on wearing the exact same outfit tonight. I refuse to do the Christmas sweater thing, I just refuse to do it.

Disco is kind of an exaggeration, no?
It's sad to have so many couches with nobody making out on them. I mean we're not at Ikea.
Bust a move ladies.
I'm not kidding about the black and gray sweaters. . .

Friday, December 20, 2013

A little holiday happening
We were invited to a sweet, vegetarian dinner that hit the spot. Not too heavy, not too much, good company, music and wine. Just the thing to get us through until we can all snuggle in for the holiday week.

Can you believe that this  is the vision we get to walk through every evening. It is just impossible to comprehend how gorgeous it is:

These are all blurry, but so were we. When F drinks, we get blurry photos. I should totally start carrying the ipod so he could be in a photo every once in a while. Sorry about that, honey. Barbara served a lovely potato and pea sformato, braised radicchio, pasta with pesto and F made a chocolate chip cookie, homemade marshmallow, chocolate concoction that I decorated with little silver balls.

Barbara, Alessandro and Greta checking out the dessert.

This is normal. I'm saying something and T is ignoring me and chuckling to herself.

T had to bring her Greek homework to repass for tomorrow's evil last minute quiz.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A lot of snowmen were injured in the making of this party . . .

 I mean heaven knows we tried. Shame on those moms who blog recipes and make things look so easy when in reality they're just not.  Help a mother out!  Either make an easy to follow, step-by-step recipe or just goop it up and do a Gwyneth Paltrow photo essay about how great you are. But you can't have it both ways. I mean cake pops do not seem like rocket science, but when you are tearing apart a perfectly good rectangular cake with your bare hands and smooshing it into icing so that it will become a ball, the doubts start to pour over you like a cold sweat. Also if you don't use bleach or some other awfully artificial ingredient to make a white snow-like icing, your next best bet is white chocolate. Our white chocolate, and it could be just us, looked a little on the yellow side once it was melted down. In the end, we had these very sticky little guys who looked like they had been made with yellow snow. The first batch came out sticky, but more or less, according to plan. The second batch wouldn't cooperate and F and I had one of our most nonsensical arguments ever as I had a panic attack about the guests arriving on time, which they did not, thank goodness, due to the impossibility of finding parking on a major Christmas shopping day during the weekend of the antique fair.

During the argument you could have heard me saying things like, "Why don't we ever think to do things like make carrot noses in advance??" And F countering, "How was I supposed to know that edible pens don't work on sticky chocolate?" These are things you shouldn't really say out loud, so they don't do very much damage marriage wise. After it was all over I just said sorry. And he asked why. And I said that I honestly didn't remember, but that he might have some sticky icing bits down his back. That kind of thing.

What time did you say it was? Was that the bell?
Darn you little creepy snowman heads. Stop staring at me!
The first batch was okay if you didn't try to remove them from the wax paper.
These are cute and only took three days (36 hours) to make!

Who am I? I don't even recognize myself. Seriously.

And so there we were. High as kites on a sugary wind.
Thank goodness for Francesca on my left there who I keep in my pocket at all times.
 In order to make lemonade out of our yellow colored snowman heads, we just dumped those decapitated bastards into a pan and I frantically smooshed chocolate chip faces into them as the time ticked down. NOBODY ate them. That was only partly because they tasted sickeningly sweet, but mostly because our super thick Italian hot chocolate was the star of the night and after we added the American fixings bar with M&Ms, marshmallows, Bailey's, and whipped cream no one could really think about eating anything else anyway.

Sometimes I relate a lot to this girl except I am claustrophobic and I can't swim.
I am bemused to find out that a couple of my  friends from the fancy gym really do talk about little else but the fancy gym. This is the third get-together post mortem and now I realize why they were so devastated when I said I was going to quit. It wasn't because they would never see me anymore, it was because I wouldn't fit in with them anymore or be relevant to them if I wasn't a part of it. When I think back on the whole experience I realize that it was so close to being a dream come true and such a massive disappointment at the same time. If I had had a boss who was encouraging me and friends who were coworkers that would have been a really rewarding sweet gig. I will feel really dismal if they do a Fit & The City part 3, campaign and all my female ex-colleagues get to wear slimming black instead of vomitacious beige and look like they don't want to stick pins in each other. But I mean it was always so stressful there and I could never really have enjoyed it very much with all those threats of being demoted and smooshed like a yellow snowman head constantly in the air.