Friday, January 31, 2014

Maremma Mia
When it rains in Tuscany, it doesn't mess around. There is rain in the forecast on a permanent basis, or so it seems. Poor F has had to deal with a weird vibration in the car, and when he took it to be repaired they said that it seemed to just need new wheels. In the meantime, he is a bit soggy. F has this boss at the school he teaches for who calls often to ask questions and to remind him about bureaucratic things. He is forever forgetting to sign things and bring in receipts of some sort even though he is the best teacher she has got. So sometimes she gets cross with him and other times she is very fond of him. We were waiting for her to love him again so that I can send my resume in and hopefully get some teaching work, as well. Today F gave me the green light, so fingers crossed. I have lost the four students I used to have and have got only one new one in return. I am seriously thinking about changing my brand of mouthwash.

T came home from school today and tried to explain the adventures that she had translating a story from Greek during a test. It seems there are many synonyms for most of the words in the story so while she started out thinking that this moralistic tale about greed was about a man hiding his treasure in a field, she gathered from the teacher's letting on that she was seeing a lot of mistakes in the making and her neighbor's blurting out something aloud, she realized that the protagonist had actually hid his loot under a rock and that instead of swallowing it and needing a doctor to extract it, he had buried it and a worker had come along and unearthed it. The main thing is that she figured it out in time and got it right. When did I start needing subtitles just to understand the answer to the question, "How was school today?"

Day two of no sugar, and I can only tell you that if you tell an obsessive maniac such as myself that she can't have sugar, there is only one thought that pulses like an annoying electro dance music beat behind my eyes all the live long day and it's name is: SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR. I imagine in a week I will be ready to lick the floor under T's chair in search of sweet crumbs and granules. Good times.
After being investigated by INPS, the largest welfare and social security institution in Italy, I had a tremendous break out all over my face. I wasn't being investigated, of course. It was the fancy gym that was in the spotlight of shame. Seems that they will have some fines to pay because professionals like me are supposed to get some kind of benefits and the INPS is supposed to get paid in some way, as well. You can imagine how my heart bleeds. My investigator lady and I hit it off right away. I got a little too chatty at one point and F started jabbing me gently under the table with his knee. I made a weird face and the lady asked me what was wrong. I recovered by saying that in America we do things really differently and how much I admired her capacity to wrap her brain around such complicated procedures. At the end, I think I just barely missed out on an invitation to dinner, but with F kneeing me and all, I really had to go.

In any case, the lead up to the event was stressful and I brokeout. Lord knows how much money I've spent on acne and it is still never satisfied. It is like a really demanding lover that just wham, bam, thank you m'aams me about twice a month. Anyway, it is annnoying. I don't want to take dangerous synthetic hormones and I don't want to have to wear makeup. The laser treatment was a bad decision as the wounds caused by it still haven't healed and only add to my woes. I have researched vitex, chasteberry, diindolymethane, licorice, and a bunch of other things that have scary side effects when you already have hormonal imbalances. Then I came across a bunch of research that links sugar to excessive androgens, which is the reason that I have hormonal acne cysts that leave scars every month in the first place. Anyway, a bunch of people out there who have also had Hashimoto syndrome have given up sugar and had great results for their energy levels and their skin so I am going to give it an 8 week trial period.

Don't worry. I'm not planning on becoming one of those shiny, happy, sugar free people that brag about it.  I'm planning on becoming a clear skinned, skinny chick who complains a lot.

I kind of knew when I had a massive panic attack that my Twizzler stash was depleted that I might have a little problem. Thanks, by the way, to my friend Karin who went to the military base Camp Darby where they have a store full of American junk food and got me some. I satisfied my cravings, but now I am going to take a long break. After eight weeks I will allow myself to have sugar once a week and re-introduce a little bit more into my diet, but not to the extent that I have it now. It's not that I eat candy/ le caramelle all day, but I do have honey in my never ending cup of tea and I eat handfuls of raisins as snacks and every night after dinner I have a couple squares of dark chocolate. I can still have a little red wine and chocolate, but the chocolate has to be over 85% cocoa. Even I feel bad for F and T that they will have to live with me for the next two months.

Not T, obviously. I think this is the lego librarian. Isn't she swell?
In other news, T got back two Latin tests last week. On one of them she got a perfect ten, which was the highest grade in the class. Not bad for a Brooklyn girl, is it? And then on the second one, which was much harder, she got a six and a half.  A lot of people failed that one and she had figured among the top six highest grades. On that same day the principal of the school arrived to hand out the report cards/ le pagelle in person. She made a comment to each student. She turned to the girl who always comes out with all tens and said, "I hope you are not too much of a loner." And it was a weird thing to say because the girl really is not a loner. Anyway, T had just one subject with a grade that was satisfactory but not fabulous and the principal told her that she should work to improve it. T wasn't too phased by it since many of her classmates did not pass this term, but we were both kind of struck when she retold the story by how different it is here than it would be back in America.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One of those giorni
I woke up an hour earlier than the early time I usually wake up these days because I thought I was being attacked by a swarm of killer mosquitoes. It turned out it was just my ears buzzing. At least you can kill off the mosquitoes. This virus never goes away. When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see this:

Then I tried to go back to sleep numerous times. When the buzzing didn't get me, the smacking did. F has developed a charming habit of smacking his tongue against the roof of his mouth while he is sleeping. He only does it when he is congested, which accounts for one third of the winter months. It is worse than snoring. If your partner snores, consider yourself lucky. It could always be worse. He sounds like an irregularly dripping faucet with a microphone next to it.

Despite my exhaustion, I scrambled to get ready for my morning exercise walk around the walls. I didn't want to keep Francesca, my walking buddy, waiting. I gulped down my orzo/decaf and some round energy snacks that F made us from peanut butter, flax seed, coconut, rolled oats, and chocolate chips. I smeared my feet with vaseline and took my saw palmetto pills and put some sunlotion and concealer on my face and started for my jacket when my cell phone buzzed. It was Francesca saying that she couldn't make it. I would have happily gone back to bed, if she had called 20 minutes earlier. Now it was too late to turn back. I would feel more like the above photo than ever if I had slunk back under the covers.

 It was extremely chilly and humid today and the mist was so thick that the view from the walls looked more like Scottish moors than Tuscan fortresses. The explicit rap music booming through my ipod headphones made me feel better. That is I felt better until I felt  a new blister forming in the heel of my new gortex shoes. The reviews on Amazon said to buy a half size too big. I thought I would be smart to follow their advice, but no. The shoes are just about exactly a half size too big. We don't really return things in Italy. The stores will only give you credit. No refunds. And on-line purchases may never get delivered to your house in the best of times.

Then I gave my English lesson. It was a really uninspired lesson on prepositional phrases and I didn't blame my student for looking sceptical when I gave my -now that you know your prepositional phrases, next week will be a blast- speech.
Here's T. I call this photo: hipster on the move.
Then I greeted T on her way home from school, and ran to the hair salon. I have two friends who work there, but the owner is a really weird guy. He never lets them progress in their professional development and hogs all the haircutting himself. They are allowed to apply color and wash and style, but that's it. He decides on the color and does a lot of the finishing touches. He arbitrarily decided that the black stripe in the front of my head that was left after they lightened my hair was too risky to correct. I offered to take responsibility for it, but he wouldn't even try, so my friends wrote me on facebook that I could come in while he went home for lunch. I came running in after he left and said okay "Thelma & Lousie," let's do this! And sure enough there was no damage to my hair and they did a perfect job. He came in before they were completely finished and we all got a bit nervous, but he didn't notice anything different.

F's fabulous sauteed mushrooms.
F's homemade sour dough english muffins. They came out really well.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Friendly Football League
I kid you not.

By virtue of being American, notwithstanding having played "football americano" perhaps two dozen times, I (F) am considered an exalted expert and have been invited to be a member of the "Broken Grandpas" of the FFL. The other teams in the league include the "Orange Donkeys," the "Battlecats," and "Baby Yanagi."

We've practiced a couple of times now and the team makes up for experience with enthusiasm and an adorable fetish for football gear--rubberized receiver gloves, matching spandex capri leggings, neon socks, as well as little cones and tape measures to mark off the field.

Each practice generally begins with the outline and rehearsal of an elaborate trick play involving hiking the ball to the running back, a double reverse handoff, and all of the brand new recruits standing around looking utterly mystified. But then there are a bunch of running, passing, blocking and kicking drills that today ended up working quite well for everyone.

It was a beautiful sunny morning (sorry NYC), and after Fabio number two and I stopped and fortified ourselves at a bar on the way to the practice field near Pisa, I think I held my own pretty well on the field. Gianluca, who is the quarterback and the most serious fan kept calling me his "Jimmy Graham," which I really hope is a compliment. Plus also, it's three hours of Italian lessons for me, including far more parolacce/curses than I should be trusted with.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rainbow cupcakes 

 I don't know why I meddle. For some reason when I heard that T's friend Natasha's little sister Sofia really wanted Rainbow Dash My Little Pony rainbow cupcakes for her birthday, I was determined that she should have them. It's been raining like crazy the past few days here and the thunderstorms have been epic. I have some weird virus that makes my ears fill up with fluid and buzz and ache, and I can't seem to shake it. Well, I cajoled F into finding food coloring in Lucca. I got a tip that we could find some at Tutto per La Casa, which I have referred to as the bad energy store in previous posts because the owner is so grouchy. Not only was he grouchy at poor F, but he wanted fifteen euro for just one little tube of color. So  F got on his bike in the pouring rain and got the colors and then figured out how to make rainbow cupcakes. This is one of the zillion reasons why I have the best husband ever invented. I tried to make a 3D pony, but we didn't have blue fondant and it's little legs kept collapsing. There is nothing more sad than a crippled, little rainbow pony so I made a flat one to put on top of the birthday's girl's cupcake. T made the most adorable little washi tape banner that spelled out Sofia's name to go with it. Don't worry, I've got photos this time.

And here are our friends making us delicious, fresh kamut pasta at their dinner party. It's not a rainbow pony, but it was still very special to us.
In other news, I got served. The fancy gym is being investigated and so I was summoned to some official office to show all of my paperwork in two weeks time. At least, I don't seem to be the focus of the investigation. Hopefully, I won't blabber on and end up being the center of their unwanted attention. Can you tell that I have watched 15 back to back episodes of Scandal? What I would do without my friend and Italian teacher, pictured above, I don't know. We've started to call her Angelina Jolie. I don't know what we would have done if she hadn't adopted us. After first bothering her with our Sistema Ambiente burocratic nightmare because we didn't know that non-residents pay less garbage taxes than residents and so we never updated our information; I then bothered her with this next notice of persecution. Come to find out that we also messed up because we used our middle names on some of our official documents, but not on all of them. Italians never use their middle names on official documents because it leads to you having a schizophrenic identity crisis,having your electricity turned off and paying garbage taxes that are astronomical, I gather. Three years in, and we are still on a steep and muddy learning curve. It's not all rainbow ponies all the time, but it's worth it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Italian Stallion

I'm still trying to live this relatively new Italian life, but once in a while it gallops off without me and I end up ass down on the cold, gray, cobbled ground wondering how I fell off and how to get back on again.

I haven't written in a while. Things are very QUIET. I still get up first thing and walk the five miles. Francesca says she is going to join me four times a week and then I give her a mini metamorfosi lesson when we are almost done with our second loops around the walls. She is not a great conversationalist in the morning. It is like going to therapy in Italian, but I'm the patient who has to trick the therapist into thinking she is learning more about me without really every disclosing anything that matters. I have no problems with walking in silence, but it's hard to do with someone for an hour and fifteen minutes unless you are totally in love with them. And I like her. But love is a four letter word.

While I survived the walk in the pouring rain, my sneakers didn't like it; and don't even ask my feet how they felt. All roads point to gore-tex. How did my not wanting to pay for a gym membership and being in charge of my own exercise plan lead to buying a jacket made of something they call K-way (pronounced kee-way) which keeps me hot even though it is paper thin and now shoes that you could walk through a rice paddy in?

I have gotten two leads in two days for possible English students. Between health issues and money issues and issue issues, I've lost pretty much all the work I used to have. On the other hand, my ideal life is not an impossibility. Four students a day, time with F that is completely sacred, an early workout, and three meals with T, because that is when she is the most chatty. It will just take a lot of patience, three unseen seasons of Scandal, and a lot of Pinterest to get me there.

T's quote of the day: "Mom, as far as you know, has anyone ever died of Latin?"

I am like the CSI of Pinterest pinning. For example, if you look up buddhas you get the both kinds of crazy ladies: old and young. The crazy younger ladies who appreciate buddha imagery are the ones with the best bohemian design and clothing boards that are not called anything offensive like gypsy, ethnic, hobo glitter. They are my people. Their boards don't look like a crazy hoarders episode of mismatched prints. You can learn a lot about a person by looking at their Pinterest boards. Too much. The same people who have boards devoted to Kate Moss and Carrie Delevingne and Oliva Palermo are the ones with design elements like animal heads on the walls, and real fur and asymmetrical skirts and haircuts. Coincidence? I think not. Some people's dream houses are places that if I woke up there I would think that I had died. And not in a good way. There is no accounting for taste. And that brings me to the number one reason why we love Pinterest and it's name is food pornography. How did I live before I knew that there was such a thing as batter fried pickles, blueberry muffin gelato, and 375 varieties of the grilled cheese sandwich?

For example, some one posted this photo:
Some buddha loving someone posted this photo on Pinterest  with the subtitle "Ahhh . ." 
All, I could think was that seems like a truly voyeuristic way to get mosquito bites in bad places. There is nothing appealing or restful about this image to me at all. You can take the neurotic person out of New York, but you can't take the . . . Well, you know the rest.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quote of the day!
T: "Mom, you know what occurred to me today? Maybe the reason why Italy is so corrupt is because the school system basically just teaches you how to cheat."

Friday, January 10, 2014

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a little bit of vendetta versus the fancy gym mixed in with my new year's resolution to get in the best shape of my life.

In this un-zen like frame of mind I always have this fear-filled fantasy of bumping into my ex-boss Giacomo, or even worse, my horrendous ex-co-worker Ricky in town. I feel like if I had to exchange pleasantries with them, it woud cause me psychic harm. That is why I was thrilled that I discovered female rapper Iggy Azalea  for my walk around the walls. Now I know that if they try to shoot the shit with me, as we uncouth Americans say, I can simply respond: "Please don't waste your time saying hello to me because I'm sure that there is a cock for you to suck  elsewhere". . . I love hip hop. I'm pretty sure it will sound even better in Italian, but I'm not sure that I can get my Italian teacher to translate it for me.

Road rage aside, today I met a lovely woman on my walking route. I think it is the lady who usually wears the white coat. Today she confused me by wearing a black coat, but it could have been her rain attire because it was drizzling. I wore my Dirty Dancing baseball cap and she still spoke to me which is a good omen. The lights were on in the back of this little casa on the walls and inside was a beautiful giant white sculpture of two figures that I had never seen before. She was taking photos so I inquired about it, but it turned out that she was taking pictures of some bicycles parked out front because she is in a club that takes photos of bicycles. Not even kidding about that. So anyway, now we are facebook friends which is nice. I also chatted with two other ladies about their rain gear and they told me that I have to get an outdoor sports kind of rain jacket because my trench coat is really heavy to drag around for 5 miles.

Speaking of clothes and shopping. T showed me this article she found about organizing your wardrobe ( so that you concentrate on pieces that are easy to make outfits from in the morning and then switching off every three months or so. She wanted to put off doing her homework so she organized my whole closet and bureau so that it all makes sense, god bless her. It is supposed to help you from spending unnecessary money by encouraging you to shop your closet, as they say. It didn't stop me from ordering more Twizzlers on-line, but maybe it will help me from buying clothes I don't need. When the Twizzler supply was about to dry out, I almost had a panic attack. How will I drink wine when I am depressed and hormonal if not out of my chocolate licorice straw? Well, I'm sure you have your little idiosyncracies, too, right? But if you don't, you can still check out these videos:

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Day two and the special kind of Compeed bandaids that my friend recommended could not be found so early in the morning so I slathered my feet in vaseline and put on regular tape. I stopped in front of the Gelateria Veneta just to make sure that Francesca wasn't there, but there was no text message/sms from her on the phone, and I was purposely ten minutes late, taking the middle ground between American and Italian punctual, just to make sure that I wasn't leaving her in the lurch. I wasn't. To be fair, she really is pretty sick. I really think she is this time.

I smiled and said ciao to the lady in the white puffy jacket with whom I had the imaginary race yesterday and that was nice, but when I saw her the next two times it was awkward. I think she hopes I don't make it back out there tomorrow. Don't worry I'm not going to keep you posted every day about my silly little walk. I will admit to you that I am so sore that I can't walk or sit down without grabbing my butt cheeks. I made quite an impression on the postwoman between that and my makeup-less face. Say what you will about Tracy Anderson, but her method works. It has transformed me. She doesn't approve of walking as cardio and suggests that we do unrepetitive hoppy "dance" aerobics for 50 minutes, but my ankles and peroneal tendons, unfortunately, won't cooperate. I figure humans were meant to walk and it burns a good amount of calories, plus I don't think it will give me the huge ass that spinning does.

Cheery, aren't I? I don't know how to do a selfie with the ipod so excuse the view of my nostrils.
The worst blister is this letter we got from the Sistema Ambiente which is the garbage people. They think we didn't pay the tax that we paid. Pop!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The long walk around
First we carb loaded. I started early with fondue at New Year's, as you know:

 And then homemade pizza the night before:

Fig & gorgonzola pizza -- Did your mind just explode??

T refusing the paparazzi shots.
 The plan was to wake up when the alarm went off and meet Francesca (whose idea it was) outside of the Gelateria Veneta. On the positive side, T and I applauded each other for being alive that early in the morning while we ate breakfast together at the table. We had cocoa oatmeal, if you must know. She added chocolate chips and I added agave syrup.

I put little toe protectors on my little piggies to protect them and walked boldly into the unknown.

I was proud of being awake to catch the pretty sunrise. The air was brisk but not too cold. Sorry, New York.

I was American ontime which is 20 minutes too early to be Italian on time so I decided to text Francesca. That's when I saw her message about having been up all night vomiting. I would have felt sorry for her, but it was the same excuse she used last time she cancelled on me. I am not sure if she has the worst luck in the world or if she is just a pathological liar, but I am hoping for the best. Just kidding. My joke about not taking my Ipod with me just in case my walking partner didn't show up was not that that funny afterall, and I had to retrace my steps back to the house where F came down to to let me grab my tunes.

This is my sad faced selfie upon hearing the dismal news.

 I tied my shoes tighter. I stopped to loosen them because they were too tight. Twice. As I paused this older lady grinned as she passed me. It was a so long sucker kind of a moment. When she stopped to chat with a gentleman at a later point in the loop, I charged past her. It's competitive up there on those walls. Don't be fooled by the senior citizens of Lucca. They are fierce about their wall walking. About half way around I realized that even just wearing toe protectors causes me to walk differently, and, by differently, I mean that I got huge air balloon sized water blisters on my heels after the first loop. This group of three older ladies sneared at me when they passed me as I sat on a bench to pull them off. I told you: they're viscious.


Dumb toe protectors!