Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas, Darlings

It's that time, again, and already. Though I have not been in touch with anyone consistently, please do know that I am thinking about you. I bought my ticket home for a 5 day visit in June that seems almost not worth mentioning, and am hoping hoping hoping for some stateside visitors to come to see me.

Halfway into my first week home from work - the school is closed for 3 weeks so I have a generous break. Winter has been good to us so far with only one snowfall that required a plowing of the drive. I hope it continues this way and though we were fortunate to not get hit with the storms the rest of Europe is suffering through, we have some very cold temps. Lovin' the fireplaces, I must say, and I look forward to opening the Winter Pimms that recent visitor from London, Agnes, brought with her.

Christmas eve will be celebrated at friends Harriet and Robbie' house, with Katherine, Julia and a total of 6 kids including Ray. I am making gyoza! Christmas day is planned in Lugo with a lunch reservation at a restaurant (my mother-in-law is breaking tradition as it was her idea). Then we head to the Marche to see the Hoddell's who are here for a few days from their new residence in Kenya. All good.

Monzuno is as beautiful this time of year as she is in the summer. The views and sunrises are spectacular and in our little microclimate here, we can see the heavy clouds below us and often we are ten degrees warmer then at the bottom of the mountain. A nice surprise as we expected to be freezing more than the town residents!

Wishing you the best for Christmas and a great New Year. Memories of past celebrations, and the making of new ones, keeping me sane while I miss my family and friends.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hitting close to home, again...

A message from a best friend from high school, Jim Shargo. Sisters, I think you remember Beth and certainly you heard about Lori O. passing away this summer. We all have so much to be grateful for.

just heard from marybeth h that beth c passed away suddenly, sometime over the thanksgiving cause of death is known at this time (not a heart attack or stroke, and supposedly she was not ill)...marybeth gleaned the info from several of our former classmates facebook pages so the details are kinda sketchy...beth left behind two young sons...wot the fuk, this kinda shit just should't's times like this that bring home the realization that life is so fucking fragile and that at any given moment everything you take for granted could be taken away without warning or reason...i just want you to know that despite all the years, the miles, the good times and all the bullshit we shared i treasure the memories of our misspent youth and value the friendship we, jim

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In the past couple of months, I relied more on facebook to post accounts of what I have been up to, but miss posting here so I am giving up one for the other (it sounds like chosing one lover over another, which in a sense is accurate if you consider the time invested...).

Anyway, settling into the house has become much easier in spite of the much cooler weather. It helps to have two fireplaces going to keep the stone walls warm, though the real freeze has yet to come. In addition, our neighbors Rita and Filippo could not be nicer and Ray is getting very attached to them. He sometimes goes over to visit and draws at their kitchen table while chatting with them, and Rita carved a pumpkin for him for Halloween. We really lucked out there. Hosting a slew of friends has kept me busy and almost every weekend we have a number of them here. It has been great for Ray who now has space to play without me yelling at him to keep the noise down (here he is with his first candlelight dinner with friends, Anna and Ella, and with his best friends, Michael and Yeelan - always posing as superheroes).

Friend Tom came to visit from NJ for (only) 5 days at the end of October when I had a week off work. It was nice to have him embrace everything Italian and it was fun to have a shopping partner. We hit Venice, Florence and Bologna though the weather prevented us from taking advantage of more exotic locations such as the fall beach scene of the Adriatic. Next time....

I have been also getting quite good at hosting aperitivos at home though I would like to increase my experimental cooking. (Above is a photo of a pot of ragu, and a plate of tagliatelli with a shaved local truffle). Next weekend I am having Agnes visit from London and invited 20 for lunch on Saturday so I will take this opportunity to learn how to roast meat on the grill, though the fireplace in the kitchen works well for small pieces such as sausage and chicken.

So, for the moment, the hightlights of being here have been fireplace, views, dog-sitting Lucy, hosting and cooking. Most of all, getting a break out of the city and the fresh air. Well worth the commute. Visit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting ready for the cold...

Guess what we did today.

We had our wood shed put in a couple of weeks ago to get ready for the delivery, but needing exercise I wanted to stack it ourselves. It was kind of fun. Four hours of it. Fun. Really.

If you like stuffed pork loin, cut the loin in a spiral till flat, then line it with sage leaves. Add sausage meat, then a layer of fresh mushrooms. Put a cooked carrot on the end. After tying up the loin, roll it in salamoia seasoning (I gave everyone a jar in a past visit), sear it in a hot pain, then roast it in the oven. I toss in the diced potatoes when it is cooked halfway. Slice and waalaa - serve it with some crusty pugliese bread to your friends who come and visit by motorcycle.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Calm After the Storm

It was a little weird to watch the HHI show - after spending 5 days of filming and seeing it cut down to 23 minutes, it seemed a little thin and I think they edited it just to catch all my "wow"s. But the whole experience was fun and now seeing Ray walk away from watching it after 5 minutes kind of says it all!
I will post some photos of a festa we attended in Monzuno a couple of weekends ago. Twenty chefs came from Bologna to cook two different menus and we signed up for one each, then visited the various stalls to taste their goods. It was really a treat (also to drink wines from the local vineyards, one of which was my favorite: Tizzano) and I hope somebody stateside comes next year to try it with us. This weekend we will go to Urbino with Andrea's students, and the following to Rome where Andrea has a conference. Otherwise, the days are full of commuting and students for both of us. Ray is doing well at the International School. He is learning all the rules and comes home with a "well done" sticker most days.
Well, it's late and I have to get up in 5 hours so I'll post the photos in the next day or so. Buona notte.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Late summer Saturday

Saturdays are for:

gift of a basket of fresh vegetables from the neighbor's garden (again)

and with some help chopping from a little boy

turns into a late summer lunch

followed by an evening of bread making.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

September I'll Remember....

I feel almost like a real local - the man at the forno (bread bakery) sold me bread on credit (I had only a big bill, not that I went shopping with no cash!), and the green grocer knows what I want before I open my mouth (almost always "5 peaches: 2 yellow, 3 white and a bunch of grapes"). I also make it a point to have a quick chat in our real estate agent's office as Albertina is very sweet and it cracks me up that she tells me more about our business than I know myself (for example, we are getting our driveway paved this weekend and I didn't even think she would know, but she had already told the mailperson not to go up to the house but to drop the mail to her for us to pick up).

September is lingering outside the door, and Ray begins his first day at the International School on the first. I am looking forward to some interesting conversations we will have in the car during our 45 minute commute, and also to having him in the classroom next door. He is going to love the school. I returned to work yesterday and it is lovely to reconnect with colleagues who are now good friends and we will go out for drinks after work tomorrow.

Ray has discovered a new life here in Monzuno. A typical day is helping me with the gardening, a hike on the trails that run along the property line (we had a picnic in a field my last day home), a little soccer practice in the yard, and running through the wet sheets on the clothesline. It's the childhood I hoped he would experience, and so am very happy. He is also enjoying the neighbor's dog, Asia, who comes to visit every day (at dinner time). As for Andrea - after his initial panic attack of moving out of the city - he can't wipe the smile off his face when we sit outside in the evening breezes, while those in Bologna swelter under the oppressive heat and humidity. It is a real slice of what I imagine heaven might be like.

I am a little embarrassed to post our Househunter's show info as I don't know how idiotically we will be portrayed, but here goes:

Some of the photos below are another Monzuno sunrise (I can't catch the beauty on film), a day in the life of Ray, a Monzuno festa, and the one above is the pre-terrace entrance. We have to figure out what will tolerate the freeze of the winters here. Come see these things firsthand!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dog Days Update

Our neighbor's welcome basket included a bottle of nocino (a wine made from walnuts, not in photo). Fresh picked from her garden, I hope Rita will help me next spring with vegetable and fruit choices to plant. Below is one of her husband's motorcycles, a Ducati. Filippo has a collection that includes many beautiful vintage ones.
I am almost done painting just over half of the walls. We had some of Andrea's furniture delivered from Lugo, and the moving guy, Giorgio, installed it and this Saturday is returning for a BBQ with his wife and four adopted children. We have used him for three moves so we are becoming friends and as he has a hardware and garden shop, is bringing us our new grill (I hope I like it as I really would like a Weber kettle grill but I know he doesn't carry those).
Monzuno sunrise. The weather these days are just gorgeous. When living in Bologna, I discouraged August visits as everything shuts down, but out here there is a festival in a nearby town every night, and the oppressive heat stays in the valley Bologna sits in.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

One more link...

For those of you who didn't see his post on facebook, Kenji is scoring in magazine write-ups:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

some links

I wanted to post some newish links. Andrea has updated the BCSP site and Sky, the student who filmed our househunters audition tape for us, did this very nice intro of the program: You can imagine how happy Ray was when Alexandra would babysit, and check out Rodolfo on the Internship Profile video on the same page.
Check out Sky's personal experiences of Bologna food at: (my favorite is Cioccolato but listen to the caffeine buzzed guy in Il Caffe)
And then there is Marc, whose blog I still enjoy reading: (and we get an honorable mention again in "Goodbye BCSP")
And of course, if you come visit, Florence is an hour away: but who needs all that history when you have your own American in Italy stuffing you with ragu and pasta and wine?

We're in. Monzuno Rocks.

From this to this:

We are two weeks into the new place and it has been a long haul. Moving was stressful due to Andrea's last-minute cold feet of moving out of civilization, but he has been won over by the beauty of nature, the peace and quiet (except for the deer calls at night), and the space we have to put all our things (no more washing machine in the bathroom). The best part is having the outdoor space for our plants and for Ray to play. We'll be busy in the spring putting in the 40 lavender plants we have planned for the dry, rocky soil of the area.

Andrea was busy setting up his new (off-limits) office and is counting on some privacy. Ray asks on occassion when we are going back to Bologna, but is starting to understand that this isn't vacation and yesterday during a trip into town, discovered a classmate from Bo who spends time here with his grandparents so they have a play date tomorrow. In addition, friends Harriett and Philippa visited on different occassions with their 3 kids each and it is great to have them play hard and not be underfoot. This is something new for us after years in tiny spaces. We also hiked the trail behind our house with the Hoddells and it was quite beautiful (and challenging, I must admit). I have already seen the truffle hunters behind our house with their dogs, seeking out where the gold is hidden to return in October to collect them at maturity.

This past weekend we were invited to lunch at an agriturismo with Andrea's friends. Their daughter has a restaurant and it is not far from here. See her holding up the Florentine steaks for approval before cooking. I bought a bottle of their wine since it was so delicious, and now that I can actually start storing bottles in the cantina.

Today I will start painting the walls while Andrea takes Ray into Bologna for some errands. The house is still a mess and we are trying to sort out all the stuff - how we fit all this into our little place in Bologna, I will never know but am taking this opportunity to donate many things to a local place. I admit, though, I am loving the kitchen, our neighbor's dog Asia (who joins us for a meal now and then) and the mornings of juice and coffee outdoors while Ray takes a quick swim and sunbathes.

Visit. xxoo