8/28/15

weekend links.

I love this picture that William took of us taking this picture.  Ha.

I've worn sneakers a few times here and, good news, I have not felt like I am sticking out all I'M AN AMERICAN in them.  I have these and love them (and now I want the black pair too).

These cheddar-filled meatballs.  Yummmmmm.

After spending a day in Civita di Bagnoregio, this Airbnb has me all dreamy.  Unreal.  The town is so quaint, so tiny, so unique.

Dammit Free People!

Get out of the cities and into the country!  (Better yet, do both.)  Some Umbria love (the region in Italy where we are!).

Loving that flared jeans are back in style.  These are kind of awwwwesome.

Before dinner, during dinner, everyone here is drinking these bright orange drinks on ice.  Aperol spritz!  They're always served with a bowl of potato chips too.  I like them much better than the Negroni I tried at Como.

Trader Joe's products to try.  Their peanut butter is such a win (we brought six jars with us, and we are already through them all).  And I'd also add their dark chocolate pretzel crisps to the list.  They're ridiculous.

My new favorite Instagram.

What It's Like to Eat at Noma (I'm clearly not sophisticated enough because it made me crave a Five Guys burger).

Have a good weekend!

8/25/15

a simple practice.

as it turns out, going abroad doesn't magically erase all of the woes, however big or little, you had back home.  so, last night, when i was playing andrea bocelli's 'the prayer' while cleaning the kitchen and i started to cry, i chose not to be surprised, not to tell myself snap out of it, bridget, you're in italy for god's sake, and instead i let the tears go.  (even on the best of days, that song can make me cry.)  parker was right there in the kitchen, holding his cross bow and looking up at me and i told him i was feeling sad and could i have a hug and he immediately stopped what he was doing to let me hold him while he patted my back and said, "it's ok."  i had gotten an email earlier about a playdate for all the kids going to preschool this year (which parker will join in on when we return) and i thought about the fact that he's missing that (though, no doubt he wouldn't even care and is way more resilient than i am), and the fact that he's going to school at all.  i told steve yesterday that it feels as though my heart is always breathlessly playing catch up with the speed of time.  how exhausting it would be to forever remain in the baby stage, or the toddler stage, or any stage at all, of course, but how am i already exiting that with parker?  how did we arrive here so fast?  i let myself, for a hot second, drift backwards to the moment i gave birth to him and he was placed in my arms.  i saw it all like i was some other presence in the room, and then felt the weight of his body in present day while i held him and while he comforted me and while i told him how much i love him and how sometimes it makes me cry.  i asked him if he'd still cuddle me when he got big and he said, "yes even when i'm big like faniel (nathaniel)."  

i've never had a quote to call my own.  i'll read one and think yes that's it and then promptly forget it the moment i close the book, walk away from the screen, what have you.  but one that i keep coming back to lately is this by, my very favorite, james taylor: the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  it's so simple yet requires such diligent hard work on my part.  to hold so many things so dearly that time has become something of an enemy also means that i am grateful, i am lucky, i am blessed.  so, here i sit, from a bedroom in orvieto, working on this seemingly simple practice.  i am grateful, i am lucky, i am blessed.  over and over and over again.

8/24/15

Parker's first haircut.



You see, I haven't always been the most emotionally stable in terms of my babies' firsts and thus, we've just continued happily passing right over this one until Parker was all of four years old and in need of a haircut while traipsing through the streets of Orvieto.  That's not to say he's never had his hair cut.  He's had probably close to ten, all by me with some way-too-dull hair cutting shears that I can never find when I need them.  In the bathtub in the winter (then vacuumed afterwards), or on the driveway in the summertime.  We've always managed this way, a little here and a little there, but those shears didn't make the trip to Italy and his long hair did.  No big deal for most kids, but he's a nervous fellow, Parker is.  I blame it on the fact that he needed stitches at a young age (or maybe that his own mother is prone to anxiety?  Could it be?!) but he turns these things over in his head, investigating them from every angle.  You can almost watch the gears turning.  From an emphatic no, to a, when I'm older, to an, I don't like the barber-man! (what'd he ever do to you?!), to a maybe.  I don't like to push him into things, but that hair was not getting any shorter, and I just knew that he'd be happier if he overcame his fear.  His nervousness around it was almost making him moody.  So, Steve and I talked it over with him, and mentioned names of friends who have had their hair cut, and even promised a cool homemade wooden crossbow that he keeps eyeing every time we pass this store in town.  He decided he could do it, but he was so nervous.  The whole thing sort of breaks my heart.  You can just see the fear on his face, the stoic determination, the hint of tears in his eyes.  Buddy!  You kill me.  And so we went in, and for a few moments all was forgotten while we tried to communicate what sort of haircut we wanted.  Steve removed his hat, motioned to his own hair, I said, "not that short" while googling the Italian word for short.  The barber left the store and came back a minute later with a friend who's English was only a tiny bit better.  We all laughed while Parker waited for his turn in the seat.  Once he was decided, he sat on that seat like a big kid, and was perfectly still watching himself in the mirror while he got his hair cut.  9 euros later, he looks like a big kid, is so proud of himself, and is the happy owner of his very own crossbow.  And what do you know, every time we pass the barber, we wave to the man and Parker, with a smirk on his face, says, "I like that guy."

8/21/15

weekend links.

Doesn't Anders look a little like Syndrome from The Incredibles here?  Anyway, here he is trying his first strawberry.  He liked it.  He's also tried gelato already--probably three times--which is crazy.  When Parker was a baby, I'm certain he didn't have even a taste of sugar until he was over 1.  Nevertheless, I think he'll be okay.

This shop has the prettiest ceramics.  I love that two-toned salad bowl.  And these bowls!!

This is where we get more gelato than any of the other places in town.  It's very, very good.  I am still on a stracciatella kick though I have swapped out pistachio for strawberry or, last night, peach.  So daring.

The U.S. has so much progress to make in terms of maternity leave.  Come on!

The mornings are cool here, totally feeling like fall is on the way.  I want this sweater (in gray) bad.

This house tour is one of my favorites ever I think?  Question mark because I say that every single time I see one?  I literally scrolled down, loving room after room, and then said out loud, "And of course she has a Smeg."  Maybe she'll give me her house if I ask nicely?

How about a really cool state cutting board (with 100% of proceeds going towards an adoption!)?

Steve and I are both reading this book with a Florence setting!  The prologue was intense.  (Steve just finished The Twelve Caesars and loved it.)

Back to school is coming.  Skip the hassle and get your kids - boy or girl - some of these shoes and call it good.  We all have them, and love them.

A great giveaway (for a really, really great cause.)

I saw mention of Fed Up on Facebook and now I'd love to see it (and force the kids to watch it with me).

Have a good weekend!

8/19/15

Losing time in Orvieto.


Everyone is on Italy time now. William and Lindsey sleep in though, because I think they're texting their friends back home late into the evenings since the time change has their friends wide awake and in their dinner hour when we're heading off to bed. Anders is our wake up, somewhere between 6 and 7 every morning. We let him crawl around on us on the bed, half attempting sleep while keeping him from falling off, half hoping he'll fall asleep again knowing full well that he won't, until we give up and go in search of caffeine.  Often Steve and I take turns, often Parker pops his head in, and then we are all up and walking up the Corso to Montanucci for a cappuccino and a cornetto.  (As it turns out, croissants and cornettos (or pastries, or brioche, or...) are slightly different.  Foodies, read on. Also, don't confuse the pastry cornetto with the ice cream cone cornetto!  Context is everything.)




We're bleary-eyed sometimes, and the weather at this early hour is almost no indication of the weather for the rest of the day. It can be dewy and rainy and cool, and by noon it's like a new summer has arrived. The man at the cash register on the right welcomes you, "Buon giorno, buon giorno, buon giorno!" It's always nice to step foot in the place and realize you aren't the only ones up (the Corso is quiet at this hour--with only the supermarket being stocked by a truck that looks far too big to fit on these tiny old streets, and an occasional local walking.) I order a cappuccino and they usher me to sit down while they make it. I do so happily. Anders gets a little taste of cornetto, every morning.  He transfers it from one hand to the other, back and forth like this for minutes at a time, flakes falling on him, in the stroller seat.




We've become friends with a local couple, Sylvia and Lodovico (owners of Locanda Palazzone). What a treat it has been. The hotel is a little piece of heaven in Umbria. I mean heaven. Postcard views, local wine (that's exported--so look for Palazzone wine in your local liquor store!), pizza, and lasagna, and cheese, and really great conversation late into the evening. Sylvia has shown us local spots we otherwise wouldn't have discovered. Sitting around their beautiful table and talking about family and relationships and politics while we feast and have our glasses filled and refilled has been such a gift. Sylvia, originally from Brussels, speaks perfect English, we speak barely any Italian, no French, Lodovico, from Italy, speaks some English (more than he gives himself credit for, I think), and so we more than get by, at a slightly slower pace than we would with all English speakers, but there's something completely wonderful about it too. Last night we all laughed, as Lodovico, with our urging, tried our peanut butter. He sat across from us spreading it on a piece of bread muttering with his thick Italian accent, "I hate everything," when really he meant (and was actually saying), "I eat everything."   

This trip, like most trips, has a funny way of making us lose time. What day is it? It's already 5 pm? I thought it was 2. We were in Lake Como just two weeks ago? That feels like a month ago. You know what I mean? Time moves slower (but somehow faster too?). I love that the kids are witnessing all of this: ordering off of menus they barely understand, saying buon giorno and then switching to buono sera in the evenings, having wine offered to them like it's water, different languages and worldview being discussed around dinner tables, so on and so forth. More than the museum tickets, it's this, the observing that every day requires of them, that makes me so happy.



8/17/15

a sunset walk in orvieto.

music: this must be the place by iron & wine and ben bridwell

last week we walked, as we do every day, multiple times a day, and ended up at a great little place (il malandrino!) for dinner.  william and i got plates of cacio e pepe, lindsey had a veggie pizza, steve had a sausage and corn pizza, and parker got margherita pizza (how many he's had at this point?  i'm not even sure.).  vino and acqua naturale to go around too!  (i'll just throw in random italian words and phrases i know from here on out, ok?)

the night was fairly young still (we're often out before the crowds for dinner--those italians start their dinner late, as you know.  do their kids sleep in too?!  anders has been waking up at his normal early hour, so i haven't been staying up too late.) so we kept walking and ended up at the edge of orvieto where the lookout is absolutely spectacular.  it's an old walled city surrounded by cliffs, so along all the edges, there are really great views to take in.

it was sunset, and it was gorgeous.  we walked along exclaiming the entire time about how beautiful, how charming, how amazing it all was.  one of the top things to do in orvieto, that's for sure.  

8/14/15

weekend links.

Parker, doing as the Italians do, and wetting his hat in the fountains on a hot day.  I love how these spouts are located throughout the city at random spots, and how they're safe to drink from too.

"A mother wears the burden silently. Deep within you, always, always, you are fighting back the desire to not let them go."  I resonated so much with this.  Do all mothers find it as heartbreaking as I do?

Changing gears.  There is probably no meal I'd take over a good burger.  Here's some tips on perfecting yours.

"When was the last time your traveling friends posted about insomnia due to flight anxiety, or feeling out of sync with family members back home?"  The dark side of traveling!  (And, it's true.  The first night in Milan when I was in a pitch black hotel room, hungry, with Anders awake and Steve snoring... well, I didn't instagram that.)

Alice Waters' ten favorite books.

The Brass girls (Katie and Jay) are so great.  I've had the pleasure of hanging out with them (for work?  Can hardly call it that!  But you'll see me over on their site!) twice now and it's just so much fun.  The last time, they put together some video of me--scroll down!  (Anders makes a cameo too.).  Thanks ladies!

The green ones!  Ooh, or these, which are so pretty (I've been eyeing Soludos for awhile, any owners?  Like them?).

These 12 lighting DIYs are so great.  I could not pull even one of them off, however.  Okay, maybe the Ikea bowl one.

Have a good weekend!

8/12/15

American breakfasts, gelato, and rain in Orvieto.

Tonight it rained and immediately everything cooled down.  It came fast and furious and windows were swinging shut and we were racing around the apartment closing them, deciding which direction the rain was coming, opening them again to invite the cool air in.  

When evening came, Anders started to stir after I thought he'd be down for the night, so I suggested we take a walk with him.  I put him in the sling in only a diaper (cool, yes, but not so cool yet; it had been 100 degrees!), and Steve and I went out.  There was live music, and a big group of people heading into the theatre.  There were empty wine glasses, sometimes several on one tiny table, and laughter.  People stopped to look at Anders, he gives them a smile.  I had randomly come across Marlena De Blasi when reading something on Orvieto online and then, who do I see sitting there with her husband eating at a cafe on the Via del Duomo, but her (I bet you guessed it.).  I haven't read her books, so it didn't mean much to me.  Mostly just funny that I had come across her name moments earlier.  (Any fans out there?)

We need to watch our spending--especially when it comes to eating out (such an easy place to unknowingly spend so much)--and so we decided against everything but a small gelato.  I said, "Piccolo, coppeta.  Pistachio y stracciatella."  I string these words together, smiling while I do, almost like an invitation for them to laugh at me if they want to (need to!), but still it does get my point across because, lo and behold, I got a small cup with pistachio and stracciatella!  I've had three gelato so far, and this is my favorite combination and the one I think I'll keep going back to.  I usually stick to fruity flavors--lemon, strawberry.  But I can't shake this combination.  

While we walked, I had one of those hypothetical if-you-had-all-the-money-in-the-world conversations with Steve (do you have those?).  "If we had tons of money, would you buy an apartment here?"  He said yes, perhaps, but that he'd want to have a purpose, a business.  We decided on an American breakfast joint.  Eggs, bacon, hash browns, enormous pancakes with blueberries, smoothies, giant cups of coffee, cold half-and-half in silver pitchers placed on every table.  Nothing against the Italian breakfast (that I am happily partaking in on the reg) but there's definitely nothing like an American breakfast place anywhere (at least in Orvieto).  Do you think it'd go over well?  Would the Italians come?

8/11/15

Italian Train Travel, what we've learned so far.


Italian Train Travel…what we’ve learned so far.

Bridget asked me, “the husband” in “Tales of Me and the Husband”, to write this post. I’m not sure why. In any case, let’s begin.

Italian trains are a bit tricky. Getting from Milano to Orvieto, for example, is not as simple as you might think. You’re thinking, “just go to the web-site, and book your tickets.” Having tried that several times now, here’s what we’re saying about that suggestion: Forget about it. Evidently, the Tren Italia website was designed by an Italian lover, not a Swiss engineer. Even on the English version of the site one encounters all sorts of frustrations, including all sorts of words—indeed, crucial words!—left un-translated. In addition, it’s hard to figure out if you’re actually getting the “familia offerta” (which we desperately need); and then, of course, you need to know the differences between the Regional trains (Regionale), the Inter-City trains (IC), and the High Speed trains (Frecciarossa--that one is fun to say), as all of them appear to have their own ways about them too. So, instead of beating your head against a key-board, we have found it really helpful to pop into a local travel agent (watch for the Tren Italia signs out front). These helpful folk are scattered all over Italian towns and, as you'd expect, they know the “ins” and the “outs” of the system. And all the ones we’ve spoken to so far have a pretty good working knowledge of English too (I know, shame on us for not knowing Italian better—but we’re improving as we go, so back off!). For their help you will pay an extra 5 Euro or so for your tickets. But you will also get tickets to a train that is going North to Varenna rather than a train that is going East to Verona; and when you want to go to Varenna, that seems like a pretty good deal.

Of course, you still need to get on the right train at the station and, frankly, that can be a bit tricky too. Here is Milano Centrale, the enormous Station right in the center of Milano. [Insert my pictures of the beautiful station here, please, Bridget?]

[Historical off-topic detour. Here are some fun facts related to Milano Centrale: the station was commissioned by Mussolini in the 1930’s. In 1945, after he was killed (by Italian anti-fascist partisans? British secret service? It doesn’t seem like anyone is really sure), his corpse was hung upside down (with one of his girlfriends and some others) at an Esso gas station just a few miles from this spot. Apparently, Italians wanted to see him dead and throw rocks at his body. One more thing, Mussolini was actually shot just a couple of miles from where we stayed on Lake Como, near Tremezzo, as he tried to escape into nearby Switzerland. Ain't history grand?]

In any case, as you can see, Milano Centrale is massive (like Lord Farquaad, was Mussolini over-compensating?). Everyone in the station is moving really fast. And everyone looks lost. Everyone. Ask someone for help? Forget about it. And, by all means, don’t let one of the luggage porters outside help you with your bags!! We made that mistake on day one, when trying to get to Lake Como. For his ten minutes of help, he demanded 40 Euro (not 2 like he seemed to indicate when we asked how much when we got out of the Taxi). So, rather than getting in a fist-fight right there in the station, or, worse, having him run off with my daughter like "Taken"—who am I kidding, I don’t have Liam Neeson’s set of skills—I just paid the man. Extortion, plain and simple. Live and learn.

Anyway, we were taking an Inter City train from Milano to Orvieto. But the big, electronic Board you see Bridget looking at here didn’t mention Orvieto at all [insert picture, Bridget, here].
People, Listen!! Italian trains are listed in order by time of departure and BY THEIR FINAL DESTINATION! “Of course”, you say. But when you’re scrambling to find a train to Orvieto, A TRAIN THAT LEAVES IN 15 MINUTES AND IN A MASSIVE STATION A MILE WIDE WITH PLATFORMS A MILE LONG, you gotta know this crucial detail. Your ticket doesn’t tell you that information either. So looking at the board for Orvieto is a waste of time. That’s where your train number and departure time come in really handy. So, when we found those on the board, we saw that our train was listed as Napoli (i.e., Naples; aside: why do we Anglicize some Italian city names? Why do we call it  Rome, when we could call it Roma? Seriously.). And then next to that information, in smaller print, is the scrolling list of stops. If you stand there long enough, you’ll see yours. There was Orvieto right there somewhere in the middle. Thanks be to God. That’s when we got our Platform number too—number 10. More walking. And there’s our train! But wait! Before boarding—did you validate your ticket??? Parker, did you validate your ticket?
Our tickets told us we were booked into coach #7 (a specific car on the train, so watch out for that), and we had specific seats too. Now each little compartment on the train has 6 seats and a door. We didn’t book six seats, because little Anders is free. In hindsight, that’s a mistake. The 6 of us were joined (with all our gear for three months) for our entire 5-hour train-ride by an old Italian fellow who did nothing except offer candy to our kids. Sweet, I know. But after a while, you, as faithful readers, can imagine how Bridget reacted to this. “No grazie”, she kept saying, her voice becoming more animated each time. And then, of course, when Parker realized he was not getting any more free candy (after gelato and cookies already that day--Bridget insists I add), he would begin to whine and cry. At which point, the man would make the offer again (seemingly to make Parker happy), as if he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation (that’s sugar!) or the increasingly emphatic “No grazie.” Well this vicious cycle repeated itself several times during our 5-hour ride.
Add to that annoyance, this: the train kept stopping (sometimes in the middle of nowhere) and when it did, they (who?) would shut off the AC. Was this person not also on the train? or did they do this remotely from some AC'ed HQ? Sitting inside a piece of steel on a nearly 100 degree day with no AC gets to be a bit much. So bring water, dear reader, lots of water. Prepare to enter a flop-sweat.
But don’t drink too much or you’ll need to use the WC (the toilet) on the train. And THAT’S another story all together. How does one say “House-keeping!!” in Italian? Having never been to one, I'm assuming this particular toilet approximated what one might find in a Russian gulag. Important tip: while you’re technically not allowed to use these when the train is stopped at a station, you definitely don’t want to use these toilets when the train is up to speed. I don’t understand the physics of it, but if you use it then, you’re gonna get wet, since the toilet appears, at least on this old train, to be nothing more than a hole straight down to the tracks (maybe it’s like spitting into the wind?). Male readers (are you out there?), I beg you, do NOT stand and pee. Big mistake. Huge! I, for one, will not make it again. Ever. If you do, bring lots of wet-wipes too. And a change of clothes. (P.S. We have been on some other Italian trains where the facilities were immaculate.)

8/9/15

ITALY IN TEN, no. 1.

Italy has the prettiest tomatoes. // And front doors, too
Walking back from Meta with groceries // Our first rainy day in Tremezzo
 
So many Instagrammable vignettes here, it's ridiculous (also ridiculous?  That I said vignette) // Raspberry gelato at the Milan train station
Parker watering the garden in Tremezzo // Used a Bialetti for the first time and loved it!
Behind the scenes: vacationing with kids // Way too hot to be touched by another human being but Anders don't care


A new series, ok?  We all love a series (or hate a series; it really goes both ways equally.)  Italy in ten iPhone pictures and in ten facts.

1. Seeing a lot of these in Italy and thus declaring, we're not so different in fashion after all.
2. Get the milk or yogurt that says Intero on it.  Whole!
3. Italians love babies.  What is that?  It's a primarily Catholic country so surely there is not a shortage of babies.  Is it the blonde hair on Anders?
4. In Orvieto, almost every day there is something to bring out to the road for trash: glass is one day, plastic another, compost another, normal trash another, so on and so forth.  Every day is trash day!
5. Wine, cheap!  1/4 litro for 3 euros at almost all restaurants.  It's enough for a glass for both Steve and I and a little more (for me).  You'd be silly not to order it and drink liberally.
6. There's nothing like lunch meat here.  Salami, prosciutto, yes.  Normal American lunch meat, no.  Steve ordered 5 euros worth of salami the other day and we ate slices as we walked down the street.
7. You know how there's literally no savings benefit when you go to an American farmer's market--but you will actually spend top dollar there?  The farmer's markets here are actually cheaper!
8. Croissants for breakfast--plain, or with cream, with jelly, with chocolate in the middle.  A croissant for everyone!
9. I found bacon at a grocery store.  I bought it.  (ETA: I cooked it and it was more pancetta like and not crispy bacon after all.  We ate it anyway!)
10. When people come up to see Anders, they wave backwards.  The way in the U.S. we wave with our palms facing out, they wave at him with their palms facing in and their fingers bending towards their wrist.

8/6/15

Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy. Part three.

The stairs up and down to our airbnb.  
And yes, the same stairs that we spilled apples and oranges down while 
the sweet Italian couple were witness to it all.
Villa Carlotta grounds and mansion--beautiful!
Parker's first gelato of the trip at Villa Carlotta--fragola!  Or strawberry.  
He said, "Mom, I like gelato better than ice cream."
The perfect angle to see my awesome postpartum hairline!  C/o Anders!
That night we went down to the Greenway--a big green park right along the lake--for swimming.  
It was awesome.  Definitely one of our favorite things we did during our few days there.
If you go, take an entire day to lounge and swim at the lake!  
There's a little snack bar/restaurant right there too.
Three nearly identical pictures in a row but how is a mother to choose?!  
He's playing with his Zoe Organics everything balm--
I was sent a travel kit before we left and I LOVE it.
Jumping in!  The water is surprisingly warm for it being so close to the mountains.
A pleasant discovery.

Tremezzo details:

From Milano Centrale--a roughly one-hour train ride to Varenna, then a 1/2 hour ferry ride to Tremezzo (stops along the way and you can hop on and off--e.g. in Bellagio, etc.)

We stayed here at this airbnb.  Highly recommend!  Within a short walk from the greenway, the lake, a pool where you can pay to hang out for the day (Hotel Brittania), small grocers, wine bars, coffee, the beautiful Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta (20 euro for a family), and various hikes both big and small.  Mattresses aren't awesome, but otherwise no complaints!

We wish we would've rented a boat and had a guided tour (so many really cool villas along the way that, if the history was explained, would've been super cool for examples the Villa del Balbianello (Casino Royale and Star Wars), but the one we looked into was 160 euro and we decided against it.  If we knew the tour guide would've been awesome (hit or miss!), we maybe would've sprung for it? 

Please feel free to ask questions.  I know how many crop up with trips like this and I would love to answer any if you're considering one yourself--with or without kids!