Monday, May 28, 2007

Seven things you don't want to know

Singing Owl tagged me for this meme while I was away; I told her I would do it, and I just remembered...So can I come up with seven things?

1. When I was ten or eleven years old, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Our vet let me hang around his clinic on Saturday mornings to observe what went on. After a few months my short attention span ran out, and that was the end of that. Years later I realized that although I love animals, I could never have passed (much less understood) the organic chemistry, etc. that I would have had to take in a pre-vet curriculum. My brain is totally Arts and Humanities.

2. The summer after fifth grade, I won a blue ribbon in dance at YMCA camp for a dance we performed to "Georgy Girl." Yes, I still remember some of the steps. No, I will not show you.

3. I have unusually short toes. I used to think that other people had creepy long toes, then I realized theirs were normal.

4. I am a "miracle baby." My parents, aged 43 and 41, were married for 20 years with no children--then they got a midlife surprise!

5. I only spent two weeks in first grade. Daddy had already taught me to read, and I was bored to tears with "Look, look. Oh, oh, oh." (Remember?)

6. I got to see the Beatles in Memphis on their last American tour, in 1966. Every August 19 I remember that concert, the longsuffering moms who brought us, how my friend Joy and I screamed, and how the boys in our group told us, "Shut up." But we didn't.

7. When we were kids, Joy and I were prolific authors. We dashed off numerous small volumes on a variety of topics, each titled The Best Book Ever. Alas, all have been lost, but I think I still have the manuscript of The Great American Novel, which we completed in junior high. We were also cutting-edge filmmakers. For my fiftieth birthday last year Joy sent me a VHS copy of our entire Super 8 oeuvre, including the surreal Tactis Tietacks and the dramatic Zorra's Sordid Adventures in an East Village Crashpad, both ca. 1969. (No, the adventures weren't really sordid. That was just to increase the box office.)

I'm not going to tag anyone, but let me know if you play!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A short course in aesthetics

In the Mississippi Delta, where I grew up, planters often place a bug trap like this one at the end of a row of cotton or soybeans. By regularly checking its contents, they can estimate how many pests are in the crop and know when to spray for them.

This is a Tuscan vineyard bug trap.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tuscany looks like this.

Cortona church
Stormy Siena

Terraced hillside, Cortona

Poppies, Cortona. These wonderful red poppies grow wild all over Italy.

Near Greve

Farmhouse, Greve. I like this picture because you can see both the vineyards and the olive trees behind them.
Approaching Castello di Gabbiano winery, where we were treated to a marvelous three-course lunch paired with different vintages of their Chianti Classico.

Overlooking the vineyards at Castello di Gabbiano.

Looking down the hill (north, I think) from San Gimignano.

Can you see the lonely white horse, marooned on a little terraced hillside in Cortona? We walked this way a couple of days later and the horse was still standing in the same spot. This was taken just down the road from Frances Mayes' former home (Under the Tuscan Sun).
We didn't get much of that famous Tuscan sun. Although we had hot, sunny weather everywhere else, it rained at least once every day we were in Tuscany. We didn't care--we were just glad to be there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Random asterisks of vacation, part one

* Copious amounts of red wine + a small (really!) daily cup of gelato + amazing handmade pastas - walking, walking, walking X 19 days = 5 pounds!
I console myself with the thought: what if we hadn't been walking?

* The lemons in Sorrento are the size of grapefruit. We visited an artisanal limoncello factory up in the hills, where a lady was carefully zesting each huge lemon--then throwing the rest of it in the trash!

* Much of the joy and awe of this trip came from seeing places we had heard and read about all our lives. One afternoon we took the train from Pompeii (Pompeii!! the Scientist's dream come true) to Naples to go to the outstanding archeological museum there. The chaos and din of downtown Naples is nearly overwhelming, but we took it all in as we made our way down to the docks to take the ferry back to Sorrento. Standing on the top deck of the ferry as it glided into the bay, the Scientist quietly said, "We're cruising in the Bay of Naples, looking at Vesuvius." And so we were.

*Before I left, PCIT wrote in a comment that her dad had been born on Capri. So the day we were there, I toasted her and her dad with a glass of Aglianico, the regional red wine.

* We only had one truly bad meal in Italy. I should have known better than to let myself be talked into eating at a place called the Foreigners' Club!

Civita di Bagnoregio

There is a little hill town called Civita di Bagnoregio, also known as "the dead city." Like many small Tuscan and Umbrian towns, it was built as a fortification on top of a hill.
Several hundred years ago, the hill began to erode and a substantial part of the town went with it. Most of the surviving inhabitants decided to get out while they could. Today a handful of people (and dogs) still live there, mostly surviving on tourism. Rick Steves popularized Civita several years ago, but it is still a quiet--though attractive and well-kept--little place.

We had the most enjoyable simple meal of our trip on a chilly, drizzly morning in Civita. Imagine walking down a cold, wet street, and peering through an open doorway to find this:
There were two or three long tables in a small room, with this fireplace blazing away at the back. The bread for our perfect bruschetta was toasted on the hearth (see the racks?). Just out of this picture a man stood, slicing razor-thin slices from a huge ham. With our lovely bruschetta, the house wine served from the ceramic pitchers you see on the mantel, and a plate of local meats and cheeses, we wanted nothing more.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Still here

Hi. We have more than 700 pictures to organize. At least they are out of the camera and on the computer. That's a start. The process of returning to "real life" after three weeks away has pretty much eaten up my time and energy this week. I'll be back soon, with pictures (just a few!) and stories.

Re: the big blogger meetup, I don't really care where or when, just as long as I get to go. But Texas would be a fairly central location. :) And if we were to get an outside speaker, here's another vote for Anne Lamott! (dream on)

The only workshop I'd truly be interested in would be, Cooking with Milton.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Yikes! (or, Calling All Ministers of Word & Sacrament)

Well, it's not really a "yikes", because part of it we all had known about for some time, and the other part we suspected. But how often does a church lose its pastor and associate pastor at the same time?? They'll both be leaving within a month.

Want to move to Texas?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bad mama

I was so happy to see my sweet Amie when we got home, but was heartsick to find that she had made an acral lick granuloma on her foot in our absence. This is a fairly common stress-related behavior in dogs, but she had not done this in more than two years. She hates thunder, and there were some frightful storms here while we were gone. While we were in Italy, looking at the satellite weather map, I worried about Amie, alone and afraid in the Scientist's closet. I know she had a lot of attention from her grandma and our neighbors during the day, but she spent her nights alone. If we take such a long trip again during her lifetime, I'll have to come up with some contingency plan so she won't be all alone for so long. I felt like such a bad mama when I saw her foot. She's stopped licking it, though, so it should heal soon.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I am too scattered right now to manage an entire Friday Five, but I have to say a few words about pizza. Chicago or New York? Neither.

Italian pizza has a crisp, thin crust, and comes to the table unsliced, to be eaten with a knife and fork. Sometimes it has red sauce on it, sometimes not. You can get any or all of the ingredients that are familiar to us, but the sausage is spicier, the black olives bigger and better, and the funghi might be porcini. We had delicious pizzas with pears, gorgonzola, and walnuts, too.

Last Saturday we sat with four companions in a Cortona restaurant called Fu Fluns (the Etruscan name for Dionysus) and had a late lunch that lasted about three hours. We ate pizza (mine had mozzarella, mushrooms, and black truffles) and pasta, passed our plates back and forth ("You have to taste this"), drank fabulous triple-fermented Belgian beer, talked about everything, and laughed. And then laughed some more.

I will probably forget what I saw at the Uffizi, or the mosaics at St. Mark's, before I forget that lunch.

I'm back!

We saw beautiful and wonderful places. Ate amazing food. Made new friends. Rode in various methods of transport (Venetian water taxi, small plane, BIG plane) or sat in various European airports for a total of twenty hours yesterday. So glad we went. So glad to be home.
Missed y'all. Am pooped. More later.