Thursday, February 26, 2015



I love running  I used to hate it.  

An errand, by Webster's definition, is " a short trip taken to attend to some business often for another".  An errand, by my definition, is "driving around to odious places, where people work who are completely miserable for the purpose of giving them money for things you need but don't really want".  Yeah, no fun in that.  

So the other day I had to run some errands.  The main one being to pay the car insurance.  Yes, I physically take my body to the insurance office to do this.  And yes, there do exist online insurance companies here in Italy, which are actually cheaper than ours but as I said, I like running errands.  

Pressed and dressed I headed out to San Remo.

Image result for san remo

Nothing odious in that.  I went to see Maria Pia

That is a photo of her off duty at this festa a few years back.  But I can tell you she, her two sons and her husband all have that same smile when I walk into their office. Maybe she's smiling because I remain loyal to their family company when I could get my policy cheaper elsewhere.  I like to think she's just happy to see me.  Either way, that's really not the smile of a miserable person.  

After that errand is run, I took advantage of being in San Remo.

That last photo is just one stall, my favorite, in the big food market.  I like this stall because a)they sell cilantro, and b) the owner always gives me recipes for the veg I buy.  This time he told me how to cook some cima di rapa (aka: calabrian broccoli)

He said that the way he prepares it is so good that  his pregnant daughter ate 3 bowls of it last time he made it.  Hmmm...did the daughter eat so much because it was so good or because pregnant women tend to eat a lot?

Off to the gommista to get some new tires.

"Torno subito"- "be back soon".  That's not a good sign to see when running errands in Italy.  "Soon" is a relative word, it could mean 5 minutes, after lunch, or tomorrow.  Instead of sitting in my car waiting to find out the gommista's definition of soon, I went to the yarn store (duh, what else would one do if they have some time to kill?).

Awesome.  Her sign said "open".....only, she wasn't really.

Back to the gommista, who actually had returned subito for the new tires that make my Fiat 500 drive like it's a Ferrari.  Ok, maybe not a Ferrari, but it does seem that new tires give power steering to a car that didn't previously have it.

Errands done.  Home again.  The cima di rapa was delicious, even if you're not pregnant.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

If you lived here

I don't do many birthday posts any more.  I've pretty much told you just about all the nice things I can about people I know.  BUUUUUUTTTTT today I took a walk with the dogs to Maberga Soprana, which happens to be where cousins Bump and Dong got married.  This got me thinking about them.  And lo and behold, today is Bump's birthday and Dong celebrates the big 50 on Sunday.  So, here we are with a birthday post for Bump and Dong.

Dear Bump and Dong,  Happy Birthday.  It's never too early to retire. And if you lived here

or here

you'd be home already.

You'd actually probably have to spend your birthdays at home because in February sometimes we get snow like this

See that? Here it is drifting on the road

But this wouldn't be a problem because if you lived here you'd probably have this

filled with wine.

Happy Birthday, cousins.

xoxo, Lynn

Monday, February 02, 2015

the giving trees

Here in Liguria they call the Chestnut tree "the tree of life" because of its multi-uses.  As it was explained to me you can built a house with it, heat the house with it, use the leaves to stuff your mattresses, eat the nuts, grind the nuts into flour for bread, seems like there was more that I've now forgotten. 

We have a house, and a mattress, and flour so for me the Olive tree is the giving tree. 

Last year was such a great olive season that this year the trees just needed to rest.  Ok, that's technically not how it works.  But it is true that harvests tend to skip a year.  This is an off year.  So instead of rolling up nets and taking burlap sacks of olives to the frantoio now, everyone is pruning.  No oil this year, but there is wood for the fire and lots of sticks for kindling.  We used to just burn all the branches we pruned in a big bonfire but, by watching and learning, we see that that was very wasteful. Ligurians are very efficient and frugal people. Now we cut, trim, clean, and prepare the branches for the fire to keep us warm in the house.

That shit could keep us warm for days!  And it's only part of what David's been cutting down.

Division of labor (and skills with power tools) dictates that David does the log cutting and I'm responsible for the kindling.

HA!  Yeah, I WISH that was my work.  That's how the neighbor makes kindling.  Here's mine
I might need to do a little more watching and learning.  For example, it's useful to remember to keep the sticks that grow at a 45 degree angle apart, so you can place them at the corner of the crate and thereby increasing the efficiency of your kindling stacking.
That is, of course, assuming that you have crates and are not using grocery bags that you found in the back of your car.

Just in case any of you come here to see some knitting, here you go
That's a sweater that I've knit for a friend of mine.  DONE!  well, except for blocking and weaving in all the ends and that pesky stuff.  By the way, this friend of mine has a daughter who is an author and a crocheter and has a very cool blog.  Go check it out here. (she writes in german AND english).

And just because it's beautiful, here's a photo of our almond tree, already blooming. 

Um, ok, that's another of my famous "really, it's beautiful but that's a shitty picture" pictures.  Maybe if enough people ask in the comments, photographer David will make a proper photo of it and put it up on his blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weird, in a good way?

So, I've received a few emails about my last post. The predominant reaction was "hmmm? that was weird."  Good weird or bad weird?  Whatever, it doesn't matter because it wasn't weird at all for me to wake up with a children's rhyme in my head.  Not when you compare it to this weird....

Now that's weird.  No, I didn't make it.  I could have done but then I wouldn't be including it in a weird-themed blog.  It wouldn't be weird if I made that because I make stuff like that.  It's weird because it was a gift to me from David's barber.  Yep, David went to have all the hairs from his neck up trimmed and came home with that origami dragon, made by his barber. 

Let me back up a little....

A few weeks ago we had a forno aperto with about 15 people.  Among the 15 where Pino the Barber and his wife, who had walked (4 hours over the mountains) from the next village up called Badalucco.  It was the first time the Barber and his wife had been to Maberga.  Wandering through the house Pino stumbled upon my papier mache (probably quite literally since it is currently consuming all available house space).  He got inspired.

Last week we were at a birthday party lunch and who shows up but Pino the Barber!  Ok, that's not a big surprise since Badalucco has a population around 1200, of which only about 200 are under 70 years old** the chance of our being at the same birthday party are pretty high.  Anyway, Pino the Barber says to me, "I made you something!"  And then we proceeded to discuss paper mache recipes throughout lunch.

Ok, I don't know if that's weird or not?  Maybe everyone's barber is into arts and crafts?  Yeah, ok, it's weird.  But it certainly is good weird.

**I totally made up all those statistic.  That's just what it feels like.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ya know, I really couldn't live here, on top of a mountain, in a country that is not mine by birth, in a country whose mother tongue is not english, if it weren't for the internet.

This morning I woke up with the line of a song on replay in my head:
   She swallowed the spider to catch the fly

So while I was doing my pre-turn-the-computer-on routine that involves cajoling the embers in the wood stove back into fire, letting the dogs out to pee, and making my coffee, I was thinking about that Old Lady.  What did she swallow to catch the spider?  a mouse? a snake? a shoe?  Then David came downstairs.

L:  David, what did the Old Lady swallow to catch the spider?
D:  good morning to you.  ummm, I think a mouse because she swallowed the cat to catch the mouse.  But I don't know the rhyme.
L: It's maddening not to remember.  When that annoying song is first burned into your brain you think, god this thing is going to take up precious brain space for the rest of my life.  I"m never going to forget it.  And then one morning you wake up and you can't even remember the third verse.  I mean, the Old Lade and the Fly is nothing like the 12 days of Christmas.  That one is impossible to remember even though you hear it or sing it at least once a year.  11 Lords a Leaping but how many Maids a Milking?!  And 10 , 10, 10 what?  And 12, we should be able to remember that one because that means that the long-ass song is almost over.  12 what?  See, that's nothing like the Old Lady.  12 Days of Christmas is just random.  there's no reason that he gave her 2 turtle doves instead of 10.  But the Old Lady, that has some logic.  There's the whole food chain progression to it - or at least animal size progression.
D:  I'm pretty sure we can look it up.

Phew, thank god for the internet.  If we didn't have the internet what would I have done?  What did any of us do before the internet?  I guess I would have started asking everyone I saw what caught the spider until I found someone who remembered.  Not very likely found in Italy.  Or maybe I would go to the library or a book store and look in the children's section.  Again, tough to imagine finding here.  I could have called a family member or friend in America, but with out skype that would be some expensive research for a pointless factoid.

So, let's all thank Al Gore for having invented the internet.  And you all can thank me for putting that song into your head first thing this morning.  Have a nice day.

It was a bird, by the way.  No mouse.  She never swallowed a mouse.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Better late than...

It's another late-themed blog post.  It doesn't bode well for 2015 that everything I'm doing is late.  Or maybe, another way to look at it is that 2015 is not "the late year" but rather "the year I get shit done".  Yeah, that's better.

I've just finished the ornaments for our Christmas tree

They are little papier mache birds, painted and repainted. I think they are lovely, but then I would...I made them.

That tree that they are posing in was not our Christmas tree but rather one of the many olive trees in the Lane Olive Orchard.  Remember the Lane Olive Orchard? Of course you don't because I said in that post 2 years ago that I'd tell you more about that later.  Well, I guess now is later.... Anyway, the Lane Olive Orchard is the new collection of olive trees gifted to us by my auntie and uncle as a big thank you to David and me for hosting their daughter's wedding.  How cool is that?!  Very cool, is the correct answer.  Thank you thank you thank you to my thoughtful aunt and uncle.  You'll get the first bottle of oil, which you will probably receive on Bump and Dong's 20th wedding anniversary.*

Over the holidays we planted our fava beans (aka: broad beans.  totally delicious eaten raw with salami and a glass of red wine, also consumed raw). 

 I think we were only 2 months late in getting that job done. 

Remember when all the shelves in my pantry fell down when my parents were visiting?  Yeah, probably not because that was 3 years ago, which makes this the "better late than..." winner.  When I cleared away all the shit that had pulled down the shelves, I found one of our steps with a huge chunk broken off.  Imagine you chip one of your front teeth, say, on a beer bottle.  Then imagine that you don't go to the dentist for 3 years to get it fixed.  You don't fix it even though you see it 10 times a day when you look in the mirror, and think 'I need to fix that.' You don't take action even though you have to delicately brush it twice a day, and think 'damn, I gotta fix that'. You don't fix it even though you run your tongue over all day everyday for 3 years all the while thinking 'dentist dentist gotta go to the dentist'.  Yeah, that was our step for 3 years.  

It's a bit ridiculous that it took us so long to call the step dentist because in 2 hours it was done.
Yeah, it's a different color than the other steps but, well, it's like that chipped tooth - you can't expect the enamel filling to match your beer stained original tooth.  Nor can you expect the filler to make all your other teeth any straighter.

* we've been told that it will only take a couple of years for the trees to produce olives.  This is hard for me to believe, but then, a lot of things I don't believe actually happen.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

a little late it New Year already?  Happy New Year.  I'm a little late.  Or maybe I'm early for next year.  I didn't say which new year I wish you happiness.  Like that stale, yet painfully true Italian joke about tradesmen:

man A:  my plumber said he'd come to do the work on Tuesday.  Today is Saturday and I still haven't heard from him!

man B:  ah, but he didn't say WHICH Tuesday.

If you're wondering where I've been for the past month since it's obviously been better than hanging out on a computer blogging, I just have two words - pizza oven.

We've revived an old italian tradition (or is it a custom?  I always confuse the two).  In the olden days, each little mountain village had a communal wood oven for baking bread.  It would be fired up once a week and everyone brought their bread to bake.  David's been playing around with tons of new bread recipes and he thought this sounded like a good plan.  Forno Aperto we call it -- open oven.  In the past month we've had 3.  An Open Oven day goes something like this:

For several days before the event, David makes pizza dough, just a little.  (yeah, I way oversimplified what David does to prepare dough, but that's his story.  He can post that on his blog)

On the day of, people come with their dough to prepare....

while someone (usually Gino and David) prepares some farinata (a kind of pancake made from chickpea flour, baked and covered with olive oil, salt and pepper).  
So we start eating, and maybe have a glass of wine (or two)
Then everyone has to chip in.  The pizza dough comes out and one by one everyone makes a pizza with all sorts of toppings of their choice.

And we eat them.  Once everyone has had enough, then it's time to take the coals out of the oven and put the bread in.

Some people just stand around and watch at this point...
Then we have the obligatory hang out time whilst the bead is baking
And then,  ecco ci qua


So that's where I've been.  That and, well, the whole Christmas thing happened which looked like this

Yeah, ok, crappy photos.  Sorry about that.  Except for that one of Lina with the homemade noodles.  That's a cool picture (David made that one).  Great noodles.

Oh we also had no internet for almost a month.  The internet people said they'd come on Tuesday....