Friday, June 29, 2007

Back from Hiatus and Friday Recipe Blogging

Sorry for the unintentional blogging hiatus! We had some friends in from out of town this week and it has been so much fun to see them - our friend J and her new girlfriend A. We basically did nothing but lay around - we were going to try to make it out to see Hilaire (I'm so sorry, dear!), but we drank a little too much the night before and ended up not doing anything very ambitious. I did, however, have another dental appointment, but it turned out to be just the tiniest beginning of a cavity and will be easily taken care of! The next day we went to see "Live Free or Die Hard", which was awesome, and then we stayed up late playing cards. Blissssss.......

Other than that, nothing more to report (summer is so welcomely boring): IKEA has another large chunk of our money, we've reserved a U-Haul, the Dutchman has taken over a short term lease on a car for next year, I will continue packing these next few days, I'm feeling like once that's well in hand that I might be in the mood to start working on that article again!

What I leave you with today is a recipe from our Italian adventure - I type it as I have it, but remember that it was translated into English by a lovely Italian lady who doesn't speak much English!

Farro in Bean Soup
- 1 (15oz.) can of cannellini beans (with liquid)
- 250 grams (1/2 lb.) spelt/farro wheat (look in health food aisle)
- salt to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- sage (fresh if possible)
- rosemary (fresh if possible)
- 1/2 onion chopped
- Italian pepper flakes
- olive oil
- 1 (8oz.) can of tomato sauce
- fresh parmesan cheese

1. In the olive oil, saute the garlic, onion, and spices until onion is translucent.
2. Add the tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes.
3. In the meantime, run the beans with liquid through a food processor for a couple of seconds - the beans should be slightly minced.
4. Add the beans and liquid to the sauce and bring to a boil.
5. After this is boiling, add the farro wheat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
6. Serve this with a little bit of shaved parmesan on top and with really crusty bread.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I'm a pack rat...

I know that Friday Recipe Blogging (as well as pretty much all posting of substance) has been de-railed a bit from all of my galavanting around the world and then (more recently) sitting in front of the boob-tube watching hours of HGTV. My life right now is kind of taking place in bullet form, so why fight it?? I have sent out emails to try to get the Tuscan recipes we made while we were there. BUT, at the end of this post, I will include a recipe for a special sauce that we had a lot while we were there - it's a specialty of Tuscany.

So, yesterday I had a minor fender bender that was my fault - I was pulling out of a parking lot and the guy I was pulling behind hadn't moved up as much as I thought - I waved at the woman who let me in, and then promptly bumped the guy's tail end. It left a miniscule scratch on our car, but it dented the corner of this guy's fender. He gets out of his car and started yelling at me and - blogosphere - you would have been so proud of me! I just calmly told him not to yell and to pull off the road into the parking lot and we would exchange info. When we got out of our cars, he was still yelling and I told him again, very calmly, not to be rude and that I apologized and that I would take responsibility for it - it was my fault. So, he calmed down, we exchanged info. and that was that. I called my insurance company to report it and got a claim #. So I called the guy I hit to give him the info and he was SO apologetic! He kept saying how sorry he was that he yelled at me and he thanked me profusely for calling to give him the updated info and for being so on top of things. He also apologized for neglecting to ask me if I was okay or if there was any damage to my car, etc. Hell, you'd think he was the one who hit me!

In other news, I have been packing away. I've been going through all my office materials and separating books and files into "home office" and "school office" - I just have so much shit. Also, I decided to take the 25 pounds of course pack copies that I've had for teaching the last 5 years and go up to the Dutchman's office and scan them into PDFs. These are pieces that show up on my syllabi regularly (Havelok the Dane! The Life of St. Margaret!) and now that I have PDFs, I can just attach them to Blackboard or WebCT whenever I want and I don't have to worry about copyright issues and the expense of a course pack. Dee-lightful!

Hmmm...let's see....what else? Not much, I'm sad to say. It's summer and things just float by...

Okay, here's the recipe:

Pappardelle with Wild Boar Sauce ("Pappardelle al Cinghiale"):

- 5 oz. of porcini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 8 oz. wild boar ham (you might be able to get this at a specialty store, but if not you can substitute prosciutto and pancetta)
- 4 oz. salted domestic pork (from the shoulder!)
- half cup of olive oil
- quarter cup butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1.5 cups good red wine - shiraz preferred
- 1 shot glass of good grappa

1. Mince the onion, carrot, and pork meat in the food processor
2. Add oil and butter to a sauce pan and fry the mushrooms and the minced ingredients (with salt and pepper)well.
3. Add the red wine and grappa and stew the mixture on low with the lid on for about 30 minutes (check every ten minutes and stir it).
4. The last 5 minutes, heat it up to high and let the liquid reduce to get a thick, meaty sauce.
5. Serve over pappardelle with shaved parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Random Bits O' Fluff

I don't have much to report hereabouts. Things are just cruising along nicely - I'm getting excited about the move and looking online WAY too much for complementing furniture (endtables, lamps, I need to buy a new dining room table and chairs...).

I did a microscopic amount of work yesterday (in that I opened the folder that my notes, articles, outlines are in) - but, delightfully (or maybe not considering my procrastinating ways), I found out yesterday that the article wouldn't be due until the end of January instead of the end of the summer. The collection has been pretty much accepted by the publishers, but the deadlines for contributors have been pushed way back. However, I've made a pact with my friend, who's editing the collection, to exchange article drafts by end of November early December. So, I'm desperately trying to resist seeing this as a license to veg!

I bought a new phone the other day because a new one was the same price as getting new rechargeable batteries for both handsets. Go figure.

What I really feel like doing is beginning to pack up my office, winter clothes, etc. Maybe I should just do this, huh? I finished both of my syllabi for the fall already, but other than that, my head just isn't on work!

We're going out to yummy sushi tonight with friends.

I pre-ordered my Harry Potter book to my new address, which pleased me greatly.

I have a slight headache....

Monday, June 18, 2007

Housing Success! (to quote Hilaire)...

We had a very successful trip to DA City this last week and it felt like we'd been there for 10 days rather than 4! We had dinner and lunch with new colleagues - I showed The Dutchman around the department, my new office, the campus, etc. Medieval Pop drove in and we spent some time with him and Medieval Aunt #2 who lives in the area...

And we looked at a few hundred apartments (or so it seemed)! TD and I had a very weird slightly existential moment during our visit - we were snarking at each other because we were driving around a new city that is a bit complicated to traverse - lots of one-way streets, etc. We were looking at apartments in complexes that were about a 15-minute drive to campus - this isn't the biggest commute in the world, but for some reason I was feeling more and more isolated the more we saw these apartments. I had this inexplicable feeling that I would be living in no-man's land and that this would seriously impact my experience this next year in my new department. So, we were sitting at the Steak n' Shake (heaven!) one night after we'd been looking at apartments all day and I realized that it wasn't necessarily where I would be living that was making me feel lonely, but that I would be living there alone. Once we talked about it I started to feel better.

SO! On Friday we got up and were on our way out to the most promising of the apartment complexes (even though it was about 20 years old and needed a bit of renovation) and TD said we should drive by this little bungalow for rent just to take a look. It turned out to be located only a mile from campus (if that) and it was the cutest, nicest-kept little house you could ever want! It's in one of the lovely neighborhoods surrounding campus where tons of faculty live. It's a two-bedroom, 1000 sq ft. house with a landscaped yard, central heat/air, a working fireplace, a washer and dryer already there AND it's cheaper than any of the apartments we looked at! I had a brief heartattack and then called the owner to try to book a viewing. However, they weren't starting viewings until this week, but she had some pictures of the place if we wanted to come by. The pictures were very nice and the owner lived there for 10 years before she and her husband bought a larger place - she's very invested in keeping the place nice and in good repair, so I rented the place without even seeing the inside! (She will have 2 full weeks to clean, paint, touch up, make repairs after the current tenant moves out and before I move in).

I instantly felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders - for some reason, living close to campus and in that faculty-rich neighborhood had made all of my misgivings go away.

So, to celebrate, we did a little furniture shopping - we bought this couch (pictured below on the left) but in a deep red microfiber:

And a dark wooden frame chair in a very funky pattern that I can't really describe. The furniture should be ready right around the time we move to DAC.

So, all in all, it was one of the most successful trips on record - we just got everything done we needed to! Now, how else can I avoid writing this article??

Random thoughts addendum:
1) When I saw the permanent nameplate on the door to my new office - a nameplate that they'd deliberately ordered and spent money on - I got choked up.
2) I crave tuna fish salad and Triscuits right now.
3) Why am I only wearing one flip-flop around the house?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Holy Cats! Two posts in one day....

After my previous "blah" post, I decided to look back over my vacation posts to reclaim a bit of my lost zen tranquility. And I realized that I never told you guys what all we bought while we were there...many many lovelies...

1. Our friend WL got me a poster of one of the beautiful medieval stuccos in the town of San Gimignano - she and her boyfriend visited there while the Dutchman and I spent a day by the pool.

2. I got a lovely big 2008 calendar of medieval Italian manuscript images.

3. In Paris, TD bought me a nice pair of black flats - can't have too many.

4. Also in Paris, I went on a shopping spree and bought a black, slightly flouncy peasant shirt and a lighter weight, knee-length black dress coat.

5. Also in Paris, I dragged the Dutchman into the most Euro-chic men's shop I could find and made him try on these fabulous tailored (and, funnily, Italian) shirts. I bought him two and he looks quite gorgeous in them.

6. Cheesy fridge magnets.

7. THE BEST THING: While we were walking in Florence, known for its lovely leather stores, we ducked down this funky old street on our way to the Duomo and I saw this store. I stopped dead in my tracks and went and pressed my face up against the glass and made little mewling noises. There was this sensational bright leafy green purse in the window that had to be mine. So, TD bought it for me and now we're both square on birthday and anniversary gifts for the next year or so.

Here's a picture of my little beauty:

It is happy in its new home. Hopefully the crazy amount of cat hair on our bedspread hasn't shown up in this picture...

The past year, I've begun a fetish with bright green accessories. This is my second green purse (the other is suede - more casual); I have a green wallet; I have fun kelly green loafers (which I suddenly want to wear).

Furball #2, however, seems to believe that the purse was a gift for her...


Sorry for the relative blog silence. I feel like I had things to tell you but I've forgotten.

Lately, we are feeling just a teensy bit overwhelmed over at Chez Bloggez Moi (a.k.a. "Medieval Woman HQ" or "The Dutchman's House of Pancakes"). TD is only one step down from a full on nervous breakdown about his paper and the 17 core exams he has to grade (this will determine whether the baby economists will be able to continue on in the Ph.D. program!). We are also leaving tomorrow at the butt-crack of dawn to drive to a far away airport and get on a plane and go to Dream Academy City. Once we land in DAC, we will rent a car, drive an hour and a half and go directly to Human Resources at DA to fill out paperwork. We will also hopefully stop by the department before they close and see my new office, get all the stuff lined up (course enrollments, desk copy orders, etc.), perhaps chew the fat a bit.

Then the next day solid will be spent looking at apartments. I'm renting in one of those new complexes (I'm spoiling myself with central air and a pool...), so I've printed out floorplans, directions, etc.

The move itself will be interesting - it will involve crossing an international border, probably having our U-Haul examined with a fine-toothed comb, the Furballs poked and prodded, the Dutchman scrutinized before he can get a travel visa, etc. Then we still have a two-day drive to get to DAC.

In the midst of all this, I am planning my syllabi for next semester (I've given up on trying to get that article started before we go) and we're also trying to find a one-year car lease for TD to take over.

Yesterday, I took the Furballs into the vet to get their yearly vaccines and to get a print out of a health certificate and their medical records for the trip. They were pissy as usual when they go there and I had them sitting on a bench in their respective carriers in the waiting room while I got all the records and paid the people. A woman came in with a great big, stupid-looking black lab* on a leash and waited to be helped. I looked over and saw that the dog was sniffing around the waiting room and wagging its tail. I looked away for a few seconds and when I looked back, I saw the dog standing a foot away from the furballs and then he instantly lunged at the carriers, barking, snarling, clawing, biting....! I screamed at the woman to get her dog back and she pulled him away and looked a little miffed at me, saying, "I didn't even know there was anything in those!" - I was so shaken and furious I actually said, "Well, lady, it's a vet's office, the chances are a pet carrier is going to have PETS in it - keep your damn dog away from my cats!!!" The vet techs didn't ask her to sit down and hold her dog's collar or anything - all they said was "the cats are fine" and everyone in the office looked at me like I was a crazy over-reactor! These were those flimsy little mesh carriers - if the woman hadn't pulled that frickin' dog off, I could have easily torn through it and killed one of them! A pox on that woman...

I've already found a nice, quiet little cat hospital in Dream Academy City, so I'll be happier to take them there.

I won't be blogging much until we get back this weekend!

*Quick PSA: I actually like dogs and labs in particular, but this one was a brute!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lazy Sunday Morning

Ain't got much today.

Woke up at 10; made waffles and now we're sitting in the living room watching the French Open final; Federer vs. Nadal. I want Federer to win because he's never won the French Open and Nadal looks like this weird cro-magnon missing link. And I don't like the longish "man-pris" he plays in. Fuck. Nadal just won...

The Dutchman is a huge tennis fan (and quite a good player himself) and he screams at the television just like someone watching the Super Bowl. It's very funny.

Today I will make up the other syllabus for fall and then I'll be largely done (with the exception of some photocopying of extra texts, etc.)!

Life is good.

[Addendum: Random Conversation During the French Open Between Medieval Woman and the Dutchman]

MW: So, how much do these guys get if they win the tournament?

TD: Oh, I guess somewhere in the neighborhood of $800,000.

MW: ?!?

TD: Federer has won 10 of the past 15 big tournaments he's played in.

MW: God, I hope he's investing his money well.

TD: (laughs) Because otherwise he'll be in big financial trouble? Babe, he's one of the best players in the world!

MW: Well, look at MC Hammer!!! How the mighty have fallen!

TD: How could you ever draw that comparison??

MW: ...

TD: ...

MW: Why do they grunt so much when they hit the ball? When I finally crawled out of bed this morning and heard you watching TV, I thought for a second you were watching porn...

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday Recipe Blogging

First off, Paris Hilton needs to hie her skinny ass back to jail.

Now that's been said, I'm blogging a recipe that isn't exactly Tuscan, but it's a wonderful dessert we had while we were in Tuscany. One of our friends made this for us one night and I don't know the name, but I'm calling it:

Broiled Amaretto Peaches

- 1 bag of crunchy ginger snaps
- fresh summer peaches (however many you want)
- 1/2 cup of Amaretto Di Saronno liqueur
- vanilla ice cream

1. Crush some ginger snaps in a Ziploc bag with a rolling pin or meat hammer.
2. Peel the peaches and cut them in half.
3. Mix the ginger snap crumbs in a bowl with the amaretto until they become crumbly (add the amaretto slowly - you might not need to use all of it!)
4. Spoon the ginger snap mixture into the peach halves. Shouldn't be over-flowing, but should cover the top of the peach.
5. Put them in a pan under the broiler for a few minutes (until the mixture becomes bubbly and crunchy).
6. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

This was rich, but really good!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Random Bits O'Fluff

Oh god - why can't I get really started writing this stupid article??? I'm in fifth gear avoidance right now and I'm beginning to sink to the lowest forms of daytime TV (The Price is Right) in order to avoid the gigantic 600lb. pink gorilla in the corner wearing the "Write Your Damn Article, Loser" t-shirt (yes, my gorilla is pink. Isn't yours?).

But, wtf. There's blogging to be done. And leftover chili to be eaten. And toenails to re-paint. And naps to be taken after a full 9 hours of sleep.

Here's my life in .357 magnum bullet form:

1. Some of you might know about my inherent fear of student evals. In fact, there's one class's evals from a couple of years ago that I still haven't read because I'm such a wuss. Actually, my evals are usually pretty good - but this class was TOUGH, so I've filed it under "open when hell freezes over." So, I got my evals from this last semester and they were truly lovely. There was the usual couple saying that the professor assigned WAY too much reading and one even said that my confession that I had prepared for a few lectures the night before and had looked on the internet to confirm something was "unecessary". I feel like giving that kid a huge wake-up call titled "I have a life outside of your class, yutz!" I consider preparing the night before to be actually working ahead - at least I'm not making it up as I go...

But about 96% of them left me with a warm fuzzy glow, especially this one: "This was the kind of course that made me want to go home and talk to friends about the things I've learned." I'm going to have that tattooed somewhere... However, this was the funniest one - it was for my FANTASY LITERATURE class: "I like fact. There was almost NONE in this course. I wanted more."


I knew I shouldn't have indulged in all those crazy rumors about Tolkienian elves and unfounded speculations about the real relationship between Harry and Hermione. When will I stop and just convey truth to these eager young minds?? I'm weak....

2. I've talked the Dutchman into doing a "tester" quit smoking day. It was scheduled for today, but the crazy look of stress he gave me this morning (he's writing a paper from scratch to present at a big prestigious conference soon) caused me to put it off for a couple of days. Out of solidarity, I've consented to give up Coke Zero for the day as well. I'm really not sure about the wisdom of this. I feel like I'll be much harder to handle off Coke Zero than he will be off nicotine. I'll keep you posted...

3. I spent all yesterday online and on the phone researching apartments in Dream Academy City and setting up appointments for when we're there visiting next week. I have 9 set up but I'm thinking that I need more. What would you say is an adequate number? I hate thinking about living there alone...

4. The collection I published my first article in has just been reviewed for a smaller, subfield specific journal. The review was overall pretty good, but the reviewer made a comment about my paper that was somewhat dismissive and slightly laced with snarkiness. Of course, this comment was completely missing the true point of my essay - oversimplifying it and acting like I wasn't saying anything new. Now, I wasn't trying to re-invent the wheel, but I was saying something about this text and its readers that hadn't been said before. Grrrrrrr! I'm making a "faceless reviewer" voo-doo doll out of paper clips and old copies of Cosmo. My petty revenge will be swift and relatively painless.

5. I feel like I should cook dinner tonight because I haven't actually done any work today whereas the Dutchman has been working his little wooden shoes off. But I haven't a clue what I should cook. He will eat anything. What can I cook that would not require me to move much at all? Chinese take out...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - An Architectural Palimpsest

One of the things I mentioned last week was the interesting work insights I got while I was on my Franco-Italian holiday. Now, I tried to put myself as far away from work as possible during this trip - I brought two Dean Koontz books to re-read and basically forgot about everything else. This might be why I'm having a hard time jumping back into the research that I should be doing right now.

But, you know how they say that when you're not looking for something, that's when it happens, right? Well, the same thing kind of happened this trip - it wasn't a big insight, but I found two separate visual examples of the kinds of relationships I'm interested in tracking in the literature I examine in my book and in the unrelated article I'm (not really) working on right now.

For the article in particular, there was a painting we saw in the Uffuzi gallery in Florence that will make an excellent entree into what I discuss in some late medieval texts. Although the painting was done in 1534 and in Italy (as opposed to late 15th- and early 16th-century English poems), it's a Madonna and child scene that represents Christ in a particularly cool (and not chronologically specific) way. It was actually the Dutchman who brought it up; he said "Jesus already looks dead doesn't he?" And then I realized how I needed to open my argument in this article! The D was so cutely pleased when I said that I would footnote him "for bringing this particular painting to my attention."

The other thing wasn't so much an epiphany about my book as it was a confirmation of the fact that I'm writing about something that I think is very cool (so, that's at least one person who does!). But I think that one of the ways we can tell that we're into a project is if we are interesting in bringing those same or similar questions to a variety of texts, etc. So, this happened when we were at Pisa and walking around the leaning tower and the church there. I was walking around the outer walls of the church and saw all kinds of cool etchings there - like medieval and early modern graffiti. Then, as I was happily clicking away with my camera, one of our friends (who is also a medievalist and works on medieval castles in the Netherlands and Germany - shout out to WL!!) pointed to some of the stones further up the wall. Here are some pictures (you can click on them to make them bigger):

These are stones (or parts of them) that are taken from ancient Roman buildings or monuments (notice all the references to the Emperors Caesar and Hadrian) and that are now incorporated into the 11th-century Catholic church. You have to get up close to see them, but they were fabulous - just these random pieces of classical pagan monuments cut to fit and stuck in at weird angles - sometimes upside down, sometimes diagonal, etc. Not being an architectural or art historian, I have no idea if this is common or not (at least I've never seen it before), but it occured to me that this is kind of like an architectural palimpsest - maybe an inadequate erasure of a previous culture/religion. It's this fantastic and eternal (at least as long as the building stands) record of appropriation - or perhaps development? - of an older pagan culture by/into a Christian one.

As I was standing there, I was having such a good time close-reading those stones ('cause I'm a big geek) - how could I read their seamless incorporation into this church? What are the implications of that? It went to the heart of what my major project is on: the relationships between sacred and secular in the Middle Ages. I tend to fall more on the side of "co-existence" (perhaps not an easy one, but a co-existence nonetheless) than a wholesale shift from pagan to Christian; I seemed to be "reading" that on these walls as well. It got me excited about my project right at the moment I was trying to forget the damn thing and ease into a gelato-induced daze for 2 weeks! But it was a fun ball out of left field and I'll hope to find a way to incorporate these anecdotal observations into the manuscript.

By the way, one of the etchings on the side of the Pisa Duomo (that the Dutchman pointed out because I've trained him well) kind of defied my meager powers of interpretation. I'm including the picture below and you'll probably have to click on it to see it better. It looks almost like runic to me, but I don't know...the picture is right side up and it seemed to have been a later carving on the stone after it had already been built rather than an older stone fitted in upside down. But maybe it is upside down...

Any ideas, brilliant bloggies??

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Prezzies and The Randomness

One of the best things about coming back to North America from Europe is that the time change makes you get up early - I feel like I can get *so* much done in a day - except that I have absolutely no work ethic at this point.

First off, I asked for everyone to send me ideas about what they'd like me to bring back for them - I realized yesterday as I was uploading, labeling, and organizing photos from the trip (I anal-retentively do this right when we get back because otherwise I can't remember which church is which) that I neglected to take pictures of the food-stuffs that I promised! However, whenever we got a cheeseplate (chevre! pecorino! buffalo mozzarella! camembert!) I always thought of you, Hilaire!

Squadratomagico, I actually did keep my eye open for some white truffle oil, but I couldn't find any! However, the pasta I had one night in Florence (at a little cafe looking out on the Duomo) had black truffles in it (along with a lovely cream sauce over bowtie pasta).

Dr. Virago, we had croissants and cafe au lait every morning in our hotel in Paris. And, on our last night in Paris, we went to a chic restaurant called (in English) "The Cow on the Roof" (hee, hee!); we had an amazingly fantastic meal - the Dutchman ate escargots almost every day we were there (I watched) and I had the coquilles saint jacques with a creamy mushroom risotto and a chocolate souffle for dessert. Top all that off with a half bottle of Moet and a bottle of burgundy - that one's for you!

JB, let's talk about the wine - dear god! First off, I noticed that the wines in Europe (Paris especially) are much more subtle than the ones you can get where I live. We drink a lot of Chilean, Argentinian, and Spanish wine here (because it's the wine we can get most reasonably priced) and it's a lot richer than the wine we drank there. The D's father came down to meet us in Tuscany for a night (he's on a driving trip all over France and Italy at the moment) and he brought us all kinds of fantastic wines. But we couldn't drink them all (even thought there were 10 of us!) - damn the airlines not letting us bring liquids on board! Here is proof of one of our valiant efforts one night:

Sisyphus, I did actually see a lot of awesome doors - and I did take a picture of one - I'm a sucker for architectural shots. This is an old door (not sure how old) in the little town nearby:

Morgan, I did see a lot of lovely manuscripts (especially at the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris) but of course they wouldn't let me take any pictures! However, I did snag a picture of a medieval tapestry, so this one's for you:

NK, crepes and gelato were consumed often and very happily! When we had dinner in the lovely medieval town of Lucca one night, on our winding way back through the oldest part of the city toward our car, we stopped at a particularly nice gelato place on a square overlooking the main church. I had passionfruit and coconut gelato - yum! And the most interesting crepe-y thing we had actually wasn't in France, but in Italy - one of the Dutchman's first courses one night was "crespelles," which was filled with cheese, a little cream, and some asparagus and mushroom slices (*thud*)!

And finally, Dayna, your present was actually the one I took pictures of - gargoyles! Here are two of the best:
This one is on the Duomo in Pisa:

And these guys were on the medieval church of St. Merry in Paris:

And, Sisyphus, in response to your comment on my previous post - I did have a gorgeous Italian all ready to bring back with me (I won't go into the details of how I snagged him - it was a very complicated plan which involved a bag of these yummy almond biscotti cookies, a big net, and a tranquilizer dart) - but he wouldn't fit into my carry-on luggage! And we were already over the limit on our checked bags - do you know how much they charge you per kilo for that shit????

So, now to a list of funny random things that happened or that we saw on our trip. This list was composed while we were sitting outside at a little cafe in Paris just a block away from the Eiffel Tower - we were drinking *the most expensive* Kronenbourgs (French beer) on the planet and watching the rich Parisians walk by.

1) Most random question asked to us in a French bistro: (In French) "What is the population of Japan?" - we were stumped. But I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it's 127,433,494 (2007 estimate).

2) On our way over to Europe, we took a red eye to Paris from Home City before we had a long layover and caught our plane to Italy. When we landed at Charles de Gaulle at 6:15am, what did we see on the grassy patches in between the runways? Rabbits. Tons of rabbits. I'm talking about hundreds of rabbits here. As the plane taxied to the gate, they all hopped away from the plane as it passed by. If you think about it, it's actually quite a safe place for them to be - they don't get onto the runways themselves (a big swathe of concrete isn't that enticing for a bunny) and it's not like they're going to get spooked and hop in front of a 747 like they might on a regular road.

3) When we were at Montmartre (which is on a very steep hill in Paris), we were wondering how the hell people moved into their houses when they were on such steep streets and then on the fifth floor of the building. At the time, I was puffing my way up towards the Sacre Coeur and was wondering how the hell they'd make it to their front door. Then, as if from on high, we saw the answer:

This is a moving truck with a little platform furniture elevator on it. While we watched, they loaded a dining room table, a couch, and assorted chairs on this contraption and lifted them up to the big windows of this apartment.

4) In Italy, there were many many tourists (obviously) - we were for some reason constantly getting caught in groups of Japanese tourists who panic if they're seperated from one another by a stanger. So, we ducked out of the fray for a bit at Santa Croce and had lunch and what did we then see going by? A group of Japanese tourists riding along the bumpy Florentine streets on Segways! It was very surreal...

5) In the little town near where we stayed in Tuscany, there was a nice grocery store and the butcher loved to speak English - particularly *American* English, he said, and was so happy to hear that I was American. So, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth (or a friendly, pro-American butcher for that matter who will give us extra prosciutto and not charge for it), I was the one who ordered our stuff. One day we were there buying something and he was also getting us some cheese - in the middle of trying to figure out which cheese was which he tried to explain the difference between two of them. He kept saying something in Italian and making a gesture like he was gently squeezing a sponge. I blurted out, "Oh! You mean this one is mushy?!?" - he cackled with delight and called out "Mushy!" at the top of his lungs. Then for the rest of the time we were there, we would hear him yelling "Italian something something something Mushy! something something..." - when we finally left, he said "I love mushy Americans!! Ha, ha!..." So, I take credit for teaching the Italian butcher a little more English...

More posts to come!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Back on this side of the Pond!

We're baaaaaaack! Okay, so I can't say it like that creepy little Poltergeist girl. The Furballs have Velcro-ed themselves to me and won't let me out of their sight. They're also planning my Imminent Downfall because I failed to smuggle prosciutto back for them...

Put simply, it was 2 weeks of pure heaven all wrapped up in 4 different languages: French, Italian, Dutch (our friends), and English. Seriously, I was never really sure which language I should be speaking!

I have so much to blog about and I'm planning on splitting it into several posts (The purchases! The gifties! The food! The random funny things that happened! The huge work insights I had - huh? - no, I'm serious about this one...). But for now, we're still trying to overcome the time difference (it feels like it's 8:30 pm and we should be going out to dinner right now) so I'm going to make this post a selection of a few teaser photos.

Our room with a view in our Tuscany house:

A picture of our pool with the olive grove behind it:
And a shot of the patio on the front of the house:

*In Italy*
The fortress in the little town of Montecarlo, a brief (yet hot and sweaty!) walk from where we stayed in Tuscany:

A street in the sleepy town of Montecarlo:

A detail of the Leaning Tower at Pisa:

The Duomo in Florence:

The arched walkway at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence:

*In Paris*
The medieval church at Montmartre:

One of at least 20 obligatory pictures of the Eiffel Tower:

One of the stained glass windows at Notre Dame:

And finally!

Medieval Woman and the Dutchman at the Sacre Coeur: