Wednesday, September 30

You've traveled half way around the world to see someplace new and amazing... not some sticky kid. Hey kid! Get out of the picture!

On the other side of this fountain, today, my punks and I settled down to eat a couple slices of pizza. The best pizza in fact that you can find in Trento, from Pizza da Andrea. All the other pizza is crap. I kid you not. Come to Trentino for strudel, cannederli, or mushrooms with polenta... not pizza. How does Pizza da Andrea pull it off? Well, he's from Naples. That's how. Yea, I have no qualms giving these guys a free plug. I know I'm a powerful influence over where travelers to northern Italy are going to spend their euros.

Anyhooo... I got a funny feeling that my punks and I had become a giant eye sore, sprawled out in front of this incredible fountain, topped off by Neptune himself (because, you know, Neptune, the king of the sea, has a lot to do with the mountainous region we live in).

While we routinely eat pizza from Pizza da Andrea on Wednesdays, we don't normally plop ourselves down at the fountain to do so... it's just that today, Pizza da Andrea was packed to the gills, and since it was nice and sunny outside, we decided the fountain was the better place to dine.

So we plop ourselves down and as napkins and coke cans, straws and a big greasy pizza box are being juggled about, I look up to see a couple dismounting their bikes and taking in the view.

It is at this point that I get the feeling that we might not be adding in a positive way to the scene. Maybe if my kids wore lederhosen and pointy woolen hats, but, no, that is not the case. This lovely couple arrives here, from across the world (I don't know how I can tell, but they are US Americans), making their bike tour of the sights of beautiful Trentino, only to be met with the sight of me and my punks, and their backpacks, and bikes sprawled all over the steps of what otherwise is a stunning fountain.

Well, I try to forgive myself and soothe my worries by cutting into a fresh slice of pizza, when I hear a sweet little voice addressing me. I look up and see that it's the woman from the biking couple. She timidly asks... "Dove' Pizzeria?"

Ah my dear... this is your lucky day!

after all, she's a foreigner!

Yesterday was the first day of my Italian language class. It's hard to describe the sense of release that happens when you enter a room filled with people that understand where you're coming from. Even if, in fact, none of you actually comes from the same place.

I was the only US citizen there. The world opened up as we start to introduce ourselves to each other. We are from Romania, Ukraine, Lithuania, Russia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Japan, Peru, Cuba, Brazil, the United States... but here we were, connected, and becoming friends with each other.

This reminds me that there are unifiers that apply between myself and even the most inaccessible "local" that draws back from someone a bit too different from them. That there are circumstances under which we would find comfort in each other's company. We could even be friends. This is a good thing to remember.

Monday, September 28

wedding photos sterograms

I have the social skills of a scientist, well, probably because I am a scientist. What is it about scientists that makes us feel so out of place around other people? It's almost as if we are trying to entertain a pack of chimps. We don't know whether to shake hands or kiss their cheeks, at what time to serve the soup, and whether or not it's okay to break out the wedding photos.

Well, I learned that it's NEVER okay to break out the wedding photos. Not ever. No matter how cool you think they are. Even if they are 3-D sterograms (sorry, couldn't resist... aka View Master slides), they are still, at the abrupt end of the day, wedding photos. And nothing says good-night like some other chimp's wedding photos.

It doesn't matter that I'm not joking about these being sterograms. HOW COOL is THAT I ask you?!? Who else has wedding sterograms (doesn't that just scream geek)?!? But the taboo on wedding photos still applies. It doesn't matter that we have three little view master thingys and it always seems to me like a fabulous idea to show them to our guests. And I don't think I'll ever learn...

Look at them apples!

Reposted on Monday with way better photos...
Apples are one of the primary crops produced in the region of Italy in which I live, Trentino-Alto Adige. Today I had the opportunity to go to a family farm which focus on heirloom varieties. The certified organic (agricoltura biologica) farm is located in Zivignago di Pergine.

We were welcomed into the celar and had the joy of learning about the tastes and storage times of a number of different varieties of heirloom apples. For instance, the Renetta Ananas is a tangy and a crisp, very densely flavored little apple. The perfect size for a school snack and should be eaten in the next few weeks. Or the Bella Di Bosco. It has a more sour taste, that sweetens with time and can keep through Christmas.

I was particularly amazed by the Topas (shown above). It was so crunchy and juicy, slightly sour but also sweet and will stay this way through MAY. May! Can you believe it? We bought 8 kilos of this one.

There were other varieties that had not yet been picked. I was throughly impressed by the passion of this family for what they do. Apparently the mass production of apples in the area has been reduced to TWO varieties. Down from hundereds documented in 1934. The diversity of shapes, sizes, and tastes has been lost.

The Sustainable Table has this (and much more) to say about the biodiversity of our crops:
Industrial farms currently mass-produce only a few genetic varieties of each crop used for food. These commercial crop varieties are specially bred for uniform appearance, disease-resistance, and for their ability to endure lengthy transport. Unfortunately, when farmers abandon traditional varieties to begin planting mass-produced commercial varieties, the traditional varieties can quickly become extinct.
When non-commercial plant varieties become extinct, we not only lose the distinctive flavors and appearances of these fruits, vegetables and grains, we also lose the genetic diversity that they otherwise contribute to the plant stock. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, since 1900, approximately 75% of the world’s genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been eliminated. xiii

What can you do to improve the biodiversity of our food? Basically start looking outside the supermarket for your food. Get in touch and support local growers. And try your own hand at growing some less common varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Head over to Think Green Thrusday for more green ideas.

Wednesday, September 23

beep beep beep

I have a cheapo alarm clock. I think I bought such a cheapo alarm clock because I really hate alarm clocks and just can't see investing any amount of money in one. Also I'm hoping it will break when it scatters across the floor and I can live a few days in peace. But the darn thing keeps on ticking.

My current on does this slowly accelerating "beep beep beep" pause "beep beep beep" pause. It goes faster and faster, louder and louder, before it just jumps into a continual "beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep ..."
God it's annoying.

I used to have a radio alarm clock which was nice. The only (major) drawback was that on more than one occasion it turned on right in the middle of the DJ yelling about something and would SCARE THE CRAP out of me. Nothing like a heart attack to wake you up in the morning. It's impossible to find an all music morning radio program. I'm sure they don't exist.

So I gave up and got clever and figured out how to make my cassette player turn on for my alarm wake up call. That was nice. Too nice. I'd rouse, smile at the sound of some favorite tunes, and fall right back to sleep.

I once saw this alarm clock that was a light instead of a sound. It would simulate the sun rising and slowly brighten your room. I liked this idea but I guess not enough to pluck down the cash to see if it would work.

So I had to settle on the beeps. Annoying just enough to wake me up without blowing any blood vessels.

Except all my dreams end with me getting backed over by a bus.

Tuesday, September 22

rock steady mamma

One of the pros of not having our own yard: I am forced to go outside and play too. I'm forced to sit down, smell the breeze, and not be productive for at least an hour. And, I am joined by every other mother of every other child at the park.

This usually means chit-chat. I've become fairly fluent at Italian chit-chat... generally about school, kids activities, and what to cook for dinner. It generally degrades to complaining about how tired you and/or the children are or some insane new thing the school/teachers are trying.

It's not that I'm a big whiner, just that Italian mothers are genuinely curious about all the details of other people's family life... aka nosy.

This is a varied bunch of women. Young, punk, middle aged, grey haired, slacked and skirted. My favorite is the mother of twins. Rock steady mamma.

I LOVE talking to this woman. Nothing worries her. She is not hurried, annoyed, nor too ecstatic about anything. She is dressed casually, not sloppy. Not overdone or overattentive or negligent. The perfect balance. And no matter what I have to say, comment on, complain about, her response is always steady and encouraging.

This is in contrast to the vast majority of the other mothers at the park. The arms flying, eyes rolling, exasperated gasps. Heads shaking, hands slapping, calling and waving frantically at children, exploding over a grass stain or lamenting at a scraped knee.

I'll hide in the shadows with rock steady mamma. Average works out just fine in this case. Rock on mamma.

Sunday, September 20

tables are turning

My children are far more fluent than I am in the language that the rest of the country speaks. It makes for a bizarre, tough ride... I think for all of us.

We went to see a movie last night. "The Proposal" dubbed in Italian as "Ricatto D'Amore." Looked like a funny film. It was and the kids were giggling. At times more than I was. I was definitely missing some finer details of the dialog. At one point, as Sandrea Bullock is climbing down a ladder, Ryan Reynolds feignly attempts to help her by putting his hand on her ass and she tells him to take it off. I got that much. But when she reaches the bottom she turns to him and says something which I'm sure is quite whitty but the details of which are completely lost to me. I turn to Punkone and ask him what she said. He looks back at me, with his smiling, angelic 8 year old face, and says "If you touch my butt again, I'll cut off your penis while you are sleeping."

Somehow the humor is lost when you hear your kid say it.

And this is one of the things I am going to tackle this year. I'm going back to Italian classes and I'm going to make great strides this year. I'm so tired of hearing the world around me through a thick curtain. I went to take a test to determine my placement in the class, kids in tow...

The instructor is speaking to me. Asking, I think, "how long have you lived here"... I answer confidently "two years"... but then falter... what if she is asking me, 'how long will I live here?'? So I decide I'll make sure and ask for clarification. Punkone pipes up, and starts to tell me but the instructor stops him. Smiling, "no, don't help Mamma... let her figure it out." They're getting quite a kick out of this. As I'm taking the test, Punkone is watching over my shoulder and despite himself I can hear him assessing my answers.

No big deal, right?


Shouldn't your mother be someone who has her act together? In this big crazy world, she's your go to person who knows just how to sort things out. Wouldn't it be a bit stressful to find out that she was even more confused than you are?

Guess all I can do is make sure I kick ass in other areas... clean house (ok, this one needs work), good food on the table, lots of fun free time together... and maybe stick to the G rated movies for awhile longer.

Friday, September 18


"Greetings from planet Earth. This is what we look like. We are waving hello to you, and we are nude."
--This American Life description of the Pioneer 11 plaque

I found out about this plaque listening to This American Life, episode 289: Go Ask Your Father, aired June 12, 2009. It's a plaque that was sent off into space in the hopes that another life form might some day find it. To tell them about us, I suppose. The comment "we are waving hello to you, and we are nude" made me laugh. But really, it's a good basic message to send out I suppose. Would be nice if we said hello to other countries in this way. Maybe it would make for smoother international relations.

Tuesday, September 15


I feel like I need to write something, anything. Is this one of those Random Thoughts Tuesdays? Maybe I could do that.

The kids are in a wild state of diffusion after just their second day of school. I've decided to let them have at it under the condition it doesn't enter into my physical space. Yes, they tried to move their wrestling match onto my lap.

I bought a moleskine weekly notebook. I feel so hip. Very Neal Cassady.

I'm grouchy if I sleep during the day. Shopping for music makes me feel better.

Best artist for fall: Syd Barret

Now, for all this stuff on the floor...

Thursday, September 10

soup spoon

The transition from summer to fall has caused an upturn of the contents of my head. I've always been a soup of contradictions but usually manage to show only what rises to the top and let everything else just simmer. Not now. Things are turned up and it's hard to get through the hour without feeling like a crazy person.

I hate you. I love you. I can do this. I can't. Things are good. They're bad. I'm ready. I'm sick with worry. Say it five times fast.

If I've learned anything in 36 years it's that I can't chug down a pot of soup. Even a bowl will scald my mouth and spill half it's contents down the front of my shirt. But I am brilliant with a spoonful. That tiny little bit, just a small portion, carrying the flavor of the whole, but sipped and savored just for itself.

I need a spoon.