God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Frittatas in the Morning

So--this morning I ask Casey "What would you like for breakfast?" And he says, "Frittata, please." Now my Italian readers know that this is not breakfast food and my other friends (those who know what a frittata is) will think this to be an interesting order from a 7 year old. But then, this seven year old is not only an unusual child, he also hasn't yet got this entire Italian meal culture figured out--even though he adjusts quite well to not eating dinner until after what would be bedtime at home. Not only does he want a frittata for breakfast, he takes Nutella cracker sandwiches to school for lunch.

Now--I know that this lunch course has Italian heads shaking in disbelief as the typical school lunch there is on a par with what can be found at the local trattoria--pasta al pressemolo, parmigiano con insalata e carote e gelato or, on martedi, pizza margherita, formaggio moribido e pomordori, e frutta, etc. (This really is from one of the menus at the school Casey will be attending in September—a far cry from hot dogs and pizza pockets.)

For my non-Italian literate friends, you must know that the idea of eggs, bacon, toast, juice or any other typical American breakfast such as cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, etc. and etc. is quite strange in Italy and, unless you frequent the Westin or its equivalent, hard to find. They certainly are not how an Italian would start the day! In Italia, a country famous for its delectable cuisine, the typical morning meal is a pastry and coffee—more often taken at the corner bar than at home. Children start the day with nutella--a sort of chocolate peanut butter--on bread. (Casey likes it on tortillas but guess that is very Californiaish.

So, Italian friends, for breakfast we had a wonderful frittata with excellent parmigiano reggiano and good Italian ciabatta. It was good! Maybe I can tempt you out of pastries once and a while?!

Casey’s final words were: “Grandma, you’re learning how to be a good Italian cook!” What better praise?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Back on Italy

I am beginning to feel a little negligent in keeping the blog updated about our big Italy adventure. Casey has sort of taking over--not only because he seems to dominant this house but also because not much is happening on the Italy front. We are somewhat in a quiet stage between getting so much ready for our March trip and the move at the end of July.

Since we successfully finished the whole visa process--which absorbed our minds and attention for an inordinate amount of time and caused massive stress outs--and finalized the decision about school for Casey and connected with an incredibly helpful landlord, we have just been attending to some nitty gritty, technical details. Final packing won't begin until maybe the beginning of July; although, we do have a "deposit" room where one can find an odd assortment of "things"--among which you might find a tomato peeler, Scrabble, a tape measure in metric and English, Tylonel PM, a rice cooker, a couple silicon spatulas because friend Judith in Citta di Castello says to bring them even though every market has spatulas galore, dehydrated refried beans--yes, they are very good--and just maybe you would find some even stranger things ( I am too lazy right now to go up and look.) Of one thing I am certain, anything we bring is important and a good and wise decision!

Here is a quick list of the types of things we wrap our minds around as we prepare for a year away (maybe this will be useful to others who embark on a similar life adventure.)

Not in any particular order other than train of thought:
  1. How to pay bills and make arrangements to do so. Thank goodness for internet, automatic debits and automatic credit card charges. Once you start doing this, you find it is much more complicated than you might expect--particularly if you still have a house to maintain at home. Just being sure to identify all the items is a biggie.
  2. Arrange as many things as possible to be paperless to cut down on mail to the house (brokerage statements, insurance bills, bank statements, etc.)
  3. Arrangements with gardener and pool guy and how to get them paid.
  4. Selling a car and arranging minimal insurance on remaining car.
  5. Figuring out what to do about taxes next spring.
  6. Banking needs and arranging best access to funds while away.
  7. Research best credit card for use abroad in terms of conversion fees and hidden charges. (Capital One).
  8. Find a banking institution that does not charge conversion fees or other charges for ATM usage. (Our credit union)
  9. What to do about telephone service so as not to lose our number but have a minimal bill.
  10. Determine the best way to maintain contact between there and here (we have settled on SKYPE and several of its options.)
  11. Accumulate lots of books and send them a couple months ahead of time via USPS M-Bags.
  12. Make multitudinous copies of all kinds of stuff.
  13. Finalize health insurance arrangements. (Casey's is different than Ken's and mine.)
  14. Contact DMV for copies of our driving records which may reduce very high insurance costs in Italy.
  15. Detemine what electronics to take and what to get there. There is an advantage to bringing things from home as being able to read a manual is quite useful.
  16. Get a new unlocked phone for use abroad--again get it here so you can read the manual easily--unless, of course, you are fluent in the language of destination. You will get your sim with a local number once there. (We actually have 3 phones and numbers accumulated over the years--but decided to get a new one.)
  17. Make arrangements for obtaining needed prescriptions.
  18. Arrange for vehicle in Italy (this is a tough one)
  19. Find out how to vote when abroad.
  20. I am quite certain that I have missed many things--so, will add to this list occasionally.
Now this list is just of those things that must be done and doesn't touch on the really important decisions that one must make--the kitchen knife problem (to bring them or not) is still hanging, how will I cook without my own pots and pans?, what about clothes? Oh yes, this must be a blog entry all its own.

And one more thought--all of what we do is for a simple year; those who actually move to another country must have many more things to deal with--heaven forbid that we should end up in those numbers.

(If there is someone who would like more information about any item, feel free to use the e-mail address in my profile or leave a comment and include your e-mail address so that I can respond.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Little Boys and Puppy Dogs

No--this isn't about the love affair of a boy for his dog--in fact, that myth has been neutralized in our household. Casey, for all appearances, is a boy meant to have a dog--he loves them, pets each one that crosses his path and coos whenever he sees a canine on the TV screen--but, having stampeded Ken into getting a puppy for him, I am now in the doghouse. Casey, while he does profess to love Scratch and falls apart if I suggest finding him a new home, is a real pain when it comes to playing, feeding, walking or otherwise spending "quality" time with "his" dog. This is such a puzzlement to us as he is so loveable and loving. Is this typical 7 year old behavior? Probably so! Too many other things to do.

But--as I said at the beginning, this isn't a boy and his dog story. I am really thinking about the similarity between puppies and little boys--they both grow up. Casey is growing up--it's fun to watch and share the changes with him but, I already miss the purity, innocence, perfect trust, quirky smiles and wonder and awe of first sights and experiences.

Our boy is finding a life outside of family--friends, interests, music, opinions--the natural progression leading eventually to adulthood. And--I am too soon waxing nostalgic for the Little One. Today while working with the 1000's of pictures on the computer, I watched the little toddler face change into the little boy face change into the emerging big boy face of a second grader. Angular lines are replacing pudgy cheeks; stubby little legs are becoming trim and muscular in baseball pants; missing teeth are giving way to a white smile (well, somewhat marred by the retainer); big toes would fill the baby's booties.

And--beyond the physical is the mind that expands, ponders, ask infamous "why" questions and has the audicity to disagree with me. He is working at becoming the man he will be. What a transition in such a few short years--actually since just last year or last month or last week.

But--he is still the little boy who wants hugs and kisses, who won't go to sleep without a song, who needs the light on in the closet at night. He wants his hurts kissed; the smiley ketchup faces on his macaroni and cheese and hates anything green.

He is the little boy who says to me "You're my best friend."

And I say to him, "You will always be my boy."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Bunch of Other Stuff

Once again--an "Other Stuff" posting--and it will just take a minute or two to write and less to read. Two very exciting things happened this morning that I desperately need to share and I'm here all alone--so, dear audience, here they are:

1.) Casey's teacher called today to let us know that he had scored in the very highest category attainable on the GATE testing. For those of you who are not Californians, this is the test the state uses to identify high achievers; it is the doorway into higher level academic classes--throughout the school years. Well--Casey not only tested high enough for the general GATE program, his scores make him elibible for the seminar program which is reserved for those at the very top.

Now--understand that Casey is all boy--doesn't want to focus on schoolwork any longer than absolutely necessary--is a good reader but doesn't particularly like to read--can't be bothered to take the time to do neat work--loves sports, transformers, power rangers, weird trading cards, his bike and more. In other words, academics aren't really his thing-although he does not like it when he gets less than a good grade.

I am not certain what we will do about his achievement level. As an ex-teacher and school administrator, I have serious reservations about the seminar program as it tends to isolate the children and, often, does not encourage well-rounded development (in my opinion.) But--at least, now all the doors are open to him and his choices are unlimited when it comes to education. So that is very good news, indeed.

2.)The second exciting development today, May 4, is that we finally received our passports with the much sought after visa attached inside each of them. As you know if you have been following our adventure, Rome approved our application in March. But--since you can only apply for a visa 90 days before departure, the actually granting of it could not occur until May 2--90 days before our July 30 departure.

But--now we have them in our possession--the final hurdle is over and the real reality of what we are doing has come home. We are truly on our way and almost there. Our passports now look so, so official. VISTO RESIDENZA ELETTIVA. How long and how much work and how much sweat and tears it has taken to get these--mostly because of the legal issues with guardianship--but, now we are unstoppable--I think.

This is Casey's visa which is glued to a page in his passport.

Now you know what an Italian visa looks like in case you've been wondering.

Moving right along--a completely unrelated and non-sequitor subject but one that I want to share--particularly addressed to women but it, also, is relevant for men. An important health screening that often is not sought and yet can prevent misery as the years wear on is the bone density scan. After seeing an elderly friend of my mother's a few years ago--a woman who had been vibrant, in charge of life, a real go getter before the days that most women would assert themselves--and finding that she was then so stooped over that she could not look into a person's face due to osteoperosis, I decided that I never wanted that affliction.

In 2002 I had a bone density scan (about as simple a test as you can find). I was in the "better watch out" range for hip and spine breakage and deformity. Since then I have taken a calcium replacement medication and daily calcium tablets. Today the scan was redone and------my body has rebuilt the calcium and my bones are now in the "safe" range. This is not meant as a report on my health but as motivation to you who are reading this to be proactive in getting a scan. It is such an easy step to take and the remedy is so simple and the possible devastation so severe that procrastination is very bad! Call your doctor and set it up--now!

The last item is about my little poll in the last entry. It is so very strange. Since it was posted there have been 132 hits (many staying for quite a while--others for a few minutes --and others who dropped in by mistake and didn't stay at all) but only 26 readers chose to identify their locations. I guess we live in a world where we value our privacy a whole lot and are leery of anything that might have the potential for bridging that. I am that way and so understand it in others. But--just to assure you--this type of poll gives no information about you. You remain completely annonymous--well, accept for your e-mail address, your name, your home phone number, your marriages, your children and your favorite pasta.

If that doesn't scare you off, you may want to scroll down and join the poll.

Have a great weekend! Ken and I are off to San Francisco to celebrate our anniversary. Son Jeff is taking care of Casey and so we can really do "The City"! What fun!