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.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Christmas was good this year--but, then, isn't it usually? Some years though are better than others and this was one of those times. Perhaps, because we weren't here last year, there was a sense of something special in resurrecting our traditions and "ways of doing things." It was comfortable and nice.

We always have a large tree-8 feet/2.5 meters or more and finding the perfect one is always the quest. Usually we settle for less than perfection--after all, perfection is hard to find. But this year.........there it was, standing tall and straight and beautifully formed. We spotted it instantly among all the other preening trees and knew that one was meant to be ours. And so it was.

Now, you must know that I am not Martha, never have been, never will be--nor, do I ever aspire to be. Given this, Ken took over tree decorating years ago--back in the days when trees were lovingly bedecked with silver, shiny tinsel. He not only would put it on strand by strand but then would take each strand off, wrap it around the cardboard and put it away for next year. I think no one misses those days.

But, if you look closely you will see that he still does an excellent job of dressing a tree in Christmas finery. And, in doing so, provides all of us something lovely to enjoy and savor during the Christmas season. Somehow a tree decorated with the shimmer of lights and ornaments collected over many years and from many places invokes the treasured memories stored within. A special glow seems to fill all the nooks and crannies of the house.

By Christmas morning, after Santa and Rudolph did their thing the night before, gifts were piled high under the tree. Clearly a child lived here. So gift opening was a fun time.

This part of Christmas is clearly made for a child and for adults to enjoy the child's wide-eyed excitement as each box and bag reveals its treasure. Erector sets, legos, remote controlled dragonflys, and...and...and. Then there were his not so favorite things such as books and puzzles. Except--he loved the Italian book on the life of Leonardo da Vinci. He loves all things Italian and all things da Vinci for whom he has developed quite a fondness--along with Giotto, Picasso and Michelangelo.

The rest of the day was filled with laughter and fun. Jeff, our grown son who can not imagine Christmas without legos, spent the day building a 900+ piece Star Wars vehicle. His friend Sally and her very loveable, unforgettable dog Bear joined us for the day--Scratch finally had a play date but wasn't at all sure what he thought of sharing his space with a non-human. He certainly was not going to share his chewy.

Casey's mom, our daughter, came for the day. It was nice that they could have the day together as Casey enjoyed seeing her and spending time together and I am certain she enjoyed it, too. It had been a while since they had a chance to do that.

We toasted with prosecco and sparkling cider. And then joined around the festive table set up in green and red and china and silver.

Dinner was yummy and conversation filled the air. And so the house was full of good cheer and laughter.

And we remembered the real reason for the day and the gifts and the fun and laughter--the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The one who came to earth as a humble baby and left it in a glorious ascent into the heavens.

Friday, December 21, 2007







Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's Fun To Be Nine

What does a kid do when it is winter and no one wants lemonade? Well, sell snow, of course. But, then.. if you live in San Diego that is problematic. Quite a quandary for two motivated, imaginative 9-year-olds.

Or what if you are two motivated and imaginative 9-year-olds and you find a gigantic cache of styrofoam packing material and peanuts just sitting in the side yard, begging to be smashed beyond recognition? What fun to get bats and brooms and sticks and beat this pure white treasure into billions of little snowflakes.

Soon you are covered with clingy, non-removable, non-recyclable earth destroying detritus. You have become a snowman that doesn’t melt. And you are having mountains of fun as your laughter erupts throughout the neighborhood.

Gramma and papa might want to be mad at you because surely you are making a mess that you won’t clean. But how can they be when you are so adorably and completely being kids.

The challenge then facing such motivated, imaginative kids is what to do with all this magical substance? Why—sell it of course. Develop entrepreneurial skills. Surely there is a market for people wanting front yards of snow. So—find boxes, pretty metal ones, cardboard, whatever. Dump out what may be in them for surely gramma won’t care. Now, fill with snow—make a sign—beg to go down to the park and set up your stand.

If you are lucky and truly loved, gramma will agree to accompany you, knowing that sales are not going to soar but that children must explore experiences that they create. How else are memories stored for future years?

So, off the three go--two imaginative, creative 9 year olds and one intrigued gramma.

Ah ha! the workout bench in the park--perfect for setting up the wares. The sign--"Christmas Snow for Decoration"--which has been taped to a garden stick pushes nicely into the ground. Boxes are arranged, rearranged, and then arranged again as each child has a vision of how they should look. And then we wait.

No one is in the park. We wait. Suddenly a couple enters at one end so we perk up, smile and wait some more. But---they leave before reaching the store.

Swings and monkey bars begin their siren call. The grassy slopes are great for rolling down. No one wants snow today. Maybe tomorrow.

So our imaginative, creative 9-year-olds, pack up, gramma closes her book and all go home. It has been fun. Who cares if pockets are no heavier? These hours have been a success.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Restaurants In and Around Greve-in-Chianti

I must say and admit--this does not truly qualify as a blog entry--at least not of the kind I usually write, but..........maybe it will be useful to those of you who will be traveling in the area we called home for a wonderful year.

We ate out a lot! Often it was for lunch when Ken and I explored the countryside while Casey was in school. I can not tell you how relaxing and freeing it is to just drive white roads and lanes and then find some place to stop for a good pasta and glass of vino. No worries in the world follow you on such ventures. What a year it was!

As a result, I have compiled a list of restaurants in the greater Greve area. Hopefully this information is for you--because that means you will be there.

I put this together for the Slow Travel website which focuses on a type of travel which allows for greater immersion and understanding of cultures and lifestyles. If you are not aware of this site, you may want to check it out.

So, now, travel to Restaurants in Chianti. The truth is that this is not a complete list of our culinary year--as time permits, it will expand to both more restaurants in the Chianti area and then to other areas within Tuscany and Italy. As I said--we ate out a lot! Enjoy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tonight We Had Tacos!

Yes, it was taco night and we had them last week, too. That equaled the total number of times we had them all last year--as Casey dutifully pointed out. Somehow Mexican food, that which we thought we could not live without, faded into the culinary background when competing with the delicacies of Italy.

I so often write of what we miss which isn't quite fair as there are things that we treasure here--now, if I can think of some of them. Let's see--
  1. Tacos, burritos, red curry, kung pao, huge artichokes and......corn on the cob.
  2. Our church fellowship--somehow Baptist churches are few and far between in Italy-or actually in most of Europe.
  3. Our friends of years. New friends are wonderful but can never replace those that have traveled life with you.
  4. Scratch--our dog--or rather Casey's dog.
  5. Being able to talk with teachers sans interpreter.
  6. A big, big refrigerator and freezer.
  7. Meat cuts that I understand.
  8. Finding clothes that fit my non-size-6 frame.
  9. Spending time with our son.
  10. Browsing book stores which have books I can read.
  11. $'s not €'s.
  12. Target for Casey's clothes and Costco jeans for me.
  13. Canned music (scherzo).
  14. Air America.
  15. The desert.
  16. Dungeness crab.
  17. Ability to read and comprehend directions on soap boxes--or anything.
  18. Having groceries bagged for me.
  19. Freeways rather than toll roads. (I do miss the Auto Grills).
  20. Big Christmas trees.
  21. Heated swimming pool.
  22. Honey Bunches of Oats
  23. Heat or a/c that isn't on a schedule.
  24. And............how about some suggestions from fellow travelers?
  25. A fellow traveler addition--and rightly so: The beautiful Pacific Ocean
So, have I redeemed myself in the eyes of those who think I spend too much time remembering and wishing? Probably not, as somehow a list doesn't really equate with narratives. But, the simple truth is, Italy demands the rhapsody that the USA has not yet found.