Monthly Archives: November 2009

Very fun

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A triple threat but not the good kind

People say bad things come in threes. This, I might believe based on our week: a. I am sick b. Phoebe is sick and c. our car is sick.

She and I picked up a cold and while we’re both nearly over it, there is still “liquid” to contend with. Mine is a runny nose, Phoebe’s is a nasty cough. The toughest part is actually the cough that wakes her up at night, every one to two hours, which means I am up at night, every one to two hours. But we’re on the mend.

The Mercedes is a different story. And to make it short, we’ve got water in the electrical system. Three days of visits to the garage have resulted in this diagnosis. I think. But our issue, as always, is the language. Paul and I are getting better at Italian but we don’t really speak car Italian. It’s charming when the mechanic’s face lights up as Phoebe enters the garage but frustrating (for both of us) when he tries to explain the details of what’s gone wrong and what to do next. Armed with my cell phone and half a dozen friends willing to act as interpreter-on-call, we’re getting closer to a solution. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll take the car to the dealership and have it fixed…while we’re away in Belgium.

So, phew.

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Off to Amsterdam

We took Phoebe on a plane.

With other passengers.

I’m happy to say that none of them asked for a refund.

In fact, the whole experience went very smoothly. No crying, no fussing. Just sitting, playing, sucking (for the ears) and sleeping. So basically, she’s a much better traveler than I am.

Her first flight was from Rome to Amsterdam, where we visited friends Dave, Karin and Annika.

Together we had meals, walks, a spa day for the moms and a little shopping too.

I loved it; what a charming town with the tall, skinny houses and everyone bicycling all around. Hopefully we’ll be back soon but Belgium is next. Wish us luck!

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Olive picking

Paul was in heaven. He finally got to pick olives in Italy.

We were there to help a friend and co-worker with his annual fall harvest. Along with Eric and Alex, we went to David’s home in the country (actually very close to Lake Albano) on a drizzly Sunday morning. The project was spearheaded by David’s elderly Italian father-in-law and avoided by his two tween-aged sons. Wet weather only allowed for a partial picking but the Americans were all-too-happy to be involved.

Then came lunch. When he invited us, David mentioned “something casual”, maybe some pasta. But Paul and I have heard this before. Grateful that we’d brought rich and gooey brownies, as tasty an American treat as any, we were served countless courses of fresh bread, cheese, soup, pasta, polenta, sausages, grilled steak–each dish made even more delicious with their homemade olive oil poured on top–then dessert, three cakes plus brownies.

Several hours and a little wine later, we packed up and headed home, fueled by dreams of an olive harvest of our own someday. At our country villa. Why not?

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Sweet potato success

At five and a half months, Phoebe’s dream has come true. She got to eat her first food. Sweet potatoes. We whipped out the special food processor/steamer combo — purchased on a trip to Paris last winter (anxious new parents?) — and lunch was served. Rave reviews.

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In napping news…

Woo woo! I’ve got two new articles on BabyZone.com:

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Close up

cheeks

small face

knee too

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The name says it all

signWe began our mini-vacation with a three-hour drive that took four.

Frankly I was relieved to have a little more time to make contact with our guide from the rental agency who was supposed to escort us to the seaside villa, take the deposit and provide the keys. Said guide was MIA. Not reachable by phone, email or text. So we waited in traffic, inched forward and sent a text. Waited, rounded one bend, sent an email. Waited, called both numbers, and nothing. Eventually relief came in twos when traffic subsided and Genarro returned our text. Into the villa we went.

Unpacking and getting situated in a rental house is always a little like Christmas morning. Curiously darting from room to room, you wonder what you’ll find. Will there be a nice view? Maybe a jacuzzi tub! In this case the answer was yes and no, respectively.

Then it was off to find lunch. But late afternoon is not the right time for dining in Italy, especially in a small village. We ended up at the only open establishment, where we were the only patrons. Two plates of mediocre pasta later, we headed in the direction of the grocery store to stock up on essentials. It was closed.

And so it went. For a few days, we enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous sea views from the villa but battled the forces of navigation, weather and sheer dumb luck, or lack thereof. It took three tries for us to do one hike–the only activity we successfully managed to do on this trip–to a site aptly named Crapolla.

top

half way

All giggling aside, it’s an amazing scene, but the hike to this natural fjord was not for sissies. There’s a hilly trail and 700 steps. These are stones carefully embedded into the hillside and even labeled, “500″, “550″, “600″ etc.

steps

Zig-zagging across the grassy hill with the sun setting and sea lapping at the rocks below, the natural splendor was amazing.

fjord

waves

I’ll never forget it. Neither will my quads.

group

hiking

No word on whether the experience left a lasting impression on Phoebe.

the smallest hiker

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Just sitting on the sofa

looksquealfingerssmile

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Roasted tomato basil soup

The first time I had this soup was in Amsterdam. Paul was there on business, I was there for pleasure.

ingredients

Well, not necessarily this soup, but it was tomato soup like I’d never tasted. Thick, rich and best of all, with a dollop of creme fraiche hiding at the bottom of the bowl.

Then when I saw Ina Garten make this recipe I knew it had to be close–and it was.

Ingredients are simple: tomatoes, chicken stock, onions, garlic and basil, lots of fresh basil. The secret is roasting the tomatoes first, just to bring out the flavor.

tomatoesMeanwhile, this soup starts like most others with a couple of onions chopped and sauteed in butter.¬† Once the tomatoes are ready, combine everything together in a Dutch oven and simmer. I think I made it for about thirty minutes before getting antsy. Last, the whole thing gets blended, processed or pureed with one of those special hand blenders (which I received as a gift from Jen last year…but runs on American voltage so it’s in the “save for the States” cupboard for now.) In the meantime there’s plenty of soup to savor.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

by Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

More ideas from trusted kitchens elsewhere…

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