Monthly Archives: September 2009

Early morning

scooter service Paul and Eric got up with the sun one morning, the idea was to take photos of Rome while the light is still good and the tourists are still sleeping.

A successful mission to be sure.



self portrait

St. Peter's


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Back at it

They did it again.


Paul and Dan swam across the lake one more time (belated credit is due to Dan who swam the first time too).

stepping out

This time, Phoebe and I made it there before they reached the shore.


And we had porchetta sandwiches for dinner–from a roadside truck with the best view.

paragliders above the lake

Everybody wins (but not everyone wears Speedos).

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The sword

Castello S Angelo

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I can’t wait to eat spaghetti!

looks delicious



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An island called Ischia

I was sitting in a cubicle in New York City the first time I heard about Ischia. A co-worker at iVillage was just coo-coo for the place and as it turns out, she’s related to most of the people there. New Jersey-born Francesca would often (and I do mean often) talk about her annual trips to Ischia, the sun, the food, the language. But most of all it was the family–cousins, grandparents, second cousins, in-laws and every other combination of the Italian family tree–that she enjoyed visiting. They all live here and now I can see why.

view from the pier

Like its neighbor Capri, it’s lovely in every way you’d imagine an island in the Mediterranean to be. Pretty views, nice seafood, sandy beaches. But Ischia is most famous for its thermal baths. The one we visited is a terraced complex on the sea with more than 20 pools, all at different temperatures, all heated naturally. (The whole of Ischia is an old volcano which makes for not just hot pools but also rich soil for fabulous tomatoes and export-worthy lemons.) We even met up with Francesca for a delicious meal at one of her family’s favorite restaurants. And so it went. All weekend long Paul, Phoebe and I walked, talked, ate and enjoyed. But the most amusing part, as is often the case, was the journey.

from our balcony

Located off the western coast of Italy, you reach Ischia by ferry from Naples or Pozzuoli, an adventure in itself. We had reservations for ourselves and the car but weren’t sure where or how to collect the actual tickets once we reached the dock. Time to divide and conquer. So, receipt in hand, I hopped out as Paul inched the car toward the boat. Which boat, we didn’t know but forward is usually a good bet. Two ticket counters later, I found our tickets, jumped back in and pointed to the correct ferry. That’s when it left the dock. Sigh. But our disappointment was quickly followed by confusion then relief as dock workers immediately waved us on to another boat. It left an hour earlier than our original plan and may or may not be going directly to Ischia but there was no time for questions (and not a chance of backing up anyway) so we were off.


Only it’s trickier than it sounds. The boat is about half the size of Seattle’s ferries and the layout unique: one ramp on the left side, half a dozen lanes in the middle, only the back of the boat opens and it also closes. This makes for an interesting, if time-consuming, boarding process. Each car must complete a multi-level u-turn with a curve so tight that it often requires a 3-point turn. More confusing though, is the part where all passengers have to get out before the car is parked (once lined up, it’s too packed in to open the doors). So just as you pull onto the boat, feeling momentarily triumphant for a. finding the ferry b. securing the tickets and c. not missing the boat, orange-vested men swarm the car, motioning for you to get out. For a second, we thought they were going to park it for us. Some sort of grungy valet service? Not really, it’s a more of a grab the baby and go.

But once Phoebe and I found Paul again on the passenger deck above (an Ellis Island moment to be sure) we thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Glistening water, sunny skies and perfect views of nearby islands made for a surprising treat. And it’s a good thing because in our haste at the boarding ramp, neither of us brought the pacifier with us. Now that’s a real adventure.

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When life gives you lemons, make limoncello

grainPaul’s got a new project, homemade limoncello. This is a popular after dinner drink in Italy, strong, lemony and usually a little sweet. Inspired by friends from FAO, he researched recipes then came up with an adaptation of what he saw online:

  • 2 liters of grain alcohol
  • zest of 17 lemons*
  • simple syrup (to be added later)

instrumentsDealing with this many lemons is not a small job. There were numerous trips to the store: One batch of lemons didn’t have a nice enough skin. Then the question became whether 17 was really enough? Maybe we need more…


Lemons collected, the next step was zesting. Armed with our hand-held microplane, Paul got them all. He sat down and scrubbed, rubbed and removed every trace of yellow from each one, excluding the bitter pith.

just wait

The last step was simple, add alcohol. In the states, homemade limoncello calls for vodka but here we have access to grain alcohol which is the original ingredient–for better or worse. In went the lemon peel and the two sit together for at least six weeks. By mid-November we’ll either have a sweet treat or a bitter drink…but either way it’ll be lemony.

* For this recipe you don’t actually use the lemons themselves so we pulled out the juicer attachment to the food processor and made homemade lemonade. Pretty puckery.


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Nice for a nap

Thanks so much to Peggy for Phoebe’s handmade blanket.

big yawn

The weather in Rome is perfect for it now–and she loves it!

Snuggled in

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Moppy Mondays

We had a housekeeper, for a while. Now she’s off to business school, London School of Economics, and since I’m neither a. extremely pregnant b. caring for a new, new newborn nor c. exactly tearing up the corporate world, I’m back at it and Mondays are the new day for my “complete clean”. Bathrooms, kitchen, vacuuming, dusting, laundry, mopping. Paul helps but I don’t mind doing it. There’s kind of a Zen thing about cleaning. Dog hair, go in peace.

clean queen


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Yelling: the universal language

It’s so unpleasant, even in beautiful Italian.

There’s a greasy little storefront down below our apartment, in between an antique store and a cafe. It’s some kind of little gambling shop, pull-tabs I think. Despite the fact that we live in a lovely area of town, here it is. But the real problem is the two old men who sit outside the store. One or both spend the day sitting in a chair on the sidewalk. Smoking.

Then there’s our apartment. Happy, clean and five stories up. I used to begin each day by feeding Phoebe then putting her in her bouncy chair as I watered the flowers on the balcony. But I made a mistake and over-watered a couple of times early in the summer, and apparently the water dripped down to the sidewalk below. That’s when the buzzing started, furious and unrelenting buzzing on our intercom. Plus screaming that I could hear all the way up on my balcony. “Senora! Senora! Aqua!” I politely answered the intercom, “Pronto?” Too much Italian was coming at me, too fast. But I got the gist and apologized. “Dispiace. E finito.” (I’m sorry, it’s done.) For the next month whenever a single drop hit the pavement, buzz, buzz, buzzzzzzz!

I understand that it’s frustrating sit in a chair and have water drip on your shoulder. But I truly don’t understand this response. Rather than screaming at a stranger, I’d move my chair. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because I changed the watering schedule to early mornings or late evenings–which isn’t easy with a newborn baby, and would be nicer to water my plants on my terrace when it’s convenient for me–just to make an effort.

I mention this today, out of the blue, because that’s exactly what happened this week. Temperatures have dropped in Rome and I haven’t watered all week. But suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, the dreaded buzzing began. It’s difficult to articulate the rage transmitted by buzzing but you’ll have to take my word for it. I was already shaking when I picked up the receiver, then “Senora! Aqua…” tumbled out.  But this time, there WAS no water. Totally confused about why I was getting yelled at again, I could only say, “Oggi? Ma non aqua oggi” (Today? But no water today.) His point was that water dripped on two of his shirts/water dripped every day. I said I was sorry and that I only watered in the morning and night now but it didn’t matter. The fiery response was barked at me too fast for my basic Italian skills to comprehend, “Dispiace, ma non capisco.” (I’m sorry but I don’t understand.) But I did get enough of his response to know he was saying the equivalent of don’t live in Italy if you don’t speak Italian. Bleck.

Unfortunately, Phoebe and I had an appointment for an oil change at Mercedes so we had to walk downstairs. As I did, I saw the guy and he went back at it. Same thing, two shirts, water every day. Complete with threats to call the police. Twice. I did my best to convey an apology, for an injustice committed two months ago, but he wasn’t letting up. Liquor on his breath, it seemed that he just wanted a nice rant. Fifteen minutes later Phoebe started crying and I said the conversation was over.

I hope Carter bites him.


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Summer’s end

lonely beach

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