Saturday, January 07, 2006

Some Good Things

Thursday and Friday were both good days here in Macerata. Here are some of the highlights:

• An article I wrote about a mountain hike on Epiphany two years ago has been published over at Journey Beyond Travel. It's called Epiphany in the Mountains, and it is the FIRST article I've written to be published outside of my online lit magazine The Long Trip Home! I'm really excited about it--go read it!! If you've visited me before and know some of our friends, you'll recognize the characters in the story, too.

• Happy Anniversary to our friends Cyndi and Danilo! Yesterday was their one-year anniversary, so congrats to them!

• We bought a computer on Thursday! It's going to take three weeks for them to deliver it (those darn Italians), but it's an iMac, just what we wanted, and it will be great for Antonello to learn how to use email. It's about time that he learns: I've been his personal secretary regarding his caving emails for a year now. Can't wait for the computer to arrive!

• Last night we went to dinner at our friends' Laura and Raffaella's place in Cingoli. I've talked about them before, as they own my favorite little glass store in Macerata, and I recently designed their website. The dinner was great. We got to meet other friends of theirs--all very nice people, plus Laura, who has been cooking up trial vegetarian recipes for the past few months, wowed us all with a strictly vegetarian feast! This rarely happens outside of my own home, so I felt very honored. And the food was delicious!

• Read my friend Lori's recent blog entry about her decision regarding her life in Italy after grad school. Yay for her!

• And...we got our DSL line! Okay, so we still need a modem, but I'm just happy it didn't take a full year to get us hooked up!

So there you have it--a good couple of days. We're pretty busy this weekend, and on Monday it's back to work, but I've had a really nice break--so much good stuff has happened, that it's amazing it was only three weeks. Now, I'm trying to enjoy Saturday and Sunday as much as I can, before the alarm clock sounds on Monday morning.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, January 06, 2006

Comic Relief

Tuesday morning I woke up at ten till six to catch the train to Faenza. Lori had come down from Milan, and we had picked Faenza as a halfway point to meet up for a day trip, since both of us had never been there before. Also, since my friend Cyndi lives near Faenza as well, she and her husband Danilo were going to join us for part of the day, to show us around. Tired and cranky, rain pouring down all around us, I kissed my husband goodbye and hopped onto the train in Macerata.

The rain stopped halfway up the road to Faenza, and when I arrived, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I felt like I was suddenly transported from Kansas to Oz. Danilo and Cyndi were just finding a place to park, and when they found one, they seemed as surprised as I was about the change in weather. I wasn't going to complain--with our luck so far, Cyndi and I have always had sunny days when we have met up: from Fano to Lake Como to Faenza. Within ten minutes, Lori's train had arrived, and three-kiss-greetings were shared by all.

We decided to head to Brisighella for sight-seeing and lunch. Brisighella, one of the Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia (prettiest little villages in Italy), is up on a hill to the west of Faenza, and I was eager to see a hill town in Emilia Romagna, a region known for its flat towns and bicycle riders. We weren't disappointed. After a few minutes' drive, we arrived in the picturesque little borgo, with its colorful houses and a clock tower and imposing castle on opposite cliffs, as if they were ready to battle each other, I smiled in the sunlight. This was better than Oz.

After a climb up one cliff to the clock tower, we discovered it was closed (Lori had already admitted being bad luck when it came to shops closing down whenever she was around, so we weren't surprised). Lori tried to climb up the stone cliff to scale the wall to the tower, but she stopped after a short bit, turning for a photo op and that was all. We took some photos from the cliff, looking down at the town below us, the castle before us, and the mountains all around. It was gorgeous under the pale blue sky, as the day continued to put on the best show she could.

I do have a comment to make, though: I don't know how Lori does it--she was wearing all white and, despite her cliff climbing and hiking in the grass, she never got a bit dirty. I on the other hand was capable of messing up the only light-coloured thing I was wearing--my khaki pants--with dirt and grass stains by lunchtime, and I never climbed any rocks! Not fair! I guess it's all black from now on.

Lunch in Brisighella is supposedly legendary, and people come from all over Italy to enjoy Romagna at its best. While we decided against the most expensive (and most well-known) restaurant in town, we found a place that seemed equally charming and settled in. Lunch was fine--I had a mushroom appetizer and a beet-coloured gnocchi first plate--but I was more impressed by how Italian the lunch was, with us staying seated and chatting until early afternoon. I guess I noticed it now because I was just in the states, where the waitress would easily shoo you out before long. Instead, we laughed and chatted, taking pictures and telling stories, until we all felt ready to go.

Leaving Brisighella, we made our way toward Faenza, but we decided to stop at a ceramic store in between. Faenza is famed for its ceramic and is one of the most important ceramic cities in Italy. While a lot of it has become industrial, central Faenza is still filled with craft shops where ceramic is still an art form, practiced as in old times. Cyndi and Danilo knew of a great little ceramic store off-the-beaten-path. For their wedding, they had received a set of two ceramic cats (if you didn't know, Cyndi loves cats), and Cyndi wanted to find another one to match. We wandered around the little house-turned-shop for the good part of an hour, marvelling at the beautiful sculptures and little animals. It was clear the artist was crazy about cats as well, as most parts of the shop displayed some version of a cat--from little coat hangers to simple statuettes. There were other animals too (but no porcupines!).

Cyndi bought a little yellow cat and asked if, the next time she came back, there might be a light blue one available. We convinced Danilo, who looked on stunned (what? you want ANOTHER cat?) that there were plenty of occasions to buy her one: why, both Cyndi's birthday AND Valentine's day were right around the corner! He sighed, we laughed, and everyone left the store with their purchases (I bought a necklace). We got in the car. It was time to visit Faenza.

Our time in Faenza was actually a bit of a mess. First, I almost broke the necklace I had just bought (I was opening my backpack looking for something, and it jumped right out, onto the road. This sent Cyndi into hysterical laughing, and no one, as of yet, has discovered why). Then, Lori's bad luck with closed shops hit us again, as every "cutesy" (a term coined by Cyndi, meaning non-traditional ceramics) shop that Danilo and Cyndi knew of was closed, and we ended up perusing the more traditional (read: expensive) ceramic stores.

But the worst was what happened at sunset. While trying to take a picture of the sunset, I placed my camera atop a parked BMW. I set the timer (it doesn't move the camera, meaning it can take a steady picture), and as I stood waiting, I heard the front window of the car open, and a man stared up at me, half confused, half angry, wondering what in the world I was doing with my camera on his BMW. I waited a moment, panicked and hoped that the timer would expire and the photo would shoot, and I could make my getaway. Seconds passed, and, since it wasn't taking the photo and the man was still staring, I grabbed my camera, said sorry, and ran, with great speed, across the street and into hiding. The camera shot the photo in the process. I have a great photo of the road as a result.

After that, Cyndi and Danilo decided it was time to head home (fearing for their own car and someone taking a photo on it, I assume). We said our goodbyes and promised to do this again--on another sunny day in between Milano and Macerata. After that, Lori and I just had a couple of hours before our train ride, so, after searching more ceramic stores until I actually bought something, we sat down at a little bar outside of the train station and munched on aperitifs. Chatting, telling stories, and laughing, it was the perfect end to our sunny little day of laughter and fun. And, despite Lori's bad luck, the little bar stayed open until it was time for us to go.

Thanks to Danilo and Cyndi for putting up, I mean, meeting up with us! We had a great time with you guys and hope that your new cat is a great addition to the family!


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Up the Creek

Just a Quick Update: people have been telling us for a while now that we should add more photos of us (i guess we're just that cute!) so, while we have been sprinkling the site with photos here and there for a few months, we've decided to take a big step and include our profile photo: Corrie throwing Jackie into the Arno River, in Florence. Check it out, on the right.

Don't worry, no one got wet--it was just a pose! The photo was taken over the summer of 2003.

More photos soon! Enjoy the site.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Corrie, me, and Cassie in front of the Christmas tree at my house in Indianapolis.

These past few weeks have gone by so fast, and it's been amazing all that has happened. I left Italy for America after a month of hard work and web projects and gift buying, and back home in Indy, 10 days passed by so quickly. From spending time with family to seeing friends to Christmas Eve and Christmas day, there was barely time to stop and take it all in. I got to meet my new cousin, Halsey for the first time on Christmas Day, I got to see more friends than I'd expected to: Allison drove up from Saint Louis, Maura was in town from Louisville, Cass, Corrie, Eric, and I laughed outloud enough times to confuse all of the customers at his restaurant (Eric, have you checked the beer at the bar yet?). I got to sing Christmas carols and eat pecan bars and dine twice at El Sol. It was great--looking back at it, it was the perfect little vacation. I can't wait for people to visit me here--my parents, my friends--but I know the value of being at home, of feeling right in a place, of coming back and seeing such familiar places and things, of celebrating Christmas where I have always celebrated it. Macerata has become familiar and comfortable now, too, and the word home, in my life, has taken on a double meaning.

While Christmas in Indy is perfect, it's not the same without Antonello. Seeing him as I got off the train in Fabriano to crowds of people, with him somewhere further down, trying to get to me through others who had just gotten off the train or were waiting for the line to Rome, I felt sure that I was back in my other home--with him in Italy. I was back just in time for New Year's Eve, which we spent eating dinner and setting off fireworks at our friends Giampaolo and Luciana's house. They had invited other of their friends as well, and while eating exquisite pasta plates, yummy cheeses, and the traditional New Year's Eve dish of lentils (the non-vegetarians ate zampone too, a traditional meat dish of pig's leg) that is supposed to bless the people who eat it with a lot of money in the coming year, we chatted about purely Italian things: gossip about this singer or that actor, all of them very Italian, unheard of back in America. It was weird to be hearing about such different things over a dinner table, when just a week back we were surely talking about truly American things. But the evening was fun: we set off fireworks for an hour at midnight, drank Spumanti, ate grapes and fresh fruits and panetone and chocolate torrone, and we ended the night playing Italian pick-up sticks (I'm surprisingly good!) and some strange form of Blackjack (I taught them how to shuffle cards!). Seeing good friends again so soon upon being back was just what I needed to feel home again. It was a late night, and Antonello and I spent New Year's day sleeping in, making pancakes for lunch, exchanging gifts, and watching old movies on television.

And there's more to blog about too (which I will do very soon!) as yesterday I met Lori, Cyndi and Danilo in Faenza, where we spent part of the day in nearby Brisighella and part of it ceramic-hunting back in Faenza. We laughed all day, and it was great. What a welcome home--old friends in Indy saying goodbye as new friends in Italy welcome me home. It's nice to feel like two places are somehow connected: that leaving one doesn't have to break your heart, because the other place is waiting to take you in, to welcome you, to make you smile. Thank God for that.

Happy Epiphany