Miscellaneous

Three Small Words

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So, now that we’re heading into the glorious almost-holiday season (even though the stores have been getting us ready for several weeks), I figured I would share some thoughts on Halloween.

Halloween is now somewhat of a dreaded holiday in my house, since Morty is not a fan of anyone non-pack-related entering our territory (which includes house, lawn, driveway, and entire street to each end of the block. Extends to 10 miles if you’re the Mailman). I have tried a few things over the past few years–I have cordoned him off in the hallway with a baby gate (hysterical barking the entire time, with kids looking somewhat fearfully into the house), I’ve cordoned off myself in the front door area with baby gates (same thing, only the dog is closer now to the kids). I’ve shut him in the garage, I’ve shut the lights and hid in the backyard hoping no one would approach the property, I’ve given him Benadryl, I’ve tried training him with rewards if he sits in his place while I open the door…. you get the picture. Anyway, I’m always dreading it a bit and fitfully worrying weeks ahead about what my new plan of action should be.

Honestly, I’m not even sure why I put up with this, because I have to say that at least 50% (get ready, here comes some old biddy talk) of the kids are somewhat rude. Some of them with their parents standing right there. Now sometimes I’m dumb, because I know I should just grab the handful of treats and give them one by one, and tell the kids to buzz off. But sometimes, when they see that bowl, they become hypnotized, and they want to pick. So I let them pick. Who cares, right? Well, a 4-year old delicately picking and trying to decide is different from a 4-year old who sticks his/her hand in the bowl and grabs a handful. Even when I say, “just one, now!” I know it is exciting to get free candy. I know it’s an adventure and sometimes your parents aren’t watching. But honestly, do you really need to grab 4 pieces when you’ve already got a shopping bag full of candy? (the pumpkin head buckets do not hold nearly enough)

Anyway, I was better this year and just handed out the candy piece by piece—but they were eyeing what I was giving out, if I gave something different to one of the other kids (another dumb move, I should just buy all one kind), if there was a possibility for a different candy, etc. It felt like when Morty is waiting for me to give him a piece of cheese and he is looking at how much I have in one hand, wondering if he’s going to get all that’s in the other hand (even when he’s already eating some of it), longing for that other big piece that he somehow thinks he may not get to eat. BUT, I try to remember that kids will be kids, and I guess I’d be pissed if I got something weird like Mounds when everyone else got Reese’s.

So, there’s the grabbing a handful of candy even though I’m telling them to pick ONE, and Mom or Dad is standing there, not saying anything. There is also the forgotten tradition of actually saying, “Trick or Treat” after ringing the doorbell. I know I’m an old lady and all, but for Pete’s sake, it’s three small words to say, and I’ve spent like $238 on this candy, and eaten almost an entire bag because of this holiday, so, come on! Even 3-year old’s can master the expression. I remember my brother in law Dave complaining about an older kid who just stuck his hand out (no bag, no trick or treat, nothing), and I had that too, though some were not older kids! Listen, if you’re too young to form the words, that’s one thing (though–should you really be having that much candy?), but if you’re older than 3, you can darn well say it.

My favorite little “group” (two kids) experience went like this: (and to preface, I am hovering in the living room, listening for kids coming up the driveway, and ready to restrain my dog, so, I’m not miles away from the front door). Doorbell rings. Doorbell rings. Doorbell rings. HARD banging on the door. Doorbell rings. Banging on the door. Doorbell rings. (WTF?) I open the door and the littler kid is hitting his hand on the candy bucket….I don’t know what the expression is here, but you know how you used to pound one fist into your other palm as if to say, “you’re gonna get a beating…bring it on…” ? Well that’s what he was doing. He had to be maybe 6 or 7. I’m putting on my best pleasantries and trying not to be an old biddy. I reach into the bowl and the mean one who was going to beat me up asks if he can pick his own. I ask him which one he wants, and the other one (the Doorbell Assassin) says, “I WANT ALL OF THEM” and sticks his hand in. Well, I’m not gonna tolerate this crap. I say, “only one,” (he proceeds to grab) and then “only ONE now!” and I remove some from his hand. They finally ended up picking one each and walking away. I don’t think they said, “trick or treat” or “thank you.” I half-expected one of the parents to bring me up on assault charges for taking some candy away from the older kid.

I don’t know. I’m sure I could be a jerk sometimes when I was a kid, but I don’t ever remember complaining right to the person (WHO WAS GIVING ME FREE CANDY) that I didn’t like the offerings, or asking if I could have more than one (whaaat!!??), or grabbing at their bowl, or not saying “trick or treat” or “thank you.” I might assess the booty and complain at the end of the driveway, but never to an adult’s face. I really don’t think a little politeness is a big thing to ask. Maybe I really am just too old for this holiday!

And if you’re wondering what happened with Morty….. this year we had a big surprise. Morty, in all of his wisdom, now runs into the garage when he hears the doorbell ring. We do enter our house through our garage, so I guess that’s somewhat smart, but I had a big garbage pail blocking the door so he couldn’t attack the door and/or break the window glass with a rock and try to get at the invaders. He would then run out into the yard and bark, bark, bark. But it worked out rather well. Even though he knew I was opening the front door constantly, I guess he thought he would prevent sneak attacks.

All in all, Halloween turned out somewhat better than expected, but it’s not overly fun or cute any more. Some kids were great and gracious and had great costumes. Others were decidedly not. I’m thinking that maybe next year (if I do this at all), I’m going to have a large bottle or wine or liquor handy, for me and Morty, and perhaps we’ll both enjoy the holiday a little more.

Now—- onward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Woohoo!!

Travel

It’s hot if you Travel to Italy in the Summer- Part 3- Florence & Rome

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To see the first two posts on this topic, refer to the “Recent Posts” section on the right.

So, as I mentioned in my Venice post, we knew that we would be arriving in Florence during a bad heat wave. 100 degree temperatures were expected. I feel like everyone I know has been in Italy when an unusual/ heat wave was occurring, so consider this your warning.

While it was extremely humid in Venice, it was a little less so in Florence-but the temperature was much higher. The good thing about Florence is that there are actual streets, and some of them have real street names (unless, of course, you are trying to find the one you need to turn down). There is a little more room to “breathe,” and potential for some air flow. Only a little more, though.

Since it was so hot, no one would walk on the sunny side of the street (awww…), so the shady side of the street was prime real estate. Now, I haven’t previously mentioned cars and sidewalks because we were in Venice prior to this–since there were no cars, you could just walk down the middle of the street or try to squish in on the “sidewalk” when attempting to look in a store window. In Florence, there are real sidewalks. And there is traffic in the street. Mainly mopeds, taxis, and black cars with tinted windows. Many of the cars parked on the side looked like they hadn’t been moved in weeks or even months: I’ve got this parking space and I’m never leaving it!

I was looking forward to the idea of closed-to-traffic/pedestrian-only areas in the big cities we were visiting. It seemed like a great thing- walking on the cobblestone streets, not worrying about getting hit. Well, it seemed to me that the areas where there is really not any kind of vehicle allowed seemed to be somewhat small areas, mainly piazza areas. Much of your time may be spent wandering around and looking for those areas, which means you are in the traffic-allowed-and-you-must-walk-on-the-sidewalk areas.

The sidewalks, my friends, are not pedestrian-friendly. At least, not when you are trying to roll your luggage (or even just walk, regular-like) on the shady side of the street. Many of them appear to be maybe 1 1/2 feet wide, and people are not concerned about you or your luggage. You can walk two-abreast, and people will do this, which means that you and your luggage (if you’re walking from the train station), or you, in a hurry, will be walking in the cobblestone streets. This would not necessarily be a bad thing, but both sides of the streets will have rows and rows of mopeds and cars parked along the side, so you will have to walk in the center of the street. Which is likely sunny. And when a car or moped approaches, there is no way to easily hop back onto the sidewalk (with luggage), because the parked mopeds are in the way. On a side note, there is not always a “slope” at the sidewalk entrance/exit, so you will be clunking (or possibly throwing) your rolling luggage every time you cross a side street.

Anyway, the only time you will feel air-conditioning while wandering around Florence is if you go into a store (clothing or grocery), an enclosed restaurant, or hopefully, your hotel. Sometimes when you walk down the street, you will pass a store where you can feel the AC breezes near the entrance, but that’s it. Many small bars (coffee) or shops will not have AC, so even if you pop in for a quick coffee (stand at the bar or you’ll pay more!), the sweat production will continue. Electric wall-mounted units seem to be very popular there, but unless you are standing right under the outflow, it doesn’t seem to be much help (again, all the doors are open…!!!). Some places will have stand-up AC units, and they will prop the vent hose through an open rear door- so you may be walking down a street and feel a blast of hot air….which oddly feels somewhat okay, because at least there is a breeze.

Another interesting quirk is that if you happen to be there during an “unusual” heat wave, many of the establishments you visit will have ice machines which are “broken,” or they will have run out of ice. I’m not joking. Since it is way too long to include here, I have a separate post on our first experience with “no ice,” so, keep an eye out for that one. Just be aware that you may only receive ice if you purchase an alcoholic drink in a glass (and it’s not a guarantee).

As I mentioned, there is a bit more room to breathe in Florence (and Rome, too!), especially in the large piazzas. There you will find many beautiful fountains with clear pools and flowing water. If you ever wondered how Tantalus felt, this is your chance. Surrounded by cool refreshing water which you had better not touch, lest ye attract the attention of the carbinierie.

Sweating by the fountains (even when the sun has gone down)

There are public drinking fountains in Florence, but definitely not the quantity available in Rome. We ended up having to buy gallons of water at the grocery stores because even the cold water in our hotel sink faucet was warm (even after running the tap), and we had no refrigerator in the room (pro tip: get a room with a fridge). I know it’s gross to consider drinking water from your bathroom faucet, but if you have nothing else, and you need to take some ibuprofen, it’s better than the toilet water. So, needless to say, my refillable water bottle was not being used to its full potential. Another pro tip: if your hotel has a kitchen (and no ice machine), ask them for ice. I’m not sure what the official stance is on this, but it can’t hurt to ask. I’m not sure why we didn’t do this from the beginning, although we did get in trouble for monopolizing the one available ironing board, so we were reluctant to ask for much. But that’s another story.

Once you have survived Venice and Florence, when you move on to Rome, you will be able to blisffully re-hydrate yourself. There are public drinking fountains everywhere, and the water is cold, and glorious, and doesn’t smell weird, and doesn’t give you intestinal troubles. We drank a lot of it. Finally my water bottle got to see some action. This was an absolute necessity, because Rome is quite big. And even when your Air B&B is not “too” far from the Trevi Fountain, it’s still a very long walk home from the Piazza del Popolo.

In Rome, it was the same story with the hotness: hardly any AC, and broken ice machines. The good thing is that the streets are even better-organized than in Florence, and there are drinking fountains everywhere; definitely a huge perk because you will walk your feet off, even if you’re not getting overly lost. Also, since the streets are so big, it would take you more effort to cross to the shady side, so you will spend more time in the direct sun.

Overall, the reiteration here is that there is hardly ever any relief from the blasting heat. I recognize that if you are outside all day during the summer in any large city, walking around and seeing the sites, it is going to be hot. And there often won’t be public drinking fountains unless you’re inside a building, so Rome gets huge pluses for that. The one big difference is that, and I hate to be that person who is comparing American things to old European things, at least here you are more likely to find A/C in any number of buildings, and if there is no A/C, there will be fans. Multiple big fans. And icy drinks. I kept thinking that workers/customers would never stand for this here. That’s not necessarily a good thing, we do many many things wrong here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., but at least our basic human needs are met in most public/tourist areas.

So, To Recap:

  • You will likely have to buy some water in Florence: look for a Coop, they’re usually air-conditioned
  • If staying in a hotel, get a room with a refrigerator
  • Ask your hotel for ice if you have no refrigerator and your tap water is too warm to drink when you’re desperate
  • Don’t think you can dip your hands into the public fountains to cool off, even if you’re about to have heat stroke
  • In Rome (and you can try in Florence) bring your refillable water bottle with you and use the public drinking fountains, you will not get sick (not a promise, but every video I’ve watched, and my own experience have proved this to be true )

There is additional relevant content on site-seeing/touring of Florence and Rome (when it’s hot) which I was originally going to post here, but it is a bit wordy, so I’m moving it into a separate post. Keep an eye out for that one, too!

Tantalus’s punishment for his act, now a proverbial term for temptation without satisfaction (the source of the English word tantalise[25]), was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp. Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantalus

At least Tantalus was able to stand in the water.

Miscellaneous

I Like Iceberg

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So, just a few random things from this week to take a break from reading about being hot in Italy.

First, a little story about nature.

I like cats. I really do. Folks say that you are either a cat or a dog person, but I don’t truly believe that, at least, not as a blanket statement for everyone in the world. I like both, and I’ve owned both, along with an iguana, mice (the pet kind and the home-invasion kind), a parakeet, guinea pigs, fish. If I could own chickens, a horse, the squirrel in my yard which is missing a tail, and a cow, I’d own them too.

Anyway. I like cats. But, they can be not-so-nice when they want to “play.” And by “play,” I mean batting at and torturing other smaller and not-so-savvy creatures in their vicinity. The first time I witnessed this phenomenon is in my old house, where my two cats ruled the basement. We also had some other small visitors who had the misfortune of attempting to invade Catdom. One day, as I was descending into the Netherworld basement to do my laundry, I saw a mouse wobbling around and walking in circles. It was certainly not scurrying, and mice are generally known to scurry. It was frightening and fascinating at the same time. I realized that this was the result of being batted around/pounced on by one or both of my cats. I don’t know if this was just a dazed mouse, or if it had suffered irreparable brain damage, but, it wasn’t nice.

Now, I get the whole food chain/circle of life thing, even if I still can’t appreciate it when I watch a video of a sickly/injured/young wildebeest (it’s always a wildebeest, isn’t it?) being taken down by a mighty (but also hungry) lioness.

Young Cathy: This is awful!! Why isn’t the cameraman trying to help the animal?

Dad: Because then it’s interfering with Nature.

Young Cathy: This is horrible! Can’t he help just this once? If he promises not to do it again?

Dad: No, because it’s interfering. The lion has to eat, too.

Anyway, my issue was that my sadistic cats weren’t actually eating the mice. They were just playing. Or practicing for when the next wildebeest wandered into town. I suppose I should be grateful that I didn’t have to deal with seeing disemboweled mice or the trace of a tail slithering into the maw of one of my feline companions, but still, I was somewhat dismayed by this “nature” thing.

So, moving on to present day. We have a few outdoor cats in our neighborhood, one of which is a Siamese cat which likes to sun itself on my front steps (Morty loves this), and basically saunter back and forth under the car and into the bushes at the front of the house. Recently, Morty was lovingly expressing his delight at the presence of something (could be anything…a truck…the mailman…a leaf…) out front, so I looked out the window to show him that I’m the Alpha and I can take care of things.

I spy the aforementioned cat on the lawn across the street. It is looking at something, you know, in that bemused, catty sort of way. I further see that nearby, there is a small animal hopping in the air in erratic fashion. It looks to be a chipmunk. The cat pounces a little. The chipmunk jumps some more.

Now, I’ll try not to go into a tirade here, but chipmunks are somewhat the bane of my existence. I love them, they’re ridiculously cute, but they also tunnel in my lawn (along with who-knows-what-else), are probably ruining my foundation, and cause Morty to dig giant holes in order to find them. However, I’m not sure I can just look away at this torture show going on across the street. I decide that I am going to do what the cameraman should have done, and intervene on Nature.

I walk across the street, and try to shoo Cat away. Chipmunk is confused and probably more horrified about the giant human thing waving its hands, and runs/hops/wobbles away from Human and towards Cat. Cat is somewhat wary, but is more interested in Chipmunk. Cat goes to pounce on dumb chipmunk. Catherine tries to shoo (or call, either will work) Cat and direct Chipmunk, using Chipmunk commands such as, “you go this way…no…this way….here’s your chance to get away…..!” Chipmunk is still confused and likely terrified, and now adding heart failure to its probable brain damage.

Finally (I’m sure, to the fancy of my neighbors), I’m able to get the cat to somewhat walk away behind a nearby tree (dumb human, I’ll just hide here and get that thing when she leaves), and get the chipmunk to run in the opposite direction. I stand there, in my all-powerful goalie stance, to assure that Cat understands that Chipmunk will live another day to gleefully create additional holes in my foundation.

As I’m walking back across the street, glancing back occasionally to make sure Cat understands that I won’t tolerate any funny business, I see Morty watching me from the front door. It’s probably one of the funniest Morty-related things I’ve seen, mainly because of all the thoughts I imagine he’s having after seeing this show. Is he pissed? Is he in awe of his mighty Alpha, showing dominance over Cat and Chipmunk? Is he confused? Yes, I think he’s confused, or at the very least, unimpressed. But, I’m his Alpha-now-relegated-to-something-way-lower-based-on-this-fiasco, and he’s stuck with me.

Morty, impressed.

So now that I’ve warmed you up, and about to proceed into something wholly unrelated to cats/dogs/chipmunks, but it is the title of this post, so stick with me, I’m going to admit something here and now, and this may be shocking to some: I like iceberg lettuce.

Why is this shocking? Because, as we all know, iceberg is the lowliest of the low in the “greens” category (I have to say, “greens” because the only other “lettuce” we sometimes eat, which used to be the main thing in salads, is Romaine, which had a very bad year after that whole e.coli thing…. now we eat “greens”). I remember the first time (I think I was at a wedding) I saw a bunch of stuff that looked similar to the weeds I used to pick to make my pretend “salad” when I was a kid, and someone said, “Ooo, this is the fancy stuff—this is a new thing.” “What is it?” “I don’t know, it’s fancy.”

And when I tasted it, I was sure that there must be some mistake. Bitter, weird, not tasty, and so many different shapes and sizes that it was difficult to control with the fork. I couldn’t identify anything on the dish, except for something I was sure was dandelion weed (which yes, yes, I know, it’s been edible for years). Fancy=weeds from the lawn. Excellent.

Anyway, I know that iceberg lettuce allegedly doesn’t taste like anything, and that it has no nutritional value and all of that, but the individual leaves are at least big enough to put on a hamburger or chicken patty sandwich (decidedly un-fancy) without everything falling out all over the plate. And it’s not bitter and creating a whole ‘nother taste to interfere with my sandwich. Now, I have grown to tolerate “greens” and even almost like them when I’m looking for something flavorful (bitter and weird) to have in my salad, but they just do not work as well on a plain old sandwich.

I know it’s scandalous, and cheap, and un-fancy, but I like iceberg lettuce.

And cats.

And dogs.

And I guess chipmunks.

Travel

It’s Hot if You Travel to Italy in the Summer: How to be Hot in Venice-Part 2

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In continuing on with my “hot” stories about Italy (part 1 can be found in the recent posts menu), I’m going to break it down into two sections (with some additional stories on the side). I’m starting with Venice, since that was a little different from the other areas we visited. In reading the next few posts, I must mention that the overwhelming detail, for ALL of the places I visited, is this: there is hardly ever any relief from the heat/humidity. It is relentless, and I was sweating from the minute I walked out of our hotel until the minute I returned at the end of the day. Nighttime offered some relief, but not in Venice. Also, remember that this was during an “unusual” heat wave in June/July–I’m not sure if this was just a freak thing, or if this is representative of a normal hot summer, but this was my experience, and I have heard some similar stories.

So, Venice. On my less-than-24 hours stay, I will tell you that the humidity level there was astounding. There was a small breeze in St. Mark’s Square, sometimes on the promenade on the south side, and on the gondola, but that was about it. It was not enough to completely dry my sweat.

Catching a breeze–the best EUR 80 you’ll ever spend

When you’re not in any of those places, and you are joyfully getting lost in the alleyways (or, “streets” if you dare to call them that), there will be nothing even slightly akin to a breeze. I estimate that at least 50-70% of your time will be spent navigating alleyways, and there are hundreds/thousands of people right there with you. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes, you will be in St. Mark’s Square for some of your time (disregard this if you plan to spend all of your time there), but, depending on where you’re staying, the rest of the time will be spent in the alleyways looking for St. Mark’s Square, looking for how to get away from St. Mark’s Square, going into the shops, and looking for food/water.

When you head into the evening hours, while it is slightly “cooler,” and there are not as many tourists, and the sun is not beating down on you, there is still not a real breeze (unless you are in one of the locations mentioned earlier). At least, not when I was there. Sitting by the water helps, if only to mentally trick yourself into believing that it is cooler there. It’s probably not. And it’s also a little stinky (but not too bad, as it was in the old days, apparently).

So, let’s address some other things you might do apart from gondola riding and pigeon-feeding. During your visit to this beautiful and captivating city, you will inevitably need to rest/eat/drink/attempt to dry off. Next up:

Eating and Drinking in Venice (when it’s really hot)

We had our first “Italian” meal in a little pub-like place which looked a bit like a cellar, and it was not awful in there. It wasn’t overly hot (it was the beginning of our first day after arriving, so, maybe I’m being kind), the food was good, and I had my first of many Aperol Spritz’s. Know that if you’re trying to not be “tourist-y” and looking for a place to eat which is away from St. Mark’s Square/Rialto Bridge/Promenade, it means that you’re going to be in an “alleyway.” Remember the 50-70% of time spent there? No breeze. So, there is a trade-off, and I’ll let you decide on this. You can eat in a “tourist-y” place near the popular areas and possibly pay too much for so-so food (but there may be a chance of a breeze), or you can eat in a not-as-tourist-y place in an alley and get decent food and hopefully they have an outdoor fan with mist. Not sure how much the mist helps when you are already soaking with sweat (and I’m not exaggerating here), but I’ll leave that to you. I’m also going to quickly add here that we had no bad food in Italy, regardless of where we ate: we were trying to go native as possible and trying to avoid menus written in English, but really, sometimes you just need to sit down and eat something.

After wandering and looking around and happening upon St. Mark’s Square, and then more wandering and looking around, we were ready for a break. Our second “meal” was in an alleyway/street restaurant (a quieter alleyway, so, not as many people), where we essentially collapsed into the chairs and racked up a big drink bill. There was a misting fan there, which made us hopeful, but there was a couple hogging it up the entire time, so, unless we sat in their laps, we would not reap the benefits. The meal comprised of about 33 Aperol Spritz’s, a Campari Spritz (not as nice), and I think we ordered an appetizer because we felt like we weren’t providing a good impression of Americans. Spenser also had grappa. It was fun, but it was still hot with no breeze. It’s good to note that you don’t care as much about breezes after 33 Aperol Spritz’s.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why we didn’t just go into a ristorante with air conditioning. Well first, many of them looked to be rather expensive, and truthfully we weren’t really wanting a full/heavy meal. Second, most of them were in the “tourist-y” areas. And third, most of them had outdoor cafe seating, and many of them had the “inside” doors wide open to the outdoor area. My father would have had a fit. What little air-conditioning they had was likely dissipated by the 145% humidity coming in from the outdoor area. Unless you are completely closed in with no outdoor area, you may not likely be much cooler at an inside dining establishment, even when you see the sign “We have A/C.”

Drinking things other than Aperol Spritz’s in Venice

As I’ve mentioned before, it is important to try to keep hydrated and to drink some water whilst traveling. While Italy is pretty glorious in the fact that one can wander around with alcoholic beverages in hand, it is probably best to try to squeeze in some water on occasion. So, on an almost final but very important note, be advised that there were no or very few public drinking fountains in Venice, akin to the ones in Rome. We did not see any that I can recall. (And truthfully, I might have been nervous about drinking it there.) This means you will have to buy your water (so your refillable water bottle, unless it’s gallon-sized and keeps the water cold, will be of no use. And on a similar note, the heat and exhaustion will make carrying a mere 1-liter bottle feel like an extra 20 pounds on your shoulder, so, be warned!). If you need to conserve your money, try to buy it in a grocery store away from the main attractions.

So, a quick run-down:

  • everywhere that is not St. Mark’s Square or on the southern promenade or in a gondola is hot with no breeze
  • if you want to eat in a place that has A/C, make sure they keep their doors closed to the outside cafe area
  • if you want to eat outside with the chance of a breeze, for food which some may consider “overpriced” and “okay,” go for something in St. Mark’s Square (or southern promenade area)
  • don’t bother bringing your refillable water bottle, buy your water from a market/store away from St. Mark’s/Rialto
  • Extra tip: buy one of those hand-held fans that you see everywhere. I didn’t, because I didn’t want to be a silly tourist, but I regretted it. Even Italians use them!

I will probably be doing a separate post on Venice (what we saw, the gondola situation, the pigeons situation, etc.), as I wanted to keep this one focused on being “hot” in Venice; that one will come up a little later. Next up, how to be hot in Florence and Rome.

“But really….It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

Travel

It’s Hot if you Travel to Italy in the Summer or This is the Only Place on Earth Where You’re Surrounded by Water Everywhere but You’re Dying of Thirst and Heat Exhaustion…. (Part 1)

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So, this will be the first of a few posts regarding what “hot” means, if you’re traveling to Italy in the summer. If you have done your research and listened to stories, you will have heard that it is “hot” if you decide to go to Italy in the Summer. Most travel vlogs/blogs/etc. advise to avoid the summer and to travel in spring or autumn. This is lovely advice, but it’s not necessarily easy to follow if you have either already booked your trip, or you have no other option due to life schedules.

When Spenser and I were planning our trip, we knew we wouldn’t be able to go in the spring or fall due to his school schedule, but figured that maybe if we could go in June/early July, it wouldn’t be so horrible. Honestly, I don’t mind “hot” weather if I’m on vacation, because I’m not having to walk around in work clothes and dress shoes and all of that nonsense. Hot in your car/your un-air-conditioned home/office and wearing a full outfit of clothes with your hair and makeup done is different from hot at the beach, when you’re wearing a bathing suit and that’s about it. On my non-beach days I would be wearing all sleeveless items and breezy skirts and sandals, so, body coverings would be at a (slightly conservative) minimum. Further, I said to myself convincingly, we’d had way too much rain in our spring/early summer, and it would be blissful to have sun-filled days. So, I could handle “hot”…!

In the weeks before our trip, I was obsessing over the weather app on my phone. It always showed the weather to be generally in the mid-high 80’s during the day, 70’s at night, with not a lick of rain ever showing in the forecast. I could certainly deal with that! As we approached closer to departure day, I saw that it would be in the high 80’s in Venice, and in Florence (2nd day of trip), it was expected to be 100 degrees and in the high 90’s during our stay. I was somewhat concerned about this, but figured we would be inside for a few of our tours (2 museums and a church), and we had planned to “rest” or “picnic in a park” during the hot hours of 12-4. You know what they say about the best-laid plans……

In the many months prior to our departure, I researched a multitude of items and watched a bazillion videos. I knew I would have to keep myself hydrated on the plane and on the ground, so I bought a collapsible silicon water bottle (I didn’t buy a hard-side/stainless steel one because I couldn’t afford any extra weight in anything I was carrying). I searched for days/weeks for a purse/tote that I could carry around which wasn’t too big (more on that in a different post) or too small, wasn’t a backpack, was secure, and had a water bottle holder.

I did arm workouts every day so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to go sleeveless, and searched for dresses (didn’t happen) and skirts and shirts which were conservative enough to go into churches but didn’t make me look like a floral walking house/unfashionably fat American.

I tried to schedule tours for as early as possible so that the “unbearable” time between 12-4 would either be leisure time or time spent inside buildings where it would be cooler.

I booked hotels/B&B near city centers so we wouldn’t have to walk far from either the train station or to the local sites. Rick Steves was right about that, it’s worth paying a little extra money to be right in the “center” of the action.

All of these things were necessary, to be sure, but they still did not prepare me for the reality of the hot Italian experience. I had always heard it would be, “hot” in the summer, but I don’t think I truly understood what that meant. So, I’m going to tell you what it means, share my experiences, and this way you’ll all be forearmed. I’m going to add here that during my visit, it was considered unusually hot, even by the Italians. Most said that the type of heat we encountered was generally to be expected in late July/August, so, what we experienced may have been a rare occurrence, or it may be what you would face if you went to Italy in August…..Or maybe it’s like that, all summer long. Though I will caution you that I’m not the only one who has visited during an “unusual” heat wave, so, maybe this is a tourism trick.

In my next post I will start with Venice, how “hot” is defined there (apart from the good-looking natives), and offer some tips on navigating Summer (and/or a “rare” heat wave) in Italia.

Miscellaneous

How to Know When You’re Getting Old (and a Woman…. and Hire Me to Take Photos at Your Wedding!)

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I had the great pleasure of attending a family wedding over the weekend, and now that I am mostly recovered, I’ve had some time to reflect. After unpacking my bag (and all the little bags inside) and viewing the photos I took, I have come to realize that being a woman and maybe getting older (but just a little) can be arduous things, especially when it comes to a full night of family wedding fun. Here are some of the signs that you might be getting older (and/or a woman):

  • When you are packing an overnight bag for ONE night in a hotel, and an entire makeup bag is filled only with medicines, “just in case.” Ibuprofen for a hangover or any other aches/pains, meclizine (a family favorite!) for avoiding falling down/vertigo when you’re not even drinking yet, aspirin (in case you or someone else thinks they’re having a heart attack), chew-able pepto, prescriptions.
  • When you’re too senile to realize you should have just combined all of those medicines into one small bottle.
  • When you have hip pain on the day after.
  • When two days later, your hip pain is actually just some kind of bizarre muscle soreness in only your upper quadriceps and your first thought is that it’s because the toilets in the venue and hotel room seemed really low to the ground and the “crouching” situation is more difficult with heels on (sorry if that’s TMI, but this is a real thing that women suffer). The reality is that it’s probably just due to rising up from your chair 237 times in the span of a few hours (and perhaps you also had a few more drinks than you should have had).
  • When you pack three different bras and 3 pairs of shoes, one pair of which was specifically purchased for this occasion
  • When you don’t end up actually wearing the shoes you specifically purchased for this occasion
  • When you pack a hair straightener and a curling iron, and another makeup bag chock full of cosmetics, even though you have already done your hair and makeup.
  • When you completely forget how to use the camera which you purchased for your Italy trip just a few months prior. You forget that you have it set so that your pictures won’t turn out blurry, which means that you have to depress the button once lightly and then depress the button completely. Your mind and finger-function memory revert back to an old sucky camera you had, which also took blurry pictures (what’s the common denominator here, Catherine?), for which you were supposed to depress once and wait a second. Result:

 

  • When you don’t realize that just switching to the “video” button on the “new” camera means that it is automatically taking the video.  You would think that “VID” on the screen would be an obvious sign of what was going on, but instead, in your old age, you believe that you have to depress the shutter button in order to record (like your old sucky camera).  This means that you have multiple .02 second videos.  Result:

Thankfully, I had my phone which I could use to take other only slightly blurry pictures as well as videos which lasted longer than .02 seconds.

In the end, and to be fair, you don’t have to be “old” to feel a little poorly after a night of celebrating with family/friends/maybe more than just a few drinks,  And honestly, it’s probably more the fault of the “maybe more than just a few drinks” rather than the whole aging process.  I’m not sure whether I should blame old age or the drink for my bad camera skills, but I’m not too old to remember the following conversation on the dance floor:

 

Me:  I don’t even think I’m using this camera right— I think everything is coming out blurry, what the heck!?!

Eric:  Well, at least it will be an accurate representation of what you were seeing when you took the pictures!

 

So, maybe it was the drink.

Anyway, that was my revelation for the weekend.  Also, this is my formal apology to those of you who didn’t make it into my Facebook post because your pictures were too blurry.  

 

Miscellaneous

When tree vines were curtains….

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As I was walking into the park today with Morty , he found the first of 42674521 “areas of intrigue” to sniff/pee on, in an overgrown and bushy area. There were dangling vines and branches from a nearby tree which smacked me in the face and then became a private little umbrella under which to stand while he did his investigating. I thought to myself, “Oh, aren’t these the most lovely curtains?”

Of course, this was a somewhat odd thought to be thinking at such a time, or perhaps any time, really, but it was a throwback to my memories of being a kid, and the life of adventure that surrounded me in my universe (neighborhood block) of Kid-dom.

I have often wondered, and I know too, that others of my generation do, whether kids “these days” (and probably back to before my son’s generation) are really done a disservice by their ever-watchful, ever-paranoid and news-infused parents. I wonder if they are truly able to experience a sense of wonder, imagination, and adventure as I did, growing up. Sure, Barney and Dora taught them all about imagination and quests, but is that the same as being daring enough to go into the local “swamp” with their neighborhood pals?

When I was a kid, big leaves, “berries,” and pine cones were used to make pretend salad for “dinner.” A hole in a tree could be anything from a troll’s lair where stolen objects were hidden, a portal to H-E-double hockey sticks (or possibly China), or even possibly your bank vault, where you hid important items. Of course the problem would be that making a withdrawal could result in being dragged to the Underworld, or bitten by a troll, but these were the dangers of growing up outside of the backyard or a play group.

We’d search for wild animals, we’d search for “moon rocks” (I still don’t know what those things were exactly, but I’m sure I haven’t seen one since I was a kid) (and no, I’m not talking about the super-cannabis things, which I didn’t know about until I tried to see if I could find a picture of a moon rock), we’d scour the sidewalks and bushes in hopes of finding some pennies so we could buy Swedish Fish at the bakery.

We configured how we could build a mud hut in the swamp (we could run away from home and it could in a pinch be used in case of nuclear attack, which was eminent), we looked for rocks that might have gold in them- surely gold and moon rocks could fund whatever comforts we needed. In fact, we were always trying to figure out ways to make money, so we could save for the church/bazaar, more Swedish Fish, or something more exciting, like Lik’M Sticks at the ballpark. I always longed to be one of those kids with an “allowance,” as begging my mother and random change on the sidewalk was not a steady and dependable income. An allowance was something only existing on TV shows (if you caught them at the right time and had finished your homework and were allowed to watch them). But I suppose that’s a post for a different day.

We considered whether it was true that the mushrooms we found would kill us if we ate them, we considered whether our parents would kill us if they knew we had ventured past the tree at the end of the street, we thought of tales to tell as to why the street lights were on and we hadn’t yet arrived home.

During my trip to Italy, I had a conversation with a newly-met cousin-in-law (https://www.facebook.com/RizzosAstoria1959/ ) and we were talking about how different it is for a kid growing up in Italy (today) and having the bravery as a parent to actually let your American kid go play down the street with the other kids in the Italian neighborhood. We talked about how everyone in the (Italian) neighborhood knows everyone, and knows everyone’s parents (and their parents, and their parents’ parents), and how everyone looks out for each other. We talked about how it used to be that way in America.

Here in American suburbia, we barely know the names of our neighbors (I’m talking about anything past the ones that immediately surround our houses), there are not tons of kids playing outside on the block, and the “go outside!” play area is generally the backyard. My neighborhood doesn’t even have sidewalks. I know this isn’t always the case, and that there are pockets of newly built neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs where you may see two or more kids playing together, who aren’t actually related, but I think it’s becoming more rare by the second (and it doesn’t happen every day).

Anyway, I could go on and on about this, but I’ll leave it here. I really consider myself lucky to have grown up the way I did- to have the opportunity to always fuel my imagination and to create worlds and adventures which existed outside of the TV console and past the confines of my own yard. I know it’s a very different world that we live in, but I don’t believe it is necessarily a better one, in some respects.

Did you have similar adventures, growing up? Share them here. And, while you’re contemplating, I’m going out to collect some leaves and berries for dinner.

 

Miscellaneous

Starting Anew

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So, my old blog has mostly bitten the dust. I let it go dark for quite a few months and never thought to try to save everything–even when I tried to access it as a commoner rather than admin, I was getting certificate errors, which was a real pain in the you-know-where. After much research and hemming and hawing, I decided to change my host (they include the SSL certificate without extra charges, see end of post), pay up front for an entire year so I could get the reduced rate, and, here we are.

I have managed to find many of my old posts, and they will eventually be posted in the “Ye Olde Blog” tab to the right. With this new blog, I will be including my regular types of posts (for those of you who know me already), along with newer sections on travel, critiques, and “hire me” types of services (Proofreading/editing/wedding officiating).

Thank you for joining me once again on this journey. Feel free to contact me or become a subscriber. Now, Andiamo!

Blog hosting info: So far, I haven’t had any difficulties with using this host; it has been easy to use, and when I had an issue with my SSL, their help desk/customer service actually resolved my issue. So, here is their link (and I will receive a commission if you sign up, just so you know!): https://www.siteground.com/index.htm?afcode=13a335cdb31da639ffc3bb7ac1f6b387

Travel

My trip to Italy

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Well, since it’s a really big thing that has happened to me recently, apart from shockingly being laid off from a dearly-loved company, I’m going to write a series of posts surrounding my recent trip to Italy.

I’ll go through (possibly not in chronological order?) my preparations (including my endless research and attempts at learning the language), my experiences, my afterthoughts, my advice.

I will leave links to places I’ve stayed, travel items purchased, and a variety of do’s and don’t’s or at least just-so-you-know’s, and hopefully it will give you a real, clear picture of what to expect.

English (the language, that is)

Words, Words, Words Are Important (a throwback post, but still appropriate)

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Anyone who had the pleasure of spending 6th grade English class in the presence of Sister Lois would instantly recognize the name of this post as being one of her famous quotes; I’m not exactly sure why she would admonish us with this little ditty, but she said it, a LOT.  She was a rather strict teacher, and I remember the dread of the whole “diagramming sentences” procedure, but, in truth, her catchphrase could probably be my mantra.

As you may or may not know, I have already admitted to the fact that I am a snob when it comes to the English language.  I am very defensive about it, and saddened by the state of its decline.  This is not a new thing for me; even growing up I was confused and alarmed at the number of word shortcuts, general laziness, and “wrong-ness” that seemed to abound in the world.

I remember being in the car once as a kid and seeing a sign for a laundromat, the name of which was something like, “E-Z Wash.”  I remarked to my father that it was weird for something to be labeled as E through Z rather than A through Z.  After several minutes of patient explaining, my father finally got it into my thick head that “E-Z” was “short” for the word “Easy.”

“But, there’s no ‘z’ in the word ‘easy’.”
“Well, you’re supposed to sound out the letters… the letters ‘e’ and ‘z’ put together sound like ‘easy‘.”
“But that’s not how you spell ‘easy.’”
“Well, maybe they were trying to be clever.”
“That’s not clever.  It’s spelled wrong. And why is there a hyphen in it?”
“I don’t know, maybe they didn’t have enough money to spell out the entire word.”

Ditto similar conversations for signs that read “tonite only” or displayed abbreviations like “Fri” without using punctuation.  Usually the conversation would end with the “they didn’t have enough money” or the “maybe the person was in a rush when they wrote it” excuse.  My poor father.  I’m surprised he didn’t throw me out of the car.

Of course, not knowing that “EZ” was a common way to imply “easy” was due to my age and inexperience.  But my indignation about the whole thing does say a little something about my attitude towards adults, and the adult world.  Back then, I believed that adults were generally correct about 99% of the time.  They knew the correct spellings of words, they had many more years of schooling under their belts.  So to me, signs with “incorrect” spellings were a bit strange, because they were part of the (imagined) unerring adult world in which I had come to believe.

Just the other day I saw a lawn sign advertising home repairs which read something along the lines of “No job is to small.”  Well, apparently learning to spell isn’t one of the services they offer.  I almost wanted to call the number on the sign and tell them what a shame it was to spend the money on advertising their services to the public, and they couldn’t even get a simple word like “too” correct.  I mean, come on.  People should know the damn differences between to/too/two.  It’s not like adding the extra letter is going to cost a lot of money or time.  It’s ONE LETTER.

I won’t even give them the benefit of the doubt that it was a simple mistake, because this is something they are showing to the world, and they should have proofread.  It’s not private notes in a diary, it’s there for the public to see, and judge.  In my eyes, this wasn’t about being too lazy, it was about someone not knowing the difference between three very simple words of the English language.

I know I shouldn’t care whether a roof fixer/handyman guy knows the difference between the words, but what if it’s a reflection on other things?
If he doesn’t care about appearing professional, will he, in fact, be professional?  Does he even know how to read?  If he forgot to add a letter to his public sign, what if he forgets to put a decimal point in his estimate somewhere?  Yes, yes, I know this is dramatic, but it all could have been avoided if he had just asked for some professional advice before making his sign.  It’s not a requirement for my handyman to write like Shakespeare, but I do expect him to care about his public and professional image.  His omission of one letter essentially lost him any opportunity for procuring my business.  Silly?  Perhaps.  But I know I’m not the only one out there who notices these things.

So you see, Sister Lois (who would be mortified to see what the world has come to) was right.  Words, words, words ARE important.  It’s two bad that people are to lazy too get it thru there they’re their thick skulls.