Saturday, April 21, 2007

Simple Requests

We bought the house we live in here in the north of Italy five years ago. We knew that we'd be staying in Modena for at least another ten years and we didn't want to keep forking over rent money to someone else, so we decided that we'd make the investment and buy. I know for American standards it's quite small, only one hundred and ten square metres, but for Italian city standards it is big. The number one thing that made us choose this house was the garden. We're situated one kilometre from the historic center of the city and even though it is in a condominium, three sides of the house is surrounded by a private garden. In April the house totally transforms itself because with the warm weather we can open all the doors up (and put the screen doors down!) and literally gain another two hundred square metres of living space. Whenever I get restless working I can just walk into our garden and relax. When it's really hot in the summer I like to get up early and have my tea on the patio table outside.In the evening I often work on my computer on the back terrace where I planted all the herbs. Neither Piero nor I are gardeners per sè, but we love to be outside. The one thing that really excited us was being able to plant our own garden. The house was brand new when we bought it so the garden was just this plot of dirt. We decided from the beginning that I was the designer and Piero was the laborer. Fair enough! I didn't really know what the heck I was doing but one thing I did have clear: the back corner of the garden, the one on the far side of the house was going to be the "scent" area. I wanted all my herbs planted on that side so that I could just go to one corner for all of my cooking needs. On the far wall ending the garden I wanted jasmine vines covering the fence.

When we bought the house we pretty much spent all of our savings and bigger than life mortage on the house itself. Plus this was that year that I was blessed with a late life, totally unexpected pregnancy, so extra cash was scarce. I opted for buying small plants that were inexpensive and tried to have faith in our gardening skills and patience with the plants growing. The jasmine bush cost about ten dollars. It wasn't very big, maybe five feet tall with two stalks coming up from the ground, but the perfume that the blossoms gave off was inebriating. I couldn't wait for it to grow!

Grow it did. Those shoots seemed to take off overnight. I coaxed them off to the left and the right and tied them onto the fence. Over the winter the plant survived and had no trouble fighting off even the coldest snowy climate. When spring came around I was all excited, anticipating the sensorial experience, but nothing happened. No buds, no blooms, no flowers.

I thought to myself that this must be how it works; the plant has to grow and the first year there will be no flowers... but wait 'til next year! Next year did come...and go. In the meantime the plant was growing. I had to cut it down to prevent it from taking over the whole back garden. I regularly chopped off the shoots that were growing outwards and on to the persimmon tree. To get it to bloom I tried giving it more water. When that didn't work I tried giving it less. I tried liquid, pellet, and organic homegrown fertilizer. Nothing, niente, nada, not even one little bloom.

Three weeks ago Piero and I were in the back gardening and he asked me what I wanted to do with the Jasmine vines. I said that I was going to give them one more year and then they were out because it had been five years now and they really had been given all the time in the world to produce some flowers with no results so far. I stepped over to the jasmine vines and said to them "I really really like having you here but if you don't produce any flowers this year I'm going to have to take you out. You have about another month and then I'll be planting photinia bushes in your place. So, make a decision here." I said this out loud and straight to the plants. Piero was watching me. No, he doesn't think I'm crazy. Besides he's seen me do these type of things before. Observing me having a one to one, serious conversation with a jasmine vine didn't phase him at all.

Today I walked outside and smelt something in the air...

I immediately called Piero on the phone. "You know that Jasmine vine?" He started laughing. I didn't even have to tell him what had happened.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No excuses!

Go read Nancy Toby's entry for today HERE and then tell me you don't have time to workout. Puts us all to shame...What a strong woman!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In limbo

I am still in training limbo. Not feeling so bad that I can't get out there and do something, not good enough to actually do any sort of structured training or (heaven forbid!) actually PUSH. Today was my last day on antibiotics and, even though I'll have to see the doctor again about my ear since I still can't hear out of it, I should start to be feeling better sometime this week. Linda sent me a phone msg this morning offering to watch Evan at the park for an hour while I ran. What a great friend! I have a new unidentified pain area in my left glute so I just 1' walk/1' ran the entire time. It did satisfy me!

I wanted to post some photos of my food obsession of the week: cooked apples. I love these and they are good and good for you!

Step One: Ingredients - big apples (I use Fuji apples) and pitted prunes. One large pan to use in the oven. Wash the apples and dig the core out of the them. Warm the oven to 325°F

Step 2: Place one prune where the apple core used to be. Place apples in the pan and fill the pan with about an inch of water. Bake in oven for one hour.

These are actually better when they're colder, but I eat them warm...or piping hot. The colder they get the sweeter they are, you choose! Variations can be using pears (those brown ones with the thick skin, can't remember the name) or sprinkling cinnamon on top. I know some people that slather them with sugar, but that sort of negates the healthy part of the whole operation. I can totally eat several of these a day. Buon appetito!


Friday, April 13, 2007

Easter (cough, hack...)

What went as planned:
  • Beautiful Easter weather, about 70° with floating clouds and being able to once again wear sleeveless shirts.
  • Easter lunch with friends, homemade pasta with zucchini shrimp sauce, fish, fabulous potatoe/artichoke/zucchini vegetable ring, cakes and chocolate chocolate chocolate.
  • Hanging out with friends, no hurries...
  • The half marathon, one woman in our group that I train ran a 1h36' PR and won her age category.
What DIDN'T go as planned:
  • Evan has been sick for about ten days now, hack coughing into my face every five minutes. It finally caught onto me. I started to lose my voice around friday. Saturday I was out of it but at that point I didn't want to call all the people I had invited over to Easter lunch and the half marathon the next day. Plus, I always think that I'm going to get better.
  • Sunday night when I felt everything shift into my left ear, I knew it was over. Around 11.00 pm P took me down to the emergency room and they have me five different prescriptions, including antibiotics.
  • No half marathon for me. I slept in for about 12 hours.
I still have another day of antibiotics and then it'll probably take another ten days to feel decent again. I obviously haven't made it back to the pool but I have gotten back on the bike. The uber gorgeous springtime weather we are having here really helps.

Yummy Easter Cupcakes

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Easter

This is our Easter photo from 1965. My Mom is in the middle, I'm in yellow on the right and my older sister on the left. My Mom had made all of our outfits, including her own. Check out the Jacky-O hat! My Mom was really tall, 5'11". I came out small at 5'10". We're in front of the church with my Dad taking the picture. I think she probably wanted an all girls shot, seeing as our two brothers are missing. Anyway, Happy Easter to all!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On death and dying

On Monday Olly's paternal grandfather passed away. She was of course very very sad but more importantly, this was the first human death she had ever experienced. They had the funeral yesterday so we all piled in the car at 6 a.m. for the two hour drive to Viareggio. The night before she had expressed being "scared", that she didn't know how to act or how it would be. I gave her a big hug and held her for a long time. "Don't you worry, I am the expert on death and dying, you're in good hands with me." Driving over the Appenine Mountains she asked me about my deaths. I told her about my Mother dying when I was ten and my brother dying when he was twenty-two. All my grandparents have of course passed away and one boyfriend who died rather quickly from ALS. She didn't know if she wanted to go into the church and I let her know that that was okay. My sister did not go to our mother's funeral, everybody just has a different way of dealing with a loss. There is a certain point where I had to decide what this all meant and where everybody was going and why they had been here for such a short amount of time. I told her that I didn't think that her Grandfather was any longer in that body in the church, he was definately somewhere else. Maybe near or maybe already far away. He was seventy seven when he left us so he had a long life on this earth. More importantly I was sure that wherever he was now he was no longer suffering from the cancer that had eaten his human body.
The church and cemetery where he was being buried was on a beautiful hilltop above Viareggio. It was a sunny day and you could see the light shining on the water below. Evan was still sleeping in his pajama in the back seat so I waited outside the church during the funeral ceremony. He woke up just in time for the walk from the church to the cemetery. In this small hilltop village they still have the tradition of a few unknown women inserted in the crowd that sing or recite the rosary on the way to the cemetery. Grandma Elsa, eighty seven years old, rather loudly requested that these ladies NOT attend her funeral. The cemetery was filled with plots of people that had died twenty, thirty, fifty years before. I thought about how I believed that none of those people were really present anymore. Just bones, and I don't mean that in a disrepectful way. My brother had mentioned in passing conversation just a few weeks before his death that if he ever died he wanted to be cremated. I'm glad we were able to do that for him. It really gave me the conviction that we are not our bodies, that they are just vehicles for this voyage in life.
After all was said and done we went back down to Viareggio. Olly went to spend a few hours with her Grandmother, Evan and I went to the port and beach to spend some time playing on the sand and look at the boats. This is the town where I did my very first Olympic Triathlon in 1996 and it's where I will be doing my first sprint Triathlon for the 2007 season in six weeks.
While I was playing with Evan I was imagining my swim and...imaging my swim. Didn't really think about the bike and run...I guess I'll just be happy to be in the water again. I know these two thoughts don't go together too well, funerals and triathlons, but that's kinda how the day went!