Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm scared I'm going to turn orange.

I've got a big backlog of blog posts, so you'll have to bear with me. (And, in my continued procrastination, I just googled the etymology of that phrase. It comes from either a request for forbearance or bearing a burden together. And now I've put off writing for another 10 minutes.)

Three Sundays ago, several of us set off by train to the lovely medieval town of Venzone for the annual Festa della Zucca, the Festival of the Pumpkin. We explored the entirety of the little town while enjoying a whole range of pumpkin themed foods. These included pumpkin pastries and the absolutely delicious pumpkin pizza. The pumpkin gelato was sold out by the time our group got there. I also found the first type of wine that I actually liked! Unfortunately, it's pumpkin wine, which is kinda seasonal and pretty obscure anyway.

This was only the beginning of my pumpkin-filled week. The school PTA bought every class a pumpkin for Halloween, but most classes didn't have time to do much with them. I volunteered to carve ours, so that we would have a Jack-o-Lantern for the school Halloween party on Friday. I had a fun planning period with pumpkin guts up to my elbows and carved both a face and the number 3. By lunchtime, I also had 345 pumpkin seeds! (Yes, I counted. The kids estimated, so I needed to know the actual number.)

After lunch, both the fifth grade teacher and one of the fourth grade teachers had spotted the pumpkins and requested that I do theirs as well. Another face and the number 5 made me only a few minutes late for Italian class, and more than doubled my stash of seeds. That night, I added some oil and salt and roasted them. Once they were done, I had enough to fill a recycled spaghetti sauce jar! Interestingly, the fourth and fifth grade pumpkins were two different types. Though they looked the same from the outside, the insides were completely different.

Friday morning, the other fourth grade teacher mentioned that her pumpkin need carved as well, bringing the week's total to four, and well over 1000 seeds, which I kept as payment for the carving. After 5 batches of salted seeds, I started to get bored, so I also made a spicy version and my personal favorite, caramelized seeds. Yum!

Friday's lunch at school was Halloween themed, with pumpkin rice, pumpkin chicken, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin bread. I chose the chicken and bread, both of which were quite good.

It was all delicious, but I still don't think I will eat much more pumpkin soon, at least for a few weeks...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SotL in dance class

I am taking a dance class each week (in Italian!) and have been reminded of SotL things on more than one occasion. The big two:

1) The word "cambio" means change or switch. That guy from Taming of the Shrew was seriously not creative.

2) We did push-ups and sit-ups to "Personal Jesus" last week.

If that doesn't mean anything to you, you have never been in SotL.

Other notes from class:

1) This is my third language and fourth country for dance classes!

2) I am getting quite good at the numbers 1-8 in Italian.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Morning Shopping

I enjoy walking around my neighborhood on Saturday mornings. So many people are out and about, doing their weekly shopping. In the US, this would mostly mean driving to the grocery store and Target. Not here.

Here, you might start at the butcher...
... or the other butcher...
...then go to a bakery.
If you want fruits and vegetables, you have several options. You can go to a shop...
...or a market stand.
Just don't actually touch the food. The shop owner will do that for you, choosing your produce, putting it in a bag, and weighing it.
Next might be the store-that's-like-a-drug-store-except-it-doesn't-sell-medicine. This is for paper products, cleaning supplies, shampoo, cosmetics, etc.
Now, we start to get specialized. You can go to the fish store...
... or the milk store. Seriously. They sell milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and stuffed toy cows.
After that, you'll probably need a gelato break.
Or, you could just go to Coop.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Because Kevin Said I Couldn't

Here's the house that inspired the book and movie Under the Tuscan Sun. It's in Cortona, on one of the roads from the main part of the city up to the cathedral. Our group agreed that we didn't like the book or movie much, but the house is gorgeous.

We strolled up the long, windy road, peering through the light fog to catch glimpses of what must be fantastic views, up to the cathedral, which was closed. A brief look around, and we headed down a much steeper, much more direct route. This path took us past beautiful mosaics of the Stations of the Cross (in reverse order going down) and the University of Georgia campus where my friend had lived and studied when she was in Italy before.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wine Tasting

In my attempts to post shorter entries more frequently, I'm going to write something two days in a row! Don't get used to it.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I am a picky eater/drinker, and among the long list of things I dislike is wine. However, since I have moved to Italy, where wine is cheaper than water, I have been trying to learn to like it. (Side note: Having grown up Presbyterian, I was a bit surprised the first time I had communion here. It's not grape juice in the tiny cups.)

Anyway, with this quest in mind, I was game to participate in the wine tasting that our Cortona group signed up for. I can't say that I really liked any of the wines, but I tried all four and learned a bit about them in the process. Did you know that mixing different types of grapes affects how well you can see through red wines?

The most memorable was a Brunello wine, a traditional red wine from Tuscany. Apparently, it's fairly rare and very expensive outside of Italy. I made sure to finish my taste after his description of shipping it all over the world to customers who can't find it. The particular brand we tried was also interesting, as it is produced on an organic-style farm. Of course, the requirements are different, but it's a similar set-up: no pesticides, they produce everything that touches the product, from cows for manure for fertilizer through the entire process. I can't quite say I enjoyed it, but I did appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Getting to Cortona

My roommate here studied in Italy in college, in a small Tuscan city called Cortona. As part of her birthday celebrations last week, we planned a trip for her to show it off to us. It's about a 5 hour drive, so 7 of us rented 2 cars, and after our first staff development day, off we went! As we got in the car, Carrie assigned me the job of "capturing the hilarity." Apparently, whenever she's gone on trips like this, something crazy has happened, and she wanted photographic evidence.

Somewhere near Florence, our driver noticed that the other car wasn't behind us anymore. We had found each other before by flashing brake lights and headlights to each other, but our signal wasn't being returned. We weren't too worried, because both cars had printouts of the directions, so we continued on our way.

A few minutes later, Kristin's phone rings. "You WHAT? They ran out of gas!" We all immediately burst out laughing (sorry, guys) and started to try to figure out how to help them. Fortunately there was an area servizio just ahead, which is like a rest stop/gas station. Once we got there and made a brief detour to the bathroom, we ventured into the gas station, where Carrie successfully explained that our friends needed gas. After a debate about needing police involvement, a (possibly) Algerian truck driver offering his help, several phone calls to those in the stranded car, and many conferences between the station attendants, they agreed to sell us gas in a plastic gas can. After a few more hand gestures and some round-about Italian, the attendant also produced a funnel. That's not one of the words that often shows up in foreign language vocabulary lists.

The guys had pushed their car to an SOS, a paved area off the road every so often, and had found the kilometer marker nearby, but they still had a bit of a wait for us to find them. We had to continue on to the next exit to get off and turn around, then go past them to again get off and turn around to come back to where they were. Fortunately we were near a big city and the exits were fairly close together, so this only took us about 25 minutes. This is also a toll road, so each turn around involved a debated as to if it was even legal to turn around. We decided that even if it wasn't, it was more legal to go through the toll plaza, pay the money, and get a new ticket.
We finally arrived to save the day. I continued in my designated photography role to preserve the event for posterity, or at least for blog entry. The gas was poured into the car and we went on our way, again.
Of course, we had to stop at the gas station again so that they could fill the tank the rest of the way, and they also decided to fill the plastic can again, just in case.

Monday, October 18, 2010

But I'm tired...

Because I've been having such a hard time motivating myself to write posts, I'm going to try something new. I'm planning to post about my weekend trip to Cortona in several shorter entries over the course of the next week. Hopefully, the first of these posts will be up tomorrow- check back then!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Several people have been asking, so here's where I can get mail!

Kaitlin Clear
International School of Trieste
Via di Conconello, 16
Opicina (TS) 34151 ITALY

If you want to send anything larger than a letter, declare the contents only as "personal items" with little to no value or else I have to pay tax to get it. Things from the states that I can't get here include peanut butter and hot chocolate powder that you mix with hot water. I also love postcards and letters, which are much cheaper to send! I have a few postcards here that need somewhere to go, perhaps to you?