Friday, July 13, 2012

Bike Culture?

Right after school ended for the year in June, I had to turn in some paperwork to the middle school my son will be attending in September.  It's a bit of a hike to get there, so I thought it would be good for the three of us to ride our bikes.  It was a good idea to a point.  There are some pretty busy roads to traverse on the way.  But...when we got there I was surprised to see the bike rack only had two slots, one of which was already occupied, and the other was completely covered by the overgrown bush next to it.  We had to make do with awkwardly locking all three bikes together and hoping for the best with all those dodgy-looking middle school kids loitering around.

I don't really know what the point of this post is.  It may be that I'm just complaining about the lack of bike racks around here despite the fact that people do a lot of bike riding, albeit the fancy, all-tricked-out-in-racing-gear type of riding.  It does surprise me, though, that there aren't better accommodations for bikes at the schools.  The elementary school my kids go to has zero bike racks!  When I went to grade school, I remember riding my bike every day the weather was good enough...until it was stolen...from school.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Memory Lane...or Renovations (Update--photos!)

The kids and I took a bus trip to our old neighborhood in Turin.  I took them to 3 of the parks we used to visit daily when we lived there.  Julian was totally underwhelmed by it all.  Oh he loved the bus ride, no doubt about that, but the parks were so much smaller than he remembered.

This chestnut tree used to be so much bigger!
The first park we visited was under construction when we moved away.  It's an old villa on a large, choice piece of land.  The city owns it now and the villa is a library.  Quite a while before we moved, they started construction on a new wing.  A large chunk of the park was blocked off for construction materials and workers, resulting in a large corrugated metal wall all around the work.  Julian remembers walking for "kilometers" along the wall to get to a playground that is now directly accessible from the front of the park.  He couldn't believe it was the same thing.

I'm happy to say the new addition is quite nice looking--mostly made of glass.  It's not very big or elaborate, it seems odd it took so long to build, but what do I know?  I'm also pleased that they've painted and made some repairs to the original library.  And, finally, they've really jazzed up an old outbuilding (maybe the garage) to turn it into a library for periodicals.  It looks very fancy.  I will update this site with photos when I get around to it.

Periodicals library
A new sculpture since we've been gone
Entrance to the library.  The rose bushes used to be bigger, too...really!

Within this particular park there is a merry-go-round.  I remember Julian riding it MANY times and I remember him begging to ride it even more.  The funny thing is, he didn't even remember it's existence!  He did remember plenty of other things about the park, though, so it's not like he was too young.  He was three and Veronica was 8 months old when we moved so I didn't expect her to remember a thing.  Everything was new and exciting to her!

We also visited a park where we probably spent most of our time since it was closest to home and right across the street from a grocery store I frequented regularly.  The park still had all the same toys in it, but they were in slightly worse shape.  Julian was kind of disgusted at the state of this park.  Admittedly it is small and there was not a single other kid there, but there are a lot of nice shade trees and plenty of benches in the shade, which is what really matters to moms!
I couldn't NOT go into my old grocery store.  I was pleasantly surprised that it had been updated in the seven years since we moved away.

We also took a peek at the highrise where we used to live.  It is being renovated!  The balconies are getting a much needed coat of paint.  The side of the building where I used to hang my laundry to dry is completely covered in scaffolding now.

We visited two other parks, one we used to go to and another one a little bit out of the way of all my daily meanderings back then.  Veronica had fun at every park, Julian not so much--he just wanted to move on, to see something else.

In the current state of the economy, I was very surprised to see that most of the businesses have stayed the same from when we used to live there.  There have been very few changes and there aren't any empty storefronts, which is really good.  I didn't see any signs of economic crisis, thankfully, and for the most part, things looked even better than when we left in 2005.  All but one of the playgrounds (the one we never went to) are a little bit worse for wear--same old toys as before, but the one least frequented had been improved a lot.  Maybe Julian would have wanted to go there more since all the toys were spaceship-themed.

I think once the kids are back in school, I'll take the bus there again and re-explore the old 'hood.  It's a direct bus and only takes an hour.  I did like living there except it was incredibly hot in the summer.  I can do without all the playgrounds...there's plenty of great shopping to be done around there!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Italian Footwear

I paid a visit to my doctor this week.  In times past, when I needed to see the doctor, I'd show up during his working hours, take a number and wait my turn.  It was usually a very long wait so I'd always bring a book with me.  Now, for the past year, or so, it's possible to make an appointment ahead of time.  There still exists the option to just go, take a number, and wait even longer.  However, I always make an appointment first, if I can.  This makes the wait much shorter so I don't usually bring a book.  In any case, one must always wait for more than a few minutes.  What to do while waiting???  I always end up staring at my fellow heel-coolers' feet.  I'm always amazed at the horrendous shoes women wear.  Most of the men wear what I consider to be sensible footwear, but the women...incredible!  Either they're meant to be comfortable or they're supposed to look fashionable.  It seems there's no middle ground for women.  I, myself, am perfectly guilty.  I have an ancient pair of canvas Supergas (kind of like Keds) that have holes over both big toes.  I find people always staring at my feet when I'm out and about, but they're so comfortable!  I like the color, too.  They're kind of a faded blue that's almost periwinkle and matches nearly everything in my wardrobe.

Another shocker about older Italian women is that so many of them have elephant ankles.  Why is that??  Maybe American women do too, but they cover them up with long pants.  Most elderly Italian women still wear skirts for some reason.  Could you imagine being in your 70s and 80s and struggling with panty hose every day?

But back to the Italian footwear thingy...I would be very curious to know how all these women I see wearing 3-inch wedge heels attached to 1.5-inch soles drive their cars?!?  It seems as dangerous as texting while driving.  Back in the day when I wore just regular high heels while driving my car, I'd always remove them first and drive barefooted.  Shoes styles today just aren't the same--they have numerous buckles and/or the tight, too-long jeans that fit snugly around them all the way down to a millimeter about the ground, I just don't think women take the time to remove their shoes and replace them when they get there.  They're in too much of a hurry to have their jeans properly hemmed, how can they find the time to re-harness their feet every time they get into and out of their cars?

Do I sound too much like a little old lady?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Here are some recent events that just keep adding leaves to the banana republic tree I call home.

Amanda Knox was released after spending 4 years in an Italian prison after her guilty verdict was overturned.  However, the Italian media stumbled over themselves while demonizing her after her arrest.

A few days ago, a German truck driver was trying to stay on course and on schedule, but due to trucking blockades throughout Italy to protest government imposed austerity reforms, things went terribly wrong.  She killed one of the blockaders after hitting him with her truck and is now in jail.  (She may have been released by now--I can't determine her status.  At any rate, it's a sad story.)

Captain Francesco Schettino cavalierly  wrecked a 450 euro cruise vessel, abandoned ship leaving at least 16 dead, many more injured, and yet more still missing, potentially caused an environmental disaster of epic proportion, put a cruise-ship's worth of crew out of work and I would imagine severely lessened the fortunes of the cruise company, maybe even the entire cruise industry.  It's pretty had to top that for all-around FUBAR-edness, yet Capt. Schettino is cooling his heals at home in Sorrento.

Where is the equal justice in all this?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rose Garden Conspiracy Theory

Nevermind the Kennedy assassination!  Forget all you've heard about 9/11 and the mysterious collapse of WTC7!  Here's a conspiracy theory I think we can all agree doesn't pass the "smell test".

I was listening to a recent (January 20, 2012, to be exact) podcast of Woman's Hour from BBC Radio 4.  One segment included a friendly debate over which flower was more well-loved, the rose or the orchid.  Weighing in on the side of the rose was horticultural historian Jennifer Potter who recently published an historical account of roses, appropriately entitled, The Rose.  She mentioned that she made a trip to the White House in hopes of seeing the famous rose garden during the last summer of the George W. Bush administration.  She was able to finagle her way into the garden but was warned there were only about 10 varieties of roses left, 5 of which were named after Republican presidents or their wives.  All of the roses named for Democrats had been uprooted. 

Whatever shall we read into that???  I myself can envision Dick telling Georgie which flowers had to go.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy new knitting!

I'm happy to say that I'm starting the year with knitting MY way and I'm feeling very happy with myself about it.  I'll explain by saying that I was in a 12-month knit-along last year wherein I had to knit a complete project every month of the year.  Each project had to use at least 300 yards of yarn and had to be started and completed within the month.  I thought it would be a lark, but it turned into a tyranny of one smallish completed project every month. (In hindsight I suppose that should have been obvious.)

Knitting a project of at least 300 yards in one month is a snap.  However, I didn't consider that I'd have to come up with something new every month, couldn't commit myself to any larger or more complicated projects on the chance that I might not finish in time, and ended up doing a lot of things I wouldn't have undertaken otherwise.

It was a good exercise in goal-setting, but I'm not very goal-oriented and I didn't really see the point of the whole thing except to win a big prize (of good-quality yarn, what else?) at the end.  There were also other opportunities to win throughout the year.  Big surprise...I didn't win anything! 

Like I always and learn.  At least now I can dig my teeth into some more challenging projects without worrying about screwing it up and having to rip it all out (been doing a lot of that lately), nor do any of these projects need to be finished along with the month.

I recently bought a pattern book produced by Burda for socks from around the world.  The first pair I'd like to try are a 2-toned Turkish design.  This will be a challenge since the pattern's in Italian, the socks are colorwork--never done colorwork socks--and they're toe-up with an unfamiliar to me cast-on and an after-thought heel.  Perhaps I'll blog further on these when I get around to making them.

Happy new year and happy knitting to all !!!