Monday, October 29, 2012

Canadian TV and Truffles

I hear more and more from my family about the impending doom of Hurricane Sandy, ripping her way up the eastern seaboard of America and bringing massive amounts of rain along with it.  I don't know if the Amalfi Coast felt left out by natural disasters, but we too have had a weekend full of rain.  That rain that brings this really creepy windy with it that sounds like whistling as it pushes against the walls of my apartment creak.  "This apartment is up to codes, I hope.  And reinforced with strong metal to hold it in place??" I ponder, feeling the walls once again creak under the strain.  "It's going to be JUST like Dorothy in Kansas.  My house is going to fall on some elderly woman wearing fantastic shoes and then I'll have to go on a very, very long walk."

What's more, Tom was gone all weekend and I spent my rainy Saturday watching Flashpoint, my newest obsession on Netflix.  "What's Flashpoint, Lynne?" you might (or more likely probably are not) asking yourself?  Well gather round, friends, and let me tell you a little story.  It's the tale of a band of misfits in, wait for it, Toronto, fighting Canadian crime in a SWAT-like environment.  It took me a good 3-4 episodes to figure out that the show was set in Canada.  For those non-American followers (there are about 3 of you total, but welcome nonetheless), Canada is like America.  Alarmingly similar, so it would seem.  Our accents, aside from "about" or "sorry" are very similar to those of Wisconsin, and as Sarah Palin has taught us, apparently Alaska.  Who knew?  But we have a jovial rivalry, much like Australia-New Zealand rivalry.  Everyone else in the world thinks that they are the same place.  But they know.  We know too.  Well it's the same with us and Canada.  We poke fun at them for their funny accents and love of hockey, but really, after watching this show, I'm convinced that Canada has potential.  I mean, they love nature, they have a large variety of attractive men, dressed well.  And aside from Amy Jo Johnson, the lone American (better known as the Pink Power Ranger), a group of surprisingly talented actors.  Canada is certainly looking up!  Granted, based entirely on this show, I'd never bank in Canada.  Too many bank heists.  I mean really, where is the safety in banking, Canada?  How is a person to put their trust in your financial institutions when your own tv series show them riddled with crime??  But I've digressed, in a big way.

After almost a full day of watching Canadian TV on the couch, I bathed.  It was a big step.  I unlocked my front door for the first time and ventured out into the cold, rainy day ahead.  But it was the weekend of the much-loved Truffle and Chestnut Festival.  In Italy, I've recently learned, the word "sagra" is used to describe country festivals that often include food (check) and music (check).  Sagra season is starting to wind down for the colder weather, so we were sure to check this one out again!  Off we trudged to Bagnoli Irpino, about an hour west of Napoli and into what seemed like another world of Italy.  Once outside of the hustle and bustle of Naples, things moved slower.  The grass was green once again, fields were spotted with cows and sheep and pigs and trees grew tall, their branches filled with orange and gold.  I've never considered myself much of a country girl, I've always preferred city life, but since living in such a dense, noisy city like Naples, I felt my roots sigh at the ease of life in this quiet, quaint little town.

                               Gillian and I enjoying the Truffle Festival!

There were a seemingly endless number of stalls holding everything from wild boar sausage (bought it!) to truffle ravioli (ate it!), cheap wine (drank it!) and some very disappointing corn on the cob (whomp, whomp.  Tried it, regretted it immediately.  Who messes up corn on the cob???).    But there were good friends to spend the day with and lots of good food to be had!  Another successful truffle festival, even if my sweetie wasn't there to enjoy it with me, and the promise of next year ahead!! 

Please forgive the quality of my pictures, once we arrived, I realized that I had left the SIM card for my camera in my computer.  These are entirely iPhone photos.  Did what I could with what I had. 

Same as last year - incredible delicious cheese toast.  To make: 1. Roast cheese over flames.  2. Scrape onto toasted bread.  3. Top with truffles.  4. Make guttural noises while consuming.  Mmmm.... sooooo delicious! 
                                            Pig head.  Just hanging out. 

 Truffle pastas: close up is "paccheri" which is really big, tube pasta.  The far one is truffle ravioli.  Which was very, very, very good!!

                Truffle eggs!  Oh my goodness, they were soooo delicious!!

                                          Close up of my truffle eggs.

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

London: Top Hat, Tights and Tea

For the second time in 2012, I left my poor husband at home and took off for London, England!  Some day we'll go together.  Or he'll go by himself.  Or with a bunch of dudes.  Who knows?!

While I didn't meet the actual Queen, I got this picture with the M&M version of the Queen!

One of my dear friends here is leaving next month and in discussion of her time in Europe, we discovered that she'd never been to London.  WHAT?!?  The land of Jane Austen and the Queen!!  GASP!  A girls trip was promptly planned.  But what to do in London with just girls???? My immediate plan went to: "What would my husband never want to do?"  And the answer, like divine inspiration, fell into my lap: see a bunch of shows.  Some razzle, a bit of dazzle, sequins and jazz hands.  It would be enough to drive him to insanity and to drive me into giddiness.
Eve (left) and Micaela (right) take pleasure in the Cheapside stop on the Tube! We loved the British snobbery and gleefully quoted Jane Austen!
4 ladies boarded the insanity of Easy Jet and set off for Stansted Airport with gusto!  A few games of iPad Air Hockey later, we were in the land of the Queen!  Friday afternoon we took in London in all of its rainy glory, grabbing a pint, briskly walking through Picadilly Circus and literally sprinting through the London Underground.  Lesson learned: The Apollo Victoria and The Apollo are two different theaters.  About 15 minutes apart.  We got to the Apollo only to see a show that was decidedly not Wicked on the billboards.  Whoops!  Somehow, the Tube schedule worked in our favor and magically, we ended up in our seats with a bottle of wine 5 minutes before the lights dimmed and the chorus began.  Phew!!

There was so much in London that I loved but in an effort to sum up a whimsically wonderful trip in a few paragraphs, here are the highlights.
Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre in West End!
1. Top Hat:  I have long been a fan of musical theatre.  My mom would gleefully blast "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma each Saturday morning as a call to chores.  Rogers and Hammerstein musical melodies mingled with the smell of Windex on a weekly basis.  Top Hat is one of those plays that has a forgettable plot thankfully mixed with some very well timed tap dancing, lots of singing and, oh sweet heavens, costume changes a-plenty!  Silk and sparkles, top hats and tails danced their way between the dry-humored British butler and a very politically incorrect Italian fashion designer.  It was marvelous!!!  I sat on the edge of my seat, grinning ear to ear for nearly 3 hours straight.

High Tea, the Downton Abbey Blend!
2. High Tea:   For any of you who loved tea parties as a child, high tea in London is like your grandmother's tea parties on crack.  Tiered trays with abnormally small sandwiches, silver tea strainers in their own little strainer holders, and doormen in top hats (sans the razzle dazzle of the musical).  The host was so friendly and quick to take our picture from multiple angles.  It was probably the most expensive tiny sandwich that I have ever consumed but my goodness, it was such a fantasy of 5-year-old some 20+ years later that it was totally worth it!

There she is: Old Rosie, the Cloudy Scrumpy.  Love it!

3. Eating Ethnic Food: Aside from watching musicals and wandering the streets of London, we ate.  A lot.  I feel like looking back, most of my pictures were of fancy gates and food.  From my hilariously named beer ("Old Rosie, the Cloudy Scrumpy"  Seriously???  That's SUCH an awesome name!!  For like anything!  Cloudy Scrumpy could be such a great band name.  Or what you call your car.  Or your dog, though that's a long dog name.  Ponder it.  Cloudy Scrumpy's going to catch on like wildfire!), to an Indian brunch place (oh my goodness!  Naan + sausage??  Stop it!!!  You're killing me, London!) and finally some serioulsy divine sushi at a very authentic little Japanese place.  We Americans living in Italy always seem to miss extremely flavorful ethnic food since living here.  It was very nice to get that little piece of multiculturalism that I often miss.

London, Round 3 is going to have to go on the books soon!