May 2011 Monthly Quote

Keep your eyes on the stars and keep you feet on the ground

Teddy Roosevelt

First of all – little known Jen fact – when I was a kid Teddy Roosevelt was my favorite president.  One time while visiting relatives we visited his home and I just became obsessed.  I (once) knew a lot of things about his life and time as president, sadly those facts don’t live in my brain anymore.

Anyway – Hi! Back from Italy for 3 days now and the jet lag is somewhat OK.  About 30 minutes ago I hit my wall.  Which includes a throbbing headache and lack of focus.  I am able to function in some level of awake-ness from 6am – 9pm, with intermittent brain lapses, irritability and strong desire to put my head down.  I’ll get there, and honestly it isn’t too bad…I’ll just complain about it today.

So – this month’s quote – feels rather apropos given the vacation and time in Italy.  We all talked about incorporating some of the Cortona/Italian life style back into our lives with kids and jobs and responsibilities.  I need to spend some time and figure out what that means for me.  Aside from finding the perfect local cappuccino that could stand up to Café Signorelli!

Items that won’t work on a daily basis:

  1. Sleeping until 9am
  2. Hour long morning coffee in the sun outside at a café
  3. Early afternoon naps
  4. The level of wine consumption we had in Italy (although some of that crew may challenge me on this)
  5. Afternoon gelati runs

Items that could work on a daily basis:

  1. Being outside!  Hiking, walking, exploring new places or favorite haunts
  2. Time in a comfy chair with coffee and a favorite CD for 10-15 minutes to start the day
  3. More frequent connection with friends
  4. Shopping at local farmer’s markets and eating the freshest produce possible
  5. Reading, for more than 10 minutes and from a book not a magazine
  6. Playing Uno
  7. Taking up a craft/DIY/hobby that will charge my batteries
  8. …more TBD….

Hm, pretty good list for possible options, will need to spend more time thinking that through.  So far today I’ve…

  1. Attempted to find the perfect cappuccino
  2. Spent time outside, like a whole 90 minutes!
  3. ah, rest of day is TBD


Return Trip – Part 1

Norman and I had a little bit more time to enjoy Cortona this morning while out housemates had to catch a gawd-awful early train.  So we got to spend some time in a Saturday market, super fresh seafood, mounds and blocks of cheese, some of the freshest produce imaginable! (makes me want to only shop at Pike’s Place for stuff).  There were also some fun linens, shoes, hand bag and clothes vendors.  We got a bright and sunny tablecloth and some dish towels.  Very fun!  We had our last lunch and coffee drinks at Cafe Signorelli, one of the more expensive places – but sometimes you pay for the service and location.  “Our guy” has come to know us and I was a bit sad to say good-bye.

We left Cortona at noon today.  Enzo who drove us from the airport a week ago, picked us up to go to the train station.  Then the train into Rome, then to the airport, then through security, etc and here we are 5 hours and 15 minutes later.  That was quite a long trip!  Hanging out in the British Air lounge, our plane will be boarding soon.

It’s been an incredible time in Italy.  There is a part of me that is SO eager to get home and hug my kid, to get back to some sort of normal schedule. And then there is a part of me that doesn’t want to let go of how slow things moved (for an American) and enjoying the day more than I ever thought possible.  While sitting in the Piazza today watching the Saturday crowd – I asked Norman if we had anything like it in Washington.  We came up with Redmond Town Center.  Although people don’t just sit and visit and relax there.  Did you know you cannot find a “to go” cup for coffee anywhere?!  Anywhere!!  It really forces the sit down and relax.

Cortona, Last Day

It’s our last day here in Cortona.  We are all going out to eat soon – final hurrah!

Yesterday we all went our own way for the day.  Norman and I took an easy hike up a mountain, something like 700 feet from where we started.  Then we went for our daily cappuccino, clean up and back into town.  We went to the local museum and saw some amazing artifacts from the Etruscan period – including items from a tomb.  Also some more recent art – like in the last 50 years, as opposed to most of the 500BC – 1800 range we had seen so far.  Quick lunch, sun time, afternoon cafe, and Norman went off for a very fabulous meal.

Today after morning cafe, we went down to the town cemetery.  There were head stones back to the 1800s, very different from what you would see in the states.  Including how much love that was contained inside.  Family is a very important aspect of the Italian culture.  We were all remarking later how our transient nature in the US would make it rather difficult to be buried in the same place and convenient enough for our relatives to visit regularly to leave fresh flowers.

I’m having some difficulty loading pictures, so definitely check out Norman’s blog, and likely something even more when we return.

Cortona, Day 5 (?)

This is the first vacation I’ve ever taken where it feels as if time is standing still.  I can hardly believe it’s only Wednesday!  We have 2 more days in this town and I’m looking forward to every sunny, wine sipping, food eating moment of it!

Yesterday was rather lazy – sort of.  A few of us rallied very early to go attend a mass with “singing nuns that sound like angels”.  Only we weren’t sure of the exact church (remember there are 22?) and the one we did see, had all of 6 pews.  No hiding in the back of that mass.  Once the priest started the mass, we decided we would rather let them be than enter or sit outside and wait for more singing.  So we went for coffee instead.  How appropriate.

We had lunch at the house, and a lazy stroll through town.  More reading, a quick nap, and Oh The Bells!  I’m not one to nap in the first place, being woken by church bells for 10 minutes straight made me a little punchy.  At least it wasn’t grumpy.  We decided to eat in town.  Upon our late return, most of the house went to sleep.  Four of us stayed up drinking more wine and playing Uno – which I am still pretty good at to my surprise.  Sometimes it’s luck in how the cards fall, sometimes the strategy pays off.  It was a lot of fun, I don’t often get a chance to play a card game (or board game for that matter) and really enjoyed the company.

Today we woke up early again to head out on a wine and cheese tour in Montepulciano. The town was absolutely gorgeous.  We started at a winery with good wine, I was more impressed with their olive oil (which Norman bought 2 cans of) with bread and salt.  The two cheeses were also very nice and the accompanying jellies. Our guide knew a lot about the town, where she has lived for 20 years.  Lots about the history of noble families, local religious figures and how commoners may have lived.  Including a real live Renaissance entry way with a boiling pot of oil, but not today.

The last winery was a small, family owned place that mostly serves restaurants and local shops. It was the best of the day, and even though the cost to ship it home was very high, the per bottle still worked out to be cheaper than what we would get in the US.  So yay – what a fun thing to bring home!

We all pretty much fell asleep or into a trance on the ride back, barely made it up the hill and are now in various states of sleep, reading or general laziness.  Norman is cooking tonight.  But now it’s time to go into town to get something from the bakery for dessert.  It is, after all, our 9th wedding anniversary today.  What a fabulous way to celebrate!

Cortona, Day 3 – sleepy time….

The bells rang out about 8 this morning, I could have sworn I heard singing – which would not be that far-fetched given a church right behind us has a daily, 8am mass with singing nuns.  Ah, the recovered Catholic in me isn’t sure what to think.

After a yummy breakfast prepared by Norman, and a quick jaunt downtown for a cappuccino.  We all rallied to climb to the top of the mountain (we are already pretty high up) to see the Santa Margherita church – housing a mummified nun in a glass case for all to come and pay respects.  Being in a catholic church was surreal for me.  The second I walked through the door the incense hit me and I was transported back to my own years of worship.  We did not attend a classic or old-American style Catholic church, ours was pretty modern, no confessionals, contemporary crucifixes and interpreted host.  Regardless, the confessionals, the offerings it was pulling on me.  When I actually stood at the altar to admire the beauty of the church…I could not help but feel like I was committing a great sin being at the altar.  I wandered to the back of the church and saw the holy water.  I actually contemplated genuflection and perhaps confess my sins (it’s been at least 24 years, that would be a frickin’ lot of Hail Mary’s).  The nun watching over the church started pointing at people in the sanctuary, directly pointing, hiss and indicate we needed to line up.  My first thought was a tour – but I wasn’t part of that group over there….  She continued to hiss in my direction so I went over.  We were all lead out the back of the church into the sun.  Oh….so a service was about to begin and we were not welcome.  Got it….  Very, very, very weird feelings.

We then walked up to the Fortress Girifalco, stunningly beautiful.  To think that armies used to live there and watch out over the valley for invaders.  That I’m in a country that has more history in this one little town than all of the United States.  Someone remarked about what it would take a build a fort like that, with all the stone, at the very top of the mountain.  Slave labor.  Ugh!

We had a local chef in to make us a fabulous and delicious meal this evening.  We started with some fried veggies and a white wine.  There is nothing as good as battered and fried food – yet this was exceptional!  There was eggplant, zucchini, zucchini blossoms – but the best were the sage leafs.  Which were HUGE!  Then on to antipasti, bread, homemade pasta (that we each rolled out) in a simple olive oil, basil and fresh tomato sauce.  Incredibly rich – I have never tasted pasta so rich before.  I didn’t finish my plate!  The carnivores then had roasted chicken.  I was not tempted in the least even though taunts of “it tastes just like bacon” came out from just about everyone!  Dessert was a freshly made tiramisu – we all agreed that a proper tiramisu (as Chef Ivan agreed) should not contain any alcohol.  Of course,  much wine was consumed as well.

Now I’m gearing down for the evening – as we are planning to attend mass tomorrow to hear the nuns sing.  I’m hoping for a better internal response to sitting through a mass.  I think I shall be very quiet to hear what my head, heart and soul have to say about that.


Cortona, Day 2 – Early Morning

Norman and I just got back from the Piazza where we each had a cappuccino and fabulous pastries.  I believe it was when I took the second bite of my croissant and sip of capp that I decided, Norman will be running on his own this week.  I’m going to indulge and enjoy (note to self – I am rather exercise obsessed, perhaps something to discuss with my therapist upon return).  I was actually surprised how many store fronts were open at 8am on a Sunday.  A different culture for sure.  Suppose I don’t have to worry about the grocery opening today so we can get some food for the house.


I woke this morning to chirping birds and church bells.  So unless there is some kind of super sonic ear plugs in town, those bells will be waking me at 7 each morning.  Not that I mind, having spent a few days in London I’m not jet lagged.  That was a good choice!  My poor housemates.  Here is the view I will look out on each morning…

Bedroom Cortona

View from my bed in Italy