Monthly Archives: August 2015

I think it is almost too beautiful here

Seriously, yesterday, after wandering down yet another picturesque street I had the urge to see something contrasting, like an gigantic, icy Stalinesque building like they have in parts of Moscow. I needed something to interrupt all the charm and beauty of Italy.

 Yesterday, I left the dogs here at the agriturismo with the teenage children of the owners. I left early and went to Urbino. You might know it as the birthplace of the painter, Raphael (not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). It is set on top of a hill and it was a very important city in the time of the ducal states. After hiking up and down the streets, I took some time and ducked into their Orto Botanico – Botanical Gardens. They date from the 1700s, making them somewhat younger than the Hortus in Amsterdam 😉 It was an oasis, even standing near the carnivorous plants was peaceful. I pretty much set my internal compass to “Wander” and did just that through the streets.

Orso Botanico
Orso Botanico

Around 1245, the crowds started to get to me a bit since it is a UNESCO heritage site and they had two festivals planned for this weekend. I hiked back down to the bottom of the walls, where the car park is and set off with the windows open for Urbania. The letter of the day yesterday was U 🙂 Urbania is a bit smaller and more level. Unfortunately, I arrived right in the middle of siesta time which meant I had the city to myself to walk around in. In the end, I gave in to the wisdom and found a small sidewalk cafe and had a glass of Prosecco in the shade.

 On the way back to Mercatello sul Metauro, where we are, I took the drive up into the hills and saw the village of Peglio. It is a village on a hill top that has the best view of the Marche for kilometers. You can see approximately 63 km in distance from Peglio. And once you are done, you head back down the winding mountain road. I didn’t use navigation once yesterday, which was kind of liberating.

 As a treat and because one must eat pizza in Italy, I took my host and their teenagers to the pizzeria that is three 16th century villages over. It was definitely unlike American and very good. They don’t open until 7pm and by 9pm they are quite full. There were some very interesting options, that are apparently pretty normal Italian pizza options. I stuck to the basics, eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms.


 I have been alternating my days. Monday, the dogs and I drove to Cartoceto in search of olive oil and vineyards. Tuesday we took it easy and went to Sant Angelo in Vado. Wednesday, we stayed here, only climbing all the way up the side of the hill when I got restless and thought I needed something to do that was “productive”. Thursday we went to Tuscany and explored there. Friday, we were here and walked all the way down the hill to the river and went swimming. And then consequently faced the climb back up the hill. Tonight is the festival of the red potato in Borgo Pace (population 665) and a town over. We’re going to that. Tomorrow, I may make the drive over to Assisi and leave the dogs here since it promises to be around 95 degrees again.

The dogs are having a field day, spending the whole day free and unleashed. As for me, I am practicing my banjo regularly, reading, writing and taking a nap per day. For our next trip to Italy, I will choose either the fall or spring since the summer is a bit too sunny for me – what a complaint, I know! I like it here and I would like to see more of Italy, although I think I am doing a pretty good job so far.

Life Lessons from the dogs

Today was an exercise in doing not a whole lot. I decided to take my inspiration from Henry and spend some time over looking the valley while practicing my banjo. After an in intensive session of scattering all of the wildlife in the surrounding area, I turned my attention to my Italian phrasebooks. I was aiming for being able to communicate a few key things for when I go back out into the world. I think my favorite Italian word so far is francoboblia. Do you know what it means? Postage stamp.

While we were driving through Germany, I was keeping myself awake by trying to pronounce some of the place names on the highway boards. I thought the Dutch had some challenging place names but the Germans win for syllable length and amazing vowel and consant combinations. Very quickly I discovered my new favorite German word. Ausfahrt and I imagine you pronounce it “House Fart”. It means Exit. It lends itself to all kinds of great expressions. For example, if you see something shocking like a Ferrari passing you down the mountainside at breakneck speed you can say “Holy Ausfahrt!” Or if someone is irritating to you “Don’t be such an Ausfahrt”. You see how I entertain myself through the seemingly endless kilometers. When it gets really bad as in I start to get sleepy, I start singing bits and pieces of songs. It seems I rarely remember the whole song, especially when it comes to all of the patriotic American ones we learned in elementary school. I switch from song to song like a deeply disturbed karaoke machine.

What else have I done today? Oh yes, moved the reclining chair regularly to correspond with the sun overhead, taken a nap in said chair under a very big umbrella – after all I work hard to stay this shade of pale, read some more books, fed the dogs, saved us all by catching the massive umbrella when it fell over on top of us during a big breeze, enjoyed two glasses of prosecco at the correct time of the day (early afternoon 2pm), taken another nap and thought about what I might do tomorrow. Pretty good for my second day.

The owners of the place took the other guests out for the day so that left me with the run of the place. It also left me with a lot of quiet since there was no one to talk to. Yesterday they took us all to the local village and gave us a walking tour. The hard part about staying in a small place is figuring out the right balance of interaction to have. We eat breakfast together and dinner which is a treat for me because all I have to do is show up. Italian dinners are long, we start at 8 pm and usually finish around midnight. I am always the first one to leave. The other guests are Dutch and they are long time friends of the owners.

It is Monday morning now and we’ve had a rainstorm. This is perfect weather for me since too much sunshine makes me burn.  I think we will we will go towards the coast today, I have an urge to see some olive orchards and wineries. We’ll follow the river and go from there.

We made it…

1500 kilometers of driving later, we arrived last night in time to catch the last of the sun and to look out across the valley. We are in an amazing place and I think if I practice letting go, I will soon really be enjoying the best of what a vacation is. Henry and George are a little further ahead than I am at letting it all go. Perhaps I can learn from my dogs.

The drive was long, even with a break over night in the mountains of Germany. We nearly didn’t get our room because check-in closed at 2030 and we arrived at 2055. The Germans take punctuality even more seriously than the Dutch it seems. However, since I had paid in advance and they like to keep things in order, we were admitted. I have made a mental note for the way back that we need to be there by 2030. The hotel was high up in the hills in a town with an ancient Roman fort and mineral springs.

We left the hotel yesterday morning at 930 and had crossed the border into Switzerland by 1015. From outside of Basel we ran into vacation traffic and went through the Gotthard Tunnel. It is 17km long and only one lane in each direction. Yesterday there were delays waiting for and going through the tunnel because it is the high season for vacation still. At a rest stop in Italy, I accidentally drove over the sewer tank dumping pit for RVs which was rather deep and resulted in a horrible noise from Astrid as I then had to keep driving to get her out of the pit. There doesn’t seem to be any damage for which I am really grateful for! However, it gave me about 30 minutes of freak out thinking as we got back on the highway.

Luckily, driving in Germany and Switzerland prepared me for the Italian drivers. I did see a Ferrari, a Maserati and a Lamborghini. Of course, they flew right by me!

The boys are having a grand time. They roam where they want to and there are lots of exciting smells for them to uncover. We’re sleeping in an old farm building, complete with the 17th century doors and modern plumbing. There’s no regular Wi-Fi so I will have some practice being off the grid. You might look for postcards instead 😉 Or you might just look at this one

Our view this afternoon
Our view this afternoon

Introducing Matilda

This is Matilda, the newest member of our family. She’s a Brompton and English. She’ll be a big part of how we get around in Italy over the next couple of weeks. Matilda is an interesting one. I haven’t quite got the hang of folding her up yet but as the guy in the bike store said this morning “These bikes are so easy to fold, I can do it with one hand and still hold on to the dog leashes”.

This is Matilda’s number one super power.

Matilda all tucked in
Matilda all tucked in

Amazingly enough, you don’t feel like you are riding a bike that can fold up and weighs less than Henry and George combined. It will be a good way to get around. And I won’t have to be without a bike for two weeks. It turns out that I need a tow hitch on Astrid in order to put a bike carrier on. I didn’t want to mess with her that way so I made the decision to get a fold up bike instead. I think I may have crossed the boundary into being Dutch, I am now a two bike household 😉

It has been a busy week. I went to De Parade again Wednesday night with some other friends. There was a great performance that translates to the Cafe of the Socially Awkward. I saw some interactions that hit very close to home 😉 This evening I am going again with another friend. It is another group of all new performances which makes it so interesting!

We went to the vet to today on the way to pick up Matilda. It was just for a nail trim that went pretty wrong and both boys ended up with bloody feet. And I nearly fainted from their stress. I don’t think we are going to be doing that again soon. Oh, and there was an 18 euro surcharge because it was Saturday. I know…

Tomorrow I am going to meet my mom’s cousin. It is about 2 hours away by car so I have to leave here by 9. Which means I will be home on time tonight since I know tomorrow will probably be pretty emotional. I am really looking forward to meeting her. Which reminds me, I need to go look for my box of family photos that I promised I would bring.

Catching up

Last night I went to De Parade with Marianne. You could say that it is our thing. The first time we went, I was here interviewing in person for the job that I now have. Since then, I have gone with her each year and then again with visitors. Since it runs over two weeks, there’s plenty of time to enjoy it.

The acrobats last night were very good and I was able to follow more of the Dutch language performances. What makes De Parade great is that you can wander around, looking at performances or sit at a table under a tree and eat guacamole or drink delicious scroppinos. And overall there are groups of people doing this together with their friends and loved ones. No one is in a rush or belligerent. Everyone is there to have a good time.

What I always like best is the long conversations that the tables seem to encourage. We had a really strong one last night and I am reminded of what drew me to Marianne in the first place. I remember my mom and I saying after we first met her “What a cool chick that is”. We’ve both lost our parents that believed so strongly in us and through the grief and loss, we’ve also found the way to make changes and try things that maybe we wouldn’t have before. And I think I can say that we have also found new reasons to be happy and grateful for the very good things that are in each of our lives.

The only disappointment yesterday evening was the absence of the Coupe du Compress booth. I had planned to introduce Marianne to the joys of air compressing your hair like Meredith and I did last summer. However, they weren’t there, so we didn’t leave with beehives. However, this motivates me to acquire an air compressor for myself and start practicing. At the risk of sounding like a late night TV informercial, the amazing thing is that it is only air – no spray, no gel, nothing but air!

In a little over a week, we leave for Italy. I am a little nervous. I already started the conversation in my head if vacation was really necessary?? I know that is just old patterns and anxieties popping up. We’re going to have a great time and I need to stop stressing out about it. The boys don’t know yet. Luckily George has an international driver’s license so he can take over driving if I decide to read or something. 😉


Wow, I have been really fortunate the past couple of days. Yesterday morning I was running out the door and the neighbor on the corner stopped me to talk about my hydrangeas that aren’t really thriving. He proceeded to let me know what I needed to do. We say “hello” when we see each other but I don’t know his name or anything else. I thanked him for the advice and let him know I would make the improvements when I got home. Turns out, I came home last night after work and he had already done it and redone my other neighbor’s flowerbed as well. That was so kind and so unexpected. I went to thank him and they will be getting some of my homegrown tomatoes and other treats when they finally ripen.

Just before I left to go to Seattle, I had received some information about someone who had known my mom as a kid and my grandparents and greats as well. This came from the gentleman who had been digging in the Groningen archives for information about my family. It turns out that not only did she know my family, we’re related. She’s my mom’s age and her grandmother and my great grandmother were sisters. I called her on Tuesday and after some confusion on her husband’s part as to why someone from Amsterdam was calling his wife, we had a lovely conversation when she called me back. She was able to tell me stories about going to the beach with my mom, right down to the color of their swim suits. She would visit my mom in the Hague and stay with my grandparents. Next Sunday, we are going to meet face to face. I don’t know which of us is more excited to talk to the other.

I went to see my Rollins painting this afternoon. It is going to need some restoration since it has been hanging on the wall for 20 years or so. After that, it will be moving into our new house. It is enormous and luckily I have a wall big enough for it. Funny enough, the painting that is currently being commissioned to take it’s place on the wall is of Joey Ramone. Go figure 😉

I don’t have big plans for the weekend other than to start sorting through my things and making the usual Becky Method piles. This means you sort by the following criteria: Sentimental/Irreplaceable, Haven’t Used in the Past Year (which automatically means recycle or donate) and Currently in Use. Only Currently in Use and Sentimental are allowed to move. It is a very effective system and I find myself able to apply it without stress or drama. Despite my best efforts not to, I have gotten some new things over the past 20 months and I don’t think I want to take them all with me to the new place. The pets, are of course, going.

I have until the end of October to move. However, things need to happen like closets going in to the new house since they are not built in here. Since I am sort of staying in the neighborhood, two streets away, I can do a lot of small trips myself.

Two weeks from today and we should be arriving in Italy. Astrid went to 900 Classic yesterday to get an oil change, spark plugs changed, etc. I want to make sure everything is running smoothly before we get in the car since it is about 875 miles each way. On the way home, we went through the car wash so now she’s also gorgeous from the outside.

Things are good 🙂 I am really grateful for the quality of my life and the people in it.

Bellydancers and punk rock paintings

Moortje is bugging me this morning. He keeps walking into my office and meowing. Not sure if he is asking for attention or just practicing the art of disruption. In a minute, he’s going to get his morning medicine. Of course, since I said that, he has walked off again.

Tired this morning, a combination of jet lag and being out late. Last night was fun. We went to a restaurant called Nomads, complete with belly dancing. From there, it was off to an old punk rock bar where I made arrangements with the owner to go back on Friday and seeing their oil painting of Henry Rollins that is currently stored in the cellar. As an additional special treat, I got to hear lots of Ramones on their juke box.

Lots of conversation last night, so I can still do that. While there won’t be a second date, we have made plans to attend some concerts together. It is always good to have someone to go and see music with, particularly punk shows. Then I definitely won’t be the only one there who is old enough to have kids there 😉

All in all, last night was a great experience. And while I am not yet ready to consider dating as a sport to take up, it was nowhere near as terrible as I thought it might be. Of course, that could just have been beginner’s luck 😉

Back where I belong

It seems that my post from the airport yesterday didn’t publish. No worries, that means I can tell my stories again 😉 I’ve been home again for about an hour. Long enough to unpack, throw the laundry in, put the Nespresso machine to good use and catch up quickly on the mail. I had a little luck yesterday. It turns out that my original flight from SFO to SLC was going to be delayed. There’s only one flight per day from SLC to Amsterdam and I had no desire to get stuck there overnight. I asked and they put me on the nonstop from SFO with KLM directly to Amsterdam. While I didn’t get in any earlier, I also didn’t get stuck in SLC. I checked the flights I would have taken and sure enough I would have missed in SLC. Having worked for the airlines for so many years can sometimes be a good thing, especially when it comes to connection paranoia 😉

Haven’t seen the boys yet. They are out with Kate and the big dog group. There was a little bit of drama with the house sitter and the dates we had agreed upon. The pets had to spend last night by themselves. I was able to find someone to come and feed them their dinner and walk them and come again early this morning to let them out and feed them. However, they spent the night alone and they left me a few surprises. I can’t wait to see them again as the cats are ignoring me.

I had a really good week while I was in the US. I ate at Cactus three times, thanks to Laura’s influence. I also discovered the thrill of – again thanks to Laura. I spent some quality time with my friends Glen and Lily. I had a great sushi dinner with my SuperMom friend, Jan. I finished my Friday by drinking beers outdoors on Mercer Island with Becky and Joni the Rose Princess. I missed making it to my favorite coffee place, Dub Sea and I missed going for automated sushi with my friend Dave.

This time, I really felt that I was saying my good byes to places in Seattle. I went by the last house that Mom and I lived in together. Turns out my tenants have made it into a recording studio, among other things. They gave me the grand tour. It is not our house anymore. It feels so different there now. Like we were never there. They are obviously really enjoying it and that makes me happy. It is not Home anymore. I used to think that I might return to that house with a partner and raise a family there. Now that seems unlikely.

I also let go of memories and unanswered questions. I faced and let go of my biggest fear – which was really exciting actually and something I wouldn’t have been able to do a few years ago. I realized that the Seattle I remembered has changed significantly, even in the past six months and I don’t fit there anymore. I went to Ballard too and said good bye to familiar places or more accurately where familiar places used to be since most of them are now gone.

On Saturday morning I left for San Francisco. I had been invited to a wedding of a former coworker and I was thrilled to be part of their celebration. It was a beautiful wedding, simple and heart felt. It made me want to get married 🙂 Watching them together and listening to their vows, the message of hope came through and starting again instead of staying still and sorrowful. As Glen and Lily were also there, the evening was fun and I didn’t feel out of place or anxious.

I had plenty of time to appreciate the San Francisco scenery since the traffic was so bad it took me 2 hours to get there and 2 hours to get back. The distance was only 40 miles. I was glad the rental car had air conditioning. I would have a really hard time having to make a daily car commute. I drove alot this past week and I was very happy to see Beatrix when the taxi dropped me off today 😉

Tomorrow evening I have a first date. I will be getting there by bike. It makes life so much easier when you don’t have to go by car! I picked an unusual place so we’ll see how it goes. Considering it’s been a good 15 years since I asked someone out, I am sure that I am out of practice. However, I am pretty impressed with myself that I took the step. Taking the step was the biggie, even if it had been a NO WAY. I will not be wearing fleece or any other outdoor living sort of fabrics for anyone who was worried!

I think that’s enough for today. I am crashing pretty hard despite the coffee so I am going take a nap with the boys for 30 minutes or so.