Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why Did I Bring all This STUFF

Christmas Day was a sweet great day. The five of us staying at the villa had stockings that we bought from TAF in downtown Florence. We had decided that each of the five of us would buy five of the same thing all under 5 Euro and put in the stockings. That way each stocking had five things to take home. It was lots of fun to shop for the stuff and somehow a couple of extra things ended up in the stockings. I know that Mona playes Santa with the Toberlones that were there and I think that Stephanie managed to sneak some cute little Pinochicco ornaments in each one also!

After the stockings we got to work getting ready for Christmas lunch. Robbie, Mona and the boys came in about noon and at about two Gary and Jennifer, their boys, Howard and Doris Bybee, one of their sons, a couple of Avanti workers and some visitors to Avanti all came up with TONS of food. We had turkey and ham with more veggies and desserts than I could ever dream up! We got most of that cleaned up and some others from the church in Florence came out for dessert and coffee. The company lasted until nine Christmas night. It was fun and we all enjoyed playing host to the people who visited. Scott Bain called his house in West Memphis and Tracy and Eric were having Christmas dinner there (well, actually at the Shack Shack!) and we got to talk to Tracy for a minute...she is wearing the ring!!!

Tuesday was museum day. Reagan and I took Murr and Corrie to the Uffizi and the Academia. A good time was had by all. It was amazing to see that the San Lorenzo market was totally empty!!! No stalls, nothing! We will go back in tomorrow to see if they returned!

Each day (except Christmas) we have been going in to Bar Aquila to get this most wonderful pastery sfoglia crema and a cappucino. I am hooked on this pastery. If I can find a recipe for it Keri and I may have open up a shop. It will make you want to jump up and slack your momma!

Now, I have three days left to try and fit all the stuff that I brought with me and all the great stuff that I bought over here into my suitcases. What was I thinking in September? I will never again forget Rick Steves words of wisdom: "There are two kinds of travelers... those who pack light and those who wish they did."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sightseeing, Shopping and Early Christmas Dinner

Tim, Steph and Ellie have now left the continent and headed back home. We had a great three and half days. We saw Pisa, did the great circle of downtown Florence for shopping and sightseeing. Then we drove to San Giamignato and saw the sights there. The last day was back into Florence for last minute shopping before they had to go back to Pisa to catch a flight to London to head back to Texas.

We had planned to go out one night to a nice restaurant and let that be everyone's Christmas present to each other. I did not call ahead to Bibe's to make reservations and when we got there it was closed!! But that did not squelch our Christmas spirit and we headed out to Machievelli's Tavern. We had a fabulous meal of steak for some, grilled mixed meats for others, and fried chicked and hare for Reagan and her friend Corrie. It was a perfect meal and great way to celebrate Christmas. In the very best of Tuscan traditions, the entire meal took two hours and we were sitting in room all to ourselves. We could not have planned it any better. One of the best parts was the life sized stuffed Babo Natle (Italian Santa) sitting over by the window with his arm wrapped around a jug of Chianti! Priceless!

I have to mention that Ellie, who is only seven, is as great a traveler as Aiden, Caily & Ian are. She was happy to wander around the San Lorenzo market with us while we were shopping and was easily entertained at the restaurants and in the car. I think that GameBoys are great inventions for traveling children!

I do have to mention that Gene has hit the leather jackpot! He has found a beautiful jacket, new belt, wallet, and gloves! He also bought me two new pairs of gloves and beautiful red leather purse! I can't wait for you all to see Gene's gloves...I will not tell the color yet but they will surprise you and look great when he is riding his motorcycle!

Today, Reagan and Corrie have left for an overnight trip to Venice on the train. Gene and Murr and I are taking it easy and getting ready to make a trip to that really great Coop/shopping mall, and we are all waiting for Mona to arrive back from the states. The fog had been terrible in England and delayed lots of flights in that part of the continent. Mona is in Amsterdam and missed her connecting flight because of the weather but she has another scheduled for tonight.

I did have a couple of moments of sadness because I missed Just Desserts, but then I knew that most of my friends would tell me to snap out of it because I was in Italy! I do miss my friends and I am ready to sit and visit with all of you and I will be home in nine is ending so quickly and yet so slowly!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Getting Ready for Christmas

Murr did arrive safely yesterday afternoon. She was exhausted but fine. Like me, she does not sleep well on planes. So, we let her have a hour and half nap yesterday and then she had to stay awake until at least 9:30 pm to try and get her body clock re-set. Pizza at Gallo's last night. She slept until I woke her up at 9 am this morning.

Today we has cappucino and pastry for breakfast and then took her to the Coop to grocery shop. R had to work on her thesis revisions this afternoon so we just did laundry and let Murr take another nap this afternoon. R and Robbie went to the Fiorentina soccer game tonight (tied with Milan) and the rest of us got pizza from the pizzeria down by the Bus 16 stop. Not as good as Gallo's but not anything to spit out either. Gene says that he would be happy if we just ate pizza at a different place everynight while he is here!

R and I getting ready to drive to the airport to pick up her friend Corrie. Tomrrow we hope to go to the German Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce. Tomorrow night there is a concert of
"The Messiah" by the Fiesole School of Music. It is up by Piazzale Michelanglo so we can show Murr and Corrie that beutiful view.

We decorated the villa today for Christmas. Robbie can't find all the decorations but what we did find and the Christmas tree that he bought really look beautiful. The towns are decorating and all the stores have their decorations up. It is beautiful everywhere you look!

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Harder When the Family is Here

Blogging is much harder with the family to pay attention to here in this beautiful place. Yes, they arrived! The trip was hard and the upgrade to the Business Class seat was not as comfortable as we would have wished for Gene. He was much more comfortable on the trip from Amsterdam to Rome where there were no Business class seats so he sat toward the back with Reagan. Then there was the whole sick stomach thing. Reagan had been exposed to a stomach bug and Gene may have also gotten it. They did not get out of the airport in Amsterdam because Reagan threw up eight times. They found some of those wonderful recliner seats in the Amsterdam airport and each slept for two hours.

We had hoped to catch one of those sightseeing buses in Rome so Gene could see some of the city but they were just too exhausted to try. We took our 12:30 pm train to Florence and arrived at the villa by 2:30 pm. It was a pretty sunny day so he got to see the villa at its best. After unpacking and getting accustomed to the villa, Gary (Avanti Director) and his two young adult sons showed up to attempt to ride the scooters here at the villa. They had never dealt with scooters or motorcycles so Gene was happy to give them a lesson in started and controlling the bikes. Can you imagine my shock when I heard him say to Gary, "The next time Beckie gets to come for a semester, I think I will come and rent a motorcycle to just roam around these hills and back roads." Later that night we had our first visit to Gallo's and he LOVED the pizza. Then there was that wonderful chocolate mousse for dessert. Gene thinks there needs to be a trip here that just compares all the different types of pizza!

Saturday Reagan and I rode the bus into town to see the Scottish Christmas fair in the Santa Maria Novella piazza. It was the smalles Christmas fair I have ever seen!! Two booths. We did walk around the city and found a store she had wanted to check out called Tuscan Treehouse. It has great things with Tuscan imagines on them. We also purchased our Christmas stockings for the five of us who will be in the villa for Santa's arrival. TAF had some really cute ones for only 5 Euro each. When we got back to Scandicci we picked up Gene and headed to that huge Coop store. We bought some great foods to add to the ones that Julie and her crowd did not finish eating and had supper in the villa.

Sunday we drove out into the hills to look for a couple of places that were having Olive Oil Festivals/Tastings. We found one immediately and bought some of their wares. When they present you with olive oil to taste they pour about a fourth of an inch in the bottom of a plastic cup and you DRINK it. I only tasted one kind because I tend to prefer my olive oil on bread of vegetables. We did not find the second place but that was fine because we drove through some really beautiful country. That night we did take out pizzas from Gallo's.

Robbie arrived back from speaking to a church meeting in Sicily late last night and was at the villa when we got back from cappucino and pastry at Mario's this morning. Tammie and Vivian: Mt. Etna was smoking and spitting ash!!! Robbie wanted to drive us to San Miniato, Pizzale Michelanglo, and Fiesole. We ate at a cute little place in Fiesole. We walked through the Etruscan museum and look out over the ruins. Gene handled the steps ok but I thought that going all the way down to the ruins was pushing his luck too far. It was a great day. The weather was crisp and cool and sunny! Gene loved the Etruscan stuff and the views from all the lookout spots. Robbie needed to come home and paint some so we just hung out and I fixed left overs for supper. Good, good day.

We are awaiting Murr's arrival on Friday, Corrie on Saturday and Tim, Steph and Ellie on Monday. Lots more fun is on the way!!!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Great Shopping Extravaganza

Julie and Mark Ellis and a another couple from Munich were here from Friday to this afternoon. We had such a wonderful time. Mark and Julie are so much fun to be with and they are adventursome so we did some good stuff.

They arrived on Friday and I had made reservations at the Sostanza restaurant in Florence because Julie wanted to try their butter fried chicken. So, as usual, I crammed us all into the blue car and went down to the bus 16 stop. We stood and talked for a couple of minutes then I noticed that dreaded sign on the post that said there was a bus strike!! Well, we were just about to take a taxi, in fact, I had called Silvia at the HUF office to see if she would call us a taxi. She suggested that we drive into the train station and park underneath it. I have driven to the Coop and to Pisa but I have never driven into the station or even across the Arno, but Silvia said that she thought I could do it and Mark was willing to read the signs to make sure I stayed on the correct streets. And we did a great job! We did such a good job that I drove back to park at the station on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday (today). Monday the three women went to San Giaminagno. Today I even drove to the airport from the train station and back to the station and back to the villa!! I think that I might be Wonder Woman! I think I may can conquer new frontiers. I might can even put the baseboards up in the dining room, kitchen, and living room!

While they were here both couples did the majority of their Christmas shopping. We went to the San Lorenzo market three times, and the Piggy Market twice. There were six purses, eight belts, two brief cases, one wallet, twelve handerchiefs, two shawls, four ceramic plates, four ceramic wall decorations, two packages of wild boar sausage, fours packages of Italian candy, two expresso makers, one milk diffuser, and numerous odds and ends. Julie had to use an extra suitcase in order to get it all back home!

So now lets discuss the restaurants we visited. Friday night was Sostanza and their wonderful butter friend chicken and that great meriangue dessert they make. Saturday lunch was a sandwich eaten while we were walking because we wanted to get from the Uffizi to Scandicci in time to drive into the countryside and get some photos (but the sun went behind a cloud just as we left Scandicci) and we went to Gallo's for supper... no need to comment, it was Gallo's and perfect. Sunday we had our own service at the villa and then took Mark to catch a taxi to the airport. We found a cute little restruant just off of Nazionale and had pasta (mine was ravoli with cream pesto and walnuts....uuummm, good) and after seeing The David, part of San Marcos and Santa Annuziata we went to the Coop to buy antipasta and goodies to eat at the villa. Monday after we got back from San Giaminagno, we captured Robbie and went to eat steak at Bibe's. Oh my goodness!!! It may be the best flavored steak I have ever in my life tasted. I am definately taking Tim, Steph and Ellie there for our big Christmas present to ourselves. Today's lunch was panino in a cute cafe just down from the Ponte Vecchio.

They are now on their way home and I am getting ready for my family to arrive on Thursday!!

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