August in Italy

It’s already mid-August here in Italy and so incredibly quiet around town. August is vacation month in Italy— everyone takes time off and stores are closed per ferie, or, for summer holiday. It’s not uncommon for most stores (of the mom-and-pop variety, which still make up the majority of the neighborhood) to shut down for the last two weeks of August. It usually starts on or around August 15, which is Ferragosto here. If you’re religious, it’s a day commemorating the Assumption of Mary, or for everyone else, it’s the celebration of the festival of Emperor Augustus. Either way, Italy shuts down and most businesses use it as the start of a minimum two-week vacation.

As I understand it, most Italians head to the beach, or possibly the mountains, if they live near us (Udine being very close to the Dolomites). To that end, it’s like a ghost-town here…even more than usual. To make matters worse, the weather seems to have changed already. It’s still rainy, but now there is a feeling of fall in the air. On drier evenings, there is a crispness resembling early autumn.

I personally feel a bit gypped, as summer is my favorite time of year. I love hot weather. The fact that it’s mid-August and already feeling like fall? That’s just a rip-off. I already have soup on the menu for dinner this week! Ugh.

Towards the end of July, we spent ten days in Cavo, on the island of Elba. The island is off the coast of Tuscany, and most for most days of our trip, it was sunny there, so we spent our time at the beach. Now, what little tan I had has already faded. Grrrr.

To try and stave off the feeling of fall, here’s a look at some of the (sunnier) photos from Elba. I, for one, will be gazing longingly at them while I eat my soup.

A vacation with bubbles

We’re back in Udine (it’s obvious we’re no longer in Tuscany on account of all the rain and thunderstorms here) and getting back into the swing of things after our mini vacation. Our getaway included lots of lazy afternoons on the beaches of Elba, some practicing of my photography and even a bit of work. The Tuscan air proved inspirational, as I got some client branding designed, and even launched a website from my phone.

While I’m still going through the photos from the trip, you can snag a sneak peak on Instagram…which brings me back to that new website that launched. It was for an Italian prosecco (available in the States) and part of the gig is Instagramming life in Italy. Check it out—maybe even over a glass of bubbles! Lady La Femme

Change of Scenery

Taking this party to the beaches of Isola d’Elba, off the coast of Tuscany…because sometimes you just need to change it up.

Cavo, Isola d'Elba, Tuscany, Italy

because sometimes you just need to change it up

Who says the Golden Years?

Joan LeMasters

Joan LeMasters
December 27, 1933 – July 8, 2014

It’s been a rough week for my family and me. On Tuesday, my grandmother lost her battle with lung cancer, which she fought gracefully and with a clever wit that only she had. It’s hard being far away and that’s making it seem unreal. This sort of thing is/was my worst fear when we decided to move to Europe: The thought that I wouldn’t be able to be around my people in a time of such sadness. Dave is a champ, dealing with random bouts of tears; it just doesn’t seem real.

I’m lucky. In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve never had to mourn the loss of a grandparent. I say that, with the hope that I will begin to feel lucky, that it’s taken 31 years to experience this. My head knows it, but in typical fashion, my heart is slow to catch up; the feeling of loss seems to overshadow my good sense. I know she is in a better place and the physical pain her disease caused is no longer a burden to her and for that I’m grateful, but I still can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that no one will have to pick her up for the next family dinner and take her home before the sun goes down. Towards the end of her life, she often asked (only half-jokingly), “who says the golden years?”

She was a classy woman, never leaving home without “her face on” (a routine that must have paid off, because her face was always flawless; she was just about wrinkle-free until the end of her 80 years). But Grandma Joan certainly wasn’t afraid to tell you what she thought, too. And she wasn’t one to sugar-coat it.

She was proud of her six kids and they people they had become. She loved to go out to lunch or dinner and hear about what was going on in the lives of her children and grandchildren, possibly over a glass of white wine, if the occasion called for it. You could take her picture, but only if you got her “good side” in the photo. She also loved any sort of petite serviceware…pitchers, utensils— if it was miniature and used during a meal, she thought it was darling. I think of her every time I stir my coffee with the tiny spoons they use here in Italy.

She had the best sayings— the kind that made her memorable (in a good way!) to people outside of our family. Personal favorites included, “oh hon, you couldn’t get me to do that/go there to see Christ ride a bicycle!” Or, “oh he’s so crooked, they’ll have to screw him into the ground to bury him” (most likely in reference to a politician). There’s many a story I could share that would bring a smile to the face of anyone that knew her.

My dad says there’s nothing to be sad about, because she lived a full life, passed as peacefully as one can and was surrounded by her children.

But I am sad.

Last night, I was started to drift off to sleep and my thoughts circled to her mannerisms and things I don’t want to forget, like her voice when she called someone ‘hon’ or ‘doll,’ or the way she said ‘Long Island’ which was more like ‘Lung AYE-lind’. But then I tried to remember her laugh and for a minute, I couldn’t hear it, and my eyes shot wide open until it came to me.

But I’m also grateful. Buried in the grief that comes in the wake of such news, I’m so grateful. When I went home in April, I did so with the purpose of spending time with her because that seemed a much more desirable option than going home for a funeral. I got a chance to chat with her, share stories and write down her recipes. I got a chance to let her know everything in my heart while she was around to hear it, and that’s more than most, I suppose.

She will be missed and not a “little dish of chocolate ice cream” will be served without me thinking of her.

A Weekend Staycation

My cousin and her boyfriend drove over to visit Dave and me this weekend for a mini weekend staycation. On Saturday, we got “lost” in the Italian countryside as we tried to make our way to a winery (apparently Google doesn’t realize that the most direct route, if through an unpaved dirt road near someone’s corn farm, is NOT the most most desirable route). We did, however, spend the afternoon tasting different varietals, like schioppettino and tazzelenghe, among others, at a winery near the Slovenian border.

We continued the adventure on Sunday, as we headed to San Daniele, for a festival celebrating prosciutto (!!) where they served not only prosciutto, but sides of montasio cheese and melon…and of course beer and wine. We dined under a grove of trees that shielded us from the mist of the rain, but not the constant stream of hard rain that eventually came our way. We huddled under overhangs of the city as we made our way back to the car, damp but not worse for the wear.

It was a good weekend— of impromptu plans that led to fun, good food and great memories.