Monday, October 24, 2011

Learning.....slowly but surely

My last post mentioned our outing to the olive grove with Malachy’s kindy….Well the next outing was to the beach – in between Pisa and Viarreggio, on a large piece of land belonging to the National park… This was such a beautiful day.. Playing in the sand with sticks and shells…. Feeling the gently autumn sunshine gradually and gently warm our backs as we dug sand, sculpted lizards, drew pictures, collected shells…. ultimately the children got so warm they stripped off and went for a swim..I know to an Australian the sound of swimming in autumn is quite an acceptable thing – but she’s a wee bit chilly in a Tuscan autumn….It was a beautiful day and we even got talking to a local man collecting tiny vongole (like pippies) on the beach with his home made contraption that captivated the children!!!

Last week I also got a bit enthusiastic in the kitchen and tried a few new things …Cecina (chickpea flour pancake) and arancini…..Thankfully both were a success ….. thanks to a recipe from Francesca (my friend in Rome) J I think I will take a cooking course soon – crazy not to really – I don’t think you could find a better natural source of great food than this region!!

We were joined by a few visitor dear friend Jeanette and her husband Alan who were closing in on the end of their grand tour of europe. Then a visit from our friends in Rome .... the kids had a blast as they mingled some more with their Italian friends, showing off new Italian words or phrases they had learnt!

Well finally I have found myself taking some Italian language lessons….God knows I need it!!! My Italian linguistics has been at a stand still….in fact possibly on a downhill slide – unbelievable I know, but life has just been so hectic and a vicious cycle of accumulative delays due to the language barrier!!!
So week one of classes is done! A confirmation of how much far my language skills need to go but luckily I have scored a great teacher J I was placed in class with two young men….one German and one Australian…. I am sure the young german man (boy really he is only 19) thinks I am an idiot as every time I mentioned my children I could see him roll his eyes in not just disinterest but disgust!!! Of course at 19 his weekend only consisted of discotec (nightclubs) and electronic music, naturally common ground was hard to find but we are making progress.  J
With the imminent bite of winter looming I felt that I really should get prepared for the children’s clothing requirements. So, Saturday morning we took off for Pisa where I was directed to a fantastic super store of adventure gear, Decathaloon – kind of like the ikea of adventure stuff (really cheap and seemingly really good quality). We now have hiking boots, backpacks, thermals, jackets, socks etc!!! I think we are prepared now!  One only hopes…. With the new gear at hand we thought we would take a scenic drive through the mountains and get some inspiration from the local tourist information office in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Now we are well equip with all the maps and books of the region we are set as can be for some mountain adventures!!! On the way home we stopped on the side of the road to an irresistible fungi/porcini/tartufo stall… This country is the heart of fungi, porcini e tartufo (truffle) … it would have been a crime not to stop!!! I selected a variety of porcini e fungi (he was out of truffle L)  to take home to try out… Whilst pondering over my selection the children had bonded with the owner of the stall who was roasting some castagna (chestnut) over the fire. I love seeing the children interacting spontaneously and independently in a language they barely know….. The poor stall holder was hot on his heels keeping up with the demands of my children, cracking open his collection of freshly roasted chestnuts so warm and creamy…. This man was so gentle and kind with the children, eventually succumbing to their enthusiasm of the chestnut – sending us on our way with a “roadie” (travel) bag of roasted chestnuts J

Sunday morning was a treat to self and I headed out with Gabby to a chamber music recital just around the corner, in an historic palace, where local students from the music institute played the piano and viola to some classics of Mozart, Debussy, Chopin and Schumann – heavenly !! Cost of concert and vino e appertivi post the show 6 euro!!!!! Classical music concerts are sooooo cheap here, luuuckyy!!!

I had made arrangements for Sunday afternoon to head up to the mountains again with the language school for another Sagre (we are addicted) this one was devoted to the castagne (chestnut), which worked in nicely with our previous day of chestnut introduction/admiration/gluttony!!! So we met with the school and took off up to the mountains again!! Unbeknown to me this particular sagre is very popular with the local Lucchesian’s, and the tiny little mountain top village was jam packed with people and stalls. We hadn’t even entered and Malachy had wet his pants ….of course I had no spare pants- no big deal – wear it…feel it and learn!!  Fumbling our way through this little village was slightly awkward as the lanes were narrow and the crowds were quite thick. This was tough on the kids and I to stick together and at least one child was missing the whole time….I needed to break the cycle and decided to find something to eat (always a draw card for my kids) so we found a little stall that made little dumpling type things made on farrina di castagne (chestnut flour). The stall holder assured me that it contained only farrina di castagne (in italian) and I took the risk and fed it to Gabby…..This risk didn’t pay any dividends…. Within 10 minutes we had to hightail it out of the village as Gabbys cramps intensified and both Gabby and I knew what was to follow…..5 hours of vomiting L Unfortunately we were parked about 3km down hill from the village…. Poor Gabby was feeling miserable and her brothers showed no compassion, fooling around through the crowds and down the narrow little road (so close to the cliff face) that led us back to the car…. Needless to say I had a few cranky words with the boys and calm was restored – in-between the vomits….!
Finally we made it home and eventually all were in bed quite early… Sometimes the end of a day is such a relief!!
It’s a new week and one full of hope as this Saturday my mum arrives!!!!!!!!!!! The kids cannot even comprehend that it is happening and I feel like Christmas is arriving early – not because I will be showered in gifts but we will be showered with loving care – something I need a good dose of right about now!
 Kids playing on the beach...a tuscan autumn

 Gabby playing with Malachy's latest best friend ...Giulia

 My arancini and cecina :-)

 Gabby's cityscape of Lucca centro storico the detail ...check out her right middle finger...3rd floor window - thats gabby waving out of our appartment window!

 Fresh tuberose to welcome guests - my favourite flower

 porcini e fungi


 Gabby at the chamber music recital in the Teatro di Giglio

 Spencer checking out the local weaving baskets - captivating

autumn is nothing short of spectacular in Lucca... I took this picture while going for an afternoon walk this afternoon....listening to my ipod playing cosi fan tutti (getting excited that I can now understand some of what they are singing about). All while the children were at home with the babysitter...Bliss!

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