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Trivial issues and tomato sandwiches

In the grand scheme of things, considering the really dire state of the human race on our earth, my small problems matter not a whit. It is true. And truly, if I never get Saran Wrap again but the Corona Virus is vanquished, I am more than fine with that.

Last night I used the last of my Saran Wrap. I can manage with the Italian plastic wrap, but Saran is much, much better. During normal times I would be traveling home to the US once a year or so. And I always stock up on all the things I like from there (I bring an empty suitcase). Needless to say we won’t be going home anytime soon. And we won’t have any guests from the US anytime soon, so I will make do.
Dead soldier…


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Tomato sandwiches were a staple of my childhood lunches. My mother adored in-season tomatoes. She would have called them “home grown”. She would make a sandwich with Wonder bread, mayonnaise and thick slices of tomatoes with salt and pepper. That’s all. And I grew up eating these. Since “home grown” tomatoes are only around a couple of months I tend to eat them everyday here. How? You ask? Watch me work!

First, and don’t you people be shouting about this because it is in all the Supermarkets here, I buy a nice loaf of American Sandwich bread. Just like Wonder Bread 🙂.

Then, I slather on lots of mayonnaise…and not just ANY mayonnaise but the real thing! Hellman’s! Also available here at selected supermarkets.

We don’t have what Americans call Heirloom tomatoes in our markets, but what we have are outstanding!

The Romas on the left are destined for Gazpacho. The basil will be pesto! Mmmm I love summer.

So, using all these fine ingredients 🙂… I make my daily Tomato sandwich. Mmmmmm. Sorry…half eaten 😋

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I also got my haircut this morning. First time since lockdown. Whew. Nice to get it cut. I drive around 40 kilometers from Umbertide to Sansepolcro. Nice small city in Tuscany. I love Stefano, my hairdresser.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Lovely weekend

We were fairly busy with fun things this weekend. It was one of the prettiest, weather wise, I’ve ever seen. I guess the temperatures were in the 80s. There was a beautiful breeze. The sky was brilliant blue with puffy clouds moving across, creating an ever changing vista. I don’t care what you were doing, the weather this weekend would make it better. Even chores! I was happy to be alive and free enough to visit friends in person. We ate outside at both places and tried to socially distance.

We were invited to pranzo at our friends Stuart and Jill. They are such nice folks. They live in a place that is a bit hard to reach. They don’t think they are remote at all, but to us city mice, it is! Once you get there it is a piece of heaven. Up high on a hill with views of the rugged mountains and a distant hill town. It was a ruin when they bought it but now it is an amazing home. If I were making a house, this would be it. The flower pictures in my blog were mostly from their garden. It is their favorite pastime. It must be a lot of work. We sat outside under the retracting tende di sole, in the shade, facing the view. We had tomato bruschetta and crispy garlic toasts as nibbles. Then we had bowls of a cool gazpacho soup. Next a roulade with cheese and veg inside and a small salad with home grown beans and potatoes. Dessert was an apricot tart with a cheese plate and watermelon. Very nice and perfect summer lunch. Thanks Jill and Stuart. My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture!
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Sunday we were invited to another lunch. This time on a different mountain overlooking Lago Trasimeno. It is the biggest lake on the peninsula of the “boot”. We were guests of Oley and Krystyna who live in Colorado. They also have a home in Puerto Rico. They had gotten trapped in Puerto Rico by the Virus and returned here only a month ago. They had to quarantine for two weeks. Also invited were Vera, Graziano, and their two girls.

We had a lovely, very long lunch. Starting at 1:00 and we left at 6:30. They had magnums of Veuve Clicquot champagne to begin. We had chips with guacamole and salsa, Stuffed mushrooms, and a vegetable plate with two dips. We got to chatting about this last thing. Something so common in the US on every party table is totally unknown here in Italy. They are confounded by it. Next we had a fish dish in the Greek style. Then a plate of beautiful stuffed peppers. They were stuffed with ground pork and sausage and rice. The main course was beautiful steaks on the grill with potatoes and salad. Last, profiteroles and a Tokay slightly sweet dessert wine and grappa. We had several lovely red wines from Umbria and Tuscany. We sat outside under a rattan roof surrounded by roses on trellises and watched the clouds pass over the lake across the infinity pool . They have hundreds of lavenders planted and the scent was beautiful. Another little piece of heaven and we had a nice time. Thank you Oley and Krystyna.

This time I did take pictures. The first three are of the view across the lake. The last is the table.

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I’m watching the scary numbers in the US . The virus seems to be exploding! Please stay home and safe everyone 🌈.

Market day

It was a beautiful Wednesday. Cool and breezy. I went out for a bit of shopping at the big market. I got tomatoes, which are so good right now. I got eggplant, little peppers, garlic, red onions. Beautiful produce. Also I bought some mozzarella…the little balls. So good with the beautiful tomatoes and basil.
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I am upset at what is happening with the CDC and Fauci. To me this kind of sums up the issues in the US. I love Fauci.

From the Washington Post.

On Fauci.
“What he cares most about is not his influence, but what’s happening — that things are going so badly and it’s going to cause so much disease and death,”

Four months ahead of Election Day, Trump wants to “reopen and move on,” said another senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Those who disagree with that approach are out of favor, the official said.“

It is not possible to just “move on”. It is not going away if you don’t look at it. If you try to ignore it. If you don’t test. If you open up. 😳 So, I guess it is STILL all about him. And his election. Screw the country. Who cares that people are sick and dying. Who cares…Fauci does.
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Things are still going well here in Italy. Inside of businesses we all still wear the masks. I noticed at the market this morning the Protezione Civile folks were chucking folks out who weren’t wearing masks. Good for them! Life is fairly normal here. It could be so in the US if everyone would wear a mask, distance, and mostly stay home and out of inside spaces.

Latest news is that US tourists are still not allowed to come to Italy. I’m in agreement until the US can get the virus under control.
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As always, we enjoyed our dinner on our terrace. So beautiful. I could not live without this view and outside space.

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Be safe. Wear your masks. It is the easiest way to slow this virus.🌈

Activities on the weekend

Summer weekends have always been a very busy and active time here and it has become so again. Friday and Saturday nights the young people come to the bars which oftentimes host rock bands. Last night the band set up on a narrow walkway, or maybe you could call it a balcony above San Giorgio, the best restaurant in town. The band was one of the better ones I’ve heard here. My picture didn’t come out too well but you can get the idea.

Here are a couple of the crowds. Not a lot of masks to be seen and little distancing. Luckily Umbria has very few cases. Unless someone from outside comes in I suppose the danger is minimal.

The band quit at midnight but the partying went on until nearly three. Luckily, our bedroom is in the back and we can’t hear the noise.
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Saturday, kilometer zero market. Today for our added entertainment we had a visit from the Briganti. They are the bad boys from our annual festival. Don’t know why they decided to serenade us but they stayed for most of the market. This video is a little slow I hope you can see it. Just click the arrow…

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Please stay safe everyone! 🌈 Wear your mask.

July 5 — Luther’s birthday

Special day for Luther. We were invited to a BBQ up in the mountains. Our Italian friends who are our Italian famiglia invited us. It was a beautiful, breezy day. Not at all hot. We were nine people. The family of four, two young girls and their parents, who own the lovely property, and her father from Slovenia. Me and Luther, and another couple with a house in Umbria. They are Polish and live in Colorado and also in Puerto Rico.

The meal was wonderful. We started with a guacamole dip and a tomato salsa and chips. Wine flowed right from the start. I brought chocolate chip biscotti, the Poles brought a hunters stew. This property has a great pizza oven and BBQ in it’s own stone structure. We had grilled sausages, pork, beefsteaks. Also a very spicy eggplant dish which took me by surprise by its spice 😳 and also salad.

After a short time frozen vodka flowed as well as lemoncello. There was a cake for Luther to cut. My cookies and chocolate we brought rounded out the desserts.

View of had
View of the yard and oven.
Picnic Pavillion
Pizza oven.
The group
Outside dining
Vera and Luther
Dessert. Luthers cake, my biscotti, and a chocolate bell.
Birthday boy.
Me, Luther and Vera.

Home, and enjoying summer weather!

What lovely, hot weather we are having. It is in the 33-34C range or around 93F. I went out yesterday morning and enjoyed a coffee with a friend at Bar Mary. I’d call her a new friend except we’ve known “about” one another but never had a face to face chiacchierare (chat). Her name is Elizabeth. She wrote a book called Sustenance which I really enjoyed. She just managed to return to Umbria from San Francisco where she has been trapped for months due to Covid. What an ordeal. 22 hour flight with two changes! Only because she has a Permesso di Soggiorno and a medical reason was she able to return. And then she had to quarantine for two weeks. She is just freed. She said she would never leave Italy again! She used her quarantina to plant her garden, which is going gangbusters already, she reported. Anyway, it was lovely to get to know her and I’m sure we will meet again soon.

I went out to the Saturday local market today. Pretty day, a bit cooler with a nice breeze. The early summer produce is abundant now. I got beans, fennel bulbs, zucchini and zucchini blossoms, and lots of tomatoes which I “hope” will be good since it is coming onto the best time for them. I also took a few pictures 🙂

Bar Mary is always busy on market days.
Cafe Centrale too.
There is always this man with his Prosciutto. He cuts it so thin it’s almost transparent.
Market
One of the streets in Centro.

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A friend posted these two graphs from Worldometer. Excellent way to see the differences. Pretty scary.

So, there is danger out there, everyone be careful. Safe Fourth of July to you all. I miss that here! 💥 🧨

Our first trip since Lockdown

Sunday, June 28
It was a birthday celebration. The plan was simple. We were driving on our first road trip from our house in Umbria to a hotel on the Mediterranean coast to a town called Castiglione della Pescaia. It would not be a long drive, only 2-3 hours.

We drove the Angelo Giallo for the first time since lockdown. We had taken it to the dealer for it’s annual servicing and it had a coolant leak. So we were all set. We left at 1:30 and drove from our house to Siena on the decent four lane road and then went south and slightly west to our destination. A pretty and interesting route.

We arrived at about 5pm, just after our friends Susan and Gary. It was Susan’s birthday trip and Luthers birthday is July 5 so kind of a piggyback. Hotel L’Andana is a few kilometers from the coast. From certain parts of the property you can see the sea. It is over 500 acres of land. They have hundreds of olive trees, all regimented and perfectly shaved. They look like they have all had the exact same flat-top haircut.

This is the driveway and gate. It was 900 meters long.
Maremmana cattle. Amazing horns. Nearly went extinct. Mussolini drained the swamps where they were adapted to live and work.
Our room. Great AC!

The next two are pictures of the property.

We rested and changed for dinner at the hotel. They have two restaurants, only one of which was open. The more casual of the two. Nice spot outdoors. Lots of spacing between tables. Everyone wore a mask. Unfortunately for me my main course was inedible. Grilled octopus on mashed potatoes. The octopus was a Goodyear retread tire. Almost impossible to chew. I rarely have an experience like this, and never in Italy. So I sent it back and got chicken. Susan and Gary got the Branzino cooked in a pouch which they loved. So, it was a mixed result. I might also mention, this restaurant was EXPENSIVE. 

Monday, Susan’s birthday. And today was to be her day. Beautiful sunny weather but would be hot. We had breakfast outside under the trees. Near our dinner spot from last night. They’ve got loads of help here, so service was great. Not always experienced, but always someone there. I had scrambled eggs. There was a big buffet but they had to serve us. Buffets aren’t allowed since Covid. Luther had smoked salmon. There were croissants and bread and butter, yogurt, freshly squeezed OJ. Eggs, any way. Just fine.

Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.
Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.

We left after breakfast and headed for the beach. Castiglione della Pescaia is the pretty town nearby. We drove through, turned towards the beach and ended at a dead end. Finally extricated ourselves and headed down the main highway that parallels the coast. We drove through a big park. It was a huge forest of umbrella pines. Quite amazing. Campgrounds were in and among the trees. At the end, I saw there was a town called Marina di Grosseto. I peered down the first road we came to and I saw umbrellas and a big parking area under the pines. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth we parked and walked to the beach. Tre Stelle, a little Bagno, or beach restaurant with its own umbrellas out front. We rented two, and four chairs and even finagled towels. The beach was beautiful. Maybe 40% full. Lots of empty chairs. And all the umbrellas were well spaced with at least six feet between them. Felt very safe. Nice breeze. Susan got her birthday wish to sit on the beach, go in the water. I did too but since I had no suit I got my pants good and wet but didn’t swim. The water was a perfect temperature.

Our beach.
Our beach.
Our beach.

After a few hours enjoying the beauty. We headed back to Castiglione della Pescaia. We had reservations at Bagno Tito. Right on the beach. We found a free on-street parking place and walked to the beach. Just 3 blocks. It was a really nice little beachy place. We sat under umbrellas on the beach. The food was good enough. Not great but fine. We had nice local wine. A nice breeze. What else could you wish for.

Lunch. Bagno Tito.
The view from our table, right on the beach.
Luther got Alici…fresh anchovies. Cracked pink pepper cornes perked it up.


We visited the local Coop grocery store where we bought food for a picnic in the room. Then, back to the hotel for showers and a nap. The picnic was fun. Nice conversation. Later, Luther and I sat outside while he smoked a cigar. I listened to the night noises. Owls maybe? Or small creatures? Horses neighing. Long soft sunset like we get during the longest days of summer. 

Tuesday — We met for breakfast at nine. More scrambled eggs with salmon. A good breakfast. We had to get out by ten because we had an appointment to taste Bolgheri wines an hour away, up the coast. A place called Fornacelle.  As always it was a wild goose chase to find it but we persevered and with the help of google maps finally found it. These wineries are all on the flat lowland between the beach and the bluff rising to the mountains. And the area is networked with little one lane roads. 

Our hostess, Sylvia, was a member of the family which owned the winery. A small operation. She showed us the cellaring room with the oak barrels. And an art installation along with art upstairs in a gallery. They use this on their labels. We finally settled on a pretty patio outside to taste. We had a 100% Vermentino Zizzolo white, a 100% Semillion white (aged in oak), a Rosso Zizzolo blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These two are named for a small fruit tree which produces an apple-like fruit. They had a tree next to the patio. Next we tried a Red made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. And finally a 100% Cabernet Franc called Erminia. This last one was a beautiful wine. My favorite. She brought crostade with their good oil. A very fun tasting which lasted longer than expected. We had a second appointment but couldn’t keep it and make our lunch reservation.

The cellar.
Zizzolo tree and fruit.

Next few are of the patio where we tasted the wine and some of the wine bottles we tried.


Off we went to Agriristoro La Cesarina. Another exciting adventure in tiny one lane roads, eventually going up the bluff to the top where the restaurant was situated. What a view. Small, casual, place. Obviously their home as we interrupted their lunch. The whole family was there. Turns out Nonna was the cook. Very traditional Tuscan cuisine. But all good. We had antipasto for all four of us plates of meats with melon, cheeses with figs and fig jam. Bruschette – red pepper and liver. All good. Then we had main courses. All the choices were very long cooked meats. A roast pork with carmelized onions. Roast cinghiale, roast beef. Everyone liked theirs. The wines were Bolgheri wines and good.

La Cesarina dining area.
La Cesarina dining area.
The view.
After lunch digestivo. Anise and something else I couldn’t place.

Driving home was another hoot. Up and down the mountains through the valleys. But we got home in time for Susan’s conference call.  
We again gathered for snacks. Watermelon, a little cheese was left and some mortadella.

I rose a bit early and tried to sit outside but the humidity has risen and there are millions of gnats and tiny bugs. So I had to retreat. I did take a shot of the long morning shadows which I thought was pretty.

We breakfasted and got on the road. Home in 2 hours 10 minutes.
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Impressions for our first trip. Restaurants were generally doing well with good distancing. Bagno Tito, the beach restaurant had no paper towels. That was bad because after you wash your hands you don’t want to touch handles etc. All other places had immaculate and fully equipped bathrooms. The hotel was very nice, clean and had great beds and linen. No worries there. The two beaches were sparsely populated and all umbrellas and chairs widely spaced. Unless in the great out of doors, everyone wears masks. So I’d give Italy an A.

During the trip we saw 2 German tags, 3 Swiss, 1 UK, 2 Monaco, 1 Lichtenstein, 1 Netherlands, and one Austrian. Every other tag was Italian, so Italians far out numbered everyone else, very few crossing the borders.

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I see things aren’t going so well in the US. The EU decided not to let travelers from the US into Europe. The benchmark scientific metric used was new cases over the past two weeks per 100,000 people. The average among the 27 European Union countries was 16 in mid-June; in the United States, it was 107.
Please everyone, wear your masks when not in open countryside. It would slow the virus to a crawl and the economy could come back without drastic shutdowns. It’s really not hard…I hate the masks, but I wear them.🌈

Road trip!

So, tomorrow we are off on our first excellent adventure since total lockdown here in Italia. A heady time! Also, a little nervous-making. 😳  But you have to put your toe in the water sometime as I say.

Today was all about packing, ironing, doing last minute errands, and buying picnic stuff. All of which we have finished. We also went out for an apperitivo at Bar Mary. Almost all the tables were taken. We sat at a table next to a guy alone at another table. Heard him talking, British. But I recognized him….then I finally got it. Ralph Fiennes. I knew he had a place here in Umbertide but never I had actually seen him. Wow. I had a drink next to Lord Voldemort! 😳
 
I have friends who are avid bikers. They took this picture on their recent ride. One million happy Umbrians – thanks James and Virginia Lupori!

Market day – ho comprato i pantaloni!

Hi all, beautiful day. We are having near perfect weather and long summer days. What’s not to like.

I have been anxious to have our market back since last week I bought a pair of casual pants that it turned out I loved. They are nicely made. Not cheap.  I liked them so much and hoped she had more. Turns out, she had tons and I couldn’t decide amongst the colors and patterns so I bought 3. 🤪 they are cotton and nicely made with drawstrings, elastic and a nice inner sleeving of beige cotton canvas to hold the drawstring. The inside of the bottom of the leg has pretty eyelet lining and can be turned up. Nice and summery and casual. Right up my alley.

Tell me, does the pair on the left closest to us look like it’s got marijuana leaves on it? Haha haha! Brings back memories!

Governor Andrew Cuomo is on CNN right now. He’s talking about a quarantine plan for NY, NJ and Connecticut. They will require a 2 week quarantine for people coming from States with high virus infections. This is kind of amazing to me! 😳

From the Washington Post…

Even as Florida hospitals are rapidly filling up with a spiraling number of new infections, authorities have changed how they measure the number of beds being used in intensive care units that will likely lower the figure. The move comes as the state eyes the next phase of reopening in July.

I have decided not to weigh myself anymore. That way, I will never gain any weight. Well, true, right? If I don’t look, I don’t know, so it isn’t real. Sorta like testing for the virus. Or counting the beds differently to show lower numbers. Right?
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News from the EU today is that the US will not be among the countries they will allow to come in on July 1. Any future date to reconsider is TBD. This is a baseline decree. Each country has their own last word.  The EU ruling is for all member states. I think a country can set a more stringent plan if they want. This will change when the US gets their virus house in order.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Great numbers!

I read that there were just 224 cases and 24 deaths for the ENTIRE COUNTRY OF ITALY on Saturday! Amazing. And happy-making.💕

In the Guardian…
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control — modeled on the U.S. CDC — has given European countries a pat on the back last week.

“Decreasing trends in disease incidence are observed and sustained” in almost all EU countries, the European health agency’s latest threat assessment declared. While no one knows exactly which types of social distancing measures are best, or just how intense they need to be, the ECDC said, “such measures appear to have been associated, at least temporarily, with decreases in the number of newly reported cases.”

All good news for Europe. 👍
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I busied myself this morning with repairing and washing our mask collection. The blue ones had horrible elastic which frayed and broke. I ordered new elastic on amazon and I finally received it. I replaced all the straps with the new elastic. And I replaced the shoestring ties I had on the ones I made a while ago. I also finally found some material from which I can make a few new masks. This I will attempt this afternoon 🙂

A sign of our times!