Yeah, you. My reader. It’s been more than 7 years, 2 domains and a divorce since DelSo was born. Over the years I’ve shared a lot of my life and self here, in print. You, as a reader, have come to know me on some level from my words. What makes you return here (assuming you’re not new around these parts) and read what I write? Let me remind you of some of what I’ve related to you in the hope that you might feel inclined to share with me – who you are, reader? Why are you here?
There have been so many miles – more plane rides than I could have ever imagined, along with runs and races and road trips. I’ve explored cities with my boys and my girlfriends and solo. My feet have run in a half dozen different countries and probably about the same number of states.
My home has evolved from a house with two full-time parents to one of three part-time children. There have been physical improvements, rooms repurposed and painted, new rugs and furniture rearranged. It feels different. After a refinance or two, I know it’s mine.
I’ve written about books I’ve read and movies and concerts I’ve seen. Increasingly, politics and my dismay with our current leadership have been topics I’ve felt compelled to write about.
My children and the challenges of being a parent frequently provide fodder for posts. While the joys outweigh the frustrations, parenthood remains a roller coaster ride that keeps me on the edge of my seat with a scream threatening to escape. It’s a heart racing ride.
Sometimes I cook or bake and post recipes and photos of the fruits of my labors. Food and wine are a big part of my life and I’ve happily shared my experiences with you. Oh – and there’s that wine bar that I own.
There have been times when I wrote with sadness or anger, but I think I mostly write from a place of understanding and acceptance. Balance and moderation are woven throughout much of what I write.
Health and wellness have been covered and the miracle of menopause has been mentioned. The heartbreak of addiction and the threat of cancer have been present. I’ve learned to ski and have found bliss in pigeon pose in a room heated to 100+ degrees.
It’s all here – my life. Not perfect, not necessarily what I ever imagined it to be, but a life that I feel grateful for in a city that I have come to love.
Will you tell me why you visit my life?
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I sent out some invitations to a party I’m throwing to celebrate my 50th. The guest list was challenging – there are so many people I want to raise a glass with, but space is limited and I want to relax and enjoy the event rather than feel pressured to entertain. I ultimately decided to not give in to the reflex of obligatory invitations and instead only invited people who bring joy. I’m lucky enough to have many such friends in my life. Speaking of bringing, I didn’t specify “no gifts,” as I’ve seen on some recent invites I’ve received. I like presents, but hope no one feels that gifts are necessary.
Speaking of presents, I bought something for myself. I’ve had an idea for a piece of jewelry for many years but hadn’t been able to squirrel away the funds to bring my vision to fruition. Not going away for our usual two weeks this summer, resulted in a surplus in summer funds and thanks to Elissa Halloran (for the referral) and Siobhan Byron (for the artistic skill), I now have a fantastic piece of jewelry created from a few pieces which had been occupying space in my dresser rather than on my body. Behold my new necklace forged from a single diamond stud (remember, I lost the other one? Twice.), a pendant that had once hung from a gold herringbone necklace and a pair of vintage earrings. Isn’t it stunning?! Go see Siobhan at Nahbois in Troy and get yourself something. You deserve it.
Unlike the remarkable beauty of a special piece of jewelry, sometimes stunning has negative connotations. It seems that our world is filled with surprising and devastating tragedies, such as the recent earthquake in Italy. While I had originally intended to feature three of my personal favorite not for profit organizations as potential recipients for September’s Cocktail of the Month at Lark + Lily, I’ve decided instead to focus exclusively on Amatrice. We’ll be offering a classic negroni cocktail, as well as an Amatriciana pasta special, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for earthquake relief. I’ll continue my birthday celebration through October when we’ll return to our usual format of three organizations from which to choose. We all do what we can and I hope you’re able to help support causes which are meaningful to you. Stop in and help us to help those in need.
Prior to our trip to Italy, I organized a special meal for Tom’s (never-ending)birthday celebration. While we had originally hoped to have someone come to our villa to cook, it made more sense for us to travel a bit down the mountain to our chef’s villa so she would have all of her utensils and cookware available. Although Tom’s actual birthday was Monday, I decided that Sunday made more sense as most businesses are closed Sundays and we would looking forward to having a very mellow day after our previous day’s travel exertions.
Our hosts, Lisa and Roberto were lovely. Our party of 8 arrived around 7 pm and were warmly greeted by a trio of Labrador retrievers and some pretty nice humans, too. Our alfresco table was charmingly set, complete with Ikea flatware, and we (adults) settled in to partake of the traditional Tuscan meal being laid before us. The meats and produce were all local, some actually were specifically from (grown and/ or raised )in the gardens and fields surrounding the property. The wines, both bianco and rosso were from the nearby village of Montecarlo where they apparently are cooperatively produced and bottled/bagged.
There has been some recent “discussion” on a couple
of local blogs
regarding the value of promoting restaurant ingredients as being local. Well, at this place I suspect that every
item being served came from within a 25 km radius of the villa. The menu included prosciutto, a fantastic lasagna of the lightest pasta with both a bechamel and a meat sauce, a wonderful panzanella salad and sliced beef. I’d give you more details, but, unfortunately my jet-lagged brain failed us both. We finished with tiramisu and the tastiest limoncello I’ve ever had. I mean, it was so delicious that we asked for the remainder of the bottle to take home. And then bought 2 more bottles (for $6 each!) to bring home in our luggage.
On our final evening in Tuscany we wanted to again enjoy a locally produced meal together. Our villa had come with a binder filled with suggestions and one place in particular caught my eye – Agriturismo-Montaione. This remote restaurant was described as serving organic, traditional cuisine and we thought it would be the perfect ending to an idyllic week. We spent the afternoon that last day tooling around, checking out neighboring villages, and took the opportunity to scout out the location for our evening’s repast. Good thing! This place was seriously in the middle of no where. Driving there was an adventure as the round had a couple of switchbacks which required three-point turns to maneuver – fun!
Our reservation was for 8 p.m. and we arrived hungry. The meal began with both vino bianco and vino rosso, and antipasti, which consisted of pickled vegetables and beautiful prosciutto and hard salami. A pasta course of both tagliatelle with wild mushroom sauce and ravioli filled with ricotta and basil served with a rich meat sauce, followed the antipasti. Our middle child, who “doesn’t like mushrooms” (as if one had ever crossed his lips before!) went crazy for the tagliatelle and had 2 servings. Good thing we cut him off at that point because the meat course(s) which came next were outstanding – to begin: beef sliced super thin and served rare au jus. Ahhh – delissimo! At this point, both of the older boys were in heaven after many pizza filled days, and their lips were shiny with grease. They were definitely major participants in the decimation of two platters of that beef. The beef was followed by a platter laden with roasted chicken, pork ribs and fantastic fried potatoes. This was the point in the meal when everyone loosened their belts to better enjoy the abundant feast which had been placed in front of us. Thinking this was the end of a phenomenal meal, we ate with abandon only to be surprised by yet another meat course – an incredible chinghiale (wild boar) stewed to tenderness. Wow!
Accompanying all this meat were bowls of white beans cooked al dente and flavored with olive oil and salt – simple and delicious. We threw in the napkin at that point unable to consume another bite but somehow managed to indulge in some light yellow cake, biscotti. and a slice of mild goat’s milk cheese cut from a 10″ wheel. I expected the cheese would have a funk to it, but it was absolutely delicious. We followed local custom and dipped the biscotti cookies in vin santo to soften them and thus, we concluded an incredibly memorable meal. Our drive home through the woods and valleys gave us time to digest and make some room for that bottle of chilled limoncello that waited for us at the villa. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave Italy, but meals like these will stay with each of us for a long time to come. Probably on our waists.
When I originally made our travel reservations, I purposefully, mentally minimized the amount of exertion involved with transporting 4 suitcases, 3 children, and 2 adults thousands of miles, via three flights and four airports. Sort of like getting pregnant without really thinking too much about actually birthing that baby. Good thing. I have to confess, the trip to Italy was completely draining – the drive to JFK in traffic on the last day of school, the flight to Geneva in an Ambien-addled blur, the trek from Heathrow to Gatwick in a hired car whose driver, while pleasant, had a decided aversion to a/c and then the ridiculous clusterf*ck that was (not)EasyJet. By the time we hit Pisa airport the sun was setting in a glorious burst of color and we had been traveling for more than 24 hours. And, here’s where the real fun began…
In an attempt to freshen up, I brushed my teeth (finally) and we loaded up our rental car and started towards the villa. Now – have you ever driven in Italy? I’d have to say it is on par with driving in Ireland – the side of the road is certainly more familiar, however, the roadsigns are a bit lacking and, I did mention it was getting dark, right? Somehow we missed the sign for the highway and found ourselves stuck on some smaller roads, generally heading in the right direction but certainly not directly. After about an hour of fumbling around, we found ourselves on the correct road, traveling in the correct direction and our confidence grew – we were going to make it. This point, in retrospect, was reminiscent of the moment before transition in active labor. We were feeling pretty good, (other than my screaming migraine), we knew where we were going and thought we knew how long it was going to take. And thanks to all things being measured in kilometers, the distance was ticking off quite rapidly.
The roads became increasingly more winding, I’m talking second gear winding. But, it was okay because we were actually on the map and practically tasting that first refreshing glass of vino bianco. We continued. After about 15 more kilometers we arrived at the described location to meet the owner but…we weren’t meeting the owner since our friends had already arrived earlier in the evening which meant we were done. No further directions were available, nor was cell phone service. Yikes – now what?
We started driving up random driveways looking for our friends. We stopped this exploring after I was nearly brought to tears when our car would not go up a stone driveway because the incline was so steep that the car could not make it. And then we almost couldn’t turn the car around in the infinitesimally small area available. This may have been the low point. You know, when a laboring woman just can’t possibly push anymore. I’m getting palpitations just remembering… Finally, we stumbled upon a social hall, a place we came to learn is open exclusively on Saturday nights where the residents of Lanciole prepare and eat food together. They follow the feasting with traditional music and dancing, and these weekly events seeming go far into the night. Lucky for us since it now approaching 11 p.m. We asked for directions with gestures and a document showing the villa’s address and were directed to continue up the road even further. Which we did, until we got to the point where the road forked and we again found ourselves lost. We headed back down towards the village. Our next move revealed the degree of frustration and panic which we found ourselves completely enveloped with – we knocked on a door. And the lovely people who answered the door spoke English!! Despite their being visitors to the area rather than locals, they were quite helpful and together we went to the social hall and miraculously enough, we met the caretaker of our villa, who hopped in her car, and led us up the road and through the woods to our home for the week.
We were greeted with tremendous relief by our friends (who had been nearly as frantic as we were), I popped a couple of Excedrin Migraine tablets and tucked in to some pizza and vino, before tumbling into our canopied bed. We woke the next morning after 11 a.m. and, just like the memory’s failure to recall the physical challenges (great euphemism, huh?) of childbirth, the efforts expelled to arrive at this magical place were already fading.
Nighttime view from our terrace of a neighboring village
Filed under Italy, travel
I don’t know what your vacation style is. Do you make plans to visit every historic site, museum and attraction within a 100 km radius or are you more inclined spend your time lounging by the pool? For me, the perfect vacation is a mellow blend of a couple of must-see tourist attractions, lazy mornings with a second cup of coffee, good food, and lots of walking to absorb the culture. Based on this criteria, I offer for your perusal our Tuscan itinerary:
- Sunday, Day 1 – Hanging out at the pool doing some hardcore relaxing. In the evening we have plans to visit a nearby villa where a traditional Tuscan meal will be prepared for us in honor of Tom’s birthday.
- Monday, Day 2 – No plans, but leaning towards a day trip to the Cinque Terre. Perhaps a winery or 2. Tom’s “real” birthday so I imagine copious amounts of wine in the evening.
- Tuesday, Day 3 – I bought tickets to visit (and climb) the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the late morning. (I factored in the previous evening’s copious amounts of wine. I love the word copious!) I’ve heard that Pisa is kind of a one-trick pony sort of town, so we’ll head to Lucca for the remainder of the day.
- Wednesday, Day 4 – Florence. We have tickets to view Michelangelo’s David and I am excited to see the Ponte Vecchio where I fully intend to buy something.
- Thursday, Day 5 – Wine Day!!! We’re still working on hiring a driver to take us to some vineyards where we have appointments scheduled. As a last resort, I will be the designated driver. No biggie – there will be plenty of wine brought back to the villa, I suspect.
- Friday, Day 6 – No plans
- Saturday – We depart in the villa in the a.m. and then have the day to enjoy. We fly to London in the evening.
So – what have I missed? And, do you know any drivers in Tuscany?
Filed under Italy, travel
Six summers ago our family took a trip to Washington and Oregon. While there, we spent a few days with some old friends in a cabin on Mt. Rainier – I think there were 3 other couples. We talked about the future and the milestone half-century mark to be celebrated by a couple of the guys in 2010. I promised Tom that we would spend his 50th birthday in Italy, Tuscany specifically. I was pregnant with Q, so I can’t even blame it on alcohol – I made the vow and there was no going back.
Last year I began, in my typical advance planning fashion, to try to organize the long promised trip. I touched base with the individuals remaining from the disintegrated couples, and everyone was verbally on board with the trip. I found an awesome villa,
at a terrific price, in a location which I thought would suit all involved and sent some more emails out to the crew. That’s when things started to go wrong.
Have you ever planned a group trip? This was my first, as well as last, attempt at putting together a trip for anyone other than my immediate family. The first problem was the date – it didn’t work for one couple due to their own responsibilities. Understood and accepted, however, since the trip was in honor of Tom’s birthday, there really wasn’t much I could do (without a time machine and the ability to go back to 1959 when he was conceived) to alter the date. Sorry. The next issue was that the space wasn’t large enough to accommodate everyone. Ok, how about if the folks who need more room than is available, locate a nearby place? Wouldn’t that be easy enough? But, no, the demise of the original crew had begun and there was no stopping the death spiral as it headed towards Earth. What a buzz kill.
Despite all the nonsense – the lack of commitment, the sometimes hurt feelings, the disappointment, the realizations about who you can truly count on, this trip is finally happening. Next week we fly to Tuscany to stay in that lovely villa with three friends and three Lilly boys, of course. And we are going to have a fantastic time. More details to follow.