Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eliza and Me

The June 19th deadline for our next Botswana collection is fast-approaching. Too fast. Where did May go? Anyway, I made this blue pullover:


And Eliza made two baby blankets like this one:


AND she made another baby blanket:


AND she made three scarves:


Rock on, Eliza! Just a reminder that gifts for the Botswana project are due to me on June 19th. We've been asked especially for sweaters and scarves. Email me if you need more info.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rocca, Bagno Vignoni, and San Quirico

Hi Knittah.

From Rocca, we hiked over to Bagno Vignoni and on to San Quirico. Bagno Vignoni is a spa town with thermal waters considered very beneficial for bone ailments. There are now, still, 2 big hotels that attract people, and certainly on Easter weekend the town was crazy busy with Italians on a day trip. Here's the view from Rocca towards Bagno:


En route, we encountered a Tuscan Serpent!


OK, perhaps not on a par with the Hungarian Horntail or whatever, but still, it was about 2.5 feet and really active and threatening spread out like that across the tail...well, actually, no, it was completely still soaking up the sunshine.


We came to the river Orcia and had to make the crossing. The nazis bombed out the bridge during the retreat...


and it's never been properly replaced...the wooden suspension bridge only lasted a few years before that plan fell apart, as it were.


So we had to walk across the spillway (which you can see in the lower lefthand corner of the above photo). Which means stripping off boots etc. The water came up to Eliza's ankles, about the limit, according to the hike instructions. Of course, the instructions also said that the moss isn't slippery. Yeah, maybe not, if you're wearing crampons. As it was, Eliza almost lost it--And ME--on the second step. From then on, she took baby steps across.

Approaching Bagno Vignoni, we saw a family BBQ'ing. Note the easter egg center piece on the picnic table:


The water and geology felt a little reminiscent of yellowstone:



At some point, the Italians built a grain mill within the hill you saw above, taking advantage of the steam from the water to power things.


Eliza needed to phone her life line, the local contact Paolo, from Bagno to figure out how to get out of town, because the directions, "...follow along the street into the village. After you've finished moseying about...go to the loggia at the end of the pool. Facing the pool, turn left and then right..." etc. made no sense to her. How embarrassing to get lost in a small town.

From there, we walked on towards San Quirico. In San Quirico, the town's gentlemen presided:


Monday, May 11, 2009

Swatchy C a fiori

Hi Knittah.

During grad school, Eliza had an Italian roommate, Emanuela. Ema's mother doesn't speak English. Eliza doesn't speak Italian. Anyway, finally, when Ema's mom visited for graduation, it dawned on them to converse in Spanish, and it would have really simplified things if they'd thought of that sooner. But until that point, it was challenging. Ema's mom would call and Eliza wouldn't know how to explain that Ema was out. Ema finally coached Eliza on how to explain to her mom that she was out. Eliza, however, heard it as "Ema a fiori" which made Ema laugh hysterically because that means "Ema's in the flowers." What Eliza was supposed to understand was "Ema a fuori" meaning Ema's out and about.

Anyway, so my point with this little preview is that Eliza has a...mischievous streak and she delighted in putting ME, Swatchy C, "a fiori":


But finally, Tuscan poppies. And are those wild delphiniums?!!

This post has some random snaps from the hiking. This is a lovely home near Rocca, and don't you just want to hang out on that patio?


Believe it or not, Italy has boxed wine. Which Barbara, Bill, and Eliza decided was a good idea for hiking. Here I am enjoying a much-deserved break on the trail, pizza bianco (basically a plain thick-ish crust) with some prosciutto:


There were tons of lizards all over the place but they mostly moved like lightning so you could never get a good look at one. But here we got lucky:


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Rocca d'Orcia

Hi Knittah!

We spent 2 nights in Rocca, the first after the walk from Castelnuovo dell'Abate and the second after a walk from Rocca to San Quirico (from which we got a ride back to town by the local contact, Paolo).

The walk from Montalcino to Rocca was beautiful. We kept seeing the Castello di Ripa d'Orcia, of the Piccolomini family (of Pope Pius II and other infamous personages), from different angles:


Here Barbara and Bill enter Rocca:


Rocca is considered a great example of a medieval borgo (hamlet). The fortress on the top of the hill was built about a millenium ago. The old town piazza, around the well, dates from the 12th century:


Our hotel, San Simeone, was just below the fortress.



Elements of the hotel were built right into the hillside. Here's Eliza's bathroom:


We ate both nights at the town's only restaurant, Il Borgo (the hamlet), a lovely restaurant whose proprietess, Marta, spoke English and French fluently, in addition to Italian. (Apologies for the fuzzy photo--Eliza had the camera settings all wrong.) Marta was a lovely hostess and was incredibly patient in explaining the menu:


Here you can see the view across the rooftops of Rocca, towards Bagno Vignoni and San Quirico, the hike for the 2nd day:


Friday, May 08, 2009

Making a Difference


I thought you would enjoy seeing pictures of one of the families you have helped with your donations to the Botswana project. Look at the smiles on these beautiful faces:

botswana2.jpg botswana3.jpg botswana4.jpg botswana5.jpg botswana6.jpg

You put those smiles there! Your generous gifts of time and knitting have made a positive difference in the lives of this family. Thank you. Thank you.

Our next collection deadline is June 19th. I hope you'll join me, again.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Montalcino to Castelnuovo dell'Abate

Hi Knittah.

We stayed 2 nights in Montalcino. On the 2nd day, Good Friday day [I know, I posted the evening scene on the last post...sorry, bad planning], we hiked from Montalcino to Castelnuovo dell'Abate. This hike included instructions like:

"You arrive at a driveway lined with cypresses (the tall skinny trees). Just past the second cypress on the left..."


"Stay with the main road where it turns left at the farmhouse on your right. There is usually a chained barking dog here."

The countryside is practically littered with agriturismos--farms of various types that offer a twist on the bed-and-breakfast model. Here's an intersection outside of Montalcino with signs to all the local attractions and agriturismos. [The recycling bins are positioned there so that the residents in the area can deposit their recyclables there--no curbside collection.]


Just outside of Montalcino are the ruins of an Etruscan settlement:


(Yeah, I'm not sure what all it says, but basically there was like a fortress part of the settlement for defensive purposes. And the image that came to mind was of Legolas and Gimli...)


Probably about a mile and a half before reaching Castelnuovo, up in the hills, Eliza and I came upon a large group of what appeared to be an Italian version of boy/girl scouts (there were both), in uniform, aged in the mid-teens maybe (Eliza can't tell any more), sitting in a circle on a hilltop around a crucifix and a priest (monk? Eliza can't tell that either) wearing full length white robes. Eliza didn't take photos, obviously. Anyway, proceeding on past the group and down the other side of the hill, we saw yet another group sitting in the shade off the trail, holding a service of sorts. And they were being passed by yet another group coming up the trail. This group was curious: there was a strict looking teacher in front, with a boy in civilian clothing, a girl in civilian clothing with a head scarf over her head (sort of like a hijab), and another girl wearing a super tight white t-shirt and a little black mini skirt. A boy right behind them bore a crucifix. They were followed by maybe 50 more scouts in uniform. Eliza was puzzled by the civilian clothing, especially the seemingly inappropriate mini skirt. And then she realized: the 3 in front were Mary, Joseph, and Mary Magdalene (the mini skirt).

Anyway, it turns out that there's a big Catholic student/scout center just outside of Castelnuovo because of the abbey there. But it was quite a display--all those students schlepping crucifixes up a rugged farm track up steep hills for Good Friday services of sorts.

The Abbey of Sant Antimo apparently was initiated under Charlemagne in the 9th century. The abbey became really powerful over the next couple of centuries until Pope Pius II "reorganized." The abbey was unoccupied for over 500 years until it was re-populated in 1993 with a small community of French Cistercian monks.


In Castelnuovo, I spied a monk loose from the Abbey. Is that allowed?!


And then back in Montalcino, for dinner...Eliza ordered pasta. There's a hand-rolled pasta from that area called "pici." Because it's hand-rolled, it's thick-thin (Knittah perhaps would compare it to a hand-spun) and in this case it was prepared very simply with tomatoes, garlic, and a bit of basil. Eliza says that it was heavenly. And is it not beautiful?!


Monday, May 04, 2009


Hi Knittah.

Arriving from Buonconvento, we spent two nights in Montalcino, due to logistical challenges with the Easter weekend--we took the next leg of the trip as a day-hike and caught the bus back.

Montalcino is a lovely hilltop town that seems to thrive on the regional agriculture and tourism. There are lots of wine shops and wine bars where you can sample brunellos and the local cuisine. Eliza tried a flight of brunellos (2004, 2003, and a 1999):


Eliza couldn't resist trying the spaghetti there on the menu. First the waitress brought out the crostini in the previous photo. Then she created the pasta dish by presenting a plate of plain noodles, then in front of me drizzling the oil over it, then grating fresh parmesano, then grinding fresh pepper. It was absolutely the kind of thing Loretta would fix herself while preparing a bloody steak for Ronny.


The town's bookstore had the following offerings:


(Patricia Cornwall...Marley and Me...Letters to Obama from Children...felt like home...)

We were there on Good Friday. The town holds a procession from one church to another, winding through the streets and stopping at each major "intersection" for what Eliza interpreted to be one stage in a mass (there was a combined Catholicism/Italian barrier to overcome). The procession included life-size crucifixes and a large bier borne by citizens of the town. So many townspeople Much of the town followed in two columns behind the priest and the band. The band was made up of brass and drums and played a dirge of sorts. Eliza didn't take photos of the procession, but she did capture the lights beforehand:


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Gardens with the Girls

Hi Knittah.

This is a Very Belated post, as Eliza finally discovered photos on her camera from last summer. We had gone on an outing with friends to see an orchid exhibit, butterflies, and gardens.

Caroline's got style:



The girls were delightful as always. I was jealous of Grace's t-shirt. Oh, to have a Marauder's Map...


And then we explored the gardens: