Ilivetolearn's Blog

April 28, 2009

casa della lana e del cotone/house of wool and cotton

Filed under: on the road,sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 8:40 pm

Most people go to Ravenna to see the incredible mosaics from the 5th and 6th centuries and the eight–count ’em, 8–UNESCO World Heritage Sites there. Of course, I did all that. I love mosaics and visited all but the one site that was closed for renovation, taking lots of pictures that do not do justice to the complexity and vibrancy of the subjects. Here is one anyway:


But perhaps my favorite moment in Ravenna came when, having just wandered out of the Neonian Baptistery, where the ceiling mosaic shows an anatomically correct Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River–

img_1171I crossed into Piazza del Duomo, a lovely tree-filled square with the portico of the cathedral on the left:

img_1195and directly to my right was–wonder of wonders–

img_1195_2the only yarn store in Ravenna. Of course it was closed. (It was the day after Easter and a holiday for many businesses.) But I went back the next morning, carrying my felted bag (see post of March 13) which never fails to start conversations in yarn stores in the states. Not in Italy. The two employees studiously ignored me after briefly asking if I needed help. One was on the phone with her mother, describing at great length her Paschal feast of lamb, exactly how she cooked it, how delicious it was, how much she ate, etc. The other was surreptitiously watching me–although the store’s layout was the US style with accessible inventory, not the European style with everything in cubbies behind the counter, there was definitely a feeling of “Are you here to buy or just to paw all the merchandise?”

I found some self-striping sock yarn made by Grignasco in Italy, but since no one knits socks here, it is labeled not “footsie” or “trekk” or “soxx” or “sockittome” or any of the cutesy names you find in US stores: it is “Strong Print.” I guess I’ll knit a strong.

In my ten days in Italy, I only saw one person knitting. She was an immigrant selling cheap imported clothing at  a street stall in Parma. And I only got one comment about my knitting; a fellow train passenger asked what I was making, and after Elliot and I managed to communicate “socks,” she turned to her friend and in condescending Italian said, “Well, I suppose it’s a way to pass the time.”

casa degli uccelli/birdhouse

Filed under: on the road,upcycling/recycling — ilivetolearn @ 5:04 pm

One of the amazing things I saw in the botanical garden in Bologna (while I was not tramping upon the grass; see last post) was this birdhouse:


It’s about 20″ long and about 20′ off the ground. Who lives in a house like this?


Bill’s been building birdhouses from found lumber and had a booth at the greenmarket devoted to this. He sent many kids home with birdhouses to put up.

And then, with Margo’s help, he mounted three at our house before he left for his California trip.


And we already have a tenant!img_1237

It’s a house wren. Think how many of them could fit into that longhouse in Bologna.

April 27, 2009

italian verbosity

Filed under: on the road — ilivetolearn @ 1:45 pm

Once again in Europe I was struck by how economical English is. At museums, on food wrappers–wherever information and/or instructions were given in multiple languages–English was more succinct than Italian, French, German, Spanish…

At Bologna’s botanical garden, I was greeted by this sign:

img_1065I guessed what it meant but I had to photograph it (I loved that SDR combo) so I could figure out the literal translation at home. Here’s my stab at it:

“The visitors are reminded that it is forbidden to lie down on the lawn or to trample on the high grass.”

Somehow I think in this country the sign would have read  “Keep off grass.”

On the other hand, when Italians must limit themselves to few words, they can. Italian cell phones, like many here, come pre-programmed with common text messages you might send. “I’ve arrived,” “My train is delayed,” “What time are we meeting?” –that sort of thing. Elliot’s friend Madeline reported that one of the top four or five ready-made messages on her phone was: “Ti amarò per sempre.” I will love you forever. How Italian.

April 26, 2009

new spin on mystery destination game

Filed under: mystery destinations,on the road — ilivetolearn @ 10:08 pm

According to the New York Times, all those long-married couples having “date night” on a regular basis are doing it wrong. They should not just make time for the run-of-the-mill dinner and movie date…they should do something NEW together. In other words, play the Mystery Destination game:

Our last episode, about a month ago, was Bill’s choice. As we drove an hour north we passed road signs pointing to some of the possibilities (yes, the Mozzarella Museum… please, no, the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History) but we ended up at the Morris Museum, a little gem of a country-estate-turned-art-museum (see last entry). We saw some fabulous if tiny Rembrandt etchings.

This outing was part of the impetus for me to drag Elliot to the Fondazione Magnani Rocca, where there was an exhibit of…different Rembrandt etchings. They were exquisite. But as we walked in, Elliot recalled that he had seen the very same exhibit (with Bill) in Paris in December 2006. We ended up enjoying the grounds, with very tame peacocks, as much as the interior.



local knowledge

Filed under: on the road — ilivetolearn @ 9:35 pm

It is a family joke that no matter where I go people stop me on the street to ask for directions. I must look either very wise or very approachable. Early on in my trip to Italy I practiced saying “Non parlo Italiano” to drivers who rolled down their car windows as they idled at red lights, walkers who wanted to know if we were on the Via Marconi…but as the ten days progressed and my vestigial Italian wormed its way back to the front of whatever is the foreign language center in the brain, I began to understand the questions (“C’e un Bancomat vicino a qui?” = “Is there an ATM nearby?”) and I would actually try to answer. I misdirected people right and left.

Lost Italians would rather ask a passer-by than look at street signs or maps or posted bus schedules. I speculated that this showed social proclivities; as in Spain, any excuse to start a conversation! But Elliot pointed out that the official information was often wrong. We took an overnight trip to Parma, and having read about the Fondazione Magnani Rocca, a country-estate-turned-art-museum akin to the Barnes Foundation–only a half-hour bus ride away–we struck out for the bus station. Both the Foundation’s glossy brochure and the bus company’s website touted four additional daily buses to the Foundation, and the hotel clerk and the tourist information people confirmed that there was a bus at 10 AM. We waited and waited. At 10:40 we called the bus company (no answer) and then the Foundation. “Oh…the bus is at 11.”

Of course, while we sat waiting, not knowing enough Italian to ask the locals why the Mamiano bus hadn’t come, approximately 37 people asked ME for directions.

My favorite street sign in Bologna:


No-Name Street

April 17, 2009

trying to convert people to my latest idiosyncratic hobby

Filed under: fused plastic,sewing/knitting,upcycling/recycling — ilivetolearn @ 1:17 pm

I’m getting ready to spend the day at the Hopewell Valley Greenmarket tomorrow, demonstrating how to fuse plastic and make bags. So I wrote up the process with pictures and made it a “page.” Scroll down the right-hand side to find it, under the calendar, the archives, the category cloud, the blogroll, pretty much at the bottom of that column. Have fun.

April 6, 2009

more Crossword/Jeopardy congruence

Filed under: crossword puzzles,on the road — ilivetolearn @ 3:36 pm

One of my last official acts on US soil last Thursday (the 2nd) before flying to Europe was doing that day’s Times puzzle, which I found perfect for pre-boarding boredom: absorbing, challenging but not frustrating, full of clues that made me rack my brains and answers that made me smile. Little did I know that if I had watched Jeopardy the night before, instead of going to the meeting I was unfortunately in charge of, I would have been told the theme (words, names, or phrases that begin with G and end with X) and a good number of the themed answers. My favorite was “gag reflex,” which was clued as “palate-raising response.” But then the puzzle would have killed far fewer of those airport minutes that seem to stretch for hours.
Now I am having severe puzzle withdrawal symptoms, but only palate-pleasing responses.

April 5, 2009

Crossword/Jeopardy congruence

Filed under: crossword puzzles,on the road — ilivetolearn @ 11:49 am

Right before the end of March, Margo and I were watching Jeopardy; when they announced that the final category was 19th Century Construction I said, “I bet the answer is the Eiffel Tower.” (Just as when the category is People in the Bible you know one of the answers will be Bathsheba.) And I was right, though I wouldn’t have known the answer from the clue, which had to do with Eiffel’s originally planned location: Barcelona. Then several days later,  the Sunday Times crossword puzzle had the Eiffel Tower as its theme, complete with nine squares where the letters ET had to be squeezed in…and in connect-the-dots fashion, those nine made a little sketch of the thing itself. Was this just coincidence? I wondered as I went straight to Wiki. No, in fact, we Jeopardy/Times crossword fans were unknowingly celebrating the anniversary of the tower’s completion:  March 31, 1889.

I would have liked to catch a glimpse of the tower on my layover in Paris a couple of days ago (en route to Bologna) but it was too cloudy. I am spending almost two weeks with Elliot, and have left strict instructions with Margo to cut out and save all the Times puzzles while I am gone.

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