Saturday, January 31, 2009

Buon Compleanno

Happy 10th Birthday, Seth! Or in Italian, 'Buon Compleanno!' You're in the double digits--no going back now. Wish we could be there, but we know you're having a good time without us. Love ya! John and Lindsey

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bardonecchia, Day 3

Okay, those of you who are checking the blog regularly, you can breathe a sigh of relief: we've made it to Day 3 of Bardonecchia. On the third day, we went ice skating in the morning and then had lunch at Melezet, which is a quaint skiing center just outside of Bardonecchia. The first picture is actually from the second day, but captures the some of the spirit at the ski resorts. Apparently, winter sun-bathing is a popular sport. They had stacks of sun-bathing chairs for tired athletes to kick back, relax, and take in the sun. The next picture is of Melezet itself, nestled in the Susa Valley, and then a picture of the snow-boarding half-pipe in the snow. We never saw the half-pipe in action, but if you zoom in on the left side of the billboard, you can see who won the medals in the 2006 Olympics.







Here's us on our cute little ice-skating rink. We were the only ones on it for most of the morning!







And finally, to wrap things up, here's me illustrating my stunning sense of balance.

video

So you've probably seen all you ever thought you'd see of Bardonecchia, but since we like the town so much, we might go back in the summer. If we do, rest assured that you'll be seeing more exciting pictures!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bardonecchia, Day 2

On Day 2 of our Bardonecchia adventures, we actually took private ski lessons! (Lessons were a necessity, since neither of us had ever in our lives been in the physical presence of snow-skis, let alone actually put them on). Our instructor was an English-speaking Italian named Fulvio and he was very patient as we slipped, stumbled, and rolled our way down the baby hill.




Here are our ski-boots. As you can see (Steph and others will already know this), there's absolutely no room for ankle movement. It's like having your feet encased in cement, or a robotic boot. Nevertheless, we felt cool clumping around.

Here's another picture of Campo Smith, with the Baby Hill in the foreground. Can you find me inching my way down the hill?
Here's John using the Baby Hill 2 Ski Lift. For being on the 'baby' hill, it required some coordination to use, because you have to grab a rope with a plastic disk on the end as it goes by, tuck it between your legs, and let it pull you up the slope. Then as you go, you have to make sure you DON'T sit down (or else you'll fall down because it's not meant for sitting, only pulling) and also keep your skis from getting tangled up. The kid behind John is a snowboarder and they had to do everything sideways!

And here's John coming down the hill. He's hard to see at first, but worth the wait.
video

After we turned in our skis, we decided to go on the big lift just for kicks. Here's a short clip. If we sound overly excited, it was because the lift was very high up and we were finally getting to sit down for the first time after turning in our ski equipment.

video

The view behind us as we went up the lift. . .


. . .and at the top! All around us there were skiers, but there was one spot that was fairly open with, of course, an amazing view of the mountains.

Finally, here's a shot of the Olympic Village in Bardonecchia. It was impressive because it was the Olympic Village, but otherwise it was a pretty straightforward building. Although we didn't stay there, it's possible to rent a room and pretend like you're an Olympic athlete.


Drum roll for Day 3. . .

Bardonecchia, Day 1

Hello everybody! We've returned from Bardonecchia and although we're very sore and tired, we had a fantastic time. Each day was so full of activities that we've decided to split up the blog entries into Day 1, 2, and 3. So here's Day 1, on which we arrived and went snow-shoeing!

This is the view from our hotel window. We stayed at a very small hotel--more of a bed and breakfast--which had a Snow White theme. Each of the rooms was labeled one of the Seven Dwarves (complete with matching key chain and statuette in front of the door). We were Sleepy and you can see how cozy the room was in the second picture. And after the first day of running around, 'Sleepy' was more than appropriate. Note also the hand-carved woodwork on the wardrobe--it definitely had an Alpine, dwarvish feel!




We took a free shuttle to Campo Smith, a ski/snow-sport center where we would be renting our snowshoes. Along the way, we ran into an old friend with a surprising new look. I bet you Santa Barbarians out there have never seen her quite like this!
So here we are trying out our snowshoes (behind me is Campo Smith). John has read that snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing winter sports and we can understand why. They're very simple to operate, good excerise, and can get you off the beaten track. The last picture in this group is just one of the impressive views we saw while we were on the way to our hike.






Here is a video of John demonstrating snowshoeing, followed by snapshots of us far away from civilization (not too far, for the moms in the audience), visiting a cross-country ski trail and some old ruins.
video






After a long day, we had dinner at our favorite place in Bardonecchia: 'La Ciau'. We don't know what it means in Italian (maybe it's Piedmontese), but we think it's pronounced just like 'Ciao.' There are usually only a few people there, the food is brilliant, and the service is very friendly. I had a pizza with sausage, onions, and red peppers, and John (brave soul) had ravioli with a cream and walnut sauce! Although I didn't believe him, he said he really enjoyed it.




Finally, we took a walk around town and discovered just how hard the Italians cling to their nativities. Even though it's almost February, we came across this spectacular nativity, displayed on a streetcorner. It's set over an old fountain, so there's actually a little river running through the scene.


Stay tuned for Day 2. . .

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Birthday Pictures

As anybody who read the last post knows, Friday was John's 30th birthday. We celebrated by drinking a bicerin (pronounced 'bee-chereen'), which is a Torino specialty: hot coffee mixed with chocolate with a cool foam on top. It was very good--even for non-coffee lovers like us--and we had it in purportedly the best place to go for bicerini in Torino, a 17th century pub/candy shop sort of place. Alas, we forgot our camera! Fortunately, we remembered to bring it to another notable venue, a picture of which you'll see below. Friday night we went out to a nice pizza place where John had a sausage pizza and I had a sausage pizza with potatoes on it! It was a beautiful blending of worlds. Then that night, we watched Hudson Hawk, which is a very, very strange movie that John really enjoys and I sort of tolerate. But anyway, on to the pictures!

Birthday presents from Dyfan, Caroline, and family: Walkers Shortbread and Italian Chocolate. Fantastico! Plus a homemade card which, if you zoom in, will have an eerily familiar picture.



1930s-ish reprint of a photo of Piazza San Carlo. We walk through this piazza on the way to church.


Blowing out the Birthday Torta! The little white blob is a tealight, which is the closest thing I could find to a birthday candle.



Saturday we took a trip to the venue of which I spoke earlier. Note the charm and familiarity of the drive-through: a little slice of home, complete with minivan.


Every Sunday at church they ask for brave souls who have just had a birthday to come forward. Then Ben (the man in the middle) and the congregation sing Happy Birthday to them and finish with three rousing "Hip, Hip, Hoorahs!" Today was John's turn and he shared it with Andrea (which is a boy's name over here). It was a memorable time.
Next stop, Bardonecchia!





Friday, January 16, 2009

John's Birthday!!

Well, he's up and done it: John's turned 30. Congratulations, baby!
Here he is with a few of his favorite things (not listed in order of priority):


Snow. . . . . . . Good Food


The Church (in the broad sense...not this particular one)

The Farm, Family, and Texas. . . . .Disney and me!

We miss all of you back home today, but maybe we'll make year 31 a blow-out celebration together!




Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow!

We were told this fall by informed citizens that Torino doesn't receive very much snow, that we'd be lucky to get a few centimeters. But little did those natives know that Torino would see the most snow it's had for twenty years. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

The street where we live. (Sort of. . .we live a few blocks up on another street). The waterway in the first two pictures is the River Dora.




Me showing off my snowboots. Thanks for the well-timed Christmas present, Mom and Dad!
Piazza San Carlo, looking very northern.

Poor lil' feller. Didn't even stand a chance.
As of this writing and because of the snow, the children of Torino have yet to return to school from Christmas break. If, twenty years from now, we discover a significant gap in the education of young adults living in northern Italy in early 2009, we'll have to blame it on the weather.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cartoons and Crepes

The Cartoons. . .

First, we would like to thank the artists among our family and friends (in this case, Audrey, Alex, MarySophia, and Naomi) for their contributions to our Italian decor. We have spent many fruitful minutes interpreting these fine drawings and look forward to spending many more. If these artists or any other children would like to contribute more artwork to be displayed in Italy and on this blog, we'll happily send them our address!



The Crepes. . .

This past weekend, we were invited by Dyfan, Caroline, and kids (plus Dyfan's parents!) to come share Sunday lunch with them. We accepted, not knowing that it was actually a plot to keep us hostage until we helped figure out their new Disney crepe maker. Here is the story of that difficult time.




The Equipment. The Mickey cut-out seems straightforward enough, but there's more.




The Process. Apparently, one is supposed to pick up the rounded, heated skillet and dip it for approximately eight seconds in the batter. Then, as John is illustrating, one is to let the crepe cook and flip it when appropriate.






Frustration. The process was not always easy and certain members of the committee got a little out of hand. Fortunately, no tongues were burned in the making of this picture.




The Audience. As with all good committees, there were several voices on hand to offer advice and, occasionally, applause (see Lloyd in the foreground).






The Product. Finally, after much trial and error, we were granted success! A Mickey Crepe was produced and John and I were allowed to go home. Although our suffering was great, we should note that the crepes were delicious, as was the lunch of roast lamb, potatoes, carrots, and the desert of sticky pudding.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years in Italy

For New Year's Eve, we were invited to the apartment of an Italian couple in our church. We were expecting a cheerful but quiet evening, but little did we know how crazy some Italians get when it comes to New Years! For example, it didn't take long for the Frank Sinatra songs to come out and for all the otherwise respectable adults to take part in the singing. The man in the white shirt in the video and the woman in red were our host and hostess, Roberto and Antoinetta. The fellow on the right in the dark shirt is Robert--an Englishman masquerading as an Italian for the past few decades.

video
As we've told a few of you already, our party literally turned explosive as we lit sparklers inside the apartment, set fireworks off from the balcony, and eventually went out into the street for the grand finale. The man in the first picture with the tan coat is our pastor (so all our activities were spiritually sanctioned) and the man in the second picture with the blue bag is our host--Frank Sinatra sound-alike turned nightime operations expert.

So Buon Anno everybody! May God bless you in the year of 2009!