Category Archives: Tuscany 2022

Tuscany – Day 15

The cloudy start. Photo by Nora.

A cool, breezy, cloudy start turns into a beautiful day. My new workout spot and water bottles do just fine. As I’m finishing up with stretches, BW comes out with his drone to take some aerial shots. Apparently, in one of them a very tiny me is doing a split-leg forward fold.

The villa from above. BW is at top of the stairs, guiding the drone. Nora’s near the bottom of the stairs in split forward fold.

Everyone’s up and about, the daily cleaning crew’s on the job. I place a few more puzzle pieces before heading up to change.

Jason, BW and Kayla are heading out maybe to see a nearby ghost town, and a dome of some sort. I’m going to work awhile, and Kat wants a day at home. When I join her, there’s a bit more puzzling and hanging out time with the best dil in the history thereof and my youngest grandkid.

Then the gang’s back with stories of skinny, bumpy roads, going off road, amazing views and vineyards. They skipped the ghost town this trip. Lots of lots of pictures to show off—and lunch happens. Kayla makes a very pretty cheese board—just the thing!

The gorgeous day. Photo by j a-b.
A dome. Photo by BW.
Snapping the vineyard views. Photo by j a-b.
Photo shoot. Photo by j a-b.
Change of photographer. Photo by j a-b.
Grapes on the vine. Photo by Kayla.
Kayla’s new charcuterie creation. Photo by Kayla.

More game playing, more puzzling. How about a Bellini—don’t mind if I do.

Maybe a little more work since the puzzle’s reached the point of the all white llama and it’s making my eyes cross.

Getting closer… Photo by Kayla.

When I start to shut down, the screen freezes. It won’t let me save the work, won’t let me back up the work, won’t even let me just exit. SHY-OAT! (Griffin’s work for SHIT!)

But who is right here but my personal IT whiz. And Jason saves the work, my nerves and the day. Whew.

Kat and Jason are taking dinner orders, going to the market, getting take-out. Since Griffin has no interest in going with them, he stays back with us. Kat is his person, so it’s a very good thing she can go off without him.

One view in Barberino. Photo by Kat.
Another view in Barberino. Photo by Kat.

At some point he surfaces from his video and asks: Where’s Mommy?

Kayla says: Oh, she’s at the store. She’ll be back.

He accepts, and also accepts her challenge to a race.

We have many races and chases and jumping and hiding. Kayla becomes his person, and when she says she’s going in for water—and because the bugs are devouring her—he just takes her hand and says: Go back.

This doesn’t mean, in Griffin-speak, go inside. It means go back to what we’re doing, sister. Which is racing.

I get water for both my grandbabies.

She does manage to sneak off after a bit, and I become his person. And that person’s grateful he’s tired of racing so we can play other games. Sit on the grass and pick clover, crumble dry leaves. I catch on to the new Breezeway Game where he stands on one side of the glass, positions me on the other, and we put our faces close, laugh and squeal, then switch places. And do it again. And again.

Jason and Kat are back with food. We’re trying a hot dog for Griffin who is very picky about hot dogs. The first hot dog he ever had happened to be organic, and he very much liked. Jason picked up Oscar Meyer thereafter, and the boy was like: What is this? Are you trying to poison me? I don’t believe this dog was organic—and had cheese inside.

He was just fine with it.

We’re all just fine with our choices, and finish up right before the glory of the sunset. The best one yet. A long slow drop of the sun behind the western hills, a long, long spread of rosy light along the horizon, and such a lovely glow in the sky.

Sunset, Jason edition.
Sunset, Nora edition.
Nora capturing the sunset. Photo by j a-b
Post sunset glow, BW edition.

Even after the sky goes dark, that thin line of rose holds and holds.

This morning I grab a sweater before I come down—good thing as it’s another cool start to the day. There’s a blue, cloudless sky, and hammering down where Chain Saw Man is doing whatever he’s doing. A dove calls, insistently.

I don’t know what plans—if any—there are for today. Well, I plan to do a little laundry after I work out. I need Kat—who’s already done some—to show me how to work the washing machine. Other than that, we’ll see what comes.

Nora


Today’s #randomkatness (or the many skills of #katgyver)

Kat’s whetstone. Photo by Nora.

Tuscany – Day 14

The clouds roll in, roll out, then in again while I work out. The temperature’s dropped easily twenty degrees. Those clouds thicken so the sky’s layered with gray clouds. The rain comes.

After my workout, I find most of the gang in the kitchen. Kayla reports seeing a tree fall, so now we know Chain Saw Man’s direction. He was busy yesterday, and I hear clunking down there this morning.

Cloudy expanse. Photo by BW.

There’s some MindCraft with Griffin and his iPad, then some Mario Cart in what we’ve sort of made the game room. Kayla lets Griffin design her race car, so she ends up with an egg cart with rainbow wheels. As Griffin says: It’s so cute! And she’s victorious!

I do a little puzzling as the rain comes and goes.

It’s time for Kayla to make her boyfriend’s family’s Italian Eggs. I elect myself official photographer as she follows the instructions from the video step-by-step. It’s a fun breakfast/brunch/lunch dish. She does a fine job, and shares with BW and Kat.

[Please note, here in the Command Center, I guessed at the captions/steps. Any errors are on me.]

First, the bread. Photo by Nora.
Sous chefs at the ready. Photo by Nora.
Eggs in pan. Photo by Nora.
Add the latte. Photo by Nora.
Soaking up the egs. Photo by Nora.
The delicate flip. Photo by Nora.
Finita! Photo by Nora.
Grandda and Kayla approved. Photo by Nora.

And all approve.

Kat adds a tomato and basil to hers when she comes in after finding a four-leaf clover. Wherever we go, if there’s grass, Kat will find four-leaf clovers.

Kat’s additions. Photo by Nora.

During afternoon puzzle time, Kayla makes a lovely charcuterie.  Also delish.

Kayla’s creation. Photo by Kayla.

There’s puzzling, reading, gaming, lazing through an off and on rainy day—and one where Kayla and I put on hoodies. It’s really cool, Laura, I swear! [Ed note: Laura has her doubts, but will put them aside for now.]

I give Kayla her choice of vegetarian rice dishes I figure I can make here. She stops me at number one. Spanish beans and rice. Okay then.

It’s kind of fun hunting through the spice cabinet to see if I can translate or recognize. Then a list of what else I could use, if available at the local market.

The pool area. Photo by BW.

And back to puzzling. We’re making progress on a puzzle that’s harder than it looked. A little pool time for Kat and Griffin. I’m delighted he’s really enjoying the pool.

Thank goodness, not a cupcake in sight. Photo by Kayla.

Sun’s out, time for the market. Back at the ranch, I gather and begin to prep. Which means opening a bottle of red—for the pot and the cook.

And going out and cutting some flowers for our table. Pretty!

From the garden. Photo by Nora.

Today I try a cleaver I find in the drawer. Surely this will be sharp. But no. Once again, Kat becomes KatGiver and hunts up a sharpening stone from the wild. She will take care of this issue.

Jason serves as sous chef when needed—BW makes a pot of plain rice (here Kat is unschooled as she grew up with rice cookers, and was sincerely shocked years ago when she learned I didn’t have one.) The plain rice is to sustain the rice-eaters as we go.

I chop, mince, sauté. It’s interesting that the beans come in boxes, not cans. Easily biodegradable/recyclable boxes. Nice touch. And they found Tabasco at the market! Score.

A pot full. Photo by Nora.

I have BW taste—the rice in my dish is not yet cooked. My fault for following a new-to-me recipe (Mine’s at home and not in my memory bank) and putting the whole thing on the lowest setting after it’s all together. I figure the lowest setting on this range means it can keep a dish moderately warm for days.

I turn it up.

Table gets set, bread sliced, the pasta from last night in a bowl for me—the non-rice eater.

Beans & rice a la Nana. Photo by Nora.

And a fine meal is had.

No sunset to follow as the clouds are back.

Proof of clouds. Photo by Kayla.

The men are left to clean up as it’s racing time,  and Griffin discovers a new, LONGER route. We chase over the grass, over the terrace, through the open doors of the breezeway, onto grass, around the villa, down the steps. And back.

Many times to his great delight.

We have a jumping game, with turns. He’s getting good at the concept of turns. Kayla’s turn, Griffin’s, Mommy’s, Nana’s.

Somehow he and Kayla become a team, and she teaches him to crouch down by the corner of a wall, then they can jump out and scare me and Kat. Then Griffin yells RUN!! Many times. Hide and Seek, more racing. Many times. Then more times, until Kayla begs for a water break.

The men, who’ve done a fine job cleaning the kitchen, declare tomorrow is take-out day. Fine with me.

This morning is very breezy. Hoodie time on the terrace. I have no idea what Chain Saw Man is building, but no saw today. Just the sounds of clunks and clinks.

Lots of clouds over hill and valley, but some long blue stretches and the light and shadows are just lovely. It may rain so we’re likely to have another day at home—all good. If too breezy and rainy, I may set up and work a bit inside, find a good spot for that.

Right now it’s quiet—I may be the only one up. I have to decide where to get my workout on.

Nora.

Tuscany – Day 13

A full house for awhile with the cleaning crew and the gardener. I got an earliest start experimenting with water bottles as free weights. Not bad—but the big still water bottles are a little wide for smallish hands. Have to modify some lifts because I can’t get a solid grip for things like upright rows.

Early start, early view. Photo by Nora.

Next round, the slimmer sparkling water bottles.

I expect the quiet man who came to water the plants wondered what the strange woman was doing playing with big-ass water bottles on the lawn. But he made no comment.

Kayla and BW take off for the village with the many towers. [Ed. note: San Gimignano] Jason, Kat and Griffin will meet them. I opt to stay home, avoid the very real possibility of car sickness due to snaky, windy roads.

Before too long things get pretty quiet around our Italian homestead, so I set up to work.

While I do, the two groups meet up, explore the medieval village—I can see the towers from where I sit. Jason and Kayla climb the many, many, MANY steps to the bell tower. I’m told you’d think you were at the top, but no. More. Then ladders. But they reached the top and got their reward in the view.

La Torre Grossa. Photo by Kat.
A view from the top of La Torra Grossa. Photo by Kayla.
The wide view of the town. Photo by j a-b.
Mind your head. Photo by j a-b.
A girl and her uncle. Photo by j a-b.
The way down. Photo by j a-b.
J & Kayla are up on the right. Photo by BW.
Piazza della Cisterna. Photo by a stranger with Jason’s phone.
He just can’t help himself. Photo by BW’s phone.

Kayla wore shorts—short ones—so had to don a kind of clear plastic skirt provided at the church for entering. Apparently Griffin was disturbed by this. I might have been, too.

They have lunch. I have chips while I work. If I’d had Cheez-It’s it would’ve been just like home.

Non Cheezit lunch. Photo by j a-b.

It’s hot. I like the heat so it doesn’t really bother me, so I’m surprised to learn it hit 101.

Just as I decide enough work a strong wind comes up. Feels like a change is a’coming.

The gang returns with many pictures and stories about steps, a toy store full of toy weapons (!), crystal staffs, armor, steep hills.

Images from inside the Duomo in San Gimignano:

Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by BW.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by Kat.

A brief respite before all but BW and I head to the near village and the grocery store—which was, it seems, packed and confusing. Now we have fresh Italian bread (for the upcoming Italian Egg Breakfast), and plenty of supplies. This includes rice as Kayla, Kat and Griffin yearn for rice. I am not a fan myself, but know how to make many dishes that include it.

Head in a niche. Photo by Kayla.

For tonight, I’m going to make a pretty simple pasta—oil and herbs. We’ll have a salad and garlic bread. It takes no time to discover the knives are pretty dull, the range top complicated, and we have no garlic press.

But we work it all out.

Boil pasta (reserve a good cup of the water before draining), thin slice some garlic and sauté in olive oil—add a pinch or so of crushed red pepper. I have the rosemary bush, and there’s potted basil in the kitchen. Oregano in the spice drawer. Drain the cooked pasta, dump into skillet with the garlic and oil, add herbs, salt, pepper. Let it sauté a minute or two. Add pasta water and simmer and stir till it absorbs.

For the garlic bread I basically mince and squish the garlic because no press.

And the oven, we discover, has no setting for broil. It has one for grill, Jason tells me, so we try that. Does the job.

Table set by many hands, citronella candles the gang picked up at the store lit. Let’s eat.

Despite the strangeness of the kitchen and tools, we have a good meal.

Finished product. Photo by j a-b.

Gelato to follow. I can’t manage it tonight, but I’ll dig in later.

No racing tonight. Griffin takes to the pool instead with his mom.

When I walk down, I can hear him enjoying it before I see them. And when I do, Kat—who’s a smidge or so shorter than me—says she’s standing on her toes as the pool’s a steady five feet. But it’s fun anyway, and breezy.  It’s not heated, so they may be the only ones to take a dip. Even baking all day, the water feels pretty chilly when I stick my hand in.

Chillaxing in the pool Photo by Nora.

I am seriously not a fan of ‘bracing’ pool water, and can have my fun watching others splash around in it.

And here’s the sunset. We enjoy it tonight from the lower terrace just above the pool.

Day is done. Photo by Nora.

A little puzzle time, then bed.

Chain Saw Man’s busy again today. And it’s much, much cooler.

I think I’ll work out on the grass by that lower terrace today—little change of scene.

Nora

Tuscany – Day 12

My first full workout in a week! Toe’s still a bit swollen, but coming right along. Fun to work out on the grass, with the Tuscan hills as a backdrop. My companions are stirring, getting breakfast, morning conversations.

The sun shifts, so I shift the monitor back into the shade.

It seems a fine day to set up at the terrace table and work a bit. At some point Kat—maintaining her crown of best dil in the history of dils—stealthily slides a little bacon sandwich toward my elbow. (Very careful not to make eye contact!)

Opening scene accomplished!

Hydrangea display. Photo by Nora.

Kayla’s hungry, so I demonstrate, step-by-step—how to scramble a couple of eggs. Apparently, I have a special touch with this cuisine basic (or everyone claims I do.) And veggie girl enjoys breakfast for lunch (or any time at all).

Time for lazing around. Kayla’s going down to the pool, Griffin’s playing trucks, Jason’s doing a crossword. And someone has the bright idea of making frozen margaritas. We happen to have what we need, including a blender.

It’s a very strange multi machine, and takes some doing to find the base, figure out how to work it. It’ll also juice the limes!!! This is an amazing contraption, even though Jason has to look up some of the instructions on-line.

The complete set up. Photo by Nora.

This becomes a group project. And we are very self-congratulatory when it all finally works.

Now to blend. Photo by Nora.
A Girl and her Margarita. Photo by Nora.

More pool time for Kayla, and I think I hear her talking to her boyfriend. His family made us a video for their famed Italian Eggs. This will be on the menu later this week.

“How shall I put the elders to work?” thought the young one. Photo by Nora

Kayla and Griffin play an outdoor jumping game, with her subtly teaching him about taking turns.

It’s very hot, tipping at about 100, and the mosquitos are hungry. They seem to enjoy Kayla’s sweet blood in particular.

Griffin and I have a racing game in which he’s changed the rules so it’s more like Tag. I’m game. Kayla and Mommy must join in. Then it’s Hide and Seek. Griffin tends to hide in plain sight, but we play along. Now Daddy must join in. Shortly it’s back to racing—wherein I go in to make myself a drink—and Grandda enters the field.

Nothing like a happy, energetic kid herding a group of adults.

Immersed in conversation. Photo by Nora.

Inside awhile, maybe we’ll start the llama jigsaw puzzle. Daddy and Griffin continue to race. I think the game has many varieties when it’s down to two players.

Puzzle time! Photo by Kayla.

Plans for dinner are:

Jason, Kat and Griffin will go into the village, scout out menus. I’ll make a salad.

Yet another mission accomplished so we sit out at our long table, enjoy the easy meal at home. Plans formulate about visiting sites, taking a day trip to Pisa to see the tower.

We watch another beautiful sunset.

The final rays of the day. Photo by BW.
Post sunset glow by Nora.
In the secret competition held in Laura’s head, Kayla won Sunday’s sunset shot. It’s the small things that entertain, right? Photo by Kayla.

More puzzle time, then off to bed.

This morning while I sit out, catching up on the world with my iPad, I hear a chainsaw running from down in the valley. Sound really travels here. It’s six a.m., so someone got working early.

Since I’ve heard the saw on and off, and the sound of wood thumping together. I can’t spot the busy beaver down there, but somebody’s building something.

I’m going to gear up and work out—maybe use a couple of big water bottles in addition to my bands for resistance work. Could be another work-for-a-couple-hours day (or not). It’s so wonderful just sitting here in this spot, looking out at the dusty green, muted golds, the so distinct rows in vineyards, the silvery green of olive groves. I like the gentle roundness of the hills—they’ve been here a very long time—and the shapes, also distinct—of the cypress topping them.

I will get a pillow for my butt today—this chair is hard!—but it’s not a tough place to work.

Nora

Tuscany – Day 11

We leave the bustle and color of Florence—Kayla and I with the mountain range of luggage, the others to the car rental—and head to the hills and valleys, the vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany.

Salvatore not only helps haul and load the luggage, but keeps the drive smooth across the Arno and into the countryside. We’ll be early, and our villa not ready for us, but we’ve arranged to meet the rental manager, hang around outside until housekeeping’s done.

Here the land changes, going steep and windy, the narrow road snaking and climbing through pretty villages, the vineyards and hills. Deep greens and dusty ones, splashes of color from flowers. Sun-washed houses with their red tile roofs climbing up the hills.

The narrow road narrows more, winds more, climbs more. Salvatore tells us he’s not sure he’s been to this villa before, but just put ourselves in his hands. So we do.

First view. Photo by Kayla.

And here it is, sitting on its hilltop overlooking hills and valleys. What was once a watchtower, became a home, became a larger home. Sturdy old stone, some smothered in purple bougainvillea, covered brick patios with breathless views. We unload onto the long dining table on the front patio, bid goodbye to Salvatore, and AnnaGloria gives us a tour of the house—two buildings joined by a glass breezeway.

Lots of family living spaces to choose from, and Kayla immediately picks a bedroom in the first section with a beautiful view and lovely windows.

View through the window. Photo by Kayla.

Across the breezeway into the old watchtower and we have more hang out spaces, more gorgeous views, a bedroom on the first level, then up, up the stairs—second and third floor masters to choose from.

I leave this to Kat when she arrives, but think the third for her and Jason—the second steps out on a landing, with steps down, and I wonder about Griffin in the night. Plus the third floor has a huge, gorgeous stone tub, and Kat loves a nice, long bath.

Another view. Photo by j a-b.
The third view. Photo by BW.

We get many instructions from AnnaGloria on how things work before she leaves us. The rest of us are on their way—we need two cars for any serious touring as they’ll be smaller cars and there are six of us.

And here they come just in time to help haul the luggage in—and up! God bless Jason.

Peaceful landscape…but then…. Photo by Kat.
Fleeing the master mower. Photo by Kat.
Racing while mowing. Photo by Kat.

We unpack. Griffin loves a new space and explores it with his trusty lawnmower. Inside, outside, around and about. Any worries I had about the pool here are dispelled as it’s gated off. So is the road, so he’ll be safe.

Kayla changes to lounge by the pool, and I explore a bit more. A HUGE rosemary bush, more flowers, small-headed hydrangeas. Griffin and I have our first race in a week!

Rosa glauca. Photo by Kat.
Bougainvillea. Photo by Kat.
Plumbago. Photo by Kat.
Potted plumbago. Photo by Nora.
Linanthus? Sun rose? Big ass poppies? Command center can’t decide. Photo by Kat.

There’s a lovely rear patio, too, just outside glass doors, and that’s the spot to unwind before the welcome dinner prepared by Bianca.

Boys on a terrace. Photo by Nora.

We eat on the covered terrace, enjoy the local wine with Tuscany spread out.

It’s all just lovely.

It’s so quiet, especially after our time in the city. Just quiet and space and lovely air.

The first of many sunsets over the patio. Photo by Nora.

And a sunset! Gorgeous!

A little game time for Jason and Kayla, with Griffin selecting the competition.

Bedtime.

Winding down. Photo by BW.

Somewhere in the night an animal calls. I thought at first it was Griffin—and discussing with BW just now, so did he. I have no idea—maybe a fox—but it was close, and for a brief time insistent.

This morning, the views remain stunning, and birds call. One of them sounded a little pissed off.

I think I’ll work out outside this morning, and maybe set up right here at the long table on the terrace later to start playing with my book-see where that goes.

It’s lovely to be here.

Nora


And Griffin thinks so too. ~L

Happy Boy. Photo by Kat.