Monday, May 28, 2007

Vino on Ice

The heat of the past week was finally squelched by a cooling rain on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning brought sunny skies with a few mingling clouds, and we strolled through the crowded late-morning passeggiata enjoying the more spring-like temperatures. As we walked, I overhead a couple of passersby talking and one mentioned “cantine aperte,” reminding me that Sunday was an event: throughout the country about 1000 wineries were throwing open their doors for tours, tastings, and a bit of “neighborliness”. We’d forgotten it would be this weekend, and so quickly decided that after lunch we’d head for the hills and partake. Always nice to have a few pretty vineyards to visit, after all. We're not serious connoisseurs; we like wine but we don’t know wine in terms of the lingo and the benchmarks, and don’t partake in the whole “immerse your nose all the way down into your glass, then sip, gargle and spit” thing. We sniff, we sip, we say “mmm, good” or “acidic” and such things. We know what we like and leave it at that.

The clouds thickened and threatened rain. Springtime in the mountains, as we learned from long experience in New Mexico, meant unpredictable weather patterns. It could rain without warning, or it could produce nasty-looking fronts that moved off over the nearest peak. Deciding a little rain wouldn’t hurt us, anyway, we collected the car from the lot and set off down the super-strada while still trying to determine which specific wineries would be open for the festivities. Drops began tinkling upon the windshield as we drove easterly.

Suddenly break lights began to illuminate in front of us, creating an ominously red row ahead. Bryan pumped the breaks and all of a sudden we crossed a line from mere rain to pounding hail. It was like a sheer curtain had demarked the hail zone, and all traffic came to an abrupt and frightening stop. The divided highway meant there was no place to turn back to the other side of the curtain; cars jumbled up ahead meant we couldn’t inch forward.

Bryan navigated as close to the guard-rail as possible to wait it out, inching up to try to get the car under the little bit of overhanging tree branches alongside the road, hoping for some protection. The hail pelted and grew larger and more forceful. The balls of ice pelted our little car creating a roar. We worried it would shatter the windshield. Tree leaves were shredded and rained down upon the hood. I’ve never experienced such a storm, not even in the desert where intense storms can form quickly and then disperse just as instantly. The racket it created was like being inside a drum, and it was both funny and frightening at the same time.

Then it was over. The clouds were being blown toward the sea and rain returned. We continued on, occasionally catching up with the tail-end of the front’s invisible line before we turned north and escaped it. We considered just returning home, but now that the ordeal was over we figured why bother. Besides, a bit of vino would be welcome now! But I’ll now think of the term “ice wine” in a different light.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Uncultured and Outta Luck

In celebration of our one-year-in-Italy anniversary we thought we’d celebrate by hitting the road and seeing some sights in Marche we had not yet explored. The mountainous region has so much to offer and we’ve seen only a small portion of it. Some places require circuitous drives up and around the mountains – much like many places in New Mexico – and are too long a drive for a day trip. We spread out the map, opened the Blue Guide Marche, and searched for something of significance (not hard to find). It also happened to be La Settimana della Cultura (Culture Week) when many sights not normally open throw wide the doors, when special exhibits are on offer, and when the State-run museums and archeological ruins are free. A great time to get out and explore!

So we thought.

We honed in on two archeological parks not far apart that promised a pretty drive along relatively easy roads. First up, Faleria. According to the book the remains of the once-bustling Roman city contains a theatre, an amphitheatre, a bath complex, villas, and “imposing tombs”. Right up our alley! As we neared the locale we saw a large sign announcing our arrival at Falerone and proclaiming all the archeological wonders contained therein. We followed a marker in the direction of “Teatro Romano” The Roman Theatre. That road lead us down to a larger cross-street with a sign directing us to the teatro…back down the road we’d just traveled. We debated how we’d missed something as obvious as a pile of stones loaded up to form a Roman theatre, but turned around and retraced our route. We drove all the way back to the original starting point. Without finding the theatre. We tried again with the same result. Defeated, we decided the best course of action would be to drive into the centro storico to find the tourist office as well as the archeological museum.

Arriving in the compact and cute centro we found a huddle of houses all well-kept, lining the steep, stone streets…and not a soul to be found afoot, not a single open store, and – most amazingly in Italy – no bar. The tourist office was (predictably) closed, but we headed off in the narrow foot-alley following the sign toward the Museo Archeologico. Tucked back next to a school, the doors were locked. Apparently the memo announcing La Settimana della Cultura didn’t reach the desks of the good folks in Falerone.

We departed -what else could we do?-and headed back determined to find the elusive Teatro. We again followed a sign along a meandering road lined with trees skirting along cultivated hills, but this time noticed a pole that looked as if it had once held a directional sign. We turned down a dirt track that appeared to be someone’s driveway running alongside their olive grove, and lo, there at the end was the well-hidden ruins. Locked, of course, and left forlorn. We peered in through the gate but weren’t able to see much.

There are many joys to living in a part of the country not well-known to tourists; this ain’t one of them! We laughed it off, figuring the summer season will bring regular hours and we’d return another time, though we found it odd that something important like Culture Week wouldn’t have pried open the doors for a few days.

We jumbled back into the car for a scenic trip through wheat fields and olive groves to find the ancient Roman city of Urbs Salvia. We had passed by it once before and knew it covered a large area. We also knew it had been open during the middle of the weekday as we’d seen crowds of people walking among the ruins when we had whizzed by on our way to a get-together.

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Of course you do. Culture Week or not, the place was chiuso. At that point we just burst into laughter while shaking our heads. “They don’t want us to be cultured,” Bryan said. The park sprawls out and only the ruins are gated, so we walked along the trails huffing our way uphill to gaze at the theatre from behind the fence-line, tried to get a gander at the large anfiteatro (too obscured), and enjoyed the songbirds and perfumed spring air. Gotta take what we can get when we’re defeated in our main quest, you know.

Everywhere else around the country was open wide -and free of charge! We’d even experienced it during some of our previous trips to Italy before moving here, so we know that in other regions Culture Week was a pretty big deal. We reasoned that if they opened them up and made these locations accessible, citizens from around the region would come to see them. I mean, we did, after all. And while we were at Urbs Salvia six other cars pulled in with the same idea, so the idea isn't too far-fetched. Maybe Marche has too many important sites to staff them all?

We did discover, however, that the historical town of Urbisaglia, uphill from the ancient city, is a charming place with a well-preserved fortress complete with solid towers (closed, naturally), tidy streets, pretty houses, an inviting Bed and Breakfast with a delectable-looking restaurant attached, and an archeological museum containing all the artifacts collected from the nearby ancient city (open only in the mornings, while we arrived in the afternoon). We didn’t get to impart ourselves with culture, but discovering a cute little town like this at least meant that all was not lost.

Maybe next year.

2007 Valerie Schneider

Friday, May 18, 2007

Why 7 is Not Our Lucky Number

Today is May 18. Not that I think you don’t own a calendar, but I thought I’d point out the date because it’s a special day for us. It’s appropriate because, as it turns out, all special days through the course of our relationship have fallen on the 18th.

We met on January 18. We got engaged on May 18 (and while that’s a special thing, that’s not what we’re celebrating today), and we were married on October 18. Weird, huh? And the freaky thing is, none of it was planned. Our wedding date was set because we didn’t want a winter wedding and October is the loveliest month in Ohio, where we were still residing. The 18th of that lovely month turned out to be only Saturday that wasn’t a home Buckeyes game. If we expected any of our friends to attend the nuptials, we had to choose a day the team was out of town. Perhaps we should buy lottery tickets involving the number 18.

Today is May 18, which means that one year ago today, after we’d hauled our over-stuffed duffel bags to the airport, paid hefty overage charges for the weight and sheer number of them (seven), said tearful goodbyes, we boarded the plane that –overnight- transported us from our native land to our new adventurous life in Italy. We arrived one year ago today.

One year already! It’s such a cliché to say that time flies, but really, where has it gone? It seems impossible that an entire year has passed so swiftly. Weeks and months have melted away and boredom has not once entered our realm. We’ve had a year of language flub-ups, cultural comedies, wonderful encounters, fine food and wonderful wine; a year of laughs and frustrated tears and everyday smiles. We’ve had a year to adjust ourselves and settle in and feel at home more than ever. A year of wonderful, new friends -including you dear readers- who have come into our lives. Thanks for coming along on the journey. It’s been a joy sharing this year with you.

Now I’m off to buy a lotto ticket. Come on, lucky 18…we’d really like another year here!
2007 Valerie Schneider

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm often asked what I love about Italy. I have to say, it's not one or two main things, it's the myriad little things that make living here (or traveling here) a wonderful experience and that maintain our devotion. It's always the simple pleasures that make life the sweetest, so I'll be adding a new regular feature to the blog to show you some of my favorite things about life here in the old country.

First up -


At the classy Caffe Meletti, they give you tasty little cookies with your coffee!

I may never be able to order a cappuccino in America again! Here we get a nice cuppa with just the right ratio of espresso, milk and froth. The foam isn't four inches thick on top nor so dense the espresso can't penetrate it. It's just-right creamy and my favored way to start the day. It's also always served in *real* cups...never in paper or styrofoam, meaning it is great-tasting as well as being environemental friendly.

2007 Valerie Schneider

Saturday, May 12, 2007

An Ode to Mama Jo

La Festa della Mamma. It's Mother's Day, here in Italy as well as in the U.S. Happy Mother's Day to all you dear readers who have children, including those with the four-legged variety of "kids". I thought I'd carry over the theme from the last post of the Top 5 to tell you about my mom, but honestly couldn't narrow it down to only five things. So, here we have...

The Top Ten Reasons My Mom is The Best

10. Never made us clean our plates. Unlike many of my friends who were constrained to the dinner table until they finished every last lima bean, broccoli spear, or bite of fried liver, my mom was the envy of the neighborhood kids by not enforcing such a rule. She wanted us to enjoy our meals instead of choking them down ungratefully. While we had to taste everything presented to us, we were never forced to eat it if we didn’t like it. In doing so, we discovered that we liked a lot of foods and we were willing to give new things a taste, knowing there would be no commitment. Smart woman, because it also saved her from the whining and picky-eater syndrome.

9. The traveling hibachi. Remember those? Back before the gigantic kitchen-sized grills became the rage, we all went wild over the humble hibachi. My mom had one tucked into the trunk of our car, carefully wrapped in a couple of brown paper grocery bags to keep the trunk clean, ever-ready for an impromptu barbecue, along with a bag of charcoal, of course. I can’t count how many times during the hot, humid summers she would come home after work and grab us – along with some bratwurst or burgers – and take us to the Lake Erie shore or a nearby shady park for a picnic. Those little barbecues where we kids would swim until our lips turned blue while Mom grilled and read a book, were the best.

8. Kept us fed and clothed with a roof over our heads. This may seem like a simplistic statement, but I tell you, during the hard, lean years it was a stretch for her and I don’t know how she held it all together. She worked three jobs at one point, and had several very fatiguing years without the benefit of child support payments. She somehow managed to stay sane, sober, and somewhat patient while doing that and rearing three…shall I say, rambunctious, children.

7. She had “the look”. She valued good manners, especially good behavior in public, and had discipline down to such a science that all she had to do was flash The Look which told us she meant business. You know the kind…the sharp flash of face that makes you stop dead in your tracks and behave. Or else.

6. Let me have coffee and cookies for breakfast. As I mentioned in the 100 Things About Me list, I started drinking coffee at an early age, and my mom didn’t challenge me, tell me no, or give the old “it will stunt your growth” routine. She just let me drink it. No one in my family eats a big breakfast, at least not first thing in the morning, and she never fought our natural metabolism. If we felt like eating a little something, so be it. It was usually toast, a bowl of cereal, or even some cookies Grandma had baked up for us. Now that I’m here in Italy where breakfast normally consists of that little menu, I see where those genes came through.

5. Gave us a glimpse of the world. We lived in a small town without much in the way of cultural amenities (okay, none), so my mom made sure we were exposed to another realm by taking to us downtown Cleveland or Columbus, or short trips to Washington, DC, so we could see and interact with different ethnic groups, feel the vibrancy of life elsewhere, and show us cultural goodies like plays, musicals and symphony performances. Sure, we were in the nose-bleed seats, but it didn’t matter to us. We got to experience things, and see that life existed in a grand way outside our little sheltered community. She made sure we learned to look outward and I’ll always be grateful for that. It instilled me a great desire to travel and see other cultures.

4. Was always ready to laugh, even at her herself. Believe me, my family likes to throw out the zingers, and once a topic is seized upon, they won’t let it go until that horse is good and dead. We like to tease each other and joke around, and we’re all very good at providing fodder to fuel the flames. My mom has still not lived down a few incidents from years ago. For instance, there was the time…well, it’s Mother’s Day, I’ll cut her a break here.

3. Gave us freedom as well as responsibility. We had chores we had to do and the official rule of the house was that we couldn’t go out to play with our friends until those tasks were completed. But it was tempered with freedom. We could ride our bikes to the city pool or down the country roads; we could walk uptown to the candy store, spend hours at friends’ houses, go off to who-knows-where to do basically nothing, as children tend to want to do. We only had to let her know if changed venue. We always thought we had a great degree of independence and felt that we were trusted and, therefore, felt more mature. She let us develop our own unique personalities without trying to mold us to be like someone else, which was a valuable gift.

2. Let me loose in the kitchen. And did so without fear of the mess I’d inevitably make or of burning the house down. I started cooking at a very young age. My earliest memory that I can clearly recollect is of being with my Nana in her kitchen, where she stood me on a chair next to the stove as she made a pot of sugo. I remember getting to stir the sauce as she explained which spices she was putting in. With my mom working a lot I decided I should take up some of the slack in the kitchen, knowing that she would be exhausted when she got home, and starting cooking once or twice a week from the time I was about 12 or 13. She never told me what to make or how to do it, never questioned my abilities to use the appliances or knives, nor worried that I’d scorch the place. To this day, I don’t know what gave her such confidence, but I’m glad she had it and let me be creative (and I still enjoy cooking).

1. Never lost that lovin’ feeling. No matter what degree of nerve-scraping attitude, behavior or just plain bratty-ness we inflicted upon her, she still told us everyday, “I love you.” Sometimes it was through clenched teeth, or prefaced by, “I feel like throttling you right now, but…” She was honest enough to tell us when we were pushing the limits of her patience, but she never failed to tell us that she loved us anyway.

Thanks, Mama Jo! You’re the best! Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

WiFi in the Wild!

It was recently brought to my attention that in the heart of ancient Rome one can access wireless internet in the Piazza Navona. Incredible! Next time I head down to the Eternal City I’ll be toting along my laptop and connecting online while sipping a cappuccino overlooking one the city’s liveliest piazzas, just because I can! There is also a hotspot in the Piazza di Spagna and I hear they will soon be adding one in the Piazza del Rotondo, home to the famous Pantheon, which will be an inspiring site.

There is something appealing about soaking in some sun while surfing the web rather than sitting in a confined coffee house. Connecting with people and nature while connecting online seems like a good idea, and anytime I can get hold of some high speed, I’m there! I’m on a cell phone dial-up. You can imagine how slow that is. Cell phone. Dial-up. Yeah.

If the idea appeals to you but you’re not planning a trip to Rome, don’t fret. I’ve done some digging and have unearthed some great locales in the US where you can surf alfresco.


Washington, DC. This may be the best city in the country for logging on while getting out. The Open Park program has turned on wireless outside the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the Capital Visitors’ Center, as well as on the Mall near the Hirshhorn Museum, behind the Smithsonian Castle, and next to the Museum of the American Indian. If that’s not enough, there’s a hotspot in funky DuPont Circle, and one on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown.

New York. The city parks are important in an urban jungle, and now you can take a breather from the traffic and crowds to plan your next business meeting or check email. Head over to Central Park and cop a squat (or snag a bench) to enjoy the atmosphere of the best-known park in the country. The city has the signal blazing over other parks throughout the metro area, as well.

Annapolis, MD. Downtown Annapolis has always had a bit of stateliness, and now they’re gone uptown and rigged up the place with wireless. All of downtown – not that it’s huge, but big enough – is accessible, which means you can have a view of the Chesapeake, watch the Naval cadets, or just hang out with a cup of joe and surf outdoors.

St. Louis, MO. Always a gateway, St. Louis has provided a portal to the wild web for one and all in the St. Louis Hot Zone, a 42-block section of downtown squared off by Broadway, Market Street, Tucker Boulevard and Washington Avenue. That’s a lot of accessibility!

Taos, NM. You knew there would be a New Mexico connection, didn’t you? The Pinon Tree is proud that in the city of Taos there is open wireless on the Plaza, right in the heart of the artsy-smartsy town, where you can sit on a park bench surrounded by adobe buildings and gaze at the majestic Sangre de Cristo mountains. Sponsored by Made in New Mexico.

Now get out there and go wild!

**This post is a proud participant in the Top Five - Group Writing Project. Thanks to Sognatrice over at Bleeding Espresso for pointing this out!**

For more Top Five lists (done up in living color, even!) hop over to At Home Rome and Ms. Adventures in Italy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Leave the Driving to Us!

Panorama Italy

The idea formed in our imaginations not long after we unpacked our duffel bags and settled into life in Ascoli Piceno. As we learned our way around our new home and began to uncover the marvelous things in town – things as grand as the Duomo and as simple as decorative stone carvings over a doorway – we surmised that this was a place that would captivate a lot of people we knew. We planned itineraries for visiting family members and charmed them with the local wines and foods. In doing so, we thought that small-group tours would be a great idea. After all, the architecture, scenery, and verdant hills would fulfill practically everyone’s notion of the beauties of Italy, but in an uncrowded way.

Trouble was, we didn’t know many people around town and didn’t think we had the right connections for opening attractive doors. Enter Linda. Our friend, a teacher and translator who was born and raised here, seemed to know (or be related to) everyone. She asked us why more people didn’t know about this area and the many attractions. As we talked about the things we all loved, effused about hill towns that would leave travelers breathless, and wineries with choice vintages at reasonable prices, the idea grew and eventually Panorama Italy was born.

Linda and I spent weeks wearing out our shoes and tracking many kilometers around town to speak with restaurant owners, city and provincial tourism folks, food producers, and sommeliers and vinters to arm ourselves with information. We all gathered for hours poring over maps, planning out routes and scenic drives to plan an itinerary that would condense the best of the province into a one-week tour. Linda organized her Italian lesson plans to formulate a week-long class and then found an inspiring spot for learning. With the generous help of web-weaver friends in New Mexico (the Berry Patch), and the fruits of our labors are available on the world wide web, live and ready for business.

Give it a glance, won’t you? Pass the word. We have a gorgeous corner of Italy just begging to be explored, and we’ll help you uncover its many charms. Hope to see you in the Piceno!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's All About Me

If you have spent any time perusing blogs, you've probably come across the "100 things about me" meme that seems to be all the rage of late. After the fourth or fifth sighting of this, I started thinking, as others before me, 'gosh, I don't know if I could come up with 100 trivial things to say about myself.' Which I took as a challenge, just to see if I could. It also made me wonder, just what the heck is a meme, anyway? "I've been tagged with a meme," we read online. Sounds like a communicable disease. But no, it's basically just a blogosphere game of tag.

So, after about a month of tossing it around and scribbling down little remembrances as they came to me, I did finally complete a list of 100 things about myself...presented here for your reading pleasure. Or your bed-time sleep aid.

100 Things About Me
1. My name is Valerie.
2. I was named Valerie after much debate between my parents who finally drew the name out of a hat, while I and the doctor awaited their decision. It was three days after I was born.
3. I’m the middle child, with an older brother and a younger sister.
4. I grew up in Ohio but I call New Mexico home. I moved there as a newlywed at the ripe ol’ age of 20.
5. I’ve been married to my adorable husband for 20 years, which seems impossible. Time flies when you’re having fun.
6. We met in college at a party, and our meeting invoked the eight degrees of separation, as he was a friend of a friend of a friend of my across-the-street neighbor, who happened his way into the party that night.
7. No, it wasn’t love at first sight, but he grew on me. He liked that I knew how to cook, so the old adage that “the way into a man’s heart is through his stomach” turns out to be true. At least in my case.
8. I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in History. Not a real marketable skill, history. Still, it was always my fascination.
9. Most of the tests for my history classes were essay-style and I can always ace an essay test. Forget multiple choice. I always assume they’re trying to trick me.
10. I love New Mexico. It’s an absolutely beautiful place, the sun shines almost all the time, and you can see for sixty miles on any given day.
11. Green chile is one of the best foods ever. Especially for breakfast. I miss it immensely.
12. I live in Italy. We moved here in May, 2006. We dreamed about it for several years before deciding to quit dreaming and start doing.
13. We live in Ascoli Piceno, which is in the Marche region. Like New Mexico it is mountainous and historic...but with a much longer history.
14. Most days I look around at the medieval architecture, the stunning views, the ancient streets, the wonderful food…and can’t believe I get to live here.
15. I am a picture straightener. If I see it hanging crooked, I straighten it. Don’t mind me if I do it in your house; you’ll thank me for it later.
16. One picture in our house in New Mexico refused to hang evenly no matter how often I adjusted it. Then I discovered it was the wall that was uneven. You can imagine how nutso that made me. I felt a bit “Monk-ish.”
17. I like the TV show Monk. All the other shows I liked are now off the air, like Friends, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond. Yes, folks, I’m a fan of the sitcom.
18. Here, I have an ancient TV that doesn’t come in too clearly. I watch Chi Vuol Essere Milionario because it’s easy enough to understand, especially since they put the questions in writing on the screen.
19. I sometimes watch Carabinieri 6, which is actually an inane show about the national police force, but is so stupid that it’s easy to follow, which is important with my lack of language skills. Italian TV pretty much sucks.
20. I like Hitchcock movies: Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, Rebecca, North by Northwest. Suspense films are cool. But I don’t like gore.
21. My biggest frustration here is the internet connection -or lack thereof. While others surf the web, I splash in the baby pool with a dial-up connection…on a cell phone! Lentissimo, as they say here.
22. I’m sensitive to chemicals and strong odors. Perfumes make me gag and give me raging headaches. Thus, I intensely dislike women who wear strong perfumes just by virtue of the agony they cause humanity.
23. My feet are almost always cold, even on a beach in the Virgin Islands. My mom and sister have the same problem.
24. My sister is my closest friend. I really, really, really, really miss her.
25. I like to cook but I detest my kitchen here. My kitchen in Corrales was wonderfully spacious. I really, really, really, really miss it.
26. I think chocolate is a gift from God, especially when combined with hazelnuts. I prefer dark chocolate, by the way.
27. I’m a Christian. But I am not in the “religious right”, politically-ambitious, judgementalistic camp. (Neither was Jesus Christ.)
28. I grew up in Podunk-ville Ohio. I find my hometown very depressing now.
29. I have a Midwest accent. I’ve tried to get rid of it to no avail.
30. It was a good place to grow up, though. No one locked their doors and we always felt safe.
31. When I was a kid my best friend was named Deanna and she lived three doors down.
32. We went barefoot nearly all summer long. I was able to run across gravel and hot pavement without a wince.
33. We were tomboys.
34. I never liked wearing dresses much and still don’t wear them often.
35. When I was in Catholic school we had to wear dresses every day. Even in winter. In northern Ohio!
36. I went to Catholic school for eight years. ‘Nuff said.
37. Deanna and I rode our bikes all over God’s green acre.
38. My grandma had sayings like that. God’s green acre. She’s persnickety. It’s gone to hell in a hand-basket. Cute grandma-isms.
39. I like the word persnickety.
40. I had a persnickety cat. She was the best, though. Cuddly and affectionate, she lived to the ripe ol’ age of 17. Our other cat died at 16. I miss our kitties.
41. I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, which make me tired, achy and sometimes cranky.
42. It started ten years ago. I turned thirty and my health went to hell in a hand-basket.
43. I visited no less than twenty doctors about these problems.
44. The experience shattered my faith in our healthcare system.
45. I wasn’t one of the “popular kids” in high school but I wasn’t a loner, either.
46. I had my little group of friends and we were a pack of gutsy broads.
47. I was in drama club.
48. I color my hair and have done so since I was about twenty-two when, thanks to the wonders of genetics bestowed upon me by my mother and both of my grandmothers, I began getting too-noticeably gray.
49. I also inherited my mother’s thighs, about which I’m none too thrilled. Genetics are scary.
50. I eat meat and I really like it.
51. However, if I had to kill the animal to eat it I’d be a vegetarian because I dislike the sight of blood, and because I know that I couldn’t personally kill anything.
52. Except of course spiders, mosquitoes and centipedes which are icky and which want to bite me.
53. I also like vegetarian fare and try to eat healthy. But I really do like meat.
54. The vegetables I dislike are lima beans and okra. Okra is just plain gross. Lima beans probably aren’t so bad, but the nuns at the Catholic school forced them upon us and I gagged them down, so now I can’t stand the sight of them.
55. Oh, and canned stewed tomatoes for the same reason.
56. Sheps are cute. I always call sheep sheps, but I can’t remember why.
57. We see a lot of sheps around here on the hillsides with their shepherds, which I think is a wonderful sight.
58. I love roller coasters.
59. My pick for the absolutely best roller coaster in the world is the Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
60. What do you mean you’ve never heard of Cedar Point? It is the world’s largest amusement park. I grew up about a half-hour from this wonderful place.
61. I don’t like clutter. Bryan, on the other hand, is a pile-upper and a pack rat. I love him anyway.
62. I love to read.
63. I think it’s owing to my mom reading to us a lot when we were children. We always loved books and counted them among our treasured possessions.
64. I still have my favorite books from my childhood, including And Rain Makes Applesauce, and A Rainbow of My Very Own. Wonderfully illustrated masterpieces, those.
65. I don’t have a favorite book; it would be too hard to choose just one, and then I’d feel like I was neglecting the others. Kind of like choosing a favorite child. It shouldn’t be done.
66. I wrote little stories when I was a kid, which my grandma said were brilliant.
67. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t keep those early works by the brilliant child.
68. I remember that one was about a mouse aboard Columbus’s ship to America.
69. That’s all I remember about that story, but I am sure it was great because Grandma said it was.
70. My grandfather is my hero.
71. He could fix anything, from a broken lamp to a skinned knee to an aching heart.
72. He lived to be 96 years old. He was very wise.
73. My grandma is now 96 going on 97.
74. My other grandpa is 93 going on 94.
75. Longevity apparently runs in my family. Unfortunately, it’s not too common in Bryan’s family.
76. My favorite beverage is water. I need to be hydrated.
77. I like the sparkling water they serve in Italy.
78. They often call it acqua con gas. I think it sounds better as acqua frizzante.
79. I also love cappuccino.
80. I can only drink one or two a day, though, or I get the caffeine shakes.
81. Sometimes I order a decaf, but I get weird looks for it.
82. I started drinking coffee at the tender age of 12, when I first tasted a sip of my mom’s and liked it.
83. My mom and I would go for coffee together in the morning before school. It was our little time together. People in our small town thought my mom was nuts for letting her young daughter drink coffee. Shows what they know.
84. I believe that there is no such thing as *too many* shoes or jackets.
85. I love the sound of church bells ringing.
86. I also love to hear songbirds in the morning. Life’s simple pleasures.
87. My favorite flowers are tulips, especially yellow ones.
88. I don’t have a favorite color. If pressed I would choose turquoise.
89. I adore turquoise and silver jewelry. I acquired a lot of it throughout my years in New Mexico.
90. I have a Ford Mustang and miss driving it. It’s in my sister’s garage. It’s name is Arnold. (Muscle car, get it?)
91. I especially enjoyed driving it on the open desert roads with music blasting. What a great feeling.
92. I have flown in a hot-air balloon more times than I can remember. It’s a very peaceful experience, but is also an early morning sport. (As in, you meet the pilot at 6:00 a.m.)
93. I miss the sound of the propane burners waking me up as they fly over the house. It’s one of those unique New Mexico things.
94. I dislike smoke; so naturally, I move to Italy where everyone and their brother smokes incessantly.
95. I’m allergic to the stuff, but more personally dislike it because my paternal grandmother died of mouth and throat cancer due to second-hand smoke.
96. I love carbs. I can’t imagine how anyone can survive on the Atkin’s Diet (or why they’d want to).
97. I don’t have a true sweet tooth and prefer to save my sugar intake for something really worthwhile…like gelato. Or chocolate.
98. I don’t deal well with stress. It makes me queasy.
99. I’m a freelance writer.
100. Which means this past year I fulfilled two dreams – to live in Italy; and to be a paid writer. Reaching for your dreams feels good!

101. I really cannot believe I came up with 100 things to say about myself. Really.