Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cute little French Kitties...

Last year, (I think?) I went to southern France on a bus trip (yesterday's post is from this trip) with the military base.  On this trip, we stopped and had a great meal at this restaurant.   While waiting for the meal to start, I was walking around taking some photos and I noticed that the owners had a few cats... and eventually I noticed that there were also a couple of really adorable kitties.   They were so cute.   Trying to hide in the tall grasses while playing and also wanting to get close enough to check me out.  Both adult cats stayed close and I honored that and only took photos w/ my zoom lens so none of the cats would feel 'threatened.'   This is when I first saw the kitties.   I love little orange tabbies... and the white kitty was adorable and had beautiful markings.  Check out the little mouth... looks like a grey smudge around her lips.  *Click on the photos for a larger view.

I wish I could have taken them home.

You can't see me... I'm hiding behind this tree branch.

"Did you see that brother?"   The little white one is sitting on an old glass wine bottle.


They love each other and were constantly right beside each other.

We're just 'resting our eyes'...

I think that this is the 'mama kitty'???
Fuzzy, because they were always moving! 

Finally this little guy gave me a perfect pose.

Aren't they so cute?  I think the little white one is part Siamese? However, she/he also had really light tabby markings.

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's a plane? A bird? No, it's the Leaning Tower of Pisa... sort of...

Location?  Somewhere on the road about 7 -8 hours away from Grafenwohr, Germany on the way to Southern France or maybe we were on the way to northern Italy?  No, I think it was France.  Actually, now that I think about it... I'm sure of it. 

What is it?  It's a public bathroom... somewhere at a rest stop 'somewhere'... Last  year, while still living in Germany, I had gone on a Military bus tour to southern France and we'd gotten on the bus sometime around midnight and this was probably about 7am?   Everyone got a kick out of the unusual bathroom.

I really liked this sign:  Local Technique.  No one wanted to open that door.   We didn't want to know.  Some things are best left 'un-known.'  Know what I mean? 

Anyway, it gave everyone a chance to stretch our legs, laugh a bit, and there were several photos taken.  At least this time, I wasn't the ONLY ONE taking photos of the bathroom.  

I was going through some of my old photo memory sticks and I thought that I'd share these 'bathroom' photos with you.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Old Italian Door... hundreds of years old

I'm always noticing old windows, doors, doorknockers and mail slots.  Isn't that a nice set?  The door knocker is of course much older as indicated by the much simpler style.  IT is probably original to the door?   This door is hundreds of years old.   These wooden doors are about 10 foot tall or taller and over a foot thick.  I love the detailed work on the mail slot and the door handle.

Look at how simple the face is over the doorway.   Many old ledges, doors, etc. have statues or faces on them.   The door locks have also changed through the years- you can see 3 different styles.

The archway probably also held a wooden doorway long ago?  It is now a shop.  I really like the ornate ironwork on the balconies.  This is a very old building- one indicator is of course the 'barely there' Juliette balcony style.   The wooden shutters behind the balcony are fairly new; usually you'll see the wooden shutters that open outward on a building this old.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kastl, Bavaria, Germany... where I was living (for over 4 years) and moved from just 4 months ago...

This is a close- up of one of the flowering 'rape fields'... this color of lime/yellow green was always so pretty along my drives home in the late Spring/ early summer time.   The day, that I finally had my camera with me and pulled over to take this photo- I remember 'immediately' hearing all the buzzing bees and seeing fluttering butterflies.  I wasn't prepared for how sweet and fragrant the flowers would be; the smell was so strong that it was almost overpowering.  It was nice and certainly unexpected.  Just out of the view to the far right is that tower that I saw out my upstairs office and bedroom windows.  This is looking West.

This is basically how the sky looked most of the time- except in July, August, and maybe September?   This is on the right side of the highway looking north (no shoulders on highways there) and the road that I drove on everyday to get to work/home.  See that hill?  That is almost to my house- I lived just past that hill and another big curve.

These are 'newish' houses.  You don't see any of the houses with the wooden crossbeams on them in this view.  This is not my town- but, another little village on the way to my town.  However, they were seen all around in this part of Germany.   As an American, it's just hard for me to think of houses being up to 600 years old still being lived in... like you find in Europe and especially in Germany and Italy.

This is a side road and the houses that you see?  That's my town.  You might be able to make out the church tower to the left of the road?  (Click on the photos for a larger view.)  Past this hill is a big valley with more hills like this all around in every direction.  All farm land.   My town had houses; but, no town/ no shops/ nothing.  There was another small town with shops about another 2 miles or so going past my little town.   It was 14 miles one way from work/ the base.

I ran across these photos and realized that I had never shared them on my blog- So, I decided to share them.  (if you've read very much of my blog... you know that the Internet in this tiny town was slow and didn't like to download photos)  This area was beautiful.  I always thought it looked like the photos on the landscape puzzle boxes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

After watching endless episodes of HGTV, we were ready to tackle 'home improvement' in the kitchen...

My friend's sink area before we started.  Your basic 1970's yellow sink.   Two summers ago, we had removed the cabinet doors and knobs and painted everything.   Last summer, we grouted and tiled the counter tops and put up a metal black splash.

Had either one of us done either project before?  No.  We both worked on the back splash.  Lots of math.  Comes in handy being a knitter sometimes and an art teacher.  (We are both teachers too...and I think that helped too.)  I was in charge of the grout and tile project.   The local home-improvement store had one inch tile squares that were easy to cut apart by simply cutting the mesh backing apart with scissors.  My friend handed me the tile sheets since my hands were dirty with grout and cut she them apart if I needed specific sizes.

I think that we did an awesome job.  I don't own a home- but, I have always loved to do creative projects and it's fun to have a friend who doesn't mind if we 'beautify' her home in the summers.  I wonder what this summer's project will be?

My previous tiling experience?  None.   Oh wait, I just remembered that, about 25 years ago, my fifth grade art students did a metal trivet and they put tile pieces down on the top.  

Ignore the 'attempt' at video-taping our project.  I had just purchased my IPAD and I was experimenting with it.   The leaded crystal vase I bought in my carry on bag from Germany as my summer 'Thank you for letting me stay in your house' gift.  I will admit that that sucker was SO HEAVY that after my second airport security experience... and hauling it around each and every time that I changed planes... I was regretting bringing it along.  However, I knew that my friend would love it.  By the third airport security check-in for my International flight... and all the airport walking from one terminal/gate to another... I was ready to throw that heavy thing in the trash can!

Sorry, it's a little fuzzy.   Aren't those beautiful flowers?

We think that we did a great job.  She has a stainless steel fridge and stove/oven.

The pretty flowers are from my friend's garden.   Please EXCUSE the SOUTHERN ACCENT.  You know how it is... most of us tend to hate how our own voice sounds since what we hear in our own head is NOT what others hear; so, when you hear one's own voice recorded it sounds so alien.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Confessing that I am 'easily amused'...

Ok, now you know that I'm easily amused.  But, come on; aren't they pretty?

The other day, I was in the big grocery store, and I noticed that they had some of these 'adapter' plug-y things.  In Germany, they mostly had the same type of prong... but, they had the fatter size (fatter than what is shown in the photo).  In both countries the outlets will be the thinner size and thicker.  However in Italy (at least in my rental house) most are the thinner size.

So, I needed to buy something that had the thinner end for the  'go into the wall' prongs and the inside part... thicker openings (of course the thinner size will fit there too) to fit some items that I have that have that size.   You have to really look for this type- prongs that are thinner going into the wall but the inside openings are thicker.   In Italy, the wall outlets have the 3 prongs like you see... but, the 2 prong only round ends will also fit into this socket.  In Germany, most had only the 2 outside round prongs.  *I have a wide collection of different types of prongs/etc.  

Of course, complicating things.. I also have some American type of items... so, I have to find something that I can plug the American type in... and then the other end is for the wall w/ the round ends.   (dual voltage or things like lamps where it doesn't matter as long as you buy the correct type of light bulb sold overseas- American wattage bulbs WON'T work at all!)

Yes some outlets have 2-3 things plugged together to make everything work.     No danger of fire though- it's just to make the right prong fit the wall socket.   You should have seen me when I first moved in; trying to make what I had work for plugging in the computer and other things.   Kind of like the tinker toys of the outlets.  So, I had basically run out of all options of piecing things together and I needed a couple more of this style (this is now the 3rd purchase of various types of outlet thingy-s)... and I found these clear plastic things!   And, even better, I won't have to do any stacking things together to make them work in the walls.

Not only are the right size along with the metal on the sides which means I can use them for things big power sucking appliances... (washer/dryer/refrigerator/ microwave/etc.)  but, just look at the bonus of having a nice clear blue or green color!

It's about time... that color came to these things!   I will use one this summer to plug in my DE-humidifier in the lower level of the house.  After all, I have valuable things stored down there- like my yarn!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This morning's misty sunrise over the Italian vineyards out my front door....

This morning's sunrise out my front door.

The ground had a mist rising up.  *Click to see the photos clearer.

This is actually part of a huge vineyard.
The view a little further to the left.   It had rained during the night and stopped in the early morning.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Odds and ends and a weird tree

Isn't this a strange tree?  It's like the branches are one long, huge, pine cone.   I saw it in front of this house and couldn't resist taking a photo.  There was another tree like this another block away.

Well, here's the deal.  Not only am I teaching full time... but, I'm also taking 3 on-line university classes for my teaching certificate.  We have to get 6 credit hours every 5 years.  So, I have been busy and am really busy right now.  2 of the classes are almost over.   I only have a few more (but, big projects) to do.

Odds and ends and thoughts:

1.  It is raining again
2.  I worked at school yesterday for 8 hours (on Sunday) and today for 12 hours
3.  I'm tired
4.  I need to clean up the kitchen... (see: #3)
5.  I want to start a new knitting project; but, I have other time commitments.  (the 3 on line classes)
6.   I did remember to take the 'bad food' trash out tonight so it can be picked up in the AM (they
       come between 5:30-6am)
7.  The last day of school is June 14 (I'm ready)
8.  I now have 3 herbs for my little herb garden.
9.  I liked the house in the photo.  
10.  Why can't I find natural terra cotta flower pots? I don't really like the plastic ones; but, I finally gave up after looking in several places and I bought some plastic pots.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Other options... in case "THE BAKERY" in my little town is closed...

Building to the right and next door to the bakery in my little town... is a CASINO!! 

And look at the shop that is "NEXT DOOR" to the bakery! 

I stopped by the bakery, in my little town yesterday, and I finally had my camera with me and I took of a couple of photos of the businesses to the right of the bakery.   The last business on the left side of the bakery is a 'hair stylist' place.   Maybe I should stop there sometime to see about getting my hair cut?

Above the shops are apartments.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Errands and a great lunch

I love this type of tomato.  They are so sweet tasting.  They were a bit pricy since they are grown in southern Italy in Sicily and it's not quite 'tomato harvesting season' here yet.   However, I wanted to make my caprese salad with my fresh mozzarella cheese that I had bought last week at the grocery store. 

I left my house early today and ran some errands and when I finished I was actually in the neighborhood of the school.  I do need to work at school this weekend- however, I also wanted to get back to my little town and stop at the bakery before they ran out of bread and closed.  I didn't get to go there last weekend and I only made it there one day during spring break.   So, I opted to go to my house instead of going to work.  *That will be tomorrow's plan.   On Saturdays, there is this very small market, taking up the space of a parking lot, selling a variety of things: clothing, food, fresh fish, veggies, and other odds and ends.  I had never stopped there because I was always on my way somewhere else and then they'd be closed when I came back through the same area on my way home.

When I got to the bakery in my little town; they only had ONE piece of bread with the fresh olives baked in it left.  I grabbed it and a couple other whole wheat pieces.  They do make/sell white breads but, I personally like whole grain breads better.  See the salad that I made?  Pretty, huh?   Fresh slices of mozzarella cheese (this is a big hunk of soft cheese stored in a salty like brine water-- it is NOT, I repeat: NOT like mozzarella cheese sold in the states!  This is not the same stuff that is sold in slices or shredded.), the tomatoes from the today's market, fresh basil leaves from the plant that I bought last week, and just a little salt and fresh ground black pepper sprinkled on.   The final touch?  It is all drizzled with dark green olive oil (I found this olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives,  at a local festival celebrating the harvest of the olive trees a few weeks after my arrival last November.) and sweet aged balsamic vinegar.   

 I also had some of the fresh cooked shrimp, like the local Wednesday Fish Man sells.  Someone at the market was selling fresh 'uncooked' fish and they had a few cooked fish items that you could buy.

I must also confess that after I arrived home and unpacked everything- that I didn't even notice the time; but, I started taking photos and cutting the tomatoes all up/etc.  The next thing I knew, I had taken the photos and I had lunch ready to eat.   So, I ate it and it was so good.  The bread you see is necessary to dip of the left-over olive oil mixed with the balsamic vinegar.  Not just because I think it tastes amazing.

It wasn't until I had finished eating my meal that I realized it was only 10:30am!   Oh well, I'm calling it BRUNCH.

I also splurged and bought myself some yellow tulips. 
A good start of the day, I'd say.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring? Or right into early SUMMER?

Some of the flowers that are now blooming at school.  There are lots of tulips/etc. in this flower bed and it looks really nice.  We had lots of blooming bulbs when we returned from spring break this week.  A few weeks earlier, when I took my students outside to look for signs of spring ... my students and I had noticed this 'hearty' leaf that had started growing through the 'decorative bark' that was in the way.  Can you see it?   *Click on the photo for a larger image.

In other news.  Yesterday, my Jeep temperature gauge said:  80*F.   I guess we are moving from upper 40's to mid 50's right into the 80's?   All I can say is I had some wool hand knitted socks on and I could hear my feet sending me messages... "HUMAN BODY, take these SOCKS off NOW!!!"  I don't care if it will hurt to walk barefooted on the sidewalk and the parking lot for the first time in months!  Do it!  DO IT NOW!!!  SOCKS OFF NOW!!!

I did manage to resist and wait until I got home.  I can see that this marble floor is going to come in handy soon... for cooling purposes!

For those in the states, especially in Colorado... who are currently or have recently been experiencing some of the snowstorms that have been recently in the news... while it might be nice, sunny, and 80*F here in northern Italy... just remember... in July when you are having nice 80*F temps... we'll be burning up here in Italy!!  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sunrise over the Italian farmland... *The view out my front door.

Can you see the old farm Villas?

This is the view out my front door...  living room and my kitchen.

Now, that the time has changed for the spring/summer months.   The sunrise greets me as I leave my house to drive to work.   The balcony at the back of the house gets a wonderful sunset view over open fields with the Italian Alps in the distance.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For those who have more money than they know what to do with...

I found these 'flip flops' on display outside at a store, that was open, when I went to the Sunday Market a week ago.  The cost?  30 EUROS or about $40.00!!!

I looked on the backside of the shoes and there was NOTHING extra about them... they were just like the ones that split apart and fall off your feet just as you are walking across a parking lot on a day so hot that the 'pavement' is melting and moving under your feet!
Cute~  but, 30 euros is way more than I'll spend for some 'basic' rubber flip flops.  They'll bust apart just like the $2.00 ones from Wal-Mart!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Once again... the world just seems a little more scary, dangerous, and broken

It seems like less and less time passes between tragic events nowadays, doesn't it?
 Yet, I still like to believe that there is still more goodness in this world than there is evil.   I have to.A political cartoon from Randy Bish.

Oh, Fage, I love you ... almost the same as I love: Quark...

The missing post has finally been found thanks to:  Sanna (one of my blog readers) who took the trouble to copy and paste my blog entry- she had had a chance to read it before it disappeared into the 'thin' internet air never to be seen again.                                                                                 

One of my favorite things about Europe is... no, it's not the historical landmarks, the great food, the travel opportunities. Believe it or not... it's the amazing cheeses and also the yogurt. I mean, fresh wonderful yogurt without anything artificial put in it tastes so good. I already enjoyed yogurt; but, the yogurt here is so good.

Germany, had so many wonderful choices for yogurt. So many fresh fruit flavors. My favorite brand was by a company that sold their yogurt in glass jars. They had endless choices including a yogurt that had the vanilla bean specks mixed in.. like you sometimes find in ice-cream. This brand, also had a 'blood orange' flavor. It was hard to choose which flavors to buy. *They also had a regular 'tart' type with real chocolate pieces mixed in. That was nice... tart yogurt mixed in with some sweet dark chocolate pieces. I never found a flavor I didn't like.

However, my two absolute favorite flavors in the 'yogurt' family were the Greek yogurts 'from Greece.' Honey yogurt. Sigh. When I went to visit the states last summer... throughout my visit, I bought 3 different brands of Greek yogurt with honey... I was so happy that I could continue enjoying my Honey Greek yogurt for breakfast. IT was not the SAME. Not at ALL. I was so disappointed.

My most favorite of all? A little delight called: QUARK

Quark had the thickness of sour cream. I can't describe how it was different from yogurt... but, trust me... as much as I loved the yogurt... after I tasted 'QUARK'... that is all I bought. In various flavors. (well, I still bought the HONEY GREEK YOGURT). I'm pretty sure that quark is probably available in the states? IF so, check it out.

Since, I've been in Italy... I've gone to many, many, many grocery stores. I like to go into local foreign grocery stores wherever I live... but, every time I went to an 'off-base' grocery store... I would go check out the dairy case looking at all the yogurt choices (not as many as found in Germany) and I never found any of the German brands... nor did I find what I was really looking for: QUARK

When I found the new big grocery store on Monday... once again, I checked out the yogurt selections. No quark. No honey Greek yogurt. But, what's this? I found something by the name of: FAGE

It looked promising. Honey was featured on the container. Some chopped nuts (turned out to be walnuts) were included for stirring in. A little green folding spoon wrapped in plastic, was even included in the chopped nuts part of the lid. After opening the foil lid from the FAGE, I discovered that they had a little side section of honey for stirring in. I just had it for breakfast.

Heart be still. It is quark by another name!

I've only seen it sold in this one grocery store. (I'd already looked in another large grocery store.) I will be making regular trips to this grocery store. It is only in one flavor... but, it's my favorite flavor anyway.

It's such a little thing. But, I was missing: Quark

Muuuuhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmm     TOTAL is a good name:  It's is 'totally' good!

See the nuts? When opened under the label you'll discover a little wrapped in plastic folding green spoon 'for eating on the go.' Where the Fage is located... see the little section to the side that looks empty? (because it is) That is where the honey was stored for mixing in. I mixed in every drop of honey and every chopped nut and went... "uuuuummmmm"

Once Spring Break is over, I'll only be able to go to THE grocery store that sells: FAGE on Saturdays... but, if I time it just right... it might be lunch time and I might just have to stop at that local Trattoria that is between the grocery store and my house... and of course... *have lunch with another group of 50-60 men. (*See Monday's post Day 1 of Spring Break)

Oh, darn it all... that wouldn't happen on a Saturday... because that 'special lunch' only happened because it was 'lunch time' during the work week.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Summer Foster Cat

The night before I was to fly back to Germany, two summers ago, a stray Tom Cat decided that he knew just exactly where he should go to get some help.   To my friend's yard... knowing that I would find him.   We had been gone all day long; doing the last round of shopping/errands before I was to leave the next day.   We got home about 4:00.   As I was unloading my stuff from my friend's car... I could hear a 'pitiful low meowing' but, I couldn't figure out where it was coming from.   I finally spotted this gray tabby cat, hiding behind a bench in front of my friend's house.  This cat had been in her yard once several days earlier.

I leaned down and started talking to him and noticed that he was injured.  His head was all swollen out of shape right over his eye and all the way back from his forehead to the back of his head.   I could tell that he'd been in a fight and that the wound had probably sealed shut and the large swollen area was likely infected.

I got the cat and begged my friend, Annesia to drive us to the Vet's office; I told her that I'd pay for his care- but, that I could tell that he really needed some help.   So, off we go... their office was closing in 30 minutes and we were told to just wait in the lobby.   So, there I was with this 'stray' full-grown Tom Cat, that I had only seen once, wrapped up in a towel so that I could help hold and control him.  I kept talking softly to him... especially since this was clearly his first visit to a Vet's office.   Wouldn't you know it; not one but 3 very large dogs came into the waiting room too.  I kept the cat's eyes away from the huge dogs that were only inches away.

Finally, it was our turn.   The vet was short-handed and I had to hold the cat down while the Vet cut his 'swollen infected' area open to let the infection drain.   Of course this was pretty traumatic for the cat; but, somehow he knew that we were trying to help him and he didn't try to bite or scratch us.   The Vet told me that if I hadn't brought him in; that he would have been dead within a couple of days.  He was given a shot and some meds to help fight the infection.

So, we brought 'Tom the cat' into my friend's hot garage and set up a couple of fans to help circulate the air.   I made the cat a scrambled egg.  I figured he needed a little pampering after his ordeal.  My friend didn't want him in her house; especially since he was an injured stray cat.   I checked on him several times and he was laying down on an old soft cat bed that we found in the garage.

This cat was such a sweet cat and clearly not meant to live the life of a 'stray' male Tom Cat.  He was not a fighting type of cat.  My friend decided to keep him and paid for his neuter 'surgery'... he still lives outside.

He still remembers me when I go to visit my friend in the summer.  I think he knows that I was the one that saved his life and helped him find a good, safe place to live.   I can't have pets in my overseas homes and it's kind of nice to get to have a 'summer time' pet.

The first photo is Tom after 2 years.  He's filled out and has grown a lot since the summer that I helped him out.   He looks a lot healthier, doesn't he?
Tom says, "Isn't it time to brush me... ???"    This was after 1 year after his rescue.  

Oh boy, there comes "iwouldratherbeknitting'... I know she'll pet me!   This was one year later.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Basil and a naughty deer hat

I realized that I had never posted a photo of the 'naughty deer' hat that I had knitted for a friend.  *I had knitted when I was living in Germany... (slow internet that did not like posting photos to blogs).   I had found a photo of this hat pattern that someone else had knitted on the Internet and I sent it 'as a joke' to a friend who not only was a 'hunter' but his job was that of being a 'hunting guide.'

The next thing I know... he is begging for me to knit him a hat too.  I never thought he'd wear something like this- but, I did knit it and here is the result. 

Here it is being knitted.  NOTICE the deer and their 'deer activity?'  

All finished, notice the snow on my balcony in Germany?  Notice the 'snow drifts' on the balcony in Germany?   I think that the snow does look pretty sparkling because of the camera's flash.  I don't mind snow... (as long as it is not everyday for 6 months) if the SUN COMES OUT every so often... in Germany, it was dark, dreary, and gloomy for 6-7 months a year.  I drove to work in the dark and it got dark by 4:15-4:30.    I got my blood  tested and found that I was Vitamin D deficient.

THE was knitted out of 100% alpaca.   The hat was well-received by the new owner.   There was a lot of muttering going on while I was knitting my first fair isle/stranded color work knitted hat. 

And, now back in Italy....  look at what I bought...

The basil plant that I bought.  I have now replanted him in a bigger flower pot.  I need to buy more fresh herbs so I can start having a herb garden.  Of course, part of the problem is... when I go to the states during the summer... I won't have anyone to water things.     This is the side of my house and the brick area is my driveway.   My garage has ceramic tiles.   Makes me not want to park on it.