Archive for October, 2007

blue bike

October 27, 2007

Critical Mass, la mia bicicletta

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

I still haven’t found my bicycle pump.
Critical Mass is nice because you don’t have to have a bicycle pump, you just need a body on a bike, and then you are doing something important with other people.
In fact, sometimes just being on my bike feels like doing something important. Sometimes it feels like the most important thing I can possibly do, the most concrete.
I love my blue city bike that Francesco saved from the trash and fixed for me. He intended it to be my station bike, but she quickly moved on to other things and we go all over the place together now. I have learned a lot about my new home because of adventures with her, just the two of us, exploring.
I am a better person when I ride my bike.

Cooperation

October 21, 2007

Fixing a flat, Aribi-style

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

On Aribi’s ride last week, a bike went flat during our lunch break. And no one person had all that was needed to fix it, but between the twelve or so of us we scraped together the tools and parts necessary and several people contributed no material things but rather skill. I am proud to say that I contributed the bicycle pump.

At the time I thought it was all so very ideal, the perfect situation to illustrate how we are stronger as a group. It’s so easy when there is a very clear goal, something non-negotiable, no varying ways of going about it, no differing values. Everyone contributes something positive, or stands around keeping the others company, keeping spirits up.

It’s a lot harder when the goals are either less tangible, or simply not exactly the same. I am discouraged, usually, by the meetings I am a part of with groups: the apartment building, the bike group, the consumers’ group. And not with others, but with myself. I don’t really know how to be a part of a group, or rather, a helpful part. I don’t know what I have to contribute. I don’t know what my bicycle pump is.

Multi-tasking

October 8, 2007

oven-cleaning

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

I am working from home these weeks that I am in Italy- I am reading albums for the students taking the Montessori elementary training course. Today was my first real day, and I’ve enjoyed it. During my breaks I can do house-y things like make dinner ahead of time, dust… and clean the oven.

I was surprised that Ilario bought some serious cleaning chemicals while I was gone- for more than two years we have mostly used vinegar, soap and water, with a couple of exceptions. I told him I thought those things were unneccessary and dangerous. So when he later pointed out that we should clean the oven because it had become disgusting, I felt like I needed to make a point.

I found a ton of recipes on the internet, all relatively similar except that some called for “washing soda”, which I don’t even know in English, let alone Italian. I opted for one that just used soap, water, baking soda and salt.

I sprayed the oven with soapy water, then sprinkled a mixture of one part salt to three parts baking soda all over the oven. Sprayed again to wet the powder, and let it sit for a few hours. Then I scrubbed it all off with a scrubby sponge, and wiped the whole thing clean!

I did this after I had baked something in the oven, so it was hot (which was exciting when I sprayed the soapy water). I dont really know if the salt or soap are neccessary- several recipes just used the baking soda. It was easier to get the powder/paste on the horizontal surfaces, and they therefore got cleaner as well. Next time I think I will use a cold oven and spread already wet paste on the sides and back.

But really it worked well, and took me about 15 minutes to scrub and wipe clean.

After I finish the chemicals Ilario bought, and the few exceptions I noted above, I am making the conversion to baking soda for everything. It’s amazing.

the desire for fresh orange juice

October 6, 2007

zucca

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

I create so many rules, or at least objectives that what should be basic, routine activities frequently become very complex. Take this morning for example: the house was in need of groceries, so at breakfast we discussed what should go on the list. Ilario mentioned orange juice, and that’s when things started to get complicated. Because, you see, we are trying to reduce the packaging we purchase, and especially the non-recyclable packaging. And orange juice only comes here in these terrible tetra-pack-type-things that must be thrown away. I have stopped drinking juice altogether because of this, but Ilario hasn’t and honestly I miss it. So I decided, inspired by my friend Britta in Sweden, to try making fresh juice every morning. Oranges, I figure, come from Italy or Spain, and if they arent processed and packaged than probably I can feel ok about them.

Are you still with me? Because here’s where it degenerated into a simple and straightforward idea to involved effort- we didn’t have a juicer (I don’t mean one of those fancy electric ones, but just a basic hand thing, like that you use to get lemon juice when baking). I debated where to go- none of the small groceries here in town have kitchen things, and I didn’t want to shop at the big supermarkets because I hate them (that’s a whole ‘nother complicated story). So I decided to go to the weekly market three towns away. I would have to take the car, but at least it would be small businesses. And I decided to invite my mother in law, who likes these sort of things.

The trip was delayed so she could prepare lunch to be ready on time when she returned, and by 11 am we were off. At the market I immediately found what I wanted (alas, in plastic), but then there were all the other booths to look at… so I found yarn for a knitting project (the granny squares are making me sick), and then, at the very very very end, so much so we almost didn’t walk that last bit because we were sick of the market, I found……

A SMALL, LOCAL, FAMILY FARM.

Yes, folks, it’s true, after more than two years of desire and looking, I found a local producer who can supply me through the winter with apples, squash, potatoes, onions, garlic and other things the rest of the year. I was so happy I nearly cried, and I had so many questions I think I probably freaked them out. This is really very exciting, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been trying to not buy orange juice. Funny. But I still haven’t gone grocery shopping…

Cultural lexicon

October 5, 2007

Roasted chestnuts

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

Last night my father in law dropped by with these: roasted chestnuts. It’s the season for them, though the warm days make me forget that it really is Autumn already. Autumn already because somehow in being away for six weeks I lost my rythym here and felt like it should still be summer when I returned. A strange kind of disorietation has resulted.

Roasted chestnuts are relatively new in my life, something I only discovered here in northern Italy. I had always read about them, and they are in Nat King Cole’s famous Christmas song, but they were sort of like olive trees: part of the cultural lexicon, but only in a symbolic way, nothing tangible or present in my actual experience. It is only since having seen olive groves, having learned of the time and effort required to nuture the trees, and of the variety of products that one can derive from the trees, that I truly begin to understand the depth of their concrete and metaphorical significance.

And the same is true for chestnuts. They are abundant here, relatively easy to gather (they simply fall off the trees when ripe, and then the scary, spikey casings neatly open on their own, begging you to take the glossy, smooth, brown seeds inside.). You can boil them or roast them, but the roasting gives them that toasted, nutty flavor that complements so well the mild sweet flesh. As I have an incredible sweet tooth, I am always feeling twinges of sympathy when I think about folks who lived before sugar, before easy access to honey and then sugar. I can imagine myself waiting for these sweet nuts, and then eating tons. Not that they are very very sweet, but enough to satisfy those kinds of cravings.

Now, I wasn’t trying to say that olives and chestnuts have the same cultural-symbolic weight, but I do think that chestnuts are representative of our idea of by-gone, quieter times, and simple pleasures. That kind of thing.

So thanks, Francesco, for the chestnuts. They momentarily diverted me from my anguish.

Gone again

October 4, 2007

Stazione di Terno d’Isola

Originally uploaded by nonsonoitaliana

Two of my most cherished people, waiting for the train to Bergamo yesterday. Today they are gone and all I have is pictures. Sometimes the arrangement of life is just a little too much to bear, and today is one of those times.