Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To Pack or Not To Pack

A. The beginning
 "I get ideas about what's essential
when packing my suitcase."
~ Diane VonFurstenberg

I'll be in Europe nine weeks, and I'm taking only one carry-on bag and one personal item—a rolling backpack.  My electronic stuff 
B. The bottom layer

goes in the backpack, so the carry-on has the honor of carrying clothing.  I've tried different ways of packing over the years (stacked, rolled, smashed), and last years I found a great way that has saved me a lot of room.

To do it, you need a large, flat surface.  You want to start with the clothes that are made with the lightest fabric.  If you are taking a dress, it would go on the bottom.

Lay out shirts to form a cross.  Note photos A and B. The hems overlap each other with the collars toward the outside.  The shirts with long sleeves should be on the bottom, and the short sleeves on top.  (Photo C)
C. All shirts
D. Slacks

 The heavier items—jeans, slacks, shorts, skirts—go on top of the shirts. Fold the slacks in half and lay them out in the cross pattern.  The waists should go in the middle and overlap each other.  (D and E)
E. All bottoms laid out

Longer items should go on the bottom with shorts going on top.

Once you have all of your tops and bottoms layered, You need something for the center.  Underwear, socks, hats, etc. make good centers. Since it doesn't matter if they get wrinkled, you can stuff them in a t-shirt or nightgown.  For this demo, I used my hat for the center. (F)

F. The center
Starting with one of the bottoms, fold it over the center, pulling it in tightly.  (G)

G. The folding

H. Long slacks folded twice

 Fold in the slacks on the opposite side.  If the legs are long, you may need to fold them twice (H).  Continue with the bottoms until you fold all of them neatly into a rectangle of sorts.  (I)

I. All bottoms folded

J. The shirts
K. Shirts

Bottoms folded, start on the tops.  Fold the sleeves in and wrap the first shirt over the bottoms. (J)  Continue wrapping the shirts (K) in like manner until they form a completed bundle of clothing. (L)
L. The completed bundle

In case you didn't count, I had eight shirts, two capris, two shorts, two jeans, a hat and two hats in the bundle I did for this demo.

M. The bundle in my suitcase    

M. Necessities

N. Bagged
 What, you might ask, about the delicates and such?  The pile in the first photo (M) includes two pillowcases, socks, undies, and a nightshirt.  I put everything but the undies in a gallon bag (N), partially locked it, and sat on it to force the air out and reduce it in size.  (O)
O. Air out of the bag.

To be honest, I pulled everything apart once I finished this afternoon.  I didn't get everything as tight as I like, so I'll re-do it in the morning.  Tonight I need to work on the backpack.

T-minus 24 hours and 27 minutes

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Random Thoughts, Part IV... Grams & Mom

Liberata e Donato Berarducci, mei nonni italiani

“It’s important to honor your ancestors. 
Bringing in a piece of furniture or an object 
you’ve inherited from a loved one not only 
honors the person who has passed but also 
brings the warmth of happy memories. . .”
~ Jeffrey A Wands

I have nothing of my grandmother's possessions to hold. I wish I had something—a frying pan, a scarf, a handkerchief, a scrap of fabric from her cotton dress. I was too young when she passed to know that 40 years later, I would crave a physical piece of her.  When my mom passed almost nine years ago, I hoarded bits of her life. Sometimes, I take out the notebooks in which she wrote recipes, stare at the writing, and run my hand along the pages in hopes that a bit of her DNA is still there.
Of Grams, though, I have only the memories of what she told me, and those are, in the end, even more important.

Many of my adult friends assume that all four of my grandparents were Italian. My answer that my father's side was definitely not Italian always leads to further comments and/or questions.

"What else are you then?"

"Why don't you write about your father and his parents?"

"You'll probably start researching them at some point."

I'm Italian.
I have my reasons.
I won't be doing any research into them.

I won't get into specifics here as I'm addressing it in the book, but suffice to say that my paternal grandparents—especially my grandmother—were not nice people.  They hated my mother because she was Italian, and since we were *her* children, they hated my brother and me. I imagine that my cousins on that side would describe them differently, and that is their reality.  My brother and I experienced a different life with them.

Truthfully, neither my father nor his parents really ever shared much with us. I can write in one sentence what my father told me about their background. I did google my maiden name once, found something on a few sites, and discovered that what I thought I knew was not quite right.  (In all honesty, what I uncovered about my beloved Grams was different from what she, my mom, and my aunts/uncles always told us. More on that eventually.)

Going back to Grams and Mom and the others. . . I hope I can honor them with my words.  That, I think, is essential.

By the way, I'm three days out. It's time to start pre-packing.  ;-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Random Thoughts & Another Secret, Part II (or III...I lost count)

“Courage to me is doing something daring, no matter how afraid, 
 insecure, intimidated, alone, unworthy, incapable, ridiculed 
or whatever other paralyzing emotion you might feel. 
Courage is taking action.....no matter what.  So you're 
afraid?  Be afraid.  Be scared silly to the point you're 
trembling and nauseous, but do it anyway!” 
~ Richelle E Goodrich

I said before that I'm not sure that I'm courageous simply because I'm going to live in Italy by myself for seven weeks. My grandmother and the millions of others who left the only life they knew to come to this unknown and different place were courageous. Those men and women who conquered the wilderness that was America and civilized it were courageous. Those brave souls who worked so hard so that we might have it easier were courageous.  I'm, well, fortunate I can do this.

I'll let you in on another secret:  I'm anxious right now.  (anx•ious... [ˈaNG(k)SHəs/]... adjective ...  experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event)

"Are you getting excited?" Mike asked me last night.

"I'm anxious, " I replied. "I'm starting to think maybe I'm a little crazy to do this."

"You have insurance," he said after a few seconds. "You could cancel."  

"Only for illness." I think maybe I answered a little too quickly (And, I'll admit that the short exchange did make me feel a little guilty for leaving him and Riley to fend for themselves for a bit. However, I cooked and froze a bunch of meals.).

Truthfully, anxiety overtakes me no matter where I travel and no matter whether I go by myself or with him or someone else. (It's another one of those great qualities that I inherited from my mother, the worrier.)  Once I step into the airport, though, I should be fine.  Of course, spending almost 10 hours crammed next to someone I don't know as we hurtle through the night sky toward London might be a little challenging.

Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and Elaine are flying home with Jerry in first class, and Elaine is stuck in economy between a gum chomper and a slob who carried on half of his worldly goods.  The slob is sleeping and Elaine has to go to the bathroom. She worries that her kidneys will burst and debates waking the guy up while the  passenger on the other side of her continues cracking her gum very loudly.  It's true life, I tell you. True life.

A few years ago, I was flying home to Nashville on a sold-out Southwest flight. A man sat in the seat next to me, and I had a loooonnnngggg ride home. I ended up writing a poem about the experience.  (You can read it here.)  I've also sat next to a tall guy who decided he had the right to rest his knees on mine (moving to the far left did me no good).... in front of a kid who repeatedly kicked my seat even when I asked him to stop and then asked his dad to make him stop... in the row in front of a guy so drunk I got a little high from the fumes.... next to a guy who spent three hours constantly moving in his seat.... in front of a gal who brought a very stinky dinner with her.

At any rate, I think I'm going to write a list essay about my flight experiences. Maybe I'll start while I'm on the plane next Wednesday. It should kill a few hours if I can't sleep.

 T-minus six days...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Random Thoughts & a Secret or 2

Same photo. Different Thought.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes
the whole world around you because the
greatest secrets are always hidden in the
most unlikely places. Those who don't believe
in magic will never find it.”
~ Roald Dahl

"Are you getting excited about leaving?" a number of friends ask me almost every day.  I'm never quite sure how to answer that question.

"No," I usually lie. They usually blink at me in confusion, and I usually reply that I'm getting there.

If you know me very well, you know that I keep most emotions pretty close.  (Side note: It's heredity, I tell you.  Remember the Murphy Brown episode in which Frank gave his parents a big party, and they complained?

"You're never happy," he moaned.  "I buy you a Cadillac, you complain because it's too big. If I bought you a smaller car, you'd complain because it's too small.  You didn't want a party, but if I hadn't given it, you'd complain.  I give you a surprise party, and you complain because it's not a big blow out. I give up!"

"We're Italian! We're Catholic!" his father snaps back. "You act too happy, God will take it all back."  

That explains my mother, I tell you. It rubbed off on me.)

At any rate, the truth of the matter is that I'm very excited, and I'm very anxious.

But let me tell you a little secret:  If I had the nerve, I would dance. Dance. Fling my head back. Throw my arms out. Spin around. Do cartwheels. Jump in the air and touch my toes.

Something in me makes me hold back, though. If you look at the photo at the top of this post, you can see it.  Yes, I flung out the old arms and was at the start of a twirl, but I look pained.  Instead of flying through the air, my hands and fingers are in a tight ball. Good grief. I look like I have indigestion.

Secret#2:  I worry that I'd look like a fool, so I hold it in. 

But, I'm letting go in my head.  Does that count?

8 days, by the way....

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Random Thoughts

Moi freezing in Paris last April

“Never did the world make a queen of a girl
who hides in houses and dreams without traveling.”
~ Roman Payne

Two acquaintances called me this afternoon as they both just heard that I'm going to Italy soon.

"When are you two leaving?" Friend #1 asked.

"I'm leaving July 30," I replied. There was silence on the other end for a few seconds.

"You're going by yourself?" she asked.  "Without Mike?"

"Yes." There wasn't much more for me to add, so it got quiet again.

"I guess you'll be staying with your family?" She sounded a little confused.

"Nope," I replied. "I'm renting an apartment in Bologna for six weeks."  Silence.

The second conversation went much like the first, although the guy who called that time knew I was going alone but thought it was for six days, not weeks.

"I think Friend #1 and Friend #2 are surprised I'm going to Italy alone," I said to Mike after the second call. 

"I think most people are surprised," Mike answered. "They only think you're crazy. I know you are."

My dear husband always says the right thing.

At any rate, with the end of July barreling down on me, I'm trying to finalize a few minor details before I leave. I have all of the major things—apartments, trains, transport— aligned, I continue to work on the small things.

August is vacation month in Europe, and many stores and restaurants close as their owners take off and head to the beach or somewhere else to relax. (Personally, I think they do it to avoid the hordes of tourists [Americans] who descend on them annually.) I'm not too worried about that as long as the main markets remain open, the bars (aka coffee shops) are open, and the train runs.

I'm taking an intensive Italian class for two weeks, and I'm looking into taking a cooking class.  In doing the research, I found that there are over 20 Italian cooking schools in Bologna and, believe it or not, one gelato university (Check it out here.)  Most of the classes at the university are longer than one day, but someone is offering a one-day, five-hour class for 200 euro. I guess I'll just be buying the gelato. I can get about 2 gelati per day for that same 200 euro. You do the math. ;-)

I have Skype, but I've been trying to figure out which international text app to download. Whatapp and Viber seem to be most popular, so I guess I'll check those out a little more before I decide. From what I can tell, all I need to do is download them and use them when I'm in a wi-fi zone.

This afternoon, I discovered that Bologna offers free wi-fi throughout the historic center.  Most importantly, it is free to residents and tourists as of a few months ago. Previously, tourists had to go through a huge rigamarole to be able to connect at most public wi-fi spots. A new law, however, has done away with the loopholes. Of course, since I have wi-fi in the flat, public wi-fi in the entire city is not as important as it would have been even last year.

And you know what? Free wi-fi means that I can use my iPhone to find the closest gelateria and avoid expensive data charges.  How cool is that?

"Are you making a list of what you need to do next week?" Mike asked me earlier this evening.

No, Dude, I haven't. I'm too busy worrying about the kind of gelato I'm going to eat first.

T-minus 10 . .  . . . .

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Tempo al Tempo" (All is good time)

The kitchen & terrace from the living room

“I'm not making any plans. I'm just 
going to let the universe surprise me.” 
~John Cusack

"It's time to start planning the packing," my good friend, Bob, mentioned to me today.
"I started that a few weeks ago," I replied. It probably shocked him as "Procrastination" is my middle name.

(Side note: I actually have a theory about that procrastination thing. My mother said I was due in late February, but I wasn't born until March 19. I've always figured that, a) I was holding out because I didn't want to be born in winter; and, b) The procrastination has been with me since before birth, so why start fighting it now? It makes sense to me...But I digress.)

While I probably won't start packing until the day I leave, I have decided that I have to start planning a bit because I hate over-packing as much as I hate under-packing. Since I have a lot to take with me in one carry-on and one personal item, I need to maximize space. Luckily, the apartment has a washer and dryer (which, if you've been to Europe, you know is simply a rack over which one hangs clothes to dry), so I can be a little skimpy on clothing.

"You can probably make it with two pairs of shorts, a pair of good slacks, and three tops," my dear husband said yesterday. I rolled my eyes (which hurt like anything since I'm still recovering from surgery).

"I packed more than that last year," I flipped back, "and it was winter. Think double that."  I think he rolled his eyes. Mike has this plan that we are someday going to travel somewhere with little or nothing in our suitcases and buy what we need when we get where we're going. He also has this plan to bring old clothes and throw them out before we come home. He hasn't convinced me to do either yet.

The bedroom

I do have to figure out how to take all my technology with me. The purpose of this trip is to write, so my laptop, iPad, camera and all the charging devices that go with them have to go somewhere. As small as the devices get these days, you'd think they'd figure out how to make the cables smaller, too. 

Oh, well.  I'll survive.

By the way,  I've included photos of the apartment kitchen and bedroom with this post.  Lovely little place, isn't it? Note that there's a Nespresso machine on the counter in the kitchen.  What more do I need? 

T-minus 22 days....