Adventure is Out There

Bongiorno, Tribe!

I hope you are as excited to hear about our Italian adventures as I am to tell them. It’s certainly been a strange, jet lagged last couple of days attempting to remember who I am and what I do. I have no idea where I’m going next. But this trip reminded me that the unknown is only as scary or adventurous as you decide it is.

Attraversiamo.

Thank you for being here with me.

First things first!

Congratulations going out to Melinda, our Forgetful Files Give-Away winner!

Your gift was purchased with real euros from the Firenze Musei (secret code for Florence Museum) gift shop in the Galleria dell Accedemia and carried all over Italy and then back to America. So it’s already got a history. This Fine Art Colouring Book contains full colour photos of…fine art and pulls excerpts out for you to…colour. Shipped in it’s original plastic sales bag, it comes with extra “u”s and includes a bookmark of my main man David.

The man is fine. Suitable for framing.

 

Before we launch into the stories, I will give you the nuts and bolts of our trip planning, in case you are going to Italy sometime soon.

(If the thought of planning a trip to Italy – or anywhere for that matter-  seems overwhelming, I am happy to refer you to my girlfriend, Kim, who is a travel agent. She can hook you up!)

Five cities, three days each. Rome, Sorrento, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice.

Airline tickets, airport transfers, four of the hotels, travel insurance, and tickets for Pompeii/Vesuvius tours and an opera performance were planned and purchased through tripmasters.com. They have a phone app that operates off line with your full itinerary and the map section worked very well for navigating new cities. You can download a city on googlemaps while on wifi and have it handy later, but this did not always cooperate.

The fifth hotel was secured directly (Cinque Terre).

Train tickets were purchased through trinitalia.com.

Ferry tickets (Naples to Sorrento and back) were purchased through traghettilines.it.

More tour tickets were secured through tripadvisor.com (Capri, Siena/Winery Tour, Vatican/Colosseum).

Vouchers for St Marks Basilica and the Campanile through venetoinside.com.

Tower of Pisa was booked directly at bigliettionline@opapisa.it.

All other tickets were bought on site as needed, like the Metro, museums, duomo, buses, vaporetto, hiking trails, bathrooms…

There is no Uber in Italy. The “Uber” they use is black Uber. Everyone uses the “mytaxi” app instead. You can rent cars or scooters but only if you’re a crazy person. We walked everywhere and loved it. But we might be crazy people, too.

While I purchased an international plan for my phone “just in case”, I only used it once. Our family uses the “whatsapp” app. Between the app and social media, we had plenty of communication. As a side note, although hotels and trains claim to have wifi, more than half the time it was completely inadequate for use. It’s a good reminder that you are on vacation and the kids are just fine and you should let it go already.

If you have any specific questions on my trip planning, I will try to answer them below in the comment box.

Meanwhile, if you have to know, I couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed by the Italian landscape. It was gorgeous and felt, most of the time, like we were home. My hunch that we live in paradise is fairly well cemented after this trip. There were lantana, eucalyptus, oleander along freeways. Olive, lemon, and avocado trees. Morning glory covering fences along extensive grape vineyards. Hibiscus, succulents, and geraniums in pots. Cactus. The cypress and ash were the same trees from my neighborhood.

The one exotic thing (by Dr Seuss standards) we discovered in Italy was the Umbrella Pine. Instead of the triangular Christmas pine tree that I am used to, these pines grow up and out, creating a green canopy as the lower branches turn brown and die back. In the cities, they keep the dead stuff trimmed up and the result is an elegant lofty pine that shades the park without taking up path space. They very much resemble the interiors of basilicas: towering columns supporting curving domed ceilings.

I would love this for Christmas. Well. The decorated tree or the decorated ceiling. I’m flexible.

Now, on with the show!

A Little Note on the Present

This week’s winner of our CozyPhones headphones Give-Away is Ruth, from Simi Valley!

Congratulations, Ruth, your headphones are hopping your way this very moment.

And a big thank you to everyone who participated, that was so much fun.

Today is Friday, and although a great many blogs are in my head, I think we’ll be short and sweet and deliciously in the present moment.

So often I have fun bragging on the tough stuff, if only to remind us all that the golden moments shared on Facebook are only the brilliant bits between the daily grind of traffic, hairballs gifted by the cat, refrigerators full of mystery leftovers, and dirty socks hidden under the car seat from three volleyball games ago.

I wondered what that smell was.

Today was a gift.

I got to see my sons because high school is finally out for the summer. They haven’t changed a bit. They walked around the house, remembering when they used to live here.

Then they went to the beach.

I got a haircut (or my eyebrows lowered, however you choose to view it) and my product-wielding girlfriend reminded me that I could work long shifts during the week and still have a little sass left over for the weekend. Just barely.

My main squeezin’ Hubby and I went out this morning and had sugar with sugar on top for breakfast with a side of liquid sugar, because this cute little cake shop moved into town and they aren’t about to serve acai bowls. Or bee pollen. Or veggie cakes. No. Eat your sugar America!

I was a wee bit jittery thereafter and went to my massage appointment to meditate on my life choices. I burn a lot of calories just listening to the rehab mood music. I felt the sugar melt right off again.

It’s all about balance.

I even called my mother today. Boom.

At the moment, I’m sitting with my little tatertot as she sleeps, waiting for her mom and dad to come home from a much-deserved date night. The kid and I have missed each other and we had some catching up to do. We chatted about her soon-to-be-here baby brother and we worked on her big-sister sass.

She’s got what it takes, I think.

I sit here this evening, grateful and content.

The month of June kicked off with a fifth-grade play, a birthday and a baptism, then stampedes through two graduations, a wedding, Father’s Day, a baby, and a two-week family road trip to Victoria, Canada that will swing it right past the fourth of July.

Don’t blink. You’ll miss it.

How To Hypnotize A Chicken

How are your peeps coming along?

The winner of our Puffy (and Poopless) Peeps Give Away is Mike!

For the rest of you who received a box of real chicks in the mail, here’s a few more things you may want to ruminate on.

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Blondes (Leghorns) and redheads (Rhode Island Reds) are the usual backyard choices for laying hens.

They will start laying small “pullet” eggs around six months old, unless they start crowing, which sounds like a dying carburetor or maybe a moose with the hiccups.

Separate those. They are turning into roosters. Roosters are boys. Boys don’t lay eggs. Boys have cooties and attitudes. They must go.

I once had a hen that crowed though, so pay attention.

She laid an egg in the morning and crowed in the afternoon and the other hens decided she could stick around, but she had to be the one in charge of crossing the road.

Your hen will lay an egg a day for the next three years or so. You will protect it, feed it, water it, admire it, and clean the coop. You will tend the nest boxes every day and remove the eggs as fast as they’re laid so that when the hen returns to the nest and wonders, “That’s weird. I’m pretty sure it was here a minute ago,” she will shrug, go outside to play, and lay a new one in the morning.

Over and over and over.

Unless she’s a naughty hen, or maybe another breed like a Light Brahma or Polish, and decides to get “broody”. Then you have to crowbar her butt off the nest and steal the egg without getting your hand removed by the angry mama.

Who're you calling broody?

Who’re you calling broody?

This hen may get so broody that she decides to start her own nest somewhere you can’t find it, like our Bantams did once – on the roof.

You may discover how Easter Egg Hunts were invented and why.

You may discover, all by yourself because you’re very clever, your own special collection of rotten eggs, in case of emergencies.

Like a zombie attack.

You’re ready.

So when the nest boxes are suddenly empty every day, you have to ask yourself: “Are eggs about to roll off the roof onto my head and cause a zombie apocalypse or are my biddies turning the corner to henopause?”

This is important because you have been getting some amazing eggs. They have more nutrients and better flavor and brighter yolks and sometimes TWO yolks because you have some seriously happy hens. They get to run around and eat bugs. They get to poop on your patio. They like to roost on the swing set and take dust baths in the side yard.

Maybe all the ladies need is a nice massage, maybe a nap.

Yes.

It’s time to learn how to properly hypnotize a chicken.

If Clark Gable can do it*, so can you.

Our model today is a bearded Araucana rooster named Blackbeard. This tough guy keeps his harem on the straight and narrow.

  • Find your chicken. Lure it over with a bread crust. Say “chick, chick, chick”
  • Pick it up like a big cuddly feathery teddy bear
Blackbeard demonstrates how to hold a chicken: by the legs.

Blackbeard demonstrates how to hold a chicken who has attitude: by the legs.

  • It will wiggle. That’s okay. It doesn’t know how much fun it’s about to have
  • Gently lay it on its side, on the ground, like it’s nap time for chickys
  • With your finger, draw a line in the dust, from the chicken’s beak out and away, along it’s line of vision

Wait….what’s that?

  • When the chicken focusses on this line, it will go quiet and limp
Ooooh...it's so pretty....

Ooooh…it’s so pretty….

  • Time the time-outs with your buddies to see whose chook takes the longest nap
  • This, my friends, is how they make boneless chickens

The hens are laughing at me….aren’t they?

*Clark Gable made a black and white movie in 1945, “Adventure”, that was pretty much a bomb. Not even the love scenes were any good. But the man had chicken skills, and I will never see Rhett Butler the same way again.

And the Winner Is…

A big “Thank you!” to everyone who played along yesterday for my first ever drawing!

It was so much fun, I plan to have more in the future.

Feedback is a writer’s oxygen. I don’t care if the air is fresh, happy and approving or smoggy, snarky and smelling faintly of three-day-old fish.

If you’re willing to push a keyboard button just for me, you rock.

The lucky winner of this week’s drawing is a brand new subscriber: Sylvia!

Sylvia, thanks for stopping by for a visit.

I am totally happy to send you a potato gun. Use it wisely and often.

I think I speak for all of my readers when I ask you to please post your results here, in the comment box, when you’ve had a chance to fire off a few rounds. Let us know if it lives up to the hype. I strongly support the kid in all of us, even if it’s a little naughty once in a while.

Thanks, everyone, for your topic suggestions. I’ll be sitting in my closet (yes, it’s big enough for my desk and my scarf collection) avoiding distractions (ie: hiding from the kids) and tapping away at the keyboard.

Bliss.

Have a really wonderful week. Toss some potatoes around.