Thursday, September 30, 2010

Swift Kick in the Pants


Growing up, whenever someone needed a reality check or had done something stupid, my father would say that person needed a "swift kick in the pants". He still says it to this day. No doubt, he is sitting and watching the news right now and as LiLo goes back for her fifth stint in rehab, he is muttering "She doesn't need rehab, she needs a swift kick in the pants.". As you might imagine, he said this about me an awful lot, particularly throughout my "colorful" teen years.

This phrase has become part of my own lexicon, despite my attempts to beat it back with a stick. Anything you hear that often sinks in whether you want it to or not.

Today, I would like to share with you, some of the people and things that I have encountered over the past week that need a "Swift Kick in the Pants".

A Swift Kick in the Pants to: My Shoes
for the sole separating out from under the heel and making a smacking noise with every step. And an extra kick for happening as I walked in the building at 9:00 am, leaving me to announce my arrival at every meeting with a thwack,thwack.

A Swift Kick in the Pants to: Me
for face planting in the middle of Five Guys Burger. Go figure, old dumbass germophobe wants to wash her hands before she eats her burger and since they take an eternity to cook a burger at Five Guys, I had ample time. However, you would think that after a lifetime of scraped knees and twisted ankles that I would look more closely at the four inch high lip between the restaurant floor and the bathroom floor.

Just to reinforce for the trillionth time - Weak Ankles + Clogs + Uneven Pavement = eating the floor.

A Swift Kick in the Pants to: The Boyscouts of America
for stalking people outside the 7-11. I definitely don't mind buying things from the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts. I have certainly purchased more than my fair share of Thin Mints. But on this morning, the BS0fA had a new product line (oh goody, no more microwave popcorn), which included an eleven ounce bag of Carmel corn. This is a much smaller bag than your standard bag of chips. The bag was smaller than an 8X11 sheet of paper.

I picked up a bag and handed the kid a ten dollar bill. It wasn't priced, but I figured I must have had it covered. He looked at me in confusion, tongue half hanging out of his mouth like it was the first time he had seen money. The older scout at the table told him to look up the price. He flipped open his little catalogue and said "eighteen dollars please". I tried not to look as shocked as I was. Are you telling me that if they sold that measly bag of snacks for eight dollars, the BSofA would not have made a tidy profit for their organization? Say, somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.50? But it gets better . . .

I reach into my wallet to return the ten dollar bill and retrieve a twenty. I hand the boy the 20 and again, a pained look of confusion crosses his face. He stands there, motionless and silent with the twenty dollar bill in his hand. Again, the older scout instructs him to give me two dollars change. He opens up his little cash box and it is empty. The older scout yells down to his father "Dad, we need change for the box.". His father, deep in conversation with another father about either baseball or hookers, barely nods to his son and goes on with his conversation. At this point, my level of frustration is at its peak. I had two choices: Walk away or walk down to the father and give him a Swift Kick in the Pants. I walked away, but one week later, I regret not kicking him. What a douchebag. Or maybe the douchebag is me. I am the proud owner of a $20 bag of caramel corn.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joyful Heart Foundation - Please Link Up



Those of you that read this blog on a semi-regular basis know that there is very little about it that is serious. I am certainly not topical, political or prone to slinging an opinion much further than the quality of customer service in local retail establishments. I also don't join many blog carnivals. As a matter of fact, the very word blog carnival conjures images of sleep deprived women on their twelfth cup of coffee, operating the Tilt-a-Whirl while tapping away at their laptops.

However, this one bears mention and participation. I heard about it from the Empress over at Good Day Regular People. Thanks to the Empress for raising awareness.



About this blog carnival: “The world I want for my children” is an effort to support The Joyful Heart Foundation, which was founded by Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay to help victims of sexual assault mend their minds, bodies and spirits and reclaim their lives. Today, the foundation is at the forefront of an effort to end a disheartening backlog of tens of thousands of rape kits in labs across the country, a backlog that contributes to a rapist’s 80 percent chance of getting away with his crime. The backlog and its detrimental effects will be the topic of an SVU episode on September 29th.

Please help us raise awareness for this important work. What kind of world do you want for your children? Write your post and
link up here.


The World That I Want For My Children - By DG @ Diary of a Mad Bathroom


I'll be brief:
The World that I Want for my children is one where blog carnivals like this aren't necessary.






Friday, September 24, 2010

This Explains Why I'm Like This

As some of you might have guessed from my last post, I grew up in the 70's. From Kindergarten through my early teens, I was a child of the decade. For those of you that are of a similar age group, you know that this means that I survived the decade of cheesy AM top 40, of heinous crimes against fashion and of avocado colored appliances. From the fade out of the hippie to the fade in of disco, my formative years bear the imprint of the 'Me Generation'.


Now don't get me wrong, there were good things about the 70's, but for the most part, they are hazed over by the faint and jumbled memories of bad Barbara Streisand movies and episodes of the Partridge Family.

Here are some of the more horrifying things that I survived. It's nothing short of a miracle that I am not walking around in polyester gauchos with marshmallow shoes, incoherently babbling lyrics to Allman Brother's songs. Somehow I made it out with my dignity in tact.



BAD

Rex Smith




Astronaut Food



To taste this was to truly appreciate the sacrifice that the astronauts made for this country. Kind of like a mixture of hamster shavings and condensed milk.




Tang


Again, hats off to the astronauts. Another sacrifice in the name of progress.
People That Got Their Rocks Off By Squeezing TP



Ewwww. Mr. Whipple was a kinda pervy


Polyester clothing
How did the species not fall off the planet as of 1976? Who would want to sleep with these guys? They look like the Festrunk Brothers.


One hit wonders a-plenty




How Much I Feel by Ambrosia @ Yahoo! Video

OK, I'm not gonna lie, I kinda dig that song. It was played so much in the 1970's that I'm pretty sure you could find traces of it in my DNA. And there were so many more like it. Every time you turned on the radio, it was like spinning the giant wheel of musical cheese.

Andy Gibb

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I had a little thing for him in my early teens. It was brief and it only took a couple of listens to something more substantial for me to realize what a lightweight, candy-ass tune this was. Still, it is hooky as hell. . .


GOOD

The birth of SNL



The birth of Punk
Sadly, these guys didn't come into my consciousness until about 1979, when my boyfriend opened my eyes to a whole new world of music. It was at this point that I waved goodbye to the top 20 and hello to the The Clash, The Ramones and The Sex Pistols.



The Cars first three albums












OK, the third one was from 1980, but in my opinion, they are the three best albums that this band had to offer and the musical dividing line between love and like. This band also provided my first teen crush on a band guy. Oh the years I spent pining over Ben Orr. But, how do you not? I mean, really.


The Bob Newhart Show

No, not that dorky Bed and Breakfast show with the three guys with the same name. The original Newhart show. The one that the dorky show had to call back to in order to make the greatest show ending in television history. The one with Roger, from I Dream of Jeanie. The one that has its own drinking game.

The Odd Couple


Hard to believe that this show was run off the air because people couldn't believe that two men could live together for this long and not be gay. OK, Felix was kind of a queen, but so what? They had perfect comedic chemistry. Imagine if we applied that same twisted logic to Friends - they really all hang out together every day because they're into group sex! So stupid.


This little walk down memory lane was sponsored by the most disgusting food of the 1970s:
Ta-ca-ta-ca-Taco Bell. It spells diarrhea in any decade!






PS - for Noelle and any of you other youngsters that have to ask what Marshmallow shoes were - the shape of the heel and sole was sort of like the shoe below, but it was a closed shoe style and the heel was made of springy white rubber (which looked like a marshmallow). If you didn't have Marshmallow Shoes in 1976, then you just weren't cool. The cork platforms below? Also very cool. As were platform Buffalo Sandals and wood platforms, but you are going to have to Google those yourself. All this walking down memory lane has me exhausted.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

My generation's teen hearthrob:



This generation's teen heartthrob:


My generation's skinny little musician:


This generation's skinny little musician:



My generation's WTF?




This generation's WTF?















Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cornetti - Neither a Total Fail nor a Total Win


In my ongoing quest to prolong the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy, I have taken a swipe at the standard breakfast food of the Italians -Cornetti. A cousin to the croissant, cornetti have a slightly less rigid fold/chill/turn/chill process. It is basically a brioche dough with butter (or burro if you want to be all Italian about it) between the sheets.

Now, I am not going to pretend that they came out perfect, as a matter of fact they look a little like they got worked over by a marauding band of prune danish. But I would definitely call it a respectable first try.

Most of them are plain, glazed with a light coating of sugar syrup before baking. I filled a couple with Nutella for my daughter. Try as I might to like that stuff, I just can't stomach the flavor of hazlenut (Which reminds me of my favorite scene from the movie Best in Show. Please humor my painfully short attention span and see below). Next up, I make a Crema Pasticceria (pastry cream), which was my favorite filling for the Cornetti and we have a delicious Italian breakfast for tomorrow. Now if only I could make a cappuccino that is even half as good as they do in Italian gas stations. . .

Have a happy weekend and stop naming nuts!



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Post It Note Tuesday


It's time for Post It Note Tuesday. Go here to link up and get in on the fun.

























Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Myths, Facts and My Own Stupid Assumptions About Italy

One of the downsides of preparing to visit another country is the research. Not that doing research is bad, it's actually a fun way to get prepared and excited for your trip. But in the process of that research and in reading other people's trip reports and hearing people's stories, you have to work very hard to see past their perceptions, prejudices and things that in reflection, sound like outright lies.

Rather than write a standard trip report about my two weeks in Italy, I am going to share with you the myths, facts and my own stupid assumptions about it and what the realities were, based on our experience.


Myth 1- Italians are lazy. - Completely untrue. We found most Italians to be friendly, helpful and industrious. It's probably the pace that they do things at that gives them this unearned label. Italians live life to the fullest, enjoying long chats over coffee, lingering over multi-course lunches and dinners, appreciating good friends, good wine and good food. No one ever appears frazzled, is multitasking or trying to work at an "American" pace. But who says our pace is right? I would love to close down the office for a three hour lunch/nap combo. Wouldn't you?


Myth 2- Roman cab drivers will rip you off. - Just like New York City, if you get in a cab with purpose, confidence and act like you know where you are going, you are less likely to get taken. Big city rules apply in all big cities. We had no problems with this and we took a LOT of cabs.

Myth 3- They hate Americans in Italy. - This couldn't be less true. Everyone was polite, friendly and worked extra hard at communicating with us. Almost everyone in Rome spoke some English and seemed to appreciate our business.

Myth 4- Renting a villa in Tuscany is a beautiful, magical experience. - This is actually mostly true. However I think I over-romanticized the notion and was therefore a teensy bit surprised by the rusticity of the experience.

We stayed in a beautiful old, stone house in the hills of Tuscany. It was set deep within a nature preserve, where the chief protectants were deer and wild boar. Their presence was never seen but it was obvious that they were there, based on the five foot high wire fencing that surrounded the entire perimeter of the compound.

Getting to the villa was nothing short of treacherous. The 2 mile long road to the villa off the main road was a steep, winding, unpaved, single lane path lined with sharp gravel and ditches on either side. Every ride up or down was harrowing and caused the drivers tremendous stress and anxiety. And the bugs! Bugs would follow the car up the road in swarms, they would divebomb us in the pool and they were in the house and everywhere else. I soon realized that we were in their space and we either had to co-exist or go down fighting. The irony was that at night (when all the bugs come out at home), all the bugs went away and we could thoroughly enjoy the outdoors. Because of this, there were several moonlit dinners in the courtyard which we enjoyed with many bottles of wine. (The recycling that we put out was a shocking retrospective of our consumption.)

Myth 5- Rome is crawling with gypsies just waiting to rip you off. - There are definitely street performers and people begging for money all over the place. Again, NY City rules and savvy apply. Don't look like a tourist. Don't make eye contact. Don't be afraid to assertively say NO.
Fact 1- It is almost impossible to get a bad meal in Italy. - Everything is delicious, fresh and well seasoned. Italians don't fear salt and pepper, so every element of the meal is skillfully seasoned. I never picked up a salt shaker for the entire length of the trip. It is also a fact that they cook their pasta 'al dente'. Where I would give the pasta an additional minute, they really let it be toothsome.

Fact 2- Italians don't sweat/have amazing personal style. - Italians always look crisp and fresh, even on the hottest summer days. Men wear long pants and long sleeve shirts in the dog days of summer and there is nary a bead of sweat across their brow. Women ride bikes in the hot summer sun with their hair perfectly coiffed, wearing designer dresses and shades, looking runway ready. Maddening, really. And everyone wears linen and nobody wrinkles. What the hell is that about?
Stupid Assumption 1 - After studying briefly at home, I would pick up a few words of Italian in Italy. - Wrong and wrong. The thing about Italians is that they really know how to speak Italian, so they speak it fast. They don't have time for our Rosetta Stone, Berlitz-ed, Hooked on Phonics asses. If you want to pick up ANY words at all, go to a pre-school where the children are learning their colors and numbers. That's probably the only place that they slow it down.

Stupid Assumption 2 - I would not be able to find the supplies that I need in a foreign country. - Say it with me boys and girls - "Coop". Very good. Coop is a ginormous chain of supermarkets that rival anything we have here in the states. All the produce is local and spectacular, the meats magnificent and you can get artisan breads, cheeses and salumi amongst the Coco Puffs and Potato Chips. We cooked a couple of meals at the villa using ingredients from the Coop and everything was spectacularly fresh and of the highest quality. And Italians don't stand for any genetically modified produce, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. These things simply don't exist. Super win? You have to use a plastic glove to handle the produce. My germophobic heart sang when I read that!

Stupid Assumption 3- I am too jaded to be bowled over by the beauty of a city. - Wrong again Sparky! One look at Florence from the Piazza Michelangelo and I went weak in the knees (photos below). Florence sits in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. It's a stunning, old city, built alongside a river and around its central landmark , the Duomo. Once inside the city, all the jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio also made me weak in the knees. Florence = art and shopping. A perfect balance if you ask me.

Bottom line assessment: I'm going back. That's all there is to it. I'm going back.

Now the pictures (In no particular order. We have 1300 pictures from this trip. I have no time for sorting and ordering.). . .


I forget the name of this temple, but it was a spectacular part of the forum. It was so cool to view the monuments from the bottom of the buried city.



Temple to my homeboys Castor and Pollux. Where my Geminis at?

Street view looking out from inside the Colosseum.

The Colosseum hasn't been the same since REO Speedwagon played in '78.

Then Pantheon at dusk. Nothing like a 2000 year old building to make you feel insignificant (And young! Win!).


The Trevi Fountain. Look! Over there! It's Marcello Mastroianni.

Even the smallest architectural details are stunning. A door in Siena.


My perfect cappuccino. Want to guess where I got it? Go ahead. I'm waiting. Nope. I got it at the gas station. I went in to the "minimart" to find a marble counter with delicious pastries and freshly made espresso and cappuccino. What? No beef jerky?
Nice knockers in Siena.
This was the side street near our apartment in Rome. Right out of La Dolce Vita.

The Villa from a distance. Not too many neighbors, unless you count the entire biting fly population of the Northern Hemisphere.

Yes, we made pizza in an outdoor wood burning oven. So cliche. So amazing.


Italians call this Roman monument the "wedding cake" (Monument to Vittorio Emanuel). It is generally despised for its lack of harmony with the other more historic structures in the city. It is actually quite stunning in person, due to its size and the way it rises up over the cityscape.


Florence is this beautiful and then some. . .



One of 1700 jewelry stores just like it in Florence.
That's all for today.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dashboard Diva Does Italy

The phone rang on the Sunday morning before we were leaving for Italy. I recognized the voice on the other end immediately. It was my old friend Randy Jackson. Seems he had a diva that was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he needed my help to get her back online.

Here's how the conversation went:


RJ: Dawg! Dawg! Dawg! What's up dawg?

DG: Oh, hey Randy. What's up?

RJ: Girl, I need your help with a friend of mine who's on the brink of a nervous breakdown. She's in rough shape. Worse than I was my first year working with Simon.

DG: Hmmm. Sounds serious.

RJ: Dawg, it's more than serious. She keeps breaking out in spontaneous fits of melisma in the most inappropriate places. The doctor's office, Starbucks, Olivia Newton John's 4th of July barbecue. She really needs to get away.

DG: So what do you want me to do about it?

RJ: You're going away, right?

DG: Randy, no!

RJ: C'mon dawg, she's really small.

DG: I don't care how small she is.

RJ: Nah dawg, you don't understand. I don't mean to say that she's petite. She's truly small. Like she could ride to Italy in your purse.

DG: Randy, no.

RJ: C'mon dawg. I'll owe you.

DG: OK, I'll do it. But you have promise to do me one favor.

RJ: Anything dawg.

DG: You have to make sure that super tool Bret Michaels doesn't get the open judge slot on idol.

RJ: You got it dawg.

DG: And one more thing. . .stop calling me dawg.

RJ: You got it dawg.

(click)



So, as a result of my unfortunate encounter with Randy Jackson, we left our house on late Sunday afternoon, bound for an overnight trip in NYC to shortcut our trip to JFK the next morning with a pocket sized diva in tow. Here are some of her vacation snaps . . .

The Diva chills at the Marriot Marquis, saying her final goodbyes to NY city.

The Diva has her final NY meal at the JFK airport Chili's. (It can't always be sushi at Nobu, diva)


The Diva practices her scales at 36,000 feet.



The Diva likes the fluffy Robes at the Marriot Grand Flora in Rome.


The Diva is no stranger to a bidet.


The Diva has a post-bidet gelato.


Diva really prefers the Caprese salad at Bacco. They use arugula instead of basil leaves.

The Diva makes note of the location of the American Embassy. You never know when she might create an international incident.

Food coma 1.

Food coma 2.


Food coma 3. (we stopped counting after this one)


Diva does Siena. Nothing like a high maintenance gal in a medieval city.


Diva at the top of the Spanish Steps. Must be nice to climb them in someone's pocket.




Diva, LIVE at the colosseum.



Diva in wine jail in a medieval castle.


Dinner at the Castello Trebbio in the hills outside of Florence. (Somebody had a few too many glasses of wine and too few slices of Tuscan bread. Carbs are your friend, Diva. You need to build a base to suck up the alcohol.)

BONUS!!!

This video was in heavy rotation on Italian MTV and was rapidly climbing the charts. It was already a hit in other parts of Europe, but I don't think it has made its way to the states. It's so refreshing to hear a singer that can actually sing without autotune. The song has a cool retro vibe and best yet, the Diva approves!