sienamystic: (Default)
Nuns making a gelato run

Nuns in Rome know where to get the good gelato. I'm sure we were paying twice as much because this was the fancy artisinal whatevers chain but oh my god, their flavors were incredible.

There are actually more than seven hills in Rome )

I'm already trying to figure out how to get back.
sienamystic: (commedia)
We left Florence and hopped back on another Freccia to Rome. I had heard that Termini, Rome's main train station, had been turned into a mall, and it's true - there were now shops everywhere, including a branch of our now beloved Grom, which sold artisinal gelato. (The torrone flavor...omg. And the fiordilatte, which I kept returning to. We ate a lot of gelato, you guys.)

After some puttering around back home which never resulted in a decision, we finally opted for staying at The Beehive, a place that has been in business since 1999. They've always had positive reviews and I was interested in staying with them even though they were only a few blocks from the train station, which is noisy and can feature an interesting and sometimes intimidating parade of humanity. We walked one block out - still a little uncertain. Second block - huh, things were quieter now. We reached the Beehive and buzzed in and found ourselves in a cute little courtyard.

Roma )

At the risk of prolonging things, I think I'll stop here and wrap up the trip in another entry. More Rome and some Perugia.
sienamystic: (horse)
From Ravenna, we hopped back on the train and got to Florence at about 9 that evening, after a slightly delayed train. Our apartment was literally on the square of the Signoria, which still kind of boggles me. Thankfully the window was facing towards the back of the building and was four flights up, and even more thankfully there was a teeny European elevator built into the stairwell. We couldn't all fit in the elevator, mind you, but we could take turns. Every once in a while an intrepid soul would just decide to walk up.

My sister knew she wanted to shop for some specific things in Florence, namely leather gloves, but she had also done research on other goods which is how we found ourselves awash in gorgeous colors at Valmar, a shop that said they sold upholstery and other home decorating goods, but really seemed only to sell dizzying array of tassels and cushions. My sister and I promptly became awash in a sea of greed and had to talk ourselves out of not buying one of each despite our lack of giant windows curtained in luxurious brocade which needed only an insouciant little tassel to finish off the scheme.

tassels in Valmar

Leather gloves were acquired, as were a pair of Ponte Vecchio gold earrings. My contribution to the shopping festivities was bringing us to the pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, which was once upon a time run by monks but is now a fancy perfume, candle, and lotions establishment. I dithered a lot and finally ended up spending a whole heck of a lot on a room spray fragrance that I absolutely adore - it's technically a Christmas scent, but it's orange and cinnamon and a little clove maybe? And it's sort of lovely and a little bit medicinal but also like a cinnamon stick in a mulled wine and it's a Christmas fragrance that I've come across before but it hard to find in the US and I love it to pieces.

A few more photos )

One of my biggest disappointments is that we missed by about a week the reopening of the museum holding the works of the Duomo, which has a heartbreaking Michelangelo Pieta and also Donatello's Mary Magdalene, a sculpture guaranteed to make me cry like an idiot. The Bargello is some consolation, and I did get to see my friend Niccolo da Uzzzano, who has been put in a new spot since I saw him last but who retains his dignified but friendly mien.

Bust of Niccolò da Uzzano, 1430s
sienamystic: (commedia)
Guys, guys, my sister's photos came out really great! Well, I'm responsible for some of them (uh, many blurry ones, as far as I can tell. Sheesh. I'm apparently Cap'n Shaky Hands. Anyway, here are six photos of Ravenna mosaics.

Read more... )
sienamystic: (Venice)
Well, she said, I'm back.

I've been back a little over a week. The trip was pretty great, went differently than I expected (but don't they always?), and seemed to pass so quickly that I'm vaguely startled that I have proof that I actually was there, and I'm already wondering how and when I can get back.

I keep thinking that lots of stuff has changed, but I don't know if that's true or not. English certainly is more present there. 15 years ago, I think even in the big cities you encountered people with little to no English, and here it was just everywhere. My scant handful of Italian helped on a few occasions, but most of the people we encountered spoke English that was lightyears ahead of my Italian.

There seemed to be more street vendors - or maybe my frustration at having to decline the purchase of a selfie stick every five minutes just made it feel that way. There were moments that I was just worn out by them. There also were just as many people there - if not more - as in the height of July, which surprised me. I suppose everyone's figured out that if you can visit when the weather is a little cooler, you should do it. Venice was particularly overstuffed, even past the "well of course Venice is crowded standards (partly by, I think, some Italian tourists there for a breast cancer awareness group parade) and because of how things worked out we didn't get to push past the main streets and off into the more appealing less populated zones. I think my sister was a bit shocked by the graffiti we found everywhere (and perhaps it just looks more startling in elegant Venice) but you also get the impression that Venice is really struggling to keep up against the tide of tourists and their trash. I know there are concerns with turning Venice into some sort of artificial Disneyland by limiting the amount of tourists permitted per day, but let's just say that I have different feelings now than I had previously.

So. Lots of photos below. )

I think I'll post this and then do Florence, Perugia and Rome in another entry.

The Jet Age

Oct. 4th, 2015 08:24 pm
sienamystic: (commedia)
I think I'm allowed to check a bag for free on my trip. It's difficult to tell, though - or maybe I just automatically distrust what the airline is telling me (one free bag!) because I'm certain there's a line of small print somewhere that explicitly sets out conditions that will make me pay eleventy gajillion dollars when I check in. On the other hand, they did send me a chirpy email telling me that I have only a few more sleeps until rest and relaxation! How nice of them to think of me and remind me that I should charge up my phone and remember to bring my earbuds.

I'm still quite excited about the trip but as things get closer I've also had a bunch of things to solve that have taken up a big chunk of mental real estate and have made me really, really wrung out. I'm packed, at least, although I'm convinced that I've packed useless things that aren't really outfits and will leave behind something vitally important. At least it all fits in a shoulder-carry bag. I thought about taking a larger wheely suitcase but figure trying to heave it over bridges in Venice and cobblestones everywhere else probably doesn't make sense.

I also had that lowering thought that probably comes to most people excited about a little travel: the imp in your head that says, "why bother, you're just coming back to the same old grind, it's not like anything will be different. You'll just have spent a bunch of money to generate a big circle, net zero." I am doing my best to ignore that voice, because while technically speaking, it's accurate, it's also the farthest thing from the truth. If nothing else, this trip will give me some quality time with my sister and also some quality time alone with my own thoughts. I really need that at the moment.

Maybe being so tired now will mean I'll actually sleep well on the airplane. That would be a first.

In more local news, I went apple picking with Bemo and the members of my book club, and loved it more than I anticipated. The trees were bursting with fruit and it all tasted so good and I made a big apple crisp that was fantastic. There's something satisfying, maybe on a primitive level, about just walking around with a crisp tart apple you've just picked, enjoying the sunshine and watching the monarchs flutter around.

In more fannish news, it's the season for secret santas and holiday fic exchanges. I can't decide if I want to sign up for them - I haven't written anything in a really long time and don't know if I have any story bopping around in my head at the moment. I really should decide before I go because I think signup deadlines are looming.
sienamystic: (Be More Awesome)
Things have been a little rocky on the ol' Mystic gyno front, but the problem (dose of Metformin no longer balancing the wonkyness of insulin, result: my body kinda sorta thinks it's on birth control pills and maybe does a little bit of what it thinks is breakthrough bleeding, solution: bump up the Metformin a bit) seems to have done the trick and the circus is about to leave town. However the related mood swings and anxiety that go hand in hand with it all has been in full effect today, leaving me utterly convinced that very specific Bad Things were in the wind and it was only a matter of time before all my sins would be broadcast to the general public. It's basically that Jenny Holzer statement: Forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble," except maybe more like FORCES ARE ALIGNING NOW AND THEY ARE SPECIFICALLY COMING FOR YOU NOW.

So, you know, good times.

There are things to keep me busy the next week or so until I leave, so hopefully the crazies will leave too. I am part of my institution's Instagram team and have had to sit in on meeting where we all talk about optimizing our visitors and growing our audience and I know it's important but at the same time whatever remnants of cynical Gen-X slacker that remain lodged in my breast act to keep me doing the occasional internalized eyeroll. Because uh muh guh guys. Or something. Facebook quietly chugs along, and I haven't been able to get anyone to let me start a Tumblr and endlessly reblog SoYouWorkAtAMuseum. Although hilariously all of us are resisting taking on Twitter like it's a snake poised to bite us and so the marketing manager, who is a lady in her late fifties or so, has been stuck with it although she keeps trying to hand it off.

It'll be hard to concentrate what with the trip looming. I am itchy. Currently looking at a suitcase and wondering if I want to do a soft bag or this larger roller one and what carryon looks like on international trips, anyway. Except to get from my small city to the next biggest city will require me being on a tiny jet and no way no how will this thing fit on that overhead, so maybe I just need to keep my ambitions small. Or check the bag, which I'd rather not do.

My friend with the Edith-beagle has to work a particularly long day tomorrow so I get some beagle time. We might walk down to campus to see the festivities for Homecoming, which Edith will believe are all designed to bring people within petting range. Edith fervently believes that all people want is to pet a cute little rolypoly beagle and frequently, she's right.

I'm typing this in the basement because Ratchet has been particularly whiny and so I let him frolic with the dustbunnies while I dug around in our storage closet and found the aforementioned suitcase. He's trying to coax me into letting him out onto the back patio again, but I know I can't trust him and also there are still fleas lurking. Time to pick up the cat in one arm and the suitcase in another and hoof it back up the stairs, I think.
sienamystic: (flowermachine)
A friend of mine decided to head three hours out to a state park to have a hike with her trusty beagle companion, and asked if I'd come. (She's kind of my tour guide since I have an ass-stuck-to-sofa problem if not poked at.) The drive was a bit much to do in one day but it was absolutely beautiful out, and the area of Nebraska we were in was right by the Missouri River on the bluffs. Lots of forest, which is unusual for Nebraska but apparently the bluffs and river combine to make a bit of a microclimate that eastern deciduous trees don't mind. So we walked around in the trees, then went down to the river and bumbled happily along looking at Monarch butterflies. There were also an indignant family of about 15 wild turkeys, and Edith the beagle was very happy.

You know, I have problems when people ask me what I've been up to, because by and large my life is pretty repetitive. I really need to figure out how to do more stuff on a more regular basis.

And actually speaking of that, the Italy trip is looming. It's a little under a month away. I'm so excited! I do keep waffling about what I need to see and what I should pass - it's a really short trip and I can't possibly stuff it all in. For example, I really want to go see Donatello's Mary Magdalene but I don't know if squeezing in a trip to that particular museum - or the Bargello - should top just hanging out in Florence since we're only there a couple of days. (We're doing the Uffizi and the Vatican). Which churches in Rome to prioritize? Sooo many possibilities. Do we try and fit in Ostia Antica? I really want to drag everyone to a hill town, but which one? My sister's priorities are 1. Spectacular countryside views and 2. Not too much damn time on a train, and I haven't come up with what I think is the best solution. I'd love it to be Perugia and maybe should just settle on that.

Listen, I just have a lot of feelings, is all.
sienamystic: (flowermachine)
Planning for the Italy trip has been fun - there have been a lot of changes since I was last there so things like pre-purchasing some of our museum tickets and train tickets ahead of time has been a new deal. Wonder of wonders, the website for buying train tickets is very easy to navigate. The whole "nicer faster trains which require reserved seats" is not something I needed to do. Of course, the first time I had to buy a train ticket in Italy I ended up buying three of them (unsure that I was buying the right one) and ended up on a super-slow milk run train that was a great introduction to the Umbrian countryside but which was not so good for meeting my contact for the study abroad program in a timely fashion. He ended up picking me up a train station or two ahead of my destination and thus I got my first intro to the Italian driver.

It's also letting me stretch my expenses over multiple months, which is pretty great. By the time we get there the only costs I'll have to incur are food and some incidentals, which can still add up, but at least they're slightly more controllable.

I'm so wound up about this trip that I'm going to have to do some work to avoid mentally crashing after it, I think.

The husband has gotten into Zentangles recently - or rather, he prefers the mandala shapes over the freeform ones that you're supposed to lay down yourself. This has led us both into the world of the adult coloring book, which was something that I always vaguely knew was soothing but had never really thought about until it became a bit of a trendy thing. Relatives in Manila, my sister, a billion people on Pinterest - and after my Amazon order arrives, me too.

In ladyparts TMI news (avert if squeamish, although I won't get graphic), I've just made my first foray into the world of the Diva Cup. So far so good, although there were some interesting shenanigans the first time I tried to fold it up correctly and put it in. As in, boinging across the bathroom and bouncing comically. This is the second day I'm using it and so far so good, although the whole business of eventually being able to do it in a public restroom has me a little dubious.
sienamystic: (surly bonds)
There are few things that tell you you're in the future as posting an online journal entry from an airplane. Usually the wifi isn't free and I don't bother paying for it, but I had an idea for the draft I'm pecking away at and decided to spend the $2.50 just to get it down before I forgot about it. So I'm at a window seat, looking out a the great wing of the airplane and the clouds lit with the setting sun and looking just like they do in a Constable painting.

We're returning from southern Florida, where I with great delight danced at my dear friend's wedding. She's marrying a very sweet guy, and it was heartbreakingly wonderful watching her beam from ear to ear throughout the ceremony and reception. The bride and I and my friend Persia, also in attendance, met somewhere around 1990 in high school and have been friends ever since, so spending two days in the company of Persia plus getting time with the bride when we could (lots of family and other friends who all need attention!) and all in all had a marvelous time. My husband is also great friends with both of them and he has had a great time as well, especially since we had a little time on the beach. Not, alas, in the actual water - in the rush to pack we forgot that swimsuits would be nice, and anyway it was raining intermittently the whole time - but we got to hang out and sniff the salt air and listen to the waves for a little bit.

The ceremony was very brief (a family member who is also a justice of the peace married them) and Persia and I cried shamelessly, and then there was dinner and dancing and it was all wonderful.

Oh, and the husband has also fallen in love with the area we were in (He's always been a beach guy) and is now agitating to move there. There is a wonderful museum in the area that we visited the morning of the wedding but alas there would have to be some convenient vacancies open because I think their staff is not much bigger than ours is and so they probably don't need extra registrars hanging around.
sienamystic: (Venice)
It's fun planning the two weeks my sister and her husband and I are going to spend in Italy in October. But my brain is weird - although I'm still in the happy anticipations stage of things, I opened up the spreadsheet of days and put in the date and time of my return flight and immediately got sad that the trip was over even though it hasn't begun yet. Yeesh.

We'll have roughly two weeks, starting in Venice and moving down to Rome. Most of the places are new to her although not to me, but I've asked for an overnight in Bologna so I can see the terracotta Lamentation group and perhaps the anatomy theater. A friend came back from a long trip and used Bologna as her base and was really enthusiastic about it, and then I watched the BBC's Italy Unpacked show on it, and now a city I never really thought much about before has been put into the trip. It'll also make it easier to get to Ravenna, where we all plan to wallow in mosaics.

The hope was to spend some time in the countryside, but not renting a car is making that more difficult. So we're just hope for a day trip or two from Florence to help with that.

It's been 15 years since I was last in Italy and I'm really eager to go. I'm trying to recapture whatever paltry scraps of the language I had via Duolingo and an old textbook, but I've never been much of a linguist.
sienamystic: (horse)
Back from my four days in Toronto. I'm footsore, having tromped through most of the area right around my hotel, but I also relied on the pretty great public transport the city offers. I was in a very central location downtown which meant it was pretty touristy in spots but tourists were just sort of the background parade of bustle. This is different from DC, where in certain spots locals are outnumbered by gangs of roving tourists following guides waving umbrellas, and you have to elbow your way through them to get from point A to point B.

My current city just has to put up with football crowds, which are easier to avoid.

Anyway, my time in Toronto was marked by a lot of eating wonderful food. The biggest thing I miss living in a smaller city is not just having access to different types of cuisine, but having multiple choices for every type that are all good. That was certainly the case here. I could have eaten dinner at a different Chinese place every night and not had to walk too far to do so. Or ramen, or roti, or bibimbap or specialty burger joints, or whatever. I didn't even get to the pierogi, sadly.

I spent most of my time along Queen West, which was fun and funky, and also in Chinatown and around the Kensington Market. The city itself felt like it had mostly been marked by big growth in the 1970s, and everything was a little grubby and cementy and worn and I suspect it's not a great place to be in the wintertime. Very grey and dingy, I imagine. (I think somebody told me there is a maze of underground tunnels and shops and things so you can stay out of the weather, which makes a ton of sense.) But everyone I met reinforced the stereotype of nice Canadians, and it was a thorough pleasure to be in a place that's so deeply multicultural. People-watching was magnificent, especially since there were tons of twentysomethings rocking fashion that I could never pull off but can have fun looking at.

On one of my days I went out to a little boutique for plus-size clothing and spent some serious cash (for me) on some clothes. If I were to describe my clothing style to you I'd usually say "jeans and some sort of t-shirt" because I am unimaginative and also I like jeans and think I look good in them. But I was seduced into buying some wonderful flowy tops in breezy cuts, including a watercolory print kimono throw and a truly outrageous paisley fringed thing. I'm afraid they all say "art teacher" kind of strongly - my mistake perhaps for saying that I worked in a museum - but then again, maybe it wasn't a mistake because I think they look great on me. So, I guess I'm embracing a stereotype of Older Arty Lady? Maybe the little purple fit and flair dress I bought will help keep the Older bit somewhat at bay. Or maybe before I know it, I'll be moving to Taos and will start to throw pots.

Oh, and this is completely petty of me, but the salesfolk took my photo in said purple dress, and also the photo of a woman trying on clothes in the booth next door, and said they were for Instagram. I was simultaneously flattered and worried that I was too sweaty and un-made-up, but they coaxed me into it, but I think I was right because the other woman's (very cute) photo has appeared and mine hasn't. I can't decide if I'm disgruntled or not. I don't like to think that I bought more clothing from them that I otherwise would have because I was feeling happy and flattered, but I guess if I did, good for them, they did their job well. And really, I'm not very photogenic and had just spent an hour on public transport to get there, so it's probably for the best.

While flying home I got to witness older American businessmen being really rude to gate agents, which was obnoxious. Actually, since my hotel catered to the business trade, I was kind of surrounded by them all week, and being forced to eavesdrop as they sat in the bar and in the lobby and barked things into cell phones. It was all Very Urgent. But all my flights for the trip turned out to be pretty smooth and I got to sit in the exit row on the tiny plane for my last leg back, so hey, surprise bonus.

I'm going to miss the food. I already do.
sienamystic: (Bourne)
Doing a little traveling for work. I love tiny airports - this one is bigger than the home airport but still quite small and the TSA agents are friendly and it takes you no time at all to get through security and then to your gate. I'm right on the Mississippi and drove past all the Stately Homes of Old Money with the river views and drooled over a bunch of them. After a stop or two I'll be in Toronto. This is my first trip to Canada, and it's not to Prince Edward Island for an Anne pilgrimage, but I will make those plans for another trip. For now I plan to eat tons of awesome food and do a little shopping and sightseeing but I will not be paying the tons of money to go hang out on the glass floor of the CN tower, because holy crap, yikes. I may not even do the CN tower at all, since I like a good view and all but not enough to pay for it. I would rather buy a ton of gel pens at Muji.

Just finished the first Elena Ferrante book My Brilliant Friend and will start the next in the series on the plane. Really enjoying them.

Also, we saw Big Hero 6 on Saturday night and I loved it. The design of the city was lovely, and even though there wasn't a lot of character development with anybody besides the brothers and Baymax, it was a very sweet and I fell in love with everyone. Also, cried. Yup. I'm an easy mark but I'd have cried even if I had a heart of stone.
sienamystic: (commedia)
I have been unposty! But I have been doing things! Here is what I've been up to:

- Read The Rook by Daniel O'Malley, which I love love loved, and Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch and I loved it a lot too and just bought the next three books because it's been a while since I was excited by new reading. Oh, also read the newest Harry Dresden book and enjoyed it a lot as a return to form after two books I was really disappointed in. Not to say it was perfect but it made me decide to stick with the series after I was considering bowing out.

- Watched Edge of Tomorrow after all the good word-of-mouth and really enjoyed it. Fun, thrilling, funny, tightly edited, well done, bravo bravo and I don't understand because it apparently didn't do well at the box office? Boo on that, it was great.

- Traveled to Chicago and San Antonio and had a very nice time in both cities while getting some work done there

- Learned the basics of making jam, in a rough-and-ready fashion. Also, brioche.

- Currently entertaining some of the in-laws, on account of a Significant Birthday of my husband (who is not exactly happy about the birthday but it coping with it better than feared)

And that's all I can think of at the moment.
sienamystic: (commedia)
Today is my birthday, and I spent it mostly in a truck schmooping around town for work. On the other hand, I was wearing my beautiful new birthday pendant so I got to look fabulous doing it.

The vacation was lovely and much needed. There was a lot of porch-setting, with a happy dog at my feet and a book in my hands. It was much too cold for the beach, but just right for puttering around on an island, and despite Memorial Day it wasn't too crowded. I'll put photos up when I can, meanwhile here's a snapshot of a friend we met at the beach

Chincoteague 002
sienamystic: (Sophie)
I got a sweet Fast Women story for Yuletide - the very cute Three Weddings and a Funyun. My own gift seems to have been well received, which makes me happy - I was floundering a bit in the fic because it had a lot of world-building to be done and I wasn't sure I was up to the task, and there were moments that I pondered defaulting because I kept deleting big chunks of text, but I think it all worked out nicely in the end. It won't get read much, I don't think, but I like the idea of the few people who want something in this fandom finding at least one story when they go looking.

In other news, I am coughing an unproductive, harsh cough, and my head hurts in that "sinuses filled with cement" way. Also, my chest hurts a bit. I've drunk two big mugs of hot chai tea and taken some Robitussin, but I have a feeling I've fallen to the holiday blargh, which will make it fun to travel in...omg, just a few days. Woe. Also, we went trail riding on Christmas Eve day, and while it was a great deal of fun and I may have not completely lost all knowledge about how to steer a horse, my thigh muscles were Not Pleased with the whole thing and I've sort of been lurching around like a drunken sailor since.

I don't really want to go home. I do, but I don't, and I want to keep hanging out with my sister under no time pressure. I want to keep being crafty and continue making things with her and also cooking. I'm not ready to go back to work. I'm glad I built in a few days to decompress from the trip before I do go back, but I'm still not ready to face it. January is always kind of a bitch of a month, because our deductible resets and so all the prescriptions cost more, plus it's when the cold really sets in and you sort of end up feeling like it's just a long, dreary sludge till spring.

ANYWAY. This is all probably just because I'm feeling like I'm made of wet cement. I should go to bed and stop whining.
sienamystic: (horse)
Back on the East Coast, hanging with the family in the Virginia burbs. I have been mostly happy with these prospects, especially since Back Home has been getting hammered by blizzards, but although I love my mom very much, I also know how crazy she is, and feeling cheerful despite her rapid mood swings has been a little more difficult for me. That and the far-right-wing radio shows she marinated herself in - there's usually something blaring as background noise no matter what she's bustling around doing.

Also, as I've likely mentioned in the past, nobody likes the man she married (hell, she doesn't like him half the time), in large part to his yelly personality (got to hear him screaming, on the phone, from the basement, at multiple hapless drones about professionalism and customer service. It was precisely the opposite of fun.) and his ability to go from zero to TMI in a matter of seconds. Not gross TMI, but I don't need to know about his therapy for his angry inner child, you know? Frankly, I could have guessed at his existence, and I don't need details.

Also, have been fighting the usual worries I have about taking vacation time, because of course that's when they realize how incompetent/useless/disposable I am, right? At least my brain enjoys unrolling those scenarios. Honestly, while I love my therapist and have unloaded a lot of stuff on her recently, I don't think I'm getting any sort of handle on my anxiety, and I don't think I can afford to keep going. It's forty dollars a session, and that's just enough to make things pinch elsewhere.

But time spent with my sister is always great, and we got to enjoy a particularly awesome early Christmas present from her and her boyfriend - another trip to the Korean spa. So today we spent a lot of time soaking in hot tubs, paddling around to different parts of a pool with different massaging jets, immersing ourselves in the red clay ball room, dozing on a floor with radiant heat, eating good Korean food, fighting over a mango smoothie, and mostly just laying around. It was delightful, and I want to move in and never leave.

Also, we've been eating a lot. A LOT.
sienamystic: (surly bonds)
Heading out to the DC suburbs for some family vacation time. The cats know something is up and are all misbehaving in order to refocus attention on themselves. Have gone broke between Christmas and an unusually large student loan payment, so there won't be much carousing, but it'll be nice to hang with friends and family.


sienamystic: (Default)

January 2017

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