Over the next several posts you may notice a French theme laced throughout our stories, for good reason. Our plan to “get out of Dodge” (see the previous story called “Taken for Granite,”) landed us in the beautiful city of Lyon, France, which is the heart of the southwest region of the Rhone Alps. For sure, each day brings a new experience. Add being a stranger in a new town, and you’re pretty much assured of stories everywhere you turn. The tough part is choosing which ones to write about. Last weekend, the magic transpired in a delightful neighborhood park called Place Sathonay. (more…)

Many people have asked us over the years, “How did that fantastic international game of Bocce Bale ever get started, anyway?”

Well . . . once upon a time . . . three years ago, we were out on our evening meadow walk with our friend Joan. It happened to be the end of June, and Stefano, our local farmer friend had just cut and baled the grass in the fields. Well . . . Joan is an artist, and as you might expect, was captivated by the beauty of the sculptural round forms dotting the landscape. We all talked about them as we walked, playfully winding our way in and out of the geometric grass cylinders, marveling at the beauty of nature. (more…)

Gordon Matthew Sumner wore a favorite black and yellow striped shirt so often, that a friend finally blurted out that he looked like a bee. The nickname stuck. You might know him better today as Sting.

We’ve always enjoyed his particular style of jazz/rock, and have waited for him to show up in concert in our neighborhood for a decade or so. That day finally arrived, and it was well worth the wait. He played at a place called Piazzola sul Brenta, which is a town not far from Venice, Verona, and Padova. Piazzola was never a particularly noteworthy destination until they decided to develop the magnificent 16th century Villa Contarini (attributed to the famous architect Andrea Palladio,) into an unbelievable concert venue. Now, it has worldwide acclaim, and for very good reason! (more…)

According to the classic story of the Velveteen Rabbit, becoming REAL is everything in life. And if that story has a thread of truth in it, then Brandi Carlile is well on her way. At 30-something she has talent and insight beyond her years, as anyone who listens to her storytelling can attest. We enjoy her music and have been trying to catch one of her concerts for years, but we were never in the same place at the same time—that is, until last Tuesday. (more…)

We went to the Teatro Odeon the other night to catch the new movie called A Dangerous Method starring Keira Knightley, Vigo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender. We were excited to see their depiction of the two pioneers of psychotherapy, Freud and Jung because we’ve always been fascinated with their incredible contributions to the field of psychology. In fact, many of the concepts, therapies and ideas we take for granted today were products of their fertile early 20th century minds. (more…)

Ah, the ever popular stuzzicadenti, toothpick. Yes, they are readily available the world over. In any grocery store, a hundred can be had for a few coins. But the picking of one’s teeth shouldn’t be limited to processed slivers of wood. Oh, no! For those of you who are already a bit confused by the title, we’re not suggesting that istrici, porcupines have discovered the secret to perfect teeth. Certainly not! Most of them have nasty overbites. But, we are saying that the curious gift of the porcupine can make a difference in our dental hygiene, while making the world a better, tidier place. All we have to do is start using quills instead of toothpicks when the judicious picking of i denti, teeth becomes necessary. Let us lay out the argument and then you can decide for yourself. (more…)

My name is Emerson, and I have a problem. I’m not too proud to admit it.

It became apparent to me the other day when I was shaving. We all have routines. Right? And sometimes they become so repetitive that we go into “auto pilot” mode and don’t even need to think about it anymore. We just keep doing whatever it is, not even realizing we’re still doing it. Like “zoning out” while driving. You know what I mean? You get into the car and then you arrive at your destination, but you don’t remember anything about the route. (more…)

Well, autumn is just around the corner and it’s mating season here in Italy for the Caprioli, Roe Deer. We hear them in the dusky hours every evening and in the misty dawn, making their unusual call of the wild. What a sound! It’s unbelievable. Seriously, the Roe coughs out a disgusting guttural grunt/scream noise that would put a halt to any possibilities. The first few times we heard it, we thought there must be some monster of the woods—some creature both dreadful and loathsome. We wanted no part of it. The only deer references we had were 1.) the sweet, docile and perpetually hungry ones that live in Indiana and Ohio; and 2.) Bambi. (more…)

A cherry-plum tree is right outside our bedroom window—so close, you can almost reach out and touch it. On Wednesday morning when we looked out, on the delicate branches that are contrasted with beautiful deep purple leaves, we spied a bright green caterpillar. If they came in sizes, this would have been an extra-large. Curious, we looked around the tree and sure enough there was its twin just a little higher up on another branch. Having discovered a matched set, we felt like it was our lucky day. Cheryl named them Catia and Claudio—after all, they are Italian. (more…)

There’s nothing quite like a smarty-pants e-mail.

What I mean by that is: when somebody sends you a message that seems innocent enough at a glance, but beyond the surface niceties, there’s an underlying smarty-pants attitude that can’t be denied. The reason I even bring this topic up is because I got one of those SP messages the other day. It was from our dear friend Scott who happens to be one of the best cooks I know. Yet, that doesn’t give him the right to parade his gifts in front of those of us less fortunate! (more…)