Category Archives: Culture

Ferma le Macchine!

Stop the Presses!

I found vacuum bags!

No, wait, that’s actually really big news.

I’ve been here for about two and a half years and I have never successfully purchased a vacuum bag.

I’ve tried, But I’ve never succeeded. Every time I see vacuum bags, I check for mine. Every time I see vacuums, I check for my vacuum bags. I have checked walls full of vacuum bags, I’ve driven across the city on a recommendation only to find that the bag store was now an antique store. I’ve asked for recommendations, I’ve had friends tell me about their secret vacuum bag guy down in the basement that they could never find again …

And here I am, two and a half years later – still emptying out our one vacuum bag by hand every time it fills up.

Know what the winner was? Trony – the new Best Buy equivalent that just opened in Rome. I was actually ecstatic the whole time I was in the store. It was like the long lost convenient electronics store that has been missing for my whole time in Rome. You can buy batteries and mice, and keyboards and hard drives, and pretty much everything. It was amazing.

And they had my vacuum bags.



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Mangiamo Francese a Roma

Eating French in Rome

Rome’s not exactly known for its multi-cultural eating options … so what to do when you’ve left France and you’re craving a crepe? Make them at home, of course!

Ryan manning the crepe pan

We started the evening with a couple of glasses of Kir Royale – ’cause that’s the only way to start an evening of french food.

Chopping onions ... with goggles. I'm not ashamed, they work!

I was sous chef – chopping onions, cutting tomatoes and shredding cheese.

Et Voila!

Spinach, lettuce, bacon, eggs, and gruyere and goat cheese – Could that look more amazing? I venture that it could not.

Strawberries & whipped cream for dessert

We had all the french classics for dessert too – butter, sugar and cinnamon, nutella and banana, and strwaberries with whipped cream and nuttela.

Canned whipped cream ... don't know why, but I find the bottle seriously amusing.


Filed under Activities, Culture, Food

Quale Preferisci?

Which do you prefer?

The Mystery Wines

A friend of ours set up a blind wine tasting at his place. 5 wines, ranging from 2 euro at the grocery store to over 50Euro/bottle. We were given a scorecard, and as we mingled, we tried to figure out which wine was which.


It’s a simple concept – but it was *really* *really* fun. Certainly any party that starts with sampling 5 wines is bound to be festive. But the air of competition made it even more fun. When the big reveal happened, there were some who found that they preferred the 2 Euro bottle (lucky them!), and we were in disagreement about the mid-range wines. The biggest twist was that the two most expensive bottles actually had gone bad. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring that out – I’ve only sent wine back once in Rome, and it was a pretty intimidating experience.


Filed under Activities, Culture, Friends

Un’Esperienza con la Nudità in Turchia

An Experience with Nudity in Turkey

The only picture I have from the baths ...

People argue about the best way to experience another culture. Through the food? Through their history? Through their art?
Apparently Ryan and I have chosen to get to know new culture through their naked rituals. (see the Sauna/Sea experience from Malmo, Sweden)

So, for one last cultural experience, we checked out the Turkish baths at Cemberlitas Hamam in Istanbul. We were there in a group of couples, so the first hurdle to overcome was for the girls to convince the boys that it was a worthwhile experience. Faced with an alternative of more shopping in the markets … I get the impression that none of the options were really winners in Ryan’s opinion. So, two couples headed to the hamam for adventure!

As soon as we walk in the door we choose a spa package, and then the men & women are immediately separated. I was given a pair of black bikini-style underwear, a wrap, and a pair of flip flops and we were led to a locker room. We stripped down and stored all of our belongings in a locker, put on the bikini bottoms and wrapped up in the wrap. The good thing about going to a slightly more touristy hamam is that they always tell you what your’e supposed to be doing. That’s a great relief when you’re naked, and don’t want to do the wrong thing.

The main area in the hamam is as pictured above. In the center is a very large stone (maybe 20 ft in diameter) that is heated from underneath. (And covered with lounging topless women). Around the outside of the stone are little alcoves with running water and silver bowls. I had no idea what the bowls were for … but apparently you catch water in them and pour it over yourself. It’s very luxurious. Except I couldn’t find the guys with the palm frond fans, which was a little disappointing.

After luxuriating with the bowls for a bit … we went and laid on the warm stone with everybody else. Apparently the way it works is that you lay down your wrap, and then you lay yourself on the wrap … and you hang out and wait for your turn to get washed. Did I mention that that’s the whole point of this thing? Apparently not everyone used to have their own bath – so they’d go to a public bath house. Though I’m confused about who actually couldn’t afford a bath, but could pay for someone to wash them. (But I’m too lazy to look it up.) Anyway … so around the outside edge of the big hot stone are turkish women who touch your foot when it’s your turn. Then you arrange yourself at the edge of the stone, face down (and then face up), and they scrub you with a washcloth glove thing (that you get when you walk in) and lots of soap. And you’re covered in suds, and they give you a combo massage/scrub thing. It’s pretty interesting. Then they bring you over to a water spout, rinse off the soap bubbles, and wash your hair.

After that cultural experience … we hung out in the warm pools, and relaxed, and then got massages.

Apparently the guys had been waiting about an hour and a half by the time we came out. They must not be very good at luxuriating. Either that or they were weirded out by all the men with wraps tied around their waists stepping over them on the hot stone. It’s tough to determine.

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La Moda Italiana – Inverno 2011

Italian Fashion – Winter 2011

Blue stockings, brown dress & boots, grey belt, and long necklace.

In a move that either baffles me completely, or shows the state of the internet in Italy quite effectively … my La Moda Italiana page from January 2010 continues to average a hit a day from Google searches looking for Italian fashion. I can only imagine how disappointed people are when they end up at my blog.

Purple dress (from C-Tine), brown belt and tank top, amber necklace Ryan got me in Poland, cowboy boots!

So, just for fun … here are some outfits I put together this winter. Winter is my favorite … ‘ccause I get to wear boots that support my ankles on the cobblestones.

Gray dress from H&M, scarf from Romania, purple boots from Italian outlets, leggings, and big earrings.

None of the pictures are that great … but you get the idea.

Just having fun with it :)


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Non è Perso, So Dov’è – Part 4

It’s not lost – I know where it is. Part 4 – The End

I had now successfully changed the address to the delivery address for the US Embassy in Rome which is constantly staffed.

When the receiver of a package changes the delivery address, FedEx must confirm the change with the sender. In this case, I guess … FedEx Italy has to call FedEx Spain, and tell them to call the US Consulate in Las Canarias … all the while hoping that FedEx USA doesn’t get upset that my Dad’s US account is now being billed for a crazy international shipment. I don’t know whether this actually happened, but I do know that on *that same day* FedEx attempted to deliver the package to the US Embassy. The embassy rejected the package. Uh … neat.

Not knowing who at the Embassy to talk to … I chased that lead down until it was 5pm, and everyone who might know anything had left for the day. About to leave for a trip to the US – I wrote up everything I knew, and handed it off to Ryan.

Ryan discovers that the embassy will reject the package if it’s not addressed to someone who works at the embassy. But … I work for the embassy. I wonder if the woman misspelled my name too?

Ryan spent two more days tracking down the problem, calling FedEx, asking around the embassy, checking information, etc.

Eventually it just showed up. Third time’s the charm, I guess … They accepted the package.

Ryan tells me that the passport is safely nestled in his desk drawer at work … which reminds me that I should probably check on that.

It’s the end of the passport saga … or is it?

Ryan left his passport somewhere in France last week …

I’ve called 3 french police offices, and am working up my courage to try the Police ‘Lost and Found’ – so far the embassy in Marseilles hasn’t heard anything. *sigh*

Ryan says he doesn’t consider something lost until he stops looking for it. :)


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Non è Perso, So Dov’è – Part 3

It’s not lost, I know where it is – Part 3 (of 4)

Fedex problem 2:

I checked the tracking on the FedEx package, and it said there was a delivery exception: incorrect address.
I wasn’t able to verify the address online, so I called FedEx’s US International Cusomter support 1800 number.
The first woman got stymied trying to spell the address she had listed, so she told me to call Italy’s toll free FedEx number.
Italy’s Toll Free FedEx number is not toll free. It costs 10 cents a minute, and I can’t call it from my work phone (it’s blocked)
(NOTE: at this point, I start up a Fedex online chat with the Italy office … )
So, I called the US 1800 number again, and asked the new woman (who didn’t speak english very well) if she could spell the address that she had listed:

compare to:
Via Cavalier D’Arpino

No wonder they couldn’t find my house. Note that I send my address to the woman in spain in an email … so, um … it’s pretty much a copy and paste error.

So, I ask her: Can I change the address?
She asks: Are you the shipper or the delivery person?
Me: delivery.
FedEx: Oh, you have to call your local office.  here’s the toll free number for italy.
Me: that’s not a toll free number. What if I were the shipper?
FedEx: You’d have to call your local office in Spain?
Me: Ok, so I’m calling from a US based number, is my local office in the US or Italy?
FedEx: for Italy, you have to call the Italy number.
Me: but, you’re not answering my question, are you?
FedEx: ….

Me: Ok, this package is being billed to a US based business account – can that person call and change the shipping address?
FedEx: Yes, they have to verify the account information.
Me: Ok, so account number, name and address?
FedEx: And they have to call from the account number.
Me: Ok, so this is my father’s business account, I am working for him. He has given me all of that information. What number would he or I call to make this change
FedEx: The US number.
Me: Which one?
FedEx: (She proceeds to read me the number I have called to speak to her.)
Me: Ok, but the call has to happen from the number associated with the account?
FedEx: Yes.
Me: So, my dad can’t call from his cell phone? he has to get up at 4am and drive to his office to call you?
FedEx: No, he can call, he just has to verify the information.

(NOTE: I have gotten one ‘wait, i’ll be right with you response from the chat session, it has probably been 7 minutes. So I now tell her that I know what the problem is, and I just need to change the address … another long pause)

Me: But I can’t do that?
FedEx: This call has been recorded, and you have already stated that you are the delivery person. you have to call the toll free Italy number.
Me: But it’s not toll free.
FedEx: It’s listed as toll free. What number did you call?
Me: (repeat and verify number)
FedEx: Well, there’s another number. (She reads me an Italian phone number that begins with +39 … indicating that it’s for calling from outside of Italy.)

So, I disconnect, and try the other Italy number – lo and behold … it’s the toll free workaround. And there are english options.

(NOTE: the italian chat person finally responds, and I begin correcting my address with her. But the conversation is so slow, that I’m not willing to put all my eggs in this basket)

(NOTE: turns out this was a good instinct, ’cause she proceeds to get completely wrapped around the axle about the fact that my name is not on the buzzer at my apartment. Apparently a number is not sufficient. At this point I realize that if the only option they are comfortable is a buzzer with my name on it …. they probably won’t be happy that I don’t sit home all day waiting for FedEx packages.)

I get an Italian person on the phone at the Italy number, I speak slowly and clearly … and so does she, and we communicate quite well. We work through a serious of options, and finally settle on mailing the package to the US Embassy. She changes the address, and … in *theory* it will eventually reach me.

International business is really complicated.

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