The End of Summer

Whoa. Wait a minute!

How is it that we’re heading toward Labor Day already?  I know the holiday is officially designed to celebrate the American worker, and that’s a good thing.  But, it’s also traditionally used to mark the end of summer and that gives me pause.

I haven’t even lost those pounds I wanted to lose for summer!

And yet, here we are.  Scotty goes back to school for his final year of his MFA on Saturday and Lulu returns to Maria Bianca Bianchini preschool a week from Monday.  So while I’m busy pausing that the end of summer is upon us, why don’t I also do one of the things I do best and reflect?

Our Italian friends teased us that since we didn’t take a week – or four – to travel out of the country (sorry, folks, we couldn’t afford to), we didn’t really take a vacanza.  But, I reminded them that for us, simply living in Italy is taking a vacation!

Lulu and I visited both coasts of this peninsula we live on; wading into the Mediterranean as well as the Adriatic.

A clear plastic jar filled with the seashells Lulu gathered from those beaches – which she made me boil in white vinegar to get the “icky smell” out – now sits on her bedside table as a reminder.

And when we weren’t at the beach, we were in our pool.  Who can complain about raging hot Tuscan summers, when you can take a refreshing dip?

We explored Florence with old friends; ancient Tuscan villages made up entirely of stone cottages, towers and castellos with new friends.   We went to friends’ homes for dinners and had friends over here.  I went to a natural spa.  Scotty performed a Cabaret.  We dined where Pucchini dined, Lulu rode carousel after carousel.

And then there was the gelato. And gelato. And more gelato.

But probably my favorite memory for this summer: Scotty and I were given VIP tickets to Arezzo’s famous Medieval Jousting Tournament, La Giostra del Saracino. It was a special pay-back from the city for my writing the English language translation of their website and joust brochures. We both thoroughly enjoyed the event and even though my name isn’t anywhere on the fliers, I still get a sense of satisfaction when I see the new ones now around town promoting Sunday’s final Joust of the year.  My translation will likely be printed in the brochures long after we’ve left our lovely Arezzo.

As will our memories of this:  Our summer vacation in Italy.



P.S.  Okay, before we all begin – as a Twitter friend so startlingly tweeted yesterday – “the sprint from September to November,” tell me about your summer vacation! Where’d you go? What’d you do? Memories?


On the Street Where You Live

Is it because we live in Italy now, or is it because (bias alert) I have a cute little girl?  I don’t know.  But yesterday some temporal and mystical elements converged and I was compelled to snap even more photos than I usually do.

On a walk with Lulu through the center of our little Tuscan town, we meandered through some small streets we had never visited before.

An alley near a small hospital splashed with graffiti that somehow seemed artistic and interesting, not just annoying and profane.

A warm caramel colored door with ivy dangling overhead.  We wondered who lived there.  Lulu knocked, but no one answered.

An ancient stone wall with a mysterious chipped green gate dappled by this week’s scorching Tuscan sun.

For me, they were enchanted streets.  Streets we had never before seen and that seemed somehow magical in their makeup.

But for the Italians who were born here in Arezzo and walk on them every day, they’re probably just the streets where they live.   On the other hand, maybe they find them as magical as I do.

“Are there lilac trees in the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?
Does enchantment pour Out of ev’ry door?
No, it’s just on the street where you live!” – My Fair Lady.

Baci, tutti!

Ciao, Gina

P.S.  Where do you live? Are there lilac trees on your street? Pine trees? Any trees at all?  Where will you find magic today? – On the street where you live!

Happy and Healthy

Nobody wants to read a blog about cancer. “Eww, what a downer.”

Well, we interrupt our usual, “isn’t Lulu cute?” programming for a quick, less cheery, but realistic moment to consider the varied twists along the path of life.

This week, two of my long-time friends wrote to me about their struggles with cancer.  One is recovering from intense treatment and has five more weeks of chemo to go.  The other goes for surgery next week and doctors say they’ll know more after that.  Both are dynamic doers in this world with a heckuva lot more to give.  They are fighters and I pray for them both to prevail.

But life is fragile and tenuous.   Last month, a friend of mine’s husband died after only a brief bout with the dreadful disease.  I know I cannot heal anyone’s illness or grief.

I wish I could.  At times like these, I get even more emotional than usual.

I hold my daughter Lulu and my husband a little tighter.

I write to my family back in the US, missing them.

I look over at the random people coming out of the Duomo here in our town of Arezzo, and I really would like to give them a group hug.  I’d seriously like to buy the world a Coke  – except I don’t like Coke all that much.  I guess I can only smile and say, “Buongiorno” and tuck a silent hope of continued health and happiness into my greeting.

Consider yourselves hugged

So for now, my heart goes out to each of my friends across the miles and the years – wishing them the strength to get well and to carry on.

Who knows what the future will hold for any of us.   But at least at this moment, Lulu, Scotty and I are all healthy.

For that I am grateful.

Hugs to you all! Un ambraccio,


P.S.  For those of you who have battled cancer and emerged victorious, or who remember those who valiantly fought but succumbed to the illness, I am especially sending you a warm embrace.

Lulu and “The Princess Effect”

Like many little girls her age, Lulu likes to pretend she’s a princess.

Sometimes she wears gauzy wings and wields a silver star-tipped wand to step it up as a fairy princess. But with or without the ability to fly, she will don her “jewel”-studded crown et voila! she’s a princess.  Earlier this week, she didn’t don the crown herself; instead placing it on a pillow and asking that I curtsey to present her with said green cushion…

She affects a royal benevolent tone.  She’ll wave her star scepter or wand with a flourish.  She’ll maybe even walk on tiptoe or wave her arms in flight if she’s the fairy version, but a princess she likes to be.

And I’ve read there’s controversy in all this.  Some moms and child development folks say it’s not a good role model.  Of course, they’re pinned a label to it, calling it “The Princess Effect.”  They’re good. They’re beautiful. They’re fragile.  That’s bad.

Wait. That’s bad? How’s come?

Good – well, as opposed to uhm, bad, I would be delighted if Lulu strived to be good.

Beautiful – on that one, if striving to be “beautiful” can assist me when I urge regular tooth brushing, showers and hair brushing, I’m all for it.  And anyway, everyone knows a princess’s beauty comes from within as well as without; so I always tell Lulu, “Pretty is as pretty does.”

Fragile – Not sure where this descriptor even comes from.  Snow White was scared in the forest, yes, but she was brave enough to barge into an empty house and start whippin’ it into shape.  Cinderella may have obediently done all her chores (again, not a bad thing when I apply it to my princess daughter), but she was savvy enough to have saved that second slipper to present after the bad old step-mother shattered the first.  And Ariel and Rapunzel are made of pure pluck.

So, during this all-too-fleeting time in Lulu’s life, when she would rather play princess than anything else, I am delighted to encourage her and play right along with her. Cause I would rather have a princess in my house than an evil witch any day.  Which reminds me, her teenage years are just around the corner.


Ciao tutti!

Baci, Gina

P.S.  Princesses? Good or Evil? What do you think?  How are your girls doing?  Would love to hear from you!



Life is a Cabaret

“What good is sitting alone in your room?  Come hear the music play!”

This week in the heart of Tuscany, there was a cabaret.


There were lights. There was music.  There were singers.  There were dancers.


There was even a magician.  He was really great.  Okay, I’m a little biased.


Scotty Walsh happens to be married to me and the daddy of our little girl Lulu, who was called on stage to take part in the century old hilarious trick “Boy, Girl and Eggs.”  Lulu selected a boy from the audience who happened to be Lowie, the son of our new Belgian friends Peter and Inge.  Magician Scotty produces more than a dozen eggs from the air, hands them to the girl, who then must hand them to the boy.  But, of course, the children soon realize that there’s no way to safely hold so many eggs, and they watch helplessly as the eggs slide out from the boy’s grasp and smash on the floor.    The crowd roared with laughter.

I, in particular, was smiling and laughing too; not only because we had done as the famous song commands, and gotten out of our rooms and come to the cabaret, but that, unlike any other cabaret, I had seen before, we were under the stars, in a 500-year-old piazza in a medieval walled town in Italy.

Life indeed, can be a cabaret.

Ciao and baci!  Gina


P.S.  You don’t have to go as far as Italy, but when was a time when you got out of your own “room,” so to speak, and afterward was so glad that you did?!