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Tag Archives: embassy

What I look forward to in the U.S.

26 Oct
26 October 2016. One day to go! We walk around Rome alternately maudlin and delighted. While we are ready to move on to the next adventure, we will miss many things about this magnificent city. Walking to dinner in any number of neighborhoods, enjoying the architecture, stopping in any little bar for a good coffee. Pizza. But the romance of Roma and thoughts of staying can be dashed in an instant by a tangle with bureaucracy, and as we try to depart there are daily tangles. Save me from service businesses that close for lunch just when I need to run an errand, like at 2:00PM two days before we move!
This is part four of my four-part series on what I will miss and not miss in Italy and the U.S. Here’s what I am looking forward to in the U.S.
My clothes dryer in summer. In the winter the "dryer" is in the second bedroom.

My clothes dryer in summer. In the winter the “dryer” is in the second bedroom.

  • Clothes dryers. Hanging clothes out to dry is not too bad in the summer. In the winter it can take 48 hours for jeans to dry and I have to set up a drying rack in the second bedroom. Doing sheets and towels without a dryer is a chore I would gladly skip. And without a dryer, one has to do a lot more ironing. Dryers also take the lint and cat hair off my black tee shirts.
  • Running multiple appliances at the same time. I cannot iron while I wash clothes. We cannot make coffee and toast at the same time unless we are really lucky. The washer and the electric tea kettle running simultaneously can also pop the circuit. The cure is a trip down four floors to the basement to reset the breaker. We are looking forward to electrical service that can handle multiple appliances at one time, as well as to less ironing.
  • Ethnic food. Mexican, Tex-Mex, Thai, Sushi, Vietnamese, Indian, and HALIBUT! Oh, I have missed halibut! We have great food in Italy. GREAT food. But I miss having some good alternatives.
  • Using my superb English skills. My Italian has gotten pretty good but I still do not understand much about the culture and how things work. Politics defies understanding unless you grew up here, I think. It is difficult for me to stand my ground, to argue when something isn’t going my way. It’s a national past-time here. I do that VERY well in English.
  • Netflix and Vudu got all cranky a few months ago and will no longer stream dependably through a VPN so we cannot get all the American content we want in Italy. Luckily Amazon Prime Video works most of the time.
  • Family and friends and easy visits with the people we love. We have had a wonderful time hosting people here, but it’s not as easy as having a monthly dinner date. I miss my girlfriend time (Voyageur Femmes, I am speaking of you!). Looking ahead to Thanksgiving in Seattle and Christmas in Durango!
  • The Portland Farmers’ Market. While it’s only held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and it’s only there for 9 months of the year, it’s a lot of fun. I am looking forward to finding more options to buy direct from the farmer and not only the produce but also meat and poultry. Santa Rosa-style burrito, anyone?
  • Talbots, Nordstrom, Zappos, and Amazon.com. I love online shopping. Period. Nothing more to say.
  • Pinot Noir from Oregon. There is wonderful wine in Italy, of course, and it is inexpensive, but Oregon Pinot Noir is something special. In the U.S., we can get wine from anywhere in the world. In Italy, you get wine from Italy. 
  • Going out to breakfast now-and-then. (Hashbrowns and bacon!) No one in Italy knows how to make a decent omelet. Frittata, yes, but not omelets. Hashbrowns do not exist outside of the commissary at the U.S. Embassy, and I don’t have access to that anymore. However, I don’t think Ric nor I can down the big breakfast these days. We’ll have to split a portion. 
  • Reading the Sunday paper. Such a nice thing to do on a Sunday morning. I might wait until after the election, though. Well after. 
We are packed. The last shipment through Mail Boxes Etc. was dropped off today. We have the travel certificate for Janie Gray. Now, what have I forgotten?
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Most popular post

2 Feb
I have to laugh every time I look at my blog’s stats and see that once again, “Naked in Italy” has been viewed. I published the post in May of 2014. It has been far the most widely read and seems to have endured in popularity. I can only imagine the sophomoric minds who are Googling “Naked Italy” and coming up with links to my blog as well as whatever perversions they were chasing. 
Venus After the Bath, a stunning nude by Giambologna, on display at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Venus After the Bath, a stunning nude by Giambologna, on display at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

So just for giggles, I am republishing it in case some of you newer subscribers happened to have missed it. 
Naked in Italy from May, 2014.

Changing house

8 May
In Italian we say cambiamo casa: we are changing house versus the colloquial American “moving.” I like it. The Italian verb muovere is used for lots of things from “moved to tears” and taking legal action, to a dog wagging its tail, but never for the process of going to a new residence, hence changing house. Ric and I have been very busy changing house and thus there have been no posts to GoodDayRome and few to Our Weekly Pizza.
External view at Via di Villa Emiliani. You can see my head in the window to the left of the balcony.
External view at Via di Villa Emiliani. You can see my head in the window to the left of the balcony.
Some of you may not know, but we are retiring later this month and staying in Rome: the plan is to remain here for two years to travel and enjoy before returning to Portland, Oregon. We had to leave our lovely apartment on Via di Villa Emiliani because it was provided by the Embassy and a new diplomat is arriving soon. Last October we embarked on a search for new place (that alone will be a future subject as it was a process unlike in the U.S.) and May 2 we picked up the keys.
We have continued to shed stuff. We started to downsize in 2003 when we left our large home in Lake Oswego for condo life in NW Portland. We continued when we moved to Rome as our embassy-provided apartment was almost half the size of the condo. The new apartment is furnished, although we chose to bring a few pieces along, and as we will be paying to store anything we send back to the U.S., we wanted to send only those items we most cherish: Ric’s collectible trains, some family heirlooms, art, and so on. No sense paying storage for two years for a set of flatware that cost $130.00 10 years ago. We retained for use in Rome things that make us comfortable: our own linens, some kitchen utensils, wineglasses, espresso cups, our Nespresso machine (of course!) and so on. (The “furnished” rental apartment has two wineglasses. Seriously?)
 Our embassy community is a great outlet for selling furniture and we were able to unload sell almost everything we needed to: bed, desk, table and chairs, various cabinets, excess luggage, small appliances, etc. There are several churches involved in refugee relief and the local Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s Within the Walls, was able to take some things and referred me to another large relief organization that picked up dishes and other kitchen items we no longer need. When we get back to Portland my 13-year-old plates can be replaced.
Then there are the things that it is hard to find a “home” for. They might be disposable or unwanted by us, but they might be treasures to someone else. A “garage sale” is unheard of, so we carefully set these items out by the curb to see if anyone would claim them. If they are still there in a couple of hours, we take the next step and put them in the trash. There are people who make a life out of “picking” and no doubt some of their treasures end up at Porta Portese, and there are neighbors who will claim a watering can, flowerpot or lamp.
The train tables-- two-of-four -- momentarily used to stack things before moving.
The train tables– two-of-four — momentarily used to stack things before moving.
Ric had some hobby tables he used for his trains. They fit in the category of things-not-worth-storing-for-two-years, so we set one out in the street one day, and voila! it was gone in less than two hours. So a few days later we set out another one. Whoosh! It vanished while we went to the market. There were still two left and we figured we’d use the same magic act to make them disappear; However, in talking to our portiere who was claiming some garage shelving we wanted to give away, Ric said we should ask him if he was interested in the other two hobby tables. So we invited Emilio up to see them. Oh yes, he wanted them! At his casa al mare he has three storage units and can use the shelving for beach umbrellas, chaise lounges, gardening equipment, and all the paraphernalia one has at a beach house. Or he can put them at his son’s house. But, he wondered, did we set one of these units out the other day? Because Emilio was the
Items left curbside are retrieved by people who can use them.
Items left curbside are retrieved by people who can use them.
person who claimed it off the curb! He is, in his own words, un conservatore, a person who keeps stuff.
Changing house in a city full of apartments with tiny elevators is fascinating. Balconies and windows become entry-and-exit points for boxes and furnishings. The team rolled in with a small truck (easy to maneuver in the narrow streets) and a lift vehicle that provided an outdoor elevator. In less than 4 1/2 hours they boxed or wrapped everything for the new apartment and loaded it on the truck. By 4:00PM they had everything inside the new one. At each end the portiere (building superintendent) supervised the process. A second morning was devoted to packing up the items for storage in the U.S. Click on any photo for a slideshow and larger view. 

 

So as I write this it is early Friday morning. We are still not completely unpacked. The bedroom and bath are organized, but the kitchen is still in boxes and while most of the electronics are hooked up, the guest-bedroom-office is a dumping ground to be sorted out. We have 10 days before the first guest arrives so we need to kick into high gear. And we still have 7 days of work left before we retire.
So we are establishing “Base Camp Barton” where the cats will reside while Ric and I travel, and many cat sitters have been lined up for the coming months. More later….

Weekend Miscellany

18 May
Friday night we undertook to make dinner for some Italian friends. I am still a bit nervous about making Italian food for Italians, so we built a “Mediterranean Menu,” incorporating preparations from Sicily and the Middle East, with a left turn to France for dessert. It turned into THE GREAT GARLIC DINNER: with the exception of dessert, there was garlic in every course. I had not planned the menu to be so. Only in the implementation did I realize how much the little wonders were incorporated. Luckily each person was a garlic fiend.
Gigi, Eleonora, me and Emanuela. Why do I always forget to take pictures of the food?

Gigi, Eleonora, me and Emanuela. Why do I always forget to take pictures of the food?

We started with pancetta-wrapped garlic, which must be tried to be believed. Our guests had never seen garlic nor pancetta treated this way. Even our vegetarian guest downed several of the savory cloves. Of course olives were present, also in a garlicky/spicy treatment. Antipasti included balsamic-roasted red-peppers, hummus, and Ric’s very wonderful Sicilian caponata, also with an adequate amount of the pungent bulbs. Served with hot, crispy-crusted-tender-inside focaccia we probably could have quit eating at this point. Ma è non finisce qui! (But wait, there’s more!) The garlic-fest continued with garlic-crusted rombo and rosemary potatoes with olives and –  you guessed it – garlic!
Rombo

Rombo

The rombo is a type of flat-fish, a member of the turbot family. I used to make this recipe with halibut in Portland. In fact it is a recipe our son taught me. Although Italian has a word for halibut, ippoglosso, you cannot get the fish fresh. So I asked at the pescheria what type of fish might work as a substitute and the rombo was the considered decision.  I was quite flattered at the fish shop to be asked how I would prepare scallops. There was another customer there contemplating scallops as they were on special and according to the fishmonger Italians only have one way of making them: baked with breadcrumbs, a sort of Coquilles St. Jacques. He knew an American (between my accent and my marginal Italian it’s easy to tell that I am) would have other preparations so we had quite a 3-way conversation about pan-frying, in cream-sauce with mushrooms, stir-fried in an Asian style, etc. This is constant conversation in Italy wherever food is sold: How are you going to prepare that? Everyone has an idea and the exchange is quite interesting and informative. I am glad my Italian is now at a level where I can participate. But I digress…. The fish is spread with roasted garlic, then sprinkled with herb-seasoned panko, and broiled for a very few minutes. Yum!
The potato recipe came from my friend Heather’s aunt, and is a real winner, perfect with this fish. New potatoes, two kinds of chopped olives, roasted garlic, herbs and olive oil = fantastic! No ketchup required.
We finished the evening with a very French pots di crème served with fresh whipped cream,the intense chocolate being a fine counter-point to the savory dinner.
At the very elegant Villa Taverna gardens. I was so wrapped up in the auction, wine and food, I forgot to take pictures. This was the cake-topper.

At the very elegant Villa Taverna gardens. I was so wrapped up in the auction, wine and food that I forgot to take pictures. This was the cake-topper.

Of course that was only Friday. The gastro-fest continued at the annual embassy auction at the ambassador’s residence, Villa Taverna.  Because U.S. government procurement law does not allow taxpayer money to be spent on employee functions, each year the Community Liaison Office holds an auction to raise funds to allow a couple of parties for staff, morale-boosting efforts for the Marine Security Guard, such as visits by their parents, and so on. The auction is a big deal, with great food and an opportunity to spend money. So of course we did. It looks like we have a couple of weekend trips ahead, including 3 nights at an agriturismo in the Brunello di Montalcino region.
Ric and me in our little risciò, perfect for touring the park. V.B. is the largest public park in Rome.

Ric and me in our little risciò, perfect for touring the park. V.B. is the largest public park in Rome.

Sunday we decided it was finally time to rent a risciò in Villa Borghese. A risciò is a pedal-cart for two-to-four adults and two little ones. It is power-assisted so you don’t kill yourself pedaling, but it does take some thigh power to get around. We have a mind to take our young great-nephew and great-niece for an outing when they are here in August, so we thought a trial run would be a good idea. What a fun way to see the park! We walk through V.B. almost daily, but there are parts of the park we never get to see. So Susan and John, when you two are off seeing the Vatican Museums, we may be cycling your kids through the park.
Anyone who knows Ric knows that pizza is a weekly menu item, usually on Friday night. Since we had company Friday and the auction Saturday, we had to push pizza to Sunday night, so very shortly we’ll be off our local pizzeria to feed the need. Great way to wrap up the weekend!
The lake in Villa Borghese. Very small, but quite sweet.

The lake in Villa Borghese. Very small, but quite sweet.

Hope you all had fun this weekend too!

“Obama Day” in Rome

27 Mar
One of the local news channels — at least the one we monitor in the office — declared today
President Barack Obama addresses U.S. Embassy employees at Villa Taverna, March 27, 2014.

President Barack Obama addresses U.S. Embassy employees at Villa Taverna, March 27, 2014.

“Obama Day.” Much like a weather disaster in the U.S., like “Snowmageddon” or “Arctic Blast,” Sky24 TV covered the President’s visit to Rome all day, step by step, motorcade by motorcade, meeting by meeting. Traffic was so bad there might as well have been a winter storm. Going on foot, as we do, was certainly easier. 
It’s hard to imagine this type of coverage in the U.S. A visit by the Queen of England would be a big deal, but it would never get full play-by-play coverage. In the U.S., we reserve that for national disasters. Here, POTUS is a big deal and his entire agenda was seen as newsworthy.
The crowd awaits entrance to Villa Taverna. Grazie a Dio there was no rain!

The crowd awaits entrance to Villa Taverna. Grazie a Dio there was no rain!

The police presence was impressive. Beginning Wednesday, in preparation for an evening arrival, every Italian law enforcement group was mobilized, surrounding the Embassy as well as the Ambassador’s residence where POTUS would stay. Adding complexity, Secretary of State Kerry also came to town. The Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato, Guardia di Finanza, and the Roma Polizia Municipale were all on duty.  There were probably others that went unseen.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Obama, like any visiting dignitary, was running
About 200 people gathered in the garden of VT and patiently awaited the guests of honor.

About 200 people gathered in the garden of VT and patiently awaited the guests of honor.

late by the end of his first appointment, which was with Papa Francesco. It struck me as I watched the extensive Italian coverage of the meeting, that arguably the two most influential men in the world were in that Vatican room together today.  Each very popular in the other’s country, by the way. The American approval rating of Papa Francesco is 3-out-of-4, and Italians overall like President Obama very much.  
The day progressed with Mr. Obama meeting with President Napolitano, Prime Minister Renzi, and finally a private tour of the Colosseum. 
These kids are a little young to be so entranced by a mere president. The object of their attention: a movie on aniPad.

These kids are a little young to be so entranced by a mere president. The object of their attention: a movie on an iPad.

Tonight we were invited to the Ambassador’s residence, Villa Taverna, for a “meet and greet” with the President and “S” as Kerry is called.  Security was beyond tight, and we were instructed to arrive by 16:30 for an 18:30 arrival of POTUS. Luckily the rain that threatened and spat throughout the day ceased about 16:00 as the event was outdoors. We were joined by a couple hundred embassy employees and family members, and after enduring a good-natured wait in line to be frisked screened,  we mingled in the fabulous garden of VT to await our Commander-in-Chief.  Surprisingly he was only about 15-20 minutes late!
Secretary was the opening act for POTUS. He has been in Rome a lot  since becoming "S."

Secretary was the opening act for POTUS. He has been in Rome a lot since becoming “S.”

This was the first time Ric and I had the pleasure of being in the same “room” as a president. It was pretty darned exciting. He, Secretary Kerry, and Ambassador Phillips are all pretty good friends. I imagine they retreated to an amicable evening inside Villa Taverna as we headed home and a light mist began to fall. 
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