Sunday, April 29, 2012

Life is a driveway.....

Today we got Peanut his first bicycle! He is 3.5 years old and up until now always rode on his tricycle or a push car/Cozy Coupe. But since the weather has gotten nicer, since we have a giant driveway...we figured it was time. In all honesty, I'm gonna give him about a week then next weekend I intend on taking off ALL of the boys' training wheels and teaching all 3 at once how to ride without them.

Bubba just turned 6 and still uses training wheels. It took him a long time to figure out that he had to steer and pedal at the same time. Pooks has had his bike for a year now and goes so fast but doesn't have the confidence. Every time we talk about taking the training wheels off, he insists that we leave them on. Well Peanut ''gets'' it. He pushes back on the brakes a little too often but overall, he gets steering while pedaling. So I figure that if we're gonna do it, might as well do it all at once. Wish us luck! We've been spending afternoons outside playing so hopefully by the weekend they'll all be ready :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuscany Day 6: The walled town of Lucca

Our last full day in Tuscany we went to Lucca. Tourism wise, Lucca is barely a bleep on the radar. It doesn't have a tower, it isn't know for it's Renaissance or huge Cathedral. What Lucca has is charm. It's adorable. It is an old Roman city (think 180 BC) and one of the few Italian walled city whose wall is still fully intact. It's now used for pedestrians, bicyclists and leisure. The ''thing'' to do in Lucca is ride bikes along the wall, which goes around the entire city. We did that (on an 8 person bike, no less) then wandered around the small town. I loved it. I think out of all of our stops, Lucca was my favorite.

No I'm not pregnant, this maternity jacket was in the stow-n-go of our van and it was chilly. I will never wear this coat again!
This is all ON TOP of the wall.
The little kids loved the basket.
And the big kids loved the back...right up until Bubba got motion sickness and vomited. He was fine, he just told us to slow down!

 We got to see some amazing views from those walls....
After the bike ride (it took a little less than an hour to bike around the entire city and this was stopping several times) we walked around Lucca.

An Italian treat that we bought at a crepe was basically a huge sugar covered donut. Delicious!
And that, was our Tuscan vacation. Whew! Pretty impressive, right!?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tuscany Day 5: Pisa!!

On Thursday we woke up to an partly cloudy wasn't raining though and it looked like the sun was trying to peek out so we decided we better go to Pisa. Obviously everyone goes to Pisa to see the leaning tower and if you're going to see it, you're going to want to take pictures. And if you're going to take pictures, it might as well NOT be raining. So we scraped Siena from our plans completely, and went to Pisa.
We planned on following Rick Steves advice...driving to a parking lot, paying to park and walking to the tower. However driving in Pisa was a NIGHTMARE and we ended up following parking signs only to get "lost" near the field of Miracles. We parked on a side street where the curb wasn't painted. (typically white lines means free parking, blue means pay and yellow means 'dont even think about it'). So we chanced it and parked. We walked not even 500 feet and BAM!
We were there. 
Now to be completely honest (which since this blog serves as a journal and baby book of sorts, I don't usual censor) I have to say that Pisa was not what I expected. It was VERY touristy. And I don't been that it was crowded (which is was) but on the other side of the Field of Miracles is every single cheap and tacky souvenir stand you could possibly imagine. Kinda took away from the magic of it all. During our visit, the grass was blocked off so you couldn't walk on it at all. That took away from some of the picture opportunities that I had had in mind (ie, stepping on the tower).  But it still is amazing to see this tower, literally leaning!
We had the option of climbing the tower which I was interested in doing. It was €15 per person and you had to be at least 7 years old. The problem was it was about noon when we got there and the first available time to climb was 3:40pm. I didn't want to climb it that bad! So we did what everyone did and took an obscene amount of photos...
Then on to the silly ones...
Me holding it up..

The boys kicking it down!
And while I didn't get the angle I wanted of me stepping on it, I did get a picture of me kicking it too:
After about 15 minutes of picture taking, there isn't a whole lot else in Pisa that one ''has to do''. We all went to a trattoria and grabbed lunch (nothing like 13 Americans to seat...that made our waiter quite noticeably annoyed). We grabbed gelato afterward then headed back to the Villa. 
Arrividerci Pisa!

Tuscany Day 4: Rain, Rain Go Away!

Wednesday we woke up to rain. A lot of rain. We had planned on going to Siena but there was no way we were gonna walk around the hilly town in the rain, with our eight kids. Instead the boys stayed at the villa watching movies and having a pajama morning while the girls went back to Marcos (so Amy could shop) then we went on to a ceramic studio. This wasn't the same as the terracotta, this was a studio full of elaborated painted dishes, serving ware, lamps, clocks and some pottery. I regret not taking photos but it was raining, I was carrying Sissy and she was watching Tangled on my phone so I didn't have an opportunity. I did find a link to their website though:

Honestly while it was all lovely, I didn't buy (nor feel the urge) to buy anything. It was (justifiably) pretty expensive. The lasagne pans were gorgeous but you couldn't actually bake in them. I don't have a hutch or anything to display the pieces in so it was pretty much something I would buy, have nothing to do with it, then risk the kids breaking it. We live very close to Nove, Italy, which is known for pottery and ceramics. They produce and design pieces for Tiffany and Co, Lenox, and other high end retailers. I know I definitely will go there and to me, Tuscany is known for Terracotta whereas Nove is known for their Ceramics so I don't regret my decision in the slightest.

So while at the Ceramics studio it started pouring down rain, lighting the whole bit. We made it back to the Villa, had PB&J sandwiches and took a long family nap. Seriously I think we woke up close to 4pm. But Wednesday night at Podere Casanova is Pizza Night, so at 8pm we were joining Lisa, Lara and their family for dinner. They made the most amazing pizzas! I had the Prosciutto Cotto, which is cooked ham and it was delicious. The kids had the Margherita (just cheese), which Steve (Amy's husband) said was the best Margherita pizza he had ever had. After we ate dinner, they invited the kids to put on hats and aprons and learn how to make pizza in the outdoor, wood fired oven. They LOVED it!

 Bubba and pooks went first, after Trey and Jackson. First they got hats and aprons... 
They they rolled out the dough.......

 They put it in the oven (with a little help)...and waited just a few minutes. Sissy tried on their hats while they waited.
 They it was time to shimmy them back out of the oven. 
Since we had already eaten dinner the kids made dessert pizzas with Nutella. They were very excited and with deep concentration spread the Nutella on the warm crust.

 Lastly, after seeing that everyone else was eating Nutella, the littlest kids gave it a go. Peanut and Delilah rolled out their dough..
Peanut had trouble rolling so he developed a patting technique.
Placed it in and minutes later, took it out of the oven.
 And Viola! Peanut's Nutella dessert pizza!
 Before the kids got too messy we snagged a group shot...seriously it was SO much fun!
Thank you Lisa and Lara!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tuscany, Day 3: Tuscan Terracotta

On Tuesday we woke up to a fine drizzle of rain. While the Brock family was returning to Florence, we knew we didn't want to do that. We talked with the owners of the Villa where we stayed and asked them if there was anything nearby they would recommend. Lisa suggested visiting a local Terracotta studio, she said we would even be able to make our own piece! We loved that idea so we quickly got the kids ready.

The studio/work shop is in a small town called Montespertoli. We weaved up and down, in and out, on all of the hilly roads and made there in one piece (though very nauseous!). First we got a tour of the place and shown pieces that they have made and the process involved for making terracotta.

 All the animals are made using molds, but all of the pots/planters are 'fatto a mano' or made by hand. There were racks and racks of pieces drying. The clay is gray when wet but once it's fired in the kiln, turns to the recognizable orange shade of terracotta that we all know.
 After the tour, the kids were invited to make a piece with Marco (the owner) on the wheel. Marco speaks no English but was the sweetest guy. (I should mention that the tour, the lessons and the pieces we made, were all FREE).

Bubba loved it. He wants to be an artist when he grows up, so this was very exciting to him. Pooks however wanted a vase like Bubba made, but DID NOT want to touch the clay. He didn't want his hands dirty, he "didn't know how to do it", and as Marco tied the apron on him he began to cry. I however, told him that I was not giving in. He was going to try to make a vase whether his hands got dirty or not. He would be able to wash his hands later but once we left that studio, that was it. He wouldn't get another chance to make a vase.

Once he finally did it, got his hands dirty and saw that when he pushed or pulled the clay..that it got taller or shorter, thicker or thinner...he had a blast!
After Bubba and Pooks, it was the grown up's turns. (Sissy was too little and Peanut refused. Not ''refused'' like Pooks did but down right, tried to run away screaming that he didn't want to do it). I went first and it was SO nice to get to use a ceramic wheel again. I loved ceramics in high school and while I'm not great at it, I've always loved making things on the wheel. Previously I made mostly bowls but with the instructors help, I made a little vase too!
B had also had experience on a wheel before, so he was super excited to get to make something again. Look at him, he's a natural!

While we worked on the wheel Marco set the kids up with some clay. All of the kids enjoyed the clay when it wasn't so ''messy''. Peanut made a snowman!

After we each made our piece, Marco set them to dry. It was agreed that Lisa would pick them up and deliver them to us on Friday, after they had a chance to harden up a bit. They wouldn't get fired in the kiln as they fire hundreds of pieces at once and it wasn't time yet. Marco assured us that if we let them dry in a warm place, they should eventually turn orange as well. I asked if he could please stamp them so we would remember exactly where we got to make them and he happily obliged.
Bubba's, Mine, Pooks' and B's all drying on top of the furnace in our laundry room
Once we were all cleaned up, we were given a tour of the show room. Marco explained how they are trying out new colored glazes and how one shade of teal, took to all of the pieces differently. These particular tiles are for a bathroom. 

At this point, B and I were ready to buy. We knew we wanted to bring some Tuscan terracotta back home with us, but we would have never imagined getting a full tour and a lesson. We ended up purchasing 3 outdoor planters with handmade handles (only €4-5 each) and then 2 decorative glazed pieces for our house. (€15 and €20 but solid, beautiful handmade pieces). 
 We got the green one above (€15), which keeps changing places from the staircase to the living room, as I'm trying to decide where I like it best and a bright orange one that is in our bedroom. It's shaped like an old wine container (I'd take a picture but B is sleeping).

All in all, it was an amazing morning! After the pottery, we took the kids to a near by park then back to the Villa. I was really feeling sick from all the hills and on the way back, actually had to have B pull over so I could puke. But I got to look at vineyards while doing it, so it wasn't too bad, lol! We had soup for lunch and relaxed the rest of the day at the Villa.