Here he is...

I suppose I've kept the little monkey to myself long enough. For those who've been wondering whether we pulled a Brangelina, this should clear things up a bit...



There's been a development

In the midst of the chaos that we've come to know as life, we've decided that it's time to share a secret we've been keeping.

For those of you who might be interested, details will follow as soon as I can collect my thoughts.

But in the meantime...

here's a [very little] hint:


It's been a while...

Greetings everyone. As you may or nay mot have noticed, I've been off the grid for what seems like months...well actually, it has been months. There's so much going on I don't even know where to start. But as soon as I can get my head around it all I will attempt to collect my thoughts in some coherent order and fill you in. Promise.

In the meantime, just wanted to share this little splash of awesomeness and let you know that all is, indeed, well.

Very, very well.

Backyard Sunset

Life = Sorted.


The right way, the wrong way & the American way

My husband often tells me I'm stubborn. He also often tells me I'm American.

I often think he uses the two interchangeably.

In the spirit of being an all-American girl, I've been in search of a cocktail with which I can proudly raise my glass today to celebrate independence with my fellow Americans, both at home and abroad.

My libation of choice:
The Americano.

This fizzy refreshment is a variation on the Negroni, the classic Italian cocktail that has appeared more than once in a few of my infamous misadventures.

I think it quite befitting that my favorite cocktail can be made three different ways: the right way, the wrong way and the American way. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I believe this applies to any commingling of spirits, alcoholic or otherwise.

As an expat in Europe I find myself in a great many discussions about cultural differences and the pros and cons of various approaches to things ranging from healthcare, social services and taxes to less politically-charged matters such as tipping and (what should be) the highly objective take-a-number system.

I certainly don't presume to tell anyone what is right or wrong (with the exception of the take-a-number system, which I firmly believe should entail some form of linear organization), but what I stand by most adamantly, what I defend most vociferously, is my fundamental right to choose.

This, my friends, is the true definition of independence.

It's the freedom to make your own decisions.
To choose your own adventures.
To excel or to fail in your endeavors.
To be all that you can be, whatever that might mean to you.
To take control of your destiny.
To arm yourself with information.
To transcend where you came from or who you were born to.
To follow your dreams, to change your fate, and to create your own happily-ever-after.

Happy Birthday America.
Right or wrong, I salute you.

The Americano

Originally dubbed the Milano-Turino for its two main ingredients, Campari from Milano and Cinzano (sweet vermouth) from Turin, this delicate drink was popularized by American tourists during prohibition and renamed as a compliment to the Americans...

When was the last time something like that happened in Europe?

Made with equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, it's topped up with an indiscriminate amount of club soda so you can adjust the taste to your liking.

It can be further set apart from its Italian cousins by preparing it in a highball instead of an old-fashioned glass, and garnishing it with a lemon twist instead of an orange.

Personally, I like to get sassy and have both.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
club soda
lemon twist or wedge

Fill your glass with ice and add the Campari and vermouth. My personal preference is Cinzano, but you an also use Martini & Rossi or Boissiere. If you're feeling adventurous and want to pop for the more expensive Carpano Antica, consider using a half ounce of that with a half ounce of one of the others if you find the herbal flavor overpowering.

Top it up with club soda, adding as much or as little as you like. If you happen to live in Europe where even liquor store clerks (and apparently some bartenders) haven't the slightest idea what "club soda" is, try asking for seltzer or carbonated water, NOT tonic.

Garnish with a lemon twist.

Or, if you'd rather have the orange slice, go ahead, knock yourself out. It's up to you. That's the beauty of the Americano.


Opening Pandora's Box

I can't decide which I'm more excited about: the super-cool-new-iPhone-4-that-my-baby-got-for-me or all the fun new very practical apps that I can now distract amuse educate myself with.

My latest rabbit hole is Italian internet radio and automated music recommendation services. As a long-time fan of Pandora (and a never-will-be fan of Dutch radio), I was devastated the first time I tried to log in - all revved up and ready for an at-home DIY body-pump workout - and was denied access because apparently they haven't sorted out all this global licensing business. Bastards.

More importantly, I've been on a rabid search for new Italian music as I am in desperate need of some variety. Constantly listening to Italian songs is my feeble attempt to learn Italian through osmosis.

It's also my latest coping mechanism for not actually being there yet.

I blast Italian songs on my iTunes while I'm biking through the Dutch countryside, mentally transporting myself to Tuscany. Even when I'm in Italy, I love to walk around with my own soundtrack - makes it seem like I'm in a movie and has the added bonus of drowning out the cackle of obnoxious tourists.

According to iTunes, I've played songs fom Ligabue, Tiziano and Laura over 150 times. Each.

Grazie di cuore to Nicole at zoomata for popping my bubble and introducing me to Soundtracker, an internet radio/automated music recommendation service like Pandora that 1) doesn't hold the fact that I'm in Holland against me; 2) offers a lot more Italian music than Pandora did anyway; 3) has an English interface; and 4) is free. It's like it was custom-made just for people me who want to bring a little slice of il bel paese into their lives. Evivva!!!

So here I sit, still listening to Tiziano but also enjoying the musical stylings of Angela Tatangelo, Paolo Meneguzzi and Jovanotti while engaging in a futile search for an app that will do the laundry.

And as usual, my advanced A.D.D. turned this rabbit hole into a wormhole with countless tangential offshoots, prompting me to free-associate Soundtracker to Pandora to Pandoro, a traditional Veronese holiday cake.

Naturally, this inspired me to search for a recipe.

It's also inspired me to post our photos of Verona since the only ones I've shared so far are from the 5 minutes we rolled through during the Mille Miglia. So stay tuned.

Much gorgeousness (and a great recipe for linguine alle vongole) is coming soon...


Mille Miglia 2011: Brescia to Bologna

We left Brescia at around 6:30pm with 130 Ferraris, en route to Bologna by way of Sirmione, Verona and a countless number of tiny villages far off the tourist path.

It was a genuine car safari.

Formerly a speed race on the narrow, tangential roads connecting Brescia to Rome, a tragic accident in 1957 that claimed the lives of two drives and 10 spectators changed the name of the game. The Mille Miglia has since evolved into a regularity race wherein competitors must complete various parts of the route within time limits that are assigned by the organization, as well as regularity stages.

As a mobile spectator (and often a roadside one as well) I very much appreciate being able to enjoy the beauty and majesty of these amazing cars without having to fear for my personal safety.

Though as a driver I do wish people weren't quite so comfortable spectating this close to the action. You just never know.

Another benefit to a regularity race is that you have a little more time to stop and enjoy pretty things.

Like this random field of poppies.

Admittedly, it was my husband who insisted on stopping to snap these shots.
He knew I would be mad later if we didn't.
He was right.

Sometimes you'll see something amazing at a random petrol station...

Sometimes not.

We hooked up with the Dutch guys we met last year on the side of the road.
Same place we found them last year - though this year their car was actually running.

We decided to skip Sirmione and headed towards Verona. 

Unfortunately, this is all we managed to see of Verona in the 5 minutes it took us to drive through the parade route.

Luckily we went back a couple of weeks later to spend a full day there. But for now, there's no rest for the wicked.

Arrivederci Verona.

At another petrol station we met up with Team Lambo from last year's race.
Happy to see they traded up to this Porsche.

We did some spectating of our own, more listening to than watching the Ferraris trying to break the sound barrier.

One of the best things about the Mille Miglia is stopping at small places along the way that you would otherwise never find.

I've not the slightest idea where this was, but we enjoyed all we could eat and drink for 20 EUR a head. A bit sad that the drivers couldn't take full advantage, but the co-drivers (being finished driving for the night) definitely made up for it.

Plates upon plates of cheese and a constant pipeline of prosciutto, salami, mortadella and other assorted treats came in waves as this lovely lady kept us full of fresh, warm bread-like things.

Eventually we realized that it was 10:30 and we still had at least 2 hours until we reached Bologna. So we had one last round of these yummy lemon sorbetto drinky thingies and hit the road.

We arrived in Bologna sometime around 1am, only to find out that our hotel mistakenly cancelled our reservation. And during the busiest weekend of the year. Naturally.

Luckily they managed to make alternative arrangements with another hotel just off the autostrada so we were able to get to bed by 3. Which was a damn good thing since the call for wheels-rolling was at 7:30 the next morning.

A minor detail that I'm pretty sure was NOT previously discussed with Xander...

Roadside Lemon Sorbetto
Serves 8

I always wanted a lemonade stand. Though I must admit, this tasty grown-up beverage knocks the pants off that CountryTime crap we used to make when I was a kid.

4 cups prosecco, champagne or the sparkling wine of your choosing
2 pints frozen lemon sorbet

In a blender, combine half of the prosecco with half of the sorbet and blend just until the sorbet is soft but not liquefied. It's a slushy texture you're looking for, not a soup. Hence why I like to break it up into two batches to avoid over-mixing it into a fizzy syrup.

Pour into flutes or or parfait glasses (the prettier they are, the better it tastes) and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cookie crisps, graham crackers or similar light treats make a nice accompaniment.

It's a lovely refreshment to serve after a summer dinner party or a picnic. Use ginger-ale in a non-alcoholic version for anyone who has to drive.

If you want to try making your own lemon sorbet, here's a super simple recipe:

Lemon Sorbet
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, courtesy of this blog

2-1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar (if you prefer a sweeter sorbet, increase the sugar to 1 1/4 cups)
2 lemons
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water and the sugar. Grate the zest of 2 lemons directly into the sauce. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining 2 cups of water. Then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Stir the lemon juice into the chilled sugar syrup, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker.

Happy summer!

Mille Miglia 2011 Preview

384 classic cars, 130 Ferraris, and 1000 miles from Brescia to Rome and back. Welcome to the 86th annual Mille Miglia, la corsa piu bella del mondo.

It's fitting that the worlds most beautiful race should take place in il bel paese - though I still don't get why it had to rain on them for 80 years straight before they figured out that May is a better month than April to host it, particularly when nearly half of the official race cars lack a roof and/or windshield. Sigh...such is life in Italy.

In any case, sometime in the middle of the night the boys arrived in Brescia: my husband and the X-men (Marnix and Xander). We were all moving pretty slowly the next morning and it took a little extra expresso to get us moving.

Eventually we worked our way to the city center where all 500 cars were gathered in the squares and all along the cobblestone streets. It's a connoisseur's wet dream.

We always start with the Ferrari's.

Then, onto the old timers. 

The official race cars are all antiques 1927-1957,
the years when the Mile Miglia was still an official speed race.

 I adore the Bugattis.

#22 - 1928 Bugatti Type 37A

#28 - 1926 Bugatti, Type 35T

But I'll always be a Porsche girl...

#215 - 1955 Porsche 356 1500 Speedster

#209 - 1954 Porsche 356 1500 Speedster

#299 - 1995 Porsche 550RS

Oh, who am I kidding?
I love 'em all.

#94 - 1937 BMW 328

#41 - 1934 Fiat Balilla 508S

#320 - 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial

#97 - 1949 HWM Alta

Of course, no trip to Brescia would be complete without an Aperol spritz so we stopped for a lunch of pirlos, panini and people-watching.

On the way back to the cars we stopped at the Mercedes station.
It's been an amazing 125 years between this...

and this...

On the way back to our cars, we cheered on a few driving teams. I can't even begin to imagine spending 3 days and 1000 miles in these cramped quarters, sans a roof - or even a windshield.

#119 - 1949 Healey Silverstone, Christian Roncolato & Sabine Rinnerberger

#176 - 1952 Aston Martin DB# Team Car, Martin Melling & Tim Moore

As always, a beautiful table was waiting for us when we got home for dinner.

After dinner, we were off to the races...
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