Pass Me a Cookie…

My life has been in a happy sort of upheaval the past few months.  I have mentioned that we have been slowly renovating our home.  The ugly walls have been smoothed and newly painted.  We have new elegant stairs and sturdy railings going both upstairs and downstairs.  We recently finished our main entrance as well.  Now, this isn’t a tale about renovations.  This little story is about the joys of unpacking things that were packed away during these renovations.  It’s about rediscovering and enjoying the simple things in life.

A long, long time ago when Wiseguy and I first got together, we were poor.  We managed to find a one bedroom apartment in an old part of town.  We had no furniture.  Well, we did buy a bed to sleep on.  Other than that, we were lucky to be gifted other pieces to fill our empty space.  An old motel tv that had a broken colour tube.  An old round banquet table.  Also a gift.  It was either donate it to us or bring it to the dump so we were lucky to win out there.  The kids slept on fold out sponge mattresses.  Well, you get the idea.  We were moneyless, but we were not short on love and enjoying the life we had together.  As time passed and our careers improved, our financial standing improved as well.  Life became more interesting.

One of the first things Wiseguy splurge purchased was a surround sound system.  We might not have had the best furniture, but when we watched our rented movies it was a theatre type experience.  Amazing!  We bought our first barbecue.  What a joy to have juicy, grilled chicken.  So much better than any of my attempts at cooking (burning) any kind of food.  A good coffee maker was added to our belongings.  A really nice 55″ colour tv.  Yes, we started accumulating the coveted things in life.  We also got to move out of our one bedroom apartment and into a semi-detached home.  This little splurge came with a finished basement and a lovely small pool in the backyard.  We were living the dream!

We are still living the dream.  We moved from that house into a detached home.  It contains seven bedrooms, which we needed to house three children, an elder parent, and a very elderly grandparent.  Years passed and the rooms began to empty as children moved out and the elders left this earthly domain.  Our accumulation of coveted things also grew.  Kitchen gizmos and gadgets?  I am the Queen of that realm.  You really notice the “things” you have when you need to pack them away.  With our impending home renovations there were many “things” that were carefully packed away to be revealed again once the construction was complete.  One of these items was a surprise gift that Wiseguy came home with one day.

Six years ago he came home with an authentic, Made in Italy, Espresso maker!  Mama Mia!  This was not the push-a-button-ta-da kind of espresso machine.

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There was coffee to grind and milk to froth.  There was a learning process and lots of noise and steam and….SO MUCH EXCITEMENT!  I had to make THE perfect cup of espresso and cappuccino and latte.  I couldn’t wait to use it!  I would come home at lunch and make lattes for me and my father-in-law .  It was a ritual!  It was something I looked forward to everyday.  Eventually, that tradition changed.

FIL couldn’t handle the strong coffee anymore.  I gave up coffee altogether and switched to tea drinking.  Home renovations led the magic coffee machine to a new home in a cardboard box to wait out the dust and dirt taking over our home.  Time passed.

Our kitchen renovation was complete and we unpacked the shiny espresso machine.  It sat on one counter.  Too overwhelming.  It was moved to another counter, but with a toaster oven and blender and drip coffee maker, our special coffee procurer was not fitting in with our daily living habits.  The espresso maker went back into hiding.

Our living room and dining room were the next rooms to get redone.  The living room furniture was moved out and a large harvest table was moved in with seating for twelve; room to dine with children and the newly added grandchildren.  The dining room became a nice small sitting room.  Two comfy lounge chairs were added so that Wiseguy and I could have a small nook to relax in.  A beautiful wood sideboard was added to the room and it created a calming rustic feel.  A space was made at the end of the sideboard for the shiny espresso maker.  I learned to drink coffee again just to be able to use this gift of ours.  I was ready!

I created a new Saturday ritual for myself.  After grocery shopping and house cleaning, I would make myself a latte, grab a biscotti, curl up in my lounge chair and just relax.  Since I enjoyed this ritual so much, I elevated it to a nightly after dinner ritual too.  I would sit in my chair, dunk my cookie..ahem..biscotti and just smile.  Life is good.  My home is a happy place.  My life is incredible.  So imagine my dismay when my trusty machine started spurting water out of places it should not.  Why?  Why was it doing this?

It was off to repair shop for diagnostic testing.  It would be at least a week before we could have it back and that was only if there was nothing majorly wrong with it.  Day one after drop off and the withdrawal hit.

The first evening after my new coffee companion was in absentia, I was fine.  Sort of.  Not really.  I missed having my relaxing cup of java with the glorious white foam topping.  I missed dunking my crunchy cookie…ahem…biscotti.  I missed curling up in my lounge chair.  It wasn’t the caffeine I was missing.  I was missing the serene end to my day and my “happy life” thoughts I would have while munching my coffee-drenched cookie and drinking my foamy caffeinated beverage.

Day two.  It got worse.  I actually grabbed one of the Keurig cappuccino cups. It produced a nice, steaming hot cup of coffee, but it wasn’t the same.  No big head of white foam.  No manipulating the steamer rod to get the perfect steamed milk.  The java itself was too sweet, yet, I had a cup every night and sat wistfully hoping that my lounge partner would be back soon.  The days went by and Thursday arrived.  Would it be repaired and returned to my humble abode?

I arrived home from work and nervously opened the front door.  I removed my boots and coat (March and still winter in Canada), and trotted up the stairs.  I stole a sideways glance into our sitting and room and my eyes fell upon a glorious site.  The sun was beaming through the window and sparkling off the highly glossed stainless steel of my metal sitting room companion.  IT was back.  Sitting there splendiferously is all its shining glory!  Huzzah!

Life is grand.  Pass me a cookie…ahem…biscotti.

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Molto Bene !

About three years ago, I told Wiseguy that we should move to Venice.  No, I don’t speak Italian.  I don’t have any Italian friends.  (I do have some Italian relatives…but I non parlo Italian).  I think Vespas are just the coolest ride ever!  I love any and all pasta dishes.  I have an absolute addiction to pizza.  Your question is most likely, why Venice and not another Italian city? 

Back in 1989, I went on a gondola ride.  I was enamoured with the view of the old, tall buildings.  The gondolier talked about the history of the city.  He pointed out historical landmarks.  He spoke of the Venetians, past and present.  I loved the way we glided slowly through the water.  (Mind you, at that time it, it smelled more like a sewer than the sea.)  I loved how the gondoliers would sing when they got to an intersection to let other gondoliers know that they were approaching.  My mind began to wander.  I imagined myself sitting at one of the cafes sipping a glass of wine, watching all the tourists rush about.  I pictured myself living in one of the apartment buildings.  I dreamt of going out daily to get fresh baked bread.  I would learn the language and speak it fluently.  I would be a Venetian.  The ride ended, but my dream never did.  

Although we haven’t moved to Venice (yet), I never gave up on several of my wishes.  I wished that one day, Wiseguy and I would go on a gondola ride together.  Yes.  So sweet and romantic (and soooo corny…but that’s me)  This year, my wish came true. 

On our trip to Europe, I got to celebrate my birthday in style.  A trip to Venice and a gondola ride.  Molto bene!  I had told Wiseguy many times that he would enjoy the gondola ride.  He had heard that the ride was big bucks and that you floated through stinky, sewer water.  I informed him that,over the past few years, they had been cleaning up the waterways.  I hinted that we wouldn’t know how good or bad it was until we got there and checked it out.  The debate continued.  In the end, birthday wishes (or maybe his curiosity) won out. 

After the long drive from Croatia to Venice, Wiseguy recommended a wee bit of rest away from the crowds.  And there it was.  Wish number two.  We found a little cafe on one of the side streets.  It was away from the din of the tourists.  We had a glass of wine and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Our senses also got to enjoy the wonderfully, aromatic smell of fresh pasta sauce as large plates of spaghetti floated by us via waitress.  Even better, the smell of fresh baked pizza wafting through the air.  What a beautiful moment it was.  But I digress.  Time to find us a gondolier!

We wandered back to the centre of the square and saw three gondoliers.  How did we know?  Well, they each had on black pants, a striped blue and white shirt and a lovely straw gondolier hat with a blue ribbon on it.  We picked the middle man and followed him down a side street.  His knowledge of the English language was excellent!  Better still, it had that little lilt of the Italian accent as he spoke.  Melodica voce!  We wound through the little side streets, passing little cafes as we walked.  We got to an opening and there it was.  A shiny, black gondola.  It had metal horses on the sides and large fancy tassles.  There were two velvet covered chairs and a velvet bench seat with a colourful blanket draped casually on it.  We boarded, got comfy, and then we were off! 

Our gondolier, Sebastian, has been a gondolier for 17 years.  His father retired and the horses and pictures and chairs on the gondola were originally from his dad’s gondola.  How wonderful.  He sang out little songs as we neared corners.  He waved happily to his fellow gondoliers,  “Ciao Mario!”  We heard about how Venice is slowly sinking.  We heard about Don Juan and Marco Polo and were shown where they lived.  We heard about how the rich Venetians built churches on every island in Venice.  We heard about the one rich Venetian that wanted to be king.  “Well”, the others said, “off with his head!”  Yikes.  Don’t upset a Venetian!  After about 50 minutes, our cruise was over, but thanks to Sebastian, our memories will last forever. 

Wiseguy really enjoyed the ride.  He told the kids all about his experience and how one day, they must go on gondola ride.  Now THAT should tell you something.

Sebastian, if you are reading this, we purchased a little memento of our visit to Venice.  We named the gondolier Sebastian.

Grazie Sebastian