It is Tuesday, fireworks night here at the beach. We step out onto the empty expanse of the golf course at night. Behind the trees on the horizon we watch bursts of light and color. The booming of the explosions dampened by distance. Perfect for little ears.
Monday, June 24, 2013
We bike to the beach town a few miles away and spend a mellow morning playing in the fountain. Bursts of water shoot up intermittently and children squeal. There is shade from several overhanging trees and benches populated by parents and tired toddlers.
We mosey to an outdoor cafe' for smoothies and ice coffee. On the way home I feel the weight shift behind me. I glance back to see my little one nodding in her seat, fast asleep.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
We sleep in and make it to the beach just in time for a picnic lunch. We set up our little camp and then visit the tide pool. The shallow water is warm as a bath and full of little crabs and minnows. The ocean feels cool and refreshing after and we bob in the gentle waves.
Back at our chairs my little one traces her foot with a sandy finger leaving a perfect outline. "Now I'll trace yours, and yours and yours" she says with a satisfied smile.
We peddle down shady streets. Spanish moss and veteran oaks line the street. The ocean runs parallel just out of sight. We wind past yards planted with ferns and hibiscus. It is not deeply hot yet. Warm but not sticky. Every few minutes we pass a small wooden sigh marking a path to the beach. Later we will head to the sand, or not. "No Tasking" my husband's shirt says. Amen.
There is a pond nearby filled with a variety of life both aquatic and avian. Turtles of all sizes from silver dollar to large cabbage line the shore sunning themselves. As we approach they plop into the water and wait just off shore to see if we have anything to offer. The alligator who lived here this spring has moved on or been removed.
The newest additions to the pond are two white ducks who remind us of the Miss Blah Blah sisters from The Aristocats, one of our favorite films. They waddle and quack completely ignoring the pair of mallards and mamma duck who have lived here for years.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
After an early walk on the storm swept beach we get out the shaving cream and finger paint on the windows. I read about this idea in my new favorite kids art book: The Artful Parent by Jean Van't Hul. We are ready with the hose to wash away the fuzzy fun. After drawing faces, squiggles and letters my girls move to covering arms, legs and tummies with shaving cream. "This is the best day of my life!" says my first born.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
We hit the beach early and bring our shovels. There are several cannon ball jellyfish washed up on shore and we take a close look. The life guards have told us that there are not to be feared because their stubby tentacles are not very venomous.
We dig a moat to help the jellies stay wet. I have a feeling they are already dead but I appreciate the effort to save these floaty friends.
We are up and out early this morning. We go for a walk before the heat sets in. We stop to watch a very large heron fishing for his breakfast. He is still, waiting, waiting and then in a flash his sharp beak slices the water and comes up with a fish. It wriggles and he gulps it down whole. Buon appetito Mr. Heron.
We bike to the beach for a morning playing in the waves and tide pools with friends. Around noon the sky began to get dark and rain showers gathered in the distance.
As we lacked up to go my eyes checked the horizon and there was an enouous water spout twisting and sucking ocean water up to the sky.
We hurried off the beach as the rain started to pelt and thunder sounded in the distance.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
We are now in the season when, thankfully, we are outside more than in most days. For Father's Day we accompany my husband on a nice long outing. He runs we bike. There is a little beach cafe' at the end of our trek and we stop for OJ and a cookie.
When we get home there is a bright green lizard on the wall. He watches is arrive and put our bikes away. He watches us use the hose to cool off our feet. And he puts up with our staring and photography before scurrying off to a shady crack in the fence.
We migrate to the beach for our annual summer stay. Fist stop: the swimming pool. This is the pool my daughter learned to swim in. Shaded by giant oak trees in the afternoon, this pool is our favorite spot to pass the time before dinner. Today we have it to ourselves but next time we are bound to meet visitors from Ohio, Connecticut or New York.
In their matching rainbow splashed swimsuits my girls splash and paddle. My little one asks to try swimming without her floatie and I help her glide through the water. "You are going to learn to swim like me," says her sister. "I'll show you."
Saturday, June 15, 2013
We are back in the US. Our travels were thankfully uneventful. Our moments outside were brief transitions from one part of an airport to another.
Today we reacquaint ourselves with our house. As I do laundry my girls slip on their flip flops and head outside. First the back yard and then the driveway to test their scooters and trikes.
"It's hot," says my daughter as she re-enters the air conditioned house.
Welcome to summer.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Arrivaderci means see you again and is one of my favorite Italian words. The evening is warm and we stroll arm in arm to the gelateria for a final cone of sweet, cool delight. A sliver of moon keeps us company.
We are packed and ready. Tomorrow we will get up before the sun and head home.
We spend hours and hours at the playground. My girls enjoy the novelty of the play structures and invent game after game to pass the time. The gravel is the most fun and has been used to build with, cover slides with, and poured into socks to sell at the make believe store.
I see how they have relaxed into being together day after day hour after hour. They collaborate, give and take directions and and then each go in their own direction to pursue some in individual task.
This evening we stroll through Le Cascine. Long shaded paths and grassy expanses compliment each other. The river Arno boarders one side. There is only foot and bike traffic here, such a contrast to the city just paces away. Le Cascine is where people come on a nice day to stroll, to jog or just to sit and watch the people walk by.
Occasionally a horse and rider trot by materializing as if by magic. The sun begins to set and we walk across a food bridge to get a better look. The golden light illuminates everything around us.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
The sunny skies turn dark this morning and a surprise rain shower descends. After ten minutes of downpour the precipitation moves on leaving everything washed and glistening. In the garden next door we find a colony of beautiful snails making their way across broad green leaves feasting as they go.
"There are 21 snails on three plants," announces my oldest.
I can not resist and do a little math with her. "Yes! 7 plus 7 plus 7 is 21," she confirms with a smile.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
We are developing an afternoon gelato habit. After lunch and a little rest we head to the piazza for a cup or cone of light, creamy deliciousness. The portions are just right (small for the American eye) and two or three flavors are usually enjoyed together. Fior di Latte (flower's from milk) is one of our favorite flavores. It goes well with the intensity of strawberry or the contrast of dark chocolate.
We stroll to the shaded benches in the piazza. Gelato and coffee are enjoyed in much the same way here: quality over quantity.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
It is the last day of school in Florence. We are in the piazza having an afternoon gelato when we hear drums and trumpets coming for the elementary school. We head over and see a group dressed in historic garb processing around the school grounds. There are drummers, trumpeters and several flag carriers. The flags are emblazoned with the red Giglio, the stylized lily that has been the symbol of Florence since the time of the Medici.
The flags are tossed, twirled and juggled in an impressive display of coordination, grace and great concentration. One youth works with three flags somehow juggling them behind his legs and up in the air.
At one moment six performers wield their flags in unison and then hurl them high high overhead. There is a moment when the flags seem to float, fully unfurled. Below, breaths are held and eyes track. Each flag is caught by a new pair of hands with a beautiful turn and flourish.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
We head back to Italy this morning. My girls wake early and play one last time in the fountain just outside the front door.
I can not leave this magical place without mentioning the stunning blue wildflowers we saw growing near the high altitude playground. These tiny stars were scattered across the hillside mixed with yellow buttercups.
And then there are the swans. Back at lake level we saw swans every day swimming slowly along the shore. They live here wild, just part of the environment. They are startlingly large and have jet black feet. One day while playing at the little beach we heard a loud pounding sound coming from the water. Two swans were flapping their wings just touching the surface as their bodies began to take flight.
We spend the afternoon outside. We are staying with friends who live in possibly the most kid friendly neighborhood I have ever seen. Groups of town houses are clustered around a central open space. There is a fountain, playground and plenty of flat space for kids to scoot run and skate. Each family has its own small back yard but most kids run out the front doors and play freely in this car free paradise. Toys are shared and returned, games are organized and there is a sense of safety and openness that is as rare as it is wonderful.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Monte Tamaro is our destination today. We take a violet gondola 5,000 feet up up up the side of a Swiss mountain. I expected to see Heidi running after her goats mid way up. We passed tiny cottages with shaded benches for hikers, streams bordered with lush mountain grass and wildflowers, and long stone water troughs fed by springs for the cows who graze here in the summer months.
At the top we disembark from our "skating bubble" as my little one calls the gondola car and take in the view. Across wide expanses of valley are the peaks of the Alps. Some snow is hanging on and there is just a dusting here and there.
A few steps down from the gondola is a playground. There is a long tube slide with plenty of clear plastic to enable a good view, a giant basket swing, and lots of structures to climb, slide and jump on. The backdrop is breathtaking. We play for hours, eat a hearty sausage lunch and float down the mountain rosy cheeked and exhausted.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Today we travel by train from Florence to Lugano, Switzerland. My Swiss friend calls it the Florida of Switzerland because of the relatively mild climate and the existance of a few (imported) palm trees.
We visit Lake Lugano and although we are not planning a dip, find ourselves in various states of immersion almost immediately. The water is chilly and clear. We are wearing special walking/water sandals for just this moment. Unlike on previous visits when we hobbled over the pebbled beach, this year we stride right in gasping with delight as the melted snow assaults our skin.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
At the heart of every Italian neighborhood is La Piazza. This open space dedicated to greenery, benches and strolling is where neighbors pass and share the latest news. Old men gather by the news stand to complain about politics or soccer with equal passion. There is sure to be a cafe' on one side selling pastries in the morning, gelato in the afternoon and espresso all day long.
Our Piazza is flanked on one side by the local elementary school and on the other by the butcher and a small church that houses the preschool. The family story goes that my husband spent one morning at the preschool, decided he didn't like it, and walked home.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Today, Nonno announces, is the day to pick cherries. I hadn't even noticed the little tree dripping with shiny red globes. Tonight they will be in our fruit salad.
"Tomorrow we will check the raspberries. Maybe they will be ready," says Nonno. Everything in good time. Each day the garden reveals a new gift.
The day is brisk. Fluffy meringue clouds fill he sky. Nonno takes the girls to check the coop and they find a delicate speckled quail egg. "Where is the big egg?" asks My little one. "The hen is still on the nest," replies her sister. "I want to see!"
A few minutes later they are back. "Look Mama, it's still warm!" says my first born holding out a perfect freshly laid egg.