Post #11: When it rains...

By the start of last week, the October weather I remember from last year blanketed the Valpe Region in a coat of gray. Underneath the heavy sky, I could feel the snow sneaking forward… layer by layer from the farthest reaching peaks in the Alps to the the very mountains surrounding the town. Not only did the air turn cold, but it also became damp. In place of Summer, we got Winter. Nothing could undo the unfortunate bypass of Fall. Overnight, the trees in the mountain turned from green to red and breaks in the clouds revealed snow in the mountains beyond the valley. Very prepared for the rainy season from last year’s experience, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed by the drastic change in weather pattern. Every day of the previous six weeks, I had taken full advantage of the beautiful weather knowing that the sun wouldn’t monopolize the sky forever. Not that I didn’t hope it would.

And so the rainy season began, and I didn’t put up a fight. Despite my positive outlook and extra daily doses of Vitamin C via the most delicious Grape fruits I have every eaten, I still fell victim to the usual start-of-the-winter cold. I would say that, from a health perspective, I was feeling on par with the weather. Kevin was experiencing ailments of his own with a pulled muscle that was keeping him off of the ice and out of commission. All in all, it was set to be a pretty blah week.

But it’s funny over here. People are apparently immune to the weather. Like the little Whoville dwellers  who carried on their celebrations when the Grinch stole Christmas, the Valpe community doesn’t let Mother Nature hold them back. I came to this revelation during a rainy morning walk with the dog. Expecting barren streets and empty café patios, I was surprised to see that it was business as usual in town. There are still markets to attend, window shopping to be done, and coffee to be consumed. If it rains, bring an umbrella. So there we were. One drenched but happy pup and one sweatpant and snow-suited lady amongst a crowd of well-dressed townspeople holding umbrellas and pausing for conversation on street corners. Children were playing in the park and families were out for their afternoon stroll. And nobody looked nearly as miserable as I must have appeared, marching with my head down to keep out the rain and moving at a quickened pace to shorten my time outdoors.

After that day, I re-committed to my “change out of my pajamas everyday” vow. And I added even more pep to my step for outdoor activities. A week’s worth of rainy days would be too much to handle if I were to let them get in the way of my daily “routine”. Having Dylan here helped a lot with my motivation. Even if I think it’s too cold or gloomy for a walk, he is always excited for the opportunity to get outside. And what kind of dog-mom would I be if I were to deprive him of that? This little dose of guilt is the extra boost I needed on the few days where I had almost convinced myself to stay inside. Head cold or no head cold, sun, or no sun, we were going for a long walk. Dylan wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Thursday, our day was brightened, not by the sun, but by the news that we could move into our new apartment. Yes, a different new apartment than the one you saw before. The Luserna casa had only been a temporary housing placement while we were waiting for this one to be move-in ready. Double the size of our new place, the old one wasn’t necessarily a bad place to live. But it just so happened to be nearly fifteen minutes away from the rink and the rest of Kevin’s teammates. It was also much too large for a family of three. With so few of our belongings out here, it’s tough to make such an enormous space feel like home. Not to mention the fact that we moved into the house under the impression that it would be “temporary”. So we never completely unpacked or organized in a way that made us feel completely settled.

That being said, we were very happy to move into our new one bedroom apartment located in the same complex as six of the Valpe families and practically next door to the rink. This apartment is quite the opposite of our original place for the season. Rather than having ornate old-time Italian décor and trinkets adorning every spare countertop, this new spot is a completely renovated modern-day apartment. In fact, it looks like we are living in the display rooms of an Ikea store! Having everything so new is certainly something that is new to us. Walking out onto our back patio is like time traveling from the pages of a furniture-store magazine to the heart of an old Italian village.

By Sunday, Kevin, Dylan, and I were just about moved in. (With the exception of course, of all the photo-less frames you can see in the apartment snapshots below.) We were also feeling somewhat recovered from our week of being out of sorts in the health department. Despite this improvement, we decided not to push our luck with a day-trip excursion. Instead, we opted to enjoy the simple pleasure of living in a dorm-like setting with all of our new friends. One of the player/wife pairings was hosting a potluck style brunch to coincide with the world cup rugby championships. I made a double batch of cinnamon buns and banana bread and we headed downstairs to join the rest of the crowd. Twenty or so of us feasted on eggs, sausage, pancakes, toast, pastries, and hash browns. And I watched my very first Rugby match, which I have to admit made for quite an incredible viewing experience.

And just like that, we combated the first round of gray weather. It would be another day before a day of sun. After that, it was back to gray. To coincide with the quick return to gloominess, Kevin’s injury worsened to the point of threatening two months or more of his hockey season. Devastating news for any athlete, especially in Europe where the year is so short. Despite it all, I’m keeping the mentality that got me through the first couple weeks of depressing weather. I’m holding on to the fact that, though it doesn’t feel like it now, the sun will come back. It always does.

Front Entrance

Looking in from front door. 

Looking in from back door.

View of kitchen from bedroom

View of living area from bedroom. Notice the painting of a woman's naked torso behind the couch. 

The entertainment center isn't really that big. It just looks that way because the TV is so small! 


Looking out from the bedroom

Storage closet

Laundry nook connected to bathroom


Cows being herded down the main street as seen from our driveway


Post #10: Asti

So, it turns out I’m a slacker. Over two weeks. No posts. Only a few random Facebook updates, and a handful of telephone calls to keep me connected with the outside world. It’s not writer’s block. Not boredom. Can’t really blame it on lack of inspiration either. I even have internet that, despite it’s sub-par connection, is perfectly capable of handling my blogger duties.  Nothing really strikes me as a particularly suitable excuse for my lack of effort. Time is not a complication since I’m operating on a virtually schedule-less schedule at this point. Other than walking the dog, doing work for my online class, and managing a gradually increasing tutoring schedule, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to sit down and blog.

So, here I am. Without excuses, and ready to go. Finally…

A couple of weeks ago, maybe three, Kevin and I made our way to Asti. And though it may not seem so since I neglected to mention it sooner, it was an afternoon trip worth writing about. Located just over an hour Southeast of the Valpellice region, Asti is a city that prides itself on its vino. We arrived there just after the September harvest, and it was a spontaneous visit. These two factors prohibited us from taking a wine-tasting trip to a nearby vineyard where reservations are required. Instead, we headed straight for the historical old town.

Up until four days ago, Italy was experiencing a record-breaking stretch of warm weather. It had rained once since I landed in Milan, and only once before that since the beginning of August. Though I love Autumn weather, I didn’t mind that Summer was prolonging its visit. Wearing a tee-shirt and shorts well-into October is magnificent. That being said, the Sunday we headed into Alba was beautiful. The sun was warm and walking around the town was completely relaxing.

Though Asti is a large city, it’s town center is a quaint collection of adjacent piazzas. We stopped in one for coffee and Toast, and stopped in the next for gelato. There was even a little park with leaf-shaped chairs for lounging and a iron-wrought bee-hive surrounded by trees. Oh, and I should mention for clarification purposes that toast in Italy is not equivalent to toast back home. Toast here is actually a ham and cheese melt as opposed to a simple slice of toasted bread. And, given the quality of the cheese, bread, and prosciutto in this region, it’s an extraordinarily delicious ham and cheese melt! As note to travelers, this can be an inexpensive alternative to the traditional Italian pranzo should you be looking for something light and quick when you are on the go. Most cafes offer toast sandwiches for 2-4 Euro.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we walked down small sidestreets and explored the expo going on at the center of town. We stopped for a bit in front of a band that was rocking out to American ballads. Credence Clearwater Revival, Guns and Roses… classics all being performed by musicians singing outside of their native tongue. Though it was at times laughable, I was actually really impressed. I know that my performance of an Italian song wouldn’t come close to doing it a justice.

As we were leaving, we took a final look around the pretty town, still decorated from its annual celebration the week prior to our arrival. Every year, the third Sunday in September is the city’s annual horse race, the Palio. The event bears historical significance of which I am not completely educated. What I do know, however, is that Asti’s nemesis from the Middle-Ages, Alba, mocks the celebration with their own festival a couple weeks later. Alba’s festivities also include a race, but theirs features a different breed of Equine: the donkey. Had Kevin’s travel schedule been different at the beginning of the season, we may have made it a priority to see a bunch of asses running circles in ancient cobblestone piazza. We missed the event, but the idea was sparked that, if we saw Asti, we had to visit Alba as well. And October is the month of truffles in Alba, so I am hoping next week’s blog has something to say about that!


Post #9: A Message from the First Lady

Valpe fans love to bestow nicknames upon their players.  And they don’t take this responsibility lightly. They wait until they know their beloved giocatore after which point they award him with a suitable title. In the meantime, some players are given a temporary nickname that is really the recycled nickname of a player from the previous season. For example, the goalie for the 2009-2010 season was crowned as “The Wall”, I imagine in part because of his position and in part because of his last name, Kowalski. Hence, Kevin was referred to as Il Nuovo “The Wall” at the start of last year. But the nickname didn’t last long. Soon, Kevin would receive a substantial promotion… to the Presidency. I am not sure how the name originated, but I am going to guess that it stems from the fact that Reagan once held that office. Reagan sounds like Regan in Italian pronunciation, and Ta-daa, a name is born. (This explains why “Mr. President!” can be heard over the loudspeakers at home games when Kevin makes a big save.) The name was a funny anecdote to our being here last year. And, this year, fans have picked up right where they left off. Mr. President is back in town. And to show their appreciation, they’ve got the posters to prove it….

So, if you were expecting a special-edition guest post from Michelle Obama, I am sorry to disappoint. But, until Kevin has retired his Valpe jersey, and “Il Nuovo Mr. President” is ushered into office, I will gladly accept the position of First Lady of Valpellice. And I will forever find humor in my husband’s impressive status in this little region of Italy.