Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Total Blur

I had class last night. I don't normally have class on Fridays, but we needed a make-up session for the MLK holiday. Yesterday was a long day that capped off a long week, and the original plan was to go home after class, shower, and then go to Johnny's to hang out and watch a movie. A pretty mellow evening to relax and unwind. Well, things didn't exactly go as planned.
As soon as I walked out of class, Corey called and said everyone was going to a pool hall in Pordenone, including Johnny. I wasn't really in the mood to drink, but I agreed to go anyway. One thing led to another, and after several beers at the pool hall and several more at the Cal Bar, I ended up passing out on Corey's recliner.

Me & Dan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I don't remember much of what happened inbetween, but I somehow managed to take this picture with my phone.

It's strange how the nights I plan on totally partying end up being so mellow; and the nights I want to chill end up being the nights I test my alcohol intake limits.

Friday, January 30, 2009

All The Single Ladies

Jake left today for two months of training in the States. He'll be back for a couple weeks in April, and then he's off to Iraq for a year. Joann would be totally okay with this if it weren't for one rather major factor--she's pregnant. It wasn't really a big surprise, and they kinda knew what they were getting into even after Jake knew he was leaving. They've just decided to try to handle things as best as they can, and I'm really happy for them.
Since Joann and I share an office, we've developed a pretty solid friendship, and I know she'll be relying on me quite a bit over the next year. I'm more than willing to help out any way I can, but if I have to hear one more time about how she constantly has to pee, she's gonna have to drive herself to the hospital when she goes into labour.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Steal My Sunshine

Remember the Great Sunglass Caper of 07? Well, ever since then, I've been on the lookout for a pair of sunglasses that compare to the ones so horribly taken from me. How fortunate that I'm in Italy, where everyone is obsessed with fashion, and there's a sunglass boutique on nearly every corner. The only problem is I'd rather not pay 400 Euro for them.
Lately, I've had my eye on a certain pair of Prada aviators I found in Pordenone, but I've been waiting until after Christmas to see if they go on sale. Somehow, the stars have aligned in my favour, and while Jason and I were strolling around downtown on Saturday, I saw them with a little 50% off tag attached. I haven't afforded myself many luxuries lately as I'm trying to save money for summer travel, but sometimes you just need to splurge. I'm sure you'll see a picture of me in them eventually, but for now, they're sitting on my dresser, and I anticipate a long, happy life together.

Monday, January 26, 2009

For My Peeps At The IRS

For a lot of people, tax season is a dreaded time of year, but I'm kinda the opposite. As soon as my W-2 is available, I fill out my forms. Every year the government takes out too much, and every year I get a healthy return. Even if I didn't get anything back, it wouldn't bother me to pay taxes. Maybe I'm just naive, but I have faith in our government that my money is going where it should be going, even if I'm not a fan of everything it's supporting. Potholes and public schools--great. Pointless wars and corporate bailouts--not so much.
This year, I took somewhat of a risk when itemising my deductions. I'm still a little bitter about the whole truck shipment fiasco, so when I got to the part about moving expenses, I claimed it. It's something I was authorised and for which I was not reimbursed; plus, I have all forms and receipts, so I don't really see a problem with it. The way it worked out, I'm still not getting back the entire amount, but a little restitution is better than none at all. I'll just be crossing my fingers for the next couple years that I don't get audited.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Old Folks At Home

It's funny how our weekend nights have gotten into somewhat of a routine. Friday is the drink-and-party night, and Saturday is the chill out night. Sure, there are exceptions, but this weekend wasn't one of them. After going out for pizza Friday night, we hit up the Bicycle Bar in Sacile and then the Cal Bar in Aviano. Last night, I went over to Jenny and Johnny's for dinner and movie watching.
Sunday evening is kind of a prep time. I like to make sure everything is in order before I go to bed. My house needs to be clean. My dirty laundry basket needs to be empty. My lunches for the week need to be prepared. My homework needs to be done. If any of these criteria is lacking, I can't sleep well.
Corey, however, doesn't really fall into this. He has to cram as much excitement into the weekend as possible. He dropped by J & J's last night, but only long enough to eat, before he was out the door to hit up another bar. There's nothing wrong with that, but I like my time off to be equal parts excitement and relaxation. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I happen to enjoy a night in from time to time.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Preventing A Potential International Incident

Joann has been in Italy for a few years now, and she's just about had her fill of it. She thinks everything is too inconvenient, and doesn't like the Italians, especially the women. There have been a few times over the past few weeks that I almost had to step in to keep her from getting in shouting matches with Italian ladies in various offices around base. It's almost comical.
I guess I haven't been soured on the Italians yet. I'll agree that they're a very arrogant people, but they also have a lot to be proud of. I find most Italians to be fun-loving and gracious, especially if you're willing to meet them half-way on the language barrier. The old man at the filling station near my house smiles when he sees me and always compliments me when my pronunciation is correct.
Maybe after a few years, I'll have the same attitude as Joann, but I doubt it. There's so much to learn about this country and it's people, and I'm worried I won't be able to experience it all. You can bet I'm going to try, though.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brain Stew

I just got home from my first session of Italian 112. As I left the building, all I could think was, "Holy Shit." This is not going to be an easy class.
I have a different instructor this time, a 50-ish attractive lady named Stefania. Her syllabus includes random quizzes and detailed writing assignments. She speaks better English than Signore Muscinelli did, and I think she'll be able to teach me a lot.
I spent most of the class frantically taking notes, a little intimidated that everyone else seemed to be keeping up fine. Luckily, there are only nine people in my class, as opposed to 25 last time. Also, this class only meets twice a week, so each session is two hours and forty minutes.
I'm hoping that everything I learned last summer will come rushing back, but if not, I'm totally prepared to spend my weekends studying. It's gonna be a rough ride, but I'm not about to give up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Caffeine-Induced Booty Shakin'

Last night, my house was full of friends who ate my cheesecake. I knew I'd put too much coffee in it when, shortly after we finished, things evolved into a big dance party in my living room.

Alec & Ryan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I've never seen anyone do the worm as well as Ryan. Unfortunately, I don't have any video. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Ruben & Cheyenne
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Ryan, Alec, & Ruben
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It was a super-fun night that went much later than I thought it would. Cheyenne and Shaun are in Spain this weekend for a conference, and I took them to the airport this morning. We weren't thinking about waking up early while we were dancing around last night, but sometimes it's worth it to get only three hours of sleep.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mostly Cloudy With A Chance Of Running Face-First Into A Tree

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Finally, I got a chance to hit the slopes. Yesterday morning, a group of us went up to Piancavallo, a small resort only 30 minutes away. It was overcast in the valley, but we were hopeful the weather would be better up top. When we finally got to the summit, we were thrilled to see blue skies.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It's sad that such a nice area is so close, and it took me this long to finally ride there. Since it wasn't an Italian holiday, there weren't very many people on the mountain.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It's been pretty cold around here lately, so the snow was nice and powdery. Unfortunately, the clear weather didn't last long, and clouds began rolling in.

Corey, Dan, & Aaron
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Dan wasn't exactly a very experienced boarder, and spend most of the day sliding down the mountain on his butt. We all still had a great time, though.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
There were some really nice runs, and it wasn't too expensive, either. Despite the patches of dense fog, I felt really good about my day. Now, I can't wait to go again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gastronomic Heritage

I just got home from Joann and Jake's, who, in honour of MLK Day, hosted a soul food night at their place. Obviously I didn't partake of the ribs or fried chicken, but I stuffed myself on black-eyed peas and rice, fried okra, cornbread, and a few other delights. I doubt it's what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had in mind when he had a dream, but it's definitely what I'll be dreaming of tonight when I go to bed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Cheesecake That Devoured Tokyo

Danielle heads back to Baja on Wednesday, so I asked her what kind of cheesecake she'd like me to make before she leaves. "Coffee," she replied. I found a few recipes and basically just decided to combine the parts of each one that I liked best. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I started yesterday morning. Instead of giving it just a slight coffee essence, I wanted it to have a really evident coffee flavour. I made the coffee really strong and added an extra portion of Kahlua. But then, when I tasted the batter, it was too strong, so I had to add some sugar and creme to tone it down. Then it was too weak, so I added more coffee and Kahlua. This went back and forth for a while until I had a full bowl of cheesecake batter. Thus, the cheesecake had a baby.
I was a little nervous when, as it baked, my house began to smell like burnt coffee. But last night, I took the baby cheesecake over to Johnny and Jenny's place, and they said it was pretty good.
The final vote will be on Tuesday when I take daddy cheesecake to Cheyenne's place. I'd hate for Danielle to go back to Mexico with a bad taste in her mouth.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Go, Speed Racer

Jake is getting ready to leave for some training in the States. After that, he'll be spending a year in Iraq. So last night, Joann threw a big going-away dinner for him. Jake works on the flightline, so I didn't know many people there; but it was obvious from so many people showing up that he'll be missed.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After dinner, we all went to an indoor go-cart track in Pordenone. I'd heard about it, but never been. I didn't really know what I was in for.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The cars were surprisingly fast, especially for such a curvy track. We were all sliding all over the place, and hitting the walls and stuff. I hadn't had such adolescent fun in a long time. When we got the printout of our results, I saw my top speed was 40 km/hr.

Johnny, Corey, & Stan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Despite my best efforts, I came in fourth. Corey won first, something that we'll probably hear about until he leaves Italy. I think Johnny felt he got screwed, and wasn't afraid to show it. It was 19 Euro to race for 15 minutes, and even though it was totally worth it, it might be a while before I go again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quartet Cuisine

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night, I went to Rachel and Cheyenne's place. Danielle made empanadas, and Rachel made soup. We hung out and drank wine and watched short films and read books. It's been a rather dull week, so it was nice to get out and do something social, especially with these super-cool girls.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Little Pick-Me-Up

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After brunch Saturday, Rachel, Cheyenne, Danielle, Jess, and I headed to Treviso, a city about halfway between here and Venice. We wanted to do a little shopping, but we also had an ulterior motive. Treviso is the supposed birthplace of tiramisu, and we wanted to try it out.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We left the train station, and basically just walked wherever looked the coolest. We stopped in random shoppes and did our best to read all the historical markers.

Treviso Piazza
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
One of the great things about Italy is that every town is so cool and vintage. They each have their little squares and cathedrals and cafes and history.

Treviso Fountain
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
While strolling through some back alleys, we stumbled upon this, um...fountain.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Artsy Girls
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Modern art isn't very common in Italy, so when we saw this piece in a little piazza, we studied it carefully.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After our tiramisu, we slowly made our way back to the train station, and came across this war memorial.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We got to the station about twenty minutes early, so we decided to take some fun pictures while we waited. Cheyenne pretended to order a pizza in Italian, which seemed funny at the time.

Danielle & Cheyenne
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The fun pictures continued even after we boarded the train.

Me & Jess
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Jess has been visiting Cheyenne this week, and few people have made me laugh harder than she has. Unfortunately, she went back to Spain yesterday. Hopefully, our paths will cross again sometime soon.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The sun was setting as we pulled into Sacile. It's amazing how exhausted I was after just walking around all day. The girls had a dinner to attend, so I went home and took a nap, wherein I dreamt of boobie fountains.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Survey Says...

Yesterday, I went to Rachel and Cheyenne's place for brunch. Jess cooked some kind of traditional Spanish breakfast. I don't know what it was called; all I know is it was damn tasty. We finished it off with espresso and my cheesecake. Cheyenne came up with the topic "How Does Curtis's Cheesecake Make You Feel?" Jess said, "It's like ten thousand million puppies licking my face," while Danielle said, "It's like Valentine's Day in my mouth!" Rachel said that if she had to name the cheesecake, she'd call it "The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand." I know, right?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Quest To Make Everyone I Know A Diabetic

Making cheesecakes has become somewhat of a hobby for me. So much so, that I don't even really need a recipe anymore. I know proper ratios for cream cheese and eggs, and the rest is basically just suited to taste. If there's any kind of event or gathering on my calendar, I have to schedule time a couple days beforehand to make a cheesecake. Sometimes it's the chocolate cheesecake with the layer of caramel in the middle. Sometimes it's a strawberry swirl. Sometimes it's a white chocolate raspberry. Lately, I've been getting a little experimental. Last night, I attempted a white chocolate cheesecake with a dark chocolate swirl. It's probably the ugliest cheesecake I've made yet. It's lumpy on top and the swirl turned into more of a mixture. I'm taking it to Cheyenne's house today, where she, Danielle, and Jess will pass judgement. I have no doubt it will taste good, but I already have ideas of how to fix it the next time I make it. Joann says I should make and sell them, but in my experience, turning a hobby into a job just sucks the fun right out of it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sessione Secondo

I finally have the opportunity to fit in the second semester of Italian this term. This time, it's an evening class, which makes me (and my boss) happy. I filled out my tuition assistance paperwork today, and the class starts on the 22nd. It's been a while since my last class ended, so I need to brush up on my grammar over the next couple weeks. Also, I'm going to a week-long class in Germany the first week of March. I'll only miss two class sessions, but I'm gonna have to work extra hard to learn everything before the final. It's gonna be tough, but I'm very excited.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Callin' Me Back

It's been pretty chilly in northern Italy lately. In the winter, I have flannel sheets on my bed, plus two blankets. Lately, I've added an additional blanket. All this is on top of my feather bed, and then my mattress. If my bed were any more comfortable, it would be a cloud.
This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, down the hallway, and onto the cold bathroom floor. After I took care of business, I went back to my bedroom and began making my bed. When I tugged on the covers, they were still warm underneath, and it took every ounce of willpower I had not to get back in.
These are the days I wish I was Italian because today is Epiphany, a religious holiday of which they take full advantage. Along with Epiphany comes the story of the Befana, a witch who enters homes at night through the chimney and leaves candy and presents for good children and coal for the bad ones. The scenario is very similar to Santa Claus (who the Italians call Babbo Natale--Daddy Christmas), except for one major change. The night before Epiphany, the Italians burn bonfires shaped like the witch to ward off the evil from the previous year, and start things right in the new year. I was wondering why I kept hearing fire crackers when I was trying to go to sleep last night. So, yeah, everything was closed today and none of the Italians were at work. They were snuggled in the warmth of their beds, where I should have been.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nice Rack

Today was MSgt Lewis's retirement ceremony. Our whole shop was in blues, and I think we looked pretty spiffy. The ceremony was very nice, and kinda sad, too. Makes me wonder what my retirement ceremony will be like eight years from now.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Minus the Bad Poetry

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Friday night, Cheyenne called and invited me to go to some kind of open mic night thing. I was feeling adventurous, so I joined her, Danielle, and Rachel at a tiny little dive at the end of a dark alley. There were some instruments set up, and we were the only Americans there. The owner kept encouraging us to play, so eventually, the girls got up and sang. It was fun hanging out and drinking coffee (with a little something extra). At the end of the night, the owner brought out some weird kind of flower water, which I thought was pretty tasty. Cheyenne wasn't a fan, but she totally rocked out on the drums for about six seconds.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Interior Design, Nordic Style

There's an Ikea in Padova, a town just on the other side of Venice, and we've been discussing a trip there for a long time. Johnny and Jenny are still unpacking things in their new place, but decided now is as good a time as any. So, yesterday morning, Jenny, Johnny, Corey, and I hopped in my truck to buy some trendy Swedish furniture.
What we didn't take into account is that yesterday is what the Italians refer to as a "ponte festa," or bridge holiday. Basically, since Thursday was a holiday and Saturday is the weekend, they'll go ahead and take Friday off to bridge the gap. The Italians are pretty keen on taking off any day they can get. Ikea was still open, but it was a total mad house. There were so many people, it took us hours to get through the store.
The other thing we didn't take into account is that my truck, while spacious, does have its limits. Johnny and Jenny bought some shelves that took up a lot of space, so everything else we bought was squeezed in to little nooks and crannies. Jenny had to sit on Johnny's lap during the drive home.
I didn't buy too much. They were having their post-Christmas sale, so I picked up a few knick-knacks, plus a small rocking chair so I can sit on my balcony and read. Plus, from their displays, I got a few ideas on how to arrange things in my house. I don't recommend Ikea for furniture you want to have until you're old and grey, but it's a great place to get cool looking stuff.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Improving International Relations

Through the glorious wonders of Facebook, I've managed to build friendships with a few Italians in the area. They get to practice their English; I get to practice my Italian; it's a win-win situation. One such friend is Davide, who used to live in nearby Udine, but has recently moved to Gorizia, which is a little further away so we don't get to hang out as often.
Davide has friends all over the world, and Jimmy, a friend of his from Nashville, is visiting for a few weeks. So last night, Davide, Jimmy, Roberto, and I went out for drinks and dinner. The conversation shifted between Italian and English all night, and I had a hard time keeping up. It was really sad that Jimmy's Italian was better than mine. I learned a lot of Italian slang, and I'm still baffled that one of the euphemisms for "vagina" translates to "potato."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Duemila Nove

I just got home from an all night New Years celebration. It began with dinner at Corey's, then a house party at Jake and Joann's, and finally a bash at the club. Pretty much everyone was there, drinking and dancing. It was great. Unfortunately, I left my camera in my truck. Go figure.
Regardless, I'm very optimistic about 2009. Most importantly, our new President will be taking office in less than three weeks, and I confess I'm caught up in all the fanfare. I'm hoping to travel around more of Europe and see some amazing things. Plus, my parents will be coming to visit in a few months. If those aren't reasons to get excited, then I need some serious drugs.