Oh, it’s the simple things…

A European Hornet’s nest was being built by a slew of giant hornets in a crack in the small opening at the top of this photo. These old stone houses are a breeding ground for nests for all types of critters.

While hanging the laundry this week, I heard the loudest buzzing of a hornet that I’ve ever heard,  which apparently was a European Hornet. Following the sound, I looked up to find a nest of giant wasps being built into the high stone wall on the patio. Knowing they were busy building the nest with little time to bother me, I finished hanging the wet laundry, hoping that they were just “looking” to build a nest.  Not the case.

Yesterday, again hanging laundry, their numbers had increased and we knew we had to contact Luca, the owner, and ask for his assistance. If we both weren’t allergic to bees, hornets, and wasps, we’d have taken care of it ourselves. It wasn’t worth the risk.

Contacting Luca by email, within hours we had a response translated to English. “No worry. We come to fix it tomorrow.”

At 10:00 am this morning, Lisa and Luca appeared at the door, with bags of “goodies” to help us, including laundry soap (we’ve supplied our own), cleaning supplies for Santina, items necessary to rid us of the hornet’s nest and “mosquito netting” for covering the windows in the kitchen, living room and master bedroom.  I jumped for joy! 

This en suite bathroom window will now provide a good breeze coming off the mountains at night when the temperature usually drops into the 60’s.

The thought of being able to chop, dice, and cook in the kitchen without bugs biting me made me squeal with delight. Being able to have a window open at night was beyond belief with it cooling down into the 60’s most nights. Having the window open in the living room while playing gin or watching a movie was more than thrilling. Oh, it’s the little things.

Lisa stapled most of the edges of this “mosquito” netting as screens for the windows.  This kitchen window attracted many flies and bees with frequent cooking going on each day.  We’ll keep an eye on it to ensure no gaps leave an opening for insects to enter.  We removed the Ziplock bag to keep flies at bay, moving it to another screen-less window we often keep open.

Lisa and Luca…amazing! As soon as they saw the email stating we needed their assistance with the hornet’s nest due to our allergies, they went to work on a solution making it possible for us to have windows open in this warm weather.

The netting wasn’t quite large enough to use a single piece.  Lisa and I agreed that two well-placed pieces would work on the living room window, close to where we frequently sit on the sofa to play Gin and watch movies.

Now as I write this, the nest is either dead or dying, the windows are covered and we couldn’t be happier.  On top of it all, while they were here working, Santina had placed a large bag of green beans and zucchini on the doorknob when we didn’t hear the doorbell.   Lisa had seen her drop them off, telling me when I questioned who had brought them.

I wish I’d heard her knock on the door when she dropped them off so I could’ve said, “grazie mille” (thank you very much) as I’d said over and again to Lisa and Luca, almost making a fool of myself with gratitude. 

Also, I wanted to thank Santina for the three pieces of “torte” which Tom tried this morning, finding them unusual but delicious. Due to the crusts made with flour, he only ate the insides, to find they were all “‘sweet” pies that one may eat for dessert, although they were made with vegetables. 

It killed me not to taste these. In my old life, those three different pies would have been right up my alley.  I won’t tell her that I couldn’t eat them and possibly hurt her feelings. (She doesn’t go online). But I will rave about the flavor of the pies enjoyed by Tom and the generous bag of the green beans and zucchini some of which we’ll have tonight with dinner.

The flowers are still on the ends of the zucchini, which we’d never see at a grocery store or farmers market.

How I long to bake many of my favorite recipes to share with these wonderful people!  Unfortunately, I can’t find the ingredients to make most American favorites. Maybe I’ll figure out an alternative soon, using the local ingredients. 

It’s the simple things in life that mean so much, isn’t it?

My razor broke a few weeks ago. There are no less than 20 blades in our luggage that fit my old razor, now useless.  I can’t find a similar razor.  I shave every day. Foolishly, in the US before we left, I purchased a nifty women’s razor from Walgreens, their own brand.  They no longer carry it. 

While in Pescia at the larger grocery store, Esselunga, they were only a few options, mostly disposable razors.  The only non-disposable types were two that had a battery to enable it to “act” as an electric razor. (Had I purchased a larger brand name, I still wouldn’t have been able to find a replacement razor).

I’d be OK with the battery-operated type but they are heavy, not suitable for our luggage plus. Anything with batteries is an issue other than the most pressing items, such as a camera. Every ounce counts!

With no other options, I had no alternative but to purchase the disposable razors. Do I throw away the expensive blades? I guess so. 

During the week-long period when I had no razor, I used Tom’s razor, swapping out a separate blade each day, then putting his blade back. Cumbersome. Glad that’s over.

It’s the simple things. 

Its been over two weeks since I gave up Crystal Light Ice Tea, suffering no withdrawal. I’ve thought about it a few times each day as I sipped on the bubbly bottled water, tiring of it in a few days.  Plain water bores me.

Letting Tom use the remaining Crystal Light until gone allowing me to go “cold turkey,” he guiltily suggested that I make “real” ice tea. You know, tea bags and water.

Unable to remember the last time I made “real” iced tea, we looked online as to how many tea bags to use as opposed to how much water after we’d purchased a box of 50 Lipton teabags for US $2.25 (not a bad price).  It wasn’t easy to find the plain ice tea recipe. 

Who makes ice tea these days with many options available in the grocery stores?  I don’t drink regular soda with its tons of sugar not suitable for my way of eating.  If I did, there are no sugar-free options here, other than Diet 7-Up  and Coke Zero, neither of which I care to drink.

After a frustrating search online including at the Lipton site, I decided to try the suggested one teabag in one liter of water.  Horrible.  Too weak.  Later I added another teabag settling on this recipe:

  • Make 1/2 liter plain water in the coffee pot or teapot for hot water 
  • Drop two teabags in the hot water 
  • Let sit for 1/2 hour at room temperature
  • Remove and toss teabags
  • Add other 1/2 liter cold water
  • Add to taste, Stevia or liquid Splenda
  • Chill until cold, adding ice and lemon to an insulated mug

It’s palatable, although not as good as the Crystal Light.  There’s a little caffeine from the two teabags which is fine.  One could use decaffeinated teabags if caffeine is upsetting.

The 50 teabag box is enough to last for the remaining time we’ll be in Boveglio.  This one-liter container has been lasting for almost two days.

Wherever we may travel we’ll be able to find teabags, water, and ice.  As for the lemon; a cut lemon without preservatives only keeps a day or two in the refrigerator. I said goodbye to the lemon. It’s not worth tossing halves of lemons every few days although I appreciate the fact that the food here has no preservatives. The freezer is our friend, although it already needs to be defrosted again before our next grocery shopping.

Yes, it’s the simple things, the comforts in which we surround ourselves whether living on the road such as we do, packing for a weekend camping trip, or planning for a stay in a hotel.  We tend to gather the familiar items that help us feel “at home” and “at ease” adding to the pleasure of the time away.

Letting go of many of the comfort-related items from our past, embracing new items we’ve incorporated into our lives as replacements while adopting new comforts we’d never noticed or appreciated, is all part of the process of simplifying our lives. 

Ironically, all of this may change when we arrive at a new location.  Ironically, this is also OK with us.

Its a “buggie” life…Flying insect photos from a pro..

These “bug/flying insect” photos were provided by Chris Kelly, a professional photographer on his recent visit to Tuscany.  He too, observed the vast number of flying insects inspiring him to take these excellent photos. Thanks, Chris! Great photos!
Looks like a regular bee, doesn’t it?

As a kid, when a bug, flying insect, mosquito or bees buzzed my head, I’d jump around and scream. Over the years living on a lake in Minnesota, I got over it, with an occasional jump but never a scream. Bugs were everywhere. 

By August, the wasps, yellow jackets and hornets flourished, practically dive bombing us when we attempted to enjoy the outdoors. Tom and I are both allergic to wasps and hornets.   

Over the years, on many occasions, my hand or foot would become swollen beyond recognition from a horsefly bite, with itching lasting for 10 days or more. Even a paltry mosquito bite could cause swelling and itching for days.

Really?  Please don’t stop by!

None the less, we spent considerable time outdoors days and evenings, swatting, spraying, dancing about to ward off the biting insects in Minnesota, the mosquito being the most prevalent.

When we arrived in Belize, we were plagued with the notorious no-see-ums, having as many as 100 bites at a time, they too, itching for many days and nights.  Once we moved to the air conditioned property in February with screens and air conditioning, we were well protected, especially at night.

Chris said he shot all of these insects on one single walk in Tuscany over a week ago.

The dilemma here in Boveglio boils down to the lack the screens or AC, not just on our house but in houses throughout the area.  I suppose the residents take them in their stride. We’ve yet to accomplish this feat. The exquisite blanket of vegetation covering the mountains, hills and terraced areas, provide a lush environment for flying insects along with a wide array of bugs we don’t recognize nor do we fear. 

Were it not for the risk of a serious reaction to a sting, neither of us would give it a thought.  Although anything buzzing around one’s head at night is rather annoying. As mentioned a few posts ago, we now keep all the windows and the door shut in our bedroom. Yesterday, lovely Lisa and Luca, the owners of the house, brought us a stand fan making last night’s sleep especially comfortable.

Yes, we’ve seen these buzzing around the flowering basil. No annoyance here.

Today, the temperature is in the low 90’s.  Luckily, in the evenings the temperature drops considerably. If we chose to open the windows in the bedroom at night, we may be inviting bats inside with the hundreds we’ve noticed flying around the house as we’ve sat on the veranda in the evenings. 

Yesterday morning, I heard an outrageous buzzing while chopping and dicing in the kitchen while Tom was in the other room.The kitchen window was opened. After awhile the buzzing stopped replaced by the lesser buzzing of other flying insects entering and leaving the kitchen through the open window.

This appears to be a type of moth, not so scary.

I should mention that we keep the organic waste, of which we have quite a bit due to cooking most of our meals, in a tightly closed and bagged container in the kitchen, emptying it often. We’re fully aware that such a container would surely attract bugs.  In our old life, we had garbage disposals, not the case after leaving Minnesota last Halloween. 

There are five separate containers for recycling down in the trash area. We sort and remove all of our trash frequently, keeping all windows closed anywhere near the  outdoor trash area.

Most likely, this insect doesn’t sting.

Back to the outrageous buzzing. This morning, again while chopping and dicing, I heard it again as did Tom.  Looking up at the log ceiling in the kitchen, we saw a yellow jacket or hornet coming out of a small opening near the mortar and the wood. Oh, no! Its making a nest inside the kitchen. Somehow, we shooed it outside the window.  Minutes later it came back inside working its way back inside the little hole in the ceiling.

Not feeling like driving down the mountain today to get some type of spray, our only option for today was to shoo the thing outside once more, when we weren’t able to kill it and proceed to close all the windows in the house.

These things are clever. Shall we wait to see if 25 baby hornets are born in the kitchen soon or shall we drive down the mountain to find a hardware store in order to purchase an appropriate spray (first, we’ll translate the possible verbiage).

Wanting to be outside awhile ago we spent an hour on the patio in our chaise lounges, swatting the flying things. With the herb garden growing within a foot of us, they were swarming us for the entire hour. Back inside, we’re now on the less-“buggie” veranda with a few flies, an occasional bee and less often, a gigantic loud hairy black dive bomber.

This resembles a beetle, not necessarily a stinging insect.

While researching the Internet this morning for possible solutions and descriptions of these flying insects, I stumbled across these amazing photos of a sampling of a few of the flying insects of Tuscany, taken by a professional photographer, Chris Kelly (yes, I’m jealous!) writing to him asking permission to use his photos. As it turns out he took these photos in Tuscany while he was vacationing here only a week ago. Chris was delighted to share his work, as us “web geeks” often are. 

Naming these must be left to the bug experts of the world. Please comment if you know the names of any of these. With literally millions of species on flying insects, it would be an impossible task to find their varieties in order to name them correctly.

As an aside, this morning while chopping and dicing I had intended to make a salmon salad using canned salmon as one would use canned tuna. We’d purchased two such cans while shopping a few weeks ago. 

With Tom having the leftover taco salad tonight, I though a big bowl of salmon salad atop shredded romaine lettuce and raw sliced veggies would be a perfect meal for me, along with plate of steamed green beans and sautéed eggplant. 

Whenever we have leftovers which is only enough for one of us, I make a single separate dinner for the other. Waste not, want not. Never wasting a morsel of food is our motto, hardly ever throwing away any leftovers. 

After chopping the fresh crispy celery, purple onion and hard boiled eggs using the Mezzaluna knife (see instruction video), placing them in a large mixing bowl, I opened the big can of salmon, poured off the excess juice and dumped it into the bowl. 

Instead of a glob of salmon freely popping out of the can, it was a batch of about 10 small fish. It was mackerel! Yikes and yuck! Well, my “waste not, want not” theory kicks in as I continued to make the salad. That’s my dinner tonight! I’ll have to eat the entire bowl so we won’t have more organic waste to attract more flying insects.