Archive for November, 2009

Cheetah Pants

Monday, November 9th, 2009
Diane the Miracle Worker Seamstress - Clothing Designer Extraordinaire

Diane the Miracle Worker Seamstress - Clothing Designer Extraordinaire

I discovered a miracle worker named Diane who turned my buns of butter into buns of steel with her ability at making custom pants.   I learned of Diane’s seamstress ability this summer when I was looking for a way to get “Cheetah” pants.  You see, I really don’t like to wear business clothes.  Being the Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning, if I wear Cheetah pants, then I don’t have to wear your standard business outfits. But the challenge was, where can I get Cheetah Pants that don’t make me look like I’m working the strip in Vegas?  I had a pair a few years back that while “interesting” just lacked that special something.   And have collected others that just looked too much like lounge wear.   Good for those important business meetings in our PJs around the kitchen table, but just not the right look for doing a keynote to 5000 people.

I learned that you can send Diane a pair of your favorite pants – she will take them apart and make a pattern of them. Then she can make you a pair of pants just like them in whatever fabric you would like. (She also can measure you and create some pretty nifty clothes too). Since I was far away in Alaska and she was in Rhode Island, I opted to send her a pair of my favorite jeans instead. She found the cheetah fabric that worked extremely well and had my first pair of Cheetah Pants to me in September.

I wore those so much, I needed to develop a risk management plan in the event I damaged or lost the pants in my travels. So I commissioned Diane to make me three more pairs. Since I was near Rhode Island – I figured I’d just drive on over and get them. What a riot. Here is Diane with my pants.

She is incredibly talented, and very reasonably priced. If you want pants that fit fantastic in any style or fabric, drop Diane a line – She makes suits, jackets, shirts as well. Next she is working on a leather jacket to go with my cheetah pants – suitable to wear on my Harley for photo shoots.

Last Day In Italy – Unintended Consequences of a Project Gone Awry

Monday, November 9th, 2009
What a Fantastic Mistake - The Leaning Tower of Pisa

What a Fantastic Mistake - The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Since I accidentally left my Italy tour books at a counter in JFK, on Saturday we were flying blind. We decided to go to that most displayed Italian landmark from our childhood, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower was first built around 1100 BC and started learning around 1200 BC. Now, I might be wrong here, but this tower put Pisa on the map. Also, it most likely would not even still be standing today if it weren’t for it’s less than 90% vertical status. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is what gets people to visit Pisa. And what do people do when they visit an area – they spend money. I’d say this mistake has had a great 800 year run on creating revenue for the people of Pisa. GOOD WORK.

I’m back in the States – back at the grind.  Literally.  My Nutrimill grinder showed up when I was gone.  I’m milling my own flour.  It’s supposed to be a lot better for you than the over processed stuff at the store.  I have a loaf of bread rising in the oven.   I am also going to try to make “Mustardo.” This is candied apples in a mustard and hot chili pepper syrup. I can’t find a recipe for it on the web, so I’m going to do what I do best, experiment.

And for the record – I lost four pounds on my eating tour of Parma. Rather amazing – to lose weight, I need to spend more time eating. I’ve been doing it all wrong all these years. We didn’t even eat that many fruits and vegetables – just Prosciutto de Parma, Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, lots and lots of fresh pasta, meats with sauces, bread, butter – I even had chocolate croissants and pastries at breakfast with whole milk. Amazing. Viva Italiano!

Life After Cooking School

Friday, November 6th, 2009
Being Serenaded by An Admirer at the Trattoria

Being Serenaded by An Admirer at the Trattoria

Cooking school boot camp ended yesterday.   And I’m still in Italy.   I head home on Sunday.   I figured it might be nice to have some unscheduled time after the culinary immersion to just hang out in Italy.   I didn’t leave the room until 1.   Went to a little Tratorria a block from the hotel.   And had a lovely 84 year old gent sing us an Italian love song.   Boy do I like a country where I am treated like one of the treasures from God instead of in the US where I’m treated as if I have some type of self-discipline disorder for not being a perfect size 8. In Ominvore’s Dilemma, Michael Polen says the US has a nationwide eating disorder.  After being here – where these folks eat and eat and eat – all natural, locally raised foods, prepared with no additives,  I completely agree with Mr. Polen.   We aren’t getting fatter and fatter in the US because we don’t have any self-discipline.   We are getting fatter and fatter because we are purchasing crap products with too many preservatives and additives that help the food manufacturers increase the shelf life and shelf stability of their products, but that are literally killing us.   Spending five hours a day in the company of great people, enjoying great food and great conversation is the way to live – not running from one meeting to another gulping down whatever food you can quickly get.   The US doesn’t just have a national eating disorder, they have a national living disorder.

Cantina in La Buca - a very authentic Italian Ristorante in Zibello.

Cantina in La Buca - a very authentic Italian Ristorante in Zibello.

What is odd is in the US I am pretty much invisible – a standard middle age, rotund short woman of average looks.  It’s very strange – I am very well known in my field.   Pictures of me appear in all our publications.  Many people claim they know me.  Yet when they see me in person at meetings, they ignore me – like I don’t exist – until I go up and introduce myself.   Then it’s as if – oh my god, this PM “big wig” is standing here in front of me.   When five minutes earlier, they just blew me off.   Yes we have a problem in the US of what we think “successful” people should look like.

But because of way I look, people actually treat me nicer here.   I am reading the book Heat by Bill Buford.   In his book, he mentions a restaurant in a town just south of here called Zibello and a restaurant there called La Buca.  We had our tour guide Melanie make us a reservation there for tonight.  We were warned the woman who runs the place Mariane was a force of nature sometimes prone to storms, but the food was GREAT.  

Diesel or Gas - Google on the Iphone Saves the Day.  New found friends Fabio and Stefano.

Diesel or Gas - Google on the Iphone Saves the Day. New found friends Fabio and Stefano.

Carey practiced her Italian all afternoon making sure she had the basics down so we would do nothing to cause bad weather with Mariane.   However, when we got there, we
were welcomed with open arms.   Mariane, just loved us.   She showed us her “cantina” – with all her salami’s, cheeses, proscuitto’s, and wine barrels.   She had her son-in-law wait on us since he spoke very good English.   We were treated like royalty.   Maybe she doesn’t like the skinny US reporters who visit her?   She was very nice to us.

The big adventure with going to La Buca was just getting there.   We had not ventured out in the car since we got here.  And getting here was a very disorienting experience.   We left for La Buca right as it was getting dark, and it was raining.   We made it there without getting lost – and had an hour to drive around.   So for another adventure we decided to gas up the car.   At the station, we couldn’t figure out if the car took diesel or regular.   After much discussion with the gas station attendant Fabio and his friend Stefano, I decided to google the make and model of the car on my Iphone – both guys looked at each other and said Google – SI, Google and were nodding their heads up and down.   Very funny – yes the answer was on google – it took diesel.

One last day in Italy before we head back to the States.   I think I might find some type of cooking school in residence back here where I can come live for a couple of months.   Who would not want to be where you are just totally loved for who you are – instead of being dismissed by the general population since you don’t live up to some ideal of what others think you should be?    I love the Italians.

Cooking School Fourth Day – Grapes, Olives, and Fish

Friday, November 6th, 2009
Chromulous Structure Side View - Nice

Chromulous Structure Side View - Nice

Chromolous Sculpture Front View - AMAZING

Chromulous Sculpture Front View - AMAZING

This day of cooking school was spent on the bus and not in the kitchen.   However, it was GREAT.   We drove up to a lake region where the cold air from the alps is funneled down into the area along a deep lake creating the perfect climate for grape growing.   It is called the Francicorta region famous for the production of Italian Spumante.   We went to the Bella Vista winery – the crown jewel of the region.   I loved this winery being a systems engineer as everything was so carefully thought out and very artistic.   It was both elegant AND functional.   There were these little surprises every where you looked – and pointed your camera.   One sculpture, while it was interesting, didn’t illustrate the WOW factor until you looked at it through your cameral lens – where it became a christmas tree ornament with the evergreen in the background.

I had read the book Super Crunching last year and remembered reading about a guy who had created a model that analyzed number of weather factors of the main wine growing regions of the world to determine where the best wine would be produced.   He had it down to a science.  I inquired about how they used weather “metrics.”   I was told that they cut apart three onions and after three days, the onions that sweat the most, that is the month they are going to get the most rain.   Personally, I think there is a little more to it than that.   I predict it’s more like they have to cut apart these three onions on the second full moon AFTER Christmas (sometime in mid-february, early march).  Then this tells them when the next six months will have the most rain.  I will test it out later this year and let y’all know.

I just loved the geometric design of the winery.   Since I am still working on my own geometrically designed house in Nevada, I got some fantastic ideas.   The triangular tables in their conference areas where amazing.   I loved the pervasive use of arches, circles, triangles, ovals, squares that were everywhere.  I’ve used the similar design approach in Nevada – just not on this grand a scale.

Summary of geometric elements at the Bella Vista Winery

Summary of geometric elements at the Bella Vista Winery

We left the winery and went to the lake for a lunch on an island that was fish, fish, and more fish.   We were served five different types of fish.  Nice lunch.   THEN we were served four more types of fish.   More nice lunch.   Two hours later, extractating ourselves from that restaurant, we headed for the Olive oil pressing plant.   By now, my pants were getting tight.  HOWEVER, I had three pairs on.  As we were told it would be very cold on the boat to the island restaurant.   Recalling the cold dank day the day before, I was prepared.  I am happy to report, today with only one pair of pants on – they are still loose.  How I can go to cooking school, eat for over five hours per day, sit on a bus most of the day and lose weight is beyond me.   I think my regime of exercising a lot and eating healthy may just not be that healthy for me.

The olive oil pressing plant was very small – they were a neighborhood processor that processed all the olive oil for the surrounding olive growers.   At Academia Barilla we learned about three types of olive oils – Tuscan that is very strong and good in soups and on breads.   Ligonia olive oil – that is very delicate and good on fish.  And Sicilian olive oil that is mild and good on salad.   The olive oil we tested at the plant was an extra virgin (only pressed once) and good for salads and bread.   The version I tasted was unfiltered.   That was pretty darn bitter.   More hazing.

Third Day of Cooking School – Ham and Cheese

Friday, November 6th, 2009

The third day of cooking school did not require any time in the kitchen classroom.   As we learned, the way to serve the ham and cheese of the region requires very little preparation time – you simply break apart the Parmagiano Reggiano cheese into small little chunks and you slice the Proscuitto de Parma into paper thin slices.   What is more important is the origins of these two products as there are many copycats of both this type of ham and cheese throughout the world.   So off we went to see their origins.

These tours reminded me of my childhood where my father’s idea of “seeing” the country meant seeing all the factories throughout the country.   We must’ve toured every factory open to the public as a kid.    Now in that ranking system as a kid of the factory tours – both the tours of the Parmagiano Reggiano and the Proscuitto de Parma factories, got high marks.   Why?   The tours were relatively short and at the end, we had lots of free samples.

Look for this labeling on the cheese rind when selecting Parmagiano Reggiano Cheese.  The DOP means it's the real thing.

Look for this labeling on the cheese rind when selecting Parmagiano Reggiano Cheese. The DOP means it

I learned at the Parmagiano Reggiano cheese factory that local lore says this cheese increases virality in men.   I think the quantity required is something more than a little blue pill, but something less than the entire round of cheese.   If they lock in on this marketing, the price they can charge for their cheese will soar.   However, it will then likely be banned by the US FDA because of the strength of the pharmaceutical lobby.   So, keep this a secret please.    HOWEVER, you need to get the real deal.  Maybe it’s because of what the cows eat in Parma that create this unique feature.   It’s a variety of herbs in a grass like mixture.  Or it might be the enzymes in the cheese.   Maybe the cheese is like wine in that after a couple pieces whoever you’re with just gets more attractive?   Maybe it’s a pheromone olfactory aphrodiasiac?   That would explain why they love amply endowed woman of short stature who eat a lot of cheese – yes this place is good for my ego.

I also learned that when the cheese maker scores an X on the cheese rind – it does NOT mean X-TRA special.  It means the cheese is somehow defective.   For some reason, lots of these X-rated cheeses end up in the US being sold as the real thing.  Buyer beware.

The stuff that is sold in the little green jars called Parmesaen cheese and the wider distributed small packages of parmesaen cheese are NOT parmagiano reggiano cheese.  The real product is a much moister cheese – it actually won’t grate like the cheeses we purchase in the US unless it’s allowed to get stale over several weeks.   If you want the real stuff – look for the markings on the rind that are in this picture.

60,000 Proscuitto de Parma Hams Get Processed in this Artisanal Processing Plant Per Year

60,000 Proscuitto de Parma Hams Get Processed in this Artisanal Processing Plant Per Year

Next it was onto the Proscuitto de Parma factory.  Fortunately this was not like a winery in as much as it’s circled by vineyards.  It was nice that this place was not circled by pig pens.   The ONLY thing in the Proscuitto de Parma were pigs legs.  And LOTS of them.

This product was the ultimate in risk management.  To create this ham, it has to be salted and kept in the cold for 90 days.   The cold salt curing technique is a way to keep the meat from spoiling.   I inquired how they did this BEFORE refrigeration as they have been making this type of ham for centuries here.   They were only able to make this ham in the time before refrigeration from November to February – probably the reason for the 90 days in the cold with the salt rub.   It ages another nine months before it’s ready for consumption.   The area around Parma used to be under the sea and there are large deposits of salts.  These are the salts used in the sale rubs.

This on a Proscuitto de Parma Ham signifies that it was made in Parma, Italy - the original home of the Proscuitta de Parma

This on a Proscuitto de Parma Ham signifies that it was made in Parma, Italy - the original home of the Proscuitta de Parma

We learned that these are BIG PIGS.   These pigs weigh in excess of 400 pounds.  There is a copy cat product Made in Canada that got the trademark Proscuitto de Parma BEFORE the real product from Parma secured the trademark.   The pigs used in Canada are smaller pigs, weighing less than 200 pounds.   So when you see a product that says Proscuitta de Parma – if it’s long and skinny, it’s most likely made in Canada, NOT Parma.  The Proscuitto de Parma will have a crown on it that symbolizes it is the real thing.   According to some women in our group, you can actually purchase this several times a year at Costco.  Also, higher end speciality deli’s in larger cities or in specialty deli’s in the Italian districts in cities will carry it.

We left the factory tour to go visit a very old castle that was now the home of the Grappa manufacturing.   Grappa is a product made from the leftover grape skins.   Since I am allergic to alcohol, I did not get to sample this one.   Based on the looks of my classmates, I considered myself lucky.   They reported that it was intense and several had a hard time breathing.   We had lunch at the old castle – it was pretty dank and cold there.   I’m not sure why living in a castle was anything anyone would want to aspire to in the olden days.  Lunch was fun there – lots of pasta and proscuitta de parma.

We got several hours off in the afternoon for good behavior (either that or we had exhausted the staff at Academia Barilla).  At 7:30 PM it was on the bus again and off to one of the oldest restaurants in the area located in a small village for a three hour dinner.   We were served “traditional” food in an elegant atmostphere.   I’m racking my brain to remember what we had – I’m sure it was more ham and cheese.

Second Day of Cooking School – Everything about Truffles

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Francesco and his truffle hunting dog Leah.  She likes to eat them - expensive dog treat at $150 per pound.

Francesco and his truffle hunting dog Leah. She likes to eat them - expensive dog treat at $150 per pound.

I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t like truffles until I came to Culinary boot camp in Italy.   Which I guess is a good thing – god knows I don’t need anymore expensive habits.  However, I did have a very good time discovering just how much I did not like truffles.   We started out the second day of cooking school with an adventure to go hunting for truffles with Francesco and his truffle sniffing dog Leah.   This required an hour drive to the countryside.   And a half mile walk to their fenced in tree farm.  Truffles grow around the base of the trees and they can harvest them from September to February.   Only people who have passed a truffle exam can go get truffles and this was Francesco’s family’s private truffle tree farm.

After truffle hunting, was luuuunnnnnccccchhhhh at a local restaurant.  EVERYTHING we were served had truffles in it.  Lunch is no small event here – it lasted over two hours.   I think I learned more how to socialize over long meals in this class than how to cook italian food.

We got back to Academia Barilla in time to start cooking lesson number two – this was at 5 PM.  We proceeded to start preparations for a five course meal – which included, what else – TRUFFLES.   It appeared that some of my classmates were not faring so well from the rich lunch of cream laden truffle trifels.   So, I deviated from their menu and pulled out my ginger root.  YES, I traveled to Italy with my own ginger root.   (See post several down on my recovery kit for the swine flu).    It was a round of ginger root and chamomille tea for all.   Our teacher chef, Nicola, didn’t seem too excited that I had hijacked one of the burners and a pan for my concoction, but when he learned that it would help him get over the latest bug his two year old brought home from nursery school, he appreciated my efforts.   I turned my classmates onto the ultimate cureall of the ancient world – ginger.   Oddly enough, I could not find ginger root at the local grocery store.

Dinner was a very cool pasta ravioli like thing (I can’t for the life of me remember the name) that had an egg dropped in the middle, guinea hen in truffle sauce (we got to use a blow torch on that fowl),  polenta with a truffle cream sauce (yuck), and some almond biscotti for dessert.   I’m sure there were a couple of other courses in there – but they obviously weren’t that memorable or I would’ve remembered them.   I might have remembered if we ate before ten PM.  This dinner was another two hour affair.  By the second day of cooking school, I was getting to know my classmates VERY WELL.   Luckily – I really like these folks.    It was starting to feel like Culinary boot camp – second day – Truffle Hazing.

First Day of Cooking School

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Carey and I learn how to boil Italian water at cooking school.

Carey and I learn how to boil Italian water at cooking school.

Well, it is now the fourth day of cooking school, and I am just getting around to writing in the blog about the first day of school.  They keep us busy here from early morning to late at night.   Mostly in EATING.   Yes I am learning quite a bit about Italian cooking – which I am coming to find out is as much about selecting the correct ingredients and enjoying a fine meal as it is about cooking.   The Italians are very passionate about their food.  More than five hours every day is devoted to meals.   This explains why I am having to play late night catch up on the blog.

Oddly enough with all this attention on eating, my pants are getting looser, while many of my classmates are having the opposite problem.   WOW what does that say about my eating habits at home?   A big part of the Italian cooking class is also learning how to consume wine with every meal and not get too inebriated.   I unfortunately am allergic to alcohol.  So while most of my classmates are getting a good number of calories from the wine, I am just doing the tasting meals.  Which is lots of little portions.   And lots of time in between.  Slow eating, over a couple of hours, small quantities of food and LOTS of walking in between time.  That explains it all.

Overall the experience with Academia Barilla in Parma has been fantastic.  My classmates are primarily woman – most over 40.  Two brought their husbands.  The rest came with friends or solo.   It’s a group of woman who love to cook and have a great time.   The laughter has been non-stop.   What I love even more about it – I am NOT IN CHARGE.   If there is a problem, it is someone else’s to solve.  (I did have to get one of my classmate’s computers to work on the internet – but as a volunteer it didn’t matter if I succeeded at that or not).

We spent the first day in a lecture where we learned about the quality certifications on the foods produced in Parma and how to distinguish the real thing from the fakes produced all over the world.  Very insightful education.   Sounds like the food industry has the same problems the Project Management industry has with people presenting knock offs as just as good as the real thing (non-certified PMs vs. PMPs).   Then we went to their incredible kitchen classroom.   We were in groups of four working on the recipes for a five course meal.  For every two groups, we had a dedicated chef to help us.   One of the woman in our group was trained at Cordon Bleu (what she was doing in this class for untrained folks was beyond me).   I learned “knife” skills the first day. by our in group “expert.”   The Academia Barilla chef, Nicola, seemed fine with my knife skills but taught me some  techniques if I wanted to try something new.   I preferred his approach.   After almost 40 years of cooking,  I wasn’t doing everything wrong with the knife.  I learned more about group interaction styles and what approaches work well in a team and what don’t more than I learned about knife skills from our group’s self proclaimed expert.

One of the other woman taught me how she chops up rosemary – never really had given much thought to how I chopped up rosemary or that it even needed to be chopped.  But then she explained all the different ways she used chopped rosemary with cooking her own beef as well.  We became good friends fast – a fellow cattle woman.   Now we’re exchanging stories on installing windmills.  Maybe we woman who love to cook and are willing to travel to Italy to learn more, have more in common than we realize.   And since I am not the teacher in this group – I am allowed to have favorites.  Mary Jimmy is one of my favorites – she is an emergency room nurse.  If I ever find myself in need of an emergency room nurse near the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee, I will be in good hands at her hospital.  I think we need to write the definitive guide to cooking an entire cow.

I’ve made lots of other friends in class as well.   An elegant woman who on a wing and a prayer made a dramatic life change to follow her heart and start her life over in San Diego – she was as beautiful as she was gutsy.   Another was  a recently widowed full of life woman from LA.  And then there was the truffle loving  veterinarian who took copius notes.  I became fast friends with “Mom and Dad” – a recently liberated couple who sold their chain of hotels.  And by the end of the week was discussing entreprenurial opportunities with this spit fire mom-preneur from Georgia who was on the trip with her Mom.   I also got to know  two wonderful employees from Sur La Table (good move sending those two to this class).  When we reconnect with each other back in the states – at least we know we can all cook.

I’ll write more tomorrow – it’s almost 1 AM and we’re taking a boat to some island to try out various olive oils tomorrow.

Pedal Power in Parma

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
Rental Bike Posing for a Picture in Front of Stadium Entrance in Parma

Rental Bike Posing for a Picture in Front of Stadium Entrance in Parma

Now I know how the people of Parma stay so petite.  They bike EVERYWHERE.  This is one bike friendly city.   After the rat in the maze experience on Saturday that had us driving round and round in circles, we discovered the code to the city streets on Sunday.    You rent a bike, and follow the bike paths all over the city designed in a circle around the Cathedral.   What a total blast – well for a couple hours at least.   Cooking school officially started Sunday evening so we had the day to explore.

You can rent bkes here for the day or for the year.  And they have about 10 locations where you can pick up and drop off the bikes (that is if you rent them for the year).  We also discovered, that while you rent the bikes for the hour, you have to return them from where they came.   If you want to return them during the lunch break (which lasts 2 to 3 hours depending) – you get the privelege of keeping the bike another three hours.   Being two middle aged woman who were here to cook, five hours on a bike was not why we came to italy.   So being creative, we found a lovely cafe to park ourselves and our bikes – fitting in with the natives.

People bike here like they drive in the US – with kids in car seats, sipping lattes, and talking on their cell phones.  While large buses whiz by at 30 MPH.    I don’t think they have discovered bike helmets over here – or those are just for the “serious” bikers.   And there is a major competition for side of the road space with the vespas that scream in and out of traffic.   Crossing the street is not for the faint of heart either – as stopping at a cross walk for pedestrian is a completely optional event.  It seems like a very large game of “chicken” for all participants.  And folks think Rome is dangerous.

Made it to Italy AND the Internet is FINALLY Working

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Cooking School In Italy

Cooking School In ItalyMichelle LaBrosse, PMP

We made it to Parma. YEAH. Odd how whenever I travel the business booms. I wasn’t gone more than 2 hours and sales doubled over the previous day. I am not sure why that is – but the team wants to take up a collection to get me a motor home.

Being that I love project management, everything went off like clock work – EXCEPT when the Iphone croaked and we lost the map to the hotel. Which was probably for the best. We passed the Parmagiano Reggiano Cheese factory twice and were most definitely not in a city area. Once we lost the Iphone, I picked up random signs for the hotel every other kilometer, but I’d lose them entering a round about. We got to drive all over Parma for two hours. Lovely little city. Finding the hotel was just an act of random kindness by the universe.

The Sur La Tab folks have already been in touch with us. Caught us snoozing. But got us up in time for dinner. We are still trying to figure out what time it is over here as it’s supposed to be six hours different from the US East Coast but for some reason it’s only 5 hours ahead. Maybe everything will work itself out tomorrow with daylight savings time. My body has no idea what time it really is so it doesn’t matter what time the clock says anyhow.

Carey and I are coming up with lots of ideas for columns already. One is just the project of managing a trip like this – it certainly has taken a lot of coordination by us and the folks at Sur La Tab. We had our schedule and our risk management plan (like arriving in JFK in NYC at rush hour on a Friday with three hours to go before our flight). Being highly risk tolerant travelers – we don’t worry that much about where we’re going once we get there. We both plan in broad brush strokes – not the minute details. It leaves a lot more room to find those unknown treasures that makes foreign travel so much fun. Day one of the trip and after the joy ride through Parma, Carey is still talking with me.

Got to go get ready for dinner – we’re going somewhere “fun” – but the earliest reservation is at 7:30 PM over here. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place and we have a vague idea of the directions. Will be interesting to see where we end up eating dinner. Oh Carey has just informed me, she wrote down the name of the place – or at least her rendition of the name of the place. Like I said – will be interesting where we eventually eat dinner.

Carey just discovered our trip itinerary – I’m sure they had an element of this for us before. Why know what you need to know before you need to know it? We made it to Parma – that was all I needed to know.

Lessons Learned – Much easier to travel with someone who likes a little planning and a LOT of adventure. Carey is a good travel companion for cities as she lived in NYC for 15 years and spent 6 months in Rome so she somewhat knows the language. Plus she has more convenient reading glasses than I do. She is my risk management plan