Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Day Fiasco

Thanksgiving in Italy turns out to be pretty much just like any other day, stores are open, people are at work, and (worst of all) I had to go to classes.  However, I was not going to let this stop me from partaking in the glorious festivities of the holiday, they were just going to have to be delayed by a day. 
The plan was that on Thursday night Kait and Cody (a couple that we’ve met here at the school and become good friends with) were going to come over to our house after classes were finished.  Our apartment is only equipped with one small convection oven, so the timing of the preparation of the meal was critical.  We were going to bake the pies on Thursday night and then put the Turkey in on Friday morning followed by the different casseroles.  The plan seemed like it should work pretty well and we were looking forward to a day full of an eating jubilee.  Of course, if you’ve read any of my other posts you know that nearly nothing over here ever seems to go exactly as planned…

We started Thursday evening right: Christmas music crooning in the background while we slice apples and mix ingredients for the apple and pumpkin pies.  The turkey and all other fixings were ready and waiting in the refrigerator (the smallest turkey Cody could find at the market was 15 lbs, so we were planning on a lot of leftovers…).  The pies are prepped so we pop them in the oven and start the dishwasher so that we have clean utensils for tomorrow’s preparations. 

Soon the apartment is filled with the wonderful aroma of spices.  The apple pie is coming along quite nicely, but the pumpkin is still quite goopy in the center.  All of a sudden, all of our appliances shut off.  The fridge, oven and dishwasher lose power.  Everything else in our apartment seems to be working, so we think that maybe it is a blown fuse on the breaker, but when we check the box, everything is still up.  For good measure, we switch them all on and off a few times, but nothing seems to work. 

I do know that there is a power limit here in Italy, and if you exceed that limit, your power turns off.  Usually you can just flip a switch on your breaker and get it back on, but I was thinking maybe this time was different for some reason.  We decide that maybe if we go to bed and turn out all the lights, the decrease in power will help and (hopefully) they will start working in the morning.  So, we all cozy down for the night with a soupy, half-baked pumpkin pie still in the oven and the scent of apple spice still hanging in the air. 

The next morning I wake up with great anticipation – the fate of our turkey dinner hanging in the balance.  Of course, it couldn’t be that easy.  All of the appliances were still dormant.  So far our Thanksgiving meal would be consisting of a partially baked apple pie, a liquefied pumpkin pie, and a raw turkey in the fridge.  Something had to be done. 

We grab the phonebook and start looking for electricians in our area.  We find the list and Brie starts calling each one.  “buongiorno, parle inglese?”  “NO!” *click.  As we moved down the list, a few would try to help, but no progress seemed to be made as none of them spoke enough English for us to really be able to communicate. 

Next plan of action – talk to someone face-to-face.  So, courageous Brie and Cody cross the street to our faithful Tabacchi to see if they can help us.  They are sent further down the road, leaving Carmel, Kait and I to sit in the house and wonder if our dreams about the perfect turkey will ever flourish into reality. 
An hour later, Cody and Brie come storming through the door.  Their mission had been successful.  Turned out they had to go all the way to our school and talk with the student advisor there.  She knew exactly what our problem was and a lady who works at the school’s husband is an electrician.  She called him and he was going to be over when he finished with a job he was working on. 

Things were turning up and I could almost smell the turkey cooking already.  We brewed some apple cider on the stove (thank goodness that runs on gas) and settle in to watch a Christmas Story while we wait.  At 2:30 PM, after finishing the movie and creating many paper snowflakes to decorate our apartment, the electrician shows up.  He prods around and unscrews our breaker box, removes the entire oven from the wall, but can’t seem to find the problem.  Then he pulls up the baseboard under the over and, with a flip of a switch, the appliances jolt back to life!  Turns out whoever installed the things was super smart and decided to put them all on a surge protector power strip.  The issue wasn’t our electricity at all, it was just that we had all three running at once and had tripped the power strip. 

After many thanks and replacing the various parts of our apartment back to order, the electrician leaves and we’re able to get to cooking.  We’re about six hours behind schedule, but we’re determined to finish this meal even if we have to wait up till 10 PM to eat turkey. 

First order of business is to finish baking the pies.  They go in the oven while we prep the turkey to go in right after.  Soon, both pies are baked to perfection and the giant turkey is stuffed in.  We’ve estimated the cooking time for the turkey to be about three and a half hours, so we hunker down for another movie while we wait.  We’re also really hungry at this point.  Seeing that we have two pies, we figure it can’t hurt to have a little bit of one before the meal and then the other after.  We proceed to eat the entire apple pie.

As the turkey cooks, we start to prep our other dishes: green bean casserole, cornbread casserole, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.  Soon, the sweet aroma of Thanksgiving is drifting through the air.  Finally, the turkey is finished and we quickly swap it out for the other casseroles.  The mashed potatoes and stuffing are finished and we whip up gravy with the turkey drippings. 

Cody does the honors of carving the turkey and we all sit down to enjoy the meal at 7 PM.  Soon, the casseroles are finished and we plunge into our second course.  The grand finale of pumpkin pie wraps up a practically perfect Thanksgiving meal.  Stuffed to the gills and quickly moving into a state of turkey-nosis, we decide to watch our third movie of the day, Elf. 

Although the day started out with quite a disaster, we were once again able to find a solution and come out the other end with a great story of our first solo Thanksgiving in Italy.

our half-baked pumpkin pie in an oven that doesn't work.

Yey! The oven works now!

Our wonderful Turkey, Tucker. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Key Saga Continues...

After our last key fiasco with involving the storm drain (see previous post), I thought that surely our issues with the door were finished, I mean what else could possibly go wrong?  I suppose we should never assume that we are in the clear, because just when you start to get comfortable, another disaster ensues, just like what happened last night.  The door and key drama continues…

Once again, the evening started off as perfectly normal, with us preparing to leave the apartment and go see the movie Salt at the theater.  Unfortunately, our door had other ideas.  When we went to lock the door, we turned the key once, but then it got stuck, so we tried to turn it back and had to pull really hard to get it out.  Then, when it did come out, we couldn’t get it back in.  Now, I don’t know if you remember, but this is the door that doesn’t open unless you can get the key in (I’m prepared to have a few words with whoever came up with that idea), so once again we find ourselves locked out of our apartment with all three sets of keys.

After a few minutes of trying to coax the lock into submission, it became clear that we were either going to have to get some help from someone, or be spending the night on the stairwell outside the apartment. 

Brie went down to the lock place down the street (we all became very familiar with this place) to try and get some help.  Turns out, the place only makes copies of keys, they aren’t actually locksmiths.  But, through some hand motions and using the little Italian she knows, Brie was able to explain the problem and they called the locksmith for us.

Fifteen minutes later, a guy shows up with a toolbox and walks up to inspect our door.  Of course, he doesn’t speak any English.  He takes a look at the lock, tries the key a few times (come on, guy, don’t you think we would have tried that already) and then proceeds to bring out the heavy artillery: lock picks.  After a lot of poking around and some muttering of Italian under his breath, he basically explains to us, in what little we can understand, that our lock is broken and he can’t really fix it quickly. 

He then wants to know about our school so that he can know who is going to be able to pay for the extensive work that evidently has to be done on our door.  When we call our advisor, she is able to translate for us and says that he will have to cut the whole lock off with a saw and replace it, at a cost of 200 Euros.  We don’t really have any choice at this point, so we just tell him to go ahead and do it. 

Of course fate would have it that even when he tries to go about using a saw on the door, he can’t do that because there are absolutely no plugs in the hall for him to use.  Also, every single neighbor in the apartment is conveniently out, so we can’t use one of theirs either.  Now we’re thinking that we’re really stuck – we can’t even saw our way into our apartment.

But, this guy wasn’t going to give up that easily, he was determined to get us into the apartment.  We started eyeing the different windows around the apartment to see if we could break in through any of them.  We’re on the second floor, and knew that we had locked all of our outside windows (of course), but then I thought of a small window that is just above the door going into the hallway that enters into the loft of the apartment.  The latch on that window is loose, so it shouldn’t be hard to open if we could get up to it, all we need is a ladder.  The locksmith goes searching up and down the street for anyone who might have one, but comes back unsuccessful, so he resorts to plan B.  He drives back to his workshop and get his ladder to bring back to us. 

Another 15 minutes go by (we’ve been locked out for an hour and a half at this point) and our favorite locksmith comes back, ladder in hand, ready to break into our apartment. 

He sets the ladder up and climbs to the window.  After a few pushes, the window opens and he disconnects the hinges to make room for a person.  We thought that maybe he was going to have one of us go through since we are a bit smaller and could maybe manage better, but before we knew it he was through the window, head first, with just his feet sticking through. 

There were a couple minutes of waiting where I wondered, this is a little weird, a man is in our apartment and we are locked out – he could be doing anything in there.  But then we heard something on the other side of the door and the door swings open with him grinning on the other side.

After a quick adjustment with a jackhammer (not a delicate matter that actually made me glad that there wasn’t anyone else in the building) he closed the door and it opened and shut perfectly.  Turns out that this whole time the issue was that the lock was out of alignment and after a few swings of the hammer, it was fixed and now works perfectly smoothly.  He even greased it with some of our olive oil (the WD40 of Italy) and now it’s as smooth as butter.

We were still left with a 120 Euro bill for his time, but really seems to be a small price to pay to have a working door now.  I actually enjoy opening and closing the lock now, no more struggling to turn the key and shaking the door to get it to open.  Let’s hope that this is the solution we have been waiting for, I don’t really want to have to deal with any more key problems.