by Melinda Gallo

I joined the gym yesterday and decided to start going today. It felt so wonderful to be back. It wasn't that busy, which is what I expected, since people won't start coming back to the gym until Monday.

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I know better and yet I still make the mistake. I head out of the house after lunch to go to a store and it's closed. I look at the plastic sign with four clocks with the minute and hour signs to see when the store opens and closes in the morning, then opens again and closes again in the evening.

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I don't remember previous New Years in Italy. Only one in Paris on the Champs-Elysťes where some drunk French guy ran up to me and wanted to kiss me on the lips and we ended up on the pavement with my elbow in his face and his arm around my waist.

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Well, after being here a month and a half there are a few things I miss now. A few things I am beginning to miss. And still others I will always miss.

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After going to the Questura to pick up our permessi di soggiorno, we decided to hop on the bus and go to Le Cascine for the once a week outdoor market where you can buy everything from clothes and kitchenware items to fabrics and pets. It's one of these places where cash is king. And when you come, be ready to buy. You can buy absolutely anything here and usually at a lower price than at any shop in town. Although I haven't done any price comparisons, it always feels like a bargain.

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I feel like all I do is go shopping for food. I love fresh food and that is definitely one reason to going all the time. But the other reason, which is probably even more important, is that our fridge is the size of the one that I used to have in my dorm room in college.

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Today Dave and I went to Simone's restaurant "Il Canapone" near Santo Spirito for Christmas lunch. We woke up late and walked here in the overcast and cold Winter day. The streets were quiet with hardly anyone around.

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Each time we get invited to someone's place for dinner, we buy chocolates at this little place called "Vestri" at the end of Borgo degli Albizi. I noticed that they sell hot chocolates, but normally we come before going out to dinner and could never get one. Finally, during our holiday window shopping, we decided to stop by and try it.

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I went to the Paperback Exchange in via Fiesolana today. I've walked past it a few times and finally decided to make a trip to see the books they have. They have an extensive collection of books in English, like tour guides, writer's accounts on life in Tuscany/Italy, university text books, translated texts of Italian writers, and many used books of all types.

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We got invited to Alberto's apartment for a "cena toscana" (Tuscan meal) with lampredotto (a Florentine tripe dish) and trippa alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style tripe). It was Dave's first time to eat tripe and probably his last.

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Dave had been waiting for his new Apple 23" monitor that he ordered from the US. His friend Bryan got a discount for him and had it shipped to Dave's parent's house. When it arrived there, his dad took it to DHL to send it.

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We've been here less than a month and it seems we've been to the movies at least ten times already. With the Italian TV being what it is, our most favorite pasttime is to see movies. Almost every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, they show original language films, which are usually American.

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Today I went into the cartoleria (stationery store) to buy a few notebooks. There was a woman talking to the shopkeeper at the cassa (cash register) when I walked in. "Buongiorno," I said as I entered. They both responded and I headed for the notebook section. I picked up a few and noticed that the woman was still talking, so I decided to look around some more.

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Well, today I went to pick up my dry cleaning. I rattled off how many items I had, "Due panatloni, tre maglioni, e una camicia." (two pairs of pants, three sweaters, and a menís shirt) The girl told me to come back "giovedž nel pomeriggio" (Thursday afternoon), which here means around 4PM.

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Tonight we went to my friend Simone's restaurant for sushi. They have a Japanese sushi chef that works here every Wednesday. Dave and I were a bit hesitant since the best sushi we ever had was near our house at Mikuni's. But, it's been almost a month since we've had sushi and Adriana and her boyfriend Alberto wanted to come and we never say no to sushi.

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