An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Second Walk

Last winter I decided to supplement my daily morning workouts. Nothing complicated, but in the evenings after dinner, once the dishes were washed and the table was cleared, I started going on hour-long walks instead of sitting on the couch watching television or reading a book. I mentally referred to it as The Second Walk.


Then this past January Timothy started going on these walks with me. To be honest, his original reason for accompanying me was to play Pok√©mon GO on my phone, but after a while he came so we could "just talk" (his words).


The Second Walk has now become our thing. We walk around the neighborhood, up and down Stevens Creek Road, down to the Pavilion and on the canal. We talk the entire time. Sometimes we have an adventure, such as earlier this week when we went on our Second Walk in the pouring rain (which is precisely why we went). We put on rain jackets and baseball hats, left umbrellas at home, and walked for an hour and a half on the canal. We got muddy, and very wet, but gosh we had a good time.


My favorite thing about this time together is the randomness of topics: how his legs won't fit under the tiny desks at school, the range of his new BB gun, the judge's picks on America's Got Talent, his Christmas wish list, the movie Dunkirk and can-he-go-see-it, the deer that crossed the road in front of us, and a step-by-step explanation of how he built a hovercraft with a computer fan and the box of Nicholas' leftover engineering wires and circuit boards. Incidentally, all these topics were from one walk.


And it never fails that every time we return from The Second Walk I think . . .


If I could just save time in a bottle.







Sunday, August 6, 2017

Dunkirk: Know Before You Go

I emerged from the movie theater this past Friday night thinking that Dunkirk was a really good movie. But once I returned home and did some research on both the movie and the history of Dunkirk, I realized it wasn't a good movie. It was a great movie. Sometimes, it's good to know something about a movie before you go see it.


So allow me . . .


1- Basic history of Dunkirk: In late May and early June of 1940, the advancing German army pushed back the British and French armies to the beaches at Dunkirk, France. Over 330,000 soldiers were trapped and needed to be evacuated, but since there were not enough ships to transport such large numbers the British Admiralty called on all British citizens in possession of sea-worthy boats to help in the effort. The campaign became known as the "Miracle of Dunkirk."


2- The story is told from three perspectives: land (over a period of one week), sea (a period of one day), air (a period of one hour). The timeline hops back and forth between the three perspectives, often overlapping, but eventually merge to a single moment in time.


3- A mole is a massive structure, usually constructed of stone, between places separated by water. In the movie, two concrete moles protect the outer harbor at Dunkirk. Because troops could not be evacuated from the beach shore, the moles were used as piers so the soldiers could board the ships despite the fact that the moles were not designed as docks.


[Disclosure: I mention this only because of my initial confusion. Since this was a war movie, I mistakenly assumed "mole" referred to a spy; as a result, I spent a few confusing minutes thinking that two characters were spies. Not so. Avoid my confusion.]


4- There is very little dialogue in the movie. This was done with intention by Christopher Nolan, the film's director. You are not meant to know the characters' stories -- where they are from, who they are, or their history -- as they aren't important; rather, you are meant to be with the characters in the moment as they struggle to survive.


5- The musical score is a dialogue in itself. It pounds, surges, and screams. You can even hear the underlying ticking of a clock as momentum builds. It is a powerful element to the movie.


6- After the evacuation, Winston Churchill gave his famous "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech to the House of Commons which left no doubt as to Britain's resolve to continue the fight on all fronts.


"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ... our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old." ~Winston Churchill


And now, my friends, you know. Go see the movie.





Sunday, July 30, 2017

Someone is in the doghouse

Let me preface this little story by telling you what we had for lunch today:


grilled marinated chicken thighs
zucchini fritters (a new recipe and a definite hit!)
creamy mashed potatoes
steamed broccoli & carrots
herbed ciabatta slices
strawberry and peach macedonia served over vanilla ice cream
red wine, espresso.


Now that I've gotten you caught up, let's continue with the rest of the story.


Earlier this evening I was curled on the couch with a good book when Jonathan comes in and asks what's for dinner. I look at him and wonder how, after today's huge lunch, he can even be hungry.


"I know, let's go to Checkers," he says.


Joe and I say no at the same time. I mention grilled cheese, or a salad, or even a bowl of cereal but he isn't buying it.


"We've had boring food all week," Jonathan complains.


There is a collective gasp from everyone. I close my book and sit up.


"Boring? We've been on vacation all week. We ate out every single meal!" I point out, squinting my eyes at him.


"Well," he says. "I mean since we've been back."


Oh, he's in t-r-o-u-b-l-e with a capital T.


"Sooo, boring like the homemade pasta Nonna brought over the night we returned?" I asked. "Or maybe you meant the homemade pizza we had two nights ago was boring. Or maybe it was the grilled halibut and seasoned rice with bruschetta and the creamiest mozzarella we've had in a long time. Oh, I know, it was lunch today. All that was pretty boring."


Jonathan is caught, and he knows it. So he flashes his dimples.


That usually works, but I'm not through with him.


"Tonight, dinner is a boring sandwich," I say. "A healthy, ordinary, boring sandwich."


Now, my mother reads this blog. And before she thinks that I am starving her poor, neglected, hungry grandson, and before everyone starts feeling sorry for poor, deprived, all-he-wants-is-a-hamburger Jonathan, please take note that in the end he did not have a boring, ordinary sandwich.


It was a fresh turkey and crispy bacon sandwich, with romaine lettuce and roma tomatoes, served on toasted ciabatta bread.


Boring my foot.


He may have put his foot in his mouth, but look at those dimples.
Gotta love him.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Pizza Night

Friday night is usually pizza night around here, but this time I tried something new: instead of making 2-3 large pizzas, I divided the dough into individual portions, assembled a toppings bar, and then had everyone make their own. Buon Appetito!



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Exterior House Maintenance

It was time ...


New roof, new shutters.


Removed trees, pruned bushes and Crepe Myrtles, touched-up paint on exterior windows and porch.


And this fall we have plans for some interior maintenance, although last month we got a head start with a new water heater.


Friday, July 21, 2017

The Tent



This time last year I was one of the featured speakers of the Sacred Heart Garden Festival, and in the days leading up to the event I was nervous. While I had spoken to women's groups and Bible study groups on numerous occasions, this time I would not only be speaking in a larger venue, but I would also be addressing an unknown audience; specifically, an audience of  gardeners when I was not (by any stretch of the imagination) a gardener.


To add to the nervousness, I wasn't even sure how many people would attend my talk. If anyone at all.


But I had a topic for which I was passionate (The Peasant Kitchen and Slow Food: The Italian Approach to Food, Dining, and Healthy Living) and after several months of preparation, I was ready to take everyone on a journey from Nonna's kitchen, to Rome's Spanish Steps, and finally to a garden party ... Italian style.


Ultimately that day turned out be a fun journey on so many levels. To be sure, it was a LOT of work. I used many props and visual aids (including a farm table), all of which had to be lugged down to the festival. And next time I speak in a large tent I am going to insist on air conditioning because between talking for almost an hour, assembling three different tablescapes, and channeling all my Italian passion and animation -- it got a little warm hot. But it was all good.


And best of all?


People came. The tent was full.




**Below is a synopsis on my presentation ...




"Open my heart and you will see, Graved inside of it, Italy."
Robert Browning, British poet

Andiamo a fare una passeggiata, my Nonna would often say to me, Let's go for a walk. Those walks are the reason why Verona -- and indeed, all the boot that is Italy -- holds a special place in my heart. I've visited the big cities (Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples), driven along the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast, hiked through the Dolomites, and sailed to Capri. I've watched the sun rise and set behind a row of Cypress tress and heard the rain spattering on ancient cobblestone streets.

This past Saturday, I spoke at the Sacred Heart Garden Festival and invited my listeners to accompany me on a different passeggiata as we explored the mystique that is Italy and delved into the reasons why so many non-Italians have fallen in love with the country.

Ultimately, Italians have been shaped by land, climate, history, food ... and when you throw in the quintessential Italian attitude and passion ... there isn't a single (or simple!) reason that can adequately explain why people are so drawn to the country. Like the people themselves, it's complicated; however, just as all ancient roads led back to Rome, part of the answer of discovering Italy's charm somehow seems to always circle back to food.

Italian food and Italian people are inseparable, and their love affair with food spills over into lifestyle. Robin Leach once said, "In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine," and there is an element of truth to his words. The food makes the people and the people make the food, and this marriage translates into all areas of life: how they entertain, socialize, do business, and celebrate life.

To begin our passeggiata, I quoted the opening lines of Carlo Collodi's book, Pinocchio: "Once upon a time there was ... 'A king!' my young readers will instantly exclaim. But no, children, that's where you're wrong. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood."

Once upon a time there was a piece of wood. Not a wood carver named Geppetto, not a puppet named Pinocchio, but a block of wood. Ultimately, the author is reminding his readers to go back to the origins of the story, to the essence of what is. The block of wood represents the roots of our humanity.

And so our passeggiata began at the hearth of the Peasant Kitchen, where most of the foods we know and love today found their origins. From there we moved forward in history to 1986 with the grand opening of the first McDonald's restaurant in Italy ... an event that threatened not only Italian food, but contemporary Italian lifestyle and culture. As a result, the Slow Food Movement was founded as a way to preserve a way of life which revolves around producing and eating great food in a relaxed, sociable way.


Our passeggiata ended with an invitation to a garden party in which I demonstrated how to incorporate concepts from the Peasant Kitchen and the Slow Food Movement into our lives here, in Augusta, Georgia. Some of those concepts included simplicity (simple does not mean easy!), the magic of dining al fresco, the importance of embracing the seasons, a reminder to slow down, and how the company around the dinner table is an ingredient in and of itself.

Of course, this is just a synopsis of my presentation. I actually spoke for almost 50 minutes, during which I told stories, passed out recipes, and used a beautiful farm table to create several tablescapes that corresponded to various stopping points along our passeggiata.

It was a beautiful and fun way to spend a Saturday, and the Sacred Heart Garden Festival is one of the most beautiful events our city has to offer. I want to thank  Mary Louise for taking a chance and inviting a pretend gardener (me) to come speak; all the wonderful organizers at the festival for making me feel welcome; my friends who, despite a ridiculously busy Saturday (can we say prom?), came to listen to my presentation; and finally to Joe, Jonathan and Timothy who lugged that farm table from antique store, all the way home, to the festival, and back again.