Friday Night Dinner 17

What We’re Eating and Drinking: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and Casal Garcia Vinho Verde

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 9.46.30 PM

Okay. So maybe we’re not having pie for dinner tonight, but we’re certainly having pie for dessert. Right now is my favorite pie-time of year. Local, edible flora can be found at  Farmer’s Markets and in one’s back yard and, coupled with a quick flour-water-butter crust, a pie can be bubbling in the oven in no time. One of my favorite local & odd veggies (or is it a fruit?) is rhubarb–a celery looking stalk of a thing that boasts a strong, tart taste and grows like weeds if you give the roots enough space. My parents have 6 or 8 rhubarb bushes on their property upstate and this year we decided to transplant part of one of them to the yard of our house in hopes of generating a good supply of rhubarb in the coming years. Have you ever had my strawberry-rhubarb pie? I can’t believe I never made it for you while you lived here but, then again, Stefan thinks pie is vulgar so I might not have ventured into your house with one. Nonetheless, strawberry-rhubarb pie is my very favorite pie of all of the pies. It’s not too sweet, so my predilection towards savory isn’t compromised, but is sweet enough to be paired with a dollop of unsweetened, homemade whipped cream and a light, fruity bubbly wine (the New York Times says Vinho Verde is: ‘Portuguese for ‘Cheap and Cheerful’ and what’s better than those two things?) for dessert. Or brunch. It’s enough of a treat to leave one feeling like she’s at a party, even though it’s just another Friday night home with the boys.

Gina: Looks delicious! I want some, especially after my dashed cherry crumble dreams… As for Stefan, you just call it a tart instead of a pie, and he’ll be fine! Is there rhubarb in August? If so, let’s put this on the menu!


What We’re Talking About: Summer is Here

riverThis is the view from my hike this morning. That’s the Hudson River from Bull Hill, looking south. As you can see, summer is in full swing here in New York. Hallelujah! Even though, from a scientific perspective, summer doesn’t begin for another three weeks, we just celebrated Memorial Day here in the States and so, according to Fashion and Culture’s calculations, summer has arrived. It is time for our white wardrobes to be pulled out of storage. It is time to fire up the barbecue grills and shake up the margaritas and dust off the Jimmy Buffet playlists. (Just kidding on that last one.) I’m so happy that it’s summer and that the windows in our house are wide open from dawn to dusk and that I can cook dinner bare foot that I’ve almost forgotten my angst about jobs and writing. Just peering out the window as I get dinner ready helps me realize that the house next door has disappeared behind a wall of leaves and the mountain on the other side of the river is an impossible shade of green and IT IS GOING TO BE WARM…for a few months anyway. This coming week I’m going to make sure and stop once in awhile; and take a moment to reflect on this past winter and the slow-to-come spring and, despite all of the angst in the world and in my own little life, give thanks for rising temperatures and green grass and the smell of life emanating from right outside my front door.

Gina: Amen! Loving it and grateful too. It was a little odd not to be having a Memorial Day weekend gathering at the Garrison house as we have for the past 6 years. (There were those 2 weekending years before we met you, the locals!) Having you, the city slickers and/or the new jersey and philly peeps over for music, dancing, performances, rose and large Stefan salads in the garden by the still very chilly pool has been the perfect start to the summer. Nevertheless, it definitely feels like it here too, and it’s not just that Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer is looping in my head. See more next door… Let’s put a hike on the calendar too for August!






Friday Night Dinner 17

What We’re Eating and Drinking: Pesto Cous Cous and Planeta La Segreta

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 7.00.44 AM

We’ll eat anything with pesto here, so I can’t believe we hadn’t figured this one out yet. Luckily, the rest of the Bouvarez’s took off on Wednesday and I found myself having a leisurely late lunch at Eataly in Centro all by myself. One of the specials was this beautiful combination along with some fresh tomatoes, and I couldn’t wait to make it for everyone.

Christine: Pesto Cous Cous? Sounds like the perfect summer dish. And a leisurely late lunch out alone sounds even better. I’ve never been to Eataly in NYC (I really should get into the city more) but maybe I’ll make a date with some friends there and check it out. (La Planeta=yum!)


What We’re Talking About: Summer is Here


This is the view from my car as I drive back up to the house from drop off at school. Those are the Colli or hills to the Southwest of Bologna and Casalecchio. Things have been pretty green here for the last few months, but now the temperature is reaching 80, and the kids’ (and mom’s) nervous energy is rising with it at the thought of summer break just 3 weeks away. As I mentioned over there in my comment to your Friday post, summer appears to have arrived without our traditional Memorial Day weekend gathering, but we’ve had other cues! Last weekend, we were invited to dinner in the garden at another house on the vineyard. The renters are members of an old Italian family who had been aristocracy for centuries until a few generations squandered everything. As a result, they’re all, from the teens to the old members, incredibly poised, cultured and educated (as if it just came with the genes, but probably more likely from the stacks of books around the house), but also very well acquainted with hard labor. Very interesting folks. We ended up there via other very interesting folks, new friends that we made when they wandered on to our property last month, and ended up staying for a couple of bottles of wine and hours of conversation. But back to the cues of summer… let’s see. There are the giant (about 3 cm long) hornets that keep appearing inside the house. They’re called Calabroni, which is really close to the not-so-nice Spanish word, cabrón, which is something like bastard or s.o.b.. Given these could send a kid or a petit adult(!) to the hospital, the latter seems like a better name! There are also all those trips going on… This week, Leeloo and Stefan flew to London for my brother-in-law’s birthday. While there, Leeloo got to spend some quality time with Papa on Kings Road, had two sleepover nights with her friend, Lily, and got to go on stage at Miss Saigon rehearsals and meet some of the actors. She loved it all, but about seeing the Saigon dancers and singers, she said “I just stared in amusement!”  And then Zoel is off in Torino with his 5th grade classmates. He gets back tonight, so we’ll see how that went! From the brief messages his teacher has sent, there’s been lots of hiking and exploring, but also dining and dancing! Finally, the summer calendar of visitors is filling up. We’re looking forward to having our first group – Melissa, Ollie, Natasha, Cedric and wife – for the last weekend of June, and then it’s non-stop until September. Casa Bouvarez is opening for the season!

Christine: I can feel the energy in your post–the same energy that I felt launch you guys on a variety of far-flung summer vacations during the years you lived here (Barcelona, Luca, etc.) and, finally, flung you out of our arms and to Bologna not much more than one year ago. I’ll save my mournfulness about THAT for a different post because it’s just so comforting and familiar to be hearing about all of this activity you Bouvarez get yourselves into once the weather warms. I loved those Memorial Day weekend celebrations at your house in Garrison! I think those are the  weekends that we first met many of your other friends and folks–and we are grateful that some of those friendships persist to this day. Incidentally, Natasha WAS IN GARRISON last weekend (which would have made things feel a little bit more Bouvarez-y), but I was in Knoxville so missed seeing her. Ah, next time. Anyway, I can’t wait to hear about Zo’s trip. I know the boys have been texting a bit, but we’ll have to get them together on Skype this weekend so they can have a proper conversation about their adventures. As for Leeloo at Miss Saigon–it makes me smile to think of her there. I can just see her beaming and bouncing in her seat, ready to jump on stage and join the show. Happy weekend to you all!

Art School by the Archways of San Luca

Antonio has been teaching art to people who missed the bus to art school for over twenty years. He not only teaches a whole lot of us older folks who never found the time to explore our fine arts abilities, but also twenty-somethings whose need to pay rent keeps them from developing their skills full-time, teens who still have time to explore oil painting, drawing, watercolor painting, etching, etc…, and little kiddies who, although somewhat over-scheduled (here too!), always have the time and will to create. His cozy studio, tucked away on a sunny, quiet street named for a famous “Gino” and close to the beautiful arch ways leading to the Cathedral of San Luca,  is exactly what you’d want it to be, all white, light-filled and packed with art supplies. Tabletop easels, wooden palettes, oil paints, watercolors, color pencils, etching equipment, canvases, paintbrushes of every size and texture, sponges, painting knives, charcoal, and on and on. For anyone who gets a rush when they step into a stationary or art supply shop, this place would delight you. Finally, the students’ work lines the perimeter of the large room, all in various states of completion, some just a sketch of what they will eventually become, and others, finished and drying before being mounted on a frame.

The real allure of the place though, is the joyful and friendly atmosphere that Antonio has created. The coffee and tea that’s always brewing or the cakes and snacks that are always available probably have something to do with it, but there’s something else. When I’ve been there, the room is usually populated with 6-8 adults ranging from well-heeled Italian grandmothers with beautiful taste and a good deal of painting experience, and the South American immigrant honoring his gifts before rushing off to his night job, to an array of middle-aged Italian men and women with a range of skills, and the international ladies, which include quite a few talented women who are also mothers of children at our school. But it’s not just the eclectic mix of artists that make it such a happy place. It might be the 2 or 3 languages that generally fly around the room at once, or the static-tinged Italian pop/rock flowing from the old, beat up radio, which usually dominates the room as everyone gets down to work. Or it could be Antonio’s congeniality or gentle but prodding way of teaching by doing, in mostly Italian but with Spanish, English and French slipped in occasionally.

I suspect, though, that this warm, welcoming ambiance persists, because we all have one important thing in common. We’ve all made the decision to take two or three hours from our busy weeks to explore what we are capable of creating. Knowing what a challenge it is for me to paint (or write!) instead of run yet another errand, or get that one more thing done on the computer, I can’t help but feel respect towards (if not kinship with) others that enjoy creating and figure out a way to get to it. Maybe that’s the underlying thread that ties us, and brings into being this vibe of openness and contentment. Whatever the case, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite spots in this Bolognese life, and I’m thankful that I finally made time for it.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 2.31.48 PM

My first completed painting at Antonio’s studio! (Homage to Emily Proud, the artist who created the original that I copied!)
















































































































































Destination: Tennessee

Here is a photo-journal of our trip to the Destination Imagination Global Finals in Knoxville, TN. Noah and I spend four glorious days on (and another two traveling to) the campus of the University of Tennessee where we spent days walking around campus, hours preparing and rehearsing for Noah’s two challenges and many late nights pin-trading under the party tents. The experience was over-the-top from beginning to end, and I’m just beginning to acclimate to real life to a degree in which I can discuss it all. To be at a place to be able to write about it will take a few more days.

Still, I want to share some moments with you all now (after all the hype of my previous posts it’s just the right thing to do). The trip to DI Globals truly was a once in a lifetime thing (for both me and Noah) and though I realize that I’ve been speaking in hyperbole, I will assure you that I’m not when I say that I’m thrilled that I got to share the excitement and the over–the-topness of it all with my favorite person in the world.


Here he is. Getting ready to fly. Noah’s a big fan of air travel. I, on the other hand, like to walk places. Luckily the weather was delightful on both days we had to travel and our flights were on time and, for the most part, relatively easy.


When we arrived on campus we checked into our dorm room and then followed the crowd down to the square that served as the social center for kids from New York, Tennessee and Michigan. It took them about twenty minutes to start talking to one another and about twenty two minutes to find a ball and start playing a game.


The opening ceremonies took place in an arena built to hold over 20,000 people. The place was nearly filled to capacity–a crowd much larger than the ones our kids from a town of 2,000 are used to hanging around.


The opening ceremony consisted of a parade of states/nations, a rock band, the national anthem sung by an American Idol finalist, a laser show and this guy…who danced whilst hand-painting Einstein’s silhouette on a huge plexi-glass canvas.


Early the next day, pin-trading commenced on lawns and under tents.


For some folks, it got serious.


The kids handled the pressure of their Main Challenge (and the giant room within which they had to perform it) with panache–even when their handmade, recycled tree fell during the middle of their skit.


Post-Main-Challenge euphoria (or daze).


Noah dressed up as Darth Maul for the Duct Tape Ball. Yep. A Duct Tape Ball. His entire costume (except those fancy socks and sandals) was fashioned out of duct tape. A World Record was set that night–the night that 3,000 kids covered themselves from head to toe in the stuff.


Noah’s team was more than ready for their Main Challenge, but one of the trickier elements of the week was the Instant Challenge–when the kids are given a problem to solve and they have to come up with a plan to solve it in four minutes and then present their solution on the spot. Parents aren’t allowed to watch this part of the fun but, afterwards, the kids treated us to a little rap.


Letting off some steam and nervous energy at the fountains–site of the the 1982 World’s Fair.


A scene from the final night’s celebration. Noah’s team ended up coming in 17th out of the 90 teams that were competing in his age group in his division. Not too shabby for a group of kids from the sticks.


Best photo of them all–Noah’s rendering of our descent into JFK. Home Sweet Home.


Earth and Sky


Flying is not my thing. I don’t like it. I use medicinals and breathing techniques and prayers to a god that I don’t even believe in whenever I have to transport myself, somewhat serenly–at least somewhat sanely–from one gate in one city, to another gate, in the next. So, weeks like the last one I had can be rife with worry and fret and consternation (even though I’ve flown dozens of times before).

Four flights in four days. Each one of them spent buckled into a seat on tiny commuter planes–you know, the ones that rock and roll through each melody of wind and weather. The ones that crash sometimes, but never with stories that make the front page of any newspaper in the world.

(I medicated. I breathed. I prayed.)

It is only now, when I’ve made it to the far side of this most recent aerial journey and the memories of flying–of the internal hysteria I subject myself to whenever I’m aloft above broad swaths of salt water and green (green mountains, green water, green sky)–have faded like the pains of childbirth and I am at home next to the river, that I can chide myself for the ridiculous panic I create each time I go up there.

Yesterday I decided it’s time to spend lots of time feeling the earth beneath my feet.


It was time to plant things.

We plant things every year, but this year we’ve been busy and we’re broke and buying herbs and tomatoes plants that will barely yield enough bounty for a salad come August seems lavish and unrestrained and dumb.

But what better way to reacquaint oneself with the terra firma of my in-flight dreams, than spending some time sifting soil and worms and decomposing leaves between my fingers and toes?


I encountered lots of creepy-crawlies along the way, too. Similar to the pests that Gina and Leeloo (see her post to my left) found burrowed in their mistaken bounty, I, too, dug upon many strange creatures who live inside the plants–nourished by their wonder–that I often mistake for my sustenance alone.


I lined up rows of sunflower seeds like tiny planes on a runway, wondering, morbidly, which ones will make it to their final destination and which ones (the only time I think anything will be for me) will perish (in some kind of fiery explosion) along the way.

The thing is that, come fall, even if the seeds mature into plants and onto bright faces of petal and seeds, the squirrels will have their way with them and all that will be left is some dried leaves and twine.

Nonetheless, it’s time to plant.


Sage. Basil. Rosemary. Oregano. Tiny plants are queued up for the gopher who lives in our yard and who shimmies up to the table to feast on a leaf or twelve each morning. We’re trying to figure out how to share with him.


I don’t even like peppers, which is an interesting aside, but I planted a bunch of hot ones for Ray. They are small now but come morning, you won’t  believe your eyes.































I know why George chopped down the cherry tree!

Last week, Leeloo and I ventured out into our yard to do some cherry picking. We have four of these beautiful trees surrounding our house and we’ve been plotting what we could do with all those shiny red spheres for a few weeks. I had noticed that the tree was spotted with little mounds of dense webs and ostensibly the spiders that created them, but I was still willing to get in there with them and was even thankful for our eight-legged friends, who I assumed kept the trees clean of other buggers. In any case, a few spiders weren’t going to keep me from collecting my own fruit!


With plastic bowls at the ready, Leeloo and I got to work. All of five minutes had passed when she let out a yell and ran for the house. The object of her fright was a bright green spider with pointy legs, just a bit smaller than your average cherry. I talked her back over to the tree, where she decided to go on, but insisted on wearing winter gloves. Fine then, but let’s get back to work. We’ve got hundreds of cherries to pick! Soon we got into a good rhythm, snapping off multiple cherries at a time, but this we found, caused branches to shake, raining down all kinds of little insect on our heads. Back to the house we went for some hats. We can do this! Right? Leeloo? Leeloo! She had decided to take her chair, hat, gloves and bowl about 15 feet away, and squinting her big eyes at me, asked “Don’t you feel buggy?!” I shuddered a bit, but pressed on. We can shower these little critters out of our hair!



Ever the trooper, Leeloo reappeared at my side a few minutes later and gingerly picked a few more cherries. We were talking about how some of them were way too ripe and squishy, and that it was a good thing that the other three trees were filled with less ripe cherries that we could maybe pick before they got too mature, when we heard the loud and familiar helicopter sound made by freakishly large bees that appear to live near our house. We all know to spot where the noise is coming from and slowly go the other way, so we both backed away from the tree just in time to see 3 of these two-inch flying machines approaching.


They made themselves right at home. Their bodies are more than twice the length of a cherry, with large black wings and a very defined abdomen, striped orange and black, and pointy stinger. It looked like a miniature sci-Fi movie when they hovered and then landed on the riper fruit, sticking their whole heads right into the sweet, juicy flesh. We watched for a while hoping they would quickly move on, but the cherries seemed to be a bit too tasty. Come on bees. We don’t have all day! What if I just snuck over there to the side with no bees? I slid by them, but then their raucous wing-flapping reminded me that several people had mentioned that a sting to the head or neck could be quite serious, so I thought better and decided to get my offspring a bit farther away.


We retreated into the house and quickly realized those bees weren’t going anywhere. Luckily, we had already filled a bowl with fruit, so we went right on to washing them up, already dreaming about a tasty cherry crumble. I covered the cherries with cold water in a clean bowl, and within just a few minutes, Mother Nature sent her last test, which I failed miserably. Worms, people, little tiny worms. Dozens of them wiggled their way out of these cherries, sometimes two heads sticking out of the same minuscule hole. Yet there was a part of me that wanted to salvage that cherry crumble dream, so I picked up one that hadn’t made it into the water yet, and cracked it open. A little ribbed critter squirmed by my fingernail. I may never eat another cherry again. Nope, no good. No crumble happening here. Anybody wanna come over and get some cherries?



Friday Night Dinner 16

What We’re Eating & Drinking: Cafeteria Food & Coca Cola

Lunch_counterNoah and I are in Tennessee at the Destination Imagination Global Tournament this week (you can see a live feed and photos here), so Friday Night Dinner is happening in the cafeteria. I’ll write much MUCH more about this escapade in next week’s posts, but I will start here by saying that the food has been…uninspired at best. We’re staying on campus at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville which means sleeping in dorm rooms and taking our meals in the dining hall which I should have realized didn’t hold much promise to begin with. (I don’t believe the food we’re eating is the fare that is typically served to the university students here–I’ve heard that college food in the U.S. is actually quite amazing and varied these days, no?) Noah, not a typically picky eater, has tired of the rubbery chicken and mushy pasta and had, I believe, an ice cream sandwich and a Coke for dinner tonight. Seriously. There is an unlimited supply of both right at the end of the food line and, since he rarely eats either, he thinks he’s in heaven. I’m trying to fight my urge to force feed him broccoli (as over-steamed and tasteless as it is), but watching what is passing as nutrition at this place has gotten me thinking about how this week is supposed to be about fostering creativity and encouraging innovation and celebrating how amazing and magical our brains are and yet there’s no talk about how important it is to FEED THESE GROWING BRAINS HEALTHY FOOD. Sorry to yell, but if I see another chicken finger I’m going to stick it up somebody’s nose.

Incidentally, I had a bowl of cereal and a banana for dinner (the chicken really was inedible). And of course, there’s no wine. Sigh.

Gina: That doesn’t sound pretty. I guess feeding thousands of kids properly was not in the budget. They can only help one organ at time, lady! I could probably deal with it for a day or two, but a week would drive me nuts (and probably leave me feeling truly icky.) Can’t you break out of there? Maybe cafes or restaurants would be better? A trip to the supermarket? 


What We’re Talking About: D.I. 


I don’t even know where to begin with this thing we’re at. I need much more distance (and sleep) before I can fairly assess the experience. That said, Noah has never been immersed in such a frenzy of energy and activity before. The photo above is from the laser show during Wednesday night’s Opening Ceremonies–an evening that took place in the almost-to-capacity Thompson-Boling Arena, a stadium that seats 20,000 people (twenty. thousand). Teams from around the country–and the world–marched in like at the Olympics, waving their state or national flags and, though I’m sorry to say there isn’t a team from Italy here, kids (including girls) from Qatar have come, as have teams from China, Romania, Guatemala, Canada, Turkey and many others. That night was over the top, as have been most of the experiences since. Each night there are costume balls and passport parties and lots of banter taking place under the pin-trading tents. During the days we’ve been busy with set-building and rehearsals for Noah’s team’s two challenges. Once those are over we’ll get to walk around and visit the various activity centers and game areas that are set up all around the quad and in other grassy knolls. We’re exhausted, but since it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing we’re trying to do it all. I’m not sure that that’s the best way to go about doing a once-in-a-lifetime circus like this, but I DO know for sure that I’m going to need a vacation when I get home.

Gina: That picture is ridiculous! It’s a like a Springsteen concert in 1985. You know how I like rituals, ceremonies, pomp and circumstance… I’d probably love it!  But then there’s all those people… who are they? what are they about? Anytime I’ve been at a large conference event like that I’ve noticed how much interacting with folks you don’t know, even if you’re enjoying it, requires a level of attention and energy that’s exhausting. Throw in thousands of pre-teens, and I can only imagine how tired you’ll be on that flight back. On the bright side, it’s harder to get nervous about flying when all you want to do is lie (or sit) down and close your eyes. I can’t wait to hear Noah’s take on this experience and yours of course! Be brave my friend, just one more day left. In bocca al lupo Noah!

Friday Night Dinner 16

What We’re Eating and Drinking – Pizza and Nebbiolo!

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 11.22.35 PM

Zoel and his friends have officially finished their very ambitious end-of-5th-grade project, and presented their weeks and weeks of work to the rest of the elementary school, parents, teachers and other staff. In celebration, two of his friends are coming over for a movie and sleepover tonight, so the menu is pizza and more pizza, salad and ice cream! They’ll definitely be a margherita, and probably also a Romana specialty the “diavola”, which is like a pepperoni pizza (Did you know pepperoni means peppers in Italian? How did that turn into the name of a spicy sausage in the US?!), a prosciutto, mozzarella and provolone, and lastly an arugula and mozzarella pie, simple and delicious. The adults will be enjoying a fine bottle of red, a Nebbiolo, because we’ve learned a lot about parenting an older boy during this lovely project and we also need to celebrate it being over and done… more on that another day!

Christine: Yum. Pizza. Did you use the pizza oven? I wish I could have seen Zo’s presentation. Maybe next time we see you guys we can have the boys present to us so we can all celebrate the big work they did this year together. 


What We’re Talking About – Mid-Spring in Bologna and Time to Create


Let me take a moment here to thank my dear husband for helping to free up time for creativity in my world on a regular basis. He was traveling again this week, which means I was on full-time house and kids duty, which means there was time for nothing else, including this little blog, so I’m feeling rather grateful for my normal schedule. I think if he were gone more often, as are so many fathers (and occasionally mothers), we’d probably have our life set up differently, but even so, I don’t think I’d have the will, discipline or organizational skills needed to get everything done while still reserving some energy to create. So, thank you Stefan!

The positive side of Stefan being away is that I spend most of my day running around the lovely city of Bologna. The weather this week has been gorgeous, sunny blue skies, with the temperature between 75 and 80 degrees. Unlike other cities I’ve lived in, Bologna is filled with nature, from palm trees and giant birch trees, to tropical flowering bushes and crawling vines. It’s not very well-manicured greenery, meaning it looks more like a place where nature is fighting to take back the streets, than a world of landscaped spaces and gardens, but during the lush Spring season, I think it works. In several areas, Bologna’s streets climb onto high, tree-covered hills, which are visible as you walk or ride along in the town center, adding to the sense of being enveloped by green. Add to this, the fact that Bologna’s seasonal sidewalk kiosks are opening up all over, so that the morning caffe and brioche can be had outside by an ancient fountain or the lunchtime piadine (a traditional flatbread sandwich) can be eaten at the edge of a park overlooking the center, and its hard not to fall in love with the place.

Next week, we’ll have another irregular schedule at Casa Bouvarez (and that might be the case until school ends!), but with more time to dedicate to making stuff. I have a few ideas stored up that I hope to post here including a showdown I had with a cherry tree that I can’t wait to tell you about.

I hope you and Noah had a wonderful time in Tennessee! I’m assuming we’ll get the lowdown soon… the flights, the hotel, all those pre-teens in one place (eek!), the competition, the other parents… I need to know the whole scoop please!

Christine: Yep, there is lots to say about our adventure in Tennessee. (See a little bit more now on my side.) Bologna sounds simply lovely and I love that you found a few moments of peace and beauty in a potentially (probably still) very stressful week of busy-ness. It’s so lovely, too, that you are being so appreciative and kind to Stef about your writing/creative time. Not that he doesn’t deserve the recognition and not that gratitude isn’t the very thing that I’m trying to cultivate on a regular basis but I’m not feeling it tonight. Maybe it’s because I’m drowning in children, thumping music and cafeteria food (again, see my side) that I’m crabby and annoyed this Friday night. We still have another whole day of this wildness and though I know this has been an experience that Noah has learned from and grown because of and will never, ever forget, I can’t wait to get home to my little house by the river. 




Friday Night Dinner 15

What We’re Eating and Drinking: Seared Scallops &  Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 3.56.51 PM

We’re still on our eat-less-meat kick but Ray wants an animal protein tonight so I’m compromising and serving seafood. Seared scallops this time, served over fresh pasta with kale salad (on the side). This meal is magically delicious–even Noah loves it and scallops can be of questionable texture and fishy-ness for folks who don’t automatically love foods that come out of the ocean. It’s is an easy dish, too, with very few ingredients…just olive oil, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes (sauté together until the garlic starts to brown) and then add the scallops to the hot, spicy oil, searing on each side. I grate a bit of pecorino on top, which I know is a verboten combination (seafood/dairy)–even deadly according to some old wives’ tales–but matching the hard saltiness of the cheese with the soft salinity of the scallops is worth the risk to me. We’re having some Sauvignon Blanc to go with it–from the same vineyard as my beloved rosé. I know I’ve shared a bottle or two of this wine with you over the past few years–I think I even remember a long day of packing in your closet a year ago when we gabbed and boxed shoes, probably making plans for this very blog!

Gina: That looks delicious! I fall into that category of people who question the odd texture of scallops. More often than not, they’re kind of spongy and chewy. So few can cook them well, but these look lovely! I’ve been craving kale all week, but it’s not easy to find here. Every time I ask for it, the grocer thinks I’m looking for cabbage, and in fact, if you enter “kale” into an online translator, you get “cavolo” (cabbage). I found another word, “ravizzone”, and I’m hoping it leads me to the good stuff!


What We’re Talking About: (still) Stuck in Neutral with the Job & the Poetry Publishing.


See what I did there? I always feel terrible when people call me out like that, so I’m doing it myself before anyone has the chance!

So, I got another rejection from another poetry journal today. It was such a bummer to wake up to that message in my inbox this morning. The rejection thing is starting to get old. And continuing to make me doubt the purpose of writing in the first place and, well, the worth of it. I mean I KNOW I’m supposed to write for myself and enjoy the process and if nobody wants to read it it doesn’t matter and art is sacred and blah blah blah but who wants continual rejection? Who wants to be told by a committee of poets that the poems you are writing just aren’t up to snuff? Blech. I mean I guess I could just not send the things out, but then what to I do with them? Bind them up in a journal? Hang them on my fridge? Also, as everyone already knows, searching for a job is a horrendously life-eroding process. I was thinking the other day about how many times I’ve been on a job hunt in my life and it’s MANY. Like, I wonder if I do this to myself on purpose. And the thing is, once you have the job (and are tired from the job and start to resent the job) you forget about how difficult it was to get the job in the first place. You don’t think about all of the blood and sweat and tears that went into getting the very job you landed and then you have the audacity to complain about it. Sigh. If I ever land a job and stay at it long enough for it to tire me out and I start to complain, you have permission (and the obligation) to remind me of this moment in time and tell me to quit bitching!

Gina: When the time comes, I will direct you to Friday Night Dinner 15. It’s all on record here! But right now, I think that what I’m supposed to tell you is that rejection is part of the whole game, blah, blah, blah. My mom, as she has done so many times with me, would pull out the story of Dr Seuss, who after getting the courage to write down his fanciful tales, endured dozens of rejections before someone said “YES!” (It always works by the way. It’s probably the enthusiasm she puts behind it!) Also, check this out. Courtesy of Ms. Cindy Gallop’s newsfeed yesterday:



Friday Night Dinner 15

What We’re Eating and Drinking –   Repeat! Roasted Butternut Squash and Garlic Soup with Tizzano Cabernet Sauvignon

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.51.45 PM

The kind Indian man at the Frutteria, with the J. Crew-catalog mega-watt smile, had an already sliced butternut squash waiting for me the other day, so I couldn’t resist making the garlic-y delicious soup that we usually overdose on during the Fall and Winter. I also felt like Stefan, Zoel and I needed 20 cloves of garlic to pump up our immune systems, and hopefully avoid getting this crazy bug that Leeloo has had for 2 weeks!( And yes, she’s been home from school most of that time.) There’ll be some chicken and veggies too, and one of the house whites, Tizzano Cabernet Sauvignon, to lightened up the whole thing. I’m noticing that Saturday nights have become our evenings for more adventurous meals, and dinners with friends. Maybe regular Fridays will come back in the summer or maybe I should switch to talking about Saturdays!

Christine: Poor Leeloo! I’m so sorry she’s so sick. Noah did a bout of the flu in February and it was terrible. Please give her lots of hugs and kisses from us and extra licks from Luca. Hope she’s up and about very soon.


What We’re Talking About – Ah, Beep! Beep!… Ah, Beep! Beep!


It’s a mini-miracle! Call Pope Francis! My renewed drivers’ license arrived via UPS today! Three weeks to the day of mailing out my forms for it with my hard- earned prepaid envelope. Of course, the UPS man called me from a few miles away to ask if I really wanted this envelope today or if he could come by tomorrow, reminding me once again that coming all the way up our gravel road is really awful for his truck tires and that it really slows down his deliveries for the day. Initially, as you probably remember because I think you were here the first time he laid his whole routine on me, I found it ridiculous, but now, it’s grown on me. It’s become part of our banter. Since last summer, we’ve bonded on being from countries ruined by Communism (For him, I’m Cuban. He’s Albanian, but now an Italian citizen), and on raising multilingual kids, and plus, his nosiness about everything he delivers feels familiar, very Cuban, so we’re cool. He always asks to come another day, I always say no, he comes up and chats anyway. Va bene. UPS man aside, I can drive again! And in the meantime, I’ve gotten acquainted with our pretty decent bus system, and now know that I can get from school in Bologna to the center of Casalecchio in about 20 minutes if I time it right. All in all, not that bad a deal.

In other news, Zoel is swimming in work for this Exhibition project and I can’t wait until it’s over! He’s skipped every other activity he does for a week or two, and he works on it for hours a day, at school and at home. And I get sucked into it too, sometimes for Excel tech support, sometimes for moral support, sometimes for emergency meltdown services, and sometimes for all of the above simultaneously. I keep telling him that I never had to do anything even close to this as a 5th grader (and frankly, probably not until 12th grade or college!), and that he’s rockin it, but mostly he just grumbles and sighs. Anyway, next week, he presents over the course of 4 days to students, teachers and parents. I can’t wait to hear what his view is on the whole thing afterwards. Zoel’s also ramping up for a 3-day school trip to Torino, a Spring concert, a separate mini-musical, and another school trip to Rome to audition for a part in a performance at an IB Schools conference in October. I sound like you a couple of weeks ago talking about overpacked Spring schedules! Leeloo, on the other hand, has been out of commission, but hopefully we’ll be buzzing about by next week. She too has the Spring concert and a ballet recital coming up! There’s so much more to catch up on, so I’ll have to call you this weekend. Overall though, feeling rather grateful to have all this interesting stuff going on.

Christine: First of all, that long hair you are sporting on your license photo makes you look like some long lost cousin of yours and not YOU. It’s so funny, I knew you for four years with the long hair and have only seen you for a total of about ten days with the newer, short hair and that’s the way I picture you in my mind. It must be your most natural state…Also, I cannot believe that Zo’s project is so involved. I’m not sure what Noah would do if he had to deal with something like that. I’m not sure what *I’d* do, as a parent. Lots of opportunity to helicoper-it-up. Seems like a lot for an 11 year old, but I’m curious to hear about what Zo has to say about the experience (and all that work) when it’s over. Hope you guys get some rest this weekend. Looking forward to catching up more on the telephone!.