Friday Night Dinner 21

What We’re Eating and Drinking: Whatever Teresina Has on the Menu!

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When the house is full of people and we are ten eating every meal together, sometimes, you have to go out! So this evening, we’ve booked a garden table at Teresina, a restaurant whose menu changes seasonally, but that always offers traditional Bolognese fare like Tagliatelle al Ragù and Tortellini in Brodo. Just off the main plaza, Piazza Maggiore, it’s a pretty walk from the Centro’s perimeter (where you have to park if you’re a non-resident) through Bologna’s archways and over to the restaurant’s garden, just beyond La Fontana del Nettuno. 

Christine: Looks delicious! Now I wish I could just smell it. I’d like two of each–do they deliver to New York?

 

What We’re Talking About: Finding Quiet and Space for Yourself over a Busy Summer

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It’s easy to get carried off by the current of constant activity and lively conversation that has become the standard environment of our summers. It’s a joy to spend time catching up with the people we don’t get to see during the rest of the year, and exploring beloved or totally new places with them. I also cherish spending time with the smalls in the lazy, meandering way that’s only possible when school’s out, and that usually leads me to some undiscovered part of their personality or a glimpse into their current loves. Then there’s all that cooking and meal time preparation, that often involves a group of us gathered in the kitchen, talking and making and drinking. But as wonderful as all of this is, I need time away from all the buzzing, a time to retreat to quiet spaces for meditation or reading or yoga or work or creation. I failed miserably at finding them last year and as a result I was twitching straight through October. That’ll be the quest this summer. Already, finding a slot of time to write here, on LHT, is providing a little guidance on how this might be done. Hopefully, I’ll keep stretching out this time and space in the coming week!

Christine: What a great intention to have at the beginning of summer! I’m glad you’re already finding a bit of time each day to write here–a crack in your schedule that will most certainly allow more ‘you’ time to follow. It’s such a difficult balance to keep–spending time with those delicious kids and that (delicious) hubby, talking with all of your fabulous guests, needing to clean and do laundry and cook and then trying to find space and quiet for yourself–to do yoga or write or, even, to do NOT something highbrow–like watching a Lifetime movie or catching up with old friends on Facebook. I have faith in you, Gina. Paint! Write that screenplay! Play your guitar! Read! I can’t wait to see you fly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Night Dinner 21

What We’re Eating and Drinking: Garden Bounty and Chilled Beaujolais

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The bouquet of kale on the left is from our garden! Isn’t it pretty? Almost too pretty to eat, but we’ll find a way to incorporate it into our meal tonight. It’ll just be the three of us in the gazebo this evening and we won’t be getting there until after Noah’s All-Star baseball game (did I tell you that he made the All-Star team?) so we’re doing something simple. We’ll grill some asparagus and hangar steak, boil up some corn on the cob–from Adams, via Georgia, which is sacrilege for a girl like me who grew up with cornfields in the backyard…corn doesn’t come until AUGUST–and a simple salad made from the Red Russian Kale above and a little lemon, olive oil, some shaved parmesan and ground pepper. Ray is already tired of rosé (blasphemy!) so I’m going to chill a light red wine to go with the meat. It’s been pretty warm here so it will be refreshing after a long night of Little League.

Gina: All Star! That’s awesome. He must be so thrilled! Enjoy the game, the grilling and the homegrown kale. I’m pretty jealous about that last one! 

 

What We’re Talking About: Last Days of School and 7th Grade

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So, how did this happen?

 

I’m not one for sentimentalizing, but this year’s last day of school got me all choked up. Maybe it’s because Noah being a 7th grader now makes him seem so grown up–even though 6th grade was supposed to be the milestone because it marked, technically anyway, the transition to middle school. The truth is his past year of 6th grade didn’t seem all that different than 5th…Noah still had a homeroom group that he moved through the day with and his teachers still sent homework reminders to parents and, well, 6th grade is still part of elementary schools in some school districts around here. 7th grade, though…SEVENTH GRADE…now THIS seems like real change. At an annual end-of-school-water-gun-and-slip-and-slide party yesterday I was chatting with some other parents and we got to wondering if this was the Last Year that our boys would want to get together and run around in their shorts whooping and giggling and spraying each other with water. Already the girls had decided it wasn’t an activity for them anymore (for the first year since kindergarten not one of them showed up). We heard they had decamped for a day of more grown up activities…I don’t know: hair braiding and talking about fashion? But…we pondered aloud, by next year will our boys be reluctant to be so obvious in their joy, too? How about in their affection for one another? By next summer will they have fractured into small cliques, playing video games in a dark basement or wandering around the river’s edge all surly and mute?

One of the dads at the party–a sweet, soulful, retired NYPD officer–was teary at the very thought of it. As the father of two older boys, in addition to his now 7th grader, he knows all too well that a parent cannot, despite his most fervent wishes, halt time’s relentless march. It seems silly, we all agreed, to get misty-eyed over something that is really cause for celebration. In this case, the healthy development and growth of these divine beings who we’ve been feeding and loving and urging forward since the moment they tumbled into our lives.

“I guess I just wish we had a few more kids,” the father/sage chuckled as he gazed over the field of half-naked adolescents, their skin still, for a few more fleeting months anyway, as hairless and slick as a newborn’s. “But I guess no matter how many there were, I’d have to get used to saying goodbye eventually.”

At his utterance of that word goodbye, a word that had been dangling on each one of our tongues as we thought about all the little goodbyes of seventh grade that would eventually, inevitably, on one similarly hot and humid June afternoon like this in the far but not so distant future, give way to the big goodbye of high school, we took in a collective short breath.

I think I’m still holding mine.

 

Gina: Wwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I see these small changes happening here too, and try to avoid thinking about what will happen when all of these small changes are piled up together. Who will I be facing at that moment? Will I recognize the 11 year old boy that lives with me now in the 18 year old face that will be here before I know it? Even now, as I think of describing to you some of the evolution that I’m witnessing, I’m stopped by thoughts of invading the privacy of a young man who maybe doesn’t want his mother talking about some of the recent conversations we’ve had or experiences he’s had, or the kinds of questions he’s asking. Makes me even more thankful for the slower days of summer!

 

Staying Inn

While Gina and other members of the Bouvarez clan ready themselves for visitors galore, I am pleased that summer has arrived in the Hudson Highlands and that Noah’s school obligations are over so that I can tend to the cocoon of privacy and alone-ness I’ve been cultivating here at the River’s edge for the past year (and longer) and Stay Home Alone. I mention the past year because that is when our friends left for the hinterlands of Italy–more about that next week–and longer because it has taken me almost 44 years of living on this planet to realize that I’m an introvert at heart.

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It’s not a realization that I’ve taken to comfortably. It took more than three decades and a serious conversation at an ungodly hour of a brand new year to help me even recognize that being alone, and quiet, are the states that I covet most.

I come from a family of talkers–on my mom’s side anyway. My grandmother is from Sicily and she holds the stereotypical Italian disposition of being temperamental, easily angered and loud. Love comes easily to her, too, which is illustrated in her steadfast loyalty and support of her grandchildren, some who have gotten divorced, sworn at God and gone to jail. Still, she thrives on togetherness, on the charge of noisy conversation and sharing a room, and a meal, with her children and their offspring (and their lovers–though she publicly calls them ‘friends’). At the age of 90 she lives alone, happily most of the time, but it’s no secret that she prefers occasions when every chair in her house is occupied and the television is switched to Sports Center and the grand-dogs are begging for meatballs at the kitchen door.

My mother’s extroversion is even more developed. Her want to be out in the world, along with her ability to keep a conversation going, is legendary in the small town that she and my father live in upstate. Joining her on errands to the bank or the supermarket promises to take far longer than the time needed to complete the tasks on her list–there are tellers to talk to and check out girls–former students of hers–who she’ll need to catch up with. Last weekend I went home for a large family party and watched my mother work the room. No matter that it wasn’t a party she was throwing (it was her brother’s wife’s birthday), she took it upon herself to make sure each person was sated and content. She moved from table to table with anecdotes and queries about new babies, deftly sipping her drink and nibbling cheese between bursts of laughter. I watched her from my seat at our table, re-checking the door for the quickest route of escape, and marveled at her energy and her endurance. When I had arrived with her an hour earlier I said hello to my Aunt (the guest of honor), my cousins (the actual hosts) and my grandmother and then hightailed it to the bar. When my mother got to our table (convinced to return only by the announcement that dinner would be served shortly) she was glowing and happy and charged. If I had talked to that many people in that short of a span of time somebody would’ve needed to administer oxygen.

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Our quiet, empty table in contrast to Gina’s…though sometimes it gets filled with very close friends.

I seem a bit delayed in the knowing thyself department, so for a long time I thought that togetherness filled me up too. I’d throw parties and apply for jobs that required small talk and social skills. Whenever I tried to work a room I’d end up tongue tied and exhausted, but I persevered–thinking that triumph could be found in chit chat and charm but I was miserable and unsuccessful and I had no idea why. It also felt like a failing to not pass the torch of all that gregarious mojo on to Noah. He learned early that whenever we attend a school play or concert to flee to the car as soon as the curtain comes down and, at his baseball games, not to look for me in the crowded bleachers behind home plate, but under the tree beyond first base, alone.

This summer, as Gina’s house fills to capacity and friends and strangers enjoy witty conversations over breakfast and rowdy dinners under the stars, I’ll be here–a world away–(quietly) envying the party, but hopefully, finally understanding that my much more understated visit with her later in the summer will be just perfect for us. I’ll try to take solace in knowing that during those few nights in that gazebo in August we’ll be mesmerized not by the crowd, but by the hard lock of friendship and love and that while I might not be teaching Noah the art of social networking, I’ll be sharing with him the first sprouts of authenticity and what’s it’s like to live as yourself.

As for the big Cuban birthday party, I’ll let you know.

The Bouvarez Countryside Inn is Open for Business!

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(Click to enlarge photo.)

The pignoletto frizzante is appropriately chilled and bubbly, wedges of cantaloupe are topped with prosciutto di parma, mortadella, salame, and bresaola are arranged on platters, the cheese plate is full and the fresh bread is cut, one of Stefan’s summer salads is tossed in his delicious vinaigrette, and music fills the house and yard. It’s summertime at the Bouvarez house, and our first group of guests arrived this morning. We had our test run for the summer season last weekend when our very good friend/soul sista, Natasha, came for a quick visit. But this week, our Caribbean cousins took the overnight train from Austria, childhood friends ventured onto the continent from London, and our unofficial godchild and his momma made their way from Brooklyn USA via Amsterdam. And once again, every room is filled with people and things, and one long, satisfying meal, enlivened by the kind of  conversation you can only have with people you know well, seems to stretch into the planning and making of the next meal.

Along with their belongings, these friends and family bring their tales of far away lands and people, their first person accounts of what’s happening in the old neighborhood, stories about the dramas and comedies unfolding in different corners of the world, descriptions of travel and discovery, and news about the ideas and events captivating those around them. I suppose therein lies an unspoken transaction… countryside for conversation, fresh air and foods for connection, nature’s beauty for news from outside the boot. Frankly, I think we might be getting the better deal, but don’t tell them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Sushi

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It’s not easy to find sushi in Italy. Italians are pretty damn loyal to their own regional cuisine, which means that occasionally someone from Emilia Romagna might go totally crazy and make a pesto sauce, or that a Tuscan could go out on a limb, probably after imbibing too much Chianti, and cook a Ragu sauce , or prepare their steak alla Milanese instead of simply grilling it with rosemary and sea salt as god decreed. I won’t even venture to say that anyone up north really knows how to re-create anything made south of Rome. But I can assure you that it’s all delicious, and much more varied than it appears from outside the Italian boot. Given this strong penchant for the food that you grow up with, the food that can be found within a 50-mile radius of where you live, you can imagine that the cuisine of an island nation that’s 6000 miles away can only be so tempting.

I hear that Bologna might have a few sushi restaurants, but I’ve also been cautioned that the quality and taste isn’t what a New Yorker, let alone a Japanese person, would expect, so we’ve stayed away so far. Luckily though, the first day of our first whole week of summer vacation took us two hours north to Milan (and from the Emilia Romagna region to Lombardy), which has much more of an international food scene than Bologna, but that’s still not saying much compared to any big city in the U.S.’s melting pot or mixed salad or pick your own metaphor. We spent a titillating morning at the French consulate, waiting and waiting and then doing paperwork and enduring a little French snootiness (because otherwise how would you know you’re in France! Vous êtes magnifique et je vous aime… vraiment.) But our reward was then an authentic Japanese lunch! We started off with miso soups and edamame, which the kids gobbled up like 19th century French street urchins exclaiming: “These are wonderful! Ask them where they found them! PLEASE!” Then, we moved on to nighiri of tuna, salmon and branzino (okay, not so Japanese but a deliciously prepared white fish nonetheless!), spicy tuna and salmon maki, and a glorious dish of veggie tempura.

The tangy taste of the soy and tempura sauces are probably the strongest flavors in these dishes, and certainly part of what we crave when we’re yearning for Japanese food, but after so many months without it, I realize the texture, temperature and freshness of the meals are equally as important. Silky pieces of tofu and mini rings of firm scallion swim in the hot miso broth; Crunchy cucumbers and spicy tuna mix with chewy nori; smooth pieces of raw, cool salmon top temperate and perfectly cooked rice grains; and crispy tempura batter coats warm soft vegetables. Oh the joy! The variety! And not a tomato or a tomato sauce in sight!

Chances are that if an alien kidnapped me and insisted that I could only bring one type of earth food with me to my new home planet, I’d still pick authentic Italian dishes. I’m not sure anything can sustain me like pasta, and who knows what kind of conditions I’ll find in that foreign land!  Nevertheless, my hope for this peninsula is that a bit more food diversity trickles into its smaller cities in the future, so that more can enjoy – at least once a month! – the beautiful flavors this world has to offer.

 

Pondering Popcorn

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I make popcorn the old-fashioned way—in a pot on the stove, rather than in a bag in the microwave. A benefit to this technique (in addition to producing a snack of vastly superior taste and texture) is that it allows witness to a transformative process from start to finish. What begins as a canister of pebble-like, inedible seeds can become, in just a few minutes, a bowlful of fluffy, salty, satiating goodness.

Generating the conversion is simple—add a quarter cup of popcorn to a pot slick with simmering oil, cover and wait. Tiny bubbles and pale yellow kernels begin to dance in the swirling puddle and a few of the seeds pop immediately, bursting into white clouds that ricochet against the steel (or anodized aluminum) walls. Others resist for a minute or two, but soon roll over and yield to the greasy catalyst. Still, a few hold on until the end. Buried by their more eager compatriots, they wait until the heat is extinguished to rupture, emitting a muffled hiss from deep within the mound of exhausted casings.

Always, there are a handful of rogue seeds that do not pop. Some singe and shrivel into asphalt-like specks of gravel, a couple more crack—exposing a hint of their white innards. In the end, there are a few that prove impervious to the high temperatures and boiling oil. They remain unaltered—latent, salt-covered embryos that refuse to change at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Night Dinner 20

What We’re Eating and Drinking: ‘Raw-violi’ and Rosé

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 7.36.36 AMSome of the food changes we made during the cleanse a few weeks ago have stuck. Both Ray and I have been craving raw vegetables with our meals after returning to our “old” way of cooking and, after consuming a few meals of cooked vegetables and a salad, feeling like everything tasted bland and unsatisfying. We’ve started to incorporate a raw side dish or two into the cooked meals that we typically make. Often I whip up some kind of raw soup, which is super easy. Just put a bunch of veggies and fresh herbs into a food processor and voila!–cold soup. But tonight, on account of it being Friday and all, I’m going to take a little extra time to put together one of the more exotic appetizers I really enjoyed during the cleanse. It’s called raw-violi (yep, bad pun) and it’s made from thinly sliced beets and un-cheese. I know, I know, as a big cheese fan myself I was dubious about eating something that was supposed to mimic cheese (how do you mimic a most perfect thing?) but wasn’t cheese at all. The trick is to not call these raw foods anything other than what they are. Once you realize that the food you are making will have neither the taste nor the texture of the food it trying to imitate, it’s much easier to appreciate it. (I’m ready to rewrite all of the raw food cookbooks without the cute attempts at impersonation: i.e. zucchini “fettuccine”, “german chocolate cake” (made from prunes) and yam “noodles.”)

For the raw-violi, layer the thinly sliced raw beets with any kind of vegan cheese (here’s a link to several recipes for ‘cheese’), put a dollop of ‘cheese’ on top and serve as a side dish or appetizer. Coupled with a glass of rosé in the gazebo, it’s a perfect and healthy beginning to the weekend.

Gina: Despite my every inclination, I’ll admit that sounds kind of scrumptious. I am not a big fan of the beet, and you know how I feel about soft cheese (or pseudo cheese), but something about the combo sounds good. It may be because the couple of times that Michele has taken my to raw food restaurants in New York, things that I usually wouldn’t mix or that I’d shy away from, have ended up being delicious. I think you hit upon something when you said that you have to stop expecting these dishes to taste like other foods. They have their own flavors, and often it’s all about the combination! Bon appetit!

 

What We’re Talking About:

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(Am I using the French correctly?)

Tonight, the limitations of virtual friendship are particularly evident, but I’m going to try to talk things out here. This conversation seems like one of those long ones, best had in somebody’s backyard because it necessitates eye contact and gestures and maybe a hug; because we’ve had similar talks over the butcher block in your old kitchen and next to river here and around your giant table in Bologna and afterwards I’ve felt hopeful and light.

There isn’t big news to share, I’m just wrestling with the stuff of life, issues and worries and shortcomings and patterns that I find coming around and around, again and again but that I’m trying to LEARN FROM this time around. I’m trying, you know, to get things right. For me, one of my worst habits is coveting that which I cannot have; OR: wanting that which does not want me. What’s that famous Groucho Marx quote? “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

My thing is kind of like that, but not exactly. When I look back on decisions I’ve made through the years I can see, very clearly, that I’ve forced a lot of things: friendships, jobs, lovers, moves. I can see that as I persisted, unblinking, towards certain goals (desires? are they one and the same?) with an unrelenting, almost blind desire (to be friends or lovers with a particular person or to get hired for a particular job or to live at specific address), I was hitting roadblocks every step of the way. And while I appreciate the need for hard work and understand that the path to victory is very often tiresome and an arduous, long journey, I think that I’ve wasted years trying to force circles into square holes; by mistaking my reluctance for challenges and overriding my own instincts (to say no?) in the name of sacrifice. Incidentally, after years of pushing and driving and browbeating, the elements of my life were often in shambles: friendships, marriages, careers–all which have bit the dust.

Recently it’s been suggested by more than one person that I lack street smarts, that I just don’t see the forest for the trees and maybe that’s true. It does seem that at times I lack common sense (the difference between common sense and prudence being a vast and broad one).

The thing is, I’m in a bit of a quandary like this now. There are two jobs in town here that I’m circling around–one sexier and more glamorous, the other secure and safe with the potential to be…boring and conventional and solid. Guess which one I’ve interviewed for and which one is leading me on with suggestive emails but no solid commitment to talk face to face? Guess which one I WANT?!?

I feel like it might be time for me to put my desires aside and stop trying to date the captain of the football team and accept my fate as the girlfriend of the treasurer of the debate team…but I can’t help wanting the glory. Maybe it’s a lack of street smarts or maybe I’m just greedy.

Ugh. I can’t wait to see you. August can’t come soon enough!

Gina: Nope, this can’t be hashed out in ten (or fifty) lines of commentary, but I understand what you’re saying and feeling. It reminds me of an article, that’s I think is at least tangentially related to your quandary!  It was by a woman who had always dreamed of creating and tending to a beautiful elaborate garden. She had made dozens of plans, read tons of books, had many false starts, bought seeds and plants that never made it into the ground, and spent years, decades even, feeling terribly guilty about how she wasn’t getting around to using  her talents to make that damn garden happen.

But then, she had a revelation. She was never, ever, going to be a gardener, great or otherwise. She was never going to plant anything. She had been choosing other things over gardening for years because she liked them more, because they were more necessary, because they flowed better with the rest of her life, etc, etc., and yet, she had spent all this mental time on the dream of gardening.  Instead of accepting her reality and concentrating her energy fully on the things she’d chosen, she had let herself be nagged by and then later, really weighed down by, the disappointment in herself and the guilt she carried. On that fine day when she finally made the decision to accept that she’d never be a gardner, the guilt and disappointment fell away, and she got on with it, “it” being the things she was already good at and doing.

When I first read this, the over achiever in me was not having any of it. How do you just decide not to do something that you had hoped to get to for years? How do you say to yourself that’s never going to happen? Never?! I’m still trying to accept that notion fully, but I am starting to grasp that you squander an enormous amount of energy beating yourself up about not getting to (or about not having) whatever IT is. And then all the disappointment in yourself, and the resentment and anger you continually direct at yourself (subconsciously or consciously) because of this “failure”, further poisons your life. So now, your resources are depleted and you’re sick. Better to let go of that thing (whatever it is), accept it’s never going to happen and live your life. The person who does that has a much better chance of doing something meaningful or living fully, than the one lugging around all that garbage. Make a choice and then let go of the mental garbage. So easy to write, yet…

20+ lines and probably not much is solved. We will tackle this one in person soon. x

 

Friday Night Dinner 20

What We’re Eating and Drinking: Pepperonata and Rosé

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This pepperonata (white onion, red and yellow peppers and peeled tomatoes with a bit of salt, sugar and pepper, cooked down for about 30-40 minutes until it’s sweet but still peppery!) really deserves a hearty glass of red, but it’s warm, our pool is full of kids and the summer holidays have just begun, all of which cry out “Rosé!” There’ll be toasted farro bread along side the pepperonata, as well as lentils with broccoli and a little turkey for the kids.

Christine: OK, I don’t really care about the pepperonata (first, because EWW…and second because peppers make me barf–literally.) But have I told you that I discovered this whole world of ‘nightshade’ vegetables during one of my cleanses this past winter and realized that peppers aren’t actually intrinsically gross, but that I’m probably just allergic to–or at least have an adverse reaction to–these creepily named foods? Nightshades are a category of eatable vegetables that include tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, eggplants & peppers–most of which make me hiccup-y and feel icky. But it’s fine. I don’t care about this dinner tonight because WHAT IS that gorgeous colored bottle of wine on your table? Holy goodness that looks refreshing. Is that the real color or just the light?

Have fun with the kiddies and save me a glass and some toasted farro bread….I’ll be along soon.

 

What We’re Talking About: The lazy, hazy days have begun.

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Wizard of Oz or Stand by Me?  Zo and friends set off to explore a brook on the other side of the vineyard.

These last few weeks have been consumed by end of school year activities. This week alone, we had a Elementary School Graduation (Congratulations ZOEL!), a end of elementary party, a mini-musical (Leeloo danced, Zoel sung and acted), an end of unit/year party for Leeloo, as well as teacher presents to buy and give. One faculty member said to me today that she was starting to wonder if Stefan and I were on staff and if not, maybe we should be. Ha! Somehow, Stefan has also managed to give hours and hours of time to the release of his book and music. I, on the other hand, have gotten a little work done, but not much else, certainly not any writing other than the short entries for this blog, which I can’t even remember now. I’m looking forward to our summer schedule when there’ll be a lot less running around, although I’m a little terrified that these not-so-small people will suck up more of my time than I’m anticipating, or should I say, I’ll let them suck up my time because they’re kinda fun. I’m actually more than a little proud of how they’ve handled they’re first year living abroad. They’ve both grown and changed in many different ways, too many to list on a Friday Night, but maybe deserving of a separate blog post re-capping the year. If I had to pick just one thing to tell you about each in the meantime, I’d say that our once reserved Zoel has come clean out of his shell, and is known around school as a funny guy that’s really good at performing at assemblies and special events. (We’ll see how that evolves in Middle School when there’ll be all those older folks around!) And for Leeloo, I’d say that she’s as effervescent as ever, but she’s also developing a self-awareness that’s helping her figure out when it’s better to dial back the bubbly, and sit still. It’s just a beginning, but it’s a joy (and sometimes totally frustrating) to watch her trying to figure it out.

And before I go, Happy 20th! Before you know it, we’ll have done half a year of virtual Fridays together!

Christine: First the ‘Congrats': To Zo–a big milestone!…graduating from elementary school certainly is one of the big ones. (If only because middle school is, indeed, a beast.) Was he fine without all of us waving to him from the audience rows of folding chairs? Or without your parents there? (Were YOU?!) Congrats To Leeloo, too, for all of the performing (and the thinking about dialing back–and hopefully tempering the dialing back). And of course To Stef for the book and music. But, also, To YOU for keeping everything scotch-taped together–maybe the most difficult job of all.

That sucking-up-time thing is something I, too, was thinking about today as I weighed the (emotional) cost of fewer summer camps against all the weeks that Noah will wake up and be looking for me (to me) for SOMETHING TO DO. I guess what we have to do is try and carve out some sacred space for ourselves–which sounds way more Oprah-y than I mean. What I’m suggesting is that just because it’s summer, it doesn’t mean that we, the mothers (the stay at home mothers of older children), continue to need to spend all of our time listening to and following the whims of our OLDER CHILDREN. Even though that’s what is easiest. Even though that’s what we think *might* be best. EVEN THOUGH WE LOVE SPENDING TIME WITH THESE CREATURES. Listen, Noah is trying to convince me to get us season passes to Splashdown Beach…(do you remember that place? Stef & I spent a cicada-filled day there just before you guys left for Italy…it sucked!) and I am not going to cave in and do it. I love spending time with him more than I can describe in words, but hate it there, despite the fact Naoh loves it…and it’s not that the needs of my child don’t matter, but more that we’re not getting a season pass to something that only ONE of us finds fun. It’s time to understand that my needs matter–at least–or just as much as–his.

Which means, Yes, we’ll go to Splashdown once or twice this summer and YES we’ll go to a movie that requires 3D glasses…but not every day of the week. We’ll also take the train to NYC and find some obscure poetry reading to attend and some totally weird street art exhibit to take part in and a library to whittle an afternoon away at. Yes…I’ll drive Noah to the camps that make his eyes light up, and YES I’ll make sure that we have watermelon and ginger water at snack time, but I’ll also make sure that I also have a pitcher of nettle tea and ginger cookies (for me and my mommy friends) and that I make time to get through at least of a third of the books that I’ve reserved at the library and that Noah and I get to spend at least one night of week watching the sun set at the river’s edge…together. It’s a circumstance easier described than insisted on.

…I don’t really think I can do it, but I like to dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Sprouts on the Farm

As the sun shines brighter and the skies turn a deeper shade of blue, it becomes an even greater pleasure to live in the middle of planted fields. As I think I’ve already mentioned a few times, it seems like something new has grown every time I step outside. This week the scent of fragrant flowers fills every room of the house, especially the second floor bedrooms, where the smells mix with the cooler evening air and create the most delightful sedative. Here’s a brief photo tour of the nature surrounding us this June in Casalecchio di Reno, Bologna.

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Invincible Summer

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Screen Shots of my phone weather app from March 1 and yesterday.

2014 has been a year of weather extremes and the recent change to the climate here seemed to come overnight. After a very long, very cold winter, summer entered swift and fierce. Not that I’m complaining. That May and June arrived bearing copious amounts of sun and above normal temperatures (tonight we have fans running all over the house–a necessity that doesn’t typically occur until mid-July) is just fine with me. Sure, it means that Ray & I will start arguing about air conditioning sooner than usual (he’d live in a climate-controlled environment 365 days of the year, I like fresh air–even when it blows through the window at the temperature of a dryer exhaust), but an early, hot summer also means that our basil and tomato plants are already thriving and that I get to wear sundresses for a few extra weeks.

On my hikes these past days I’ve marveled at the rocks that I climb and and the groves of trees I pass through and the river I admire–astonished at how just a few weeks ago (really, like less than a dozen weeks) the scenery around me seemed to be from an entirely different world. Last night when Noah & I took Luca for his last-pee-of-the-night-walk in our lightest-weight pajamas we remembered, without regret, that same walk in January…when one of us had to put on mittens and boots and a hat and a heavy coat, just to walk to the tree at the end of the driveway.

The expeditious arrival of the new season has made me covetous, too. Especially because of the glacially slow changes happening inside me and around me–the way my writing aspirations seem stuck and it feels like I will never, ever get a job. Why, I’ve been supposing in the back of my brain, do some things seem to take so long? For today, I’m feeling buoyed by the warm air around me, hopeful that if I marinate it in long enough I will internalize some of the transformation I see happening around me. Until then, I’m pretty delighted to enjoy it just for what it is.

(Click photos to increase their size.)

 

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Our backyard and the gazebo. We eat out there almost every night, which seemed impossible–which WAS impossible–just a dozen weeks ago.

 

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One of the paths I follow on my morning walk with Luca. Today I wore sandals and a tank top; the memory of my ankle length down parka and wool-lined boots was far from my mind.

 

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Storm King Mountain during one of last winter’s blizzards…and not.

 

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Foundry Brook, which runs through the West Point Foundry Preserve, in late winter and then in late spring.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

~Albert Camus