carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Valentines, Letters, Keeping in Touch

This is the Valentine that we sent to Ben’s grand daughter

You can’t really see it, but that is the Effiel Tower behind the kissing couple. Ben and I honeymooned in Paris. The grand daughter is in a French Immersion Charter School in New Orleans. Her French is so good. And Ben and I were the first set of grandparents to take her to France. I like to remind her of that, subtly, of course. Side note: The grand daughter has a FULL set of grand parents, 8, yes that is correct 8. Each parent of the child (aka Ma and Pa) has divorced and remarried)

On to the letters. I recently updated my traveling address book.

My traveling address book used to be little bits of paper that were stapled together. I realized that a number of folks on the list are no longer with us. So a new address book was in order.

Our mailman loves us. Every 2 or 3 weeks I send notes or cards to a number of folks. I started this when we first moved to Italy. I wanted to keep in touch with my aunts and uncles and some friends. This is also when I started my blog. Sending mail from Italy was expensive. I cut my card and letter writing back some and sent them links to my blog entries. Anyway, I still write about 10 notes every two weeks.

And just the other day there was a notice at the city park center for ACTIVE ADULTS that we go to. They were looking for someone to respond to letters from 5th graders who are working on the art of letter writing and cursive writing. What’s a few more letters….

One was beautiful. The handwriting was easy to read. The child wrote about her interests and asked about mine. No problem. She got a 2 page response. The next….well, I had to take my highlighter to it. I couldn’t read some of it. He/she got a response. I was nice. Suggested that more work was needed. Try again. We’ll see what happens….

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Happy Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year was the first full week of February this year. The year of the pig. We celebrated on the first Sunday of February by having friends over for lunch.

For Christmas my Uncle John had sent us a check so I decided to use that money to replace a few pieces of my Chinese fish china that were broken during storage or the move. I thought that would be easy to do. It is a very common pattern. Or was a very common pattern. I had to order it from Pearl River Trading Company in New York City. I was very pleased when I received all the pieces, so I was excited to be able to set a nice table.

The recumbent Dragon Fruit and the pineapple became dessert.
Also used the Asian beer glasses that came from Nice, France.

I never got around to printing up menus. But we had Hot and Sour Soup, Thai Chicken Larb on a bed of noodles, Vietnamese Eggplant Salad, Gingered Yard Long Beans, Pork Tenderloin with Chinese BBQ Sauce on a bed of Roasted Butternut Squash and Roasted Baby Bok Choy. I am lucky to have at least two well stocked Asian grocery stores.

Besides fruit for dessert, there were egg custard tarts, almond cookies and ….

There were 3 kinds of Asian beers. And of course some wine. How can you go wrong spending a Sunday with friends eating and drinking?

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55 Years

Yes, that is how long Ben has been out of high school.  The first weekend in November we went to his high school reunion in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Even though the school was in Norfolk, many reunions ago, the planning committee worked out a deal with The Oceanfront Inn at Virginia Beach to hold the reunion there and there they have stayed.  Why not?  Ocean front rooms at a very good price. Indoor pool.  Good location.  Ben and I have gone to several reunions.  Arranging our trips back to the US around them.  (and The Oceanfront Inn is our stopping place when we are traveling up the east coast)

Ben’s sister, Bea, was in the class behind him.  So she enjoys coming to this reunion too.

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These events have always been a sartorial challenge for me.  Ben’s classmates are older, very well coiffed and pampered women.  And if I am asked to appear in anything but overalls or jeans I go in to a big panic.  But thanks to my good friend, Dinah, I had two very sophisticated silk tops to wear that I think were just the ticket.

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The beach looked great too.

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All in all it was a wonderful weekend.  I will just have to write, that Guppy’s 2 half day and 2 full day stay (or 3 days)  at the dog spa cost the same as our two night stay in an oceanfront room.  I knew she would cost us, but not that much.  Anyway, I think she over partied.  A day after picking her up she is still asleep.

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Guppy’s Summer Thoughts

Guest Post: By Guppy, the Lucky Dog 3

We are having a calm summer.  I have to be pretty quiet for 60 DAYS after my last heartworm treatment.  She explained that what happens is the heartworms are killed and are supposed to gradually pass out of my body as little bits.  But if I get too excited a big clump might break off and that might make my heart stop.  So even though it has been really hard I have done my best to not run around a lot.  She says we only have to wait until August 14.  Then we can start to go to the dog park and play with other dogs.

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That is the new Asian man that I had to use my allowance to buy. (Remember a month or so ago those other Asian men were bothering me when She and Ben went somewhere and left me alone with them.)   She is all mad about it because it was not what She ordered.  But it would have been okay except for the green.  She decided to live with it for a while.  And just because I am dropping a few hairs, I had to use my allowance to buy a vacuum too.  I don’t like it at all.  It makes a noise that hurts my ears a lot.  She doesn’t use it too much but when she does I try to bite it.  I’ll never get any new toys…..

For my graduation they did buy me a piece of jewelry.

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I wear it all the time.  No one had ever bought me jewelry before.  And I got

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these great bowls and a new table cloth.  She says this can be my china pattern.  The ‘Sainted Siena’ had her own china pattern but I am not allowed to use it.  It is best that I have one all my own.  I think my ‘motif’ must be fish.  What do you think?

Anyway, Ben and I have our own special time together every morning.

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Well, I think that I am having a very good summer.  Hope you are too.

 

 

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What happened to May?

My favorite month is almost over.  At least it is now reliably warm, sometimes HOT!  And the rain, Man! has it rained here.  Lots.  I am still without a camera but here are a few snaps of how wonderful the deck looks.

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This is how it looked about 10 days ago

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Those elephant ears have taken off.  I started the caladiums from the bulbs of last year.  Usually they don’t come back for me, but this year they did.

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Most of the plants on the  table have moved to the new garden that I started this spring.  (More about that in another post) I was tickled that the light jars made the move safely.  And check out my cool pink wine glass. (thanks Jane)  Those who knew us in Virginia might remember the blue and yellow planter boxes that I used there.  I packed and stored them.  They survived and are being used again.  My father made these for me from light weight wooden produce boxes that he probably picked up from a trash pile in Florida.  I painted them to match a table top that we had there.  If they make it through the summer I might paint them black for next year.

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Under the table, again this year, I have a nice mix of begonias and impatients.  I just have to remember to water them occasionally since they don’t get rained on too much.  I think they have filled the space nicely.

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This summer spiraea is doing well.  Can you even see the gas meter?

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All and all it has turned out to be a great space.  Guppy enjoys it too.  Now if it will ever stop raining and I can just get rid of the UGLY buses….. working on that.

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Well, what happened to April?

I don’t know about you, but those winter months seem to drag by.  Then it is Spring and the months seem to pick up speed.  April was certainly that way.

I have been having camera issues.  So no pictures.  But then it finally occurred to me that I have a tablet which takes pictures.  Of course it took me about an hour to get my tablet to talk to my laptop and get just the few  pictures that I wanted,  transferred.  Finally, I got it working.

So a brief recap of April.  It was still cold at night.  Hydrangea was still wearing a towel on many nights.  Robins appeared on the lawn wearing hats, gloves and mufflers, asking for directions back to Florida.  Ben’s nephew and two of his daughters blew in from Kansas for a soccer tournament in Greensboro.  We toddled up to meet them for lunch.  Before Easter I started working on stenciling a faux tile pattern on the steps.  Who knew that would take so long.  Each step took about 3 hours total and had to be done in stages.  What with doctors’ appointments and exercise classes I would fit short 2 hour work sessions.  (American steps, 10 inches, Italian hips much larger.  I could really only perch on that little edge for so long anyway)  Finally, I finished at the end of the month.

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Before

 

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after

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I also touched up the backs of the steps.  They had gotten scuffed.  See how they go from dark to light.  I used those colors and the gold that is on the wall  and just a bit of red that is near Ben’s office that you can’t see.

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So that is April.  Already exciting things for May….

 

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March 1, 1878 March 1, 2018

This is an updated version that some of you might have read before.  We were able to  ‘live the dream of Italy’ full time because of my grandparents. On my grandfather’s birthday, I like to remind others of him and all the folks, who either by choice or not, immigrated to America and helped to make it into a strong country.  If you are interested in more than my story I urge you to watch the series on PBS  http://video.pbs.org/program/italian-americans/.  While I don’t think that my grandparents had the same type of experience that happened in big American cities I think they had some of those experiences.

Thursday, March 1, 2018 is the anniversary of my grandfather (nonno), Antonio Iaccarino’s birth. He was born in mille otto cento settantotto or 1878 so he would be 140 years old. His parents were Ferdinando and Maria D’Esposito Iaccarino. Besides my grandfather, I know they also had 2 daughters, one, Concetta, (my Zia or aunt) who was 4 years younger than my nonno and another that I never met, Josephine who lived in Connecticut.

In 2003 I began researching my grandparents’ lives so that I could apply to become an Italian citizen. In the process of this research I have learned some things which have brought me closer to my nonno who I never met. He died before I was born. I always think of him when I hear the Simon and Garfunkle song that starts “I left my home and my family when I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers…” My nonno was only 12 when he joined the merchant marines (Marina Mercantile Italiana). Whether he joined willing or unwilling I don’t know. I do know that at that time he and his family were living in a room or rooms in this house in Meta, Italy.

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I have found this house because very dear friends, Tonino and Carmella Romano spent hours researching old town zoning records. It seems as if the town fathers in Meta like to rename and renumber streets all the time.  Only the Romano’s  tenacity helped me to find this place.

So my nonno went to sea. He signed on as a mozzo (a cabin boy). Fortunately, his seaman’s book is still in our family. The entries are handwritten in script that I can’t always read and understand. (Someday perhaps…) So far, I know he was promoted, learned great skills that he would use later in life and four languages besides his native Italian. From the log I can tell that he returned to and left Italy a good bit. Stamps in his book show that some of the places he went to were Greece, Liverpool, England, Marseilles, France, and Odessa, on the Black Sea. Can you imagine sending off your 12 year old son and for the next 19 years only seeing him periodically? And he comes back with stories of places he has been to and things he has seen. This is the view leaving the port of Naples that I am guessing is relatively unchanged even today.

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He did not always leave from Naples. Meta, the town south of Naples, where he lived was at the time a fairly large port and had a ship building facility. Today it is not. It is a small town with a nice sandy beach and a bedroom community for surrounding towns like Sorrento.

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Even though Sorrento and Positano have been popular tourist destinations since the late 1800s prosperity did not arrive until after World War II. Before that, a large number of people of all age groups emigrated from the area to the United States and South America. But our family name, a very common one still remains in the area.

From my nonno I think I have inherited my interest in other languages besides my native tongue. I do hold it against him that he did not allow Italian to be spoken in their house in America. My cousins have told me that he would scold my grandmother (nonna) if he caught her chatting with her friends in Italian (after they moved to America). He would say “We are Americans now, we will speak American”. (Italian men do so love to declare, dictate and proclaim, don’t they?) So my father never really spoke Italian. He never passed that on to me.

I also know, that from my nonno, the spirit of travel and adventure passed directly to my father and then to me. My passport is never locked up in a safety deposit box. I like to have it near me so if the opportunity to travel arises I can just go. And I have a very cooperative and loving husband. After I finally got my Italian citizenship he didn’t mind when I packed us up and moved us to Italy.

Recently, I was part of a conversation about ‘how many folks knew the name of a cousin of one of the their grandparents.’  On my mother’s side of the family I could say that I knew the name and I have a picture of the woman, sitting with my great grandmother (and her chickens!).  On my father’s side, I don’t even know the names of all his brothers and sisters.  And as his children die that information will be lost or much harder to find.  The point that I took from this discussion was that in a very short period of time this knowledge of family is lost.

Now I am climbing on my soapbox.  The story of my grandparents’ migration is because of choices that they made, a story of a fairly easy journey with a very happy outcome.  Everyday, in Europe, we see stories of families being forced to flee because of war.  Their journey is not easy.  Their greeting is not with open arms.  Time will tell how their migrations will end.  Time will tell how many of them will remember or know the name of their own cousin, much less the names of previous generations.  I urge everyone of you reading this to examine your attitudes and thoughts about the current migrant crisis.  Do some research and remember how America was built on the backs of immigrants.  Immigrants who just might have been your relatives.  Remember the ‘Golden Rule’ that many of us learned as a child.  Wonder that if your ancestor had not have made a migration you might be not be enjoying the freedoms and comforts that you have now.

I’m off my soapbox now.  Little by little, with research, the help of friends and the memories of my family I learn about my grandparents. On Thursday or when ever you think about it, please raise a glass of wine or a mug of coffee to my nonno and nonna who had the spirit and sense of adventure to try something different and create a new life for themselves. Most Americans have ancestors that emigrated. I have been lucky enough to be able to trace mine and fill in some of the blanks. If you have any interest in your own background you should try it.  You learn about the past and look what it led to for us.

Buon Compleanno Nonno!  And thank you from all of my heart!

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The Grandparents in the late 1940s.

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Happy Valentine’s

I just finished reading As Always, Julia. The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto edited by Joan Reardon.  A collection of letters between the two women.  Avis acted as a recipe tester, researcher, cheerleader and go between Julia and her publisher for Julia’s first French Cookbook.  Besides writing about food it is interesting to note how much of their correspondence was also about politics.  And how, even taken out of context, their comments could apply today.

There are a number ‘letter’ books, some fiction some nonfiction that I have read.  All of these letters got me thinking about what will be left in the future for folks to read.  Who writes letters now?  I do.  I send about 10 a month.  Two of my friends reply with letters.  But, oh my, they are definitely not as deep and serious as the exchanges that Julia and Avis had.

Anyway, back to Valentines.  Julia and Paul Child spent a large amount of time living outside the US.  Julia wrote that they could not get organized to send Christmas cards so they started sending Valentine’s cards back to friends and family in the US.  It helped that Paul was an artist and an accomplished photographer.  Still to get this card done took a good bit of planning and organization in 1954 Germany.  Besides finding a bathtub big enough to accommodate 6′ Julia, they had to have two rubber stamps made, get enough photos printed and get them in the mail before the 14th.   I had to wonder what folks of such talents could have accomplished if they were alive with today’s resources and technology.

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Our simple little photograph only required getting Jim to wait patiently while our friend BK took a picture.

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Note my cool authentic Scottish tam that John and Richard gave me.

Happy Valentine’s from Ben and Martha

 

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Deep thoughts while unpacking

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I wondered if I had run out of boxes and staged a raid on the Post Office.  Then I remembered that Ben had a stack of these in his office in our Virginia house  (he used to mail out info about computer systems that he sold).  Fearing that he would pack these up and move them I probably ‘appropriated’ them for use  packing my Chinese fish platters.

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I unpacked boxes from places where I worked, not just in Virginia but also in North Carolina before we moved to Virginia.  Boxes, Ben had used moving back to the US from Germany even before I met him.  Boxes, used by our Virginia neighbor who moved back from SE Asia just as we were packing up to move to Italy.  Boxes used by John and Richard  (we rented from them in Italy) who had moved all over the world several times.  Boxes from Florida when I packed up my parents’ house.  Boxes Boxes Boxes.  Each one I opened, I thought about the connection it had to us.  About how far that box had traveled.  About the people that I had known.  About the times I had spent with them.  And that is just in the outside of the box.

Inside oh the treasures!  (Oh, the “why did I pack and keep this?”)  I was most excited to find

 

 

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My collection of Revere Ware pots and pans.  I was really afraid that these had been sold or given away.  I am so happy to see these again.  It is a nice set and a duplicate set which was my Mother’s.  For now I am keeping both of them but some of them might have to go.

 

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This hammered aluminum Dutch oven cooked many meals for my family as I was growing up.  Many a Sunday roast.  I can remember my mother experiencing some amount of distress if the church service ran long….”oh, the roast will be dry!”   Very happy to see this again.

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And look at this, it is Siena’s hair, snagged on a piece of furniture and packed away for almost ten years.

UPDATE 2/5/18

I wrote this back in the summer.  Super Bowl weekend I finally got around to cooking a roast in the pot that my mother used.

 

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It turned out well.  I think my parents would have enjoyed it.

There are still boxes tucked away that need to be dealt with.  I am torn between dealing with boxes or working on the projects that still need to be done.  Maybe I’ll try to do a bit of both.

 

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My brother died and

no one told me.  Yeah, I was irritated and sad.

His birthday is today.  In January I decided that I would try to find an address for him and send a card and a check.  He had a caregiver/companion.  I thought he had a good arrangement with her.  In 2015 she contacted me about buying an airline ticket for Paul to join us in Italy.  I explained nicely to her that moving to another country was not the same as moving to another state.  An international move takes planning and paperwork.  Lots of paperwork.  Showing that you have income and health insurance other than Medicare.  She got into a snit and stopped communicating with me.  When we arrived in 2016 I reached out to them again.  And heard nothing.  I reached out to his former sister-in-law, the woman who arranged for this care giver.  Didn’t get far with that.  We were in a temporary place, arranging the work on our condo, getting Ben organized with doctors, health care workers and then, starting in May, moving and unpacking (unpacking continues).  And oh by the way, I already have one semi-helpless large old man to look after, do I really want another one?  But if someone had contacted me I would have made some kind of arrangements.

I found out he had died by googling his name and seeing a funeral listing in Mobile, Alabama.  That was two weeks ago.  Bit by bit I have pulled little shreds of info out of folks in Mobile.  Everyone seems reluctant to share anything, citing “PRIVACY”.  Jiminey Cricket!!!!! The man is dead!  I am his closest living relative.  I am the only one who could possibly get upset about having his PRIVACY violated!.  Each little shred of info has taken 2 or 3 emails and multiple phone calls.  But once I finally get someone to talk a bit, they can’t tell me fast enough how their business/practice  provided services at no cost……  My feeling about this, you google my last name and you will see all 30 of us.  And we all know how to get in touch with each other.  It is not like my last name is Smith or Jones.   You couldn’t bother to find me….I can’t bother to assume his debt.

This is what I know so far.  The caregiver dropped him off at a homeless shelter in Mobile.  With the help of a volunteer guardian and a court appointed conservator he was placed in a nursing home.  He died while under their care.  I have no idea if all this took place over days, months or years.  I have no idea what he died from.  I do know where he was buried in an unmarked grave.  Ben and I have used all of our disposable income for this month to place two obituary notices in the Vicksburg, MS and Louisville, KY papers.  If the state of Alabama ever sends me the death certificate I MIGHT be able to get some remaining funds to have a stone made to at least mark his grave.

So here is his obituary if you would like to read it.  (This is the long version. I cut it some to get it under $400 for the Louisville paper)

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Born on February 6, 1945 in Louisville, KY to Frank Paul and Hattie Gudgel Taccarino, Hattie liked to joke that while Frank was fighting in Europe during WWII at the Battle of the Bulge she was fighting her own battle of the bulge.  Paul graduated from Mayme S Waggener High School in Louisville in 1963.  He earned a BS from Kentucky Southern College (now part of University of Louisville) and an MS in Library Science from the University of Kentucky.  Fluent in French he studied and served at Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California as part of his military service.  After that, he was employed in Library and Information Services at the Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, MS. He retired from there and enjoyed caring for his cats and watching ALL SPORTS, but baseball was his favorite. He was predeceased by his parents, his first wife Joy O’ Connor Taccarino, his second wife Debra Allen Taccarino and many Aunts and Uncles.  He is survived by his sister Martha (Missy) Taccarino of Raleigh, NC, an Aunt, Mrs. Florence Dungan of Ocean City, NJ, an Uncle, Mr. John Gudgel of Indianapolis, IN and many cousins.  Paul died on November 18, 2017 and was buried at Pinecrest Cemetery in Mobile, AL.  The family can be reached at 1652 Sutton Dr, Raleigh, NC 27605 and requests that you remember him by donating to your local library or animal care society and watch a baseball game!

 

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