carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

What are you reading?

Growing up I always loved summer because I could read what ever I wanted and as long as I wanted.  And many is the night that I stayed awake half the night finishing a book.  The joy of doing that, but oh how awful you feel the next morning….

I know I recently posted about the two series that I am reading this summer.  To my dismay, I discovered that my library doesn’t have all of the series.  (Yes, thank you, I know how to order up books from other branches and have them sent to my branch.  I am talking about the library as a whole)  So either I need to fill in by reading some of them online or buying some (HORRORS!)  Anyway, while waiting to figure that out I decided to expand from the two series that I was reading.  So I have added The Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor and Effie Leland Wilder’s three books about aging in a retirement community.

The Irish Country series takes place after WWII (maybe the 50s) in a small Northern Irish town and centers around the new doctor in town and his settling in.  It is 15 books. That should keep me amused for a while.  I have been to Ireland, but not Northern Ireland, and I certainly understand being an outsider and small town life after living in rural Italy for 10 years.  This is not some great work of literature but an entertainment.

I have also read Amazing Place,  What North Carolina Means to Writers  (edited by Marianne Gingher) a collection of observations by North Carolina writers about how living in North Carolina has  influenced them.  From more than one writer I agreed with the idea of how important it is to write in and preserve the language of North Carolina.  And how maddening it is to read an article written by someone who does not know the area and portrays the entire state as full of hicks and rednecks.

(Which brings me off on another branch, I have made the acquaintance of a brother and sister whom I speak with regularly.  And I have a friend who would turn up her nose about me chatting with these folks because ‘they sound country!’.  (I can tell, that growing up, her Momma instilled in her using proper English and not sounding like you are from the sticks beyond.) Anyway, I delight in being back in North Carolina and having conversations like the ones I have with these folks.  And if you put aside some of the words that they use, you can hear a lot of college level vocabulary used correctly.  Even though I don’t think either one of them went to college. Conversations like these are one of the things I enjoy most about being back in the US and especially in North Carolina.  I can over hear (and 99% of the time no one cares if you join in the conversation) great stories and comments and truly appreciate all of what is said and the little nuances of the words.  Keep in mind that after 10 years in Italy I was just getting to the place where this happened.  Anyway I have digressed)

So I have come to the conclusion that what I really like about the Miss Julia series, (by Ann B Ross, the one that is helping me find my repressed, not so gentile, Southern lady) the Deborah Knott series, (by Margaret Maron) and the three books by Effie Leland Wilder is the telling of a story and the use of dialect when appropriate.

Now off on another tangent…the telling of a story, especially for comic effect.  One year when my Momma was still alive, Ben and I were driving from Virginia to Florida to see her.  From the Vienna, Virginia library we always got several books on tape to pass the time.  The Margaret Maron, Deborah Knott series was agreeable to both of us, so that is what we were listening to.  Hawthorn, the black and white dog was in the back.  (I haven’t written much about Hawthorn, a good ole boy dog, he died 11 months before we moved to Italy and before I started my blogs.)  He was a very good traveler and always went with us to Florida while Siena went to the ‘spa’ in Leesburg.  He never minded wearing a seatbelt, would happily settled himself down in the backseat.  The only time we would hear from him was when we went through the Hardees or BoJangles Drive thru.  That big paw would come forward and smack down on the console between Ben and I.  Just to remind us that he was back there and ‘oh, make sure to get me a butter biscuit.’  So we are driving down the road listening to a mystery about North Carolina and the reader was at the part where one of Judge Knott’s nephews was deer hunting and came upon a deer lying in the road.  Now he already had a deer or something in the back of his truck.  So he proceeds to put this small road kill deer in the front seat with him.  And goes on down the road.  Well, the deer wakes up!  At this point, Ben and I are laughing.  I hit the pause button.  The language, the way the scene was set up, the reader’s voice.  It was all too much.  We are laughing so hard.  Tears are coming down my face.  I rewind and we listen to it again.  Laughing away.  Well, that was just too much for Hawthorn!  HUMPFH! was the sigh from Hawthorn as he got up, gave us the death stare and then resettled himself in the back seat.  Ben and I did our ‘ohhhh, we disturbed the dog’s nap’ routine which caused a raised eyebrow from him before calm returned to the car.

All this leads to, the ability of these three women to tell a good story and lead you up to the place where you at least chuckle if not have a prolonged bout of laughter.  The best comic parts of the Miss Julia books are complicated.  You have to have read the whole book and catch all the nuances and know the Miss Julia character.  The same with Margaret Maron’s books.  A lot of Effie Leland Wilder’s three books are just entertaining but probably only to someone in my age group or older except for this one short chapter in the second book, Over What Hill?.  I will just say that it involves a constipated donkey, a French horn and an Intracoastal waterway bridge.  Recently, well after midnight I read that chapter and started laughing out loud.  Ben wanted to hear it, so I composed myself as best I could and read it aloud to him.  Now I am laughing, Ben is laughing and I am wondering what our neighbors on each side must think.  But, I know what Hawthorn would do….

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Hawthorn and I in the early 2000s.

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Cousin Visit

On my father’s side of the family, there were only 4 female grand children while there were 9 male grandchildren.  So, us ‘girl’ cousins have stuck together even though there is a good bit of age difference between us.  The oldest ‘girl’ cousin died some years back.  There are three of us left now.  Both of my ‘girl’ cousins came to visit us in Italy.  And my one ‘girl’ cousin, Bonnie and her husband have always taken very good care of us.  We stayed with them when we first arrived in late December.

I was tickled when Jeanne, the other ‘girl’ cousin got in touch and said she would be passing through.  She and her cute dog, Bebe, arrived on the last Tuesday in April.  We had a nice dinner together.  Wednesday, she relieved some of her pent-up “I live in rural Georgia frustrations” with some retail therapy.  (Cameron Village has very nice shops).  We had lunch and then we went to the North Carolina Art Museum to see the Venetian Renaissance exhibit.  A nice dinner that night and she was off to Philadelphia the next morning.  It was a great visit and I hope we do it again soon!

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On the Queen Mary 2 (part 2)

This is a continuation of our trip on board the Queen Mary 2 taken in December, 2016.  Read part 1 if you missed it.

Our crossing of the north  Atlantic in December took 7 days.  The sea was very rough.  It is December in the north Atlantic.  Get over it.  We went outside, briefly, one day to see the kennels and think about what the good dog Nerone would have done on this trip.  The Queen Mary 2 is the only vessel that will take dogs on the transatlantic crossing.  Many folks who are moving use this as a way to get their dog to or from Europe.  Our friend Lynn who just moved to Italy came over that way with her dog Flori.  On our vouage there were at least three other sets of folks who were moving from Europe to the US.  If you want to bring more than one suitcase it really is the way to go.

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What other things did we do?  We went to the very well stocked library every day.  We heard several talks given by Nicki Chapman the host of Escape to the Country and other shows.  That is a series that we had watched, so we found her very enjoyable.  I managed to make it in the hot tub 3 times.  I do wish that I had pictures of that.  The seas were very rough.  The indoor pool seemed to have a giant wave machine in it as the ship would slosh up and down.  It was rather fun to watch.  Ben got bronchitis and we got to visit the medical clinic.  (thank goodness for travel insurance which covered all the costs)  And that was about it.  That is probably less than one tenth of the things that we could have done.  It was just that the sea was very rough.  Fortunately I had Ben in his wheel chair to give me stability.  Unfortunately I had to push that wheel chair every where.  That wore me out.  So by the time we reached someplace I just wanted to sit down, taking pictures was the last thing on my mind.  Even though we were eating three full meals a day, I lost weight.  I really was worn out.  And there was a lot of dressing up to do.

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How do you dress someone with balance issues on board a ship in rough seas?  You make them hold on.  The handicapped bath room was one of the best designed bathrooms that we have seen.  It was really designed for someone in a wheel chair.  This was about the only time Ben was out of his wheel chair for the trip.  The sea was very rough and we did not want to chance him taking a fall.

So how about some food pics

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surf and turf

 

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This was supposed to be rabbit. I think it was a dry chicken wearing bunny ears disguised as bacon.

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A very nice Indian meal

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Lamb and mushy peas

On the last night the Chefs and cooks come out and parade around.  It is impressive to see how many there are, probably over 50.

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The best meal I had was a bowl of Thai shrimp soup.  For breakfast and lunch rather than going to the dining room we went to the open buffet.  Ben had sushi most days and I had whatever ethic food was offered.  That was where I had the good soup and most of the meals that I thought were good.

To be fair to the Queen Mary 2, there is nothing wrong with the food in the restaurant.  It is important to know my filters.  I worked in the restaurant/culinary industry with many talented chefs and students.  I lived in Europe for 10 years and have traveled other places too.   At the risk of sounding like a spoiled over privleged brat,  I do not get excited about most ‘classicly prepared dishes’.  (like most of those above)  I do get excited about ethic food that has different and strong flavors.  I do get excited about a main ingredient that stands by itself not nappped in sauce, think a steak with just a blessing of very good olive oil, salt and pepper.  (at out of the way restaurants in the Tuscan countryside that is how food is prepared)  I do get excited about taking a traditional preparation and giving it just a little twist…. oh Menchetti how we miss you.   But for many, many folks without these filters/opinions the food will be a highlight.

Look for one more post with some more pictures of the ship.

 

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Elizabetta

Although Elizabetta was not our cat, Ben and I both still mourn her death.  She died at home, Covivole,  peacefully on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 with John and Richard by her side.

 

Elizabetta first came into our lives on our very first morning in Tuscany, in September, 2007.  Siena, (the Lucky Dog, who moved with us to Tuscany) and I opened the door to the terrace and there sat Elizabetta.  “Hey, how you doing?  I live here!  Are John and Richard here?”  Siena, who could be very snooty, snotty and snobby leveled one of her deadly stares at me as if to say  “A CAT?????? No one said anything about A CAT!!!!!  MAKE IT GO AWAY!  I’ll start barking soon.”   I suggested that Siena just wait quietly while I discussed things with this cat.  So, I had a firm discussion with an unknown black cat.  Suggesting that she find somewhere else to hang out.  She wandered off.  Siena and I continued on with our lives.  I emailed John and Richard.  No, they knew nothing about a cat.  I emailed the woman who had rented before us.  No, she knew nothing about a cat.  I asked Ida, (our neighbor then and again years later).  No, she knew nothing about a cat.   The unknown black cat would appear every now and then but made no further attempts to join our happy home.   Siena was happy that the matter had been settled to her satisfaction.

Fast forward a few years.  It is spring and Richard is there, making his once every few months visit, to prune the garden or help out however we needed it.  Up strolls the unknown black cat.  Tears are streaming down Richard’s face.  “This is our cat!  This is Elizabetta”   “Well, this is the cat that I asked you about when we first moved in”  I replied.  “the one that no one knew anything about.”  Then Richard went on to explain that when the woman who lived there before us moved, she took Elizabetta to other friends who lived about 40 miles away.  Elizabetta stayed there a while and then disappeared.  Since it was 40 miles away John and Richard never considered that Elizabetta could have made the journey back.  That is why they had denied all knowledge of a cat.  Of course, I immediately felt bad that Elizabetta had shown up at her home only to be greeted by a DOG! And to have it suggested to her, to hit the road, after having traveled 40 miles through the hilly Tuscan countryside.   Ben and I agreed that we would look out for Elizabetta from then on.  And we did.

Richard also explained that Elizabetta and her brother Max had come to them as tiny kittens from Sorrento.  From the property where Richard occasionally consulted and decorated.  The property that Richard and I believe that my grandmother lived on.

Elizabetta was very independent.  Often disappearing for weeks at a time as other families would return for the season to their nearby properties.  She must have developed a real network and regularly checked on various properties to see who was there.  (I guess if we had equipped her with a body cam we could have rented her out as a ‘security patrol’.)

I stopped worrying about Elizabetta eating regularly one summer day when I saw her hunting skills.  I was sitting on the terrace and heard a rustling sound in the bushes.  I went over to look and there is Elizabetta bent over a carcass like a lion over its kill, ripping it a part, a bit of the poor animal’s tail hanging from her mouth.  I just backed away and left her to it.  An hour or two later more rustling occurred and another little animal met its fate.  Then finally Elizabetta waddled across the terrace.  Her stomach so full it was swinging and almost grazing the ground as she walked.  I knew then that if she showed up at the door and asked for food I should have something to give her.  Otherwise, she could manage just fine, thank you.

Elizabetta was very social.  Always greeting any guests that we had.   The summer that Chino, the cat of George and Jules, stayed with us, she made every effort to hang out with him.  Chino, was British and since he did not know Elizabetta’s family would only give her a passing nod.  He liked to flaunt that he could figure out how to open the screen and come into the house and Elizabetta could not.  I suspect that Elizabetta could but just didn’t want to.  When Nerone arrived, I swear, Elizabetta got her ‘dog language’ tapes and brushed up.  She would sit on the table, look directly at him and out would come this very soft, refined “arf”.  Well, we all know Nerone would have nothing to do with a cat.  And was very worried when either Ben or I would do something with her.  So even though Elizabetta made an effort, Nerone would have nothing to do with it.

 

This December,  staying at Covivole,  as our time in Tuscany came to an end,  Elizabetta was with us almost every night.  Enjoying the fire, having dinner with us, sleeping on the bed with us.  She had a very visible tumor.  We knew we might not see her again.  And now she is gone.  Buried next to her brother, Maximillian who died very young.  Next to the ‘Lucky Dog’ Siena and Nerone, the ‘Good Dog’.   Having her there with us helped complete the circle of our time in Italy.  She had been there to greet us on our first morning and years later she was there seeing us off on our last morning in Tuscany.  She will be missed by many and thought of fondly.

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