carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Accepting the reading challenge

On Facebook, I was recently challenged to posting for seven days about books that I have read and enjoyed. I use Facebook to interact with folks that I don’t get to see everyday. I don’t click on things posted on Facebook. I don’t watch videos. I don’t “like” posts. I don’t use emojis. So I wasn’t about to participate in a seven day challenge. But I did like the idea of talking about the books that I have read and enjoyed. I figured if I was going to talk about 7 books I might as well get a blog post out of it. So here Ann, in answer to your challenge, are 7 books that I have enjoyed.

I don’t get much time to wander in the library to search out new titles. To make book selection easier I tend to read books that are part of a series. (carry over from Nancy Drew days?) So many of these are series and I am somewhere in the series.

Miss Julia Takes the Wheel by [Ross, Ann B.]

The Miss Julia series by Ann B Ross. Why I like these: Set in North Carolina. The main character, Miss Julia is a strong, intelligent Southern woman who gets things done. There is always one laugh until you pee moment in the book. I don’t understand, why someone like Reese Witherspoon hasn’t snapped the rights up and made these into movies.



From the Bruno series by Martin Walker. Why I like these: Set in a small bit of the French countryside where Ben and I spent a lovely vacation several years ago. I can “see” everything that is written. Not too violent. Not too many characters to try to keep up with.

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by [Lende, Heather]


Sometimes, if our lives are really busy, I find it easier to read a collection of essays. No need to keep track of characters or a plot line. Just pick up, read for a bit when I can and then put it down to come back to later. This is a good one of those. So are these.


You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start in the Morning by [Rivenbark, Celia]



Southern Lady Code: Essays by [Ellis, Helen]

Ben and I both enjoy graphic novels. Especially her works.


Displacement by [Knisley, Lucy]

We would especially recommend this one to anyone who is traveling with older folks.




By  Fabien Grolleau  (Author), Jeremie Royer (Illustrator). This was a beautiful work.

That is seven writers that I have enjoyed. I think having the time to read what I want is one of the best things about being retired. I know living close to a well funded and well maintained public library makes that so easy. And I know this is a privilege that not everyone has.

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Selecting a caregiver

In the Spring, Ben went through an evaluation by the Movement Disorder Clinic at UNC. I knew this clinic exsisted. Why I waited to schedule an appointment with them I have no idea. Anyway, we are now under their care. It is a good group. Run by a woman neurologist. They treat the whole person and me too!

As part of their reccomendations they suggested that since we have no family living nearby, we look in to getting some outside care for Ben. So I could be gone from the house for more than 2 hours without coming back to some sort of disaster. So that was the project for June.

Last October, Ben and I went to the Caregivers Summit. We collected business cards from many caregiver groups that were exhibiting there. I made notes on the cards. Like, did the rep look up from her phone when I approached the booth? Did the rep speak to us? There were two that I rated highly. So, in June, they were the first two that I called.

For businesses offering care givers it seems that the inquiry process requires two people. One who comes out to ‘sell’ and a nurse who follows up to assess what type of care is needed. I called the first group and set up appointments.

Now some background. I used to interview people to hire for a job that required following driving directions. (This was in the dinosaur age, before GPS!) If possible, I would set up the interviews at a hotel in Raleigh that was difficult to find. It required the applicant to listen to me and get the directions and follow them. If the applicant didn’t show up on time or was flustered because they got lost. Strike One!

So first group. Making appointments. Two are required. Okay, how about the ‘sales’ person the first day. The nurse the next day. (this is my top choice. The one I rated highly in October) Appointment lady says okay. I confirm two appointments with her. Two times before I end the phone call, I confirm the TWO appointments.

‘Sales’ guy comes. We talk. TWO times during our discussion I mention that nurse is scheduled for her appointment the next day. Next day, nurse appointment time comes. No nurse. No phone call. After 30 minutes of waiting I call. Ohhhhh, everyone is SURPRISED that an appointment was scheduled. No one seems to be able to find this. We agree on a new appointment several days in the future.

Next week, appointment time for the nurse. Fifteen minutes after scheduled time with no arrival, I call. Thirty minutes later she shows up. No apology. No explanation. With an attitude that she shows me she clearly does not want to be there. Well okay.

We move on to the second group. I make the phone call to set up the appointments. The woman wants to send me an email. That’s fine. Now my email is not difficult but it can be confusing. I know that. It has the word ‘to’ in it. Not too. Not two. Not 2. When giving out my email I explain that it is all lower case, no numbers, all words. Then I say the email address and then I spell it. Starting with ‘t o’. It’s a phrase. ‘Too’ ‘two’ or ‘2’ would make no sense. Next day, phone message “your email address ‘two…..’ bounced back as undeliverable. Please call me.” Strike one! Sales person comes. Nurse comes. I decide to possibly overlook ding bat appointment person.

Third Group. Appontment made. Owner of company and nurse are coming. Day of appointment, about 30 minutes before, I get a phone call. Owner of company has been in an accident. Flurry of phone calls and rescheduled appointment. Appointment day comes. Basic sales person and someone else who I have no idea what her function is arrive. This sales person is the only one to comment on how well adapted our space is for Ben. And how pretty our deck is. They move up several notches. But they want their person to come 8 hours a week. We can’t afford that. We need only 4 hours a week. They agree to see if there is a person who just wants 4 hours and get back to me. Several days later she gets back to me. We make arrangments for someone to start two weeks later. But the nurse still has to come. Nurse shows up, 15 minutes before the care giver starts her first shift with us.

The caregiver is very close to my age. Looks a good bit like me. I am fine with this. For what she needs to do, she is just fine. So now, I can leave from 2 until 6 on Thursday afternoons. I can actually go shopping. Go to multiple stores and have enough time to try on multiple things. No more buying several sizes, colors, bringing them home, trying on and taking back. I could go see a movie. I could have lunch with a friend. I could wander around the library. I could go swimming. A whole world is waiting…..

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Ben’s Birthday

Ben’s birthday was July 1. We celebrated on the 30th by having brunch at Poole’s Diner in downtown Raleigh. https://ac-restaurants.com/pooles/

We were a big group so we had to wait for a table. So we had a drink while we were waiting. It was not hard to get Ben in and out of the restaurant. Food and service were good. Sorry no food pics. I felt like it was a nice size meal, without feeling stuffed and without dragging home left overs. I would certainly go back.

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How’s the yard looking?

Very well, that is so nice of you to ask… Except for a difficult 10 days of 90 degrees plus dry weather in MAY, it is been a fairly decent Spring. A good bit of rain. Sometimes too much. But more or less spread out.

The bee balm is being a little pushy, but the day lillies held their own. I’m real pleased with them and the blue salvias.

The butterfly bush has finally gotten settled in (only took two years!). It is doing well this year.

This is where the ramp from the deck ends, at the back of our condo. The hydragenas in the pots were $5 half dead ones from Lowes. They have perked up and are about to bloom again. My friend, Jim, gave me the vinca in the two pots in back.

Here’s the deck. Doesn’t it look great! It is so nice to sit out there. Guppy now sits beside me in the blue chair. I’m waiting until she starts expecting her own glass of wine….

I finally figured out something to do about the ugly telecommunications post.

I relocated some of the elephant ear forest and the flamingos… much nicer looking than the ugly box.

I am aware that we are fortunate to have this space, the time and the means to be able to indulge in something that is just pretty. It does provide me with a huge amount of enjoyment and the activity that I look forward to every year.

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Spring Reading

I just finished reading On the Bright Side, The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen. It is about a Dutch gentleman who lives in a retirement community.

It was a good read and I think true to what happens in those types of communities. I believe there was one book before this one that is similar. I will try to read it before the summer is over.

I was thinking about this book as I was upstairs picking out clothing for Ben and I to wear for the day’s outing to exercise class. I picked it out. Stopped at the top of the stairs to make sure I had all the pieces I needed. Realized I had picked out same style tee shirt in the same colour for both of us. How Matchy Matchy! I quickly fixed that!

Anyway, this is an entry in the book that I especially enjoyed.

I have decided to strive for being ‘in touch with perfect happiness’ at least once each day.

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Gosh! It’s HOT!

Guest Post by: Guppy, The Lucky Dog 3

I was really glad that She Who Must Be Obeyed washed the deck. It was really nasty. You know I sit on it.

It is much nicer now. And She has finally finished with all those plants. At least that is what She says. I’ll believe when I see it. Seems like for months now it has been “oh, look at this plant.” Oh, I’m going to buy plants. No you can’t go!” Oh, don’t eat that plant!” “Quit whacking the plants with your tail!” Blah blah plants….blah blah plants. Seems like a lot of money that could be spent buying fun dog toys was spent on PLANTS! Not to mention all this time she spent on PLANTS! And now watering…. I don’t like it when she is throwing a hose around.

So I just get all comfy and there She is “Let’s go out and sit on the deck!” Doesn’t She realize how HOT it is!

I’m just gonna have to start dropping hair again! Don’t ask me to leave the nice cool house!

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Dressing the Deck

It is one of my favorite times of the year, Spring. We don’t have much outside space. I do my best to fill it all with plants and flowers. I am doing more foliage in the big planter this year.

The new whoop dee do elephant ear is hidden in there. It is a more upright variety. The one on the left side of the picture will eventually sort of droop over. The new one remains more vertical. It will be interesting to see how it does.

In March, inside, I started elephant ears bulbs that I wintered over. The pots are not real pretty but the price was right, free from the agricultural recylcing bins at the State Farmers’ Market. I have been using them as a protective border for the new hydrangea bed that I started. My friend Jim gave back to me the hydrangeas that he provided a home for when we moved to Italy. The one that was in a planter under the tree that was cut down needed a new home too. It made sense just to start a nice bed in the back shady area.

After they grow a bit and if I buy some more mulch I might regroup my elephant ear forest.

The elephant ear forest and hydrangena bed is that darkish area above the terra cotta pot on the deck. You can just see the begonias peaking over the deck railing. They are doing well and will be a nice display in another week or so.

Look for another post about the tomatoes. I do know how fortunate I am to have learned to love plants and to have the means and the ability to be able to do this.

I seem to have lost spell check again. Sorry.

 

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Finally!

Okay, I know I am writing about a very first world problem. I’ll say that right up front. But it is what I know and what I can write about……………….

BUTTER

Yes, butter. We eat butter. We have eaten it for years, years. Like Julia Childs I try to use it in moderation. That said, I appreciate good butter. Butter in Italy was CRAP! The only way I can describe it, waxy. It just wasn’t good. No matter what brand. And that is because there is such good olive oil, that many folks produced them selves. So why bother with butter.

When Ben and I visited Ireland with his sister in 2004, we rented a house. First thing, I bought several different kinds of butter. So we could taste test. (And several different types of cider too) There were some good butters there. When we used to stay in France, again, all different types of butter. Then we landed in Italy. Butter, a small disappointment. Really not good.

When you live in Italy it is easy to vacation in France. We drove. Heh, six hours away to the south of France. It dawned on me that we could buy French butter and bring it back to Italy. So for a number of years I did that. I was happy with a commercially mass produced brand, President. President made basic salted and unsalted butter and they also made a ‘sea salt’ version. That is butter with sea salt crystals incorporated in it. Discrete, taste them on your tongue salt crystals. I like salt. I will choose something salty over something sweet any day. So this butter was just the best.

After two years back in the US, I had actually forgotten about my favorite butter. Then I was reading a French blog online and reminded of it all over again. I thought longingly of that butter. Looked on the President web site to see if it was sold anywhere nearby. Well, basic butter is the sea salt crystal, no. So it was pushed to the forgotten corners of my mind. Then….

I was in the Harris-Teeter looking for President butter. IT WAS GONE! DISAPPEARED off the shelf. Of course I had to discuss this with the dairy products guy. He seemed to think it was a warehouse issue, not a discontinued forever issue. (Good for him, because my reply will soon be ‘Well, you might well just drive me to Wegmans’ which will be open in the fall) Anyway, I found Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter. Heh, give it a try. It sat in the fridge for two days before it occurred to me to try it.

OH MY!!!!!!

BUTTER WITH SEA SALT CRYSTALS IN IT!

DISCRETE, SEA SALT CRYSTALS THAT DANCE ON YOUR TONGUE

I almost cried. Really, I am so happy I have found this butter. This is the butter to put on a warm croissant. To put in hot baked potato. To melt and pour over popcorn. And the best of all, a hot ear of corn on the cob.

So tonight, we watch the ACC final and eat baked potatoes, I’ll have mine with the Vermont Creamery Sea Salt Butter thank you.

 

 

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March 1, 1878 March 1, 2019

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.

Friday, March 1, 2019 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 141 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.

(Who is that Lady in the distance?)

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 Friday 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 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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