carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

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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Good Eating

I will admit that I miss food in Italy.  Everytime I consider going to Lidl (grocery store) I remember that in Italy, we would plan our Lidl trip to include a stop at the edge of the parking lot for lunch at the seafood store.  Gosh, we miss their fried calamari.  I miss a nice piece of grilled meat.  I miss good, thin pizza.  I miss eating lunch at Menchetti.  I miss the clean, simple seasonal food of Tuscany.  So every now and then,  I break down and make something Italian.  And if I am going to cook that much we should have folks over.

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Italian antipasta on Chinese fish china

 

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After antipasta we had an asparagus risotto, followed by braciole

What are known as braciole in the United States are called involtini in Italy.[2][3][4] Involtini can be thin slices of beef, pork, or chicken rolled with a filling of grated cheese (usually Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano), sometimes egg to give consistency and some combination of additional ingredients such as bread crumbs, other cheeses, minced prosciuttoham or Italian sausagemushroomsonionsgarlicspinachpinoli (pine nuts), etc. Involtini (diminutive form of involti) means “little bundles”. Each involtino is held together by a wooden toothpick, and the dish is usually served (in various sauces: red, white, etc.) as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to toss the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal

(Thanks Wikipedia)

and sausages and salad.  Finishing with olive oil cake and strawberries.  Since we had a risotto I saw no need for a pasta.  Anyway, my picture taking stopped after getting the antipasta ready.  Our friends, Debby and Pat and Jim and BK came.  I was pleased that the table worked well for 6 people.  We could even have managed 8 around it, but I don’t have 8 plates.

Anyway, all of that combined with a few left overs satisfied my Italian food desires for a while.  Although I am considering getting a small grill to use this summer.  I do miss a properly grilled steak.

 

 

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The Artist’s Dilemna

I am finally getting to do the ‘fun’ projects.  A little behind the schedule that I had set, but slowly getting there.  It is hard to find time to do anything when I have to make three meals a day, make sure Ben is dressed and has everything he needs, keep the place reasonably clean, keep up with appointments, order drugs, and oh yeah, the mess caused by my brother’s death.  The nursing home, which insists they do everything perfectly, used some made-up middle initial for his name.  I am working on getting that fixed so that I can start to file paperwork with the government organizations that need to know.  The ones that think I should be filing his taxes.  Yeah, right, that’s going to happen.

Anyway, all this delay gave me time to consider things.  I have been working on my bath room.  I hung pictures.  I repurposed a piece of furniture to hold all the bottles of detergent.  (I blame Harris-Teeter for having 6 bottles of laundry soap.  I mean when it is buy 2 get 3 free…. am I supposed to turn that down?)  I put up a shelf for towels.  And that left the cherry blossoms that I wanted to paint on the wall.

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This was my inspiration.  Then I got bogged down on buying paint.  I am totally spoiled by living in Cameron Village where most everything you need is available.  Except a variety of craft supplies.  I consider it a ‘hike’ to drive out to the suburbs to go to a big box store with a variety of paints.  So I finally got around to buying some paint.

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All ready to start.  I decided to sketch the branches in using water color pencil.

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Then I started coloring them in a bit.

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and decided that I have much more control with pencils than if I was using paint.

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So now I am trying to decide if I want to finish the fleshing out the drawing all the way or leave it with that sort of  unfinished sketch book look.

I have also been considering the space behind the glass over the stove.

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My plan has always been to do reverse glass painting on that piece of glass.  But the more I look at it, the more I think it might actually be too much.  There is already a lot going on in a very small space.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll leave it plain.  SHUTTER!!!!

And I’m thinking about the steps.

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Three of them were replaced and need to be finished.  My plan is to paint a faux runner.  So far I can’t settle on a design.

Oh, the woes and problems that I have.

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Ah, Spring in North Carolina

Now that it is mid-March I think I can write about Spring.  I saw a cartoon where Mother Nature is saying “You can’t have all 4 seasons in one week!”  And the state of North Carolina says ” OH, Just Watch!  Here, hold my beer!”  That is what this week has been like.  Monday, March 12 it snowed and Thursday, the 15th it was 70 degrees.  We are not in the mountains, instead towards the eastern part of the state.  Go figure!

Anyway, February was wonderfully and consistently mild.  The cherry trees bloomed early and were outstanding.

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They bloomed.  No cold snap or heavy rains to damage the blooms.  Looked good for 2 weeks like they should.  The Asian Magnolias or Tulip Trees or whatever you want to call them were spectacular.  Sorry, no pictures.  I was having camera issues.  The blooms were so full and large on these trees that petals dropped and covered the ground while the trees still looked good.  For here, the variety that is planted usually is not that showy.  The buds will get nipped or something will happen.  But not this year, it was their year.

Last summer I saw an offer for 50 mixed daffodil bulbs from White Flower Farms in Better Homes and Gardens for a very good price.  So I went ahead and bought them.  Planting them in the fall.

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What a show they have been putting on.

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The first one opened on February 4.  Gradually more and more have opened.  And it was a nice mix of bulbs.  I would buy it again if I just had more room.  When I planted them I also stuck a day lily in. We’ll see how they look this summer.

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So, is all this snow?  No, flower petals from the tree out front.  See the hydrangea at the base of the tree?  Monday as all the snow and sleet came down it was asking for a coat and gloves

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I have been very conscientious about covering it up every night.  Hopefully the tender buds have been saved.   Never a dull moment here.

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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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Basketball, Basketball, Basketball

How I love watching ACC basketball….  We spend several week nights watching.  A big part of Saturday and then again on Sunday.

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And sometimes the games overlap so that I have to watch one on TV and one on my laptop.

Actually one of the best things about moving back to the US.  Now I am wondering if I will ever be able to see an ACC basketball game in virtual reality?

 

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Happy Lunar New Year

I try to honor Ben’s Asian heritage as much as I honor my Italian background.  Usually we celebrate with a large Asian meal, but for some unknown reason, this year, I am stuck in the comfort food roasts and stews mode.  I’ll be over that soon and we will have a belated big Asian feast.  Until then, I know it is the year of the dog, however, here is our Chinese dragon head to send you best wishes.

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I can’t resist telling the story about how I got the dragon head…. when we were in Hong Kong in February/March of 1996 with Jim and BK I bought it at the local version of K-Mart.  (Great store, can’t remember the name but I could probably walk there if I was in Hong Kong )  Now keep in mind this was 1996 before airlines got so nasty about bringing things on planes.  Our suitcases were full with china and other treasures.  The dragon head was in a box, roughly 2 feet square.  Weighed less than 1 pound.  I was carrying it on.  It is only paper mache and could be easily crushed.  I really did not want to check it.  Well!  You would have thought I was bringing on live snakes!  Such a fuss!  The box was a little too big for the overhead bins.  What to do?  What to do…. finally an accommodating member of the crew found a place for it in the first class closet and it made it safely back to the US.  It did not travel with us to Italy but has been in storage.  Now I am happy that it is out and hanging, guarding our back door and spinning around freely when the heat or air comes on.

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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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Catching up

I really don’t know what, if anything, I have done on our condo since I last wrote about it.  We had a very busy November and December so I took a little break from trying to get anything done.  January is January.  What can I say.  There are basketball games to watch and books to read!

My biggest push to get things done was to hang pictures.  We have a lot of things to hang.  Years and years ago (way before smart phones where everyone carries every photo they have ever taken around with them) I started taking pictures of our trips or when we got together with friends and having the good ones enlarged and printed.  I decided the best way to display them was to use plain, clear, plastic box frames.  Inexpensive, don’t add or detract from the photo and they go on sale.   And way before it was a ‘thing’ I took pictures of food.  Especially at outdoor markets.

Our condo is oriented with east and west windows through which, at various times of day, strong sunlight comes in.  Before hanging too much I wanted to observe the light patterns to avoid fading of things that will be hanging.   In October, I started on this wall outside the upstairs bedroom and bath.

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All the shelves were full of frames.  One by one the frames committed suicide by jumping off the shelf.  I use these little shelves because the holes in the back of each frame are different and I would never be able to get all the pictures straight.  I experimented with all sorts of putties and potions to help keep them attached to the wall and finally found a 3 M tape product that works.  Two weekends ago while watching basketball, I washed all the frames.  I had the tape.  Pictures in frames, all staged in rows on the bed.  Tuesday morning, the time allotted to start hanging I was all ready to start putting pictures up.  Oh no, our internet died.  My whole Tuesday morning had to be spent trying  to get that working again.  Now Ben will tell you, I can be mean as a snake when things are not going the way I planned.  Finally, I was able to get back to and finish this project.

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I am pleased with how it turned out.  It is a lot of pictures.  The uniformity of them and grouping by themes makes the display work.  Well, that is what I think.  After all of these went up, I still have 30 more.  A future post will show where they ended up.

I have also managed to finish the chandeliers for the two pendant lights over the dining table.

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These were just naked bulbs.  My parents had saved all the wooden spoons.  I found these blue and white chop sticks at one of the Asian markets.  Used a thin  piece of light colored wood veneer that I glued around a wooden embroidery hoop.  Getting the spoons and chop sticks to stay on a curved surface was the trick.  Finally, several coats of Mod-Podge did the trick.

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I am real tickled with how both of these projects turned out.  The man who rented from us most of the time we were in Italy was by the other day.  He was interested in seeing all the changes we had made.  I know the man’s taste.  He is a minimalist.   His eyes could not have been bigger.  Almost overwhelmed by all that we have in here.  But, I am pretty sure he approved of the changes we have made.

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