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TANTUM CUM LIBRIS CUM ISTIS USQUE LOQUAR (only with books, only with these I'll speak forever). NE QUID IMMINUAT DAMNOSA DIES (so that the fatal day won’t consume everything).~~~~~~ Sono americana,ma per più di un decennio ho vissuto e lavorato in Italia, in Veneto. I miei antenati e alcuni dei miei parenti arrivano da Brescia e dalla Val Camonica. Adesso vivo in Ohio e lavoro in una biblioteca. Sin dal nostro ritorno in U.S., più di sei anni fa, mi sono impegnata molto nel mantenere il mio italiano - non un'impresa facile,considerando che l'Ohio fu in primis colonizzato da persone di lingua tedesca. Lavorando in biblioteca, cerco sempre di cogliere ogni opportunità per diffondere il mio amore per la cultura e la lingua italiana tra gli americani,che parlano solamente l'inglese,e incoraggiandoli ad imparare una seconda lingua - l'italiano ovviamente!~~~~~~ I am an American from the United States, but for more than a decade I lived and worked in the country of Italy in the Veneto region. I have relatives who are Italian and they live in the city of Brescia and in the Val Camonica. Now I live here in the state of Ohio and I am working in a public library.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Fall in the Berkshires

Today is 'Parade Day' in my hometown in the Berkshires, the 'Fall Foliage Parade' to be exact. What fond memories I have of this annual event, especially from our younger years. As I recall, there were lots of special contests and activities surrounding the parade and leading up to it. One was a Hat Contest for kids. Having grown up in a family with six children, our mom always had to get creative when helping us with our entries. I recall one hat in particular she fashioned for me ~ a colander with macaroni noodles strung from it. I was a 'Yankee Noodle Dandee'. It was a winner.

Berkshire County is one of the most popular spots in New England for 'leaf peeping'. There are a variety of trees, which lend itself to a vast array of foliage. My favorite tree, popular throughout Massachusetts and just north of us in Vermont, is the Maple tree, which produces some fine syrup. Today, in celebration of leaf peepers everywhere, I think I'll make some Maple Fudge. Here's my recipe:

2 cups maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup rich milk or cream
3/4 cup nut meats

Combine the maple syrup, corn syrup and cream in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Let cook without stirring after the boil until soft ball stage, or 236 degrees. Remove from the heat, add the butter and let cool to lukewarm. Beat the mixture until it begins to thicken and loses its gloss. Add nuts, pour into a greased pan and let cool before cutting.

fall foliage afd

drury marching band

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gelato at the Beach

Sirmione, Italy
Originally uploaded by Hannie van Heugten
Memories of Summer in Italia. This is a gelateria in Sirmione, a lovely spot in Lombardia, in the area of Garda. Each Summer, on Memorial Day weekend, we would make a trek on bicycle from Vicenza to this divine locale. It has a castle and a great beach. People are often surprised to see palm trees in the north of Italy. All in all, a great holiday spot.

Gelato vs. Ice Cream:

So, what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream? Fat. Typical gelato has 4 percent to 8 percent butterfat (the fruit flavors have the least) while ice cream can have up to 18 per cent. That extra fat doesn’t just affect your waistline, it also dilutes the flavor and adds a creamy texture that differentiates it from gelato’s slight grittiness. Plus, gelato has no air added, which intensifies the flavor and means it scoops better at a slightly warmer temperature. Gelato also has more egg yolk and milk (unlike a sorbet, which has none) and there are more fruity and nutty flavors.

Italian gelato glossary:

Gelato: lit. “frozen,” Italian-style ice cream

Affogato: lit. “drowned,” a scoop of vanilla gelato with espresso poured over it

Amaretto: an Italian almond liqueur
Bacio: lit. “kiss,” a mix of chocolate and hazelnut gelato

Cassata: a traditional candied-fruit Neapolitan
Panna cotta: lit. “cooked cream,” sweet and vanilla-ish

Stracciatella: a choc-chip gelato named after an Italian egg-drop soup

Zabaglione: an Italian custard flavored with egg, sugar and Marsala

Spiaggia delle Bionde, Sirmione

sirmione castle

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sor'acqua ~ St Francis of Assisi

"Laudato si', mi Signore, per sor'acqua, la quale è molto utile et hù mele et pretiosa et casta."

"We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure."

We take so many simple things for granted each day. A beautiful photo reminder.

Tavola di San Giuseppe ~ Table of St Joseph

A beautiful photo of a St Joseph's festa table in Scoglitti, Sicilia. You can see the breads and the wonderful desserts. 'Padrona di casa', translates to the 'boss of the house'. Though Italy may be, at first glance, a macho culture, in reality mamma runs everything. She is often referred to also as 'la capa'.

The morning of the festa,the food and wine are blessed by the priest of the local parish. In years past, when the people of Sicily were very poor, they would only have bread to share with the poor. In modern times, with increased affluence, the feasts have become elaborate displays of the richness of the land, once dry and barren. You might look at this as the Italian version of the Thanksgiving celebration in the United States.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Italy's people have a great love of many things: the arts, their history, and their customs and traditions. One tradition they hold especially dear is their devotion to their patron saints. Their homage to them include elaborate festas and incredible food.

The Festa di San Giuseppe is celebrated on March 19th, which is also Father's Day in Italy. (It seems appropriate that the Feast of St. Joseph is celebrated on this day in honor of fathers.)

Although traditionally it began in Sicily, the Feast of San Giuseppe is now celebrated throughout most of Italy. According to legend, during the Middle Ages a terrible drought and famine plagued the people of Sicily. It virtually destroyed most of their crops and many people in the western part of Sicily died of starvation. The people began praying to St. Joseph and begged for his intercession to their plight. In return they promised to celebrate his feast day by having special altars abundant in food that would be shared with all people rich and poor as their thanksgiving to him.

At midnight on March 19th the prayers of Sicily's children were answered. The rains came and the land which had been browned and barren were now lush and green again. Sicily's people has kept their promise to San Giuseppe through the generations by preparing elaborate food altars. In Sicily olive branches hung over doorways signify that a St. Joseph Altar is being held.)

Since the Festa di San Giuseppe is celebrated during the Lenten season the foods prepared do not contain meat. The main focus surrounds the variety, shapes and designs of breads made for this feast. There are three breads that honor the Holy Family. The bread for St. Joseph is in the shape of a staff. According to legend, the staff of St. Joseph bloomed with entwining flower blossoms which singled him out from Mary's other suitors as her husband-to-be. St. Joseph was a carpenter by trade and breadcrumbs signify sawdust.

The bread for Mary is in the shape of a date palm and a wreath with a star in the center represents Jesus. These three breads are placed upon an altar that has been created using the finest linens, and decorated with flowers (especially the St. Joseph Lily,) statues, candles and pictures. The staff bread of St. Joseph is placed on the left, the date palm bread of Mary is placed on the right, and the the wreath-star bread or a cross representing Jesus is placed in the middle.

The foods presented on the San Giuseppe table will include many different types of seafood (fried shrimp, calamari, fried baccala), vegetables of all kinds that will be either stuffed, fried, or parts of an omlette.) Speaking of omlettes...you will find some of the most scrumptious omelettes at a San Giuseppe table. Omlettes (frittatas) with vegetables like artichokes, cardoons (burdock), asparagus, broccoli, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and beans. Dried fava beans are a reminder of the great drought.

Desserts are also in great abundance. You will find a wide assortment of pastries, fruit, fritters, doughnuts and cakes on a St. Joseph Table. They are elegant and oh so good!!

There are a few famous saints that are celebrated here in the US, including St. Joseph. However, traditional Italians celebrate a saint every day of the year. If you are named after a saint, his or her day on the Catholic calendar is a second birthday of sorts for you, your ‘name day’ or onomastico(a) in Italian.

I grew up in a Roman Catholic family in a small town in New England, and I remember St. Joseph’s Day in particular because of the wonderful cream puffs that my grandmother made, which were also available in all of the village bakeries. In the southern states of the US, these are often referred to as Beignet (from the French). I’ll include some traditional recipes from the Feast of San Giuseppe in a future blog.

Buona festa di San Giuseppe ~ un po in ritardo!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do Sexists Fall in Love?

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, I couldn't help but think about my mom's words to me relative to love and marriage, and researching the particular phrase she used, 'why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?', discovered this wonderful article by
The Ethical Werewolf

Via Matt Yglesias, I see that
Phoebe Maltz
Amy Lamboley
have done their part in attacking an old conservative line about how women shouldn't have premarital sex with men if they want to get married -- "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" It seems to me, though, that the obvious answer has not yet come up. Why would a single man marry a woman who's already having sex with him? Obviously, because he loves her, and wants her to be with him for the rest of his life. Maybe he also wants to be the father of her children. Being in love inspires men to do big things like marrying a woman and raising a family with her. Women have many wonderful attributes beyond being people whom one can have sex with. Some of these attributes might cause one to wish to be in a particular woman's company for the rest of one's life. (I feel like I'm stating excessively obvious things here, but the conservative view seems to depend on denying them. So I state the obvious things.)
If a man is getting married just so he can have lots of sex with a woman who wouldn't have him otherwise, he's making a mockery of marriage and an awful decision. Do the old sexists who say these things see their marriages as long-term prostitution contracts? Is the emotion of love entirely foreign to them?

Monday, February 01, 2010


Another Dinner & Movie Night with our youngest. He's a movie buff and an artist, so the selections are always 'interesting'. Tonight's feature presentation ~ the HBO series Tanner '88, the first reality show, highlights the ins and outs of a U.S. political campaign. This series came out at exactly the same time we expatriated to Italia (maybe we were fortunate for this). I was amused with the 80's fashions and hair ~ made me think, strangely, of some of Natalie's pics from her recent birthday celebration in Tennessee ~ Exhibit A, 'Redneck 80's Guy Gone Wild' ~ he's bringing sexy back! ☺

wierd redneck.1

wierd redneck

Dinner tonight was not Italian menu fair, but instead, Mex-Americana ~ a favorite for Josh, 'King Ranch Chicken'. Here's the recipe:

1 boiled chicken, cooked and deboned
1 jalapeno pepper
1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 (16 oz.) pkg. grated Colby Jack cheese
1 pkg. corn tortillas
1 onion, chopped
1 can sliced black olives (optional)

Saute bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno until onion is clear. Cut tortillas in quarters. Layer tortillas, chicken, bell pepper, onion, jalapeno mix, soup, and sprinkle olives as desired. Finish each layer with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

The film was, as I said, 'interesting'. We watched the first disc in the set, and I will attempt to watch the others while on vacation in Tennessee. As one who appreciates the wardrobe elements, I was particularly amused by the leg warmers, and am actually regretting that I got rid of mine now that we are in the throes of a particularly freddo Ohio winter ~ burrrrr!!!!

The series portrays, in all too real fashion, the pitfalls of U.S. American politics, best exhibited by the theme song, Exercise Your Right to Vote.

Renegade filmmaker Robert Altman and Pulitzer-winning Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau created the Jack Tanner character, but they couldn't hope to predict the frenzy he'd create. Politicians were eager to meet him, and more than happy to pretend they knew him ~ if it would make them look good, of course. Everyone from Pat Roberston to Bob Dole happily talked to Jack and his crew, knowing he had a media blitz surrounding him. The catch is they didn't know why he had a blitz around him.

Here's a script excerpt:

[making a toast at his son's wedding rehearsal dinner]

Tanner's Father: One hundred years ago, William Gladstone, after a particularly acrimonious debate in Parliament, bellowed across the floor at his arch-rival Benjamin Disraeli, "You, sir," he said, "will one day end your days on the gallows or of venereal disease." Disraeli raised himself up and replied, "That, sir, would depend on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
Alex Tanner: Grandpa.
Tanner's Father: I tell this humorous story because it hasn't been altogether clear to me this past year exactly what my son is embracing.

The sad reality is that this film is an exact representation of the sad reality.

Working on my Southern accent and listening to a great Southern tune ~

♫♫ I hear leaders quit their lyin ~ babies quit their cryin ~ soldiers quit their dyin ~ one and all♫ ♫

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wine is Sunlight ~ Bottle Shock Movie Review

Il vino è la luce del sole tenuta insieme dall'acqua ...
Wine is sunlight, held together by water.

~ Galileo Galilei.

There are certain moments in history when America has proven itself to the world: Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon; or the US Men’s Hockey team beating the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. One such moment, however, never got the recognition it deserved. In 1976, a small American winery bested the exalted French wines of the time and sent the wine industry into a tizzy - putting California wines on the map for good. Based on a true story, Bottle Shock chronicles the events leading up to the famous tastings, told through the lives of father and son, Jim and Bo Barrett. A former real estate attorney, Barrett sacrificed everything to realize his dream of creating the perfect hand-crafted chardonnay. Along with his struggling business, he’s trying to overcome differences with his slacker son and fighting off creditors. Meanwhile in Paris, unwitting British wine shop owner, Steven Spurrier, hopes to revive his own failing business by sponsoring a competition which will pit the traditional French powerhouse against the California upstarts. Little did Steven and Jim realize that they were both on course to change the history of wine forever. Starring Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, Bill Pullman (Big Love), Rachael Taylor, and Freddy Rodríguez, the film isn't up to the par of Sideways but it is worth a watch. The soundtrack highlights some of the best of early seventies tunes.

"You mark my words, we'll be drinking wines from South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, China...this in not the end Maurice, this is just the beginning. Welcome to the future!"
~ Steven Spurrier

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Epifania 2010 ~ The Ballad of the White Horse

The Ballad of the White Horse is one of the last great epic poems in the English language. It deserves a high place in literature. The Ballad is the story of the English King Alfred, who fought the Danes in the year 878. But it is also the story of Christianity battling against the destructive forces of nihilism and heathenism, which is the battle we are still fighting.

At the beginning of the poem, the Blessed Virgin appears to King Alfred, and he asks her if he is going to win the upcoming battle. Her reply is not what he expects:

The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

The men of the East may search the scrolls,
For sure fates and fame,
But the men that drink the blood of God
Go singing to their shame.

+ + + + + + +

But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you shall have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

I tell you naught for your comfort
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?

~ G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Though my New Year's Eve celebration did not result in a hangover, I am recovering from a bout of shellfish poisoning, compliments of a lobster tail probably tainted with some preservative chemical. Spent New Year's Eve in the hospital being pumped full of steroids and now I am comfortably recovering at home. Nothing worse for a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee like myself then to face the prospect of no longer enjoying a good crustacean. I never had this problem in the many years of eating seafood in Italy. Alas, this evening I made a large pot of pasta fagioli, which is probably what we should have had on New Year's Eve, as the beans (normally lentils) are a representatation of coins, hence meant to bring good fortune. Listening to 'Planet Money' on NPR today, a commentator remarked that the economic forecasters should substitute 'ish' for the decimal point going forward ~ not very promising.

As for the Hangover, I am listening to the Prairie Home Companion on the radio and the program highlights some of the best of 2009. Included is a poet by the name of Billy Collins, who wrote this poem:


If I were crowned emperor this morning,
every child who is playing Marco Polo
in the swimming pool of this motel,
shouting the name Marco Polo back and forth

Marco Polo Marco Polo

would be required to read a biography
of Marco Polo-a long one with fine print-
as well as a history of China and of Venice,
the birthplace of the venerated explorer

Marco Polo Marco Polo

after which each child would be quizzed
by me then executed by drowning
regardless how much they managed
to retain about the glorious life and times of

Marco Polo Marco Polo

As a librarian, I found the second poem he shared quite fun as well, as it addressed the shooting of a book:


When I came across the high—speed photograph
of a bullet that had just pierced a book —
the pages exploding with the velocity —
I forgot all about the marvels of photography
and began to wonder which book
the photographer had selected for the shot.
Many novels sprang to mind
including those of Raymond Chandler
where an extra bullet would hardly be noticed.
Nonfiction offered too many choices —
a history of Scottish lighthouses,
a biography of Joan of Arc and so forth.
Or it could be an anthology of medieval literature,
the bullet having just beheaded Sir Gawain
and scattered the band of assorted pilgrims.
But later, as I was drifting off to sleep,
I realized that the executed book
was a recent collection of poems written
by someone of whom I was not fond
and that the bullet must have passed through
his writing with little resistance
at twenty—eight hundred feet per second,
through the poems about his childhood
and the ones about the dreary state of the world,
and then through the author's photograph,
through the beard, the round glasses,
and that special poet's hat he loves to wear.

Tried to embed the code for the program, but it did not work, so here is the link. The recitation is at the beginning of Segment 3.

Happy New Year e Felice Anno Nuovo tutti!

My Library Thing