Friday, April 29, 2011

international cuisine

I started today by making scones for a Royal Wedding watch party (don't judge). The party ended up getting canceled due to some cable outages and crying babies, so Graham and I had a party here on our own. I found a way to watch it on the internet (keep in mind that this was not in the middle of the night like it would have been for you in the States, because we are an hour behind London time here), so Graham and I whipped out our best British accents along with some English tea and had a jolly good time. Graham accidentally fell off his chair and actually stayed in character the whole time by proclaiming in his best accent, "I'm alright. I'm alright. Carry on."

Might he be an actor?

Since I had a bunch of extra scones lying around, I took some to the farmers right behind my house. I was pleasantly surprised by the small conversation I was able to hold due to my slowly developing Italian skills. The farmers obviously weren't going to let me go home empty-handed, so they gave me a bucket load of fava beans. I'd never seen these things before living here. Since I live in farm country, I now notice them growing everywhere. I did some research and discovered that they are a "cover crop" to protect soil. They also help replenish the soil, so farmers will cut them back and use them for mulch. Pretty interesting, huh?



Anyway, some say they've been eating these things in this part of the world since ancient times. You can eat them just like a fresh pea out of the pod, or you can boil them up and add them to pasta, or salads, or just about anything.

Can I tell you a secret, though.


Okay, thanks. Um, I don't like them. They have a much stronger flavor than expected and can sometimes be rather sharp and biting. My research tells me they are supposed to taste creamy and buttery, but my research is sadly incorrect. So disappointing. Don't always believe what you read, especially on Google.

Have a nice day.

Oh, and what should I do with all these beans??

Thursday, April 28, 2011

sweet home alabama

 My daddy is from a little 'ol town in Northern Alabama named Cordova. Home of the Blue Devils. 

He picked up and moved to Wyoming back in his hippie days, so that's where he ended up having and raising me. Eventually, he moved back to his roots, but that was long after I was out of the house, so I never got the chance to live down South. It still holds a very dear place in my heart because we always took the time and money to visit it. My whole life, Alabama has been a place to look forward to, a place to long for, a place of refuge and vacation.

For me, Alabama is banana puddin', sittin' in Grandma's living room, playin' with cousins who had funny accents, honey-butter on homemade biscuits, Grandpa playin' guitar, Grandma's sweet tea, long games of poker around Grandma's table, cornbread, fishin', hikin' in the bluffs, baseball, humidity, lots of huggin', air conditioning, and, of course, fried green tomatas.

It's a place where Grandma and Grandpa Howell lived good, long lives and are now buried right next to each other along with many of my ancestors. It's a place that always makes me feel at home, even though I've never lived there.

My heart is aching for Alabama and especially Cordova right now. Much of the town was blown away by the storms. As far as I know, all of my family members are okay and they are taking care of each other.

To all my family, I feel really far away from home right now and wish I could give ya'll big hugs... I'm sending hugs and prayers from afar...

 I pray that you can soon find peace.

Love ya'll.

Monday, April 25, 2011

teach your children well

In addition to enjoying our days in the Italian sun, Graham and I are spending some time with these books.

 This one is awesome, so far. It keeps Graham's attention really well, and he seems to be grasping the concepts, little by little. The best part for me, a mom who has no idea how to be a teacher, is that it is scripted. It tells me exactly what to say to him, and he responds really well to me when I go into my "teacher mode." This book also includes some writing exercises, which are a struggle for my little guy. He doesn't seem to enjoy learning to write letters. He puts up with it for about five minutes and then just wants to draw circles. I'm hoping that every little bit will help and one day he will enjoy it...

Optimism and persistence are the keys, right?

The Easter Bunny brought these books. Graham really likes them, but it is difficult for me to get him to read them by himself. He just likes to look at the pictures while I read, because that is what he's been doing his whole life. It's a weird transition for him to start sounding out the letters. Another problem I'm finding with these books is that they are so simple that he just memorizes them, so it's hard to tell if he is really getting it. What I love about them is that they use the same concepts as the 100 lessons book, so Graham can see it all come time life.

I tell you what. This is quite an adventure teaching a kid to read. I had tears in my eyes today as he truly read some of the words on the pages. It's an incredible process.

Thanks to my dad always singing around the house, I can usually think of a song to go with my thoughts during the day.

Here is the song I've been singing in my head today (you can click on it to listen):

"Teach the Children Well."

scenes from my Pasqua

Oh, had I a golden thread and a needle so fine

I would weave a magic strand of rainbow design

of rainbow design.


In it, I'd weave the courage of women giving birth


In it, I'd weave the innocence

of the children of all the earth


Children of all the earth.

Show my brothers and my sisters my rainbow design

Bind up this sorry world

With hand and heart and mind

Hand and heart and mind.

Oh, had I a golden thread and a needle so fine

I'd weave a magic strand of rainbow design

Of rainbow design.

Above are some images from my Easter weekend, along with the lyrics from the song, "Golden Thread." Performed by Eva Cassidy, and written by Peeter Seeger.

(One of my favorite songs).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

talladega nights

This is Graham's good friend. They are pretty much the same age. They both loves race cars, especially Lightening McQueen. When they get together, I often hear them discussing monster trucks just before entering into hour long wrestling matches.

In some ways, they remind me of the guys in the movie, "Talladega Nights."

I imagine it's only a matter of time before they start saying something like, "Shake n' bake."

Monday, April 18, 2011

beautifully bizarre Napoli

There simply are no words...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

our humble villa


I am not an interior designer. It is possible that I could be an interior designer, because I can dream up the perfect room. What holds me back is that I am not a shopper. In fact, shopping produces a very strange anxiety in me that usually results in me getting nauseous and then deciding that I can live without whatever it is that I am shopping for and leaving the store refusing to spend a cent on anything.

Everything in our house, except for our beds, was either borrowed, purchased second-hand, or simply given to us. The same goes with most of my clothes. They are either from Ross or from a good friend. I just can't bring myself to spend money on things. I look at the price before I look at anything else. When I was in college, I would go to the grocery store and try to get what I needed while spending the least amount of money possible. Tony has helped be break this habit by convincing me that we need to eat, and we like to eat good food, so spending money on food is a necessity and an easy way to improve our quality of life. He taught me to just consider it as one of our bills. Now, I just load up the cart and close my eyes when I run the card through the money-taking device.

As you can imagine, then, I do not know how to shop or spend money to give some flare to a home. This particular home needs a lot of flare, because it is a lot of big, open space. This is the upstairs.

It is where we spend most of our time, and it is not comfortable to me. The thing that makes it the least comfortable is that there is not room for all three of us to sit together. When Tony and I sit on these two chairs, Graham crawls all over us and jumps from chair to chair until I finally just stand up and say, "Enough!" Then, I go hide under the covers and hope the room transforms itself overnight.

We have a couch downstairs that matches the two chairs. I am thinking of bringing it up, but I'm not sure where to put it. Plus, it is really heavy. Plus, then there would be nowhere to sit downstairs, which is where we put the TV for watching movies. Since we don't have network TV, Tony and I end up watching a few shows online, which means we sit in these two chairs and look at the computer together, which is never very comfortable. See, it's a problem.

We won't talk about the empty wall space, because I think I have a solution for that. Tony picked up a couple of paintings on canvas from Africa. They are currently being stretched onto a board so we can hang them up on the walls. I'll show you pictures when that happens.

In the meantime, please tell me. What would you do with this kitchen/dining/living-type-room-thing? Help! Oh, yes, and as you shout out all your wonderful ideas, please keep in mind that the walls are sort of diagonal. Does that even make sense??

Okay, so that's what I don't like about this space. The things I do like are: the natural light from the windows, the window above the sink, the fact that the windows are actually doors that lead to the patio, and, of course, I loooove the view I get to stare at all the time.

Oh, and here's a picture of our bathroom, where we spend a good amount of time, as well.

Stay tuned for more pictures of our villa. I'm working on getting each room clean enough to photograph!

Plus, taking pictures of rooms is quite difficult. More props to all those wonderful bloggers who blog about their homes and take good pictures of them.

This is tough business.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

happy as a clam

I once tried to be a vegetarian. It lasted until I got pregnant, and for the first time in my life, I actually craved meat. Chicken figures, to be exact. I decided that pregnancy came with a set of its own restrictions, so why place any more upon myself. If I wanted to eat meat, I ate it.

I didn't go back to vegetarianism after pregnancy, because it never felt quite right to me. The thing that bothered me most about it was the attention I got for it. If I ever ate at someone's home, they felt obliged to make me a special vegetarian dish. I didn't like that people always went to great lengths to ensure my vegetarian self was happy. I don't like attention.

My new motto with food is that I eat what is in front of me. If someone else prepared it and it is meat, then I eat it, and often times I even enjoy it.

Today, I was really glad this is my motto, because when I showed up to eat lunch at my neighbor's house, she had prepared a nice dish of linguine with clams.

Um, did you know that clams gross me out? I mean, just look at the things. Ewe. Gross. (This is where I think I should mention that this is not my photo. I just found it on the internet somewhere).

I would never choose to eat clams for lunch. But, there they were. Prepared and in front of me. I had to eat them, because, well, that's my motto, right? They are a bit of a delicacy here as they are in most places, so they cost more, and Rosalinda was just beaming with excitement to give them to me. She gave me a rather large serving of them.

My heart sank, I felt nervous, nauseous, and terrified. What was I going to do with this giant dish of clams? I wanted to run for the hills. I wanted to fake a sudden onset of something really contagious so they would insist that I go home and rest. Of course, neither of these options were possible for me, because above all else, I cannot find it in my heart to be rude to people in their own home.

You know that scene in "The Lion King" where Timone and Pumba show Simba how to eat a grub? Simba picks up a worm and the music drops and sort of goes nneeeer-oearrrr as Simba is letting it slither down his throat. Then, after a few seconds - for effect - Simba proclaims, "Slimy, yet.... satisfying!"

 No? You don't have that move memorized like I do?

Oh, well, anyway, I ate the clams. And I liked them. I liked them a lot. I ate them all.

And they were satisfying.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Meet Emanuela. Isn't she a doll? Yes, she is very sweet, but let me tell ya, she has a mean kick that sort of blew Graham away...

She lives just a hop, skip, and a jump away from our house, and she has become Graham's good friend. It's funny, because they can't really talk to each other, but they manage through broken Italian and English, sign language and interpretation from Emanuela's older sister. They seem to get along just fine.

Emanuela lives with her mom, dad, and older sister. They all live right above Emanuela's grandmother, grandfather, and aunt. A typical Italian way of living. Her aunt first came to babysit Graham back in October, and the family has sort of adopted us since then. They are always willing to help babysit, they are always around for a nice visit, they make the very best cafe, and they like to cook for us. I am going over to their house on Wednesday for lunch. I will try to take more pictures of the family, but right now, I'd like to focus on Emanuela.

At first, she was very shy and stand-offish. After several encounters with her, though, I have started falling in love. She is very sweet and always greets me with kisses. She loves Graham and is very good at sharing her toys with him. She draws pictures and writes letters to me when I visit her. She always expresses much appreciation when I bring Graham over to play with her. She told her mom that she is determined to learn English so that she can really play with him. I told her mom that Graham and I need to learn more Italian!

Emanuela is kind, loving, and helpful. I was visiting the other day, and for some reason, their cafe maker exploded and shot espresso all over the kitchen. Within seconds, she had a wash cloth in her hand helping us clean up. Ah! I just love her!

Being in the military means that you often make friends with people just in time for them to leave town. It can be really frustrating and makes me not want to put in the effort to create relationships. Luckily for us, Emanuela and her family are not in the military. They have lived here since the beginning of time, and they will definitely live here as long as we are here. I look forward to watching Graham and Emanuela's friendship grow as they grow and learn to speak one each other's languages.


Friday, April 8, 2011


For the past few months, Graham has been participating in a gymnastics class at the base here. He loved every minute of it, because his teacher was incredible. She had a cute song and dance stretch routine to get them started, followed by complicated obstacle courses that they actually followed, then ended with bubbles, which are always a good idea.

Unfortunately, she is moving, so there won't be gymnastics offered this spring. I'm hoping like crazy that someone will fill her spot, because it was the perfect activity for Graham. It was a good way for him to learn some coordination, because Lord knows I won't be able to teach him anything in that department.

Well, my mind is kinda blank right now, so I guess that's it for now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


As I've mentioned before, I am sort of a Catholic. That means that for most of my life, I have observed the season of fasting and prayer called Lent.

As a kid, I would always give up treats for Lent. Do you know how difficult it is for a kid to not eat any sweets for 40 whole days and nights? It was particularly difficult for me, though, because I lived in the land of kids who weren't Catholic and didn't know a thing about Lent, so I was always having to explain myself when someone offered me candy and I refused. Plus, one of my good friends always had a birthday in March, which coincided with Lent, and she would have the most terrific birthday parties filled to the brim with cake and candy. From 3rd to 9th grade, I had to endure these parties. My mouth would water as I sat and ate endless amounts of other junk food like chips and juice in order to avoid the cake and candy. I remember once sneaking bites of a Snickers bar after all the other girls had fallen asleep.

It was not my best moment.

So, being the good Catholic girl that I was, I confessed this indiscretion to my priest. It took me weeks and weeks to summon the courage to tell him. I thought I'd have to be saying Hail Mary's for the rest of the year. He just said to me through the little screen, which is weird that we didn't do face to face confessions in this tiny Catholic community of about 10 people, as if the priest didn't know who he was talking to... So, he said to me through the little screen, "Sweetheart. Breaking your Lenten promise is not a sin. It is just something you try your best to do, but it doesn't count as a sin."

Not a sin?? No Hail Mary's for the rest of the year? You mean to tell me that I've had all this pressure on me from what I thought was God to not eat treats during Lent, and it is not even a sin? That I was putting the pressure on myself? Well, I'll be...

After that, I continued to give up treats for Lent, because I felt that it was a good thing to do. I realized a few years ago that it sort of became a self-pride thing, though, and less about Jesus. So, I gave up giving up treats for Lent for a few years. Genius.

This year, I thought I would try it again. I decided to give up treats and drinking wine at home. That's right. Only at home. I mean, come on, people, I live in Italy.

I haven't been doing perfect. I've taken a bite of chocolate here and there, but for the most part, I've been observing my Lenten fast. Then, last night, something happened. I decided that, well, you see, I live in Italy, and, well, I'm not going to live here forever, so, well, I sort of bought a carton of gelato from the store and then proceeded to make a decedent Italian meal and drink some red wine with it...

But I'm not a sinner, right?

I'm only human.

p.s. Could somebody please tell me if I am supposed to capitalize the word, "Lent." Or, is that just my Catholic guilt coming out?

Monday, April 4, 2011

come to Napoli, part 27

Alright, people. It is time for you to come visit Naples. I got so excited when a friend from college sent me a message saying he and his sister would be stopping through Naples for a night on their way to Ischia. The mother hen/girl who misses friends from Gonzaga came out in me and I basically took over their itinerary and told them they must stay at our house and that we would definitely take them to the ferry station in the morning.

Tony whipped out his excellent tour-guide skills and made sure we ate at the best pizza spot in Naples, now even more famous from the movie, "Eat, Pray, Love." I think Tony and I did most of the talking as we excitedly showed them this crazy city, and then we talked even more as we showed them our home.

Graham was so excited to have people at our house during breakfast time that he also talked their ears off and made them play a little baseball with him before we could go to the ferry boats.

We may have gone a little overboard in our hospitality when we started emptying our spice cabinet into their backpacks to ensure they had flavorful food when camping... 

Then, of course, we had to show them around the town of Pozzouli, where the boats are, and make them eat more gelato with us before we let them go on their excursion.

Luckily for us, our guests were from the Chambers family, so, naturally, they were good sports and endured our overly-enthusiastic tour of Naples with smiles on their faces.

It felt very good to catch up with an old friend and to feel the spirit of Gonzaga in our home.

Thanks for stopping by, guys. It was a true delight.

So, who's next?