Memorial Day, 2015


It has been a very busy week here, starting with celebrating my birthday and ending with ‘The Wedding of the Year’.  (more about that later)  Our friend, Richard was planning it and suggested that I might like to help.  So I did.  For the wedding on Saturday, there were flowers EVERY WHERE (more about those later too).  This morning they were all being thrown away.  Nearly killed me. 

One day last week I read an article about the history of Memorial Day in The Washington Post.  It was originally called Decoration Day.  And I remember it being called that.  I also remember being hauled up to Frankfort for a picnic on the Capital Lawn followed by decorating graves in the cemetery where Daniel Boone is buried.  (It was still celebrated on May 30 then and we did get a day off from school) 

That was one of the few times of the year that we saw ‘the Margarets’.  ‘The Margarets’ were two sisters-in-law.  They had the exact same first and last name.  (you would expect that of an Italian family but this was on my Mother’s side.   The ones that came over just after The Mayflower and had lived in the Frankfort area forever.)  One Margaret, the one I think that we were actually related to, was tall and skinny.  The other Margaret was a short, dumpy woman (probably very much the same shape that I am now).  Honest to goodness, she looked like a bull dog.  Very jowly, with a sharp nose and bright eyes, glasses, always a hat, gloves, purse, and well dressed.  And she had a gravelly voice. 

I don’t think either Margaret had children, but I am certain that bull dog Margaret barely tolerated children.  Well, there I was with all my girl cousins.  There were 4 of us ‘in stair steps’  two years of age difference between each of us.  A loud noisy bunch.  I remember being excited to see my cousins and then I would realize that bull dog Margaret would be there too.  I also seem to remember that one or possibly both of the husbands of the Margarets had been killed in WWII.  So I think this was the reason that the whole extended family made a real effort to observe Decoration Day with the Margarets. 

One more note about the Margarets and then I’ll wander around to my point.  In the movie, The Help, there is a scene in a grocery store where a short, dumpy woman is standing by the frozen food counter.   That women was bull dog Margaret!  The spitting image.  The hat.  The glasses. The jowly face.  The gloves.  The shiny purse hanging on her arm.  I was screaming with laughter when I saw that.  The casting director must have known bull dog Margaret.

Now, I’ll come to the point.  Each of my parents came from a big family.  On both sides the ‘brothers’ (including my Father) went off to fight and returned safely from WWII.  Altogether the two families probably sent 10 men.  All of them returned.  So it was only on this one day of the year and only seeing the two Margarets was the point driven home to me that some men didn’t return.  As I closed out a week of celebrating I realized that it was Memorial Day and that Ben and I should do something to observe it. 

In between rain showers this morning, I gathered up just one small part of the beautiful flowers from last night’s wedding and we took them to the WWII cemetery near Foiano.  While I pulled the flowers from the car,  I thought about how in Frankfort and at Arlington National Cemetery, a stranger to me is decorating the graves of men who served who were related to me.  And I am decorating the graves of men from Canada, the United Kingdom and India all strangers to me, who did not make it home from WWII.  

On Monday, even if you don’t go to a cemetery, take a moment to think of and honor those, men and women both, who have served their country. 

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Half of the cemetery at Foiano.  (I wrote about this same place in November, 2014)

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Catching up


I was doing so well wasn’t I?  A new post every day or two….  And then nothing!

For some reason, unknown to me, I could not get my posts to publish on my blog.  And even though I had several waiting I just couldn’t get them to publish.  And then serious preparations for the ‘wedding of the year’ started and since our friend Richard was involved I got to be involved too.  (there will be several posts soon about it)  And then my birthday happened.  That took a big chunk of time but now things are slowly getting back to normal.  So enjoy these two below that are new, (iris and strawberries).  More to come next week.

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And I’ll tell you all about our spring snow.

We’re thinking about iris


It is that time of year here. 

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This is the group by the door which has never done this well.


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And this is…

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the group that Richard and I dug up 2 years ago to make way for my daffodils near the house,  We divided what we dug up, half for me and half for him.  He helped me roto-till this bed below my garden and we moved them there. 

I think they like it there.  What do you think?  Keep in mind, I do nothing to this bed.  Whatever fertilizer and water they get washes down from the flower bed above.  I weed, maybe once or twice a year.  That’s it.  

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The line below this picture was going to be

‘Why be purple when you can be red?’….


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And that would have been true until the rest of the red tribe showed up.


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I have no idea where all these red iris came from.  We didn’t have them last year.


If you are headed to Florence this month, there is a large iris garden which is open to the public near Piazza Michelangelo.



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When I was growing up, there was a farmer who would come through our neighborhood with a truck full of strawberries.  He would lean out the window and I can still hear him call out  STRAWWWWW….BERR…IES. 

That was a long time ago, when doors and windows were open. When kids ran in and out of all the houses in the neighborhood.  When you knew when meal time was because you heard your momma ring the bell. And you best show up! 

I have been reading in The Washington Post about this Maryland couple who are in trouble because they allow their children to walk home from a neighborhood park alone.  When I was 10, maybe 12, I used to ride a city bus into town and go shopping and then ride it home by myself.  I used to ride my bike to the grocery or the drug store by myself.  I know times are different now but the articles I have been reading show that most times kids are interfered with by someone they know, not total strangers. 

Here in Italy, I don’t know what happens in big cities, but in our small towns it is not unusual to see kids walking alone, going here or there.  And in Monte, everybody knows the child, probably went to their christening, baptism and every other event in their lives. 

When I win the lottery, I think I’ll phone up the parents of the free range children and offer them passage and moving expenses here.  They might be able to get refugee status for being ‘abused’ by their government.

Well, that’s a long way from strawberries isn’t it. 



Grill Pans


Why did I wait so long to get one?   A lot of it was cost.  I started looking for one last fall thinking that I would buy it for myself for Christmas.  But I am a tight-fisted old chick and just would not part with $80 or $100 for a pan.  Finally maybe in January or February I found one on sale at COOP (a local grocery) for $20.  And it was cast iron. 


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I am so tickled with it and probably use it 4 or 5 times a week.  I go through ‘phases of cooking’  where I am excited about some flavor or taste or ingredient and will continue to make dish after dish with whatever I am currently excited about, tweaking it a bit or trying something a little different.  (Fortunately, Ben is very patient about this and never says ‘What? Again?)  So in addition to grilling everything I am exploring mustard.  Making a grilled mustard marinated chicken served over salad with a mustard vinaigrette and ‘deviled’ panko crumbs.  A variation of a recipe in the April/May issue of Fine Cooking.  And then there is the Jamie Oliver tip of smearing mustard on the cooked side of a hamburger and then flipping it back over and cooking the mustard side a again for a bit, making a tasty crust.  But I have to take it further by making a mustard butter mix, spreading it on the hamburger bun and grilling that too.  Hmmmmm. 

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And of course there is the old stand by, Thai grilled eggplant salad over rice.  I have added grilling the shallots.  Very tasty too.


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Then there is all that leftover steak from sagras.  Recently I have been grilling some polenta and maybe a veg or two, then throwing the steak on for just a bit to warm it up and make a nice hot steak salad.  Mustard vinaigrette of course. 


And then look what I found.

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FLANK STEAK!!!!!!  You just don’t know what a big deal this is.  It is not a normal cut of meat to find.  It is lightly marinated.  It cooked up just great on the grill pan, served with a mustardy hot German potato salad, of course.   In another few weeks I’ll be tired of mustard but I don’t think I’ll tire of the grill pan.  I’m so glad I found one. 







Sagra and Festa Posters


One of our favorite times of year has started.  Ben keeps a very good list of what is happening on his blog .  Many times when I am out and I see a poster for an event, I will just take a picture for him and send it to him.  I like the posters.  So I just save up the pictures and make them into an occasional blog post.  Just because I have the pictures doesn’t mean we have gone to the event.

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This one has a display of the large white cattle that are Chiania beef


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Cinghiale Sagra


In the Spring several hunting groups will hold cinghiale sagras (wild boar). 


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This group had some educational posters about wild boar up.

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Of course we were there for the food.


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I had to ask, macchia is local dialect for cinghiale.  Maybe since the hunting society is known as ‘The Friends of the Macchia’  the dishes called ‘Macchia’ are wild boar actually killed by the members of the society and the other cinghiale is commercially produced?  Not sure.  Anyway, we all had steak.  First an antipasta platter to start.

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The large spicy tomato one was the best.  The darker piece of meat is cinghiale prosciutto. 

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The pasta course with cinghiale sauce.


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The very large steak.  A lot of which came home with us and will be hot steak salad and possibly a steak sub.


We were there with our friend Dinah and


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This cute dog that the couple from Florence who joined us at our table brought along.  He was very well behaved and was rewarded with our left over steak bones. 










Wisteria Time


Right outside my office window is a pergola that is covered in light pink wisteria.   I would describe the smell as being ‘cloying sweet’.  The bees certainly love it.

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Elsewhere on parts of the property, Costantino has not yet gotten around to mowing so there is a sort of romantic wildness about it. 

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White flowers bulbs of some sort that have naturalized.  Before the chickens got in and started scratching around they were much prettier.


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The little white flowers are what I call ‘Tuscan daisies’.   They have an altitude range, above a certain level they don’t grow.  We did not have them at the other place where we lived.


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It really does look like something that you would see in a movie.


Happy Derby Day!


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What can I say?  This was the picture on my French calendar of Japanese wood cuts for the month of May.


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What are the chances that a little old Louisville girl, living in Italy, would buy a calendar in France with a picture for the month of May of racing horses in Japan? 

Don’t know if I’ll manage to catch the race (that 6 hour time difference is a killer sometimes)  but if I can I will try to listen to it on the radio because I think my first grade sweetie calls the race….

Daffodils Portraits


When we lived in Virginia I had a number of varieties of daffodils.  Their blooming periods would overlap.  Each year I would try to cram one of each of them together in a vase and take a group portrait.  Here I don’t have nearly as many varieties and they bloom separately with little overlap.  So their portraits have to be ‘fluffed out’ with other spring greenery.  I finally realized that the stuffa that was left from the previous tenant of our apartment was not going to go anywhere (unless I moved it and it is very heavy) so I have turned it a ‘feature’.  Some place for our ‘lobby flowers’.  That way I get to enjoy them but don’t have the pollen in the house with us.

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The earliest with flowering quince


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The group from the lavender pot with flowering pear maybe.  Don’t miss Bendy and Bendy Jr. riding a chicken.

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The ones that were planted last fall.

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These are very delicately colored.  They start with the yellowish color which after a day or so changes to sort of a melon/pink.  Very pretty.  The smaller white flowers come from the property. 

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There are drifts of them wherever Costantino and his tractor and the chickens have let them be. 

And those are the Spring, 2015 daffodils.







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