God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Memories are Good Friends

Remembering is such a great way to use time —getting lost in memories of special places, special times and, best of all, special people. By remembering, I retouch moments and friendships from our story book, remarkable year in Tuscany. By remembering, what almost seems unreal becomes real once more. By remembering, I know that we actually lived the dream shared by many. By remembering, I know that dreams can be moved from the realm of wishes into the joys of reality.

Today I am remembering a special person from our days in the vineyard with its quintessential Tuscan views of hills and farmhouses and castle and evening light found only there where we lived.

Special Sara—so many talents wrapped up on one lovely woman.

Let’s see—what are her attributes?

Thoughtful--without question
Competent--in everything
Reliable--without fail
Enjoys life--moment by moment
Problem solver--remarkably so.

Sara is what we in the States call an Office Manager but she is so much more than that. Really, I think that without her Viticcio would cease to function--but, please don't tell Alessandro that I said this.

Sara took very good care of us each and every time we had a problem--be it with the infamous, legitimately maligned Poste Italiane, a recalcitrant computer or taste tasting my chocolate chip cookies. She was always there for us. We love her.

Sara and her husband Francesco are dancers. They love to dance. It is their passion. They take dance classes, enter competitions and even make videos. This is their latest. Aren't they wonderful?

As far as I can determine, Sara has only one fault—but it is a big one—flying phobia. We wish that this were not the case as we would love to show off San Diego—but, it is hard to get here without boarding that big plane. Maybe some day she will make this dream come true—for us and for her.

Yes, Sara is a pleasure to know and call a friend. And…we all miss her and are anxious to exchange hugs in June.

Baci e Abbracci, Sara.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Off to the Oscars

As Casey would say------Just Kidding. Scherzo!

This is not a posting--really. But if you want a day brightener, check out Casey's latest blog entry. He saw Extreme Home Makeover the other night and now fashions himself as a budding renovator and cameraman. When you consider that the dialog came while filming, it seems he's picked up the lingo. Truth is, he's pretty proud of his first feature film.


Tearing Down My Room

P.S. If you go there and can figure out how to do it, leave him a comment. They're great motivation for him.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quick--A Recipe

I have several friends who write wonderful food blogs, complete with pictures of delectable things they whip up on a seemly daily basis. Not too infrequently a dish sounds and looks so deliciously good that Casey and Ken end up with a new and exciting taste treat. My friends are good!

Now, I do not have a food blog and there is a good reason for this--I am not a very exciting chef. More often than not I get ahead of myself in a recipe and end up doing something wrong. Detail is not my forte--never has been. Usually the result is edible but not the recipe's intent nor what was expected.

But..the other night we had two huge dungeness crab--a real weakness of ours. Preparation is so simple, crack the shells, get out the mayonnaise and begin to feast. Most special for me is that along with the sumptuous taste comes great memories of long ago years when my dad worked in San Francisco. We loved the nights he would bring home crab and fresh bread from the wharfs--what a treat that was.

This night though there was so much meat that we couldn't finish it all--a situation which I thought was not possible. The next day I turned to my trusty cookbook--the world wide net--and looked for pasta with crab recipes. I figured that I might as well combine two of my favorite foods.

I found one that sounded really really good as it included one of my other favorite foods --asparagus. I made it; it was good; I now share it with you--my contribution to the food blogging world. Unfortunately, being new to this genre, I forgot a cardinal rule--take pictures--so you will need to use your imagination. Judith, Jerry, Palma--I will do better next time.

Quick, Easy-N-Fast Pasta with Crab Meat and Asparagus

2 T. butter
2 T. Extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ C dry white wine
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¾ lb asparagus, washed, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 2 inch lengths.
¾ lb crab meat, preferably fresh Dungeness
½ C chopped Italian parsley, or a mixture of parsley and another fresh herb such as dill, tarragon, chives or basil
12 oz. fettuccine or other pasta
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-4 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling for the pasta. Heat the butter and EVO in a large skillet or sauté pan and sauté the garlic until it’s translucent. Add the pepper flakes, wine and lemon juice and simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Add the asparagus to the pan, cover and steam until it is just tender crisp. Add the crab meat and the lemon zest and toss gently until thoroughly hot.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in the boiling water until barely al dente. Drain and add it to the asparagus mixture, tossing to blend. Toss again with the herbs and transfer to a warmed serving bowl or plates, sprinkle with the cheese and serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

From Razzle Dazzle Recipes

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Rose is a Smile

Casey brought a smile and a gift from the garden--an early valentine that was better than anything the 14th could bring. This was a gift for no reason other than he likes to make me smile and likes to say "Gramma, I love you."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Ugliness of Lies

Almost three years ago, when I started this blog, I shared that I am one of that unusual breed that is a born again Christian, believing in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and a card carrying democrat--I Am a Paradox. For many people this is an irresolvable contradiction. But… for me, it is immensely logical and understandable. There is a book, Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat by Tony Campolo, which speaks to the problem of seeing human and social issues through the medium of political labels. It is a good book and should be read for its perspective and open-mindedness.

Politics are too often manipulated to polarize people, effectively derailing evaluation of issue legitimacy and meaningful debate; thus, the search for solutions is at best delayed at worst never achieved. Sadly, there are people of influence who successfully use their platforms to create unrest via false rumors, twisted truth and manipulation of fears—rational or irrational. To be fair, there are such people on both sides of the equation.

So—why this entry, now? Because I am upset about the bigotry, ugliness, lies, deliberate preying on fear and hate that is swirling around Senator Barack Obama. I am not promoting Obama; I am promoting fairness, ethics and honest debate. Our leaders must be elected on the basis of issues—not deceit and appeal to baseness.

This week I received an e-mail from a dear friend of mine whom I love. Politically we are on different pages in different books except for the one book we both try to live by, God’s word.

I had read that there were scurrilous e-mails circulating with deliberate, malicious lies about the senator, preying on the paranoia and legitimate fears that have become post 9/11 life. Until I received a copy of one, I had not realized how evilly hateful they are, how widespread they are or how believed they are by good people victimized by trust in right-wing demagogues who delight in exerting influence via twisted or non-existent truth.

What frightens me is that the lies are so easily disproven and seen for what they are with easy research—thanks to Google, Yahoo or whatever. Is Obama a Muslim or a Christian? This is such an easily answered question. Here, in a search that took two minutes, are his clearly stated beliefs in an interview in Christianity Today.

Does he refuse to salute the flag? Rush says so. Ann says so. Was he raised a Muslim? Is he a closet Muslim? What do he and the facts say?

I am worried that people so readily accept the demagoguery of men and women operating from agendas meant to prey on fear and which fly in the face of democracy--a form of government where decisions are to be made on substance, philosophical disagreements, issues, opposing understandings as to how to achieve a common vision and other legitimate factors.

I am upset that my friends will not enter into a dialogue about these things, that they will not research or consider information that is shared with them. I am upset that they question my faith because I vote differently than they do.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Birds and The Bee

I know I have been absent lately and haven't written much. But, really it isn't due to laziness. I have been trying to pull together a 17 day trip to Croatia while we spend two months in Europe next summer--most of the time in Italy--surprise!

For some reason planning has not been an easy task. My only consolation being that my friends who have gone before me say it was one of the hardest trips they have planned---a relief as I thought it was age.

So, at this moment I am taking a break from eye-poppping internet searches trying to find the perfect inns and B and B's and the series of endless e-mails back and forth across the world. I want to share with you something that has brought smiles to me lately.

During our wonderful year in Italy there were so many lovely photo opportunities that I began a "picture of the week" segment. Today I am resurrecting it as I love the charm of this picture which is now my desktop.

This is the view from my kitchen window here in San Diego. I melt into it sometimes and just dream.

If you look closely, you can find a bee enjoying the nectar. Do you see it? And, what little people are holding forth inside? I wonder...........