Treasure Chest Thursday, The Gift of a Ring

March 4, 2010 at 04:11 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | 2 Comments
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Maria and Fernando decided to take the couple on a walking tour of Milano. They would do some shopping and visit the Duomo di Milano. Near their apartment was a small jewelry store where they looked at rings in the store window. There was a beautiful 18KT ring with a fancy vintage appeal. It was like a small flower. Valentino had bought Bonnie a beautiful 18KT cross and chain in Gaeta their first week in Italy as his wedding gift for her. He had made the promise of this gift before they were married so she was not expecting another gift. After all, the entire trip itself was a gift of a lifetime dream for her. All day they gazed in store windows and occasionally she would try a ring on for size and look. She would gently tell Valentino that none were as pretty or unique as the first small ring near the apartment. And then she would remind him she was not expecting a ring because she already had her wedding ring!

The next day they were scheduled to take the train to Germany to visit Carlo and his wife Elsa who were unable to make the trip to Italy. Bonnie spent a lazy morning washing her hair and packing for the train trip. Maria made her a special breakfast while the men took a walk together. Valentino was like a boy when he returned, too excited to hide his surprise for the following week when Bonnie would celebrate her birthday in Germany. He had a beautiful small box with the precious flower ring inside! He and Fernando had gone to the first store and bought that ring as a gift! After thirty years together and many wonderful presents, it was still her favorite because it held so much love!

Furry Friends Friday February 27, 2010

February 27, 2010 at 04:04 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Carnival of Genealogy, Fun Reminders of Italy, Furry Friends Friday, memories | Leave a comment
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One of those great fun days in Italy way back in 1977
We played with the pigeons near the Duoma di Milano for the better part of an hour feeding them corn we bought from the lady selling to all the tourists!

1977 Milano in the Piazzo

February 19th, 1977 – 2010

February 19, 2010 at 06:08 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, DiCrocco, family history, memories | 2 Comments
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Today is a special day – at least it is for me! It is my 33rd wedding anniversary to Valentino!

Yes, I really am Valentinoswife – and blessed because of it! It seems that so many folks are rushing to get divorced – or we read the latest statistics that claim over 50% of Italian males and over 60% of Italian females cheat on their spouses! Those are frightening statistics to me. I cannot imagine that many unhappy people – yet it seems I know many of the unhappy ones here in the US. I haven’t seen the latest fidelity stats for the US, but I bet they aren’t much better than Italy’s. I do know that many years ago I made a decision to not watch soap operas on Television. It seemed that the poorest person lived better than most folks I knew – serving tea in from fine china in mid-afternoon while real folks were working. And it seemed most women were engaged in one affair after another. It felt a bit too much as if they were pushing the general idea that it was okay because everyone was doing it! But I wasn’t and I didn’t want to. This week a few of the younger women I worked with asked what my secret was to stay married so long. Another asked what it was like to wake up with the same partner every day for 33 years. I have no answer but I do know marriage is work. It is a state of mind. It is a decision one makes – to stay married and be committed to each other or not. Valentino said there was no point to being married or even getting married if one had not already made those decisions. As for the waking up to the same partner every day: I cannot imagine a time when I would not! I cannot imagine what it would have been like if I lost him during any of the medical crisis we faced over the years. When on our honeymoon we heard a love song played over and over on the radio everywhere we went. It had won the San Remo Music Festival that year right as we arrived in Italy. You can read about that experience here but I have to tell you, we listened today to that song already. It still brings tears to my eyes remembering how romantic and special that time was.

Through my husband, I was blessed to become part of a large extended family and welcomed with open arms. I learned from my mother in law how to share my sons with future daughter in laws as she shared her son with me. Her heart and arms opened wide to accept me and love me unconditionally because her son did. I learned that money did not guarantee happiness but love and respect do! I learned that family stick together no matter what even when upset with one another. I learned that even in spite of disagreements, family pull together to help, to protect, to love one another no matter how far apart they are in miles or years! As I research the family tree, I learn the stories told for years by one another – and I uncover some they did not know before.

This then is the legacy I hope we are passing on to our sons and their children. It is legacy of love, of family. Happy anniversary to me – and to Valentino – I love you know more than ever! For always!

Sumptuous Sundays – En la Cucina

February 7, 2010 at 05:30 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Italian Cooking, memories | 2 Comments
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If you’re from an Italian family, you know at least 70 times 7 recipes for SAUCE – or as some refer to it, GRAVY! You probably know it by several names! For instance if there is meat or fish it is sugo. Succa and salsa were other names too.

Somewhere right now someone’s mama is making a huge pot of sauce, standing at the stove, gently stirring with a wooden spoon. If it’s Sunday, the famiglia is getting ready to gather together for their mama’s cooking! Someone else is probably trying to sneak around mama trying to dip a piece of bread in the pot already! Nothing says home and love like opening the door and smelling the wonderful aroma of that pot bubbling away on the stove. After all the sauce needs to simmer and bubble for hours to bring out all the robust flavor.

I had always been a great cook. From the time I was a child, I loved to cook. My own mother was a collector of great cookbooks and she was a gourmet chef who could whip up fantastic meals for two to two hundred on practically no money and certainly no effort! So I learned at her elbow and won awards in both high school and college for my skills as well as the accolades of friends! There was never a recipe that I was intimidated by. I enjoyed the challenges.

Then I met Valentino. Oh! How I wanted to impress him – and I was sure that a home cooked meal was the way to do so. After all we all learned the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. So I decided to plan a nice little dinner affair of spaghetti, Italian bread, salad, a little wine! Maybe even a homemade cake for desert. Or maybe homemade minestrone? Then somewhere around there I lost my mind and my nerve. I decided to ask a girlfriend for an “authentic” sauce recipe – after all, she was Italian American so I assumed she would have a wonderful recipe perfect for the occasion. What I didn’t assume was what I spiteful hateful jealous so and so she was and no part of a friend. I was cooking for the man she had a secret hankering for! According to her “Italian grandmother’s old family recipe”, one was supposed to make big round meatballs and drop them into the tomato sauce already simmering without cooking the meatballs first. I asked her if she was sure about that. I certainly had never heard of meatballs done that way. Let me admonish anyone who is questioning this method – it is NOT good! It produced the most horrible tasting concoction I have ever tried. Valentino spit his out and then just sat looking at me for a moment with his huge dark eyes. He finally quietly (amazing for an Italian, huh? Sure sign of SERIOUS) “What were you trying to do? Poison me?” Fighting tears of embarrassment I explained who gave me what recipe. His eyes grew wider and then he exploded in laughter. Seems I was the only person in Rhode Island who did not know how this gal had stalked him at one time! I was played the fool for sure.

He finally stopped laughing and decided to give me an impromptu cooking lesson. A can of black olives, lots of minced fresh garlic, some olive oil and a fry pan – we had Spaghetti Aglio e Olio! That following week he introduced me to his cousin Liz. This dear cugina has spent hours since then teaching me to make many family favorites and the tricks known only to Italian cooks to make sumptuous meals from next to nothing. Later it would be Mama Concetta who visit us for two or three months at a time and take over the kitchen. Then I was able to stand at the elbow of a master chef and learn! We would put up hundreds of jars of tomatoes, pickled eggplants, green beans, jams and more. She taught me to milk goats and how to make our own fresh and hard cheese. And bread! Her daily bread baking would fill the house with a wonderful aroma each morning! Of course I also learned the finer points of pizzas as she spoiled our sons with their favorites. But my lessons did not stop there. Soon my dear sisters in law would share more lessons with me. I learned to travel with a notebook to write down all the recipes and hints and tips. Stuffed breads with spinach or broccoli, leek soup, roasted herbed potatoes, pane di spagna, lasagna, granite, brandied fruits, fried squash blossoms. Even now there is nothing more special than being “en la cucina” with one or more of them as we all laugh, gossip, and cook. Famiglia! Mangia! Buon Appetito tutti!

Treasure Thursday – January 21st

January 21, 2010 at 01:29 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday, Wenz Hammerlee | 8 Comments
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This week my sister and I sat together for hours literally working on a labor of love for family. My posting here has been sporadic of late as I have had to deal with one family situation after another. The Good Lord has kept His Eye on all of us and we have come through most of the storms, but I can’t and won’t dare to say we have been untouched because that is the one thing I can assure you is true. We have been touched deep to our core as we have dealt with family& medical emergencies, especially during the holiday season, including the loss of a much loved aunt. With her passing we now have lost the final of four siblings – my dad, two brothers, and his sister. My dad was the first to pass away back in 1983 and it is still as fresh and painful as yesterday. At times like now he is missed even more as this was a final chapter for us in some respects.

This all becomes part of my Treasure Chest of Memories and Emotions. Aunt Beverly passed December 17th, 2009. She is the wife of my Uncle Clifford written about in an earlier post “The Policeman and The Case of the Silver Spoon.”  This beautiful woman had the sweetest shy smile, yet was so beautiful she could easily have been conceited. An accomplished businesswoman, a medical professional, she was also a wife and mother with many varied hobbies. This gal begged my mother to teach her to sew and then went on to even tailor men’s suits for her husband. Her sewing room was one of the best stocked and most organized I have ever seen. Later she would encourage me to sew more and even taught me to smock! When my sister and I were younger, she used all sorts of scraps of fabric to sew us a huge box of doll clothes one Christmas for our Ginny dolls. I can’t imagine how long she worked at this gift but there were probably close to a hundred little outfits for us! We had the best dressed Ginny dolls in our group of friends!

So my sister and I spent our day putting together a tribute for Aunt Bev’s Memorial to be held next week. But long after we finished I sat late into the wee hours going over old family photos and remembering so much of my childhood and the stories I heard about the childhood of these four siblings. How my dad loved his brothers and sister! He loved his parents too but it was his great grandfather and his siblings that stole his heart! Even when there were family disagreements ( and of course there were), to the end of his life he hurt and rejoiced for and with his siblings and loved them dearly! It was by his example we learned the meaning of family and to appreciate the rich history of our roots. We weren’t nobility or famous or even very rich – yet each member held a valued place in the family itself and thus an important place in our hearts.

So now my family has shrunk in the physical sense but my treasure chest of memories and emotions is ever rich and overflowing as I think of them. I know they are all happy to be once again sharing a laugh, a tear, a hug – and we may miss them but can’t help but be happy knowing they are together again!

                                                   

Wordless Wednesday – January 20th

January 20, 2010 at 18:55 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, memories, Wenz Hammerlee, Wordless Wednesday | 4 Comments
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Bicycle fans

Bicycle fans

This is 3 members of my side of the family. Yesterday I spent an emotional day going through old photos – this is a favorite.

Advent Calendar Grab Bag December 9th

December 9, 2009 at 10:13 | Posted in Advent Calendar, Carnival of Genealogy, memories, Spiritual Walk | 3 Comments
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We had one Christmas that for our family will always be a special one for our family. It was 1984 and I was ill that year. I was thrilled when we found I was expecting our third child. We wanted a big family. I loved being pregnant and loved having children. I knew from the time I was a young child that I wanted to be a wife and a mother. Every decision in my life revolved around being a mother. But then only a month pregnant, we were handed devastating news. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I fit none of the criteria for someone at risk but there it was – cancer. The doctors immediately wanted me to start medical treatment which would include an abortion. The emotions rollercoaster I was facing was amplified of course by hormones. One thing I was sure of though was that I could not have an abortion. For me this was not an option. I knew that God would not honor a covenant of life with me if I did not honor one with Him. I offer no political discourse or condemnation of others who choose differently, only that this was true for me. The doctors here in Florida were not happy with my decision.

That summer we drove back to my hometown in Connecticut and I visited the ob-gyn group who has delivered our first son and talked. As they listened, they offered support and love. If I were still living there, they would have had no problem with seeing me through this decision. They actually agreed with my decision. They felt much of the treatment could wait until after delivery. They did want me to have a procedure done while pregnant to remove as much of the cancer as possible but it did carry a risk of miscarriage so it was important to be at a place where I could stay and maintain bed rest, not travel. We returned to Florida and I began the hunt for a doctor. A girlfriend found one in Jacksonville where she lived who would accept me for treatment. We met and my husband and I knew he was a great fit for us. He felt the risk was great but he was willing to do everything he could medically to help me! And so I moved myself to Jacksonville with my girlfriend’s family. The plan was for my mother and my husband to care of my two young sons back at home. The surgery went better than expected, buying me time to not need further chemo treatment during pregnancy. There were many special incidents while I was in the hospital that proved to me that God was in control but those will be saved for another post another day. This post is about Christmas.

I returned home after thirty days and spent the next few months in prayer and on bed rest. I trusted the Lord that no matter what was to happen; it was all part of His Plan. The evening of December 23rd, I suddenly began to experience back pains that I was sure were labor even though Daniel was not quite due for another couple weeks. By the time I arrived at the hospital, I knew he was not waiting! We brought along a cassette player and had soft hymns of praise playing softly in the birthing room. A short one hour and twelve minutes later Daniel arrived! We were blessed with our third son, healthy and perfect in spite of all I had been through. The next morning was December 24th, Christmas Eve. When we left the hospital, Daniel was slipped inside a huge Christmas stocking, a gift from the hospital Pink Ladies!

I would less than 2 years later have another son even though doctors told me it would not be possible to get pregnant again. And I would again face another bout of cancer within that year after Vinny being born more serious than this occurrence. I would also experience God’s blessings through my cancer and I would be healed in spite of doctors’ predictions of impending death. But it was this Christmas that we realized God’s gift to us as our son was born. He was indeed the most precious gift my husband and I could ever wish for — and that was a very special Christmas indeed!

Monday Madness – La Befana

November 23, 2009 at 15:18 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Fun Reminders of Italy, Italy, Madness Monday, memories, Spiritual Walk | 4 Comments
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It may seem a bit early to many but for me it is typical. It is the week of Thanksgiving – and while I am thinking of all the blessings in my life in anticipation of Thursday, I am also thinking about Christmas. Like most Christians, I realize I am blessed most because of God’s gift of His Son – the Babe who was born Christmas morn!

So now you ask what this possibly has to do with Monday Madness or La Befana. Well, to be honest, I am feeling a lot like La Befana this year, more than ever as a matter of fact! La Befana is the Italian version of Santa Claus – although children also know Babo Natale. The Italian children all anxiously await the visit of La Befana. La Befana was an older woman who spent her life cleaning and cooking with her broom not far away from her grasp. Finally came the evening that 3 Wise Men stopped at her door. Greeting them with her broom in hand, she refused to go with them on their search for the Babe. After all she had cleaning and sweeping to do! Suddenly a few moments after they left, she realized what she had been asked. They were searching for the Baby Jesus! How could sweeping possibly be more important than that?! She ran after them, fast as she was able. Suddenly her broom took her aloft and she flew over rooftops searching to no avail. So now year after year she flies out again in search leaving small gifts in children’s stockings in hopes she finds the Babe!

Monday Madness? Yes indeed. See, it is holiday time and I am in full meltdown mode already. I am the world’s best list maker. I think I’ve mentioned before how writing lists helps me to calm through organization. Seeing it in writing means I can manage in smaller bites, crossing off as I go along. So here I am. List Time. The Thanksgiving menu has been rewritten at least three times and I have no idea why. It never varies from year to year. I suspect that is the problem. I really REALLY want to add something new. This year we decided to eliminate one item. I KNOW that will be a mistake that we will hear about for years to come – 2009 was the Thanksgiving WITHOUT lasagna. There ARE two turkeys and a ham though! Course there’s also half the friend’s list to feed! Why should I feel so frazzled, already worrying about decorating for Christmas? It is family tradition here in the Di Crocco household: the Saturday after Thanksgiving is DECORATE DAY! Out come boxes and boxes of decorations. Everything is unwrapped from the tissue paper and Bubblewrap™, lovingly placed out to think about Christmases past and people associated with each decoration. So many were from my grandmother and mother or from special friends. Every year meant a new ornament for each child, dated and signed with their name.

But back to Monday Madness. This year I am thinking more in terms of how blessed we are as a family. We have had our share of tragedies and sorrows along with the joy. We have family members out of work and struggling. Bills go up while paychecks remain static. Yet, I do have a job. It is one that gives me pride. It’s not one that pays enough to cover what I want covered but I am so much more blessed than others. In the midst of all the holiday frenzy and complaining about how much I have to do without enough time or money, I suddenly am forced to stop. Have I become lost like La Befana? Has sweeping the cobwebs become more important than remembering what the upcoming season is really about and what is really important? This year I want Monday Madness to settle to Calm, Peace, and Tranquility. Not just for me but for everyone. If I must rush from place to place, task to task. Let it be to share the Gift I have been blessed with. Not just to witness of my personal spiritual walk by testifying verbally. Rather, let me share my faith and my values by my deeds, my actions, my sense of peace, by love. Let me show love instead of, in spite of, and in the very face of hatred. Let me now unlike La Befana be willing and able to drop my broom.

Another Blog and Changes Here

November 22, 2009 at 16:30 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Current Events, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Political Opinions, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have decided to make some changes to my blogging habits – hopefully for the better! This blog is going to be for things related primarily to my Italian research and all things Italian genealogy related. I have started another blog Valentino’s  Wife that I hope you will all visit and subscribe to. I also hope it will be a place to generate more discussion between all of us! It will have similar limits to use such as this blog – everyone is welcome and invited to comment but I want everyone to be respectful of everyone else. Although I prefer to keep it open, please remember sometimes children come along possibly unsupervised so no outright obscenities please!!! We are supposed to be the adults! Ha!

Valentino’s Wife will be a bit more loosley organized in certain ways. We will take a more open approach to discussing events, politics, religion, family, recipes, travel — whatever strikes our fancy – and by ‘our’ I mean all of us. I want your input too! If there is sometihing of interest you want to talk about – tell me! We won’t quite be an open forum but similar in that I will make a post and hopefully all of you will join the conversation! In any event – the posts there will not be rehashes of what is here so visit both – and feel free to join in!

Day of The Dead – We Remember Il Morti

November 2, 2009 at 11:03 | Posted in Amore di Italia, ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, DiCrocco, family history, family research, genealogy, Italy, Itri, Italy, memories, Tombstone Tuesday | 2 Comments
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Mama e Papa

Mama e Papa

 In Italy, All Saints Eve or Day of the Dead is  day of remembrance and honoring the dead. There is some slight confusion or mingling of the two days – November 1st celebrates the saints and November 2nd is to actually honor the dead. I figured today I would explain to those not familiar with some of the Italian traditions about cemeteries in Italy. Land is at a premium in Italy – available land is needed for farms and housing. Each town though has a walled cemetery usually set outside the main part of town. Inside the walls of the cemetery are considered consecrated land having been blessed by the priest. There is usually an area where smaller metal or wooden crosses adorn the graves of those who cannot afford larger headstones. Headstones in Italy are often works of art with beautiful sculptures on them. Many also have an encased photograph of the deceased. The walls of the cemetery usually are also crypts for those who choose not to be buried in the ground. After approximately 20 years families will reuse the graves for others in the family. Bones of the buried are moved to what is called a bone room housed in the basement area of the chapel. This may seem morbid but is actually a matter of family honor. On this day once a year, everyone goes to the cemetery and honors their deceased ancestors! Flowers are everywhere including at the chapel. Families visit the graves often and bring flowers but this is a special day for everyone. Mass and prayers are offered up for all of the deceased. Sadly we Americans do not have anything of this nature and it is a shame. Our children are not taught to remember those who have gone before us. There is not an emphasis put on valuing what our ancestors did for us. In a land such as Italy where children understand that land and homes have passed from generation to generation, children learn of the sacrifices of their ancestors on behalf of family. It is the respect for family and history that endears Italy to so many of us. It is the call upon many of us to want to return to this sense of family and remembering with pride and gratitude that we understand forms the underpinnings of a civilization that will survive instead of merely exist until something else comes along to replace it.

So it was for me as my mother in law accepted and welcomed me to her family. I was never treated as only a daughter in law but I was loved as a daughter, a member of the family! Of course family has disagreements and times of strife but they are always family, always there to help, to liten, to offer advicde, to love! Famiglia!

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