Thanksgiving is Coming Soon

November 18, 2011 at 04:53 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Italy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

In only a mere week Thanksgiving will be upon us again. Already preparations are under way – house cleaning is in my forefront of necessary evils! Thanksgiving is of course, an American holiday. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated back in 1621 by the Pilgrims with their new Indian friends who helped them survive the first harsh year in a new land. At least that’s the nice story we were always taught in school. The sad reality is that the story is not quite the accurate – or should I say – the full story! Governor William Bradford documented in his diary (Freedomworks) that the original Plymouth Colony was set up to be worked and shared equally amongst all of the Puritans. However that didn’t go quite as planned. It took about 3 years but by 1623 a simple change enacted by the Governor changed the outcome. A parcel of land was given to each family for them to work and use as they saw fit. What they yielded was their own instead of having to split amongst everyone. As a result folks began to want to produce more and to succeed. As a result 1623 was a year to be grateful for most of the Pilgrims and their friends. In my opinion this is actually a better story than the whitewashed one. Funny how history repeats itself – now if we could just learn those hard lessons?

But I digress – this is about how we see Thanksgiving in our family. It is not an Italian holiday in the sense of the American one but October 4th was the Italian harvest Festival Cerelia named for Ceres. She was the goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility. La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks) is the reference to many religious days for various patron saints in Italy. These are all usually celebrated with family, friends, food, parades – and originally offerings such as first fruits of a harvest in thanks to the saint. The menu choices might not be quite the same but the joy of family and friends together over a splendid table is the same! For example they might offer ravioli con la zucca (pumpkin ravioli). Our family loves the wonderful roasted or smoked turkey – but our stuffing is made with Italian sausage. One of our favorite side dishes is lasagna! And of course we set out a huge antipasto for everyone to indulge themselves with. This week I will work on starting to make some of the cakes ahead of time – we enjoy several different ones all made with the great shaped pans I brought home from Italy. There are fancy fluted ones, tall layer cake pans in pyramid shapes, and fancy bundt style pans. Each lends itself to a shape that matches well with the type of cake batter and ultimate frosting or decorations used. Some are doused with Italian liquors or others sprinkled with sweet confetti candy. These line up next to the traditional pumpkin or mince pies in addition to an apple and a key lime pie! For myself, I cannot bear Thanksgiving without my mom’s creamed onions – and I am so grateful she is still with us to celebrate and well enough to make another batch of creamed onions!

So as I am cleaning house all week, knowing in no time the muss and fuss of cooking will begin, I find myself complaining that I have so much stuff to clean and so many rooms too! Then I realize how grateful I am that I have a home large enough to accommodate all of us when so many are homeless through no fault of their own. And then I resent that I have to work the night before instead of being home to get enough sleep before I start on the turkey and all the vegetables. And then I realize how blessed I am to have a job when so many do not. I think about how much food I must prepare and for how many people ( usually 26). Then I count again my blessings – I have enough food to feed my family and extended family! I have a beautiful family – and they all want to be together out of love, not obligation. And then I know the reality of my story – Count it ALL joy! I am truly and wondrously blessed!

Memories New and Old

October 28, 2011 at 09:24 | Posted in Fragile Family Friday, Gardening, Italian Cooking, memories | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

I have begun to read a favorite book The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken. Once again it stirs emotions and memories. I’m not Italian but my husband is. Yet in spite of not being Italian something deep inside me calls me to the kitchen in search of special flavors to treat my family to. Like the authoress I did not learn to make ravioli as a child but I did learn to cook many other meals at my mother’s side. Years later it was my sister in law who undertook the task of teaching me to make pasta and the family’s favorite ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach smothered in rich thick tomato sauce.

   

While others thought me foolish because it is so simple to buy prepackaged pasta in neat cellophane-wrapped containers, she understood me.

But somewhere deeper inside me has been a yearning to explore further, not willing to settle. Time has been spent making our yard over into a large garden.

And when the first harvests this spring and summer brought us a huge bounty of lush vegetables, I found myself not yet satisfied.

The garden was redesigned; huge raised garden beds were added and the area enlarged. More detail went into our planting layout to maximize the yields.

It’s not that I want a farm by any means. Nor am I giving into wild fantasies of no food available to eat. But something compels me to continue this quest. Next came the challenges of preserving my own fruit jams and marmalades. Then it was homemade pickles and those followed by huge beautiful jars of lush roma tomatoes.

Our sons laugh and tease – they want to know how I am going to hide the herd of beef cattle here in our suburb yard. Yet they enjoy the jokes as they sit together over a meal of big plates brimming to overflowing with pasta and homemade sauce and fresh baked bread warm from the oven!

So it is now that my granddaughters want to linger in the kitchen with me as I cook. One of them has taken to watching cooking shows on TV but she admonishes her mom that none of those cooks are as good as her nona and nono! Juliana is fascinated with the jars of marmalade and had to help with the pickles and tomatoes. She watched as I started to prepare to can them. Soon she was wrapped in one of my aprons and standing on the stepstool at the sink helping.

Together we filed the jars with the tomatoes and fresh basil she helped pick from the garden. Nono lit the fire and set the big pots of water to boil. When the jars were finished boiling in the hot water bath, we listened intently for the magic “ping” of the jar lids to tell us they were set. Juliana was so content, so happy – and then she turned to me and said, “We’re cooking great memories together, aren’t we?” How is this six year old so wise beyond her years? She got it when I wasn’t sure what it was I have been seeking. Memories. Those fleeting wisps, fragile ties to family now gone from our lives. When I was young, my father every year would bring home bushels of pickling cucumbers. I would watch as he pickled them, boiling them with wonderful smelling spices in hot brine. How I loved the crunch of those pickles! How much more I loved watching him, being with him in the kitchen. Memories. I would watch my mother enjoy her gardens, digging in the rich Connecticut soil. She could make anything grow from gentle lady slippers to the sturdy patch of rhubarb tucked behind the garage. The aroma of her fresh baked rhubarb pie would fill the house! My mother in law, too, could make a garden grow to incredible harvests. She grew everything from artichokes to eggplants. At her elbow I learned to pickle eggplants and crack green olives! We picked dandelions for salads and mushrooms for sauce. And we made fresh ricotta cheese and solid cheese for grating from fresh goats milk.

Memories. I realize it is family I have been seeking. I yearn for the family of my past …. And I want to share it with my family that they can also pass it on, my sons and their children. Through the richness of the earth to the pleasures of the food as we sit together at the table eating. Amore e’ Sapore di famiglia. May it always be so……

Random Easter Photos

April 23, 2011 at 04:56 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, family history, Fun Reminders of Italy, memories, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Easter 1957 – There I am on left wearing a dress I still remember because I loved it so much – blue and white soft stripes!

Typical Easter fare sold in stores in Italy – huge chocolate eggs wrapped in glossy foil colors – the eggs are hollow and filled with small toys!

Easter Sunday passagiata in Sperlonga

Easter flowers for Padre Pio, Itri, Italy

Easter Egg Hunt, Melbourne

Blessings of Easter

April 22, 2011 at 02:58 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Italy, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This picture hangs on the hallway wall of my sister-in-law’s home. It is a depiction of a wonderful wood carved statue that resides in Tarquinia. Each Easter the town’s people and those from surrounding areas crowd into the old streets to herald the procession of this statue being carried up and down and around the steep cobblestone streets in adoration of the Risen Christ.

Town officials, the carabinieri, and townsfolk alike are not ashamed to show their praise for Him, none of the politically correctness scenarios hold them back. Some of the story of the statue is lost to me in translation but the story basically is that the town commissioned this beautiful statue of the Risen and Triumphant Christ. When completed, the statue was so magnificent that no one wanted the artist to ever again create such a masterpiece for anyone else. Here the story of the beauty of Easter is lost to me – the town blinded the artist so he was unable to see to create anything else! No one is sure how much legend and myth is mingled with fact in this story but one fact is for sure. The statue is magnificent and the town is devoted to it.





I don’t mean to sound as if I find this silly or foolish in any way. Rather I find it a testament to the townsfolk that in spite of a less than Christian-like beginning to the acquisition of the statue, they stand proudly and in joy and in sorrow for all that it means to them to celebrate Easter. In the midst of this there is not a carnival or other foolish trappings of a street party going on. The complete festival is a parade to showcase this staute, a reminder to the faithful of the true meaning of Easter. They have not forgotten but instead choose to honor Him openly joyously for al the world to see and partake with them. What inspires me even more is the total joy they worship with – not of fear or habit or sorrow – but complete unabashed joy at the Spirit of the Day – they rejoice in the Risen Christ and all that His Triumph signifies for all men. They have celebrated year after year for a century or more now, in good times and bad, war and peace, economic upturns and depressions, in feast and famine. What has happened to us here in a land that has been so mightily blessed, that we have lost that joy, that zeal? May our hearts return once again to that place of joy in Him as give thanks and praise for His Triumphant Resurrection.



Day Planner, Task Scheduler, or Calendar Foe

April 15, 2011 at 02:43 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Fragile Family Friday, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Many times in life I have found myself questioning if I am doing enough … enough as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, and witness to others. It begins to feel as though storm clouds are rolling in about to burst over and around me while I am powerless to halt them! During many of those times I have received feedback from family or others to keep me focused. This previous month has been a difficult one. I found myself disappearing from many areas as I dealt with pressing family issues. My mother broke her hip and from the surgery and subsequent rehab, we have been pulling together as family. We saw a small setback as she was readmitted to the hospital to have testing where it was found she needed to have a cardiac stent – surgery that she came through wonderfully. We are all so grateful to the Lord for seeing her through and back on track with all of her rehab!

Once again though I find myself exhausted as I try to be enough for everyone. Working nights means so many lost days sleeping instead of being with family. Days off are spent with my mother or trying to clean the house or work in the garden. My granddaughter seeks my company as do my husband and sons. Friends are relegated to snatches of conversations here and there mostly via cell phone as I hurry to the next appointment. I think of my own grandmother and how she managed without dishwasher or microwave! It feels as though my house is gaining its own life separate from me no matter how I try to clean and organize. I find myself overjoyed at times as I accomplish a basic cleaning of the kitchen and washing dishes….I actually finished a task!

I find myself again in awe of the women in my life, my ancestors who lived such full lives. How did my mother in law accomplish all she did? Every day she cleaned her home, cooked for a large family, cared for elderly parents and parents in law (even as one battled a broken hip), and successfully farmed to feed her family. It was often necessary to walk the two miles to the farm each day. During the WWII years, she maintained her family living in a cave after the home and most of the town were bombed away. It was what most of the folks around her did too. So many women who saw this as nothing beyond what they were capable of – after all everyone else was also doing the same things. Church was a vital part of her life too, as was her witness to others. All of this without the conveniences of automated farm equipment, modern fertilizers, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, or even an automobile much of the time! Certainly there was no physical therapist or rehabilitation center to aid in the care of an elderly parent! How did she manage to schedule this life on a daily basis and still be the incredible wife, mother, friend she was?

So here I am at a crossroads learning to balance too many tasks to find my way. Why with all the extra conveniences and support do we women find ourselves overworked and tired and complaining? What is it that we seek? I know what the deep desire of my own heart is….

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

(Proverbs 31:10 – 31)

Beginnings of the Harvest to Come

April 12, 2011 at 22:18 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Gardening | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

It has been a challenge to get our garden going this year. Florida presents a different gardening experience for someone from New England and rich brown dirt. Valentino is from Italy where he too grew with a different soil and climate. We have always had small containers or tomatoes and herbs but this year we have gone full fledged backyard gardener. I won’t use the now hotly contested term but I will admit I am “one of those” homesteaders! Nothing is more special than a day in our yard enjoying what it is becoming for us!

We splurged on some baby chicks and are looking forward to fresh eggs in a few months. And we have planted one of the largest gardens ever for us as a married couple. Even our sons are enjoying the prospects of a garden harvest. They too spend most of their free time in the backyard with us planning and working and planning some more!

We have had koi ponds for about twenty years or so. We started with a basic one back at our previous home that was simply a square pond with wooden seating benches framing it. From there we have come to a simple pond near our back door, It is framed by my rubber tree plant that is more tree than plant . It is a peaceful place when I need somewhere to sit and meditate and pray. The sound of trickling waterfalls is like music!

The plants are beginning to blossom now, promises of harvests to come. It appears that we will have plenty of pumpkins by fall too.

My son’s iguana will be enjoying plenty of fresh collard greens in his diet too!

Comfrey is growing! So is the rest of the garden!

This then is what we are looking forward to…. A harvest of our garden, feeding our family, being nourished by all we have accomplished together. Today we sat out back and sipped Liquori di Zecca – mint liquor made from our fresh mint! Sipped over ice, it was refreshingly sweet knowing it was only the harbinger of our harvest yet to come!

Spring – New Beginnings, New Challenges

March 23, 2011 at 09:31 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Gardening | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The headlines have been full of ugly scenarios describing TEOTWAWKI – the end of the world as we know it. It’s no longer merely a Fox News or survivalist mentality pushing the meme on blogs. Recent tragedies in Japan and war news in Libya are added to the fuel of the economy not recovering the way the current US Administration would like us to believe. I have no desire to get into the politics of why or how or even who is to blame – seems there is more than enough of all that to go around the world many times over crisscrossing each other on each round! But my basic budget realities tell me the economy is certainly not improving in my household. I have a decided shortfall beginning to appear each time I go the gas station and the grocery store is not helping. What I felt in the wallet is now beginning to be talked about on all the news channels as well as liberal and conservative blogs alike. Food is getting more expensive, the weather is not helping, and the wars and natural disasters both have drastically affected food availability as well as cost.

So like many I have started a garden – much like the Victory Gardens of WWII. Our family laughs a lot that Valentino is a reincarnation of his grandfather Valentino who was the master gardener to beat all gardeners! He was “blessed” with a piece of land that consisted mostly of poorly placed rocks all over the side of the mountain. For whatever family reason that piece was left to him, he chose to do what we now laughingly refer to as “Given lemons, make lemonade!’ He would laboriously till each small plot of dirt between the rocks – all by hand. One certainly could not have used a tractor around all the rocks even if he was able to afford to own or run one! Because he worked each plot separately he was able to compost and till until each little spot became a wonderful raised garden plot. His yield of vegetables to feed his family became the stuff of legend that the old timers who knew him then still talk about today!

So with this in our thoughts, Valentino and I now set about making our garden. We have ample room to both have two fair sized plots – one is 6 by 28 and the other is 12 by 30 feet. In addition we have set pots and other containers everywhere we can fit them.

On our fence we hung aluminum rain gutter fastened into a window box contraption for strawberries and radishes.

The planters at the base of our grape arbor shelter chamomile as well as the grape plants.

Now we are anxiously awaiting the results of all our work – I have been tracking the expense and at this point if we see a 50% germination and crop yield, we will at the minimum break even financially for our first season! This is pretty remarkable considering the expense of buying soil and cow manure our first time out here in addition to some containers to grow in and fences! I have also started a compost heap so that we can perhaps avoid the expense of more dirt. Our future plans are to raise the beds with side boards so that it becomes easier to control the soil content and avoid some of the washout effect of rains here in Florida. We plan on saving many of our seeds to defray that expense also.

One thing for sure – my impatience (a bad trait to be sure) is showing! I cannot wait for the first salad made totally of our own produce! This being strawberry time in Florida, I decided to indulge my impatience just a bit – yesterday was spent in wicked pleasure making homemade strawberry jam and lemon marmalade (from our homegrown lemons!). The tree is still full of lemons but also ready to bring more!

The family pronounced the jam-making a complete success, opening bottles this morning to spread on toast with their espresso!

Italian Bietola Cicoria Collard Greens and Celery Comfrey Zucchini

Italian Fava Italian Loquats Rucola Tomatoes

March – The Month for Women

March 23, 2011 at 08:32 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, memories | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

All of this month most of the genealogy bloggers have been following prompts to write about the women in their lives. March is headlined as 31 days of Women. Due to some circumstances in my offline life I have not stayed on task day by day but today it’s the day we write about timelines for one of the women in our lives. Both my mother and mother in love were young women during WWII. Both were raising young children but in decidedly different circumstances.

My own mother faced the anguish of her husband being gone 38 months – much of it overseas. They were able only to communicate infrequently via letters that were always censored by authorities to prevent leaking secrets accidently. My mother had a map that she often would mark as she figured out where my dad was – he was pretty surprised she could figure any of it out considering he wasn’t able to give hints. But she would compare news from overseas with tidbits gleaned and her strong faith kept her focused tightly on praying him home!

My father in law was considered too old to serve in WWII but he had served in Africa during his Italian army days so Concetta too felt the pain of a husband gone for long periods of time. During WWII he helped the town’s folk figure places to live safely when the bombs from both sides were a constant threat. I have written before how Concetta survived the bombing and total destruction of her home. More than 65% of Itri was obliterated by the bombs before liberation came. Our family was moved to a cave on their property outside town but many families also built Indian style teepees or large lodge huts with a center pole to allow for smoke from the fire to ventilate. She not only grew her own food, she also ground own wheat for flour to bake bread and make her wonderful pasta! She scavenged for wild mushrooms, wild asparagus, and dandelions along with circoria. Her family ate well as she was so wise and attentive.

Yesterday we were supposed to choose women to represent our ancestors in movies. The obvious choice for my mother in love would be Sophia Loren. Sophia is perceived as a “sex-goddess” and a tall elegant woman. Yet as an actress, she is a chameleon who would truly understand the depth of the character and the adversity she faced in WWII with her children. My mother would be aptly portrayed by Diane Keaton. She is a vivacious energetic woman who has played many women similar to my mother. I can see her as the young wife facing working a factory job with a young baby who would later become one of the leaders in her small town as well as an accomplished poetess and homemaker.

Catch-up Women’s History Month Blog Posts

March 3, 2011 at 03:25 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, memories, Women's History Month | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thanks to Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist I am going to submit a few posts this month in Honor of Women’s History Month. This post will be a catch-up because I am a few days behind the start though. I was named for my grandmother Jane Brown Hyndman. She was also called Jean. Born and married in Scotland, she came through Ellis Island and brought her children with her to join with her husband James. No easy task for any woman, it was more difficult for her because she was lame from a childhood illness leaving her with one leg shorter than the other. Her son-in-law (my dad) chose my name for his mother-in-law – what a wonderful complement! So I was named Bonnie Jean to honor her and her Scottish roots!

I have often written about my husband’s family and often about my parents but haven’t really written about my maternal grandmother. She passed away when I was about 9 months old so I was not fortunate enough to have known her personally. Most of what I know has come through stories told by my own mother and my aunts. They all agreed there probably was never a sweeter woman than she born. She loved the Lord dearly and she encouraged all of her children to know Him in a real and personal way. Although lame she was mother to 10 children who lived. Half were born in Scotland and half here stateside. Even still her children always felt compelled to take care of her and protect her. They thought they had hidden the whereabouts of one son serving overseas in WWII only to learn later that she was well aware of his whereabouts!

Melancholy Monday

February 28, 2011 at 19:43 | Posted in Amore di Italia | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I am feeling a bit melancholy today. I worked my usual long week and did not rest enough so it is easy to blame it on lack of sleep but that wouldn’t be totally honest. Rather, truthfully I have been thinking a great deal about my childhood and my folks. Somehow someway they always managed to instill in me a sense of peace, contentment, and trust that everything would be fine. My parents did not have perfect childhoods or live in the lap of luxury but they were secure in the love of their families who then along with my parents showered my sister and me with that same love unending and unwavering. As we grew up, we understood each family faced problems but they faced them together with love and concern and respect.

My parents knew the pain of The Depression, WWII, and the fear of my father being called back for the Korean War (thankfully he wasn’t). Then came the fear of the Cold War, or Nuclear Holocaust! That shared the stage and news along with Segregation and race riots. Then came peace riots as a result of the Vietnam War. Even then through all of the upheavals and traumas, my dad remained calm and stable. We went to church on Sundays, school Monday to Friday, and knew my parents would sit down to dinner with us every night. At one point my father wrote a long letter to Senator Barry Goldwater. This quiet man who rarely raised his voice – and I am not sure I ever heard him pray out loud in public – warned that refusing children the right to pray at least in silence to themselves in school would herald a sad slide downward for our country. He felt that no matter what church one attended, if the children did not remember to start their day with a prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance, The USA would regret that fall someday. After all, these were his reasons for spending time in the Pacific Theatre in WWII – to assure his daughters would never face a US without freedom and liberty! What a blessed heritage he left us.

With all the turmoil and distrust and political upheaval in this land of ours along with all across the world, I often wonder how he would react. Even as he watched the Chicago Riots with me and scenes from Vietnam, he would always speak softly telling me America was better than that. He would remind me that I went to church so why would I doubt what the outcome would eventually be. Even when we faced a serious health threat with an infant son, my dad spoke softly and reminded me that God already knew the end of the Book!

I happened upon this video clip today of another man from that same era and he too spoke softly – he would more often use humor to make his point – but this clip reminds me of the strong quiet men who knew what being an American stood for.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com. | The Pool Theme.
Entries and comments feeds.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.