Sapore di Italia

March 31, 2009 at 16:59 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Fun Reminders of Italy, Itri, Italy | 1 Comment
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This weekend we were mightily blessed as the guests of special friends. (Yes, Annette – you are a very special friend) With a hectic work schedule for me, babysitting for grandbabies as needed, and planning for our vacation, free time is rather difficult and precious. So it was tremendous joy to be invited to dinner with our friends. As they are always fun to be with, we anticipated we would once again have an enjoyable evening. And of course, we did! Stepping into their home is to feel at home! Their lovely home is a slice of Italy right here in Florida – and their warm welcomes and fabulous meals are lovingly shared in true Italian style. Our host grilled the main course to perfection while we chatted around the table. That began a sumptuous dinner of tomato salad, fried zucchinis, roasted potatoes, steaks,, delightful wine, homemade stuffed breads (Annette I need your recipes!) that were a meal in themselves – a dinner to rival any four or five star restaurant! Desert was an assortment of Italian pasties with steaming cups of espresso and frosted glasses of limoncello!

But it is the good conversation, the exchange of stories, laughter, and family that makes this the beautiful home it is! Talk of home, family, and of course Itri, and again the evening turns into the wee hours! Especially as we plan our meeting together in about 3 weeks in Itri! Their trip will have them turn southward to visit family while ours will take us northward to Milano but it is the anticipation of time together in Itri that excites us all. For it is Itri that is always central in everything we know now – a beginning, a middle, and an end to our plans and hopes and dreams – it is home!

Thanks Annette and Frank for your hospitality and friendship – a wonderful example of why we so love Itri – GRAZIE MILLE – BUON VIAGGIO!

Cooking with Family… or… How I hate to Diet!

March 13, 2009 at 17:04 | Posted in ancestry, family history, Itri, Italy | 2 Comments
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We’re a typical Italian family (even if I am was not born Italian, my husband claims I am one now thanks to 32 years of marriage with him!). This means most of life takes place around the dining room table – or in the kitchen, laughing, yelling, crying… all the stuff that makes a family real and vibrant and breathing! It seems almost every family story starts or ends in the kitchen, sitting eating, or cooking! We have four young adult sons who all still enjoy returning home to family meals — and now our granddaughters are falling right into line.

We laugh till we cry when the girls start begging mommy to let them go to grandma and grandpa’s house because they are hungry. Meg visits several days a week for lunch and enjoys grandpa’s fresh baked bread. Katie and Julie insist it is “pasta zoulie” at our house that is best. That’s pasta fagioli (pasta and beans) for the rest of you!

So this Christmas I visited the MyCanvas program on ancestry.com to make a family cookbook for everyone. I realized that those times in the kitchen were pretty special about the time the sons had good friends returning on furlough from the service who came to visit, too. We are “mom and pops’ to a lot of great guys who have been friends for most of their lives with our sons. Yet these young men so mature and even married will still look forward to “coming home for dinner” at our table!

So it was that I decided to make family our own family cookbook. I filled it with photos of great meals over the years, someof us in the kitchen actually cooking, and, of course, the finished presentation! Each recipe page featured a few lines about who taught me the recipe or who was the best at making it or when we enjoyed it the most. Anything that would make the recipe relevant to each other and remind them years from now of family times together no matter where life takes them. Hopefully it will be the memories of long talks until late in the evening at the big table that will guide and sustain them no matter what curves life throws them or what the economy does or who comes into or leaves their lives. Because as every Italian knows, if the sauce is cooking and the smell is tempting them to stir the pot and dip a piece of bread, Mama and Papa’s love is still surrounding them, embracing them, holding them tight!

Try this sure to please everyone recipe:

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb. bacon 2-4 eggs 1/4 cup basil

2- 4 tblspns. cream (I use milk)

at least 8 ounces grated cheese – good quality 1-2 lbs. spaghetti

Brown bacon until crispy and crumbly. St aside. Drain pan but reserve 2 tblspns. bacon grease. Add cream to the bacon grease and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Set pan aside. Boil spaghetti. While it is boiling, scramble eggs in separate bowl. add basil and cheese to the raw eggs and mix. It will be a thick batter consistency. When pasta is cooked, drain and rinse. Add back to pot – add warm milk and bacon grease to pasta – then stir in egg and cheese mixture. The heat of the cooked pasta and warm milk will “cook” the raw eggs. Toss well with the crumbled bacon, reserving some as garnish – put in large bowl – top with last of crumbled bacon. Once they stop eating the only thing you will hear is “Why didn’t you make more of this?”!

Tick, Tick, Tick…

March 11, 2009 at 14:33 | Posted in ancestry, family history, genealogy | Leave a comment
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If today’s post seems to ramble, bear with me – my thoughts and emotions are also rambling today. I hear the ticking of a clock in my head and I would rather not be hearing it. Today I am sixty… 60…. SIXTY… how did this happen? When? Why? I am not ready to be sixty….that is more than half my life gone. I do not feel sixty (although there are admittedly days I feel 120 but that’s another post some other day).I am still trying to come to grips with forty. Yes, the photo found here online is current. I just plain am not ready to be old. Who wants to be old..OLD?? Sigh. When I was young(er), I often would comment on women who tried to be younger than their age. This observation of course, does not apply to Sophia Loren .. probably one of the most beautiful women ever — someone I want to be just like when I finish growing up! Talk about gorgeous in style, looks, attitude!

See — told you I was rambling today! I wanted to grow old gracefully – be the gracious, sophisticated, even elegant older woman.  We seem to respect only youth and beauty – hence the booming plastic surgery statistics. It’s not that I want to undergo the knife – I just am not ready to give up energy, vitality, sexy life yet. Who is proud anymore of being their age? We all seem to want to be something we are not. For me it is not just tied up in a number. I never discuss age with anyone. I hate they think of me as old and over the hill (yeah.. I know dumb point given conceivably the entire world could be in the know now thanks to the Internet). At work, I strive to be a little better, a little more efficient, a little more organized, a little more knowledgable than the others to compensate for age. At home, I struggle to be more active, to do more work, again to belie my age. But it is still more than that. What have I accomplished in my life? It is more than half over – what do I have to show for it or have I wasted too much time? Even though I went to college for five years as a teen and twenty-something, I returned to college for a BS in Business Administration to update myself. I finished with a 3.8 overall – so old dogs do learn new tricks. I changed careers in my fifties from retail and office management to the medical field. I know I have contributed to saving lives. So that probably also counts for something. My husband and I together raised four great sons to adulthood. They are all successful in their own rights. That should count too. In the past I did church volunteering to feed hungry folks, taught classes at church for women’s groups, did church counseling. We have done emergency shelter care for families and for children when a need arose.

Yet, has it been enough? I realized today I have lived longer than my father – he died four weeks before his sixtieth birthday. Last month we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary – by today’s standards, that is an accomplishment too. As I work on all the family records from Itri, I note the women in the family who died in their twenties and thirties. There are few records to detail why or how – life in old Italy was difficult and death early was not unusual. Did they have time to think about growing old? Did they want or expect to accomplish anything worthwhile or bigger than themselves — or did they consider being the best person they knew how to be enough?  Was their focus merely surviving – or did it entail wanting to make a better life for their children than they knew? Once again I find myself caught in thinking of the past generations. I want to know, to understand, to feel what they did — I want their lessons to be ones I learn and then pass on to the next generations to come. That is the accomplishment I seek – to pass that love of family above all to the next generations to anchor them no matter what they face.

Happy Birthday me.

Good Food, Good Wine, Great Friends!

March 4, 2009 at 11:26 | Posted in Itri, Italy | Leave a comment
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This weekend we invited friends over for dinner. The house was cleaned, wood laid in the fireplace in anticipation of chilly weather, table was set with Italian linens and dishes.  The house smelled of fresh baked bread. Wine sat chilling, ready to be served. Meatballs and sausage were simmering in the big pot. Olives, cheese, and a big platter of antipasto were served to hold us over until the pasta finished on the stove.

Our friends share a love of Itri with us that goes beyond simple explanations. I am not sure it is even possible to explain to anyone what it is about this town that instills the love and pride it does. A simple dinner can last for hours as we sit and chat about Itri – how it was and how it is now. Even as it catches up with the world today, Itri retains a part of its roots and beauty that makes it a special place. It is still a town where everyone walks every day. Folks sit on the benches to chat or sip espresso outside the bars at tables set on the sidewalks. It seems everyone knows everyone else by name – or at least knows who the other person is. And newcomers are welcomed after a day or two as one of their own! After all, you were seen yesterday and you are still here. They know that  Itri is now part of your heart so they welcome you knowing you will always return here as if returning to your own home!

There is an enclave of transplanted Itranians in Cranston, Rhode Island who feel the same way. Every year in July they  gather to pay homage to their patron saint Madonna della Civita. Friends and family all return to Cranston to celebrate the festival that lasts over several days. Everyone meets for huge picnics, family dinners, or to listen to music at the neighborhood gazebo. And the old-timers share tales of the festas held in Itri and laugh and cry as they remember and dream of returning at least once more to their home. The younger generation listen and they too dream of Itri. Even though they might never have visited Itri, they dream of the day they too finally go to Itri – some with their older generation – and others go in honor of those who dreamt but could not go themselves. So it is with those of us who now feel as if Itri is our home too – even if only in our hearts. We sit and talk of common events, places, people — and we dream for the opportunity of another trip there. And we dream of someday calling Itri home for real. So we talk, we plan, we dream.  And nothing is sweeter than to share that dream with good friends!

In the Beginning…

January 5, 2009 at 23:59 | Posted in DiCrocco, family history | Leave a comment
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In the Beginning….

Valentino and Bonnie were married February 19, 1977. The evening was bitter cold in Providence, Rhode Island but excitement was high! Bonnie’s parents had come from Connecticut to help with all of the preparations. The day had been spent shopping for last minute items such as extra flowers and ribbons. Lillian wanted to add her personal expertise and love to all the arrangements and bouquets.

That evening the photographer had his car towed by the police and he was over an hour late for the reception. One of the bridesmaids, Doris, had spilled a glass of red wine all over the front of her pale blue gown. Fortunately Lillian was able to use club soda to rinse all traces from the gown before the photographer arrived for photos. No one was the wiser!                                                                             

In the morning Valentino and Bonnie drove to Connecticut to stay with Lillian and Norman until a Monday night flight would take them to Rome! They all went shopping Monday because Norman and Lillian wanted to be sure nothing was forgotten for the month long honeymoon including gifts for family!

Bonnie packed her wedding dress and carried it on board the plane where the flight crew greeted her warmly! All the women wanted to see the dress of course and mid-flight surprised the couple with an announcement from the captain! His copilot presented the couple with a bottle of champagne as the captain wished them well to the applause of all the passengers!

After Bonnie and Valentino each had a small glass, Bonnie cleverly re-corked the bottle to take with them.  It fit in her carryon bag with the neck protruding out slightly from one end. There was a long pedestrian escalator in the Rome airport that took passengers to customs and immigration checkpoints. Up two stories or more were long metal catwalks where armed soldiers patrolled. They held their machine guns in the ready position with the safety unlocked! The agents were in bulletproof booths that one would slide in passports to be checked. Suddenly a huge explosion was heard and the guards dove under their desks for protection. The soldiers were anxiously scanning the crowd seeking the person responsible. Bonnie began laughing so hard, tears were running down her face while other passengers began to giggle with her. One of the soldiers noticed a metal light fixture swinging on the long chains – and dust was billowing from its top. “The light must have exploded!” he declared. Bonnie and Val certainly had no intention of correcting him with the information that the explosion was her champagne cork hitting the metal light! She was more afraid of calling her father to bail her out of a Roman jail!

 

Hello world!

January 5, 2009 at 23:00 | Posted in Administration Sticky Notes | 5 Comments
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Welcome to my blog for and about our Family or anyone who loves Itri and Campodimele, Italy! Entra, siedi e goditi una bella tazza di cafe metre navighi! Come in and sit for awhile! Enjoy a cup of espresso and browse! Read a little history of Itri and of our family. Mostly this blog will concern ourselves about family – and our passions, joys, tears, sadness – as we journey back in time to research our family roots and as we share the joys of our expanding family.

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