Tags: Easter, famiglia, family, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, photographs, religion, traditions
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
Tags: blessings, Christ, Easter, famiglia, Italy, joy, memories, religion, spiritual walk, Tarquinia
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.
Tags: cooking, economy, famiglia, family, family history, food, gardening, Italy, Itri, memories, preserves, ramblings
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
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, cooking, famiglia, family, food, Italy, love of family, memories, recipes
Cold winter nights often bring along flu and other respiratory symptoms. Nothing feels more like “Mama’s love” than a pot of warm soup. Val’s mother knew how to stretch her meager coins to feed her large family. Her tricks included never letting anything go to waste, growing her own vegetables as much as possible, and baking lots of bread. Even the stale bread was used in a meal of soup – a few pieces of stale bread could be broken into the bottom of a bowl and hot soup would be poured over it and then topped with homemade goats cheese. Needless to say, Mama always made her own broth from scratch but we now use one such as Swanson’s Roasted Garlic as a time saver without sacrificing flavor! No one ever felt they were not being fed!
Here’s one of the family favorites for a cold night:
Escarole and Bean Soup
6 cloves garlic minced 1 sweet onion chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans 1 qrt. Veg. or chicken broth
2 large bunches chopped escarole
Cook and stir onion and garlic in very large pot with a bit of olive oil. Do not brown. Add stock, salt and pepper to taste (remember broth is usually salty already).Add chopped escarole and beans – cook until escarole is tender – best when still slightly crispy. Serve with lots of grated cheese and Italian hot bread!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Christmas, famiglia, family history, Holiday Spirit, Italy, memories, Presepi, ramblings
I brought these treasures home from Italy and Germany – I hate to even take them down, preferring to leave them to grace my kitchen year round. No – they are NOT kitchen witches, although often mistakenly called so. These are replicas of La Befana also called Nona Befana.
She was according to legend an old woman who was constantly cleaning her home, something typically Italian I might add! When the three Magi came by searching the Christ Child she was too busy. Then her heart spoke to her and she began to search too.
Now she roams the earth each January 6th searching as did the Magi for Him! Let her help keep Christmas alive a bit longer for all of us each season!
Tags: Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, love of family, memories, Presepi, ramblings
Christmas is always my personal favorite – and fortunately I married a man who also loves the holidays. Growing up in Italy Valentino approached the Holiday Season a bit differently than most Americans. The emphasis was never on extravagant gifts but rather on family and sharing love, hospitality, and spiritual values with those around him. He doesn’t remember a tree being the central theme but rather the presepe – nativity – was the center of the family holiday. Later there would also be a tree that family would pose near. But it was the large nativity display that he most eagerly awaited setting up every year. Coins would be saved to buy a figure or two whenever they could afford. These were the old composition figures, many wax-coated to make the colors shine. The display would consist of all of Bethlehem as they thought of it. There would be many shepherds and their sheep scattered all over the mountain on the way to the crèche.
When Valentino and I first married, he was reminiscing about his childhood presepe and my parents were soon interested. We lived with them in Connecticut the first few years. Dad asked if Valentino would build a display for everyone to enjoy. We shopped until we found the perfect set – naturally it was from Italy, a Fontanini! Made of a safe polymer in old fashioned wood tones, it was the perfect choice for an outdoor display. Valentino built a small display right near the front entrance and covered it over with pine boughs and set small twinkly clear lights like stars all throughout them. The ground cover was sand with white flour roads to move the Three Wise Men along their journey day by day closer and closer to the crèche. Scattered about were small wood huts and shepherds with sheep. What a sweet memory – but sadly Florida hurricanes years later would ruin our few photos!
When we made the move to Florida we knew it would be even nicer to build this tradition for our children. The temperate weather here and a big covered entrance meant we could enlarge the display year by year. The boys anxiously awaited their trip to our favorite Christmas store to each choose a new figure to add to the display. It became a family affair to set up the display – usually taking a long weekend to get everything in place. Valentino would take the time to share the wonderful bible stories of Jesus’ birth in simple enough terms for the boys to understand. Soon many of the neighborhood children would want to listen too. Year by year the display grew larger and more elaborate as more shepherds and then angels and townspeople were added. Then we began to find that some smaller children were dropping by when we weren’t home to play with the figures. The Fontanini figures are unbreakable but the money we had invested in them had grown considerably. Fontanini had started a collector’s club and offered special limited edition figures that we had begun to enjoy. Sadly it became obvious we would no longer be able to make the display an outside one. About that time we moved to a newer home and gained a huge family room with plenty of space to set up the display. I discovered a group of collectors online and our involvement with Fontanini and all things Italian nativity related grew into an almost obsessive compulsion! Then we were able to visit the actual Italian factory on a trip to Italy! What a joy! The Fontanini folks are some of the warmest and most enjoyable people. They treated us to a tour of the facilities and gifted us with a few special figures that were never sold in America! Now our display is still huge but inside so we can enjoy it all hours!
May You all have a very Blessed Christmas Season and Happy New Year!
Tags: famiglia, family, family history, Italy, love of family, ramblings
Here in this part of Florida our little ones (and some not so little ones) start school next week! It used to be those many years ago when I was young (no I am NOT going to count them out loud for you) that we dreaded Labor Day Weekend. That bittersweet holiday was one parents enjoyed and children dreaded as it meant the end to summer fun and time to get ready for school. How I loved though the school shopping with Mom! We would go to the Five and Dime to pick out new notebooks, pencils, a pencil case, crayons, and lots of paper! Best of all I enjoyed agonizing over which lunchbox I wanted. My all time favorite was a shiny red plaid metal one – it made me feel a connection with my Scottish family. Although my mom was born here, most of my aunts and uncles were born in Scotland and obviously my name of Bonnie Jean (I know! I know! A real name because I’m not just Valentinoswife!) was a reminder of my wonderful heritage! Then began the quest for new clothes and of course new shoes.
My aunt told me of how she was ashamed when she did not have enough dresses for school so would turn a collar inside to hide it if soiled. She admitted later that she had more than enough clothes but in her mind she wanted more special things! I suspect she was trying to gently teach me not to be too prideful! My husband and most of the family in Italy recall wearing smocks in school. Their purpose was to protect children from taunts and embarrassment over clothes also. It was post-war Italy and money was tight for most villagers so parents were struggling to feed families. They had little money to send their children to school so extra clothes were a luxury!
How different from the lives of most of our children now. Today we face children like my grandchildren having so many clothes to choose from each morning that they want to change outfits again and again until they achieve “The Look”! One big change for us in all this was new clothes. All of the grand daughters are attending a charter school. This is a public school that is geared to helping the children excel in all areas. They are required to wear uniforms so although we shopped for clothes, we had very specific items to purchase. One positive note – although uniforms are intended to put all children on equal footing instead of competition over name brands, it is also a real help to parents. No more squabbles over what to wear in the mornings when dressing for school. The biggest choice will be skirts or pants but the shirt is standard as are the colors of skirts and pants. This will be plenty of individuality for her as she can choose between scooter skirt, shorts, capris, or long pants! Even the little jackets and cardigans are uniform issue with school logo embroidered on them.
Now as I help a little granddaughter get ready for her first day of kindergarten I am astonished at how things have changed and yet remained the same. My daughter in love and I have share shopping tips helping one another in the search for supplies. The list has expanded since my sons went to school. Now it included the usual notebooks, crayons, pencils, glue sticks, and pencil cases but also a lot more. School budgets have changed and so have teacher needs. Now the list includes plastic sandwich bags and in two sizes, Band-Aids (where did school nurses disappear to?), a change of clothes safely labeled, hand sanitizer, a roll of paper towels, dry erase markers, a box of tissues, and disinfectant wipes! Some of this pleased my granddaughter no end. She loves to clean???? Wonder whose genes those are??? So she is absolutely positive this means she gets to help clean the classroom every day! We did have fun over her choice of backpack and lunchbox. She and her cousins chose Hello Kitty themes so Auntie bought a backpack for each of the girls and we found the insulated lunchbag! Somehow I suspect we will not have escaped all squabbles though. There’s still homework to face!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, conservator, contingency plan, famiglia, family, family history, family research, filing, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, organizing, photographs, research
I took off a bit of time from writing to concentrate on family and some changes we are experiencing along with some test of family loyalties through some trying times. Thankfully love for each other has triumphed in every situation we faced. During this time we have each in our own way found what matters most to us. We have each come to the realization that even as we face anger and or disappointment in one another, we can still know overwhelming love and loyalty and even respect for each other. My treasure chest is full of love for all my family and memories of all the special moments we have shared, the tears, laughter, hurts, and joys. This time has made us grow closer and more committed than ever to each other. As a parent I have been touched by the depth of feeling my sons have shown one another as they have grown. Valentino and I are proud parents as we watch each son make the decisions for where their place is to be in life. We can rest assured our sons will never lose their bonds to one another whether we are here to guide them or not. Rather now we can see that even as they may or may not agree with all decisions the others make, they support one another through good and bad ready to offer a lending hand when needed or just an ear to listen.
In the midst of this we also have been enjoying the visit of a family member from overseas. I personally had not seen this person since he was a young boy of about four or five years old. My sons had never met him. When we first met, there was instant love. I was enthralled with his precious smile and his sparkling dark eyes. I just knew our own children (not yet born) would share those same wonderful handsome good looks! Sure enough – they did! And still do! We met our nephew at the airport and immediately we recognized him in the crowd at the same instant he connected with us. The years melted away and once again the smile and dark sparkling eyes dazzled us. Now however that sweet boy is a handsome charming 6 foot plus professor. His personality fit right in to our family mix easily. His quiet strength has been a plus to us as well as his humor. He is an outsider willing to listen and not judge but he is also a beloved family member who is respected and treasured! We are his chance to practice and polish his English as my sons and I practice our broken Italian. For our granddaughters he is the charming gentleman who has captured all of their hearts. I have warned his mother I am going to find it very difficult to return him back home to her! I suspect his uncle is going to find it even more difficult than I will!
One enticing fact is that he shares a deep love of family history. His long term plans include writing about a particular part of the family history. He began to talk about the trials and dead-ends of attempting to find information on the distant relatives. He knew I had already written of more recent family and he also knew I had worked on the family genealogy. What he didn’t know was how much more information I had accumulated in the last few years. As I began bringing out workbook after workbook and file after file, he was in amazement over all the information laid out. It covered the entire pool table – and filled many folders on my laptop! But the best part was that suddenly I was being forced to do what should have been done already. And if he wasn’t enough encouragement a phone call from another relative in Rhode Island was the final prodding I needed. It was time to actually name and label and date as many of the digital images as possible and fit them to their “proper owners” on the family tree. Every trip to far flung relatives meant I gained more scanned copies of old photos or digital images I made of them with my camera. Needless to say there is not a photo for all of the twelve hundred plus people but it felt like double that number as I have been working on them diligently for over a month using every spare moment. For some family members it meant cropping their face out of a group photo. For still others it meant dating them through many photos showing them as they changed over the years of their lives. It also meant labeling all the digital images of the villages and towns and churches and schools and even the old family homes when possible. There are even photos of the streets where family members lived over 200 years ago. I may not be able to prove which house belonged to them but thanks to information on birth certificates I was able to ascertain streets!
So this brings me to today’s treasure chest moment. My treasure chest has become my laptop. Everywhere I go it comes along for the trip. Blessed with a 6 hour battery life, I can steal many moments no matter where I am to work on the photo project. My laptop wallpaper is a replica of an antique print of the family village in Italy. Somehow I find that relaxing as I flip through files and folders saved across my desktop. As I have worked I also made certain to save frequent updates to my portable hard drive. At this point although I am not finished I have also burned CDs to send home to Italy with our nephew and to mail to Rhode Island to another cousin! Let me use this opportunity to once again admonish you all to make backups of all your work. If my laptop crashes, I would be one unhappy woman to have lost all of my hard work! It is not enough to save work only for myself. If a hurricane or other natural disaster were to destroy our home, I would risk losing all of my research. Knowing that copies have been sent to reside with other family members is double insurance against such a loss!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family history, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, Peace, WWII
Liberation Day is celebrated in Italy on April 25th. This is a day to remember being liberated at the end of WWII. There are wonderful parades in all the small towns as well as the major ones all throughout Italy. We enjoyed watching the parades in Cavezzo, a small town not far from Carpi and Modena in the Emilia-Romagna Region.
Sadly this year saw demonstrations turned nasty even in Rome – people the world over are frustrated with their governments, but let’s not forget that Liberation Day is to commemorate the sacrifices made on behalf of freedom-loving people suffering through WWII. Don’t toss that off lightly because we are unhappy now. Rather let us all remember and appreciate the awful prices our ancestors paid to give us life and for the hope of future generations. I have written before about Valentino’s family and the horrors they went through. I often wonder how they managed. I too often suspect we of this generation would not have the strength of spirit or heart to face those challenges now. How would those who live in 40 and 50 floor apartment buildings manage without electricity to run elevators? How would all those city dwellers manage to grow food without yards? It was a different time, granted. Yet we need to consider how very brave and daring they were – how self-sustaining and independent they were, willing to meet all challenges to bring about the end of the war. They often prayed it would be the war to end all wars. Sadly there are those who are only too willing to forget that. I don’t claim to know the answers to end war or to broker peace. But I do want to say thank you for those ancestors who did play a part to bring about Liberation for Europe (and Asia later) and pray we never become insensitive to their sacrifices on all our behalves!
This memorial stands outside the Church of the Annunziata in the center of Itri. The inscription reads:
To her heroes of all the wars all who come of the cross without waiting for the resurrection.
So too we offer prayers for all those of all the towns of Europe and everywhere!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories
My mother in law was one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She was raised as a simple farmer’s daughter in Italy and the family did not send her to school. She was in her seventies when she learned to read and write. She decided to learn so that she could study the bible! Incredible!
This photograph was taken only a few months before she passed away but even here, her beautiful spirit shows through! I met my mother in law 3 days after I married her son, the baby of the family – her Tesoro! But from the first day I arrived in Italy, she welcomed me with love and respect and joy. Although the family were unable to travel to the United States for the wedding, she and all of the relatives eagerly waited to greet us.She prepared a beautiful wedding reception for us in her home. The entire month she opened her home to guests from near and far who came to meet me and wish us well.
As a younger woman she assisted as one of the midwives for her area. If she sent an expectant father for the doctor, the doctor knew he was needed for an emergency. He wanted her to go to school to become an assistant but family obligations prevented that goal. Yet she learned to do many simple first aid techniques and helped where ever needed. During WWII she survived the bombing of her home and evacuation to nearby mountain caves where she cared for her family.
She never had training as a chef or nutritionist but she knew how to prepare nourishing and flavorful meals from meager supplies. She recognized which wild mushrooms were safe to eat. And she raised bountiful garden harvests of all sorts of vegetables. Her farming expertise didn’t stop with plants. During a visit to the us in Connecticut, she taught a woman in our town how to properly milk goats to yield the most milk. I knew she wanted to teach me to make cheese so before she arrived for her visit I went on a hunt for the plastic baskets to use for cheese making. Finally I bought fresh cheese that came in one such small basket and located the manufacturer on the bottom. I called the company in New York to attempt to buy a few. The gentleman listened to my story and laughed – seems the wholesaler only sold in lots of many gross at a time and I hardly needed a couple dozen. Yet he was so impressed that I would do this, he mailed me a few dozen as a gift! Concetta and I spent a happy time making fresh cheese together properly! We found local ‘ pick you own’ fruit farms and then she taught me to make jams and marmalades in addition to putting up vegetables.
During the bad times or when family were in trouble she would take them in and find ways to make do to care for everyone. She helped to raise many of the grandchildren and even great grandchildren as the need arose. Through it all she never complained. This was the meaning of famiglia! Towards the end she cared for first one elderly parent and then elderly in laws. She taught all of us what the meaning of selflessness and humility meant. She taught us love in the face of unpleasantness as well as in the face of love. She walked her faith and shared it with all of us by her deeds and actions as well as her words. Her love for family was so strong that even near the end of her life she had the presence to recognize us and share a hug, a smile, a kiss. As her son sat with her and she held his hand, once again she spoke to her Tesoro and her eyes lit with love! Famiglia! Grazie Concetta – we love you still!