Archive | May, 2016

Un Buon Lavoro!

28 May

Translated, the title means A Good Job, and in this case, several good jobs were accomplished at our friend’s home in the country. It all started with adding some cane to the iron fence for added privacy.

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After that, we planted the garden or orto, which despite two bouts of hail, is doing quite well…tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and onions.

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When Len asked, “What else?” Fernanda said the next job was too big, but alas, off we went in search of the best wooden sheds. And soon, the building process began.

Using extra bricks from the garden…

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And some pallets …

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ingenuity set in and the foundations began to emerge.

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Oh, did I mention she bought TWO sheds?

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Neighbors Bruna and Loreno heard the noise and wanted to be sure we had food for lunch, so they generously donated “supplies” from their very large garden and healthy hens.

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Shortly after, Loreno added his expertise to the construction team. As Carlo would say, Len was the design engineer,

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Loreno was the boss of the workers, and Carlo was the worker and translator.

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It was so interesting for me to observe the communication. Loreno speaks no English; Len, just a little Italian; and when Carlo needed to run to the store for more supplies, Len and Loreno’s hand gestures, smiles, frowns, grunts, eye movements and laughter worked well.

Since Fernanda was at work, my job was to be sure the team had espresso and biscotti breaks often, and also make them lunch, which in Italy, always includes pasta.

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By the time Fernanda came home from work, the first shed was nearly complete and the team was tired but satisfied.

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A few days later, work commenced on the second shed. Understanding the construction better, the work went smoothly,

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and roofing shingles were added for extra protection.

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Mission accomplished – two wooden sheds and a big smile from Fernanda.

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Fernanda planned a BBQ dinner celebration to thank everyone involved, and as you might expect, it was quite a dinner. She and Bruna headed to the butcher for the meat: ribs, sausages and steaks.

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Bruna brought supplies from her garden.

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Loreno was in charge of the grill – his hand-made steel grill which he brought over from his yard.

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Len and I brought lots and lots of wine. And then the eating began.

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Afterward, Barbara surprised us with her homemade desserts.

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It was a wonderful evening filled with great food and lots of laughter.

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Before the sun set, there was one more thing to do…

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The three “artists” each signed a door as a happy reminder of their effort. Un buon lavoro – A job well done, for sure!

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Next up? Time to return to Chicago for some rest!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Italian Birthday!

23 May

44 years ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday at Gino’s restaurant in Rome with a wonderful group of friends/fellow students. Shortly after, I would return to the US with my badge of honor – a driver’s license showing I was 21.

Yesterday,  I celebrated my birthday, (you can do the math!), with a wonderful group of friends at Tuscher Cafe in Cortona. Soon, I will return to the US with another badge of honor – a red, white and blue Medicare card!

Yesterday was the kind of day one would order – sunny, warm, and filled with blue skies and wonderful greetings from family and friends, near and far, including this:

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Len decided we should start the day at Tuscher with brunch and a prosecco toast – sounded good to me.

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Afterward, we went for a long walk and enjoyed vistas that never get old.

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Time for lunch – back to Tuscher for Edoardo’s new fish sandwich with fries… we split one, and enjoyed people watching as we sipped some vino.

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Feeling the need for another walk, the antique fair in town was the perfect venue. Finally, we headed home for a rest before dinner.

At 8pm, we arrived at Tuscher, (yes, it was definitely a Tuscher kind of day!) to a beautiful table and waited for our guests to arrive.

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Massimo and Niccolo took care of us as Dani and Edo worked their magic in the kitchen.

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Although the invitation said no gifts please, our guests claimed to not understand English!

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Len had already given me a relaxing day at the local spa, and Benita surprised me with family tickets to see James Taylor at Wrigley Field this summer.

Dinner began with Champaign and appertivo.

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Often interrupted for photos and toasts…

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I brought hand-made honey candles for each guest and created a bit of a game around their choice.

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First course –  spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil…delicious!

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Second course – beef filet cooked to order, roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed artichokes. Perfect!

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Sometime after dinner and singing and stories, and feeling we couldn’t eat another thing, the lights went out…

And Dani and Massimo entered with this incredible wine cake with whipped cream and strawberries. Wow!

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After all other customer were gone, Dani, Massimo, Niccolo and Edo were finally able to close the doors and join us. Applause! Applause!

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Many thanks to all, either with me or in my heart, who made my day so special, and a very, very  special thanks to Len. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Molte grazie a tutti, sia con me o nel mio cuore, che ha reso il mio giorno così speciale, e un grazie molto, molto speciale a Len. Una conclusione perfetta di una giornata perfetta!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Passignano

14 May

After three house-bound days with the flu and tethered to my bathroom, the sun came out and so did I. Clean hair and lipstick do a girl wonders.

We headed to Tuscher for lunch. While the others had delicious gnocchi with red cabbage,

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I was happy with plain eggs and toast. It was so good to be eating again.

After lunch, we took a drive to Passignano sul Trasimeno in Umbria, one of about eight towns that surround the lake, and about 13 miles from Cortona.

We avoid highways whenever possible and are always rewarded with incredible scenery. At this time of year, wild poppies, or papaveri, are abundant .

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Being a lake town, there are many restaurants, cafes, and shops

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and today also a market.

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The lake has three main islands, Polvese, Maggiore, and Minore, and Passignano is one of the towns with ferry service.

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The second largest island, Maggiore, is the only inhabited one. A small fishing village, which reached its height in the 14th century, today has only around thirty residents. Most of the buildings, including the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, date from the 14th century. It is on this island where St. Francis is said to have spent time. We didn’t visit the islands today, but there is a beautiful statue of  St. Francis along the lakefront.

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While Passignano has a hilly historic center, we opted for the flat walk along the lake today, and it was perfect.

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And then we bumped into this cute couple…oh wait, we came with them.

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After two relaxing hours, we started for home, but stopped for a glimpse of Castiglione del Lago, the only peninsula town along the lake.

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As we neared Cortona, we were once again rewarded with nature at its best as the sun set over the Tuscan olive groves.

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A perfectly lovely day. Just what the patient needed!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Celebrating the Dottoressa

10 May

Micol, niece of Dani and Massimo, earned her Masters degree yesterday in Firenze. She thought the family was going to celebrate in a restaurant in Cortona, but a beautiful surprise luncheon awaited her, hosted by her aunt and uncle, in their garden – a perfect Tuscan setting.

Massimo and sons left about 7 am for Firenze to be at the graduation ceremony. In the meantime, the “work crew” arrived early to assist Dani, who had been working tirelessly for about 10 days for her niece’s party.  These photos, with prosecco, were taken AFTER our work was complete!

Massimo, Len and Francesco (no photo) took care of the outside work,

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while Lori and I assisted Dani in the kitchen.  She even made garlands for the women to wear.

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Lucky was assigned look-out duty, and would alert us to their arrival.

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Daniela wanted everything to be perfect, and perfect it was.

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Even the sun cooperated.

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The hostess was ready for her guests

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who arrived around 1:30.

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Time for champagne and family photos…

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And finally time for lunch, which included lasagna, eggplant, stuffed tomatoes, grilled sausages and beef ribs.

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After we couldn’t eat another thing, Niccolo treated us to some music.

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Some joined in,

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others relaxed,

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and some of us kicked up our heels.

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My favorite photo of Dani and Massimo!

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After cutting the cake,

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Micol took to the mic to thank her relatives not only for the day, but for a lifetime of support.

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Dani, I think all agree your party was a gift Micol will always remember.

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Congratulazioni Dottoressa,

Dottoressa

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And salute to three beautiful generations of your family!

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Ciao,
Judy

 

Celebrating Women

8 May

Mother’s Day always reminds me of how fortunate I am to be part of a long line
of strong, intelligent and loving Italian women who will always be a part of me –

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and one who still is!

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It is also a time to celebrate subsequent generations –
my incredible sisters, nieces and cousins, who are not only amazing Mothers,
but determined women who incorporate
the traditions we learned from our ancestors as they create new ones.

  And though not related, I want to acknowledge the
dear friends/wonderful Mothers
I have met throughout my life’s journeys. You know who you are!

To all, I wish you a very
Happy Mother’s Day – Buona Festa della Mamma!

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Ciao,
Judy

A Life Well Lived

1 May

As the sun sets over the valley,

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so too does the smile and love of a most kind and remarkable woman, Aunt Kiki,

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who graced us for nearly 94 wonderful years.

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Sending my love, thoughts and prayers from afar, yet so very close in my heart.

With love,
Judy

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