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Halloween TRICK or TREAT?

31 Oct

The last few days, we have been admiring the beautiful fall colors in Chicago. Today, we awoke to this Halloween TRICK…

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Even the remaining geraniums were confused…

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But by early evening, the TREAT was in sight. The snow had ceased, the skies were clear, and the costumed candy seekers were happily ringing doorbells.

Perhaps next year there will be a run on “snowperson” costumes!

☃️☃️❄️❄️☃☃❄️❄️❄️☃️❄️❄️☃☃❄️❄️☃❄️❄️☃☃❄️❄️☃❄️❄️☃❄️❄️

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Vortex. Bomb Cyclone. Frigid Temps. Enough!

2 Mar

Sometimes you learn about things you’d prefer not to learn about, especially when the learning is experiential. Such has been the case this winter.

The first experience was January’s Polar Vortex. For me, it was the least bothersome of the weather events as it was January in Chicago, a time I expect it to be cold and blustery. Besides, it was pretty sunny as we went about setting new weather records.

Then in February, Len and I were visiting family in Michigan when we received weather related warnings on our phones:

Detroit Free Press

Possible bomb cyclone, seriously? We charged our phones, found candles, and waited out the next event. Although very windy and cold, the biggest impact on us was our cancelled flight to Chicago rescheduled to the next day.

Then this morning, we were greeted with these weather headlines:

Chicago Tribune, ABC7 Chicago and WGN_TV

Enough of this frigid winter! But it is March and I know soon enough, with a few sunny days and a bit of warmer air, the snow crocus will rescue us from the long winter as bits of green begin peeking out of the slowly thawing winter ground.

Wikimedia

Vortex? Cyclone? Frigid temps? – thanks Hal Borland for reminding us that
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.

Ciao,
Judy

Surviving the Polar Vortex!

30 Jan

Some people attend the Olympics hoping to experience a record being set. Today, I just had to walk out my front door to experience one myself.

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Now if that isn’t enough to freeze your bones, take a look at the “FEELS LIKE” temp…

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-49°, seriously?

I awoke to find several kind messages of “Keep Warm” from friends across the globe, so I’m adding the conversion to celsius:

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How does the “real feel” really feel? I put on a down coat, warm hat and gloves, and stepped outside for about 15 seconds. Granted, not enough for frost bite, which can occur in five minutes, but enough to feel the biting air, especially as the winds are 20-30 mph. My assessment? I think I’ll stay inside for a few days.

Our morning newspaper headlines were filled with caution:

©Chicago Sun Times:

©Chicago Tribune:

In case you are curious, The Washington Post provided a good explanation of why this is happening.

©The Washington Post

Oh well, -27 or -29, it doesn’t really matter, except perhaps for the meteorologists who just love breaking records.

Most transportation in and out of Chicago has been affected and nearly every academic institution as well as countless restaurants, businesses, etc., are closed today, and probably tomorrow. Warming shelters and food banks are busy welcoming those in need and people are encouraged to check on at risk neighbors and elderly. Let’s hope people stay inside so the first responders can as well.

As for us, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, the refrigerator and wine cooler are fully stocked, we are warm, well, and weathering the weather, plus, I experienced a new record!

And, looking ahead, it’s supposed to reach 46° on Sunday, a great day for a long stroll in the park. 

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Ciao, 
Judy

 

 

 

2018 in Review

31 Dec

A great way to look back at 2018 is through my photos. For me, they paint a picture of wonderful times spent with family and friends. Each picture brings a smile to my face and each memory reminds me of how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

A look back at 2018…

Florida in winter

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Summer in Chicago

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Thanksgiving

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Key West Destination Wedding

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Christmastime

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Cortona and all around Italy

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As we end another year, many thanks to family and friends, pictured here and not, who continue to enrich our lives as we create the future together.

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From Chicago to Cortona, from our hearts to yours,
our very best wishes
for a healthy and happy 2019!

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Happy New Year! Buon Anno!!

Ciao,
Judy

A Grand Slam Night!

9 Jun

Last month on my birthday, while still in Cortona, Benita called with birthday wishes and a surprise gift – she bought us tickets for a CUBS game on June 6. So off we went last Wednesday.

As is always the case, whenever I get near Wrigley Field, I love seeing the iconic marquee above the entrance, one that has welcome fans for the last 80 years!

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What was new for me was all the renovation across the field on Clark Street. I knew that a hotel and many restaurants had opened, but this was my first time seeing them.

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Should you not have a ticket to the game, every restaurant has open seating with large TV screens. And while you can’t literally see inside the ball park from there, you can certainly partake in the cheering!

Benita had chosen Dutch and Docs for our dinner, opened just 2 weeks ago, and named in honor of players who had carried one of these two nicknames over the years.

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We started with the cauliflower toast – delicious!

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Len and Benita followed with fried entrees while I opted for a salad. We put off dessert till later, walked around a bit, then headed for our seats. Our view from behind home plate was terrific!

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At game time, the sun was shining, the skies were blue, the wind was still and the temp was 70° – a perfect evening! Benita posted this on Instagram:

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As for the game… for about half of the game, CUBS led 3-0, until the Phillies scored two runs in the top of the 9th inning. Damn.

It was about 10 PM, bottom of the 9th, and after two CUBS were on base, Len wondered aloud how many extra innings this game might go. Suddenly the bases were loaded and Jason Hayward was facing the pitcher.

With two outs and two strikes, he let one go deep into right field. And that, my friends, was a walk off grand slam!

The over 41,000 fans erupted! CUBS WIN 7-5! CUBS WIN!

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Oh, what a night, what a very fun and memorable night…

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And what a very perfect birthday celebration for me.

Thanks, Benita, you sure know how to pick ‘em!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Weather Wonders

27 Feb

Chicago or Cortona? 

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These days, pretty hard to tell just by the weather.

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If you’ve seen international news lately, you’ve most likely heard of the BEAST, a Siberian weather front impacting much of Europe. Icy roads mean closed schools and often some businesses, especially in steep hill towns like Cortona. 

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This is happening at the same time Chicago is experiencing a few 50° sunny days.

My Chicago street:

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My Cortona street, 

Pre-salting…

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Post-salting…

(But, of course, nothing stops the garbage ladies, nothing!)

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Now the freeze does carry some good news…the lingering cold and ice should hopefully kill the spread of the dreadful mosca (flea) which invaded the olives two years ago and decimated the harvest for many.

With this is mind, let it freeze, let it freeze, let it freeze… just not for too long!

And soon enough, Cortona will be welcoming all the lovely signs of spring once again.

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With thanks to my Cortona friends for the snow photos…

Ciao,
Judy 

 

 

 

Snow Day Trip to the Zoo

12 Feb

Over the last 9 days, depending on one’s location, Chicagoans have received over 18 inches of snow. So what exactly does that look like on our deck?

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And at Lincoln Park Zoo?

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Surprisingly, not too many people decided to venture out.

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But we did find some hearty souls enjoying the afternoon.

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And scores and scores of icicles.

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As we reached home, the sun began to erase the clouds,

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and paint the sky a beautiful blue,

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reminding us once again, in the words of  “Hal” Borland,

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.

Lucky for us on both counts!

Ciao,
Judy

Riccardo Trattoria

8 Feb

Last night, Len, Benita and I shared an early Valentine’s Dinner at our favorite Riccardo Trattoria and took advantage of Chicago’s Restaurant Week special pricing. For just $33/person, we each selected three dishes from the ANTIPASTI, PASTA E RISOTTI, CARNE E PESCE, and DOLCI menus, and then shared them family style.

We have been patrons of Riccardos since it opened in early 2006, even before it had been granted its liquor license. We saw the sign on the door and were delighted that an authentic Italian restaurant was opening just blocks from home. And it has not disappointed – ever – probably because owner/chef Riccardo Michi began his career and ignited his passion at a young age in Milan in the family business and continues his passion today.

So what did we feast on?

For starters:

 

Followed by:

 

And finally dessert:

 

Delicious, fun, and lucky for us, a little trip to Italy just a few blocks from home. 

Buon Appetito and an early wish for a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

Andrea Bocelli in Chicago

7 Dec

Last night, Andrea Bocelli performed in Chicago,

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and last night, I witnessed the best “concert” I have ever seen. I put the word “concert” in quotes as I am actually unaware of a word that captures the breadth of the performances.

 Andrea Bocelli returns to the U.S. for seven concerts only of repertoire from his Grammy-nominated album Cinema, special selections from his groundbreaking release Romanza, and a selection of beloved arias, love songs, and crossover hits. The concerts will be led by Maestro Eugene Kohn and will also feature soprano Larisa Martinez and Broadway sensation and Chicago native, Heather Headley. Our own Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus will join him for his concert at Chicago’s United Center. (2017 © Lyric Opera of Chicago)

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Maestro Eugene Kohn conducting Chicago Lyric Orchestra and Chorus

Our daughter Benita had surprised us with these tickets for our anniversary. In 1999, we took her to see Luciano Pavarotti in Austin, and now she was taking us to see Andrea Bocelli in Chicago. How fortunate we are to have seen both!

Each artist was exceptional  – captivating the audience with finely-tuned skills. Although there were thousands in attendance, one could hear a pin drop. Stupendous was the word that kept coming to mind.

In addition to the incredible pitch-perfect performances, the large multi-dimensional projection screens behind the chorus provided a visual extravaganza. The audience was transported, as if we were at times sitting inside a grand European cathedral; attending an opera at La Scala in Milan; walking through falling snow at the Eiffel Tower; strolling ancient streets of an Italian town; enjoying a gondola ride through canals in Venice; or taking in any number of breathtaking vistas.

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Andrea Bocelli was born with poor eyesight and became completely blind at the age of 12, following a soccer accident. Yet nothing was going to stop his great passion for music, developed as a young child. Today, his musical accomplishments include fifteen solo albums, of both pop and classical music, three greatest hits albums, and nine complete operas, selling over 80 million records worldwide. In addition, over the years, he has performed in many charity benefits, and in 2011, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation was launched, focusing on medical research and fighting poverty.

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About two months ago, Len and I were in Portofino, a now very famous, picturesque and tourist-filled Italian fishing village where Bocelli performed under the stars in 2013. We had seen the performance on PBS, and as we lunched along the water, we talked about how fun it would be to attend a Bocelli concert.  Little did we know that just a few weeks later, Benita would surprise us with tickets. And since our concert was in December, we were happy to be inside where it was warm.

Kudos to the sound team at the United Center, a space more often used for sports enthusiasts than tenors and sopranos. Even with a packed house, acoustics were perfect.  And if you are a Bocelli fan, check his website as the tour has a few more east coast US dates this year and then returns next year to the west coast.

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We are so very grateful to Benita, not only for the tickets but that we were able to see this magnificent performance together.

Bravo, Andrea, Bravissimo! Thank you for coming to Chicago!

Ciao,
Judy

 

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe! Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

19 Mar

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the family, and it is a feast day celebrated by Italians everywhere.  It is also Father’s Day in Italy.

Most of the rest of this post comes from a previous one, but the thoughts and sentiments are the same.

Growing up in a neighborhood filled with many Irish and Italian families, I was always happy that the Italians also had their day in March to celebrate.

Joseph the Carpenter, 1642, Louvre, by Georges de La Tour

Joseph the Carpenter, 1642, Louvre, by Georges de La Tour

Of course, not quite as loud or rowdy as St. Patrick’s Day, we nonetheless celebrated the feast of St. Joseph with a food fest. And while the Irish had their green beer and accessories, the Italians, often sporting something red, had their zeppole, a cream filled fried pastry that originated in Napoli.

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According to my fellow blogger, MariaGiovanna, (Sharing My Italy) the “Zeppole di SanGiuseppe” originated in Naples, Italy, “where the first recipe was put on paper, in 1837, by the famous Neapolitan gastronome Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to be in Italy to enjoy a zeppole. In Chicago, they can be found in authentic Italian bakeries such as Ferrara Bakery on Taylor Street. Light, airy and filled with cream, it is fun to see the smiles they generate on those wiping the cream from their lips.

©Blogginginitaly.com

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At this time of year, Ferrara’s and Italian bakeries everywhere are busy filling and selling hundreds of dozens of the cream filled gems.

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So, to those looking to get beyond the grey days of winter, here’s an idea – participate in a St. Joseph’s Day custom by sharing some food with the needy and with some friends, and, of course, be sure to bring some zeppole!

And a very Happy Father’s Day to our Italian friends.

Ciao,
Judy

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