Category Archives: Italy

Travels, cooking school and food


My favorite Italian grocery has OO flour, that I usually use for my pizza dough. Yesterday I wanted to taste my first arancino and the deli guy said the meat was better than the vegetarian one. My husband has a lunch today and I’ve mine, leftovers in the best way.

In Scotland one has the “Scotch Egg” that is a boiled egg covered with sausage, breading and fried.

In Italy one has something in the middle, usually meat, covered with cooked rice and fried and served with tomato sauce. It was delicious!

I am certain that every nation and culture has their version of a fried meatball. It is sad that I waited all these years of culinary exploration to try arancini, just because I didn’t mentally understand it. This is the place we get our pasta, cheeses, sandwiches and I never found a place in my heart for arancini. It’s there now! Cheers, Dee


It’s About Everything

Yes, that’s life, as Frank Sinatra sang it. Many people concentrate on one facet, whether it be sports, math or English literature.

Youth is, indeed, wasted on the young. Older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser but in my case, it works. I had a great family and was taught so much.

When every experience from being bullied to volunteering for a soup kitchen line to cooking school, helping feral cats and adopting four rescues over the past twenty years, I had an education that rivaled my formal education and career. Yes, I also credit my two favorite priests, Fr. Cap and Fr. John, both gone now.

They wove meaning into the fabric of my life. I learned about how history and traditions make us who we are, to accept people we don’t know and, above all, respect, appreciation and honesty.

Through my parents, relatives, teachers and friends I’ve learned much. And my husband teaches me physics lessons while listening to country music on the car radio on long drives. Do you know what’s coming out of that smokestack? No, dear. I can tell by the color……….

Also, having a pet can make a difference. There’s a real responsibility and I’m shirking mine now as I’ve taken her out for “last chance” and she is not by my side. She wants me to lift her up to the bed for her beauty sleep. She’s gorgeous and just turned 84 in people years. She has no hips so cannot jump up by herself. If I slept 20 hours a day I might look that good.

A pet is a grounding experience, especially without a child. So is music, the written word, writing a blog or Haiku or poems.

My husband’s gone for work but I still read cookbooks and make my own recipes and wish for him to come home soon to try them. Yes, my hobbies are cooking, writing and shelter pets/feral cats (spay/neuter). I have had perhaps my last shelter pet, hopefully not, because a dog gets me out to walk and meet people and other dogs. Zoe is old but fine.

Life is about everything and how playing touch football on a dead-end street or softball in our back yard was so special as a kid. The neighborhood kids called on us early and asked for Dad. Mom said they had to wait until the end of dinner. Dad’s only rule was that everyone got to play and play fair. I remember one kid picking up his little brother and running him from first to second base, a tree, and home (we didn’t have that much space) and everybody won because were all the home team. Even toddlers got to play on Dad’s team.

Honesty, integrity, a sense of fairness for everyone, life is about everything. Cheers to you and your family, Dee

Stickball in Brooklyn

My father received a medal from a place he led, a place where FDR, Clinton, many literary, artistic, scientific, and political luminaries held court at the palace, the open wooden Ampitheater that is a subject of controversy these days.

I sang in the State choir championships, first time on the Chautauqua grounds and at the Amphitheater at age seven and our choir came in second. That was the first time I ever saw it and remember where I stood to this day.

FDR gave his infamous “I Hate War” speech from the Miller Cottage. Reverends Miller and Vincent created the Institution over 150 years ago. The Millers are my neighbors and I do not live anywhere near the shores of The Bag Tied in The Middle, Lake Chautauqua. That was the name it was given by its former occupants, the Senecas. There is much more history that I am now reading.

My father had a vision decades ago, to restore Chautauqua through program enhancement and building maintenance/restoration and made it come true. I have his speech and he always credits the team, as he has taught me to do in life. No one can make it in life without help from team members.

Yes, my father grew up in Brooklyn and played stick ball in the street. He and a great team did renovations on a decrepit Victorian town. He had to sign every deed and supervise the police as well. All that and do his job. I would like to save the Amp. I’ve walked the cat walk before it was renovated (ladder, stairs, rickety ww2 bridge, balance…., my brother was a sweeper then Amp crew, sister worked landscaping then the garbage truck. We never lived Chautauqua, we worked Chautauqua so had no summer frolics. No friends. Hate letters. Police invasion.

Home for the summer from college, my sister never came home ’til morning and my brother ditched Boys and Girls Club to play chess with the old guys outside local hotels. I worked myself too hard, 14/7 and ran at night with the bats, they were protected and would come out at twilight and once one hit me in the head. I must have been jogging too slow. Never a jogger. It took me a while to figure things out.

I’d stop at the Amp for the performance and stand by the edge before jogging home. Learning is what it was supposed to be about. The Institution. Now it’s only about money. It has always been an inspiration to me and will remain so. Thank you for finally honoring my father for his accomplishments. Dee

Thank You

Please is the most important, hello, good morning, good evening, good night, where is the nearest hotel, restaurant. Can I find a restroom as I’ve been on a bus all day. Today I’ll concentrate on thank you and please, as that’s even more important:

Gracias  or di nada- Mexico, please is por favor

Obrigado (men) or Obrigada (women) -Portugal…. por favor

Merci – France, please is s’il vous plait

Danke -Germany, please is bitte

Spasiba – Russia, I don’t think that there a please.Believe me, I’ve looked.

Separakallo for please, I never knew that until now, Epharisto for I don’t know any more and Parakalo for decades for thanks to the Greek people

Prego – Italian, Grazie or grazi mille which means a thousand thanks for a really great meal or service, I don’t know the rules.

The most important item before you get to this is learn please, thank you and your family are welcome to visit our country in English, Spanish, German or whatever language the hosts speak. They do not feel at home in our country sometimes, but we always must be made welcome in theirs. Yes, visitors may actually come here, even with TSA, to see New York or a university.

When visiting anywhere in your town or all over the world please learn the words PLEASE , excuse me, directions and follow up any kindness with a Thank You. We’ll all get a better reputation if Americans don’t rush in saying that everyone must speak our (not Brit) English.

This is the beginning, as we Americans must say please and thank you, at the very least, to our world neighbors when they visit our country, if one would prefer to skip learning a few words of the local language while asking for the route to the nearest restaurant or even more importantly, restroom facilities, you might want to reconsider those few words or just not travel and demand it of them.

Sorry, but as far as I am concerned the lady with the pink umbrella, parasol or brolly leading you off the bus visiting another country is one who will never actually be useful as she will never allow you to see the country you’re paying through the nose to see or let you even have lunch on your own. There will always be that umbrella, herding you. And it’s always attached to the person who peaked in high school, has a high voice and probably was a wanna-be cheerleader. Sorry, I don’t want to go on a trip with her. I leave my dog at home when we’re away with a sitter, I don’t need be herded for a week or two.

Reach out. Of course contact the State Department to find out what nations not to visit at any day. Then fly on your own and you’ll be free to find destinations other than London, Paris and Rome. As the venerable character Mame would say, “Live.” Do it yourself and have a great time. I have on my own with family and husband and work and it can be wonderful.

Go to an art gallery first and look at how many visions these local/worldwide artists had for their environs and for the world. Then go to your local restaurant (with patrons seated and the restaurant not empty) and ask for their local specialties. Look at my reviews on TripAdvisor! Share plates with your spouse. Back to the ship down the Danube or your car or train or tour bus and go.

Make sure to have dessert! And at least another three days because there are more museums to see, Dee

ps What, the ship sailed? Not ours. There are still art museums to see and mechanical and strange medical museums for my husband to attend. All we can do is see how it goes. We don’t mind splitting up for a few hours a day and meeting for dinner. Dee


Over my storied life, I have learned much from my family, school and music teachers, my husband and his family, my work at several venues and of course my dear professors.

There is nothing as educational or wisdom-producing as having responsibility for a life. No, we don’t have children, not our blessing. But I’ve been responsible for the lives of two cats and two dogs in my life over the years.

It’s like being a parent, you watch what goes in and what comes out. Sneezes as a little one and bumps as they age. You choose to adopt and take on a life and at the end, help ease them out of it.

Being responsible for a life teaches care above oneself, humility, joy, and as our Zoe would say ROUTINE. You have to go to the vet for shots, surgeries, even a first senior blood panel and keep your dog quarantined anywhere in the US under the British travel scheme permanently in case you’re sent overseas.

My first dog and cats passed after many happy years over 13 years ago. Now I’ve one old dog, nearly eleven years who we’ve had from six weeks of age. Five walks per day, perhaps six. Creating an indestructible toy. Baths and brushing and her herding us. Deciding to have her hips removed as a pup as she had severe hip dysplasia and going through two recoveries. Oh, she walks just fine and can run fast and corner because she had to grow her own hips from cartilage.

She doesn’t usually bark or whine, just stares until we do what she wants. If she’s over 70 in “dog years” perhaps that is what I should start to do. Just stare at my husband until he does what I want. Ah, well, it doesn’t work with people unless you want a horrible relationship. It does work for a herder, however. Patience is another virtue while caring for another life. It’s 5:00, time for dinner. It’s 5:02, you’re late. Get into the magic room and make my dinner, I don’t care if you’re writing about me on the blog. OK, I’m full, now I need to go for a walk. Stare.

She says “I killed a mouse today. I ate an old dead bird off the pavement and am going to vomit 48 hours later, in a safe place, your bed. Seven loads of laundry later you’ll still love me.” And we do.

Education is key. My first dog was abused for a year then in a shelter for the next. I was a volunteer and met her the first week and we were buddies but she was terrified of men, especially those in uniform, and kids. Even at this no-kill shelter there was word of another meeting to decide her fate. She was home with me the next morning. All it took was a home, love, care and training and she was the best rehabilitated dog in the world. Everyone loved her, and the kids would call out her name from the tot lot and run up to pet her and she adored them.

Did I hear the word sacrifice? No. It’s joy. For many years I was alone, not just single, alone. These were my companions and still are. Our dog Zoe follows me everywhere to make sure her pack is intact, especially as my husband has been off on a work assignment. Trust and loyalty are traits I admire from both me and Zoe. And my old dog’s ashes are in a teddy bear’s heart I move everywhere.

I do not hunt squirrels, however. Don’t worry, she’s on a 6′ leash and couldn’t get them even if she was off it, my dear hip-less wonderdog. Or bunnies. She doesn’t understand why they stay still until she’s 10′ away so they’re just interesting, not prey until they bolt. One thing is that I learn something new every day and that has always been my goal in life in all arenas. Cheers, Dee



I’m going to begin with something you will not expect. I helped a roommate and dear friend go through surgery of all wisdom teeth under sedation and I picked her up and nursed her through the weekend. She gifted me with a lamp and called me her Florence Nightingale. We are still randomly in touch 30 years later.

Florence as a city, while I’ve not traveled the entire world, is my favorite. After many years there is still so much I’ve not yet seen because the Ufizzi beckons me and Sta. Croce. I could cry just writing about Donatello’s Annunciation there, and Michelangelo’s Magdalen at the Duomo Museo.

What I love to do is get food for dei gatti (the cats) and walk up to San Miniato al Monte and leave the cat food and used to be lire for the lady who takes care of them. She always refused the money but would take it for the feral cats.

I’ve Florentine scarves, purses et al from Dad but would rather see Dad and go eat great food in the morning and make him organic whole wheat blueberry pancakes. And get the perfect pear. Yum. Cheers, in the Florentine style, Dee


Travels With Ghirlandaio

I was first introduced to Domenico Ghirlandaio by Fr. Murphy. Art history in college. This Franciscan priest (R.I.P. Fr. John) made me want to learn, as have others, don’t be jealous Fr. Cap.

Slides were not enough. When I walked up the mountain from Sta. Croce to San Miniato al Monte I saw the chapel. I can’t really see it right now because the glare is bad even through shades but just google Ghirlandiao.

Please do take the time to see Sta. Croce and the Pazzi Chapel, then cross the bridge behind it and make the walk. Stop at the church halfway up and give some money to the lady who takes care of the feral cats there. Make sure she knows the money is for the gatti, or cats, otherwise she’ll be insulted as if you called her a beggar. She used to bring them great trays of pasta from a local restaurant.

Then I went to cooking school in Tuscany for my birthday one year and went to San Gimignano for an afternoon. 18 of us were on a custom bus and we had one hour to see the town. Two of us ran 20 minutes to Sta. Fina, with earlier Ghirlandiao fresci. Spent 20 minutes there then ran back and made it just in time.

If you don’t have the resources for an art tour of Italy right now (I don’t) please check out Tea With Mussolini, a film with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Cher. If you’ve been to Florence or San Gimignano you may even recognize the streets as it was filmed beautifully. Yes, Cher, and brilliant as a newly rich American with a heart of gold.

Take care and think about how art changes lives. Then remember that art was all people had before Guttenberg and reading. Think of your reading skills and your children’s and have them appreciate art as well. There is a reason for all those religious stories in painting and sculpture, no matter what religion you follow of if you follow none at all.

I started with my nephew at age nine and tried two different lessons: Medieval vs Renaissance and the lesson was perspective and realism; and ancient vs modern, Renaissance as opposed to Liechtenstein or Tara Donovan clouds with drinking straws.

All he said to his dad later that evening, after seeing a Gaston Lachaise nude with huge breasts. was that it “was not entirely age-appropriate.” And I kept him out of the room with French nude paintings. Oh, well. I tried. Please do so! Dee



Blackbird, Bye Bye

Pack up all your cares and woes,

Here I go, singing low, bye bye blackbird

…… blackbird, bye bye.

Last post, they’re selling my posts. I never wanted or got a nickel from them, I will be removing them from WordPress.

I don’t know how to do this as I’m a writer and not a techie, that’s probably why they allow people to steal my words and sell them.

To my readers, I salute you and will be back on other than WordPress. Thank you for being with me and inspiring me these few years. The grandmother who died before I was a year old sang that song to me, to get me to go to sleep. It’s that time. Dee



There’s no possible way we can ever use the vacation days Jim has accrued. He’s just started a new job at work and once he gets into it, there’s no way to get him to go on vacation and November and December are pretty verboten for time off.

So where do we go? He may have a week off mid-August but I don’t want to travel to somewhere like Europe then when all the kiddos are still out of school and it’s a backpacker’s heyday.

So I’m looking into driving vacations and short, inexpensive flights, trying to stay away from triple digit heat and deserts. I’ll work on it over the weekend as I also have to make plans for the dog because she’s a pain to travel with. Even when hotels will take her, we get a crummy room, can’t have her stay there alone, so our meals are compromised as we can’t take her there either. A week driving into Sonic, forget it. That’s no vacation, eating with the engine running in an air-conditioned car with the dog in the back. And even if Sonic’s burgers are OK, their bathrooms are horrendous.

If you’ve any suggestions for the trip, probably in the Western states or Pacific NW, just comment right here. Thanks! Cheers, Dee


Our families are involved in different things.  Retired and in his seventies, my father is working to create a new ballet company.  Jim’s father owns a cattle ranch.  Jim majored in physics but is a software engineer and inventor.

Lately, I take care of the home.  It has been a year since Jim created this blog for me.  I was so scared at first, now some of my friends don’t email anymore and do facebook and I feel OK on the blog but facebook is something I want no part of.

Recipes.  I’d like to do a book about family recipes and may have received that box a few days before our temporary move.  It remains unopened, in storage, so you’ll have to wait as will I.  If I do a really complicated recipe, I like to have it in front of me while cooking, otherwise, unless it’s baking, that’s not my interest, I’ll guess-timate after the first  couple of times.

With a solid background in French cooking I skew towards southern France, Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean for ideas. Otherwise for Jim it’s some version of meat and potatoes, as he’s allergic to fish.

His technical books are about numerical recipes, mine are about food.  But I didn’t bring one book with me on this short-term journey.  I love my cookbooks and hope you’ll take a look because I chose the ones I feature judiciously.  They’re in air-conditioned storage right now.

The balance is between us, physics and cooking, science and art, software and being a dog’s “mom” and taking care of a household.  No, I never thought I’d be here, but living in the mountains for a couple of months isn’t a bad thing.  As for boiling water for tea at high altitude, I chose Overstock’s electric Kaloric kettle, that comes with placemats and two mugs.  It boils water in 1/4 the time it takes the gas stove to do so.  Again, we’re living at high altitude so your results will differ.

I’m looking forward to my first surprise organic basket Wednesday morning so will do minimal shopping tomorrow.  Will let you know how it goes….  Take care, Dee