Monday, August 01, 2005


It seems that no sooner had I posted that I planned to be writing less, so many things happened that I really wanted to record. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

Honestly, we’ve been so busy since we returned to Italy at the end of May…busier than we’ve ever been before. Lunch with Judith, drinks with Paul, a town picnic with Leslie, Brent and Riley, a get together for twelve, the Jazz festival with Bob and Rosemary, house hunting with Anna and Ramon, lunch with the Wood family, hanging out with Paul and Mer, cruising the countryside for sunflowers….this retirement stuff can really wear you out!

Somewhere along our drive back to San Venanzo last Sunday Corinna and Maurizio saw us and followed us home. It wasn’t until I got out of the car to open the garage door that I realized we knew the people in the car behind us!  They wanted to hear the whole story about Art’s recent “episode” and we walked down to the bar to have a spritz….a typical Venetian drink made with white wine and the somewhat bitter Campari. Corinna, a native Venetian, was disappointed when the drinks weren’t served with an olive, and told the man behind the bar that this was the correct way to serve this drink.   We sat outside under the vine-covered pergola, sipping our drinks and bringing them up to date on Art’s health. Corinna asked if we were free for dinner on Wednesday and we told her yes we were, and that this was Art’s birthday. She immediately asked if we’d prefer to make it another night, but of course we both told her we couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a birthday than by sharing it with good friends.

Dinner was prepared by Maurizio who is the main cook of the family, and Corinna made us spritz’s the right way, complete with olives! I was really surprised when we had a cold pasta salad….I thought this was strictly an American thing, and that an Italian would think a cold pasta salad was heresy.

Everything was served course by course, a style I once thought charming but now realize just means more work for the cook, and a lot more jumping up and down from the table. Maurizio and Corinna feel the same way, and try, as I do, to serve dishes that can easily be prepared ahead of time. The cold pasta salad insured that Maurizio didn’t have to be standing at the stove, boiling the pasta seconds before it was served.  Later courses consisted of grilled peppers, grilled eggplant, and lamb served on small skewers. Everything was delicious. Dinner was completed with an assortment of liqueurs….grappa, and others I’m not familiar with.

Knowing that they both had to work the next day, Art and I left around eleven or so. We had such a great time…we enjoy their company and truly appreciate their friendship. We asked if they would like to come for a picnic at our house on Sunday. Wendy and Giuseppe are coming and this would be a great opportunity for the four of them to meet. We were so glad when they said they could come!


I found a small (about 2” long) praying mantis on one of the bushes out front the other day. These are the coolest insects, and so good for the garden. Although I haven’t had any problems, I gingerly carried him down and let him climb onto one of my tomato plants. Better safe than sorry.

Other than having to carry water to the garden almost every day, it’s wonderful to have it. Next years garden will be simpler: only tomatoes and basil. The peppers and eggplant are very thirsty plants, and given the fact that they’re so easy to buy, it seems foolish to drag water up and down the hill for something like that.  Of course I need lots of basil to make pesto, and there’s just something about having your own tomatoes. I’ve also learned that if you want plenty of fresh parsley you really need to have several plants. I have two plants potted up in the back yard and two more in the orto, but those two went to seed while we were in the states and now all they want to do is flower.


The other night while we were sitting in the garden we heard a cuckoo! The next day Iris commented that she too had heard it, making me think that it isn’t all that common. How cool!

When we’re in the living room we normally have the door open, and can hear the birds singing in the trees across the street. I don’t know what kind of birds they are but they are the loudest things you’ve ever heard! The singing is sweet so it’s not annoying, but Art says it’s like being inside an aviary.


The picnic yesterday was a great success. Giacomo had gone to Florence on Saturday to spend the afternoon and night with Belinda, who’s leading a tour. He returned home in plenty of time to make the picnic so there were seven of us. Art set up the extra table so that we all wouldn’t have to crowd around one.

Most of my work had been finished on Saturday. I made Greek pasta salad, coleslaw and brownies. On Sunday morning I made two pans of the apple dessert that Corrado and Giuseppe both like, as a thank you for their help during Art’s hospital stay. Wendy’s boss Corrado is always so understanding when Wendy has to leave suddenly to help us with an emergency. He was with her the day we were rear-ended right after we first arrived, so I guess our emergencies are an expected part of life.

For Wendy I made a decadent brownie/cookie hybrid and used the hazelnuts she had previously given me. Although I know she loves chocolate chip cookies, I wanted to make something extra special, and I knew these would fill the bill.   I sliced some tomatoes and layered them with fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Once the food was all prepared I gathered the tablecloths, paper plates, cups, utensils, and napkins. I’d put the freezer packs in the freezer last night, and later I would sit them in the bottom of the cooler and add bottles of water, beer and white wine, then add some water to keep it all chilled. This probably isn’t as important to the Italians as it is to me, but that’s the nice thing about being the hostess….you get to do things YOUR way!

We had bought some ribs at the Coop but then decided we might need a few more. On Saturday Art walked down to the local butcher shop (macelleria) and the woman there hacked off several beautiful meaty ribs as he waited.  We had about a cup of barbeque sauce left and Art whipped up a little more. I had sprinkled them with some tenderizer, now Art would have to work his magic. He had the grill blazing hot and seared his stomach while cooking the ribs!…maybe we need to get longer tongs so that he doesn’t have to stand so close. Today the red is all gone, thank goodness.

Everyone loved everything! The ribs were definitely a hit, and the pasta salad too. I was really amazed at how much everyone, especially Corinna, loved the brownies! When I brought out one of the Death By Chocolate cookies for everyone to sample (with Wendy’s consent of course) I was even further amazed….everyone just RAVED about them! I guess I just can’t generalize and say that Italians don’t have a sweet tooth.


As Art was leaving the Post Office this morning he ran into Frank. When Frank was in the hospital last summer he was told that he didn’t have to pay. Because of this we’d thought long and hard before deciding to go ahead and join the Italian healthcare system. Guess what Frank had just received in the mail? A bill for his hospital stay! Although the bill was only for about €2100, not bad for his four or five day stay, it was still a surprise, at least to him. The fact that it was a year after the fact certainly added to the surprise, but at least now we feel certain that we did the right thing.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home