Monday, June 29, 2009

THE BEATERS IN SAN VENANZO!

We invited friends to join us for a night of nostalgia and fun - "In Canto d'Estate" was hosting a Beatles tribute band, The Beaters! There are lots and lots of Beatles tribute bands. Some dress in clothes from various eras - the collarless jackets for the early years and Sgt. Pepper regalia for the later years. They use vintage instruments, or replicas - the Hofner bass, the Ludwig drums. They've learned how to stand and move just like the Beatles, and often assume Liverpudlian accents and joke just like the Beatles did. Some bands even have a left-handed "Paul" to make the illusion complete. For better or worse though, the one thing all these bands have in common is a love of the Beatles and their music. And of course the fans they attract share this love.

Naturally some bands are more proficient musicians than others, and some manage to capture the movements and gestures better than others. Some are better singers than others. No matter at what level each band performs, most fans like me aren't too demanding. We're just happy to hear the songs that brought us so much joy, and happy to spend time with others who share our passion for the Beatles. If we can squint our eyes and somehow believe that we really are seeing the Beatles once again, well, that's great, but really, we're all aware that those days are gone and are just happy to re-live that time if only briefly.

I'm writing all this so that you know I'm not super-critical of Beatles tribute bands, even those that aren't the greatest singers or musicians. I'm happy that others share my love of the Beatles and their music, and I appreciate their efforts. Which brings us to Saturday night's performance by an Italian band called The Beaters.

Yes, I believe that these guys really are Beatles fans. I appreciate their use of vintage instruments, and the way they introduced each song, in the style of the Beatles. As the band jumped into it's first number I was happily singing along, tapping my toes and smiling with joy. After a few songs though, a puzzled look came over my face. At first I wasn't sure that I was hearing correctly, but after several songs it became more and more apparent: they didn't know all the words!!!! Sometimes they would sing the wrong words, while other times it seemed as if they just sort of hummed/mumbled their way through, much as you or I might do when we've forgotten the words to a song.

After the first few numbers I was thinking to myself that what this band really needed to do was to go back and listen, really LISTEN to the original recordings, just to get the pronunciations correct. I realized that these guys weren't native English speakers, and I thought if they would listen to the recordings again, that might help. Once I realized that they were getting the words wrong I once again tried to excuse them because they're not native English speakers. But then I thought about how I like to listen to music in a foreign language, especiall if I want to learn the words. I listen to the music while I'm reading the lyrics. That's how I found out that "Let's Forget About The Money" was really "Let's Forget About Domani"!

Anyway, the show was a lot of fun, but I was really disappointed that these guys who supposedly love the Beatles wouldn't take the time or effort to learn the words and the correct pronunciations. Yes, maybe it is a mean thing to say, but in my opinion, when you bill yourselves as a Beatles tribute band, you've raised the stakes just a little. A Beatles tribute band sets itself to a higher standard than a band who just covers a few Beatles songs. A Beatles tribute band, even a foreign-speaking one, should really want to take the time to listen to the songs, to get the words right and learn the correct pronunciations!

 All the videos from the various bands who performed at our festa, "In Canto d'Estate" are on OUR YouTube PAGE. The Beaters have their own YouTube page HERE.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

ANOTHER PASTA SALAD

This pasta salad has been a favorite of mine for years.


Greek Pasta Salad GREEK ROTINI SALAD

6 cups (uncooked) rotini
1 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp oregano
1 oz (26 gr) garlic powder (2 Tbsp + 1 tsp) (according to taste)
2 cups pepper strips (red, green and yellow)
36 black or green olives, pitted
3 cups feta cheese, crumbled
16 radishes, thinly sliced
½ cup green onions, sliced
8 Tbsp parsley, chopped

Cook rotini and rinse in cold water to cool quickly. Do NOT overcook!

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Chill.

In a large serving bowl combine rotini, peppers, olives, feta cheese, radishes, green onions and parsley. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently to coat.

This makes enough to feed quite a few, so when I want to make a smaller batch I use 4 cups of rotini and HALF of all the other ingredients.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"WHY ARE YOU SELLING?" and "WHERE WILL YOU GO?"

Those are the two questions we get asked all the time. Most people we know who follow our blog are fellow lovers of Italy, and some dream of living in Italy someday. Others know they'll never live here but like to follow our lives as a small way of connecting to Italy. For many of these people the idea of us selling and/or leaving Italy is unimaginable. After following the long road to get here and the various trials and tribulations we faced along the way (as well as all the good times and great food), many people can't imagine why we'd want to give it up.

What most of these people don't realize is that Italy was never OUR dream! Italy simply HAPPENED to us, unexpectedly. (You can read about how it happened HERE). Our dream for retirement was to travel, both in the U.S. and in Europe. There were so many places we wanted, and still want, to see! When Italy caught us in her spell we thought that we'd have the perfect set-up: a base in Europe, meaning no jet lag, no expensive transatlantic airfares, and the ability to take lots of mini-vacations: a long weekend in Sicily, a quick visit to France, taking advantage of an airfare special to London. For us, Italy was just the means to an end, and that end was travel. That was the plan.

Once we moved to Italy the dollar began a long, slow and steady decline, eating away at the money we'd planned to use for travel. Initially we didn't mind (much), and enjoyed spending time in our area. Eventually it became evident that the dollar wasn't going to rebound, and although living in Italy was certainly fun, it wasn't serving it's purpose. Feeling more and more frustrated about not being able to travel, we eventually realized that we could do something about it. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the most illusive!

We decided that we'd sell our house in Italy and move back to the states. Our thinking was that in the states at least we wouldn't be losing a percentage of our money with every bank withdrawal, and that we'd be able to travel. We reasoned that even if the majority of our travel was in the U.S., there was certainly plenty to see, and that when we did travel to Europe, we'd made so many friends that we'd have a few places to stay along the way.

That decision wasn't made quickly, nor was it made lightly. Yes, the thought of leaving our home and our friends is sad, even painful. Luckily we knew from having made the move TO Italy that all we really needed was each other, and that we really did want to fulfill our dream of traveling. We remembered when we moved to Italy, and how some friends and family had been upset, even angry about the idea of us leaving the states and going to Italy. We also remembered telling them "But if it doesn't work out, we can always come back!" Sometimes we all get so stuck in the way things ARE that we forget that we have the power to change things!

And so now we have our house for sale, and even though the U.S. economy has worsened since the time we made our decision, we still think it's the right thing for us to do. Maybe it's just wanderlust, but we both feel that it's time to move on, time to figure out what our next adventure will be.

Initially, way back when we were first talking about selling, we just wrote about it on the blog. Obviously this didn't draw a lot of interest, but we weren't that concerned. We reasoned that when the time was right the house would sell and in the meantime we'd just enjoy our life in Italy. Eventually we realized that if we really did want to sell we'd need to list the house with some agenices, and so we took the next step and officially listed the house for sale.

Maybe we'd been holding back just a little, still not 100% convinced that we wanted to leave Italy, but after living with the idea for a while we realized that yes, this was the right decision for us. Living in Italy is wonderful - the food! - the wine! -the scenery! - the slower way of life! - yes, it will be hard to give all that up. It will be hard to trade our small town life for life in the big city. It will be even harder to leave all the friends we've made. But, just as we've kept up with friends and family in the states since we moved here, we know that we'll keep up with our friends in Italy - maybe even more so.

Now the housing market has gone flat (we know of many real estate agents who didn't sell one house last year!), but everyone assures us that our price is fair and that our house is something special. So yes, our house is for sale. And yes, we'll return to the states. Not because we don't love Italy, but simply because for us, it's time for the next adventure. We encourage you to follow your dreams too. If we can do it, anyone can!

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

THERE'S NO CREDIT FOR USING CREDIT WISELY

In case you missed it, the NYTimes recently ran THIS ARTICLE about how people who have high credit card balances are now being offered some pretty sweet deals by the credit card companies. You rememer those credit card companies, don't you? They're the ones who took zillions in government hand-outs when they'd over-extended themselves. I guess now they're just extending a helping hand to consumers who have also over-extended themselves.

What I don't understand is how people like us, people who pay their credit card balance in full every month, and on time every month, are now being told that their interest rate will increase, and the monthly grace period will be decreased. Or that one late payment will result in the interest rate increasing even further. Huh? Because I've lived within my means and met my financial obligations I'm being penalized? Had I made minimum payments and/or missed a few payments perhaps the credit card company would be calling me too to say that they'd forgive all or part of my debt.

What's happened to personal responsibility? To living within your means? Yeah, I know, you work hard, you DESERVE a vacation, a new car, a fancy house in a great neighborhood, a big screen HD television, whatever. Don't we all? But life isn't fair that way, and not all of us will ever be in the position to own the latest and most hip car/stereo system, whatever. Most of us will ever own a yacht or vacation on our own private island. Some of us might not even be able to afford a vacation (yes, I've been there too!), but that's just the way it is. Unless of course you're one of the largest bank in America and you need a hand-out because you've used poor judgement and faulty accounting methods. Or if you're living beyond your means on credit cards issued by those very same banks. Our economy seems to be built on sand that's rapidly shifting beneath our feet, and for some reason, everyone seems surprised!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HOPE I DIE BEFORE I GET OLD - OH NO! IT'S TOO LATE!

For baby boomers like us, those words from the Who's song "My Generation", "hope I die before I get old", once a defiant anthem, are now a scary possibility. The first of the baby boomers are now in their early 60's and suddenly, 60 doesn't seem so old! Paul McCartney's still rocking out at 67, as are countless others from that era.

The reason I'm posting this is because of a funny story our friend Shelly told me the other day. She and her husband Larry went to Todi to buy tickets to see Jethro Tull in concert next month. The young woman who was selling the tickets told Larry and Shelly about another concert in the area, one that featured another band also formed in the 60's. They joked with her that she was only telling them about the concert because they were 'old', just like the band. The young woman said "Oh no, I like their music too!" Not a surprise, since so many of the bands from the 60's are still touring and recording and being discovered all over again by new generations. It was what she said next that really threw them for a loop: she told them, in all seriousness "but I always wait until the last minute to buy tickets; they might die."! Uh....

After I finished laughing I told Shelly that I guess it's true, and maybe we, as concert-goers, shouldn't buy our tickets until the last minute either - at our advanced ages, we might die before we get to see the concert! I guess the least we could do would be to make provisions in our will for any pending events that have been pre-paid! Or, we can just continue as we always have, not feeling old, not worrying about when we'll die, but just living each day as it comes, enjoying it to the fullest. So - go out and have some fun, plan a vacation, fulfill some lifelong dream, maybe even take a chance and buy a concert ticket!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

IN CORTONA FOR THE GIOSTRA DELL'ARCHIDADO

Last Tuesday, a holiday here in Italy, we drove to Cortona to see the Giostra dell'Archidado, a medieval crossbow tournament. Just as we arrived in the city this group, representing one neighborhood in Cortona, was marching into the main piazza.


The parade


Before the crossbow tournament began there was a demonstration of flag throwing, a medieval art that's been kept alive in many cities throughout Italy. Unfortunately I was at the back of the crowd and this is all I could see:


Flag throwing


I'll publish a slideshow of all the pictures from that day shortly.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A QUICK CHOCOLATE FIX

5 minute chocolate cake_0001Have you received an email with the recipe for chocolate cake in a coffee cup? It's quick way to get a chocolate fix without overdoing it - not that anyone I know would actually bake and eat an entire chocolate cake......but this recipe has built in portion control, just in case. Here's the recipe:



5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (Microwave safe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.

Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.

Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.

The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.


5 minute chocolate cake_0002 I DID use the choclate chips, and yes, it did spill out of the mug - I placed the mug on a plate just in case. Although it was very chocolatey and gooey, thanks to the chocolate chips, it was a bit spongy, but when you're baking in the microwave, you have to expect some deviations. Personally I prefer the recipe for microwave brownies that my friend Janet gave to me several years ago....



Microwave Brownies

3 oz butter (add pinch of salt if using unsalted butter)
8 oz brown sugar
2 eggs
a few drops Vanilla extract
3 oz plain flour
2 oz cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder

Melt butter and sugar in a glass bowl in microwave.
Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Sift flour, cocoa, and baking powder into a bowl and mix in egg mixture.
Pour into lined microwaveable dish and on place an up turned saucer in the microwave.
Microwave 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. Should still be sticky on the top.
If you do not have a turntable, 1/4 turn after 2 minutes.

Either way is a quick chocolate fix you can enjoy anytime.

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