Sunday, August 29, 2010

I am NEVER Cooking Again

I am so happy.

Jesse cooked dinner.

He has an extremely refined sensibility about food,
how it should taste, and how to put it together.

"Una buona forchetta"

("a good fork", literally translated from Italian,
but actually means "good taste"

So we were at Zupans together, trying to figure out what to have
for dinner, and he said

"I have it Mom, let's do Pasta Puttanesca"

Yuck, I say,
"I HATE tomato sauce!!!"

"No, no, no, we do fresh tomatoes, barely cooked...", he insists.

In my mind, I struggle with this concept of relinquishing control.
I arrive at a solution.

"Ok, Jesse, you make it!"

He says no.

I say yes.

He acquises and happily runs about Zupan's gathering ingredients.

"What about the anchovies", I feebly insert...

"NO, no anchovies, this is MY dish now."

Ok, I surrender.

And Jesse takes over.
The results?

Fresh cooked sweet cherry tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers
basil and parsley, the exact proportions that created
the most delicious sauce,

And I am a food snob.
I do not give out compliments regarding food lightly.

This was truly one of the best pasta dishes EVER.

And the best part was:
Now I know that not only is my son
more than capable of cooking a great meal,
he is MUCH better than I am, so now I don't ever have
to cook AGAIN, yipee!

Too bad Jesse is moving back up to college next week,
minor detail.

Oh well.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cortona 2010

Always the same heading up this hill, it never fails to
delight me!
I first came to Cortona over 10 years ago, as a result of
having done a junior year abroad in Florence
over 30 years ago.
Or as they say so politely in Italian:

Diversi anni fa...
(Some years ago)
This is what you say when the number of years ago REALLY
starts to tell your age, so you just say vaguely:

Some years ago...

Anyway, I like that, as the college experience is now just not
a few years back, it is

Diversi anni fa...

Duomo, Florence

So, I had the good fortune to be spending my junior year in college,
in Florence, Italy,
with an extraordinary group of kids from all over
California and had an EXTRAORDINARY
resident director who was from San Jose State,
Duilio Peruzzi.

He was originally from Cortona, Italy,
still had family and friends there, and
has always traveled back and forth to
Cortona his entire life.
10 + years ago, Rob and I set about realizing a dream:
to move to Italy for a year with our young kids, put them in
Italian elementary school for a year and give them the
experience of living in a foreign country.
We chose Cortona, because Duilio connected us with
his family there and we were made to feel
so welcome and at home.
We have been returning there every year since, and it
truly is a home to us.

Duilio is often there as well when we return.
He lives down the street from us in Cortona,
and it is always a joy to see him about town.
He possesses the gift of gab, as do many Italians,
so I was able to catch some candid shots of him at the weekly
market in Cortona, doing what he does best.
And so I start this month of Cortona 2010 adventures
giving credit where credit is due:
to my pal Duilio, who I always
credit with not only instilling in me, a love of Italy
but more particularly, leading me to
this magical home that I am blessed with,

Duilio, love and mille grazie to
you always!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goodbye Berlin

Our last day in Berlin, Rob took some time to himself
and headed out for the day.
I gave him the address of a shoe store
I had found the day before,
shopper extraordinaire that I am, where I located some really boss
yellow sneaker type shoes to replace his beloved pair he
got 3 years ago, but have sadly seen much better days.
I got a text from him a few hours later, saying that he had
been to the store and bought not only the yellow pair, but
a black pair that he selected all on his own!
What a shopper!
I wonder if he has a spending problem?
Rob was quite happy tromping around on his own
we came to find out later.
That left me and the kids to our own devices. First task of the day
was to find some boxes to ship all that crap to Italy that filled up my 3
suitcases. We were going to being flying to Italy the next day on
Air Berlin and I had neglected to read the fine print on free
baggage allowance. Seems that this airline is a bit stricter than most,
you are allowed one free checked bag at 22 kilos, and then any additional baggage is
10 euro per kilo!!!
I nearly had a heart attack.
I had about 30 + kilos in excess weight,
so that was going to be about 300 euro, or $400 to be exact,
for me to get all those
outfits to Italy.
Hmmm, this was a very serious problem and not one that
I wanted to share with Rob just yet.
So I waited til he went off on his solo man adventure
before I started problem solving.
I had been keeping my eyes open for cartons
being recycled on the sidewalk in front of stores,
but so far, nothing.
I don't know how or where they dispose of them.

I tried to engage Jesse and Corey in my task.
I forgot momentarily that they aren't toddlers anymore
and they are pretty hip to my shenanigans.
The adventure of looking for shipping cartons held absolutely
NO allure for them whatsoever.
Not to mention it was allready about 900 degrees out at 9am.
So I bribed them with coffee and pastry, they
grudgingly accompagnied me.

We set out for the Kaiser supermarket down the street.
Nothing there but produce boxes with the large airholes in them,
not suitable for shipping and mailing.
So I had to think quickly on my feet and ask myself;
"What kind of retailer would have daily deliveries that would always have an abundance of boxes on hand that they would
need to dispose of?
A pharmacy- an APOTEK,
why, I had seen them on just about every corner!
Yup, sure enough, there was one across the street from
Kaiser Supermarket.
I parked the kids at the caffe on the corner with their coffee and pastry bribe as they were quickly losing it.
I entered the Apotek and explained to the pharmacist what I was after.
I speak NO german, and she didn't speak much English, but somehow
she was able to understand me after a lot of pantomime and words like
She went in the back room and brought our a magnificent carton, heavy duty,
that could withstand high impact and it was the size of a suitcase.
But it wasn't enough for my 30 kilos of outfits and assorted stuff.
So I had the gall to ask her for another carton.
She kindly went in the back again and this time
brought out a carton of equal size and durability.
This one however, had not been unpacked of its contents.
She patiently unpacked all the bottles of drugs, etc. and gave me the box.
Her kindness was so appreciated.
I thanked her profusely.
She was my Apotek angel that appeared in my hour of need.
Now I would not need to burden
dear Rob with my excess baggage problem.
Back to the kids and their coffee.

The next step in this adventure was getting 30 kilos and 2 large empty
cartons to the post office which was over a mile away. Jesse at this point
was completely melting down (he doesn't do well with this kind of fun)
and Corey was up for the adventure since he had just downed several
double espressos. So we sent Jesse home and Corey and I hailed
a cab to the Deutsche Post.
8 euros and 4 minutes later.

We enter the Deutsche Post which is hyper organized and extremely
efficient. Corey comments how we need to find a "workstation".
We select a part of the store that is devoid of people and plenty of room
to spread out the 30 kilos of stuff and pack it up.
I taught Corey how to pack a box
and surround it with many meters of shipping
tape. Actually, what I hope that I taught him
through the experience was how to be
resourceful, think on one's feet, and solve
the problem at hand. I think he enjoyed the experience.
The morning was great fun and one of my treasured
travel experiences with my kids.

And there it goes,
30 kilos of junk all for the price
of 75 euro as opposed to the 300 euro it would have cost on Air Berlin...
I feel so accomplished!
But wait, I am feeling so light and airy, no
excess baggage to be weighted down with and
on the way back to the apartment, I see an oil
painting on the sidewalk in front of an antique/junk store
that leaves me breathless!
Corey, l must have a look!
I bargain with the gentleman,
get the painting for a song,
take it off the stretcher bars, roll it up, and trot off
happily to pack it in my recently arrived at 22 kilo suitcase.
We collect Jesse and hightail it over to to meet Dad at Hackescher Market area,with his new shoes.
We then run into Wolfgang and Marie, who happened to
be driving by and noticed us looking like befuddled tourists
with our maps out.

We made a tentative plan to get together for dinner and I got
to take my family to Marie's Doll Kingdom.
Even Corey and Jesse were impressed with the glass eyeballs.
Wolfgang, Marie, and Udo took us to a local outdoor
Beirgarten close to their neighborhood.
It was a very festive atmosphere, hundreds of long communal tables
with people feasting on fresh sausages, corn on the cob, beer and
I cant remember what else.
We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously and loved
our new Berlin friends.
A delightful evening was had by all and we said goodbye, but promised to
return soon.
The next morning, the day of our flight to Italy,
it was torrential rain, and
we had our newly packed 45 lb. suitcases to navigate
to the taxi cue about 10 minutes away so we could get to the airport.
No umbrellas.
Rob and I did some makeshift rain gear.
Rob bravely made his way to the taxi stand.

We made it to the airport with time to spare,
the Air Belin clerk barely glanced at our
22 kilo bags and all was well.
I was sad to leave,
Berlin was fantastic and I loved it all.
It is a very creative, artistic, avant guarde
city, and I barely scratched the surface.
The people that I met were so kind and
hospitable and I know that I will be
back before too long.

New Friends in Berlin

I was very fortunate to meet some new friends in Berlin.
My Portland pal, Rachel, had lived in Berlin
15 years ago for a few years and
made some close friends, who she graciously connected me with.
I was able to meet up with Wolfgang and Marie,
and several other dear people, who I am blessed to now
know as new friends.

Rachel had told me that Marie had a very special workshop
that would completely delight and enchant me.
After meeting Marie briefly,my first evening in Berlin, she invited me to visit her workshop/laboratory.
I liked her immediately, such a lovely and kind woman.
I hightailed it over to the Mitte area of Berlin the next day, to her workshop:
(Restoration of Antique Dolls)
Please click on the link, to see Marie's website, it is a
visual feast, beautifully done. Her workshop space, the
building, the dolls, all of it, beautifully done. Even if dolls
are not your thing, this enterprise is a museum really,
and worth a visit. Her website was created by Udo, another
new friend who I had the opportunity to meet.
He is a gifted photographer
and web designer, and as soon as I can obtain
his website address, I will post a link to it.

And so...
Anyone who knows me well, and even not so well,
knows by now that I have a thing for discarded dolls.
I walked into Marie's charming workshop,
I had just entered my first antique doll hospital!
Hundreds of dolls and all their parts in various stages of
restoration. Marie has an astounding collection of not only
antique dolls but clothing and body parts, all catalogued
and stored in wonderful vintage/antique cabinets.
I was DIZZY with excitement!
She gave me a tour and could barely breath, I have
never seen anything like it.
The only experience that came close was visiting
Isla de la Munecas with my buddy
To go there with me, click here and here and here.

But, back to Berlin and Marie's Doll Hopital.
A drawer of antique doll glass eyeballs-WOW!
I spent about an hour with Marie in this extraordinary
museum really, and I have to say, this doll below was my
There must be something going on in my psyche that I'm working thru to always be drawn to the most damaged dolls...oh well, a future session with my therapist if I ever feel like figuring it out. For now, I don't much care.

Marie, thank you for a most wonderous time with you and sharing
your art, your work, and yourself with me.
It was a fantastic experience,
I am most grateful!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


We made it!
It took us about 4 different trains, a few buses, a taxi, but we got there finally after
2 days of travel.
We stayed in the Kreuzberg area in a great apartment that
the owners usually rent out to film companies, so the apartment had
twin beds stacked all over the place.
We walked everywhere, Checkpoint Charlie being one of our first stops, the most famous
crossing point during the Cold War between East and West Germany.
It was intense, and brought to life what was happening here.
Next, we wandered over to the Eastside Gallery, a 1.3 km.
section of the Berlin wall that has been painted by over 100 international
artists to commemorate freedom. It is the largest open air gallery in the world.
I LOVED this, and could have looked at these paintings all day,
Midway along this stretch, we stumbled into
a fantastic scene, an urban beach on the Spree River.
We came to find out that these are popping up all over the
place in Europe but it was novel to us and an amazing experience.
Evidently, sand was imported from Italy to create these city beaches.
Beaches in Europe, are so civilized, they complete with caffes, bars,
lounge chairs, and often discos, and this Berlin Urban Beach was no
exception. We got espressos and plotzed in the beach chairs
overlooking the river-it was magical.
I am thinking that this would be amazing to create on the
Willamette River in Portland.
Tourist river boats cruised by, adding to
the surreal quality of this experience.