Monday, June 29, 2009

Have I already told you guys about the melanzana? Excuse me if I'm repeating myself but I can't remember and I'm too lazy right now to read my old posts.

Anyway, this is a melanzana

Well, that's what's left of my melanzana after my dinner tonight. Yeah, melanzana means eggplant or aubergine, depending on where you're from or if you're trying to be pretentious.

It was one of the days when Augusto was here working that I planted the veggies in my garden. Having seen Augusto's veggie garden, I was smart enough to ask him a little advice before I put the plants in the earth. Having never seen my hands in the dirt, Augusto took a break (and a beer) and watched me plant my tomatoes and peppers, telling me how to do it.

After the zucchini were in he said, "you need a melanzana."

"Aren't they hard to cook?"

"NO! You need a melanzana"

small note here: Augusto would have no idea if melanzane were hard to cook or not. He only sees them in two stages 1. hanging from the plant, 2. on the plate. Everything between those two points of the eggplant's life is quite a mystery to Augusto, I'm sure.

"I'll bring you a melanzana tomorrow."

And he did.

He even put in in the ground for me.

Last week it gave me food. Just like that! One day it was just a plant and the next day there was this big, beautiful, purple, fleshy fruit hanging there. Ok, it wasn't THAT big. And it probably didn't happen over night...I might not have been paying too close of attention.

All the same, I had a melanzana with no clue what to do with it. So I drew a few left handed sketches of it but then figured, well, it has a higher purpose than that. I should probably eat it.

So when I was at the Maberga mass and I saw Augusto's wife, Lina. She knows the melanzana in its phases between plant and plate. So I said, "Lina, I got a melanzana from the plant Augusto planted!! Now what do I do?"

She then launched into a 10 minutes explanation for fried melanzana meatballs that involved meat and eggs and bread and whole bunch of verbs that I had never heard before. She must have seen my eyes glaze over because then she said, "or you could just make a sugo (sauce) with it."

"How do you do that?"

When I said that she gave a sideways glance to her cousin who she had just introduced me to who was visiting from Calabria. Lina's cousin was a little less subtle about my question. She shot her eyes, wide open (her mouth was open too) at Lina with a look that said, "did I just understand this American correctly?! She doesn't know how to make sugo with melanzana?!"

"I'm a bit of a disaster in the kitchen." I explained.

So the very nice cousin, in very slow and explicit Italian described to me how to make the sugo.

I won't embarrass myself further or insult your cooking sensibilities by writing out the insanely simple recipe. Let me just say that, even I couldn't screw this one up. (if there are any of you fellow kitchen disasters out there who would like the recipe, send me an email and I'll write it out for you).

Tonight I made the sugo and it was freakin awesome. Sorry, no photos. While it was delicious to taste, it wasn't so photogenic. Instead of a photo of the food here's a photo of Q being pissed off because I wouldn't share more of my dinner with her.

I probably won't ever impress anyone with my cooking prowess, but I am able to make other stuff. For example, some freakin' awesome leg warmers

(free pattern found here. the yarn in Swish Bulky from KnitPicks - I love this yarn)

I don't know if Lina's cousin from Calabria would be impressed by these but Ruff was.

With the left over leg warmer yarn I made these mitts that are quicker and easier than malanzana sugo.

(pattern from "Weekend Knitting, aka: my favorite knitting book) They are so fast that they can be made while listening to one Timber Rattlers game.

With the studio up and running again, I've been prolifically producing jewelry.

Check my Etsy shop if you're in the market for some Italian bling. I can promise that they are even better than my sugo - much nicer to look at and way easier to put in your ears.

I've also been making tons of these...

Yep, that's a friendship bracelet knotted together from embroidery thread. Yep just like the kind you used to make in the third grade (or high school if you were bored). I can't quite explain where the urge to make these came from. It must be some reflex to hearing the theme song to "Charlie's Angels" and "Thriller" over and over and over again on the radio in the past week. RIP Farrah and Michael.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When David and I were in Assisi on our sabbatical year 10 years ago a couple friends from Denver came to visit. The four of us, along with David's then young children, took a little trip. The six of us in a rather large car drove down to Rome, Naples, then on to the Amalfi Coast. It was a wonderful trip with dear friends and family. On the way back to Assisi we passed through the historical town of Herculaneum.

Herculaneum is the forgotten sibling of Pompeii. Another prosperous Roman city that was destroyed by that little volcano Vesuvius incident in 79ad. Ok, a town is "destroyed" by a wild fire or maybe a tornado. This town, like Pompeii was not destroyed, it was decimated. Killed. Wiped out completely. Vesuvius's molten lava covered it totally.

Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum was pristinely preserved. Well, as pristine as hot lava can do. At Herculaneum you wander the streets of the now excavated town. You can enter into the houses - houses of the rich with beautiful mosaics still visible and the houses of the poor with the communal food pots still in place.

Our little group of tourists did a guided tour. It was off season so we had our guide to ourselves. It was a gray day with a light rain misting the air and exemplifying our experience.

At one point pal Johnny and I were admiring the main pool of the Roman baths of the city. We were standing next to one another in that wonderful silence that is demanded when viewing and experiencing a historical wonder - contemplating life, lives before you and mortality in general. Johnny turned to me, looked at me for a while and then, in a voice that seemed to cut right through the rain pelting us and was, if I must say, much harsher than the experience and scene called for said, "I can't believe you are traipsing around Europe in your pajamas."

Now let's just stop for a second and view the facts of this situation.

Being as I was on sabbatical and therefore spending carefully doled money on travel, experiences, and, well, food and rent, I had not been investing in the latest Italian fashion. I was, on said day (and if I'm honest, every day of the sabbatical year) donning some clothes that had been purchased for the most part just before leaving the States. The outfit under scrutiny was: an over sized handknit wool sweater, "the boots", a hat purchased for me by my mom on a previous trip to Bellagio (it had rained then, too) and, here we come to the jammies part, a pair of mustard yellow CP Shades wide-legged, elastic waisted pants in a curtain-like floral embroidered fabric that looked a little like, well, pjs.

I've been thinking about Johnny all day as I was "traipsing around Europe" in a friend's discarded bed sheet that I potato printed last night with blue stars and made into a skirt this morning.

I don't know what Johnny would have said but Das Needle ladies had nothing but praise for my ingenuity ... and fabulous fashion sense.

Ok, maybe not, but they were complimentary all the same. They can appreciate the process.

So, sporting, not jammies but a sheet, I spent a lovely day with the girls and our needles.

I would like to thank compatriot, Tom who is visiting Mette and (her husband) Teddy and who was more than kind to take the photos for this post since I forgot my camera.

On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to direct all OliveKnitting readers to Tom's website ... , as well as a YouTube video shared with me by Tom that is a must-see - that is if you are into Japanese pipemakers who play bluegrass.

Life continues to be interesting in Maberga.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Maberga Mass '09

window flowers

Those of you who have been reading here through the years will remember that toward the end of June every summer (almost every summer) all people with a connection to Maberga - young and old, new and native make their way (OUR way) up to the village of Maberga for mass in the church.

The village, once the home to a convent of nuns (about 400 years ago), became the investment property of two brothers called Lanteri(about 200 years ago) who, in turn, spawned a whole group of people called the Maberghini.

real maberghini

The native Maberghini are also all called, since they come directly or indirectly (mostly directly) from the brothers Lanteri, well, Lanteri. Yep, as of about 30 years ago when Maberga was at its thriving best as a village of 11 families - or shall I say 11 households but one family - they all had the same last name.

Of course times change even in Maberga. Like Coloradans, the native Maberghini are now out-numbered by the new comers who want a little piece of the good life.

view from Maberga

In a village that was once all Lanteri, there are now Verti, Januzzi, Lazzi, and, even a couple of Cornwells (I have a sudden and thorough understanding right now as to how ethnic surnames in the US become bastardized through generations by immigrants trying to fit in to an adopted culture as I have a sudden and overwhelming urge to change our name to Cornwelli or maybe Cornwallo, maybe Cornwellini.)

As I was saying, each year all of us come here...


inside church

where we all say hello to him...


just before he does this...

mass inside church

and we do this...


until we all do this...



La Carla with salami

ladies eating

boys talking


until we say good bye...

shaking priest's hand

until next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What a big day today is. In addition to it being father's day (in the States) and Maberga Mass Day (in, well, MABERGA), it's also Sunday. The last one means that the Timber Rattlers are playing at a time when it's reasonable for me to listen and, therefore, posting about the other two will have to wait.

until later...go Rattlers

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

7:45am, the phone rings

It's David from Siena.

L: Pronto. (as if I don't know who's calling me at quarter to 8 in the morning)

D: Happy anniversary, Honey.

L: Thanks. Happy anniversary to you.

D: Thanks for marrying me.

L: Thank you. Can you believe that that was 14 years ago?

D: I know. Weird.

L: Seems a lot longer.

D: Yeah, it does.

Monday, June 15, 2009

there's been a little accident...

A Michael's delivery truck seems to have collided with a Goodwill delivery truck in the middle of my studio causing a great explosion of their respective cargos. I'm not sure exactly how either of them crossed the Atlatic, made it up my road or onto the second floor of my house but they did, they crashed and boy is there a huge mess of old clothes, yarn and craft supplies everywhere.

Now I'm trying to clean it up, and maybe even make a little order out of the whole thing. There'll be photos...after.

Friday, June 12, 2009

While in college, my girlfriend Betty and I started collecting little bits of life's wisdom in the form of easy to remember one-liners.

Some in the collection were...

"Fred is so misunderstood." (fred was not the name of the friend in which we were referring, obviously)

the wisdom: just a little understanding helps when someone is bugging the shit out of you.

"if you can't carry it you can't drink it."

the wisdom: always be strong enough for the situations you face. (or "at least be strong enough to carry a case of beer" was the corrolary and, well, if I'm honest, that was the origin of this sage gem).

"How ya gonna pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you ain't got no boots?"

the wisdom: always have a good pair of cowboy boots in your wardrobe. (by the way, this one was stolen by our Pres in his Denver campaign speech. You're welcome, Mr. Obama. Glad it helped you.)


"you don't have to tell your parents everything."

the wisdom: you don't have to tell your parents everything.

Following up on this sage gem looks like me NOT telling my parents this...

"the back door to my house has been removed and has not been replaced. I don't know when the new one is coming and so anyone or anyTHING can enter my house at will. I will be in this situation until...well, I don't know how long."

When you are living on the top of a mountain, alone, in Italy this is not at all something that parents need to hear. Despite the fact that said girl living alone on the mountain with no back door is almost 40 years old and is fairly capable of fending for herself...all the same, I think if you are parents, this information is not something you want to hear.

So, having said all of that, I'm as pleased as my dogs with a pail of lemons to say that ... I got doors.

Meet Eugenio...

In addition to being the only guy in Maberga who doesn't mind our dogs, he's also the awesome guy who made and installed the doors on our new bedroom.

And let me tell you that the fact that he only has 8 fingers did not at all stop him from doing a fan-friggin-tastic job.

Now let's look at that punch list:

--windows painted - DONE

--walls primed and painted - DONE

--floor scrubbed of clumps of cement....tomorrow

--furniture moved in...AS SOON AS FREAKIN POSSIBLE!!!!!! the kitchen-as-bedroom is getting old.

Meet my French Doors...

And Betty, a new gem of wisdom

"if you're gonna see the moon rise, you gotta be able to get out of the bedroom."

the obvious.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hey, guess what I did yesterday.

I'll give you a clue.

Yep. Das Needles are working again since our organizer is back.

Actually, the better question is "guess what I learned yesterday". That's actually not a question but rather a command, an imperative. But you know what I'm saying...guess what I learned yesterday.

Here's the data leading me to what I learned...

Christine, knitter for about 7 months (is that right, Christine?), is making a baby blanket for a friend's grandchild. Said grandchild was born, I don't know, maybe a month ago. Christine has, well, a ways to go on said baby blanket. It might be finished to go with him to college.

Mette, knitter for um, well, like, um, well, maybe 40 years (is that right, Mette?), is making a baby sweater for a nephew's baby TO BE BORN in August. Mette has one sleeve left to knit.

So what did this teach me? I don't know, actually. Maybe something about new borns being warmer if only the whole world would have been knitting for thier whole life.

So...guess what I did today?!

I'll give you a involved tape, plastic tarps, brushes, paint, and a bit of fatigue (photos to come tomorrow when I'll be doing the same as today).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to bed because the Timber Rattlers are playing at 2.05am my time and I must wake up to listen to the game.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

the birth of a nation

Happy June 2nd. It's a holiday here, just in case you didn't know. It commemorates the day in history when the Italians voted to have a republic instead of a monarchy. By this point Fascism was already out, they didn't even need a vote on that. This happened in 1946...1946. That's only 63 years ago.

Having lived here, off and on, for going on 10 years now (which is approximately 1/6th of the life of their republic), I still find the government, and the system there of a little, shall we say, confusing. And the holidays...forget it.

Does anyone else besides me in the US have to think for a good bit before saying whether Memorial Day is in May or September. And therefore, Labor Day? And then...does any American have to think about what is celebrated on July 4th?

Last Friday I reminded Augusto that Tuesday is a holiday.

"Da vero?"

"Yeah, really it is."

"Ah si! e' ... e'... la festa per...."

"the republic."

"ah, si si si. La republica"

This is interesting to me. Augusto is not a stupid guy...not at all. Really, I hope he isn't, he's just put the roof on my house. He hasn't, however, had many years of school. Even so, if I pressed him, he'd probably be able to tell me a bit of history surrounding this holiday, even if he hadn't remembered that it was happening today. But ask any Italian when Labor Day is and they can tell you. Any Italian, regardless of education or life experience, job, position or socio-economic status.

I just find this interesting. As Americans, as a country built on people, waves of peoples from all over the world who have sought refuge in our country because they "wanted work". The same country where 40 hours a week is really part time because either you A)you are in some salaried position where your contract says 40 hours but you know you have to do 80 or get fired or B) you are in a non-management position and you have to have a second job, above the 40 hours of your first job, to make ends meet. It's interesting to me, in our country of workers and work ethic and work-aholism, Labor Day is less celebrated than Independence Day. Strange. Interesting.

It would be easy writing to continue this post with the cultural generalizations that I've already thread throughout this post to now say something like "even weirder is that in this Mediterranean culture of working as little as possible they always remember Labor Day" But I'm not going to go there because my muratore (aka: Augusto) worked his ass off this morning even though it was a holiday and he had a family lunch to go to where, no doubt, he was the grill chef.

So, in conclusion to this post, in case you haven't been tracking where I'm going...well, I don't have a conclusion. And it's ok if you haven't been tracking because I'm not going any where. Just sliding around a little in observations.

Happy Festa della Republica.

PS. Also, Happy Labor Day, a little late since it happened here on May 1st and I missed it. Maybe it's just me.