28 November 2010

Firenze Marathon 2010

 A short film
Filmed on location from my balcony

Whistling, yelling, clapping, horns, drums, noisemakers, church bells, words of encouragement all cheering me on and supporting me to be my best, to run my race, to cross my finish line is what was calling to me from below my windows.  Grazie.



Oh...all that cheering wasn't meant for me?

~17 km into the race

Some people are still on the course of the Florence Marathon as I write this blog post.

After crossing the finish line and taking your well-deserved medal...

Whenever I see a marathon as a spectator, I reminisce with fond memories and emotions of the days I was a marathoner.

...you get wrapped in a space blanket

Last year's marathon was ideal running weather for a race; this year it's cold and wet.

Gotta love the Port-O-Potties

27 November 2010

Room with a View


A view from one of my bedroom windows

18 November 2010

Fiat Cinquecento

Twenty-seven years have passed since Fiat has had a presence in the United States, but the news is out that Fiat is returning to the States with the release of the 2011 Fiat Cinquecento (500) (pronounced "chinkwa-chentoe"), and it promises to compete with the MINI Cooper.  The starting price of the Fiat 500 in the States will be $15,500, about $5,000 less than a MINI Cooper  If you are in Los Angeles, you can see the car at the Los Angeles International Auto Show beginning tomorrow (November 19, 2010).


The new design of the car was released in Europe in 2007 and is very popular.


Following WWII, the Fiat 500 was Italy's answer to the VW Beetle.


Old or new, the car is damn cute!


A bit of trivia:  Most of us are unaware the MINI Cooper Clubman also existed in the 1960s.  I learned that last year when I happened upon one.


15 November 2010

Prato

Nineteen minutes by train from Florence (15 km), I arrived to Prato, Italy, to meet a friend a meta' strada (halfway) and see a town I've been curious about for quite some time.


Basilica Cattedrale Di Santo Stefano

I find it hard to imagine, coming from Los Angeles, that Prato, with only 180,000 inhabitants, is Italy's third largest city following Rome and Florence


Fresco on the ceiling inside the Basilica Cattedrale Di Santo Stefano

Prato has its history in textiles.  Today it is the garment district of Florence.  Full of immigrants in the past 60 years and Chinese in particular since the 1980s, it is also Tuscany's official Chinatown.  If you're really desperate to eat Chinese food while in Tuscany, then Prato is the place to find authentic Chinese cuisine.  The "Made in Italy" label on the scarves and many other items you might buy while in Italy are often made by the Chinese in Prato, Italy.


Shadows above the candles



Finocchiona salami

Finocchiona is a Tuscan salami made with fennel seed and one of my all-time favorites.  Its origin is from Prato when allegedly someone stole a salami from the market and hid it in a bushel of finocchio (fennel).  When he later retrieved his salami, he discovered the salami had absorbed the aroma of the fennel. And a new salami was born.


Prato (field under grass, meadow) is a small town with a very old historical center and well worth visiting.  There are several churches to see with a few important pieces of artwork, the textile musuem, a castle, some nice piazze (squares) to pass some leisure time and fare una bella chiacchierata (to have a good chitchat).


And I am always in the mood for a caffe√® macchiato (espresso with a spot of milk).  Don't forget from my recent post, this is also home to the famous Antonio Mattei biscotti.


-- Josslyn
Prato, Italia

09 November 2010

Soup Time

What do you do on a cold, windy, rainy afternoon when you have completed your work and have other work to do but you are procrastinating? You make soup. That's what I did today.

I ventured out in the pouring rain to my local fruttivendolo (greengrocer) and bought the best possible locally grown produce, herbs, and organic lentils all from Tuscany. Here is what I did:


INGREDIENTS
extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
1 onion
1 leek
5 stalks of celery
6 carrots
several cloves of garlic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small can of tomatoes (diced)
2 cups of lentils (rinsed in cold water)
vegetable stock or fresh water
fresh thyme
fresh Italian parsley
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (no Kraft products EVER!!!)

First, I put on some great music to accompany me in the kitchen. I played some blues, a live B.B. King CD. As the soup was on the stove, the windows fogged up, and the scent from the vegetables and herbs perfumed the house. It was just the right ingredients to make for a cozy, comfy homestay.

Chop the vegetables very fine in preparation for making soffritto (sauted mixture of freshly chopped vegetables and ham or bacon). I want to explain.  



Soffritto is the base of many soups and other dishes in Italian cooking. I chose not to add any meat to the soffritto because I wanted a vegetarian soup. The vegetables ideally should be chopped so small that they are barely larger than a lentil. Many people tell me they find all that chopping to be a form of meditation and very relaxing. Being that I'm not a big fan of cooking nor the most patient person, I find it to be work. I chopped my vegetables pretty finely today, but they were not uniform. One reason is I lack the essential cooking tools. A mezzaluna (half moon; crescent shape) is what's really necessary for efficiently and quickly doing all that chopping, which is a crescent-shaped knife with two wooden handles that you rock back and forth as you chop your vegetables. And the other reason is I started to get lazy.

After chopping all the vegetables, heat the olive oil, add the vegetables and saute until the vegetables begin to get tender (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic, salt, and pepper.  Add the tomatoes and juice and let simmer a few minutes until the juice begins to evaporate. Add the lentils, coat in the mixture. Add the stock or fresh water. I probably used about 2 quarts of vegetable stock. I didn't measure it, which is what I love about Italian cooking. It doesn't have to be perfect. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer on a very low fire until the lentils are almost tender (al dente), about 30 minutes.

Lentils are more commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking; however, in Italian lentil soup, a pasta is usually added. If you would like to add some pasta, toss it into the pot when the lentils are al dente and simmer until the pasta becomes tender.

Once the soup is ladled into the bowl, add some fresh Italian parsley, fresh grated Parmesan cheese, sprinkle some olive oil, and serve with a yummy crusty bread.


Add some friends and laughter, and the soup becomes that much better.

07 November 2010

Orsanmichele

Some of the smaller details from outside Orsanmichele.









Mabel, however, is a big detail with a grand and regal presence in Florence, Italy.

06 November 2010

Italian Men in a Nutshell

Who doesn't love Italian men? I am a sucker for them.


Since I have been coming to Italy, I learn over and over that they are like Pinocchio.



"Pinocchio, you can only become a real boy if you learn how to be brave, honest, and generous."


End of story.

03 November 2010

01 November 2010

Dear Reader

We're coming up on a year since the birth of my blog. Still, the blog percolates; not entirely certain the direction I want to go, although some things I am certain about. One is that I want to write frequently and consistently. In looking at many blogs recently, a common trend I have noticed is the blogger apologizing for being away from posting for a length of time. Oh, please don't let me do that. I do not want to blog out of obligation to you, my reader. First and foremost, I write for myself, and second, you. This is tricky because my ego gets in the way. So I will tell you that I strive to post more frequently. So please do keep coming back; follow the blog; share the blog.


In fact, let me reveal a little secret desire. I'd love to see 2,001 hits on my blog by November 7, the anniversary. That's a high expectation, but it is possible. In fact, I can see it. A week from now I am looking at ClustrMaps on my blog, and I see the 2,001 total visits from various parts of the world since I started blogging last year. And you can help make that happen. Of course, it isn't about quantity, but it is a mini Bhavana of mine.

And comment, please!  Again, I write for myself foremost. But once again, the ego...  I love hearing from you, what moves you, what you like reading, what you don't, or to know whether anyone out there even reads my words.  So indulge me with a little ego-stroking now and then, but please keep it genuine.  Don't say it if you don't mean it.

My intention since inception has been to write honestly.  I want to get to know myself better through my writing and to take risks -- while allowing you to know me too.  On the Internet, that's an extremely vulnerable position because the Internet is infinite.  And this especially challenges the ego, my ego.  Like most of us, I have wasted energy and time worrying about what others think, their judgments of me.  Of course, I care and want to be liked -- or better yet, loved -- but in writing honestly, that means I want to write uncensored without fear of what you may think of me, whom I might offend, or what will come back to haunt me (good thing I have no plans of going into politics). Because few people have bothered to really know me, if I died tomorrow, perhaps someone would understand me. Perhaps you even relate to me.  

Some posts have been superficial and light, others educational and/or experiential, and some others more self-revealing.  I want to share with you my experiences of the place I love, Italy, and my personal evolution in leaving my corporate-American lifestyle to learning how to live a life truer to my heart, spending quality time with people I care about, eating food that's more natural and closer to the source and full of prana, feeling the wind on my face, my feet on the ground instead of driving in my bubble leaving my pod to go to a larger pod and having little human contact on a daily basis.  That's how I lived in Los Angeles; that's why I left Los Angeles.  That kind of writing isn't always positive and upbeat.  Many times it's about disappointment, disillusion, and sadness.  Or maybe it's the sadness and grief from long ago that I have yet to resolve; so it keeps reappearing as pedestrians in front of my car. Or the insecurities -- when I have a muffin top, I believe I'm no longer lovable -- and the addictions I battle, and the chatter that goes on inside my head that tells me I'm different from the rest of you, and I believe it!  So I still have a long way to go on my personal journey.

I consider a second blog, one in which I can cut loose and let that stuff out and maybe not confuse and scare you, my readers, and find men in white coats at my apartment door with a straitjacket for me to wear.  However, as a sole-practitioner, I never liked the idea of having two or more checking accounts -- one for personal, and one for business -- because to me, it's all one pocket.  It's all me, and it comes from the same source.  And that's how I feel about having another blog.  I'd like to keep it all one.  

Also, I'm moving away from signing my name at the end of each blog posting.  I'll use it when I blog from or about another location.  Otherwise, it feels redundant.

Eccomi (Here I am), still a very simple girl moving in the direction of living a simpler, less-complicated and more genuine life in Florence, Italy, one day at a time.

In Pace / In Peace