30 January 2011

Buona Domenica / Good Sunday

Good Sunday is a greeting said to one another in Italy.  Often it is said at the end of a workweek to someone you will unlikely see again until after the weekend has passed.  Sunday is the only day of the week addressed in this manner.  

Buona domenica.  (Days of the week and months in Italian are lower case.)  Today, this particular Sunday, is perfect in my little world, a day overflowing with simple pleasures and gratitude.  A light rain began late last night and has yet to cease.  I am not complaining because I love the rain, and I know before long the heat and humidity will arrive and most likely, too, my lamenting at how I feel like a wilted flower.

Mabel, freshly bathed and with fur fluffier and softer than silk or satin, and I went out this morning for a long walk along the Lungarno. We visited with some of our usual morning contacts.  Later I had a few conversations about our plans for the upcoming week.  I enjoyed a gentle restorative yoga practice. A bit of homework as well as a bit of work for pay were done in the morning hours.  My home is clean and orderly.

Like every other day, I have my list of "Things To Do."  I have more work to do, but it is a manageable amount.  Many days I am easily distracted and boondoggle the day away in spite of my intentions. And when a day like today comes along where everything is perfectly aligned and I can do whatever I choose without obligations and deadlines looming over my head, often I am too tired, the choices too many, and I become paralyzed, in a sense, as to what is it I really want to do with this "free day" because it is only one day, and there are so many things I could do ... and what happens?  I end up doing something unplanned, not even desirable, and fritter away the time.  In Los Angeles, I cried for days like today.  My life was stressful in corporate America.  Even in Italy it can be a struggle to have a day like today.

Not today!  I am enjoying a well-balanced, quiet, soul-nurturing day in my home.  Sweet Mabel is nearby.  She keeps her eyes on me at all times.  She makes no demands; she just lets me know she needs and loves me. Loving her is the easiest thing in the world.  I feel comfy and cozy inside and out. Comfortable clothes wrap my body. Recently, I have experienced some small mental/emotional/perhaps even spiritual shifts and feel great.  Various things need my attention, but there are no major projects that need to be accomplished today. I took a break from my work to come downstairs and read about women that are creative and the space in which they create. Inspirational, instrumental music plays in the background. Periodically, I look up from what I am doing, make eye contact with Mabel, and watch the rain.  

Creating a great day, for me, begins with adequate and restful sleep.  Since I was a child, I found it difficult to end my days, and the morning is my favorite time of day.  Needless to say, I rarely get enough sleep.  Last night I had a solid six and a half hours of sleep and woke up feeling like a new person.

Today I am enjoying each and every minute, consciously making the choice of what I want to be doing, free of guilt and anxiety.  I feel love and loved and completely at peace and at ease in my own skin. There is no where else I would rather be and no one else I would rather be with in this moment.  Today is perfect just the way it is.

My personal experience of this particular Sunday may not sound like much to get excited about, and it may even sound as if I am having a lazy day.  But for me, this is what life is about, the simple pleasures, gratitude, love, self-acceptance, conscious choices. Instead of "doing," today is about just simply "being."

To you, I bid a "Buona domenica!"

15 January 2011

Wild Goose Chase

I showed up at the agreed-upon place and time to go enjoy a pizza with a small group of people ... and ended up going out with just one of the group, my friend "G'io."  

G'io is a Florentine who insists there is no good food to be found within the city.  I am no food snob, but I do agree few great restaurants reside within the city walls largely because the majority of the restaurants cater to tourists and, as such, is not especially great food. When I used to vacation here, people would tell me "You can't eat poorly in Italy," but that is so not true. That said, I do have a number of places within the walls that I love and frequent.

The night before G'io wanted to take me to dinner, which involved either driving or taking a taxi, where we could eat "well," but I had my reasons for not being adventurous and didn't go. Last night he conceded to my wishes to stay within the city walls and to go somewhere we could walk to -- well, that is, initially, he conceded. We walked to Piazza Santo Spirito and settled in at Ricchi, a decent restaurant. He wanted to have fish.

Nota Bene:  Understand that Florence is landlocked and as a result is a meat-eating city. Even though the sea is only an hour away, fresh fish is brought to the markets on Fridays and available to all.  Friday is the day of the week in Florence to indulge in fresh fish, whether in restaurants or at home.  Otherwise, if you want fresh fish, chances are it will be frozen, even though it may have been frozen as recently as the day prior.  Oh, you can get fresh fish here other days of the week in certain restaurants, but you will pay heavily for that day's catch.

Back to Ricchi.  We ordered a bottle of fizzy water. The waiter came to take our order even though we had not yet opened the menu.  "What good fish is on the menu today?" my friend G'io asked.  The waiter began to explain.  To each item the waiter said, my friend had questions and comments and poo-poo'd several of the waiter's descriptions.  G'io ordered what he wanted, exactly how we wanted each dish prepared for both of us, and none of it was from the menu.  I felt like I had just been dropped into a scene from the film When Harry Met Sally and G'io was Sally.  Remember, I am in Italy, where the custom is that there are no menu substitutions. It was comical. A little discussion pursued regarding just how fresh the fish was. The waiter ran off to consult with the chef and promptly returned. Next thing I knew, G'io asked to pay for our bottle of water, which the waiter refused to allow him to pay, and to call a taxi for us, and we were out the door and on the street awaiting our taxi's arrival.

We took a 10 Euro taxi ride to just barely outside one of the city doors to Trattoria Vittoria.  We could have walked there in under 15 minutes.  I enter to see a large aquarium that I don't think is intended to be decorative followed by a very long display of fish and seafood of many varieties, big and small.  It is obvious everyone knows G'io.  He is greeted with handshakes, hugs, and kisses, and lots of "Mi dispiace," (I am sorry). At this point it is still early for dinner in Italy, but the restaurant is full.  G'io frequents this place regularly and dumps a lot of Euro here.  There were two very large parties that filled the restuarant, and G'io felt the restaurant made a grave error by not squeezing a small table for two in a corner somewhere for us to sit.  (It was Friday night.  We didn't call in advance, rather just showed up.)

Back out on the street.  We discuss where to go next...  He calls for another taxi.  Having selected our next stop, I convince him we can walk to the next viale (boulevard, avenue) and at the same time work up an appetite.  I tried to convince him, unsuccessfully, to start a charity fund in my honor after seeing how much he is willing to spend, frivolously, on taxis.

We arrive to Fuor d'acqua, and it is packed liked sardines. Again, he is greeted in the same manner, i.e., handshakes, hugs, kisses, and "I'm sorry." Again, no place for us.

Out on the street again and still outside the city walls, we walk next door to Via Vai, chic and also packed. The usual greetings again. I watch the maître d' shake his head "no" as he studies the 14x18 piece of paper full of reservations. Eventually, he finds a table for us. We're hungry, it is no longer too early for dinner in Italy, and we are finally sitting down. Again, G'io goes through the exercise of drilling the waitress about what good food is on the menu tonight, and then he proceeds to order for both of us what he wants, the way he wants, not according to the menu.  

Dinner was excellent.  We began with an appetizer of burrata. (Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from bufala mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. It is usually served fresh, at room temperature. The name "burrata" means "buttered."  It is served with lightly fried mozzarella and small mozzarella balls and prosciutto.)  Our primo piatto (first plate) is fresh, homemade spaghetti with porcini mushroom sauce served wrapped in foil.  Our second dish consists of a gorgeous fresh vegetable salad, and the most delicious, perfectly grilled Chianina filet mignon I have ever tasted with mashed potatoes.  I still had food in my mouth when suddenly he was ready to go, and we abruptly left.  It happened so fast that once we were on the street, I couldn't help but think I left something behind in the restaurant.  My experience of eating dinner out in Italy is you "buy" your table for the evening and you leisurely enjoy one course after the other over several hours' time.

We walked back into town and back to Santo Spirito where we sat outdoors and took coffee and continued our conversation.

Oh, I am not complaining.  It was a dramatic, exciting, and fun evening, full of great conversation. Started out with the intention of having a pizza, which turned into a mission for fresh fish, and ended up eating the best filet.  I learned about a few restaurants (all in one night) that I hadn't previously known about that are off the tourist maps and places I would love to return and actually eat at.  I ate well. For a simple girl from Southern California, the entire evening was entertaining.

After many hours of speaking and listening intently and intensely only in Italian with a person that has a thick Florentine dialect, speaks quickly and not often clearly, doesn't cater to my language inadequacies, I came home exhausted but with several new words and phrases added to my Italian lexicon, a belly full of excellent and yummy food, and a deeper friendship.

11 January 2011


Autoritratto translates to self-portrait.  Through January 30, 2011, a rare and interesting art exhibition is going on at the Galleria degli Uffizzi, Sala delle Reali Poste, in Florence, Italy, called "Autoritratte: Artiste di Capriccioso e Destrissimo Ingeno," (Women Artists of Wit and Great Ingenuity).  It is a collection of sixty women artists' self-portraits ranging from the 16th century to present day. The Uffizi Gallery has a collection of 1,700 self-portraits. Only 100 are by women artists.  Entrance is gratis.

Will you see the exhibit?

08 January 2011


I never would have thought it, but I miss many items that I enjoyed while living in the States. I especially miss the many items available from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. You know, the items we all use day to day and never give a second thought to. Many other items as well.

I took a field trip to a store I have known about for a long while now but had previously not made the time to explore. Natura Sì, Italy's answer to Whole Foods, is a short bus ride outside Florence's city walls.  Natura Sì offers many products difficult to find elsewhere in Italy, and I was on a mission to find as many of them as I could. I scoured every aisle of the store two or three times looking for many beloved products.  Unfortunately, I did not find the majority of what I sought.  Perhaps now you can understand why I beg you to bring certain products when you vacation in Italy, and I will continue to beg.  Some good news from my trip to Natura Sì, though:  I returned home with a few new products, miso* and tahini included.
*Miso, a combination of fermented soybean paste and barley, is considered a brain food.  In Japanese the word miso means brain.  It is a live, fermented food -- think prana.  Miso has so many health benefits and could not be any easier to prepare. Commonly recognized as brain food because its combination of protein and vitamin B encourages brain metabolism, making the wheels turn faster.
With tahini now in my home, dried, organic ceci (garbanzo or chickpeas) are soaking so that I can finally indulge in some homemade, roasted garlic hummus.  Cannot wait.

How about you?  What items do you miss when you travel?

04 January 2011

Cucina Italiana

What is it about Italian cooking that is so great? Perhaps the purity of its content. Perhaps the fresh, locally grown ingredients. Perhaps the deliciousness of the meal. Or perhaps the simplicity of its recipes and the letting go of the need to be perfect (a pinch of this, a handful of that).

I grew up eating out. Home-cooked meals on a regular basis were not a part of my background. Cooking and baking have never been one of my hobbies. But guess what? I am starting to get into it. Eating out is expensive (I am on a budget), and home-cooked meals allows me more control over what goes into my body. I now enjoy experimenting with many different dishes. Some I love and make a part of my regular diet; others I try, don't love, and move on.

Tonight's dinner is chicken, kale, and chickpea stew. Note the deep, rich colors, which are the sign of a healthful food and the staples of Italian cuisine.  It tastes as good as it looks. C'mon over.  Let's enjoy it together.

What are your favorite recipes...?

01 January 2011

Buon Anno 2011

 Out with the Old 
31 Dec '10
Duomo, Florence, Italy

A view I like

In with the New
New Year's Day 1.1.11
Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

A new day, a new month, a new year, another new beginning. Always a good time for reflecting on the past and setting intentions and mapping our course for who we want to become and where we want to go.

I will say no more because I have work to do in creating my way.  

Nina Simone's Feeling Good

What are your intentions for the year ahead?

Buon Anno!