Monday, March 12, 2012

10 Things Women

So, we'll just slide over the whole discussion of why I haven't posted since August and act as if it's not at all strange for me to be suddenly writing a blog post today. And what better way for me to ease back into my comfy blogging slippers than with a Monday Listicles list? 

This week Ms. Stasha of The Good Life herself has chosen the topic which is loosely defined as 10 things about women, in honor of International Women's Day (March 8, in case you missed it). Here in Italy the day is celebrated as an excuse for women to go out with their girlfriends and watch male strippers. Which could be fun, I guess, but is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about "women."

What did come to mind for me were several songs by or about women, so that's what I've decided to share with you. I've listed them in the order in which I thought of them . . . Tell me which one is your favorite!

1. I am Woman, Helen Reddy

2. These Boots are Made for Walking, Nancy Sinatra

3. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndy Lauper

4. I Love Rock & Roll, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

5. Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves, Aretha Franklin and Annie Lenox

7. You Don't Own Me, Lesley Gore

8. Independent Women, Destiny's Child

9. Paid My Dues, Anastacia

10. Respect, Aretha Franklin

If you stop by The Good Life today, you can see what 10 things a whole passel of bloggers listed about women. Aren't you curious? I know I am!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Yin-Yang You

It's Monday Listicles day again and this time it's a doozy. Kim from Zook Book Nook chose YinYang as this week's list topic. 

Do you know what YinYang is? 

Let me quote Wikipedia: "In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang (simplified Chinese阴阳traditional Chinese陰陽pinyinyīnyáng), which is often referred to in the West as "yin and yang", is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other."

Got that?

Here's my list of the Yin Yang in my life:

1. Italian-American

I have both Italian and US citizenship now, but neither country recognises the other citizenship. For the US, I am only American. For Italy, I am Italian e basta!

2. Reader-Writer

I am doing one of these two things most of the day, every day.

3. Teacher-Learner

My students are a lot older and somewhat better behaved than the ones in this picture, but the idea is that I learn as much as I teach every time I go into the classroom.

4. Good Mommy-Bad Mommy

It ain't easy being the first love of someone's life and, at the same time, the person who rains on their parade with rules, responsibility and those irritating life lessons!

5. Sedentary-Active

Always working on the balance between these two. I spend long hours seated at the pc working and then vigorous bursts of working out . . . I guess I'm somewhere mid-ground between these two lovely ladies!

6. Interior-Exterior

De Chirico - Archeologi

Another area I work to keep in balance. I do a lot of both work and pleasurable activities that use only my mind, so I have to remind myself to get out of my own head and interact with the rest of the world!

7. Soft-Hard

When people first meet me they often find me "sweet." Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!

8. Shabby-Chic

One day ratty old tshirt and no makeup - the next, silk and heels.

It's my blog, so I can show you only the pretty pictures, if I want to!

9. D&G (not Dolce & Gabbana)


Two different personalities, two different ages and completely different interests 
two different parenting styles.

10. Right-Wrong

I have strong opinions and express them forcefully.
I am always SURE I know what is right and wrong.
Until you show me how the other side of the coin is equally true.
And then that's cool, too.

Stasha at The Good Life has asked me to choose next week's Listicles topic, so . . . here goes:

10 Places You Love

To play along this week, next week, whenever you feel like it, just link up over at Stasha's place.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Land of Giants

My husband and I took my younger son, G, to the local amusement park this week. We would have taken my older son, too, but at age 14 he is way too cool to be caught dead outside of the house with his parents. So just the three of us headed out to Miragica, which claims to be "the land of giants." Didn't see any giants or anything even very large there (besides the rides), but I guess these places need a theme.

I love all the crazy rides and willingly stood in long, hot lines for 30 seconds of wild hysteria.

Long, hot and SWEATY lines . . .

Around and around, up and down
No ride is too crazy for me, I'm up for it all.

Even the ones G was terrified to try - like the Tower
 - 47 meters straight up and 47 meters free fall, whoo hoo! We went this one alone.

We also caught 3 shows over 2 days. You see, if you pay for one day, the second day is free. What that means, is that whether you are up to it or not, you feel obliged to go again the next day. Because you already paid for it, right?

The shows were worth it, though. Russian dancers, acrobats and contortionists . . . pretty heady stuff for this small provincial city!

She was good!
By the end of the second day, all I could handle was a gentle ride on the merry-go-round. 

While, in the meantime, G had overcome his fear of the scary rides and decided to ride the roller-coaster as many times in a row as physically possible. I think he did it six times! I did go with him the first two times, but lost my appetite for it after the second go when my hair got stuck in the safety bar and I couldn't get off the ride at the end. The ride operators extracted my locks and said it happens all the time.

What will I do when G is too cool to go with his parents to the amusement park? I'll have to borrow some little kids from someone for an excuse to go!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Joe Valeriano

My husband and I had a date night!


That's really a big deal around here. More so than it would be in the States. I can't speak for all of Italy, but in our town, babysitters do not want to work in the evening. They want to go out and have fun themselves! They will work in the morning or the afternoon, but the evening is sacrosanct . . . they are quite put out if you even ask.

When my oldest son was little, I had hired a babysitter so that I could return to work parttime. I also asked her to come for two hours each Thursday night so that my husband and I could go to the movies once a week. She was shocked that I would have the nerve to ask her such a thing. She said to me, "I go out in the evenings. I'm young. You wouldn't understand!"


Seemed strange to me. I mean, it was just one night a week. She could go out with her friends the other six nights. And . . . I was going to PAY her, not a minor detail in my way of thinking. 

Oh, well . . . that's the kind of subtle cultural difference that would just never cross your mind to even imagine. I just assumed that babysitters would work evenings. She just assumed that I would never even think to make her such an indecent proposal. Expectation Clash!

My sons are older now and we feel comfortable leaving them alone for a couple of hours every so often, so last night we grabbed the chance to hear Joe Valeriano live in concert right here in our town.

Joe Valeriano is one of the top blues guitarists in Italy and Europe. And he's an old high school friend of my husband's. Last night he played with a local blues band, led by another school pal of theirs who is not famous at all. He was truly amazing on the guitar. He didn't just strum it, but had all kinds of amazing techniques on the strings. He even punched them sometimes!

Forgive me the lousy iphone photo...

All of my husband's high school classmates were there, cheering on their old friends, both the famous one and the unknown one. 

Finally, a night out on the town for mom and dad, yeah!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Born to Be Wild

After the Men at Play road trip with my younger son, it was only fair that my husband head out on the highway with my older son for their own unique motorcycle adventure. Accompanied by my son's friend and his father they left the sea behind and head for the hills.

The Pollino is a mountainous national park in the Basilicata region. It offers breathtaking views of natural beauty and great wide-open winding roads through it all, ideal for the traveler on two wheels. 

Along the way, they stopped to go for a swim in a man-made lake. It's actually a reservoir, but this is Italy, after all . . . no one told them they couldn't swim there.

So they did.

Notice the ever-present soccer ball.
They stopped off to visit Craco, a medieval hilltop ghost town. It was abandoned in a slow process over decades in part because many residents emigrated in the search for a better life and, more recently, because of earthquake damage.

There are no photos to prove it, but the guys claim they went whitewater rafting, guided by a national level rafting champion. Apparently, the guide was a lot of fun and took evil pleasure in splashing my husband mercilessly. He, of course, took revenge and so amid the splashing and laughing they all had a good time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

10 Things I Miss About the USA

Hate to be a day late and a dollar short, but here it is TUESDAY already and I'm just adding my list to the Monday Listicles fest over at The Good Life. Yesterday was a national holiday here in Italy, so I was on vacation, man! Oh well, better late than never and life's too short to sweat the little stuff (since I'm on a roll with the cliches, might as well go with it), so here I am.

This weeks topic is 10 Things I Miss. Since I'm an American living abroad, I thought I'd tell you about the 10 things I miss about the USA.

1.  Easy access to my mom and dad. It's not ideal to be able to get together only once every two years. Not for me, not for them, but especially not for their relationship with my children.

2.  Speaking English all the time freely and without thinking about it. I do speak English quite a bit here, but if I am talking to students I am modulating my speed, my intonation, my choice of vocabulary so as to help them understand me while, at the same time, not talk down to them, ideally using language that is somewhat challenging (to help them learn something new) without overwhelming or discouraging them . . . see how that quickly gets complicated? It's not just talking anymore, it's work.

3.  Adult education. Very little happening here. If I were in the States I'd be taking courses in all kinds of interesting things.

4.  Old-fashioned doughnuts. Especially chocolate!

5.  The Pacific Ocean. I used to live in San Diego, right on the water. The ocean was always an awesome and awe-inspiring source of personal inspiration.

6.  Vast choice of foods from different countries. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese are the first that come to mind. Italian food is great and all, but variety is the spice of life (today has been officially declared Cliche Day).

7.  California. All of it. From top to bottom. Coast, both north and south. Mountains. Forests. Deserts. Rivers. Lakes. Cities. Small towns. Valleys, both north and south.
All of it.

8.  Ethnic diversity. Where diversity means more than just being from the next town over.

9.  Dressing however I choose. Beautifully, sloppily, vintage, with an odd hat. However I like. Theoretically I could do that here, but I would be quickly labelled "that crazy American lady" and have a hard time keeping friends.

10.  Knowing what to expect and how to do things. Life on auto-pilot. Not having to start from zero all the time or ask someone to help you. This is obviously less of a problem for me now, after having lived here for 19 years, but in the beginning I sometimes felt like I had taken all my "adult" knowledge of how to get around and get things done, which I had acquired over a lifetime, and thrown it out the window, wiped the slate clean and was starting over again as a child who had to learn everything one step at a time.

Of course, there could be equal, or longer, lists of "things I do not miss about the US" or "things that are wonderful about living in Italy" - don't get me wrong!

To see other fun lists like this, head on over to The Good Life. Why not add your own list while you're there?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Some of you may remember that last month I was following the 21 Day Rapid Fat Loss fitness program. Well, when I finished those three weeks, not only did I realise I had gotten great results, I also realised that I was hooked. The exercising/clean eating thing had captured my attention big-time and I decided that I wanted to continue.

That's why I signed up for Shawna Kaminski's six-week 24/7 Virtual Coaching Program. Shawna is in Canada and I am in southern Italy, so choosing her as my personal trainer might seem a bit wacky, but she has this great system worked out to make it possible. Every day she emails me my workout, sometimes it's a video, sometimes only audio, and a handy tip regarding health, nutrition, motivation, or some other aspect of fitness.

On top of that, we are in frequent contact every day. We send emails, cell-phone text messages or use Skype. Whenever I have a doubt, a question or a problem, she's ready with advice and support. 

Can you tell I'm loving this program? And I'm loving the results I'm seeing in my physique!

I am chronicling my fitness journey on her blog Female Fat Loss After 40. Hop on over and read my posts Progress Report and Motivation.

As always, let me make a full disclosure: I have been provided access to Shawna Kaminski's workout programs, but I am not being compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed here are mine, mine and only mine. I only tell you about the program because I'm so darn excited about it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My 10 Favorite Italian Foods

It's Monday Listicles time again and this week, Stasha over at The Good Life wants to know about 10 foods. Foods we like, foods we don't like, foods that make us happy . . . or not. Anything about food is fair game.

I thought I'd write about 10 Italian foods/drinks that come to mind.
Some are specifically foods from Puglia, the region of southern Italy I live in, others not.
Some I like, others NOT.

1. Espresso coffee

Like, like, very big like! I do not like any other coffee in the world, only Italian espresso.

2. Fioroni

Love, love, love! I love these so much I even wrote an article about them, called Fioroni, Fruit of the Gods.

3. Orecchiette con Cime di Rape

This ear-shaped pasta served with rabe broccoli is divine. This dish is a love for me, but I can't eat it because of the gluten in the pasta . . .

4. Gelato

Italian ice-cream is so scrumptious. I'm not sure how it differs from regular old ice-cream, but it differs, it differs! I had been unable to eat gelato since finding out I am lactose-intolerant, but just last week I discovered a gelateria (ice-cream shop) that sells a wide selection of flavors that are both gluten and lactose-free. Halleluiah!

5. Focaccia

Kinda like a pizza, but with a thicker dough and no mozzarella on top. Heavenly, but a no-no for me because of the gluten.

6. Martini Bianco

My favorite brand of vermouth. I strongly associate it with hanging out at the cafè with friends and enjoying an aperitvo (see number 7).

7. Aperitivo

An aperitivo is a before-lunch snack you order at a cafè. Ideally it's a few peanuts, olives and potato chips to nibble on with a soda or an alcoholic drink, as you prefer. However, at many cafès the aperitivo has become so elaborate, including tartines, mini-sandwiches and more, that you forget all about lunch. 
This is a like, a definite like!

8. Raw Mollusks

These are absolutely the favorite food of most people I know here. The mollusks are locally fished, so you know they are fresh, and include mussels, clams, hedgehog sea urchins, date mussels (the long, thin ones - which it is illegal and an ecological disaster to fish...I googled for this photo, so don't sue me!), and those scary-looking red things that look like a tongue and move around on your plate before and while you are eating them because they are alive . . . they are all alive, you know?

This is a big no thank you for me. I know they're fresh, I know they are aphrodisiacal, I know "everyone" likes them, but not me!

9. Taralli

These are a popular local snack food. They are hard like a pretzel, but not quite that hard and not salted. Hard to describe, but good . . . best enjoyed with a nice red wine before your meal. 

10. Olive Oil

I can't leave out olive oil. It's not really a food on its own, but it flavors all Puglian savory dishes. We make our own from the olives grown on the trees out in my yard. Were you wondering why this blog is called "Amid the Olive Trees"?

To read more fun food lists, or to add your own list, head on over to The Good Life.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Puglian Pleasures

Here's a roundup of recent articles I have written about the beautiful Puglia region. To read the full articles, click on the links below, or go directly to Charming Italy.

Discover a couple of fascinating summer festivals off the beaten track in 

Try your hand at a light, typically Puglian summer pasta dish

Are you brave enough to face Dante's Inferno in the bowels of the earth?
Don't miss the incredible show Hell in the Cave

If all you really want is fun in the sun, look no further than

There is so much natural beauty and so much of interest in this fantastic region!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mediterraneo: Way of Life

My brother-in-law, Gaetano Grillo, is a painter and a sculptor. He is also a professor at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan.

His work focuses on what he calls Mediterraneanism, or the essence of being Mediterranean. That includes not only the colors and the particular light of this area, but also the historical and ongoing comingling of languages, alphabets and cultures.

He currently has a personal exhibit of paintings and ceramics here in our city. We inaugurated the exhibit last Friday and it will be running through the end of the month, so if you happen to be in the neighborhood of Molfetta, feel free to drop on by.

If you can't make it in person, you can always take a peek at more of his work at his website. For now, it's all in Italian. I have translated the whole thing, but no one has gotten around to actually adding the English version to the site. When that happens, I'll give you that link again.