Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Minute Writer

Looking through the Blogger Blogs of Note I discovered the One Minute Writer. This blog's premise is that we have 1,440 minutes in each day, why not dedicate just one to writing? Well, I know that I already dedicate way more than one minute a day to blogging...and that takes precious time away from urgent matters in my vacuuming, ironing, going to work, etc! Can I afford another minute? And what can one actually say in just one measly little minute?

Well, I'll never know if I don't try...and free-writing is a technique I teach in my essay writing course at the let's give a whirl!

Today's writing prompt is "If you had the opportunity to write as a career, what would you write?"

I would like to write movies, funny movies about real life situations, relationships between less than normal people. I mean people who have an interesting approach to life, a different way of seeing things and interpreting everyday events.

Time's up?!! Well, I didn't get much written, did I? Hmmm... I suppose this one-minute business is just meant to force you to write something, anything to get the creative juices flowing. In the same way that I ask my students to use free-writing to generate ideas. But, at least I give them 5 minutes!

I suppose that if you like what you've written you'll continue with it...using up other precious minutes! ;-)

Interesting, I'll have to try it again another day!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Birthday!

It's not easy being a little brother. Your big brother does everything first, you have to wear his hand-me-downs, he bosses you around... And in our family, the older son has always had "better" birthday parties. Better because he was born in the summer and has always had outdoor parties with lots of people invited. A November birthday is a bit harder to organise and could never be held outside because of the weather.

Until this year! We have been having such a warm fall that we were finally able to pull off an outdoor party for G. He invited 10 friends (5 girls and 5 boys; unlike his brother he has never gone through a "Girls? Yuck!" phase). I organised 12 different outdoor party games, but the kids didn't want to do anything organised at all. They had a wonderful time just running and running and running around the yard...playing with the cat, talking to the dogs, riding bicycles, playing ping-pong, hide and seek and other spontaneous games on their own.

Free play is such a rare treat for Italian kids these days. Every day of their week is super-organised between school, homework and after-school activities. Then about 95% of them live in apartment buildings and never get to play in a yard at all. The parks here are few and far between and, in any case, do not have grass to run or play on.

It was a wild free for all, but a good time was definitely had by all!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Comfort Food

It's raining, it's raining...thank goodness, it's finally raining! We have gone without rain for too long here, they have even been rationing water supplies. But, tonight it's pouring down rain, a regular thunderstorm!

The perfect evening for Chicken and Broth, an American classic that I have Italianized by serving the broth with pastina as a first course and then the chicken and the vegetables seasoned with a bit of salt and olive oil as a second course.

Here's how I prepare it...

I use a pressure cooker to speed things up. Place a whole chicken, two peeled whole onions, 3 or 4 peeled whole carrots, 2 stalks of celery and 1 whole unpeeled potato in the crock pot. Cover with water and add 2 bouillon cubes. Close pressure cooker lid. Cook for 20 minutes at minimum from the time the first steam is released from the cooker.

Cook your favorite kind of pastina in another pot. Drain and serve in bowls with chicken broth.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shanghai Chinese Restaurant

My son D. had a craving for Chinese food the other day and so we decided to go out to the only Chinese restaurant in town. We used to be frequent customers at this restaurant when it was under different management. We would go there for birthdays and special occasions, we had our New Year's Day lunch there one year. We even had a special card on which we accumulated points every time we ate there. Once those points added up to a certain level, you qualified for a gift...we got some rice wine once and toys for the kids other times.

The people running the restaurant were friendly and efficient, but one day they were shut down by the Health Department for poor hygiene. I know the bathrooms weren't very clean, but the food always seemed good.

Well, since then we hadn't been back. We decided to take the plunge and try out the new setup. It wasn't easy to find friends brave enough to risk the "restaurant that had been closed down by the Health Department." Italians are pretty reticent about trying foreign food, in any case. Their attitude is usually, we have the best food in the world, why eat anything else? Italians are famous for seeking out Italian restaurants while traveling abroad! But, we managed to round up an adventurous family and off we went...

I'd say the bathrooms were a lot cleaner than they used to be, but the food was mediocre. The best thing there was the new owners' son...

This little guy had a great time playing with our kids. He didn't seem to speak any Italian besides "ciao" and "acqua." The kids tried speaking to him in English, but that didn't work any better than Italian! They had a great time anyway... You can't see it in the photo, but he had a toy laser gun and had no end of fun shooting G. who willingly died dramatically about a thousand times!

On our way out, I asked the father what the boy's name was and he replied, "Francesco. He was born in Rome!" That was the last name we were expecting, but...of course...he was born in Rome!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

High School Musical 3

You are not officially the mother of a preteen if you haven't seen the High School Musical films. A friend and I took our 11-year-old sons to see HSM3 on the first day it was released in Italy.

Watching popular teen films in the theater in Italy is quite an experience. Let's just say that the audience participates quite actively...they clap at the beginning and end, they scream and hoot when their favorite actors come on screen, they theatrically deep sigh as a group when the main characters kiss (or almost kiss...this is a Disney film, after all!). When Troy takes off his top in one scene, the female element in the audience just about exploded! I must admit, the kid does have extremely good muscle definition! ;-)

I think D. studies these movies as mini-lessons on teenager/boy-girl relationship behaviour. And then...there's the basketball!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween, continued...

Here is our Halloween pumpkin, created and displayed last night outside on the front porch. Facial design by G. Manual labor by Mom. Appreciation by D. and F. ;-)

Halloween is only an imported holiday here in Italy, there is no tradition of it. In the schools they talk about it in English class, teaching them all of the worst aspects, such as throwing eggs and turning over trashcans...(what are they thinking?! because obviously that's what Italian kids do now!) In past years my children tried trick-or-treating, but people just didn't get it and the kids came home empty-handed. But, through the miracle of marketing, people are catching on, and G. went trick-or-treating with his friend P. last night and came home with a major haul of candy. He was quite satisfied!

A classic Halloween poem...

by Robert Burns

Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.

Among the bonny winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin' clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou their stocks,
And haud their Halloween...

You can read the whole poem here.