Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Lights

The Christmas lights have, at long last, been threaded throughout the dazzling streets of Rome. And as I walk along under the evening light, gazing at the beaded illumination, glowing sparklers and shimmering ribbons of bulbs- I experience a mixture of emotions- joy, nostalgia and regret. Joy- because how can one not be joyful in Rome around the holidays? Nostalgia- because…well I don't really know why. Maybe I just miss my family. And a bit of regret- because I am leaving for India in three days- which means I will fully miss out on the three most important Italian winter milestones: Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Winter Sales (sigh…particularly due to the latter).

Right now- Rome is so beautiful, so festive- and so incredibly charming. But I’m sad- and as I sat on the couch attempting to find the words to explain how I feel, with MTV blaring on the television in the background, I heard Chris Martin’s familiar voice singing a new song, Christmas Lights. Coldplay sang… “Doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all.” Good song- just about how I feel- have a listen below…I guess I would call it my 2010 Christmas anthem. I have to say, its much better than Train’s overplayed Christmas song, “shake up the happiness, wake up the happiness, come on ya’ll…it’s Christmas time.”

I mean, come on. Seriously?

To make matters worse- I just found out that Limewire is under a court order to stop distributing software. Which means no Christmas music on my new hard drive. Sorry Mariah.

Of course, I am thrilled to be leaving for India- it's a trip I’ve been anticipating for the greater part of five years. On the other hand, having spent nearly 15 days of the last 30 in the Indian Embassy has not proven been the best launch to the magical experience I have in mind. In Shantaram, the author mentioned something about the Indians being the Italians of the East. Now, I haven’t yet been to India- but I have spent days waiting around the Indian embassy- and I can honestly say, based on first impressions (from a bureaucratic standpoint) that this statement couldn't be more true. I laughed when I read it. Yet- I cried when I realized it was true.

I have been completely at the mercy of this incredibly unfortunate culture clash. Simply put Italians (disorganized, slow, stubborn, proud, fiery and aloof) in an office, add a few Indians (indifferent, smug, stubborn and apathetic) and voilá- welcome to inefficiency and a lot of unanswered inquiries. Finally though, I am happy to report, I did manage to get my visa. Please don't get me wrong- the larger fraction of my favorite people in the world consist of both Italians and Indians- I am purely speaking on my experience with the employees of the Indian Embassy of Rome on Via 22 Settembre, 5 (in case anyone was wondering how to find where misery lives…)

I suppose one good thing about Italy is that its national colors are already green and red- therefore, only a few changes have to be made in invoke the “Christmas Spirit”- a snowflake here, a silver bell there- and there ya go. Along with the lights and the trees and the Santas in store windows- Rome is utterly freezing- but like .01 degrees too warm to snow- which is the worst. This weather means, to me; blue lips, walking around in my ski clothes, three horrible days of the flu and the interminable waiting for snow like Waiting for Godot. I am so pumped full of medicine it’s hard to really bask in the Christmas joy of hanging lanterns and glittering palazzi. I did feel good enough today to go to the dog park in Villa Borghese, where a baby Dalmatian maimed Dudy’s perfect little nose so badly I think he’s going to be disfigured for life. But as my friend Stephan says, I’m building up my sh*t capital so that the India trip will go off without a hitch. (here’s hoping…)

Oh, and I spent last weekend in Naples for the Baptism of my Boyfriend’s niece. We went to the family church in the tiny city outside of Pompeii where Antonio grew up. That was interesting as well. Here’s how it went (I’m going to do this in English):

Antonio: “Morgan I want to introduce you to the priest. He basically raised me” (at this point- I should have known to run)

Morgan: “OK”

Priest: “Hi Antonio. How’r’ya? This the girlfriend? Ah well, Antonio- I was watching you, you didn't cross yourself in the manner you were raised. (looks at me all knowingly) You should teach him.”

Morgan: “I’m Jewish”

Priest: (looks at me with an expression between shock and disappointment) “hmmmm ….well….(looks at Antonio) Are you going to convert?(Looks at me) I guess….you are still waiting for your God.

Whatever that means…

Morgan: (speechless)

Aunt of Antonio: (Interjects) “No she has Allah.”

Morgan: (still speechless)

Antonio: (babbles something inaudible)

Really? That was news to me…

So that was fun.

Now...I’m going to go out, eat pizza, and snap a few shots of some dangling lights before I leave for the third world. 

A dopo….

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giorno del Ringraziamento

Another Thanksgiving sans family and sans turkey…(not that I eat it anyway…)

While as I woke up this morning with a twinge of longing for my family and the beautiful November Miami weather, I can’t say that I’m not contented here. 

In the last few days I have taken long walks with the pup- one beginning from Piazza Navona to Piazza di Spagna, ending in a fountain on Via Margutta- which was fun, but the clean-up wasn't. I attended a Unicef gala with a Ballet by Bolle and his troop that was so poignant it made me want to take dance classes again. One evening, I cooked Zucchini Flowers I found in the market and Eggplant Parmigiana for friends who came over to dinner. I’m writing a business plan with a friend, eating tons of pizza, watching the puppy lose his teeth, eat them and grow them back (not due to the ingestion of course).

And in between all the action- I have read three books:

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan

Love The One You’re With By Emily Griffin


One Day by David Nicholls

All great stories. All worth reading- all taking time away from my writing.

Dudy is growing at an impressionable rate and is the best puppy ever- except, of course, for the weekend spent in the hospital hooked up to tubes due to the packet of ibuprofin he ate while I was sleeping. Fortunately, he survived…and is thriving.

It’s truffle season in Italy and I am certainly eating my fair share- particularly the white variety, straight from Alba- requesting shavings on everything- pasta, cheese, asparagus…etc. I would put them in my coffee if I could.

Life is good- Rome somehow seems to get more beautiful by the day and as winter approaches, the lush fur coats in all shades from ivory to rich browns and blacks pass under my windows in droves screaming- “whats PETA?”

So this thanksgiving I wont be standing on any chairs singing the American national anthem- but you may find me in Villa Borghese- with Dudy- humming Va Pensiero to myself…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Simple Equation

It's possible that I've finally deciphered the key to happiness:

puppies + good wine + plenty of sleep +Uggs

As simple as that...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

U.A.E. & Me

A few weeks ago, I spent about four days in Dubai. It was my third time in the Emirate, but my first as a tourist. This time around, I was there merely to explore and enjoy. And along with the exploration- and snapshot taking, I did some reflecting- and happened to note that Dubai appears to be the city most unlike Rome in the world.

If I were to describe Rome- I’d have a sizeable catalog of adjectives, anecdotes and images. If I were asked to describe Dubai- I would simply state that it’s the opposite of Italy. 

What is old and crumbling in Rome- is new and shiny in Dubai. Where Dubai has “the biggest,” Rome has “the oldest.” Dubai’s man-made islands shaped like palms jut into the Gulf- while Rome’s man-made temples weave their ways in and out of history books like threads. Dubai runs like clockwork. Italy, oftentimes, ceases to run at all.

In Rome, the destroyed heels of my Italian shoes slide between the mislaid cobblestones- and in Dubai, my heels either clapped along the newly paved streets or sunk into the sand in the less developed areas of the city. 

In Rome, one can stroll through the city- ambling from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain- passing sculptures and churches built hundreds of years ago. While in Dubai, one can drive and see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world standing at 2716 feet, from almost any point. Rome has the Vatican and Dubai has the Burj al Arab with its florescent lights illuminating the city, its gold plated interiors with aquariums and glistening walls.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, is in power as a result of the constitutional monarchy. The Sheikh dreamed up the city as it is today- and transformed that dream into a reality. Italy has Berlusconi- who, in his own words stated, “I am absolutely sure to be the most democratic man to ever become Prime Minister in Italy.” (ANSA 2002) 

Dubai is a gem- something that has never existed in the middle east- a place of dreams. And Italy, alone, is home to 50% of the entire world’s artistic heritage. Italy is the birthplace of the Renaissance and Dubai is the birthplace of banking- with a Muslim twist.

Dubai is decadent- filled with imagination and desire. It’s a shell though- lacking foundation. Italy is anything but a shell- its layers penetrate deep with history, culture, philosophy and art. Dubai dazzles where Rome astounds. 

Being in Dubai, I had fun. I had forgotten what it was like to be around a diverse group of young professionals, moving and shaking in a society that they seem to be building together. In Rome, I arrived and promptly got the impression that I was invading a society- something deeply embedded that was already congested. I am trying, as hard as I can, to fashion my own place- to find an empty spot in the already cluttered terrain to set my roots down- and to be accepted into a society that seems to have shut its doors long before I was even born. Every day, I am learning how to be something more than the token American, or the foreign girlfriend. Because I know there is so much more of me to give- but it’s hard to furnish an identity when one’s role has already been defined. It's a challenge- and I will overcome it…at least, that's the way I’m looking at it. In Dubai, everyone seems to have a clean slate- and their values are solely dependent on what they accomplish while they are there. 

Ultimately, Dubai served as a reminder of a number of things- of my own identity, my past and my value. At the same time, it was a great time spent with great friends. Most importantly though, despite the small difficulties I have encountered through making my way in Italy- I quickly realized that I would choose Churches, fountains and the Tiber- over Mosques, malls and Sheikh Zayed Road. Any day of the week.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trash Clash

Trash, evidently, is a political issue with a long history in Southern Italy. Whether or not the current crisis has reached the media on an international level, I am not sure- but what I do know is that it’s occupying headlines throughout this nation. At present, it is impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the television without seeing images of burning garbage trucks, teeming dump-sites and livid locals yelling angrily into the microphones of the few news agents that managed to pass through the barricades.  

Garbage in Naples is anything but a new concern. Unfortunately, the city itself is well known for its trash crises- in particular, the major eruption in 2007, which consequently became one of the top priorities for the incoming political party- Berlusconi’s PDL. The truth is, before I got to know Naples, I associated it with its garbage issues. Later, once I spent some quality time in the city, I realized that it is so much more…Napoli is this gritty, soulful, stunning, and incredibly alive city. It’s got this pulse you can feel running through your veins as you walk through the streets. 

Since the Italian government cleaned up the trash, Napoli and its outlying towns once again became tourist destinations. Regrettably, and somewhat in-tune with Napoli’s ill-fated issues, a new garbage battle has ensued. Due to an existing, overflowing landfill and the planning and creation of a considerably larger, more intrusive landfill at the base of Vesuvius- the outlying towns of Naples currently appear to be more like Bagdad then they do the Mediterranean. I have watched on the news, for over a week now, protesters road blocking garbage trucks on the route to the existing landfills- flying rocks, explosions, police blockades and numerous burning vehicles.

In the past, I have tried to stay away from political issues- and from the ugly parts of the country that I find so beautiful. To me, Italy is the most special place in the world – and I try to portray that. Unfortunately however, the “discarica di Terzigno” hits closer to home than other political concerns. Terzigno, just outside of Napoli, is the birthplace of my boyfriend- and I have spent many a weekend perusing the streets of the tiny town.

Furthermore- last night, I partook in an experience I never could have anticipated. I found myself in the middle of a rally on the streets of Terzigno, along with nearly 400 irate Italians, blocking the road to the dumpsite. There was yelling from the angry mobs, there were fires- but what struck me the most were the tears of anger and betrayal in the eyes of the local citizens. Signs were suspended all over the city walls with heated phrases, trash was piled everywhere- if not on fire, than creating roadblocks to the major throughways of the area.

 Now, I am not a fan of protests and I am not a fan of violence or unnecessary damage to property- private or public. But this time, I get it. These people are tax paying loyal citizens of a country that they love- that they are proud of....and at present, they can't walk out of their houses without smelling the mountains of trash left more or less at their doorsteps. (Not to mention the potential environmental implications.) 

Of course, looking at the situation from an objective perspective- the alternative choices are slim- and there are more parties involved than just the heads of government. Yet I believe, at the end of the day, that Berlusconi is a decent man and a good leader- and will do his best, along with his party, to clean up the literal mess and regain the confidence and fidelity of this large portion of the Southern population.

On another note; as I was walking away from the demonstration (realizing that these people were accomplishing nothing but freezing their toes off), I was reminded of which country I am in when I got a whiff of the strong aroma of garlic and olive oil- and heard a slightly muffled voice reverberating over the megaphone exclaiming: “Sono arrivati i fagioli!!!” In truth, I was expecting an angry proclamation, or a call to battle. In actuality, the woman was saying, “The pasta and beans have arrived!”  

Clearly, an Italian demonstration isn’t truly Italiano without the dinner.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Puppy Love

I haven’t written for a while- not on the blog, not for myself and definitely not for anyone else. Not writing, in my world, is something that seldom occurs. Whether on crinkled paper napkins in sidewalk café’s or in any one of my various multicolor Moleskines- I’m always scribbling something or another.

These past few months however, I have found myself not wordless- but “assertionless.” I always have words- oftentimes far too many- but words that I deemed valuable enough to write down were few and far between. This lack of writing was set in motion as I read through past blog posts and began wondering how one goes from writing about being part of an MBA, about the future prospects of big jobs and changing the world- to writing about pumpkins. And it was at that point that I quietly vowed to stop writing- at least until I had something substantial to report.

Yet in my silence, I felt stifled- even gagged. It is writing that brings me clarity; it is writing that brings me peace. Without it, I become overwrought with emotions lacking an outlet- and burdened by the thoughts smothered by my own unwillingness to pick up a pen and attempt to make sense of everything.

I have begun to acknowledge that writing about pumpkins, for instance, isn’t wrong- and it isn’t irrelevant. The minor instances and events in our lives are only as important as we believe, or allow them to be. In lieu of beginning a long-winded philosophical discourse- I would like to say, and learn to believe- that my life is as significant as the next- whether I am making pumpkin casserole in the quiet of my home, studying the mechanics of business in a bustling city or working behind a desk towards something bigger than myself. It is possible that that which is most important is making people around me happy, enjoying, and trying to do as little harm to myself and others as humanly possible.

I also had a recent chat with a friend about the meaning of life- whether its procreation, living in harmony with nature, serving God or any number of God’s, searching for truth, or working towards the good old utilitarian “happiness principle,” I don't know- and I doubt I ever will. Personally, I lean towards the side of existentialism regarding free will, choice and personal responsibility. 

This life of mine- as I see it- is simply a result of the choices I make based on experiences, desires and beliefs. It’s grounded in arbitrary luck, chance and uncertainty. Taking into account all that we are given and all that that happens across in our paths- we have to make the most out of it. Enjoy. Dream- and then do our best to allow those dreams to become realities.  Yet that's a chat for another time…

So our minor accomplishments or experiences are only as important as we consider them to be. And for me, I crossed a major bridge the other day...(no, not blogging about pumpkins). In fact, I got my first puppy. For some, having a dog is a no-brainer- for others, it's a no-no. For me, it has been a fantasy since I was a child and my parents told me that I was too irresponsible to own a dog. Thus, I promised myself that as soon as I was older, and perhaps more responsible, I would get a dog. Then I got older- and with age, came my travelling. I embarked on a somewhat nomadic lifestyle from the time I was 18- where I didn't live in any city for any more than two and a half years. Therefore, owning a dog would have been unfair.

Now, however, I have a dog…my very own puppy. And for me, this is fairly significant. It’s like an unspoken affirmation to myself that I am happy enough where I am to know that I wont be picking up and leaving anytime soon. It’s a promise to myself that we (my puppy and I), are here to stay. Of course, one can never say never- but what I do know is that I am more settled in Rome- and my life in Rome, than I have ever been before.  And my puppy is a testament to that fact. So as unimportant pumpkin soup isn’t or as relevant as dog-ownership is, I know that there is something in my life that is changing- something inside myself that is growing- and that’s bigger than I could have imagined when I moved here six months ago.

It also doesn't hurt that he is the cutest puppy in the world…


Friday, September 17, 2010

Monster Zucca

Being a vegetarian my entire life- as well as a lover of food and a passionate cook- I’ve learned, over time, to be inventive in the kitchen. Furthermore- while living in Italy attempting to be a “healthy eater,” as well as a non-meat eater- it becomes somewhat wearisome eating the same “verdure alla griglia” (grilled vegetables) and green salads. I’ve always done my best to smile and chew- when eating at some of the best fish or meat restaurants in the world- raving about the eggplant this and the fennel that and the outrageous taste of the tomatoes and the freshness of the lettuce. And of course, there are the numerous evenings when I “fall off the wagon” and eat several baskets of bread, plates of creamy cheeses and heaping platters of carbohydrate-filled pasta.

In my kitchen, though- it's a different story.

Having lived all over the world- I have taken parts of each cuisine- different dishes and cooking methods- and integrated an assortment of items into my repertoire. I love to cook- I love to invent- and I love to experiment. That being said, I am lucky enough to be in Italy with some of the freshest produce in the world.

Yesterday, a friend of Antonio’s family lugged this huge green stripey vegetable thing into my kitchen. After he noticed my arched eyebrows and confusion, he says to me: “é una zucca- te l’ho portato dal mio giardino giú.” Translation: “it's a pumpkin. I brought it to you from my garden in Naples.” Turns out, upon dissection, it was indeed a pumpkin. So this fat, long, green thing- weighing half of what I do- was at last plopped down on my kitchen counter with a wink and a few words that can be translated into: “get to work.”

With my massive zucca, I invented about six dishes. I could have done more- after avid Internet research- but I am, as of now, limited in fancy kitchen equipment and elaborate ingredients. Basically, if it’s not grown, made and packaged in Italy- it’s nearly impossible to find. Of these six dishes, two were pretty good, one was a disaster, and three were absolutely delightful. So delightful, in fact, that I thought I would share- should anyone else come face to face with a monster pumpkin.

Below are pics and recipes.

1.     Pumpkin Parmigiana


Fresh Pumpkin- thinly sliced

Olive oil

Smoked provolone cheese

Parmesan cheese



Pepperoncino (hot pepper flakes)



To prepare the pumpkin: Take about 10 thin whole slices, drizzle extra virgin olive oil and salt- turn the oven to 225 f and cook until slightly browned.

Take another slice of the pumpkin and grate about 2 ½  cups- in a pan- saute two chopped cloves of garlic with pepperoncino, until garlic is soft and throw in the grated pumpkin, stirring until fully cooked and a bit brown- add salt to taste (also, if you like spicy- add more pepperoncino). Once the cooked shredded pumpkin has cooled, add about ½ cup grated parmesan and stir until mixture is even.

Take a medium sized casserole dish and begin layering- first, cover the entire bottom surface with the pumpkin slices (they should have enough oil on them to not have to grease the pan. Next- add a layer of the smoked provolone (this can be substituted by any soft cheese- but I think the smoky flavor goes well with the sweetness of the pumpkin. Add another layer of baked pumpkin and after, another layer of cheese. On top of the cheese, spread the shredded pumpkin/parmesan mixture as another layer in the dish. Follow that with the final layer of baked pumpkin slices Finally, sprinkle the remaining grated parmesan cheese over the entire surface of the top layer and bake. I left it in the oven for a good 40 minutes- but it will be ready when the top layer is sizzling and brown. Let cool.

Unfortunately, we had guests for dinner that night and I totally forgot to take a photo before we dug into the dish. However, I did manage to salvage one slice. Photo below.


2.     Pumpkin carrot soup


Fresh Pumkin

Whole Large Carrots

Vegetable Bouillon Cubes (1/ two cups of water)



Olive Oil




Plain Greek Yogurt


Boil about 3 cups of water with 1.5 bouillon cubes. Throw in two halved small onions (I used red, but any onion will suffice- depending on your tastes) and two whole garlic cloves.

While the water and ingredients are boiling- slice the pumpkin into ½ inch slices irrespective of size and drizzle with olive oil and salt and let bake until soft enough to cut into easily. (I used about 1 lb of pumkin)

Once the pumpkin slices are well cooked, throw them into the boiling water, along with a few cleaned and peeled carrots (I used ½ lb carrots). Add a bit of pepperoncino and a bit of olive oil.

Let boil until carrots are soft- about another 10 minutes.

Blend the entire soup mixture. Add about 1 cup greek yogurt, 1 tbsp honey and salt and pepper to taste. Blend again. Serve.  (I sprinkled a bit of parsley on top- but parmesan cheese, thyme, cream or yogurt can all work as garnish).


3.     Really Easy Pumpkin Zucchini fritters




1 egg

Breadcrumbs (I prefer whole wheat, but white work as well)



Olive Oil

Grate about 5 cups of fresh pumpkin and 2 cups of zucchini. Beat the egg while adding salt and pepper to taste. Mix together the egg and grated vegetables. Add breadcrumbs into the mixture until it becomes thick enough to mold into small patties.

Heat about 1 inch of olive oil in a frying pan. Place the patties into the oil and fry until golden brown on one side- flip and repeat.

I would place the patties on paper towels to drain some of the oil out before you serve. They are also great with a bit of greek yogurt on the side as dipping sauce- any variation works. 

(p.s. excuse the photo quality- I used my blackberry)

This is the zucca- and a few slices:
These are the slices baking in the oven. I know they look like pancakes. They're not.
This is a slice of the parmigianna. It was better than it looks:

Pumpkin Zucchini Fritters:
Pumpkin carrot soup:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Summer Snapshots

Sardegna photos as promised...

Monday, September 13, 2010

שנה טובה

Italy shuts down in August. Restaurants, businesses and at least half the shops are completely out for the count. Of course, a number of establishments must remain open due to the influx of tourists. But for the locals- Rome is, for all intents and purposes, closed. “When in Rome,” I try my best to do as the Romans do. And when “out of Rome,” I did as the Romans do as well.

The first half of the month was spent in Sardegna- in one of the most delightful and lavish hotels I have ever seen- hobnobbing with the rich and richer (and their Russian girlfriends). It was the vacation of a lifetime- shared with some of my best friends and loved ones, reminding me daily that life really is about the company we keep. Nearly two weeks were spent overindulging in excessive buffets, wakeboarding amongst yachts and massive seaside villas, shopping on private beaches and attending glittering parties and events while our eyes shimmered from the fine champagne running through our veins. (photos to come shortly).

The second half of the month, as I mentioned, was in the United States. I landed in Chicago, spending five days catching up with my sister who just moved to the city and attending the wedding festivities of one of my closest friends. I met Marissa seven years ago. We were both fresh out of college and decided to make a go of teaching English abroad. After an intensive TEFL course, Marissa and I were sent off to Lodi, a small town just outside of Milan. In truth, I lasted about three months as a teacher (some things just aren’t for me) and then bailed, leaving Marissa to brave the fog and Northern Italian winter alone. 

Marissa eventually forgave me and since then, we have kept in touch- keeping one another appraised throughout the years and miles that separate us. During the wedding weekend, we had the chance to revisit our ancient histories and laugh about our long-ago woes. I was reminded of all that I have to be thankful for- including: losing the freshman 15, finally speaking fluent Italian and for living, yet again, in my favorite country in the world. Most of all- I am thankful for people like Marissa who I have met by chance across one ocean or another- and having forged friendships that withstand the tests of time. Since the Lodi days, Marissa and I have each separately been around the world a number of times. We have both fallen in and out of love on a number of occasions, moved cities again and again, and somewhere in there- we managed to get masters degrees. The best news of the weekend came when Marissa told me that she and Jeremy will be moving to Rome next year- totally by chance- due to Jeremy’s career in the government. It’s a big world- and anyone who says differently has yet to see it- but it is the people in it that make it smaller.

After Chicago, I sauntered (rather- took a train) over to Michigan and spent a week with my family in their summer home, enjoying nightly sunsets over the lake, boatrides, lazy days on the beach and an abundance of good old american food. 

Back in Italy- the first week of September was relatively slow. As the Romans were unhurriedly filtering into the city- opening their shops, organizing their schedules, and arranging their plans- I was making deals with myself. September, as opposed to January- is the beginning of a new year. It's a time to create improvements- renew hope and fulfill agreements and promises- or at least try to.

This year, it just so happened that my first week back in Rome coincided with Rosh Hashanah…the Jewish New Year. Although I didn't attend synagogue- and I didn't blow the Shofar- I quietly celebrated at home on my own, making lists of all I plan to accomplish this year. I ate a modest lunch of apples and honey- as my days in Hebrew school taught me years ago, to signify a sweet new year. I thought about my family- and what growing up amongst them has instilled in me. I didn't pray- because I don't pray. But I did smile to myself thinking about my mother’s improvised holiday dinners- and being surrounded by the people who brought unconditional love amongst other blessings into our home- creating the childhood that will stay with me forever…even though that particular version of my family is long gone, as well as many of the people I loved so dearly in it.

So to all my family, friends and readers, I would like to wish you: Shana Tova- (שנה טובה)- a sweet new year to all. xx

Monday, August 30, 2010

Comparing and Contrasting

After 12 lengthy (but wonderful) days in the US- the longest period yet since 2005- I have a clear understanding of what it is I love…and hate….about being stateside. And after further comparisons, contrasts, and considerations- I have decided that I am happiest here, and not there- despite the absence of hydrogenated oils.

Below are my top 12 (for the 12 days I was in the states) things I missed the most when I was gone, and indulged in (multiple times) while I was home:

        1.    Cookies

        2.     Taco Bell – and Chipotle, but really- Taco Bell

        3.  Un-dubbed movies

        4.     Molly, my family’s GoldenDoodle (pic below)

        5.     Flip-flops and baseball caps (I would probably be shot dead if I walked down Babuino in Havaianas and a cubs cap)

        6.     Subway (the sandwiches, not the underground)

        7.     My mommy

       8 .   Pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade, you name it, I went there…)

       9.   Dollars

       10.  Starbucks (at least 3 per city block)

       11.  Asphalt, pavement, cement, and the like.

        12.  Outlet stores

And here are the top 12 things I missed about daily life in Rome:

        1.     Bidets. Seriously.

        2.     Espresso (despite my love for- and wavering loyalty to Starbucks)

        3.     Extra virgin olive oil. On everything.

        4.     Passeggiate for no good reason other than to walk

        5.     Italian (excuse me, Italiano)

        6.     Aperitivi

         7.  Pasta al dente (as opposed to the mush they serve in America. Yes, I too am becoming a pasta snob)

        8.     Late dining (“late,” being anytime past 8 pm)

     9.     Cooking- in my kitchen, after going to my mercato, and serving hungry people on my piatti at my tavola. Americans don't really eat anymore.

        10.  Cafés

       11.  Pizza

        12.  Italy. In general.

Then, of course, there are the things that I adore and abhor- that don't really fit into either list- like central air. I love central air conditioning- but I froze my ass off in every store, house and restaurant. And now I’m sick.

I can't spend enough time in English bookstores, but it's rather annoying paying the airlines for extra weight- due to books than can easily, and more cost-effectively, be bought online.

I adore American baked goods- and ice cream: mushy centered cookies, brownies, caramel covered apples, grocery store cakes with buttermilk frosting, sundaes, fresh doughnuts, etc…but I’m less than pleased about the 2.3 kilos I gained. (that’s 5 pounds…but it sounds better in kilos).

So, with that…I’m off to the gym.


(Above is Molly the wonder dog, complete with her swimming device especially designed for the treacherous waters of Lake Michigan)

Saturday, July 31, 2010


There was an interesting article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal about how language influences the way we see the world: 

In the article, Charlemagne was quoted stating, “to have a second language is to have a second soul.” After reading the article, I thought about this for a long time. My conclusions are that: maybe another language doesn't supply a second soul, but possibly a mirror into another aspect of one’s soul.

The Italian language, above all, is a romance language (sounds better than Vulgur Latin, doesn't it?). Living in “Italian,” I am seeing myself as more of a romantic then previously. By romantic, I don't mean that I make candlelit dinners and place rose petals on the duvet. Not at all. What I do mean is that in Italian, everything appears more beautiful- a sunny day has now become squisito (exquisite), a nice dress is stupendo (stupendous) and a good lunch is meraviglioso (marvelous). My sentences have dreamier tones to them when I speak and there is a slight possibility that some of my rough edges seem more tender. My extreme Passion, on the other hand, has always been a bit exaggerated. Yet in Italy, it’s normal- and accepted- and no one blinks twice.

The entire language is like onomatopoeia: “a word or grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing.” It’s like whatever you are feeling- is right there in the sounds that are coming out of your mouth. Ugly is brutto, beautiful is bello, love is amore and war is guerra. To walk across the street is to attreversare and a before dinner drink is aperitivo- and all these words have rolling r’s in the middles and end in vowels that softly tumble instantly into the next words. Italy is probably one of the most beautiful countries, aesthetically speaking, in the world. So it makes sense that the language would reflect that.

I would be exaggerating if I said that I am fluent in Italian, but I think that I’m almost there. More importantly, I live my life in Italian. Meaning: when I remember them, my dreams are in Italian- when I play scrabble, the first words that come to me Italian- and when I get angry, I curse in Italian. Naturally.

I have heard that the Native Americans believe that humans are the only animals narcissistic enough to actually believe we have souls. Although we are the only animals intelligent enough to form a concept of a soul, and beyond that- the only animals with sufficient language to communicate the concept of the soul, I think that the Indians had a point. So to say that I have a number of souls due to the languages I speak, as Charlemagne would have noted- I think it would be going a bit overboard.

What I can say is that thinking in another language has broadened my thought process. The way that I look at things changes through the words that denote the meanings of objects and events. Italians, like in the business they do, always leave open ends- the meanings of phrases can always be interpreted in one of 100 ways. And although this can be frustrating at times, I’m finding it quite useful. “Ci vediamo,” literally means, “we see each other.” In daily discourse, it means, “see you soon.” But it can also mean, depending on the person you are speaking with and the context, “see ya sucker,” “I’ll see you tonight,” “I'll see you around,” “I’ll see you later,” “or “I’m being polite but I truly have no intention to ever see you again.”

Going back to this mirror into the soul that I mentioned, I have repeatedly wondered about how the words I use shape my thoughts- and not the other way around. Therefore, by broadening the expressions I use to describe things through an entirely different language- my world has been expanded. A sunset is not just a sunset- it can be, in English- sundown, dusk, nightfall, twilight, the day’s end- and in Italian- tramonto, sera, crepuscolo and calare del sole. See what I mean? I now have 10 ways to refer to the setting of the sun. And that, in turn, changes the image that comes to mind when I describe a sunset.

On another note, rather than a second soul, or even a mirror- languages help us to understand our souls…being that it would seem somewhat obtuse to ascribe only one language to each soul. In understanding my own soul, I have noted that I spent years with Spanish. From growing up in Miami, to taking hours upon hours of the language throughout high school to doing my MBA in Spain- I should speak Spanish better than English by now. Not the case. Spanish never stuck with me- it didn't agree with my character. Yes, it’s useful. Yes, it's a simple language to learn. Yes, it’s very similar to Italian. Yet with all that- I never “took to it.”

I can speak Spanish. But I don't like to. Whereas, speaking Italian, for me, is like singing. I find joy in it. I find that I am more capable of expressing my true feelings in my limited Italian than I was ever able to in Spanish. Sometimes, I find that when describing something- I describe it more aptly in Italian than even in English. So as some friends like to say that I have become “italianizzata” (Italianized), I think that maybe I have always had an Italian soul- and the language has only helped me to become acquainted with it. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Capri. In Pictures.

Apparently, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Being that words, to me, are some of the most precious things in this world- it is relatively difficult for me to accept this assertion.
However, after a number of days in Capri, I'm coming around. 
Below are some of the photos- and seriously, I don't think I have the words...

Next stops: Paestum and Sardegna!