26 September 2010

Sunday Drive

When I was a young girl, my father liked to take us on Sunday drives through our greater Boston area and suburbs. I loved those drives and the glimpse into other lives. My husband was feeling a little low today so I hustled him into the car and took him on a Sunday drive through our current neighborhood.

The day was clear and sunny with high cumulus clouds.    

The mountains added dramatic back drops to the verdant fields everywhere in our region. The vines are laden with grapes and almost ready for harvest.

The hill towns perched on impossible vistas.

The Adriatic had ribbons of beautiful colors.

We even saw our own town from a different vantage.

His mood changed as we drove. Actually, we both felt full and blessed. Some traditions are worth preserving.

24 September 2010

Backup Averts Disaster

Do you have a back up system that backs up all your data? Always?

I was just reading my email 2 days ago when it happened. My 4 year old iMac, which had been running very slowly for a few days, closed down altogether and wouldn't reopen. At all! My husband tried the things that he could find in his Apple directions to do and when that didn't work, he called Tech Support and talked to some nice young men about what to do. It ended up that their recommendations failed too so today we took my computer to the Apple repair shop near us. The diagnosis: "bad block" on the hard drive. They'll install a new hard drive and, luckily (thank you, John), I have all my data backed up.

Hence my exhortation to make sure you have a back up drive that automatically backs up all your data on a regular basis. It makes my head ache and my heart sink to think about losing everything on my computer. Unthinkable! You really need to do this!

22 September 2010


There's something about firsts that are not just memorable, but life changing. My granddaughter just started school in Trinidad. She begged her parents to go to school this year even though she's a little too young to be in kindergarten (4 1/2). It's a small school in a tiny village in the rain forest, though, so everyone who had to, agreed to her trying it out. Besides, her brother is a second grader in the same school and her sworn protector.

This is her uniform. She thinks she looks like a princess in it. I agree.

She was so excited to start, she practiced trying on her uniform every day for the week before school. She told her mother exactly how she wanted her hair done for the first day. Now, she gets herself showered, dressed and breakfast eaten in the morning as well as her homework done each evening so she's ready for school.

After the first day fear of "Oh, you're not staying at school with me Mom?", she's been fine, off in her new world. Her brother, the protector, is crushed though because she told him she wouldn't play with him at school: "You have your friends to play with and I have my friends." Both their lives are changed.

Made me think about the first time we do anything, when we get up our courage, prepare and just do it. All the fear and excitement and hope finally come together and we take another important step in our lives and change ourselves in the process. Good for my  brave granddaughter, good for each of us who overcome fear and move forward, good for us as a species as we evolve to better selves.

20 September 2010

Make Running Fun!

Are you looking for a way to make your runs (or walks) more fun? I found one. It's the nike, iPod sport kit, that combines a nike chip and an iPod thingy that talk to each other in secret, unknown but very cool ways. The chip is supposed to go into nike running shoes but I already had a new pair of another brand so I bought a nike shoe pouch and put the chip in there. It works great. This is what they look like:

I plug in the white thingy into my iPod nano while I run and it does all manner of wonderful, "personal assistant" type things. While running, it tells me how long I've run, how fast I've run or how many calories I've burned. I can chose a workout with a time goal or a distance goal or music of any type to jazz things up. I love running to upbeat music.

Besides monitoring my progress while I'm running (chose spoken feedback in a man or woman's voice), it also tracks progress over time on the computer at nikeplus.com.

This just took my runs to a new level. It's a boost to my motivation as I begin my training for a half marathon in FL in February in the national breast cancer marathon. I ran the full marathon last year and got turned on to running. I've been running 3 days a week since and recommend it to anyone looking for a good way to stay fit. Mi piace correre! What do others do to stay motivated?

9/21: p.s. When I finished my run today, Lance Armstrong said: "Congratulations! This was your longest workout yet." Lance Armstrong! On my iPod! Technology is a wonderful thing.

18 September 2010

A Castle, A Fort and A Coliseum

Who doesn't love castles? It was top on my grandchildren's list of places to see. The one we found, Rocca Calascio, was a beauty. Situated atop a hill with a commanding view in every direction of the lovely countryside. Part intact and part in ruins to spur the imagination of how things used to be.

Travels in Italy stimulate that sense of history, of course, and, together with the books the kids were reading on the knights of old, the feel of  history became very real.

We had already been to a medieval festival where we saw how people, from the royal court to the beggars including the knights with their weapons, dressed. So to see an actual castle where they lived was a treat. (My granddaughter was most impressed by the young girls in their long dresses and costumes of the time, however.)

As for forts, take a look below: Civitella Del Tronto is so huge it covers the entire top of the hill above the town and has been restored enough to get a good feel for life within it. Here's where I was impressed! It takes a couple of hours just to walk through it and take in the gorgeous views all around.

The town itself is charming, too, with many small byways to wander and admire. Even found a world class restaurant to have lunch and enjoy each tasty morsel together with generous extras of specialties from this Abruzzo region from the waiter.

I felt proud somehow that the generosity that this, our region, is known for was demonstrated to my family.

But for sheer awesomeness, is there anything that beats the coliseum? I wasn't expecting my grandchildren to appreciate it as much as they did. But the website on sites in Rome for young children recommended the coliseum. My grandson had read about the gladiators and couldn't get over the fact that he was seeing where they fought.

We hired an English speaking guide who enabled us to bypass the loooong waiting line and gave us a terrific tour peppered with facts that gave a thumbs up or thumbs down to the various movie scenes about the gladiators. He presented his info like a story and the kids stayed interested the entire time. I think my granddaughter stayed interested was because her brother was so enthralled but still... It ended up being their favorite site in Rome. Surprised me!

When we went to a store for them to chose one thing to bring home with them to remember Italy, my grandson, after much deliberation, chose a gladiator and my granddaughter chose a princess. I'm sure, though, they carry the memories of the places in their hearts. I do.

17 September 2010

Caves, Canyons and Gorges

On the many walks we took in the mountains near us, my grandchildren took particular pleasure in the small spaces discovered in the midst of the great natural wonders. Caves caused the most excitement when we found them; climbing in them, exploring them and looking for more wherever we went.

The entrance to the canyon we discovered was narrow enough to bring squeals of delight as we touched walls on either side and couldn't wait to see what came next.

One of the lovely gorges also had high walls lining it and both kids yelled "echo" to their hearts content as we hiked along.

Maybe it's taking a bite sized, manageable, comfortable dose of what can be so expansive even if beautiful. Maybe it's a good reminder to focus on the vista right in front of us and savor it. Either way, enjoying the small things made the whole experience richer and more fun.

13 September 2010

Tea Parties Change Lives

This somewhat sensationalistic headline hearkens back to my roots in Boston. I couldn't resist! But, tea parties can be fun and perhaps even change lives. I remember liking them when I was a child but I wasn't sure my grandchildren, who live in the age of punchy video games and 3-D movies, would find this slow, simple activity fun as well.

Years ago, I bought a beautiful, China tea set with roses and gold gilding and brought it out in August for it's initiation while the grandchildren were here for their month long visit. OK, I'll fess up and admit that I bought the tea set in Maine before my granddaughter was even born, in the hopes that my daughter would have a little girl who would love tea parties. But, much to my surprise, my active, never still, video playing grandson loved our tea parties just as much as my granddaughter!

Here are some of the unexpected things that happened:

Both kids LOVED having tea parties and requested them when I didn't plan them. They also asked for napkin rings on the napkins because they were sparkly and colorful. And cookies on a special plate. They seemed enthralled.

Both kids liked to pour their own tea and took great care to do it without spilling or breaking. Even the 4 year old.

They sat quietly and used their best manners.
I was surprised when my grandson, who frequently has to be reminded of the importance of good manners, spontaneously said things like: "Would you care for some sugar?" or "Can I pour you some milk?" On his own. At age 8. In his most refined voice.

Both talked about topics that interested them and that didn't have to do with bodily parts or functions. Without reminders.

 If I forgot any part of our tea ceremony, they would remind me, and wait until I added whatever was missing so each time was complete. It mattered.

 I don't take sugar in my tea, just milk, but both kids prefer their black tea with milk and sugar. My grandson told me: "A little bit of sugar makes it easier to drink." Sound familiar?

So, drinking tea leads to wisdom as well as changing lives. 

Did I mention how much I enjoyed these delightful interludes? How much I liked being with my grandchildren partaking in this ageless ritual of sharing drink and food. Taking tea together, the drink of our ancestors, in hospitality and harmony.

Suspending our usual "go my own way" activities to focus on each other and the simple joy of good tea, in beautiful cups with a touch of sweetness.

07 September 2010


I'm not good at writing when there's lots going on to distract me. Obviously. Not that I'm complaining about my FULL summer, but the blog has suffered and I've missed my blog friends. A quick recap: 2 weeks in FL for vacation and a family gathering, 4 weeks here in Italy for my daughter and 2 grandchildren, 5 days at a friend's wedding in Tuscany and an 8 day visit from my niece and her life partner. Each one special and treasured. It occurs to me that those events would be great topics for sharing more extensively in the blog but I haven't perfected how to take time out (more than once a week) to write with everything happening around me and me wanting to be part of it all.

So, here I am, my heart full of wonderful memories. The good thing, of course, is that I am actually changed by these people and events as I enter into them fully. More important than writing about them I suppose. But still... It's like I have 2 lives and I want to integrate them more. If I write, I don't have time to keep up with friend's blogs. If I read, I don't have time to write. If my life is busy, I don't do either. How do others handle life and blogging?

Changes: I'm more in love with my amazing husband, I'm closer to and had more fun with my daughter and grandchildren, I'm more familiar with and in awe of my little corner of the world in Italy, I made new friends, I deepened bonds with my extended family. I even got my Italian driving license and Health Care Card. All in all, a great summer for which I'm grateful!

My daughter and grandchildren are now home in Trinidad, my grandson is back to school and my granddaughter had her first day of school ever. May they prosper. And, as things slow down to an earth rhythm here, we finally have ALL the documents we need to be elective residents of this beautiful country. Whew!