Monthly Archives: December 2020

Covid update

We had 11,000 new cases in Italy yesterday. Our positivity rate was 8.8. This is excellent. I read in the London Times there was a record high yesterday of more than 53,000 Covid cases in the UK. I looked it up they have 6.7 million population. We have 6.0 million. The case numbers are significantly higher in the UK with nearly the same population. They are probably going into a hard lockdown for their own good. Their hospitals are near to having to decide who gets care…. and who does not. 😢
The poor weather continues. We had a nice stretch of sunshine this morning so we took advantage to go out to the market, and do a few errands. We bought some wood pellets for our stove and some cat food and I did a small grocery run in town. We were astounded (🤣😂😅) by the “heavy” traffic in Umbertide. I’m joking because I’m from Northern Virginia and we had some of the worst traffic in the US. I’m no longer used to it! It is one of the things I love about living here – no traffic. Today is the last day of Zone Orange here. Tomorrow we go back into complete shut down – Zone Red – for 4 days. I guess everyone went out to get supplies for the holiday coming up.
I had a lovely drop-by visit from Vera. I had lamented to her that I could not find turnips, called rape, here. Apparently they are considered animal food. As are parsnips, which the British around here love. If anyone finds any of these in any store or at the market, it goes on FaceBook instantly. Then they are all gone. So anyway, I was very pleased when Vera told me her mother-in-law had these in her garden! So I’ve got a nice bag of turnips which I will use happily. Also, share with Joseph who likes them too. Not only that, she brought me pickled turnips from Slovenia (popular there!) and turnip jam! Who knew?

Stay safe everyone! Only one day of mean old 2020 left!! Andrà tutto bene 🌈


Yesterday was my birthday. I’m blessed (?) to be a Christmas baby…and my sister is too. Her birthday is today…happy birthday sis! We are both used to sharing with Christmas and New Year…and each other!

This year, being 2020 and one heck of a year I think we all agree, I was not expecting any celebrations. But our good friends, Susan and Gary invited us for lunch. So, we broke our social distancing rules…although it was perfectly allowable to have two people into your home…none of us had been with people for many months. It was a surreal experience 😳 for us all! And quite moving for me, to be honest. I really miss people.

We walked from our house to theirs, all of 2 blocks and normally a nice stroll. But we were enduring some of the worst weather I’ve seen. Strong winds and heavy rain made for sideways wetness. No matter the coat, the hood, the umbrella (inside out for the most part) it was horrible. We arrived and shed our coats and wet shoes and went into their cozy family room where they had built a lovely fire, which I was allowed to tend the whole time I was there!! In German it would be called gemütlichkeit. 💕

They prepared a beautiful lunch with soup to start, and then pork roast and trimmings… at the end a pretty cake, just the right size. We had some nice Spumante to start. And then a white (Vermentino) and a red (Rosso Piceno). All lovely wines.

Afterwards I was asked to choose a movie and I picked one of my favorites… Moonstruck. I thought it was perfect because we had all seen it but we could enjoy the Italo-American culture in New York. It is similar to here, but very different as well. Fun to watch from this perspective.

My cake!

Stay safe everyone!

Family 💕 friends 💕

Our Christmas was special in so many ways. Although we were alone, physically, we had several wonderful FaceTime or Facebook calls with friends and family.

First call was from good friends in Florida. It was really nice to see their smiling faces and catch up.

Then my sister called. The ability to chat with her happily and without constraints is liberating. Like we are actually together. Not as good as being there, but pretty good.

Then a call from Luther’s family. Oh my! This made my day. This family is special to us. We don’t have children so seeing the nieces and nephew and Luther’s brother and his wife, Anne made us happy. We love those kids! So much happening with them. We miss out on all that. Rachel and her husband Alex. Rachel is a nurse at Johns Hopkins on the Covid wards. Dave and his wife, Shira who is “roundly pregnant”. I love that descriptor! She is due to give birth to our grand nephew, Daniel, in late January. And Sarah, the youngest and a free spirit. 🙂 It was happy-making for us to see them all and catch up. They were all coming last year to see us but Covid nixed that. Maybe this coming year they can come…but even if they all cannot, I hope Rachel can come for some much needed RnR from the sadnesses she must have seen. If anything can help her heal…Italy can 🥰. The good news is, she is changing jobs in the hospital and will no longer be working on the front lines. And she will have regular hours. She is also getting her Covid vaccination next week..yay!

Christmas dinner. Peking duck. Spectacular fail! I cooked it using a recipe I’ve used before. But this time the meat was pretty desiccated. I was able to salvage enough from the underside of the duck for our dinner. The pancakes I made were pretty good. I made the hoisin sauce which was nice and spicy. Here is one of our pancakes. So, although the duck was mostly a loss, our Christmas dinner was good enough. Win some, lose some!

Stay safe everyone…andrà tutto bene….🌈

Christmas day

I’m making a soup for our lunches. And a duck is slow roasting in the oven. The duck comes from an old lady who raises them nearby. They are from her yard so biologically raised on corn and scraps. But I laugh to think of that. People back home in the US are so conscious of these “labels”. “Is it biologically raised?” They ask. But this is just the way it’s always been done here, and still is. It is “bio” but it is also “normal”. She speaks to her ducks as well, as she tends them. Then she dispatches them herself. The cycle of life and death I guess.

The duck came with its feet, neck and innards. I’m thinking a delicious stock will be in our future. I’m happy it didn’t have the head…I’ve gotten chickens here with heads…🙄. Once, in a fancy restaurant Luther got the rooster head right there on his plate!
I am a basket maker. Have been for many years. This week I felt the urge to make one. I have a supply of reed I bring from the US. How odd they don’t have this here. Anyway. I finished this on Christmas Eve.

Our small, auxiliary cat, Simba, took a liking to the circle of cane I put on the sofa before making this. He thought it was just right for a nap.

Soup is ready. It was made with vegetable stock, the normal sofrito, plus lots of greens and grains. Some tomatoes and also a rind from some Parmesan cheese, a rosemary sprig, bay leaves, some dried pepperincino, and a roasted zucca (squash). Drizzled with some of the brilliantly green new olive oil – it can’t be beat!

Tomorrow I will show what I did with the duck. I will say…I’m missing my sister a lot. And I miss Luther’s family – brothers, nieces and nephews…maybe next year we will be together… I’m hoping for visitors next year! 🤞😌 Meanwhile this year there will be FaceTime.🙂
Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈.

Buon Natale!

The end to a very stressful year is in sight. We will spend Christmas and New Year at home of course. And we will eat alone. But we will still have yummy things….just not Italian. Italy it is all about the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve, and then lasagna with ragu on Christmas Day. These are the traditional festive meals. I love these traditions but this year I decided to go against the norm. I think, in honor of the fishes I will have fish tacos on Christmas Eve! 😁 And I was gifted a duck for a Christmas present from my friend Vera, so that will be our Christmas dinner.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I have hopes that 2021 will be a much better year. It can’t be a lot worse, that’s for sure!

Christmas season restrictions

Yesterday, the government in Italy issued the rules we will follow for the Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany time period. They are ridiculously slow about these proclamations. For days before they “sign” it, we get all kinds of conflicting information. I’ve come to ignore the whole thing until the pen is on the paper.

Our three zone system here in Italy has managed to help reduce our new case numbers by almost half, and our positivity rate to below 10, which is the goal. But, as we all know from human nature, and also from concrete examples over Thanksgiving in the US, people feel a need to gather on these holidays. Natale in Italy is a family holiday. It will be very hard for people to not get together with their families. I completely get this. But if they do, they will inevitably spread the virus to their friends and families. Best to bite the bullet and stay home this year…for everyone’s good.

Here is the diagram showing what we will be doing here for the holidays from Corriere della Sera. Yellow means the restaurants and bars are open in the daytime until six. There is a curfew from 10pm-5am. We can travel between other yellow regions. Orange means bars/restaurants are open for take-out only and we are restricted to traveling in our region only (Umbria). Same curfew. Red means we must stay home unless for buying food, medicines, for medical reasons, or necessary work. Shops are closed. We are allowed to have two people visit in our home. This is our calendar.

I am happy to comply with these rules. I don’t feel anyone is infringing on my rights. I am appreciative of the Italian government for trying to control the virus. After all, the vaccines will be available to us all in the next six months. We merely need to wait and stay home. For everyone’s good. As I’ve said before…there is always next year. We just need to do this for this one year. How hard is that in the grand scheme of things?
Stay home. Stay safe. Stay well. Stay alive. It will all be better soon. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Slowly, slowly…our supplies dwindle

I’m sure you’ve all read here in the blog if you’ve read for a while, that there are some things we love to get in the US and bring home to Italy. Things like spices and ethnic ingredients not available here. Although many things ARE available here and I’ve learned over the years how to find stuff, there are still a few things that MUST come from home.

Last week I used the last bit of my “Fish Fry” coating for fish. I looked it up, as I always do, on the internet and are there are many recipes for “do it yourself” fish fry. So OK maybe I can make it. We will try it and see. But I’d rather just have a new supply from the US 🙂.

Today, I opened my penultimate bag of Carolina Gold Rice, also called Charleston Gold. I keep it in the freezer until I need it. And there is one bag left. Italy, of course, has many very good rice varieties. Most notable are Carnaroli and Aborio rice. A short grain rice used in risotto. I also use it for regular rice. There are also readily available, basmati, brown and multi-grain rice. All good. But none are Carolina Gold.

I learned, years ago, about Carolina Gold rice from a Low Country cook book. Of course I ordered some to try. It was probably the original rice brought from Africa by the enslaved to America. These people also brought the knowledge to grow it. The labor it took to grow, was intense, and were it not for the enslaved, it would never have been possible to cultivate it. A hard life. So it wasn’t surprising when the rice died out after the Civil War. Until the 1960s, when a couple of people bought old plantations and slowly revived the rice. It is now cultivated and sold by these plantations.

What? you may ask, is so special about this rice? Rice is rice, right? But not this rice. It is nutty, and buttery, and has a distinctive aroma when cooking and when on the plate. It doesn’t need any gravy or enhancement to be enjoyed. Both Luther and I adore it and I never have to say “this is Carolina Gold” Luther always knows. It is the aroma.

Anyway. We really love it and bring back pounds of it in our suitcase (much to the amusement of the TSA). Just another casualty of the Corona virus. Unable to go home, and having no guests to bring some we will carefully nurse this rice and hope it can be replenished in 2021. Believe me, there are many other things that are going on my shopping list for when we can go home. 🙂

We rejoice there is now a vaccine, and it will protect our health care workers. And then, later, the rest of us. A light at the end of the long tunnel we’ve all been traveling this year. I have very high hopes for next year. I am itching to have some guests! My guest room has lain fallow for more than a year. It wants friends to come. And we are excited to also begin to plan travel. All in good time. First a quiet and lonely Christmas for most of us. It has to be. We will live to see NEXT Christmas…Stay COVID safe…live to see another year! 🌈


I looked outside this morning, as I do whenever there is a market. It was larger than usual and set up around the Christmas tree. I headed down around eleven, hoping it would be warmer. I’m here to say, it felt like Christmas. Very cold.

I like the feeling of excitement as we get closer to Christmas. There were several new booths. And there was a Slow Food tent. They show up from time to time. Often they have samples so I’m always checking them out. Today, no samples. They were taking orders for Christmas baskets. And they were selling the things individually that would go in the baskets. I bought two bags of dried legumes. One, Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno. The other Roveja di Civita di Cascia. Both of these come from Umbria and the nearby Marche. Both are ancient beans. They also gave me recipes to try. I love that they are trying to save these old varieties.

The Roveja is very difficult to cultivate and harvest. It grows at high altitudes in the Sibillini Mountains. To harvest them, you have to work bent down and it takes a long time. This has discouraged the cultivation of roveja and has helped to ensure that almost no one today knows this small pea.

Courtesy of Slow Foods

The Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno is also a very local product grown near the big lake in Umbria. It is unknown outside of the area. Once it was widespread around the lake but again, the cultivation and harvest is a long, tiring and still entirely manual — from sowing to harvesting to threshing. The maturation is gradual. The beans must be harvested every day for a couple of weeks. The plants are brought to the farmyard and dried, then beaten. Afterwards, using sieves, the beans are separated.

It is a bean with an oval and tiny shape and can be of various colors: from cream to black through salmon and all shades of brown, even mottled. When they are cooked, they are tender, buttery and tasty.

Courtesy of Slow Foods

Slow Food tent

Gift basket at the wine tent.

Wine tent

We bought a big chunk of the Capra Stagionato. Aged goat cheese.

The chocolate tent! I admit, I bought some. Come on! It’s Christmas!

I dropped off a few things at the Libri per i Cani (Books for Dogs) shop. If I buy something that either doesn’t fit me or isn’t what I expected, I give it to the shop to sell. On the way back I liked this view down the passageway to the market and the Christmas tree.

I also finally got a break in the rainy weather. Enough to stack the wood in the rack.

Stay safe everyone!

Rain, rain, go away

Ugh. The weather has been horrible for what seems weeks. Last week we had howling winds for two full days. And then the deluge. The Tiber river is in flood. I went for a short walk yesterday before I visited the market. It wasn’t raining when I started but it had begun to sprinkle by the time I got back.

It had receded a bit when I took this picture. You can see the water has covered the path recently.

River, heading for the town. The walls keep the water away from our streets.

Near the bridge the logs that wash down from the north get stuck and pile up into a dam. They will eventually be broken up by heavy equipment.

Look at this handsome cat. She gave me quite the stare but didn’t run away. She’s part of a new feral colony.

Someone has built the colony a shelter and brought a little house. You can see people are feeding them too. People don’t embrace spay neuter much here. It isn’t a “thing” so we have batches of kittens seasonally a few times a year. People obviously care about them. They get fed, but they don’t get any medical care. I wish they could be neutered. I would gladly donate money for this cause.
Also this week I asked my friend Quintino to bring a load of firewood for me. He is a lovely Romanian gentleman and he seems to take care of all the foreign (and maybe other) ladies. I know him through my friend Angela. She tells him I’m looking to get wood and he bring big bags full all the way up to my apartment. I pay him well so he will come back next time! Nice man.

I’m anxious to start stacking the wood in the wood rack. But the damn weather won’t let me! I see tomorrow is supposed to be sunny. Crossing my fingers.
Stay safe everyone! 🌈