Category Archives: Corona virus

Everyday food

Someone wanted my bolognese recipe. So here you go.

Ingredients
1 carrot diced small
2 garlic cloves minced
about a pound of ground beef
1 can (15 ounces) tomatoes chopped
About 3 to 4 cups whole milk
Pasta (about 8 oz)
parmesan to serve

Sauté carrot in oil. Add garlic for one minute. Then add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes with juice and mix and cook a bit. Add around a cup of milk. Cook slowly until milk is incorporated. Add some milk every so often and let simmer into sauce. I try to cook the sauce for two or three hours. Or until it’s creamy and all the milk is incorporated. The amount of milk can be more if needed. It will become creamy. Once it is finished you can feeeze some of it. I usually get two or three meals for two from it. Boil pasta in salted water until nearly done. Drain. Saving some water. Return pasta to pot. Add sauce and some water and cook over heat letting the pasta finish cooking and absorb some sauce. Salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan. Mmmm.
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For our weekday lunches we often have egg “McMuffins”. Silly huh? We’ve been getting English muffins from Ely at Calagrana. They are not to be found elsewhere here. So we enjoy them. I have a cute little contraption I brought over here from the US that cooks my eggs to just the right size. I put it in a non stick pan, and add a pat of butter, salt and pepper. Heat it up and crack an egg in. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Remove that little ring and flip egg for 10 seconds. This “should” finish up with a not completely hard yolk. Depends on the size of your egg. Eggs are smaller here. It makes a good lunch. Here’s the ring. We have a set of four.

And here is the finished egg “McMuffin”. I toast the muffin and add cheese.

What else is there to do around here except eat? Well, that’s not completely true. We ran errands this morning. We picked up some cat supplies and went to the Coop supermarket. Brought it all back, to include emptying the trunk of four bags of pellets. We figure these are the last we will use this spring. All of this had to be carried up to our house. Huff puff.
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Italian phrase for the day…”ogni giorno leggo molti giornali” — English “everyday I read many newspapers”. Own-knee gee-or-no leg-go mol-tea gee-or-nahl-ee.
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Four of my friends here in Umbertide got vaccinated yesterday. Stupendous news! Soon it will be our turn, we hope. Stay safe everyone! 🌈

What’s next

We continue to struggle here in many ways. But we also are doing well in other ways.

In the newspaper it is intimated that Umbria was doing so well with the new case numbers and hospitalizations that at the end of April, when the re-assessment takes place for May, we may go….drum roll…Bianca!! This means, everything opens up to us. BUT, I will believe this when I see it…I, for one, will be happy with a Yellow zone. Then I can sit in the piazza and have a spritz or a caffe. Or go to an actual lunch in an actual restaurant! Wow. Or we can drive to another part of Umbria to do a wine tasting. Or just to tour around. It is so amazingly freeing and it is also amazing how little it takes, after being locked down for so long, to thrill me.

On the vaccine front, good news. Three of my friends were called by their doctor today to come tomorrow for shots. AstraZenica. They are going by birthday and these are all around 75. Also, our friend and Italian teacher Marilena told us that her Mom got called by her doctor to come in. Her Mom is 79. She got AstraZenica. Her Dad, a bit younger but with asthma, will get Pfizer. But he has to go to the hospital whereas her Mom went to the doctor. Another small piece of information for us. I guess the info we got that our doctor would call us is correct. So we wait.
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I am not bragging when I say I am the queen of bolognese sauce. They say there isn’t really a bolognese sauce as such. It is true, there is no one recipe. And there are many arguments. Even in Bologna, where it is said to have originated. Over the years I’ve chosen my favorite and I make it often. I make a big batch and freeze portions for quick dinners. The recipe is simple. Only a diced carrot, a couple cloves of garlic, ground beef, a 15 ounce can of tomatoes and milk.

Italiano phrase — “inizia una nuova settimana”. In English — “a new week begins”. Pronounced — in-eat-zee-ah une-ah new-oh-va set-tee-mah-nah.
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Stay safe everyone. 🌈

Travel?

I read the following in the newspaper a couple days ago. About vaccine “passports”. They are also going to create a similar thing in the EU. I remember there always have been requirements for people to get certain vaccinations for travel in some countries in Africa and South America. Exotic places with exotic diseases. I guess this is the same. I hope it doesn’t get politicized. That would be unfortunate. I guess if a person decided not to get vaccinated s/he wouldn’t be able to travel as freely, at least not on ships and airplanes. And also into countries that require proof of vaccine.

This from the Washington Post…
”Expect to show some sort of proof — either of a negative test or of vaccination — when traveling. “You should be planning on showing your negative test or staying home if you don’t have one,” Tariro says.

The European Union, for example, has announced plans for the Digital Green Certificate, a so-called vaccine passport that countries can use to verify a person’s health status and allow free travel across the bloc.

The concept of a vaccine passport isn’t new: To travel to certain countries, for example, you already need inoculations against yellow fever and other diseases.

The travel industry and tech companies have been working on ways to streamline digital credentials for years, and during the pandemic some have started to repurpose that technology to show proof of vaccination. “It isn’t far off in the future,” Tariro says.”

Of course, to travel here, you’d still need have the borders of Italy open to travelers…and that’s not looking positive unless we can get vaccines here. All the expected vaccines in Umbria have dried up…never been delivered…it is disgusting and enraging…but I don’t know who to be enraged at! I just know — no vaccines are being administered in Umbria now. 😔
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This Pasqua eve I decided to do a composed salad. I saw a picture of one in a newspaper and it looked pretty and good so I decided to make my own. I used my own ideas for what should go in it. It has a lettuce base. I bought lettuce a few days ago at the Carrefour. My own creamy dressing. Two small fresh goat cheeses, a sliced avocado, sliced hard-boiled eggs, steamed green beans, and a sliced pork tenderloin tonnato. I made the pork sous vide yesterday and had left over. It could easily go without the meat for non carnivores.

Stay safe everyone 🌈

Holy week

This is Holy Week. They have a special Mass every day of the week. The bells toll more often. I wonder if they will have the venerdì santo or Good Friday procession this year. Last year we were in total lockdown so they didn’t do it. I hope they can do it this year.

On Saturday, the sounds of a crowd drifted up to our windows. I looked out and the piazza was full of people! A little disconcerting after so long with nothing. We went on a errand and I was overwhelmed by the crowds around the Centro. I guess the weather got everyone out of the house. They were all masked and most were distancing. The two Bars are not open now after 6, and then, only for take-away due to us still being in an Orange zone. The days have gotten beautiful. I do miss my spritzes at Bar Mary on a warm evening. The weather will be great for Easter week!

For the three days of the Pasqua weekend, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, all of Italy is a Red Zone. Then after that, Umbria returns to Orange Zone for the rest of April. All will be reassessed on May 1. Maybe we will go Yellow Zone. I fervently hope so!

We hope April will bring much vaccine into Italy, to include the J&J vaccine. We still don’t know how it will work. Latest news is our GP will contact us and administer it. But we are going to try to register starting tomorrow on the website. We will try anything! Wish us luck.
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Here are some pictures of springtime in Umbria near Umbertide. First one is the copse of trees behind our house and near the river.

Along the walk I got pictures of the old and the new… first the old. Last of the winter garden. A sad few cabbages…

New garden. First the freshly tilled ground. Then the new peas. And last the artichokes.

Last we have a picture of a pretty lawn and a fruit grove. None of the pictures are that exciting but they all tell me the winter is past and it’s on to new things and, we hope, a new life after Covid…

Phrase – “domani è la mia lezione di italiano” — “tomorrow is my Italian class” doe-mah-nee eh lah mee-ah let-zee-owe-nee dee ee-tal-ee-ah-no.
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Stay safe everyone. Wear your masks, the virus is trying to make a comeback 🌈

Spring has sprung

Finally we have passed through that dark, damp, cold tunnel that is winter here. The forecasted temperatures are the upper 60s or lower 70s. No cold snaps that I can see. I will be working on the terrace soon to get the soil ready for new plants.

Saturday kilometer zero market was it’s usual self. Happy people in the warm sunshine. I went out and saw a number of friends. I was shopping for soup ingredients. We are nearing the end of the winter produce. I admit I’m tired of the same old things. The greens and winter veggies. I am ready for new spring things. I see the wild asparagus is being foraged. But you’ve got to go get that yourself. It’s not normally sold. It’s too early for strawberries or anything like that locally. The supermarket has a small section of local things and I bought fava beans for the first time although I don’t see them in the market on the piazza yet, which is my bellwether. I’m not sure where they come from. They are soft and super fresh in any event. They were in our pasta last night.

I went over to Piazza San Francesco to leave something for a friend. This is, in my opinion, the prettiest Piazza in Umbertide. There are three churches. All the buildings were built in the very early 1600s. I noticed today that the gates to the cloister were unlocked so I took a couple of pictures. Just look at these stones! Look at all the many colors. Are any of them original? Which ones? Wish I knew…

These next two are the pavement directly in front of the cloister. Look at these stones. They are smooth river rocks of similar proportion. Flat. Probably collected from the river nearby. They embedded them into the earth with the narrow side up. Much work went into these and I figure they’ve been here a long time. They are only in front of the cloister.

Italiano phrase — “In bocca al lupo “ this means good luck in Italy. But it literally means “in the mouth of the wolf” — the correct response is “Crepi il lupo” or “May the wolf die”. Pronounced as it looks.
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Stai al sicuro…🌈

Regional meal and…vaccine issues

Last post we said the doctor would call. Seems that has changed. The doctors revolted and said they couldn’t possibly call all of their patients. Now it seems that plan is scrapped and no one knows what will happen next. This may be good news for friends who don’t have the health card here. They had effectively been shut out but now who knows how we will get appointments?! Will they return to the online registration? Will they want us to sign up at the farmacia?

They can’t even decide on a place to give the vaccines here. First, I had heard the empty old renovated tobacco barn would be used for giving shots. Now that is not happening due to ventilation issues. Then they said the soccer field…but that’s not under cover. Che casino… Stay tuned!
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Dinner last night courtesy of Calagrana Regional menus was very good.

And here is the meal….so yummy. The guinea hen (Faraona) leg was boned and stuffed. Wrapped in ham. Mmmm.

Today Italiano phrase. “Che casino” in English “what a mess” — One of my favorite sayings in Italian. Very useful. Pronounced kay casino. 

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Stay safe all 🌈

First time out of the Comune in months!

Today, we ventured out of our Comune. First time since January. I was sure to fill out the required autocertificazione. We had all our identification. Our reason for leaving was to go to Città di Castello to the Questura and try to retrieve our Permessi di Soggiorno. You may recall, we had appointments in February so we knew the cards were there. But at that time the Questura was closed for a Covid outbreak. Once you’ve missed your appointment they won’t send another message with a new time. So you go and wait.

When we arrived, there looked to be around three groups of people waiting outside the door and inside two sets of people at the two windows. We waited until our turn and by then there were another five people or families. One of the women tried to push ahead of us when our turn came but we elbowed her out of the way. Latezia, a police woman who has been there since our very first Permessi seven years ago greeted us. I can’t believe it’s our seventh Permesso. There was a problem with her computer so we swapped windows and got our finger prints taken. This is the first time I had no issues with my prints. Normally they have a very hard time. I think maybe their machine is new. At least it worked and we walked out with our new Permessi…which expire in 4 months. Sigh. Next month we apply for new ones. This time we will try for the Long Term Permit. I am waiting for one more document and we should have everything we need.
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On the Covid front the rumors are flying. First they said we would register on-line or in the pharmacy. Now they say our doctor will call us to come in for the dose. There was an article today in Umbria24 that was pretty good. But I won’t hold my breath that it all will happen. I reached out to our doctor and she will be calling us she said. Here is an abbreviated version of the article, translated from the Italian so it’s a little stilted.

“Vaccinations for seventy-year-olds will begin within the first week of April and they will not have to book an appointment to receive the drug, but will be summoned directly. And by the end of the month, about 60,000 doses of the vaccine will arrive in Umbria…”

There are “three categories for the over 70 range: the first is that of non-ambulatory people who will be vaccinated at home and with Moderna; the second is that of the vulnerable who will receive Pfizer; and the third will collect the seventy-year-olds in perfect health for whom AstraZeneca is intended and who will be administered in vaccination centers…. to proceed with the administration to the 80,000 Umbrians aged between 70 and 79…”

“The start of vaccination for seventy-year-olds within a couple of weeks will obviously go hand in hand with the delivery of vaccines, which for Umbria in the space of a week should be worth about 60 thousand doses. In fact, 5,800 doses of Moderna arrived on Monday, while 2,000 doses of AstraZeneca and above all 11,700 of Pfizer are on the way. The Region also explains that by the end of the month, probably around 29 March, another 18,200 doses of AstraZeneca, 8,400 of Moderna, 18,720 of Pfizer will arrive.

So, I guess this is all good news…cautiously optimistic.
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Manuele Martinelli posted this photo of our sweet town as seen from above.

Italiano sentence. “La primavera è arrivata e il clima più caldo sta arrivando.” In English – “Spring has arrived and warmer weather is coming.” Pronounced…lah pree-mah-vara eh are-ree-vah-tah eh eel clee-mah pew call-doh stah are-ree-van-doh.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Sunday

It’s Sunny. But cold. And very windy. I am reading of high-wind warnings for today and tomorrow. We will have cold weather Monday and Tuesday. From Wednesday it is Katy bar the door…springtime is come! Temps in the 60s for the foreseeable future and that is good news. Time to think about spring planting. 🙂

Bought these for myself last week… lifts my mood!

We have had some good news here in Umbria on the vaccine front. It looks like most appointments will be schedule-able in April. Not sure how far out the actual appointments will be. Our year of birth appointment date is April 8. So you can bet your bippy we will be there!
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I made my weekly trip to Calagrana for provisions this morning. This trip I picked up two pizzas for our dinner tonight, a lamb chop dinner kit (meaning, I have to cook it), a pulled pork meal with house made buns, and English muffins…. I do love my little getaway trips up to Calagrana. Like a visit with friends. And I will eat for a week! Sweet. Yummy English muffins…I see egg McMuffins in my future.

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Italiano sentence. “Dove posso trovare una buona pizza nelle vicinanze?” In English…”Where can I find a good pizza nearby?” Pronounced …dough-vey pos-so trove-are-eh une-ah boo-owe-nah pizza nel-lay vich-een-ahn-zay?
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State al sicuro amici miei. 🌈

The EU debacle

For people interested in what’s going on here with the vaccine I found this article very helpful and succinct.
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From The NY Times:
It is the latest sign of the power of the Covid-19 vaccines: The number of new cases is declining, often sharply, in countries that have vaccinated a large share of residents.

That’s the situation in Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Britain. Cases are also declining in the U.S., which is not as far along as those three countries but is well ahead of most.

And on the other end of the spectrum is the European continent.
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Across most of the European Union, vaccine rollout has been slow, and new cases are surging. Europe — the first place where the coronavirus caused widespread death — is facing the prospect of being one of the last places to emerge from its grip. My colleague Jason Horowitz writes from Rome: “Governments are putting exhausted populations under lockdown. Street protests are turning violent. A year after the virus began spreading in Europe, things feel unnervingly the same.”

Why has Europe done so poorly? There are three main reasons.

1. Too much bureaucracy
While the U.S. and other countries rushed to sign agreements with vaccine makers, the E.U. first tried to make sure all 27 of its member countries agreed on how to approach the negotiations. Europe chose “to prioritize process over speed and to put solidarity between E.U. countries ahead of giving individual governments more room to maneuver,” Jillian Deutsch and Sarah Wheaton write for Politico Europe.

The result was slower regulatory approval of the vaccines and delayed agreements to buy doses, forcing Europe to wait in line behind countries that moved faster.

2. Penny-wise and pound-foolish
Europe put a big emphasis on negotiating a low price for vaccine doses. Israeli officials, by contrast, were willing to pay a premium to receive doses quickly. Israel has paid around $25 per Pfizer dose, and the U.S. pays about $20 per dose. The E.U. pays from $15 to $19.

The discounted price became another reason that Europe had to wait in line behind other countries. Even in purely economic terms, the trade-off will probably be a bad one: Each $1 saved per vaccine dose might ultimately add up to $1 billion — a rounding error in a trading bloc with a nearly $20 trillion annual economic output. A single additional lockdown, like the one Italy announced this week, could wipe out any savings.

“The price difference is macroeconomically irrelevant,” Münchau writes. The E.U. “tried to lock in a perceived short-term price advantage at the expense of everything else.”

3. Vaccine skepticism
“Europe is the world’s epicenter of vaccine skepticism,” Deutsch and Wheaton of Politico Europe write. That skepticism predated Covid, and now its consequences are becoming clear.

In a survey published in the journal Nature Medicine, residents of 19 countries were asked if they would take a Covid vaccine that had been “proven safe and effective.” In China, 89 percent of people said yes. In the U.S., 75 percent did. The shares were lower across most of Europe: 68 percent in Germany, 65 percent in Sweden, 59 percent in France and 56 percent in Poland.

The skepticism helps explain Europe’s latest vaccination problem. About a dozen countries, including France and Germany, have suspended the use of one of the continent’s primary vaccines, from AstraZeneca, citing concerns about blood clots.

But the evidence that the vaccine causes clots is thin. Europe’s main drug regulator still says the benefits outweigh the risks. And Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, has pointed out that the rate of clotting among vaccinated Europeans is lower than “would be expected among the general population.”

Dr. Muge Cevik, a virus expert at the University of St. Andrews, told me yesterday that it was always important to scrutinize vaccines. But, she added, “I would say the benefits of the A.Z. vaccine in preventing Covid, hospitalization and death outweigh the risks of side effects, especially in the middle of the pandemic.”

The bottom line: Over the summer, the U.S. was struggling more than any other country to contain Covid. Today, Europe appears to be in much worse shape.
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So here we sit. It is OK. I will wait. Sooner or later we will get the vaccine. Meanwhile I enjoy the onset of spring. Each day is longer. Each day is greener. Each day has more blooming to see.

Italian for today — “bel tempo oggi” In English, “beautiful weather today” Pronounced — bell tem-po ohg-gee.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

One year anniversary

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of our total lockdown in Italy. What a year it has been! Some of you may remember I blogged for 83 straight days from just before the lockdown to just after the loosening of it in Italy last year. We went through the lockdown. Then we went through the loosening. Summer and early Fall were a taste of freedom. Thinking of it now, it seems far away and somehow unreal. We did take advantage of that freedom and we went on four trips. All within Italy. We visited each coast, one twice, and we spent a wonderful six days in Positano and Napoli. We also went to wineries, and had lunch outside and just … well…we LIVED! Sigh.

I sometimes can’t help but focus on time ticking forward — and us with it — time which we can never recover. After a year in which that valuable, irreplaceable commodity has slipped away from us before our eyes, I want it to end. It is an enormous loss. I want to enjoy the time I have left. I want to enjoy the world again. It is the details of life that matter, all the little things we’ve lost and wept for.
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[shakes herself off and moves forward] 🙂 OK so now here we are a year later and headed for another near total lockdown. Umbria is for some obscure reason remaining Orange on Monday. Here’s the map.

This map will be in effect until the Saturday before Easter when every region will go Red and everything will close for the holiday weekend, to include Monday which is also a holiday here.

There is no news on the vaccine front. We still don’t have much of it to put in arms. It’s predicted that we won’t get anywhere near herd immunity this year.
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Today, being Saturday, I went out to do errands. I was meeting a friend to buy dog collars and harnesses for the Canile – rescue – that Books for Dogs supports. When people adopt they typically bring a leash but don’t realize none of the dogs have collars. I volunteered to buy a bunch for them to use. Before I met my friend I spent a little time sitting on a park bench. So here are my photos — I call them “musings from a park bench” 😁

Phrases for today. “buona giornata. buona domenica. buona sera.” in English – “have a good day. Have a nice Sunday. Have a nice afternoon/evening”. A little extra info. Buona giornata is similar to buongiorno. But it means more like have a great all day. Whereas buongiorno is more like a greeting, good day. It Italy we don’t have weekends in the sense that we do in the US. Most offices and schools etc. are open on Saturday. So what you wish people, even on a Friday is buona domenica. Which is the one day no one works and most things are closed. Even stores in small towns. Buona sera is said starting around one-ish PM. At least in our area of Italy. I had always thought it was just for the evening but here they start saying it right around lunchtime. Technically you could say buon pommerigio or good afternoon but no one does! Pronunciation… bu-oh-na gee-or-nah-ta. Bu-oh-na doe-men-ick-ah. Bu-oh-na sair-ah. They elide the buo part of buona. But they pronounce both the “u” and the “o” running them together.
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Stay safe all! Andrà tutto bene! 🌈