Category Archives: Covid

Smokey lentil stew with potatoes and leeks

My friend in Virginia sent a recipe for this stew that is from the NY Times. I am a big lentil fan and even though I make soups with lentils often I thought this one sounded a bit different.

And how! It was it different. The key ingredient is the smoked paprika. It adds a big smokey taste. I made it today for lunch and we both loved it. I will make it again as a dinner meal and add some sausage. It is a perfect winter-time stew.

I made quite a few changes to the Times recipe. First off, I simplified things. For instance they used three (!) pots to make it…I reduced that to two. I didn’t put the onion in with the cooking lentils but added it in with the leeks. I totally took out the saffron. It was such a small amount in a huge and highly spiced stew. You never could’ve tasted it and besides, it is an expensive ingredient. Waste. I sautéed the spices in with the leeks and in the oil to bring out their flavor. Anyway it was a hit with us! I put the recipe in the recipes in the top menu bar. Tap the title twice if it doesn’t come up with only one tap.

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We’ve also gotten some much needed errands finished. Every January we have to renew our enrollment in the National Health. It involves obtaining a stamped and signed statement from the Social Security office in the American Embassy in Rome. I wrote in early December and received the statements. We had to call the health department for an appointment this year because of Covid, and that was on Monday at 9AM. Before we went though, I had to copy all of our cards and documents. That included our expired Tessere di Sanitaria, our Codice Fiscale, our Permessi di Soggiorno, our Carta d’Identita, our passports, make an extra copy of the social security statement, convert the amount to Euro and then compute the amount we owe for the year and print that out. Whew. At the appointment we met with Laura. Once our nemesis, she either has gotten used to us or she has mellowed. So she isn’t quite as scary as she used to be. She took all the papers and checked our calculations and sent us off to the Poste to pay for the coverage. There were about 8 people ahead of us in line where we all waited outside. Did I say it was frigid? Well, it was. Finally we got that done and returned to give Laura the receipt. She had everything done and we signed multiple times and – tada! We were finito. Of course they would only give it to us until April because we are STILL waiting for our new Permessi from the Questura. Seven months and counting. When we get it we visit Laura again and get the Tessere extended…to June. Which is when our NEW cards expire AGAIN and then in June I am sure we will have to go and get them extended to the end of the year…eyeroll. We pay for the whole year in January. They know we are getting our Permessi, so why not give us the card for the year? So much less work for us AND them!

Today, we took the VeeDub to the shop to get its oil changed and get its every other year inspection renewed. We will pick it up tomorrow. So the beginning of the year errands are sorting themselves out slowly.
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A friend asked me to include a sentence in Italian with pronunciation with my blogs. So I am starting that today. Here goes! “Abbiamo fatto le nostre commissioni!” It means “We have done our errands”. Pronounced abbey-yamo faht-toe lay noh-stray com-miss-see-oh-nee 🙂
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene! 🌈

Carte Jaune

A vaccine yellow card? Carte Jaune, is a medical passport issued by the World Health Organization. It’s an official record that some countries require for entrance, and it can document vaccination against diseases ranging from cholera and yellow fever to such childhood illnesses as rubella. So, will a “Carte Jaune” be required for Covid?

What will happen? No one knows. Airlines can require a coronavirus vaccine because they are private companies. Also, cruise lines. Countries may also make vaccination a requirement for crossing their borders. Within the United States, it’s highly unlikely that the vaccination would ever be required for travel, according to experts. So, I suppose this means you can remain in the US and travel, which I agree with. But there may be restrictions and requirements for vaccination to travel to other countries. It is early days yet…

We learned yesterday, our age group here in Italy, should be getting the vaccine from March to May. They are having “traveling gazebos” (whatever they are!) to administer the vaccine or we can go to our medico. Or we think we can. This is the latest plan and they seem to change often. Again, we will wait and see.
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It’s funny. I bought the New Year seafood 4 course meal for us from Calagrana. The menu was: antipasto – Salmon Carpaccio, primi – tagliatelle with mixed seafood sauce, secondo – two sea bass filets cooked with a buttery tomatoey sauce and contorni (sides), and dolce – bread and butter pudding. Luther and I decided there was no way we could eat it all at once and truly enjoy it, so we ate the carpaccio on New Years Eve. Then the sea bass with the Brussels sprouts and the potatoes on New Years, then the tagliatelle last night. And the pudding over the whole time. Parts of three meals for us that were supposed to be one. I feel we enjoyed them more this way. I shared this picture on Facebook. Thank you Calagrana! It was delizioso!

Bread and butter pudding

Stay safe everyone… Andrà tutto bene.🌈

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. 😢
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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.
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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?

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Stay safe everyone! Only one day of mean old 2020 left!! 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?
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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! 🌈

Christmas restrictions in Italy

New rules for us here in Italy, as well as for anyone who plans a trip to Italy during the holidays. Information is from The Local.
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Italy is tightening the rules for people crossing its borders this month.
While other countries may be relaxing their rules over Christmas, Italy has announced it will crack down on travel both to and within Italy.

Its solution is to impose quarantine on anyone entering Italy over Christmas or New Year, as well as stepping up mandatory coronavirus testing for travellers.

The rules, introduced in a new emergency decree signed on December 3rd, come into force immediately but will get progressively stricter the closer we come to Christmas holidays.

They will ease off after the traditional end of the Christmas period on January 6th, and be replaced by a new set of rules from January 16th.

Mandatory quarantine for everyone arriving over Christmas and New Year
The biggest change is that everyone who enters Italy between December 21st and January 6th will have to quarantine for 14 days, including people travelling from within the European Union.

That applies to all travellers, regardless of nationality and whether you live in Italy or are just visiting, and including if you’re entering Italy by private transport.

Upon arrival, you will have to complete a form (available here or from your airline) giving your contact details and the address in Italy where you plan to quarantine. You will need to organize your own transport from the airport without taking trains, buses, coaches or other public transport to reach your destination.

Once you’re at your place of quarantine, you should not go outside unless there’s an emergency, nor can you invite anyone over or socialize with other housemates (unless you’re quarantining together).

You are also required to inform the local health service, or ASL, so that they can monitor you. Depending on where you are, you should be able to do this by phone, email or by filling in a form online: consult your region’s website for more information.

Pre-travel testing extended to all EU countries
While Italy previously imposed mandatory coronavirus tests on travelers from certain European countries, from December 10th the requirement will be extended to people arriving from any country in the EU, Schengen Zone or the UK.

In addition, the new decree states that you’ll have to get a test before you travel instead of on arrival in Italy. That means you should prepare to arrange a swab within the 48 hours before you depart for Italy, rather than getting tested at the Italian airport or station where you arrive.

People who arrive without proof of a negative test result will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Before December 10th, only people traveling from ‘high-risk’ European countries – Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Romania, Spain and the UK – will have to test negative before they travel.

And between December 21st to January 6th, everyone arriving in Italy will have to quarantine regardless.

As far as we know, EU travellers can go back to testing negative to avoid quarantine from January 7th until the rules are revised again on January 16th.

Canadians can no longer visit Italy as tourists.
Italy has revised its list of countries outside Europe whose residents are allowed to visit for non-essential reasons, including for tourism.

Canada has been removed, along with Georgia and Tunisia. Residents of these countries must now prove they have an urgent reason such as work, health, study or family emergencies in order to enter Italy. (Citizens of these countries who live in Italy remain free to return to their Italian residence.)

Meanwhile Singapore has been added to the ‘safe’ list and Romania has been recategorised in line with other EU countries.

The revised list, effective December 4th, is as follows:

Australia
Japan
New Zealand
South Korea
Rwanda
Singapore
Thailand
Uruguay
Residents of any of these countries are free to visit Italy, but must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Until now 16 countries were subject to Italy’s tightest travel restrictions, with entry all but barred.

But starting December 4th, these countries will be subject to the same restrictions as most other places outside the EU: travel is permitted for essential reasons of work, study, health or family emergency, or for people who usually live in Italy and are returning home.

Upon arrival in Italy, they will have to quarantine for 14 days.

The change affects the following countries:

Armenia
Bahrein
Bangladesh
Bosnia Herzegovina
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Dominican Republic
Kosovo
Kuwait
Moldova
Montenegro
North Macedonia
Oman
Panama
Peru
Rules for Americans remain unchanged

People travelling from the United States, India, Russia, China or any other countries outside Europe (apart from the eight on Italy’s ‘safe’ list above) remain the same: you can travel for essential reasons or to return home, but not as a tourist.

If you are eligible to travel, you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days.
You can avoid quarantine, however, if you travel on one of the new ‘Covid-tested’ flights starting between the US and Italy on December 8th, on which all passengers must test negative before boarding.

Remember that these flights only get you out of quarantine; you’ll still have to prove to border police that you have an urgent reason to travel to Italy.

Travel within Italy restricted
Domestic travel will also be restricted throughout December and early January.

No non-essential travel is allowed in or out of regions classified as high-risk red or orange zones under Italy’s tier system, which the government has confirmed will remain in place under the latest decree. Travel between towns is also restricted in these zones.

From December 21st to January 6th, travel between any regions of Italy – including lower-risk yellow zones – will be limited to essential journeys.

And on December 25th and 26th as well as January 1st, you will not be allowed to leave your own municipality (comune) except for emergencies.

Hotels can remain open
Hotels and other forms of accommodation are allowed to stay open throughout the holidays, though with the drop-off in tourism some will no doubt close.

There are some restrictions on serving food and drink, including a 6pm closing time for hotel bars and restaurants on New Year’s Eve.

For more information on international travel to and from Italy, see the Foreign Ministry’s website and check the restrictions in your destination country with the appropriate embassy.

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I wanted to let everyone know our new rules. These will be enforced and are mandatory. I’m sad for the loss of our Christmas this year. But it is, after all, Christmas 2020. A year unlike any other. I have high hopes for a return to quasi normalcy in 2021.

Stay safe everyone!

Corona virus alert

I’m concerned that so many in the US are planning to either travel on Thanksgiving, or are joining family and/or friends for the traditional meal. This is a very bad idea. It could kill your friends and family. I hope you’ll heed the CDC directive just out today. Don’t travel. Stay home. Be safe. There is always next year… You need to be very careful so you and your family can get to the time when the vaccine is available. It is totally up to you. Please chose carefully. It is only this one thanksgiving…it is not so hard to wait til next year.💕

Tuscany is Code Red

It’s getting ramped up fast here. We are still Orange but just a few miles from here is Tuscany, and it is Code Red now. The highest. Pretty much a complete lockdown over there. The map below shows how fast Italy is raising the alarms.

Unfortunately I now know of a number of people in our area who’ve tested positive, or of people in self-isolation after being exposed. It is far worse for Umbria in this second wave that it was in the first.

It is Saturday. It’s cold and damp here. I am not even going outside to our Kilometer zero market. We have the stufa burning so it’s cozy inside. Here’s the foggy view from our terazza …No laundry will be drying today!

I had hoped to clean up some in my ortino. Take a look at my biggest producer. I’ve never had a pepper with so many before! These all ripened in the last 3 days. And these babies are HOT. I freeze them but now they are taking over all the space.

Stay Covid-safe everyone. Wear your mask! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

My beloved Umbertide 💕

I have found out lately one must have thick skin to write a blog. I hope my readers don’t think I am always tearing down my town! A friend has recently told me I am guilty of this. I like to tell my tales and I like to be honest about my life here. I think most people appreciate that. Umbertide is, as I’ve said many times, a “real” town. So it has good things and not so good. But I love it for all of these things. It is no Disneyland. It is a slice of Italian life. 🥰

In my last blog I wrote about the difficulties our bars and restaurants will have in the newly restrictive Code Orange lockdown. I mentioned one of the bars in the Piazza, Cafe Centrale, and that I was worried for the owner, Diego, who had made quite an investment in his bar. I got my information from a friend who said he had talked to the owner who said he may not be able to manage on only day traffic. To set the record straight. It seems this may not be true, and not a problem for the bar after all. I’m happy to hear he will be OK and won’t have to close. His bar certainly brought a lot of life to our Piazza. I wouldn’t want to see it go. It is a class act. I want all of our businesses to survive this latest trouble. Now, I hope my friend tells Diego, that I wrote this.

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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈