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!
~~~~~~~
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.

~~~~~~~
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?
~~~~
State al sicuro amici miei. 🌈

Regional dinner and a recommendation

I just finished doing a virtual tour. Someone told me about the site virtualtrips.io. It has tours worldwide that you can sign up for — for free! It is a way for the poor out-of-work tour guides to make a little money through tips you leave. I decided to try one of Umbria of a town I’ve never visited, Corciano. The guide was Patrizia and she was quite good. I even see in the list of tours there will be two tours in — wait for it — UMBERTIDE!! I’m shocked! Dates not announced but I’ll post when I hear. There are also other cool looking tours all over the world. This could be a fun way to see some of the world while stuck at home.
~~~~~~~
Today is Friday. And you know what that means!? Yes it’s Regional food day from Calagrana. Today we will be in Lombardia. The dish is the perennial crowd pleaser, Ossobuco.

And here it is! It was one of the best things we’ve had on the Regional tour.

Italian sentence.”Domani sto facendo commissioni”. English. “Tomorrow I am doing errands” pronounced… doh-mah-nee stow fah-chee-end-oh com-miss-ee-owe-nee.

~~~~~
Stay safe! 🌈

The EU debacle

For people interested in what’s going on here with the vaccine I found this article very helpful and succinct.
~~~~~~~~
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.
~~~~~~
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.
~~~~~~
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.
~~~~~~~
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.
~~~~~~

[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.
~~~~~~
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.
~~~~~~~~
Stay safe all! Andrà tutto bene! 🌈

Regional dinner – Emilia Romagna

This week Calagrana’s special Regional dinner was from Emilia Romagna. The food capital of Italy. I’m sure some would dispute that, but it’s where many products you would recognize come from, like Parmagiana, Prosciutto and Balsamic vinegar, to name three. This week the entree was Rabbit alla Modanese. Since many people don’t eat rabbit Ely had a second choice of pork. We tried the wine this time.

Last Sunday I went up to the restaurant to pick up take-away items. They have lists of available things every couple of weeks which we order and then pickup at the agriturismo. Ely is really good at pastry. We got some of her chicken and leek pies. They make great lunches. Single serving size! And some English muffins. Two pizzas. And a marinated chicken. It’s like a holiday when I go there. It’s only 15 minutes away and in our Comune (and legal in the Orange Zone) but it feels like a real outing! I get out so seldom. I also run into other actual people there! Who are also picking up food. It’s kind of sad that this constitutes a high point in our week. Here’s the menu:

Below are pictures of our meal. The rabbit was rolled and stuffed. It was excellent. I loved the wine pairing. Eccellente as always!

Sentence for today “è tardi ed è ora di andare a letto.” — “it is late and time for bed”. Pronounced…eh tar-dee ed eh or-ah dee and-are-eh ah let-toe.

Stay safe y’all…andrà tutto benr 🌈

Cannara onions

At the Wednesday market in town, one of my errands was to buy some more of the “famous Cannara onions”. I keep a string of these sweet onions available all the time in my kitchen. They work used any way, raw or cooked. A young man, maybe 20s or 30s comes in a van with braids of the onions, dried legumes and, in summer, fresh things they grow, like fava beans. I drop by to get these onions often. A little information about the “famous” onions follows.

The onion of Cannara is a protected product of Umbria, earning the title Traditional Product Agribusiness from the Minister of Agriculture. This commemorates not only the goodness and versatility of this onion in the kitchen, but also it’s historical roots in this area. Besides this prestigious award, the Onion of Cannara also won the coveted title of Slow Food.

The traditional cultivation and harvesting of the onion of Cannara is carried out by small producers called “cipollari”, often handed down from father to son for generations. The word cipollo means onion so cipollari means something like ”onioner”. It has been cultivated since the 1600s in and around the small village of Cannara which is situated in a vast, fertile plain that, back in Roman times, was a shallow lake. The entire process of growing and harvesting is closely monitored to guarantee the quality standards and origins.

The onions cultivated around Cannara are of three distinct varieties: red, golden and borrettana (flat disc type), but all three are characterized as sweet, soft and easy to digest. To me, the red type, with its beautiful red-coppery skin is by far the most tasty, delicate and sweet. They are most often sold in the characteristic braids.

The town of Cannara, in normal, non-Covid times, has a famous festival which is held during the first two weeks of September and is called, the “Feast of the Onion.”

Too pretty to eat!

~~~~~~~~
I took this next snap of a pretty house painted in one of the traditional colors used around here. Almost orange. I was taken with the duvet airing on the balcony which went so well with the house color.

Sentence for today. “ho ricevuto il mio pacco da amazon oggi.” — “I received my package from Amazon today”. Pronounced — oh rey-chay-vu-toe eel me-oh pack-co dah amazon ohg-gee.
~~~~~~~~
Stay safe – andrà tutto bene!🌈

Unsolved mystery

I have always wondered about the method of closing the packaging for butter here. The wrapping for the butter is paper, which in and of itself, is unusual by the standards I’m used to in the US. There, it’s in a box which is sealed and inside are the individual sticks wrapped in folded paper. Here, firstly, they don’t have sticks of butter. They have one piece of butter in varying sizes. This is wrapped in paper. They use a metal rivet on both ends of the folded paper to seal it. But my question was, why a metal rivet and why only on butter?

I posted my question on a Facebook page called Umbrialiens to which I belong. It is an excellent, friendly and helpful group. I got a number of replies. Most said it was tamper proofing. But I still wondered, why the metal rivet? Turns out they also use a rivet on some types of pasta wrapped in paper. It seems I had forgotten that but my friend Libby refreshed my memory.

So the end of the story is…tamper proofing. I am left unfulfilled. I still want to know why the rivet?
~~~~~~~~
Next subject! I mentioned I had seen a sign for Sushi at the Carrefour market. Today we investigated during our small shopping trip. Turns out you have to pre-order for pickup. And they offer it on Friday and Saturday. This is reassuring. Only offering it two days tells me the fish will be fresh. Friday is still “fish Friday” in Catholic Italy…especially during Lent. So this could be popular. And I, myself, would feel comfortable buying this.

I think I will have to try it. I am a sashimi fan, not especially sushi. I may try both. If/when I do, I’ll report back.
~~~~~~~~
Italiano sentence. “Oggi piove e fa freddo” — in English “It is raining and cold today”. Pronounced — Ohg-gee pee-oh-vey eh fah fred-doh. Be sure to pronounce the double consonants like the “gg” in oggi. And the “dd” in freddo.
~~~~~~~
Stay safe everyone…andrà tutto bene 🌈💕

Our new Prime Minister

After the collapse of our last government here, the president of Italy, Sergio Matarella, appointed Mario Draghi as our new PM. It was deplorable for a previous PM (Renzi) to upend the government in the middle of a pandemic, in my opinion, and I had liked our previous PM who got bumped (Conte). But I’m pleased with Mario Draghi. His name means Dragons in Italian. I think that’s perfect! We need dragons now to get us through this. He served as President of the European Central Bank during the Eurozone crisis, becoming famous throughout Europe for saying that he would be prepared to do “whatever it takes” to prevent the euro from failing. And he did. So I think he’s a fighter and we need that now.

The newest thing to happen, is that Draghi has blocked AstraZeneca from exporting the doses of the vaccine that they manufactured in the EU, out of the EU. They have not yet met their contractual obligations to the EU. I’m so glad we’ve got someone in our corner fighting for us right now. We have such a measly amount of vaccine here. And we all wait for our vaccinations while the disease surges. Here is the new map for Italy and it’s zones.

~~~~~~~~
Stay safe everyone…andrà tutto bene…🌈

Regional meal — Umbria

Tonight is Regional meal night from Calagrana. This time from our very own Umbria. We opted in for the wine since it is a new one to us. I am especially looking forward to the Torta al Testo. Fatta in casa….home-made.

Torta al testo is very old and it originated in the Umbrian area. It began as an unleavened alternative to traditional bread. There are two variants: the original one with wheat flour, and later came one with corn flour, after corn arrived from the Americas. Normal ingredients are only water, flour, salt and baking soda. In the upper Tiber valley, where we live, I read there’s is a similar cake called ciacca (probably dialect), the recipe involves the addition of an egg. This, I have not yet verified.

The cooking surface, a disc about 3 cm thick, is called “testo” from the Latin testum, or the brick tile on which, in ancient Rome, focaccias were baked. Originally it was made at home by making large stones into a smooth surface and placing it into the fire to heat. Now it is possible to buy a special Torta al Testo pan made of cast iron or concrete.

Traditionally the Torta al Testo was split and eaten with any meats or foraged greens. But it is most often seen eaten with the pork products for which Umbria is famous. Our friend Vera invited us to lunch in the Before Times and she asked her mother-in-law (suocera) to make some. She does make the best I’ve ever had. They have a huge outdoor wood oven to make it authentically. It smelled so floury and bready, and it was very soft. I could’ve munched it all day. But this day I learned the traditional way to eat it, with halved sausages and cooked spinach. It was incredible. I had to borrow a picture. Photo credit to Dreavel.com. This is the traditional way. I may have to try my hand at making some myself!

I didn’t actually know Pollo all’arrabbiata (arrabbiata means angry and says it will be spicy) was an Umbrian dish. I must look it up. We finished our meal and it was scrumptious. Here are pictures.

plated and ready to eat
Eating!
Torta al testo
Vino

Italiano phrase…”fare la scarpetta”. This needs some explanation. Literally it means “make the little shoe” but it is a saying. If you have sauce left on your plate you use the bread to sop up the sauce. Or you “make the little shoe”. Pronounced fah-ray lah scar-pet-ta.
~~~~~~~
Stay safe everyone, andrà tutto bene 🌈

Beautiful day for a walk

There was good news in the Corriere della Sera newspaper yesterday — Mario Draghi — our new Prime Minister — has installed his own people as the covid team and he’s calling up the civil defense and the army logistics command. The civil defense will be administering shots, and the logistical people will be making sure the vaccines keep coming and get to the right places. They want herd immunity by summer. Spero di si! It would be nice to have a “normal” summer. I am a sceptic so will wait and see.

I also read in the US news today that numerous states are reducing restrictions and opening businesses after the lowering of cases. Texas is even removing the mask mandate. I can see why they want businesses open. But why remove mask mandates? These moves will inevitably result in an upswing in cases again. Do they NEVER learn from the past? It is too soon and there have not been enough vaccines administered yet.
~~~~~~~~
Last year our old Conad grocery store closed, as did the butcher next to it. The Conad was our nearest grocery of any size. A new store, Carrefour, took its place. A French chain. It is bigger, cleaner, and has more products. Yesterday I saw a sign outside advertising fresh made sushi. I was surprised and pleased. But today the sign is gone. So I assume this means that fresh sushi is not an everyday thing. Investigation is in order.
~~~~~~~~
I went for a nice walk in the evening. The weather was very pleasant with temperatures in the 60s F and sunny. There is a park nearby. I had not visited it in some time so I went there and walked today. Here are some pictures.

When I took this next one I thought it would not come out. But I was pleasantly surprised. Tiny white flowers in the forest. Sweet!

~~~~~~~~
I heard a rumor. A new restaurant will be opening in Centro of Umbertide. It makes my heart feel good that there are optimists still willing to fling themselves into creating something new in the chaos of the Pandemic times. And a restaurant to boot. I hope this rumor is true!
~~~~~~~~
Italiano sentence for today. “Ho trovato un albero con piccoli fiori bianchi nel bosco.” English — “I found a tree with tiny white flowers in the forest.” Pronounced…oh trove-ah-toe une al-bear-roe con peek-co-lee fee-or-ee bee-ahn-key nell boss-co.
~~~~~~~~
Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene!🌈