Friday, March 25, 2011

Planting the Future

It was getting stressful as we did our final packing to move to Calabria. I finally resolved to leave behind all replaceable items and keep only things that would remind me of people or times left behind. One of the items I still have is a little gardener's kistch that a friend gave me that proclaims: "He who plants a tree plants a future". I don't remember deciding to bring it but it hangs on my terrace where I still try to plant pots. I looked at my lemon tree out there and the need to repot it and use the pot for another plant was all I needed to decide to take a trip to our "neighborhood" garden center, Miceli's. Our next door neighbor's son either runs or owns this garden center/farm store (our 80 something neighbor speaks only in SDT dialect so our knowledge of his son's involvement is lost in the translation). It is very large and just a bit impersonal--like an American garden center would be.

I don't know how many of you out there are garden center rats like me but they have been a large part of my life since the age of 21 when I began gardening after a youth largely spent in other pursuits. My mother always said that is was my grandmother's master gardener genes kicking in because after being raised on a dry piece of Colorado plain, she had no need for contact with the earth. I had planned to take you to three of my favorite garden "centers"--each are entirely different from the other--but I never made it to the other two, largely due to the pausa(siesta) and the fact that I didn't get out of the house until 10.
It's still pretty empty at Garden Centers. Prime time is April and May.

One of my favorites is close to the palestra(gym) I attend where a very, very nice owner lady always recognizes me although I come very irregularly. It's small and reminds me of a cross between a florist and a garden shop.  But she has plenty to offer when the spirit moves me after a bout with the abs machine. All of the pictures here (I was my own photographer today) are of Miceli's since I never made to my other favorites.

My next favorite is a place just off SS18 that reminds me of the first nursery where I worked. They grow a lot of stuff themselves, have a real hot house, and have very pretty lightweight non-plastic pots. They recognize me here too, and know I want to wander by myself and gather my bounty. I get frustrated at this store though because the prices are high--it's still the best place for a fancy pot or a bush or tree. Flowers are better at the farmer's market in Scalea on Mondays. Although I'm more a shrub and tree person, I do try out my share of perennials.  No real winter to worry about here. Who would have known in Oregon that petunias are perennials?

I have never seen as many pots as they offer in Italy. Terracotta and resin. I couldn't get all of them in the picture!

Friday, March 18, 2011

For the Art of it--Cooking and Painting in Calabria

The most popular topic in Italy after football is cooking. You can’t avoid it. It beats listening to the latest gossip about Berlusconi eh? Yesterday, March 17th, was the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and I spent a couple hours at a food seminar. Much healthier than how many Americans spent yesterday – drinking green beer for St. Patrick’s Day. I confess we skipped speeches in the piazza last night by the mayor since they were not to begin until 22.30.
Our friend Chef Enzo Grisolia, and his colleagues of the Accadamia Italiana Del Peperoncino are holding a seminar in nearby Scalea, on cooking with peperoncini (hot peppers). I am attending the event because I cook and I’d like to improve how I do it. I cooked plenty of Mexican and Thai food in America, but it lacked a certain subtlety. If there’s one thing I have learned about Italian cooking, it is that the good cooks are subtle. I cook like an American – a bull in the china shop with too much meat, too many spices, too much of each spice, etc.

Seminar leaders Francesca Russo, Fabio Campoli, Enzo Monaco, Enzo Grisolia

It is a fun seminar and I’m picking up some tips to try in our kitchen. The audience is a split between professional cooks and others like me. I must say that Chef Enzo (for me) is the most articulate and clear-speaking of the group, so I understand a lot more of his Italian. I am skipping language class to attend this, but forcing myself to focus and listen to the speakers is good practice! Today’s lesson is about dolce (desserts) made with peperoncini. I probably won’t be trying any spicy chocolate dishes at home since we are not dessert eaters. Saturday there is a dinner and we can take companions (Di) for a modest cost.

And the painting...Our neighbor Giuseppe has a studio up the hill and Di found a piece there that we both like for our guest apartment--that's as local as art can get.  Note the buildings in the painting match the background of the photo, typical construction of that age. We were looking for a village scene that wasn't mass produced--but we don't have a Trumpish art budget. This painting looks very nice in the apartment and radiates the simplicity we were looking for. Giuseppe also gave us a smaller painting done by his daughter who also has talent. The take home message – sometimes just walk 100 meters instead of driving all over for what you want.

See you next time I venture off-Terrace--Guido

Friday, March 11, 2011


No longer a dream, this is where I live
It's a beautiful sunny crisp day here in Santa Domenica Talao. I live here now. Isn't it interesting how a thought becomes reality in life? Growing up in the Midwest of the US, both Doug and I had the same first dream: GO WEST.
He started in Utah, I in California and we converged in Oregon. We were able to have a dream and turn it into reality. At what cost? Most of the people who live here have lived here their whole lives. Most of my high school classmates still live in my home town. Doug and I left that behind early on. What did we miss?
Are we still looking for whatever that may be? We have always been aware of how much we gained by venturing out beyond the borders of birth...untold practical knowledge, self-reliance, the knowledge that people are different yet deep down much the same wherever you are. We also learned that we could have a dream and make it so.

Do you have a dream but don't quite know what to do to make it happen?
Or do you have a dream that didn't live up to your expectations in reality?
What does it all have to do with what is left behind?

This is where I used to live--it was also once a dream

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Out of Calabria--Monte Sirino

We headed to the mountains last week. We were curious about snow conditions and we both kind of miss being in the mountains and woods. Just 1.5 hours NE of our home is the Monte Sirino area. We live in the northern-most part of Calabria so 1.5 hours gets us into the Region of Basilicata, Province of Potenza. You really need a good map. These are back roads. Sirino is accessed from our side via the town of Lagonegro, or from Lauria and you can make a leisurely loop around the area on good roads. The roads would, however, be dicey when snow-covered and chains or 4WD would be prudent.

I was here last spring when the Monte Sirino ski area was closed. This time it was open and we stopped for a look and for lunch. The top of the ski area is in a saddle between Mt. Sirino--Elevation: 1907m/6256ft, and Mt. Papa 2005m/6578ft. We learned that Sirino is located on the southern end of a brand new national park, established December 2007.  
This is the Parco Nationale Appennino Lucano Val D'Agri Lagonegrese. Say that as fast as you can with a mouth full of pasta. 

It is a bella area and from various points you see the mountains extending to the north, and to the south near the Sila park. It still amazes us to find the center of Italy to be so rugged.
The little ski area is a family area similar to where I learned to ski in Ohio 50 years ago, but a lot prettier. Sirino has 4 surface lifts and 1 chairlift, mostly intermediate piste, and boasts a restaurant with good food. Try a full lunch for two at an American ski area for just €20. You would spend that much for a candy bar and soft drink at Vail, Colorado. BTW, the snow gods have not smiled on Southern Italy this year as there was only 1/2 meter (18") of snow at the area, but plenty for a little fun. Prices are reasonable and they have rental skis and snowboards. The latter would be a challenge on the surface lifts.

Near the ski area, there are marked and signed trails for trekking in the summer that I will recommend to people willing to make the drive. The hills are covered by a beech-alder type forest and when we took Vince for a walk below snowline, we found some amazing old growth chestnut trees.
See you in the Mountains,


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