Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Eve in Rome

The streets were very quiet as I walked to Santa Maria in Aracoeli. I have never seen or heard the Center so quiet at night. It was eerie.

Only Sloppy Sams and The Drunkin Ship were open in Campo de Fiori, I guess for those who had to get their shots on.

The mass was packed. (Random sighting, “Law and Order” actor Sam Waterson. Maybe he lives here. He recently narrated a series on Ancient Rome.)

I though mass would start at 11.00 and end at midnight, like the churches back in my hometown but no, mass started at midnight. I was so tired. Ha

This was the first Catholic mass I have attended since I went to St. Monica’s (in Santa Monica, CA) for an Easter mass with a friend 10 years ago. I understood very little and there was no program.

The church is beautiful. It is the church of the Senate and the Roman people. I’ve climbed the 124 marble steps to the church before but this was the first time I’ve been inside. The church was built on the site of the ancient temple to Juno.

After the service, the Santo Bambino (baby Jesus) is moved from the altar to the manger. The church had a wooden one from the 15th century that was carved from a tree in the garden of Gethsemane. It was stolen in 1994. Who the heck steals something like that and what did they do with it? I think it would be hard to sell.

There is a saying in Italian, “Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want.”

When the mass ended at 1:30 suddenly the streets were full of cars and there were families everywhere. It was so surreal.

It was a very moving evening.

A photo of the Christmas tree at the top of the Capitoline Hill. I wanted to take a photo of the incredible manger scene but there were too many people standing in front of it.

The front of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

Once the mass started there was more light but I thought it might be bad form to start clicking away.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Flashback Friday (on Thursday) – Donny Hathaway - "This Christmas"

sappy level - medium

Merry Christmas!

I just returned from a looooong Christmas lunch. My friend D. is a fantastic cook. Lunch was delicious and very fun.

There is no video, just audio and Donny's photo but I love this song so much. I know Chris Brown did a remake. Whatever. No one can touch the original.

Last year I was alone in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. It was very depressing. Every single person I knew was out of town.

What a difference a year makes. I miss my family but my first Christmas in Rome (like Donny sings) was a very special Christmas for me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Lights around Piazza Navona

A friend from L.A. was in town for meetings. After dinner an Italian friend of hers drove us to Piazza Navona. We parked on a side street and I had to take a photo of these blue lights.

On the way to meet my friend near Piazza del Popolo, I came across these lights near Pz. Navona. I love these side streets.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!

sappy level - low

Apparently there are some young people who are only familiar with the live action version starring Jim Carrey. I know the movie made a lot of money but prefer the original animated version.

Below is a clip from the beginning of the TV classic.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh no! The dollar is dropping again.

Dear whomever is in charge of this kind of stuff:

I have one question, why! why! why!

I had to transfer money yesterday from my American bank to my Italian one. Let's see, a few weeks ago the Dollar was at 1.27 to the Euro, much better than the 1.64 earlier this year.

Yesterday it was 1.46 (the bank rate). What is going on?

I need to start making some money in Euros (Pounds would be even better. ha) stat.

Meanwhile I am going to try and not look at the exchange rate every day. No good can come of it.

For my Italian and British friends this is great news as they travel to the States. I told one British friend I didn't want to hear how cheap the iMac store and Barneys were. Hello, that is just cruel.

Will the Dollar ever return to 1.20 or be equal to the Euro?


A broke expat

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Here comes the sun.


The weather forecast calls for several days of sunny or partly sunny days.

Good. I don't belong to a gym here so I can only work out during non-monsoon like conditions. I feel so lethargic from not working out (and a little bit of cabin fever, as I work from home).

I'm so looking forward to getting back to the park.

Spoiler alert re: INTM

As I predicted Michela won. The show displayed their photos starting from the beginning. I have to admit, while Elena is very beautiful, Michela is striking. The camera loves her.

Michael, one of the judges, teared up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I am very salty with Italia's Next Top Model.

How could they send Martina home?!

I am not a fan of Michela's...she'll probably win. She seems very immature. Didn't she get into some beef with one of the other girls earlier? Given I only understand 50% of what is being said, I don't know what they were arguing about.

Of the three remaining contestants, Elena is my favorite. I also liked Diletta and Giorgia. The latter looked like Carla Bruni.

The Italian version is not as over the top as the American original and the contestants here look like they could actually become models. The American version is more about entertainment I think. And it is entertaining. Tyra is a trip and Miss J. cracks me up. Apparently the Italian version is one of the toughest spin-offs.

You don't see anything about the Italian host. The show is not about her or any of the judges.

Can someone (if I'm not the only prerson watching this show) tell what is up with the judge, Giusy Ferrè, who wears sunglasses inside...all the time? I know she is a fashion journalist but must she wear them 24/7? I find it distracting unless she is blind, then I understand.

Wait I just realized I made no darn sense. How can she be blind? She has to see the photos and models. Doh.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Tiber Runneth Over

The sun finally came out on Saturday and I went to take some photos. The river was 10 meters above normal at one point.

After a dinner party Friday night I walked a few blocks over to the Ponte (bridge) Sisto with a friend. She’s a native Roman and had never seen the Tiber like that. She said her great grandmother sometimes had to take a boat to get around. Back then the higher banks weren’t built yet place and the Tiber would overflow.

When we arrived at the bridge it was 1:30 a.m. and the river was very high. The area was packed with police and people taking photos.

An Irish tourist, 26, here for a bachelor party fell into the river. He had been drinking with his buddies and fell off a bridge. His body as of now has not been found.

The other day people were out taking photos especially of Tiber Island and the Sant’ Angelo Bridge. The latter was shut down. There were work crews and a crane trying to secure a large tourist/dining boat that floated down river and crashed into the bridge.

To the north the river overflowed. It was strange standing on a bridge and watching bales of hay, small boats and other things flow down the river.

I have posted more photos on my Flickr page. The whole scene was unreal.

The ruined dock just north of the Vatican.

The flooded Tiber Island.

You can see the boat on the left that has crashed into the bridge.

The same view earlier this year when the Tiber was at a normal level.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flashback Friday – “Heatmiser”

Sappy level – low

Here is a classic from the TV movie “The Year Without A Santa Clause”. The Rankin/Bass specials were fantastic.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Even the storms are more dramatic here.

Last night was bananas.

I have NEVER heard thunder like that. Once in a blue moon we would get thunder in L.A. but only for a half hour or so. Not very loud and not all freaking night long. I can't remember any east coast thunderstorms.

The lightening was blindingly bright and seemed so close I swore our building was going to get hit.

My power went out for a while. Even with my ear plugs in, the thunder was so loud I thought it was the "end of days" or something.

As a kid thunder didn't scare me probably because I never tried to sleep through a storm like last night's.

I wish I had a boyfriend. I would have asked him come over.

Rome has a higher annual rainfall total than London. How is this possible when London have many, many more rainy days than Rome? Because when it rains here, it POURS. I'm talking sheets of rain, which floods some of the older streets in the Center.

At least here all we have is rain and thunder. Up north they are getting clobbered with snow. Some snow is fun but when you can't get out of your house, not so much.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Strawberry Rhubarb Tarts

For more WCW recipes check out Shan's place.

A few weeks ago I was walking through Trastevere and saw this store.

I saw stalks of rhubarb and had to buy them. I haven't had any since I moved here. Strawberry Rhubarb is one of my favorite food combos. The sweetness of the strawberries cut the tartness of the rhubarb.

I love Strawberry Rhubarb pie with a crumble top. However, I didn't have the time or energy to look for oats. I had pasty sheets in my freezer (I was going to make a goat cheese tart at some point) and used them instead. Not sure when rhubarb is in season again (spring?). When it is I will be making these.

Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

Follow the instructions for defrosting your pasty sheets or make your own. Cut the dough into 7-inch rounds. Put them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Place sheets into the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the filling:
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces (approximately 3 cups)
1 pound fresh strawberries, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 - 1 cup granulated white sugar

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, flour and sugar.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and place some of the filling in the center, leaving a border or an inch or so (You might need to leave closer to two inches depending on how much filling you use. I didn't leave enough and some of my tarts spilled over).

Place the tarts back in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake tarts on the center rack for approx. 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden.

I'm sure this taste great with some good vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Makes 8 tarts.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Finally the scaffolding is down from Bernini’s “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi/Four Rivers Fountain”.

Italy has one of the lowest birth rates of industrialized nations. Therefore every child in the country must have been in the Historic Center yesterday. I have never seen so many strollers in my life. Ha.

It took me 15 minutes to cross Piazza Navona.

I met a friend of a friend for language exchange/lunch at ‘Gusto. We met at 12:30 which was a little early for lunch. Good thing we did. Fifteen minutes later, the line for a table was insane. Families everywhere. We left at 3:30 (it was a loooong lunch) and there was still a line.

A few weeks ago Jessica posted a fantastic photo of the fountain at night. The scaffolding was up when I was here February of 2007. The restoration is done. Scaffolding came down over the weekend.

I shot this the other week when the scaffolding was sill up. I didn’t notice the clouds' reflection on the glass until after I downloaded the photo to my iPhoto.

Yesterday, I took the photos below. It was so crowded I couldn’t get a better shot of the whole fountain. Bernini is one of my favorite artists

Monday, December 08, 2008

Immaculate Conception.

No I'm not taking about the excellent Madonna's Greatest Hits CD from 1990 but Mary.

Today is a public holiday in Italy and the start of the holiday season.

I find it interesting the start of the holiday season here is an emotional religious day as opposed to "Black Friday" . The church bells (there are five within a few blocks from my home) are ringing more today.

Last year when I went to Venice I tried to take a photo of Titian's "Assumption of Mary". The photo of course couldn't do it justice. It was very dark in the church and I was still experimenting with the ISO on my new camera.

The painting caused quite a controversy upon its completion. Titian painted a more human Mary and the vibrant colors were a departure from the solemn paintings of that era. If you are visiting Venice, a trip to the Frari Church is a must.

For more information on this day and for videos of processions, my fellow expat Michelle, has written this article for Italy Magazine.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Flashback Friday - Nat King Cole "The Christmas Song"

Sappy Level - medium to high.

This along with "O Holy Night" is one of my dad's favorites. Mel Torme co-wrote this classic. I love Nat King Cole's voice. So beautiful.

There is a big religious holiday here on Monday. It's very interesting to spend the holiday season in a place where shopping takes a back seat. It's really a shock to my American system but I'm adjusting. Being broke helps. Ha.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Sound of Music

Sappy level: low

My sister mentioned this movie in one of her comments. Along with "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" (the cartoon, not that Jim Carrey thing), "Charlie Brown Christmas", and a few of the Rankin/Bass specials, "The Sound of Music" was a must see every holiday.

I don’t care what anyone says, I love this movie. So what if it’s cheesy at times? The movie did win the Oscar for Best Picture. Then again so did "Dances with Wolves" over "Goodfellas" which was an outrage!

As a child of course the World War II subplot went over my head. However, I loved the music and even as a young ragazza I could tell Christopher Plummer was FOINE! Mr. Plummer is still doing his thing. Great moment in "The Insider" when his character said to Gina Gerson's, "Mike? Mike? Try Mr. Wallace!" Everyone in the theater was like, man, he is not playing.

Julie Andrews had an amazing voice. I read her vocal chords were damaged during an operation for a throat infection. Sad. We sang this song in choir and those notes she hits at the end? Not easy.

I felt bad for Maria when they said she was a problem nun. She was just misunderstood. Then she found true love. I also felt a little sorry for the Baroness. I don't blame her for being salty. I'd be pissed too if my fiance dumped me for another woman.

One of my favorite clips from the movie.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Silvio B.'s misstep?

In American politics there are certain issues which are considered the "third rail". You touch them, you might die.

There is an economic bill working it's way through the system here. One of the items is an increase from 10% to 20% of the VAT tax that SKY subscribers have to pay.

SKY (owned by Rupert Murdoch) controls 92% of the pay satellite TV market. Mediaset (owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) just stared a pay -cable division. Hmm. The left (led by former Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni) said the tax is being raised become SKY is a competitor.

Berlusconi says no, that is not true. His own cable company's customers will also have to pay more. One of Berlusconi's colleagues said the left has traded in their parka jackets for cashmere coats. The left said come on, most of the people who have to pay more are just regular soccer fans, not rich elites.

The head of SKY Italia said doubling the tax is b.s. SKY has created over 3000 well paying jobs, and during an economic crisis why raise taxes on something like this?

I think the reason this is getting so much press is because many people who pay for SKY, individuals and bar/caffes, do it for the soccer/football/calcio matches.

In fact, popular soccer presenter Ilaria D'Amico slammed the planned increase at the start of Sky's flagship soccer show. That is deep.

We'll see how this shakes out. I don't have the soccer channels. My bills will go up a few euros a month. I don't have a dog in this fight. That said, what surpised me is how someone so media savvy would be tone deaf about this issue.

Soccer here is is the third rail. It's not just a sport. It crosses class lines unlike skiing, golf or tennis. Trying to paint the center-left as elitist on this issue is not going to work.

PM Berulusoni controls most of the non paid media (his Mediaset empire and as PM, the state channels) however, he is going to have a hard time controlling the spin on this soccer debacle. He said the Italian people have more important things to worry about. Of course they do, but I still wouldn't mess around with folk's soccer, especially during tough times.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Photos from Piazza Navona's Christmas Fair.

Phew, I made it back home before the hail started. The weather has been pazzo (crazy). The sun came out for a few hours yesterday morning. I ran out and snapped the following.

December 1st kicked off the Christmas market in Piazza Navona.

This carousel was built in Germany in 1896.

Christmas trees are growing in popularity but aren’t really an Italian tradition. Here it’s all about the presepi (Nativity scenes). There were some mangers with running water, moving/bowing Wise Men and bakers holding loaves of bread.

Check out the tiny fruit, buckets, etc. in this photo.

I love ciambelle (donuts) but these are huge. I don’t think I could eat without passing out from a sugar rush.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hold up, it’s December 1st already? This mean Christmas is only 24 days away.

I cannot believe 2008 is almost over.

Tiny white lights just went up on my street this weekend. If it stops raining this week, I’ll take some photos of the holiday booths in Piazza Navona.

It’s an understatement to say Christmas is my favorite holiday. Forgive me if I get a little sentimental in future posts. I will try to give a “sappy” alert or something.

Since my family was from the Caribbean, Thanksgiving wasn’t the “Big Holiday”. Sure we had turkey, went to the Verona High vs. Cedar Grove football game but it wasn’t the serious throw down that Christmas was. My mom was a nurse and had to pick which holidays to work. She had Christmas off…from the job that is. Poor woman. I don’t know how she managed to do all the things she did for Christmas. I get exhausted just thinking about trying to cook a meal like that.

This will be the first holiday I am not spending with my family in years and only the second time in my life this has happened. I know I need to get over it. My siblings are married, have families of their own and we live so far away from our parents.

I knew it was really Christmastime when my dad busted out his Nat King Cole and Mario Lanza (!?) Christmas albums. I think I will play those CDs later, along with Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and kick off the holiday season in my apartment. My sister tracked down the Lanza CD two years ago. I cracked up when I opened the package from I don’t think many people under 70 are buying his CDs.

Below is a clip from a classic special.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Has the world gone mad?

Normally I don't post on a weekend but I had to just try to put down some words. Please excuse me if they are incoherent.

Mumbai. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones. I think about the people I know who lived/worked there and cowardly acts like this infuriates me. Attacking a hospital? Killing a family because they are a different religion than you?

Mumbai has had several terrorist attacks before but never of this scale.

The last time I watched CNN International it said two of the killed suspects had British I.D.s on them. This along with other aspects of the attack are leading the Indian government to believe it's not the act of some random local group. It was too organized and the attackers were well trained.

The relationship between Pakistan and India is not good. Tensions between the two are rising as rumors circulate this was an Al Qaeda attack and they were trained in the camps in Pakistan. God help us all if this is true. Both of these countries have nuclear arms.

Shopping madness. The following is from The New York Times.

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

I read that and was floored. What is going on our society? Where is the compassion? A man was trampled to death and all some folks can think about is shopping?!

People were standing on line since 9:00 a.m. Thanksgiving day. WTF? Is it that deep? Spend time with your freaking family and if you don't like them go volunteer at a shelter or something. When did Thanksgiving weekend turn into this shopping frenzy? Stores need to quit with this stupid Black Friday ritual.

I dislike Walmart. They pay and treat their employees like crap. The man who died, Mr. Damour, 34, was ran over by a mob who took the doors off the hinges. The crowd had been building from the day before. Walmart should've used better judgement and hired more security and staff.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Flashback Friday – Thanksgiving edition - Billy Crystal/Robert DeNiro Ad

Today's flashback is a little earlier.

Last year I was in Milan for Thanksgiving eating an amazing dinner with several of my expat friends and their Italian husbands.

This year I will be working.

I am thankful my family and friends are healthy.

I am also thankful for being able to live in this incredible city.

Some of you from the States might remember this ad. It aired during the Macy's Parade the Thanksgiving after 9/11.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Easy Roasted Potatoes

For more WCW recipes check out Shan’s Place.

I thought the follow would be Thanksgiving appropriate. I don’t have exact measurements but this is very easy to make.

Potatoes (I like little new potatoes)
Butter, melted
Olive oil
Dried Rosemary

Scrub potatoes clean, don’t break the skin. One medium potato serves one person. Cut into to quarters or halves depending on size. Place loosely in a baking dish.

Add a few tablespoons of melted butter mixed with olive oil (approx. ¼ cup of oil for a pound of potatoes). Coat the potatoes well.

Roast at 350, turning occasionally until they are browned on the outside and tender inside, approx 1-1 ½ hours.

Halfway through the cooking add salt, pepper and rosemary to taste.

You can also try these with different spices or some roasted garlic.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh no! I’ve become a cold weather wimp.

Those living on the East Coast or the Mid-West of America will roll their eyes when I say it was freezing yesterday. The high was probably around 55 degrees (F) or so.

I went to college in Upstate New York where 55 degrees was practically shorts weather. Sometimes it was so cold, my eyelids would be frozen shut after walking across campus to class.

Now I’m complaining about temperatures in the high 50s. What the heck is going on?

Perhaps living in Southern California made me soft. After ten years my tolerance for cold weather has dropped.

I don’t have enough winter clothes and I’m too broke to buy some. Hopefully by the big February sales my bank account will be healthier. However, I might break down and get warmer workout gear. I went to the park the other day and froze my butt off. I saw joggers in shorts and thought they were pazzi, crazy. Yes the sun was shining but it was 8:30 in the morning and cold.

One benefit of the colder weather is there are fewer drunk American exchange students walking down my small side street yelling at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight, Mamma Mia, Sex And The City and Wanted.

What do these movies have in common? Women.

While these movies couldn’t be any more different, they were/are big hits domestic and internationally.

The reviews for all four were mixed. The first three were seen as “only” one quadrant movies. Hollywood tries to focus on four quadrant films (men under 25, men over 25, women under 25, women over 25). The first three end up being two quadrant movies and Wanted was probably a three, pulling in more men.

I don’t want to hear another male exec say female driven movies don't make money or every time a female driven movie succeeds it’s only a “fluke.” Please.

To show how little Hollywood gets the female audience, MTV Films bough the rights to the “Twilight” book when it was in galley form. A screenwriter was hired. Then someone senior at Paramount put the project in turnaround since they didn’t think the movie would be a hit. Ouch.

True not every hit book can become a hit movie but “Twilight” was not expensive to make, why not take the gamble? “Twilight’s” opening weekend was the biggest opening for a female directed film ever. Congrats to Catherine Hardwicke.

The “smart film” season is upon us. This is the time of year the studios tend to release their Oscar worthy films.

What movies are you looking forward to seeing?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashback Friday – Special Request - Bay City Rollers

Per a request, I found this clip. I'm not sure which commentor asked for some Bay City Love but here it is. Enjoy.

I don’t remember the outfits being so, tragic. Ha. The haircuts are cute though.

This group from Scotland was huge in the mid/late 70s.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

San Carlo Chips why must you torment me!

In another post I spoke of my feelings for the Rustica style chips. I finally cut back to eating them only on weekends.

Well one day I was in the supermarket minding my own business when the following somehow ended up in my basket.

I looked at the photo and it said “sour cream and chives” to me. This is a rare flavor combo in Italy.

I returned home and looked up the word “campagnola". It means “country woman“, uhm okay.

These chips were outstatnding. I’ve been looking for them everyday since that lovely afternoon. I can’t find them anywhere.

What is up with that? San Carlo is messing with me. Why tease me so? It’s not right.

The search for the chips continues.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who is Victoria Silvstedt?

And why do I see commercials for her new show on E! everywhere?

I first noticed her last year. Originally from Sweden she is the letter turner on both the Italian and French versions of "Wheel of Fortune".

Is she the European version of Pamela Anderson? They both modeled for Playboy, have enormous fake boobs and lots of blond hair. While I find Victoria's blond weave (her hair looked fried on last weeks E! show) and boob job distracting, she is gorgeous. She hasn't messed with her face as much as Pam has.

Speaking of breasts, can someone explain to me the appeal of huge boob jobs? There are plenty of celebs who have them but they have ones that are in proportion. I don't get having huge ones that feel/look like big boulders sitting on your chest.

Anyway Victoria has had small parts in a few America comedies. I think we will be seeing more of her. She has a lot of male fans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get your parks on, part II – Doria Pamphili

During one of my trips here I was walking toward Vatican City, or so I thought. I got completely lost and ended up in Rome’s largest park. This park is massive.

I was lost for hours. It was a nice day so I didn’t mind.

Only recently I realized I could enter the park from the Gianicolo Hill. This is a very historic area. Garibaldi and his troops fought against the French in several bloody battles. They lost. You can see the damage to a villa on the right as you enter the park. Another villa was completely destroyed.

In the mornings this area does have more joggers than the Borghese Park. There is a lake full of swans, lots of fields and bike trails. The park is also very popular with bird watchers.

Mass in the Pamphili private chapel has been opened to the public since 1970 after a law was passed banning private services.

Here is more info on the park.

Some joggers near the old wall.

Bella villa. Casino del Bel Respiro was the summer home built by Pope Innocent X for his nephew Prince Camilio Pamphili. It was built in the mid-1600s. There is no water in the fountains but the grounds (the space outside the gate is accessible) are still worth checking out.

Pretty gardens. It was hard to get a good picture because I was on a hill facing the sun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Get your parks on – Villa Borghese

While I love living in a city, I need to see some nature. When I lived in NYC I would pass pretty Gramercy Park everyday to and from work. At least once a month I made it up to Central Park or south to Battery City Park. In D.C. Rock Creek Park was a second home and in Austin Texas it was Barton Springs.

Griffith Park in Los Angeles is the largest city park in the States but L.A. has less park space per capita than NYC and other major U.S. cities. L.A. is not a pedestrian city and urban planning in the past was an afterthought so not surprised about the lack of parks. Plus in Los Angeles many people live in houses and have a backyard. NYC and other cities where the majority live in apartments you need public spaces.

I live walking distance between two excellent parks and not far from the Tiber, which is lined with huge oak and sycamore trees (I think that is what they are). I haven’t made it up to Villa Ada yet, which I hear is a fantastic park. That park is quite a distance from my home.

The shorter walk for me is to Villa Borghese. I haven’t explored this entire park yet. On nice weekends the families come out, along with the joggers and the bikers. Early weekdays mornings it’s so quiet. All you hear are birds.

During my first trip to Rome I stayed in a hotel near this area and the park was where I spent my first morning in Rome. It left a beautiful impression. The road that leads to top of the Spanish Steps offers one of the best views in Rome.

In 1605 Cardinal Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, took this former vineyard and created the second largest park in Rome. It’s 148 acres.

Here is more info about the park.

A view overlooking Piazza del Popolo.

The Cavalli Marini fountain is one of my favorites. It so weird. Interesting interpretation of a “sea horse”.

The Borghese Villa. I will write a post about this must see museum.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flashback Friday – Seal - "Prayer For The Dying"

Post election, I’ve thinking a lot about the late Ann Richards. I spent a year in Texas working on her re-election campaign. We lost to George Bush. 1994 was the first time I heard the name Karl Rove.

Most of the people working on the campaign were from Texas and worked on her first campaign for Governor. I was one of the regional finance directors and responsible for raising a lot of money from the Houston area. Prior to moving to Texas most of my campaign work was in GOTV (get out the vote) and press.

I loved being in Austin (until the bitter end when everything fell apart). Two of the three other fundraisers also worked in DC and had moved for the campaign. We had a blast. There were many fun evenings spent at Chuys and the Cedar Door.

One of the best birthdays ever was when my co-workers surprised me with a party at the restaurant Shady Grove. We were sitting outside chilling when all of a sudden I heard children screaming. One of my colleagues walked in a Barney costume. WTF? She was almost knocked over by all the screaming kids. Needless to say we couldn’t stop laughing.

We used to go to this bar on Lake Austin. I think it was call Ski Shores. The bar had a great jukebox and good food. It was hard to get to, lots of windy roads and I refused to drive. One of my friends on the campaign, a New Yorker named Peter, who reminded everyone of Dr. Joel Fleischman from Northern Exposure, bought this CD and we used to blast it. When I hear this song or “Bring it On” I think of zooming around Austin's Hill Country

I love this song. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

American Apparel is coming to Rome.

Why, why, why!

I was reading Jessica’s excellent Rome Photo blog and horror of horrors I saw this post. They are opening a store in Monti.

I guess their practice of only hiring “hot” people will fit in the bel paese. I wonder how their prices will be and who will shop there…locals or tourists?

I never shopped at the stores because the Penthouse circa 1970 advertising got on my freaking nerves. To me the store is the retail version of Girls Gone Wild. I wonder if Joe Francis and Dov Charney (the CEO) are friends. The latter is being sued for the 5th time for sexual harassment.

I agree with Jessica. One thing I love about Rome is that there isn’t a Gap or a Starbucks on every corner. Each block is unique and has flavor. I’m not against all globalization. I was very happy to hear Origins might open a store here.

The problem is when these stores multiply and push out the local places. If Starbucks wanted to open at the airport, that would be a good idea right? But you know it wouldn’t stop there. They have completely oversaturated the American market which why they had to lay off thousand of employees and close hundreds of store. Now they are aggressively pushing their overseas expansion. They have to in order to keep those stock prices up.

Although they are expanding all over Europe, they have yet to open a store in Italy. The founder of Starbucks got the idea from going to coffee bars in Milan. At first, when the company was smaller, he saw the stores as a place where Americans can come together, since we are so disconnected as a culture. Once the stores became very successful they moved away from their mission statement.

Opening a Starbucks here would be like bringing sand to the beach. Their market research showed they would take a bath in Italy. I'm not surprised. The culture here is very different. McDonalds coming here made sense. A fake expensive coffee chain with bad coffee? Not so much.

There are places in Rome where you can get a coffee and read/meet like at the Feltrinelli book store at Largo Argentina. One friend took me to a great place which of course I can't remember the name, where there were books, wine and coffee. It's near the Trevi Fountain. We don't need a Starbucks.

Why is AA opening in Monti? It’s such a great neighborhood with unique stores. The store should be next to the Disney store on Via del Corso along with all the other big international retail stores.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Italian Style Macaroni and Cheese

Today's What Cooking Wednesday is one of my favorite dishes to make.

I adapted my mom’s (she used cheddar cheese) and a recipe from THE NEW BASIC COOKBOOK. This is an excellent overall cookbook. It’s very user friendly.

I don’t have exact measurements for some of the added ingredients so use as much or little as you’d like.

You can use different types of cheeses if you can’t find Gruyère. Just make sure they melt well. I used Swiss. The better the quality of your cheese, the better the dish will be.

1 pound ditalini or another small tube-shaped pasta
1 small onion
pancetta cubed
4 cups milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated 4 cups.

Cook the pasta until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.
While pasta is cooking, saute the onions until soft, set aside.
Saute the pancetta until slightly brown, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350.
Bring the milk just to a boil in a heavy saucepan and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in another heavy saucepan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from the heat.

Add the hot milk to the flour mixture and whisk well. Add the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and return the pan to the heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thicken, 5 minutes. Add to the pasta and toss well to coat completely.

Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch flameproof baking dish, and fill it evenly with the pasta and sauce.
Distribute the grated cheese evenly over the pasta, and sprinkle with black pepper.

Place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes.

Place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is slightly golden and bubbling 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately. (the leftovers the next day taste even better)
8 portions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today is my "blogversary"

Hard to believe but three years ago I wrote this post.

I started after several friends insisted I write down the tales of my crazy Hollywood/living in L.A. stories. Other than my siblings and a few friends I didn't think any one would care about what I had to say but I began writing anyway.

A lot has changed since then. Pre-blog my world was pretty insular. That is the way it is in the "biz". Through blogging I was able to read about the reality of expat life. The more I read the more I realized I had to move.

Big thanks to those bloggers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I want to buy a house within four years.

This might not seem like an unrealistic goal. However, given I don’t know how I will be able to pay my rent later next year (my production money from TRAITOR will not last forever), this desire is right up there with wanting to marry Denzel back in the 90s. I’m still single so you see how that turned out.

I don’t need or want a mansion. I will still keep an apartment in Rome, so the house can’t be far from here. That leaves the more affordable areas like Puglia and Le Marche out.

I just want a place with two floors (I have a thing about bedrooms on ground floors as I like to sleep with window opens), a great window for my writing desk, enough land for a nice vegetable garden and a flower garden. For me, location is more important than size.

A few weekends ago my friend D. (an expat in for 16 years since coming here to study film in grad school) invited me to a lunch at a friend’s place in the country. Only 45 minutes on the train and we were near the Umbria/Lazio border. It was a different world…fresh air and miles and miles of gorgeous countryside.

The view from a lower terrace.

For years I’ve saved shelter magazines for inspiration. I had to threw out quite a few as I downsized before the move overseas. I kept a few of my absolute favorite issues and my décor binder. I went through the binder and saved only the must have articles. There are great resources online now, like Apartment Therapy and Décor8 I can use.

I am going to take some advice from several Blogging friends who believe in visualizing and setting goals no matter how bananas. After all, if someone told me four years ago I would be living in Italy, I would have told them, “just say no to drugs.”

I'm putting it out there...I want to buy a house sooner rather than later. I can’t wait to have my own fruit trees, peony bushes, gardenias, hydrangeas, tomatoes, basil etc.

image from

Friday, November 07, 2008

Flashback Friday – Photos - Wednesday Morning

I think this is the first Flashback from this century. ha

Here are the photos I tried to post earlier in the week.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Where does the GOP go from here? Palin in 2012?

The GOP is going through the same thing the Democrats went through in the late 80s/early 90s. What does their party stand for? Several senior officials are meeting today.

I have voted for Republicans in the past and think it’s important to have choices. I realize growing up on the east coast that most of my Republican friends are fiscally moderate/conservative but socially moderate or liberal.

In the past McCain said the Limbaugh and Hannity wing of the party was destructive. Then during this election he courted that wing (which hated him and the immigration bill he co-sponsored with Ted Kennedy) and picked Gov. Palin.

The way things are now it is almost impossible for a Republican to win their primary without the far right Evangelicals. However, when they sift that far right during the primaries it makes it difficult to win during the general election. Most Americans are not single issues voters.

Even Bill O’Reilly said yesterday on Fox News that while the far right and far left pundits make a lot of money on TV and the radio, things are changing. Ideology like that is out. People want answers on “kitchen table” issues.

Should the GOP break into two? I don’t see how the fiscally moderate or conservative Republicans but socially moderate ones can be in the same tent with the far right. If the GOP stays on this course they will continue to alienate a huge segment of their party and the nation in general.

Bush received over 40% of the Latino vote. According to early voting analysis Obama won the Latino vote by more than 2 to 1. Does the GOP not realize the Latino population will be the majority in a few decades? Let them keep saying only certain people can be true Americans. What the heck does that mean?

They might also want to ease up on the snark. Remember Gov. Palin’s diss toward community organizers during her convention speech? Guess those skills came in handy seeing how Sen. Obama’s ground operation was extremely organized.

Not sure why Palin would even dream of running for president. Who knows what will happens four years from now but I assume several Republicans will be running in the primary. I doubt they will give her a pass. Huckabee appeals to the same demographics and is more qualified. If the loss had been closer, maybe she would have a better advantage. Also it doesn’t help that McCain staffers are talking about how she refused to prep before her ABC or CBS interviews, that she spent more than the rumored 150K on clothes for herself and her family (she was told to buy three suits for the convention and the wealthy donor was pissed when he got the bill) and she went off message when she started talking about Ayers before they signed off on it. The latter is very strange. Why weren’t the two communications departments talking?

She insisted a McCain staffer be fired after her camp thought he was talking to the press. McCain rehired him saying he wasn’t going to fire someone during the last weeks of the campaign. Keep an eye on Nicholle Wallace.  She is the senior McCain staffer who refused to take the hit for the clothes debacle. I think we will be hearing more from her about what was really going on during the last few months of the campaign.

I don’t know what McCain’s legacy will be. I just know this is the not the same candidate from 2000. That man would have never hired Steve Schmidt or picked Palin. That man showed up the other night during his gracious, classy concession speech.

If you were the head of the RNC (Republican National Committee) what would you do? Do you think Palin will run for president in 2012 or focus on a talk show? Both?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Night - Rome, Italy

I have been trying to post pics for an hour. I will try to post them later in the week

I went to the Democrats Abroad Pancake Breakfast at 3:00 a.m. this morning to watch the results.

When Virginia and Ohio went blue it was a wrap. CNN projected Obama the winner and the place (which was packed) went crazy.

There were lots of hugs and tears. The crowd of Americans and Italians was diverse and it was great to see how many college students were there.

I thought McCain's speech was very gracious. His audience was not.

I hope I didn't sound like an idiot during an interview.

I love Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.

I can't believe Sen. Obama is the President Elect of the United States of America. Still processing.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

Good luck to voters Stateside.

The lines for early voting have been very took some people 4-6 hours to vote. Wow.

Our next President will have many problems on his plate. Most of them will not be solved in one decade let alone one term.

Living abroad you really see how the image of America took a beating after GWB squandered all the post 9/11 good will. I just saw on the news that the war in Iraq could cost over 1.5 TRILLION dollars. Bin Laden is still chilling after two wars with countless killed.

The economy is in the toilet, education is a mess, the infrastructure needs repairs and voters are angry. Maybe we'll have less posturing and the Congress (who's approval ratings are just as bad as Bush's) will try to work together with the White House on these issues instead of running around talking about nonsense (i.e. flag pins). If not, many will find their butts thrown out of office during the next mid-term elections. The majority of voters are in no mood for shenanigans.

A change is going to come and it starts tomorrow.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Uomini e Donne" (Men & Women)...can someone please explain this show to me?

It seems to be on all the time. The host (she is also the host of the Italian version of American Idol and used to host another popular show, C'e Un Poste Per Te) has the deepest voice I have ever heard on a woman. Is she trying to help couples reconcile? Is it a dating show?

Who are the other people on stage? Friends of the couple or ex's? How/where do they find these couples?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Flashback Friday – Rocky Horror Picture Show - "Let's Do The Time Warp"

When I was in college one of our friends played the lead in the VPA (School of the Visual Arts) production. Our entire dorm floor went to support her.

It was my first "experience" with this show and we all had a great time.

The movie is a cult classic. I don't think it should be remade.

Happy Halloween and have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Six random facts.

I’ve been tagged by Megan.

For those who might like to participate here, are the rules:

1. Linked to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write six random things about yourself
4. Tag six people at the end of the post and link to them
5. Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment
6. Let the tagger know when you entry is up

Okay so I am breaking a few rules. Ha. I’m not linking to anyone because the people I would link to have told me there are not doing memes anymore. I haven’t done one of these in a while so here goes:

Six random things

• I say the word random a lot. As in “that is so random”. I’m trying to stop.
• I watch the Italian news every morning even though I only understand 50% of what is being said.
• I used to play piano, flute, sax (tenor and alto).
• However I can no longer play or read music. ☹
• I like to dance to music in my apartment.
• In junior high school I had a crush on Michael Jackson (pre-Thriller, hello!) and our minister, Rev. Cadmus. He was young (mid/late 20s) and very good-looking. So Thornbirds

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Spicy Caribbean Black Beans

There are more recipes over at Shan's place.

Perfect for serving with white rice, I found this traditional recipe in the book HOT & SPICY CARIBBEAN. This recipe isn’t that spicy. You can add more peppers to taste. Note: The salt is added at the end of cooking time; adding it sooner will make the beans tough.

The beans taste even better the next day.

1 pound black beans. Water to cover
10 cups water
2 green bell peppers, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons oregano
1 bay leaf
1 habanero chile, seeds and stem removed, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Wash the beans and place them in a pot. Add cold water to cover, and bring the beans to a boil and boil them for 2 minutes, uncovered. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and allow the beans to sit for 1 hour. Then drain the beans, rinse them, add 10 cups of hot water, half of the diced green peppers, and bring the beans to a full boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer.

In a saucepan heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and the remaining diced bell pepper. Add this sautéed mixture to the simmering beans, along with the black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, habanero pepper, and the sugar. Cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes.

Stir the simmering bean and add the vinegar and the wine and simmer, covered, for an additional 45 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil and the salt.

Serves 6 to 8

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Learning from failure

Funny I read screenwriter David Botrell's post yesterday morning. He wrote about what happens when you write something and it's a flop.

Last night my manager called me and told me my new script, the one with the bigger story, hook, higher concept, didn't sound like my voice at all. That was a bad thing. This script which I spent months writing, will not be going out as a spec script and will probably never see the light of day. It wouldn't be a cheap movie (there is action in it) so for a studio to buy it, they would have to really be into the concept. It was Legally Blondish meets Mr. and Mrs Smith.

After staying up all night and going through the usual "I suck. I should have never quit my day job, etc. , this morning I said to myself, "Alright. On to the next script."

I had fun writing my action movie. It was a good experiment trying to write something out of my comfort zone. After hearing the first script had good characters and dialogue but where was the hook (this makes it hard to sell), I wanted to write something that was a "bigger" movie.

What I have learned from this failure is I can't try to predict what is marketable. I know mainstream Hollywood is all about high concept, teen boys, shit blowing up and Indie Hollywood is a mess. Trying to write something in order to "fit" into the narrow boxes of studio movies will not serve me well as a writer. I need to write stories I really want to tell and let the chips fall where they may. Who knows what will happen?

What I do know is I can't sit around today a funk. I felt like crap last night. I have to squash the negative thinking right now.

I'm going on a walk around the Historic Center.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ciao, Mr. Bus Drive who looks like Daniel Day Lewis. I've missed my stop.

Was there a time change this weekend in Italy? My computer and TV had a different time than my watch and I was had no idea. Good thing I double checked or I would have been an hour early for an appointment.

Yesterday was another glorious day so I decided to talk a walk on the Appia Antica. The walk to and from my apartment takes over four hours so I was going to take a bus from the Circus Maximus to what I thought was where the old road began.

I didn't realize there were only three stops on Via Appia and ended up being on the bus to the end of the line. Doh!

In my butchered Italian I asked if I could stay on the bus for the return trip and which stop should I get off at?

He answered. I had no idea what the heck he said.

After people got on the bus and his cigarette break, he said , "I tell you stop. Okay?" And he did.

There were a lot of people out. Families on bikes, groups of serious bikers, joggers, and a few horse back riders. It's such a beautiful place. It reminds of the road to my parents place in St. Martin. It hard to believe you are only a few miles away from the center.

This weekend was my first weekend "off" in months. I have turned in the last two rewrites and I'm waiting for feedback. I have already started to do character breakdowns for spec script number 3 but still working on the plot.

Tomorrow it's back to work. I have to keep writing so I don't lose my mojo. God knows when it would come back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flashback Friday – Des'ree - "You Gotta Be"

I haven't heard this song in ages. It did get played to death when it came out.

However, given yesterday's post I think it's perfect for today's Flashback Friday song.

Have a kick butt weekend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Life is over for women after 44?

I was reading this story in yesterday. Suicide rates in the U.S. are going up and leading the rise are middle-aged women.

In past, most suicide prevention programs focused on the young. Now they need to start looking at these numbers. In the Jezebel article they linked to some survey out of the UK where 80% of women polled said they felt their life was over at 44. Wow.

I’m not 44 yet but I’m getting there soon. After living in L.A. for ten years, I do understand why some women would feel this way. Youth rules.

This is the first time there are so many women who are not married and/or don’t have kids. What is our role in a society that devalues women who are not in traditional roles?

Like what's your purpose in America if you aren’t married/have kids? How many movies, TV shows, books, show single childless women over 40 as being miserable, or ball-busting men hating shrews, or just crazy (i.e. Fatal Attraction)

Successful men over 40 are a catch. They have character, experience, etc. etc. What about the women?

I have met quite a few “women of a certain age” who are expats here. Many of them had similar stories. They were about to turn 35/40/45 plus, single, moved to Rome. It’s not all Under a Tuscan Sun, the majority are still single but they are much happier here. Their lives are full.

In the States at this age, and especially in L.A. women (vs. girls), are invisible. I’m not talking about men flirting with you, while it’s nice. I’m talking about being a non person just because you are no longer 25, feeling like you have to get Botox or butcher your face to look 20 years younger because in America’s youth driven culture people are offended by the very thought of aging.

Moving to Rome changed everything. I’m not invisible here. It’s an older culture, which might be frustrating to a 20 something. It takes so long for people to reach certain levels in their careers here, 45 is not old. The priorities and what defines success here are different. My landlady is 80 and a bad ass. La signora is respected and part of a community that values her. She was not shoved off to some retirement home somewhere and forgotten. Same thing where my parents live. People on the islands are not obsessed with this superficial crap.

It’s sad a woman would feel her life was over at 44. With good health she could live another 30-40 years. What is she going to do? Stay in her house with a bunch of cats?

I look at my older friends and they are fierce. I wish my financial situation was better but I’m thankful for my birthdays. I don’t take them for granted. I have too many friends battling cancer or who have lost a parent recently. Life is so bloody short.

Each year on this imperfect earth is a freaking gift and I plan to enjoy my 40s and beyond the as best I can.

So Bloggers over 44 how do you feel about this, is life over? Younger Bloggers how do the older women in your family or friends feel? Any tips? Advice?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You’ve Got Mail!

I’m a straight up geek. I literally jumped up and down when the Postman rang my buzzer yesterday. I was also relieved I didn’t have to pay any customs.

I knew two friends in the States were sending care packages that would be in boxes not envelopes. Then I started to get worried. I’ve heard many tales of packages arriving with things missing or people having to pay some serious customs fees.

On one Yahoo Expat Group site, a woman said her parents sent her a box of clothes she had left at their house along with some small items. She had to pay 130 euros. When she complained the post office said fine, the box would just be returned to sender.

Another person wrote in and said she left something at her dad’s. He sent it to her she had to pay 90 euros for a small package.

With the holidays soon approaching I’m a little concerned. Was this past week a fluke? What should my family or friends write on the U.S. Postal Service customs declaration? Both of my friends said the packages were gifts.

Receiving a Macbook? I would expect to pay customs on that but why did that woman have to pay customs on her own used clothes?

I am very happy that it’s October and I’m still receiving birthday gifts. Thanks S.D. for the mad money.

The other gift had (among other things, like Halloween stickers. ha):

I like the new layout of Bon Appetit.

I cannot WAIT to read these (thanks S.R). I shouldn’t have let my DOMINO subscription run out. I thought moving to Rome, it’s not like I can buy anything they feature. Now I realize I could still find inspiration in the magazine.