Monthly Archives: April 2010

Operating Instructions

It’s one of the cutest books, ever.

I kept hearing about Anne Lamott. First from Cori, then Molly, then O magazine (despite the fact that I have mentioned it twice in one week, I am not really that into this magazine. Really. Really? Anyway…)

So I ordered a copy of Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith this winter. sent it to Paul’s parents’ during our trip to the US but I didn’t read it until about a month ago. Then I was hooked.

Molly offered to let me borrow Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year and I was done for. Here’s why:

His key chain is made of five big plastic keys on a cord with a heart-shaped key ring. I hold up each color key for him to study, and I always say the exact same thing: “The blue one is the key to the sky, the green one is the key to the lawn, the yellow one is the key to the mustard, the red one is the key to the car and the pink one is the key to my heart.”

A former drug addict and alcoholic, single mother and amazing writer. She’s got such a funny, poignant story to tell, and I hope she has more.

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I’m pretty sure this is not what the walker was designed for.

Or this.

Someone probably needs to talk to her.

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A rebel cook

For years I’ve hated the idea of a slow cooker, or worse yet, a “Crock Pot”. Even when I saw legions of fans posting almost religiously on iVillage’s most popular message boards, I just kept thinking of steamy, mushy, un-delicious foods and wondered why anyone would subject themselves to this form of cooking. So snobby right? Yeesh.

But something happened a few months ago, and I think it was O Magazine. (I know, too cool for a Crock Pot but Oprah’s magazine is fine?) I came across an article, ironically written by the former Editor in Chief of House & Garden, the now defunct Conde Nast shelter magazine. I say ironically because of the magazine’s highbrow tone  but also because I have a particular history there. I was once offered a job at House & Garden. Not a good job, but a great salary. I nearly took it, as a chance to escape life in Tennessee, but ultimately stuck with HGTV when they finally agreed to let me move back to New York. Anyway, it didn’t end well with House & Garden. It ended terribly. And I still feel bad about it.

When I saw Dominique’s article about slow cooking of all things, I was intrigued. After the magazine folded, she’d actually gotten two cookers, each a gift, and started to transform herself into a bit of an aficionado. (She’s also written a book about this time in her life, cutely called Slow Love). So it seems that slow cooking is actually cool now. Maybe not among foodies, but I dare say…it’s the new knitting. And I’m in.

The problem is, Italy.

Italians don’t do slow cookers. There aren’t any to buy and believe me I’ve tried. Every time I’ve gone to a home appliance store of any kind I always seek out the gizmo section, the one with microwaves, mixers and in Italy, a million kinds of deep fryers. Only once have I seen an actual slow cooker for sale. On an email tip from a friend of a friend, I went down into the historical center to a specialty cooking store. And there it was, nestled among several types of steamers, the only slow cooker in Italy. It was 145 euros. That’s about $200+.  Too much for a tool that I had so much disdain for, so recently. For an experimental piece of equipment, something in the 50 euro range is more appropriate. Oh well.

So, time went by until Paul went on a trip to the UK this past weekend. Off to celebrate a buddy’s upcoming wedding–you know, a Stag Do–he was in Manchester for a few days. Just long enough to hit the pubs, have a curry and run into *Marks & Sparks to pick up a slow cooker!  It’s on my table right now and I’m totally thrilled. But I can’t decide which part tickles me most: the idea of him slinking off to a huge department store in the middle of the bachelor party (to buy the least sexy appliance of all time) or trying to cram it into the overhead bin of the discount airline airplane.

To celebrate our first meal (and possibly appease the Karma gods), I’ll try Dominique’s delicious sounding recipe. I’m substituting chicken for lamb though. That’s an idea that I just haven’t converted to yet. Maybe someday another former colleague/boss/amazing woman of publishing, say Martha, will write a book about lamb and I’ll see it in a new light.

But I doubt it.

In the meantime, here’s to our own version of slow love, Italian style.

* And special thanks again, to the lovely friends (and mom) who gave us this gift certificate way back during the “Lunchorette” party before our wedding. We’re using it, one slow cooker at a time!

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Kate Olivia’s birthday party

It’s already that time.

Last spring, five adventurous, English-speaking couples joined together for a prenatal class about natural childbirth in Rome. The experience was so comical on so many levels that I can hardly do it justice but sufficed to say, the best thing about the class was meeting the four other couples–now four other families–who we are thrilled to still be friends with.

This weekend Kate Olivia had her birthday party (you can just see her cute little face peeking into the camera on the right side), the first of the group, and Phoebe was there to help celebrate.

Kate couldn’t have had better timing for a party. After two days of total downpours, the sun finally came out in Rome.

And we brought a little present.

A pink rattle plus a gift certificate for, an amazing organization that grants micro-loans to entrepreneurs (mostly) in developing countries.  When your loan is repaid, you are notified by email and can either re-loan the funds or of course, take your cash.  This year Kate’s parents will help decide the recipient, no classes necessary.

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Too tough for super glue

Our first casualty of babydom… Actually a couple of things have already bit the dust but they’ve either been easily replaced or easily repaired.

But this little plate, a souvenir from a weekend in Florence where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, did not fit either category. We may re-think baby-proofing.

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New wheels

She actually got the ladybug for Christmas. It’s a little seat-bike thing that you’re supposed to move with your feet, once they can actually touch the ground. So in the meantime, she’s found a different use…and total mobility.


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Reading the instructions

Babies require a lot of special gear. I’m not always one to read through the instructions, possibly because most instructions are in Italian these days, typically tearing into the new item and using it straight away. But this time, I stopped when I saw this note “Please read carefully these instructions before use and keep them for future reference.”

Sounds complex, considering the tools at hand…

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Happy (Belated) Birthday Rome

Who celebrates a city’s birthday? Romans! Courtesy of Rafella of the VCN group…

21 April is the 2,763rd anniversary of the legendary founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 BC.

The city is marking the occasion with a program of events over several days, including free guided tours of archaeological sites and monuments, lectures, historical re-enactments with the Gruppo Storico Romano and music performances. The celebrations culminate in a sound and light performance on 21 April in Piazza del Popolo at 22.00 followed by fireworks on the Pincio at 23.00.

Other highlights include the evening opening of the Capitoline Museums and the temporary exhibition L’Età della Conquista on 21 April from 20.00-24.00 and the launch by the city council of the Permanent Council for Dignity, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, which will assist governments, institutions and communities in their peace-building efforts through dialogue.

The legend of the founding of Rome has been handed down by the first-century BC historian Marcus Terentius Varro, who based his account on a date established by his close friend, the astrologer, mathematician and philosopher Lucius Taruntius Firmanus. Recent archaeological discoveries, in particular those made by Professor Andrea Carandini on the Palatine hill, seem to support the legend.

Rome’s birthday has been marked every year since 1870, with a more recent focus on the capital’s vocation as a place of peace and meeting of cultures.

Let it be noted that I didn’t see any of these festivities but, ho hum, I suppose they did indeed go on.

In more exciting birthday news, I’m obsessed with looking forward to Phoebe’s upcoming birthday party. I am thinking picnic in Villa Borghese–French vinaigrette potato salad, feta wrapped in prosciutto, steak sandwiches, fruit and of course cake–with balloons and lots of these…

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Duty calls

I’ve had a lot of work lately. Good for the college fund. Bad for the blog.

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My little parrot

Phoebe is picking up everything we say these days, and sometimes things we do. Especially Paul. Whenever he clears his throat she immediately makes the same sounds. If you go, “bbbbrrrr”, she goes “bbbrrrr”. Her favorite response to nearly any question is “yeah!” with an enthusiastic nod to go with it. (If you say “no”, she looks at you gravely then shakes her head back and forth.)

Yesterday afternoon we were flipping through a cookbook together, trying to decide what to make for dinner. When I turned to a lush photograph of roasted chicken, her eyes opened wide and she tried to touch everything on the page. I said, “chicken”. Then she said… “chicken”! Of course, you really had to strain to understand because it sounded like she was wearing a scuba mask, but still.


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