Peaceful Pandemic-Times Pics (a photo anthology)

Ciao Readers!

How are you doing?  Strange times, no doubt.  I am doing fairly well as long as I stick to my morning runs, evening walks and chillaxing at home.  I know why we’re doing it, but as someone who’s used to reading people, all the masks make me feel discombobulated, so I’ve pretty much stopped going anywhere. There’s been some amazing scenery on my walks and runs, with the spattering of cool painted rocks to make me smile (and some look like they were put there just for me).  Here are some of the things keeping me mindful and grounded (as much as possible) – walk with me….

All the pretty plants, scenery,  and rocks brighten up my daily runs:

The Sandias always make me feel more peaceful, whether I’m looking at them or hiking on them:

And, last but not least, I can watch these adorable twin brothers for hours…pure joy!

Until next time Dear Readers, stay healthy, breathe deeply, and be well.

An Expat Interview with Me (or a self-centered diversion)

Ciao Dear Readers!

Since my last post I have been wanting to blog again, but I haven’t come up with anything original or better than all of the great uplifting and insightful pandemic-life posts out there.

Somehow in the middle of this, I was asked to, and did, participate in an interview with an online Expat website. I was kinda hoping there would be more edits and less type-o’s, but overall, reading it brings back fond and funny memories of living in Italy. I absolutely can’t wait to get back there once life starts back up. In the meantime, if you’re interested in my self-centered diversion: https://www.expatarrivals.com/article/interview-hope-american-expat-who-lived-florence

I hope you all are safe and mentally well. Until next time!

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine – R.E.M.

Ciao Readers!  I am happy to have this forum to reach out to you, wherever you are, say “hello” and offer my warm thoughts for you and yours.

So, I knew I wanted to say something in these strange times, but I didn’t know what. It just came to me on a long walk (one of many over the past weeks). I wanted to share my thoughts about the “silver linings” to the apocalypse. I completely understand that folks are suffering – physically, financially, psychologically – and I do not mean to diminish their suffering. But for me, I have to look ahead and try and glean the good that will come to stay out of the dark. So, in no particular order, here are some of the long-term “positives” I think will result:

U.S. Society: I think the pandemic is showing us where our societal structural fabric is weak and needs adjustments. This situation has shed (even more) light on the need for universal health care, paid sick leave, fair wages, childcare and more. It has also forced the justice system to ask questions like “should we really be keeping a 70 year-old locked up for inability to pay a jaywalking fine right now?” (which begs the question, should we ever?). On a more human societal note, I think it is making us appreciate our interconnectedness and motivating people to help others. Even the small things, like more patience at the grocery and a kind word for the cashiers, can start ripple effects of good in the universe.

Corporations: This seems like a “rubber hits the road” moment where we get to truly see if corporations are or are not good global citizens. When Amazon raised its and Whole Foods’ employees wages by 2$/hr., I felt much better about shopping with them. I am also very impressed with t-mobile giving unlimited data, Xfinity free hot spots, and Audible free books to help us all through. In contrast, when McDonalds actively lobbied against paid sick time in the stimulus bill, it reinforced the fact that it is good that I haven’t stepped foot in one since I worked there (ages 14 – 16, yes, against child labor laws). Don’t get me started on Hobby Lobby, which I was already boycotting before this (if you want to read their rationale for staying open and making people come to work, you can read it here). If I get to be preachy at all, I would ask that you think carefully in the future about the corporations to which you’re giving your hard earned money.

Global/Cultural: This one’s a little hard, because I know there have been many incidences of racism.  However, on the bright side, I think we have all been made more aware of what other countries and peoples are going through and what they have or have not done in response. Maybe we gain some empathy for suffering Italians and some appreciation for law-respecting South Koreans.  Maybe we also decide that the liberty/safety balance in China is more than we are willing to give; maybe not.  Regardless of what our personal perspectives are, we are probably getting more world news now than we ever have and learning about other countries and their people on a very human level. I am personally still mind-boggled by all of the photos I have seen of Italians queuing politely outside grocery stores (who knew they actually could?!).

Personally:  I could go on about this one for a long time (as I am guessing you can as well – feel free to share in the comments). For those of you who know me, you know I can be a bit of a control freak. I see this as the universe’s way of finally ingraining the old proverb about “learning what you can’t control” into my thick skull….we shall see.  And even though I am fortunate and still have tons of work to do every day (which I should be doing now instead of writing this), there does seem to be more time to stop and smell the metaphorical roses. So, I will leave you as I often do, returning to food – two days ago Steve and I made pasta from hand (something we keep “meaning” to do but never seem to get around to). I was too busy rolling and covered in flour to take photos of the process, but pretend you can smell and taste the final product (that’s Tuscan sausage/kale/white bean sauce)…….   Until next time!

 

Songs for Solidarity: Italians Unite through music from balconies, terraces and windows

Ciao readers!

So, I was going to blog about how amazing Italians are in the face of adversity – they’ve been having terrace “flash mobs” during this lock-down and I have seen pictures of them queuing in an orderly fashion at grocery stores (who knew?!), but this post from Girl in Florence already does the best job. Scroll down the post and you can see video clips from all over Italy. Grazie!    Source: Songs for Solidarity: Italians Unite through music from balconies, terraces and windows

Five Reasons to Boycott Valentine’s Day

Ciao Readers! Today’s re-blog post is dedicated to my friend who has almost made me rethink my stance on V-Day. She enjoys it so much and is so kind that I was inspired to make her a V-day present with my own two hands. But lest you think I have succumbed to big Hallmark, at this time I still stand by this – my most “liked” post of all time. The real test will be if you see it re-posted again here next year or not…..

New Mexico to Italy

Ciao Readers!  Happy belated New Year to you and Birthday to me!

So, I think I am making reposting this – my most “liked” post ever – a yearly tradition. Enjoy!

Originally posted in February of 2016:

So, today I go off on a tangent (i.e. mini-rant); one of my only posts not about travel or food. I figure, I have this grand public forum, why not totally abuse it?  If you don’t know this about me, I HATE (yes H-A-T-E) Valentine’s Day and have since I was a teenager.  I honestly think it is the worst, most sadistic/masochistic, commercialised abomination ever.  I hope you’ll agree and join my 3-decades long boycott.  Here’s why…. (in no specific order and somewhat redundant)….

  1. No one ends up satisfied.  Seriously, how many people are out there right now building up their expectations for Valentine’s Day and how many people are fretting about…

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Picturesque Pena Palace, Portugal

Ciao Readers!

So, if you’re anything like me, you get back from a nice vacation with the “real world” already knocking on your door – whether in the form of a nasty cold, tons of voicemails, or a new home repair task…..

Before I totally lose the magic that was Portugal, I wanted to share some photos of a super quirky, beautiful, eclectic site – Pena Palace in Sintra (about a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon). I think this website describes it aptly: “The palace is a hedonistic mix of vividly painted terraces, decorative battlements and mythological statues, all of which stand at stark contrast to the lush greens of the Parque de Pena forest.”  The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its existence goes back to the Middle Ages. I will spare you the entire history here – but what started off as a chapel, turned into a monastery – which was then battered by all sorts of things, including lightening and the great quake of 1755 (which destroyed much of Lisbon) –  and was eventually acquired and greatly added to by King Ferdinand in the mid 1800’s. It was commissioned to be a summer palace for the Royal family and was modeled, in part, on castles likely seen in Germany. Just to be quirky they decided to add some Medieval, Islamic, and other decorative elements to the palace (notice the Moorish tiles, the minaret-ish tower, the Triton gateway…..). We had read that the outside was much more the draw than the inside, so we bought tickets to the surrounding park (which also lets you access the scary-thin terraces surrounding the palace) and wandered around marveling…..returning down the very steep hill by tuk tuk (with a driver that knew where we live – Albuquerque  – through Breaking Bad – “Ah, Sim, Pollos Hermanos!!!”), for just a few euros more than the packed city buses.  All in all, a lovely last full day in Portugal:

 

Museu da Marioneta (the Puppet Museum in Lisbon)

Ciao Readers!

We are back state-side and slowly adjusting to the 7 hour time difference after a 24-hour commute home (I love travel… traveling, not so much). I hope your new year has started off well.

Having recently shared my life-long affection for puppets (see my Muppet post), it will be no surprise that when I stumbled upon the fact that Lisbon has a puppet museum, I knew we had to go! (In contrast, feel free to skip their largest art Museum, the Gulbenkian – if you’ve been to any other large/famous museum you’ve seen better.) The puppet museum is funky and dark (even their tickets, below, are cool and weird). There are puppets from throughout the ages – from early Thai shadow puppets, Vietnamese water puppets, lots of old European and traditional Portuguese puppets, and on through modern day stop-action animation figures (complete with mini props!). It seems that puppets were often used as an entertaining way to make subversive cultural or political statements, including during the latest fascist regime in Portugal (did you know they had a dictator until 1974?!). It was kinda surreal and creepy in there, but supercool (they even have a place you can put on your own puppet show). I felt in-the-know finding this off-the-grid site, seeing how it’s not even in travel guru Rick Steves’ Lisbon book.  Take a look…..

Next time we travel to the nearby town of Sintra to see its very eclectic Pena Palace….

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