Thursday, December 24, 2009

A White Christmas!

It snowed big-time in our part of Jack's Canyon the night before the night before Christmas. 
I got up at five a.m. to go to the bathroom and shined my little flashlight out the window to find the south forty piled with snow.  I ran to the other parts of the house to open the shades and look outside: mounds of snow all over!  Huge pines, pinons, and Arizona cypress with limbs drooping under the weight of so much snow. 
When it got light enough, around 7:20, we hooked up Shasta and went out for the most glorious walk in the mist shrouded joy-inspiring flakey-whiteness of our corner of the world. 
I've never felt more like a kid on Christmas!
We ran into neighborhood friends who had the same idea.  Enjoy the photos.
To all of you Merry Christmas and to all a good night.
Love, Peace, Joy, Laughter and Good Food!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Alive and Almost Well

It was not the trip I'd hoped for. 
I've been ill since the night I flew from San Francisco to Munich then to Pisa.  Upper-respiratory infection that was not treated aggressiively enough in Italy and blossomed into bronchitis, which I still have and am now treating quite aggressively thanks to my Nurse Practioner here in the good ole' USA, Cathleen Jochim.  Today is the first day in over a month that I have felt like myself and felt up to writing to you.
Being so ill and without energy, I spent a great deal of time at home in Lucca with my cousins: a challenge for all of us.  I did manage, after a week, to ride in the car with my cousin to some of the composer Giacomo Puccini's homes in the area, and that was lovely.  Another memorable outing took me to the hills above Lucca to stroll among the olive groves and watch the workers harvest the most sought after olives in the world for making extra virgin oil. And I managed an afternoon in Florence. 
In Piazza della Repubblica, at Ristorante Gilli, in the sunshine, in the warmth, without a horde of tourists, I am lunching.  When living here in Firenze, I used to dream of sitting under these golden awnings and savoring a good meal, but never let myself.  An inhabitant I was then, not a visitor.  But today is my first day of flying the coop in Lucca after being in bed for a week.  Today, freedom is mine, thank God, on an afternoon in the cradle of The Renaissance.
"Signora, ha deciso? Madame, have you decided?" 
"SiCozze e Vongole Saute, Insalata di Tonno e Verdure, Aqua Minerale Naturale.  Mussels and Clams Saute, Salad of Tuna and Vegetables, Mineral Water Non-carbonated."
"Un bicchiere di vino, signora?  Va bene con le pesce...  A glass of wine, Madame? It goes well with the fish..."
"Certo.  Sure."
The bread and water arrive first, then the wine--a beautifully blown glass with liquid gold undulating in the broad bowl.  I tip it to my lips--yes, crisp, dry, cold, with a lush finish.  Indeed, perfect for the fish.
Book-ended by two thin crisp toasts, the mussels and clams arrive in a generous, white, oval bowl.  The aroma seduces.  With my fingers I pick up a baby clam, suck the meat out, and drink the broth pooled in the shell--it is the sweetest most tender clam I have ever eaten.  I try a mussel--same deal.  The flavor is salty and sublime.  A sip of wine--Frascati, my guess--and all is right with the world.  I lean back in my chair, raise my Arizona-tanned face to the Tuscan sun slivering between the awnings and breathe as deeply as I can the air of perfect culinary bliss.
Gazing up at the ancient gate to the city and recall when I was teaching at Istituto Americano, a few steps away from where I sit.  Then, the salad arrives: crisp and fresh with a cornucopia of tonno on top surrounded by capers, olives, aritchoke hearts, and rounds of tender mozzarella di bufala, buffalo mozzarella.  I dress the greens and veggis with good green oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and drench the tonno in the oil.  A salad to savor for its freshness and simplicity.
My God!  This is something to come to Italy for!  A meal I would have made for myself in exactly the same manner elegantly served to me in a piazza, in a city, on a day that is unforgettable.  Sono contenta.  Passo un hora cosi, nel sole di Firenze.  I am content. I spend an hour like this--in the sun of Florence.
More to follow.
I am so very happy to be home.
Love,  Susan