The River Knows

Sacrifice is overrated.

Like, you did all of this and then you get a sharp slap on the face. Who cares, might be the response. So what, your choice. Nobody asked you.

No, nobody asked you.

Does it come natural to cancel yourself and elevate others, for the sake of love in all its manifestations? Probably not.

But women (at least mothers) instantly annihilate themselves in order to smooth the path for those in their heart, accepting, even welcoming, the present status as the doormat.

You cease to exist.   No desire, wish, passion, dream, lands in your mind and prepares to develop wings. They just dissolve – perhaps excruciatingly slowly – till the haze of their ephemeral passing becomes only a memory you instantly reject.

Beat me, kick me, enslave me, and I shall be silent.

Your existence is to be fulfilled by serving.

Your tears (the few that remain) need to be concealed, silently present only in the darkness of the night, or in an empty house. Or to blur your vision when you drive along familiar roads that only reinforce, with their powerful memories, the validity of your pain.

Suffering is beautiful, no?   It makes you worthy.

The pursuit of happiness doesn’t apply to everyone. Some have a more legitimate right to it than others.

Yes, sacrifice is overrated, but you allow your lifeblood to flow, generous and eternal, a river of love that expects no gratitude.

Go on and endure, you earthly saint, accept, allow, give, damn it, give till you’re sucked dry.

The world is indeed a valley of tears.

At least for some.

Enjoy the honor.

The Tale of a Bag

There was a time when a bag was just a bag. Just a vessel to carry stuff in, and nobody really paid much attention to it. Women would usually have two, a black one (or brown) in the winter, and a lighter one in the summer, white, or perhaps made of straw. And those two bags adapted gracefully to every outfit. No obnoxious designer labels dangling from the straps, no huge initials crawling all over it, no forbidding prices that made you feel guilty for owning it.

A bag was a bag, just had to be made of good leather and be functional. Cell phone pocket? I think not.

Voilà! I have one of those, over forty years old, owned by my mother, passed on to me. Vintage gold. When nobody knew what vintage meant.

Found it in my closet, while doing a bit of spring purging (are 16 bags too many?).

Brown and tan leather (okay, now I would define it ‘cognac’), intricately woven by hand by a master craftsman working in a dark little room, off a medieval alley in the heart of old Naples. Day after day, with his needles and thread and hides and fabric, weaving his life, all of his years, into beautiful, unique pocketbooks and gloves, molding the buttery calfskin into exquisite, high-fashion pieces, even though he, the humble pellaio, didn’t even know what high fashion meant.

All in a day’s work for him, producing lovely item after lovely item, waiting for the ladies to come in and bargain with him over the already reasonable prices he offered.   One of those ladies was my mother.   “Mi servono dei guanti ”, she would announce at some point. “Andiamo a Napoli”. Thus my father would get behind the wheel of the emerald-green Simca, and haul us all to the leather-workers neighborhood, a street in Naples dedicated to this ancient craft.

Sure I was bored, a young child with zero interest in fashion, but my mother walked briskly through the lively alleys, determined to find the little hidden shop where her favorite pellaio operated. While my father waited somewhat patiently in the car, because sure as hell he wasn’t going traipsing through ladies’ shops after my mother.

The heady smell of leather would wrap around my senses the moment we approached the shop.  Comforting, welcoming, luxurious.

My mother blissfully breathed in the scent of beautiful things, tried on several pairs of gloves, all so supple and yielding, a second skin that would soon become the only one.   Then she would examine the bags, all so different, since each one was made as its own entity, and perhaps (if it was needed) choose a new one to take home, soft and kind, ever-present companion of her busy days.

It’s a bit faded, this ancient purse of mine, the slow decades having marked their presence on the materials, but it’s still beautifully elegant in its simplicity, pregnant with history, a traveler, like me, from a land of sun and passions and fragile dreams, weary, but hopeful still of what’s to come.

I hold it close, accept its limitations (my Smartphone will be sitting on top of the wallet, rub against my keys), caress that leather and all its tales, pull up the still sturdy zipper and wear it with love and, yes, awe.

When All Else Fails, Think Shoes

Cole Haan Nude Pumps

Because it doesn’t matter if you think material.  “Material”can save your life.

Focus on what warms your heart, even if for a moment.

Sometimes people leave you stranded in your agony.   Must grasp the thread of hope that only the little things offer.  Feel the softness of the leather, be in awe of the sleek, elegant design.  Pure, understated class.

Wear them, feel the power, the confidence, burst through your body.  Allow the worries to fade away.  Even if for just a minute.

In that minute you can conquer the world.

Quando il fiume si arrabbia

3 marzo 2017

Freddo oggi.  Un vento da paura.  Lo sento quasi spostare la macchina, mentre mi avvio verso la stazione ferroviaria.

Marzo a New York. Un mese strano, imprevedibile. A volte c’è quasi tempo da spiaggia; poi, il giorno dopo, arriva una leggera nevicata.

Ci si abitua.

Oggi il fiume Hudson urla.  È furioso. Le onde schiumose sbattono contro gli scogli del molo, l’acqua è azzurra perché lo è il cielo. Il sole splende, tanto che devi coprirti gli occhi con la mano quando guidi, l’aletta parasole non basta. Ma fa lo stesso un freddo cane.

Riflette forse la tempesta che ti si accanisce dentro.

Gli anni passano, invecchiamo, più o meno bene, diventiamo dei grandi saggi, ma dovrebbe servirci a qualcosa, ‘sta saggezza.

La vita è adesso, come dice il nostro amico del tempo che fu.

Toglietetevi le maschere, tristi pagliacci, guardatevi nello specchio della verità, e aprite il cuore.   A quelli che contano.

La famiglia originale è forse la più importante.

Come l’amicizia antica e vera.

Tutto il resto non vale un cavolo.

Come è arrabbiato il mio fiume, accidenti.

Carnevale Celebration in Armonk!

img_5338

Yes, of course we celebrated Italian Carnevale, at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk!

And you thought we just conjugated verbs in our Italian Class.

img_5337
Don’t you love the beautiful Venetian mask that one of my students brought?

Grazie to all my lovely students for bringing so many treats, including espresso!

I provided the Frappe,  using my mother’s delicious recipe from Modena. Frappe are fried ribbons of dough, traditional sweet of Carnevale.

Click here for the recipe!

Quando il fiume ti accarezza

16835859_1386462221413796_1962706515021957662_o

La splendida semplicità  del mio fiume di mattina presto.

Tranquillo e intensamente azzurro, scintillante sotto il sole sorridente di New York, l’Hudson mi emoziona ogni volta che lo guardo.

L’aria è delicatamente fresca e i gabbiani volteggiano vivaci,  richiamano la spensieratezza dell’estate, anche se i prati sono ancora coperti dalla neve che si scioglie lentamente.

È amore questo?  Direi proprio di sì.  L’amore che ti calma, ti sostiene e non ti ferisce.

Grazie, grande America per avermi accolto a braccia aperte, tanti, tanti anni fa.

Yes, life is beautiful.

Snowing? Let Me Hide in the Kitchen

I don’t want to hear that you like the snow.16711990_1378313948895290_4648212179890978446_n

The frigid, messy white stuff serves no purpose (unlike rain).

Probably one of the punishments we are to expect regularly from the heavens, for our less than exemplary behavior. Sure, I will recite the mea culpa to that, but I will rise in fury every time the New York’s blue sky fades into that threatening light gray to white.

Nothing but the ghostly sheet of death on our lawns, our streets, accumulating copiously on our parked cars, creating a forbidding wasteland.

Can’t go out – work, shopping, whatever – because unless you have one of those monsters SUVs (that regularly block your vision of the road when you’re driving, so hate that) with all-wheel, 4-wheel, or whatever the hell it’s called, drive, you take your life in your hands if you venture out.16587373_1378089615584390_4399470399935565463_o-1

Sure, there will be the show-offs who’ll say no big deal to drive in the snow, you just need to know how to do it, take control, yada yada blah blah blah. Not buying it, people. They are probably more terrified than me but prefer to look brave and take their chances. But it’s their call.

Rant done.

16665172_1378332025560149_4465736566893135489_o
Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake

So I stay home. I pour a glass of wine, put on a warm sweater, then my pretty apron (from my small collection, yes, I’m a sucker for designer aprons), and sharpen my chef’s knife. And butter my Bundt pan, measure flour, sugar and cocoa, pull out a juicy onion from the fridge and a bottle of golden extra-virgin olive oil.

Dinner and dessert on the way.

Live in your kitchen, my friends, when life is inclement!

The blows, small and enormous, are always lurking, malevolent, behind the corner. You fend them off as best as you can, you toughen up, reject useless tears that solve nothing, swallow your pride, ignore the unfair words, then shut up altogether because it’s best.   Sure, the restlessness is still churning inside your heart, the endless worrying corroding your soul, but you take a two-second Zen moment, simply to keep the peace. I choose my battles thoughtfully, dear friends, and so should you.

I also choose the kitchen as my refuge. My trusty iPhone and the Echo partner up to provide the musical background, as eclectic as my personality.

16463787_1375880539138631_1594547096869222112_o
Cardamom Pound Cake

Melt the butter with coffee and chocolate, stir the thick, velvety mixture, inhale the heady scent, let it cool, while you sift the dry ingredients into a pretty stoneware pistachio-green bowl. The little things matter.  Perhaps more than the big ones. They keep you sane, steady on the path of the life that was handed to you, the one you didn’t select because you didn’t know what the hell you were doing.   Sure, we live for others (all women, mothers, do), so we try to keep the crazy to a minimum. Calm and nurturing, selfless and immune to hurt feelings.

But it’s all good.

I have a kitchen, apples, freshly ground cardamom, sweet butter and a batterie de cuisine to rival a Parisian pâtissier, and thousands of wondrous recipes in cherished cookbooks (or on Google). Or, mostly, in the treasure grove that is my memories and my imagination.

I suffer ergo I cook.

Sure, go skiing, o adventurous ones, just watch those trees.

Long live Bundt pans, cardamom and bittersweet chocolate!

(Recipe: Chocolate Fudge Bundt Cake)

The Exhilaration of a Sunny Day in January…So I Bake

A glorious January day in New York.16195780_1354008367992515_4399115493143266945_n

The sun is warming the land and our hearts, easily melting the remains of snow scattered on our lawns.   The air is mild, gentle, the sky is an intense blue, smiling down on our earth, bursting with the promise of new hope.

The birds are settling, once again, on the trees’ bare branches, tentative, quivering with the fresh joy of a new beginning. Could it be? Early spring for us all?   Perhaps.

In the heart of dreary winter, a winter that has lasted for longer that we ever expected, this break in the dark scatters the thrills of rebirth, as we all leap toward the future that looks gloomy no more.

Free and light I feel, young and powerful. I close my eyes and surrender to the caress of this Janu

16143757_1354277441298941_494074107817948250_o
Almond Paste Cake

ary sunshine, linger in its welcoming embrace.

Yes, the sun also rises and conquers the fears of the darkest night.

16143639_1355193891207296_4318033511360530590_o
Pappardelle with Sausage Ragu’

Bursting with energy, I pull ingredients out of pantry and fridge, exuberant. Which cake should I make, Apple, Almond Paste, Pound, chocolate? And my pappardelle await the sausage ragù that is in the works, because the good parmigiano I got, the golden olive oil and the desire to cook with renewed joy and relief.

Oh what a magnificent January day it is, summer in winter, fresh air to sweep away the decay of old, dirty snow.

The world is alive again.   Live your life, you good people, raise your eyes to the sky and marvel at the splendor of deep turquoise, limpid and pure once again.