Saturday, May 31, 2008

Waking up

Waking up in the morning is a very particular experience, depending upon where you are.

Waking up in the morning in San Francisco is a quiet, gray, soft experience. The fog blankets the streets and muffles the noises of the neighborhood. The light is filtered through the soft gray clouds. The slate-colored sea is off in the distance. Bed is warm, and hardwood floors are cold. Hot mush and hotter coffee for breakfast suit the mood perfectly.

Waking up in Sevilla is a much more lively experience. The city sounds can be heard distinctly in the brightness of the early morning sunlight. The knife sharpener may be doing rounds on the street, blowing his whistle, accompanied by vespas whining, lottery ticket people calling out for sales, and tourists dragging suitcases along cobblestone streets.

And of course there is nothing like a savory slice of ham on toast with a drizzle of olive oil to make you feel as vital as the city that is moving about you.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Making Up Postcards

Dear Pa,

Remember this place? When can we go again?

Love, Ma

For more made-up postcards, click here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May Crosses

Before May is over, we have to talk about May Crosses. There is a long tradition in Seville of May Crosses, and many different customs associated with them, but the one that I like best is the organization of a few boys into their own mini-confraternity.

Semana Santa is such a huge part of Sevillian life -- all year long the preparations are taking place. Even now, in late May, before summer has even set in, people in Seville know how many days are left until next year's Palm Sunday. Semana Santa is a masculine festival, celebrating silence, penitence, honor, sacrifice. Not that women don't share those characteristics, but the expression of them in Semana Santa is somber, austere, and paternal. The Virgin Mary is a major protagonist in Holy Week, of course, but she is always seen through the eyes of observers, while the role of the penitents is designed much more aligned with the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.

And of course, there are two Spring festivals in Seville each year, the Fair being the second one. The Fair is a much more feminine festival, full of laughter and food and lights and color. This may sound like a very stereotypical description of the two festivals, but when you get there, you'll see. They just are this way. And of course, they are many other things as well.

So what do the children get to do? Well, after carefully observing their fathers' ritual preparation for Semana Santa all year long, and then having fun at the Fair, in late Spring the children put on their own procession with a float, and music.

I saw one of my favorite cruces de mayo on the Calle Sierpes one day in May of 1997. Three boys had built a small float from a refrigerator box, and it had a lovely lace tablecloth over it, and flowers, and a cross draped with a cloth. One boy walked in front of the float, guiding the boy who was underneath the box. And one boy walked behind, carrying a small boom box with processional music playing. Suddenly, the box fell apart in the middle of Calle Sierpes, and the cross and the tablecloth fell on top of the boy who was inside. The two boys on the outside started to laugh, and they laughed so hard they had to sit down on the ground, holding their sides with the laughter. The boy on the inside kept asking for help to get out, and the madder he got, the harder the other two laughed. Pretty soon everyone on the street was laughing.

If only we had more community festivals like that one -- spreading imagination and laughter!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Papa's Top Picks

These are Papa's favorite Flamenco pop songs:

Mari de chambao



Monday, May 19, 2008

Grandma's Cats

Grandma's birthday was last week. When I was a little girl, I used to love her cat lamp, and she would let me sit next to the lamp when it was on the evenings and pretend like the cats were real.

The lamp is actually a television lamp -- a lamp that gave off low light to avoid eye strain while watching television. These lamps were very popular in the 1950s.

This is Rafa with the cats. We take very good care of the cats for Grandma.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Two Summer Salads

When we get a couple of hot days in San Francisco, which doesn't happen more than twice a year, these are two very good, no-cook, cool salads to have for dinner.

Mozzarella, tomato, and basil with a bit of olive oil and salt, is an old favorite. We like it with cherry tomatoes and perlini mozzarella -- there isn't even any slicing to do!

Nonni's vegetable, tuna and tomato salad is a delicious and easy salad that comes from Richie's nonni, not ours (since we don't have an Italian grandmother, only Irish and Spanish). Mix a jar of Italian giardiniera salad with a can of tuna and 1/4 cup of tomato sauce. Drizzle with olive oil and add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Perfect Day for Lemonade

It was 90 degrees at our house this afternoon at 5:00. We only get about 3 days a year like this in San Francisco. So we had a picnic in the park for dinner, and when we got home, we made lemonade.

juice of 5 lemons
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
16 ozs cold water

Mix all ingredients together and serve in tall glasses.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rafa's Favorite Trip

Grandma and Grandpa are on a lovely trip. Rafa's favorite trip was the trip we made to Disneyworld 2 years ago, with all of our Texas cousins. We had the most wonderful time, with a big group of us at Disneyworld, and all different sorts of pasttimes.

Rafa with his favorite guy

the whole group
Rafa's caption for this one: "Everybody at the Disney Castle."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Street corner prayers

Rome is famous for its fountains, of course.

Ma in front of fountain at Pantheon

But what really made an impression on me were the many sacred carvings and paintings on street corners in Rome -- every time you look up you see an image calling you to prayer.

Virgin and Child

Virgin Mary

mosaic Madonna

Friday, May 9, 2008

Campo dei Fiori

One of our favorite places in Rome was the Campo dei Fiori.

flower stand

produce stand



Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ah, Rome

Grandma and Grandpa are in Rome. I was pregnant with Rafa when we were in Rome, and he says that he remembers the trip from my tummy.

marble at the Vatican

a villa garden

We had fettucini with salmon and fresh fava beans for dinner tonight to celebrate.

the Roman forum

Papa taking a photo on the Piazza del Popolo

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Trecento Florence was a glorious place, a place where art and architecture and craft reached a magnificence, the scale of which would be hard to replicate. Is there another city where so many of the major monuments were developed in such a short span of time, and where such a high percentage of them are counted as world heritage ?

Some of the major medieval monuments are: the Duomo, the Campanile, and the Baptistery, the Bargello, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, San Lorenzo, Orsanmichele, Palazzo Vecchio. Some of the major sculptors, painters, and architects are: Giotto, Daddi, Orcagna, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Bonaiuti, Pisano, di Cione, Michelangelo, Botticelli.

The wonderful thing is that so many of these artists worked together. The artistic climate must have been exciting, stimulating, inspirational. Daddi was an apprentice in Giotto's workshop. Orcagna and Daddi collaborated at Orsanmichele. Orcagna and di Cione were brothers. Daddi and di Cione both worked at the Bigallo. Brunelleschi and Michelangelo both work on San Lorenzo. Ghiberti and Brunelleschi competed for the Baptistery doors project and the dome project.

Florence was indeed one big artists' workshop at this time, culminating in the Duomo project -- everyone made a contribution at some point or other:
Giotto -- capomaestro (campanile)
Daddi -- painting
Ghiberti -- capomaestro
Pisano -- capomaestro
Brunelleschi -- capomaestro (dome)
Michelangelo -- scuplture
Orcagna -- 1357-66 committee member
Bonaiuti -- 1357-66 committee member
Nardo di Cione -- painting
Jacopo di Cione -- cathedral project
Benci di Cione -- master mason
Neri di Fioravanti -- 1357-66 committee member