Saturday, August 30, 2008

Indian Summer

Indian Summer started right on schedule during the first week of school. When I was a kid, I never could understand why we had to have fog all summer long while we were out of school, and beautiful sunny weather within days of starting back to school.

The weather is just beautiful. The skies are blue, the mornings are filled with light, the sea is still, and we can see all the way to Hawaii. Practically.

There is something more golden about Indian Summer days than other sunny days. Warmer shadows and golden light. Maybe because of the apples and pumpkins and sunsets to come.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Make Something for Dinner, Quick!

This was one of those successes that came out of not having anything ready for dinner. I rolled a refrigerated pie crust out in a pie dish and put 7-8 slices of manchego cheese on the bottom. Then I added some caramelized onions and carrots sauteed with one small, sliced potato. Four dollops of creme fraiche were all that was left in the container, so they went on top next, and 8 green beans decorated the top.

Everybody loved it, like it was the best thing they'd ever eaten. I'm sure I'll never be able to recreate it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Sixth Day of Kindergarten

Today is the sixth day of kindergarten. And the little ones are tired.

This has been a long week. For most, it is their first time in a class of 30 students. Even if they went to all-day preschool, like Rafa did, they probably were in groups of only 15 students or so. And they probably took afternoon naps.

Today, as we lined up to go in to school at 8:00, one kindergartner was sucking his thumb, and two others were clinging to their mothers' legs and crying. Even Rafa said he was tired and his hand found its way into mine.

Growing up is hard work.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Misericordia of Florence

Painted on the wall of the Museo del Bigallo in Florence is a figure with a red mantle and white cope which rises above a cityscape represented below with majestic height and a weightlessness belonging to a spiritual being. This figure has been called the Madonna della Misericordia for many years, until William Levin, in his monograph, The Allegory of Mercy, explained that the figure is actually an allegorical representation of the mercy of God. Levin discusses the history of referring to this figure as the Madonna and as an allegory of mercy. He provides evidence to show that this figure is an allegory, and not a Madonna-figure, including pointing to the inscription in her crown which reads: misericordia domini.

This is the very heart of spiritual Florence; in 1244 the confraternity acquired land here, and commissioned a fresco to decorate the exterior wall, inside the loggia, which, although privately-owned space belonging to the confraternity, it is open to the public. It provides shade from the Tuscan sun, hot on the piazza, and would have seen a good deal of foot traffic, accordingly. It is in this public space that the confraternity elected to locate a fresco that embodies the very essence of their organization.

What did the Florentine Misericordia organization choose as subject matter for their public face – the public face of a group that had acquired some of the most valuable real estate in Florence, and was establishing its importance and central role in the spiritual institution of the city for the next 600+ years? What better than to portray the very same city of Florence in her piety? The fresco is a mirror held up to the citizenry: it is a reflection of the merciful works being done in the city of Florence by her citizens. Due to the public nature of its location, there is a clear dialogue between the fresco and the city; between the confraternity of the Misericordia and the community that it serves. The fact that the fresco was a public piece of art representing the public face of the confraternity, and not a semi-public or private piece, kept indoors, illustrates the protagonism which the city holds in these dealings, as well as the sense of self-fashioning, of conscious definition of self, the confraternity, as agent for good, for virtue. The fresco represents spiritual Florence, and portrays Florence as a city of pious citizens in which mercy is a celebrated virtue. The Misericordia confraternity members are included amongst a representative group of virtuous Florentine citizens, under the motto that appears as the text of the upper central roundel, the first of the roundels on the Misericordia figure, reading: misericordia dei plena est terra. The rest of the series of roundels on the figure help to clarify how the virtue of mercy should be practiced by the citizens. Overall, the initial impression related by the fresco is that of a virtuous city, dedicated to works of mercy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

St. Gabriel's

The first day of Kindergarten. My, oh my.

We have spent so much energy protecting this child for the past 5 1/2 years. Protecting him from the colds, from accidents, from loud noises, and violence on TV. I nursed him for as long as I could, because they told me that was the best for him. It didn't stop the nightmare from happening, though, and we spent so much energy protecting him from the side effects of his chemotherapy, protecting his skin from the radiation burns, protecting his compromised immune system from microbes.

" You don't have to hold my hand, Mom. I can walk by your side." And off he goes, without a glance backward, as happy as can be, with 600 other children in a new school.

He is the third generation of our family to attend this school. The principal and several of my teachers are still there and recognize me as I bring him in.

That makes it feel like home. It is both scary and sad to realize how little protection we can really offer to our most vulnerable ones.

All they want is their independence and our love.

Monday, August 18, 2008

San Antonio de la Florida

In a small church in a quiet part of Madrid is a fresco cycle by Goya from the 1790s.

The church is called San Antonio de la Florida, and the fresco cycle illustrates the miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua.

The cupola is filled with this story, colorful, lively, animated, with characters in typical Madrid-style dress interacting around a painted balcony, under a light-filled sky.

It is definitely off the beaten path in Madrid, but well worth the visit. Check to see that it is open before going, and then finish up with a coffee at the Cafe del Oriente.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I got a wonderful bunch of basil at the market this week. I'm using whole leaves of it in salads and sandwiches. I stirred some into the coq au vin. We've had it with tomatoes and cheese, and chopped up over pasta.

I'd like to try basil mojitos next. I don't really feel like making pesto. Please give me some more ideas.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rafa's Impression of Vacation

Rafa has done a very impressionistic representation of our vacation, complete with trees, creek, sunshine, path, cabin, and himself with a camera.

hmm, no can our impressions differ so?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

vacation "recipes"

the best thing about vacation recipes? not following any...

here are some of the things we had to eat on our vacation, none of which required a recipe:

spaghetti with grandpa's homemade sauce
green salad
bread and butter
ice cream
a big antipasto platter
breaded and fried chicken breasts
tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad
barbecued steak
zucchini stir-fried with olive oil and lemon juice
tuna melt sandwiches
peaches with brown sugar and wine
more ice cream
sloppy joes
lots and lots of wine
some more wine

okay, grandpa's homemade sauce does actually require a recipe:

Grandpa's 10-minute Spaghetti Sauce

Brown 1 lb of ground beef and 1 lb of ground pork in a skillet. Remove browned meat from skillet and set aside.

Saute 1 medium chopped onion and 3 sliced cloves of garlic in 1/4 olive oil. Add 2 chopped roma tomatoes and 1 can of diced tomatoes and saute until tomato juice reduces, about 10 minutes.

Add 1 jar of pasta sauce (Grandpa likes Emeril's or Paul Newman's), 2 bay leaves, and a shake of salt and pepper.

Return the meat to the skillet and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. It really tastes better the next day. Especially if you are going up to the mountains.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

the best thing about vacation?

trees and sunshine and fresh air?

running and playing in the dirt?

staying outside until it's practically midnight? or way past bedtime, anyway.

watching for fireflies? doesn't matter if we don't find any.

not wearing a shirt for three days in a row?

red wine in jelly jars?

being together.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


I am reposting the Cioppino recipe from the day that we filmed Andaluces por el Mundo en casa. I add a shallot to the original recipe and change the amount and type of fish. I don't add crab to cioppino. I think that fresh crab is best eaten with butter, not tomato sauce! (Plus it's not crab season again until November.)

Cioppino (adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook)

1 white onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup italian parsley, chopped
--saute the above in 1/2 cup good olive oil

2 large cans of diced tomatoes with puree
1 can of tomato sauce, 12 oz
2 bay leaves
1 t. oregano
salt and pepper to taste
--simmer for one hour

1 lb white fish cut into small pieces
1 lb sea scallops
1 lb shrimp
2 cups dry red wine
-simmer for 15 minutes longer

Serve in soup bowls with fresh sourdough bread and butter alongside.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I look like Daphne

Rafa said to me this morning as I was getting ready for work: Mama, you are sooo pretty. You look like Daphne.

No, I don't have red hair.