Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Little Holiday Humor

(Sent from a friend.)

THERE WERE 3 GOOD ARGUMENTS THAT

Jesus was Black:

  1. He called everyone “brother”.
  2. He liked Gospel.
  3. He didn’t get a fair trial.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

  1. He went into his Father’s business.
  2. He lived at home until he was 33.
  3. He was sure his mother was a virgin, and his mother was sure He was God.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

  1. He talked with his hands.
  2. He had wine with his meals.
  3. He used olive oil.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

  1. He never cut his hair.
  2. He walked around barefoot all the time.
  3. He started a new religion.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Native American:

  1. He was at peace with nature.
  2. He ate a lot of fish.
  3. He talked about the Great Spirit.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

  1. He never got married.
  2. He was always telling stories.
  3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all proves that Jesus was a WOMAN:

  1. He fed a crowd at a moment’s notice when there was virtually no food.
  2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn’t get it.
  3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was still work to do.

 

#Me Too?

The world is abuzz with new revelations about sexual harassment, workplace predators and all-around bad behavior.

This leads me to think about a couple of incidents from my past.  Viewed through today’s lens, they’d probably warrant a call to HR.  But — and this is not to excuse these men — the world WAS different when I was young.

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Incident #1

A suburban-dwelling supervisor stopped by my desk one evening to let me know he was going to “apartment sit” a friend’s place in the city for a few days and encouraged me to meet him there for drinks “and”. Said supervisor was married, decades older, and my direct boss.  Accepting might fast-track a promotion and certainly lead to plum assignments; refusal could turn a cordial relationship into enmity.

Unlike, say, Harvey Weinstein, there was no physical intimidation.  But the message was clear: if you want to advance, here’s one way to do it.

Incident #2

I had a tiny office and a very large, very tall boss.  One day, he came in, closed the door, and proceeded to back me up against the wall while attempting to kiss me. Physical and scary, as this man had total power over me — not just in that moment but going forward if I handled things badly.

Did I tell anyone? No. Because what good would it have done? Men had no hesitation coming on to women at work; it was almost expected and it happened a LOT. So with both bosses I tried to offer a reply that would protect their egos while I rejected them –thereby preserving our working relationship.

With boss #1, I flattered him by reminding him that I was a lot younger and said that if we became involved I’d risk falling for him, which would be a very bad idea.

He bought it.

With boss #2, I flattered him by telling him how much I liked working for him (he was brilliant) and I may have lied and said I had a boyfriend.

Was this brave? Of course not.  Just simple gut instinct that if I didn’t make a big fuss, they’d stop.  It didn’t occur to me that they might victimize someone else or that this could be a pattern; I only wanted them to leave me alone.

My questions are these:  Does every proposition by a person in authority qualify as sexual harassment? And has it become too easy to assign blame without also considering ways in which the other party might respond?

I get that a powerful person like Weinstein can intimidate the hell out of a young woman whose career might never get off the ground if she doesn’t “go along”.  But showing up at the guy’s hotel room might send the wrong signal.  And if he answers that door in his bathrobe, why in hell does she go in? Is she that naive? Or is she a participant in a quid pro quo?

I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of sexual harassment. Men who think “grabbing pussy” is a compliment, or feel entitled to treat women as objects, are disgusting. On the other hand, I wonder whether we’ve gone too far in the other direction, labeling every advance or teasing remark as harassment, which minimizes those that are.

Perhaps we should learn how to diffuse a tense situation before it gets out of control. Plus karate, in case that doesn’t work.

What are your thoughts?

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Sicily, Part 5 (Ciao! We’ll Be Back!)

Day 14-15

Since we have the parking garage from hell and are afraid that if we venture out of Taormina we’ll never get back in it,  we revise our plans to explore outside the city. No Noto… we’ll just have to come back to Sicily.

Getting to street level is a challenge (up/down many stairs, across hallways, a gate which inexplicably has the name Condominio San Giorgio on it) but we are intrepid. Or perhaps just desperate to get outside.

Highlights of these two days are buying fresh fish and veggies at the local market for dinner at home, the famous Greek amphitheater which is actually Roman, a lovely little park which is a calm oasis in the middle of this busy city (with interesting topiary, e.g. a reindeer – ? – ), shopping for some ceramics, lunching on fabulous squid/cuttlefish ink pasta, and the discovery of “brutti ma buoni” (ugly but good) cookies.

 

 

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A perfect rainbow for our last day

Day 16-17

Leaving Taormina Lux Apartments is almost as complicated. First we have to get all our stuff to the parking garage.  Then we open the security gate and DH drives outside.  Now I have to run BACK upstairs to the condo, leave the keys on the washing machine, go back down to the basement, and exit a side door because the automatic gate has closed.

Would it not be simpler for each unit to have its own number, which would also be on the keys, which could then be left in a drop box IN the garage? Just sayin’.

We drive back to Palermo and stay in a nice hotel near the airport. Have an excellent lunch, a longish walk, and repack our bags from tomorrow’s flight to Milan.

 

Day 18

We fly to Milan and check in at the Principe di Savoia, where we stayed when we were newly engaged. It’s now part of the Dorchester Group and not quite as special as it used to be but still very nice.

After checking in, we take their complimentary shuttle into town, do some errands (I need another hole punched in my new Hermès belt — even with wine, pasta and pastry I have still lost weight on this trip, woo hoo!) and explore the Museo Bagatti Valsecchi, a house shared by two very rich, very eccentric brothers and crammed with Renaissance tchotchkes and lugubrious religious artifacts.

Our favorite thing is the bathtub, which looks like a baptismal font but had hot and cold running water — the latest thing in the 19th century.

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There’s also a wonderful temporary exhibit of Jacques Henri Lartigue photos.

Returning to the hotel, we meet up with two delightful women before having dinner at Michelin-starred Acanto.

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“Deconstructed” (how I hate that word) cacio e pepe. Delish but prefer the classic version.

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After-dinner macarons and chocolates presented in this charming box.

Day 18

Fly home.  Why can’t our airports feature gelato and other treats like those in Italy?IMG-3193.JPGIMG-3214.JPGIMG-3215.JPG

Happily, all goes smoothly, the bags arrive quickly, and we immediately start planning our next trip.

Brutti Ma Buoni (Ugly but Good)

While the phrase could refer to friends, family or co-workers, in this case it’s a cookie we discovered in Sicily. Having now experimented with several recipes, I have a version to recommend.

These are very easy and would be a nice addition to the Thanksgiving menu as they are light, gluten free and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts  (aka filberts), about 8 ounces
  • 3/4 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar — I use Whey Low sugar substitute* Note: this yields slightly sweet cookies. If you prefer more sweetness, increase to 1 cup of sugar.
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for about 10-12 minutes until they are fragrant, lightly toasted and the skins blister. Remove and transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel to cool. Then rub them together in the towel to remove the skins. Warning: this is messy!
  2. Lower the oven heat to 300 degrees F.
  3. Pulse nuts in a food processor until roughly chopped. You want some big pieces. (Alternatively, crush them in a bowl– takes longer but avoids pulverizing into dust.)
  4. Transfer nuts to a bowl and mix in the sugar and salt.
  5. Whip the egg white on high setting in a stand mixture until soft peaks form and then gradually add vanilla, continuing to whip until you get medium-firm peaks. Stir this into the hazelnut-sugar mixture.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon generous-sized dollops of the “dough”, leaving 1″ of space between cookies.  They don’t spread much, if at all. Cookies can be any size you want; this amount will make about 8 large (3″) cookies or over a dozen smaller ones.
  7. Bake at 300 for 30 minutes until golden, then lower the heat to 200 and bake for another 15 minutes so they dry out and are crisp and not sticky.
  8. Cool before serving.

*A note on Whey Low. Developed for the inventor’s diabetic wife, this genius product is significantly lower in calories and glycemic index than sugar and tastes/cooks the same so no complicated calculations are needed. Only caveat: it’s pricey.

Sicily, Part 4 (The Forces Aren’t With Us)

Day 13: Surviving Taormina

We bid farewell to Sabrina and drive to our next home-from-home, Taormina, a few hours away.  This is where our best-laid-plans are totally shot to hell.

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The trip starts promisingly, as we get back to Caltanisetta without getting lost. But then…. We hit a double roundy-round and Betty wants us to take one of the exits. Well, that doesn’t work. We try EVERY GODDAMN EXIT until we realize that the one correct exit is the one that is blocked off.  Needless to say, there are no signs to help and we are stuck in Caltanisetta.

DH finally has a brainstorm:  Follow a truck because surely a truck is going to be headed for the highway, right? YES! We are out of the city and see signs for the A19 highway.

New crisis: I need a rest stop and there are none.  Betty steers us to a gas station, which has a hunk of concrete blocking the door to the restroom but do I care? No, I do not! Ignoring the man outside who is yelling in Italian (which mercifully, I do not understand) I hustle out of the john and get back in the Fiat.

Needless to say, 5 minutes after we get on the A19 there is a bonafide rest area. F’ me and thanks, Betty.

OK, our new destination is the promisingly-named Taormina Lux Apartments, with an address per booking.com of #46 San Pancrazio, which we enter into the GPS. We have arranged to meet Emanuel the condo agent and are now running 1/2 hour late but all things considered that’s not too bad.

We arrive in Taormina to see that San Pancrazio is a winding thoroughfare — very busy — with nowhere to pull over but I spy #46 and hop out of the car to ring the doorbell. Nada. It’s clear that this is not the entrance so now what??

We call and text the agent multiple times as we circle around and around in the insane traffic of San Pan-Crazy-O and are finally forced to travel up to a small area by a bakery where we can pull over.  This would be fine except that a cop keeps trying to shoo us away and a woman who has stopped for ice cream wants our parking spot.

Finally we get through to Emanuel who says he will meet us there in 10 minutes. 45 minutes later he actually shows up and we follow him to the apartment parking area which turns out to be BEHIND the street. How in hell were we supposed to know this?!?! We are now molto stressed out and more than a little irritated, especially DH who has had to drive around in circles for over an hour.

The complex itself is a maze and “helpfully”, none of the units are marked, nor is the key. But the apartment has a well stocked kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a large veranda overlooking the pool with a view of the hillside and ocean. IMG-3085

It’s now getting late so we dump our stuff and go exploring for lunch accompanied by wine, which we both desperately need at this point. Sapori di Mare hits the spot.

IMG-3078Taormina has been a vacation destination for centuries and it’s easy to see why. Despite being very touristy even at this time of year, it is extremely pretty. You just have to look up above the stores and down the little alleys to catch a glimpse of its natural beauty.

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FullSizeRender (28).jpgWe buy some cheese, wine and pastry at Pasticceria D’Amore for a simple dinner later and go back to collapse.

Not so fast. Trying to find our room in this apartment complex is like being trapped in an Esher drawing.

Up 3 levels. Down 4 levels. Across to one elevator.  Down a hallway. Back to the other elevator.  We can see where our patio is (pool level) but damned if we can figure out how to get to it.

But we do, and vow to take careful notes tomorrow of exactly how to  retrace our steps. Zzzzzz.

Sicily, Part 3 (The Saga Continues)

Day 11

Sicilian drivers fall into three categories: pazzo (“crazy”), molto pazzo, and pazzissimo (which is probably not a word.)  As DH observes, “You know you’re in a Catholic country because everyone drives with the assurance of an after-life.”

Undaunted, though, we head out for further exploration.

First up: the archeology museum at the Valle dei Templi, which involves several u-turns,  Betty’s impatient “Recalculating!”s, and pissed off locals who are honking madly as we attempt to find the parking area. Apparently, signs are for sissies.

The museum is wonderfully deserted and full of fascinating objects dating from the pre-Agrigento days of the 6th century B.C.  Many, many vases, coins, sculptural fragments and lots of images of satyrs, horses and mules with erections. (This seems to be a big theme in ancient art.)

(No, I didn’t take pics of erections. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

There are also schematics showing how the temples were constructed, and a gigantic caryatid that is very cool.

Next, we drive to Licata, which is a town that sounded promising in the guidebooks but isn’t all that interesting. The archeology museum has some good pieces but is much smaller and doesn’t have either the quality or quantity of the work in Agrigento.

We have lunch at the oddly-named but surprisingly good Old Fashion (not a typo) and also stop at a very pretty church whose blue and white “frosted” interior reminds me of Wedgewood.

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We return via Canicatti, a charming hilltop village reached after a death-defying series of hairpin turns.  Things are still closed at 3 pm so we head back to our condo, via a stop at the local bakery where I buy lots of options under the theory that 1) something may look good but be disappointing and 2) it’s a royal pain to park there.

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Cream puff, donuts, cannolo, cream-filled brioche, chocolate tarts, oh my!

Day 12

Today is devoted to the amazing Villa Romana del Casale, the lavish multi-wing home of some rich nobleman built around the 2nd-4th century A.D.

Notable for its remarkably well-preserved elaborate mosaic decoration throughout — depicting intricate scenes from history and mythology — it also boasts bathing areas believed to have featured both warm and cool water.

Some of our favorites are the elephant getting on a boat, the hunter getting gored by a pig, and the famous Bikini Girls.

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IMG-3054.JPGIMG-3057.JPGIMG-3060.JPGLunch nearby is excellent too.  And, heading home, we see sheep being herded by the side of the road.sheep-2852150_640.jpg