Italy–Rome


Where have I been?  Italy, on a trip planned for months, a trip with friends and family centered around a group of women writers with The Story Circle Network, a group focused on women telling their stories.  Yes, we had classes and wrote every day.  When we were not writing, we discovered a little part of Italy.  The first half day we strolled through ancient Rome, starting with the Coliseum.

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To the left of the Coliseum stands this arch–see a bit of the Coliseum on the right side of this photo.

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The Coliseum is so large that it is impossible to take of photo of all of it at once.  We were there on a holiday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside.  We did not go inside.

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The arch in the first photo seen from the side.

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On the other side of the Coliseum facing down a wide pedestrian only boulevard.  Many of the following photos were taken along this boulevard.  The trees in these photos are umbrella pines.  They are everywhere in Rome and other parts of Italy south of Rome.

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My daughter and grandson strolling along with friends in the background.

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One of the things I found most enjoyable strolling along were the street musicians:  One played classical guitar music, farther down the boulevard another was playing popular music while another man danced to it. I wanted to stop and dance along but everyone was walking fast away from me.  Getting lost in Rome did not seem to be a great idea.

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While sauntering along, I turned around and took a photo of the Coliseum in the distance.

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In one short walk in Rome, I saw so many things from thousands of years of history, it was hard to fathom.

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Away from the boulevard and walking toward Trevi Fountain, we saw this memorial.  It was a rainy, stormy day.  I kept thinking it is going to rain but it didn’t. In many places, the ancient, the not so ancient, and the new could all be seen in one place.

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And, of course, one of the most famous places in Rome.  We found a little restaurant near here.  I had my first Italian cappuccino and a delectable desert which I tried to find everywhere else we went but did not. It was in a little cup, 2/3 was a creamy bottom, 1/3 was berries on top.

 

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Walking along another route.  I seem to have a little problem taking photos, walking, and keeping my fingers away from the iPAD mini frame while taking some of these photos.  So much seen in a mere half day in Rome.  Shortly after lunch, visiting the Trivi Fountain, and passing by the above monument, we headed on the four hour road trip to Sorrento.

I could not resist taking a video of the lush emerald Italian countryside south of Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher Tales


Sometimes a teacher’s work seems to never end and, honestly, it keeps me from posting here as often as I might like.  At the same time, it provides me with endless joy and entertainment.  The last couple of days brought lots of laughter.

I teach 8th – junior English and Spanish 1 and 2.  This past Friday, Spanish 1 class became the site for lots of laughter.  We were practicing translating sentences from English to Spanish.  To date they have learned to say what they like, sentences about the weather, write about time, and to use the two “to be” verbs used in Spanish among other things.  Somehow in the process of describing a person using a variety of adjectives they have been taught, one of the students blurted out, ” I think old people are ugly.” I said, “So you think I am ugly?”  This caused a minor uproar with laughter and indignation.  In an attempt to make the situation better, he continued, “No, I mean people over 60.”  I repeated, “So you think I am ugly?”  By this time everyone was laughing, including me, protesting his attitude.  He started to try to wriggle out of that one when I pointed out that it might be better if he kept quiet.  He started to say something about wrinkles but that got shut down by the other students.

Just before all this,  his younger brother came into the classroom.  He is the student who wrote a page-long poem about my hair last year.  He said to his brother, “What is wrong with you?  She is beautiful.”  Then walked out of the room.

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By this time everyone was laughing and talking except the student who made the original remark about old people and a few were shouting at him about his awful attitude.  By the way, in case you do not know, the word for ugly in Spanish is feo or  fea, depending on whether you are describing a male or female.

This weekend I read 50 or so book reports.  One of them included this statement in response to the question, “What did you learn from this book?”  “I learned it is sometimes fun to be bad.” The student was referring to the book, “Tom Sawyer.”

I have no clue how to respond to that remark.

 

 

 

California Dreaming–Part Two


My friends and I spent the last two days of my California sojourn driving to and staying in San Francisco where they have an apartment.  I had not been in this part of San Francisco before and some things there surprised me.  Next to their apartment building resides a grocery where we went shopping for some salad items and cheese.  Much to my astonishment most prices were no greater than in Amarillo Texas, near where I live.  Some items were cheaper.  Who would have thought?  Not me.

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On the road to San Francisco.

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The view from their apartment.

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The purpose of our going to San Francisco rather than staying near Carmel was to see the new opera, “if I were you”, commissioned by Merola Opera.  It is a modern retelling of the Faust story.  The devil is female and much to my astonishment sung/acted by a young woman, Cara Collins, from Amarillo, Texas.  The director, a good friend of my hosts, informed me that Cara’s teacher, Mary Jane Johnson who is famous throughout the opera world, was there also.  That saying about how small the world is seemed all too true.

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After the opera several of us went to a French restaurant where the waiter spoke several languages.  I felt a bit envious.

After breakfast the next morning, we took a walk to Alamo Square and to The Mill, a famous coffee shop.

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A view of City Hall through the trees.

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Above:  the Painted Ladies.

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Latte at The Mill.

Then off to my flight home.

 

 

California Dreaming–Part One


Not dreaming, real.  My college roommate and husband (we all went to Grinnell College in Iowa together) moved to California a number of years ago.  We take turns visiting each other at least once a year or take a trip somewhere together.  This year was my turn to visit them.  First, I stayed at their house near Carmel.

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Taken later in the day after the fog lifted. They live where fog creeps in during the night and burns off slowly.

 

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Late one morning we drove to Big Sur for lunch at Nepenthe.  The name really fits.  It is Greek for pain free or painless.  Definitely this place makes everyone feel wonderful, especially the views.

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Succulent heaven resides in this area and around San Francisco.  Here are photos of a few near the shop below the restaurant.

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On another day, we drove through the Salinas Valley to Salinas to visit the house where John Steinbeck lived and the John Steinbeck Museum.  The following views show fields along the way.  This is lettuce country.  The majority of the lettuce consumed in the US grows in this valley.

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Taken from the car window.

The following is a photo of the John Steinbeck House.

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Volunteers dressed in costumes of the time serve a lovely lunch.

 

From an elevation nearly sea level, another day we drove on a gravel road up into the mountains above Carmel Valley to an elevation of 5000 ft.  About half way to the monastery at the end of the road, the road enters Los Padres National Forest.

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The pine trees in this area bear huge pine cones.  The tree here and a similar one in the previous photo possess unique trunks, limbs, and foliage.  I never learned the species of either. There is a parking area and some hiking trails.  While not particularly difficult, the trail we took goes up and down and can be a bit steep in places.  The views are spectacular.

Summer Reading


IMG_3957Last year I joined Now Read This, the online bookclub sponsored by PBS and The New York Times.  Why did I join?  To expand my exposure to books I might not otherwise read, to learn, to explore, to interact with others reading the same books.

I rarely read fantasy or science fiction.  This summer has become an exception.  The June choice, The Fifth Season by Jemisin, won the Hugo in 2016.  The other two books in the trilogy won in 2017 and 2018.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I read them all.  The spine says Fantasy.  I think they are more science fiction.  Even people who claimed they did not like either fantasy or science fiction became like me and read them all.  This series tells a futuristic tale extremely applicable to events, both social and political, in the world today, how prejudice kills both overtly and covertly,  how fear of those who are different affect everyone, what it costs to live in a world where certain attitudes exist.

It took me two days to finish the July title even with chores, touchup house painting, all the things teachers attempt to do during summer break.  Although I had previously read at least three books by Luis Alberto Urrea, I had not read this one, The House of Broken Angels about a family who lives back and forth across the border–San Diego and Tijuana.  It is a tragic-comedy about the endurance, hopes, dreams, cooking, living of several generations.  His non-fiction book, The Devil’s Highway, is a must read for those who want to understand what occurs along the US-Mexico borderlands.

In the midst of all this, I went back and reread Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.  Wow, no wonder it caused a stir when it was published in the 1960s: a whole country where everyone switches back and forth between male and female and those who cannot do this are considered perverts.  Additionally, the main character is described as having very dark brown skin and those who do not behave exactly as they should or politically protest are sent off to a stark camp where they work in excessive cold and eventually die.

Then I read an article about Toni Morrison and authors who do not write for people based on a certain audience, e.g. black, white.  They write about what they know, what they feel, for a different purpose. One book listed was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a fantasy, all of which takes place in what we now think of as Nigeria. It has not one single white character in it.  I kept thinking, wow.  I read a lot of literature from Africa, Middle East, and Latin America.  Most of the time, for better or worse, characters from other cultures show up, usually European and usually for the worse.  Not in this one.  If you go to a book store looking for it, look in Young Adult.  Jemisin’s can be found in Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.  When I mentioned to someone I could not tell why some are categorized one way and some another, I was told there is less graphic sex in YA.  Really?  I cannot tell the difference.

Next on my list?  I annually act as a judge in a literary contest.  Three novels arrived in yesterday’s mail.  Guess I need to get busy.

 

Vacationing in New York City-Part One


Earlier in June, my daughter, grandson, and I went to NYC for ten days.  We had no particular plans, stayed about three blocks from the East River in Midtown, conveniently only a couple of blocks from the subway so going up and down Manhattan was easy.  We did not do a lot of the usual touristy things.  Mostly we wandered around, exploring.

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This is a view from the hotel room on the 18th floor.  Yes, there are people living in some of these buildings, complete with patios, patio furniture, and in some cases plants.

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The first evening we traveled way downtown, got off the subway at Spring Street, and walked to a soba noodle place which had many vegetarian options–my grandson is vegetarian. We liked it so much we intended to go back but somehow never accomplished that. I would recommend this place for those who like Korean, Japanese, etc. food.  Sadly, I do not recall the name.

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The next day we went downtown again and did something touristy, had lunch in Little Italy.  We had no idea which restaurant to pick so picked this one:  Caffe Napoli.  My grandson liked their cheese ravioli with marinara sauce so much, he ate two entire platefuls.  I had the beet salad.  I am not a bread eater normally but liked theirs so much with the olive oil and herbs that I could not stop eating it. This place was a hit for us so we went back in the evening several days later.

After lunch we took a very long walk through Soho over to Washington Square Park. We spent quite a lot of time there people watching.

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If you have heard of the college, New York University (NYU), and have never been there, you might be surprised to discover it does not have a campus in the usual sense.  Its “campus” is comprised of buildings around and near this park.

Twice we ate at a place close to the hotel:  Clinton Hall at 230 East 51st Street.  They have good veggie burgers and a giant salad served in a huge beer stein, among a variety of options.  They also provide all sorts of games you can play while waiting on food, etc. I would not recommend this place near or on the weekend, however, unless you like loud.  It is a very popular hangout for young, professional people and was so noisy then that we could not even talk to each other without shouting.

One touristy thing we did was take the subway uptown to Central Park and eat lunch at Tavern On the Green.  The salmon patty was excellent.  It was a sunny day, the guests seemed happy except for one man who demanded to be seated in a part of the restaurant that was closed.  He did not succeed. The meal was good, the atmosphere sunny and pleasant. It was relaxing and fun.

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Three times we went uptown to the Barnes and Nobles on 86th Street. We also visited the one at 555 Fifth Avenue.  We are book people, and it seems we end up at book stores everywhere we travel.  My grandson had to stop buying books because of concerns about luggage being over the weight limit. The most unique bookstore we visited is Kinokuniya just across from Bryant Park.  I highly recommend this place.  Not only do they have all sorts of books both in English and Japanese, but they also sell various Japanese art items some of which are very beautiful.  I had to seriously restrain myself. My daughter and I sat in their cafe, I drank matcha latte, and we watched the activities across the street in Bryant Park while grandson explored the huge graphic novel area.

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Day Trip to Wineries and a Lebanese Restaurant Near Lubbock, Texas


Yesterday,  Martina, my exchange student from Italy, and I drove to Lubbock so I could say goodbye to Venty, the young woman from Indonesia, whom I co-sponsored at Texas Tech University in conjunction with the teachers’ sorority Alpha Delta Kappa.  She received her Masters in Applied Linguistics recently.  She will return to her home in what used to be called the Spice Islands later in June.

First, we decided to try something new for lunch.  Neither had eaten much food from the Eastern Mediterranean area so we went to Manara.  For appetizers we ordered falafel, dolma, and baba ganoush, none of which they had eaten before.  After enjoying these appetizers, two of us ordered the kafta kabob dinner and one ordered the chicken.  Although the salad was rather ordinary, the saffron rice was heavenly.  The kabobs had somewhat different spices than the kabobs I have previously eaten but were fine.  They were served with two sauces:  garlic yogurt and another which was quite spicy.  We enjoyed both. If you want to try something different while in Lubbock, I recommend this restaurant.  I would go there just to eat the saffron rice.

Second, once I discovered that Venty did not know there are vineyards and wineries near Lubbock, we decided to take a run over to Caprock and Llano Estacado Wineries.  Llano has recently opened an expansive new tasting room.  Caprock is still called Caprock Winery, but the wine produced there is called English Newsom Cellars.  The following photos were taken at Caprock and Venty’s house.

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On a Ranch Working Cattle


Today Martina, my exchange student from Milano, Italy, and I went with my students of the Wildorado Cattle Company to work cattle on a ranch west of Amarillo.   When I posted this on Facebook, a city friend asked what does working cattle mean.  These were calves of various sizes, both male and female, all Angus.

First, a person on horseback heels a calf (ropes it by its hind feet) and drags it to the branding area.  Then, depending on the size of the calf, a few persons flank it (hold it down) while a person gives it shots, e.g. vaccines, vitamins, another brands it with a hot iron, and someone else ear tags it.  If it is a male, its testicles are cut off. Having raised cattle, this was not new to me.  However, for a girl from Milano, it was the definitive Texas ranching experience.

I think we worked over a hundred calves during the morning which started at a chilly 47 with a strong West Texas wind.  Later, in the afternoon it warmed up about 30 degrees.  The wind just now finally quit; it is 8:54.  Here are a couple of photos of the day’s activities.

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Three people from the National Angus Association headquartered in St. Joesph, Missouri, were there making a documentary.  Although currently I live in the country in the Panhandle of Texas, I grew up on a farm about 30 miles from St. Joesph.  Small world.