Learning Italian, German, Spanish & French through Fairy Tales

50A7B344-C434-4DD4-AC4F-B27EB30FDACEDon’t you love it, when you find a great website by accident! That happened to me the other day. I was searching for an Italian recipe, but I wasn’t finding what I wanted. So, I kept clicking “here” and “there” and suddenly I came to a website for “learning Italian.”

The site is called, “The Italian Experiment.” I noticed that they also have the “same” site in German, Spanish and French. In ALL of these languages they take three fairy tales and translate them into the foreign language you choose, and even better, they have audio where someone reads the story to you!

98A2742D-110E-4D00-9807-805E5E33734EAs you listen to the story, you can hear how they pronounce the words. Excellent! If you have “no idea” what the reader is saying, there is a button that says, “translate,” if you click that the English translation appears.

I chose the Italian version and listened to “The Three Little Pigs.” You can listen to them tell the story here. While I can speak Italian fairly well, I’ve got to say the words in this story had me lost and this is a short book. Yikes, I need to practice.

In part of the story they say in English, “the first little pig,” which translated in Italian is, “il primo porcellino.” You have to hear the translator read these words, it is very cute sounding. Suddenly the little porcellino seems like your best friend.

This site has a review for an online language course called, “Rocket Italian.” They give it 4.5 Stars. I went to the Rocket Italian website, it seems good. I’ve been wanting to practice Italian and build up my vocabulary. Maybe I will rock my Italian by taking the Rocket Italian course! I like the name “rocket,” makes me think if I pass the course, I will be ejected to Florence and find myself in a beautiful cafe!

Gotta hope!

Authentic Italian cooking…

italian-pound-cakeIf you’ve been to Italy, you know that Italians have desserts, but they are simple and not so sweet. In fact, when I was young my Italian mother would make a basic sheet cake and only sprinkle powdered sugar on top — absolutely NO frosting! Of course, if it was a birthday, she would buy the traditional American birthday cake. Normally though, she would make just a plain cake. When she got “fancy,” she made pineapple upside down cake or strawberry short cake.

Years ago, I was in Italy and my mother said, “Let’s go visit, Silvana.” Off we went. As it was a visit, Silvana made us coffee and brought us a slice of cake that looked like this photo. My mother and I loved the cake. We asked Silvana for the recipe, it was a dry type of pound cake. Silvana said she made the cake from memory, no recipe, so it was hard for her to tell us the exact ingredients, but she tried.

Once at home, my mother and I tried to make the cake, but it was no good. Years have gone by, and I have not found a good recipe UNTIL a few months ago. An Italian friend posts different recipes on Facebook. She had a link to a website called, “An Italian in My Kitchen.”  This Blogger is from Toronto. She moved to Rome 20 years ago. She shares Italian recipes that she learned from her Italian mother/n/law. They are very good AND I think you would enjoy the stories she shares too.

On her site, she has a recipe for an “Italian Fresh Cream Lemon Cake.” It’s EXACTLY like Silvana’s cake!  Finally, it took a few years to find, but I have the recipe. I wrote a comment thanking this Blogger for making me so happy and bringing back Italian memories. She told me her daughter’s favorite cake is the “Easy Yogurt Cake,” which I will have to try next.  Thanks to Facebook for making sharing with our friends in different countries so easy!

Buon appetito!

Amazon Go -> Use their App, shop at convenience store with no cashier!

iphone-shoppingAmazon has done it again, another new business idea. Have you heard, they have come out with Amazon Go, a new way of shopping by using the Amazon Go App. Right now, Amazon has a small test site close to their headquarters in Seattle. Amazon employees started testing this new technology at the beginning of December 2016. Their goal is to open this to the public early 2017.

Here’s how it works. You download the Amazon Go App, enter the convenience store where they sell bread, eggs, drinks, sandwiches, coffee, etc., put what you want to buy in your bag and “merely” walk out of the store. Shortly after you leave the store, you receive a receipt for your purchases from Amazon. Easy as that!

It’s interesting technology, watch how this works on YouTube video published by Amazon, “Introducing Amazon Go and the world’s most advanced shopping technology.


Seattle’s Space Needle

How many of you watched the cartoon show, “The Jetsons,” when you were young. If you did, you’ll remember how space age and into technology the show was, really futuristic. The show’s look was inspired by the Space Needle in Seattle and they lived in the sky to get away from the smog.

If you are not familiar with the show, see this YouTube video called, “The Jetsons Future of Technology,” where someone spliced together some clips from different episodes to show how the writer saw us using technology in the future in the 1960s…  and now over 50 years later it’s becoming a reality.

Stay tuned, let’s see when Amazon Go goes public!

The Pantone Color Institute has spoken. The color of the year is GREEN!

pantone-color-greenHave you ever thought about how the color of the year is chosen?  I’ve always wondered, but as I am not in the design industry never looked into it. However, throughout the years, I would walk through stores “thinking,” I guess this year it is egg plant purple, sunny yellow, cherry red, etc., because every store was using the same color for their products.

I’d either be excited and spend money on a new pillow I didn’t need, because I loved the color OR I would frown and say, “NEVER would I buy dishes in grey.”  Not my color palette. Good way to save money, if you don’t like the color of the year, you don’t make frivolous purchases.

So, you are thinking, “How is the color of the year chosen?”

There’s a company called, “Pantone Color Institute,” and they are known for color forecasting. Companies hire them for help with understanding color trends, color branding, and choosing a color strategy.

They came up with the Pantone Matching Color System as seen in photo, which standardized the ability to reproduce exact shades of a color between companies/manufacturers by using a specific Pantone number for each color created. So, basically, if you want to have a specific “blue” for the print on your business card, you would email the printer the specific “Pantone #” for the blue shade you want. No need to go into the printer’s office. Your blue color would print out perfectly!

The Pantone Color Institute started choosing the color of the year in 2000. Why were they chosen to choose the color of the year?  This is not clear in my research. It seems that since they own the Pantone color palette, they are considered color experts. They make their yearly choice by looking at color trends during the year. This year they chose green as they had the feeling people wanted to be closer to nature.

If you want to learn more about “the color of the year,” do a quick Google search. There are several interesting articles on this.

I hope you like green. We will be seeing GREEN in everything, i.e. fashion, home goods, interior design… probably cars too!

Luckily, I don’t mind green, it’s the color of nature. I can live with that!

Can you?

Nashville – Go see Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945 – 1975

old-fiat-in-italyIf you love old cars, you have to hurry! Nashville is having a fantastic auto show called, “Bellissima! (translation: gorgeous) The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945 – 1975.  The show is at The Frist Center for Visual Arts and ends October 9th, 2016. Sorry for the short notice.

italian-map-bootThis tour of 19 Italian built automobiles is post-World War II era. They are designed by Alfa Romeo, Ducati, Bizzarrini, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lancia and Maserati. You’ll see Italian coachbuilt cars, concept cars and motorcycles from the economic revival period known as “The Italian Economic Miracle.” From what I have read, The Italian Economic Miracle was given this name by historians to indicate a time in history when Italy was flourishing. Italians are known for fashion; however, did you know they also produced type writers, washing machines, refrigerators, plastics, sewing machines, and inexpensive motor scooters. They were known for their elegant designs and inexpensive production techniques at this time. The Italians do have a sense of style in anything they do…. AND food/music, we enjoy it all!

If you love Italy, like I do, and are curious about Italian history, I encourage you to CLICK on the links above. Learn a little bit about Italy.

What I find amazing about these cars is that quite a few of them look “space age,” which is where we are headed now with car designs. So, if you are in the Nashville neighborhood, bring your espresso coffee with you and tour through a piece of Italian history AND do me a favor, find out “how” they chose Nashville for this tour, I’m curious!

The $100 Golden Donut



The $100 Golden Cristal Ube Donut at Manila Social Club. (MANILASOCIALCLUB VIA INSTAGRAM)

There is something comforting about donuts. We like them at work in the morning, on the weekend and who doesn’t remember after a College party wanting to stop for a donut on the way back to the dorms.

So, I knew my daughter was homesick when she said she was Googling donuts. While her Googling results did not find a place open in Ireland for late night delivery, she did come across the donut of all donuts. A golden donut, which costs $100 out of Brooklyn… and we both laughed with relief, because they do not ship Internationally yet!

In this Youtube video created by Barcroft TV, click here, you can see how Björn De La Cruz, executive-chef and co-owner at the Manila Social Club in Brooklyn, New York decided to create this luxurious eatable masterpiece.

I know… some of you are fainting, some of you are in an uproar saying your Dunkin’ Donuts at 99 cents is good enough and you would NEVER pay $100 for a donut, but before you write this off, consider that luxury and decadence comes at a cost. My daughter is into baking, so for her trying this donut would be “worth it” to find out WHAT a luxurious donut really tastes like. Now, we could be economical about this. Let’s say we ordered this golden donut to celebrate the New Year and we had 10 friends visiting. That would break down the individual cost of the donut to $10 each. Now, we’d have to be really accurate in cutting the donut into 10 individual bites, so we wouldn’t lose even one flake of gold. THEN we would make a toast and each eat our bite at the same time bringing in the New Year!  Eating gold on New Year’s Eve should indicate a prosperous New Year is ahead, YES?

So, I ask you… Is a golden donut worth $100?   What’s on your Bucket List?

My First Race – Dragon Boat Racing

IMG_3594I heard a team captain say they were “short” one woman to be able to form a team for the Dragon Boat races that were coming up, so I shyly raised my hand.  DONE – I was part of the team!

Our day started at 5 AM on Saturday. We had to drive to the location, set up and prepare for the day’s events. A group got there before us and set up our tents. We all brought food for a pot luck and stored our bags, paddle, etc.  FYI: Never forget your towel and change of clothes. You do get wet, it’s fun, but not if you can’t change your clothes on a cold day.

IMG_3601When we practice we do not have a dragon head on our boat, so I was curious to see how this would look.  I didn’t realize that there is a real drum on the boat too. For those of you who do not know much about dragon boat racing I’ll fill you in. There are 20 paddlers to a boat. The first two paddlers at the front of the boat are called, “the strokes,” they set the pace for the boat.

The drummer uses the drum to set the pace of the strokes, so this person must have a loud voice for all of us to hear. When we are paddling it’s easy to get distracted by the boats next to us and their drum beats. I also learned that you lose time if you look up to see “how” you are doing in the race, best to stay focused and give your strokes ALL you’ve got. Finally, there is the steerperson at the back of the boat, who steers the boat and also gives IMG_3609commands to the paddlers. Here is a glossary of Dragon Boat terms.

We raced about 500 meters in 2.5 minutes. There were four boats racing at once and it took a little time to get us ALL lined up. I know 2.5 minutes might not seem long, but imagine how you feel when you are doing “planks” at the gym. You start out strong and then your arms get tired and it takes everything you’ve got to keep in the plank position. Same with paddling, you force yourself to continue paddling through the pain and finish STRONG. That’s where the drum beat comes in, it keeps the team focused.

BAD NEWS – We didn’t win!

GOOD NEWS – We had a lot of fun, we worked as a team and after our 3rd time out, we improved our time, and we finished STRONG!  It was a great day!   GO TRY IT!

Grandma… Absolutely not!

imageWhat is it with the names Grandma and Grandpa that make us feel so old? While I am not a grandmother yet, I remember when my daughter was born I told my mother we would call her Nonna or Nonina like her mother. My mother’s response, “Absolutely not!” To my mother being called, “Nonna” was the equivalent of being called, “Grandma” – way, way too old sounding.

I had just given birth to my daughter and it was hard enough deciding on a name for her and now I had my mother who wasn’t sure “what” she wanted to be called?!

When I calmed down, I admit I thought…”Well, we can’t call her “Nonina,” because that is what we call her mother. We can’t call her “Nonna,” because that sounded so terribly boring and formal and my mother had a youthful personality. As I thought about how cute “Nonina” sounded suddenly the name “Noni” popped in my mind.  YES, that was it, my mom would be called, “Noni!” And luckily my mother agreed that “Noni” was acceptable.”

Here is the frustrating part. While I was teaching my daughters to call my mother “NON-knee,” my younger brother was teaching his children to call my mother “NO-knee.” To me that sounded awful… like my mom had “no knee.” I was too far away to correct this.

I thought about this yesterday as I was reading a WSJ article on this very topic called, “PopPop or Skipper? The Grandparent Name Dilemma.” It was an amusing article. There is a trend for Grandparents wanting to “choose” their name. Grandparents.com has an online name generator, so you can have fun seeing what they come up with. My generated name was “Mama Monicadee.” This name reminds me of my daughter who LOVED Manga, the Japanese comics, I could be a super ninja grandma – I like it!

Don’t they say history repeats itself and that, in the end, we act like our parents?

Well, for sure I don’t want to be called, “NO-knee,” but I’m liking the “Mama Monicadee” name…

Stay tuned!