Florence, Italy – The Negroni cocktail!

Negroni cocktailI was reading “Girl in Florence,” blog post “A Love Letter to the Negroni Cocktail: Celebrating 100 Years of this Iconic Italian Cocktail,” and I smiled at a few points she made.

First, that this drink might look nice, but it is extremely bitter. It is an acquired taste, like drinking coffee. Second, I found her comment on friends ordering a beer and sipping it like it was a cognac amusing. I fall in that category.

In fact, last year I was visiting Italian relatives outside of Florence. We had a Sunday luncheon with aunts, uncles, cousins and their children, so there were about 20 of us. They had “one” bottle of wine on the table for all of us. I was surprised. In America the wine would be flowing — DRINK, DRINK and drink some more.

In Italy, NO, the objective of a nice dinner was not to get tipsy and drunk, but to have a little wine, while focusing on the food and good family conversation. Some children were given a few drops of wine added to their water glass.

I did not try the Negroni cocktail until a few years ago. When I went to Florence, I always stayed with my grandmother at her house. We did not go out for meals, we ate at home, no cocktails.

However, a few years ago, some American friends came to Florence, so we went out for apertivo. I saw someone having this refreshing reddish/orangey drink, given it was hot weather, I ordered the same. What a mistake! The drink was not refreshing, it was so bitter. It’s an acquired taste, I’ve ordered it over the years ALWAYS hoping for a spritz kind of taste and always disappointed. I KNOW, you’d think I would have learned my lesson, but it is a famous Italian drink; I’m Italian, I must learn to like it, right!

So, as our temperatures soar to 90 degrees today, the negroni post came as a pleasant surprise to my inbox. I am actually longing for the negroni drink a “tiny bit,” because it brings memories of Florence and I am due for a visit soon.

Ah… the Negroni!

I miss you Florence!

Ouch… you wake up to the dreaded “mysterious” shoulder pain!

Back shoulder painWe’ve all been there… we go to sleep feeling perfectly fine. However, we wake up in the morning with the worst shoulder pain imaginable. Now, I ask you, how in the heck does that happen?

I was lucky to find this photo, you can see the “exact” location of the pain. My first thought was “stress.” When I went to bed last night, was I feeling stressed about anything in particular? My mind started thinking… there was laundry to do, pack a lunch, kill the spider that keeps haunting my kitchen…

Now, with that spider, I thought of the Buddhist’s teachings of not killing bugs. When we were young (4 children), and my mother was fed up with our arguing and so on, she pulled out “The Teachings of Buddha” book and started reading different teachings while we ate dinner. This did have a calming effect on all of us. As we munched on dinner, we asked her to read another quote and another one. My Mom was THRILLED!

Buddha BookWell, one of the teachings was to NEVER kill an ant. To this day, I see any little bug and I think of the Buddha book and hesitate. If possible, I try to shoo the bug out the window!

On reflection, I determined it wasn’t the spider that caused the pain, I needed a massage.

So, I called my Ukranian girlfriend, she knows the best massage places. Sure enough, she brought me to a place where they do “deep tissue” massages. Boy, was that great and painful, all at the same time. I had a star masseuse, she really worked my shoulder. She also pulled on my toes, I almost burst out in laughter, she was really tickling me. She also scratched/massaged my head and pulled on my ears. I smiled, I thought of a mother pulling on her child’s ear asking why he/she did not finish raking the leaves!

The shoulder pain did not go away though. Hard to explain how you leave a massage feeling like every part of your body has been worked well, but that shoulder just wouldn’t calm down. It felt worse ALL afternoon… UNTIL this evening, when I realized the pain had dulled considerably.

I can actually SMILE as I write this last line. The pain is ALMOST GONE! I’ve found neck/shoulder pains usually lasts three days. We have to soldier through it, tackle any stresses we might have.

For example, that spider, I’m off to find him, fight it out, man to man… or woman to bug as this case might be.

It’s summer, exercise motivation…

Workout ShirtInspiration to exercise comes in many ways. For example, it’s summer, I love walking outside. I went to the store to find a new workout shirt. Something light colored to wear, I tend to have a lot of black workout clothes.

As I was perusing the clothes rack, I saw the most amusing shirt. I immediately smiled, thought of Ireland, leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, sitting in a pub… you get the idea. I was “tempted” to buy the shirt, because it made me feel HAPPY; unfortunately, I have never in my life worn a shirt that is cutoff and shows the midriff. Even if I wore a tank top underneath, I would keep trying to pull the shirt down. It just wouldn’t work.

So, a picture was the next best solution.

I’m still on my job hunt, which is not fun, so I need little bits of amusement like this to keep me motivated. YES, I need to have charm in my interviews to seal the deal!

Hope this gives YOU all a big SMILE today!

OFF TO WALK… I do have an extra big smile today, need to be charming, NEVER know who we might meet at any time. The other day, I met a red-winged black bird at lunch, not the Prince Charming I was looking for, but he was a very regal looking lunch companion! Gotta love surprises.

A friend or foe at lunch…

Black Bird at LunchThe weather has warmed up in Chicago, so I decided to eat my lunch outside. As I was opening my lunch this beautiful black bird flew to my table. You can see from the expression on his face that he was not there for friendly chitter-chatter.

Instead, he was a bully arriving to say, “hand over the goods!”

He was so bold that I had time to raise my camera and take this photo of him. He didn’t even move, just stood there. Since he allowed me to take this fabulous photo of him, I rewarded him with a piece of my pear. Boy, was he HAPPY. I don’t think he was expecting a juicy fruit.

Are you familiar with this bird? Share your knowledge with us. My friends say he is a red-winged black bird. Yes… No…?

Chicago: Busts salvaged from Garrick Theatre demolition

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I was walking around Chicago and came across these interesting head sculptures called, “busts.” I took these photos and did some Google searches to find out more about them.

Apparently, back in 1891, the Schiller Theater Building opened, designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan of the firm Adler & Sullivan. The theatre was funded by publisher, Anton C. Hesing and German investors to be used for German language operas and cultural events. However, it seems that the German investors pulled out, not clear why, and over the years the theatre changed names/investors several times. Final name was Garrick Theatre.

Sadly, the theatre had been in decline for many years. By 1960 the Garrick Theatre was torn down and turned into a parking lot. This was the tallest building in Chicago at this time, a beautiful building. One man, Richard Nickel, took on the mission of photographing and salvaging as much as he could of the building during the demolition.

The busts in the photos I took were saved, who these men are is unknown. Four busts on The Second City theater building have been identified as famous German men.

Wow — a simple walk turned into a walk rich in Chicago history!

Designing Dragon stamps & pop-up book… What could be more fun?

854649F9-213F-4961-B2E3-0D8142F26F93I went to buy some stamps at the Post Office. When I got to the counter, the clerk asked me what type of stamp I would like. I asked what she had. She opened her binder display and said, “Flowers, American flag, DRAGONS…”

Dragon stamps, at the post office?

Apparently, at the APS National Summer Convention Stamp Show last year, USPS unveiled these special mythological stamps. There were four designs for the FOREVER stamp.

Greg Breeding, Art Director for the U.S. Post Office designed the stamps. He worked with artist, Don Clark of Invisible Creature studio, who created the digital illustrations.

At first glance, some of the dragons appear hidden; however, as you look more closely, you can see the dragons. Here is a description for each stamp:

  • A purple dragon, orange wings, black armor on its back snaking around a white castle.
  • A green fire-breathing dragon towering over a medieval-inspired castle.
  • A wingless orange dragon weaving its way around a pagoda.
  • A black dragon, green wings/armor on its back swooping past a ship on the sea.

In addition to the stamps, Breeding and Clark also created a pop-up book to be sold at the U.S. Post Office. It’s interesting to read “how” they created the pop-up book.

Thanks to the Dragon stamps, I learned something about our U.S. Post Office. I didn’t realize we had an Art Director on staff. Most people are paying bills online now, so we don’t need many stamps or think about stamp designs anymore.

Glad I had to mail a package,

Dragon Stamps – what a surprise!

Brought me back to “Dungeons & Dragons” days…

Wedgewood looking for apprentices, keep “Made in England” alive

Wedgewood China

For years now, most companies, in all industries, have been going to Asia to produce their products. While I understand the need to cut costs, it’s also been sad to see Italian clothing/purses/table linens being made in China. Same with other products that used to be made in their original countries, everything is being outsourced to save money. In doing this, we’ve seen quality go down. There are pros/cons on each side.

It was with great interest that I read an article in Tableware International, “Wedgewood Investing New Apprentices.” Apparently, there is a demand for products with the “Made in England” label. They are recruiting apprentices and I wanted to pass this news on. The issue right now is an aging workforce and a lack of skilled laborers.

In America, the cost of College leaves students in great debt. We are taught that unless a person has a College degree, they cannot find a job. This means that trade jobs, apprenticeships, etc. are frowned upon. We need to change this mindset, so that young people can pursue jobs that they really enjoy without a stigma attached to it. Not everyone is cut out to be a student. Most students upon graduation end up working in jobs outside of their degree, unless they studied to be a lawyer, doctor, pilot, which is very degree specific.

Would love to see a revival of companies taking pride in their product, going back to the days where “quality” was critical to the brand. I am going to keep my eye on Wedgewood to see how this new apprenticeship program is working. In this tough economy and with College degrees becoming so expensive, young people need options on pursuing careers.