Monthly Archives: December 2012

Food: Italian Style

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First of all, thank you all SO much for your incredible feedback. I really appreciate you sharing what subject matter you like (and don’t), and honestly, I was so touched that many of you said you liked my voice regardless of the subject matter. Feedback received: and I will continue my Faces of ALI project for sure.

So, onto another random tangent then? 😉 This time, FOOD. Specifically, the food of Italy. Why is it SO GOOD there? Is it possible to replicate it here?

I am very lucky because Darcy has some rock star foodie friends. I’m not allowed to tell you who they are (Chinese walls and all that) but I AM allowed to share their fantastic recommendations for your next trip to Rome. Or, your virtual trip.

We got a lot of advice on Roman food before we left. The necessities to try (antipasti, spaghetti carbonara, gelato, cream puffs and the unique pizza made with potatoes) and most hilariously from one of Darcy’s contacts: tourist trap places to AVOID. When I was napping off jet lag, Darcy got some gelato and it was subpar. I said: “Did you go to that place x told us not to go, Blue Ice?” Sure enough, he had.

Our first meal was near the Trevi Fountain (tourist trap central) at Ristorante La Tavernetta 48, but it was off the beaten track: we followed pretty oil lamps down a tiny lane to find it. I ordered homemade gnocchi, a favorite of mine, but the best part of the meal was the appetizers. Zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and delicately pan fried:

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And anchovies. These tasted NOTHING like anchovies I’ve ever had before. They didn’t taste fishy or salty or smell bad: they were light and flavorful, almost like small rainbow trouts. They were served with greens and fresh herbs and olive oil, and were delish.

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There was a local bakery near our hotel (Hotel Eden) and we ate there every morning. I don’t remember the name of the place, but we began to befriend the locals we saw there: the same people were there every day. I don’t drink coffee so instead indulged in hot chocolate which tasted different: lighter, frothier, more delicate. LOVED. And we ate different pastries each day. Roman pastries were not particularly sweet. (Which I liked: I don’t like my sweets TOO sweet, YMMV). My favorite was the cream puff: light crunchy puff pastry encased a light, lemony cream made of ricotta. YUM.

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For my birthday lunch we went to Pipero Al Rex, a restaurant that had just that week received a Michelin star. Oh, it was heavenly. I ordered their famous Pasta Carbonara and it was the best dish, hands down, I had in Italy. Pasta Carbonara is one of those deceptively simple things: spaghetti, egg, bacon, lemon and pepper: but again, the quality and preparation of those simple ingredients was such that a sublime meal was created. The pasta in particular was al dente and just tasted different (and better) than any other spaghetti I’ve ever had.

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For my birthday dinner, we ate at the exquisite restaurant on the top of our hotel, which was called La Terrazza dell’Eden. It was FANCY and the view overlooked the Vatican and other beautiful sites. We ordered Lobster and pasta and it was delicious and sophisticated. We drank champagne and felt rather fabulous.

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After touring the Forum and doing a ton of walking the next day, we went to a cheap take-out place (almost a bakery) famous for its potato pizza (yes, really!) called Forno Campo de Fiori. The potato pizza was delicious and we ate siting on a fountain in the middle of the flower market. We dashed in and out of Forno a few times to get “just one more slice”…

We left Rome for Naples the following day. Naples is a tough town: as we were taking a cab to our hotel, in the middle of the day, I noticed a young couple arguing intensely on the street. Suddenly, the woman hauled off and SLAPPED the guy across the face! In front of tons of strangers! He walked away but soon returned, gesticulating madly, trying to apologize, it seemed. He must have really done something to piss her off.

Naples is pretty much acknowledged to be the best place in the world for pizza, and Darcy’s food connections all agreed: the best pizza in Naples was served at Pizzeria Starita. We had to take a cab up winding, narrow, medieval streets: the steepest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in San Francisco. Finally we arrived at a tiny restaurant that was very crowded. We were lucky enough to score a table, and readers: the pizza was perfection. The best I’ve ever had: simultaneously liquidy and crispy. I kept it simple and ordered the Margharita.

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Amazing.

After touring Pompeii, we moved on to Positano, possibly the most beautiful town I’ve ever visited. Perched on a stark cliff, the hotels and homes are architechtural feats of engineering and also charming and picturesque.

Sometimes when you travel you wander into a cliche: such was the scene when we went to the restaurant Mediteraneo. Darcy captured the cinematic moment perfectly in this short clip. That music is NOT ADDED IN: it was actually PLAYING at the time! It was like some romantic comedy come to life.

Cliched or not, the pasta was delicious here: Darcy ordered this homemade seafood pasta dish after seeing it be delivered to two locals and I ate spaghetti with tomatoes and eggplant.

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And so…I am now very hungry and wish there was a way to recreate that spaghetti! Do you have any Italian dishes that are your favorites? What are they? And please direct me to any good recipes you know of for authentic delicious meals 🙂

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Filed under cooking?!?, My Favorite Things

What On Earth To Say?

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If you read me regularly, you’ll know this blog has been fragmented since this summer. As fragmented as the cheap kaleidoscope lens I bought my son, which was quickly broken, then lost, as most of the twins’ toys are.

The truth is, I have no idea what to write anymore. How to write. Do I craft short, escapist posts of happiness and photos or long heart-wrenching missives pouring my heart out? I’ve had some middling success with this blog in the way I hoped: as an advocacy tool, an educational mechanism. The truth is, in some ways, my wounds of 2006-2010 (two losses and infertility) have healed. The truth is, those wounds will never really fully heal. The bell has been rung, I’m forever changed by the experiences. The truth is: I’ll face worse, because I won’t live forever and this world is destined to delight and depress people and all we can hope is that perhaps we experience more delight, but that’s not a given. The truth is I’d like to write about things other than infertility, too. The truth is, I don’t know that anyone wants to hear about those other things. And, fair enough. I started off writing for myself, but along the way, I began to write for others. Those I knew. Those I didn’t know. Those I wanted to reach. Those who needed to hear stories of others, ordinary but extraordinary tales of loss and love and resilience and brokenness.

I know that some of you have been bewildered by my meanderings (Fashion? REALLY?) and probably hurt by posts about my kids, something I refrained from doing before. I understand: my audience is a mix of different people, some in the trenches, some living childfree not by choice, some parenting, some having nothing to do with infertility.

I don’t know why I feel “better”, but it’s a fragile state I don’t take for granted. In fact, if there’s one phrase that defines 2012 for me, it’s gratitude. I feel lucky. Sometimes grouchy, sometimes angry, but always grateful. Just grateful for my husband and my beautiful twins. That gratitude was always there, under the surface, but it got lost along the way as I grieved for my children who would never be, for the star-crossed road it seems I alone was dealt amongst my charmed friends and acquaintances. But of course I was not alone. Because I had YOU.

And dear, dear readers: this brings me to my question. What would YOU like me to write?

– Would you like me to finish Faces of ALI? (I had at least two more profiles planned.) Do they matter?
– Do you want me to create a separate blog for all things fashion and lifestyle? Because the truth is the other thing that has made me happy in 2012 is rediscovering the superficial side of myself that was submerged for many years. I rediscovered my old love for everything sartorial: mostly this passion was reignited by my daughter, who has taken her interest in clothes to a new level by sewing and crafting.

A friend’s father once told her that she was two sides of the same knife, one that makes shallow cuts and one that delves deep. He’s Romanian and old world and survived the Holocaust as a young child, and I think there is great wisdom in aspiring to this. For me, I think the key for surviving this world (for the time I am given) is to be both: both perfunctory and possibly profound.

I really appreciate and look forward to your comments as always. I know I have not always pleased you, you have not always agreed with me, and I am sure that some of my posts made your eyes roll into the back of your head as you clicked out of my blog 😉 But please know: I have deeply valued your time and your comments over the last two years.

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Filed under Parenting After IF, personal style, What Say You?, writing

Lessons From Pompeii

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As I mentioned, Darcy’s pursuit of pleasure on our trip was learning more about the history of Italy. History is everywhere there, unavoidable: the trappings of the Etruscans, the Roman empire, the Papacy, even the Egyptians pepper the capital and cities large and small throughout the country.

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Neither of us had been to Pompeii before, but we were intrigued by the archeological site, which is living history set apart from modern civilization, a step back in time and the largest source of what we know now about how Romans lived. We hired an excellent guide, Guiseppe Galano, who spends most days in the doomed area, loving it more each day, he said. His knowledge astounded me. He could have spent 10 hours at least teaching us about the city.

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The biggest question I had about Pompeii was why was recovery not attempted by the Romans. Why had they abandoned it? Giuseppe explained that Pompeii was a like a cursed place to them, a warning, a punishment. One theory was that some Romans believed the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was a response to the Roman subjugation of Israel by Nero and the subsequent destruction of the main Jewish temple in Jerusalem nine years before.

Mt. Vesuvius is less than 1/2 of its former, pre-eruption size, but it still looms threateningly over the ruins of the city it already claimed.

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So, how did citizens live in this city? Very well, it seems. (Provided you weren’t a slave.) Many of the facilities had running water. Commerce was pursued and money mattered quite a bit, but the baths were luxurious and open to the public, a main method for people to show their wealth was to feed and help the poorest, exercise was encouraged, the arts were elevated (especially theater) and most of all, the city planners were masterful. Everything, from the smallest details like pieces of white marble (called cats eyes) placed throughout the streets to brighten the road at night, was designed to make living pleasant, balanced and enjoyable.

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Touring Pompeii made me think about the frenetic pace of American life, and now that I’m back in my “routine” of work, work, work and the overwhelming expectations of me (and everyone else), I’m sort of annoyed. The traffic, the exhaustion, the overweening ambition that surrounds us, the fast culture and the stress on being the perfect mother: none of it is much fun, is it? (Sorry to sound like a jerk: I know I have it much easier than most and I’m thrilled and lucky to be a parent, as always.) On a trip like this one, where everything is enjoyable, it reminds me that I don’t LIKE having to find the joy in the everyday. I LIKED learning, eating, walking, napping and living life well every day.

I do look forward to taking the twins on a trip to Europe soon. I think they will be ready to learn, eat and travel soon, and I anticipate that being a wonderful time.

Do you enjoy life often or is it difficult to find the joy in everyday living for you?

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Filed under Discovering joy

Italian Fashion: The Reality

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“There are so many manifestations of pleasure in Italy, and I didn’t have time to sample them all. You have to kind of declare a pleasure major here, or you’ll get overwhelmed.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Rome was a lovely break from the stoic life of an overwhelmed SAHM of twins. I chose Italy as the place to spend my birthday and our 10th anniversary because I thought we needed an indulgent, slow, languorous place to nurture ourselves and fill our souls with joy and pleasure. Italy was the right choice for all of those things.

Gilbert is right. There are so many beautiful things Italians excel at and you can easily become a sightseeing machine, which would override the whole point of enjoying Italy’s charms. I chose to major in fashion and food. Darcy: history.

I have to say that the weather forecasts were pretty off. It was colder than predicted, and I didn’t pack enough warm clothes. I layered a lot adding unfortunate bulk in photos. Or maybe that was from all the spaghetti.

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On my birthday, I dragged Darcy to the chic shops near the Spanish Steps. First up was Prada. Going inside the Prada boutique was like entering a rarified museum of couture: the pristine white walls, glossy racks and intricate shoes, coats and dresses were somewhat awe-inspiring. (As were the prices.) I saw a gorgeous full-length ivory silk dress and remarked to Darcy that here was a gown that could be worn at the Oscars. “I’m sure it will be,” he responded.

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We stuck to the Italian shops, going to Gucci, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, Tods, Ferragamo and Valentino. To see items in person that I have seen in magazines or on fashion bloggers was a kick. I saw these shoes in person and they looked absolutely lethal.

I loved Dolce & Gabbana, where the prices were even more fearsome than Prada, but the overall atmosphere was so Italian: full of lace, corset dresses and chic sunglasses. I seriously considered buying a leopard print bag, but sticker shock put me off.

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I do consider handbags (and shoes to a lesser extent) good buys. I don’t love jewelry (most doesn’t look good on me, even if I think the above Bulgari necklace is pretty fantastic) but an excellent classic handbag is something I can pass down to my daughter and would consider an investment. So I looked at the bags seriously.

After checking out the HIGH fashion, we went to a more realistically priced shopping area where I picked up a cheap faux fur turban. I thought it was rather fabulous, but mostly it kept me warm.

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EVERYONE was wearing a coat like this, by the way. It was quite possibly the definitive fashion item of Italy. Honestly, I wish I had brought one. It would have cut the chill significantly!

Do you “major” in one area when you visit a place? If so, what is it?

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Filed under Design, personal style

“The Air Fell Empty”

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“…there was nothing we could do, and the air fell empty as it had been before we came…”

Per Petterson, Curse the River of Time

The above quotation describes a failed political demonstration, one last gasp after years of similar demonstrations have made no impact. When I read this, my chest felt tight. I worry that the air will always be empty when it comes to education about infertility, loss and adoption.

I understand this post may upset some or even many but after two years of plugging along trying to make a difference, trying to use words (my weapons of choice) to convince, persuade, create empathy and aid political action along with many others, I feel like very little has changed. Small victories yes (several thanks to our own Athena Keiko Zoll): the PETA protest, the New Hampshire bill not passing, the Ricki Lake rebuttal, the positive education I think Bill and Guiliana Rancic have done. But for each small tick in the box, there are many New York Times (our newspaper of record) articles marginalizing the suffering and focusing solely on the sensationalistic issues. Despite my series, I haven’t seen one sympathetic profile of just a woman or man going through infertility and what that it is like in any mainstream publication. Instead, we read this.

As ALI bloggers, we preach to the choir, and it is of comfort that there are others out there suffering too who can lift us up.

Yet for every blogger seeking comfort, at least 3,000 of them on Mel’s blogroll, there are literally millions more suffering in silence. We all know the numbers. I was once one.

This is going to be controversial, but I have to say that it seems the national institutions that are supposed to be helping are somewhat aloof, or maybe they are tied down with their own problems. Maybe the traditional media is drowning them with stories they are constantly responding to, but I have to say that other than pleas to call my local congresspeople (which I faithfully complete) I don’t feel a lot of momentum from them. There’s no electrifying force behind them, like, for example, the grassroots movement that got President Obama elected. Why? So many of us are passionate about educating others. I think if we could be mobilized, maybe we’d have a chance.

I don’t want the air to be empty. But sadly, I worry it is.

Infertility, by most accounts, is only going to affect more people as time moves on. Why do so few people seem to care? Why are our cries deafened by the night? Do you think there is anything we can do?

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Filed under Infertility