Summer has arrived as temperature in our neck of the woods is now climbing consistently into the 80’s Fahrenheit. Though the official start of summer, which is the summer’s solstice – the longest day of the year, is not until tomorrow. I am sure our mercury will rise above 90’s F (above 32 C) or even in the 100’s F (37.5 C and above) in the days to come.
Here are some of the summer colors I captured in the past week:
The first photo was taken in downtown Kansas City, when we made a stopover here on our way to visit our son who is working for two months in a summer camp in Missouri.
The next photo was taken in the downtown Botanical Garden here in Des Moines when we checked it out a few days ago.
My wife also got new planters and have started planting annual flowers that hopefully will not just last for the dog days of summer but late until the cold winter wind blows. Here are some flowers in our deck:
The photo below was taken two days ago when I drove down to southern Iowa for our outreach clinic. As you can see, even a summer’s day can become foggy, dull, and gloomy.
However. even if the day gets gray, there is still a possibility of beautiful colors shining through. And that is true in all aspects of our life. Photo below was taken from our front porch:
I am wishing you all a fun, delightful, and colorful summer.
Italian cuisine is one of the best among the world’s cuisine. It is one of the most popular and most copied type of food as well. And where can you find the best authentic Italian food? In Italy of course!
When we visited Italy last month, we covered most of the country, from the northern region, with cities like Milan and Venice, to the central region which is Tuscany, including the cities of Pisa and Florence, and to the southern region, in Rome and even down to the Amalfi coast.
By the way, we avail the services of JDC Private Tours when we were in Italy, that’s why we were able to visit so many places and packed so many activities in such a short period of time. I was more than happy and have only compliments of their business.
Part of our trip of course was sampling authentic Italian food. Their cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and south of the Italian peninsula.
Overall, the Italian foods that we ate, from the ‘street’ and on-the-go food to the long sit-down fine dining with 5-course dinner, (one evening we’re treated out by a friend from Rome and we ate dinner for almost 2 hours!), and from the appetizer like bruschetta, to the dessert like tiramisu, were all very good. It was really a delightful gastronomical experience.
Here in the United States, when we talked about Italian food, we think mostly of pizza and pasta. However, many of the “Italian” food we have here are somewhat modified to cater to the American taste.
For instance, when we went to one local restaurant in Rome, there was a note in their menu that says, “we don’t serve spaghetti with meatballs, fettucini alfredo, and lasagna.” That was interesting. Perhaps that’s all the American tourists order, and to the locals those were not even really authentic Italian dishes.
To say that Italy have many kinds of pasta, is an understatement. After all it is the mecca of pasta. But one thing peculiar is all their pasta are served “al dente.” Meaning it is really firm, teetering to raw, that you have to bite and chew it before you can swallow.
Another thing is that the Italian pizza is not served pre-sliced. They give it to you as a whole piece, fresh from the wood-burning oven, and they give a fork and a knife for you to slice it yourself. I heard that when they first introduced pizza in New York City long long time ago, somebody had the bright idea of serving it by the slice and made more money from it. Since then pizza in the US is served pre-sliced.
In one restaurant we went to in northern Italy, I was impressed on how many types of sauce or variation they have for pizza. The menu had 3 pages just for pizza! And Hawaiian pizza? That’s not even in the menu, because as you can surmise, that’s an American version of an Italian dish.
As a Filipino who grew up in Manila, I also have a different concept of an Italian dish. My favorite is the Greenwich pizza, which I understand is a Filipino brand of pizzeria. Furthermore, I used to think that spaghetti always have a sweet-tasting sauce, just like how my mother prepares it, which is close to the taste of spaghetti in Jollibee, the largest Filipino chain of fast-food restaurants.
When I migrated to America more than 20 years ago, the first time we dined in an “authentic” Italian Restaurant in New Jersey named Trattoria, I was a little surprised that the spaghetti tasted “sour.” In fact me and my wife looked at each other and said to ourselves, maybe the sauce was spoiled as it tasted different. That was an ignoramus moment for us.
Back to our tour of Italy, we landed in Milan airport and stayed in Milan for two nights. On our first day, we were so tired and jet-lagged that my son and daughter went to sleep without having dinner. But my wife and I, despite being tired, felt the hunger pangs and so we went out to eat.
Since we were in the heart of the city of Milan, there were several decent restaurants around our hotel. In fact in our hotel itself was a good ‘ristorante,’ but my wife and I wanted to explore the city. And lo and behold, just walking two blocks from where we were staying, we found what we were looking for.
We were excited as we enter the restaurant. Then we ordered our very first meal in Italy. I understand that you cannot go wrong if you order pasta in Italy, and that’s what I did. I ordered spaghetti. And when I tasted the spaghetti, it was all what I envisioned. It was good.
In case you are wondering what restaurant we went to for our first Italian dinner?
It was Jollibee!
(*Jollibee opened in Milan last year, and was the first ever Jollibee branch and only one so far in Europe.)
This period is one of my favorite time of the year when it’s not too cold and not too hot either. Plus the flowers are blooming. Smelling flowers are much more enjoyable than shoveling snow, you know.
I would like to share some photos of what are blooming now in our garden, that have not been eaten yet by the deer or the wild rabbits.
Purple allium and white alliums:
By the way, Allium is the Latin word for garlic. As you can surmise these plants belongs to the family of onions, garlic and shallots. Since these blooms are in the family of onions, they have the trademark smell.
Peony is named after Paeon, the Greek god of medicine and healing. I don’t know if these flowers have curative properties. But one thing for sure, they are fragrant and maybe that’s healing enough.
These large flowers last about two weeks only, so might as well take the opportunity to gather them and display them inside as well.
Below are flowers not from our garden but from a grocery store. I included them here since I like my photo of it.
Despite allergies and all, there’s one unwritten rule in our household: No fake flowers allowed.
The last photo is the harvested peonies. And a selfie of course.
(*Credit to my wife, the master horticulturist; all photos taken with an iPhone)
Since the month of June just rolled in, let’s talk about weddings.
Few weeks ago I was asked to emcee a wedding reception. Actually, my daughter (now 21) and I were the emcees and I really enjoyed the experience. I have done emceeing for same kind as well as other events before, but this was the first time I shared the task with my daughter. We got compliments in doing the gig, so maybe next time we should charge a fee for our services.
In preparation for the job we did some research of some of the common wedding traditions and its origins. What we found about these traditions were really fascinating and some even shocking. I’ll share some of them here:
Wedding veil. This wedding tradition dates back to the days when the marriages were pre-arranged. Well, I understand that arranged marriages exist up to this day. Traditionally, the bride’s family or perhaps also the groom’s family would not allow the groom to see his bride until the day of the wedding. This is because if he didn’t like her looks, there was a chance that he might not agree to marry her. Thus, the veil was used to conceal the bride’s appearance up until the time the groom raises the veil after the ceremony. I can only imagine how many grooms got surprised or perhaps even horrified on their wedding day.
Bridesmaids. It is now customary to have bridesmaids to be part of the wedding entourage. They usually wear matching outfits that are similar or closely similar to the bride’s. According to the tradition and superstition, the reason there were bridesmaids that were garb with same clothes as the bride was to confuse the evil spirits and prevent them from finding the bride and thus spare her harm. I wonder if during those days when the bride blends with her bridesmaids, did that confused the groom too?
Bestman. The groom usually picks his closest friend or a brother to be his bestman. However centuries ago, men resort to stealing or kidnapping their bride-to-be from their family if they disapprove of him. So the groom chooses his “best man” to protect him and his bride from the pursuing family. They are called best man for a reason, as they are the best swordsman or the best warrior. And so you thought their job was just to secure the wedding rings.
Bride and Groom’s position. It is by tradition that the bride stands at the left side of the groom during the wedding ceremony. So when they face the congregation, the bride is on the right and the groom is on the left from the perspective of the audience. I heard that the reason for this is because the bride should be always right. I am not arguing that, because my wife tells me so. However, the real reason for the tradition again dates back centuries ago, when duels can ensue during the wedding. The bride is on the left side of the groom so his right arm is free to hold a sword in case there is a fight.
Ring on the left hand’s fourth finger. Do you even wonder why we put our wedding band on the left fourth finger? The reason we put the ring here is because the Romans believe that there is an artery in this finger that connects directly straight to the heart. However, anatomically that does not exist. It’s a myth. If I can suggest it should be worn on the middle finger. So when somebody annoyingly flirts with you, you can flash your middle finger with your wedding band on it, to tell them to back off.
Bride’s flower bouquet. At the recent wedding that we emceed for, the ceremony was delayed as the bouquet of flowers was delivered late. So we have to wait for several minutes until the flowers arrived. Obviously the ceremony is not complete nowadays without it. However in the olden times, the bride carry a bouquet for a more practical reason. During the time of the Bubonic Plague in Europe where millions of people die, the bride carry a bouquet of garlic and herbs to cover up the stench of death around them. It was also thought that the bouquet of herbs or flowers can ward the evil spirits.
Bouquet toss. It is now a tradition that the bride will toss her bouquet of flowers to the gathered single ladies. The one who caught the bouquet is thought to be the next in line to be wed. However that was not the purpose the bride throw away the bouquet centuries ago. During those days, the crowd could be so envious of the bride that they would attack her, tore up her clothes and grab her bouquet. So the bride would purposely toss the bouquet to the crowd to prevent her from being assaulted. What a mean crowd.
That’s all for now folks. Do you know of other wedding traditions with bizarre ancient origin?
Lastly, I heard that before it became a traditional wedding march, it was actually a wedding run….
Kung minsan ay may mandurukot sa loob ng jeepney. Mag-ingat po tayo sa kanila. Pero hindi po ‘yung mga nandudukot ang tema ko ngayon, kundi ‘yung mga humuhugot kahit na sa jeepney. Unawain na lang po natin sila.
Kung hindi ninyo maibigan, ay ipagpaumanhin na lang po sana. Wala na lang pong kokontra.
Driver: Heto po ‘yung sukli nung isang Quiapo.
Pasahero: Hindi na bale mama, nasanay na po akong hindi nasusuklian.
Driver: Pakiabot na nga lang po.
Pasahero: Matagal ko nang pinapaabot kuya, pero dedma pa rin. Wala pa rin marating.
Driver: Saan po itong bente pesos?
Pasahero: Diyan po sa may PAG-ASA. Kahit wala naman talaga.
Driver: Saan po papunta itong bente?
Pasahero: Isa pong pa Balik-Balik. Walang ngang kadala-dala eh. Hindi pa rin natututo.
Pasahero: Manong, kulang po yung ibinigay ninyong sukli.
Driver: Kulang? Lagi na lang akong kulang! Kailan ba makokontento?
Pasahero: Ilan po itong isang daan?
Driver: Isa na lang po. Dalawa po sana, pero iniwan na niya ako.
Driver: Bawal po ang sabit.
Pasahero: Alam ko namang sabit lang ako eh. Hindi ko lang talagang kayang bumitaw.
Driver: Saan po itong singkwenta?
Pasahero: Diyan po sa Monumento. Pero pwede rin sa Luneta. Lagi na lang kasi akong nagpapakabayani. Pwede na akong tayuan ng Monumento.
Pasahero: Para na po mama.
Driver: Sandali lang po, itatabi ko lang kayo.
Pasahero: Ganyan naman talaga kuya, lagi na lang ako sa tabi.
Driver: Paki-usog na lang po diyan sa kaliwa, kasya pa isa diyan.
Pasahero: Hindi bale na lang po. Kahit pagsisiksikan ko ang sarili ko, wala pa rin akong puwang sa kanya.
Driver: (*nagtatawag ng pasahero habang nakaparada ang jeep) Antipolo, Antipolo, Taytay, Antipolo!
Pasahero: Kuya, male-leyt na ako. Pwedeng tayo na?
Driver: Tayo na, Miss? Sige, sabi mo eh.
Matapos ang ilang minuto lang……..
Pasahero: Para na. Dito na lang ako.
Driver: Hanggang dito na lang? Pero salamat pa rin, dahil kahit sandali ay naging tayo.
Driver: (*sa pasaherong sumasakay) Konting bilis at kapit na lamang po. Lalarga na tayo.
Pasahero: Ang higpit na nga po ng kapit ko. Pero lagi pa rin akong laglag, kuya.
Hanggang dito na lang po, boundery na. Magkakarga lang po ng krudo….este, kape. Sige, laglagan na.
(*blaming my jet-lag for this transient craziness)
When we talk about Italy’s countryside what comes to mind are the picturesque rolling hills and bountiful vineyards of Tuscany.
And there’s no better way to tour this scenic place than the iconic Italian way – riding the Vespa or the Fiat. Well, you could do it too with a Ferrari convertible but that would cost you an arm and a leg.
During our visit to Italy we did the Tuscany Vespa Tour. (This is not a sponsored article though I would gladly accept even a free pizza if they offer.) Some of us rode the Vespa scooter while some of us rode the classic small Fiat car. I did the Vespa.
We picked up the Vespa and the Fiat from the tour’s office parking lot. After a brief tutorial, as I have not ridden a motorcycle since more than 25 years ago, I became more comfortable of riding it. I was at least confident that I would still be alive after the tour.
Then off we go!
Our first stop was at a local vineyard.
After parking our motorcycles and cars, we toured the place which includes wine tasting. I am not really into wine, but they had prepared free pasta lunch too, so I was more than happy. Plus I don’t think indulging in wine and riding a motorcycle afterwards was a good idea.
I even saw a black cat at the winery. Was it a bad omen? Should we not continue on our trip? Nah!
After the vineyard tour, we were back on the road again.
Our next stop was a quaint town. We parked our vehicles and walked around the small town. Here we tasted free samples of truffle spreads, different kinds of cheese, and balsalmic vinegar offered in the local stores. Their balsalmic vinegar tastes good that it rivals the sukang Iloco (being a half-bred Ilocano, I’m still biased for the sukang Iloco).
After hitting the road again, our last stop was an old fortress. Its medieval courtyard was transformed into shops and eateries. There were no sword-wielding knights nor jousting tournament though. The closest we had to a battle were tourists jostling to buy the ever popular Italian gelato. Of course we had some too.
Overall, it was a really fun ride. You may think that this small scooter is under power, but it is not. Yes it is not as muscular as the Harley-Davidson, but this Vespa Sprint model with its 125 cc cylinder can still fly through the Tuscan hills.
It was a swell experience to fly the Tuscan roads with the sunlight on my eyes, wind on my hair (even though I don’t have much) and bugs in my face. Wait…..what?
Actually “flying” has a double meaning here, as this includes the flying insects that may hit your face as you zoom through the hills. I must be in a state of exhilaration with my mouth wide open that one insect hit my teeth. Good thing I was able to spit it out.
Italian bug tasting? Not included in this tour.
From the roads of Tuscany,
(*All photos taken with an iPhone. Thanks to my unofficial photographers who took some of the pictures. A shout out to JDC Private Tours, who made our tour of Italy such a pleasant experience.)
I was going out for my morning run a few days ago and as I got out of the front door I noticed that our walkway was covered with flower petals.
Beautiful morning. Flower-strewn pathway. What else could I ask for?
Maybe our crabapple tree was treating me as royalty, shedding and laying its flowers on my path.
I remember an old movie “Coming to America,” where the character played by James Earl Jones, the king of Zamunda, a fictional wealthy African nation, visited the United States, New York City, to be exact. He was looking for his son, played by Eddie Murphy, who was the crowned prince of that said nation. In one scene, as the king steps out of his limousine, royal attendants strew flowers on the ground where he would walk on. I know, I am no royalty.
Come to think of it that is what flower girls in a wedding do too. These cute little girls would scatter flowers in the path where the bride would walk on. But I am no bride either.
By the way the tradition of flower girls scattering flower petals has its origin from the Greek and the Romans. The young girls walking before the bride in ancient practice, scatter herbs and grains to wish the bride fertility. But nowadays it is replaced by tossing flower petals as a wish for happiness for the bride. And maybe fertility too.
Our journey in this life though is not always filled with happiness or a flower-strewn pathway, so to speak. Or perhaps it is, as our path could be littered with roses but including its thorns. Maybe the flower vase is thrown in the path as well with its broken pieces of glass!
A poem by Annie Johnson Flint said this, “God hath not promise skies always blue, flower-strewn pathway all our lives through.”
The author of the poem, Annie, was only 3 years old when her mother died while giving birth to her baby sister. Her father who also had an incurable disease decided to give Annie for adoption as he couldn’t take care of her, and he died not long after that. Annie was sent to school by her adoptive parents and was able to finish her education and became a teacher. However she developed painful and debilitating arthritis at a young age which extremely limited her mobility. She was resigned to a wheelchair most of her life.
Yet she still penned this poem:
WHAT GOD HATH PROMISED
God hath not promised skies always blue, Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know Toil and temptation, trouble and woe; He hath not told us we shall not bear many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide, Swift, easy travel, needing no guide; Never a mountain rocky and steep, Never a river turbid and deep
But God hath promised strength for the day, Rest for the labor, light for the way, Grace for the trials, help from above, Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
What a great reminder for us indeed.
As for my morning run that day, it did start with a flower-strewn pathway though it got a little thorny especially on the last mile. But I did fine.
I am thankful for the promised strength for the day. And I don’t mean just for running.