Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Strawberries, Sweet Strawberries!

Last week, the California Strawberry Commission and Chicagonista hosted a lovely strawberry-themed get-together at the Chopping Block. Here are a few things I learned about strawberries:

-strawberries are a great source of vitamin C: Just 8 strawberries will provide 140% percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for kids.

-they are brimming with antioxidants

-strawberries are low in fat and high in fiber = the ideal dessert (satisfying and sweet)

-strawberries are picked from the fields and placed directly into the pallets that arrive at our supermarkets, so give them a good bath before serving

California Strawberries has a free strawberries recipe app for i phone - download it here. I have an extra copy of their lovely printed cookbook, too: the first person to "like" this page on facebook (see the Like Button on the right) and send me an email (amy.bizzarri @ gmail) will be forwarded a copy, too.

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**Special thanks to California Strawberries for providing me with two cookbooks, one for myself and one to give away, and for inviting me to the lovely dinner event at the Chopping Block.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Ready for the pool!
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Best Gelato in Rome

Daniel eating his daily gelato in Rome

You can never eat enough gelato when in Rome. Our favorite: Gelateria al Teatro, which is hidden in a tiny side passageway off Via dei Coronari, a short walking distance from Piazza Navona. You'll find artiginale gelato here, housemade - so no bright colors or processed ingredients. I wanted to try the many interesting flavors - Sicilian blood orange, or Blueberry Ricotta, or the range of fresh granitas (a cross between a slushie and a sorbet) - but I stuck with my tried and true favorite, dark chocolate, which was creamy, rich, and bittersweet as it should be, topped with unsweetened fresh panna (whipped cream). Daniel had fresh strawberry sorbet with a side of straciatella, plain ice cream swirled with dark chocolate. The little staircase that leads up to a small theater is the perfect spot to enjoy your gelato.

Gelateria al Teatro

Via S. Simone 70, Roma (near Piazza Navona, off via dei Coronari)

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Monday, July 18, 2011

My Chicago Family Bucket List

We're back in Chicago. It's been a few days and I'm still recovering from ten hours in an airplane with a rambunctious toddler who was just recently potty-trained and insists on carrying a Hello Kitty purse that must contain a little mouse, a clothespin with a ladybug on it, a hair bow, and a book about trains, and it must be zipped up just so or watch out! I think I've got the flying solo with kids thing down pat and I just today proposed some articles here and there - I've worked out some trusted techniques that just may prevent some moms from hitting the emergency escape hatch and activating a parachute.

The article below, My Chicago Family Bucket List, was originally written for Chicago Parent. What's on  your Chicago Bucket List?

My Chicago Family Bucket List

Last year, fellow Chicago Parent writer Jennifer DuBose asked parents to consider making a family "bucket list", i.e. a list of all the things you want to do with your kids before they fly the coop.

I recently proofread a Chicago travel guidebook: this freelance task entailed checking up on every Chicago restaurant, cafe, museum, shoe store, ice cream parlour - yes, just about *every* noteworthy place in our city. I thought I already knew our city inside out, but let me tell you, after this task, I *really* know our city inside out.

But as I filed through the sights and scenery, making notes and corrections, I realized that there are still so many things that I have yet to experience! And there are so many gems that I have yet to introduce to my children. So as I worked on the project, I kept a running list of everything I still wanted to experience with my family, in this windy city.

Here are a few of the items on my Chicago family bucket list:

-Breakfast at the original Lou Mitchell's. I'd been here years ago with my parents - how can I have completely forgotten to take my pancake-loving son to this place?! There's nothing like Milk Duds, whipped cream topped pancakes, and ice cream to get me moving in the morning...

-I'm also determined to make an early morning run to the Donut Vault.

-Pullman Historic District - I've never been to this historic district; I swear I'll catch the annual house tour this October.

-Kayak the Chicago River

-I've had tea at the Four Seasons and the Peninsula but never at the Drake Hotel's Palm Court.[Check out 7 Kid-Friendly Tea Joints]

-Sail Lake Michigan

What's on your Chicago Family Bucket List? What has been you most memorable Chicago family experience?
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Frutta e Verdura

Wish I could pack this entire fruit and vegetable shop up and take it back to Chicago with me.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I was there: Ancient sarcophagus unearthed near Rome

ADNKronos broke the story today of the ancient sarcophagus that my small team came across during our excavation. I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it was to carefully and painstakingly unearth this sarcophagus which the team dubbed 'the lead taco'. The picture below shows the sarcophagus discovered in 2009, often called the 'lead burrito'. (Again, because the research on this year's dig remains unpublished, the photos of this year's lead taco won't be revealed until official publication by the team of researchers/archaeologists).

I learned so much in this short period of time. Archaeology isn't as swashbuckling as it appears in the movies, but it remains simply fascinating. It is intense, hard work, both for the body and the brain. I wish I had considered it as a career/educational path earlier on, but I feel blessed to have had the chance to get my hands dirty in the field for but a moment.    

Italy: Ancient sarcophagus unearthed near Rome

last update: July 12, 18:51

Rome 12 July (AKI) - Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Roman sarcophagus in the central Italian Lazio region surrounding Rome. It is the second burial casket discovered during a major dig being coordinated by the University of Michigan.
The casket was uncovered in the area of Lazio believed to the site of the ancient Roman city of Gabii, located 18 kilometres east of Rome.

Both caskets are made of lead and are believed to date from the 1st or 2nd century AD.
The second casket was found just a few metres from the first one, which was unearthed in 2009 by archaelogists working on the same dig, the 'Gabii Project', which began in 2007.
According the site director, archaeologist Anna Gallone, the two sarcophagi are examples of a unique local burial custom found in Gabii.
"The massive use of lead in the tombs is unique, it has never been seen before in central Italy," Gallone told Adnkronos International (AKI).
Gabii was a rival of ancient Rome and the original site extended over 60 or 70 hectares.
The complex history of this important city is currently being investigated by team led by Nic Terrenato of the University of Michigan, made up of over 70 American students and 20 graduates and archaeologists.
"It is probably the largest US-led excavation in Italy," Gallone told AKI.
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Eating Cocomero in Italy

Needless to say, we've been doing a lot of good eating in Italy. Most days revolve around mealtime. I have eaten enough zucchini flowers to last me (almost) a life time, Daniel a gelato or two per day; while Chiara is relishing the abundant fresh fruit. The picture above - Chiara eating cocomero - was taken this morning and to me it just sums up summer here in Italy.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

On the Appian Way

The Appian Way (Latin and Italian: Via Appia) was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy. Its importance is indicated by its common name, recorded by Statius: Appia teritur regina longarum viarum ("the Appian way is commonly said to be the queen of the long roads"). The road is named after Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor who began and completed the first section as a military road to the south in 312 BC during the Samnite Wars. (Wikipedia)

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

la famiglia

I cugini Annalisa e Arianna
Chiara with her beloved Nonna
Everyone together for a pizza!
My old pal Joanna, who Daniel considers a 'Zia' (aunty)
Cousin Arianna with Rose
The best part of Italy, for us at least, is spending time with family. The kids are simply basking in the affection of extended family and the love, care and attention of their grandparents. My son, who is not related in that overrated biological sense, knows well that he is a beloved party of this family, too.
I can't think of a better gift to children than to grow up with a solid sense of family which extends beyond the nuclear and includes cousins and old friends, too. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Only in Italy would I give my son a 3-boobed lady cookie for breakfast

She's made of honey and flour, and she's a specialty of Frascati, a hill town near where we are staying. For the record, Daniel saved the boobies for last.
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On Tusculum

According to legend, Tusculum was founded either by Telegonus, the son of Odysseus and Circe, or by the Latin king Latinus Silvius, a descendant of Aeneas, who according to Titus Livius was the founder of most of the towns and cities in Latium. The geographer Filippo Cluverio discounts these legends, asserting that the city was founded by Latins about three hundred years before the Trojan War. Funerary urns datable to the 8th–7th centuries B.C. demonstrate a human presence in the late phases of Latin culture in this area.
Tusculum is first mentioned in history as an independent city-state with a king, a constitution and gods of its own. When Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last King of Rome, was expelled from the city in 509 B.C., he sought military help from his son-in-law Octavius Mamilius, one of the leading men of Tusculum.After the war between Clusium and Rome failed to win back the throne for Tarquinius, he sought refuge with Mamilius in Tusculum.[1] The Mamilii claimed to be descended from Telegonus, the founder of the city. Mamilius commanded the army of the Latins against the Romans at the Battle of Lake Regillus, where he was killed in 498 B.C. This is the point at which Rome gained predominance among the Latin cities.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Roman History for Kids

Before we left for Italy, I ordered a bunch of books for Daniel (age 10) on Roman history. He's really enjoyed books from two series.

The Interactive History Series lets kids choose their own pathway through history. So far he's read Life as a Gladiator and Ancient Rome. Each book has 3 story paths with over 33 choices and 18 endings. For example, in Life as a Gladiator, you can choose to take part in the rebellion led by Spartacus, to train as a gladiator as a free citizen, or to fight as a veteran gladiator. Throughout each story, you make even more choices, i.e. Do you want to stay with the rebels? or Do you want to escape?. Daniel has read each pathway, and likes to see the different outcomes. We had fun reading Ancient Rome together, choosing to live the life of a Roman woman who used a love potion and accidentally killed her husband - ooops!

We've also been reading together the Wicked History series, which details early war criminals like Hannibal and Julius Caesar. Geared towards kids, I like them too - they clearly explain the history of the era, and show the childhood events that led to the man who changed history. Poor Hannibal made promise to his Dad, for example, when he was just about Daniel's age, promising to fight the Romans to his death.

Daniel desparately trying to make a gladius.
Daniel has been so inspired by all this Roman history: he's even turned to digging around the tool shed, and sawing and sanding away, convinced he can create his own gladius.
Chiara meanwhile has been spending lots of time drawing on her magic erase board and picking miniature Chinese mandarins from the tree in the garden, taking a bite out of them, and then sticking them into holes in the walls.
Yes, I'd probably homeschool the kids if I had the luxury of living year round in Castelgandolfo, where long, quiet days are just right for reading and learning at your own pace, for following whatever interests you on a whim, with my lovely in-laws taking such good care of us. 
Chiara singing to herself and drawing on her magic erase board.

mandarini cinesi

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Three things I learned this week

-In Ancient Rome and Etruria, priests called Augurs watched bird flight patterns to to predict the future. In fact the word Temple - templum in Latin - denotes a space tem - "cut" out of the land - a fixed spot - where the augur could get a good view of the birds and the night stars.

-The Gobekli Tepe is considered possibly the world's first temple. Located in southeasternTurkey, it's assumed to be more than 11,000 years old. Currently under excavation.

-This looks like a beautiful, picturesque lake, right?

Instead, according to my in-laws, it's not only is teeming with poisonous seaweed that people tend to get fatally tangled in, but also possesses whirlpools that drag people to its depths. And it's very deep - about 560 feet so. It's Lake Albano, a small volcanic crater lake that lies at the center of Castelgandolfo, where we are currently staying with family.
This picture is a video still - note Lake Albano behind us. Moments later, on the sandy banks, Chiara threw a huge temper tantrum because she wanted to go for a swim in said lake. "I WANT. I GO. I WANT. I GO," she furiously yelled ad alta voce. We are happily learning that she is a very determined little girl: poisonous seaweed, whirlpools, lack-of-swimming skills be damned - she was ready to dive in and go for a swim in Lake Albano.

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