Archive for the ‘sunday scribblings’ Category

Money Money Money Mooooney…Money!

Sunday ScribblingsPrompt #83: Money


Money Grows on Trees by Paul Katz“I don’t know, Doc. I just feel so…misunderstood.”

“I see. Tell me more.”

“Like everyone wants a piece of me, wants to get their hands on me. So many will do just about anything to have me–steal and do all kinds of bad things that they’d never do otherwise.”

“Um hum.”

“And then once they get me, what do they do? They put me away somewhere hoping to turn me into more of me or worse yet, they just throw me away. Not literally, but they use me for such silly things, they might as well burn me.”


“As far as I knew when I signed up for this, I was just supposed to be here to make doing things a little easier, to give them a way to exchange goods and services. I never expected things to get so out of hand…for me to become so important and sought after that lives are ruined for me, that wars are fought over me, that people and animals and trees die for me.”

“Yes, go on.”

“I just wish they wouldn’t put so much pressure on me, thinking *I’m* supposed to bring them everything they ever wanted. I’m only paper after all.”


Has anyone else read Naomi Klein’s article “Rapture Rescue 911: Disaster Response for the Chosen” published on The Nation‘s website a few days ago?

Here’s a snippet, although I do recommend going over there and reading the whole thing:

Just look at what is happening in Southern California. Even as wildfires devoured whole swaths of the region, some homes in the heart of the inferno were left intact, as if saved by a higher power. But it wasn’t the hand of God; in several cases it was the handiwork of Firebreak Spray Systems. Firebreak is a special service offered to customers of insurance giant American International Group (AIG)–but only if they happen to live in the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country. Members of the company’s Private Client Group pay an average of $19,000 to have their homes sprayed with fire retardant. During the wildfires, the “mobile units”–racing around in red firetrucks–even extinguished fires for their clients.

I had no idea. I’m speechless, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially from anyone with personal experience with this.


30 days of thanks

Today I’m thankful for:

Having come to the realization at a relatively early age in life that the quest for money and material things is not how I want to spend my days on Earth. I haven’t always made the best financial decisions (and some were downright awful), but I’m definitely proud of this one.

It’s not that I don’t like or want any money–as we all know, it does make the world go round for better or worse. We all need at least some of it to survive, and let’s be honest, life is much easier, less stressful without having to worry about where your next meal is coming from or about what would happen to you or your family if something terrible should happen.

And we also know that there are plenty of positive things that can be achieved *only* with money–relief efforts, health and education initiatives, etc.

But that doesn’t mean we all have to be in a race to collect the biggest pile, doing whatever we can (even when our insides are dying a slow death) to get there. Personally, I’ve wholeheartedly adopted the mantra of someone who has inspired me greatly over the past 10 years, SARK:

Living Juicy by SARK Do what you love and the money will follow.

If you don’t know about this awesome woman named SARK, do go over to her website Planet SARK and check out what she has to say.

And one final thought:


The best and most beautiful things in life
cannot be seen, not touched,
but are felt in the heart.

– Helen Keller


[tags]money, sunday scribblings, sark, helen keller, california wildfires, nablopomo, 30 days of thanks[/tags]

Sunday Scribbligs: Ode to the Peperoncino

Prompt #63: Spicy

Spicy means one thing here in the toe of Italy’s boot, and that’s the beloved peperoncino, literally “little pepper” in Italian. Yes, Calabrian peppers aka Calabrian chiles.

What is a Calabrian pepper?

It’s the chile pepper, the heat, the heart of Calabrian cuisine, and a group of them are thrown on the table with just about every meal.

To say that dedication to the peperoncino borders on obsession is not an exaggeration; I know men who carry peperoncini in their pockets to restaurants in case the provided Calabria peppers aren’t appropriately piccanti.

No joke amici. Don’t mess with the pep’.

Here in my house, we have a steady supply of fresh peperoncini through the summer from our own plants, but for when they’re out of season, it’s also popular to keep them under oil:


Although we all love hot peppers down here, there’s one particular village in Calabria closely associated with the pods that pack a punch: Diamante, in the province of Cosenza, home of the annual Festival del Peperoncino held by the Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino.

I’ve never been (fellow blogger Judy has and there’s another great report here), but apparently everyone in Diamante gets involved with peperoncino-inspired jewelry being a big seller (good to keep away the malocchio you know).

Admission is free, and you can visit over 100 stands set up along the gorgeous lungomare along the Tyrrhennian Sea. Foods range from a cornetto al peperoncino (pastry filled with a peppery cream) to tartufo piccante (ice cream with bits of peperoncini), and there’s even a pepper eating contest, “Campionato italiano mangiatori di peperoncini,” for the competitive types.

Back here at the home office, you’ll see peperoncino in many of my What’s Cooking Wednesday recipes, but even if you don’t like spicy food, here’s a tip: just a little bit of the stuff brings out the flavor of just about anything without adding heat.

Don’t be afraid!

Also, if your mouth is burning from too much hotness, eat a piece of bread or something dairy-like instead of reaching for water. The heat in hot peppers is really an oil; water moves around the burning sensation but it doesn’t counteract it.

If you’ll be dealing with a large number of peppers, use disposable gloves. The oils of the peppers are very good at working their way into your pores and can be quite difficult to just wash away–bleach and water, salted water, or toothpaste, believe it or not, are your best bets.

Please be especially careful if you wear contact lenses.

Trust me. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Any more questions? Fire away! Ha!

sunday scribblings: town & country

Prompt #62: Town & Country

Like John (Cougar) Mellencamp, I was born in a small town, and I live in a small town, albeit on the other side of the world from my hometown.

But in between, among other places, I also lived in the City of Brotherly Love for five years, just minutes from the Art Museum steps that Rocky made famous in 1976.

The city is only about a two hour drive from my hometown, but it might as well be a world away for the differences. Indeed, many from my area hold great disdain for the city–my grandfather, who spent much of his life in and around there for work, called it “Filthy-delphia.” But I chose it anyway when it came time for law school, mostly because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

And you know what? This small town girl rather enjoyed big city life. It’s just so convenient to have anything you could possibly want never too far away–art, history, literature, every religion and culture imaginable, ethnic food, professional sports, and so much more.

Then there’s the not so great parts, general lack of cleanliness was my biggest complaint especially when public transportation was involved. The fact that the smell of human urine makes me think of the Broad Street subway line cannot be underestimated.

But more than that, I just never really felt at home there. I loved my living quarters, especially the second of my two Philly homes, located on this street:

Cute eh? Many inhabitants were professionals and graduate students, and we had neighborhood schools, churches, bars, restaurants, and shops that many of us frequented while politely exchanging hellos, but that was the extent of it. Indeed, the area was set up perfectly to be a neighborhood where we could create a little pocket of understanding and warmth.

But it never happened. Not for me anyway.

My neighbors, with whom we shared a small, locked entryway, were a couple with two small children. When our landlords described them, I thought of offering babysitting services. That idea was crushed the first time we crossed paths in the backyard. I introduced myself and asked some questions, but the mother quickly cut me off and rustled the girls inside. Hint taken. Nearly every morning we set off at the same time but none of them ever even glanced at me as they struggled to get everyone in their respective cars during the morning routine.

In fact, the only time I ever entered their home was to inquire whether they had picked up a package of mine from the entryway by mistake as the postman assured me he had left it there. They said they didn’t, but I sure hope they enjoyed that first edition Charles Dickens I had ordered from eBay because I have a hunch as to what really happened.

So maybe I was unlucky with the neighbors themselves, but then every time I went back to my hometown to visit, something became clearer and clearer. The idyllic neighborhood life of my youth doesn’t exist there anymore either. As the older generation has died off, new families have moved in, and they aren’t the children and grandchildren of the area; indeed, many are from larger cities.

And so there are fewer nightly chats from porch to porch, fewer pies and cakes traded across backyards, and, I imagine, fewer solid neighborly relationships. Whenever I’ve been home, it’s like being on the empty set of an old favorite sitcom–I recognize all the scenery and memories come at me from all angles, but there’s nothing going on that really makes me feel like I used to.

Why is that? Is the idea of community threatening to an individualist lifestyle? Is this a good thing? Can we get it back? Do we want to?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but on a personal level, one of the things I love best about where I live now is the neighborhood feel. All of those old-fashioned relationships are still intact, and indeed, I’ve been accepted into the fold. We have a grocer, a tobacconist, a pharmacist, a butcher, and two bars, and they all know what I want before I do.

Sure sometimes it’s a bit smothering when eyes are peeking out of windows to see where you’re going and who you’re going with–many times they’ll just flat out ask as they’re certainly not shy (I’ve learned to be vague in my answers!). And, of course, there’s the “news sure travels fast” phenomenon, but if you’re selective about who you tell things to, it’s less of a problem.

Some people like the anonymity of city life, and I have to admit, every now and again, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. But I’ve had it both ways, and I have to say, I just feel at home here, and that’s the most important thing.

Or, as Mellencamp said, “my bed is in a small town, and that’s good enough for me.”


[tags]sunday scribblings, john mellencamp, smalltown, city versus country, philadelphia, rocky, philadelphia museum of art[/tags]

sunday scribblings: simple

Prompt #61: Simple*


I pull out my notebook to jot down some thoughts because I want to remember these moments forever–simple pleasures of being tickled by cool water trickling through my toes, digging my hands in the sand until they are covered in damp black and gold specks, brushing wisps of hair out of my face put there by the constant, lovely breeze.I write the date in Italian without thinking, and I smile.

I didn’t bring my journal or camera because a trip to the sea wasn’t in the original plan. I have to give final exams in an hour or so, but I decide to head to the beach instead of straight to school–no matter that I have no swimsuit or towel (although always sunscreen).

At least I’m wearing flip-flops and a little sand on my jean skirt isn’t going to hurt anyone.

Despite summer-like temperatures, I am nearly alone on the beach. Two bikini-clad blondes, already sufficiently abbronzate if you ask me, lounge nearby, laughing and joking, switching easily from French to French-accented Italian and back again. We exchange buon giornos, but nothing more. I wonder what brought them to southern Italy, but they seem content in their world, so I don’t ask.

I look up from my notebook and see the back of a shiny black head pop up from the water. Just as quickly, the head dips back under and flippers peek out where it had been. The Ionian Sea is so clear, he can surely see to the bottom without all that gear, but he seems happy, and that’s what’s important. I am reminded that an amateur diver discovered the famous Riace Bronze statues just south of here in the early 1970s, and I wonder whether similar treasures lie just below this guy’s mask.

There’s a teenage girl a little ways down, standing in the water, her short navy blue skirt grazing the surface. She’s whipping her head from side to side, struggling to keep her long, black, curly hair out of her way as she furiously types a text message on her phone. She’ll spend the entire hour I’m here on the phone in one way or another, but no one joins her. I wonder if anyone came after I left, and I hope that someday she’ll appreciate her own company if she doesn’t already.

A sailboat eases by, two men on board casually steering the craft between the scuba diver’s periodically surfacing head and a rather large fishing boat anchored in the sea. I can’t tell what they’re saying from here, but they’re smiling and laughing. The wind is perfect for sailing as far as I know, but admittedly, that isn’t very much. They go back and forth, back and forth, and I think that it’ll soon be time to call home and tell their wives/mothers to put on the pasta, as the time for pranzo is approaching. I wonder if they’ll take a contented nap after they eat.

I put down my notebook and return to the water I had waded in up to my knees when I first arrived–earlier today, yes, but as my feet sink into the wet sand, I realize, also five years ago. I am back in virtually the same spot in which I had first experienced the Ionian Sea, when I had vacationed here what seems like a lifetime ago, when I had no idea that I’d end up making a life here, when P and Luna didn’t even exist, at least to me.

I am taken back to the thoughts that were occupying my mind at that time–my twenty-five-year old mind that started to play with a silly thought of making a major life change, of stepping off the fast-track and pursuing the passions that had always been in my heart but that had been pushed aside for more practical considerations.

The water is calm, refreshing, and oh so clean–cleansing, one could say. I regret that I can’t go in deeper as I have to play professional in half an hour. I laugh to myself as I glance back at the sweater I brought along in case it got chilly. The sweater will stay tucked in my bag for another time, though, because today, the weather is perfect, the breeze is perfect, and this moment is perfect.

And I don’t want to ever forget it.


*I’m posting this early because I won’t be around tomorrow; First Holy Communion time round here, which means some family fun.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!


[tags]sunday scribblings, sea, beach, ionian sea, calabria, soverato[/tags]

sunday scribblings: masks

Prompt #60: Masks

Adjusting to life in a foreign country can be difficult on many levels from bureaucracy to figuring out where to do all of your daily shopping–bread at the panetteria (bakery), pork chops at the macelleria (butcher shop), perfume at the profumeria (perfume shop), Blistex at the farmacia (pharmacy), shampoo at the tabaccheria (tobacco shop)–of course!

But nothing can compare to the entirely unexpected feeling that I had lost a big part of my sparkling wit personality somewhere over the Atlantic, a phenomenon I’ve also mentioned here and here.

Now please don’t think I’m saying that you should never move to a foreign country without knowing the language. I did it, and obviously I’ve survived. Of course it’s more of a challenge, and I can only talk of my own experience, but not speaking Italian fluently at first isn’t too much of a problem because you can still get along fine in most instances. And keep in mind that I’m in the south where there are very few English speakers.

That said, I did feel a negative effect in social and personal situations–I found myself concentrating so hard on the basics of what was being said that I never got the joke; let’s not debate the Italian sense of humor right now, but I’ll note that our differences there were/are also a factor.

What I’m talking about are the nuances of a language. For my entire life on the other side of the pond, I took for granted that I could effortlessly make others smile or laugh with a few well-crafted, well-timed words. That I always had a response. That I was never left tongue-tied and wondering what would’ve been a good comeback.

Yes, I’ve had moments of “what I wish I had said” like everyone does, but here, they became the norm; when it takes hours to fully comprehend the two most important lines of a conversation, a witty retort on the spot isn’t very likely.

And so for a long time, I felt like I was wearing a mask–and worst of all, it was one that I didn’t choose for myself. People saw me as shy, quiet, perhaps uncomfortable in social situations, and to an extent, I can certainly be all of those things, but not to the degree that they would have thought.

I was just trying so hard to follow the action that my real personality was below layers and layers of verb conjugations, idioms, and obscure (to me) cultural references.

Did I hide behind the straniera mask sometimes too? Absolutely. I’ll admit that many times it was just easier to say “non capisco” (I don’t understand) than really participate. I’m human, and I get tired of paying attention.

To. Every. Single. Word. For. Hours. On. End.

And when social situations become work, well, not surprisingly, they just aren’t fun anymore. So occasionally I put up my mask, and we inevitably ended the evening with a pity party, just the two of us. But for me, this was an essential part of my growth process here, as I needed to hit rock bottom, so to speak, in order to throw off the mask.

Getting a better grasp of Italian has definitely helped me feel more like myself again, but confidence and courage have played even bigger roles. After many frustrating evenings out with Italians, I reached back to when I began college, when I started out fresh, knowing no one, and when it seemed like some of my peers were speaking a different language (turned out they were, and it was something along the lines of Spoiledbratese).

At some point, I realized that I was going to have to do here what I did there; I was going to have to be a Nike commercial, and just do it.

And to paraphrase Robert Frost: I have, and that has made all the difference.

No matter where you are, you have to be willing to get out there, make mistakes (and learn from them), be yourself, and not care if you don’t fit with preconceived notions of whatever it is “they” think you should be. And most of all, you have to be willing to rip off that mask (whether you put it there or not) because it’s hiding the real, wonderful you that the world deserves to know.

Besides, being hidden gets kind of boring.

And boy do I love when I make P laugh.


[tags]sunday scribblings, masks, culture shock, learning a language[/tags]

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
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Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
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Ricotta Pound Cake