Surviving a year like no other….

I took this photo this morning, March 23, at 7:00 a.m. from my rooftop
as the sun was rising over San Miguel de Allende, MX

This is where I have spent most of the past 10 months trying to be content with my own company. I had aunt when I was quite young who told my mother I must have mental issues because when playing with my dolls I would talk to and for them! Thank God she hasn’t been around during the past year! I talk to, for and now answer myself!

The newest good news is I broke the ‘no travel’ protocol, double-masked-up, took a huge supply of Clorox wipes to disinfect my seat and surrounding area, did not eat, drink or pee and flew back to North Carolina to spend 4 weeks getting both of my Covid-vaccinations.

Thank you Janet and Bob for opening your door and allowing me to be your longest-ever house guest! They felt fairly safe when I arrived as they both had received their shots. I do I know they were happy to wave goodbye and reclaim their home after a month, no matter how good friends you are.

I got to catch-up with some old Wilmington friends, hit up Trader Joe’s with a list of things to shop for friends and bring home, wander through TJ Maxx and Marshalls, drive around town in Janet’s bright purple car and marvel at how much this used-to-be small seaside town has grown, and see in person the mammoth amount of construction still going on. There is a massive Del Webb retirement community down the road from where my house was – ARGH!

Then, after a year and a half separation, I got to spend 4 days HUGGING and playing with my East coast 4-year old grandson and catching-up his dad and mom before returning to SMA.

And though I know that I am not totally ‘in the clear’ and safe from catching this horrid virus, I do know that if I were to catch it now, I should only get a light version that would not, hopefully, require hospitalization. I feel like I can breath again, as if a large load has been lifted from my shoulders. The sun is once again rising on a new day! And SMA finally started vaccinating their residents and expats this past week – YEAH.

But you might ask what has kept my mind occupied for the past few months? ITALY! Dreams of returning to the home of pasta and red sauce, pizza, handsome men, beautiful scenery, ancient history and wonderful wine.

Ciao from Siena!

I have been drinking a lot of wine while cooking many, many, WAY TOO MANY pasta dishes to which my scales will attest!

Much of this I can blame on two people. The first is Stanley Tucci. You know, the actor from all those wonderful films like The Devil Wore Prada, all of The Hunger Games films, the delicious Big Night, and most recently Supernova with Colin Firth. For the past 6 weeks, every Sunday night on CNN, Standy has been doing an hour-long travelog (food-a-log) called Searching for Italy.

You really need to wear a bib to catch the drool when watching this program. Each episode is focused on a particular Italian region and the spectacular food of each – Tuscany/Florence, Sicily, Lombardy/Milan, Emilia-Romagna/Bologna, Rome, and Naples/Amalfi. From pizza to pasta, the best, juicy, red tomatoes to risotto and polenta, gallons of olive oil and pounds of butter, and did I mention the cheeses? And the wines……Well, I think you get idea. You put on weight just watching. And I just had to have a copy of the cookbook they mentioned while in the Emilia-Romagna region.

This is a large (653 pages), expensive ($54 paperback) cookbook was written over 100 years ago for the Italian housewife and her cook. It has been reprinted a dozen times with new recipes added. The introduction and little asides along with the recipes are like reading a good novel about the history of Italian food. I’ve barely gotten started with the over 740 recipes it contains! Here is how Amazon reviews this marvelous cookbook:

“First published in 1891, Pellegrino Artusi’s La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangier bene has come to be recognized as the most significant Italian cookbook of modern times. It was reprinted thirteen times and had sold more than 52,000 copies in the years before Artusi’s death in 1910, with the number of recipes growing from 475 to 790.”

“Although Artusi was himself of the upper classes and it was doubtful he had ever touched a kitchen utensil or lit a fire under a pot, he wrote the book not for professional chefs, as was the nineteenth-century custom, but for middle-class family cooks: housewives and their domestic helpers. His tone is that of a friendly advisor – humorous and nonchalant. He indulges in witty anecdotes about many of the recipes, describing his experiences and the historical relevance of particular dishes.”

And I just learned that CNN has renewed Stanley’s series for another year! Forget the diet.

The other person I blame for my dreaming so much about Italy and returning specifically to Siena is Professor Patricia Robinson.

Patricia teaches English at the The University for Foreigners of Siena, a public university specializing in the teaching of Italian as well as many other languages. It also specializes in scientific research on the diffusion of the Italian language and culture in the world and in contact between Italian and other languages and cultures.

Patti is an American married to Roberto, a handsome Italian who has a great travel company called Tours by Roberto (recently seen and featured on one of Rick Steves Monday night Zoom tours of Tuscany.)

When Joyce and I were in Siena we signed up for one of his tours and though Roberto wasn’t available, we got the marvelous Lorenzo as our tour guide. ( Go back to my previous posts on Tuscany for lots of pics and details on the area.) So even though I didn’t get to meet Roberto, Patti contacted me to see if I would be interested in mentoring one of her university students in conversational English. Since this is what I had done for many years in Madrid with Diverbo, I said yes. My student (Aurora) and I would have weekly meet-ups via a video WhatsApp call instead of in person.

It’s been so much fun! We talk about everything from a book we are both reading, to an upcoming test, and even her boyfriend and not being able to see him because of Italy’s continuing lockdown! I correct her English when speaking and help with her writing as well. But what’s amazing is that English is not the main language she is studying – Chinese is! She will graduate in October and hopes to continue studying for a Masters before becoming a teacher or translator or woking in the hospitality industry. I’ve enjoyed interacting with her so much that I talked my friend Joyce and those Senior Nomads, Debbie and Michael, into mentoring their own students.

But the best part – that I have all my fingers and toes crossed and prayers said is that Europe, and specifically Italy, will get everyone vaccinated and can once again open its doors to travelers – as I have been asked to house and pet sit in Siena for Patricia and Roberto over the Christmas holidays!

Of course I said yes and now, like you and everyone else worldwide, we impatiently await our new normal to begin. When and what that will look like is what we don’t know.

I hope those of you that take the time to read this blog have managed, in anyway you could, to make it through this last year. I hope you’ve read some really good books, tried a few new recipes, binge-watched a good Netflix program – or two or three, and with lots of time for introspection, learned a little more about yourself and those you are blessed to share your household with. You are a survivor. Get your shots as soon as you can, plan your itinerary, pack a bag and let’s pray we can soon get back OntheRoam once again!

Until next time…..

9 Replies to “Surviving a year like no other….”

  1. Inspiring!!

    Just waiting in the parking lot of the drive-thru clinic where I got my first vaccine dose. The sun is shining and life is starting to look beautiful again. Hubby still needs his vaccine, but we’re feeling optimistic


  2. Such a treat to see you in my inbox again! It’s been a while and I feel like you are a well known friend, though you know nothing about me! I’m looking forward to a road trip around Alaska end of May in honor of my (October) 70th Birthday, in lieu of an international trip for now. I will be flying to get there but feel much safer now that I’m fully vaccinated. As you know, half the fun is the planning! Hope I get to meet you one day – maybe in Italy! Good to catch up with you!


    1. Hi Marnie – thanks for the very nice comment. Alaska – eat lots of freshly-caught halibut everywhere you go! I loved what we saw of it – on a small cruise ship but would love to road-trip it in a car. When I was back home I looked at small vans as I loved RVing – just wouldn’t want a biggie again. Oh, and how are you going to get into Alaska without going through Canada? Can you? Their borders are still closed to us awful Americans but hopefully by May they’ll let you drive through!! Have fun. ReAnn


  3. Hey ReAnn,
    Inspiring post once again! Would you be willing to share the details on how to become an English language tutor? I, and a good friend of mine love languages and travel, and are retired, so have some time available. Ciao!


    1. Well Nancy, you need to love to talk! First is Diverbo. Located in Madrid but hold their workshops in beautiful places all over Spain.
      The other is I’ve volunteered at both. And you get free room & board for a week or longer at both. Just have to pay your way to Madrid. I’ve done it 6 times. Ask questions and I’ll be happy to answer.


  4. Hi. I was just thinking about you earlier today, and thinking it had been a long time since your last blog. Then here you are! Jim and I have both been vaccinated for 3 weeks. However, it doesn’t sound like Illinois will open up anytime soon, and travel still seems far away. It sounds difficult to have to have a negative test so close to departure. Here, they are only testing those who have symptoms. The rules are so varied. We will wait until the mask mandates are lifted. We hate wearing them, and seeing them. Until then, we will make our own fun, and recall the trips we’ve taken. Linda Zeiter Gieseke


  5. Canada is a bit behind the US in getting the shots, but we hope to get our shots in the next few weeks. Canada does not have manufacturing for any of the vaccines, so we import them, hence the delay.

    We look forward to getting back out there again as well, but are committed to a lease until October 1st, then the sky is the limit,

    Enjoy your days, drink the wine and eat the pasta, and worry about the weight …. never!



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