Sunday, March 20, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 12 - Movies

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History is an annual challenge for family historians to write about their own lives.  Amy Coffin is the author. 

Mom loved movies.  We'd climb into a jitney (a sort of taxi) and ride from our suburban home in Daly City to whatever theater in downtown San Francisco was showing a kids' movie.  Lady and the Tramp was a favorite.  Alice in Wonderland gave me nightmares of falling down a never-ending hole in the ground.  Yikes!

Mom's big purse would be full of the makings of spectacular salami and cheese sandwiches that we'd put together and eat during the movie.  Real Italian salami, not the mushy stuff they now sell in the chain groceries.  Swiss cheese with flavor that "bit" your tongue.  Incredible onion rolls that married the meat and cheese superbly.  Nonpareils for dessert (little domed coins of chocolate with tiny white balls of white sugar on top).  Glorious!

Not that food was always the highlight of our time together.  But it was sure a very close second to whatever else was going on. 

Movies were magic for me, and still are.  I've watched my share of stinkers, but a few were more than worth the time:  Out of Africa, Funny Girl, all of the Bourne mysteries, Star Trek (my husband and I found our first common interest in the original TV series), Star Wars (the original three movies, not the latter), Dr. Zhivago, Galaxy Quest (not Academy Award material, but it was hilarious!), The Godfather series, Roxanne, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Toy Story series, The Professional (if you haven't seen this, you've missed one of Natalie Portman's best childhood performances), Terminator (and another of Arnold's successes -- Kintergarden Cop), WALL-E (a lovely animated film), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (hey, I'm not averse to English comedy now and then), Braveheart, Up (one of the best of all time, animated or otherwise), and many more.  Any genre can have its winners.  Die Hard comes to mind, along with Rocky.

Mom was still taking me to movies during my high school years.  We went to see a James Bond film with Sean Connery -- Thunderball.  A delicious, sexy film with a handsome star.  But.  Have you ever sat through a sexy movie ... with your mother?  Mortifying.  She never made a comment.  I didn't either.  But I'm sure my beet red cheeks must have said it all.

Mom missed going to the theater after her hearing deteriorated to the point that it would be physically painful for her to be in a theater with its blaring sound.  So when I visited for the holidays, I'd bring my video player and a batch of movies on VHS tape.  We could control the sound and spend hours watching in the comfort of her living room.  Me on the floor, her on the couch with her afghan over her legs. 

Whenever I see a really great movie, I think about her and wonder if I could maybe sneak some salami and cheese sandwiches into the theater.  I carry a big enough purse.  Hmmm.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 11 -- Illness and Injury

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History is an annual challenge for family historians to write about their own lives.  Amy Coffin is the author. 

Week 11 poses these questionsDescribe your childhood illnesses or injuries. Who took care of you?  Did you recuperate in your own bed, on the couch in front of the television, or somewhere else?

Measles.  Little red, itchy blotches all over my body.  Today, in this country, hardly anyone gets measles anymore.  A vaccine given to children essentially prevents them from contracting the disease.  But in the 1950s such prevention wasn’t available. 
Not that I knew it then.  I only knew that I felt awful. 

It was the only time I can remember when I slept in my parents’ bedroom rather than my own.  Mom was fanatical about blocking out all light, arranging blankets over the windows and not allowing me to turn the bedside lamp on.  The only light I saw for the days I spent in their bedroom came the weak light in the hallway when Mom came to check on me.
As always, though, I delighted in one particular part of Mom’s arsenal for treating my illnesses.  I looked forward to it, anticipated its aroma and flavor, dreamed of it while I slept.  Mom made a soup, based in chicken broth with egg cooked in it, swirling with pasta, succulent with garlic and redolent with freshly-grated parmesan.  I can taste is right now. 
I’ll never know if anything in that soup actually had curative properties.  But I can say without any doubt whatsoever that it always made me feel better. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pasta al Pesto -- Garlicky Ambrosia

Buon Appetito!

Mom made the best pesto.  Even after I left home, I asked for it every single time I visited her.  It just was not a real visit home if I didn't get a plateful of Mom's pasta with pesto.  She marveled that something "so simple" could make me so happy. 

I've still not figured out how to duplicate her pesto.  And believe me, I've tried.  She didn't have a recipe; she cooked by "eyeing" the ingredients.  And she never used basil, but rather parsley, and any type of pasta that was on sale.  This dish was not the haute cuisine of the refined gentry; it was the fare of common folk.  No matter.  It was always manna from heaven!

The Italian Notebook, an English-language newsletter and website maintained by folks living in Italy, just published an article about pesto which originated in the Ligurian Region, specifically from Genova (Genoa).  Mom's family came from Varese Ligure, a small village about two hours' drive east from Genova. 

The article describes how fresh green beans, potatoes and pasta were prepared, then dressed with pesto.  Mom would include whatever vegetables were in season, but my favorite was the green beans and potatoes.

Now, I understand that her "recipe" was handed down through her mother who learned it from her mother in Italy.  I'd never really thought about how Mom learned to make the dish.  Like most kids, I'd just assumed she always knew it.  So having the article describe the regional tradition and method was the perfect way to tie our family fare to the Old Country.

Here's the website if you'd like to read more:  While you're there, sign up for the newsletter.  It offers so much about the Italian lifestyle and culture that we haven't necessarily experienced here in the States.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 9 -- Sounds

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History is an annual challenge for family historians to write about their own lives.  Amy Coffin is the author. 

Week 8 poses this question:  What sounds take you back to your childhood?


Rain pounding on the slate roof of an old farmhouse.  Gentle rhythm of ocean waves.  Tornado winds.  The soft nicker of a horse.  A happy bray from the family beagle, Pokey.  Notes from my piano filling the air and floating out into the valley.  Mom's voice on the phone with one of her sisters or cousins.  Harsh stuttering of the tractor engine.  Muffled tenor drums and footfalls honoring veterans.  Clucking, scratching of chickens.  Dad's laughter, too infrequent.  The creative chatter of a sewing machine.  Soft slapping of pinochle cards.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free Genealogy Webinars

Yep, I like attending a seminar in my PJs. 

Legacy Family Tree has a series of webinars (seminars that are Web-based so you can use your PC--but not Mac--to participate) that are free

Yesterday, I attended More Blogging for Beginners presented by Pat Richley, better known as Dear Myrtle.  It was a very helpful webinar, lasting about an hour and a half.  Pat is a superb presenter who knows exactly which blog design features we family historians will find most helpful, and which few might be problematic. 

Registration was a snap, and getting into the seminar required little more than turning on my computer's speakers.  The confirmation email I received after I'd registered lead me through prompts to the seminar's