Archive for October, 2010

Milanese little shop of horrors

October 28th, 2010 4 comments

There was just one day for me to walk the streets of Milan, check out the little shops, and hang out in the piazzas so I was very happy when a native Milanese who worked with Elena drew me a map. “Go here, there’s lots of things to see.” Armed with that little map, I was off. The streets was narrow, there was no parking and it was very difficult to see how cars managed to get through. I saw many bicyclists, some talking on cell phones or smoking negotiating the cobblestones and the cars. The sidewalk was less than two feet across, so if someone came from the opposite direction, you might end up in the street trying to get around them.. where those cars and cyclists were.

One of the little shops drew my attention. There were miniature skulls in the window. Now that’s odd. I looked inside and saw all kinds of skulls; big animals, small animals, animals with horns, as well as some skeletons. I had to go in there! There were tiny skulls carved from semiprecious stones, and even paintings of bones and things, but there were real bones too. It was just a tiny place, the size of a small living room, cluttered and full of wonders, many clearly ancient. And there was a guard dog. He met me outside of the shop, but by the time I got to the back, he was relaxing on this overstuffed dark red leather sofa. I drew close to the displays of the tiniest carved skulls and creatures to see if I could find a price. I had enough class not to gasp and drew away from the tantalizing display. Fortunately the proprietor permitted me to take a photo of his dog..

(new! you can click on the painting to see an enlargement of it)

This painting is for sale

Related posts: A day in Milan

Categories: Italia, nature Tags:

Pasquale Riccio and Angelina Grillo

October 25th, 2010 1 comment

1989 was the year I fulfilled my dream to travel to Italy to visit my relatives. I had been writing to a cousin named Teresa Riccio for several years and my destination was her house in Sersale, Catanzaro, Calabria. Her parents, Pasquale Riccio (Riccio means hedgehog) and Angelina Grillo (Grillo means cricket) put us up for the night in their house and made us feel very comfortable. We only stayed one night!

12 years later, I returned to Sersale with my husband and once again Pasquale and Angelina figured prominently in our visit. When someone broke into our car and the police towed it away for security, it was Pasquale who drove us to the tow yard to retrieve it. That was quite an adventure, and a gripping story, you can read all about it here.

I was sitting in Teresa’s living room not even a month ago when she asked me; “Could you paint a portrait of my parents, remember, from the photo you took of them in the woods?” Be careful what you ask for, now I’ve done it.

The reference for this painting was a photo my husband Donald Boothby took of Pasquale and Angelina as they were leaving the woods, having just gathered some porcini mushrooms.

Categories: historic, Italia, portrait Tags:

Santina and the spatulas

October 21st, 2010 8 comments

Santina is a cousin by marriage. She was born in Sellia Marina and now lives in Sersale, where she was recently widowed. She has a heart of gold, is a little shy, but kind, hard working, and modest. On this last visit, I stayed with her at her house and she shared her daily routines with me. I learned how she makes minestra this time, delicious!


Every time I go to Italy, I bring some little gifts to give to the women of the houses I visit. In the past, I’ve brought food, oven mitts, and other kitchen stuff. Last time when I brought heart shaped oven mitts, there were not enough to go around, so when I got home I had to mail a couple more back to Italy.

This summer, I bought 32 kitchen towels for my September trip. I figured I could give two per person, or if things got tight, I could still give people one each. You never know.

So it was about one week before my departure date when one of my little teenaged Facebook cousin-friends from Sersale sent me a message. This was Ilenia, the granddaughter of Santina. She asked;
“My grandmother wants to know if you can bring more of those wooden spoons”
“Wooden spoons??” I wondered,
“Oh wait, you mean those silicone spatulas?”
“Yes yes, those!”
I was very happy to finally get some feedback about what they wanted, it always feels like a shot in the dark.
So as soon as I could, I took all those hand towels back to Target and looked for silicon spatulas. We actually bought all that they had, about 15 I think, all different colors, with two of them being the smaller size.

When I arrived in Sersale, I stayed at Santina’s house. Since she was the one who requested the spatulas, I pulled out a few right away, and I gave her a small one to match the big one I had given her a few years earlier, which she truly cherishes. She told me every time she uses it she thinks of me!
She asked my if I had any more, and I responded “Yes, yes, don’t worry.”

So when Mafalda came over,  I ran and got her a spatula. Santina saw what I was doing and asked: “are you going to save one for Annina?” (Annina is the cousin who later made me Sersalese pasta from scratch, called ‘mparetati)
“Oh yes, don’t worry.”
So when I also took one out for Silvana (daughter of Tommaso Stonato) she looked worried again. You see, I never showed her how many I had. Once again, I told her not to worry, I even had one for her son Daniele’s girlfriend…
I made the rounds, her daughters each got one, Teresa Riccio got one… When I left Sersale, everyone who fed me received a spatula! I had three left, one for Elena Verdolini, and a matching set of two white ones for Lucia in Naples, who is one of the best cooks in the world.
And of course Annina got hers too.
I have no idea what to give my male cousins. Anyone have any ideas?

Categories: biographical, Italia, portrait Tags:

Mail art – one of the things I love

October 18th, 2010 4 comments

If you are so fortunate as to get personalized mail from me, it probably won’t look like a plain white envelope with a generic stamp on it. It will probably involve at least 4 stamps, and if I have any time at all, it will also involve watercolor paint, crayons or color pencils. Sometimes, for fun, I also make postcards. When I design a card or an envelope, I want it to be happy and bright. Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s sublime, but I guarantee that none of my envelopes or postcards will be mistaken for a bill!

The first image was done with colored pencils, the second; watercolors. The reference to the painting of the chestnuts was a leaf from my own chestnut tree and some nuts that my Calabrian cousins sent me home with.

Categories: postal art Tags:

Passionately Pink 2010

October 16th, 2010 3 comments

Two of my paintings were accepted into this, my first juried show. If you’re in the area, I’d love it if you could stop by. The opening day for an art show is always fun; there is food, drink and merriment.
Click on the thumbnails below to see the paintings I have entered in the show.

To support Susan G. Komen for the Cure, celebrate breast cancer survivors and raise awareness about breast cancer and resources in our community. Please join the C Art Gallery on Thursday, October 21, 5:30-7:30 p.m. to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month with our special, “Passionately Pink” group show exhibit.

All breast cancer survivors will be recognized with a gift from the gallery. There will also be breast health education information and resources throughout the exhibit.

Exhibit Dates: October 12-October 31

Work by the following artists will be on exhibit:

Sue Gill Rose
Pam Courtnage
Tracy Read
Debbie Halprin
Judith Helm
Beverly Shaw Starkovich
Blanca Santander
Michelle Ryan
Nanette Middlewood
Suzy Tidwell
Esperanza Grundy
Shirley Rudolf
Caitlin Dundon
Eden Hopkins
Brian Sostrom
Jane Mayer
Mimi Torchia Boothby
Eric Salisbury

*** A portion of each sale will be contributed to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.***

Categories: contest, flowers Tags: