I’ve been promising to share some photos and information about hosting a pizza-themed birthday party for my son’s second birthday, which we celebrated in Ischia, an island that is a province of Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza. Today, I revealed the whole story of how I pulled this off – from making that chef’s hat I’m wearing in the photo above to the fruit pizzas for dessert – in an entry for ItaliansRus. And I also posted the pics of the affair (including images of all the details) on this here site. See the “Pizza-Themed Birthday Party” photo album. All I can say is that I’m sad the party is over because it was so much fun for me to plan and execute. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top this event. My apologies to the Italian-American family members, who weren’t able to enjoy it with us. I promise to try and come up with something to celebrate when we return to the States. With Italians, it’s never hard to find an excuse for a party. Am I right or am I right?
Today is the feast of Saint Francis (San Francesco in Italy). Those of us named Francesco and Francesca celebrate our name day (onomastico in Italian) today. This is a religious celebration, and you might have heard about the Pope (who took Francis/Francesco as his Pope name) marking the occasion with a trip to his namesake’s birthplace, Assisi. Back on the home front, we have secular celebrations akin to birthday parties. As the one celebrating, my job is to provide friends and family with sweets. Many people bring their colleagues pastries on the morning of their name day. I baked peanut butter cookies for my in-laws because my niece shares my name and those are her favorite. We ate pizzette (tiny pizzas) and French fries. Of course, that was dinner and at lunch we had a pasta dish with ham and a creamy sauce, followed by mozzarella in carrozza (Italian grilled cheese) and eggplant parmigiana. Obviously, there was no thought to cholesterol; it was a party, after all. Like everything else in Italy, name days are all about the food. Those closest to you sometimes give you small gifts. And my husband really surprised me this morning. He left a beautifully wrapped present in the bathroom for me to find when I awoke (and he was already off to work). The contents of said gift are in the photo above. What meant the most was the saying on the placeholder in the frame. Eternamente insieme! Together Forever! I hope so.
On a recent trip to the town of Ischia Ponte, I noticed this lovely tree with stumps surrounding its base. It’s a simple idea – placing stumps that would have been burned or tossed around a tree to serve as decoration in a tourist mecca. It probably protects the tree at its roots, too, with all the foot traffic in the area. But it definitely isn’t an obvious idea. I wouldn’t have come up with it. It looks neat and clean, yet interesting with lots of texture. Just look at that bark and the green leaves of the tree flowing upward toward the sky! Well, it caught my eye, and I wanted to share it. If Baby Boy had been in a better mood (and if we had more time), I would have used this as background for a photo of him. Even all by itself, the tree is still pretty wonderful. It reminds me of two things. First, Ischia is known as L’Isola Verde (the Green Island) with good reason. Second, its people are pretty darn creative, especially with their beloved greenery. My father, an island native, is an artist with plants and flowers – and so are many of his fellow Ischitani. This is where the gene comes from. Anyone who visits the island will take note of it, even in the most unexpected places.
I’ve learned to also keep my digital camera charged and with me whenever I venture out into Ischia, Italy. I just never know when I’m going to stumble upon the perfect photo. I just loved this colorful boat, which caught my eye while I was hanging out on the beach and building sand castles (read: getting sand thrown in my eyes, hair, face, and even mouth) with Baby Boy, who likes to throw the soft stuff around. Despite the tearing, I saw this charming boat, probably giving someone a tour of the island, and couldn’t resist snapping a photo. I have a load of these kinds of shots on iPhoto now. And I hope the collection keeps growing. My new rule is going to be to always have a camera with me wherever I am (even after I leave Ischia). This comes in handy when I want to capture precious moments with Baby Boy, too. Who knows? You might be my next subject. Watch out!
Baby Boy is crying about the bigger kids taking over the attractions at the park in Ischia and shoving him out in the photo above. But Italians are apparently just as blue nowadays, at least according to the United Nation’s most recent World Happiness Report. The Boot had a poor showing, which is mostly attributed to the economic crisis gripping Europe. Recently, I offered a firsthand look at the crisis, based on the last five months I’ve spent living in Ischia, which attempts to illustrate the sadness that the UN is reporting. You can read my story, “Italy is Blue,” on the ItaliansRus Web site. Give it a chance. There’s a surprise ending that offers a little hope to the Motherland. Oh and big kids, next time I won’t hold back Baby Boy. Let’s just say he won’t be the one crying. Capeesh?
What did I tell you? What did I tell you? In a recent blog I mentioned that maybe Ischia would have a couple more summer-like days in the fall and that they would attract people to the ocean. Well, on Saturday temperatures reached about 80 degrees, and people raced to the rocks to get prime real estate in the sun. As Baby Boy ran freely on the bridge that leads to Castello Aragonese, we took in the view of the sunbathers making the most of these rarer and rarer hot days. In fact, on this lovely Monday morning, Baby Boy was wearing jeans and a jacket to play ball in the garden at home. Right now, I’m wearing sweat pants. Still, how cool is it that we could actually enjoy an 80-degree day toward the end of September at the beach?
Summer left Ischia without even saying good-bye. The tourists cleared out of here in early September. And we went to the beach during the first week of the month, and it was still hot and sticky, perfect for jumping into the ocean for a dip. The next day, I turned around and the cold breeze of autumn had flown through our kitchen. I made a hot cup of apple cinnamon tea (from the States, of course) and threw on a long-sleeve T-shirt, and I haven’t looked back. Baby Boy is sporting jeans and even a cotton jacket over his polo shirts.
Indeed, this was a strange summer on Ischia. I’ve been here before during this time period, and usually we are at the beach regularly from early May to early October. All the Americans who were at our wedding here nearly five years ago can attest to this because we took a swim the day after the nuptials on Oct. 3. The weather is hot, so we can really squeeze all we can out of summer. This year, it was cold until mid June and it’s cold again in mid September. No matter, there are some fun things to look forward to in fall (and which you can expect to read about on this site soon). Baby Boy’s pizza-themed birthday party, Halloween, and Thanksgiving celebrations (yes, I’m forcing these American holidays onto the Italians here), and the vendemmia (grape harvest for wine making) and mushroom picking (both Ischitani traditions). Maybe a hot day or two will visit us in the next month and we can make it back to the beach (and actually into the water). Or maybe we’ll just be hanging out on the sand until winter.
While wandering around Ischia Porto this morning (yet again), we saw an adult with children on a motorino, which is a motor scooter. The adult was wearing a helmet and the children were not. My husband and I discussed it. He said he wouldn’t take kids on a motorino without helmets. I said I would NOT let my kids ride on a motorino. Period. We don’t agree and sometime in the future we’ll be confronted with this by our son. I’m certain of it. He’ll be traveling back and forth between Italy and the United States for the rest of his life because he will be close to both families. As a result, he might one day want to drive a motorino around the island himself. I say we should prohibit it. We should prohibit it big time. I’ve seen one too many brutal accidents here on the island both with natives and tourists, who enjoy renting one of these bad boys. And I just find them completely unsafe, especially when novices jump on one.
Yet, I let my husband convince me to ride behind him – with a helmet, of course – during the years when we were dating and first married. I was hesitant, but even my mother-in-law prodded me to give it a chance because we don’t have a car here, and we had no other way to get around except for the rather inconvenient buses on Ischia. So, I agreed. We scooted all over the island – to other beaches, our friend’s homes on the other side of Ischia, fancy dinners (a nightmare on your hair-do), and thermal spas. I haven’t been on the back of his motorino since I got pregnant. Of course, it’s dangerous for a pregnant woman to be on the motorino, and I wasn’t even here at all during the pregnancy. Now that I’m a mom, I’m even more hesitant than before to get on the back of his scooter, even though hubby is a great driver and is always safe. But I digress.
Despite the fact that I rode on the motorino (against the will of my own parents, whose opinion didn’t count much because of my status as a full-fledged adult), I don’t want my son to ride on one. Ever. It’s just one of a slew of things that fall into the category of “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.” And it will be one of a slew of things about which my husband and I will disagree and will have to compromise. I got exhausted before the day even started just thinking about these future negotiations between husband/father, wife/mother, and son. Probably, I have about 15 years to prepare my case. I better get started now.
These red flowers recently greeted my son and me when we took a walk around Ischia Porto. I’m not sure what kind of flowers they are, but they are fuzzy, soft to the touch, and bright. And the color just brings a smile to your face. They also swayed in the wind, which mesmerized Baby Boy. Shortly thereafter, he fell asleep, which is something he rarely does during the day lately. I just might have to invest in some and put them next to his bed. Anybody know what kind of flower this is?
On every beach I’ve ever been to in the United States and Italy, there are always people peddling their wares – T-shirts, beach towels, inflatable toys for kids, sarongs and cover-ups, doughnuts and treats, and occasionally beaded or handmade jewelry. Here in Ischia I’ve even gotten to know a few of the regular salesmen, one of whom recently gave me a bracelet as a gift. Other than the jewelry, the items they are selling on the beach make perfect sense. You might need a beach towel when you’re on the beach, after all. And who hasn’t wished she had a cover-up post swim?
Last week, however, I witnessed a sale I had never seen before on the beach – socks. If you even wear socks to the beach, it is the first item you take off as you hit the sand. It’s usually so hot that you wouldn’t want anything to come between your toes and the ocean, and the sand just gets stuck to it. Yet, there are full-fledged, well-connected salespeople hocking socks on the beaches of Ischia. In fact, my husband only buys his socks for work on the beach because these guys can get him socks in this superfine material that he says helps his feet breathe in the heat.
The sale wasn’t even a simple exchange. The Neapolitan salesperson, who was carrying a duffel bag full of socks and shirts to sell, used his cell phone to call another salesman at a nearby beach to pick up merchandise from him to satisfy my husband, who only wanted socks made of this particular lightweight material. He returned 20 minutes later to make the sale. And we came home from the beach with a bucket full of sea glass, sand stuck to our being, and six pairs of men’s dress socks. Only in Ischia, folks, only in Ischia.