Saturday, November 29, 2008

Has the world gone mad?

Normally I don't post on a weekend but I had to just try to put down some words. Please excuse me if they are incoherent.

Mumbai. My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones. I think about the people I know who lived/worked there and cowardly acts like this infuriates me. Attacking a hospital? Killing a family because they are a different religion than you?

Mumbai has had several terrorist attacks before but never of this scale.

The last time I watched CNN International it said two of the killed suspects had British I.D.s on them. This along with other aspects of the attack are leading the Indian government to believe it's not the act of some random local group. It was too organized and the attackers were well trained.

The relationship between Pakistan and India is not good. Tensions between the two are rising as rumors circulate this was an Al Qaeda attack and they were trained in the camps in Pakistan. God help us all if this is true. Both of these countries have nuclear arms.

Shopping madness. The following is from The New York Times.

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ ” Ms. Cribbs told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.”

I read that and was floored. What is going on our society? Where is the compassion? A man was trampled to death and all some folks can think about is fucking shopping?!

People were standing on line since the 9:00 a.m. Thanksgiving day. WTF? Is it that deep? Spend time with your freaking family and if you don't like them go volunteer at a shelter or something. When did Thanksgiving weekend turn into this shopping frenzy? Stores need to quit with this stupid Black Friday ritual.

I hate Walmart. I do. They pay and treat their employees like crap. The man who died, Mr. Damour, 34, was ran over by a mob who took the doors off the hinges. The crowd had been building from the day before. Walmart should have used better judgement and hired more security and staff.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Flashback Friday – Thanksgiving edition - Billy Crystal/Robert DeNiro Ad

Today's flashback is a little earlier.

Last year I was in Milan for Thanksgiving eating an amazing dinner with several of my expat friends and their Italian husbands.

This year I will be working.

I am thankful my family and friends are healthy.

I am also thankful for being able to live in this incredible city.

Some of you from the States might remember this ad. It aired during the Macy's Parade the Thanksgiving after 9/11.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Easy Roasted Potatoes

For more WCW recipes check out Shan’s Place.

I thought the follow would be Thanksgiving appropriate. I don’t have exact measurements but this is very easy to make.

Potatoes (I like little new potatoes)
Butter, melted
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Dried Rosemary

Scrub potatoes clean, don’t break the skin. One medium potato serves one person. Cut into to quarters or halves depending on size. Place loosely in a baking dish.

Add a few tablespoons of melted butter mixed with olive oil (approx. ¼ cup of oil for a pound of potatoes). Coat the potatoes well.

Roast at 350, turning occasionally until they are browned on the outside and tender inside, approx 1-1 ½ hours.

Halfway through the cooking add salt, pepper and rosemary to taste.

You can also try these with different spices or some roasted garlic.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oh no! I’ve become a cold weather wimp.

Those living on the East Coast or the Mid-West of America will roll their eyes when I say it was freezing yesterday. The high was probably around 55 degrees (F) or so.

I went to college in Upstate New York where 55 degrees was practically shorts weather. Sometimes it was so cold, my eyelids would be frozen shut after walking across campus to class.

Now I’m complaining about temperatures in the high 50s. What the heck is going on?

Perhaps living in Southern California made me soft. After ten years my tolerance for cold weather has dropped.

I don’t have enough winter clothes and I’m too broke to buy some. Hopefully by the big February sales my bank account will be healthier. However, I might break down and get warmer workout gear. I went to the park the other day and froze my butt off. I saw joggers in shorts and thought they were pazzi, crazy. Yes the sun was shining but it was 8:30 in the morning and cold.

One benefit of the colder weather is there are fewer drunk American exchange students walking down my small side street yelling at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight, Mamma Mia, Sex And The City and Wanted.

What do these movies have in common? Women.

While these movies couldn’t be any more different, they were/are big hits domestic and internationally.

The reviews for all four were mixed. The first three were seen as “only” one quadrant movies. Hollywood tries to focus on four quadrant films (men under 25, men over 25, women under 25, women over 25). The first three end up being two quadrant movies and Wanted was probably a three, pulling in more men.

I don’t want to hear another male exec say female driven movies don't make money or every time a female driven movie succeeds it’s only a “fluke.” Please.

To show how little Hollywood gets the female audience, MTV Films bough the rights to the “Twilight” book when it was in galley form. A screenwriter was hired. Then someone senior at Paramount put the project in turnaround since they didn’t think the movie would be a hit. Ouch.

True not every hit book can become a hit movie but “Twilight” was not expensive to make, why not take the gamble? “Twilight’s” opening weekend was the biggest opening for a female directed film ever. Congrats to Catherine Hardwicke.

The “smart film” season is upon us. This is the time of year the studios tend to release their Oscar worthy films.

What movies are you looking forward to seeing?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashback Friday – Special Request - Bay City Rollers

Per a request, I found this clip. I'm not sure which commentor asked for some Bay City Love but here it is. Enjoy.

I don’t remember the outfits being so, tragic. Ha. The haircuts are cute though.

This group from Scotland was huge in the mid/late 70s.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

San Carlo Chips why must you torment me!

In another post I spoke of my feelings for the Rustica style chips. I finally cut back to eating them only on weekends.

Well one day I was in the supermarket minding my own business when the following somehow ended up in my basket.



I looked at the photo and it said “sour cream and chives” to me. This is a rare flavor combo in Italy.

I returned home and looked up the word “campagnola". It means “country woman“, uhm okay.

These chips were outstatnding. I’ve been looking for them everyday since that lovely afternoon. I can’t find them anywhere.

What is up with that? San Carlo is messing with me. Why tease me so? It’s not right.

The search for the chips continues.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who is Victoria Silvstedt?

And why do I see commercials for her new show on E! everywhere?

I first noticed her last year. Originally from Sweden she is the letter turner on both the Italian and French versions of "Wheel of Fortune".

Is she the European version of Pamela Anderson? They both modeled for Playboy, have enormous fake boobs and lots of blond hair. While I find Victoria's blond weave (her hair looked fried on last weeks E! show) and boob job distracting, she is gorgeous. She hasn't messed with her face as much as Pam has.

Speaking of breasts, can someone explain to me the appeal of huge boob jobs? There are plenty of celebs who have them but they have ones that are in proportion. I don't get having huge ones that feel/look like big boulders sitting on your chest.

Anyway Victoria has had small parts in a few America comedies. I think we will be seeing more of her. She has a lot of male fans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get your parks on, part II – Doria Pamphili

During one of my trips here I was walking toward Vatican City, or so I thought. I got completely lost and ended up in Rome’s largest park. This park is massive.

I was lost for hours. It was a nice day so I didn’t mind.

Only recently I realized I could enter the park from the Gianicolo Hill. This is a very historic area. Garibaldi and his troops fought against the French in several bloody battles. They lost. You can see the damage to a villa on the right as you enter the park. Another villa was completely destroyed.

In the mornings this area does have more joggers than the Borghese Park. There is a lake full of swans, lots of fields and bike trails. The park is also very popular with bird watchers.

Mass in the Pamphili private chapel has been opened to the public since 1970 after a law was passed banning private services.

Here is more info on the park.


Some joggers near the old wall.


Bella villa. Casino del Bel Respiro was the summer home built by Pope Innocent X for his nephew Prince Camilio Pamphili. It was built in the mid-1600s. There is no water in the fountains but the grounds (the space outside the gate is accessible) are still worth checking out.


Pretty gardens. It was hard to get a good picture because I was on a hill facing the sun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Get your parks on – Villa Borghese

While I love living in a city, I need to see some nature. When I lived in NYC I would pass pretty Gramercy Park everyday to and from work. At least once a month I made it up to Central Park or south to Battery City Park. In D.C. Rock Creek Park was a second home and in Austin Texas it was Barton Springs.

Griffith Park in Los Angeles is the largest city park in the States but L.A. has less park space per capita than NYC and other major U.S. cities. L.A. is not a pedestrian city and urban planning in the past was an afterthought so not surprised about the lack of parks. Plus in Los Angeles many people live in houses and have a backyard. NYC and other cities where the majority live in apartments you need public spaces.

I live walking distance between two excellent parks and not far from the Tiber, which is lined with huge oak and sycamore trees (I think that is what they are). I haven’t made it up to Villa Ada yet, which I hear is a fantastic park. That park is quite a distance from my home.

The shorter walk for me is to Villa Borghese. I haven’t explored this entire park yet. On nice weekends the families come out, along with the joggers and the bikers. Early weekdays mornings it’s so quiet. All you hear are birds.

During my first trip to Rome I stayed in a hotel near this area and the park was where I spent my first morning in Rome. It left a beautiful impression. The road that leads to top of the Spanish Steps offers one of the best views in Rome.

In 1605 Cardinal Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, took this former vineyard and created the second largest park in Rome. It’s 148 acres.

Here is more info about the park.

A view overlooking Piazza del Popolo.


The Cavalli Marini fountain is one of my favorites. It so weird. Interesting interpretation of a “sea horse”.


The Borghese Villa. I will write a post about this must see museum.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flashback Friday – Seal - "Prayer For The Dying"

Post election, I’ve thinking a lot about the late Ann Richards. I spent a year in Texas working on her re-election campaign. We lost to George Bush. 1994 was the first time I heard the name Karl Rove.

Most of the people working on the campaign were from Texas and worked on her first campaign for Governor. I was one of the regional finance directors and responsible for raising a lot of money from the Houston area. Prior to moving to Texas most of my campaign work was in GOTV (get out the vote) and press.

I loved being in Austin (until the bitter end when everything fell apart). Two of the three other fundraisers also worked in DC and had moved for the campaign. We had a blast. There were many fun evenings spent at Chuys and the Cedar Door.

One of the best birthday ever was when my co-workers surprised me with a party at the restaurant Shady Grove. We were sitting outside chilling when all of a sudden I heard children screaming. One of my colleagues walked in a Barney costume. WTF? She was almost knocked over by all the screaming kids. Needless to say we couldn’t stop laughing.

We used to go to this bar on Lake Austin. I think it was call Ski Shores. The bar had a great jukebox and good food. It was hard to get to, lots of windy roads and I refused to drive. One of my friends on the campaign, a New Yorker named Peter, who reminded everyone of Dr. Joel Fleischman from Northern Exposure, bought this CD and we used to blast it. When I hear this song or “Bring it On” I think of zooming around Austin's Hill Country

I love this song. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

American Apparel is coming to Rome.

Why, why, why!

I was reading Jessica’s excellent Rome Photo blog and horror of horrors I saw this post. They are opening a store in Monti.

I guess their practice of only hiring “hot” people will fit in the bel paese. I wonder how their prices will be and who will shop there…locals or tourists?

I never shopped at the stores because the Penthouse circa 1970 advertising got on my freaking nerves. To me the store is the retail version of Girls Gone Wild. I wonder if Joe Francis and Dov Charney (the CEO) are friends. The latter is being sued for the 5th time for sexual harassment.

I agree with Jessica. One thing I love about Rome is that there isn’t a Gap or a Starbucks on every corner. Each block is unique and has flavor. I’m not against all globalization. I was very happy to hear Origins might open a store here.

The problem is when these stores multiply and push out the local places. If Starbucks wanted to open at the airport, that would be a good idea right? But you know it wouldn’t stop there. They have completely oversaturated the American market which why they had to lay off thousand of employees and close hundreds of store. Now they are aggressively pushing their overseas expansion. They have to in order to keep those stock prices up.

Although they are expanding all over Europe, they have yet to open a store in Italy. The founder of Starbucks got the idea from going to coffee bars in Milan. At first, when the company was smaller, he saw the stores as a place where Americans can come together, since we are so disconnected as a culture. Once the stores became very successful they moved away from their mission statement.

Opening a Starbucks here would be like bringing sand to the beach. Their market research showed they would take a bath in Italy. I'm not surprised. The culture here is very different. McDonalds coming here made sense. A fake expensive coffee chain with bad coffee? Not so much.

There are places in Rome where you can get a coffee and read/meet like at the Feltrinelli book store at Largo Argentina. One friend took me to a great place which of course I can't remember the name, where there were books, wine and coffee. It's near the Trevi Fountain. We don't need a Starbucks.

Why is AA opening in Monti? It’s such a great neighborhood with unique stores. The store should be next to the Disney store on Via del Corso along with all the other big international retail stores.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Italian Style Macaroni and Cheese






Today's What Cooking Wednesday is one of my favorite dishes to make.






I adapted my mom’s (she used cheddar cheese) and a recipe from THE NEW BASIC COOKBOOK. This is an excellent overall cookbook. It’s very user friendly.


I don’t have exact measurements for some of the added ingredients so use as much or little as you’d like.

You can use different types of cheeses if you can’t find Gruyère. Just make sure they melt well. I used Swiss. The better the quality of your cheese, the better the dish will be.


1 pound ditalini or another small tube-shaped pasta
1 small onion
pancetta cubed
4 cups milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated 4 cups.

Cook the pasta until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.
While pasta is cooking, saute the onions until soft, set aside.
Saute the pancetta until slightly brown, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350.
Bring the milk just to a boil in a heavy saucepan and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in another heavy saucepan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from the heat.

Add the hot milk to the flour mixture and whisk well. Add the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and return the pan to the heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thicken, 5 minutes. Add to the pasta and toss well to coat completely.

Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch flameproof baking dish, and fill it evenly with the pasta and sauce.
Distribute the grated cheese evenly over the pasta, and sprinkle with black pepper.





Place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes.

Place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is slightly golden and bubbling 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately. (the leftovers the next day taste even better)
8 portions.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today is my "blogversary"

Hard to believe but three years ago I wrote this post.

I started after several friends insisted I write down the tales of my crazy Hollywood/living in L.A. stories. Other than my siblings and a few friends I didn't think any one would care about what I had to say but I began writing anyway.

A lot has changed since then. Pre-blog my world was pretty insular. That is the way it is in the "biz". Through blogging I was able to read about the reality of expat life. The more I read the more I realized I had to move.

Big thanks to those bloggers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I want to buy a house within four years.

This might not seem like an unrealistic goal. However, given I don’t know how I will be able to pay my rent later next year (my production money from TRAITOR will not last forever), this desire is right up there with wanting to marry Denzel back in the 90s. I’m still single so you see how that turned out.

I don’t need or want a mansion. I will still keep an apartment in Rome, so the house can’t be far from here. That leaves the more affordable areas like Puglia and Le Marche out.

I just want a place with two floors (I have a thing about bedrooms on ground floors as I like to sleep with window opens), a great window for my writing desk, enough land for a nice vegetable garden and a flower garden. For me, location is more important than size.

A few weekends ago my friend D. (an expat in for 16 years since coming here to study film in grad school) invited me to a lunch at a friend’s place in the country. Only 45 minutes on the train and we were near the Umbria/Lazio border. It was a different world…fresh air and miles and miles of gorgeous countryside.

The view from a lower terrace.


For years I’ve saved shelter magazines for inspiration. I had to threw out quite a few as I downsized before the move overseas. I kept a few of my absolute favorite issues and my décor binder. I went through the binder and saved only the must have articles. There are great resources online now, like Apartment Therapy and Décor8 I can use.

I am going to take some advice from several Blogging friends who believe in visualizing and setting goals no matter how bananas. After all, if someone told me four years ago I would be living in Italy, I would have told them, “just say no to drugs.”

I'm putting it out there...I want to buy a house sooner rather than later. I can’t wait to have my own fruit trees, peony bushes, gardenias, hydrangeas, tomatoes, basil etc.

image from italyvillas.com

Friday, November 07, 2008

Flashback Friday – Photos - Wednesday Morning

I think this is the first Flashback from this century. ha

Here are the photos I tried to post earlier in the week.

Have a great weekend.







Thursday, November 06, 2008

Where does the GOP go from here? Palin in 2012?

The GOP is going through the same thing the Democrats went through in the late 80s/early 90s. What does their party stand for? Several senior officials are meeting today.

I have voted for Republicans in the past and think it’s important to have choices. I realize growing up on the east coast that most of my Republican friends are fiscally moderate/conservative but socially moderate or liberal.

In the past McCain said the Limbaugh and Hannity wing of the party was destructive. Then during this election he courted that wing (which hated him and the immigration bill he co-sponsored with Ted Kennedy) and picked Gov. Palin.

The way things are now it is almost impossible for a Republican to win their primary without the far right Evangelicals. However, when they sift that far right during the primaries it makes it difficult to win during the general election. Most Americans are not single issues voters.

Even Bill O’Reilly said yesterday on Fox News that while the far right and far left pundits make a lot of money on TV and the radio, things are changing. Ideology like that is out. People want answers on “kitchen table” issues.

Should the GOP break into two? I don’t see how the fiscally moderate or conservative Republicans but socially moderate ones can be in the same tent with the far right. If the GOP stays on this course they will continue to alienate a huge segment of their party and the nation in general.

Bush received over 40% of the Latino vote. According to early voting analysis Obama won the Latino vote by more than 2 to 1. Does the GOP not realize the Latino population will be the majority in a few decades? Let them keep saying only certain people can be true Americans. What the heck does that mean?

They might also want to ease up on the snark. Remember Gov. Palin’s diss toward community organizers during her convention speech? Guess those skills came in handy seeing how Sen. Obama’s ground operation was extremely organized.

Not sure why Palin would even dream of running for president. Who knows what will happens four years from now but I assume several Republicans will be running in the primary. I doubt they will give her a pass. Huckabee appeals to the same demographics and is more qualified. If the loss had been closer, maybe she would have a better advantage. Also it doesn’t help that McCain staffers are talking about how she refused to prep before her ABC or CBS interviews, that she spent more than the rumored 150K on clothes for herself and her family (she was told to buy three suits for the convention and the wealthy donor was pissed when he got the bill.) and she went off message when she started talking about Ayers before they signed off on it. The latter is very strange. Why weren’t the two communications departments talking?

She insisted a McCain staffer be fired after her camp thought he was talking to the press. McCain rehired him saying he wasn’t going to fire someone during the last weeks of the campaign. Keep an eye on Nicholle Wallace. She is the senior McCain staffer who refused to take the hit for the clothes debacle. I think we will be hearing more from her about what was really going on during the last few months of the campaign.

I don’t know what McCain’s legacy will be. I just know this is the not the same candidate from 2000. That man would have never hired Steve Schmidt or picked Palin. That man showed up the other night during his gracious, classy concession speech.

If you were the head of the RNC (Republican National Committee) what would you do? Do you think Palin will run for president in 2012 or focus on a talk show? Both?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Night - Rome, Italy

I have been trying to post pics for an hour. I will try to post them later in the week

I went to the Democrats Abroad Pancake Breakfast at 3:00 a.m. this morning to watch the results.

When Virginia and Ohio went blue it was a wrap. CNN projected Obama the winner and the place (which was packed) went crazy.

There were lots of hugs and tears. The crowd of Americans and Italians was diverse and it was great to see how many college students were there.

I thought McCain's speech was very gracious. His audience was not.

I hope I didn't sound like an idiot during an interview.

I love Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.

I can't believe Sen. Obama is the President Elect of the United States of America. Still processing.

YES WE DID!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

Good luck to voters Stateside.

The lines for early voting have been very long...it took some people 4-6 hours to vote. Wow.

Our next President will have many problems on his plate. Most of them will not be solved in one decade let alone one term.

Living abroad you really see how the image of America took a beating after GWB squandered all the post 9/11 good will. I just saw on the news that the war in Iraq could cost over 1.5 TRILLION dollars. Bin Laden is still chilling after two wars with countless killed.

The economy is in the toilet, education is a mess, the infrastructure needs repairs and voters are angry. Maybe we'll have less posturing and the Congress (who's approval ratings are just as bad as Bush's) will try to work together with the White House on these issues instead of running around talking about nonsense (i.e. flag pins). If not, many will find their butts thrown out of office during the next mid-term elections. The majority of voters are in no mood for shenanigans.

A change is going to come and it starts tomorrow.



Monday, November 03, 2008

"Uomini e Donne" (Men & Women)...can someone please explain this show to me?

It seems to be on all the time. The host (she is also the host of the Italian version of American Idol and used to host another popular show, C'e Un Poste Per Te) has the deepest voice I have ever heard on a woman. Is she trying to help couples reconcile? Is it a dating show?

Who are the other people on stage? Friends of the couple or ex's? How/where do they find these couples?