Monday, 19 July 2021

Planning my summer holidays

 We haven’t seen much of the sun this summer; it shyly poked out sporadically from thick grey clouds and a fresh breeze often blew feeling more like easterly wind from time to time. Intermittent showers occurred on a daily basis, sometimes just spring rain other times downpours. Today is Freedom Day, but the media keep recommending not to rush back to normality, maybe keep wearing face masks in crowded spaces and keep distancing too. Face masks will still be compulsory on public transports in London and other cities. They say it’s our responsibility to keep the risk low and that the pandemic is not over and hospital

admissions might rise too. We need to be aware that we must ‘learn to live’ with this virus for a few years at least, considering the variants that keep appearing. Fortunately, there was the European Championship and the Italian victory that cheered me up. I didn’t expect Italy and England to face one another in the final. Honestly, Italy didn’t play so well against Spain. The game was slow and after the extra time both teams were exhausted. When Italy won at the penalties, I could hardly believe it. England vs Denmark was more predictable. I think England played better since the beginning and deserved the victory. It looked strange that the English and Danish flags have the same colours, one with a red cross, the other with a white cross, though slightly to the left. Comments after the match said that Sterling had minimal contact into the area and that it was not sufficient for the penalty. But this was the referee’s decision and, in the end, I think England deserved to be in the final.

Italy and England are two very different teams and the media coverage in the two counties as well as the audience’s attitude were very different too. Italians were excited and happy to be in the final, but the country was focused on other issues too. In England the final was a sort of obsession and became political ultimately. In the UK the media talked only about the English team, Southgate and all possible predictions about the final match. There was a lot of pride and commitment, but football is unpredictable especially when two teams are almost equal, as it often happens in final matches. I wonder why football is so popular especially in Europe and South America and how it is capable of pulling a country together in such an emotional and absolute way. Other popular sports such as rugby, basketball, volleyball and cricket don’t have the same power. Italians always become a nation around the Azzurri football team and display Italian flags everywhere when Italy plays, which does not happen on Liberation Day or other patriotic occasions.

My daughter Valentina
supporting Italy

Italy vs England was a tough match, ‘agony and ecstasy’, as it was often stated afterwards. Unfortunately, it ended with penalties, which is exciting but also a bit unfair, though they cannot carry on playing forever. In the end, Italy did better. Italian players looked more experienced and determined and the goalkeeper, Donnarumma, made the difference. I am not a football expert, but I wonder if Southgate had alternative players for the penalties. Saka is certainly an excellent player, but he is also very young and choosing him for the last penalty was a risk. I found the way Rashford, Sancho and Saka were targeted after the match very unfair. Everybody can miss a penalty, even Southgate did it in a similar occasion in 1996. In the end I was sorry for England and overjoyed for Italy. 😀

I am planning to visit my mum and my sister in Rome in August. I haven’t seen them in person since December 2019. I am not so happy to face the Italian summer especially in Rome where the temperatures are very high and it is so humid. I am also worried about the Covid rules that keep changing and all the expensive tests we need to do before and after departure. If Italy stays amber, I don’t need to isolate when I come back as I have the double jab, but I have to isolate for five days when I arrive in Rome. This is not a problem as my mother stays at home most of the time anyways. Visiting Italy again after such a long time will be emotional and strange. I will be immersed in a slumbering heat without internet connection except sporadically on my phone. I’m sure I will enjoy the time with my mum, doing our crochet work while watching the evening news or old films, visiting her elderly friends and gossiping about neighbours and relatives. I will meet my friends too, three girlfriends I’ve known since my twenties and maybe visit one or two exhibitions in Rome if the weather is bearable and my mum feels fit enough to go out. 

I expect to see more of my family who live in the UK during the summer. My sons who live in the north have planned to come and see us and my daughter Irene and I will visit some exhibitions and attend two or three shows in London too. It will be a quiet summer filled with intense readings, occasional paintings and some writing. In the meantime, I also became a member of the National Gallery and attended some of their online zoom sessions, Talk and Draw. They start from famous paintings such as The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello or The Bridge of Sighs by J.M.W. Turner. They suggested concentrating on

details and sketching them in loose marks at first then produce a more total approach. This technique helped me be loose, which is a characteristic I am trying to develop in my artwork. I am also attending weekly art sessions on zoom with Maria, a Portuguese lady who also helps with the Italian club at the Maybury Community Centre. The art class is composed of an interesting group of elderly ladies living in far away places in Surrey or Hampshire. All of them contribute telling their family stories, which are intriguing and moving, while they paint. At the end we take photos of our works and post them on WhatsApp. It is a good way of meeting people, keep connected and experience
communication despite these weird times. I made some embroideries too inspired by Margaret Atwood’s words for my supervisors and examiners at the University of Reading as a thank you gift for their availability and support in my three-year PhD course. They appreciated my artwork very much and sent me thank you messages. I also embroidered another piece for my friend Huan and her beautiful family. It is inspired by Chinese art and the inscription reads: ‘May you have smooth sailing’.

My trugveg garden is doing very well. It must be the frequent rains and sunny spells as well as occasional hot days that made the miracle. Flowers exploded overflowing the pots, tomato plants became trees and pumpkin plants grew all over the back garden creeping spookily under the table. I harvested plenty of lettuce, courgettes and French beans so far without even using any food for plants. The front garden looks less exciting though my blue and pink hydrangeas are blooming.

During the summer I am dressing for a staycation with loose light maxi dresses, shorts or baggy linen trousers and over-sized t-shirts. I take care of my earrings and lipstick every day. I alternate bright colours to neutral ones, it depends on the day, on my mood and where I am going to go. I don’t mind if my waistline disappeared and my ankles are swelling. I just wear what is most suitable and comfortable for me and I believe it looks pretty all the same. I keep buying things I like and enjoy changing my look, mixing and matching, looking sparkly. For zoom meetings and events the upper part is important and I also wear visible earrings plus a necklace. At home I wear shorts but also colourful loose dresses if it is hot. I keep cycling whatever the weather, wearing waterproof jacket and trousers if it is raining. And I carry on with my yoga relentlessly.

I was sorry to know that Raffaella Carrà died two weeks ago. They broadcast her interviews, shows and most popular songs on the Italian TV for days. She was very popular both in Italy and internationally, especially in South America, from the 1970s to 1990s. Her most famous songs were Ma che musica maestro, Tuca Tuca, A far l’amore comincia tu (Do it, do it again, which was popular in the UK too), Fiesta, Chissà se va, and many other songs that became hits in Italy. I remember watching her singing and dancing on the black and white TV when I was a child. She wore tight dresses showing her belly, which was a bit outrageous at the time. She had a confident and easy approach and was a great dancer too looking both ordinary, sassy and sexy, a typical Italian mixture. Here are some links that might give an idea of her personality and work: 

And here are three ricotta recipes and a recent photo of my lovely granddaughter Violetta.

Almond and ricotta mini cakes

For the dough you need: 80 g of melted butter, 2 eggs, 80 ml of milk, 50 g of sugar, grated zest of one lemon, 175 g of self-rising flour, 100 g of ground almonds, half a tsp of baking powder.

For the filling you need: 250 g of ricotta, 50 g of sugar, half a tsp of vanilla essence; some sugar and food colouring to decorate.

Prepare the dough and make balls, then press your thumb to make a hole in the centre. Bake on baking parchment till pale. Dunk the mini cakes in a mixture of milk and food colouring or alchermes then roll them in sugar. Fill the mini cakes with the ricotta mixture and chill for an hour before serving.

Sardinian lemon and ricotta mini cakes

For the pastry you need: 200 g of semolina, 30 g of melted lard, 100 g of self-raising floor, 100 ml of warm water, one tbsp of sugar.

For the filling you need: one yolk of an egg, grated zest of an orange and a lemon, 50 g of sugar, 250 g of ricotta, some drops of vanilla essence.

Mix all the ingredients for the pastry and knead it. Let it rest for one hour covered by a tea towel. Roll it out and cut it in circles and then set them in moulds. Mix the ingredient for the filling and spoon the mixture into the centre of each mini cake. Bake for 15-20 minutes then decorate with icing sugar and/or chocolate chips and cake sprinkles.

Ricotta and lemon and lime cake

You need: two eggs, 250 g of flour, 1 and ½ tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, 100 g of melted butter, 150 g of golden caster sugar, 250 g of ricotta, the grated zest and juice of a lemon, the grated zest and juice of two limes.

To decorate you need: the peel of one lemon and one lime. Cut the peel in stripes and cook it in water with two tbsp of demerara sugar.

Beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar, add all the other ingredients then whip the egg whites until stiff and add them too. Bake the cake for 45 minutes at 180 C. Pour the lime and lemon stripes on the cake and let it cool before serving.

And now let’s look forward to the Olympic Games! 

Have a lovely summer, I will be back with my blog posts in September. 👍🌞💦

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