Jump!

I felt a last minute sensation the second I caught a glimpse of the almond tree in its final blossoming stage. At the same time I felt grateful for that occasion. It was rather late in the season, after all.

Blossoming almond tree

But the rewards on our trip to the coast were great nevertheless. There were blossoming peach trees galore and glorious magnolias of different shapes, colours and sizes aplenty. Wisterias have already woken up from their hibernation and proudly displayed their fat buds, which were just about to explode in fragrant bloom.

The day itself was as fresh as a daisy, bright and colourful just as the market day before Palm Sunday. A splash of colour all around.

A colourful market stall before Palm Sunday

The air was dense and heavy with sea salt, a little bit hazy but quite warm: neither coat needed nor the gloves.

Early spring mist over the sunset

The hedgerows and garden trees have already been trimmed, all ready for the Easter time show-off. The land work must have already started too although the fields even now, in the first days of spring, looked abandoned and cast-aside. I guess the soil needs more sun and its warmth to be ready for a serious makeover.

The birds were happy to perform for whoever wanted to listen, a brisk vivace at one moment and a joyful allegro at the next. It was a good day, breaking out of the ordinary for a while. Can’t wait for spring to jump out of the closet!

The tree top in early spring full of chirping birds

More Sunshine Please

A plate of delicious spaghetti and a bowl of green salad

It’s been a typical winter day, the kind that one tends to forget all about even before it’s over. Half light half grey, not too cold but humid, anticipating the deterioration and turning to rain before the night creeps in. Not complaining at all, it’s pitch-perfect for my favourite pastime: reading.

We did manage to do a couple of rounds on the slopes though and filled our lungs with fresh pine tree smelling air for a pleasant aromatherapy momentum. On our last ascent on the chairlift we already contemplated the bookworms’ evening. We had to take care of more prosaic necessities first. The lunch.

And what a great lunch it was! Simple yet fragrant and full of sun and d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. It’s as simple as your ABC can be, as is the case with so many Italian dishes but it’s the execution that requires attentiveness.

Boil a lot of water in your pasta pentola. While the pot is warming up, skin the lemon off its zest with a potato peeler and cut it, the zest, into thin hair-like stripes. (Save the lemon in the refrigerator and use it the next morning before breakfast squeezed in a glass of tepid water.) Marvel at the fabulous fragrance for a second or two. (The recipe requires a grater, which I didn’t have at hand but cutting it up is just fine. Especially if someone more diligent and patient is willing to help.) Then chop up a handful of parsley (in the same thin stripes fashion as the zest) and take chilli/peperoncini container out of your pantry. Get the man of the house pour you a glass of some fine preferably Italian red. (Although whatever you might prefer will do. Just keep in mind that cooking your meal is a matter of enjoyment not torture.) Warm up some olive oil in the pan over low heat and add to it a smashed clove of garlic and a smashed chilli/peperocino (If using dried version. Otherwise chop a fresh one up). Low temperature is key. Stir occasionally. By this time the water must be boiling already, add a couple of spoons of salt to it, stir and add spaghetti. Don’t forget to set a timer according to the required cooking time. Half way through add the lemon zest and parsley to the garlic-chilli pan, stir now and then, all still at low temperature. Just a minute before the spaghetti are done, fork them out to the pan with garlic-chilli-zest-parsley mixture, fold it gently, add some cooking liquid, turn the temperature to high for a minute and stir in a knob of butter in the end. Done. Serve with a bowl of fresh leaf salad that was prepared beforehand (and preferably by the same helpful person that chopped the zest and took care of the wine).

It felt as if sunshine had stepped in our dining room for a moment in now already bleak winter afternoon: simple, fulfilling and delicious.

After that it was couch only. With a book of course.

 

I happen to check some food blogs on more or less regular basis because I quite like to cook but need a bit more than the regular fact-stating recipe. I like the eloquence of a handful of authors/bloggers I like to check up on. One of them, and the more recent addition to my lot, is an English/Roman/Sicilian rose Rachel Roddy (https://racheleats.wordpress.com) that I check on The Guardian occasionally as well. The recipe that brightened our day is by her. Thank you.

An Ode to February

I don’t know when it happened that people started to plan their summer holiday as soon as the Christmas period was over. As much as I try to fight it and to find excuses why it’s almost immoral to do it, I do get caught off guard in the January calmness and I start to check the websites, magazine clips I saved, notes I made in the past months, and to discuss the dates.

It’s clear to me that the earlier you book the more choices you have to choose from. The longer you wait and procrastinate the more you have to be flexible. In the early days you have the luxury to be picky.

Suddenly, you find yourself immersed in the expectations of long hot days, full of desire to see new places and eat wonderful meals, and feel blessed by the promise of dolce vita, as limited as it is. You notice the expressions like cooling linen bedspreads, airy silk dresses, refreshing seaside breeze, soft golden sunsets, and they echo in your everyday.

At times, dreary February still outside your window, you open the drawer to reach something and there seats this glass candle with an overwhelming fig tree fragrance that transports you to laziness and seduces you to have another glass of limoncello just to let it linger with you for a tiny bit longer.

It’s easy to get carried away and lament over grey skies of now. But you know what? I did all the necessities it took to secure our holiday and let it go.

That day we made ourselves fondue for dinner and it was totally appropriate, you know. The champagne bottle was chilling on the terrace. The candles were lit. The table all set. Baguette, fresh from the oven, still warm. Celebration of winter of sorts.

In the end, eventually, as I looked out of the window I saw it was snowing and the trees were slowly gaining their winter coat. I felt the peace within me that all was right, that the Earth rotated its usual cycle and the universe spelled whatever it usually spells. It was wintertime and it was snowing. Bliss.

Running Mode: On Optimism

What’s there not to be optimistic about? It’s almost the end of winter, people. One can already notice how the days become visibly longer. And this is good news, right? A minute at a time, true, but noticeably longer.

I’m lucky enough to get off work relatively early so I decide to make a good use of this wonderful winter afternoon. I go for a run. Not that I avoid running altogether when it’s dark and cold but the spirit is higher with a prospect of a daylight run. It’s also warmed up a bit in the last few days, it’s clear with an occasional foamy cloud here and there. The sun being low – it’s wintertime after all – it casts a magical colouring scheme over the snow-capped mountains. Really, what’s not to be good-spirited about?

 

The pastel sunset colours over the sky seen through the trees during my run

I decide to put some music on. During December it’s been all about Christmas chimes (I can’t help it, I love good old-fashioned Christmas songs) and festive podcasts. This time I choose an almost forgotten playlist that’s been collecting dust in my iTunes library and with every step I get reminded what a great decision I’ve made. Who could resist this? Or this? I hate to repeat myself but what’s there not to be optimistic about?

By now I have already passed the ski jump facility where young athletes are training hard. There’s lots of them, some still little children but all fearless with gleaming eyes and everyone hoping to become the next Peter Prevc. Good for them!

The pastel sunset colours over the sky seen through the trees during my run

 

There are more runners out here than usual. What a great feeling! The paths through the woods are dry and dusty, only a slight puddle every now and then. More a result of hidden streams meandering downhill between the trees and bushes than anything else for the rain has been absent for more than a month now and there’s been no decent snowfall whatsoever yet. Hope it snows soon.

I meet families on the way as well. Children in colourful outfits are bursting within the greys and browns of the winter forest and their parents treading along in a slow pace. Some people never seem to hurry, bless them.

I see people walking their dogs. I see people enjoying the last sunbeams of the day. I see people having a smoke, outdoors being the only resort for their vice. Nowadays I only notice the smokers outdoors: on the streets, in the park, in front of the bars, even on bikes and some behind the wheel of the car or in the old movies and TV series – they’re a rare sight actually.

When I pass the rose garden on my way back home it’s almost dark. The sky is still light blue when I look up and the clouds are a bright pink colour but the dusk spreads all around and tows the murkiness along. There’s a cloud floating above me, a classic funnel-like shape as if the storm might be approaching which seems quite strange on this calmest of days. On the other hand, if I take another look it reminds me of a soft ice-cream fallen from the hands of a clumsy child.

 

What the Hell Is Wrong with Leonardo di Caprio?

It’s been a couple of weeks since we saw The Revenant. I felt kind of doped afterwards. It lingered in my mind for a while, it somersaulted within the curves of my thoughts, I kept stumbling across the associations that reminded me of the film but I couldn’t come round to it. Let me explain.

View of the snow capped mountains that might reminisce of the ones in the film The Revenant

I’m no fan of Leonardo di Caprio, I’m not a movie freak for that matter, I just like to watch a good movie now and then. Preferably European but by all means a serious, driven by quality movie. That said, I don’t mind a Hollywood production as long as it doesn’t insult my intelligence.

When this year’s Golden Globe winners were announced I accidentally overheard Leonardo di Caprio’s thank-you speech being broadcast on the national TV. Some words on indigenous people and the respect for first nations came out of his mouth. I couldn’t make much of it because, well, as I mentioned before, I only overheard it. Come and gone. It was enough though to produce a mental note that this might be a movie to watch.

The small talk at work added up although it was mostly about Tom Hardy, not the leading-role guy. The big trigger for me was Alejandro G. Inarritu. I loved Biutiful and Birdman. I was hooked by the “subtitle” of the latter: Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Magic. This director certainly knows a thing or two about titles. Among other things.

Luckily, The Revenant is on in our local cinema. Surprisingly so, as it is clearly THE movie and our local cinema is not as frequented. We both hate the gigantic cinema complex in the suburbs and have years ago decided to avoid it altogether. So early evening one Saturday we went.

It’s brutal, butchery, full of blood and slaughtering, it’s as vivid and intense as a movie can be. It was clear to me the first minute that it’s going to be about covering my eyes and ears. And so it was a couple of times during the two and a half hours. But let me tell you: it’s a wonderfully done movie and it goes by in a flash. The sound is fantastic, you hear every drop of melting snow falling off the branches of the trees, the angles and the colours and the rhythm of the sequences and the elements themselves are unforgettable. The countryside and the beauty of the landscape are overwhelming. The story? Here.

I was a fan of Davy Crockett, Robinson Crusoe and the likes when I was a child. I read the books like crazy and of course there came a time when reading was all about adventure in the glorious past times. I think I read Tom Sawyer in the same period. Angelika as well to be honest.

However, Hugh Glass, The Revenant, was not after adventures, I can tell you that. Nor were the Arikaras. Or other fur trappers. Or the armies. The adventures simply happened to them when they didn’t pay enough attention or they paid too much of it. Not sure about Fitzgerald though. He was kind of seeking trouble all the time. You know: asking for it. And here we go taking sides.

The actors are outstanding of course. The directing is superb. Well done. There’s not a second of boredom, none one too many detail. The rest is what you would expect in a Hollywood drama: a dramatic survival story, a constant underdog struggle, a wholesome manly power, to-be-anticipated turns of fate, and a flexible notion of justice.

So, let me ask again: what’s wrong with Leonardo di Caprio? Does anybody know? There must be something he’s done (or hasn’t done) to not get the Oscar continually. He’s an extremely good actor, excellent to be exact, so I guess he must be hard working and devoted and everything by the book. He gave numerous fantastic performances; he grew on me in Revolutionary Road and I found him very convincing in every role that followed. In fact, I can’t think of any disappointing performance by him. But should he get IT for The Revenant it just wouldn’t be just.