Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Past

My first pecan pie*
When I was a kid, growing up in Verona and attending the local Italian school, Thanksgiving was just another Thursday for my classmates. But for my brother Stephen and I it was special. We would race home after school in the cold November fog, climbing the marble stairs of our old apartment building two at a time, into a house already full of delicious smells from my mother's cooking. My two great aunts, Josie and Milly, would be cheerfully setting the table and helping out on what was indisputably their favorite holiday of the year. My uncle Brother (that's what my Mom called him so that's what we ended up calling him) would be there, having just arrived by train for the long weekend and there would be the usual discussion about whether it made any sense to cook lasagna since there was already so much food. "We won't enjoy the turkey." "Oh, we definitely will," Josie and Milly would reassure everybody. They were very much pro pasta regardless of what food the occasion might warrant. Milly had once confided in me, on one of my visits home from college, that my mother was getting away with murder (she had my full attention until I realized she was referring to the fact that my mother no longer cooked first and second course meals but just one or the other, and sometimes skipped pasta altogether).
Before Josie and Milly moved in with us (allegedly just for Christmas as my father was quick to point out), they lived with Uncle Brother. But things didn't go quite so smoothly. And they definitely came to a head on the Thanksgiving he woke up to discover that at 10 am they had already eaten the entire dinner without him. "Don't worry," they reassured him, "We'll eat a second dinner with you later." In fairness, they did wake up early. Like 4:00 am early. Milly used to take Penny out for a walk at that hour (Penny was a doberman pincher) occasionally shocking the neighbors who were certainly not expecting a doberman to come bounding down the stairs just as they were coming home from a late night out.
Sometimes, we invited an Italian friend over for Thanksgiving. An interesting cultural exchange often ensued, as the guest politely noted: "Corn on the cob? Interesting. We usually give that to livestock. And this is pumpkin pie? I guess you need an acquired taste for that. Root beer? Smells like the medicine my grandmother uses for back pain."
As I make my very first pecan pie today, with kids of my own about to come home from school (and probably marvel at the fact that I have made a pie from scratch and not just bought one from a shop), I think of Josie and Milly. And wish I could share it with them. Perhaps, with some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or the way they liked it served best, after a pasta dish.

* Yes, you can get pecans in Singapore. In fact, since it rained all day yesterday, I had all necessary ingredients delivered by this wonderful family owned local grocery I just discovered http://www.kennygroceryonline.com/.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Letting Go

My son says he doesn't want me to come to his swim meet this Saturday. "Absolutely not." On the one hand, this means not spending 7 hours (at the very least) on a bleacher in the Singapore sun, on the other hand, this is my fourteen year old who doesn't need me to watch him any longer. That can't be right. Is this the same kid who used to ask me to watch him play in the playground? I remember that clearly because I really wanted to read my book. "I'm going to play but you have to watch me, ok?" Or the little boy who used to sit on my lap while we watched The Jungle Book every single day after preschool? Surely not the same child who used to ask to hold my hair scrunchie, when we were visiting my parents and I had to momentarily leave the room, "So I know you will come back." I did have an unhealthy attachment to my scrunchie, the boy was observant like that.
Today parents were invited to attend an art class at my daughter's school. It's her last period, so naturally I assume she will ditch the school bus afterwards and just come home with me. But no, I am wrong. "I'm going to take the school bus home, is that ok?" Of course, it is ok. It's better than ok because this is the single thing I was most worried about when she started this new school: the 40 minute school bus ride. In fact, this is really great news. And it's also wonderful that my son is confident and independent enough to go to swim meets on his own now. But there's something else I can't put my finger on. Somewhere, deep down it also hurts a little. I guess that's what being a parent is about: being happy, even when it hurts a little.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Musings of a Ten Year Old

"Last night I dreamt we lived in an RV."

Yesterday morning at the US embassy, as we hand over all our phones, watches, and bags to the security guards, Eliot asks: "Are we being robbed?"

"Was that a good cartwheel? Don't tell me as a Mom, just as a normal person."

"Mom, this is the best dinner I ever had... but that could also be because I am starving."

"Now I'm as tall as Alexander is when he's sitting down."

"Mom, we're building a parkour course in the living room."

Climbing Mount Everest, swimming across the English channel, running the Boston marathon... "What about being a movie star and having your name in lights on your door, Alexander?...Is that also on your budget list?" 

"What is a trick question?" (Wait, is that a trick question?)

"If we were both in heaven, could I find you?"

"Does Santa Claus come when you're in college? " Yes Eliot, it's called tuition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ceci n'est pas une pipe...

A little Magritte to brighten up the day.

Don't look now...you've got some fans.

Good chance for Mom to enjoy a cappuccino and catch up on some reading.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Stoked in Singapore

The haze is lifting and barbecue season is alive and kicking. Last night I was invited to the launch of a new gourmet bbq catering aptly called Stoke http://stoke.sg/ The professional chef explained how the only seasoning needed is some salt and pepper because the meats (hailing from Australia) are that savory on their own. An understatement-the food was delicious! I would love them to cater any party of mine. And it's a comfort to know that if you're having a party, the chef will be the one doing all the cooking. All you need to do is relax, sip a cold beer (perhaps draft on demand) http://www.wunder.asia/, and watch the guests enjoy the food.

Delicious grass fed organic meats

Barbecue catered al fresco

Relax by the pool while private chef cooks up a feast

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hazy Nights

Forgot my glasses, again.
Even as the haze wreaks havoc on Singapore, it's business as usual for those who like to go out and about. That wouldn't be me, but occasionally I make an exception for some cultural interaction or what I like to call: wine with a view. And from the tallest building in Singapore, the view is definitely assured even with a PSI level in the unhealthy range. It helps to pretend it's winter in Verona when the entire city is cloaked in a thick fog.
Expat Living Magazine was celebrating the launch of a cooking series hosted by Altitude-1's Chef Chris Millar. I really can't wait to see the videos and hopefully add to my simple (very simple) dinner repertoire. And as my eldest son Alexander will attest, I need all the help I can get in that department. In fact, I almost suspect he masterminded the whole event. The boy is always hungry.
Just the other night, as I thoughtfully offered him a piece of cheese after swimming practice, he asked: "What is this House on the Prairie?"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Young Expats Grow Up

Alexander on his way to represent Turkey at Model United Nations at his school UWC

Defining Turkey's position on the Syrian refugee crisis (photo by Kit Ling)

One of the greatest things (and biggest challenges) about growing up as an expat is the daily contact with people from all over the world. The Model United Nations conference held at Alexander's school this past weekend, merely reiterated on a diplomatic scale what he gets to experience on a social level every day. He shared the early morning rides to the conference with a friend from Aberdeen, met students from Cambodia and the Philippines, ate yummy samosas during break with kids from Australia and Thailand. Together, they tackled the complex issues dominating the news, passed notes to the cutest delegates (this is High School after all), and came away with a better understanding of just how very connected we all really are. And hopefully, their world just got a little bit smaller.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ten Things I Did This Morning On My Daughter's First Day at a New School

"You can get off the bus now, Mom."

1) I marvelled at how quickly she jumped up from her bed and got dressed like a serious little soldier, her grandfather Nonno Mario would have been proud. When she asked me if she had put her skirt on backwards-she had- I said yes, helped her straighten it and didn't make a joke.

2) I prepared breakfast which she didn't eat. I said that was fine since I wasn't usually hungry at 6:00 am either. I put it all in baggies and placed it in her bag so she could eat it when she got to school.

3) I tied her hair in a pony tail because it looked neater that way. After all, she was on her way to school not a fashion show. I didn't tell her that.

4) I put the double band aids on the back of her feet so her new shoes wouldn't hurt.

5) I prepared her lunch box and enough snacks to last the entire day of school, possibly week: fruit salad, pretzels, cookies, kale chips (bought on request of her older brother who keeps us up to date on nutritious snacks). I remembered to include a napkin and a fork.

6) I slipped a little note in her lunch box wishing her good luck on her first day of school.

7) I purposedly didn't fill up her water bottle. I wouldn't want her to drink on the bus and then feel nauseous. She can fill it at school like her brother does.

8) I accompanied her downstairs for her bus in the darkness that is Singapore at 6:50 am all year round, even in the middle of August. I thought about how, thank God, we would no longer have to wait, scheme, and beg for a taxi to pick us up on the side of the road this year. I kind of missed it already.

9) I took the obligatory photo which she smiled for and her brother, a brand new high schooler, merely tolerated. Actually getting on the bus to take it may have been a bit much, but that won't be happening again, I promise.

10) I came back upstairs to a very quiet house, made coffee, and then realized I had forgotten to give her a hug goodbye.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You Can Take The Girl Out of Singapore...

... but you can't take Singapore out of the girl!

Eliot on the Amalfi Coast, mecca of foodies everywhere, eating the curry noodles she packed in her valise to use for emergencies; such as feeling poorly because of an ear infection. Some choose macaroni and cheese as a comfort food...others choose curry noodles.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Beware: Crocodiles in Singapore

My kind of crocodile! (photo creds to Andrew Pearce)

"Crocodiles can't jump out of the water, can they?" 
No Eliot, they prefer staying in the water. 
"And they don't like eating people?" 
No, they don't like eating people. 
"Because they did eat Captain Hook's hand." 
That's just a movie. 
"I know that's just a movie. But, what if you fall into the water, and your hand is close to their mouth...then they will eat it, right?"
Ah, the class trip to the Singapore Wetland Reserve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Worst Parenting Moment

Sure, some nudity. It's Italy after all.
Last night after dinner.
Alexander, would you say my worst parenting moment was letting you and your sister have slingshots or watch La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) last summer?
Eliot: "Oh yeah, I remember when that naked woman runs into the wall."
You remember that? I was really counting on the jetlag to kick in...
Alexander: "No, probably that other movie was worse with all the naked men jumping into the pond."
A Room with a View? I last saw that in college. All I remembered was the girl with the curly hair and the beautiful countryside.
Eliot: "That was so funny."
Okay, so that was my worst parenting moment? Letting you and your sister watch A Room with a View. We can all agree on that?
Alexander: "No. Right now is your worst parenting moment. I'm trying to do my homework and you keep asking me questions."
You're right...anybody want to watch The Bicycle Thief?