Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for December 2011

Wealth may be measured …

leave a comment »

… by bonds and bank accounts. However, given the choice,  which would you choose for the New Year: rich and sick. or healthy and unwealthy.  

Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 31, 2011 at 8:09 am

Posted in A Musing

Tagged with , , , ,

The HiDef picture on my new TV is great but…

leave a comment »

… they’re showing the same old sh .. crap.

— Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

 

 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 29, 2011 at 12:05 am

Posted in A Musing

Tagged with , , ,

The Day Santa Died

leave a comment »

                         By Cecil Scaglione

                                                   Mature Life Features

  ‘Twas the day before Christmas. 

  We got to the butcher and picked up our gallantine for Christmas Eve and lasagna for Christmas dinner. Gallantine is a tradition here. A chicken is de-boned and stuffed with everything from prosciutto to pistachios and hard-boiled eggs to eggplant, then pressed and cooked, sliced and eaten cold. Got chores done while we were out – cash from the bank ATM, started the car, and checked out our last-minute grocery list — as a humid sirocco-like wind swooped in and made the town almost summery. Lou dropped by for a grappa and headed home for a shower. Riccardo dropped by about midday and said he’d skip tonight because he won’t be able to find a parking space because of midnight Mass at the church.

  Then he told us. “Bobbie died,” he said

  Bobbie was ambushed by a deadly heart attack on his early-morning walk with his dog. He had been looking forward to playing Santa: “A true Santa Claus from the North,” he told me several days earlier. He was proud of the fact that he was the first non-native offered the role.  He even let his beard grow to match his thick head of white hair. He had been a technical-magazine editor in Sweden before chucking it and moving to Panicale, where he augmented whatever pension and other funds he had by managing rental properties, organizing travel tours, and dabbling in real estate.

  I skidded down to the piazza to scout out the facts. Lou was right behind me. We ran into Simone’s wife (Aldo’s daughter-in-law who owns and works with her husband at the osteria they opened in the apartment Bev and I rented on our first trip). Lou got our foto and she told us “Babbo Natale e morta.” I asked if they found an alternate. She nodded her head: “Qualqu’ uno” (somebody).

  I asked if her osteria’s Christmas Eve dinner (30 euros per person) was full. She shook her head “no,” and explained they didn’t start planning/advertising early enough. I said they’ll start earlier next year. She nodded “si.”

  Then she added that Santa was due to land in the piazza at 3:30 p.m. We returned to the apartment and sipped a few until it was time to check the piazza. It was still warm and humid but it started to drizzle on the couple of dozen kids and their parents scattered around the 550-year-old fountain. So they trooped into below-street-level club room across the alley from the osteria. Guillermo said the club room was made available after it started to rain. Santa and his jingling bells were greeted about 4:20 by applauding parents and wide-eyed youngsters. Everyone got something. Even the  adults — each received a little package of candy that was handed out by the children.

  But no one seemed to miss Bobbie.

  (A few days later, a hearse squeezed up through the steep archway and a clutch of mourners  followed the casket into the church for Mass. When the service ended and the remains rolled back into the vehicle, no one followed but everyone applauded Bobbie’s passing as the long car slipped down into the piazza and out the Umberto 1 gate.)

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2011

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 20, 2011 at 12:05 am

Rome Gets Ready

with one comment

By Cecil Scaglione

 

Mature Life Features 

  A Christmas carnival in Piazza Navona is just that – a carnival, complete with carousel, carney games (“A Win Every Time”), knick-knack booths, balloons dancing with the wind, hot and cold food, classes of kids corralled by clusters of nuns, litters of tourists marshaled around by guys and gals waving them on with numbered signs, and dueling guitarists. All this counterpointing the ageless statues and churches that give substance to this celebrated canyon a couple of blocks from the Pantheon in The Eternal City.

  I quickly snagged a cimballi calde (hot doughnut) to hold me until lunch. A cimballi is a Roman doughnut about the size of a small pizza and can be eaten plain, sprinkled with sugar or covered with Nutella (a chocolate-hazelnut butter spread popular here). I hadn’t had one since one of the officers aboard our freighter cooked a batch one morning. The dough is much tastier than the U.S. donut, it’s deep-fried but as flat as a pizza, has a less fatty texture and doesn’t curl up into gut-busting balls to play havoc with your digestive processes and system.

  We went to Rome after the high season opened Dec. 8. It closes Jan. 6. Both days are national holidays here. The first is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; the closing date is Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas in many quarters.

  For our first stop, we arrived at my favorite optometric shop on Via Nazionale just as the owner was unlocking his exterior display boxes and I bought a couple of pairs of sunglasses. They’re about one-fifth the price of expensive ones sold under such American trade names as RayBan,Foster Grant, etc., which are made by these same Italians. Bev got an eyeglass frame to take home.

  After strolling into and by the ritzy boutiques stretching from the Spanish steps to the Trevi Fountain — and picking up a gelato across from the fountain at one of the finest gelateria in the universe – we went into the Pantheon for the first time. It’s now a basilica with Mass offered every Saturday and Sunday, although it’s closed Christmas Day. The sun was bouncing off Roman roofs so we didn’t have to worry about rain falling in through the hole in the massive copula that also lets light pour into the building, the only one to survive two millennia in its entirety since Roman times.

  After lunch at my favorite eating spot – Melo’s, a Sicilian ristorante on the steps leading down from the bottom of Via Nazionale to il Vittoriano and the Forum – we decided to take an earlier train back home instead of hanging around into the evening. We were tired.

  The sun was rising as our train pulled out of Chiusi and it was setting as we rolled out of Roma Termini.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2010

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 16, 2011 at 12:05 am

Follow Noble Nobel Footsteps

leave a comment »

By Marlene Fanta Shyer

             Mature Life Features

STOCKHOLM —- You walk up the same marble stairs that Nobel Prize winners have climbed every Dec 10, the anniversary of the death of the prize’s namesake, since 1901. You’re in the City Hall in Stockholm and gazing up at the granite pillars and exposed brick walls that stretch 75 feet from floor to ceiling in the Blue Hall.

There’s not a spot of blue anywhere. It was designed by Ragnar Östberg, a Swedish architect inspired by Italian design who envisioned a soaring ceiling-free space with a view of an azure sky. However, the climate demanded a roof be added, but it’s been stuck with the misnomer for more than a century.

Each year some 1,300 carefully chosen citizens from around the world will witness the five-allotted-minutes of winners’ speeches and the bestowing of the big checks. They will dine on menus prepared by dozens of the best chefs in Sweden, and be served by hundreds of waiters dressed in black and white. Then they proceed to the aptly named Golden Room, with its leaded windows and walls of Byzantine gold mosaic tile. This is where, under crystal chandeliers, they will dance away the night.

As you stand on the spot where the most coveted award in the world is celebrated annually, Stockholm comes very much alive, but it’s just part of reason to visit the city. Built on 14 islands and called everything from “image-conscious” to “trend- hungry” to “tech-friendly,” it is richly historical as well, with its Old Town of narrow cobblestone streets and clutter of shops, Royal Palace, and National Museum.

A Viking ship that sank in the Baltic about three miles from the city in 1628 was discovered some 40 years ago. It was pulled out of the deep complete with 27 bodies, casks of spirits, the bones of meat intended to feed the passengers, and personal items, such as toys. After being salvaged and restored, it has become a whopper of an attraction, drawing 800,000 visitors to the museum every year.

Other landmarks can be found at the Storkyrkan, the cathedral famous for its statue of the city’s patron saint, George, or at one of Stockholm’s many parks. These are everywhere, the most popular being Djurgarden, the vast former royal hunting ground, now quiet and scenic. Skansen, an amusement park/zoo well known for its exhibit of Sweden’s 19th-century rural roots, complete with old farmhouses, reindeer, and craftsmen’s shops, offers a livelier experience.

Wherever you head in Stockholm, water views are always close by, as are some of the finest restaurants in Europe. The Operakälleren, for example, offers a choice of casual dining at reasonable prices in one room or, as one diner put it, going into “a food coma” in the lush ambience of red brocade and Victorian oil portraits in adjoining quarters. Folks feast here on such dishes as “Baked Bass with vanilla flavoured sauce and vegetable ragout wrapped in chard” or “saddle of rabbit with olive sauce and a zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies.”  

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

 

 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 11, 2011 at 12:05 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

Tagged with , , , , ,

Kids’ Gift Benefits Grandparents

leave a comment »

 

By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

One day a year has been set aside to honor a generation that gives of itself 365 days a year. That day is Grandparents Day.

It falls on Sept. 8 this year (2003), which is when Americans will honor those unsung heroes and heroines whose many sacrifices have made life easier and better for succeeding generations.

Many people are unaware that Grandparents Day exists and would be puzzled by the prospect of what to give as a gift. In fact, if one were to ask any grandparent what he or she would like for Grandparents Day, the odds are the reply would be, “Something I can give my grandchildren, something that will make them healthier and happier.”

People forget that what makes grandparents happy is seeing their grandchildren (and their children, of course) happy, many experts say. Many grandparents see their grandchildren every day.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that grandparents headed 2.3 million American households in 1993. That figure represents 2.5 percent of American households. That number is expected to increase.

Grandparents often wind up taking care of their grandchildren for long periods of time. Watching active youngsters can be challenging at any age, which is why grandparents would certainly welcome new products that enable them to keep tabs on their grandchildren without constant physical exertion.

One such product being marketed by Tender Care Products, the Parent Pager, is a dual-unit electronic device that sounds an alarm if a child wanders beyond a pre-determined distance. For enhanced safety when playing around water, the grandparents’ unit immediately sounds if the child’s unit is inadvertently shut off or if the batteries get low.

“It isn’t easy for grandparents to keep track of their grandchildren every moment, especially in the hectic, fast-paced world in which we live,” said Geoffrey Walsh, chairman of Venture Initiatives, which markets the unit. “Parent Pager is an excellent way to give children a manageable amount of freedom and their grandparents peace of mind at the same time.”

 

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 8, 2011 at 12:48 am

Birthdays should be celebrated…

leave a comment »

… as I did mine this week, but the days in between are pretty special, too.

– Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 4, 2011 at 12:06 am

Posted in A Musing

Tagged with , , ,