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Posts from the ‘Italian Lessons’ Category

A Dearth of Italian

Mamma mia!  This must be withdrawal.  Tuesday mornings are bringing a sense of purposelessness.  I find myself wandering aimlessly on Tuesday AM’s without direction.  No Italian lessons for a month now and two more weeks to go!  To say nothing of missing the stops, post lesson, at Alterra for a latte and a scone.  With “la nostra insegnante” (our teacher) and family in Italia for a vacation, I fear I am becoming a little rusty.  That actually would be an understatement. Vocabulary seems to have leaked out to who knows where.  Either that or they are in an unmarked folder somewhere, lost in my cranium, because I can’t recall even well-known “le parole” (words).  There’s nothing like weekly lessons to stay on top of it.  Who am I kidding?  I’m never “on top of it”, but still I love learning this language.  Today I put the Italian bag with dictionary, notes, flash cards and homework on the porch, front and center, where it can’t be forgotten or ignored.  This strategy seemed to work because today we took out our homework and completed a decent amount.  That’s the tricky part.  Remembering it!  Vieni a casa, Carmela.  Abbiamo bisogno di te.  Come home, Carmela.  We are in need of you!

AARP magazine says, “Learning is like Rogaine for the brain.”  Catchy, but true.  Keith L. Black, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., says, “When you challenge the brain, you increase the number of brain cells and the number of connections between those cells.”  He’s referring to new things, not something already in the repertoire.  A foreign language is probably one of the more difficult choices one can make.  Taking music lessons, especially piano lessons, is an amazingly brain-healthy activity, requiring the brain to do several tasks all at once.  Try knitting or quilting something for a grandchild.  Have a grandchild teach you some computer skills.  Kids are usually way more proficient.  There are so many possibilities and opportunities to delve into.

Get back to me.  What have you chosen and how is it going?  Your foray into something new will be a shining beacon for the rest of us.  LOLing!

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Italian + Chocolate Cherry Scones

Martedi’ mattina!  Tuesday Morning!  Another Italian lesson with a new challenge.  Una parte dei compiti (a part of the homework) from last week was a listening activity.  A recorded conversation between two individuals, which Carmela assured us, were speaking  “normalmente”.  Normally?  I was sure it was recorded at warp speed (velocita’ warp). Sort of like Captain Kirk listening to Klingon!   We played it and replayed it over and over, countless times, a sentence at a time.  Admittedly, I can only speak from my own experience. It seems that, if I order the difficulty of the skills needed to learn another language, reading comes the easiest, followed by writing, speaking, and then listening.  At first glance, one wouldn’t think listening would be so challenging, until confronted with a three-minute recording.  Sounds short, right?  Not!  After 45 minutes of having our ears glued to the speakers of our computer, we thought we could safely say the conversation concerned a date from an Internet dating service gone wrong.  Gluttons for punishment, we did ask for more because comprehending spoken Italian is our most challenging hurdle.  I am not complaining, however.  We thoroughly enjoy the whole thing.  Find a companion and sign up for a foreign language because it is so enjoyable and so good for your brain.

All of this leads up to the second half of Tuesday morning.  A chocolate cherry scone and a coffee at Alterra Café on the Lake.  I came home determined to duplicate those scones, so they wouldn’t be just for Tuesday mornings.  Health-wise, these scones are not high in fat and have just a bit of sweetness.  They are quite delicious, quite moist and don’t require butter or jam.  Pair them with a small, fresh fruit salad.  As we all know, dark chocolate is healthy for you.  A painless way to include it in one’s diet!  They are done when the bottoms are a bit browned.  The tops will not have much color.

Chocolate Cherry Scones

(makes about 10)

  • 3 cups flour (use unbleached for good health)
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 1 scant tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces (don’t cut ahead of time)
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2  cup dark chocolate pieces or semi-sweet chocolate chips, as a substitute
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4  cup low-fat buttermilk ( try dried buttermilk and follow package directions)
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease cookie sheet.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add dried buttermilk here.
  3. Cut in butter and then add cherries and chocolate pieces..
  4. Measure the buttermilk (or water if using dried buttermilk )in a glass measuring cup.  Add two eggs and whisk well to combine.  Add the vanilla extract and whisk again.
  5. Make a hole in the flour mixture and pour the liquid in the center.  Using a large wooden spoon, mix just until ingredients are combined.  Don’t over-mix or your scones will be “tough”.
  6. Spoon out dough in large spoonfuls onto cookie sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.

*** Freeze any left-overs, as they do dry out quickly.

Photos will be coming!  I’m waiting for a sunny day with good light.

I  love responses to my posts.  Don’t be shy!  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.

Tuesday Mornings Light up My Life

Tuesday mornings light up my life.  Truly.  An hour or so of an Italian lesson, followed by a latte and a chocolate cherry scone at Alterra Café by the Lake (Michigan).   Even more enjoyable to take lawn chairs and hike across the street with our purchases to sit, look at the lake, and sometimes do our Italian homework.   If it seems a small thing to bring joy, well, small things can bring  joy.  One just needs to look for those opportunities.

Prego, buongiorno, i biglietti, l’autobus (not a car), il secondo piatto!    When we first decided to learn a little Italian for a trip to Italy, my head was spinning with vocabulary and pronunciations.  My husband and I signed up for “Italian for Travelers” at our local university, which has continuing education classes (not for credit and quite a bit less expensive).   Believe me!  Learning another language in one’s sixties is definitely not like age 15 when one’s mind is a sponge.  Still I love it.  We’ve made new friends in our classes with whom we can practice and/or grouse about the homework.  Sound familiar, as in high school or college?  I was so impressed with the variety and the number of classes offered.  Chinese, photography, painting, computer skills…  The list seemed endless. Contact your local university or college for continuing education classes and enrich your life with new learning and new friends!

Well, that was four years ago.  We have taken a variety of Italian classes, participated in conversation groups, and also found tutors for just the two of us.  We continue because it is so much fun, and we know the challenge is important for our craniums (new learning is one of the ways to combat dementia).   Right now we have a tutor, Carmela, who is delightful, and so I look forward to Tuesday mornings.  My head still spins at times, but now it’s over verb tenses like congiuntivo and condizionale.  Go ahead and try a class in something new!  If you find something particularly interesting or fun, let me know!  I might try it too.

I encourage responses to my posts.  You will need to click on an individual post to find the reply box for that post.  Looking forward to hearing from you. ( Your email address will be requested, but will not be made public to anyone.)