Posts Tagged ‘grandmother’

Photo: Teagan Ferraby/ Unsplash.
Making pasta from scratch.

This one is for my friend Sandra, who makes many Italian dishes the way her mother taught her. For example, she makes a labor-intensive pasta at Christmas in quantities that can feed a large extended family, including great great nephews.

Sydney Page writes at the Washington Post, “After all the food is served at this New York restaurant, customers clap for the grandmother who cooked it. It’s not scripted, but it happens every night.

“The Staten Island establishment, run by women known as ‘nonnas of the world,’ is as much a celebration of the people who toil in the kitchen as the places they hail from. …

“There are about a dozen women who cook regularly at Enoteca Maria, a casual 30-seat Italian eatery. Its menu is made and executed by a rotating group of international women, most of whom are matriarchs.

“The nonnas — the Italian word for grandmothers — include Maria Gialanella, 88. She has amassed such a following that some customers come only on nights they know she is in the kitchen. She even has her own Instagram page.

“Seeing strangers taste her culinary creations, she said, gives her immense pleasure and pride.

“ ‘Everybody likes it, so I’m very happy,’ said Gialanella, an Italian immigrant known for making ravioli by hand, rich ragus, soups and other family recipes she learned growing up near Naples.

“Gialanella, who moved to the United States in 1961 and worked as a seamstress, said that 10 years ago, her daughter heard about Enoteca Maria and encouraged her to become a cook there.

“ ‘It’s nice with the other nonnas,’ said Gialanella, who has six grandchildren. ‘I like every food.’

“Restaurant owner Joe Scaravella is a huge fan.

“ ‘She is not even 5 feet tall, but she’s a powerhouse,’ said Scaravella, who opened the eatery in 2007. ‘She goes around and does selfies. She spends the night hugging people.’

“Initially, you had to be an Italian grandmother like Gialanella to join the kitchen staff, but about nine years ago, Scaravella decided to broaden the cooking criteria.

” ‘They just have to be women that can bring their culture forward,’ he explained, adding that the cooks — all of whom are called ‘nonna’ by patrons, regardless of their background — range in age from 50 to 90, and possess a deep knowledge of their culture’s unique cuisine. While most are grandmothers, some are not. …

“In the beginning, the restaurant served only Italian fare — to reflect Scaravella’s roots. He opened the eatery after losing several family members, including his grandmother and his mother, both born in Italy, as well as his sister. They were all excellent cooks, he said. …

“At the time, Scaravella had spent more than 17 years working for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and had no experience running a restaurant — let alone working in one.

“ ‘I had no idea what I was doing,’ he said. ‘No business plan or anything.’

“On a whim, he used the money his mother, Maria, had left behind to purchase a vacant storefront and decided to name his new restaurant after her. … Scaravella wanted his restaurant to serve the traditional Italian classics that he was desperately missing. It was the women in his family who dominated the kitchen.

“ ‘There were a lot of ladies at home that had all this information,’ said Scaravella. His mother and grandmother, for instance, knew ‘the secret to a good meat ball’ and ‘how to repurpose stale bread.’

“ ‘My whole life, I never wanted to go to an Italian restaurant, because it just never hit the spot,’ he continued. ‘These ladies, they’re the source. They are the vessels that carry this information forward.’

Given that his own matriarchs were gone, Scaravella embarked on a quest to find some nonnas who could prepare authentic, warming meals. …

“Before opening the restaurant, Scaravella put an advertisement in the local Italian American newspaper, seeking nonnas who could cook regional dishes from different parts of Italy. He was stunned by the response.

“ ‘I invited these ladies to my home. They showed up with plates of food,’ said Scaravella. ‘That was really the birthplace of the idea.’

“From there, he opened Enoteca Maria’s doors, staffing the kitchen with genuine nonnas who prepared everything from lasagna to chicken cacciatore. The concept, Scaravella said, was meant to mimic the experience of going to his nonna’s house for a meal.

“ ‘There’s a certain safeness when you go to your grandmother’s house, generally,’ he explained. ‘That is a strong memory and it’s very comforting, and I just really needed to be comforted.’

“The restaurant quickly took off. A few years later, Scaravella began inviting grandmothers from other cultures to cook their classics in his kitchen, and it got even busier.

“ ‘There are so many different people from so many different cultures,’ he said. ‘It just made sense to feature everybody’s grandmother.’ …

“Scaravella and the restaurant manager, Paola Vento, organize the weekly schedule and work with the nonnas to determine the menu. Typically, visiting nonnas are hired to cook at the restaurant about once a month, Scaravella said, though some come more often, and others come only once or twice a year.

“ ‘My favorite part of the job is getting to work with the grandmothers,’ said Vento, adding that the daily highlight is when customers clap for the visiting nonnas at the end of the evening. ‘You have to see the faces of the nonnas. They are so proud and so excited that they were able to share a part of their culture through food.’

“Many of the nonnas, Vento said, have become close friends. Although they speak different languages and come from different places, they have found ways to bond — mainly, through food.

“ ‘There’s a lot of love in the room,’ she said.

“To become a visiting nonna, there is one criteria: ‘They have to have a love for cooking, and that’s it,’ Vento said.

“While there is no required test, many prospective cooks attend a one-on-one free class offered at the restaurant called ‘nonnas in training.‘ …

“While Scaravella misses his own nonna, he said that his heart — and stomach — feel full again. What started as an effort to reconnect with his roots has allowed others to do the same.

“ ‘It’s hundreds of years of culture coming out of those fingertips,’ he said. ‘It’s beautiful stuff.’ ”

More at the Post, here. Can anyone share a picture of their grandmother in the kitchen? One of mine sold jellies, but I don’t have a photo.

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Photo: Kimberly Yatsko via EuroNews.
Latin Grammy Awards 2022: 95-year-old Alvarez was nominated for Best New Artist. “Sometimes, I pinch myself,” she says.

File this one under Never Too Old. A sparkling new career awaits a 95-year-old. That’s because of her genuine talent, of course, but it didn’t hurt to have a grandson with a promotional streak.

Sydney Page wrote at the Washington Post, “Growing up in Cuba, Angela Alvarez wanted to be a singer. But after coming to the United States as a young woman, she found herself cleaning a bank in Colorado to make a living.

“It now almost seems impossible that her long-held dream has become a reality: Alvarez was nominated for a Latin Grammy for best new artist. She is 95. …

“Alvarez composed her first song at age 14, then already proficient on piano and guitar. She also loved to sing. When she graduated from high school, Alvarez told her father she wanted nothing more than to become a professional musician. He rejected the idea. …

“ ‘I loved him so much,’ Alvarez said. ‘I liked to be obedient.’

“She put her professional pursuits aside and moved through life, getting married at age 19 and having four children — three boys and a girl.

“Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, upending life as they knew it in their home country. Alvarez and her husband, Orlando — who was a sugar engineer — decided they would flee to the United States. Given his profession, Orlando was initially forced to stay in Cuba. Alvarez took her children — the youngest was 4 and the eldest 15 — to the airport in May 1962, but officials also forbade her from leaving the country, saying she had missing paperwork. Alvarez made the impossible decision to let her children go alone to the United States.

“ ‘It was very hard for me,’ she recalled.

“It took several months before she was granted permission to leave Cuba, and once she arrived in Miami, she wasn’t financially eligible to reclaim her children — who were living at an orphanage in Pueblo, Colo. — through the welfare program they were assigned to.

“Finally, after not seeing her children for nearly two years, she secured a job cleaning a bank in Pueblo and was able to spend time with her kids on weekends. She lived in a small basement apartment.

“Amid her family’s difficult situation, Alvarez strived to fill her children’s lives with happiness, which she did through music. She invited other Cuban children living in the orphanage to join her family, and sang songs to remind them of home. …

“Throughout the many challenges Alvarez faced, she said, she leaned on music to cope with the pain. Over the course of her life, she composed a collection of about 50 songs, reflecting both the deep sadness and joy in her life. … But her music was only enjoyed by her family and friends, as her father had instructed her.

“That changed about eight years ago, when her grandson Carlos José Alvarez decided to record her songs. Carlos, who is a composer, grew up listening to his grandmother sing at family functions. …

“Every time he would visit his grandmother as a child, ‘she would grab a guitar and she would sing,’ said Carlos, 42, who calls Alvarez ‘Nana.’

“As his grandmother was getting older, Carlos wanted to preserve her songs so her future great-grandchildren could marvel at her voice, which he described as ‘angelic and soulful.’ He brought a microphone to her house and asked her to go through her personal trove of tunes. …

“In the process, though, he unexpectedly learned a lot of information about his grandmother’s history — including her undying hope of becoming a singer. …

“ ‘I got so inspired in that moment,’ Carlos said, adding that he decided he would one day bring his grandmother to a recording studio, and produce a proper album of her work. …

“In the years that followed, Carlos was focused on growing his own career. He put his grandmother’s prospective album on the back burner until 2016, when … he arranged to fly his grandmother to Los Angeles, where he lives, to record her songs in a professional studio. …

“In the past year, Alvarez’s career has taken off more than she thought possible. … The ultimate achievement so far has been Alvarez’s Latin Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, which was announced in September.

“ ‘I thought it wasn’t true,’ she said.

“Alvarez is attending the 2022 Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 17 in Las Vegas with her grandson, and she is scheduled to perform.”

Want to know the rest of the story? She tied for best new artist! See the report. More at the Post, here.

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Photo: AP via News10.
It only took 60 years to fulfill a dream of being a Yankees bat girl! Fortunately, the young lady still has the same dream.

John knew I’d like this story about a grandmother achieving a late-in-life dream. ESPN was among many outlets that carried it.

“Gwen Goldman exchanged fist bumps with the New York Yankees, whom she had been admiring for decades from afar, walked onto the field and waved to the crowd.

“She got to be a Yankees’ bat girl on Monday night at age 70 — a full 60 years after she was turned down because of her gender.

“Shaking with excitement, she beamed while recounting how it felt to be at Yankee Stadium on this day for the game against the Los Angeles Angels. …

” ‘From walking in the front door of the stadium at Gate 2, to coming up to a locker with my name on it that said “Gwen Goldman” and suiting up, then walking out onto the field,’ she said. ‘It took my breath away. … It was a thrill of a lifetime — times a million. And I actually got to be out in the dugout too. I threw out a ball. I met the players. Yeah, it goes on and on. They had set up a day for me; that is something that I never would have expected.’

“Goldman retired in 2017 as a social worker at Stepping Stones Preschool, a public school in Westport, Connecticut.

“She used the Hebrew word ‘dayenu’ — which translates to ‘it would have been enough’ — to describe the different parts of her experience.

” ‘It just kept coming and coming,’ she said.

“Goldman had been rejected by then-Yankees general manager Roy Hamey, who wrote her in a letter on June 23, 1961: ‘While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys, and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that it is a game dominated by men. [A] young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout.’

“Current Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he had been forwarded an email written by Goldman’s daughter, Abby. In a letter dated June 23, 2021, Cashman wrote, ‘… it is not too late to reward and recognize the ambition you showed in writing that letter to us as a 10-year-old girl.’

” ‘Some dreams take longer than they should to be realized, but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time,’ Cashman added. ‘I have a daughter myself, and it is my sincere hope that every little girl will be given the opportunity to follow her aspirations into the future.’

“Wearing a full Yankees uniform, Goldman threw out a ceremonial first pitch to New York player Tyler Wade, then stood alongside manager Aaron Boone for the national anthem.

” ‘I think it’s really cool,’ Boone said. … ‘Hopefully, it’s an experience of a lifetime.’ …

“New York extended the invitation as part of the Yankees’ annual HOPE week, which stands for Helping Others Persevere & Excel.

“Goldman posed with the umpires when the lineup cards were brought out. After the third inning, the Yankees played a video that included the letters. … She then was introduced to the crowd, walked up the Yankees dugout steps and onto the field, and waved her cap as fans applauded.”

More at ESPN. Also at the Washington Post.

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Photo: Obec Louka
Agnes Kašpárková says that she does her artwork for the pleasure it gives her. The 91-year-old artist works
in the South Moravian region of the Czech Republic.

I liked this story from Stefan Andrews at Vintage News about a 91-year-old grandmother who’s a kind of street artist.

“For most of her life, Anežka Kašpárková (also known as Agnes) has been making her income by working as a farmer. … Ever since she retired, Kašpárková has used many of the sunny days each year to make her home village of Louka a little bit more beautiful.

“The village is found in the South Moravian region of the Czech Republic. The [artist] is now an expert on how to decorate window frames, doors and facades across her village with traditional Moravian folk art. She mostly works on flowery patterns, giving a fresh feeling to the old facades worn by time. …

“Other women have done a similar type of decoration in the past and Kašpárková has worked tirelessly to continue the tradition. …

‘I try to help decorate the world a bit,’ she is recorded as saying.

“Kašpárková uses mainly blue paint and works simply with one small brush. Her color choice blends perfectly with the old, white-painted village houses and buildings.

“Kašpárková says that she does her artwork for the pleasure she gets from it, and that she never makes any plan how her next creation is going to look. She just takes up her brush and gets things going. …

“Given her age, Agnes complains that sometimes she finds it challenging to paint. Yet … she has been comfortable enough to climb a ladder almost every spring and refresh the design on the village chapel.” More at Vintage News, here.

Most people know by now that buildings make great canvases for outdoor murals. I myself have blogged a lot about this form of art. The blue Czech designs represent a different take from urban graffiti, say, as does the current London art walk experienced through windows.

Hannah Jane Parkinson writes at the Guardian, “Artists Walk is … a simple idea for an art trail that began as a joint endeavour between printmaker and painter Rosha Nutt, and her art marketing consultant friend Holly Collier. Those who in normal times would be exhibiting in galleries or community spaces can now place their work in the windows or surroundings of their homes for passers-by to admire. …

“ ‘Lockdown was the catalyst,’ Collier tells [Parkinson]. ‘So many artists have moved studios into their homes. Exhibitions and events have been cancelled. It’s pretty depressing being an artist who can’t show work. We wanted to do something that had a positive action.’ …”

“Until 14 December, London artists working in whichever medium – painters, photographers, illustrators, film-makers, ceramicists and more – can pay £15 to have their location added to the ‘interactive map’ on the website, as well as a short bio and links to the artists’ website and social media profiles, plus a custom poster.

“Collier and Nutt pulled the whole thing together in seven weeks. ‘It’s been late nights, early mornings and a lot of elbow grease,’ Collier says. They applied unsuccessfully for an Arts Council grant, but local collectives and businesses stepped in. An estate agent became a sponsor and organised a leaflet drop. Alexandra Palace – usually home to concerts and comedy gigs – lent its support, including what amounts to a quasi window-residency.” More.

Such a creative way to help artists show their work to potential customers in this difficult year!

Photo: Hannah Jane Parkinson
Paintings displayed by Sarah Barker Brown for Artists Walk 2020 in London.

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Photo: Elisa Coltro/Facebook
Nonna Irma, of Noventa Vicentian, Italy, poses with some of the children in the Kenyan orphanage she supports.

News outlets around the world reposted this story about a 93-year-old’s outreach work as described by her granddaughter on Facebook. But I found that BrightSide dug for additional details.

The website reports, “This charming woman from Noventa Vicentina, Italy is Irma, and she is 93 years old. Despite her age, she’s full of energy and desire to change the world for the better. She decided to fly to Kenya to help children in the orphanage there. Her granddaughter shared her grandma’s photos on her Facebook page, which took over the Internet. …

” ‘Irma has always loved life and was never stopped by life’s obstacles,’ her granddaughter [Elisa Coltro] wrote. She knows what difficulties are like and has always tried to help others. Irma lost her husband at 26 and later one of her three children. Her life has not been easy, and she has always relied on her own strength to make it through.

“Many years ago she met Father Remigio, a [missionary] who has spent his life helping the people of Kenya. Irma has supported him for many years. Once she heard that Father Remigio was hospitalized, she made a decision to visit him and all the places he had built during his lifetime, such as hospitals, orphanages and kindergartens.

“Now being in Kenya, Irma helps children as much as she can. She teaches English and Math in the school of Malindi. … Her age never stops her from taking motorcycle rides. Despite all the difficulties she’s faced, she continues to enjoy life. Irma plans to stay in Africa for a few weeks, but there is a possibility that she will want to stay there for good.

“She has always taught her children and grandchildren to help others. Her granddaughter Elisa did volunteer work in refugee camps in Greece in 2016 and 2017.” More here.

One of the things I like best about the story is the sense of a network of fellow travelers. Irma’s daughter went to Kenya with her. Her granddaughter volunteers. And zillions of people loved what Irma is doing enough to share the news on social media. One and one and 50 …

Photo: Elisa Coltro / facebook   

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The Associated Press had a story not long ago about some energetic Bolivians  competing at handball.

“A group of Bolivian grandmothers and great-grandmothers have a pretty nontraditional way of easing the aches and pains of old age. These Aymara women get together every Wednesday in the city of El Alto and play handball.

“The ‘awichas,’ as grandmothers are known in the Aymara language, don sports jerseys over their traditional skirts and look forward to meeting and exercising with friends every week. …

“Team handball is an Olympic sport; two teams pass a ball using their hands to throw the ball into the opposite team’s goal.

“The handball team is part of a program where about 10,000 older people are practicing sports and playing Andean music; they also get free medical care.”

See some great great quotes and photos at NBC News, here.

Photo: Juan Karita/AP
In this Feb. 4, 2105 photo, 72-year-old Aurea Murillo prepares to make a pass during a handball match among elderly Aymara indigenous women in El Alto, Bolivia.

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When I arrived at Suzanne’s house after work yesterday, my grandson was having a bath. I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks. I stood in the bathroom doorway and smiled. When he saw me, he stared for a few moments. Then he got a funny little smile on his face and said, “Huh.”

Today we went with Suzanne to the Music Together class. I had decided to take a vacation day. His other three grandparents had already seen music class, and I was determined to get there, especially after hearing that last time he crawled into some unknown grandma’s lap for the lullaby!

Music Together is a great thing for babies and toddlers and their grownups. It’s franchised around the country. My husband and I attended one session a couple years ago with my older grandson in Arlington (where I believe Will McMillan now teaches, and wouldn’t I like to attend that one!)

Today’s class was chaotic and fun, with lots of rhythm and movement activities and little kids running around and banging percussive toys. They were all very good about putting the instruments back in the proper bins. (There’s a special bin called Taster’s Choice. That’s for the instruments that have gone in someone’s mouth during the exercises and thus need extra attention.)

After the little man and I both had a nap, we went to the Children’s Museum. 🙂


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John sent two articles about roles that grandparents are playing in children’s lives — in this case, grandmas.

The blog Microtask details Professor Sugata Mitra’s cool insights about the Grandma Effect.

“The theory is that grandmas are good at encouraging kids. They praise them and say things like: ‘Now that is clever dear, I’d never have been able to analyze the molecular structure of DNA all by myself!’ Supervising village children, Indian grandmothers got some impressive results: test scores almost doubled in two months …

“And the next step? The ‘Granny Cloud.’ While working at Newcastle University, Professor Mitra recruited over 200 UK grandmothers as volunteers. Broadcasting via webcam each ‘grandmother’ spends at least an hour a week encouraging classes of Indian school children. Some of the Indian locations are so remote that the Granny Cloud is the only access kids have to education.” More.

The second link that John sent has more on the Granny Cloud. Jane Wakefield writes for the BBC: “Jackie Barrow isn’t a granny yet but as a retired teacher she felt she might qualify for an advert in The Guardian newspaper calling for volunteers to help teach children in India.

“She did, and today, three years on, she is reading ‘Not Now Bernard’ via Skype to a small group of children in the Indian city of Pune.

“They love it and are engaged in the experience as she holds up an Easter egg to show them how children in the UK celebrated the recent holiday.” More.

Good work, Prof. Mitra! (Or as my grandson would say when I manage to attach the bike helmet properly, “Good work, Grandma!”) Everyone knows grandmas are cheerleaders, but Prof. Mitra took it to the next step.

Photo: Three-year-old photographer
Grandma saying, “Very creative camera work, Dear!”


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We are gearing up for Mother’s Day around here. It’s an important time of the year for Luna & Stella. For one thing, it gives us a chance to share our enthusiasm for all those who take on the role of mother — whether or not they are actual mothers.

The nurturing person, the rock in someone’s life could be an aunt or a big sister. I have heard of a neighbor playing a mother role for a lonely kid. What about a loving grandpa?

Luna & Stella, as you know, has many birthstone-jewelry offerings, and not just for women. Check out L&S cufflinks if your grandpa was like a mother to you. Why not? Suzanne and Erik may think I’m crazy to suggest cufflinks for May 13, but hey, I’m just the blogger!

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