Tuesday, 28 April 2009
I have just viewed this video song on Youtube for the first time and I like it very much. It is very visual and beautifully made. Its theme is the meaning of life. The song is based on a poem by Paul Coelho. Basically, you never know what is coming round the corner and therefore, it is best to live life to the full.
"Don't just dream it. Do it. Take control of your future".
Sunday, 26 April 2009
I have just read an article about the use of Twitter in the workplace. It has cost one magistrate his job after a complaint was lodged about the use of the social networking site. Please click here to read the full article from BBC News. This story begs the question. How far can we go in the workplace with using technology and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook?
I "follow" Stephen Fry and I came across this video clip where he talks about "The Joys of Twitter". I found the fact that he got instant advice from hundreds of "twiple" when he had a bat in his house was quite amusing! The now iconic Twitter story of the twitpic from the Hudson River plane crash also shows how modern technology gets current news across instantly.
Please click here for yet another recent story in the news called "Moldova's Twitter Revolutionary speaks out".
Finally, check out Russell Stannard's video tutorials on how to use Twitter. I'll be viewing and then learning from them..
At this very moment in time, it seems that Twitter is definitely the "Buzz" site of the day. However, is there more to life than Twitter? I would be interested in your views.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
The Future of E-Learning is Social Learning
I have just viewed Jeffrey Hill's excellent "The English Blog" and spotted this slideshow presentation by Jane Hart on the future of E-learning. I like it because it is concise and practical. I learned a lot by viewing it. Thank you Jeffrey for pointing it out. I feel that it shows exactly how I am learning at the moment- mostly via my computer and across different social networks and personal learning spaces. I agree that social learning is at the heart of modern day"pick and mix" personal development.
Restaurant Review: Jamie's Italian in Oxford
I am one step removed from Jamie Oliver! How come, you may well ask? My sister Adua was once his personal shopper for ingredients in 2000 for the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham. She worked alongside him on her British Gas stand. What brings me to talk about him? Well, I ate at one of his restaurants called Jamie's Italian in Oxford during the last week of my stay in the UK. One word opinion? Buonissimo! Would I eat there again? Assolutamente!
I chose to eat "Lenticchie" soup (Lentils) and it was indeed as good as the Lenticchie I always eat in Santo Stefano di Sessanio where they originate from. Below is an extract from the "Borghi Italia" website:
"The lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, which have always been organically grown, belong to a rare and ancient variety which is grown only in arid mountain lands at elevations between 1200 and 1450 meters.
They are dark brown and very small, with a wrinkly lined surface. Their special flavor has made them famous all over Italy, and they are used by the best chefs for preparing both traditional dishes and nouvelle cuisine creations. They keep for long periods without losing their flavor, and cook in just 20 minutes.
Lentil soup served with small squares of bread fried in olive oil is the most well-known of the many soups made with this legume, which can also be made with potatoes, with volarelle (homemade pasta, cut into little squares) and with sausage.
The area also produces excellent lamb, raised on the Campo Imperatore high plain: one specialty is lamb alla chiaranese with cheese and egg."
Well, it was pretty crowded by the time we got there at midday and after approximately 40 minutes of waiting at the bar, enjoying a glass of "Prosecco", we were led to our table by a very affable and courteous young waiter. The atmosphere was very lively and everyone seemed to be enjoying their meals. I liked the authentic "Italian" decor and while I was gazing round the room my eyes travelled inexorably towards a group of small olive oil containers sitting high up on a shelf. A simple idea flickered through my mind...
"Ginestre 12" Olive Oil
After the truly delicious meal, I went up to see what one of the containers was like and decided to take the bull by the horns (as I invariably do ) and asked a member of staff if Jamie Oliver might be interested in buying my olive oil in the future. I explained that we are a small holding in Abruzzo with only 61 olive trees and that I had personally hand-picked all the olives (with a little bit of help from hubby K). I proudly mentioned that our olive oil is 100% Extra Virgin and that reports so far from family and friends have been very positive. I was given a card with contact details and since then I have sent a tweet to Jamie Oliver on Twitter: " Loved your lenticchie soup @ Jamie's, Oxford. Interested in buying my 100% Xtra virgin olive oil from Civitaquana, Abruzzo?" and have written to his website as well. I have had an automated reply from his website but nothing since then. Not to worry. It was a long shot. I'll contact again another time....
Today's task on Day 19 of Darren Rowse's excellent Pro Blogger involves giving an opinion. Here goes. I will say something about what is in the news today. The following news item from "Il Centro" caught my eye.
"G8 Summit to be held in Aquila"
Upon Silvio Berlusconi's suggestion, world leaders have agreed to hold the G8 Meeting in Aquila instead of Sardinia in July. I think this sounds like a good plan and it will attract even more attention to the plight of this city which has been devastated by the recent massive earthquake. The money saved by not hosting the Summit in Sardegna will apparently go towards restructuring the stricken city. This surely must be a good idea. What is your opinion? Is there a hidden agenda behind the proposal? I sincerely hope not....
Visit English Companion
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
I returned home to Abruzzo on a packed Ryan Air flight last Friday evening. I was met by Karl and then driven home to a hearty meal of delicious pasta with homebaked bread drizzled in our very own Extra Virgin olive oil. It was a wonderful homecoming. Sofia, Isabella, Kelly were obvoiusly pleased to see me judging by their wagging tails, and Joey and Victoria registered some interest by gently heading towards their food bowls and miaowing vociferously in my direction!
Am I worried about the 1,000+ aftershocks since the big Aquila earthquake of April 6th? Yes, is the answer!
Am I happy to be back home in Abruzzo? Yes, yes, is the answer!
Am I looking forward to resuming my life here after 50 days away? Yes, yes and yes is the definitive answer!
Good luck to Giulietta
My sister is currently undergoing a series of intensive radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer which was diagnosed on 31st December 2008. What a way to end the old year and begin the new year! It was a big blow for all the family. I returned to the UK for 2 weeks in January to be near my sister before, during and after her operation to remove the cancerous cells. After that, came the worst two weeks of waiting to see if the cancer had spread to other parts of her body. Luckily, tests revealed that the cells had not spread and we were all able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Giulietta has shown remarkable fortitude throughout her ordeal and what with my mother's serious accident happening at the same time as the treatment and recovery from cancer, it has indeed been a truly tough year for her and for all the family. As I said before, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" and I think it truly fits the situation in this case.
A thousand thanks to family and friends for being so supportive to me and the family during my stay in the Uk. My second unexpected departure from Abruzzo in the space of a few weeks after the urgent call I received telling me of my mother's serious accident, was stressful. This is what I wrote but did not publish, on the tearful flight to London Stansted on February 27th:
My heart, my soul, my everything. Today a light is flickering. I will not be able to write my beloved blog for a while as yet unspecified. The force and energy I didn't even know existed are not there any more. So until I get my heart and soul back, I would like to say a big thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read what I have had to say.
Luckily, my mother continues to astound the doctors and carers with her remarkable progress and as I write, she is regaining her memory day by day, step by step. Together with the love from "la famiglia" and friends, I know she will overcome her trials and tribulations. "Omnia vincit amor" is one of my favourite Latin sayings of all time.
Cancer Research UK
I worked as a volunteer for CRUK in Headington, Oxford for 19 years as a shop assistant. I really loved the job. I did a 4-hour shift every Saturday morning from 9am - 1pm. During that time I met the most amazing bunch of volunteers and chatted to a whole array of customers. I did jobs such as pricing bric-a-brac and sorting through all the donations given to us by customers. I also trained new volunteers and that was something I particularly enjoyed. I felt that in working there, I was able to do my small "bit" to help raise money for research into cancer. Throughout my time working in the shop, friends and family members were diagnosed with various forms of cancer, most who made a good recovery, some who sadly did not. There are many activities such as "Race for Life" which aim to raise awareness of this disease, which has no boundaries whatsoever.
The latest statistics show that breast cancer deaths are at a record low and this is very encouraging news indeed.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
"Twitter" for Primaries?
I don't mind this particular request because I respect my sisters' wishes and I wouldn't want to bore them with details but in all sincerity, I do believe talking about blogs and Twitter is very interesting especially as recently mentioned in the press, the government is thinking of introducing these Web 2.0 tools to primary school children under radical plans to overhaul primary school teaching. My young nephew who is only 8, already has his own "E-Portfolio". He and my two young nieces will one day have their own personal blog at school and also be expected to know and use "Twitter", podcasts, Wikipedia as sources of information and methods of communication....
A "Twitter" Question
My dear readers, do you think primary school children should learn about blogging, podcasting and "Twitter"? What is the purpose of them using these tools at such a young age? As a quintagenerian, I am known in polite circles as a "Digital Immigrant" and have come to such tools relatively late in life, hence my ongoing relentless quest to find out more about them.
Pro Blogger 31-Day Challenge Confession
I am going to do something you should apparently NEVER do on a blog. I am going to make a confession! Here goes. I am not keeping up with the 31-Day Pro-Blogger Challenge on how to write better blogs because I cannot focus on the tasks while I am in Oxford and not on my own computer. (My sister Giulietta has very kindly loaned me her PC). There are 11,000+ other bloggers registered around the world to do the challenge and it all looks like great stuff but I just can't do it at the moment. I would like to try out the tasks and catch up when I get back to Civitaquana. That is my intention and I hope to carry it out.
Words on Courage
"When you get into a tight place
and everything goes against you,
till it seems as though
you could not hang on
a minute longer,
never give up then,
for that is just the place
that the tide will turn".
"Disasters sweep the world-
war and disease, earthquake
and flood and fire-but always
in their wake come acts
of courage and concern that
astound the human heart.
Light in utter darkness".
"Feel the fear and do it anyway."
Saturday, 11 April 2009
Natalina di Francesco was born on Christmas Eve 1896 in the village of Valle Sentatto, Provincia Teramo in Abruzzo. Her parents were farmers and they worked for a big landowner called Savini. Natalina's life was hard and she did not have the chance to go to school at all. Despite not having an education, my grandmother was a highly intelligent woman with a great depth of knowledge about life. She would cook for up to 30 family members on a daily basis as well as tending to animals,"parare le pecore" and looking after her children.
Natalina married Luigi Bianchini after her sister died in childbirth. She inherited 5 small children and then had 3 sons, one of whom is my father, Emidio. In 1936 my grandfather died tragically young in a horse and cart accident at the age of 43. My grandmother was left a widow with 8 young children to look after. With true grit and determination she managed to deal with and overcome adversity in her stride. She dressed in the traditional dark colours as a sign of mourning for her beloved husband for the rest of her life. You can see Luigi's face in the locket she wore until her death.
A Change of Country
At the age of 61 Natalina left her beloved Abruzzo to begin a new life in Oxford, England. She lived with us for over 30 years. She had a good life and she was well looked after by her family. I was brought up by my grandmother in true Italian family tradition while my parents went out to work. She always used to prepare the "sugo" ready for my mother to use for dinner at night. Her special "sugo" was made up of the following ingredients:
- tomato puree
- olive oil
My gran was the most stubborn person I have ever met in my life and I am proud to say that I have followed in her footsteps. This inherited trait has stood me in good stead over the years! She never gave up during difficult times and this helped her to overcome the many hardships she faced when she was younger.
San Gabriele dell'Addolorata
Natalina was also a God-fearing woman who prayed fervently every day with her rosary in hand. She prayed to "La Madonna" and her favourite saint was Saint Gabriel. I still have a 20-year-old photo of San Gabriele which I carry around with me. My mother has a big picture of the saint in her new room as well.
A Fulfilling Life
Natalina Bianchini passed away peacefully in her sleep at the grand old age of 93. She was surrounded by family members who had flown in from around the world. She had lived life to the full and her ethos of life was exemplary. She was kindhearted, honest, altruistic, passionate and faithful. Everybody loved her and looked up to her. She will always live on in my memory.
Friday, 10 April 2009
The Guardian also reports the following:
"The Catholic service, led by the archbishop of L'Aquila, Giuseppe Molinari, was celebrated by some 100 priests from all over the region. An Islamic ceremony was held afterwards for the six Muslims who died.
The mass began with a message from Pope Benedict XVI, who noted that the shock waves from the earthquake had been felt in the Vatican. Speaking through his private secretary, Father Georg Gänswein, he said that, for believers, Jesus's death and resurrection should be "a wellspring of comfort".
He urged the friends and relatives of the dead to focus on the afterlife to which their loved ones had passed, "that life in which there will no longer be death, nor mourning, nor lamentation, nor distress".
The governor of Abruzzo remarked after the earthquake that the people of this rugged highland region were tough. No one who has witnessed their composure and courage in the days since could doubt it."
Tonight there will be a traditional Good Friday torchlit procession of the "Via Crucis" - Stations of the Cross, at the Colosseum in Rome. This procession will be an especially poignant one for all Italians, in view of recent tragic events.
Good Friday in Pictures
The following pictures from BBC News show how this day has been celebrated around the world.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Support the victims of the L'Aquila earthquake
Italia Magazine Newsletter (email@example.com)
09 April 2009 13:22:07
Dear Italia! readers,
I'm sure you have been moved by scenes of the devastating earthquake in Abruzzo. Our sympathies are with the people of the region at this difficult time and those who have had their homes destroyed or damaged are in immediate need of food, water and shelter. We wanted to help in some small way by telling as many people as possible about the Italy Earthquake Appeal set up by the British Red Cross. You can make a donation at www.RedCross.org.uk/ItalyEarthquake or by phone at 0845 054 7201.
Thank you, AmandaEditor, Italia! magazine
Defying the Odds
One story which has captured the hearts of the nation is about Maria D'Antuono, a 98-year-old woman who managed to survive the deavastation of Monday's earthquake. She spent over 30 hours waiting to be rescued by doing "crochet". This inspiring story amidst the gloom can be read here.
A British woman living in Onna, who also survived the ordeal is featured in this article here.
These inspiring stories show us that against all the odds, there is always a glimmer of hope for someone, somewhere.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Being so far away from the tragic events of Monday morning in Aquila has made me feel very worried about more tremors in the Abruzzo region. Here is an interactive map of the Abruzzo region from the Guardian as highlighted by Larry Ferlazzo on his blog today. My home lies very close to Chieti.
I am due to fly back to Pescara on Friday April 17th and I somehow wish it could be sooner but I need to be here for my family for various reasons and therefore I have 10 days to go before I can be near Karl and give him some moral support. We are indeed lucky that our home is still standing despite further tremors last night as mentioned by karl on his blog.
A Strange Coincidence
It is so unbelievably strange for me to be reading of the events as they unfold from our home in Italy written first hand by Karl and also to read the many reports of the situation from my very own blog sidebar. Free Technology for Teachers Blog has very useful resources regarding earthquakes. I have suddenly become very interested in reading more about this natural phenomenum and its consequences.
Sleepless in Civitaquana
I have just spoken to Karl on the phone just as he was experiencing a severe tremor in the background. It was a truly horrible moment as I wasn't there to support him during the experience, which was quite frightening. There have been more than 30 aftershocks in the past few hours since the "biggie" and nobody knows if another one of the same magnitude is around the corner.
What people are doing at the moment is sleeping in their cars as this is a way of keeping out of danger. I suggested to Karl that he should perhaps spend the night in our Landie and place it right in the middle of our field which is "far from the madding crowd".
Sleepless in Oxford
I was unable to sleep last night after viewing all the images on television showing the scenes of devastation and listening to people describing their terror and anguish at the loss of loved ones. I still can't comprehend the enormity of the situation which is on our doorstep and I really want to be able to help in any way possible when I return to Abruzzo next week.
Monday, 6 April 2009
Italy is criss-crossed by two fault lines and has been prone to earthquakes in the past. In particular, there was a devasting one in 1980 in Naples.
My husband Karl woke up in the middle of the night to see our house shaking, furniture wobbling and it was a terrifying sight to behold. So far, after an inspection of the house and surrounding land, things seem to be ok but the fear is of other follow-up tremors. We have family and friends in the region and Karl is trying to contact to see if they need any help.
The Power of Prayers
I have to make a confession. Despite coming from an Italian background (both my parents are Italian, but I was born and grew up in Oxford), I am not as religious as I could be, but in the past few weeks, I have seen that prayers can be answered in time of need. I hope sincerely that the people affected by this disaster in Abruzzo will find the fortitude to overcome their difficulties and that the power of prayers will give some comfort to the grieving families.
Sunday, 5 April 2009
Making and Using Compost
Publisher: National Trust
Edition: illustrated edition
"Composting refers to recycling of waste, extracting valuable nutrients and restore them to your garden soil to the benefit of the plants you grow. This book provides a guide to the various aspects of making and using compost: selecting the correct container, deciding on the use of waste materials, and putting this material to work in the garden." MoreMy Abruzzo Compost
How can I connect Abruzzo to this subject? A piece of cake, actually! Waiting for me in Civitaquana are 2 huge open compost heaps and 3 other compost bins, ready for me to hopefully add the lovely friable, fresh compost to my future vegetable plot. I was intrigued to find out if I have been doing the right thing in creating my compost heaps and I feel reassured that yes, I have followed one of the many procedures to make successful compost.
A List of Janet's Ingredients to make Fabulous, Friable Compost
I have added the following ingredients to my compost bins from my garden and household waste since last summer:
- potato/carrot peelings
- egg shells
- scrunched up newspapers
- cardboard cut into small pieces
- lemon/orange rind
- lots of watermelon/melon peelings!
- grass cuttings
- leaf mould
- rose prunings
- mouldy apples
- coffee grounds
- dead flowers
- small woody prunings
- soft hedge clippings
- spent potting compost
- toilet roll centres
- cereal cartons
The important thing is to ensure you have a good mixture of "greens" (grass mowings and other young sappy materials) and "browns" (drier, tougher materials). Also, I tend to "turn" my compost mixture every few weeks as this aids the "cooking" process. I really enjoy "turning" the compost and seeing the worms doing their job as that means the compost is on track to becoming usable and sweet-smelling.
Helping the Environment
In making my own compost, I am doing my very small "bit" to helping the environment. It is also "free" and it is most importantly, a very rewarding and relaxing activity.
Have a look at the following websites regarding the gentle art of composting:
I highly recommend making your own compost and "How to "Cook" Compost" is a very practical book to help you on your way to doing something which is very satisfying indeed.
Joey itching to get away from Janet's homemade haystack!
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Queen Elizabeth of England has expressed her apparent disapproval of Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister for being too noisy during the G-20 photo shoot session at Buckingham Palace. The scene has been captured on Youtube and has proved to be an international hit.
Some of the wonderful staff
The West Wing provides modern, high-quality and purpose-built accommodation for adult services, including:
- the neurosciences unit
- specialist surgery (including the Oxford Eye Hospital)
- critical care
- a new day surgery unit
- state of the art operating theatres
- University of Oxford facilities.
The building is light and airy, with good facilities for patients and visitors, including three coffee bars, shops and a pharmacy close to one of the tea rooms and outpatient departments.
The power of mind over matterSince those dark and gloomy early days, however, my mother has been defying all the odds and has astounded doctors and specialists alike regarding her steady and positive physical improvement. There is still a long way to go in terms of other areas of recovery but with fortitude and my mother's amazing positive outlook on life, I am certain that she will get over this difficult period. She is now in an intermediate rehabilitation centre and the next stage will be home.
Following my own sidebar
In the two weeks+ of teaching that I did at the Lake School of English, I was able to use, show off and dip into some of the websites and blogs that are embedded in my sidebar. In particular, "The English Blog" was very useful for keeping up to date with the news in the British press and the cartoons below selected by Jeffrey Hill, regarding the G-20 Summit, were very effective indeed for generating discussion.
"Several of the British national daily newspapers feature cartoons about the G-20 summit outcome. My
favourite is by Peter Brookes from The Times."
BBC Learning English" and I showed my students some colour idioms vocabulary, including this example of a quiz. I also showed my students examples of phrasal verbs from "eflnet.com".
A warm welcome
Thank you Susan, Carmel, Lilly, teachers and staff at the Lake School for welcoming me back with open arms during the past few weeks. It was a turbulent time for me and my family but with your wonderful help and compassion, I was able to perform my duties as a teacher. I had wonderful classes and the students were very receptive. If any of you are reading my blog, keep up the good work!