Yes! It’s a Thankful at Thanksgiving Time Post!

All righty, fellow Americans, it’s that time of year again to gather around the table to give thanks.

Even if you’re not American, you’ve probably heard of it:  It’s our fun-and-family-filled (do these two really co-exist?) annual event in which we all eat a little too much and perhaps drink a little too much:  Thanksgiving!

Tradition has it, it started waaay back in the 1600’s when the Pilgrims gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts; thankful for a bountiful harvest. But for us,  when the dozens of us – Mom, Dad, Grannie, Grampa and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins arrived at Aunt Neatie and Uncle Dick’s house in Fish Lake, Indiana – we thought less about any harvest and more about eating, playing and, of course, football.

Here’s Aunt Neatie and Uncle Dick serving up the turkey at a family Thanksgiving… 😉

But, in the spirit of Thursday’s holiday and because it’s the obvious hook for this week’s blog, I am hereby going to tell you a few of the many things I am thankful for.

First, the most obvious: Family.  They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.  Maybe they also say something about your nose, but that’s gross.  Anyway, I am so grateful for my family. I have a mom and step-dad who have steadfastly loved and supported me over the years. We haven’t agreed on everything – but we always have kept the concept of “unconditional love” in the forefront.

Here’s our little family – before Lulu when we lived in Egypt.

My sister Andrea and my brothers Brad and Jayson all get along.  We have completely different lives and we don’t talk every day. But I know that if I ever were in dire need, they’d do whatever they could.  I’m confident they are assured of the same from me.

My husband, Scotty, is my best friend and partner.  In our seven years together, we have lived in Denver, Cairo, Seattle, Paris, Baltimore and Tuscany.  That’s more than some couples do in a lifetime!  And, of course, there’s Lulu.  I never knew what I was missing all those years before she came along.  What a joy. Frustrations too, but mostly, mostly joys.

I’m thankful for family

Health.  Second, or maybe even tops on the list, has to be health. You can have everything, but without your health to enjoy it…  this year has been a trying one for too many of my friends.. battling illnesses or dealing with the fallout from the struggles of family members.

Humor.  That’s it. The third and final thing I’ll list here today, next to health, is humor. The number one thing I believe your must have to fully experience well-being.  I don’t mean the ability to tell a great knock-knock-joke or leave ‘em crying at a comedy club; but the grace to find a silver lining or funny moment in the midst of despair.

Life’s short.  Soon we’ll be back around the sun again and looking inward at yet another Thanksgiving time.  Maybe we’ll have remembered to spend more of the trip being thankful the rest of the year too!

Okay, now who’s going to be in the big football match-up this year?

(Not that I’ll be watching from here in Tuscany, mind you!)

But happy Thanksgiving y’all and hug your family!


P.S. We’ve all got something to be thankful for, right? Share it!


Olive Garden – The real one!

It’s harvest time in Tuscany so, of course, that means it’s time to pile preschoolers into a caravan of parents’ cars and drive them to the countryside for a morning of olive picking!

Okay, that may not be what springs immediately to your mind, but that is exactly what we did today.   The family of one of Lulu’s classmates at Maria Bianca Bianchini school has a home set atop a rolling hill surrounded by cypress, chestnuts – and hundreds of olive trees.   Lulu, her best friend Allegra, and about 50 other screaming, er, enthusiastic kids descended upon the beautiful place.

It was sunny and only slightly brisk as the children gathered to hear from Helena’s Babbo, or daddy, about how the picking would be done.  It was our first time, so I paid close attention.  That, and my Italian is still really bad.

Large, rectangular nets are first spread under the trees.

Then the men, and later some of the more adventurous kids, stretched long-handled plastic rakes high into the trees, to scrape the olives loose.

As olives fell down upon their heads, children scrambled under the trees grabbing them up, careful not to step on them and smash them, and then tossed them in their cestini, or baskets.

The fun and confusion reminded me of an Easter egg hunt – only with tiny black and green eggs that rained down on the hunters.

In spite of all the chaos, the kids actually managed to successfully harvest half a dozen large plastic bin-fulls.

And had a lot of fun at the same time.


And afterward, the school’s cook treated the small hunters to a snack of pane con olio¸or bread with – what else – olive oil?

Under the bright blue skies and the warm Tuscan sun, it was truly wonderful.  And as I looked at Lulu and Allegra running near the small chapel that was attached to the family’s ancient stone home, I imagined what it must be like  to have to spend hours of serious bending under trees, tip-toeing on nets, getting pelted with falling olives and reaching high up into the branches to harvest olives for a living.

I was thankful that this morning was one of those lovely, “once in a lifetime” experiences.

Ciao tutti!

Love, Gina

P.S.  Ever picked olives?  How about strawberries?  What was it like and how happy are you that you did it because you wanted to, not because you had to!?!