Saturday, March 31, 2012

3/31/92 The Beginning

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the beginnings of the war in Bosnia. This picture by Ron Haviv captures the essence of the brutal war of aggression perpetrated by the Serbs (in this case Arkan Raznatovic and his Serb sanctioned paramilitary thugs) on the Bosnian civilian population. Bijeljina  was the beginning.

Never forget.

A Gift in Two

At Pirate art gallery yesterday to see Brian Comber's new work on exhibit. Mythological animals, gold orbs, wings and black lines. Also - this

 Lovely as ever.

Ongoing talks between he and M. duPays have resulted in these very precious, rooted and sunny poetry/drawing/painting collaborations.

These touched me deeply my memory sparked by the Dandelions which my dear Grandfather adored. Dandelion salad with white vinegar, oil  and salt in a big bowl. He loved to eat them. This bright and beautiful picture made me very happy.

Another collaboration B Comber P duPays . More roots & vegetables - the heart of many revolutions. @Pirate art gallery on W 36th & Navajo.

Right down the street btw is Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, which features the most beautiful Mother/Madonna as the central figure of the Main altar. Also not something you see everyday.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pot de Crème & Rosé

At Z Cuisine with the almost teens for a bit of dessert. Pot de crème for them & Rosé for me. Great mother daughter bonding during Spring break. & you know I had to stop at the 'Big Picture' wall and take some quick pics.

The light is so weird on that corner and works beautifully no matter what you do.  I've written about it in other posts and hope you don't tire of the repetition but really, how can you? The huge posters wheat paste smudged onto the west side of the restaurant wall is a project (one of so many!) created by dashing Denver based photographer Mark Sink & has garnered local & international note. Looks, btw, more beautiful with age. Some things do, you know.

....street art combined with organic French deliciousness ...Denver really can be quite fab if you know who and where...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Silvana Mondo

Silvana Mondo

Writer, Entrepreneur, Traveler, Oracle. Pomegranate eater

Silvana Mondo picture 
I curate stories about culture, food, politics, ideas & people that reveal what I believe is important.  A nomadic early life gave me a global education which was inspired by sojourns in Europe, Asia. America and a rather glamorous mother as a role model.  I absorbed all manner of lifestyles & perspectives which in turn influences what I write and spices up my blog & twitter posts. I have used my multi cultural experiences as a creative guideline in my life and business ventures, which have included a successful boutique & healing spa in Colorado, a true Italian bakery/cafe in Florida and numerous culture related installations including a gallery presentation of my photography, 'Beyond Sarajevo'. I am fluent in four languages and  have interpreted in various capacities my whole life, both  in the private as well as public sector. In more personal work I go back to my Slavic roots with recipes and herbal remedies handed down to me by my Bosnian grandmother to tell stories that piece together history, relevant anecdotes about current themes relating to regional cuisine, cultural anthropology, identity and place which are published in newspapers locally and international online forums like expat+Harem and Global Niche.

Working 15+ years alternately with refugees, elders, women, advocates &  pro-food initiatives in America and abroad I have brought my quest for authenticity to each endeavor without sacrificing a certain type of savvy, insight, style.

Plans for 2012 are:

A compilation of essays on the cuisine of my hybrid Balkan heritage,

Guide to small group immersion tours to Italy & SE Europe,

Launch of informative short videos that give relevant & unique cultural/culinary tips for travelers,

 "Travels with Anima", an interactive travel blog about life in Italy with my pre teen daughter, written in conjunction with a group of international women travelers.


I independently support  and partner with women entrepreneurs working to sustain biodiversity in Central Bosnia. I adore documentaries, researching heritage plants & animals and am often found drinking Turkish coffee in good company. (

Friday, March 23, 2012

Man Falls for Burning Building

Twelve years ago tonight, I saw you for the first time. You were standing in the parking lot of a disheveled looking apartment building in the periphery, part of an inherited case load. As I jumped out of the car to meet you I observed a long figure, hands in pockets, shoulders shrugged a bit up, like you had just finished asking a question.  We exchanged names and shook hands. Curious. You looked like a gauner of sorts. Not at all the pudgy, diffident but sweet looking young man in the badly copied I-94 from this afternoon.

 The complexities of refugee resettlement work are well charted, I won't repeat what is known. I think in the field, you are  never quite prepared for the many, many varied manifestations of trauma. Some things just come out of the blue, never before seen and not dealt with in the handbook. And when they do, you deal with it the best you can creating as you go along.
 I worked hard. As uncomfortable as it sounds to me now, in my then preposterous innocence I was proud that my reputation was slightly less than terrestrial angel. I wince now, but in those days I blushed. It was so.

Well, and then -  there you were. It seemed improbable but somehow we knew each other from before. We seemed to remember the indelible lines written in invisible ink on tiny palms. The perfect circle pattern, the one that undulates up from the sea floor and pulls the willing into the depths. The electric soul threading that is stitched into the silent black velvet found behind starry stars. This all we remembered. Where we had met on other occasions, this too.

Maybe because of this remembering, that very night you managed the oldest trick of all tricks. And I walked in - I am no longer ashamed to say - confidently, just like fools and those who know better, always do. 

Every year on this date I remember you well, man standing at the edge of a parking lot peering into a burning and crumbling building. You, fully entranced while looking into the fire, now licking the walls, your eyes searching the night sky embers, as if these very same were the only thing to save you from nothingness.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Ticket for an Airplane...Traveling with Anima

Living in the United States, Miss A and I usually travel by plane, mainly because the distances are so great. Plane travel, when airfares are within our budget, becomes the most cost and time efficient method of transportation. There are people that love to travel by car and take long trips 'on the road' to all manner of places in the 50 States. We are definitely not that family. In our time here, we have found that the journey, which is said to be half the fun, is just not really exciting and engaging much of the time for the kids, even if the destinations are ok. Very often  the actual experience of driving takes too long and again, the spots along the road often lack in authenticity. Camping can be fun. Going to specific destinations can be exceptional. But for my money and 'feel good', the American road trip is no longer all it's cracked up to be for a seasoned traveler.

 If on the other hand you are traveling America for the first time and have not yet seen some of the natural beauty, strange canyons and gorgeous mountains, otherworldly forests and grand oceans - which are all truly spectacular and breathtaking - then you are in for a real treat. Otherwise, after a few times around the block, speaking for myself, the highways are endlessly uninspiring and boring.  This is why, a long time ago I decided that we would only travel by plane to get from one destination to another for trips that are more than a couple of hours from home.

Both Anima and I like the palpable feel of the hustle and bustle at the airport and it is always something that we look forward to when flying. Once we get to the airport its fun to see the expectant look on peoples faces as they are coming out of the airplanes looking for a kindred face or a surprise apparition. The romance of flying is still a big part of our travel agenda, I'm happy to say!

I do think that it would be fun one of these days to rent an RV or a roulotte and go on an extended trip to a particular corner of the US, like the Southwest canyons or the Northwest forests. Traveling in our own 'mobile hotel' as it were, would allow us to buy our own food and make home cooked meals. We would avoid the reliance on the ubiquitous fast food outlets located almost exclusively along the roads in America that is so disappointing. This is the way, I imagine, with plenty of time and traveling the back roads, that it would be a lot of fun!

On the contrary, when we are in Europe, we have most commonly traveled by car. On the excellent highways in  Germany and Italy, and many other countries,  it is altogether possible to drive for a few hours, kids, dogs and all, and then stop in a quaint village off the beaten path, find a nice, hospitable cafe bar or Osteria to have a coffee or some delicious home style type meal to make the drive even more pleasant. Then, it's off again towards your destination. Traveling by car is a much better way to make connections with people from the places you are wanting to discover  and since distances are not quite so great you have the luxury of taking your time, viewing the countryside and sampling the local sights, entertainment and cuisine along the way.

It will be interesting to see how  Anima will adjust to the change of traveling in Europe as compared to the United States. So many new things to experience. She has never been on a high speed train or a ferry that crosses over to an island, in a helicopter flying low over the rooftops of an ancient city or racing on a motorino in city traffic. In the next year we will probably be experiencing all of this and more!

What are your favorite modes of transportation, in the United States or in anywhere else in the world?
At Il Circolo delle Mamme Viaggiatrici  (The Traveling Mom's Club in English) we are six women travelers who are also mothers.  Melissa and I are American while Silvia, Alessandra, Valentina and Monica are Italian, although I think it is fair to say that in a way we are all women of the world.

Every month we will individually be posting a story of travel or travel related situation on our own blogs which we will then share with each other and our followers. This will give a wonderful and wide variety to families looking for suggestions, special fare notices and in general a good overview for other mom's and families that travel.

My virtual travel companions often write in both Italian and English and have truly amusing and informative articles for you to read and enjoy. Ciao Ciao!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From the Attic

Clearing house. Always good but sometimes difficult. And so often surprising. I had forgotten these days in Milano when I first set out on my own. These are treasures because it's really all I have from that time.  The 'book' with all the tear outs and beautiful pic's was lost as soon as I came to the States. Maybe in the back of someone's car, in the drawer of a jealous boy, who knows. It was a long time ago.

Foto - Fabrizio Gianni

Foto - Fabrizio Gianni

Contact Sheet - Fabrizio Gianni
 These pictures are from a shoot for a magazine, I don't remember which, maybe Amica or Elle that Fabrizio Gianni 's  wife, a starkly beautiful person was modeling in. We had friends in common. I ended up using the pictures as 'provini' to put into my show 'book'.  Since Fabrizio was a very celebrated photographer, it was a really big deal for me. They were both very nice to me from what I can remember of that very warm summer day in the middle of the city. I remember that on that shoot one of the models was telling horror stories about another very famous photographer who had a very vicious way about him. I took it all in thinking I would probably not like that sort of treatment, no, not at all.

Modeling days? I don't know. The truth is that I was not 5'10" and my body too voluptuous for any serious type of 'high' modeling jobs. After a bit of running around like all the girls in Milan,  I looked into studying languages at the Instituto and directed my interests to culture instead.

It was a dream but not the dream to become a model. Soon, I only occasionally worked in that field, mostly make up and TV commercials and instead  concentrated on my studies and writing my impressions of the wild and interesting people around me. It was, and probably still is, a crazy mess of rich men and ambitious young girls, overtly beautiful and  some terribly debauched characters in between, all dancing on the same dance floor. People in the modeling business are infamously predatory and often wildly unkind. If you don't have the constitution of a rock you can get pretty messed up. I met a lot of gorgeous, doe like creatures with track marks on the back of their legs,  living on a leaf of lettuce a day. Not all, but many. With support from a fiercely loving mother,  I thankfully divined that this was not my path. Pretty pictures and incredible memories remind me that I am still whole and healthy, the way I started out.

German Step Potatoes

I have a picture in my mind. It is of me. I am maybe 3 or 4, sitting on the front steps to the house I live in with my mother and grandparents in a small village in southern Bavaria. It is still early morning, almost Spring.  The sun shines weakly onto the gravel and grass before me as I sit and wait. The air is still except for my grandmother humming in the kitchen inside and the klinking of the cow bells in the fields beyond the road.

I observe my hands, chapped from playing in the water puddles a few days ago when it rained. "It's too cold to play in the water, your hands will get chapped." And at night, before I go to sleep and the chubby skin between my thumb and fingers is red and scaly, ('tomorrow it will bleed' she says) she is shaking her marama covered head in frustration while smearing thick petroleum jelly mom bought in the commissary on my hands. After this, old socks with holes cut in them 'for the fingers to breathe' get pulled over the wounds. Clucking and wrestling the sock onto my greasy paw hand with her forever cold fingers, she makes me cry. She was not a gentle woman. Later, in the dark, I lie in my little bed translating her loud whisper as she moves around empty dishes while recounting my digressions to my grandfather, who's skin smell I love.

The sun creeps closer to the steps as the window panes get fogged up in the kitchen. I watch the ants on the ground,  magically appear and disappear underneath the gravel as they march straight for the house. Good German ants.  My stomach grumbles. I am waiting for my treat. Baka will bring me a boiled potato because today she is making potato salad. It's a recipe that uses vinegar, one that she learned since coming here from Yugoland, via the camps in Poland. But that was many years before I was born.

Never allowed to be outside by myself except very early when every one has gone off to work or is in the fields with the animals, she sits me here 'to keep out of trouble'. I am her favorite and I know this because I am the only one here, my cousins and brother wailing in the background. I peek at my raw, reddish hands. The potato will burn my fingers a little bit and I will have to blow hard hard to cool it down. She will bring it to me with a flower bud opening on the top that she makes with a swift knife trick which releases the heat. Once in my hand the steam dances into my nostrils as I peel away the thin, brown skin, which falls to the concrete under my feet like soft butterfly wings. She comes back out and drops a piece of sweet butter onto the yellow mound in my hands. My grandmother and her flowered apron watch me eat. We are both happiest at this moment.

Baka's German Potato Salad

8-10 small yellow-fleshed potatoes, washed well
 diced slab bacon
 onion, chopped
  pickles diced
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon mild vinegar
some vegetable oil
 fresh parsley leaves chopped
In a large saucepan combine potatoes with salted water to cover by 1 inch and simmer until just tender, a (20 minutes)
While potatoes are cooking, in a medium heavy skillet sauté bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until browned and crisp. 
Take out the bacon and keep the drippings for the onions. 
Saute the onions in bacon drippings till translucent
Add sugar, vinegar and oil and mix together in bowl  
 Drain potatoes. Put a fork into potato or take into hand and peel while still warm.
Slice potatoes. 
Add sauteed onions and bacon with drippings to warm potatoes and then pour the oil/vinegar/sugar mixture over that.
 Add parsley. 
Season with salt and pepper.
Gently toss.
Serve potato salad warm or at room temperature, garnished with parsley and sliced boiled egg.

There are variations, of course. More sugar, some people like that. I once had a husband who put thinly sliced cucumbers into the mixture to make the salad more crunchy and sometimes, mustard or beef broth is added for flavor. Experiment. It's much more fun that way. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Sarajevo Story - BBC


"A Sarajevo Story, is the thrilling tale of how a group of passionate book lovers risked their lives to save the Gazi Husrav-Beg Library from destruction during the siege of Sarajevo. ....." (I saw it posted via Suzana Vukic and Azra Duric on FB)

I think it's such a fascinating history and it makes life just so much more brilliant to know this documentary is posted for people to see and hear and experience.  Books, even in an internet world are treasures.