Monday, 30 September 2013

Grandma's Eulogy

Emma Garofalo
1 June 1929 - 26 September 2013

Emma Garofalo wasn't only a sister, a mother, wife, grandmother and friend. She was a fighter, a believer, a teacher and a guide.  She was a perfectionist, an umpire, a comforter and a mentor. The reason she touched so many lives and affected so many people was due to her dynamic sense of being. In the same breath she could and would praise you and holler at you. (And I'm sure we can all recall times when Emma has hollered at us for one thing or another). 

I've always thought of my grandmother as immortal. We look up to our grandparents with a sense of awe as they represents so much history and so many memories. They are our living roots and their words weave the tapestry of not only their past, but our past as well. As time begins to show on the faces of our loved ones, we begin to listen more closely and seek out answers to questions we didn't even know we had. I took the time to listen and as the tales began to unravel, I began to see the woman my grandmother was and how she was the heroine in her own autobiography. 

Her travels began at the age of 5 when she embarked upon the journey of a lifetime to Ellis Island in New York City from Novara, Sicily. Lady Liberty in all of her splendour was no match for a young and inquisitive Emma.  It was here where she was given her first taste of America: a banana. She decided she wasn't keen on the yellow fruit. It wasn't until a few years later did she learn you weren't meant to eat the skin.  Unable to speak a word of English; nothing seemed to deter her.  When her mother passed away quite young, Emma rose to the challenge of raising her brother, Tony, and helped to shape him into the successful man he is today.  

Now, If anyone knows this family, they'll know that the women may possess a slightly stubborn side. I'm going to go ahead and blame Grandma for that trait.   On a trip back to her hometown in Italy, she met the dashing (and probably mischievous) ex-serviceman, Carmelo Garofalo.

 Her story with Carmelo involved a whirlwind of love letters, a $500 wedding dress bought in New York and a defiant trip back to Sicily to marry her Prince Charming. Her Uncle Ugo was the only person there to give her away - but she didn't care.  She was always determined to have her own way. She was straight talking. No one ever did tell Emma what to do. 

Most of you have probably heard the story of how Emma and Carmelo escaped a close shave in the middle of the Atlantic. This was one of her favourite stories to tell. While scheduled to return to America in June, they learnt my mother, Susanna,  was to be born in May. they decided to take an earlier voyage on the Andrea Dora so Sue would be born in the United States. The journey they were meant to take in June ended In tragedy as the Andrea Dora sunk due to collision with another ship. It would seem that that was the first of her nine lives. 

These are our favourite stories. But this is only a snapshot of the millions of smiles, laughs, tears and exchanges we have experienced with Emma.  What's gotten us through the past few days are the stories we have all shared- reliving those moments where we laughed or cried with Emma. 

There were stories about the Wine Shop - which Mr DiCarlo owned but - in true Emma fashion - she ran.

Tales of baking in a steamy kitchen and passing down family recipes to Uncle Chuck such as buckeyes, nut roll, biscotti and baelish.  She could never give you a full recipe if you asked though, as time had gifted her with precision.  

One tale which made us smile was Uncle Chuck spending hours grinding walnuts for the assorted recipes. There's only so much grinding of nuts of that a man can take.  (That's what he said anyways!) 

Many of us smiled at the memories of the Christmas Eve dinners she executed perfectly year after year, no matter how difficult it was to find the traditional seven fish. With a full house and 15 cars in the drive, you wouldn't expect a carolling family to be left out in the cold.  We've all been present for a meal at Emma and Carmelo's.  There's no chance of hearing much of anything beyond the clanging and shouting at the dinner table. 

Sunday dinners were another tradition my grandparents prided themselves on. Carmelo May have been in charge of the sauce and meatballs, but everyone knew is was Emma running the show. After a few hours she would tell you to get your kids and go home - she never was one for hiding her true feelings. She would tell you if you were wrong. She would tell if you were right.That is, of course, as long as your idea of right was also her idea of right.  You can't find that kind of honesty now a days. 

Her love for her friends was unconditional - and she has a lot of friends. Everyone knew they could count on Emma for one thing or another. Whether that be translating documents into Italian or English or looking after the kids. She was always prepared to help a friend in need. Of course, that went both ways. Not that I believe my mum, aunt and uncles ever misbehaved....but I've heard tales that they couldn't get away with anything.  She always found out - like she had eyes in every corner of Painesville.   

After 84 full years of life, she was the mother to five, Aunt to twelve, grandmother to six and nearly a great grandmother.  She will be buried today with a blank cheque numbered 6984, as she always wanted money to spend in paradise. The number represents her six grandchildren, her nine Lives and her 84 years spent living her own adventure story.  It's Monday, grandma. The bank opened at 9. 

She fought cancer, survived a hit and run accident and even escaped a shipwreck. Her life was lived to its fullest, just as we would expect from her, and that is evident by the many faces we see here today. God, faith and family were her most treasured possessions.  So it is only fitting that we join here today to give her the farewell she deserves. 

It's said that Those who touch our lives inspire us and love us. And they do so for a lifetime. Today we honour and celebrate her life and her love. Our lives more colourful because she was apart of it. We have the opportunity today to remember and share her treasured stories and know that it was all of us - her family and friends - who helped Emma live a long and happy life.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Remembering Emma

I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks because work has been so overwhelming.  I've found it difficult to keep on top of the demands - mostly demands created by myself as I want to be Outstanding.

My perspective has changed.

On Thursday I received the news that my grandmother - Emma Garofalo - passed away.  She had just underwent surgery to remove cancer in her kidney and stomach and seemed to pull through.  She was making a strong recovery when she took a turn for the worst.  

Receiving that email and making the panicked phone call to my mum was the worst feeling in the world.  My grandma was a fighter - she was an amazing woman and I viewed her as immortal as she faced death so many times and came out on top. She was 84 and lived a full and beautiful life.

I bought my plane ticket and am now sitting at the kitchen table - the heart of my childhood home - writing the eulogy I will deliver at her funeral on Monday.  When my mother asked me to speak I was honoured yet terrified.  I know I'll be able to do her justice.

On the evening I found out about my grandmother, I was meant to bake doughnuts for a charity event we were holding at school on Friday - Macmillan coffee morning.   What better way to honour my grandmother than by baking - one of her claims to fame - for a cancer charity.  I managed a dozen and left a note on the top - just thinking someone buying the doughnuts may see it.

I was visited by the head boy and one of the other senior prefects who organised the event.  Both hugged me and expressed their sympathy for my grandmother's passing.   They asked if they could dedicate the event to her and made a large sign for the hall.  I was so touched by the kindness and thought our students possess.  They raised the equivalent of $4,000.

So now I'm left with my thoughts.  My heart is heavy, but it's also softened as I remember that I work in a school full of beautiful and caring people.  Check out their video here.

I've learnt that no matter how difficult times may be, as long as there is love in our lives, we will be just fine.  Nothing else really matters in the end.

 In loving Memory: Emma Garofalo
Sister, Mother, Grandmother, Friend and so much more

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Ofsted Aftermath

It's hard to explain the education system to my friends and family back in America.  "It's just not the same"comes out of my mouth nearly every time I mention work.  And then there's Ofsted.  

I wrote a few weeks ago that we were shocked by the fall in our GCSE results.  From the first day back the bar has been raised - a much greater demand has been placed on the quality our teaching, marking and the behaviour and progress of our students.  We knew Ofsted were coming and we knew they wouldn't be happy.  

While the changes are fabulous and really good for the kids, it's exhausting.  I'm proud of my work and I know what I need to do to be the best.  But it is time consuming and incredibly tiring.  I will get to work at 7:30 and finish working around 10:00pm - daily.  Perhaps that is just the territory that comes with being an English teacher.

And then on Wednesday we received the call that Ofsted was arriving in 20 hours.  Not even the pretty sky could take my mind off of it.

So two days later I've survived.  I was rated Good with outstanding features.  I shouldn't complain, but I was slightly disappointed as I was judged Outstanding last year.  As for the school - well, we don't know yet.  I've been told that there's a lot of work that needs to be done.

I'm anxious.  I'm nervous.  I'm upset.  I'm not really sure what is in store, but I know what I'm like - I will work hard to be Outstanding - late nights and working weekends included.

Considering my diet consisted of half a pizza, a doughnut and twelve cups of coffee over the two days Ofsted were in, I'm going to focus on eating right and getting my energy letters back up.  Green smoothies definitely on the menu.

Difficult times ahead....hopefully I can keep finding the positives.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


This past week has been a blur.  Back to school INSET days followed by our first two days with students. Needless to say, I'm exhausted.  

Rather than complain about the workload, the changes and the pure shock to the system; I thought I would focus on the other lovely bits of life.

Prior to the start of term, we had a Sexy Mexi night with H and T to say "So long, Summer!"  The hilarity extends far beyond these photos...


We are still loving the country tunes!  I've been playing Absolute Country from TuneIn.  It can be streamed online which means I can listen to country in my car!

In an effort to get my protein up and help curb my hunger between the end of the school day and before B gets home for dinner, I've been munching away on these Vanilla Coconut protein bars.  They are light and actually taste like a treat.  Once I can get back into a gym routine, it will taste even better as I'll be burning those calories! L-O-V-E.

SMOOTHIES!  I'm loving it first thing in the morning.  Light and filling - what more could you ask for?  My favourite has been a Peachy Green:
1 c spinach
1.5 c frozen peaches

1 apple
1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

Blend for YUM.

Do you even need to ask?  Hunter Wellie Flats.  No joke.  I'm proper living in them.  I have my eye on a pair of Toms wedges at the moment - I'm trying to justify them to myself.  Shoes always make you feel better.

Tired.  The perfectionist in my wants everything to be just right.  Let's face it.  Life is never just right.

Following Thursday's very sweaty and uncomfortable day, Friday started to cloud over and cool down.  Autumn is upon us!  This is without a doubt the best time of year.  Boots and scarves and wooly scarves are coming out!

Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING.  I have a few tins of Pumpkin which were gifted to us as a Wedding present.  A brilliant gift as I'm forever willing the country to start importing pumpkin.  I have yet to see it on the shelves in Tesco!

Work clothes!  If my Pinterest wardrobe existed in real life....I'll tell you.  I've been waiting for a new work wardrobe for years - I think the time is now!  Hopefully I can find a spare weekend to grab Heidi and hit the shops!  SHOES FIRST!

Christmas!  I can't believe it but there are already Christmas chocolates and biscuits in the shops!  I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed as it's only mid September - but seriously!  I'm thinking about Christmas and gifts and how to decorate our house!  The garland is looking amazing - so maybe something along the paper tassel route?

Sky TV.  We finally splurged and upgraded to Sky Plus.  We get the recording and loads of channels.  I'm not a TV watcher, but I always hear about shows and then forget to watch.  I've recorded a few guilty pleasures like Made and Chelsea so I can watch them on rainy days when I need a bit of chewing gum for the eyes.

I think I'm going to go an play with the new Sky - see what mischief I can get up to!

Happy weekend!


Monday, 2 September 2013

Autumn Wish List

If I must say goodbye to the summer (as it is now 9:30 and I have just finished my work for the day), I have to look forward to something that ISN'T schoolwork.

I LOVE Autumn in America.  The pumpkin and spice and football and leaves and coziness.   

I don't live in America.  And in England, Autumn is wet.  And BORING.

So what am I looking forward to this Autumn?

B loves his walks but I'm not entirely keen as I hate getting cold and muddy.  Wellies have been a lifesaver when we have gone out at about.  Whether we head to the beach or the woods - Hunter Wellies get me through the mud!
I have incredibly dry skin and was devastated to learn that Johnson's 24 Hour Moisturiser has been pulled from the shelves.  This Nivea moisturiser is salvation in a tube - especially once the heating and tights go on!
Slow Cooker and Slow Cooker Recipes
The only good thing about the cooler weather is the return of the slow cooker.  Warm dinners are on the cards.  We typically buy LOADS of vegetables and spend a day chopping, peeling and bagging.  These bags are then frozen and they emerge on a morning when I can't be bothered to cook!  They get popped into the slow cooker and that's it!  Dinner at 5!
The weather is turning and cold feet are unhappy feet.  These socks from Next look blissful!
They are here.  I am cartwheeling inside!
Stabilo Pens
Autumn means back to school and new school supplies.  New pens for marking work and books and doodling.  I think these will be mostly used for doodling.
I just ordered a fabulous garland from Pom Pom Studios - Sarah is brilliant.  She was so helpful and sent me colours based on my colour inspiration.  I sent her this image:

And this arrived!

I cannot wait to put this up in the dining room!

OK - maybe I am ready to let go of summer and embrace Autumn!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Summer in Review

It's true what they say.  All good things must come to an end.  It's the eve of Back to school Monday!  This means summer is officially over!

It's been a great break - probably my best summer on record.  Would I change anything?  Probably not.  Just to remind myself that it really did happen, here's my summer in Review!

Cornwall was brilliant - just the feeling of packing a bag and going away makes everything seem a bit more exotic.  I loved returning to our old haunts as there's so much history and tradition there - in spite of our short history.

Next year?  We defiantly need to go away - but perhaps somewhere new?  I like the sound of our holiday away with the Guyatts!

I think my body is going to go into shock without my mid day iced coffee and reading in the garden.  I will need to bring one into work and refrigerate it until required!  Not really the same though...with that said - I heard a little rumour that Starbucks will be coming out with Pumpkin Spice Latte within the next few weeks.  Oh. My. Word.

Next year? ALWAYS This would go without saying.  However - there has been talk about adding a little McBerry to our coffee next summer?  I think I'm willing to make that trade.

The Berrys love berry picking.  Strawberry, Raspberry or Blueberry.  The prices are ridiculous around here - it's foolish to by your own when you can pick your own for a fraction of the price!  Freshly picked berries  mean freshly baked berry pie!

Next year?  Of COURSE!  Cheap and tasty.  Sign me up.  We are expecting an email soon so we can go for a twilight blueberry pick to clean the place out.  Frozen berries?  Yes, please.

Having the time to actually think my way through dinners has meant B is eating VERY well.  I've been creative and actually made all of those recipes I've pinned.  It's been fun and it's been a nice change from the usual!

Next Year?   Carry on!  I think this could be a permanent commitment.  Back to work means back on the healthy eating and exercise!  I think variety is the spice of life.  Check out my recipe collection.

5) Starbucks Work Dates
I haven't really written about this as it's been the unexciting side of our lives.  B is revising for the USMLE - like - hardcore revising.  Every day.  We have gone to Starbucks (my favourite work hangout) most weeks this summer to get work done.  I've planned and resourced while B was revising. Good coffee and good company.

Next year?  No.  I'm going to put my foot down and say no to this one.  USMLE will be done by next summer and I want to go to Starbucks and enjoy it.  I work hard enough during the academic year (don't get me started on the time it takes for English teachers to mark while teaching a nearly full timetable while half running the department).  Dates.  No work dates.

6) Zoku making
I love my Zoku. B knows me so well - it was the best birthday present a girl could ask for!  We have experimented with loads of different recipes - and when I say recipe what I really mean is we throw stuff in the blender and see what happens!

Next year? Defiantly.  This was the easiest way to eat healthy, have a snack without really having a snack and it's a great way to entertain children.  Hopefully I can come up with seasonal uses and break this bad boy out all the time!

Looking back, it's been a great summer.  All of the BBQs and Smores making and treat baking and laughing....I could do it all again!  I loved spending time resting and relaxing.  I'm going to miss morning coffee, Pinterest and Made in Chelsea though.

A lot went on last academic year and an awful lot went on back home in Ohio.  I'm standing by my goal - being positive and looking at the good things in life.