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Galley Slave; Lobstah! Saturday; Caravaggio; Ponte Vecchio; A Local Waterfall; On to Tuscany!

My Lovely Bride outdid herself Friday night. Instead of taking me out to a Valentine’s Day dinner, she decided to prepare a romantic gourmet repast at home. Here she is slaving away at the oven.The smells were driving me crazy, as she forbade me from looking into the kitchen while she was working, and I was unable to identify many of the unusual aromas.

It was a feast fit for a king; or at the very least, a New England ship’s captain: lobster tail, lobster mac and cheese, Jalapeno hush puppies, grilled asparagus marinated in olive oil, and rosemary sea salt bread. A very nice KJ Chardonnay complimented the meal perfectly. Music was supplied by our favorite smooth jazz station. It was a perfect evening, and neither of us regretted not going out; the meal we had at home was better than any we could have gotten in town, and far fewer shekels had to be disbursed (a significant advantage with tax time approaching, especially considering the reputation that the IRS is building this year.)

Saturday… that is an interesting day. Let’s see if we can add a little Roman and art history to today’s blog. Do you know where the word “Saturday” came from? In the 2nd Century, the Romans named the sixth day of the week Dies Saturni, Saturn’s Day, after the planet. When the word was introduced into German and English, it was taken to mean the Roman god Saturnus, after whom the planet was named. (It is rumored that Saturday night toga parties were adopted by modern fraternities copying Saturnus’ fashion statement.)

The drawing of Saturnus above is by Caravaggio (full name Michelangelo Merisi o Amerighi Caravaggio), one of the fathers of modern painting. In 1600 he was one of the most famous artists in Italy, but his penchant for walking about with a sword and short temper led to many fights, his killing of another man in Rome, a price on his head, and his early demise in 1610. (As a child, he must have failed Altar Boy 101, because at one point the Pope had issued a death warrant for him.)

Caravaggio was almost forgotten after his death, and it was only in the 20th Century that his influence on painters who followed him was fully appreciated. He was well-known for his use of chiaroscuro, the dramatic use of light and dark contrasts, with little mid-tones. That technique can be seen in his famous painting, The Crucifixion of St. Peter.

I’ve been racking my brain to find a suitable segue from 1610 Italy to 2014 Florida… let’s see, okay, here’s one: the first photo is of Rudy the Sailing Wiener Dog standing on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence when we were sailing the Mediterranean aboard our sailboat Liberty a few years ago. Rudy was literally a young pup then, less than a year old.

We don’t have a sailboat any more, but we still find interesting sights like this waterfall, actually located a mere 2 miles from our house in The Villages, Florida. This attractive young Florida transplant (originally from Pennsylvania) standing on a bridge much shorter than the Ponte Vecchio is admiring the scenery and enjoying brisk 65 degree sunshine in mid-February, while the other 49 states all have snow on the ground. (Sorry, but I had to remind Terri of the Frozen North of our glorious weather here while it’s barely making it into the 20s in the Twin Cities.)

Sticking to the Italian theme, we enjoyed al fresco munchies with our good friends Jessica and Bob at their walled villa here in The Villages. Both have Air Force backgrounds, but even with that disability, they are still friends – Bob’s a laid back colonel who built his own airplane, and you don’t mess with Jessica, a former firearms instructor who now teaches yoga. Jessica has decorated the aforementioned walls with colorful murals reminiscent of Tuscany. While enjoying a gourmet meal of stuffed salmon, crispy potatoes and grilled asparagus, we learned that they had recently attended a marketing presentation by Vermont Bike Tours and won the grand prize drawing, a bike tour in TUSCANY! Lucky guys… all I ever win in drawings is a fuchsia ball cap or a bag of compost… sigh.

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