Day 15 in Italia! 🇮🇹

40 or so minutes away from the heart of Cosenza is the mountaintop Scigliano where our relatives here have built a country home and, down the street, my great grandfather once lived.

This house has been built and added to for generations and it shows! Pieces of the homestead clearly date back and offer a glimpse of the history pre-Unification–you can see parts of the old garden here where the family still grow fresh produce:


Once inside the patio, you can immediately find a large brick oven where the family can bake fresh bread or pizza:


And to the immediate right from here is a recently built Terrace with an awning covered in grapes (which they pick and use to make the family wine every year!):


Inside the house is a wrought iron fireplace which is stocked with chopped wood from out back–creating a cosy and authentic feel to an old house with the clash of new marble laid stairs.

I absolutely love the look and feel of this house. It is unique, handmade, and full of character–a far cry from America’s suburban conformitive neighborhoods. I spent many moments walking around every inch of the house trying to commit it all to memory with the hope of visiting this place again in my dreams. If there is ever a place to live one day, it is somewhere like this.


Once we were all settled, we helped ourselves to even MORE food! Homemade lasagna with foraged mushrooms from the garden, freshly grilled bacon, tossed spinach, beef stew, lemon and oil dressed peas and carrots, baked bread, and a dessert soaked and powdered in honey with white wine.


After becoming extremely full again, we topped it all off with another coffee and were introduced to our first Italian Digestive. They explained that there is coffee and then this kills the coffee–gesturing as if sullen with heartburn, miming a swig of the digestive, and then bursting with ease and comfort…or a burp, whichever makes more sense. It’s a light liquor that reminds me slightly of the taste but nothing of the texture of Peptobismol which is mixed with medicinal herbs to aid with digestion. Which, after the big meal we just partook in, seemed like a good idea to try as we hastily took a drink. 

After eating, we drove down the road to find the old house where my great grandfather lived before leaving for America.


Above is the old home and our beautiful patriarch from my last post. None of our relatives live there anymore, but many of the neighbors still remember and so he tried knocking on everyone’s doors with the intention of asking but it seemed like everyone was out for the afternoon.

Great grandfather’s old garden


He was not so easily defeated, however, and after traveling further down the road, was able to find his cousin who was more than eager to meet us! Ultimately, we were able to become acquainted with all of the remaining relatives at once this day, meeting another sister and her daughter and family as well.

I am so overwhelmed with love and affection for these relatives who have been so hospitable to us on our journey through Italy. Today we return to Cosenza in the hopes of touring this city’s history!

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Day 14 in Italia! 🇮🇹


Cosenza in the Calabrian region–the homeland of my mother’s side of the family. Her grandfather left this beautiful little town to start a new life in America, passing through New York City before settling in Northen Minnesota to work in the iron mines. As the story goes, all he brought with him was two potatoes, one in each shoe, and one grape stem from the family vineyard hidden in his pant leg. He was alone and determined–working hard and saving up money so that he could send for his wife back home. Since then, our family has grown and spread all over the United States but a large number of us still reside back home in Calabria. 

This journey so far has had a number of travel woes, usual tourist attractions, and delicious food–but the real magic starts wth the rediscovery of our family heritage and meeting, for the first time, our Italian relatives. We met a few of them already in Bologna, but in Cosenza we had the pleasure of meeting the patriarch of the family. Related by blood, he is the nephew of my great grandfather who left for America–my mother’s second cousin. He was a spunky and calm man who was nothing but smiles! I had never met my grandfather as he passed away before I was born, but I have seen pictures and heard recordings of his voice and his nephew is the spitting image. He only spoke in Italian, but we were able to learn a bit about his life.

He has traveled all over the world in his life, talking excitedly about the work he did in Nicaragua and Mexico, about how he visited New York and telephoned my great grandfather in Minnesota, and how he even participated in a war in Saudia Arabia–showing us a black and white picture of him as a young man reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia. He was also a delightful little trouble-maker who kept stealing everyone’s wine glasses to refill with the family’s own homemade bottle of red and white as well as a brandy made from the family grapes!

We enjoyed a 7 course meal (pasta with meat sauce and Parmesan, salad, breaded veal, fried potatoe chips, broccolitini, fruit, and pastries paired with a long shot of coffee steeped in sugar!) and spent hours communicating with our extended family. With my great grandfather’s nephew at the head of the table, we also met his two daughters and their husbands as well as the father of one of his son-in-laws. There wasn’t much English to go around the table but we made do with Google Translate. Some of the highlights of our conversation included a detailed explanation about George Clooney and his Nespresso commercial–Italians have taken interest and were curious what his involvement was and what the catchphrase “What Else?” meant. They discussed Whiskey and what they knew of Jack Daniels and one of the husbands hilariously showed us a picture of The Duke’s of Hazard–I’m happy to say that America is clearly representing itself well abroad! 

After dinner and conversation, they brought out the old photo albums and we were able to see how our entire family.

Next, we head to the country to discover where my great grandfather lived!

Ancient Egypt: The Miracle of Contraception Part 1

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Ahhh, contraception. One of the most well conceived scientific conceptions of all time…see what I did there?

Women have been trying to wrestle control back from their ovaries since the dawn of civilization. What with a near consistent almost worldwide patriarchy and, if Game of Thrones is to be believed, the hourly struggle for a dude to keep his breeches laced up, the threat of unwanted pregnancy has always haunted the female psyche. Sometimes a woman wants to do other things, guys. Like be a super Senet master or…uh…something else. Nah, but for real, as hard as it is to believe, contraception and preventing pregnancy has been around longer than the idea that women’s purpose is to marry and baby-make.

Even though the debate rages today on just how much freedom a woman is “allowed” to exert over her body, know that if ever one so much as uses the word “tradition” to explain why any form of birth control should be prevented from a modern day and supposedly educated populace, swift kick that fool in the jugular, yah get me?

Because if they don’t already know, the Egyptians have been getting down for ever. I mean, really, what else is there to do on the Nile’s off season?

The Ancient Egyptian recipe for preventing pregnancy (Because frak you, Isis!):

First of all, ladies, in the off chance that your conservative minded government prevents access to the methods I will describe below or if you get stuck with a “blessing from God” in the disguise of a sex crime, you’ve got the best natural and free birth control possible–Breastfeeding!

Women were known to extend their breastfeeding for many years! During lactation, progesterone fails to build up like in a normal menstrual cycle and thus ovulation can be prevented by keeping that kid dependent on the boob! Side note: Perhaps this is why royalty had wet nurses? Not just for social standing implications but to encourage every opportunity of producing an heir?

If the thought of childbirth turns you off though, luckily we have a papyrus from 1850 BC known as the “Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus” which details other means of birth control. (Check it out here)

“Another prescription hin of honey, sprinkle over her womb, this is to be done on natron bed.”

This was a substance mixed with honey and sodium carbonate which was applied inside the vagina. Couldn’t find any modern opinions on if this one in particular worked but than again I admittedly didn’t look hard enough.

One other substance they did use was an acacia gum which was also placed inside the vagina. This does, in fact, contain spermatocidal properties. Compounds of the substance produce lactic acid anhydride which is today used in some preventive jellies. Point goes to Egypt!

The most interesting and somewhat shocking suggestion given by the papyrus for a pessary (for those without a vagina, doctorate, or a girlfriend–a pessary acts as a physical barrier between the cervix and any invading sperm) is as follows:

“For preventing […] crocodile dung, chopped over HsA and awt-liquid, sprinkle […]”

Ignore the jumbled untranslated Egyptian text because, yes, that says crocodile dung.

As I try not to imagine dealing with that whole business, science at least puts my mind a little at ease with why anyone would consider such a thing.

It has been suggested by some modern historians that not only would the feces most likely effectively block seminal fluid at the os of the cervix but that it could also change the pH level.

Not good enough an excuse?

Well, John Riddle puts forth the suggestion that inserting feces into a woman’s vagina would, in fact, be an excellent form of contraception because…well, it would keep the boys away, wouldn’t it?

There’s also the idea that such a practice may refer to an incident in Egyptian mythology where the deity Set attempted to harm Isis while she was pregnant. He was typically associated with a crocodile (Not to be confused with Sobek) so, crocodile =/= pregnant.

Either way, I guess they had their reasons.

Any of these sound good to you, ladies? D:

Fact check it, yo!

Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. John Riddle. 1994.

Economic Transformations and General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth.“Historical Record on the Control of Family Size.” Richard G. Lipsey, Kenneth I. Carlaw, Clifford T. Beker. 2005.

Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus. 1850 BC. http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/med/birthpapyrus.html