A Beautiful World: Viewing Life As A Traveller Passing Through

I learned very early that the world was a colorful, wonderful, curious place.

A World of Beautiful Things

Growing up as the daughter of trade confectioners (among my parents’ MANY skills and careers over the years), it was exciting enough that ice cream was a part of the family business.

Now picture my whole family going to county fairs in city after city over the summer, selling gourmet ice cream and other special treats. Hot summer days, ferris wheels, selling ice cream, riding elephants, and parking our trailer in a different city every two weeks over the summer. It was an exciting and vibrant childhood.

My family had a beautiful trailer for life on the road. Very often, the ferris wheel wherever we were was my nightlight as I drifted off to sleep.

The County Fair of My Childhood

In those days, the fair was SO MUCH DIFFERENT than it is now.

Now it’s seedy, commercialized, and cheap. In those days, it was different. It was a place for families.
It was perfectly respectable, for example, to find your teacher at the fair selling ice cream or fresh local-made pie as a summer job.
All your neighbors had pigs, chickens, or livestock competing for a blue ribbon at the county fair.
Clowns were the good guys (and on occasion, some of the more fun babysitters I ever had).
Travelling acts came through each city with their caravan of trailers and buses and paparazzi, and some of them launched huge musical careers this way. Others stayed in the circuit, with their trick divers, zydeco bands, exotic bird expositions, magic shows, pan flutes, acrobatics, elephant training, and fire-breathing.

If you’ve never heard of zydeco, this song from Buckwheat Zydeco provides a great example of this dance-inducing Louisiana style of music.

All these people were friends of our family. All these people were my neighbors. The carnival was my neighborhood. And I was so very free.

What kid wouldn’t want one of these in her back yard?!

I learned lots of life skills–to this day, I can sense a fight in a crowd before it happens. I can walk through a sea of people and they’ll hardly notice I was there because I won’t bump into anybody. I can sell a bridge to a bridge-builder. I am unafraid to look people in the eye, even when (and especially when) they are trying to be aggressive. I learned what it looks like to be targeted and followed by strange men (very important to know, especially as a little girl). These were things I learned from the general public. Most people trust the public, and look down on the fair folk, but let me tell you: in regards to quality, the truth is actually reversed. I was always in more danger from the general public.

The fair folk were my extended family.

Some real Roma folks were always around ready to read our fortunes, but as our families saw each other multiple times a year, my parents and they became familiar and always had a kind and neighborly word for each other. We girls sat while the grownups drank coffee and chatted.

But I also learned a ton from the other families like mine–the ones who travelled, who belonged to this circus-ish world, who saw each other in every city at every fair, and others only once a year at a particular show. My parents were friends with the elephant trainers, who let my sisters and I feed the elephants oatmeal raisin cookies every morning, and ride the elephants any and every time we liked. We knew the people who operated the rides. We sold ice cream to Robin Williams, MC Hammer, and other big celebrities. We knew people who got their start at the fairs, like the makers of those Dippin’ Dots.

Some kids have their height measured on a doorframe. We also had caricatures done every year for fun, and to commemorate our growth from summer to summer.

And clowns? Again: they were the good guys. And at the fair, they were everywhere. If I needed to get to safety or report some creep-o scaring me, or get a message to anyone, anywhere, I’d go find a clown. They’d help me. Suddenly, there’d be a whole network of people making sure I got safely to where I needed to be. They’d look out for and protect me. You certainly wouldn’t find that now, but let me tell you–back then, they were a network of good guys who did what they did because they cherished the innocent. They were performers who devoted their lives to joy, and protection of the innocence in all of us. And you know what? Most of them had regular day jobs, some of which where pretty prestigious. I think my parents knew of a physician and several of his doctor friends who did moonlighting as clowns at the fair. What, you think Patch Adams started that? No way! He may have been the most famous doctor to don a red nose, but he certainly wasn’t the first.

Stupid Stephen King ruined everything, but that’s another post.

Clowns and other street performers provided a guardian angel network of information and safety for all of us “fair kids.”

As for the other vendors, we had the same kind of rows of trailers selling stuff that you see at fairs today. But it was different then. The folks who sold Chinese food were actually from China. The folks who sold Native American jewelry belonged to those cultures–and had tons of their lessons, legends, and folklore to share. The folks who sold Mexican food were from Mexico. The folks who sold grandfather clocks were actually from Germany. Then you had families who had trades and skills passed down from generation to generation. Real leatherwork from families with generations of tanners. Photographers from families who had literally every iteration of the camera in their attic since the invention of the camera. Blacksmiths. Engine builders. Inventors–real ones, with their wildest new robotics and ideas that no one else in the world had heard or seen yet.

Demonstrations like these at the fair always followed with actually getting to meet the performers, who told me all about their families and culture. I soaked it up like a sponge.

And dumb jacuzzi salesmen and ridiculous seen-on-tv guys that the rest of us really didn’t pay much attention to. I wish I had known then that it would have been those cheap commercial guys who were going to take over everything.

My point is, walking from one side of the grounds to the other was like entering dozens of different worlds, different countries. Talking to people was amazing–they’d tell me these stories of how they came to America, what they were doing, how they did what they did. Everywhere you look was a human being of a different color, shape, and size. Each one–no matter where they were from–would tell me how glad they were to be in the United States, because they were free to be who they were. This freedom allowed everyone to live peacefully together, even though we were all different–and we were ALL different, with different skills, religions, cultures, folklore, languages….it was SO wonderful. Everywhere you look, someone was doing something different, had a different skill, and it was all interesting.

I imagine heaven looks something like that.

Diversity is Proof that God Loves Us

That’s how I know what I know about diversity. It was woven into the fabric of my understanding of the world, and of God. You see, diversity is God’s way of showing all the multitude of ways that God loves us. That’s why it’s so wonderful that we are all different.

The Changing Tide

Like I said, things changed. The cost of doing business in this way became higher. Soon it was only the commercial guys who could afford to do business, that and the old-fashioned folk who became crooked and lied and cheated their wealth in order to stay in business. You know how in The Hobbit movie when Radagast notices the beautiful forest becoming corrupted by a spreading evil? That’s what it felt like to see my childhood world becoming darker, greedier, needier. My parents always ran a clean business, so in this new market they very soon were losing profits. More and more, the community turned sour and seedy, since only the more money-mongering, villainous characters were able to afford to stay. There were a couple times when it felt like my family was on an island, and things were green and good and safe where we were, but my beautiful childhood was becoming a dangerous place around me. Twice, I saw one man pull a gun on another man and shoot him. I would have been less than ten years old. A couple times, the crowd became so dangerous that my sister and I had to hide under our ice cream counter until my father came to get us–a couple hours of fearful waiting.

At long last, my family had to throw in the towel, sell the business, and return home. We weren’t the only ones. All my wonderful, colorful, beautiful neighbors in all their shapes and sizes, languages, flavors, smells, countries, all had to return home too, one by one, then handful by handful. Back to our drab tiny little towns, where everyone was the same color and the same religion, and didn’t believe my sisters and I when we said we personally knew the elephant in “Operation Dumbo Drop.”

No one in town understood the beautiful thing we had, the beautiful thing we lost, and the process of that, of what we went through. It was hard.

We still knew a good family in the business, and I worked for them every summer in high school selling corn dogs to earn money for the school year.

To them, we were abnormal. To them, we had returned home and that finally made sense, we would finally be respectable and fit into the boxes that they had always known for themselves.

I Felt Like We Were A Disney Version of The Addams Family

But we never would really fit in. My dad knew way too much about the wonderful diversity of people, and it made him an amazing teacher to hundreds of students young and old. He had seen and met too many people, had too much of a wide perspective to waste his time being pretentious or snobby like so many of his colleagues, even though he was way way wayyyyy more educated than they. My mom knew way too much about global business from, well, being in the globe and from running a business. She kicked you-know-what and became a global credit expert, one of less than 100 in the whole United States. She was simply too exotic and interesting to fit our town’s assigned role of happy pill-popping waspish cheerleader-uniform-still-drycleaned-in-the-front-of-the-closet Christian housewife. Even some of our distant metropolitan relatives clicked right into the mindset of us being back in the sticks, and for the longest time I wondered if they thought we sat around barefoot on the back porch with banjoes.

I’m proud that my parents had such integrity to run a good and honest business, teaching my sisters and I how to work. They also hired a staff every summer, and I never knew anyone who worked for my folks who didn’t come away much better, as they always took them under their wings and taught them life skills, loaned them money, listened when no one else would, fed them hot meals. Even when we returned back to town for good, my parents turned their attentions to the house and garden. They’ve made it a haven, as gorgeous as anything you’d find in a home magazine. Even so, I bet they wished there was someone close by who could have understood everything they had been through.

And my sisters and I? Well we were always seen as odd. For my sisters, they were frequently seen as exotic, popular, desirable. I wasn’t so lucky. Other kids didn’t understand or trust that I would be open-minded because of the color of my skin, and treated me accordingly. My sisters and I were independent, could run businesses of our own. When I grew up and had my turn for management experience, it was almost as though the other folks thought I was too young to be qualified…little did they know I had been wearing an apron and managing money since before I was in kindergarten. While they were on summer vacation, I was working. I was working in heaven, but hey, it was still hard work.

Our elephant friends, Tai and Dixie, had coloring much like this. We were probably the only kids who returned to school saying things like “Our friend is an elephant and she’s moving to Hollywood,” and have it actually be true. Tai has been in tons of things, and features with Reese Witherspoon in “Water For Elephants.”

A Whole New World

Enter the digital age, and PRAISE GOD, too. For the first time since my childhood, I FINALLY had access to the world again beyond my tiny town. Everything changed for me with my first smartphone. I was able to go to school online and compete with people all around the country instead of the little college in my town, and these people really challenged me and helped me grow.

Even my love life was made possible thanks to the access provided by the digital age. In a chat forum, I could talk with people from other countries. How I had missed getting to talk to people from different countries! I chatted with a lady my age in China who told me about university there. I learned about life in Copenhagen from a man who had just moved to the city. Finally, one day I started up a conversation with a man from Argentina.

Eugene, aka the man of my dreams.

(C) 2019 Margaret Nelson. Do not use without permission.

It was Eugene. I finally met a man who understood what it was like to have a concept of home that travels with you, a man who had a global perspective, who knew how to work hard, who had family values, and knew what it was like to have to leave home and start from scratch. Self-made, could pull himself up by his own bootstraps, could make something from seemingly nothing, who knew the same secrets of this wonderful, colorful world like no one in my town ever could. Plus, he’s also a person who made the best and did his best with everything around him, his entire life. Let me tell you–I knew right away that this was a real man! We started just having friendly conversation, and were very fast very dear friends. But even then, I knew Eugene was someone who would be important to my life.

There are two men in a girl’s life who make all the difference. There’s her father, and there’s The Guy. I knew Eugene was The Guy–the only guy that could possibly have been just right for me in the whole world.

And, I get to be his partner! How amazing is that? I get to add to his life as much as he adds to mine…..*mind blown*….

United as Travelers of Exceptional Variety

Now that I’m grown, and the world is so accessible, I find myself actively seeking out new friends and adventures all the time. I’ve met some truly special people who embody my sense of home–you know, there are just some folks who stay with you through your life, no matter where you wind up going. Experiences are that way, too. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I can’t remember the last person I met who didn’t have something interesting about him or her. I love people. I love places. I love different cultures. I love being in a country where we get to all be/do/think different things and still come together to stand in favor of the ideas behind one flag, and have a say in developing those ideas, too!

The Obelisk in Buenos Aires.

Don’t Worry, There’s a Happy Ending

My town in the valley has gotten a ton better too. Sure, in with the angels come some unsavory types. But all in all, it’s a wonderland. I could walk down the street and hear English, Spanish, Portugese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Assyrian, Hindi, Korean, and more, all in the same afternoon. There are people of all colors, shapes, and sizes in my town. Churches of all shapes and sizes. Cultures of all these different wonderful varieties.

The world is a bright and beautiful place that always, always rewards the curious.

I remember turning 18 and absolutely praying for a way to get out of my valley. I had become so bitter about being treated as odd for so very long. But the world changed. Technology changed. We are all now in a digital age, and the world is so very accessible to anyone who may have an inclination to be curious about how other folks live and think. I grew up during the birth of the internet, and there were lots of bugs to work out with it, let me tell you. Kids today have inherited a world that is so much more accessible. I want younger generations to celebrate! Where I was limited, nowadays kids are so free! I want to show them this great access they have been born with. I’m happy for them-joyful for them, even! I want them to feel good about themselves, and to understand how joyous and wonderful it is that they have these technological gifts!

More than anything, I want to encourage them and others to utilize the gifts they have been given–to be curious, to see the wonder and magic in the world. It’s there!

I’m so excited to be a teacher and work with the students from all of these communities. I hope I can open a door to the same wonderful world of my childhood, where life seems so vibrant, and the world just endlessly full of new faces and friends to meet, places to explore, and interesting things to do! I hope to show them that we’re all journeying, we are all moving around, discovering, being human. I hope to show them that being diverse makes it MORE possible to come together under one set of ideals in a Constitution, not less–MORE possible to have respect for each other, not less–MORE possible to enjoy peace and community in a beautiful country, not less.

It’s a wonderful world. It really is. Not an easy world, not a perfect world. But it is beautiful.

This song should be way more popular than it is…it’s definitely one of the anthems of my life.
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Tagliatelle Pasta Recipe

This post contains original copyrighted photos. Do not use without permission.

Have you ever been curious about making pasta?

I was curious lately so I thought I’d do some research and give it a try!

It turns out, pasta making ranges from complicated pastas that require lots of skill to super easy recipes (like this one) which are perfect for any beginner.

Tagliatelle is a long flat noodle that is made by rolling out pasta dough. The dough is then folded on itself and cut into thin strips. When the strips are separated and dried, you have fresh, delicious homemade tagliatelle noodles you can swirl on your fork for a mouthful of simple, rustic Italian decadence.

Homemade pasta has the advantage of rough sides which grip more sauce in each bite!

Since Mother’s Day is right around the corner, I opted to use my great grandmother’s scalloped pasta roller to cut my tagliatelle noodles. Even though my great grandmother died when Mom was 5, Mom has tons of memories going to her grandparents’ house. Italian ladies usually do all their cooking in the basement, and my great grandmother was no exception.

Mom, as a tiny girl, used to sit on the steps that went down to the basement and keep her grandmother company while she used this little roller to cut ravioli. She would give my mom a bottle of 7-Up and a straw, and Mom would watch her move like lightning across a huge sheet of rolled homemade pasta. This was a tradition every Saturday.

Nowadays, we keep this tradition on Christmas Eve by eating ravioli. I’m sure Mom still thinks about her Nonna.

I have been reading and studying all about pasta for weeks. Pasta is basically anything you can imagine. Pasta making is sentimental, creative, physical, engages all your senses, and on top of that, is an activity that is both relaxing and rewarding. No wonder so many people do it.

I’m still learning about pasta. What I know for sure, though, is that the BEST kind of pasta is:

shared.

Here is my recipe for pasta dough and the steps required to make this scalloped tagliatelle. I hope you’ll try it for lunch or dinner sometime!

Buon Appetito!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Scalloped Tagliatelle Pasta

Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time5 mins
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups einkorn wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Stir with a fork to evenly disperse salt.
  • Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. To this, add eggs, egg yolk, water, and oil.
  • Use a fork to puncture egg yolks and beat eggs. Slowly incorporate flour until shaggy dough forms.
  • Turn bowl out onto a lightly floured surface. Mix dough together to combine everything. Knead dough thoroughly for at least 10 minutes, stretching it as much as possible and using the heel of your hand to push it around.
  • After 10 minutes, dough should be silky and elastic. Form a dough ball. Place ball on wax paper or lightly floured parchment paper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for 10-30 minutes.
  • After dough has rested, cut dough ball in half. Use a rolling pin to roll out a pasta sheet of desired thickness. Allow sheet to dry for 2-3 minutes. Flour the dough sheet before cutting.
  • Use a knife or a rolling cutter to cut noodles. I like to use a ruler as a guide. I used a scalloped rolling cutter, hence the name "scalloped" tagliatelle!
  • Separate noodles with your fingers and place on a floured surface, a flat drying basket, or a floured teacloth.
  • Drying options: Hang noodles to dry on a hanger or pasta drying rack, gather approx 100 grams of noodles (what you would serve as one portion) and shape into nests–let these dry on a floured or wax-papered sheet and freeze, or cook them and enjoy them right away.
  • To cook: drop pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Keep watch! These should only take a few minutes to cook. The best way to know if pasta is done is to take out a noodle and taste it!

Notes

A pasta sheet, rolled out and placed on a cutting board (since my countertop isn’t scratchproof)
My great-grandmother’s scalloped dough cutter! This little tool helped her make ravioli every Saturday, and my mother has fond memories of this as a small girl.
Freshly cut tagliatelle noodles!
The antique wheel is pretty wobbly; a ruler helps me have a guide to make fairly straight lines of noodles .
Drying tagliatelle
Finished tagliatelle wait on a clean teacloth until it’s time to cook them for dinner!

Want More?

Here’s a playlist to help you get in the mood while you’re kneading that pasta and cutting those noodles!

Ready to Make Your Own?

Here are some links to products that can bring pasta making into your home. These are affiliate links, which means if you do happen to purchase by clicking them, Amazon will send me a penny or two so that I can continue making posts. Thank you so much for your support, and for letting me share my new pasta passion with you!

The next generation of Nonna’s pasta cutter.

This cutting board is special because it has a lip that hangs over the edge of your countertop. Perfect for kneading pasta dough, since the lip prevents the board from slipping around at all!

Ok, so maybe we can’t be like Nonna every night of the week. A pasta maker machine helps things go along with speed–plus gives jobs for kitchen helpers like spouses or children.

This doubles as a shaper for gnocchi as well!

Books

Even the covers look delicious!

Pasta Inspiration

Salty Seattle has plenty of vibrant and delicious looking how-to’s on her channel
I absolutely LOVE the Pasta Grannies channel. A lady hosts an independent documentary show where they TRAVEL AROUND ITALY AND VISIT GRANNIES WHO MAKE PASTA THE REAL WAY. Holy ravioli. Not only does that sound like a dream job, each video is so sweet and wonderful–even if you aren’t going to make pasta, these grannies are going to cheer you up on any given day.
Chef Pasquale is the whole shebang. In this video, he shows you how to make his ravioli dough, but he’s got all kinds of recipes for sauces and accompaniments for all your future pasta masterpieces.

I could go on and on in this post, but I won’t….all this talk about pasta has made me HUNGRY! I gotta go cook something.
Buon Appetito, and happy cooking!

Love,

Maggie

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Romantic Dinner Playlist

You and your sweetheart (or just you, if you’re having an evening for Self Care!) are invited for a romantic walk along the streets of Paris, Milan, and Buenos Aires with a few surprises here and there.

I just wanted to share a playlist inspired by our romantic meals together, when we get to sit just us and enjoy home-cooked meals (he’s quite a chef!) and just being grateful to be together.

This is a nice long playlist, so you have plenty of time to get that table set, light a candle or two, and set the mood with a playlist that Eugene and I curated ourselves. May you have a lovely evening cherishing the people who are important to you, or just cherishing yourself. Partner or not, slow dancing is encouraged.

Enjoy!

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Fiance Visa: A Real Timeline

Buenos Aires, Obelisco.
Copyright 2017, Margaret Nelson.

Getting married to someone from a different country is a long process. Here’s a look at the time it took for Eugene and I to get that stamp!

I’ll be updating this post periodically to give you an actual timeframe of the time it took for the whole process. Hopefully any engaged people out there can use it to plan things with their significant others accordingly.

This is just how it was for us; I have no idea whether we’d be a typical case or not. And neither of us are affiliated with any immigration offices–we’re just ordinary people, and I’m hoping this information helps bring comfort and more experience to other couples who find the process a little intimidating and need hope and community, like we did.

Our Timeline

JANUARY 2019:
-Completed and submitted paperwork for I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance
-Bank statement showed check for visa processing fee had been withdrawn from my account.
-Received text message notifying me that USCIS had received paperwork and would begin processing our case (Form G-1145 gave USCIS permission to use my phone number in order to text me that our packet had been received.

Wait time so far: 13 days

FEBRUARY 2019:
-Received form I-797 in the mail. This form is an Official Receipt Notice, and told us which processing center would be handling our case.
-Checked USCIS webpage practically every day and plugged in receipt number to check status of our case. No change.

Wait time so far: 42 days

MARCH 2019:
No change in Visa status. We’re still waiting for processing.
-Oh my GOOOOOOSH it’s so hard to wait for news!

Wait time so far: 73 days

APRIL 2019:
-Received a notice of approval! Now to wait for approval form to arrive in the mail. This will inform us of our next steps!
-Received our notice of approval in the mail! Now to wait for the NVC to process our paperwork and send everything over to Argentina, where Eugene will have his interview!

Wait time so far: 103 days

MAY 2019:
-We hadn’t heard anything for 30 days, so I followed instructions on our last notice about how to inquire about our progress.
-Received notice that our packet has been processed by the NVC! Now we wait for the U.S. Embassy and/or Consulate to process our information. My understanding at this point is that they’ll take several weeks to go through everything, but once they do, they’ll schedule an interview and make sure Eugene’s applications are in.
-It’s our first bit of homework time to do since putting our initial packet together; now it’s time for us to make more applications and gather documents to bring to the interview.
-Finally got an official packet of instructions from the consular office in Eugene’s country. Luckily, it’s the same information as the stuff we found from our own research, but it was great to get some validation that we are “officially” on the right track!

Wait time so far: 134 days

JUNE 2019:
-This month is all about getting Eugene’s paperwork in order. He has to fill out some forms, get biometrics done, and get his police report printed.
-Once these things are done, we can call the NVC and schedule his interview at the Consulate in Argentina! It’s getting close, folks!

Wait time so far: 164 days

JULY 2019:
-This month has been busier for Eugene than for me. We have gathered as much evidence to prove the duration and commitment level of our relationship as possible, including written things from my family that vouch for us, too. Eugene has been running around meeting with translators, notaries, biometrics appointments and such.
-His interview is scheduled for the end of the month! I hope we’ve remembered everything!
-July 25th, 2019: OUR VISA HAS BEEN APPROVED! Wahoo, let’s get married!!!!!!!
Wait time so far: 195 days

AUGUST 2019:
-Eugene landed safely in the United States. We can move forward with our wedding plans, but for right this moment, we can celebrate that we are FINALLY together, for keeps.

TOTAL WAIT TIME: 210 days!

Margaret Nelson is founder and contributor to Maggie O’the Valley, and author of THE TEN MINUTE QUIT, available on Amazon

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It’s a Big World, After All

And get ready to hit the road with me and Eugene!

Being in a multi-cultural, international relationship means really getting those airline miles, but we’ve also managed to find trains, boats, and taxicabs as well.

On deck soon: a road trip up the California coast (since the rest of the state has basically been on fire lately). After that, we’ll be heading down south…way, way south. I’m talking South America.

Did I mention being a digital teacher is kind of the best job ever?

God has blessed me with such an amazing man. Together we have opened each other’s worlds to so many new horizons and adventures! It seems so amazing to me when I realize the extremes: from back home in my little valley town to all over the globe…it’s a roller-coaster! But, I guess that’s life, yes?

Here are some photos from our first vacation together in Buenos Aires, back in 2017!

(C) 2019 Margaret Nelson

All photo images in this post are owned by me. Copying and/or use by persons other than myself or Eugene is strictly prohibited.

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