Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Buon Appetito, compliments of the Pontifical Swiss Guard

The Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, Christoph Graf, provided the recipe for our entrĂ©e in today's pranzo with i Nonni. His recipe, Veal Cutlets in Cream Sauce (The Vatican Cookbook, p 81), was a huge hit despite the fact I made a few changes -- I substituted the veal with thinly sliced chicken cutlets, and instead of the roasted vegetables I served it on a bed of wilted greens. The recipe is definitely a keeper.

Chicken Cutlets in a Wine & Cream Sauce
served on a bed of wilted greens

Italian Roasted Potatoes
with olive oil and herbs

Salad with Strawberries and Almonds
tossed with a light, Italian vinaigrette

choice of:
Vanilla Chocolate Chip, peanut butter chocolate swirl, strawberry, peanut butter cup


Lt. Col. Christoph Graf, vice commander of the Swiss Guard, reviews Swiss Guards in Dec. 2014.
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Story of a Work Nook

Two years ago we totally redesigned our master bedroom with hardwood flooring, freshly painted walls, new bedroom furniture, and this ...

This cute little French writing desk is for sale.
I plan on turning this work nook into a sitting area.

a cozy nook where I could work, write, and create.

The idea was that I could go upstairs, close the bedroom door, and seclude myself from any and all distractions; that sitting at that cute little French writing desk with my pretty notebooks and pencils all the writing muses would descend en masse and inspire me to write cleverly crafted paragraphs and spin gold with words.

Except, every time I had to stir the pot of minestrone bubbling on the stove or throw in a pile of laundry I had to go all the way downstairs. Most inconvenient.

Except, working upstairs was boring. Very, very boring.

Except, the desk was too small. When I write I have handwritten notes, transcribed notes, and research notes so I need surface area the size of a barn door.

Now, I don't have a barn door (although the idea of taking a barn door, placing it on a pair of trestles, and using it as a desk sends my heart all a-flutter). What I do have, however, is a dining room table ...

Bia's work nook:
the eye of the storm

which, as you can see, gives me room to spread out. Everything is within reach: laptop, day planner, recipe books with notes of recipes I want to try, legal pads, a pewter mug containing all manner of writing utensils, and a stack of passport applications (a story for another day).

And best of all, if I want to stir the minestrone I just need take three giant steps and I'm in the kitchen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Into the Kitchen

I’ve had so much on my plate lately (work, Masters prep, my parents’ 50th anniversary party, spring break) that I’ve fallen off the culinary bandwagon; as a result, there have been too many quick meals, too many trips to the grocery store without a list, and all too little forethought, imagination, and creativity in the kitchen. Sadly, it’s been a while since I’ve …

-tried a new recipe
-cooked something that took longer than 30 minutes to prepare
-made homemade bread, pasta, ice cream, sorbet, or pasta sauce
-planned a week’s worth of meals
-organized my grocery lists
-shopped at a Farmer’s Market


And I’ve missed doing all those things. Planning meals, cooking, and setting a table that invites people to linger is a creative process for me; it’s what I like to do and it is how I give.  But now, with the boys coming home from college and schedules winding down, I have plans to …

-buy organic lemons -- lemon peels for limoncello and lemons for sorbet
-make homemade ice cream for the boys (several flavors)
-pull out my “recipes to try” file and … try new recipes
-update my recipe binder (file, purge, add recipes)
-cook homemade pizza on the grill
-keep a fruit salad and a pitcher of tea in the refrigerator at all times
-dine al fresco at least once a day (even if it’s just a cappuccino on the back deck in the morning, or a glass of wine on the patio in the evening)
-eat out: that is, make grilled panini, pack them in a basket with some bottles of San Pellegrino, and … picnic for dinner!


During the summer, I make one of these every 2-3 days

There are also some cookbooks I want to read. I like to collect Italian cookbooks, and I especially like the ones which feature great photography and regional recipes with historical background on each dish. My most recent addition is the Vatican Cookbook which I ordered solely because it’s published by the Pontifical Swiss Guard and I have a thing for the Swiss Guards (all of them). Of course, as you can see from the photo, not all my cookbooks are Italian. I look forward to reading, for example, Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy (I know she gets a lot of grief, but I fundamentally agree with her approach to food that is not only healthy and simple, but also contributes to a feeling of wholeness).

And there you have it. If you need me, or want a cappuccino or a slice of homemade pizza, you know where to find me.

"One of the very nicest things about life
is the way we must regularly stop whatever
it is we are doing and devote our
attention to eating."
-Luciano Pavarotti, opera singer

Saturday, April 23, 2016

In which I survive my first 5K

Earlier this week a good friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to go to Aiken, SC and participate in a 5K Fun Run in honor of Earth Day.

Now, I am not a runner, but sometimes I like to do interval training by alternating speed walking and jogging (although, if I'm being honest, the speed walking intervals are longer than the jogging ones).

Since I've always wanted to do a 5K (but never had the courage to do so), and since this was billed as a Fun Run, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and face my insecurities. My friend registered us online and we came up with a game plan: we would concentrate on the FUN part and do what we wanted to with the RUN part.

Except, when we signed in this morning and received our Earth Day t-shirts the organizers mentioned obstacles, balance beams, hills , and forest trails.


Except, there were some people - a LOT of people - who missed the memo on the FUN part and were clearly there for the RUN part.

Party poopers, the lot of them.

When we lined up at the starting line, several people around us started stretching and running in place and I began to feel intimidated. Like, really intimidated as in ... what in the heck did I get myself into?

Evidently we needed another game plan. In order to save face, we decided to run at the start of the race, and once we got beyond (way beyond!) the cameras we would then set our own pace.

And that's what we did. We ran the first three blocks in downtown Aiken, turned a corner, and resorted to speed walking which - and let me be perfectly clear - was not a leisurely stroll. We were hoofing it through the woods, over logs, across muddy paths, up hills and down.

And because my boys will inevitably ask, let me be clear about something else: we were NOT at the back of the pack; in fact, we even passed TWO people.

Then, with two blocks to go we started running again, mainly because we could see the flashing police lights and hear the cheering cheerleaders and we got excited. We crossed that finish line and, I'm not going to lie, boy did it feel good.

We also got medals.

I know, I know. EVERYONE got a medal. It was a PARTICIPATION medal.

But you know what? I'm kind of proud of that medal.

Yes, I'm sweaty.
Yes, I'm a mess.
But I just did a 5K.
And that's something.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Four Corners of a Situation Room

This time of year our dining room is used for everything EXCEPT dining.

Instead, in the weeks leading up to The Great Exodus which is otherwise known as Masters Week, it becomes The Situation Room. Think of it as Headquarters, Home Base, Mission Control, Central Dispatch, and War Room rolled into one.

Our Situation Room is a disorganized organized system of multi-tasking. It can be a little frightening to venture in, and between now and Masters Sunday it will only get worse, but rest assured that before we leave it will POOF! return to being a dining room.

In the meantime, though, here's what's going on (clockwise from top):

Corner 1: Planning a 50th anniversary party means stockpiling vases, decorations, bonbonniere, candles, and Jordan almonds.

Corner 2: Those framed prints are on Joe's Honey-do List. And the Zazzle boxes? My files containing guest list, save-the-date cards, invitations, deejay info, catering info, reception menu ... I mean, it's like I'm planning a wedding. My parents should just go ahead and get married again.

Corner 3: In between planning a party, preparing to rent our house for Masters Week, and doing all the normal, every day stuff I always do (cooking, cleaning, carpooling), I also have to work. So my work station is set up in the middle of The Situation Room so I can write, assemble bonbonniere, and fold sheets all at the same time!

Corner 4: Did I mention Master's prep? Freshly laundered sheets and towels are folded and stacked on the dining room table waiting to be carried upstairs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fashion Advice from My Sons. Really?

Saturday I came downstairs feeling good about myself. I was wearing skinny jeans, a black t-shirt and Italian leather loafers, I had on one of my biggest watches, I was having a good hair day, and I was sporting a half tuck -- you know, the new craze in which you tuck in just the front of your shirt. Take a look ...

The Half Tuck

Anyway, I was feeling -- dare I say it? -- decidedly put together, as in you go, girl!

But then it started, one after another like some kind of bad comedy routine.

"Why is your shirt like that?" Jonathan asked.

"That looks dumb, either untuck it or tuck it." Timothy said.

"You forgot to tuck in the rest of your shirt," Joe remarked, a little later.

Really. Fashion advice from the same guys who thought G.I. Joe looked good standing next to the Holy Family? That a Bob the Builder umbrella added a certain flair to interior design? Or that a fuzzy, leopard toilet seat was cool?

Yeah. I rest my case.

I'm not feeling G.I. Joe with the Holy Family.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

All About Spring (daffodils, pressure washers, spring cleaning with style, and the spring break that almost wasn't)

Nana's Daffodils

Ten years ago Joe's mother (Nana) planted some daffodil bulbs in our backyard, and every year those golden daffodils herald the arrival of spring. And although Nana passed away six years ago, the daffodils continue to bloom. Thank you, Nana, for this springtime gift.

Nana's daffodils bloomed this weekend.

The Amazing Pressure Washer

Joe spent the past two weekends pressure washing our driveway and getting rid of a year's worth of dirt, grime, and mold. The photo shows where he stopped last weekend, and where he started yesterday.

You don't notice how dirty a driveway gets
until you get out the pressure washer.

Spring Cleaning with style

Yup. It's that time of year again to don my purple gloves and cocktail ring and start that spring cleaning.

The ring adds a certain je ne sais quoi ...

The Spring Break that Almost Wasn't

Nicho came home Friday night, a stopping point before driving to Myrtle Beach for his spring break. This is his first official spring break trip, with just four friends at a beach location, and it came compliments of i Nonni who gifted him their RCI timeshare for his 21st birthday.

He has been looking forward to this for months, and Saturday morning he and his buddies were all smiles as they backed down our driveway.

A few hours later he calls us in a panic. The resort wouldn't let them check in because i Nonni forgot to include his name in the exchange rental, and they weren't budging. Despite Nicholas having all the paperwork in hand, no name on the contract meant no check-in. Period.

Now Joe and I are in a panic. We called RCI. "Sorry." they said. "Try talking directly to the resort." So we called the resort and talked to the front desk clerk. "No problem!" he said to me. "Just have your parents call and/or email RCI to put Nicholas on the contract."

Uh, huh. HELLO! Where are my parents? SOUTH AMERICA, that's where. We have no way to reach them. They email us whenever they have access to the email but, right now, they are incommunicado.

So we did two things: Joe, on one phone, tells all the boys to go sit in the lobby right there in full view of the front desk. Be polite, but be very visible. And it wouldn't hurt to look pitiful. I, on the other phone, asked to speak to the manager (arrivederci unhelpful desk clerk).

In the end, after explanations, entreaties and promises, the manager allowed them to check in provided that my parents, upon their return stateside on Tuesday, call in to verify everything.

And just like that we rescued a Myrtle Beach spring break for four, hard working college students -- including two who already have summer internships lined up, one who made the Dean's List this past fall, and three who have been friends since kindergarten.

Super Joe and Super Bia