I'll be boarding a plane soon & taking my first trip to the midwest. We're off to visit Tom's family in St. Cloud, MN. I have no idea what to expect. We're kind of winging this trip. No definite agenda or concrete plans. Well, except that at some point during the holiday weekend we'd like to jump in a lake. Literally! That should not be too difficult since there are over ten thousand of them. We are meeting up with an old college friend of mine in Minneapolis. Shannon is a very talented artist/designer. And, she actually gets paid to do what she loves. A definite inspiration! She & her hubby are taking us to the downtown area to hang out. I 'm hoping we'll drive by Prince's purple mansion. .....I get De--lir-ious whenever you're near.... How cool would it be to bump in Prince in Minneapple? That would rate right up there with meeting Simon LeBon from Duran Duran (refer back to Dec.10, 2004).
I'm a bit obsessed with cupcakes lately. I ordered 3 books on the subject from Amazon. No, I haven't gone off the deep end. We are having them instead of a cake at our wedding. Tom is very concerned about how they will taste. He wants some kind of cream filling. I care more about what they will look like. Unless we make them wheat or gluten-free, I can't eat them anyway. We'll be making them, hopefully with the help of our families, the day before our big event. I really want them to look elegant & to match the colors of the wedding. I've also been searching for a way to display them. EBay had some nice plexiglass tiered cakestands, but, they were a bit pricey ($175). So, I visited a local cake decorating store to find a solution. The outcome was positive. I ordered 5 different size plates & pillars, all in the same material. I'm going to hot glue them together to form a wedding cake stand. The total cost is 100 bucks, so I saved a bit of cash. I love that!!! And I can even put it up on Ebay after I'm done with it. Whoo Hoo!! Things are really moving along in the wedding planning department.
There are 9 recipes left for testing. I decided to take a stab at Poppa's Olio recipe. Well, that's what he calls it. The real name is: Aglio E Olio E Aliche. Which basically means, oil & garlic with anchovies. It's one of the dishes for Xmas Eve's Feast of the Seven Fish. I've observed him cooking it 2 years in a row & wrote down each step. Unfortunately, Poppa didn't even come close to making the same thing for those two years. I think that maybe he's forgotten how to make the recipe. I take that back. I know he doesn't remember how to make this recipe. Last year it was inedible! You couldn't taste any garlic . And the anchovies couldn't be detected at all, which for some family members, is a good thing. It basically tasted like hot olive oil poured over linguini. This recipe is his pride & joy & he refuses to let me or anyone else make it on our hoilday. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Last year, Poppa got up from the head of his table & headed toward the buffet to see how his Olio went over. Thank goodness he walks slowly & there were so many of us in that room to distract him, because his pasta had not been touched. Auntie Maria & I had just enough time to toss it into the garbage. All he saw was his empty platter. "I guess I still got it. My pasta is all gone. Honey!" he yelled to my grandmother, "I told you we needed another pound." "No poppa, we had just the right amount." replied Auntie Maria. We didn't have the heart to tell him. I guess we'll have to pull another fast one this Xmas Eve.
So, I'm flying blind on this one. My first attempt was ok. The garlic & anchovy could definitely be detected, but, the black olives absorbed way too much of the salt from the fish. Tom & I winced each time an olive touched our tongues. I'll have to give it another try, much to Tom's dismay. He really does not like the flavor of anchovies, so it was difficult for him to help with the tasting. His suggestion was to lose those little fishy guys altogether. That is an entirely different sauce. The Olio saga shall be continued!
There are times when I find it so easy to share my daily musings (the good & the bad), with you my readers & friends. And there are times when the words just do not flow easily. In "Phenomenal Woman" post, it was mentioned that I needed a bit of confidence for a recent RI visit. Well, it turns out that all was well & I stressed for no reason. Now I'm stressing about whether I should fill you in on what I was worried about! I try to keep this site as upbeat as possible and do not want to bring people down. But, eventually it will come out, so I'll try to be brief and keep the gory details to a minimum.
My nephew was christened on Sunday and I was anxious because my father and much of his family were in attendance. My parents went through a gruesome divorce when I was about 15/16 yrs old. It was very traumatic for my entire family and I was very much in the middle of all of the action. Basically, my dad abandoned us. He walked out that door and stopped calling us for a long while and stop paying the bills(until a court order changed that). My grandparents moved into our home to take care of us & my devastated mother. They ran through a large chunk of their retirement funds paying our bills. My father eventually contacted us (three months after he left) but, through his actions and words made it clear that we were no longer a priority. Get togethers were few & far between. And being disappointed or let down by him and/or his actions became a regular occurrence. I couldn't take the pain anymore, so I cut off all contact with him and eventually my brother did the same. My sister did not.
I didn't see him or his family (most of them never tried to contact us after the divorce) for many years until my sister got engaged. They were all going to be at the wedding. One year before her big event, I began having nightmares and anxiety attacks. So, I went into therapy to try and deal with it all. There were so many layers of pain, disappointment, anger, etc. And I realized that hating him was only hurting me and my life. So, I had to find a way to forgive him. Forgive him for not being a good man, for not loving or caring about us, for all of the destruction that he brought into our lives. This was not an easy task! It took a great deal of time and grieving but, it eventually happened. You should all know that forgiving my father did not mean that I called him up and invited him over for dinner. It does not mean that I go to his family's gatherings. It's internal. I accept him for who he is & what he did, but realize that he's not a good person to have in my life. And yes, I still feel a bit anxious when I have to see them all. People who have gone through similar situations, told me that there will come a time when seeing that person will no longer be painful or emotional. It will be like being in the room with a group of strangers. Well, that didn't happen at my sis wedding 4 years ago, but, last Sunday I finally knew what they meant. And while I know that there are many layers to an onion and things/emotions can reveal themselves at any time, at this point in my life it felt like a triumph.
And please don't read this story and feel sad for me. I've been very fortunate to have many great & caring men in my life, who were more than willing to step up to the plate to take on the father role when it was needed. My grandfather was & still is a father figure to me. I have two amazing uncles that I know would do anything for me. I honestly couldn't choose between the three when it came to walking me down the aisle. I asked my brother(another great man) to do the honor. And instead of a father/daughter dance at the reception, I may ask all four of these caring & giving men to dance with me.
I recently took an Italian cooking class at the Culinary Institue. I've been struggling with a couple of my family's recipes & was hoping the class would help fill in the blanks. It did help with biscotti & sausage & peppers. I discovered that a key ingredient was left out in one and a crucial step in the other. The Napolitana was one of the dessert made in the class. It was so good!
Semifreddo Napolitana (Zabaglione Biscui)
Ingredients 4 Large eggs 1/2 cup sugar 1/3 cup Amaretto Di Saranno 8 ounces heavy cream 6 almond cookies, crushed 1/2 cup toasted and crushed almonds -Beat heavy cream until very stiff & refrigerate. -Beat egg yolks and sugar over a double boiler until thickened. -Add Amaretto and continue to mix over double boiler until thickened again. -Cool. -Fold heavy cream into egg mix quickly and refrigerate(1/2 hour). -Add crushed cookies and 1/3 cup of crushed almonds to mixture. -Pour mixture into individual serving cups, top with remaining almonds and refrigerate or freeze (depending on desired consistency) for at least 2-4 hours.
There are days when I read this poem & it just fills me with such joy, hope & pride. It lifts me up when I'm down. On those feeling good & sexy occasions, it multiplies all of those emotions by 10. Sometimes it is read simply for a little confidence boost. I'm off to RI this weekend for my nephew's baptism and I truly need a bit of the latter. There's no time to go into details, but, all will soon be shared. Thank you Maya Angelou for this pearl of wisdom.
PHENOMENAL WOMAN Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size But when I start to tell them, They think I'm telling lies. I say, It's the span of my hips, The stride in my step, The curl of my lips. I'm a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me.
I walk into a room Just as cool as you please, And to a man, The fellows stand or Fall down on their knees. Then they swarm around me, A hive of honey bees. I say, It's the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist, And the joy in my feet. I'm a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me.
Men themselves have wondered What they see in me. They try so much But they can't touch My inner mystery. When I try to show them They say they still can't see. I say, It's in the arch of my back, The sun of my smile, The ride of my breasts, The grace of my style. I'm a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me.
Now you understand Just why my head's not bowed. I don't shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing It ought to make you proud. I say, It's in the click of my heels, The bend of my hair, The palm of my hand, The need to care, 'Cause I'm a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me.
Every once in a while a movie is made that makes your heart leap for joy due to it's originality or beauty. The documentary March of the Penguins recently had that affect on me. How was this little movie able to rise above the sea of big budget summer blockbusters? Yes, it is a story about penguins. The emperor penguins of Antarctica. But, it's so much more than just watching the Animal Planet from your living room. Morgan Freeman narrates the trek of these creatures to find love and breed during the harshest time of the year, winter at 80 below zero. The camera captures every moment and that in itself is pretty amazing. I loved watching the exact minute that the baby penguins broke through the shells to join the world. It's really more than a survival story. It's about finding and giving love at all costs. How heroic.
Most of my weekend was again spent working on recipes. Here's the good news - 20 are done!! They are now in the hands of friends & family who will try them out & give me some feedback (all positive, I hope). That means that there are 10 recipes left to make. How long will it take to finish them? Well, your guess is as good as mine. I'd like to go to RI to do one more cooking session with Momma. I'm also hoping that my Aunt Maria will agree to give me a baking lesson. I need her recipe for ricotta egg biscuits & I just can't seem to get the crust of her cheesecake right. I'm so itching to get these recipes done so that I can focus on the stories, pics and layout of the book. That stuff seems like it will be so much more fun and less frustrating. I'm knocking on wood as I say that!
Here's brief update on all the wedding stuff. We found a photographer & a DJ that are not only within our budget, but under. The photographer has worked on my sister & two cousins' weddings. My cousin Lea came with me to meet with him & I think she had a major impact on the outcome. She sent him 3 friends this year, so he was very willing to cut his price for me. YAH!!!
The DJ came highly recommended from few Rhode Islanders. He only books one or two weddings in March so he was very willing to negotiate the $$$. WHOO HOO!
Now, for some bad news - the florist. He's is a friend of the family & he did my sis & Lea's wedding. He truly does an amazing job, but the price he quoted me was outrageous. I asked him to do my bouquet, which will consist of mostly red roses with some crystals attached to wire & wrapped in ribbon (an English bouquet). His cost - $150. I asked for 9 centerpieces for the reception. I know what I want & sent him to a website (click on Linens to take a peek) to see. I did say that he can add to it to make it even more beautiful & funky. And man, did he add to it! His final price was $1,500!! For 9 centerpieces & 1 bouquet! Can you believe that? My sister paid him $2000 total & that included her bouquet of calla lilies, flowers for her 15 person wedding party, flowers for 15 parents/step-parents & grandparents, 2 huge bouquets for the church, 15 elaborate centerpieces for the reception, and a floral arrangement for the guestbook/favor table. Was he trying to rip me off or what?! So, I'm on the hunt for someone more reasonable. I will be making all of the boutonniere's & the honor attendant's bouquets. I just didn't want the added stress of putting together the centerpieces 24 hours before I'm to be married.
I've posted about this little problem in the past. They are tiny moments, split seconds, where my brain just stops working. It's as if someone shuts it off & quickly turns it back on. I've often wondered where/who I got this from. My mom doesn't have brain farts, nor do my brother or sister. Well, last night, I finally figured out who passed this on to me. I called my grandmother because I've been waiting for her to send me a recipe for over 2 weeks now. It's lentil soup.
She said to me on the phone, "Dawn why are you in such a hurry for that recipe? It's so hot. Who wants to eat soup when it's 100 degrees outside? I'm sure Tom doesn't want any hot soup for supper"
So I tell her that it's for the cookbook. It's the only recipe that I'm missing.
Momma-"What cookbook? Me- "Momma, mine. Remember? I'm writing a cookbook." Momma-"You are? Why didn't you tell me?" Me- "What?!! Of course I told you about 20 times! Why do you think I've been coming to RI and cooking with you & filming everything. And I showed you my website, too. What did you think I was doing?" Momma-"Oh, I just thought you liked to cook. I thought you were filming me because I'm old & you want to show your kids some day."
Now, my grandmother is in her 80's, but she's not senile. We have sat down at her kitchen table many times discussing not only the recipes, but the stories that will accompany them. The only way that this can be explained, is that little devil, that I like to call, the brain fart(or if you are from Rhode Island, brain fot). Momma has them too and she passed it on to me. The mystery is finally solved.
Most of my weekend was spent sitting in front of the computer. Applause goes out to all of you who sit and work in front of one all day. It's difficult! My back is aching, my head hurts and I'm feeling kind of cross-eyed today. I was typing up the finished recipes the way that they'll appear in the book. Fifteen are ready to be sent off to some helpful friends and family who volunteered to test them. I must admit that I'm a bit nervous about it. What if people can't follow them? I've been working on them for over a year and God knows, how I've struggled with some of them. I hope that I've made them easy and clear enough, even though some of these recipes are a bit difficult and time consuming. My goal was to make this book for the general public and people with a bit of food knowledge, but not professional chefs. After all, I'm not a professional chef, nor do I want to be.
I'm also having a hard time letting some of these recipes go. It's as if they've become my babies. I'm beginning to understand why some Italian women wouldn't pass on they're food knowledge. There is something very special about cooking for people and watching the joy on their faces when they taste your creations. Tom always asks, "When are you going to make me a gravy? or, I'm not feeling so well, your chicken soup would really make me feel better." It does make one feel a bit powerful.
I know that these feelings shall pass. And I'm sure I'll feel joy when people try these recipes on their own and like them. But, I'm having Tom test my gravy. I just can't let that one out of the family, yet.