Destination Unknown Part 2

January 6, 2015 at 9:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Read Part 1 Here

In late September, a man emailed me from the dating site.  I looked at his profile and the first thing that caught my attention was a list I recognized. He had quoted “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz to describe what he believes is important in relationship:

“The Four Agreements”
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
― Miguel Ruiz

He also wrote about his two beautiful daughters and how important they are to him.   The photos he posted of himself on the dating site, showed a dark haired, tall athletic built man wearing dark sunglasses. In a second photo he was kneeling down and petting a little dog. I thought he was very handsome.  I can’t remember exactly what he had written in the email. I do remember he mentioned that, like me,  he was also a fan of David Sedaris. Shortly afterward he invited me to chat online. After a few days of brief chats, we exchanged phone numbers and started texting by mobile phone. He was new to texting, and responses were slow. I was too impatient to wait, so I asked him if he’d like to call me later.  He called me that evening.

He called at the exact time he told me he would. He told me his name is Ernest. I found it quite old-fashioned and charming. As soon as I heard his voice, my judgment slipped in, and I felt he probably wasn’t a match for me. He had a deep, somewhat monotone voice that reminded me of the young potheads I used to hang out with in my youth. I certainly didn’t want another relationship with a drug addict.

A friend of mine was also meeting men online. We would talk to each other about our experiences. We soon realized we couldn’t keep track of which man the other was talking about. We ended up using nicknames to describe the men we were meeting. There was The Short Guy, The Lawyer, Southern Drawl Guy, The Fisherman, etc. It was much easier to remember the men by naming something descriptive about them. Unfortunately, I called Ernest the “Stoner Voice Guy”. Later, I would learn he wasn’t stoned when he and I were talking.  However, he does have a distinct voice and style of speaking.

I also found out he had grown up in California, where he had been a surfer since he was four years old.

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Ernest was kind and different from other men I had chatted with. He called regularly in the evenings. I really enjoyed our conversations. I noticed he had a rather advanced vocabulary. He was articulate and intelligent. He showed an interest in my day-to-day life and asked a lot of questions. I was curious as to how he was able to hold intelligent conversation when, presumably, he was high. He was extremely polite –never inappropriate. He made suggestions to help me deal with the chronic case of insomnia I had been suffering from. He also showed an interest in hypnotherapy, which I was studying at the time.

One Sunday morning, Ernest texted me while he was at a grocery store. In jest, I asked him to pick up a pineapple for me. He said he would. We agreed to meet that afternoon for lunch at a local cafe. I had to cancel shortly before lunch because my son and his wife had unexpectedly come for a visit. With the thirty year divorce shakeup in the family, I felt it was more important to spend time with my children. I cancelled, but I agreed to meet him at the same place for dinner that evening. The kids stayed much longer than I had anticipated, and we had such a lovely visit I wasn’t about to cut it short. Around 8:30 PM, the kids left and I noticed I had missed a few texts from Ernest. I texted an apology. He told me was getting ready for bed, as he had to get up early for work. I felt so bad, I told him that if he would like to come out, we could have a quick meetup. He agreed and we set out to meet at a local cafe.

I didn’t spend a lot of time primping for the meeting, as I felt quite sure this was not going to be a love connection. I enjoyed talking with Ernest, and I thought we could both use a good friend.

As I parked my car on the street in front of the cafe, a pair of headlights shone in my rear view mirror, as a car pulled in directly behind me. I had a feeling it was Ernest. I grabbed my purse and stepped out of the car, I looked up toward the curb and there he stood.

Ernest was tall with dark hair and sparkling blue-green eyes. He was looking down at me, with his million dollar smile. In hindsight, I believe I fell in love with him as soon as I saw him.

I found it so romantic that he actually brought me a pineapple. Later he would tell me how he had left the grocery store to go the natural foods store in order pick up an organic pineapple. He knew I was into cooking and he wanted to impress me.

I was impressed.

If ever there was such a thing as love at first sight, I was experiencing it in that moment. I find it very difficult to explain exactly how I was feeling. I was instantly drawn into his energy. When my eyes met his eyes I felt an immediate connection. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I wasn’t sure what was happening to me, but I knew I was completely taken aback by the strong attraction I felt for him. I can’t remember what I said at that point. I was completely smitten. I felt like a seventeen year old girl again. It was as though a spell had been cast, and I didn’t like it one bit. Falling in love wasn’t in the plan.

Inside the cafe, Ernest ordered fish and chips and I ordered scrambled eggs and hash browns. The waitress let us know that the cafe would be closing soon but that she would still serve us. I was disappointed that our meeting would now be cut short. After we ate, Ernest asked if I’d like to look for another place where we could continue our visit.  We agreed on a local pub down the street from the cafe. As we strolled down the street, he asked, “May I hold your hand?” He also offered me his jacket, as it was a chilly fall evening. He was a perfect gentleman. We walked to the pub and sat by the fireplace. We both ordered a cup of tea.

We talked for at least an hour. Noticing the time, we assumed the pub would be closing soon. Ernest asked if I’d like to catch the ferry to continue talking. I really didn’t want to ride the ferry. It was too brightly lit and chilly.  I thought long and hard about making a decision that would go against every bit of common sense I still had left. I believed he was safe.

I don’t recommend what I did next. It may be the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever done in my life. I told him that I live close by. I told him that he should not take it the wrong way as I was inviting him to my place because it was a warm and comfortable place to continue talking. I made sure he understood that I had never done anything like this before. I certainly did not want him to get the wrong idea. I told him I wasn’t that kind of girl (what does that even mean?). I knew my apartment would be warm and I had tea and cupcakes there. Yes, I said cupcakes. Yes, I’m that naive. He, of course, agreed. Maybe it was due to the fact that he had spent so much time pursuing me that somehow I intuitively felt he was safe. Again, don’t try this at home. It was like my brain had disengaged from the rest of my body.

Back at my place, I made tea and served them with the cupcakes. We sat on the sofa, drank tea, and talked some more. At one point, Ernest moved closer to me and gave me a kiss.

The next thing I remember were clothes, boots, and socks flying off, as passion took over.

At the critical moment, I asked, “Do you have protection?”

He said, “No, do you?”

“Uh, no. Why would I have condoms?”

Then, He said, “Well, I don’t carry condoms around with me, and I didn’t think this was going to happen”.

I guess I assumed all men carry condoms around for their frequent wild sexual escapades.

In hindsight I’m surprised I was more worried about catching a sexually transmitted disease than whether I had invited a murderer into my home. I may have lost my ever lovin’ mind that night, but I wasn’t completely crazy.

I thought for a minute and then said, “Well, I guess we can just talk some more.”

Ernest was already putting his boots back on. We were both back in our clothes and driving to the only open store in town.

I waited in the car while Ernest ran inside. As I sat waiting, I thought this is surely a sign from God. The Universe must be giving me time to think this whole thing through.

I imagined my mother’s voice in one ear warning me,  “He won’t respect you. You’ll never see him again. He only wants one thing!”.

In my other ear a little Betty Boop-like devil shouted, “Who cares about being the good girl? You’re not a girl, you’re a woman! You can do whatever you want to!” Boop was winning.

Just then Ernest jumped into the car. I threw caution to the wind. Let’s do this thing!

I was dizzy with passion and lust. But there was still that other indescribable thing. What was it? It wasn’t about just having a good time. There was something more happening that I didn’t quite understand. It felt as though an outside power was pulling me toward him. I could describe what I was feeling, but like most of my description here, it’s just a long list of clichés.

As we drove back to my place, we couldn’t stop laughing. We both knew how crazy it was. Two adults, behaving like teenagers.

I’ll leave the rest of the evening to the imagination.

After that evening we were inseparable. We wanted to be together all of the time. We were together every moment we could be.

The first few weeks we took turns cooking for one another. He still didn’t feel like a match for me. We both have strong opinions and Ernest proved himself to be a formidable opponent during arguments. We couldn’t help but notice how different we were from one another.

 In spite of our differences, the powerful draw to be together only became stronger.

Three weeks later, Ernest had gone to work and I was at my mother’s house having a cup of tea. Ernest and I had been texting one another back and forth earlier that morning. We both have a goofy sense of humor and the exchanges were light and flirtatious.

Little did we know how much our lives, especially Ernest’s life, were about to change forever.

In the early morning hours, a dark force had come in while we were sound asleep. What we believed had started as another typical day, was only an illusion. Those lighthearted exchanges and silly flirtations and the thrill of a new love, would soon be behind us and yet neither one of us had any idea.

The day-to-day problems that had seemed so important the day before, suddenly melted into nothingness.

My mobile phone rang as I was preparing to leave my mother’s house. It was Ernest.

“Anita, I need to see you.”

When I heard his voice, I knew something was different. You know that  sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach?  It’s like a sense of impending doom. The panicky shaking feeling you get when you know bad news is coming? I had all of these feelings at once.

“Ernest, what’s wrong?”

His tone was serious.

As he spoke, his voice cracked, “Anita, my daughter was murdered last night.”

I still remember that moment. For one split second, I wondered if maybe he was crazy. My initial thought was, “This can’t be real.”

It was so much to take in at once.  I had taken call  in my parent’s home office. Through the glass doors of their office I could see my mother and step-father oblivious to what had happened. They were laughing and talking to one another. Just a few moments ago, I was on the other side of that door oblivious and laughing with them. It took me a moment to grasp the gravity of what I was hearing. How can something this horrific have happened?

The pain I felt for Ernest was overwhelming. I was shaking. Somehow I managed to talk in a calm voice. It was as though something was speaking for me. I can’t remember my exact words, but I let him know I was there for him.

He asked me to meet him at my apartment.

Three weeks after Ernest and I met, his beautiful nineteen year old daughter, Scarlett, was murdered.

While walking home to her apartment, Scarlett was attacked by a young male wielding a butcher knife. She suffered several stab wounds, including the fatal stab to her neck. The attack was brutal. She did not know her attacker.

Scarlett was young and had just set out on her own five months prior to the attack.

Her boyfriend returned later to find her lying unconscious on the apartment landing, in a pool of blood. He called 911 for help and began CPR, but it was too late.

I have never lost a child, so I can only speak of what I’ve been told and from what I’ve observed. If you’ve ever loved somebody who has lost their child, you know the intense pain that can only be known to the parent himself.  The lives of the family are changed forever. Forever. You never get over losing a child, you just have to live with it.

The pain is multiplied by the immediate unanswered questions.  How did this happen? Who did this? Why? How badly did she suffer?

That evening when Ernest came to my apartment, he looked like a different man. There was nothing I could say more than how sorry I was. I listened. He was obviously in shock. I just listened to anything he said. I held him while he cried. I sat beside him as members of his family called. I held his hand as he spoke to the victim’s activist. He could only take a few steps before he would drop over and weep. I didn’t think he was going to survive. The victim’s advocate told me he shouldn’t be left alone. I helped him into the bath and bathed him. He was obviously in shock. He cried. It wasn’t like any crying I had ever heard before. It was a guttural cry. It scared me. Afterward we sat on my sofa in the dark until it became so late he fell asleep. I covered him and sat beside him the rest of the night.  I will never forget the darkness in the room that evening.

Hours turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months of wildly swinging emotions.

I had no idea the challenges that were still ahead.

My First Paleo Run

October 9, 2014 at 8:15 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Giovanni and his mama

First of all, to those who have been asking, Part 2 of my personal story, Destination Unknown, is almost finished.

I want to talk about why I’ve been busy. This past week I have been experimenting with the popular Paleo Diet.  I’m not one to follow fad diets, but I do like the idea of healthy eating.

I visited Third Place Books to see the author, Danielle Walker , speak about her new book, “Against All Grain, Meals Made Simple”.  I’d like to start by saying,  Danielle Walker has a wealth of information on grain free eating.  Obviously, I only have my two cents. This is the perfect book for people who want to learn how to start their grain-free diet.  As a sidebar, Danielle is drop dead gorgeous. She is also as sweet as pie. Of course the pie would be sweetened with maple syrup, honey, or coconut crystals, as she has a health issue which requires her to give up the grains. My curiosity was piqued when learning that this diet is also good for people with Hashimoto’s Disease. I have Hashimoto’s. I also have tummy problems, and end up in some degree of suffering several  evenings around dinner time.

I bought her book and followed her first week’s worth of grocery shopping – which was a lot of work. It wasn’t simple for me. She does make this as easy as possible by providing 8 weeks worth of menus and grocery lists, complete with copies and perforated edges to tear out of the book.  But make no mistake, changing how you cook and bake requires some work.

I shopped at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, plus I had to order a five-pound bag of blanched almond flour from Amazon ($40!).  Grass fed, pastured, organic, etc.  By now, if you know anything about food and diet, you know the drill for Paleo. If you don’t, you can check it out here. It is expensive, but minus the grains, it wasn’t as crazy expensive as I thought it would be–thank you Trader Joe’s.

photoABOVE: Produce for my week

I’ve only followed Walker’s menu plan for the last three days, so this is in no way a well-studied review.

After three days, I noticed something that concerns me. I don’t think I’m eating enough. I lose my appetite. The thought of another bite of pork, beef, coconut oil, egg, and even the damned pile of vegetables simply makes me feel sick. I didn’t eat dinner two nights in a row. I had a few bites and found the foods too heavy. This morning, after making paleo pancakes, I just had to stop with the recipes. Maybe it’s all of the fiber filling me up. Two days ago, I ate a good breakfast: egg, paleo wrap, slice bacon, light sprinkling of feta and a dab of pesto.  Then I took my parents out to lunch for my mother’s birthday, and I couldn’t eat. That evening,  I couldn’t eat the dinner that had been cooking all day in the crock pot. I did, however, manage to put down a glass of wine and half a coconut ice cream bar. Yesterday, I ate some of the leftover dinner in a wrap –not too much, just a quarter of a cup–for breakfast. I went to meet a girlfriend for lunch and managed to eat two slivers of chicken. At dinner time I ate two bites of the pork roast and a few bites of the spinach. I had a glass of wine and three paleo chocolate chip cookies (I like dessert). The end. Stuffed.

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Paleo Wraps- not bad

 

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ABOVE: Creating my own breakfast burrito (wrap, egg, bacon, pesto, feta)

 

I’ve found the recipes (from the few meals I’ve cooked) too time consuming. I am not going to spend the rest of my life in a kitchen dicing, slicing, julienning, etc. Plus, cooking chopping and browning meats and vegetables in the mornings to get the crock pot started and then returning home to do more of the same? No thank you. Been there, done that. I enjoy doing more than cooking and baking these days.

The upside? No tummy ache in three days. This is huge. Coincidence? Maybe.

I’m happy I bought the book. Danielle Walker gives all of the basics and I believe I have enough experience in the kitchen to understand how to convert my own recipes. Basically, I just need to drop the grains.

Breakfast can consist of hash browned yams, eggs, and bacon. Quiche is another option–especially for me as I don’t think I have a problem with dairy. Lunch can always be leftover dinner.  Dinners? A great grilled salmon with basil and lemon and a side of riced cauliflower and sautéed chard. Simple. Done. How about roasted chicken with a huge salad or asparagus and baked sweet potato fries? Done and done.

I am in love with the idea of pasture and grass-fed,  organic is awesome too. The expensive almond flour? Totally worth it. I think it makes great baked goods. I’ll keep that part up. Here is a link to Ms Walker’s chocolate chip cookies. Mmm, they’re so darn good. I added chopped pecans and an extra chunk of dark chocolate to the tops before baking. It’s nice to know I’m eating a cooking that isn’t filled with empty calories. I apologize for the photos below, but I was in a hurry to eat a cookie.

 IMG_1277ABOVE: As you can see, I got lazy and just started sticking pieces of dark chocolate into the center of the cookies

I still have the remaining ingredients for the remaining week’s recipes, but I will cook them following my own recipes. I believe Ms Walker’s intent on creating this cookbook was to create a guideline for those interested in Paleo, and as far as I’m concerned,she has succeeded.

 

Update: I made the  pancake recipe from Danielle’s cookbook this morning and I’m sorry to report, I don’t like them–nor does my husband. I’ll have to try something else.

“Destination Unknown” Part 1

September 16, 2014 at 11:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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It’s crazy when I think about how many times I’ve sat down to write a new blog entry, only to find myself overwhelmed with all of the things I have to say. So much has happened. The longer I put it off, the more overwhelming the process becomes. Today I’ve made the commitment to write something. Anything.

The past four years of my life have proven to be life changing. Extremely life changing. I’m talking about 180 degree change.

As a blogger, I wrote about my family, the foods I cooked, the gardens, the chickens, photography, and other little tidbits about domestic life. I believe I used those things to hyper-focus on the good things I enjoyed, versus writing about the pain, the dysfunction, and failure of my marriage.

The truth is, I didn’t even dream about a better life. I thought I was stuck. As things became harder to bare, the day finally came when I realized I had no choice but to get out of that marriage. It wasn’t really a marriage at all. It was familiar to me, as I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family. I finally graduated from that level of dysfunction. The ship was going down, and I wasn’t about to sink with it.

I packed a small suitcase, picked up Giovanni and left. I had no money, no job, and I had several health problems. Anything was better than where I was at. I didn’t even look back at the gardens, the chickens, the house, or the perceived security. Nothing was worth giving up anymore time from my life. I had already given close to thirty years. I knew I’d be better off living under a bridge than staying in that sick relationship.

Fast forward four years and here I am happily remarried, healing my heart, and connecting to spirit more than ever before.

The journey getting to this place was quite a roller coaster ride. I suppose life is a roller coaster ride, but this roller coaster seemed to have extra steep ups and downs. It was all worth it. I’m continuing my journey, and I’m sure there will be more ups and downs, but at least it’s in motion and I’m moving forward.

In the past year, I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Although a few doctors insist I don’t have ADHD, I have PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). I’m not one for labels, but I will say, the diagnosis has given me a great place to start in seeking solutions for the issues that arise in my life that keep me from accomplishing the goals I’ve set for my future.

Using tools and techniques designed to help people with both ADHD and PTSD has proven beneficial for me. I became a registered hypnotherapist during the time I was ending my marriage. I took a course offered through a highly respectable University of natural health, located here in Washington state. I still continue studying hypnotherapy and NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) through a reputable program offered by a man who is an expert in both hypnosis and NLP.

The fear of leaving the marriage was intense. I felt guilty for all of the wrong reasons. A brief session of hypnotherapy and NLP made it possible for me to leave and keep moving forward and away from my ex-husband. Addiction to relationship is real — to your brain. Maybe it’s better to say the brain can be tricked into believing it’s real. Thankfully, a trusted family member told me, it served no purpose for me to feel guilty about leaving a person who keeps hurting me. He added, “It is better to have one sick person than two.” That was one of the key lines that helped me to drop the guilt immediately. As the smoke cleared, I was able to understand that some people choose to live in darkness. I also learned how we can be manipulated into feeling sorry for people who play the victim.

By the way, it only took one session, by phone, to give me the courage to move and never look back.

It was as though I had lived with my head in the sand, ignoring all of the signs I was being shown. I have a close relationship with my spiritual guidance. I have helped many people with their relationships, but I still avoided the messages “Upstairs” was sending to me. Once I was journaling on the beach, and I asked why I was experiencing such a devastating depression. I clearly heard, “You need to leave your marriage!”. I asked again, because I was sure that couldn’t be the answer. Again I heard, “Leave now!”. It would be a few months later that I had the hypnotherapy that allowed me to do that. Through my ex’s threats of suicide and abandoning me financially,  I kept moving forward.

I was lucky enough to have the court order maintenance support which helped me to live in an apartment for a few months. Of course,dishonorable people do not do what they are court ordered- at least not after they find out they don’t benefit from doing the right thing. That part was predictable. I still didn’t go back. I trusted in the Universe, and through the help of good friends and family I stumbled through the first year intact, and I have beautiful memories of that time period.

Sure there were hard times. There were plenty of hard times. I have a tumor-like cyst in  my spinal nerve (benign) that causes me a lot of pain. Then about a year after I left, I was t-boned by a car that ran a red light. The accident totaled my treasured old Oldsmobile and left me pretty beat up. I now had shoulder tears, neck damage, numbness in my arms and hands, and a hoarse voice due to vocal cord impingement.

I ended up having to find ways to survive. Standing in line at food banks is a humbling experience. I was frightened. I’d stand in lines looking at what was being offered, remembering the times I had donated to these organizations. It felt surreal. I also thought of all of the food I’d prepared and shared on my blog. .I was so grateful I knew how to cook. On one visit, an elderly male volunteer asked me if I wanted an oxtail. Apparently nobody wanted it, and he was trying to find a taker. I was so excited. A few people around me looked at me like I was nuts, but I knew how good the oxtail stew was going to taste for dinner that night! In food lines you take what you can get and you’re grateful for it. Apples old and bruised? I made applesauce. I learned the difference between “use by” and “best if used by” dates. I don’t know if it’s because I live in the great Northwest, but there was always enough food. I got a little tired of rice and beans, but at least I knew how to cook them to make them flavorful. Growing up poor had its benefits.

Throughout all of these, at times, frightening experiences, I met a man, and I fell in love.

Our happiness was short-lived….

It’s hard to write about any of this, but he has encouraged me to tell my story.

To be continued in Part 2

..you didn’t really believe it was all about the food, did you?

November 25, 2013 at 10:54 am | Posted in Awareness, My Dysfunctional family, my life, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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Deception Pass

Deception Pass

First of all, I’d like to welcome my new subscribers!  I have been absent for a long time, but it is always heart warming to see new people visiting and checking out my blog.

I’m so excited to be starting a new chapter in my life.  The past three years have been challenging, but I’m a survivor.  I’m a “gypsy”, and we gypsy types, laugh in the face of change.  Okay, maybe we don’t actually laugh out loud, we laugh inside whilst grimacing.  Let me just say this, we know that change is inevitable.

It was not easy to leave my thirty year marriage.  Having been a homemaker, stay at home mother, and homeschool mom,  I’ve had to deal with the realities of being a single unemployed forty-eight  year old woman, with no “marketable” skills and serious health issues.

I left my home with a roll-a-way, aqua colored, suitcase and my little dog ,Giovanni.  I didn’t think about my lack of skills, the physical pain, the probable loss of my health insurance,  not having enough money to eat, or the long, humbling food bank lines.

For the first time in thirty years, I refused to see my ex’s well-being as more important than my own.

I stopped questioning the Universe.  The message was clear, “Leave now!” 

Not only was the message clear, the voice was loud, and I knew the voice was from the deepest part of me, and it did not waver.  The message was  from my spirit. Leaving was necessary for my survival.

I grabbed a few of my personal belongings:  my favorite dresses, my  boots, makeup, hot rollers, prescription medications, hypnotherapy books, tarot cards, a few protein bars, and Giovanni.  I loaded it all into my Oldsmobile, and drove away.

I was was finally free.

Challenges followed.  Challenges are still ahead of me. 

Yet, I’m still here.  The Universe has held me up. 

Life is better.

Switching gears now,  my son, is in graduate school, on the other side of the country!  He will be visiting for Thanksgiving, and I can’t wait!  It’s been close to a year since I last saw him.  I visited New York City with my boyfriend (sounds weird to call him a “boy”friend, considering we are both in our forties!), and although I was born and lived, on and off, in Upstate New York, I’d never been to the big city.  It was, as you might imagine– unless you’ve visited or you live there, then of course it wouldn’t make sense that you’d have to imagine–   crowded, to say the least.  Tall buildings, loud, subways, taxis , shopping, and food!  I love New York, I really do, but I’m happy he will be in Seattle for Thanksgiving.   

I don’t cook as much as I used to, but this Thanksgiving, I will have help (manfriend), and I’m not going to be the crazy perfectionist I used to be.  I want to enjoy my time with family and friends.  That said, there will be food, and lots of it.

Happy Holidays! 

New York City

New York City

Thank you friends! 2012 in review

December 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 50,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 12 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

After Divorce, life goes on….

June 13, 2012 at 5:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

So much has changed since my last post.  I’m in the middle of a divorce right now, but it isn’t a bad thing.

I’m discovering more about myself and the journey continues.  There will be food, but as you know, it isn’nt all about the food.

Walking the path…

Chocolate Orange Biscotti

December 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Posted in baking, Cookies, dessert, Food, Holiday cooking, Home Decorating, Italian food, my life, photography, Recipes | 5 Comments
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Oh my goodness, it’s almost Christmas.  I am not as prepared as I’d like to be, because Mother Nature decided this is as good a time as any to send the Mother of All Life Changes and give me the gift of, a somewhat early, menopause!   (As if dealing with a spinal nerve cyst and surgery wasn’t enough in one year!)

I think the Universe gives me more credit than I deserve, by thinking I can handle so many changes at once.  Oh well, it is what it is and life is too precious to whine and complain (not that I haven’t), so now you know why I’ve been absent for so long, and I thank those of you who have missed me and expressed it in email or by phone.

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of cooking or baking.  My husband has been forced to learn to cook, and I must say, he is doing quite well.  As a matter of fact, I’m feeling a bit threatened by his ability to make spaghetti sauce that tastes so much like mine.  It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him how to make the cassata.   That cassata recipe is going with me to my grave.  ;)

Life is a mystery, kind of like the box of chocolate Forrest Gump talked about.   It’s also like trying a new recipe.   Sometimes you get a prize winning dish, sometimes it’s mediocre, and other times it’s an absolute disaster.  That pretty much sums up my year.  The thing to remember, is when you get the disaster,  you must never forget that a prize day is sure to follow.  It always does.  Always.

Speaking of a prize–I found an amazing recipe for biscotti, on Epicurious.com.  I made a few changes, and now I have the best biscotti I’ve ever made in my life!  I want to share the recipe, and the changes I made, with all of you.

 

Chocolate-Orange Biscotti RECIPE

Click on link above for recipe.

The following are my ingredient changes:

I added 2 Tbsp coarsely grated orange zest, instead of 1 Tbsp

3 Tbsp Orange Contreau- instead of 2 Tbsp Orange Liqueur

1/2 tsp orange extract

6 ounces Chocolate Chunks (60%), instead of bittersweet chocolate

Angelnina’s NOTES:

I do not like my biscotti rock hard. I baked the first baking for 20-25 minutes and the second baking about 15 minutes.  My family prefers them lightly toasted on the outside, but still tender.

Bon Appetit hit the jackpot with this recipe!

Toasted pecans cooling

I love how pretty the dough looks with the orange zest, chocolate, and pecans!

Pre-shaped dough ready for first bake

After first bake

The flavors of this cookie take me back to when I was a child, visiting my Italian grandparents in upstate New York.  Orange and chocolate in a cookie, is like a bit of heaven, or nirvana, or whatever blissful place you wish to visit!

 

Happy baking and Happy holidays!

Italian Cookies~ Vintage Ware~My Life as a Vagabond (repeat blog)

November 24, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Posted in baking, Food, My Dysfunctional family | 7 Comments
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Please Note:  I am repeating this blog because these make great cookies for Christmas giving.  I’ve been struggling with a few health issues, but I feel confident I’ll be back in the game soon!

I am a cookie fanatic! This past week, I decided I wanted to bake a few of the Italian cookies I had eaten when I was a child in upstate New York.

As I’ve said before, “Cooking with Grace”, is one of my favorite Italian cookbooks because her recipes are so similar to the Italian American foods I remember my great Grandma Defranco serving. I decided to attempt a few of her cookie recipes, and I’m so happy I did!

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Millie’s Orange Drop Cookies
Biscotti all’Arancia

For the cookie dough:
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c whole milk
2 large eggs
1 Tbso grated orange zest
1 tsp orange extract (I used a good extract and added a few drops of orange liquer)

For the Frosting:
1 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
4-5 Tbsp evaporated milk
1 tsp orange extract

Prepare oven with one rack on bottom shelf and the other on second from the top shelf.
Preheat to 350 degrees. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. In another bowl, sift flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.

Pour milk into glass measuring cup and heat in microwave to warm (30 seconds). Add eggs and orange rind and extract to the measuring cup and mix with a fork. Add the milk mixture to the creamed butter-sugar-mixture and beat for one minute with mixer.

With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time until mixture is used.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets, leaving 1″ space around each cookie.

Bake the first sheet for 8 minutes on the bottom rack; then transfer it to the upper rack and continue baking for 7 minutes. When you transfer the first sheet to the top, place a second sheet on the bottom rack, continuing to bake each sheet on the bottom rack for 8 minutes on the bottom rack and 7-8 minutes on the upper rack. Remove the cookies from the oven as they turn golden. Cool for 2 minutes on cookies sheets, then place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

To Frost:
Combine confectioner’s sugar, milk, and orange extract–stir until dissolved.
use your index finger like a paint brush to frost each cookie on all sides, including the bottoms, and set them on a rack to dry. Be sure to cover in the glaze frosting to seal them–that way the glaze holds in the moisture.

Store in an air tight container up to one week or freeze them in a heavy duty freezer bag for up to three months. Try to remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag before sealing. You may opt to frost the frozen cookies after you’ve defrosted them rather than before.

These are perfect with a cup of coffee or hot tea. A little reminiscent of a scone–only a bit more sweet.

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My second batch of cookies are called:

Chocolate Spice Cookies
Biscotti Speziati al Cioccolato

I’m too tired to print out the entire recipe, but if you love Italian American food, I really encourage you to get your hands on this book. The darker cookies in the first photo are the Chocolate SPice Cookies. They aren’t particularly chocolate tasting–more spice. I’m still searching for the ones I had as a kid which I remember as tasting more like chocolate.

I have not tried the following recipes but they’re pretty close to what I made. Grace’s book called for currants–I didn’t add them, I did however add chopped pecans. I used a vanilla powdered sugar glaze rather than the cocoa glazes here. You really need to cover the entire cookie with the glaze to keep them nice and moist.

These cookies are a cake like cookie.

Mostaccioli

Another thrift store find:
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TOTAL: $1.80
As a kid, my family moved so often, I practically grew up in a car, stopping at roadside diners and truck stops to eat. The cups in the photo above remind me of those cafes. I remember my parents would sometimes try to drive straight through from the west coast back to New York. On a few moves they would stop at midnight–or later–to have coffee. I usually ordered a hot chocolate. Searching for my shoes in the dark and climbing out of a loaded car into an often freezing cold night, made sitting in a warm, well lit diner, feel like a special treat. I suppose my attraction to diner ware has something to do with those memories.
My mother and I sat down one day and wrote down every move we had ever made. I just looked at the list and see she forgot to add Houston, Texas.
The old photo below was taken on one of our 66 (possibly 67) moves.
I’m the girl standing up on the back seat holding something that resembles food in my hand. I have no idea what it is. I often stood while we drove. Remember when seat belts were just those hard metal things that hurt your bum when you sat on one? I just kept trying to shove them out of the way or stuff them under the back seat cushion. Times have changed.

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Farfalle with Mushrooms and Sausages

May 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Posted in cooking, Flexitarian, Food, Italian food, Pasta Dishes, photography, Recipes, Weeknight Dinners | 17 Comments
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Have you seen this beautiful Farfalle pasta by Torino?  I was shopping at World Market’s Cost Plus, when this jumped out at me!  Look at the beautiful colors.

It cost more than what I like to spend on pasta, but I couldn’t pass this up.  They call it “designer” pasta.  I’m not into designer fashion, but apparently I’m a sucker for designer pastas now.

The recipe on the back of the box made my final decision.   It’s SO simple to make and it tastes so fresh and earthy!

Farfalle with Mushrooms and Sausages

Adapted from Torino pasta recipe

8.8 ounce farfalle pasta

6 ounce mushrooms (possibly porcini or 2 ounce dry porcini put in water to soften for 2-3 hours)I used a package of wild Italian mushrooms I found at World Market

6 oz fresh sweet sausage-I used Italian sausage from Whole Foods

5 oz white wine

1/4 white onion

1/2 clove garlic- I used whole

1 oz extra virgin olive oil

2 oz light cream — I used whole milk

3 oz grated pecorino or parmesan cheese- I used both

pepper and salt to taste

In a skillet, sautee x-tra virgin olive oil with garlic and onion–finely chopped.  Add the sausage without skin, and cook for 5 minutes to color.  Add the mushrooms and cook slowly and add the white wine.   When it looks ready, add the salt and pepper and light cream.

Cook the pasta al dente in plenty of salted water.  Drain pasta and place in the sauce skillet mix on top of stove for 2 minutes and then serve with cheese.




The mushrooms are SO earthy!

I served it with chardonnay

ENJOY!

Simple enough for a weeknight meal, and flavorful enough to impress company.

Spanakopita and Gardening in April/May

May 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Posted in baking, cooking, Flexitarian, Food, gardening, photography, Recipes, Vegetarian | 9 Comments
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Spanakopita or Spinach Pie

PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE

Adapted from a recipe posted online–years ago–by Jack Roemer

14 Phyllo Pastry sheets

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 Tbsp olive oil + 4 Tbsp melted butter

spray olive oil

40 ounces frozen spinach, chopped  OR 2 – 16oz pack

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian(flat leaf) parsley

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

3  Tbsp fresh chopped dill

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup cottage cheese –I use lowfat

1 egg

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

a light sprinkling of white wine vinegar- approx 2 tsp

Instructions:

Thaw and drain the 2- 16oz packages of spinach.

Crush the garlic and drop into the olive oil and butter. Set aside.

To make the filling, squeeze the spinach between your hands to remove most of
the liquid.   Place in a bowl or in a food processor.   Add the parsley, onions,
dill, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in the cottage cheese, egg and
feta.  —NOTE– I do it all in the processor except for the feta. — Combine well. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Lay one sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the dish and drape the edges overthe
sides of the dish. Spray lightly with cooking spray and cover with another sheet of phyllo dough.   Brush that sheet with the garlic-olive oil mixture.

Layer a total of four sheets, coating each alternately with nonstick cooking spray and olive oil. Spread half the filling over the prepared phyllo dough. Lay another sheet of dough over the filling and coat lightly with cooking spray.   Lay down another sheet and lightly coat with olive oil mixture. Continue alternating spray and olive oil for a total of four
sheets. Layer remaining spinach filling on dough.  Sprinkle on the vinegar-as evenly as possible.

Continue layering phyllo dough over the filling, spraying the first sheet and alternately brushing with olive oil and spraying subsequent sheets.  The last layer has 6 sheets.

When finished, brush the surface with olive oil mixture and roll the edges of the doughin ward to create an attractive rim around the outside.  Score the surface with a sharp knife into 12 portions.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 40 minutes until golden.  I turn on the broiler at this point for 1-2 minutes (keep pan in center of oven) WATCH IT,  or you will burn the top layer!  Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.  Makes 12 portions.

Test kitchen notes: Phyllo means “leaf” in Greek. The dough is usually available in the frozen food section of most supermarkets or in Greek or Middle Eastern markets. For best results, allow dough to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.   Keep it covered with wax paper and a damp towel while making pie.

The Gardens in April and Early May

I’ve decided to post my gardens once a month.  I want to document the stages of growth.

This is the time of year I start to get excited about gardening.   I love my flowers, but I especially love the vegetable and herb gardens.

That said, I planted an assortment of flowers from seed this year.  I rarely do this, but my cousin , MaryAnne, who lives in upstate New York, sent me seeds from her own flower gardens and a packet of Honey Bear Sunflower seeds, which means I might have a new passion.  I’ll post on those as soon as the seeds germinate.

The terracotta pot above is my husband’s great find.  It is from Mexico, and I thought a few coral colored begonias,  double pink impatiens, along with a few chicks from my Hens and Chicks plants, would look lovely in this pot.

The portable greenhouse is filled with starts and seedlings:

Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, artichoke, basil,  and squash are waiting to go under the cloche of the front gardens.

Flowering seeds are in their little seed pots too.

As you can see, the backyard garden has plenty of cool weather plants:

lettuce, radish, beets, onions, spicy mixed lettuces, carrots, broccoli,  and several herbs.

Continue Reading Spanakopita and Gardening in April/May…

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