Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope this finds you enjoying a warm and
cozy winter holiday
with loved ones and friends.

Here are
some highlights from our Christmas-

a whole lot of words aren't needed...

That is Orange-Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Bark above on right.

Kids making chewy molasses spice cookies that turned out more like Ginger Snaps!

above: Home-made Italian fig cookies called Cuccidati...they are amazing!
below left: home-made almond meringue cookies.

Christmas morning...before presents..


a wonderful moment & gift from an auspicious visitor...

Greg totally re-did the play room for the kids...
now its there work/craft space--and they LOVE it!!

Thank you for checking in on us today and all year!
All our very best to you and your family in 2013..

Happy New Year!!

lots of love,


Monday, December 17, 2012

"Our hearts are broken"

It is very difficult not to look at my 2 young, beautiful, vibrant children--one, a first grader-last year and the other-- a first grader-next year...and not think of those 20 sweethearts who were so violently ripped from us on Friday.  But I am doing my best to keep it together and not break down in front of my kids.

At one point, over the weekend, I was staring at my son--just kind of marveling at him--and he was like...Mama! Stop staring at me!!  I sort of shook myself out of it and mumbled something about how cute he looked and changed the subject.  But Sunday night at dinner, Greg and I felt that it was best that they hear about this horrible tragedy from us and we would keep it brief... it didn't go exactly as planned...

Us: Guys, we need to tell you something...someone, a man, went into a school and hurt some people but he is gone now, he died and he can't hurt anyone ever again.  Your school is safe and you are safe...

Magda: (slowly asking one question after another...) What kind of school? An elementary school?  What people?  Children? Did he hurt the children?  How many?  Where was the principal?  Did he go into a class room and hurt everyone in that class room? How?  Did he use a gun? Did the teachers help protect the kids?  Do the parents know?  Do the siblings know?  Are they so sad??  Why did he do it?

We could not bear to answer all her questions...

By this point,  she had collapsed in a sobbing heap into my lap.  And I hugged her so hard, trying not to break down myself, because I am doing my best to keep it together and not break down in front of my kids...We just said that sometimes people hurt other people...but she and her brother are safe.  By this point-though, she said she wasn't going to school tomorrow; she wouldn't feel safe there...she didn't want to go.  Honestly, I didn't really blame her.

I don't usually pick the kids up in the afternoon...Greg does that; I drop them off in the morning before going to work.  But I was home sick on Friday and after I heard the news...I wanted to get them as soon as class let out.  As I was buzzed into the building (in a system that I am sure is very much like Sandy Hook) I just stood, in the middle of the office...surrounded by teachers and staff and I broke down and started sobbing...uncontrollably...a teacher immediately came up and hugged me and said that she understood...and I thanked her and got myself together, because I do not want break down in front of my kids...I need to keep it together.

As I walked past the classrooms, it was very difficult not to imagine the scenario play out; classrooms in lock down--confusion, panic, violence...but I tried to stay focused on getting my kids...I tried not to think about what the police and first responders were dealing with; the terrible, terrible aftermath...I just wanted to see the faces of my smiling happy children.  Out in the school yard, Luca was playing soccer and Magda was hanging out with some big girls--and they were happy and surprised to see me.

All weekend, I kept thinking about those little lives, just starting out; just at the happiest time of the year...then I thought about the 20 forlorn backpacks hanging on the rack, the 20 empty beds, and the brothers and sisters asking for their sibling--I kept thinking about all those brave women and all their heroic efforts to protect their kids...all weekend long, I kept cursing the gun policy in this country and I wrote letters to my congressmen and women to start a national dialog about mental health and banning assault weapons...

But more than anything...what I did this weekend, to help me keep it together and what stopped me from breaking down in front of my kids--was that I held their hands tightly--everywhere we went, I was giving them way more hugs than usual, I told them I loved them about a million times...And it seemed that everywhere I looked other parents were doing the exact same the parking lots, at the stores, walking down the street, at the park...I feel like Magda and I held hands constantly all weekend long and it was really, really nice.

And, in the end, I think this constant contact with them helped me from breaking down in front of them...because I am really trying to keep it together.

But, in light of what happened on Friday--it is so very, very difficult not to break down...

and cry out our broken hearts..

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chestnuts Roasting

On of my favorite things about this time of year--and there are many!
is the very special treat of roasting chestnuts with the kids.  

Sadly, we don't do roast them over an open fire, (just in the oven)
But they are so good and we love them.

They are this kind of warm, buttery, nutty, chewy 
experience that you don't really get anywhere else.  

I like them  especially--because
family, long ago, tended to chestnut groves in Italy.

And then there is that song...they just really are a nice little emblem of the holiday season to me.

They can be intimidating if you have never had them before, but its
really a cinch to whip up a batch.

Typically, instructions call for you to make an "x" 
with a small sharp knife on the round part of the shell.

That sounds dangerous to me.

I prefer to use a bread knife--holding the chestnut (the pointy part and the flatter part) between
thumb and forefinger..rocking bread knife just until I am able to make a nice straight line cut piercing the shell but not going too deep.  Cut should be almost as long as the side width of the shell.

Then, sometimes, I place them in a saute pan, cover with cold water and a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer...

Sometimes--I skip that step and  I just throw them straight on the baking sheet with out the mild par-boil. Either way, I then roast them at 425 degrees for 15-20 mins.  Be sure to rotate pan half way thru.

When they come out, the cut splits open just a little bit and that is how you are able to peel off the shell. But if you put them, right out of the oven, into a bowl and over with a dish towel for another 10-15 min...this helps to make them even more easier to peel...which is nice...

They should just pop right out of the shell, but they may not all be so agreeable...

But no ever you get them out, you will enjoy their rich, buttery flavor.

I love eating chestnuts because there is something very old fashioned about the whole process and I just love that we only eat them this time of year.

They sell them at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's by the bag.

If you are having friends over for dinner, they are wonderful to pull out of the oven for
a fun little appetizer....with a seasonal cocktail, of course!

Monday, November 19, 2012

We are Thankful!

A couple years ago, I cut out a bunch of leaves from 
autumnal-colored card stock, strung them together to
form a sort of Fall Leaf Thankful Garland.

I hang them around the window by our kitchen table.

Every year since, we talk as family, about what we are thankful for and then
I write each of those things on a leaf.

Hard to read, but the list includes things like:

Home-cooked food, sunshine, Teddy, crafts, our dogs and cat, ice cream, our cousins, 
aunts and uncles, our schools, clean water, the beach, grandparents, mountains, birthdays, 
snow, trees, the park, our bikes, Santa Fe, our friends, chocolate, chewing gum, 
art supplies, books, chess, red wine and coffee... 

(ok, those last two things belong to the parents!)

But its fun to add on new ones every year and see what were thankful for in past years...
certain things tend to repeat every year, but that is a good thing!

This year we added Duct Tape to our Thankful Garland...

The kids LOVE duct tape...Luca made this awesome duct tape collage.

I think I might frame it.

I am thankful for many, many things but mainly I am thankful
for my awesome kids and my wonderful husband.

Have a lovely and warm Thanksgiving holiday!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Great Fall Weekend...

We had a really nice Fall weekend full 
of fall colors and delicious home cooked 
meals shared with friends.  

For dinner Saturday night, 
I braised turkey drumsticks--in an Osso Bucco style-- 
served over Parmesan Polenta...on the side, we had
grilled Radicchio, that we topped with gorgonzola and a balsamic reduction.

The turkey was garnished with a pine nut gremolata with lemon zest--
which helps to brighten flavors.

Really, this was one of the best meals I have made...EVER!

Collection of wonderful recipes here.

I also brought a little bit of fall foliage inside--which is always fun and dramatic...
I sent Greg out to poach this branch for me...

 It was also Magda's last soccer game--she played awesomely!
(She looked good too...)

Great team work!  Go Girls!!

Number 7 in action with her fancy footwork...she is good!
It was a gorgeous day, the girls won their game 
and finished the season with cake.

I love this time of year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day! Big-Big Day!!

I brought the kids with me to vote this morning. 
We brought them when we voted in last Presidential election 
and it was very important to me that I take them to this one as well...

It is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously--to show the
kids how the democratic process--in which we elect our leaders--works.

Crucial--extremely crucial...To me, the right to vote should
never be taken for granted.

Hopefully, we are raising them to be good citizens and to
respect this great Democracy that we are so fortunate to live in.

For them, it was a great opportunity for them to hit up the bake sale...
and get donuts!

But whatever...we voted and it feels great!

and it will for you too...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky Halloween 2012

Ok, I am just going to say--right off the bat...It has been a crazy couple of days.
Sandy has been terrible for our friends and family up North, but our area just kind of
got side-swiped...about the worse thing that happened to us was that we had to take
all the outdoor Halloween decorations down and inside..

but we got two days off work and school....

And probably the best news of all: Halloween, for us, wasn't cancelled.

May I present: The Queen of England and a gallant knight...(who forgot his shoes.)

The big Halloween party was scheduled for Saturday night and at that point, there was no rain
and that night it was like high 50s/low 60s...perfect weather for a party.
We had about 15 kids and 15 adults from the neighborhood over...

so, I did a little decorating...

I drew a spooky village on the chalkboard that we have in our kitchen and sewed some orange ric rac on a black table cloth...I LOVE ric rac...

I tried to make as much as possible but I broke down when I saw this 
and bought the skeleton wall cling giant sticker art..

(complete with moths and spiders)

And, an excellent idea--I might add,  because there is no way I could have made it myself
plus it added very nicely to the over all look of things!

L. I turned the entrance way into a bat cave and covered the walls with lots and lots of cut out bats.
(special thank you to Mercedes and Cecilia for their many contributions!)

R. As a way to block off the stairs
(and prevent the kids from swarming the upstairs),
I turned the staircase into a crime scene, 
complete with a creepily hanging skeletor--of sorts...lots of cheese cloth!

This is a bat pinata that I made...

I wish it showed up better; this was one of the best things I made.
I got the idea here.

ok...wait!! I take that bat--I mean, BACK...these jello worms are actually the best thing I made..
I served them on a bed of crumbled brownies--(you know, for dirt!) and they were a HUGE hit.

Got the idea from here.

L. For the party, we had some crafts on hand...skeletons out of dried pasta, anyone?  

I turned the living room into a haunted laboratory. 

I filled jars with all sorts of stuff: eyeballs, snakes, bones, spiders...a brain!
ok, well, it was really a cabbage in green milky water, but it looked like a brain!

So, this was the setting.  

Saturday night, we had the fire pit going in the back yard and all the kids gathered round while some kids took turns telling and reading spooky tales.

Earlier in the evening, we took the kids on a haunted walk down thru the park, where an occasional parent would jump out from behind a tree and scare the daylights out of the was so awesome.

There were lots and lots of treats...
and there was this really, really good apple cider/bourbon punch 
with lemon and ginger that Greg made.

You know... for the adults...

So, everyone, ahem, had a great time.

The hurricane definitely put a damper on things but we consider ourselves 
very lucky that we had such a great party and a fun halloween. 

I am going to go pass out now...