Saturday, December 13

You Know You're Italian When...

Are you unsure of your Italian-ness? Have you been living among medagons so long that you think you may have lost your identity? Well here is a "simple" check list to prove that you are Italian.

You know you are Italian if, during your childhood, at least 30 of these things ocurred:

1.You called pasta "macaroni."

2.You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich."

3.Your family dog understood Italian.

4.Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.

5.You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.

6.You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.

7.You thought the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal.

8.You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday.

9.You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.

10.You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.

11.You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel.

12.You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.

13.Your Mom's main hobby is cleaning.

14.You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.

15.You thought that everyone made their own bottled tomato sauce.

16.You never knew what to expect when you opened the margarine, after all you thought washing out and reusing margarine containers was normal.

17.You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter.

18.You ate your salad after the main course.

19.You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.

20.Your were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom.

21.You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your left hand.

22.Your grandmother never threw anything away, you thought seeing washed plastic bags hanging on the clothes line was normal.

23. You dreaded taking out your lunch at school, you would pray that you didn't have melanzane again.

24.You can understand Italian but you can't speak it.

25.You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.

26.All of your uncles fought in a World War.

27.You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.

28.You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.

29.You have relatives you don't speak to.

30.You drank wine before you were a teenager.

31.You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos.

32.You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.

33.Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic!

34.You thought that talking loud was normal.

35.You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.

36.You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.

37.Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.

38.There was a crucifix in every room of the house, including the cellar.

39.Boys didn't do house work because it was women's work.

40.You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (Oh, and he had to be Italian)

41. February 14th is VALENTIMES Day

42.Your Christmas tree was silver.

43.You have at least one irrational fear or phobia that can be attributed to your mother.

44.Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.

Wednesday, December 3


Meatballs. I love them- well, not just any meatballs, there are only a few people's whose I will eat. Part of that is the skeeve factor- I won't eat them in restaurants, houses where cats are allowed to roam the counters, or people who have questionable hygiene- nose pickers, ear pickers, people who rinse instead of use soap after using the bathroom. I'm not exactly a germophobe but since you make meatballs with your bare hands, you don't want to worry about the cleanliness of the chef. And I really hate picking hair out of my food. You get the idea.

I don't really have a preference as to the degree of softness of the meatballs. Mine tend to be a little crisp on the outside and soft inside.

My meatballs are delicious. I say that completely immodestly because even my fussy children stand next to me while I am cooking them to eat them right out of the pan, blowing on them so they don't burn their mouths. Plus my mom said they are good and to me, that's the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

So here is my recipe for meatballs.

One pound of ground triple meat mix (also called meatloaf mix- veal, pork and beef)
two eggs
two cups of cubed bread (bakery section) OR stale Italian bread, coarsely ground in blender (not too fine)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of Locatelli cheese (if you don't have that, get a pecorino/romano blend, I'm serious, the secret is in the cheese) Do not, I repeat, DO NOT BUY THE CHEESE IN THE GREEN CAN- THIS IS NOT ACTUAL CHEESE! I highly recommend you try some Locatelli if you have not tasted it- you will never go back. You can order it here right from Philly. All you have to do is grate it.
2 cloves of fresh chopped garlic OR if you are desperate and cannot get fresh garlic, use about 6 teaspoons of garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
2 tablespoons of dried parsley
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 half to 3/4 cups of water to moisten bread
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp of black pepper
olive oil for frying

Add the water to the cubed bread, slowly, and mix it together until the bread sticks into a ball. If you use too much water the bread won't form a ball. (If you are using bread crumbs instead of cubed bread, skip this step until later)
Mix the meat with the eggs. You have to use your hands, not utensils, it's just easier.
Add the garlic, parsley, cheese, basil, salt and pepper
Mix the meat well to blend everything.
Mix the wet bread mixture with the meat thoroughly.
**If you are using bread crumbs, mix them into the meat mixture and add the water to the mixture slowly. The meat should stick together. If it falls apart, you used too much water- add more bread)

Roll the meat into balls.
Heat the olive oil until fragrant. **If the oil is not hot when you place the meatballs in the pan, the bottom of the meatballs will stick to the pan and come apart. I learned this the hard way!

Place meatballs in frying pan, don't crowd them, they need their space, and cook until the meatball is brown and the outside is a little crispy. You'll need to repeat this step two or three times unless you want to use multiple frying pans.

Again, give "Lucatell" a try. If you can't find it in your grocery store (depends on where you live- I spent 6 years without it when I lived in Lancaster, PA!!) You can order a big wedge from DiBruno Brothers, located in Philly's Italian Market and have it shipped to you. You will not be sorry!

Postscript: Avid reader Joe Gabagool wrote me to say that under no circumstances should garlic powder be used in place of fresh garlic and that anyone who would use garlic powder has no business making meatballs. I disagree with this- if you're stuck, as I have been with ground meat in a bowl and oil heating when I realized the garlic was shriveled, garlic powder can substitute fine. And to prove it, when Joe Gabagool comes ovah for dinner in a few weeks, I'll make him try both kinds of meatballs. I'll even serve them in a cup.

Friday, November 28

Word of the Day- Moondondies

Well, it's going down to 22 degrees tonight here in PA and on my way past a department store it ocurred to me that I had not bought the kids their "moondondies" for the season.

Moondondies are necessary for living here in the North. If you have to shovel snow, they are indespensable and I always make sure the kids have theirs on before they go out to play in the snow. Since we try not to rack up a $300 monthly heating bill, we keep the heat at 69 or 70 degrees at night, which for some people is still pretty high, but I can't sleep when my nose is cold. The master bedroom has a tray ceiling and the heat goes up there so it's chilly. That makes moondondies very important, if not very, very sexy.

Moondondies, if you have not figured it out yet, are long johns. I remember growing up when my parents would announce the impending cold snap just by saying "Better go put your moondondies on!" It was a while until I actually knew the correct word, and I'll admit, until tonight I was unaware of the correct spelling- mutandoni. (Moo-tahn-doan-ee)

So now my kids have their moondondies and I have unpacked mine from the attic (Cuddlduds work very nicely) so we are officially ready to freeze our coolies off. Bring it on!

Thursday, August 14

Wuddya tawkin abou? The Philly Accent

For 38 years of my life I spoke with a Philly accent and never realized how heavy it was. I had never paid attention to the way I chop the ends of my words off, or slur some words together. That was until I did an internet radio show early in 2007 and a friend of mine in Florida harrassed me about my thick Philly accent. So I started paying attention to how I speak and it's a wonder people know what I am saying! I'm way in the suburbs of Philly now and not many people speak like I do. But most of the people here are from New York or Joisey so they don't really notice. So now I catch myself saying words that other people pronounce correctly and I mangle. That's "cuz" I'm originally from "Sowfilly" (that would be South Philly, but to me, it's all one word).

I never realized that instead of saying "leg" I say "leyg." I do remember being teased by friends in high school because I couldn't (and still can't) pronounce "mirror." I say "mir-eh" and of course it's not "window" for me, it's "windeh." I say "anutheh" not "another" and "aready" not "already." My dad always corrected my pronunciation of "crayon" which was (and still is) "crown"' as if I had a speech impediment. Come to find out, it is no such thing! It's a product of my upbringing ovah deh! "Didn't" is "Dint" and "nothing" to me has neither an "o" nor an "ing." (Nuthin) If you bother me while I'm "writin" I'll say "whadyawan?"

For vacation, I just go "Downehshur" which means the Jersey Shore, and by the way, you don't go to the shore, you're not "at" or "on" the shore, you go down the shore and you are then down the shore. I pay the lectric bill, (it's a cuppela hundred dollahs but I wish it were only a cuppela corders) and I don't know what happens to the "E." I dry off with a tal after I showeh with wuhduh.

I never say "youse" or even "yiz" but I do call everyone "you guys."

There's a more complete list I found for more Philly pronunciations. I don't committ all of the crimes on the list but I have some not on there!. Check it out!
Amd here is a great link for more detailed reasons as to why we tawk funny- at University of PA they actually study this phenomenon!

So, YO, next time you hear someone with a funny Philly accent speak, take a look at your own regional accent ovah deh.

Saturday, August 2

The Throne

When I was a kid, and I mean as far back as I can remember, my grandparents had a clear toilet seat with real coins inlaid in the plastic. As a very young child I thought this was the coolest thing ever and always tried to count the coins and see how much money was in there, but would lose my place and give up. I knew there were Kennedy half dollars in there, maybe five. As a teenager I just thought it was freakishly odd. Nobody else I knew had a toilet seat like this and I always thought it was some special Italian item for some reason. It turns out that they bought it on a trip to where else? Las Vegas.

When my grandparents moved to Florida in 1986 they took the seat with them. On my first trip to visit them I recall saying "Oh My Gawd it followed them here." And to make matters worse, in their new home they put the seat in the bathroom that had a solid wall of mirrors and great big Hollywood vanity lights. It was what I pictured a Vegas casino bathroom to look like.

My grandmother died in 1996 and my grandfather moved back to Philadelphia to live with my parents. My dad had flown to West Palm Beach to pack up what he could for my grandfather and shipped it to Pennsylvania. He said he was mainly shipping items of sentimental or monetary value and having an estate sale for the rest. So, imagine my disgust when that coin-laden toilet seat showed up- IN MY PARENTS' POWDER ROOM!! I know when I walked into that room I actually screamed. "WHY WON'T THIS SEAT DIE?" My mother said "That's a very valuable seat." (To whom, I wondered, to the collectors of coin-encrusted toilet seats??) I responded "That is a very TACKY seat." Not to mention it did not match the décor in the powder room at all. Well, my mother must have agreed because on my next visit there, it had been replaced.

Fast forward about four years later when I was at their house after my grandfather died, throwing away some stuff I had stored there years earlier. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it, something bright and shiny under a box and some newspapers, like it had fallen out of the trash and then a box fell on top of it. I dug into the pile and to my utter horror there it was-- THAT FREAKING GAUDY COIN TOILET SEAT. I yanked on it to pull it out the pile and when I had freed it, I dumped it right into the garbage can. I smacked my hands together to dust them off and walked away proudly. That seat would be no more.

About an hour later my father came home from a fishing trip and I heard him open the garage door. He spent a few minutes in there putting his gear away and then he came into the house... HOLDING THAT @!(@*#)(# TOILET SEAT. "DAD! What is that a boomerang? I just threw it out." "Hey, you leave this be," he said waving it in the air. "This is expensive." "Dad,look, let's get the axe. We'll bust it open and you can have all the coins, ok?" My father gave me one of those patented "Don't mess with me" looks and returned that eyesore to the garage. I appealed to my mother. "Mom, is Dad just going to keep that coin seat in there like Fred Sanford?" "He still has it?" ooops. "Yes, I threw it away and he fished it out." "Well, you know, it wasn't cheap."

Yes, I know. But it's a 25 year old, used, gaudy, cheesey, tacky COIN-FILLED TOILET SEAT!!!

It's 2008 and the seat remains in the garage. Not being used, of course, just saved. 'Cuz it's expensive.

Feel my pain.

Tuesday, July 22

Picture it, Sicily, 1923...

She was not really Sicilian but she did a lot of things that reminded me of my Sicilian grandmother. I loved the character of Sophia Petrillo on the Golden Girls, played by Estelle Getty, who died at 84 today. I know, she looked 84 when she was on the show in the 1980's but she was actually younger than Bea Arthur, who played her daughter! I never missed that show as a teenager and I still watch the re-runs on my little treadmill television at the gym. Very uncool, I realize, but the only reason I go to the gym is to pick up octagenarians.

I crack up when I hear her crazy "picture it, Sicily" stories, like the one when she was friends with Mama Celeste, or she slept with Pablo Picasso. I found the clip on YouTube:

Her character's sarcasm was unparalleled. Here are some of my favorite lines of Sophia's:

Sophia: Make way for the victors.
Rose: You won the big game?
Sophia: No, Rose. We lost and we all changed our names to Victor.

Rose: Penny for your thoughts Sophia?
Sophia: You’re and idiot and that’s on the house.

Rose; Did they have chores in Sicily?
Sophia: Are you kidding? They invented chores in Sicily. Crossing the street without getting pregnant was a chore in Sicily

Estelle Getty was Jewish and she played a Sicilian immigrant. She's not the only one, though. (Allow me to digress from my tribute to Estelle...) It always struck me as odd how Hollywood casts so many
Jewish people to play Italians. Case in point:

- Sophia Petrullo- "Golden Girls-" Estelle Getty
- Dorothy Zbornak-"Golden Girls-" Bea Arthur
- The Fonz- "Happy Days-" Henry Winkler
- Frank DeFazio- Laverne's father on "Laverne and Shirley"- Phil Foster (born Arthur Cohen)
Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson- played Italian gangsters in movies.

I know there has never been a shortage of Italian actors so what gives?

Supposedly, real Italians don't look as Italian as Jews. I don't know what that means or who the Italians are that the casting agents saw but they need to visit my family and cast a few of us.

But, I've also heard that Italians look more like native Americans.
Remember this guy?

He was known as Iron Eyes Cody (from the pollution commercial) but his real name was Espera DeCorti, and he was Sicilian-American born in the US of Sicilian immigrants! (However, he did live his life as a native American, marrying a Native American woman, adopting Native American sons and dedicating his life to native American causes.)

So it is a sad day for Estelle Getty's fans. Looking on the internet for a video of her I found a huge amount of tributes and comments from fans, so I know I an not alone. The poor thing died from dementia, a really terrible way to go, and to picture her dying like that is the total opposite of how many of us remember her in real life, both on the show and off. Rest in Peace, Estelle.

Thursday, July 17

Remembering Rosie

Two years ago today my mentor and dear friend passed away from breast cancer. Dr. Rosario Caminero was my graduate school Spanish professor whom I had met two years before starting grad school when I worked in the Foreign Languages Department as an assistant. I got to know her very well working there and by the time I got my B.A. and signed up for her grad courses, I already had a tremendous respect for her. Her knowledge of Spanish linguistics and composition was vast and her classes were always upbeat and interesting. I looked forward to those intensive graduate classes-five days a week- and even the compositions, because she was the professor. I learned more from her in two years than I had in the four previous years- she was that incredible.

Cuban-born and bred, she had the most wonderful accent in English and in Spanish. Dr. Rosie, as I called her because I respected her too much to call her by her first name as she asked, dressed with panache. She always wore a brightly colored dress or skirt to teach or a beautiful pantsuit, and never without stylish shoes. She walked with a clip and always seemed to be in motion, talking with her hands- her Spanish and English coming out rapid fire. She smelled of Giorgio perfume, a scent I liked so much I bought it myself but it didn't smell the same on me. Simply put, she was my guru, my mentor, my inspiration to become a teacher, for when I first met her I was not a teaching major- I was set to graduate with a B.A. in Spanish which did not qualify me to teach- I needed a B.S.Ed.

I began the graduate program immediately after I graduated so I could become certified to teach. Still unsure of my decision after many mornings full of pedagogy classes, my future as a Spanish teacher eventually fell into place in the afternoons in her classroom. Her love for teaching, her patience and her passion were all qualities I wanted to emulate. She made teaching look fun, enjoyable and dare I saw... rewarding! I wanted my students to enjoy my classes as much as I enjoyed hers. She counseled me on boyfriend troubles, family situations and taught me what it took to be a great teacher. She was my surrogate mom.

Rosie lost her battle with breast cancer on July 17, 2006. The only time I have felt as sad as I did that day was when my grandparents passed away. I am grateful for having had her in my life to inspire me, to guide me and to be there for me to try to emulate. Her stylish pumps are way too big to fill but she is always present for me to look to as an example. And I will never forget the advice she gave me on my wedding day, which I am so happy was caught on videotape: "Claudia, acuérdate quién es la jefa." ("Claudia, remember who is the boss"- she used the feminine form to mean me.)

Rest In Peace, Dr. Rosie

Sunday, July 13

For you IPhone Phans

And this, my friends, is why I don't buy Apple anymore.

Pilfered from my friend Alberto de la Cruz at Babalublog

Friday, July 11

I Flip for Waverunning!

I love jetskiing. The wind in my face, the salt on my lips, the thrill of zipping over water- I look forward to the shore just for that. I always go to the same place-- the owners are Claudio and Claudia and they are both from Argentina, accents and all. They make a big fuss over me because of my name and we always speak in Spanish, which was my problem today, but I'll get to that.

So today I took my oldest daughter and her BFF with me. They screamed and hollered and my daughter's arms were squashing me through my life jacket as we bumped and flew over giant wakes caused by the other six skis that were with us. The water was choppy as a result and a few times I had to fight to get control of the ski to get back on course and stay within the designated area. Several times a giant wake or two completely doused us with foam, which was all part of the fun.

What I did not count on, however, was having problems docking. I cut the motor as directed so I would drift over to the dock. But, instead of drifting forward, I drifted backwards. I started the motor again and turned around and cut it, this time drifting toward the patrol boat not far from the dock. I started the motor again to get away from the boat and turned to the left, hard. In doing so, I flipped the ski over, sending two teenage girls flying into the water. But while I was doing this, Claudio was on the dock yelling to me in Spanish while using gestures. I couldn't hear or understand him and as I opened my mouth to say "Como?" I flipped right over the ski with the girls, unplugging the kill switch attached to my jacket and, mouth open, swallowing a whole lot of the Atlantic's saltiest. I popped up and instinctively reached for the girls, grabbing one with each hand while I tried to get back to the ski and tread water-- impossible to do. The patrol boat guy told me he'd take one of them. Well, neither wanted to get back on the ski with me, so I dragged them over to the boat and they hopped on, and I figured I'd just swim to the dock. "Uh, you have the key," the guy said. "Oh, yeah, guess I have to get back on." And that, I'm sure was a sight, as I mounted the triple ski from the back, throwing myself onto it like a sick fish and crawling up onto the seat. Claudio was ready again to get me to the dock, yelling for me to give it gas and swing it around. I'm thinking to myself- WHY IS THIS SO HARD? I never had problems before! Same marina, same dock, what gives? I docked it, much to Claudio's relief, and still sputtering from drinking a cup of sea water, I went to the shop and got my keys (that's shah-vays in Argentine Spanish) from Claudia who felt bad that I was soaking wet and tried not to laugh.

My daughter and her friend actually enjoyed it, as now they have a story to tell when they get home. I reminded them that we went over huge wakes, got cut off by a rule-breaker who almost tipped us over, and I was flooring it much of the ride and nobody fell over until I tried not to hit the patrol boat, and that was the story I wanted them to tell. My perfect record is ruined. And on top of that, my arms are really sore from driving.

Sunday, July 6

Cursing, Italian Style

I'm in the car on my way to the Joisey shore for a week. Since I am no lover of sand, this is more like my yearly penance, thrust upon me because my inlaws have a house there. I am looking forward to jet skiing which I love.

So we're on I-95 now (I'm not driving, though that would be a trick) and my two kids are fighting and the dogs are barking. My 13 year old has her BFF with her so we're trying to make her think we are not the boisterous Italians that we really are. That's no mean feat because hour two into the trip I deviate from my planned course of civility and let rip the following:

Which is coined from my Dad's homemade cursing of a hateful pig-faced medagon and used for really, absolutely any reason whatsoever.

My oldest shot me a look like "Mom! You Guido! You promised!" and I shot her a look like "would you like to ride strapped to the roof rack?" She stopped instigating and for effect I threw in a loud "MADON."

Other handy expletives and insults you might like to try:
Managia! damn!
faccia di chooch Horse face
State zito! (statazeet) Shut up!
fon-gool (everyone knows this one- it's very vulgar)
Fanabala (va en Napoli- like saying the above but nicer, telling someone to go to Naples instead of doing something to themselves)

my daughter should be grateful that I didn't curse in English, no, I don't get any thanks. Just her malocchio.

Sunday, June 29

But I Don't Like Fish

I was watching the E! Channel tonight (yes I watch E!. Cut me a break, I'm on vacation and I took my brain with me) and I was drinking some iced tea (sweetened, with lemon, please). The show, the name of which I forget, flashed on a service provided in Los Angeles called, are you ready?


I was in the middle of a mouthful and I swallowed it kind of weird and choked a little.


Esqueese me?

Yes, apparently, the angelinos have become bored with eating off of ceramic and glass and now feel the need to eat off of the human body. At $900 an hour for a male and female, um, plate. I'm sure this is appealing to men who like to look at a good-looking female body with bodacious tatas covered with... fish, but even with a buff man with butt cheeks you can bounce a quarter off of as my plate, this does nothing for me but make me say "ick!"

Further investigation revealed that this is Japanese in origin (those horny Japanese!) but nonetheless, all that comes to mind is UNSANITARY.
First of all, how clean is this dish? Where was it before it became service for 12?

Secondly, what if the dish is, you know, flatulent? Then it has to clench to suppress the flatulence and the sushi slides into prohibited areas. Or what if the dish has to sneeze or cough? Or falls asleep?

Thirdly, why sushi? The innuendo is not lost on me, but seriously. If you know me or have been reading this blog, you know that I am possibly the only Italian in the world who doesn't eat most seafood (or drink wine). So the idea of picking raw fish out of a stranger's potentially lint-filled belly button is just not appealing to me. Now, you put a little veal in a delicate marsala sauce with a side of risotto on there and you just might get me to dig in, but sushi? No thanks.

And you can't pick the sushi off the human plate with a fork because you'll poke the hell out of the plate (and make the plate bleed- gross!), so you have to use chopsticks.

I guess I've lived in a small town too long, because this is just straight up CRAZEEEEE to me.

Friday, June 13


"Agiduh" is not fun. It comes in two varieties. It is spelled "acidez," but of course we don't say "Ah-chee-des." Duh. We say AGIDUH.

Agiduh is heartburn, acid. We use it like this:

1) After we eat something which causes heartburn or indigestion. The remedy for this in my family is a glass of Brioschi. Brioschi is little pieces of slightly lemon-flavored effervescent agiduh relief that you put in water and drink. It tickles your nose if you drink it while it is still bubbly. :)

2) When you are aggravated, you get agiduh. Your spouse, your kids, your job, waiting in long lines, just about anything that makes your blood simmer can cause you frustration which can then fall under the category of AGIDUH. When this happens, you MUST tell someone, or just say it out loud. Everyone has to know you are getting agiduh or that agiduh is impending. Otherwise, the effect is lost. "You kids better knock it off, you're giving me AGIDUH!" No one wants to give Mom agiduh!

Wednesday, June 11

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today my father turned three quarters of a century old. I wish him at least another quarter and much good health with which to enjoy those years.

I have written about my dad before, because he has had a big influence on my morality (as has my mother) but also on my political understanding and views.

My dad is super-conservative. When I was a kid, I never realized that his views had a label. I debated some of those views as I got older and thought I knew more than he, but I eventually came to my own conclusions about them and with the exception of a few, I share those views.

Growing up, my sister and I knew the words "pinko" and "commie" as part of our vernacular. Patriotism was instilled in us from the time we learned that an American flag is not a toy, and that people died to allow us to live the way we do. When I was a senior in high school, my dad and I, both Stallone fans, went to see Rambo, First Blood, Part II, where Rambo rescues the POW's in Vietnam. That sparked great coversations about history and communism and I learned words like "black pajamas," and finally realized why my parents would not watch a Jane Fonda movie.

A veteran of the army who served in Germany after WWII, my dad is a treasure trove of historical knowledge. All of what I learned about that war and that period of history comes from my father, not from my junior year history class. (Although I do remember the word "blitzkrieg," but that's about it.)

It's not just because of politics that I hold my dad in such high regard. It's for his deternination, his intelligence, his sense of humor, honesty and his tremendous love for me that I love him so much. It's for the way he broke the news to me that my goldfish died when I was five, and shed some tears with me. It's for the way he taught me that being silly makes you feel good, but never at the dinner table. It's how he drove me to and from a friend's house or a dance at night even though he was exhausted after work. It's the way he showed me that living a honest and clean life is the only way to live and that nothing is more important than family. It's because I never heard my dad say an off-color word- ever- because he has too much respect for women to say a dirty word in their presence.

So, for all he taught me, and for all he means to me, Happy Birthday to my father. I am fortunate and grateful to have you as my dad.

Monday, May 26

Philly Cheesesteaks? No thanks.

How can a girl from Philadelphia say she doesn't like Philly cheesesteaks?
Simple. They're greasy, soggy and don't even contain real cheese. Cheese whiz? Blechh.

So, don't ask me "Pat's or Geno's?" Because I will say NEITHER. (Although in deference to my husband, Tony Luke's is supposed to be better than both of them.)

In my house growing up, my dad (who doesn't cook anything but this) always made the steak sandwiches, which we ate on a Saturday (only) night maybe once or twice a month.

Here's how he (and I) makes a cheesesteak:

Get very thinly-sliced rib-eye steak (or Steak Ums if you don't have a butcher nearby, but trust me, the real steak is wayyy better). You will need about 4 or 5 slices per person.

Warm vegetable oil in frying pan- just enough to put a thin coating on the pan- at medium heat.

Add steak.

Break steak up slightly with spatula and cook until brown on both sides.
(If you like fried onions, which I do not, now is the time to add strips of onions to the oil.)

Place steak rolls in the oven for about 5 minutes on 300. The outside should be crispy but not to the point where it all falls apart.

CRUCIAL STEP!!***Add two pinches of oregano while steak is browning- mix well.

If you like cheese, add it now. Lay it on top of the steak and let it melt slightly. (I prefer sliced provolone but American can be used.)

Scoop it out and place it on a plate covered in several paper towels so some of the grease is absorbed.

Add it to the warm roll.

Put teeth into sandwich.

Sunday, May 25

No Song for Me :(

Most of my female friends and relatives have songs with their names as titles. But not me. What made me think of this random piece of trivia? Because I'm sitting here listening to Frankie Valli songs (he is my all-time favorite singer) and I just heard Sherry and Dawn, which are hands-down my two most favorite songs of his.

So I started thinking... my sister, Valerie, has a song, actually she has TWO. So do these friends and relatives: Sharon, Katie, Stephanie, Lauren, Marlena, Carol, Jessica, and of all names, my daughter, whose name is Italian- has a song in Italian. Me? Nothing.

Girls with my name have never inspired anyone to write about them. Not Claudia Schiffer,
not Claudia Cardinale,
not Claudia "Ladybird" Johnson,

and not yours truly.

Hard to believe a face as cute as this doesn't deserve a song, right?

The closest I ever got was when I managed the baseball team in high school and when I would get on the bus the boys would sing, to the tune of "GLORIA," by the Doors-"CLAUDIA- C-L-A-U-D-I-AAAAAA." But that doesn't count.

So, I'm songless. Oh, and my name also means "lame." My parents really picked a winner!

Friday, March 14

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

I have been a mom for 12 years and it is by far the most challenging, most diificult, yet most rewarding job I have ever had. It is not one to be taken lightly.

Since I became a mother, my relationship with my own mother transformed into more of a friendship, which I enjoy very much. My mom is not only beautiful, but she is probably the most generous person I know. She always thinks not just of her children but her grandchildren. On top of that, she is uncommonly thoughtful. For example, I remember not long ago mentioning in passing that I somehow shrunk my lavender sheets. It wasn't a big deal, but that Christmas, about a month after I shrunk the sheets, she bought me a new set of lavendar sheets- not because she had to, but because she neatly filed that tidbit away. She did the same thing when I commented that I had to buy some more steak knives. She saw them on sale soon after and bought them for me.

It's not just the act of giving me things that makes my mom so generous. I call her every day and if I need to whine, she listens. If I need to vent, she listens. If I need a babysitter, she's there. She always says the only thing she wants in return is respect, and for everything she has given to me, both material and non-tangible, I respect her very much. It is my mother who has taught me that being a mom means being selfless. It means putting your children first, before your needs. It means giving your child the last bite of your favorite food if she asks for it. It means stopping what you are doing to help with homework or let her style your hair. It's what being a mom is. I may do things with my children that my mom did not do with me, or not do things that she did do with me, but the idea is the same.

Pictured here are two other great moms- my aunt/godmother (holding me) and my late grandmother. My grandmother raised her children under adverse circumstances and was widowed a month after I was born. She was a strong, stubborn, generous, throughtful, loving, brave little Sigi woman that I adored and whom I miss tremendously.

My aunt is a stunning woman who also had her share of hardship as an adult but came out of it just like her mother did- strong and victorious. She is battling Lyme disease now, a very advanced form of it, but I know she will be victorious over this, too.

So, I hope to continue the 3rd generation of motherhood to the best of my ability, to raise my daughters to be decent, loving and kind, and for them to respect me and what I do for them as I respect the moms in my family.

Thanks Mom, for being a great mom.

Sunday, January 20

FA FREDDO, Dammit!

Pennsylvania. It's the only state I've ever called home, although I have lived in a lot of different parts of it. I have spent a lot of time in New Jersey; every summer of my life has included a trip down the shore, and several weeks a year in Florida while my grandparents lived in West Palm Beach for ten years. I hate the beach so trips to the Jersey shore are akin to torture for me. The sand mysteriously ending up everywhere on my body, the salt on my skin, the jellyfish, the wind sending grains of sand into my contacts lenses in spite of my sunglasses, the four times in my life I have been crapped on by seagulls, the chasing of them from my children so they can eat in peace, the seaweed that tangles itself up in places the sand may not have gotten to, and the inevitable sunburn I endure along the part in my hair from wearing a ponytail. I don't like it one bit.

In all the trips I have made to Florida, however, it wasn't until this past summer when I touched a Floridian beach. I generally park myself at the pool and swim and tan. I'll read in the pool if I can. Give me a raft and I'll sleep in the pool. But the Ft. Lauderdale beach I liked no better than a Jersey beach, except the water was calmer, bluer, and free from floating garbage. But there was sand. And I hate sand. And the summer Florida heat and humidity did not improve my outlook at all.

Now, in Pennsylvania we don't have an ocean or beaches, unless you count lakes. But, my state does have beautiful and diverse scenery- mountains, farms, lakes and amazing foliage in autumn. We have Philadelphia for culture-vultures and the Pocono mountains for those who want to relax and soak up nature. We have an Amish community in Lancaster County where people can marvel at how simple life can be. The scenery behind my house is amazing-in the spring and summer the mountains are green and picturesque. In the fall the colors are breathraking. In the winter I have a perfect view of the ski slopes and the ski lift, which at night is quite a sight to see all lit up.

But now that I am older, I find myself cursing just about every day when I go outside from about December through March. Sure, when the snow falls it's gorgeous. And late at night when I go outside with the dogs and it's snowing or it has just snowed, it's so perfectly silent and serene and white that I forget where I am for a second and I just stand there and relish the silence. Ahhhhhh.

Then I snap out of it, pull my eskimo-style coat around me, stomp the snow off my boots on the doormat and hurry back inside to the heat. For as much as I hate the humidity, the 90 degree weather in Florida, the sand in my eyes and my teeth, for as much as I hate finding seaweed in my bathing suit when I shower and as much as I want to throw things at seagulls, there is something I hate so much more that I would take a sandy, seaweedy bathing suit, sand in my eyes, a burnt scalp and a windy day at the beach where stupid people don't know to put their umbrellas down and they fly all over. And that is THE COLD.

It's 17 degrees right now and going down to 8. EIGHT. ONE DIGIT. Humans were not meant to live in SINGLE DIGITS. At least, not THIS human. I mean, you know it's cold when the hair in your nose freezes. And I won't even talk about how much fun it is as an adult to shovel the snow. Let's just stick to the COLD. In 1994, right around this time, PA had a major freeze. It was so bad that the Delaware River froze and the boats transporting fuel got stuck. I was staying with my parents because my apartment was freezing cold. It was so bad that their heater just couldn't crank high enough to keep the house warm. It was so bad that I slept in thermal underwear, two pairs of sweat pants, three pairs of socks, 2 t-shirts and a sweatshirt plus a hat and gloves on one of those nights. And my nose, which was not covered, was frozen when I woke up.

It is this time of year when I start dreaming of Florida. My husband, who hates the winters more than I do and would live in a hut on the beach if he could, calls his boss and says he wants a transfer. I start looking at real estate in Florida. I begin pleading with my parents to please move with us to the Sunshine State because I can't leave them here. They tell me I'm crazy, why would I want to leave Pennsylvania? And I say: BECAUSE IT'S FREAKIN' COLD!! FA FREDDO! FA FREDDO! Hello?? COLD!!!

As I am typing this I'm doing a search in the Palm Bay area of Florida for houses. Sure. I'd miss PA, but I'll bring pictures of the PA landscapes and look at them on my raft in the pool in February. I'd visit in the summer. Ma, I know you're reading this, and you're going to be responsible for me turning into a human popsicle. Remember my knees, the cold isn't good for my arthritis. It will be all your fault if my teeth chatter so hard they fall out. Is that what you want? A toothless gimp for a daughter? For now, I'll just pray I make it to March without hypothermia.

Where I could be right now:

Where I am:

To be fair, this is the view in the spring from my bedroom window: