Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I woke up this morning and thought to myself "Make room for the Magic today"

We plan and make out lists of things we have to do on a daily basis and sometimes longer. We leave no empty space, no line in our calender left blank. We fill in our time minute to minute. There is no room for serendipity, for magic, for happenstance.

Our lives are filled to the brim, overflowing, stuffed to the gills.

Today make room for the magic, take a few moments today for nothing, for space, for a breath, for a chance to look around you and take it all in.

I think that is why I love the early morning so. The day is just beginning and all is quiet. I can hear the birds singing, I can see the sun filtering through the trees, I can breath in the anticipation of a new day. It is quiet time, sacred time, before the whirlwind of things to do takes over.

I am trying everyday to make time during my day to take a moment to look around, to be present in what I am doing, hopefully nothing, even if just for a few minutes.

As I stepped out of the shower last night I realized I just spent those minutes with thoughts just whirling around my head like the spin cycle of a washing machine. I gave no thought to the water cascading over my head and down my back, I lost that chance to just relax into the feeling, the sensation. Just random thoughts, nonsensical phrases swirling around in my head, taking away the moment of magic.

We spend our lives and thoughts in the past or the future, came back to now. Leave space in your day for a daydream.

At the end of each day I am always surprised at how fast the time went by. I think "where did the day go?" Life is like that, we are so busy doing things that life can pass us by, time gone before we even realize it. Make your life precious, make time for the space of nothingness, the appreciation of the fresh air, the sounds all around you, breath in and take that breath with you down to your toes and make time for the magic today.

Today is a gift, a present for you. Notice it, enjoy it, take time just for you today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Allure of Pizza

A common food available on every street corner, pizza is a family friendly and favorite food.

Friday nights in any Italian neighborhood you can find pizza, tomato pie, white pie or several variations as a gathering point for families.

Growing up in West Philadelphia, on a Friday night, in a row home basement bakery, people would gather and wait for the steaming pies to come out of the ovens. They took home their pies wrapped in brown paper and tied with a length of twine. The aroma of that crusty dough rising and baking would fill the air. You always knew it was Friday by the scent of tomato and melted cheese.

Lately the allure of actually owning a wood fired pizza oven is very real. You can buy pizza stones, pizza peels, 000 flour to make the dough, just about any gadget to make that dream a reality.

This enormous interest in Pizza has sparked some very different and delicious toppings, anything from oven roasted vegetables to a drizzle of fig jam or a blessing of balsamic glaze, pizza comes in all flavors.

On a trip to Abruzzi, the ancestral home of my father, we went visiting cousins and paesano. We sat around tables laden with homemade pasta, freshly roasted chickens, porchette, redolent with the aromas of rosemary and garlic, but my favorite meal of all time remains the 10 different types of pizza made in a cellar pizza oven, eaten and enjoyed around a 15 foot farm table with homemade wines as centerpieces, instead of candles or flowers.

Luigi and Lorella live in a home built by their sons, surrounded by fields of grapevines and olive trees, tomato plants and the rolling vistas of the mountians of Abruzzi.

"Come for pizza"a simple dinner she said, 8 o'clock. We arrived hungry and with anticipation, Lorella is a fabulous cook using all the fresh ingredients surrounding her home.

Down the marble steps to the cellar, we gathered around the pizza oven as she, with the helping hand of Rina, her son's fiance' stretched out the dough, roasted the vegetables, broke up the pieces of cheese and tore the fresh basil into pieces. The sound of Beach Boys echoed through out the house, they wanted us to feel at home, American music playing just for us.

The toppings were unforgettable, whole gamberetti, still with their eyes staring at us, vegetables kissed by the heat of the oven, growing in the garden just that morning, cheese made from the sheep and cows that roamed their land, sausages and prosciutto cured that past winter, sliced thin and laid gently on the cooked pies.

We couldn't have dreamed for a more luscious and satisfying meal. Homemade wines, chilled, in colored bottles lined the long tables as pie after pie came out of that burning oven. It is a meal I will never forget.

I thought many times of recreating, as best I could that memory of pizza. I have to say I am daunted by pizza, the throwing of the dough, stretching it to a perfect circle, crisp not soggy, light yet flavorful. But as with anything I am reticent about I jump in with two feet, in this case two hands!
I was determined to make pizza!

Not having the resources of owning a pizza oven, I took my ideas to the grill. The best way for me to learn how to make a fabulous pie was to teach a cooking class, this way I would be forced to create, think and do.
I scoured cookbooks, talked to my son Dominick, his favorite food of all time to eat and to make is pizza, he and his wife Carrie, along with my parents, were with us at the wonderful feast prepared by Lorella.

"A Taste of Summer" my cooking class advertised. Farm fresh foods, light, colorful~ a perfect summer meal.
On the Sunday before class Clint and I stopped at the roadside farmers markets that line Jerseys` back roads. There I found inspiration and farm fresh produce.

Bright green string beans, long yellow wax beans, fat peppery radishes, thick cucumbers, a colorful array of peppers, a big round watermelon was tucked in my backseat, startlingly white button mushrooms, woodsy Shitake and Crimini mushrooms purchased earlier in the week at a local farmers market rounded out my ingredients, I had an assortment of savory cheese, Pecorino, fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, a smoked Gouda, grated Locatelli. I made a saute pan full of golden garlic cloves swimming in olive oil, I cooked down huge Vadalia onions, slowly in Amish sweet butter until all that remained was a paste so good you could eat it with a spoon. I chopped baby arugula, made a balsamic glaze with a touch of honey to temper the sharp vinegar taste, cooked some broccoli rabe with red pepper flakes keeping the bitterness intact, I sliced yellow plum tomatoes, chopped artichoke hearts swimming in olive oil, I was ready!

The trick to doing pizza on the grill is to BE READY, have everything at arms length ready to go. If you look away you will have a blackened crust in no time flat.

My cooking class included some flavorful and light salads, Watermelon with Feta and shredded Mint, Yellow and Green Bean Salad with thinly sliced radishes and chopped grape tomatoes, a Greek inspired Cucumber Salad with speckles of dill, Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers floating in extra virgin olive oil with shreds of Italian parsley, a Pasta Salad made with yellow and red tiny tomatoes that rested in a bath of olive oil, basil, coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper for most of the day producing a juicy dressing that coated the pasta with the bright flavors of summer. I made a marinated, Grilled Spicy Skewered Shrimp that was accompanied by a Cantaloupe and Honeydew Salsa.

I also made a variety of Panini, stuffed with imported Capicola, arugula and tomato, fresh baby spinach and ricotta cheese, oven roasted pork sprinkled with rosemary and garlic, sliced thin and served with bitter broccoli and sharp provolone cheese, a Ciabatta roll brushed with basil pesto and filled with oven roasted vegetables, white baby eggplant, peppers, mushrooms and charred thin asparagus.

The star of the show was the pizza, blistered and hot with an array of toppings, they came off the grill in minutes to a waiting crowd. Slipped onto a big wooden pasta board and sliced with a pizza wheel, everyone gathered around to oh and ah, sipping wine under the stars twinkling through my big backyard tree.

My night in Italy was recreated! The pizza was perfect, the crowd happy and as I stood by the grill cooking 15 pizza pies to the laughter and encouragement of all whom came to my class, I thought to myself  "Does it get better than this???"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Taking out the trash

Our neighborhood borough has just started picking up trash two days a week. I am thrilled~I love trash day. I get up extra early and go through my house like a mad women, tossing out anything in sight. I open my fridge and clean every nook and cranny, it is heaven to me to"Clean Up".

As I was dragging a trash bag around early this morning I thought to myself, why don't I use this analogy in my life too.

Throw away what doesn't work, get rid of bad thoughts like I take out the trash: uneasiness, fear, anger, stress, sadness, uncertainty, discord, put it all in a big bag and let it go.

If I clean the corners of my mind daily think of how good I will feel!

Holding on to the feelings and presence that bring uncomfortable feelings does our body no good at all.

Search your heart and soul, discard whatever doesn't feel good. The same with the people in your life who drain you, limit you, diminish your heart and soul, throw them out with the trash! Clean your life up. Take the junk drawer and empty it on the table, put back only emotions that serve you well, that increase your happiness, that allow you to grow in a good and positive way.

Our daily life mirrors our thoughts and feelings, get rid of what does not serve you, take out the trash and fell light as a feather, free as a bird!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dining under the Stars


With as much excitement as sitting in the front row of a Broadway musical, the anticipation for the "Hands On Cooking Class" started a few weeks back when I realized I would be able to offer delectable, delicious, full bodied wines which each course. Va La winery in Avondale provided 3 intoxicating wines to pair with the abundant foods we would be creating that evening.

~La Prima Donna, their premier White, An elegant name suited for this exceptional golden wine.
~Silk, This brick colored, dry Rosato type wine, served chilled goes down as smooth as the name implies.
~Cinderbox, a rustic, full body wine, decanted for a perfect robust yet soft taste.

Taking a few hours each morning I crafted the recipes and planned the dinner. It had a Italian flair, an accent from the hills of Italy. I love to cook food from The Motherland, as Clint calls it.

I woke up early to start the prep work for this exciting class. It would be a cool day with all the windows open and a steady breeze blowing through the kitchen.

Bamboo cutting boards, sharp knives, wooden paddles, stainless steel bowls crowded the work tables.
I set out the raw ingredients at each place, laying measuring spoons and cups alongside sea salt and extra virgin Olive oil.
The white wine La Prima Donna, a wine so crisp and flavorful it is hard to stop drinking, lay flat, cooling along side Silk, a lighter red wine, in the fridge, nestled among bowls of shrimp and platters of prosciutto and sharp cheese. I opened and decanted the rich Cinderbox Red, arranging the bottles soldier-like on the antique carpenters bench, laden with crostini and bruschetta to nibble as we cooked.

A stack of aprons neatly folded alongside dishtowel and printed recipes sit waiting for the class to arrive.

A cool evening filled with the promise of rich wines and sauteing garlic awaits us.

Recipes at the ready, my guests stream in excited to begin this culinary adventure. I take them for a tour of the kitchen, introduce the wines and foods we will prepare and the evening begins with excitement and anticipation.

We dice and slice and saute our way through laughter. There is a camaraderie here. We are cooking together, sharing this experience, I look around and feel truly happy, my home is filled with people who appreciate and love good food and wine. We are cooking together and having fun.

Each station holds husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, childhood friends, brothers and sisters, cooking together, laughing and sharing the one thing that always brings us together~food and wine.

We cook a Summer Crab and Corn Chowder, with corn sheared from the cob and succulent jumbo crab meat floating in a sea of coarsely chopped vegetables, ribbons of linguine coated in a Blush Vodka Sauce swimming with garlic laced shrimp, flattened Baby Potatoes sprinkle with a glitter of sea salt and browned in extra virgin olive oil, bright green String Beans tossed with golden strips of prosciutto and caramelized golden shallots, a refreshing Arugula Salad with shaved sharp cheese in a light vinaigrette, oven-roasted Shitake Mushrooms, so good I can eat them like candy, a tuna and Olive Tapenade, made with tuna packed in shimmering olive oil and juicy fat olives, a Herb Encrusted Pork Loin rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs, roasted to perfection, Zucchini Coins bathed in a light tomato sauce and crowned with a golden crust of locatelli cheese, glistening Roasted Yellow and Red Peppers blackened by fire and peeled and bathed in olive oil, topped with crusty Italian bread crumbs, Cipolline,the tiny onions swimming in a agrodolce syrup, Fettunta,with the sharp taste of arugula and Parmesan cheese, spread on toasted peasant bread, fried Italian long peppers with globes of whole garlic cooked in and gathering the hot smoky taste of the peppers, and finally the curtain call ~ a Raspberry Chantilly Mousse studded with fresh raspberries and laced with berry liqueur.

We cooked into the darkness of the evening, laughing, sharing, learning and sipping that wonderful wine.
We gathered around the 10 foot long table to eat and enjoy the fruits of our labor, friends together with a feast before us that we will likely never forget.

The magic of simple delicious foods and perfectly paired wines on a perfect starry night, a memory to keep and savor.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Take a moment

Days filled with appointments, chores, work, busy-ness, thoughts swirling around in our heads, emotions filling our hearts, perceived threat, assumptions of dread ... these are the things that make up most of our daily lives.

I am asking you to take a moment in your day

~to listen to the sounds outside your own head
~to breath deeply, down to your toes
~to notice how you really feel
~to pay attention to the sensations your body is feeling right now
~to really taste your food
~to use each of your senses, one at a time~fully
~to let assumption go with the wind, they are probably wrong anyway
~to let go of guilt and regret
~to live in this very minute
~to appreciate what you have
~to not want or need
~to forget about shoulds, coulds and woulds
~to let your shoulders go down and back
~to stand up straight, like you are carrying a basket on your head filled with eggs
~to notice where you are and why
~to smile
~to just listen to every single sound
~to offer a prayer of thanks
~to think of someone with love
~to know that you are where you are suppose to be
~to know that it will all be all right
~to love yourself as you are
~ to feel what is touching you, a pillow, a chair, your car seat, feel it
~to daydream

I can go on and on but today~

Take a moment just for you.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I look for it everywhere. In the books and articles I read, in the music I listen to, in my backyard, in other people's faces.
I want to be inspired to do better, to live a happy life, to make contributions to life in general.
I want to grow, I want to learn, I want to think of new ways to find peace and joy in my life.

Sometimes I feel stuck in a situation, not knowing which way to turn. Can I look at this differently? Can I learn from it?

I subscribe to online newsletters that sometimes spark a thought or idea in me. I have a collection of books that I love and go back to reread to give me encouragement.

Sometimes I think I am just sailing through life without a purpose and I want to make a change.

You can't get there if you don't know what you want. That is the big question isn't it? knowing what it is you want. Not just wandering aimlessly through life without direction, just going about your day with the to-do lists.

I want to create, I want to write, I want to inspire, I want to make a difference, but I also want peace in my life, I want calm, to be able to handle all situations with perspective.
How does that happen? day by day, minute by minute.

This weekend I found inspiration wandering through a local farmer's market with my mom.
I picked her up early Saturday morning, cloth shopping bags tucked under our arms as we wandered through the white tented tables laden with locally grown produce.

With money stuffed in my pockets I bought what caught my eye. Recipes and menu were not in my head, just the lure of beautiful, bright green shelled peas, brown woodsy mushrooms, a big loaf of Italian bread dusted with flour, a bundle of french tarragon, milky white Burrata cheese swimming in whey, sweet butter hand crafted by the Amish, tiny, beautiful bright yellow and red grape tomatoes, the scent of garden grown basil, sweet cherries, blushing blueberries. This tickled my senses, aroused my appetite, stirred my ambitious soul to cook.
With arms full of packages, we wandered back to the car, excited to be busy in the kitchen whipping up a meal fit for a king.

I came home ready to cook, to create whatever came to mind.

I laid out my purchases, wooden spoon and copper pots flying, I roasted peppers, made a blueberry cobbler, sauteed the mushrooms and peas with at touch of onion, garlic and sweet butter. I bathed the baby yellow and red tomatoes in olive oil and basil, toasted the airy bread and spread it with the creamy Burrata cheese. Oven roasted beets, sweet potatoes emerged on parchment lined baking sheets.

We had a feast to enjoy, inspiration found from a walk through the farmers market.

Look around you~inspiration is everywhere. In the whistle of the cool breeze, in the lyrics of a song, the pages of a book, a smile of the face of a stranger. Try something new, take a class, read a book, leaf through a magazine, talk to a neighbor. Take a deep breath and enjoy your day. It is a page in your life.
It is a gift just for you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My daughter is a BLOCKHEAD!

I'm not calling her a bad name, it is something she had blinged in SWAROVSKI CRYSTALS all over her tight black T Shirt when she went to see "The New Kids On the Block" this past weekend.

I can relate to this hysteria. I am, after all a child of the 60's and 70"s when the Beatles and Rolling Stones ruled the airwaves. I know what it's like to sit 6 inches from the TV set as the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan show!
I requested a Beatles album every year for Christmas, no Ipods then. I, too taped pictures of my fab four all over my room and sang along to "Help" "Do you wanna know a secret" "Love, Love me do"~I knew each and every word that passed their lips!

Tina is 32 years old and has been a NKOTB fan since she was 8 years old and I brought her to her first concert with a group of screaming friends. She is a Jordon Girl, loves Jordon Knight, as she says but loves the Wahlberg brothers too.
She has gone to countless concerts and screamed and sang her heart out.

There is something new now, it is called "MEET and GREET".
The ticket is substantially more but it includes a few very desirable perks.
A guaranteed seat in the first few rows, a goodie bag, a dinner and snack buffet with drinks (the fan base has grown older with the band) and most importantly a few minutes with the guys!

In groups of 10, with body guards hovering and big lens camera and video banned, she is ushered into a private curtained off room with the NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK just finger tips away. She gets to touch, kiss on the cheek (if she is lucky) take pictures with these very successful and well built men!
Their fans, once teenagers have grown with them, most in their 30's now.

Over the course of the last few years she has gone to several MEET and GREETS.

Tina is nothing but smart and she has her own "Bling" business. Her Twitter name is" I love Sparkle"
She custom designs T~shirt, tote bags, and a myriad of other items, hand placing each crystal to "BLING OUT" so that you can't help but look at the shiny in-your-face design.

She is like her mother in that she loves to do something nice for someone. So she made 2 different baseball caps for Donnie Wahlberg.
He is known for his love of "Bling" and his love of sports, she combined the two and WOW was she in for a surprise!
As she was ushered into the room she was handing the bodyguard the hats (a rule for anyone bringing presents) and Donnie saw what she had in her hand, he flew over to her side, grabbing her arm, asking if she made the hat, pulling her to the front of the group and loving those hats! showing everyone in the group what she made for him.
One ~a Phillies hat blinged with red and white SWAROVSKI CRYSTALS "I am wearing this tonight " he says! The other hat~ a Boston Red Sox hat"~ I am wearing this at the Fenway Park Concert" he says!
She felt she died and went to heaven! She told him she was nervous~"don't be nervous baby" and kissed her softly on the cheek!!! (she hasn't washed her face since).
During the concert she sat in the second row and sang her heart out, a teenager once again!

True to his word, in front of thousands of screaming fans, with her seated in the second row where he looked over at her during the concert. He comes out singing the encore with her Phillies hat on! Screaming fans as he shout "PHILADELPHIA!!!" and points to the hat!

This is the equivalent of getting a kiss from John, Paul, George or Ringo!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A collection

I bless this day.

This is what I say to myself when I open my eyes in the morning and as I lay my head on the pillow at night.

Life is a collection, of years, months, days, minutes, seconds. Each and every moment is part of your whole life.

I start each early morning expecting a wonderful day, no matter what, I know in my heart it will be OK. I give thanks for a new day, a new beginning, a fresh start. A new day to enjoy and learn and be kind and be at peace. These are the things I think of when I open my eyes.

What is important today? that I get everything done that I need to? ~ yes but that's not all, I want to enjoy the day, have fun, feel and be loved. I want to make a difference in the world, a small difference maybe even just a smile instead of a grumpy thought, a compliment to someone not expecting it, a phone to a friend, time outside each day~ no matter what the weather.

I want to enjoy each day and be grateful for what I have and what I do.
I want to notice my life. I want to pay attention to what I pay attention to, what is important to me? I want to take moments and just let the stress and tightness of the day melt from my body.

Try it~ wherever you are just~ stop... and start to relax each part of your body. Your shoulders go down, your jaw unclench, you back loosens up, you legs and feet feel heavy, you let all thought run out of your body, melt away. Try to do it a few times a day. Pause from the normal busy life and give your self a few minutes break. It is wonderful.

At the end of each day as I take my shower and get ready for bed, the thoughts of my day are running through my mind. I am thankful for each and every thing. I try to learn from my mistakes and I am grateful for all the people that came into my life.

I bless this day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Your Day

How will you make the most of your day?

It is your attitude that will lead you, determine how you feel, how you react. Will you be happy? stressed? will you go through your day wishing it to be over, waiting for the end of the day to come.
Do you wake up in the morning looking forward to each minute, each second of your life?

Take a conscious minute out of your morning routine to think about your day, not only your to-do list  but the fact that you have this day in your life to be kind, to make a difference in some one's life, to be grateful, to appreciate all you do have. A sunny morning, another day to get things right, to be yourself.

Each day is so precious. Sometimes you only realize this if something happens to another person, you realize how lucky you are, how fragile life is, how precious each and every second is.

Clint and I recently had some tragic news about a dear friend of ours. An accident, not expected, never anticipated, life can change in a second. This news is heavy in our hearts. It made me realize in a very raw and upsetting way that nothing is guaranteed, that life is promised to no one. It made me look at my life and be grateful for each and every day.

Life is a gift and one that we often take for granted. We go through our day crossing items off our "to-do list"not taking the time to really look around and appreciate each moment of life.

Don't dwell on yesterday's mistakes, learn from them and go on, don't look for tomorrow to bring happiness, it is at your doorstep today. Life is a present to be enjoyed and lived in the moment. Take time to be grateful and be kind.

Change your attitude and you will change your life, your day, minute by minute.