Wednesday, December 31


Today my heart breaks. My aunt and godmother, Carole, died suddenly, a victim of apparent complications caused by Lyme disease. My aunt was only 68 years old and was a vivacious, vibrant, beautiful woman who loved to cook, travel and she loved her 11 grandchildren. She was a great source of support and comfort to me during a difficult time in my life and I loved talking to her and making her laugh, because she found me very entertaining. I liked that.

Today my beloved aunt gave up the fight. She died in her sleep this morning. It was unexpected, as just yesterday she seemed ok, that is, no worse than usual. If my heart is broken because my aunt is gone, it aches for my cousins and uncle as well- they have lost their mother, their children a grandmother, my uncle his love. My uncle once told me he had only a precious few years with my aunt, and it hardly seems fair that it took them so long to find each other, only to be separated so soon. Perhaps I feel saddest for my cousin John, whose baby daughter will never know her grandmother as we all knew her before she became sick.

I am conflicted as to why this wonderful woman was made to suffer for so long when other people who should have to suffer, do not. I try not to dwell on this as it will surely drive me insane if I do.

I am comforted by only two things- that my dear Mom Mom Santa was in heaven welcoming my aunt this morning, and that now freed from the broken body that imprisoned her, she is once again a vibrant, vivacious woman who will dance the Mummer's Strut on New Year's Day.

Rest in peace Aunt Carole. I love you.

Below is the link to the post I wrote on her 68th birthday.

Happy Birthday Aunt

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!

Wednesday, October 29

I Got the Fever

It's the second half of game 5 of the World Series, and the Phillies are up to bat. I gotta say, I got the fever- Phillies fever. I haven't had it since 1981, when they made the playoffs. (I don't want to talk about 1993.) In 1980-that's TWENTY-EIGHT years ago, I was a 7th grader who tried to stay awake for the last game against the Kansas City Royals and I fell asleep. When I heard the horns honking outside I woke up and turned on the tv and saw men jumping on each other. Two days later we were allowed to wear Philies gear over our uniforms at school and we had our own Phillies parade in the parking lot during school and I was Phillie-fied from head to toe. I even won the most spirited Phanatic award. I was so excited that my home team won- and I have been a baseball fan since 3rd grade, thanks to my grandfather, a former baseball player and Phanatic himself.

So this year I'm excited. Really excited. I have butterflies in my stomach. I told my students to wear red t-shirts tomorrow if the Phils win and we'd have a "celebration" on Friday, just to see a sea of Phillie phans in red. They feel sorry for me that it's been 28 years so they all agreed, even the Mets fans I teach feel bad for me. I actually think they just want to see me spray paint my hair red, as I promised.

Well Charlie, I'm ready. Thousands of us are ready. I wish I were there right now, it looks like an amazing time and I'd love to be a part of it. But I'll cheer from here, and I'll be hoarse tomorrow, but if they win, I'll consider it worth it.


Saturday, August 30

My Pal Al Becomes a Teenager Today

Thirteen years ago today I became a mother at the age of 26. It is hands down the single-most amazing day of my life, that day I gave birth to my daughter. Not even the recollection of 41 hours in labor and complications can taint the memory of the moment I held my baby girl for the first time and realized that astoundingly deep, special, love that other moms had told me about but that I had never experienced until then. There is no other love in the world like that of a mother and her child.

There are people who tell me to "cut the cord." I want to know why I have to? If my daughter likes to be around me but has a normal social life and friends, why should she not want to turn to me when she needs advice or help or just to snuggle? Why should she not want to be with me when she is somewhere where she does not feel comfortable? Why must a cord be cut at this crucial age when kids get involved with illicit substances, irresponsable peers, boyfriends who may pressure them to have sex and bring unexpected children in to the world only to dash the dreams of two youngsters with a future? Our society has become a bunch of cord-cutters way before the cord should be cut. Drop-outs, teen pregnancies, drug users, absentee parents, permissive parenting, emotionally unavailable parents... these are all good reasons for parents to keep that cord intact until the child indicates he or she is ready to cut loose. When I was a kid it was called "having a strong relationship with your parent."

So, today my baby girl becomes a teenager and I find it so hard to come to terms with. Wasn't it just the other day I carried her in the Snugli and danced with her to get her back to sleep at 3:00 AM? Wasn't it just yesterday when she was playing dress-up? Where are the years going? My beautiful little baby is now a beautiful little woman in whom I see many of my own traits- some good and some not so much and so many more that I only wish I possessed. She is artistic, creative and musically talented- playing drums, keyboard and singing soprano in the competitively selected choral group at school. She is sensitive, intuitive and feisty. She is athletic-- playing basketball, soccer and cheerleading all since she was seven years old. She is writing a book, she writes songs and poetry and she loves to learn. While at times her adolescent moods interfere with some (or all) of these activities, I know that they will pass. (They will pass, right?) For the past 3 years, my "little" girl (who is now 5'2") has been setting her alarm to wake up at 5:50 AM, the exact time she was born, in order to wake me up and thank me for giving her life. She then goes back to bed and I fall back to sleep thinking about what a sweet child I have and how lucky I am.

So to the teenager I call "My Pal Al" (after a favorite kids' book of ours) I say


I love you the whole wide world and the universe!

Thursday, August 14

The Olympic Gymnastics Routines Have Me

I don't usually watch the Olympics. I do enjoy the gymnastics competitions, especially for men because I am amazed that a man can contort and move his body and demostrate such strength in such a graceful way. So this year I have watched almost all of the gymnastics competitions and I have found myself staying up late with my daughter cheering for Jonathan Horton (her favorite)
and Alexander Artemev (my favorite).

When I coached cheerleading I was always in awe of the girls who could do standing tucks, back tucks, roundoff back handsprings and rted combinations. When I see the USA girls do this and more on the bars, the vaults, the beam, or their floor routines I watch, mesmerized, knowing that under no circumstances could my body ever be trained to imitate that. Watching Alicia Sacramone fall attempting her mount on the bar broke my heart, but not as much as it did when she fell later in the floor exercise. She was the one I was rooting for the most. Here she is at Olympic Trials doing a great job- no falls.

My favorite event this year is the pommel horse, and only because I saw Alexander "Sasha" Artemev turn his body into a machine atop that horse. In and out, side to side, up, then down and finally a complicated combination of twists and turns with his lower body in the air gave me the chills. His dismounts were excellent and he was proud of his bronze medal.

But remember when a bronze medal counted for something? These young men who earned the bronze medals for gymnastics were so visibly excited to have that medal, with one even saying he would tattoo the bronze on his back when he got home, are what the Olympics are about-- the pure love for your sport, the spirit of competition whether you win one or not- the most momentous occasion of one's life.

And then there is the grumpy Swede. Ara Abrahamian does not consider a bronze medal to be anything more than a failure in his quest for gold in Greco-Roman wrestling. So when he got his medal, he stormed off the stage and threw it away. Boo hoo. Only a bronze. I hope the next person was awarded it. If he didn't want the bronze medal, he should have performed to the standard of gold!
Here you can see this sore loser get his medal, high five the guy next to him, step down from the stage and throw his medal on the floor and leave. What a baby.

A final note, even before Bela Karolyi mentioned how young the Chinese women's team looked, as in, not the minimum age of 16, we sat here and noticed that some of those girls looked younger than my almost 13 year old daughter! There's a big secret newspaper article about it that was pulled and is not spoken about so the mystery will remain unless China fesses up.

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.

Monday, August 11

Is She Your Daughter?

Today I had to take my oldest daughter to the hospital for some bloodwork. Between registration and going in to have blood drawn, my daughters and I waited with the crowd to be called back again. Gabriela, my seven-year old, sat down at a play table and Allie and I opened books to read. I couldn't concentrate, however, because I felt like people were staring at me. And whispering. I knew exactly why. I looked to my right and there was a couple staring at me, then Gabriela, then Allie, and whispering. Again, I knew why. I didn't need to hear their conversation to know what they were saying. "The older one looks just like her but the other one must be from China." Gabriela was oblivious to the stares but I wasn't. After a few seconds I heard the dreaded words:
"Excuse me." I knew it was meant for me. I looked up, ready to answer.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Is she your daughter?"
Well duh, of course she is, didn't she hear her call me MOMMY a second ago?

"Is she Chinese?"
"No," I answered, not offering any other information.
"Where is she from?" the woman was not giving up. This was my chance. This time I had a smart-ass answer that my husband and I had always joked about using when people are rude enough to ask me how my family was formed.
"My uterus." I replied.
The woman looked startled, confused.
"You mean she isn't adopted?"
Now I'm mad. What nerve! Didn't I just say the word UTERUS? I am floored. Gabriela is not listening, she's playing happily.
"No, she is not."
"Oh. Well, no offense, but she looks Chinese."
"None taken. My mother is Chinese."
Now the woman has no idea what is going on.
"Really? You don't look Chinese."
Here was the coup de grace that I had dreamed of using.
"I know. My mom was adopted."
I got the girls together and walked to the other side of the waiting room and left the woman and her husband to ponder how my mother is Chinese but I'm not and how Gabriela looks Chinese but is not adopted.

This was not a young couple that perhaps was asking about Gabriela because they wanted to adopt. I've met parents like that and they know how to approach adoptive parents for the most part. I've also met other adoptive parents who will come up to me and say something like "She is so cute. Is she from _____." Parents of Chinese children know Gabriela is not Chinese. (She is Guatemalan, by the way.)

These people are rarely people interested in adopting. I am more than happy to help those people. These are tehe people that have asked me how much Gabriela "cost," why she was given up for adoption, couldn't we have children of our own, and asked if I met her "real" mother.

I used to take these opportunities to educate the rude and the curious about international adoption and adoption-sensitive language but I'm getting tired. I'm not ashamed of how Gabriela came to be my daughter, on the contrary, I am grateful and proud. I am an advocate of adoption. However, people need to think before they approach a stranger and just let things fly out of their mouths, especially when the child is right there.

Saturday, August 2

Happy Birthday Lauren!!

Today is my cousin Lauren's birthday. She is older than I but I will refrain from mentioning her age. She doesn't look it, regardless. Lauren is beautiful-- so beautiful that when she had her senior portraits taken in high school, the photographer asked to use her face as his advertisement photo. She is also one of the most caring individuals I know, using her common sense and her nurse's training to care for my aunt who is sick with Lyme's disease (See July 1st post). And that is on top of raising her 4 children.

About the time I started college, Lauren became more like an older sister to me-- something I always wanted as a kid since I was the older sister and had nobody to confide in or teach me about makeup and boys and girl stuff. She always had great advice, and while together we are quite the judgemental duo, she has never judged me for a decision I have made and vice versa. I guess you could say our support for each other is unconditional, like love.

Happy Birthday Lauren, and Many More!


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.

Sunday, July 27

Waiting for 50 Years For True Love

Who says you can never find your way back to your one true love?

Loni Anderson, who is 62 years old and has been married three times, most famously to Burt Reynolds who shocked her with divorce papers out of the blue, has been reunited with her first boyfriend and true love, Bob Flick. She met him when she was a teenage model and was hired to pose for pictures at one of his folk music concerts. They dated for seven months. Now, almost 50 years later, they got married, after Loni got back in touch with him and they had a long-distance relationship for a year.

How sweet is this story? It's even sweeter knowing what Loni went through with her divorce to Burt Reynolds, but rekindling a romance 50 years after it started and falling in love gives me goosebumps! She found her soulmate after all. "Never give up on true love," she was quoted as saying.

Good for Loni!

Friday, July 25

From the WHAT THE HELL? Department

When it comes to naming children, I'm pretty traditional. I'm big into maintaining one's ethnic heritage or choosing a name that won't get a kid beaten up at school. However, as this is a free country, I do respect the right to name your child whatever you want, even if it makes you look like a weed-smoking idiot.

That said, an article popped on my yahoo screen about a poor nine year-old child in New Zealand who was cursed with the name "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii." Yes, you read correctly. Talula Does the Hula... From Hawaii. I suppose it could have been worse, because other nutty New Zealanders have also tried to name their children Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, only to be blocked when they tried to register the names. "New Zealand law does not allow names that would cause offense to a reasonable person, that are 100 characters or more long, that include titles or military rank or that include punctuation marks or numerals."

I want to laugh at the thought of someone being named "Fish and Chips," really, I do, but it's too tragic. I mean, come on. Sex Fruit? How much crack does one have to be doing to want to burden their child with this name, which is not even a name? What is wrong with people?

Why stop at these names, though? I have some I think should be considered:

Female Pajama (Pronounced: Fe malay- Pee-jah-may)
Lemon Pledge
Ink Jet Printer
Nostril Hair
Go Eagles! (exclamation point must be included)
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Library Card

I thought Michael Jackson had lost it when I found out he calls his youngest child "Blanket," and Gwyenth Paltrow named her kid "Apple." That's nothing after reading this.

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.

Sunday, July 20

Can't Wait For This Book! "Drop Dead, Neighbor"

I'm a book dork. By that I mean that several times when I finished a book I really loved, I wrote to the author. I figure that if my book ever gets published (or finished) one day, I'd like to hear from someone who read it and was moved to either laugh or cry.

So a few years ago I wrote to Saralee Rosenberg. It was the first time I wrote to an author and I didn't expect to get a response, but I really loved her book "Claire Voyant," which I just happened to pick up at Wegman's supermarket. The cover caught my eye so yes, I judged a book by its cover. Bad book dork, bad! I laughed so hard in some parts that I remember having tears streaming down my face-- especially a part about spam emails. I also got misty-eyed at another part, but that was because it was so sad.

So, not only did Saralee respond, we exchanged a number of emails over the following weeks. In fact, I almost got her to come to the high school where I teach and give a presentation but I think it fell through on my school's end because she was definitely willing- in fact, it was her idea.

So, after reading "A Little Help from Above," which I also loved, and then "Fate and Ms. Fortune: A Novel," the trifecta sealed my place as a confirmed fan. When I found out two weeks ago that Saralee has a new novel coming out on 7/22, I cheered a little. 'Cause I'm a book dork, remember? It's called "Drop Dead, Neighbor," and here is the summary:

In Mindy's yoga-obsessed, thirty-is-the-new-wife neighborhood, every day is a battle between Dunkin' Donuts, her jaws-of-life jeans, and Beth Diamond, the self-absorbed sancti-mommy next door who looks sixteen from the back. So much for sharing the chores, the stores, and the occasional mischief to rival Wisteria Lane.

It's another day, another dilemma until Beth's marriage becomes fodder on Facebook. Suddenly the Ivy League blonde needs to be “friended,” and Mindy is the last mom standing. Together they take on hormones and hunger, family feuds and fidelity, and a harrowing journey that spills the truth about an unplanned pregnancy and a seventy-year-old miracle that altered their fates forever.

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead is a hilarious, stirring romp over fences and defenses that begs the question, what did you do to deserve living next door to a crazy woman? Sometimes it's worth finding out.

If you are looking for a great book to read, check out any one of these, if you like chick lit, you'll love them!

P.S. I am not being paid by Saralee Rosenberg to plug her books.

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

Tuesday, July 15

Someone Took My Sunshine Away

Pec and I had lunch with Julio yesterday. He was the only thing that kept us sane at work and this year he left to pursue his doctorate at Georgetown. Even though I tried to push the fact that he was gone out of my mind this year, spending a few hours with him yesterday reminded me of how crappy it is at work without him. All our silliness and goofiness, his advice, not to mention my total dependence on him as my personal Spanish reference manual was noticeably absent from my free periods. I'm happy for him, of course, but man, it sucks to be me without him!

Monday, July 14


...when you were young and you could sit and play in the sand all day and not care where it ended up?

Gabriela would sleep in the sand all night if we let her. Me, not so much.

Adios, Big Guy... Rest in Peace.

My sister just called me to tell me her gigantic dog, Zeus, died. He was a big, gentle, Great Pyrenees who I admit, always got in my way because he was immense, about 100 pounds. I always joke that he should have a saddle. But regardless, he was a nice, calm dog and my sister loved him to pieces-- he was a stray when she found him about 5 years ago. At 11:30 tonight the vet called her to go to say goodbye. Zeus gave her his paw to hold as the vet injected him to put him to sleep, her choice so that he didn't have to suffer what probably would only have been hours anyway. So needless to say she is distraught beyond words. And I know what she is going through and it feels terrible.

So we were on the phone talking and I got emotional thinking about my own dog, Zorro, who I got from the Humane Society in 2002, where he had been taken in as a stray. He was a pomeranian mix and had been very neglected, his teeth were broken and was a little mangy-looking, but hokey as it may sound, he connected with me during our visits. I remember how angry I got when they told me he hadn't been neutered--they estimated he was around 8 years old, which means some cheapskate never bothered to get him fixed in all the years he owned him. The day I went to pick him up one of the workers there thanked me for choosing him-- he was on death row and scheduled to be put down that week. He had been there so long and nobody wanted him. I felt special, like there was a reason I connected with that particular dog. Turned out that dog loved me- followed me everywhere and when I took a shower he waited for me on my bathmat. When I scrapbooked in the basement, he parked himself next to me on the lineolum floor. In fact, it was Holy Thursday when I went to buy him a piece of carpet to lay on so he wouldn't be on the cold floor in my scrapbooking area. When I came home he had gotten sick and had an accident. When I scolded him he just looked at me. I picked him up and he snuggled into my lap and I called my husband down and told him "Zorro is dying." I just knew. He took him to the hospital and I took my daughter to Holy Thursday Mass and when we got home, Zorro was gone forever.

So I know my sister's pain. I know crying for three hours, bawling into my pillow at how unfair it was that I only had him for 6 months. How unfair that I didn't get to say goodbye. I know the pain that feels like you are losing a human being- a family member. And lucky for me, everyone close to me at that time understood what that felt like, because almost everyone I know has a dog. And when I woke up the next morning, unable to open my eyes from all the crying I had done, and I realized that my Zorro was still gone, it hurt all over again.

People who don't have pets have no idea what it is like to consider a pet as a family member. You feel helpless when they are sick, you are nervous for them when they get their shots, you worry if they dash across the street if they will get hit by a car, and sometimes, you worry someone will want to steal them. You buy the best food to keep them healthy and supply them with toys and their choice of sleeping area, you brush them and dress them up in Eagles jerseys. (Ok, that may just be me.) But you love and care for them like a child, and you get back from them what you get from a friend. Their love is unconditional- they just need some food and water but they will love you if you forget. They love to be pet and stroked, but they will be there for you anyway if you don't pet them. They will alert you and protect you, comfort you and entertain you. They love it when you come home and are sad when you leave. So how can you not feel like a member of the family has died when your pet leaves this earth?

You can't.

So, may Zeus not have been in pain in his last hours.
May Zorro know that I loved him, even though I didn't get to say goodbye.
May they know each other in heaven and become friends.

We used to get Zorro. It searches the SPCA's and rescues to find you a dog. We also got our Zorro look-alike, Sammy, from a shelter- he was a Katrina rescue who still had no home 7 months after the hurricane had hit Mississippi. Please don't rule out the great pets you can get from rescues and SPCA's and give a dog another chance.

We have three dogs now- Sammy from Mississippi, Rico, who had been adopted after being abused, and Rosie, from a breeder. They drive me crazy with all of their noise but I love all of them.

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.

Tuesday, July 1

Happy Birthday, Aunt.

Today is my beautiful Aunt Carole's birthday. (She has always been just "Aunt.") She is also my godmother and a wonderful human being and I love her very much. She is my mom's younger sister and is still plenty young with many years ahead of her.

Unfortunately, because of an insect, the past 4 years have been a living hell for her. My aunt is suffering terribly from late stage Lyme disease- you cannot even imagine what this disease, if left untreated, can do to a person. It invades every part of your body and can make you a mere shadow of your former self, rendering you unable to walk and talk, gasping for breath, and you may not even know why. Such is the case with my aunt. She had no telltale bullseye mark after being bitten. She just started getting stroke-like symptoms which got progressively worse. She has finally, after four years, been diagnosed with Lyme, after first being MISdiagnosed with everything from ALS to Parkinson's to Multiple System Atrophy at hospitals including Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Mayo, in addition to local doctors. She can't even count how many doctors she has seen, many of them dismissing her with "It's Parkinson's, no cure," and some even laughing at her when she asked if it could be Lyme. She has taken multiple medications for diseases she doesn't have, filling her body with drugs that didn't do a thing, all while the Lyme burrowed its way further and further into her body.

After a doctor took a chance on my cousin's gut instinct and treated my aunt with medication to make the Lyme leave the tissue and enter the bloodstream where it could be detected, was she finally diagnosed. The relief we all felt was immense- one doctor had told her she had 3 years left to live, another had given her the diagnosis of MSA, an untreatable and incurable disease with less than a year to live. Now she has a light at the end of the tunnel.

But the recovery is not easy and the herxheimer reaction-- killing off the Lyme bacteria, causing them to release their toxins into the body-- makes her feel worse. That often makes her stop the treatment to get relief from the pain, and she backslides. I know it's hard, and I know the pain must be unimaginable. But she needs to stick with it and finish the treatment so she can get her life back. She has lived through problems in her life that seemed insurmountable before and she came out on top- she can do this, too. I know that with determination she will soon get out of that wheelchair and put on her stylish suits and walk and talk like before. We pray for her every night and fear that she is simply exhausted-- too exhausted to fight anymore, but we know she can do it. This disease has not only affected her and her children, but her 10 grandchildren have missed out on their once vibrant and energetic grandmother, too.

So, Happy Birthday to my Aunt, I wish her strength, perseverance and may next year's birthday find her shopping at Talbot's and celebrating her new life, free of pain and disease.

I love you.

Please help me to send words of encouragement to my aunt, who is unable to talk to me on the phone because Lyme left her unable to speak, by leaving your comments below. Even though she may not know you, knowing that people are praying and rooting for her may help her to stay with her treatment and get better.

For more info on Lyme disease please check out these sites.

Protect Yourself Against Ticks and Lyme
PDF Downloads about Lyme
NJ Lyme rates by county- If you live in Jersey, like my Aunt, watch out
Meant for doctors but very comprehensive information about Lyme
Lyme Diagnosis
What Lyme Can Do to Your Brain
Why Lyme diagnosis gets delayed
Lyme Vaccine Gets Pulled for Poor Sales
Daniel Wood's Story
Personal story- Roger Doyle
Shelly Pinter's Story

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.

I Got Your Home-Made Pasta Ovah He'

So, the family made the half-mile trek to Pec and Joe ovah deh's house last night for a little dinnah. A little dinnah? It was a freakin' gourmet spread ovah deh!

Joe Ovah Deh (that's his name, legally, now) cooks.

And if you missed previous posts, I mean COOKS. Pec says not only in the kitchen (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, if ya know what I'm sayin'.) He stood right there with his pasta dough and fed it through his pasta maker, making spaghetti. He had marinara cooking on the stove, had the mixture for the bruschetta ready, was about to prepare a baby leaf salad and of course, he had his very special meatballs already made. After finishing the pasta-making, Joe went and grilled the bread for the bruschetta appetizer, which was accompanied by Steph's favorite soprasatta and provolone (with a BITE!). Somehow, the gravy and the meatballs tasted almost exactly like my paternal grandmother's recipe, which was always very different from my mom and Nonna's gravy and meatballs- a little spicier, but always recognizable. I was temporarily transported back in time to when I was a teenager, eating at my grandmother Lena's house. (She died when I was 16 at the age of 69.) It was kind of weird.

For dessert Pec brought out CANOOLS. Madon! Just what I need! Unfortunately, since Joe Ova Deh did not make the canools, I did not try one. I heard they were very good, regardless.

So, Pec and Joe O.D., thanks for a super delicious dinner and some really hilarious conversation. Next one is Wal-Mart pasta and Ragú at Fanelli's! No need to bring agiduh, I'll supply it! ;)

Wednesday, June 25

Fresh Prince

Today my friend Julio and I (he's the one who abandoned me, throwing me to the wolves by leaving PA to pursue his doctorate at Georgetown. BIG WHOOP!) entertained ourselves by exchanging our favorite lines from The Fresh Prince. I still watch the re-runs because they make me laugh, still! We used to annoy people at work by reciting these and then laughing. Nobody else appreciated this discussion but man, did we crack up.

So here are some of the best lines from the show. If you are a fan I'm sure you remember.

Carlton: "For a long time it gave me nightmares, witnessing an injustice like that... It's a constant reminder of just how unfair this world can be... I can still hear them taunting him...”Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!"... I mean, WHY COULDN'T THEY JUST GIVE HIM SOME CEREAL?"

Will: "I'm stuck in a basement, sittin' on a tricycle, girl gettin' on my nerves; Goin' outta my mind, I thought she was fine, don't know if her body is hers."

Dr. Hoover--"Fine. Speaking as a doctor, I think your daughter should be heavily sedated and immediately institutionalized."
Uncle Phil--"Well speaking as a lawyer, I can only say that your daughter fits the criminal profile to a T, right down to the sloping forehead, and the wide jaws suitable for grains and small rodents! "
Dr. Hoover: "I think you have her confused with your momma!"

Janet: "I need more ice."
Carlton: "You need more ice, *what*? "
Janet: "I need more ice in my warm soda. "

[Uncle Phil just grounded Will and took away all of his privileges]
Will: "Why don't you just do me like Kunta Kinte and cut off my foot? "

Will looking in mirror: "Jean Claude Van Dam I'm fine!"

Carlton: "So, Dad, how do you feel?"
Phillip Banks, wearing a toupée: "I feel like Little Richard: Attorney at Law."
Geoffrey: "Dinner is served. A-Whop-Bop-Aloobop-A-Wop-Bam-Boom!"

Kayla: You're so ugly, your momma had to tie a pork chop around your neck just so the dog would play with you.
Will: You're so ugly, your momma had to feed you with a slingshot.

Tyriq: "He sold me a fake Rolex."
Jazz (to Will, referring to Tyriq): "He paid with a fake $20."
Will (To Tyriq): "Now, first of all. You should have known it was fake when you saw that the warranty was only for two hours."
Will (To Jazz): "And you should have known the Jackson on the $20 ain't Jermaine."

Saturday, June 21

My Idol

I just caught some of the Daytime Emmies. I don't watch soaps anymore and I rarely am able to watch daytime programming except in the summer, so the Daytime Emmies just happened to be there when I changed channels tonight, ergo, I don't care about them.

But I did catch Susan Lucci and she just popped up on my Yahoo welcome screen. Wow. I used to watch All My Children in college and until Barney took over my television 12 years ago, and I have always thought she is a gorgeous woman.

But now she is a SIXTY-TWO year old gorgeous woman. She is a tiny little thing, too. Obviously looking great is her bread and butter, but how many 62 year-old women look like THIS?

It's hard work to look that good at any age, let alone 62! Sure, some think she may have had work done, which I doubt because she doesn't have any telltale signs, but if she did, she had a great surgeon because she doesn't all pulled and fake. She actually looks better than she did when she started on All My Children in 1970.

When you think about all that women have to do to look decent- not even stars, just regular women, it's exhausting. Shaving, waxing, plucking, hair-dying, manicuring, pedicuring, dieting, teeth-whitening, zit-covering, applying make-up... Good Lord I'm exhausted just typing it! And none of that guarantees us to look anywhere near as good as Susan Lucci on a bad day at SIXTY-TWO YEARS OLD.

Susan Lucci, I don't care how long it took you to win an Emmy- you are my idol.

This post made under the influence of Ambien but I mean every word.

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, May 23

Scrapbook Room

Sorry to the scrappers I promised these photos to earlier. Here is the latest incarnation of my scrapbook room. I did post them on the beginner's scrapbook blog I have but I never linked to it. Ooops

I got the furniture you see here at D&D Furniture Outlet. The china cabinet was an orphaned piece which was $211, originally $1,200. It has touch lighting and a ton of storage. The pub table was only $97 because it has no leaf. Which is fine, because I have no space to open it up anyway. Under the pub table are Rubbermaid containers with office supplies and boxes of photos. On the back of the French doors are two shoe bags and next to that a pantry rack for storage. I also have a 6 foot computer armoire that holds less-frequently used supplies and machines but I don't have a photo of that because I haven't finished painting it yet. I used to have my computer in there in our first house where there was no space for an office, so it worked out great.

Next to the door I have four wire paper racks from a scrapbooking store and I have 6 more next to the pub table for 12x12 paper storage. My 8.5 x 11 paper is stored in the china cabinet in light blue bins. I organize by theme- holiday, stripes, dots, etc., as well as by manufacturer. I'd like to tell you it works for me, but it doesn't. I just have more paper than I will ever remember to use.

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, February 3

Best Superbowl Comercial

Is it because he's Italian? Or is it because he's from Philly? Or is it the whole underdog theme that is so appealing to me? I don't know but if it's Rocky, I love it. And if you put a beautiful horse in a commercial, play the fanfare to the Rocky theme and make him train, Rocky-style with a dog, I'm all over it.

Friday, January 25

I Love Sly, But...

(My favorite Stallone picture and the photo on my mousepad.)

When I was a senior in high school my school held a Father-Daughter Dance. I didn't want to go because I thought it was weird for a girl to dance with her dad all night. My dad is a great dancer but being a teenager, I didn't want to go. Because I love my dad, I didn't want to slight him, either. So, I asked him to go on a "date" instead. We agreed to go see Rambo, First Blood, Part 2. We are both Rocky and Rambo fans and the movie had just come out so we went to the movies instead and then got something to eat. We had a great time and whenever Rambo 2 comes on I think of my Father-Daughter Night.

It turns out that Rambo, First Blood, Part 2 was, in our opinion at least, the best of the three Rambos. I loved when Stallone pops out of the mud mountain and grabs that commie bastard. One of my favorite lines of all time is when Murdock pretends he's happy Rambo is alive and says "Rambo, this is Murdock, we're glad you're alive. ...we'll come to pick you up! " and Rambo's mouth barely moves as he says "Murdock... I'm coming to get...YOU." And Murdock starts sweating bullets. It's in my Top 10 movie list for sure.

So, when I found out the 4th Rambo sequel was in the works, having just seen my aging hero in Balboa, I wasn't very excited. I thought, what's this? "Rambo, Last Rites, Part 1?" I love Stallone, don't get me wrong, I have most of the Rocky movies memorized and after all, the guy's from Philly- our very own hometown superstar. But the idea of Stallone lumbering around the jungles of Burma just doesn't seem like a just ending for the series.
Sly was hot, HOT, in Rambo 2. That slow motion scene where he is running to escape the impending explosion? Hubba, Hubba!

Now the guy is 63 and looks great for his age, of course, but believable as a warrior? Not so much. So, I'm going to skip this Sly movie, and there aren't many I have skipped- yes, I even saw "Stop or My Mom Will Shoot," but I want to remember Rambo as he was- hot, ripped and raging. (No steroid pun intended.)

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: