Theresa goes viral…

I came across the most perfect Mother’s Day inspiration today. My AMAZING mom posted a pic of my nana (who passed about 6 years ago) on her Facebook page. Then my crazy family started commenting and posting snippets of Theresa-isms.

Anyone out there from a crazy Italian/American family with all the stereotypes? The made up “italian” words, the hugs, the yelling, the love, the EATING, the traditions?

Then you’ll relate.

Nana passed when she was 96. (I know…I’m in for a long life, her sister is still kicking at 100.) In all seriousness, I swear it’s from the lack of preservatives; everything was homemade, the wine consumption, her undying faith in God, and her ENORMOUS love of her family. I miss the crap out of her and I am so grateful that she was here with us for so many memories. My mom reminds me more and more of her everyday now that I have kids of my own. I can only hope to be half the woman, mom, and nana that each of these ladies were and are. imageimage

What ended up being posted today was a hilarious video that my cousin Janine and her husband shot during a road trip to Easter at my Aunts house. This was the very last Easter we had my nana around.

As hilarious as it is, there are many lessons to be learned here from a wise old Italian Nana.  I will list them here:

  1. She’s so humble when given a compliment.
  2. Family holidays are a very big deal. Do not take them for granted. Travel if needed to keep a tradition going.
  3. Wearing a rain hat will prevent frizz.
  4. Even if someone is filming you in a car, it’s important to say your prayers.
  5. She loved all of our significant others so very much and treated them like part of the family.
  6. When asked if we can do a holiday meal without the meatballs and braciole, the obvious answer is no. Traditions are meant to be kept.
  7. She’s listening and understands everything you are saying even if she doesn’t respond right away or at all.
  8. When you ask whats wrong and when she says “Nothin”, that means something. Watch out.
  9. If you piss her off, her silence is deadly.
  10. When all is said and done, Family is first, ALWAYS. Forgive and forget.
  11. Bonus: When you arrive at the destination, you arrive humble and kind and ready for a good time.

So without further adieu, I’m going to give you a gift. I hope you laugh your ass off and can see why we all loved her so very much.

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xo friends and Happy Mother’s Day!!

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Just another overbooked Thursday…

Last week: Husband: “what are we gonna do with the grapes? Theres a ton of them.”

Me: “Oh, I forgot about the grapevine in the back yard.” Really I’ve forgotten about the entire backyard all together since its summer we are either at the beach or at someone’s pool when we venture outdoors. Hanging out on our own land is reserved for the spring and fall because GOD forbid the basketball court and plenty of room to play is enough in the summer for the children of suburbia in the year 2015…but anyway,

So we have this grapevine. It’s not just any grapevine because of course EVERYTHING  has it’s story. This grapevine (or a tiny piece of it) was given to my husband and I on the day of my nana’s funeral about 5 1/2 years ago. My nana whom you’ve read quite a bit about here over the past year, lived in a small mining town in upstate PA and had this amazing grapevine her backyard that as kids, my cousins and I would play under and around. This grapevine was supposedly brought here from Italy in the early 20th century. Now, I have no idea whether or not I should believe that a partial grapevine took a boat ride lasting a few weeks only to be smuggled into the country pre-WWI but its sounds like a sweet story so, OK. That’s what happened according to Theresa G.

From year to year the grapes were harvested off of this modest backyard vine. Sometimes the cousins and I would be involved in harvesting these grapes each fall. When I say involved I mean playing and making a mess while my mom and her siblings and my nana would pick, clean, cook and jar the jelly.

For me, and most of my cousins, the grapevine was just a really cool part of Nana’s backyard. It was a place to take pictures on Easter Sunday and hide the eggs for the hunt, and a place to hide from the adults in the house.  Nevertheless, We got a piece to keep as a memory. Mainly because my husband has a major green thumb and a knack for landscaping. He also loves a challenge and likes to learn new things. I’m not always that motivated in the gardening department. But I like pretty things so we (he) learned how to take care of it.

And it grew like crazy over the past 5 years. This year we had the most grapes to date. Enough to make some stuff. So what did I do? I called my mom. And overbooked a Thursday. Anything to keep a tradition alive.

I’m super awesome at organizing and delegating but it often takes a village (or just my mom and some of her grandkids)  to pull off my ideas while I tend to 4 thousand other things.

My Nana used to make Grape jelly and grape juice and sometimes Uncle Frank and Aunt Mimi made some super concentrated vino. We’re not ready for that yet so my mom came armed with all the trimmings to make the jelly and some juice. image

Step 1 get some kids to help nana (my mom) pick the grapes because of course Hubs and I are working that day. Well, I had a little bit of time to help clean them during my morning coffee…

Nana getting all up in the vine on a Thursday morning...

Nana getting all up in the vine on a Thursday morning…

the girls putting the picked ones into a pot

the girls putting the picked ones into a pot

me, pretending to help

me, pretending to help

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picking the grapes off the stems

picking the grapes off the stems

So here’s where the real work begins and I leave the scene. Of course as part of the overbooked Thursday Eloise and I have Kindergarten orientation (during my work day as well as the grape production – if you’re keeping track that is 3 projects).

So we split the scene for a wardrobe change (of course there’s a wardrobe change; the outfits for grape picking and kindergarten orientation are WAAAYYY different), leaving nana with 2 grandkids and a husband who was on his way out in 10 minutes, to finish the picking and cleaning. So mom took some pics of the next few steps; the cooking and draining process. This takes about 4 hours so there was plenty of time for my dear sister-in-law to come over armed with a delicious lunch from Trader Joes and also towing with her, the last grandkid. Eloise and I, after a successful orientation came back to food and no work.

cooking the cleaned grapes

cooking the cleaned grapes

straining

straining

cooking again

cooking again

jellying....

jellying….

what makes it jellified...

what makes it jellified…

Now this is not a recipe post as that’s not really the point but if you’re looking for a slightly similar but a little simpler one, you can find it in this month’s issue of Martha Stewart Living. This one doesn’t require the sure gel step. For whatever reason, I don’t know the reason because I haven’t read it. My mom told me. 🙂

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So that was that. We revived the tradition a little half-assed this year. After my mom finished the project (MAJOR PROPS) and we were all jarred up and cleaned up, we then had to cook some dinner, get ready for soccer and also a party at my sister-in-law’s house. Oh, and finish the actual work day. It all came together though. And we had a fun night under the stars. Thanks Suz 😉

A few observations:

  1. I wouldn’t have been a part of this at all if I was still commuting and working crazy retail schedule.
  2. The jelly and grape juice came out great and now my mom should be ready to really teach us all next year.
  3. Sometimes traditions go away for a bit but there’s always room to bring the important ones back. And what do I like most about traditions? Making them a party!
  4. So next year will be the 1st annual grape harvest at my house. We will make it a party; which means wine and food will be involved. It will be planned way in advance so all parties involved can help, and will not include work, school etc. It will be a weekend day with no sports. I’m putting this in writing.

And Nana TT will be watching (and silently judging lovingly), from heaven.

xo friendsimage

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frozen blooms, thai peanut sauce and the ice storm of ’94,

Some winter traditions; because the roads still look like this:image

But at least we don’t live in Boston. A few states away is close enough.

So, The annual Philadelphia Flower Show. A winter tradition for more than a decade for many reasons.

First of all, flowers mean spring is coming. An enormous convention center wing full of the most beautiful and fresh flowers is sure to lift one’s winter blues, no? Yep. Second, it’s an uber inspirational outing if one is at all visually inclined, loves to decorate, loves to arrange flowers or landscape or just generally loves to see the art and beauty in nature. The showmanship is unreal. Some of these exhibits surely take a ton of money and months to complete.

Every year, the participants keep out doing each other in grandeur and style. I highly recommend. Also, there is the opportunity to spend a ridiculous amount of money that you don’t have on cut flowers, small plants and herbs and some super crafty things that you may not see anywhere else. (All this at a price, because like Disney…you’re already there, and you need it NOW). Here are a few snaps. Unfortunately, I only had my iPhone because of course my camera battery was dead and the charger has disappeared. It’s probably in the basement amongst the Barbie dream house decor being used as a vehicle of some sort, but I digress…

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This year’s theme was Disney movies…and you entered through a gorgeous “art deco theatre” made of flowers

of course there was a Frozen exhibit. I mean come on...

of course there was a Frozen exhibit. I mean come on…the steps are 1000’s of carnations. This pic doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. google it. 

these were chandeliers in the "nightmare before Christmas" display

chandeliers in the “nightmare before Christmas” display

tulips were everywhere..

tulips were everywhere..

chandeliers at the grand entrance

chandeliers at the grand entrance

luminous and over the top "weddng" table

luminous and over the top “wedding” feast table

in the peter pan exhibit, they recreated "never land" complete with a pond and peter's hat hiding in the bushes

in the peter pan exhibit, they recreated “never land” complete with a pond and peter and captain hook’s hats and hook hiding in the bushes

What I did with my “purchases”…

on the bottom left is a cool succulent patch that can lay anywhere from a tray to a wall and just needs to be spritzed

on the bottom left is a cool succulent patch that can lay anywhere from a tray to a wall and just needs to be spritzed

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when I arranged these they reminded me of my wedding bouquet back in december 2001

arranging these reminded me of my wedding bouquet back in december 2001

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"Eloise and Talulah" hobnobbing with the horticultural enthusiasts.

“Eloise and Tallulah” hobnobbing with the horticultural enthusiasts. They had to carry bags for all the brochures they collected.

Time to switch to another winter “tradition”. I like to call this Mrs’ V’s Peanut Pasta. So, back in college, specifically freshman year, my girlfriends and I would occasionally escape campus and travel to each other’s homes (which were relatively close by/ only an hour at the most). The moms would always have a meal and an empty washing machine for us to use. Mrs. V used to make this pasta dish that, to this day is one of my faves and possibly one of the simplest but most flavorful weeknight meals you can make for a family (without peanut allergy’s obviously). Follow along. It’s so simple you may miss something.

Ok, so Mrs. V used scallions and sometimes chicken but you can really throw any veggie in and even switch to shrimp as well.

you'll need: 1lb of pasta, olive oil, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 bottle of preferred thai peanut sauce, and veggies/chicken/shrimp etc..

you’ll need: 1lb of pasta, olive oil, 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 bottle of preferred Thai peanut sauce, and veggies/chicken/shrimp etc..ps, it’s March in the northeast, we still are on  frozen veggies. 

boil your pasta and micro steam your veggies a couple mins and get your onions sautéing in the oil.

boil your pasta, micro steam your veggies for a couple minutes, and get your onions sautéing in the oil.

add the veggies and garlic to the onions and oil and sautee some more

add the veggies and garlic to the onions and oil and saute some more, browning a little bit for sweetness

add the boiled and drained pasta

add the boiled and drained pasta and pour in the whole bottle of sauce. you can add some parsley and maybe ginger or spice of choice  (you get the picture)

eat. oh and remember to make this for your starving college age kids and their friends when they come home to do laundry during an ice storm. thanks Mrs V :)

EAT. oh and remember to make this for your starving college age kids and their friends when they come home to do laundry during an ice storm. thanks Mrs V 🙂

There you have it. March 3rd and it’s coming in like a lion. Still winter. Keep those traditions going, it’s what gets us through the “inside” months. It only gets warmer from here.

XO friends!!

rest in peace my sweet maggie. there will be plenty of warm sunshine in doggie heaven for you. xo

rest in peace my sweet Maggie. there will be plenty of warm sunshine in doggie heaven for you. We love you. 

a few days on the other side of crazy

Stay-cation. ha. For the working mom this can mean one of 2 things. Taking off when the kids are off from school in order to spend time with them, take some day trips, or whatever. This usually happens over the summer for me and towards the beginning of the school year. The second reason for a working mom stay-cation is to get some shit done around the house and maybe carve out a little de-stress time as well. This for me happens in January. Like right now. After the hurricane of the retail holiday season that spit me out and left me with dry cracked hands, bags (not the designer kind) under my eyes, and about 7 extra pounds from all that candy that exists as a meal during early morning and late night shifts. So “stay-cation” #2 it is.

Being a mom is the hardest job anyone will ever have whether stay at home or working. We should all just get over ourselves right now with all the back and forth about who has it harder or easier because the truth is that its hard all around.

I am the first to admit that I would have been terrible at staying at home with the 1-4 year old stage. I was pretty good with the infant stage and wish I could have stayed home for a whole year during both experiences. But 1-4 is a whole other ball game. I don’t think I would have survived. My patience level is not that high. I thank God everyday for the amazing childcare and preschool and also for the endless grandparent help during those years. The of you who stay home with these small hurricanes are a special breed. I know quite a few of you who are absolute rock stars at toddlerdom.  (Also, most of you are younger than me.)

I think I’d be ok at this next stage. With one at 4 and one at 9, I feel like if I was home I’d be able to be more involved with school stuff and that is something that I do miss out on. But I do my best to be there for everything and grill the hell out of them about their day at the “dinner table”. So I’m in pretend stay at home mode this week. Being my structured self, I have some goals of course.

What I intend to do for my home, my family and my sanity:

– sleep till 7am. (this is a 2 hour upgrade people)

– Laundry, clean out the fridge,clean the oven, clean the house for real (not just Clorox wipes and Febreez…not that there’s anything wrong with that).

– Pack up old toys (without the kids seeing), and old clothes etc.. Call Purple Heart and get that crap hauled out of here. Oh how I wish I had the patience to sell things online. I would make a killing. I can’t though. I need it gone. Like tomorrow.

– Run. Try and get back to 3 miles without stopping. Or stopping just twice. I consider that a win.

– get a facial and a pedicure. Things I used to take for granted at 29. Only now I rely on people giving me gift cards so I am forced to treat myself. Hopefully the aesthetician won’t judge me too much on my sun exposure and let me relax for a minute.

– let my 3rd grader take the bus home all week. This is a very big deal for him. No after school care. I get it.

– spend 2 days doing fun 4-year-old things with my 4-year-old. Too often her life is steered in whatever direction her 9-year-old brother is taking. All the sports and activities and driving around leave very little time for her to be…little.

– have lunch with my mom.

– cook. dinner.

* Now I know that this list contains things that I would probably not be doing frequently if I stayed at home full-time (facial, pedicure) but we all need to do things for ourselves once in a while that make us happy, relaxed and able to be better moms, wives etc.

I started this list already this weekend by running, taking my kids to see Big Hero 6 (we NEVER go to the movies it seems), and cooking dinner tonight. I thought I’d share what I consider to be an easy but satisfying for all parties dinner; one that I vary on ingredients each time but rely on the same method.

Pasta and veggies with “homemade” sauce…

you’ll need:

Any kind of pasta; Extra Virgin Olive Oil; 1/2 lb. chicken breast or tenders (optional); any or all of these veggies or use your own combo: Asparagus, grape tomatoes, one onion chopped, 2-3 cloves of garlic sliced or minced, medium sized artichoke hearts in olive oil (Wegmans antipasto bar is amazing for these); chicken broth; dry white wine (optional); 1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes; about 1/2 cup of your favorite tomato sauce and some parmesan and/or romano cheeseDSC_0023

It goes like this. There are really no measurements. and that’s ok. The whole thing should take about 20 minutes.

– Boil water for pasta/ add pasta/ cook, drain and set aside.

– Saute your chicken (cut into cubes and salt and peppered) in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Then add the onion and garlic. Sauté for another couple of minutes and add a glug of white wine. Let it cook off and smell the fragrance…mmmm

– pour yourself a glass of the wine. take a sip. DSC_0027

– Add the asparagus and tomatoes. I use about 2/3 cup of each.

– Let them simmer for a few minutes while the tomatoes burst a little. then add the chicken broth. let it simmer.

– Take another sip of wine.

– Add your artichoke hearts. I use about 10 of the medium ones and cut them in half. the add the fire roasted tomatoes (drain them a little before adding)DSC_0020

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– Finally add some of your favorite sauce (this is really just to thicken it up a bit) and a bunch of parm or romano cheese if desired.

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– Simmer, sip your wine and voila. fini.

– Sit down at the table with your family. eat. DSC_0036

I failed to mention that I took some of the chicken out early and set it aside for the kids. Their meal is buttered and cheesed noodles with a side of plain chicken. And applesauce. For those of you who have children that eat what you eat, Awesome for you. I have the kids who want everything plain. So, after years of miserable dinners I accommodate. This doesn’t mean I cook different dinners for everyone; It just means I accommodate by making it fit for them too. Everyone is happy. Until they start fighting about who kicked who and “do I have to eat my last piece of chicken?” and “can I have a snack???”

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So be it. Here’s to a stay-cation. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a standing date with Katy and Brittney (Perry and Spears respectively) on my Pandora while I attempt that 3 miles….

happy new year!image