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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Everything’s different, but the same…and Meatballs for breakfast on Easter Sunday.

Yesterday was Easter pie day.

Easter has always been a big deal in my family. It was always that one holiday that out “chaos-ed” every other holiday. Where family traveled from near and far to stay in my nana’s small 100-year-old house in an old italian mining town in upstate Pennsylvania to celebrate, cook, eat, visit older relatives, visit the dead ones too…at the cemetery (yes this was an activity), eat some more, and leave on Easter Sunday afternoon exhausted and with a dose of heartburn.

As the oldest grandchild I spent 34 Easters there. The ones spent with my cousins were the most memorable. We would spend our days running around to the playground, corner store and at elderly aunt’s houses, and spend the nights staying up too late and carving our names into the attic ceiling. As we grew up the only thing that really changed was the alcohol intake and some fierce games of scrabble.

After having meatballs and easter pies for breakfast, Church was the big outing on Sunday. Sometimes I even went on Saturday night to hear my nana and her sisters sing at the vigil mass. I could always pick out her harmonies in that choir loft…She lived till 97 years old and even in the end, legally blind and a failing heart, she managed to get the pies done and thank goodness she passed it down to her kids..because near and far all four of them still do the pies, and the meatballs and still makes a big deal out of Easter, no matter who is there for the gathering.

My mom, aunt and I gathered at my sister-in-law’s house yesterday to get the pies done. Since I’m still a one-armed wonder and get scolded by a family member or medical professional every time I do something other than sit and take pictures, I did just that. (iPhone pics only since I only have the use of one arm, so I apologize for the pic quality..) I documented our old but new tradition, with some of nana’s great grandkids on hand to join in the fun and add to the chaos.

A pictorial follows and no you don’t get the recipes. All Italians have their own secret ingredients when it comes to these things and far be it from me to give them away. ps I don’t even have them yet.

dairy for days

dairy for days

"Eloise and Talulah" adding the meat to the mixture

“Eloise and Talulah” adding the meat to the mixture

beginnings of the meat pie

homemade dough for the crust

homemade dough for the crust

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making them full

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art form

the perfect ham and sausage Easter pies

the perfect ham and sausage Easter pies

Of course there’s more than one type of pie. duh. “We” also made spinach bread and rice pie (with the raisons) too…mmmmmm

Of course there was time for a toast using some of nana’s vintage glasses. chin chin! image

and there was plenty of dough left for the girls to make some apple turnovers! I was never this focused at 4.imageimageimage

dying eggs and some crafts were next. a tradition that carries on from the late 70’s with us grandkids…some years were more successful than others and some (like in the late 90’s) were accompanied by a lot of vino, making for some crazy eggs. but here’s a peak at this generation’s:image

These days we spend Easter Sunday at my aunt’s house with a lot of the same family members as well as some new ones and a lot more little ones. Yes, It’s different but the same. The same energy level, the same menu, the same jokes, the same chaos. It’s a nice beginning to the next generation’s childhood memories.

I wrote this email to my cousins about a year after nana passed to say happy Easter and that I always think of them on that day. It never fails that in some way, whether by phone, text, or in person we all connect still every easter.

“Happy Easter cousins! It’s obviously not the same as it used to be…I was thinking of taking the kids to the mall after baseball practice tomorrow to see the Easter bunny but we don’t have a Boscovs who’s first floor is full of strong smelling hyacinth and lots of old lady’s searching for the perfect Easter tablecloth..so it won’t feel the same.

I would watch Saturday night live tomorrow night but it’s not as fun if it’s not huddled in sleeping bags and afghans on a 70-year-old carpet.

I will try to fry up some garlic and peppers so my house can come close to smelling like nana’s and maybe we can pick up some pony beers just for old times sake.

I will look at the picture that Janine sketched for all of us of nana’s kitchen many times this weekend to conjure up the memories….”

Happy Easter friends! xo

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