Monday, January 25, 2016

Things We Did During the Blizzard of 2016

As you may have heard, it snowed here in New York this weekend. Like, a lot. So starting Friday night, we stayed inside, waiting on the snow and figuring out what to do. Thankfully, it didn’t consist of anything particularly crazy (though that looks pretty awesome, let’s be real), or even, dare I say, particularly noble, unless you count cleaning up the same set of blocks 500 times in a 24-hour period to be particularly noble.

Anyway, here’s how we spent our snow days. Which, all in all, amounted to a pretty great weekend. We:

Made this sweet potato, kale and white bean korma. It was awesome and I cannot recommend it enough. I switched out the vegetable broth for beef cause that’s all we had and lessened the amount of curry, cause I wasn’t sure if Luca would like it. But he did and it was a hit all around. I made some brown rice on the side, too (which Luca really liked, the little carb addict).

 Watched My Italian Secret, a documentary about Italians who helped Jewish people hide or escape from the Nazis during World War II. The stories were so moving—in one, a doctor made up a disease he said was super contagious so he could admit the patients into the hospital and buy them some time to get papers in order so they could escape. We hadn’t heard about it and picked it randomly, and I’m so glad we did.

 Let Luca play, color and put stickers all over a box—while he was sitting inside it. This is the genius idea of my friend and coworker Julia, who did it with her son last winter. This is also what it means when they say that Amazon Prime pays for itself.

Did 800 loads of laundry. Because boring chores don’t stop, no matter how much snow is outside. Same goes for washing all the dishes.

Ate quinoa pancakes for breakfast on Saturday morning and French toast on Sunday morning. Any morning that we can get away with something that’s not yogurt or barely-toasted English muffins is a win in my book.

Watched The Martian—and now I can say that I’ve seen one best picture nominee. My brother-in-law really loved the book and the movie and knew that John would be super into it too. Really good.

Tried to make this spinach, feta and broccoli (we didn’t have asparagus) quiche. Can I tell you something? That step where it says you’re supposed to squeeze the water out? Do that step! Because we kind of skimmed it and it was super runny, especially since we used frozen vegetables. We kept putting it back in the oven, to the point where it was basically burning. (i.e. why I didn’t take a picture of it). So while it tasted pretty good, in the end, it wasn’t exactly the most ideal.

Took Luca out in the snow. It was his first time, since he was so little last year and he was decidedly…ambivalent. Maybe leaning more towards dislike? He kind of just stared at it, trying to walk in his snowsuit. Next time?  

 Stopped by my in-laws for lunch and to “help” with some shoveling. (We did no helping.)

Read lots of books with Luca. These days, he’s way into The Little Engine that Could, Where is Baby’s Belly Button? and Pat the Zoo. I actually managed to get in some reading while he was napping on Sunday afternoon too.

Overall, it was just such a nice couple days at home, getting to catch up on some things and not feeling rushed to do a million other things. We’re headed out on vacation in a couple days so, maybe another snowstorm when we get back?   

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Staying Connected: Making Venison Gnocchi

Being Italian has always been a huge part of my life. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I’ll gladly go on and on (and on) about what life has been like growing up Italian—culturally overall, and then also from having spent most summers in my teens and early 20s there.

From making espresso in my college apartment to dragging friends or, mostly, John, to see one Italian singer or another, I’ve tried to maintain that connection to Italy and to being Italian-American as much as I can. It’s there in lots of different ways: how Luca watches Italian nursery rhymes on YouTube, how we still have extended family dinners with my grandmothers that last entire afternoons, how John made grappa in our old garage and our wedding favors were mini bottles of limoncello.

Some of it’s old and some of it’s new and all of it is our very own mish mash of pride and culture and probably something in between. 

My dad made a great point recently that he’s seen so many people around my age wanting to maintain that connection—the making wine and the baking bread, the clothing trends and the books to read.

And I have to agree, at least where the people in my life are concerned. So I thought it would be fun to start a series focused on ways to stay connected to the culture--for Italians but also for non-Italians who are just plain interested. I don’t know exactly how it’ll go or where it’ll take me—maybe to my Nonnas’ kitchens or to my cousin Miriam’s house, where, as an Italian expat, there are always discussions about the differences between here and there. It may be the things we assume are “Italian” that actual Italians wouldn’t even recognize or the traditions that are worth keeping no matter how long they've been out of fashion.

So here’s where I thought I’d start. With pasta. (Am I being a total stereotype yet?)


A couple weeks before Christmas, my siblings, cousins and I have a tradition where we watch Love Actually. It’s been six years running now (ever since the year we got engaged) and it’s my favorite part of the holiday season hands down.

This year, we decided to take some ground venison that Kelly’s dad sent from upstate and pair it with homemade gnocchi. I think we were all a bit surprised at how easy it was, but in truth, I'm realizing that making things from scratch usually winds up being alot easier than I think it is. 

Since the venison was ground, Miriam made a simple bolognese sauce. (I texted her to send me a link, and she said she knows it from memory, so...I'll get it on here eventually.) 

Here, the gnocchi recipe and some photos. 

Gnocchi di Patate
(serves 4)

2 pounds red potatoes 
2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 handful of parmiggiano cheese
salt as needed
pinch of nutmeg

1. Wash the potatoes with the skin and put them in a pot and cover them with cold water. Cover the pot and let them cook for 30- 40 minutes from when the water starts boiling. (To make sure the potatoes are ready, poke them with a fork and lift. If they slide off easily it means they are cooked.)

2. Peel them while they are still warm and mash them with a potato ricer into a large bowl. Then, add the flour, the egg, the salt, the nutmeg and the parmiggiano cheese and mix everything together. 

3. Sprinkle some flour on to a large, flat surface and work the dough for a couple of minutes. Do not overwork the dough. It needs to be compact but soft. Sprinkle some flour on the dough. 

4. With a knife, cut the dough in a few large pieces and roll each piece into a long strip. From the strip of dough, cut small pieces, about the width of your finger. That's your gnocco! Continue cutting each strip of dough, until all the dough is cut into pieces. 

5. Once your dough is cut, roll each gnocco on either a floured gnocchi board or the prongs of a fork, making a light movement from top to bottom. This will make ridges on the gnocchi, which help the sauce to stick. Continue with all the gnocchi. 

5. Bring a large pot of water to boil and place the gnocchi in. As soon as they float, remove them and put them in to a bowl. Immediately add your sauce. Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked. Be sure not to cook too many gnocchi at the same time, since they might stick together. Plate them and…BUON APPETITO!

The recipe is adapted from Giallo Zafferano and was translated and rewritten by Miriam.

Crushing the cooked potatoes

Making the dough

Making the gnocchi--if you don't have a gnocchi board, the prongs of a fork work too! 

Concentrating on getting them right

The finished product! So so good. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Books I Want to Read in 2016

new books to read in 2016
Back when I had a long commute, I used to read so much. Like, so, so much—it was definitely one of the few benefits of being on the train for 30-40 minutes and at the station for sometimes longer. (That and being able to catch up on sleep, find almost any magazine you could think of, and always having a last minute place to buy someone a bottle of wine/cupcakes/gift you forgot.)

At the time, I had a list going of books I wanted to read next and as soon as someone recommended something that sounded even remotely interesting I’d add it to the list. Nowadays I can’t really make it through a book a week anymore, but it doesn’t mean I’m still not keeping track of what I do want to get through.

Here’s what I’m looking at for the start of 2016:

All the Light WeCannot See by Anthony Doerr
I’m about a quarter of the way through this one now and liking it. Although reading this at the same time as we listen to Serial is not the best for avoiding any dreams involving war.

I’m way embarrassed to say that I haven’t read this one yet. But I got this book and Room from my brother and Kelly, so I’m finally gonna cross it off. Another one I got for Christmas: I am Malala, which I’m super looking forward to read too. Obviously my family knows me pretty well.  

My Antonia by Willa Cather
Did you have to read this in high school? We did and after randomly watching a documentary about the drought in Nebraska a few weeks ago, I wanted to try this one again, especially since I don’t remember that much from the first time around.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
I’ve heard so many good things about this series. Plus, I’ll take an author writing about friendship in Italy any day.

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani
Speaking of Italy, Adriana Trigiani is one of my favorite Italian-American writers—can anyone recommend any others?—and I can’t wait to read her new one. She writes about Italian-Americans as I knew them growing up and not the mafia-guido-stereotypes that are plastered everywhere else. (If you haven’t read any of them yet, Lucia, Lucia is my favorite, followed by Very Valentine)

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 
A book about a bookstore? Yes, please.

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior 
I’ve read exactly one parenting book since having a baby—Bringing up Bebe, which I actually really liked—but there’s something about this one that intrigues me too.

Slouching TowardsBethlehem by Joan Didion 
This book was actually on my list from the old commuting days that I never actually got around to reading.

I’m thinking I’ll start with these and then halfway through the year see how it’s going and pick a few new ones to add to the list.

Some of my favorites from last year    

Anyone have any other recommendations? What do you want to read this year?

photo credit: Books via photopin (license)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Taking Stock

The holidays are over and so far this week I’ve gone to the gym twice, made spaghetti squash for dinner and this is my second—read it, second!—post of the week. I think I’m doing well with those good ole resolutions, no?

Anyway, I already took stock of the old year, so here’s a look at the right now:

Cooking: This Mediterranean chicken. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either, honestly. I left out the artichokes, since I didn’t have them, so maybe that would have made a difference?

Drinking: Peppermint tea. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean everything has to go with it.

Reading: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Making: Actual use of my planner. It’s only a week, so I’m pretty sure I’m getting ahead of myself on this one, but it’s better than the usual 3 days I stick it out every other year.

Wanting: A nap

Looking: Up flights to Nashville and New Orleans. We have no plans to go to either of these places as of right now, but you know, why not.

Deciding: To start an Instagram account for this site. Follow here!

Wondering: What it’s going to be like to fly with a 15-month old. Last time Luca was on an airplane he was 5 months old and basically slept and ate the entire time. We’re headed to St. Thomas in a few weeks and I’m pretty sure this time is going to be a totally different story.

Questioning: Everything, as usual.

Wishing: Someone would come over and take down and then individually wrap all these Christmas ornaments so I don’t have to   

Enjoying: Learning to use my new camera. Here's to taking lots more non-iphone pics in 2016. 

Considering: New tiles for this bathroom renovation

Watching: Parks and Rec. We’re on season 3 right now and I know I’m way way way late to the party on this one, but man it’s so good.

Hoping: That my best friend has the easiest delivery ever—baby Kiki is due in just a couple weeks!

Smelling: Clean laundry

Wearing: The exact same thing I was wearing last month

Knowing: That even baby steps matter

Thinking: About what one wears to a Knicks game. Sneakers? Boots? A t-shirt? Is it weird that I’m even thinking about it?

Admiring: People who give off positive vibes. Those people that you’re just drawn to, and you’re not really sure why. Those are the best kinds of people.

Loving: How much Luca is understanding these days. Do you want milk? Can you bring me your Peppa Pig book? Where’s your sippy cup? He totally understands all of it and seriously, this whole kid thing just keeps getting better and better.

Getting: (Got?) My hair cut, finally. Growing out a pixie cut is NO JOKE. It’s the worst, actually, but this new cut makes me feel like a person again.

Sorting: Through photos, in hopes that it’ll inspire me to actually make a photo book. Yea right.

Snacking: On pistachios. Look how many you can have!

Bookmarking: This article on why moms feel they need to be perfect. While I haven’t had to deal with the homemade costume pressure per say, so much of it rings true in terms of what we feel we “should” be doing versus what we actually want to do. 

Feeling: Like I can do this.

[photo via unsplash

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Some Thoughts on the New Year

In the past five days, I’ve read approximately 1 million posts on “2016 Goals” and articles about “How to Keep Your 2016 Goals.” I don’t have anything groundbreaking to add to the mix, except to say that I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I unabashedly love thinking of the old year as the new one hits and I do like coming up with things that—whether you want to call them goals or resolutions or intentions—I want to focus on, or at least keep in mind, for the coming year.

So here goes that.

2015 was a year of transition. Transition into motherhood, mostly, and with that came a steep learning curve.

I think when I first imagined having a baby, I thought mostly of the baby part. The coming home, the no sleeping, the rocking, the singing, the feeding, the changing. But I didn’t think much of the ‘me as a parent’ part. Sure, I figured my priorities would be different, that my body would probably look different. But I didn’t realize that I just wouldn’t feel like myself—that it would take months to feel like me again. And maybe that’s the part that people forget, or the part that they don’t tell you, or maybe it’s just the part that you don’t realize until you’re knee-deep in it.

But either way, the beginning of the year felt like that. It was all quiet and slow—words that don’t exactly describe newborn life in any way, but in which I just mean that I was taking it slower, I was being quieter. I was home and when I wasn’t working, I was home, home, home. And that was all I wanted. I never understood the phrase “hole up somewhere” until February of last year.

By the spring, and my brother’s wedding, I did start to feel like myself again. And when summer rolled around, this new life felt like it fit in the best way possible. We lived deliberately over the summer, going on walks in the late afternoon and after dinner and on Sunday mornings. Taking days off to go to the zoo and spending a week at the beach.

In the fall, things got faster, with my sister-in-law’s wedding and lots of family in town, Luca’s birthday and then everything that comes with December. The everyday things felt more doable and I started feeling more sure of myself again. I understood more of the things that I needed and I didn’t feel so guilty needing them.  

In 2015, I listened to so many stories of how people chose what they chose, ended up where they did. I loved every single one. The longevity of things didn’t get lost on me—the learning curve that everyone goes through. And I started to see things as a whole, ever so slightly. These were all good things.

So where does that leave me for 2016? I think, mostly, less afraid of the learning curve. Less afraid to see things as a whole. Less afraid to look at how things are and figure out how I want them to be.

Some of the other things I want to do this year:
  • Write more. So much more.
  • Run three 5K’s, with John
  • Stick to a regular workout schedule
  • Go to the beach as much as possible
  • Travel to the west coast
  • Renovate the bathroom
  • Take more (and better) photos
  • Put all those photos in albums/photo books
  • Give myself, and those around me, the grace to be the people we need to be