Thursday, December 31, 2009

Buon anno

I always feel a special connection to the New Year's holiday, because my grandmother's maiden name was Terese Capadanno, which translates to head of the year. I till miss my Nonna so much, and during this holiday season of baking, I thought of her often as I made her biscotti and pizzelli.

Buon Anno a tutti!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Buon natale

And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Honor Christmas

I've been unpacking the (yikes. ten.) boxes of Christmas decorations since the week after Thanksgiving, but it's just not Christmas until I find this little sign. Every year, I'm tempted to keep it out, but I'm afraid that I'd get used to it, and not see it with fresh eyes the way you do when you bring something special out. And this is my special Christmas thing.

Of course, I have others. And I have new treasures. Like Santa Chef. You've seen him before, but here, again, ta dah...

A Santa that cooks.

Santa, will you marry me?

And then there's Mr. and Mrs. Santa, my Santa Vincenzo finds:

And, this year, finally, I instituted the kitchen tree I've been thinking about for so many years.

In last year's after Christmas markdowns at Williams Sonoma in Mashpee Commons, I found a fantastic set of kitchen ornaments, with an Italian coffee maker, a Cuisinart toaster, and a copper bundt pan. I added the fantastic Santa Claus rolling pin ornaments my cousin Beth made. And this week, I was poking around KMart after work, and I found the wonderful cooking utensils from Martha Stewart. I needed something else, something, something....then I remembered!


The tea kettle my cousin Jan sent me years ago. I keep it in my china cupboard all year long because it reminds me of Jan whenever I see it. I opened the door, grabbed the kettle, added a ribbon link et voila!

Love my tree. Love Christmas! Love you all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Oh pioneers!

Okay, click here and read this wonderful recipe. It's for rosemary rolls in an iron skillet using frozen rolls. I love rosemary (it's like eating pine needles), and with our warm fall on Cape Cod this year, the big rosemary plant I dragged into the breezeway is still hanging on. I don't know the Pioneer Woman (yet), but her web site has loads of great recipes, and she's in the midst of a book tour for her new book "Pioneer Woman Cooks." Can't wait to read it!

What wins my heart, though, is the point in the rolls recipe where she says, "I'm not stopping there. I never stop there. Stopping there is my least favorite thing to do in life..." Words to live by, Pioneer Woman -- even here on Cape Cod!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dew, I love you? Dew I; Oh, my. Dewey, deed I do!

I'm at my happiest in a library, and one of the best parts of living on Cape Cod is our access to the outstanding CLAMS system, which links libraries all over the Cape. So thanks to the Writer's Almanac for the notice that today is the birthdate of Melvil Dewey, the man who developed the Dewey Decimal System -- where would bibliophiles be without him?  Happy Birthday to the man who said, "My heart is open to anything that's either decimal or about libraries."

The dear little Cotuit Library.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's snowing! It's snowing!

Yes, finally. It's snowing on Cape Cod, and burying all the roses that have kept blooming right through December. Snow!

I love the snow song in "White Christmas," don't you? Listen to it here:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Standing firm against the Christmas Tide

Unless we make Christmas 
an occasion to share our blessings, 
all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'." 
-- Bing Crosby

I hope the fact that I'm standing firm that doesn't make me sound Scroogey. Far from it -- this year, I'm very excited about Christmas. And I can't wait to put up Mr. and Mrs. Saint Nicholas, not to mention Chef Santa. That's him below -- at $5.00, he was another Tresori Tuesday candidate -- and his red, white and black apparel fits in perfectly with my  red and black kitchen.

So, despite the fact that I'm looking forward to Christmas, I want to take this Thanksgiving weekend, and let it be Thanksgiving. It seems that everyone who has decorations up at this time of year gets tired of them before New Year arrives, and I just want to treasure the thankful time for what it is. My goal is to take down all the fall decorations by Sunday, and then I'll get my loot of Yuletime treasures out in the weeks to come.

I also want to say that I've decided that fall decorations are probably the best seasonal decorating investment. I had mine up in early September (primarily because I was so sick of the muggy August weather), and, with a little subsidiary dip into and then out of Halloween-themed items, I've had pumpkins and leaves and acorns and turkeys out through this week. That's almost three full months of autumnal accessories! My favorite acquisitions this year were the half price white pumpkin on my dining table, which I snatched in the after-Halloween sale, and the fabulous and very realistic fall garlands that I found everywhere from A.C. Moore to Christmas Tree Shops. I've got three new Rubbermaid containers to pack everything up, so I'll post this as a dare to myself. Let's see what happens by Sunday night! Because, after all:
It is Christmas in the heart 
that puts Christmas in the air."
~ W. T. Ellis

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In our gratitude


Though he was ill and in pain,
in disobedience to the instruction he
would have received if he had asked,
the old man got up from his bed,
dressed, and went to the barn.
The bare branches of winter had emerged
through the last leaf-colors of fall,
the loveliest of all, browns and yellows
delicate and nameless in the gray light
and the sifting rain. He put feed
in the troughs for eighteen ewe lambs,
sent the dog for them, and she
brought them. They came eager
to their feed, and he who felt
their hunger was by their feeding
eased. From no place in the time
of present places, within no boundary
nameable in human thought,
they had gathered once again,
the shepherd, his sheep, and his dog
with all the known and the unknown
round about to the heavens' limit.
Was this his stubbornness or bravado?
No. Only an ordinary act
of profoundest intimacy in a day
that might have been better. Still
the world persisted in its beauty,
he in his gratitude, and for this
he had most earnestly prayed.

"XI." by Wendell Berry, from Leavings

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tresori Tuesday (Tuesday treasures)

So, my sister, Susan hates me. She says I find the best bargains.

Hee. I do. We all love the St. Vincent de Paul resale shop, where both our parents have volunteered for some years,  where Mom gathers up wonderful finds for all of. And whenever someone comments on my Talbot's ensemble or a great jacket we found there, I tell them it came from "Santa Vincenzo de Paolo."

But I haunt St. Vinny's myself whenever possible, and, believe me, the bargains there are amazing (Talbots skirts -- with the tags still on!).  I also check in at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic church's shop near where I work and an occasional "rogue" resale shops. And if I see a estate sale on my way to work on Friday mornings, oh, what a lovely start to the weekend.

So, I'm inaugurating Tresori Tuesday. At first, I thought I'd post on Sundays, after yard sales on Saturday, and call it "Show Off Sunday," but, geez, Susan's already mad enough (and I also missed Sunday and want to post this...). So, I'll start with my favorite finds from the last few months.

Ecco i miei tesori! (Here are my treasures!)

I found this 18-inch tall ceramic St. Nicholas at the St. Vincent's Christmas sale on Saturday. When I reached the cashier, she told me she thought he had a matching figure in the linen room. I rushed back, and sure enough, there was. And it was Mrs. Claus!  Not many people know this, but I love Mrs. Claus; I want to be her someday! I have a special affinity to her, because Mrs. Claus is fun and loving, but she doesn't have children either, but she's still jolly and nice and motherly. I hope I have some of that in me, too...
So I was thrilled to find this loving couple!

(Okay, just to digress over the Mrs. Claus not having any little Clauses, that's my guess, because you never hear anyone talking about Santa Junior inheriting the business, or Susie Claus running off with one of the elves, right?)

Mr. Santa was $5.00, because his lantern lights up. See?

And here's Mrs. Claus. She was a bargain at only $4.00. Can you stand it?

Aren't they the sweetest couple? I love how she's a bit shorter, and how he's lighting the way to the mailbox.

And, just one more bargain. I know, this is really starting to sound show-offy, but please bear with me. Here's what I found in the St. Vincent's "boutique," the area behind the garage with the slightly pricier "junque" -- all well worth it, as you'll see.

Ready? Look!

These are little pewter club chairs.And that's not a fountain behind them, it's the candle on my coffee table. Aren't they fabulous? I found them on-line for $39.00 at Pottery Barn...but I got them at Santa Vincenzo's for a mere $10.00! Here's another shot with my specs and postage stamp container  in front so you can see how little they are.

 I'm thinking they need a little throw pillow or maybe a miniature afghan to cozy them up. I love these guys -- but I can't believe someone would actually pay $39.00 for them.

Okay, by this point, Sue's probably steaming, so I'll save my other treasures for another time.

And, yes, of course I'm kidding -- Sue's a dear, and she cheers me on in finding my bargains (heck, she and the children even benefit from some of them)! But, here she is, my beautiful Appelonia of a baby sister, with her husband Mike and my godchild, Luciano (Mirabella was asleep in the stroller):

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mouth-watering, ruby-red poetry!

Each day, I get a letter from the estimable and friendly Garrison Keillor, the delightful host of National Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion." You know, the fictional town in Minnesota where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

Mr. Keillor writes a blog called The Writer's Almanac, with poetry and short bios on people of letters. It's very accessible and down to earth -- no fancy/schmancy high falutin' literary snobbery at all -- just the sheer enjoyment of the glory of words (and, truly, would we expect anything less from the man who plays Guy Noir?).

So, while I'm sure that MY letter is also received by a number of others, it's amazing how often Garrison seems to hit on something that strikes close to how I've been feeling, so I like to think he's writing to me. And, since I've been thinking of cranberries all week, this poem seems especially appropriate today. Here on Cape Cod, I pass a dozen or so bogs each day just on my way to work.  I think most of them have been harvested by now -- I'll try to include a pic of the beautiful wet bog harvests sometime soon -- but, in lieu of that, here is the most gloriously beautiful recipe you'll ever see or hear. (If you don't go to The Writer's Almanac to hear it, make sure you read it out loud...)

Cranberry-Orange Relish

A pound of ripe cranberries, for two days
macerate in a dark rum, then do not
treat them gently, but bruise,
mash, pulp, squash
with a wooden pestle
to an abundance of juices, in fact
until the juices seem on the verge

of overswelling the bowl, then drop in
two fistsful, maybe three, of fine-
chopped orange with rind, two golden
blobs of it, and crush
it in, and then add sugar, no thin
sprinkling, but a cupful dumped
and awakened with a wooden spoon

to a thick suffusion, drench of sourness, bite of color,
then for two days let conjoin
the lonely taste of cranberry,
the joyous orange, the rum, in some
warm corner of the kitchen, until
the bowl faintly becomes
audible, a scarce wash of sound, a tiny
bubbling, and then
in a glass bowl set it out
and let it be eaten last, to offset
gravied breast and thigh
of the heavy fowl, liverish
stuffing, the effete
potato, lethargy of pumpkins

gone leaden in their crusts, let it be eaten
so that our hearts may be together overrun
with comparable sweetnesses,
tart gratitudes, until finally,
dawdling and groaning, we bear them
to the various hungerings
of our beds, lightened
of their desolations.

"Cranberry-Orange Relish" by John Engels, from Sinking Creek. © The Lyons Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

You can see other selections from The Writer's Almanac, and hear the poem read here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Picture your food...

I need a new camera, and while my dream camera is not in my budget at this time, I am planning an interim upgrade. Any advice?

In the meantime, I was poking through the Boston Globe Online, and found, "Eating with your eyes," a fascinating film short on styling food for photos. There's a nice shot of a table with the lighting hanging over the plate of food being photographed, and killer conversation from the food editor and stylist:

"My eye just goes to the tomato."

"Is the emphasis on the eggs or on the salad?"

"I did a lasagna once, and it just wasn't speaking to me."

The foodies also share some trade secrets that we bloggers can use, too. They use matchbooks to lift the plate up, move a fork back and forth for the best angle, and admit to adding a touch of olive oil for shine and for bread, crumbs to make it look realistic.

Fun to watch, so if you like to take pictures of your food, go watch "Eating with your eyes."


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Around and around

I have not been a faithful blogger lately, but I'm resolved to start posting consistently again.
I do feel I have contributed in a small way to something that I think is very important, though. I was in Buffalo to visit my cousins a few weeks ago, and I helped my cousin Beth set up her blog. It's called Around Beth's World.

Beth has physical challenges, and while it might be true that those challenges have shaped her perspective in many ways, Beth's way of looking at this world we all live in is uniquely her own. The status updates and comments she posts on our family Facebook pages have given me a great deal of pause and inspiration over the past year. She has touched me so deeply a number of times, and I couldn't help but develop a profound conviction that there were others who needed to be reached in the same way. It's good to have someone to remind us that hail stones are magic and that autumn leaves are dancers.

Here's something I copied from a sign in Beth's craftroom:

Live each day 
as if it were 
the beginning 
of something wonderful.

Please add Beth's blog to your reading list -- and Beth, thank you for your generosity in sharing your world, and reminding us of its power and joy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dad is better!

My dad had two major surgeries at the wonderful Massachusetts General, but he's very happy to be back on Cape Cod. He's at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Cape Cod and the Islands, and has a very busy schedule, with physical therapy and other activities at least four times a day. I went to see him after work on Friday, and had to wait until he got back from physical therapy, then his occupational therapist was there within moments to take him off to their next session.

On other news, my darling "special kitty," Mouchie had to leave us earlier this week. She was my darling little Funny Face for 16 years, and her brother Maddie and I miss her very much. Wanda and Carol at Cape Cod Cat Hospital were extraordinary and so caring. With Dr. Wanda, I feel confident that I made the right choice, but I'm grieving for my little pal.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Dad...

My parents got off the plane from Rome on Wednesday, and went directly to Massachusetts General Hospital. The back pain Dad has been experiencing all summer got even worse during the trip, and he'd been in agony during the flight home.

My sister Susan and brother Paul met them at the hospital, and I drove to their house to get their sedan, then got to Boston around 7:00. Paul left at 9:00 p.m., thinking that everything was okay, and I'd be bringing them home to the Cape, but we were in the Emergency Room all night, as test by test, everything came back normal. Then, in the second pass of reading the CT scan, the radiologist discovered that a tumor from Dad's old thyroid cancer was pressing against a nerve. Thank God for the excellent hospital care at Mass General; Dad will have surgery this coming week, and we're praying it all turns out all right. Please pray for him.



Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm so grapeful...a wild grapevine wreath tutorial.

I'm so grapeful, err, grateful to the generosity of my fellow bloggers; I've learned so much from everyone who shares know-how, information, inspiration, or just plain fun. More than anything, I'd like to contribute to the great e-pool of knowledge, so here's my very first tutorial, showing how I made a grapevine wreath from wild vines -- and how you can, too. I hope you like it; please comment, and let me know what you think.

Before we begin, let me just say that this is a natural grapevine wreath. I don't even try to make a perfectly uniform circle -- after all, you can get something like that quite inexpensively at A.C. Moore, Jo Ann's or even Walmart. This is a rustic look that reflects the fact that the vines came from here:

Those are thorns, my dears. Big, bad dangerous thorns. Nasty, huh?

Oh, yes, it might be easy in some cultivated vineyard where you can gracefully cut out a few old strands, but here on Cape Cod, I'm battling poison ivy, wild raspberry vines (they're like something from Aliens) and the famous Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks. I suit up in long sleeves and heavy duty gloves. My gloves are a sort of rubberized pink, and the ones I use came from the Cape Cod Master Gardeners Spring Sale. They were $5.00, and they only had child size left. Fortunately, I have little need tough gloves in the outer regions of my yard.

I'm sure that Maddie will tell you that it helps to have a kitty taking a nap while you gather your vines, as he's doing while I wade into the thicket behind my little house. With Maddie's loyal support, I pull long strands of vines down from the trees, and here and there clip at the bases to release them. After a half hour of pruning and pulling, a big pile of vines is ready. Thanks, Maddie. Couldn't have done it without you...

And, by the way, late summer to early fall is the best time for pulling/cutting the vines, before they've become dry and brittle. So here we go...

Pull out the longest, thickest strand of vine, and strip off any big leaves still on it. Hold the thick end in one hand, and loop the vine to form a circle, hooking the other hand over and under to pass the ends under each other and fasten.

Take another vine, and tuck it into the scrimpiest part of the circle -- probably the side opposite the thickest part where you started. Secure it under the first vine, hooking any twigs under the vines in place, and continue to form the circle, bringing the vine from front to back and weaving it through twigs and strands where you see the opportunity. (See my pink glove?)

Continue, always starting your wrap with the thicker end of the vine, then securing it with the smaller, more pliable ends. I've heard that you can reverse the direction of winding, going clockwise for one strand, then counter clockwise for the next, but I've never bothered, and it always seems to come out all right. You'll feel like you're wrestling a long snake through a hula hoop, but, trust me, it can be done (well, maybe not the snake, but the vines!).

Use any pliable green ends to pull the ring tight when you can, but again, don't worry about making a perfect shape. You'll find that the twining branches of the vines almost tell you the form the wreath is going to take, whether very circular, or more oblong, or even sometimes nice and tight.

If you have a big, ungainly vine, you may not be able to tuck in every branching twig. Who cares? That's what makes it look unique!

And, there you go, a wild grapevine wreath with real character!

The wreath will shrink a bit, so place it in a sunny place for a couple of weeks before you add other material to it or hang it.

Since this is was my first tutorial, I'd love your comments -- and I'd really, really love it if you send me pics of your own wreath!

With love from Cape Cod.


Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The last two tomatoes...

...and a love song

Ah, me. This is so bittersweet.

My car is in the shop with one of those problems where the mechanic has to drive the car for a few days to discover what's wrong. My parents are in Italy with Dad's twin sisters for the next few weeks, so Dad very graciously agreed to let me use his truck.

A few days ago, I drove from work in Orleans, stopped in Cotuit to let out the cats, and drove on to Falmouth to get the truck. I opened the door of the cab, and there on the front seat was a white paper bag with the notation "last 2 tomatoes." Can you ask for a more wonderful present at the end of a long day and a long drive home?

Today, I am very reverently eating a panino with "the last two tomatoes."

Do you know the Guy Clark tomato song?
Here's his "love song" to tamaters:

Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden

Get you a ripe one don't get a hard one
Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one

Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice
Eat `em with eggs, eat `em with gravy
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy
Put `em on the side put `em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I's to change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes

Great, don't you think? If you believe in true love and home grown tomatoes, too, join me, and sing along with Mr. Clark's tender ballad here.

This has "bow"ed me over!

I'm keeping my autumnal theme for a curtsey -- or maybe a (hee!) bow -- to the the howlingly original Jessica Jones at How About Orange.

Jessica has shared a great idea for making a gift bow -- wait for it -- out of a page from a magazine. I'd bet it would also look fabulous made with coordinating wrapping paper, scrap book paper, or even with found objects like strips of plastic. And (heavily starched) fabric, of course; I never have a shortage of that, as we all know.

So, what do you think? Isn't it fun and pretty darn adorable? And it's green, even though, err, it's orange.

Anyway, visit How About Orange, and read Jessica's excellent and easy tutorial on how to make your own gift bow out of magazines. Now, as for me, I'm going to go find a copy of the last Cape Cod View, and make myself a bow...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Plum crazy for fall

I found some lovely, luscious Italian plums in the Phoenix Market in Orleans, and I brought them in to the Church office, washed them, and placed them in a basket on the counter to share with all my visitors. I was very surprised that so many folks had never tasted them.

Our sexton, Larry, had never seen even them before. I couldn't believe it. "You've really never seen Italian plums?" I asked him.

"No...we don't have Italian plums in Ireland," he said.

Well, oh-kay then.

The basket was empty by the end of the day, and I wanted to make a Clafouti with the, so I stopped and picked up another brown bagful on my way home. Traditionally, clafouti is baked with the pits in, supposedly to impart the flavor of almond, but I really don't like the idea of picking stones out of a baked good, so I fiddled with a couple of recipes, and added a touch of almond extract.

Oh, my. It looked so fabulous!

Well, here's the thing though. I brought this to the Reppucci family Labor Day cookout (we always have steamers and lobster on Labor Day). It was a reduced crowd this year. My brother Paul and his family had other plans, and my brother Steve was busy with his ice cream shop. And of course, my darling sister Cathy and her family is in Florida. So that left my sisters, Claire and Susan, and their families, and my mom and dad. Turns out that most of them either were stuffed with all the goodies that Claire had made (she's a really great baker) or they just weren't into custard-based desserts.

Oh, well, their loss. The plums (via the clafouti) went back to the Church on Tuesday, and I'm happy to say that everything there loved it!

What struck me most about this, was how sweet plums become in the baking -- and I've got a sheath of plum cake recipes I'd like to try. Don't you think it's a lovely fall dessert? I love the rich color of this fruit!

So here's the recipe; let me know what you think...

Plum Clafouti

Turn oven to 375 degrees.

2 Tablespoons honey

15 small Italian-style plums


3 eggs

1 1/3 cup whole milk

2/3 cup flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sparkling sugar

Butter a fluted tart or quiche pan, and drizzle half the honey along the bottom. Cut plums in half, and arrange in a pretty circular pattern with the cut side down. Drizzle remainder of honey on top, and dust with cinnamon from a shaker.

In a blender, mix batter ingredients. Pour batter over plums.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until firmly set and nicely brown.

Dust with sparkling (crystallized, non melting sugar).

Serve warm or at room temperature. Yummy with a dollop of whipped cream!

The DIY Show Off

Monday, September 28, 2009

I just can't leaf it alone!

I've been decorati
ng for fall since the first day of the month. It started with my rapture over the cooler weather (as you know, August on Cape Cod this year was horribly hot and oppressive), and then I think the decorating bug got hold of me and just wouldn't let go. I've decorated the front door, the back door, the dining room, the kitchen counter, the shelf on the opening between the dining room and the kitchen island...and this weekend, I even decorated the mail box. I want to post my new black doors soon -- both the shame and the glory -- but in the meantime, I'm posting (hee!) my fall mailbox decor.

Pumpkin, pumpkin...Bakerella's got the pumpkin!


From the bountiful brain of the fabulous Bakerella! Okay, let's say you don't want to fiddle with mini pies. Keep reading anyway -- I may steal the idea of drawing a pumpkin face (even on big pie)...or I may grab the tip of drizzling decorative stripes of chocolate..and I just might try out the new cream cheese pumpkin pie recipe. All in all, though, I'm thinking I'm definitely going to need a pumpkin pie cookie cutter!