Here We Go Again…

I’m currently listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons…Le Quattro Stagioni…specifically the spring concerto… La Primavera, on Spotify. It’s got me feeling mighty perky on this Monday morning despite a fever. No matter whats going on, Vivaldi always makes me happy.

Finally. Spring is on our doorstep. Folks in Boston may have to wait a bit longer though. I sincerely feel for all the Bostonites that are once again shoveling snow, and on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day!

I needed the Vivaldi lift this morning since I’ve been nearly housebound since Friday (and today quite possibly marks another) …laid near flat with a monster of a cold and hacking cough. I don’t get these often, but when I do it is never a slight sniffle. It’s an all-out assault on the body, from head to toe. Rocket-man is also battling it so we’ve made quite the pair for each other this past weekend. Absolutely nothing got accomplished. Almost nothing that is. We did a lot of sofa-lounging, watching a few good movies while downing buckets of popcorn in-between nose-blowing and synchronized hacking coughing fits that often roused The Poodle from his bed. And, we drank a lot…hot tea, that is. We also managed to nearly exhaust our Costco supply of Kleenex.

After months of a harsher than usual winter for the south, buds on the trees are starting their almost tentative appearance. I noticed this just yesterday when out for an early morning walk with The Poodle. The sun was shining after an entire week of rain and gray gloominess that permeated every crevice of our lives here. The Poodle (not to mention his owners) was in dire need of some activity so Rocket-man and I dragged ourselves out of our sick state in the hopes that sun and movement would make us feel better. And it did. For a while.

But now, it’s that time of year again and for those who know me, you also know what that means. While Primavera is in the air and the birds are singing their own variation of Vivaldi in happy approval those Alabama creepy crawlers are emerging from their hibernation as well!  It’s going on my third year here in middle earth ‘Bama-land and I regret to say that I am no closer to accepting or relaxing to the fact that I live in insect-hell.  Just this past Saturday morning there was a scorpion to greet me when I entered my shower. Hastily retreating, I grabbed a towel (I was not going to deal with this situation in my birthday suit) and Tilex Mold and Mildew Spray (which fortunately was conveniently near-by). Taking aim, I sprayed away. As the white foam covered his body, he raised his stinger tail as if in resignation to his fate. He took his sweet time to expire. I was uncharacteristically calm through the ordeal of picking it up at arm’s length to get it out of my shower which made me quite pleased with myself; breathe…relax…be calm. It’s just a bug…I’m much bigger than this little insect… and now this insect is dead.   One. Less. Insect.

My shower mate

My shower mate

Well, that didn’t last long.

Yes folks.  I’ll admit to a petite obscenity-laced melt-down later in the day after I found a second, though smaller scorpion by my bed. My side of the bed!  And this morning, with one eye open, sleep-deprived from a night of tossing, turning and nearly coughing my brains out, I am greeted by a fat centipede happily swimming laps in the toilet!   Jolted wide awake at 5 a.m., anger seized me.  Hell no!  This is not how I want to start my day!  I immediately flushed him down (take that you little bastard!).

Factoid: Centipedes don't actually have 100 legs. Depending on the species, they can have between 15 pair of legs to 171 pair of legs. Really. That's gonna help me sleep better tonight?!

Factoid: Centipedes don’t actually have 100 legs. Depending on the species, they can have between 15 pair of legs to 171 pair of legs. Really. That’s gonna help me sleep better tonight?!

No. I do not care a wit that these arthropods help maintain a entomological balance in ‘Bama-land’s insect hell. Saving centipedes certainly won’t make a difference in the insect population in and around my house! (Apparently, centipedes like spiders and small insects but then again snakes and rodents like to dine on centipedes…which I’d say just bolsters my case to getting rid of as many insects as I possibly can!).  I suppose  I should be thankful that I don’t live in a tropical rain forest.  Centipedes there are large enough to take down frogs and small birds!.  See.  I’m capable of finding a silver-lining about living here (though you’ll have to excuse me a moment while I heave my milk and cookies).

So here we go again: It’s clear that it’s the time of year to don my “Raid holster” once again. A can of Raid…one on each hip.  Seriously, what’s really clear is that I’ve got to work on staying calm in the days, weeks and months ahead. I refuse to let these creepy crawlers get the best of me.  Some days, it really seems these wretched creepy crawlers are winning the battle.  I’ve got to keep softly and calmly repeating that little mantra in my head: It’s just a bug…I’m much bigger than this little insect…

And then I have to kill it.



Food Coma Bliss

I called out to my husband before laying my tired bones to bed last night.  “Yes…my Queen,” he says as he comes over to me.  “Tomorrow we are going to do better,” I say.  He understands in an instant.  We both sigh.  We’ve just spent a couple of days eating more than usual …it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

Yes….tomorrow!  The last of that cake has got to go and we are back on track with eating less. That’s the plan!

“We are not going to buy any more sweets, at least until Christmas, “ I say.  “Right-O,” says hubby.  “But what about the ice-cream; we still have chocolate-chip cookie dough left,” he adds.  Hmm….yes the ice-cream.  “OK…after the cake and after the ice-cream,” ….my voice trails off.

Then I think of something I had told my sis just the night before.  Sis and family, on their way to Louisiana for a wedding, stayed with us for a brief overnight visit.  We really had such a lovely time together –as we always do–not to mention it was wonderful to spend time with my awesome-to-the-max nephew, Alexandre-the-Greatest…and his papa too…..

“Sis,” I said….

“If you lived here (in Alabama) it could very well change my whole view of this place I call “middle earth.”  I could even start to like it here. I might even stay in middle earth.”  Oh good God..did I just say that?!

You see, when we get together we do some of my favorite activities (besides physical activities, that is).

We cook….we eat….we enjoy wine…we shop….we just plain hang out.  Unfortunately,  It’s the cooking and eating part of the fun that is hard on me particularly since I cannot pound the pavement to get rid of excess calories like I could do just a couple of years ago. This Italian girl used to eat hefty bowls of pasta two to three times a week; now it’s twice a month, maybe.  I used to enjoy big chunks of toasted La Brea bread with cheese or dipped in extra virgin olive oil on a daily basis.  That’s almost a distant memory now.  Well…the bread that is;  I’m still holding on to my cheese; you’d have to kill me to take that away!

Heavy sigh…

Anyhow, now I must watch every single morsel that goes into my mouth.  I’ve tried to give up entire food groups but tell me…where is the fun in that?  One of my old bosses (that would be the chiropractor) recently messaged me through Facebook trying to rope me into his side (can-you-say-pyramid scheme) business venture….selling Isagenix weight-loss products. Yes, I looked at the docs pictures on Facebook and was mighty impressed–and somewhat shocked too– because I felt he looked borderline emaciated.  The doc and his wife drastically changed their diets and transformed their bodies with the products.  They were thin to begin with, in my humble opinion!   I’d no doubt look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model too if I cut out entire food groups and drank shakes (which I hear are disgusting) for lunch and dinner every day.

Frankly, I am mighty tired of giving up stuff!  Life is just too damn short not to enjoy some of these few pleasures…(good red wine, chocolate, pasta and cheese just to name a few).  Besides, I’ve re-thunk my whole position on living to a ripe old age.  I don’t have any desire to be a centenarian.  Well…OK…If I had money, perhaps.  If I were independently wealthy I could still live in my nice house and afford to have a host of people looking after me.  I don’t want to be a burden on anyone and while it would be nice to be able to count on my children being around for me in my advanced years I’m pretty sure they’d rather roll my wheelchair into the lobby of the nearest nursing home, park it, and visit me once a year (if I’m lucky).  I’ll be happy with living to be …say….88… and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll still be relatively physically strong and self-sufficient.  Indeed,  hopefully God will smile on me and through His mercy He’ll give me the big one (as in massive heart attack or stroke) so that I can meet Him at the pearly gates in an instant and not after a prolonged, painful and expensive illness.

The bottom line?   I just have to find that happy middle ground.  Moderation.  I’m going to enjoy ice-cream and cheese….yes indeed.  I am not going to stress out about eating pasta two days in a row like I just did.  That’s not something I do often anyway.

So pasta two days in a row….how did that happen?

Here’s how….

In the days leading up to my sister’s brief visit I fretted over what to make for our get-together dinner.  My sis is really an awesome cook and my bro-in-law is equally at home in the kitchen.  I  looked through a few of my favorite cookbooks.  I thought of preparing something from Marcella Hazan in memory of her recent passing….

I thought of my super easy standby…Hard Times Chili.  Nope….I made that for them during their last visit.

I thank my sis for telling me about this cookbook!

I thank my sis for telling me about this cookbook!

Then I looked through my Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker cookbook and settled on something new to try.  Veal stew.

Surprisingly, I found the veal stew meat at Fresh Market.  The morning of their arrival I ran around the house vacuuming and cleaning in preparation of their visit.  At noon I hauled the crock pot out for the first time this year.  It was an easy recipe to put together; after dredging the veal pieces in flour and browning them in olive oil it was just a matter of throwing all the remaining ingredients (a surprisingly short list of them) plus the veal into the crock pot.  While I was preparing the crock pot dish I still couldn’t get my mind off of Marcella Hazan.  My friend Lou had told me of Marcella’s passing at the age of 89 just the day before.  Marcella has been one of my favorite Italian cooking masters for years; she has been instrumental in helping me stay close to my Italian roots in the kitchen.

So, I decided on one of my favorites from her book Marcella’s Italian Kitchen and made Red Peppers stuffed with zucchini and fontina cheese.   I’ve made that dish many times and never fail to get oohs and aahs over it.  Salute…e mille grazie, Senora Hazan.

OK…so I’ve got veal stew….stuffed peppers….I just need to think about an appetizer.

Whew.  The appetizer was easy.  I’d tried an artichoke crostini recipe from Rocco DiSpirto’s cookbook the week before.  That didn’t even take five minutes to whip up.  Sis and bro-in-law raved over it.

Dessert?  OK…we really don’t need dessert.  We’ve got enough food.  Sis and family are only here for an overnight visit…

But…where’s the fun in no dessert?  Oh hell.  Let’s make something I haven’t tried before.  Besides, I rarely bake anymore.  Therefore it only made perfect sense to make a carrot cake with orange cream cheese frosting. Yep…all the fat..and twice the sugar.  I didn’t hold back.

I have to say that our dinner was not only exquisite but it was a team effort.  Sis put her special touch to the veal stew before presentation in her a dash more of this and another pinch of that fashion.  And bro-in-law got into the act too.  The recipe called for buttered noodles or polenta.  I was partial to having buttered noodles, particularly because I knew Alexandre-the Greatest would positively devour them.  Bro-in-law wanted polenta and even offered to make it; definitely an offer I couldn’t refuse!  Still….”why can’t we have both?” I asked.  No reason!

So we hauled out my large, ridiculously heavy, cobalt blue Le Creuset pot and bro-in-law went to town making the polenta while I prepared the noodles topped with divine Plugrá European-style butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

All I can say is that three days later I remain in a blissful food coma and God love her….its my sisters fault!  (Just kidding sis if you’re reading this!)   My veal stew dish was heavenly and even better the next day, along with another helping of buttered noodles.  True comfort food!  And, we’ve had carrot cake for days….even inviting neighbors over to help us get rid of it.  I simply had to get it out of the refrigerator and truthfully, I’m not sad to see the carrot cake go….extremely yummy but the sugar overload definitely was getting to me.  We even passed on purchasing the ingredients for the Williams and Sonoma Pumpkin Squares recipe today while visiting the store.  “No Thank-Ewe,” hubby said in his occasional southern drawl.  “We need a break from sweets I solemnly informed the sales associate.”  His look suggested pity as if to say “It’s not even Halloween yet!”  But the veal stew?  A keeper.  I’m already thinking of when I’ll make it again.

All that cooking, eating, and yes…cleaning… was pure bliss.  Sure, I can definitely feel the over-eating on my hips… but you know, I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my sis and her family.  Life is short.  Watching these beautiful souls in my kitchen…observing Alexandre-the-Greatest happily devour a bowl-full of noodles… hearing all the expressions of delight around the dining room table– with Vivaldi (chosen by bro-in-law for the specific occasion) playing in the background–and knowing that my hubby and sis and family were truly enjoying the feast made me feel blissfully happy.

Honestly, I wouldn’t trade that for size 6 jeans… ever.