A snowy Halloween

The last time I remember it snowing on Halloween, it was 2002. I was in college, and living in a rundown house with other theatre students ~ our house was sandwiched in between two other theatre houses, and it was by far, my favorite year of college.  It was magically idyllic.  And as cliched as that sounds, it’s the only description I know that fits my memory of it.

That Halloween, the snow came down hard and fast, mixed with sleet and ice, and I wrote my grandfather a letter, describing the yellow and green leaves frozen in ice across our yard.  We lost power ~ our neighbors lost power for three days ~ and I will remember it for many reasons, mostly all grand ~ but I will also remember that those words, handwritten in blue ink on lined paper, were probably the last words from me that my grandfather ever had.

He died that year ~ and in that same house, with those same roommates -whom I loved then and love still- I crumpled to the ground and felt real loss for a close relative, a person I knew, and loved deeply, irregardless of how little time I had with him as I grew up.  My memories of him are beautiful, and the edges are worn with age ~ a familiar trait of the passing of time.  And for some reason, the image of green and yellow leaves frozen in snow always brings him back to me. I hope he knew that the picture I was trying to paint with my clumsy words was meant to be poignant, and full of the surprise, wonder and power of nature.  My grandfather was many things to many people ~ but I only know truly what he was to me.  He was gentle, and thoughtful, and he was all things in life that now seem, perhaps, antiquated.  He was lovely.  And today, my heart is filled with memories of him.

if at first you don’t succeed

Try, try again.

That’s what I told myself on the treadmill tonight when I checked the display and I’d only traveled 1.42 miles. On Saturday, my three miles felt like a breeze ~ not so today, after a long day at work, the threat of a headache (most likely caused by the neckache I kept trying to alleviate all afternoon by stretching … I failed miserably) and a beast of a commute home.

Every Monday I like to “start fresh” (it’s my understanding that I’m not the only person who feels this way …) so I get up on time (aka, after the first snooze button), we get to work ‘early’ (I use that term loosely), we go to the gym at night, and I try my darnest to get totally caught up with work, and blog.

It might sound odd that I linked blog to things that, more or less, can be viewed in the gray area of the fun/not fun Venn Diagram.  I don’t think of blogging as work (well, not all the time, but when I start to panic, everything feels like pressure!) but I do like to keep blogging and make sure that it doesn’t get squeezed out of my routine.

Blogging is stress relief, but I love it best when I’m typing alone, the only sound my fingers tapping on the keyboard.  That doesn’t happen often in our house, because we keep pretty much the same schedule.  So now, while he’s taking a relaxing shower after the gym, I’m sitting here, just me and my bazillion thoughts.

Right now I feel as though I’m sitting on fence.  I’m thirty-one … very soon to be thirty-two.  I’ve finally found a job that I don’t cringe at when I have to tell people what I do ~ in fact, I enjoy it most days (today was not one of them, but ah well, nothing’s perfect!).  As a little person, guided -I must confess- by my brilliant mother’s words on living an independant, self-sufficient life, I dreamed of going to work in well-cut business suits with crisp, white-collared shirts and gorgeous shoes … not so much about a white dress and an aisle.  As an adult, I’ve absolutely had my ‘bride’ moments … when all I can think about is whether or not I’ll be married one day, and have children.  (And a dog. Obviously).  At thirty-one, I’m sitting on a fence, feeling as though I have to make a choice.  And sometimes it’s exhilarating.  And sometimes it feels downright unfair.  And sometimes it feels suffocating.  And overwhelming.

I’ve heard the arguments.  “You won’t understand until you’re a parent,” and “It’s a completely different type of love,” … and I see my friends’ beautiful children, these little miracles that they created and cooked and brought into this world, and I am in awe.

And then I wonder if I’m ready to give up the independance of a career.  The excitement and the challenges and the learning … and the freedom.  And I feel as though men can’t possibly understand this impossible crossroads.  And I’m not sure that all women feel it.  But I am the product of strong women, women who tried and mostly succeeded at doing it all.  It’s a heavy weight on my shoulders to follow in their footsteps.

So, as I said, I’m sitting on a fence.  And it’s quite the conundrum.

hunters and gatherers

Today the man and I went on a hunt for Halloween costumes.

Let me preface this by saying that in the grand scheme of things, I am not a big fan of Halloween.  And that may be an understatement.

We began the day lazily, and the man even surprised me by suggesting we go to Starbucks for some coffee and a breakfast sammie.  I used to always get a little snack at Sbux, but for the past few years, I try to abstain, because the nearly 300 calorie Chai Tea seems to me to be quite enough use of nearly 1/4 of my daily caloric goal. So it was a nice treat that he A. suggested Sbux (as he’s not an addict such as myself) and that B. we enjoyed breakfast & clean up was crumpling up a bag and tossing in the garbage.

However, looming in the background of the day was the knowledge that we would be journeying to a party this evening, where I would know no one, and I would have to arrive in costume.  Yuck.  (I think the Sbux was an olive branch, and the man’s way of getting me in a good mood, so he wouldn’t have to spend the day with a grumpy anxiety stricken version of me).

After breakfast, and some preliminary googling of costume ideas, we hit the road with a pretty good idea of what we were looking for.

It’s not what we got.

And while we went out on the mission with the express idea of hunting down our costume, what we ended up doing was gathering bits and pieces to put together a costume (well, for the man anyway).  And we’re both pretty excited about it!

The idea of hunters and gatherers had come up earlier in the day when conversing about the man’s j.o.b. (shhh! don’t it too loudly on the weekend!) It’s better, I’ve been told, to be hunter.

As we are about to walk out the door, my entire though process on the hunter gatherer phenomenon will have to be addressed later.  Needless to say, I’m off to a party dressed up as a fairy tale character.  Any guesses?

following the crowd

Last night, as John sat at the kitchen table following a great brisket dinner at J&Js house for WeHangsDay finishing up some work, I retreated to bed (this should not surprise anyone) and cuddled up with a book.

Confession.

I have been ‘trying’ to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for, well, far too long.  So long, in fact, that I can’t even remember how long it’s been.  John picked it up for me from a book exchange, and I was so excited to crack open the cover … only to discover that the beginning of the novel was pretty tough going.  My mother and I even spoke about it, and she shared with me that she’d read about someone confessing that they didn’t love “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” as though that was some sort of sacrilege, and ironically, people started to come out of the woodwork and confess the same thing ~ it just hadn’t done it for them.  I was both comforted (whew! I’m not the only person on the planet who just.didn’t.get.it.) but it was also discouraging, as I really wanted to like the book.  (No explanation whatsoever for that wish).

With stubborn determination, I opened it up again ~ I had progressed to page 88.  Not a stellar multiple month showing.  I skimmed through the few pages preceding where my bookmark held my place, to refresh myself with what was going on.  Caught up, I plunged ahead.

The thing is, I don’t have a really good, independantly thought through reason for wanting to read the book so much.  Maybe something in those first few pages of  what amounted to -in my opinion- a bunch of unimportant hooey, made me wonder what could possibly have caught enough people’s attention further into the book to keep reading and turn it into a best-selling sensation (**imagine the next few lines read in a deep, dark melodramatic voice-over-type voice** that will be released as a major motion picture in 2012).  I mean, I’ve made it halfway through Anna Karenina (and then I caved and watched the movie, because whew, reading Anna Karenina is somewhat of a challenge when you’re only about 14).  And there were good parts of that novel.  I’ve read more than one Charles Dickens novel ~ if anyone can get through some dense exposition, it’s me.

And just as my eyes were about to slide closed against my will, and the book was about to fall from my sleep-limp hands, I read the hook.

Mental note (in case you’re interested in reading it now): Page 98.

And the thing is ~ it might still be massively disappointing.  All that “hooey” on pages 1-96ish may never come back around to being important (in which case, my main question is ~ what editor thought, ‘yup yup, let the reader think we’re going in this very dry, boring direction just as  red herring‘ and why does that person still have a job?).

But you know that feeling, when you pick up a book, and begin to read, and you fall into the characters and the world the author has created, and it’s as though nothing else exists except for you and the words, and the rustling of the pages as you speed read through the story?

I love that feeling.  It’s why I love reading.  And there’s really nothing quite like a good book to take you away from all your worries and the stress of the world.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” might never make it on my ‘Top Books’ ~ but it’s good enough to have a hook to keep me reading.  And I’m grateful every time I pick up a novel and then feel compelled to keep on reading until I finish.

 

 

new directions

Today, I have seriously considered changing the tag-line of my blog.

Several reasons.

First, I love my blog, but the pressure of having new recipes multiple times a week is -at this point in my life and career – very challenging.

Second, I have been loving the outlet of writing my meandering thoughts, but if anyone (…Bueller?… Bueller?…) is checking in to get new recipes or dinner ideas, even I’d advise them to check out my favorites, because those sites are consistent with their content.  (Name dropping ~ IowaGirlEats.com, KathEats.com, SmittenKitchen.com).

The true nature of my blog?  The ramblings of a non-single working girl.  “Working Girl” in the Melanie Griffith/Harrison Ford/Sigourney Weaver 1980’s movie way, not the working-a-corner-in-heels-and-fishnets-kind-of-way.  (I would hope that was fairly obvious, but if not, let me assure you, it should be).

I have a lot of things on my mind, and they’re not all food related.

It’s not that I am not enjoying cooking.  And sharing fun recipes I find.  I totally am.  But since July, when my work world completely shifted gears, I went from having a lot of time, to very little at all.  And for me, right this moment, it’s more about finding that balance of life than being the next Martha.

So here I am, confessing that I started down this path with true and pure intentions.  But as my ‘baby’ has grown, she has sprouted her own wings, and guided me a bit.  During my day, when I have a true conundrum (one of my favorite words, just ask Eli) or something strikes me as odd … or even when something makes me stop and re-examine my whole thought process ~ I want to share those things here, because I have a voice, and sometimes it’s nice to daydream about being heard (or read!).

Nothing is really changing, I’m just expanding my range a bit.   “In the Kitchen” will stay ~ I’m not going to stop cooking!  And of course, every working person should appreciate a good glass of vino at the end of a long day, so “In Vino E Verita” is totally a keeper.  But there are more things, so I’m going to just keep walking down this path, and exploring a little every now and then.

Having just spent a good hour giving myself a serviceable French pedicure (work lunch on Thursday that will require heels … and the shoes that match the outfit I’m planning have peep toes, so polish is required), I am going to down the last swig of white wine in my glass, kiss the man good night, and slink away into bed.  This girl has tired eyelids (not surprising, as it happens pretty much every night).

As a post script, I also did 3 miles again today, and while my body is not all thatpleased (I also spent most of my dad speed-walking around the city, attempting to cross some very important things off my to-do list), I myself am pleased.  Work, check.  Gym, check.  Pedicure, check.  Home-cooked meal …eh, erm, well …. not so much tonight.  Zoinks.  I guess if I only needed five hours of sleep, things would seem easier, but I’m a ‘minimum seven’ kind of gal, and as 5.47am will be here before I know it, I’m not going to feel any more remorse.

Goodnight!

 

a case of the mondays

Life can feel really busy, and as though it’s speeding by too quickly sometimes.  What with work, and commuting and trying to work out regularly, and getting household projects done, and keeping up with friends and family … days and weeks slip by almost imperceptibly.  And all of a sudden, it’s the downward slope of October and the holidays are around the corner.

Remember when you were a child, and your parents said that time goes by quickly?  And you thought, “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard?”

I get it now.

The man and I had a great weekend ~ we had a date night on Friday, and enjoyed a new sushi place.  On Saturday, after getting my hair done (isn’t the salon just so decadent?), we cleaned the house, put together the photo collages (!!!) and then I was lucky enough to have dinner with my closest friend from high school days.  It was amazing, and she brought an incredible bottle of wine from the country of Georgia, where she spent several months teaching this past year.  (She’s sort of amazing ~ and awe inspiring.  She’s working on her thesis now so I was glad she was able to take the time out to come and catch up).

On Sunday, we indulged in a day of football, and hung out at our favorite bar, playing shuffleboard, watching the Steelers & Giants, and noshing on really awesome mussels in white sauce and hot wings (for him ~ I’m not a wings kinda gal).

Today, it was back to early beginnings ~ our drive to work was partially in the dark.  Ugh.  And then  we hit up the gym this evening.  Three miles in just under 34minutes ~ which isn’t so great, but also isn’t so bad.  Ten minute mile ~ I’m coming for ya!

As far as something fun to share that we cooked ~ I’m having a case of the Mondays.  All I want to do is curl up on the couch and fall asleep while John isn’t looking.  (It’s my M.O. when he’s in a TV watching mood, and my eyelids have lead weights attached to them).

My goal, once I get the work, working out, flossing (should be done once a day!) and all that other stuff down to a science, I’m gonna get on the ball with a weekly menu, so I have something fun to cook at least three or four days a week.

Until then, I can guarantee WeHangsDay every other week.  🙂  And catching up with the wine journal.

Happy Monday!

 

 

fun food facts

Every day, I get a bunch of different emails in my personal account ~ advertisements, catalogs and coupons from websites I use frequently (my fav for gifts = redenvelope.com …. so. frickin.good.), and newsletters that I signed up for at some point when I was all fired up about nutrition.  (Amongst all this “junk” are sporadic emails from friends and family … I like them the best!).

Here’s the crazy thing that I’ve learned as I’ve read these emails ~ nutrition is kind of fascinating.  I mean, all the things different foods can do, and how eating certain combinations of food is better for your digestive system, or even the order in which you consume your food ~ it’s Ah.May.Zing.  Seriously.

I’ve learned over time that the food pyramid (or whatever it is nowadays) is just the stick-figure drawing in educating oneself about nutrition.  Some people actually know enough to compose something comparable to Michelangelo.  Now that’s impressive.

For today, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite food facts.  Enjoy!

1.  Researchers have shown that MILK is a better hydrator than water or sports drinks, because milk is full of electrolytes and potassium.  Add some chocolate, and a glass becomes a perfect blend of carbs, protein and fat for speedy muscle recovery when strength-training.  Neat, right? (I love this little tidbit because I drink a ton of milk ~ I even crave it after an intense work-out.  And now I know why!  My body, which knows I loathe the sugary ick-ness of sports drinks, was letting me know what works best! Insanely cool).

2.  Chicken Soup is actually good for you if you’re under the weather.  It legit fights off viruses and reduces cold symptoms.  And we thought it was an Old Wives Tale …!

3.  Everyone knows that vitamin C boosts your immune system.  But so does garlic ~ no wonder Italians don’t get sick as often as us Yanks.  I once knew someone who ate a clove of raw garlic a day.  Yowza!  This girl gets odorless garlic gelcaps.

4.  Red wine can prevent you from getting sick.  (No joke.  This could almost be ranked #1 if I didn’t love the milk info so much!).

5.  Generally, tap water is better for you than bottled water.  Tap water is regulated, and has to meet certain guidelines.  Bottled water does not.  It’s a minefield out there when it comes to opinions on the best water to drink.  But if you look into it, free tap water usually wins.

6.  Lycopene in tomatoes actually protects your skin from the damage of UV rays.  So when there are tomatoes in the summer to be eaten ~ eat ’em up!  Your skin will thank you!

7.  Spinach helps reduce the growth of cancer cells!  (And I thought Popeye ate it because it tasted so good ….).

8.  I saved the best for last …. tonic water can help prevent getting eaten alive by mosquitos due to the quinine in it.  I learned this from my uncle, who spent most of his early life as a sailor.  He told me quite matter-of-factly, as I maniacally scratched the eight zillion bites I sprouted after one night on Hilton Head Island.  I have made a habit of drinking tonic water since then, and true story ~ it works!

I know there are more, so I’ll try to share as I learn them.  If you have fun food facts, please don’t hesitate to send them my way!  I love to learn, as I’m still pretty much in the stick-figure phase of my evolution of nutrition knowledge.

don’t hate the toosday

I felt so inspired this morning.

I got up at 6am.  I did ‘Insanity: Cardio Resistance & Power” by 7.10a.  I was at work by 9.15am (sidenote: it’s an hour commute).  I worked until 6.30pm.  No lunch break.  This translates to “Rockstar.” Well, in my world anyway.

And then my Tuesday took an unexpected twist.

Original game plan:  Grab some veggies from the restaurant.  Drive home.  Rock out to “Pure Cardio.”  Perhaps go to yoga (I bought a Groupon, after all!) and then watch my tivo’d episodes of “The Good Wife” while putting together photo collages (a challenge mission from the man before he left … they have been under our couch for, well, probably close to a year? I know, I know, but …. Okay, I really don’t have a good excuse).  I also had some miscellaneous household chores to get done.

Actual Tuesday night:  My phone rings at 6.35p.  It’s my neighbor.  She’s having people over for dinner … did I want to join?  Well, said I, I’m just leaving the city now … No problem, says she.

And so I accepted.

And I spent my night having the most animated and thought-provoking conversation.  I find it important to highlight this.  Yes, it’s also because I didn’t cook.  Or go on an amazing adventure.  However, have you ever had one of those conversations that make you go … well, to be cliched, “Hmmmm …..”?

I joked early on ~ my mother taught me never to discuss religion or politics!  But we discussed politics ad nauseum, and I completely enjoyed it.  And I learned something.

Because I don’t want to alienate any readers I may have, all I’m going to say is, I have certain principles I stand by, but I’m always willing to listen.  And I love to learn.  I feel like life is about meeting people who bend your mind in  unexpected ways.  And that’s what makes it fun.

On a completely different subject, I think that me, myself and I are going on a date this Friday to see the new version of “Footloose.”  Ridicule me if you must.  But I just. can’t. resist!

And in the immortal words of Gupta from “The Terminal” … and more importantly,  one of my favs and my favorite lines from “The Terminal” ~

Don’t hate the Toosday.  🙂  (Cuz it’s fun.  And surprising!).

what i did for love

When I met my man ~ nearly four years ago ~ there was something about him that I just couldn’t shake.  We met each other under (in retrospect) quite interesting circumstances, but when I saw him, and shook his hand, I had this really uncanny feeling that we’d met before.

I was wrong.

This was not the first time.  It also wasn’t the last.  That I was wrong, that is.

Making our relationship work over the years is both fun and exciting, and an exercise in compromise.  I’ve learned how to shoot a gun (only once ~ I’m from suburbia, after all!), and he’s watched an entire season of “Dancing with the Stars,” because Hines Ward was competing, and I had to watch every week.

On Friday, I compromised a little more, and learned to make beef & broccoli.  I know this probably sounds amazing to most people ~ authentic Asian cuisine, yum!  But I have never liked Chinese food ~ never. ever. ~ and the man loves it, and for the first two years of dating, he used to tell people that he gave up eating Chinese food for me.  (“Well,” he’d say -with a smile and a sly look in my direction- mid-conversation about favorite restaurants, “I haven’t had Chinese food in two years.” And everyone would exclaim in horror, and we’d have to have the ‘Gwyn doesn’t eat Chinese food’ conversation … for the millionth time).

One of my great friends ~ Angie of the amazing brownies and chocolate chip cookies ~ also happens to cook the best beef & broccoli I’ve ever had (yes, I know my experience is limited, but this stuff is ridic!).  Last Friday, she came over and instructed me in the fine art of making her masterpiece (her non-baking masterpiece that is!).

And because I’m such a genius, I didn’t write it down.  I figured I’d just type the recipe from memory that evening, but instead, I hit the road to get to my parents house, so that on Saturday morning, my dad & I could drive up to State College for the PSU v. Iowa game.  (Sidenote: I’m not gonna get overly enthusiastic about PSU’s win for fear of jinxing something, but it was an adrenaline-filled game, and I screamed and jumped up and down, and chanted “We Are!” and sang the Alma Mater full volume … and my vocal chords hurt until this morning! … and had a fab time hanging out with my dad and maintaining our PSU tradition.  As I grew up going to games, journeying to Happy Valley in rain, sleet, snow and sun and then followed in my father’s footsteps and attended the great Pennsylvania State University, I can’t imagine having any loyalty to any other team ~ I’ve bled blue & white since birth).

Since I didn’t manage to put fingers to keyboard all weekend to discuss Penn State or the Steelers (oh thank you Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethlisburger, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, and my new Steeler crush, Isaac Redman, for getting it done! Shout out to Daniel Sepulveda and Mundy for an awesome trick play, and to the entire Offensive Line who looked solid!!!!), I wanted to have a good post tonight.  Unfortunately, I dropped the ball.  I have the rough outline but have to review with Angie before I put it up ~ or, heaven forbid, someone could try to make beef & broccoli and it could be terrible ~ possibly utterly horrendous ~ because I forgot a step.  Ugh.  The pressure! 😉

Currently, there is a peach cobbler bubbling away in the oven (finally!) ~ another effort made for love.  Obviously, I’m missing my man.

So if your significant other is next to you, lean over and smack a wet one on them.  If the man was here, I would, too!

jennie j

Four years ago, one of the most important people in my life passed away.  As I’d been blessed enough not to lose many close loved ones, I didn’t realize that the hole my grandmother left behind would never fully heal, and it would always feel a little bit empty.

My grandmother was a force of nature.  And my mind and heart are filled with memories of her.  Funny memories ~ like when she chased my brother and I around the house with a wooden spoon (those suckers sting!) or drove to the casino after putting us to bed, and returned home in time to make us breakfast before school the next day ~ comfortable memories, like climbing into bed with her at night and watching episodes of “Murder She Wrote,” and classic old black & white movies.  Every time I watch “White Christmas” (which is my all-time favorite Christmas movie) and the scene between Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney about dreams and sandwiches comes on, it almost feels as though I’ve gone back in time and I’m in her room and we’re watching it together.

Jennie J (that’s my Grammy’s name) was also an amazing cook.  My mother tells the best story about the first time she met Jennie and Bubski (my dad’s parents) ~ Jennie opened the door, and my mother thought my dad was having an affair.  She’d expected a little Italian nonna, with white hair pulled back in a bun, but instead it was Jennie, with her hair and makeup done to perfection,  dressed to the nines and wearing high-heeled shoes.  My mother, an English emigrant, sat down to enjoy an Italian family meal the way my dad’s side of the family used to do it ~ course, after course, after course …. homemade wine and fresh fruit from the trees in the backyard.  Jennie cooked in high heels, and the kids washed dishes between courses in order to serve the next spread.

At Christmas, Jennie would bake dozens and dozens of different Italian cookies ~ pizzelles, bow-ties, butter balls, apricot filled puff pastry, thumbprints with jam and nuts, Italian filled roll, nut roll … I can’t even remember all the kinds.  She was one of twelve children (six boys and six girls) and when I was very young, and the family got together, it was always a crazy, animated party with more food that necessary, and cards played late into the night in a cloud of cigarette smoke.  While her youngest sister was known for making the best pizzelles, Jennie was the best cook in general.  We ate very well as I grew up, because my Mama is a dab hand as well ~ I have always been well-versed in the traditional foods of my mum’s heritage, and my dads.

When Jennie died, I toyed with the idea of going through her things and finding all her recipes (even though I knew that the true recipes really only existed in her head).  But I was still raw from losing her, and in the early months of 2008, my life imploded in a major way ~ so any ambitions of figuring out how to continue her traditions fell by the wayside.

This past June, when the man and I had our fateful conversation, I thought about how I’ve been finding parts of her in me ~ when I cook a certain way, or vacuum with a ferociousness that is unnecessary (but I do anyway) … sometimes I even see a glimpse of her in the mirror … but mostly I look like my mother and aunt.

I should have asked her a lot more questions ~ and I should have written down the answers.  There were so many things that she was that no one will be able to remember soon.  She didn’t have a daughter, only my father, and he’s a very quiet person.  But the things I do remember make me so proud to have been her granddaughter.

I believe she was the first one of her sisters to learn to drive.  She told Bubski matter-of-factly that she wanted to learn and she wanted her own car.  I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve been told he was a gentle soul, who would have done anything to help his family, or make someone happy.  In other words, Jennie was the alpha to his beta.  She liked her independence.  She worked as a hostess at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh and served people like Luciano Pavarotti.  She was an immaculate dresser and gave me a few sage words of wisdom on this subject when I was youngster.  “Gwyneth, ” she said, her finger pointing at me as she cooked dinner (her hands were never idle, be it cooking, cleaning or crocheting).  “You never leave the house looking a mess.  You take pride in how you look.  You never know who may see you.  It’s better to look put-together.”  She paused.  “And you never wear navy blue and black together.”  Another thoughtful moment.  “And always polish your shoes.  Never wear scuffed shoes out of the house.  People can tell a lot about you from your shoes.”

She was stubborn -like, really really stubborn – but she had a huge heart of gold.  She spoiled my brother and I at every opportunity.  And since she moved in with our family when I was about five, there were a lot of opportunities.  One time, when she said no to me, I just took the packet of tic-tacs from the grocery store check-out line.  When she found out, we went back to the store and I had to return the tic-tacs, and apologize.  Needless to say, I never had a shop-lifting phase in my adolescence or teenage years.  That completely cured me.  I still burn with shame when I think about it.

She’s been on my mind a lot recently.  I’ve been immersed in old music ~ Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby …. I’ve been craving an evening of watching an old, crackly movie and remembering our nights together, when she was still crocheting and I was learning and we would watch TV and she would tell me stories.  During the war, my Grammy worked in a factory putting plane wings together.  The girl next to her stole her engagement ring one day, and never came back to work.  Bubski replaced it (he was originally from New York City, and his family were jewelers), but her second ring wasn’t as nice as the first (she always reminded me of that with a laugh, saying her new ring was her penance for losing the first one).  Today, I wear it, along with the diamonds from her wedding band, that she had made into a pinky ring for my 21st birthday.  I wear it every day.  It’s a pretty ring, but for me, it’s more about having a piece of my grandmother with me every day.

My mother mentioned a few weeks ago that she has all of Jennie’s cookie recipes, so I think that this Christmas will be the one that I try to continue the Italian-American tradition.  If I ever pass down anything to anyone, I’ll be glad that I made the effort.  I’ll be glad I wrote all these things down on this blog ~ so that if one day there is anyone who feels like I do now about Jennie J, the stories and thoughts and recipes are all here to read and remember.