31 July 2007

Book to Movie Challenge

ooooh i love a challenge. especially one that requires me to read! (good excuse to curl up with a book, yet again!) i saw Terra's post this morning & followed think linking trail to SMS Book Reviews.

Your challenge is to pick and read at least 3 books that were made into movies. There is a LARGE list here. This challenge will run September 1 - December 1. (3 months)

My choices...
1. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States

2. Chocolat (I cannot believe i’ve never read this; it is one of my absolute favorite films - fabulous & johnny depp too!)

3. Freedom Writers’ Diary

Thanks for the link, Terra!

30 July 2007

money laundering...

monday, monday! traditional laundry day...especially after our typical weekend adventures! 6 people + 1 machine = "loads" of fun!
over the past 20 years of this chore, i have developed some "rules" to ease my already cushy existence (cushy indeed! consider that for a time, my own momma used a wringer washer - egads!) one of my more famous rules is one that i secretly hope will be broken...

if the owner of a laundered article should happen to leave cash in the pocket, & if said cash should happen to agitate out of the pocket sometime during the laundering process...it is *mine*! all mine!

oh, this is funny to certain people when i find pennies & dimes.

when it is a twenty, not so much!!

ah, the benefits of being a domestic goddess...

28 July 2007

it was a dark, stormy night...

...really it was! a few days ago D. & i watched a storm move in from the distance. there is something to be said for living in a flat locale, although i do miss those mountains of my youth. the sky is so *big* here, and let me tell you, that reality is driven home when a storm is on the way.

i love watching the weather scene around here, especially when it is changeable. as long as we have no tornado warnings (one of my phobias - first hint of a tornado...then i am with Phil in the bathtub!), i am running from first floor to second, window to window to get the whole picture. Sunrises, sunsets & storms are of particular interest.
this serious of pictures is really my coup d'etat of weather photos...after thousands of snap-n-deletes, i captured lightening! i was beside myself with glee that night!

now, before you get too excited, it was not the cloud-to-ground bolt, but rather the cloud-to-cloud type that lights up the entire sky. the effect here was different than what we usually see - it actually outlined some of the clouds in the foreground. in the shots it looks like a funky sunset.
early dusk...still some daylight left, but the storm is moving in...
getting darker...still stormy...(view shifted just a bit to the left from the photo above)...
just a moment after the above shot...lightening!!!...high in the sky and on the horizon views...
and one more time for good measure...
(this is blogging mom filling in for our "official" meteorologist Little Man, who went to Dairy Queen that night!...you just can't miss this stuff!)

26 July 2007

7 random things meme

these things are fun & Shan inspired me to just jump into it. since my brain is a friend of random, this should be easy!

1. both my boys were born at home with a midwife (or 2!), my dear friend, & D. present. K-Bug was supposed to be as well (but i was very ill at 36 weeks & all parties involved felt homebirth was not a good option. turns out i had the flu & K-Bug was born a month early. all was well!). i was too young & naive when Baby Girl was on the way.

2. if you brush my hair, i will drool

3. my secret fantasy is to be living my very ordinary (albeit happy!) life, when one day in the midst of it all, someone i love grabs me (packed suitcase in hand) & wisks me away to a foreign land (preferably italia!) for a week or two or three... with all the necessary details arranged (leaving things open for spontenaity of course). this is born out of my role as "family travel agent" - i do all the work, they have all the fun. not that i really mind, but the fantasy would be a cool reality!

4. i *really* like my van (much to the chagrin of my ultra-cool teens)

5. i would rather write with a quill pen & ink well as my tools than my laptop any ol' day...but i still love my laptop!

6. the first time i saw a Monet live & in front of me as opposed to in a book or online (at the Met, NYC), my BFF & i both broke down in tears. (side note...an un-named blog reader chuckled when i first divulged this secret. but a few years later, in front of the David in Firenze...he finally *got* it!)

7. i am a "smells 'n bells" Catholic. i love our rich tradition - the ancient prayers, chant, Latin Mass, the mystical out-of-my-ordinary-life feel of beautiful church art in a beautiful old church. but this is hard to find in my neck of the woods.

25 July 2007

what's cooking wednesday

easy to do, popular with the masses, versatile, totally in tune with summer's bounty...

on our first trip to Italia, i knew that gone were the days of opening a jar of (God forbid!) Prego for dinner. i had some ridiculous phobia about homemade sauce (or "gravy" if you are on Long Island!) for my pastas.


all those years when i canned my own tomatos & could have done this with them. oh well. after watching signora Lucia in la sua bella cucina, deftly preparing her salsa, i was cured! and since returning Stateside that time, to the delight of my gang, it's homemade.

it's almost enough to make me brave the adventures of homemade pasta. hmmmm....

and for you, this Wednesday, i present my aberration of Lucia's culinary triumph:

Salsa di Pomodoro

*add a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil to a pan (enough to saute as below)
*finely chop 1/2 a medium red onion & 5 cloves garlic
*roughly grate 2 carrots
*add onion, garlic & carrots to olive oil, saute til soft
*add 1-28 oz. can San Marzano tomatos (be sure they are the real thing...you won't be sorry) OR, if you can't find them add 2-14.5 oz. cans petite diced tomatos - i am totally sold on Del Monte's diced tomatos with garlic & olive oil as a substitute, but in a perfect world i would be using fresh tomatos!
*optional: add 1-15 oz. can plain tomato sauce (my children prefer this addition)
*simmer to marry flavors well
*season to taste with fresh ground pepper & sea salt
*add chopped fresh basil, to taste
*finish with a few splashes of red wine, you guessed it...to taste
*heat just a bit longer, then serve over whatever pasta you prefer!

Buon Appetito!

23 July 2007

Baby Girl in the big city

we interrupt this regularly scheduled blog...

Baby Girl has left on a jet plane. alone.

on her way to the big city.

now, i am not a fan of airport goodbyes (unless *i* am the one getting on the plane - and even then i hope that the gang is all with me!), so today was a bit, um, shall we say, challenging for this momma, & this is true for several reasons.
#1 - it's hard to see the 8 pound 6 ounce Baby Girl go out into the big, scary world. (ok, so the girl does go to college, but this is different!)
#2 - it's hard for me, a card carrying TSI member (hey, SPF!), not to go too.
#3 - she is going to one of the greatest cities on earth (Frances, if you are reading this, she's heading in your general direction!!) - refer to #2 above!

but it it not all sad. i am so proud of her & her adventurous spirit! oh, how i remember the severity of wanderlust i possessed at her tender yet crazy age. i think of all the fun to be had & know she will come home so much the better. travel & the road-wisdom acquired on the way will do that to you.

and she is going to see her crazy-cool girlfriend!! (holla, R!!!)

now, girls...a little "listen to momma" moment!...watch your wallets, watch each others' backs, don't take candy (no matter how yummy the chocolate looks!) from strangers, & most importantly (dad says) all boys are bad!

that said, remember to live every moment as it truly is...a precious gift!

see you on the flip-side, Baby Girl! love, momma

21 July 2007


room with a view...
sometimes too much of a view!...

after the rainstorm...
perfect morning light...keep death daily before our eyes...
come to me...sanctuary...
illuminata...looking up...passing through...loving arms...cielo e terra...the road less traveled...closely...a place of repose...the holy way...beyond...shadow & light...Baby Girl in repose...
spilling over...
Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, SC

20 July 2007

bird blogging...update

we have some sad news here by the bay. both nests (cardinal & mourning dove) in our yaupon tree have, at some point through recent nights, succumbed to nature's reality - not every baby grows to adulthood.

this was hard for the children & i to bear witness to; it is sad, & yet it evokes a knowledge of the fragility of life that makes one feel gratitude to simply be alive. to simply appreciate the tiniest things.

last week, we went to sleep with all eggs present & mommas roosting. in the morning the dove was gone & no egg was in sight. gone without a trace. & we have not seen momma around since.

we awoke another morning to find, not eggs, but tiny hatchlings in the cardinal nest. they were still quite slick, indicating a fairly recent appearance from the eggs. throughout the day we watched as momma went back & forth, gathering seed to feed her very hungry brood. while she was away, dad stood guard on a nearby branch. later in the day, their faint down was dry and fluffy - so very sweet!

next morning they were even more "fluffed" and they seemed to move a bit more efficiently too.
once and awhile, one would poke up his (her?) beak & open wide. look very carefully at the photo & you will see the one baby's open beak (VERY wide!) at the top of their "lump".
when momma returned, she would make a chipping sound as she came into the tree. on cue, all 3 of them would open up for her.

morning of day 3...the nest is empty. so very empty. the silence is heartbreaking. we found no clue as to what happened. some of our crowd intellectualized the situation - googling information about baby birds & their predators (could the squirrel or oppossum who frequent our tree have reached them?). some of us philosophized - life is fleeting & fragile. some of us identified, overlaying our "people" thoughts onto the bird & wondering if momma was sad. all of us miss our sweet little neighbors.

one note of hope... this morning, a momma cardinal (we have no way to know if it is "our" original momma) sat by the nest for a few moments. will she come back? was she, somehow, remembering?

19 July 2007


Go here. Go now!! SPF is your guide today. Destination: Firenze, Italia.


There is a reason why my darling D. lovingly refers to me as a "nagabond" (that's a vagabond who is continuously nagging to travel!) & SPF *gets* it! I literally have a "travel stash" (yes, near my infamous secret chocolate stash) in my closet - backpack with essentials to get me from here to there (I'll buy what I need if I don't have it). You wanna go to Rome tomorrow? I'm there! Ireland? Check. Japan? Bring it on! Heck, next city over from our little village? Yeah, that too! No, don't worry about the kids - if they hafta come along their passports are up-to-date! Poor D.!

SPF, can I join your "TSI" group??

As a "thank you" to SPF for speaking my mind & lovely tribute to one of my most favoritist cities ever...I leave you with a little story Baby Girl & K-Bug can totally back up...

One spring evening in Firenze, D. & the children & I were strolling via del Corso after our trice daily gelato fix, enjoying the twilight. We stumbled upon this sweet little chiesa - issuing forth were the dramtic strains of Bach on an ancient church organ. We entered into the dark, candlelit beauty. I'm talking chills-all-over beauty! They were raising money through music to restore this wonderful church. It was over all too soon & we re-entered the 21st century, continuing down the street.

I said to the girls that it couldn't get any better than this... Watch out when you challenge beauty! Shops were opening for the evening & we started to criss cross the street - in & out of cool little places. In one stunning window hung, like so many Christmas ornaments, jewelry of every imaginable type. Seeing the sign on the door (aperto=open), I plowed right in and looked into the started face of the creator of all this marvelous jewelry.

In my worst stunned Italian, I asked "aperto?" - and this drop. dead. gorgeous. (did is say *gorgeous*?!?!) Italian guy flashed his pearly whites and, with a twinkle in his eyes said to me, "For you, bella, I am open." Well melt me on your floor! Cliches be damned! I was purchasing putty in his hand. So were Baby Girl & K-Bug!

Time to transact, euro in hand, I watched this beautiful man prepare my purchases. No, he did not stuff them in a brown bag. He did not stick his stunning handmade creations in a box.

He lovingly wrapped each piece in tissue paper, further wrapped them in sturdy old-fashioned heavy paper, tied each one with beautiful twine, *wax sealed* the twine with his personal insignia (I kid you not!), and delicately tied his hand-calligraphied business card to *each* package! Just beautiful. I would have paid my money just for the package!That's my Firenze!

18 July 2007

what's cooking wednesday...cupcake edition

every summer, while we are on break from homeschooling, i seem to inadvertantly pick a "kitchen theme"...a food or ingredient that i latch onto early in the season & without actually deciding to, gravitate toward it all summer, both in recipe searches & in actual experiments. This summer it is cupcakes!
do not ask me why!

in early june i made a cupcake recipe for a dinner party that would allow further use of my culinary lavender, which i had successfully incorporated into ice cream. i honestly did not expect much from that endeavor. in fact, i have not a photographic record of it! however, our small group **devoured** those tasty little lavender/lemon-type filled cupcakes. hmmmm...must make again! the experience spurred more cupcake action & flavors, much to the delight of my family & those with whom we party in the 'hood!

today, i present another of my summer cupcake experiments...

Key Lime Cupcakes

for the Key Lime Cake...
*beat 1 stick (8 T.) softened, unsalted butter on high for ~30 seconds
*add 1 c. sugar & zest of 4 key limes (or 1 regular lime), beat on high for 3 minutes
*Add 2 large eggs (at room temp.), one at a time, beat ~30 seconds each
*Mix 1 1/3 c. flour, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, & 1/8 t. salt together
*Mix 1/4 c. milk & 1/4 c. key lime juice** together
*Add 1/3 flour mix to the butter/sugar/egg mix, beating til combine
*Add 1/3 milk mix to the butter mix, beating til combined
*Repeat above additions, alternating between flour mix & milk mix - ending with flour mix
*Spoon batter into cupcake liners
*Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes (until cake tester comes out clean)
**side note...i use Nellie & Joe's Key Lime Juice & i substituted coconut milk (NOT coconut cream!) for the regular milk - awesome success!!
for the Key Lime Cream Chesse Icing...

*Bring 2 packages (16 oz.) cream cheese & 1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter to room temperature
*Beat at medium speed until creamy
*Add 4 c. confectioner's sugar, beat until combined
*Add 1/2 t. key lime juice & zest from 2 key limes, beat until combined
*Spread or pipe onto cooled Key Lime Cupcakes
*Top each with a gorgeous raspberry & enjoy!!

17 July 2007


"i wish i could just hire someone to make all my decisions for me."

kids...stopping me in my tracks for 19+ years...

16 July 2007

when your child starts a blog...

well, now don't you know that children will watch their parents' behavior & no matter what said parents *tell* them to do, they are still oh-so-much more likely to follow the actions rather than the words!

i've warned her that blogging will *consume* your creative mind... it undams a reservoir in the brain & suddenly the family camera is hidden in a place only *you* know about for instant access, or in use constantly. the desk, the tables, heck, all flat surfaces within reach are covered with post-it notes of ideas & random phrases. you start 'net surfing & through the miracle of some Star Trek phenomenon, 2 hours have passed in 2 minutes.

sounds downright scary, but actually for me, i am enjoying the way i've begun to look at things! now, if i could just perfect the "time management" aspect of blogging, i may just reach *net nirvana*!!

so, back to the bloggin child...K-Bug has been ignoring all my warnings, watching me have a blast & decided to plunge into this creative ocean for a swim... WOO HOO!!

she has only just begun (sorry Karen Carpenter!), but watch out! this girl is quite a writer/photographer!

my internet trail...

today i bring you Lazy Links...a feature i have decided to provide when i am, quite frankly, in the lazy mode, blogging-wise. (generally, this means in Real Life, i am anything but lazy!)...so here we go...

have you ever wondered what path God wants you to follow? Jen explores this in an edifying post.

because i like Latin & because i like jokes...drop in on Julie for a very good *mix* of both (yes, pun intended!).

if you're feeling philosophical (in an equine sort of way) & like to look at beautiful photos, go on over and contemplate what the Pioneer Woman has to say.

did you ever wonder what it would be like to live on a sailboat? if so, you need to check out Jennifer's blog.

hungry? time to take a cruise around the home of What's Cooking Wednesday & say hi to Shan!

hungry but don't feel like cooking...pay the Waiter a visit - he's serving up laughs!

where in the world are you?? where am i?? travel the world on a cyber map...can YOU name all the countries in Africa? and their capitals?? (Caution...Bragging Mom Moment ahead...Little Man did this last year for his geography test!!)

and a little something of beauty to send your off on your cyber-surfing way...500 years of women in art in less than 3 minutes (really) via YouTube - enjoy!!

13 July 2007

Chocolate = GOOD!!

Ok. Almost any girl could tell you this by instinct, but in case you need scientific backing to make your point...

Chocolate is GOOD for you! Really.

According to a recent article at Bloomberg.com...
"Patients who each day ate 6.3 grams of dark chocolate, about as much as a Hershey's Kiss, reduced their blood pressure after 18 weeks, according to a study. "

and..."The people eating the dark chocolate experienced a drop in blood pressure without any weight gain, doctors found. "

Finally, a legitimate point for keeping my Secret Chocolate Stash. (see below, A Few of my Favorite Things...)

This chocolate public service announcement is brought to you by your Confirmed Chocoholic Blogmistress here at Piacere!

12 July 2007

life in a treehouse

...or so it seems. we must dwell on stilts (technically called pilings) here by the bay, & that means we often have a bird's eye view...of birds! And their nests. Their eggs. Their hatchlings. Very cool stuff!

Over the course of the 2007 nesting season we have been privy to some 6 new families right outside our windows. Early in the season Betty the Bird (named by J & DM during their April visit!) came to rest & stayed for 2 hatchings - total of 2 new doves! Betty is a Mourning Dove, and was very accomodating to our observations. She also bravely endured one very severe storm while resting on an egg. You go girl!

While Betty was on duty in our Yaupon tree, on the other side of the house, a Mockingbird family was hatched in another Yaupon. Their nest was so very secluded that we could only observe their comings & goings and a few strands of nesting material sticking out of the thick foliage. After they "flew the coop" (sorry!), another Mourning Dove family built much higher in the tree - just outside my desk window! I spent many a moments watching their activity with my perfect view. Just a few days ago, both babies flew away & I was so very lucky to have the camera ready!
(One of the Doves is in the very center of the photo, but unfortunately is very hard to see. This was the moment just before they left the nest for good.)

Now, back to the original Yaupon...we currently have 2 nests going! Momma Cardinal is giving us the best view so far - her nest is so close to our window, we could reach out an touch it (but we won't!). We were able to watch her build the nest over a few days. And after it was complete, she laid three eggs! Right now she is incubating... And tolerating my camera with wary eye!
(Top photo: Momma is on the nest...notice her bright orange beak. Second photo: The first egg.)

Back in Betty's old nest, a Mourning Dove is again present with one egg so far (they sometimes hatch 2 in a brood).

Not all the action this year is right outside the window.

Some is in the yard...a family of Killdeer (dad, momma & 3 sweet little babies) has been feeding in the grass everyday for nearly 2 weeks. The babies are exact miniature duplicates of their parents - how precious. If our hounds go out the door a bit too fast, one of the parents herds the babies away and the other actually comes closer and mimics a wounded bird. Now that's teamwork!
(One of the baby Killdeer is located on the left side of the sidewalk, just before the beginning of the dock - they are tiny & FAST!)

Some of the action is, aptly, in the birdhouse!...3
Purple Martin families are lodging in our "gourds".
Some is even under our dock!...2 Swallow families have hatched so far this season. We are unsure of the baby count because they REALLY don't want us nearby.
(Look carefully on the right side of the dock - 3 swallows are sitting in a row just above the nest, found on the underside of the dock.)

And finally, some is in the neighbor's yard...our friends 3 houses away have a lovely Osprey family in residence. Watching momma & dad scoop a fish out of the bay and bring it in to the babies is quite a site! (sorry about the lack of photos for this one...we're working on it!)

11 July 2007

What's Cooking Wednesday

What's cooking today is my camera, along with this dandy little pasta dish... This time I decided to do a photo step-by-step. D. wanted to know if i was doing a photo shoot for Epicurious. Isn't he funny?!?! (Don't I wish.) Of course, if he would tune into the blog a bit more often, he would know all about What's Cooking Wednesday. But, really, he doesn't care as long as SOMETHING is cooking! A special "thanks" to my compliant camera that had to deal with my tempermental lighting and hot olive oil.

Cook & drain 8 oz. penne pasta (i use whole wheat penne)
saute approx. 1 cup prosciutto & 3 cloves chopped garlic in extra virgin olive oil for 7-8 minutes
add 1/3 cup pine nuts & the cooked/drained penne pasta
add 1/2 can chicken broth (7 oz.)...stir to coat & cook until broth almost evaporatesrepeat the process with the remaining 7 oz. chicken broth...then add lemon juice from one large lemonseason to taste with fresh ground pepper & sea saltadd 1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheeseand finish with 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
stir well...serve immediately...do not expect leftovers!
Buon appetito!