The Last of The Summer Festivals

I admit to being a popcorn purist - tangledpasta.net

I admit to being a popcorn purist – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

According to the 2014 Old Farmer’s Almanac, on September 22, 2014, at 10:29 p.m. EDT, the Autumnal Equinox begins. In other words, we have until 10:28 p.m., EDT to enjoy the last moments of summer. While there are those who believe summer ends when children return to those hallowed halls of education, how wrong they are, given that a number of school systems nationwide now begin in even early August. No, we cherish summer until that date and time in September the aforementioned Almanac tells us.

Yesterday I traveled to the fair land of early Orville Redenbacher for Valparaiso’s annual Popcorn Festival. In 1951 Redenbacher and his partner purchased a seed plant near Valparaiso; thus, a legendary popcorn star was born. In 2012, the City of Valparaiso even unveiled a statue of Orville Redenbacher at its Annual Popcorn Festival. With that bit of history under our belts, we set off to enjoy the festival. The weather was on our side: August thunderstorms had finally cooled the dog days of summer. It was a sunny, breezy popcorn kind of day. The local police had closed off Valparaiso’s charming downtown streets to accommodate the pedestrian throngs. White tents sprouted up and down both sides of the narrow streets. Live music blasted as popcorn revelers jockeyed for space while noshing on oven baked pizza, Bratwurst, elephant ears, pulled pork sandwiches, and ears of roasted corn, and the ubiquitous popcorn.

I sampled Pickle Popcorn, which tasted like a tangy dill pickle. Popcorn appeared in various guises: Chili Pepper and Lime, Raspberry, Bacon, and Pineapple, to name a few. Finally, I purchased a 50-cent bag of traditional popcorn from the Boy Scouts’ booth. It was the kind of popcorn that I liked best: Salty, buttery, and flavorful. After several hours of blaring music and huge crowds, we began wending our way back to my daughter’s SUV, drinking our bottled waters en route. On a quieter side street, we stopped at the outdoor booth of one of our favorite eateries: Café Meditrina, a small, corner place that serves up delicious Mediterranean food of the Middle Eastern variety. We purchased to-go meals of Lambwiches and Tahini Coleslaw, which were a taste sensation from Café Meditrina’s inventive chef.

Driving away from Valparaiso’s Annual Popcorn Festival, we reviewed how it stacked up against the three Michigan summer festivals we attended in August: Northville’s Made in Michigan; South Haven’s Blueberry [which also offered Blueberry Popcorn]; and New Buffalo’s Ship and Shore. We agreed that Valparaiso’s was a fine festival, but we still preferred blueberries to popcorn. We also lamented that the abysmal popcorn parking, unlike the Michigan festivals we attended. In the end, I remain a no-frills popcorn purist, gourmet popcorn be damned. Relaxing at Valparaiso’s bistros beckons in the months to come, minus the cacophony of a festival. Valparaiso really did put on a good Popcorn Festival.

Pass the salt, please, and the hot butter.

Ciao for now.

95 Strong

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Aunt Adelaide loves roses - tangledpasta.net

Aunt Adelaide loves roses – tangledpasta.net

Several weeks ago my daughter and I drove to one of the heavily tree-lined towns outside of Detroit. Throughout the summer my anthem had been, “Visit Aunt Adelaide!” My mother, Kitty, had two younger sisters, Adelaide and Agnes. Mama had six brothers too, but this focus is on Aunt Adelaide, the middle sister, who turned 95 in August. After coordinating schedules with my cousin Mimi, with Anjelica’s schedule, and with mine, we managed to arrive at an August weekend that worked for all, including Aunt Adelaide.

My aunt is not only my mother’s sister; she is also my Godmother. Although my aunt and her family moved to Detroit early in my childhood because of my Uncle Dick’s work [he designed the 1949 Ford: The Car that Saved an Empire – basically, the car that saved Henry Ford’s derriere as documented in automotive history books], throughout my life Aunt Adelaide has been a major presence. We frequently visited our family in the Motor City, and likewise, my aunt and uncle often brought my three cousins to visit us. How I loved eating the Lebanese food Aunt Adelaide prepared whenever we were in town! Uncle Dick was Lebanese and his mother, Sito, who lived with them, and whose English was virtually nonexistent, spoke in Arabic. Between the food and the Arabic, I was enthralled by the exoticness of it all. Mama and her sisters brought their families for summers on Eagle Lake at our family’s lakefront cottage. It was Aunt Adelaide who even taught me how to swim. She was an R.N. who tended our bee stings, sunburn, and cuts from rocks. In short, Aunt Adelaide has always been like a second mother to me, and Aunt Agnes too.

Aunt Adelaide has a great sense of humor. We have always laughed over rollicking stories about zany family and friends, current events, books, movies, and anything and everything. To this day, I telephone Aunt Adelaide and she regales me with anecdotes of yore. In her heyday, she was also a talented seamstress and clothing designer. Between my uncle’s design engineering and overall artistic talent and my aunt’s creative clothing and home furnishing confections, it is small wonder that my three cousins are artists in their own right.

In short, it seemed fitting to celebrate Aunt Adelaide’s 95th birthday with her. She may move more slowly and deliberately, and sometimes she has to pause to remember a particular word, but not enough to dampen conversation. We brought her a petite, feathery bouquet of pink roses, a book, and a DVD about the history of her hometown high school alma mater. We knew she would enjoy everything, and she did. Although her sons were out-of-town, and my dear uncle had passed away months after my father [I like to think of them swapping Italian and Arabic stories and laughing no end], we merrily celebrated. As we drove away that evening, I was filled with nothing but love for my darling Aunt Adelaide. After she blew out the candles on her cake, I told her what we Italians say: Cent’anni! A Hundred Years! It could happen.

Ciao for now.

Summer Festivals

A blueberry clock, perhaps? - tangledpasta.net

A blueberry clock, perhaps? – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

There is nothing more quintessentially American than ubiquitous summer festivals. Quite of few of these annual festivals center around fruit, although there are those that focus on vegetables, corn is a dominant August vegetable.

Here in the Heartland in early August, we celebrate the blueberry. There is, however, one county not far from ours that has the audacity to hold its blueberry festival over Labor Day weekend, when there is not a fresh blueberry to be had. However, I am pleased to report that in the Michigan [a mere twenty minutes to the State Line from our abode, genuine August Blueberry Festivals abound. My daughter and I hopped into our roadster and headed for the South Haven Blueberry Festival.

This beach community is on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, one of the Five Great Lakes. South Haven itself clocks in at less than one-and-a-half hour’s drive from our home. Although we have spent summers on Lake Michigan, we had never visited South Haven. Downtown was jumping, with pedestrians everywhere. We wound up in a picturesque park with a large clock overlooking the shady walkways. Since it was a blazingly hot and humid day, we welcomed the shade. We meandering and following our noses, we detected the scent of Italian beef in the air. On the other side of the park was a tent-covered area with a vendor selling Italian Beef Sandwiches slathered with roasted bell peppers and onions. Resisting this temptation, we moved on to booths of blueberries every which way: In quarts, 4-pound and 10-pound lots, pies, muffins, jams, mustard [actually quite good], syrup, salsa, and ketchup, of all things.

We purchased 4 pounds of blueberries, a 16-ounce jar of blueberry jam, and headed back to the “blueberry strip” downtown. Upon entering The Blueberry Shop, I tasted the blueberry coffee [mighty fine, even to this non-coffee drinker, although I am aware of the irony of that remark], while Anjelica taste-tested blueberry-covered pretzels [a winner, she decreed].

Happy with our blueberry tea, blueberry cocoa, and blueberry salt-and-pepper shakers, we headed off in search of lunch. Although we had hoped to garner a table at The Stray Dog, its two-and-a-half hour wait propelled us to another eatery a few blocks up the street: The Black River Tavern, overlooking the harbor. While the tavern was packed to the gills, a table for two had just opened. On the advice of our hurried, yet chipper waitress, we ordered a specialty of the tavern: Perch sandwiches. The perch had been freshly caught in Lake Michigan that morning, and may I say “Bravo!” to this cold-water fish! Fast food fish sandwiches pale dramatically after chomping down the enormous fresh perch ones at The Black River Tavern.

Sated, we moved on to the Black River Bookstore. This charming bookshop offers used books, along with new ones by Michigan authors. In the children’s section I came across the Camp Fire Girl Guide. As I thumbed through this well-worn copy, I was reminded of my book when I was first a Bluebird, and then moved up to Camp Fire Girl for twelve years, first through twelfth grades with my mother as the Leader of our troop. Carefully I placed in back upon the shelf for a girl to discover. After making a book purchase, we took a drive along the shore, parked the car, got out and watched the sailboats glide by the lighthouse. We may return to South Haven for a week or two stay on the beach next summer, and, of course, for the blueberries.

Ciao for now.

Route 66: Requiem for a President

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Springfield, IL-tangledpasta.net

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Springfield, IL-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Of all the wonders we experienced on our travels through Illinois on Historic Route 66, one that stood out was the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. Our Route 66 Visitor’s Guide informed us that Lincoln’s Library and Museum “…is over 50% larger than any other presidential library/museum, and is the most visited.” That I would believe since it was people, people everywhere when we visited on a weekday.

My daughter, the “2L” [second year] law student, was wild to visit the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices. It proved an arresting moment to know Lincoln walked from his home to his brick, on-the-corner law office, entered through those very doors, worked at that impressive tall, wide desk with cubby holes, warmed himself at that particular fireplace, and honed his legal skills from 1843 to 1852. Outside the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices is a tree-lined plaza with life-sized sculptures of Lincoln, his wife Mary, and their first-born son Willy. We walked a short distance, strode through the Lincoln Presidential Museum’s doors, purchased tickets, and embarked on a journey through Lincoln’s life, and what a journey it turned out to be.

Abraham Lincoln Museum, Springfield, IL-tangledpasta.net

Abraham Lincoln Museum, Springfield, IL-tangledpasta.net

We began inside a log cabin, not Lincoln’s, but one from his birth area, explained the guard. How all of his family members lived in that postage stamp-sized log cabin is beyond me, but they did. We moved into the general store where he worked. All replicas of Lincoln and those around him throughout the museum are life-size. He was a tall man for his times, dwarfing those around him. When we reached the room of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debate, I did a double take: Inside a protected case laid William Lincoln’s broken headstone. The boy died at age four in Springfield, the first of many personal tragedies to assail the Lincoln family. Moving through this vast museum to the culmination of the Civil War, and how Lincoln was fraught with decisions, dissent within his Cabinet, the soaring death toll of the war, and the deaths of two of his other sons, begged the question how did the man persevere. Yet he did. Lincoln’s personal and public major events are represented in large rooms. Displays of uniforms of the North and of the South, along with photographs and last letters home from these soldiers, cuts to the quick as one realizes the breadth and scope of the Civil War. Having visited Gettysburg, I felt that same surge of sadness at the human toll exacted on both sides.

The last enormous room was a precise replica of Lincoln lying in state in Springfield. Dimmed lighting, long burgundy velvet drapes, enormous ferns, and the ornate casket itself covered with a huge spray of flowers atop a raised sort of indoor mound drive home the enormity of the Nation’s loss. This, of all the Lincoln rooms, demanded silence. Reverentially we halted as we gazed upon this Lincoln’s final stop of the funeral train’s journey from Washington, D. C. Staggering back into the brightly lit museum pavilion, we decided to forgo the museum’s theatrical play, though we did take a look inside the gift shop. Across the street was the Lincoln Library, which houses his documents. It too is a beautiful building, and knowing what it archives makes it all the more special.

Abraham LIncoln's Monument, Oak Ridge Cemetary, Springfield, IL-tangledpasta.net

Abraham LIncoln’s Monument, Oak Ridge Cemetary, Springfield, IL-tangledpasta.net

We then arrived at Lincoln’s Springfield residence. The entire neighborhood is a national museum/park, replete with forest rangers and manifold security. What makes Springfield unique is that it is where Lincoln’s professional law life and political life began. The entire Historic District exudes Lincoln, the President who saved the Union. Lincoln was laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Also buried there were Mary, his wife, and three of their sons: William, Edward, and Thomas, all of whom died in boyhood. Only Robert lived to adulthood, and he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Beneath a majestic obelisk atop a hill and terrace, visitors may walk inside the structure into a rotunda covered with marble and bronze. Lincoln is buried ten-feet underground in a concrete vault. Again, there is a hush among visitors to Lincoln’s tomb. The entire Lincoln experience is an absorbing one, intellectually, historically, and humanistically.

Ciao for now.

 

The Romance of the Road: Route 66

Sculpture at the entrance of the Joliet Route 66 Welcome Center - tangledpasta.net

Sculpture at the entrance of the Joliet Route 66 Welcome Center – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

We set out on a blue-sky morning full of anticipation for our road trip.  Although Route 66 technically starts in Chicago at Buckingham Fountain, we decided to circumvent the Windy City since we were already familiar with Buckingham Fountain.  We opted instead to begin at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center.  It proved a good place to begin.  We encountered a chatty Welcome person filled with stories of the fabled Route and of the Joliet Jail.  The Welcome Center includes couches made from cars’ tail fins, statues of The Blues Brothers, and a replica of a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette in which one may sit and pretend to drive.  This light and airy starting point also boasts a sculpture at its entrance that pays homage to the storied Route 66. Although laden with information we had culled before our trip, the welcome man pointed us to excellent free maps that highlighted further points of interest.  Hopping in our car, we set off Route 66 in front of the Welcome Center.

The road is well-marked with distinctive tan and white Illinois Historic Route 66 markers.  We soon learned that those markers spring up suddenly with arrows pointing to a sharp, unexpected turn. Traveling on the two-lane highway, my daughter informed me, made her feel really American.  I understood.  As we drove, we talked about how Route 66 was “The Road” to traverse during the latter part of the Roaring Twenties, and how the Route had been the main artery for transporting bootleg liquor between St. Louis and Chicago during Prohibition.  We noted a wonderful absence of semi-truck traffic and of road construction on Route 66, the National Scenic Byway.  We hummed the theme song from the “Route 66” television program, and came to experience the sense of nostalgia the Route itself invokes:  It embodies the concept of the open road.

We let the road lead us to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.  Uniform headstones and colorful floral gardens belie the fact that the cemetery sits on the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant. As we were leaving, a funeral cortege was entering. It was a moving moment in this quiet, well-kept space. Our next point of interest on Route 66 was a far cry from the previous one:  the Gemini Giant in front of the Launching Pad Drive-In of Wilmington, Illinois.  The enormous fiberglass Giant pays homage to early Space Travel.  The still operating Drive-In itself opened in 1960, before the blandness of corporate chain drive-ins emerged. We were feeling hungry by the time we hit Braidwood.  We pulled up to the Polk-A-Dot Drive-In, which first opened its doors in 1956. Feeling the pull of those halcyon diner days of yore, we ordered cheeseburgers, chili fries and Green Rivers, very filling.  The 1960’s era jukebox proved so irresistible that I had to feed it coins to play “Jail House Rock”, “Great Balls of Fire”, and “La Bamba”, three tunes for fifty cents.  Outside we posed in front of Betty Boop, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean fiberglass creations. In Godley, reading Burma Shave Signs along the Route made us laugh as we continued to get our kicks on Route 66.

 

Ciao for now.

Summer Getaway

 

Getting our kicks on Route 66 - tangledpasta.net

Getting our kicks on Route 66 – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

When I was a child, I vaguely recall a television program called “Route 66” that first aired in 1960. Since I was limited to one television program, the show did not totally capture my attention like “Lassie” and “The Wonderful World of Disney” did, but the characters, named Buz, who was later replaced by a character named Linc] and Tod, drove on the now Historic Route 66 in a Corvette convertible. I imagined that this sports car was red, but since we the program was in black and white in those years, I could not be sure [According to Wikipedia, the Stingray was light blue throughout the first season]. Maybe the romantic notion of freedom I associated with a red Corvette, which is why in my mind’s color version of the program, the car was red.

It was the “Route 66 Theme” song that caught my ear when my parents started watching the program. It was composed by a man named Nelson Riddle, whom I thought in my child’s mind, had a funny name. It was a catchy, jazzy sort of song, and I liked it. Years later, I realized those old “Route 66” episodes reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s book, On the Road. The notion of freedom, searching for one’s self and meaning were as apparent in Kerouac’s work as in “Route 66” story lines. We know now that the 1960’s were a tumultuous decade in U.S. history. “Route 66” foreshadowed that restlessness in its lead male characters and the seductive draw of the open road.

For several years I have wanted to travel on Route 66, for I too love road trips, and eschew airplane travel whenever possible. Tomorrow morning we leave for Chicago to commence getting our kicks on Route 66. While we have time this summer only to travel as far as St. Louis, maybe eventually we can drive Route 66 all the way to L.A. As Buz and Tod learned, endless possibilities exist within the small communities and people who inhabit them.

Ciao for now.

  My Star-Spangled Girl

Every birthday is a star-spangled one for my 4th of July daugher-tangledpasta.net

Every birthday is a star-spangled one for my 4th of July daugher-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

July 2nd dawned as sultry as could be.  At 3:30 p.m., the obstetrician informed me, “She hasn’t dropped yet.” I was nine months pregnant, as uncomfortable as could be, and the baby was kicking non-stop like a soccer player at the World Cup. My husband and I had already separated [he had moved back to Greece before we knew I was with child]. The July heat and humidity bore down relentlessly and I felt like a wet mop.

Resigned to another sleepless night, I placed the ingredients for pesto in the Cuisinart, and waited for the linguine to boil. I decided to make the best of it and watch a movie as I poured myself an herbal iced tea.  I longed for a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio, but once I learned I was expecting, I eliminated coffee and my evening glass of vino from my menu.

At 10:30 p.m. on that July 2nd, I decided to give sleep a chance.  It was not to be, for I was rushed to the hospital shortly thereafter. Anjelica decided to “enter the light” as the Italians say, at 6:30 a.m. on the 4th of July. All the pre-natal vitamins I had taken daily, all the cream of wheat and oatmeal I had ingested paid off:  Anjelica was pink and perfect with a mass of black hair.  She was a beauty from the start and still is, if I may say.

That night, from the large picture window in our maternity ward room, we watched the 4th of July fireworks on the river.  At least I enjoyed the pyrotechnic display; Princess Anjelica snoozed away atop my chest, indifferent to her first 4th of July fireworks. We celebrated a lot of her birthdays with star-spangled cakes and red, white, and blue clothing themes.  At one point she announced she had tired of patriotic-themed birthdays.  Thus, ushered in the era of pink and lavender 4th of July feted birthdays.  The tradition that remained was our family staking a claim on prime river space to watch the 4th of July fireworks.  This endured until the city’s fireworks benefactor died.

This year Anjelica is again coming home for her birthday weekend.  We are having a small gathering with friends, but will host the family later this summer. The menu this year is roasted lemon chicken, risotto cakes, eggplant gratin, salad, and almond-scented raspberry and white cake.  Two weeks ago Anjelica told me she would like to have a 4th of July theme.  I’ve begun decorating inside and out already. While neither of us knows exactly where she will wind up two years from now, post-law school, I take heart in the fact that we are still able to celebrate her birthday together for now.

Buon cumpleanno, carissima star-spangled figlia mia!

Ciao for now.

For the Birds

While not as showy as a Cardinal, she is spunky - tangledpasta.net

While not as showy as a Cardinal, she is spunky – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

One of my favorite Sunday indulgences is to sit with my large gingham printed cup of green tea on the wicker sofa with the plush blue and green print cushion, reading the Sunday New York Times.  Having been out-of-town over the course of the past several weekends, I have not been able to satisfy my Sunday morning ritual.  However, on this leisurely morning, I thought I was back on track.

Our front porch, which wraps around part of the front of a 1928 story-and-a-half bungalow house, is in the shape of a square.  White PVC railing surrounds it and the front steps. Coordinating caramel colored faux wicker furniture consisting of said sofa, two chairs with slightly rolled arms, and a side table that actually sits between the chairs and the sofa complete the look.  The wicker table sits atop a small blue and cream outdoor rug; between the chairs stands a round flamingo tiled table with black wrought iron legs. Hanging ferns surround the porch adding an airy 1920’s vibe.  Since the porch faces east, morning is the best time to enjoy the porch.

With green gingham mug in hand, and bowl of Greek yogurt because probiotics are good for us, and fresh strawberries and honey, I collected the New York Times, watered the printed pot of pink Gerbera daisies on the side table, and prepared to park myself on the porch.  Glancing at the ferns, I realized I had best hydrate them immediately.  I gingerly poured water into the side of the large fern above the wicker chairs.  Suddenly, four small birds came flying out of the fern, chirping frantically and flapping their wings as if our two indoor cats had been let loose.

Weeks ago little brown mama’s eggs had hatched.  It had been at least two weeks since she had raised a ruckus as I crossed the porch to retrieve the mail. I assumed the birds had vacated the center of that particular fern.  How wrong I was!  For some years a verdigris rectangular planter was hung with three small pots of flowers off the back door steps.  Each spring a bird would set up housekeeping in that planter with her little blue eggs.  Every time we opened the back door, the bird could come flying in our face.  After taking it up with committee, I decreed no longer would we hang small flowerpots in that planter in the interest of preserving ourselves from bodily harm.  Consequently, I had moved the verdigris planter to the front porch.  Again, the birds nested there.  Stepping out on the porch one day, I saw what we refer to as the Baby Bird Massacre:  A villainous Blue Jay had pecked the young birds to death. This year I hung an artsy three-dimensional star instead, in honor of my daughter’s Fourth of July birthday, and to encourage the birds to seek another domicile.  Clever little birds that they are, they nested in the center of the large front porch fern.  Blue Jays had not nested in the neighborhood this spring.  However, a rabbit has set up residence in our backyard.  It is nice to be greeted by Cottontail each evening when I return from work.  At least the rabbit does not fly into my face.

Ciao for now.

And Now a Word About Fathers…

My brother and sister-in-law, the best of people-tangledpasta.net

My brother and sister-in-law, the best of people-tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

First, I would like to extend a major shout out to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and surrogates out there who are loving, kind, and have fun with their offspring.  Next, I would like to extend a major boo, hiss, and toss of rotten tomatoes to those fathers who have shirked their responsibility to their children.  All I can say to those is, “You have lost big, with a capital B.”  Maybe your children will want to look you up some day, but more often than not, they won’t.  Why should they bother about you, when you were too busy attending to your narcissistic self throughout their childhood and adolescence?

However, back to the fathers who do and did take note of their children by doing the fatherly thing.  I recall a conversation my brother had with one of our cousins. They were discussing their fathers. Our father was from Italy, and our cousin’s from Lebanon [well, he practically was since he was born shortly after his parents emigrated]. Both our father and our uncle had an incredibly strong work ethic.  Their sense of family equaled that too.  Yet neither our father, nor our uncle ever pitched baseball to their sons; they rarely sat through one of their sons’ Little League games.  What they did do, though, was talk with their sons, listen to them, help them, paid for their college degrees, laughed with them, and instilled in them both an unshakable belief in the power of family.

It occurred to me probably our father didn’t pitch ball to my brother because he didn’t know how.  In Italy he was apprenticed as a shoemaker at the age of ten.  He didn’t really have the idyllic childhood Americans like to fabricate for their children.  The only time I remember our father talking about any kind of play time was when he mentioned how he and his friends in their remote village used to take sticks and push around whatever they could find. My brother played with his children and with my daughter throughout their early years and during their teen years. In their undergraduate years, he rallied them for tailgating, took them for dinner at his favorite pizzeria, listened to them about their travails and their successes; no one looked prouder than he did at their graduations. I think my brother had a fine role model in our father because my brother Frank has an ironclad work ethic and an implacable sense of family.  My brother shines as an exemplary father model to follow.  So did our father.

Ciao for now.

 

 

Back Home, Again

Fellini [a Maine Coon] and Coco Chanel [a study in black and white] - tangledpasta.net

Fellini [a Maine Coon cat] and Coco Chanel [a study in black and white] – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home after nearly a week away, for I was participating in the Indiana University Writers’ Conference.  The Conference ended on Friday, and early Saturday morning found me in Zionsville, where my sister-in-law Kelley and I headed out early to the village’s Outdoor Market. “Swiss-a Charge”, as my father used to call it in his best broken English, or Swiss Charge to non-Italians, proved irresistible with thick, colorful stems and huge frilly dark green leaves.  Delicate, thin asparagus lobbied too for my attention, as did the mixed Spring lettuces, and overstuffed quarts of freshly picked chunky strawberries.  All made their way into my market bag.  I bought two large twists of fresh basil linguine and two equally huge twists of tomato fettucine from the lady who makes the homemade pasta. Three gigantic basil plants I purchased will be planted Sunday afternoon when I am home. An outdoor luncheon under the expansive shade of an eclectic bistro along the brick Main Street of the Village of Zionsville with my darling niece Lauren and dear Kelley capped off a most pleasant morning. After an intense week of work at the Writers’ Conference, dining al fresco and sipping crisp white wine with my brother Frank and with Kelley late Friday night on their deck was just the relaxing segue to my journey home I needed.  Frankie even took us to the Dairy Queen drive-thru where we ordered small S’mores Blizzards, and then happily ate them at a pretty tree-lined spot overlooking the new hiking/biking trail in the village.

Driving home under blue skies and sunshine, I conversed a bit with a friend taking care of our two indoor cats, and then with my daughter, Anjelica.  In between times, I played my favorite Luciano Pavarotti arias on CDs.  The two-and-a-half hours+ drive sped along. Before I knew it, I was back home.  I had invited our family friend, caretaker of the cats, the mail, and the profusion of potted flowers to dine with me last evening.  I cooked the bountiful Swiss Chard, roasted garbanzo beans in olive oil and crushed red pepper, and boiled  cavatelli pasta, and mixed it all together with a basil marinara sauce.  On such a perfect Spring evening, it seemed right to eat the meal on the dark red brick patio in the backyard.  The black wrought iron furniture with the swivel chairs and comfy green cushions were made for such an evening and lend themselves to the house’s 1928 bungalow architecture.  Mindful of our Franciscan nun friend, Sister Marie’s hectic schedule, for she is both the Music Director at the national headquarters here in town of the Sisters of Saint Frances, and the Chair of Religious Studies at my alma mater, Marian High School, I am pleased to have her company whenever she is able to come over and share a meal. She kindly brought a strawberry pie, and we ate the pasta with vegetables, drank Pinot Grigio, had a slice of pie, and talked the evening away, for we are both great talkers.

This morning dawned, but I managed to sleep in and get caught up on my sleep.  Fellini and Coco Chanel, the cats, were not pleased that their Fancy Feast breakfast was tardy on my first morning back.  I toasted naan bread, drizzled it with olive oil, prepared some of the fresh strawberries, brewed a combination of Teavana teas that I like, a chai and an oolong, with names far too long to remember, and I set up my breakfast camp on our front porch.  I could rhapsodize for some time about the small square front porch and our backyard brick patio.  The hanging ferns on the front porch, the wicker sofa and chairs with the blue and green swirly plush cushions, and the coffee table with its pot of Gerbera Daisies atop the blue and cream outdoor rug, and me armed with the Sunday New York Times, make me feel like a fortunate, relaxed woman on this sunny/partly cloudy morning.  With Fellini and Coco Chanel dozing in the opened windows overlooking the porch, I slid back into my home life, albeit a richer one with the new friends and the writing insight I gleaned from the IU Writers’ Conference.

Ciao for now.