The Christmas Chronicles, Part 2

Saint Monica Church in our hometown on Christmas morning - tangledpasta.net

Saint Monica Church in our hometown on Christmas morning – tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Christmas Day 2013 dawned brightly with snow.  We tossed clothing into our bags, fastened them shut, and downed a quick breakfast before we headed to Saint Monica Church for Christmas Morning Mass. The church was breathtaking in its Christmas glory:  The large Nativity surrounded by trees graced the Blessed Mary Alter.  Red and white Poinsettia abounded in the Sacristy, on the Saint Joseph Alter, and in the alcove of the Pietà.  Our Christmas spirits uplifted, we returned home to hastily load the car with Christmas presents for my brother and his family.  We patted Fellini, Coco Chanel, and Shelton Rae, our cats, goodbye after their hearty Christmas breakfast.  They then settled down on their favorite blankets for long Christmas naps.

Saint Monica Church Nativity on Christmas Morning - tangledpasta.net

Saint Monica Church Nativity on Christmas Morning – tangledpasta.net

 

The sun shone and we played Christmas music during our two-hour-plus drive.  We sang along with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, Rosemary Clooney, and Michael Buble as we traveled over the river and through the snow.  Hugs and kisses abounded as Frank, Kelley, Daniel, newlyweds Lauren and Justin greeted Anjelica and me. We quickly distributed stocking stuffers to respective stockings.  My brother’s food company is now making delicious Lobster Bisque, which we had for lunch.  I certainly ate mine with gusto!

My nephew Daniel and my daughter Anjelica, two of my favorite Christmas elves - tangledpasta.net

My nephew Daniel and my daughter Anjelica, two of my favorite Christmas elves – tangledpasta.net

Frank and Kelley's 2013 live Christmas tree = tangledpasta.net

Frank and Kelley’s 2013 live Christmas tree = tangledpasta.net

We gathered in front of a cozy fire in the family room with the live Christmas tree. Arranging ourselves around the sectional sofa, the overstuffed side chair and ottoman, Lauren donned the Santa Claus hat, for she would distribute the gifts to each of us one by one.  Kelly, however, had us each draw a word or phrase from a particular Christmas carol.  We had to string the verse together and that determined the order in which the gifts would be given.  We each open the gift Santa handed out one at a time.  Over Christmas mugs of homemade hot cocoa, we oohed and ahhed over the presents.  I was thrilled with a touchscreen digital Crock Pot, which will now force me to plan meals ahead.  Anjelica loved her Vera Bradley brightly colored duffel bag.  Frankie received an IU quarter-zip, pocketed pullover from me.  My gift to Kelley was the Marc Jacobs Daisy Holiday gift set.  Daniel already had plans for his JCrew gift card. Lauren was pleased with her Williams-Sonoma gold touch square baking and loaf pans.  Justin was all smiles when he opened my gift of a very fine bottle of single malt Scotch.

Mama's homemade ravioli, deliciously made by Kelley - tangledpasta.net

Mama’s homemade ravioli, deliciously made by Kelley – tangledpasta.net

Later that night, we sat down to a beautifully decorated table to share my mother’s homemade ravioli and recipes.  Although I have made The Ravioli, Kelley now graciously makes 200+ ravioli for us for Christmas Day. Anjelica and I made Mama’s famously moist fudge and our favorite biscotti.  My brother has become something of a wine connoisseur, and we imbibed hearty wines that night.  We talked and laughed and reminisced as we celebrated Christmas.  My family is dear to my heart.  Celebrating Christmas with them I count as one of the greatest of blessings.

Buon Natale!

 

September Song

The lake's September Song - tangledpasta.net

The lake’s September Song – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

This evening, after a long workday, after giving in to the unrelenting clamor of Fellini and Coco Chanel for their evening cat treats, I realized the patio flowers needed watering.  The clock showed 7:05 p.m., and already the sun was setting.  Donning long black comfy pants and my favorite blue Life is Good hoodie, I filled the summer iced tea pitcher with water multiple times as I offered liquid refreshment to the large pots of orange, white, and magenta chrysanthemums.  The vibrant pink Mandeville is still blooming its trumpet-shaped flowers.  It too partook of a pitcher of water.  I pulled weeds that had the audacity to infringe upon the elegant Mandeville’s territory.  By the time I had made multiple trips up and down the steps to refill the pitcher and then pull the weeds, the sky had darkened into the gloaming.

After cleansing my hands of the weed dirt, I turned my attention to my gnawing hunger.  Canvassing the freezer, I decided upon collard greens and spinach.  I nixed the Swiss chard until another meal.  Noting there were small potatoes waiting to grace a dish, I fashioned a repast of a mixture of dark leafy greens, potatoes, onion, garlic, and olive oil with Italian bread on the side.  With the promise of a bit of cheese and fresh red raspberries for dessert, and a glass of vino bianco in hand, I nestled into the old green leather wingback easy chair, embracing the close of a lovely September day.

Ciao for now.

 

A Weekend at Home

Shelton Rae relaxed at home in the windowsill over the weekend - tangledpasta.net

Shelton Rae relaxed at home in the windowsill over the weekend – tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Last Thursday night Anjelica rang me up.

“Would it be okay if I came home tomorrow night?  I’m stressed, tired, and I need my Mama!”

“You know you can always come home, anytime, Sweetheart,” I assured her.

“Should I bring Shelton Rae for just one night?”  Shelton Rae is her big orange cat.

“Shelton should probably come with you since he’s never been alone overnight.  Fellini and Coco Chanel will be fine with him.”  [It turned out to be a bit touch and go, but that’s another story.]

Since she was leaving after her Friday afternoon class, I calculated she would arrive here around 6:00 p.m.  After work I scampered over to Whole Foods, one of my favorite places for grocery shopping.  I purchased a couple of New York strip steaks, roasted Yukon gold potatoes, and cooked some Swiss chard, or Swiss-a charge, as my father used to say.  Anjelica and Shelton Rae arrived at 6:50 p.m.  We chatted, cooked, sat down to dinner, and then she studied.  It was a most tranquil Friday night.

Early Saturday morning we headed to our hair salon for Anjelica’s appointment.  With a new graduate program, new city, and new domicile, she felt primed to change-up her hair style, which she did.  We arrived home.  I heated up the cheese and spinach Mystic Pizza [now sold at Whole Foods].  Over salad and Mystic Pizza, we reminisced about a memorable summer several years ago when we traveled to the charming seaport town of Mystic, Connecticut.  These fond memories propelled us to agree to watch the movie, Mystic Pizza that very night.  Scheduling a movie night meant Anjelica had to hunker down and hit the books before and after Saturday evening Mass.

I made risotto with mushrooms, herbs, and white wine for dinner, and we watched Mystic Pizza.  Viewing the movie again reminded us of the fabulous seafood we ate that summer:  Quahogs, lobster, clams, crab proved most tantalizing to our Heartland taste buds.  If it sported fins or housed itself in a shell, we ate it that summer.  Crustaceans aside, Mystic Pizza took our minds off of the mundane for a few hours.

Sunday morning dawned.  While she slept in, I put together a potato-basil frittata, and lightly fried thinly sliced pork chops in olive oil and a dab of butter.  After sorting through in-between season clothes to take back to school, it was time to bid one another adieu.  Anjelica had to return to her new life as a law student.  Over the weekend she had rested,  accomplished her homework goals, and unwound from law school stresses for a weekend. We bid one another adieu, and while I am aware that I will see her soon, I prefer to tell her hello.

Ciao for now.

The New Kid on the Block

Meet Shelton Rae - tangledpasta.net

Meet Shelton Rae – tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

This summer we had a most charming guest.  His striking color, light green eyes, and friendly demeanor won us over.  Most importantly, he connected from the outset with my daughter Anjelica.  She had sought a feline who relished being held, one who was older, yet playful.  She searched the local Humane Society and other independently operated shelters. Within two months, she found a perfect match.

Anjelica named him Shelton Rae.  One of our favorite books is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt [We also like the Clint Eastwood film version of the story].  Savannah, Georgia, the setting of the novel, is one of our favorite places on the planet.  “Shelton” happens to be the name of Jim Williams’ cat in the Southern Gothic tale.  Shelton’s middle name “Rae” invokes the gentle rhythm of a gentle Southern lilt when intoned:  Shelton Rae.

Our veterinarian informed her that this longhaired, two-and-a-half-year-old ball of orangeness has a double-coat of fur.  Even the white pom-pom of fur on the tip of his tail is thick and fluffy.  His luxurious coat of dark orange necessitated the purchase of a particular kind of comb to fluff him up, thus avoiding tangles.  Shelton demonstrated he his affinity for being coiffed by purring loudly.

Water faucet stand off - tangled pasta.net

A blurry water faucet stand-off – tangled pasta.net

The only two in our household he failed to entirely win over this summer were Fellini and Coco Chanel.  Fellini has reigned as Lord of the Manor for 11 years; and his triangle-shaped nose was out of joint at the inclusion of this orange upstart in his family circle.  Coco Chanel growled and spent a fair amount of time hissing at Shelton’s playful overtures.  What she could not abide was Shelton’s affinity for bathroom faucet water.  The bathroom faucet was her domain.  Each time I set foot in the bathroom, she and Shelton queued up to imbibe.  It made washing my face and brushing my teeth acrobatic feats.  After two weeks of circling Shelton Rae like a chuck wagon, a sort of feline détente had been achieved.  He and Coco Chanel romped throughout the house, chasing one another up and down the stairs.  Shelton and Fellini engaged in a cat version of Greco-Roman wrestling.  Three furry faces greeted me each morning in the kitchen for their Fancy Feast breakfast. A kind of cat peace reigned with three different decibel levels of purring.

Shelton and Fellini, a wary window truce - tangledpasta.net

Shelton and Fellini, a wary window truce – tangledpasta.net

Finally, Anjelica placed Shelton in his soft-sided, polar-fleece lined carrier, and moved him, herself, and her Beta fish Poseidon to her new town.  The three of them drove off to Law School.  It is to Shelton’s credit that never once did he draw his claws, except for a pawdicure on his 16-pound scratching post.  As a houseguest, Shelton Rae embodied the finest of Southern gentleman-like cat behavior.

Ciao for now.

 

The Disquiet of Quiet

Orecchiette and vino - tangledpasta.net

Orecchiette  with greens and vino – tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Today marks the first weekend since April that I it has been just me with Fellini and Coco Chanel, our two indoor cats.  My daughter continues to move household items to her new apartment.  But today she is handling moving solo.

Already she has planned to have lunch at a tavern eatery [a graduate school watering hole downtown] with a sorority sister who is working in this new town.  This evening her cousin arrives to spend part of the weekend with her in her cozy new apartment.  Tonight my daughter and niece will have fun hanging wall décor, arranging furniture, and simply enjoying one another’s company, for they are more like sisters than cousins, having spent much time together over the years.

To help the cause, I arose early this morning and prepared a dinner for Anjelica and Lauren tonight.  My guess is they will dine on the orecchiette pasta made with anchovies, garlic, freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, Swiss chard, salad, crusty bread, break open a bottle of vino, and kick back.  Yesterday Anjelica selected fruit tarts from Whole Foods for their dessert.

Last week was spent juggling schedules with the upholstery cleaners [the sectional sofa, side chair, and ottoman in storage in Bloomington were thick with dust], maintenance personnel [the air-conditioning and hot water were on the blink], and exterminators [a weather strip needed to be installed on the bottom of the patio door to keep the bug population at bay], it pleases me to know that her new abode is shiny clean, that the dishes and glassware have been washed and arranged in the cupboards on the newly laid liners, the floor vacuumed with her new sweeper with the Febreze attachment, and all the bedding freshly laundered.

The quiet unnerves me.  My daughter’s presence rocks my world in the best of ways.  At least she returns to town tomorrow evening, home, before she gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Law School.  At least she knows I’m always here, her anchor, her refuge, her unwavering champion.  At the very least, she deserves to begin this next phase of her academic life knowing I’ll happily provide her with Italian food.

Yet the quiet on my home front is deafening.

Ciao for now.

 

Le Chat Bleu

Coco Chanel resting - tangledpasta.net

Coco Chanel resting – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

I love Saturday mornings.   My bed’s mattress is plush, like a floating cloud.  My pillows are delightfully firm and are covered with Italian linen pillowcases, very enticing for a summer night’s sleep, which is why on this particular Saturday morning I didn’t appreciate Coco Chanel the Cat strolling up my side, which caused me to roll over on my back, thereby enabling her to plant herself squarely in front of my face. I blinked and saw her green eyes peering back at me.

“Chanel, go play with your Plaid Mouse toy,” I pleaded.

Suddenly I started: I thought I was dreaming:  Her paws were bright blue.

I nearly fell out of bed in my haste to scrutinize those formerly white paws.  I hightailed it into the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, the study, the sunroom, to no avail.  There was no spillage of blue anything, anywhere.  Upon reaching the dining room, I skidded to a halt.  The day before, my daughter decided to pull out her paints and canvases.  Beyond the artist’s easel that held a large unfinished canvas of several years ago, lay a newly painted blue canvas with two paw prints on it.  I picked up Coco Chanel, studied the paw prints and realized that she must have strolled across the canvas in the wee hours of the morning.  True to her catness, Coco Chanel, had manifested intense interest in t brush strokes as Anjelica painted, but the cat had backed away from the paint itself.

Coco Chanel must have overcome her reservations of the paint sometime before 8:24 a.m., the time she bounded up on my sleeping self.  When Anjelica checked her white bedspread, she found little blue paw prints in patterns across the bed.  The painted paws must have dried prior to leaping on my bed.

Blue-footed Coco Chanel - tangledpasta.net

Blue-footed Coco Chanel – tangledpasta.net

Frantic to remove the paint from Chanel’s paws, I was uncertain whether or not the cat had ingested paint.  It turned out to be a non-toxic, water-based oil paint, but was it toxic for cats?  We tried sticking her paws in tepid water and then rubbing them with a clean, soft washcloth to no avail.  I phoned the local Vet Emergency Clinic, which referred me to the APCA Animal Poison Control at 888-548-2423.  This outfit maintains a huge database of information on toxins.  The individual at Animal Poison Control asked me multiple questions, and then had read information on the Grumbacher MAX 2 Thalo Blue tube of paint.

Here is what we had to do:

1.  Pay the $65 Consultation Fee.

2.  Rub either vegetable oil or butter on her blue paws to loosen the paint.  Coco Chanel is a Julia Child disciple in that she is always angling to eat butter.  We used butter.

3.  Wipe off the butter.

4.  Spread Palmolive Dish Soap on the blue paws.

5.  Rinse the paws to remove the Palmolive soap.

6.  Dry the paws.

7.  Clip any remaining blue painted fur from her paws.

8.  If the cat drools, vomits, or refuses food over the next two hours, take her to the Vet Emergency Clinic immediately with the Animal Poison Control Case Number.  No further charges would be incurred for further consultation with Poison Control for this case.

Here are the results of said advice:

1.  We thanked our lucky stars our seven-pound cat didn’t have her front claws             because to say she was resistant to our efforts would be a gross understatement.

2.  Anjelica and I were covered in butter, Palmolive soap, and black and white             cat fur. Cats release fur when stressed.

3.  The cat did not drool, vomit, or refuse food; however, for some hours she did refute our attempts to pet her or be anywhere near her.

4.  We opted not to further stress the cat or ourselves by clipping the long fur on her feet.

5.  Anjelica plans to frame the canvas of Coco Chanel’s paw prints.

6.  Coco Chanel’s paws are now light blue.

The remains of the paint will ultimately vanish from Coco Chanel's paws - tangledpasta.net

The remains of the paint will ultimately vanish from Coco Chanel’s paws – tangledpasta.net

Ciao for now.

 

 

Dreaming of Dayton, Part One

A beautiful femme fatale - tangledpasta.net

A beautiful femme fatale – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

This past weekend we traveled to Dayton, Ohio.  My daughter was participating in a law school safari for admitted students.  This tour de force at the law school was enhanced by the fact that we would be staying with a beloved aunt.

We set out on a sunny Friday mid-morning to journey to the Land of the Buckeyes.  This was the last weekend of Spring Break, which meant we needed to drop off my daughter’s roadster and Harvey the Fish with my brother and sister-in-law en route to Dayton.  After a quick-lunch of zuppa di minestrone, Italian bread, and a chocolate-covered shortbread cookie with an IU seal on it, we headed east.  The trip clocked in around five hours total from our domicile in northern Indiana.  Our conversation was filled with the pros and cons of the other two law schools we had visited over the past several weeks, college graduation in less than two months, and my niece’s pending June wedding.  Before one could say “graduate school”, we were pulling into Zia Agnesi’s driveway [Zia means “aunt” in Italian], in front of her well-appointed house.

Zia has always been mad about Persian cats, and she certainly has had show-stopping ones over the years.  Her two current Persians, DeLora and Molly proved no exception.   DeLora is a stunning Smokey Tortoise Persian; Molly is a blue-eyed Himalayan Persian.  I remember years ago when Zia had two blue-eyed white Angora Persians named Mitzi and Muffin.  After interacting with DeLora and Molly, I thought our own Fellini and Coco Chanel seemed to possess more pointed, fox-like noses compared with the pushed in noses of their high-falutin’ Persian cousins.

An evening full of conversation, a delicious dinner of tuna fish and noodles and mushroom casserole, and Waldorf salad washed down with vino bianco, we retired late night.  Tomorrow at the law school promised to be a busy day.

Ciao for now.

August All Too Soon

Long after the promise of spring in April, past the joy of lovely May, after the crackling heat of July, August now surges on.  The euphoria of having my college daughter home for the summer has dwindled to surveying the landscape of clothes left, discarded shoes, and bits and bobs.  I mentally prepared to bid her adieu last week as she packed up her car and returned to the campus heady with the knowledge that a baccalaureate degree will be hers come May 2013.

Chanel, Bellagio, Las Vegas – tangledpasta.net

Mornings now begin without the creaking of the upstairs floor as she rustled around in preparation to start the day.  Only the meows and aeiuoosof Coco Chanel and Fellini awaken me these days as they rouse me out of my somnambulist state.  I am not fooled:  this indoor feline duo wants their Fancy Feast breakfast and large ceramic bowl of fresh water immediately.  Theirs is a well-ordered life.  Mine, however, seems less so.

Coco Chanel and Fellini – tangledpasta.net

The adjustments made to life minus the daily happy turmoil of dynamic family life have lulled into another sort of rhythm – one that moves forward in quieter, subtler ways.

I do not shed the waterfall of tears like I did her first semester of college away from home.  Valiantly I attempted to hold myself together until the last kisses and hugs had been given and received.  Bravely I smiled and waved as she disappeared down a dorm hallway to a meeting with a throng of other freshman college students.  I climbed into my car, pulled out of the parking space, managed to signal a left turn at the first traffic light, and dissolved into a sniveling heap of psychic decay.

Lake Michigan – tangledpasta.net

Now I take heart in the fact that my child is thriving in college, excelling academically, and reveling in sorority life and friendships.  As she dives headlong into life, I am buoyed by the fact that I am blessed by the sheer joy and pleasure of the fruits of motherhood.

Ciao for now.