Ice, Baby, Ice

A gelateria in Florence, Italy

A gelateria in Florence, Italy

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

In the heat of the summer, during these dog days of summer, nothing cools the brow and the psyche like a frozen delight. Think snow-capped mountains, think winter snow in general, or think clean, shiny ice. Think ice cream. Think gelato.

NPR’s Audie Cornish conducted a fascinating interview with Francine Segan, a food historian who has tracked the history of frozen treats back to 3,000 B.C. when the Chinese mixed snow with fruit and beer. In the 10th century, Sarbat or sorbet as we know it, came to Sicily via an Arab invasion. The canny Italian scientist, Giammbatista della Porta, in 1561 experimented with ice and salt, and realized that this lowered temperature allowed for a creamy concoction, thereby creating gelato!

I am indebted to Giammbatista della Porta, who also has a very cool Italian name [no pun intended, but there it is]. The Florentines and the Romans both make indescribably delicious gelato. Since I cannot trek to Italy annually for the gelato I adore, I must settle for Whole Foods own gelato, which is none too shabby. Pistachio is my all-time favorite gelato, both inside and outside of Italy, followed by Stracciatella [which includes chocolate shavings] and Fragola [strawberry]. Italian law mandates that gelato must contain no less than 3.5% butterfat, which accounts for the fact that the incomparable Italian gelato triggers my taste buds in ways most U.S. gelato does not.

My proclivity for gelato does not exclude my periodic fondness for American ice cream. I would not dare profane this ice treat because I do indulge in particular flavors such as black raspberry, when I can find it, butter pecan, and vanilla bean. Low fat ice creams interest me not. If I’m going to indulge in frozen concoctions, I’m going for those with the butterfat; otherwise, it is like drinking skim milk, which looks like it has been waved over whole milk, and then been tossed with a bucket of water. Of course, this is purely personal preference: mine. A delicious ice creamery in Valparaiso, Indiana, called Valpo Velvet, makes smooth, deliciously rich ice cream – even black raspberry. When I’m in that charming town, inevitably I stop by Valpo Velvet’s ice cream shop, sit down and savor its rich ice cream.

While my heart belongs to gelato, in the end, it matters not which frozen treat cools a person off. What matters is the variety of choices to whet the appetite. I’m planning on a return to Italy within the next year or so. I cannot wait to luxuriate in its gelato! In the meantime, Whole Foods’ own gelato sates my gelato tooth.

Ciao for now.


Fair Skin, Strong Heart


Rest, revive, renew on the porch of The Grand Hotel.-

Rest, revive, renew on the porch of The Grand Hotel.-

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

The long-awaited vacation finally came to pass. Two years of no summer vacation had taken a toll. Last summer’s thwarted trip to Kentucky’s thoroughbred horse and whiskey trails was due to my egregious back issues that resulted in my staying home ingesting copious amounts of prescription pain pills. All the pain, plus more in other forms, had only whetted the appetite for this summer’s holiday. This summer’s vacation sounded grand, in part because I indulged in staying at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, one of my favorite places. At The Grand, the tenor is as relaxed or as active as one chooses. High Tea, mandatory dressing up for dinner with men and boys in suits or sports jackets, and women and girls in dresses or skirts, dining in the elegant Salle a Manger with its five-course dinner menu, overlooking the world’s longest porch and the Straits of Mackinac, is a sublime experience. After dinner dancing in The Terrace Room to a live jazz band helps work off The Grand Pecan Ball dessert.

I quickly adapted to The Grand’s rhythm. What I didn’t adapt to was the oppressive heat and humidity like I had never experienced in previous stays up north in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In fact, I opted for revisiting The Grand because the weather appealed more than that of Charleston, NC’s in August. Even wearing a long-sleeved linen shirt and straw hat I got sunburned on the ferry ride from St. Ignace to the island. After purchasing SPF 50 sunscreen, I ventured out in the 90 degree heat with its 97 percent humidity for a walk along the shore. My apparel choices were Capri pants topped with a long-sleeved white shirt and my stylish, yet practical straw boater hat. I returned to The Grand resembling Sebastian the Lobster from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Generous amounts of lotion applied to the affected areas, which were many, helped, sort of. Still, I refused to let sunburn sabotage my vacation.

In an effort to avoid further sun, I stuck to The Grand, which is filled with boutiques, art galleries, events, and a new retro-ice creamery [I highly recommend the root beer float]. There is even now The Grand Sushi [very tasty] next door to The Grand’s Gatehouse eatery at the foot of The Grand’s hill. Rocking away while reading in the white rocker on The Grand’s Porch, and ordering a drink from The Geranium Bar relaxed me. My heart felt lighter than it had in the past year. More High Tea and champagne, listening to one of the harpists from the Ginger and Spice Duo, dressing for dinner, dancing the night away after dinner all combined to make the days pass much too quickly.

Meandering through Petoskey on the return trip, exploring the Serendipity Boutique and the Horizon Bookstore and Cafe in Cadillac, deciding to dine at the Clam Lake Brewery, enjoying the lakefront, and staying the night in Cadillac, helped soothe the sad heart that had bid adieu to The Grand Hotel. Upon last night’s late return home, after looking at myself in the mirror, I realized I had sun poisoning. This explained the fever, chills, nausea, and overall weird feeling I had. In spite of the pain and discomfort, I would not have exchanged the days at The Grand Hotel for anything. Dreams of The Grand next autumn warm my heart and strengthen my resolve. Bring on the aloe vera gel and ibuprofen to heal my fair skin!

Ciao for now.

The Politics of Writing

The politics of writing were not lost on those who crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.-

The politics of writing were not lost on those who crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.-

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

As I grapple with writing the second and third books in a new fiction series, I am reminded that the writing muse may elude me on a particular day. While ideas for books tumble over in my mind, bringing them to fruition is an entirely different matter. The politics of writing require vision, strategizing, action, and fresh concepts or perspectives, even on an age-old theme. In the end writing is a solitary process, one that demands of the writer clear-eyed analysis of the work, much like that of a political campaign.

If the writer veers off course and offers only knee-jerk passages akin to that of a five-year-old child’s reaction, then the writing takes on a hue of shallowness. It may therefore be subject to derision, and rightly so. Sometimes fiction and non-fiction worlds crash into one another: The seasoned fiction writer will recognize this while editing one’s work, and thus revise it to put it back on the fiction path. There are moments when a fictitious world seems to imbue the non-fiction one with a unique sense of reality that may momentarily appeal to the proletariat rank and file.

This writer tries to humanize characters, yet sometimes a certain character is devoid of humanity. When this sort of character surfaces in the narrative, other characters react to counteract the negativity, the perversity, the sadistic nature of that aberrant character. These characters that rally to save another character from harm believe in hope. These characters, even in my world of fiction writing, believe in a better future for all, for they understand that racism, hatred, misogyny, and a doctrine of fear undermine the integrity of the human spirit, both in the world of fiction and in that of non-fiction.

Note: Any resemblance to actual events, places, or people living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Ciao for now.

Genius: Pasta

Pasta With Fried Eggs lends itself to different shapes of

Pasta With Fried Eggs lends itself to different shapes of

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

One of the most versatile of Italian foods is pasta. Pasta comes in various shapes, each with its own unique taste. Two of my personal favorites are linguine and rigatoni. Quality of the pasta makes a difference. My own pastas of choice are De Cecco and Whole Foods’ Organic 365. A link to De Cecco’s recipes on its website offers up a number of its pasta offerings with seafood. The De Cecco family founded its pasta business in the Abruzzo region of Italy, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea where fresh catches were readily available.

Most homemade pastas of yore found the freshly made pasta drying in the sun. Sun drying, coupled with high quality flour and eggs, made all the difference in the taste. Of course, now pasta manufacturers have invented techniques to dry the pasta for mass-market consumption, attempting not to sacrifice taste and quality. Certainly De Cecco pasta has succeeded in this regard.

One of my preferred go-to pasta recipes is from Mark Bittman, of the Cooking section of The New York Times. I usually make a recipe as is the first time, and then I add my variations on the theme. Bittman recently opted to consume less meat; now quite a few of his recipes work for vegetarians. Part of the beauty of pasta is that a cook can raid the pantry and refrigerator to concoct lunch or dinner. I even know those who eat pasta for breakfast! Italian pasta pretty much tolerates most ingredients a cook throws at it, although ketchup as a “sauce” may offend one’s cultivated pasta palate!

Spaghetti With Fried Eggs

By Mark Bittman [with my variations]



½ pound thin spaghetti [or linguine]

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed [or onion granules]

4 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino [or Grana Padano] cheese[Green vegetable such as broccolini or broccoli florets or fresh spinach or peas]


 Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta when the water boils. Follow the package directions for how long to cook the pasta until it is al dente.

Start making the sauce.

Combine garlic [if using onion granules, add these to the eggs] and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic and press it into the oil to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Remove the garlic, and add the remaining olive oil.

Fry the eggs gently in the olive oil until the whites are about set and the yolks are still quite runny. Drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the eggs [and onion granules if not using garlic] and olive oil. The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the pasta. Season with pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Serve with the Italian cheese, and with a green vegetable.

Buon appetito!

Ciao for now.



Writing Spirited Constellations

Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Ponte Vecchio bridge across Arno River in the evening Florence Italy – One of my favorite places in la bella firenze! –

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Several individuals have asked me how I manage to write, given that I work full-time. The answer I usually give is that I have no social life! This is only partially true, for I am neither hermit, nor social misfit by any means!

I derive great satisfaction out of writing. It provides a creative outlet of endless possibilities for me. After work, I may dine out with a friend about once every other week. Generally on the weekends, I may get together with friends for an evening. Somehow I manage to write around these gatherings. This weekend, for example, is devoted exclusively to writing. Friday after work, I filled up the gas tank at Costco, and then I stepped into the store itself ostensibly for one item, yet managed to emerge with fresh mozzarella, spicy avocado hummus, blueberries, mixed fresh fruit [mango, strawberries, melon], celery [to be stuffed with the hummus], pierogies –something I rarely eat [filled with kale, potato, and lemon], and cheese pizza. Noshing my way through Costco after work on Friday relaxes me, as did the glass of Pinot Grigio with a slice of pizza at home, which relaxed me further.

To write a novel demands uninterrupted time. I cannot focus with a barrage of e-mail, texts, phone calls, or the neighbor’s country music distracting my attention. I respond when I take a writing break. Figuring out characters, plots, dialogue, and the narrative itself require my full attention. When I know, or when I am able to spontaneously get together with friends, I plan my writing time around these events. This holds true for holidays, celebrations, and vacations [something I have not had in nearly two years].

The first book in the Spirited Constellations series came together fairly quickly – in about three months. A steady dose of winter blizzards helped enormously in this regard. I holed up at home and wrote and wrote and wrote over snow days from work, and on blessed weekends. Now I find myself longing for winters filled with inclement weather to keep me steady with writing. If I resided in Montana, I am sure I could write more than a book or two during those kinds of winters!

While I am writing the third book in the Spirited Constellations series, I have been developing another series quite different from my paranormal one. The first book in that series is completed, and the second one is nearly so. Another series is swirling around in my head, yet I have not put pen to paper. But I will soon enough. And then there is that memoir I in the works, too.

Throughout my life I have been comfortable working solo; I don’t require an entourage around me. I do not need to map out my week with social appointments. When I get together with friends, it means more because those moments are rare. Writing is a solitary activity, one that I embrace.

Ciao for now.



Spirited Constellations: Travels

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now available in paperback! -

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now available in paperback! –

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Spread the word:  Spirited Constellations: Travels is now available in paperback on Amazon!


Theodora D’Medici turned her floundering bookshop business into a thriving enterprise. Previously magical thinking had realized her past into her present. Now it has turned her present into the past in Italy as she finds herself trapped in a time travel with her modern-day insatiable lover and with her phantom lover.

Spirited Constellations: Travels is the second installment in a series of adult paranormal romance novels. If you like lusty heroines and provocative themes, then you will embrace Mary Anna Violi’s powerful vision of a world beyond Earth where rules of love and sex no longer apply. When Theodora attempts to come to terms with the time travel experience, and her real life lover and with her phantom lover, she finds that carnal knowledge can unleash forbidden pleasure when licentious attitudes rule.

Here is the link to Amazon:

Thank you for your patronage and happy reading!

Ciao for now.



Happy Birthday to You!

With a raspberry filling, how can a Whole Foods birthday cake taste bad?

With a raspberry filling, how can a Whole Foods birthday cake taste bad?


By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

This morning I awakened to a Facebook notification: Today is Anjelica Violi’s Birthday! As if I could forget, but thanks anyway FB!

My darling dark-haired, brown-eyed girl is now a young woman who graduated from Law School in May 2016. She now hits the lectures and books as she hunkers down prepping for the Bar Exam. Her structure, study focus, and organization amaze me. Maybe I should not be surprised. As a toddler she manifested powers of concentration. I attributed this to her Montessori schooling, but the reality was it’s how she’s built. She concentrated for great lengths of time studying birds in the backyard, and then drawing them. Insects such as grasshoppers also fascinated her; she drew them, too. When she majored in Journalism and Classical Studies, I was not surprised. Those fields also demand powers of concentration and attention to detail, her forte.

Yet where have these past 25 years gone? To paraphrase Maria Montessori, a child disappears into an adult. Indeed. Every phase of her evolution, from birth on, has been a joyful adventure. I reckon I haven’t missed much of it. The first day of Montessori school, I pulled up to the entrance where the smiling directress greeted us. Off walked my little girl hand in hand with the cheerful directress. I drove to the end of the parking lot and I wept, for I knew at that moment life would irrevocably change. Now others would also influence her, in positive ways I hoped, but the world had now invaded our tight-knit family sphere. However, I knew full well she had to learn to live in the world, that I wanted her to breathe freely and develop her own ideas. What I did not want to see altered was the essence of her: Funny, kind-hearted, insightful, and a whole strings of other attributes.

What she has developed is a generally right calling a spade a spade detector. She doesn’t suffer fools well. While her radar is still in its evolutionary stage, it hums along quite well. Four years at IU Bloomington afforded her an education both inside and outside of the classroom. Pledging a sorority and living with 150+ females enlightened her no end. She gained knowledge of people and of the world, and made steadfast friends.

And then there was Law School. She came into her own in these past three years, fiercely forward in her thinking, committed to making a difference in the world for the better. I see the spirit of her grandparents and their “can do” attitude in her. I see how she chafes under the yoke of the “let’s play it safe” notion of conservative thinking. Instead, she asks “Why not?” She brims with youthful zeal and vigor. No, I would not have missed her Becoming Anjelica for a moment.

Happy, Happy 4th of July Birthday, My Beloved Daughter! Cent’ anni [100 years] with Love!

Ciao for now.




A Learning Curve


Spirited Constellations: Travels is now published and released as an e-book and will be released this week as a paperback book!

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

A humble learning experience may enlighten us towards the path of enhanced knowledge. It may even serve as an illuminating moment in the annals of our minds and souls. Zen it may sound, yet thanks to my talented and brilliant graphic artist, the road to Indie Publishing is slowly becoming less opaque to me.

As much as I would so very much like to share his name, I have promised him I would not. In these past months, he has taught me much about the fluid world of publishing. One of the greatest lessons gleaned from him is the complexity of transferring a manuscript from Microsoft Word [full of encryptions] to Scrivener [which choked on the Word encryptions], ultimately casting aside Scrivener in lieu of PressBooks [part of WordPress where my very own blog is located]. Other steps are involved, but the aforementioned serve as rudimentary stepping-stones that move towards the published book.

Next on the horizon appears the ubiquitous PDF of the manuscript. Sometimes a well proof read manuscript becomes corrupted. A hazardous result may be viewed as the author reads again, albeit this time in the PDF, errors that did not manifest themselves even after the careful work of a professional copyeditor and the umpteenth reading of the manuscript by the author. After my first book, Spirited Constellations, published shortly before December 25, 2015, much to my chagrin, had errors that were not evident in the original manuscript.

This is why a Second Edition of Spirited Constellations will be available this week on Amazon and through Createspace. Ultimately it is my sole responsibility to make sure the published book is as error-free as possible. While I find mistakes in “good editions” of Jane Austen’s books [gasp!], in several textbooks I require in my classes, and why Julia Child flipped out over errors in Mastering the Art of French Cooking [the First Edition], in the end, I humbly point out that we are humans, not computers, proof-reading our work.

I  ruminated obsessively over my second book, Spirited Constellations: Travels because I want it to be as right as possible in readers’ hands. At the IU Writers’ Conference the first week of June 2016, I spoke at length with a prolific author who won a huge book contest in his genre, landed a contract, quite his computer architect job, and has been writing full-time for the past several years. He informed me that even with copy editors and copywriters, he still has to go over his work with a fine-toothed comb. It is laborious work, but he underscored that  at the end of the day it is his work.

Now I am much improved at tuning at the cacophony of daily life, the job that pays the bills, the distractions of social media, and my lack of focus at the end of a workday. Instead, I strive to attend to my writing and boning up on what the graphic artist imparts to me. He knows that some of what he shares I may not understand the first time around, but he knows he can drum it into my head until it sticks. Patience should be his middle name.

Ciao for now.


Spirited Constellations: Travels

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now published and available on Amazon!

Spirited Constellations: Travels is now published and available on Amazon!

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaViolli

Spirited Constellations: Travels

Hear ye! Hear ye! The second book in my Spirited Constellations series is now available on Amazon!

Purchase the e-book version of Spirited Constellations: Travels for the introductory price of $.99 for one week on Amazon and with Prime!

Spirited Constellations: Travels is a paranormal romance. In this second book in the series, Theodora D’Medici, her lover Danny Caruso, and her Phantom lover Giorgio Bellacqua travel back in time to Italy.

May your reading of Spirited Constellations: Travels be out of this world!

Thank you and Happy Reading!

Ciao for now



The IU Writers’ Conference

The second edition of my  first book, Spirited Constellations, will be published this week, as will my second book, Spirited Constellations: Travels.

The second edition of my first book, Spirited Constellations, will be published this week, as will my second book in the series,  Spirited Constellations: Travels.

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

I’m back. Valentino the black cat is once again putting on a full Broadway production to hurry me into serving him his Fancy Feast Primavera breakfast. Chanel, the black and white cat, seconds his enthusiasm. I don’t mind returning to my cats; they’re cool. After nearly a week at the IU Writers’ Conference surrounded by writers and the accompanying intellectual stimuli, returning to the mundane dulls the brain, and I do not mean the cats.

At the Writers’ Conference, I struck up conversation well-published author Wesley Chu. He shared with me his satisfaction of writing full-time. His winning over 6,000 entrants in a British book contest, thereby landing him a book contract, made this possible. He did not relate this history to me in a superior sort of way; rather, he relayed it in a matter of fact manner. A prolific writer, he is living the dream most writers can only envision. I purchased one of his books, asking him for a suggestion about where to start reading in his author’s list. The book is very, very good.

I also spoke at length with another award-winning author, Salvatore Scibona. He and I spoke in Italian about food, recipes, and books, pretty much in that order. While he is not as prolific an author as Wesley Chu, Salvatore writes about one book on an average of every eight years. His invigorating class on language, mind, and words heightened my already orbiting awareness of the critical use of words in my writing.

However, unchartered territory awakened in me throughout Amelia Martens’ class on prose poetry, which sounded like a literary oxymoron. She led us to explore prose poetry’s “resilient, subversive fluidity.” The more prose poetry we read, including hers, the more intrigued I became. Inspired, I began working on an epistle form of prose poetry that first day of the conference. By the time open reading night loomed large, after agonizing over revisions throughout the conference, I read my prose poem to the crowd at the Serendipity in Bloomington. I am generally unfazed by public performances, but by putting my new work in an arena in which I had never written previously, terrified me. Yet I plucked up my courage, took deep breaths, and jumped in the foray. Once in front of the audience, I summoned up my performance know how. Afterwards, Amelia urged me to keep writing prose poetry since I have a talent for it! Who would have thought it? Not I.

One of the most invigorating things about a writers’ conference is the synergy, the exploration new ways and means that revitalize the imagination. Surrounded by talented writers awakens creative muses within me. The art of writing satisfies a need in me, much like my vocal studies and performance did. I cannot imagine doing anything else. As I gaze down the time tunnel, I see light at its end, not death, but a full-time writing life in my imminent future with Valentino and Chanel in tow.

Ciao for now.