The Italian Fest

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By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

On March 19, our St. Monica Catholic Church held an Italian Fest to celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph. The parish had not run this event in some years; however, we now have a young, charismatic priest who is full of ideas about how to bring parishioners together. The Italian Fest certainly did this.

My late mother ran the Saint Monica Spaghetti Suppers for years. She created committees for the meatballs [everyone made meatballs off of her recipe for uniformity in taste], the sauce [again, the cooks used the same recipe for evenness of taste], the desserts, the kitchen crew, the decorations, the servers [my brother and I figured prominently in this regard], the set up, the take down, the cleaning [both before and after], the carry out protocol, ticket sales, and the bookkeeping [for she herself was a cracker jack bookkeeper]. She met regularly with the chairs of these committees so that each was kept abreast of the development of the supper as it unfolded.

The oversight of the kitchen Mama left to a successful Italian restaurateur and his wife whose eatery my family dined at on special occasions. Mama and Tony and Betty stayed in close contact in the weeks leading up to the Spaghetti Supper. All three of them were expert organizers and taskmasters: they knew what they were doing down to the minutest of details. Their teamwork resulted in highly successful Saint Monica Spaghetti Suppers for years.

It was my mother who taught me how to organize events and how to delegate committee interaction and effective leadership. Her guidance served me well in the 36+ years of planning professional and personal events on large and small scales. Mama held office in every organization to which she belonged, yet her greatest joy came in working as a volunteer at our family’s parish of Saint Monica’s. She remained cheerful, helpful, and calm no matter what situation arose. Never did she lash out or make snarky remarks to anyone; hence her popularity!

For the newly revived Italian Fest, with my brother’s help, we provided over 200 meatballs, which translates to roughly 20 pounds of meat. Our meatballs were made from our mother’s meatball recipe that we use to this day. This family classic incorporates ground beef and ground pork into the meatballs, along with seven other key ingredients. In later years, instead of meatballs, the meatball committee moved to cook a meat sauce d [far less labor intensive].

I baked Italian Lemon-Lime-Basil Shortbread Cookies, a savory after dinner dessert for the Italian Fest. Some of my cousins made  deserts and served food at the dinner. Yet parishioners had come together; indeed members of my party included those from other parishes. We ate, we talked, we laughed, we ran into people we had not seen in a long time, we drank vino rosso and Peroni beer, and we shared desserts. It mattered little that the meatballs I ate [clearly not my mother’s meatball recipe] were so alarmingly salty that I drank two large glasses  of water and imbibed a bottle of beer to negate the salt. I refrained from complaining too much, for I feel certain that every Italian cook feels his or her meatballs are the best. What took precedence over the shortcomings were the camaraderie and the collegiality that prevailed as we toasted the Feast of Saint Joseph.

Ciao for now.

 

 

The New Year Hath Begun

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Light breaks through the winter landscape for January 2018.-www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Knock on wood: five days into the New Year and so far, I have avoided tripping, increased illness, and damage to myself in general. Not only does the temperature remain well below freezing, several mishaps befell me as the previous year drew to a close. Yet I remain confident the weather will warm up to at least above freezing in another week or so, and that I will rebound.

After having spent a wonderful day in Fort Wayne with my aunt, uncle, and cousin visiting from L.A., I drove home in a snow sleet storm. The conversation lively, the food excellent, and the tea and coffee at their home warmed my heart. Their company offered a sweet post-Christmas get together. Later, driving at 40 miles an hour, I didn’t make great time, but I managed to drive us home safely while enduring white out conditions.

As the morning broke, I found myself as sick as could be with a vile virus. Between the terrible cold weather and my overall malaise, I dosed myself with over-the-counter medications in the cabinet. In the wee hours of the morning, I stepped into the bathroom, and promptly tripped over something. I catapulted into the side of the porcelain bathtub on my right shoulder, and then crashed onto the tile floor on my right hip. Failure to turn on the bathroom light, my negligence in not stepping into sturdy slippers, my lack of vision wear, plus items left on the bathroom floor, combined to form a perfect storm of catastrophe. I had taken sinus and congestion medication before retiring for the night, which resulted in fuzzy thought processes, or lack thereof. Or I simply chose not to put away items.

At the risk of sounding like Lazarus, I was in tremendous pain, unable to get off the bathroom floor. EMS guys managed to hoist me up and into a straight back chair. After checking me over and evaluating my walk, they determined nothing had been broken. They suggested taking me for further evaluation at the hospital, but the winter wind whipping around outside held little appeal in my mind to venture out. The EMS personnel and the three firemen offered kind words and compliments about our Christmas decorations and outdoor lights. After they left, I spend the remainder of the night attempting to sleep in a recliner.

Thus, I remained inside during the blustery New Year’s weekend, making use of a heating pad and drinking copious amounts of green tea. It turned out that Coco Chanel, our little black and white cat, had developed a proclivity for the heating pad. Whenever she now sees me plug it in, she races to pounce upon it. We now share it. Last night I had a glass of wine with a slice of Whole Foods pizza. I have imbibed enough tea and water. I am still smarting over not having been able to toast the New Year with a glass of bubbly. Perhaps it is not too late to toast the New Year. Tonight I will fill my glass with the gentle fizz of Prosecco and ring in the New Year. It’s never too late!

Ciao for now.

 

December 2017

Hot chocolate, cutout cookies, marshmallows, and a candy cane make for a cozy December 25. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

December. I cannot fathom what in the name that is good and holy went awry.

The first week of December, a beloved uncle dropped dead, literally. True, he had been in heart failure, and had suffered various ailments, and yes, he had turned 96 on Halloween, but still, his death was unexpected, at least it was to me.

On Saturday, the day after I had the honor of singing at said uncle’s funeral Mass, I awakened to an unwanted bout of a gastro-intestinal virus. Fortunately, it lasted only 24 hours, but still, it seized me for a most unpleasant duration.

Sunday began nicely enough: I attended Mass, later focusing on my last two days of classes for the forthcoming week. The usual flurry of activity surrounding end of the semester college classes hastened to a close. On Monday morning a most wretched pain affected my neck. I could not fathom what had happened during my night of repose; however, I knew I had to make haste to pull myself together for these second to the last classes. I popped a couple of Ibuprofen and figured those would do the trick. Sadly, they did not. I managed to grit my teeth, and not turn my head too much, and somehow crawled through the day. During the night I was either howling or crying from the dreadful pain in my neck. I rifled through the medicine cabinet in hope of finding something to alleviate the pain. While the medicine dulled the pain in my neck, I entered the Twilight Zone. Unable to focus, I stumbled throughout the day at home, nearly falling on several occasions. That night I managed to get about three hours worth of sleep; the remainder of the night passed in my screaming in pain or in tears.

Morning dawned: the last day of classes. Every fiber of my body ached from pain: I was a wreck. I fumbled around my computer in attempts to make arrangements for my students. Since pain and medication had rendered me unfit for the classroom, or for anything else, in anguish I reached out to colleagues for help in collecting my students’ final work.

After multiple nights of virtually no sleep, I lay propped up in a comfortable chair, still in pain, yet not immobilizing pain. My physician also changed the type of muscle relaxant so that my out of body experience lessened. I managed to read my students’ final work, and the next day I completed the final grading. For the first time in over 30 years of teaching, however, I missed my last classes, and could only bid my students adieu over the classroom management system.

The following week I felt better. I then turned my attention to Christmas preparations. Later I decided to make Tuscan Farro Soup. One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is a mandolin that makes slicing vegetables a breeze. On the box, I noticed a picture of sliced carrots. I surmised I didn’t need to use the safety device that holds the vegetable in place. As I merrily sliced away, the carrot buckled, broke, and the mandolin sliced off the top of my middle finger [not the tip, but the flat part below the nail]. Once again I screamed in pain as blood spurted down the drain, for I had turned on the cold faucet water. It took awhile to then stanch the flow of blood. My daughter wanted to take me to the ER, but I said there was nothing to stitch. Washing the wound, then applying triple antibiotic ointment on it, and wrapping it in the large bandage seemed the best course of action.

For the next week I could not stir anything, or cut Christmas wrapping paper, or tie ribbon around gifts. Days before Christmas I managed to make my mother’s classic “Connie’s Fudge” recipe, bake and decorate Italian Ricotta Lemon Cookies, and make a homemade coconut cream pie to take to m brother and his family. The only way I could do this was with my daughter, who formed the balls of cookie dough to bake, and to stir the stovetop portion of the fudge recipe, and to stir the cream part of the coconut cream pie.

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

Ciao for now.

 

 

Type, Type, Type

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I can only imagine at Literati Bookstore in Anna Arbor, Michigan, the number of the books by authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf who typed their work on manual typewriters. -tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

This morning I read about the death of Mary Adelman. She and her husband Stanley Adelman owned and operated Osner Business Machines in New York, in Manhatten’s Upper West Side. While I never knew the good Adelmans, the photo in the New York Times of Mary Adelman sitting next to an old upright Underwood typewriter stirred memories.

Stanley maintained typewriters for the famous and for the unknown. Philip Roth, David Mamet, and Nora Ephron were among their famous clientele. Even when computers became the machine of choice for writers, quite a few clung to their manual typewriters, even eschewing the electric models, flying in the face of the evolving technology of typewriters.

My mother, Catherine “Kitty”, was one of those who refused our repeated offers to buy her a computer to ease her typing. While we toiled away on our Apple computers, my mother would have us pull out her gray hard case with the worn velvet lining that held her Remington typewriter, the gray one with the dark green keys. Periodically she had me drive her over to Bob’s, her former co-worker at Remington Rand. He was one of the last of the manual typewriter repairmen in the area. Bob cleaned, polished, replaced parts such as ribbons, all the while reminiscing with Mama about their halcyon workdays at Remington Rand.

In reading about Mary Adelman, and then reading about her husband Stanley, I understood their passionate affinity for manual typewriters. I even comprehended the famous writers, like Isaac Bashevis Singer who faithfully labored in their Osner Business Machines shop. There is an air of sadness for the bygone era of the manual typewriter. I use to derive comfort from the clackety-clack sound of my mother deftly typing correspondence for my father’s shoe business, and typing letters to her fellow board members for the now defunct little Saint Joseph Hospital’s Auxiliary, and for the Saint Monica Rosary Society, and for the Quester’s Antique Club, and for other organizations on which she served. I recall her copious typewritten lists and correspondence as she and Tony and Betty organized Saint Monica’s annual Spaghetti Suppers. Papers neatly organized with me as a child following her directives for placing the stamps on the envelopes. Later Mama drove us to the Post Office to mail the stacks of letters to the recipients.

While I would not relinquish my Mac computer, I honor those who write on with their machine of choice. Type on, fellow writers, I say, type on.

Ciao for now.

My Hero

It is official: Indiana has a new Lawyer admitted to the Indiana Bar -tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Have you ever wanted something so badly that it consumed you? Have you ever been willing to go the distance to obtain that dream? Have you ever passed restless nights and fearful days when you questioned whether or not you had what it takes to seize that dream? Have you ever squared your shoulders and said, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” [Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, United States Navy, Civil War]?

I have the privilege of knowing such an individual: my daughter.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, I had the supreme pleasure of witnessing the Indiana Supreme Court Admission Ceremony as my daughter stood and was sworn in to “…support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana.” Thus she became a practicing member of the Indiana State Bar.

It had been a long road. In her third year as an undergraduate at Indiana University Bloomington as both a Journalism Major and as a Classical Studies Major with an emphasis in Art History, I well recall the day she informed me she had decided to pursue a Juris Doctor degree in Law. My reaction was positive and supportive of her decision. Fully aware of the competitive nature of a Law Degree, I knew if she wanted it, she would give it her all. For when she set her sights on something, she pursued it until she held it in the palm of her hand. The first challenge was sitting for the LSAT Exam. As I thumbed through her LSAT prep books, I was taken aback. These prep questions abounded in logic and reasoning. She was a most logical and reasonable person, except for those times we held conflicting opinions, but that is the nature of a parent-child relationship. She hunkered down for hours in libraries and sometimes at home when visiting for a holiday, or the odd weekend.

After the LSAT results came the Law School applications, and the Law School visits. Since these visits included family, I tagged along to learn more about the Law Schools, meet faculty and knosh away at the receptions for accepted students. Finally, she narrowed her decision to two Law Schools she very much liked: The University of Dayton and The Valparaiso School of Law. Within months of her decision to attend Valparaiso, came the New Law Student Orientation, and two weeks later, Law classes began in earnest. The next three years consumed her with the vitality of the Law. Classes in Constitutional Law, Property Law, Cyber Law, Business Law, among the many, challenged and invigorated her. She joined organizations as an active member and officer in the Women Law Students Association, Valparaiso Amnesty International Chapter, Phi Alpha Delta, and the Valparaiso Law Blog. The lawyers she met through networking events further spurred her on, as did Law Internships over the course of several summers.

Graduation arrived, her J. D. Degree she held in her hands. Next came the Indiana Bar Exam. More studying, the Bar prep courses, and then the two-day Bar Exam itself [one day of six hours’ worth of multiple choice questions; the second day of seven hours of eight essays] stared her in the face. All of this amid anguish, grit, tears, followed by determination to succeed. I internalized her highs and lows all the while praying God smile upon her for her tenacity, her love of the Law, and her willingness to pursue her dream of becoming a Lawyer. In the end, it paid off: she passed the Indiana Bar Exam, she has been admitted to the Indiana Bar, and is now interviewing for Law positions so that she may begin working in her profession in earnest.

Anjelica strove against obstacles, and she emerged victorious. I am gratified for her. She is a testament to intelligence, tenacity, kindness, faith, and true grit. God lover her, she is indeed my hero.

Ciao for now.

 

Le George

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Inside our booth at Le George. – tangled pasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

We traveled to north of the Detroit area to visit our 98-year-old aunt and members of her family. We celebrated a belated birthday with her, and reveled in the fact that she remains as vibrant and lovely as always. We toasted my aunt with champagne, always a festive drink, and then sat down to partake of the feast her daughter prepared: an onion tart, very French, an eclectic salad of mixed greens, a wonderful chocolate cake, and satisfying cups of coffee. We laughed and reminisced, told amusing stories, and simply had a fine time in every way. While my cousins and I do not see each other, but a handful of times during the year, conversation never flags with our family of talkers.

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The Pastry Cigarettes are a culinary delight. – tangled pasta.net

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Aubergine Canapes Eggplant Bruschetta are for those of us that love aubergine. – tangled pasta.net

Later that evening, we checked into our hotel in Northville. Realizing that our dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant, Le George were for 7:30 p.m., we freshened up, and beat a hasty retreat to dine on delicious Lebanese food. The weather proved to windy and chilly to eat on the tiny deck overlooking the pretty shops and art gallery on Northville’s main avenue. However, we were well compensated by the cozy, sophisticated interior of Le George. In fact, over our wine, George himself strolled over to our dark wood little booth for a chat. He is from Beirut, Lebanon and he reminds me of the marvelous conversations I used to have with my late uncle, who was also Lebanese. This in turn brought back happy memories of when I taught at the University of Houston. I had quite a few Lebanese students who were trilingual in Arabic, French, and English. Like George and my uncle, my students were witty, urbane, earthy, and possessed a great sense of humor.

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Grape Leaves with lamb, beef, and rice and Wheat A L’Huile D’Olive satisfied a hungry palate. – tangled pasta.net

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The stuffed Cabbage Rolls at Le George tasted like a symphony for the palate. – tangled pasta.net

Once again, we dined well at Le George. We began with hors d’oeuvre of Pastry Cigarettes, three with herbed cheese and three with spiced meat. The two Aubergine Canapes Eggplant Bruschetta were not on a toasted baguette, but were thick slices of eggplant topped with finely cut and diced fresh vegetables. These hors d’oeuvre were a delight for the palate. Next came the Crème de Lentilles Gazpacho Libanaise with its velvet smooth texture and subtle taste. For Entrees, we ordered Grape Leaves and Cabbage Leaves stuffed with lamb, beef, and rice that were simmered in a light lemon sauce. Instead of rice, we opted for the Wheat A L’Huile D’Olive. Superb all and wrapped up in the richness of fine dining ambiance that is Le George. While we cannot eat ambiance, we certainly feasted well within the world of Le George.

Ciao for now.

 

 

Literary Explorations

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The Literati Bookstore has eye-catching displays of its books. – tangled pasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Some weeks ago we visited Ann Arbor, Michigan’s eclectic downtown area. The focus of this trip was several bookstores: Literati and Aunt Agatha’s New and Used Mysteries, Detection, and True Crime Books. Not only did we relish the vast array of books at these fine stores, we happened upon excellent eateries, and a most unexpected event.

Grappling with one-way streets and wayward pedestrian traffic while attempting to locate a parking space tested my patience, which is generally at an all-time low when it comes to parking the car in unchartered territory. Finally, I succumbed to placing my red chariot in a parking garage. Out of the car and walking revived my spirits. As it turned out, the parking garage was across the street from the Literati Bookstore. We were pleased to note that this area of Ann Arbor held stores and cafes within walking distance of where we wished to be.

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Literati Bookstore beckoned us hither to a treasure trove of books. – tangled pasta.net

literati shelves

It is most satisfying to spend time in a bookstore like Literati, lost among books.-tangledpasta.net

We wandered blissfully through Literati Bookstore, reading the employees reviews of books, and perusing through books that piqued our interest. Of these, there were many. Ultimately I decided to purchase Nora Ephron’s Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble in one recently published volume. Years ago I bought these books individually from a vendor on Amazon. They smelled musty and were well-worn. I finally donated them because the aged scent and discolored pages distracted me from the texts! Anjelica was pleased to find the print version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk We Should All Be Feminists. After paying for our books, we climbed the stairs thinking we could imbibe an ice tea and read a bit of our new purchases. Alas, the third floor café of Literati reminded me of Starbucks: each table was occupied with someone using a laptop with ear buds.

auntagathas

The name of this bookstore brings to mind the inimitable Agatha Christie. -tangledpasta.net

Crossing the street, we entered Aunt Agatha’s New and Used Mysteries, Detection, and True Crime Books. The fragrance of used books about knocked me down. I have decided that my olfactory sense fails to appreciate the fragrance of very used books. My daughter invested in The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. My disappointment was in the area designated to Agatha Christie mysteries: the bottom shelf of tall bookshelf. I really thought a sterling location would befit such a master of mystery, not to mention that the name of the book emporium is called Aunt Agatha’s, though that my be the name of the owner’s aunt. That aside, we had a literary day in Ann Arbor.

auntagathas inside

The clutter and stacks of books at Aunt Agatha’s show a fond appreciation of novels and an appreciation of stacks of books. – tangled pasta.net

Ciao for now.