Gray Days

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Valentino suggests having an espresso or a cappuccino to give one a lift in the winter.-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

It’s been days and days since sunlight and blessed UV rays beamed down upon us. Small wonder people in this part of the country suffer depression during these dreary winter months. At least snow whitens and brightens up the landscape. We have had only rain, rain, and more rain lately. The result is the landscape appears to be even bleaker than usual. The question becomes, how to surmount the gloomy elements without feeling as if one inhabits a Bronte novel overlooking the moors? Here are a few strategies I use to combat the dismal days.

  1. We leave up the Christmas tree. It’s artificial, so no worries on that front! The hundreds of white lights give a lift to the spirits. Another plus: Valentino the cat adores the plush skirt around the tree. He naps underneath it frequently, thereby changing up the game for our fluffy feline.
  2. Rediscover a favorite drink. I recommend a carbonated one during daylight hours. It’s sad to think of someone being totally sloshed to ward off the cheerless weather. Recently, I spied a box of La Croix Grapefruit Flavored Sparkling Water at the local Target. Now I pour my La Croix into a fun glass such as Snoopy wearing a striped stocking cap while sitting on to of his doghouse. To cheer me further, I even place a brightly colored straw in my glass.
  3. On the subject of new drinks, I admit to indulging in Samuel Adams’ Winter Lager. The cinnamon and other spices in this special lager lift my spirits as I imbibe it while I noshing on a Costco Pepperoni Pizza.
  4. Read a new book. I’m currently reading Jamie Attenburg’s Saint Maizie. While I ready myself for my annual read of Jane Austin’s Persuasion, I am also re-reading Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing. Last week I indulged in reading again her I Feel Bad About My Neck. Hilarious! I often like to read two or three books at once for fun on the literary front.
  5. Watch something on these long winter nights. On Sunday I will be viewing the new BBC series, Victoria, on PBS about the young queen taking the reigns of power. Even Queen Elizabeth II has a very cool series about her: The Crown. Old favorites, like Psyche, The Gilmore Girls, and The Thin Man movies make me happy.
  6. Make casseroles. I love Alton Brown’s Macaroni and Cheese. Who knew a bay leaf, paprika, and egg could reinvent the classic comfort food? http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/baked-macaroni-and-cheese-recipe.html
  7. Eat in another part of the house, like in the family room, or in the living room. Move away from the dining room table or the seats around the kitchen island. Have a picnic on the floor with big cushions to sit on. Make festive appetizers. Eat a different kind of pizza, perhaps one with arugula, goat cheese, and a cornbread crust.
  8. Take heart that Spring will return in March. Eventually trees will have leaves once more, and crocus will push up from the ground to greet us.

Ciao for now.

The Upside of 2016

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2016 held some stellar moments for this writer. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

As the winter sun sets on 2016, I would like to acknowledge that not everything went awry; stellar experiences surfaced, too. Casting an eye over the landscape brings noteworthy events to the forefront with the dawning of a New Year.

The publication of my second book in the Spirited Constellations trilogy: Spirited Constellations: Travels highlighted the year for me. The second edition of my first book, Spirited Constellations, was also published. The third book in the trilogy is also well underway, and could possibly be published near the end of 2017, if not sooner.

2016 also saw me completing the first book in a new series I’m writing. This book will be published in early 2017. Vastly different from the Spirited Constellations book, the series ignited my imagination further, for I like these characters as much as I do those in the Spirited Constellations trio.

At the Indiana University Bloomington 2016 Writers’ Conference in June, I embarked on a-here-to-with unknown kind of writing: the prose poem. Had anyone told me I would one day be writing poetry, I would have laughed uproariously! Yet I did it! Under the amazing prose poet Amelia Martens, I plucked up my courage and began work on my first ever prose poem! I even went out on a limb and did a public reading of the poem in Bloomington for the conference participants. Stretching my writing wings into the province of prose poetry proved an exhilarating experience.

Not wanting to stay too long at the fair, I finally decided to retire after 25+ years from my place of employment. I did this in order to enter the next phase of my professional life, one that includes much more writing. In talking with others who have retired or resigned from their positions, the common thread was, “I knew when it was time.” Time isn’t something readily available on anyone’s side, no matter what the Rolling Stones sang. My 2016 November birthday awakened in me a turning point. With little fanfare, without drama, with my two-week’s notice, with a heart full of anticipation ready to turn the page, and with a smile on my face, I walked away.

It was time. It was my time. It still is.

Ciao for now.

The Snow Hath Cometh

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This morning we used our special snowman mugs filled with David’s 24 Days of Tea for December 11, Hot Chocolate, to celebrate the snowfall.-tangledpasta.net.

 By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

            If you say the title of this blog post fast enough, you nearly bite your tongue[th]. I realize the preceding sentence incorporates homonymy of the word ‘weather’, but ‘climactic conditions’ seemed pretentious for a snowy Sunday morn. This weekend, the meteorologist’s dire warnings proved true: As of last evening, we have had a steady snowfall. The sparkling, clean, white snow brightens up the dreary landscape. On Friday night, I powered through the grocery, and then picked up extra items early Saturday, purchased Christmas stamps at the Post Office, and then returned home to engage in online gift shopping.

I admit to being an avid subscriber of the New York Times Cooking, which appears in my e-mail three times a week. It includes ‘vintage’ recipes of James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Pierre Franey, and contemporary ones by Amanda Hesser, Julia Moskin, Sam Sifton, and Mark Bittman. I have hit Save on that page for so many recipes, I pray the page doesn’t crash! I also am fiendishly devoted to the Food Network’s Alton Brown’s Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Who knew a bay leaf and paprika could make such a delicious difference? Now, there’s a new kid on my cookbook block: The Barefoot Contessa’s Cooking for Jeffrey. Ina Garten’s Roasted Chicken with Lemons, and her Tuscan Roasted Potatoes offer a bit of heaven in every bite.

Admittedly, I am enamored with cooking. As a long-time foodie, I attribute this to growing up with a mother of Italian descent, who excelled in the culinary arts, along with her two sisters, equally accomplished, and an immigrant Italian father who served up delicious Italian food. Small wonder I honed my culinary skills. With today’s snow and cold, I have turned my attention to making a Julia Moskin recipe for chicken potpie. In lieu of a white sauce, she sauté sliced mushrooms and bacon in butter, adding floured, cut up chicken thighs, thyme, and other delectable ingredients, including chicken stock and Marsala wine. Carrots and minted peas are served on the side.

Thus, I embrace the frosty weather as I hunker down this December day, writing, and later cooking. This is my favorite way of spending a chilly, snowy day, a glass of vino included, with the dinner, naturally.

Ciao for now.