August 1983

IMG_5370

This is what the entrance to the River Oaks area of Houston looked like in mid-March 2017 when we visited my friend Juliet and her family. I hazard to guess some of those pretty palm trees were snapped in tow and that those flowers have been battered due to Hurricane Harvey. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Hurricane Alicia. Its name is emblazoned in my memory.

Never have I been more terrified, more at the mercy of Mother Nature than I was when Hurricane Alicia roared across the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into Galveston first, and then onto Houston. A child of the Midwest, I was accustomed to tornado season. I knew to retreat to the basement of my home with flashlights, canned goods, gallons of water, cat food, and the cat. However, tornados are one thing; hurricanes are something altogether different.

Houston is below sea-level, which means homes do not have basements.

My Houston native friend, Juliet, instructed me a week before Hurricane Alicia arrived, what preparations to make. Juliet came over to my apartment in Southwest Houston, in an area called Meyerland, to help me tape the windows. Armed with wide rolls of tape, we placed X’s from corner to corner in each window. We went to the grocery store and loaded up on gallons of water, loaves of bread, jars of peanut butter, bags of nuts and dried fruit. We made sure my hand held can opener operated easily, for I would be eating lots of canned tuna once the city shutdown for the hurricane. New batteries filled several flashlights. In a few days I would shower again, clean out my bathtub, and then fill it to the brim with water. Bruno the cat had ample food and would have access to water from the gallon containers. We would ride out the hurricane together.

When Alicia made landfall on August 18, I thought Bruno and I were goners. The sheer terror of the screaming sound of the hurricane made me dive under my bed covers with Bruno. My cat could not stop pacing around the perimeter of the bed. His paws were moist, always a bad sign with a cat. We had food and water in my bedroom, but I was too frozen with fear to get out of bed. Other sounds howled for hours. Among those sounds I later learned was the metal roofs over the carports in my apartment complex being torn off from the maniacal winds. Trees uprooted like sticks were hurled every which way, including across power lines. Nob Hill, my apartment complex consisted of a series of two-story brick buildings. It had looked sturdy to me the past months I had lived there. Now I prayed to God that my building on a knoll held together.

Around 7:30 a.m. the next morning, the phone rang; there were no cell phones in 1983! It was my mother telling me that on the Today Show or on Good Morning America, I do not recall which one, the weather announcer said the eye of Hurricane Alicia had settled over Houston. Yes, I said, I know. It’s the first time it’s been quiet in hours. I actually slept for two hours. My parents were scared to death for me. I assured my mother I was fine sleep deprived, but otherwise fine. The air-conditioning hasn’t stopped working, I said. This is important since the heat and humidity have intensified, thanks to the hurricane. Thanks to the knoll upon which my building was located, even my car survived the wrath of Alicia because the queue of carports for my building was also on a knoll. However, many other people lost not only power in their buildings, but also their cars from water damage.

    I had been teaching summer classes. Finals had been scheduled a few days after the hurricane. In the end, I simply calculated final grades, minus the final exam. Damage to homes and business in Houston was so extensive that it would have been inhumane to require students to try to get to the university for an exam. The health and well-being of my students was of tantamount importance in the aftermath of the hurricane. Besides, there was no running water, nor was there electricity in the building where the final exam was to have been.

Hurricane Alicia was a Category 3 hurricane. Hurricane Harvey that struck the Texas Gulf coast is a Category 4, even more powerful. My friend Juliet texted me at 5:38 a.m. this morning that she and her family have retreated to the second floor of their home in Clear Lake, near NASA. The first floor of their home was flooding. She is trying to conserve cell phone energy. Perhaps they have been rescued. All I can do is keep praying that they are.

Ciao for now.

 

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

Maxim preferred his coffee and his tea with two lumps of sugar and cream. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Thus begins Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, with one of the most iconic openings in literature. The eeriness of the iambic hexameter structure of this first line of Rebecca underscores the hallucinatory sort of events the young second Mrs. de Winter attempts to unravel. While some readers swoon over the “romance” in Rebecca, the story is more Gothic suspense than it is romance. The character of Maxim de Winter, the wealthy, emotionally damaged widower who marries the 20-year-younger second Mrs. de Winter, barely functions as a fully engaged husband to his shy and naïve second wife. The second Mrs. de Winter’s attempts to better understand her husband’s erratic outbursts are thwarted either by Maxim himself, or by the malevolent housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.

Rebecca’s narrator is the second Mrs. de Winter. How reliable a narrator we believe her to be is contingent on how much credibility the reader is willing to invest in her. We are more likely to believe the second Mrs. de Winter because she lacks previous experience with the Manderley estate and those in its orb. We might be willing to invest more in what she says because she views Manderley and Maxim de Winter without fully knowing what and who they are in the greater context of the narrative. Yet she on various occasions she plays fast and loose with the truth in order to deflect attention from herself. These lies continually make her appear an awkward juvenile. Maxim is inexorably linked to Manderley. He shares with his second wife that Manderley is his home; it is where he was born, where he grew up. Even though Maxim is wealthy enough to have remained either on the Cote d’Azur where they met, or in Italy where they honeymooned, he opts to take her to Manderley. He soon realizes it would have been better had they remained in Italy on a perennial honeymoon.

Throughout the course of their months at Manderley, it is evident that Maxim becomes more and more unhappy, likewise his young bride. He is haunted by events leading up to his first wife Rebecca’s death. The past continually rears its head at the most inopportune moments to send him either into a rage, like prior to the costume ball, or plunge him into despair, as when the young Mrs. de Winter insists on following Jasper the dog to the cottage by the sea. The reader fails to understand Maxim’s moody behavior, but inklings provide clues to dark secrets lurking within the man. While Maxim holds the key to aspects of the past, the dead Rebecca reveals herself to the reader as the narrative progresses. All is most certainly not what it appears or appeared to be in Rebecca. The shifting landscapes and slow unveiling of characters, coupled with plot twists keep generation after generation of readers enthralled in du Maurier’s classic story.

Ciao for now.

 

Pie

Southern Living’s photo of its Honey-Balsamic Blueberry Pie. http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

While I extol the virtues of cake anytime, I lust after fruit pie in the summertime. I am an aficionado of blueberry pie, strawberry pie, blackberry pie, rhubarb pie, and peach pie. When these fruits are at their peak during the summer months, I am ready, fork in hand, to slowly relish the taste of each and every one of them, though not all at once [moderation is important]. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, or bratwursts, along with a French style potato salad, followed by a delicious piece of a berry or of a peach pie, make for a satisfying summer dessert.

I do not eat pie on a daily basis, though I often wish I could [there is that moderation factor again], thus I like actual sugar in my pie, not artificial sweeteners with their metallic aftertaste that alters the essence of the fruit. Until a physician counsels me not to eat a “natural” fruit pie, and may that day never come, I shall savor the sensation of fruit pies sweetened with sugar. This weekend I shall bake a blueberry pie made with balsamic vinegar and honey . It is my all-time favorite blueberry pie recipe. My go-to strawberry pie recipe contains cocktail juice. When it comes to rhubarb pie, I am a purist. No strawberries mixed in with the rhubarb for me. I prefer my rhubarb pies unadulterated without another fruit, with nothing to mask the tartness of the rhubarb.

Next week I am preparing to savor the incomparable fresh peach pie. This pie is a symphony for the palate, where the fragrant peaches meld to intoxicate the senses. Only a philistine of tainted sensibilities could resist such a confection made with sun-ripened peaches. It is apparent that I have adopted a firm stance on the subject of summer fruit pies. This has much to do with the fruit pies my mother used to make. Once I learned at the knee of a master pie baker, my palate was forever elevated to create, taste, and savor nothing but the finest of summer fruit pies.

Ciao for now.

Jane Austen, My Hero

This is my copy of Persuasion from one of several English classes I took with Professor Susan Gubar at IU Bloomington. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

It was 200 years ago yesterday that my literary muse Jane Austen died at age 41, in Winchester, Hampshire, England. She is, in fact, buried in Winchester Cathedral. By 41 years of age, she had written books that hold us spellbound even today. Jane Austen’s work should be outdated, but that is not the case. Her work is timeless, her female heroes we long to imitate such as Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennett, or my personal favorite, Anne Elliot. I love reading Pride and Prejudice, too, and though I lose patience in Emma with Emma’s selfishness, in the end, I admire how she acknowledges her self-centeredness, repents, and becomes worthy of Mr. Knightley’s love.

Then there are the male heroes, like Fitzwilliam Darcy, who most readers swoon over, George Knightley, who guides Emma or tries to, and Captain Frederick Wentworth, my hero of choice. Persuasion is also my favorite of Austen’s novels. Published posthumously, Persuasion is a novel of maturity, of wisdom that comes from experience and lives longer lived. In Persuasion it is Captain Wentworth who learns to appreciate the steadiness of character and the constancy of love, instead of Austen’s other female protagonists. Anne Elliot proved a most together person of integrity. She taught her great love Captain Wentworth, instead of the other way around as in her other novels.

Jane Austen might have been gratified to know that England plans to initiate a new ten-pound note currency with her picture on it in September 2017. As much as I laud the British for applauding her greatness in a monetary manner, particularly ironic since Jane Austen lacked money in the last years of her life, her presence on the ten-pound note will keep her presence in front of millions of people for years. Maybe the money note will pique interest in more reading of her books, which she would have liked.

However, I take issue yesterday with Google not placing a Jane Austen animated puzzle or cartoon on its search engine page. Google seems to give a nod to all sorts of illustrious people, both dead and alive, but on the anniversary of Austen’s death, Google did nothing. I felt it to be a glaring omission. Her birthdate was December 16, 1775. Perhaps Google will offer praise to her on her this December on the 242nd anniversary of her birth. I, for one, will raise my cup of tea in honor of Jane Austen multiple times throughout the year, particularly when I read, re-read, and re-read her books.

Ciao for now.

 

 

Villa Fiore Update!

IMG_5534

Set amid the verdant hills of Tuscany, Villa Fiore will beckon one and all. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

I wanted to let readers know that my new book, Villa Fiore, may be purchased on Amazon in both the digital [ebook] and in the paperback versions.

My other books, Spirited Constellations and Spirited Constellations Travels, are also available on Amazon in digital [ebook] and in paperback formats.

Thank you!

Ciao for now.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! A New Book!

IMG_5534

My latest book Villa Fiore is now available on Amazon and on http://www.createspace.com! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Hot off the press:

My new book Villa Fiore is now available on Amazon in a digital [e-book] format, and it is on http://www.createspace.com in a paperback version!

Here is a sneak peek at what Villa Fiore is about:

Rescue. Redemption. Renewal.

 Lorenzo “Renzo” Fiore unexpectedly inherited his family’s estate in a hillside town in Tuscany. Renzo got more than he bargained for in the form of debt, inquisitive townspeople, and an attractive newcomer to the village of Bella Fiore. Brainstorming ways to lessen the expenses of Villa Fiore results in a fresh business venture on the estate. Trials and tribulations test Renzo’s knack at balancing the various personalities and rhythms of this new lifestyle, while sexually arousing Renzo’s love as he explores the parameters of his relationship with a woman he met in the hospital.

The digital [e-book] Villa Fiore is free right now in Kindle Unlimited for a limited time. Villa Fiore in paperback is competitively priced at $4.99.

Feel free to write a review of Villa Fiore on Amazon!

Happy reading!

Ciao for now.

Cake

FullSizeRender (1)

Underneath the pastel-colored sugars and the fluffy frosting is a delectable lemon cake! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

I admit it: I love cake. The lightness, the seemingly infinite varieties, the textured frosting, I cannot resist. My affinity for cake began at an early age. My mother used to decorate the most irresistible cakes to commemorate births, christenings, birthdays, anniversaries, and on rare occasions, weddings. I would open the refrigerator and voila’: I could gaze at the pink roses, the white and yellow daffodils, the purple shades of pansies she concocted out of frosting. Each flower sat on its own small square of wax paper on the second shelf of the ‘fridge. I was admonished not to touch the frosting flowers as they chilled. The next day I watched in amazement as Mama decorated cakes with these floral confections. If a flower failed to meet her exacting standards, I could eat it, thereby eliminating any trace of the fallen flower.

Once, when I was around five or six, I recall Mama making a strawberry cake for the Church Bake Sale. She took the two round cake pans filled with pink cake out of the oven and set them to cool on a rack. I pointed out a crack running down the center of one of the layers. “Not to worry,” she said. “I will fill in the narrow crack with pink icing.” She left the room and I found the flaw drew me in. I stuck my finger into the crack and came up with a finger full of warm cake. The strawberry fragrance tantalized my senses. Upon Mama’s return to the kitchen, she caught me pink-handed digging deeper into the cake. There is no fury like that of a cake baker/decorator whose cake has been violated. Suffice to say I never dug into a warm cake with a crack in it again.

In the heat of the summer there is nothing like a lemon cake. The citrus aroma draws me in and, like Pavlov’s dog, makes me salivate, though not in a disgusting manner. Lemon cake with whipped white frosting begs to be laced with pastel colored sugars, which I happen to have on hand. Sometime after a light summer dinner and drinks on the patio, it is time to serve up squares of lemon cake. A scoop of Limonciello gelato makes me smile with delight.

Ciao for now.