The New Year Hath Begun

Snow Photo

Light breaks through the winter landscape for January

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.


Post-Thanksgiving Reflections


By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Thanksgiving Day let me escape the flooded kitchen disaster. I awakened knowing I didn’t have to spring out of bed to bake and cook felt liberating. I needed only the Whole Foods apple pie and the bottle of Prosecco to our hosts. Our friendship has been an enduring one for over 25 years. The day was filled with banter, cheer, flowing drinks, a delicious dinner, and food we later grazed on into the night.

Entering the kitchen that night didn’t bother me much, probably because of all the alcohol I had imbibed. The morning after proved another story: the kitchen remained in peril from the water disaster. I contacted a service that works 24/7, except holidays. My kitchen emergency got squeezed in the schedule. It felt like the cavalry was on its way.

Growing up, my father always kept a dozen live chickens. He believed in the healthy power of fresh eggs. In addition to their regular mash, the chickens ate potato peels, their own eggshells, and bits of bread, you name it. There was little need for an in-sink disposal. With this latest crisis on my home front, I’ve thought about how composting might be an improvement on the electric disposal. Dependency on electronic devices makes me chafe more than ever. The Magliozzi Brothers’ “Car Talk” program on NPR, even in podcast form, has widened my knowledge of cars. Ray Magliozzi, and his late brother Tom, talk about how in the 1970’s people could still work on their cars. Now, with the computerized gizmos and programming of cars, consumers are forced to take their vehicles into a mechanic. That rang in my ears as I wept over an enormous car bill this week.

Are we to be at the mercy of technicians for automotive needs, for household plumbing, electric, and media issues? Since I am not a plumber, electrician, mechanic, or computer engineer, the answer is a forlorn, yes. I envision if I marry again, I should marry an individual who can fix things, like a mechanical engineer. Perhaps the alternative is not to have all the kitchen appliances and disposal, or the computer devices we depend upon.

Forego all those shiny electronics? I’ll have to take it under consideration.

Ciao for now.


A Memorable Thanksgiving

Pumpkin orange candle surrounded by various Autumn items

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

On this cloudy, chilly Thanksgiving, the weather fails to dampen my spirits. Not even a backed-up double kitchen sink that flooded last evening, nor the non-stop deluge of rain yesterday, nor the three-hour wait to retrieve my daughter’s car that malfunctioned in a city an hour away, nor my damp jeans that the umbrella failed to keep dry could deter my Thanksgiving happiness. These unexpected events prevented us from traveling out of town for Thanksgiving, but that did not prove to be an insurmountable obstacle.

Unfortunately, the seals on the garbage disposal were kaput, rendering the running water and the dishwasher, which is filled to the limit, off limits until Monday. My daughter’s #4 cylinder and valve have been replaced, the cylinder head completely cleaned, as was some other under-the-hood stuff. My car even got a new pair of windshield wipers, which gave me a clearer visibility driving in the rain: I could see! Upon arrival home, I changed out of my rain-soaked jeans and into comfy, flannel lounge pants, and then drank herbal tea.

After the erstwhile plumber attempted to detour the kitchen sink’s water, and then realized the under-the-sink flooding situation once the cabinet doors were opened, it was several rolls of paper towels to the rescue. I kept saying, “It’s only water!” as if repeating this would make the water go away. On the upbeat side, we cleaned out everything under the sink. I will now have room to store appliances that clutter the countertop!

Although I could not make neither my family-famous coconut cream pie, nor my Silver Palate crackling cornbread, we struck out again in the rain last night and drove to Whole Foods. Our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner is an apple pie and a bottle of Prosecco, the Italian champagne. We are sharing Thanksgiving with our good friends, my plumber with the M.B.A. and his family.

This morning I received happy news: My dear friend sent me a photo of his newborn niece. She was born last night, in Washington, D.C., shortly before midnight. Now that is a blessed, special Thanksgiving gift.

Ciao for now.


Buon Capo d’Anno! Happy New Year’s Day!

Brie with fig jam is a delicious way to kick off New Year's Eve festivities at home. -
Brie with fig jam is a delicious way to kick off New Year’s Eve festivities at home. –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Last night I made homemade chicken soup, my daughter Anjelica toasted French boule bread, and we sat down to eat by candlelight, toasting the New Year with Prosecco laced with St. Germain liquor. I would have mixed us a French 75, but I could not immediately locate the cucumber infused vodka [New Year’s Resolution: Organize the chaotic liquor portion of the pantry]. After dinner, we feasted on our homemade biscotti, made with Anisette and whiskey, among other key ingredients. While munching the biscotti and imbibing more Prosecco, we watched the movie “Little Women”, the one with Christian Bale in fine pre-Batman “The Dark Night Rises” form. Later we viewed various contemporary musicians on the Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve broadcast from Times Square. I thanked God I was not wedged in with those New York crowds. The overriding practical question I ask is, “What does a person do if Nature calls in that mob?”

Coco Chanel wished us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! -
Coco Chanel wished us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! –

Instead of eating Oysters Rockefeller at Midnight, we opted for chocolates. This New Year’s morning, after giving Fellini, Coco Chanel, and Anjelica’s cat Shelton Rae an extra helping of Fancy Feast Primavera White Chicken, I put together a Potato Basil Frittata, a` la the Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina Garten. For Capo d’Anno dinner, I am making Shrimp Scampi with Linguine, Swiss Chard, the ubiquitous “Swiss-a Charge” as my late Italian father called, and Prosecco, for it is, after all, New Year’s Day. Somewhere in between we shall feast on Oysters Rockefeller, just because [New Year’s Resolution: Continue to eat more seafood, particularly of the Omega-3 variety].

Shelton Rae echoed Coco Chanel's sentiments for a prosperous New Year. -
Shelton Rae echoed Coco Chanel’s sentiments for a prosperous New Year. –

Before dinner, we are going to the cinema. This is rare for me since I am a Netflix aficionado, and I am too thrifty to spring for the price of a theater ticket. For live performances, I’ll shell out, for movies, not so much because there is so little to see of worth. Today, though, I promised Anjelica to enter the movie theater to see “Into the Woods”. Had NPR not given it a reasonably good review, I probably would have waited for its release on Netflix. While Anjelica has been on vacation from law school, we watched all six of “The Thin Man” movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. I purchased the box set of DVDs for our family Christmas present this year. Frankly, I do not think films get any better than Nick and Nora Charles’ comic, sexy sleuthing. In the same category of exceptional cinematic moments would be Peter O’Toole in practically anything, but particularly in “Lawrence of Arabia”; “The Ruling Class; and “My Favorite Year” [New Year’s Resolution: Push full-steam ahead with my novel writing and maybe even give screenplay writing a try].

Shelton Rae donned his Scottish Highland plaid tie for New Year's Day breakfast. -
Shelton Rae donned his Scottish Highland plaid tie for New Year’s Day breakfast. –

No matter what is eaten, watched, yes, even football, or read today, I heartily wish one and all a protean Happy New Year [New Year’s Resolution: Keep trying out recipes in my two new cookbooks from my daughter and niece]!

Fellini hastened to find sanctuary once the fireworks began on New Year's Eve. -
Fellini hastened to find sanctuary once the fireworks began on New Year’s Eve. –

Ciao for now.