Gray Days

Valentino suggests having an espresso or a cappuccino to give one a lift in the

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?
  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.

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.


All Hallow’s Eve

Halloween! -
Halloween! –

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Before we could kick back and fully take in the beauty of the October autumn foliage, strong winds stirred, and blew down the red, and gold, and orange leaves from the trees. This year’s Halloween saw rain, cold, and gray all the day. My daughter had home for the weekend. She donned a sparkling cat-ear headband, and she proceeded to hand out large Tootsie Roll Pops to the assorted Trick-or-Treaters who had braved the rain. When the rain momentarily ceased, a steady stream of pint-size firefighters, law enforcement, princesses, skeletons, Flying Marios, Spidermen, clowns, Crayola crayons, and even a cow and even a chicken hastened to our doorstep. Yet two sisters, accompanied by their mother, wore the most inventive and charming of costumes: Jelly Fish. The girls each held a plastic bubble umbrella, one pink, and one blue, trimmed with streamers of fish-related decorations. The blue Jelly Fish wore a bright blue rain slicker, and her sister wore a vivid pink one. Both wore color-coordinated rain boots and gloves. Their mother told us since it had snowed last Halloween, she was having her daughters dress for the elements this year! Underneath the rain slickers, the girls wore warm sweaters. While other miniature goblins and ghosts shivered as they uttered, “Trick or Treat!” the Jelly Fish sisters skipped along happily, oblivious to the elements.

After we had run out of bags of Tootsie Roll Pops, we sat down to dinner. While my daughter was doling out the treats, I had been concocting a thick, hearty, minestrone soup with cannellini beans, carrots, celery, onion, fideo cut spaghetti, porcini mushrooms, baby spinach, and assorted Italian herbs. In between adding ingredients, I hurried back and forth to admire the evening’s costumed throng. The night before, we had howled over the movie “Young Frankenstein”, which plays as well today as it did in the 1970’s. However, on Halloween night, we laughed over the film “Hocus Pocus”. The character of Billy remains hilarious, as do the antics of the three witches. As we viewed the shenanigans of the characters, we sipped our homemade Hot Buttered Rum drinks, and munched on our cider and pumpkin doughnuts. All in all, we agreed it had been a busy, fun-filled Halloween for the both of us, and, we trusted, for the valiant, weather-challenged Trick-or-Treaters and their parents. From  All Hallow’s Eve, we move to November 1, All Saints’ Day, from the pagan to the sacred, and today’s weather is sunny and warm.

Ciao for now.