Friday, June 24, 2011


My Grandma's house sold this week.  I've had a hard time wrapping my hairdo around how I feel about that. On the one hand, it needed to sell.  Grandma's been gone for coming on three years now and with no one living there, it was just sucking money.  On the other hand, it's a part of our family history and it's sad to let it go.

Christmas at Grandma's was something to behold.  This little woman, and I only mean that literally, because to me she was larger than life, did tremendous things in that basement kitchen.  Like most old world Italians, a second kitchen in the basement was a must. Her house was small but she managed to fit about 30 of us at a long table on the other side of the basement, for Christmas dinner (and also for Easter brunch).  And once you were in your seat, don't even think about getting up.  You were there for the duration of the meal.  And what a meal!   Is there anything better than Grandma's food?  I honestly don't think there is.  And Christmas was the crowning glory.  She made everything from scratch... sausage, sauce, cavatelli, meatballs, bread.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

She would start at least a month in advance making the cavatelli by hand and then freezing them.  She made over 30 pounds, usually by herself.  That's a lot of cavatelli.  But she would never ever not have enough.  It would be a disgrace to not have enough food for your guests.  And believe me, she never ever ran out of food.  She also made pounds and pounds of her own pork sausage, meatballs, and loaves of bread.  Everything was perfect and delicious.  Funny thing, she hated ground beef.  Absolutely hated it.  She always said it went back to the days of the Depression when ground beef was the only meat they could get.  Once things got better she never ate ground beef again.  But she had to make sure the meatballs were good so she would try a little piece of the raw meat after she seasoned it to make sure it was good and seasoned properly.  She also made veal cutlets when times were good, pork cutlets when times were a little harder.

The table is already set and has been for about a month.  So come in and take your seat.  Just turn your plate over since it's upside down, she didn't want dust in her food and setting the table that far in advance that was a possibility.  Pass your bowl down and she will give you a handful of salad.  Yes, literally a handful.  Don't worry, she's clean.  And the salad is as perfect as everything else, dressed simply with olive oil and red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper and dried basil and oregano.

The main event is coming and everyone is buzzing with anticipation.  The room is loud with all the conversations going.  But we can't wait to sink our teeth into those succulent pillows of flavor.  The sauce had been cooking all day and the aroma in the house is intoxicating.  I could drink her sauce by the glass, it's so good.  And suddenly my uncle gets up and pulls out a chair and turns it around.  Then he goes out into the kitchen and returns with a huge restaurant size pan of piping hot cavatelli with just the perfect amount of sauce on it and sets it on the chair.  Grandma appears then, apron still on and small sauce pan in hand.  And one by one we send our dishes down to her and she scoops that little pan into the cavatelli and pours it on each plate.  They are then sent back around the table until everyone has some.

Grandma disappears back into the kitchen with my mom and uncle and they come out with bowls and bowls of sausage, meatballs, neckbones, pigsfeet and those veal or pork cutlets and set them in different parts of the long table.  Back to the kitchen to get bowls of extra sauce in case anyone wants some, baskets of fresh from the oven bread and bowls of grated Parmesan.  Everyone passes bowls around, takes what they want and when we are finally all seated and have our food, the youngest family member is asked to say grace.  And then, finally we eat!   The loud raucous conversations die out completely because everyone is too busy basking in the joy of this meal we have once a year.  Wine is pouring freely into the glasses and everyone is full of the joy of being together and eating.

Once everyone has had their fill and then some, it's pretty much a given everyone will over indulge, Grandma, who has barely eaten because she is so consumed with everyone else eating, goes back into the kitchen and comes out with a big platter of raw vegetables.  Carrots, radishes, celery and of course, finocchio (or fennel).  It's an important part of the meal, having that finocchio, a digestive.  Especially back in the days when I was a small child.  Back then, after this feast I just described and then after the veggies, Grandma would then come out with a full roasted capon, potatoes, and roasted vegetables.  Hardly anyone ever ate the second meal after having the huge pasta feast so eventually she stopped making it. 

It's memories like this that make me know I will forever miss that house, like I miss her.  She was my heart.  Losing her was the most awful thing ever even though I knew she wasn't going to live forever.  She was 99 when she left this earth, 3 weeks before her 100th birthday.  A beautiful soul that I was so lucky to have in my life as long as I did.  Even though it feels like it was not enough.

She's gone and when the house closes it will be gone too.  And it will be final, really really final.  And all at once it makes me so very sad and yet, it makes me glad too.  Because not all the memories in that house are happy ones.  But that is another story for another day.  Today I want to remember how much I loved her, always, how much I miss her, how much I loved her cooking and any time I could be around her.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ooh That Smell

It was 2006 and I had just lost my love, Boris.  He was a 17 year old black and white tuxedo cat.  The love of my life.  A total mama's boy.  His sister, Natasha (naturally) had passed away 2 years earlier.  Boris held on even though he was the sickly one.  But after having him boarded at our vets office while we were on vacation, he wasn't the same.  He was old, and not well and having his Mama away from him for a week was more than he could take and we lost him a week later.

Sick Boris

I wanted to wait awhile before getting any new kitties.  I just wasn't ready to do it again.  Losing my boy was very hard.  But my vet was kind of relentless.  He had 3 kittens, littermates, that he was taking care of and he wanted them to go to a good home.  Mine.  But I couldn't. It was July and we were planning on being kitty free until at least the next year.  The more time that went by the more we hated walking into an empty house.  No kitty greeting.  No kitty on my lap in the evenings.  No kitty love at all.  It sucked!   So six weeks after losing Boris, my vet called again still having all three kittens and wondered if we might be ready.  We were and decided to take all three.

Armed with one large cat carrier we headed to our vets main office which is about an hour from where we live.  When we got there, we were able to go into one of the exam rooms and play with them a little and see if we really wanted all three.  We did.  They were now four months old and had all their shots already.  So off we went, heading home with our new family.

After about 20 minutes on the road a very strong and very vile smell started to permeate the car.  The kitties were crying their little hearts out, confused about what was happening to them.  And the smell, the smell!!!   It was horrible.  All we could figure was that one, two or all of them had pooped in the carrier.  We still had about 40 minutes of our drive to go and seriously, I can't stress this enough, the smell was horrendous!   I was sticking my head out the window while I was driving just trying to get some fresh air.  Nothing worked.  The plan was to pull over, go in the back seat with the carrier, open the door and pull out the padding in the bottom and just discard it. Hopefully getting rid of the poop in the process.  What I saw when I got back there and opened the carrier were three sad little kittens covered in poop.  Removing the pad wasn't going to do a damn thing help the situation.

Think, think... what can we do?   Getting them home and cleaned them up was going to be difficult.  My house does not have a washtub and we'd have to clean them up in the bathtub.  Ew.  Plus I don't think I could have handled the stench for much longer.  Then I remembered that our vet's other office, the one we normally go to, was on our way home.  Maybe, just maybe, someone was there and they could help us.  So we headed there at lightning speed.  And when we arrived we were happy to see that our vets wife was in fact there.

But the bad news was, she was leaving to attend a wedding and no one else was there.  What now?   She called the veterinary assistant who lived only a few blocks away to see if she could come and help us out.  And thankfully she was available and came right away.  When she came in that door, she took complete charge.  She put the carrier in the big washtub they have in the back and one by one she took out a kitty and hosed them down and cleaned them up, holding them all by the scruff of the neck so they wouldn't squirm too much.  As each was cleaned, she handed them off to us and we towel dried them then put them in one of the cages.   Then she completely washed out our carrier.  She saved us!

Wet kitties
With profuse thanks, we gathered up our new family and got ready to head home when our savior mentions that she had wanted one of the kittens and was disappointed to learn that we had taken all three.  The decision was pretty easy.  If she wanted one, she should have one.  She came out of her way to help us, did all the work and asked for nothing in return (although in hindsight, maybe she was asking for one of the kittens but it didn't seem like it at the time).  She wanted the one we had named Rudy, with the white spots.  The other two are mostly gray.   So we gave her Rudy and headed home with Murphy and Jett.

Murphy and Jett have been nothing but pure joy.   They fit into our household perfectly and seamlessly.  But we were psyched up for three and couldn't get our minds off getting one more.  Our wonderful vet said he would be on the lookout for another one for us and hopefully this time we would get an orange one (he remembered that I had originally wanted an orange kitty).   

A few months later, we got the call.  He had more kittens and one was orange.  They actually were from the same mommy kitty of Murphy and Jett, so he would be their step brother!  He asked me if I still wanted him and I told him if I came there to see him, I'd be taking him home.  He knew.  And I went.  And I came home with six week old Bowie.  And life has never been the same!   Bowie took over this house from the minute he set his paws in it!   And he's still in charge, 5 years later =)

Little Bowie

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Cry

I cry when I'm sad
I cry when I'm happy
I cry when I miss you
I cry when I fail
I cry when I succeed
I cry when I feel lost
I cry when I feel loved
I cry when I feel rejected
I cry when I'm broke
I cry when I'm lucky
I cry when I mourn
I cry when I'm joyous
I cry when I don't know what to do
I cry when I don't know who to turn to
I cry when I'm lonely
I cry when I'm overwhelmed
I cry when I'm tired
I cry when life is good
I cry more when life is bad
I cry a fucking lot.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You Are Beautiful

Last week was my niece J's graduation from 8th grade.  If you didn't go to Catholic school you probably didn't have one of these.  It's all pretty goofy and pointless but it makes the kids feel important as they are about to head to high school.  Over the past few months, J and I have grown a lot closer since she chose me to be her Confirmation sponsor.  She is so much like me, in both good and bad ways, it's kind of freakish.  She looks exactly how I looked at 14 years old.  She's sensitive and has anxiety like I do.  She's smart and she likes to write.  She digs vampires.  She loves animals and has a huge heart.   Where we differ is how athletic she is.  She plays soccer, basketball, softball.  I never did any of those things.

She's a great kid, all around.  But for some reason, she never, in 9 years at that school (she also went to kindergarten there) made a friend.  She's a bit shy but for some reason the kids at her school never accepted her and with only about 11 girls in her whole class, once friendships were established that was that.  Those friendships were established in kindergarten.  She has, at times, eaten lunch in the office because she has no one to sit with.  When she does venture the cafeteria, she is ignored.  She was never included in any way.  The stupid ass school did nothing about this disgusting treatment.  Of course what you expect from a Catholic school.  They sweep everything under the rug. 

A few weeks ago it was her birthday.  And at her school, on a students birthday the kids decorate the birthday kids locker and desk.   J went to school that morning and was greeted with nothing.  No decorations anywhere.  The only kid in her class who did not receive this special treatment for her birthday.  And she was devastated.  Being a 14 year old girl already sucks, but being one with such friend problems is even worse.  I didn't have this kind of problem when I was in school.  It did take me awhile to find my way, be who I was and not worry about what anyone else thought, but I got there around the age J is now.  I think she may have gotten there too.

She's come to the end of her time at that school and cannot wait to get out.  A new school, potential new friends, and some of the bitches are going to a different school.  A new beginning for her.  The school had the graduation ceremony and a reception following.  She didn't want to go, she owed these kids nothing.  But her mom and dad didn't want her to miss out on it so she was made to go.  With only 23 students graduating, the parents were to bring their child up to the church altar to be presented as a graduate.  One parent could speak and then the graduate got to speak.   I watched as one by one, the girls that turned this beautiful girl into a sad and lonely child went up to the altar and said similar things, "My time at this school has strengthened my relationship with God and has made me the person I am today."  Sitting there in the back of the church with my dad, which is another tale for another day, my mind wandered ... "made you the person you are today?  And what would that be?  A mean spirited little bitch?"  I had brief glimmers of feeling bad for thinking that way while in church, but my love for J is more powerful than thinking a curse word in church.

And then it was time for J to go up.  My brother and sister in law went up to the altar with her and presented her.  And then J took the mic.  What came out of her was stunning and beautiful and in essence a big fat fuck you to every one of those girls.  She started out with one of my all time favorite quotes by Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”  From there she went on to say how her time at that school has taught her what a true friend is, and a true friend is not someone who cares how you look or what you wear, but is someone you can tell all you secrets to and they will never judge you.  With tears rolling down my face, it was all I could do to restrain myself from jumping up and down and screaming from the back of the church, "you tell them J!!!"  

I made sure to tell her how proud I was of her.   How much I loved what she said and how no matter what, her auntie will always be there for her.  She's beautiful, inside and out.  And while I'm not a fan of this particular singer, I leave you with this song today because it conveys the emotions I feel and my love for J.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Birth of Lalia

I'm finding myself in a strange position.  It's a path I've been on for several years.  A path of self discovery.  A path it took me too long to start on.  Now at half past 45 years old, I'm finding out more and more things about myself and it's interesting, kind of exciting, sort of fun and a little scary.

I've been writing with the vague idea that I'm kind of good at it, for about 14 years.  Until I started a food blog in 2007, I mainly wrote about the soap opera All My Children, which I also have a website for.  Three blogs.  I must be nuts!  The AMC stuff was mostly a snarky recap of the weeks shows.  It was fun, but time consuming and I ended up scaling way back on doing that until I stopped completely and turned my website into a blog.  Now I'll snark it up every once in awhile but I've mostly been focusing my writing here.  And I love it.  I'm proud of it.  It's all me and mostly no holds barred.  A girl has to keep some secrets all to herself.

But it's me with a different name.  I'm me but not me.  I had to become someone else in order to be myself.  I kind of hate that.  It's hard enough just being me but  I did this because I didn't want anyone in my family mainly, to be hurt by the things I write about, or embarrassed by what I say.  It's not about caring about what others think.  Trust me, if you saw me in person you would know I don't give a shit about what people think.  You can't look like this and have that concern.  I'm not embarrassed by anything I have said here.  But I know several who would be mortified.

I continue to grow, evolve and discover things about myself.  Sometimes I do that through writing, sometimes it just happens.  For instance, I discovered about four years ago that I'm an extremely sexual being.  Is it weird to say I didn't know that before?  I guess that's not entirely true, but my desires waxed and waned.  Now it's constant.  Constant is better.  I don't tire of exploring this side of myself at all.  How did I discover it?  It's kind of crazy, but I decided to go off the birth control pill.  The minute those hormones were out of my system, my own went crazy.  And I have been enjoying the ride ever since.

It's more than that though, way more.  I'm finding out that I want things I never knew I wanted.  That even though I wasn't looking for something, it found me and I have no control over how my feelings react.  That even though I thought I was happy and content, that I now feel like I'm missing something.  There's a part of me unfinished.  But I guess that's true of everyone.  We're all a work in progress.  Maybe one day I can be all me, out in the open and let the chips fall where they may.   For now I'll just keep on keeping on and hope I keep making new discoveries about this crazy chick.