Friday, December 3, 2010

The Big Payback

In my travels- and with my gift for gab- I have met a ga-zillion people. Almost no one is as smart, entertaining and interesting as my friend Dan Charnas. If you love hip hop, buy his book. If you hate hip hop, buy his book. If you want to help him feed his child... well, you get it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

good days... bad days.... the roller coaster of addiction

On bad days I am a short order cook, a personal slave, a cleaning lady and a laundress.

On good days I am a chef, a concierge, an interior decorator and a fashion stylist.

Here's my most recent article for the American Mag (I've included it in the text):

Freckles Dugan was deaf, dumb and blind before she left this world. But she never lost her sixth sense for out of town travel. She could sniff out a trip the way a jonesing german shepherd  at JFK’s baggage claim discovers heroin. Maybe it was the scent of the suitcase… maybe she picked up on the travel-induced anxiety. Whatever the case, she did not like it when her family went away.

This past week, I discovered that either my oldest son is my dead springer spaniel incarnate or that they share some similar stressors. Though Oedipus (not his real name) did not chase his tail while incessantly yelping, he did bite me in protest once he saw my carry-on and discovered that I was leaving without him (something Freckles never did).

I was scheduled to go to the US for business and pleasure and REALLY looking forward to it. REALLY. Knowing that this was our first time being apart, I was certain that this week would not be easy for him. The baby would be fine, but my first-born would struggle with the invisible umbilical chord that would not reach across the Atlantic. I assured him that I would be back soon. And I bribed him.  Which seemed effective.

When the moment (and my cab) arrived, I ran out the door trying to escape the cries of my children. But I couldn’t escape the cries in my own head, “You are a terrible mother. You are scarring your children!” My eyes welled up with tears and panic crept in to my breathing. I tried to reason with myself. Women leave their kids all the time. I knew this would be hard for the boys but why was this so damned difficult for me?

And then it struck me. I was dependent on my dependents. I was addicted to being a mother.

Mothering was a drug I had been inhaling, injecting and ingesting non-stop for three and half years. It was an intoxicating potion on good days. A hallucinogenic powerhouse after days of sleep deprivation. It was like an eight ball of cocaine with a heroin bump, an all-consuming temptress….  Okay.  Stop. That last metaphor is just me trying to show my street cred (I have no street cred).
Being a mother was a 24-hour habit and now I was going cold turkey for a week. As I checked in to my flight, I was shaking, sweating and nauseous- detoxing, if you will. As I entered airport security, I stripped myself of a jacket, shoes, belt and parental responsibilities. As I boarded the plane I also embarked on a sobering solo experience. “They will be fine. They are with their father. Their father can take care of them.” I breathed and thought again, “Oh God… they are with their father! Can he take care of them?”

When I arrived in Washington, I craved a fix. So I called home using my computer and video conferencing. As soon as we were connected- I realized my grave error. The baby started screaming and crying “Mama! Mama!” And Oedi said, “Mommy I want to go with you. I want to go inside the computer with you.” Ouch. I just wanted a little something… a pick me up, a “hi Mommy!” And what I got instead was what they refer to as a relapse in a twelve –step program.

Admitting my addiction had rendered me powerless (step 1)… I arrived in Los Angeles reciting the serenity prayer. I was feeling weak. So I decided to look to step two and search for a ‘power greater than myself to restore my sanity.’ I chose Target. And Bloomingdales. And Barneys. A calm came over me. Shopping not only helped me, but it also aided the devastated California economy. I was helping myself and Governor Schwarzenegger one retailer at a time! This twelve-step thing was so effective- I only needed two of them. Slowly I stopped obsessing about my kids and started thinking about me. “What did I want to eat tonight? What film did I want to see? Did I want to hike with a friend or do yoga?” I felt like me again. Without the Mommy part.

Turns out, the week apart was great for everyone. Oedi and his brother loved being waited on by their Italian grandparents, Marco got to see how difficult a job it is raising kids full time, and after I got off my mommy jag… I had a glorious week that was all about me. The best part (aside from In-n-Out Burger), was coming home to my three men and knowing that I could leave again without suffering from withdrawal. We all survived nicely.

For the sake of recovery… where can I escape to next?

*** And yesterday my friend Jen sent me this: Great minds think alike.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cheap. Quick. Easy. (Minds out of the gutter please.)

On Friday, Marco was meeting with a client. After an hour, he signed a new deal and snagged a new RECIPE. I love the fact that it is completely commonplace for men in Italy to come up with new culinary ideas.

Saturday, Marco then whipped up this pasta. It was super tasty- as well as cheap, quick and easy.

1 can of tuna 
3 anchovy fillets or anchovy paste
1 clove garlic
lemon zest to taste
parsley to taste
olive oil
white wine
sea salt
250 g pasta

If you want to cook like Marco the Roman- take your time, sip your wine, prepare the sauce AND then bring the water to a boil. But if you'd like to rock out this recipe in 10-12 minutes. Follow my instructions:

Put water on the stove- bring to a boil. 
While water is heating- do your prep.

Chop your garlic, parsley and zest your lemon. 
Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic and anchovy. 
Add tuna (we used a high quality Italian tuna in olive oil which you can find in specialty stores- but you can use any tuna. Obviously the better the tuna... the better the dish.) and a splash of white wine
Add in lemon zest and parsley. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Saute for a few minutes (remember tuna is already cooked, so we are just trying to marry the flavors).

When water is boiling add a handful of sea salt and cook pasta until al dente. Then add pasta to saucepan
Mix and plate. Buon Appetito.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I have strange taste in music. If I were a Deejay, Ethel Merman would be heavy in rotation. So would Lerner and Loewe (look it up. I dare you.).

With that said, I also love me some Prince (and the Artist formerly known as). But I hate going to big concerts (except for Madonna at Madison Square Garden). So when Marco surprised me with tickets to last night's Prince concert here in Rome, I was on the fence.
At first glance, he looked very much like Little Richard and I felt very much like my parents going to see an icon past his prime. (My 'rents saw a fat Elvis.)
But seeing an icon (that's right- I said icon. twice.) after his prime is both a bit sad and a little inspiring.
Sad because the production value nor the turn out was not what it used to be.
Inspiring because after many years he can still shake that tiny ass, hit those high notes, whale on that guitar and gather a crowd that adores him and his music.

The concert brought me back to my youth, (which in turn only made me feel old) to a time when asymmetrical haircuts were cool and Purple Rain reigned supreme on my walkman (Sorry Ethel 1984 was all about the mini man from Minneapolis). For his final (and only) costume change, Prince came out wearing a sequined tunic. I think he borrowed it from Liza Minelli (who I also adore).

I happened to sit next to the only teenager in the stadium. His parents brought him along and while he was mortified by the two middle aged men in front of us, I was awestruck by both their passion for the dance and their lack of ability slash rhythm. They shimmied and shook like only 50 year old pear shaped men with a reckless disregard for decorum can. They were awesome. Prince was awesome.
And Marco was awesome buying me the tickets.

NOTE: If you also have strange musical taste... but would like to improve it OR you have great taste in music but are always looking for something new- check out this amazing blog:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

LA is my lady

Last week, I had the sheer pleasure of flying (by myself) to Los Angeles. It was part business, part pleasure and all around pretty great. LA can get a bad rap- and not the kind with a human beat box- but I love a city whose nail salons have a 20 minute wait during the work day and where palm trees grow in the ghetto. Add that to the fact that many of my best girlfriends are there, that Barney's co-op and Target are within a one mile radius and that no one under two feet tall wanted to suckle on my breast and you've got a recipe for a Mommy week in paradise.

LA has also upped it's food game. A friend told me about bld's lamb-burger. I dreamt about it for three days before finally sinking my teeth in to one. And it did not disappoint. Every day since, I then dreamt about how I could get my next fix.

With the re-opening of Off Vine, me and my friends gathered for a great meal and ordered the pumpkin souffle with our appetizers so as not to wait (though it is worth the 30 minutes).

And leave it to Mario Batali to smuggle in burrata from Puglia. If you've never had this 'taller, smarter and more beautiful' cousin to buffalo mozzarella, stop by Mozza.
If you can't get a table, sit at the bar.

 My only complaint for the week: I spent approximately $57 dollars on coffee drinks. Let's just say I kept up this daily coffee habit for a month. My tab would be a whopping $228. For coffee. How many "Save the Children" children could be saved with that kind of cash? Or a better question (and less altuistic) ... how can I get me a coffee franchise?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Meatless balls gone bad

I make a mean meatball,  but recently I came across a melanzane ball recipe. Or eggplant. I am always down for disguising veggies for my kids and I am mad about melanzane myself. So I tried it. And it didn't go well. So I tried it again.

The original recipe called for a traditional red sauce. But here's the thing... eggplant isn't pork or beef. So it doesn't adhere they way real meatballs do (I also got this on good authority from several Italian women who have been cooking for a combined 150 years).  What I got was a saucepan full of broken up (albeit tasty) meatless polygons. I came up with an alternative cooking mode- and it wasn't half bad!

5 long skinny eggplant or 2 rotund (1lb cooked)
fistful of pecorino
fistful of parm
2 eggs
1 c milk
three slices of bread
mint or basil
liter of tomato puree

Peel (or not- depending on your taste) and cube the eggplant in to small pieces. Boil in salted water for approx 5 minutes.
Soak three pieces of bread in milk.
Drain and SQUEEZE all water out of the eggplant. Let eggplant cool. Squeeze water out again, making the mixture as dry as possible. Squeeze excess milk out of bread and break up into crumbs, combining with eggplant. Add pecorino, parmesan, salt, pepper and mint or basil (to taste). Add eggs and mix together. Add breadcrumbs IF NEEDED to make the consistency of the  mixture more solid. Roll in to balls and roll in breadcrumbs.

At this point, the original recipe called for dropping the balls in to the puree and braising . And you can do this- just know it is going to look like glop: 

I also pan fried them- they turned out beautifully but if you ask me they are more like fritters than balls. I served them with chopped tomatoes (cultivated near Mt. Vesuvius) and sweet red onions (from Tropea in Calabria). They were tasty and would be great for a party as they are a good hand held snack that will also keep at room temperature.

And for all you purists.... here is the recipe for the real thing:
1lb ground meat (I have the butcher grind beef and pork)
2 eggs
150 g or 5 oz fresh bread crumbs**
handful of parmasan and pecorino
sea salt
liter of tomato puree

** grind up fresh bread with a food processor or blender OR you can soak the bread in milk and break it up by hand.

Mix, meat, bread crumbs, eggs, grated cheeses, salt, pepper, parsley (to taste). Let sit in fridge for one hour. 

Add oil and garlic to your pan- heat. Add Tomato puree. Salt.
Roll matballs and drop in to saucepan. Cook on low to medium heat for approx 30 covered. And stir occasionally.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Parental Guidance (not necessarily) Suggested

Check out my latest parenting article in The American Magazine. FYI- I have been writing for them for about three years. When the editor gave me a "Parenting Column," my younger sister was concerned saying, "You aren't an expert on parenting. Actually, you have no idea what you are doing!"
She was right  and probably still is.
Stay tuned for this week's recipes- meatballs AND meatless melanzane balls.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Politics as Unusual

Recently there has been a lot of hullabaloo about The Roma here in Europe. If you are not abreast- let me get you up to speed. The Roma are a group of nomadic people believed to be from eastern Europe but with origins in India. They do not live within the cultural norms. They don't work in legal jobs, the children often do not attend school, they live in camps- makeshift and ramshackle. They make money by begging, lying and stealing. And they are a burden on the societies in which they live. They are what is commonly referred to as gypsies.

Nicolas Sarkozy has come under some considerable fire for basically deporting hundreds of Roma from France to Romania. The EU is all out whack. No one can agree on HOW to deal with a people who essentially belong nowhere (they have no documentation or formal records) but everywhere (according to law, should be free to travel within the EU).

Last week, I read an article in the New York Times ( criticizing Sarkozy. Usually, I love the "Liberal Media's Heart of Darkness," (in fact my heart is also dark, and full of contempt for Teabagger Sarah Palin) but the article was way off the mark making the Roma sound like a harmless but victimized group of campers. But to most New Yorkers "Gypsy" is merely a Broadway Musical here in Europe the Roma are a real threat.

They are not harmless. To us. Or to themselves. They mame, drug, molest and beat their children. They rob, mug and vandalize. They manipulate charity and drain social services (see my archived Article in the American Magazine P.S. I am a registered Democrat and bleeding heart liberal who has a Communist for a baby daddy.

This morning I was throwing out my garbage. I approached the trash area on the street to find a 'zingaro,' (a male Roma) dumpster diving. He was literally standing inside the container rummaging through rubbish.   I stood and waited. And waited. It was really awkward. I couldn't even imagine throwing my garbage all over another human being, so I said, "Excuse me." Pause. "Can I?" Nothing. I asked again and then stammered a bunch of vowel sounds together which made me sound like a mentally challenged slash speech impaired kook (second Sarah Palin reference). I walked further down the block. Passing my Volvo station wagon, I admired myself in the reflection of the new glass (our windows have been bashed in twice this month) and made my way to the next set of trash receptacles.

Maybe we could send them all to Sarah's back yard. And I don't mean Russia.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bad Influence

I like to get down as much as the next Mommy. If not more. I am frequently known to shake my money maker (though when I do, I make no money). Usually, it goes down like this:  I am in my living room with my sons and I scream, "Dance Party USA!" I pump up the volume and drop it like it's hot. The toddlers at my side begin gyrating and slam dancing- sometimes simultaneously.

(Please note: This is different from "Kissy's Musical Review," which begins with some Candor and Ebb, a Fosse isolation or two, followed by a boisterous '5, 6, 7,8!)

This morning (instead of going to church) I threw one of my 'Dance Party USA's.' We were bouncing around like uninhibited American young hipsters who say no drugs but yes to MTV. "Like the way you Lie," with Rihanna and Eminem came on. I was playing the part of Rihanna (and doing really well with my upper register) and my sons were alternating with Mr. Mather's lyrics (which can be challenging if you are not yet fluent in English). I was singing and dancing and having a humdinger of a good time. Well you can imagine my disappointment when both my sons STOPPED dead in their tracks mid-song. The little one's double-chinned jaw actually dropped. They sat mesmerized. I stopped too. And turned to the TV- the video (which I had never seen) was disturbing for a Sunday morning discotech! That sexy Meghan Fox was being body slammed against a wall by the dwarf like guy from Lost. There was fire involved in the altercation as well (and I am STRICT about playing with fire). What the...?!? I turned the channel, making a mental note that this video was definitely not produced by Pixar or the like. Next channel.... 'Alejandro' by the Lovely and talented Lady Gaga. I am clearly lagging behind on my video watching. This one was new to me as well. And also not for children. What was a dancing parent to do?

Luckily, my boys' father woke and saved me from my parenting debacle. He suggested we go to a local park with Kiddie rides. My sons' innocence had been restored as they went round and round on a cute little truck built for two.
But as we snapped a picture... I noticed something almost as disturbing as Lady Gaga's 'choreography'....
The truck was a rolling advertisement for CAMEL cigarettes whose license plate also read HI- 069.

It wasn't yet noon and my kids been bombarded with: re-enacted domestic violence, simulated sex,  cigarette endorsements, drug references and math related sexual positions.

Next week, maybe we should consider church?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Edible Adventures

I used to be an emotional eater (Don't knock it. Look at Oprah). Now I am too busy to eat! I jest.

Living in Italy with two toddlers, a lanky man from Lazio and a foreign language poses it's problems. But cooking is not one of them.  Both preparing and devouring my concoctions give me a great satisfaction and almost instant relief to life's little stressors. When all else fails in this wacky foreign place, I rely on the comfort of food (and a bit of wine) to bring me down off the ledge.

Yesterday, my Sicilian-actor friend Vito came for lunch. (NOTE: He is gorgeous, so I always get the fish eye from the neighbors. Which is funny because I am not his type. Because I do not have a penis).
For Vito, I doctored up an involtini recipe from Sicily and paired it with a bottle of Nero D'Avola I bought for three bucks at my local vegetable and fruit market. Nero D'Avola is a great Sicilian wine- grab it if you see it on the shelves of your local stores. It's versatile- goes with any meal. If you like a Syrah- you'll go for this too.

Sicilian Eggplant Roll
(I have converted from metric. This constitutes as higher math for me. You are welcome)

10 oz flour
5 oz ricotto (fresh. I used sheep's ricotta)
warm water (a cup or less)
tsp sea salt. 
2 tbs olive oil 

two eggplant
6-8 small tomatoes (roma, cherry, etc)
1 onion
1 garlic clove
2 cups milk
sea salt to taste
8oz smoked provolone (or any harder smoked cheese avail)

combine flour, salt, oil on counter surface. With hands make a hole near the center of the mix- add ricotta and start working. Slowly add water (as needed) to mixture until dough is mixed well and formed in to ball. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375
Cube eggplant, provolone and cut up tomato. Slice onion.
Soak eggplant in milk for five minutes (takes away bitterness).
Set provolone aside.

Heat a pan with olive oil and garlic clove.
Add onions. Saute until translucent
Add eggplant and saute.
After approx 2 minutes add tomato.
Saute until vegetables are cooked through. Add salt to taste. 
remove from heat and add cubed provolone

Roll out dough in a circular form. 
Add the eggplant mixture in a horizontal line though the middle of the dough.  Fold the dough over to close (like a long envelope).
Bake for 25- 30 minutes.

*** There may be filling left over. If so, marry it with a tomato puree. Blend and heat on stove for about 10 minutes on low heat. Now you've got yourself a tangy eggplant pasta sauce as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hi there. (Whoever you are.)
As I embark on the international Internet world of blogging... I hope to parlay a sense of hope (not an Audacity of Hope- because that would be plagiarizing) and humor to anyone who is currently involved in a relationship that involves co habitation and a shared set of keys. Cat's don't count. Sorry feline lovers.

Domestic life is up and down; it's in and it's out. Did I just quote Katy Perry or her producer?
Anyhow, it isn't easy. But it is rewarding. And funny. And tragic. And sweet. And stressful. And full. And so there will be a lot to share. Potential topics may include but are not limited to: recipes, unsolicited opinions, potty training tips, travel do's and don'ts,  arts and crafts (when I am feeling crafty), hatred of Sarah Palin and Tea Baggers, photography, The Performing Arts (capitalized for their importance), personal victories, Domestic Fashion (or lack thereof), inappropriate details about my familial relationships, product endorsements and scribings (plural) that sometimes border upon mental illness.

And we're off....