Do You “Super Bowl?”

Welcome to the first day of February, friends. The US of A is kicking off 2015’s second month with its biggest party of the year, I guess. (I’m wondering if New Year’s Eve might be the frontrunner, but Americans will jump on any positive event to celebrate—yes?—and a sporting event always seems to be that much more fun.)

Super Bowl Sunday is usually a double-sporting event for me. Just finished watching the Australian Open Tennis Championships: Novak Djokovic is starting to own Melbourne Park the way Rafael Nadal is Rolling Garros reigning monarch. Congrats to Novak, and to finalist Andy Murray. Their display was dynamic, especially those first two sets.

Later in the day, of course, is the crowning glory of the NFL’s season. All the best to the Seahawks and Patriots—and to Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s repeat MVP (another personal favorite of mine–the guy seems a class-act :)).

FullSizeRender (3)  Okay, so I fell short on the plates, lol. At least they coordinate with the napkins. Pizza dough is on the rise and onion dip’s a-chillin’ in the fridge. (No tacos and no brownie–the oblong bake pan I used went to pieces a while back… 😦 )

Before I was actually into “the big game,” I always looked for a party. (What’s better than one more excuse to chow down on junk food while hanging out with folks you like?) Since the NY Giants’ crazy run to the championship game in 2011, I decided I wanted to stay home so I could better focus on the action. My kids planned to have a few friends over that night, and a friend of mine showed up as a surprise.

I threw together a few pizzas—maybe tacos too—slapped snacks and drinks onto the table and baked a football-shaped brownie. Some football-themed paper goods rounded it all out and our Super Bowl tradition was born.

So, do you celebrate the Super Bowl? Are you a party person or do you prefer to be in front of your own big-screen so you don’t miss a play? Do you wish the hype would just go away? Any votes for Super Bowl SATURDAY? (Hear, hear!) Should the US declare Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday?

No matter how you spend it, have a wonderful day–and a great upcoming week too! Someone kindly tell that pesky ground hog in PA to feign temporary blindness against any shadows–just sayin’… 😉

Happy Birthday, Danny!

Joanna

Name Your Poison!

Happy last days of October, friends! Halloween is upon us. Scary how fast a year goes–yes?

Nic 1st Halloween (Elvis) 1997 Older Son as Elvis (first Halloween 1996)

Nic n Kevin Halloween 2000 “Da boys” (Halloween 2000)

Addictions.

Some are not the kind one makes public knowledge.

Some are illegal and, in the long haul, can impact quality of life or worse, life itself.

That’s serious stuff. (If you believe yourself to have that kind, please, seek help.)

BTW, we all have them. (Does blogging count? This is my 361st post! :D)

Disclaimer: By choosing this topic, I am by no means making light of the types of addictions that need true attention, twelve-step program(s) or other type of intervention(s).

Truth is, we’re all hooked on something. Try wrestling my cup of coffee—half-caffed as it may be—from my eager li’l hands every morning. My brew-baby is set to go on timer; happiness is hearing the triple-beep that tells me java is ready before I make my way down the stairs daily. Then there is tennis. Makes me crazy. I always lose—and frequently wind up MAD and FRUSTRATED on the court, yet I keep going back. I can’t not watch, and I can’t not play.

(Check out my favorite tennis image of the week.  Diehard fans know what preceded this, too. 😉 Please try to remember to come back, lol.)

Back to addictions. Years ago I attended a New Year’s Eve party and stayed overnight. Until that night, I had heard the term, but never internalized ‘chain smoking.’ I watched a guy pull a cigarette out of the pack just in time to light it with the end of the one hanging from his mouth. He spent the next five hours doing that over and over, to the tune of five packs or more. (At some point, I went to sleep. Chances are, he lit the next cigarette.)

That’s how I feel when I’m watching my go-to channel, USA. (Come on, ‘Characters Welcome’ is the ultimate writer’s by-line! 😉 ) At least twice a week, Law & Order SVU and NCIS run marathon-style, often until the late hours. (That’s when Modern Family kicks in, 2-4-episode line-ups.)

TV powers-that-be did away with commercials between the end of one show and the beginning of the next for a reason, people. That’s one way they get your eyeballs on the show that’s new to the scene. And for an SVU/NCIS junkie like me, that’s all it takes to get roped into that next episode—even if I have watched it twelve times. As soon as those credits roll, you’ll hear me begging hubby for the remote. “Quick! Go to black before I’m sucked into the next one!”

So what’s your poison?

Here’s to a happy and safe Halloween to all who celebrate. Residents of the USA, don’t forget to turn back your clocks.

Have a great weekend,

Joanna

FIFA World Cup and Polish Boyfriends

Hi all. I’m definitely a bit behind this week. Just started the summer program in my school district and spent about four hours total trying to schedule three mornings worth of students. I suppose lots of folks hope to win the lottery, but I’d be satisfied with $500/week for life. Then I’d take the summer off—for once since my early teenage years, when I wasn’t old enough to work. (I’d still have to keep the day job, but figure $350 after taxes ain’t a bad thing…)

Anyway, y’all know tennis is my game and I’m currently following Wimbledon. Yes, I know, Rafa is out. He managed to hold his own during a trouncing by qualifier Nick Kyrgios, but I’m happy Rafa beat Rosol in the second round. The rest—it is what it is. Who knows? Federer might take Grand Slam #18. That would work too. 🙂

tennis Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

I’m not a big fan of soccer—that’s my little Italian mamma’s thing. She keeps me updated on FIFA World Cup standings, but I know it’s a big deal to lots of folks (including many of my favorite tennis players).

We’ve talked about the anxiety that seems to run on my mom’s side of the family. I promise you, some of these wonderful folks can take the simplest of situations and work themselves into a ridiculous frenzy over what they conjure into horror shows in their minds. Earlier today I remembered some loony stuff that ties into the 1990 World Cup.

I was working at my first full-time job, at a hospital in one of the boroughs of NYC. My friend had gotten married right around that time. She and her new hubby lived in a neighboring borough, had a couple of cats and needed someone to apartment-sit.

I offered. My anxious Italian mamma was not happy with my decision. In fact, she was so annoyed with me, she told me I shouldn’t have bothered calling her on the Monday immediately following the wedding, my first day as cat-sitter.

So the next day, I hung out late at work. Stayed to watch the final match, West Germany vs. Argentina, the team that took out the host team, Italy. (My friend might not have had cable. This many years down the line, the details are a tad fuzzy.)

soccer player

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

Aside: I’m not sure how valid this statement is, but don’t most Italians believe Italy should always win when it comes to soccer? If I remember correctly though, there was some questionable stuff associated with Argentina’s win, so any fans of Italy rooted for West Germany just to see Argentina get its due.

BTW, I didn’t call Mamma. (She told me not to bother the day before, right? I was being a good listener 😀 .)

Went to see a private patient after the game. Rolled into my friend’s apartment around seven or so.

I might have been in five minutes when the phone started ringing. (This was in the pre-cell phone era.)

At the other end was a work friend. “Call your mother. She’s looking for you and she sounded upset.”

A second friend called a very short while later. This one lived in my state, about twenty minutes from my house. “Call your mother. She has no idea where you are. She’s really worried.”

My newly-wedded friend’s mother called. “Call your mother! My husband’s going crazy over here.”

Turns out, my mamma went through my phone book and started making calls to any name she recognized. My newlywed pal’s stepfather—let’s call him Teddy—was born in Poland. His English is broken (but very entertaining) to this day.

I learned Teddy had the misfortune of picking up the phone. His conversation with my mother had him defending himself that he had no reason to take up with a 26-year-old girl. (My friend and I still laugh about it, and Teddy has retained the honor of being “first Polish boyfriend.” The second one never worked out. Thank. God.)

Anyway, I’m sure I wound up in an argument with my mamma that evening.

But for the sake of the people in my phone book, I called her the rest of the time I apartment sat.

Any FIFA World Cup memories of your own to share? Or stuff your parents did to make you nuts stories to tell about? You’re among friends here!

On a separate note: Quickie shout-out on behalf of long-time friend and very prolific screenplay writer Ric Rodriguez. He’s recently discovered blogging and sharing about his journey and other thoughts.  Check out his website/blog and show him some love! Many thanks to those of you who take the time to do so. 🙂

American flag

Happy Independence Day to all my American buds! (Image courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Here’s to a wonderful day,

Joanna

Sometimes, It’s About the Littlest Things

Hi all,

I’m running a little late with posting, this week. That’s what happens when school is closed for spring break. I start cleaning and lose sight of almost everything else. (This coming from the girl who always gave her mother grief for using vacation time to clean. Help! Does this mean I’m becoming my mother???)

Here’s the latest I tried from Jessica Smith TV. What I’m liking about her routines—and the ballet barre workout I referred to in my last post—is feeling supercharged when I’m done, with a willingness to keep going. The energy seems to have translated to the tennis court, too! I ran down so many shots and didn’t feel tired at all after 90 minutes out there—double what I could do last fall.  (Oh, the hours I spent on the courts in my mid-late 20s. Still feeling that kind of joy when I’m swinging a racquet.)

A couple of days ago, online friend and fellow blogger Carrie Rubin brought up an interesting question about twinges of regret about life choices we might have made. Read her post here. (Psst! Carrie’s posts are always worth the read.)

Anyway, she got me thinking. Of course, my thoughts meandered in other directions—and I didn’t want to be a copy-cat. I landed on seemingly little things that wind up being life-changing.

Now, I’m not talking insanely dramatic life situations. For me, a YouTube video and a piece of tape wound up impacting the day-to-day.

This connects to the fitness videos I mentioned these past two posts. Around this time last year, I decided to give zumba a whirl. I’d taken a class; wasn’t thrilled with the instructor. Being someone who has a hard time following steps, I figured I could start and pause a video as needed and work at my own pace.

Long story short, I felt something not move correctly in my left hip. No pain. At least not until a month or so later, when I couldn’t tell which came first, the pain in the hip or that in the knee. I was also an avid user of rocker-bottom sneakers (i.e., Shape-Ups)—they never, ever bothered me prior. (I’ve given them up but still miss them. It’s okay.)

By June last year, I had enough of a problem to interfere with my lifestyle. That included walking. (I was afraid to attempt tennis.) Sitting certain ways and getting up off the floor after working with my school kids had become a major issue. I broke down and went to see an orthopedist. He offered a knee brace, ibuprofen and physical therapy.

Immediately called a former co-worker. She’s not only the most amazing physical therapist I know, she’s become my “sister-from-another-mother.” She told me the brace  would align my patella (a.k.a kneecap) exactly the way athletic taping would, minus the bulk. Went to her house that same night. Came home taped and taught how to do it myself. She also showed me a few key exercises, but I’d be lying if I told you those were the magic.

A piece of athletic tape applied once or twice a week since then has altered my day-to-day for the best. Within a week, most of the pain subsided. (I’d say I was 95% improved, and with minimal medicine too.) I even took my chances on the tennis court right around then, and came back happier than I’d been in months. The barre workout appears to have handled the rest of the discomfort. My hip is feeling 99% improved since TWO days after starting that. Go figure.

So, reader-friends, I turn over the blog-mike to you. What seemingly little choice or change did you make that significantly impacted your day-to-day, or your life on the bigger scale, if that’s appropriate?

Best wishes for a Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all those who celebrate!

And special thanks to Carrie for inspiring me this week.  🙂

Cheers,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Things Hot in the Cold (With Nutella and Potato Soup!)

What????

Happy Tuesday to all. Hanging in there and hope each of you is doing the same or better!

Okay, I happened by a Nutella recipe that I’m sure I will try at some point, assuming I remember I have it saved in a Word doc, lol. BTW, it’s for a bread-spread. I’m thinking Nutella-potato soup might be a bit strange even for me 🙂

We’ve been dealing with some serious cold snaps here on the east coast, and everybody knows frigid temps bring out the soup-maker in everyone, right? (Huh? Nobody else got that gene?)

So  I’d been wanting to try my hand at creamy potato soup for the longest time. Finally got myself in gear a few weeks ago and looked up recipes online. Came across Ree Drummond,The Pioneer Woman This blogger has a really fun way of delivering the how-to. Actually, pretty sure I stumbled on it a few weeks prior while searching for a quick sweet-n-sour chicken recipe—uh that one is pretty awesome too (but not Ree’s). Uh, now that my brain went back into a cohesive mode, I found a great chicken tenders recipe at PW’s website. Yep, I get a little confused. Too many websites, so little time…

Yes, Joanna is working very hard to stay focused.

I linked you to PW’s potato soup recipe, but you might want to make note of a few easy changes: I skipped the bacon, used 1% lowfat milk and about ¼-cup light cream. I also went very easy on the cheese (sharp cheddar), tossing in a handful or so. Chicken broth I made myself. Liked the milder flavor the soup had using mine. Second time I made this I didn’t have homemade broth, only bouillon cubes. Still tasty, but a tad salty. (BTW, the second time, I tossed all the foods in the processor vs. julienne, chop and all that tedious prep-by-hand that so annoys me during cooking. Worked jes’ fine, folks.)

potato soup

Let me tell you, this was GOOD–nah, it was excellent.  As with any soup, it was that much yummier the next day, after all the flavors got a chance to come together. And yes, it’s starchy, but far creamier tasting than the nominal amount of fat in it.  (The actual fat content has to be pretty low.)

Oh, and here’s the link to the Nutella recipe.

So who’s trying what? I’d love to know how you make out!

For tennis fans, here’s a link to Aussie Open Women’s 2014 Champion Li Na’s speech after being presented the trophy. Take a few minutes, and laugh at this lady’s hysterical way of putting it out there. When she retires her racquet, she might want to consider stand-up.

And congrats to “Iron Stan” Wawrinka, who took the title on the men’s side–all the best to the ATP World Tour’s new #3! 

Joanna

Wimbledon Tradition: “Strawberries and Cream” (Joanna-adapted!)

In Honor of Wimbledon—“Strawberries and Cream”!

Good day friends, guests and followers,

photo (21) This li’l cutie (might be Henry, a regular) got caught red-pawed in my yard and had the nerve to look directly at the camera too. Never again in this lifetime, lol. 

rhododendron in vase Rhododendron from my front yard. Just liked how this looked and had to share! 🙂

Of course this post was supposed to be only about fruit and cream, but y’all know how easily sidetracked Joanna gets. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

So sad to watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go out so early in this highly anticipated annual tournament (especially after my ranting about seeds in my previous post). End of an era? Changing of the guard?

Possibly. I’m sure though, providing a little more time between the French Open and Wimbledon Tennis Championships would so a difference make. About three weeks separate the “Channel Slams” (partly because of each’s location across the English Channel). Not exactly much time to recover from the clay court season and prepare for a ridiculously short-lived grass court season. Heck: the Australian is held the end of January. The next slam is the French, which starts the Monday before Memorial Day (U.S. A.) in May. Wimbledon follows beginning the last week of June. Then no grand-slam action until the last week of August. I’m sure there are required tournaments to be played during the hard-court season, but players can also build in a little regroup time too.  (IMHO, the scheduling officials really need to look at this. Players are human after all. Then again, what do I know?)

Oh well, it is what it is, and Wimbledon is obviously happening without these fan-favorite past champions. It’s also going on minus a handful of top male players and women (i.e., Victoria Azarenka) out with injuries after slips and slides on the slick grass surface of the first week. Former Grand Slam champion, Wimbledon finalist, Tennis Hall of Fame and current Davis cup captain Jim Courier commented about the game being so much more aggressive now. The Wimbledon courts are still being groomed as they were about a century ago, when play was with wooden racquets and the balls didn’t move as hard and fast as they do nowadays. Hmm: very interesting point.

All Wimby 2013 facts and conjecture aside, this tourney is best known for its traditions. Wearing all white garb on the court. No play on “Middle Sunday, ”  among others.

And this one (finally): The topic of today’s post: Strawberries and Cream! A favorite, I’m sure, during every “Breakfast at Wimbledon”. Here are a few images of what theirs looks like. 0:-)

This ain’t no strawberries and whipped cream, folks. European cream is a lot different. In England, it is known as double cream, is not aerated and so thick it has be spooned as it doesn’t pour.  (This, as described by late author Laurie Colwin, in her novel Home Cooking.) I’ve had a similar Italian version (a.k.a. panna), many times over granita, similar to a “slushie” or Italian ice, in strawberry or coffee versions. Yes, many people make it here, but it just ain’t the same. (And trust, me: pure fat ain’t low in the calorie count neither.)

So: what does Joanna do? Come up with a healthy—no less tasty—version of same! (Hey, if it tastes like you’re giving something up, it’s not worth it.) And of course, it’s seriously easy-peasy.

What you’ll need (serves one person):

Fresh strawberries, hulled, or hulled and sliced. (Your choice on how many 😉 )

Roughly equal parts non-fat plain regular and Greek-strained yogurts (1/2-cup each is good, but you can adjust to taste/preference in consistency)

Vanilla (a few drops to taste)

Sugar, sugar substitute (i.e., Splenda, Stevia, etc) or honey (again, you decide how much based on how sweet you like)

Sugar-free non-dairy creamer (French vanilla or hazelnut—optional)

What to do:

Combine the yogurts, vanilla, sweetener (and non-dairy creamer); stir until smooth.

Pour over strawberries or plop them into the mix, as did I.

strawberries n cream Threw this serving together last-minute before taking off to the day job. Worked for me. 🙂

Eat and watch Wimbledon!

Mixing the yogurts creates a consistency pretty similar to that of panna and most likely, double cream. It also cuts the tartness and thickness of the Greek yogurt, while thickening up the regular yogurt. Try it and let me know what you think. Feel free to substitute blueberries, peaches—whatever your favorites are!

I also keep thinking about freezing myself some yogurt pops using this mix. Again, it’s all about consistency with NO FAT (or sugar, should you go that route).

So, what do you think? Ready to give it a try?

*You can also use pre-flavored vanillas of each or one. (Doesn’t matter which one). I stick to plain yogurts b/c the ready-made tend to be very high in sugar, and the sugar-free version is a bit too sweet for my taste.

Happy rest of Wimbledon–and the week, of course!

Joanna

To Seed or Not to Seed: Wimbledon 2013

Hi all. Hope all of you are doing well.

My apologies for having gone missing these past weeks. The 2012-13 school year should have been done, but we earned the better part of an extra week in to make up for Superstorm Sandy lost days. (She will haunt us for a very long time, on many levels.)

Not that I’m off for the summer. Extended school year (a.k.a. “summer program”) starts June 30th  and runs through July. What can I say? It helps cover August and September bills when cash flow is definitely “out” with very little “in”. Then again, one needs a whole lot of $$$ to buy time.

Anyway…

Wimbledon, considered the most prestigious of professional tennis’ Grand Slam Championships, starts today.

The seeds are seeded. (Translation for non-tennis fans: Based on their world ranking and likelihood to win a particular tournament, professional players are “seeded.” At the grand slams, 32 spots in each of the women’s and men’s draws are considered.

So: The draw has been drawn. (Translation: This would be the line-up of who will be playing whom for the first round, which of course, will impact to some degree, who will play whom in subsequent rounds).

Maybe—just maybe—the powers that be who seed the players ought to take another look at the system. And I, who like to believe the best about anyone and everyone, wonder if there wasn’t some inside fan of a particular top male player who wanted to make that player’s road a little easier. Seems as though three of the other top names have a much harder road to the final based on the seeding and the draw.

But what do I know? I am merely a fan. The articles I’ve read though, bring out my cynical side.

Fine. I AM BIASED.  In the words of Michael Baisden, “I said it. Yes I did.” And because this is my blog and I can grump if I want to, I will. 0:-)

My favorite, Rafael Nadal got seeded 5th, partly because he went out in the 2nd round last year. That means he’ll go head-to-head with a higher seed (most likely Roger Federer, who is seeded third) in the quarterfinals. This will result in a major fan favorite top player eliminated one round shy of the semis, and with no chance at the final. Andy Murray won at Wimbledon at the Olympics, but has technically never won this tournament, yet he’s seeded ahead of Fed (who only won 7 measly Wimbledons, let’s get real, people). David Ferrar is 4th, which is fair enough given he’s been fairly consistent, but he’s NEVER won ANY slam, let alone the one considered most prestigious among the men’s and women’s game.

Truth is, no matter the seeding, whoever plays his game and possibly has a bit of luck on his side will come through.

But…

Who is the ONLY guy besides Fed and Novak Djokovic (current World Number One who has only won it once, thank you very much) who’s won it in the past ten years???? Oh yeah! (Slaps self in head.) Rafa! The number five seed, who, BTW, is currently ranked NUMBER ONE for this year in finals and titles (9 and 7, respectively) and the first to qualify for the Barclays ATP Men’s Tour Finals, despite being ranked Number 5 in the Emirates/ATP rankings.

Just sayin’.

Have a great week and happy Wimbledon to those of you who love the slams as much as I do! Special thanks too, to ESPN and Tennis Channel, for awesome coverage! Beats how it was once-upon-a-time when coverage was kind of limited to weekends and quarterfinal-and-on action.

Joanna