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

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

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

Holy Flippin’ Moly DWTS Topped Itself–AGAIN!!!

I must be allergic to sleep or I’m still running on the energy and adrenaline from the Dancing with the Stars Finale! After the All-Star Season, the question was: how do the powers-behind-the-show surpass that?

Bring in celebs who really could dance and pair them with pros that brought out the best on both sides. Chemistry abounded all around.

Zendaya and Val–best matched pair ever!! (Minus Big Bro Maks, Val’s talent showcased itself–just MHO; nuthin’ but love for ya, Maks :))

Jacoby and Karina–got past the height difference and just made it fun, fun, fun 😀 (He was my favorite celeb this season–those faces he made cracked me up.)

Ali and Mark–Ali took Mark face for face and kept up with my favorite pro…

And Kellie and Derek–a new queen for the multi-crowned king!

One beef: if the finals supersized to four couples, Ali and Mark should have competed during the Finale. I mean, what was the point of letting them go????

To whom would YOU have awarded the “coveted mirror ball trophy”?

And what the heck: we’re talking champions. Let’s throw in a mention to repeat Roman royalty on the clay courts!

Have a great day all!

Don’t Spend Your Birthday Like I Did Mine!

Hi all. Hope you enjoyed the previous weekend and, like me, are already looking forward to the next one!

Mothers day flowers 2013 My Mother’s Day Flowers–h’ain’t they purty?

Joanna bday 2013  Standard Birthday activities–on Mother’s Day 🙂

I wrote this on Saturday afternoon, while taking a break from an evaluation that shouldn’t have been as tedious to write as it turned out to be. My brain felt about to explode.

That’s how I felt Friday night too, after tentative birthday plans to get me an awesome PB and chocolate icy-cream dessert at Friendly’s wound up sidelined by unexpected trips to my local satellite emergency room.

Yep. I had spent most of my b-day afternoon doing some of the easier parts of the report that took up about seven hours this weekend. A coworker had dropped in. While we chatted I heard a thump that sounded like it came from upstairs. Long story short: hubby was soon calling me from the other room. He’d “blacked out” briefly after choking on coffee and hit the hardwood.

Luckily, he didn’t hit his head, but his elbow certainly didn’t look happy and he had a nice little cut just above his hip that was turning some nasty shades of purple real fast. My darling also has a cardiac history, so we trotted off to the ER. That was about 4:00 PM.

Two hours later we were told he’d be transported to the mother hospital for overnight observation. I went home to pick up a few items for the guy.

Younger son came home and headed out to garage, as per mom’s request, to check if lawnmower was inside. (Hubby had forgotten he’d already asked older son to put it away, so it seemed odd that it wasn’t in the yard when I got home.)

Yucky story short: Mom tunes in to younger son crying and shouting for help from outside the garage. (That horrid sound may never leave my ears.) He was sort of plastered to door, with the tips of the middle fingers of both his hands stuck in the hinged space between the garage panels. Thank God I’m not the panicky type and quickly lifted the door until the gap widened and he could slide his hands out. The boy hit the ground. He panicked, and as the pain set in he got a little hysterical. When his eyes started rolling back I was sure he was going to pass out. (Getting that big kid off the ground would have been a feat. ‘Nuff said.)

Calmed the kid down and headed back to same ER with him in tow. Since I’m the primary insurance holder, the registrar girls had already scanned my insurance card when hubby showed earlier. They looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh, it’s your birthday today?”

“Uh…yeah.”

Got the younger one home by nine. Older guy needed a ride to a practice for an upcoming affair he’s part of. Dropped him off and headed back to hospital to wait for hubby to be transported. Made it home a little after ten.

Here’s hoping next year’s commemoration of the day I was born is a little less dramatic. Boring works after that.

Never boring, however, is Nadal at a final on clay. We’ll take Rafa’s win in Madrid!

Have a great day and a great week,

Joanna

Today is my birthday!

Happy Friday, Happy weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all to whom this applies!

Since the “techie” blog I wanted to post is no where near done, I had to do something. (IDK, virtual cakes just don’t cut it for me. I’m thinking about something from Friendly’s though. Bet you can’t guess. ;))

friendlys -27

Anyway, thought I’d do a quick share of some awesome music by an up and coming star! As life and a small world would have it, I went to school with his dad (who, I am VERY sad to say, passed about three years ago).

Tam’s dad was also very into his music. If memory serves me well, he loved his drums. What I remember most though, was a question he posed: if I had to lose one, would I give up my sight or my hearing?

Tam’s dad would rather not see than never be able to hear music again.

With that, I present to you Tam Justin Garcia. Take a few moments and listen to Liquid Universe. (You’ll be very glad you did!)  Then, if you would be so kind, visit his Facebook and Twitter pages and share about him some more? Thank you!

On a tennis note, Rafa Nadal topped David Ferrer in the quarterfinals at the Mutua Madrid Open! (Just cause it’s my b-day—of course! Last night my older son caught me watching another match and asked if it’s “tennis season” again. With the tennis channel, this is now a very welcome and fun year-round thing! Which also means, you may be constantly in-the-know about tennis whether you share the passion–or not! :D)

Have a great day all!

Joanna

My Kitchen–The Danger Zone

Okay, friends, I’m psyched. Spent this past Saturday at the Liberty States Fiction Writers  Create Something Magical Conference. Had a wonderful time catching up with writer friends and recharging my creative batteries. On Sunday, Rafa v. DelPo at Indian Wells didn’t lack for the trappings and flavor of a grand-slam final. AWE-some!

Here’s a photo of the champ hoisting his trophy! (So no fun not being able to one here. :() And all credit to Juan Martin for really fighting. (The guy’s pretty much gained ranking of one of my favorites.) He fought hard doesn’t describe how well he played, including blasting off three match points to make Rafa serve it out. It was a helluva day in the California desert for tennis fans, folks.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled post.

Two weekends ago my brother and his family stopped by for a visit. Although my Italian-born mom would have preferred different, we agreed to keep the fare simple: snacks, pizza and salad (which I forgot to put out) and a few desserts.

Long story short: my brother really enjoys my pizza. As he walked by with his fourth (or fifth) piece, he casually tossed out a comment. “You’ve come a long way from those eggs you used to burn, huh?”

Let’s get this right: I undercooked the eggs and boiled the milk, lol. (Hey, everybody starts somewhere.)

His comment, however, reminded me of a couple of times I did burn food; both times I was pretty oblivious. And both times, my nose was stuck in a book, too.

The first incident: we had one family car and my mom went to pick up my dad. I was most likely a teen, because I was old enough to stay home alone. Mom had two covered pots on the stove. One had artichokes, the other broccoli. In Italian, she told me to turn on the latter.

FYI, in my mom’s dialect, broccoli and artichokes rhyme. Broccoli and caccioffoli. (Bet I was already into that book while she was passing on instructions.)

That’s right. I turned on the wrong pot. Then I went out on the front porch where I read until my parents got home. They pulled in the driveway to a stream of black smoke creeping out the back window.

Appropriately so, my mom freaked out.

The next time was even better.

Without another person to whom to assign the cooking—and having hoped I’d learned something from the previous experience—she put me on lentil-watch.

This time I was actually in the kitchen.

Well, I’d never heard food burn before. And I must have been so enthralled by my book, I didn’t smell or see the smoke filling the kitchen and our first floor apartment.

When the parents arrived and found smoke seeping out that back window again, they—especially mom (she’s the anxious one)—figured the house was on fire with me in it. (Good thing cell phones were probably a prayer then. She probably would have called 911 from the car.)

Guess I have come a long way from those days, but keep me away from an electric oven. (They tend to run hotter than gas, at least 25 ºF.) The pizza I made and brought and reheated at a friend’s wound up just a little crisp at the thinner end.

Care to share your kitchen gaffs? The floor is open!

BTW, if you’re interested in trying your hand at my (almost homemade) pizza, the recipe is here. A link to my fresh-veggie pizza is embedded there as well. And if you’re looking for more in the line of easy, elegant and/or quick fare, check out Recipe Central. Scroll through or just search this site as the more recent ones are simply tagged posts. And feel free to throw in links to your own favs too.

Sorry I missed last week. Guess things got a little hectic. Tis’ the busy season at work right now.

Have a great day, all, and thanks for stoppin’ by!

Joanna