Thursday, March 30, 2017

Childhood Friends

Today I had a reunion with three gals (and brother of one) from our old City neighborhood.  We all
moved there in 1950, 1952 and 1954.
We are each now approaching our 69th year.
We have drifted in and out of each others' lives over these many years.  Some have had health
issues which were overcome.  All are still married to their original spouse. (this was noted as
being something of an achievement!)  All are now retired from careers and owning businesses.
It was mentioned that it had been twelve years since we had all been together last.

I was overcome by so many memories.

Ruthie had an older sister, Delores, who was in a high school sorority and was always going to proms and dances.  We would sit on the front porch and watch across the street as Delores would come out in yet another beautiful gown.  She was about six years older than us and we viewed her as a movie star!

Susie was the tomboy, always ready for an adventure and always with a big smile on her face.  To
this day she still has that big smile on her face.

Cathy had the big house her father had designed at the beginning of Bellvue Park.  In those days Bellvue Park was a beautiful area with stately homes.  Her father was an architect and had been working on a carriage house for a client.  The client decided to do something else so her father
bought the house for himself.  He was so very ahead of his time with his designs.  I had so many
good times in that house.  When her father re-designed Cathy's bedroom when she approached her
teen years, he designed open shelving, baskets instead of drawers, no furniture.  I thought it the
most innovative and sophisticated!  When we made a bedroom in our basement for our daughter,
Barbara, I replicated that same idea with the open closet and no furniture!

It was with such ease we slipped in and out of topics in our conversation during though all those years had not passed.

And I was struck by how similar we all are.  Some have children, some do not.  I am the only one
with a parent still living.  Yet we all still have the same values, appreciations and expectations as
we did back in the '50's.  We are very much of the same mind.

As I was leaving our delightful luncheon, I was struck by this sameness in our thinking of religion,
politics, the state of the world.  While it gave me a feeling of comfort in my nostalgia, it also made
me think of the next generation.  Will they also be of the same mind in another twenty, thirty years?

When people reflect on the '50's (and most often with a sense of pining for those easier times),
we truly were a different breed.  Today everything is instantaneous.  Technology has overtaken our

But we were the lucky ones.  We knew what life was like before smart phones, iphones, ipads, etc.
We played jacks, jumped rope, climbed trees and made our own fun.  We would be gone from morning til dinner time playing with our friends and our parents needed never to worry.

I left our luncheon with a sense of unification with my friends, even after all these years.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Making the Easter Pies

Today was Easter Pie Day!

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I usually have my granddaughter, Madeleine, with me but
it was not looking promising this year with her classes and work schedule.  Since the families
from New York are coming, I didn't think I would be able to make these and also be out and about
with them, so I am going to freeze these pies and hope for the best!

We will have these Easter Sunday before, during and after our Easter Dinner!  Then each family
will also have a pie to take to their own homes.

Yesterday and last night I made the dough, diced the mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, cooked the
sausage and hard-boiled the eggs.

Today was rolling the dough, combining the filling, lining the pans, filling them, topping them with another crust  and baking them off.

Here is the recipe for our Easter Pie:  this makes 4-5 pies, depending on how full you fill them

*make in mixer, NOT in processor
6 cups all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1-1/2 c. Crisco (not flavored)
6 eggs, well beaten
4-5 T. cold water to make soft dough

Put flour and salt in mixing bowl and stir.  Add Crisco and mix til blended.  Add half the beaten
eggs and mix.  Add remaining eggs and the water.  The dough should be soft and pliable.  Wrap
in saran and chill.

Roll dough thin and line pie pans.  Brush bottoms with beaten egg white.  Chill.


2 lb. ricotta cheese
8 raw eggs, well beaten
12 hard cooked eggs
1-2 lbs. ground sausage, cooked and drained and cooled (I use 2 lbs. as my family likes a lot of sausage)
2-1/2 lbs. cooked ham, small dice
1/2  lb. mozzarella, small dice
1/2 lb. pepperoni (remove casing and dice)
1 c. fresh parmesan, finely grated
fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well and divide among pie plates.  Each pie will probably take about 4 cups filling.  Roll dough
thin and top each pie.  Brush with egg yolk with dash salt.  Make slits for vents in top crust.  Bake
at 375* about one hour.  Pies should be golden brown.
2017 costs:  about $12.00 per pie

Bottom left pie has an S on top to indicate pie with no hard cooked eggs for son-in-law, Sean.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dottie's Little Black Book

Growing up, I lived in the City on 20th Street.  The family next door was from the coal regions
with six children.  The father was a state police officer and the mother was a marvel - cooking,
baking, making clothes for her children and helping all the elderly in the neighborhood.  Her name
was Dottie Lonardi.
In those days, neighbors knew each other by name, were in and out of each other's homes and all
looked out for each other.  If an elderly neighbor needed a ride to a doctor, no problem.  If someone
baked cookies, there was a plate set out for the children to sample.  When our neighbor on the other
side, a widow by the name of Mrs. Frain, procured a television set in the early 1950's, I used to go
over to her house every day to watch 'Howdy Doody'.
My Mother was a great cook.  However, she did very little baking.  Dottie, on the other hand, would
start baking her Christmas Cookies in early December.  I remember being in absolute awe at the many tins of different cookies that were stacked, seemingly, up to the ceiling.  My very favorite
cookies were the Meringue Kisses.  Dottie always chuckled over this as she used to refer to them as
her "leftover cookies", utilizing the leftover egg whites and nuts.
If Dottie sewed dresses for her daughters, she made one for me as well.  If she sewed pajamas for her
girls, I would also get a pair.  When her husband, Carlo, lined his daughters up for a trim of their
bangs, I was included in the queue.
We moved out to the suburbs when I was eleven and were not in much contact with this wonderful
family.  Living in a single home was a major adjustment for us.  People seemed more reserved.  You
could go for days without even seeing some of the neighbors.  We did get to know the neighbors close by on the street but not much beyond.
Many years later when I was newly married, I decided I wanted to learn to really sew.....not just that
awful apron in Home Economics class!  I bought a Singer Fashion Mate portable sewing machine from a friend's mother (my own Mother went halves with me as I promised to do all her repairs!).
I then called Dottie and asked her if she would teach me to sew.  She happily obliged, telling me
what to purchase and setting a date.
I went to her house in the morning and she took me through a quick sewing course from ironing the
to how to hem.  (I had chosen a jumpsuit pattern).  When we ended for the day, she handed
me a cassarole to throw in my oven when I got home so I would have a nice dinner!
About fifteen years later I opened my catering business and was able to cater rehearsal dinners for
this family.
When I was in their home I was asking Dottie for the recipe for the beloved Meringue Kisses and
she reached for her "little black book".  It was a very small looseleaf filled with her cookie, cake,
pie, stews, roasts, and pasta recipes which were written in her own hand.  That is when I got the
idea to re-create Dottie's Little Black Book.
I asked her if I could borrow her book to copy it, promising that I would take great care with it.
In those days, one did not have a personal printer.  I had to go to the convenience store where one
copy cost ten cents.  Since she had six children (I figured I would copy for each of them so
they could have their Mother's recipes as well), I needed seven copies of each page.

I am currently re-organizing recipes from home, catering, our pastry shop and, Dottie's Little
Black Book (which is bringing back such fond memories) with the hopes of including these in
a soon to be written book.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Remodeling Glitches

Since we always had planned to use the carpeting removed from the first floor, when we had switched to hardwood flooring,  I had proceeded to obtain three estimates for the padding and installation.  It was during this time that I learned about alternate flooring for sub-grade areas (LVP). However, after researching the luxury vinyl planks, we decided it was much too expensive for this project.

Then the Bob came up with a thrifty idea.....utilize both the carpeting  and the leftover hardwood flooring from the first floor.   This seemed an economical solution to a rather costly venture.

I had already received three estimates for installing our carpeting and had decided to go with the one
who had seemed to provide the most information and with the most reasonable cost.  I gave the
estimator the measurements of the area where we now wanted the hardwood.  He came back with a price that knocked me off my chair.  His numbers seemed very high for a small space.

So the Bob and our contractor both re-measured the area.  I then had the estimator return to our home
to re-measure.  Again, the estimator's numbers were high.....higher than our measurements and none
of us could figure that out.  A room is a room - isn't it? Or, as they say - it is what it is.  (so how can the numbers vary so much?)

Since we were scheduled for installation, I decided to have the installer re-measure and we would go
with his numbers.  Which is what I did.  And, he came up with numbers also different from the estimator - and us!!!

There was a problem with the carpeting.  When the men unrolled the two pieces of carpeting, there were marks on the one and the head installer was worried there actually would not be enough carpet.
They turned the pieces around, cut out the part with the marks and pieced the two together to do the larger part of the room.  However, now they would not have enough carpeting to do our stairs and landing.

The installer was also concerned there would not be enough hardwood.  However, that turned out to
be a false notion as, not only was there enough hardwood to cover the small area, there was also enough to do the landing as well.  Since we did not have something called a stair nose, he could not
proceed with the landing.

The men had cut the hardwood in our courtyard and there was a big pile of sawdust on a snow mound plus all over the bricks.  The one man swept a little,  which actually spread the sawdust into the areas that lead to the garage.  What a mess.

I told the head installer to please confer with the estimator since they did not install carpeting and padding on the stairs and landing, which I assumed would be reflected in our balance due.

I also noticed exactly where the seam in the carpeting was and mentioned that to the installers.  They assured me that the carpet was tight just then and would relax and the seam would not be noticeable.

A short time later,  the estimator called me.  He was outraged that I assumed there would be a decrease in price since the stairs and landing had not been done.  He explained that the installers had to seam my
carpeting and it caused them more work and it was not their fault the carpet had marks and could not
be used for the stairs.  He told me that with carpeting, once the installer touches anything, we are charged.   I was appalled that he was raising his voice to me and also did not understand why I would be charged for work not completed.  (if this is the way of the carpet industry, I would need to be educated as I had no idea they charge for installation ultimately, for whatever reason, not done)

I ended the conversation and went to tell my husband what had occurred.  He offered to call the estimator and I gave him my blessing as I did not want to deal with someone who had become, in my
opinion, so unprofessional.

My husband told the man to come up with an equitable price as he wanted to be fair but he did not expect to pay for padding for the stairs and landing  which the installers had taken with them, nor did he expect to pay for installation that had not occurred.  The estimator said he would re-figure and call the next day.

There was much debris on the hardwood floor area so I used a soft micro-fiber mop to clean the floor.
Then I saw the gouge!  Right in the middle of the doorway on the transition piece was a large gash.
As I bent down to see this closer, I also noticed one of the planks under a cabinet was "popped" up.

Also, the entire brand new and freshly painted baseboards had a knife mark all the way around the room.....picture a car that had been keyed.  In the center of the one wall of baseboard was a large gouge (what is with these gouges?) and had to be about 1/2 inch deep.

Fast forward to the next morning when the contractor arrived and went downstairs. To say he was displeased to see his pristine work damaged would be an understatement.

When we, as consumers, hire for services to be performed in our home, we are really taking quite a chance.  We are depending on these individuals to be honest, competent - "experts" in their fields.
I have no knowledge whatsoever regarding flooring, carpeting, installation, etc.  That is the exact
reason I was hiring someone to accomplish this!

It took several hours for the contractor's assistant to repair the damage these installers caused on the baseboards.

The estimator called and left a message as to the new balance due him and, again, his numbers do not add up!  (we are still being charged for some installation not done)   However, I am writing a check just so I can be done with this outfit.

I will have to figure out what to do about the popped plank and the gouge in the transition piece as I do not want that company anywhere near my house ever again.

I thought I had done my homework on this phase of the project:  obtaining three different estimates, rather than just one, and  entering into an agreement with a well established company.  My son-in-law told me I should have opted out earlier when I had mis-givings over the measurements......and I do
believe he was right!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SNOWBOUND reflections

I just love snow days!  I savor the slow-down olive oil cake  is baking in oven permeating the house with the most delightful aromas!......about to prepare chicken matzo ball soup
with my wonderful homemade chicken stock.......and, finally, homemade bread---which is taking
12 hours to rise!!!

I cannot open my front door~snow is piled against it.  Our courtyard is a "wind -blown fortress" of

The BOB is taking a nap therefore I am left to my own devices.....

The entire time of the many years that I was catering, I never had a snow day.

I could not "assume" that anyone would cancel an event due to inclement weather.  Therefore, I always had to proceed with the thought that the event was a "go".

I trudged through more snow and slush and ice to obtain ingredients and then to my shop to prepare
said was at times a monumental effort.  I am sure that is why I enjoy "snow days"
to the nth degree now!!!

For a few days, I do not mind being "housebound".....usually it is only one day, however.

And in these wondrous moments of intense pleasure of "staying put" mind does wander to recent in, going to several stores and paying for my purchases and not being told, "
Thank You".

Typically, the clerk is a young woman, probably still in her teens.  She hands me the receipt and says nothing.  I usually look her in the eye and say, "You are welcome!" which some may reply, quite flustered, "oh, thank you".....whatever happened to the New YOrk, "thank you and have a nice day"??

I do not blame the young clerk at all.  I do blame my peers and those slightly younger.  It is our job to
teach the younger generations.  If I encounter a clerk with no decorum, no professionalism, then that is our fault.

It has happened so very many times of late that I really think this must be addressed.

Another thought.......

every store I enter has music blaring from a PA system.  When was it deemed that music (or any noise) should blare throughout the stores?    It does not matter what store you enter, Home Goods, Pier I, Joanne's Fabrics, etc.   I have discussed this with Giant store employees and they tell me they cannot stand the noise and must make every effort to block it.  When mentioning same to the Giant managers, they say that studies show the blaring of noise will increase afternoon productivity of employees.  Therefore, I assume that Giant stores (along with many other businesses, apparently)  value possible increased productivity (which appears very sketchy) to the comfort and dignity of their customers. (and, actually, their employees when you get down to it).

All I know is that I cannot wait to get out of the grocery store (typically Giant) to get away from the noise!!!  And many times, do not get everything I went into the store to purchase!

BOB is, once again, shoveling the courtyard (note to self:  next time buy integrated garage!) and I am sampling the soup......absolutely to die for!

The contracted snow removal service is now out shoveling....their snow plows seem to have a problem....too much snow for their equipment.

I am heading back to finish Longmire on Netflex.....I am a bit when you finish a novel that has you enraptured.....I have invested in Walt and Cady and Henry Standing Bear.....I don't want to leave them!  (Thank you Cindy Freed!)

I am on my third "sampling" of the Chicken Matzo Ball Soup.....delish!!!!!

Tomorrow we will all, most likely, be back to our own versions of "normal".  Hopefully, we can all
take with us a sense of peace, a sense of "doing what is right", a courteous manner.....  here's hoping!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

CPR class

Today I attended a CPR class at St. Catherine Laboure School.  It was provided by Holy Spirit and
American Heart Association, in conjunction with St. Catherine's.

When I told the BOB I had signed up for this class, he said, "all you need to know is 'Staying' Alive'.
He told me you compress to the beat..... and, as I attempted to do so, he said, "Well, you have to KEEP the beat!  Or the person will die!"

There were seven attendees total today and the instructor was from Holy Spirit Hospital.  She was
very pleasant and did a wonderful job instructing us.

We learned to do CPR for adults, along with AED (defibrillator) plus CPR and AED for children, and CPR for infants.  We also learned CHOKING for all.  Below is my little peanut.

When I was in New York City caring for little Katie and Mia, I had researched these classes.  In Harrisburg, they were provided by fire companies at a $50=60 cost.  However, they were never on
a day or evening I was in Harrisburg!  I checked into classes in New York City (they were quite costly!) but could never schedule one for an evening that would work for me!  Therefore, I never took a class, much to my regret!

I would so highly recommend taking this course!

I have a 90 year old mother and am with the New York Grands whenever I can and I consider this
an absolute MUST!

And, the cost of this day?  $16.00 for the book!!!!  Can you believe that?  (perhaps the Church picked
up some of the cost?)

My dear, dear friends (Pat and Chet Hickey) recently had an experience where a man collapsed and
Chet, being an Army Medic and having great knowledge and experience, administered CPR  to the man and saved his life!!!

What more can I possibly say?

I urge you to look into and, hopefully, take this course......a few hours of your time could save a

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Easter Pie

Many, many years ago I worked at a popular local restaurant.  I became friendly with an Italian family who were regulars at the restaurant.   Through discussions, I learned about Easter Pie from them.

It is an involved savory pie prepared before Easter, usually on Good Friday or Saturday, and enjoyed
on Easter Sunday and thereafter.

This was totally new to me....I had never heard of it. My Mother-in-law did not make it.   Then, once I started making the pies, I would discover that almost every Italian family had their own version of "Easter Pie".

The original recipe given to me by those customers had a yield of 11-12 pies!  That is what I made the first year I attempted these pies.

I then obtained a recipe from a dear family friend.  Her recipe gave a yield of five (5) pies. (It has ham, pepperoni, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and tons of eggs!)    That was
a bit more reasonable, especially since I was working out of a tiny galley kitchen!

As my daughters grew and acquired husbands, the Easter Pie became a Giordano tradition....with everyone wanting a pie for their family.  My firstborn granddaughter, Madeleine, became my assistant in recent years.

We would work for about three days.  One day would be chopping all of the cheeses and meats.
Another day we would prepare all of the doughs and let them rest in the fridge overnight.  Finally,
we would assemble the pies.  It was wonderful spending the time with her.  We would then color
eggs....not any ordinary coloring, mind you!.....we would color our eggs GOLD!  It was great fun.

Now I am up to about 8-9 pies to make!

This year my dear Madeleine may not be able to help as much as she is quite busy with her college studies and working.  (My second granddaughter would be a great help at only six years of age, but she is in New York!)

These photos are our Easter Pie work-in-progress from two years ago.

I am contemplating making the pies ahead of time and freezing them, since I may be doing them all by myself.   I have never done this before so I don't know if it will compromise the pies or not.

Do I hear anyone volunteering to help??

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

New Culinary Adventures

Typically on a Saturday or Sunday, I plan the menus for the week, based on what our social
schedule will be.  As you may recall, recently I have been composing menus based on whatever
is frozen in our two freezers!  (And we have had some surprises!)

From the menus I decide and list what ingredients I may need at the store or farmers market.  (I
confess I even type up these lists!)

Aside from mysteries, I tend to read anything relating to foods.  The combinations and pairings
of many cultures is absolutely fascinating.  Many I am quite familiar with but have perhaps not
attempted a certain recipe.  (I do draw the line at some of Anthony Bourdain's meals and various
insects are not for me!)

With all of this in mind, I am about to embark on a culinary journey.  I have decided not to prepare
any of the tried, true, "go to" recipes in the near future.  Instead we will have shawarma, tagines,
curries and tandooris which are now staples in England.

Proteins with cinnamon, raisins and figs may be a hard sell for BOB, but we will give it a go!

I hope you will enjoy this culinary adventure with me!

Having decided on this, tonight we are having rigatoni and meatballs!!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Beloved New York

I have had a love affair with New York City since I was nine years old!

My Mother and I would drive over the George Washington Bridge and up over Bear Mountain to
Massachusetts to see my Grandfather each summer.  I would view the apartment buildings from the
Henry Hudson Parkway and tell my Mother that, "one day I am going to live here!"

There used to be baskets as you entered the George Washington Bridge and the cost was ten cents.
One time, my Mother only had a nickel and five pennies and thought she should get into another lane since she did not have the required dime.  While attempting to get into another lane, she then actually
was blocking two lanes.....amidst much horn blowing and angst of other drivers.  I remember my
Mother becoming quite flustered.  I also remember myself slinking way, way down in my seat!!!

When I turned nineteen years of age, I made my plans to move to New York City.  I did make my
dream a reality.

I also returned home after a year to visit  my parents and regroup, started dating my future husband and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fastforward many years and two of my daughters moved to New York City.  When one of my daughters was going to have a baby I agreed to help out and would drive to New York every Sunday and return to Harrisburg every Thursday or Friday.  It was such a fun time.  I would go to the Harrisburg library every week and choose audio books to enjoy on my travels.  I would become so engrossed in a book that the next thing I knew, I had arrived at my destination!

Of course, the added super BONUS was being with my second granddaughter!  I became a regular
at the NYC Public Library, the City parks and great friends with other grandmothers and Nannies!
What an absolutely lovely time!

I was also able to explore areas of New York City that I had only read about or had visited briefly
as a young woman.  City Island was a special treat!  It was getting a bit down-trodden upon my
re-visit but still a lot of fun.  In fact, we had a Bon Voyage Nanny dinner there, on the water, as I
ended my nanny duties for the summer one year!

There is just something about New York City that is unlike any other!  There is an air of confidence.....I don't know if I can truly identify it......just something special, very special!!

I used to feel so sorry for the tourists who were deposited at Port Authority or Penn Station and then spent the afternoon, evening at the "old" Times Square.  They used to cry out, "Ugh!  I hate New York City!" (no wonder!)

They never had the opportunity to walk around the upper East Side, marveling at the gorgeous
brownstones, tree lined streets, the gentility of it all!

Or the upper West Side with just as wonderful brownstones and that special vibe!  And those
fabulous bakeries!!!!

New Yorkers (especially the born and bred) are a warm, generous, kind people......does this surprise
anyone not familiar with NYC?  It seems they tend to get a very bad reputation and tourists complain how rude they are.

Never have I experienced anything like that.  True New Yorkers are a fun-loving lot, with plenty
of tales to tell and pints to quaff, all with hearty laughter and smiles.

I become so excited each and every time we are planning to go to New York....I know I will have
a wonderful experience!

Conversely, The BOB hates New York City!!!!  I should qualify that.....he hates the 78 traffic to and from New York City and he hates the crowds!  Once there and ensconced with his youngest grandchildren, he is a happy camper!

The Waldorf Astoria just closed yesterday.....for a three year renovation.  This made me quite sad.....
so much of New York City (as with other cities too) is changing.....and I am at an age where change is not so easily accepted!!!