Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Summer of Italian... Food Porn

I went to Italy.
I saw Italy.
My tastebuds were conquered by Italy.

After a fantastic writer's residency at Tuscany's Lemon Tree House and a fun-filled family vacation in Italy, my body may be back in Southern California, but my taste buds aren't. To stay nothing of my soul, which is still dining at the Piazza Navona, lingering in Vatican City, and floating  somewhere along the Arno. At. The. Same. Time. So even though I'm here in L.A., I'm still there in Italia eating the pici pasta, the paper thin pizzas, and luscious gelatos. Fior di latte flavor anyone?

I long to be in Italy so I will do the next best thing--cook, eat, and drink like I'm still there.

Every year I get a cookbook and cook, bake and concoct the heck out of it. I've done this with French, Greek, and raw food cuisines. Although the summer of my raw food I didn't cook at all, which was--a-hem--the whole point to the "raw" food cookbook in the first place.

But this summer is my Summer of Italian food and I'll be learning from the best: Marcella Hazan, the Italian cookbook author who married an Italian, and lived in New York City for decades. With her books, namely, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking she is the go-to source for high-quality, pure Italian recipes. Even Mario Batali returns to her cookbooks again and again.

I like Mario, and Italian men. But I love Marcella.

Marcella's recipes are simple, wholesome and delicious. The only thing I don't like about her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking--and this is a teeny, tiny fribble quibble: There aren't any pictures.

So this summer I will read her cookbook, make her recipes, and take pictures of them for your reading and dining inspiration pleasure. Get ready for Italian Food Porn!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mr. Wonderful Leaves

I can't believe it happened.
I didn't see it coming.
Mr. Wonderful has disappeared.

At first the home repairs slowed. Then the trips to the home improvement store stopped. Now he's left the building entirely. Why? Because he's outside playing with our daughter. Drawing with sidewalk chalk, pushing her in the Cozy Coupe car, pretending to eat vegetables with her.

Friends, it has happened: Mr. Wonderful has morphed into Papa.

The House has never looked as unfinished as it does now but he's never been happier. Is there a correlation between not doing DIY projects and being happy? Or is it more that he is just thrilled to be a father? The House, all home improvement store stock holders and I are betting (praying) it's the latter and he'll start back on the home improvement projects soon. Although not today. Today is his day.

Wishing all the fathers, dads, and papas a very Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Traveling Italy... with a Toddler

Italy is full of ancient history, delicious food, and romantic walks. Going there is the trip of a lifetime for a couple.

But if you happen to be traveling through the boot with a toddler, like we did recently, be prepared to split your days between the traditional highlights and Toddler Activity Time (TAT).

I scheduled it so that all museum visits happened during her afternoon nap time. While she sawed wood in her stroller, we got to see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel (gorgeous), the Uffizi Gallery, and the Accademia in Florence (David is a hunk). But to get her to nap we had to let her spend the rest of the day pursuing Toddler Activities to wear her out, like: Chasing pigeons in Florence.

Chasing pigeons at the Vatican.

Lying on the floor of St. Peter's Basilica and playing with mama's shoes because chasing pigeons is a tiring activity. 

While traveling with a toddler you must accept the fact that she will want to see John Keats and Percy Shelley at their house ("Knock, knock!"), even though they left the building two hundred years ago.  

Realize that your toddler is watching everything you do from speaking Italian, to looking both ways before crossing the street, to holding onto the pole during metro rides. So set a good example and she will follow.

Italians love children and they go ga-ga over toddlers. Our toddler gave high fives (batti cinque) to countless Italian children, parents, and adults. Every waiter we had fell over themselves to help out with our toddler, which was a pleasant surprise. Nevertheless, although every Italian restaurant has a high chair (seggiolone), embrace the fact that for your toddler, no seat is as comfortable as your lap. Even while dining at the Pantheon. 

Enjoy the beautiful Italian architecture, even when you're stuck at the playground... for three hours.

Be comfortable skipping the hip Art Gallery and let her watch street performers instead. She'll have more fun, which means you will too. 

Traveling through Italy with a toddler takes planning, patience, and a love of travel. But will our toddler remember this trip to Italy? Maybe she'll remember the feelings of happiness that she, my husband and I all felt there. Maybe she'll remember the hugs. But will she remember seeing the Pantheon? St. Peter's? All those pigeons? Probably not. But I will. For a long, long time. 

So if you are debating whether to take that big trip to Italy with a toddler--or elsewhere--do it. It will provide challenges, there will be meltdowns, but there will be so much joy. It just may be the trip of a lifetime... for your family.