Tag Archives: life

Home is where the heart is

Heart-shaped patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Heart-shaped patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Today’s post is not about food or recipes. It is not about one of my silly stories either. Today’s post is about something important that recently happened to me.

You see that little blue book with the golden eagle on the cover? Yup, it is mine and the big news is… I’m proud to say that I’ve recently become an American citizen!

We have called the East Coast of the United States home for many years now and it has been a wonderful, caring and nurturing home to all of us. I’m very excited that I can now fully take part in the country’s political life by exercising my right to vote and give my contribution, no matter how small.

My family and most of my friends are very excited for me. A handful of friends who have never lived here asked me what all the fuss is about since there are so many other beautiful countries (including my native one) where one can live in.

Oh well, let me tell you in a few words what all the fuss is about.

I think that every country is beautiful in its own, unique way.  Every country has wonderful things to offer and each one has its own, peculiar problems and issues that need to be fixed. Italy is not an exception and neither is the US.

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

However, speaking of the US, the following are two of the most important reasons that, in my view, make this such a great country.

Firstly, this is a country where you feel and are truly free to be whoever and whatever you want to be without being judged or categorized. This is a country where freedom in terms of religious beliefs, sexual orientations and race are not just beautiful words on an historical piece of paper preserved behind a sheet of glass! Of course, this is a generalization because for starters the US is a huge country and your mileage may vary depending on where in the US you live. Also, there is no country on earth that is immune to intolerance and ignorance. Those are vicious diseases that afflict the entire humanity and it is up to any decent human being to give their contribution to contain them as much as possible. Let’s just say that, since we moved to the Eastern Coast of the US, we have been lucky enough to live in places and communities where human beings peacefully coexist and respect one another no matter where they come from, what they do for a living, what their religion or shade of skin is and regardless of whether they are straight or gay and – this – my friends, is a true blessing.

Secondly, the US is known as a land of opportunity. This is not just a promotional catchphrase. It is the sacrosanct truth. This is a country that values and fosters talent and skills above all and whose educational system and work environment are based on meritocracy and reward intelligent, honest and hard working individuals. If you are smart and willing to work hard and with integrity, the Star-Spangled Banner’s land will give you an opportunity and then it is up to you to seize it and make the best of it. Of course, this is once again a generalization, but I can talk only from experience and so far ours hasn’t proved me wrong.

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Now, bear with me a little longer, if you will, and let me give you a brief account of the oath ceremony, which is the last step in the process to become a United States citizen at the end of which a judge of the competent local court hands you your certificate of naturalization. It is a very beautiful and touching ceremony.

That morning Stefano, Her Majesty and I along with 55 other people and their respective families showed up in court in a state of excitement mixed with mild apprehension since we didn’t know exactly what to expect.

The court staff was professional and courteous and the “check-in” formalities were carried out in an organized way. Once we were all accounted for, the judge showed up and gave us a beautiful speech about this country which made me feel proud to be about to become one of its citizens. After reciting the pledge of allegiance and being sworn in, each of us was called and delivered their certificate of naturalization. The judge was cheerful and patient and at the end of the ceremony he took the time to pose with each family for multiple photographs.

During the ceremony, I kept looking around me and I saw people of I don’t even know how many nationalities. At the beginning, I thought I had absolutely nothing in common with most of them. However, by the end of the ceremony, I realized I was wrong. All the people in that court room had something in common with one another. Not just something, but a dream that was about to come true for all of us and our families at the very same time.

Later that morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend. She is relatively new to my life (even though letting new people into my world is not exactly my forte) and she had been supportive all the way – she is the one who gave me the beautiful white, red and blue flower bouquet to celebrate the outcome of my English/History interview that I previously published photographs of.

That morning she surprised me with the work of art that you see in the last photograph of this post. It’s a heart-shaped map representing the three places on earth that I love the most: Rome, my hometown, New York, where it all began, and Fairfield, the place I now call home. It was so unexpected. And so thoughtful that it left me speechless and, believe me, it doesn’t happen often. I love this present more than I can say and I will always treasure it – along with the heartwarming thought of the friend who gave it to me.

I wish you and your families a wonderful and happy holiday season.

Francesca Xx

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

Sofia’s first birthday and a pinch of Halloween

Sofia in the Fall

This post is way overdue. After I terrified half of the blogosphere last January telling my blogger friends stories about my neurosis during the first weeks of my life with Sofia, I haven’t written another post to let you know how things have been working out in the following months (well, except Stefano’s very quick note back in April). I thought it was time for me to break the silence.

People say that puppies are like babies. They are absolutely right. After Sofia turned 6 months (about 3 years old in human terms), my domestic life got much easier and quite enjoyable.

Sofia in the Fall

Sofia is a sweet, cheerful and happy dog. She is great at playing with children and other dogs and everybody ends up liking her and petting her. Some chewing is still there, but it is getting better and better. Is she the most disciplined dog? Of course not! I find myself being less strict with Sofia than I am with Her Majesty. Every time I am about to put her in timeout, she looks at me with those begging eyes as if she wanted to ask me “are you seriously considering to put me in timeout?…” Well, that look is too adorable to resist, even for me! 😉

What I really learned and discovered during the past months can be summarized in two words: unconditional love. Unconditional love is such an unattainable feeling. It is the purest kind of love. I believe it is what Sofia feels for the members of her family. She is happy for me and with me when I’m in a good mood and she is sad when my day is not so great and I feel kind of blue. She tries to comfort me: she licks me and lays down with one of her paws on my foot as if she was telling me “don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine. I’m here for you”. Sometimes I feel that she can read my soul. All this without saying a word. Only with her body language. And most importantly, without asking anything in return.

Sofia in the Fall

When did I find out that I had fallen in love with Sofia? It happened this summer. One afternoon, I was home by myself (Stefano was on a business trip). She started feeling very sick and I had to rush her to an emergency hospital. Thank goodness my friend and neighbor was home and she was kind enough to drive me and Sofia to the hospital. I’m a very bad driver and, under the circumstances, I couldn’t think straight. When the doctor told me that she had no idea why Sofia was sick and that it would have been better to hospitalize her for the night, my heart missed a beat. I cried all my way home, I barely slept a couple of hours that night and I found some peace again only the next morning, when I got a phone call from the same doctor telling me that Sofia was much better and I could go to pick her up. You see, that night I realized that I cannot imagine my life without Sofia.

So the message that I would like to send to those who dislike dogs (like the previous version of myself) and those who are undecided whether or not to join the dog lover camp is simple. Sure, a dog is a huge commitment. Sure, a dog can be messy and the cleaning is virtually endless. Sure, life with a little puppy is a nightmare. However, if you are patient enough and willing to surround your dog with love, tenderness and care (yes, and the right amount of discipline!), it is only a question of time before this wonderful furry creature starts to fill your heart with infinite love and joy.

Banana and Nutella sandwich

Enough with this! It simply does not sound like me and people can get scared. 🙂 Only a few more words on the photographs of this post.

Her Majesty was really excited about Sofia’s first birthday. She made one of her own favorite treats – a banana and nutella sandwich – and prepared the shooting set for Stefano taking care of every single detail. The last photograph was taken by Her Majesty herself and Stefano is really proud of his pupil! 🙂

Halloween decorations

As you can see from the image below, she also decided to give you a sneak peek of her Halloween dinner menu: who could ever resist bat eyes, skeleton stake and ghost gloup? If you are wondering what ghost gloup is, Her Majesty told me that it is a new ice-cream in her fantasy world. Maybe a variant of glop?… Care to join us for dinner that night? Anyone? 😉

Francesca Xx

Halloween decorations

When life spices up: an interview with Gourmandize

Red chili pepper plant

Hello Everyone!

Today, we are barging into your house for a few minutes only to share some exciting (at least for us!) news!

Do you know those early mornings when you have just switched the alarm off, your eyes are still half-closed and sleepy and your are trying to remember your name and figure out where you are? Oh well! Who am I fooling? All my mornings are like that! 😉

Anyway, after I regain all my senses and before getting up, my mechanical arm grabs my phone from the bedside table and I check my emails. Not that I usually get great emails (quite the opposite!) but, every now and then, I happen to receive good news.

Now, you can imagine my surprise first, and excitement immediately afterwards, when – on one of those mornings – I read an email from the editor of Gourmandize asking us if we were interested in being interviewed and featured as Blogger of the Day on their site!

I have to admit I was not familiar with Gourmandize, but the more I check their website the more I get hooked. Gourmandize is a recipe sharing site created last year where the content is contributed by its members. You can register your blog with them, join their community and enjoy the benefits of their platform, while sharing your recipes and getting to know fellow food bloggers. Can it get any cooler than that?

So do yourself a favor: check Gourmandize out and open yourself and your food up to new possibilities!

If you are interested in reading our interview, you can do so here:

My interview on Gourmandize

Enough with the bragging! 😉

I wish you all a great day!

Francesca Xx

Sofia – An Update

Sofia

Sofia

Just in case you were all chewing your nails wondering how Sofia is doing, she is now 6 months old and I am happy to report that she is doing great, growing up just fine both physically and mentally. She is sweet, sociable, smart and occasionally hyper as only a lab puppy can be 🙂 And of course, she is cute! 😀 Most importantly, we are all very happy.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy Easter.

Spring break is here and I have decided to take a break myself from everything (including blogging), go on a trip and enjoy some quality time with Her Majesty and my parents who just got here from Italy.

Happy Easter!

Enjoy the sunshine! May the Easter Bunny be good to you and good luck for your jelly bean hunt!

Happy Easter!

Talk to you all soon!

Francesca Xx

Happy Easter!

Of Puppies, Peppers and Potatoes

I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement about my first steps into puppyhood. I think Chef Mimi is the one that best described what I was about to go through. She said “You are about to experience the worst times in your life, as well as the best times in your life“. She was absolutely right! Only, in my opinion, the worst times outnumber the best times by far!!! 

Let’s not talk about Sofia’s bathroom accidents or the every hour or so that we have to walk her out in this freezing cold weather or the sleep deprivation because she doesn’t sleep through the night. Let’s talk about the chewing and the nipping instead. Just a few descriptive adjectives: constant, unstoppable, devastating. My once lovely and perfect kitchen is a total mess and my once beautiful and spotless hardwood floors are always dirty. Sofia is a bundle of energy that needs constant supervision and training. Every evening, after a seemingly endless day, when she finally falls asleep and I use my last drops of strength to vaguely tidy up my once perfectly organized house, I can’t help but notice a new “gift” left by Sofia’s sharp baby teeth on a piece of furniture. Needless to say, most of the times, it is a piece of furniture that I am particularly attached to because either it is fairly expensive or it took me forever to find. So I go to bed every night with this physical pain in my chest, in a kind of mourning for my cabinet or a chair’s leg, as the case may be, repeating to myself “try not to think about it because Sofia will be up in the blink of an eye”. 

Potato and Pepper Side

When I got pregnant with Her Majesty, I did not read any books about babies and/or motherhood nor did I attend any preparatory class. I entered that hospital labor room thoughtless and clueless. Same thing with Sofia. That sneaky husband of mine did all the puppy reading and disclosed to me only 10% of what he had learned, knowing that, had I been well informed, I would most likely have changed my mind again.

So if I may, let me give a word of advice to anyone of you that is considering getting a puppy: make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Beside the workload that is required of you which, believe me, is humongous, I have come to the conclusion that your heart must have a special disposition to sacrifice yourself, your time and your things for the sake of the happiness of your puppy. Does my heart have it? The jury is still out on that! 😉

Potato and Pepper SideI guess by now and with the above being said, you have started realizing that cooking has not been one of my priorities lately. I simply cannot afford to devote more than 30 minutes to make a dish. Like this peppers and potatoes side dish. As you may notice, it is a pretty basic one, with only few ingredients. When I want to spice it up, I add some tomatoes and harissa, but I cannot do it when my mom is around because my family recipe does not call for them and my mom does not like when I… “tamper” with her recipes. Once again, the quality of the ingredients is paramount in this dish as there is no seasoning other than salt. 

Ingredients:

1 cup, extravirgin olive oil
5 potatoes
5 peppers
8/9 cherry tomatoes (optional)
1 Tsp, harissa (optional)
Salt 

Directions:

Peel the potatoes and slice them (about 1/4 thick). Cut the peppers into halves and slice them as you would with an apple.

In a large skillet, pour the olive oil, add the potato slices, the pepper slices and some salt (to taste). Cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10/15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the harissa and keep cooking for another 10/15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Et voila! Ready by the time of one of Sofia’s naps! 

I wish you all a super fun and relaxing Super Bowl weekend! 

A little furry addition to Flora’s Table Home

Hello Everyone!

I decided to barge into your houses on this lazy Sunday late afternoon to share some… news (I don’t even know which adjective I should be using here! I guess for lots of you, it would be “great”).

As you may know, I’m not a people person. I love to spend time with myself, I like to keep to myself and I’m very, seriously – very bad at small talk. To make you like me even more 😉 let me add that I’m not an animal person either. I have never wanted a pet when I was a child and I have never dreamed of taking care of any living being who is unable to go to the restroom and flush the toilet.

Needless to say, the idea of having a dog never even crossed my mind until… did you notice that kids almost invariably so to speak reshuffle the cards in their parents’ lives? 😉

When I got pregnant with her majesty, Stefano came up with the “brilliant idea” to get a puppy so her majesty and the puppy could grow up together. Only a man could come up with such a cute and, at the same time, dumb idea!!! So of course I ruled that out right away…

Since then, I have been dodging the “puppy bullet” for seven years! Seven wonderful pet-free years! I could always come up with a different reason not to have a dog: her majesty was too little, we didn’t have a yard, we were about to change home and city and it wasn’t the right moment. I was pretty sure that sooner or later they would get tired of asking and forget all about this idea and I would be saved forever. I couldn’t be more wrong! Those two just kept conspiring, regrouping and changing their battle strategy.

Stefano is well aware that sleeping is – by far – my favorite activity. My bed is my reign and my heaven and, for me, there is no other place like that. One late morning this past fall, I was still sleeping (of course!) when my daughter, pushed by my sneaky husband, asked me for the countless time if she could have a dog.

In that specific moment, I made an unforgivable mistake. I said “maybe”! The battle was over and lost for good because they hung on that maybe which eventually turned into a “yes” in the next couple of weeks. Next thing I know I was in the car with the two conspirators to go check a few breeders out across New York State and Connecticut.

To make a long story short, our “English type” chocolate labrador puppy, that her majesty decided to name Sofia, set her paws in our house on December 16, turning our house and our lives into complete chaos.

To sum it up, Stefano and her majesty are over the moon, my dad (who is a dog lover) is very happy, my mother is complaining and driving everybody crazy every time Sofia has a “bathroom” accident in the house and… as for me? I have never been big in the feelings department and it takes me a very long time and quite some effort to express them so, for now, I only feel like conceding that she is one of the cutest thing I have ever seen, isn’t she?

Well, please wish me luck and stay tuned! 😉

Francesca Xx

PS: Thank you very much for all those who checked in to make sure we were alright as a result of winter storm Hercules: we definitely are and honestly it has not been that bad where we live – we got about one foot of snow (much to Sofia’s delight!) and the temperatures dropped to 1 F (or -18 C!) but we have been coping just fine! 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving table

Just a quick one to wish all our North American readers Happy Thanksgiving!

Saffron rice croquettes (Arancini di riso)Saffron Rice Croquettes (AKA Arancini di Riso)

Here you can take a peek at our Thanksgiving table and a few of the appetizers and sweet treats that Francesca is making as this very time.

Cauliflower croquettesCauliflower and Ricotta Cheese Croquette

Enjoy the holiday and, quoting our 7-year-old daughter, “be thankful for all good things in life!” 🙂

Mini Key lime piesRevisited Mini Key Lime Pies

PS: if you enjoy Stefano’s photographs, head over to Clicks & Corks for a sweet Thanksgiving promotion! 🙂