Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Bon Appetit's Cover Recipe Dinner

As some know, once a month I cook the cover recipe of Bon Appetit. With all the demands on my time, this meal went down to the wire. But it is always a little oasis from "real life." I found the herb-and-cheese foccacia and dessert from my fellow bloggers. A teaser is below. Full details can be found at Cover Girls Cooking.

The salad was fresh from the Saint Paul Farmer's Market.

The herb-and-cheese foccacia was from Katherine Aucoin's Smoky Mountain Cafe.

The Beef Shanks and Sausage Ragu was the cover recipe of Bon Appetit.

And the "sweet-death-by-chocolate" brownies which was culled from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook can be found in Foodie with a Little Thyme.
Deciding to do these Cover Girl Dinners was one of those ideas that have worked out better than expected. I not only am actually fulfilling a New Year's Resolution (that's a first!) but have a built in excuse to say, "Stop the world, I want to get off and cook." Something that everyone should try! Again, for more details about the dinner, go to Cover Girls Cooking. I had a grand month cooking from your blogs and am busy compiling the listing so hope to catch you later.

"I'm late, I'm late! For a very important date!"

"Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be too late." So says the White Rabbit in the early pages of Alice in Wonderland. And so is my life - of late! For weeks, I have known full well what my May Cover-Girl-May-Bon-Appetit dinner would be. The ingredients have been duly collected. And sitting placidly on the shelf wondering if they will ever be utilized. I finally looked at the calendar and realized, "This is the weekend. No matter how busy everyone is." And everyone was. There's a garden now to tend, new sod to water, prep for my summer freelance gig, a tech/dress week coming up for Lakeshore Players Ten Minute Play Festival (where I am directing), appointments, meetings, and squeezed in - all the "real-life" stuff that make up a day in the life.
The Bon Appetit May cover recipe is not for someone short of time. While much of it can be made ahead - you still need to search out the hours and put in your hours. It did take forty minutes of prep time and three hours of cooking. That said - it is delicious and especially pleased the carnivores in the house.
Knowing I had a lot of cooking ahead of me - I opted for easy sides. The dinner was heavy enough, so appetizers consisted of Sicilian olives and Asiago cheese from Morellis Market and some "French" marinated olives from Kowalskis. (Both local markets.)

By the time all was ready, I was quite grateful to dump things in a bowl and serve! Not having devised and cooked my appetizer, I was pleased that since I neither grow olive trees or make Asiago cheese, at least I had chosen to serve something that I could not have prepared myself!

The salad was from Farmer's Market. I picked out some green leaf lettuce and sweet pea shoots and added a little watercress and arugula from my home. Found feta cheese lurking in the fridge and dried cranberries singing in the cabinets - threw some on and had a green salad.
Because the meal was a ragu, I settled on making some foccacia. Katherine Aucoin at Smoky Mountain Cafe had an herb and cheese foccacia that comes together in a snap. It was ready for the oven by the time the guests arrived.

And baked while the guests were muching on olives and cheese. Check out her recipe here. You'll never buy foccacia again.

It cooks in fifteen minutes! My family likes their cheeses browned (I beg to differ). But you can adjust it and serve how it pleases you.
Now we come to the Cover Girl recipe:
Serves 12
*You will note that it calls for 1-1/2 pounds of spaghetti. I do not live in a world where 1-1/2 pounds of spaghetti can remotely feed twelve. The sauce absolutely does. But for twelve - you need two pounds of the pasta
The recipe can be found here. I will note that although the cooking time is lengthy, the recipe is straight forward and easy. You do not need special gadgets or odd ingredients.

You just need time. The recipe had it braise in the oven. I did it on top of the stove. I was cooking the foccacia and brownies in the stove and also wanted to keep an eye on the pot!

The result was a winning combination of fresh flavors melded together - your tomatoes, onion, two meats and spices. Happily, we had a cool weekend. I have it in my head that ragus are wintery meals - designed to warm hearth and home in the cold months. It is not a meal I would choose to make if the temps went much above 70 degrees F.
Now to the dessert portion. I will preface this with saying, the dessert was luscious. Wonderful. Rich. Filling. Chocolate heaven. Creamy, gooey, soul-satisfying, fit for the gods. I will end this paragraph with the question, "What was I thinking? Serving the richest chocolate brownie dessert on top of a hearty Ragu at the end of May?" I may second guess, but the brownies were devoured. Topped with vanilla ice cream. No conversation went on when it came to the serious business of enjoying dessert. And for a reason I have yet to fathom, my husband decided to cut the brownies with his trusty chef's knife. I mustn't give him enough opportunity to use it.
Ready for dessert!

Yes. This oozed chocolate. This is from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and I found it on Foodie With a Little Thyme blog. Again, it's very easy. I made sure I was a slave to only one portion of the meal.

This says it all. If you read between the brownie-lines, you will note that after devouring these, you will need:
to work out
to work out
to work out
The litmus test for most desserts in my family has always been: "Is it worth the calories?" And these have a lot of calories. And they are worth it.
On to June! And back to the busyness of life. After five months of cover recipe dinners from Bon Appetit and Tastes of Italia , I can be pleased with two things:
- I have actually stuck with a New Year's resolution
- Even when stressed, I find warm joys in being able to plan, prep and cook a special dinner once a month and lose myself in the process.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm the Scarecrow ...

... in the Wizard of Oz ....after the Witch leaves him in pieces. I have one foot in the computer room, a head in a play, another foot in the kitchen, one arm scouring the garden and one arm back at the theatre. My body visits my arms and legs doing a "little bit of this" and "a little bit of that."
So it was on Sunday when enroute from one destination to another, we visited a Barnes and Noble and I sat down with some gardening books. All of a sudden, I knew I had to have sweet peas growing in a pot and I desperately was in want of rosemary topiary. The sweet pea broke in half as I planted it and the tiny rosemary needed some trimming if it was to be a topiary.

Do you see it? The one sad stalk peeking up in the midst of alyssum? Suddenly, I had a fistful of rosemary. A deadline. Hungry people in the home and a an imminent rehearsal at the theatre. Plus a freezer filled with Morelli's ravioli. Which is a truly good ravioli - with enough filling that you can actually taste the ingredients! You know how some pockets have nebulous little tastes - where you wouldn't know what the filling was unless you read the package? Well, these are plump and generous and takes away any notion that I should have made them from scratch. Your heart sings "Finniculi, Finnicula" when you eat them. Now, you may exclaim, "she's not going to post another ravioli recipe?" Well, yes. I figure if Orangette can post three banana bread recipes (all equally delicious, I might add) - then surely an Italian blog can get away with three ravioli recipes.

The rosemary went into hiding when I snapped the picture. It's a shy herb. The great thing about the recipe, is it's all to taste:
14 oz. ravioli (generous feeds two or Scrooge-like - 3)
1/4-1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3-1/2 cup pignoli nuts (or walnuts or pecans)
A fistful of rosemary
1/4-1/2 cup beef broth, vegetable broth,
Pepper to taste
Cook the ravioli. (I always feel silly saying this) according to package directions. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter, Add nuts and rosemary. Allow butter to just about turn brown and add broth. Simmer to meld flavors. In a large bowl, combine with ravioli. Serve. Pass pepper mill and freshly grated Parmesan. The cooking time for this recipe is grand. It is all put together in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the ravioli. And when you decide to cook dinner twenty minutes before you have to leave for rehearsal - it's a good thing.
HEALTHY TIP: Eliminate butter and spray a pan with Pam Olive Oil. Gently toast nuts and then add to spiced-up broth. (Freshly ground pepper in broth will do).
Meanwhile, the rosemary topiary may look pathetic, but the spring blooms are finally in Minnesota. So I shall leave you with a taste of late spring.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's a pasta... no wait! A salad... no Wait! It's Spinach Salad Pasta!

A weekend of mixed emotions - ending with an award from dear Donna - who always brings a smile to my face and a recipe to my dinner table.
"An Italian family is all about love, respect and food - or food, respect and love. Food is the vehicle that makes things happen in an Italian family. All your problems, joys and fears are talked about at the dinner table."- Maryann Esposito
I love this quote - because it sums up a lot - about the need to celebrate with food, work out problems with food and just commiserate - over food. This weekend had elements of celebration, working out problems and commiserating.
And I finally realized something (we won't talk about how many decades this took) - but it's not about the eating - although I won't lie - I find eating most enjoyable! It's the care in the choosing of a meal, the buying the freshest ingredients you can find and the act of putting it together - is as much a pleasure as the serving and eating of it.
So, in between the required grilling, I came across this recipe from TASTES OF ITALIA. I loved the simplicity of letting the fresh flavors of lemon and spinach shine. And shine they did.
3/4 lb. spaghetti - cooked according to instructions. I did my usual one pound and just increased everything else a tad
4 T olive oil
6 cloves of garlic cut in slivers
4 T capers
1 t dried red chile flakes
4T lemon zest
4 cups chopped spinach (I used a lot more!)
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh ground pepper

Cook spaghetti. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, capers and chile flakes and cook for two minutes - stirring. Add lemon juice and lemon zest and cook for an additional two minutes. Drain pasta. Add pasta, spinach and salt to skillet. (I added the spinach first and sauteed briefly). Toss well. Pass the Parmesan and ground pepper. Simple and summery pasta.

I woke up to a lovely message from Donna from My Tasty Treasures.

Donna's blog is not only chock full of everything you want to eat in life; she's also a guarantee smile and outright laughter. Her enthusiasms for all of life is unbridled and you always leave hungry. Pay her a visit and be ready to print!
You know those e-mails where you need to pick a "favorite this" and a "favorite that?" Well, I'm not capable of that. I never give one-word answers. They all have "explanations." So choosing five wonderful bloggers is impossible for me - BUT - what I would love to do is pass this on to my first five blogger friends who befriended me when I did not know what I was doing. And believe me when I say, I have cooked from all of their blogs and if you are smart - you will too!
So as a way of thanking these remarkable cooks for their sharing of recipes and wisdom, the awards are passed on to: - everything is luscious and fresh
My Italian friends who remind me of my heritage:
And sweet Pearl for her stories and original recipes.
And just so you know - this is killing me - 'cause I really want to thank ten!
Grazie to all of you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Salad Daze

I get obsessive. I get something in my head and it doesn't go away until it comes to fruition. We won't go into detail about when that character trait works and when it doesn't. It's just that right now - I have this "baby lettuce" obsession. I never should have read Bella Tuscany. Ever since I read a passage where Frances Mayes described picking some fresh baby lettuces off her terrace and making a simple salad - I have obsessed over wanting a terrace filled with plantings of baby lettuces. I have pots and pots of herbs on my patio. Why not baby lettuces? I did announce to Paul (husband), that I immediately needed a terrace of baby lettuces for my "villa." I am likely to spend the next few days trying to figure out how many baby lettuces I can get onto my patio. My husband would be pleased to see a flower or two.
So, I have this baby-lettuce fantasy and then for Mother's Day my daughter gave me:
200 Super Salads by Alice Storey. I want to make every salad in the book! I also want to grow all the ingredients but I will spare you that obsession. It's enough I try to fulfill my baby-lettuce-dream.

I made a grand start on fixing the salads. Four today! And as far I am concerned - it's all Italian - even when it says it's Greek. The hallmark of Italian cooking? Fresh! And these all are!

There's the green salad. (You can see why I need a terrace of baby lettuces.) It's your basic - anything you please. Since I don't have a terrace of baby lettuces (yeah, I'm harping on that again), I turned to my fridge. I had spinach, "live lettuce," (you do understand that if I had my own terrace of baby lettuces - this lettuce would have a name), and watercress. Mixed 4 T olive oil with 2 T Chardonnay vinegar, 1T Dijon mustard for dressing and was done. This was a good start in making a dent in the book. When spring starts, I like green. It has been months since I looked at anything - so Mother-Nature green!

I also served the Greek Salad. It's basic but bears repeating:

Chopped chunks of: 1 tomato, 1 cucumber, 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, a whole mess of kalamata olives (I never was an exacting person), feta cheese cut in chunks and a little parsley and oregano. Dressing? A dash of olive oil and a squirt of lemon.

And the next salad caught my eye.

Daikon, Carrot and Red Bell Pepper Salad. I shredded four carrots and thinly julienned the red pepper. I substituted Daikon sprouts for the daikon - because that's all they had in the store. I toasted 1 T of sesame seeds and threw it all together. For the dressing: 1t sesame oil, 1t mirin, 1t rice vinegar. Heat gently over low flame to combine. Cool and toss with the salad. Sprinkle with scallion and cilantro. (I used parsley.) There's little in the way of dressing which was actually very nice. It just moistened the salad. And that's all it needed.
And then the American requisite Potato Salad.

2 lbs. new potatoes, 4 oz bacon, 1t vegetable oil, 6 scallions. 3/4 cup mayonnaise (I used less), salt and pepper.
Halve the potatoes and cook in lightly salted water till tender (about ten minutes). Rinse under cold water and allow to cool. Cook bacon till crisp. Slice some scallions thinly. Season with salt and pepper. Toss all (again - when cool) with the mayo. Top with some scallions, adjust seasonings and serve.
Now, all I need is a villa with a terrace filled with baby lettuces. A fig tree would be nice.... and an olive grove....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Down by the sea...

"The sea will reclaim all if you let it." So warned my cousin Pati to my two kids - then ages 5 and 7 on the occasion of their first trip to the Atlantic Ocean. Not that my children were scared. But I sure was. What is it about Italians that we feel the need to scare ourselves into worry? On that day, my kids fell in love with the ocean. And my son still has plans to live near one - only the Pacific not the Atlantic.
I don't terribly miss the undertow. Or the fact that you never got "used" to the water at Jones Beach. (Rather you went numb and then the cold didn't bother you at all.) I have a wrinkle on my forehead from a sunburn I got there at age 16. I wish I still had the shells.
I miss the sound. After a day at Jones Beach, I slept soundly with the sounds of the waves continuing to echo in my ear. And I miss the seafood.

Particularly shellfish. Particularly shrimp. A very smart company - Fabian Shrimp Company - figured out there was a market for fresh - never frozen (unlike the signs you see here: Fresh Frozen Shrimp) shrimp in Minnesota. They come up from the Gulf once a month and sell, sell, sell. And I buy. Oh how I wish there was lobster from the Gulf!

It is no accident that I make my home in White Bear Lake. When we were looking to buy a house, I was enchanted with being able to walk two blocks to a body of water. Never mind that the home was a wreck. It was two blocks from the lake. The home is no longer a wreck. And I have never tired of the lake.
With respect to my love of shellfish and my Italian heritage, we feasted on Spaghetti di Mare. It couldn't be easier and substitutions are encouraged.

SPAGHETTI DI MARE (think of this as a suggestion rather than a recipe)
You need: (Feeds 4-6 depending on how much your family eats!)
1 to 1-1/2 pound of shrimp (shelled and de-veined)
1 to 1-1/2 pound bay scallops (smaller is better for this dish)
1 pound spaghetti or linguine or vermicelli
2 pounds tomatoes (cherry, plum, beefsteak) chopped or 2 cans diced tomatoes (I like fire-roasted)
2-4 gloves of garlic
olive oil - about 2-3 T
about 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup fish stock or clam juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Cook pasta according to directions. You know the drill.
Heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and saute briefly. Add tomatoes - juices and all. And cook for a few minutes. Add wine and fish stock (or clam juice). Bring to a boil. Simmer about two minutes. Add shrimp and scallops. Simmer about four minutes - till done. Combine pasta with skillet sauce. Top with Italian parsley. Serve. Enjoy a glass of Pinot Grigio. Crusty bread. Sing Finniculi-Finnicula. And enjoy being down by the sea. Without any worries.
And to my foodie friends: There's a glitch somewhere and having trouble commenting (IE keeps "aborting" the blogs.) Most disconcerting - but I shall persevere until it is fixed!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

By George, I think I've Got It!

After months of walking around the house, exclaiming, "Blimey!' and ""By George!" - Charles Dickens The Magic Fishbone is in the hands of the production staff. Lines will change. Characters may be added or deleted according to the needs of the summer program. But (in playwright lingo) the bones of Magic Fishbone are indeed there and it has legs and will be walking around by the summer. Fish bones, knee bones - I don't care - I just want it up and out of the house!
And after three years, there is a chance that Pride and Prejudice (my nemesis) will also be completed. In celebration of whatever it is I fell like celebrating that day, I found a recipe for chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, shallots and garlic in Calm in the Kitchen's blog.

Look at those ingredients, matey! What's not to like.

The recipe is here. The results are below.

It couldn't be easier. Or tastier. Sweet sun-dried tomatoes, the tang and creaminess of the goat cheese, the savory artichoke hearts - truly a dish served in Paradise. My son demanded the recipe on the spot! I am currently putting together an easy recipe book for him as he prepares for his life in North Dakota. Looking for recipes that have five or fewer ingredients, not expensive (he's on a fellowship-stipend; it's "real-life" time) but he didn't care how many ingredients this had - he is making it. And you know what - it's easy! He can make it. And so can you, by George!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wishes, Melodrama, Kincaids, Emotion et al

It's been a 'wave-knock-you-down" emotional few days of bittersweet, happiness and work. I wrote of my friend "lost" in 9/11. I had left a paper trail of HANSEL AND GRETEL crumbs for the family to get in touch with me if they ever wanted to. On Thursday, her brother "found" me. You can read about it here - or move on to food! It was one of those weekends where wishes come true.
In between some manic e-mailing of memories and photos, the family did something we do not do much anymore - we went out to dinner! Getting the four of us home and home-free on the same date and time takes a lot of finagling these days. But we settled on a casual evening at Kincaids - a fish and chop house in St. Paul.
When the four of us go out together - silliness happens. I can't imagine why! I will confess to being fussier and fussier about food. I noted the dinner wasn't perfect. (Do you do that - because you cook so much? Or maybe it is my (cough) advancing age.) But I also appreciate dinner out in all its imperfections, taste-delights, mix and match and fine company so a good time is guaranteed as soon as the reservations are set.
We started with an artichoke dip - a must for the 20-somethings. I liked it - because it's laden with fat - I mean what's not too like - but it also had some crab in it which instantly got and held my interest.
Please note in the photos that my family has no interest in me getting the camera ready. When your reservation is at 7 p.m. on a Sunday eve and you skipped lunch, the forks are in the dish before they are set down on the table!

What really was quite splendid - was the baked brie. Lightly crusted and fried, served in a sweet balsamic-honey sauce and topped with almonds and apple - it made me sing. (Inwardly. The kids cringe when I sing in public.)

Sitting on some lovely garlic bread, this was consumed with vigor!

Kirsten and I had the crab cakes. They were laden with vegetables which was a nice surprise. Kirsten appreciates her food - but seldom moves outside her "food box." As of late - she has. So crab cakes was a huge step for her. She is my hamburger-pasta-chicken girl and fish usually does not interest her. Of course, she did grow up eating crab legs at a young age - because I adore them and when they are on sale - I'm there. Hmmmm .... so maybe she didn't move outside her box after all ...
Do you have a child like that? Will eat tomato sauce but not tomatoes. No coconut. Shrimp cocktail but not cooked shrimp... however, she recently discovered shiitake and portabella mushrooms... so hope is not lost.

Paul has some grilled halibut on some herbal-lemony-shallot-butter sauce. Reminds me to make more halibut.

Matthew had Asiago-crusted halibut. I was trying to figure out the recipe. I will make my family crazy tasting and figuring out the ingredients so I can make it at home. Am I the only one who does that?

And we finished all with some creme brulee. (Does someone know how to get the accents on these words????!!) And came home sated and lived happily ever after. For now. And finishing my touches of Magic Fishbone where the wishes are not made, the melodrama reflects what is going on in Alicia's world and the family will live happily ever after. The melodrama has kept me awake nights. Having committed to it - I could not make it work. It is supposed to be a small "play within a play" that forwards the plot. Mostly it has me stymied and wondering, "What was I thinking?" So for now, happily-ever-after means getting a script out on time and savoring the day planning dinner with my family.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Crunch Time with the Muse

Yes. That's guacamole.

And yes, that is chicken tacos.

And yes, that is a platter of chicken tacos, guacamole, scallions, sour cream, black olives, tortilla chips, salsa and pepper-jack cheese.
Right now, I am blogging about Tex-Mex food in an Italian-food-blog while writing a play that has immersed me in Victorian England.
I am multi-cultural! I am global! I am schizoid.

But doesn't it look good? That is, if I could ever take a proper photo; oh - just take my word for it. It was.
Son is home - usually sleeping. Daughter's holed up in her room studying for chem and physics final. Husband is in some class at the U of MN. I have a deadline and must send Magic Fishbone to staff this week and am living in "Charles-Dickens-Fairy-Tale-World" most of the day and then trying to come to terms with modern new-fangled things like blogging and Facebook in the evenings. After offering up cucumber sandwiches peppered with "blimey" and "fancy," my head is not in a place to work on a complicated recipe. ("Crumpets and tea, anyone?" See, my muse has to get into the act!)
I came across Chicken Tacos courtesy of Chef Bliss which she got from wonderful Gloria Chadwick's book Foods and Flavors of San Antonio.
So you know it has to be good ("righty-O".. "Shh, muse... shh.") The recipe is, of course, in the links! ("You don't say, guv'nor!" "Oy vey, muse!" say I.)
The guacamole has been lightened up a bit:
1 avocado, peeled, and sliced and mashed
1 English cucumber (really, the muse had nothing to do with this) chopped small
4 small tomatoes - seeded and chopped (I rarely seed; I'm on deadline, "What a fine fettle you are!" Sorry. The muse will do what muses do)
Generous squeeze of lime
cumin powder to taste
Tabasco or other hot sauce - to taste
Mash. Eat. ("I dare say, that's first rate." "I'll never blog with the muse again)

salt and pepper - to taste
Back to the play. Ta ta! I mean, "ciao" or do I mean "adios?"

For now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Go Fish!

The Fishing Opener in Minnesota (a big thing here - it is the "Land of 10,000 Lakes") is always Mother's Day weekend. I'm not even going to comment on that fact - I could have too much fun with it and I'll never get to the food. The Governor always picks a lake and goes fishing in it and I guess it is a big deal. I never thought about it until the Governor picked White Bear Lake to open the fishing season. White Bear Lake! A once sleepy resort town where gangsters and the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald mingled. A lake of Legends from the Chippewa and the Lakota. A lake with enough charm that Mark Twain rewrote the old legend and it is now inscribed at Matoska Park - a park of bicycles, dogs, Frisbees, ticks and a time machine that takes you back in time by gazing at the lake.

Over night, White Bear Lake was planted, streets were closed, parking not possible and the Lion's Club fed 5,000 people. As I bravely tried to get to the grocers. I came across this by the docks:

Yep. Green elephants for the fishing opener. O-kay. I know the governor is a Republican - but maybe a walleye? A northern? A sturgeon? A fish????? And where do they go next? What do you do with elephant topiaries once they have outlived their use? Food for thought.
And speaking of food, I did think fish was appropriate for the weekend even if we were not going fishing. I found some nice halibut (I couldn't find walleye in the stores this weekend - go figure - the fisherman are loading their coolers with frozen walleye - in case nothing bites???). And I found a lovely recipe at ALL RECIPES: Halibut with Crusted Hazelnuts over Creamy Garlic Potatoes.

I used less butter than was called for and could have cut even more of it. And I could have used more garlic -but that's me - I can always use more garlic. All in all - it was just fishy enough for the Fishing Opener, easy enough for a busy weekend and warm enough for a wet, cold, rainy day. Oh! Did I forget to mention that Fishing Opener weekend is always chilly and rainy? Not a lot of fish get caught. Perhaps that's why the grocers do a landmark business selling fish during the opener. You can't go home empty-handed. Not after spending Mother's Day weekend fishing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

All Growed Up

There are two truisms:

1. Kids like to do thing when you aren't looking. My children only poked each other when I left the room. And they were fast. Too fast. They made faces at each other when my back was turned and had innocent smiles when I looked back at them. My son disappeared into a busy mall - while I briefly attended to his sister. It's a blink, a hummingbird wing flap. Children move more quickly than the experts say. But their most stupendous achievement - was they they managed to grow up - when I wasn't looking.
2. It may be said - being Italian - we eat our way through life. Feeling low? Chocolate! Need comfort? Pasta! Birthday/anniversary/holiday/vacation/promotion/any event: Mangia! And so I did. All day - I ate my way through Mother's Day and through my son's graduation. And when I was poring over the dessert tray and not keeping an eye on my son - he grew up.
I wasn't feeling teary - just excited. I didn't feel overly sentimental as is my want. Or I didn't think I was - until I came home and noticed most of my photos were blurry. Shaky hands? Could my emotions have slipped into my hands - when I wasn't looking?
St. John's University starts graduation day off with a church service. Then a brunch. So we ate our first meal of the day. And posed for photos. Oy! Did we pose for photos! So what if I was a chubbo - I was going to be in those photos!
We then got Matthew dressed (incorrectly - who remembers how the shawls goes on the gown?) And posed for incorrect-shawl, blurry photos. And then we went to the ceremony. And sat. Not exactly running off the calories consumed at brunch. It seemed that we sat and we sat and then I blinked and I had a graduate.
After the graduation, there were cookies and punch on the lawn. I thought it was extremely civilized. And did partake. I blinked my way through photos, cookies, punch, diplomas, kisses, hugs, a blur of caps. A sea of shawls. A gaggle of gowns.

So my first photo of the new-grad was with cookies and not a diploma. First things first. And we continued to pose for photos. And they continued to be blurry. But me? I was feeling fine - no lumps in the throat. I was happy munching on cookies. I was watching everything. I wasn't going to turn around and miss one moment.

I even managed some non-blurry photos. (Above - not below!)

Matthew's entourage: Aunt, Grandma, Dad, sister. And I only took 75 other ones. Still feeling good. Cookies consumed. Photos done. What's next? Dinner!

And we found this darling diner in St. Cloud.

We were feeling loopy by this time. So I took a photo of a mirror showing the reflection of me taking a photo of me..... while Kirsten made faces.

Matthew - knowing there was no food left in his apartment as the roommates were determined to consume it all before graduation - checks out the menu.

Kirsten gets a milkshake. Matthew got a malt and the photo seems to have flown away .... with my emotions.


Chicken fingers... good old fashioned diner fare....
And we kissed Matthew good-bye, left for home and I felt good knowing I would have my son home for one month before grad school kicks in. Matthew's parting words to me were, "I'll have the photos on Facebook ready for you by the time you reach home. Arrived home and I log onto Facebook.
The caption to the photo album reads: "All Growed up."

And there he was - "All Growed Up." And the lump appeared in my throat. The tear ducts opened. A thought flashes through my mind. "I turn my back for one minute and look what he did! He grew up!"