Missing Borders

Every time I drive past Borders book store which has closed a few months ago, my heart sinks! Seeing the now empty parking lot which used to be filled with cars is a very depressing sight.  Borders was one of the major anchor stores to the Northway Mall for many, many years.  I could go in there during the holiday season and do half of my Christmas shopping buying books for just about everyone on my list and gift cards for my ‘hard to buy for’ people.  It was my home away from home for a little over three years while I wrote my book. I just knew when I entered the cafe,  that familiar aroma of freshly brewed coffee and seeing the faces of the ‘regulars’ put me at ease.  My creative juices would start to flow and I could not wait to find an empty table,set up my work space and begin to tap out word by word on my computer the  memories and stories I longed for the whole world to read.  I looked forward to those days as much as one looks forward to donning a soft, comfortable sweater on a cold winter’s day.  It was a gathering  place for business meetings, school projects, serious discussions, and lighthearted coffee breaks with old friends.  I could just cry!

Now, I am forced to locate another spot to collect my thoughts and allow my creative writing to flow, to find new projects and assignments such as this greatly neglected blog, and possibly a new book.   Lately, I’ve felt a gentle nudging toward a newly found motivation and am anxious to begin with a brand new project.  I simply miss my writing on  a regular basis and feel ready for a fresh start.  I just don’t where to go!  Oh, I could do this at home, but there’s something about being surrounded by others who are sipping on caffeinated beverages  ferociously pounding on a keyboard trying to hold back a satisfying smile while doing so.

Panera’s is a possible location, but I really need to be surrounded by books,whether for reference or to take a break and read something to transport me some where else if just for a little while.

I’ll find a place; Barnes and Noble  is only a few miles further away, the extra distance will be worth it.

Published in: on October+00:00bSat, 29 Oct 2011 21:48:05 +0000000000Sat, 29 Oct 2011 21:48:05 +0000pmSat, 29 Oct 2011 21:48:05 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p10  Leave a Comment  

Pug’s Minest’ (Minestrone)

I’ve been thinking about my Dad lately, Frank Pugliese, aka “Pug”.  I was remembering how his group of friends from the Sharpsburg Senior Citizen Highrise played poker every Friday night.  He was the organizer which also entailed providing the food for the night.  And boy, was that right up his alley!  He would go to Shop N’ Save and purchase every day old pastry he could get his hands on at half price.  The guys  loved this, you know how ‘seniors’ are about spending unnecessary money!

The group was made up of the most eclectic characters.  One of the fellows, Pierre, was blind.  How he was able to play cards, I’ll never know!  When I questioned my dad about this once, he said, “Oh, whoever is sitting next to him helps him out, no problem.”  Yeah, I bet!  I’m sure Pierre never went home a winner.

My Dad liked to cook, was pretty good at it, too.  He occasionally made hot sausage sandwiches or homemade pizza or pepperoni bread for these poker nights.  One of his specialties was his Minest’ (Italian dialect for Minestrone soup).  He once was featured in the local newspaper for preparing this soup for the poker gang.  He was quite proud of that, so was I.   Here is his recipe.   All of these recipes can be found in my cookbook, Always on Sunday: Recipes from an Italian Childhood”.  http://www.alwaysonsunday.com

Pug’s Minest’

1 large bunch          fresh spinach leaves or escarole

2 quarts                     chicken stock

1 pound                    sweet or hot Italian sausage, sliced

1 large                       onion, chopped

1 green pepper      chopped

2                                 whole garlic cloves

1 large can              crushed tomatoes

1 can (15 oz)          red kidney beans

1/2 tsp                     dried oregano

1/2 tsp                     red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste.

Rinse and trim and cut off stems of spinach or escarole, cut in strips.  Place in large stock pot with chicken broth and cook till wilted.  Meanwhile in skillet, brown sausage, onion, pepper and garlic till cooked through and vegetables are soft.  Add to the stockpot containing the spinach, along with the tomatoes, the beans and seasonings.  Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.  Add water to thin, if needed.  Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


Published in: on April+00:00bMon, 04 Apr 2011 23:08:01 +0000000000Mon, 04 Apr 2011 23:08:01 +0000pmMon, 04 Apr 2011 23:08:01 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p04  Comments (1)  
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Snail Mail May be Slow, but…..

I have a friend who lives in Chicago who I correspond with only through letters.  This is our method of choice to keep each other informed about any noteworthy news concerning ourselves or our families.

I still prefer writing letters, short notes, ‘dropping a line’ to my friends. It’s just more personal.  E-mails, although a great vehicle to inform, notify or respond in a timely manner, just don’t cut it for me. And texting, no thank you!

Choosing the stationery is half the fun.  I love holding the smooth paper in my hands, selecting only black ink, fine point writing instruments.  If I had the time I’d use a calligraphy pen with an ink jar.  I love the whole writing process, using my best penmanship (thanks to the urging of Sister Mary Martha).  I even love the smell of the paper; strange, I know.  Using a letter opener, when I receive correspondence from my friend is also a little ritual that I enjoy.  When I am very ambitious, I pull out and use the sealing wax and stamp to close the flap on the back of the envelope.  I once bought a kit containing different size stencils to make my own envelopes , which I lined the inside with colored tissue paper.

Writing letters is a lost art.  Maybe I’ll write a book about how to compose a letter to just about anyone on any subject.  In my younger days, friends would actually recruit me to help them write letters ….letters of sympathy, letters of complaints, letters of thanks, love letters, letters to accompany resumes…. yes, once upon a time resumes where held in your hand, not viewed on a computer screen.

A hand written letter/note lets the recipient know how much she/he is valued.  Taking the time to thoughtfully, not quickly, compose a few lines is about as personal as one can get to convey feelings and emotions without actual words being spoken. I declare today, March 29th, Write a Letter Day!

So, who will you send a message to today, carefully folded and sealed for their eyes only???

Published in: on March+00:00bTue, 29 Mar 2011 18:57:08 +0000000000Tue, 29 Mar 2011 18:57:08 +0000pmTue, 29 Mar 2011 18:57:08 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p03  Comments (1)  

Starry, Starry Night

I’m sure you’ve all recited this song as a child, “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”. Last night , as I was walking the beach at dusk, the sky was transformed from a grayish-purplish hue to a total black-ink darkness in a matter of ten minutes or so. Then gradually, the sky became dotted with stars, tiny specks of sparkling silver , as though someone from heaven was sprinkling a large container of glitter. I was in awe, as well as experiencing some slight neck pain from constantly looking up.

Unlike the song says,”…up above the sky so high, like a diamond in the sky..”, these stars seemed so low, like only an arm’s length away. A spectacular show, free of charge! In addition to the visual beauty I was gazing upon, the ocean’s waves added to the audio portion of this show-stopper. Walking on the soft sand, and feeling the mild, gentle ocean breeze, well, it was pretty indescribable. Which then reminded me of another song. This one by Chris Tomlin, appropriately titled,”Indescribable”. I couldn’t get these words from the song out of my head,”….You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name..” He really is an amazing God.

I wish I could have captured the awesome site in a photo, but then, I don’t think it would have done it any justice. Vincent Van Gogh tried to capture a starry night in his famous painting. He did it in his own impressionist style, but no comparison to the real thing. (Sorry Vincent). I’ll just have to go to the beach again tonight and the next and the next….

Published in: on February+00:00bFri, 25 Feb 2011 15:19:38 +0000000000Fri, 25 Feb 2011 15:19:38 +0000pmFri, 25 Feb 2011 15:19:38 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p02  Comments (1)  

Fresh is Best

If  it’s approaching February…then I must be in Hilton Head for the next few weeks.  Yes, this snow bird has gone South to escape Pittsburgh’s cold, raw, gray, most snowiest (did I make up that word?) month!  I take well to sunshine and warmth, more and more so each year.  Out of all the benefits of spending time here in the Low Country, my greatest joy comes from the fact that I am just minutes away from a Fresh Market grocery store!  I feel sorry for those of you that are not in a close vicinity to this magical market!

I came prepared, as I always do, with new cook books and cooking magazines in tow, overflowing with  tempting and new recipes just waiting for me to tackle!  And what better place to purchase the ingredients than a Fresh Market.   Produce is generally more plentiful and inviting here where we are closer to the warm, longer growing season states which produce fruits and vegetable, like Georgia and Florida.   When I enter a Fresh Market, I’m entering a foodie’s heaven!  I have to contain myself from oohhing and aahhing and touching everything from the dark, forest green,  curly Tuscan kale to the smooth skinned, shiny, baby eggplants the color of an emperor’s royal robe.

The breads on display in the bakery not only have a tantalizing aroma, but are sending subtle invitations to have their crusty exterior broken and slathered with the honey butter, made on the premises.  I am drawn to the coffee and tea aisle to sample the fresh brew of the day; my all time favorite being Seville Orange…just a slight hint of bright citrus mingled with a robust, fragrant coffee bean flavor.   The cheese counter is like no other!   Hard to find, aged to perfection, these hunks of salty and sharp or creamy and smooth made from either cow’s or sheep’s milk cheeses will blend and marry beautifully with a pasta dish or find it’s way into a scrumptious sauce.

I can hardly contain myself!   Can’t wait to go this morning and saunter aisle by aisle searching for whatever I need to make an unforgettable feast.  I never go with a shopping list, I just let my senses, all of them, guide me to purchase the freshest, most appealing items as single ingredients, knowing that they will join together and transform to something that will feel like angel’s dancing on my tongue.

Published in: on January+00:00bMon, 31 Jan 2011 14:58:58 +0000000000Mon, 31 Jan 2011 14:58:58 +0000pmMon, 31 Jan 2011 14:58:58 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p01  Comments (2)  

New Decade

January 2011.   A new decade is upon us.  When someone says the older you get the faster time passes by, boy, they’re not kidding!  But wait, didn’t we  just herald in the new millennium?  Didn’t DVDs  just replace VCRs, word processors replace typewriters, push buttons replace rotary dial phones, what generation iPod are we up to now anyway?  I don’t even want to touch what computers and smart phones can do! [Well, I do enjoy scyping with my out of town kids.]  And if I hear the word ‘apps’, wait, it’s not even a word! one more time , I think I’ll scream!  Oy, double oy!  If  you can identify with that phrase and remember who Myron Cope is, well, we may be on the same page!   I guess I need to get with it, accept these changes, learn to adjust…blah, blah, blah.   I am willing to try. [Dragging my feet just a little.]

A new decade, new year, new month and I guess a new attitude is in order.  One more thing.  Just when did my doctors, bankers, police officers, and government officials all look like they just graduated from High School?!?!

If you haven’t guessed, this year on my birthday, I will step out of one decade  and enter into the next. [Also, dragging my feet just a little.]  Age is only a number, age is only a number, age is only a number….

Published in: on January+00:00bThu, 06 Jan 2011 00:24:30 +0000000000Thu, 06 Jan 2011 00:24:30 +0000amThu, 06 Jan 2011 00:24:30 +000011 9, 2008 at 2:20 p01  Comments (1)  

Christmas-Passed Decorations

Well, It’s that time of the year…our turkey is hardly digested and we are propelled into the joyful Holiday Season, awaiting the decking of the halls!!  Every year when I pull out my many boxes of Christmas decorations, I take a deep sigh and vow to get rid of the ones that are old, worn and had seen their day.  Not an easy task.  I become very nostalgic at the unwrapping of each item that I so carefully wrapped the year before and I reminisce about who gave it to me, the year I first hung it on the tree or in my house somewhere.  Each  ratty, homemade ornament made by my children will find a place to be displayed, with a story or a memory to go with it.  I just can’t seem to throw any of these special glimpses into passed Christmases away!  Every year when I see the stylishly coordinated, tastefully decorated trees in Macy’s or Nordstom’s, I make a mental note to copy that tree in my home.  That would mean trashing all my old ornaments and replacing them (costing a small fortune).  But, alas, I can’t bring myself to doing that. So, out come the many angel’s I’ve collected over the years and the one’s that have been given to me by family members, each one loved more and more each time I see them.  To me, that is what Christmas is about.  It is a building and layering of sorts of memory upon memory. There is no replacement for that.  The twinkling white lights in and among those precious ornaments is a reminder of the joy and smiles this tree brings from past years.  Priceless!!

Published in: on November+00:00bSun, 28 Nov 2010 18:22:37 +0000000000Sun, 28 Nov 2010 18:22:37 +0000pmSun, 28 Nov 2010 18:22:37 +000010 9, 2008 at 2:20 p11  Comments (1)  

Fall Harvest

Well, it’s September, my favorite time of year.  It’s also a busy time of year for me.  In the past two weeks I’ve canned tomatoes (that I’ve picked), made plum cordial (from plums that I’ve picked), and recently made roasted red peppers for the winter (that I’ve picked)!  The “fruits” of my labor will be greatly appreciated every time I open a can of that rich, red tomato sauce for Sunday dinner or sip on that rosy pink liqueur in front of a cozy fire this winter.  The red peppers were ‘put up’ in freezer bags rather than jars…I’ve succumbed to making my life easier in many respects.  Now with all this behind me, I’m ready to scour the farmers’ markets and grab what produce I can to make the fall dishes that I long for this time of year.  Roasted squash soup, pumpkin ravioli, fig crostata, apple dumplings with hard sauce….my mouth is watering!

I will plan several fall dinners and hope that the weather holds up for some outdoor eating and entertaining over the next few months.  Then it will be time to plan Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas baking Christmas Eve Feast of the Fishes , January is usually reserved for making soups, breads and homemade pasta…..It never ends, this love affair with food , cooking and eating! Thank God!!

Published in: on September+00:00bWed, 08 Sep 2010 13:30:15 +0000000000Wed, 08 Sep 2010 13:30:15 +0000pmWed, 08 Sep 2010 13:30:15 +000010 9, 2008 at 2:20 p09  Comments (1)  
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Blogging VS. Facebooking….

I guess if it comes down to either blogging or posting on Facebook,  for me, Facebook has come out the winner.  Just because it is much easier to post a thought, verse, quote and the response in comments outnumbers the comments on my blog.  Hmm,,wonder why that is?  Probably because Facebook has fast become the communicator of choice for millions and millions of people, and because there are so many new blogs too numerous to count out there in the blogosphere.  Now I’m not going to give up my blog for good.  As you can see, I’ve not been very regular and that’s because I check my Facebook pages ( yes, I have a personal and a business one for my books) several times a day.  It just is an easy access to connect with so many friends and family.  I could post my blogging on my FB page if I knew how!!!!

I’m not that savvy when it comes to technology, I must depend on others and everyone seems too busy for me to bother them.  (I guess they are pinging, exporting …it’s a whole other world to me. )  So I’ll just stick to good ole reliable FB for now, I won’t discard my blog.  Occasionally, I’ll post, possible link it to my FB page and if I need to write something lengthy and blog-worthy, I can always put in my “Notes”.

Published in: on April+00:00bTue, 13 Apr 2010 17:03:07 +0000000000Tue, 13 Apr 2010 17:03:07 +0000pmTue, 13 Apr 2010 17:03:07 +000010 9, 2008 at 2:20 p04  Comments (1)  
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A Gift from the South Hummingbird Cake

I recently discovered this wonderful cake while visiting Charleston.  It was one of the most flavorful, moist cakes I’ve ever tasted.  So, of course I had to try making it myself, it did not disappoint!   I found several versions of the recipe, Paula Deen’s was my favorite. (She is  a southern belle, after all).

Paula Deen Hummingbird Cake

By thillin

.  This is from her book Paula Deen Celebrates!

3 Cups self-rising flour

2 Cups granulated sugar

3/4 Cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 very ripe large bananas – mashed

1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 large eggs, beaten


1 pound box confectioners’ sugar

8oz package cream cheese- room temp

6 tbs butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbs milk, more if needed

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325*

Grease and flour three 8 inch round cake pans.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil, 1/2 cup pecans, bananas, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon and beaten eggs.  Stir well until smooth.

Pour batter into the 3 pans and bake for 26-28 min, or until tops spring back.  Let cool in pans for 10 min.  Then cool on racks completely.

Make the icing by mixing the sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla and 1 tbs milk in a large bowl with an electric mixer.  Mix until smooth.  If needed add more milk, 1 tsp at a time for proper spreading consistency.  Ice between each layer and on the top and sides.  Sprinkle the top with pecans.  Keep refrigerated.


Published in: on March+00:00bWed, 03 Mar 2010 13:30:36 +0000000000Wed, 03 Mar 2010 13:30:36 +0000pmWed, 03 Mar 2010 13:30:36 +000010 9, 2008 at 2:20 p03  Comments (1)