Friday, November 30, 2012

Let The Winter Sun Shine In

You've seen them... you know, the colorful boxes containing five-dollar bulbs that appear every Fall in farm stands and grocery stores, everywhere. I always gift them to the GrandLoves for Hallowe'en treats, the trick element being my comment, 
"You KNOW you love them more than candy!" 
Ah, the looks received in return...

Plant at the end of October and wait. They seem to do nothing, till Turkey Day... and then... they take off. Honestly, you can witness daily growth! By Christmas-time, the rewards are amazing and visually comparable to pricey florists' Amaryllis. 

I'll keep y'all posted, as my Gran's magnificent bowl is consumed by this winter garden, faring so well under the shine of the gorgeous shade... the one Joe's Gramps gifted to me many moons ago, before our Stacey home even existed. Mom's Santa sweetness sits guard. There's lots of lovin' on that table...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hot Glue Hurts

In doing the Macy's window thing-y, this morning, an old stand-by wreath needed some major repair work. It's not too smart to hang something and then apply filler nuts and pinecones, using a hot glue gun. But, hey... I'm not feeling too brainy, this morning, and that was my approach. 
Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, I noticed movement in the brilliant blue sky. I jerked the gun from the project, dripped boiling hot glue on my pinky, and grabbed Nik. By then, the raptor had landed and my finger was throbbing. Same guy. The hawk who has been terrorizing our yard, since last summer.

Okay, okay, no photography prizes here, not to mention that it would have been nice if the super zoom was on my camera. C'est la vie. Just wanted to share a potential reason for abandoned feeders. 

Ah, that food chain...

Santa's Keeper

No matter the year or what life tossed their way, my parents always delighted Ronnie et moi with boatloads holiday cheer. I can feel it. Dad would decorate outdoors, before seeking the most beautiful Scotch pine for us to decorate. Mom saw to it that every corner of our home said, "Christmas!" Certain things are as clear in my mind's eye as they were decades ago.
Time melted away when I found this favorite guy stored in a cabinet at the lake house. Seriously, I cannot remember the last time he made an appearance... but this year? He's landed a starring role. If only he could speak, he'd share many a family memory.

Thanks, Mom.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


So, I was channel surfing the gazillion stations we have-but-never-watch, and who did I come across but Macca, crooning to me from the big screen. Needless to say, I did stay for just a while :-), only to find it was a show I've heard about from friends across the pond for eons, now: "Later... with Jools Holland". I wondered, "Can this be that episode? YES... the 2010 show Neil Diamond played to introduce "Dreams"
Man, my life is full of perfectly timed coincidences. I had no idea (link) Palladia existed, let alone for me to enjoy. And... of all the episodes that could have been airing... what are the chances?

I'd been told that Jools is a lovable chap; I concur. His show format is dy-na-mite, with stars of every caliber set up in the round, each to take his/her/their turn at performing.

Where's the "LOVE" button??? I've landed in Music Heaven.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Partin' With The Punkins

Seasons come and go. It's time - pumpkins are out and pine boughs are in. But those sweet sugar babies simply cannot be tossed to the deer. Wash 'em, cut 'em, bake and scrape 'em. Freeze results in portion sizes for a side, a bread, a soup, or whatever floats your proverbial boat. Don't forget to rinse the seeds and roast to perfection. Here's how:

Put them in a low oven for about a half hour to completely dry. Then, toss them with a spritz of oil and a splash of salt; put back in 325 oven for about 40 minutes. Yum!

More Thanksgiving - Dance Party

Thanks so much for this capture, Bri!

"Epic" Turkey Day

Belated and loving Thanksgiving wishes to my family and friends. It seems that we had an "epic" day, and for that I am eternally grateful. Of course with our FiveGrandLoves in the house, how can there be anything but cheer? 

It was tough to keep the FabFour older kids at the table for hours on end. They were allowed to hit the basement playroom to do their thing, 'tween courses. But when they rejoined us, the noise level peaked. Even our precious Baby Lyla found out, at her very first Turkey Day, that she must gurgle very loudly, in order to compete with this bunch. Problem is, this hostess didn't get a chance to cuddle her much, especially with her sibs and cousins wanting much deserved attention

When everyone was seated and awaiting the first course, I asked the children to start a chain of thanks 'round the table. It was so sweet. We all know!

'Twas a pleasure to welcome Todd and Yvonne, our favorite newlyweds.

Needless to say, there was a glaring omission from our family circle. I'd said to Mom, just prior to her falling ill, 
"You have to stay healthy, 'cause the entire family is coming for the holiday." 
It wasn't meant to be, and neither Joe nor I wanted to be the first to mention her. Chloe sat to my left, and as we began dining, she said, 
"G'ma, did Big Nanny live a really long time." 
"She did, Honey; would you like to talk about Big Nan?"
"Oh, thank you, Chloe; that would be nice." 
At the same time, at the opposite end of the table, I heard Kelly telling Gavin, 
"She would be sitting right where you are, today!" 
I proceeded to mention what the priest had said at her service... yes, as much as she is missed, we need to celebrate her long and loving life... and we shall continue to do so. 

Later on, Joe came up from picking up the playroom to tell me,
 "Nick, the kids left a note for us, downstairs."
We are blessed.

It was a beautiful day. I love Thanksgiving. Food takes center stage and presents are non-existent. Rather, it's about the presence of those we hold in our hearts.
 Love Grows. Giving Thanks.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Browse Houzz

Are y'all familiar with the (link) Houzz website? Even if you're all settled into your digs, there are amazing ideas and adaptations to consider on every style level possible. There are, however, a few things out there I question. How gorgeous is this dreamy gardenscape concept? I must ask, though, 
"How does one keep the bugs 'n' critters from taking up residence?"
Color Me Inspired by Harold Leidner's Dreamy Gardenscape

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"25th Hour"

This is a Spike Lee film starring Edward Norton and Philip Seymour Hoffman, amongst other notables. Shall I say more? Yes? Okay...

I'm of the opinion that Mssr. Lee has a vivid understanding of what makes people tick. Combine that sensibility with his innate ability to show us the good, bad and ugly of his our beloved New York, and voila! He was the first to shoot live footage of heartbreaking remains at the Twin Towers and incorporate the same into a film. It was tough to watch that scene...

Monty, played by E.N., was spending his last twenty-four hours, before imprisonment for drug dealing. We experience his highs, lows, fears and thoughts, as he solves the age-old mystery of just whom does one trust. All this is played to incredible background music, ending with Bruce Springstein's "The Rising"... icing on the proverbial Cake Of Creativity.

Even the rather slow pace of the film seemed to have a purpose. Who wouldn't try to stretch their last hurrah? might like it, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hostess Hoopla

News anchorpeople are telling me that as a Boomer, I should have tons of Twinkie memories. Hmmm... can't seem to conjure up even one teeny, tiny vision of moi and a cellophane-wrapped spongy cake. In retrospect, we were healthy eaters, back in the day when my parents ruled the roost. With a resident Italian Gran, there were generations worth of us being taught to perfect time-honored family recipes. Thing is, no one obsessed (you know!) about the nutritious quality of the delicious food; it just WAS. Twinkies simply did not make the cut.

As for the boys, I must ask if ever I added the nostalgic cakes to their fare. Honestly, I don't recall. What I do know is that my homemade, nutrition-packed oatmeal/chocolate chippers were often stolen from their lunch bags... did the thieves swap for a Twinkie? I digress.

My one and only gouge-thyself memory is served by Hostess Ring-Dings. "Why?" did we have a box of them in the apartment, during those early days of wedded bliss?? Now THIS event I vividly recall: Joe had a Reserve meeting and I indulged... and indulged... and indulged. It had never happened before. It has never happened again. My fat is truly health-food associated. You know, too much of a GOOD thing?! Unless, of course, the "experts" deem yet another ingestible unsafe...

Bye-bye to Twinkies... and Hostess. All kidding aside, though, over 18,000 are losing jobs. Another day, another nail... I do emphatically empathize.
I think I'll bake an artisan bread, today. Overhead is low. Gratification is instantaneous.

Real Time

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Freedom Writers"

Vicki recommended a timeless movie and further made it very simply available to me... thanks, Sweetie. 
I loveyou.

The movie is based on the book, THE FREEDOM WRITERS DIARYcurrently available in its tenth-year edition, at the link provided. Hilary Swank plays the real-life teacher, Ellen Gruwell, who finds her first assignment at a newly integrated Long Beach, CA, high school with a classroom full of administration-deemed "unteachables". (Here, I shudder.) The kids proceed to segregate themselves into groups of Spanish, Black and Asian, with one Caucasian kid finding himself a glaring, frightened minority.

When one boy passes around his caricature of the exaggerated lips of a fellow student, Ms. Gruwell goes ballistic and focuses on its similarity in objective to horrid drawings of prominent Jewish noses, circulated during Holocaust years to perpetuate hatred. The kids had never heard of this tragic event in history, being so limited to survivin' the life amidst the warfare going on in their own streets. They were about to be taught about HOPE and PERSEVERANCE and VOICE VIA WRITING, by way of the legacy of Anne Frank and Holocaust survivors. And there we have the premise... but so much to think about, especially as our own USA struggles continue and, yet again (or still?), the Middle East is at war.
Imagine being designated unteachable. Imagine the children in our own neighborhoods who have been stripped of hope. Imagine young teens whose daily purpose is to get through each day alive. Imagine voices squelched... no one to listen or care. Then, imagine the power of just one woman who awakens those voices by providing a place in which to write thoughts... to share... or not. Imagine the utter amazement when one is privy to another's innermost frustrations or dreams... Imagine.

Perhaps as individuals we do not have the opportunity to help the masses. But what if we inspire just one human being who has lost hope?

In my opinion, no one says it better than Leo Buscaglia. Though I know these words reside deep in the archives of CMI, I share them once again, as I did in honor of Mom, just a couple of weeks ago:

"The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact upon the world, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our encouragement, who will need our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to  give.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt." LB

....Come join the Family Of Man....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All Five GrandLoves In The House ♡

Aubs had an awesome roller-skating birthday party, last Saturday. WHAT FUN! It felt so good to have my Nikon back in hand, for the first photo shoot in some time. I'm chomping at the proverbial bit to showcase expressions captured, as kids (and a few adults) explored slippery possibilities on a shiny wooden floor. But I'm not sharing quite yet, 'cause I need to keep results under wraps for a Christmas project currently in the works.
Here, however, is a little glimpse of my precious, gorgeous Babes, all in the house rink... though Lyla wasn't quite ready for a line-up at the rail. :-) Gotta luv Photoshop.


Still Waiting For My Gift From Mr. President...

Jeesh, I voted for President Obama. Where's MY gift? Give it up, Mitt Romney. You lost. It's time to cross party lines and work towards solutions to all that ails us. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

No-Baste/No-Bother Turkey Breast

A few days ago, I happened to catch Trisha Yearwood's cooking show for the very first time. She was instructing the masses on how to make a whole 12-pound bird this NB/NB way. Hmmm, "Interesting," thought I. Joe happened to bring home an 8-pound Shady Brook breast; why not? Just had to see if this really works. My adaptations were as follows:

I skipped the ridiculous amount of butter and salt the recipe calls for and instead misted with EVOO. Also, I used less water and did not boil it. With potatoes added to the veggie mix, into the 500-degree oven it went, at two this afternoon. Oven off at three - dinner served at six. There were lots of juices to render, for next week's gravy. Yay!

Succulent result. Our only "complaint"? Maybe too juicy??? 

Buon Appetito!

Monday, November 12, 2012


We adore you, Little Girl... you are special beyond words. Pure Sugar.
Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

With Respect and Gratitude, We Thank Our Vets

Flying High in our Sullivan County Sky '12

Friday, November 9, 2012

No-Knead Cran-Pumpkin Bread

Amazing aromas in mia cucina...Buon Appetito!!
This recipe came to my attention, just this morning. The minute I read it, I KNEW! What did I know? Ah, that I'd be baking, taste-testing and freezing, TODAY, in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Outrageously simple, totally scrumptious, clearly a keeper and online, for all to enjoy. Though there are lots of possibilities herein, I did not alter the ingredients, this time 'round, except for using Rapid-Rise Yeast. This simple change allowed for a one-rise product (let dough rest for ten minutes, in place of the first rise). I doubled the recipe and yielded twenty large rolls. Even they can be sliced. The end result is not sweet and very much to my liking... increase sugar or use maple syrup, if so desired. Just for the record, toasting is not mandatory; they are delicious, hot out of the oven. 

Emma Christensen's No-Knead Cran-Walnut-Pumpkin Slicing Bread
1/2 cup (2 oz) walnuts
3/4 cup (3 oz) dried cranberries
1 cup (8 oz) water
1 scant tablespoon yeast
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Heat the oven to 350°F. Scatter the walnuts in a metal pie tin and roast them until toasted and fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Roughly chop.
Cover the cranberries with boiling water and soak for at least 10 minutes then drain.
Combine the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and let sit for a few minutes for the yeast to dissolve. Stir in the pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Add 3 1/2 cups of flour to form a loose, shaggy batter.
Add the drained cranberries, chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup additional flour to the dough. Use your hands to squeeze the dough and work in the additional ingredients. The dough will be very sticky and loose at this point. Scrape as much dough from your hands as you can, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for at least 2 hours or up to 5 hours. It should at least double in bulk during this time.
At this point, you can proceed with making the bread or you can refrigerate the dough for a few hours or up to a day. Chilled dough will be easier to work with and shape into a ball.
Sprinkle your work surface generously with flour and turn the dough out on top. (If making two loaves or rolls, divide the dough now and shape each loaf or roll as follows.) With floured hands, fold the dough in half toward you so the un-floured surface is sealed inside and the outside is coated in flour. If the outside is still sticky, rub it gently with a litte more flour.
Flour your hands again and pick up the round of dough. It should feel fairly loose, but should be firm enough to shape. Begin shaping the dough into a round ball by smoothing the top and tucking the dough underneath. When the dough feels tight and smooth, set it on a piece of parchment. Let the loaf rise uncovered until puffy and nearly doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 450°F (CMI says that you might have to adjust). If you have a baking stone, set it in the oven now. If not, set a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
When ready to bake, slide the dough still on the parchment onto the baking stone with a peel or the back of another baking sheet. (If cooking on a baking sheet, remove the sheet from the oven and quickly lift the bread on top.) Cut a few slash-marks in the top of the loaf with a serrated knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
Cool completely before slicing. Baked loaves will keep in a paper bag for several days or can be frozen for up to a month.
• For a loaf with a higher dome, set the shaped loaf in a bowl or bread basket lined with a floured kitchen towel for its final rise.
• You can also bake this loaf in a pre-heated dutch oven. Remove the lid halfway through baking.
• For a savory take on this loaf, replace the sweet spices with two teaspoons of fresh thyme or minced sage.

Next Morning Update: We sliced across rolls and popped into the toaster. Lord-y! That's right... they didn't all make the Turkey Day freezer. :-)  
Second-Time Revisions here

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Losing The Shot

A.M. Titmouse Heading For Feeder
It was always my intention to avoid incessant chatter about weather, here on CMI. You know...

 "Do you believe this weather, today?"

 I lose. Mother Nature wins. After Sandy, we geared up for a nor'easter. Again, it missed us but hit the same downstate targets as the hurricane did, crippling Long Island, the LIRR and Jersey Transit. One local school opted to close last night; but bare branches demonstrate that this time, they made the wrong call. The kids did, however, have early dismissal, yesterday...

Busy helping Aubs with homework, I'd forgotten that my camera was on the tripod in the living room, huge lens mounted and pointed towards the feeders... till, that is, Gavin reappeared in the great room:

"G'ma, I missed my shot. The birds flew away, when I started to play with Mambo." 

We'll work on patience, next time 'round. Meanwhile, it is so healing to get back to Grand antics and Nik, too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Election

There are still a few hours left...

I'd hoped to post this a while back, but things sort of went topsy-turvy, around here. Do the quiz honestly... it presents all the issues and allows one to expand the answers to include provisions beyond a simple "yes" or "no" perspective. Sure, I'd already made my choice. But how's this for confirmation, Jill Stein aside, of course? 82%? Wow!

Stormy Weather

The month of October was sad and stormy for Mom, as she battled the effects of stroke, pneumonia and infection. I believe that her agony was triggered by the flu shot, but I'll save that discussion for another day. 

Never, as in not ever, could we have anticipated Mother Nature's plan for the hurricane that arrived at almost the very hour she passed away. Sandy's timing might have amused me, in light of Mom's lifelong, pronounced sense of drama; however, there was not much to smile about when reality hit.
What we met in trying to check on the lake house...

As we sat in near darkness (thanks for the generator, Bri) for four days, e-mail messages from European pals came in on my cell... the only link to the outside world and one that was not functioning at home. We'd work our way around closed roads, in order to find pockets that offered service. Worldwide television broadcasts allowed my friends to witness downstate devastation; they wondered how close we were to the annihilated shores of New York and New Jersey. I sincerely thank them.
Kelly's relatives lived here at one time...

Clearly, we had our share of damage in upstate Monti. Thousands are still without power. Winds seemed to be of tornado strength, taking out about an acre's worth of trees, just below our home, and missing us by a very narrow margin. That's called "good luck", I suppose. It was unsettling to make plans while dealing with the unknown.

When power and TV were restored on Friday morning, we had our first real glimpse of what had transpired in our beautiful and beloved New York and neighboring New Jersey. I cried... again. It's hard to fathom the heartbreak and loss so many have endured. Later in the day, we arrived on Long Island for Mom's funeral. Centuries-old trees at the cemetery were lying about, destroyed by gusts up to 70 mph. The restaurant Ronnie chose was still without power and running on generators. The candlelit tables leant a sense of warmth and healing, as delicious food kept on coming to replenish our energy.

Hallowe'en didn't happen for the kids and Mayor Bloomberg cancelled the Marathon. Good on him. Critics will say he waited a tad too long to make his decision; but the fact is, he did the right thing. Runners became rescue workers, lending a hand to Staten Islanders who suffered immensely. A few of my rock 'n' roll idols got together for an impromptu concert and raised 23 million dollars. The cause goes on, as does life.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Marguerite M. Firemark of Rock Hill, NY, affectionately known as “Nan,” was born on May 1, 1919, and passed on Sunday, October 28th, 2012, soaring to Heaven’s gates on strong winds of “The Perfect Storm,” during a time when the northeast nearly stood still. Already, we envision her with the soulmate and love of her life, Gus Firemark, who surely awaited her arrival with a cup of coffee in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. They are together, once again. Her parents, Nicholas and Mary Maniaci Trerotola, and siblings, Nunz, Frank and Vee, receive her spirit, as well.

Here to hold her forever in their hearts are loving children, Joe and Nicki Firemark Soller and Ron and Mary Firemark; adoring GrandLoves, Brian and Kelly Soller, Christian and Dawn Soller, Kim, Vicki, Alex and Lucas Firemark; precious GreatGrandLoves, Keith Firemark-Oberland, Aubrey, Hunter, Gavin, Chloe and Lyla Soller; extended family members and long-faithful friends.

While Marge’s outer beauty leant itself well to a career in cosmetology, her inner beauty was exemplified in her role as Matriarch of our family. “Hospitality” was the name of her game, and gourmet meals would appear for unexpected guests only moments after their arrival. Her pasta sauce was legendary and shall never be replicated. Clearly, hers was the best restaurant in town.

Funeral services were private. Family and friends now look forward to Spring and a celebration of an awesome life that is impossible to summarize in just a few words. If one is so inclined, please donate to a favorite charity, in her memory.

Go in peace, Mom, swathed in eternal love... 

“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.” 

(Obituary, as it will appear in the Middletown TIMES HERALD-RECORD)