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“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

My son, Connor makes a delicious pasta sauce. The recipe is loosely based on a recipe found in the movie “The Godfather”. He made his first batch at age 13. I snapped this picture as he took it off the stove. It is our family’s most requested sauce recipe.

The following is an excerpt about Connor and his sauce recipe from my unpublished memoir, Comfort Food.

“Connor developed a passion for cooking.  It became a wonderful creative outlet for him.  He found a recipe for spaghetti sauce from one of his favorite movies, “The Godfather”.  When the family is “going to the mattresses”, Clemenza gives Michael a lesson in making sauce. Connor made it for us one Sunday.  It is quite good.  Jeff actually liked it better than my sauce. It became our standard family red sauce.  Across the bottom of the recipe card, Connor wrote a great line from the movie, delivered by Clemenza following a “hit” – “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”  This is so typical of Connor.  He has the uncanny ability to capture the essence of things in a subtle and often comical way. When I saw those words, I laughed out loud.  I will keep that card forever.”

“Fat Clemenza’s”/Connor’s Pasta Sauce Recipe

1 pound hot sausage links, cut into 2 inch pieces

1 pound lean ground beef

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1- 12 ounce can tomato paste

1 whole onion, peeled

Pinch of sugar

Garlic salt, kosher salt and pepper to taste

1 to 2 Tablespoons oregano

12 ounces of water

1 ½ cups dry red wine

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

½ cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Brown the hot sausage in a large deep pot on medium heat. Remove the sausage from the pot and drain excess grease, leaving a small amount in the pot.  Add ground beef to the pot and brown. Return the sausage to the pot with the ground beef. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, water, sugar, garlic salt, oregano, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add cheese. Stir occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 2– 2½ hours.  Add basil and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve over pasta of choice. Serves 8 to 10.

 

 

The Golden Thread

     “Friendship is the golden thread that ties the heart of all the world.” John Evelyn

 

I have been blessed with so many wonderful friends. Their love and support carried me through the dark days of grief and brought me back to life.  Comfort Food pays homage to those friends and their numerous acts of kindness.  As I say in the book, “Everyone was so genuine, so loving, so kind and so very generous. I cannot describe the love I felt and the comfort these wonderful people provided…Suspended between the life I had and the life that was waiting to be embraced, a cocoon of loving gestures encircled me. At times, the outpouring of affection was overwhelming. I drank from a cup that never emptied.”

 Friendships are vital to our happiness and well-being. Not only when we are grieving or are in need, but everyday. Our friendships are gifts to be treasured and we must handle them with care.  Research confirms what we all know to be true – friends are good for the health of our body, mind and spirit. For example, “The famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.”*

 Do yourself a favor and make time for your friends. Have fun and enjoy each other. Do something silly. Do something creative. Do something just for fun. Do something helpful. Do something that makes you laugh. Just do something – together. You will be so glad you made the effort.

 

 

 * UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women – An Alternative to Fight or Flight, 2002 Gale Berkowitz, http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/gender/tendfend.html

Independence Day

As we celebrate our nation’s independence tomorrow, let us also celebrate our personal independence from all things that prevent us from being all we can be. Let’s make the conscious choice to be free of all old, limiting thoughts about ourselves that keep us stuck. Let’s choose to welcome new ideas, positive energy, and new opportunities,which enrich our lives and feed our souls. Like our brave forefathers, we can choose to overcome obstacles and create a new, prosperous world. It is a choice and we are always free to make that choice. Happy Independence Day!

 

 

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

Let go, or be dragged

My friend, Lori and I were walking through a bookstore in Shadyside last week.  On the shelf was a small wooden plaque that read “Let go, or be dragged.” Those few, powerful words jumped off the shelf at me. The words are simple, but the message is profound. It reminded me of times in my life when I did not let go of people, situations, opinions and old habits. Ouch! 

When we cling to our ideas of how life should be and refuse to accept things as they are, we are dragged through life – often times kicking and screaming. Life then becomes a series of struggles. We find ourselves wondering why things are not working out for us and why we are in a “funk”.

At first, it feels like letting go is the most difficult, painful thing to do. Our mind fights it tooth and nail. As Eckhart Tolle says in Practicing the Power of Now, “It is almost as if a limb were being torn off your body.” The truth is that letting go is liberating. We can then allow ourselves to go with the flow of life and see where it takes us. I don’t know about you, but going with the flow sounds a heck of a lot easier than being dragged.

A final lesson from Jake the Wonder Dog

 

As you know from my previous post, Jake taught me many important lessons throughout his life. When he left this world on May 19 – his 12th birthday – he taught me yet another important lesson. It was a lesson about how to let go gracefully when it is your time. Over the past few months, Jake showed signs of slowing down. When he no longer wanted to climb into the Jeep for a ride, or chase his beloved tennis ball, my heart sank.  I knew he would not be with us much longer. Being intuitive -as all dogs are – he must have sensed it was his time to go. So, what did he do? The day before he died, he took one last walk with his best friends, Jack the Yorkie, Jack’s mom Jen, Shilah the Golden Retriever and her mom, Beth and me. This was our “six pack” for countless walks. He seemed perfectly normal on our walk, giving no clue the next day would be his last. The two of us later went out in the back yard and just hung out in the grass for awhile. I got the impression he was drinking in all the sights and sounds of his favorite space. His behavior was pretty normal the rest of the day. The next afternoon, he walked down the steps, went into this cozy crate where he felt safe, and slept away quietly.  Jake did not make a problem out of it. He just let go peacefully.  My mother said “He went out like a gentleman.” I could not agree more. When it is my time, I hope I have the opportunity to spend a day enjoying my favorite things with my favorite people and that I am able to let go with such grace.

Jake The Wonder Dog

Jake is our family dog. We found him by way of the local newspaper’s classified section. A family adopted his mother “Mickey Blue Eyes” (a jet black lab with two crystal blue eyes) without knowing she was expecting puppies. Jake inherited one of those crystal blue eyes, which makes him both adorable and interesting.

Thoughts About Trees

The room where I take yoga has a wall of windows which look out into a park filled with trees. Following yoga class on a beautiful October day, I shared my thoughts about trees with Janet, the instructor. Janet said to me “You have to put that in your book.” Janet is a wise woman, so I followed her advice. The following is an excerpt from that book.

The importance of taking care of yourself

I was out walking around my neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny October day.  The sky was clear and blue and the trees looked as though they were on fire with color. I felt so good to be outside. While on my walk, I ran into a friend as she was getting out of her car.  She is a person who has endured many challenges throughout her life, including the recent loss of a very dear friend.  She told me she is just now learning how to take care of herself.  Read more

Time

I was shopping at a local health food store recently.  The owner is aware I am a widow and am in the process of writing a book about my experience.  While I was there, she mentioned the book to   the charming white haired woman working behind the counter. The woman had been widowed twice – once at age 36 with three young children and again later in her life.  We were talking and she reminded me of an experience I had.  My guess is that many of us widows and widowers have this same experience.  She said at first, you think of your spouse every second.  Then, you think of them every five minutes.  Then you think of them every hour.  One day, you realize that you didn’t think of them at all.  When you realize this, you feel guilty.  We actually said “then you feel guilty” at the same time.   We both laughed as we realized our common experience.    Read more

Comfort Food

From the day my husband died generous friends and neighbors delivered delicious meals to our home. We were blessed to have this continue for almost four months. Isn’t that amazing? Three days each week, a friend or neighbor would come to the door with the most wonderful meal. These were full meals – a salad or vegetable, main course and dessert. Often times, a bottle of wine was included. I still marvel at this outpouring of kindness. As those of you who have been on the receiving end of a hot, home cooked meal know, it has a way of soothing you like nothing else can.