Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Life Lessons, Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Potatoes, Onions, and Eggs

Lately, I find myself thinking about my grandmother.  She and my grandfather married in September 1929, less than a month before the devastating stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression.  As newlyweds, and during the early years of their marriage, they made sacrifices and weathered hardships they could not have anticipated on their wedding day.

During the Depression, my grandmother spent her time in the kitchen “stretching” and “making do.”  Fifty years later, when she was living with us, during the most prosperous times she could have ever imagined, my grandmother held steadfast to her belief in “waste not, want not.”  I watched as she smoothed out the wrinkles in a sheet of aluminum foil, so it could be used again and again, until it was tattered beyond repair.  She wrote grocery lists on the back of used envelopes.  And she placed her morning teabag in a whiskey glass, and reused it for her weaker and less flavorful afternoon cup of tea.  Even though we assured her that these measures of conservation were no longer necessary, she couldn’t seem to relax her life-long habits.  Intellectually, I knew why she did these things.  Now I finally understand it.

These days, I keep a small cup next to the bathroom sink, which holds a sliver of soap that, three months ago, I would have thrown away, thinking it was too small to use in the shower.  I freeze any and everything – from blanched spinach to buttermilk – and flour has become as precious as gold.  Each morning, I open the refrigerator and plan my meals according to the shelf-life of the coveted fresh produce I feel lucky to have.  A potato gets cut in half, and the half that isn’t eaten tonight is stored in the refrigerator, preserved in water, for a future meal.

Once considered “Italian peasant food,” Potatoes, Onions, and Eggs is now a popular frittata that appears on the brunch menus of trendy neighborhood eateries.  For me, it’s comfort food – and one of my go-to recipes during this pandemic.  Here’s the recipe for Potatoes, Onions, and Eggs.

Mangia! 

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

Ice Ice Baby

There’s an indoor skating rink about a half-mile from my house and, for the past couple of years, whenever I pass by, the place whispers to me: Ice Ice Baby, Ice Ice Baby

First, a little background: I skated regularly throughout my childhood and teen years.  While I was never exactly graceful, I had good balance and could move at a steady clip.  The last time I was on the ice was during college and, after that, my skates were left abandoned in my parents’ basement.  Eventually the leather dried and cracked, and the skates got tossed.

Over the years, I replaced skating with spectating and, as evidenced by my past blog posts, I not only love hockey, I am hopelessly devoted to the Boston Bruins

Because my Bruins make it look easy, and because this charming old rink is walking distance from my house, it was only a matter of time before I got the urge to lace up and get back out on the ice.  What better way to get in some cardio and burn a few calories, right?

On a whim, I bought a pair of ice skates.  Then brought them to be sharpened.  And, realizing I was sorely out of practice, and considerably older than the last time I went skating, I picked up a set of knee, elbow, and wrist pads.  I was ready to go.  Ice Ice Baby, Ice Ice Baby.

I skated about twenty minutes before I stumbled.  Suddenly, I was airborne and, arms out-stretched, went leaping through the air as if I were about to dive into a swimming pool.  Only this water was a frozen block of ice.  I came down on my stomach and chest, remaining prostrate and stunned until a nice stranger helped me up.

The pain was immediate and sharp and I figured I’d pulled a muscle in my arm.  I left the rink and, as soon as I got home, I reached for the Ice Ice Baby.  The next day, when I couldn’t move my arm at all, I sought medical care.  Turns out I fractured my shoulder.  Specifically, the ball joint of my humerus bone.  Note the spelling: that’s humerus, not humorous.  Because there is nothing funny about it.

For the past week I’ve been mostly immobile, sprawled out on my chaise, popping ibuprofen for the pain, and eating ice cream because, clearly, I need more calcium in my diet.  The one thing that could drag me from the chaise and back out into the world?  Tickets to the Bruins/Vancouver game.

As my brother and I approached the Garden, I spotted the bronze statue of Bobby Orr that immortalizes his famous “flying goal.”  Pointing to the statue, I exclaimed, “Hey, that’s what I did!  I went flying through the air just like Bobby Orr!”

Only Bobby Orr didn’t suffer a fracture.  He scored the over-time goal that won the Bruins the 1970 Stanley Cup Championship.  Ice Ice Baby!

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Life Lessons

Catching More Z’s

Are you tired?  Of course you are.  Nobody’s getting enough sleep.  Blame it on FOMO and our electronic devices; our 24/7 mentality and longer work days; and our over-consumption of caffeine.  But wait – that might be a chicken and egg situation.  Is sleeplessness the consequence of drinking too much coffee, or are we drinking gallons of coffee to combat fatigue?

When it comes to sleep health, I’ve heard it all before.  Moderate the temperature in your bedroom, don’t eat anything past 8:00 pm – and the best one – get up the same time on the weekends as you do on weekdays.  Ha!  Fat chance I’m gonna set my alarm to wake me at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning.

As a night-owl, I stayed up well-past what is considered a reasonable bed-time, only to be startled awake by my ear-splitting alarm clock.  Make no mistake, the reason it’s called an “alarm” clock is because the shrill sound incudes panic and distress.  Then, like a true java-junkie, I relied on a venti-sized coffee to shift myself into high gear.  And I thought I was doing okay.

But a couple of months ago, I committed to making some big changes in my life that have resulted in a dramatic improvement in my sleep health.  First, the easy one: since I didn’t suffer from FOMO, I shut off my cell phone at dinner time and I don’t turn it on until the next morning.  Next: I’ve broken the late-night habit of forcing myself to stay awake just so I can cross one more thing off my never-ending to-do list.  And finally: working at home has enabled me to swap commuting time for additional shut eye.  The results?  I have never been more clear-headed and present; the dark circles under my eyes have vanished; and my caffeine consumption is down to one half-caf-half-decaf cup of coffee a day.  I still get all the flavor, but I no longer need the jolt.

Maybe you’re thinking all this change is too drastic.  And realistically, your current life-style does not allow for one or more of these changes.  Understandable.  But think about how much effort you put into deciding what you eat – and won’t eat – and how you make time for a workout or yoga class.  The three-legged stool of health is nutrition, exercise, and sleep.  Two legs are not enough for stability.  We need that third one – sleep.

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Life Lessons

Change of Life

My grandmother’s generation called it “the change of life.”  But nowadays, women of a certain age call it what it actually is: menopause.  Me, I like the phrase “change of life,” because it evokes the notion that when you reach a certain age, you’ve lived long enough that there’s not much left that scares you, and you’re willing and open to taking chances.  There’s the belief, and even the expectation, that you can actually change your life in some grand way.  Granted this takes a great leap of faith, with no guarantee of the eventual outcome.  But if you possess the will to change, the conviction to stick with your decision, and have support and encouragement from some friends or family, well…

Case in point: a friend of mine with a cool studio apartment and a great job in Manhattan left it all behind and moved to Denver.  For a man she was dating who swore he would never get married again.  Ten months later, they were engaged.  In a few months, they’ll be celebrating their seven-year wedding anniversary.  Another friend took a chance on an old house in the country that needed extensive work.  As she and the realtor stood in the kitchen, my friend turned on the faucet, and thought: if water comes out, I’ll buy this house.  The water flowed and it turns out buying that house not only changed her address, it changed her livelihood and led her to a new love.

Now I know what you’re thinking – these sound like the plots of Hallmark Channel movies, but I promise both are completely true.

However, unlike all those entertaining Hallmark movies, where the heroine always finds true love in the end, I stand firm in my belief that a happy ending can be anything you want it to be.  Which brings me to my “change of life.”

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be leaving my job of nearly 17 years.  As the news spread through my office, the same questions were posed to me.  Where are you going?  What are your plans?   And when I answer – that I don’t know exactly where I’ll land – I’m met with various reactions.  Some think I’m a little crazy, while others are proud of me, excited for me, and at least one colleague wishes she could do what I’m doing.

My change of life is not about a man.  It’s about how I want to spend the next years of my life.  It’s about purpose and well-being.  It’s about faith and resilience.

As a writer, I’m big on symbolism.  We are deep in October so everywhere I turn, in my quiet neighborhood, as well as on the city streets, I see mums in rich autumn hues of burgundy, pumpkin, and gold.   Mums are generally under-rated when compared to other flowers, like cheery tulips or romantic roses.  But, while tulips are synonymous with spring and growth, let’s face it, their delicate stems easily flop over.  And the roses of summer are fragrant but they are hard to grow.  Mums can weather change, and they don’t wither on the first cold day.  Just like women of a certain age who aren’t afraid of much, mums remain hearty and resilient.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons

September in Boston

Emerson UnionThe following is a re-post from September 2016.

“They’re baaaack…”   At summer’s end, nearly a quarter-of-a-million college students descend upon Boston.  They arrive in SUV’s and with U-Hauls that get double and triple parked along the city streets.  It’s a chaotic and familiar scene that jars my memory, transports me back to a September when I was a student.

My classes took place in a cluster of century-old brownstones that was Emerson College.  The Back Bay streets I walked were lined with gas street lamps, and every statue and church marked a piece of history.  There was no quad, no field house, no bookstore, nothing even remotely resembling a traditional campus – this was an urban campus.

The city was filled with a new kind of student – their oxford shirts and Shetland sweaters were packed away in their parents’ attics.  These young men and women were costumed in vivid colors, leather jackets, tight black trousers, walking boots, male and female alike wearing haircuts as short as their fathers had worn thirty years before.  They liked to gather in front of the Mass Communications Building and smoke clove cigarettes.  Their energy was palpable and it made me feel as if I were in the midst of a bizarre 1980’s new-wave cartoon with loud, clashing colors.

The Emerson Library windows overlooked the Charles River.  The water was calm but I could imagine the prep school trained crew teams from the Cambridge side of the river out in the early morning, their movements synchronized, their breath coming in steamy huffs.  I never got up early enough to actually go down to the Esplanade to watch them.  I would’ve felt out of place there.

It was an odd mix of scenery, of philosophy, of fashion.  At first I didn’t know exactly where I fit into the picture.  But this was where I belonged.  I found my niche.  My peeps.  My voice.  And although I knew it was not possible, that September, I wished that for once, time could stand still.

red poppy

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Life Lessons

Walking on the Moon

Although it happened fifty years ago, I vividly remember the night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  I was eight and my brother was five and my father woke us in the middle of the night and hurried us downstairs to the family room and our large black and white television set.  The screen’s blue glow was harsh on my sleepy eyes, and although it was summertime, the air conditioning gave me a chill as I stood there in my pajamas.  Mom ran and got my bathrobe.

This was not the first time my father had summoned us to the television to watch the astronauts.  I knew their names: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.  I knew this mission was Apollo 11, and I knew that they had landed on the moon in a place called the Sea of Tranquility.  My father loved this stuff.  He read nothing but science fiction paperbacks by writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury and he talked to my brother endlessly about UFO’s and what supposedly happened in Roswell.  Me?  I found the whole idea of space a little bit scary, but as I watched the contrasting images on the television screen – David Brinkley; the men in the control room, who all looked alike with their short haircuts, black-rimmed geek frame eyeglasses, white shirts and skinny ties; and finally the spacecraft itself, which was partially shrouded in darkness – I felt the same anticipation that comes on Christmas Eve.  In a few minutes we were actually going to see a man walking on the moon.

Even in the best of circumstances, our television reception was only so good.  Now add to that the quality of the moon-to-earth image, and it was no surprise the picture was snowy and no amount of adjusting the rabbit ears would make it clear.

“There he is!  There he is!” my brother exclaimed when Neil Armstrong emerged from the lunar module.  We couldn’t see his face through the shiny black face shield of his huge bubble helmet.  Instead, we saw a reflection of what he saw – the spacecraft and the spotlights.  When Neil Armstrong finally walked down the steps of the spacecraft and stepped onto the moon, we all cheered and clapped our hands.

As the coverage continued the next day, the clip of Neil Armstrong stepping from the ladder onto the surface of the moon was replayed again and again.  And we all watched it as if we hadn’t seen it before.  When I finally asked my father, “Why did you make us get up in the middle of the night to see this when we could’ve just seen it today?” he answered with a crack in his voice, “Because last night it was history.”

My father has always been a pragmatic man, but with his because last night it was history remark, he’d managed to be poetic.  I took his words to heart, realizing that big things were happening in the world, many of which I was still too young to fully understand or take part in.  Just like Roswell, the names of places had taken on new and deeper meanings.  No longer simply locations, Vietnam, Chappaquiddick, and Woodstock referred to a war, an accident, and a concert.  Even more than history, that summer I became acutely aware of pop culture, and began to understand how art, music, and literature reflected all that was happening.

I was twelve years old when knew I wanted to be a writer – something my practical yet perceptive father already surmised.  He once admitted to me, “Ever since you were a little girl, I knew you marched to a different drummer.”  I don’t know if this path is what he would have chosen for me; I’ve never asked him that.  But he’d accepted it without question and, realizing why it was so important for me to witness the moment in history when a man walked on the moon, had encouraged it.

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Life Lessons

July 4, 1959

Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary.  Their 60th!  I’m both proud and amazed.  Proud of them for sharing such a loving and enduring marriage, and amazed at how quickly time has passed.  It hardly seems like it was 10 years ago that we were celebrating their 50th golden anniversary.  We had a big party, with all of our extended family, and their many friends.  My brother gave the customary champagne toast and I told the story of how my parents got together.  Today seems like the appropriate time to tell it once again:

Have you ever heard the story of how Babe and Freddie got together?  Sure, they were both living on 91st Street in Jackson Heights. But Babe was a freshman at Bryant High and Freddie a senior at Newtown.  Besides, he was dating this girl Barbara, his mom, Filomena, didn’t like much.  Barbara wasn’t Italian, and she had something of a reputation.  Anyway, Filomena supposedly suggested to Freddie, “Why don’t you date a nice girl like Louise?” although this claim has never been substantiated.

One night in May 1953, Freddie and his crowd were busy at work under the hood of one of their jalopies.  Babe still recalls how cool Freddie was.  He wore his hair in a D.A. and rolled up his pack of cigarettes in the sleeve of his white t-shirt.  His crowd – his brother Joe and cousin Bill, George the Greek, Bobby Fitz, Gesner, Benz, and Desmoni – they were all cool too.  And in a scene reminiscent of the movie Grease, this group of teen-aged buddies had just made a wager with Freddie.  They bet him that he couldn’t get a date with the next girl who walked down the street.  If she said yes, they each had to pay him fifty-cents.  If she said no, he had to pay them.

Meanwhile, Babe’s father, Mike, asked her to go down the street to buy him a pack of smokes at the corner candy store.  Despite being only fourteen, Babe was pretty cool herself.  She wore cat’s eye frame glasses which only accentuated her penciled in high arching eyebrows, and her bright red lipstick.  And when she wasn’t wearing a poodle skirt, she wore peddle pushers!

Freddie took Babe completely by surprise when he approached her because she figured he thought of her as a kid.  When he asked her to go out with him that Friday night she said no.  What else could she do – she was young and her father was strict.  But Freddie persisted, “What about Saturday night?”  Again she refused.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, “Don’t you like me?”  And Babe was forced to admit that although she did like him, her father wouldn’t let her go out on a date.  Without missing a beat, Freddie suggested, “Okay then what about Sunday afternoon?”  And Babe, realizing how easy it would be to sneak out of the house on a Sunday afternoon, finally accepted.

On their first date, Freddie took Babe into the city to Radio City Music Hall to see the floor show and the western, Shane.  After the movie they went for a bite.  Babe was so nervous that she couldn’t quite enjoy herself.  The older girls on the block had coached her, advising her not to order the most expensive thing on the menu or the cheapest.

Apparently, Freddie never technically asked her out for their second date – it was just understood.  And every week it went on, the guys continued to pay Freddie another fifty-cents.  His buddies thought it was all a joke, and didn’t think the relationship would last.  All the while, Babe had no idea about the bet.

Then, Memorial Day Weekend, Freddie took Babe on Newtown’s Senior Boat Ride on the Hudson Day Liner.  When Barbara saw Babe, she got a little crazy and threatened to throw Babe overboard.  Later that day, Freddie asked Babe to go steady.

In June, they were still dating on the sly and Babe couldn’t figure out how she was going to sneak out of the house in a Prom dress, so Freddie finally had to ask her father for permission to date his daughter.  It so happened that Mike was painting the house – a job he didn’t relish – so Freddie offered to help him paint, and we all know how Freddie loves to paint.  And that seemed to do the trick.

The following year, Babe transferred to Newtown and Freddie was going to L.I.U.  Most days, he picked her up after school in his old green Studebaker, which Freddie’s buddies nicknamed The Babe Mobile.  You see, they realized that Babe and Freddie’s relationship was getting serious, so serious in fact, that by the time Babe found out about the bet, it didn’t seem to matter very much.

So how long did the guys keep paying Freddie the fifty-cents?  Well, nobody really remembers.  But they do remember Babe and Freddie’s wedding on July 4, 1959 and how all the guys were flipping Freddie quarters at the reception.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

 

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