Monthly Archives: July 2010

Born on St. Patty’s Day

Born on St. Patty’s Day

It was Wednesday, March 17, 2010  St. Patricks Day when a litter of Yellow Labs were born in nearby Callahan. Just two days later, at a charity function for Project SOS that I attended at the request of my friend Pam Mullarkey, I found myself shouting out the winning bid of $500.00 as two huge pictures of a pup resembling Marley appeared on the large screens at either end of the Marriott ballroom. I had unexpectedly purchased the pick of the litter!

Pam explained it would be 8 weeks before I could take possession of my prize, and actually that was perfect. I needed time to figure out how I would explain our good fortune to my husband Tom. Our dear 14 and 1/2 year old Bunker (dubbed the perfect dog) had passed away just a few weeks before. In a very weak moment I had made a life changing decision to bring this little pup into not only our home but our hearts.

Lindsay and Matt had discussed buying a dog. I suppose that is what a young couple in love does, sort of a trial run to see how they will handle actual babies. They can observe the nurturing skills of the other and access the pros and cons of this major commitment. I would  have written a check in donation to Project SOS regardless. The way I looked at it was the kids got their puppy in the process even though they were not included in the decision. But, I knew Lindsay would be happy and I know Matt loves Lindsay, so if she is happy Matt will be happy.

I immediately reached for my cell phone and shot off a text to Lindsay with the news. Normally my text messages to the family seem to linger in the black beyond for many minutes, often hours before my phone signals a response. Not this time. Within seconds she had answered in total support of my decision and with many questions like, male or female and are you bringing it home?

The breeder told us we would be able to pick the puppy in just a few weeks. As soon as the pups could be separated from the Mother Mrs. Mullarkey would bring some to our house to decide. There were six pups to choose from, four yellow and two black, three females and three males.

Duffy, our 2 and 1/2 year old yellow lab, (purchased to push Bunker to live just a little bit longer) was suffering from a broken heart since his mentor and best friend had passed away. He had never been alone before, and stuck by my side each day convinced I would leave him too. Duffy had terrorized Bunker when he was a pup. He would nip at Bunker’s ears and climb on his back, all in play but very annoying for a 94 year old (in dog years) guy. Bunker would take it for a time then inevitably give him a growl and a nip that would send Duffy squealing under the table. Perhaps this would be the solution to mend Duffy’s broken heart.

Duffy inspects the potential additions to the family .

Finally the day arrived when we would make the pick. Pam arrived with three puppies, one black male, two yellows, two males and one female. We played with them all and found it difficult to make a decision. Louis was tempted to buy one of the irresistable pups for Brooke. But, after a phone call to her Mom asking permission, he was jolted back to reality with an irrefutable “NO”. We continued to watch the pups interact and discussed the possibility of black or yellow, male or female. Finally a decision was made and the puppy was marked with a spot on the tail with a black permanent marker . Out came the camera and shots of the happy family were posted on Facebook announcing the new addition.

The Garrity family

The baby had to be returned to his Mother for nurturing and weaning. He would be able to come home permanently in a few weeks. Great. This gave me time to explain to Tom we were going to be the puppy grandparents.

A grand-dog is a huge responsibility. When the parents of said puppy work, much like an actual baby, the grandparents are relied upon to care for the infant whilst the parents bring home the bacon. This involves potty training, I mean house training, making sure the puppy get frequent walks and  watching to be sure he does not chew up any Kate Spades, Gucci bags, chairs or furniture in general.

Tom had been away at Duke for all of these weeks since the Project SOS fund raiser till now. The grandmother clock was ticking in the family room to the time he would return and I would be forced to confess what was about to happen to our peaceful home.

He actually took it quite well. I don’t know if it was because he had been away so long or was he genuinely happy to have a pal for Duffy? I know Tom really missed Bunker too. Plus, as a grandparent….you can always send them home with the parents. He seemed to tolerate the whole idea. GREAT!

The large dog crate appeared from the garage and was dusted off and set up in the family room. Dog toys and leashes began to appear. Even Duffy wondered what all the preparation was about. But, there was one important thing that had not been decided. What would they name this little yellow ball of fluff with feet that smelled like popcorn and that distinctive puppy breath? Well, after much investigation and discussion we all agreed any dog born on St. Patrick’s Day should have a fitting Irish name. Plus I believe Garrity also applies here. We all loved “Finn” and Finn Garrity it was!

Now Finn actually has a bit of Marley in him and Duffy is getting a taste of his own medicine. He is taking the nipping and the climbing on pretty well. Just a few weeks after Finn joined the happy family, and the rules had been clearly explained to him. ie. no getting on the couch, only eating once per day and no begging for people food, he showed that he was much like any other child…going to test us.

Taken with my I-Phone from the kitchen where I was preparing dinner

“Does she really see me?  Will she make me get down?  It is so comfy on this sofa with all these great pillows with fringe I can chew and relax on.  Oh and Duffy is not allowed up here to bother me.”

"I just need a little bit more food, I am not quite full"

Anyway, life has changed once again. The happy family is adjusting to the addition, even the grandparents. Finn is growing quickly and I hear he is wearing a black bow tie to the wedding in a few weeks.

Life is good being Finn Garrity!

Good friends, good wine, good eats equals good times.

Good friends, good wine, good eats equals good times.

Torta della Nonna - Grandma's Cake

Time could not pass quickly enough for the return of my cooking/traveling companion/friend Kelly and her lovely family to Seven Mile Drive. They had stayed on in Europe traveling to Naples, Sorrento and Florence for a week longer than I.  But, I was excited for her to arrive home.

My cookbook from Casa Ombuto was getting plenty of use. Each day I would prepare a breakfast buffet just like the one we had at CO and then a luscious recipe, like Grandma’s Cake or Tuscan beans for my family. They certainly were enjoying my newly acquired talents.  It was all so delicious and I knew Kelly would be as excited as I to share our culinary skills with a

Z'breakfast-eggs, fruits, yogurt and granola, cheese, salami and freshly baked 5 grain bread

mediterranean dinner party for some of our closest friends.

We met on Tuesday to prepare the menu. We chose Eggplant Caviar, Bruschetta and Antipasta for appetisers. For our first course we chose  Casarecce’ Pasta with speck and saffron; Basil, green beans, fresh tomato and mozz salad with a light dressing plus baked goat cheese salad. For the main course we decided on Roast Pork Loin Arezzo Style with Chunky Olive Oil and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. We would finish with a light dessert of Zabaione and Strawberries. Each course would have a pairing of regional wines to compliment the flavors and we would finish with after dinner liquors: Limonciello, Amaretto d’Saronna and Frangelica. With the menu set,we agreed who would prepare which items and we were off to the Fresh Market to shop.

It was important that our friends get a true feeling of what our experience had been so we agreed we would prepare a sit down dinner, meaning table settings for at least 20 of our friends.  This could be challenging for most, however, you must remember, Kelly works for Williams Sonoma. I seem to recall her saying some weeks she actually owes them money when the mark-downs have been exceptionally tempting. So, we pulled the dining room table and chairs into the kitchen for the final 6 settings, visited the buffet holding all of my table cloths and napkins for the perfect selection and then raided Kelly’s kitchen for additional glass and bakeware.  We had a plan and it was coming together nicely.

We agreed to prep as much as we could. On Thursday we shopped and Friday we spent the entire afternoon together cooking. Some might find the idea of entertaining 20 dinner guests to a sit down dinner a bit intimidating but, Kelly and I were up for the challenge. In fact, we agreed we were having fun even during the preparation. Oh,and let me tell you I wish I had an application that could record the aroma in the kitchen to share on this blog! (Maybe we could invent that Matt?$!) We plugged my I-Phone in to the kitchen Bose to hear Andrea Bocelli belt out  “La voce del silenzio”. There  is something to be said for the smell of garlic and pork roasting along side cippolini onions in balsamic vinegar that just exudes Italia. We felt as if we were back at familiar Casa Omboto once again.

There is one element of our dinner party that was a true blessing to us all. On Wednesday I got in touch with Liza Chung, the brilliantly creative florist for Lindsay and Matt’s wedding. She had prepared a trial centerpiece for them a couple of weeks ago and had graciously brought it to the house for us to enjoy. This centerpiece was over the top gorgeous. ( I don’t wish to give any of her secrets away, so I will not include the picture in this post. Just stay tuned for wedding pictures after October 2nd.)  We loved having the scent of the flowers in the house but, like us, fresh flowers drop their petals, wither and die. The beautiful 3 and 1/2 foot tall glass vessel had been sitting in the living room waiting for Finn to send it toppling over. I phoned Liza to find out when and where to return it. She explained she had a meeting on Friday at TPC and would swing by and pick it up, asking what time would be convenient for me.  I explained I would be cooking all afternoon for a dinner party.  “Ohhhhhh…” she said.  I could hear a sparkle in her voice as she told me she would drop by late afternoon. Around 6 Friday evening Kelly and I had set the tables, the water and wine were chilling and just a few last minute dishes were warming in the oven when the doorbell chimed to “The Wedding March”.  It was Liza and her son with two of the most magnificent floral masterpieces I had ever seen. Liza had put a pic of them on Facebook the day before and I commented “I loved dahlias”, one of the main flowers of the design. They placed the beautiful gold vessels on the buffet , and were on their way, the perfect compliment to our culinary masterpieces.

By seven-thirty Kelly and I donned our clean Casa Ombuto aprons as the guests began to arrive with bottles of rich Tuscan wines in hand. They snacked on appetizers and drank chilled Prosecco until we were ready to share the main course. Our friend Michele led us in a beautiful blessing then Kelly and I explained each dish. We opened the buffet to our guests and smiled at the “oohs and aahs” as they loaded their dinner plates and headed for their seats.

In true Zitiello tradition, the wine was poured and Tom offered up the first toast, explaining what a wonderful experience Kelly and I had shared. He explained the trip was a dream of a lifetime but, better yet, one we could all benefit from….Munga!

It was a beautiful evening with great food, great wine and even greater friends.

Thank you to our teacher, friend and Chef Laura Giusti of Casa Ombuto, who was in our hearts and on our minds the entire week.  We miss you so Laura.

Heading home…

Heading home…

My personal journal dated June 18th, 2010

Today I took the  7:50AM vaporetta from St. Marks Square to Marco Polo Airport  where I would embark on my transatlantic flight home.  As our boat traveled along the Grand Canal, we stopped for additional passengers, some tourists, some locals catching a ride to a stop up the line perhaps on their way to work. It took about an hour and a quarter to make our way thru the smooth waters.  The weather was pleasant and the sun was shining on the beautiful buildings along the canal.  I was heading home after thirteen wonderful days in my very favorite place on this earth…..Italy.

It might seem odd to some I have taken such a liking to this place. But Italy has truly captured my heart.  I love everything about it.  I love the culture, the ageless beauty of it’s varied architecture, the food and the people so warm and hospitable.  I love the art that until I came here  had only seen in books or movies. I love the fact that the Vatican, the center of the Roman Catholic Church, is located here and that St. Peter is actually entombed in the catacombs beneath the cathedral.  I feel like I have traveled to the heart of my faith.

Francis Mayes, author of “Under the Tuscan Sun” wrote, “Italy has proven to be inexhaustible. To take the gift of a new and very old country – a whole other sphere of language, literature, history, architecture, art: it falls over me like a shower of gold.  The giving, the fun, and the spontaneity of everyday life here shock me and return me immediately to a munificent state of being.”

After taking care of my duty free paperwork at the airport I was sent thru Italian Customs then security and boarded the A330 Alitalia Airway carrier that would return me to my reality. As I was fastening my seatbelt, the flight attendant asked me if I would mind moving up a row. I agreed and gathered my belongings. The flight was full and I could hear the pleasant attendant attempting to rearrange seats at a special request. A 35-ish guy was asked if he would take the aisle seat next to me. He reluctantly agreed.  As he sat down he explained with an Italian accent he was a bit irritated to be asked to make a change.  He made this flight often and always went online early to select his seat in the last row so he could be comfortable and relax on the eight and a half hour flight back to the States.  The flight attendant who was in her late 40’s, was obviously flirting with this passenger not only because he was extremely handsome, but because she needed his seat in the back of the plane for someone else. She promised to supply him with all the beer he wanted throughout the flight. He smiled and told her “My name is Daniel,what is your name?”  “Gloria”, she said,  “and I’ll be taking care of you until we land in Philadelphia.”  Their eyes met and he fastened his seat belt, explaining to me why he hated to be asked to make the seat change.  He asked me if I was Italian?  I answered ,”Sono Americano”.  He said I heard you say something in Italian. I admitted an Italian friend had been correcting me and “grazie” was probably the only word I spoke with the correct intonation.  Was he flirting with me?  We settled into our seats for the long journey ahead of us.

My I-Pad on my lap, I began to read a book as soon as I was able to turn it back on. Daniel was intrigued by the I-Pad and asked me to show it to him.  As I began going through some of the apps he saw my wallpaper picture of a gondola decorated for wedding making it’s way under a low bridge in Venice. “Oh, Venice, I am Ventian and that bridge is very close to where I grew up. “Oh”, I said, “from my favorite city.”  He explained he was born here but now lived in the States.   I asked where he lived.  He told me he was a musician and he lived in Orlando.  I told him I was from Ponte Vedra near Jacksonville as we continued to get to know one another. I thought to myself he must be the Italian Bon Jovi, he was THAT cute.  But, he later explained he was a cellist and had worked mainly for Mickey Mouse. He belonged to a small group that traveled the world playing for events upon request.  He had recently performed in Dubai for a wealthy businessman. He was happily married to a Puerto Rican girl for thirteen years but had no children….yet.

We discussed politics and the differences in both our governments and our perspectives of each over the next several hours as Gloria continued to pour our cocktails. He told me that Italians view our election of Obama as a maturing of America. That they view America’s basically two-party political system as impossible.  Italy has over forty parties to choose from. And he discussed the communistic rule of Italy. All of this was fascinating to me. I felt I was getting a very honest viewpoint from this individual. I cautioned myself to realize this was just one persons opinion and not necessarily that of the majority. Before we knew it, we were preparing to land in Philadelphia.  It seemed the perfect ending to my perfect trip. Getting some true insight from an Italian.

Arriving in Philadelphia, we were herded through US Customs and had to declare our purchases.  The beautifully boxed and wrapped watch was opened and searched.  I was asked to show the receipt and had to pay the duty of $129.00. I certainly hope he likes it!

The layover from Philadelphia to my connecting flight that would whisk me to Jacksonville was three hours so I settled in at my gate and read The Story of Edgar Sawtell.  I was beginning to get weary.  But, the plane boarded on time and we actually landed ahead of schedule where my sweet husband was waiting just outside baggage pickup to take me home.

Remembering the embrace of the couple on the platform at the train station in Florence, I lingered purposely in Tom’s arms as he kissed me hello.  Then we were in the car and heading in the direction of home. So much to tell him, that I couldn’t decide where to begin. So, I sat quietly in my seat next to him answering his questions.  It felt good to be home in familiar surroundings, good to be home with the loves of my life.

Traveling is wonderful, but I have a wedding to plan and there is truly no place like home.