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Yoda, the stunt airplane/the proposal

Yoda, the stunt airplane/the proposal

An entry from my personal journal November 28, 2009

Grandma and Grandpa Zitiello traveled from Cleveland to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their Florida family. Normally they would stay in Cleveland to be near Cathy and her children, Mary and Missy, Tom’s three sisters. But, we had convinced them to make the trip south this year.

Tom and I had a secret to keep. Certainly it was difficult, but, we realized the importance of containing our excitement and remained tight lipped.

Each day we awoke to the question; could this be the day?  Lindsay had no idea of  the life changing event that was about to happen. She continued her routine, work, eat, meet up with friends home for the holiday and of course being with Matt. The air was filled with anticipation.

The ring was due to arrive on Tuesday so we knew from that day on it could happen. Thanksgiving Day came and went and the Grandparents were starting to discuss their return trip. Maybe they should leave sooner to avoid the holiday traffic. Of course Tom and I constantly plotted to persuade them to stay.

Saturday rolled around and Lindsay and I were preparing a picnic lunch for she and Matt. They had planned to spend the day together in St. Augustine, nothing unusual for them. I made sure there was a nice bottle of wine to go with the turkey sandwiches. She left with the scrumptious basket around 10AM to meet Matt.

Shortly after she left the house the phone rang.  It was Matt asking if we could have all the relatives from both sides of the family at our house at 3PM. Today was the day. I agreed and immediately called Publix Bakery for a congratulatory cake. The doorbell rang and it was the florist with a huge arrangement. The card read “To the future Mrs. Garrity, we love you so much! Can’t wait to be there to celebrate with you. love, Samantha and Audrey.” All arranged from San Francisco. Phone calls were made, family invited. Everyone was wondering what was happening.

Back to the lovebirds.

Matt and Lindsay were en route to St. Augustine. Just south of Ponte Vedra Matt  pulled off the road and told Lindsay he was giving her an early Christmas present. She would need to be blindfolded and he placed the black rolled napkin over her eyes and tied it behind her head. She was laughing while trying to guess what it could possibly be. Just a few months before they had gone to the Jacksonville Beach Air-show. Lindsay had remarked she would like to one day ride in a stunt plane. Little did she know, today was the day.

They arrived at the St. Augustine Regional Airport and Matt escorted Lindsay to the prearranged area where  pilot Craig Fordham and stunt plane “Yoda” stood waiting. Matt said, “Merry Christmas, you are going for a ride.” Lindsay was helped into her parachute and into the rear seat on the airplane by pilot and crew and before she could refuse they were taking off down the runway heading north toward Jacksonville Beach.

The airplane is a training plane equipped with cameras on each wing, the nose and the tail.  The pilot and passenger have headphones so they can communicate with one another and also the ground crew and air traffic control. Throughout the flight the pilot asked Lindsay how she was doing as he looped and spun his was along the sunny beaches of St. Augustine and Jacksonville all the while capturing her reaction on video.

Suddenly Matt was speaking to her in her headphones. ” Are you enjoying your wild ride?”  he asked. “Yes,” she said.  “This is crazy.”  ‘Would you like to take another wild ride with me?  Will you marry me?”  he asked. “What?” she said, screaming in delight. “Yes, oh yes.”  The pilot also came into her ear saying, “Would you like to go back now?” “Yes, please “,  she replied as the cameras rolled capturing her tears and surprise.

Back at the hangar the ground crew was preparing for Yoda’s landing and had a camera crew to capture what was about to happen. Matt went down on one knee as Yoda approached. Pilot Craig helped Lindsay out of the plane and she ran to Matt and the ring box extended to her.  He placed the platinum solitaire diamond on her left hand ring finger and they embraced in a romantic kiss.

After several pictures Matt and Lindsay left St. Augustine airport and went to the park to eat their lunch and share some private time. On the way they phoned the parents to tell them the good news. When Tom and I heard the phone ring we BOTH picked up the telephone.  “Mom, Dad, I am marrying Matt”  Lindsay screamed into the phone.  We told her we were very happy for them and we loved them both.

The Garrity and Zitiello family began to arrive  at our house as well as Matt & Lindsay’s friends and some of their parents. The bottles of champagne were on ice . When they finally arrived we all rushed to the front door to greet the happy couple with congratulations and many hugs and kisses.

After things calmed down Tom raised a glass of champagne and gave a wonderful toast to the future Mr. & Mrs. Matthew Christopher Garrity, followed by a toast from Jack Garrity, Jack Sherrod and Blake Sherrod. It was a beautiful day. I know the Grandparents will never forget being there to share every moment of it.

Matt had shown both his creativity and his romantic side  in a beautiful way.  And, one day, if God blesses them with children, they will be able to watch the engagement proposal of their parents right before their eyes!

We are certain Matt loves our daughter and she loves him. What more could a Mother and Father ask for their only daughter?

We love you too Matt 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.