We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Second Day of '13

LOVE these shots that Ami got of Aut and Tonio!!!

  It has been one of those holiday seasons...and the bambini have found various and creative ways to stabilize me...Autumn, as usual, the point.  Today, she cooked a breakfast of pancakes, bacon and oatmeal, by herself.  Knowing I was hurting, she put on her brave face and dug in.  Deep.  She burned the pancakes and her brothers lined up behind her, saying they were great.  Cody...taking on a bigger role, around the house, keeping his little sister and brother in line and chipping in around the house as we consolidate the garage...taking down the Christmas lights from the eves that he and Brendon had hung.  Did I mention achieving Honor Roll at the last possible moment, after a particularly challenging quarter??  And Tonio, the sweetest of them all.  Offering to help out where he can, taking a break from 'Skylanders', which Santa brought him for Christmas.
   Tonight, we went out to help out a friend in need...who tried to turn the tables and do me a 'favor'...the bambini were amused, and a little taken a back, but satisfied with how I resolved the nearly embarrassing situation and Autumn playing it over and over, laughing, imagining....

    Yesterday was Bella's 3rd birthday...and the bambini presented her with a Flinstone's bone!  She took it everywhere with her all day!!  This girl has given them so many smiles, especially Cody, which warms my heart.  How did Kim know??  I ask myself that, and her, often.  Bella was such a terror, that even Kim second guessed herself.  Until that last time she came home from St Joseph's, and I proudly presented her a reformed pup...she couldn't believe how loving Bella was becoming!  This girl is so excited, each morning, to greet each kid as they awake.  She will play with them constantly, until they tell her it's time to stop, and they move on to other things.  The warmth and love that Bella brings to them is immeasurable.  Happy Birthday girl!

        Post traumatic stress syndrome.  Applied to a lot of things these days.  Soldiers returning from the middle east.  Survivors of shootings.  People involved in robberies, etc.  The reading I've done, and how I feel...well, I've had post traumatic stress syndrome a Dr told me, as it relates to the events of losing my wife, mother of my children and best friend of 33 years...
         I've lost some 'help' or 'support' along the way...and that is ok.  Again, the reading and what friends tell me, is that following a traumatic event, most 'support' gets back to their daily life after about 6 months.  That is consistent to our experience.  Again, that is fine.  Talking to others, who have lost a spouse through death or divorce, they typically do not hang out with the same crowd that they used to...which makes sense.
          When something like this happens, most people say 'I understand'.  And I believe that.  But, after awhile, they want you to get back on track and move on.  It is not hard to believe that everyone is busy and have different agendas. So, to keep the good people that might still be around, you find the right smile to let them know everything is ok.
           The 'blessing' associated with post traumatic stress syndrome, is a loss of short term memory.  I resemble that. Mine is shot. So if I ever start to tell you the same Kimmy story that I have told before, have mercy on me and smile and nod at the right places.  I don't mean to bore you with a duplicate tale, I sometimes, blissfully, do not remember telling it before.
            The other night, I dreamed that Kim called me, on my cell, to ask me how I was.  In this dream, I knew Kim was in Heaven, and I assured her that I was doing OK and trying to carry on her legacy.  Her spirit of giving and keeping the bambini first.  I took time to ask Kim how she was doing...and she told me, unequivocally, that she was doing fine, she was in a beautiful place...taking care of business...no surprised there!! 

Bob Marley was always one of our favorite artists...I'm sure Kim has met him by now.  The bambini, especially Tonio, adore his music and Tonio and I have read a recent book of quotes from Bob...
Keeping us focused...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Paella New Year's Eve

       So it was, this New Year's Eve, that we collectively dismantled Christmas.  We typically wait for Three King's Day on January 6th, but it seems our decorations went...stale.  The bambini chattered incessantly, excited about what I would be making them for dinner.
       "Paoli? Dad?  Is that right?"  "No, that's a city outside of Philly.  It's Paella." 
       "Pay who?"  Tonio.  "Ella.  Pay Ella honey."  "How much?"  We are a four man (well, 3 man, 1 woman) insane asylum.

         I had researched recipes online.  Food Network.  Rachel Ray.  Allrecipes.com.  Spanishrecipes.com and, of course, Giada (Kim's favorite) DeLaurentis (she had a paella recipe that she used pasta in, instead of rice).  The bambini wanted seafood - which Paella has in it - so I adapted several recipes and made an all seafood Paella tonight!

          I was excited to try out the Paella pan that Andrea had gotten me for Christmas!  Just a little bit of olive oil  to simmer 3 minced cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of chopped, white onion, 1 chopped red bell pepper and 2 cups of rice.  I let the rice brown, slightly (about 3-5 minutes) before adding 1 quart of chicken stock, 1 cup of chopped Italian parsley, 1 bay leaf and the zest from 2 lemons. You can add 1 tsp of crushed red pepper at this point to, if you want a little kick to it (I did - Autumn noticed, my poor little guerra - she does not care for spicy foods).  Brought that to a boil, reduced heat to low and covered with tinfoil for 20 minutes.

          Meanwhile, in the 'big pan' Andrea got me last Christmas, I sauteed 1 lb of shrimp in a little olive oil and sprinkled it with paprika.  When the shrimp was pink on both sides, I placed it in a bowl and worked on the 1 lb of scallops in the same pan.  I put 1 tblsp of butter and 1/2 cup of white wine in the pan and cooked the scallops for about 5 minutes.

And while all that was going on, I pulled out the 'nice pot' that, you guessed it, Andrea had given me two Christmas' ago to boil up the clams!

                   Meanwhile, the rice mixture, once it got to the 10 minute point, I stirred it up, using Kim's happy spoon

       and added the mussels to the Paella pan.  At 5 minutes, I added 1 cup of frozen peas to the Paella pan and stirred it up again (Bob Marley style).
       At the 20 minute mark, I added the cooked shrimp and stirred it all together - bringing oohh's and ahhh's from the assembled bambini - circling like sharks.  Then the scallops.  When the clams had all popped open, I added them in, stirred some more and covered it up again to simmer for a couple minutes while I rounded up Brendon and Cody who had turned our drive way into a skate park, complete with ramp.

               I was pretty excited to try it - love seafood!  It was amazing how this pan helped the process along, the weight and dimples in it distributing the heat evenly.  I might try a few things differently next time, but liked the way it turned out tonight.  It's pretty much like the cioppino we've traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve.

I can dish it out, and take it!

Autumn, Brendon, Cody and Tonio dig it!!  During dinner, I told the kids the story of how, when we were kids, Kim and I would hit the beach in New Jersey.  On Long Beach Island, they had protective barriers to prevent erosion made of massive black boulders every 50 yards or so called 'jetty's'.  They protruded, finger like, out into the sea...
                        Now, you weren't supposed to walk out these, and the life guards would shrilly blow their whistles to call you back in if they saw you, but Kim and I would go out there after hours.  Hunting for shells, star fish, crabs, etc.  The spray of the waves crashing into the jetty felt great.  The jetty's were also covered with mounds of mussels.  We loved seafood, but it is pricey.  One day, we came up with the brilliant idea to harvest a bucket full of these mussels and steam them up back in our room!  What we didn't realize, was, when you buy mussels in a store or restaurant, they have been de-sanded.  Not sure if all market mussels are farm bred or how they go about de-sanding them. 
                      Well, we boiled them up, prepared to eat the freshest mussels we ever tasted!  Only to find, that it was very much like putting a handful of sand in your mouth and chewing!!  Crunchy!!  We were deterred.  The next day, we picked another bucket full and placed this batch in a fresh bucket of seawater overnight - thinking that maybe they'd work a lot of the sand out of their little bodies.  Not so much.  Still came out like chewing on sand!!  Ahhh, we sure had fun...




Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year Ending

               I took my eye off of the clock, and the year is gone! The bambini look taller and older to me.  I cleaned closets of the last few days and was amazed at how they had managed to out grow so many clothes! They are wiser, as well, better able to cook, more aware of what needs to be cleaned and willing to help and have a better understanding of our situation.
             What have we learned?  I guess I'm still trying to figure that out...but, 'Not to sweat the small stuff' surely is one thing.  The world is pretty much what we make of it, was another.  We're in this together - we already knew this, but it became cemented and ingrained in '12.  "Tomorrow's another day." as Kim used to tell me.  I get it.  There is always someone, somewhere, sadder, colder and more alone - someone worse off than us.  And, we can't have 365 days of sunshine and temps over 85 degrees.  Sadly.
             There is still so much that I wanted to accomplish this year, things I wanted to do with the bambini and friends...

               We tried to squeeze a little last minute warmth into the remainder of our year:

                Where else to begin?  Viro's!  The bambini begged me to let them sleep in today, missing Mass - Tonio did not have CCD class this week and I did get them out to the San Xavier Mission on Friday morning for Mass and to light candles for Kim and a good friend in need.  It was particularly chilly - and I have gained that Tucson sense of entitlement - I want warm weather and blue skies!  The Mission is not heated, we dressed warm, got there at 8:30, and sat huddled together, nearly on each other's laps, watching our breath (yes, it was that cold!) during the Mass.  The church looked so beautiful, fully decorated for Christmas, all of the statues of the saints decked out in their holiday finest.
                Wait a minute, that was Friday...today, we slept in - but I already told you that...We met Angie, Andrea, Lexy and Breanna at Viro's for lunch.  The breakfast buffet is no longer.  We sure enjoyed it over the last 5 years, but Rosa and Vito are taking a much needed break from the incredibly physical challenge and torrid pace that Sunday's had become.  It is a relentless, non-stop cookfest to keep the bakery length buffet stocked with the millions of offerings that Rosa cooked up!  She tried to keep the selection above the common garden variety breakfast buffet, cooking Italian, Sicilian, Mexican and American dishes.  She always had at least 4 different cakes and pies available for dessert.  Vito Jr. did an amazing job over the years whipping up the finest omelet creations (and getting me hooked on his Belgium waffles with chocolate chips and bacon mixed right into the batter!).  We'd literally roll out of the bakery after a few hours of power eating, followed by lounging and grazing.
               Today, we sat at our usual 'big table' and I introduced the prosciutto panini sandwich to the bambini.  Before Viro's started the buffet, Kim and I would go to the bakery for lunch, following Mass at St. Francis.  We'd almost always share a prosciutto panini. Served on a Sicilian roll, with roasted red peppers, fresh mozz, lettuce, onion, tomato and a balsamic dressing...Autumn and Cody loved it...Tonio, my little meat eater, did not - I think he would have liked just the prosciutto, as he always eats his ham sandwiches with just ham and American cheese - no lettuce, no tomato, no mayo or mustard.  He opted for the Italian Wedding soup - Breanna, Lexy and Andrea joined him on this.  Lexy likes the Buffalo chicken sandwich they serve and can nearly polish off a whole one - fortunately, for me, she can't quite finish it - so I helped!
               Andrea noticed that Autumn was wearing one of Kim's blouses and told her how pretty she looked.  "Thank you. It was my Mama's" Autumn proudly told her.
                Although we mourn the buffet's retirement, we rejoice for Rosa and Vito and wish them more peaceful and restful Sundays!  Much deserved, I might add. Well, not 'might add', I pretty much just did add that. Deservedly.
              Again, feeling a sense of urgency, being on the brink of the end of 2012 (and breathing a sigh of relief!), I worked on making some marinara and meat sauce.  Autumn was my little helper in the kitchen today, interested to know about measurements and cooking technique - when do I drop in the onions and garlic?  How do I know when to add the tomatoes?  I could see her mentally taking notes.  She even helped me keep the kitchen clean as we went!
             Angie, Mark, Andrea, Mario, Lexy and Breanna came over for our last big meal of this year - we made nearly 3lbs of angel hair (Angie, Andrea and my favorite! I always feel like I can eat some much more angel hair than any other type of pasta).  The house had been feeling sorta cold over the last few days and it was so good to fill it up and warm it up!  The kids laughter filling the living room - Bella seemed to especially like all of the action!
            We watched the Redskins beat up the Cowboys to win the NFC East in the final game of their season and managed to eat every bit of the meal - pasta, bread and salad - no leftovers!
            My big failing is still  dessert.  Even though Tonio and I banged out biscotti and pizzelles for Christmas, I can't seem to get past cooking the meal and making time or plans to have dessert.
            However, Angie and her 4 daughters had a bakefest the night before Christmas, sending us home Christmas night with this little package of sweets:

                 Kim made the cute marshmallow man cookies!  There were cut outs, brownies (Angie's!  he best!), fudge, pecan/chocolate/pretzels, snickerdoodles, chocolate covered nut clusters, jelly cookies, lemon bars (Janene made those - they were awesome!) and more arranged on a corn flake wreath!!  We passed these around tonight - so my lack of dessert planning was forgiven!

                 The day was a constant reminder of how blessed we are and gave us a great final memory of the year!!

                 Wishing you all good health and plenty of smiles in 2013 - Happy New Year!