Friday, November 26, 2010

Kitchen Chandelier Garland

Submitted by Linda
Over Veteran's Day weekend, Craig and I were in Mesa, Arizona, visiting my parents for a fun relaxing weekend of eating, playing cards, and shopping at Hobby Lobby! While we were at their home, I was glancing at my mom's copy of Country Woman magazine, when I came across this photo. I immediately fell in love with the garland draped around the kitchen chandelier.
Well, back in California, I finally took up my friend Sandy on her offer to introduce me to Shinoda, a wholesale floral supply in Orange County. I'm one of those people who loves Christmas decor, and even if I don't buy anything, I like to know what's available, what's new, and what's 'goin' on' in the world of Christmas decorations. Here I am just inside the entrance:
The endcaps are decorated with different themes, giving ideas and inspiration.
I did end up finding some great garland, and I wanted some artificial apples to go in it. Seriously, there were about 50 different sizes and varieties of fake apples!
Many of you may remember my post about being a Ribbon Junkie - this was just a small portion of what was available.
Just in case you ever need the big Santa chair, here is where to buy it. It was about $900 wholesale!
I fit my purchases into 'Lil Red', and Sandy and I snapped this happy photo before we parted ways.
And here is my garland project.......
I think the fake pomegranates and oranges with cloves look great!
Now that my project is done, I get to enjoy it all through the season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wild and Wacky Wallace Weekend

Submitted by Linda
So I totally swiped this post title from my niece Tiffany's blog. She posted that we Wallaces aren't too wild or wacky, but that we are a lot of fun to be around. So true! Usually our extended family goes to Oakglen for a day of apple fun, but this year, Tiffany and her sisters planned a wonderful weekend away in Big Bear.

You may remember my post this summer about visiting the National Parks in Utah and Arizona, and being ashamed of myself for not having gotten there sooner. Well, I felt the same sort of shame when I saw what a treasure Big Bear is, and so close to home! Look at these colorful leaves!
..and these....
..and this lovely glimpse of the lake from the quaint downtown.
Even the green leaves looked so pretty pressed up against the truck window.
Tommy got a nice view when he climbed Castle Rock with some of his cousins and Aunt Renee.
And here's a nice view of Tommy!
I couldn't resist a pic of these cute chairs outside the candy store! I need some of these in kindergarten!
The best part of the weekend was extended time with our loved ones. Thought most of our family is local, we all lead busy lives, and don't see each other as often as we like. Also, this year marked the 5 year anniversary of Grandpa Tom's homegoing to heaven. Besides eating some amazing meals, playing games and laughing a ton, we were able to share stories and memories of Tom. Here's my Tommy with Grandma Ginger.
I love this picture of my niece Courtney and my nephew (in law) Jeremiah. Don't they look so happy? Here are more happy faces....Tiffany...
...Kari with baby Olive.
As for the wacky part- one thing these cousins all do is mix up the families and take new (fake) family pictures, just to confuse people! Hilarious!
Here's the group shot!
I would say the weekend was a huge success. I'm hoping we can get another Wallace getaway on the books for next October!

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Heart N.Y.

Submitted by Michelle
It is my last night in the city that never sleeps. Tomorrow I will fly home to the Southern California desert where the sun shines 364 days of the year and the pace is much slower, and though I'll miss the crisp cool weather and the hustle and the bustle of New York, I've got lots of happy memories to keep me going until I have the chance to visit again.

Whenever I am in the city I try to see my high school friend Brenda. Brenda and I re-kindled our friendship about 5 or 6 years ago. We hadn't seen each other since 1985 but a mutual friend put us back in touch and whenever I see her it seems as if no time has passed at all.
me and Brenda circa 2007
One of the many things Brenda and I have in common is our love of food and I can always count on her to pick a great place for us to dine in the city. This trip Brenda suggested Oceana, a seafood restaurant which has been a staple in New York City for over 15 years and has received glowing reviews in the New York Times and earned a Michelin Star. I perused their menu online and was eager to not only visit with Brenda but to eat at such a prestigious restaurant. Little did I know, Brenda is friends with the executive chef, Ben Pollinger, and when I arrived he was at our table chatting with her!
Ben was gracious, warm and quite modest, despite being a rock star of the culinary world. He recommended several dishes to us, invited Brenda to come by for a gnocchi making lesson on a future afternoon, and took a genuine interest in conversing with me. He also sent us several special dishes to sample throughout our meal. It truly was a treat to see my friend and to be treated like a V.I.P.

Another person I was eager to visit with whilst in the city was my niece Rachel! Rachel is a talented photographer and just began studying at the School of Visual Arts this past September. She has transitioned amazingly well from Los Angeles to New York and is taking advantage of all the culture the city has to offer.
Along with special people, there are certain places I like to frequent when in the city and Sabon is one of them. Sabon is a luxury bath and body product shop. Their lotions, soaps, and scrubs are divine and I couldn't resist purchasing their Carrot Body Lotion -- it is amazing.
me and a bevy of soaps
A new place Kathy was eager to introduce me to during my trip was Eataly, Mario Batali's latest venture into the world of Italian cookery. Eataly, in the simplest of terms, is a 50,000 square foot Italian grocery store with individual retail departments offering the best of everything from vegetables to gelato.
The meat department was spectacular, though I was a little grossed out by the pig staring at me.
The cheese section had huge wheels of parmigiano-reggiano waiting to be cut.
There were fish of all kinds...
amazing house baked breads...
and olive oil from every region of Italy.
I could have snapped pictures all day long and still not conveyed the enormity and splendor of Eataly. It really is a place that must be experienced in person.

Along with all the food to purchase, there were also places to eat within Eataly. Kathy and I choose the pizza and pasta department. We started with a simple plate of antipasti.
clockwise from top of plate: grilled zucchini with roasted garlic, grana padana cheese and cured meat, root vegetables dressed in olive oil and basil, and roasted yellow peppers.
I choose a simple pasta of house made fettuccine tossed in olive oil with bits of mushroom and cheese.
I swore I couldn't eat it all, but with the leisurely pace of our lunch and the 2 glasses of prosecco I paired with it, the pasta disappeared before I knew it!
Another Mario Batali dining experience I was treated to this trip was Del Posto.
This picture is horrible, but the only one I could take since one is not allowed to use flash photography inside the restaurant.
Located in the Meat Packing district of NYC, Del Posto offers the ultimate fine dining experience. Patrons are encouraged to eat in courses, and several sampling menus are offered. Me, Kathy and Gabe (her fabulous boyfriend whom I love dearly), choose a 5 course menu that allowed us to pick our appetizer, share 2 pasta courses, and then have our own main course and dessert. The service was spectacular and my favorite course was agnoloti in a lambrusco glassoto. Imagine this, tiny pasta pockets filled with veal, gently tossed in a red wine reduction sauce. Buon appetito!

Other old haunts I visited were Schiller's Liquor Bar on the lower east side of Manhattan, which serves a full menu of comfort food and not just alcohol...
...and Forty Carrots Cafe on the 7th floor of Bloomingdale's Department Store. Kathy and I seem to be drawn to Bloomies when it comes to clothes shopping and we always need a break for sustenance about half way through our day long retail excursion. Everything on the menu is delicious, much of it is organic and most things are low-calorie, which is actually genius since shoppers probably don't want to pig out when trying on clothes. This time around I chose a sampling of 3 sandwiches.
Classic tuna on a pretzel roll, egg salad on a herbed roll, and chicken salad on a plain roll. All were delectable, but that pretzel roll was to die for! We need some of those in California.
I did spend 1 day alone in the city as Kathy had to educate the students of St. John's University. I surprised myself by getting around with ease and was even mistaken as a local and asked for directions! Unfortunately, my cover was immediately blown when I couldn't be of any help, but I was glad to know I don't stick out like a sore thumb. Sadly, I didn't take many pictures that day, but I did manage to get one shot of the main concourse in Grand Central Station.
This trip appears to be all about food and while I suppose that is true, I think the sharing of a meal with people I love and re-connecting after time apart is really what I enjoy about traveling to New York. Food and friendship nourish the soul and on this trip I have been equally satisfied.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Behind the Pizza Curtain

Submitted by Michelle
One of the great things about Utica, New York is its cultural diversity. When my father and Aunt Roe were growing up, there were distinct sections of the city where the Polish, Italian, German, and Irish lived. Today the city is more blended and is also home to other cultures which reflect the modern day immigration to the United States, but many of the old institutions still remain. Yesterday, Aunt Roe and I went to East Utica, a part of town which used to be deeply immersed in Italian culture. My Great Uncle John used to say that when you went to East Utica you were going "behind the pizza curtain" and my cousins and I still laugh about that to this day.
The reason we ventured behind the pizza curtain was to go to my favorite bakery, the Florentine, for some cappuccino and cannoli. I've tried cannoli all over New York, but I think the Florentine is the best, which is ironic since New York City is home to some of the best restaurants and bakeries in the state.
My Aunt Roe and UD's favorite restaurant, Ventura's, is also in East Utica. UD took us there on Sunday night for dinner and I had an amazing dish called Veal alla Maria. Imagine this: a veal cutlet topped with a paper thin slice of prosciutto, a piece of eggplant, greens, sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. Delish!
Along with our trip to the Florentine, we also had brunch with my Great Aunt Helen Jiampietro (how's that for an Italian last name?). Aunt Helen was married to Dominic, my grandma Jilda's brother, and she is the last of her era of the Jiampietro's. She is 87 years young and loves a good "sangwich." Her laugh is infectious and she tells wonderful stories of our family, often interjecting "mama mia" or "God bless him" as she goes.
Aunt Roe, Great Aunt Helen and me
Sadly, our final destination of the day was the Utica Train Station. I took the Amtrak back to NYC and will be spending the rest of the week with Kathy.
It is always difficult to leave my family (and the food!) in Utica, but the memories of each trip keep me smiling, along with the hope of visiting again soon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meet the Family

Submitted by Michelle

I was born and raised in Southern California but I've always had an affinity for New York and I am confident it is because of my wonderful family in Utica. Utica is my father's hometown and his sister Rosemarie (Aunt Roe to me and my brothers) has lived there her whole life. She married Uncle Dave (UD as we call him) when she was just 19 years old and has lived on Melrose Ave. for the past 45 years.
Kathy and her 3 brothers had an idyllic childhood in Utica and though everyone is now a grown up and raising their own families, the entire clan still gathers for an early Thanksgiving the first weekend in November.

On Friday Kathy and I rented a car and made the 4 hour drive from Manhattan to Utica to join in the fun. Along the way we saw lots of fall foliage,
and I fantasized about my beloved Half-Moon cookie that I knew Aunt Roe would have waiting for me.
Though we have lived 3,000 miles apart my entire life, Aunt Roe and UD have always been like a second set of parents to me. As a child I always looked forward to seeing them even though our visits were few and far between, and as an adult they have served as amazing role models. They make marriage and parenting look easy, and their huge hearts and love of family are a great example for all of us kids.
My cousins are extraordinary people and when we get together it is such a blast to hear them reminisce about their childhood and tell hilarious stories of the shenanigans that went on in the upstairs of their house. Bill is a physical therapist who lives in Buffalo and missed his true calling as a rock band roadie. Kathy is actually Dr. Kathy, English professor extraordinaire at St. John's University in NYC. Steve is an educator too. He teaches science at a Junior High School and nourishes his love of shooting hoops by coaching the 8th grade boys basketball team. Rich is an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who flew the now retired F16 fighter jet. He single-handedly keeps America safe through his work at Eastern Air Defense Sector, where he monitors the skies for homeland security.
Bill, Kathy, Steve, me and Rich
All the boys are married to equally extraordinary women. Angeline is married to Rich and was an elementary school teacher who now specializes in homemaking, with a special talent for home decor. Kelly is married to Bill and is also a physical therapist, and excels at being a home engineer, keeping the master schedule of all 4 of her children. Linda is a Civil Engineer working for the New York State Department of Transportation, and in her spare time is an Adirondack Mountain specialist who one day aspires to meet a moose.
Angeline, Kelly, me and Linda
I haven't visited Utica for 3 years so you can imagine my surprise when I encountered this group of kids! They are all growing so quickly and if they are growing up then that means I'm getting old and I don't even want to entertain that thought.
This picture, though cute, horrifies me! How can a 13 year old boy be taller than me????
This weekend has been filled with lots of good food, laughter and love. As the season of Thanksgiving approaches I feel so blessed and grateful to be a part of such a wonderful family.