Bar Study Means Boredom

Allow me to set the mood by prefacing my whining post with this still from one of my most favorite movies, L.A. Story:

BBBAhhh, the stage is set.

It is Saturday night and I have been sitting at my computer for easily an hour or more. I honestly haven’t been keeping an eye on the clock. I gave up watching TV downstairs, since the Kevster is studying for the Bar exam and I grew tired of streaming inanity.

I’ve twirled in my chair; I’ve stared off into space; I’ve thought about how bored I am; I’ve thought about what a luxury it is to be bored; I’ve thought about how annoying it is that my right leg and foot have been tingling off and on every time I sit or lie down, rendering it impossible to laze around and do nothing; I’ve felt sorry for myself that I’ve been cooped up all day and now I’m bored and have nothing to do; I’ve thought about Stephen King, how he survived being hit by a car, picked himself up, struggled through excruciating pain during physical therapy, and he still manages to churn out lengthy novels; and I’ve thought about how normally I cherish being in my little nest on the weekends.

But something about this evening has me twitchy.

In between that last sentence and this one, I’ve browsed Amazon, Facebook, my email, completed most of a crossword puzzle, fiddled with my hair, read a quote by Geneen Roth (author of Women, Food, & God) to try and help me remember to embrace my life as it is now, I’ve thought about how cool it would be if there was a rollerskating rink JUST for adults that was open all night and played all my favorite kinds of music, and I even remembered to be grateful that at least as of this moment, Mr. and Mrs. S. aren’t blaring music like they were last night, which forced us to hole up in the guest room with a carpet picnic. We actually ended up streaming another Sebastian Maniscalco routine, so it wasn’t a bad time.

Part of me wants to go for a drive. But since the city I live in is on the petite side, I’d just end up going in a circle (well, a square) and it wouldn’t be as mindless as I would really prefer it to be.

I’m not what you would call a “drinker,” so going out is off the table, especially alone. Going to a movie might be fun but then I’d have to go by myself (see above with “Bar study” being at the top of Kevin’s To Do List until August 1) and I don’t really feel like being around lots of people, either. I know, I’m being all, FEEL SORRY FOR ME. Sheesh, someone get me to White Whine already.

What this town is missing is an all-night coffee house that has soft (live) jazz playing, a place where I can sit and sip, while interchangeably staring off into space and watching people.

About the only things I haven’t resorted to doing are baking and doing any kind of craft. It’s too warm out to bake and quite frankly, the nihilism has taken over my mind and body–I’m past the point of no return.

I’ve reached the stage of ennui where all I can actually do is complain about how bored I am.

Bored
Beyond
Belief!

Kevin and I have made it through four years of his prepping for and completing law school, and now we’re rounding out the journey with his studying for the Bar exam, which will happen at the end of July.

I know I’m not the one who has to cram all of this knowledge into my brain so I can pursue my dream career. My job is to be supportive and to stand by my man and even to help him study, if need be, while I sit idly by and figure out what the heck to do with myself, since studying doesn’t brake for weekends, no siree Bob.

When one person in a relationship has to study for the Bar for two months straight, the other person gets to spend all kinds of time with herself on her own, to the point where she’s bored doing her usual introverted activities. Even watching whatever I want on TV lost its appeal.

I need my fairy godmother to come along and fast forward time to August, when the studying and the exam are behind us and we can move on with our lives.

(Speaking of fairies, did you know there is something called “fairy gardening?” I just learned about it the other day. It’s a seriously for real thing. Google it!)

Look at that, I’ve managed to make it to 10 p.m. I’m going to see if I can’t go bore myself to sleep.

Bored-Cat

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Yeah Toast! and Other Trips Down Memory Lane

In the process of moving, we have been ardently striving to downsize our collection of STUFF that we’ve accumulated since childhood, adolescence, college, and then Young Adulthood. We’re not yet in the place where we are moving into a four-bedroom house with lots of extra storage space. This means prioritizing what gets to stay and what gets to go.

It’s actually escaping me whether I’ve ever shared how many times I moved when I was in New York City, but it was a LOT. Between 2005 and 2010, I moved six times to various neighborhoods around NYC. If you count the move from New York to Illinois, that’s seven. This is lucky move number eight in seven years. When you do the simple math, I’ve moved more than once per year since 2005. Yikes.

Considering my other half can’t stand moving – and I daresay it’s a toss-up whether he hates celery or moving more – we’re trying to make this move be the last one before we’re in a more permanent housing situation. But only time will tell.

While downsizing, I came across my cassette tape holder that I have had through all of my moves since 2005. It’s never occurred to me to go through it before now. I’ve just said, “That goes with,” and then it sits on a shelf or a desk or in a closet until the next move. Since I grew up with cassettes, I guess there is a sub-conscious part of me that never wanted to throw them away, so I never thought, “I should sort through these.”

Just as I was putting the tape holder in a box, all of the little drawers slid out. When I looked at the contents, none of these were critical for hanging onto any longer. I mean, it has probably been over a decade since I popped one into a tape player, even just for nostalgia purposes.

But before I put these little babies in their final resting place in a landfill far, far away, I thought I’d share some of the contents with you. There’s a small selfish motivation to this, if only because I’ll have this post to remind me what kinds of things I used to have on tape before CDs and then digital music came along.

What’s in Zoe’s tape deck?

The bulk of what I found were mix tapes. My tape collection began at a young age but the mix tapes are from the ages of 12-18, most likely (circa 1992-1998). I discovered at an early age the magic of recording on blank tapes. I even have tapes of myself pretending to be a radio DJ but those are elsewhere and are not being thrown away. (Guests included people like my brother.)

I had a CD player/stereo starting when I was 14 but the car I got at age 18 only had a cassette player, so until I put a CD changer in the trunk, I was jamming out to some mix tapes in the late 90s.

Some samples of songs on my mix tapes are: Silent All These Years by Tori Amos, Never Ever by All Saints (yeeeeah……), The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, Linger by The Cranberries, Beautiful Disaster by 311, Emotions by Mariah Carey, Vogue by Madonna, Hippychick by SoHo (hahaha remember that song?), Finally by Cece Peniston, Rollin’ With My Homies (nod to Clueless), I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis, Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, something called “Yeah Toast!”, which apparently is something I recorded from the former St. Louis morning show Steve and D.C. and is now a YouTube video (see below), Machinehead by Bush, The Key, the Secret by Urban Cookie Collective, Daughter by Pearl Jam, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, Self-Esteem by The Offspring, Cantaloop by Flip Fantasia, Brain Stew by Green Day, Hello by POE, All That She Wants by Ace of Base, Rhythm Was a Dancer (by ??), Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio (only the coolest song everrrr), Time by Hootie and the Blowfish, Ironic by Alanis,  Santeria by Sublime, Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn, Faith by George Michael, and Toy Soldiers by Martika (what ever happened to her?).

Full albums I owned that make me chuckle are: The Simpsons Sing the Blues, Tom’s Album (which is just a bunch of takes on Suzanne Vega’s classic hit “Tom’s Diner,” an ALL-TIME favorite of mine), the soundtrack to the movie Straight Talk with Dolly Parton, Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion, Johnny Mathis’s “Merry Christmas” album, and Mariah Carey’s original self-titled album.

I also found a bunch of nature sounds like Distant Thunder and Gentle Ocean, both from the store The Nature Company, which was eventually bought out by The Discovery Channel.  We had a Nature Company store in the Galleria in St. Louis. It was extremely popular in its heyday. I think there are only so many rainsticks and natural mineral stones people need, though. Anybody else remember that shop? I had the nature tapes because I liked to listen to them at night to help me go to sleep. Even now, I need some kind of white noise in order to get to sleep. Pure silence unnerves me.

Anyway, I had a few, “Oh…my…..GOD” moments while I was going through the tapes. I don’t remember recording much of the songs, though I do remember doing quite a few tape-to-tape and CD-to-tape mixes. All this reinforces is that music affects us from an earlier age than we can imagine. Quite a number of the songs on the tapes remain some of my favorites to this day, even for no other reason than I loved them on such a pure level when I was younger.

However, I’m still scratching my head over “Yeah Toast!”

Adolescence is such a bizarre time. I leave you with the skit to hear for yourselves.

Heat Reminders and Also, What’s That Smell?

Amidst the elephant stampede that is my work life for the time being, I had a momentary realization and went to go check when the summer solstice was happening. Sure enough, it was yesterday.

Thank you, Google, for spelling it out.

What? Is it humid?

What prompted me to check, if I’m being honest, is that it’s been balls hot this week. I think I’ve alluded to the fact that I’m not a hot weather person. The recent ninety-degree temperatures and my hair’s response to the 400% humidity, not unlike Monica in Barbados, made me wonder if it was the official start of summer just yet. Sure enough, it arrived a day early.

I have such a love/hate relationship with summer. On the one hand, I complain that it’s too long and it’s too damn hot. On the other, it goes by SO fast, as it commences unofficially with Memorial Day, followed closely behind by Independence Day, and rounds off with Labor Day. Before we know it, bam! It’s September and it’s Cinnamon/Apple/Pumpkin season, also known as cinnappkin season, and I’m wondering how long it will be before Christmas everything is in my face.

But back to summer.

Before I get to enjoy delicious cinnapkin treats, I must endure three months of doing everything I can to stay reasonably cool, usually failing miserably (short of being cooped up in an air-conditioned office all day, which then makes me happy to be at work, and then I get all workaholicky).

Heat emanating in waves from concrete or asphalt is one of the worst feelings in the world. In addition to the sun already frying my pale skin, it feels like death can’t be far away as long as I am being cloaked in an armpit of reflected heat from the surface on which I’m walking. (How could I ever wonder whether I was destined to move away from New York City?)

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, summer brings certain odeurs with it that other seasons do not. Namely, the smell of putrid rotting garbage. In the heat, every smell is magnified to an intense degree which is difficult to endure. Being a person who can sniff out the slightest of scents hours after they’ve occurred in an enclosed space, whenever I’m hit in the face with the smell of rotting garbage or sizzling dog poop because it’s a hundred degrees out, I gag and fiercely wish for the swift death of this particular season.

There are the nice parts to summer, too, but they are as fleeting for me as seeing a shooting star. It’s rare I get to go on any kind of “summer vacation” at this point in my life, so enjoying a beautiful place with a beach or mountains or doing anything else fun where I could actually enjoy being out of doors is pretty much out of my grasp. Plus, even when I do get to be outside for any length of time when the sun is at its strongest, I’m obsessing about my skin’s exposure to the strong summer sun. And then I get hot, tired, and thirsty really easily. And then I whine.

Summer = whining, can’t you tell?

While I am grateful this other issue I’m about to mention isn’t as literally in my face as when I lived in the Big Apple, summer also brings with it extra strength B.O. Being a defensive pedestrian (as opposed to being a defensive driver, I guess?) means holding my breath a lot more, especially when walking past certain people (I make snap smell judgments) or if a jogger/biker/greasy-looking-person happens to whizz by me. Or takes a wiz BY me.

Okay, probably time for me to find another positive aspect to summer.

I DO enjoy the extra hours of daylight. It’s nice to get ready for work in the morning, especially now that I’m an early-morning-schedule person, with the sun shining in and seven a.m. doesn’t feel like three a.m. Same goes for coming home from work and having the lingering light go into the eight o’clock hour.

And, if the air is feeling soupy at night and I can’t sleep because I’m feeling too warm, I remind myself that I pay my own electric bill and can choose to go up to my thermostat and crank down the temperature to 65 degrees if I damn well please. So there is that – summertime reminds me I’m not subjected to the thermostat whims of my parents any longer. Win!

But really, for the most part, I’m gritting my teeth and waiting for the sweet release of autumn. And cinnappkin everything.

Blerg. Three months to go.

A Sebastian Amongst Wo/Men

You’re all familiar with the song “Les Poissons” from The Little Mermaid, right? Let’s go with that assumption, since most of humanity has seen that movie.

Well, I am what you would call a Sebastian. I can not tolerate being around most fish flesh without getting queasy. It sounds hyper dramatic but it’s totally true.

Crab legs? Lobster? Mussels? Cold dead fish with the eyeballs still intact, staring vacantly back at me?

My issues with creatures from the ocean center largely around two aspects: how does it smell and does it have a shell?

I can’t say that I have never consumed seafood or that I never will again. About once a year I can tolerate a few ice cold shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce. Caveat: no sauce, no shrimp. If I think about eating a shrimp on its own, ice cold or otherwise, my knee-jerk response is to hold my breath. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have texture issues.

Cooked shrimp should not come near me. (Smell.) I enjoy a delicious “crab” rangoon but I have been told that my taste for it is more about the cream cheese and seasonings more than any “crab” that may be in it. (No smell, no shell.)

Other things I have tried over the years, whether by force or by choice, are fried calamari (only if the smell isn’t fishy, also no shell) and crab cakes (smell/hint of fishiness will get a thumbs down and with crab cakes, I didn’t have to witness the crab being mutilated).

However, watching/hearing crustaceans being cracked open is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Recently, when watching Top Chef, Paul began ripping open LIVE lobsters and I had to cower under a blanket with my fingers in my ears until the scene was over. I was uncertain for a few moments whether I’d keep my dinner down.

It looked something like this.

I’m pretty sure I must have been a crustacean in a former life because I just lose it when I have to be around any kind of shellfish and people are smashing/cracking/ripping them open. It’s an intensely physical response where I want to curl up in the fetal position, throw up a little, and then die.

I refuse to step foot into a Red Lobster or a Joe’s Crab Shack or anything resembling one of those places. I just don’t “get” having a gigantic crusty thing sitting on a plate in front of you and wanting to rip it open. To me, lobsters are the roaches of the sea. I know–gross imagery. But that’s just how I perceive them.

Despite being a grown woman who is well familiar with my senses of taste and smell, I get some strange looks and/or reactions from people when I tell them that I can’t stand fish or seafood and that even the smell makes me lose my appetite. I don’t know if it’s because most people outgrow it or what but some people’s responses have made me feel as if I should get over it or that I must be faking or overly exaggerating. The truth is, I’m really not. Fish just isn’t for everyone.

In the same way that I flat out do not understand people who don’t enjoy chocolate or popcorn, I get an occasional incredulous stare when I pipe up during a conversation where a group is deciding where to eat dinner and I have to say, “As long as it’s not only a seafood restaurant.” It makes me wish I were allergic, quite honestly. That would probably go over better.

It should go without saying that sushi is included in my general distaste for fish but people have had to clarify that with me. I’ve lost count how many times I have heard, “Taste this, it’s REALLY not fishy.” Correction: it ALWAYS tastes fishy! I don’t know if this is because I’m a supertaster or why I can’t stomach it, but both my brother and I have extremely strong aversions to fish. (My parents, on the other hand, are both avid lovers of seafood and don’t understand how we’re related to them.)

On rare occasions do I wish to be like “everyone else” and enjoy a fresh seafood dish. Visits to coastal cities are wasted opportunities on me when it comes to going to acclaimed seafood restaurants. When I lived in New York, I hated to even walk past a fish shop or seafood restaurant, worried that the smell would follow me, or worse yet, stick to my clothing.

And folks, the smell CAN stick to clothing and hair. Prime example: on Valentine’s Day, Kevin enjoyed a seafood dish for dinner. Later in the week, I went to wear the shirt to work, since I had only worn it to dinner. When I put it on, I immediately smelled the remnants of his dinner all over the shirt. It’s lucky I didn’t put the thing in a bucket with gasoline and set it on fire. The shirt survived after I put it in the wash but my brain was screaming from the olfactory overload.

Before writing this post, I even tested myself and watched “Les Poissons” on YouTube to see if the images OF A CARTOON MAN KILLING CARTOON FISH would still bother me and I confirmed that my stomach muscles still tense up and quiver when I’m watching and listening to the gutting of non-existent seafood. Sad? Probably. But oh so true.

And so, after more than 31 years of detesting even the smell alone of dead/raw/cooked fish, I think it’s safe to say my taste buds aren’t converting anytime soon.

Prognosticator of Prognosticators

Punxsutawney Phil: Prognosticator

Hallo everybody!

I know I disappeared there for a little while. Right after my last post, life got kuh-razy and all the posts I had planned fell to the wayside.

I do apologize.

I was experiencing one of those major life changes that just sucks you into its vortex and there is nothing you can do about it but ride the wave and come out the other side. I think I just mixed a few analogies and metaphors there.

Anyway, in honor of one of my favorite days of the year and favorite movies of all time, today’s little comeback post is all about the genius of Groundhog Day, the early 90s runaway hit (and now cult classic) with Bill Murray. There’s really not much, if anything, to dislike about this movie.

  • Great acting? Check.
  • Fantastic cinematography? Check.
  • Kickass soundtrack? Check.
  • Spot on directing? Check.
  • Memorable quotes to last a lifetime? Check. (Also see: Jokes That Never Get Old? Check.)

(Am I right or am I right or am I right? Right! Right! Right!)

Furthermore, now that I live back in the Middle States, it makes it that much easier to fulfill my dream of taking the grand tour of the set of Groundhog Day, located in the fine town Woodstock, Illinois. I can’t even tell you how excited I would be if I actually had plans to take a small road trip to go visit and get my tourism on. Someday…

Do you love Groundhog Day (the holiday)? Do you love or hate the movie? Because there are only two options. You can’t “kind of” love the movie because either the repetition bothers you or it doesn’t. Either the brilliance of the movie kicks you in the crotch and laughs or it doesn’t.

And so, in honor of this fine day and even finer film, I give you some of my favoritest quotes. (Though Ned Ryerson’s “Right! Right! Right!” quote is up there.)

******

Ned Ryerson: Ned Ryerson, got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn’t graduate…?

Rita: He’s not afraid to cry in front of me.
Phil: This is a man we’re talking about, right?

Phil: Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
Mrs. Lancaster: I don’t think so but I could check with the kitchen.

Ralph: (after a shot is taken) That about sums it up for me.

Phil: Too early for flapjacks?

Rita: You’re missing all the fun. These people are great! Some of them have been partying all night long. They sing songs til they get too cold and then they go sit by the fire and get warm and then they come back and sing some more.
Phil: Yeah, they’re HICKS Rita.

Phil: Well what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.

Phil: Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this (sarcastically) tiny village in Western Pennsylvannia blah, blah, blah, blah. There is no WAY that this winter is EVER going to end…as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don’t see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped…and I have to stop him.

Man in hall: Do you think it’s going to be an early spring?
Phil: I’m predicting March 21st.
Man in hall: Heh, good guess! I think that actually is the….first day of spring.

Buster: (Holding Phil the groundhog) He just smiled at me, did you see that?

Larry: No no no…nobody honks this horn but me, m’kay pal?

Phil: Ned, I would love to stand here and talk with you…but I’m not going to.

Cloudy With a Chance of Sexism

What I’m about to say will absolutely sound biased. But since I’m a woman and not a man and have not yet run into many men with this particular skill, I’m going to go ahead and make a blanket statement.

Ready?

When it comes to coordinating (as in schedules, calendar, appointments), women have men beat by a huge margin.

Coordinating schedules: confused man, smug woman.

If there were a competition or an Olympics of coordinating schedules/events, women would win hands down every time. Gold, silver, bronze. I invite men or women to correct me. However, I’m thinking that it’s going to be more of a “there are exceptions to every rule” kind of thing. (I worked with an exception to the rule at a former job – he’s top notch.)

When I did a Google Images search for “men coordination,” the first few images were of ties which coordinated with men’s dress shirts. Even when I typed in “male secretary,” I got a few stock images of men with headsets sitting at desks but that was all. (And as a woman who has been an assistant at many levels, I can tell you that being a “secretary” does not necessarily mean wearing a headset. There’s a lot more to assisting executives or offices than ringing phone lines.) So anyway, I think it’s fair to say that women are the general image of admins/secretaries (and to quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”).

I’m aware more men are in administrative roles nowadays, and that is wonderful, but I’m still sticking to my story.

In light of witnessing the hilarity that accompanies watching two or more men half-assedly coordinate a dinner or an outing, I finally got to a point where I came to this ultimate conclusion. Men just suck at planning shit out, plain and simple. Is there a “coordination” part of the brain? Or a gene which only women have? Because women make excellent schedule coordinators. I’m a crack shot myself. I’ve been paid to be one for years.

To strengthen my theory, I am citing just two examples from which I base my claim.

First instance. I have pretty much given up on asking my boyfriend to coordinate anything with anyone, including his own family members. They become exasperated after trying to reach him and failing, and so they call, text or email me, because they know I’ll respond immediately. When he wants to get together with his best friend for a round of golf, or if we’re all going to hang out together, the best friend’s wife and I just circumvent any communication between the two and we coordinate everything ourselves on behalf of our menfolk. It goes something like this:

Me: Hey, is your dude available for a hangout with Kevin in the near future? They need to get together.

Her: Sure, let me check our schedule and I’ll let you know.

And the thing gets planned with perfection. No fumbling, no taking a week. Date, time, place, and an answer to, “Can we bring anything?”

Second instance. Recently, I went to a meetup with some fellow photographers. The idea came up on Facebook from one of the guys in the group and I was the only woman out of four or five people who responded that yes, I could make it (and of course I was prompt about it). What ensued were sixty comments over the course of three or four days on where, when, and what time. The day and time were settled relatively quickly. But trying for the where was a laborious feat.

No one wanted to choose. I really, really, really, really wanted to cave in and just decide for the group but since I’d been the coordinator for previous meetups and this was someone else’s suggestion, I bit my tongue (er, my fingers, I guess?) and waited to see how long it would take for the decision to get made.

It was soooo painful, you guys!!

It was, “So and so, you choose,” and another guy saying, “I really don’t care,” and someone else saying, “Well I want to go to this place,” and me saying, “No that place sucks, let’s go back to Options 1 and 2,” and on and on and on. I was sort of like a shepherd guiding her flock to the pasture of decision making. Finally, after much back and forth, the original guy whose idea it was to meet up stated with finality where we were meeting. But it was slightly gray-hair-producing.

What else can I say?

I rest my case.

Ergo.

QED.

Italianness

I am exactly 50% Italian. My mother’s side bears the Italians while my father’s is a mesh of Europeans, descending from England, France(?), and I believe even Scandinavia (which would explain my fair complexion). Somewhere way back when, Daniel Boone is a relative, though from what I understand, he bore many, many, many children.

Any cultural routines I have I attribute to my Italian side. I did not grow up Catholic, though both of my parents were rooted in Catholicism. I grew up “free to choose your relationship with God.” I mention this only because religion will play no real part later in this post. I admit that most of the time when I see or meet other Italian families, I assume they are Catholic; whether that’s right or not, I just wanted to clear it up for anyone who may also have made that assumption.

I have come to discover that I really value certain traditions deriving from one particular culture or heritage. I have a fondness for homemade Italian food, as my mother is one hell of a cook and baker, as was my grandmother. I love hearing the plethora of funny stories about my Italian relatives. My grandfather came over from Italy when he was six and my grandmother was first-generation American. There is a rich history of Italians in Rochester, NY where my grandparents raised their family. My grandfather had a successful construction company which built many of the still-standing buildings in Rochester today. To me, that’s seriously cool.

For being half Italian, I am extremely fair-skinned and grew up with blonde hair, which has darkened over the years. My mother can get tan walking down the street, whereas I will burn swiftly and assuredly if I am in any kind of sunny, tropical environment and not wearing at least SPF 40. My brother was able to tan a bit better, but neither of us look remarkably Italian. It’s one of those things where if you knew both of our parents, you would catch a feature here and a feature there.

If I ever have children, the gene pool will be further divided and they will be 25% Italian, 25% mutt of whatever else I am, 25% Irish, and 25% German.

I don’t know that I will pass down much of my Italian heritage to my children as I don’t speak the language or cook more than one or two dishes I’ve learned over the years. But as I scrubbed the bathroom today, my mind began to wander as it usually does during the monotony of the routine, and I started chuckling to myself as I thought of a few things I deem distinctly Italian.

And so, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few I thought of:

Something isn’t clean if it’s not done with bleach. I believe all Italian mothers pass this on to their children. To that end, my favorite bleach product to work with is Soft Scrub.

Clean: nostrils burning and skin dried out.

I know this seems like an ad placement but it’s not. (I should put it under Zoe Recommends, though!) It not only blasts through soap scum and germs but it makes a sink shine. I use it for both bathroom and kitchen sinks. See how pretty?

The other cleaning agent is vinegar. I can’t tell you how many windows I cleaned over the years when it was Cleaning Day with my mom and I was using a spray bottle with a mixture of distilled vinegar and water. Though I loathe the smell, it really does do the job of cutting grease and getting things to sparkle. You know, if you’re not using bleach.

Take your bow, vinegar!

There are certain words for which the only acceptable pronunciation is the Italian one. I can’t say “ricotta” in a nasal, Midwestern twang. It’s “rrrri-gotte.” Just imagine that with an Italian intonation. When I go to Subway, I would prefer to ask for “pepperoncini” but I say “banana peppers” because nine times out of ten, it’s easier that way to convey what I want to the Subway worker.

My mother prefers saying mozza-rrelle for “mozzarella.” Same way for “biscotti,” sometimes I heard it as bis-got. I feel silly saying any of these things this way except to my family members, so holidays for me have a few Italian food words thrown around quite often, amongst a few other phrases of the dialect my mom and her siblings grew up with.

When it comes to Italian cookies and pastries, we are absolute snobs. (Same with Italian restaurants, too, but I’ll stick with just the cookies for now.) I absolutely adore Italian cookies but they can not come from just anywhere. I have yet to experience what I consider real Italian cookies outside of Rochester, NY. My favorite place to get them from is Gruttadauria Bakery. It is still a family owned place after multiple generations with age-old recipes for their pastries and cookies. And the smell? Ooooooooohhhhhmyyyyyyygaaaaaaaahhhhhhhdddd. If I can afford to, I will have their delectable cookies grace my wedding reception. When I see my mom at the holidays, I usually try to get a box. Zoe Recommends Gruttadauria Bakery with my whole heart and soul!

And lastly….

I mentioned spray bottles before with the vinegar and water (and sometimes my mom had them filled with watered down bleach, too). Because I now associate spray bottles with the “Italian way to clean,” Febreze is my generation’s Italian cleaning tip. It probably sounds silly but it is what it is. We’re big Febrezers.

Febreze is a genius product.

I would absolutely love to hear from any Italian-American readers if you have anything in particular that you do or say as a direct result of growing up with Italian family members. I will always be proud of my Italian background, no matter how watered down the gene pool becomes.

Until next time, mio amici.

B-Y-O-L: A Peccadillo Story

I’m about to share both a quirk of mine and an awesome way to enhance what will hopefully be your already-kickass Thanksgiving dinner.

Ready?

Set.

Lemon!

No but seriously, that’s it. I don’t even remember how many years ago now I discovered that lemon on top of my Thanksgiving dinner was delicious but it is a tradition I will not forgo.

If I have Thanksgiving dinner without freshly squeezed lemon juice on top of my turkey, stuffing, and [insert green here – usually broccoli], the meal is kind of ruined. I know, it sounds drastic. But have you ever squeezed lemon onto turkey or stuffing?

Broccoli and greens are kind of a given (unless it’s something like green been casserole, which I wouldn’t eat, and then I can’t say for sure) but lemon juice on the dressing/stuffing is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD.

I repeat: soooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooooooood!

People like my  mother and aunt think I’m a freak show and that the lemon is “ruining” the flavors of Thanksgiving. Nay! It just brings out all the delicious flavors and textures in my mind. But I have such a penchant for tart and sour flavors, which is why I love anything vinegary, as well.

My brother is also a big fan of adding lemon to his dinner. We have to chop up at least three because there’s a lot of lemon squeezing happening at the table.  (Oh, and if anyone is wondering, “What about the cranberry sauce?” it’s a moot point for me because I don’t eat cranberry sauce.)

I have one or two friends who have begrudgingly admitted that it’s pretty dang tasty, which it is. But it’s not a Must Have for their dinners, whereas it’s do or die time when it comes to lemon and my holiday meal.

To recap:

I'm so crafty.

And, when I’m not having Thanksgiving dinner at my family’s house, as is the case this year, it’s all about BYOL: bring-your-own-lemon. (I’m not even exaggerating. I will be bringing my own Special Thanksgiving Dinner Lemon. I will not risk there not being any for the table.)

What are your mealtime traditions? Any oddball ones like mine?

Last but not least: Happy Thanksgiving!!