SHE SAYS:

Every day that we’ve been in our Arizona house, it feels more and more like home.  Last year, I talked about our first winter in Arizona in “Home is Where the Heart is”.  This year, we arrived in Arizona in late January and did not leave until May 1st.

In October, when we traveled through Israel, we purchased an original painting from a local artist and a handmade copper platter, both of which are now displayed in our Arizona home.  This is something we have done with other items over the years.  When we travel to foreign countries, we always like to bring back something unique and display it in our home in New York.  Now we have begun buying items with our new home in mind.   Adding these items of personal significance to our house in Arizona helps make it feel more like home.

Most of all, sharing our house in Arizona with family is what ultimately makes it feel like it is our home.  Our first family visitors were Matthew and Erika along with Erika’s parents and sister.  They arrived for a long weekend in late March so that we could all celebrate Matthew and Erika’s First Wedding Anniversary.  That was a very special weekend!  We all gathered together to prepare and enjoy meals and, of course, spend time at the pool.  We visited a couple of nearby places and generally just enjoyed each other’s company.  We have all become one big, happy family.

Only a couple of weeks later, it was Easter and we were lucky to have all four of our children join us along with significant others.  Julia came from Syracuse, Joseph came from NYC, and Matthew, Erika and Michael came from San Francisco along with a group of their friends.  My Mother also came from Florida.  In all, there were fifteen of us for the weekend.

For a few days before everyone arrived for Easter, I cooked and baked in preparation for the weekend making all of our traditional family recipes.  Just like last year, we put everyone to work on Saturday morning making dough for homemade ravioli and then spent a couple of hours putting them together for Sunday’s dinner.  Everyone loves the process and because of the team effort, the ravioli tastes that much better.

Part of the ravioli-making crew

Part of the ravioli-making crew

Some of the ravioli we made

Some of the ravioli we made

Getting ready to serve the ravioli

Getting ready to serve the ravioli

This year, I will share my family recipe for Easter Meat Pie as well as some pictures from the weekend.  The recipe goes back, at least, to my Mother’s Grandmother. 

Easter Meat Pie

Ingredients:

PIE CRUST
2 cups Flour
2/3 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/3 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Shortening
1 Egg
½ Cup Cold Water

FILLING
8 oz. Pepperoni, diced (optional)
4 oz. Cappicola, diced
12 oz. Fresh Ground Sweet Italian Sausage Meat
4 oz. Ham, chopped
8 oz. Mozzarella Cheese, diced
4 oz. Provolone Cheese, diced
4 oz. Prosciutto, diced
4 oz. Salami, diced
(All of the above are approx. amounts)
1 Level Tablespoon Grated Romano Cheese
1 – 1 ½ Pound Fresh Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs

Prepare the Crust:
 A.  Sift the dry ingredients together.
 B.  Blend the shortening into the sifted dry ingredients with a fork.
 C.  Mix the egg with the cold water and add to the flour mixture until a ball is formed.
 D.  Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.

Prepare the Filling:
 A.  Brown the sausage meat and set aside to cool.
 B.  Combine the ricotta and Romano cheese.  Add two eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg with a wooden spoon.
 C.  Add all other ingredients and blend well.   The meat to cheese ratio is a matter of personal choice.   Blend in as much cheese as desired for the amount of meats used. 

Prepare the Pie:
 A.  Divide the dough into two portions for the top and bottom crust.
 B.  Roll out enough of the dough to line a deep pie pan (approx. 2 inches deep and 10 inches in diameter) with the dough.
 C.  Pour the filling into the lined pan and cover with the top pie crust.   Trim the crust, leaving a ½ inch overhang.
 D.  Fold the overhanging dough under and back to flute thickly.
 E.  Cut slits in the pie to allow steam to escape. 
 F.  Lightly brush the top of the crust with beaten egg whites before putting the pie into the oven.
 G.  Bake in a 400◦ preheated oven for fifteen minutes, then lower to 325 degrees and continue to bake for 45 more minutes. 
 H.  Remove from the oven.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Can be served hot or cold.

Easter Morning Breakfast

Easter Morning Breakfast

Relaxing at the pool

Relaxing at the pool

On Monday, Joe offers a better alternative to the trial of the 9/11 terrorists in “Our Greatest Virtue Is Also Our Greatest Folly”. 

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

All four of my Grandparents came to America from impoverished regions of southern Italy and Sicily.  They were poorly educated, unsophisticated, could not speak English and struggled to make their way in their new country.

My mother’s parents raised six children on the meager wages her father earned as a laborer with the railroad; however, not without some difficulty.  They lost their small home to foreclosure during the Great Depression and had to move into an even smaller apartment.  They were poor but never lost their dignity or values.

My mother took the lessons of pride, perseverance, and hard work she learned from her parents and was able to advance herself through high school while working summers and after school.  During World War II, she joined the SPARS (part of the Coast Guard) which expanded her horizons through her travels and position as an interpreter for prisoners of war being interrogated by the military.  After the war, my mother went to a two year “business” school to learn secretarial and office skills which she only used on occasion as she was primarily a stay at home mother for most of her adult life.

My father’s family was less fortunate even though his father also worked for the railroad.  My father’s mother left her two children when they were very young and my father was raised by his father which was quite unusual for the time.  My father only went to school up to the eighth grade and received his real education on the streets in the “school of hard knocks”.   He went into the Army near the end of World War II and ultimately became an MP in occupied Germany.  He spent most of his adult life self-employed as a small scrap metal dealer using his street smarts and innate ingenuity to make a living.

All of this is the backdrop to the simple lessons my brother and I received from my parents which formed the foundation for everything we achieved in our lives.

My father always preached to us about being in control of your own destiny and he acted as a role model for the value of being independent and self-reliant.   He refused to work for anyone but himself even in the most difficult of times and was willing to risk his success or failure on his own efforts.

My mother’s lessons were more direct and personal.   She would teach us about self-respect by telling us that being poor was no excuse for living in squalor or being dirty since soap was cheap and all you needed was “elbow grease” to keep things clean.   She would demand that we do even the most basic chores with pride and strive for perfection by telling us that anything worth doing was worth doing well as she made us redo anything that did not meet her standards.  She insisted that we take on challenges and she would never let us quit nor could we ever get away with saying “I can’t” as a way of giving up.   She would always say “I can’t” is not in our vocabulary so give me another reason why you think you should quit.   Most of all, she had big dreams for my brother and me and she never once let us forget it or doubt that those dreams would come true.

Simple lessons to be sure but from such simple lessons can come great rewards.

On Wednesday, Joe endorses the competitive nature of life in “The Race Goes To The Swift”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

Our son, Joseph, graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a degree in Advertising Design.   He was always a very creative person and excelled in his chosen course of study.  In fact, his design was picked by the University for the cover of the 2005-2006 Syracuse Student Directory and he won the prestigious Lurzer’s Archive Magazines Student of the Year Award for his unique advertising designs.

Despite a faltering economy, Joseph was able to secure employment with a large advertising firm in New York City as a junior art director.  We were happy that he was able to find such a meaningful position to start what we hoped would be a long and successful career in the world of advertising design.  We knew that he, most likely, would not work there for the rest of his working life, but, rather that it would be a great place to obtain some useful experience before he moved on to the next phase of his career.

We could not have anticipated what was going to happen next.  After two years with this advertising firm, Joseph announced that he wanted to go to culinary school.   He explained that working in the field of advertising design was nothing like the creative process he enjoyed in school and he, simply, was not happy pursuing this as his life long career.   I could relate to this since I was a psychology major in college and enjoyed the subject matter; however, late in my college career I realized that I could never pursue psychology as my profession and made the last minute decision to go to law school.

After many days of discussions and debates, we finally gave Joseph our blessing and will give him our help and support.  He began classes on September 1, 2010.

Life is full of many twists and turns and you must follow your heart, particularly, when it comes to your life’s work.

April, 2013 Update:   Joseph graduated from Culinary School and worked for a small catering company in Brooklyn for over a year.   He recently moved to Scottsdale, Arizona and now works for a very large catering company as well as developing his own business as a private chef.   Joseph is very happy in his new career!

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

Annemarie and I found, over the years, that working together presented many unique rewards and challenges.   In our household, major family decisions were always determined by the mutual consent of both Annemarie and me and, sometimes, our children, as a result of family discussions.  Even when we had differences of opinion, we tried to make compromises that left both of us feeling that we are still both in control.

Of course, the fact that I operate USFSB as the primary decision maker runs counter to the way Annemarie and I run our family with its give and take process of decision making.   Certainly, I found it very helpful to obtain Annemarie’s opinions and to discuss the operation of the business in great detail and at great length with her; however, in the final analysis, I took the responsibility for making most of the decisions.   Even though Annemarie understood and tacitly agreed with my approach, it inevitably, on occasion, became the source of friction and turmoil between us which, at times, also spilled over into our family life.

Annemarie’s natural inclination is to want to share in the decision making process.   At times, I found it difficult to give Annemarie this level of control while, at the same time, trying to maintain my status as the primary decision maker at USFSB.   This proved to be a fine line that Annemarie and I tried not to cross, almost, on a daily basis.

Another source of conflict between Annemarie and me is our temperament and the nature of our world view.    I tend to be a result orientated, type “A” personality with little patience for hand holding and small talk.  Whereas, Annemarie is more calm and laid back and more concerned about relationships and nurturing the process than just the results.

I tend to look at everything in the office as merely the means to an end, that being the success of the business.  Annemarie, on the other hand, tends to believe that how we arrive at that end is just as important as the end itself.   She wants the process to be fair and to accommodate the personal needs of the employees.   She is more apt to give time off and more likely to forgive mistakes.  Over time, I believe we have made a good effort to meet each other in the middle on these issues.  Annemarie has become more of a businesswoman and, as she would say, I have become more of a human being.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?