Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Proud to be an American

A week ago, America gained one more citizen, as my husband Mimmo, a native of Umbria, Italy, became a naturalized American citizen.

I wanted to share this exciting news from our family with all of you. It was fascinating to watch the process one goes through to become American. First, you have to pass a oral 100-question test that covers American history, civics, and system of governance. Ironically, there were quite a few questions that I didn't even know the answer to! I am proud to say, however, that Mimmo scored a perfect 100%.

This is a photo of Mimmo when he took the oath.

It was touching to see someone who wants so much to be part of America, pledge an oath of allegiance. It was a perfect example of what makes this country so great- ethnic diversity that brings a rich variety of cultures to our community, adding another layer to the complex and fascinating thing that is the American identity.

Congratulations Mimmo!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Benefits of a Morning Walk

Every morning after I get Francesca off to school, I take some time for myself to start the day with a walk through the neighborhood. I cherish this part of my day and consider it a vital part of my daily routine. Taking a walk is simple and good for the soul. Much like yoga, it allows me to center my thoughts, energize my body, and set my intention for the day.

The best part about this routine is that it can be carried in any corner of the world in which you find yourself. Unlike going to the gym or taking a fitness class in a studio, getting outside exposes you to the natural world, which is very important for those of us who spend the rest of our days indoors. Because I'm fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, some days I am treated to truly spectacular panoramas offset by Lake Washington, the Cascade Mountain Range, and Mount Rainier.

However, the thing that I most enjoy about my walks is the opportunity to connect with my neighbors. In a world in which we find ourselves increasingly isolated from each other, it is wonderful to be able to still engage with the people with whom I share a living space. We have small conversations and share our lives with each other. As human beings, we are naturally social creatures, and interaction with others is a surprisingly effective way of boosting my energy and elevating my mood.

Walks are how I choose to stimulate my mind and body. I encourage you to try it and enjoy the results.

Winter Soup Is Good For The Soul

When the weather gets nasty and wet, as it is likely to do in the Pacific Northwest, it's time for me to get out my biggest pot and make a generous batch of soup. My family's favorite is my Italian lentil soup. I like this dish for a few reasons:

It's delicious
It's healthy and all natural
It's a one dish meal
One pot can last for days, or it can be frozen for another night; whether it's weeks or months later
It is a favorite among vegetarians (my oldest daughter) and omnivores (the rest of the family) alike
It is a meal that satisfies the soul

So, now that I've spoken so highly of this soup, here's recipe. That way, you can make it and see for yourself what I'm talking about.

1 lb. small green lentils
soak in a bowl of water 1 hour
sautee in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 organic carrots chopped finely
1 sweet onion chopped finely
5 cloves of garlic chopped finley
3 stalks of celery chopped finely

1. Sautee Vegetables until soft,
2. Add the lentils that have been drained from the water and sautee for 5 minutes.
3. Add 2 large cans of organic chicken broth.
4. Cook on a low heat, simmer with covered lid for about 1 1/2 hours until all lentils are soft.

Serve with crusty bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

This is a wonderful meal for cold winter nights. Serve with a delicious Italian red wine. My favorite from Umbria, Montefalco rosso.


Let Them Eat Cake!

Most of you know this quote as it is attributed to France's most decadent queen, Marie Antoinette. She was recently portrayed by Kirsten Dunst in a film by Sophia Ford Coppola. When I took my daughter Francesca to see this film a year ago, she was entranced, and proceeded to transform her bedroom into a homage to Marie's lavishly furnished rooms in her palace at Versailles. She even has a pair of our gold electroplate Dauphine Candlesticks on her bookshelf!

Fast forward to one day in late December. My two daughters Alessandra and Francesca and I are racking our brains to figure out what to do for Francesca's 11th birthday party in January. Over the years, we've created a legacy in terms of original birthday party themes, and the pressure was on to make this one as exciting as the rest. That was when my clever 19 year old had a "Eureka moment" and came up with the idea of a Marie Antoinette party in which the guests would come in costume, have their makeup done (white powder, beauty mark, and all), and dine on french pastries. Francesca immediately loved the theme, and because we happen to have a darling collection called Marie Antoinette in our line this year, it was perfect timing.

Here's the invitation:

When the day of the party finally came, Francesca dressed up in one of her sister's old theater costumes. Alessandra did her makeup and hair, and when Francesca came downstairs, she looked like a bona fide member of the French court. Then, her friends started arriving, all spectacularly attired and coifed. We had the soundtrack from Sophia Coppola's film playing in the background, and Alessandra did the girls' makeup while they watched scenes from the movie and admired each other's ensembles.

The table set with Rosanna dinnerware

Party guests

The birthday girl eats cake

After everyone had been done up, the girls sat down for tea and delicious pastries from Le Fournil, one of the best French bakeries in Seattle. As the girls happily devoured eclairs, cream puffs, and napoleons, we talked about the story of Marie Antoinette, what it was like to live in the French court and how it would feel to to wear a corset all the time! Prior to receiving the party invitation, a few of the girls didn't know who Marie Antoinette was, so I included in each favor bag a note card about the abridged history of Marie. This party was wonderful because not only did the girls have a blast, but they learned about history in an thoroughly engaging and interactive way.

So, as Marie said, "Let them eat cake!"

And we did.

A votre sante!