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GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
24 December 2016 @ 02:53 pm
I love cannoli. I love the cannoli of my youth, which had citron and candied fruit, NOT chocolate chips, and powdered sugar on top. Since I am now allergic to eggs, I cannot get cannoli from our favorite Arthur Avenue bakeries. I miss them so.

Today, along with making the traditional consomme and lasagne for Christmas Eve dinner, I decided to make cannoli cream. I don't have the molds for the shells, nor much energy, so I figured I would start with a batch of cannoli cream and see what happens. I forgot to sift the powdered sugar, which was a grave error, it's not smooth. Nor could I get my hands on real candied fruit without artificial crap in it. But it does have, even before it settles in to its flavor, the consistency and scent of the cannolis of my youth. The secret seems to be the Strega, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strega_(liqueur) which is definitely the flavoring my heart remembers from my childhood.

It has not been a happy year for the most part. This made me happy. Buon' Natale.


2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably whole milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons (or more) Strega
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 lemon

For the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta until smooth. Sift in the powdered sugar and allspice. Mix to blend. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), beat the heavy cream until fairly stiff. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cream into the ricotta mixture. Lightly zest the exterior of the lemon and stir it into the ricotta. Refrigerate for a half hour to an hour.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alexandra-guarnaschelli/homemade-cannoli-recipe.html?oc=linkback

CANNOLI CREAM Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli , altered by my needs and desires

SHOW: The Best Thing I Ever Made
EPISODE: That's Italian
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
20 November 2016 @ 05:22 pm
I sat at lunch this chilly November Sunday examining the Zen of grilled cheese. I had made a most excellent grilled cheese: a great deal of butter, good pane de casa, a nice cheddar, a cast iron pan. I ate it with contemplation, and found, I hope, as much joy in it as I could. I was looking for joy.
I am sad. I am not feeling good. Of course, a day when I actually feel good is quite rare. As the temperature goes down in the Northeast, the numbness and tingling in my hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy) turns more toward pain. It is short and sharp, and inconsistent in its appearance. I do not know how to ease it.
I am tired. I am always tired. I am tired because of lasting chemo effects and/or because of the beta blockers I take to control my blood pressure. I am tired because all the tasks of daily living take more attention than they used to. I am tired because my eyes hurt, another aspect of post-cancer treatment and various macular problems.
Most of you who will read this are my friends, so I don’t have to write about how the recent election makes me feel because you all feel it, too. Hillary was and is my hero, and Barack was a model of intelligence and grace. I find it terrible to think of what will happen each day in public life from now on.
Generally I have reasons for writing what it is I write. Nearly always, I want a response. This time, though, I am not sure what I want. I don’t need advice, and while I want friendship I don’t want sympathy. Empathy, maybe. Empathy is hard for people.
This is trailing off because I do not know where it is going. But maybe you can tell me.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
15 October 2016 @ 04:13 pm
From the time I was 14 until May of 2014, I had long hair, nearly to my waist. It was my signature, the way I described myself to people who had not seen me: "small, round, pink, long hair." In May 2014, just before I started chemotherapy, I had my hair cut short. (I had it cut three more times. The last time it was about an inch long all over.) I saved the hair is a silk bag and I put my many (many!) hairpins and ornaments in two boxes at the very back of my closet.
About six months ago I pulled out a few barrettes that I thought I might be able to wear now. A few silk scrunchies. A clip or two. That was ok. I could cope. I could use them.
Today my hair reaches my shoulders. Growing my hair back is a mission, a goal, a deep-seated desire. It is the only part of my pre-cancer life that I can actually get back. Everything else has changed. Everything.
I tried going back in that box at the back of my closet this afternoon. I took out a few more hair ornaments and then I had to stop. I was so shaken by this. All those pretty things were part of a life I can barely imagine any more.
But. However. I am going to reclaim each of those pins and barrettes and clips. Those I can get back. And I will. An awful lot is lost, but some things can be found again.

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
18 September 2016 @ 07:51 pm
I do love to cook. It's harder to do now. Tonight I made chicken and veggies in cream sauce and James Beard's magnificent cream biscuits. When I am tired it takes all my concentration, and tonight, with a recurrence of an instep strain probably related to neuropathy I was in pain. But I even made myself a cocktail (bourbon, ginger, agave, lemon, based on a lovely thing I had once at the late, lamented Campbell Apartment) and for dessert had another of those biscuits with sweet butter and honey. Yay me.

It was a fine dinner and I made it myself. Despite needing extreme focus when handling a knife (always a good idea) and having some difficulty bending the Cuisinart to my will (I won), I only dropped a few things and didn't break anything.

I have had a couple of weeks of feeling, if not good, pretty much OK. That always makes me nervous, because I know it is not going to last. As soon as my foot started twingeing early last week, I knew what it was, and hoped I could head it off, but no. It takes a long time to heal. I cannot put weight on it without gasping but if I don't move some, it swells and stiffens and gets worse. If I walk too much on it, even with the cane, it knocks my hips out of whack and then they hurt, too. I am looking at a long and fairly unhappy week. Damn.

I told a Facebook friend this week that my days of concert going are pretty much over. Certainly crowds and arenas are not negotiable any more, and as a person who generally cannot stir past the computer screen after about 5pm, evening music is not going to happen. So it goes. I get grumpy and whingey about it. I get sad. But there it is. It could be worse, and it has been, so I am trying to come to terms with that.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
28 August 2016 @ 12:59 pm
I resist calling cancer a battle, or a journey. It is the troll harrying our steps and making clouds of oily smoke over our decisions. It is the misshapen sprite that materializes whenever we try to envision an event next year, or even next month. It devours plans, and sometimes, hope. I am in recovery from cancer treatment, but the troll may never leave.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
23 April 2016 @ 06:49 pm
My mother died last week, peacefully and surrounded by much of her family, at the age of 93. We lost her rather earlier than that. She had dementia for the past seven years or so, and for the last few months had often not even known my sister, who worked across the street and visited her every day.
I spent 2014 with endometrial cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. My mother never knew, of course, that I was sick. But she was with me in one particular way. What she always made for us when we were sick was pastina, tiny little star-shaped pasta, with lots of butter and salt. I made that a lot during cancer treatment. I could always eat it, and it didn’t take much effort. It always made me feel taken care of.
My mother made the most excellent salad dressing ever. She used olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and salt. I have tried for forty years to reproduce it, but it was never as good, or as right, as hers. Several of us were talking about that online after her funeral. What was it that made her salad so good? She would mix it, and taste it, and then murmur “sciapito” and add a little more salt. My mother was born in this country, and her Italian was the Abruzzese/Neapolitan dialect of her parents. The word sounded like “sha – beet” with the emphasis on the second syllable and a hint of a vowel at the end.
Food and family, family and food. It’s what we know, and what we are.
Rest in peace, Mom.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
30 March 2016 @ 08:15 pm
This is not exactly an update.
I am better, even I don't question that. But so much is the same. I still cancel plans as often as I make them. I still am good for nothing after about 5pm. I walk with a cane. Generally, I can do One Thing a day. It takes me an hour and a half to get from waking up to going downstairs to make tea and breakfast. I cannot make that happen any faster. I cannot make much of anything happen faster.
Much of the time, I cannot read, or write, or watch moving images more than about 20 minutes at a time. There are several reasons for this: macular edema, dry eye, chronic allergies. It comes from cancer treatment and probably a few other things.
I have moved to some physical therapy for balance and control, as the neuropathy in my hands and feet will probably continue indefinitely (forever). That has its own set of challenges, because managing my blood pressure has become an issue. I am taking enough meds so that I am muzzy and sleepy and sometimes dizzy. Every day. Most of the day.
This sounds dark. Well, it is. At the same time, I am reminded daily how far I have come. I have a cheerleader/prince/knight who reminds me that I am still here, still myself, and that if I feel diminished (and I do) not everyone shares that opinion.
Current Location: home
Current Music: The Gloaming 2 CD
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
10 March 2016 @ 05:42 pm
For the fifteen months that I was in cancer treatment, I was unable to drink alcohol. I missed it terribly. I loved to have a Black Velvet (half Guinness, half Magner's Cider) up the street at our local pub. I loved light floral white wines, mostly French and Italian, but some beautiful ones that were Greek and from New York State and Seattle and Vancouver. Most of all, I loved bourbon. I had numerous favorites. And I loved the occasional cocktail with Chartreuse or St Germain or Chambord or Cassis. And Dom Perignon!

There were few joys like sitting to lunch with a beloved, or a group of them, and wine. And cheer. I was very happy when I was able to return to a glass.

I am healing so very slowly. But I am looking forward to a new program of physical therapy that may help the persistent neuropathy in my hands and feet. The physician who began this process told me, gently but firmly, that it would be good to curtail alcohol, and perfect if I gave it up entirely.

Alcohol may exacerbate neuropathy. If it does, it does permanent damage. My neuropathy may get worse anyway, and the twelve weeks of physical therapy coming may not improve my hands or my feet or my balance. But I have to try.

This makes me cry. Being able to have that glass of Viognier with an apple and a piece of cheddar was such a great joy. It was proof that I was coming back to myself again. It needs to be banished once more, maybe not forever, but certainly for now.

thanks for listening.
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
23 December 2015 @ 10:21 am
GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
13 September 2015 @ 09:08 pm
We had a pink plastic AM radio in my mother's kitchen when I was growing up, and some of my earliest memories are of listening to Yankees baseball games emanating from its small, tinny sound. (I still have the radio. It doesn't work. It's in the basement, and I cannot bear to part with it.)

In 2014, I had two surgeries, six months of chemotherapy, and about 28 radiation treatments. It was a very hard year. Most of the time, I couldn't read in any sustained way, watch TV, sleep well, or Do Stuff. But half the year, there was baseball. I could always listen to my Yankees, or see them on TV, in Derek Jeter's final professional year. No matter how stonkered I was, or sick and tired, there was baseball. Its rhythms and cadences soothed and calmed me.

This year, 2015, is post-cancer treatment. I rejoiced when the baseball season began, and each night I sink happily into my comfy chair in the study to listen, or watch, or just be aware of the music of the innings humming at the edge of my consciousness. When the Yankees are on the West Coast, I fall asleep to the sound. We are close to the end of the regular season now. Last year, the team did not make it to the postseason, evaporating my dream of Jeter and the beauteous Ichiro ending the year with World Series rings. This year, there is a pretty good chance that the Yankees will make it to October games.

I hope so with all of my heart. Not only because they are my team, but, personally and selfishly, the sound of their play means I can escape the constant monitoring of my physical self, and unite with the Bleacher Creatures and Twitterati and Suzyn and the good women on Facebook of She Loves the Yankees. Go Yankees.