Happy Mother’s Day!

Sitting on the couch tonight, I had my arms crossed over my head, thinking of what to say about Mother’s Day. My fingers on my right hand happened to be touching my pulse on my left hand and I could feel that tiny, steady, thump, thump, thump. And it occurred to me that that thump started with my mom giving birth to me all those years ago.

Fran & Mom

And I wonder where my kids get their inability to take a normal photo with me.

Along with that pulse, I was lucky to get love, encouragement, a wonderful family, a twisted sense of humor, and a serious appreciation for delicious food. They’ve all been essential in my life, but none more than encouragement.

My mom always encouraged me. Always told me I could do anything and be anything. The only person who doesn’t agree lives in my head. She’s been there forever. I’ve tried to evict her, but now I just let her say her peace, then tell her to shut up.

As Franklin Roosevelt (a man with a mother who encouraged him) so wisely stated, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”

So, I salute all you moms this Mother’s Day. If it wasn’t for your encouragement, sense of humor, and  love there wouldn’t be people out there daring to live life and make a difference in the world, with whatever gifts they have. God bless every one of you. Happy Mother’s Day!

Fran and mom with horns.jpg

My poor mother. Here she is trying to give me a dollar so I can buy her a lottery ticket. But I had to get his shot first.



Mi Dispiace, il Pranzo Era il Mio (I’m Sorry, The Lunch Was Mine)

I have been torturing myself with Duolingo lately.  It’s a website where you can learn another language. For the past 40 years I have been trying (clearly not hard) to learn Italian.

This week possession has been making me miserable because I can’t tell the difference between him and her.  I’m learning handy phrases like: “Il gatto beve il suo latte,”
which means the cat drinks his/or her milk. This is very confusing to the cat and me.  I am also learning things like, “Lo squalo mangia pesce,” which means the shark eats fish. These phrases will both come in handy when I cat sit for Italians or visit Sea World with my relatives.

Tonight I was learning, “Io mangio i tuoi panini,” which means, I eat your sandwiches. That got me thinking about sandwiches. Then I was talking to my brother, Bernie and we started reminiscing about the sandwiches my mom used to make for our school lunches. (No Tunnos can ever have a conversation without the subject turning to food – a scientific fact.) Continue reading

Oh, Stuff It! (Your Zucchini, That Is)

zucchini on doorstep

It starts innocently, like this.

You know it’s summer when you open your door and someone has left a beautiful zucchini on your doorstep. You feel so special, until you look at your neighbor’s doorstep and see zucchini there too. Your neighborhood is probably filthy with them because everyone always underestimates the number of zucchini that comes from one plant. My father did his entire life.

Estimates are, one plant gives three to nine pounds. That means your overzealous gardening neighbor is drowning in zucchini.

Zucchini man

Hello ma’am, I’m a thirsty, hardworking traveling salesman, may I come in?

Luckily my dad had enough kids, willing friends, neighbors, and a wife who canned, to dispose of his zucchini properly.  But, If you’ve heard a knock on your door and seen a zucchini try to push it’s way in, you can bet your gardner neighbor has underestimated.

At this very minute, gardeners are probably dropping zucchini in open car windows, dressing them in bonnets and sneaking them in bassinets. This summer, I got zucchini from my ex-husband and his wife!

The next phase for the zucchini gardner involves making every bread, cake and pie imaginable. The good news is, zucchini season only lasts a few months.

Even better?  Zucchini is versatile and looks good in a Groucho nose.  You can make cakes, breads, even savory pie with it, plus you can stuff it, use it as layers in lasagne, or make Zucchini Parmesan.  You can even grate it and freeze it for use later. Personally,  I stuff mine because it tastes great, and it’s very easy.

galbani ricotta

Galbani, the only ricotta to buy.

I make a mixture with ricotta, cooked Italian sausage, a little garlic, mozzarella, fresh basil, eggs, and my favorite Italian seasoning, Aroma. It’s just like my lasagne filling.

(Here’s an Italian insider tip: If you plan to make this and are choosing ricotta, always choose Galbani. I’ve tried others and most taste gritty. None is as creamy or smooth as Galbani — trust me on this.)  It’s also great for making cannoli. The link takes you to their website; they have awesome recipes! (And no one pays me a cent to say this, I only recommend products I like.)

Once the zucchini is cooked,  you can top it with tomato sauce. When I make my slow cooked sauce, I make extra so I can freeze it and use it for times like this. This stuffed zucchini, basically a one dish complete meal,  is delicious and not very filling, so eat up! And, for God’s sake, be careful when you open your door.

Zucchini with tomato sauce.JPG

Delicious stuffed zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

1 large clove of garlic – minced

3 to 4  links of sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings,  cooked and crumbled

1 large zucchini

1  15 oz container of Galbani Ricotta

1 tsp. Aroma Italian seasoning

8 oz of shredded mozzarella

6 to seven medium-sized basil leaves finely chopped

3/4 cup of zucchini flesh finely chopped (be sure to remove seeds)

2 eggs

Take the Italian sausage that’s been removed from the casings and fry it in a skillet with the minced garlic until it’s cooked through. Place the cooked sausage garlic mixture in a bowl lined with a paper towel. Set it aside.

IMG_5962.JPGWash the outside of the zucchini and trim the ends off. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise.  Take a paring knife and slide it along the edge of the seeds on each side, going no deeper than 1 inch. Take a spoon and scrape the seeds out. Then using your spoon, gently scrape a little of the zucchini flesh out, so you have about 3/4 to 1 cup. Your zucchini should look like two zucchini canoes. Set the zucchini aside.

Mix together the ricotta, the Aroma Italian seasoning, the mozzarella, the chopped zucchini flesh, the Italian sausage, the chopped basil and two eggs.

Place the halved zucchini in an oblong baking dish and fill each half with the ricotta mixture. (If it’s unsteady, fold some foil under it to hold it in place. Put it in a 350 degree oven for 75 minutes or until the top is browned and the zucchini is fork tender. Remove it from the oven and if you want, serve it with tomato sauce on top. Below is a recipe for some quick tomato sauce if you don’t have any waiting in your freezer.

Quick Tomato Sauce

2 cloves finely minced garlic

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cans stewed tomatoes (Kirkland or S&W) processed in a food processor until mostly smooth


¼ cup merlot

½ tsp. Aroma Italian seasoning

Saute garlic for about a minute, then add tomatoes, Aroma seasoning and merlot. Stir over low heat about 15 minutes. Pour over meatloaf or stuffed zucchini.

Happy Fourth of July!

Mom- Birthday Girl

The Birthday Girl

Today, my mother would have been 103. She’s been gone since 1992 and we still get “Mary” stories. Just today my sister forwarded me a note from our cousin’s daughter, Nannette.

The note said, “One of my favorite memories of your mom is when my mom took us to the old Beaver Falls movie theater to see, “Ammityville Horror,” and she busted out the rosary and started praying out loud , right there in her seat. At the time I wasn’t sure what to do, but now, just thinking about it makes me laugh.”

I love Nannette’s story because it corroborates my, “Raider’s of the Lost Ark,”story. My mom didn’t know how to be quiet in a movie theatre (or anywhere) and I remember shushing her — a lot, the day I took her to see, “Raiders.” Then, at the part where all hell breaks loose, the Nazi melts and the wind blows, my mother started crossing herself and yelling out loud, “Ooooh Jesus, Godda  forbid, Ooooohhhh Jesus Godda forbid!”

Mom-excited birthday girl.jpg

This is a woman who truly believes that whatever she wishes on that birthday candle is absolutely coming true! I loved that about her.

I’m with Nannette, just thinking about it makes me laugh too, which is what I love about all my memories of her.

However you choose to celebrate today, do it with gusto, like my mom. Leave people talking about you, or with their mouths hanging open, because, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing,”as Helen Keller wisely said.

Happy Birthday Mom and the USA!

P.S. If you have a funny Mary memory, please send it my way. I love hearing them!




And the Winner is…

I’m still recovering from a week of food preparation and a day of serious hostessing. The heavens smiled on me and food magic happened, which means all my food turned out great, except for the gravy, which was a little iffy.  From now on, it’s only flour, no cornstarch in my gravy. My guests were wonderful, there were no awkward pauses in conversation, and my kid’s friends turned up too, which was great because I think of them all as my kids.

And, I did something different with my turkey this year.

It involves salt, bacon and a good massage.

Oh stop it, I know what you’re thinking. Continue reading

Rehabilitating St. Joseph

I don’t know what comes over me. I had a million things to do today, half of which I got done, but something told me that since I’d fixed Jesus,  it was now time to deal with St. Joseph.

I don’t even go to church, why do I feel compelled to do these things? Continue reading

The Importance of Being Silly

cropped Car and Dawn

My two best friends in college. We roamed the halls dressed ridiculously but acting normal, just to see people’s reactions. Worth it? Without a doubt.

I’ve always been pretty silly. I really can’t help it, I don’t know how to be any other way. This has always been encouraged by my friends and family. In fact, I’m amazed at people who are always serious — how is that possible? Maybe my silliness has caused people to take me less seriously, but I really don’t care because I think I have way more fun. No, I know I do.

Continue reading