Phillip’s Quest, Book II: Above the Stars

Do you remember how Phillip’s Quest, Book I: Winterfrost ends? There’s a large painting in Azur’s castle, and magically, the trio–Phillip, Edward and Dream–oops, I mean Stinky, are transported. To where? Why, a land of “extraordinary beauty and unbelievable cold.”

So many new adventures await them. Each of the friends find out how valuable the strength of their friendship becomes. Many dark forces are trying to keep them from their goal, but the brave companions are learning that together they are strong, strong enough to overcome adversity.

New characters–a wizard, a unicorn, bats and faeries! New stories of strength and deception. New clues about the magic of Winterfrost and the whereabouts of Phallow. All the excitement is waiting for you to join them “Above the Stars.”

Phillip’s Quest, Book II: Above the Stars’ release date will be 11/25/2014 and will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both softcover and ebook.
BUT
To preorder your copy, right now, click the following link:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1907899413/above-the-stars

And please, don’t forget “Winterfrost,” or “The Ragwort Chronicles!”
Still available on Amazon! Phillip’s Quest, Book I: Winterfrost, now available, with it’s beautiful illustrations, in an ebook!

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Buona Pasqua!

There is a lovely poem that was written by my friend, Dan Verner regarding the treatment of Christmas vs. Easter. You can see it on his WP blog and FB page. He is right in that Christmas is treated, especially in the United States, with so much fanfare that we often forget that Easter, as a holy-day, is just as miraculous.

When I was a child, Easter was treated on the same level as Christmas. Being brought up as an Italian-American, the Easter season, beginning with Ash Wednesday was even more revered. There was sacrifice, albeit it might have been just candy, that was expected of you.  There was absolutely no meat eaten on Fridays and other Holy Days of Obligation, confession and communion was not even up for discussion and at 3:00 PM on Good Friday, you went to the Stations of the Cross.  A prayer vigil that was held for each stop that Christ made on His way to Calvary. When you got home, there was a dinner with fish, fish, fish! Easter Saturday was spent cooking–all day–for the celebration of the Risen Christ, Easter.

Food, the likes of which you can’t believe! Ahhh, Easter! Pizza Rustica! Pastiera! Easter Breads! Cannoli! Sicilian Cassata (for those of Sicilian heritage), Anginetti and other incredible Italian pastries and cookies. And that was just the beginning! Dinner was unbelievable. Antipasta, lasagna, meat course (could be roasted lamb or chicken), the gravy meat (meatballs, braciola, sausage), salad, vegetables. While everyone was cleaning up the dinner dishes, there was fruit and nuts, then the coffee came out–“black or brown?”–espresso or regular(no decaf was mentioned, ever). Then, the desserts!!!!! OMG!!! Except for the first thing listed, the Pizza Rustica, which you munched on after church on Easter Sunday, especially because you got hungry hunting for eggs, the others were dessert! 

I can remember the Three Sisters; my mother Linda, my aunt Anne, and my Godmother Kate, cooking in the kitchen. Each had their assigned duties. I can still see Katie standing in front of the pastry board with at least 20 pounds of flour, making the pastry and pie crusts for the Pizza Rustica and Pastiere.  Ten inch pie plates were used. The pastry was soft and delicate and perfect. My mother made the cookies. You name it, she made it. She collected pounds of butter from when it was on sale and used nothing but Land O’Lakes…the other was too “watery.” Her cookies were coveted. And my Aunt Annie made the gravy. While my mom made the braciola, (beef and pork), the sausages, (that had to come from the Pork Store or somewhere on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx), were carefully rendered in the big dutch oven. Patiently, patiently, my Aunt Anne would braise the sausage until it was golden brown. Then, out it came and the braciola went in. It was a process, but nothing, nothing was better then my Aunt Annie’s gravy (my mother used to get pissed when I said that). Un poco cooking rivalry between them. The meatballs, that were beautiful, round and browned by my Aunt Katie at 0-Dark-30, that morning, were the last things added. If you want to see an Italian making a lasagna, check out cookingwithnonna.com. It has recipes for all that I mentioned…real recipes!

And then, we ate!! Ten, fifteen, twenty at the table with guests arriving, all of the time. And we laughed. And we told stories. And we loved!  Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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Happy Easter! May your memories always be wonderful!

The Week That Was!

What a great week!  Besides the freezing cold and snow that surrounded most of the Eastern seaboard, except Florida which, as everyone knows, is really another country, it was an exciting week. (Trust me, it doesn’t take much!)  The wonderful writers/bloggers in Write by the Rails, started their blog tour. The reading has been excellent…some anecdotal, some about their books, all good!  I learned how to get up and running with my blog and web page.  Thank you Katherine Gotthardt!  I’m always excited to meet new people, especially those that are willing to teach.  So, that’s my first bit of excitement.

I live in a condominium and am President of the association.  It’s been seven years of hard labor, but has been worthwhile.  We still struggle, however, with the drug element brought in by some tenants.  Fortunately, I’ve built a pretty good rapport with our local Police Department and have come to know some of the officers, personally.  They really are a great group and I appreciate all they do to help our little community out.  This week, our security cameras picked up a real life COPS episode!  Talk about exciting!!!  You go guys and dog.

Have had friends in and out, all week.  God bless them! They know that when the weather is bad, I’m in. I love that our friends feel so comfortable in our home.  They are all family.  It’s a good thing.

Last but not least, getting an “A” grade from my cardiologist and presenting him with a signed copy of PQ. It wasn’t so long ago that I was in terrible pain and he sat with me when I was so miserable that I didn’t know what to do. He was so happy with getting the book and being able to share it with his girls, 9 and 11, after he read it first!  Phillip, you did good!

And last but not least, the thing that bella Napoli is known for and part of my life’s blood, pizza!  Thick or thin?  Chicago or New York? Sausage or pepperoni? A topic for another blog but, it’s all good!

Told you…it doesn’t take much.

Taters and Onions, Italian Style

I said that I would include blogs about Italian cooking.  When I eventually do the Phillip’s Quest Cookbook, many of the recipes will be a conversion of Italian recipes to recipes for gnomes, and other creatures.  Here is one I found on Adrianna’s Cookies page.  I’d like to call it, “Taters and Onions a la Italiano”

2-1/4 lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chicken broth

1 garlic clove, halved

8 Tablespoons packed Pecorino Romano cheese, divided

3 Tablespoons drained capers

Olive oil for brushing, plus 4 Tablespoons, divided

Coarse Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat  oven to 350F

Rub 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass pan with cut side of garlic clove.

Brush dish with olive oil.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat.

Add onions, sprinkle with salt and sautee until soft and beginning to brown. Stir frequently, about 12-15 minutes.

Arrange 1/3 of s;iced potatoes in even layer in prepared pan.

Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.

Scatter 1/2 onions over the potatoes.

Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons Pecorino and 1 Tablespoon capers.

Repeat layering and end with layer of potatoes.

Drizzle remaining olive oil.

Pour chicken broth over.

Press down on potatoes to compact layers.

Cover, gratin with foil and bake for 1hour 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered, another 15 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned.

Let gratin remain at room temperature for 10 minutes, before serving.

Salute! Buono appetito!

Cookies-fromItaly.com

You Just Never Know…

when things will happen.  In my Chicken Soup blog, I mentioned that I had family in Queens and Brooklyn.  My mom was raised in Brooklyn, during the days of prohibition.  She could tell some stories.  Big black cars going into a funeral home, when there was no funeral…but that’s for another time.  Her maiden name was “Peluso” and she came from a large Neapolitan family.  Most of her brothers and all of her sisters moved to Queens, to raise their families. ( Quick geography lesson.  Queens and Brooklyn are two of the five NYC boroughs on Long Island. Queens, being the largest.) My uncle Salvatore,(“Sal” for short), stayed in Brooklyn.  He and my Aunt Josephine had two girls, Loretta and Geraldine, both older than me. I didn’t get to see them very often, but I always remember how much I enjoyed being with them.  I was always especially fond of my cousin, Loretta.  Over the years, and my thousands of miles of vagabonding, (Ma used to call me “the gypsy”), we lost touch.  They, however stayed in Queens. I am happy to say that this morning, I received an email from Loretta! You just never know when someone you love comes back into your life. Loretta! Stay in touch! Love you!