Monday, August 29, 2011

It's that time again....

Followers rule!

For the next two weeks, I'm offering FREE SHIPPING in my etsy shop, with the coupon code "followersfreeship"!

Dont include the quotation marks, though, m'kay?

This offer will self destruct on Monday, September 12.



Friday, August 26, 2011

Kitchen update... With Dogs.

All I need now is a counter top.  And a Sink.  And a tile back splash.  And someone to unpack a thousand boxes of utensils and cookware.

But!  I DO already have a pendant light that makes me happy.  I told you it would match!

So, my cabinet guys finished a day early.  Which is unheard of, great, and I'm not complaining.

But I can't decide if I should be happy to have no contractors here today, or if I should be mad that the counter top/sink installation scheduled for Monday wasn't moved to today... because I really COULD have had the counter tops and sink done today, and at least then, I'd have running water for the weekend.  Oh wait.  No, I wouldn't.  They still wouldn't have hooked up the sink until after the tile work.

Never mind.

So the side story here, is that I've been spending entire days in my bedroom, hiding from the contractors and keeping a low profile.

I'm not really hiding from my contractors.

I'm trying to keep Jack-The-Dog quiet.  He is pretty upset about all of this, and while he's a lovely, nice, good dog, he really hates people being in the house.  He'd be Fine if he could only meet them and check out what they are doing... he really would.

But the simple truth is that, as a general rue, contractors don't like your dogs, don't trust your dogs, and won't come in the house unless the dogs are like, Not There.

Which means that Jack is locked in my bedroom for the duration.

And my sweet, ever-lovin', dopey Wally Dog is stuck outside all day, with the solid plastic panel blocking the normally functioning dog door, which makes him a bit more insane than usual, as his poor lil' pea-brain can't figure out why the door isn't working.  I love that dog, but he's dumb as a box of rocks. But, he's as sweet as Cherry Pie.  

As long as I'm WITH Jack,  in my bedroom... doing nothing... he's quiet and relaxed.

If I leave, he barks incessantly, loudly and angrily until I come back.

Aside from us living in Suburban Southern California, and the likely hood that someone would call the ASPCA or file a noise complaint if I just let him bark all day.... Jack the Dog has recently been diagnosed with Lymphoma.  He isn't long for this world.


So he's sick.

And losing weight.

And it's breaking my heart.

And I can't just let him bark and be Aggro all day... so I've unfortunately had to sedate him slightly to get him to chill out and rest, which is what he needs to do.

I really HATE having to medicate him.  I really do.  But I think this time, it's what's best.

So, come Monday, I'll continue to hang out in my bedroom, lolling on the bed with Jack the Dog, watching HGTV and occasionally getting up and checking the kitchen progress.

I suppose a 3-day weekend from Contractor madness is a good thing for me and Jack.

And probably for poor Wally, too.

Jack the Dog in Happier Days.


Me and the Wally getting ready for a Diwali Party (every year, around Diwali Time, I call him "Diwali-Wally".  You know... just 'cause.  No, I'm not Hindu, nor am I Indian, but I have some lovely friends who are and who invite me to their amazing parties.  Plus, I look great in a Sari).  Wally is a love bug. Such a sweet soul.  He's either a.) figured it all out and is completely Zen or b.) has twelve thousand more lives to live.  I haven't decided yet.  I'll keep you posted.

Dogs Rule. So do new kitchens.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kitchen Makeover Part 1 1/2

Day one of demolition begins! Bye-Bye nasty sink!

This is the faucet that I purchased after Much Deliberation at Home Depot. I also went to Lowes. Then I went to Home Depot. Then I went BACK to Lowes (apparently, cell phone pictures were NOT enough for this earth shattering decision. Oh, brain... What is wrong with you???). And then, I went back to Home Depot for this guy. Oy vey.

This is what was in the (sealed!) box. NOT the faucet I purchased. THIS is someone else's grody old faucet put in Kohler box. NOT cool. The faucet I thought I was purchasing has a built in sprayer, not a stand alone sprayer, as seen here.


But at least the Home Depot was reasonable, believed me, and refunded my money. Otherwise I'd be calling them out pretty hardcore at the moment.

Now. Just have to drive to another city and for a new-new faucet, because, of course, this was the last one at my store. Of course.

Day TWO!! Getting there....

This photo is showing the undersides of the cabinets. Why? Because the old undersides of my cabinets were made of flaking pressboard. Trust me when I say that this is MUCH better... Even if not a very exciting photograph.

We've (ha! "we"... As if I'm doing anything but watching....)

Anyway, WE (snort!) have removed a bunch of wood strips/piers from the cabinet frames, because the old doors didn't "meet" each other and instead closed on a central strip of wood. Which was probably the cheaper, faster way of doing it when the house was built. Stupid piers in the way every time you wanted something in the cabinet. Every.time. Had to arrange things so you could remove them without hitting the pier. The doors also all mostly opened the same direction (the hinges were all on the left side... not mirrored in pairs). Hated that.

Our new doors will meet each other in the center, will have hidden hinges, have been reconfigured to open in pairs (logical, eh?) and won't require the central pier. That rawks.

And I should also note that Orlando and Arturo are darling, and are doing a very nice job. Thanks, Boys.

To be continued...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore with LoFrumento Red Sauce

I'm no food stylist, but I'd say this looks delicious.
I'm currently in the middle of a kitchen remodel... and while I was taking "before" pictures yesterday, there was mention of me making Chicken Cacciatore.  Here's how....

Wait.  What's a "LoFrumento"?

I am.  I'm a LoFrumento.  It's the family name on my mother's side, and proof positive that I am indeed an Italian-American.  OK, so maybe the Italian blood has thinned out over the generations, but I can assure you that the red sauce and family culture has not.  N.O.T.  Decidedly not.

So, um.... why the capital "F" there in the middle of 'LoFrumento? 

While I have many relatives both in the states and in Italy that do not capitalize the "F", the story is that my grandfather got tired of pronouncing "Lofrumento" for people, and thought that capitalizing the F might help.

You tell me.

I don't know if it actually made difference whatsoever in man-on-the-street pronunciation, but my branch of the family all spells it like this.  My grandfather's brothers and sisters and their families do not (they also all stayed Catholic when my Grandfather got into an argument with a Priest and went Methodist.  That's right.  I'm the only non-catholic Italian you know.  Unless you know my family.  Then you know about 30 of us).


So.  The Sauce.  LoFrumento Red.  My Grandmother Josephine's recipe.

And you should know that Josephine was not originally Italian.  She was, in fact, a very lovely girl from Black Mountain, North Carolina, working in the Textile Mills when she met a cutie-patootie New York Italian who was already engaged to someone else.  That's ok.  Josie was engaged to somebody else, too....


I love that story.

SO.  SHE wasn't Italian, but I think when you move into a small New York apartment with your Italian immigrant Mother-In-Law, you probably become as good as one pretty quickly.  I reckon.

That's my story.

Ok.  It's Josephine's story.

And HERE is how to make her Chicken Cacciatore and Red Sauce:

Last picture I'm ever taking of that Nasty tile counter top!  Remodel begins tomorrow!  YAY!

You need THIS:

Coupla Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Chicken (traditionally, on the bone, but I use boneless, skinless breasts or even tenders as here)
Salt/Pepper (to taste)*

2 cans Crushed or Diced Tomatoes
1 can Tomato Sauce
2 small cans Tomato Paste
1/8 tsp. Red Pepper flakes (Or a pinch. Or more for a Diavlo. Whatever.)
3-4 large cloves garlic (I mince, some dice... whatever)
2 Tbl. Dried Basil (or just a bunch, if fresh)
1Tbl. Basil, 1Tbl. Oregano (I have decided that I don't like Oregano & now only use Basil.  Sue me)
2Tbl. Sugar (Although I've heard that my darling Great-Uncle John used Raisins instead. True.)
2Tbl. Red Wine Vinegar

Pasta of choice (Didn't have any Spaghetti.  Casarecce it is.)

You'll note that while this IS my Grandmother's recipe as given to us in the LoFrumento Family Cookbook that my dear mother put together for all the cousins when we were all about to flee the nest, I promptly lost this particular recipe the first time I made it.  Only THIS recipe.  The most important one of all. 

Unless the person I was making this for STOLE it.... That's possible.  It was delicious.  Always is.

But somehow, I've retained the basic data in my swiss cheese brain, and while I've made a few adjustments here and there over the years, the above is the Real Deal with my own thoughts in italics.

My dad says that Grams' Sauce (thinner, more orangey-looking-- probably cooked longer-- and saltier) was delicious, My mother's sauce is delicious (more robust, fresh tomatoes a lot of the time, less salt, less sugar), and my sauce is the best. 

I love my dad.

And THEN, when you remember that you have FRESH basil in your
Garden, go getcha'some and put that dried schtuff away like SO.

OK.  Here we go.  And I SWEAR this will take you less than 15 minutes to throw this together.  Honest.

First off, you'll need to brown the chicken:

Olive Oil, meet Mr. Pan.  Go ahead... get all hot and shiny.  That's nice.

And now, Mr. Pan, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Chicken. He likes to be salt and peppered and gently browned on both sides. He does. He told me so. He doesn't even care if he's completely cooked through, because, you know what? He ALSO loves to be smothered in tomatoes and simmered for hours. THAT is his FAVORITE.

K.  While THAT's happening... start prepping the Sauce.  That basically means to open those cans.  Pretty much.
Mince up the fresh Basil if using it... Here's how if you are unsure:   

Pile leaves. Roll leaves. Tiny slices One Way. Like SO. Tiny slices the other way. Minced!

 Chicken is browned? Ok.

Pour ALL of the tomatoes into in the pan with the chicken. All of it. Then add one can of water. I don't care which of the empty cans you use. As long as you use the Sauce or the Diced/Crushed tomatoes. Those paste cans are kinda dinky.  If you've already thrown the cans away, I imagine two cups of water would about approximate it.  I imagine.  Don't quote me on that.  It doesn't really matter anyway.  Just add some water to thin it a bit.

Now add everything else:

Salt (start with a Teaspoon or so.  You can always add more.  Don't do what Josie did*)

The Garlic (no, I don't bother sauteing it in the olive oil first.  I kina like it bitey" anyhoo, but this sauce will simmer for a looooong time, so fuhgeddabbouddit)

The Red Pepper

The Sugar

The Red Wine Vinegar (Egads!  When I went to grab my red wine vinegar, I discovered that floaty-bits of something not delicious had grown on top of it while I was on vacation!  EW!  I'm using Balsamic here.  A little browner looking that usual, but no worries)

The Basil (or if you insist, the Basil AND the Oregano)

It should now look like this, but perhaps a little less brown if using Red Wine Vinegar instead of Cheap Balsamic.  But you MUST use some vinegar!  I once tried making Sauce withOUT the vinegar, and it was.... it was.... ummmm... ketchup. 

I dunno... SOMETHING was seriously lacking.  My husband didn't always believe that vinegar was needed so, I had him taste it once BEFORE I added the vinegar, and then AFTER. 

"Huh.  Needs Vinegar."

Yeah.  It does.

Stir it all in nicely.  And if you DON'T make a mess on your stovetop, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

Not really. 

That's totally MY problem.  Not yours.  I hope you do better.

Clean up your mess and let it simmer for HOURS, or at least until dinner time.

But next time, start earlier, OK???  Miss Chicken likes to get all fall-aparty and tender-simmery in those tomatoes!



Can't take the aroma of deliciousness any longer??? 

Are your children/husbands/wives/dogs/fish falling to their knees and begging for Cacciatore mercy?

'Cause mine were.  Especially Jack-The-Dog. 

Seriously.  Jack-The-Dog hears the first tomato can being opened, and he is literally underfoot.  Laying down next to the stove WAITING.  Funny thing is... he's Chow/Aussie Cattle Dog/German Shepard.  Not a single Italian Hound bone in his body.  Weird. 

I've been known to make spaghetti just.for.him.  True story.


Boil the water.  BOIL it!  Let it Roll, Baby, Roll!

Add Pasta.... Casarecce today.  I like to switch it up.  Follow your package directions for timing, or every once in a while, throw a piece against the wall until it sticks (don't actually do this.  No sense in it.  Although it might be fun.  If the kids aren't watching).

While Signore Pasta gets all al dente, you get to grate some cheese.  This is Signora Romano/Pecorino. 

(She's from Costco, a tiny little village in the hills of Tuscany.  You should go there.  There are other lovely Signorinas just like her.)

Don't you DARE pick up a green can (or a knock-off green can) and shake it on MY PASTA.  Don't you DARE!  I will KNOW if that happens, and I will FIND you!

(Sorry... The smell of garlic brings out the 'Godfather' in me, sometimes...)

Seriously, would it KILL you to buy a nice, lovely, crumbly chunk of hard Italian cheese? 

No.  It wouldn't.  And you'd be SO MUCH HAPPIER!


Drain Pasta.  Lean into the steam and get a facial. Don't drain it TOO much,though.
Leave a little of that water in there. It's good stuff, that pasta water.
Pour Signore Pasta Back into the Pasta Pot.

This is important: Ladle some of the now fully simmered and happy sauce onto the drained pasta.

What?  You don't want to clean pasta sauce out of TWO pots?

Too bad.

It's really better this way.

Just trust me on this.

Plate the noodles, and ladle MORE sauce on.... make sure your get a few pieces of now falling-aparty chicken on top.  Yeah.  That's the stuff.

Sprinkle with the cheese you grated (

You might also want to sprinkle more fresh Basil if you are going to take pictures. 

Just a thought.



*Funny story.... on my Grandmother's last visit to my house in California, she made her red sauce, as per usual.  I happened to come into the kitchen just as she was POURING large amounts of salt into the sauce straight from the Morton's Salt canister.  Like, just standing there, SHAKING IT IN.  I mean LOADS.  Enough for me to stop biting my "good-girl-who-am-I-to-tell-YOU-what-to-do" tongue and say "Grams!  That's enough!"  It was the saltiest sauce I think she ever made.

Hee Hee. 

Remind me to tell you about her making cranberry sorbet with my goofy blender and spraying hot, pulverized cranberries all over my kitchen...

Oh.  I see that the above makes her sound as if she didn't know her way around the kitchen.  That simply is untrue.  You should know that she cooked for 6 children every day.  Sometimes with not a whole lot.  She was an amazing cook.  All of her children are amazing cooks.  I'm pretty sure all of her GRANDCHILDREN are amazing cooks.  Apples don't fall far from trees, you know....

Those are the funniest Grams' kitchen stories that I know.  At least that happened in MY kitchen, anyway.  And now I feel guilty for even mentioning them.  Sorry, Grams.... Good thing she had a sense of humor.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kitchen Makeover Part I

A kinda long post.... but you know... it happens.

So I was making Chicken Cacciatore for dinner, and it occurred to me that it would be an ideal time to take some "Before" shots of  my kitchen makeover that's supposed to begin on Monday.

Suffice to know that I'm having all of the cabinets refaced (new doors, drawers and hardware with the same basic "boxes" refinished with veneer), the counter top replaced with Quartz and a lovely, glass tile back splash installed.  I'll tell you more about that later....   

SO.  For now.... THIS is my kitchen. 

Not so bad, right? 

No.  Not on first glance.

Not so bad, that is, IF you can stand 1980's "pickled oak" cabinets and 6" white tile/grout counter tops.

I can't.


You might note that I've chosen to cover the offending oak with my kids' pictures. 

And it DOES offend.  It DOES.

 I DO like the little dining area.  It's barely big enough for a smallish table, but it works, and I can look out the window into my tiny backyard and watch the lizards.  That's always fun.

Try to ignore the peeling "comfort foam" rug there... I have been, knowing that I'll just be replacing it soon....
(Why can't they make those things NOT peel???)

The stove stays.  It's consistently 35 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it should be, but other than that, and since I've already grown accustomed to the cooking math required, I'm ok with that.

You can see the Dining Room from here, and will note that the boxes are already stacked on the floor, ready for me to disassemble and pack everything in sight.

I won't enjoy that part.

You can also see the Living Room from the kitchen.  The whole bottom floor is all one big open space with a staircase in the middle.  Makes for good running/skootering/bicycling around in circles if you are four.  Or nine, as the case may be at my house. 

I love the floor.  Floor stays.

Confession?  I rarely have to mop it.  It doesn't show a thing. 

I DO mop when company comes, though.  Just don't show up unannounced.

View from the Dining Room, looking in...

Ah, yes.... I blinged my KitchenAid with some butterflies. 

'Cause I'm like that.

And then of course, they were just BEGGING to continue up the cabinet.... So I did.

I might miss those a bit....


See.... Didn't look so bad from afar did it????

Just don't get within 3 feet and you're ok. Any closer and you see this digustingness.

Nothing I can do about it.

LOOKS like dirt.... isn't.  The finish has degraded to the point of un-cleanability and uber yuckness. 

OH!  And look HERE!  Such a lovely, clean looking counter!

Makes you want to just lick it, huh?

Dear LORD, this is the corner of my sink..... It's very difficult to convince yourself that you've cleaned the dishes, I can assure you...

WHY on God's Green Earth would anyone EVER think that 6" white tile with white grout was a GOOD IDEA?  Sure you can blame a LOT on our fabulous tastes during the 80s.... but come ON...


Bleach has no effect.  Steel bristle brushes have no effect.  I've re-grouted, re-caulked, re-sealed, etc, etc, etc.... It just comes back. 

It's hideous, I tell you. 

A monster.

I plan to ask the contractors if I can borrow their sledgehammers when they arrive to demolish it. 

Maybe even make them some tall glasses of lemon aid and send them out to the patio while I give it hell. 

I just might do that.

And this....

THIS is my silverware drawer.  OMG.

Another issue... About 8 years ago, I tried to install handles to save what remained of the cabinet finish at THAT time... and this cramped corner-space here... had to take the handle OFF so that I could open the other drawer. 

Oh, I cussed LOUDLY.

I did.

You probably heard me.

This is the current state of my ceiling light fixture.


A few weeks ago, the (again 80's) plastic cover fell on top of my head while I was making dinner and cracked on the floor.

Sure, I could get another ugly plastic cover... (again)...But it was at that point that I called the contractors.


That being said there are a few things I will miss when I have lovely cabinets and don't need to cover it up with artwork.  A few example, because I find them hilarious:

The Divine Miss M, age 4 drew this.  In case you can't read what her Pre-School teacher has written,  it says, "Evan (her brother) was doing a bad dance in jail."



So HI-larious that she did another version a few days later.  She did this one while *I* was watching her, and dictated to me that it was "Evan doing a dance in Jail".  


I'm starting to wonder what is it I don't know???

And one more of my favorites by Miss Milla:

What?  You've never seen a "PigMouse" before?

Silly you. 

Aaaaand, A few things that stay:

This is Swim.  He's a fish.  He's sticking around. 

He wanted to say "hi".

He's pretty old for a fish, actually... hope I didn't just jinx the poor guy....


I installed this light yesterday.  So I'm not giving it up yet. 

In fact, it's a genius little thing... A fixture that converts what was once ugly Can Lighting to a Pendant... cost less than $50 for the fixture and the glass shade. Doesn't match the current kitchen, but it WILL... Oh, it WILL....

The country valance is disappearing as soon as is humanly possible.  I only bought it because I was desperate for a new one when my old cotton curtains started ROTTING... ew... and I couldn't find anything else that was white in my hour of need. 

I'm not actually this country-fied...  I DID try to convince myself that I do love sunflowers (it's true), but I wasn't fooled. 

As least it was only a $20 mistake.

I think at one point this Guy had a name.  Mr. Something or Other.

I've had him for so long, I've forgotten.

What?  You don't have a Kitchen Protector Rooster on top of your refrigerator?

You should, you know.

Cookies don't burn.

Children never get hungry.


And, ah yes... The magnetic Philosophers.

A must in the home of a Philosophy Professor.

My kids could say "Nietzsche" before "Mama" I think.

But not before "Fish", which was Evan's first word. 

Q: How many Dada-ists does it take to change a light-bulb?
A:  Fish

He's been a surrealist from the start, that kid....

And finally... Proof of the small master's genius hanging on the fridge.

A straight-up 600 out of 600 on the California State STAR Math Test. 

Uh-huh.  That's right.

Two years running, baby.

SO... tomorrow, a Chicken Cacciatore recipe that's a bubblin' right NOW...

See you then.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


THIS is why people come home from vacation..... ahhhhh....

Your own bed. 

In your own house. 

With your own stuff. 

Yes, indeed.

Lest you think that my room is neat and sparse and clean and stuff....  here's the view from another angle. 

And I'm proud of myself - I actually cleaned the bookshelves less than 3 months ago.  

What you CAN'T really see here is that the book shelves line an entire wall in my bedroom-- let's just be happy the man took HIS four or five bookshelves worth of Philosophy materials to his office, m'kay?--and are stuffed with a rag-tag assortment of pictures, bits and bobs, jewelery, a dried pirhana (really!), the horse emblem from my husband's old MustangII named 'Bob' (the car, not the horse), mini hudu shaped rocks from Utah, a multitude of glasses from the kitchen (probably I oughta gather them up and like, wash them or something...) and other sundry things that probably shouldn't be there. 

But it's a small room and a huge bed, so it's what I have.

I've also purposely neglected to show my sweetum's dresser, which is usually (and currently) piled high with bits of paper, cables, legos, art projects, coins, and other manly things. Piled to the point of toppling off onto the floor. But really, it's the only space he makes a mess of, so I'm not complaining.

But I'm not photographing it, either.

And!  For your viewing pleasure! 

An assortment of the shells I brought back from Florida.... washed and arranged oh-so-lovely-like around my coffeemaker with views of the hideous-hated countertop that will YAY disappear this week with a kitchen remodel.  O.M.G. I can NOT wait...  

Yeah.  I know.  It's a lot of shells.  I should add that this is only about 1/4 of my haul.  In fact, I filled 4 gallon sized Ziploc bags and had to buy an extra suitcase.

For shells.

No kidding.

I can't help it.  I see a beach, and I feel like an heiress in a jewelery store.  Oooooh!  Pretty!

Shark's teeth and part of a horseshoe crab...

The shark's teeth hunting is AMAZING at Manasota Beach. 

Better than Venice Beach, which is crazy famous for shark's teeth. 

Better than Casperson's Beach.  Bettter than ANYWHERE. 

Seriously.  This is just from ONE DAY.  And only mine. 

My husband has decided that our finds shall NOT mingle, and has stolen his away.... ???? 

Weird.  He'll share his drink with me, but not his shark teeth.... SUCH a Florida boy.

Ah, the lowly cockles and clams... still beautiful.  Love them. 

And I'm somehow quite adept at finding bones on the beach... these are mostly bird bones (hollow), but the largest one is not a bird, although I don't know what it is, and there's a bit of a back bone there on the left, although I don't know from whom... s'ok.  I still like them.

Lettered Olives and Spiny Oysters and a few calico scallops.  So sweet.

Top left:  Murex.  Murexes?  Murexii?  I haven't a clue what the plural is... Anyone?

...but my Aunt C and I used to find these pretty infrequently at the Nokomis North Jetty when my Grandmother lived there, so it was nice to find a bunch of them.  Even if they aren't perfect.  They are still lovely.

Top Middle:  Shark Eye Moonsnails, some little Augers, broken Florida Conchs (used to find whole ones ALL the time, alas, not so much anymore) and a few others.

A couple of lightning whelks (again, used to find TONS of these), Turkey Wings on the bottom right, the stripe bits... those are Banded Tulip peices. 

The Elusive Banded Tulip... My absolutest favoritest thing to find EVAH. 

Again, that's thanks to Aunt C... I DO have a few whole ones from years gone by, but this time, I searched and searched and searched some more, and could only come up with pieces. 


One of these days, though... I'll find another one.

And finally, some lovely coral bits.  I kept thinking that I need to find a way to somehow assemble them into one piece of coral... and then of course, I decided to crochet them together.

We'll see how that works out.

Plenty of Florida fun remains in my camera.... But for now, I have to get ready for the kitchen remodel.

Did I mention that the kitchen will be remodeled?

Did I?

Because I'm a little excited....

I freaking HATE my kitchen.  It's hideous.

I'll post pics so you can hate on it too.  And you will.  Oh, you WILL....

But that will wait until tomorrow.