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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Cookies - Venetians

The second Italian cookie recipe I'd like to share is for the ever popular Venetians, or 7-layers, or Rainbow cookies...whichever you want to call them. Up in Brooklyn in the Italian bakeries you can find these delicacies for a pretty steep price per pound. They are so worth it! Locally, here in Roanoke I've tasted three different place's version and although they looked nice they didn't taste too nice, actually not nice, seriously shitty. Yours might not come out looking professional, but if you follow the recipe below I guarantee you they will be better than anything you'll find locally, unless you live in New York City, but that's a given.

I'm not making them today, but hope to within the week...that is if I could find the Solo Almond Pastry filling in a can at the local supermarkets. For some reason the shelves at my local Kroger and Food Lion do not have a single can, and I can only pray that this product did not fall under the Elena Curse...you know about the curse...anything I like here in the south, disappears, leaves, goes out of business, etc. It's important to note that the recipe yesterday called for almond paste. This recipe calls for almond pastry filling. It's a different consistency from the paste and I find it makes a much better tasting and textured cookie. Let me know if you see any in your travels and also if you see any reasonably priced pine nuts. I'm itching to make pignoli cookies.

I'm posting this recipe now, before I make another batch and have a much better picture to show because I don't know if I'm going to find the Solo pastry filling and these take two days total to be ready.  You'll need a space in your fridge for the layers to set overnight under a weighted wooden cutting board or similar so I wanted to make sure you would be ready to undertake them in time for whenever you wanted to serve them. As usual, make sure to use butter, not margarine. Life is too short to substitute margarine for butter...

VENETIANS

Preheat oven to 350.

1 can (8 oz. almond pastry filling)
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
10 drops green food color
8 drops red food color
1 jar (12 ounces) apricot preserves
2 1/2 squares semisweet chocolate

DIRECITONS

Coat three 13 x 9 x 2 inch pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line with wax paper, allowing paper to come up at the short ends. Spray paper.

Break up almost pastry filling in a large bowl. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract. Beat with electric mixer until light about fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Beat in flour and sat.

Beat egg whites in a different bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into almond mixture until well blended.

Divid mixture into 3 equal portions. Add green food coloring to one, red to another, leave last yellow. Sparely spread each potion into prepared pans.

Bake in oven 350 for about 15:00 or until edges are golden brown. Immediately remove the cakes from the pans using the waxed paper overhand.

Heat preserves in a small saucepan, strain through sieve. Place green cake layer on a jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet). Spread half of warm preserves over layer to edges. Slide yellow layer on top, spread with remaining apricot preserves. Slide pink layer, on top of yellow layer.

Cover with plastic wrap, weigh down with large wooden cutting board. Place in refrigerator overnight.

Melt chocolate in double boiler over water. (I do it in the microwave and it comes out fine, at 20 second intervals stir.) Trim edges off cake. Spread melted chocolate to edges of cake. Let dry about ten minutes until chocolate is hardened. Cut into 1 inch squares.

You know which ones they are



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Cookies - Italian Jelly Filled Butter Cookies

I love baking. I love baking cakes. I love baking loaves. I love baking cookies the best. Baking is different than cooking, which I also love, but whereby cooking usually means sticking precisely to a recipe, I do a lot of baking not only by recipe, but by eye, feelings, textures, smells, hunches, etc.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it goes horribly wrong, but usually baking affords more opportunities to rectify a mistake.

Take for instance this recipe I found on a Facebook Italians from Bensonhurst site...It's entitled, "Ultimate Italian Jelly Filled Finger Sandwich Butter Cookies." The poster promised these are the real thing that you would find in an Italian Brooklyn bakery, say like one on 18th Avenue. There wasn't any photo so I don't know what their results looked like, but when I first took mine out of the oven I was really disappointed. It was probably my fault as the recipe calls for using a pastry bag with a star tip. I didn't have one so planned to use my mother's old cookie press that has pastry tips and sausage nozzles. I use it to fill canneloni. When I took it out of the box I realized the attachment for the pastry tips were missing, so I did what any good Italian baker would do...improvise...and I used the sausage nozzle instead. What a mess!

The texture of the dough made it challenging to put it into the cookie press tube to the bottom. By the seventh time of putting the dough into the press my tennis elbow arm was rebelling and I just gave up by plopping spoonful's of dough onto a baking sheet and sprinkled some colored sugars on them. You won't be seeing any photos of that!

Anyway, when I first saw the little fingers coming out of the oven I was disappointed because they weren't identical and a little thinner than I hoped. I didn't even taste them. I was annoyed that it took me so long to make them and they looked nothing like I had imagined. After dinner my daughter and I sat at the table and began to rectify the "mistakes." First we found pairs that were almost the same size. On one of the cookies we spread raspberry unseeded preserves then pressed the other cookie on top. We did all of them life that. Then we took Baker's dark chocolate and melted it in the microwave. I'd brush the chocolate on the cookie, hand it to her and she would sprinkle the sprinkles on it and then place them sideways on a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it so they wouldn't stick when hardened.

When we tried them I was much happier. Even though they didn't look "professional" they tasted great and according to my daughter way better than bakery ones! Now that is a compliment! I would recommend using a pastry bag or if not, using a plastic ziploc baggie with a star nozzle cut through the bottom. Why didn't I think of that before???? Also, I'm sorry I didn't do half with apricot preserves to mix it up. Naturally, you can use any type of sprinkles, coconut flakes, nuts, or even just powdered sugar as the finishing touch. Two more points...use butter, not margarine and the almond paste is a must. Below is the recipe...Enjoy!



Italia Jelly Filled Finger Sandwich Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cup flour
7 oz butter room temperature
7 oz shortening
1 cup + 2 tbs confectioners sugar
4 egg whites
3 oz almond paste
salt pinch
1 tsp almont extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Choice of jelly filling, chocolate for dipping and sprinkles for finish.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large mixer bowl, cream lightly the butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the egg whites, almond paste, almond and vanilla extracts and mix until combined At low speed add the combined dry ingredients and mix until just blended.

Place into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, pipe onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, cutting 2 inch fingers and spacing two inches apart.

Bake for 10 - 14 minutes just until the bottoms and edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove from pans by sliding the whole piece of parchment onto a large wire rack and cool completely.

Sandwich 2 finger cookies with choice of jelly in between. Dip one end (we did both) in melter chocolate and cover with sprinkles. Or just leave plain with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.



Monday, September 17, 2018

Atlantic City Angel

I was supposed to spend last week up in Brooklyn after spending two days in Atlantic City. Every once in a while I'll get an email from a casino offering me a free room...well, "free" is subjective as by the time you add up all the fees associated with said "free" room the least it will run you is $32 a night, which is still way cheaper than the what could be hundreds of dollars a night.



So we accepted Caesar's gracious offer and booked two nights in their Centurion Tower. I highly recommend that tower as the room was beautiful, spacious, all new, comfy, and most importantly quiet! Nothing irks me more than to be in a hotel room near the elevator, ice machine, maid's room or to have noisy neighbors who constantly slam the door closed. Luckily we had none of that. We would have had a view as well if only some dang hurricane wasn't making us live in fog for two days.



It's easy to forget that there's a hurricane out there when you're in the casino or dining or drinking or whatever. Of course once you get outdoors and see the choppy Atlantic Ocean through the thick fog, or turn on the news in the room, or check text messages from a daughter who works at a local news station and is giving us hourly updates, reality sets back in.



But, before that happened we were just enjoying ourselves, so here's a couple of tips for your next Atlantic City excursion. Caesar's Palace is a really nice hotel to stay, especially if they're offering free or discounted rooms. They offer free parking pass for guests so you can self park and will benefit from the lengthy walk from the garage to the room. Do yourself a favor and note in your phone which garage, level and row you park. Trust me, or you may find yourself trying hard to remember. King size rooms are always nicer than two queen or double bed sized rooms. The little cafe in the lobby is great for a quick bite or late dessert.

We were highly unimpressed with Gordon Ramsay's restaurant. We've tried to go in the past and every time they always told us we would have a long wait even though we could see empty tables. We didn't realize they were doing us a favor then until we were seated this time and had dinner. Totally over-priced, tiny portions, bland and in a nutshell underwhelming. The escargot was okay but I've had better. I ordered the Shepherd's pie as I figure a Brit should have a good recipe. Nope, so salty, looked like canned peas and carrots in it, watery, and even though it was tiny I left most of it so you know it stunk. My husband had three half (not three whole eggs) "deviled" eggs and a hamburger. I had one cocktail, he had a coke. Dinner was $100! Luckily I hit $100 on my first try on a slot at Bally's so I felt better than I did the half hour before that happened. Even Steven!

Bally's was my favorite place to play slots, followed by Resorts as they still have the quarter Wheel of Fortune old reel ones. Most of the casinos now have penny slots, but you have to put in like 500 pennies in order to hit a big jackpot. I stay away from those as I have no idea what all those video screens and things are. I only play machines that have a pull handle as well, and that is a dying breed. I figure eventually I'll just give up slots because I'm not a fan of the push button, huge celebrity featured, video, techno looking things. Old school, baby, old school.

If you like table games, Bally's Wild West Casino was the only one where I was able to play Blackjack and Roulette at a $5 minimum. Even then I was betting $10 a hand and spin so I don't know why a $10 table scares me so much. I played for a while, but my best luck was on the slots. We walked to the new Hard Rock Casino. Didn't eat there because I'm not a fan of chain restaurants and the menu was not anything special. Walked through the casino and they did not have one quarter machine! Everything was those modern ones that I hate so didn't drop a dime in there. We walked back towards our hotel and had lunch at Harry's Oyster Bar. They have a nice pitcher of Sangria and I got my usual, raw little necks on a half shell and a shrimp cerviche...yum. We were staying away from Italian food because we were going to be getting plenty of that in Brooklyn over the next couple of days.

By the time we got back to the room on our last night we were exhausted. When I checked my phone there were a slew of messages about Hurricane Florence and how now Roanoke was in its bullseye. We watched the weather channel which forecast nothing but gloom and doom for us and then our daughter who pretty much reiterated that. We hadn't really taken any sort of precautions before we left so now we were faced with a dilemma...do we stay, or do we go? After checking future radar from the Weather Channel it looked like our best window of opportunity for driving was the following day.  If not, we would be stuck for a while. I do not like driving in the rain, never mind torrential storms especially in the cursed car.

Ah yes, the cursed car for those of you who don't know is the 1999 Olds Intrigue that was my dad's. When he died in 2007 we took it over as it only had 17,000 miles on it. My husband has always said to never take a dead person's car because it will give you nothing but trouble, and oh my God was he ever right about this one. Every single time we've taken it anywhere for a long distance something happens. I said after last year when the power steering pump went out when we were in New York, that was the last time. But then when this trip came up once again we think about the horrible parking situation in Brooklyn, the crazy drivers, do I really want to subject my Hyundai to that? And after all, the Olds still only has 70,000 miles on it. I reminded my husband of what we said last time, but was vetoed. So instead we spent yet another couple of hundred dollars fixing it up and getting it ready to roll.

On the way up there the check engine light came on. Frank: "Don't worry it's nothing." Then the radiator light came on. Frank: "It does that some times." Then the anti-lock brake lights. Frank: "Son of a bitch." I'm like wtf?! Is that why we're sliding every time you hit the brakes when the road is wet? Apparently so. He assured me it was nothing he couldn't handle so we left the cursed car in the lot for the two days and it was nice to just walk everywhere.

Anyway, back to our last night. We made the decision the smart move was to come back to Roanoke. I thought that maybe I could eke one more night out of our trip and make a quick run to Brooklyn. It was only 2 1/2 hours away...I could almost taste those baked clams and pastries. I could see my friends and family for a night of laughs and then we could bring back provisions to fill the two coolers we brought. Nope, wasn't going to happen after we called home to tell my son we were heading back. He informed us that we were going to be hosting a family from North Carolina with a baby and dog at our house for a couple of days. Say what? Without asking? Total strangers in my home who have a dog? Does he not know how our dog reacts to not only strangers, but other dogs??? That's all well and fine being a good samaritan and all, but yeah, no, I'm a little less trusting than he is, especially if I only know the people from playing video on-line games. So yeah we were heading back the next day. I needed to be there for Bella.

So there we were in the room looking at each other, cursing ourselves for not eating in a good Italian restaurant and me scratching my head wondering why is it every time I'm in Brooklyn I get called back because of an emergency. This time I didn't even freaking make it to Brooklyn! I swear the last six times something has happened and it's getting to the point I'm afraid to even go up there any more.

On Wednesday we checked out and trekked the mile to the car packing it all in, buckling myself in and I said out loud, "Ok bitch, get us home! No, that was to the car, not you Frank." He puts the key in, turns it and click, click, click. Nothing. He turns to me, tries it again. Click, click, click. Nothing. Are you freaking kidding me?! The cursed car is dead, dead, dead. All the lights are working in the car. My husband, who is a mechanic, starts cursing after I ask hopefully,  is it the battery? He doesn't think so and fears it might be the starter. He pops the hood open and could barely stand in front of it as we are pulled up all the way to the concrete wall. He can't get to the starter to try and hit it with a wrench. This really sucks. Now what are we supposed to do? We got to get it freaking towed to a repair shop. This really sucks.

I call AAA and after holding for about 15:00 with the message repeating over and wait times are more than usual, a person finally comes on. I'm told a tow truck will be at least an hour, maybe two then they could tow it to a repair shop but it will be up to the shop to say when they could work on it. This really, really sucks. This mother f*&ng cursed car!!!! To think I was so happy I was leaving Atlantic City up a whole forty bucks too! God knows what this is going to cost us, and worse, I GOTTA GET HOME TO MY DOG!!!

I felt like I was going to cry so I took ahold of my emotions by breathing deep and channeling "my people." I shut myself out from the world and asked them to please come and help us. I said I was leaving our situation in their hands and just letting go. It calmed me down. I got out of the car and leaned against the trunk.

Not five minutes pass when I see a guy in a white shirt walking through the parking garage down the ramp towards us. I nod as he passes and he looks at me and asks me if everything is all right. I say, "Not really, the car is dead." He asks me if I need help. I laugh and point to the white SUV next to us and say, "Sure, this wouldn't happen to be yours, would it?" He says, "Yes." What???? Are you kidding???? I ask him if he wouldn't mind trying to give us a boost. He says sure. I tell my husband let's give it a shot, we got nothing to lose.

We unload everything from the trunk and dig out the battery cables. The fellow has no idea how to open his hood so Frank does it for him. He also has no idea how to use the stick to keep the hood up so Frank does it for him. He has no idea how to put the cables on so Frank does that too. Frank tells him to turn the ignition over, brrr, brrrr, brrrrr, vroom!!!! The car starts!!!! Oh my God, I can't believe it!!! Frank quickly removes the cables and then it dies. Oh no, let's try again this time keep it on a little longer. It works!!!! I keep my foot on the gas pedal giving it a shot every so often as Frank unhooks all the cables and puts the guys hood down. As he's doing that and thanking him, Frank tells him we are trying to get back to Roanoke  before the hurricane hits. This fellow says, "Yeah, you guys need to go back home."

Frank comes back into the driver's seat and I get out wanting to thank this guy. Funny thing, he's already gone! He's not in the SUV. I look down the ramp to see if he was walking and don't see anyone. He like just disappeared. There were thousands of cars in this garage. What were the odds of us having the car next to us, the only car that could have reached us with jumper cables, come to our rescue. Where did this guy come from? Why would he be walking in the garage down from an upper level if the SUV was his? He didn't seem familiar at all with the workings of it either. It was just the strangest thing. I think it was my guardian angel, and when your guardian angel tells you you have to go home, you listen. We did. Smart move.



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Outer Banks

My dream is to one day own a house at the beach. Lounging on the shore,  reading a book while hearing the waves as they crash, feeling the surf spray on my sun-burned body, smelling the brine of the ocean and hearing birds caw in the background is my idea of bliss.



If I had a job that provided a  pension and health insurance that I could retire from I would have a long time ago. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead when I was younger, or, in reality, I felt I was "too creative" to work "for the man" at some city/state/federal agency -- how boring! -- and opted to own businesses instead, where it was me alone (80's & 90's) or my husband and I alone (90's until now) paying ourselves, with no retirement plan nor  group health insurance.  Silly me. However my dream is still attainable as my "retirement plan" is the Brooklyn house when we sell it. Lucky me.

Our Roanoke home is located in a beautiful part of the country, but mountains and valleys are not where I want to spend my golden years. We will keep it, not only because my son will be living in it, but the location is a good one in case of tragedy, whether that "tragedy" be man-made or nature made.  Ideally, my plan would be to locate somewhere that is within one day driving distance to Roanoke, and near a beach. Even after selling my Brooklyn home, I would not be able to afford a place anywhere along the beaches of Brooklyn, Queens, or Long Island so New York is out. Same goes for New Jersey...besides, other than a couple of days spent in Atlantic City, I'm just not a fan of that state. I'd consider Maine, but my husband thinks it's too cold...same with all the other New England states.

Next up are the Mid Atlantic states. I have not been to any beaches in Maryland or Delaware so can't weigh in on them. The only beach I've been to in Virginia is Virginia Beach and that's a no-go. Beach is nice, but the area is too crowded, too commercial, too military, too touristy, just too-too.

Now we get to the state that I am most leaning to...North Carolina. The furthest away from our home to a beach there is less than 7 hours. We've been to Ocean Isle Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Love them both, but went to them before I decided that one day I wanted to live near a beach, so I will have to visit the surrounding area again before making a Zillow account on those areas. I tried to book a hotel for last week at both places but couldn't find anything available so I opted to check out another North Carolina beach possibility, and one we'd never been to before, the Outer Banks.

I knew nothing about the Outer Banks other than most people rent houses there.



I am not into renting a house as that means I will have to perform all the same duties in that house as I do in this house. That is not what I consider a vacation. Instead I searched high and low for a room that was either ocean front or had ocean view. No point going to the beach if you don't have that. I was surprised at how booked everything was there too, and how expensive the rooms were, but not as expensive as Wrightsville Beach is. I finally found something that looked decent in Kill Devil Hills. What a weird name for a city! Unfortunately, the pictures were deceptive, and I blame myself for not calling and asking if ocean view meant I had a balcony to sit on to view the ocean. We didn't. So, we paid more for ocean view, which is all it was, a view of the ocean from the inside of our room but too far from the shore.  Although I could probably spend a lot more on it, this post is not going to be a bash on the hotel. It's really about what I thought of the Outer Banks. Let's just say, it only took a couple of days to realize it's not a retirement contender.



Like I stated earlier, I love the beach. Not only do I love lounging on the beach, I enjoy going in the ocean. My husband, who once thought he would one day be a marine biologist, does not feel the same way. When I go to the beach, it brings me back to my childhood -- where we spent most days -- either at Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Coney Island. When we weren't baking grilled cheese and bologna sandwiches wrapped in tin foil under the hot sun, or chasing down the fudgie wudgie man, we were jumping in, under, and over the waves. I can't swim, probably because I didn't spend much time in a pool, but I can float on my back, for a little bit, in salt water. The rest of the time I'm usually neck deep bobbing like a cork that fell in a punch bowl.

The first thing I noticed about the OBX (quickly learned OBX on those oval stickers on a lot of car windows was the abbreviation for Outer Banks) was the color and temperature of the water. It was grayish,  darker than I thought it would be, and much much colder than I thought as well. The water up north at Brooklyn beaches and Emerald Coast NC ones are way warmer. On my first day I only went up to my ankles because it was so frigid and was disappointed to find how horrible the sand in the surf felt under my feet. It wasn't smooth at all. It felt like shards of broken shells and hurt to even walk on it. I wondered how far out it went, but didn't explore because the water was so cold. There were hardly any shells on the beach, none unbroken, and if we had gone with the kids when they were young other than them probably chasing all the little crabs peeking out from under the sand, they would have been disappointed too. The ocean was so calm that it didn't make sense to me why there would be so many broken shards.



Even if I didn't go in the water I still enjoyed just being on the beach. I did take a dip in the unheated hotel pool which felt good as it was warmer than the ocean.

Paddle boarding on the Atlantic Ocean
The next day it rained so no beach for us. Instead we visited Manteo which is where that other Roanoke is, the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The town itself is cute, but there really wasn't much to see where the actual colony was. We had planned on attending the play that night but since it was outdoors, and still raining, we didn't bother. Here's a couple of shots of the settlement.




Spanish moss


When we next went to the beach it was like we were at a different beach than we were two days prior. The waves were crazy strong and now it made sense as to why the ocean floor was like a sharp dump of broken shells.




The sounds of the crashing waves were amazing, but the pull of them, even as I stood only ankle deep, was scary. I couldn't imagine even going up to my calves as the undertow was so strong.



Those waves were so high and powerful I was scared for the parents who were letting their children go near them. I was on watch the whole time. Any child that was even near the surf I worried about. One guy had one of those sand chairs wedged in right by the shore and I watched as a crazy wave came in and tumbled him out of it! I couldn't imagine letting my child go into that ocean. I heard someone say in the breakfast room that morning that there were riptides. A riptide can pull you out overwhelm you in mere seconds. When I asked the front desk person if she had heard any idea what the weather was going to be that day she said, "You're on the Outer Banks, it changes from minute to minute." Yeah, no, the Outer Banks will not be on my short list.

Always wanted to surf...those days are over!
There were two things I really liked about OBX...the fresh seafood and the thrift stores. I have to say every restaurant we went to was really good and I have had my fill of sea scallops and shrimp to last a while. Some of my recommendations are: Slice, a pizzeria where as the name implies, you can just grab a slice of pizza if that's all you want. There are many varieties, all looked yummy. And their pizza was so delicious I went back to have another fresh mozzarella, Roma tomato, garlic & basil slice twice. You can also get a glass of wine while you wait.

Trio was the exact restaurant I have wanted to open in Roanoke for the last 20+ years...a place where you can get wine, cheese, beer and live acoustic music. They also had a store in the front where you can take out goodies. Delicious! Click here for my Trip Advisor Trio review.  Josephine's Sicilian Kitchen was another favorite. Real Italian food, in an intimate setting where the menu changes weekly. They do not take reservations so if you want to get in without a long wait I recommend going when it first opens at 5:00pm. Click here for my Trip Advisor review of Josephine's. If you want something a little more fancier, for that special occasion, I recommend the Colington Cafe, a French restaurant in what was once a home in Collington which is right near Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills.

I loved going to all the thrift stores. My favorite was Class and Trash which was like an affordable Black Dog Salvage yard. We got some neat things and had I had room we probably would have brought back a lot more "stuff."

Besides the ocean water, the most disappointing event we experienced was a wine tasting event which took us 45 minutes to get to as it was at the end of the OBX in Cutterick. There were only two vineyards sampling, and three beer breweries. I don't drink beer so for $15 it was a waste as the pour was literally a thimble size pour of five different wines. Altogether it would not have filled the glass. I  now know I hate North Carolina grapes, way too sweet with a musky aftertaste. At least there was some nice scenery. There was no way I was climbing the lighthouse and paying $10 to be out of breath and in pain, but it was pretty to look at.






There was no way I was leaving without getting in that ocean so on our last day I braved the cold, waves, and rough bottom and did a quick run in. I was stopped about knee high by a powerful wave which knocked me down. By the time I got up Frank was already at the shore in case he had to rescue me. I got out quickly.




All in all it was good to get away, but with the temperatures soaring into the high nineties in Roanoke, this week at the beach would probably have been a better call.



My husband is pushing for us to consider Florida as a possibility, but I'm not too keen on it. He thinks Maine is too cold. I think Florida is too hot. I'm sure there are other beaches between Maine and Florida we could consider. If you know of any please drop a comment!








Friday, February 9, 2018

23andWho???

I was the first in my family to have my DNA tested through 23andMe. I'm sure most of you know what that is but for those who do not, it's a company that will tell you where your ancestors come from, how much percentage you carry of different countries your ancestors hailed from, a timeline of when they first show up, and more importantly to me, are the health reports that they generate. The kit comes with a vial that you spit in, close, shake, and send off to the company.



As I chose to take part in both ancestry as well as health reports it cost $199. If you do ancestry alone it's $99, and they run specials now and then, up to 20% off. It takes about four to six weeks, sometimes sooner to get the results via email.

I always thought I was mostly Italian with perhaps some Norman mixed in as a relative on my Dad's side had completed genealogical research which went back to the 1400's and had something to do with Normans going through Spain and into Italy. The most distinguished DiRosa (originally spelled with an i not e) was a Senator in Naples. If you know anything about Naples during that time period, you know they were pretty much out of control, so I'm not surprised. I mean living on the side of a volcano that can erupt at any moment can make one "carefree." I also suspected there might be a little Genghis Khan in me because my daughter had a little blueish birthmark on her backside when she was born and I read somewhere along the line that mark was present in descendants of Khan.

Here are my results which shows I am mostly Italian, actually 88.5% Southern European and I'm assuming the Broadly Southern European probably is Sicily as that's where all four of my grandparents were born. North African and Middle Eastern make sense too as everybody raided Sicily. I was surprised to see that yes, maybe I am a descendent of Khan as I have .3% Mongolian. I found the Broadly East Asian .1% surprising as well as the unassigned .8%.



Here is my timeline which is very surprising to me.



It makes sense that my Grandparents hailed from Italy between 1870-1930, but there is nothing between the years 1840-1870. My very first ancestor supposedly is Finnish followed by West African. So does that mean a ship left Finland and wound up in West Africa? Did my ancestor have something to do with slavery or did he/she marry an African Queen/King?

The next family member to do 23andMe was my daughter which shows she shares 50% of her DNA with me. I was very curious to have her spit in a bottle because there was some disparity between my husband's relatives as what ancestry they are. Many years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with MHE I tried to find out as much genetic info as I could. Since my husband was adopted and hadn't stayed in touch with his biological father's side, he didn't have any information on them so we turned to his mom. When she said my husband's grandmother on his father's side was Cherokee I was elated as that would mean my daughter was about 25% or 12.5% Cherokee which entitled her to a bevy of free medical treatments for her rare disease. His mom also said his grandfather on her side, her father,  was half-Japanese, which was cool. My husband knew that grandfather very well and said he would never speak of that side. I've seen pics of his grandparents and his grandfather does not look Japanese at all while his grandmother does look German.

Back to the Native American gene...We actually went on a trip to Cherokee, NC to look at the rolls to see if we could verify my husband's heritage. It was a bust, and it was then I decided I needed to reach out to his biological dad's side. His father had already passed many years prior but he still had a brother who I tracked down and sent a letter. To make a long story short they were thrilled I contacted them and were joyful they finally got the opportunity to reconnect with my husband who they hadn't seen since he was 6 years old and only for a moment at 18 at his dad's funeral. Since my contact with them we have become very close and they are truly wonderful people. Anyway back to the heritage. When I told his uncle that I needed some sort of verification about their Cherokee lineage he laughed and said they weren't Cherokee at all. Huh? No, my husband's grandparents were actually Polish!

His uncle was big into genealogy and had reams of pages on their family which first entered America on the Mayflower, the Southwicks, he said. He also said that Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt were distant cousins of my husband. All very interesting but not a Native American among them!

When my daughter's 23andMe results came back it showed she was 98.4% European. She has a percentage of all my ancestors except for Finnish, Middle Eastern, Mongolian, and Broadly Sub-Saharan Africa.  Her majority, not from my side, is Northwestern Europe which included 12.7% British & Irish, 7.5% French & German, and 10.2% Broadly Northeast European which I would assume was Polish. She also showed <.1% Ashkenazi Jewish, and since I had 0% I figured that was from her father's side. What was odd to me was that she had 0% Japanese! The only East Asian she had was .2%, with .1% Yakut.  I had .4% East Asian and 0 Yakut.

When the kids bought their dad a 23andMe kit for Christmas I think I was more excited than he was to find out his ancestry. Well, we got the results last week. Our daughter is his with her carrying 49.9% of his DNA. So where is the other .1%???

Here is a snapshot of some of his results:



As you can see he is listed as 100% European with the majority of his ancestry, 69.2% Northwestern European broken down as 31.8% British & Irish, 15.7% French & German, 1.5% Scandinavian, 20.2% Broadly Northeast European. The rest is Eastern European. Most notable are two things...first, the 0% Ashkenazi Jewish. If I have 0 and he has 0 how does our daughter have <.1% Ashkenazi? Second, no Japanese! How can that be? His mother told him his grandfather was half Japanese. Shouldn't there be at least a small percentage? He was told stories of how his mother, her sisters and his grandmother were almost rounded up and sent to Japanese interment camps even though his "half-Japanese" grandfather worked in the Brooklyn Navy yards during the war. There is even a letter floating around somewhere whereby the government apologized.

According to my husband's timeline either his parent, grandparent or great grandparent was 100% British & Irish and born between 1870 & 1930. He adamantly says this is incorrect. Besides, as we all know no one is really 100% anything!

This is our wall of ancestors...




At the very top is a photo is of my husband's ancestors on his grandfather's side, all Japanese in traditional dress. I do not know the year of this photo.



So, who are these people? Are they not his relatives? Who do we believe? DNA or oral histories? Did 23andMe get it all wrong? And if they got the ancestry side wrong, what about the health reports? How accurate are they? I had hoped this DNA testing would answer some questions, but in fact it's given me even more...23andWho???









Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ice in Roanoke

Ice looks beautiful, but it's pretty treacherous out there if you have to walk or drive in it. There's also a good chance I'm going to lose electricity when the heavy branches topple an electric wire somewhere down the line. Here's some shots from the comfort of my driveway and back patio.

























Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sleep Paralysis Or????

With her misplaced anger, inexplicable attitude, and trash bags of possessions she pulled behind her when the girl suddenly decided to abandon this household, I secretly hoped she also took our spirits with her. 

I don’t know if it was the black black-out curtains, or the hostile mood lingering in the room, but I felt it was necessary for me to do a cleansing of sorts - not just of the damaged wooden floors - but of the atmosphere as well before I moved in there. I spoke with a friend of mine who reiterated my belief that using sage was probably not the best idea. We both were in agreement that when we had smudged in the past things didn’t clear up, and in fact, became even more active. Instead, she recommended I use some bay leaves, turquoise, and kosher salt.

I happened to stumble upon these really cute speech bubble shaped serving dishes when I was in TJ Maxx slashed to $2.00 which were the perfect size. I went to AC Moore thinking I could get some turquoise there but all their “turquoise” came from China and in fact were made of glass or ceramics, not stones. Luckily Crystal Cottage was open and he had one small vial of real turquoise that I found hidden. He didn’t even know he had it. What are those odds? Again for $2.00! Kosher salt was easy to find as well.

So when I got home yesterday I filled five of the dishes with this concoction and placed them in some rooms while saying my own prayers.



All seemed well and then after dinner things started getting a little weird. As we were watching television in the living room we heard a strange sound, like a “clinking” that my husband thought came from the kitchen and I though came from the piano. Bella also heard it and barked, looking towards the dining room where the piano is. Her head was moving back and forth as if she was following something.  I didn’t see anything. My husband checked the kitchen and couldn’t find anything so I went over to the piano where I had placed one of the serving dishes. When I first placed it down there was salt on the bottom, the leaves placed on top, and the turquoise stones placed all around the leaves. When I looked down I saw many of the stones were now on top of the leaves. I picked up a couple of stones and dropped them on the dish and that sounded like the noise we had heard. I took them back off the leaves and shrugged my shoulders.

From that point on Bella began acting very skittish. When we went to bed she snuggled between us at the head of the bed rather than near our feet where she usually lay, as she loves the fan in her face. She would not settle down and kept panting and following “nothing” in the air. My husband fell asleep, I watched It’s Always Sunny and then shut off the television. A couple of minutes after as I was trying to fall asleep it sounded like a kitchen cabinet door opened. It was loud enough that my husband woke up and asked me if I heard that. As I said yes there was another sound causing Bella to bark and Frank to leap out of bed. He turned the kitchen light on and found an empty seltzer bottle had “fallen” from the middle of the kitchen table to under it.

As he informed me what it was, the lights in the house starting blinking, the fan cutting on and off. “What the hell?!” we both exclaimed. And then complete silence. Everything went out. No power at all. Not knowing if it was just our house or others as well I called the power company and let them know, but since they did not say there was a power outage in my area we grabbed protection before opening the door to see what the rest of the neighborhood looked like. 

We had no idea it was raining so maybe that played in the blackout, but the stores down below seemed to still have power. When he ventured to the end of the driveway it did look very dark and there were no streetlights so we breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t just our home. Imagination could make you think all sorts of weird things!

We tried going back to bed but I was having a hard time as total silence is too distracting for me to fall asleep. I needed that fan or at least the soft glow of the vaporizer. Lying there I kept hearing knocks and other strange bumps in the night. I didn’t want to wake Frank back up because he had just come from the doctor earlier who told him he has a heart condition, extremely high blood pressure, and needed to not be so stressed out, to get plenty of rest, etc., and besides prescribing nitro glycerine pills and an aspirin a day regiment, he is setting up a bunch of testing with a cardiologist. It’s been a couple of “stressful” weeks here so I did not want to disturb him.

I turned on my side and began praying and imagining a white light covering us, protecting us. The next thing I know is I hear in my left ear a sound that I cannot describe other than to say it was almost celestial, or harmonic, or fluttering, a universal vibration type noise. Like something I imagine one would hear in space. It freaked me out a bit. I tried to move my arm to put the cover my ear and that’s when I realized I was paralyzed, and then I felt as if my body was about to rise, like it was going to go somewhere, not of this world. 

I tried to move my mouth but I couldn’t. I tried to speak but nothing came out. I felt myself rising and I pushed myself down. I was afraid to go into the tunnel so I kept fighting it. With all my strength I tried rocking myself free but nothing worked. I started praying in my mind stronger and as I did my silent scream started to be a soft whimper. I couldn’t mouth any words other than a weak help which came out like “heh.” My husband heard it and when he put his hand on me and asked, “Are you all right?” I was able to move again. He broke the spell.

I told him what I had felt, and asked if he had heard the sound that I had, but he hadn’t. I told him that I was paralyzed and I didn’t know if I was going to be abducted by aliens, or if I had unintentionally meditated to a place where I was going to be shown other dimensions. The phrase "harmonic convergence" kept coming into me. The last time this had happened to me was when I lived in Brooklyn. At that time I was by myself in bed and although I couldn’t move I was able to see, and sitting at the edge of my bed was a figure of a man dressed all in black like from late 1800's to early 1900's wearing a top hat. To break that spell I had to gather enough strength to rock myself off the bed. When I hit the floor I was able to move and the dark man disappeared.

I don’t know what I felt last night but damn, I think I stirred up some shit again. 

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever experienced sleep paralyzation? What do you do to get out of it?