Adriana, Home School

Giving Thanks

Having Hope is what gets us through Hardships

For most of us, the holiday season may not look the same this year. Traditions we hold dear to our hearts may not be safe, like gathering together and celebrating the joys of life or sharing in a hug or a good meal. Change isn’t easy. Making hard choices isn’t either, but keeping those we hold dear to us safe is a courageous task. Making sacrifices for the better of humanity and our communities as a whole is admirable. Even though things may not look the same, I hope that in your lives there is so much to be grateful for. During this time of year, there are so many great lessons to be had about life’s blessings and joy.

I always find this time of year so very special for reflecting on life and gratitude. Although adjusting to the time change can be a challenge in our house, I love the natural slowing down of the rhythm of our household as we follow the seasonal rhythm of nature around us. As darkness falls earlier, we all gather for an early dinner and enjoy special family time baking, crafting, playing games and reading together by the coziness of the fire.

Although, certain traditions have been challenged this year, there are some that remain that have become even more precious and cherished; like family and our time shared together. The holiday season is an incredibly special time for reflection. Some traditions that the kids and I have maintained that help us to continue some routine are exploring topics during the fall and winter seasons that help us to reflect on hardship, resilience, gratitude and hope.

We usually start off the school year and fall season by studying the first settlers in our country, the voyage and hardships of the pilgrims and those that traveled out west along with the courage and strength of the Native American tribes in America. Some of our favorite books with great stories and projects are: A Pioneer Thanksgiving and A Pioneer Christmas by Barbara Greenwood, American Kids in History Colonial Days by David C. King, Earth Maker’s Lodge: Native American Folklore, Activities and Foods by E. Barrie Kavasch and North American Indians; The Hands-on Approach to History by Andrew Haslam and Alexandra Parsons.

We also take this time to do a lot of free writing in our journals. Sometimes I give the kids writing prompts asking them to put themselves in the shoes of one of the characters in the stories we are reading, having them reflect on how they may have acted or felt, we sometimes write poetry or short stories based on our readings, they have also written their own creative legends inspired by the Native American legends we’ve read. One of our favorite things to do is make costumes and perform a play, either one the kids have created or a story from our readings. We craft and bake and try out some recipes from the pioneers and the Native Americans; fresh gingerbread, plum pudding, corn husk dolls, making Native American housing and Christmas Pomanders, woven baskets out of raffia, vases out of clay and we’ve even made our own loom and done some weaving!

A project I try to do each year with the kids is to make some ‘Gratitude Buntings.’ We simply cut some twill fabric into triangle or rectangle shapes, make apple prints or paint them and then write something we are grateful for on them. We then attach the buntings to some yarn with a glue gun and hang them either in the dining room or on our mantel throughout the holiday season.

If you’re looking for some great read aloud stories or independent reading for your older children some books we have enjoyed are: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink and Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac.

The books below are also some great read aloud’s for children of all ages.

Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac

Earthmaker, help us to cherish these gifts that surround us and to share our blessings with our brothers and our sisters so that our world is continually blessed.

Native American Blessing

During these uncertain times I have found that we are reminded of our own human resilience as we study those of our ancestors. Human beings have been through this before and we will make it through. The journey may not be easy, but it will make us stronger as individuals and as families. Everything we know and love that is missed, will be cherished even more when the time allows it to return to us. Have Hope, stay safe and strong and may you be surrounded by life’s blessings and gratitude.

Adriana, Family, Home School

Fall Festive Fun for a Stay at Home Halloween!

Fall is always a special time of year. We look forward to all the local fall festivals, pumpkin and apple picking, baking, crafting and working on our Halloween costumes. This year with the current pandemic and social distancing, we’ve had to get a little more creative with our fall activities, but surprisingly the kids are ever resilient and have come up with some clever and creative ways to keep things exciting! I hope some of these fun ideas add to your Halloween Festivities!

Leo put together a fall festival for us all with a pumpkin rolling contest, a hay ride on his peddle tractor, bouncing in the bounce house and even a picture booth he painted and made from a cardboard box!

He and Lily also set up an archery station with bails of hay creating a fun family archery challenge.

The kids have been putting together their homemade costumes and since we won’t be able to trick-or-treat this year, they have decided that they will change costumes and visit our front door a couple times! This idea has actually worked out well for those who can’t commit to one costume!

Lily the 80’s Rockstar

To add some science and math to our Halloween fun, we made magic math ghosts and pumpkins. To do this, draw some pumpkins and ghosts on watercolor paper and write some math equations for your child to solve. Write the answers in white crayon and after your child has solved the problems, have them watercolor paint over the hidden answers and watch them appear like magic!

We had some science fun by blowing up orange pumpkin balloons with gas! This is a simple science project using an empty plastic bottle, vinegar and baking soda. To do this, add 1/3 cup vinegar to the empty bottle, have your child draw a pumpkin face on the balloon, use a funnel to add two tablespoons baking soda to the balloon, put the balloon around the plastic bottle top and stand the balloon up so that the baking soda falls to the bottom of the bottle – the chemical reaction will instantly inflate the balloon!

We also made some tissue paper pumpkin piñata’s to fill with Halloween surprises that the kids will search for on a Halloween Treasure Hunt! To make the piñata’s we used balloons and modge-podged 3-4 layers of orange tissue paper. Once they are dry you can pop the balloon, fill it up with treats and then modge-podge a couple layers over the opening to seal it up. The kids gave their pumpkins faces, which you can do with marker or glue on with construction or tissue paper.

Last, but not least, we always carve pumpkins on Halloween! Light them up and bring them indoors – it adds a cozy atmosphere for telling stories as you wind down the night!

Happy Halloween!

Adriana, Food, Home School, Italian Roots

Cheese Making With Kids!

Ava and I in the kitchen getting ready to make some goat cheese!

Ok, so you’ve joined the slow food movement – you have a garden, you’re baking bread and you’re making meals from scratch – what else is there to do, but venture into the crazy world of making your own homemade cheese! I know, it may sound crazy, maybe even impossible, but trust me, once you give it a try, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of making something that seems so ordinary, yet connects you to age-old artisan traditions. I am a cheese fan; always have been, always will be. I cannot put into words, my true love for not just cheese, but fresh cheese, especially goat cheese! One of my fondest memories of a trip to Italy is of a summer stay in the mountain village in which my father grew up and discovering our neighbor, the goat farmer, and his cheese making business. Barley twenty years old this young farmer was already running his own cheese business and raising goats on the family farm. It was a simple, yet impressive operation that left not only an imprint on my tastebuds, but on my heart. It was a glimpse into the old-fashioned, slower paced living that Mike and I craved and left us amazed at how during modern day times, here was a young entrepreneur, in a remote mountain village, raising goats and making delicious cheese in the cellar of his family’s home.

When we returned to New England, Mike and I both were on a hunt for goat cheese that reminded us of Italy. Fortunately, we live in an area where local farmers never seize to amaze me and to my great delight we discovered that some of the best goat cheese in the US is made right around the corner! And I do mean this literally because my fabulous goat farming neighbor makes some unbelievable chèvre!

If you haven’t ever given cheese making a try you’d be surprised at how easy it is to make a simple farm cheese for the family to enjoy! We use raw goat’s milk from our neighbor’s farm, but you can substitute raw cow milk or pasteurized cow milk for cheese making.

This simple goat cheese recipe is from Lisa Schwartz’s “Over the Rainbeau” book.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Quart Raw Goats Milk or Pasteurized Goat Milk (Don’t used Ultra-pastuerized milk) *Cow Milk can be substituted
  • Food Thermometer
  • Cheese cloth (made of cotton, not synthetic materials)
  • Medium sized cooking pan
  • Wooden spoon and ladle
  • Juice of two lemons (4 tablespoons)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk until it reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until set, about 15 seconds. If milk does not set, add a little more lemon juice.
  2. Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Ladle set milk into colander. Tie the four corners of cheesecloth together; hang on the handle of a wooden spoon set over a deep bowl and let drain until it is the consistency of slightly dry cottage cheese, 1 to 2 hours. Transfer to a bowl and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 1 week.

Once you’ve separated the curds from the whey, save the whey to add to other recipes. Whey has several nutritional benefits. It is full of protein, calcium and potassium. We use it as a substitute for buttermilk when making pancakes and it is a great substitute for water when making pizza dough.

If you’re interested in purchasing a cheese making kit or getting some more information about cheese making, the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has a fantastic website with great information, recipes, kits, cultures and supplies. Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll is also a great resource.

Wishing you all some time to enjoy the slower pace of life, to experiment in the kitchen cultivating memories and bringing the process of food making back to the center of family life! We all care a little more about the product, when we are involved in the process – true for food and for life.

Adriana, Home School

History’s Mysteries for Kids: The Great Chicago Fire

My kids love mysteries. Recently, we’ve been exploring some great US History Mysteries through books and research. It’s a great way to learn more about history and geography while practicing some logic and reasoning skills. Our most recent US History Mystery was about The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that burned from October 8th to the 10th destroying thousands of buildings, killing an estimated 300 people and causing millions in damages. Reasons for the fire are still debated today, but legend has it that a cow in the O’Leary family’s barn kicked over a lantern and started the fire. The O’Leary’s denied this charge and the true cause of the fire has never been determined. Other theories allude that someone trying to steal milk or a group of men playing a card game were trespassing on the property that night and caused the fire. Scientists have even theorized about a possible meteor causing the event due to evidence in the area! What is known is that, dry weather conditions, lots of wooden city buildings and a polluted river all seemed to leave Chicago vulnerable to the fire. The fire quickly grew out of control and devastated an area of the city about four miles long and almost a mile wide.

Fortunately, some positive change came from an unfortunate event. The aftermath lead to better building and fire codes, rebuilding the city and spurring great economic development and population growth. It’s a great topic to explore in US History, architecture, city development and living conditions, along with using logic and reasoning skills to discern information.

After our research, Ava (11) and Lily (9), decided to create a fire art scene of what the city may have looked like that night long ago. They used paper, pastels and acrylic paints to create the blazing background and then drew in the city skyline over the paint with black charcoal pencil.

The Virginia Mystery Series

The Virginia Mysteries Series by Steven K. Smith is a Great History Adventure Series

If you’re looking for a great History’s Mysteries series for kids ages 6-12, The Virginia Mystery Series by Steven K. Smith is an exciting read aloud History and Adventure series that my family has enjoyed. The stories are modern-day fictional mysteries with some twists to real locations and events from Virginia history. We’ve had a lot of fun reading these books and exploring some of the events and historical figures a little deeper.

Here’s to sparking a love of reading, an interest in US history and challenging kids logic and reasoning skills – Enjoy the Adventure!

Adriana, Home School

Making Apple Prints with Kids

Nothing says New England quite like the fall season; red, yellow and orange leaves, the crisp autumn air, farm stands full of winter squash and pumpkins and of course Apples! Apples are one of the first signs of Autumn and have been an essential part of New England agriculture for centuries. Apple picking is a Fall family tradition around here and we truly can never pick enough! We not only love to cook and bake with our apples, but have found some fun ways to craft with them too!

One of the kids favorite Apple Crafts is to cut an apple in half, dip it into some tempura paint and press them onto fabric or paper to create “Apple Prints.” I’ve been doing this fun, easy project with my kids since they were 4 years old and they still have fun experimenting with apple prints today!

If you’d like to give apple printing a try all you need are these materials:

  • Apples
  • Cotton or twill fabric
  • Tempura paint and brush (and something to pour paint onto for dipping)
  • A long stick or dowel rod
  • Hot glue gun & glue
  • String or yarn for hanging
  • Extra fabric cut into leaf shapes and modge podge to glue the leaves onto the fabric.
We like to cut the apples in half so that you see the beautiful star image.

Instructions:

  • Cut your fabric to fit the size of your stick or dowel; fold top edge of fabric over stick and hot glue gun in place (you can also hand sew this if you prefer)
  • Pour your paint onto a pallet for dipping; dip sliced apple into paint or apply a thin coat with a paint brush (encourage your child to experiment with the amount of paint, but the less paint, the better, so you can see the star print)
  • Press apple onto fabric and remove
  • If adding fabric leaves, apply modge podge glue with a paint brush (this glue will be transparent when dry so it is a good idea to brush it under and on top of the leaves.
  • Tie yarn or string to each end of stick to hang for display

*You can also create beautiful apple prints on paper

Enjoy!

Some Great Books about Apples to add to the fun:

Home School, Uncategorized

Ava’s Top Books Recommended for those ages 9-13

Looking for some great book series ideas for your 9-13 year olds? – Ava (my 11-year-old daughter) has put together a list of some of her favorites that are sure to encourage reading, inspire writing and take your kids on some wild adventures!

  1. Percy Jackson And The Olympians by Rick Riordan

This book is about a 12 year old boy who is the son of a god. Soon he finds himself on an adventure. With the help of two friends the adventure unfolds as they head across the country to retrieve Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt! Each book in this series has a new challenge filed with action, excitement and lessons on greek mythology. (5 book series)

2. Sammy Keyes book series by Wendelin Van Draanen

This book is about a girl named Sammy Keyes. Sammy somehow always gets into trouble, maybe because she lives illegally with her grandmother in a seniors only building. When she sees a man stealing money out of a purse, her life seams to get a lot more exciting! A modern-day Nancy Drew on many mysterious adventures. This series is filled with mystery, excitement, and adventure! (18 book series)

3. Explorer Academy by Trudi Truett

Explorer Academy is a book about a boy named Cruz who lost his Mom and is trying to keep her scientific formula out of the wrong hands. Cruz is invited to join an academy where they travel all over the world on missions. While solving mysteries for the academy and following clues to recover his mother’s secret formula, Cruz helps save Gorilla’s, talks with whales, explores archeological sites, ice caves and deserts. This book has adventure, science, underwater exploration, mystery and excitement! Explorer Academy is a great book series for boys and girls. (5 book series)

4. Framed! by James Ponti

Framed is about a boy named Florian Bates. Florian is only 12 years old, but the FBI needs his help! Florian is recruited by the FBI to help solve international mysteries with his observation technique called T.O.A.S.T. T.O.A.S.T, “The Theory of All Small Things,” is a method Florian created to help solve life’s little mysteries. With the help of his new friend, Margaret, Florian has to solve the FBI mystery and escape the bad guys! This is a funny and exciting series. (3 book series)

2. Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

Spy School is about a boy named Ben Ripley. Ben is recruited into an undercover school where kids train to be spies. Ben is joined by his teammates on undercover missions all over the U.S.A to try to stop a secret organization. Stuart Gibbs is one of my favorite authors! He creates interesting character development combining humor with adventure. (8 book series).

Note: Author draws attention to environmental concerns regarding climate change and endangered species.

Wishing you and your children some exciting literary adventures that take you beyond your imagination and inspire seeking out new interests and information!

Adriana, Home School

Favorite Fall Books for Kids

Fall is a Wonderful time for snuggling with the kids on the couch and reading some really great books! Here are some of our fall favorites!

Wishing you all some Cozy Days of reading some Favorite Fall Stories with your children!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Once I Had A Pumpkin…

Pumpkin bread rolls, Pumpkin butter, Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Carving- Oh My!

A Happy Pumpkin by Leo

“Once I had a pumpkin, a pumpkin, a pumpkin…” This tune is a favorite of Vivi’s, my 22 month old, right now as she dances around the house singing “pa-kin, pa-kin” and encourages us all to join in. She too is getting into the fall spirit! Fall is here! – and our household is busily making the shift from summer into fall. We are pulling our fleece apparel out of the closet and searching for our fall bin of decorations. I always have a hard time saying goodbye to summer, but living in New England over the years, has helped me fall in love with Fall! Getting outdoors in the cool, crisp air, hiking the mountain range taking in the warm autumn colors, picking apples and pumpkins and eating them! It is now a season that I truly look forward to and especially love sharing its beauty with my children!

As we prepare for the Fall Equinox on Tuesday September 22nd, the kids and I have been putting together our fall nature table, doing some fall decorating and nature crafts and putting together idea’s for our fall festive feast with local ingredients for Tuesday. As you may have guessed, the menu includes lot’s of pumpkin recipes! Fortunately, Leo’s pumpkin patch has been very rewarding this year. We have already carved and roasted 12 pumpkins! With more still to be picked! My little pumpkin farmer has carried his pumpkin interests into the kitchen and we’ve been busy making some of our pumpkin favorites.

Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits. It is good for your heart health, your immune system, and contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your overall health. There are so many ways you can use pumpkin purée. I add it to our oatmeal, to our tomato sauce and put it in our smoothies. The kids love fresh pumpkin butter on a slice of bread. We’ve also enjoyed pumpkin soup, pumpkin ginger quick bread, and of course, giant pumpkin pies! Surprisingly, no matter how big we make them, we never seem to have leftovers!

One of our family favorite pumpkin recipes are Pumpkin Rolls from The Artful Year by Jean Van’t Hul. These rolls are easy to make and taste fantastic. They don’t last long in our house!

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 1/2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree

Instructions

  1. Whisk milk, water, brown sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice together in a saucepan. Heat the mixture over low heat until warm (not hot).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the eggs and yeast.
  3. Mix the flours together in a large bowl. make a well in the center and pour in the milk-egg mixture (but don’t stir). Cover the bowl with a lid or plate and set aside for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan. Remove from the heat. Add the pumpkin puree and stir until blended.
  5. When the 30 minutes are up, add the pumpkin-butter mixture to the bowl of flour and stir to combine the ingredients.
  6. Place the dough on a clean counter and shape it into a ball. Cover the dough with the inverted bowl and let it rise for 20 minutes.
  7. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface, then shape it into small rolls. The dough is sticky, but try not to add too much flour.
  8. Place the rolls on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Let them rise for another 20 minutes.
  9. During this last rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  10. Bake the rolls for 15 minutes. They are delicious warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Wishing you all a Festive Fall Equinox Celebration! Enjoy the Autumn Sunshine, Go on a nature hike, Make some fall themed nature crafts, have a fall harvest feast, watch the leaves turn, make a bonfire and roast some marshmallowsReflect upon your gratitude for nature and the earth!

I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Adriana, Food, Home School

Making Homemade Butter with Kids

Still baking bread? Why not try making homemade butter too – it’s super easy and tastes great!

Making our own butter has always been a favorite science experiment at our house. The kids never seize to be amazed at how shaking cream in a jar with a marble can turn into a delicious treat we spread on our bread! Making butter from scratch is super easy and so much fun for kids of all ages. All you need is some heavy cream, a mason jar with a lid, a marble (optional) and a little patience!

Ingredients and Materials:

  • Mason Jar & lid
  • Heavy Cream
  • pinch of salt
  • clean marble

Directions:

  • Fill your mason jar half-full with Heavy Cream
  • Add a pinch of salt and a clean marble (the marble is just a fun idea that helps churn the cream into butter and add some extra fun when the kids shake it up)!
  • Put on the lid and shake it up. The marble will click around and when you don’t hear it anymore or it starts to thud, your butter should be done! The whole process should take about 10 minutes depending on how vigorously you shake the jar and how much cream you have put in.
  • You’re butter is done once you see a clump of butter has separated from the buttermilk! Carefully pour out the buttermilk and save for later use (great for baking).
  • Put the butter in a bowl and rinse with cold water, carefully squeeze it to get the remaining buttermilk out.
  • Spread your butter on some fresh bread or muffins and Enjoy! (The butter will last in the fridge for about 5-7 days, but it will probably be eaten up before then)!

The Science Behind Homemade Butter

When whole milk is left uncovered in the refrigerator tiny fat molecules float to the top, forming a layer of heavy cream. This cream can be separated from the milk and used to make butter. When you shake heavy cream in the mason jar, the agitation causes the fat molecules in the cream to clump together. During this process, the water molecules separate from the solid mass and create buttermilk. The cream goes through a physical change when it is churned into butter.

Some Great Informational Books for younger kids on Dairy Farming:

Here’s a great educational demonstration about making butter in the early 18th century by the Townsends.

Have Fun In The Kitchen Making an Edible Science 18th Century Treat!

Adriana, Family, Food, Garden, Home School, Italian Roots

Victory Garden 2020 August Update: Be Careful What You Wish For!

About six months ago after our first family adventure in our camper and gaining a new appreciation for living in a simpler way, I wished for a slower pace to life. Fast forward a couple months and I got it! Never could I have imagined that it would be forced upon us! And never would I have wished for a global pandemic to bring this slower pace. But, with a slower pace and more time on our hands we were able to pursue another wish of mine, a big garden with lots and lots of tomatoes! Thankfully to a very hearty compost delivered by our local dairy farm and to the hard working hands of my husband, kids and myself, the tomato dream has come to us in bucket loads!

We planted numerous varieties of tomatoes this year; Brandywine heirlooms, Early girls, Sun Gold cherries, Fourth of July, Big Boy Brandywines, Plum tomatoes and lots of cherry tomatoes. Little did we know how prolific the plants would be and how good a growing season we would have. The kids and I are out there every day inspecting the tomatoes and gambling on which ones are ok to leave for tomorrow hoping the slugs and other small hungry visitors won’t eat them before we get to them. It’s a risk we’re not always willing to take, but Our tomato storage capabilities are reaching their max. I feel more and more like my Italian Nonna everyday as I care for my tomatoes with the tenderness I do my children and trays fill my house with upside down tomatoes spaced apart and covered with linens in order to prolong their lifespan. Like us, the tomatoes are also better off social distancing to insure their health and longevity.

I Have been making sauce, canning, jarring, freezing, sun drying and roasting tomatoes daily. We’re eating many tomato sandwiches with fresh pesto and mayo. There is nothing quite like the amazing taste of a vine ripened tomato. It’s a simple thing that can bring so much joy. The tomatoes seem never ending and the garden is beginning to feel a bit like Big Anthony’s garden from the Strega Nonna storybook! For those not familiar, his garden is a bit out of control, but the unwieldy magic of a garden continues to be truly delightful and exciting! We keep finding new surprise plants that have sprung from our dirt and are now bearing fruit. We have butternut squash trellising across our fence, an unknown squash growing in the pumpkin patch and compost bin, cucumbers growing in our pot of Canna’s and a giant gourd plant taking over a flower bed!

Every meal seems to be a new creative adventure. We have roasted some of Leo’s giant pumpkins and made lasagna size pumpkin pies! With plenty pumpkin purée leftover to fill our freezer for later use. We can’t get enough squash fritters, zucchini bread, fresh garden salsa and cucumber salads! We’ve even gotten pretty creative with our pesto recipes and made beet green, kale and basil pesto with almonds and walnuts. We’ve gone Greek and made home made Tzatziki along with feta, tomato, cucumber wraps. The magic of the garden keeps on giving and continues to renew and recharge our mind, body and soul!

Some Arugula seedlings springing up in the garden

We have harvested all the carrots, beets and lettuce and have started new plantings for an early fall harvest. There are so many great vegetables you can plant in August for most planting zones that will allow for a crop before winter. We have put in bush bean plants, arugula, spinach, mesclun salad mix, kale and broccoli rabe (a bitter green similar to broccoli). Some other vegetables that you can plant now are radishes, carrots, beets (for beet greens and small beets), Swiss chard, and garlic.

The kids are drying out seeds from the tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, banana peppers and pumpkins to save for next year.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

There is something so therapeutic about working the earth, growing your own food and cooking and eating together. It is a tradition I hold dear to my heart that I am grateful to pass down to my children. Sunday dinners at my Nonna’s house packed into her tiny kitchen with my Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, cousins and friends eating a home cooked meal from the garden while listening to them debate over who found the cheapest grapes and broccoli rabe – are some of my dearest childhood memories. As a young girl I didn’t quite understand why my grandparents worked so hard when you could buy everything at the food store? Yet, there was something special about what they did that struck me even at an early age. Both my grandparents have since passed, but I feel their presence shining over me each time I set foot in my garden and get lost in the rows of tomato plants. They were two very hardworking people who lived very simple and always shared the fruits of their labor with those they loved. They were the original ‘Farm to Table’ farmers. The way they have shaped my life to appreciate the simple things, to know where my food comes from and to respect the earth that feeds me, is profound. They have gifted me with the secrets to the true riches in life, good food, family and friends- and for that I am ever grateful.

If I am so lucky to be granted a third wish, It would be that – All who have tasted the pleasures of the earth work together to preserve it. Be that in the garden and in life.

Buon Apetito Tutti!