I Am The Speed Limit – 55

unknown

Today I am turning 55. I was a bit apprehensive with such a milestone birthday. It sounded very daunting to be at the midpoint between 50 and 60, the jumping point down a slippery slope of sorts.

It was with said apprehension that I quietly shared with my hairstylist yesterday that I was turning 55 today. She immediately lit up and told me that to this day she vividly remembers riding in the back seat of her grandmother’s car and saying to her, “Mimom, you are the speed limit!” Her grandmother did not find this funny at the time but I sure did. My hairstylist also complimented me and said that my 55 looked nothing like her grandmother’s 55. Funny, how life has a way of sending us positive messages at the right time to help change our attitudes!

So today I am the speed limit – 55. I never associated the speed limit sign with an age, especially not my own. However, for the next year I will see my age posted all over the roads and be reminded that it’s pretty cool to have reached this speed limit. And to think that I’ll have other speed limits to achieve and even break! I’ll keep my eye on the road and enjoy the ride, a small reminder to me that the journey is what fills our life with purpose.

 

"With lots of wind in my hair, here's to the continued journey, and to being the speed limit. Salud!"

“With lots of wind in my hair, here’s to the continued journey, and to being the speed limit. Salud!”

Chocolate con Churros

dscn3084_new

A Spanish-American friend in college used to boast about Spain’s famous “Chocolate con Churros”, and how he would dip the delicious deep-fried dough pastry into the thick hot chocolate. Although I have been to Spain multiple times the opportunity to try “Chocolate con Churros” would finally come when I visited Seville. And it was all that my friend said it would be, it was heavenly!

dscn3085_new

Our family went to Bar El Comercio, a family run business since 1904, specializing in “Chocolate con Churros” and serving other drinks and snacks. The “Chocolate con Churros” is only available in the morning and mid afternoon when the kettle of oil is sizzling hot and each order of churros is made fresh. Since we did not know how big the servings would be we decided to order 3 portions for 2 adults and 2 children. To our surprise the servings of churros were huge and we could barely finish our delicious snack. The “chocolate” was not what we know as hot chocolate, but instead was a beautifully thick fondue-like creamy chocolate in which to dip the churro pieces in. My mouth waters just thinking about that afternoon.

 

dscn3090_new

Some fun history about Bar El Comercio

http://barelcomercio.com/index.htm

For a good article about Churros see Serious Eats:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/04/spanish-churros-con-chocolate.html

 

Nine Mouth-Watering Reasons to Visit Italy

Image-1 (1)_new

Photo courtesy of Clara Petrucelli.

(Top row, left to right)

Penne Rigate all’Arrabiata – Penne in a spicy tomato sauce with crushed red pepper flakes.

Fettuccini Porcini – Fettuccini with Porcini mushrooms.

Rigatoncini all’Amatriciana – Small rigatoni with sauce made with Guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato. This pasta originates from the town of Amatrice. One of the towns in Italy hit recently by the earthquake.

(Second Row, left to right)

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – One of Rome’s signature dishes made with eggs, cheese (pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta), and black pepper.

Fettuccini al Ragu – Pasta with a meat based sauce.

Pappardelle Cacio e Pepe with goat cheese – Pasta with “cheese and pepper”, Pecorino Romano and black pepper.

(Third Row, left to right)

Gnocchi alla Pomodoro – Small dumplings made with a dough of potato, flour, and egg served in a tomato sauce.

Ravioli Capresi – One of Island of Capri’s signature dishes. Ravioli, filled with caciotta (artisan cheese), Parmesan cheese, and marjoram served in a tomato sauce.

Penne all’Amatriciana – Pasta with sauce made with Guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato.

Spaghetti alla Nerano

Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy

This summer our family returned to Italy. We ventured to the Amalfi coast and stayed in the beautiful town of Positano. From Positano we took several day trips to the town of Amalfi, Ravello, and to the Island of Capri. It was during our boat trip to Capri that the captain pointed to the beaches of the town of Nerano and said that the famous pasta dish, Spaghetti alla Nerano, originated there. After circling the Island of Capri we were dropped off at the Marina Grande and from there we walked uphill to the city center of Capri. After our exhausting hike we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Al Capri Don Alfonso Café. I had the famous Spaghetti alla Nerano, a spaghetti served with a simple yet delicious zucchini sauce. It was so delicious that we were determined to replicate this dish at home.

View from our restaurant in Capri

View from our restaurant in Capri

Spaghetti alla Nerano – Spaghetti with Zucchini Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove (use 2 cloves if they are small) – minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. of zucchini (about 4 – 6 small zucchini)
  • 4 ½ to 6 oz. of Italian Provolone cheese grated. Note: Make sure it is aged hard Italian provolone cheese. Do not use soft deli provolone cheese. If you cannot find Italian Provolone substitute with Italian aged Parmesan.The amount of cheese is up to you. Our family prefers the recipe with the lower amount of cheese.
  •  Italian grated Parmesan cheese for topping.
  • 1 lb. of Spaghetti
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • A handful of fresh Basil julienned
  • Salt and Pepper

Preparation

  1. Thinly slice the zucchini using a mandoline.
  2. Start boiling water for the pasta. Make sure to generously salt the water when it comes to a boil.
  3. Add the olive oil to a separate large pot. Warm the oil and add the garlic. Allow the garlic to release flavors into the oil but do not let the garlic brown. Remove garlic from the oil and set aside.
  4. Add the sliced zucchini to the oil in layers, salting each layer separately. Sauté the zucchini until it cooks down completely._DSC2637_new
  5. Cook the spaghetti for the suggested cooking time. We cook ours 1 minute less than the suggested cooking time because we really enjoy pasta al dente. Remember to save about 2 cups of pasta cooking water that will be used later.
  6. Separate the cooked zucchini into thirds.
    Cooked down zucchini separated into thirds.

    Cooked down zucchini separated into thirds.

    Place 1/3 of the zucchini in a blender and add a ½ cup of pasta cooking water to blend. _DSC2647_new

  7. Combine the blended zucchini with the rest of the zucchini and add the sautéed garlic. _DSC2649_new
  8. When the spaghetti is done cooking remember to save about 2 cups of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
  9. Return the spaghetti to the pot with the zucchini mix. _DSC2651_newRemove from heat. Add the cheese and the butter and mix vigorously to create an emulsion. You will want a silky sauce._DSC2660_new If it is too dry then add more pasta water as necessary. Top with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.

Note: Some recipes do not call for blending the 1/3 of the cooked zucchini. That is entirely up to you. I like the thicker sauce that the blended zucchini makes.

_DSC2664_new

Buono Appetito!

Geeking it Out

On a recent college visit to Lehigh University with my daughter I got very excited when  I saw The Bent of Tau Beta Pi in front of the engineering building. What you ask is the Tau Beta Pi Bent? It is the symbol of the National Engineering Honor Society of which I was a member in college. My daughter recognizing my nerdy excitement made me pose next to the bent and took my picture. I must admit that although I am no longer a practicing engineer, my inner geek is alive and well and I continue to be very proud of my past life as an engineer.IMG_0456_newI did further research and found out that Tau Beta Pi is the oldest honor society in the United States and the second oldest collegiate honor society in America. Tau Beta Pi was  was founded in Lehigh University. When the academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, chose to restrict its membership to just liberal arts students, the head of the mining department at Lehigh University decided to start an honor society for the technical subject students. The first student to join Tau Beta Pi was the valedictorian of 1885. The Tau Beta Pi Bent symbol was designed to look like a watch key, like the ones used to wind old watches. It is in the shape of a bent of a trestle as seen in bridge construction. The colors of Tau Beta Pi are seal brown and white just like the Lehigh school colors.

 

bentflat_drgn

 

For further information about Tau Beta Pi visit https://www.tbp.org/home.cfm

 

 

A Special Treat

It does not get better than this…

_DSC2593_new

  • The warm gentle sun of a beautiful summer morning.
  • Good mellow music playing in the background.
  • Delicious coffee made with organic coffee beans from my uncle’s coffee plants on his farm in Guatapé, Colombia; with a touch of half-n-half and a generous amount of sugar because this Colombian likes her coffee sweet.
  • Very crunchy Tuscan bread toast with light whipped cream cheese and fresh in-season sweet figs.
  • A good book “My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels Book One” and today’s paper.
  • And the company of my two labs exploring the yard and the Swallowtail butterfly exploring my flowers.

IMG_5492_new

Wishing for all of you happy moments like this.

Democracy Rip Off

 

american-flag-flying-in-front-yard-of-home

I am incensed right now. I just returned from the polling center to cast my vote in the Pennsylvania presidential primaries. Guess what! I was not allowed to vote for a presidential candidate. I was only allowed to vote for congress and some other petty PA stuff. “What?” I asked the polling center volunteer in disbelief when I heard I could not vote for a presidential candidate. The volunteer shared that the state of Pennsylvania requires that you declare a party affiliation in order to vote in presidential primaries also known as “closed primaries”. I registered to vote in Pennsylvania when we moved here in 2007. And it’s very likely that I marked “other” when asked about political party affiliation because of my frustration with our very limited two-party political system. But not being able to vote today felt like an infringement of my civil rights. It felt like discrimination. I felt bullied by the both the Republican and the Democratic parties. And shame on me for not being more informed on our electoral process. Here is what I learned.

Time to take some action.

  1. I did research on-line. I am not alone in feeling disgruntled about the PA closed primary systems. I have attached a link to an article posted on PennsylvaniaWatchdog.org, called “PA’s Closed Primary System Shuts Out Independent Voters”. The author comments how the political parties in Pennsylvania have the right to limit who participates in their primaries, but we all help foot the $20 million bill to conduct the primary election. The article goes on to say that PA is one of 13 states with closed primaries and another 15 have semi-closed primaries. To read the whole article: http://watchdog.org/217449/paindy-pas-closed-primary-system-shuts-out-independent-voters/
  2. I learned about open, closed, and semi-closed primaries at FairVote.org. FairVote is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that seeks to make democracy fair, functional, and more representative. I signed up to receive updates from FairVote. To learn more about FairVote visit: http://www.fairvote.org/about and http://www.fairvote.org/primaries#open_and_closed_primaries
  3. My online search led me to a website called openprimaries.org. I found out US Maryland Congressman John Delaney (MD-6) introduced the Open Our Democracy Act H.R. 5334 in July 2014. If passed, this legislation would mandate open primaries for House elections giving voice to independents. I showed my support for the legislation by filling out the electronic form that sent a message to my state representative. I must admit information of the Open Our Democracy Act is confusing. It appears in the CONGRESS.GOV website with a different number, H.R. 2655 and says it was introduced in June of 2015. Nothing has been done with this legislation. It’s probably bogged down with hundreds of other proposed laws.To show support for the Open Our Democracy Act and contact your U.S state Representatives: http://www.openprimaries.org/opendemocracy For information on the Open Our Democracy Act of 2015 https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2655/actions
  4. I found an organization call Independent Pennsylvanians and signed their petition “Help Open Our Primaries” that would open primaries in Pennsylvania. To sign a petition supporting open primaries in Pennsylvania: http://www.paindependents.org/Action-Center/Open-Primary-Petition/70/
  5. I joined the mailing list, filled out a survey, and offered to help with grass root efforts with Independent Pennsylvanians. To visit Independent Pennsylvanians: http://www.paindependents.org
  6. The topic for tonight’s family dinner conversation will be Open Primaries, Closed Primaries, and Semi-Closed Primaries. And of course the injustice that I suffered today!
  7. Statistics: As published in Gallup in January of this year, the percent of individuals identifying as Republicans or Democrats is at a historical low. From data collected in 2015, 29% of people identified as Republicans, 26% as Democrats, with 42% identifying as independents. It is the fifth year in a row that people identifying as independents has been over 40%. Given these statistics it is imperative that we give independents a voice.  http://www.gallup.com/poll/188096/democratic-republican-identification-near-historical-lows.aspx
  8. Interesting article in NPR “Sick of Political Parties, Unaffiliated Voters are Changing Politics: http://www.npr.org/2016/02/28/467961962/sick-of-political-parties-unaffiliated-voters-are-changing-politics
  9. Consider moving to a state with Open Primaries:
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

I Continue My Quest as a Political Party Orphan 

Allow Independent Voters a Voice