mom who works

the joys and challenges of being a working mom trying to find "balance"

Bean Juice January 6, 2010

Filed under: food — Deborah @ 9:48 pm
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It’s a nearly nightly ritual at our house to have espresso and/or cappuccino after dinner. I know my Italian friends will pretend they don’t know me when they learn that I serve cappuccino after 11am, as that is sacriledge in Italy. Cappuccino is ONLY a breakfast drink, never served after noon. And, truth be told, it’s only hubby who drinks a cappuch after dinner. I tend to go for an espresso or a macchiato (espresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk on top). A big cup of milk after dinner is just too filling for me.

La Pavoni EuropiccolaThat being said, it’s a nice little routine. Our trusty old La Pavoni Europiccola, which has been sent for service twice in the 15+ years we’ve owned it but still beats hands down any other home espresso/cappuccino machine, fires up with a pleasing “hissssss” every night once the boiler reaches full steam. We bought the Pavoni on the one and only vacation hubby and I actually took by ourselves 15 years ago, when instead of going to Disney (pre-kid, but hubby had never been), we decided to go to Italy. You see, at the time (pre-Euro), Italy was still the BARGAIN of Europe – the exchange rate from the lira to the dollar was almost 2-to-1  and so it actually cost us LESS than a trip to Disney at the time. We essentially established our own Italian import-export business by the sheer amount of stuff we brought back with us on the plane.

I had lusted after the La Pavoni at Williams-Sonoma, but wouldn’t even DREAM of spending the $700+ that they cost here at the time. Pavoni’s are true boiler-steam home espresso machines, not a “pump” machine like most cheaper consumer espresso makers are, and the Pavoni gets the closest you can come to cafe espresso at home. We were in Florence (Firenze) in this amazing kitchen store, when I spied the Pavoni. After confirming that they did, in fact, have them available in 120v for the US, we snatched it up for an absolute steal of about $150 after you converted the exchange rate from lira to dollars. Oh, how I miss the lira and the sheer bargains it once provided US travelers to Italy.

Even though technology has advanced, and there are fancier home espresso makers on the market now, I think I will never part with my old Pavoni. Here’s how to make a wonderful, after-dinner macchiato:

caffe macchiato step 11. Start with a single shot of espresso in a pre-warmed demi-tasse or espresso cup (I like to use really hot tap water and let it sit in the cup to warm it). For espresso, we like to use either Lavazza d’Oro or Illy (medium roast, or red label), which are both imported from Italy. They are pre-ground coffees, which some purists would find appalling, but unless you have a really high-quality coffee grinder and are able to get a really fine ground espresso from whole beans, the pre-ground from Italy is the way to go. We go through almost a can per month, so it doesn’t have any time to get stale or old.

cafe macchiato step 22. Steam your milk. I am generally making a cappuccino for hubby, so I just “borrow” a tiny bit of his steamed milk to top my macchiato. Just a small dollop will do (about a teaspoon’s worth). If you’re not also making a cappuccino, you need only a tiny amount of milk to steam.

3. Add a small spoon of sugar. Most US coffee purists would also find this appalling, but you will rarely, if ever, find an Italian who does not put at least a small amount of sugar in his cappuccino and espresso. It’s part of the complete taste.

It’s a little taste of Italy in a cup. Mmm.


The perfect men’s scarf

Filed under: family,general — Deborah @ 12:16 pm
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So hubby had a very specific wish for Christmas, which was a nice cashmere scarf with lots of colors. Now, he’s quite the stylish guy, and I knew EXACTLY the scarf he was hoping for, which was something European and I think not unlike the colorful striped scarf he saw chef Jacques Pepin wearing in one of his holiday DVDs.Moreschi Wool and Silk Scarf

My life was a complete disaster leading up to the holidays (new job, houseguests coming at the last minute, two HUGE parties to shop and plan for, house to clean and decorate, oh yeah, and gifts to purchase), so let’s just say I didn’t start the whole searching-for-the-scarf until the week before Christmas. I’m thinking, “how hard can this be?” Hmmm.

I started by calling some of the local men’s boutiques and department stores. Like 12 of them. Since it was so late and I didn’t want to pay a million dollars for shipping. And NOT A SINGLE ONE had what I was looking for. Oh, plenty had brightly colored striped scarves, but in acrylic, or polyester, or some other inferior fabric. And plenty had nice cashmere scarves, but in solid colors, or dark neutral patterns, or, egads, plaid (hubby is decidedly NOT a plaid guy). So then I think, well, dear girl, you must pay the million dollars shipping and hit that old standby, the internet. No problem, right? WRONG!

After a panicked FULL DAY of searching every nook and cranny of Google (and even Bing), I finally discovered this AMAZING web site chock full of Italian products. And there it was – the most beautiful, most perfect scarf – and it cost, well, just short of a million dollars. It was WAY, WAY more than I wanted to spend on a scarf. I tried not to look at it. I tried not to pay attention to the fact it was made in Italy (ITALY!). I tried not to notice the beautiful colors and lovely fabric (wool/silk blend – not cashmere, but actually, IMHO, better). I actually tried to find a less expensive substitute. No problem, right? WRONG!

So at the very last minute, actually, at 15 minutes past the last minute I could order and still make a December 24th delivery date (this is coming from Italy, mind you), I gave in and ordered the very expensive, very beautiful scarf. And I begged and pleaded with the nice Italian lady on the phone to do whatever, WHATEVER, they could to get it here by December 24th. And they did. And it was beautiful, more beautiful even than the picture. And SOFT! And hubby absolutely LOVED it.  And it was worth it.


“keep cool” trick of the day June 24, 2009

Filed under: food,general — Deborah @ 9:16 pm
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Today it’s about 1000 degrees here in “tropical” Milwaukee, with about 1000% humidity. Seriously, how do you people in Florida and New Orleans deal with this ALL THE TIME?

Now, I like a nice glass of red wine with my pasta dinner just like everyone else does, but it is SO FREAKING HOT here today that the prospect of a “room temperature” glass of Chianti just sounded very unappealing.

Enter, the fridge. Yes, I know, wonder of wonders, the fridge. In my time living in Italy, it would have been considered SACRILEGE to chill a bottle of red wine. They only did that in America with disgusting wines like Lambrusco.  For heavens’ sake, they didn’t even use ICE in their glasses of COKE when I was there. So, looking over my shoulder to be sure the Italian “polizia di vino” weren’t coming after me, I snuck the bottle of Chianti in the fridge. For an hour. And do you know what? It was perfect!

Everyone – chill your wines! And enjoy. Salute!