Press play for a special Holiday Message….

I hope this letter finds you and your family well.  The past year has been a whirlwind. Seems like yesterday that I was sitting down to write last year’s holiday letter.

Well, this biggest change in our family has been that Luciana decided that she wanted to attend Cushing Academy.

She started in September and absolutely loves boarding school. Academically, the small class sizes have been a perfect fit. Socially, she has made a whole new group of great friends from all over the world. During the first weekend at school, athe students, faculty and staff climbed Mt. Monadnock. This is a picture of Luciana at the summit.

I think the hardest transition was for me!

She performed with the Cushing Dance troupe in the fall. She also made the varsity basketball team. So far they are undefeated, recently winning the Lawrence Academy Holiday Tournament. She’s the first person off of the bench and in one game, she played all 5 positions. The coach is incredibly knowledgeable (she’s a former Division 1 player) and very intense. Luciana is working hard and learning a lot. She wants to play basketball in college, and her experience at Cushing is going to prepare her, both athletically and academically.

Luciana and I had the opportunity to coach the local 7th Grade girls travel team. I know that someday, she will work with children.. she just has that gift. Here is a picture of all of us when we took our team to see the BC Woman’s game. I returned to coach them in the 8th Grade and both the girls and I really miss Luciana’s presence on the sideline.

In May, my friend Deb and I spent four days in the Dominican Republic. If you have never been to an all inclusive resort, I highly recommend it. It was such a relaxing vacation for both of us.

This was the first year that I did not do the Pan Mass Challenge. I needed a break and considering the current economic crises, I didn’t feel right asking for money from folks. Also, riding the Harley up hills was a lot easier……I will return to cycling again in 2010, and have already signed up to do the Great Mass Getaway for the MS Society in June.

Luciana and I took a wonderful summer trip to Italy. We spent three weeks touring Northern and Central Italy. We got to see my 95 year old grandmother and to take my Mom to the Amalfi Coast. As you know, most of the roads in the Amalfi Coast are cut into the sides of mountains. Our hotel parking lot overlooked a 100 foot drop. My Mom was in the back seat of our car and I was getting in. The car next to us was backing out and since my Mom couldn’t see the driver, she thought that our car was rolling forward down the ravine. She screamed and tried to get out….that proved to be difficult as the car that we rented, for three of us and our luggage, for 3,200 km throughout Italy was a ………………Mini Cooper. And yes, I have photo proof..that’s me sitting in the car.

Luciana and I had the opportunity to take a lot of great pictures that are included in the slide show. One of my favorites is the self portrait she took in the car mirror…

In October, I traveled to New Orleans with my friends from DC and New York. It was a great weekend that included bowling at the new Rock n Bowl. We listened to New Orleans favorite Anders Osborne and bowled (or tried to anyway!) I also got to see one of my all time favorite bands, Tower of Power.

Well, this was the year that I decided to reignite my passion for Rotary. To better accommodate my work schedule, I decided to change clubs and join the Burlington Breakfast Rotary Club. I have many old friends in this club and the first few weeks as a member have been very enjoyable. I have been asked to be service director, where I will identify local and international opportunities for our club members to serve. Serving others has always been a great passion of mine, and I am so thrilled that the members in my new club also share this passion.

My family is all well. My nieces and nephews continue to grow. Ryan is a junior in college, John is a 4th grader and Liana is 3 and mobile…. My Mom is busier than ever. Whenever I call her and she’s not in I always leave a message “As usual , your out and about , call me when you have a free moment and can squeeze me in.” (Of course, she always calls right back…being the Italian mother and all.)  We’re all thankful for our good health.

We had our 12th Annual Holiday Party for Toys for Tots. It was extra special this year as my good friend Billy Gordon came up from North Carolina. The snow didn’t deter anyone. My friends Steve and Marianne came up from the Cape, and a dear friend of mine from college, Liz, made the trip up from Hanover. We broke the party up at 4AM. We collected over 60 toys and Luciana and I made the trip in to Toys for Tots to drop them off.

For me, Christmas always begins when we drop those toys off…not when the first sales start. This year, more than ever, those less fortunate need our help.  I hope that, after all of the holiday madness has passed, you and your family can try to make a difference in someone’s life. Volunteer your time, be a big brother or sister, help out at your church.  Everywhere around you there are opportunities to serve others.  Margaret Meade, the great philanthropist, once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  In fact it is the only thing that ever has.”

Here’s hoping you can change your small corner of the world in the next year.  Peace.

Seafood Stock
RECIPE INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 lb cod, halibut or haddock steaks
6 oz shrimp in the shell or scallops
1 celery stalk, cut in half
2 thick slices yellow onion
1 cup fruity Italian white wine
6 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 fresh parsley stems
DIRECTIONS
In a deep saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the fish and shrimp or scallops and sauté until opaque, 2-3 minutes.

Add the celery, onion and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 1 minute. Add the water and return to a boil. Using a large spoon, skim any scum from the surface. Add the bay leaf, thyme and parsley stems. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 18-20 minutes; do not overcook.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (muslin) into a clean container. Use immediately, or let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Seafood Risotto
Ingredients
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 cup chopped onions
* Salt
* Freshly ground white pepper
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 6 cups seafood stock
* 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
* 1 pound (2 cups) Arborio rice
* 2 pounds assorted Mediterranean shellfish and seafood
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
* 3 tablespoons chopped green onions, green part only
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Preparation

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring. Saute until the onions are slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for about 6 minutes. Add the rice and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring constantly. Clean, trim and dice the shellfish and seafood. Season the seafood with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 6 minutes. Stir in the butter, cream, cheese, green onions, and . Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Spoon the risotto in the center of each shallow bowl. Garnish with parsley.

Luciana and I finished decorating our tree. Its a beautiful Douglas fir that we got at Mahoneys. We dim the lights and are admiring it from the couch, the twinkling lights, sparkling ornaments and the beautiful white angel at the top. She says…” Isn’t it ironic. she supposed to be an angel, but she has something stuck inside her….”

  • 2 cups strawberries (about 1 pint), trimmed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • a 750-ml. bottle Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine, chilled

Preparation

In a bowl gently toss together strawberries and sugar and let stand 10 minutes. In a blender purée strawberry mixture with wine until smooth and pour through a fine sieve into a pitcher. Wine cooler may be made 4 hours ahead and chilled.
Serve wine cooler chilled over ice.

For the marinade
1/2 cup grainy mustard (such as Pommery)
1/2 teaspoon roasted, ground mustard seeds
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

For the chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (5 ounces each)
1/4 cup olive oil
Panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs, as needed
8 ounces green beans, washed and trimmed
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups spinach-garlic mashed potatoes (from recipe)
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced diagonally (for garnish)
2 lemon wedges

Spinach-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

For the potatoes
2 pounds potatoes
2 teaspoons pureed garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

For the spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup (packed) spinach, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

To make the marinade: Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Whip well to combine. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss until the chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate. Let marinate overnight before using.

To make the chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a sauté pan. Dredge the marinated chicken breasts in the panko crumbs until coated on all sides. Place in the pan and sauté until golden brown on one side, approximately 4 minutes. Turn over and place the chicken breast in a 350′ oven for another 4 minutes, or until cooked through.

In another sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the green beans, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté until the beans are soft but not limp.

To serve: Place 3/4 cup mashed potatoes on one side of a serving plate. Lay one chicken breast on top. Fill the rest of the plate with green beans. Sprinkle with chopped scallions; place the lemon wedge between the chicken and beans. Repeat to make a second plate. Serve immediately.

Spinach-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

To make the potatoes: Place the potatoes in a pot, with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the garlic, butter and half-and-half in a saucepan. Warm over low heat, but do not let boil.

Place the drained potatoes in a bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the potatoes on low speed, gradually adding the heated half-and-half mixture. Whip until well incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To add the spinach: Heat a sauté pan. When very hot, add the olive oil. Immediately add the spinach and garlic. Remove the pan from the stove, stir the spinach and garlic quickly and well. Season with salt and pepper. Stir this mixture into the mashed potatoes.

Servings: 2

Blend by hand

2 lbs Ricotta Cheese
2 tbs Flour
1/2 Pint Heavy Cream
1 Cup Sugar
4 Beaten Egg Yolks
1 tsp vanilla

Beat 4 Egg Whits and fold in

Pour into graham cracker crust (2)

Bake 1 hr at 350
Turn off oven and let set for one hour