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Sunday, July 29, 2007

5 Tips To Stop Overeating

When you were a baby you ate whenever you were hungry and stopped when you felt satisfied. However as you age, your mind and body become exposed to numerous fad diets, ads, the habit of rewarding yourself with food, and using food as an outlet. This causes you to unfortunately lose the satisfying feeling and overeat.

What’s very important to implement into your lifestyle is to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied.

So how can you relearn how to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full? Follow the 5 tips below and you’ll be enjoying your food a lot more with the added bonus of losing a few pounds in the process.

Slow Down

Honestly, this isn’t rocket science over here. Anybody can start eating a bit more slowly…even you. If you’ve been reading my newsletters for the past year you might remember some other eating tips I recommended such as “sip water between bites” or “chew your food before swallowing”.

These tips are all aimed to slowing you down when you eat. What’s interesting is that it takes 12 or more minutes for food satisfaction signals to reach the brain of a thin person, but 20 or more minutes for an obese person. By eating slowly, this ensures that these important messages have time to reach your brain so you feel satisfied and not stuffed like a turkey.


Take your eating to a whole new level. Instead of just eating while you work or drive sit down and enjoy your meal with no distractions. When you do eat while you work, or drive this distracts you and most importantly your body will tend not to register the food (calories) and you’ll begin to over eat.

Try and find a quiet place with no distractions to enjoy your food. I enjoy eating my meals outside, it’s peaceful and there isn’t anything to distract me from my meal.

It’s all about the first bites

Believe it or not, food enjoyment comes from the first few bites. After the first few bites your taste buds start to lose their sensitivity to the chemicals in your meal that make it taste good. Nourishing your taste buds by really savoring those first few bites can help you stop eating.

Change it up

Instead of using those enormous plates and filling them up right to the edge. Switch to smaller plates. This will help you pay more attention to the presentation of the meal and increase your awareness of the food in front of you. The way it works is that your brain looks at the plate and analysis the portion to see if it’s enough. It takes some time, but in the end it’s a lot more beneficial to have a smaller plate.

Smaller plate = Smaller portion.

Go for the satisfying foods instead

You know the foods that are not so satisfying but still pack on the calories? You want to stay away from them. Keep in mind that the higher the fiber, protein, and/or water content of a food, the more likely it is to be satisfying in your stomach without going crazy on calories.

Here’s a quick list of some satisfying foods.

- Turkey Sandwich on whole wheat

- Oatmeal

- Bean Burrito

- Grilled cheese on whole wheat

- Veggie omelet

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Finding Sea Glass

I went to "the Cove" the other day, a north-facing inlet on the Pacific with tidepools, rock formations, cliffs, caves and pebbley-sand. These nautical environs provide the perfect conditions for finding sea glass.

Sea glass is trash-become-treasure, most of the time. Beaches that used to be dump sites, are next to dump sites, and beaches that are populated with visitors who leave behind bottles or other glass discards will wash sea glass onto shore. Here's why - the glass is pulled into the ocean, then serves a term underwater exposed to the tide, the rocks, salt...eroding it's way to beauty. The glass, broken from the beginning or broken in the ocean, becomes smooth, the scratches on the glass lend a foggy, rustic appearance. The sea glass I have found is aesthetically pleasing enough to wear dangling from my ears or around my neck as jewelry. (I like sea glass more than pearls - really!)

I originally went to the cove with some girlfriends and our kids to take pictures. I'd like my kids to know that capturing their childhood was important, and I like to make it fun - so we have pictures of them holding hermit crabs, eyeing garibaldis (those are fish), giggling as the waves chase them, and picking up my habit of picking up sea glass.

My daughter Zoe discovered the first piece, lime green. Thereafter I found clear and brown, and I was hoping for blue, but no luck. Our normal hunting for sea shells and and dollars fell by the way side as we let the sand slip between our fingers looking for glass remnants like miners panning for gold.

Sometimes the pieces are small, sometimes they are a large as your hand, but it's always a thrill to find some. There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of finding sea glass...

Check the paper for high and low tides and plan your beach trip accordingly.
Beaches, as aforementioned, next to or that used to be dump sites are prime spots.
Beaches that have rocky terrain aide in breaking and "buffering" the sea glass.
Beaches with coarse grain sand, not the fine, sugary sand, usually have more sea glass.
Check Coastal Living magazine (spring and summer issues) or their website, more than once I have found a list of beaches reputable for sea glass put together by their editors.
The convention and visitors bureau in beach cities will sometimes mail out guides and brochures to prospective tourists detailing their recreational areas and activities. More often than not these brochures advertise what makes their beaches special - if sea glass is a local perk, they'll tell you. Or, ask someone who lives near the beach where to look for sea glass. You might even find "sea glass" in or near a river or lake. You never know, and that's what makes it so fun!
It's no fun, however, to step on a piece of "unfinished" (read: sharp) sea glass, so I wear my flip-flops. You should too.
Sea glass is a tangible memory, that's what I like best about it. The colors, the shapes, the opportunities, all unexpected and random. Hunting for it is a child-like hobby, finding it is exhilirating, but keeping it, displaying it, and looking at it makes sea glass a memory.

Can't have enough sea glass.

Harry Potter.. Not Just For School Kids Anymore

I am a shameless reader, to the point where I can’t sit down to a meal without having something to at least skim. Obituaries, comics, the phone book, anything in front of me. I’m not weird, just why not learn something if I’m sitting there eating my oatmeal? So when the seventh and final Harry Potter book came out, I was in line waiting for my reserved copy. It isn’t just about enticing, fatty British meals within castle walls and friendly elves any more, Harry Potter has evolved into a series full of dark magic, passionate romantic relationships and parallels to the Holocaust. The book hasn’t necessarily evolved in a negative way- on the contrary- it appeals to the older generations, and I myself welcome the intensity of the series as it escalates in the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For those who think that the book remains for small children, they are mistaken. If I recommend anything this summer, it is casting aside any doubts about reading fantasy and welcoming the mania that has swept the entire world. After all, most of the planet can’t be wrong in their obsession, can they?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Mutable Feast

Ideally, food in summertime is light. It is appropriate to dine on a salad and not cook food in a hot oven for hours.
Food in summertime is healthy. I can at least say for us Californians, we bare our midriffs in summer, we wear tank tops rather than long t-shirts under short sleeved shirts. This is an annual motivator to eat less.
Food in summertime is fresh. I think the culinary Gods declared summer an eternal holiday. With all of the fruits and vegetables in season, you can't help but get anti-oxidants, folate, vitamins, even if you are not trying. Salsa, ceviche, cioppino, watermelon chunks...see what I mean? This food is meant to be celebratory.
There are so many options for eating well in summer, it's the most mutable season. Outdoor activity beckons for grilling, classic recipes beg to be reinvented with artisanal oils and exotic touches - things only available June - September. You can do anything under the sun.
My favorite mutable feast, and idea of heaven, is this...
7:30 pm or so, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, my beloved next to me, our kids cavorting (safely) nearby...
(2) non-breakable but stylish wine glasses, filled with a cherry-ish Pinot Noir or buttery Chardonnay for my husband and I.
Bottled waters for clean sustenance and rinsing sand off
Toasted slices of baguette slathered in a basil pesto
Caprese Salad
Smoked fish...albacore and salmon
Aged gouda cheese
Homegrown figs
Seedless purple grapes
Chilled chocolate custard of some sort wrapped carefully in plastic
...what more could anyone want?
World peace, maybe - what better place to start than with a meal?

~ Samantha

Monday, July 23, 2007

Starbucks and Prague

I found myself daydreaming in a corner of Starbucks today. As I entered the store and purchased my usual (coffee light frap), I spotted a corner to occupy. I often retreat to Starbucks with my laptop to wrap up any necessary paperwork. I nestled in my little corner and set up my work station only to discover I didn't feel like working at all. Though I rarely find myself looking forward to this tedious, redundant task, today I was especially antsy. Just as I was beginning to tackle my work load, a group of older men took seats near me. People holding conversations within ear shot of me is never good. It's hard enough for me to focus as it is, and another conversation (interesting or not) can easily distract me from my work. I didn't take me long to discover that these men were sharing their travel stories among one other! Oh no, now my work was definitely hitting the back burner. I began to open browsers like my hotmail account and eBay as I listened to their conversation. One man talked about Germany while another contributed with comments about Italy. As they talked about these wonderful places, my itch for traveling came on strong. I remembered a past co-worker who moved to Prague about eight months ago. Him and I used to discuss our undying love for New York City. Prague quickly replaced NYC as his number one shortly after he moved. He told me that anyone who loves NY will find themselves infatuated with Prague. I told him I would come out and visit him this fall. As I recalled this exciting commitment, I began to type an email to him. Oh how I hope his invitation is still open! After my email was typed and sent, I started to open sites for Prague. Wow, he really isn't kidding. This city looks amazing. I even found myself looking at their job market (ok, getting a little ahead of myself). I was getting so wrapped up with my search that I wasn't paying any attention to the time. My phone rang and snapped me out of my daydream. It was my assistant calling regarding a work issue. It was time for me to make my way into work. As I packed my computer and sipped what remained of my drink, I was surprisingly ok with the fact that I had completed no paperwork. This means that I will have to finish everything on my days off, but I was ok with that. I hurried off to work still in somewhat of a daydream. If nothing else, the thought of visiting Prague sure made the day go by alot faster!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Palm Trees, Pina Coladas and Black Jack

Unwrap the rubber bands from my hands, throw me in boiling water and call me a lobster. It took me about a good ten minutes to sit down at my computer and write. It’s not because I don’t want to, or am too tired, it’s just that I spent the past week roasting in Puerto Rico and am feeling the consequences of a serious burn. Even though I’m gingerly walking around these days, the trip was completely worth it. I went with my family and stayed at the Gran Melia, an open resort with marble floors, beautiful fountains, and iguanas roaming around as if they were squirrels on my lawn. It was definitely a honey-mooners resort; couples were holding hands, wearing shirts that read “newly-weds” and sporting the most enamored looks upon their faces, despite the 60 dollar per person menu offered. The food itself was buffet style, and it boasted a salad bar that was actually worth its 10 dollar cost (on top of the main meal). Trips were offered to the coral reefs ( worth it- they were gorgeous), to the nearby rain forest, and even horse back riding along the beach was an option. The pool was humongous, and there was a private beach that almost nobody hung out around. I found myself a coconut tree, a chair and parked in front of the clear blue water throughout the day.
The bartenders, who normally served people who swam up to them at the pool, would deliver beverages right to your tree. The first night, my brother and I went to the “fun pub,”(more like the deserted pub) as everybody hung out at the casino next door. Men and women of all ages were on romantic getaways, and apparently gambling is a romantic sport. My eighteen year old brother, who had never played black jack in his life, won four thousand dollars in the time it took me to blink an eye. Half of his winnings would have covered our food bill for a 4-day trip. My brother returned home with money, and I returned home draped in Aloe Vera cream. Hopefully his winnings last longer than my sunburn.


Some things a mom just needs for herself.

Come to think of it, everyone needs certain things for themselves that no one else touches, no else sees, no one else can access.

For me, it's my fine-point and chunky Sharpie markers.

I keep the fine-point Sharpies in a plastic cup on the highest shelf in a kitchen cabinet, right above the ice cream bowls, next to the dusty Margarita glasses. The chunky Sharpies hide in a Spongebob tumbler that has lost it's top.

Why are these markers so important to me? First of all, they're permanent (if it's not going to last, I'm not interested). Can you imagine what an almost two-year-old running around the house could do to leather couches or white walls with a teal Sharpie? I can, and it scares me. But I will not relinquish a favored posession because I am afraid of what could happen. That's silly living.

More importantly, my Sharpies represent the efficient me; filling my date book and checking things off as I go along, using the blue Sharpie. Writing on brown paper lunch sacks with the turquoise Sharpie in handwriting my kids recognize. Signing well thought out, professional letters and SASE's with style using the black Sharpie. Sending a 'just because' card to my husband's office with the crimson Sharpie, so he knows making him feel just as loved as the kids is a prioroty to me.

It's not surprising when I realize the colors of the Sharpie rainbow represent my moods as well. And they are tools for what I consider to be higher purposes in my domesticated/work-at-home lifestyle. These tools keep me proactive, progressing, pro-forward motion. They're small, they're inexpensive, not a bad habit at all, a minor indulgence for mom and only mom.

I don't sign interoffice memos anymore, it's been many years since I played with a Sharpie cap during business meetings. I don't keep regular business hours or necessitate a Staples online account for office supplies. My desk is my kitchen table most days and it takes a pounding underneath my laptop and smudged by various Gerber Graduates toddler meals.

But my fine-point and chunky Sharpies have followed me from doodling on my Chuckie Taylors in high school, to labeling term papers in college, to my brief professional career in event planning and catering all the way into stay at home/work at home motherhood which keeps me very busy, thank you very much.

Whatever it is I choose to do, wherever it is time takes me, I'm on a mission, armed with Sharpies so I can make my point, and leave my mark, colorfully.

Samantha Gianulis is an author, columnist and editor living in Southern California. To read more of Sam, log onto her website at, or her blog,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Scallops - Food of the (Mortal) Gods

I was a child when I first tried scallops - you could say they were my first love. My Mediterranean bred husband takes no offense at this, our love of seafood prepared the Mediterranean way is one of the things that brought us together. So when I became Greek-by-marriage and stocked my newleywed pantry with extra virgin olive oil, my fruit tray of Meyer lemons, and my fridge with fresh herbs carefully wrapped in cheesecloth for longevity, naturally I used these ingredients to cook shellfish, bivavles, and fish that was recently swimming in the Pacific, as I live and cook near the California coast.

My seafood creations were never better, prepared so simply. And even though I'm English and Welsh, eating fish battered and fried is no longer an option in my kitchen. Because I am also French and I give the Mediterranean heritage a lot of culinary acclaim.

Last night when I had a craving for Mediterranean seafood, I picked up my Provence cookbook to find a recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques. I discovered that Coquilles St. Jacques translated from French to English means "shells of St. James". Apparently, scallops are beloved and revered throughout history.

The scallop shell was the emblem of Saint James. Legend has it that St. James saved the life of a drowning knight who then emerged from the sea covered with scallop shells. Thereafter, scallops were often called Coquilles St. Jacques.

To make Coquilles St. Jacques, scallops are seasoned with salt and pepper, sauteed in olive oil, then a little bit of butter prior to adding a persillade (a paste of Italian parsley and garlic pounded with mortar and pestle), then drizzled with lemon juice. French? Greek? Once it graces your taste buds, it matters not at all. You will be in love despite the origin, but their history makes scallops more enigmatic.

I have been looking at a famous scallop shell for years without knowing it (no, I'm not talking about the oil company logo). The Birth of Venus has always been one of my favorite works of art, yet I admit I have always admired the long, flowing red hair, beauty of Venus herself, and noted the Zephyrs and a Goddess of the Seasons (Horae). I never realized Venus emerges from the sea on a scallop shell. I have read that Botticelli was inspired by paintings of the ancient Greeks who featured Venus rising from the sea...whatever his inspiration, the Uffizi isn't the only place you'll see beauty and the bivalve. In Pompeii there still exists a mural of Venus on a what looks like a scallop shell, at least to me.

Yet, I want to see it that way. Art and food have more meaning to me with a rich history, with classical references. (If I can work my own history into them too.) Theories as large as the world, myths as old as the written word, all within a shell that fits in the palm of your hand.

I imagine scallops as food of the mortal Gods. Maybe what an archangel would eat. Maybe what someone would feed to their true love, as their histories come full circle, in the shape of a circle.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Hello" To My New Little Friend

I spent a much needed evening in a rocking chair on my front porch last week. It was a beautiful summer evening and the sun had just retired for the day. Though I often retreat to "sitting on the porch" for relaxation, this was no typical evening for me. A new member of our family was joining me. Just a day prior, we were presented with a small (but mighty) baby kitten. I was rushing off to work (typical for me) when I saw a small grey and white stripped kitten pouncing up through our front lawn! Now mind you, most kittens who find themselves dropped off randomly are not very friendly or outgoing. This was not the case with my new little friend. I jumped out of my car and rushed to scoop her in my arms. She immediately started to purr and lick my face. She melted my heart right then and there. People say cats do not have personalities like dogs, but I disagree. We decided to name her "Herby." She will accompany our clan of Simon, Elmer, and Oscar (not typical cat names, huh?).

As I rocked back and forth, I was grateful for my new friend. She sat quietly on my lap as I stroked her little head. She seemed so peaceful and content as the summer evening wind caressed both of us into a state of total relaxation. I caught a moment of her peering up at me with her big blue eyes. It was as if she was saying "it's good to be home."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Simple Charities

I received a text message from my friend Rachel last night, who had undergone serious foot surgery for a foot disorder that, as she describes, "make my feet look like an eight year old woman’s." The message read " I’m felng biter, I tnnk I’m redy to go outs." My God, I thought. When she said she’d be drugged for a week or two after surgery, she wasn’t kidding. After I deciphered her message( I’m feeling better, I think I’m ready to go out) I messaged her back that I was coming over, and there was no way she was going out. Knowing Rachel, she’d die if she knew I had taken her out into public life when she was on medication and half out of it. Apparently her friend had come over the day before, and Rachel’s mom had thrust her Visa card at her and told her to take Rachel out of the house. I wouldn’t feel quite right doing this, so I had brought a desert for Rachel instead.
When I opened the door to her bedroom, I wasn’t fully prepared. There was a dried crusty patch of drool on her chin, her leg was in a blue cast a-la 4th grade, and she could seriously compete with my grandmother for the amount of pills on her dresser. Oprah was blaring in the background, and Grey’s Anatomy DVD’s were strewn across the floor. I helped her downstairs (she slid), and into the kitchen. I then unpacked a few ingredients I had brought from my house. I took out strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. After cutting up the strawberries into small pieces that resembled cubes, I mixed all the berries into one bowl. I then took out cool whip and put it in a separate bowl, and then sprinkled the berries over it. Rachel loved it, and I had done the smallest kind of charity for my friend.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dining al Fresco

Last year just north of Santa Barbara, I decided I was in libation heaven as I drank a Pomegrante Margarita by the beach. This was after I had a Hemingway Mojito - different than a regular mojito with the addition of raspberries, I believe. While drinking that, I was certain I had transcended the earthly plane. The fruitiness, the rum, the ice bobbing up and down and of course, the orchid I slipped behind my ear as I sipped my second...hiccup!...libation. But it wasn't perfect, not close to being perfect, without food.

Dining al fresco is what I look forward to each summer morning when the sun is already heating the house through the windows. I look forward to the end of the day when we stand at the helm of the outdoor, poolside grill, drinking chilled wine and asking the waterlogged kids to choose the ripe tomatoes from the garden. The pool is at my parents, they live five minutes away - but in my own kitchen I've learned how to make cool summer meals with the window open, letting the scent of lavender be pulled in by the power of the house fan. Here we cooperate with summer, we don't fight her. It can be a beautiful, steamy relationship.

When we go to the beach for the day, I put chicken breasts in the slow cooker with a variety of ingredients - usually canned tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves, chilies...and when we get home, sandy and exhausted, I simply boil some pasta or couscous in a snap. Add some olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies or roasted peppers...and my babies emerge from the bath, ready to eat outside on the patio. Outdoor dining at our house happens in the backyard...dining in bath towels, eating with fingers, not encouraged but tolerated.

After all, if you can't break some rules and stretch your culinary options in summer, when can you do it? Dining al fresco isn't just an option,'s a lifestyle. Blessed by fresh air and a late setting sun, homegrown heirlooms drizzled with first, cold pressed - to make it heaven, all you need is a libation.
Samantha Gianulis is an author, editor, and columnist living in southern California. To read more of Sam, log on to her website at, or her blog at

Grilled Bruschetta..

Someone once said “there is a book of record in your mind, in which every act of your life is noted down. Each morning the blank page is turned on which the day’s history is noted on lines that can not be edited. This book of record is your memory. An act is done, is done forever, for the time in which it is done in passing, passes no more”.
A picnic with great foods great friends and family, an informal brunch or lunch or after dinner party-all great ways to take advantage of all that summer offers us.

Keep your foods and dishes informal. Here is part 1 of special recipes to keep the summer of 2007 in your memory book as a special one.

Bruscehtta Grigliata

3 tsps of Sapori D'Italia spice blend (Maria Liberati's The Basic Art of Italian Cooking tm) 1 loaf of crusty Italian bread cut into 1-inch thick slices 1/4 cup extra -virgin olive oil
Prepare barbecue (medium-high-heat). Brush both sides of bread generously With oil; season with Sapori D'Italia. Grill until golden, about 1 minute per side. 6 servings.
Ciao for now Maria!
Order the best selling book at in the minth of July and AUgust 2007 and recieve a free sample of our new spice blend- Sapori D'Italia-

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Too Busy And Have No Time To Cook?

For most women eating healthy is like an annoying chore that steals their precious time.

But eating healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can easily prepare healthy meals just as quickly as unhealthy meals.

The key is to plan ahead, have the right foods at your fingertips, and discovering how to quickly cook healthy meals.

If you know any of your friends or coworkers who eat healthfully ask them how they manage to find time to cook healthy meals without it taking up too much time. (I’m sure they'll give you some great tips.

you know that quote "many hands make quick work"? It couldn’t be any more true. That’s why if you live with family members you should get them involved and ask them to help you prepare meals or do other simple tasks that will save you time in the end.

They can also find a cookbook or collect recipes that specialize in time-saving ideas.

And if you really want to spice thins up and have some fun take a cooking class with a friend or husband/boyfriend.

A couple great ethnic dishes are simple and easy to make. Mediterranean, Indian, and Japanese foods are healthy quick and easy to prepare, their also super easy to share among family members or friends.

Here are a few tips for making quick nutritious, healthy meals and snacks:

Buy packaged, pre-washed, ready-to-eat fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, salad mixes, and chopped or broccoli and cauliflower.

Buy packaged, pre-sliced fruits, such as melons, strawberries or pineapples.

Find recipes using foods that don't require a lot of cleaning and preparation, such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, or grapes.

Drink a can of vegetable juice as a snack.

Blend yogurt, fruit juice, and canned or frozen fruit to make a nutrious smoothie for breakfast or a snack.

Use frozen vegetables to make a stir-fry with skinless chicken. Serve on top of a quick brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.

Add frozen vegetables to a jar of marinara spaghetti sauce and serve on whole-wheat pasta.

Cook potatoes or other vegetables in a microwave.

Cook vegetables and fruits over the grill. Drizzle them with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Or put them on a skewer and cook directly on the grill.

Make a fast fruit salad with sliced bananas, apples, blueberries, and a can of mandarin oranges.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ode to Abby

I had the pleasure of spending the past two weekends with one of my favorite girls in the world. We met less then a year ago while doing promotional work in her hometown. Though I consider myself a very friendly person, rarely do I "click" so well with someone. Since last October, we have been in consistent contact through phone, email, or my infamous text messages.

My job took me back to the town where we first met and you can bet I was a happy girl! Traveling with any job can get redundant and I was in desperate need for something refreshing. Our time together was like a breath of fresh air. We laugh (you know the "I just split a rib" laugh, that's us) at nearly everything and on the contrary discuss topics concerning everything from boys, our futures, and accessories.

We are typical girls. We squeal if we see cute shoes and whine if we can't afford them. We like our jobs but are curious of the unknown. We can't accept a compliment without giving one back to the other. We love the beach, but mostly for the tan. (or in my case, freckle and burn) Being in her company removes me from the everyday stresses of life. Our time together is like little "mini" vacations that momentarily release me from being an employee, a manager, and a student. I am known only as "my friend Vanessa" when I am in her company.

It's funny how things are put into your life when it's least expected. I wasn't seeking to meet anyone new. Honestly, I was in it to make a few bucks . But what I ended up with in the end was much more then a paycheck. I came away with an amazing, life long friendship.

Smooth(ie) Move

When I was younger, I was convinced I was adopted. I have light eyes, auburn hair, and have been 5’5 for the past three years. My family is tanned skinned with brown eyes and dark hair, and my mom, aunt and grandmother all stand at around 5’8. I told my mom about my suspicions on numerous occasions.
“Nonsense,” she’d reply. “Your aunt and cousin are allergic to strawberries, and I’m allergic to cranberries. You’re clearly not adopted.”
So, when I found out I wasn’t allergic anymore at the age of fifteen, my reverence for the small, heart-shaped fruit only increased. Not only was it the link that disproved my uncertainties, it was also, I discovered, pretty delicious.
I held a “strawberry party” where various guests brought over various strawberry concoctions, and my far the most memorable was the smoothie my friend made for me. So when my cousin recently found out that she, too, was no longer allergic( I still don’t understand this phenomenon) we had another strawberry filled party, where I made her the smoothie my friend had so kindly given up. It requires:
· A cup of unsweetened strawberries that should be chopped in quarters
· 1 cup of milk ( tastes richer with 2%, but skim works as well)
· 2 cups of frozen yogurt ( your choice in flavor, but I always stick with vanilla)
All of these ingredients should be blended together well until you have a thick concoction. If you want a thinner consistency, just add less yogurt. This smoothie is healthy, tastes great and takes only a couple of minutes to make.
As April to July is prime time for strawberry season, I would recommend trying this out if not for the sake of enjoyment, but for my aunt, who each year waits patiently to be told by the doctor that it’s her turn for a strawberry party. We wish her luck.

Monday, July 9, 2007

To phone or not to phone? That is the question for wildly targeted parents of young children.

My eight-year old son has asked for an iPhone. Can you believe? My husband and I haven't even considered upgrading from our flip-phones, we're still trying to pay off the Disney Cruise. But my son has different plans than being age appropriate for talking mouses another year. He's a young man, apparently, and has enough "bro's" to fill up a buddy list. I can just see them sitting the bench during a little league game in the dugout texting each other...

"plz pas BZUKA b4 3d out" ...

I hate how I sound when I say this - "when I was their age" I don't recall being marketed to so emphatically, so, without forethought. The pie was smaller then. There were not as many pieces to have, and it couldn't be sent by e-mail or IM. Those were the days.

Last week, my one year old daughter, that's one year old daughter, screamed with delight as she recognized Elmo and Dora in Barnes & Noble and Target. Oh, not forgetting the Dora Spagehetti-O's at the corner grocery. "MOM!" The baby yelled. "MOMMA...DIS! Me! Dis!" She was successfully marketed to. She wanted "this".

I suppose I'm a hypocrite for writing on my laptop with the Dora potty in plain sight. I suppose I play along when I let them watch these media everywhere types so I can cook and write, or fold laundry. But, I have decided, I draw the line at iPhones, or any phones for that matter, for my 8 year old son. That's just me. Our circumstances don't necessitate, or even allow consideration of it.

I'm trying so hard to remain an idealist and logical consumer in today's world. Trying even harder to raise them. Besides, if I wait long enough, I'm sure idealism will be in style again.

What do you think about this - IDLZM ... a good screen name or better name for an energy drink? Nah, it probably wouldn't sell.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Benefits of Walking

Recently, I couldn’t ignore the banshee like sound my brakes made every time I pulled up to a stop sign. My friend called me the other day when I was approaching her house. “Hey, sounds like you’re about five minutes away, I need more like ten, if that’s ok?” I told my Mom this story, and she then insisted I take it into the shop. “ What? But I wanted to go to Wawa, what am I supposed to do?” “ It’s called walking,” she said. “ Mom, it’s like 5 miles away.” “It’s more like one, and you go on that elliptical everyday. You can’t walk a mile?” This is a woman who walks everywhere, whose car has 50,000 less miles than mine and is around the same age. I decided to take her advice (she had a small point), and walk. It was effortless: I was listening to my ipod, cutting back on emissions and getting in shape. I really do enjoy walking, ( especially around Europe, where renting a car was completely out of the question), just not to a store ten minutes away. But now I’m re-thinking my attachment to my car and realizing it’s completely unhealthy.I would rather not refer to myself as lazy, but when I live a couple blocks from Wawa and insist on driving I have to admit the action reeks of lethargy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy driving cars anymore, I just don’t enjoy driving my car. It’s constantly causing me strife: oil leaks, a squeaky break, broken windshield wipers, claims it can reach mythical speeds. So why do I continue driving it? My boyfriend from high school once challenged that my car could go up to 90 mph- I protested, but he did it anyway, and I admitted defeat. The next day I was rounding a corner when the entire bottom of my car fell out in the middle of the road. Ever since then my car has gone to shambles. This summer I’m going to give it a break and start walking short distances. That way that iced coffee can be enjoyed in the heat during the walk back- the way it was supposed to be enjoyed-as opposed to nestled in the cup holder of my car.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The' Art of Eating Gelato' part 1

Summer's half gone and I have not had my gelato for the summer of 2007 yet. I am counting down the days to that first gelato of summer 2007- (I will be back at my office in Italy at the end of July).
You know we divide the seasons by how many gelati we have had. We always celebrate our first gelato of the year and mark it as a special time. And it is a memorable time savoring every drip of that wonderful creamy confection.

But you know, to really enjoy the perfect gelato you must learn 'the art of selecting gelato'

*Be sure to have gelato in places that make ' gelato artiginale'- this means they make it from scratch. There are many chains that are poping up all over Italy that buy the gelato pre-made and don't make their own in house production.
*Also take time to savor your gelati and learn to distinguish intense flavors and narrow down who makes the best gelato. All gelati are not created equal. And if you ara true gelato afficianado you will not eat gelato unless it is at its' best.
*So many gelato flavors to choose from
. Decide before you get to the gelateria what flavors you will get or at least think it out before you get there so that you will get the flavors that will make your own tastebuds dance! If you are a chocohalic-be sure you get at least one dip of a chooclate flavor in your cone. pair it with a complementary flavor-banana, torrone, (or for a really intense chocolate experience) another chocolate based flavor. The more thought that goes into what you put into your cone- the more chance you have of making this a tastefully intense experience.

My favorite flavors are : baci, gianduja, kinder, cioccolato, torrone

What are yours???

Stay tuned for my favorite pics for best gelato places in Italy..

Purchase the bestselling book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking at in the months of July and August 2007 and receive a sample ofthe new spice blend developed in Italy- Sapori D'Italia. Also receive $5 off retail price and free shipping and handling .This is a limited offer only. Poritons of sales go to Gilda's Club

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Summer: Enjoy It While It Lasts

Something dawned on me today: summer is passing by too fast! Every year I await these three months as if my life depends on it. (in some cases it does :) Don't get me wrong, I adore the winter months, however snow and ice can get old real fast. And although the spring and fall seasons are enjoyable as well, they really don't hold a candle to summer time.

June through August contain a sense of freedom and relaxation for me. Perhaps I have not been out of college long enough to remove them from "my off months," none the less I eagerly await them every year. I have fond memories of family vacations to the beach. Sure my family has our own dysfunctional episodes comparable to "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "Little Miss Sunshine", but they are mine. These vacations never eliminated animosity, only removed it for the time being.

Another fond memory associated with summer is the drive-in movie theatre. Now, I am well aware that this is a "country thang" but it really is quite an enjoyable experience. For those of you who have never experienced the drive-ins, I strongly urge you to venture out and find one near you! I can recall carpooling with friends, laying out on blankets, having the car windows down so we could hear the movie dialogue on the radio, and enjoying two great movies for barely the price of one. Folks, it really is good fun!

Perhaps those of us who experience the four seasons anticipate summer time a little more. My mother brought up an interesting point the other day (amidst my moaning and groaning that summer is passing too fast), she said "hunny, you wouldn't enjoy summer the way you do now if you lived in a climate like this all year round." My mother is both smart and beautiful. However, in this case she is completely wrong!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer Fling or the Real Thing?

There are more guitars in my house than people, so it’s of mild surprise that I don’t play the instrument despite the shrines my mom and dad have set up around the house. I’ve dabbled with the violin, had a seven year tumultuous affair with the piano, yet somehow my desire to play the guitar never peaked. Like a child growing up with too much junk food, I’d been turned off to the instrument, content with listening to others play. When I was in high school, I would return home to hear my parents playing guitar together upstairs, my dad on his white electric guitar and my mom strumming on acoustic, each “singing.” Every once and a while my dad would break out a pair of random bongos he owned. “They’re totally sober, I swear,” I told my friends.
Now that I’m older, I’m sick of seeing the guitars slouched in their holders, shining and intimidating none-the-less. I am going to conquer this instrument, I will master “Stairway to Heaven” even if it takes me a whole year.
I could save money and learn from my parents, brother, or various friends who play the guitar; however, I find that getting out of the house and being in the “teacher/student” environment makes me work harder. If I know I’m paying money for the lesson, there is no way I’m wasting that time. I’m ready for the calluses on the pads of my fingers, and my remarkably small hands are going to have to stretch to make those chords. Who knows, maybe with a little bit more commitment, experience and maturity, my involvement with the guitar will resemble a healthy relationship as opposed to a summer fling.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I have spent the last two weeks planning the menu for one day of the year, July 4th. After our seventh bedtime conversation about dry rub versus marinade for the ribs, my husband stated that I give more energy to planning meals than I do to, say, the laundry or weeds in the yard. My response to him was, “Doesn’t everyone?”

Apparently not. I can’t speak for non-foodies, but I love the culinary opportunity to win them over. You see, I am a hopeless foodie, and summer holiday gatherings are the high holy season for me. Give me a special occasion, some hungry people with the day off work, a ball game on the radio - and I accelerate into ecstatic high gear of menu research and guest appeasement.

It’s my thing.

I have torn through the recent issues of food magazines and my library of season-based cookbooks, and I believe I’ve got a winning menu this year. I’m sticking with what works – fresh fruit, grilled meats, cold salads, non-baked desserts and lots of bottled water.

So if you don’t want to, can’t find the time to, or simply don’t have the inclination to plan a menu for the festive, sunny days of July – let me help. I won’t overwhelm you with recipes, I offer only tips to make the most out of your summer parties. My only belief about the month of July is that it should be fun – for children, for adults, but also, for the designated chef.

Wet everyone’s appetites with the freshest fruit and vegetables you can find.
Crack open a sweet watermelon and let everyone serve themselves. Squeeze some lemon juice and coarse grain salt over ripe avocados and watch them disappear. Slice some fresh cucumber on the bias and drizzle with rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes – the idea is, keep it simple. You need this time to apply sunscreen on youngish cheeks.
The most complicated thing I plan to do for the first stage of my holiday menu is make fresh salsa.

Main Course
Who has time to stand in front of a hot grill all day when you could be playing Marco Polo, a pick up baseball game, or building a sand castle? Do a few things ahead of time to expedite the cooking.
Cook ribs partially ahead of time in the oven so the grill time is minimal (and the meat more tender). Put the cheese inside of the burgers and allow yourself to get carried away in nostalgic conversation. Brine chicken breasts the night before (yep, overnight) so the meat doesn’t dry out on the grill.
Seafood cooks up evenly and is so aesthetically pleasing on the grill, especially when skewered. I’ll be plucking some Meyer Lemons off the backyard tree, squeezing over the shrimp kebabs, drizzling some olive oil and salt before they go over the flames – that is really all they need.
The toughest decision I’ll be making over my main course is what to stuff the burgers with – feta or bleu? What to top the chicken with, barbeque sauce or mango salsa?

Side Dishes
Let’s talk about barbeque cookware. Throw some sliced mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, or peppers into a grill pan and they cook in no time. How about quesadillas? A tortilla on a barbeque skillet topped with cheese, fruit, herbs or vegetables - finger food for the kids, done.
Salads you can take credit for (mostly) – cooked fusilli pasta tossed with your favorite vinaigrette dressing, sun-dried tomatoes, green beans and goat cheese…things you have on hand. How about just buying a potato or macaroni salad from the deli and doctoring it up when you get home?

Ever done a s’more on the grill? Try it this year. Assemble as usual – graham cracker, marshmallow, chocolate, graham cracker – and wrap in foil before placing on the grill, or use another clever grill pan. Watch the pool or salt-water soaked little ones wrapped in terrycloth towels gather around you as you lick the chocolate off your fingers.
You won’t find me inside the house frosting a cake made from scratch. I’ll be at the head of the outdoor assembly line with the other Mommies, scooping mounds of store-bought vanilla ice cream into plastic bowls, topping with fresh berries, and almonds toasted on, you guessed it, a clever grill pan. If that isn’t putting a healthy, sophisticated and easy spin on a classic American sweet treat I don’t know what is.

Now go enjoy yourself. You’ve done your share. Summer is appointed the literary metaphor for high points and bliss for good reason. Savor every morsel while you can.

Samantha Gianulis is an author, editor and columnist living in southern California with her husband and their three children. To read more from Sam, log on to her website, or her blog,