Mama Loves A Bellini

Yep, Mama loves a Bellini. Just so you know…sometimes, when I’m being silly or trying to give something more emphasis, I refer to myself as “Mama.” So yes, I love a Bellini.

I’m a big fan of champagne-type cocktails. When I was younger (way back in my 20s) and living in Mobile, Alabama, it was always fun to drive over to New Orleans (two hours away) for a weekend and enjoy a Mimosa with brunch at Commander’s Palace. I’ve loved Mimosas since then, and every time I have one, I think of Joe Simon’s Jazz Trio at Commander’s Palace…back when Joe Simon actually played with the trio. You’ve seen him in movies and on Zatarain’s commercials…he retired in 2014, but his trio still plays at Commander’s Palace. Back then, long before I referred to myself as “Mama,” every time I was there, he would play Baby Face at my table, and every time, I was overjoyed…I was much younger, obviously.

And then, many years later, I had my first Bellini. Of course, I had heard about them for years, but I never tried one till 2011, and I tried it at the right place…Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills. Mr. C is owned by the Cipriani family…the same family that owns Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, birthplace of the Bellini.

I knew Bellinis were made of one part Prosecco and one part peach purée, but I had no idea peach purée varied. They do. It’s difficult to have a Bellini elsewhere when you’ve had the original.

For a few years, I regularly ordered Cipriani’s Bellini Mix online from their website to make my own Bellinis at home, but frankly, it was expensive, and sometimes I didn’t drink it all before it went bad. Therefore, I started making Bellinis with Simply Peach from my local grocer, and I also tried Looza Brand peach juice from The Fresh Market after a friend suggested it. And it was good…but it wasn’t Cipriani’s.

A few days ago, I joined some friends for lunch at Bistro La Bon in Charlotte (website here), and afterward, I wandered into World Market nearby. I hadn’t been into World Market in years…had completely forgotten about it, in fact…so I had a great time wandering around checking out their outdoor furniture, wine glasses, and candies before I came upon a blue bottle with a familiar logo.

There it was…on a shelf in the wine area…Cipriani Bellini in a lovely blue bottle! I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t just the mix…it was pre-made Cipriani Bellini in a bottle! Of course, I put eight bottles in my cart and made my way to the checkout. Yes, I bought eight bottles before even trying it, because I knew it would be good. Cipriani would not put their name on it if it weren’t good.

And I was not disappointed.

I drove home and put a bottle in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours, and when I opened it, I was absolutely thrilled. It was perfect. Even better…I found I can re-cork it if I don’t finish the bottle! It has the perfect peachy flavor with just the right bubbly essence. And I don’t have to travel to LA, New York, or Venice for the perfect Cipriani Bellini!

So, if you like Bellinis, come on over in the afternoon or early evening, and we can sit by the pool drinking the perfect Cipriani Bellinis. Or you can buy your own at World Market…but evenings at our house out by the pool are incredibly relaxing. Come on over!

Hello Bubbles! Goodbye Troubles!

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Gone But Not Forgotten

Today is the anniversary of the death of a very dear friend. We became friends in 2004, right after my daughter turned one, and her son (her first child) was about six months old. Our lives were intertwined for years. Dynamics changed as our kids got older. My friend took a job. She moved to the west coast. She and her husband divorced. They moved again to the east coast…New England. But we always remained friends. Was our friendship always perfect? No. She was hurt when she took her job and our playgroup didn’t envelope her kids the way we should have. We didn’t always agree with each other’s decisions. But we were friends. We were the kind of friends who would have always been friends…and then she died.

And here’s what I always hear…”Life goes on.” But what exactly does that mean? Her life didn’t go on, but the lives of her children, family, and friends have gone on. Because she had moved away years ago and never answered her phone, she wasn’t a part of our daily lives in Charlotte anymore. But she was a part of my life…and she was a part of the lives of others. I’m not going to say all that sappy stuff like “she lit up a room”…or “she was always good.” People were drawn to her, and I was flattered that she picked me as her friend. But she wasn’t perfect, just like I’m not. But dang it…she was my friend. And she was the mother to two children…now aged 13 and 15. She was the daughter of two wonderful parents who loved her beyond measure, and her sister and brother….well, they adored her too. She loved her family more than anything, and they were always active in her life. But her life stopped on June 4, 2018. Gone too soon. She was just 46, even though the priest at her funeral kept saying she was 47…that actually made me chuckle during the service, thinking of what her response would have been, “Are you kidding me?! Don’t make me older than I am!”

She was active. She exercised all the time and ate really well most of the time…even though we did love eating Doritos together late at night when we vacationed in Maine. She loved red licorice, Zotz candy, and Spree candy. Those were her weaknesses…her guilty pleasures. She didn’t eat them all the time, but she sure enjoyed them when she had them! There was a candy store in Kennebunkport, Maine, that sold the perfect red licorice for her, and we were regulars there. Once, she was going to another store, so I went to stock up on candy. I had forgotten my wallet, so she gave me her credit card and her drivers license. I laughed, saying, “Ummm…if they ask for ID for the credit card, there is no way they are going to believe this!” She was tall, dark, and Irish/Italian. I’m short, fair, and Anglo. She said, “Just take it!” Luckily, they didn’t ask for ID, so I was able to stock up on licorice, Zotz, Spree, and good old-fashioned candy cigarettes for us. Go ahead. Grimace. We didn’t care. Candy cigarettes were old school, and we liked them.

My friend had suffered since she was a teenager with various types of cancer. Lymphoma, breast cancer, leukemia…life wasn’t easy for her, but she kept living it…till she didn’t. I think I always believed she would continue to beat cancer…till she didn’t.

Her children, a boy and a girl, are being raised by their very capable dad. He’s a good dad, exposing them to the world while also making sure their souls are nourished. They go to camp with other children who have lost parents to cancer. They have loving grandparents, and they have aunts and uncles who love them too. But they don’t have their mother. She’s not there every day to encourage them to finish homework. She’s not there to hug them when they need it. She’s not there to guide them, listen to them, help them, parent them.

So yes, life goes on…but it goes on without my friend. For her children, life goes on without their mother. For her parents…without their daughter.

Things happen all the time that make me think of her. Every time I go to Dunkin’ Donuts and order an iced coffee with extra cream, I think of her. Every time I drive past her old house in Charlotte…at least twice a week (I do it intentionally)…I think of her. Every time I think of summer on the beach in Maine…I think of her. Or summers at the pool…all our friends had memberships at different clubs, so we would alternate the pools we visited during the summer. Every time I eat Spree or Zotz, I think of her. I even saw a Santander Bank in Cancun and thought of her…she had worked for them at one time. I was talking with someone last week about Mike’s Pastries in Boston…thought of my friend; she introduced my daughter to cannolis at Mike’s Pastries. Every time someone mentions the Virginia Creeper bike trail, I think of her and the time we took our children…it turned into a comedy of errors, but we survived. Every time I pass the hospital, I think of her, because we actually spent quality time there together, when she was having chemo. Mention California Pizza Kitchen, and I think of the time she almost died from an anaphylactic reaction when we were having lunch there. When I think of my daddy’s cancer diagnosis, I think of her too, because I was on my way to dinner with her when I found out Daddy had pancreatic cancer. And every time I hear about a young person who has cancer, I think of her and how long she fought.

My friend hasn’t been forgotten. She is still a part of our lives and our regular conversations. She taught us a lot about friendship. Tonight, our playgroup friends will gather for dinner, sans kids, to drink a toast to our friend who is no longer with us…one year gone. Life goes on…but it goes on differently.

 

 

 

A Weekend to Remember

Wow! I turned 52 on Memorial Day. While I have always loved my birthday, this one was extra special…and most memorable.

On Saturday, I flew to Los Angeles with a friend. She was my “plus one” for another friend’s wedding on Monday, because my husband needed to stay home to make sure our teenage daughter prepared for final exams at school.

We flew home Tuesday, but we still haven’t stopped talking about the wedding reception!  The bride is someone I met in LA a couple of years ago, and she is gorgeous on a regular day, but she was positively radiant on her wedding day, which also happened to be her birthday too! And I’m sure she will remember it for the rest of her life as well.

I remember when she got engaged. I remember she said these words to me, “I hope you’re ready for a big African wedding!” And honestly, I was flattered to be invited. She is a special lady who loves looking out for others and making other people happy. She is Nigerian, and her new husband is as well. Have you ever been to a Nigerian wedding? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. I can’t believe it took me 52 years to have that fabulous experience! There was so much to take in: the incredible handmade dresses of fine fabrics and beautiful colors; the culinary delights of the food; the African music we had never heard, but all the Nigerians knew every beat and every word; the exciting processions of both families and different groups associated with the bride and groom; the DJ who worked the crowd; the love of the families; the dancing! I could never write a description that would do it all justice, but I can say we met some lovely people and had an incredibly memorable experience. And I got to see my sweet friend get married. She and her new husband look so peacefully happy with each other.

Before the reception, I had wondered what food would be served. I was hoping I would get to have some Nigerian food, and I was not disappointed! For first course, we were offered an option of Peppered Goat Soup or Yam Porridge. I consulted with the bride’s cousin, who was seated next to me, and she steered us toward the Yam Porridge…spicy and mellow all in one bowl. It was fantastic, but I wanted to make sure I had room for the other courses, so I ate about 3/4 of the bowl. For the entree, we had a choice of five different things, and the cousin recommended the Fried Rice, Moi Moi, Assorted Meats and Plantains. I think Meg (my plus one) and I surprised the cousins by eating so well! The fried rice had a little kick to it, while the plantains added a little sweetness. And the meats…chicken and I think, goat ribs…incredible spices. We dined like queens!

If you ever watched The Wonder Years, you might remember the episode titled Birthday Boy, in which Paul (the main character’s best friend and neighbor) has his Bar Mitzvah on Kevin’s (the main character) birthday. I don’t remember everything about the episode, but I do remember Kevin was a little envious of Paul’s family traditions and history. Listening to Paul’s grandfather talk about his own Bar Mitzvah had Kevin wondering about his own family history…and I get it. Being at my friend’s big Nigerian wedding made me think of that episode of The Wonder Years. I found myself looking on in awe at how these lovely people had managed to hang on to Nigerian traditions in the United States. The people are American, but they remember their African heritage…and I loved every minute of it.

I will likely never have another experience like it. If it took me 52 years to be able to experience it once, it’s not likely I will get to do it again. But I will always remember it. I wish my daughter could have gone. I wish she could have experienced it. I learned a lot, and the bride’s cousins answered all my questions, even though it had to be difficult to hear me, since I can’t talk above a whisper with laryngitis. They were so kind and patient while I tried to ask my questions about details.

So yes, I had a happy birthday…it was fantastic. Most of all, I am grateful to my friend for inviting me to celebrate her new marriage with her…a happy birthday, indeed!

Need Gift Ideas for Mom?

Mother’s Day is May 12. Need some gift ideas? What is the perfect Mother’s Day gift?

Ask different moms, and you will get different answers. Some want jewelry. Some want flowers. Some want to spend time with their families, while others would want to have  time alone…in the form of a massage or a facial. Or maybe they just want to be alone.

I’ll tell you what I want for Mother’s Day. I want to have some time with my family over brunch on Mother’s Day, and I’d like to have some time to just hang out with my 15-yr-old daughter with no distractions…maybe check into a local hotel for one night, find some movies or sports to watch on TV, and order room service. That would be a great gift…hint, hint.

On Mother’s Day, every year, we go to brunch as a family at our country club. I make the reservation well in advance and select a table for us on the terrace…the indoor terrace. I don’t want to have to battle the elements…sun? rain? wind? bugs? I’ll stay indoors for brunch, thank you. One year, when the club was undergoing renovations, we had brunch in a big tent outside on the back patio of the club. There was live music, and it was beautiful, but it was a little warm. The food was great. The atmosphere was great, but I don’t like sweating while I dine. I’m glad that renovation is done.

I’ve spoken with some of my friends about how they would spend their ideal Mother’s Day, and here are some of the answers:

  • Sleep in. Breakfast (with hot coffee) in bed. Go for a mani/pedi later in the day with friends.
  • Have friends over with their families to swim in the backyard pool and cook out.
  • Spend the night in a hotel alone the night before and then brunch with the family.
  • Go to an afternoon movie with some other mom friends and go out for dinner with them afterward.

And when I asked my friends about Mother’s Day gifts, almost all of them said no gift was required…but it’s nice. That’s how I feel.

If you need some Mother’s Day gift ideas, here are a few I’ve found in my shopping adventures over the past few months:

  • Good Measure Cocktail Recipe Pitcher. Y’all, I’m not kidding when I say this is pure genius. Like to make summer cocktails by the pitcher? Well, you need this pitcher to help make them just right! I got one for myself and then purchase another one as a gift recently. I think they are great! In fact, I might get mine out and use it today. Get it at Amazon here.
  • Bathrobe. I know…it sounds boring, but no one wants to buy themselves a bathrobe. Get her a really good quality one…maybe one from her favorite luxury hotel? If she doesn’t have a favorite luxury hotel, then you can find a great one here. the-ritz-carlton-waffle-terry-robe-rtz-404-01_lrg
  • Live Plants. If she is into gardening, you might get her some live plants to add to her garden. If not, most people enjoy having some live plants indoors. Personally, I would love it if I came home from brunch and my husband planted a few tomato plants for me on Mother’s Day. Last year, he planted them, and I took care of them, and it turned out to be a great combination. We had tomatoes galore! Nobody loves homegrown tomatoes more than I do.IMG_3414
  • Patio Furniture. This doesn’t necessarily mean a whole patio of furniture, though mine needs replacing now. My mother had a favorite chair on her patio. I’d like to have my chair on the patio. (But I also need all the other seating to be replaced.)IMG_3413
  • Photo book. I’ve been a prolific Shutterfly.com customer for years, and if I had been smart over the past 15 years, I would have asked my husband and daughter to make me a custom photo book on the website for the past 15 years. In fact, I will be asking them to do that this year. You can make photo books on Shutterfly.com here.
  • Jewelry. I don’t need a lot of jewelry, but some moms are really into the jewelry. If she has a Pandora bracelet, they make Mother’s Day charms. Tiffany.com has a Mother’s Day gift guide, with prices for jewelry starting at $135…and you know they are quality gifts.IMG_3416
  • Baked By Melissa. I’m a sucker for these bite-sized treats. If you’re not familiar with them, you can see them here. They have special Mother’s Day gift boxes…just order online and have them shipped directly to Mom! And they are delicious.

Don’t forget…Mother’s Day is May 12. Make brunch reservations and order gifts now. You’ll be ahead of the curve, and you won’t find yourself scrambling for a way to honor Mom on the big day.

My Favorite Brunch Recipes

Recently, I wrote about my delay in closing my mother’s estate. She passed away in December 2017, and I am just now getting around to closing it. I’ve been delaying it, because it’s depressing to think about the finality of it, but I’ve decided to look at it as a positive. I am going to host a champagne brunch to celebrate the closing…something my mother would love.

I haven’t set the date yet, but as soon as I do, I will invite some friends over for brunch to celebrate with me. I’ve already been planning the menu with some of my favorite recipes. All the recipes listed can be found online; the links are included.

  • Ham-It-Up Egg Cups. hungry-girl.com. Low in calories and high in protein, these yummy egg cups are simple to make and look cute too! Plus, they promote portion control! Your guests will rave. Get the recipe at hungry-girl.com here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Hashbrown Casserole. Betty Crocker. I would go to any party if I knew hashbrown casserole was being served! This recipe is pretty easy and has a lot of flavor, but since it contains potatoes, sausage, and cheese, there is nothing low-calorie about it. Personally, I would count this as my splurge for the day and enjoy it! Get the recipe here.

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    Photo from bettycrocker.com

  •  Biscuits. Lots of southern ladies have their mother’s biscuit recipes, and they don’t share them. I have my mother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but it’s a no-share item. But if you want some good southern biscuits without having to start from scratch, Mary B’s Biscuits, from the Florida Panhandle, are delicious. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.

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    Photo from homadefoods.com

  • Fruit. You must have fruit. It’s spring, and it’s nice to have one cold item, I prefer fresh cut fruit, but I think I will make the traditional Southern Fruit Salad for my brunch. It adds a different look, and even though I never ate it when my mother served it, there must be something good about it, because it used to show up on southern tables everywhere. If you’re not from the south, you might balk at it, but try it just once! Get the recipe from Southern Living here.

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    Photo from southernliving.com

  • Dessert. I love pound cake, and my cousin gave me my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake recipe a couple of years ago. I think it’s perfect for a spring brunch, and I will serve it with a macerated-berry topping from Martha Stewart. While I’m not willing to share my grandmother’s recipe, you can make a classic pound cake from the Martha Stewart website. The recipe is here. And the recipe for the macerated-berry topping is here.mld104160_0709_scan_001_horiz
  • Beverages: Coffee, Water, Prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes. Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz: over ice, combine equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco. Add a splash of club soda and an orange slice. Drink up!aperol

After we’ve dined and enjoyed our Aperol Spritzes, we’ll have some door prizes, because Mother loved to win prizes! I’m not going to divulge those secrets till afterward. We’ll also have some take-home party favors to talk about afterward.

Mama would be proud!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!

 

 

 

I Need A Vacation From The Rain

My cousin, Patti, and I were talking on the phone this morning. She lives in Florida. She was sitting on her back porch like she does most mornings if it’s not raining.

Every time I talk to her when she is on her back porch, she talks to the cardinal that flies into her yard. She’s not crazy. Well, maybe she is crazy, but talking to the cardinal has nothing to do with that. She looks at the visit from the cardinal as a visit from my mother.

Patti used to visit my mother regularly. Sometimes she would stay for a couple of days, and sometimes she would stay for three weeks. Mother loved every minute of it. She always sounded happy when she answered the phone during Patti’s visits. They would talk and laugh…oh, how they laughed. Mother had a wicked sense of humor, and Patti is hysterically funny…always has been. Whenever I was there at the same time Patti was, my stomach would hurt from laughing.

Patti wasn’t laughing this morning, though. She told me she was “all up in my feelings,” meaning she’s emotional.

Patti lives in the Florida Panhandle, in an area that was hit hard by Hurricane Michael late last year. Fortunately, she didn’t have a lot of damage to her home, but all the trees around her house, for miles, are gone. She lives near a wooded state park that I remember visiting as a child; there were lots of trees. Almost every tree is gone, she says…snapped off by the wind. She has sent me pictures, and I’ve looked at pictures on Google Earth. It looks terrible…still. She says it looks like a war zone.

And lately, to add insult to injury, they’ve had a lot of rain…just like the rest of the Southeastern United States.

So when she said she was all up in her feelings, I said, “Patti, of course you are…it’s all this rain!” We’ve had the “mulligrubs” at our house too, because of all the rain. *The definition of mulligrub from Merriam-Webster is “a despondent, sullen or ill-tempered mood.”* Mother used refer to the blues as “the mulligrubs.”

My personal cure for the mulligrubs? A vacation.

Spring Break can’t get here fast enough for me. Admittedly, the sun has come out for the last couple of days in Charlotte, but I want real sun…the kind you can only get in a tropical location. I’m leaving Sunday for Mexico with a friend, my daughter, and a friend of hers, and we can hardly wait. I plan to sit by the pool or in the beach cabana, enjoying the beverage of my choice (champagne) and laughing with my friend.

And as soon as I get back from our Spring Break, Patti is going on a much-deserved Caribbean cruise with her sister. Hopefully, some time in the Caribbean will brighten her outlook for a while. I’m sure they will laugh a lot, since Patti makes everybody laugh. She was always the funny one in our family…well, my brother gives her some competition there.

I won’t even get into how funny the two of them together are.

So, I just have three more days till I get on that plane to Mexico. Can you tell I’m counting down? I’m saying some prayers that it doesn’t rain the whole time we are there, but even if it does, the change of scenery will be fun, and I’ll have good company. I’m sure my daughter and her friend will avoid us as much as possible, but they will be required to have dinner with us.

And Patti just has nine more days till her cruise…pray for sunny skies for her too.

If you’ve had the “mulligrubs” or been “all up in your feelings” and you live in the Southeast, maybe it’s all the rain. Maybe you need some sunny days…even fifteen minutes of sunlight can lift your mood.

Rain, rain…stay the heck away!

***If you live somewhere that it’s gray and rainy a lot, you might want to invest in a Verilux HappyLight. Amazon has them, starting at $39.95, here. It’s supposed to provide good light therapy to improve your mood. It was recommended to me by a physician, but I’ve just ordered it.***

 

 

 

 

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