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Hello my faithful reader, or my I-just-happened-upon-this-blog-thanks-to-google reader,

However it is that you’ve ended up here, if you like what you see, you should know that I’ve started fresh with a new blog, Daydreams of Italy.

Just a Pinch of Salt began as a sort of open diary when I moved from the States to Italy. A place to gather my thoughts, my pictures, my recipes, my memories.

Now that I’m living in the States again, I feel that it’s time to make new memories with a new blog. You’ll find the same vibe — lots of photos, recipes, quotes, and nostalgia. Maybe even a few Do-It-Yourself projects as I dabble in photography and the interior design of my new place. After all, when I daydream of Italy, I’m daydreaming of home, and I always like to bring a piece of Italy into my home across the pond.

So if Just a Pinch of Salt has become home for you, do not despair, I’m caught in a daydream and you’re more than welcome to follow me there… 



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Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

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This is for me.

I’ve taken such a hiatus.

I realized a couple of months ago, while in a complete compulsory tizzy of clorox wipes and laundry and rearranged furniture, that I was trying to regain a sense of control that I clearly felt I had lost. Writing is about control. Cooking is about control. My fear of flying is about control… but that’s beside the point.

The point is, when I started this blog I was a hot mess. A total wreck. I had just graduated from college without a clue as to what my “career” might be, I had moved out of my boyfriend’s house and back home, and I was leaving the country for an unknown period of time in just one week. I needed an outlet, and this was it.

So I cooked and wrote, and I traveled and I wrote, and I cried and I wrote, and I bitched and I wrote, and I dreamed and I wrote, and I realized some really important shit, and I wrote about all of it. I let it all hang out without much of a thought as to what anyone else who was reading it would think.

I don’t want this to be a blog that you like to read. I mean I do, that would be great, but let’s be honest — I want this to be a blog that I like to write. This is for me. Period. If anyone else can gain any amount of joy from my words, my recipes, my experiences, my travels and photos, my fuck ups — that’s fantastic. But, that is not the point of all of this.

I really lost sight of that. I was trying to make this something it was never intended to be. Something inauthentic. It took me rearranging all of the furniture in my house, deep cleaning my kitchen, and probably scaring my sweet boyfriend who courageously shook me by the shoulders and said, “What is going on here?!” for me to come to terms with the fact that I was making myself miserable.

So I basically threw in the towel, threw my hands up in the air, and walked away. Which ironically, is not so different from the scenario that led to the birth of this blog. But this time I was giving up on something I actually believed in, and I was giving up on myself.

One afternoon, while I was laying on the beach contemplating what the f*ck to do with my life, I came across this passage in a book that literally made me roll over with laughter. I identified completely with the following paragraphs,

” ‘Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.’ That was Flaubert’s opinion, and it is a fair expression of the way it feels if you choose to spend your working days putting words down on pieces of paper.

For most of the time, it’s a solitary, monotonous business. There is the occasional reward of a good sentence — or rather, what you think is a good sentence, since there’s nobody else to tell you. There are long, unproductive stretches when you consider taking up some form of regular and useful employment like chartered accountancy. There is constant doubt that anyone will want to read what you’re writing, panic at missing deadlines that you have imposed on yourself, and the deflating realization that those deadlines couldn’t matter less to the rest of the world. A thousand words a day, or nothing; it makes no difference to anyone else but you. That part of writing is undoubtedly a dog’s life.

What makes it worth living is the happy shock of discovering that you have managed to give a few hours of entertainment to people you’ve never met. And if some of them should write to tell you, the pleasure of receiving their letters is like applause. It makes up for all the grind.”

I suppose the applause had become more important to me than the process. But it’s the process that drags me out of bed, that clears my mind, that dries my tears or cracks me up, and forces me to exist in this moment. Applause fades, and if what you’re left with is a container of clorox wipes and a broom, you better take another look at your true intentions.

This blog post has been marinating in my mind for a while. I’ve been a hot mess again. I’ve been doubtful, I’ve felt guilty and deflated. I’ve considered taking a corporate job. And I’ve scared my sweet boyfriend several times into believing that he has attached himself to a crazy person, I’m sure.

So, here’s the whole truth: I am writing to you in a rose haze with a big bowl of roasted summer veggie quinoa salad dressed with pistachio pesto and topped with chicken piccata drumsticks that I braised in my own home made chicken stock. And no, there is no recipe included in this blog post. No pretty, perfectly plated picture. Just me, venting, letting it all hang out.

You don’t like it? Google “Giada” or  “Chicken”, I’m sure you’ll come up with something on your own. And instead of feeling guilty that I didn’t take any photos of this food, or formulate a recipe (because, surprise, I don’t follow recipes!) I’m going to eat this delicious dinner I’ve prepared for myself, and I very well might finish this bottle of rose, and then I’m going to watch a movie and fall asleep. And when my boyfriend comes over after work, smelling like a stinky kitchen, I’m not going to scare him. I’m going to thank him for being my sweet somebody.

And tomorrow, I won’t feel guilt, or pressure to do or be anything or anyone that I am not. And neither should you, no matter what it is that you do.

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Miss Lisa’s Maryland Crab Soup

1 medium onion

3 celery stalks

1 large bottle V8 juice (original or low sodium)

1 cube beef bouillon

1 tsp old bay seasoning

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (if using fresh, the traditional mix is green beans, carrots, corn, and peas.)

1 can stewed tomatoes

1 lb lump crab meat (back fin is best — found in a can in most seafood sections)

olive oil

salt & pepper (to taste)

tabasco (in my opinion, a must)

Dice onion and celery and saute in the bottom of a large pot with some olive oil, salt, and pepper until soft and translucent.

Add the V8 with some water, 1 beef bouillon cube, old bay seasoning, stewed tomatoes, and your medley of veggies.

Cook over low heat until the veggies are soft and the ingredients have had time to mingle (about 30 minutes).

Add your crab meat, stir together and taste — add salt and pepper if necessary.

Let it continue to cook on low heat for another 10 minutes.

Serve piping hot with a few hits of tabasco over top to get it just right.

Serves 6 – 8

Best enjoyed with a view of the Chesapeake Bay, a breeze, and a cold beer. Or, just best enjoyed.

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Pasta alla Carbonara

A light rain is coming down on the tin roof overhead. The pitter patter wills me to sleep… or is it the full effect of a big, long lunch setting in?

I’m in the middle of Georgia, about 30 miles west of Atlanta, visiting a dear friend who is currently working on the Glover Family Farm. Life is slower here, and more rewarding. I’ve pulled the wool of mother nature’s blanket over my eyes and now all I can see is green. Beautiful, fertile, bountiful green.

When farming is your life, I’m sure the days run together and the chores lose their novelty, but as an amateur farmer — and a temporary one at that — I am enjoying the day-to-day tasks as they take me far away from my city life and the rhythm of the farm turns down my inner chitchat. I like this pace, I could be comfortable here for awhile…

I awoke to the sound of Umberto, the rooster, welcoming the coming of a new day. Birds chirped their hellos to the blue sky as the scent of strong dark coffee slid under the crack beneath my bedroom door and floated across my pillow. And so my first day on the farm began.

Sweetened espresso in a mason jar, a few scattered clouds, the assignment of daily chores — water the seedlings in the greenhouse, feed the chickens, collect their eggs, wash them one-by-one, harvest greens for lunch, pluck a few carrots out of the soil, visit with the dogs, pat the horse on the nose — all in a day’s work.

Feeding the hens at Glover Family Farm. My dear friend Brittany shows me how it’s done.

While my hosts set about weeding, transplanting tomato plants, and pulling up old crop, I started on lunch. I had to get my hands on some of those fresh eggs, and with bacon, parmigiano-reggiano, and spaghetti at my disposal, lunch practically made itself.

Pasta alla Carbonara is a classic Italian dish, although it varies from region to region. Some people add cream, some don’t use the egg whites, just the yolks, some folks can’t have it without onions. I was taught the “right way” to make carbonara by my Venetian cousin, Giulio. It was a serious business, but the truth is, Carbonara is so dang easy to make!

Today I punched it up a notch with onions, parsley and lemon zest. I even sprinkled a little crushed red pepper over my finished dish — I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t make it this way again. And again. And again. Hopefully Giulio will forgive me.

Carbonara will fix your soul. Kind of like a road trip or a week long stay on a farm in the middle of Georgia.

Pasta alla Carbonara

1 lb spaghetti

4 eggs

1/2 onion, chopped

4 strips of bacon

1 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated

salt & pepper (heavy on the pepper)

parsley, roughly chopped

lemon zest (to taste)

crushed red pepper

Fill a large pot with water. Set on stove covered on high.

Chop onion and bacon. In a medium saute pan, cook bacon on high until some fat renders. Add onions, turn heat down to medium, and cook until translucent.

In a bowl, crack 4 eggs. Add 1 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano, salt to taste, and 1 tbsp of cracked black pepper. Add 1 tbsp of water and whisk the egg mixture together until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Remove bacon and onions from heat. Set aside.

When water is boiling, add 1 tbsp of salt and put the spaghetti directly in. Cook until al dente — about 7 minutes.

In a large bowl, add a ladle of pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl. Pour bacon and onions in as well.

With a wooden spoon, pour the egg mixture on top of the hot pasta, stirring the whole time so as not to cook the eggs — rather than scrambled eggs, you will achieve a creamy sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley and lemon zest, and just a pinch of crushed red pepper.

Serves 4-5

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