the sound of music

Right about now, you’re probably sick of hearing Christmas songs, especially if you work in retail, or any public place that has been blaring them since before Thanksgiving. I’m immune to this illness, having loved listening to, and singing Christmas carols, since I was a kid. I remember lining my stuffed animals up in my bed at night when I was about four years old, and then leading them in a yuletide chorus—in the summer. True story. Continue reading »

candied pecans {easy homemade gift-giving}

We had our first big snowfall in the country this weekend. Well, not in the country, as in the United States of America. I mean the country, as in the area where our house is upstate. I figure you all probably knew what I was talking about, but the writer in me felt compelled to make it very clear. I have readers around the globe (it boggles my mind, really), and I didn’t want anyone to confuse my country with the country.

See how easy it is to get caught up on the little details? Something as simple as me coming here to share an easy recipe for a quick last-minute homemade gift has me pondering the clarity of my own words. Perhaps the simple things are the tasks that truly push us to look closer at the finer details of life. I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately. Continue reading »

gingerbread cake {a one bowl recipe}

I know, I go silent for almost a month, and then share three recipes in four days. This is the upside to my cold. All of the little projects I’ve been meaning to do, the bills I’ve planning to pay, life is what I think we call it—I suddenly find there’s time to get things done when I’m relegated to the sofa, trying to get better. Actually, the sofa has just become my temporary workspace. Too tired to walk up and down the stairs, and not willing to put my cooking habits on hold, my laptop has found a permanent place in the living room, just about 20 paces from the kitchen counter. Continue reading »

broccoli rabe & fresh ricotta frittata {Homemade with Love}

To the rest of the world, this simply looks like a bunch of celery. Albeit an incredibly gorgeous, delicate bundle, with a flavor only celery from the farmers’ market could possibly capture. That bunch in particular probably came from Maxwell’s Farmstand at the Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market.

I feel the lump welling up in my throat as I write this, and yet I can’t pull my fingers away from the keyboard. I feel crazy even going “there”, but that celery is the last bunch of celery I bought while Michael was alive. It’s celery for heaven’s sake, and it’s capable of reducing me to tears. At moments like this I want to bury my face into a pillow and collapse into a pool of tears. I bought that celery the day before Mikey died. I came across it while looking through my photo archives for a recipe of the Broccoli Rabe & Fresh Ricotta Frittata from Homemade with Love, and suddenly found myself frozen as I inched closer to the photos I took in the days leading up to his death.

It’s not just a bunch of celery, just like these aren’t just a box of matches.

It’s a bunch of celery on the windowsill of our old apartment…in the kids’ old room, which was actually our bedroom before we even had kids.

That celery represents something I can never have again. That celery represents a routine I so loved, and have struggled to get back into the last 20 months. See, before Mikey died, I woke up every Saturday morning at 7:00am, got dressed quietly and snuck out of the house to go to the farmers’ market at Grand Army Plaza. I would beat the crowds, and get the best of whatever was in season before most people had rubbed the sleep from their eyes. Continue reading »

holidazed {homemade eggnog}

I blinked, and somewhere in the process November became December. Days seem to blend into one another lately, and the last week has especially left me pondering my life now compared to just one year ago. There are a million words swirling in my head, yet they float not quite capable of connecting themselves to one another to form a proper thought. The words being emotions and feelings really, much of which leave me even more confused when I try to piece them together.

So, my approach these last few weeks has been to really take my own advice. I’ve been consumed with just trying to be present and fully aware of every moment. We spend so much of our lives being connected to something, instead of someone. And so my silence here, there and everywhere these last few weeks has been because I’ve been absorbed with experiencing life rather than simply documenting it.

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a birthday, and on being thankful {coconut custard pie}

I looked in the mirror a few days ago and thought “holy shit” you’re going to turn 39 any day now. Then I glanced back, this time with a smile, and reminded myself I have survived 39 years on this planet. Sometimes the canvas of our lives seems like a Jackson Pollock painting. A spattering of events that require careful introspection so as to not miss the meaning in all those moments.

Yes, my 39 years thus far have had their share of doubt, uncertainty, and sadness. But, they have also been filled with more love than some people experience in a lifetime (and I’m counting on being here for at least 39 more, fingers crossed). The tough times etch their way into our souls like a branding iron fresh from the flames. At moments, I have felt tired and weary, quite sure I was ready to throw in the towel. The last 16 months have been particularly exhausting. It has felt like dog years in terms of my growing process, but I am still standing. I wake each morning with resolve, ready to do it all over again…ready to keep this promise to myself. Continue reading »

italian easter bread

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago we felt complete and normal. I’ve tried to find the words to start this post for a week now. Nothing flows freely from my fingertips, but I wanted to share this recipe for Easter Bread with you. I hadn’t realized how close we were to Easter until I went to the local pastry shop with Virginia last week. Lamb-shaped cakes and rounds of sweet bread filled with colored eggs adorned the counter tops.

Last year our house was overflowing with homemade Easter Bread, as I was testing it to be featured in the Washington Post. I read the old post I wrote back then, with tears dripping from the corners of my eyes. How was that my life just one year ago?

Then there’s this picture I have of Virginia kneading the dough with Mikey. People constantly tell me she’s too young to be as deeply affected by his death as Isabella, and it’s infuriating. She may be barely four years old, but she’s not stupid. One day she had the most loving, caring, involved daddy, and then he disappeared as quickly as flipping a light switch.

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chocolate gingerbread doughnuts {day 130}

Mikey never guessed fatherhood was one of his destinies to be fulfilled. He was diagnosed with a medical condition in his early twenties, which required a form of chemotherapy treatment to help him heal. This was a decade before we met.

At the time, his doctor told him to put some of his "boys" on ice just in case he wanted to have kids one day. When I became pregnant, saying we were shocked is putting it mildly—I was on the pill too. You know that little disclaimer about using backup contraception if you're on antibiotics? Well, it wasn't there back in 2002.

And thank heavens it wasn't.

To think one simple sentence could've changed the course of our lives would've surprised me 130 days. Now, I know how one split-second can change a life forever.

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christmas past, present and…

Around this time last year, I was writing out our holiday cards. I've been designing custom ones since Isabella was born. Back in the one-kid days, I even created calendars with not only custom photos for each month, but a carefully chosen photo of Isabella with each family member to mark their birthdays and every holiday.

Back in 2008, when Virginia was born, I decided it was time for a change. I wanted something more personal that my mom, aunts, uncle and in-laws could cherish beyond the calendar year. I scanned Isabella's artwork from pre-K, and made a book interspersed with pictures of the girls.

Last year was different, though. For some reason I decided to make just one book. Something special for my mom. I put together photos of me, Mikey and the girls, and titled it simply "Perillo Family Memories". She was the only person I gave it too. I didn't order a copy for myself, figuring we had years decades to make books and create new memories.

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The First Thanksgiving {chocolate chess pie}

It's funny how I can feel so alone in a crowded room these days. This little place here in cyberspace, though—I never feel alone here. The sincere comments, emails and well-wishes over the last week have only reaffirmed what I've always believed—there are more good people in this world than we sometimes realize.

When I wrote a post asking friends to make a peanut butter pie to celebrate Mikey's life and the love for everyone in their own lives, I never expected the amazing domino effect that would follow. One woman wrote to tell me she has a peanut butter chocolate cupcake on the menu at her cafe in Buenos Aires in honor of Mikey, with the proceedings going to a charity that helps kids in need.

It reminded me of Eric Carle's story the The Tiny Seed, the way the love Mikey and I shared made it's way through the borders of Argentina into the heart of a woman neither of us knew. There are many more stories like this, and they make my heart swell with hope.

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