I wake up early, the iPhone alarm softly singing to me, easing me into the day.
It takes me a full minute to remember what day of the week it is. The cobwebs lay thick and heavy in my brain.
I am not a morning person. Never have been. I’d be happy if no one would talk to me for at least an hour actually, as my previous roommates and husband of nearly 22 years will tell you.
I let the dogs out, wake up the kids, make myself an espresso, (always a double) then sit down at the kitchen table and think through my day.
Then I begin making a to-do list in my favorite polka dotted notebook from my trip home this summer.
My brain starts waking up, untangling itself and then spirals out of control. Like a rabbit hole, I start with one thought that leads to a hundred more.
Is this normal? Is it me, getting old? Losing my ability to focus? Or is it just life in 2014?
I’m not shocked anymore at the events that happen around me. I’ve learned to drive more aggressively, to hold my own in the grocery line or at the airport.
I love listening to my Italian neighbors chatter in the alley as I wash dishes at the sink.
I zip into and around the hundreds of round-a-bouts without thinking twice, breaking a sweat or getting dizzy.
I still laugh out loud, but am used to having zero personal space at the grocery store, on the sidewalk, in a café.
I’m even used to seeing grown Italian men peeing by the side of the road almost every single day.
But after living here almost a year and a half, I’m still surprised at the amount of thought every single daily chore takes. I wonder how the Italians do it?
Do their brains hurt at the end of the day from all the extra brain power that must be used to get through the day? Probably not, they are used to how things run (or don’t run) here. It’s part of their DNA, I’m pretty sure.
My DNA is so different. I’m American through and through, but I long to be Italian. I have a love affair with Italy and will never be the same after living here. But my head still swims in the details of living life in bella Italia!
My thoughts go something like this…
I should make a list so I don’t get too sidetracked today.
Oh- this is my last notebook, I should ask Chris to bring me back more of these from Target while he is in Idaho.
Ooh! I need to also ask him if he will go to the store and pick up some salsa too.
I miss spicy things.
Hey, I should totally make something spicy this week for dinner. What can I make without having to go into Chinatown for my favorite spicy supplies?
Curry. The kids love curry. I add ingredients to the ongoing grocery list.
I look in the fridge for what else we might need. I see 1 full liter of milk and half a loaf of bread.
Thinking to myself, we still have plenty of milk, I wonder if I can stretch out the grocery situation a day or two more and not have to do that today?
I also need to go get a key copied for the front gate, the kids keep losing theirs. (I don’t know where all these keys go, but I have had more keys made in Italy than I did for the 14 years we have lived in Idaho.)
The key shop is only open certain hours, so I need to make sure and go when they are open. If I am going there anyway, I should just go ahead and get the groceries while I am out and about…
But when can I go to the key shop and the grocery store when I can
a.) find a parking spot that doesn’t require a 28 point turn
b.) decrease my chances of getting run over while walking to and from the front door?
(I am not kidding- these folks are crazy in the parking lot!)
Oh and when is it least likely that the Carabinieri (the state police) are not out on the road doing random paperwork stops? Because I just don’t think I can deal with that today.
Hmmm. I keep thinking.
I see the Carabinieri flagging people down most frequently right after the morning rush of traffic, but before the after work traffic. Which would then of course leave only the hours of the afternoon riposo and the key shop will definitely be closed then.
I’ve decided that the up side to all the thinking my brain seems to do to get through a normal day in this country must surely be cleaning out the cobwebs of my brain and at least delaying dementia, if not scaring it away forever?
I think I’ll just stay home in my pj’s today, I think to myself. We can do without keys or groceries for another day…
Cue the Frittata.
It’s the perfect dinner if your brain is just plain tired out, like mine- or if you have a million things to do and not much time to make dinner but want something healthy and quick.
If you’re not familiar with Frittatas, they are an Italian dish, made with eggs, meats, cheeses, vegetables and then baked in the oven. They are good hot, cold, or room temperature.
What I love most about them is you can totally wing it- changing up the flavors based on what you have on hand- using up leftover meat, rice, or whatever veggies are in the fridge. There’s no wrong way to make it!
My favorite variation has potatoes, red pepper, extra garlic + red onion, broccoli and pepper flakes. Sometimes if I’m feeling generous, I make them in a muffin tin, and make individualized specialty mini-frittatas for my family.
Frittatas are the perfect busy weeknight dinner, especially when you are avoiding the Carabinieri and don’t want to leave your house! Paired with a green salad, it makes a delicious meal.
My Favorite Frittata | Serves 6-8
Pre-heat oven to 400 F
1 large onion, chopped
(OR 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced)
1 red bell pepper,chopped
1 T. garlic,chopped
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
(OR 1 cup leftover pasta or rice)
Optional add ins:
1 cup chopped broccoli or zucchini
Chopped fresh tomato, or 1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 cup cooked and chopped meat of your choice (sausage and salami are both delicious)
1 cup of shredded cheese (we like sharp cheddar, or swiss)
1/4 cup milk or half & half
Fresh Herbs, chopped. I use flat leaf parsley, fresh basil and chives
- In a 10-12 inch ovenproof skillet, heat 2 T. oil or butter
- Add the chopped onions, and other veggies (except potatoes) over medium high heat, cooking about 8-10 minutes until starting to brown and can easily be stabbed with a fork.
- Add chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like. (this is where I add my red pepper flakes!)
- While the vegetables are cooking, thinly slice the potatoes and cook them in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, just to lessen their cooking time in the skillet.
- Layer sliced potatoes over the cooked vegetables. Sprinkle with a little sea salt, or other seasoning of your choice. Add the shredded cheese, and meat if using.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Pour over the vegetable mixture.
- Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, using a small spatula or knife to lift the edge of the egg filling while you tip the pan, to let more of the eggs cook quickly.
- When the eggs are starting to set (2-3 minutes) pop the whole skillet in the hot oven.
- Bake 10-12 minutes, until brown and puffy. (check for doneness by sticking a sharp knife right in the middle)
- Cool for 5 minutes, cut into slices or wedges and top with chopped fresh herbs.
This is keeps well and is great the next day. If I’m really planning ahead, its nice to mix up and bake Saturday night and then have for Sunday brunch the next day.
If you make the muffin sized version, grease the the muffin pan. Cook the veggies, then divide the veggies, meat + cheese among the muffin cups. Pour the egg mixture over the top, and bake until brown and cooked through. Check after 15 minutes, and bake longer if needed.
AND… just because I started this little ditty off with my alarm waking me up, here’s my favorite alarm song of the last few months. Since I am grumpy and slow in the morning, I must be serenaded into my day.
Very random, I know.
Love. The Civil Wars. So. Much.
And Italy? Always.