What I Did On My Summer Vacation

For homes not built on Lake Huron’s bluff, this is the path to the beach. In some places, it is at least a 45˚ incline, making it difficult, at best, and often treacherous when the least bit wet.                   (Click to enlarge)

Last Monday I returned from what has become an annual trip home to visit my Zia. She lives in a house she and Uncle built about 1970, retiring there a few years later, in a rural community along Michigan’s Lake Huron shore. I was about 15 when I first went “up North” with them. Back then, the property was used as a weekend get-away, with Zia & Uncle using a camper-trailer for their lodging and the rest of us in tents. Within a couple of years, Uncle began building their home, as did many of their current neighbors. (Because so many of them bought multiple lots, this will remain a sparsely populated area.) When my Parents were preparing for retirement, they bought the home “next door” to Zia’s. With only 2 lots separating the homes, Grandpa’s lifelong wish that his Girls remain together was once again fulfilled.

40 years ago, the water level of Lake Huron was high enough that this “pier” was almost submerged with sections made slippery with algae. We often fished off the end of the pier and what is now beach on the pier’s left was completely under water. Although smelt still “run” every Spring in the creek to the left of the pier, thanks to the efforts of the DNR, Coho salmon also used the creek to spawn during the 70’s and into the 80’s.

Searching for his ball.

In the years since, we’ve seen private phone lines come to the area, although modern services like call waiting and caller I.D. were made available only recently. About 10 years ago, running water was made available to the communities that wanted it.  Surprisingly, not everyone does and the water mains slowly continue to spread to those that do. Most importantly, however, was the community that the residents built together. As their homes went up, neighbors became friends and  the families mingled. Today, the kids have all grown and have families of their own, some even have their own grandkids. My Brother and his Wife raised their 2 Sons in a small community about 10 miles up the road. Two of Zia’s Sons remain in the Detroit Metropolitan area, less than a 2 hour drive away, as does my Sister and her 2 kids.

From abandoned hummingbird feeders to trees recently set ablaze, the signs of Autumn’s return were everywhere. Mom & Dad’s house was on the other side of the line of trees visible in the background of the photo of the hummingbird feeder.  (Click to enlarge)

All of this means that a visit with Zia is so much more than just that. My Brother and his Wife are sure to stop by for a visit. Most often, when he’s not playing with his grandkids here in suburban Chicago, Zia’s Eldest Son and the bane of my fantasy sports teams will visit for a few days. Don’t be fooled. He’s not there to visit with me. He’s come to play with Max. The two are inseparable as long as he’s there. And of course, her neighbors will be sure to stop by to visit and we’ll often have Sunday brunch together, meeting at one of the area’s restaurants after they’ve attended Mass. In between the visits, Zia and I will cook for each other. When she’s not teaching me a family recipe, I’m showing her one that I’ve found, often from my WP “family”.  This is the routine, for lack of a better word, followed during my visits home. Well, for all except my yearly visit in late Summer or early Fall.

This time of year my visit home is to help Zia fill her freezer. I bring my KitchenAid mixer, my pasta-making equipment, and, of course, my ice cream maker, although I very often forget some critical piece of equipment. (Once, I arrived without the door to Max’s crate; another time the paddle to my ice cream maker was left behind; and, most recently, I forgot my ravioli dies.) Still, we “make do” and spend a few afternoons working together.

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This year, we spent 2 afternoons making ravioli. When all was said and done, we used 16 eggs worth of dough (you pasta makers will know how much that is) to make almost 900 of the pasta pillows. Not only that, but I used the leftover dough to make well over a pound of hand-cut fettuccine. All of this was accomplished under the watchful eye of Max who was able to snag 3 ravioli that fell off the table. This was a disappointing year for him. Last year he somehow stole 5 ravioli as we worked and literally vacuumed up another 30 as we sat a mere 10 feet away. Despite Max, these are some of my favorite times with Zia. We often reminisce, “filling in the blanks” to each other’s memories, and I’ve also learned a great deal of my family’s history during these work sessions. And, of course, sooner or later Grandpa’s name is sure to come up and we’ll laugh as we recall some incident involving the Bartolini Patriarch. Don’t worry. I’ll get to those tales eventually.

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On another afternoon during this visit, the two of us turned our attention to sausage production. Although you sausage purists may object, a couple of years ago I convinced Zia to put away her casings and to make patties instead of links. Aside from being far easier and less time-consuming to make, sausage patties can be stacked for storage and are more easily used in sauces or whenever sausage meat is needed. To make things even easier, on yet another sleepless night a few years ago, I bought a patty press. Armed with a kitchen scale and my press, Zia and I whipped up a batch of 20 identical sausage patties in no time. And once again, Max was thwarted and unable to get to any of the ingredients. He did, however, try to pull off what has become his signature move when I’m working in the kitchen. As he has always done, he stayed close to where the action is, waiting for some morsel to hit the floor. This time, though, he waited for me to put my hand to my side and when I did, he gave it a good licking. Of course, that meant I had to stop and wash my hands — and herein lies the beauty of his plan. Up until I caught on, once I left the work area, he would “clean up”, gobbling as much as he could while my back was turned. This time, with Zia right there, his plan was foiled and, when we’re at home, he either accompanies me to the sink or I move the object(s) of his desire to higher ground while I wash.

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September is Honey Time in her area of Michigan. A local man has 20 hives — that I saw — and on one or two weekends in September, he sells his honey to the locals for $2.25/lb. His honey is also available year-round at a couple of the local stores. I bought some for people back here in Chi-town and Zia bought more for her family. All told, we bought 3 gallons of honey from the man — and Zia said she was going back for more. Unfortunately, while I was taking pictures of the hives, a number of customers arrived and I never did get permission to publish photos of anything else. Next year!

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As dedicated foodies, no narrative of a vacation would be complete without at least a mention of the meals served. When I visit Zia, there are 2 things that I know will be waiting for me: a Manhattan and a risotto dinner. I’ve yet to see anyone prepare risotto the Bartolini way, so, I’ll be posting that recipe later in the year. When Mom was still with us, upon my arrival, she’d serve me a Manhattan while she prepared soup for our dinner. I don’t know why I drink Manhattans back home for I rarely, if ever, drink them anywhere else. Nevertheless, for decades, Manhattans are the house cocktail when I visit. In fact, one afternoon, about 20 years ago, I’d gone down to the beach to get some sun.  I was there about 30 minutes when Zia appeared, carrying a pitcher of Manhattans with 2 glasses.  After about 15 minutes, as we sat, sipping our cocktails, Mom appeared carrying another pitcher of Manhattans with 2 glasses. After a good laugh, the 3 of us spent the afternoon together, sitting on the beach, sipping Manhattans. Thank heavens this took place before smartphones and the Video Age for there is no footage of the 3 of us struggling to get up that hill, empty pitchers in hand.

Now, back to the food …

With homes atop the bluff, this shoreline is repeated throughout much of this part of Michigan … well, not including Max, of course.

My 2nd night there, I took over the kitchen, preparing Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore and serving it over a bed of polenta. Zia fired back on the 3rd night, fixing broiled pork chops and serving them with a side of spaghetti dressed with her meat sauce. Peace reigned on the 4th night, a Friday, and we went to a local restaurant’s fish fry. I was back at the stove top the next night and I prepared Pappa al Pomodoro, a kind of tomato soup, the recipe for which I’ll be sharing next week. My final night, Zia prepared my farewell dinner, baked shells stuffed with homemade ricotta & spinach. Once the dust had settled, the judges rendered their verdict. Zia had won September’s Battle in the Kitchen. Though they appreciated my efforts, including the 6 quarts of blueberry cheesecake ice cream I’d prepared and the frozen cobbler I’d brought from home, I’d not done enough to overcome Zia’s home court advantage. You see, she’d kept the Manhattans flowing at the judges’ table.  I never did stand a chance.

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So ends my essay on what I did on my Summer vacation. As you can see, not only did I have a wonderful time but Zia’s freezer is well-stocked for the cold months ahead. And, rest assured, the next time I visit, I’m going to insist on judges who are teetotalers.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Since I mentioned it in the post above, I thought this post’s blast from the past would be the recipe for Mom’s Chicken (that’s not really) Cacciatore. I really enjoy this dish. It can be served as-is or atop a bed of polenta or buttered noodles. Best of all, no matter how it’s served, your kitchen will be filled with the irresistible aroma of the rosemary & garlic used in this dish’s preparation. Mom hit this one out of the park and you can view the recipe by clicking HERE.

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93 thoughts on “What I Did On My Summer Vacation

  1. How lovely to read your what I did on my summer vacation essay, John. I love the family stories and hearing about Max’s antics and how you fill the freezer. I am here at the computer preparing for the week and your post of photos, food and family love arrives. Will check out that recipe too. What a wonderful place to be. I feel as if I got to go, too!

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    • Thank you so much, Ruth. I have yet to get caught up with my blogging duties but I wanted to get this post out. Everyone is so sweet when they speak of Zia I wanted to “introduce” her to you all — with her permission, of course. A picture of her at work making pasta is about as authentic as I could get. That area of Michigan is really nice and the community they’ve created quite special. I really enjoy spending time there.

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. Could not stop smiling reading about Max and his clever tricks. Love the photo of Zia making ravioli. How wonderful that you and Zia have the opportunity to spend such preious time together. Looking forward to reading more and also the recipes.

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    • Thank you, Norma. Max is unlike any dog I’ve owned. Yes, he can be bad at times but he is the most affectionate dog. Just today he tore into yet another roll of toilet paper while I was fixing dinner. My living room looks like a cloud exploded in it. And now he’s asleep at my feet. So very innocent looking. 🙂

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    • To be honest, the total surprised us both. In the picture, you can see the ravioli die she used. (I’d forgotten mine at home.) It makes 36 ravioli at a time. It took us 2 afternoons to make 900 but now she has a freezer full — and a big smile.

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  3. What a great post. I loved reading this, John. I love the photos and it’s so lovely to see an image of your Zia. Your Max has a lot of character and a great working mind. I can’t believe you made 900 little squares of ravioli in just a couple of afternoon – I’d be still putting together my pasta maker. And that honey is such a good buy – I wish I could have put in my order. I believe you were robbed of your prize – anyone who arrives with an ice cream maker and churns out that quantity of blueberry cheesecake ice cream is truly the winner in my opinion xx

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    • Thank you, Charlie, for leaving such a nice compliment. Had I not forgotten my ravioli die, I’m sure Zia & I would have finished in 1 afternoon and not 2. We’ve worked together enough times that we’ve got a nice little system going. Besides, it’s a lot of fun working with her, too.
      And thank you for your vite of confidence. If it’s not too much of a bother, please keep September and October of next year “open”. I just might need an unbiased judge (wink, wink) if I’m going to win the 2013 battle of the Kitchen. 🙂

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  4. Oh lovely Zia! She looks great and what fun you two had. So wonderful for you to share your trip and the images of the land, as well as Max and Zia…loved it! All that fabulous pasta and sausage and amazing food. And a family that serves Manhattan’s on arrival? All I can say is, once again, can I be a distant long lost relative? 🙂 I know it must have been so hard to leave such a fun and peaceful place, filled with so many family memories and with the spirit of them all remaining…and living on, in your traditions. Thank you for sharing and I can’t wait to see and read about more of the dishes you made. Just sorry Max didn’t have a better vacation food-wise! 😉

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    • Sorry, Betsy, for this delayed reply. I thought I had written something days ago. I’ll never get caught up if WP starts eating my comments. Anyway …
      Thanks for leaving such a nice comment. I really do enjoy these trips home and “ravioli week” is the best. Zia is really something, isn’t she? Since a number have asked about her, I thought sharing our week together would show her at her best, at work preparing food. Oh, and don’t worry about Max. He’s like another of her grandkids. She buys him special treats and if we get up before her, he’ll stay at her door until she awakens. waiting for his “Buon giorno!” treat. He’s hardly deprived. 🙂

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  5. I loved reading about your childhood.. your Zia and your adventures this summer. What a great tradition, she must so look forward to having you visit and cook with her. The next time there is a bake-off I volunteer to be a judge, just in case you need someone to test out the dishes for you:D Max.. well, he’s certainly a clever dog, it took me a reread to figure out the “game” and I laughed out loud, that’s unbelievable!! I think my favorite, though, is that photograph you took of Zia.. you’ve captured her spirit.. and her ravioli.. perfection!!

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    • Hey, Barb! I look forward to Ravioli Week just as much as she does. It’s a very enjoyable way to spend time with her and I’m happy to be able to give her a hand. And Max gives us both a good laugh. That photograph was taken from a video I made of her making ravioli. In it, you can see Max patrolling around her end of the table, disappearing from her left side and, suddenly, his muzzle appearing on her right. He’s such an opportunist, just waiting for his chance to swipe a few of whatever it was we’re making. The thing is, he’s so darn successful! Last year, at least one of us was at that table all afternoon. Yet he managed to get 5 ravioli! We’re still trying to figure out how he did it.
      Thanks for your compliments regarding her photograph. She was laughing because I had, once again, “borrowed” the dough cutter and failed to put it back. She has the patience of Job. 🙂

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your Michigan travels John. Look at Zia! She looks FABULOUS! And 900 ravioli?! Holy cow! I can’t even imagine. Then you still had enough leftover dough for fettucine? Truly impressive. Love the shots of Max. He looks like he had a great time! What a wonderful time with family John. I can’t wait to read some more stories about your grandpa. They always make me chuckle! 🙂 Welcome home.

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    • Thank you so much, Kristy. This was such a great trip home and, to be honest, the ravioli total was more than we’ve ever done. Zia got a little carried away when she made the filling. For a while there, it was like a re-enactment of the loaves and fishes. We kept making ravioli and the filling dish didn’t seem to be emptying. And, yes, Max enjoyed himself, too. That beach is the only place that he can go where he wants. It’s his chance to sniff and run around with no one and nothing to bother him. He loves it!

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  7. I am smiling from ear to ear as I finish your wonderfully warm family story: God bless and may all the bells be ringing! Well, were I to visit, I guess Max and I would make friendies first: got this thing about big friendly hulks of the canine kind! And that warm feeling will be replicated throughout the colder season, won’t it, whilst all the gorgeous food prepared is consumed and the making of it remembered 🙂 !

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    • Thank you for your kind comments. I so enjoy these cooking session with her and, like you mentioned, knowing that she’ll be enjoying the fruits of our labor with family and friends is a real benefit. As for Max, you’ll have no trouble making “friendies.” He hasn’t a mean bone in his body. He’s like a young boy, terribly mischievous but he’ll win you over with a look.

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      • Sugar: hope we are still talking, ’cause so loved your blog it kind’of, somehow, got reposted to many friends 🙂 ! PS Hate to tell you, Max has already ‘won me over’!!

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  8. I enjoyed every word of your summer vacation essay, John! My mother’s younger sister passed away very unexpectedly ten years ago, and the void she left is huge in my mind. She was my loving equivalent of your Zia, and I was very close to her. I really celebrate as wonderful the relationship you are able to share with your dear one! I realize that your Zia is the link you hold close to the memories of your parents and grandparents. We who are rich in family, deeply understand how these wonderful loved ones hold the key to much of who we are.

    The way you two enjoy the cooking together is something I really don’t have, and I love to hear you tell it! I could never grow tired of hearing the stories of your family and the way you enter into one another’s lives, with brother and sister and family…and Max! Great times. I’m so glad you shared! Debra

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    • Thanks, Debra, for leaving such a warm, and insightful, comment. So sorry to learn of the loss of your dear Aunt. You must miss her terribly, as does your Mother. I can only imagine …
      I do enjoy these visits back home and raviol days with Zia are among the best of times. Every year there’s some new twist, an incident, that will keep us laughing for years to come. Last year, it was Max stealing 3 dozen ravioli. This year, Zia made a huge amount of filling and we thought we’d never finish it off. As I mentioned in another reply, it was like the loaves and fishes. I kept making pasta dough and she kept filling her die. We thought we’d never finish. Next year, we’ll be chuckling over it, just as we now do when Max’s thievery is mentioned.
      Yes, our family traditions may be different but that needn’t be the case always. When Zia’s grandkids were very young, she’d sometimes babysit for them. She taught them how to make gnocchi and, yes, they often made more of a mess than they did gnocchi. Now, though, they’re all grown, married, and a couple have kids of their own but they all still make gnocchi, sometimes even as a group. She started that tradition and in their minds will always be associated with it. Do your Granddaughters know your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? 😉

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  9. Despite losing September’s Battle in the Kitchen I give you A++ for your Summer vacation essay, and a mmm-mmm-mmm rating. Each of you are so entertaining, although Max might have won the delightful ham category by a whisker. Wins all round!

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    • Thank you, EllaDee. Your comment gave me a good chuckle. Zia may have won The Battle but I got an A++! Phooey on those judges! Yes, Max is 100% ham. You just don’t know. He’s forever getting into trouble, especially when food is involved. He’ll go to great lengths to steal a morsel. And I wouldn’t trade him for the World!

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  10. I loved reading this! There’s nothing like time in the kitchen with loved ones, If you ask me (especially if it involves all the goodies you guys made!) And I, too, enjoyed reading about your family history … And Max’s bag of tricks!

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    • Thanks, Roger. The Ice Age was really kind to Michigan. It left the state surrounded by the Great Lakes and filled with many other lakes of varying sizes. As you go North, the population thins, leaving many parks and forests to hike and camp within. If you love the outdoors, you’ll really appreciate Michigan. I’ve often told my Parents and Zia & Uncle that if only they had found a place on this side of Michigan, I probably would have bought a place myself. Hmmm … Could that be the reason that … Nah. 😉

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    • I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time. Zia taught her Grandkids to make gnocchi when they were very young. That was well over 20 years ago and, even now, they make gnocchi, sometimes as a group. I’m telling you, this is the start of something big! You are going to enjoy yourselves and I hope you’ll blog about it. 🙂

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    • You’re very welcome, Mandy. You did miss out on a wonderful time — not to mention some pretty good food. I’ll give you some more lead time when I go next for a visit. You’ll have no excuse from missing out next time. 🙂

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  11. Oh John that was an amazing post! Zia is beautiful (inside as well as out!) and you clearly both love each other so much and have so many shared memories to recall and are also enjoying making new ones each year. Max had a blast too by the look of things (despite the ravioli “shortage”)! Am looking forward to the Pappa al Pomodoro recipe – adore it. Thanks so much for sharing your holiday with us.

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    • Thank you, Tanya,for leaving such a nice comment. Yes, we do enjoy ourselves during these visits. And when we run out of stories to tell or memories to recall, Max takes that as his cue to give us something to laugh about. Zia’s no help, though. She buys him special treats and spoils him rotten. It’s something to see.

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  12. John, you are so lucky to be able to spend time with Zia, learn her recipes and learn about your family. That is priceless! And we are the beneficiaries of all your new found knowledge! I can’t wait to try your mom’s chicken cacciatore recipe! Sounds like the perfect summer vacation!

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    • Thanks, Tanya, and I do realize how truly fortunate I am. Many had asked about Zia and I thought this was the perfect time to formally introduce her to you all. This photo was perfect for such an occasion. There she is, smiling and making ravioli. I couldn’t have asked her to strike a better pose.

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  13. What a great post! Loved everything about it, and had to laugh about Max and the ravioli stealing. When I used to make pasta from scratch, our dogs would lay underneath the pasta cutting thingie, because some strands would fall to the floor. They sat there, mesmerized, looking up and patiently waiting, in a frozen state of anticipation… fun times!

    I look forward to the risotto and anything else you decide to share with us… 😉

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    • Sally, you’ve just described Max to a “T”. I’ve a video from my last visit and in it, Max travels from Zia’s right side to her left, sometimes only his muzzle visible just beyond the table’s edge. He’s an opportunist, to be sure, but he’s not against stealing a few when he can. “Fun times” is right!
      Thanks for the comment.

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    • Hey, MD! I do love living in the Big City but it’s nice to be able to retreat to Michigan a few times every year. I pass by Okemos on my way to Zia’s. She lives in “The Thumb” and if you’re not certain of its whereabouts, just look at a map. 🙂

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  14. I’m really not sure where to begin my friend…the ravioli, the sausage, the honey, risotto, or Manhattans. It all sounds like paradise. However, having grown up with homemade ravioli and an annual Ravioli “Fest” I’d take the two days of making them…and of course many bottles of red wine. 😉

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    • I like how you think, Jed, only Zia’s glass of wine and my Manhattan must wait until we finish. Zia is a sweet lady but don’t be fooled. She’s a tough General Foreman. No food or drink at the worksite and you have to earn your bathroom breaks. She really does know what she’s doing, though, otherwise we’d still be there, laughing, if we started drinking before “shift-end.”

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  15. Sounds like you had a lovely visit! All of your talk about homemade pasta, sausage making, ice cream, and all of the amazing dishes you two made while you were there have me thinking about a second breakfast. Ha!

    Max is adorable! And who can blame a guy for trying? ~ April

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    • Thank you, April. We had a nice visit and I enjoyed it very much. As for Max, it’s not that he tries, he’s relentless. When food is involved, Max will stop at nothing to get some. I’ve thought of writing a Max Post but I’m pretty sure you’d all think me crazy for keeping him. Yet, if you “met” him, you’d be won over instantly. He charms everyone. If only he’d use his powers for good and not for stealing food or tearing up toilet paper! 🙂

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  16. That picture of your Zia is magnificent John! She’s beautiful, and that picture is stunning. I read this with great interest because one of our ideas for our late fall vacation is a trip around Michigan…..the shores. Neither one of us has seen the Huron side. Sad, but true. Having said that though, it’s the family stories, once again, that I fell in love with. I’m so glad you had a nice visit and stocked Zia’s freezer for winter, and had a wonderful time doing it. I could say so many things about your visit, but the bottom line is, I just love it. All of it. It makes me smile wide, and really crave ravioli 🙂

    Max! Boy he is an identical twin to my Chase, who is just as much of a character as Max. It’s so cool seeing him in action! Chase has never stolen Hubby’s raviolis, but he sure likes to steal salmon and chicken off the counter! LOL!

    Thank you SO much for all these wonderful pictures, and especially the stories. Oh how I love the stories 🙂

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    • Thanks, Sarah, I’m glad you wo enjoyed this post. As a boy, we often vacationed at varying points along the shore. There are plenty of picturesque places to see and explore. Don’t go too deep into Fall, though. Winter can sneak up on ya!

      OMG! There’s 2 of them??? Oh no! Your Chase sounds like Max. Do you know that I’ve caught him lapping up tomato sauce from the pot on the stove? Tore into not one but two Easter hams? Opened a box of pizza and slurped up all of the cheese topping? Oh, I could go on; I’m just getting warmed up. Yet, he is the most lovable mutt one could want. I wouldn’t trade Max for any other dog! I’d be willing to bet you feel the same way about your Chase. 🙂

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      • Yep, I certainly do! I think Chase and Max are soul brothers, LOL!!!! Oh Max, what a character!! I love it. I really do….I have no idea what I’d ever do with our 2 puppies and 2 kitties. They are the bestest buds for someone like me who spends a lot of time at home with them. I am not going to let Chase read about Max’s adventures in the kitchen….he’d definitely give them all a try. If he only knew, lol.

        I was hoping to take the vacation over my birthday week here in a couple of weeks….all depends on Hubby’s schedule, as usual. I can’t wait to be alone the shore!

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  17. How lucky you are to have such a wonderful woman in your wife to spend afternoons with do your favorite thing – cooking! Sausage, ravioli, risotto – what a feast! Love reading about your summer vacation!!!

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  18. Zia is just beautiful…! Did you have a hard time catching up with her and keeping pace as I am sure she makes double this batch for all the neighbor ladies every weekend when you are not there… LOL She is just adorable. Your stories and pictures make me miss Michigan dearly. I am glad you had a super summer holiday. Take Care, BAM

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    • You’re night far from wrong, BAM. I’m always saying that she’s more active than I am. She belongs to 3 clubs and sings every Sunday in the church choir. I’m tired just writing about all she does! Maybe one day we’ll synchronize our travel plans and we’ll meet up in Michigan somewhere. Zia loves a road trip! 🙂

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  19. Thank you for sharing some precious time at home with your Zia. We had heard so much about her and now we had a chance to see her. We knew she was an outstanding cook, now we see she is a beautiful woman inside and out. Having and making wonderful memories is wonderful to share. I am glad you and she have spent this time together. I am sure you came home much refreshed.
    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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    • Thank you, Francine, for leaving such a nice comment. Zia will often read my posts and I hope she gets to the Comments section. Reading those like yours here will really make her day. I hope someone does something equally kind for you to make your day, too. 🙂

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  20. Oh she is just a treasure…I love the picture of her giving Max the “side-eye”…too funny. That grand dame has my vote, esp for the Manhattans…love it!!

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  21. How nice to read your adventures on your vacation while I am so far from home; it sounds like a wonderful time of laughter, cooking and eating. Your Zia sounds like a blast.
    Hoping to be back at blogging sometime next week when we return from our European vaycay! Hope all is well, until then.
    Eva

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    • Thank you, Eva, for taking some of your precious vacation time to send me such a nice comment. I’ll make sure Zia sees the note from “our friend who lives in Toronto.” 🙂
      I hope you’re having a wonderful time, Eva. Remember: no matter where you are, don’t pass a pastry shop without buying something.

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    • Oh, Marie, the 3 of us had such a good time that afternoon. I’d take an “F” on my essay before I’d change anything about that day. We’ve told and retold that story dozens of times and neither of us ever tires of it. Never before or since had either of them ever brought a pitcher of Manhattans down to the beach. Then, on this one day, they both independently decide to “treat” me. I wish there had been a camera around to record the looks on our 3 faces when Mom appeared and we all realized what was happening. Too funny!

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  22. I love this post! What a great amount of fun – and love – is in you. That’s a gorgeous part of the world that you visited. I’ve spent very little time there, but the little bit I have was magic. Anyway, love the stuff you cooked. That’s a lot of pasta dough! And although I rarely make sausage, I’m very much in the patty camp (and I prefer to buy it in bulk, rather than in casings). More versatile, and when you cook it you get better flavor. Really great post – thanks so much.

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    • Yes, John, it was a lot of fun and that area is really special. My family was incredibly lucky to have found it and later retire there. I really do enjoy these “working” visits. I knew a fellow pasta maker would appreciate how much dough is made from 16 eggs. My Zia got a little carried away when she made the filling and made twice the normal amount! Thankfully, my KitchenAid makes rolling i out so much easier and quicker otherwise we’d still be working at it.
      Making sausage is so easy, John, and I’m surprised you’ve not tried it yet. You make dishes that are far more complicated than this. The main things to keep in mind are to make sure you have at least 20 – 25% fat, that the meat is coarsely ground, and that it is well-salted. After that, you can add whatever spices you like to create whatever sausage you desire. And making patties rather than links just about halves the processing time. Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

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  23. Loved the story and looks like you had a wonderful time with the family. I always had fun cooking with and for my Mom and watching my grandmother cook when I was a young boy. Sadly, they are no longer with us but the story brought back very fond memories. I hope you have many more of these visits.

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    • Thank you so much, Richard, and I’m sorry to learn of your loss of both Mom and Grandmother. I do cherish these visits spent cooking with Zia. We really do have a good time together and enjoy each other’s company. And, when the stars align, we end up with 900 ravioli and 20 pounds of sausage patties. 🙂

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  24. Thank you for sharing your summer vacation with us. It’s heartwarming to see how much you help your Zia; it’s clear you two share a special bond. She is a lovely woman, and it’s so nice to see her in her kitchen, making the wonderful food you’ve told us so much about.

    It’s also a treat for me to see the Michigan shore of Lake Huron, seeing as I spend so much time on the Ontario shore. What a natural treasure for our two countries to share.

    As you can see, I’ve been behind on my blog reading and commenting, so don’t feel bad that you are still catching up after your holiday. It can get away from us so quickly when life calls us in other directions, but is always here waiting when we return.

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    • You are very welcome, Mar. This post was a pleasure to write. I’ve been wanting to “formally introduce” Zia to you all and this visit provided the perfect opportunity to do so. She really is in her element when working in the kitchen and we have a wonderful time doing do together.
      Ontario and Michigan sure are lucky to share the Great Lakes. They are a true natural wonder and I never grow tired of heading back home and walking along Lake Huron’s shore. It is still unspoiled and you never know what you’ll see. Last visit I saw cormorants for the first time. A few years ago, it was a bald eagle. My family was very fortunate to find and buy in that area.

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  25. What a wonderful holiday John. As you can see I’m catching up on my holiday reading 🙂
    And what a wonderful read, Manhattans, beautiful location, great food, brilliant Max stories and photos, fabulous food and best of all the lovely Zia. Just perfect

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    • Thank you, Claire, for your kind words here and whenever you comment. This was a fun post to write and what better way to introduce you to Zia and her home than with her making ravioli? When I last spoke with her, she had yet to read this post but she will certainly be happy to see so many wonderful comments. It will make her day and thank you for your part in that. 🙂

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  26. Sounds like a wonderful vacation John.
    You remind me of my time in my grandmother’s kitchen. I spent the summer before the university with her and know what you mean about filling the gaps in one’s memory. It was a summer I will never forget. Thank you for bringing back that sweet memory

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    • That’s wonderful, Sawsan. I’m so happy that my little essay could do that for you. I had a similar experience with my Zia last night. I was telling her of my latest kitchen adventure, a recipe for which one of our fellow bloggers had shared a link. It turns out that Zia’s Mother, my Grandma, made the same dish when Mom & Zia were little girls. Zia had forgotten all about it until I mentioned it. I’ve said it before, I never dreamt the many rewards that writing a blog would make possible. Incredible, isn’t it?

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      • It is incredible indeed! and it is hard to explain to someone who is not a blogger. I tell my friend about how much richer my life has become since I started blogging but it is hard to explain because it is a million little details. A post from a blogger friend can bring back a sweet memory, cheer you up on a bad day, inspire, encourage and motivate and sometimes they tell a story that is exactly what you need to hear on that particular point in time.

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        • Agreed! It is amazing how connected we all are, despite there being thousands of miles separating us. It is quite a community, a very welcoming community, that we have here. One that, as you say, many non-bloggers don’t quite understand. I surely didn’t before I started my blog. Have a great week, Sawsan.

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    • Oh, you can do it, Lisa. I just don’t see you having the time just yet. Your boys take up any possible ravioli making time. That’s OK. Ravioli have been around for hundreds of years. The ravioli dies and presses will be waiting for you. 🙂

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  27. Pingback: Ravioli Making – Fun on a Hot Summer’s Evening | Chica Andaluza

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