If you’ve never been to the small towns of Italy you would not understand the deep, profound sadness I have for the people of Amatrice, Saletta, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto in the wake of this devastating earthquake.  My family has spent year after year crisscrossing the Italian countrysides, mountains, and beaches.  We are diehard fans of the little towns, the hamlets, the villages.  We plan our trips not around what big cities we would like to see, but which tiny ones we have to experience.

For people from a country that always bemoans the disappearance of the “social tribe”, being in these places is just magical.  The sense of community among the residents is jaw dropping.  Everyone knows everyone and their families going back hundreds of years, if not more.  But what is even more astounding is how freely these very special people share their love of one another and their towns with outsiders.  You are immediately welcomed into their social tribe and you feel their love.  Yes, their love.   They don’t welcome you because they’ve decided they like you, they welcome you because their hearts embraced yours as soon as you said ciao.  This is how my kids have come to have “aunties” and “cousins” and even an Honorary Gramps sprinkled throughout Italy and how we’ve been invited home for lunch by complete strangers.  It’s the love.

So as I sit here tonight, still trying to process how so many of these magical, special towns with the best people humankind has to offer have been destroyed, all I can think to do is share the love of Amatrice with one of our favorite family recipes.  We sat down to share it tonight as we keep Lazio in our prayers, and I hope that you will do the same.  And please consider donating to the disaster relief funds of La Stampa (specify your gift is for “Fund 597 Earthquake in Central Italy” or “Fondo 597 Terremoto Centro Italia”) or The Italian Red Cross.

Amatriciana / Sugo / all’Amatriciana

This is the namesake dish of Amatrice.  Traditionally made with guanciale (pork jowel) I sub a thick, high-quality applewood smoked bacon.  And I omit the red pepper flakes since the Hunt’s Sauce (I use for ease) has had a bit of a kick to it lately and my kids don’t like spicy food.

Olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 carrot, very finely shredded (optional, but I prefer my sauce with it)

1 package thick bacon cut into short strips or guanciale

1 Tetra pack (33.5oz) of Hunt’s Sauce (you can make your own using San Marzano tomatoes, but this is easiest)

Pinch of red pepper flakes (if you like heat)

1 lb Spaghetti (this is the traditional way but Bucatini is used in Rome and Renne Rigate stands up nicely to this sauce and doesn’t require cutting for littles)

Pecorino Romano, freshly grated


In a heavy bottomed pan, add olive oil, onions, and carrot (if using) and cook until softened.

In a skillet, brown the bacon (not until crispy) and then transfer the bacon and a good portion of the grease to your big pan.

Add the entire package of Hunt’s Sauce to the pan (and red pepper if using) and give everything a good stir.  Put the lid on and set your stove to simmer.  Leave the sauce as long as you can (but it is still delicious after only waiting for the pasta to cook).

Cook your pasta until it is a bit more firm than al dente, then drain it and add the pasta into the sauce’s pan.  Give it a good stir, put the lid back on, and check for doneness after 2 minutes or so.

Serve piping hot with a generous helping of Pecorino.


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Mama Thoughts: The Struggle

Photo credit:  J E Theriot

Motherhood can be isolating.  Each time I’ve had a baby, amidst all all of the intense joy and wonderment I’ve felt at the fact that I created this tiny human, there has also been an equally intense feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated.  After all, no matter how much anyone else wants to help, most of my baby’s care is up to me.  We’re mammals, that’s how we’re designed.

But the fact that the demands of motherhood are natural doesn’t mean they’re comfortable.  This is a lesson we’re re-taught time and time again as our children grow up.  And despite so much attention being given to the younger generations’ stress levels due to the differences between what they see portrayed on social media vs the realities of their own lives, very little attention is paid to how this same, strange modern day dichotomy is playing out in the lives of mothers.

I’m fairly vocal about the struggles I experience as a mother.  Anyone who knows me, knows my true story.  But I am still acutely aware that the perception of my life, my experience as a mother, can be perceived completely differently by outside observers.  Perhaps it’s something as simple as the fact I try not to leave the house without getting properly dressed or that I wear makeup 99% of the time.  People who merely see me out and about probably think I have it all together.  “Look at her!  She still has time to take care of herself!  She must be so together!”.

But how wrong they are!  There is one truth above all others:

We’re all a hot mess, some of us are just better at “hiding” it.

For me, I often have days of small victories.  One of them is putting on an actual outfit.  It’s how I make myself feel like I’m still a member of the outside world, even if I’m hanging on the edge of the cliff by my unmanicured fingernails (seriously, I haven’t had a manicure in over 4 years).  I put on makeup every day (usually at stoplights) because I am too insecure with my skin to go without (who has time for a dermatologist?).  These facts are my actual reality behind what might make others think I am someone who “does it all”.

Because I definitely do not do it all.  There are at least 40 concrete things I could rattle off to you right now that I could be doing better in my life.  For myself and for my children alike.  But I’m making a concerted effort to keep doing what I can and allowing my goals to be fluid.  Because the individual scales of my life (children-spouse-career-self) are never going to be evenly balanced.  Ever.

I’m learning every day to accept that certain areas will have to take up the slack for others in order to survive with as much grace and joy as is possible.

I’m also learning to find the beauty in having a life that often, internally, feels scotch-taped together. It is providing me with the opportunity to grow and mature, to lean on and confide in my girlfriends and my husband, to steer my beautiful children through life despite not always feeling like their confident Captain.  And to find love in unexpected places.

Through the experience of motherhood, I’ve found a new, profound feeling of connection to other women, even when I feel entirely, utterly alone.  As I lock eyes with another mom at the store who’s having “one of those days” – I know her struggle.  I get it.  I hope she’s OK.  Or I witness an older woman watching my children, suddenly being transported to memories of her own.  I see her, I actually physically feel her love and her longing.  It makes my heart simultaneously swell and break for her.  I hope she’s OK, too.  Or when I see a pregnant woman, staring at a baby aisle with so much excitement about the future but also so overwhelmed by the weight of this new journey.  I want to rush up to her and hold her hand as she becomes part of this crazy, messy tribe.  I hope she’s going to be OK.

Not one of us is perfect, not as a person and not as a mother, no matter what we see in various posts or pictures on social media.  We can’t fall into the trap of feeling inadequate or less than what we erroneously perceive as other people’s perfect lives.  The more we lift the veil on this perception of perfection, the more real and raw and connected we are to one another, the more we will flourish.  We’re in this together, girlfriends.  Scotch tape and all.

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Mama Thoughts – Confidence

Photo credit:  J E Theriot

Going through life as women, most of us are at least vaguely aware of this nagging voice in the back of our heads, second-guessing our authority and autonomy. It probably stems from the messages society gives to us as women: women should be polite, women should not take charge, women should never ever rock the boat… No matter how empowered we are, no matter how much we pride ourselves in being women that buck the trend, that break that old cycle of being told what is OK for us to feel/think/do/be… along comes motherhood and even the strongest of us falter.

It has no business demanding that
we ask permission to be
the mothers we want to be.

I’m sure it’s in no small part due to the fact that we are now embarking on the most important role we will ever play in life: being Mom. What we do now, the decisions we make for our children, can have repercussions for generations to come (not to mention on the immediate health and happiness of the people we love the most). The gravity of this role, this job, can be quite terrifying. And with this fear, all of the self-doubt we’ve spent our whole lives pushing out of our heads can come crashing back in with a thunderous roar.

I’ve heard so many beautiful, confident, loving mothers be paralyzed by self-doubt, despite their maternal instincts practically shouting at them.

“Is it OK if I let my baby sleep in my room? She seems to only feel safe if I’m near, but I don’t know if that’s bad?”

“My baby cries and cries. I think he’s hungry, but he ate not that long ago. I want to feed him, but everyone says I should get him on a schedule or I’ll regret it. Is it terrible if I feed him?”

“My mother keeps telling me that my baby is going to get spoiled if I keep holding her all the time. But she’s happy when I hold her. I don’t want to do the wrong thing. What do you think?”

“Everyone is sending their kids to preschool, but I don’t think my kid is ready. Do you think it’s bad if I wait another year?”

I’ve had doubts like these approximately 40,979 times myself.

My wish for all of us is that we can re-harness our confidence and go with our guts, just like we normally do in life. We are smart and capable; the loving stewards of our children. We are connected to them in a way we are to no one else on Earth. Learning to believe in ourselves, specifically as mothers, is a gift we should strive to give to ourselves and to our children. Every time that obnoxious voice starts cropping up, telling us we’re wrong, let’s stomp it back down. It has no business demanding that we ask permission to be the mothers we want to be.

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