Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tasty treats for Halloween

Here are some great ideas for serving your children and guest on Halloween!!! Many of these treats the children could actively participate in, with adult supervision. Great for group cooking with young chef's. It makes for fun activities for parties or gatherings. Yes some of this is bad for you. Feel free to substitute any ingredients from my recipe with something more desirable.

I do not advise giving these out on to trick or treater's!

Monster Pizza 

I come from New York, so naturally I'm a pizza snob. Living in Florida I have had to improvise.

1 round Greek pita bread
Cooked tomato sauce
Mozzarella cheese
choice of topppings

Take the pita bread, put a layer of sauce on one side. Try not to be too thick or use too much. Sprinkle cheese on top.  Arrange toppings to look like a scary face. Place on pan and toast in oven or toaster oven until cheese melts. Usually 325-350 for 15-20 minutes. Leave longer for extra crispy.

Zombies Cookies 

Sugar cooke or Gingerbread dough
Candy and Frosting for decor
For sugar cookies you could dye the dough green

Use your favorite sugar cookie or gingerbread recipe, roll dough flat and use person shape cookies cutter to shape your zombie. Decorate with candy and icing. Add m&ms as eyes before baking, the coloring bleeds around the eye.

Mud Dip 

1/2 cup of almond butter
Coco non sweetened powder to preference.
Honey, sweetnesses preference

Mix ingredients together unit blended. It looks like mud, the consistency of uncooked brownie batter, taste great and has more protein than sugar. Use for pretzel and fruit dip. Apples tend to work best, but so does short bread cookies too. It makes a tasty toast spread and I hear it's delicious with banana's.

Cemetery Cupcakes

Medium to large size cupcakes
Frosting of your preference
White chocolate covered Oreo's
A tube of colored frosting. Thin tip.
Autumn leave sprinkles (optional)

Make your favorite cupcake with your favorite topping, green and purple color frosting looks the best. Shove a white chocolate covered Oreo through the top, leaving half the cookie stick out. Write with decorative icing "RIP" or "BOO!"on the cookie.

Bloodshot Eyeball Eggs

Black olives

Hard boil eggs, unshell and cut in half. Use exposed yoke as the pupil, cut olive into the iris if the eye and push into the yoke. Put ketup into a small plastic sandwich bag. Prick a small hole on the bottom corner, just like a pastry bag and draw red cracks on the egg whites along side the yoke.

Popcorn Bags  


There has to be a mi!lion ways to dress up popcorn in a bag. From the glove to the ghost. This easy, tasty and low cost treat is a life saviour!

May you and your family have aa wonderful Halloween!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

End Columbus Day, from an Italian New Yorker!

First let me be clear, I was born and raised in New York, but because of the cost of living, I'm a displaced New Yorker, living in Florida. I'm told it's lovely, from those who like the tropics, which I don't. I'm also a mutt, I come from several lines of generations in this country, plus my family got around in Europe. I know my fathers father was born to Italian immigrants in the Bronx.  Both of my grandfathers were Italian and both served in World War Two. A New Yorker will understands the significance of the Italian World War Two veterans, but many outside our state don't fully understand the pain and suffering of our heritage.

Before we go into detail about that, let us acknowledge,Columbus was a Bastard! The story we all learned in school about him discovering America and the shape of the earth were directly from a fictional novel "A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus," by Washington Irving, written in 1828. This was written during a time where the American Colonists were in the act of committing mass genocide to the Natives from the northern continent. Making Christopher Columbus a hero was fitting for men who devalued human life for means of profits and power. The same arts of manipulation were used to change the "Thanksgiving" history, into the school musical's your parents loved watching you preform back when you still had a bed time.

Columbus was a slave trader and tyrant. In fact he and his brothers treated the indigenous people of Hispaniola so horribly, that Queen Isabella of Spain had the trio brought back to Europe in chains. This was the same monarch who began the Spanish Inquisition, had Columbus stripped of his title as Governor of the Indies for inhumane treatment. It is understandable why the decendents in the indigenous people, who have been nearly wiped out find this man so offensive.

Why do Italian's love him so? Well take a look of the myth we have been wrongly taught as fact's. Columbus, an Italian, discovers America and that the world isn't in some way flat. Those are pretty flattering accomplishments for one to associate yourself with. Who would want to give that up, especially for a truth that is so ugly!

Just as the Irish hold true to Saint Patrick as an excuse to celebrate their culture, with limited knowledge of the history of the character, Columbus is a sort of demi god that reprents a culture and people. Even if the real person is nothing as the myth claim's, the idea has evolved further into a culture. Italians from the early twenth century, especially those from southern Italy were considered genetically inferior. Many italian families abandoned their native lanuage completely in hopes of acceptance, well as their names altered by authority figures. Religion was also a complication. America prided itself on its white Protestant image, demanding cultures submit to their standards. Naturally due to poverty, discrimination and in the case of the 1920s Prohibition, led to a new level of crime, ie.... organised crime.

Italian families fought long and hard to reach acceptance. A turning point came when the United States entered into World War Two. Italian were the largest national group to join the serve to fight. To many Italians who fought it was about freeing the motherland from Mussolini to proving their undying loyalty to the new world. Yet fifty years later and still no Italian President, there is still the fear against Catholics and old fears often die kicking screaming.

Italian families, despite many cultural sacrifices maintained a close net family ties and reinvention of Italian cooking, Italian American cuisine.  Ideas between which traditions should be kept and which should die is battle from generation to generation. Today many younger Italian's are leaving Catholicism, some become Protestant, but fastly more becomes secular or pagan. Italian history has famous atheist like Umberto Veronesi an oncologist who contributed greatly to the prevention and treatment of breast cancer and Renato Caccioppio a mathematician and pianists. Italian culture also has a strong pagan history. From ancient Rome to Catholic mytheism, Italian culture is rich in ancient spirituality. These changes are frightening to the older individuals who won't question the authorities of their childhood.

Which is why many Italian individual's become attached to the nostalgic romantized story story of Columbia. The problem is the idea that American Italian culture needs to represented by a singular historical figure. I challenge this notion!

  1. World War Two Italian veterans: these brave men and women were more than willing to fight and even die for this country. So many fought, mainstream society was forced to reconsider Italian's in American culture.
  2. Our food is a celebration all in itself! From cappuccino to lasagna. Your mouth waters with just the smell of a good pizza. You haven't lived until you had cannolli-gasm!
  3. Italian artist and celebrities. From Leonardo DiVinci to Robert DeNero. Frank Sinatra, is iconic and Valentino still received flowers on his grave.  Not to mention century old operas, dances, sculptures, paintings, etc. . Italian culture has contributed to society. 

All of these people and traditions represent modern day Italian Americans better than a mad slave trader who died in the early sixteenth century. We as a culture have much to be proud of, over the dark stain from our his history, which Columbus really was. We deserve better than him and should celebrate all that makes our culture great and in turn make America great!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Frighteningly Educational!

Let's face it, October is a fun month! It's colorful, playful, creative and even scary at times. With holidays like Samhain and Halloween, inspire our little festive dance with death, which essentially what these holidays are. Death is the window, to the past, which led to my love of old legends and the history behind it. History is loaded with gruesome stories. Some are thought provoking, others are scary, but all great ways to bring out a little history from a young persons life.

Please consider the age and mentality of your children before sharing any of theses stories. Some image's are rather graphic, but in black and white format.

1. Haunted house are always a favorite, but one house I'm sure was haunted, because it was literally a murder house. " The Castle" it was called by its creator and American serial killer H. H. Holmes, was a luxury hotel that took up three addresses, with torture below its surface. In Holmes 34 years of life, its confirmed he killed 9 people, but estimated the true number was around 200. His hotel held secret chambers were his victims would suffocate, dehydration, starve or be tortured to death. Holmes was eventually caught and hanged on May 7, 1896. His "Castle" burned to the ground in a mysterious fire years later.

a) Try making model of a house with trap doors and hiddenpassageways. Use cardboard as a medium.
b) Have your student play detective and review the evidence themselves.

2. Torture device's, because lefts face it, a murder house is just house with messy rooms without torture and its devices. Although it may seem like fun and games, the art of torture is actual profession. It disturbing to admit that much of our medical advancements came from the act of torture. From knowledge of anatomy to medical methods and devices. A good study on the history of torture devices from ancient China to modern times is a fascinating evolutionary process.

a) Talk about social issues of a society that uses torture, both current and past.
b) Have your student make a model or drawing of the device, then explain its mechanics.

3. No Haunted house is complete without its
  Mad Scientist!
 Dr. Josef Mengele, an SS officer of the Nazi party. He  cruelty conducted experiments of forced subjects, men, women and children. He would sew identical twins together in an attempt to create conjoint twins. In attempts to learn how to make sea water drinkable, he would deprive his all other food or drink, other than his experiments. Other grosume experiment in ways to prevent and treat hypothermia, involved stripping people nude exposing their flesh to extremely cold temperatures.

a) Ask, what would cause a person and group of people to be so apathetic to such level high level of human suffering?
c) Have your student's study the stories of those who  survived torture, both long ago past, to recent times.

4. Evil Queen, try Empress! Empress consort of Emperor Augustus Caeser, Livia Drusillia is rumored to have murdered everyone before her son Tiberius path to Emperor of Rome. Including her husband, the current Emperor of the time.  It is believed she painted figs in the gardens with poison, knowing her husband apparently justified paranoid about picking his own food. Posion is Queen, they said about her. She and Augustus were married over fifty years.

a) Rome was always theatrical, so why not recreate realistic scenes of common people, like peasants, slaves, soldiers, etc.... It's a great way to make history become more live, while relieving the soap opera, that was the Roman Empirical family.
b) Teach your younger students about poisonous plants, what they do and most importantly, the antidote!

5. The true story behind the Fairytale's, especially Hansel and Gretel are rather disturbing. One of my favorite stories is similar the murder case of a baker named Katharine Scharderin from Harz German. Apparently her ginger bread was so good, it rocked the seventh century, that it lead her death by a rival Baker, Hans Metzlar 37 and his sister Grete 34 burned Scharderin to death in her own oven, in an attempt to get her recipe. Although the premise of the story dates back four hundred years before this murder, the Grims Brother's used the earlier account for minor details, like names.

a) Find your favorite fairytale and learn the history behind the story.
b) Make up a play of the fairytale in the realistic manner the story implies though historical context.

6. Another fun story to dissect is Washington Irving's
 "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." 
This story was originally a German legend "The Wild Huntsman" said to chase down criminals at great speed. Irving's take on the story was based off the Dutch version, who disliked the German's, made their hero a mindless killer. Another drastic change from realty, Ichabod Crane was indeed a real person, whom Irving was acquainted. Although he wasn't like the character, an anxious school teacher, but rather a high ranking USA Marine, whom served in the war if 1812.


a) Ask what other ancient myth has been taken out of context and why.
b) Through the real Ichabod Crane was a rough and tough sort of fellow, it is said Irving added personal behaviors from Crane, to his character. What kind of person do think the the real Crane was?

7. Body Snatchers, are actually a fascinating history. It was often the only way for early medical schools to have enough bodies. Creepy notorious body snatcher, Carl Tanzier a radiologic technologist, who became infatuated with a patient he failed to save from tuberculosis in 1931. Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, succumbed to her illness on October 25, she was twenty-two years old. Tanzier, who was fifty-four years when she died, paid for her burial.  He eventually stole Hoyos body, mummified and had his way with it. He wasn't caught until 1940, where the corpse was placed in a secret burial location. Tanzier died in 1952 at the age of seventy five. 

a) This is a good time to review morty science. Talk about the different ways bodies are disposed of.
b) Talk about necrophilia with older students, obviously. It's crazy enough to spike some teenagers curiosity.

8. Attack of the Killer_______! We've all seen some version of this genre of movie, like Jaws aka attack of the killer shark. Human beings enjoy being on top of the food chain, but are humbled when one of us is consumed by nature. It could be a bear, a pack of wolves or you break your neck tripping over a house cat, man kind can damage more than pride when encountering the animal kingdom. The stories are endless!

a) Time to talk about animal safety!
b) Have your students review animal attack cases and think of ways to avoid them.

9. Monster or People with medical conditions? Medical science has come along from the dark ages. We are able to study the very make-up of a being, discovering all kinds of information. Including postmodern of a corpse that hasn't embalmed decomposition to genetic trades that cause the person to be covered in hair, Hyperichosis. There many medical conditions that could be tied to superstitions, mythologies and legends.  I wish to make clear, it is not the individual's with disabilities who are scary, but how they were treated by family and society! For example the sad tale of Julia Pastana.

a) Teach your students to identify medical conditions in these legends and understand the time period if when the story was told.
b) Try to involve your student into working with peers with physical and mental challenge's. Better to break the ground early and encourage support, patients, respect and dignity towards all kinds of people.

10. Raising a Demon Slayer! With stories of ghost, vampires, ghouls, let us not forget real monster's exist and they come in all forms. Teaching your students criminology will give them a better understanding about what they could be up against.  Don't become paranoid, but teach your students to question adults, to look out for suspicious or inappropriate behavior. Teach them how to defend themselves from an adult they don't know or trust.

a) Teach age appropriate defenses and identify methods of what is acceptable adult behavior. Also explain, different adults like medical staff may touch their body parts, but teach them to identify the correct measures of the medical staff.
b) Have your students volunteer for searches of missing persons. Let them see how real these cases are and how much they hurt a family.

May your autumn festives be as thought provoking as well as fun!