A Cook Book For Happy Meals

In our family, joyful get-togethers at holidays and special events were celebrated with boisterous gatherings and hearty meals prepared by the loving mothers and grandmothers. Over the years, some of the favorite dishes became an essential part of our traditional menu.

For the grandchildren born in the U.S., the delicious ethnic food prepared in abundance represented a vital bond to their background.

Following in my grandmothers’ and my mother’s footsteps, I took over the sacred duty of preparing the Christmas Eve dinners. Since the scrumptious dishes are always appreciated, I don’t mind spending hours cooking and baking. Our dear guests’ precious chat, laughter and happiness echo in my heart for the rest of the year. Now Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated at my children’s houses.

During the pandemic, the children stopped going to school and followed classes on line. My granddaughter Madelyn who was thirteen years old at the time came to spend a few days with me and learned to cook her favorite meals. I was amazed by her eagerness to cook and the speed at which she assimilated instructions. At the end of the day, she took her new creations home for the family to taste.

The next day she called me with a special request. “Nonna, I want you to write a cook book for me.”

And that’s why I wrote this cook book and dedicated it to my lovely Madelyn who must have inherited her culinary talents from her paternal great-grandmother Rose, or from her maternal great-great-grandmother Helen, or… from the amazing dear old ladies who spent hours in their kitchens feeding their children and grandchildren, and bringing joy to the family reunions.

Hopefully this cook book will inspire the young grandchildren to continue the tradition of joyful
family reunions and delicious meals.

Recipes for Madelyn Paperback – December 14, 2023

by Mona Risk (Author)

The Statue of Liberty

From the moment of its dedication, the Statue of Liberty has been an enigmatic monument.

The colossal statue was a gift from France and the brainchild of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to symbolize America’s message of liberty to the world.

The sculptor behind the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was born in 1834 in France, in the Alsace region on the border of Germany. When Auguste was nine, his mother Charlotte moved with her children to Paris and allowed them to study under some of France’s most accomplished artists, braving the city’s civil unrest for her sons’ education.

After completing his first commissioned work at age twenty, a large bronze statue of Napoleonic General Jean Rapp, Bartholdi traveled with a group of French cultural ambassadors to photograph works of antiquity in Egypt.

They encountered desert landscapes where ancient cities lay in ruins but colossal statues remained, inspiring Bartholdi to write “These granite beings, in their imperturbable majesty, seem to be still listening to the most remote antiquity. Their kindly and impassible glance seems to ignore the present and to be fixed upon an unlimited future.”

As an emerging artist, Bartholdi actively searched for commissions as well as inspiration, and he secured a meeting with Khedive Isma’il Pasha of Egypt, the ruler overseeing and funding the French construction of the Suez Canal. Bartholdi presented a figurine for a colossal lighthouse depicting an Egyptian fellaha, a female serf, entitled Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia. This design was ultimately rejected by the khedive.

In 1865, a French political intellectual and anti-slavery activist named Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that a statue representing liberty be built for the United States. This monument would honor the United States’ centennial of independence and the friendship with France.

The Statue of Liberty was built in France between 1875 and 1884. Bartholdi required the assistance of an engineer to address structural issues associated with designing such a colossal copper sculpture. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, just prior to creating his famed Eiffel Tower, was engaged to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework that allows the Statue’s copper skin to move independently yet stand upright.

Construction of the Statue was completed in France in July 1884. The massive sculpture stood tall above the rooftops of Paris. For its trans-Atlantic voyage aboard the frigate Isère, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The ship arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885.

Back in America that same year architect Richard Morris Hunt was selected to design the Statue’s granite pedestal, and construction got underway. The pedestal was completed in April 1886. The statue was reassembled on Liberty Island in 1886, although the torch has been redesigned or restored several times since its installation. Finally, on October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators.

The sculptor behind the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi found his inspiration in the Land of the Pharaohs. You can take an armchair trip to Egypt, visit the Pyramids of Giza, and cruise along the Nile to Upper Egypt and the famous temples by reading SECRET KISSES.

Katy Mahoney, Hoda Seif, and Sarah Kohn. Three girls from different backgrounds and religions pledged to maintain their friendship forever.

On Graduation Day, Katy meets Hoda’s oldest brother Tarek, a dark and handsome medical graduate who can’t take his eyes off her. The graduation celebration ends with Hoda and Omar breaking off their engagement, Hoda exchanging a secret kiss wit Liam, Kathy’s cousin, and Omar befriending Sarah and renting a room in her house.

Three best friends, three secret and forbidden romances.

For five years, the three friends meet and exchange confidences and advice. Sarah is concerned about Omar’s narrow-mindedness and decides he has to change. Katy knows she’ll have a battle royal on her hands with her pious Catholic mother. And Hoda is in a worse shape. Her family’s religion forbids her to marry an infidel.

Will they choose the men they love and break with families and traditions? Difficult choice.

ON PREORDER

Kissing Plans: From best friend to lovers. But she’s engaged. What better way to get rid of the unpleasant fiancé? Finding him a girlfriend.
Family Plans: A plane crash destroyed their lives. Can it bring them together despite the painful secrets it uncovered?
Healing Plans: He adopted two minority children but lost his wife. Finally things settle for him, until the lovely surgeon he hires turns his life upside down.

Travel with Mona, visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Many trips to Israel and the Middle East had often been canceled or postponed because of political turmoil or instability. When a Canadian friend told us about a group from Montreal organizing a guided tourist visit to the Holy Land in March 2010, my husband and I found it an excellent opportunity to finally travel safely through the region.

We flew from New York to Amman, Jordan, where we met the eighteen people coming from Canada. The next day we boarded our comfortable bus and visited Petra that I described in a previous blog. From there we continued along the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and Israel. The security was very tight with x-ray scanning, questioning and bag searches and passport control.

Monastery of the Temptation
 The sycamore-fig tree or  Zacchaeus tree

We stopped for lunch in Jericho, commonly known as “the oldest city in the world” (8000 BCE) and the world’s lowest city (1200 feet under sea level).” Jericho is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, an important historical, cultural, and political center located northwest of the Dead Sea. It is truly a place where the ancient past comes in contact with the immediate present and where the fragrance of oranges and citrus permeates the air.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon at the Dead Sea shore. The sea water is rich in minerals and salt, and so muddy. The mud is cleaned and sold as an anti-wrinkle facial cream at $90 the small jar. [Yes, I bought a jar. It didn’t erase a single line.]

The Dome of the Rock or Masgad El Aksa. A cabinet within the building houses a hair from the prophet Mohamad’s beard. Another tradition suggests it’s the mountain where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac.
A view of Jerusalem from Mount Olive

Finally we entered Jerusalem in the early night and checked in our hotel that was fully booked for the week. For our bad luck, millions of Christian pilgrims and orthodox Jews had flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, and Passover that all occurred on that same week in the year 2010. The hotel manager had programmed the elevators to stop at each floor in respect for the Jewish patrons who were not allowed to operate the lift. Imagine the slow traffic, going up and down.

In the morning we boarded our bus and headed to Nazareth where we visited the Basilica of the Annunciation and in the lowest floor an ancient house that tradition says is the site of the angelic announcement. Not far from it, we visited the Church of St. Joseph, the site of the Holy Family’s house and St. Joseph’s workshop. Later we had lunch on the Lake of Tiberias, and then drove through the verdant hills of Galilea, where we visited three more churches.

Lunch of fish on the Lake Tiberias known for its rough waves.

We spent the evening on the shore of the Jordan River. Many pilgrims wore a white robe to be baptized or renew their baptism vows in the Jordan River.

Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Tiberias, through which the Jordan River flows.

The next day, we stopped by St. John the Baptist Church, built over the house where he was born. We climbed 154 steps to the Church of the Visitation. Inside the church, 41 plaques, each in a different language, bear the Magnificat.

We visited the Museum of Jerusalem and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, then admired a small model –maquette– of Old Jerusalem, with the Temple, Pilate’s fortress, Herod’ s Castle, and the walls of Jerusalem.

We continued to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

The Church of the Nativity is built above a cave which may have been the place of Jesus’ nativity.
The church was built by Queen Helena in 329, and renovated by the Crusaders. The cave includes two lobes, one with a star marks the place of Jesus’ birth, the other marks the place of the manger.

We passed by the Shepherd’s Field where the sheep and goats used to grate.

Later the hotel offered us a tour of Jerusalem by night, with a stop at Mount Olive. We crossed some villages, stopped by Victoria Hospital and Masada. We saw a temple, built by an American philanthropist on the model of the initial Temple of Solomon. It is said that the Masgad el Aksa, the mosque with the golden dome, was built on the location of the former temple.

On Holy Thursday, we returned to Mount Olive, visited a Jewish cemetery, walked by the Eastern Wall, and the Wailing Wall.

A Jewish crowd
A Christian crowd

We spent Good Friday walking through the Via Dolorosa and visiting old churches, and spent Friday evening and Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .

Strolling along the narrow lanes of Via Dolorosa
A view of the Church of Holy Sepulcher
from Mount Olive
The Chapel built on top of Christ’s Tomb in the center of the Holy Sepulcher

It would take ten blogs to describe all that we’ve seen and learned during that week spent in Jerusalem and its surroundings. An amazing trip that will remain imprinted in my memory forever.

My latest published books are part of the Love Plans.

SAILING AWAY PLANS ; DATING PLANS ; RESCUE PLANS ;

WEDDING PLANS ; BABY PLANS

Holidays Decorations

Most of us decorate our houses for Christmas and the holidays. I get my fake tree up the first weekend of December to put myself in the holiday mood.

But do you decorate your house for other holidays?

My daughter has made it a tradition to decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Spiders and pumpkins are set in the front yard, at the door, and in the living room.

Three years ago, when I screamed after hitting my head against a spider dangling from a lamp in the kitchen, the kids squealed in delight, and made sure they multiplied their cute decorations—I call them disgusting.

Two days before Halloween, my grandchildren invite a dozen of friends who arrive in costume and with a pumpkin to carve and decorate in the backyard. Pizza is served to the hard-working artists and at the end of the party, they fill their basket with candies.

On the following weekend, the Halloween decorations disappear in a plastic container and the Thanksgiving ones come out. This time the celebration is a family gathering with adults and children around a big table. During the traditional dinner of turkey, green beans and sweet potatoes, and dessert of pumpkin pies and pecan pies, each guest, grandparents, parents and children take turns telling us what they are most grateful for.

Setting traditions and building memories is important to raise happy children according to my daughter, a pediatrician who knows her business.