Previously published in The Wave.

I used to be a star athlete. Think Al Bundy’s high school  football “legacy” except mine was lacrosse and field hockey. It was my senior year and our team made it all the way to the NY State Championships in lacrosse. We traveled to Albany for the final game. Our opponents were steam-rolling mammoths.Their coach sent a revolving door of relievers in every 6 minutes. Our team was built on stamina. We were conditioned to run faster and sprint to no end. Four of us carried the team and we played the duration of the game. I scored the tying goal on a penalty shot with only a few minutes left on the clock. Then my teammate sealed our title championship with the scoring goal, seconds before the buzzer. It was a pretty awesome moment.

I remember thinking a few weeks after the game “I’ll never be in this kind of shape again.” I was headed off to art school at Pratt Institute. I was thrilled to be accepted to my first choice college but knew I would miss athletics and that would be a big change for me.

Fast forward almost 20 years –  I’ve morphed into a large, wobbly ravioli. I can’t believe how out of shape I’ve become and it’s not just the weight– I feel tired and weak. I’ve been attending the YMCA here and there and “dieting” but nothing is working. With the new year approaching, I’ve been thinking about making a real health transformation.

I attended a clothing swap party a few weeks ago at my friend Melissa’s house.  Everyone invited brought clothing and accessories they don’t wear anymore. Then we swapped from the pile. Some of my friends were trying on outfits right there in the living room without any reservation. I went to the bathroom to change. I was embarrassed to bare all. Later in the evening, I started talking to my friend Beth Perkins. I was telling her how nothing fits me anymore and I really want to lose weight and tone up. Beth’s been a member of CROM for over three years and only had high praise for the workout programs, the athletic philosophy, the coaches and co-founders, Sarah and Chris Romulo. She mentioned they have a 28 day fitness challenge – SHREDbyCROM. I told her, I’ve see CROM members running around the block and I don’t think I could put myself out there in public like that. I also mentioned my apprehensions about group training. But Beth convinced me. “Just try something new for one month. If you don’t like it, at least you’ll know then it’s not for you.”

The next morning I headed over to CROM and signed up. I’ve been attending almost every morning for the past two weeks. I’m sore from the neck down but it’s been awesome! All my reservations about group workout have diminished. In fact, it’s training with others that pushes me to work harder. And I’m so in the zone, I don’t even care about running around the block. It feels great to get that cardio in. Coach Sammi has been teaching me step by step and she’s so encouraging! Everyone in the class is rooting for me too. “Don’t worry, it will get easier.” I’ve been told by many. I already know I’m committing to sign up for the full year. CROM Physical Culture is located at 217 Beach 92nd St., Rockaway Beach, 11693. Give them a ring (718.945.1700) or learn more about CROM by visiting their website crompc.com and facebook page: facebook.com/CROMphysicalculture. If you’re ready for a real physical change, joining CROM will make it happen.


tagged in exercise, rockaway

the tree goes in the ground!

Over the summer I wrote a column about the development and design of my front garden. The wholesaler I was working with charged by the truckload, so the price would be the same whether it was half full or packed. This was a great opportunity to get hold of a tree, preferable one native to the area that would provide food for the birds and animal life. After consulting with plant whisperer and good buddy Walter Meyer* of Local Office Landscape Architecture, we decided to go with a serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea). In addition to flowering beautifully, the berry is delicious – kind of like a sweeter blueberry with a mini-almond in the center.


Two summers ago, the tree arrived on a flatbed and it was HUGE. Wholesalers sell to large landscaping companies or landscape architecture firms that have the equipment to deal with a tree weighing thousands of pounds. We were totally unprepared and the truck drivers were pissed off.

Our friend Paul, owner of Paul Surf, happened to be walking by. ”We need help!” Matt called out from down the block. Paul came trotting over,  “I needed to catch the train five minutes ago, but let’s do this!” Matt, Paul and the disgruntled truck drivers hoped for the best as they rolled the gigantic tree down a makeshift ramp (video here!). It was steady for the first 5 seconds, then it crashed on the ground splitting the wooden ramp. But it was off the truck and unharmed, phew!

In advance, Matt had build a 5ft square wooden box on casters knowing we weren’t ready to plant the tree in the yard yet. The tree was in the box for a year and a half. It’s been a source of stress for me because I’ve been so afraid it would die. I’d water it frequently and I insulated the box over last winter. After badgering my husband ceaselessly this past month, the tree has been planted! But it was no easy feat.

So, how many Rockaway dudes does it take to move a 2,000 pound tree into a three foot ditch? Five!  And one columnist to do nothing but take pictures and put them on Instagram!


The first task was to move the tree in the box as close as possible to the planting site, about 25 feet away. One caster broke, so it wasn’t as easy as it could have been, but still not too bad. Then, the guys cut out one side of the 5 foot square box. Now the difficult part: the tree was strapped up and laboriously pulled, pushed and dragged by all five guys to the hole Matt had pre-dug. Using a 2×4 as a lever was discussed to lift the tree up, but that wasn’t working. Ultimately a combination of strength, time and luck led to the tree finally thudding into it’s final resting place!

Thank you Big D, Doctor Don, Good Keith (sorry about your foot), and Cousin Brian for the muscle! I awe you guys a tray of lasagna. This spring the Serviceberry will produce beautiful white flowers and in the early fall the birds will be feasting on its sweet berries. I’m planning on making serviceberry jam next year and I’ll be writing all about it!

2,000 Pound Tree Planting from Glorified Tomato on Vimeo.

tagged in garden, gardening, trees

grams of the week – nov 28

Here’s a recap of the best instagrams of last week. If you want the day to day follow me here!


Great news! Roxy (now Franny!) the cat who was abandon at the bus stop on Rockaway Beach Blvd, who I was fostering has been officially adopted! My neighbor Nicole Polito-Johnson and I worked hard to do right by this kitty! Thank you Doc Don and Dr. Hannah for making her a part of your family.


This tote is so cool! #PledgeZeroWaste and receive one yourself! Info here! If you missed it, I wrote about the NYC Organics program here.


Don’t think just coffee when you enter Rockaway Rosters. The shop has many healthy food options. Find fresh organic juices, wheat grass shots, acai bowls and winter soups among other meals and snacks! Pictured above is The Shakshuka Bowl I had the other day (soooo tasty). “Shakshouka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, often spiced with cumin. In its present egg and vegetable-based originated in Tunisia.” More on this mouthwatering Arabic dish here.


tagged in instagram

What’s a “Pickie”?


Shortly after my sister Natalie got married she hosted her first family party. “Bryon, can you go to the food store and get the pickies?” she said to her husband. Bryon was happy to help and went to the store. An hour passed. Bryon came home frustrated and empty-handed. “I asked everyone in the supermarket where the pickies were and know one knew what the hell I was talking about??!” Natalie realized he was clueless about what she meant, and rightfully so.

“Pickies” is a DiGioia-ism, a word used by the family, and those in the know. My family is notorious for botching language, but basically, it’s our word for what the rest of the world calls appetizers, and is a synonym for its Jewish cousin “noshies”. I asked my mother how the word came about. “It’s what I said my whole life,  I don’t’ know where it came from.” I believe it stems from when my great grandparents emigrated to the states from Italy and spoke broken english. The word “pickies” gives us a clue at least, meaning “to pick something up”.  It’s similar to “finger foods”- you use your fingers instead of a fork. Traditional pickies in our family are: stuffed mushrooms*, celery and cream cheese, deviled eggs, salami wrapped breadsticks and bruschetta, stuff like that. A pickie is not to be confused with antipasto which is strictly Italian cheeses and meats served with a variety of olives, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts. I know. It’s confusing.

One of my favorite pickies is stuffed mushrooms. Here’s the family recipe!


Flo’s Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients for 25 mushrooms:

3 packages of white mushrooms (don’t use the very small ones.)
2 cups Italian spiced bread crumb
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup romano grating cheese
¼ cup mozzarella
1 cup water (Flo uses chicken broth)*
6 cloves chopped garlic
A handful of finely chopped parsley
About 4 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste

Directions: Clean the mushrooms: Break the stems off as deep into the cap as possible. Save them for another use. Using a damp paper towel, wipe the dirt off the mushrooms. Don’t wash them in a strainer under the faucet. The mushrooms will absorb water quickly and become mushy when cooked.

For the stuffing: chop 4 cloves of garlic. Thinly slice the other two. In a large bowl, mix in the breadcrumb, oil, parsley, mozzarella, romano and chopped garlic. Slowly add in the water until the whole mixture is crumbly, damp but not too moist. Add in the salt. Taste the mixture and make sure you’re happy with the flavor. Add more cheese or parsley, etc if needed.

Preheat the oven to 350. Assemble in a 9×12 cooking tray with at least a one inch lipped edge. One by one, with a spoon, stuff each mushroom. Really jam it in there! Then place the mushroom on the tray. Repeat until all mushrooms are filled. Take the thinly sliced garlic and put a piece on each mushroom, pressng it in a little. This is to ensure maximum garlic flavor. Then, slice thin pieces of butter and place each slice on top of each mushroom. Before you put the tray in the oven, pour in water so it’s about ¼ inches high and touching all mushrooms. Cook uncovered for about 20min. Serve warm with the rest of your pickies!

*Speaking of mushrooms, I watched this fascinating documentary called The Magic of Mushrooms. If you’re into science relating to foods, this is a must watch.

**Flo is  my mother!


tagged in appetizer, recipe, recipes