An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: The Golden Clasp

Church, family dinner, bike ride, canal walk, afternoon cappuccino, good book, quiet reflections. For me, Sunday sets the tone for the week. How do you do Sundays?

Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, July 19, 2019

Cruisin' the Creeper

Last Sunday, in Damascus, Virginia, we were driven to the top of a mountain (going from an elevation of 1900 ft. to 3600 ft.) and left there with only a bike, a water bottle, a map, and vague instructions to follow the trail. There was no cell service.

While this may sound like the latest installment of Survivor, we were actually there to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail. Originally a Native American footpath, and later a railway line, today the trail is part of the Rails to Trails program in which old railway lines are converted to National Recreation biking and hiking trails. The name, Virginia Creeper, refers to the early steam locomotives that struggled slowly up the steep grades, as well as the vine that is prolific in that area.

It was a beautiful 17-mile bike ride as it meandered alongside a stream, through dense woods, along farm fields, and over countless trestle bridges. It took us several hours to get back down to Damascus, only because we stopped often to take photos, climb rocks, walk up to lookout points, and explore.

Being abandoned on top of a mountain was ever so fun.

Of course, since the boys were raised on Scooby-Doo, 
we kept looking for that Creeper ...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

My Session with a Personal Style Coach

Why a Stylist?

I have always believed that I don't want to so much age gracefully as to confront it head on. So I moisturize those wrinkles, walk away those extra pounds, and color those gray roots. Additionally, I eat clean, exercise daily, and try to keep a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit.  I do all this and yet ...

And yet it is an irrefutable fact that things change as we age. Our bodies change, and I'm beginning to understand that "aging gracefully" actually means not to complain or lament the natural progression of aging, and instead be graceful in accepting these changes while striving to create the best version of myself at this moment in time; that is, not how I was ten years ago, or how I wish I could be in the future, or how the media suggests I should be, but the best version of me today.

But what is the best version of myself? Lately things have been a little muddled in this area--especially when it comes to my wardrobe--so I decided to get a little help from my friend Liz Klebba, Personal Style Coach and founder of Closet Play Image.

The Preliminary Session

Before contacting Liz, I browsed the Closet Play Image website to familiarize myself with her various services--Personal Style Consultation, Wardrobe Audit and Planning, Closet Inspiration, Personal Shopping, Travel Planning & Packing, Special Day Styling, Personal Color Consultation. I had an idea on what I needed, so I emailed Liz a few questions and she suggested we meet informally in order to better gauge my needs.

A few days later, Liz and I sat at my kitchen table enjoying a cappuccino while she asked me questions about my personal style and gave me a little personality assessment. Because I have a "little" trip to Italy coming up in late September and I want to coordinate my outfits and look put together, we agreed to start with a travel packing plan (just the wardrobe planning since I didn't need help with packing). A few days later she sent me an estimate and we set a date for our next meeting.

But First ... Some Homework

Before our styling session, though, I had to do the following:

1- set aside heavy winter clothing from my closet so we can focus on fall clothes
2- share any Pinterest boards defining my style
3- pull from my closet five of my favorite pieces
4- pull from my closet five of my travel go-to's
5- email the dates, itinerary, and activities of my upcoming trip

The Styling Session

There is a certain amount of vulnerability involved when inviting someone into your closet, so the morning of our styling session I was admittedly nervous. I was also worried that I would receive a lecture on the amount of black clothing in my closet (something for which I am always teased) and that Liz wouldn't have enough to work with (since I am not a clotheshorse and what I have ... is black). 

The first thing we did was go through my five favorite pieces and five travel go-to's, and with each one she asked me why I liked it and how it made me feel. One adjective that kept coming up was "free" and when she asked me to elaborate I explained that, in regards to my wardrobe, "free" meant free to move, free to be myself, free to know I'm wearing clothes and that the clothes are not wearing me, and free to be confident that I'm wearing something flattering. She also became my new best friend when she validated my penchant for wearing black (it works for you, it goes with your coloring), but she also suggested colors that I could add (such as olive, brown, grey, and splashes of coral) to stretch my travel wardrobe.

Working on that basic color scheme, we delved into my closet (including shoes, handbags, and jewelry) and for three hours Liz (miraculously) pulled together travel outfits into flat lays on my bed. She mixed and matched, I took photos, and we kept a running list of "gap items" that would augment the items I already owned. She showed me how to do a Kimtuck to change the look of a top. By the time our session was over I felt confident, empowered, and excited about my wardrobe. I was blown away with how Liz was not only able to capture my personal style (and elevate it), but also how she created entirely new outfits from what I already had in my closet.

a Kimtuck (rubber band trick)

The Follow-Up

A week after our session Liz emailed my Travel Packing Plan, a PowerPoint presentation containing three boards with my travel wardrobe pieces, including the pieces I already own and shopping links for any "gap item" I may want to consider adding. Everything we talked about, and all that we envisioned, was right there for me to reference as I shop and pack for my trip. 

Final Thoughts

Liz helped me more than just with my wardrobe. She challenged me to try new combinations, did a color analysis (dark, smoky, warm), explained the psychology on why I was drawn to certain styles, and inspired me to approach style a little more broadly. Most of all, she validated my personal style by not trying to change me, but by celebrating and understanding who I was and going from there.

In other words, she helped me discover a better version of myself. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Grazie Mille (a thousand thanks)

Grazie mille to the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and Emily Curran for the book review. It was a wonderful surprise when I received the summer edition of Ambassador magazine.

You can read it here.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: The Garden of Answered Prayer

One of the hardest things in life is watching someone experiencing such a difficult challenge (illness, death, loss) that good intentions of a dinner, a phone call, a note, or a novena seem like a grain of sand in comparison to the desert they are facing; the kind of challenge in which prayer is the only thing left to do; the kind of challenge that makes one question if prayer really does anything at all.

Recently, at a sweet Bible study I belong to, we talked about this very topic of answered and unanswered prayer. As we shared our stories and read the reflection on how unanswered prayer can be a testament to our faith, I was reminded of the following quote from the musical, Hamilton: “A legacy is planting seeds in a garden you don’t get to see.” While this quote refers to the legacy Alexander Hamilton wanted to leave our young country, I realized that replacing the word ‘legacy’ with ‘prayer’ is a way to see how every prayer is a seed, planted with faith and watered with hope as we wait to see what it grows into.

But just as there are many answers to prayer—yes, no, yes (but in a different way), no (because it isn’t what you need), maybe (but you have to be patient), not now (there will be a better time)—there are also many ways for that seed to develop. It can blossom the way you envisioned, or bloom into something entirely different, or take root in ways you never thought possible. The key is remembering that the seed always turns into something.

There is so much we don’t understand about prayer, but if we acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways, that his ways are more imaginative and always perfect, then we also need to remember there is no such thing as unanswered prayer.

We may not always see the fruits of our prayer seeds, but the garden is still there.  

Friday, July 5, 2019

Life Lately: Scolded

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook a photo of a bottle of Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and casually mentioned that I would be using it to make Grilled Chicken with Chipotle-Whiskey Barbecue Sauce. WELL. I was duly chastised. By many people. Including the DEACON of our church.

Evidently, this is some good stuff (perfect for two fingers over two ice cubes) and it was a TRAVESTY to use it for cooking.

Yikes. Who knew? (We drink wine over here and that bottle of Kentucky's fine bourbon whiskey was left by our Masters guests.)

But, I only used a 1/4 cup and let me tell you it made some mighty fine barbecue sauce. Thank you Alex of The Defined Dish for such a great recipe! It fact, it was so great that despite the Facebook tongue lashing I received I will link the recipe and include some of the substitutions I made.

But you'll have to use your own whiskey. I'm not sharing mine ;-)

photo via

My substitutions:

  • I used boneless chicken thighs and grilled them on low heat
  • instead of chipotle peppers, I used 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp paprika
  • for the coconut sugar, I used 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • instead of 1/4 cup Texas Whiskey, I used Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ;-)

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hilton Head Headlines

the weather

Never have we EVER been to Hilton Head Island in June and experienced such lovely weather. After the first two days which hovered in the low nineties, the rest of the week remained in the upper eighties. We could eat lunch outside, in the shade, without dying of heat stroke. In Hilton Head. In late June. It was GREAT.

the exercise

Who says going to the beach is all about relaxing? We walked A LOT. We stayed in my parents' timeshare (a third floor condominium), and while it is not on the beach it's an easy 15 minute walk through the grounds and over a beautiful boardwalk which meanders through the trees. That is, it WOULD be an easy walk if we weren't lugging wagon, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, and boogie boards. Then, after setting up our beach umbrellas on the sand, we usually went for a long walk.

And speaking of walks, the day after we arrived the elevator broke down, so we walked up and down (and down and up) three flights of stairs again and again (and again) the entire week. All this was in addition to those bike rides ...

the bike rides

Hilton Head + never-ending bike paths + gorgeous weather = 1-2 hour bike rides most afternoons

trivial pursuit

We were SERIOUS about this game. We showed no quarter and you had to get the answer EXACTLY right or it didn't count. One epic game lasted two hours.

nonna flossing

Timothy and his cousin, Thomas, taught Nonna how to do the floss dance. And I have the video to prove it.

nonno at the beach

This is how Nonno does the beach: socks and sneakers, a beach umbrella, and a good book.