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

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sometimes Revenge is as Sweet as Banana Pudding

This weekend I made banana pudding, a good, old fashioned taste of heaven that my boys devoured.

Then today, as I was preparing my lunch, I spied the last bit of the banana pudding in the refrigerator. A mental battle ensued: should I eat it, or should I save it for the boys?

Decisions, decisions.

Then I remembered how this morning everyone was grumpy and out of sorts despite my cheery attempts to spread a little sunshine with teasing, laughter, and hugs all around. But nothing worked. Evidently, contrariness was the order of the day.


I ate all that banana pudding, stopping just short of licking the bowl.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Carry-Over Meals and Being Sneaky

For several weeks now I have been partipating in Mary Louise's Weekly Supper Menu Challenge at MLCH Garden, and I must say that mealtimes in our house are much less stressful. By organizing meals on Sunday for the upcoming week, I no longer have that nagging thought, What am I going to fix for dinner?, because I already know; in fact, not only do I know, but all the necessary ingredients are at hand so there are no last minute trips to the grocery store.

And with afternoon and evenings like ours, the last thing I need is a "quick" trip to the grocery store.

As I sat down this afternoon to plan, I noticed another huge benefit of menu planning: any meal that we didn't use carries over into the following week. Last week, for example, leftovers one night and an unexpected invitation to dinner on another night meant that two planned meals (chicken saltimbocca and pork tenderloin) will be on for this week.

Two meals already planned and the fact that my husband will gone most of the week makes for a super easy planning week (when Joe is out of town I keep it simple: something easy for the kids, and a salad for me).

So, this week:

Monday: quesadillas; spanish rice; banana pudding

Tuesday: burger night; fresh fruit

Wednesday: pasta w/ homemade tomato sauce; seasoned ciabatta rolls

Thursday (Joe comes home): pork tenderloin w/ rosemary & olive oil; polenta; wilted greens; lemon sorbet w/ fresh fruit

Friday Game night: homemade pizza; garden salad

Saturday: chicken saltimbocca; oven roasted potatoes; tomato salad

Sunday: lunch at Nonna & Nonno's (yeah! no cooking for me)

P.S. Sometimes it feels so good to sneak in a healthy meal without anyone realizing it. Case in point, last week I made Low-Fat Turkey Burgers from the Eat Clean Diet Cookbook. Everyone loved the grilled burgers, so much so that I didn't feel the need to divulge the ingredients (why ruin a good thing?).

But, for you I will:

Low-Fat Turkey Burgers

1 c. high protein cereal flakes (I used whole bran flakes)
1/2 c. skim milk
3 tsp. instant low-sodium chicken bouillon
3 tbsp. minced onion
2 egg whites
1 lb. ground turkey

Combine first five ingredients. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add ground turkey and shape into patties (at this point I added some breadcrumbs because the mixture seemed a little "wet"). Cook on the grill.

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

If Oprah can have a Favorite Things list ... I can, too (in just 7 quick takes)

My Capri watch.

But better than the watch itself, is the story behind it (a song and dance routine of conducting business in Italy) and the setting (the island of Capri). Sigh.

Pendant lights over the breakfast counter.

My sister in-law gave me the idea to replace the recessed lights in the ceiling with pendant lights. Easy enough project, right?

Except that the recessed lights were off center, so we had to make a base to shift everything over.
Except that, with ten foot ceilings, we were straining to reach the ceiling even when we stood on the counter.
Except that once everything was mounted, one of the pendant lights went out and we had to take everything down and start all over again.

Nobody was speaking to me that evening.

But I love those lights:-)

Girl Reading, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot .

My $15 purchase (frame and all) at an antique store that was going out of business. It hangs in our study and it's just perfect.

Our Rec Room.

Shortly after moving into our house we decided to convert our two-car garage into a rec/entertaining room. The garage door was replaced by french doors; the industrial gray walls were painted a sunny yellow; the concrete floor was carpeted; and built in benches were added around one wall. We purchased a beautiful farm table, and decorated it with inspiration from all things Italian Countryside (think Tuscan farmhouse). Most of our entertaining gets done in that room.

My Barista Espresso Machine.

This little corner in my kitchen is where Cappuccino Magic happens.

Old letters and black & white photos.

My Nonna's thimble.

Enough said.

Now, go visit Jen over at Conversion Diary ... she called in the heavy artillery to handle a scorpion problem.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Which We Heard, But Didn't Listen

Two weeks ago Jonathan, our 9th grader, came home from school on Friday and announced that he did not want to continue playing football. A summer of conditioning, two-a-day practices in August, a Midnight Madness pre-season exhibition, a scrimmage in which he actually got to play . . . and then, with the first game of the season just around the corner, he wants out.

You can imagine the discussions in our house that weekend. Why? we asked, and then grew frustrated when it all boiled down to the simple fact that he just didn't like it. But that wasn't a good enough answer for us. We talked about commitment, overcoming obstacles, and teamwork. We talked and we talked but, by Sunday, he was adamant about his decision. Well, we said, take a break from practice for a couple of days and think about it.

My husband and I waited through Monday. Then Tuesday. During this time we entered into a parenting wasteland ... the place parents go when they are racked with indecision. We didn't know how to guide our son because we were lost, too. Oh, we prayed, but there were more questions than answers. Should we do this? Do we do that? Do we even need to do anything at all?

And we were buffeted with thoughts of what people would think. We are not proud of this, but this was forefront in our minds. What would the coach think? What do we tell our friends? Will the other players make fun of him? Will they think we are bad parents if we don't insist that he play, or bad parents if we do?

On Wednesday Jonathan spoke with the coach who is always understanding when a player wants to quit. Football is not for everyone, he is fond of saying; but when he said this to Jonathan, he also told him to go home and sleep on it.

Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday evening.

On Thursday morning Jonathan got ready for school. I don't know what to do, he said.

Later that morning Joe and I were talking on the phone. Joe was worried that, at this point, if Jonathan stayed on the team it would be because he was pressured into it. We thought back to the beginning of summer: Jonathan started working out with the team at our suggestion; when he expressed doubts a few weeks later, we encouraged him to continue until the scrimmage; after the scrimmage he was quiet, but we told him the hard part was over and that things would get easier.

And as we talked we realized that all along Jonathan had been a good son; he had listened to us and had given football a try . . . again and again. He didn't just decide out of the blue that he didn't like it; he had been telling us all along.

At that point Joe and I did what we should have done several days earlier: we surrendered and stopped trying to make things work out the way we thought they should. And in surrendering we found our way out of that wasteland. We finally listened to what Jonathan (and God) had been trying to tell us, and nothing else mattered. Nothing.

I immediately texted Jonathan: Jona-baby, Dad and I want you to know that whatever you decide will be 100% okay. All will be fine. We love you.

He turned in his jersey that afternoon.

Jonathan now spends his afternoons adhering to a workout he created to get ready for basketball because, really, that is where his true passion is found; his heart beats in rhythm with the bounce of a basketball and the sound of squeaky sneakers on the gym floor is music to his ears.

He is happy. We are happy.

And it's all good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's for dinner?

Participating in Mary Louise's weekly Supper Menu Challenge keeps me organized . . .

MONDAY: chicken szuechuanese w/ brown rice; fruit salad

TUESDAY: glazed mahi-mahi w/ couscous; tomato-squash salad; peanut butter & oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

WEDNESDAY: linguine in clam sauce; grissini; garden salad

THURSDAY: turkey burgers; roasted potatoes; hearts of Romaine salad

FRIDAY: pork tenderloin w/ rosemary & olive oil; polenta; wilted greens


SUNDAY DINNER W/ NONNA & NONNO: chicken saltimbocca; garlic mashed potatoes; carrot salad; ricotta-espresso dessert cups

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Family Night: Minute to Win It Edition

Since our family has been running in a million different directions lately, Joe and I were determined to have a family night this weekend using our formula of food, faith, and fun. So, last night we ate subs, read some spiritual devotions and discussed them, and then played our version of the NBC game, Minute to Win It, in which contestants have one minute to complete simple tasks. I found game ideas at the NBC web site, and then selected ones based on what I already had around the house.

Not only did this make a fun family night, but I am thinking that next time we could invite a couple of families over for a Minute to Win It family game night. Anyone interested?

Anyway, here are the games we played tonight (the tea bag one caused side-splitting laughter):

1. Back Flip: Place pencil on back of hand, then flip your hand and catch the pencil. Keep adding a pencil until you've caught eight in a row.

2. Puzzle Scramble: Assemble a puzze with one hand behind you back.

3. Marble Pencil: Player must lie on their stomach and roll one marble at a time to knock over a pencil standing on its end.

4. Tigger Bounce: Bounce a pin-pong ball into a small container.

5. Dicey: Hold the handle of a spoon between your teeth. Using one hand, balance and stack six dice in the bowl of the spoon.

6. Go the Distance: One at a time, roll three ping-pong balls into a glass using a tape measure as a ramp. The tape measure must be opened to a distance of four feet.

7. Baby Blockin': Stack 5 wooden blocks on top of a plastic plate balanced on your head.

8. Card Ninja: From a distance, throw five playing cards into a basket. Cards must be thrown one at a time.

9. Horseplay: Without using your hands, blow a ping-pong ball up an incline and into a basket.

10. Iron Board Man: Team members hold opposite ends of an ironing board. Balancing the ends, players must land a marble so that it lands in one of the center holes.

11. Ping-tac-toe: Place nine cups filled with 1/3 cup of water in a grid. Bounce ping-pong balls into the grid for the classic tic-tac-toe game.

12. Sticky situation: Bounce and stick a ping-pong ball onto a slice of bread covered in peanut butter.

13. Tea Party: Attach a tea bags on each side of the bill of a baseball cap. Wearing the hat, player must flip the tea bags up on the bill without using their hands.

I have to do what with these tea bags?

14. What a racquet: Holding a tennis racket in one hand, a player must move a marble across a tennis racket's nylon strings until it lands in the center square.

15. Yank Me: Stack 5 cups and 4 index cards in a tower, then remove cards from top down so that each cup lands on top of the one underneath.

More family night ideas here (St. John Bosco) and here (Eating, and Praying, and Drawing . . . Oh My!).

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Tip O' the Morning" (7 Quick Takes Friday)

Now that everyone is back in school, this is the time of year in which I evaluate, study, and tweak our morning routine. I learned a long time ago that how our mornings begin sets the tone for the rest of the day, so these are some ways which help our mornings get off to a good start ...

~1~ Do laundry over the weekend. This is a win-win situation because not only does ALL the laundry get done, but everyone is home to help fold and put it away. This way, there is no last minute scrambling during the week to find navy pants, matching socks, or a school sweatshirt.

~2~ Pack lunches the night before. Even though I am often tempted to wait and do it later, planning ahead gives me that much more time in the morning to deal with other things.

~3~ Start the day off with some alone time (a must for me). Of course, this means getting up before anyone else, but a 15-20 buffer is all I need to mentally and physically prepare. In the past, I tried to use this time for morning prayers, but I discovered that I pray better (and yawn much less) if I do my prayers mid-morning. This year my early alone time includes a 20 minute yoga session, and I love it. It's both invigorating and energizing. (I should point out that my yoga session is not part of my daily workout.)

~4~ Because I drive every morning, I make my morning cappuccino to go. I used to wait until I returned home, but dealing with morning traffic and a 45 minute commute made me grumpy. So, morning drive + cappuccino = happy carpooling mom.

~5~ One of the biggest problems I had to try and solve was The Messy Morning Kitchen. We are breakfast eaters; that is, we do not grab a Pop Tart and head out the door; instead, our breakfasts include any of the following: cereal, waffles, toast, yogurt, fruit, and orange juice. So, you can imagine the bowls, spoons, cups, and plates that we go through. The problem was that once I returned home from carpooling, I wanted to get on with my day and not stop to clean the kitchen. As a result, there were many evenings in which I was cleaning the breakfast dishes after dinner. My solution? Breakfast is the only meal in which we use paper products ... cups, plates, bowls, spoons. Now, clean-up is a breeze, and when we leave in the morning the kitchen is already in order.

~6~ A good night's rest discourages the appearance of Mr. Grumpy Pants at breakfast. A set bedtime is easy with our little one ... he is in bed by 8 p.m. (and even earlier if he needs it). Our high school sons have more freedom in this area, but the general rule of thumb is lights out by 11 p.m., period.

~7~ Be aware of who is a morning person . . . and who isn't. It's perfectly okay to separate them, if necessary.

And for a little inspiration . . .

Now, go visit Jen over at Conversion Diary ... you might see a teddy bear with a scorpion on the chin.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wanted: A Saint in the Second Grade

Me, driving Timothy to school: Wow, second grade! This is a special year when you'll receive the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and First Reconciliation. Isn't that exciting?

Timothy: What's First Reconciliation?

Me: Remember when we sometimes go to church Saturday evening for confession? Well, that's Reconciliation, when we confess our sins to the priest.

Timothy, in all seriousness: Oh, well I won't need to do that . . . I don't have any sins.

This, from the same person who yesterday called his brother an idiot. I'm thinking that Miss Hoffman has her work cut out for her.

Friday, August 12, 2011

7 quick takes: A Tale of Two Sisters at the Beach (and Prince William in Boxers)

~1~ I went for a walk this morning along the beach and encountered a woman walking the biggest dog I have ever seen. It wasn't a dog ... it was a horse. And instead of carrying a sandwich bag in which to scoop up poop, she carried a black, hefty trash bag. YIKES.

~2~ Guest bloggers. I've started something, I see that now (see previous two posts). I heard that my brother in-law might want to write and/or contribute. Let me think, let me think . . . No.

~3~ So, one evening we piled in my van and headed to Coligny Plaza (shopping & evening entertainment). I drove all the way there, parked, and THEN realized I did not have my wallet with me (it was in my beach bag because earlier my sister and I had plans for a couple of poolside daiquiris ... but that's another story). When it was time to head back, I handed my sister the keys and, on cue, we all double-checked our seat belts because once upon a time she totaled my car (true story). She turned on the ignition, went to put the car in drive, and instead turned on the windshield wipers at top speed.

~4~ Like good mothers, this week we have made sure to provide square meals for the boys. Case in point: last night we ordered a square pizza from Pies R Squared. And for veggies, we threw a token bag of carrots on the table. No one ate the carrots.

~5~ One day, while sorting through a clearance bin at Barnes & Noble, my sister came across William & Kate paper dolls and handed them to me (or maybe I snatched them). Anyway, I spent a good part of yesterday cutting out the outfits and ignoring questions from the boys who just didn't get the whole paper doll thing. What do you do with them? Do you have a fashion show, or something? Who wants to play with paper? That's just stupid. Sigh. But look ... how fun is this? Besides, how else would you be able to see Prince William in boxers?

~6~ You might think that a week at the beach without our husbands meant all this freedom to go outlet shopping, but remember ... we also have three BOYS with us. We did go to the mall for all of twenty minutes, but it was just enough time to purchase these cute sneakers. And if you tell me they look like bowling shoes I am not talking to you anymore. I really love these sneakers.

~7~ A starfish, sand castles, and two sisters.

Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Friday Quick Takes fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Guest Blogger: Laura, Bia's Sister (part II)

It appears from your responses that there are still some doubters among you. So I shall continue on my quest for truth and clarity.

Setting the Record Straight (Part 2): Parenting Skills
Watching Bia with her children, you cannot help but be impressed by her parenting skills. She leads them through life with wisdom and common sense. I am constantly impressed by her childrearing philosophies. But yesterday, it struck me. Of course she does a good job imparting wisdom and good qualities to her children! Because she practiced on her little sister and brother! As the oldest one, the wisest one, the Big Sister, she was “the boss” as we grew up. And she had tons of practice. To support my theory, I provide you with the anecdotes below, organized by Life Skills:

GENEROSITY: Since we grew up during the Dark Ages, as my oldest son claims, Bia and I had relatively few toys. What toys we did have were precious to us. Despite our attachment to every item in our rooms, Bia started a tradition between the two of us: Gift Boxes. Every few months we would each take a shoe box, fill it with gift items from our own treasured collections of items, and exchange them! Opening those boxes was like Christmas in July! And while each of us gave up several items that we treasured, we also received some in return.

IMAGINATION: Again, living in the Dark Ages, our television time was limited to “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie.” Bia used her imagination to invent elaborate stories which David (our brother) and I were forced to enact. Instructions for such events from Bia were similar to the following: “Laura, you will be Laura Ingalls and I, of course, will be Mary. But I’m not blind yet. And you don’t have Almanzo yet because he is actually in love with me at the moment. David, you will be Pa. Stop whining; Pa never whines, not even in blizzards with no food. We have babies, but they are not ours – we’re just babysitting. We have to make it to town, but we are intercepted by Nellie Olson. Mom can be Nellie. OK, she’s busy, but we can pretend she is here. Evil Nellie kidnaps the babies and hides them in a remote barn. While we are searching for the babies, a blizzard crops up, and we have to tie ropes from tree to tree so as not to perish in the wilderness…” (etc.). You get the picture?

Bia (age 10): Laura, let’s play Barbies.
Laura (age 8): No way.
Bia: Yes way. It’s a requirement.
Laura: Not again! Please! I hate Barbies!
Bia: Blasphemy! Nobody can hate Barbies! What’s wrong with you?
Laura: But we played Barbies 20 times already this week!
Bia: You can never play too much with Barbies. Come on! You can be Skipper.
Laura: Are you gonna be the scary Barbie with the head that flips around to change her hair color?
Bia: Sure, I’ll be Evil Barbie.
Laura: What about Ken?
Bia: What about him?
Laura: I’m tired of sharing Ken. Why do we always have to share Ken? That’s weird! Who shares Kens? Is that even allowed?
Bia: OK, you can have Ken.
Laura: What about the Town House? Who gets to live there?
Bia: You do, Skipper.
Laura: Hey, I have an idea. Let’s play Barbies!

Bia (age 15): Laura, we need to dress David up like a girl.
Laura (age 13): Say what?
Bia: Come on, it will be fun! I have this little skirt and these clip-on earrings… how cute would our 3-year old brother look in them?
Laura: Um, I don’t think that’s a good idea.
Bia: David, come here! Let’s put this on you! … how cute you look! Look, Laura, he’s adorable with that skirt hiked up to his armpits! And here are the earrings… don’t worry, it only pinches for a second… oh! How sweet! A little Davidina! Hey, Laura, go get the camera… we could use this photo in the future…
Dad: What on EARTH?!?

Did I mention we grew up in the Dark Ages? So our music was limited. But thanks to Bia, we made the most of our records (many of them 45’s from Mom’s youth). At least once a week Bia would coerce me into rehearsing yet another routine set to some song from one of our collection of musicals. After rehearsing til reaching perfection, we would then perform for our Dear Parents and our giggling little brother. We went all out, too, even to the point of making programs to hand out. What better way to enjoy music from Mary Poppins, Oklahoma, South Pacific, and the Sound of Music? Not to mention the Old Western music (thanks to dad’s collection) like Marty Robbins’ Ballad of the Alamo. Boy, that was some routine – people dying everywhere, but bravely. And who could forget our performance of “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”?!?!?!

ASSERTIVENESS (aka Bossiness):
It is the middle of the night. 3 a.m. At my aunt’s house in Italy.
Bia (age 19): Laura! Laura! Are you awake? Laura!
Laura (age 17): Wha..?!
Bia: Are you awake?
Laura: I am now! (Did I mention it’s 3 a.m.?)
Bia: Get up and close the blinds.
Laura: Are you kidding me?
Bia: No, the moon is bothering me. Go close the blinds.
Laura: Close them yourself!
Bia: You’re awake! Go close them!
Laura: You woke me up to tell me to go close the blinds?!?
Bia: You’re closer to the window.
Laura: For the love of Pete!
(This thrilling conversation continues until Laura gets up and closes the blinds. To this day she has no idea how Bia persuaded her to do this.)

Since we lived in the Dark Ages (did I mention that?) we did not have a dishwasher. So Bia and I had to take turns each night… until Bia came up with a plan to do the dishes TOGETHER to get them done faster. One of us would wash, the other would rinse, and – voila! – the chore would be done in no time. Especially if we sang the score of South Pacific while washing and rinsing!

When Bia was 13 and I was 11, she came up with the Mega Babysitting Business Plan. I had to be coerced, of course, but I soon found myself delivering hand-made advertisement cards to each house in the entire neighborhood where we lived (and it was a big neighborhood). The cards read: Babysitters Available! Sisters, ages 11 and 13. Skilled and experienced Please call! And we included our names and contact information. And a few hand-colored flowers. We trudged home after our trek around the neighborhood and waited. Bia was sure we’d be successful; I was skeptical. But at the end of that summer, when I counted my $2000+ babysitting dollars (we made $2/hour during those Dark Ages), I was done complaining! We had become the #1 babysitting team in the area!

HONESTY/INTEGRITY (This one is more recent. As in, yesterday!):
“Hey, Bia, can I borrow a pen?” I ask.
“Sure.” She pulls out her handy dandy perfect little zippered pen pouch and hands me a pen. “Don’t lose it; it’s one of my favorites.”
“Thanks.” I write a bit. Then say, “I like this pen, too. I used to have one just like…hey!” I peer closely at the pen and suck in my breath. What the…?!? “This is MY pen!” I exclaim.
She looks at me with disdain. “Impossible.”
I peer at the pen again. Yup. “YOU STOLE MY PEN!” I roar.
“Absolutely impossible,” she replies. “I’ve had that pen forever.”
I hold up the incriminating evidence and wave it in the air. “Look! It says IUG 2008. IUG stands for Innovative User’s Group. That’s a library-related conference!! What would you be doing with a library conference pen?? YOU STOLE MY PEN! PEN THIEF!”
She thinks for a moment. “I thought it was Joe’s. He always brings home pens from his meetings.”
I glare at her.
“Well…,” she says finally. “Maybe I accidentally borrowed it when I was at your house the last time?”
“You can have it back.”
“Thanks, sis.”

So there you have it. The next time you are impressed with Bia’s skills as a parent, feel free to sent me a message to thank me for being the guinea pig throughout my entire childhood. And you’re welcome!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guest Blogger: Laura, my sister

Setting the Record Straight (Part 1)

My name is Laura, and I am Bia's sister. That's how I introduce myself to the world: "I am Bia's sister. I am the sister of that nearly perfect woman who authors the blog called La Dolce Vita: the Sweet Life with Three Sons." OK, not really, but those of you who follow this blog and who don't actually KNOW Bia might have thought I was serious. Who can follow this blog and not realize what a wonderful person Bia is? Not only is she creative and intelligent, she is witty, kind, faithful, amazing, and - in short - an inspiration to us all. Am I right?

I am here at Hilton Head Island with my two older sons, spending a few days with Bia and her youngest. Earlier today she said, "Hey, while you're here, you can write a guest post for my blog." My jaw dropped. "What??? I get to write something blog-worthy?!?" I was filled with excitement. Because here was my chance - my long-awaited chance!! - to set the record straight. Yup, you heard me. I'm taking my chance to reveal a few facts about Bia just to reassure you guys that she is, indeed, human. While she does possess all of those wonderful qualities listed above, let's face it - nobody is perfect. And I know that some of you may secretly resent Bia for her apparent perfect-ness, so I plan to do you a favor and put your soul at ease. Because once you know these facts about Bia, you will like her even more.

1. The Mean Streak

I know it's hard to believe. But Bia has a mean streak. It's tiny, and it only manifests on rare occasions. But it's there all right. And you immediately know when it's coming because it is always accompanied by THE EVIL WITCH CACKLE. Believe me, you know it when you hear it. Case in point: during dinner tonight, Bia put down her fork and addressed my youngest son. "Thomas," she said, "I have a question." Cackle, cackle, cackle. Uh-Oh, I think. "You had a banana at snack time, right?" Thomas nods. "I wanted to ask you: how do you manage to make so much NOISE while eating a banana?" cackle, cackle, cackle. More cackling while the poor kid tries to explain that he can't close his mouth while eating because of his overbite. Then the cackling is accompanied by a story of Bia's oldest eating tomatoes and mozzarella with juice dripping from his mouth. Mean, mean, mean. The poor, traumatized children. I heard that cackle when, in the 4th grade, I had a strange bubble on my nose and the doctor took a picture of it. And again when the lamp fell off the ceiling and hit me on that same nose. And again when a can fell out of the cabinet and hit me on the nose! (yes, I have a bumpy nose). And again when my brother tried to eat my turtle... etc. etc. Good thing Bia has all those OTHER good qualities to smother that naughty little mean streak of hers.

2. Her house does not ALWAYS look like a page out of Southern Living

Do you get the teensiest been jealous of Bia's gorgeous, neat home? Well, I do. After a visit with her, I sigh at my messy, cluttered house. But here is some good news: I have been in Bia's house when there were toys scattered everywhere, crumbs on the counters, laundry piled in the corner, dishes in the sink, and a teensy bit of dust on the furniture! Truly! This might have been after a day or two of a visit from her sister (me) and her family, but still... just so you know those picture on her blog are not always accurate. Oh, and right now, our beach condo kitchen is a mess. So there! (Guess who has the mean streak now?)

And so ends Part 1 of Setting the Record Straight. More to come! Oh, by the way, we are having a great time at the beach despite the fact that there is a tremendous thunderstorm outside right now. But it's cool to look out the window at the wicked surf and the empty beach!

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Personal GPS

Just me, the bambino, an open road, and some good old fashioned map skills. And we made it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Tomorrow the bambino and I head to Hilton Head Island for a week, and just so you don't think Joe and the boys will go hungry, note the note ...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Answers to Yesterday's Questions

~1~ First of all, check out Suburban Correspondent's comment from yesterday's post ... evidently she is passionate on the topic of teen drivers and I agree totally with what she had to say. This is how I handled my little situation:

Me: Gosh (playing dumb),is that even allowed? I know in Georgia a new driver is only allowed to have immediate family in the car; then, for the next six months he is only allowed one non-family member.

Them: Well, I don't know. Back home I think he'd be fine ... he's a good driver, though.

Me, ignoring the last part of their response: Well, I wonder what the law is in Maryland? (Which is precisely where we were having this little conversation.)

Them: Good question. They consider this a moment. Junior, I don't think you can drive this time.

Well, if looks could kill, I'd be dead. That teen was NOT happy with me, but on the way home Timothy got carsick so revenge was sweet (not very Christ-like of me, I know, but still ... )

~2~ No gaming during the week ... period. And the only computer time has to be school-related.

~3~ I can't imagine what their moms must think; maybe nothing at all, I don't know. But I am embarrassed for them.

~4~ In yesterday's comments on how to say no, Joe Kovac gave some wonderful advice on how to do so in a polite, classy, and kind manner. I'm going to try his suggestion instead of thinking up excuses.

~5~ No, I am NOT too old to shop at Old Navy. I can shop there if I want to ... and if nothing fits, why I'll just go home and put on my most flattering muumuu.

~6~ Since I already mentioned my favorite exercise program, I was wondering ... do you think it's neurotic of me to be afraid to use public gym equipment?

~7~ My Zia Tiziana gave me some wonderful suggestions on what to do at the beach next week, but since not many of you read Italian I'll translate: she basically listed all the ways I can shower Timothy with attention, then FINALLY (at the very end) she says I can have a cappuccino. Molto grazie. I'll definitely have that cappuccino ;-)

Friday, August 5, 2011

7 Quick Takes: In Which You Have all the Answers

~1~ We were recently on vacation when I got caught in an interesting situation. Timothy and I had accompanied a family we had just met to a nearby town. When it was time to go, the 16 year old in the other family asked to be allowed to drive us all home. I was thunderstruck when his mother agreed to let him drive the van, with three adults and three children under the age of 7, over 15 miles of twisty, mountain roads. The ink was still wet on his license. Call me crazy, but there was no way in heck I was getting in that van.
QUESTION: What would you have done?

~2~ This Saturday we are combining our family night with a family back-to-school meeting. Some of the things under discussion will be goals for the upcoming school year, computer time, and limited television/wii time during the week. Last year we had a no gaming policy except on weekends.
QUESTION: What limits do you place on computer/gaming/television during the school year?

~3~ Recently I watched an online trailer for the show Jersey Shore: Season in Italy. For the entire 90 second trailer I could not believe my eyes. Do some people really behave that way? Apparently so. I was horrified at their debauchery (there really is no other word). And then I couldn't help thinking ...
QUESTION: What do their Moms think when they see the show? Are they proud?

~4~ Toward the end of July I was already being approached to volunteer, serve, donate, and commit to various activities in both schools. This year I want to be free to do other projects, so I am going to be very selective on the ways I get involved.
QUESTION: How do you say no?

~5~ I popped into Old Navy yesterday just to . . . oh, to see if I could find something fun to wear. Nothing, absolutely nothing fit right.
Question: Am I too old to be shopping at Old Navy?

~6~ I have never been one to join a gym . . . something about touching equipment that someone else has sweat on just grosses me out. I love to walk, jog, bike, and work out at home using my collection of exercise cd's. My favorite workout is The Firm, which uses interval training of cardio and body sculpting. It is a serious workout.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite exercise cd?

~7~ My husband has a great friend who periodically gives us the use of his condo in Hilton Head, but this year the week coincided with the first week of school for the older boys. Darn. But wait . . . My dear husband (who travels periodically for work) said it was my turn and for me to go with Timothy while he stays home to work and take care of the older boys. So all next week the bambino and I will be at the beach.
QUESTION: Gee, what am I going to do at the beach with all that free time?

**Speaking of exercise, visit Jen at Conversion Diary . . . she has a funny jogging story.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When Not To Be a Parent

Last night the boys came home from football practice tired, sweaty, and very sore. It has been a rough week; temperatures have been well over 100 and, with two-a-day practices, they leave home after lunch and don't get home until after eight. Understandably, in the evening when they walk in the door they are not chatty.

But last night Nicholas was especially subdued. After eating he went upstairs to shower and didn't come back down.

"Nothing is wrong," he insisted later when I went up to check on him. I nodded, but sat on the edge of his bed because if there is one thing I know it's this: when your child says nothing is wrong, it usually means that something is. I waited him out, not saying anything while what I really wanted to say was, "Talk! Just talk!"

Eventually he did. I listened to him talk about sore muscles and hard hits, about lineups and depth charts, about whether or not all this hard work was worth it; there was not one thing wrong, but a bunch of little things that were getting him down. I nodded and used words such as I love you and tomorrow will be better and things will look better in the morning -- words that a teenager really doesn't want to hear.

Joe and I are discovering that one of the hardest things about parenting a teen is finding the wisdom to step back and allow him to work things out on his own. Our son had a bad day, I knew that, but I also knew there was nothing I could do to fix the problem. Offer words of encouragement? Yes, of course. Pray? Yes, often and sometimes desperately. Bring him some comfort food? Gladly. But fix the problem? No, not all the time.

And not this time. It was a long night for all of us.

At breakfast this morning Nicholas came downstairs and I watched him while pretending not to. He teased his brother and got his football gear ready. He poured his orange juice and sat down at the table. He seemed better.

"How are you?" I finally asked.

"Good," he replied. "I'm good."

"Things look better this morning?" I wanted to know.

"Yeah, things look better," he said.

And that was that. He had worked it out on his own. I kissed him on the top of his head, and he grinned as I set a platter in front of him piled high with waffles dripping with butter.

Maybe, at the very least, he learned that things always do look better in the morning and that a little comfort food doesn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Buon Appetito

Moo Shu Pork in flour tortillas

Spaghetti w/ homemade tomato sauce
Caesar salad
Grissini (bread sticks)
Lemon sorbet w/ strawberries

grilled hamburgers
Cape Cod Chips
Grilled marinated zucchini & summer squash

Italian Muffaletta
Tomato & cucumber salad
peaches in lemon juice

Italian chicken cutlets
Parmesan mashed potatoes
Steamed garlic green beans

Saturday Family Night:
Grilled Pizza (make your own)
Ice-cream sundaes

Sunday Lunch w/ Nonna & Nonna:
Melon & Prosciutto
Caprese platter
Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
Ricotta & Espresso dessert cups

Last week a few of you asked about the Spinach-Apple Salad with Maple-Cider Vinaigrette. Go here for the recipe.