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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes: The Mall at Night (and I lived to tell the tale)

I very rarely go to the mall, and I almost never go to the mall at night. But yesterday I did both (remember? shopping with boys). And I lived to tell the tale ...

-1- People who go to the mall at night wear their pants belted just above their knees; this causes them to waddle. As a joke, I whispered to my son: I think I will go tell that young man to pull up his pants. My son, who thought I was serious, looked at me with an expression of utmost horror. I had to laugh.

-2- That night there was a Model/Talent search going on at center stage. Women? Teens? No ... little girls. We watched one four year old, wearing tight jeans, sashay down the runway with an attitude of a twenty year old. Not to be judgemental ... BUT WHAT IS HER MOM THINKING???? Suddenly, shopping with boys didn't seem so bad.

-3- On the way from one department store to another, we approached GameStop ... and kept on walking. According to my son, that was cruel. I just patted him on the shoulder and pulled him along.

-4- Trying on long pants for a boy is torture: Another pair? But I have to keep taking my shoes on and off ... this is taking forever! Again, I just patted him on the shoulder.

-5- I am getting wise to how boys think; for example, I saw a nice golf shirt but knew if I suggested it my son wouldn't like it. So, I switched and showed him a different one, and my son (of course) said he didn't like it. Then he picked up the one I had put back (on purpose ... are you getting this?) and said he like this one. I told him he had good taste.

-6- Ninety minutes, and my son was exhausted. Football practice in 98 degree weather was easier than this. Doing yardwork with Dad was more fun than this. AND we didn't even go into GameStop. I gave him a hug.

-7- When we got home, we each had a huge slice of homemade Ricotta Pound Cake and snap! just like that we were happy again.


For some more quick takes fun, visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. She was recently on EWTN; you can watch it here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When Shopping is a Chore

Me: Nicholas, you and I need to go shopping for some school clothes.

Nicholas: Everything from last year still fits me ... I don't need anything.

Me: Sweetie (I use this endearment to remind me that I love my son ... I really, really do; it's also a way of channelling some of that southern charm). You can't have a wardrobe that is an exact repeat from last year. Besides, you've grown taller and you could use some longer pants and shorts.

Nicholas: I guess.

His response is accompanied by a huge sigh ... a sigh that carries with it the weight of the world. A sigh that is meant to convey to me that he is so put upon.

Huh. Life is tough.

Next up is Jonathan.

Me: Jonathan, in a couple of days we need to go shopping for some school clothes.

Jonathan: What??!! Why??

Me: Listen (no sweetie this time; to heck with that southern charm). Last year you were still wearing a school uniform; you're about to start high school ... there is no uniform ... you need some clothes.

Jonathan: But I already have golf shirts.

Me: You have two ... don't you think you need more than two shirts?

Jonathan: I guess.

And his sigh is a duplicate of his brother's.

I have a headache already, and I haven't even left the house.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Learning to Strive

I am a mess.

This was the sobering thought that swirled through my head as I sat in silent prayer while waiting for Mass to begin this past Sunday.

I wasn't happy with myself, but in my self recrimination I couldn't come up with one single, glaring thing that I had done wrong; rather, it was a bunch of smaller ways in which I could have been better ... lost opportunities in which I could have been a better wife, a better mother, a better steward, a better friend, a better writer, a better homemaker, a better example.

If I were being honest (and I was trying to be) then I would have to also admit that lately I had been coasting -- just doing the minimum -- and not taking opportunities to be more: more kind, more generous, more spiritual, more patient, more charitable.

And by not being better or by not doing more meant that I had been ... mediocre, at best. Lukewarm.

Ick. No wonder I wasn't happy with myself. God was calling me to holiness, and holiness wasn't even on my radar.

Or was it? Could these feeling of dissatisfaction and restlessness be God's way of pulling me back? I thought of John Paul II who said that the call to holiness was not only a state, but a task; that we are not so much called to attain perfection, as to strive for perfection.

Strive. I pondered that word for a few minutes.

I once read that in our walk of faith, one either goes forward or one goes backward, but one does not stand still.

This, then, was what God was telling me: I can't be better or do more unless I strive to be better or do more; that unless there is the task, nothing is accomplished. This is not to say that strive is synonymous with success, but that the attempt is better than nothing at all.


Sanctuary of La Verna
Tuscany, Italy
Where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

My friend Mary Louise has started a weekly menu challenge on her blog, MLCH Garden: Flora, Food & Friends. While planning our meals is something I like to do, this summer I have not been as organized. So, thank you Mary Louise for the challenge, the inspiration, and the reminder to get organized. This week I am ready.

Monday: grilled marinated chicken; coucous; bruschetta; peaches w/ freshly squeezed lemons

Tuesday: linguine w/ clam sauce; garden salad w/ tomatoes; watermelon

Wednesday: pepper steak over rice; ricotta pound cake

Thursday: pressed cubano panini; roasted “carrot fries”; fruit salad

Friday Family night: grilled homemade pizza; root beer floats

Saturday: chicken spiedini (kabobs); spinach-apple salad w/ maple cider vinaigrette

Sunday late lunch at Nonna & Nonno’s: cold cereal in evening for anyone who is still hungry:)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where Have all the Bookstores Gone?

Where have all the bookstores gone? Today marked the beginning of the end of Borders, which follows on the heals of Books-a-Million closing last year. To say that our family is heartbroken is putting it mildly.

I realize that online stores (Amazon) and personal readers (Kindles, etc.) make it all too easy to purchase and/or download a book, and before I go any further, let me just say that I use both. The one-click order button on Amazon is my best friend, and on our recent two week road trip I appreciated the convenience of carrying a kindle.

But never ever did I think they would totally replace the corner bookstore.

For our family, Sunday afternoons were all about browsing in a bookstore. We particularly liked Books-a-Million, and upon entering we all scattered to our favorite sections: Joe went to the sports section, I went to the travel and cooking, Timothy went to play with the Thomas trains, and Nicholas and Jonathan lounged in the young adult section.

We spent at least an hour browsing, walking around until a title, or a front cover, or even the color of book spine made us pause. We looked through giant coffee table books, browsed through the gift section, purchased a hot chocolate. The cashier knew us and we became friends with her.

And now, even Borders is closing. I walked in there yesterday, but had to leave; it was just too sad watching people swarm in and take advantage of the liquidation sale. My friend said it was as if vultures had descended, and watching everyone picking, grabbing and discarding, it was a good description.

This afternoon, borrowing the tune of Peter, Paul, and Mary's Where Have all the Flowers Gone, I posted the following on facebook:

Where have all the bookstores gone? Long time missing them. Where have all the bookstores gone, from long time ago? Where have all the bookstores gone? Out of business everyone. When will they ever return, when will they ever return?

Can you tell I am more than a little nostalgic?

Now pardon me while I go grab a worn copy of Jane Eyre (I love that book!) and curl up in a corner to read. I might even need a box of tissues.

Friday, July 22, 2011

7 Quick Takes: The Slightly Sarcastic Edition

Really, trying not to be sarcastic, but here are some things that just didn't surprise me this week.

1. The Center for Science in the Public Interest came out with a top 10 list of the most fattening foods served in restaurants. #3 on the list was the Farmhouse cheeseburger from the Cheesecake Factory. A burger topped with a fried egg and served with french fries ... fattening? Really? I think I could have figured that out all by myself.



2. Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez divorcing? Wonders will never cease.

3. Evidently, Tiger Woods has money troubles.

4. A while ago our little guy received this 3-D wood craft model biplane. The instructions said easy, educational, fun for the whole family. It was none of these. In the end, I was the only one left ... but I got that darn thing built.



5. Woke up this morning and it was hot outside.

6. YAHOO! Health came out with this article which provides 12 ways to think slim. I must not be thinking hard enough.

7. It does no good whatsoever to argue with a seven year old ... no matter how cute I think he is.



Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for some more Quick Takes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Sweet Entrepreneur

About a month ago Jonathan sent this letter to Capcom USA describing a board game he had made based on one of their DS games. He spent a lot of time making the game, taking pictures, and then researching where to send his letter. He hasn't received a response yet, so to make him feel better I told him I'd post it here.

Dear Capcom USA,

My name is Jonathan and I am 14 years old. I am a huge fan of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series and have all of the games on my DS except for the first one, which I have on Wii Ware.

The reason I am writing is to show you how these games inspired me to make a board game. The game includes locations and characters from all the games including Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth. The game is for two players -- one as the defense and one as the prosecution -- who travel to different locations to collect evidence cards for their investigation. There are five witnesses, including the criminal, and all the witnesses are placed in different locations. The goal for the defense is to get through all of the witnesses’ testimonies without losing gage points (your life bar); the goal of the prosecution is to prevent the defense from doing this.

I have attached some pictures of the game. Hope you enjoy!!!

Sincerely,
Jonathan Novajosky






Sunday, July 17, 2011

Beating the Heat in an Italian Kitchen

This is the time of year in which my Nonna memories are the strongest. Growing up, our summers were all about visits to Italy ... or Italy visiting us in the form of relatives who arrived bearing gifts, and for two weeks our home would filled with laughter, a mixture of Italian and English, and fun times.

Then, for two glorious years we actually lived in Italy, and during the summer my sister and I took turns spending an entire week with Nonna. Imagine, if you will, a doting Nonna and her nipote americana, the two of them sewing elaborate Barbie clothes, shopping, visiting relatives, and watching black and white movies in bed with the bedroom window thrown wide open to catch the evening breeze.

Especially memorable were the mornings. To beat the heat, Nonna would do most of her cooking early so that by the time I entered the kitchen, something would already be bubbling on the stove. And because it was summer, meals were lighter (who wants a heavy meal when it's hot outside?) and quick (so as not to heat up the kitchen).

Today, living in the deep south, I take my Nonna's lessons to heart. Evening meals in our family are all about fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling, and pasta with sauces that require little or no cooking (see below for a few recipes).

A fresh garden salad, a chilled glass of wine, and something like pasta al tonno can be on the table in no time.



Pasta con Tonno (a favorite in my family):
Cook one box of spaghetti (reserve some of the pasta water). Mix one pouch of tuna (family size), juice of one lemon, 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss with spaghetti (add some pasta water for moisture). To serve, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Variation: Sometimes I add half a can of cannellini beans for some extra protein.

Prosciutto e Piselli:Saute a little minced onion, olive oil, and green peas. Add fresh prosciutto which has been cut into small pieces. Toss with cooked pasta.

Pasta Estiva:Cut into small pieces the following: tomatoes, black olives, capers, fresh basil, and mozzarella. Mix with olive oil. Serve on cooked pasta.

Pesto: Blend the following ingredients in a food processor until it resembles a smooth paste: 3 cups fresh basil leaves, ½ cup pine nuts, ¾ cup parsley, 2 cloves of garlic, dash of sea salt, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss with spaghetti and top with grated parmiggiano-reggiano. (Note: pesto can have a strong flavor, but the use of parsley in this recipe gives it a lighter flavor. Also, remember to lightly coat the pasta … a little goes a long way.)

Olio, Aglio, Peperoncino:Saute minced garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Remove from heat. Just before serving on pasta, mix in fresh parsley.

Finally, some words of wisdom from my zia Tiziana, who shared some of the above recipes with me: Naturalmente, ci vorrebbe sempre il grana da mettere sopra alla pasta. (Naturally, you should always have parmesan cheese to add to the pasta.)

And by the way, the stuff in the green cannister doesn’t count. Buy a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano and grate as needed.

Buon Appetito!



Friday, July 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes of Bad Hair Days

We just returned from a two week road trip. During that time my hair took it's own little vacation; that is, it went all out crazy, did nothing I asked it to, and all I can say is thank goodness for pony tails.



A Vacation of Bad Hair Days

1. We were in Virginia Beach twice. Virgina BEACH ... beach being the operative word. Humidity and ocean breezes and my hair ... Mamma Mia.

2. Went boating on the Chesapeake Bay. We explored the shores and wandered into coves. Humidity, boat spray, wind. Enough said.

3. Went tubing ... I would describe the state of my hair but, seriously, there are no words.

4. Took a tour of an Amish farm in Lancaster, PA. Sounds harmless, right? But then a HUGE thunderstorm came out of nowhere (well, it came from the west) and we took shelter in a goat shed. For half an hour we huddled in the shed with 8 goats and my rebellious hair. Note to self: next time I get caught in the rain on an Amish farm take cover in the quilting shed.

5. Drove around Gettysburg. Stopped to climb a tall observation tower to see the beautiful views. What I saw was a fast approaching storm cloud. Actually, it wasn't approaching, it had arrived. It was a long way back to our parked car.

6. Took a tour of Penn State. Not exactly raining, but a fine mist everywhere. Umbrellas don't work in misty weather and misty weather does a number on my hair.

7. Returned to Virginia Beach for two days before heading home. Sent the older boys golfing, left Timothy with Papa to work on an airplane project, and I drove to the first Beauty Salon I could find: Lee Pasquale. It sounded Italian, it was open, and walk-ins were welcome. Color, cut, shampoo (delicious head massage), style ... I walked out a new person.


And once back at Papa's house I remained inside the rest of the day:)


Now, go visit Jen for some more quick takes. She never has bad hair days, but she does have a new baby which is much, much more enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What did the Pink Panther say ...

when he stepped on an ant?

Dead ant, dead ant ... dead ant - dead ant - dead ant ...

Okay, I know that was a really, really bad joke. But I have been having violent thoughts toward ants ever since we returned home from a two week vacation and, upon unpacking, discovered ants here and there; the fact they were not everywhere had us more than a little confused about the source.

First we first discovered a few in our pantry, which floored me because I had just cleaned that pantry; in fact, take a look at my clean, organized pantry (and Mom, the pantry is empty because we haven't been here for two weeks ... I DO, TOO, FEED MY BOYS!).



Then we discovered more than a few swarming in the bread machine Papa had given us just as we were leaving Virginia Beach. It was a new machine, but it had been stored in Papa's garage so anything was possible. Was this the source of our invasion?

A few were found in a suitcase, but it had been stored under the bread machine during our trip home so we thought their presence was perfectly normal.

Two on a bathroom counter upstairs, but we transported them there. Right?

But here's where it gets mysterious: this evening I opened our freezer door and saw a pile of what looked like coffee grounds on the bottom shelf.

Except they weren't coffee grounds; they were a pile of frozen ants.

Ewww.

Nothing sticky. No crumbs. Nothing to entice them. Were they just suicidal?

I peeked into a carton of vanilla bean ice-cream and hesitated: those were vanilla bean specks, right? RIGHT?

I took a deep breath and in a fit of bravery I ... well, I vacuumed up the ants.

Then, in the middle of dinner I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thought: what if the cold put those little beasties into ant hibernation and now that they were out of the freezer there was a massive ant resurrection going on in my vacuum cleaner?

Is such a thing possible? In my near panic state Michael Crichton popped into my mind. Yikes. I jumped out of my chair, grabbed the vacuum cleaner, and threw it into the backyard.

There. I felt better.

But, just to be sure, no ice-cream for me thank-you-very-much.