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

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Take Your Pick

Cattle Rustler?

From our Mad Hatter Dinner.
From our Survivor costume.
From Aunt Lisa.
From our Captain Jack Sparrow costume.

Candy Rules

1.      Be safe, and be a Smartie as you’re walking around.

2.      Don’t rush, there are Good & Plenty houses to visit.

3.      Don’t let the last house slip through your Butterfingers … they are very generous.

4.      Make sure that Now and Later to say thank you to our nice neighbors.

5.      Tonight there will be a full moon, so there will be an amazing view of the Milky Way.

6.      If your baby brother doesn’t want to visit the Haunted House, no Snickers!

7.      When Mom asks how much candy you ate, don’t tell a Whopper.

8.      Later, if you Rolo-ver with a tummy ache, Mom will give you a Rolo-aids to feel better.

My Little Court Jester
(tonight he is a Rancher ... photos later)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shopping? Again!?

I am looking forward to when the boys come home from school this afternoon.

You see, I have plans.

With the weather turning colder, the older boys have been digging into their drawers and closets for warmer clothes and, like a nightmare, they have outgrown almost everything.

Didn't I just take them shopping? I know I took Jonathan to the mall, I definitely remember the cute sales girl flirting with Nicholas at Kohl's, and how can I forget our back-to-school shopping adventure? Really, how can those pants be too short already? And I know that shirt had long sleeves when I bought it.


Boys. They grow fast. Who knew?

Luckily I don't have to worry about our little guy; he is set for life. Not only does he have clothes passed down to him from his brothers, but also from his older cousins. Honestly, I only do his laundry once every two weeks, and I am not kidding.

The older boys, on the other hand, I can't keep up with.

What complicates things immensely is that they hate to shop. They make excuses, they groan, they complain and, while they make it very clear what they don't like, they can't tell me what they do like.

Honestly, at this point I hate to shop with them. There. I said it.

But just as I was starting to get heart palpitations at the thought of planning another shopping excursion, I had a thought: if you can't bring the boys to the store, bring the store to the boys.

Which is exactly what I am doing. This morning I went SHOPPING, and everything I purchased is now displayed very nicely in our bedroom. It's a big room, with a big bathroom; in other words, a perfect dressing room with plenty of space to try on clothes. And while they try on lots and lots of clothes I will be sitting peacefully in the corner drinking a cappuccino.

Poor guys, they don't have any idea what's in store for them.

But so you don't think I am totally heartless, please know that I do have a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies ready and waiting for them when they walk in the door.

I hope it helps ;)

Prediction? I'll be returning and/or exchanging most of this tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cattle Rustler?

Recipe for a Ghost

1 tomato cage, placed upside down
a Styrofoam ball
tulle, or white sheets
one piece of black foam to make eyes/mouth 
assemble, hang some ikea lanterns for atmosphere (these are solar, so they light up at night)
Happy Halloween Week!

*Thanks, Megan, for the idea! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mrs. Paproth

For a long time I knew her simply as Mrs. Paproth.

Her blog, Mrs. Paproth's Barn, is about her family's real life adventure of leaving the city for the country life in the mountains of Vermont; there are stories about raising chickens, shoveling snow, wading through mud, restoring a farmhouse, and living life with a purpose.

Mostly, though, she writes about the seasons of New England, taking lessons from nature and applying them to life.

Visiting her blog makes me want to curl up in front of a roaring fire, with cappuccino in hand, and stay a while.

From time to time she visits my little blog and her comments (which she always signs E) are  insightful and thoughtful. I remember one in particular. I had written this post about finding the freedom in Lent and how Wisdom teaches us that unless we are free to say no to something, we are not really free to say yes to it. She left two comments; here was one of them ...

My big kids were home this weekend and I read your blog to them
one night while we were in front of the fire drinking spicy hot chocolate.
We talked about the question of freedom in our choices
and how saying no makes yes so much sweeter.
This was a wonderful discussion. Thanks Bia

Of course, sometimes I've read some of her posts to my family. The one which inspired the most disbelief and laughter was her post about fish falling from the sky. Go read it; it's a true phenomenon.

Eventually I learned that Mrs. Paproth is really Ellen Stimson and she has book coming out next fall entitled, Mud Season ... A Waking Dream in Vermont.

Just wanted to share the good news.

I, for one, can't wait to read it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What is Not in My Shopping Cart ... in 7 quick takes

1. Canned anything. With the exception of canned tomatoes and canned beans (cannellini, etc.), I do not buy anything canned. No canned corn, peas, green beans. Not even soup. Too much sodium (even if its reduced).

2. Bagged lettuce. While there have been times in which I have resorted to purchasing lettuce that has been triple washed (really?) and bagged, for the most part I buy a whole head of lettuce and wash it myself. Besides, bagged lettuce doesn't even smell like lettuce.

3.  Fruit and veggies that have already been cut, sliced, diced, or handled in any way. Too many variables (hands, cutting surfaces, knives) for contamination, and who knows how well they have been washed?

4. Frozen dinners. No chicken nuggets, TGIF meals, Lunchables, or Lean Cuisines. What about pizza? you ask. Sometimes, but mostly I make my own.

5. Soda. Truthfully,  occasionally I do buy  soda, but mostly when we are having company or we are hosting a dinner party. If it's in the house the boys drink it, and since they don't need it I try not to get it.

6. Snacks that are packaged into individual portions. Let's face it, the portion sizes are ridiculous for my boys. A small bag of potato chips containing 10 chips is just not enough for my growing boys (they would need 2-3 bags!), so I purchase the large bags and then use Ziploc bags to make more appropriate portion sizes.

7. Sugar substitutes. Ever. There are too many unknowns about sugar substitutes; I'd rather use 1/2 tsp. of the real stuff than a packet of Sweet n' Low or Splenda.

Finally, I am a big fan of the deli and the bakery. I prefer to buy lunch meat from the deli, where meat is sliced on the spot and is fresher than the pre-packaged kind; I also prefer to buy a loaf of bread from the bakery and have them slice it. Believe me, sandwiches taste much better with freshly baked bread than with Wonder Bread which has a shelf life of two weeks.

P.S. If you want to know what does make it into my shopping cart, check out this post.

For more quick takes fun, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Surprise Dinner Party

This past Monday was my Dad's 70th birthday, but we're officially not celebrating until next month when the entire family will gather in Myrtle Beach for a Thanksgiving family reunion/birthday celebration.

But really, I couldn't let his actual birthday go by unacknowledged, could I?

The answer is no, I could not.

So, to honor the actual day I decided to host a surprise dinner party for my Dad. Nothing too elaborate, or too big, but something to make his day special. I planned a meal, decorated the rec room, and set the table.


That evening he thought he was coming over for a dinner with just us, but as he was talking with Joe and the boys in the family room I was standing in the driveway bustling in a few of his friends into our rec room. Amazingly (and believe me, with Italians it is amazing) everyone was quiet.

The side door into our rec room.
Was he surprised? Most definitely.

When I announced that dinner was ready and he walked into the rec room ... oh, it was nice. My Dad does this half grin/half smile thing, and he was half grinning and half smiling all evening long.

Between the first and second course we played "The Nonno Game".  A container was passed around the table, and everyone had to pull out a slip of paper and then answer the question or follow the written directions. Some examples included:

What is Nonno's most handsome feature? (from Timothy: his smile)

Who dances better, Dwight/Nonno or Fred Astaire? (from Jonathan: no one dances worse than Nonno, so even though I don't know who Fred Astaire is I'll go with him)

What do you most like about Dwight/Nonno? (from his fishing buddies: his stories!) (this had the rest of us wondering ... have we heard those stories? Somehow, I don't think so.)

What is the funniest story you can tell about Dwight/Nonno? (from Nicholas: the story of when he went fishing with Nonno who, when unhitching the boat, somehow ripped a hole in the seat of his pants. It wasn't a tiny hole; the entire backside of his jeans GAPED. So, in order not to flash the entire lake community, Nonno wrapped a Popeye the Sailor Man towel around his waist.)

And finally there was this one, my favorite:

Tell Nonno to sing the whiskey song. (And he did!)

It was a fun evening. Nonno was surprised, the boys heard all kinds of funny stories, and Nonno got to open his brand new fishing pole sent to him from our Italian relatives.

So, Happy Birthday Dad ... until next month!

Nonno & Nonna

Saturday, October 20, 2012

For Thomas, Who Wanted to See a Video of His Crazy Cousin

Here's the thing: I don't know why he made a rapping video, we don't listen to rap. I don't know why he entitled it "A Kid Rapping on Sunday Morning" because we are in Church on Sunday morning. I don't know why he made the video in the guest bedroom, which was a mess because I was cleaning out closets and going through clothes. But there you have it.

Our favorite part is the end, when he makes a Chipmunk face.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Life Lately: 7 Random Facts

1.  Something Contrary
I love to cook, but hate to bake.
2.  A Pet Peeve
People who walk into a movie theater and sit directly in front of you when there are plenty (plenty!) of empty rows.
3.  A Chance Meeting
Nicholas Cage in Las Vegas.

4.  Something New
Purchased online at Boden Usa.

5.  Ick!
When I was student teaching my last semester of college, one of my high school students asked me to the prom. Awkward. I was mercilessly teased in the staff lounge.
6.  The first time we use the outdoor fire pit ...
I am making this snack basket.
Pinned Image

7.  Can't Wait
For the premier of Les Miserables, December 25.

Uhm, about #3 ... Wax Museum.
Now go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more fun Quick Takes!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In Which I Have a Most Snarky Thought

Today I was cashing a check at the bank when I handed the teller my driver's license.

"Hey!" she remarked. "We have the same birthday!"

"It's a great day to have a birthday," I said, smiling hugely.

All of a sudden she stopped what she was doing and looked up.

"Well," she says.  "I say the same birthday but obviously ... well, you know, it wasn't the same year. Your birthday was way before mine. I mean mine is, like, 20 years later."

A lady standing next to me smiled sympathetically and grimaced.

Okay, then.


Now here's the thing ... WHO SAYS STUFF LIKE THAT?

I didn't even have a clever or witty response. Nothing.

But as I was walking to my car I had a thought. A very snarky thought. A very grinch-like, meany pants thought. The kind of thought that made me embarassed that it had even popped into my head.

The kind of thought that made me smile.

Sigh. I suppose you want to know what my snarky thought was ...

Nope. Not telling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nonna's Heroes

In response to yesterday's post, Hero Worship ... What Not to Admire, my zia Tiziana left this comment about the silent hero ... my Nonna's kind of hero.

How true are your words. We all have heroes, and sometimes it is difficult to believe that they are only poor humans like us, with faults and weaknesses. For our Nonna, however, the true heroes were people like her parents who, even though they weren’t rich, worked hard – without running water, heat, electricity, refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, iron, television, etc. – and yet they were able to raise their four daughters in serenity, happiness and faith. Nonna always remembered her childhood as the happiest time of her life. She would always say, “Yes, we were poor, but how much fun we had running in the fields, talking and singing in the barn (the warmest place to gather), and we appreciated the simplest things.” Maybe the true heroes are those who silently help others and perhaps they are the only ones who can truly help God “hang the moon”.
Nonna and me
Verona 1967

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hero Worship ... What Not to Admire

We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.

~Brad Meltzer, author of Heroes for My Son
Perhaps it’s because I am all too aware of my own imperfections that I am very cautious about putting someone on a pedestal. To be sure, there are people I admire and respect, but there's a difference between admiring someone and thinking they hang the moon.
I am bothered by the fact that many times people are held in high esteem for no other reason other than they can throw a football, or look pretty on television, or lose weight, or make multi-million dollar deals. And I am bothered at how willing some of us are to look up to someone who is, when it comes down to it, very human.
When you cross the line into hero worship, you are basically setting yourself up to be less than that person . . . which is almost like saying God (who made us in his image) somehow made a mistake in how he made you.
I once accompanied a group of local doctors to Haiti for a 10-day mission trip. Part of that experience included a lot of rough travel, the most grueling of which was a 14-hour truck ride through mountains, desert and jungle until we reached the small village of Jean-Rabel.
During that long, long trip I was surrounded by doctors and missionaries who spent that time talking. One discussion involved the misdirection of youth, and a young missionary made a comment that the distractions offered by today's society were nothing more than a substitute for the Holy Spirit.
Oh, brother! I remember thinking.
But over time I’ve come to realize what she was trying to say. There’s nothing wrong with getting excited during a rock concert, or cheering a star athlete, or looking up to someone, or recognizing them as a leader.
The problem occurs when we lose sight of the First Commandment and lay those feelings of enthusiasm, admiration and even hope at the feet of someone who is merely human.
The problem occurs when we measure our own self-worth by human rather than spiritual standards.
The problem occurs when we don't see the value in  those around us (teammates, co-workers, family members) because we are so blinded by the star quality of one individual.
I am grateful that the world is full of many wonderful people -- people I admire and respect and who inspire me to be a better person. But putting them on a pedestal?
I know of only One who can hang the moon.
*This post was originally written here, but I decided to re-post it in light of the Lance Armstrong scandal, the political atmosphere, and life in general ...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

You Can't Say No to the Cannoli

My sister was in town this weekend, and Saturday night she came with me to drop my son off at a birthday party. Instead of returning home, we walked around downtown and ended up at the Boll Weevil Cafe for some dessert.

If you haven't been to the Boll Weevil and had one of their sinfully decadent desserts ... I'm sorry.

Anyway, I ordered a slice of the NY cheesecake with raspberry sauce. I say a slice, but a slice at the Boll Weevil is half the cake; honestly, I don't know how anyone can eat that much cheesecake in one sitting.

We sat there, chatting away as only two sisters can do, and after an hour I looked down and HOLY CANNOLI! where was my cheesecake? Surely I couldn't have ... I mean, there was no way I could possibly have ... no, come on, it's impossible ...

But I did. The entire thing. Gone, gone, gone.

That was Saturday. Then came Sunday.

Today we had lunch at my parents' house: homemade pasta (not just homemade sauce, mind you, but the actual pasta, too!), bruschetta and, for dessert, my mom's cannoli.

Because of the cheesecake episode I had planned to skip dessert, but you just can't say no to the cannoli. My mom's cannoli are so good that she is the official cannoli maker whenever the Italian-American Club has a fund raiser in which food is involved. People even come back and ask for her by name, they are that delizioso.

So, with a cappucino in hand, we sat at the table chatting away when Holy Cannoli! I looked down and realized I had gone through three cannoli.

Gone through ... as in eaten.


I'm sure there's a moral in here somewhere,  but I'm too full and can't think straight.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Life Lately: Licking Pizza and Olive Trees

~1~ Licking pizza. This week we had homemade pizza. I made the dough, let it rise, rolled it out, and spread the sauce. I went to get the cheese, and when I returned I caught Timothy licking the sauce off the pizza.

Yes, licking.

I would be surprised, but I once caught him licking the foam off the top of my cappuccino.

Who needs a puppy when we have Timothy?

~2~ The sound of studying. Yesterday Nicholas had three friends over for a calculus study session. Just typing the word calculus makes me shiver. So I took pity on them, which basically meant that I fed them. First I brought in a giant Hershey's Symphony Bar and told them to practice their math and divide it equally. Then I brought in a huge bowl of popcorn, and for a while the only sounds I heard were the flipping of pages, the scratching of pencils, and the crunching of popcorn.
And because they were all so studious, and because they will all be leaving for college in less than a year, I invited them all to stay for dinner.
~3~ Crazy Saturday. Really, how could everything happen in one Saturday? School carnival and Italian-American festival ... have to make an appearance at both. SAT for Nicholas in the morning, both boys serving at a wedding in the afternoon, and in the evening Jonathan has a party to go to. My sister is coming into town, and my husband is heading out of town (playing golf in Hilton Head ... I am a great wife).
~4~ Turning 70. My Dad, that is, not me! To celebrate his birthday in grand style, my parents rented a huge beach house in Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving week. We'll all be there, and as the unofficial event organizer I have plans: a family talent show, a Mad Hatter dinner, movie night/game night, midnight beach walks, an art show ... any other ideas?
The Mad Hatter Dinner: No hat, no food.
~5~ An anxiety attack. My friend Lisa's son, Dominic, drew this for the Feast of St. Francis. Why is it causing me anxiety? Because it is drawn on a white board. That's like creating a work of art on an etch-a-sketch! So, you see, I am worried ... it's too beautiful to be on a temporary medium! You can visit Lisa and her family here. She was one of my very first blogging buddies.
Dominic's art.
~6~ Halloween Scary. There is the biggest spider web suspended over our front yard. It's hanging by a thread, literally, with one thread hooked to a tree waaay over there, and the other thread stretched waaay over here. It's HUGE. And as beautiful as it is, I shudder to think of the size of spider that built it. I'm thinking it's the Jurassic Park of spiders.

~7~ Adopt a tree. October is Italian-American Heritage Month, so expect some posts in the next few weeks on all things Italian. And in honor of the occasion I just may adopt an olive tree. Really.

 *Now, go visit Jen and Conversion Diary for some more quick takes fun.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How do you ruin cinnamon toast? Go ahead, ask me.

This morning, while I was signing papers, making lunches, and encouraging our little guy that, yes, he has to go to school, I was also making cinnamon toast.

I toasted the bread. Buttered it. And generously sprinkled cinnamon on top.

Suddenly, I noticed a funny smell. A spicy smell. Definitely not a cinnamon-y smell.

Chili powder.


When the boys asked what the funny smell was, I said it was nothing and handed them a granola bar.

Reminded me of the time I was cooking pasta and making iced tea, and in my hurry I salted the tea and sugared the pasta water.

I didn't realize my mistake until we sat down to eat.

What can I say? Sometimes I can multi-task,
and sometimes I can't.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Birthday Wish List

Two weeks ago Jonathan handed me a five page report. It was typed and included pictures which accompanied the text. It was a very nice presentation.

Except it wasn't a school report ... it was a birthday wish list.

He gave me a wish list in mid-September for his birthday which comes at the end of October.

"Don't you think this is a bit early?" I asked.

"No, I just wanted to give you some time," he replied. "Some of that stuff you can only get online."

"Hmmm." I replied. "Well, you do know that a wish list is just that ... a wish list. There are no guarantees."

"I know," he said. "It's also to give you some ideas."

"Well, I have a few ideas already," I admitted. "For example, I know you need new underwear, new socks, and a new pair of jeans."

"Mom!" he said, truly horrified.

Yesterday was October 1, and Jonathan reminded me that this was his birthday month and wanted to know if I had any questions about the list.

"What list?" I asked.


After he left for school I pulled out the list. I'd better get going. Only 19 days left to get the underwear, socks, and jeans.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bumping Meals

Here's the best thing about menu planning: if something comes up and you don't use one of the planned meals, then that meal carries over to the next week.

For example, last week a dental appointment lasted longer than usual, so that night we had Leftovers Night, which basically meant heating up any and all leftovers (and with menu planning there are always leftovers) and setting up a buffet. Everyone chose what they wanted. The menu originally planned for that night was bumped, which not only means a meal is already planned for this week, but that all the ingredients are on hand.

Finally, here's the tip of the week: Establish a tradition with a specific meal. For example, when I was growing up whenever my mother fixed spaghetti for dinner, we always ate by candlelight. Always.

Buon Appetito!

pasta al tonno (spaghetti w. tuna, olive oil, & lemon)
garden salad
apple crostata (bumped from last week)
scaloppine di pollo
creamy polenta
cooked greens (inspired by Jamie Oliver's book, Jamie's Italy, p. 11)
Just got this book over the weekend and Jamie does
a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Italian Cuisine.
Beautiful photographs and insightful commentary.
homemade pizza (bumped from last week)
carrots w. Ranch dressing
Halibut Meuniere (Cooking Light Magazine)
grilled zucchini w. sea salt (Cooking Light Magazine)
Taco Soup (Aunt Laura's recipe)
tortilla chips
lunch: turkey-hummas pitas (bumped from last week)
dinner:  grilled hamburgers, baked beans, carrot "french fries", chips
late lunch at Nonna & Nonno's (yeah! no cooking for me!)