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

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Simplicity and Mindfulness

I've been sitting on this since last November, but now that it's official I'll formally announce it here as well: I am honored to be one of the scheduled speakers for the Sacred Heart Garden Festival (April 25-27, 2014).

It's funny how life is sometimes. Last year I attended the festival for the first time, and little did I know that one year later I would be returning to give a presentation entitled, The Peasant Kitchen and Slow Food: The Italian Approach to Food, Dining and Healthy Living.

In Italy there is a saying: Per capire una cosa, devi guardare alle radici, which basically means that in order to understand something, you must first look at its roots. And that's what I'll be doing in my talk ... going back to my Italian roots to demonstrate how simplicity and mindfulness in the kitchen can go a long way in not only how we think about food, but in how we approach life.

The schedule for the speakers series is not up yet, but I will post it here when it becomes available. In the meantime, I hope you will come. Si`?

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Haircut Lost in the Translation

Yesterday I did something stupid. I walked into an unknown salon and asked for an appointment right away. I was introduced to someone named Sun (or was it Moon?) and I explained to her that I wanted two inches off my length and my bangs trimmed.

No problem! she said, in very broken English.

Except she did everything backwards: she trimmed my hair and took two inches off my bangs.

Sheesh. You think I would have learned by now, because something very, very similar happened when I was studying in Spain. I still shudder at the memory ...

So there we were, studying at La Universidad de Salamanca, and my friend and I were having problems. Specifically, boy problems. We were  sitting in the Plaza Mayor, moping, and then one of us (we never could figure out whose idea it was) decided that a haircut would be just the thing to perk us up because that's what girls do ... a good hair cut and a manicure and we can take on the world! Besides, there was something exotic about getting our hair done in a foreign country. We could tell people we had our hair done by Alberto at  Peluqueria Alberto on Calle de la Gran Via.

We found a salon and just walked in. While my friend and I were both conversationally proficient in the language, we realized that we did not know how to say trim in Spanish. Or bangs. All those years of language study and we never had to say those two words before, and now we had a problem because that's what we wanted: a trim and to have our bangs re-shaped. So we used words like little cut and new fringe and we thought they understood our requests.

Well. After the stylists were done I looked at my friend and she had no bangs left; she looked at me and my shoulder-length hair was now a short, goofy chin-length bob.

If you thought we were depressed before we went into that salon, you can just imagine what we felt like afterwards. We were so stunned neither of us said a word.

Anyway, there's a lesson in here somewhere, and if I could think straight I would offer something wise, but now I can't get my mind away from the mental image of that disastrous haircut I was stuck with for the rest of my Salamanca summer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Embarassing Jonathan

Poor Jonathan. Tonight Timothy and I decided to go visit him at Arby's, and whenever we do that we always manage to embarrass him. For example, when Jonathan had been working at Arby's for less than a week and was still training on the cash register, we all went there for dinner and placed a large order using coupons. Uhm ... the coupons complicated things to such an extent that a manager had to be called over.

Then there was the time that the entire family showed up en masse (with Nonna and Nonno!), and Nonna kept telling everyone that he was her grandson. Jonathan turns really, really red when people make a fuss about him.

So tonight, since we knew Jonathan would be working drive-thru, Timothy and I suddenly decided that we wanted dessert. Jonathan has only recently been trained to do drive-thru, so on the way there we were laughing and imagining how his voice would sound over the intercom.

"We won't understand him," said Timothy, who knows how his brother likes to mumble. "He'll sound like this: 'Welcome to Arbys ... mumble, mumble, mumble ... order?'"

So anyway, we had plans. The problem was deciding which would be better:

1. Pull up to the intercom, and when he asks for our order say "What?" and "Can you speak louder?" and "What was that again?"


2. Pull up to the intercom and loudly, so the entire restaurant can hear, yell, "Hi, Jona-baby!"

Unfortunately, when we pulled into the parking lot we noticed Jonathan eating in the dining room. Darn it. He was on his dinner break. I drove around the restaurant THREE times hoping he would finish and go back to his post, but no such luck.

So we parked, went in, and sat across from him in the booth and watched him eat his dinner. Oh the questions we asked him! How does the headset work? Do you disinfect it between shifts? How long is your break? What are you eating? Can I have a French fry? And a sip of your soda? I may be imagining things, but I think he was eating faster and faster just so he could get back to work and get away from us.

But he wasn't too annoyed because after his break I walked up to the counter and ordered a Mint Chocolate Swirl Shake (with Andes chocolate!) to go, and even though Jonathan was back in drive-thru he came over and insisted on making it himself. He makes a pretty good milkshake, if I do say so myself.

P.S. And as long as I'm talking about Jonathan ... Last week during our horrific, catastrophic ice storm, Arby's managed to open their doors about mid-afternoon on Friday and it wasn't long before a line formed out the door with people wanting to come in to warm up and order a hot meal. Jonathan was one of only THREE employees who worked from four in the afternoon until midnight. He was there during the earthquake and when the water tower at the Augusta National was freakishly leaking.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Clean House

Just before Joe and I married we closed on a tiny, patio home. It had two stories, three bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and at 1840 square feet it was perfect for us. When we returned from our honeymoon, we settled right in and set about making the house our home.

When my Nonna came from Italy for our wedding, I proudly showed her our little home. I showed her the kitchen, the large family room, the pretty wallpaper in the bathroom, and the babbling creek that ran through our backyard. She was very happy for me and kept grabbing me to give me a kiss, but after the tour she wondered how in the world I would be able to keep it clean. It was so big for a young couple! And you're both working! When will you ever have the time for housekeeping?

This is the same Nonna who, when I announced my engagement the summer before, gave me one of her wooden eggs ... you know, for darning socks. So when she expressed concern about my potential housekeeping problems due to lack of time, I simply considered it a very Nonna-like thing to say. And honestly, I loved her all the more for it. Fast forward to today.

We have since moved on from that tiny patio home, and we now have 3500 square feet, 3 1/2 bathrooms, a large kitchen, a rec room, a study, and a nice, large back yard. We also have three sons (with lots of friends!) and all day long they are in and out, slamming the back door every time. In. And out. Then, and those of you with boys will understand this, there is the boy's bathroom and ... well, we won't go there (unless you're wearing a hazmat suit). (Sometimes I think my Nonna had it easy ... she had three lovely, quiet daughters.)

To be honest, though, there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of Nonna's words, especially lately when it seems I am constantly playing catch-up with house cleaning; in fact, it seems no matter how much I clean, I never really seem to make any progress. I realize part of this is a result of all our recent house projects (hardwood flooring, carpeting, shower, kitchen sink) which turned almost every room into a demolition zone. Then, as soon as I finally got the house straightened up after the renovations, we had a little thing called an ice storm which caused a three-day power outage and resulted in mattresses and blankets being moved downstairs, laundry piling up, and stuff everywhere.

So you can see why I have lately been feeling like King Sisyphus who was doomed forever to roll a large boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down and have to repeat the entire process again.

Last night I finally realized I needed to make some changes. I needed to take charge again and not feel like a tumbleweed (or a dust bunny) blown hither and yon with the wind. I thought back to Nonna's words and was reminded how a clean, ordered home goes a long way in creating a restful environment and a peaceful heart. And because I believe in lists, I made out a cleaning schedule. I did some blog surfing for some innovative ideas, and I found one at Clover Lane which I adapted to fit our family's needs.

Nothing on my list is what I don't already do, but to have it written not only helps me see the entire picture, but it also helps me stay on task. Very simply, this is what I came up with: I assigned certain tasks (upstairs bathrooms, laundry, etc.) to a different weekday, thereby breaking down chores so that they are more manageable and not so overwhelming. I also made a separate list of chores for Deep Cleaning, and each week I select a room from that list for a deeper cleaning (baseboards, blinds, ceiling fans); basically, I do my individual weekday chores and then have the whole week to work on one Deep Cleaning Chore (DCC).

I feel better already.

And even though that little wooden egg is still sitting in the bottom of my sewing basket (does anyone darn socks anymore?) I have a feeling that Nonna would be proud.


Monday: meal planning and grocery shopping
Tuesday: master bedroom and bathroom (sheets, dust, vacuum)
Wednesday: boys’ bedroom and bathroom (sheets, dust, vacuum)
Thursday: dust/vacuum downstairs; rec room; our laundry
Friday: boys’ laundry; powder room; kitchen
Weekly: one Deep Cleaning Chore

master bedroom and closet master bathroom
boys’ room
timothy’s room
boys’ bathroom
guest bedroom and bath
laundry and powder room
family room
dining room
rec room

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Backwards Birthday

This past Wednesday was my birthday, and all along I was thinking of it as my 48th birthday.

But later that afternoon I was speaking with my good friend on the phone and we were talking about birthdays and I said I was 48 and she interrupted me and said, "No, you're not."

And you know what? She was right! I'm not 48. I'm 47!!

Now, I ask you? Who does that? Who makes a mistake on how old they are and ADDS a year? I mean, if you're going to err, err in the other direction. Right?

Anyway, as much as I liked being 48, I like being 47 much, much better.

I guess you can say I had a backwards birthday.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Love, Mom

Today, for the first time ever, I purchased an issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

It's the February issue, the one with you-know-who on the cover. I thought I'd send it to Nicholas and his two Catholic roommates at Clemson.

Does this make me a cool Mom?

Dear Nicho,
Can you believe it?
The Pope?
On the cover of Rolling Stone?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Super Bowl Dilemma

So here's the thing. I have a dilemma. A Super Bowl dilemma.

It's not about what team to cheer for ... I suppose if you were to press me I would tell you I'm going for the Seattle Seahawks for no other reason than I like the alliteration and think it's a pretty name. (Don't ever ask me to place a sports bet because my method would be totally unorthodox: for me it's all in the name, the team colors, and whether or not they have a cute mascot.)

No, I'm in a quandary because I don't know what I'm going to do tonight at 9:00 p.m. when Downton Abbey begins. Stay and watch the Super Bowl? Go to another room and watch PBS? Stay and bond with the guys? Go and see if Bates figures out what actually happened to Anna?

Stay? Go? Stay? Go?

Decisions, decisions.

Like I said ... a dilemma.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Big Reveal ... in 7 quick takes

~1~ People said we were crazy, but we planned it this way on purpose. During a period of seven days we had the following done in our house:

removed all the upstairs carpeting
added brand new carpeting in three bedrooms
added hardwood floor to the master bedroom and hallway
added a Corian sink and a brand new faucet in the kitchen
replaced the sliding shower door in the master bath with a rubbed oil bronze one

Seven days, people. We had workers bumping into each other on the stairs, angling for a parking spot in our driveway, and sharing each other's tools. For a time we had neither a shower in the master bathroom nor a sink in our kitchen. For seven days our front door remained unlocked, and people came and went at will.

Seven days of total upheaval then meant seven days of massive cleaning. I mean there was dust everywhere. I wiped down walls, washed curtains, mopped floors, and laundered bedding.

Here it is the end of January, and my spring cleaning is done. Finito.

~2~ Master Bedroom: Before

~3~ Master Bedroom: After

~4~ Timothy's Room: Before

~5~ Timothy's Room: After

~6~ Kitchen: Before

~7~ Kitchen: After

new sink = new dish soap and hand lotion
(grazie, Jill!)

*no go visit Jen at Conversion Diary, host of these Friday quick takes