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

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

At Least There's That

So I'm sitting here, fingers poised over the keyboard, and ... nothing.

It's a horrible place to be, to have this need to write -- to create -- and yet not be able to come up with anything.

This month always does this to me. From beginning to end it's non-stop reports, final essays, school banquets, end of year parties, and requests for this and that. You would think that on a year in which our family didn't have a high school graduation (last year), a Confirmation (two years ago), or a First Communion and an 8th grade graduation within a week of each other (three years ago) that this time things would be different ... but no.  Just as busy. Just as ridiculously crazy.

And the driving. My God, the driving alone can drive you nuts. Half days, exam days, differing dismissal times in two schools ... uhm, road rage anyone?

Someone once dared to mention that Mother's Day is in May ... at least there's that, right? ARE YOU SERIOUS? I'm too busy to celebrate Mother's Day in May. Just give me a dark room and an entire day when no one talks to me ... that's what I want for Mother's day.

I sound grumpy, don't I? Or slightly unhinged.

Well, I made Limoncello last week. It will be ready in a few days.

NOW I'm smiling.

Limoncello in May.  At least there's that. Right?

Making Limoncello

Friday, May 23, 2014

Do You Roller Coaster?

Since we are facing a three day weekend with gorgeous weather, we decided to attend Mass Saturday night and then on Sunday drive to Atlanta to go to Six Flags.

I am looking forward to a day trip with all of my guys, except that I'm still trying to figure out how to withstand peer pressure when Joe and the boys try to get me on Acrophobia. True to its name, the ride climbs 200 feet and, upon reaching the top, the chairs are tipped FORWARD 15 degrees and there is a PAUSE before you free fall to your death the bottom.

That does NOT sound fun.

Once upon a time I used to seek out the highest heights and the most thrilling thrills. I used to maniacally laugh at death defying drops and crazy loop-de-loops. But somewhere along the way I decided that I don't like my spine re-aligned, I don't like my neck being whipped about, and I don't like feeling dizzy.

Truthfully, I now avoid rides with names like Scorcher, Goliath and Ninja; instead, I opt for rides like Log Jamboree, Miss Dixie's Train Depot, and It's a Small World.

I have officially become the kind of Mom who walks her family to a ride, wishes them well, then waits at the exit ramp holding everyone's drinks, hats, and keys.

And I am perfectly okay with that. As for that peer pressure ... I'll suddenly find the need to go to the bathroom, or something.

Roller Coaster Haiku

Going up, up, and then up
while on a roller coaster.
Stop! I change my mind!

-from the files of very bad poetry by Bia

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Seven Books

My go-to Confirmation gift idea is this: seven books which represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, awe of God).

The list changes depending on the recipient and his/her interests (with our middle son, for example, I included several sports books). Sometimes the list includes the Bible (if they don't already have one with their name engraved on the cover), sometimes I explain which book represents which gift of the Holy Spirit and sometimes I let them figure it out, but mostly I try to find books that are appealing, interesting, thought-provoking, and stand the test of time.

Yesterday we attended our nephew's Confirmation, and these were Christopher's seven books:

1- In His Own Words, Pope Francis
2- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
3- The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
4- The First Phone Call from Heaven, Mitch Albom
5- Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
6- Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
7- The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, Leo Buscaglia

As his sponsors, Joe and I kept trying to get a photo with Christopher (and just Christopher!) ...
but we kept getting photo bombed.
And the cute little guy in the bottom left corner? That's chocolate cake all over his mouth.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fabulous Friday

Driving to school yesterday the little guy and I were listening to a Christian radio station in which the hosts were discussing how they would describe their moms in one word.

I looked over at Timothy.

"What would you say?" I asked. "If you had to describe me with one word, what would it be?"

No thinking, no pondering, no hesitation.

"Fabulous," he said instantly, with a smile as big as all outdoors.

Okay, then. I'll take that.

The best Mother's Day gift ...  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Imagine Station ... Together Let's Imagine the Possiblity

When the boys were younger, my world was a much simpler place. Our daily routine revolved around playtimes, snack times, naptimes, meal times, and bedtimes. During that time I remember always looking for things to do with the boys, and there were a few favorites which stand out:

-the Georgia Welcome Center (which was under construction). We would sit on a park bench with our morning snack and watch all the construction vehicles -- front end loaders! bulldozers! graders! dump trucks!
Watching construction vehicles at the Georgia Welcome Center

-the Augusta Museum of History (at least once a week). The highlight of the visit was always the train depot with the real train, and the boys would climb up the train stairs, walk the length of the passenger car while waving to me through the windows, and meet me on another set of stairs near the caboose. They did this over and over, each time choosing a different destination -- the North Pole! Italy! Nonna & Nonno's house!

Destination: North Pole ... or Nonna & Nonno's house ... or ...
-the Morris Museum of Art. Carrying a special notebook and some crayons, we would walk around the museum looking at the art until we found a favorite. Then we would sit on the floor with our notebook and crayons and color/draw our own interpretation (the museum curator was always very kind and supportive).

-Fort Discovery (so sad when it closed). The bullet list for our visits included the giant, indoor jungle gym, the lightning demonstration, the Crayola marker pendulum with the giant pads of paper, the floor keyboard (think Tom Hanks in Big), and a visit to the museum store where they got to pick out a prize -- a shiny rock! a pressed penny! a lollipop!

Of course, activities also included Library Story Time, canal walks, sprinkler days (exactly what it sounds like ... a sprinkler and our back yard), day trips to the zoo, and those hang-around-and-do-nothing-but-watch-Thomas the Tank Engine-kind-of-days.

It wasn't until I was thinking back on those simple days that I realized how much of our time involved museums, and despite the fact that we didn't live in a big city with a museum on every corner (New York, Chicago, Atlanta), we really took advantage of the ones we did have.

Which is why I was excited when Valerie Mirshak contacted me about plans for Imagination Station, a co-op style children's museum in the Hickman Park Community Center. Plans for the museum include a pre-literacy room with library and puppetry theater, an art room, an engineering station with activities focused on mechanics and design, and a sensorimotor station for babies.

Folks, we need this in our community. Dr. Seuss once said, "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try." So just imagine what Imagination Station can offer the children of Augusta.

HOWEVER. Imagine Station needs to raise $8,000 by May 23 to get the project up and running. The individuals behind this project are energetic, goal-oriented, and dedicated to the vision of offering a wonderful place where children, parents, and families can learn, grow, and come together as a community.

You can help by becoming a member and/or making a donation pledge.

For more information on the project ...

Valerie's blog, which explains the project in detail:

The Imagination Station web site:

The article in the Augusta Chronicle:

NBC news affiliate, WAGT:


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Sunday Test Kitchen

This past Sunday I was looking at a free afternoon with nothing to do. To be sure, there's always something I could be doing, but for the first time in a while there was nothing urgent ... pending ... looming.

So I did something that I've been wanting to do for a long, long time. Something that would ultimately make my life easier. Something that, while not earth-shattering, would make me happy.

Quite simply, I organized my recipes.

I threw open the kitchen windows, sat down at the table, and fortified with a frothy cappuccino proceeded to consolidate, organize, arrange, sort, catalog, eliminate and systemize a massive pile of recipe cards, scraps of paper, torn pages from magazines, and snippets of this and fragments of that.

After the dust settled this is what was left: a pocket folder with recipes that I plan on trying, and a huge binder filled with recipes that have made the grade. That binder is the Who's Who in the recipe world of my kitchen ... only the best of the best make it in there. Thirteen tabs (appetizers, soups, contorni, main dishes, salads, panini, pasta, etc.), with the last section containing a collection of complete menus from past parties (la festa di S. Giuseppe, canal cruise picnic, graduation dinner, Christmas parties, etc.) which I use as a reference point for planning future events.

And thus was my Sunday afternoon.

Like I said, not earth-shattering ... but gosh darn it felt good.

One pile of many ... all sorted and systemized.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Life Lately: Reality bites (ouch!), Vultures (really!), and How I Saved the Day (twice!) ... in 7 quick takes

1. I hated to burst his bubble ...

Yesterday Joe and I drove to Clemson to pick up our son and bring him home for the summer. On the way, I realized that Joe was in for a rude awakening ...

Joe's mental image of check-out day: Nicholas would have the bed stripped, shelves and drawers emptied, and everything packed into nice neat piles ready to be loaded into the van.

My mental image (because I knew better): utter chaos.

What actually happened was this: the bed was stripped.

Other than that ... well, you can imagine.

2. Who needs Superman when there is me?

Nicholas' dorm has two rolling luggage racks, and I just happened to secure one. This meant that  numerous trips up and down four flights of stairs was reduced to two. Score one for Mom.

3. What rhymes with orange?

Once upon a time a friend (or was it a foe?) gave Joe a bright, orange golf shirt. And when I say orange I mean ORANGE. I joked that when he wore it he was a walking, talking construction cone playing  golf.
One day she-who-shall-not-be-named stuffed that ORANGE golf shirt at the bottom of the hamper where it stayed for a looooong time until one day poof! it disappeared.

Well, she-who-was-responsible for the shirt's disappearance is now paying for that little subterfuge because look, just LOOK! at all this Clemson orange.

Now I have a walking, talking construction cone who goes to college.

4. Animal Kingdom on the Canal

This morning my husband and I were biking on the canal and talking about the black snake that was sitting in our back yard on Easter Sunday, exactly two hours before we were hosting an Easter egg hunt for the entire family.

No sooner than we said the words "black snake" when one appeared on the path right in front of us and we had to swerve to miss it.

Just as my heart returned to a somewhat natural rhythm, three HUGE vultures (think Jurassic Park huge) exploded out of the bushes and perched on a tree directly overhead. Then there was the funny smell and ... I'll stop now. It's a creepy story and I don't want to give myself nightmares.

Vultures. Shivers.

5.Smart Parallel Parking

Yesterday I went to the Book Tavern to pick up an Italian version of Dante's Divine Comedy. The Book Tavern is one of those honest to goodness book stores with magic in every corner ...  and parallel parking out front. Next time I'm driving my smart car and parking like this. Now THAT'S smart.

Somewhere in Rome, 2010

6. Super Mom ... again!

So, our little guy brings home some of his projects from art class and just like that I am in trouble. You know, the kind of trouble when you're trying to figure out what-in-the-heck is this masterpiece your child created. So I ooohed and aaahed (which was really my lame way of stalling). I tried to ask its name, but "Stuffy" didn't help me at all.

A manatee with a birthday hat?

So, I turned it this way and that. Held it upside down and right side up ... or was it right side up and upside down? But then ... a glimmer of hope. Maybe. Is it ... could it possibly be ... a unicorn? Score ANOTHER one for Mom.

Of COURSE it's a unicorn. Whatever else could it be????

7. Three goals for next week:

-Make homemade limoncello.

-Do some landscaping/gardening.

-Be HAPPY for my husband who has to fly to Las Vegas for four days, even though I was SUPPOSED to go with him.

See? Happy.

Now, go check out Jen's 7 quick takes over at Conversion Diary!
Her book, Something Other than God, is here!