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

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad discovery

I went to spend a couple of days with my sister while her husband took the two older boys to the beach, and while I was checking out their pantry (I can be nosy that way) I made a horrible, no good, very bad discovery. There, on the center shelf, were TWO JARS of a chocolate spread ... the FAKE brand ... the knock-off ... the Nutella-wannabe.

But wait. It gets even worse. It seems that my nephew was responsible; he saw them on sale and convinced his mom (my SISTER!) to buy them.

Well. I'm his auntie. I just had to set him straight.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Soul

Looking out
from within.
Looking within

to look out.

~from the files of very bad poetry by Bia

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Traveling with Kids: Two Ways to Keep them Engaged

Are you taking your family on a road trip? Traipsing through Europe? Exploring the Grand Canyon? Walking the streets of Manhattan? Here are two ways ours family makes those trips fun, educational, and memorable.

The Scavenger Hunt

When my husband and I took our boys on their first trip to Italy, I prepared a scavenger hunt highlighting some of the things I knew we would be seeing. The night before we left I gave them each a disposable camera and a list of 25 items to look for during our trip. Some of the items on the list were obvious: someone eating a gelato; a tower that leans; a sign written in Italian; a Vespa. Some weren't so obvious: a lion carved in stone (the lion is the symbol of Venice and is found everywhere in that city); a love letter to Juliet (the wall near Juliet's balcony is plastered with love letters asking for advice). Each time they found an item on their list, they took a picture of it.

They loved the scavenger hunt and took it very seriously. Once we returned home they put the list and their photos in a small album thereby creating a wonderful keepsake of their travels.

Postcard Journals

For that same trip I also wanted to find a way for the boys to record what they were seeing and learning. I knew, however, that a traditional travel journal was not going to work; instead, every day the boys would send postcards to themselves!

Here's how it worked: After a day spent sightseeing, the boys would select a postcard and write some highlights of the day. A postcard was perfect because they had a picture of what they saw, and the limited space on the back kept their journaling down to a few sentences. I kept stamps in my wallet, and whenever there was an opportunity we would drop them in the mail.

The best part was that a few days after returning home the postcards started arriving -- postcards from Rome, Naples, Capri, Sorrento and Verona. Getting the mail every afternoon was never so fun. These postcards, addressed to themselves, contain some of the best (and funniest) memories from our family vacation.

Once we returned home from our travels, the postcards kept
coming and coming!

In almost every postcard Timothy mentions how much he loves gelato.

Dear Me,
I went to Cortona today. It was so high on the mountain my ears had trouble getting used to the altitude. We sat on the steps pictured on the postcard and ate a panino. The pigeons practically attacked us when I threw a chip on the step. ~Jonathan

Dear Me,
Today we went to La Verna, a Franciscan monastery. We saw the real cloak that St. Francis wore. My favorite was, of course, the gift shop!! ~Jonathan

Dear Me,
I love Verona. I went frog hunting with Martha and we made a cake. ~Timothy

Dear Me,
Today we visited the Royal Palace in Caserta. It was beautiful, and it was where they filmed Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Walking the halls, I get shivers every time I think that Jar-Jar Binks was there. ~Nicholas

Dear Cool Kid (aka me): In Verona I saw a Colosseum and the Piazza Bra - a bra that looks like a pizza. Not really. Anyway I saw Juliet's balcony with all the love letters attached to the wall. By the way, the Piazza Bra is a square named Bra. ~Nicholas

Dear Me,
St. Peter's is a beautiful church. There is a spot outside that if you stand on it, all the columns behind the front one disappear so you only see the front one. We saw where most of the popes were buried. ~Jonathan

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Girly Commentary on FIFA World Cup Soccer

So. We've been watching World Cup soccer, and of all sports this is one I will actually sit down to watch. As a sport, soccer is uncomplicated, instinctual, and more than a little primordial, for if you give someone (anyone) a ball and an open field, they will run. They will dribble. They will kick. And then when another person comes along, there it is ... a competition.

I suppose I also appreciate the athleticism involved. Soccer players are lean, muscular, fast, graceful, and run nonstop. This impresses me, and so this evening as we gathered to watch the Italy-England match I happened to mention (and mind you, I was the sole female in the room) that I thought soccer players are some of the best athletes.

Everyone stared at me.

"I mean, look at all the running they have to do," I said, a tad defensively. "If you put any other athlete -- let's say a football player -- in that huge field and ask them to run like that they would expire on the spot. Other than the receiver, who does any real running? Football players take a few steps, ram into someone, and then everyone falls down and the clock stops. But in soccer, they run and run and run."

My husband mentions basketball. There is a lot of running in basketball.

"Well, that's true," I agreed. "But didn't the air conditioning go out during a game recently and the players were suffering?  Didn't LeBron James have to come out at one point?  Whereas in soccer they play in the rain, the heat, the mud, and the humidity ... in all conditions."

Now, not only am I proud of myself for knowing that bit of sporting news concerning the air conditioner, but also for remembering the specific name of the player affected.

I started something, I could see that, but I won't go into the ensuing discussion because, very much like a soccer player during a match, it is one that is ongoing. But I must say that for a girl who is usually reading Jane Austen while her guys are watching the game (any game), and despite the fact that I am clearly outnumbered, I held my own.

You go, girl.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Here, but not there

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup, we were spending the summer in Italy and living in a beautiful farmhouse in the heart of Tuscany.

EVERYONE received Italian soccer jerseys from our Italian relatives.
P.S. Italy won this year.

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we were exploring Rome, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast.

Again, we received jerseys.
And yes, that Italian clapper was a McDonald's Happy Meal toy
given in honor of the World Cup.

And during the 2014 FIFA World Cup ... where are we?

Here, and not there. :-(

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Letting Go (because when the boys are home during the summer ... you have no choice)

Let's face it, when kids are home for the summer you no longer have control. Nothing is where it's supposed to be, doors are always slamming (or left wide open ... welcome to our home all four-legged creatures and serial killers!), and the couch cushions are everywhere but on the couch. And I do mean everywhere. The pantry is always bare despite constantly filling it, the laundry is out of control, and the Legos ... well, don't walk barefoot in the dark. I'm just saying.

I am hosting a Bunco party next week (spouses invited for the first time! 24 people, 6 tables, 18 dice!) and if I don't get things organized we may be eating and playing in the backyard.

Star Wars Snow Monster and Icons

Tire on a Vase

NBA Finals in the Fire

The Hostile Takeover
(note: look at my cushions)

And shoes that are supposed to go here ...


the end

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bad, Bad Nonna

Yesterday morning my mom calls me to tell me she has a new haircut.

"Why don't you come over and show me?" I suggested. "We can have a cappuccino while Timothy finishes up his summer work."

Now, before I proceed let me just say that right now we have a good thing going with the whole Mommy Summer School thing: morning work (worksheets on different subjects), reading quietly for 30-minutes every afternoon, and in the evening we sit on the back deck in our jammies and together read aloud The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. That's it. Just a little structure into a day that is mostly about playing outside and bugging his brothers. Most importantly, he hasn't complained.

But when Nonna entered the kitchen and saw Timothy (peacefully) going through some math worksheets ...

"Timothy! Oh you poor baby!" she says. "You don't need school work; you're already smart!"

Timothy looks up at Nonna-the-Savior and smiles. He has found an ally.

"Look, I'll show you how smart he is," Nonna announces to me. She turns to Timothy. "Who came first, Napoleon or Hitler?"

"Napoleon," says Timothy.

(This is an unfair question because everyone in the family knows how Napoleon once slept in the house in which Nonna was born, so in Nonna's world all roads lead back to Napoleon.)

"Yes!" says Nonna, who gives me a very pointed look. "See? He knows history. Okay, now geography. What's the capital of England?"

(Again, unfair because we're reading the Chronicles of Narnia and on the very first night we discussed how the children left London to escape the air raids.)

"London," says Timothy, who is beginning to like this game.

"Correct! Geography is done. Let's try Religion," she says. "What does the Assumption of Mary mean?"

"When Mary is taken up into heaven," responded Timothy, who (truthfully) looks a little relieved because religion isn't always his strong point.

"Yes! Can you name the states of water?" asked Nonna.

"Solid, liquid, gas!" says Timothy triumphantly. He's on a roll.

"Bravissimo!" yells Nonna. "History, geography, religion, science ... you know it all! You don't need to study!"

And just like that ... poof! One little boy disappears, leaving behind scattered worksheets, a pencil with a broken point, and a Nonna sipping her cappuccino looking inordinately proud of herself.

Nonna and Timothy in a poppy field.
Naples, Italy 2010

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fisticuffs: a mano-a-mano brawl (sometimes about ice cream)

Let’s face it, boys don’t gush. If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you. If they do like something, they’ll tell you. But exaggerated enthusiasm or effusiveness? That’s just not their style.

Case in point, this past weekend I made homemade (read: made from scratch) ice cream and served it after Sunday’s lunch with i Nonni.  

“So, what do you think? Isn’t it good?” I inquired, shamelessly reaching for compliments.

Nonna jumped right in.

“Oh this is so good!” she gushed. “Really, it’s delicious. What ingredients did you use? Truly, one of the best homemade ice creams I have ever tasted. In fact, let me have a little more.”

Then I turned to the boys and repeated the question.

“It’s good.” they replied.

Note. There wasn’t even an exclamation mark.

So how do I know they really liked the ice cream? Later that evening one son announced he was going to have some ice cream, to which the other son responded there better be some left for him, to which Joe piped in from the family room that he didn’t care what the other two did just as long as there was a scoop left for him … just a scoop, but it better be a decent sized one.

The argument/discussion went back and forth, stopping just short of fisticuffs.

See? Fisticuffs. Over my homemade ice cream. That’s how I know.

They liked it! (Note the exclamation mark.)
The ice cream is mine, mine I tell you!