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

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Outsiders (book 2, week 2)

Timothy's book selection for week 1 summer reading was a huge success. Oh, the gross stuff we learned from How They Croaked: King Henry VIII's 300 pound body exploding in his coffin; George Washington's rotting teeth with abscesses and carbuncles in his mouth; and Edgar Allen Poe's fascination with death and misery after everyone he loved died of tuberculosis. We even read that Albert Einstein's eyeballs are in a bank safe deposit box somewhere in New Jersey. Who knew?!

In fact, the book was so engrossing (ha! a pun!) that Timothy finished it BEFORE the week was over, and last night I was reading in bed when I looked over and noticed that Joe was reading it, too.

For book 2, week 2 we are switching gears with The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I remember seeing a copy of the book when I was in middle school, but at that time a book about a gang of boys did not interest me at all. For that reason I didn't read it until I was in high school when the boy on the bus gave me a copy to read on the ride home. When I got to the chapter when Johnny died, I cried bawled right there on the bus. In front of everyone.

(BTW, you can read about the boy on the bus here.)

Anyway, this is a good book with some complex themes, and I'm going to enjoy sharing it with Timothy. I also have some plans ...

-To set the mood, I am going to first show Timothy the trailer for the movie. Very dramatic.
-We are going to do a line-by-line analysis of Robert Frost's poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay.
-I will give Timothy a list of characters with a brief description of each one.
-At the end of each chapter we will either have a chapter discussion, or he will write a one-paragraph summary.
-There will be a unit test on The Outsiders. Oh yes. Got it off the internet.
-When Timothy finishes the book we're going to have a family night and watch the movie.

And there you have it, The Outsiders. I just need to make sure and have a box of tissues handy. You know ...

Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Bathing Suit Post I Would Write (but won't)

I planned to write a post about my bathing suit shopping adventure. Really and truly.

I was going to post a photo of my Erin Condren planner where Tuesday, May 24 had been circled for some time. Where, written in purple and circled in red, were the words mall for bathing suit which I had put on the calendar because I knew I would need the entire day.

In my post I would have written about the hour (and ten minutes) I spent at Macy's. How I tried on every style (one piece, two piece, skirted, one shoulder, strapless) and was even willing to try any color (well, solids anyway). I would probably even have mentioned the irony of how, in the end, I bought a cute cover-up ... but no bathing suit.

Then I would have told you about the TWO hours I spent at Dillard's and how the sales associate and I were on a first name basis; how I totally ignored the "six garments at a time" sign at the entrance of the dressing room and instead carried in double that amount; how I probably lost five pounds just by trying on suit after suit; and how I had several piles going: no, definitely no, and what were they thinking?

Maybe I would have even shared my rants:

-Ruffles? Seriously? There is no place you can put a ruffle that wouldn't add unneeded bulk.
-If only they put this top, with those straps, and that bottom.
-"Minimizer" simply means that a body part is displaced to another area of your body.
-Do NOT look at the cover-ups. Do NOT.
-A gold (functioning!) zipper down the front of a bathing suit is just asking for trouble.

In the end I would have mentioned how I bought two suits -- a black one piece (no lectures) and a navy top (bottoms to be figured out later).

So, while I had planned to write a post about my bathing suit shopping adventure, I won't.

I'm still trying to recover.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Summer Reading for Boys: Poison, Scurvy, Murder, Oh My!

This summer Timothy has the lofty goal of reading a book a week.

Actually, I made that goal because, well, I'm the mom. End of discussion.

Now, some of you have kids that are readers and are probably thinking: That's it? One teeny, weeny book a week? Believe me, I understand. I used to be that kid who read a book every two days, so the fact that Timothy inherited some weird, errant gene in which he equates reading to torture is foreign to me. I mean, who doesn't like to read? (Secretly, I'm pretty sure Joe is responsible for that weird, errant gene, but since he is solely responsible for all the Math genes the boys have inherited, I don't complain too much.)

So, a book a week -- and National Geographic magazines, World Record books, Lego instruction manuals, and multi-page instruction books for a four-cylinder engine do not count.

Yesterday was Timothy's first official day of summer vacation, and I knew that Book 1 for week1 had to be a perfect book to get Timothy excited about reading; in other words, I couldn't start with Tolstoy, for example. (Besides, Tolstoy is scheduled for Week #2.)

JUST KIDDING about Tolstoy. Sheesh.

Now before you start thinking I'm a horrible mom, let me show you how cool I can be (with the help of my sister who gave me the suggestion). Here is Timothy's first book:

How they Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

Over the course of history, men and women have lived and died. Whether someone had a lung explode, was stabbed to death, or croaked from a really bad sore throat, getting sick and dying tended to be a big, ugly mess -- especially before modern medical care. These pages contain all the gory details of the awful ends of nineteen awfully famous people.

Last night he read of the untimely deaths of King Tut (malaria), Julius Caesar (murder), and Cleopatra (suicide). And who knew one can learn so much history just by studying how someone died! With King Tut, Timothy learned about pharaohs, the science of mummification, and Howard Carter; the chapter on Julius Caesar taught him about the Ides of March, "et tu Brute", and the betrayal of 60 Roman Senators; and with Cleopatra he read how her death was like an ancient re-telling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

And the book is funny. Before falling in love with Marc Anthony, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar had a son -- Little Caesar. Do you know how funny that is for a boy? Right now he's reading about Christopher Columbus and he just finished telling me how sailors pooped on ships and what they used for toilet paper.

Blood, murder, poop = Little Boy Heaven.

I am well aware that  Little Women it's not, but after finishing the first chapter of How they Croaked Timothy continued to the next one without any prompting from me which, let me tell you, is progress.

And last night I actually had to tell him to put the book down because it was time for bed.

Again, progress.

Next week: The Outsiders
"Stay gold, Ponyboy."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gelato Here, Gelato There, Gelato Everywhere

I was going through some of the bambino's old papers when I discovered this little paragraph he wrote a couple of years ago. It made me laugh. Out loud. You see, in listing all the reasons why he loves Italy, he left out the most important one ... GELATO.

Just before leaving on our last family trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, my parents promised to buy the boys a gelato whenever and wherever they wanted one ... no exceptions. If you wanted a gelato, Nonna and Nonno would buy it for you.

(In case you're wondering, Joe and I were NOT included. We had to buy our own.)

So, our boys basically gelato-ed their way through Italy.

Gondolas, race tracks, and pasta aside ...
it's the gelato!

"A better snack would be a gelato."
-Timothy, in Pompeii

"I really, really want a gelato."
-Timothy, in Pompeii

"Hey Nonno, about that gelato ..."
-Timothy, in Sorrento

(he's eating gelato)

"I'm ready for another gelato."
-Timothy, Villa Oplontis

"Nonna, can I have a gelato?"

gelato here, gelato there,
gelato everywhere!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Not Your Mother's Day Tea

What am I doing on this beautiful, sunny Mother's Day? Since next Sunday I am hosting a one year reunion picnic of our Girls' Trip to Italy ...

I'm making limoncello, of course.

Capri and the Amalfi Coast ... lemons everywhere!

lemon zest + pure grain alcohol + sugar = limoncello

Thinly sliced lemon peels ... no pith!

Yeah ... so, those lemon peels aren't soaking in water ;-)

What to do with the poor, naked lemons?

Make lemon sorbet, of course!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Twilight's Whisper

Yesterday, I had the best Mother’s Day.

It started in the morning when Nicholas and I had an appointment at the Evans Post Office to renew our passports -- I needed to renew mine because my old one expired this past January and I have never, ever, in all my life, been without a passport; Nicholas needed one going into his senior year because, with a passport in hand, he is primed and ready for adventure. When I handed the clerk Nicholas' birth certificate, signed documents and turned in his old passport, I felt like I was giving my son to the world. He is ready; I am not.

Then, later that afternoon Nicholas accompanied me to Milledgeville to pick up Jonathan.  Just the two of us in the car for ninety minutes. We listened to some of his cd’s (mostly classical soundtracks from video games), we talked about a study abroad, and then Nicholas, who is this close to a degree in Computer Engineering, brought up the topic of technology – its place in society and the danger of allowing it to take over the essence of who we are as humans. It was a deep, philosophical discussion, with moral overtones, and I enjoyed it immensely.

In Milledgeville we went to work.

As we climbed up and down stairs (again and again) carrying the contents of Jonathan’s dorm room, and later when the three of us had dinner together before driving back home, I was so thrilled to see how many people greeted Jonathan by name and who stopped to speak with us. What a contrast to the emotions we experienced last summer: the shock when Jonathan didn’t get into his college of choice, the betrayal when he was denied again during an appeal, and the feeling of dread this past fall when we dropped him off at a different college knowing that he didn't know a single person.
But yesterday, in the chaos of a dorm emptying for the summer, I saw my son's ready smile and was reassured to see how Jonathan had found his way. This past year he met new friends, played intramural basketball, walked to Church (mostly) every Sunday, and made the Dean’s List (both semesters).

On the drive home, the setting sun turned farm fields golden yellow, wooden fences cast rippling shadows, and the hilly, two lane road led us closer and closer to twilight. I was driving, Nicholas was napping, and Jonathan – squished in the back between mountains of stuff – was listening to music on his headphones.  It was very quiet. But it was a good quiet, the kind which cradles memories, nurtures introspection, and nestles in gratitude.

The kind of quiet which whispers, “Happy Mother’s Day."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Buon Appetito, compliments of the Pontifical Swiss Guard

The Commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, Christoph Graf, provided the recipe for our entrée in today's pranzo with i Nonni. His recipe, Veal Cutlets in Cream Sauce (The Vatican Cookbook, p 81), was a huge hit despite the fact I made a few changes -- I substituted the veal with thinly sliced chicken cutlets, and instead of the roasted vegetables I served it on a bed of wilted greens. The recipe is definitely a keeper.

Chicken Cutlets in a Wine & Cream Sauce
served on a bed of wilted greens

Italian Roasted Potatoes
with olive oil and herbs

Salad with Strawberries and Almonds
tossed with a light, Italian vinaigrette

choice of:
Vanilla Chocolate Chip, peanut butter chocolate swirl, strawberry, peanut butter cup


Lt. Col. Christoph Graf, vice commander of the Swiss Guard, reviews Swiss Guards in Dec. 2014.
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring