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

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Story of an Afternoon

With my Math Man out of town, guess who has to help with math homework?

Yeah, you guessed right.


After an hour being surrounded by variables, distributive properties, associative properties, and algebraic expressions, Timothy and I were like this ...


So I decided to cook fish for dinner. Brain food. We needed it. And after eating we were like this ...



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Truth or Dare: in which we (mostly) tell the truth and (mostly) perform all dares

When Timothy came home from school last Friday, he went looking for a snack and emerged from the pantry holding a fistful of green straws. GREEN STRAWS! He was so excited. Then he gathered paper, markers, and an entire roll of scotch tape and made giant dice.

Of course, now we had to come up with a game just so we could use the dice. So that night while we were watching the Olympics we rolled the dice to play Truth or Dare – an even number meant a dare, and an odd number meant a truth.  

We played during commercials, and because there were LOTS and LOTS of commercials, there were plenty of opportunities to play our own version of Truth or Dare in which we (mostly) told the truth and (mostly) performed all dares.  

The Truths

Me to Joe: What is the most annoying thing about me?
Joe: Your procrastination.
Huh. I KNEW he was going to say that.

But later he redeemed himself:

Me to Joe: Do you find me as attractive now as the day we first met?
Joe: Even more so!


Me to Timothy: Which girl do you like best in the seventh grade?
Timothy:  ------
He got all red, and he was all smiles, but absolutely, unequivocally, steadfastly refused to answer.
Darn. I was hoping to get the scoop.


Timothy to me: Who is your favorite son?
Me to Timothy: Because you’re right here, right now, right in this very second … you.


The Dares

While the dares I issued were all about stuffing 10 potato chips in your mouth or waltzing with me for one minute (I got my guys to dance!) Timothy and Joe were all about timed sprints up and down stairs, the number of pushups in under one minute, or races around the house.

I’m telling you, with commercials popping up every 8 ½ minutes we got a workout.

But here was the BEST dare of the night.

Timothy to Joe: I dare you to read the first page of this book out loud.

Then he reached blindly into our bookshelf and handed Joe a book. But not just any book. He handed Joe THE SONNETS, poems of love by William Shakespeare. So Joe began reading …

Joe to me: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day …

And during all 14 lines he was laughing, Timothy was groaning, and I was like …


Friday, August 19, 2016

The Blue Pillow

Men are basically uncomplicated creatures, but I still can’t figure them out. Honestly, I don’t have a clue.

Take their powers of observation, for example. My guys don’t notice when I rearrange furniture, place a new quilt on their bed, or fix an elaborate meal. When I ask if they like my haircut they are puzzled: “You got a haircut?”

Really, not the most observant creatures.

But then something like The Blue Pillow happens which just confirms their alien-ness.

So yesterday, up to my elbows in a deep house cleaning, I decided to place this blue pillow on our reading chair in the family room. I thought a little pop of color would be nice.

And one by one, that blue pillow stopped my guys in their tracks.

 “What’s up with the blue pillow?”

“Where did you get that blue pillow?”

“Why is there a blue pillow on the chair?”

Well. It’s as if the tectonic plates in the earth’s crust shifted, or the stars aligned in some fantastical way, or the events in Area 51 really happened because that blue pillow crash landed in their consciousness.

Folks. I literally walked that blue pillow 20 feet from the rec room to our family room. That blue pillow has been around since the older boys were in grade school. That blue pillow has been used for pillow fights and indoor forts.

And they act as if they've never seen that blue pillow before.

Like I said, mind-boggling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Maria's Bruschetta

Bruschetta ... so many variations, so many wonderful combinations!

Today I used toasted flatbread, tomatoes, endive lettuce, fresh mozzarella, sea salt, pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar from Modena.

Letting go never easy on the parents

Since so many of you are experiencing the college drop-off day for the first time,
here is an article from last year.

Letting go never easy on the parents
by: Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist

*published in today's Columbia County News-Times (Wednesday, August 12, 2015)

           Two years ago my husband and I experienced our first college move-in day when our eldest son began his freshman year at Clemson University.

            The date was circled on our calendar for months, and as we added to the ever-growing college stockpile in our dining room, in truth we never thought past that date. Everything we did was leading up to it – purchasing the bed lines, dorm supplies, and textbooks – but we couldn’t envision anything beyond. Sure, we talked about him going away to college in the fall, but all the preparation seemed more like we were planning a trip.

            The night before the official move-in day, we sat down for a special farewell dinner – the last home cooked meal for our son before he had to live off the university meal plan. We watched home videos, laughed, gave advice; we knew he would be leaving tomorrow, but we couldn’t imagine that our family of five would soon be a family of four. I mean, how could we? It was all we had ever known.

            Driving to Clemson that morning we were quiet, and with each passing mile I realized we were driving away from everything we knew and heading into unchartered territory. Our son may have been a freshman, but in many ways my husband and I were, too. When we arrived we were caught up in a whirlwind of orange: the giant paw prints announcing that This Was Tiger Country, the banners, signs and flags welcoming us to campus, and the eight upperclassmen wearing t-shirts the color of construction cones descending on our van to help us carry everything to our son’s room.

            For the next several hours as we helped him unpack, clean, and make his bed, as we met other parents and visited the dining hall, and as we poked around the dorm it was almost fun. Exciting, even.  But there came the moment – somehow we all sensed it at the same time – that the circled date on our calendar was NOW. As we walked out of his room I placed a package on his bed for him to open later – a box filled with notes from his brothers, funny drawings, reminders from Dad, and a stack of blog posts I had written on our family that I printed out and stapled together. Inside was also a bag of dum-dum lollipops because there was something funny about giving a college student something that was dumb.

            When our son walked us to the parking lot there was a moment of awkward silence. How do you take 18 years and reduce them to a single goodbye hug? I looked up at my son and reality crashed down in the form of tears and a lump in my throat that prevented me from saying goodbye, or I love you. I couldn't even say the words.

            And I’ll never, ever forget driving away and feeling as if I left a part of me behind.

            Today, I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. But with the gift of hindsight I can also see how the pain of letting go is much like ripping off a band aid – there is a moment of searing pain, but it passes and then there is room for healing and growth and newness.  These two years we have watched our son turn into a mature engineering student who has already completed two engineering internships and who is headed for a career he truly loves. So I can see how letting go was not only necessary, but good. And yet . . .

            And yet this year we have another date circled on our calendar as next week our middle son starts college. Again, there is a dorm stockpile in the dining room with piles of towels, books, and cleaning supplies stacked between a dorm refrigerator, a nightstand, and a giant, foam mattress pad. The more we add to the piles, the closer the date looms.  

            Will it be easier this time around?

            We may have been through this once before, but no, letting go is never easy. Our family of five down to four and then three; one son at college here, the other son over there, and our home somewhere in the middle. The good news is we still have our third son who, since he is only in the sixth grade, will be with us a while longer.

            Thankfully we don’t have to let him go just yet.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Waving Goodbye from the Driveway

This past Friday our college sophomore, who for the first time will have a car on campus, hugged and kissed us goodbye before driving to GCSU.

Just a few minutes ago, our Clemson senior drove off with us waving from the driveway until he made a right turn at the end of our street and … then we couldn’t see them anymore.

This is the first time we haven’t accompanied either of the boys back to school in the fall.

In the past, there were move-in days for the dorm, then to a campus duplex, and last year to a brand new apartment. With each move-in day the guys got a major workout carrying load after load up and down stairs while I worked up a sweat Cloroxing the heck out of all surfaces, Swiffering every molecule of dust, making the bed, and stocking the fridge and pantry.  

But this year Nicholas is returning to an apartment he sublet for the summer and, other than some personal belongings, he didn’t have a lot to pack. So I made his last favorite meal (spaghetti with clam sauce), packed him some freshly baked brownies to go, and watched him drive off.

Last year was Jonathan’s first move-in day which, due to a weird scheduling conflict, meant that we had two move-in days on two consecutive days on two separate college campuses. This year, however, Jonathan is moving to an apartment; we helped him move in last weekend, but he came back home with us to work one more week before classes started. When he finally left for good this past Friday, he drove off by himself.

As parents, this has been yet another transition of letting go. And it’s a different feeling -- driving away after a college drop-off versus waving goodbye and watching them drive off.

Neither one is easy.

Is it ever?
Before they left, I gave  Nicholas and Jonathan a St. Christopher coin. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

What to Pack: A Capsule Jewelry Wardrobe (an article for Get Your Pretty On)

A few weeks ago Get Your Pretty On contacted me about writing an article on the idea of a capsule jewelry wardrobe. You can read the article below, or go here to see it on the GYPO site.

In Italy there is a saying, e` dolce far niente, which translated loosely means how sweet it is to do nothing. The saying has absolutely nothing to do with idleness; rather, it’s about pausing to live life to the fullest and appreciating the moment you are in, without conscious thought of yesterday or tomorrow.

It’s also about simplicity, an ongoing theme in my life. Whether it’s cooking a meal for my family which includes simple, yet wholesome ingredients, purging my closet of too much or packing only a carry-on for a recent trip to Italy, it’s all about simplifying and not allowing stuff to get in the way.
Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

This is why I love the ongoing trend of the capsule wardrobe as it celebrates the concept that less is more. I plan a capsule wardrobe when transitioning to a new season, and I pack a capsule wardrobe in my ongoing goal to only use a carry-on when traveling. But just when I thought I had this capsule wardrobe thing down, it took a trip to Italy last year to help me realize I needed to apply the same concept of the capsule wardrobe to my jewelry.

You see, the night before we left for our 10-day trip to southern Italy, I realized I had packed a ridiculous amount of jewelry. Because I knew I would be mixing and matching outfits, I was bringing different pieces of jewelry for each separate outfit. That was a LOT of jewelry which was not only bulky, but also heavy. So it got me thinking: Why pack a fancy jewelry organizer with too much when a small pouch of just enough would do?

In other words, if I could mix and match my outfits, why couldn’t I do the same with my jewelry?

I could, and I did. Now, for every trip I take I use my 2x2x2 formula when packing. Starting with a watch (my jewelry of choice) and after considering the type of trip (sight-seeing in NYC or hiking at Lake Tahoe) I pack the following:

Two watches, two bracelets, two rings.

The 2x2x2 formula: two watches, two bracelets, two rings

I know you’re thinking, “Whaaaat? That’s it?” But consider this: just like a capsule wardrobe, capsule jewelry can give you plenty of options. For example, one day you can wear only the watch, the next you can wear the watch with the bracelet, or that evening you can wear all three together.

You can also bring two watches that coordinate with each other such as an all gold one and one with a brown strap. This way, their coordinating rings and bracelets can be mixed and matched; in other words, you can use the bracelet and ring (or both) which you brought for Watch #1 and pair them with Watch #2.

Now are you starting to see the possibilities?

It’s very liberating to travel with just what you need, whether it’s with clothing or jewelry.


Of course, the 2x2x2 formula can be customized to your personal style. For example, I choose not to include a necklace since I prefer to wear scarves, and I don’t bring earrings because I don’t like to wear earrings and sunglasses together, but you could choose to incorporate both in your formula.
But wait, here’s the absolute (hand’s down) best thing about using the formula: you can always supplement by purchasing jewelry as a souvenir! Oh, yes. And since you didn’t bring too much jewelry to begin with, you won’t feel guilty for buying that artisan cameo ring you found at a Naples market, or the watch from the island of Capri, or the leather wrap bracelet engraved with the “Our Father” in Italian which you found in Rome.
Two of my favorite jewelry souvenirs: my watch from Capri,
and from Rome my leather wrap bracelet engraved with the Our Father in Italian.

Ultimately, in the hurricane of our busy lives, e` dolce far niente is about finding the eye of the storm and letting the world go on without us. It’s about lingering over a morning cappuccino, driving in the country and going wherever the road leads, and yes, even wearing a black maxi and accessorizing with a simple, elegant watch.

La dolce vita – the sweet life, the SIMPLE life is ours for the taking. You have to be willing to let go, but in the end you will discover that you have more than you’ll ever need.

Maria Novajosky is a wife to an engineering husband, a mother to three sons, a freelance writer, and a lover of all things Italian. Her life is a blend of frothy cappuccinos, Italian Renaissance art, light sabers, Sunday dinners with i Nonni, and every Christmas 700 homemade tortellini. The summer of 2014 she stood in front of a Caravaggio painting and decided to sponsor and organize a Girls’ Trip to Italy, and exactly one year later 23 women traveled with her to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. You can visit her blog here.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Share You, Share Your Design

Today I was invited to participate in a "share you, share your design" extravaganza, complete with Diet Cokes and tons of decorating ideas. Here is our family's favorite spot where everything fun happens: slumber parties, Lego contests, Nerf gun wars, parties for all occasions, and huge family dinners.

Favorite Spot
Once upon a time a husband and wife decided to convert their two-car garage into a rec/entertaining room. The garage door was replaced by french doors; the industrial gray walls were painted a sunny yellow; the concrete floor was carpeted; and built in benches were added around one wall. They purchased a beautiful farm table, and the wife proceeded to decorate the room in an eclectic style, inspired by all things Italian Country.

Favorite Object

One day the wife was browsing through an antique store and came across this beautiful hutch. She fell in love with it, but decided not to get it since the garage renovation was still going on. One month later, and two days after our new room was complete, the antique store called the wife and said that the vendor was leaving the area and was selling everything at half price. Half Price! The wife paid next to nothing for this beautiful hutch...which was just fine with the husband. The sign over the hutch is also a favorite. It is the actual wooden sign that used to hang outside the grocery store of the husband's great-grandfather in Pennsylvania.

Favorite Idea

On one wall the wife decided to have a vacation wall, highlighting photos of family vacations. Right now, photos of their two week vacation in Tuscany is still being highlighted.

But all decorating aside...
The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Salute! Cheers!

The Homework Basket

We've had this basket for 17 years, and at the start of every school year it is restocked.

Having homework supplies at our fingertips means no time is wasted looking for pencil sharpener, ruler, or index cards.



Monday, August 8, 2016

In Timothy's Words: Summer Reading Review

Tomorrow school starts. 

Here's how I feel about that: Don't mention the word school, or I'll start bawling.

This summer I went to the gym, did that stupid math book, took three vacations, and read lots of books. Here is my summer book review with my personal thoughts on each book. They are ranked from 1-5 stars, with 5 stars being the highest.

1. How They Croaked (3 stars): This book was an interesting way to kick-off my summer because I learned about historical figures and how they died. Sometimes it was disgusting, but funny at the same time. I was very impressed with it.

2. The Outsiders (5 stars): This was my all-time favorite book I read this summer. I loved the way the author told the story about these teens, and even though its sad in some places, the words "Stay Gold, Ponyboy" means that there is always friendship and hope. I also watched the movie.

3. House of Wings (1 star): I didn't like this book. Period. It was terrible in every single way.

4. Maps/Guidebooks on Lake Tahoe: I'm not going to review this but it was fun reading them to my mom as we were driving around Lake Tahoe on a small, mountain road when I had to keep reminding her to stay as far to the left as possible so we wouldn't roll down the mountain.

5. Tangerine (4 stars): This book I had to read for my school book report. It almost seemed like a science fiction book because of all the strange things happening: the muck fires, Paul's flashback memories, the termite invasion, the sink hole, and the lightening storms that killed people.

6. The Westing Game (3 stars): This book was my aunt's favorite children's book when she was my age. Although I liked it, I can't see why it is her favorite book.

7. Downriver: (3 stars): Teens in trouble. Helicopters in pursuit. This book was action packed, but even so I couldn't get into it.

8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: I am not going to review this because I am still reading it, but I can tell you it is like no other Harry Potter book. Since it's a play, we are reading it together and acting out the voices.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

La Dolce Vita Travels: From Caravaggio to Reality

The summer of 2014 I stood in front of a Caravaggio painting and decided to organize and sponsor a Girls' Trip to Italy.

A few days later, on August 7, I posted an announcement on Facebook to gauge interest in the trip.

In the summer of 2015, exactly one year later, 23 women accompanied my sister and me to Rome and the Amalfi Coast.




Want to explore the Villa Borghese in Rome? Sip a limoncello in Sorrento?
Explore the ruins of Pompeii?  Sail to the Island of Capri?

My sister and I are sponsoring a GIRLS' TRIP TO ITALY ... 10-12 days in early June 2015.

I know this is early, but just wanted to see where the interest level is.
Message me for more info!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pretending to Know What I'm Doing When I Don't

So. We are in the market for a used car. A VERY used car.

After three deals fell through this summer -- note: No more verbal agreements! Get it in writing! -- and with our son leaving for college next week, the car search has been upgraded to THE CAR SEARCH.

In other words, imperative.

So we've been looking, calling, taking notes, and setting up appointments.

The problem is this: since Joe and the boys are working, GUESS WHO has been the official scout, going out to see, take notes, ask questions, and take photos of the cars?

Yes, that would be me. And Timothy, by default.

Monday night Joe and I had found a couple of possibilities at a used car lot on Flowing Wells Road, and I was commissioned to go see the cars, take photos, and possibly take them for a test drive.

Okay. Soooo out of my comfort zone.

But I rose to the challenge. When I arrived to the car lot yesterday morning I was all business. I asked questions about the timing belt, the tires, the brakes, the car's maintenance record, and the mileage. I knew the make, model, and year of the cars I wanted to see. Timothy looked underneath for signs of leaking fluids and I took photos, inside and out.

And then, with Timothy as my copilot I took TWO  of them for a test drive, all the while making a running commentary to Joe who was on the speaker phone.

"Nice body, but the inside is gross. I mean, I'm afraid to touch anything." #HandSanitizer

"This one has issues on the outside, but the inside is nice and clean." "IPreferANiceInside

"It's peppy; accelerates nicely and the brakes work REALLY well." #BrakesAreAGoodThing

"It's such an ugly color." #ColorIsImportant

"I just went over a bump and something rattled in the trunk. Do you think it's a dead body?" #DontLookInTheTrunk

Timothy was having fun, and by the second test drive I was, too. It's empowering pretending to know what you're doing when you don't have a clue; in fact, I was so good at pretending that I even convinced myself.

I left the lot with one very good possibility to put on our list; however, the search continues tonight when Joe has an appointment to go look at a couple of cars. But get this: he wants me to go along so I can compare them with those I've already seen.

He wants advice from me.

CAR advice.

Am I good, or what?