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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Life Lately: Who's Doing What, and Where

Joe has been doing a lot of traveling lately which means Delta SkyMiles and Marriott points. Here's me hinting at what I'd like to do with all those SkyMiles.

All who wander are not lost.

I haven't written lately about Nicholas, mainly because I've been waiting to write an ENTIRE post dedicated to our eldest son who is making his way in the world. But since many of you have asked I'll give a quick update: He is thriving in his new job as a computer engineer. Right now he works a lot of overtime, but he likes his coworkers so it's all good. He plays tennis Friday night and goes out with friends on Saturday night. He attends church on Sunday. He takes care of his apartment and is learning to cook. He still paints, and he plays the guitar and piano. He calls every Sunday night and we talk forever. We miss him. We are proud of him.

Nicholas, signing the lease for his apartment this past summer.

Jonathan starts an internship this January. At first Joe and I were hesitant. He will be taking a full course load at school, working a minimum of 20 hours at an accounting firm, and commuting to Macon on the days he works. But he came home last weekend, presented us with his game plan, and reminded us (yet again) that once he sets goals, he gets things done.

Jonathan and Nicholas, two pieces of my heart

Timothy's life can be summed up in two words: basketball tryouts. This summer he purchased brand new basketball shoes which have been in a box just waiting for basketball season to begin. This weekend he wore them for the first time to break them in, and last night those shoes ran up and down the gym for Night #1 of tryouts. Oh, the drama. The worries. The angst. Stay tuned ...

And he's another piece of my heart, in basketball action from last year.

Maria has been maneuvering her way through the publishing world. It's a dark, dark lonely place.  I've had good news, no news, conflicting news, and be patient news. It's about the birth of dreams, the sting of rejection and, yes, glimmers of hope. All on repeat. As with Timothy ... stay tuned.

dining room = office

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Answer Me This

Do you know that line If you build it, they will come from the movie, Field of Dreams?

Well, do you suppose ...

If I cook it (chicken & dumplings), and wear it (a sweater) , and build it (a fire) ... will fall get here already?

I just want to wear a sweater, and a scarf, and a coat. Please.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What are boys made of?

Pipes and tubes and ducts,
fittings, connectors, and struts ...
that's what boys are made of. 
~from the files of very bad poetry by bia

I know what makes my son happy.

It doesn't take much. Just give him a few blissful, uninterrupted minutes in the PVC PIPE & FITTINGS aisle at either Home Depot or Lowe's.

I kid you not.

Connectors, fittings, end caps, pipe elbows, lever tube benders, flexible foil ducts and -- wonder of wonders -- copper pipes!

And who knew a 4-port manifold can be flute?

He walks up and down the aisle thinking, planning, dreaming. When he gets home he makes plans, draws designs, and starts a project. He pulls out his prized possession -- a box of his older brother's leftover engineering supplies from Clemson University containing switches and wires and circuit boards. He gathers foam board, ruler, protractor, computer fan, and a box cutter. He gets to work.

And I'm beginning to get ideas, too. This weekend I'm challenging him to convert my bird bath into an outdoor water fountain. Stay tuned ...

Timothy wants to build a Bob-the-Builder.

Airplane designs (printed from the internet), foam board, ruler, and a box cutter.
And he gets to work. 

 Three generations ... two engineers and one engineer-in-training.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

One Good Deed a Day: A Helping Hand

Last night my son and I were walking out of Lowe's Home Improvement Store when I noticed an elderly woman in the parking lot struggling to get out of her electric scooter. She tried to stand, managed to get halfway up, but then sat back down. She looked around helplessly.

I approached her and asked if I could help.

"Yes, thank you," she said. "I need you to hold my hand. Just hold it firmly."

And so I did. I grasped her hand, gently pulled her to her feet, and then held her hand a few seconds longer so she could get her balance. She thanked me, we chatted a few minutes, and that was that.

Later, I thought how the act of extending "a helping hand" is the simplest, most basic way to reach out to someone; that, at its heart, it's taking an opportunity God gives us to give of ourselves. Sometimes extending a hand isn't easy, and often it can take us out of our comfort zone, but mostly it opens the door for God's grace to flow so we can experience compassion and love at its basic level. It's wholly uncomplicated -- it's a teenager holding the door open for a mother pushing a stroller, a neighbor mowing the lawn for someone in the hospital, the librarian going the extra mile to help a student with a research project, or a stranger helping to pick up a bag of spilled apples in the store.

Sometimes it can be a college student who helps a nun.

The first time Sr. Gaudiosa stayed with us she told us how, on her very first flight from Tanzania, she had to change planes in Germany where she was forced to take an escalator to get to her gate. This was the first escalator she had ever seen and it terrified her. She stood to the side, studying it. She watched how people got on. She approached it, lost her nerve, and backed away again. She didn't know what to do.

Then she heard, "Sister? Do you need help?"

It was a German student, male, in his mid-twenties. When she pointed to the escalator he immediately understood. He picked up her bag and took her by the arm.

"Not to worry, Sister. I will help you." And he did. He helped her step on, he held her hand all the way down the escalator, he told her when to step off, and then he escorted her to her gate.

Lending a helping hand. It seems like such a little thing, a minor thing. Insignificant. But last night I was asked to extend my hand ... literally. And it reminded me yet again of the wonderful interconnectedness of humanity.

I held a stranger's hand and it was a beautiful thing.

Timothy, lending Sr. Gaudiosa a helping hand
at the Augusta Museum of History.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Story Stones ... What's Your Story?

I am all over a good story, which is why I love the idea of the Story Stones over at my sister's Etsy Store, Alleluia Rocks. Below are some examples, but she also does custom orders.

In fact, I think I am going to place a custom order for Dinner Party Story Stones: a bag of rocks, each with a different design, and as we're sitting around the table guests take turns pulling a stone from the bag and telling an on-the-spot-story, totally made up and creative. After a couple glasses of wine I'm sure there will be some good stories!

~2~ Nursery Rhymes

Hickory Dickory Dock

Itsy Bitsy Spider

~4~ Alleluia Rocks ... check them out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Little Things

watching the shocking finale of Sherlock (season 2) 
gobsmacked  with jono ...

talking with nicho, texting with nicho
missing our firstborn ...

little boys with bedhead
and big hugs from skinny arms ...

laughing at corny jokes
fake pasta? An im-pasta ...

morning prayers in the car
a peek into a boy's world ...

railroad tracks going somewhere
wondering what's 'round the bend ...

looking outside from within
rainy days ...

duplicating recipes
veggie pizza with balsamic vinegar ...

fall capsule wardrobe
and simple outfits ...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Life Lately: An early birthday, a snake, a talky walk, nuns with selfie sticks


Jono came home on Friday to celebrate his birthday. He will turn 21 on the 21st of this month, but since his fall break was this weekend we are celebrating now. Besides, he has plans on his actual birthday, none of which include his mom and dad. Huh. Go figure.

With Jono and Timo, but missing Nicho.


Saturday morning we hiked a three-mile loop on a mountain bike trail located just off the Canal. It's a woodsy trail that meanders up, down and around, occasionally offering peeks of the Savannah River. As always, we walked in the following order: Joe, Timothy, Jonathan, me. Joe was the point man whose job it was to knock down spider webs that popped up overnight, and I brought up the rear because a/ my legs are shorter, and b/ Hello? Spiders. I also like to stop and look at things. At one point, though, I was a little behind and yelled out, "Huh. I like how you guys periodically look back to see if I'm still here." There was no answer, but I KNEW they were thinking, We know you're still back there because you keep talking!

It's true. But I had a lot to say. The fallen tree that formed an arch we had to walk under looked exactly like something from The Hobbit, the wild mushrooms were so fantastically, weirdly exotic I just had give them names, and I liked imagining (out loud) who walked in these exact woods 200 years ago. Truly, I don't know how you can walk in the woods and NOT talk.

A very talky walk


Sunday morning we had French Croissants for breakfast, compliments of our Masters guests who gifted us a huge box of them. Basically, you take them out of the freezer, bake them for 15 minutes, brew some coffee, set a pretty table, and then ... VOILA! It is a breakfast worthy of any French café.

Not a French café, but an Italian one.
Girls' Trip to Italy 2015, Positano (the Amalfi Coast)

Fortified with all that buttery, sugary goodness, we went to play tennis. We played a single elimination tournament and GUESS WHO was the first one eliminated? Whatever. Then we had this encounter ...


Finally, I leave you with this: Nuns with selfie sticks and iPads. The first photo was sent to me (really, how adorable are they?) and the next two photos were taken during our Italy trip two years ago.

Friday, October 6, 2017

I know three women

I know three women.

One is Caucasian, one is African American, and one is Asian. They are in the seventies and every morning they meet at a local park to walk. They walk slowly, sometimes linking arms, and they dress warmly (I wear a tank top whereas they wear windbreakers, hats, and gloves). Sometimes, they stop walking and I can tell by their hand gestures they are having an animated discussion. They laugh a lot.

In the time it takes them to walk two laps, I do nine, but we finish at the same time. When  I drive away they are still standing in the parking lot, talking.

I love those three women -- those three sensible, friendly women, who come from different backgrounds and ethnicities, who aren't famous or glamorous or even noteworthy, but who are the salt of the earth. I know they are like women everywhere, women who live ordinary lives but who are smart and witty and simple. Women who ignore stupid politicians, or shake their heads at stupid teenagers, or call out someone when they are wrong not because they think they are better, but because right and wrong is clearly defined in their hearts.

I know three women, and I am better for it.

vintage photograph, by Nino Migliori

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Awe and Wonder (on the Feast Day of St. Francis)

I've written several posts about St. Francis, including the one in which Jonathan left his footprint on holy ground. You can read about it here ... (Do Saints Wear Sneakers?)

A few years ago I even gave a presentation to a Women's Bible Study about St. Francis and La Verna, a Franciscan monastery in the heart of Tuscany where St. Francis received the stigmata.

And it is there, at La Verna, where you can see St. Francis' robe.

Our family's visit to that mountaintop retreat was memorable for several reasons: the monastery was nestled in the woods on top of a mountain, so the views were spectacular; it was a chilly day for June, but the air was so crisp and fresh and, honestly, it was nice to escape the heat of the city; Jonathan, who was holding his precious, brand new soccer ball, dropped it and had to watch it bounce all the way down the mountain; and the frescoes in the Corridor of the Stigmata were breathtaking.

But truly, the most standout memory for all of us was seeing St. Francis' robe. There were no words, just feelings of awe and wonder.

The robe of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Sanctuary of La Verna

The Basilica Major
The Sanctuary of La Verna

Corridor of the Stigmata

The mountaintop
The Sanctuary of La Verna, a Franciscan Monastery

Exploring La Verna.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Movie in My Head

"There's an old legend that originated on Tweet Street, just past Hollywood Boulevard. The story says that if you meet the gal of your dreams on Tweet, you'll be married birds for the rest of your lives."

The above sounds like a line from a movie, but the only movie it comes from is the one IN MY HEAD. I woke up early this morning with that entire conversation running through my mind. I'm telling you, I dream in high definition. Cheesy, but high def.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Menu Planning: Sometimes Detailed, Sometimes Not

I usually try to plan a week's worth of meals Sunday evening or Monday morning.

Sometimes my lists are detailed, assigning a specific meal to a specific night; other times I need more flexibility, so I will just scribble meal ideas on a legal pad which I then reference during the week. What I always do is pull out the recipes I intend to use from my kitchen binder and set them aside (so I'm not looking for recipes), then I make a grocery list and stock the pantry and refrigerator for the upcoming week.

It's not a perfect system, and sure there are weeks when I don't plan and I'm running around, and yes I've resorted to Little Caesar's pizza when I just don't feel like cooking, and sometimes we will even have a bowl of cereal for dinner, but the point is I like going into the week with some plan (vague or otherwise) so that I'm not scrambling.

This week I'm going with a list of meals. With two tennis matches I need flexibility to switch things around if I need to. Also, Jonathan arrives Friday for a four day weekend which not only means bigger meals, but also more nourishing ones to offset a college diet. Plus we're celebrating his 21st birthday, so there's that, too.

So here's our list of meals for the week. When I am trying to decide what to fix for dinner, I will pick from this list because I will have shopped for it and will have everything I need. I also know that we will eat out Saturday night and have lunch at Nonna and Nonno's house on Sunday.

Meal #1

pollo al forno con rosmarino (baked chicken with rosemary)
pure` di patate (mashed potatoes)

Meal #2

homemade pizza
raw vegetable platter
root beer floats

Meal #3

pasta alla Bolognese

Meal #4

cornbread muffins

Meal #5
Greek marinated grilled chicken
grilled Naan bread with spices
roasted/grilled vegetables

Meal #6 (football fare)
honey garlic crockpot meatballs
tortillas w. salsa grilled
Panini squares
gourmet popcorn

Bonus: One Breakfast Idea
cinnamon apple French toast

Bonus: One Dessert Idea
Nonna's apple cake

grocery shopping in Verona, Italy
June 2015

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tales of an Altar Server

Behind the scenes of an altar server make for some great stories. And even the not so behind scenes, the ones front and center of front of the entire parish, such as trying to light the altar candles when they keep going out, or almost lighting your sleeve on fire, or ringing the bells during Mass at the wrong time.

Believe it or not, there is a lot of drama going on behind the altar before Mass starts -- the hustle and bustle of getting changed in a small area, the dispensing of job assignments, the rush to find a replacement for a server who didn't show up, and the running around with last minute requests (a glass of water, forgotten notes, a tissue).

Altar Server Stories. That's what we call them around here ...

Holy Smoke!

Recently my son had to serve at a funeral, something he has done on several occasions. This time, however, he was the lead and for the first time had to prepare the thurible with incense. He wasn't sure of amounts, so to be safe he put in a little extra of everything.

Holy smoke! That wasn't smoke gently wafting toward the heavens; it was a veritable thundercloud hovering overhead. Afterwards the priest said, "A little heavy there on the incense."

No kidding.

Teetering Candles

The problem: a brand new processional candle didn't fit snugly into the candle holder, thus causing it to wobble (not a good thing when it's lit and you're processing into the church). So an intense discussion ensued on how to stop the candle from wobbling.

Picture, if you will, three boys huddled around a candle and a candle holder, with a box of matches, melting the bottom of the candle with the hopes that once inserted into the candle holder it will stick.

They light matches. They drip wax. Then Timothy, determined to make that darn thing stick in place, exerted a little too much pressure and the brand new candle snapped right in half. Now picture, if you will, three boys looking at each other in horror.

Then it was confession time. Timothy went to the priest, told him what happened, and the priest laughed and said, "Don't think anything about it. Here's another brand new candle. Have at it."

Fire Safety

There is a certain finesse to carrying a candle without burning your bangs, or lighting a candle without catching your sleeve on fire. Candles, matches, fire. An altar server knows fire safety. Why, just look at my son lighting a match right next to that box of tissues. Safety first.

Eyes Wide Open

"Nonnno says he can sleep with his eyes wide open," announces Nicholas.

I think Nonno is pulling your leg," I reply.

"Actually, I can do that," says Jonathan. "Sometimes, when I am altar serving, it's like I regain consciousness and the homily is halfway over. That's why I like to alter serve ... it helps the time go by quickly."

Your Turn

Do you have any Altar Server Stories? Do tell ...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Writing, Fall, Waiting

The past few months I faced a looming deadline which was all sorts of scary, but wonderful, too. Yesterday I met the deadline and closed my laptop. And so now I wait ... and decorate for fall.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Presentation on Michelangelo's Pieta`

During an information session before our Girls' Trip to Italy two years ago, I gave a small presentation on Michelangelo's Pieta`. Since today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I thought I'd share part of my presentation with you.

Michelangelo's Pieta`
(an excerpt of a presentation by Maria Novajosky)

Things to note when pondering Michelangelo's Pieta`...

1. Mary’s body is larger than Christ’s because Michelangelo wanted her to be able to cradle the body of her crucified son. To achieve this, Michelangelo gave Mary a large lap by sculpting her garments as a sea of cascading fabric.

2. In cradling her son, notice that Mary’s right hand does not come into direct contact with his flesh. This symbolizes the sacredness of Christ’s body.

3. Unlike most artists of the time, Michelangelo focuses on the triumph of Christ’s atonement rather than the sorrow of his death. For this reason, he made Christ’s wounds small, allowing us to focus on the faces of Mary and Jesus instead of his suffering; in fact, it’s almost as if Jesus is in a deep slumber rather than dead.

4. Mary seems very young … too young to be the mother of a grown man. At the time, Michelangelo defended this by saying that because she was born without sin, her youth reflects her sinless state; furthermore, in choosing to sculpt a young Mary, Michelangelo was highlighting her son’s triumph over age and death.

5. Note that Mary is sorrowful, but not grieving. This suggests that Mary, who represents us all, reminds us that we do not have to mourn for Christ; that he is risen and we can grow young again through his sacrifice on the cross. Although a sorrowful scene, it is one full of hope.

6. You will also notice Mary’s sash that stretches diagonally across her chest. When Michelangelo finished the Pietà, it was an immediate success. People flocked from near and far to come see it. One day Michelangelo was standing in the crowd when he heard some pilgrims attributing his work to a lesser known sculptor. Michelangelo was so incensed that he returned that night and chiseled into Mary’s sash the words "Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence made this" and to this day it remains Michelangelo’s only signed work.

7. Finally, the movement of the entire sculpture cascades downward, much like a waterfall: Mary’s garments, the weight of Christ’s limbs, even Mary’s face as it gazes down at her lifeless son. But Mary’s left hand, open and turned upward, counterbalances the rest of the sculpture by symbolizing the resurrection of Christ, the continuum of hope, and maybe even the act of letting go – Mary offering her son to mankind.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life Lately (what I can't do and can't say; lunch in a hurricane; working out with words; rocking the ordinary)

1- I can't hum

This past weekend, while we watched The Weather Channel nonstop as we waited for Hurricane Irma, we all played Cranium. If you don't know, Cranium is a multi-activity game in which teams race around the board completing different activities -- some of which include sculpting with clay, acting, solving puzzles, and humming. Yes, humming, in which your team has to guess the title of the song you are trying to hum.

Ummmm ... I can't hum.

That is, I can hum gibberish, but give me something like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and it sounds like something from Aerosmith.

Of course, it doesn't help that I am laughing maniacally.

2- I also can't NOT say anything

Does that even make sense? In Cranium, charades is another activity and everyone knows that when you play charades you are NOT ALLOWED to talk. Geeze Louise. I try to keep my mouth shut, but then I hum or make sound effects. And then I laugh and since my mouth is open -- I can't help it!! -- a word pops out. Not THE word I'm trying to act out, but something helpful.

3- Timothy knows how to set the mood

Last night Timothy ran around gathering candles and matches. Then he placed the candles on our coffee table, arranging them just so. He turned off all the lights.

All this to watch British Top Gear. (If you don't know, that's a car show.)

4- What I'm listening to

Okay. Unlike most normal people who like to listen to music while they work out, I listen to audiobooks. It's what works for me. I cannot tell you how many times I've extended my workout just to hear what happens next. Or sometimes, I purposely stop at a cliffhanger so that the next day I am DYING to work out just so I can hear the rest of the story.

Currently I am listening to Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I read the book last year, LOVED IT, and as an audiobook I'm loving it all over again. The British accents, the singing, and the acting keep me riveted.

And working out.

(On a side note, there are a couple of sad scenes which had me in tears. So then I'm working out and CRYING and everyone thinks I'm certifiably nuts. Whatever.)

5- Alleluia Rocks

My sister has an Etsy Shop called Alleluia Rocks where she sells hand painted rocks. She's very talented. So many ideas on how to use rocks: Papers blowing in the wind? Use as a paperweight. Planters a little blah? Nestle rocks in the soil. Is someone having a bad day? Send an inspirational rock. Decorating for Christmas? I love the brown Nativity rocks. Recently I ordered the "Give Thanks" rocks which I will use as place settings on my Thanksgiving table.

6- The Italians

This past Monday, the very day in which our area was hit with pounding rain and ferocious winds (the effects of Hurricane Irma), my mother planned a small luncheon. Here were the people invited: Massimilla, Maria, Stella, and Italia (really and truly her name). How's that for a roundtable of Italian names? Anyway, no guys were included. Nonno was going to stay hidden in his workshop; Joe and the boys were going to have sandwiches.

Except ... in the middle of cooking my parents' house lost power. So my mom cancelled the lunch, brought everything over here to finish cooking, and then we all had a nice lunch together. Gals AND Guys.

7- What I'm doing today

Cleaning, cooking, writing, planning, working out.

Life lately ... just ordinary days.