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

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Candy Rules on Halloween

Dear Sons,

On Halloween night please remember to ...

1.      Be a Smartie as you’re walking around and watch for cars.

2.      Don’t rush; there are Good & Plenty houses to visit.

3.      Don’t let that last house at the end of the street slip through your Butterfingers … they are very generous.

4.       Remember Now and Later -- say thank you now rather than later.

5.      Tonight there will be an almost full moon, so look for the Milky Way.

6.      If your baby brother doesn’t want to visit the Haunted House, no Snickers!

7.      When Mom asks how much candy you ate, don’t tell a Whopper.

8.      Later, if you Rolo-ver with a tummy ache, Mom will give you a Rolo-aids to feel better.

Love you to Reese's Pieces
and wishing you Mounds of Almond Joy on Halloween night!

P.S. To make this cute ghost, go to see this post: Recipe for a Ghost

Monday, October 30, 2017

Life Lately: fair food, corn mazes, channeling my inner redneck

~Getting Lost in a Corn Maze~

'Tis the time of year for school carnivals, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes. So far we've done two out of three -- our school carnival was last weekend, and earlier this week I walked around a huge gardening center admiring the beautiful heirloom pumpkins. It wasn't exactly a pumpkin patch, but with the obligatory scarecrows and hay bales it was close enough.

With my nephew at St. Mary's school carnival.

As for a corn maze ... no. Here's a little known fact about me: I have a real fear phobia of corn mazes. I literally panic, my knees turn to jelly, and I can't breathe. Once, I was a chaperone for a class field trip to a dairy farm, and when my group of little boys wanted to do the corn maze I had to ask another child's father to go through it with me. I just couldn't do it alone.

'Tis also the time of year for state and county fairs ...

~Fair Food~

Let's talk about fair food. Actually, I can't say much because I usually avoid it. But last Friday, in a moment of reckless abandonment, I had my first funnel cake ... ever. And I do mean EVER, ever. I even admitted this to the lady making my funnel cake (I'm not sure she believed me). Anyway, she handed me a fried, fluffy cloud the size of a hubcap, liberally sprinkled with powder sugar and cinnamon, and I have to be honest ... it was delicious.

But later that night, that fried-fluffy-sugared hubcap did not like me. At all. It didn't like me the next day, either.

Moral of the story: no more fair food for me.

~Going to the Fair Takes this City Girl out of the City~

You know you're a city girl when you see a cow and you're like, "Wow! Look at the cow! Everyone come see the cow! Look how long its eyelashes are!" Then, "Boy does it stink in here!"

~Fairs Bring Out the Inner Daredevil in Me~

Admittedly, I like going to art museums. I like to read. I like to wander cobblestone streets and sit in outdoor cafés. So while I would rather be doing this ...

At the fair I do this ...

I'M KIDDING!! What? Am I crazy? I'd be puking my guts out. Where's Disney's It's a Small World ride? That's more my style.

~Fairs Also Bring Out My Inner Redneck~

I'm not a car person, but I do like FIATS and Mini Coopers. They suit me. They're cute and classy.

But at a fair I get this ...

~Money is No Object~

See what $5 can get you at the fair? All you have to do is pop ONE balloon! Then, if you want to upgrade to the giant Pikachu, just keep trading up. At $5 a pop. Just know there are LOTS of levels between that alien and the Pikachu.

Oh, and remember my funnel cake? The standard one comes with powdered sugar, but a sprinkling of cinnamon means adding an extra dollar.

~You Can't Put a Dollar Amount on Fun~

But really, who cares about money when you go to the fair? It's fun walking around flinging 5's, 10's, and 20's to the wind; it's very much like going to Disney World where even the most sensible and frugal lose all concept of money.

AND you might come home with a blue alien. Life doesn't get better than that.

I am proud of this photo. Very artistic, yes?
Looks like something from Cirque du Soleil.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What's Up?

A little sneak peek as to what is coming up this week on the blog ...

Life Lately
In which I share my phobia of corn mazes and channel my inner redneck.

Candy Rules
Yes, there are rules when it comes to candy.

Halloween Nostalgia
Pondering the last Halloween

The Nonno Who Always Said No! No!
A cartoon story about Nonno's penchant for saying no.

The Thanksgiving Table
Sharing and gathering inspiration.

My Thanksgiving inspiration last year.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Everything he knows he learned from Top Gear

Timothy's top two favorite television shows are A/ Top Gear (Britain) with Jeremy, James and Hammond, and B/ Top Gear (America) with Tanner, Adam and Rut. The fastest way to get into an argument in our family is to claim one show is better than the other. We have serious discussions about this. Like, really serious discussions, and we are a family divided -- Nicholas and Jonathan prefer Top Gear (America) whereas Joe and Timothy prefer Top Gear (Britain).

Where do I stand in this little brouhaha? Right smack in the middle, not because I'm trying to be magnanimous and fair, but because both shows are so incredibly laugh-out-loud funny. I mean, for me to sit down and watch a car show you know it has to be good.

And Timothy swears that Top Gear (both countries) has come to the rescue on numerous occasions when what he has learned from the show has been relevant during a geography quiz, a history test, or even a PAGE Academic Team competition.

For example:

The Rubicon Trail extends from Lake Tahoe to Sacramento.

The bullet trains in Japan are magnetized and hover just above the tracks. They can reach speeds up to 320 mph.

The Yungas Road in Boliva, a 43-mile single lane dirt road clinging precariously to the side of a mountain, is known as the world's most dangerous road.

One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right
of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. Unlike the rest of Bolivia,
vehicles are required to drive on the left side of the road to give the driver
a better view of the vehicle's outside wheel and making passing safer.

Then, of course, there are the car facts. Millions of car facts. Important things, like a Lamborghini can reach a top speed of 210 mph, a Bugatti can reach 225 mph, but the fastest car in the world is the Koenigsegg ZR1 with a top speed of 270.

Honestly, who needs to go to school when there is Top Gear?

Heck, even I have learned a thing or two: A Mini Cooper is more expensive than a Fiat, a Smart Car is less expensive than both. And, a vehicle with 4-wheel drive is not indicative of the number of wheels on a vehicle ;-)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pizza makes everything feel better

Dear Dad,

~This is a photo of the day we took a train from Naples to Sorrento.

 ~Then we took a boat to the island of Capri.

 ~Capri is a hilly island. You walked up, down, and all around with your bad knee. It was a long day....

 ~By late afternoon we took the boat back to Sorrento.

 ~In Sorrento, you turned left to head back to the train station, we all turned right to explore Sorrento.You did not know this was in the itinerary.

 ~You got a teensy bit grumpy about more walking.

 ~So we planted you at a restaurant and bought you a pizza.

 ~The pizza made your knee feel better.

 ~The end.

You're the best, Dad! Thanks for putting up with all of us! Happy, happy birthday!


On the train to Sorrento.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Going Native

By the title of this post I'm sure your mind shot off in a certain direction, but let me reassure you. I am NOT the next contestant for Naked and Afraid; rather, I'm referring to my decision to switch to natural deodorant.

Allow me to explain.

I have always been health conscious, which for me means healthy cooking and regular exercise. So I prepare wholesome meals with fresh ingredients (nothing canned or processed, no frozen meals, no bagged fruits and vegetables) and I exercise regularly (at least five days a week).

A healthy lifestyle also means regular check-ups to the doctor, dentist, and dermatologist.

But in the past three years during routine mammogram screenings, I was called back twice for a more extensive diagnostic mammogram. Both times everything was fine, but I started thinking about other factors which impede health -- namely toxins by way of the environment.

And the first change I made was with my deodorant.

The skin is the largest organ of the body, and every day I was applying Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant to an area where there are lymph nodes and sweat glands.

I did some research, and not only was my Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant impeding an exit route for my body to get rid of stuff (a 2011 study in the journal Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology stated toxic elements are excreted through sweat) but the deodorant was also putting stuff into my body. Most commercial deodorants contain parabens (which have been linked to breast cancer) and aluminum compounds (which can affect estrogen). I won't go into detail because it's all very scientific, and you can find plenty of information on the topic, but for me it just made common sense.

So I started looking into options for natural deodorants, but I was a little skeptical because I had always read natural deodorants aren't effective. I wanted to make healthy choices, but I also didn't want to be stinky.

As luck would have it, and after doing a ridiculous amount of research by way of reading reviews, I decided on Native Deodorant and have been using it ever since. (At one point this summer I reverted back to my old deodorant when my stick of Native ran out and it felt TERRIBLE, which confirmed I was doing the right thing by using a natural deodorant.)

There is a learning curve to using a natural deodorant, so here is what I have learned:

1- It needs to be applied on clean skin; in other words, you can't reapply over a previous layer of deodorant.
2- I did experience a little rash when I first started using it, but it wasn't itchy and eventually went away.
3- The coconut vanilla scent is wonderful; it is very subtle and fresh.
4- It lasts all day.
5- On very hot days, there may be some perspiration, but this is healthy and there is no smell.

Ultimately, there are so many ways we can make healthy choices. I choose to eat right, I choose to exercise, and now I choose natural deodorant.

Going native has never been so much fun.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Hat Box

Yesterday afternoon I received a text informing me that a Halloween costume (of some sort) was required for Bunco that evening.

Yikes. I'm just not good at this kind of stuff. The last time I wore a Halloween costume (several years ago) I dressed up as Mona Lisa (Joe was Leonardo da Vinci).

Halloween Bunco a few years ago.

Shaggy and Thelma, Leonardo da Vinci and Mona Lisa.
At a Halloween birthday party for a friend.

Since the text message also reminded us to wear Halloween colors I thought, "Ah Ha! I'll wear black! That's a Halloween color and I have LOTS of black!" Shocking, I know.

(That last sentence was sarcasm at its finest.)

So I wore a black, long sleeved shirt, black palazzo pants, and black booties. I accessorized with glittery earrings and 4-inch stack of glittery bangles.

Then, because it was Halloween I dug through our Hat Box. Yes, we have a huge box containing an assortment of hats: pirate, gangster, hippy, Viking, clown, cowboy, circus, princess, Storm Trooper ... you name it, we have it. We love our Hat Box. When the boys were little it was the source of never-ending make-believe, and it always came in handy when we hosted Mad Hatter Dinners.

The Mad Hatter Dinner: No hat, no food.
All hats come from The Hat Box.

This time I decided that, since I was all in black, some red devil ears would be perfect.

A devil in disguise. Easy Peasy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How about a cappuccino to go with that aggravation?

Last night during our Second Walk (you can read about our Second Walk here) Timothy and I were talking about things that bug us. You know, those little aggravations in life which, for whatever reason, just get under your skin.

I know you're curious, so allow me ...

1. People who sit right in front of you at the movie theater when the theater is mostly empty.

2. Strangers who sit right next to you (with no empty seat in between) when the movie theater is mostly empty.

3. Lawn services (private and city-owned) who blow leaves and pine straw into the middle of the street (as opposed to blowing everything in a pile and disposing of it properly).

4. Slow drivers. I will admit, this is something I need to work on. I know there are plenty of reasons why people drive slowly, but the Italian in me wants to get where I'm going. And Joe, who isn't even Italian, and who grew up in Pennsylvania (which is close to New York City), drives like a New Yorker. So here we are, an Italian and a Pennsylvanian New Yorker (I just made that up), and neither one of us likes slow drivers.

5. Commercials. I rarely watch a television show in real time. I don't even watch one On Demand because there are commercials there, too. I record everything and fast forward through the commercials.

6. Guys who have long fingernails. This just grosses me out. And, truthfully, I don't even like long fingernails on gals, either.

7. People who have long and loud telephone conversations in public. Actually, this should be #1 on my list.

8. People who sneeze into their hands. Ugh. Don't get me started ...

And now I'm sure you're thinking of things that irritate YOU, which has probably made you all nice and grumpy, but because I really want you to start the day off right allow me cheer you up with a nice frothy cappuccino.

There, now. Feel better?

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.