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

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

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Year of Tomorrows

One of my favorite things to do as we straddle the old year and the new is to fill in my new 2019 planner ... 365 empty squares lined up like stepping stones into a year of tomorrows.

And of course my first entry was about a certain girls' trip next fall ;-)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas I Spy

'Tis 5 days after Christmas and around the house I spy ...

1- a naughty stocking stuffer
2- something French
3- something oily
4- A dot Ham
5- Where Eagles Dare
6- a bug
7- Japanese characters
8- a crazy driver
9- PaRappa on a horse
10- a summer concert

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Amazon here, Amazon there (and my book on both!)

On Christmas Day my Italian cousin, Chiara, sent me a screenshot of my book on the Italian Amazon site.


Of course, it's also available on Amazon here, in the U.S.

Just saying ;-)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Hope

Tomorrow our family will be together again, and more than anything this makes me happy. There is nothing like going home (or having everyone come home) for the holidays, so bring on the figgy pudding!

Before I sign off for a few days I’d like to say this: While we are looking forward to next week, I understand that many of you are not. There is a lot of heartbreak out there. Not everyone can look forward to that Hallmark Christmas. But if there is one thing this season offers is hope, which can be found in the unlikeliest of places … even in a stable. 

God bless, everyone.

The Novajosky Family

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Alternate Bia

When your son takes your phone
to very secretly
download the Pokémon Go app
and create your Avatar ...

Meet ItaliaBia 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The King of the Art of Chill

A few years ago when Nicholas was an engineering major at Clemson University, he asked if I knew who Bob Ross was. Well, of course I did, but I was surprised that my son knew of him.

"When I'm studying for a big test or a final exam, I like to have one of his PBS shows playing in the background," he explained. "It's very soothing."

And I totally understood. I could see how the soft-spoken voice, the references to fluffy clouds and happy trees, and the low-key commentary provided a calming backdrop to engineering textbooks, group projects, and all those math disciplines.

A few months later, Nicholas asked for some Bob Ross instructional books, paints, and drawing pencils for Christmas. He always had an artistic talent for drawing but wanted to teach himself how to paint.

Fast forward to today and Bob Ross is experiencing a resurgence. He's everywhere! Over Thanksgiving we played the board game, Bob Ross the Art of Chill, this past Sunday a character on the show, God Friended Me, was wearing a Bob Ross t-shirt, and yesterday I purchased a box of Bob Ross band-aids for stocking stuffers. Then, a fellow blogger listed that very same board game as a gift idea for office coworkers, and a quick Amazon search revealed Bob Ross bobble-heads, lunch boxes, puzzles, Pez dispensers, and even a Bob Ross Halloween costume.

Bob Ross the Art of Chill

The King of the Art of Chill is, evidently, very cool right now. And in this busy week leading up to Christmas, I will leave you with some of his quotes. Go ahead and smile. Just let it come.

Bob Ross, In His Own Words ...

As my son Steve says, just 'smoosh' it in there. It's not a real word, but people seem to know what it means.

Maybe in our world there lives a happy little tree over there.

That's a crooked tree. We'll send him to Washington.

We don't make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.

You need the dark in order to show the light.

Every make mistakes in life? Let's make them birds. Yeah, they're birds now.

This would be a good place for my little squirrel to live.

I can't go over 30 minutes, because we have a mean ol' director with no sense of humor.

Well, the little clock on the wall says we're just about out of time. God bless you my friend.

Monday, December 17, 2018


To purchase:

When the mice are away the Christmas penguins come out to play

Most of you know that I am not a fan of Christmas yard inflatables.

Sure they look festive at night, but during the day it's like a crime scene: there are poor snowman/Santa/reindeer carcasses sprawled everywhere.

But then there is my brother-in-law who is the OPPOSITE of me in that he thinks inflatables are the BEST. In fact, he believes you can't have too many and they can't be too big. A couple of Christmases ago, while I was preparing Christmas lunch, he gathered all the kids to help him set up an inflatable IN OUR FRONT YARD. I was tricked into coming to the front door and there they were ... two Christmas penguins on a sled.

After the laughter died down I had to admit they were cute. For several years they were dutifully displayed on our back deck (better viewing from our family room), but for the past two holiday seasons they've remained in their box in the attic because I've been rotating our Christmas decorations and their rotation just hasn't come up yet (really Patrick, I promise!).

Then, this past Saturday night Joe and I went out to celebrate our anniversary. We left Jonathan and Timothy home alone which, under normal circumstances, wouldn't be a problem. But evidently they had PLANS because the minute we left the house they went scrounging through the attic. Later, when Joe and I returned home, what to our wondering eyes should appear but ... 

TWO CHRISTMAS PENGUINS ON OUR FRONT PORCH. The yard spotlight was centered on them and they looked ready to sled down the porch steps. 

Again, though, those darn penguins are pretty cute.

And I guess I'm stuck with them.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Speak to Me (Advent) Sunday: Verso L'Alto

Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, 
and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that 
God's voice makes in a world that has explained him away. 

 -Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark (A Life in Sermons)

Once Upon a Time I climbed a mountain.
I was in Breckenridge, Colorado with three friends and on the third day of our visit, dressed in layers and carrying backpacks, we stood at the beginning of a 3.4 mile hiking trail that went straight up a mountain to Mohawk Lake.
Over dirt trails, rocky crevices, and overgrown roots we climbed up and up. We crossed streams, walked through meadows, and scrambled over logs. We passed other hikers going up and said hello to hikers going back down. We made a wrong turn, which turned our 3.4 miles of going up into 4.2 miles of going up. We were tired. Sometimes it hurt to breathe. During the last mile, the trail turned rocky, the ascent became even steeper, and we weren’t so much hiking as looking for footholds and pulling ourselves up and over large boulders.
Then, after almost four hours of hiking and climbing, after four hours of not being able to see the peak but nevertheless continuing because we knew it was there, after all that time of looking upward as we climbed, we arrived. Finally. And the feeling was indescribable.
There was exuberance, yes, and certainly a feeling of accomplishment. But mostly I felt humbled to have worked, and struggled, and climbed, and sweated in order to finally arrive exactly where we had been heading. And as I caught my breath and drank in the view, I thought of a prayer card I had with a photo of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati climbing a mountain with the words, Verso l’Alto, written in the corner.   

These words were scribbled onto a 1925 photograph of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati climbing a mountain. Translated literally, verso is a preposition meaning towards and alto is a noun meaning height, but Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati wasn't referring to the physical act of climbing so much as what we are doing while climbing; in other words, verso l'alto refers to all that we DO while on our spiritual journey as we strive to reach the height of heaven.
So, as I stood on the shores of Mohawk Lake on top of that mountain in Colorado, as I breathed in the crisp mountain air and delighted in the indescribable beauty, I also felt restlessness – a longing for more. I remembered how Carl Frederick Buechner once wrote that the unease (or restlessness) we may feel is the sound God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away. And that’s why I felt humbled. Because I knew there are more mountains to scale; God is forever calling us to him and in our spiritual journey one can move forward or backward, but one cannot stand still.

We are meant to be heading somewhere; we are meant to strive, and climb, and struggle. We will have moments of rest, but when we rise we will, like the Wise Men following that star, look up and continue climbing …

Verso l’Alto.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Sharing the love on our anniversary (AND everyone's wedding photos)

Today is our 28th wedding anniversary I am going to post a photo from our wedding. But because I cringe at our wedding photos, I'm going to post EVERYONE'S wedding photos so Joe and I will be in good company. Let's call it Bia's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea which is actually pretty clever ;-)

clockwise from top left ...

Bia, heading to the future with a sunny disposition

Joe, heading to the future with ... grim determination?

My parents

Nonna and my aunt Tiziana

My aunt Paola and my sister and me as flower girls

My brother and sister-in-law

My sister and brother-in-law 
(my sister was dizzy on her wedding day ... literally. She was suffering from vertigo.)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Got tonsils? I don't.

I first wrote this in 2009 for my nephew, Christopher. Now, nine years later, I've tweaked it here and there for another nephew. Bear, this one is for you ...

My dear nephew, what’s this you say
something is lost and has gone away?
The very idea fills me with dismay
So I will help you find it, no delay!

Yes, your brave and smart Auntie is here
and I will never, ever give up, my dear.
I will search and search both far and near
leave it to me, there is nothing to fear.

Let's see, you lost it somewhere . . .
now let's think about this with care.
Let's stay calm and be very, very aware
for, really, it's definitely somewhere out there.

It could be up a tree or a under a rock,
behind the shed, or around the block.
Somehow it may even be in Bangkok ...
or maybe hidden in your left sock.

But, I will keep looking, I will not be still
I am your Auntie and won’t even send you a bill.
I'll drive to D.C. or fly to Nashville ...
why, I'll even dig in a nasty dunghill.

But wait a minute. What's this I hear
from your father and my brother dear?
"Oh Bia you're running in circles I fear
And there's one little thing I must make very clear.

"The thing that you're looking so diligently for
really isn't a thing anymore.
It was simply some tonsils we couldn't ignore
ones that were more that just a little sore.”

Oh. Well then, dear Nephew. No need to bawl.
What the doctor says is so true.
Those tonsils so teeny and so very small
Why, you don't need those pesky things at all!

So I am glad everything has turned out so swell,
Let’s celebrate ... you’re going to be well.
I'll call off the search and bid you farewell.
Hugs, kisses, and love from your Auntie the dumbbell!

~from the files of very bad poetry by bia

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Will you leave already?

Last night, Joe was out of town, I had my Christmas Bunco party, and Timothy had the evening all to himself. This doesn't happen often so he had PLANS which involved his Xbox and the entire contents of the pantry.

All afternoon he prepped. He did his homework, he studied, and he took out the trash. He even emptied the dishwasher--with a smile! After all, what's a few chores when you have the entire evening (with no mom or dad!) to look forward to?

In the meantime, I got ready. In addition to wrapping one gift for our Bunco gift exchange, I also prepared small individual gifts for everyone. This year I decided to give everyone a miniature Panettone and a Pocket Angel purchased from my sister's Etsy shop, Alleluia Rocks.

There was a lot of last minute running around: upstairs to take a shower, downstairs to wrap, upstairs to curl my hair, downstairs to pack up everything, upstairs for my shoes, coat, and purse. Then, upstairs again because I forgot my earrings. In the middle of all this hustle and bustle Timothy was patiently waiting for me to JUST LEAVE ALREADY. In fact, this is me smiling because he had just asked, "What time did you say you had to leave? Aren't you going to be late?"

What a nice, thoughtful young man.

Eventually I (finally!) left for Bunco and Timothy (finally!) had the house to himself

And while Timothy was doing Xbox-y things, I had a blast at our Christmas Bunco party! This year we decided to meet for dinner, and it was an intimate, cozy way to celebrate. We ate, laughed, talked, and exchanged gifts. One of the gifts someone gave was MY BOOK! It was surreal to see someone open a gift and then pull out a copy of An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses. Then I was asked to sign it so, technically, Christmas Bunco was my first book signing! (Which is appropriate because as a group we celebrate many milestones.)

I think we were the last group to leave the restaurant, and while everyone was gathering gifts and donning coats I sent Timothy a quick text letting him know I would be home in 20 minutes. He responded immediately.

"Take your time," he texted. "I'm good."

What a nice, thoughtful young man (said with a smidgen of mom sarcasm).

THIS guy. Gotta love him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What happened when I tried NOT to wear black

Tonight our Bunco group has its annual Christmas party, and this year we are gathering at a restaurant where we will have a private room for dining, a gift exchange, and Bunco shenanigans.

Bunco shenanigans? What does that even mean? We are mature, intelligent, conversant, lovely people who behave properly.

ANYWAY, yesterday I was on a quest to find the perfect Bunco Christmas outfit. I wanted something festive and bright and (dare I say it?) sparkly. I wasn't totally against black, but since I get teased a lot about how much black I do wear, I decided that it had to be paired with something ... festive and bright and sparkly.

I shopped most of the morning and came home with FOUR dresses--a lavender/taupe shift, a grey and white sweater dress, a plum color A-line, and a dark purple swing dress. Not one had a smidgen of black. I planned to try them on, style them in a variety of ways, and then keep the one I liked and return the rest.

Well, I tried. I really did. But in the end I returned ALL of them.

I'm sorry but none of them were ME. One was too matronly, one had a weird neckline, one was just bleh, and the sweater dress (which I actually liked) was waaaay to short.

So I delved into my closet and styled a fitted long sleeve black shirt with an ankle length red skirt and black booties. Simple, clean lines. No fuss, no muss.

I was me again.

But I'll still do sparkly with some bangles and these ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Christmas Tree and the Painting

Every morning I come downstairs to this ... a trio of simple Alpine trees softly illuminating that tender painting (which I purchased, frame and all, from an antique store going out of business).

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Speak to Me (Advent) Sunday: Setting Forth

The suitcases were packed and standing in a line by the back door; I was in that in-between place of being ready, but not yet going.

I have often said that preparing for a trip is almost as fun as the trip itself. In the months leading up to that pile of luggage by the back door I applied for a brand new passport, purchased some new clothes, and managed to pack everything I needed. For months I gathered maps, read guide books, conducted Google searches, made reservations, and planned daily itineraries; in short, I did everything I could to help guide me into the unknown, and it was terribly exciting to imagine the possibilities and anticipate the adventure.
But it was also all kinds of scary.
Then something happened the morning of our departure as I stood between two worlds – the one I was leaving (familiar and safe) and the one I was headed toward (full of the unknown). As I reached into my purse to check (yet again) if I had my passport, I remembered the Dutch proverb that goes like this: He is who outside his door, already has the hard part of his journey behind him. It's a proverb about taking that first step which, without a doubt, is the hardest step of all.
So that’s exactly what I did – I picked up my suitcase and took that first step out the door, and for the first time in months I was completely and wholly at peace. I was on my way, come what may.

During this Advent as we embark on a journey connecting memory and hope, I am reminded how any journey – spiritual, physical, redemptive, etc. – begins with that first step. It may be the biggest step you may ever have to take, seemingly impossible and impossibly difficult. It may be a hesitant step, or a bold one. It may require a leap of faith. But in the end it's just a step.
And with that one step, you're on your way.

My sister's friend, Karla Falk, designs these unique etchings on slate taken from 
the roof of her family's 100 year old dairy barn in rural northeast Ohio. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Last night my friends and I attended The Night of 1,000 Lights celebration when what to our wondering eyes should appear ... but Santa!

Folks, he was the real deal. AND he was in Aiken, so he's close by. Just a friendly reminder to be more nice than naughty.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Speak to Me (Advent) Sunday: Readiness in Memory and Hope

Yesterday I ordered my 2019 Erin Condren planner. It’s a beautiful planner; on the cover is a row of birch trees, and the autumn yellow leaves add a nice pop of color against the solid background.  There are pages with quotes and blank spaces to write down goals. Most importantly, 365 empty squares are lined up like stepping stones going forth into a year of tomorrows. 

In big ways and in small, each of those stepping stones will lead me on a journey propelled by Time which marches forward in seconds, minutes, days and years.  With every breath, with every step, with every thought or action or prayer, I am on a journey.
We are all on a journey.
Sometimes the journey is planned and carefully mapped out, but other times it yanks and pulls and drags us where we do not want to go -- through illness, incarceration or grief as we recognize what without understanding why. Sometimes the journey can be a battle with inner demons of self-doubt, alcoholism, or drugs. Sometimes it calls us to foreign lands, a new career path, marriage, or a religious vocation. Oftentimes the journey is exciting and adventurous, but just as often it’s a whirlwind of ordinary with carpool, dinner, laundry, work, and children.
I turned the pages of my brand new planner, and as I filled in the squares with birthdays and anniversaries and family trips, I saw all the empty squares more as stepping stones of hope rather than blank squares of the unknown. I then looked at my old planner, at the squares of yesterdays which were once tomorrows, and saw stepping stones of memory.
Tonight, we will light a candle to mark Advent’s passage, and I am grateful for this season with its gift of time to both recognize the journey and reflect on it -- to gather and learn and step forward in readiness. In his book, Seek that Which is Above, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) describes Advent as a connection between memory and hope; that is, the healing memory of the God who became a child, and the hope that memory brings.
Memory. Hope. A readiness to journey onward.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Upon Simplifying Christmas

A few years ago we invited Sr. Gaudiosa (a nun from Tanzania) to spend the Christmas holidays with us (her visit involved a Christmas miracle). Admittedly, I was nervous about this. While she had stayed with us before, this would be her first time experiencing an American Christmas and in light of her humble origins and vow of poverty, I was concerned that all of it--the packages and bows, parties and lights--would seem too much.

When she walked into our family room she oohed and awed over our Christmas tree. She spent a long time looking at each and every ornament. She especially appreciated the homemade ones--Timothy's thumbprint reindeer and the boys' Popsicle stick nativities. And watching that beautiful, spiritual nun marvel at stuff which (when you think about it) only comes out once a year put things in perspective for me on how I would henceforth celebrate and decorate for the holidays.

As someone who is always extolling the virtues of simplicity, as someone who is always simplifying meal planning, schedules, closets, and wardrobes, it wasn't until Sr. Gaudiosa's visit that I thought to simplify Christmas.

Now, don't get me wrong. I really LOVE to decorate for the holidays, I like to see other homes decked out in mistletoe and holly, and I thrive on all the confusion and chaos and parties, but for me I had to find a balance between a Biltmore Christmas (with its jeweled ornaments and elaborate gingerbread houses) and a Bethlehem Christmas (with its stable and lowly manger).

And here are two things that helped me ...

1- Bringing it Home

Sr. Gauidosa inspired me to be honest with myself. Was I decorating for others, or was I trying to create a welcoming environment for my family and friends during the holidays? Were my decorations used to impress, or were they meant to reflect the season? Was I approaching the holidays with the idea that more is better, or that less is best? 

So that's when I began to simplify our Christmas. I donated most of my vintage Santas (I kept four), consolidated all our Christmas books into one basket, and gave away all our elaborate tree skirts (opting instead to use  canvas drop cloth from Lowe's). I decided not to put up Christmas trees in rooms we don't use (dining room, front office), but to concentrate the decorations in the kitchen and family room--the heart of our home. In fact, the Christmas tree which straddles both rooms is the main light source during the holidays, and it makes the area intimate and cozy. 

In time I began to see the difference in preparing a house for the holidays, versus preparing a home for the holidays. 

2- Decorating with purpose

Here's another thing I had to learn: I do NOT need to put up ALL my decorations every year. 

Shocking, I know, but very true. 

This really is where the idea of less is best really is best, and it did wonders in relieving a lot of the stress and chaos in preparing for the holidays. So instead of setting up several nativities, I set up ONE in a meaningful way. Instead of a row of Santas on our bookshelves, I center one next to a poinsettia. I decorate the top of our piano with either some Christmas houses OR poinsettias and a Christmas cross, but not with both. 

I try to use only what truly memorable or important to the family. When I asked our boys what was their favorite way we prepare our home for the holidays, they mentioned two things: their little trees on their nightstands (best nightlights ever) and the front window wreaths and lights (the boys love coming home after dark to see the windows lit up). They also like their stockings, but couldn't remember how the mantel was decorated from year to year. 

That's it--bringing the preparations home, and doing so with purpose. I realize this might not work for everyone, but it's what works for me and my peace of mind during the holidays. 

Finally, near the end of Sr. Gaudiosa's visit with us, it snowed. Earlier that day Joe and the boys had traveled to Florida for a bowl game, so it was just the two of us. With the snow gently falling outside we sat in front of a roaring fire to watch The Sound of Music (Sister's all-time favorite movie), after which she told me the story of the only time she rebelled as a nun. And sitting next to her on the couch, both of us bundled up in blankets, I experienced the most complete sense of peace and well-being. That moment, with its quiet simplicity and friendship and love, was Christmas nestled in that stable in Bethlehem.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Making a (Snarky) Point

The day after Thanksgiving I asked Timothy to do a small chore and his dramatic response was totally disproportionate to the task.

The exaggeration was off the charts. It just wasn't fair (his words). The weight of the world was on his shoulders, especially because all his friends were playing Rocket League and he had to--oh the horrors!--empty the dishwasher. I listened to him for half a second until I had a very Grinch-like, but deliciously snarky response.

"You know," I said very sweetly. "Vacation means something different for you than it does for me. When you're on vacation you are enjoying the free time that comes with an absence from school. Dad is enjoying the free time that comes with not having to go to work. Your brothers are enjoying the freedom from work and college. But with everyone home, vacation for me means doing exactly the same stuff I always do ... except MORE OF IT."

Timothy emptied the dishwasher without another word.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Stupid, Fun Thanksgiving Game

Meet Alfredo, the star of a wild and zany game we purchased a few years ago for a fun Thanksgiving game that could involve everyone, young and old.

Alfredo spins around on top of a plate of spaghetti, and to play the game you have to use the fork catapults to launch spaghetti and meatballs. You get points if your meatball lands on Alfredo's plates, apron or hat (all made of velcro), but you get  A LOT of points if the meatball lands on his mustache.

It's a fun game, but inevitably Alfredo gets ignored. 

It's much more fun to launch those spaghetti and meatballs at one another. 

And you get a SUPER BUNCH of points if you hit your brother.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Bought it, I did

In Publix I was, when a Yoda I spied. 

Called my name, he did, so I resisted not. How could I, hmm?  (Also a Darth Vader, there was. But him I wanted not.)

It was the two feet tall Christmas Yoda I needed, so bought him I did. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Life Lately: Bringing Thanksgiving

This year our Thanksgiving plans have changed. While we had intended to drive to Virginia Beach to spend Thanksgiving with Joe's family, we are instead heading to Little Rock. Nicholas is still not feeling well (an endoscopy this past Friday revealed an inflamed stomach and esophagus), and since he wasn't up to traveling home with such a short turn around time, we decided to bring Thanksgiving to him.

So, this past weekend I made lists and shopped at THREE stores (Costco, Lidl, Publix) because there is no way I'm going to a grocery store in Little Rock the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving.

I have two cardboard boxes filled with everything I need for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm also bringing food for several meals--pork tenderloin and polenta, chicken and dumplings, roast beef and oven potatoes--because I plan to cook nourishing, homemade meals that will hopefully aid Nicholas in his recovery. Some of it we will eat together, some of it I will leave in his freezer.

Our trusty minivan (220,000 miles!) will be packed with the four of us, along with winter coats, suitcases, and boxes of food. There will also be a bookcase strapped to the luggage rack. Over the (Mississippi) River and through the (Ozark) woods to Nicholas' apartment we go!

And we're excited! Having recently spent five days with Nicholas (And God Sent Three Strangers), I know how cozy and comfortable his apartment is. We don't have any big plans other than to enjoy our time together. We will eat, watch football (the guys), read (me), and play board games. I will cook, and the aroma of roasting turkey will permeate the apartment. After eating we'll go for a walk, or drive around to see Christmas lights. When we come back we'll have a slice of cherry or pumpkin pie.

And like we always do, when we gather around the table we will continue the tradition of our family's Thanksgiving prayer.

Because we have much to be thankful for.

Obrigado Senhor

Thank you, Lord, for my healthy limbs, when so many are crippled,
For my perfect eyes, when so many are without light,
For this voice that sings, when so many are mute,
For these hands that work, when so many have to beg.
It is wonderful, Lord, to have a home to return to,
When there are so many who don't know where to go.
It is wonderful, Lord, to laugh, love, dream,
When so many cry, hate, and die before being born.
It is wonderful, Lord, to have so little to ask,
And so much to be thankful for.

{This prayer was written by a Lino Villacha, a poet in Brazil who suffered from leprosy. He corresponded with our family through Sandro Nottegar, a physician and missionary who was the husband of my mother's best friend. Sandro passed away suddenly in 1986, and as of this time he has achieved the title of venerable in the process of beatification and canonization in the Catholic Church.}

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Life Lately: Really, Really

~1~ As seen at Lidl. 

Really, really bad idea.  

~2~ Book Club

really, really good book
really, really good discussion
really, really good Pinot Grigio (from the Veneto region in Italy)

~3~ When your class is studying genetics 
and the Biology teacher requests you bring in a family photo. 

"So, this is your father?" she asks, pointing to Joe. "You look like him."
"And these must be your brothers, " she says, pointing to Nicholas and Jonathan. 
And then she points to me. "And this must be your sister?"

I really, really like his Biology teacher. 

~4~ Fall inspiration

I really, really like this color combination.
(from @agelessstyle on Instagram)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Girl in Black Wears Blue

ONCE UPON A TIME I was walking through a department store between seasons (when winter merchandise is almost gone and spring merchandise is just starting to trickle in) when I spied this blue fitted wool coat on a clearance rack. It was the ONLY coat. The original price was a little over $200. I hadn't planned to buy a coat, but between the clearance markdown, a one-day sale, and a coupon it was marked down to ... wait for it ... $14. How could I resist? The fact is, I couldn't. THE END.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: To Our Veterans

Once upon a time my parents took us--my sister, brother, and me--to the movie theater. I don't remember the title of the film, but I do remember this: when the National Anthem played my father stood up in attention, and we all followed his lead. We were the only ones in the theater to stand, each one of us with our hand over our heart. I remember feeling a little exposed--I was, after all, a young teenager burdened with all that teenage angst--but mostly what I remember feeling was pride. Pride for my dad, for our country, and for the fact we were the only ones in the movie theater to stand during the National Anthem ...

Our sons love to hear stories of their Nonno when he was in the Military -- stories like his grueling training as one of the oldest guys in OCS (Officer Candidate School); how he met my Mom while stationed in Verona and courted her; the time he forcibly removed a fellow (drunken) officer who was being offensive to a woman at a dinner party; or the stories (some of them truly frightening) of when he served at the Demilitarized Zone in Pamunjon, Korea when tensions between the North and South Korea were at an all time high.

Then there was the unbelievable coincidence of being interviewed and photographed by an Italian journalist sent to do a story on the tensions in Korea, with the feature article subsequently published in Italy (with photos of him and extensive quotes) to the incredible joy and pride of our Italian relatives (my Nonna carried the magazine with her and showed it to everyone).

And our boys are very impressed that he can still tap out messages in Morse Code.

We love you, Dad.
We love you, Nonno.
We're all very proud of you.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Boring Bia (or, The Girl with the Sister Named Ua)

This post is an ode to sisters because is there anything better in the world? Supportive, creative, and funny (with just a hint of sarcasm) ...

Friday, November 9, 2018

It's All About Giving Thanks

Last night members of our local Italian American Club celebrated their annual Thanksgiving dinner. It was a lovely evening in which we celebrated the American part of our Italian-American heritage. Here's an article I wrote a few years ago on this very topic ... 

It's All About Giving Thanks
by Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist

*published in the Columbia County News-Times, November 23, 2015
(delivered with Sunday's Augusta Chronicle)

            It doesn’t take much more than a holiday and a meal for our Italian-American family to gather in celebration, and Thanksgiving is no exception. People often ask if our Thanksgiving meal in any way reflects our Italian background, and while the immediate answer is yes (for with an Italian mother anything involving food reflects our Italian heritage), the answer is also no because Thanksgiving is the one holiday my mother uses to celebrate all things American, an opportunity to pay homage to a land which welcomed her with open arms.

            My mother came to this country as a young bride on the arm of my father, a soldier in the U.S. military; she was only 20 years old and determined to embrace this new life. She took language classes, became fluent in English, learned to drive, and volunteered for the American Red Cross. When my parents lived in Washington D.C. during the racial unrest of the sixties, my mother studied American history to understand what was happening.

            When she was 32 years old she stood before a judge in Savannah, GA and was sworn in as an American citizen. She had her picture taken under the American flag, and her nationality would henceforth be hyphenated, a bridge between the words Italian and American, between the country she was from and the country in which she now lived.

            Those two words also meant my sister, brother, and I got the best of both worlds. We spoke Italian with our Nonna and English at home; we ate gelato in Venice and an ice cream cone in Disney World; we explored the hills of Tuscany and the streets of Manhattan; and while holidays in our family were a beautiful blend of both cultures, there were some things quintessentially American that my mother embraced – and the traditional Thanksgiving meal was one of them.

            She had a lot to learn, however, and it took years of trial and effort to get it right. In one of her earliest letters to her mother, she described this strange, white cooking stuff that came in a blue can (Crisco shortening); she had never eaten turkey, much less cooked one; she had never heard of sweet potatoes (why, in America even the potatoes are sweet!); and she definitely didn’t know what to think about cranberry sauce or Jell-O (all that jiggling red stuff didn't look like food at all).

            It took years of trial and effort, of studying Betty Crocker and cutting out recipes from Good Housekeeping, but today my mother has perfected the art of the Thanksgiving meal. The moist turkey, the perfect balance of brown sugar and marshmallows in the sweet potato casserole and, yes, the dish of jiggling cranberry sauce are all displayed with a sense of pride on how far she has come. Two ceramic pilgrims decorate the dining room table, and in the afternoon everyone heads outside for a family game of backyard football or softball.

            Of course, there are small concessions to our Italian heritage: we sip espressos with our pumpkin pie and have a small glass of limoncello as an after dinner digestivo. But it is an American meal celebrating an American holiday, and with a rousing Buon Appetito! three generations of our family gather at Thanksgiving to honor the American half of our Italian-American heritage.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cappuccino and Cake

I'm coming to you in the darkness of the early morning because it's a special day.

It's a day which celebrates one of the things that is a source of daily joy for me, something which also happens to be the best  accompaniment to a good book, early morning prayer time, a rainy afternoon, and cozy chats with friends.

Today is National Cappuccino Day!

Oh, cappuccino, how I love thee! The daily ritual of firing up the espresso machine, frothing the milk, brewing an espresso, and then combining the perfect balance of thirds--1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk, 1/3 froth--keeps me grounded. It may sound melodramatic, but a cappuccino is a little smidgen of magic in an otherwise perfectly ordinary day because--and let's be realistic--although my cappuccino may be balanced, daily life can be anything but.

Which brings me to THE CAKE. The Confirmation cake I ordered for TIMOTHY, but with the words Happy Confirmation, Jonathan! (yes, the wrong son). When I shared this story, I received all sorts of helpful advice: take the cake back and have the bakery fix it, scrape off Jonathan's name and put lots of candles in the blank space, or change Timothy's confirmation name from St. Francis to St. John. Two people even offered to come over and share their professional baking skills to fix the problem.

But you know what? As I was enjoying my cappuccino the morning of Confirmation, I had an epiphany. Life is crazy. Life is wonderful. Life is funny. Life is a hodgepodge of the insane. And that cake, which had become a topic of conversation, a source of laughter, and the reason for a flurry of text messages and emails, was a metaphor for life. Our life. So it was absolutely fine--wonderful! great! fantastic!--to have a Confirmation cake with Jonathan written on top when it was Timothy's Confirmation.

In a strange, wonderful way, it made perfect sense.

So, on this National Cappuccino Day, I wish you a day filled with the zany, the wonderful, the messy, and everything in-between.

All of which pairs very nicely with a expertly frothed cappuccino.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"And Kindle in Them the Fire of Your love"

I am so grateful for the milestones of our faith which gives us opportunities to gather, celebrate, and worship. As parents, I'm so grateful for the Sacraments of Initiation--Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation--which are vehicles of grace to help our children walk and grow in the faith. I am so grateful for a loving God who teaches that true freedom is not doing what one wants, but doing the right thing. And I am thankful for family, for those who sent well wishes and for Uncle Bill who flew here to be Timothy's sponsor. 

Dear Timothy,

For your Confirmation, we wanted to give you seven books representing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As you read these books, we pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his gifts so they will help you grow in your faith.

Be a gracious receiver of these gifts! St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth; yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”

Timothy, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and watch in amazement as God works through you, with you, and in you.

Mom & Dad