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

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wickedly Hamilton


It can be nice.

For the longest time I've wanted to see the Broadway show, Wicked.

For the longest time I've wanted to see the Broadway show, Hamilton.

Then, due to a fantastic collision of two vacations -- a girls' trip to Washington D. C. and a family trip to New York City -- I will be seeing BOTH shows TWO nights apart in TWO different cities.

Hamilton this Sunday at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C.

and ...

Wicked on Tuesday at the Gershwin Theater in New York City.

I couldn't have planned it better myself.

Now, if you could kindly put in a good word with the Man Upstairs for nice weather. Low 80's with no humidity would be nice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Summer Faves

~1~ You had me at cappuccino swirl

I don't have a dairy allergy, but I do have somewhat of a dairy intolerance. What does this mean? Only that I have to be careful with dairy products ... too much just doesn't do my body good. BUT, allow me to introduce this Almond Dream Cappuccino Swirl non-dairy frozen dessert. It's only 140 calories for a half cup serving ... which is the perfect amount to satisfy a craving without over-indulging.

You're welcome.

~2~ Supergoop! me

I've finally, FINALLY found a facial sunscreen that is light, hydrating, and really seems to improve my skin: Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum. I am currently packing for back-to-back trips to Washington DC and New York City, and because summertime in the city is HOT, HOT, HOT, here is a photo of my minimalist, summer makeup. As you can see, Supergoop! is going with me.

Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum, Mineral Veil primer,
No. 7 foundation (use only in spots to even skin tone)
Bobbi Brown Mascara, Sexy Kitten eyeliner, Elf eyebrow pencil,
Urban Decay Eye Shadow Primer, Cover Girl concealer

~3~ Packing

People sometimes ask me how I pack. It's simple, for about a week leading up to my trip I start setting aside items of clothing I know I want to bring with me. At some point (usually several days before our trip) I will coordinate outfits and fold them into piles on the bed. Then, the day before our departure I pack my suitcase using eBags to keep like items together (shirts, bottoms, intimates).

As you can see from the photo, I'm at the several-days-before-our-trip phase when everything is displayed on the bed.

~4~ Jiminy Cricket, personal trainer

Do you know why I like love my Fitbit Blaze? It's like having Jiminy Cricket sitting on my shoulder whispering words of encouragement (Only 250 steps to go this hour!) or sweet words of praise (You've just hit a 7-day streak of completing your daily goals!). The other day he whispered, You're an overachiever! and I couldn't have been more proud.

~5~ Funny texts ... that really aren't, but kind of are

Me, in a text to Jonathan this past Monday: Instructions for the day: no fender benders, no broken air conditioners, no flat tires, no broken glasses, no lost wallets.

All of which has happened. But it's all good -- there was no damage in the fender bender, his air conditioner is now fixed, there are four brand new tires on his car, he has a new pair of glasses, and the lost wallet was found in the parking garage! It got to the point that when we saw Jonathan's name on our phone screen, Joe and I were afraid to answer. Then we remember the summer internship, the four leadership conferences he's attending, AND the job offer he has for NEXT summer ... so all is forgiven.

~6~ Photo texts from far away places

Nicholas sent me this photo from Maastricht (a city in the Netherlands) and my heart was full, not because of the beauty of the photo, but because he gets to be there and experience it. He worked and studied hard in college and I'm glad he now has these opportunities to explore the world.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Death of a Mockingbird

Like every summer since the beginning of time (well, since Timothy started grade school) I have insisted he have a summer reading regimen which includes both an afternoon and an evening reading time. Evidently I'm a mean mommy, but despite some genetic anomaly in which Timothy received all of Joe's engineering/math genes and NONE of my reading/poetic genes, summer is about books.

Amazingly, it's not a forced march anymore, although it used to be. There were past summers when reading meant setting a timer, or holding off on the Xbox until one more chapter, or making a bargain whereby a finished book meant a Dairy Queen treat.

Perhaps it's because he's maturing, or maybe it's because high school is looming large and scary in the fall, but these days he picks up a book (without prompting) at least twice a day. So far he's read Lois Lowry's The Giver, Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and right now he's is in the middle of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Our goal is to finish up the summer with Homer's Odyssey.

Speaking of To Kill a Mockingbird ... it's been many years since I read it, and I  had forgotten how much I loved that book. But I also realized something. I'm several chapters ahead of Timothy, and I see now that we are going to have to sit down and discuss what rape means. Because I don't think he knows. And when you mix in racism, violence and cruelty, mankind doesn't look so ... kind.

And as much as I love talking about books with my son, as much as I relish these opportunities to explore themes and human nature, why does the thought of this conversation feel like the death of a mockingbird?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday, vol. 14 (Thoughts on the Priesthood)

*Last night at St. Mary's,  Monsignor Costigan returned to our parish to celebrate a special Mass in honor of the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination. It was a beautiful service, and it reminded me of the time a fellow blogger wrote and asked how I would feel if one of my sons were to become a priest. Here was part of my response to her ...

Recently I attended a luncheon when the subject of the priesthood came up. During the course of the conversation, I mentioned how I would consider it a blessing if any one of my sons decided to become a priest.

To my surprise, most of the women present looked at me as if I were crazy; in fact, many were truly horrified. It’s a lonely job, it’s too demanding, there won't be grandchildren, and he will be sent to a parish far away, they said.

Now, some of the women weren’t Catholic, so I understood their objections.

What really puzzled me were the reactions from the Catholics present who saw marriage as the only viable course for their children. Many of them came from large families in which marriage is held to the highest esteem; after all, marriage ensures the growth of family and solidifies future generations. Marriage brings grandchildren and large family gatherings. Marriage provides inroads to society.

But in the eyes of God, marriage is about service (to each other, to children, to the Church), and as John Paul II stressed time and time again we are called to serve God in different ways -- whether by marriage, as dedicated single persons, or through religious life.

The point is, each of these is a vocation. Each one is about answering God's call. Each one is about service. Each one has purpose and meaning.

Recently our friend Pablo celebrated his first Mass as a newly ordained priest, and during the service we sang a hymn called The Summons. The first verse of the song begins with Jesus asking what we would do if He called us by name to come and serve Him:

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown?
Will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

These words bring me to my point. As parents, my husband and I strive to give our sons the gift of our faith, but if God should call any of them to serve Him further, how could we deny the strength, purity, and love of such a calling? How could we deny the good that could come from our son serving another in Christ's name?

When a newly ordained priest celebrates his first Mass, two special gifts are traditionally presented to the parents: to his mother, he gives the maniturgium, or the cloth that was used to wipe the holy oil from his hands during ordination; to his father, he gives the stole that he wore when he heard his first confession. These items will be placed in their hands when they die, making it known that they are the parents of a priest.

So, how would I feel if one of our sons should answer God's call to the priesthood?

Truthfully, when I look at my sons I don't think how such a thing could even be possible ... they are about as un-priestly as you can get.

But, if one day God should call any of them ... what an incredible blessing that would be.

Friday, June 22, 2018

2015 Girls' Trip to Italy: The Last Day (recap, Days 7 & 8)

We are just a couple of weeks away from announcing our next trip to Italy, so this week I have been blogging about our 2015 trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast in the hopes that memories will surface and excitement will build for our next trip … announcement coming soon.

Day 7:  The Last Day

Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri.
~Diego Della Valle

Today was all about the island of Capri, but before we proceed allow me give the same lesson on pronunciation I gave my group before leaving home …
It's all about stressing the correct syllable ;-)

Also allow me to share some interesting facts about the island:

-The island saw an influx of visitors when a Polish poet named August Kopisch re-discovered la Grotta Azzurra, or the Blue Grotto.

- The Caprese salad gets its name from "salad of Capri" which is tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil with seasoning of salt and olive oil.

- Capri is the name of the island but it is actually divided into two sections: the eastern section takes the name of the island, and the western part is called Anacapri.

-Via Krupp is a famous road that descends to the sea in a series of dizzying, hairpin bends.

Via Krupp

But knowing all the above doesn’t quite prepare you for the majestic beauty of the place. Really, there are no words. The sea is the bluest blue, the buildings are the whitest white, the flowers are the most vibrant, the rocks are the most majestic, and the views are unparalleled.
la isola di Capri

We left Sorrento in the morning, traveling by ferry. When we got to Capri, some of the group explored the shops along the Marina Grande, while others signed up for a boating excursion around the island to see the Faraglioni – three towering rock formations that soar 360 ft. out of the sea. Our captain actually sailed under one.
boarding the ferry for Capri

the Italian flag

enjoying the sights

view of Sorrento from the sea

arriving at marina grande on Capri

our captain for the boat tour around the island

beautiful sailboats everywhere

the faraglioni

even more impressive up close

preparing to sail under the faraglioni

The entire group then reconvened for a funicular ride up the mountain to the Piazzetta, the main square of Capri. From there we walked to the Giardini Augusto (Augustus Gardens) where we took photos of the flowers and the yellowest lemons I’ve ever seen. From the gardens we could also see Via Krupp, the historic paved footpath winding down the mountain to the sea.
funicular this way

riding the funicular up to the piazzetta

walking around the gardens

yellowest lemons

Via Krupp

The afternoon was ours to explore. Some opted for lunch in one of the many fine dining restaurants, while others walked around window shopping at places like Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, and Ferragamo. Then there was a group of us who decided to go MORE UP by taking a chairlift to Anacapri, the highest point on the island. The 360 degree view was out of this world.
look how the shirts are displayed

riding the chairlift to anacapri

360 degree views

By late afternoon it was time to head back to Sorrento. In case you didn’t keep track, here are all the modes of transportation we used to get to Capri and then back again to Sorrento:

Tour Bus
Private motorboat
Capri bus
Tour bus

these two almost missed the ferry back ;-)

Back in Sorrento we had our final, farewell dinner at Ristorante Francischiello. After the meal, our tour guide took us to the roof of the restaurant to watch the stunning sunset, and as the sun dropped lower and lower over the horizon, we said our last goodbyes to la bella Italia. 
Ristorante Antico Francischiello

farewell dinner with friends

sharing memories of our vacation

one last glass of vino!

watching the sunset from the roof

holding the Sorrento sun in the palm of my hand

sinking over the horizon

farewell sunset, Sorrento, the amalfi coast

Day 8: Depart for home


Thursday, June 21, 2018

2015 Girls' Trip to Italy: An Active Volcano, a High Seas Adventure, Lunch with a View (recap, days 5 and 6)

We are just a couple of weeks away from announcing our next trip to Italy, and in the midst of planning itineraries, researching hotels, and deciding on dates, I realized that I never blogged about our first trip (2015 Girls’ Trip to Italy).

Until now. So, for these next few days I will blog about our wonderful trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast (the sights, the food, the adventures) in the hopes that memories will surface and excitement will build for our next trip …

Day 5 ... An Active Volcano and a Hotel in Sorrento

This morning we boarded a bus and said Arrivederci! to Rome. When my sister and I planned this trip we knew that Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast would offer a nice change of pace from our hectic schedule in Rome. So we left behind history, architecture, and art of Rome, and headed for picturesque towns, citrus orchards, and breathtaking coastlines of southern Italy. 

the coastline along the Amalfi Coast

On the way, we stopped at an Autogrill, the Italian version of a rest stop where, evidently, one can buy a pig. (Am I right, or am I right Wendy and Rose Ann?) We also made a brief stop in the town of Torre del Greco to visit Giovanni Apa, a jewelry store specializing in the ancient handcraft of coral and cameos.

The bus took us through Naples where we got our first glimpse of Mt. Vesuvius, the Bay of Naples, the cliffs of Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. Everything was breathtaking.
Driving by Naples

Our tour guide, Jane

on the bus

By mid-day we stopped for a guided tour of Pompeii. Now, you can't travel with us without learning a thing or two, and I had prepared my group for Pompeii. They knew things like:  1/ before Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, local people didn't even know it was a volcano because it had not erupted for 300 years  2/ the day before Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79 AD, the citizens celebrated a huge feast to Vulcan, the God of the Forge (#ironic)  3/ I also provided them with this graphic so they could get an idea of the scope of Vesuvius' plume when it erupted ...

And in case you're wondering ...YES, the volcano is still considered active. The last time it erupted was in 1944. To this day, Vesuvius remains one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. Some 3.5 million Italians live in its shadow, and about 2 million tourists visit the ruins each year.
the ruins of Pompeii

that "mountain" in the background? Mt. Vesuvius

plaster casts

archaeological finds

After the tour we drove to Sorrento where we checked into our hotel, Grand Hotel La Pace. Once we were assigned our rooms, some took naps while others lounged by the pool, but that evening everyone convened in the upstairs lobby for a welcome cocktail. Dinner that night was at the hotel.
Grand Hotel La Pace, Sorrento

taking in the view

social time before dinner

Day 6 ... Breathtaking Views, a High Seas Adventure, Lunch with a View
Today was all about exploring the quaint towns clinging to the side of the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast. We started out with a bus ride to Positano. For most of the group, this was the formal introduction to the narrow, serpentine road along the Amalfi Coast. People were forewarned: if you are prone to carsickness, sit in the front of the bus; if it makes you queasy to look out the window and see nothing but a steep drop to the ocean, sit on the left side of the bus.
Still, 23 women collectively gasped at the first treacherous, cliff-hanging curve. The Amalfi Coast has 1200 curves ... you do the math. Jane, our tour guide, told us not to worry. "Do what Roberto does and close your eyes," she announced.
FYI, Roberto was our bus driver.
driving along the amalfi coast

afraid of heights? don't sit on the right side of the bus

stopping for photos on a scenic overlook

We arrived in Positano just when a ferocious thunderstorm hit. Undaunted, we donned ponchos and clutched umbrellas and wandered the streets and alleyways. Some explored, some shopped, and some took shelter from the storm in a beautiful café and ordered a cappuccino while watching the storm. (One guess as to what I did.)

ceramic heaven

modeling the latest fashions in poncho-wear

an outdoor café in the rain

cappuccino time

Afterwards, we met at the marina where we boarded a boat in choppy seas for a tour and seaside view of the coastline. Despite the High Seas Adventure, everything was gorgeous. We arrived to the town of Amalfi where we explored, set out a search party for Laura B., and then boarded the bus for Ravello where, amazingly, the weather was now all blue skies and golden sun. In Ravello we had a gorgeous lunch in a restaurant overlooking the sea. We all loved Ravello.
our high seas adventure


ravello, one of our favorite towns

lunch at ristorante garden


best lunch ever

lunch with a view

walking around


We returned to our hotel by late afternoon, changed, and spent the evening exploring Sorrento which is the most perfect town for exploring. It's also great for shopping -- leather handbags, wallets, belts, ceramics, jewelry, table linens, and for SOMEONE ... a HUGE rolling suitcase.
It truly was a marvelous, adventurous day. Best of all, despite a bus ride on the winding Amalfi Coast and a motor launch on choppy seas ... no one got car sick, no one was seasick.
hanging out in ravello

Quote of the day: "It's like driving a bus on a sidewalk," said Julie M., commenting on the tiny road on the Amalfi Coast ... a seemingly one lane road that can somehow (amazingly and miraculously) accommodate two buses coming in opposite directions. Just barely. Without an inch to spare.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's last recap -- Day 7 (in which we use every mode of transportation known to man to get to the island of Capri) and Day 8 (in which we say arrivederci).