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

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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: A Quote


"So week after week, and year after year, she folded love into sheets of paper, stuffed hugs and kisses into an envelope, and with prayers and an airmail stamp sent everything from Verona, Italy all the way to America."

~Maria Novajosky, 2018
An Ocean, an Airplane, and Two Countries Full of Kisses


Friday, September 28, 2018

Books and Letters

Last night during Book Club we discussed the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Set on the island of Guernsey after WWII, the book is a collection of letters between Juliet, an author looking for her next book subject, and the residents of Guernsey.

I loved this book for two reasons: it demonstrates the transformative power of books, and it highlights the far-reaching effects of letter writing.

And in light of the mess going on in Washington, the book's simplicity, humor, and charm, along with the kindness, quirkiness, and generosity of its characters, anchored me to what really matters most in this world.

letters from my Italian Nonna,
going back almost 50 years

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Search (from the files of very bad poetry by bia)

The Search

Is there a jar
deep in the pantry
that I can pull down
open
and scoop out big
heaping
spoonfuls
of courage?

Or a drawer
where I can delve beyond
sweaters 
socks
and hidden things 
to pull out 
long, satin
folds of confidence?

Or maybe a book
high on a shelf
in a forgotten bookshop
where nestled within pages
dusty 
and musty
is an idea
to salvage?

I'm thinking that, yes,
they're all there
the courage
the confidence
the idea
wavering, waiting, 
fleeting, floating
within.

~from the files of very bad poetry by bia

by Kim Yoon Hee
artwork by Kim Yoon Hee

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Parisienne, or Lego Head? That is the Question.

So, just like that 3-4 inches were lopped off. My hair hasn't been this short since ... well, since I can remember. I think I like it, but I'm not sure.

I walked out of the salon feeling a little vulnerable.

But then a friend and a Publix cashier both used the word "Parisienne" to describe my new look, so I felt better ...

FOR ALL OF TWO MINUTES.



Because when I picked Timothy up from school, he took one look at me and said I look like a Lego Mini Figure.

Basically he called me a Lego Head. I think he meant it as a compliment, and in his world it probably is, but ...

Sheesh. I'm not sure, but I think I can still get it in a ponytail. Just. Barely.


Monday, September 24, 2018

A Box of Holy Rocks

Last week I placed an order for a Confirmation gift at my sister's Etsy shop, Alleluia Rocks. The package arrived today, so I invite you to an unveiling ...

~1~ 
Each order arrives in a sturdy white box. 


~2~ 
Rocks collections are nestled in linen drawstring bags.


~3~ 
For Confirmation, I always give seven books representing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can read about my tradition here, here, here, and here. But when I saw these Confirmation Stones in Laura's shop, I knew I had to get them. They would look great on a bookcase along with the books.


~4~ 
I also ordered some Italia rocks because Italia always rocks. 


~5~
Travel-themed note cards because ... you know ... Girls' Trip to Italy.


~6~ 
Not every order comes with a personal note, but being that she's my sister ...
she sent me her deposit for the little trip mentioned above. 


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: The Pregnant Pause

Stop, I tell myself. Right now, whatever it is I'm doing. Breathe, listen, think, dream, pray. These moments tell me more about life than all the running around we do to live it. Build in the pause, the caesura.

Lately I have been fascinated by the use of the caesura, a pause in a line of poetry or music which is used for a dramatic effect. A caesura is often used to introduce, or highlight, something that is to follow.

Recently someone in my Bible Study pointed out the caesura dividing the two stanzas of the Hail Mary. The first stanza ends with the words "blessed is the fruit of your womb"; hence, Mary is with child. In the silence of the caesura separating the first stanza from the second stanza (which begins with the words "Holy Mary, Mother of God") Mary has given birth and is now a mother.

A lot happens in the silence of that pause.

Last week I gave a presentation in which I pointed out one of my favorite illustrations of a caesura in art in Andrea della Robbia's masterpiece, "The Annunciation". This familiar scene has been reduced to the essentials in which everyone is waiting for Mary's reply. The angel, God, the cherubs, and even the wings of the dove are waiting in suspense for the free will decision of Mary. Her face is thoughtful; one hand rests on the passage from Isaiah (Behold, a virgin shall conceive ...) while her other hand rests on her heart, searching for God's will.

This example of a caesura demonstrates the moment - the silent moment - just before Mary gives her fiat. And her words, not yet uttered, are inscribed on the base: You see before you the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say.

The Annunciation, Andrea della Robbia
La Verna, Italy

There is so much about the caesura, that deliberate pause, which I can apply to my life. How about inserting a caesura before I am tempted to speak my mind? Or using it before I make an important decision? Or using one in prayer so I can hear what God has to say? I can even use the caesura as a way to begin, or end, my day.

Yes, there are lessons to be learned in a pause ... a silence which speaks volumes.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Test Kitchen

Once upon a time I was a high school English teacher. What many of you may not know is that I was also a foreign language teacher. I taught Spanish I-IV. My two favorite classes to teach were British Literature and Spanish IV.

So earlier this week when Timothy--who is FINALLY taking a foreign language class every day as opposed to one quarter a year--sent me the following text, I jumped at the chance.

Pikachu dice hola. 

To practice, last night we made baked empanadas for dinner. It was fun cooking together and they turned out GREAT. We stored the extra filling, and early this morning we got up early to cook the rest of the empanadas for his class project. And just like that, Friday turned into Fri-yay!

What's Sofrito?

Ready to go into the oven.

Test Kitchen Success

Baked empanadas

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Life Lately (an awkward bathroom incident in Italy, morning prayers, accidental group text inclusion)

A little bit of this, a little bit of that ...

1- Today is my sweet sister-in-law's birthday. She turns 40, but looks 14. Buon Compleanno, Leah! One of the funniest stories in our family involves Leah and a toilet in Italy. But here, let my brother tell it ...

Leah’s bathroom story in a nutshell:

1. Leah is in bathroom at restaurant in Italy, tries to flush toilet by pulling the “panic cord.”
2. Toilet doesn’t flush, therefore #1 gets repeated multiple times.
3. Panic bell is ringing like crazy wherever the employees are hanging out, they therefore rush into the bathroom.
4. Leah doesn’t speak Italian.
5. Said employees don’t speak English.
6. Toilet is still not flushed (awkward…)
7. Everybody hugs and eats food.

That pretty much covers it.
Dave



2- Every day Timothy and I say our prayers in the car as I drive him to school, and because he's in the middle of sacramental prep for Confirmation he has made a personal pledge to take the lead with our prayer time every morning. When people ask why he doesn't ride the bus now that he's in a different school ... well, this is why. Love these times together on our morning and afternoon drives.

3- Speaking of Timothy ... yesterday I was accidentally included in a group text he sent to his friends. It was a sneak peek into their Dabbing/Fortnite/Dude Perfect World, and I never laughed so hard. Those boys are goofy, and so innocent, and I hope they stay that way for a long time! Of course, once I confessed to Timothy, and after I threatened to join in on the conversation, I was immediately removed. Go figure. But it was nice while it lasted.



4- Response for the 2018 Girls' Trip to Italy has been awesome! One year from today we will be landing in Florence for a 13-day adventure.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Motorcycle Memories with My Zio

I wrote this in 2009, but I'm bringing it back today for my zio Silvio. He's my handsome, charming, funny uncle who is largely responsible for my love affair with motorcycles. He's been under the weather these past few months, so I hope this brightens his day.

I have a thing for motorcycles. Not the big bikes, but Vespas . . . the quintessential Italian scooter perfect for cobblestone streets and winding through the hills of the Italian countryside.

When I was a little girl my zio Silvio had a beautiful burgundy Vespa, and with my sister standing in front and me sitting behind, he would take us on afternoon rides through the farmlands of San Martino and Negrar. Sometimes we'd sneak out without my sister (sorry Ua!) and I would then have my zio all to myself as we zipped through the countryside.

Occasionally we ventured into downtown Verona, going through the city’s big, stone archways, weaving in and out of traffic and then climbing Salita XX Settembre to visit his parents.

And every excursion always involved a stop at a bar for a popsicle, un ghiacciolo.

At different times of my life I have had the opportunity to revisit those childhood Vespa rides so that now I have several motorcycle stories. My favorite one involves an Italian college student and a sunny few days in Spain . . .

During my college summer study abroad, our final two days were spent in Barcelona. The problem was that by then we were all BROKE. We had no money for transportation, entrance fees, or even food. One meal was a shared jar of peanut butter, all of us huddled around it with spoons. We were that broke.

That night, however, we met a group of Italian college students who were spending the summer driving through Spain. They very graciously volunteered to drive us around the next day. Since none of them spoke English, and I was the only one in my group who spoke Italian, I was the official translator.

The next day we met the Italians in the lobby and we divided into groups. The organizer of their group asked me to ride with him, and I just about fainted when we walked outside and I saw his motorcycle. Gulp.

All my friends were squished into cars, but I got to ride on a motorcycle holding on tightly to a very cute Italian guy.

I don’t remember much of what we saw that day, but I do remember that incredible feeling of freedom and youthful abandonment. I also remember my friends teasing me and telling me to quit smiling or I was going to have gnats embedded in my teeth.

But my smile on that sunny afternoon in Barcelona was an echo of my smile on those first Vespa rides with my uncle.

Grazie, zio Silvio! Spero che guarisci al piu presto! 

Silvio, fixing us a pizza in his brick oven

zio Silvio

Monday, September 17, 2018

Here, There, Everywhere

When it's your turn to host Sunday dinner and your parents have just returned from a trip to Norway, Iceland, Greenland, the Shetland Islands, and Nova Scotia ... they show up to your door as Viking Man and Viking Woman.



They also come bearing gifts: bottled water from the Greenland Ice Cap (the purest natural drinking water in the world) ...


and petrified wood from Sydney, Nova Scotia.



They also show you their certificates for having sailed through the Arctic Circle.


After lunch and just thirty minutes after they left, my friend who was visiting HER parents sent me the following text: The Viking is here ...


and here was my response: They're EVERYWHERE! They were just HERE!

In fact, here's another sighting ...

\
And just in case you're wondering if my parents know how to have fun, allow me to present the following ...

Mad Hatter Dinner, Myrtle Beach, SC

New Year's Eve family cruise to Cozumel, Mexico

Somewhere in Chile, South America

Dancing in Argentina

I want to be them when I grow up.

P. S. I also have a video of Timothy and Nonna dancing the floss. It's a GREAT video, but I'm not sharing it. Whereas Nonna wouldn't mind in the least, Timothy would ;-) 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: To-do Lists


Yesterday I was cleaning out a drawer and came across a to-do list that my eldest son had scribbled on a scrap of paper. He must have been in middle school at the time, and it made me smile to see how he had organized his world with this scribbled list of turn in reading log, lift weights, type story, study. 

The truth is, we are all big list makers. Every morning as I'm sipping my cappuccino I pull out my planner and reference my monthly and weekly lists in order to make my daily list. My lists cover Chores, Menu Planning, Work, Submissions, Exercise, Groceries, and Masters Cleaning. I even have a Do or Die list for those things in which I keep procrastinating. My husband, on the other hand, writes his to-do lists on a tiny post-it note which he keeps in his wallet. Sometimes I will pull it out and underneath change air filters, check pressure in front tire, or fertilize backyard I will add hug your wife, ask your wife out on a date, or bring your wife flowers. Then I draw a heart, or a smiley face.

But as I held my son's sweet list it dawned on me how to-do lists always seem to deal with this physical world; that is, what to do instead of how to be. What about a spiritual to-do list, one full of reminders on how to be a good person? 

Mentally, I made list.

  • be forgiving
  • be charitable
  • be a friend
  • be brave
  • be a consoler
  • be a peacemaker
  • be kind, smile, speak gently

I think that this week, as I'm sipping my morning cappuccino, I will start a spiritual to-do list and pick one how-to-be characteristic and live it fully for that day. To be or not to be? I think I'll try to be. 


A tourist took this photo of NYC policeman, Larry DePrimo, presenting
thermal socks and all-weather boots to a homeless man in Times Square.
Then he knelt and helped the man put them on.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Use No. 48 for a Ziploc Bag (or, A Hurricane Survival Tip)

In September 1999 we had just arrived in Myrtle Beach, SC for a family vacation with my parents and my sister and her family. Nicholas was 4 years old, Jonathan was 2, and Timothy was still a fat cherub floating around heaven.

Then Hurricane Floyd happened, which resulted in a mandatory coastal evacuation. As you can imagine, traffic during the mass exodus was horrendous. It took us six hours just to get 20 miles out of Myrtle Beach. A trip which usually takes four hours door to door, took almost ten. We arrived home well after midnight.

Because of Hurricane Floyd, here is a synopsis of our vacation:

Sunday: arrived to Myrtle Beach
Tuesday: mandatory coastal evacuation (packed up and drove all the way home)
Thursday: returned to Myrtle Beach (we still had vacation days left!)
Sunday: returned home (end of our vacation)

It was a wild and crazy adventure, and as young as the boys were they still have memories of that trip--playing on the side of the road when the traffic was at a standstill, climbing all around the van without seat belts (again, traffic at a standstill), and eating all the fruit snacks and animal crackers they wanted (everything was closed).

Mostly, though, they remember getting to tinkle into a Ziploc bag.

Which made it the best. vacation. ever.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Big Fat Fall Fib

It's fall, y'all!

I keep seeing that cute southern expression everywhere--on t-shirts, in coffee houses, on yard flags, at grocery stores--and let me just say that it is one big, fat lie. A fabrication of epic proportions, a falsehood, falsity, fib, prevarication, and untruth. A whopper.

When temps hover in the mid-90's day after day it is most emphatically NOT fall.

Living in the south for so long, I should know by now that simply flipping a calendar page doesn't mean a new season has arrived. I should know that just because the kids are back in school, doesn't mean it's sweater weather. And you'd think I'd now that just because it's football season, doesn't mean we can wear festive, striped scarves and huddle under stadium blankets.

Honestly, this is the time of year that really drags me down. This heat. I'm so over it. It drags on and on, beating down relentlessly, the same ol', same ol' with no relief in sight.

You might think I'm being a tad melodramatic, but I live in the south and have earned the right to be a  drama queen.

But gosh darn it, yesterday afternoon I was determined to at least make it look like fall. I pulled out my autumn candles, the yellow ceramic owl, the fall wreath, and ... I just couldn't. I wasn't feeling it and had to stop.

It's no fun decorating for fall when you are sweating buckets and the sun is blindingly bright and the air conditioner drones nonstop.

So even though it's mid-September (but not fall) I'm going to be Ebenezer Scrooge (although it's not December) and say, "Bah-humbug."


One sad little pumpkin. 



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

If you take a teen to the grocery store ...


If you take a teen to the grocery store, poof! magical things happen:
~Pop Tarts, sour popsicles, and strawberry soda poof! appear in your cart.
~Things like broccoli, lettuce, whole grains poof! disappear out of your cart.
~Cereals transform: Cheerios turn into Frosted Flakes 
and Raisin Bran into Cocoa Krispies. poof! poof!

If you take a teen to the grocery store, it won’t be a quick trip.
~You will be distracted.
~Your grocery list will no longer mean anything; in fact, poof! it disappears.
~You will say no and put it down countless times.

If you take a teen to the grocery store, he will find hidden treasures.
~Like these, nestled between the candy bars in the check-out lane.
One for him, one for me.


And I am thinking ...
If you take a teen to the grocery store,
you'll be so glad you did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Misunderstood

It's a good thing my sister understands me because Siri and I have sirius communication issues.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: Learning from One Another

Today, a little inspiration to go find someone who knows something you don't, and learn from them. Someone who inspires, teaches, encourages. Someone who opens your mind and introduces you to new ideas, thoughts, and ways of looking at the world. And be ready for someone to find you. Welcome that person. In life we are both the teacher and the student. Let us learn from one another, and grow.

Ogni persona che incontri è migliore di te in qualcosa ...
in quella cosa impara.

~Ghandi

(Every person you meet is better than you in something ... 
in that one thing, learn.)

cousins Thomas and Timothy
in the heart of Tuscany

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Bia-the-City-Girl Almost Dies

Yesterday I came home from a workout and found a black snake blocking my entrance to our back steps.

Or was it a black stick? I tiptoed closer ... nope, definitely a snake. Did Bia-the-city-girl panic? I did not. I am getting used to the scary, creepy, crawly wildlife that makes up our woodsy backyard and nearby canal trail.

So I picked up a pebble, and tossed it near the snake in the hopes it would slither away. It didn't move. I tossed another. Again, no movement.

So I crept closer and leaned down. A snakeskin! Fully intact, from head to tail. Although sufficiently creepy (after all, where was the snake who left his skin behind?) it was fascinating. I started to reach out to poke it, but stopped. Instead, I stepped over it and went inside.

Fifteen minutes later I had to get something from the garage and when I exited the back door ... WHERE WAS THE SNAKESKIN?

There were two options:

1- A wild and woolly squirrel (of which there are MANY in our backyard) took it. Dinner? Dessert?

or ...

2- I almost POKED A LIVE SNAKE WITH MY FINGER!!

That night during dinner I told my guys the snake encounter story, and Timothy thought it was funny. Joe wanted to know if I had been wearing my glasses, and Timothy thought that was funny, too. Then they both laughed.

No sympathy from those two. It wasn't meant to be a FUNNY story. It was a HORROR story! I mean, I could have been bitten and died a gruesome death right there in our backyard!

Next time I'm calling my dad. He rescues me from snake encounters.

Myrtle Beach, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Meeting David


Do you want to take a selfie (like these sweet nuns) in front of Michelangelo’s David? Well, you can!

David stands tall at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, one of the places we’ll visit on our 2019 Girls’ Trip to Italy. This weekend I am hosting an INFORMATION SESSION on the trip; if you are local and interested, send me a PM (private message) and I will send you an email with date and time. (I need to know you’re coming so I can have an information packet for you.) 

In the meantime, a sneak peek of the things you will learn if you travel with us …

-Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he started sculpting David. It took him two years to complete.

-David stands almost 17 feet tall and was carved from a single block of Carrara marble.

-Unlike the tradition of depicting a triumphant David after he defeated Goliath, Michelangelo chose to portray David before the battle. His face in concentration, the rock hidden in his right palm, and the slingshot casually resting on his shoulder hints at him waiting for the right moment to attack—that is, he’s feigning casualness to spring the element of surprise.

-The sling over David's shoulder and tree trunk behind his right leg were once covered in gold leaf, but years of being exposed to the elements while displayed outside in Piazza Signoria washed the gold leaf away.  So, after 400 years of being outside, he was moved inside to the Accademia Gallery.



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Website by Any Other Name

So ... I have a little announcement.

When I started this blog over 10 years ago it took me a while to come up with the perfect title. I needed something that reflected my Italian heritage and my American heritage, and I needed it to show I was a mother to three boys. So, I covered all the bases with La Dolce Vita (written in Italian), the Sweet Life (written in English), and with Three Sons (denoting motherhood); furthermore, I felt having a title written in both languages mirrored the words Italian-American. At the time, little did I realize what a LONG title it was. I mean, La Dolce Vita the Sweet Life with Three Sons is a mouthful AND it takes forever to type.

But I love my blog, despite too many words in the title. This is where I hang out. This is me. This is where I invite you in for a cappuccino and tell you all that is funny, stupid, introspective, sad, crazy, creative, and whimsical that is my life.

HOWEVER, now that I have a book coming out I needed something more professional, with a shorter title, and linked to me by my name. So, without further ado ... introducing my NEW WEBSITE.

It's shorter, yes, but not necessarily easier to write. Oh well. (On a side note, isn't it amazing that I didn't have ANY PROBLEM acquiring a Maria Novajosky domain? Huh. Go figure.)

Nothing will change. When you want that cappuccino, visit me here at La Dolce Vita.  If you want more information (bio, published articles, contact info, and book news) hop over to my website.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day Spin

I just survived a spinning session.

The class? Four miles (ONE WAY) along Evans-to-Locks road with its ABOMINABLE HILLS. For some reason, it's uphill going and coming. I'm not kidding. I don't know how that's even possible.

The instructor? Joe (For the record, I like Joy's spinning class better. She plays music and everyone sings along.)

The Destination? My parents' house to water their plants which are MOSTLY DEAD because it's been SO HOT and I didn't go by sooner. Bad, bad Bia.

And where are my parents while I'm spinning in 100 degree weather and killing their plants? They are exploring the fjords of Norway, walking in the Shetland Islands, traipsing in Iceland (the land of fire and ice), and tomorrow they are sailing to Greenland.

Who is having more fun?  Huh. I want to be my parents when I grow up.



Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Sounds of Saturday

As I type this I am listening to sounds riding piggyback on the breeze coming through our open kitchen window. The drone of our neighbor's weed eater, the rasping of a rake, and the sputter of a lawn mower are some of the busy sounds I associate with Saturday morning. After a week in which houses are vacant for most of the day, these are the sounds of a neighborhood coming to life.

On Saturday, yards are played in, garages are tinkered in, and homes are lived in.

I always thought of Saturday as making its own kind of music, and in our family it always began in the kitchen with pots rattling and dishes clinking . . . noises which meant our mother was preparing a delicious home cooked breakfast. Apple pancakes sprinkled with cinnamon, waffles dripping with syrup, or homemade raisin bread with honey butter beckoned us to the kitchen, and it was a good way to wake up.

Of course, all that nourishment and comfort food were meant to prepare us for tackling our Saturday Morning Chores, so after breakfast the sounds of industry could be heard in the snapping sheets hanging on the line, the whirring vacuum cleaner, the whispering dust cloth, the swishing washing machine, and even the pounding hammer coming from my father's workbench.

Lunchtime marked the beginning of the second half of our Saturday, a long, glorious afternoon in which we were free to do whatever we wanted. It was a quiet time - peaceful - and even the sounds changed. The air conditioner humming, pages rustling in a book, and a football game droning in the background were softer noises which contrasted starkly with the sounds from earlier in the day. It was a time for napping, or cutting out paper dolls, or curling up with a good book.

Today, our Saturdays are similar. Joe is outside preparing to pressure wash the backyard brick patio, and through the open window I hear banging as he moves things around in the garage. When he pushes the machine outside I hear the sounds the wheels make--first a crunchy sound as it rolls over gravel, then  a soft swishing over the grass. Upstairs, Timothy is cleaning his room, and when he starts vacuuming I can't hear his sweet humming anymore. The sheets have been changed, the dryer has just buzzed, and as soon as I fold the clothes I'll start prepping for lunch.

Which means Saturday afternoon is just around the corner ... and I like the sound of that very, very much.