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

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Days of Yesteryear


This year, Halloween will be different.

This year, we won’t be building a costume around a hat plucked from the Hat Box, or scrambling to pull together a costume at the last minute.

This year, we won’t leave the Nonni in charge of giving out candy while we walk around the neighborhood talking to neighbors as our sons run up and down driveways.

This year, we won’t gather around the kitchen table with the evening’s bounty, everyone burrowing through the pile looking for their favorite treat—a Babe Ruth (me), Sour Patch Kids (the boys), Hershey’s bars (Joe), Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (Nonna), or any candy bar (Nonno, who likes it all).

This year, for the first time in over 20 years, we won’t have a child trick-or-treating. There will be no puppies, court jesters, Mr. Potato Heads, cattle rustlers, Harry Potters, Luke Skywalkers, pirates, football players, or Uncle Si.

Which is why this year ... I am thinking of all the Halloween days of yesteryear.





Monday, October 29, 2018

Bootiful Day

Three Halloweeny things that make my Monday ...

1- A happy ghost (how to here).

3- The cutest Halloween card.

2- That I was the Queen of Moderation, the Resistor of Temptation, the Epitome of Steely Resolve when faced with these two bags of candy.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: Hero Worship and Silent Heroes

We are all ordinary. We are all boring. We are all spectacular. We are all shy. We are all bold. We are all heroes. We are all helpless. It just depends on the day.

~Brad Meltzer, author of Heroes for My Son

Perhaps it’s because I am all too aware of my own imperfections that I am very cautious about putting someone on a pedestal. To be sure, there are people I admire and respect, but there's a difference between admiring someone and thinking they hang the moon.
I am bothered by the fact that many times people are held in high esteem for no other reason other than they can throw a football, or look pretty on television, or lose weight, or make multi-million dollar deals. And I am bothered at how willing some of us are to look up to someone who is, when it comes down to it, very human.
When you cross the line into hero worship, you are basically setting yourself up to be less than that person . . . which is almost like saying God (who made us in his image) somehow made a mistake in how he made you.
I once accompanied a group of local doctors to Haiti for a 10-day mission trip. Part of that experience included a lot of rough travel, the most grueling of which was a 14-hour truck ride through mountains, desert and jungle until we reached the small village of Jean-Rabel.
During that long, long trip I was surrounded by doctors and missionaries who spent that time talking. One discussion involved the misdirection of youth, and a young missionary made a comment that the distractions offered by today's society were nothing more than a substitute for the Holy Spirit.
Oh, brother! I remember thinking.
But over time I’ve come to realize what she was trying to say. There’s nothing wrong with getting excited during a rock concert, or cheering a star athlete, or looking up to someone, or recognizing them as a leader.
The problem occurs when we lose sight of the First Commandment and lay those feelings of enthusiasm, admiration and even hope at the feet of someone who is merely human.
The problem occurs when we measure our own self-worth by human rather than spiritual standards.
The problem occurs when we don't see the value in  those around us (teammates, co-workers, family members) because we are so blinded by the star quality of one individual.
I am grateful that the world is full of many wonderful people -- people I admire and respect and who inspire me to be a better person. But putting them on a pedestal?

I know of only One who can hang the moon.



In response to this post, my zia Tiziana left this comment about the silent hero, my Nonna's kind of hero. In almost 12 years of blogging, this comment is one of my favorite.

"How true are your words. We all have heroes, and sometimes it is difficult to believe that they are only poor humans like us, with faults and weaknesses. For our Nonna, however, the true heroes were people like her parents who, even though they weren’t rich, worked hard – without running water, heat, electricity, refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, iron, television, etc. – and yet they were able to raise their four daughters in serenity, happiness and faith. Nonna always remembered her childhood as the happiest time of her life. She would always say, 'Yes, we were poor, but how much fun we had running in the fields, talking and singing in the barn (the warmest place to gather), and we appreciated the simplest things.' Maybe the true heroes are those who silently help others and perhaps they are the only ones who can truly help God 'hang the moon'”.
~Tizi

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Leaving

A rainy day, autumn leaves wind-swept to a corner of our front walk, and the portrait mode of my iPhone. No filters.

Quite proud of this one ... AND it inspired a very bad poem by bia.



Leaving

If only all partings
were as beautiful
as a leaving leaf.
A ballet in the wind
falling, floating, finishing
à terre.

A leaf which has left.

~from the files of very bad poetry by bia

Friday, October 26, 2018

Life Lately: mirror, mirror/ chalk art/ deliciousness in a bowl

1- Through the Looking Glass

Last weekend our lovely city hosted the annual Summerville Tour of Homes, and my friend's two hundred year old home was one of those on the tour! I volunteered to be a hostess for a shift on Sunday afternoon.

For three hours I played docent, sharing facts I hastily memorized from an information sheet given to me upon arrival. I'm good at memorizing, and I was wearing an official Summerville Tour Hostess badge, so for those three hours I pretended to know what I was talking about.

Seriously, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon. I met some lovely people, and the home (as always) was absolutely gorgeous.

It also made me realize I need a mirror ...  not just any mirror, but a MIRROR. One worthy of fairy tales and castles. One which will transport you to another world if you step through it.



2- Street Art

Allow me to share the following photos depicting street art in Florence, Italy. Street art with CHALK. There is something sad in thinking someone's heartfelt artistic endeavor is fleeting, melting away into chalky rivers the first time it rains. There's a metaphor for life somewhere in there, and just like that I feel a very bad poem by Bia taking root.



3- Lunch

Earlier this week I made a huge pot of pasta e fagioli for dinner, and every day since then it's been my go-to lunch. Perfect meal in a bowl.



Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Great Jewelry Purge

Last April I wrote a post entitled A Whole Lot of Less in which I described what I packed for a 9-day trip to Florida. Which was very little. All my clothing fit in one small suitcase, and my jewelry included only the following items: one Fitbit Blaze (with interchangeable straps), one pair of earrings, and one wrap bracelet. Additionally, because we were leaving our home to our Masters guests, I had stored all the rest of my clothes and placed all my jewelry in a duffel bag which I squirreled away in our closet. When we returned home I didn't even pull them out again.

I learned an important lesson during our vacation: for those 9 days I wanted for nothing, and yet I had exactly what I needed--not too much, not too little, but the blessing of just enough.

And living with enough is plenty.

It wasn't until TODAY (six months later!) that I even pulled out that duffel bag of jewelry (which I discovered as I was cleaning out our closet). I looked at jewelry I hadn't worn in months, at all the watches, rings, necklaces, and bracelets I hadn't even missed. I sorted through everything, saved some favorite pieces, and then bagged the rest for donation.

Simplifying. Getting rid of too much. Letting go of the having just to have.

And knowing that the gift of enough is plenty. It's a lesson I apply to many areas of my life, and I have learned that saying no to excess leaves room for grace, tranquility, and peace of mind...all of which teaches me more about life than all the running around I do to live it.

Simplifying, and getting rid of what I don't need. 

Getting rid of too much. All bagged and ready to be donated.

This was all the jewelry I packed for our vacation, 
and all the jewelry I used for several months.

These are the earrings I kept after the Great Jewelry Purge.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Around the Fire Pit

When a member of our Book Club suggested we read Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca for October, I knew right away it would be the perfect novel for a month which is all about ghosts and goblins.

To mirror the Gothic mood of the book, we took Book Club outside where, sitting around a fire pit, we discussed symbolism, foreshadowing, redemption, evil, and dreams. There must be something about a fire because we delved into that novel. We explored, analyzed, critiqued, and dissected.

We also came prepared to give the nameless heroine a name. Here were some of the suggestions: Frances, Daphne, Clementine, Angelina, Anastasia, Persimmon, and Rhododendron (and if you've read the novel then you know how that last suggestion makes perfect sense).

It was a lovely evening, and that night I didn't dream I went to Manderley again; rather, I thought about how grateful I was for that time around a fire, eating s'mores and drinking apple cider (or wine), all while discussing a good book with a group of wise, witty, and insightful women.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

When the Cat is Away, the Mouse Eats Nutella

This morning, as I was driving Timothy to school, I asked him if there was anything he needed at the grocery store since I was headed there later that morning.

"Nutella," he answered promptly. "We're completely out."

So I added it to the list.

Later, though, as I was reaching for a jar of Nutella on the top shelf of the grocery store, I experienced a strong sense of deja vu. Wait a minute. Didn't I just purchase a large jar of Nutella not ten days ago? Why yes, yes I did. So when I picked up Timothy later that day I put him through the Nutella Inquisition. Where did that jar of Nutella go? The jar that was Costco-sized ... all 2.2 lbs of it?

And he confessed.

It seems that while I was in Arkansas for five days Timothy considered Nutella to be an essential part of the Food Pyramid:

Nutella on toast. Breakfast!
Nutella on sliced bread. Lunch!
Nutella with Ritz crackers. Afternoon snack!
Nutella on a spoon. Bedtime snack!

I just looked at him and thought of 2.2 lbs. of Nutella gone just like that.

Sometimes, there are just no words ... you know?

Monday, October 22, 2018

What does Nonno want for his birthday? Ask Nonna.

Today is my dad's birthday, and in honor of the occasion I am sharing the following conversation from a few years ago. Try to follow along and not get dizzy.

Me: Dad, what do you want  for your birthday?

Dad: I don't know. I really don't need anything.

Mom: I know what he wants. He wants a wind chime.

Dad: I want I wind chime?

Mom: Yes, don't you remember when we went to our friends' house and they had a wind chime? It sounded so beautiful.

Dad turns and looks at me.

Dad: I guess I want a wind chime.

I look at him. I look at my Mom. And I keep my mouth shut. Later that evening I get a phone call.

Dad: I've been thinking. I really would like a wind chime.

I guess Nonno is getting a wind chime. For his birthday. For Nonna. Or something.


"So where is Vesuvius from here?" my husband asked while 
dining somewhere on the Amalfi Coast, Italy.
THIS is the response we got :-)


Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Accountant's Invention

Dear Jonathan,

Today is your REAL birthday, as opposed to all those "practice" celebrations we've been having all month long.

To celebrate, I'm sharing your genius invention from the 4th grade. It was such a hit, and the engineering was of such high caliber, that we thought for sure you'd go into engineering. But you chose accounting ... which was probably smart since you will need to keep track of the revenue created by your "Clothes from Above" invention.

As you will remember, you got a 98 on the project. Two points were deducted for talking too fast.

I sent you a small birthday package which will arrive tomorrow ... just trying to extend your birthday even more!

Love,
Mom








Saturday, October 20, 2018

Like the Creepy Snake Scene from Indiana Jones

Once upon a time, after spotting a snake in our garage and watching it disappear into a hole in the wall, I wrote a post asking this question: Is it possible for snake to crawl up in the minivan's engine only to come slithering our of the air conditioning vent as I'm sitting in carpool line?

I really wanted to know, so I put the question out there.

Then I wished I hadn't. I got no reassurances whatsoever. Oh, the horror stories! A blogging friend of mine (a schoolmaster from Uruguay) summed it up like this: I'm sorry, Bia, but I think it's possible.

Huh. That will teach me to ask a question when I don't want to know the answer.

Then yesterday, I saw this outside our garage and it confirmed all my fears.




Friday, October 19, 2018

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

Yesterday I was prepping for next week's Book Club meeting (we will be discussing Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier) when I stumbled upon a web site, The House that Lars Built, which offered a free Rebecca Book Club download.

Because the printable was so beautiful, and because I wanted to be absolutely sure that I would be allowed to use it, I sent an email asking about the artwork.

Within ten minutes the Designer and Content Editor, Rebecca Hansen, sent a lovely reply. Not only was the printable free, but she updated the link to make it easier for me to download.

So next Tuesday, as we discuss the roles of dreams and daydreams in the novel, as we consider why the narrator is nameless and explore the themes of loss and exile and morality ... we will enjoy these lovely bookmarks compliments of Rebecca at The House that Lars Built.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Letters to Juliet ... Really

I have traveled all over Italy, visiting big cities (Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples) and small towns (Bassano, Padova, Assisi). I've traveled the winding roads along the Amalfi Coast, hiked through the Dolomites, and sailed to Capri. I've watched the sun rising behind a row of cypress trees, heard the rain pattering on ancient cobblestone streets, and marveled at bright red geraniums spilling over flower boxes, balconies, and windows.

But in all the boot that is Italy, my favorite place is Verona.

Verona is where my mother is from. It is the place where I rode with my Zio took on the back of his vespa, where my Nonna took me to my first opera, where I had my First Communion. Verona is where I brought my husband a few years after we were married and, later, our three sons.

And Verona is the perfect city for love; after all, it is the setting of Shakespeare's tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet -- a tale based on the Capulets and the Montagues who were prominent families of Verona.

Today, you can visit Juliet's balcony.


You can also see Juliet's statue,



and for good luck you can even touch Juliet's ...
well, I'll let my zio Luciano demonstrate.


A couple of years ago a very charming movie, Letters to Juliet, was filmed in and around Verona.


In the movie, Sophie is an aspiring writer who meets a group of women known as Juliet's secretaries. These women gather to answer letters sent to Juliet asking for advice on love.

Now, what many may not realize is that Juliet's secretaries actually exist. For more than 70 years, Juliet's "secretaries" (volunteers from Verona) have collected the notes and letters which arrive in the mail by the thousands from all over the world . . . and every single letter containing a return address is answered.

So, if you are seeking advice on all matters concerning amore, write to ...


Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House)

Via Cappello, 23
Verona, Italy

And as far as love stories go ... my parents met in Verona. They used to meet right under this clock tower.



And here, the same place 40 years later.


And under the clock tower, in the right hand corner, you will find a plaque containing
Shakespeare's description of Verona in Act III, Scene III of  Romeo and Juliet.






"There is no world without Verona walls ..."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Olaf in Pennsylvania

This afternoon Joe and I are leaving Timo in the loving care of his nonni while Joe and I head to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for weekend festivities surrounding Joe's 35th high school reunion.

Now, did I grow up in Pennsylvania? Did I go to the same high school as Joe? Will I know anyone?

No, no, and no.

But I'm excited anyway because ...

a/ road trip
b/ weekend with Joe
c/ COOLER WEATHER!!!

Seriously, temps in Pennsylvania will be in the 60's and 40's. We will be gone Thursday through Sunday and I plan to bring at least five jackets, a gazillion scarves, and lots of sweaters. I WANT TO WEAR THEM ALL!!!

Picture me as Olaf, but instead of singing about summer and sand, I'm going to be singing about falling leaves and bright, woolly scarves.

And I can't wait to see
What my Joe's buddies all think of me!
Just imagine how much cooler I'll be
In summer autumn!

Da da ... Da doo





Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Lesson on Finding the Perfect Time

Several years ago I had an idea to sponsor a girls' trip to Italy. It was a wonderful idea, combining my love of travel with my love of Italy, but it was an idea I kept postponing because I was waiting for The Perfect Time. 

So I waited. 

Months passed. 

A year.

And another. 

Then one summer during a family road trip, I found myself in an art museum contemplating a Caravaggio masterpiece. As I explored the feelings evoked when art, history, culture, and travel collide, I felt Caravaggio lead me out of the shadows of dreams and into the light of reality with this epiphany: there will NEVER, EVER be a Perfect Time. It simply doesn't exist; as you wait for that Perfect Time to ... POOF! ... magically appear, time slips through your fingers. 

With those thoughts in mind, within two days of returning home from that road trip I announced the 2015 Girls' Trip to Italy to family, friends, and friends of friends. It took a leap of faith--so many details! so many worries! so many logistical decisions involved in getting from here to there! But with the date circled on the calendar, all of us did what we needed to do to create that Perfect Time. 

Exactly one year from when I first announced the trip, 23 women were standing in St. Peter's Square in Rome for the Pope's blessing. That was the first day of what would be a nine day adventure. 

We had the Most perfect Time.

Today, three years later, another trip is in the works--the 2019 Girls' Trip to Italy. The itinerary is set, travel information packets have been handed out, questions have been asked and answered. Our list of travelers is growing and deposit checks arrive weekly. Getting the mail has never been more fun. 

Just like last time, it's an exciting, scary, thrilling time ... and we haven't even left home yet. 

The Dutch have a saying: He who is outside his door, already has the hard part of his journey before him. So, if this is something you've been thinking of for a long time, contact me. Pack your bags and take that first step. 
The perfect time? How about now?




The pre-planning and packing phase ... imagine yourself there!

Monday, October 8, 2018

God Friended Me (talking, not communicating; hearing, not listening)

On Sunday evenings we've discovered a new series on CBS we can watch as a family: God Friended Me. The show is charming, a little sappy, but it's a NICE alternative to the news, cop shows, and reality television. In the series, the main character, Miles, is an avowed atheist who is trying to launch a podcast to promote his views, but he's foiled at every attempt by God who sends him a friend request through social media. Miles finally accepts only because God is relentless--the instant Miles pushes the ignore button, another request arrives.

Once Miles accepts God's friend request, things begin to happen. God begins to send him friend suggestions, and Miles discovers that he is supposed to help these strangers in some way. He is totally imperfect for the job, but he is helped by two friends--Rakesh, a computer expert who tries to hack God's profile, and Cara, a blogger with a serious case of writer's block.

Last night's episode was all about communication. Miles is struggling to have a relationship with his father, the reverend of a thriving church; Cara avoids her mother because she doesn't know how to talk to her; Rakesh assumes the worse when he sees the girl he's dating having lunch with another man; and a new friend suggestion from God brings all three of them to the aid of single mom whose nonverbal son has autism.

All the characters struggle with knowing how to communicate, and the theme translated onto the larger picture of today's society in which everyone is talking, but no one is communicating. Almost everyone has a platform, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Blogger, Twitter, YouTube, or even the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Everybody is so intent on promoting their views that in order to be heard voices become strident, Facebook posts are hateful, YouTube is offensive, and Twitter is vindictive.

The result? Talk that is one-sided. Talk that doesn't leave the door open for courteous discourse--an openness to exchange thoughts and ideas that may be different from yours. Talk that doesn't foster empathy and understanding.

Most importantly, it certainly doesn't leave room for listening.

We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.
~Diogenes




Sunday, October 7, 2018

Speak to Me Sunday: A Lesson from Shrek


“Come to me, all you who labor and have been burdened, and I will refresh you.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you shall find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11:28-30)

This is a photo of Shrek the sheep. Poor Shrek. He was found after he had been hiding out in a cave for six years. In all that time, without anyone there to shear his fleece, it grew and grew. Most sheep have a fleece that weighs around ten pounds, but Shrek’s fleece weighed almost sixty.

I keep a photo of Shrek on my camera roll. Why? To remind me of how poor Shrek carried a monumental burden simply because he was away from his shepherd. In less than half an hour a professional sheep shearer removed his sixty pounds of fleece … and all Shrek had to do was come home to his shepherd.

And that's all I have for today. I hope it helps someone out there. 



Saturday, October 6, 2018

7 Golfing Rules According to Me

I don't know what all the fuss is about having a "set" of clubs. I only use a 7-iron, a driver, and a putter. Three clubs total, and I get the job done.

My favorite club is the 7-iron, so when in doubt I'll use that. Unless I'm on the green (I'm not THAT dumb).

It's perfectly okay to putt from the fairway if you are within 10 feet of the green. Really. You should try it sometimes.

If I tee up my ball, swing, and then miss ... it doesn't count as a stroke. It was a practice swing. Really. I meant to do that. That's why it's called a practice swing.

Use a bright ball ... the brighter, the better. My personal favorite is Barbie doll pink golf ball because a/ you can follow it's trajectory b/ it stands out everywhere c/ there's no discussion on whose ball it is.

Do whatever it takes to avoid a sand trap. Aim far left, or far right, or way short. It's not called a sand TRAP for nothing, and once a golf ball is embedded in it's sandy clutches it is doomed for all eternity.

Celebrate your score ... six holes at the First Tee and I made THREE bogeys. Wahoo! (Of course, we'll just ignore that 11 on the third hole.) (Eh-hem. Sand trap.)



Friday, October 5, 2018

Two for One 'Brffed Day'

Our son, Jonathan, is coming home this weekend.

It's his BIRTHDAY weekend.

Except, it's not really his birthday. It's later this month. But he has plans on his actual day that don't involve mom and dad (say what?), so he's coming home now so we can celebrate with family.

But yesterday, as I planned meals for the weekend, wrapped presents, cleaned his room and bathroom, and spent over an hour at the grocery store to stock our pantry, it dawned on me that I have a very smart son.

You see, as much as we will celebrate this weekend, as much as Jonathan will be pampered and coddled and loved on over the next few days, I will still feel the need to acknowledge his actual birthday later this month. I mean, he can't get nothing on his actual birthday!

So I will send him a care package.

On his birthday.

Which isn't this weekend.


This sweet little guy will turn 22 years old on his brffed day.



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Life Lately (grammar, bottom's up, pottery in Tuscany, lunch on the Grand Canal, new glasses)

1- A routine doctor's visit, but since it wasn't with my usual doctor I had to answer some basic questions as she read through my chart. "Let's see," she said. "You're forty ... what?"

"Actually, I'm 51," I replied.

She looked up. "I would have never guessed that in a million years."

And I thought: I really, really like her.

(And I also thought: This forty-something fifty-one year old still needs to get new glasses.)



2-  The colors, the patina ... pottery perfection somewhere in Tuscany.


3- Black and white, stark contrast ... drama somewhere in my dining room.



4- Pizza on the canal. The Grand Canal, that is. In Venice. 



5- Grammar ... you have to be thorough, but it can be rough. 



6- Top to Bottom, Bottom to Top ...




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Finding Fall

This past weekend the temps went down to a new low -- 92 degrees! -- so I decided to take advantage of the cooler weather and decorate for fall.

(Note: That was sarcasm at its finest.)

Anyway, I was feeling more frost on the pumpkins than pumpkins on the vine, so I mostly ignored anything orange and went with a little yellow, and a lot of brown and white.

Oh, and a floating pumpkin.















one white pumpkin + an old bedspring coil = a floating pumpkin


Fall leaves fall
~Emily Bronte

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.