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.