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

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I’m taking off a little time
Just 40 days will do
To simplify, ask questions why,
To ponder and renew.
On Sundays I’ll stop briefly by
And share a post or two
To say hello, I’m doing well,
See you when Lent is through.

*from the files of very bad poetry by Bia

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Ride Home

This afternoon I drove Nonno's SUV to pick Timothy up from school. Within five minutes he had discovered:

1- Nonno's tic tacs,
2- Nonno's treasure trove of quarters,
3- Nonno's automatic seats that not only go up and down, but also tilt backward and forward,
4- and that Nonno doesn't listen to cool music (the radio was tuned to something called "Willie's Roadhouse" which, although terrible, is better than Nonna's car where the radio is always tuned to "Opera").


Timothy and Nonno in Disney World.
"I have to sleep on princess sheets?" yelled Timothy.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Trickle Down Tickets

These are the tickets that belonged to friends of my parents.

These are the tickets my parents' friends couldn't use.

These are the tickets they gave to my parents.

These are the tickets which my parents couldn't use.

These are the tickets my parents gave to us.

Which is why, on a Friday night, Joe and I got dressed up and had somewhere to go.

Harry Jacobs Chamber Music Society, concert 5
The Delphi Trio 

Friday, February 24, 2017

One Good Deed a Day: Those in Authority

If you have the power, means or authority to make a change, do it.

Sr. Gaudiosa, a nun from Tanzania, is a sister to me in every way but blood. She is part of our family and many times we have welcomed her into our home.

Once, after spending a couple of weeks with us, we drove Sr. Gaudiosa to the airport and, as we were helping her check her luggage, the airline check-in agent said that both suitcases were overweight and she would have to pay extra. It was a pretty hefty fine.

I looked at the agent and said, "Everything, absolutely everything she owns in this world is in these two suitcases."

And I knew what I was talking about because I had helped her pack them. Inside were her habits made from thick, blue material, her sturdy black shoes, a winter coat that we had purchased for her, stationery, and some toiletries. That was it.

The agent didn't say anything, and as he continued to type on his keyboard my husband got out his wallet to pay the fine.

Except there wasn't one.

When the agent loaded the suitcases on the conveyer belt he looked up and said, "Don't worry, I took care of it. Have a safe flight, Sister."

And he smiled.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Life Lately: the Atlanta edition in 5 quick takes

~1~ The kindness of friends: Two days prior to our Atlanta getaway last weekend, a friend offered us the use of their downtown loft apartment. Their generosity and kindness of not only giving us the keys to their place, but of also stocking the fridge with drinks and snacks made a weekend in Atlanta all the more special. They will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

A family weekend in Atlanta

~2~ The Atlanta History Center: Most boring name ever and, truthfully, if the admission ticket hadn't been part of the High Museum reciprocal program we probably wouldn't have gone. But I'm so glad we did. The 33-acre experience features award-winning exhibitions, enchanting gardens, and historic houses. While we breezed through the exhibits, we loitered on the grounds. I will definitely go back.

The Swan House at the Atlanta History Center

The Smith Family Farm at the Atlanta History Center

~3~ The High Museum: Okay, let me be honest. This was probably not the high point of the weekend for my guys, but it was for me. There is something about meandering through a museum and stopping in front of Autumn on the Seine by Claude Monet and thinking, "Oh my gosh! I'm standing in front of a Monet!" And I love it all -- European, American, modern & contemporary, and folk art. Now that I have a year membership I have a few more day trips planned (next time, though, I'll leave the guys behind and take some girlfriends). Anyone want to go with me?

The High Museum of Art

~4~ Stone Mountain: While this wasn't originally on our itinerary, we decided to at least enter the park and let Timothy see the world's largest piece of exposed granite. Of course, once we were there we just had to take the Summit Skyride to the top, an adventure which had us immediately texting photos to the older boys. Why? Well, to understand you need to know this weird fact about my family: for whatever reason, we love the 1968 movie Where Eagles Dare starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. (We watch it at least once every winter.) The movie contains an iconic scene of a Nazi and a British soldier fighting on TOP of a cable car as it ascends to Schloss Adler, a mountaintop fortress in the Alps of southern Bavaria. It's an intense scene, and so while we were riding the Summit Skyride up Stone Mountain that's what we talked about.

On the Summit Skyride at Stone Mountain ...

pretending to be Where Eagles Dare

~5~ In Timothy's words (and he thinks with his stomach): "My favorite thing about Atlanta was eating pizza at Your Pie, having a grilled cheese sandwich and minestrone at Twelve Eighty at the High Museum, and snacking on Sour Patch gummies."

(The gummies were compliments of my friend who left a HUGE box of the treats).

"I also liked exploring Stone Mountain, staying up late with you guys to watch the movie Captain Phillips, and sleeping in a Murphy bed."

"And if I had to pick what art collection I liked best
at the High Museum ...
I would have to say the European Art."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

La Dolce Vita Goes to Target (a capsule wardrobe post)

For those of you who traveled with me to Italy, or who followed our adventures either here or on Facebook, then you know that I'm a big believer of the capsule wardrobe when packing for a trip. I stand by the mantra that less is more -- simply by choosing a color palette wisely a few key wardrobe selections can then be mixed and matched to form endless outfit combinations.

Here are some posts I wrote on the subject:

La Dolce Vita Travels: The Art of Packing

La Dolce Vita Travels: What to Pack (a Capsule Jewelry Wardrobe)

The concept of a capsule wardrobe has gone a long way in simplifying my life, not only when traveling but also in what I keep in my closet. Again, less is more; I'd rather have a few, quality pieces than a stuffed closet with things I don't wear.

Now that spring is just around the corner (I realize it's still February, but here in Augusta the daffodils are blooming) I have decided, for the first time, to put together an official minimalist spring capsule wardrobe. The key word being minimalist. So I purged my closet, decided on a few key colors (blush, blue) and neutrals (black, tan), and identified key clothing items (tops, bottoms, layering pieces) that I can mix and match. Did you know that with just 26 pieces you can come up with 100 outfit ideas? It's true.

It's important to note that planning a capsule wardrobe is not an excuse to shop; instead, the idea is to first shop your closet and only then make a list of any items that you need. The best thing is that once I have everything at hand, I won't need to go shopping for clothes again. My wardrobe is set.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, there are a few web sites that have capsule wardrobe plans that you can purchase. Alison Lumbatis at Get Your Pretty On has a SAHM capsule wardrobe builder that you can order and download (it comes with shopping list and outfit ideas). My personal favorite is Leanne Blackmon at Classy, Yet Trendy. I especially like her French Minimalist Capsule Wardrobes.

I am almost finished planning and I have to say it's not only been fun, but I feel on top of things. I like being organized and I like keeping it simple. This morning I went to Target for a couple of items and came home with the following: blush espadrilles (they go with my color scheme AND are designed by Dolce Vita), a bandana scarf (popular spring trend), and the book 25 Ways to Style Your Scarf which I found in the Bargain Bin.

And you should see my closet. Neat, organized, and simple.

How could I not get shoes designed by Dolce Vita?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What I learned after spending an afternoon in an art museum with my guys

1- My guys have some weird honing device that enabled them to seek out and find benches. Whenever they found one, they sat. And waited for me.

Look for a bench, find a bench, take a seat, wait for mom.

2-  After just one hour, our little bambino looked like this:

Timothy, in an art museum

3- At the two hour mark, art started to look like food. They saw food everywhere.




4- To keep them amused, I challenged them to find artwork that reminded them of someone or something, then take a photo of the art and give it a new title. For some reason they started picking on me:

Mom, texting

Mom's hair at the beach

5- Eventually their eyes glazed over and everything was a blur.

A selfie through 11 panes of glass
Gerhard Richter
11-Scheiben (11-Panes), 2003
"The eleven panes of glass reflect the immediate environment
in which the piece is placed, absorbing the space and the spectator
into the work of art. Instead of presenting the artist's version of reality,
Richter invites reality into the work itself."

distorted reality

6- Finally, by the end of the afternoon I'm not sure what my guys learned, but I learned this: my guys spent three hours following me around an art museum on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. And that, my friends, is love.

My guys spent three hours following me around an art museum.
That's love.

Friday, February 17, 2017

One Good Deed a Day

Perform a kindness, but do it anonymously.

There is nothing so uplifting as being the recipient of a kind deed. And when that action is done anonymously, the kindness is taken to another level because the anonymity itself becomes a gift  -- a way of saying: This is for you. There is no need to say thanks, or feel beholden. Take this, I give it freely.

Twenty years I was teaching high school in a rough neighborhood when I had to be present at a parent conference in the principal's office. It wasn't one of my students, but I had witnessed an incident and had to be there. The entire situation was ugly, the parents were hateful, and when the conference was over I returned to my classroom in tears.

The next morning I arrived early to school and found a beautiful flower arrangement on my desk. The vase was ceramic, made to look like a stack of books, which made it the most perfect gift for an English/Spanish teacher.

Best of all, nestled among the flowers was a lovely, encouraging note telling me how I was making a difference in the lives of my students. The note was unsigned.

I never found out who sent the flowers or who wrote that kind note, but I have never forgotten.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Life Lately: Lego heads, big feet, magic beans, good eats, Costco, apple cider vinegar, and haircut #2 (the mundane and perfectly ordinary in 7 quick takes)

~1~ Lego Head Dispenser: Sunday morning project for Timothy

~2~ Healthy Haul: Nothing but good-for-you stuff

~3~ Lucky score on the Costco chairs: I've had my eyes on these for several weeks,
but couldn't make up my mind; today, however, I went to Costco and discovered that
all the chairs had sold EXCEPT the floor display which had been marked waaaaay down.
Suffice it to say I took it as a sign. The chairs and table came home with me.

~4~ His foot, my foot, big foot, small
someone is growing
way too tall.

~5~ Wisdom from a refrigerator magnet:
I really do believe in fairy tales! 

~6~ I'm a believer: One Tbsp. in a mug of hot water every morning,
sweetened with a little honey.

~7~ Getting ready for my second haircut in three weeks:
There is a story here, and I will write it down
as soon as I get over the trauma.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When Not to Follow an Itinerary

This weekend we are headed to Atlanta, and last night as we were planning our itinerary of things to do and places to eat Timothy asked if we were going to eat at The Varsity.

What is it about that place that has taken hold of his imagination?

A few years ago our little guy had the following art assignment: Draw yourself flying over a famous building, monument, or landmark.

Now, for someone so young he's visited some extraordinary places so this is what I imagined he'd do: draw himself flying over the Roman Forum, St. Peter's Square, the White House, the Grand Canal in Venice or Monticello.

Instead, this is what he did: he drew himself flying over The Varsity.

It boggles the mind. All the places he's been to in this world and he chooses a burger joint in Atlanta? Didn't he remember how we laughed at the ridiculously small hamburgers and the floppy, greasy fries? Didn't he remember how we all collectively agreed that the place was highly overrated? Didn't he remember how I got into a battle with a cockroach right there in our booth and how we all decided the place was just gross?

Evidently not. He remembers it with all the nostalgia of a 12 year old boy.

So, last night I added The Varsity to our itinerary. Now whether or not we actually go is another matter; after all, we just might be on the wrong side of town or get caught in a traffic jam, or something.

Upper left hand corner is Timothy's flyover ...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What I Love: 500 Years of Tradition

This year marks the 500th anniversary of this church, Santi Nazaro e Celso (or San Nazaro as the locals refer to it).

Growing up in Verona, Italy this was the home parish for my mom and her sisters.

This is the church which contains a chapel dedicated to St. Blaise, patron saint of throat ailments. My uncle remembers when he was a little boy he and his mother would participate in the procession celebrating the Feast Day of St. Blaise. Following the procession they would go behind the altar and -- get ready for this -- LICK the altar. Oh how we laughed when he told us this story.

This was the church where my parents married.

This was the church where I received my First Holy Communion. On that day, I remember stepping out of my Nonna's house and walking to the church, my veil fluttering in the breeze.

Incidentally, the same priest (Monsignor Venturi) officiated BOTH occasions.

See? Tradition.

Parrochia Ss. Nazaro e Celso

Monday, February 13, 2017

They Don't Have Cars in Camelot

Yesterday a friend and I went to see Camelot at Augusta University's Maxwell Theater.

I drove, and this is important because of what happened after the show was finished.

I couldn't find my car.

Actually, it was Joe's car, and it's a non-descript slate gray that looks like every other non-descript slate gray car in the parking lot.

"I think we parked over here," said my friend, heading left.

"I'm pretty sure it was over here," I said, veering right.

We bumped into another friend who wondered what we were doing. "Looking for my car" seemed like such a lame thing to say, but since it was so incredibly obvious what we were doing the only thing I could do was 'fess up.

After wandering around for a couple of minutes I decided to pop the trunk. I'm not proud of this, but better the trunk than the alarm button. As I looked around, though, no trunks had popped open.

What the heck? By now I'm beginning to feel stupid.

Finally, between the three of us, we found the car, parked behind a behemoth SUV that dwarfed my little non-descript slate gray Toyota. I blame everything on that SUV ...

especially since the lyrics for Camelot will be forever changed in my mind.

In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering
than here in
 the parking lot.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How Guys Pack

Last weekend Jonathan came home for my birthday, arriving Saturday around lunchtime and leaving Sunday after lunch. (See what he did there? Impeccable timing.)

When he walked in we chatted for a few minutes, and then I told him to go get his stuff out of the car.

"I don't have anything." he responded.

I stopped dead in my tracks. He was holding his phone, keys, and wallet. Nothing else.

"What are you wearing later?" I inquired.

"This," he said, gesturing to the clothes on his back.

"What are you going to wear to church tonight?" I wanted to know.

"This," he said, again with the gesture.

"Tomorrow?" I asked, knowing that the odds were not in my favor.

He didn't even respond. He just grinned.

And I was like ...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nighttime Walk with Timothy

Starry net flung on high,
Lunar basketball in the sky.
Out of reach, but hanging low...
 earthly court all aglow.

~from the files of very bad poetry by bia AND timothy

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Life Lately (the mundane and perfectly ordinary in 7 quick takes)

~1~ Pretty things
New tea cup and cute tea bags ... compliments of a friend.

~2~ Kids hate it when parents do this:

Timothy: Mom, can I go to Jun's house?
Me: Go check with Dad.
Timothy: Dad, can I go to Jun's house?
Dad: What did Mom say?

~3~ Empty Hangers:
Yesterday I spent several hours elbow deep in The Great Closet Purge.
Now, I am not a keeper. I don't like clutter. And I did clean out my closet six months ago.
But this time ... well, this time I was positively ruthless. I got rid of a LOT. #thesimplelife

~4~ Sick Days
Yesterday Timothy came home from school complaining that he didn't feel well. Later that evening he started running a fever. #noschooltoday

~5~ Spring Cleaning
It has begun.

~6~ Craving
Last night Joe, who is in California, sent me a photo of his dinner: clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. His photo made me remember our trip to San Francisco many years ago when we were first introduced to that deliciousness; in fact, we loved it so much we had it for lunch every. single. day. Now I'm craving clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

~7~ Double Trouble, Double the Fun

The day before my birthday I received an edible arrangement with the following note:
Happy Birthday, Bia! We love you and can't wait to see you soon!
The note was not signed, so I texted my sister.

Me: Did you send me an edible arrangement?
Laura: Yes! But it was supposed to be delivered tomorrow
and it was supposed to have a note.
Me: Well, there was a note. It just wasn't signed.
Laura: Did the note say Happy Birthday to an awesome sister?
Me: No.
Laura: That's not from me.

So then I texted my brother.

Me: Did you send me an edible arrangement?
David: Yes. Happy Birthday! I had them delivered today
because I wasn't sure they delivered on Sunday.

Now, isn't that the greatest? I've NEVER EVER received an edible arrangement before, and I had two in two days. We ate David's delivery Saturday night at my parents' house, and Laura's Sunday night during the Super Bowl.

double the fun

And now, I'm off to enjoy my perfectly mundane and ordinary day as I go Clorox the heck out of all surfaces so that what the bambino has ... the bambino keeps to himself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Making Gratitude a Daily Priority

Many years ago, when Oprah Winfrey was queen, she encouraged her viewers to make gratitude a daily priority by keeping a gratitude journal. She claimed it changed her life.

At the time I thought it was a good idea, and I even purchased a pretty notebook with a matching pen to start one of my own, but in the end I couldn't seem to stick to a routine. I didn't give the idea up entirely; I simply realized that, at that time in my life, I was busy with other things. But some day, I thought.

Then last December our trusty Dodge Neon broke down for the last time. As my husband and I were going through 17 years of memories associated with that car, it dawned on me those 17  years of memories equated to 17 years of blessings for which I'm immensely thankful ... 17 years in which I'm not sure I ever stopped to consider how grateful I should be.

I decided right then and there that 2017 would be the year I keep a gratitude journal.

And so one month into this New Year my pretty, floral journal already has 31 pages of nothing but gratitude.

I don't make a big fuss about. Each evening I write down five things for which I am grateful. Sometimes the entries are deep and introspective (a conversation with a stranger that got me thinking), and sometimes they're very, very simple (a phone call from one of the boys); sometimes I use incomplete sentences or include single word entries, but sometimes I write an entire paragraph; sometimes I print neatly, but sometimes my handwriting in no way reflects those meticulous penmanship lessons in Mr. Benanti's sixth grade class.

About the time I started keeping the gratitude journal, I also started drinking Traditional Medicinal Herbal Teas. And since an inspirational quote is written on each tea bag, I decided to end each journal entry with a Tea Quote of the Day.

I am beginning to understand how gratitude works. Once I got into the habit of pausing at the end of the day to think about those grateful moments, I started recognizing them in real time; in other words, I am learning to be grateful for things as they happen which, in turn, puts me in a different mental state. I also see how this has lead me to pray more. Maya Angelou once said that gratitude is the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer, and there have been many nights when one has lead to another.

Of course, there are those days -- you know the kind -- which may seem as if there is NOTHING good to say. Finding gratitude on those days takes a little work, and to be honest I have some entries which are more sarcastic than grateful (Monday, January 23: Grateful for NyQuil).

But that's okay because the whole thing about gratitude doesn't mean that things are perfect; rather, it's about recognizing the perfect in the imperfect. Being grateful for the sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine is no less important than being grateful for my family or for the full moon on an evening walk with Joe.

If there is one thing I am learning, it is that gratitude gives me a better perspective of my day.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.
- St. Ambrose