Anyone who reads my blog — or knows me — is aware that Disney World in Orlando, Fla. is one of my favorite places on Earth. My brother used to work there and my sister and sister-in-law still work there. But for me Disney is still one of the best tourist spots. You feel like a kid again — and it brings back delicious memories of the annual vacations my family took there when I was younger. I grab every opportunity to return. Now, when I visit Mickey, I get to visit my siblings, too. (For pictures from this latest trip to Disney, visit the “Disney World 2009” photo album.)
In 2009, Disney was all about celebrations. People got in for free on their birthdays, and you could wear buttons indicating what you were celebrating — from anniversaries to honeymoons. Some of the restaurants would offer you special surprises for your anniversary, such as cupcakes or chocolate-covered strawberries. Disney also offered exceptional vacation packages that included 40 percent off meals if you purchased the dining package. I jumped at the chance to go on this vacation with the deluxe dining plan for our first anniversary. We headed there in mid December, and it was a dream, except for two days of bad weather and Antonio’s cold. We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, which was romantic and lovely but out of the way. It required a 20- to 30-minute bus ride to get to the parks. Our favorite restaurant was California Grill, which is atop the Contemporary Resort. We were able to see the “Wishes” fireworks show at Magic Kingdom from the California Grill’s terrace. Spectacular!
Anyone who closely follows my blogs already knows that my Italian American family is made up of a bunch of characters. Somewhere down the road, I’ll write a book about them, you’ll see how entertaining they are, and I’ll make lots of money. For now, I’m the only one who gets any laughs from their oddities and charm. To get a glimpse at the people who could make up my book, which will definitely be made into a movie someday (or at least a comic strip you’ll use to cover your bird cage), just click on the link above of my aunt singing her version of, “If I Had a Million Dollars” to us on Christmas Day. Her grandson Damiano was jealous that he wasn’t mentioned in the song but his brother Raffaele was. Better luck next time, Damiano! For more pictures of our celebration, visit the “Christmas Day 2009” photo album.
My mother wished for a baby born on Christmas Day. She was so fertile that she could actually plan her conception to the day. The point was to convince my grandparents, who live in Long Island, to come to New Jersey for Christmas. Instead, my grandparents went to visit my uncle in Florida and missed the birth of Rosaria. And Rosaria didn’t want to share Jesus’ birthday, so she arrived 18 minutes after midnight, which meant she was born on Dec. 26 and she screwed up mamma’s plans. Regardless, while Italians celebrate the feast of Saint Stefeno (Steven) on Dec. 26, the Di Meglio’s celebrate Rosaria. Happy birthday little sister! We miss you and we love you!
Christmas Eve is always a crazy day for Italians. Everyone is cooking fish for the evening’s celebrations and relatives are stopping by with gifts and more food. It gets crazier every year. One of the reasons everyone stops by to see us is because of my father’s elaborate nativity scene, which is known as “presepio” in Italian. In fact, this year, the famous presepio even appeared in a newspaper all the way in Ohio. Check out the Ohio newspaper story by clicking here. (See pictures of my family’s Christmas Eve celebration at the “Christmas Eve 2009” photo album.) You can also see the video of my father’s presepio on YouTube –
As most of you know, my husband Antonio arrived in Naples this morning, so that he could spend the holidays with his mother and sisters, and I’m still here in the United States working and spending time with my family. I miss him terribly, but I realize we’re pretty lucky. Military families who have deployed loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan have it much harder than I do. You can check out my About.com blog about the vow renewal ceremony some Army couples took ahead of holiday deployments. Leave your comments because I would love to know if you think these kinds of ceremonies help married folk who have to be separated for long periods of time.
In case you’re wondering, the photo above is from a glorious night Antonio, our friend Ludovica, and I spent breaking bread at the New York City apartment of our friends Alex and Rosario, who are also hosting an Italian native who is studying English, Cinzia. Alex is a fabulous chef and a dear friend, and we’re still talking about the meal she prepared, which featured spaghetti, meatballs, rolled chicken and beef for seconds, mulled apple cider and a pear tart (and that’s not even everything). One of the highlights of the evening — besides Alex and Rosario’s lovable dog Molly — was our visit to their rooftop and the beautiful view of the New York skyline. See more pics below. Grazie ancora to Alex, Rosario, and Cinzia!
My husband Antonio just left to return to Italy, so he can spend the holidays with his mother and sisters. As I sit alone in our bed, I am reflecting on the beautiful moments we shared in the last month. One of the best was our day at the Statue of Liberty (See “Statue of Liberty” photo album). Just seeing her chiseled face has me feeling proud to be an American. My visits to the Statue and nearby Ellis Island always have me in awe of my ancestors, who came to the United States to give me a better life. My paternal grandparents were in their fifties when they brough my father, who was 13 at the time, and some of the others to the United States. Can you imagine uprooting your life and moving to a whole other country at 50? I can’t. I’m forever grateful for the sacrifices they made — and the Statue says it all for me.
My husband Antonio and I have been celebrating our first wedding anniversary for months. On the anniversary of our actual Italian wedding, which took place on Oct. 2, 2008, my husband surprised me with a night in an Italian castle. Then, he came here to the United States and on the anniversary of our vow renewal, which took place on Nov. 29, 2008, we ate the buffet brunch at Villa Amalfi, where we held our American reception and ate the second coming of our vow renewal cake. (See photos of the brunch and cake in the “Vow Renewal Anniversary 2009” photo album.) Finally, just last week, we took a trip to Disney World, my anniversary gift to Antonio and celebrated at many fine Disney restaurants (more scoop on that in upcoming blogs). We don’t even need the holidays to come this year; We’ve done enough celebrating for a lifetime. For tips on how to throw your own vow renewal ceremony, visit About.com’s Newlyweds site.
Last year, when my cousin Fausto visited us from Italy, my Uncle Gino gave him the book Dirty Italian (Ulysses Press, 2006) as a gift. Fausto learned how to say completely vulgar phrases that I would never repeat, at least not in this blog. Uncle Gino found Fausto’s pronounciation and interest in this book downright hilarious — and he started buying copies of the book by the truck load. He now hands them out to all our Italian visitors. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Ludovica and Antonio happily received their copies. Now, they have English translations for telling a woman her breasts look like perfect melons or a man that he should f__ off. I guess I used one of those phrases in this blog — oops! You read it correctly. They even brought their copies of the book to show their teachers and friends at Berlitz, where they’ve been studying English. I’m so proud! Note the sarcasm. Way to go Uncle Gino!
Last week, my husband Antonio and I prepared a Thanksgiving meal for the ages. It was the first time ever that we hosted a holiday — and it was the Super Bowl of American holidays. Still, I think we pulled it off successfully. It helped that two of our guests were Italians, and Thanksgiving isn’t their holiday. If you don’t know what Thanksgiving is supposed to be, you can’t really gripe about it, right?
Seriously, we had a blast, and I wrote all about the prep in the About.com Newlyweds blog. You can also join us at our Thanksgiving table by visiting the “Our First Thanksgiving” photo album. I hope your holiday was as wonderful as ours.
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with all things New Jersey. I guess after having spent five months in Italy, I’m longing for a little bit of my home. That’s part of the reason I suggested taking Antonio and his friend Ludovica, who is staying with us while she studies English in New York, down the shore to Point Pleasant Beach on a Saturday afternoon in November. The other reason was that the weather was particularly warm until very recently here on the East Coast. (See the “Down the Shore” photo album for photos from our day.) We looked for sea shells — and found a ton of them, did a little shopping at the Jenkinson’s Aquarium gift shop, and took a stroll in the town of Point Pleasant. All in all, it was the perfect day down the shore.
The song Jersey Girl (which, in true Jersey Girl fashion, I’m listening to Bruce Springsteen sing as I write this) tells the entire story. “Cause down the shore everything’s all right, you and your baby on a Saturday night. You know all my dreams come true when I’m walking down the street with you.” My husband is one lucky man to have found an Italian Jersey girl who brings him down the shore on a Saturday night! A lucky, lucky man!
I live my life in Two Worlds - my native United States and my ancestor's Italy - and I work as a freelance reporter for numerous American publications from wherever I am. The Italians consider me American. The Americans consider me Italian. I consider myself distinctly Italian American.
Author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012), I cover family travel with emphasis on Italy and New Jersey, and things I've learned that have either entertained or helped my family in this blog. My husband Antonio and our Baby Boy join me on my adventures. I hope you will, too. Benvenuto!