Recently, we celebrated my Goddaughter Amy’s birthday two times – once at my place and once at hers. (The photo above is of her (far right) and her sisters.) It might seem like overkill to recognize your ninth birthday twice, but I think it’s just proof of how much family means to us. We can’t seem to get enough of each other. We’re always there for each other through difficult times (of which we’ve had a lot lately), so why not be there for the fun and joy, too? Besides, Amy deserves the attention. She’s sweet and lovable and she’s one of us. In fact, with her devotion to her cousins and her sisters (at least most of the time), she already knows the meaning of family.
To join our celebrations for Amy, visit the “Amy Turns 9” photo album. And celebrate your own family as much as you can.
My husband Antonio and I spent a week in paradise with my niece Maria, her parents, my parents, my sister, and a bunch of good family friends. Now that we’re back home – with the snow sitting out my window and the temperature dropping every evening – I am nostalgic for our vacation. But Maria is definitely what we all miss the most. Even though she hated to have the sun in her eyes, she was ever the fashion model sporting this yellow polka-dot bikini and white sun hat. She loved frolicking in the ocean with her new best friend, a plastic turtle float that we all tugged her around in. And she danced for us – and all our waiters – at dinner. Although she was often drunk with sleepiness, she was all smiles and hugs the entire trip. Indeed, you couldn’t ask for more from a baby. You can join in the fun with the family, by visiting the “Cruisin’ in 2011” photo album.
I’ve been dabbling with the idea of writing a book for sometime now. And I even started one that would be a compilation of the Consiglieri columns, samples of which you could find on this site. Basically, my crazy relatives would be giving us all life advice. But a few other interesting stories have crossed my path since then, so I’m wondering what I should actually write about. I decided to pose the question to all of you. Do me a favor and take the poll in the right-hand column of this site’s homepage to tell me what book I should write.
I kicked off the new year a few weeks ago with my parents and grandparents, and to celebrate we played bowling, ping pong, and sword dueling on the Wii. (To join the rockin’ party, visit the “New Year’s Eve 2011” photo album.) We have to turn my rug around to make an alley for my father to get a running start. He has to bowl as though he actually has the ball in his hands, as opposed to the Wii remote, and he took a major spill on my hard wood floors the first time he played on Christmas. The traction from the rug helps, but he jumps so hard at the end of each run that the house shakes. Still, he usually wins. But on New Year’s Eve, Grandma was the big winner of the night. She was pretty great at bowling strikes and popping the ping pong ball to win points. I, however, earned the title of sword dueling champion. I credit all my pent-up anger for those wins. I just pretend the avatar I’m facing is one of the many enemies I collected like bottle tops in 2010. (Shut up, you all know who you are!) All those enemies sunk into the virtual ocean, baby, and it felt oh so good. Although we were all sore the next day, we had so much fun that I’ve been continuing to Wii with my husband Antonio. I can be a sore loser, however, so I sometimes get a time out. Still, a good time is generally had by all, and my time is better when I win.
A merry Christmas managed to sneak up on me in 2010. (For photos, visit the “Christmas 2010” photo album.) After one of the worst years of my life, I had zero expectations for enjoying the holiday. But it was definitely one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. The party in Florida was a joy – especially now that we can spoil my niece Maria – and then I visited with some of the most important people in my life and feasted on fish with my cousins Big John, Miesha, and their family, some friends, and my parents on Christmas Eve. Our Babbo Natale made yet another memorable appearance for Big John’s kids, Nina and Marissa. On Christmas Day, my parents came over, and the three of us chowed down on pretzel bread, potato leek soup, and cornish hens, all of which I made with my own two hands. Delish! Following the meal, my parents napped while I cleaned and then we watched some Real Housewives of New Jersey, my favorite guilty pleasure, and played dueling and bowling on the Wii. Papa was the big winner in bowling. We capped off the night with tomato salad atop pretzel bread. Sounds like perfection, no?
There was no way my parents, Zio Antonio, and I (Zia Francesca) would miss 8-month-old Maria’s first Christmas. Although we can’t be with her on Dec. 25, we threw a Christmas bash like no other six days ahead of schedule at Zia Rosaria’s pad in Florida. Zio Antonio and I spent the week having Maria warm up to us – both literally and figuratively — as we forced her and her parents to tour Disney World in the freezing temperatures (I mean even the Disney topiaries were covered in white blankets).
We learned a few things on this trip, among them that Maria looks so cute you could just eat her up whenever she wears any fuzzy outfits that have ears to make her look like a bunny and that she has quite a sense of humor, not to mention a huge appetite. There is also no question that she is related to us. Her belly tells the whole story. The kid can eat, and even when she shouldn’t eat, she does. The other day she ate a chunk of garlic off the floor where her papa’ had been cooking, and she didn’t even wince. But her mother confirms that she was stinky for pretty much the entire day. If she had cleaned the floor with a little bleach after the garlic, she might have smelled like her older zii.
Maria’s role models? Bella and Shilo, the family dogs, which might be why she thinks it’s natural to eat off the floor, sleep on a big cushion or even a tile in the middle of Zia Rosaria’s living room, and she begs for scraps from the table. Although I gest, she does have one helluva time getting into mischief with the dogs. They are her best friends for now, and she is especially cute with Shilo, who lets her pull his tail, jump on him, and chew toys and books with him.
The only way Maria could love them more is if they could feed her. That’s what she likes about all of us, I think. We overindulged her desire to eat more and more tiny morsels of apples, peaches, potatoes, pancakes, chicken, waffles, and yogurt. As a result, the child who never spits up or vomits threw up on us twice. All our fault! I’m actually honored she threw up on me.
Highlights of our time with Maria include Nonno Pasquale demanding that Tigger, who Maria followed all over the room with her eyes while at breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian, come to say hello to us and take a picture immediately, Maria and Donald Duck having matching sombreros in EPCOT’s Mexico pavillion, and the moments she shared with Babbo Natale (Santa Claus), who might have secretly been her Nonno Pasquale, and his reindeer, who might have been Nonna Regina. My personal best memory, however, was Maria curling up under my arm and falling asleep. So sweet!
To enjoy more photos of Nonno Pasquale as Babbo Natale and Maria with all the characters (and some of the rest of us, too), then check out “Maria’s 1st Christmas” photo album. Buon Natale a tutti!
The American Top 40 list features the song “We No Speak Americano” by the Australian duo Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup, which includes a sample and remix of the Italian classic “Tu Vuo Fa’ l’Americano” by Renato Carosone. My husband Antonio, above, still no speak Americano and neither do most of my relatives, who live in the United States. Ok, maybe they speak it, but it’s their own version that is, let’s just say, very Italiano influenced. That’s what drew me to this song.
When I heard about it – thanks to my 12-year-old cousin Antonio and his mom, who are way hipper than I am, I realized that my family is ahead of its time. My nonni and parents were singing this tune – and dancing to the original – way back in the 1950s before they even left Italy. My father has been known to fist pump to this tune while driving. Yeah, he was fist pumping long before Pauly D. Carosone is my family’s Jay Z. He sang the songs that spoke to the paesani and in their language, the Neapolitan dialect. No shidizzle. On “We No Speak Americano,” that’s not real Italian you’re hearing, people. That’s our street speak. And now folks from Australia to the Jersey Shore are joining my people on the dance floor and speaking our language. Who would have thought my papa’ and nonni were so very cool? First Tony Soprano makes their body type sexy and now this!
The hubby is back in the United States with his green card in hand (almost, because it should be arriving via mail very soon). My parents gave him his very own barbecue grill as a gift in honor of his little piece of Americana. And a little chill in the air isn’t stopping him from grilling like it’s the fourth of July. In fact, just this afternoon he threw tuna steak and swordfish on the grill for lunch.
The very first day he was home, he picked up one of the huge pumpkins on our porch and started cutting it up. It was a major undertaking. I’m still sweeping up pumpkin seeds that fell under the kitchen counter and island, and he worked on this project more than a week ago. We also lost a J.A. Henckels knife in the process. Antonio stuck the knife into the pumpkin and when he pulled it out, he had only half a blade in his hand. The rest was jammed into the meat of the pumpkin. The company guarantees the knives for a lifetime, so we sent it back. We’ll see what happens. Regardless, after grilling the pumpkin Antonio bathed it in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and hot pepper. Can you say delishooos like an Italian trying to speak English? Well, Antonio can and did and so did I. Happy grilling to all and to all a good night!
Every year, we host a Halloween party for our younger cousins. Some of them are getting too old to dress up, but no one is too old for crafts (not even their parents). So, this year we turned the backyard into a pumpkin patch and painted (and glittered) to our heart’s delight. We were a mess, but it was so much fun no one cared. It didn’t hurt that Zio Pasquale (my papa’) was teaching the kids how to make wine and giving out cups of grape juice (really, it was grape juice and not yet wine). Some of the kids found it too sweet. Others loved it. Combine the juice with the many, many cupcakes in which we indulged and you get one big sugar high. We used all that energy for creating magnificent works of art. You can see all the pumpkins and the artists (and even the wine making) by visiting the “Pumpkin Painting Party” photo album. Happy Halloween!
My cousin Greg married Renee over the weekend, and it was a great excuse for my mom’s side of the family to get together. (Send your well wishes to the newlyweds, see their photo, and check out my blog on how marriage means maturity on the About.com Newlyweds site.) Most of us live in the New York metropolitan area, but we had to travel to Michigan for the wedding. It was quite a journey. Some people, including my eighty-something grandparents and my Godson Nicholas (above at a Grand Rapids, Mich. restaurant with me), were very courageous and traveled all together in an RV. It takes 16 hours to get to Michigan from New York, and they spent all that quality time…together…in a camper. And my grandfather Rocco insisted on bringing broccoli rabe. Imagine the farts that flew in those cramped quarters.
I refused to take that route for the obvious reasons. I opted to travel by plane to Chicago with my mom Regina and sister Rosaria. After a stop in Chicago, where we walked passed the Sears Tower (because it’s not called that anymore) and had to go back and inhaled some good grub, we took to the road. We drove what was supposed to be four hours to Grand Rapids, Mich. A wrong turn and disfunctional GPS had us take six hours. But we laughed all the way. It set the tone for wedding weekend.
While the weekend included smelly feet, a need for an enema, and incessant text messaging (when we were right next to each other), there was also playing peek-a-boo with the babies, kisses for Uncle Gino, and Chicago-style, stuffed, deep-dish pizza. What more could a nice Italian girl want? To see what I’m talking about, visit the “Greg & Renee’s Wedding” and “Portraits – Greg’s Wedding” photo albums.