With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I want to give a shout out to New York. I’m a proud New Jerseyan, but living so close to Manhattan (just 15 minutes over the GWB, which is literally in my backyard), I have developed a fondness for the Empire State, too. Two weeks ago, I brought our friend Francesco Serpentone (Big Snake), our friend Ludovica, and my husband Antonio to the Empire State Building. Looking up at the top of the building from the ground has one feeling as tiny as a bug. It inspires and motivates you to keep growing. Looking down at all the buildings and beauty below, you feel like pushing hard to find success, to be a part of that business underneath you. To get through today, in fact, I might have to hum Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind“. I love New York for its wonder and its ability to push people to change themselves for the better or the worst. I’m choosing the better. I hope all of you will do the same. Perhaps, my picture of a sparkling Chrysler Building amid Manhattan’s bright skyline will get you started. (To see more pictures of our day in New York, please visit the “Big Snake Comes to America” photo album.)
Our friends Titti and Domenico returned to Italy a little less than a week ago, and we’re already missing them. But we have lots of photos to remind us of all the fun we had. One of the highlights of the trip was breaking bread with them at our house, my aunt’s house, and my cousin’s house. (For pictures of us at my cousin’s house, see the “NY Tourists Break Bread” photo album”.) Even though they were trying to watch their weight and eat healthy, we managed to sneak in a cheesecake and some cookies. Yum!
Many, many of you have heard the hilarious tale of the turkey next door. In 2008, I was in my kitchen in northern N.J., just outside of Manhattan, and I noticed a Thanksgiving turkey in the yard next door. I banged on the window, but it just stared at me. At a certain point, it turned and showed me a full display of its feathers and butt, which my sister, a zookeeper and bird expert, explained meant he wanted to mate with me. First, I called my aunt and she told me to get a broom, hit it over the head, she would come kill it, and we’d eat it. There was no way I’d be participating in that plan, so I called my sister, who told me to go outside wearing long pants just in case the turkey decided to spur me (read: claw at me continuously). After that, I wasn’t going anywhere. I stayed put until my parents returned to their home just next door and I told my father to get rid of it.
He chased the turkey for a half hour in a display that was as humorous as it was dramatic. In fact, townspeople gathered to watch the turkey and Papa run up and down the street and in and out of people’s yards. We don’t get turkeys in our neck of the woods, so it was quite a scene. It was like theater. “My daughters won’t letta me killa you, so go home-a turkey,” Papa shouted all the while in his Italian accent. Finally, the turkey finished playing with Papa and returned to the yard that he was calling home. I’m pretty sure the neighbor was planning on eating him because two days later we found some feathers nearby that looked suspiciously familiar.
Why am I telling you this now? Well, today, yet another winged friend showed up in our neighbor’s yard. This one was far more menacing. I believe this was a hawk, and he was eating another bird. All that’s left now are the feathers. It was gruesome, but I watched this theater, too. I even picked up a camera this time. See above and below. The turkey was cuter — and so was my Papa.
The tourists from Italy have arrived. My parents and I have been hosting Titti and Domenico, friends of the family from Ischia, since Thursday. Ludovica, another Ischitana, as most of you know, has been in the States with us studying English since November. On Sunday, Antonio will return from Ischia with our friend Francesco (a.k.a. Serpentone). The best part about having all these foreigners around is getting to see New York through their eyes.
New York is magnificent with its towering buildings and characters roaming the streets at all hours. We can’t get enough of it (even though we’re happy to call New Jersey, right on the other side of the bridge, home). You can check out photos from Titti and Domenico’s first day in town at the “New York Tourists 2010” photo album and expect more entries about our Italian friends and their American journeys. Buon viaggio a tutti!
Over Thanksgiving weekend 2009, one of our favorite people, Liz, organized and offered dinner to my husband Antonio, our friend Ludovica, cousins Ralph and Connie, and me. Clever and thoughtful, Liz chose the perfect spot for dinner with foreigners — the ’76 House, a piece of Americana in Tappan, N.Y. Opening in 1686, it calls itself “New York’s oldest tavern.” (For photos of our dinner, visit the “Old ’76 House” photo album.)
The small bar is cozy and charming and has you imagining George Washington — or at least guys who looked like him — pulling up a stool. Traditional revolutionary garb serves as decoration in the restaurant. Even the Christmas trees, which were decked out in American flags and red, white, and blue ornaments, had you feeling patriotic.
You might imagine the menu to be filled with hamburgers and hot dogs and not much else. You’d be wrong. The food was fabulous. I had the delicious pot roast, which came with an impressive popover that melted in my mouth. The appetizers we ordered, including mussels and calamari, were divine, much better than I’ve had at other restaurants. The fish seemed fresher and everything was cooked to perfection.
There was a band, and Liz and the gang had gotten them to play the Italian tarantella in honor of our wedding anniversary. That’s right — this night out was over a month ago, and I’m still thinking about it. It was that great of a night.
Still, the best part of the evening was the company. We know we’re in for a good time — and some creative use of foul language — whenever we get together with Liz, Connie, and Ralph. Until the next time we feel like shouting c—- in c— in a public place!
Two little angels visited my parents and me on New Year’s Day. Their names? William and Phillip, of course. Their energy levels are much higher than mine. My 31-year-old body simply can’t keep up, but still I tried. I chased after them to get pictures, but most of the photos came out of focus. That’s what happens if you shoot photos with your digital camera while running. Still, you can make out their faces in a few of them and get an idea of the fun day we had. Some of the photos are downright good. (To view the pictures, visit the “New Year’s Day 2010” photo album.) I considered New Year’s Day a practice run for whenever Antonio and I get around to having kids. I better start drinking protein shakes or something.
We are three days into the new year, and I already like 2010 better than 2009. On the eve of 2009, my cousins Anna, Nino, Damiano, and my Zia Concettina and Zio Raffaele and my parents came to my place to usher in the new year, and I vomited twice within the first hour of our dinner. I drove everyone away real fast with that move. Everyone left and I spent the rest of the night hugging the toilet. I had a terrible stomach flu that lasted two days. I wanted a do over this year, and the family gave it to me. Everyone returned to my house this year — and we made it to midnight this time. Cousin Raffaele joined us, too, which made it extra special. (For pictures, visit “New Year’s Eve 2010” photo album.)
The weekend after 2010 began, I was quite productive. You can check out the blog I wrote for the About.com Newlywed’s site, which includes my most popular stories for the year that had gone by. Now, I’m looking forward to a 2010 full of success and blogs and dialogue with all you readers — and my wonderful family.
Even on New Year’s Eve, the northeast saw some snow. But it was not much, nothing like the snow day that hit us the weekend before Christmas. We are grateful that my husband Antonio was still in the United States. Papa served as the boss, and Antonio was the worker bee. (To see photos, visit the “Snow Day” photo album.) It was actually quite a day. I often call Antonio princess – in a loving way – because he’s all about his hair and he takes baths with fizzy stuff in it and candles all around him, and he is afraid of anything with wings (butterflies, too). He’s not usually one to take on manual labor. But he did a great job with the snow. Everyone thought so, and I can’t pick on him anymore. To boot, he looked super cute in the snow.
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.