Today is the feast of Saint Francis (San Francesco in Italy). Those of us named Francesco and Francesca celebrate our name day (onomastico in Italian) today. This is a religious celebration, and you might have heard about the Pope (who took Francis/Francesco as his Pope name) marking the occasion with a trip to his namesake’s birthplace, Assisi. Back on the home front, we have secular celebrations akin to birthday parties. As the one celebrating, my job is to provide friends and family with sweets. Many people bring their colleagues pastries on the morning of their name day. I baked peanut butter cookies for my in-laws because my niece shares my name and those are her favorite. We ate pizzette (tiny pizzas) and French fries. Of course, that was dinner and at lunch we had a pasta dish with ham and a creamy sauce, followed by mozzarella in carrozza (Italian grilled cheese) and eggplant parmigiana. Obviously, there was no thought to cholesterol; it was a party, after all. Like everything else in Italy, name days are all about the food. Those closest to you sometimes give you small gifts. And my husband really surprised me this morning. He left a beautifully wrapped present in the bathroom for me to find when I awoke (and he was already off to work). The contents of said gift are in the photo above. What meant the most was the saying on the placeholder in the frame. Eternamente insieme! Together Forever! I hope so.
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.
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!
Girl’s night is a necessity when you need to blow off some steam. Little girls are just as good as big ones when you need to put aside stress — which usually is a result of the men in your life — and have a little fun. After the worst trip I’ve ever had to my family’s native Ischia (lots of drama and work and little time for rest), I was itching for a girl’s night. And my nieces — Francesca, Laura, and Giulia — were up for an old-fashioned pajama party. (To see photos from our slumber party, visit the Girl’s Night 2010 photo album.) We pigged out on pizza and chips, did each other’s hair and nails, poked fun (just see the hair-do’s above), and we even slept a bit. In the morning, I made a big American breakfast, with eggs Benedict, pancakes, ricotta pancakes, and even pancetta (instead of bacon) on the menu. In the end, I had a lovely pedicure, soft hands, and a little less stress than before. Grazie mille a Francesca, Laura, e Giulia!
Well, the hubby — miracle of miracles — is back in Ischia, Italy, despite the volcanic ash from Iceland that has disrupted air travel to Europe. We’re not sure how he made it home because virtually no one else has been able to leave. But if anyone could find a route back to Italy in a pinch, it would be my husband.
Since he’s been gone, I’ve been remembering our date nights (which I wrote about in yesterday’s blog on the About.com Newlyweds site) and the quiet moments we shared enjoying the spring, which until today had been unusually nice and warm, in New Jersey. You can join in on the fun with the following photo albums –
Our American Garden (We took these photos moments before taking Antonio to the airport on Thursday)
Although I miss my husband something terrible, I know we’ll be reunited soon. I just have to decide when I’m going to get a ticket to Italy — and pray the volcanic ash clears out.
Our friend Agostino d’Ambra recently traveled from Ischia, Italy to spend three weeks with us while he studied English at Berlitz in New York. (Check out the photo album “Agostino in America“.) When Agostino called to say he arrived in Ischia, he said now that he was gone, I would be getting a break. After all, I would brown bag lunch for Agostino and my husband Antonio, wash their clothes, clean the bathrooms (and the rest of the house), make all the beds — oh and work full time and cook us all dinner. Alas, however, there is no rest for weary me. My mom took off for Florida, where she is awaiting the arrival of her first granddaughter. And I’m here continuing my free cleaning service for my hubby, my father (in mamma’s absence), and myself.
I’m madly in love with my husband Antonio and totally devoted to him, and I love Agostino and our male friends who have stayed in our home. (There have been quite a few of them; my family, in fact, has been jokingly referring to our house as a hotel with all the guests we’ve recently hosted from Ischia.) And my father is the greatest man I know. But man boys — especially those with lots of sisters, who used to clean up after them — are messy. If we all lived by a few simple rules, our lives would be much easier. (Let me add that this blog is also a clever way of introducing you to the various articles I’ve recently written for the About.com Newlyweds site about spring cleaning and isn’t necessarily a reflection of anyone in particular although the guilty know who they are.) If I ever have sons (or daughters for that matter), I’m going to teach them these rules, have them write them on the blackboard 100 times, and etch them into their brain matter.
Rules for Boys (and Messy Girls)
2. If there’s still olive oil in your dish, it is not clean. You need soap and water (preferably hot) to clean a dish.
3. Always put the milk back in the fridge when you’re done with it. Don’t put back an empty milk carton. Put that in the garbage or recyclables (if you’re responsible and it is possible in your community).
4. Follow directions, as in listen when I tell you how to divide the garbage for recycling.
5. Flush the toilet. Clean the bowl, at least a bit if you leave behind anything yucky.
6. This reminds me of when my cousin was a newlywed and gave a glorious, passionate speech at Sunday lunch about tire tracks on underwear and how men should, “Wipe and look, wipe and look, wipe and look — and you’re not done until the paper comes out clean.” Sage advice indeed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – My husband Antonio is a fanatic about using a bidet and never ever has broken any of these bathroom rules and is in fact probably cleaner than me when it comes to his throne. I’d be remiss if I led you to believe otherwise. But this is another story for another blog.)
7. More sage advice – pee in the bowl and only in the bowl, not on the floor and certainly not on the wall. Ever.
8. A couch or chair is not a closet. Pick up those clothes and put them away.
9. Odor eaters and bleach are our dear, dear friends.
Boys, even though I know you’ll never follow any of these rules, I still love you all. Just be sure to thank me when I’m done cleaning up. (My husband and his friends and my father always do.) Now, I’m off to spend my lunch hour ironing and preparing dough for tonight’s pizza dinner before returning to my desk to continue reporting my latest stories and updating my Web sites. Maybe I’ll find time to eat, too. It never ends. Never. Ever. Never.
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!