Friday, October 28, 2016

When autumn comes...

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Most days call for cookies

How is it the end of October already? Oh, I'll tell you how. Because I am busy as can be and can't possibly take another thing on. But I do. I take another thing on and then another and then another. And it just accumulates and builds up and then I ask myself "How did it become the end of October already?"

So, most days call for a little peace. Even if I can only find 5 minutes. I read a book, thank you to a good friend, I also just learned to crochet so I do that too. And I bake.

I'm channeling my inner Nonna. 

For recipe to my favorite chocolate chip cookie, click HERE!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Making Mesagne greater

My love of Mesagne's centro storico began a long time ago and I enjoy revisiting it each summer. Walking the cobblestone narrow streets, taking in the castle, the churches, the numerous restaurants and pubs, and the simple beauty of street life. Each year there is always something new to discover whether it be a new pub or they renovated an alley, I love that the town takes pride in revitalizing such a central point of the town.

And I love when the people of Mesagne take particular pride in their city and want to do good. That could mean putting a fresh coat of paint on their home, frequenting the town's shops and restaurants, or doing something that tries to draw tourism to this beautiful city - like opening a magnificent B&B in the heart of centro storico.

Suite Vicoletto was a vision of a friend that he saw through to the very last detail. Exposed stonework, arched ceilings, king-size bed, modern accessories set in an old building that they were able to preserve and rejuvenate.

Perfect surroundings for a night (or two) away to indulge. The suite has both sauna and jacuzzi to help you relax and satisfy your craving to be pampered. The modern fixtures against the old stone backdrop provide the perfect yin and yang.

Sweet, little kitchen where you are welcomed upon entering the B&B complete with Prosecco and delicious treats. You had me at Prosecco.

And that sink - I adore that sink, tremendously. Original to the structure and a perfect complement to the adorable space. Simple, refined, tasteful. Everything you could want in a weekend away escape nestled in the most perfect section, of the most perfect little town.

Giovanni, never stopping to be proud of his accomplishments, talent and town. His restaurant, Osteria del Vicoletto is also located in centro storico and is both beautiful to behold and worth every bite of food and sip of wine.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A visit to Atlanta

My girlfriend moved a few years ago and I am so happy to say that I just went to visit her and her family in the fabulous city of Atlanta, Georgia! What a fun city and what fun her and I had over the weekend. So thankful for good friends, good times and my camera to hang onto good memories.

Atlanta is filled with art and one of my favorite kinds - street art. Graffiti, storefront decor, random recycled art under an overpass looking into your soul. You know the kind. Chances are if you've been to a big US city, you have been privileged to fill your mind and soul with some pretty cool stuff.

Just like I did this past weekend.

The Beltline is a very popular attraction in Atlanta. It circles the city and is a means to connect all the different communities that encompass this city. Miles to walk, run, bike, skate, around the city and take in the art, neighborhoods, restaurants, parks, shops and more. We walked a bit of it my first evening there and I loved it.

We happened upon this sweet little turtle family too.

We took in the Chihuly exhibit at the Atlantic Botanical Gardens. An awesome space of nature and modern glass exhibit speckled throughout the bushes, trees and flowers. It was amazing!

I took my very first Flywheel class which was exhausting but completely exhilarating and a great workout. My legs felt like jello stepping down from the bike after 45 minutes of some serious pedaling. We did some serious eating this weekend so it felt great to add a studio class to all the walking we did too. 

And speaking of eating...this place was incredible. Located in Little Five Points, Wrecking Par Brewpub did not only offer very cool decor but I had the best grilled cheese sandwich ever AND tried boiled peanuts for the first time.

It's a southern thing...boiled peanuts. Delicious!

We took the elevator up 72 floors to the Sun Dial Restaurant located in the Westin to catch this view. So glad we did too. We spent a good bit of time out there taking it all in.

An amazing time in a new-to-me city visiting my girlfriend. Shopping, eating, gardens, walking, cycling, time spent with her beautiful family, art festival, more eating and more walking. Perfection.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


This picture was taken in 2012, that's my oldest next to this very old fig tree on our cousin's farm to give you a sense of perspective of size. To say that it's an old fig tree is a major understatement.

The kids love visiting the farms when we are in Italy and we are fortunate to be in an area where there is plenty surrounding Mesagne. The farms we visit are owned by family and friends and the love and pride they pour into their land is obvious. Their willingness to share in their love with my kids and I goes straight to my heart and stays with me.

For me it's so vital to let the kids experience even just a couple hours in the rich earth, surrounded by the farm air, the quiet sounds and the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables right at your fingertips. They enjoy picking the ripened fruits, rolling the melons to the car and carrying the buckets over their shoulders. They try to experience farm life albeit for a brief period. Still, you quite literally breathe the fresh air into your lungs and mind. It doesn't get more natural than this.

My nonna worked on a farm, actually many farms, in her life. As did her mother before her and probably her grandmother too. To be able to go back and see for myself what life must have been like for her. Two kids at home, a husband that worked at the train station in Mesagne and her on the farm, working hard all day long. Times were so different, not the conveniences (or distractions however you see it) as we have today.

Allowing my kids to be such a significant part in our history is so important to me. Traveling to Italy each summer...every.single.summer. since they were born I hope makes such an impact on them. A positive impact like the one placed on me having both lived there as a child and traveling back to visit as an adult. I feel so connected to my ancestry - to the streets my Nonno traveled, the farms my Nonna worked, the school my mom was taught, the park I played at as a kid with Scott, and the countless other connections through our family in Mesagne. I fall in love with it all over again with each visit and leave a part of myself there upon each return to America. It's such a part of me and such a part of my kids now too.

To say we are fortunate is an understatement.  To say we appreciate each day there is putting it lightly. To say we are obligated to learn about our history is necessary.  To learn about our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. To learn the way they lived, what they enjoyed, whom they enjoyed it with too. All of that is essential to also learn a part of yourself. Where you come from. When we are in America, I look through pictures with them, tell them about their family, answer any questions they might have. How can they teach others about their family if they don't know it for themselves? How can they learn to love the feel of the Adriatic Sea on their toes if not by experiencing it?

My beautiful Nonna, haven't a clue the year or the exact location, but I love everything about this photo. She looks proud to me - her face, her stance depict pride. Pride in her livelihood, pride in her country, pride for her family.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fall has arrived!

There is a distinct chill in the morning air, you can feel the cold that will be settling into your bones as Winter gets closer. The ground is becoming beautifully littered with fallen leaves - bright orange, yellow, red, brown speckles canvasing our walks, crunching underneath our feet and plucked from the ground to give a closer inspection. Bare feet and flip flops are traded for socks and boots, light jackets and scarves make their way out of closets. Soups, stews and chili become a staple again for dinner and the kids are looking forward to hot chocolate filling their cups. Ok, I'm looking forward to hot chocolate as well.
I love this time of year so much.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A little bit of Amish Country

With the girls off from school yesterday, the 4 of us and a surprise visit from Nonna Lisa, set out for Amish Country in Lancaster, PA. Gorgeous fall weather with a hint of the changing colors of the leaves and the great outdoors, a perfect escape from suburbia.

We arrived at The Amish House, a new to us experience a perfect spot for walking the grounds and taking it all in. You have the option to tour the house, but I declined seeing how the weather was too nice to be indoors AND taking a guided tour with a rambunctious almost-three-year-old was not my idea of a good time. Instead we let them roam around outside and see what they could see.

Animals, farm equipment, the school house, the barns, a covered bridge with working watermill and even a little playground...what more could 3 little kids want?

This guy. I felt kind of bad for him, he looked so sad. He kept ducking his head in and out of the stall like he knew he was there for a photo op and that's it. I miss horseback riding and would have loved very much to take a ride on him instead of take his picture. But alas, not an option, so I took a picture of his sweet, sad face.

The kids enjoyed having Nonna around for the day and Nonna enjoyed seeing something new to her too.

Life is about both the big and small adventures we are able to enjoy. Take in all we can in the time we are given. A short 1 hour car ride to tour a small Amish farm doesn't seem like much but exposing my children to another little adventure, another type of lifestyle means much to me. I feel as if I'm teaching them something about history, about a different way of life all the while enjoying the beautiful weather. They might not retain much of the things we spoke of about the farm and the Amish lifestyle, but they make take away something whether it's just how the light bounced off the windmill, how fast chickens can run or what it felt like to sit in a horse and buggy cart. Or even that on their day off from school we spent the day together, doing something new and fun.

I was entranced by this Amish couple as we pulled into a produce and flower stand on the side of the road. My mom went off to buy with the girls while I remained near the car with Mario but I couldn't stop staring at them. Wondering about their discussion, their likes and dislikes or if they even cared that I was discreetly (not successful) trying to take their picture.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Here comes the sun

The morning my mom left to return to Maryland, her and I woke at 4am to drive to the airport. I pre-planned and brought my camera with me knowing that once I dropped her off, I was headed to the beach for the sunrise. Even after all these years of both living in Italy and visiting each summer, I had never seen the sunrise on my own as I did this summer.

And there we were, my camera and I. I woke up for the second time that morning.

I took pictures, spoke with my brothers via messaging (it was only 11pm for them - early by their standards) and did what I do best, reflected. I thought about this natural beauty that I was now a part of that morning and that my family and friends in Puglia are able to be a part of whenever they wanted. I thought about how my summer in Italy was nearing an end and all that I would leave, all that I would bring back with me and all that was waiting for me upon returning to the US.  

Each new day brings it's own agenda, to-do list, itinerary, things you must do. There's no avoiding the complications of life. But with each new day, wouldn't it be wonderful to set aside a moment or ten to really contemplate all we have done, what we do and what is meant for us to be? To sit with our thoughts, reflect upon our life and in that moment be grateful, carry that gratitude with us through the tough times, the times that are difficult. To meditate, pray, think...however you need to describe it. To be with yourself, cherish yourself and this one life we have.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

And that's a wrap!

Well, September certainly flew by quickly. There was a lot going on, but I blinked and it's now October. The start of the school year, getting back into the routine of activities, the change of season, all encourages the day along. This time of year also brings two very important people's birthdays, my baby brother and mom which we celebrated this past weekend in Maryland. Antonio turned 21, a very big deal in the good ol' US of A and my mom was just happy to be surrounded by her family on her birthday. Notice I didn't disclose her age, not that she would mind anyway.

Scott and I did what any good big sister and big brother would do to their baby brother as they turn 21, got a couple people together to celebrate in downtown Annapolis at a great locale. A milestone birthday for anyone but especially for Americans as they are now legal to drink alcohol. Shots were sent to the table for Antonio, we ate, had some drinks but most of all...were together.

I like celebrating birthdays.  A lot of people say that it's just another day, nothing special. I disagree. It's incredibly special and not just your typical, average day. It's your day, the day you came into this world, into your life, into the lives of others. It's a time, a date and a place mapped out just for you especially. It's a reminder that you exist, you live and breathe, you create a space for yourself in this world. And you choose to do so however you please.

However you choose to celebrate your day is your prerogative. Choose to be alone with your thoughts, surrounded by a few friends and family or a massive party. You do what you want since it's your day, that's what will make it special.You choosing you.

Because at the end of the day, be it your birthday along with any other day, that's what you have to do. You have to choose you. Choose your well-being, your happiness, your contentment, your thoughts, your fears, your passions, your loves. The things that keep you going, that motivate you, that challenge you. It's your choice what frightens you, what gives you anxiety, what makes you sad. You choose all those good, those not so good and those bad pieces to be a part of your life.

And however you choose to fill your time know that it's special because it's all about you. The things, the people, the places that make you tick, make your heart beat, your pulse quicken, those make up your life. Your life that began on that one special day that you came into this world.

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