Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Girl Talk, Life Lessons

About My Blog: Dolce Zitella

typewriterWelcome to my blog Dolce Zitella.  Doesn’t it sound like a decadent dessert?  It’s not.  For those of you whose roots do not trace back to that lovely boot-shaped country, let me translate.  Dolce Zitella means “sweet spinster.”  That’s right, I’m a woman of a certain age who’s never been married.  It’s okay with me, but the word spinster seems to press a lot of women’s buttons.  I mean, really, it’s only a word.  But if shrouding the word in a layer of mystery and romance makes some people feel better, so be it.

While I have something to say about being a single woman, that’s not all I have to say.  So it doesn’t really matter if you’re single or married, younger or older.  After all, my younger sisters – I used to be you.  Whether you’re dip dying your hair, adding highlights and lowlights, or covering your gray, whether your hot body is the reward of working out or the result of menopause induced hot flashes – we’re all part of the same sisterhood.

Like you, I’m just trying to balance career with the rest of my life, whether it’s spending time with family and friends; meeting a new man; being proactive about my health; trying out a new recipe; embarking on my latest home improvement project; taking a night class; engrossed in a book; binge watching a television series; or searching for that perfect shade of red nail polish…

Dolce Zitella will be updated every other Thursday.  Visit and bring your friends.

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers, Pop Culture

Red Hat Lady for a Day

Have you ever seen a group of women all wearing red hats, and flamboyantly dressed in purple?  These older ladies can be seen lunching and laughing, and generally whooping it up all around town.  Some of them even wear feather boas… Truth be told, my mother is one of them and, on a recent visit home, I crashed the party.  But I did not wear the requisite purple, nor the red hat.   According to Red Hat Society lore, someone my age wears lavender and pink instead.

The Red Hat Society was founded quite by accident by a woman who bought a stylish red hat for herself, then started giving them as gifts to her friends.  The purple attire came about as an homage to the poem that begins, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…”  Now, there are a bazillion chapters all over the country.

On the first Wednesday of every month, when my mother and her friends get together adorned in their whimsical outfits, they remain mindful that everyone is not as carefree and blessed as they are.  That’s why they never fail to pass around an envelope for their donation to a food pantry.

I was expecting lunch to be a quiet affair in a subdued café.  Instead, it was a raucous celebration in a sports bar with Bon Jovi and Led Zep piped through the loud speakers.  The ladies talked about hair and makeup, current events, and their families, just like my friends do when we get together.  And I nearly forgot how much older they were until the talk turned from gardening, to their former careers, and to their numerous doctor appointments.  Save for the arthritis, they were mostly just like their younger counterparts.

So thank you Red Hatters for welcoming me into your circle, and for offering me a window into what lies ahead.  It promises to be fun and fabulous!

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Life Lessons

Best. Resort. Ever.

It’s a one of those “best kept secrets.” This four-star resort that’s tucked away in a quiet town along the Hudson River is my go-to spot when I’m mentally stressed out and physically depleted.  The moment I arrive and set my suitcase down, the tightness in my shoulders is released.

My favorite room is awash in soothing, muted colors, and drenched in natural light.  The luxurious linens and scent of fresh cut flowers do wonders to lull me to sleep.  There’s no set time for breakfast.  Morning coffee is served on a private deck that’s a riot of color (imagine a Martha Stewart-like arrangement of hearty potted flowering plants and lush green herbs) overlooking an expanse of untouched woods where a rustle of leaves announces a family of deer quietly wandering through or a bunny rabbit darting by.

This place has the best bagels I’ve ever had in my life (it’s in New York, after all), and fresh squeezed tangerine juice.  Lunch might be an asparagus mushroom soufflé or, my favorite, the Caprese salad, with tomatoes and basil that were grown on the property.  And dinner might be an expertly prepared Italian, French, or American inspired dish like Chicken Marsala, Beef Bourguignon, or Barbecued Ribs.

The spa-styled bathroom is larger than my kitchen.  (Really, I’m not exaggerating.)  The white soaking tub glistens so brightly you need to wear your sunglasses.  And paraffin treatments for your hands and feet are available at no charge.

Besides these lavish meals and spa treatments, there’s laundry service and an open bar.  In fact, everything is free.  “Such amenities and you don’t have to pay?” you may ask.  “Where exactly is this place, and how soon can I book it?”

Well…you can’t.  It’s exclusive and they don’t take reservations.  It’s the house where I grew up.  And the people there are the best – my folks.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

Wishing Every Day was the Fourth of July

It’s no secret that here in Boston we like to do it up big on the Fourth of July.  For decades, the Boston Pops has performed at the Hatch Shell along the Esplanade and, after the concert, a spectacular fireworks display rains down over the Charles River.  My neighbors and I may curse our lack of closet space 364 days of the year, but on the Fourth of July, we have the best place on earth to watch the fireworks: our roof deck.

Last week, as neighbors and friends gathered with beach chairs and blankets, food and drink, I was struck by what a diverse group had assembled on our roof deck for the day’s festivities.  One young mother was nursing her nine-week old baby, while the oldest, a vivacious lady in her seventies, sported an American flag motif scarf.  There were straight couples and gay couples.  And folks whose ancestry represented each of the seven continents.  There were Boston Brahmins, first-generation Americans, and at least one New Yorker.  All afternoon and into the evening, the sense of community prevailed as we waited in anticipation for the fireworks to start.

On the day we celebrated the red, white, and blue, there was no red state/blue state divide.  No political talk at all.  Do we all agree on everything?  No way.  But for one glorious, sparkling day we had come together with respect, pride, and patriotism.  All of us different, yet all the same – Americans.

 

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Italian Sisters

Ya know, I’ve known you for more than half my life,” my friend mused as we were enjoying a long-overdue girls’ night out recently.

I get a kick out of how she eats with such gusto.  She marvels at my talent for knowing exactly what shoes to wear with any given outfit.  When we shop there’s no dilly-dallying.  We see something we like, there’s no waffling, we just buy it.  The compliments are abundant and genuine.  I comment on her new eye shadow and she notices my new earrings.

We share the same story:  The only daughter in an Italian-American family.  Exceptionally close to our mothers.  New Yorkers who came to Boston for college – and stayed.  We are modern women yet we celebrate, even revere, tradition.  We’re scratch cooks who constantly swap recipes.  We know how to set a nice table.  We send hand-written thank you notes.

When we talk, our conversations are peppered with Italian words and phrases:  mia cucina (my kitchen); la familia (the family); and ciao bella (so long beautiful).  And the slang, of course: scoochi (pest); jaboney (jerk); and capisce (understand).

Our lives have taken us in different directions.  She’s married with two little girls while I’m the single one.  She’s the teacher and I’m a writer.  We’ve grown but we have not grown apart.  We remain each other’s confidant and sounding board.  One year for my birthday she gave me a Willow Tree figurine of two young girls sitting on a bench, seemingly deep in conversation.  It was the perfect gift.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” I agreed.  “We’re like sisters.  Italian sisters.”

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Life Lessons

My Dad – the Ad Man

The following is a re-post from June 2016.

Back in the day, my father was a G-rated version of Don Draper – one of the original “ad men” of the 1960’s.  For most of his career, he worked in the advertising department at NBC.  As a child, I didn’t understand what he did, but I surmised it was important because he worked in Rockefeller Center and had a view of the skating rink from his office windows.

Years later, I understood just what his job entailed.  His department was responsible for all the print advertising for the network.  The graphic artists and copywriters created ads and he produced them, by working closely with engravers and typesetters.  He then bought space in the various newspapers and magazines that would run the ads.  Faced with the pressure of constant deadlines, he often schmoozed and negotiated with the printers, all the while cajoling the artists to get them to turn their work in on time.  My father worked long hours.  And he suffered from migraines.

My father’s immigrant father owned a small, independent, neighborhood fruit and vegetable store in Queens, New York.  My grandfather spent his life lifting and carrying crates.  Despite how tired my father must have been from his long work week at NBC, he sometimes helped out at the family store on Saturdays, and I doubt he and my grandfather ever talked to each other about work.  I’m not sure if my grandfather understood the power of the media or saw the work my father did as meaningful.

When my father retired, he traded in his suit and briefcase for a set of golf clubs.  These days, he goes out to breakfast with the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out), wearing the Life is Good baseball cap I gave him a few years ago.  He thought the slogan was a reference to his retirement.  But it was also meant to acknowledge how hard he worked to give our family a good life.

Dad

 

Thank you, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

 

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Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

How Do You See Yourself?

A collective groan came from the women in my office – myself included – when we recently found out we had to write a self-evaluation for our annual performance review.  Meanwhile, the guys seemed unfazed.  Why were the men so comfortable when it came to tooting their own horns, while we women struggled to recognize our talents and quantify our skills – let alone engage in anything resembling self-promotion?

So, as the guys retreated to their respective offices to write their evaluations, the women did what women do – we came together – to talk and share, and basically buoy each other up.

We put aside basic competencies and all the long hours we logged in at our desks.  Instead, we thought about who the three of us are when we’re not at the office: a mother to a ‘tween and a teen; a preacher; and a writer.  We looked at all the “life stuff” each of us brings to the table.

Hearing my co-workers’ observations reminded me of the way my mother would often compliment me when I was a girl.  When I dismissed her praise, insisting that she couldn’t possibly be objective, she would reinforce it saying, “I wish you could see yourself the way other people see you.”

In the end, I wrote about my challenges and accomplishments.  We all did.  Because when we saw ourselves as our peers see us, we looked pretty damn good.

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Girl Talk

Glam on the Go

If you’re like me, you automatically reach into your purse for your lipstick at the end of the meal.  Applying lipstick in a restaurant is commonplace enough that it often goes unnoticed.  Besides, it doesn’t take any special skill to swipe some color over your lips, even if you don’t have a mirror.

A friend of mine applies her full make-up regalia during her morning commute.  Using her rearview mirror, she performs this act in perfect synchronization with the stop lights along the way.  She can dab on concealer, bronzer, and lip gloss, not to mention perk up her eyes with mascara and eyeliner, all with a steady hand.  By the time she’s reached her office, her face is painted to flawless perfection.  It’s a talent for sure, and one that I couldn’t hope to imitate.  Besides, I don’t drive to work.

I commute using public transportation and the jostling that takes place on the subway or bus, not to mention the other passengers pressed up against you like sardines, and the students who whip around and whack you with their backpacks, all render the application of make-up impossible – or so I thought until the other day.

A woman sitting across from me reached into her tote bag and took out a false eyelash.  It looked like a big bushy caterpillar.  Using the tips of her fingernails as a substitute tweezer, she methodically picked off every bit of caked-on glue from the base of the eyelash.  Next, she took out a tiny tube of glue and strategically applied three dots.  When the glue was dry – remember, this was a moving train – she pressed the eyelash onto her lid.  She then repeated the process for the other eye.  I could not believe MY EYES!  Wish I could’ve stuck around to see what she’d do next, but we had reached my stop.

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