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.

red poppy

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Life Lessons

What’s Cooking?

My office recently held its annual “pot luck lunch” which should’ve been called the “no luck lunch.”  The Tupperware and CorningWare were sorely outnumbered by the bakery boxes and other pre-packaged, store-bought items.  In fact, there were so few homemade dishes that the office manager, fearing there was not enough food to go around, ordered in several trays of salad, sides, and main dishes from a nearby restaurant.  Having said that, my officemate’s Tupperware and my CorningWare were present and accounted for on that big conference table.

While I understand that not everyone has the cooking gene, still, it was disappointing to see that there were so few cooks in the group.  After all, the plethora of cooking shows on cable television would have you believe that everyone is in the kitchen whipping up either a weekend feast or a quick “Tuesday through Thursday night” one-pot meal.

A common complaint I hear is that there’s no time to cook.  Yet my officemate – a mother of two, who doesn’t have a dishwasher – found the time to cook.   And despite my daily three-hours of commuting, so did I.

Have you ever heard a woman say, “Oh, I don’t cook,” with a nuanced tone, or a subtle hand gesture that implies she thinks that cooking is trivial or demeaning?  While it’s her prerogative to feel that way, and her choice whether or not to cook, it troubles me that the remark makes those of us who do cook feel as if our culinary endeavors lack value.  After all, isn’t cooking the most gracious form of hospitality?

As for me, after a stressful day, nothing relaxes me more than going into my kitchen.   Mia cucina.  That time is sacred to me.  The moment I start chopping some vegetables, or sink my hands into a bowl full of flour and butter…well, I become transformed.  Besides, cooking is not only a great stress-buster – you end up with something to show for your efforts.  Something tangible.  Something nourishing.  Something delicious.

Two days after the office pot luck, my officemate’s son informed her that he’d signed her up to help with a school bake sale.  She had two days in which to bake four dozen cupcakes.   I loaned her one of my muffin tins so she could do two batches at a time.

So, here’s a message to all my fellow cooks:  Cooking is both a skill and an art.  It doesn’t make you seem old-fashioned, or any less a feminist.  What you do matters – and it is appreciated.

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Best of Boston, Pop Culture, Writers and Writing

Honoring Jack

The following is a re-post from October 2017.

Pumpkins, large and small, adorn nearly every window box and doorstep in my neighborhood.  Along with the usual ghosts and witches, we here in the Bay State have easy access to the ultimate Halloween spectacle.  Salem may be a quaint New England town steeped in history, mythology, and magic – but Salem in October is way too touristy for me.

Instead, I take a day trip to Lowell to visit the grave of one of my literary heroes – Jack Kerouac.

The first time I visited Kerouac’s grave, it was just before Halloween, and the anniversary of his death.  I arrived at Edson Cemetery with a crudely drawn map that a kindly gentleman at the Chamber of Commerce had given me and, as I made my way along the neat little rows of tombstones and markers, I marveled at the extraordinary shades of yellow, orange, and red leaves underfoot and overhead.  Kerouac’s grave was an unassuming flat slab that was flush to the ground.  This is what it said:

“TI JEAN”

JOHN L. KEROUAC

MAR. 12, 1922 – OCT. 21, 1969

– HE HONORED LIFE –

STELLA HIS WIFE

NOV. 11, 1918 – FEB. 10, 1990

There had been many recent visitors to the grave, fans, and writers perhaps, because they’d left unopened bottles of imported beer, packs of Camel cigarettes, flowers, and sheets of poetry, some handwritten and some typed, in several different languages.

I sat on the ground and took out a bottle of champagne and my worn paperback copy of On the Road.  I purposely shook the bottle so that when I popped the cork, the bubbly came gushing out just like it does in the winning team’s locker room.  I took a small drink before pouring the entire bottle onto the grass, letting it soak right into the ground so he could enjoy it.

Then I opened my book to a random page and started reading.  There in that graveyard was all the history, mythology, and magic I needed.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Inked

The following is a re-post from October 2016.

When I was a kid, it seemed like the only people with tattoos were guys who’d been in the military or who rode motorcycles.  Getting tattooed is painful and it proved these guys were strong, tough, cool.  In other words – badass.

Once in a great while, I’d see a woman with a tattoo but it was usually a dainty little red rose on her ankle or shoulder.  Still, I never considered doing it myself.  For one thing, I didn’t feel strongly enough about anything to have it branded into my skin.  Then there was the pain factor.   And a badass?  Definitely not me.

But getting tattooed has become so commonplace that it hardly seems the act of courage or rebellion it once was.  These days, it’s more about artistic expression and individualism. That being said, getting tattooed remains a painful endeavor and, you have to be gutsy to let that needle go at your skin.

Full disclosure here: I got inked.

Like far too many women, first I was cut.  Next, pumped full of poison.  Then came the tatts, and finally they nuked me.  I guess that makes me a badass after all.

You see, my tatts are radiation markers.  I am a breast cancer survivor with four small permanent black dots on my chest.  But I’m also a hockey enthusiast, a devoted Boston Bruins fan, so I choose to think of my tatts as small hockey pucks.  Four little pucks in honor of the greatest hockey player that ever was: Number Four – Bobby Orr!

It’s October.  Hockey season started last week and my Bruins are back on the ice.  It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Have you scheduled your mammogram?

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Zitella's Favorite Recipes

A Recipe for the Happy Couple

When I opened the bridal shower invitation, a blue 4 by 6 index card fell out.  What is this? I thought, as I picked it up off the floor.  Then I skimmed the invitation for the who, where, and when.  At the bottom, right under the bridal registry info, was a simple request:

Please use this card to share one of your favorite recipes with the bride.

Although I have not yet met the bride, the groom is my cousin.  His mom is a very special cousin to me, and his grandmother was a lovely great-aunt.  I thought about holidays I’d spent with them when I was a child, and tried to remember some specific recipes my great-aunt had made.  But the bride would be getting those recipes from her new-mother-in-law.

While I have dozens of favorite recipes, I wanted to give the bride a recipe that the happy couple would surely enjoy.  And I had no idea what they’d like.  So I checked out the bridal registry for clues.

They’d registered for fun stuff: party platters, small plate dishes, a margarita pitcher and glasses, and cappuccino cups.  They were planning on doing a lot of entertaining.

An easy but elegant crowd-pleaser came to mind.  It looks like way more work to prepare than it actually is.  In fact, if you can separate an egg, you’ve got this.  So besides sharing it with the happy couple, I thought I’d share it with you.

Chocolate Mousse Recipe

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Life Lessons

The Party’s Over

Every store I enter is jam-packed with back-to-school supplies.  Although the temperature remains toasty, we are losing daylight at an alarming rate, and the leisurely weeknight barbeques of July have become a race against time to finish before it’s too dark to see what you’re eating.  Labor Day weekend has passed – the party’s officially over.

For children everywhere, September brings the promise of starting over – the new school year literally offers a blank page in a brand-new notebook.  Yet, despite being a good student, I never felt that excitement about going back to school.  Instead, I experienced a mix of equal parts melancholy and anxiety.  The night before the first day of school, my clothing and supplies all laid out, I would go to bed early but have trouble falling asleep. “The party’s over…it’s time to go back to school.”

I never minded the actual school work – it was the getting up so early and the restrictive structure of the Monday-through-Friday routine that was the problem.  See the irony here?  What I didn’t like about school is exactly what most of the workforce, myself included, complain about on a daily basis.

A friend of mine talks about having the “Sunday night blues.”  She says it coincides with the television show “60 Minutes.”  The moment she sees the stopwatch and hears the ticking sound of the passage of time, she becomes angst-ridden.  I don’t watch “60 Minutes,” but the emotions I experienced the night before the first day of school remain so vivid, and continue to rise up in me every Sunday night.

Nothing can compare to the carefree feeling of the childhood summer vacation.  As working adults, we take off for a week or two in summer to recharge our batteries.  But the bottom line: whether you’re a kid going back to school or a working adult, vacation is fleeting.

As my friends and co-workers talk about getting their children ready to go back to school, I can’t shake the image of school supplies, and I remember the black and white composition books of my own school days.  It suddenly seems that it’s not so much about the first day of school, or about mourning the end of summer, or even about the daily grind, as it is about the chance to start over, fresh.  It’s about that blank page in a brand-new notebook.

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Best of Boston, Girl Talk, Mothers and Daughers

The Staycation Vacation

The following is a re-post from July 2016.

Here in Boston, tourists abound.  I regularly see them taking pictures in the Public Garden, walking the Freedom Trail, milling around Faneuil Hall.  Beyond the city limits, they visit historic Plymouth and Salem, scatter all along Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.  Sometimes I see them struggling along our cobblestone streets with their luggage, but mostly they look as if they’re having a good time.

At the risk of sounding like “Trip Advisor,” Boston’s a great vacation destination with its rich architecture, abundant historical sites and museums – not to mention great seafood.  In fact, not long ago when friends visited for the weekend, we went on a harbor cruise and took a tour of Fenway Park.  And of course, we ate delish Italian cuisine in the North End.

My vacation is coming up and, this time around, I won’t be getting out of Dodge, but I’ll surely dodge the usual travel hassles, lost luggage, and second-rate hotels.  I also won’t end up more exhausted than when I started, and I won’t spend a fortune doing it.  Call me crazy, but I’m taking a staycation.  I’ll sleep decadently late, go to the Museum of Fine Arts, meet a friend for lunch, stroll through the Copley Square Farmer’s Market, get pampered at my favorite Newbury Street day spa, and spend the day at Singing Sand Beach.

No matter where you live, a staycation could be the ideal way to spend your leisure time.  I’ll bet there are some places you’ve been meaning to go – a day trip, perhaps – or a show you want to see.  Maybe go hiking or biking, or try that restaurant you’ve heard so much about but haven’t gotten the chance to try.

Remember, like Dorothy once said, “There’s no place like home…”

Staycation 2018 was my first staycation in my new home.  It was not so much about sightseeing as it was about luxuriating.  I’ve not only had a glorious week, but my best friend came to Boston and spent it with me.  Instead of the Charles River, we had a view of the glistening Mystic River.  We drank sweet tea while lounging on lawn chairs in my backyard and nibbled on French pastries in a neighborhood cafe.  Our spa day featured a mani-and pedi- and a botanical face mask.  And we shopped until we dropped.  She left this morning, and I already miss her.  Who’s this best friend?  She’s my mother, of course.red poppy

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Life Lessons

Give Me a Ring

Give me a ring, okay?  No, not that kind of ring!  I’m not looking for bling, or a proposal.  I just want to talk – have a convo – a good, old-fashioned phone call.  Remember those?

As a teenager, I holed up in my bedroom after dinner, chatting on the phone with my friends, even though I’d seen them all day at school.  During college, the frequent calls with my family helped to ease the miles apart.  The giddy calls with boyfriends – “you hang up first,” “no you hang up first” – and the angst-filled conversations with would-be-could-be-might-be-boyfriends were something else.  Over the years, I’ve treasured the out-of-the-blue calls from far-away friends and favorite cousins I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like.  Whenever I place a call that I know will brighten someone else’s day, it gives me a lift, too.

Clearly, the e-mail and the text message have changed the way we communicate and those “the phone’s just been ringing off the hook!” days seem gone forever.  I don’t have anything against emailing or texting.  Each has merit.  The email can relay a large chunk of information quickly, and seamlessly.  And nothing beats a text when you’re running late to meet someone and you need to let them know.

But this past week, I got on the phone.

First, I placed a long-distance call to an old college friend. He and I caught up and reminisced, and an hour went by in a flash.  Then, a long-overdue call to a friend who lives only a few miles away but whose demanding work life, like mine, has limited her leisure time.  Our talk was validating and restorative.  And finally, I checked in on a friend I haven’t seen in nearly a year but who’s been on my mind lately.  When she shared with me the sad news that her father recently passed away, I tried to offer comfort, and wished I’d called sooner.

Remember that old television commercial for the phone company?  The tag line was “reach out and touch someone.”  I used to think it was corny.  Now, not so much.

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