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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Best of Boston, Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Writers and Writing

Honoring Jack

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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Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Apple and Cranberry Season

What do you think of when you think about autumn?  The leaves turning brilliant colors?  That it’s time to wear your favorite bulky sweater?  How much fun it is to stroll through the pumpkin patch, searching for that perfectly shaped pumpkin to put on your front steps or by the hearth.

Me, I see red.  Deep, rich red.  The color of apples and cranberries.

Columbus Day Weekend is traditionally the time to go apple picking.  Whether you venture out into the orchard and actually pluck the apples off the trees or visit the local farm stand and choose your favorite varieties from large wooden bins – it’s still apple picking in my book.

One friend of mine makes apple butter, another makes apple sauce.  I prefer apple crisp.  Because the apples are so naturally sweet, I add cranberries for a kick of tartness.  Besides, cranberries are so plentiful here in New England.

Here’s the recipe:  Apple Cranberry Crisp Recipe

 

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Girl Talk

Will You Marry Me?

Last September, I wrote about Jaimie and Nick.  While I haven’t yet solved their romantic mystery, I do have an update.  But first you need to read the original post:

My neighborhood is lined with cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks.  As you might imagine, the old chipped bricks make for an uneven walking surface.  And over the years, I’ve ruined more than one pair of high heels.  So I’ve learned to watch where I step.

Back in July (2016), I noticed that an old brick had been replaced with a brand new one with clean, sharp edges, and a perfectly etched message that read:  JAIMIE, WILL YOU MARRY ME?  NICK

I’m not sure how long the brick had been in place when it caught my eye.  But each day as I walk by, I feel compelled to check and see if the brick is still there.  It’s become a wildly romantic mystery to me as I spin all sorts of stories about how the brick came to be in this spot, as well as my speculations about this couple – Jaimie and Nick.  Do I know them by sight?  Maybe they live right across the street from me.  Is Jaimie a woman or a man?  Have they gotten married?

So many questions remain unanswered.  Why did Nick choose to propose in this way?  How exactly did he plan his grand gesture?  And what happened when Jaimie spotted the brick?  If Jaimie accepted the proposal, wouldn’t they have dug up the brick as a memento?  Likewise, if Jaimie rejected the proposal, wouldn’t Nick have dug it up and gotten rid of what would’ve become a painful reminder?  Either way, why does the brick remain?

Update: One morning, as my downstairs neighbor and I left for work at the same time, we walked together down Dartmouth Street.  When I pointed out the brick and confessed that I was intrigued by it, she told me that her husband had witnessed the proposal.

“Tell me everything!” I pleaded.

Jaimie is a young woman, and Nick a young man, she confirmed.  Whether Jaimie saw the brick at first or not remains to be seen.  But when Nick got down on one knee in the traditional pose, my neighbor, right along with Jaimie, realized what was about to happen.  My neighbor didn’t want to impose on such a personal and meaningful moment so he quickly turned the corner and got out of sight.

“That’s it?  That’s all you know!” I persisted.

“My husband assumed she said yes,” she replied.

More than ever, I believe Jaimie and Nick are together and living happily ever after.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons

Flight of the Angel

Last August, I wrote about the annual Feast of St. Anthony that takes place in Boston’s Italian North End.  Called “the Feast of All Feasts,” it’s the culmination of the summer season’s celebrations of faith, Italian culture, and food – and the biggest block party you could ever imagine.  However, this year, on the Sunday night prior to the St. Anthony Feast, I ventured down to North and Fleet Streets for the Fisherman’s Feast because an Italian-American friend promised me a spectacle “unlike anything you’ve ever seen!”  She wasn’t kidding.

The tradition of the Fisherman’s Feast was brought to Boston by Sicilian immigrants in the early 1900’s to commemorate the fishermen’s great devotion to the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help).  Every August, to coincide with the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the Flight of the Angel takes place at the conclusion of the Fisherman’s Feast.

A large crowd gathered at dusk, awaiting the arrival of the statue of the Madonna and the little angels who pray to her.  Trumpets played and everyone cheered when the statue of the Madonna approached. Spotlights shone on two skirted third-story balconies, directly across from one another.  A little girl dressed as an angel appeared on one of the balconies and began praying in Sicilian.  Soon, the second little angel appeared on the opposite balcony.  With the help of some elaborate cables, she began her descent until she was lowered down to greet the statue.  Still suspended, she also prayed to the Madonna.  The crowd went wild cheering and throwing confetti.

But what was truly remarkable about this scene was not that these little girls had memorized a rather lengthy prayer in Italian, or how the many hands holding the cables did everything with such care and precision, or even how beautiful the statue was.  It was extraordinary to witness the devotion of so many people, and the great sense of community that devotion had inspired.  Younger people made spaces on the crowded street and sidewalk for older folks, as folding chairs seemingly appeared as if by magic for these elders.  Adults lifted children up – not even their own children – so the youngsters could get a better look.  And despite the lack of a significant police presence, when the ceremony was over, the thousand-plus crowd disbursed in a respectful and organized fashion.  I’m sure the Madonna del Sorrorso was smiling down on all of us.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons

Poolside

Growing up, I spent my summers at our town pool.  My mother, brother, and I formed a little parade as we walked through the parking lot, carrying beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, and a cooler.  On the weekends, my father joined us, and led the parade.  Nothing was planned yet we always found neighbors and friends to sit with, and we’d set up camp for the day.  No one worried about getting too much sun.  Although some of the ladies swam rather awkwardly, craning their necks so their hair wouldn’t get wet.  Funny how my brother and his friends would take a running start and cannonball into the water as these ladies tried, in vain, to shield their hairdos from the big splash.  The Olympic sized pool was crystal clear and we’d stay in the water until our fingertips shriveled like prunes.  Once we got older, my mom would drop us off in the morning, knowing we were safe amongst friends, and come back for us just before dinner time.  It was perfect suburban bliss.

As a city dweller, I’ve relied on rooftop hotel pools when the temperature rises into the 90’s and the humidity frizzes my hair.  These tiny, sky-high pools can be pricey but when you’ve got the flop sweats, money is no object.  On weekends, these hot spots get crowded quickly, mostly with post-college urban professionals who are more interested in the small plate menus and trendy pastel-colored martinis, than in taking a swim.  And depending where you manage to find an unoccupied lounge chair, your view could end up being nothing more than a cluster of flat rooftops.

This summer, I finally discovered poolside nirvana at the Mirabella pool in Boston’s Italian North End.  Situated right along the Harbor, with magnificent views of the Charlestown Shipyard, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the Zakim Bridge, I’ve marveled at the ferries and sailboats as they pass by.  I’ve found the perfect aquatic oasis at this historic neighborhood pool.  There’s a great sense of community and diversity, as young families gather, their toddlers padding around wearing neon colored water wings, giggling teenagers hang out with their BFF’s, my peers luxuriate without using their phones or laptops, and older, retired folks who’ve mastered the art of relaxation, smile or nod as I walk by.  I love this pool for its clean, refreshing water but I love it more for the nostalgic memories it has evoked in me.

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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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