Girl Talk, Life Lessons

To Be A Princess


I keep hearing “just because you don’t have a prince doesn’t mean you’re not a princess.”  Although several people have taken credit for this saying, it’s the cutest three- and five-year-old sisters who’ve helped me figure out the whole princess thing.

What is it about the princess narrative anyway?  Is it the notion of being rescued?  When my office mate brought her two young boys to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, she was appalled that one of the activities was all about ‘saving the princess.’  “The princess,” she insisted, “can save herself!”

While there have always been princesses who fall into a deep sleep, or lose their glass slipper, in recent years, we’ve seen a whole new crop of them.  This new breed may be self-reliant and reflect greater diversity, yet their end game still seems to be marriage.  Which brings me to the handsome prince.  Of course the princess wants to marry him.  He’s a great catch – not to mention major eye candy.

But there’s a time before the prince enters the picture.  As I watch my friend’s two tiny daughters get all caught up in the princess craze, I can tell you, they’re not thinking about any prince.  For them, it’s all about the girly, glittery princess costumes.  They just want to wear the pretty dresses.  That’s all it takes to make them feel special.  They twirl around in their princess dresses and show me that you don’t need a prince to be a princess.

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Mothers and Daughers

When Mother and Daughter Become Friends

mother-and-daugherWhen I was a child, the constant dialogue I had with my mother took the form of instruction: wash your hands, eat your carrots, look both ways before you step off the school bus.  All else was in some way a teaching moment, like when I learned how to tell time, or asked what makes the leaves turn color in the fall.

The nature of our conversations shifted when I had something to offer in return.  And by the time I was a ‘tween I could tell she enjoyed my company because she’d pick me up from school and take me with her on errands she could’ve done earlier in the day without me.  I remember going shopping with her when she needed a new dress for a cousin’s wedding.  And it was fun.

Once I was in high school, I’d come to know her not only as my mother, but also as a person.  When we sat at the kitchen table sharing a pot of tea, she would tell me stories about her childhood or her courtship with my father.  We’d often discuss a movie we’d seen or a current event.  She’d want to know my opinion.  And I could make her laugh.

I knew I was an adult when she began asking me for advice. At first it was about the menu for one of her dinner parties.  Then she wanted my input on choosing new wallpaper.  But it mattered most when she, as an only child, was the sole caregiver to her aging mother.

Despite living 200 miles apart, not a day goes by that we don’t speak on the phone.  And we Skype every Sunday.  Maybe my mother and I are unusually close, but I don’t think we’re such an oddity.  Because when I look at the women I know – from every race and ethnic group, scattered across different regions of the country, spanning several generations – there’s often a common thread: the profoundly intimate relationship between mothers and daughters.  And it’s not just because they are mother and daughter – it’s because they are poppy

Zitella's Favorite Recipes

Soup’s On


The weather has finally shifted and the dry, crisp autumn air means it’s time to dig out my stock pot.  Nothing’s better than putting up a pot of soup on a Saturday morning.  You can enjoy it over the weekend and still have some left over for the work week.  I have several “go to” soup recipes that are easy, healthful, and freeze well.  One was given to me by a friend; another I found in a magazine.  But my spinach soup recipe comes from the first cookbook I ever bought, The Regional Italian Kitchen by Nika Hazelton.

I’d just gotten my first place on my own.  The apartment was a studio with a galley kitchen smaller than the average bathroom. There was barely enough room for my dishes, let alone for a cookbook, so it got wedged between two college texts on a book shelf in the main room.

That was a long time ago.  Now la cucina has a dedicated bookcase for my ever-growing collection of cookbooks.  Yet The Regional Italian Kitchen remains one of my most frequently used cookbooks, just as the spinach soup remains one of my all-time favorite recipes.  This flavorful soup can stand alone, or you can add a small chewy pasta like orzo or ditalini.

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Girl Talk

Uncommon Proposal

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, 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?

This uncommon proposal has piqued my curiosity and I may never know the story behind it.  But I’d like to think that Jaimie and Nick are together and living happily ever after.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons

September in Boston

Emerson Union“They’re baaaack…”   At summer’s end, nearly a quarter-of-a-million college students descend upon Boston.  They arrive in SUV’s and with U-Hauls that get double and triple parked along the city streets.  It’s a chaotic and familiar scene that jars my memory, transports me back to a September when I was a student.

My classes took place in a cluster of century-old brownstones that was Emerson College.  The Back Bay streets I walked were lined with gas street lamps, and every statue and church marked a piece of history.  There was no quad, no field house, no bookstore, nothing even remotely resembling a traditional campus – this was an urban campus.

The city was filled with a new kind of student – their oxford shirts and Shetland sweaters were packed away in their parents’ attics.  These young men and women were costumed in vivid colors, leather jackets, tight black trousers, walking boots, male and female alike wearing haircuts as short as their fathers had worn thirty years before.  They liked to gather in front of the Mass Communications Building and smoke clove cigarettes.  Their energy was palpable and it made me feel as if I were in the midst of a bizarre 1980’s new-wave cartoon with loud, clashing colors.

The Emerson Library windows overlooked the Charles River.  The water was calm but I could imagine the prep school trained crew teams from the Cambridge side of the river out in the early morning, their movements synchronized, their breath coming in steamy huffs.  I never got up early enough to actually go down to the Esplanade to watch them.  I would’ve felt out of place there.

It was an odd mix of scenery, of philosophy, of fashion.  At first I didn’t know exactly where I fit into the picture.  But this was where I belonged.  I found my niche.  My peeps.  My voice.  And although I knew it was not possible, that September, I wished that for once, time could stand still.

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