Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Home Improvements, Life Lessons

Gut Reaction

As news of my reno (which is HGTV lingo for renovation) spreads through my circle of friends and co-workers, everyone who’s ever undertaken a home improvement project has a tale to tell.  There are stories of busted water pipes and runaway contractors, damaged cabinets and monumental delays.  Considering I’m doing a total gut job on my kitchen and bathroom, this is not the kind of stuff I want to hear.

I’ve learned that “if all goes well” is code for “expect something unexpected to go wrong.”  And when dealing with vendors, apply this simple mathematical calculation: double all the numbers.  This means if you’re told your supplies will be delivered in 4 to 6 weeks, they will actually arrive in 8 to 12 weeks.  Unfortunately, the same mathematical equation applies whenever costs are being calculated.  Then, in an attempt to calm my ever-growing anxiety, these same well-intentioned friends smile as they finish their litanies with “…but in the end, it was all worth it.”


I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll be spending a month of Sundays (or Saturdays) at the cavernous brick and mortar store where everything smells like wood shavings and plaster.  Don’t show me twenty faucets, I beg.  Just show me three, and I will pick one!  As I wander, dazed and confused, like Alice in Wonderland, down aisles 9 and 10 in search of the perfect ceiling light fixture, my friends’ advice echoes in my head…

Get the towel warmer for your bathroom – it’s worth it.

Install ceiling fans in the kitchen, living room – and the bedrooms.

If you don’t get under-the-cabinet lighting in your kitchen, you’ll be sorry.

Choose what you like, not what you think some imaginary, future home buyer might want.

The paint color of the year is blush.

The paint color of the year is gray.

Gray is passé, the paint color of the year is green.

Luckily, I have a prince of a contractor who arrives every morning with a jumbo iced coffee and a cheery smile.  It only took him a couple of days to gut my kitchen and, each night when I return home, I’m delighted to see the day’s accomplishments as he rebuilds my dream kitchen from the rubble.  He – and I – can’t wait for him to get started on the bathroom…

Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Buy Yourself Jewelry

The following is a re-post from February 2016.

Valentine’s Day holds the promise of hearts and flowers. But some of you married gals might have the kind of husband who’s not so good at remembering these things.  And what about the single girls who don’t have a boyfriend at the moment?  Why should they get gypped?

My advice?  Buy yourself jewelry.  It’s even better than going to the day spa.  I’m not suggesting you do anything crazy.  No Colombian emeralds or black Tahitian pearls.  You don’t need to buy the kind of loot you find in the Jewelers’ Building, with the able assistance of some older gentleman in a custom tailored suit and half glasses, who calls you “Miss” and, jeweler’s loupe at the ready, offers you a free appraisal of whatever happens to be hanging from your earlobes or dangling from your wrist that day.

A quick drive to the mall is all it takes to find something sparkly.  Even better, you can sit on your sofa with a glass of Red in one hand and the remote in the other and find some pretty serious bling on the shopping channels.  Or simply go on line to find your new bauble.  Remember, you’re not out to find the Hope Diamond here.  Just a pair of garnet studs.  Or an amethyst ring.

I’ve been buying my own jewelry for a while.  Some women like to travel – I’d rather buy gemstones set in precious metals.  For me, it’s one of the benefits of being a single woman in the twenty-first century.  You see, the jewelry is much more than a mere indulgence.  It’s a symbol.  To empower you.  And to remind you of your worth.  Sure it’s nice when a loved one buys you jewelry.  All I’m saying is that the loved one can be yourself.

red poppy


Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Wonder Women

Girl Power has created a whole generation of wonder women.  And I am grateful that so many of these ladies have had my back in times of crisis or as I was navigating a major life event.

I didn’t plan it that way.  It just sort of happened.

It started with the medical profession.  When my primary care physician was retiring, the doctor coming in as replacement was a young woman, just starting out.  I was told she was “good with women’s issues.”  She wasn’t just good, she was great.  Over the years, she referred me to a female ob-gyn, and a female surgeon who, in turn, recommended a female oncologist. When it was time to pick an eye doctor and I could’ve gone with the stern-looking older gentleman with the bow-tie, or the gal who was my age and dressed in smart Talbots separates, who do you think I chose?  And yes, my dentist is also a woman.  The bottom-line: I am healthy today because of the collective skill, smarts, and compassion of all these women.

Now let’s talk money.  After working with several young, fast-talking male financial advisors who left me confused and skittish about stocks and annuities, I got lucky and luck was a lady. My new financial advisor, a single woman like me, finally demystified the whole investing process and gave me confidence to boot.  Recently, I chose a well-known and successful Boston realtor – then a family member recommended an excellent real estate attorney, who in turn connected me with an accountant.  All three of these professionals are women and their collective acumen helped me move from a small condo to a house of my own.

I hope all this doesn’t sound like I’m anti-man.  Believe me, I like ‘em and I’m still hoping to marry one someday.  All I’m saying is that there’s a profound truth in that familiar quote about the iconic dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  She did everything he did, only backwards and in high heels.

Best of Boston, Life Lessons

Hear the Angel Voices

“Are you ready?” friends kept asking.  And it was starting to vex me.  Ordinarily, I would be ready.  But with a week left before Christmas, there were cards not yet written and cookies still to be baked.  Moving in November had really messed with my holiday preparations this year.

When a dear friend invited me to her son’s Christmas concert the final Sunday before Christmas, the left side of my brain flatly rejected the notion.  I had too much to do to spend a whole afternoon at a concert.  But the right side of my brain which, for southpaws like me, runs the show had me blurting out, “Sounds like fun – I’m all in.”

Intuitively, I knew I needed some Christmas spirit.  And an afternoon of Christmas carols sounded like just the thing.  But as I traveled the long, convoluted train ride to Dorchester I wondered if my time might have been better spent preparing for the holiday.  I was behind and still had so much to do before Christmas.

The concert was held in a beautiful old Catholic church with magnificent jewel-tone stained glass windows and majestic statuary.  Even thought I had not been there before, I felt welcomed amidst all the familiar symbols of my faith.

Shards of late afternoon sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows, and I settled into my seat in the crowded church pew.  The young singers and musicians were middle- and high-school aged and they represented four different Boston choirs and musical ensembles.  As they gathered on the steps of the altar, I couldn’t help but notice that these youngsters were a diverse group – in age, in height, in ethnicity, each one beautiful and perfect in his or her own way.  I knew by reputation that they were talented and the moment they began to sing, their pure, sweet voices touched my heart.  This, I thought, is what angel voices must sound like.  A peace I had not felt for some time came over me.  Yes, I thought, I am ready.  I am ready for Christmas.

Best of Boston, Life Lessons, The Brownstone

Opening a Door

All of my artwork has been removed from the walls, and I stand in a pared-down version of my living room, knee-deep in bubble wrap and packing tape.  Tomorrow when the moving truck comes, I’ll be leaving my home of the past 24 years.  This small brownstone apartment has been a haven for me, as well as a source of pride.

Built in 1888, my condo is rich with Victorian details, from the wainscoting and ornamental fireplace mantle, to the ceiling medallion in the living room.  A young woman has bought my place.  My realtor tells me she fell madly in love the moment she walked into the living room, awash in sunlight from the large curved bay window that overlooks Beacon Street.  The new owner is me, twenty-five years ago, and I am grateful that someone who loves this space, just as I have, will be living here.  To you, my younger self, who is about to cross this threshold with all your hopes and dreams, I say this:  each time you make yourself a cup of tea in your kitchen, watch the sunset from the roof deck, open your home to friends, know that one has come before you who knows exactly how you feel.  If you are half as happy as I have been here, you will be truly blessed.

As for me, I am ready to open a new door. And my new home has unique features of its own.  Two years shy of being a century old, this two-family house has retained much of its original detail and character.  Warm wood trim adorns each window and doorway.  Both the living and dining rooms boast bay windows.  The dining room’s built-in has lovely period leaded glass, and a butler’s pantry adjoins it with the kitchen.

This house needs no time, no holidays, no new memories to become my home.  It already is…  Like many older homes in the Boston metro area, this is a “family home” – with my brother living on the second floor and me on the first floor.

My arrival has my Italian-American next-door neighbors nodding in approval, “That’s nice,” they said, “keeping it in the family.”

“Yes,” I agree, “La familia!”

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.

Best of Boston, Life Lessons


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.