Category: Love

Io Amo L’Italia

It’s been ten days since we’ve been home from Italy and to say we miss it is an understatement. Mike’s already talking about buying a vacation home there. I went into this trip like I do with all our trips — with open arms and no expectations. I’m not big on planning every last minute of a vacation. Once my hotel and flight are booked I don’t worry much about the details and this trip wasn’t much different. In fact, we didn’t nail down our hotel for Rome until two weeks before we left. Mike actually had more preparation to do for this trip than I did since he had to learn how to drive a stick shift, but more on that later. I have a few posts planned that will take you more in depth into a few of our favorite parts of the trip like Rome, Sorrento, and climbing Mt. Vesuvius, but I wanted to start off with a more general post about how Italy made me feel.

This is the face of relaxation

In short, it was incredible. The other night we were on a long drive home from a family reunion and Mike said something that really resonated with me. He said, “Whenever I think about Italy I instantly go back to how relaxed and calm I felt there. It helps me realize how great life is and I don’t worry so much about things that used to stress me out.” It’s so. freaking. true. We were happy in Italy. Not that we’re unhappy at home in Jersey. But Italian life taught us so much about being fulfilled. We stayed with our friend Laura’s family for most of the trip so we truly experienced everyday life with a close knit Italian family. We went to the local cafe for breakfast. We walked to the neighborhood seafood stand to buy mussels for lunch. We drove through the bustling town and looked in awe at the beauty and simplicity of it all. Like most Americans Mike and I are hustling, bustling doers, and we didn’t have to do much in Italy to feel content. Our friend Joe (Laura’s husband) tried to describe the feeling you get when you’re there and as soon as we arrived we instantly got it. Even after 17 days it was so hard to snap back into everyday life. It’s the first time I didn’t feel ready to come home.

Laura’s family were the most gracious hosts we could have asked for.  There’s truly nothing like Italian hospitality. As someone who loves to entertain and have things just so it was refreshing to be in a culture where family and food were the main focus. It was unpretentious, casual, comfortable and warm, and we felt like members of the family. Food was dutifully prepared using time-honored recipes and ingredients were fresh, local and simple. Wine was delicious and savored. One of Laura’s uncle’s (who was visiting from Rome) told me the key to enjoying wine is to never let your glass be too full or too empty. Mealtime was relaxed and relished. Some of our lunches (the main meal of the day there) stretched over the course of two hours, and each time I tried to start helping clean up Nonna would motion to me to sit down and relax. What a foreign concept for an American. What a necessary lesson.

Italians seemed mystified by America. It was so funny and humbling to experience. I lost count of all the American-themed clothes and goods we came across in the little seaside town of Bacoli. Shirts said NEW YORK or BROOKLYN and they even had an American-themed pizza with french fries and sliced up hot dogs that was all the rage with locals (topped with mayo, no less). We were floating in the Mediterranean Sea one afternoon and a young boy heard us speaking English (which was not at all common in Bacoli) and he just started staring at us in amazement. His mother said to Laura in Italian, “I’m sorry for my son, but he’s never heard people speak English in person before, just in the movies.” He had an instant rapport with Mike and they struck up a conversation about American traditions with Laura translating. I remember them bonding over a shared love of “bistecca.” He said to us, “Isn’t the American dream having a single family home with a pool in the backyard and an SUV?” In this idyllic town on the shores of the Mediterranean he was dreaming of America, and all I could think of is the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. All the while we were dreaming of Italy.

Farm to table isn’t a concept there, it’s just life. We woke up each day to the sound of roosters crowing and chickens squawking and knew that’s where Nonna gets her eggs. Fresh produce, meat and seafood were all accessible within a short 10 minute walk from the house, in addition to a little market and a cafe which were the hub for daily life in the town. You shopped for what you needed that day and there was nothing in the house that didn’t have a purpose. The simplicity of everyday life in Italy amazed me and it’s something I hope to emulate. They work to live while we live to work and life flies by before our eyes. I am so incredibly thankful we were able to have this experience at our age because I know it will have an impact on our outlook on life and work in such a wonderful way, and I’m so grateful.

What experiences changed you while traveling? Have you ever visited Italy and, if so, where? What did you think? We’ve certainly been bitten by the travel bug and can’t wait to plan our next trip abroad.

 

 

Here Comes Cupid

I decorated the house for Valentine’s Day! What a cheery task. I had so much fun framing a few love-themed art prints, digging out my heart-shaped plates and gathering all the pink and red decor I could muster from around the house to create cute little nooks.

Here’s what I came up with for the kitchen. Notice the poinsettia leftover from Christmas? It matches my kitchen so well I figured I’d keep it for a while longer and I love how cute it looks in this Valentine’s Day vignette.

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Bee mine art print

And the dining room. Ready to serve a Valentine’s Day cocktail fit for Cupid himself at a moments notice.

Love, Love, Love art print

And finally the living room. Spotted: another squatting poinsettia. I had to let him stay, too.

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Happy Valentine's Day art print

I also love how a few pieces of existing decor ties so well into my Valentine’s Day pieces making the house feel festive and sweet without being overkill or corny.

Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it. But first up, the Super Bowl! Are you excited? I can’t say that I am, but it’s usually a fun day nonetheless. Go team!

Romantic Dinner

If you caught my post yesterday, you know it’s been a trying week in the Genovese household. To top it off, Mike had to head to his company’s North Jersey office on just a few hours sleep (we’re always up late working) so Thursday was a long day. I was working from home yesterday, so when the clock struck 5 I shut down my laptop and took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to commute home by putting together a nice little surprise for Mikey to come home to. I figured a special weeknight dinner would be just the thing we needed to relax after a long week.

Romantic Dinner

I started with a special table setting using some of the flowers that were still going strong from Laura’s birthday dinner. I put together a few candles and threw in a sparkly ‘G’ that I got a few months ago from Michael’s to round out the centerpiece (I’m hoping to incorporate the ‘G’ into our holiday decor). I added some Tahari napkins I purchased on clearance at T.J. Maxx to tie in with the color of the ‘G’ for an extra special touch, and aerated some of our favorite wine in a decanter to go with dinner. Here’s a closer look.

Table Setting

Napkins

Centerpiece

And here it is with the candles lit. The ‘G’ was shedding glitter all over the table. I didn’t mind. You’ll notice some similarities to my last dinner party, but this setup was much more simple.

Candle Light

I’ve been on a ‘let’s use up everything in the freezer and pantry’ kick to save a little money on our grocery bill, and I didn’t have time to go to the store – so I got resourceful with the menu. After taking a quick inventory of the meat we had in the freezer (we were running a little low) I decided to go all-in and make oven slow roasted ribs. We had purchased them over the summer on a really good sale and never used them, so I figured why not? I knew Mike would love it and it’d be a special treat since we rarely have ribs. I had just enough time (2 hours) before he’d be home to get them roasted to perfection. Pumpkin cornbread muffins and creamed spinach rounded out the meal.

I followed this recipe for the ribs, and they came out amazing! Two hours of slow roasting with a brown sugar chili rub and a quick basting with BBQ sauce followed by a few minutes under the broiler to crisp them up – and these babies turned out perfectly. This is one of the best recipes I’ve tried for ribs, so I definitely recommend it. Check out a close up of the finished product.

Slow Roasted Ribs

I also loved the pumpkin cornbread muffin recipe. I got the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit based on what I had on hand. Here’s a look at the ingredients I used.

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins Ingredients

Here’s the recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins, adapted from Nancy Creative. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  •  1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal (using a whisk to blend these ingredients works well); after blending ingredients well, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, then stir in the pumpkin puree, canola oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into 12 lined muffin cups (each cup should be about 2/3 full of batter).

Bake CORNBREAD MUFFINS at 375 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not over-bake, or muffins will be too dry and may brown on the bottom).

Cheers to 5 Years

Five years ago today my husband Mike and I went out our first date. I feel like time has flown by since then, but at the same time I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished in such a seemingly short time. In the past five years I’ve graduated college, landed a dream job, gotten engaged, gotten married and purchased a home of our very own. I feel so blessed for everything I’ve accomplished in my 25 years, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without my Mikey by my side.

Mike & Brie

Five years ago today we were headed to the Adventure Aquarium for a fun daytime date, followed by a lovely lunch at the pub across the street where I impressed my future husband by being brave enough to try calamari for the first time. Who knew my adventurous spirit would make such an impression on him. It goes to show you, if you truly want to find someone you’ll click with for the long haul you just have to be yourself. No holds barred. For better or worse. Because Lord knows it’s only a matter of time before you’re at your worst, and it’s nice to know that your husband will be by your side no matter what – because he’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he’s not going anywhere. Unconditional love is a beautiful thing.

Five years ago my life started to take a new direction. Mike gave me the confidence I needed at age 20 to start being truer to myself, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find the words to express how much that means to me. I’m so thankful that five years ago today a bubbly, funny, playful, loving, supportive man came into my life. And he’s suck around. For better or worse. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because unconditional love is such a beautiful thing.

I love you, Mikey. Thanks for being you, and for loving me for the stubborn, driven, tenacious, strong, loyal woman that I am. Cheers to five years, and many, many more ahead.