Showing posts with label Growing Up Italian American. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Growing Up Italian American. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Check out my interview with the Italian Roots and Genealogy Podcast: A Nostalgic Look into Italian Heritage and the American Dream

 It was an honor to speak to Bob Sorrentino of the Italian Roots and Genealogy podcast show. We had a great conversation all about being Italian American and how each generation of Italian Americans have their own unique stories to tell.  Grazie Bob! 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Making Black Olive Bread - Pane Alle Olive Nere

Well, it's time for a new post and I wanted to share an amazing baked bread that my brother Santo made, its a black olive bread, Italian style.  I believe many Italians make this in many variations as we like to experiment and also be simple with our staple dinner element.  

My brother has since baked a few loaves since this original loaf pictured here, I believe he wanted to perfect it and it almost seemed to get better each time he baked it.  

Now, once he made it, we had a chance to warm up the bread and enjoy with it with extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes.  

The next day I cut a slice and made a very glamorous avocado toast, which was amazing.  Pictured to the right I also made a plain authentic pizza type snack.  My brother followed the exact recipe from Orsara Recipes linked here: Black Olive Bread  Leave a comment if you have a good bread recipe to share! 


Friday, March 22, 2019

Italian American Mother Series - A Daughter's Letter to Her Mother.....

Happy Mother’s Day mom, as you celebrate 59 years of mothering and 37 years of grand-mothering. These are the raw numbers of age, but they don’t reflect the memories, stories, lessons, and wisdom that come to us with the fullness of a life lived with intensity, insight, love, and faith.

Mothers are angels sent from God. They are like snowflakes; each one is different and unique in their own way. Not until I had my son did I realize the sacrifices mother’s make. Madeline, my mom is the heart of our home. She is the one that gets everyone together for birthdays and holidays. She loves to cook meals for the family. Everyone in the family can attest to her strength, her honesty, and her warmth. My mom embodies what a mother should be and shares her wisdom with everyone she meets. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, cooking, spending time with my dad, family, and friends. I have so many memories of my childhood with my mom, but these thoughts are a special way to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day!!!

One of my mother’s favorite hobbies is reading books. So mom, here is one of the best books you have ever read. Each of us has entered my mother’s book in a different chapter—some long ago, some more recently—but we are, nevertheless, all part of a story that began in Brooklyn, NY and to the present in St. James, Long Island where she and my dad resides.

My mom was a teacher by profession and as they say chief, cook, and bottle washer. She did it all. Took care of three children, ran a home, worked, and there was always a hot meal on the table at night for dinner. On Sundays, church was always the top priority as the whole family would go to Mass together. Sunday was not only for church but for family. We always had grandparents, friends, and relatives to share in our Sunday dinner. The table had to be set just so, with the proper placement of forks, spoons, and knives. A typical Italian Sunday meal was centered on pasta (macaroni or mac’s for short we would call it) and meatballs as a first dish and then came the entrĂ©e with all the trimmings. After every one was almost busting out of their clothes came the coffee, demitasse, (Italian black coffee) tea, fruit, nuts, figs, and all the decadent desserts. We of course do not eat like that anymore, thank goodness or we will have to be rolled out of the house. Things were different then. Both my parents are my heroes. They not only share their love of family and food but also their faith in God. No matter what life brings, they taught me to be strong and know that family and God are always there with love and support.

The end of this story is not yet written, so we will refrain from speculation, but suffice it to say that we will be eagerly awaiting the sequel on Mother’s Day next year. But as we reflect today upon the time we all have to give with our mother, however long or short, we are reminded that our connections with one another constitute our greatest blessing. To that end, let us celebrate times shared, advice given and sought, wisdom imparted, stories remembered, and the joy of life. Thank you mom, May there be many more chapters to come….

Love your daughter, Dottie :)

*Permission for photo by Dottie Balin

This story was originally published 5/12/13 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

My Italian Father and His Garden...

If you're Italian or grew up Italian American with strong Italian traditions than that would mean someone in your family has an Italian garden. The garden that you grew up knowing with tons of tomato plants, eggplant, basil, zucchini, (from which you got your zucchini flowers to make fritelle) and so on.. what didn't the Italian garden have?

In my case, you were the kid who went to school bragging about your father's garden and how you ate fresh vegetables or how you made tomato sauce at the end of the summer with the tomatoes from your garden. My mother would always prepare nightly dinner in the summers with all fresh vegetables right out of the garden, now a days this is called "GREEN" or "ORGANIC." Who knew my mother and father had me living so green conscious and organic from an early age, to me it was just normal. It still is. So when people talk about starting a herb garden, I kind of snicker not because it's funny, but because I laugh to myself about how lucky I am that I grew up with such a vast knowledge of agriculture, good food, great cooking and always understanding the quality of what you eat.

My father still grows tons of tomato plants as you can see from the photo above and we do in fact make our sauce with those tomatoes from the garden, which lasts the whole winter. It's a tradition we preserved as Italian Americans-- my brothers, sister and myself hold this to be very sacred and consider ourselves extremely fortunate to know how to bottle the sauce in jars. Not only are we making our own sauce, but we've learned to cultivate fruit trees, such as peach trees, which we make our own jam and pies. We know my father is the garden guru, he has neighbors and strangers just stopping in his yard nightly just to ask him questions about how to grow the best garden. Not only does he give advice, but he's giving away plants too, better yet he comes to your yard and plants it for you. It gives him immense pleasure to see others succeed in gardening. No one like my father, that is for sure. So, if you were thinking of actually starting that garden, stop thinking and just do it - there is something extremely therapeutic to gardening and not only that, but it's preserving a very important tradition in our Italian American culture.

** Update my father is now 89 years old and is preparing his seeds for this summer's garden. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

A post by Isabella....Growing Up in the Italian American Life

A guest post by my niece Isabella, who was very excited to write her first blog post for the Italian American Girl site, she wanted to discuss what it's like growing up Italian American as a 10-year-old. I loved it, hope you do too.

I'm Isabella and I'm 10 years old. With such a successful Aunt, I'm inspired and influenced by her. My life always includes some twists and turns between being a straight-A-student, listening and singing to music, and having to deal with my, lets just say "special" family.

Having an Italian American life is very unique and sometimes a little crazy! When I go to Italy every summer, I feel that rush of excitement everyone feels a certain point of their life. Seeing my cousins and friends (some are boys) makes me wish I could stay there forever! There's always that day, time to leave. I feel great because I miss home. I feel like I'm in despair, too. I don't want leave my Italian friends and family. When I step foot into my house here in New Jersey, it feels so good to be home.

My Nonno and Nonna are also a big influence to me. I feel like I'm in Italy when I'm at their house. Their stories about the history are magnificently detailed from their experience. It means so much to me to have such a great heritage. I wouldn't change it for the world.


By Isabella (The little Italian American Girl)

** Update Isabella is now 17 years old and on her way to college** Time flies! 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Anniversary Post Part 1- Celebrating Most Popular Italian American Girl Blogs

So, the Italian American Girl blog is coming up on 10 years!! How can that be possible? I remember when everyone was just starting their online presence and the Italian American Girl blog served as my real world example of becoming digital and yet sharing more about myself and my upbringing.   I truly learned how to become the digital media expert through becoming what they now called an influencer.   I'm very proud of the partnerships, content and events I've promoted, or published over the years.  I've met incredible people from our Italian American world and honestly we are all proud Americans celebrating our cultural heritage.  We all have history as immigrants, as our parents and grandparents.  This country was built on the hard work of immigrants from all over the world, that's what makes America great.

To celebrate some of the throwbacks of the Italian American Blog, I'm highlighting the top blog posts of all time.. it's interesting what topics resonate with so many.  Thank you everyone for the support and love over the years.    We'll be posting an anniversary special feature... perhaps even some LIVE guest posts on Instagram, and Facebook.  Stay tuned.

If you have a product, press or content you would like considered to be featured on my site, please send me a pitch at

Here are the TOP posts of all time on the Italian American Girl site- Enjoy and thank you!

I'm Italian and Yes, I Have Curly Hair.

Italian American Girl Recipe - Eggplant Polpettone - Meatless Version

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Going Back to Italy

It's been a long time since I've been back to Italy or my parents home town in  Italy.  The reasons for not going back seem to get more complicated and I seem to get busier with either life or work.  Going to Italy used to very important to me to at least visit once a year.  My parents haven't been back in a while either just for reasons of life, getting older and handling their financial business and issues here.  As I've posted in the past, my parents are in a place now where the time has come where they have to either have sell off or condense their lives.  My parents have always managed to live a modest life, work hard and own their own homes, but are faced with many challenges here in America as seniors.  As the daughter of senior parents it's not easy taking care of all those things, my parents are complex people, who don't like you in their business, but I guess we're past that now, my siblings and I try very hard to be care givers, but as many of you with strong headed people --especially Calabrese parents--- that task is not easy.  It's a very strange day when you realize your once strong parents are getting old, are old and now need your help.  I'm sure throughout your life you get upset with you parents for different reasons and then the day comes when you realize your roles are reversed.  So, getting mad anymore is gone and now we as children have to do our best to take care of our parents, even if we still don't agree with them.. ( I laugh as I write this, because they are so damn stubborn!)

I travel often for either work or pleasure, but it seems lately more domestically, my goal is to get back to Italy soon and do my normal visit and stay in our home town in Italy.  There is nothing like Italy and it's my second home, but America is my first and our lives are here.  I'm sure many children of immigrants struggle with this sort of identity crisis.  I love my Italian family as well and sometimes I get upset when I hear they think Americans live like KINGS, and in essence I feel we work very hard with every reward earned.  Today was a day of reflection and an inside scoop to the journey of getting back to Italy.  I will be in Italy in the next few months, stay tuned.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Italian American Girl Presentation at Rider University - Writing For the Media, Blogging

Friday, May 31, 2013

What Happened to the American Dream?

You know that saying, you have to write about what you know.  I am very particular about what I post on my Italian American Girl site as you can tell.  I don't write and post just to have anything up here, I am truthful about what I write because I feel the authenticity is what makes this site successful.  I often ask myself about life, 'do other people go through what I am going through?'  We often compare ourselves to others when we are faced with challenges in our lives.  I have been blessed my whole life in many ways and when we work hard, have no time, have family obligations, dealing with other problems, etc. things can  become overwhelming at times.  

In many posts in the past, I always say 'family is everything.'  I believe this is true, who else is there for you or will hand you the truth when you need it? Yes, your family.  So, when I say I am blessed I know I am, regardless of all the challenges.  More recently, my family and I have been faced with having to figure out how to move forward financially with my parents as they are aging.  Thank God, they are both of health and mind, but financially things are becoming increasingly hard as they're both retired.  My father came to this country over 50 years ago and worked two to three jobs, he never stopped.  Granted we were not millionaires and we most definitely lived a modest life, they still do.  After raising four children, my mother went off to work as well, she was not shy of hard work and definitely brought home her half of the bacon.   I grew up in a household where working hard and having a good work ethic were major influences and requirements.  Nothing wrong with that.  Buy your own car, buy your own house, take pride in your hard work -- do and BE the American dream.  

Fast forward to today and now we're working harder than ever, taxes are rising, seniors are living on less than fixed incomes as I know first hand from handling many financial elements for my parents.  My father came to this country when they were telling him back in Calabria that if you come to America, you're set for life -- you have to work hard, but you will be able to retire and your kids will have a better life than in Italy.  He did it, he bought and sold many homes, he never complained, he paid his taxes, he gave to whoever needed help, he gave other people jobs, and now they're faced with how to keep their home, pay debt back, and just live.  Look, this isn't a political piece I'm writing here, I'm talking about the facts, the actions, the history of the American dream, which prompts me to ask, 'What happened to the American dream?'

I am American, I love my country, but I want my parents American Dream supported and not pulled out from under their feet. I'm a child of immigrant parents, they worked hard, I work hard -- Can we get the dream back?  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Italian American Mother Series - Making Nutella Cupcakes

In honor of Mother's Day, we invited the Italian American Girl readers to submit their favorite story about their Italian -Italian American mother.  Here are a few of the most touching stories. 

By Ann Minard

I love cupcakes and I think this goes back to my childhood and the horrible lack of cupcake goodness throughout most of  it. Growing up in a First Generation Italian home cupcakes were not really my Mom's forte: why make silly old cupcakes when you can make homemade Cannoli, Biscotti, and French Candies? But I always had a deep longing for those oh so simple yet oh so good  All-American cupcakes, and here's why: 1) The size, you get your very own cake! 2) They are portable each having their own carrying case. 3) They are so adorable! 4) Easy to serve, no cutting. 5)Fun to decorate making each and everyone unique if you desire to do so. I guess these All-American treats are a lot like us as Americans: Carefree, Individual, and quite Adorable!

I do have to confess though that my Mom did give in and made me chocolate cupcakes for my 10th birthday, as you can see in the photo below. Although I am sure the very idea of making cupcakes seemed rather silly to such an experienced baker and pastry maker, she could whip out 100 homemade cannoli shells in an afternoon and made 100's of homemade candies and cookies every Christmas, my Mom humbled herself and baked me regular old chocolate cupcakes.

And many years later I finally understood my mother's struggle to give in to such a simple request  when on my daughter's birthday I asked her what "special foods" I could make her for her birthday meal and she all too quickly responded, "Frozen tater-tots and pop-tarts!"

 Nutella Cupcakes Recipe

This recipe is a nod to my Italian American roots: Hershey Cupcakes with Nutella frosting!

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa powder (This is the recipe on the back of the box.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil or 1 stick butter melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
Frosting: 1 small  jar Nutella

Line 2 cupcake trays with cupcake liners and spray each with some vegetable spray.
Heat oven to 350.
Mix all the dry ingredients together, including the sugar.
Add the milk, eggs, vanilla, and butter and mix for 2 minutes on low with a mixer.
Add the boiling water and stir just until combined.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or ice-cream scoop fill each cup 2/3 full with the batter.
Bake for 22-25 minutes. Cool trays on racks for 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges if any seem to be stuck to the pan.
Flip over on to rack, bang bottom and release onto tray, flip each cupcake over and cool completely.
Frost with Nutella!

Note: This recipe make about 30 cupcakes but I find that if you let the batter sit and wait for the first batch to bake and cool they do not bake as well so I usually just make 24 using my 2 (1 dozen) trays at once on the same oven rack and throw out the rest.
Leave these cupcakes out on a counter and covered as they do not refrigerate well.

*Permission to use photos by Ann Minard

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Growing Up Italian American .. and DisFunction is A Key Element

I will start my post off by saying, I love that I grew up Italian American, have Italian parents, and know the value of culture, family, love, support and yes this may shock many of you, but I will also add disfunction. This may be the first time I ever wrote anything about this topic and quite frankly to keep the blog real, if you tell me you've experienced no disfunction in an Italian American family then I'm gonna have to call you out and say you're full of it. I am sure many families not just Italians go through this, but I have to say as Italians or Italian American everything is magnified x10!!!

As Italian Americans we grow up with people in our families speaking loudly, arguing, and maybe even getting more animated than the norm. Now a days, this is considered bad behavior or grounds for analysis. To you and me as Italian Americans, we may not know any different and think it's normal. Along with the arguing is something called family dynamics, yes you know what I mean.. it's all about making sure you give certain people the right amount of respect and interacting with some family who you may not get along with, but you do for the sake of the family.

I love my family very much, but I think we all reserve the right to be who need to be as individuals, I don't always agree with my parents or siblings but in the end or when we need each other most YOU can best your ass we are there for each other. I always say blood is thicker than water... and this is true. So, without our disfunction we would be boring, and that very disfunction is also the element that keeps our family strong. I embrace the disfunction.. and sometimes have to laugh, because at times you think do other people's families go through this madness like us.. or is it just us??? I'm finding we all have our madness somewhere, but LOVE and family are everything. Can you relate?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day to my Italian Mother....

My Italian Mother - Happy Mother's Day

Here is a picture of my mother, Francesca. This picture was taken in Reggio Calabria,Italy while we were there visiting on vacation. It's difficult to sum up what a mother means to a person or how they've positively affected you. Don't get me wrong my mother drives me nuts too.. LOL but --I love my mother and thank her for not letting me forget who I am.. Happy Mother's Day Ma!

Photo: Copyright of - Italian American Girl 2012 - You must ask permission for reuse.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Keeping Italian Traditions in an Italian American Life....

It's been a while since my last post, but I had to sit down right now and write about this..because lately it's been weighing on me heavily. In previous posts, I've talked about the struggle in maintaining our Italian cultural traditions in our everyday Italian American lives, but I feel as the days goes on and I become busier with projects and just keeping up those important traditions seem to be taking a back seat.

So you may ask, 'what are those traditions?' and quite honestly I would say not all Italians or Italian Americans have the same traditions, but one thing is very consistent and that's maintaining a strong family connection. When we are all so busy with our daily lives, it does become a challenge to spend that time together, or respect your holidays like Easter, but it seems reality of life in America dictates. For example, my brother was so upset about the fact that he had to work on Easter, his job has certain days assigned to holidays.. so it was hard for him to take that day as a holiday. Of course, my family we were certainly sad not to see him for the day, but we understood he had a commitment to work.

When discussing traditional Italian families, it's pretty customary that we take care of each other in some form or another, whether it's just being there for someone or actually doing a physical favor. If any of my family members call me and says 'I need help with....' -- you can bet your ass I will be there for them. I usually get strange looks from people when I tell them how much I did for my sister, mother, father or brothers and likewise if I share a story about how my brother went above and beyond for me, because I know the American mentality is really everyone kind of does their own thing and family members talk to each here and there. Well, we know that's not the case with the Italian American family. We talk to each other all the time and try to see each other as much as possible.

I was having a conversation with friends the other day, they happen to be Italian American, I
was talking about that new show on TLC, "Mama's Boys of the Bronx." Of course as we know many reality shows are exaggerated and larger than life and usually with a negative stereotype on the Italian American. I asked my two friends, "do you think this show is exaggeration or reality?" They having grown up and lived in the Bronx said something to the effect, that's it's real but somewhat glorified.. of which I agreed. Look, we would all be lying if we said our Italian mothers don't do everything for us and treat their sons like kings. I know my mother does, if my brothers are around, my mother starts cooking and serves everything up just to make sure they've eaten and are happy. But with that, my mother takes great pride and happiness in making her sons happy and making sure she spoils them. To her she shows a part of her love this way. So, if you're not exposed or educated on these traditions in the Italian American family you might watch that show and say 'wow, these guys live at home with their moms and their mothers spoil them..' I say yes and no.

Not all Italian American men live like the guys on the show. Of course, there are limits to what's normal and not, but I'm talking about the factor that most Italian women take pride in spoiling and taking care of their children. I would probably do the same, it's a learned behavior - a part of my culture. Even till this day, if I have lunch with my father, I cook lunch and I serve it...or if my brothers come over.. I do the same.. I cook and serve the food, which most people wouldn't think true of me, but I am old school and love doing that for people I love. It gives me happiness to know I did something that my family appreciates.

Where do these traditions fit into our daily American lives? Will we maintain those traditions like our Italian mothers did?

Photo Credit: TLC

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Calling All Italian Americans: Columbus Day Parade in New York City - 2011

Auguri to all Italian Americans celebrating Columbus Day. It's a very important day to my family, because it signifies the day my father arrived in America to start a new life. He came to the USA to live the American dream and we still hold onto the dreams my father had when he first came here in 1956 and now we honor those who have paved the way for all Italian Americans. Celebrate with pride!

Columbus Day Parade - New York City
On Monday October 10, 2011 the best parade in New York City (in my opinion) the Columbus Day Parade is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. and run till 3:00 p.m. The parade always includes a slew of Italian and Italian American performers, bands and participants from all over the country and including from Italy. I love watching the parade on television, because you really have a chance to get the specifics on where people are from based on the hosting conversations with either Maria Bartiromo and or Joe Piscopo - we'll see who hosts again this year.

The parade begins on Fifth Ave and 44th Street, get in early and claim your spots, gotta love New York City but the commute can be a pain, so check out the tips listed in the links below.

For more details visit:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy Birthday - Italian American Girl Site Turns 3 !

Happy Birthday to the Italian American Girl site. It's been three years of hard work, making great connections and meeting the most amazing people. When I started the site, my goal was to share my love and passion for my Italian culture, which I have to say I didn't think my love could grow any stronger, but it has and it keeps me driven to deliver the best content I can about being Italian American.

As an Italian American, there are so many important traditions that need to be recognized, cultivated and preserved, so the Italian American Girl site has become the home where we can talk, connect and share within our community.

I can't thank everyone enough for all your support, love and encouragement. I think the most important element that has grown from the IAG site, has been the unbelievable community that lets me know what I'm doing matters. Love you all and I look to you to help me keep the site successful and continuously growing. Grazie...xoxo


Monday, September 5, 2011

Raising Second Generation Italian American Children in the USA

A guest post this week from Italian American Girl's sister, Maria.....

As a first generation Italian American raising my children I feel so honored to share so many special traditions and cultural knowledge with them. Growing up in a first generation household I learned the importance of art, history, cooking, traveling and most importantly- family. As I became a mother myself it never was a question of passing on all the beautiful and intense things I learned growing up.

I spoke Italian with both my children from birth instilling the gift of a second language and the flexibility to learn more than one language by the age of two. My children travel yearly to spend their summer on the breathtaking southern Italian beaches of the Mediterranean, indulging in the local cuisine, life style and building life-long relationships with all my relatives. The beauty is that it is all very normal to them to see a diverse lifestyle than here in the states and become educated on the vast culture Italians have shared with the world.

Cooking is an integral part of my children being raised Italian American, we follow traditions year round and indigenous recipes and tastes are always on our menu, not to mention the luxury of home-made, healthy foods, which are delicious! The kitchen is our meeting place and all family meetings are conducted around the table, not to mention my children appreciate wonderful baked goods we make regularly to pair up with our “coffee,’ which is a staple in our home.

My children are exposed to organic gardening by my father daily and appreciate the love and dedication it takes to nurture a delicious fruit or vegetable, they share the experience of loving the earth and nature with their Nonno and Nonna.

But for us the most important part is family, we support each other through thick and thin, we eat together, we cry together, we laugh and love together. We never think twice to help each other out if one of us needs a hand, my children are taught to share and give love unconditionally, which comes naturally because we lead by example showering them with love and support.

I am so proud to share all these wonderful things with my children and know that it will have a positive impact on how they interact in the world as adults.


**Photo- Copyright 2011 Italian American Girl - you must ask permission to use any and all photos on - Grazie

Monday, August 22, 2011

Podcast Interview On 'Tandem With The Random' Show With Italian American Girl -

I'm sharing this great interview I did with a fellow journalist; Brian Kelley founder of "Tandem with the Random" podcast show. Brian and I went to Rider University and shared many communication classes together. Brian contacted me via Twitter and he informed me that he was following me on Twitter and asked if I remembered him? I said, "Of course!" -- So from there, we coordinated a podcast interview focusing on cultural blogging and the history and launch of the Italian American Girl site. Thank you Brian!

Listen to this amazing interview here:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What You Don't Understand About The Italian American Family..

Today is one of those days where I have to express what I'm feeling when it comes to family. Many people or maybe I should say non-Italians might not understand the bond or understand why we do certain things or sacrifice a lot of our selves for our family members.

I grew up with the belief that you always help or support your family. In my family we aren't one of these units that each family member lives across the country or in another country, but rather we live close in proximity and at times are sometimes up each other's a@@. I admit --I do complain that in my family we lack boundries, but really do boundries exist in Italian families? For example, if I'm in my sister's neighborhood, nine times out of ten I don't call before I show up, I just knock on her door and she opens it. Then we have coffee, even if she was busy.

Lately, more than one of my family members have been going through some tough times, and I have to say rather than just going about my business, we all come together and form a strong support system for each other. If you ask anyone outside of my family, they might say you should each do your own thing and not worry about what the other is doing, unfortunately (and I say this sarcastically) that does not exist.

I love my family, and no matter what -- we are here for each other, a strong support system on all ends. No outside influences can throw us off track from the real love and support we give each other. I know this to be true of our Italian family, perhaps it may exist with other cultural families as well, but I know for certain this is our Italian cultural and traditional belief. - family is everything.

Copyright 2011 - PHOTO of Italian American Girl -2011 = you must ask permission for reuse of any and all photos on this site.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Italian American Girl: My Ballroom Dancing Journey

This year I embarked on many changes and one of the major changes and goals I wanted to accomplish was to learn how to ballroom dance. I've always wanted to learn to dance professionally and it just seemed this was the moment it was going to happen.

There is always a story behind my you've come to read from my life story in previous posts. So, the idea of dance has always been in my family since I can remember. When my father came to the United States he worked as a dance instructor teaching jive and the tango, these were his two favorites.

Now, he was never trained professionally; it was just something he knew from having such an immense love for dancing. Growing up that's all we ever heard about was how he would go into Manhattan on weekends and dance at the social clubs doing the tango and jive. As kids; my siblings and I always laughed because we would think Papa would never do that, but he always proved us wrong. We would attend family weddings and he would always grab my mother and swoop her into a mean tango. They were pretty hot dancing, some times to the point where people at weddings would clap for them because it was pretty amazing. I remember being little and just thinking wow, my father is awesome and he can dance; literally.

As the years went by, dancing seemed to fade into the background of real life and we just lost the presence of it. So, after so many years....I decided to commit to ballroom dancing. I had no idea how hard it would be. I mean who doesn't watch Dancing with the Stars and just say, "oh yeah, I can do that..." so not the case.

It is probably one of the hardest sports or I would say ranks up there. I give professional dancers such credit for how hard they have to train to become good and then have to teach others how to dance, it's a challenge.

My journey began with me just walking into a local dance studio and asking the front desk receptionist, "how do I start?" From there I met the instructor, his name - Reason - who would become a great inspiration and add an incredible value to learning how to ballroom dance.

I'll be honest; I'm not sure I would have felt the same about learning to dance if I hadn't been paired with Reason. I started my lessons in December right before Christmas, not sure why...but I figured hey, if I'm going to do it doesn't matter when..I was committed.

I started out with a few lessons here and there, but then slowly became addicted to learning, perfecting, and just absorbing the amazing knowledge of my instructor. There were times I would watch the other instructors practice and it was incredible. I think to feel the way I was feeling about dancing you really have to have a love for it. I can truly appreciate and value everything I was taught.

As my lessons went on, I became very connected with Reason. Honestly, you spend a lot of time together and you really begin to know each others patterns, moves, mistakes.. I should say my mistakes... he is a pro. This relationship teaches you a lot, it teaches you about yourself, patience, your drive, and most of all your level of passion.

Reason is younger than me, but I learned a lot from him and it wasn't just about dancing. His drive to be so good and a professional at a young age actually inspires me, his energy is contagious. So, you know when they say you can learn from others, its really true.

I was working toward a goal, which was to learn a lot of the ballroom technique and really perfect one dance in order to perform it at one of our socials. So, I chose to concentrate on the Waltz. I worked on it for weeks and really wanted my family to witness the result of all my hard work. The interesting part to this whole ballroom goal, was that I didn't tell anyone I was doing it, so it was a huge surprise to everyone in my family when I said, "hey, by the way.. I want you to come to my ballroom dance presentation, and oh yeah I've been ballroom dancing for the last 4 months.."

The reaction was amazing, my family couldn't have been more supportive and actually just surprised. The night of the social, my family came and completely cheered me on. I was extremely nervous and I think a little overwhelmed at the same time. I went all out and had the dress, hair and make-up to prove I was going to represent it all the way.

I performed with my amazing instructor, Reason. who I can't thank enough for his patience, professionalism and overall friendship. Our performance was perfect, I couldn't have been happier, a great night!

I'm going to continue my passion for ballroom because it makes me happy. If you have something you love to do, embrace it..! Like many other experiences I've had in my life this is another great one, which I choose to share with you. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Social Media & Being Italian American

I was invited to speak about social media and the Italian American Girl site at Rider University in New Jersey, which happens to be my alma mater. Being invited to speak at a university for a communications class about two of my favorite topics (social media & the Italian American Girl site) is a huge honor.

This all began on Twitter. I was on Twitter about a month ago and noticed a wonderful Tweet by a fellow Italian American @kathymagrino who was Tweeting about social media and interacting with her communications class through Twitter. This got my attention and I immediately sent Professor Magrino a Tweet back saying I was a Rider alumni and that her students should pay attention to everything she's teaching because everything I learned at Rider University paid off in every aspect during and presently in my career in communications. This began our online "conversation" and from here Professor Magrino discovered my site where I display my love for writing and communications.

Day of, I traveled back to Rider University here in New Jersey and met with Professor Magrino's communications class. Wow! What an experience.. first of all to be back on campus was sort of surreal and comforting at the same time. Everything looked smaller though.. lol --- It's funny when you're in college how everything seems magnified and larger.

I was so impressed with the technology and level of media knowledge the students had, to compare when I was in college where and when the Internet just came out.. ugh.. sign of my age. Before I went into the communications class I visited with one of my professors, who I have to say was totally surprised to see me. It was great catching up and this time I was sitting in his office telling him of all my career advancements and accomplishments and not begging him for an extension on a project. LOL...those were the days.

After my visit with my former professor; I went back to the class and began my presentation with the communications students. I started off with my introduction, but what I wanted the students to understand was that my connection to Rider and what I was about to present to them meant a lot to me. This is my real life. I went on to talk about the process of social media, communications, video production and content, where I could see many of the students were completely focused. At one point, I had one student take pictures and another do video using a FLIP video camera.

What became an important talking point was "passion." Without passion you're really never 100% into what you're doing, whether its career or in your personal life. Being back at Rider brought me back to why I chose the communications route and how much I really love my career.

I left the students with this element as my closing -- you have to be prepared, you have to love what you do and you have to have goals. Now, these might not work for everyone, but its proved to be top three elements, which I work on everyday and help me contribute to my success. This ties into my upbringing and how my Italian parents instilled many great values, which translate to my everyday life.

I can't thank Professor Magrino enough for her invitation to speak at Rider University and I was totally honored the students were so focused and engaged on this presentation about social media and the Italian American Girl site. I look forward to returning to Rider!

Grazie Kathy!