I have just signed a three-book deal with Aria Fiction
who will be publishing my Women’s Fiction novels starting
After The Husband Diet, Erica has moved to her very own new villa and B&B in Italy, kids and hunky new lover Julian in tow. But is it really The Good Life?
Hello again everyone!
DESSERTED IN SICILY is my newest novel, soon to be released!
As I wanted to set it in Sicily, and precisely on the island of Lipari, the largest of the Eolian archipelago, I had to travel there and do some live research as sometimes the internet just won’t do!
I promise I’ll try not to make you too jealous of all the delicious food and wine available there… but I will show you some pictures that have inspired some scenes in the book!
Sicily: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
(or, My Sicilian Nonna Carmelina’s Broom and Cassina)
If you’re of Italian descent like me or have ties to Sicily, then you’ll know that, just like a (good) witch, a Sicilian woman’s power is in, among other things, her broom.
Of course, today modern Sicilian women can run rings around you with their Smart cars, Smartphones and smart wardrobe and are totally into the newest gadgets, fashions and even relationship trends. But their grandmothers- mine especially- were the mistresses of their homes, rising at the crack of dawn to keep their domain clean.
To do so unhindered, my Nonna used to send my Nonno Peppe off to the countryside to work in his artichoke patch and I very distinctly remember him arriving in the evening, tooting the horn on his artichoke-laden moped, as cheery as ever. Some husbands, however, were not as industrious as my Nonno. When the midday heat got too much to bear, other men would hit the piazza, or local square, yacking away about the price of local produce or the new barber until lunchtime.
My oldest memory of Nonna’s house was the fragrance of her polpette, fried balls of meat or potato and sometimes, if it had been a good year, both. A constant ingredient was parsley. It was the fragrance of things made with love.
After lunch, the men and children would retire, while the women continued their housework, and when you saw them finally pouring water from a pail and scrubbing their sidewalks, you knew they were done for the day and that you weren’t allowed inside for at least thirty minutes. Not that you’d be in the street at that ungodly hour when the temperature can reach 45 degrees Celsius.
Not only was Nonna’s broom an instrument of cleanliness, it was an instrument of power. You would know if, like me, you’d been swatted on the bottom with it because you’d been caught with your nose in the special snacks cupboard just before lunch or if you spilled anything on the sofa. No matter how fast you ran, Nonna, despite all odds, could run faster.
Another fond memory is that of my Nonna’s cassina, the forerunner of today’s blinds, also called persiane or veneziane, Italian for Persian or Venetian blinds.
The cassina is simply a sheet of wooden slats strung together so as when it is rolled down in front of an open door, it lets in little light and even less heat. Perfect for those sizzling Sicilian afternoons when everyone is much too weak to stay awake. So down the cassina goes, a sign that you must not disturb that household. It also, incidentally, keeps out bugs.
Some women go half-way, resting a chair under the cassina so that it bows slightly out, leaving you enough room to quietly slip out or family members (or very close neighbours) to slip in without waking the husbands. Great for clandestine relationships if the guy was brave enough to face the heat!
After our afternoon siestas, during the Vespri, I remember, as a child, being told to wash and change into my evening clothes as it was time to entertain visitors.
So we’d whip out our good chairs (all six of them!) and place them on the sidewalk (there wasn’t much traffic back in those days) and wait for our aunts, uncles and cousins (and possibly Salvatore, that hunky friend of theirs!) to come over and chew the breeze. All the Nonnas, mine included, would have their fans at the ready (a smaller, yet still powerful version of the broom) and discuss the latest scandals of the town, halting their talks momentarily to nod to a passerby that was, by a strange twist of fate, the very object of their gossip.
But if you had a good reputation and were popular, stopping to say hello could be a fatal error as a chair would be pulled out for you (the youngest would have to give his/her up) and you’d be offered a lemon granita or a frozen espresso and wherever you were headed would have to wait, as it was rude to turn down a chair.
Being one of the youngest, I’d almost always have to give up my chair for some old dear, but I didn’t mind as I could secretly, from behind the cassina, wait for or watch hunky Salvatore hanging around on his Vespa.
My Nonna’s cassina was different from anyone else’s because hers was not the customary brown or emerald green, but a lovely dark blue. After she died I inherited it (along with her night stand and a silk scarf which I guard with my life) and stashed it in the garage for years. Then one day (it was a very hot day in early July), I unrolled it, dusted it and wiped it down with a damp cloth. All those years of hanging in the sun had faded the lovely blue paint that had set it apart from all the other households. So I went out and bought a small can of lovely dark blue paint and got to work.
Friends, aunts, uncles, cousins (even Salvatore, slightly less hunky today) say, “What are you doing with that old thing? Times have changed, you want to update your house, not make it look like Nonna’s!”
I shrug, not interested in other people’s opinions. So what if my house looks a little retro? The idiots who’d opted for modern, metal blinds are baking as we speak, while I am breezy behind my Nonna’s ancient cassina.
Thought you Romance Lovers might want to know I’ve just signed with Beachwalk Press for my paranormal novella!
I’ll be writing all my romance under the name of Nancy Wythe so… stay tuned!
Hello lovely ladies!
You might think that summer has been long coming where you live, but here in Sicily it is already absolutely baking! It’s not a question of Is it summer again, but, alas, Is it STILL summer?
While my northern counterparts are up there complaining about the cold, the rain and the drizzle and Why the heck doesn’t the weather improve, I’m already in short sleeves and dreading the summer! Not because I don’t like being off from work for a while, mind you, but because of the heat!
And that brings me to the crux of the matter: my bursting wardrobe…
Luckily my house has plenty of wardrobe space so I don’t need to put away my winter clothes to make space for my summer wardrobe.
Having said that, yesterday I counted (no, I wasn’t bored- I was just curious about the sudden drop in my finances!) all my summer clothes/ dresses and I think it’s safe to say that my forty (good) dresses would cover anyone’s summer span, especially in England!
But in Sicily?
In a country that is so fashion-minded, where you couldn’t possibly be seen in the same thing twice, that would only get you through, what- forty days? Namely from 1st April and to 10th May. So what about 11th-31st May? AND JuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober?
That, my friends, is my argument whenever my husband asks me if I’m wearing yet ANOTHER new dress. It’s so hot here that you need to change at least three/ four times a day:
Here’s a sample of my couture regime on a typical day off in Sicily:
Morning: You need a sundress for your morning stroll through the market in Vittoria to buy fresh veggies (well, that’s my excuse. Then I disappear off to the stalls selling women’s clothing, of course!). By the time you get home you’re soaked, so you change into your house-dress (which is an old rag so doesn’t count. But still…).
Lunch: If you’re going to Ragusa Ibla for lunch, or to Punta Secca for some delicious Sicilian fish, you need another outfit- possibly cool, white linen to fend off the heat.
After lunch and a siesta, you wake up with a hankering for ice-cream, right? So it’s another shower and another outfit change. And while you’re out, you bump into your friends at Edoardo’s ice-cream parlour and decide to hook up for an evening on the town later. But you can’t wear what you’ve been wearing all afternoon, can you? This dress is already old by Sicilian standards! So there you have it- at least three changes a day.
And you can’t wear the same shoes with every outfit, can you? But let’s not even GO there.
Some of you might prefer shoes to clothes, granted, but let me tell you this: ever since I went from a UK size 24 to a 16, you can imagine how I went absolutely mad racing around all the shops, both in Italy and the UK for items I’d only dreamt of buying! Being new to the game of OMG it fits and Do they really have my size, you understand it was difficult to put a stop to all that. And after a lifetime of shop assistants shaking their heads with a “Sorry, Miss, we don’t have anything your size…” Now I want it all!
So as the days grow warmer my wardrobe gets fuller and fuller. Even if, to be totally honest, there are times I prefer to sit under the trees in my garden with my husband, the dogs and a good book and not even bother with the world outside. Sometimes life is better wearing my ancient terrycloth nightie…
Ever wonder what happened to Erica Cantelli once she got her dream man, i.e. her kids’ principal Julian Foxham, AND her dream home/ B&B in Tuscany?
Things are going great (-ish) in Castellino until Julian suddenly makes a request that she simply can’t satisfy.
And then, ENTER onto the scene Genie Stacie, actress/ model and Julian’s sweetheart from the past who wants him back with a vengeance and is offering him exacty what he wants…
Plus, they’re all back:
Maddy, her adorable princess has turned into a snooty teenager
Warren, her mature son is now chasing skirts left, right and center
Paul, her BGFF, is travelling around the world at a dizzying speed
The Three Ms, Aunts Maria, Monica and Martina are still at loggerheads with their fourth sister, the black sheep Marcy
Erica’s ”affectionate” sister Judy who can’t stay faithful to her husband…
Follow them all as Erica and her famous hairy eyeball battle everything jeopardizing her family’s happiness.
I called an emergency service babysitter and within twenty minutes
I had a Mrs. Doubtfire lookalike at my door. Ever grateful, I shoved
the list of emergency phone numbers (all mine) at her and in three
minutes flat I was out of there. Which was unlucky for me because five
minutes later I was squirming in my Kia van, dying for a pee. I pulled
over into a plaza and charged into a nice-looking bistro restaurant.
Finally a relieved woman in every sense, I stepped out of the stall
and lathered my hands with some rose-scented soap. Did I remember
to get Paul’s slippers? I can’t rememb—what the hell? A tickling, multilegged
slimy sensation under my pants made me freeze as my mind
knew there could only be one explanation. A spider!
A horrible convulsion shook my body at the realization of my
worst phobia. Never mind heights, open spaces or closed spaces—the
only thing in the world that scared me were those wretched beasts.
I remember screaming and beating my leg to kill said beast, but
the thought of it crushed to a pulp against my flesh sent me into a
mindless hysteria. I was beyond panicking. I remember throwing
myself on the floor in a fit of terror for what seemed like days because
darkness kept washing over me and I must’ve been near passing
out several times until someone—a man—gripped my arms.
“Help! Take my pants off!” I shrieked.
“A spider in my pants! Take them off!”
“Your pants?” he asked dubiously.
“Are you sure?”
What the hell was wrong with the guy? “Now!”
At that, the blessed man obliged and yanked on my zipper. “It’s
stuck,” he informed me.
“Just rip them off!” I begged him and he easily tore my pants
from my front zipper down and pulled them off my legs, checking
every inch of wobbly thigh as I frantically kicked, repeating, “Kill it,
kill it!” I didn’t give a shit if he saw my flesh flailing in the air—I’d
never see him again. All I wanted was to be rid of the monster.
At some point I finally collapsed under him, exhausted, but still
digging my nails into his flesh, still shaking and bawling and clawing
at his shirt until he was half-naked next to me. He felt so safe,
so solid, like a nice cozy cabin in the middle of a snowstorm. And
he smelled fantastic, like a real man, without the nauseating mist of
different colognes I have to
fight through to get from the lobby to
my office every morning.
But more than anything, I remember how he’d calmed me down
with his deep, soothing voice and how it had enveloped me, warmed
me, like a father’s should when you’re a scared child or a husband’s
when you’re a woman down in the dumps. I had never had either
source of comfort in my life from my dad or Ira, and it was like the
other shoe had finally dropped. This voice, this presence, this kind
of man, was what I’d lacked my entire life. If I’d had this kind of
solid support and understanding all that time, and not for just a few
terrifying seconds in the ladies’ room, my whole life would’ve been
made. I’d be a different woman today. Sweeter. More self-assured.
Less aggressive. More loved.
This was the kind of patience and loyalty that I needed. Someone
who would believe me and act upon my fears as if they were
as important to him as they were to me. This man had taken me
seriously. This man had been my security. If Ira had been there with
me, never in a thousand years would he have agreed to rip my pants
off just like that.
The stranger put his lips against my ear and whispered, “It’s all
right. It’s gone. Calm down now.”
“Are you sure?” I croaked, burying my head deeper into his
chest, my arms and legs still wrapped around him like a real whack
“Positive—take a look for yourself—see?”
I stopped and lifted my face to scan the floor with trepidation.
He was right. No sign of the thing. The coast was clear. And then I
finally looked up at him. And almost fainted dead away again, but
for another reason this time.
He was surreal. Handsome didn’t even begin to cut it. Wide shoulders.
Muscles. Strong. Perhaps enough to lift me. Black hair that fell
over his forehead. Big green eyes and the most awesome, longest lashes.
Dark five o’clock shadow. Pure man. Pure, sinfully gorgeous man.
“Hands up!” twin voices echoed in the empty bathroom.
My savior turned toward them and raised his hands, his torso
still stuck to mine so that he looked like he was doing sit ups against
“It’s okay, lads. It’s only me,” he assured them.
One of the guards re-holstered his gun. “Sorry, sir.”
“It’s fine. A little accident with a big hairy monster,” he explained,
tucking his shirt back into his jeans as the two guards
looked at me.
I crossed my arms in front of my chest and shot them an evil
glare. “He means the spider.”
One of the guards stifled a snort and I shakily crawled for my
trousers, which were now in shreds, too humbled to look my savior’s
way. It was a good thing that Paul always waxed the hell out of me,
otherwise the guards would’ve thought the poor man was tackling a
grizzly bear in the ladies’ room.
“Oh, okay,” agreed the other guard all too easily.
I hid my face in my torn trousers. “He was just helping out a
hysterical lady,” I contributed, not wanting to seem ungrateful. “Go
now, please. I’m in my underwear in case you hadn’t noticed.” And
they weren’t my best pair, either.
At that my savior chuckled and wrapped his jacket around me
like a kilt. I’m big, but this thing fit all the way around me. My face
82 Nancy Barone
still hidden, I muttered a muffled, “Thank you,” and crawled back
into the stall—a different one, though.
“Okay, let’s give the lady some breathing space,” I heard my hero
say. Was he the manager of the restaurant? He sure had authority.
“I’ll be sitting outside if you care to join me for lunch, madam?”
“Uh, I don’t know. Thanks anyway.”
A pause. “Okay, then. I hope to see you again soon.”
Yeah, like that was ever happening. “Me, too, sir. Thank you.”
“We’re at our desk if you need us, ma’am,” called one of the guards.
“All right. Thank you. And thank you, again,” I called to my hero
from over the stall, too embarrassed to show my face.
“My pleasure, madam,” he said. At least that’s what I think. He
had a crazy accent I couldn’t place.
I raced home wearing the guy’s jacket around my hips, up the
stairs past the aghast babysitter who must’ve thought I was a freak,
and hopped back down the stairs, one leg into a pair of jeans. By the
time I got to the front door I was dressed. When you’re a working
mom you learn to multitask very quickly.
“I’ll pay you the extra time!” I shouted over my shoulder as I
catapulted myself out the door and into my Kia, flooring it.
Erica Cantelli has finally made it back to Tuscany, her land of origin, and has loads of plans to live The Good Life!
She now has her very own farmhouse, vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards. She makes wine, olive oil, jams, pies and preserves like she used to dream of while sitting in her Boston office.
And did I mention A Taste of Tuscany, her new B&B?
She shares all of this with her two children, Maddy and Warren- and her brand new man Julian Foxham, who helped make her dream come true.
So what could possibly go wrong in one of the most idyllic places on earth?
Stay tuned for Erica’s amazing adventures with some old friends, new friends- and why not? Even some new enemies!
And while you’re in the area, why not pop over to my Pinterst board- Italian food, mothers and dieting- to get some images of Tuscany and Erica’s life?
You’d think I’d be strolling down the beach that is three minutes away, or in a park or pool- whatever kind or respite you had in mind for the summer- wrong. Well, partly wrong.
I’m in my home in the countryside, listening to the birds and banging away on my old clunker of a computer, when- thump- husband brings in a baby chick of some sort fallen from a tree. Its siblings are dead and this little guy (I’m assuming it’s a he) is the strongest of the bunch, although still covered in soft grey fuzz.
So I surf the internet looking for info and call up an old friend who is a Science teacher/ nature lover. Until he can fly, it’s a shoe box filled with toilet paper and baby food through a syringe every thirty minutes.
I go back to the new story I’m writing. I’ve got a deadline and the whole story is in my head, but how can you resist the gentle (and insistent) tweet of a baby chick?
He’s got his head stuck under a layer of feathers for now but he’ll let me know when he’s good and ready for his next meal.
This morning I find him out of the box. He’s jumped! Soon, I hope, he’ll be able to fly…
So I take him out and put him on my dwarf pine trees, no taller than myself so I can get to him no matter what. And I watch as he adapts to his new environment, liking it, too. He cocks an eye at me as if to say, “How come you didn’t bring me out here sooner?”
Because he was weak, starved and needed a bit of mothering. I’m supposed to let him go when he starts flying around the room. I sure hope he doesn’t start pooping all over the place. I would not be impressed.
I also hope I don’t get the empty nest syndrome when he flies away…