Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Favorite moments from 2013

It's time to say goodbye to 2013.  I've had such a wonderful year. Here are some of my highlights and favourite memories:

// Celebrating Sera's 2nd Birthday with friends // Thailand with mum, Sera, Eric, Jaqui, Taryn, Asher and Bailey //  Visiting Milla, Lidia and Mimmo in Grenoble // Agroturismo weekend with Mario, Lucrezia, Riccardo, Martina and Irene // Friuli with Momo, Marina and Jacopo // Grenoble 2.0 // Nonni visit // Massa // Making friends with Valentina // Surprise visit from Grandma // Cattolica with nonni // Family Ferragosto Picnic // Tuscany with Denis, Chiara, Gaia, Greta, Denise, Epi, Miki and Maria-Grazia // Nonni visit 2.0 // Zia Alessia visiting for Halloween // Milla Visiting // Setting up for Christmas // Holidays in Canada with Grandma // Visiting Max, Jack, Marty and Tam in Toronto // Christmas with the extended family in Taranto //

Have a wonderful time tonight with all the celebrating, whether it's at a party, with a few friends or just cuddled up on your own with a good book.  Goodbye 2013 and Welcome to 2014!!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Have a Wonderful last Weekend of 2013

Reading with Nonno // Le Stagioni Dell'anno - The Seasons // Contiamo Insieme - Let's Count // L'inventore Pasticcione - The Messy Inventor

I always get confused in the week between Christmas and New Years because Christmas feels so much like the end of the year to me but then New Years drags its heels and takes another week to arrive. 

This weekend is the limbo weekend between the two and we, like many other folk, are still on holiday and enjoying e company of friends and family... That is, until tomorrow when we get in the car for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to drive back to Milan.  

My plan for the day is to enjoy watching Sera with her grandparents (whom she won't see again for at least some months, poor thing), finish reading my Christmas gifted book Six Years by Harlan Coben, and try to squeeze everything back into the suitcase.

Nonna Gilda climbed up on a ladder yesterday and pulled out some of Fabri's story books from when he was a child for Sera to enjoy. Aren't they wonderfully retro and kitch? We might just have to sneak some of those into the suitcase as well.

I hope you all enjoy the last weekend of 2013!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Holidays 2013

Christmas Day 2013 and here's how we've spent the festivities so far:
Rolling around on the floor with Sera in front of the tree / admiring the twinkling lights and frosted ornamentnts / trying out new festive eye makeup / "look I fit inside Zio Giulio's Christmas gift!'

Here are a few things I want to try to remember for years to come:

-Recently when I ask Sera why she's so cute she replies "because I love you! And tackles me with the sweetest smiles and biggest hugs.
-though I'll never understand Pugliese dialect, Fabri's 93 year old grandmother Eleonora and I have the most satisfying and deep conversations at the holidays.
-Fabri fooled me into believing we weren't exchanging gifts again this year and then again proceeded to get me everything on my letter to Santa... Good thing I always also fool him!

I hope you have been having a wonderful, cozy, happy and fun filled Christmas.
Xx Jess

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve gift wrapping

We're getting very close to the big day and today I spent two hours wrapping presents and still don't have everything ready.  As you can see no ribbons have been tied yet and I still have a bag full of gifts unwrapped and no where near ready to go. I have scotch tape blisters.

Luckily we're in Taranto and I have had tones of help with Sera. In fact I haven't actually seen her for more than ten minutes at a time since we've arrived but then I suppose what's nice about the holidays is also that she gets to spend time with family that she doesn't see too often. And I get a break!

Here in Taranto Babbo Natale, or Santa, arrives tonight, on Christmas Eve after a quick dinner of panzerotti and other fried foods. It's quite fun to see the kids staring out the windows of the apartments trying to catch a glimpse of his sled with their sleepy, excited eyes.

There's still a lot to do before Babbo Natale makes his debut so I'm back to the gift wrap. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve with family and friends and loved ones!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Holiday Hair Week by THEWONDERFUL Emily M. Meyers

In the middle of this year I fell madly in love with Emily M. Meyers over at The Freckled Fox, a lifestyle blog I've since followed religiously.  Emily not only is gorgeous, but an amazing woman, blogging daily with wonderful inspirations despite having four kids under five years old (the newest of which born only a few short weeks ago!).

If you head over to her blog this week you're in for a treat! She's just finished compiling tutorials for fabulous hairstyles that you can soon your own for a bit of a glamorous holiday look.  I haven't yet decided if I'm going to do the fancy bun or the party bun... I guess we'll just have to see how I feel on the day. Or maybe one or Christmas and the other for New Years?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Voices Choices

Words have so much power... Especially those well chosen.

I am not one of those calm, centred people who takes the time to choose their words well when in conversation. I try to, but often forget or speak too soon or don't get what I really mean to say across. I'm too quick for my own good. I don't have a window of a few seconds to consider, ponder, choose.  I also believe that when I get into this frenetic mode of non-choosing I end up not listening either. It's really something I should work on.

One of my friends whom I admire very very much is a master at choosing her words. She speaks slowly and clearly and it seems as if every sentence that passes her lips is the best possible option for that moment in time. Sometimes there is even a palpable delay in conversation with her, but then what follows is always pleasant and thought through.  By result she is one of the kindest, most compassionate and wisest women I know. She is also a fantastic listener.

I'm better on paper, obviously due to the time it takes to write and the possibility of editing what I say.  On paper I also don't have to listen to anyone at all and my opinions can hang in the air, unedited and unaltered. Gee, writers can be egotists can't they?  That said, Most of the important relationships I have had have been created or cemented through written correspondence. There's a beauty in having all that time to choose my words.

The past two weeks have been an interesting experience in choosing words in my everyday life.  As a side effect of the flu I had in Canada I have been almost completely without a voice and therefore have been mostly living my life on mute.  Laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal chords that prevents them from vibrating properly and the only cure is rest. Every time you speak you are prolonging your recovery, so choosing not to speak is the best medical decision.

Sometimes not speaking isn't an option though. right?

"Sera don't jump on the couch!" "Sera finish your peas!" "Sera get upstairs to bed now!" 

Wait a minute! I'm a nag! 

These weeks have taught me that indeed I do nag too much and don't choose my words with my daughter properly but also that I have other options when parenting... I don't have to talk all so much as I do at all! Instead of asking her not to jump on the couch I can simply go over an propose some other activity... Not eating her peas? Well, I can just take them away. It's not really an issue (and how would I feel if someone was nagging me to eat something on my plate anyhow?). Not going upstairs to bed? I can give her my hand and lead her up instead.... All this nagging was hurting more than my vocal chords.

And not being able to talk has also let me choose the things that really ARE important to say. 

"You did a good job." "Thank you." "I love you."

Aren't those the things worth saying every day? Laryngitis or not? Just in case someday I'm not able to say them anymore?

I'm going to take a lesson from this temporary lack of a voice, and from my friend with her slow talk and from my own internal author to be a bit more careful in he future with what I say... Maybe I'll talk less and listen more. And I'll certainly try to say much more of what's important for the people I love to hear.

All this of course, provided my voice ever decides to return!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Lovely DIY Christmas Gift Ideas for your Girlfriends

If you're craftsy like me you always have this instinct right before Christmas to forego the typical store-bought gifts in favor of something a little more personal and from the heart.  Nothing says giving more than a hand-made gift that keeps the recipient in mind. 

Here are some ideas I collected online for great gift ideas for your girlfriends...

For the one who needs a bit of Good Luck

For the one who needs to get organised

For the one that always shares a great pot of tea 

For the one who makes all the clothes

Glasses Case into Sewing Kit from TeaRoseHome

By the way, sorry for ruining the surprise if you open one of these from me on Christmas day!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Winter in Canada

We just got back from our holiday in Canada.

Before we went I had all these wonderful intentions about swimming everyday in my mom's pool, meditating for extended periods and building snowmen in the garden... along with continuing my blog and keeping you all up to date.

Unfortunately, destiny had other plans for me this trip and despite my fantastic form leading up to the trip, Sera and I promptly caught the flu on day three of being in Montreal. We were still ok for the first day and a half at Mont Tremblant where we took advantage of an indoor swimming pool and I had a soak in the outdoor hot tub.

Of course, soaking in a hot tub in -4°c isn't the best thing for the flu (which I still didn't know I had yet) and it then promptly turned into pneumonia.  105°f fever and chills along with a crazy cough and running nose. Aches and pains... you name it! Lucky me!  Spent a fortune at a walk-in clinic in Toronto only to be told I was super-contagious and needed anti-biotics. The doctor also said that if it was 105 the thermometer was broken... well, that's a relief!  We fled Toronto the next day for fear of getting my little nephews sick, that would be the worst! Spent more time driving there and back than actually in Ontario, but I guess even 20 minutes with family is better than nothing.

The rest of the trip in Montreal was a marathon of chicken soup, onesies pyjamas and Sherlock on Netflicks. I can't say it was all bad, cause aside from the cough and laryngitis when else would I get to spend 5 days in pyjamas straight while someone else plays with Sera and keeps her entertained?

We're back home now and preparing for our next trip.  Heading off to Puglia on Saturday to spend time with the Italian family. I hope that at least this time I'll be on my feet and be able to enjoy things a little bit.

Getting healthy is a priority and as soon as I do I promise I'll be back at blogging regularly!

Highlights from the trip:

  • playing in the snow
  • the hottub, despite its consequences
  • spending time with grandma
  • watching my nephew Max teach Sera how to make tea
  • impromptu dinner at my best friends' house
  • Tommy Hilfiger outlet shopping
  • Seeing Frozen in English in theatres
  • Watching Sera eat sticky maple syrup on snow

Friday, 29 November 2013

Dressing the Tree 2013

To keep with our travel plans this year we had to set up the tree quite early.  Sera has a lot of memories from last year but I think this is the first year she's really excited about Christmas.  This is the first time she helped to dress the tree and my control freak nature had to take a backseat. I think it came out quite nice in the end... with just a few tweaks!

We've had our synthetic tree for nine years now and it's not showing its age at all. I have only ever once had a real tree and felt horrible as my flatmates and I finally threw it out of our second story window, dry and dishevelled in the middle of March 2003.  

Every year I make a few new ornaments and maybe buy one or two that keep in style with the traditional red, green and white theme.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Travelling with Kids: The En-Route Packing List

Since Sera was born we've been on a handful of international trips; Canada twice, Japan, Thailand and this week we're heading back to Canada again so that she can experience a true Canadian winter.

Packing for a long-haul flight and an international trip is all about preparation. If you're well prepared the experience can be quite pleasant and almost completely stress free. That's my own goal for us for Saturday.

Essentially you can divide your packing preparation into 2 different categories: en-route and arrived. This post is about the stuff you need en-route.

Pack light. Pack smart. Don't bring anything you don't need. In the case of layovers or rushes to the gate your en-route luggage quickly becomes very, very annoying.  I like a backpack so I can remain hands free or something light and easy on wheels that I can drag along beside me. I also like to take along a stroller.


Airports and airplanes are notorious for spreading germs and bacteria. It's actually as likely to catch a cold or 24 hour bug on a plane as in a hospital.  This subcategory is essential for peace of mind during and after the flight. Bring along:

  • small (less than 100ml) bottle of antibacterial hand sanitiser. Use it to clean the tray tables and armrests of your seats as well as any buttons or other controllers for the entertainment system. Bring it along with you to the bathroom for washing your hands if you go. Aim to clean your own and little one's hands once an hour or so during play and especially before eating.
  • Paper face tissues. To be used with the hand sanitiser or for cleaning up small spills, wiping noses and drying tears.  Par for the course with small kids.
  • Baby wipes. These are needed for diaper changes, but also come in handy for tones of other uses. 
  • Diapers as needed (take more than you think you'll use, plan 1 per hour plus 2 extra)
  • moisturiser, lip balm (planes get very dry)
  • toothbrushes and small toothpaste
  • any prescription medications
  • children's fever medication and digital thermometer (it is awful when your child comes down with a fever 2 hours into a 10 hour flight and not being able to do anything about it... bringing this stuff along will make sure that if it happens you're prepared)


A busy kid is a happy kid and shortly, a sleeping kid. The only moment you're off the hook when travelling with a toddler is when they're asleep so that's your goal for at least part of the fight. Keeping the little angel busy will help you get there.  Here's what works for us:

  • Pack little gifts. These can be everyday items or things you were going to bring along anyhow wrapped in colourful paper. Some examples from our past bags are: character printed face tissues, a box of raisins, a sheet of stickers, hair elastics, a small toy, a favourite toy you told then needed to stay at home. When you give these to your child let them unwrap them by themselves. Let them be slow doing it. Then when they get the gift out, let them interact with it however they want. Don't show them what to do. Let them figure it out on their own. Pace yourself. Let them get bored before moving onto the next thing.
  • Snacks can double as entertainment. Let the be slow eating the meal and the snacks. Bring along your own healthy snacks and pull them out as necessary... since you're already fighting with jet lag on arrival don't be too strict on mealtimes.
  • Electronic toys. Be respectful of your neighbours by making sure you have headphones which are suitable for your child and then go crazy downloading free, fun, educational apps for your kids to explore in-flight. I have some suggestion here and here. Make sure to bring along your charger, some planes have power outlets at your seat.
  • No gadgets? No problem! Bring along the headphones anyhow and let your child watch some in flight movies. You can check with your airline before you fly as to what films are playing on your flight and start to get excited about a hour reading your book while the kiddie is mesmerised by the latest Pixar or Disney.
  • Colour. Bring along a small pad of paper and a multicoloured pen. I don't recommend crayons, markers o anything similar because you'll spend most of the flight on your hands and knees looking for the yellow marker cap and cleaning up messes.
  • Favourite cuddly toy.


The plane needs fuel, but so do you and your family. I mentioned snacks above but I can't stress how important they can be en-route. You may find yourself on a long layover with only a Maconald's in sight (AbuDhabi).  Pack what you would normally snack on at home and a few special snacks too. Put each snack in its own resealable plastic bag and bring along a small container that your child can hold in which you can put small rations. That way if everything does end up spilt all over you're looking at cleaning up 5 crackers, not 50.  Here are some ideas:
  • baby carrots
  • crackers
  • beef jerky/salami sticks
  • portable snack cheese
  • small juice box (less than 100ml)
  • empty sippy cup which you can pour the drinks they give you on board into in order to avoid spilling disasters.

Other Important Items;

You don't know what's going to happen so it's better to be prepared.
  • full change of clothes for your child
  • change of shirt for you
  • bracelet (can also be made of duct tape) attached to your child's wrist with  name and your contact telephone number
  • medical information / health cards
  • passports
  • letter of permission to travel with your child from non accompanying parent if you're not travelling together

Some more tips:

  • Make sure all of your liquids (toothpaste, hand sanitiser, moisturiser, lip balm, medications, juice box etc.) are less than 100ml in size and separated from the rest of your carry-on in a Ziploc bag when you go through security check.
  • Don't bring along heavy books or magazines to read during the flight. Download the digital copy or just read what you find on board - if you get a chance to read at all in between entertaining your little one.
  • Do your best to make sure that your child doesn't kick the seat in front of him/her or get too wild during the flight.  This is not the best time to take a break from parenting and good manners, even if it is a start to your holiday. Taking your child for a walk to the bathroom with you if they need to calm down at any point during the flight can really help out. Sometimes distraction is the best way to avoid misbehaviour.
  • Make the day you travel into an adventure. Even though you know that the security check is a hassle, you can make it seem fun to your child by using a bit of imagination. Point out all the unusual things that you can see in an airport. Talk about how the airplane food is cool cause it's on it's own trays. Enjoy looking out the window together. Ask your child questions about what is happening... you might just end up seeing the day as a fun family day out!

Hopefully these its of advice will help take away a bit of the travel stress on your next flight with a toddler and that every thing goes to plan on our trip!


Monday, 25 November 2013

DIY Gift Idea - Covered Gratitude Journal

I've really been into gratitude lately.  I've been spending the last few weeks following two free on line series of meditation with gratitude as the main focus; one by Deepak and Oprah and another offered by the Mentor's Channel.  Together that adds up to around 40 minutes a day of focusing 100% on everything I have to be grateful for... and I can tell you, the more I focus on all these things the more grateful I feel. And the more grateful I feel the happier I am.  The happier I am the happier the people around me... it's win win win.  

I've also recently started keeping a gratitude journal in which I jot down a few things that I think of being grateful for right before bed.  Some examples include:
  • cashews
  • cosmetic dentistry
  • Fabri cleaned the bathroom
  • flannel pyjamas
  • Sera's laugh
  • my own cooking
  • my health
As you can see most of the items are everyday, ordinary things and others carry more weight, but since I've started jotting down 7-10 items a night I close my eyes and am off like a light switch in no time... no anxiety, no stress, no worried and no planning for the next day or remunerating about the day that's past.  It's a habit I intend to continue and would suggest to anyone.

As a gift this year for the holidays I'm planning on making a few of these little gratitude journals for some friends. I did one for myself today and perhaps you'd like to see how:

What you'll need:
  • A simple blank or lined notebook
  • Fabric scrap large enough to wrap around the notebook
  • scissors
  • a xacto blade
  • hot glue and glue gun.
Starting at the outer horizontal edges glue the fabric to the covers of the book along the edges while it is closed.  Use a tiny bit of glue at a time and go back and forth between the two covers being careful not to glue the book shut.  Then you can go back and do the upper and lower edges of each cover, again going back and forth between top and bottom stretching and pulling as you go. Make sure to keep it smooth. Before you get to the corners trim and fold over and under the fabric so that it's neat on your inside covers and then fold the corners as if you were making a bed with hospital corners. Use a dab of glue on each corner.  For the spine of the book glue and tuck in the fabric that has remained outside.  If you would like extra polish you can cut out a piece of card stock that is the same size as the inner covers and glue this on top of your raw edges of fabric.

To finish off my book I glued an elastic from the back to the front so that I could keep it closed. The fabric was a scrap of silk I bought in Japan on a trip in 2012.

Now that's something that just screams for me to pour my gratitude into.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Hannukah Toy Felt Board Craft

This year Hannukah is sneaking up on us early, November 27th to be precise!  That's only a few days away! I don't want to miss out on this important holiday with everything else we have going on at the moment; trying to sell our house, pack for our big trip to Canada on the 30th and get everything ready for that other big winter holiday, Christmas.

Since we will be in Canada for 6 of the 8 days of Hannukah I also have to take into account the fact that my heavy pewter Menorah doesn't really travel well and that it's not possible to light the 3rd candle on an intercontinental flight.

Last year Sera and I made a paper Menorah but that won't really pack well either what with all the crumpling.  It barely survived the 8 days of sitting side by side with the regular one. Little toddler hands...

Last year's Hannuka celebrations. You can see our paper  Menorah to the right of the pewter one.

What's the solution? A felt Menorah of course, complete with removable candles... and what better way to create it that with Sera herself on a rainy afternoon in November?

First we cut out the shape of a Menorah in the blue felt. We made certain parts "3D" by gluing extra felt on top. Then we made 9 little rectangles as the candles and glued yellow flames to the tops.  Since the background is felt and the menorah is felt and the candles are felt we didn't even need to attach anything to the backs to make them stick. Felt is fun because felt always sticks to felt.

I finished off the project by making a little box out of brown felt to store the candles in when they're not in use. Not only is this project quite fun to do together, but it will teach Sera about an important tradition in Judaism, and about numbers as well, as each night you add another candle.

I'm quite pleased with the results! Look how hard she is concentrating on putting the candles into their holders!

If crafting isn't your thing I have also spotted a fantastic wooden menorah for little kids to play with.

Please leave me a comment if you decide to try your hand at making your own felt Menorah!
Happy Hannukah!!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

DIY Festive Candy Cane Stripe Nail-Art Patches

Back in May I posted a tutorial on making your own nail patches at home. The post didn't get too many hits, but I suppose it's because I was still new at all this blogging. I haven't done another nail patch since but thought I'd post this new tutorial today as I experiment with a new look for holiday nails.

I'd like to mention that the photography in this post isn't amazing but that's mostly because, for as wonderful as my hands are at crafting and creating, they are equally as plain and awkward. Years of arthritis paired with my natural tendency towards boniness and dry cuticles doesn't make me the world's most glamorous of hand models, but I love my hands and fingers just the same.  Maybe the next time I do a tutorial like this I can get a friend to be the model.

Now onto the patches.  Head over to the original post for an in depth how-to.

For the candy cane style I first painted a light pink base coat onto silicone based oven paper in the different sizes of my nails. I always do 20 nail patches at a time in case I mess up while applying them so i don't have to then redo the artwork from scratch. When the base coat was dry I added a golden sparkle coat on top of that and let it dry overnight.

The next day I took a bright pink Sharpie marker and drew diagonal lines over each patch. I had to stop half-way through though as Sera got it into her head that she had to colour them.  We went onto other crafts instead.

After the Sharpie I applied a second coat of glitter polish and let that dry entirely.  It was six hours before I got back to my nails.

The best part about nail patches and the most satisfying part as well is the final application of them. I painted my own nails with a thin coat of the pale pink and then with tweezers carefully peeled each nail patch, one by one, from the oven paper. I pressed each patch onto each corresponding finger and my manicure was done! 10 seconds after finishing I was eating dark chocolate on the couch in front of the TV... something unthinkable at least for a half-hour with a traditional manicure.

And I'd be lying if I said that I could have ever gotten those lines so perfect with my left hand!

This application should last from 5-10 days so stay tuned for my next nail-patch experiment in a week or so!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Dear Santa - Gifts for 3 Year Old Girls

I get excited about the holiday season. More so ever since we had Sera.

We celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas in our house and while that means a lot fo traditional and religious storytelling and customs it also means a lot of pretty wrapped up parcels, and even more excitingly for me, choosing them.

Since Sera can't write yet I asked her to assemble some stickers on a page of what she hopes for this holiday season. As you can see there's a huge concentration of fairies, princesses and dollies.  Please keep in mind that I have never forced female-stereotypical toys on her and these are her choices.  Some girls really are girly-girls by nature and the key is to follow the lead of your kids.  We asked for a train set last year but she barely touches it.

Today I present you a shortlist of toys that may be suitable regarding Sera's list.  Maybe it will act as inspiration for your own gifts for your toddler.  I'm pretty sure that Sera isn't going to have all of these in her toy box come January, but a lot of them even I can't resist!

Luckily, all the gifts on this list are under €30 too!
#1) Sylvanian Families Dressing Up What could be better than a fairy princess and a pirate dog?
#2) Animator's Series Ariel Doll  she's just so adorable and has real feet under that tail.

#3) Kawaii Crush BFF Gift Pack Kawaii means cute in Japanese and these small toys couldn't be cuter!

#4) Singing Microphone we don't normally go for electronic toys, but this one was a hit at a recent playdate.
#5) to celebrate our Jewish heritage a wooden hannukah set from kidcraft
#6) Elf on The Shelf - completely unknown in Italy and really quite cute and fun!
#7) Though in a slightly higher age (4-9) range, I'm loving GoldieBlox which help girls develop a passion for engineering

Has my list inspired you? What do you plan to get for your kids this year? What do you think of girl-oriented toys as opposed to genderless ones? How is your holiday preparation going? Is your calendar already filled with parties and celebrations?

Can you tell I'd love to hear your comments?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

THEWONDERFUL Ali : Amazing Spiralized Meals

It's Not Pasta!
Ever since starting an AIP-Paleo diet I've had to be more creative about my menu planning. With the lack of grains, legumes and starchy carbohydrates like potatoes to lean on I've had more than my fair share of eating salads and grilled chicken breast. While delicious at times, 5 nights in a row can only lead you to boredom.

Just as I was about to start pulling out my hair from missing pasta Ali and her fabulous blog Inspiralized came to my rescue!  Her blog is packed to the brim with dish after dish of gorgeous looking and absolutely delicious recipes which are either already Paleo-AIP or with teeny tiny modifications can be!

The concept is easy... spiralize vegetables and use them in place of pasta in your recipes.  What's spiralizing? Ali can tell you. How can you do it? Ali can tell you. What's for dinner? Ali can tell you!!

I haven't bought my own spiralizer, but I am using a food processor with a julienne function and it's working out great! I had Ali's BLT Zucchini pasta for lunch without the tomato and it was just gorgeous!

Ali herself is also an inspiration to me as a blogger. She quit her job in June to follow her dream of being a food blogger and in these few short months she's taken both the blogging and food world by storm!  Everyday there are fantastic new posts on her blog and her photography is wonderful (and self-taught!) Her e-cookbook is being released this month and will surely be on my holiday gift-list!  She's a real wonder-woman!

Head on over to her blog or more recipes, inspiration, and inspiralization!
Buon Apetit!

Friday, 15 November 2013

More Crafting Fun - Fabric Scrap Paper Dolls

Everyone knows I love paper dolls and fabric scraps but I never thought to put them together for a fun indoor activity for Sera. 

If you liked my post about Mr. Printables Cone Girl Paper Dolls then you'll love these ideas by Carrie at This Mamma Makes Stuff and Sarah at The Small Ornament.  They've offered free printables of basic cute dolls that you can print out at home and dress up in any way with just bits of scraps and glue!

I haven't actually gone ahead and printed out the template as I found it just quicker to sketch up a few doll bodies of my own on card stock and get to it.

All you need to set up your own activity is some card stock or heavy paper, a glue stick and cloth scraps of any sort.  Ribbons, beads and glitter, though more fiddly are great additions to the fun too!

This is a PERFECT project to keep Sera busy with while I continue to cut blocks for Sera's baby clothes memory quilt which has been sitting on the back burner for the last little while. Every time I get a new scrap Sera ends up with a new belt, headband, skirt or bow.... It's win-win!

We did this activity yesterday afternoon and it kept her busy and quiet for over two hours!  At a certain point she realised that she could take the 'clothes' off and start again once it dried and she had lots of fun 'trying on' different outfits.  She even made me call daddy to tell him we were playing the dressing up game. In the end I actually had to physically drag her away for bath time!
Some of my favorite completed dolls

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Scary Morning

photo property of Eugene Feygin

It's 8.09am.  I'm dressed with my hair still in its messy bun from last night, and on the phone with Fabri who's telling me it's frosty out and to dress up Sera warm. She's in front of the TV watching Cars. The citofono* is buzzing.

I tell Fabri that I have to go answer but he keeps me on the line.

'Jessica, devi venire immediatamente qua./Jessica, you must immediately come here.' The surly voice of the doorman echoes down the line.

'Um, ok' I say. 'Ma ci vuole un  po perche ho la bimba e devo ancora vestirla./Um, ok, but I need a bit cause I have my daughter and need to dress her.'

'Veloce perche c'è il comune./Quick, because there is the government' He replies and hangs up.

Uh-oh.... what did I do? Panic starts to rise. I can feel the course of the adrenaline heading out to my extremities and clouding my thinking. I order myself to breathe, hang up with Fabri and turn to Sera.

'Honey, you have to help mommy dress you now because something is happening.' I say. She looks up at me immediately and to my relief cooperates with the whole procedure of diaper changes, socks trousers, sweaters and shoes only saying every once in a while 'Something is happening?'  She must have understood that I don't normally have that tone of voice or that seriousness to my demeanour.

I keep telling her that I don't know what is happening and I really don't. I envision police officers at the gate with handcuffs ready and think of which neighbours might be home to watch Sera. I wonder if they'll let me call Fabri and have him take her or what happens to minors in these circumstances.

But what circumstances?? I'm pretty sure I haven't committed any reato*, well, at least nothing that you actually get arrested for... though maybe I shouldn't have passed that English kids songs .Mp3 onto that woman at my playgroup.  I knew I couldn't trust her!  I order myself to breathe again as my imagination is wandering away from me.

We're outside and the door is locked. It is quite frosty out. I put Sera in a stroller and head to the front gate. Dead woman walking... what happens next could change my entire life... what if I'm being accused of some serious crime and have no alibi for my whereabouts for the night in question? What if I can't prove that I didn't do it?  What if I DID do it and am criminally insane?!?!?!

Breathe, breathe, breathe....

I turn the corner and am feeling slightly calmer when I don't see police vehicles and lights flashing... I don't even see a group of boys in blue with those stupid hats they wear here but instead I see what looks like a middle aged woman bike-messenger.  She is smiling and chatting with the doorman.  He's smiling and chatting too and almost looks personable... though he never smiles and chats with me.

Breathe, breathe, breathe...

She has papers in her hand.

'Jessica Herman?' She asks. I nod. 'Dovrei vedere un documento./I need to see some identification' she continues.

With my habitual stress-induced comic persona I whip out my passport, drivers' licence, identity card and  permesso di soggiorno*, and medical card all at once and reply 'Quale vorresti? ha ha ha / Which one would you like... ha ha ha.' Man, I'm such an idiot.  I look down at Sera and she's marvelling at what an idiot her mother is.

My creative mind continues to stir...

This woman is handing me a summons to appear in court. This woman is revoking my permission to stay in the country. This woman is telling me I've committed a crime. This woman is writing things down on a paper. This woman is looking at my identity card. This woman is looking at my face. This woman is...


Yes, she's smiling. Sadist.

Wait... maybe she's not a sadist! 'Congratulazioni Jessica. Sei cittadina Italiana. / Congratulations Jessica, you're now an Italian citizen.' Wow. I didn't see that one coming.

My stress and worry melt away and are replaced with relief and something akin to joy but mostly I'm just happy I don't have to spend the day being interrogated by Government officials. I thank her and re thank her and she's thinking that I must have really really wanted to be Italian and that this is a dream come true... which in a way it is... but I'm mostly thanking her for not having brought any of my crazy crime-show fantasies to life.  What do they say about a guilty mind? I think that if I ever did find myself in a situation like the ones I was imagining I'd never be able to get out of it!

And then it hits me. I'm Italian today. Today is the first day I'm Italian. Sono Italiana. Sono Italiana? Sono Italiana!

Oh boy. What does this mean?  Well, two things I can think of off the top of my head are:

-I can no longer live in this country and shut my eyes to the crazy political situations and conveniently declare my point of view but then finish my debate with 'But anyhow, I can't vote anyways.'  Off to the ballots I go.

-I can no longer sit in a bar during the European Cup or World Cup of soccer and cheer for the team with the cutest players.  Forza Italia!

I feel like sometimes I wore my label of  *extracommunitaria like a badge of honour... excluding me from all the negative aspects of being Italian while still being in Italy and enjoying all of the positive aspects.  Now I have the responsibility to take actions as well to help to change the negative. Like I said, oh-boy.

Now, why on earth would my doorman and the Govenment woman would conspire to scare the wits out of me before 9am?  I suppose that's not important now. Today is a celebration.

I will never give up my Canadian citizenship or my love of Canada and the idealistic role it's come to play in my mind but I have to scoot that image over slightly now for my new identity and home.  I need to figure out what this new identity means. But in the meantime...

I am Italian.  Sono Italiana.

Mamma Mia!


*citofono = telephone style intercom that connects you to the doorman or front door
*reato = illecit crime
*permesso di soggiorno = temporary and renewable permission to stay in Italy
*extracommunitaria = person from outside the European Union living in Italy

Monday, 11 November 2013

True Calling - And Why You Can't Hear It

Blogging has taken a bit of a backseat these past few weeks for me.  I'm sorry if my posts are less frequent and/or less inspiring.  It's hard to juggle everything all at once.

I remember as a kid always wanting to do a million things all at once for a while and then, shortly afterwards, suffering from boredom.  'I'm Boooooooooooooored!' I would shout and whine through the house. One minute I'd be inventing and illustrating a fictional high-school's yearbook and the next none of that would make sense and I would wonder what else there was to do. It was either hyper-creativity or nothing and never a balance.

As I've grown I've learnt to accept these highs and lows of my creative ambition and activity with a bit more grace, but am still nowhere near to being balanced.  I think what happens is that I have moments of sparks and sometimes forest fires of creativity but haven't yet found the way to contain the flames into a nice cosy fireplace on a cold winter's day.  I wonder when I'll learn that, or at least not to suffer because of it... I guess for the fire a forest fire isn't a bad thing? Maybe even for the forest in the end... don't they say that when the fire dies the ground is more fertile for new growth?

Here's my current fire: In the past few weeks I've been making quite a bit of progress on Hick! my animated short film. Though I have very few people working with me at the moment I've been taking on a lot of the shots myself and blocking them out one by one resolving technical problems as I go.  It's taking a long time but with every shot the animatic looks a bit nicer and there's a bit less to do the next day.  I am still looking for more collaborators so if you know anyone who's an animator or interested in short-film production send them over to Hick! to sign up.

This of course impacts my blogging directly as I only have 3 hours a day to myself and in that I have to find time to meditate, clean the house if needed, prepare food for my family (including shopping) and get anything done on the computer I'd like to accomplish. I'm happy that the movie is moving forward again as it's always something hanging over my head, but at the same time I hate that I have to choose between other creative pursuits to accomplish it.

Here's a list of everything I'd also like to be working on. Maybe writing it down will help me to stay motivated on Hick! and get to these tasks gradually:

Check out this felt fishing game by Nenne on Etsy

  • finish creating a knitting pattern for Converse All-Stars
  • finish off Sera's chunky toddler hat and scarf set
  • Make a post about felt finger puppets
  • create my own version of a felt fishing game
  • plan Sera's birthday party
  • declutter the house an bring old belongings to a market to sell them
Oh well, one thing at a time I suppose... I'm going to get back to Hick now for what remains of the hour and will hopefully have something more interesting to blog you all about tomorrow.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Quick Quick! Toca Boca Apps are on sale today!

Just got an email that one of my favourite kids' app developers is having a 24 hour sale! You can get any of these apps for just $0.99 today! If I hadn't already bought most of them at full price I'd be going on a shopping spree!
Toca Doctor HD (iPad)
Toca Doctor (iPhone)
Toca Robot Lab

I hope you and your kids enjoy them as much s Sera and I do.
If you do happen to take advantage of the sale because you've read this post please leave me a comment below!

The Universe Delivers the Lessons

Last night we went out for dinner.  It was really quite nice and the food was great but the reason why I'm posting is because something interesting happened while we were there. I was taught a profound lesson in compassion and tolerance 100% relevant to my own life and current situation without even getting up from the table.

The couple at the table next to ours were in their 60's. They weren't married (at least not to each other) and it seemed as if it must be relatively fresh into their relationship.  She was loud and a strong woman. Her voice cut through the restaurant and she was hard to ignore. As soon as they sat down she grabbed my atterntion  because she kept using swear words and I was noting my own reaction to them. I thought it was crass and unnecessary and I was glad that I outgrew any form of swearing with adolescence. It made her seem uglier to me even though otherwise she was a sophisticated lady.

When people hear Fabri and I speaking English, they often assume that you just can't understand Italian at all and proceed to talk about you, or your child openly with their company.  This too happened... luckily they were talking about how nice Sera was behaving and a little bit about the difference between a Nintendo and an Ipad.

We continued or meal.

But then I head the word autoimmunity.

A new conversation had begun at the next table over and the woman began asking, no, interviewing the man about the subject.  How do you catch it? Why does it happen? Is it transmittable to others? What is the outcome? How can it be cured? Will a child get it if its parents do? Why is it hard to diagnose? Does it go away?

The answers popping into my own head to her questions were synchronised with his and I began to wonder if I should interrupt them and start asking him my own questions. Perhaps he was an expert in the field?  But then I decided to just listen and let them get on with their evening considering I'm currently satisfied with my level of care.

I listened and listened and after about 15 minutes I realised why the universe had brought these two to the table next to mine to have that conversation. I had something to learn.  In the past I have been impatient with my husband, mother, relatives, friends and acquaintances when talking about my autoimmune disease.  I have been frustrated that they haven't believed me when I explain that I am doing my best to take care of myself and that there's no quick cure or special doctor that I can just call.  I have felt accused by them of not wanting to get better... I have taken their suggestions on diet and exercises and rest as insults.  I have pushed them away because of it.

Watching this crass and classy woman ask impartial questions to this man who either was or wasn't a doctor, two strangers, set off a light bulb in my head.  The only reason why the people who love me ask questions or make suggestions or doubt what I tell them about my disease is because they just don't know anything about it.  I suddenly realised that I really am an expert on autoimmune diseases (at least my own small collection of them) due to my vast 13 years of experience in the field.  How on earth can I expect a friend or relative who's only just hearing that these diseases exist or only now coming into contact with someone who has one to possibly understand as thoroughly as I do what it means and the road I've had to travel towards accepting it?  My heart suddenly opened up to this woman with the loud voice whom I was judging moments before as well as to everyone who has ever taken the time to even talk with me about my disease.  I was wrong to place my anger, fear and sorrow on you all. I will try to do better.

On another note, the revelation has made me so much more compassionate and sympathetic to other people's individual situations.  I can't possibly comprehend what it means to be anyone else or to be in their skin.  I can't possibly ever assume to know what someone is living or feeling. None of us can.  We're each so completely unique and have our own gifts and challenges in this life. I suddenly understood that it would serve me well to have more humility in my encounters with others and to always assume that I don't know anything about them or their lives... It's clear now that this is accurate more of the time than assuming that I know everything about them and their lives!

I find it amazing when the universe teaches you a lesson that you so desperately needed to learn, even if you didn't know it before hand. Keep your eyes open for these lessons!  Last night was proof that they do come! They're probably the most valuable ones we'll ever learn.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Halloween isn't really a big deal here in Italy, though it is starting to catch on. Pretty much every year since I've been here I've been dressing up and hosting parties for the occasion just to be disappointed with the turnout and the costumes (or lack thereof).  The excuse I hear over and over is that Halloween isn't an Italian holiday.  Of course I know that, but doesn't having fun cross over borders?

This year I'm happy to say we had a fabulous Halloween. I was dressed as a movie star in (faux) furs, a slinky black dress and a glamorous turban.  It's so much fun to get really dressed up once in a while. I got a lot of criticism because my costume wasn't scary enough, but I honestly think that real people are much scarier than gouls and goblins could ever be!

Sera was the tooth fairy.  Well, she was actually just a normal fairy but she kept telling everyone she was the tooth fairy and giving a huge smile.  Since her Grandpa was a dentist I see that as a good sign.  Her costume was store bought as I was busy with other things this year and didn't have a chance to be super-creative and mine was put together from things I already had in the house.

We started the 'evening' at 4pm with a kiddie Halloween-birthday party where Sera filled her tummy with cheese puffs and danced and screamed along with the other kids.  Then there was a modified and rushed trick-or-treating in the cortile of our neighbourhood followed by a Halloween dinner with her aunts and uncles.  After that we head over to the Halloween Party hosted by THEWONDERFUL architect and artist Duilio Forte at his home/atelier/workshop where he was hosting several theatre/musical performances for the night. After some exploring, a lot of dancing, socialising and running around at around 11pm the toothfairy went off to the land of nod.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Thank Goodness for Gratitude

You all know by now that  practise meditation and am on some kind of spiritual journey of discovery, but once in a while on my journey I stumble upon something that I think can be useful, or at least inspiring to even the least spiritual of you out there.  Take a few minutes to watch this video.

If you liked the video or would like to find out more what practising Gratitude can bring to your life, it's not too late to join the FREE 21-Day Gratitude workshop over at the Mentor's Channel .  It just started yesterday and I have to tell you that day one was inspiring! Just watching the video in the morning made my whole day brighter.

In the car on the way to pick up Sera it was raining and instead of thinking "Oh no, I'm going to get wet when I get out of the car!" I was thinking "Wow! I'm glad I don't have to take the bus every day to get Sera. And I'm glad that I took my umbrella!"  A shift of thinking made the entire car-ride pleasant and when I did arrive the few raindrops on the top of the umbrella, mixed with the birds chirping to each other through the storm was a beautiful symphony.  I felt lucky to be there in that moment... Lucky to be alive.  That's Gratitude and I want more!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Loving ProjectLife

A layout from July 2013

A few months back I got started up with ProjectLife, a form of easy scrap booking, photo and memory archiving and I thought I'd give you the update. Firstly, I love, love, love that I'm finally printing out and getting hard copies of Sera as she's growing up. She's so beautiful and amazing that it's really a shame that most of her pictures are digital. With ProjectLife all that has changed!

Here's how I approach the job:

  • Towards the end of each month I download all the photos taken in that month from our various cameras and devices onto the computer and put them in a folder for the month. Named, for example 13_10_October. I put the year and month in number format first so that when all my folders are lined up in their parent folder they're in order. I make sure to name the single digit months with two numbers as well. 02=February
  • I then go through that folder choosing my favourite photos and place them in a new folder for printing, cropping and resizing and digital embellishing as necessary.
  • Every month on the 27th we take a family photo in a photobooth around town. It's a tradition we've had since Sera was born. I make sure to scan this photo and re size it to 4x6inches so it will fit in a vertical ProjectLife photo sleeve.
  • I also go back to older photos and make sure to cover at least one or two 'archive' months. These are the months before I started ProjectLife. The ones we never printed any photos from... they span back to the beginning of time (or at least the beginning of my marriage!)
  • I order the photos on line for printing and wait.
  • When the photos arrive I check them against the 'toprint' photos to remind myself which months they belong to and I start my layouts.  I fill the photo pages with the photos and put in journalling cards int he spaces that are left over. Then I write my memories about those months on the cards.
  • If I feel that a layout needs more photos I go back to my folder from that month and set up a photo for printing in the next batch.

A layout from May 2013

I am loving how the project is coming along and love the journalling cards and what they add to the design of the layouts. It's really a fun project and it will be a treasure for our family for years to come.  At the moment I'm only doing a few pages per month but i can really see how someone could become obsessed and start documenting EVERYTHING!

I totally recommend this kind of scrap booking for a digital time.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Little bit of Autumn

As October is nearly coming to an end I thought I'd fill you in on our Autumn so far:

-This year I decided not to carve any pumpkins and instead to draw directly onto the pumpkins wth Sharpie markers. It's a quick solution and though I can't put candles in them they will last a little bit longer this year.  I can't wait until Halloween... Sera wants to be the tooth fairy!

-There are still flowers blooming in our tiny urban garden outside. Until last week I couldn't remember what colour these flowers would be but then as soon as they bloomed I remembered. Pumpkin orange! Perfect for the season.

-Sera and I have found a beautiful park behind her new school. Every morning we arrive a little early and park on the other side of the park so that we can walk through it and listen to the birds. After I pick her up, we do the same ont he way back to the car but this time can stop to walk across a log, collect leaves or pick the last wildflowers of the season.

-I pulled out my old Halloween decorations this week and found this old friend in the box. He's a papier mach√® cat I made for myself quite a few years back after reading an article about Lori Mitchell's version.  It's clear I didn't stray at all from her design so all the credit goes to her. Check out her other characters!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Canva Access Giveaway Winners!

Big congrats to Ana, Ana, Daniel, Rodrigo and Steve who have won instant access to Canva after having entered the giveaway last week!  Enjoy playing with this fun web-app!

Winners: make sure to check your inbox and or spam folder for the access invitation from Canva directly!

I'm hoping to be running more giveaways in the future so stay tuned!

Friday, 25 October 2013

100 Posts and Counting!

I missed the 100 posts milestone of this blog. It was 2 posts ago and I had been meaning to celebrate in some way but completely forgot... busy telling you guys about giveaways and paper crafts and such.

This post is my celebration of all the work I've put into this blog since I started it this past April. 100 some posts is quite an accomplishment for a hobby-blog that I wasn't even sure would survive past the 10th post. I'm happily surprised that I've stuck with it and am hoping to maintain this stamina for many more posts to come. I'll write until I run out of steam or ideas and I'm nowhere near that yet.

The interesting thing about becoming a blogger is that though I didn't exactly know what i would be blogging about at first I can now see a personal voice and style forming that isn't necessarily what I expected.  I thought I'd be writing a mommy-blog and it seems that instead I've ended up with a bit of an everything lifestyle blog, and a lot of my reader response is related to various health topics. I didn't expect that at all.  Below you'll find links to some of the other things I didn't expect to be writing about.

And now, a collection of a few of my favorite posts, either cause they were fun to write or have good memories attached to them.

I want thank my readers directly for following the blog and continuing to remain active in doing so. Every comment on the blog or via facebook is really what motivates me to continue it.

Special thanks go out to Michelle, Alice, Ana, Melissa, Raffa and Christine:  Even though I only know some of you via cyber-space I know that without you girls I wouldn't even believe anyone was reading and don't know if I would have kept the blog up.

I hope you're enjoying the blog and would love to hear from more of my readers. Leave comments below so I know what it is you like and what you hate!

**The graphics for this page were made with Canva... you can get instant access to make your own by participating in my giveaway!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cone Girl Cuteness!

I'm in love-love-love with these free printable cone-girl dolls that I found over at Mr.Printables.  Not only are they adorable but they're much more manageable for Sera's little hands than traditional paper dolls with tabs and they're 3D! What could be more fun?

Since I've printed them out Sera is OBSESSED with these. She does crumple them up every now and then out of sheer excitement, but then she brings them over to me and in a sweet voice says 'Mommy, I crumples her.. can you fix it?' and of course I do. She wanted to take them with her for a nap and we did have a few tears because I told her she couldn't and they would get ruined.  As soon as she woke up she asked me were they were. She says they're her favourite! For the cost of the ink and a few pieces of paper I think that it's quite a bargain to have a new favourite toy! I was also thinking that by simply laminating the cut-outs before assembling them you'd also have something that lasts a bit longer -less damage can be done during inadvertant crumples. I suppose that'll have to be for the next batch.  If you act quickly you can also print out the adorable halloween costumes for the girls in time for the festivities next week.

The Mr. Printables site is amazing because they also provide wonderful free printable paper toys, decorations, crafts and learning tools with beautiful graphic design.  Head on over to the site for access to all the printables or to the connecting blog where you can see loads of wonderful projects they're up to.  I love these robot emotions flashcards.  I find it adorable that robots, who normally don't express emotions are being used to teach kids about feelings. Clever and cute. Hooray for Mr. Printables!