Friday, 28 June 2013

well dressed for 30 days challange finale!

This past may I started a challenge to wear a dress for every day of the month instead of my usual uniform of jeans and a t-shirt. Unfortunately, it took me over a month to get around to finishing working on all of the photos from that challenge.  But finally, here they are!

I learnt a lot about my wardrobe during this challenge. Yes, I can look nice in dresses but I think that for me they are somewhat more of a special occasion garment, to be worn in contrast to my everyday items. I'm just not as comfortable in a dress than in trousers, but it is fun to get dressed up once in a while.  I do have some new favourites, especially the maxi dresses, but there are a few that I'm thinking of tailoring as well.

It's nice to give yourself challenges like this every once in a while cause you get to know yourself too. Instead of just getting up in the morning and following a regular habit I was forced to think about what I was wearing and how it made me feel. That's all part of mindfulness as well and I think I've learnt a little bit more about myself...

Especially about procrastinating on getting this post out!!  If you'd like to leave a comment, let me know what your favourite dress/day was so I can make sure to wear that outfit again sometime!  Also, make sure to tell me if you see an outfit that's horrendous!

Monday, 24 June 2013

more fun with tissue paper

After finishing this mini-project of making tissue paper flowers I had left over scraps of coloured tissue paper and a very curious toddler hanging around my work area.  So I mixed up one part white glue to one part water, ripped up some extra colours and let her go ahead and have some fun creating! This is really a very easy way to keep the kids busy for a half hour... But due to the messy nature it does require supervision (also to make sure they do t decide to taste the glue! It did look yummy!)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

tissue paper flowers

My favourite flowers are poppies. As soon as the warm season arrives here in Milan even the ugliest most industrial roads get an amazing pop (poppies? Pop?) of colour as the edges of the road, untamed and unkempt burst to life with tall grasses and gorgeous red poppies.

A few years back I went for a walk and picked a few on my way home only to discover, to my sad dismay, that by the time I got them home they were wilted and gone. It seems that this flower can only thrive under its own terms, unconfined, unchained, uncultured and wild. Another reason to love them!

So until I'm blessed with a garden of my own, and a patch to dedicate to a wild garden, I'm afraid I won't be able to decorate my home with the lovely things.... I guess it also means more drives down industrial and country roads.

I cant decorate with the real thing, but then I came across this tutorial for tissue paper flowers... Specifically poppies and knew I had to try it right away. Unfortunately I didn't have red or black tissue paper on hand but I did knock up see three lovelies to help decorate a birthday gift. Oh boy they're fun to make and look at... As soon as I have the red and black I'm going to make myself a bedside bouquet! In the meantime, the lovely little flowers can be made into magnets as in the tutorial, decorations for wrapping gifts, or even hair accessories... Though I doubt they'd last too long, being made of paper.

Why don't you make up a few?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Save the skirt!

Sera and I have been stuck indoors sick with the flu for the past few days and so, as always when I get bored I've also gotten quite crafty and have started to tackle all those small projects I've been meaning to get to.

One of them was putting away one of her favourite baby skirts into the 'to keep' box in my office. Even though the skirt was a tiny 6 months and had built in diaper covers I was reluctant to pull it from her wardrobe in circulation. 'It's adorable!' My heart sang... 'Its too small!' My logical mind concurred...

Well, I never did get the skirt up into the box. In fact, I now have a new problem... Sera won't take it off!!! We're now going on 38 hours that she's been wearing the skirt non stop and heaven knows what's going to happen when I have to dress her in something else when she goes back to daycare.

Here's why:

I started with the skirt as it was and did some measurements. I realised that if I dismantled it and put it back together in another form it would probably be quite cute and father for another few years. With a seam splitter I carefully removed the waistband and separated the other three layers (the top skirt, underskirt and diaper cover). Then I opened the back seam of the two skirt layers and flattened them out. I cut a new piece of cotton fabric (from a beige sheet which had been downgraded/upgraded to the sewing scraps box) to form the 'base' of the new skirt. I folded over a waistband into this new piece and sewed on the upper skirt to the new top of the skirt that was created. Then I measured down the distance to where i wanted the second ruffle to begin and pinned the slightly gathered underskirt in place. I also sewed on this piece until I had what looked like an opened straight skirt with ruffles. I thread an elastic through the waistband I had created and sewed the skirt closed, first with wrong sides together and trimming the excess and then right sides together for a neat finish.

As an extra bonus I realised that if I simply sewed the waistband I had removed from the first skirt closed again it made a perfect elasticised headband. So now that coordinates too!

I'm very satisfied with the finished skirt and its inspired me to look for other baby clothes I can alter in this way. I'm tempted to rummage through that 'to keep' box with a fresh eye... After all, what am I keeping it for if not to reuse or remember. This kind of project has been wonderful for both!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

shrinking & recycling fun

I loved shrinky dinks growing up. There was something extremely satisfying about sitting that close to the oven and watching something transform into a smaller, brighter version of itself. In our household, we normally had Spiderman, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears and Smurfs shrinky dinks on hand. Ah... memories.

I looked into getting shrinky dinks recently and they're just not as cool as I remember them.. and the cost is absurd. Especially when I found out that the plastic that's used for shrinky dinks is exactly the same plastic I've been throwing in the recycling bin daily... food grade number 6.

So I started checking all my plastics before throwing it away and found that a lot of my food comes in the shrinky-dink variety.... my pre-prepared salad, favourite yogurt and even my eggs all come in number 6.  I collected a small stash and today got into my experiment as Sera is home from daycare with a bit of a cold.

We started out with the salad bowl as it was the largest surface in all my recycling.  I had Sera colour it al up with permanent heat setting fabric markers and then started cutting out the forms. At first I was thinking sun catcher for her room, but then I remembered that the plastic was going to shrink to about 10% of it's current dimensions and realised that making a necklace with the pieced would be more realistic.  I was a bit worried about the sides of the bowl as they were bent into an octagon, but everywhere I read about this process said that even textures eventually go flat.

After colouring, Sera got washed up and went off to play as I set out to cut up the bowl and punch holes in the ends of each piece (with a paper hole punch).  I made sure to round out my sharp edges (but this can be done afterwards with sandpaper as well). Then I preheat the over to 170°c (roughly 350°F) while laying out the objects on a piece of tin-foil.

I was thrilled when about 30 seconds later my items began to curl up and coil exactly like real shrinky-dinks!  I'm going to turn these ones into a funky neon necklace. Recycling is awesome!

The possibilities are endless with this process... I have tons of ideas but I'm out of plastic for the moment. Better get to eating what's in the fridge!  Can't wait for my next go!

Monday, 17 June 2013

No-poo week two

Christie Brinkly in an early Prell Shampoo ad
So in the past few weeks I've been following a no-poo (that's shampoo, just to make sure we're clear) regime in the hopes of having longer, healthier hair and to use less chemicals in general. Read about how I got started here.

I've done three washes with the baking soda solution followed by three apple cider vinegar rinses so far and haven't officially used shampoo or conditioner in my hair for over 15 days. My observations so far are only positive... My hair seems thicker, dries quicker, is less greasy and holds a style even in the humidity of Milan. Since I've been trying to limit my cleansing to once ever five days or so I have noticed that around day four I'm really wanting to go with a simple ponytail or up-do cause my hairs getting a bit scuzzy around the roots but that's nothing new for my hair and when I was using shampoo I had that sensation every three days instead. My hair feels lighter... Somehow it feels more like hair? Does that make sense cause its possible I'm attributing some sort of metaphysical properties to the experience that's not actually there!

I'm also thrilled that one of my best friends has jumped on board and is also trying the no-poo method. I spoke with her last night and she says she's delighted so far with the results. She had hair all the way down her back, much thicker than mine, and if she's happy too we must be doing something right.

So is shampoo a conspiracy? I did a bit of research into the origins of shampoo and was shocked to find out that washing your hair daily was only made popular in the 1970's. Who by you ask? Advertisers of course (with the help of some familiar models as spokeswomen). I was also concerned to find that a principle, synthetic ingredient in many shampoos has been shown to destroy immature and developing cells in lab tests. Though food and drug administrations globally have stated that the quantities found in commercially available shampoos should do no harm, I'm less convinced. What does this mean for pregnant and nursing women passing this chemical onto their children? When you believe that you need something you'll spend loads of money on it, poison yourself for it and change your daily habits to maintain fulfilment of that need. But is shampoo something we really need to be doing?

So in this newest time of simplifying our lives, cutting our budgets and limiting our use of chemicals, not only for our own health, but for the environment that we all share, no-poo is starting to make sense on more levels than just an aesthetic one!

I'm going to keep on trying to teach my hair some new body language, but not the one mentioned in the ad.

Oh, and if like my friend, my post inspires you in some way to make some positive changes please leave me some comments!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

autoimmunity - part 2

This is part two of my personal story on autoimmune disease/disorders. To read part one please click here.

I was really nervous during the drive to Marina di Massa to visit the homoeopath. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't what I found when we arrived.

The office was quite small with a waiting room with 5 chairs and a table with magazines. We were greeted by a very kind and happy-energetic receptionist and told to wait a few minutes. I was then directed into the doctor's office and asked to sit in a wooden director's chair and to take off all my jewellery, socks and shoes.

The doctor was reserved and quiet, kept pretty much to himself and didn't explain much. The MORA machine, which too me looked like an electroshock device from the 50's sat on the table in front of him. He wet my hand (I still don't know what with... probably just plain water), placed metal plates under my feet, handed me a metal rod connected to the machine, then took my other hand and started to poke it with another rod, this one ending in a dulled metal point, also connected to the machine.

The MORA machine was created in the 1970's by German physician Dr. Franz Morell and electronics engineer Mr. Erich Rasche t measure the electromagnetic component of the body. All substances, whether living or non-living, emit electromagnetic frequencies based on the amount and rotational speed of their atoms. Every bio-chemical process in a human or animal's body are controlled by the “information” carried by electromagnetic oscillations. The MORA machine is able to read this information as electrical frequencies and find any imbalances in an individuals electromagnetic oscillations.  Then with the help of traditional acupuncture points (although without any actual needles or breakage of skin) and homoeopathic remedies, can help to rebalanced these problems.

So the machine finds your bodies' issues and then suggests cures based upon components that will balance these electromagnetic oscillations.

My appointment lasted 2 hours, the first hour and an half connecting the machine to each of my accupuncture spots in my hands and feet correlating to my major organs.  In my case the machine picked up 3 viruses my body was combating: Streptoccocus, Epstein-Barr (aka Mononucleosis), and Campillobacter (Helicobacter-Pylori). It registered several common allergies including pollen, grass and dust as wel as gluten, which was quite shocking and upsetting as the doc told me I'd have to cut out the pasta, bread and grains that I've gotten accustomed to eating since living in Italy.
The machine seemed to pick up on things I hadn't even mentioned to the doctor, such as my policyctic ovaries and frequent bladder infections. It revealed several zones of degeneration and inflammation in my body: bladder, ovaries, stomach, intestine, joints and articulations, eyes. The doc said my arthritis and fatigue and pretty much all of my symptoms would be due to my immune system not knowing, or having forgotten, how to deal with those three very common viruses.  The last half hour of the appointment was spent more or less searching for the right homeopatic remedies which would balance the oscillations. If the machine's dial read 50% the homeopathic remedy would work.

I was sent home with a shopping list of homoeopathic remedies to order from Switzerland.

Now, let me mention that there is a LOT of talk on the internet about how MORA practitioners are fraudsters and how the machine doesn't work and blah blah blah... I'm a sceptic at heart and definitely felt ridiculous sitting in the chair holding the probes, but no more so than when I have had countless blood tests and x-rays and side effects to 'modern' medicinal practises and drug treatments.... should I now go and claim that my own rheumatologists and immunologists have been fraudsters and that steroids, cortisone and antibiotics don't work?

More on my life with homeopathy, Marina di Massa and going Gluten free in a future post.
Images from

Monday, 10 June 2013


double hair knot picture

 I've only been shampooing about once every five days for a while now so I thought I'd take advantage of the warmer weather and give the no-poo method a try.

What? You haven't heard of no-poo?  Here's a quote of the Wikipedia description of the practice:

The first synthetic shampoos were introduced in the 1930s,[3] with daily shampooing becoming the norm in the US by the 1970s and 1980s.[1] Proponents of "no poo"-practices believe that shampoo removes the natural oils (sebum) produced by the scalp—causing the scalp to produce more oil to compensate.[1][2] They also believe that regular shampooing causes a "vicious cycle" to develop as it becomes necessary to shampoo regularly to compensate for the excess oils produced by the scalp (which are produced in response to being stripped from the scalp by the previous shampooing).[1]According to some dermatologists, a gradual reduction in shampoo use will cause the sebaceous glands to produce at a slower rate, resulting in less oil on the scalp and hair.[2] In the 2010 book Packing for Mars, Soviet research is quoted as "the skin halts its production of sebum—after five to seven days of not bathing...."[4] The time taken to break the cycle after adopting "no poo"-practices varies, however a "two- to six-week period" is typical.[1]

... So basically, not using chemical shampoos and instead adopting natural products as cleanser and conditioner for your hair is better for you and will make it less oily in the long run. Sounds like its worth giving it a try!

I researched my own cleaning recipes on line and decided to go with what I found most frequently; baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as a cleansing rinse and then an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition.  Both rinses are one teaspoon to one cup ratios.  You mix up the ingredients in two separate ups and hop in the shower... Wet your hair, and throw on the baking soda mixture, keeping close to the roots. Rub it in well and then rinse well. When I did tie I got a strange sensation that my hair was squeaky clean... Like when you wash a Tupperware container and the soap rinses all the oils away really well and you can hear it squeak.  Then do the same with the vinegar rinse but concentrating on the lengths of your hair. Don't worry about the smell cause it doesn't remain on the hair at all and I didn't even smell it in the shower, it being diluted before.

I did my first 'wash' today and dried my hair with the dryer on low heat right afterwards and the first things I noticed were how shiny my hair was and how thick it seems. It wasn't even more tangled than it normally is when I use a heavy duty conditioning treatment, and I expected to be fighting with knots.  I will keep you posted as to how it goes!

Looking forward to healthier, shinier, longer hair!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Well dressed for 30 days Challenge days 16 - 19

This is part 3 of the Well Dressed for 30 Days Challenge in which I'm forcing myself to see if I can wear all the dresses in my wardrobe that I don't normally wear, without compromise, for 30 days.

To see part one please click here and for part 2 click here.  Though the challenge is now finished and I'm back to jeans I'm still working on getting all the photos together and edited for you so you can see how it went. Here are days 16-19:

Day 16

Cream sweater: Joe Fresh, Forest Green dress: Mango

Day 17

Dress: Mango
Top: Stradivarius

Day 18

dress: BCBG

Day 19

chocolate and cream striped dress

Monday, 3 June 2013

autoimmunity - part1

For a very long time I followed the route of steroids and antibiotics for my own chronic health conditions moon-face for a year while taking cortisone based steroids for my arthritis but still had the arthritis.  I was lucky enough to change doctors in 2006 and what followed was a period of 5 years where I took penicillin for five days a month to combat and circumvent my body's exaggerated autoimmune reaction to the streptococcus virus.  Anytime I mentioned taking antibiotics on such a regular basis, for such a long time, people seemed very concerned and asked how the rest of my system was handing that. Well, it was a concern that of course I had as well... but at least I no longer got locked in rooms because I couldn't grip and turn a doorknob. Suppressing the strep virus worked and my hands didn't swell.  I was happy to remain a long-term antibiotic treatment patient, for as long as it worked and I could live a normal life without steroids, of which the potential side-effects were worse (and in my case, which didn't work anyhow).

Then in 2010 I got pregnant and my immunologist and I decided to suspend the antibiotics and 'see what happens' for a few months... in the interest of the foetus of course I was happy to have joint pain, fatigue and swelling... isn't that what pregnancy is all about for a healthy woman as well?

When you're pregnant the maternal immune system is modified in order to achieve immune tolerance toward paternal antigen expressed on foetal cells.These modifications, which occur both at the
foeto-maternal interface and in the systemic circulation, are driven by oestrogen and progesterone
whose blood concentrations increase during pregnancy.  This means that your immune system, triggered by the oestrogen and progesterone, takes a chilled out back seat during pregnancy in order to let the little baby survive in the womb.  Otherwise, half of the baby would be recognised as foreign to the mother (because it caries the DNA and genetic mapping of the father) and destroyed.  If this system doesn't work in fact, miscarriage is inevitable... as is the case in several autoimmune diseased where the natural immunosuppressant doesn't kick in in time (this may explain also why so many autoimmune pathologies have trouble 'getting pregnant' in the first place...  the embryo is rejected by the over-active system before it ever had a chance to register any hCG in the urine or blood).

In my case, pregnancy turned me into a healthy woman for the first time in 10 years. I had no more joint pain or swelling, was not taking any medication to control my symptoms and had a wonderful pregnancy with little discomfort, fatigue or dismay.  Yay for a suppressed immune system!

After Sera was born, it was a different story.  My joint swelling and pain came back with a vengeance in order to make up for my nine month holiday.... and what's worse, going back on the antibiotics didn't help at all.  My A-Streptosilinico levels were at an all-time high and the stress of a new baby, sleepless nights, breast-feeding and back pain didn't help at all.... what was a girl to do? My immunologist, with an apologetic face told me that I'd have to start injecting a stronger form of antibiotics into my buttocks on a monthly basis just to feel normal. There I was, nostalgic for the carefree, easy days of opening pickle jars and bending my fingers to make a fist that I had just experienced during pregnancy and he was telling me my disease had progressed... depression wasn't far away.

I asked about acupuncture, hypnotherapy, homoeopathy, osteopathy, massage therapy, changing diets, drinking more water, hormone therapy (hey, if it worked when I was pregnant)... friends even joked that I should become a surrogate, but after a traumatic birth experience, that wasn't in the cards.  I looked into everything and anything and the doctors' answers were always that it 'couldn't hurt to try'... but they weren't confirming anything.

When Sera was 6 months old, on a friend's passionate recommendation, we packed up the car and drove three hours to a doctor's appointment with a homoeopath who uses the MORA machine in Marina di Massa and I haven't taking traditional medicine since.

More on MORA, Marina di Massa and homoeopathy in a future post.