Friday, 30 August 2013


This is the first in a series of posts about artists and people that I admire that I've found during my long rambling strolls through the world wide web.  Please be on the lookout for other THEWONDERFUL posts.

one in a series of amazing fox dolls
I'd like to introduce you to THEWONDERFUL Mimi Kirchner, art-doll maker, collector of scraps and creative inspiration.

I can't remember when I first stumbled on one of Mimi Kirchner's creations. It could have been when I was doing research for either Mimmi (Sera's Waldorf style doll.  Not the same Mimi of this post, but maybe that's where I subconsciously stole the name) or Princess Penelope, but in any case I began to follow her blog immediately and haven't been able to get enough since.  I'm thrilled that she's allowed me to share some images and info about her and her work with you.
An image of Mimi from her about page.... look at those handsome strongmen!

Mimi's work is super stylised and anything but your ordinary collection of dolls. She is focused on out of the ordinary subjects for her dolls such as tattooed strongmen, fish, foxes and more. You can see (and purchase! Hooray!) a selection of her recent creations in her Etsy shop online.  A tattooed lumberjack would make a wonderful, and unexpected gift for any rugged art-doll collector.

tattooes lumberjack available for purchase via etsy.

pattern available for free!
The thing I love about her work the most is how her sense of humour and individuality comes through in her characters. Each and every work I've had the pleasure of seeing from her is unique and full of whimsy and joy. Through her work you can really see that she has committed herself to fulfilling her unique and very special role in this world. She's truly an inspiration and I also hope to find whatever it is that I am uniquely gifted at one day.

If you're interested in experimenting with your own creativity through Mimi's unique style of doll making you can follow a full tutorial for free here on Purlbee with a printable pattern!  Thank you so much Mimi for generously allowing us to have a little bit of your magic at our fingertips as well!  If I ever get around to getting back to doll making this tutorial is first on my to-do list!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Chevron Delight - a laundry basket makeover

When I first bought my laundry basket I did so out of necessity and chose the least ugly of a vast selection of very ugly baskets.  I had told myself that I would redo the cushion and make it match the bathroom.  That was five years ago.
I guess it takes me five years of ugliness before I get to my limit because this week I'd finally had enough of the chartreuse, purple and poo-brown stripes and dismounted the lid from the basket for its makeover.
I know the chevron trend is almost over but I really like the look and never managed to get around to making anything with the style... So here goes.

The cushion was made from what seemed like a cotton canvas and wasn't really easily re-upholstered so I decided to paint it as if it were a normal canvas and hope for the best in regards to wear and tear. I used 3 coats of acrylic gesso to cover the horrible stripes and proceeded to tape out my chevron patten with normal masking tape.  I then repainted white over the tape to help it stick down and to not let it bleed too much. I wasn't worried about having perfect borders because I was going for a messier look so I wasn't too concerned with how much the tape stuck down or how neat the points of the zigs and zags were.

It was hard to choose a colour for the stripes, but in the end I decided on a grey that would match the bathmat we recently purchased. I found it a bit softer than the typical black on white chevrons.  When the white coat was dry I used a stripling motion with a quite dry brush to get the effect you see on the final basket.  I then waited a little while longer and peeled off the tape before the paint was completely dry.

I still haven't decided whether or not I'm going to paint the actual basket itself, but since it matches the floor of the bathroom I feel like for the moment it stands out a bit less with its original brown.  I suppose It could be a project for another day.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Tuscan Sun

 We just got back from 5 days in Tuscany.  What a wonderfully relaxing trip!

After arriving at Le Tegole, located near Riparbella with its own private 2km driveway, I didn't move at all except to venture out to some of the wonderful restaurants nearby... and why would I? The agroturismo is actually a collection of 11 farm houses on a hill that have been converted into rooms and apartments.  We had a place with it's own large kitchen, master bedroom and bath.  The structure also boasts its own restaurant, bar, two swimming pools a children's play area and a tennis court. We stayed there along with some other friends and when Sera wasn't swimming or swinging and sliding, she was playing happily with our friends' daughters or exploring the large grounds.

After 3 nights we moved further towards Florence to visit my hubby's cousins in Certaldo. When we were there we didn't do much more than spend time with family, but we did stay at the lovely hotel Certaldo which is an old mill on the river that passes through the town.  It too had a pool and though the weather was changing we still managed to get in another dip.  

I love going to Tuscany because regardless as to whether you're touring, visiting friends or family you're always going to manage to eat and drink well, and even the drive from one spot to another is breathtaking. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Bindi Cafe -

the bar/cafè

I recently had the pleasure of discoving the Bindi shop/cafe in San Giuliano Milanese.

Aunt Jemima syrup, YUM!... but 9€ is too expensive!
I should import it!
You may know San Giuliano only because you've passed by the exit while on the Tangienziale on the way to somewhere interesting or because you had to stop there to pick up something from IKEA, but the area, previously entirely rural or industrial, is now having a growth-spurt and many new shops are opening up. One of them is the Bindi shop and cafe.

It's a huge space with the shop half offering cakes and frozen foods, housewares such as teapots, cake decoration tools and books, candies, gourmet applejuice and even wines!  The cafe side boasts a huge array of pastries, cakes, sweets, danish, cheesecakes, cookies, coffee and gourmet coffees as well as bagels (a rarity in Italy, and impossible to find), salads and sandwiches at lunch.

We were there for the Sunday brunch where we were presented with a huge platter of dishes, including bacon and eggs, as well as various other savry treats and followed up by the sweet table.  The price is a bit on the high side at 17€ per platter, but they are happy for you to share and there's more than enough food to do so! I ate so much I didn't even have dinner that night!

I hope you enjoy this hidden spot as much as I did. Maybe I'll see you there sometime for lunch!

the shop

Bindi is a brand of cake, coffee and deserts which can be found in supermarkets, restaurants and bars throughout Italy and the world. The cafe and shop are open daily from 6:30am to 8pm.  They are located in Via dela Liberazione 1, San Giuliano Milanese.

For more info visit their site here.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

household binder

My home; when it's neat.
I spend a lot of time at home. It's my castle and fortress and small corner of paradise.  When it's neat and organised I'm at peace with the whole world.  When it's untidy and disorganised I feel like there's always something I'm supposed to be doing and that I have a battle waged on the universe.  It's crazy, I know, and even more so because I'm naturally a very very unorganised and untidy person.

In the past I have tried various systems and tricks to convince myself to pick things up as I go along or to put things back where they belong immediately after using them, but in my case it really requires discipline.  I would always rather be crafting or working on Hick! or playing with Sera than I would like to be cleaning up after myself.

A few years back I found a site called Flylady which promised to be my 'personal on line coach' to organising my home and clearing out clutter.  Sounded good but I took on to much at once and stopped following the system after a few months of an admittedly much tidier home.  The principle is pretty simple... join flylady and you'll get bite sized instructions of what to do in your home every day to keep it neat and clean. They call them baby steps.

One part of the system is to create and organise what they call a 'control journal', which is basically a binder where you keep all the important information for your home and family's lives to make things run smoother.  If you have a look on line you'll find a similar concept in terms such as home management binder or home management journal.

Since I've decided to try out weekly family meetings as suggested in the book I'm reading 'Positive Discipline', and since in that book the meeting needs to have someplace where you jot-down ideas during the week I remembered how much nicer it was to have the house nice and tidy when I followed my control journal. I dug it out and dusted it off, removing the stuff that made it complicated and brought it up-to-date.

So far it has:

an example of free printables you can find on line.
These are by Jamie at
-a section with my important daily (repeating) to-dos such as:

  • making my homoeopathic medicines
  • laundry
  • meditation
  • tidying for 15 minutes a day (with a timer so I don't get stressed and overwhelmed)
-a regular daily to-do list

-a long-term to-do list with things to be scheduled

-a section with meal plans. Special thanks goes to my hubby, who even if he thought it was ridiculous, got on board for family meetings this week and help me plan out dinners for the whole month!

-grocery list this is divided into smaller lists based on the category of the food, dairy, meat, produce, cleaning supplies etcetera.

-a section where we can list the meals we like and dislike.  This list will be added to as we go along so that he next time we do meal planning we have a list of dinner ideas we can just point to.

-important phone numbers... docs, neighbours, family, poison control (though this is also on the fridge)

-monthly calendar with any birthdays I could remember written out on it. This will be easier next year because I'll have the reference already!

-packing list in a dry-erase envelope so that I can tick off items as I pack.  This one is awesome because we're going away to Tuscany tomorrow and it took me 45% less time to pack!

-a page sheet where we can jot down ideas for the meetings and outcomes of what was discussed. 

other pages I would like to add in the future:

- a seasonal cleaning schedule

-weekly cleaning schedule

-weekly calendar with overview of what's coming up each week

-favorite restaurants & takeaways

-movies to rent

-books to read

-chore chart (for when Sera is a bit older and starts doing chores)

My home management binder is still a work-in-progress and I'd love to be able to find the time to do some custom layouts and stuff like that. At the moment it's really really basic.  If you'd like to become a bit more organised and are thinking of starting your own binder then you can find some really great free printables on line, including these really lovely ones over at DIY Home sweet Home.

Monday, 19 August 2013

I'm seriously considering that now is the right time for me to invest in a robot cleaner.

When they first came out a few years back there was no-way on earth I was going to be getting one. I already have a vacuum cleaner (dyson's ball) that I love and its little cousin, the hand-held version, so in theory my floors should be relatively clean most of the time.  That is of course, theory.  People warned me not to get chocolate brown floors but I didn't listen and still think that the pros of the colour choice outweigh the cons. I love the floors, I just don't love the dust and crumbs which seem to be ever-present and calling out to me on a daily basis. Back when the robots were first released I decided to be patient and wait until competition in the field grew and the companies who make them got to a decent level of working out the bugs. It seems with this most recent generation of robots there is a bit more balance between cost and benefit.

I'd love love love it if technology had already gotten to the point where they were as cool as Rosie, the one that the Jetsons' had, but alas, they are not. Instead, I'm looking forward to. Having what clearly resembles a large hockey-puck with flashing lights roaming about the room on a daily basis while I leisurely do other things which I enjoy more than vacuuming (this includes pretty much anything you can think of) I just hope it lives up to expectations.

So what if it doesn't? Maybe we can find other uses for the robot? I can think of a few and maybe you'll help me think of some more.

-transport system for Sera's dolls or small objects
-combined with a web cam it could be a spying device
-ride for a cat, if we had one

Do you have one already? What dio you think?  I'd love to know, and as soon as I do I'll let ou know how it goes too!

Monday, 12 August 2013

unexpected life lessons while on the potty

VANESSA BRADY makes up a great kit at
Love the wine and chocolate!!
Remember this post from last week on potty training? Well, here's the surprising follow-up; It was me, not Sera, that had the biggest chance for growth and learning from the experience and that it was me learning the life-changing lessons.

Let me elaborate.... The week started out well with everything going to plan. I would remind Sera it was time to 'go potty' and she would happily go to the bathroom and Sera have successes on the toilet.   We'd put up her stickers and do the happy dance and congratulate her and pretty soon she got into a routine.  I felt pretty great, but there was a but.... Once she knew that she was capable of success she lost interest. It was more fun to play or watch TV or simply say 'no, no no' when reminded to use the bathroom. Stickers and dancing didn't work anymore.

So I thought I needed new rewards.... jellybeans? That worked until we ran out of pink ones. Hello Kitty toilet paper? That only worked if she was allowed to have the whole roll... pleading didn't work, dragging her to the bathroom didn't work, withholding fun ('we can't go outside till you go to the potty') didn't work, threats didn't work, jokes didn't work.... it was all 'no, no, no' (and she came up with an adorable head shake and finger wiggle that goes with the words too, in case I didn't understand). By Thursday we were having regular screaming matches on half-hour intervals followed by what seemed to be deliberate 'accidents' and I knew I had a full-blown power-struggle on my hands. My mind started reeling, envisioning months of cajoling and fighting to come and I considered just giving up on the whole thing.  I didn't want to be the kind of nagging, manipulative mother I was becoming and thought I had to be to ' get the job done quick and easily' (to quote myself). I even spent all of Sunday morning with her in diapers again.  This wasn't working.

And why would it?

Sera didn't ask to be potty trained. She didn't say 'Hey mum, can you interrupt me every half-hour to make me go sit on the toilet to see if we catch the exact moment that I have to go from now on?' So why would she want that? And why would she be cooperative towards it?

It's that old saying that 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink'.  I can't make her learn to use the bathroom any more than I can make my horse drink on command (I don't actually have a horse, but if I did I couldn't make him drink on command of course, of course).  So I have decided that I will treat potty-training in that manner from now on.  I will lead and direct Sera towards using the bathroom and no longer using diapers, but I won't force it or even focus on it too much. Che sera sera, what will be will be.

What has been and is, is a very pleasant day in contrast to previous potty-training days. This morning Sera asked to be changed out of her night's diaper and chose her own underpants followed by me gently reminding her to 'listen to your body' on regular intervals but never suggesting that she actually go in the bathroom.  She has been following me into the bathroom when I go and asking me if she can do to and then managing to keep herself dry, so that's a plus!  Later on in the day when she told me she had to go I asked her what she wanted to do and she said she wanted to go in her underpants. I told her that they would be dirty and asked if she was sure. She said yes but then changed her mind (a little too late) and afterwards told me that she doesn't like to go in her underpants anymore.

That's pretty good isn't it?

As in all parenting steps, this is a new learning experience for me. I am learning that instead of being controlling, I have to control myself and my instincts first. Of course I don't want her to make herself dirty, but it is her body and her phase in life, I'm just here to guide her.  The experience (especially how I felt during and after the screaming matches) taught me that I also don't have all the parenting skills I would like to have and that some of the things that I have been doing are not working for me and my family. It's time to research other strategies.

I have come across something that looks interesting and promising and am starting to read up on it now. It's called Positive Discipline and if you're interested too you can have a look .... the post that really switched on the light for me about potty-training in particular was this one.

I still think that the books and the potty party idea from the previous post are great tools in terms of guidance for new potty-trainers, but I was doing the follow up all wrong.... I have to work with my child on this, not against her.... she has to want to master this new skill and I can't force it on her no matter how ready I am.  I still don't intend to put her back in diapers, just plan not to stress so much as she comes to the conclusion that wet underpants are no fun on her own, in her own time (I hope soon though!).

I'll let you know how my new strategy goes, in the meantime, there's still wine and chocolate (and jellybeans - every colour but pink!).

I'd love to hear how your potty training experiences went and if you met the same challenges I'm facing. Please leave some comments!

Friday, 9 August 2013

memory quilting: part 2

< back to memory quilting part 1

I've finally decided on a quilt that I'm going to use as inspiration for Sera's memory quilt.  It's from Amanda Jean over at Crazy Mom Quilts. I wanted something simple with sashing that showcased the individual fabrics and yet kept everything neat and tidy. I came across this quilt while researching how to do the math for planning the quilt I had in mind and found that if instead of the 9-square blocks I just use plain, simple blocks then the quilt is exactly what I'm after and will allow me to use even more of the clothes I cut because of the beautiful and colourful border made up of tiny blocks.

Check out more of Amanda Jean's amazing blog and beautiful quilting!
I also started cutting up the "materials" for the quilt (sounds better than destroying my child's precious clothing). I knew it would be a hugely emotional task if I did it alone in the quiet of my upstairs office so I took a few items downstairs at a time and cut them while sitting in front of the TV with Sera and hubby.  I started with my favourite pieces/memories first figuring it would be a lot like ripping off a band aid and in fact it was a smart choice. From the moment I made the first cut into her raspberry corduroy romper with the tiny pockets there was no going back. From then on the quilt had-to be made or I would simply be a vandal.

I swear, not all of her clothes are pink of fuscia!!
On my third trip back from the clothes stash Sera spotted me holding a really fun skirt and stole it back. What do you know!?! It still fit! It goes to show you that the sizing labels on baby clothes are really crazy because the last I checked she's quite a lot bigger than an 6-month old. I'm going to let her wear it for the rest of the summer and then find it a spot in the quilt in a central location, now that I know how much it means to her.

There is still a very long way to go, even with just getting through the clothes so I can start cutting my squares, but so far I'm feeling a lot better about the project than I thought I would.  

Here's a quick idea of the numbers to get an idea of how much cutting ill be doing in the next few months. The finished quilt requires 70 coloured 6.5" squares and 308 2.5" squares for the border + all the sashing, which I haven't bothered calculating yet and possibly some more coloured squares for the backing.  I'm waiting for my nice new ruler and rotary cutter to arrive before I even let my mind wander towards those cuts at all yet.

Oh my oh my! I'd love to have this done by the end of January for Sera's 3rd birthday but who knows!

Monday, 5 August 2013

ready, steady, potty!

yellow is a perfect colour scheme ;-)
Hannah @ Bonne Nouvelle
Last summer, sick of the cost and waste of diapers, I did an experiment to see if Sera was ready for potty training. She was only 18 months at the time and wasn't quite there yet so I put the project on the back burner for a while.

The project for this first week of August is to get the dreaded potty training out of the way.

I've been planning for this for ages and hoping to get the job done quick and easily without tears or tantrums.  I read up on different philosophies of potty training and decided that a reward-chart and potty party will probably be the best combination of strategies.

I've made a princess potty chart to motivate Sera with stickers and that seems to make her happy. I even drew a little picture of her being successful on the potty in the corner.  She's already used it on several occasions and is always very proud of herself when she gets a sticker. She even asks me if I would like a sticker when I'm on the 'potty'.

We've got a Fisher Price 'Little Mommy' potty-training doll that pees only on her own potty (cool use of magnets huh?!) some really great books (see bottom of post), frilly girly undies and even ipad apps.

Mindy Starr at Creative Juice threw
 this amazing party for boys and girls
The plan is to throw a potty-party for Sera after nap-time today where we train the doll together and then throw away the diapers 'for good' (I'm afraid to jump right into the night time and nap time sans-diapers).

Potty parties have become very trendy lately and you can get loads of inspiration on line if you're hoping to do something a bit over-the-top for the occasion... I don't know if it helps the training go any faster, but it is a fun excuse for a party if you have nothing else going on.

My version of a potty-party is going to be pretty simple in comparison to the above examples seeing we won't be having any guests (aside from dolls, bears and other favourite toys) but I do plan to inflate some balloons, have kiddy music, snacks and, importantly, drinks.  I think as a reward I'll be creative and propose pedicures, candy necklaces and other fun treats as well as the stickers.

Wish us luck! I'll post again about how it goes.

In the meantime here are some potty training books and toys we love:

Friday, 2 August 2013

August in Milan

Abandoned houses
Every street a vacant lot
The air unbreathable and choking
Scalding as a furnace
And thick as it's fumes

The children's games are long gone
Taking their voices with them
A swing hangs lonely
Its only friend the blinding, scorching, mirrored slide
reflecting the cyan sky screaming for clouds

Computer desks, their chairs still spinning
Power down from standby
Passwords will need to be reset
When it's all over
Earning forgotten

My heels sink inches into the asphalt 
A string of tar grabs on for transport
It too trying to escape
A bead of sweat has set up camp
Under my lip above my chin
No energy remains to wipe it away

My arms and legs itch and bleed
With raw open wounds
Victims to vampire, tiger, dragon bugs
Mutated beyond recognition

Stay indoors 
Move slow


Sounds apocalyptic doesn't it? No, it's just my experience with Milan in August

Every year Italians take advantage of the heat and escape the cities in the month of August for their holidays. Most go to the sea or the mountains and even most offices and businesses are closed for most of the month. August is probably the worst time to visit Italy because the cities are functioning at their very minimum and the resort areas and tourist spots are packed to the brim and very very expensive.  

Milan in particular is famous for being very, very uncomfortable in August. A lot of services are put on hold and even shops and restaurants can be closed down for weeks on end. The worst aspect of Milan in August however is the heat teetering between 35 and 45°celcius most days with high levels of humidity. It doesn't take very much time outside before that type of heat makes you feel like you want to faint.  The tar in the pavement of the sidewalks literally melts it's so hot.

I actually happen to like the empty city in August. There's no traffic and a sense of being in another reality. But then, I have air conditioning at home and am naturally hermit-like. There's even a hot line number 020202 and website where you can find out what's open provided by the city council!

For all you Milanese out there, you know what I'm talking about and I wish you a very happy 'Vacanze' season.  I'll be holding down the fort like most years and 'gasp!' staying behind this August. 

Here's my main plan for the month:
  • potty train Sera
  • frequent trips to the community pools
  • hanging out in the park (slathed with bugspray) on cooler days

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Meditation with Deepak and Oprah

I'm so happy to bring your attention to a new 21 day meditation series offered by Oprah and Deepak Choprah... 21-Day Meditation Challenge Miraculous Relationships 
You can register and participate for free here and it starts this coming Monday, August 5th.

I know I'm pushing my enthusiasm for meditation on you readers, but I really think that it's 100% worth giving a try.  I've already followed 2 of these mediation series and I have really enjoyed them.

I hope you'll give it a chance and will enjoy it as much as I will!