Gratefully Grateful *23*

18 Aug


Here I am sitting in my living room and catching my breath after a whirlwind summer road trip with my family.  Emphasis being on road.  We did A LOT of driving.  4000km in two weeks type of a lot.

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Many many beautiful family memories were made but I can’t tell you how happy I was to drive up our driveway a few days ago and be greeted by the famous Birdie The Cat.  Coming home is always like a sigh of relief.

So in the last 5 days we haven’t gone near our car, not even to go to the grocery store.  In times like this I’m happy I keep a well stocked kitchen.

Now off to enjoy the last weeks of summer vacation with my three favourite little people (who aren’t so little anymore).

Here are a few images that bring back summer memories and a heart full of gratefulness.

IMG_8924My girls have been bitten by the ever present loom bug.  And I am the proud owner of about 250 plastic bracelets now.
brightoncarousalI’ve fallen in love with Brighton and it’s abundance of buntings and beach carousels.

salisburtkidsTraveling as a family of four for a week was such a change (one daughter was in Holland attending a Film Camp). The family dynamic was so different to what we’re used to and getting a hotel room was so much easier (and cheaper!).  jumpseafordLook how happy I was to hike the Seven Sister Cliffs in Seaford, England.  And just behind us they were shooting a new Sherlock Holmes film.  Surprisingly enough they did not approach me to do a cameo jump shot in the movie.

Wishing you a great week!

Gratefully Grateful
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Family Travel in Italy

8 Aug

Over the last 13 years my husband and I have lived  and raised our 3 children in Italy and done our fair share of exploring this beautiful country as a family. When considering travelling to Italy, one traditionally thinks of the wealth of historical sites, the breathtaking art and architecture, and one of the best loved cuisines, all within the stunning natural beauty  from the Alps to the Aegean – a perfect tourist destination.

But, one of the things I love most about Italy, is that it is a family centric culture.  Here, in Italy, family has the highest priority and this shows in how they treat travellers to their country, especially families.

Inevitably, you will encounter kind and generous people who will go out of their way to make your small travellers happy and comfortable.  Italians love the little ones and aren’t shy to show it – usually by squeezing cheeks and loudly proclaiming “che bel bambino!”.  No worries, your kids will get used to it and will most likely return home with an amazing sense of self-confidence.

Living in Italy has given us the inside scoop on the best places to visit, most comfortable accommodations, favourite places to eat out and just about anything else you would need to know about traveling through Italy in famiglia.

Food:  IMG_6382

Italy is world renown for its delectable cuisine and luckily it’s also one that most kids absolutely adore.  On just about any menu your kids will find something they’ll love to eat (and recognise).  Some favourites of local Italian kids are Pasta Rossa (pasta with tomato sauce), Riso Giallo (saffron risotto), Milanese con Patatine (breaded pork cutlet with french fries) and of course Pizza Margherita (pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella).  And if you don’t see something your child likes on the menu don’t be afraid to ask – they are usually more than willing to whip up a simple pasta for the little ones.  My kid’s favourite thing to order in a restaurant is a variety or antipasto plates.  You can’t go wrong with sliced meats, cheeses, olives and fresh Italian bread.

Gelato:  

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Of course one of the main gastronomic attractions for kids in Italy (and adults actually) is the iconic Italian gelato.  Gelaterias are found on just about every street corner and are usually made with fresh, high quality ingredients.  A promised gelato will help kids get through the museum visits, the long hours of pavement pounding, the intense summer heat and the over exhaustion of traveling that can sometimes get too much for them.  Look for signs that say Gelato Artigianale for the highest quality and home-made ice cream.  And remember in the hot summer months it’s quite normal to visit a gelateria more than once a day!

Beaches:  

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When traveling with kids you can never go wrong with a beach visit.  And Italy boasts both a myriad of coastlines and beautiful lakes to choose from.  The world famous Costa Amalfitana (Unesco World Heritage Site), the Ligurian coast with it’s famous Cinque Terre villages, the Northern Lakes including Lago Como and Lago Maggiore and the pristine aquamarine waters of Sardinia will be appreciated by the whole family.

Italian beaches are very family friendly with chairs and umbrellas for rent, small beach playgrounds and restaurants just metres from the water’s edge. From here, parents can enjoy a plate of fresh Fritto Misto while watching the kids frolic in the warm waters.  Warning: since one has to pay for a space,  these beaches can end up being quite pricey but well worth it for a few days of relaxing family time.

Read on for more tips for traveling in Italy as a family…

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Traveling With Kids: Couch Surfing

1 Aug

My newest Traveling With Kids column is up on Classic Play today.  This time I’m talking about the Couch Surfing organisation and how it turns out to be quite family friendly.  Surprising for everyone, I’m sure.  I’m still not 100% sold on the idea but I find it so fascinating.  Pop on over and let me know what you think and, more importantly, if you would ever do it.

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Gratefully Grateful *22*

21 Jul

This has to be the strangest July weather-wise since I moved to Italy 13 years ago.  Usually at this time of year the weather is unbearably hot and humid and all we want to do is eat gelato and swim at the lake.  This year July has offered us cool temperature, lots of rain and even some hail and wind storms.  My kids keep telling me that it just doesn’t feel “summery” at all (except when we decided to head to Milan on Saturday and it was 38 degrees and nauseatingly muggy).

I personally am not complaining because we’ve been able to get house projects done without sweating profusely and we manage to actually sleep at night without the need of fans blowing from every direction (and last night we even needed to dig out a blanket).

But I know the intense heat will arrive and with it that lazy summery rhythm that we all love and look forward to.

Here are a few of my favourite images from the last little while.

IMG_8554Despite the milder temps we still make time to visit the lake on a daily basis.  We love those long lazy evenings with friends on the beach enjoying impromptu aperitivo picnics.IMG_8550My view from the picnic blanket.  I’m not complaining.IMG_8519A little family project that we’ve been working on this summer.  The kids pooled their savings and purchased this vintage camper.  Unbelievable how much it has changed since this photo was taken.  More pics soon.

IMG_8578Colourful walls in Milan.  And long skinny 12 year old legs.IMG_8182I came across this shot I took of Sweet Paul’s Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango and Thai Basil.  Must make again soon.  So good.

Have a great week everyone!

Gratefully Grateful
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Traveling With Kids: Musement Travel App

27 Jun

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of testing out a new Cultural/Travel App called Musement.  It was a great experience and an app that I’ll be using often on my family’s upcoming travels.  Find out what it’s all about and how it can make your travels a lot less stressful and enjoyable over on Classic Play (as well as what we did with it!).  Hint: it involves skipping line-ups at your favourite museums and events!musementclassicplay

Gratefully Grateful *21*

23 Jun

Oh June.  You’re a month that knocks me off my feet.  The end-of-year parties, going-away parties, birthday parties, school parties, bbq parties, recitals, plays, events and just about anything else you can think of have been keeping our days (and most evenings) BUSY.

Not to mention the World Cup which is all everyone is talking about over here in Italy.  Usually we’re a family that knows absolutely nothing about football (soccer).  We don’t understand the game, wouldn’t recognise a player if he walked past us nor really ever cared about who was winning or losing.  But somehow that has all changed and my Belgian husband and kids have become crazed.  You should have heard them screaming when Belgium made the winning shot (goal?) in last night’s game.  Hilarious.

Here are a few images to add to my Gratefully Grateful series…

IMG_8356 Test shot for our upcoming photo booth at a local pyjama run in support of kids with cancer.  A few years ago we folded those paper cranes (actually 1000 in total) for a little friend of ours who was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  He’s doing really well at the moment and we couldn’t be happier. (holy top knot!)IMG_8330If you follow me on Instagram you would have seen a similar photo to the one above.  I bought these golden raspberries at a local farm and have fallen head over heels for this fruit.  Sweeter than the traditional red ones but with a with a slightly different taste.  Can’t wait to make an Italian Crostata with Golden Raspberry Jam in the coming days.IMG_8322Happy to have this little guy back after 4 days away from home.  He had a blast in the mountains with his class but was overwhelmed with joy at the Welcome Home banner that his sisters made for his return.  
IMG_8286Last week our new couches arrived and with it 5 huge cardboard boxes.  My kids got out the paints and spent hours playing with and decorating those boxes.  Love that.  Who says tweens are miserable and always bored?  Mine definitely aren’t.

Have a great week!

Gratefully Grateful
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Gratefully Grateful *20*

17 Jun

It has been a while since I published a Gratefully Grateful post.  I’ve sat down several times to do it but for some reason just couldn’t.  And it’s not because I haven’t had anything to be grateful for lately.  It’s actually quite the opposite.

I’ve spent time with wonderful people (Mom!), visited beautiful places, eaten delicious meals, read interesting books, taken lots of memorable photos and planned exciting future trips.

But I’m happy to be back here today and share some of my favourite images of the last few weeks.  I really do love looking back on these posts and remembering the little moments and details behind them.

So…

Here’s to the end of the school year which is (slowly) coming to an end.
Here’s to sultry hot summer days and melted gelato dripping down my kid’s arms.
Here’s to the copious amounts of fresh local seasonal fruit that has taken over my entire fridge.
Here’s to upcoming rock concerts that we’ve been waiting for ages to attend.
Here’s to soon being able to spend lots of homework-free days and nights with my three favourite little (big) people.

IMG_7880The perfect combination of bright yellow farm equipment and vibrant red poppies.  With the addition of the world famous Barolo vineyards in the background.  IMG_7981A dapper young lad on his way to lunch at the famous Slow Food restaurant Boccondivino in the small city of Bra (Piemonte).  He loved it by the way.IMG_7816Another gorgeous rose arrangement in the beautiful Villa Porta Bozzolo. IMG_7810I give her less than a year before she’s taller than me.

IMG_7904Now this is my kind of chapel.

Have a great week folks.

Gratefully Grateful
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