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Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plants and Art

13 Sep

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After a relaxing summer vacation hiatus the Urban Jungle Bloggers are back and ready to start a new year of creative green posts from around the world.  This month’s theme Plants and Art is one that has produced some amazing images so far.  The combination of house plants with beautiful art just makes so much sense and can be interpreted in so many creative ways.
UJBartandplants2I decided to shoot a few of my favourite paintings with some thriving succulents that I bought a few months ago (they quadrupled in size this summer!).

These paintings are by American artist Larry Catanzaro.  I first saw his work at an exhibition in Merida, Mexico years ago (in the 90s!).  It was the first vacation that my now husband and I took together and the day after seeing the exhibition we actually got engaged. To make a long sappy story short, I eventually hunted down the artist in New York and bought a huge painting of his to give my husband as a wedding gift.  It was pretty romantic if I do say so myself.UJBartandplants3

I love Catanzaro’s naive style and use of contrasting patterns and bright colours.  We bought these three little paintings a few years after we got married and they’ve been hanging  in our kitchens in various houses since then.  They just make me happy and I have yet to see any other painting of a bunch of beets anywhere.UJBartandplants4I planted a bunch of miniature succulent plants in this old brass pot that I found at a second hand shop ages ago.  I hung it from a tree in my garden all summer and somehow they thrived in the extreme heat we had.  Even despite the neglect due to the fact that we were away for almost 2 months.  Take a look at how small they were when I first planted them here.

*Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series initiated by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on our website and Facebook page. Want to join? Use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Or let them know and they’ll share the badge and upcoming topics with you. Let’s bring some green into our homes and blogs!  

**Some really talented and inspiring Urban Jungle Bloggers were featured in the new issue of Dutch magazine VT Wonen (blogazine edition).  Take a peek and you’ll even see one of my UJB images and a photo of me hiding behind my lens (as usual).

Moroccan Snapshots

8 May

A few weeks ago I went on a beautiful 4 day Moroccan adventure with my mother and step-father.  It was so much fun to take them to one of my favourite places on earth and show them how much the country has to offer everyone who visits.

And I have to admit that they were some of the most gracious, enthusiastic and laid-back travel companions I’ve ever had.

The food, the countryside, the people, the culture, the weather, the cities…we saw and did so much in such a short time and it was absolutely lovely.

Here are a few of my favourite images from our time in the Moroccan mountains…

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Small colourful shops at the famous Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou.2015morooco1

This woman makes the most delicious bread known to mankind.

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Typical Moroccan decor.  Simple but colourful and warm.

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The perfect spot for lunch with views on the mountains, a lush green oasis and blooming bougainvillaea in every colour.

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The oasis of Flint, Morocco.2015morooco3

A visit to a typical weekly market near Ouarzazate,  This truck full of oranges was amazing.  So was the truck full of peas a little further down.

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Jazz hands.  Cactus style.2015morocco1

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My mother and I hiked up a steep mountain to get to this abandoned kasbah.  It was physically hard for her but she trudged through it and really pushed herself. I was so proud of her for persevering through the fatigue and pain and reaching the top. And I’m pretty sure she was tempted to push me down the mountain more than several times (I’ll admit it, I have a slight Drill Sergeant style while motivating people to push through pain).

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Green Gifts

4 May

2015ujbapril1Giving plants as gifts is one of my favourite things.  I love visiting friends’ houses and gardens and seeing the plants and flowers I’ve given thriving and growing and being appreciated.  And I really love the fact that when people see these gifts on their windowsills, book shelves and kitchen counters they sometimes think of me and our friendship.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

This month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers theme is Offer a Plant To a Friend.  Usually I give miniature succulents as gifts because they are easy to package and are a low maintenance plant for my friends who don’t have much of a green thumb.  A few weeks ago my daughters and I gave this one to a dear friend and it made her so happy.2015ujbapril3
But for this month’s UJB post I decided to re-create my favourite green gift that I ever received.  When my son was a chubby little four year old he arrived home from kindergarten one day with a little pot of self-sown water cress.  He proudly snipped off the sprouts and served them to me on a piece of bread and butter.  It was so simple but one of the most delicious little meals I’ve ever been served.  The big blue eyes and dimples helped I’m sure.
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I thought an “adult version” of this sweet little green gift would be perfect to take to a friend who had invited us to dinner and asked me to bring a little pre-dinner snack.

So about a week before the dinner date I sprinkled some watercress seeds on dampened cotton balls in a beautiful little hand-painted ceramic bowl (found at Maison du Monde).  They were ready just in time for the dinner.

I also took some tasty brown bread and the fanciest little tin of butter I could find (because when else would you spend 5euro on butter?).   The hostess was delighted with the gift and so happy that she could continue to grow the watercress in the little pot (I included a little envelope of seeds).

2015ujbapril4Not your typical “green plant” gift but one that I think a lot of people would love to receive.

*Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series initiated by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on our website and Facebook page. Want to join? Use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Or let them know and they’ll share the badge and upcoming topics with you. Let’s bring some green into our homes and blogs!  

Urban Jungle Bloggers: EASTER

4 Apr

2015UJBeaster6 copyHello and Happy Easter to all!  Over here in Italy it’s bright and early(ish) on Easter Sunday morning and we’ve already eaten lots of chocolate eggs (rolled into crepes!).  Soon we’ll be making the dough for our traditional Hot Cross Buns and while that rises we’ll go for a little stroll in the local woods. It’s going to be a lovely day.

As you can probably tell this month’s Urban Jungle Blogger’s theme is Easter.  It’s one of my favourite themes because it involves lovely spring colours and the birth of the new season, the blooming of beautiful flowers and, this year, the hatching of seven of the cutest little chicks.  I had been waiting on their arrival to do my UJB post this month and they arrived perfectly on time for Easter.

Who could ask for better props for an Easter styling image?  Even if they are incredibly uncooperative and poop on set.

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One of the plants I used is called Canterbury Bells (please correct me if I’m wrong).  My daughter picked it out at an amazing garden centre that we visited the other day and it has really brightened our home with the pink bell blooms and lovely greenery.

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The other plant is my beloved fresh cilantro.  Every year I buy so many cilantro plants and they all go directly to seed.  I’ve tried planting them in the sun, in the shade, in full ground and even in pots.  Nothing works.  I have a feeling it’s due to the extreme heat that we have in the summer (and NOT my bad gardening skills of course).  This year I’ll try growing it inside and see how it goes.  I love to cook with it so much (although I can’t even think about my favourite Chicken with Cilantro Sauce recipe due to those sweet chicks in the photo).

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These sage green eggs above were lovingly produced and delivered by our one and only adult chicken Dahlia.  After a long egg-less winter she started laying last week and we’ve all been enjoying omelettes made with eggs that are minutes fresh.  The lovely embroidered silk “nest” is actually used by women in India to help them carry large baskets on their heads.  An old man at a market in Jodhpur gave it to my girls as a present and we love it.2015UJBeaster9Enjoy your Easter everyone!
Last year’s origami inspired Easter UJB post here.
(ps…washi tape is the perfect egg holder!)

*Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series initiated by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on our website and Facebook page. Want to join? Use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Or let them know and they’ll share the badge and upcoming topics with you. Let’s bring some green into our homes and blogs!  

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Indian Snapshots *5*

3 Mar


2014IndiaJaipur21Threading flowers into garlands on the side of the road.

2014IndiaJaipurumbrellasMy husband saw me eyeing these large colourful embroidered umbrellas and said “too bad it would be impossible to bring one home”.  I took it as a challenge and successfully got one home. Maybe even more than one.  
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The impressive Amer Fort in Jaipur.  Once again my son made eye contact with a monkey who jumped on his back and started punching him. I spent two weeks screeching ” for the love of Lucy STOP making eye contact with the blasted monkeys!!”.2014IndiaJaipurflowergarland
They’re everywhere.  Luckily.
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One of the most stylish hairdressers I’ve ever come across. I’d love a few of those chairs for my living-room.2014IndiaJaipurkiteOne of the favourite past-times for kids in India is kite flying.  From almost every rooftop you can see little children with with their arms stretched skywards and their colourful kites floating high above.  My kids bought some kites made from chip bags for 5cents in a tiny town in the countryside and flew them off the roof-top of one of our hotels.  A highlight of the trip for them and a reminder to me that sometimes it’s the simple things that bring so much pleasure.

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Hawa Mahal in Jaipur.  Looks peaceful in this photo but the traffic right in front of it is absolutely nuts.  I almost died crossing the street to take this photo.2014IndiaJaipur22More garland threading.  Never gets old.

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Boiling block printed fabrics in indigo pots.

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Our car and driver for our trip to Bagru.  This guy was the epitome of cool and classy.  And that car was spotless and in mint condition.  Until my kids spent the day in it.

Indian Snapshots *1*, *2*, *3*,*4*

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Hanging Plants

27 Feb

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Time for another Urban Jungle Bloggers post!  Unbelievable that a month has already passed since the Plants and Tea theme in January.  Is it just me or does February always fly by? Here in Italy we’re already heading into spring and experiencing beautiful sunny warm days.  Everyone is walking around with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.  My favourite time of year despite the itchy watery eyes.

When I first heard this month’s UJB topic was Hanging Plants images of polyester, multi-toned orange and brown macramé monstrosities from the 70s came to mind.  But after browsing through some shops in Milan and Copenhagen and doing some research on Pinterest I came to realise that there are so many beautiful and contemporary ways to hang plants in your home nowadays.

2015UJBhangingplants2After thinking about it for a few days and looking for the perfect spot in my house for a hanging planter I decided I was going to go the DIY route for this month’s post.   I thought it would be a perfect little creative project to do with my kids while they were on February break and my daughters were happy that their room was going to finally get some greenery.  2015UJBhangingplants5First we made some little pots with air-dry clay that I found in a local craft shop.  It was really easy to work with and was dry the next day.  Plus, I love the milky white colour and texture of the dried clay so there was no need to paint them. 2015UJBhangingplants4Since my daughters are experts at decorating sticks with coloured yarn we decided to get some bamboo from the garden and deck it out a little.  2015UJBhangingplants8 2015UJBhangingplants6The result is so cheery and colourful and perfect for my twin daughters’ bedroom.2015UJBhangingplants7They’re pretty wonky and crooked but I love them.  And more importantly, so do my girls.

*Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series initiated by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on our website and Facebook page. Want to join? Use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Or let them know and they’ll share the badge and upcoming topics with you. Let’s bring some green into our homes and blogs!  

Indian Snapshots *4*

17 Feb

The other day I was perusing Expedia for flights (one of my favourite ways to pass a cozy winter evening) and I was so tempted to book a trip to India. Luckily my husband was sitting next to me and gave me one of his “are you off your head?” looks and I managed to not press PURCHASE.  I don’t know how long I’ll be able to resist though.

Here is the next batch of my favourite images from our recent trip to Delhi and Rajasthan.

2014indiajodhpur1I’m pretty sure this guy is paid to sit at the Jodhpur Fort and smoke his pipe.  And I’m also pretty sure there are thousands upon thousands of photos of him out there in the world.2014indiajodhpur9I loved this little girl’s brightly coloured outfit.  She was swirling around and giggling and generally making everyone in her vicinity smile and feel happy.2014indiabagru2One of my all time favourite things about India has to be the decorated trucks you see everywhere you go.  The time and effort that the drivers put into embellishing their trucks with stickers, tassels, garlands and pompoms and hand-painting the bumpers is unbelievable.  I asked one of our drivers to stop at a roadside “Truck Decoration” shops and I bought a suitcase full of all of the above.  Judging from the owner’s reaction I’m pretty sure I was the first tall blond female customer to enter his shop.  2014indiaudaipur6Woman doing her daily washing in the Rajasthan countryside.

2014indiabharatpur3Our bicycle rickshaws in the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.

2014indiajaipur4Even pigeons like to photo bomb.  Amer Fort, Jaipur.

2014indiatajmahal4Rest time. 
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Jodhpur. The Blue City.
2014indiabagru5Indigo pit.  Twenty metres deep.  I had to keep a hold of my son because he was way too interested in finding out if it was indeed twenty metres deep. Bagru, India.

2014indiaudaipur1Our breakfast table at our hotel in Udaipur. You can see the famous Lake Palace Hotel in the background (remember it from Octopussy?).

Indian Snapshots *1*, *2*, *3*

Days For Girls Update

12 Feb

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A little over a year ago I posted here about the non-profit grassroots project called Days For Girls.  I had just started up Italy’s first (and only) team and was really excited and full of ideas of how I could build up a community of women who would be willing to help me help girls around the world manage their monthly menstrual cycles with ease and dignity.

I’ll be honest, at the beginning it felt slightly awkward talking so openly about periods, pads and menstrual flow with complete strangers.  But I’m happy to say that I am now 100% comfortable talking about every detail of women’s reproductive systems with everyone from the local baker to my car mechanic.

For those of you who have never heard of Days For Girls I’ll quickly re-cap what the project is all about.

Days For Girls was started by Celeste Mergens in 2008 after working in a Kenyan orphanage and noticing that a lot of the girls weren’t educated about their menstrual cycles nor equipped to deal with it.

Soon thereafter Celeste started up Days For Girls which is an incredible and supportive network of volunteers around the world who make and put together re-usable menstruation kits that are then delivered to girls in need in over 60 countries around the world (over 60,000 kits have already been delivered).

These kits last for approximately three years and have literally changed the lives of girls and women who before had to miss school or work due to their periods.  This in turn has helped lower school drop-out rates in many areas as well as less loss income for days missed at work.  So much good!

This project has come to mean so much to me over the last year.  I’ve introduced Days For Girls at many local clubs and events and have always had so much enthusiasm from everyone I’ve met.  Even the sweet and hilarious 85 year old man who kept insisting that they would make perfect pencil holders before realising their real use.

One of the most common reactions I see from people as I explain the project is the feeling of shock when they realise that they had never actually thought about this problem before.  We think of helping people with food, water, clothing and shelter but rarely does it come to mind to help girls deal with monthly menstruation and educate them about women’s health and the female reproductive system.2014daysforgirls2 To hear more about our Indian kit delivery and see photos click to read on… Continue reading

Indian Snapshots *3*

2 Feb

After a whole week of being sick with a really bad stomach flu (like REALLY bad) I finally feel like a human being again.

Last week I didn’t even have enough energy to plug in my hard drive and wade through my India photos.  If you know me you’ll understand that means that I was practically on my death bed (have I ever mentioned I tend to exaggerate a teeny tiny bit at times?).

But I’m feeling good today and managed to put together the next set of my favourite images from our recent trip to India. Sometimes I can almost taste and smell the memories of that trip just by looking at the photos.  Love that so much.

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Tasseled pillows in the market place.  I resisted.  And I regret it so much.

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Miniature eggplants and the sweetest red carrots you’ll ever eat.

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Basket of flower garlands ready for the temple.

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This woman had so much character.  My kids were terrified of her though.2014indiadeegpalace5

We were so fortunate to have a guided private tour of this old palace in Deeg.  The ornamental tiger cage (for live pet tiger) was a favourite feature.  The kids spent hours running throughout the grounds, jumping over fountains, avoiding gangs of monkeys and having the time of their lives with their friends. A favourite day on our trip in India.2014indiajodhpur6

While visiting the fort in Jodphur we came across this sweet little parakeet.  He was the most curious little guy who seemed to love getting his photo taken.  If you’re interested I have about 659 other photos of him…2014indiajodhpur8

This is his shy pose.2014indiajodhpur12 I almost can’t look at this photo because of the sadness of not being able to get a hot syrupy bowl of Gulab Jamun is too much to bear.  There is nothing like it on earth.

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Temple visiting.

Indian Snapshots *1*
Indian Snapshots *2*

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plants and TEA

29 Jan

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It’s time for the first Urban Jungle Bloggers Post of 2015!

As I’ve mentioned in my past UJB posts I don’t have what you’d call a green thumb.  I think I might have even referred to it once as a sooty black toxic thumb.

But I’m happy to say that after my new re-found love of having lots of greenery in my home (thanks to Judith and Igor) my thumb is turning an ever so slight shade of the lightest mint green possible.  And I hope that with every month that passes the greenness will get brighter and more vivacious.  And that I’ll be able to keep more and more plants alive and happy.

But really, look how that sweet little succulent above is so healthy and, I like to think, very content looking.

At the moment I have a few that are thriving.  And a few that are…not.  But I’m keeping positive and learning a lot from all of the great links that the UJB team post and share.  It’s become such a fantastic and supportive green community of people around the world.

This month’s theme is Plants and Coffee (or Tea like I chose).2015urbanjunglebloggersjan4Since my twin daughters are laden down with (way too much) homework we rarely have time to sit down to a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate anymore.  So a few Sundays ago I decided to hide their books and persuade them to take a study break with me.  That’s right, they’re so studious that I have to HIDE their books for them to agree to take a break.  I’m a proud mama.  And at times like this a bad influence. 2015urbanjunglebloggersjan11I used my new teacups from Dutch designer Esther Horchner.  I love these so much.  I had them on my Wishlist board on Pinterest for years so when I saw them in a local shop on sale I knew I had to get them.  I just hadn’t expected them to be so shocking for some of my guests (seriously, some of them have to close their eyes when they sip their tea).2015urbanjunglebloggersjan5I decorated the table with some of my favourite miniature succulents and cacti.  I found the little copper container at a second hand shop for 2 euro and it’s perfect for these miniature plants I picked up at my local plant shop (I make a concerted effort to buy all my plants locally from small family businesses).2015urbanjunglebloggersjan2And because I’m a fabric and textile lover I decided to use my coveted piece of Japanese double gauze designed by Nani Iro  that has been sitting in my fabric cupboard for over a year waiting for the perfect sewing project.  Turns out it makes a perfect cloth to adorn an afternoon tea party with the two coolest almost thirteen year olds around. And their equally cool mama (right?).2015urbanjunglebloggersjanwithlogo *Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series initiated by 2 bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks. You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on our website and Facebook page. Want to join? Use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram. Or let them know and they’ll share the badge and upcoming topics with you. Let’s bring some green into our homes and blogs!  

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