Tag Archives: kids

Moroccan Snapshots *2*

19 Mar

A few more snapshots from our trip to Morocco…

IMG_4913Our favourite Moroccan cat sleeping on the outdoor terrace of our favourite Moroccan guesthouse.

IMG_4995 Almond blossoms with abandoned Kasbah in the background.

IMG_4971Oasis.

IMG_5038After a 5 hour hike to an isolated Berber village we were invited to have lunch in a local family’s home.  They made us the best tasting meal of our lives using this simple gas fire and metal tagine.

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Moroccan chicken.  Without the delicious spices. Yet.
IMG_5166A great way to sit back and relax after a 10 hour hike in the mountains.

Moroccan Snapshots *1*

Gratefully Grateful *4*

31 Jan

Oh this Gratefully Grateful series is working wonders for my psyche.  I spend my days really looking for things that I’m grateful for and that make me feel good and positive and all warm and fuzzy inside.  I often find myself making mental notes of beautiful things that I see, kind people I spend time with, new things learned and ways that I can possibly change my life and my family’s for the better.  Guys, I have become Pollyanna and I am so happy about it!  Yeah, there are still those difficult and stressful moments but I let them pass quickly and get on with the good parts of my life.  And I’ll be honest about the fact that I am so fortunate to have so much good in my life.  I know not everyone does.

This week I am grateful for…

DSC_0137-001…the fact that my daughter has no fear of bright colours and patterns and mixing the two as she pleases.  Even if she ends up looking different than anyone else around.

IMG_3922…our new family hobby geocaching and how it has made our week-ends so much more fun.  Check out our homemade ‘calling cards’ that we leave in the caches we find (and our corny tag-line too!).CTCNEWLOGO…that I won a space in Xanthe Berkeley‘s online course Creating Time Capsules.  I’ve been eyeing this course for ages and still can’t believe that I WON SOMETHING!  Many thanks to Xanthe (who is one of my favourite photographers).

Gratefully Grateful *1*, *2*, *3*

I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for this week.

Enjoy your week-end!

PBS ‘Pen Pal’ Video

22 Jan

As some of you may know I’m a huge fan of snail-mailing and pen-pals (see some of my snail mail projects here and here).  It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little girl and something that I got my kids involved in since they could just write (those early letters are almost impossible to understand but man are they cute!).  They started writing letters to their grandparents and slowly over the years started writing to some of my friend’s kids who live in other countries around the world.  For our kids writing to their pen pals was also a great opportunity for them to practice writing English (my kids are schooled in Dutch and French).

Over the years I’ve loved seeing the relationships they’ve formed with their pen pals and hearing about their big plans to all meet in person one day in the future.  In this technologically focused world these little things make a huge impression on our kids.

A few weeks ago Jen and Dave asked me if I would help them with the new episode of their PBS Adventures in Learning series and when I heard the topic was Pen Pals I jumped at the opportunity.  It was so much fun to help make (with lots of help from my better half who has the patience to figure out how the video feature on my dslr works).  Take a peek and let me know what you think!

Gratefully Grateful °1°

7 Jan

Hello and Happy New Year to you all!  I still can’t believe it’s 2014.  Wasn’t it just 1986 and we were all hanging out listening to Manic Monday by The Bangles in our Benetton rugby shirts, teased bangs and frosted pink lipstick?

Sometimes I still can’t believe I am a wife, a mother of three and….a grown up.  An almost 40 year old grown up.  Almost.  I’m going to enjoy my last months of my 30s like you wouldn’t believe.  Then I’m going to enter my 40s with flair and enthusiasm and a positive attitude about ageing.  Hold me to it.

I’ve been pretty much off the grid the last months (except on IG – I love that community so much) and I’ve really missed writing and posting here in this little space of mine. As I mentioned in my last post we went through a hard time this past fall.  My daughters lost a very good friend to cancer.  It was so deeply sad for us all.  Seeing and helping my daughters grieve while trying to deal with my own grief was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. I was in survival mode and there were moments when I thought I was going to crash.  But we made it through.  And although we miss our little friend every single day and think about her often life has continued.  We have so many beautiful memories of her and those memories are making the pain of losing her feel a little bit softer every day.

So to get a positive start on the New Year and to motivate myself to get back to this space I’ve decided to start a new  project.  I’m going write a weekly post about things I’m grateful for.  After everything we’ve been through that’s what has touched me the most.  The fact that I have so much to be grateful for (I know it sounds cliche and cheesy but it’s true!).  And to go a bit deeper, I’m really grateful for being grateful.  There were moments in the last months that I couldn’t get past the low feelings and emotions to see all those wonderful things I have in my life.

So here’s to picking up my neglected (but much loved) camera again.  And to seeing the world through rose coloured glasses.  If you want to join me in this project I would be ecstatic.  Just leave a comment with a link to a post or photo or whatever else you’re grateful for.  And hey, why don’t we even create a hashtag as well!  #gratefullygrateful14 would be perfect.  So here we go!

I’m grateful for…IMG_3014-002

…my kid’s artwork.  It just makes me smile a lot.


…the coloured houses on the island of Burano.
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…people who paint multicoloured chairs.DSC_0126-001

…kids who photo bomb my shots of decrepit walls.IMG_3177

…fountains such as this and seeing my kid’s reaction when they figure out where the water comes out.

Enjoy your day everyone!

A Kid’s Life: India

22 Nov


Hello all.  I’m still here (after over a month’s absence on Jillian In Italy).  We’ve had a difficult month but things are slowly starting to get back to normal.  Thankfully.  All I can say at the moment is that I’m so grateful for my family and our good health.  So so grateful.

Today I wanted to share a new interview in my A Kid’s Life series.  Learning about regular family life and traditions from around the world is one of my favourite things and since I started this series a few years ago I’ve learned so much about different cultures around the world.  And as much as I love to hear about how different a culture is from the other side of the world I also find it so fascinating that there are so many similarities between all of our daily grinds.

Today we’re going to hear from Kanchan and her family who live in Dehli in Northern India.  I actually “met” Kanchan on Instagram (follow her here) and I was immediately in awe of her colourful photos of their life and surroundings (not to mention the gorgeous colourful fabrics that she sometimes photographs!).  I’ve been fascinated with India for years and we’re actually in the midst of seriously contemplating a family trip there in the near future.

From the beginning Kanchan was warm and friendly and so open to share her family’s daily life and culture with us here on Jillian In Italy.  Kanchan, who lived for over 20 years in Dubai, decided to return to India so that her two daughters would be close to family and friends and learn and appreciate all that Indian culture has to offer.

So let’s hear all about their life in Delhi.

A temple in Delhi

A temple in Delhi

What country do you live in?

We live in India

How many kids do you have?  What are their ages?

We have two girls.  Diya is 12 and Naina is 10.  And we have two beloved daschunds.

At the Amer Fort, Jaipur

At the Amer Fort, Jaipur

Are you and your husband the same nationality?
Yes, we are both Indian

Do you both work?  Or does someone stay at home?

I used to work for an airline in Dubai (Emirates).  Now I am mostly at home with my girls.  My husband does financial consultancy from home.

How many languages are spoken in your house?  What one(s)?

English and Hindi.

At what age do kids start school in your country?

Most kids that we know start school at two and half years old.  By three and a half they go to Kindergarten in a proper school.  Our schools are mostly English medium and the curriculum is 10+2.

Continue reading

Snail Mail Booklet Letters

6 Sep

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It’s Friday and we all survived the first hectic week back to school.  The kids returned home from their first days at secondary school actually relieved.  Which means Mama was relieved.  They love the new schedules and running back and forth between classes and the fact that they are being treated more and more grown up.  It seems as though they’re ready for all this so I guess I have to be too.  Wish me luck.

As you may know my kids and I are big fans of snail-mailing our friends and family from around the world.  Snail-mailing is something that I have been doing for years (you should see my Japanese stationary collection that I started in my teens!) and my kids have definitely adopted my love for writing letters the old fashioned way.

For us it’s also an ideal way for my kids who are schooled in Dutch and French to practice writing English in an interesting and engaging way.  You should see those early letters that they wrote to their grandmother!  Sweet and almost impossible to understand.  Luckily they’ve come a long way since then in the spelling department.

A few months ago we participated in Giova‘s Flat Project with some little handmade fabric embellished cards.  We all loved this project so much that we’ve been busy thinking of new ways to make our own letters and cards for our penpals.  Here’s our latest idea.

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Materials Needed:

Patterned and solid coloured thin cardboard (or even heavy paper)
Scissors
Small hole punch
Brads
shapes for tracing (cookie cutters, bowls, boxes, wooden shapes etc)IMG_0809

One day my daughter and I were rummaging through one of my (beloved) drawers full of crafty goodness and we came across a little box full of brads that I had received from my mother years ago.  We took them out and admired all the little coloured metal and cloth embellished brads and decided we needed to use them immediatly (I love it that my daughter enjoys these things as much as I do).
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So seeing as we had a long list of penpals to write we decided to make little books in various shapes using our favourite patterned and solid coloured papers.  We searched the house for any possible object that we could trace  for interesting shapes (cookie cutters worked the best) and my daughter  hand drew a few shapes that she had in mind as well (unfortunately we don’t have a hot air balloon cookie cutter!).

IMG_0823We made books with anywhere from 3 pages to 8 pages and either alternated with solid and patterned paper or just did a patterned cover with all solid pages.

This is a great and simple paper project to do with kids of just about any age and ability.  My kids (who are 11,11,9 years old) are experimenting with more and more complicated shapes now as well  (airplanes, windmills, various pieces of clothing and maybe even a James Bond gun).

One daughter decided to start a back-and-forth letter with one of her pen-pals using one of the books.  She wrote her letter on the first page and her pen-pal will respond on the second and send it back.  She has dreams of this little book going back and forth over the ocean for years to come.  That’s my kind of dream!

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Happy Week-End!

Traveling With Kids: Paris

25 Jul

My new Traveling With Kids column over on Classic Play today.  This time I write about some great Parisian kid-friendly activities, restaurants, workshops and events.  Paris is a great city full of so many beautiful must-see sights but when traveling with kids you need to include some special kid centered moments during the day to keep everyone happy (and sane).  There’s everything from a kid’s music festival to personalized family bike tours to Cordon Bleu cooking workshops.  Pop on over!paris_2

Happy Friday

19 Jul

IMG_0090I still can’t believe it’s already Friday.  This past week has been the perfect summer vacation week.  I’ve loved hanging out with my kids until late in the evening and I’ve really loved being able to sleep in past 6:30am.  A few days were spent at home reading books, playing board games, drawing and baking with a quick trip to the lake for a refreshing swim (it has been hot here!).  We also took a train ride into the big city and walked around and admired all the people and breathed in that polluted city air that we all crave every now and then.   And one day we spent the day with the lovely Giova and her family and had a great time chatting, swimming and, unfortunately, hanging out in the emergency room of our local hospital (no worries, all was fine in the end!).  Lazy days of summer really are the best.IMG_0188The kids even opened up their first activity in their summer garland.  Man, were they excited!  And they loved, and I mean LOVED, the whittle challenge that they opened.  After looking up the word whittle (because just as I had expected they had NO idea what it meant) they got busy whittling away their little bars of soap.  It really is the perfect medium for kids to learn to carve with a knife.  Soft enough to be able to actually carve out a nice shape but hard enough that it doesn’t break into pieces.  I was amazed at how much control they had with the knives and I’m proud to say there were no injuries (or blood) involved.  They ended up going through about 10 little bars of soap and I’m now the proud owner of a soap owl, man, woman, heart, cloud, star and cat to name a few.  Guess what the grandparents are getting for Christmas this year?  I must remember to tell my frequent-traveler husband to bring home all those little hotel soaps from now on (or friends and family out there as well!).IMG_0208

I wish everyone a great week-end.  Make sure to pop by next week because I’ll be hosting my first giveaway.  It’s a good one too.  Sponsored by one of my all time favourite companies.  Exciting stuff.

Summertime Surprise Activity Garland

17 Jul

IMG_0067After a lot of motivation from my three enthusiastic kids I finally finished sewing up their summertime surprise activity garland yesterday.  They are so excited to do this again this year.  I changed up a few activities from last year and kept a few that were big hits (with a slightly different twist to keep it interesting).  This garland is perfect for those moments that the kids are just too tired/hot/bored to come up with something on their own.  And surprisingly enough, it’s a great way to get your kids working together.  Last year after opening the “architectural challenge” I watched my three kids construct a fairytale village in the lawn with wooden skewers, toothpicks and leaves for over three hours.  Their concentration and team work was amazing to see.IMG_0038

First of all I rummaged through my fabric scraps and sewed up some different sized pouches in which to put the activity items (measure all items and sew accordingly).  I just placed two identically sized pieces of material together (bad sides facing) and sewed three sides.  Nothing fancy!  After inserting the activity cards and items I simply sewed them all shut along a long piece of folded bias tape (you could also use ribbon or a long piece of fabric).

Here are the activities in this year’s garland:

The Photo Challenge: Last year the photo challenge was such a hit that I had to include another one this year.  They spent ages coming up with the perfect compositions for their photos last year and the little book we made with them is often hauled out and admired.  I just tucked a little card in the fabric pocket that instructs them to take photos that represent a list of 10 words (happy, summer, dance, self portrait and more that I can’t for the life of me remember now).

The Architectural Challenge: Another favourite from last year.  I included a few packages of long wooden kitchen skewers and toothpicks and some of that sticky gum-like stuff you use to hang photos on the wall (what is that called?!).  On the card I gave them instructions to construct a circus tent and come up with name and sign as well.  They use the lawn as their base because it’s easy to stick the skewers in for a stable construction.  I’ll also give them some small pieces of fabric to decorate.

Whittle Challenge:  This is a new one this year.  On the card I wrote asking them to look up the word whittle in the dictionary (because I’m pretty sure my multi-lingual kids have never heard that word).  Once they’ve figured it out they have to whittle (with small knife provided by me) shapes out of some small bars of soap (see there is a good reason to take those little hotel soaps home with you!).  I’ve included simple shapes to whittle such as heart, star, and flower.  I’ll let you know how it works out and if there are any major injuries.

Comic Book Challenge:  My kids are HUGE comic book fans (it’s a Dutch thing I guess).  So I made a tiny book with blank pages.  I divided each page into four boxes to accommadate their drawings and story.  They have to come up with a story with a circus theme and make their own comic book.  The ultimate work-together project.  Again, I’ll let you know if there are any injuries.

Cooking Challenge: My kids are really into cooking all of a sudden.  And since I really want to encourage and motivate them in the kitchen as much as I can I thought a cooking challenge would be perfect. So for this challenge I included a card which sends them on a search for a particular cookbook on our shelf and to a particular page.  They then have to prepare that recipe.  This year it’s a recipe for homemade pigs-in-blankets from the children’s cookbook Look and Cook by Tina Davis.

IMG_0080On top of it being fun for kids this garland is also really pretty to hang up!  When the kids are ready to open one of the pouches just cut open along the bottom (which makes it hardly noticeable that it has been opened).  You can then keep the garland for decoration or for re-filling with activities next summer.

We’ll be kicking off our garland activities in the coming days.  I’ll keep you posted on how they were all received by the little ones!

Vacanza

15 Jul

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It has been pretty quiet around here lately due to end-of-school-year chaos and finally the summer vacation starting.  We were all running around like lunatics until July 5th which was the last day of school (is it just me or does that seem really LATE to end school for summer?).  I can’t even count how many going-away parties, end-of-year parties, summer parties and barbecues we attended in the last weeks.  It was fun but exhausting (although I admit that at the end it was more exhausting than fun).

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The day after school ended we packed up the car and headed south to the gorgeous region of Umbria with all the Belgian aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. We spent an amazing week relaxing poolside at our villa, eating delicious meals and exploring all the small cities and towns Umbria has to offer.  The weather was perfect (not too hot and not too cold) and the nine little cousins had the time of their lives together.  There were tears at the end of the week when we all had to say goodbye and part ways.  Lifetime memories were definitely made for everyone.

We stayed in the stunning Villa Enea which is probably one of the most gorgeous properties we’ve ever lodged at.   There is actually a chapel, a library (including baby grand piano), a pool house (with kitchen, dining room, bathroom and changing room) and more than enough bedrooms to accommodate our very big extended family.  Believe me, we enjoyed every second of our time in this gorgeous villa and region.  photo-1

We visited the small city of Perugia (where the International Jazz Fest was being held), Assisi, Todi and our favourite small town of Spello (which was a flower haven!).  We loved meandering through the old stone streets and alleyways, visiting ancient Roman and Etruscan sites and admiring the incredibly varied and impressive architecture to be found everywhere.  And the fact that we saw a monk with an iphone, a nun with a hot pink glittery purse and a priest wearing a cowboy hat in Assisi was just icing on the cake.  I’ll be writing more about these visits in my upcoming Classic Play travel column.

(Follow me on Instagram to see more photos of our time in Umbria).

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