Tag Archives: summer

Il Rientro

2 Sep


(photo taken in Nova Scotia this summer)

Whoa.  We’re back.  It’s September.  And school starts tomorrow.  All pretty hard to believe at the moment.  These past two months have been so full of amazing new experiences and memories for our family.  We spent time in Umbria, Verona, Liguria and Canada and really took advantage of every moment together and with our friends and family.  Wholly satisfied would explain the way I’m feeling at the moment.

IMG_0667(never dare your kid to put his fingers in the pincers of a crawfish – they’ll do it and it hurts)

I have my girls who start secondary school tomorrow.  And they’re pretty much freaking out.  Every few minutes they come to me in a panic with questions of where they have to go after the bus arrives at school, where their classroom is, where the toilets are, how to avoid the areas where all the older kids make-out and so on.  Only problem is that I know less than them so it has been a challenge to keep them calm.  They’re actually starting to freak me out about the whole thing.

IMG_0908(entering the 13 degree Atlantic Ocean – evidence that they are indeed half Canadian)

Since we’re just back from Canada we’re still trying to adjust to the time change.  Lots of late nights and sleeping in late the last few days (see an example of the state of my kids at midnight here).  I think we’ll have a bit of a rough time getting up at 6:30am tomorrow morning in order to catch the school bus on time.   And I can’t even fathom what it will be like to be in my home alone for the day after two months of constant kid-companionship .  I know it will feel too empty and quiet.

IMG_1684(visiting the year 1744 at Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia)

But I’ll be so glad to be back here sharing some of my creative endeavors, trips, recipes and even some projects that I have been working on for other blogs and sites.  I’ve really taken a breather this summer and am so ready to start again!


(enjoying a little trip on a lobster fishing boat on the South Shore of Nova Scotia)

So, cheers to a new school year!  I know it’s going to be a great one.



30 Jul


We’re just back from a quick two day trip to Verona.  Amazingly enough it was our first time in Verona and we’re kicking ourselves that we didn’t go sooner.  It’s a gorgeous city.  And less than 2 hours from our home!  So many places to visit and so little time I guess.

While there we experienced record setting high temperatures (it got up to 43 degrees at some point in the day).  We stopped for a lot (and I mean a lot!) of gelatos, granita and popsicles.

On Sunday evening we went to see the world famous opera Aida at the outdoor Verona Arena which is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary season this year.  We actually got to see the new production of Aida and we were quite shocked at how modern it was.  I mean, there were acrobats, glow balls and even Segways in it!  A tad confusing to tell you the truth.  But entertaining just the same.

Here are a few images of our time in Verona.  I’ll be writing a more in depth post for my Traveling With Kids column on Classic Play soon.

IMG_0249The city was packed with hot sweaty tourists.  I think the gelaterias made enough money to support themselves through winter. IMG_0255We stopped at a little traditional restaurant for lunch.  My son ordered pasta with a donkey ragu sauce and I ordered the local specialty pasta with duck sauce.  Very tasty! IMG_0278

Outside the arena you can admire all of the opera props.  I guess there’s not enough storage inside to store all these gigantic lanterns, statues and fake pyramid stones. IMG_0311

Luckily there are many little water fountains placed around the city.  On a hot day like this they were all surrounded by scads of people.IMG_0316Many many street artists are to be found in Verona.  On every corner and piazza there are lots of photo ops to be had with armoured gladiators or cleopatra (especially directly in front of the Arena).IMG_0355

And of course you can’t visit Verona without going to see the famous house of Juliette and her iconic balcony.  It’s a tiny little courtyard filled with hundreds of people.  Not for the claustrophobic!IMG_0325The walls around the courtyard are filled with love notes in every language (and tons of chewed gum…anyone know the significance of that?).IMG_0328

And a wall full of love locks with names and dates (which are apparently for sale in the little gift shop located in the courtyard.  IMG_0367

Admiring some Roman ruins along the way.IMG_0370

Best purchase ever to keep these guys happy and content while walking around in the heat.IMG_0381

I think we rested on every bench or stone we came across.   IMG_0508

Arrived at the Arena at 7:30pm to get good seats (the last row…best seats in the house).  It was still hot and sunny and every single person had a fan.  It was beautiful to see. Most people bring along some cushions to make the long evening spent on stone benches a tad more comfortable (but I’ll admit that we were all in pain after 5 hours).


I swear I didn’t intentionally colour coordinate everyone for our big night out. We were so happy to have that fence behind us instead of thousands of other spectators.  We could stand up and lean back (and enjoy the stunning sunset and views over the city).IMG_0559

Aida, the new production.  The costumes were gorgeous.  The singing…very opera-like.  Can you guess that I’m not a huge fan of opera?IMG_0586

The day after the opera.  After only a few hours sleep the kids hung around like this all day.IMG_0604

Or almost fell asleep while I took photos.

IMG_0618Despite the fatigue we managed to climb up to this castle to get a nice view of the city.  We were so happy to see those clouds and feel the beginning of a big rain storm.

Can’t wait to go back and explore some more!

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.

Summer Inspiration for Kids

1 Jul


Seeing as summer vacation is quickly approaching for my three kids I’ve been thinking a lot about meaningful ways to pass our time together this summer.  We’ll be away on vacation for a total of four weeks this summer which leaves us four additional weeks here at home.  We usually spend our days either at the beach or out discovering new walking trails or doing a quick trip into the city.  But there are definitely lots of moments where we find ourselves at home and I really want those moments to be enjoyable, fun, memorable and even maybe a little educational.

As I’ve said in the past I’m a big believer in letting kids be bored.  As you can read here even the experts are advising it.  When my kids get bored they get creative.  They dig out all the art supplies or the big box of lego and they get busy for hours on end (although I do admit that the “mama I’m bored!! moments leading up to this can be quite frustrating!).

This summer we decided as a family that there will be no computer/ipod before 6pm.  Our days will be spent reading, playing, swimming, baking, painting, writing, building, selling lemonade and whatever else they come up with.  The kids were on-board from the get-go and have already started thinking of special projects to pass their long, hot summer days.

Here are some of the projects that I’ve been thinking of proposing to the kids this summer:


These 26 art lessons that were created and curated by the super talented Deborah Harju are definitely on our list of projects to try out this summer.  Deborah not only includes step-by-step instructions for her projects but she also includes interesting and educational background information to the various methods, styles and artists that go with them.  I really can’t wait to try the Geometric Design with Islamic Art project, the Intro to Neo-Plasticism project and the Leaf Painting project (which involves a hammer!).  There are projects for kids of every age and ability.

DSCN4431Another great place for creative ideas is the blog One Bunting Away.  Giova is an avid and passionate snail-mailer and she includes lots of really beautiful tutorials  on her blog to make your snail mail more beautiful (I did a guest post in her Flat Project last month).  Projects like these will really motivate my kids (and me!) to write lots of letters to friends and family around the world this summer.  Plus, it’s a great way for my Dutch schooled kids to practice writing in English.  Some favourite projects that we’ll definitely be trying are the Accordian Envelope, the decorated poems and the felt envelopes (because we love to sew!).


This is also the summer that my kids are going to learn to cook and bake.  I’ve noticed that they are really starting to become interested in helping out in the kitchen and they often ask questions about what tastes go together or what foods are the healthiest to eat.  One of my daughters actually started baking on her own this past winter.  She has officially perfected her great grandmother’s biscuit recipe and I’ll admit that the fact she made them for me 10 times in a matter of 2 weeks has definitely motivated me to teach her some new recipes.  I love all the recipes found on Sheri Silver‘s blog called Donuts, Dresses and Dirt.  They are usually quite simple, don’t have long lists of ingredients and are healthy.  We’ll definitely be making the Sugar-free Honey Lemon Cake, the Fruit Leather and the Honeydew-Lime Ice Pops (above).


And lastly I have a list of Ted Talks for Kids for those moments when it’s just too hot to move or do anything or when they’re exhausted after a long day of tennis camp.  These Ted Talks are absolutely amazing, inspiring and very educational.  My kids have already watched a few and they were enthralled from the beginning to the end.  There are many talks given by adults on subjects such as Life in the Deep Oceans, Mathemagic (my kids loved this one) and Sketching Electronics.  There are also fascinating talks by kids such as Tavi Geninson who created a space where girls could find each other and redefine feminism or Sirena Huang who is an 11 year old professional violinist.  I know my son will be excited to see the talk by 12 year old Thomas Suarez who is a world renown APP developer.  Check out Ted Talks for Kids here and Ted Talks by kids here.

mg_9778And again this summer I’m going to make the kids an activity garland like I did last year.  It was a huge success with all three of them and they still talk about it often and ask when this summer’s garland will be finished.   I sewed up different sized pockets on a garland where I inserted various surprise activities for the kids such as a photo challenge, a wooden skewer architecture challenge and a recipe challenge to name a few.  They spent hours working together for these projects and at the end of the summer we made a little book with some of the finished projects and photos of the finished projects.  Check out last year’s post which explains it all here.

So let summer begin!  I’m ready.

This and That

21 Jun

Summer has definitely arrived here in Northern Italy.
We’ve been enjoying temperatures in the high 30s with high humidity for the last few weeks.
From early morning to late evening we have all the doors and windows open letting a warm breeze blow through the house.
The fans have been on high speed in every bedroom during the night.
We all smell strongly of mosquito repellent.
The oven hasn’t been turned on in ages.
Dinner consists of salads, sliced meats, cheeses and melon.
The freezer is overflowing with every kind of popsicle, gelato, ice cream and freezie available.
Our home grown strawberries are ripe and ready to be eaten straight out the garden and still warm from the sun.
The heavy smell of the flowering jasmine plants that cover my neighbourhood is intoxicating.
The visits to the lake are getting more frequent.

Now all we have to do is get through these last two weeks of school and buy a new hammock and we’re off to the perfect start to summer.

Last week some good friends and I jumped in the car and escaped to Piemonte for a few days (we were in the charming town of Moleto where we visited last year).  We left the kids and husbands to fend for themselves and drove off into the sunset to enjoy some downtime amongst the vineyards.  We dined, we swam, we laughed (a lot), we chatted, we drank cocktails, we donned our fancy high heels, we went for walks and we just really enjoyed each other’s company.  And we decided that these little get-aways have to become more frequent in our lives because they feed the soul and give us a much needed rest from our daily grinds.  Many thanks to the husbands for their cooperation and understanding (even if they don’t know about our plans to do it more often yet).

When I was at The Hive European Blogging Conference in Berlin last month I participated in an amazing video workshop by the talented Kat from Zero The One.  At the end of the session she had us watch this beautifully shot video which made a serious impact on me and has been lingering in my thoughts ever since.  I actually have a very close family member going through a similar battle so it’s something that hits really close to home at the moment.   After watching it with my 11 year old daughters one of them said to me “Even if the story has something so sad about it I found it so beautiful at the same time”.  I have to wholly agree with her.  She then mentioned ” I didn’t even mind that he said the f-word a few times.  He deserves it.”.   Take a peek at the video and his blog here.

IMG_9228The other morning my friend sent me a message asking me to drop by for a tea and piece of cake.  This is what I was welcomed with.  I love my friends.

IMG_9233This cat has been living in our garden for the last few years.  She comes and sits at our kitchen door and waits for food every day.  We’ve named her FumoTre and we’re actually not even sure if she’s a she but nobody wants to check to make sure.  For some reason when she meows it sounds like she has a bad case of larygitis and we’re pretty sure she’s quite fond of us due to the amount of gifts she leaves us.


I read this article on the Top 22 Unbelievable Places That Are Hard to Believe Exist and have added quite a few of these destinations to my “must see” list.  The wisteria tunnel in Japan, the pink Retba Lake in Senegal and canola flower fields in China are just too stunning not to witness in real life.

Happy Week-End Everyone!

Ghirlanda d’Estate

28 Jun

The other day I was contemplating what I was going to do to keep my three children happy and busy for their two month summer vacation this year.  It’s always a time of lazing around, reading books, going to the lake, playing with friends and traveling.  But every now and then there’s a lull in the activity and the “Mom, I’m bored” starts.  I’m a strong believer in letting kids get bored because I find it’s really when they come up with the most creative things to do and make but sometimes you can just hear that they are too tired/hot/fed up to come up with something on their own.

So after reading Jen’s (from Classic Play) post on Stay-at-Home Summer Camp I got inspired to come up with some summer activities for those emergency times when the kids are in need of “entertainment”.  I organised six activities and sewed them into little cloth bags and then sewed those all into a garland.  When it’s time to pick an activity it’s really a surprise for them when they cut it open (we’ll cut them on the bottom so we can then save the bunting for another occasion or a similar activity next summer).   I’ve hung it up and it’s ready for when they are in the swing of summer vacation (still a week and half of school to go!).

All activities are for the kids to do together and each one is at least 1-2 hours worth of fun (I hope).  The activities are:

Photography Challenge: I’ve written a card with 10 random words and the kids have to go around and take photos that transmit the words into an image.  I’ve noted that they shouldn’t think too literally about these words and they should “think out of the box”.  I’m sure that will spark a great conversation with the three of them.  I then asked them to print out their 10 photos and make them into a book.  I’m excited to see the result!

Origami Challenge: In this little bag I included a package of miniature origami papers and a list of items they have to fold.  They are all seasoned origami experts but I think it will be a challenge to use the tiny paper and I’ve included at least 2 new shapes that they will have to learn how to do.  In the end they’ll have to present close to 50 origami pieces.

Water Balloons: In this one I tucked in about 45 balloons and told them they have to fill all of them with water, divide them into three piles and then bomb away at each other.  I know this one is going to be a hit.

Wooden Stick Architecture Challenge: For this challenge the kids have to use over 100 long wooden skewers and construct some sort of building (or anything) using the grass as their base.  Since the skewers are pointy on one end this makes it quite easy to stick them in the ground and I think they could end up making something quite spectacular.  I mentioned that they can incorporate ribbons, fabric or any other material into their project.  After it’s done I suggested they write a story about who lives there.

Cooking Challenge: In this one I included two very simple recipes that they have to prepare for the family.  I also included a 5euro note so that they can walk to the local grocery store to buy the ingredients needed.  The recipes are Tomoto Garlic Soup and Homemade Croutons.  They are both things the kids love to eat and easy enough for them to do alone.  They are also asked to set a nice fancy table for when they serve their meal.

Neighbourhood Clean-Up:  I had to include this one.  The streets around here are sometimes littered with trash and I always tell the kids how important it is to keep our environment clean (which is why I can often be seen walking around with pockets full of my kid’s trash).  I included three large white garbage bags and 3 pairs of latex gloves and told them to head out and beautify our street.  This one will definitely confuse the neighbours!

So there you have it.  I’ll keep you posted this summer on the different activities and whether they were a hit or miss.  What are your plans to keep your kids happy and busy this summer?

Signs of Summer

3 Jun

The warm weather has officially arrived  over here in Northern Italy and we’ve been very busy enjoying all the the activities and things that come with it.  Seeds have been sown, the treehouse has been installed, stone pathways amongst the vegetable patches laid, the citronella candles and torches dug out and my beloved tuquoise weber dusted off and placed in it’s home for the summer (outside my kitchen door).  Spirits are high around here.
My 50 year old rose plants that are found all over my garden are in full bloom and absolutely lovely.   This vase is actually a peach juice can that I (insisted) on bringing back from a vending machine in Japan.  The colours are so soft and romantic – perfect to display a rose or two.

The weather is finally nice enough to sit in the garden with a glass of iced tea and a favorite cookbook.  This is one of my favorite things about summer.  

My first batch of lettuce is ready to be eaten.  Five different kinds and enough to feed the entire town where I live.  And the plants that the escaped chickens enjoyed a few weeks ago have miraculously grown back.
Time of year to invite friends over to hang out and eat in the garden surrounded by millions of our mosquito friends.  There is a lot of laughing, chatting and slapping (mosquitos) done on these occasions. Get recipe for these most delicious mini brownies here.

It is the season to make many beverages.  Limeade, lemonade, homemade orangina and raspberry squash.
Kids had their first lemonade stand this week.  The locals still don’t really know how to deal with the whole thing.  They stop and say “che bello”, give some money then head off without any lemonade.  One guy even told them they should be selling wine instead.  Nico thought it was a really good idea.


25 Jan

I was just browsing through some photos from our summer vacation last year in the South of France and came across a series of shots of all of the cousins from my husband’s side of the family.  I had the idea to make t-shirts for all 8 grandkids with the number of their birth order and give it to my mother-in-law as a present for her 60th birthday.  I hadn’t quite realised how hard it would be to get 8 kids (ranging in ages from 1-9) to stand still, not blink, not cry, not poke their neighbour, not look behind them etc etc etc.  We took tons of photos and in the end managed to get quite a few good candid (key word) shots.

#7 trying to escape

#7 very upset she couldn’t escape

#6 giving #7 a little shove and #3 with his eyes shut

Not a bad shot even if #5 sees something interesting to his left

Sunkissed and sandy

8 Nov

I think it’s a bad sign when I’m already dreaming of summer and it’s only November 8th.  I was browsing through some summer vacation photos and I came across this one.  The kids on the beach on a hot and sunny day.  They all look so happy and sandy and slightly sunkissed.  I guess this cold, rainy weather we’re having isn’t helping with the summer daydreaming.

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