Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buon Natale!

This Christmas is going to be extra special for us. The arrival of Lucas and also his dad turning 30 on Boxing Day means we have plenty to celebrate about.
In the last 6 weeks our lives have been completely turned around and apart from the sleepless nights and some days of sheer exhaustion, it is completely wonderful.

The other day I decided to take Lucas out for the first time. Having a ceaserean means you can't drive for 6 weeks so I had to wait until now. Oh the stress of it! And if you are not a first time Mum I really understand how petty this sounds. I would have thought so too. Pre-baby I remember standing in front of 300 people presenting an award at my old job. I barely raised a sweat and quite looked forward to it. But the morning of my scheduled day out to meet a girlfriend for coffee at 10am turned into a sweating, anxious morning. Did I bring enough things, will I need more than one bottle of milk, will he overheat in our 44 degree summer, will I be able to strap him into his car seat and how do I work this pram again?
So after starting to get ready at 6.30am I made it on time for my 10am coffee date particularly proud of myself apart from wearing a dress that is not wind-proof. You try setting up a pram, getting a floppy kid out of a 4wd and trying to hold down your dress. However we made it.

After my coffee date, I went to do some grocery shopping (yes I have an angel that slept through it all) and passed a mirror. Somewhere beyond the stack of tomatoes was a woman pushing a pram. After I got over the bags under her eyes (are you tired lady?) I realised that mummy was me. It is still a shock sometimes to see myself as a mother. I used to look at other women in the shopping centre and think 'oh that's a nice dress she's wearing'. Now I look at the mothers with babies and we give each other that smile that only mothers can exchange. That one that says 'your baby is so cute and you are doing the hardest but most rewarding job in the world'.

I decided last week that I wasn't superwoman. Actually my tired, worn out, haven't slept more than 3 hours in one block body decided I was not superwoman. I decided to come to the realisation that a little dog hair on the floor was not going to mean the end of the world. Or that my husband would have to eat a sandwich for dinner from time to time. Husband looked at me one day and saw a youthful fresh motherly face...ok that's a lie, he saw a tired hormonal sleep deprived person. So, being the wonderful husband he is he hired a cleaner and a dog walker. (oh yeah along with all the mother guilt you inherit I also had dog guilt as she wasn't getting walked enough). If you think your husband won't get you a cleaner, can i recommend a ceaserean section and just watch what he does when the doctor tells him HE is the one that has to vacuum and mop for a few months...

Yesterday I was thinking back to this time last year. We were getting ready to spend Christmas in Austria, a short (short by Australian standards!) 6 hour drive from our home in Florence. We got there and experienced -20 degrees and for me, the first time I'd seen real snow. This year it is 44 degrees and we are on a cyclone watch.
It was in Austria that husband and I decided we would start trying for a baby (you know because EVERYONE says it will take us at least a year, hmmm ok one month later!). Who knew that all that talking (well that and something else!) would end up with a completely different Christmas this year with our beautiful son Lucas.
Merry Christmas everyone, hope you have had a blessed year. From Italy to Australia, and from singlehood to motherhood - it's certainly being an experience for us this year which ended in the biggest blessing of all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Introducing Mr. Page

Our long awaited arrival decided to come early on 5th November. And now, we can't imagine our lives without him. He is an absolute angel (apart from coming early on mummy's designated day spa day, but don't worry I'll remind him of that when he is older) and only cries when wanting to be fed. Is this the calm before the storm!?
So here is our little man, Lucas Justin Page. He was 3.48 kilo's and 51cm.

He is basically a mini version of his daddy including spiky black hair that I can't stop stroking. And he is a kicker and a mover - but he was like that when in my belly too so we are not surprised.

I never thought my life would be so fulfilled. All the cliches about 'best thing to ever happen' and 'your life will never be the same' and 'best thing we ever did' now make 100% complete and utter sense to me. Even at 2am in the morning through groggy sleepy eyes.

It is also amazing to see my husband as a father and the love and bond he has for his son. This is my favourite picture so far of them together.

This is us leaving the hospital which was really more like a hotel and we did not want to leave. Or at least, we wanted to take all the midwives home with us (and the chef! My husband complained about putting on wieght in the hospital as he stayed everynight in our double bed and was served 5 meals a day - he knows he won't be getting that at home!).

I never imagined this now, with our dog Sophie in tow, our family feels complete. It's funny as it felt complete before and I didn't think life could get any better. But it just did.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Becoming a madre

It is really hard to believe that until a few months ago we were living in Florence. And now we live in the Australian outback - what a change. Even harder to believe is that our Italian made creation will be coming into life this Friday at 10am. Thanks everyone for the suggestions of names from Luigi to Fabio...I assure you it's not one of those!

This 9 months has really flown by and I can still remember walking through the streets of Florence holding my belly protectively in fear of an older Italian lady bumping into me (they never move out of the way for a straniera even if there are three of them and one of you!) or an American tourist busily rushing to language school or a bike rider on his way to work oblivious to the beautiful statue he is passing by that millions around the world dream to see one day.

Then once I started showing even slightly, everyone moved aside for me and gave me smiles and most of all advice on what to eat and how to avoid getting fat (hmmm if anyone works out that formula while pregnant, let me know!).

This is me two days ago...I can only imagine the reaction I would have gotten in Italy with THIS BELLY!

Now as I am two nights away from giving birth, it's still hard to believe I will be a mother. So much has happened in our lives this year but of course nothing can top this. I'm looking forward to holding our son in our arms this Friday. I'm looking forward to becoming a mother and seeing Jason becoming a father. And I'm looking forward to being able to eat proscuitto and tiramisu again too! Stay tuned for baby news.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Whales, crocs, Skippy and hotel check-outs.

I can't believe it's been a month since I've blogged.
So, what have I been doing all month? Okay here's some things on my list:

- Regular doctors visits to the hospital to be told we have a beautiful healthy bambino boy growing (high point)

- Getting kicked in the ribs to the point where I squeal in pain and wondering if I'll ever get into my skinny jeans again (low point)

- Booking our appointment for this long term resident to check out on 10th November (high and low point). High as we finally get to meet our creation but low as I am now thinking AM I READY TO BE A MOTHER IN JUST 4 WEEKS!!!!? YES THANK YOU, I KNOW MY NURSERY IS GORGEOUS BUT WHAT DID YOU SAY OUR CREDIT CARD BILL WAS THIS MONTH? AND WHAT IF HE PLANS TO CHECK OUT EARLY OR WHAT IF HE DECIDES HE'D LIKE TO BE BORN MID-FLIGHT OR WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT. Ok deep breathing now, thinking of calm, sandy beaches, rowing a boat in crisp blue water. Paper bag.

- Training the new puppy who amazes us as just how smart she is and getting lots of cuddles from what is undoubtedly the most affectionate dog in the world (high point)

- Coming home and finding yet another massive land mine dug in our lovely lawn and my new thongs chewed through again (low point). By the way, US readers, thongs here are shoes, not what you are thinking. Strangely enough at this point in my life there is no underwear on the lawn.

Here is a pic of the destructor of our reticulation system and the spunk that repairs it every weekend. Do not be fooled by those puppy dog eyes .... he is a mean mean man. Ha ha.

- Sunbaking at 7am in the morning. It is 30 degrees plus every day here and I try to sound sympathetic and make sure the suntan lotion bottle doesn't make a noise when my friends ring from Perth and tell me that it's raining again.
JUST KIDDING!! Everyone keeps telling me you can hang your dignity up at the hospital entrance door when you go in for labour...but I still have it today and am hanging on to it for dear life.

- Going to the beach. A couple of weekends ago, we decided to take a trip to what used to be my favourite beach around Karratha. You might remember we lived here 2 years ago before Florence. Well this sign was not here then! Apparently the resident has been removed but it still makes me think 'where's his mamma?'. By the way, not many people heeded to the caution of not swimming as the beach was full of swimmers. I guess you pick your risks in life. Going down to a croc is not how I want to go so we didn't swim.

This is a friendly local at the park next to the beach.

Do check out our beautiful water though and the whale that we spotted. Oh hang on, that's me at 33 weeks pregnant. (We do get whales in the water so it was an easy mistake).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The reason I have not slept for three nights....

When I became pregnant, everyone's big tip was 'get as much sleep as you can now'.

But oh, not me. See I thought I would prepare nice and early for cleaning up poops, getting up at 2am then 4am to the sounds of crying and generally getting in the mood for having no free time at all anymore!

And this is the reason for it! Isn't she the sweetest reason you've ever seen!

In just 3 days, Sophie has just about mastered toilet training which usually takes weeks in puppies and she already knows how to sit on command. Good girl Sophie. Life is sweeter golden :) Or it will be once I can get a full night sleep again!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Being back down under

Well it has been well over a month since I posted and so much has happened.
I guess the blog should be re-named from Ciao to G'day Mate now as we have finally arrived back in Australia! Mate!

We left Florence on the 12th July and had three weeks holiday in Perth and then headed back up to the small-town-in-the-outback Karratha to start our new life here.
When we left I would still call this town a country town. However with the amount of construction and industry that has developed in the last few years this is just a booming booming town which is literally bursting at the seams with people coming here to work from all parts of the world. Single women note: there are about 8 guys to every one girl here! When we left two years ago there was about 4 flights a day and that was it. When I was there last week it was resembling more like London Heathrow ;)

Here are a couple of pictures taken from our car of the typical landscape of the Pilbara - the region where Karratha is located in Australia. The cows are very much to be avoided as you can easily kill yourself when one of these strolls onto the road and collides with the car. And we saw a lot of dead ones on the side of the road along with loads of dead kangaroo's. They seem to be attracted to the sides of the road. Not good for them and not good for drivers.

Husband started his new role (an extension of his job in Florence) and I laugh when I think of him wearing his best collared shirts to work as now he is back to his bright orange and blue uniform (safety colours on the construction site). One thing I don't laugh at is his waking up every day at 4.30am, the time usually when Italians have only been asleep a couple of hours from the previous nights' late dinner or apperitivo's.

We are lucky enough to have a brand spanking new house provided with Jason's job. (Hey there has to be some perks living in one of Australia's remotest towns). Admittedly I can't walk three metres to get a cappuccino or walk five minutes to see the Statue of David. But the house is so beautiful, BIG and the backyard is amazing. We foresee lots of Aussie bbq's ahead and yes, there will be shrimps on the barbie even though we call them prawns here. By the way, so far we have not had one urge for pasta!

After living in this house for just two weeks so far, we have realised just how much we missed having space when we were in Italy. I know it's such a luxury to have so many bedrooms and bathrooms and space for just the two of us, but it's a luxury we REALLY appreciate now having lived in Europe where space is at a premium.

The first time we moved to Karratha back in 2003, I cried for a month. I had no friends, I knew no-one, Jason was at work all day long and I just felt so remote. Although of course we are still so remote (the nearest town is Port Hedland 260 km's away) and still in the heart of the outback. But all our friends are still here and it really feels like we have returned home. I have not had one day yet where I haven't lunched or coffee'd with old friends and it is an amazing feeling to reconnect with people.

Onto baby news now! Bambino is growing steady and he is a kicker. Like I mean A KICKER and PUNCHER and a BOXER. It is so strange to see my stomach bulging out when he is having a good old dance in there. We have 13 weeks to go until our new arrival so it is going to be exciting times ahead and a journey we can't wait to start.

When I was in Perth I had my baby shower. I don't think I've ever been that spoilt in my life. The guys wisely left for the day while 18 girls streamed in with massive presents in their arms. I was shocked as I have never been to a baby shower and I honestly expected a couple of socks and bibs here and there and that is it. When I piled all the presents in the car, it looked like I had just robbed a luxury baby store. I was very touched at how much effort my friends had gone to spoil me that day. Here is a picture of the cupcakes my very talented sister-in-law made for the day:

And here is a belly pic of me at 6 months. This photo is with my best friend Gina who is Italian...Gina, along with my mother in law put on my baby shower. What do you get when you combine an Italian and a Filipino? LOTS of food.

And onto our last bit of news. Before bambino arrives, we are also expecting the stork to bring another addition to our family next week - but this time a furry four legged fur-baby. We can't wait to have a puppy running around again and I have 13 weeks to train it military style so it's a good doggy for when the baby comes!

Now that I'm finally settled, I am looking forward to reading all my blogs that I used to read every week - I need to catch up!
So from Australia - g'day and it feels great to be blogging again! I've missed all my blogger friends!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Arrivederci Italia!

I've been very slack in blogging lately. Well that's if you call moving apartments, organising things to be sent back to Australia, signing a million customs and tax forms and buying a car over the internet! Not to mention the little bambino doctors appointments.
And if I'm being honest, I've tried to sit down and write but I honestly don't know what to write for what will be my last blog written in Italy as we leave this Saturday morning. So here are a few of my random musings and thoughts as we countdown our move back to Australia:

i) Everyone keeps asking me, no actually make that everyone keeps TELLING me, that I will miss Italy and how sad I must be to be going back to Australia. I have to be honest and say that we are SO excited to be going back home. I know that living in Italy is a lot of people's dreams and we were blessed enough to experience living it. But it wasn't MY dream and really was a job assignment for my husband that brought us here. What I'm trying to say is that while we are SO grateful for this opportunity and seeing what we have seen, lived what he have lived through and ATE WHAT WE ATE (!), living overseas has made us appreciate our own country even more. Big family homes being the norm, backyards, organised streets, little bureacracy and the cleanliness of my country. Italy will ALWAYS be dear in our hearts, after all we are even bringing back a living Italian souvenir, but it was never a permanent stay for us and we are so happy to be going home sweet home.

ii) I have been so touched by the people I've met in the last two years of living abroad. Random people in coffee shops, people that I've met from online blogs, people I met at Italian school and especially the couple of dear friends that I have become so close to. Having friends overseas is a hard situation. You know you are leaving, they know you are leaving. Sometimes it's hard for both you and them to make an effort to be friends as it really is just a temporary friendship. If I'm being honest, some of my friends here that I had coffee with will maybe write and email occassionally or I'll facebook them. But realistically they were just a friend for a season. That is awful to write and probably sounds awful to read. In saying that, I have made one dear friend in Florence that I know will be a friend for life. We met in January but I feel like I've known her all my life and I know we will be friends for years to come. I'm grateful for all my friendships here in Florence. I love meeting people from all walks of life and even if we met once and didn't become 'best friends' I still valued this time meeting new people and finding out what brought them to Florence or where they were heading to next.

iii) Italy has taught me a lot of things. Don't necessarily stop at a stop sign. Never order a cappucino after mid morning. Do not expect an Italian to eat by 8pm. But on a serious note, Italians really have it right when I look at how much they enjoy life. They don't pride themselves on having a big house (with a big mortgage) and flash cars. They pride themselves on living life. Enjoying food with their families on a Sunday. They love children. They don't put their jobs before everything else.

We leave Florence on Saturday morning to head back home. It is both with happiness and sadness that I leave the place that has been home to us for nearly 18 months. Even though we have both loved and disliked different things about living here, the most important thing is that we have learnt so much from this experience. For that we will always be grateful. One day we will return to this beautiful city with our son (yes we found out it's a boy!) and show him this amazing chapter in our lives. We'll walk past the apartment where we lived, the pizzeria that treated us like family when we went there each week, our favourite landmarks and favourite gelateria. Years down the track, Italy will all be a distant memory so I am so grateful for having kept this blog to look back on all our experiences. And I'm so grateful to my readers for some of the wonderful friends I've made this year have been online friends that I've never actually met in person.

I'm still planning to keep this blog up when we move back to our small town of Karratha. Although I'm yet to see what I will write about being that nothing much ever happens there and it certainly doesn't hold the same allure as Florence. We'll see if I continue to have readers I guess!
I'll be on holidays for about a month while we holiday in Perth so I won't be blogging. But I'll see you all very soon. Except I won't be strutting the latest fashion in stiletto's just to get some milk at the shop Italian style. I'll be back to flip-flops and 4wd's and fishing in the country. Hope you can join me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The countdown is on!

I finally felt the bambino kick as of two days ago. Three more days to go whether we find out if it is a Luigi or Francesca or Salvatore or Louisa! Actually we have non-Italian names picked out but we are keeping those a secret. Either way he or she will be a boxer or karate expert if it keeps up this punching and kicking!

Interested in pregnancy? Read about being

10 weeks pregnant, 20 weeks pregnant,

30 weeks pregnant and 40 weeks pregnant.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I've been a bad blogger lately. I have no-one to blame but myself. Well actually that's not true...this baby is the reason I am so darn tired! I can't complain as I don't have many other nasty symptoms that I have read about but I can honestly say I have never been this exhausted in my life. Not when I worked three jobs and went to uni full-time. Not when I partied until 4am and then started my job at the airport at 4.30am (oops). Not ever. And the more I sleep and rest the more tired I become! But the baby is baking now at 18 weeks so I am happy to take whatever comes my way.

I had read in an article before that Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and that pregnant women are treated like queens in Italy. And according to a friend, apparently you become even more of a rock star if you are pushing a pram.

In the last two or so weeks, I've actually gone from the 'I have eaten way too much pizza' look to the 'do you think anyone knows I'm pregnant or do they just see a chubby girl' look to what is now the 'pregnant signora' look.

What is funny is the reaction that I get from Italian people. I have never been pregnant in Australia but I really can't imagine that strangers including men in their 20's who run our local pizzeria would take such an interest in my pregnancy. As soon as anyone finds out I'm pregnant (usually by overhearing the coffee shop girls asking me how my pancia is today) the first thing they excitedly say is 'Auguri!!' (sort of like best wishes) and they are so genuine it always brings a smile to my face.

Another example is when husband and I went to a trattoria for dinner a couple of weeks ago. The waiter was one of those very stuffy types that was not smiling but not rude either. I ordered a pork dish but asked him to make sure the meat was well cooked as I was pregnant. Well, he became our best friend there and then and suddenly a big smile appeared and he patted husband on the shoulder. Husband ordered a spicy salami pasta and I put my fork into his plate to try some of the pasta. The waiter ran over and said 'Signora, the baby will not like spicy food, please don't eat this'. I didn't have the heart to tell him I had eaten two curries the previous week and so far had no written complaints from the inhabitant.

Last week I went to my local fruit and vegetable market. I went to buy some proscuitto for husband but my usual shop where I buy from made me firstly PROMISE that I would not eat it. It's not good for the baby. Then the cheese man nearby came out of his stall and inspected my belly and said 'yes it's quite small, you must be very early on'. Speculation on whether it's an ItalianO or an ItalianA followed.

And there are so many more examples. Everyone (not just Italians) wants to know how I'm feeling, if we want a boy or girl, do we know the sex, do we need them to recommend a good doctor that Luigi's cousin's aunty's daughter used. The Italian interest in pregnancy really reminds me just how much they value family and children. I don't think all Italians are overly friendly on first meeting but with this belly sticking out, it seems I have risen to a new status level than just a blonde straniera (foreigner) who is probably living in Florence for a month. However, Italians always seem disappointed when I tell them the father is not Italian and the baby is on it's way to Australia in a month's time. Oh well, they say. At least it's made in Italy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

European Road Trip

Last week we got back from a road trip around Italy, Germany and Holland. Although I do not recommend everyone doing this in their first trimester (!), we had a wonderful time and one of my dreams came true, to see tulip season in Holland.

Firstly we drove to Milan and spent one night with our friends Payman and his wife Veronica. Payman is also an engineer (like husband) and used to work with Jason in the Karratha gas plant so we had plenty to reminisce about. I had been off fish for a long time and Veronica cooked salmon for dinner....well it was the best salmon I had tasted and it was delicious. My fish appetite has returned.

The next day we set off through the Swiss Alps (that were still covered in snow and were as beautiful as always) for our ten hour drive to Cologne, Germany. It amazed me how different driving in Europe is where there are road stops every 50 kms. When we used to drive from Karratha to Perth (in Australia) sometimes the next road stop with fuel was 200 km's away.

Lots of singing and eating lollies later on a speed limt free autostrada (very scary), we arrived in Cologne. It was wonderful to catch up with family in Germany and also to do some relaxing. We weren't interested in sight seeing as we had been there numerous times before, however Jay could not resist taking night photos of the Cologne Dom - we think it's the most beautiful cathedral in all of Europe.

The rest of our time in Germany was spent visiting more family, sleep ins in the hotel and ordering breakfast in bed. On mornings when we weren't completely lazy we would get up and go to my beloved Starbucks.

Next on our road trip was Holland. Husband had been to Amsterdam before for work but I had never been and was very curious. Our friends Ryan and Elize live in Amsterdam and we stayed with them. Ryan, an engineer, also used to work in Karratha with Jason. In fact he was our neighbour and is one of our dearest friends.

Ryan and Elize live in a gorgeous apartment overlooking one of the canals and about 50 metres from Anne Frank's house. This didn't mean that much to us until we visited Anne Frank's house and that is when reality hit home. On that very street, just years ago, Nazi's were storming the streets and bombing homes and terrorising Jews, amongst others. It was an eye opening museum which I really recommend (just like I recommend Auschwitz in Poland for everyone to see).

Amsterdam made a funny impression on me. I found it very beautiful with it's canals, gorgeous buildings and cosmopolitan atmosphere. But you could be in a gorgeous street, then seemingly walk two streets ahead and like we did, stumble into the red light district. We stumbled across it during the day so I wasn't as saddened by it as I thought I would be. (I know it's stupid but I get very sad when I see young girls forced (debatable I know) into selling themselves in windows. It was funny in a sense that these girls were there but there was normal looking families just walking past and carrying on with their daily activities of getting from place A to B. After being offered coccaine on the street twice (ummm I wouldn't even know what to do with it, put it in my herbal tea perhaps?) we decided we had seen enough. We walked past all the people smoking marijuana in coffee shops (that is everywhere not just in the red light district) and returned back a couple of streets to the posh side of town again. Very strange, but interesting.

One of my favourite things about Amsterdam was of course to do with food - Dutch apple pancakes!We had pancakes 5 times in Amsterdam and we were there only four days, go figure!

Apart from seeing our friends, the highlight of Amsterdam was driving to a town called Lisse which is famous for it's tulips. Look at what we saw on a random road we drove by!!

One our way home, we stopped in to visit our friends Peggy and Mike in Lake Como. They had kindly offered us a room in their apartment. Peggy and Mike are just a gorgeous couple that I had met in my Italian class in Florence but they had since moved on to Lake Como. When we arrived we soon realised their 'apartment' was in fact a stunning villa overlooking the whole of Lake Como. It was just beautiful and Peggy and Mike (and their two daughters Elizabeta and Nicole) were perfect hosts and we had a wonderful time with them.
Another highlight of the trip: Peggy's dinner that she cooked for us and we ate on the balcony overlooking the view. I couldn't believe how good the food was and Peggy admitted she had been taking private lessons from a chef in town that has cooked for Oprah. So if it's good enough for Oprah, it was good enough for us!

I think we would have had a wonderful road trip anyway, but spending it with friends, both new and old made this trip just even better. It is our last big trip in Europe before we go home and we certainly won't be forgetting it in a hurry.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bambino's/The search for the best tiramisu is over

Ok, so what is your definition of torture?

Here is mine:

Living in Italy and not being able to eat tiramisu, salami, cheeses or the famous Florentine Bistecca, a massive hunk of meat served very rare (sorry my vegetarian readers especially Erin).

But I'm happy to report that the feelings of torture go away as soon as I think about why I have stopped eating all this glorious Italian fare. No, my jeans didn't finally give way....

I'm three months pregnant!!!!!

So on November 15th we will have a Fabio, Luigi or Francesca making his/her debut back home in Australia. Hmmmm well actually if it is a Fabio or Francesca I may have a lot of explaining to do to my Australian husband.....

Today we had our three month ultrasound. It was the most amazing thing we've ever seen. We could see the arms and legs and even the nose bone. One of the arms was curled up in a fighting position - perhaps he/she will be a boxer?? Or it really IS an Italian bred baby and is starting to use arm gestures already to communicate.

You'll know by my year of blogging that Florence has been both wonderful and challenging for us. However for all the butt kicking we received, Italy will now be forever engrained into our hearts as the place we grew our family. It's going to make me look at tags that read 'Made in Italy' very differently!

ps Next week, I promise I will write about our two week road trip around Europe which we returned from on Sunday. We saw the most amazing scenery ever, stay tuned.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Going home in twelve weeks...

It's just 12 weeks until we leave Italy to go back home to Australia. 12 weeks!!!
We are both so excited to go back home. Italy has been a wonderful adventure but it was never home for us. I've been thinking about things that I'll miss about Italy and things that I am looking forward to when we get back.

For now, here are the things I'm looking forward to:

Meeting our new nephew and seeing our family and friends
Cadbury's plain milk chocolate
Fish and chips on the beach
Getting a new dog
Cadbury's Roast Almond chocolate
Normal white bread that does not go hard by the end of the day
Flyscreens on windows
A garage at home so I don't have to walk to get my car
Cadbury's plain milk chocolate and Cadbury's Roast Almond chocolate
Having a house with an oven so I can bake again (watch out thighs and butt!)
Fresh fish caught by dear husband
Having a large house with a backyard again
Cadbury's Roses chocolates

And things I will miss:

My favourite coffee shop in the world and the friends I've made there
Tiramisu. Oh the sweet love of my life.
Living opposite a pizzeria. That does the best tiramisu. Enough said.
The Cinque Terre
Fresh tomatoes in the shop that smell as if they were picked just moments ago
My local markets with the best salami's ever
Church bells ringing on a Sunday morning
Being able to fly to the opposite side of Europe. In two hours. For fifty euro's.
Chianti wine that does not give a guaranteed headache the next morning

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A week in the UK

This week husband had to go to the UK for a week of work. Me being his loyal wife insisted he needed someone to iron his shirts/wake him up/provide daily foot massages whilst in the hotel. Just in case the hotel didn’t provide any of these services.

Husband’s office is in Reading which is about a 40 minute train ride from London. I love going back because I get to stock up on food that I can’t buy easily in Florence like curry pastes and good porridge. Even my English doctor gave me a request for some Horlics (some strange malt drink that I’d never heard of). Every time we come to the UK, I promise husband I’ll buy just a couple of things but in the end my suitcase looks like we are going back to a country that clearly has just had a war and is not stocking food on shelves anytime soon. If the plane coming home crashes aka Lost style, I will be an instant millionaire selling food on the island.

I know it is a sin to say this, but I don’t like Italian coffee. It’s too strong even when I ask them to make it weak. And here’s another confession: Hi my name is Monika and I’m an I mean a STARBUCKS-aholic. I love the milky flavoured coffee topped with cream. And I love that I can ask for a skinny de-caff weak latte with extra chocolate on top without hearing a mamma mia under the barista’s breath.

Whilst I was sitting at my favourite Starbucks (there are four within a block of each other in the centre, who says they are taking over the world?), I saw a group of young girls giggling over their coffees. I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I remembered to just over a year ago when I had first arrived in Reading. I flew in on a Monday and husband left for a work trip to the US the very next day. I remember I sat at that very Starbucks every day to have my breakfast and felt the loneliest I had ever felt in my life. I didn’t know anyone, my husband was away constantly and the days were so slow. Then once I got used to Reading, four months later I had to do it all over again in a new city and country – Florence, Italy.

I also remember that one of the reasons I felt so lonely was that I couldn’t tell anyone (apart from a couple of my close friends, you know who you are) how I was feeling. I tried, but was soon met with the usual responses ‘what are you complaining about? You live in Europe, I would love to go to Europe, you don’t have to work, you have a perfect life’. Sheesh these people probably also think I wake up in the morning with perfectly styled hair and a flawless face of make-up...

The truth of the matter is, I don’t blame people for thinking it’s a perfect life because until you’ve made such a big change in your life, you really don’t know what culture shock is and how much adjusting you need to do. I certainly didn’t think that I, a strong woman and extremely extroverted, would feel lonely.

And that is not to say that we were ungrateful for the opportunity we were given (we thank God every day for what we have) but it still can be a hard time in your life. Yes, you can visit Buckingham Palace or go see the Statue of David but those things were not important to me. My friends and family is what I missed. I would rather have had a good coffee with a friend anyday. Preferrably at Starbucks, but I would have taken whatever was going.

Now our time overseas is drawing to an end and we should be back home in Australia by mid- year. This experience has been the best thing that has ever happened to us. We have seen more countries than I thought I would see in a lifetime. We have made lots of friends and acquaintances and a couple of close friends that will be dear to us for a very long time. Jason has enjoyed his work so much albeit being a lot of hard work. I have had a chance to catch up with my family who live scattered throughout Europe. We could not have hoped for a better time in our lives.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anniversary in Florence

Today is our six year anniversary.
Six years seems like such a long time in some ways, but for me our time together has literally flown by. I guess I am with the right person. Actually I KNOW I am with the right person. I can't imagine my life without my amazing husband, Jason. Happy Anniversary husband!

In our six years of marriage, I also didn't imagine that we would also spend over a year living in Florence or four years living in the desert in Australia.

It is also exactly a year since we arrived in Florence. A time of excitement, new experiences and happiness. Mixed in with some stress while we were adjusting and trying to start a new life in a country that really has very complex bureacracy.

Last year for our anniversary we attended a pasta making and wine appreciation course in Tuscany. For our anniversary this year, we drove to Genoa yesterday. We had a wonderful day walking around the port which is gorgeous.

One thing I love about Italians is that they are huge dog lovers. But this was really taken up a notch in Genoa. I think we were the only people not to be walking a dog yesterday. Doggies, big and small, everywhere!

It's very common to walk into a cafe or clothes store in Florence and see a very well behaved doggie patiently waiting for its owner to finish their lunch. I remember back to Australia where we would occassionally take our golden retriever to lunch (back home, there is really only a very small handful of places that allow dogs on their property and you have to sit outside). As well behaved as she was, she would NEVER sit patiently waiting for us. She did every trick under the sun to remind us she too was hungry and inevitably half my lunch was given to 'hungry eyes' under the table.

Please don't report me. It was water in the cup, not Coke.

Unlike Australia, in Italy doggies are welcome almost anywhere. Apart from the Genoa Acquarium (the largest acquarium in Europe). However, look at what service they offer:

There is a lot of shady and dodgy goings on in Italy. At any time you can walk onto the street and buy a fake Louis Vuitton or some new sneakers. However, this perhaps takes the McCake?

Tonight it's our anniversary dinner at our favourite Florence restaurant, Osteria di Giovanni's. I have been dreaming of their specialty pigeon dish for the last week.

Here's wishing happiness and love to all my blog readers today! Hope your week is as blessed as I am feeling right now!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shoes, oil and a fly swatter

So it's another end to a beautiful relationship...

No, husband hasn't left me for one of these beautiful Italian women who have an ability to ride a scooter with six inch stilleto's with wind-defying hair.

No, it's possibly my last time that I will smile and flirt with ....the gorgeous signs in town that read SALDI. Florence is famous for the start-of-year sales and it did not disappoint me again this year.

This has been my best purchase so far:
Reduced from 100 euro's to 20 euro's people!

You put high heels on and you change. -Manolo Blahnik

Hey I didn't say it was a practical purchase. Or one that is good for my back. Or one that will function on cobblestone Italian roads...ok ok so it was a completly impractical impulse buy...but they are carina (cute) don't you think?

On the other hand husband, who prides himself on never impulse shopping and only buying necessary items, bought this for the same price. What is it you ask?

It's a fly swatter the shape of a hand with a bulls-eye target drawn on it.

As predicted by me, it still has not been used once because we are yet to see a fly in Italy. But if an unfortunate fly happens to appear, Mr. Miyagi will be ready.

The other thing we bought was this cute bottle stopper for our Olive Oil. I remember back in Australia we ate butter or margarine every day. On toast, on bread or on a muffin. Here in Florence, I can't remember the last time I even bought butter. We now have bread drizzled with this olive oil. It is DELICIOUS and so much better for you.

Whenever we go to a new town we try their local olive oils and red wines. We bought this olive oil in Montalcino and so far we can not find anything that even remotely matches the amazing taste this has. Montalcino in Tuscany, is famous for being the region where the Brunello red wine is made. We also bought a bottle of that and were so excited to drink it the other day. Guess what! It was corked and smelled like vinegar. And it cost more than my the motto of the story is. Buy the shoes. Or if you don't like shoes, you can always go for the fly swatter instead.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

An Italian agriturismo

I have been wanting to go to an authentic Italian agriturismo for dinner since we got to Italy. And on Friday night I finally had my chance. My Italian friend Viviana from my local coffee shop organised a group of us to visit her friend's property, Villa Cristina, for dinner 60 km's north of Florence. I can't seem to find a direct translation of agriturismo into English, but basically it's like a homestay property and usually in an old style Italian villa.

As soon as we got there and I saw the table, I knew I should not have worn my jeans and opted for tracksuit pants instead. Or a loose skirt. I suddenly had the urge to un-do my jeans button in preparation of what was to come.

We started off with antipasto of crostini with porcini mushroom, fresh proscuitto, fried bread dough, pate crostini and blue cheese tart. If I know I am dying and have to have one more meal before I die I will request Cristina's porcini mushroom crostini. And until I tasted her secret recipe, my last meal was always going to be a Polish meal. Yes, that's how much I love food. I have already planned my last meal, although with some good luck and health my last meal will hopefully be when I'm 90 and will have to be puree'd pumpkin soup.

I was too busy stuffing my face with the primi (first course) to take a photo of it. It was a wild boar pasta that again was delizioso. Then followed the main dish which after much debate and translation was determined to be wild deer. Again it was amazing and was a perfect combination to the red wine.

Over dinner we all compared stories of our lives which is my most favourite thing to do when meeting new people. Here are some of the ladies in our group...I have no idea why my husband looks so happy in this photo?

We were from all parts of the world including Italy, Australia, Poland, Austria, Albania, Romania, Germany and India. All of us were invited by the staff that work at the Golden View Bar - the coffee shop I go to every morning for my breakfast. All of us have been going to the Golden View Bar for coffee every day for some time and without doubt, we have been there at the same time. So now, we will have an excuse to share our coffee and breakfasts together and remember what a great night we had on Friday.

Who would have thought that going to the same coffee shop every morning would end up in me tasting my most delicous meal in Italy to date. Not to mention that it also ended up in us making some wonderful new friends.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

25 Random things about me

Last week I finally started Italian language school. It has been so long since I've actually written pages of notes with that old fashioned gadget - the pen - that my hand was in silent protest.
We've got such a great bunch in our class with students from Brazil, Iraq, India, Japan and the US. Oh and there is an amazing, wonderful, gorgeous and humble student from Australia....Joking!

I've made some new friends at the school so instead of coming home and studying (or blogging, or cleaning or ironing) I go out for lunch or coffee. This is all too familiar territory when I think back to my days of studying at university.

I also realised how different it is studying as an adult. As an 18 year old uni student my most important thought of the day was 'what parties are on tonight on campus?' whereas now I look forward to the class and am truly sad when our two hours is up.

When I got home from class today, I logged into facebook and saw that a friend had tagged me in this exercise: 25 Random things about me. So here it is:

1. I thank God every day for my life and especially my husband.
2. I love dogs and miss our golden retriever every day.
3. I was in a car accident where everyone died but me, so I believe in never taking a single day for granted.
4. I love singing (just ask the neighbours)
5. I have the cutest nephew in the world.
6. I love writing and reading.
7. I have a great family. I know it's rare but I also love my in-laws.
8. I thought this list was going to be easier to write than this.
9. I speak Polish & English (duh), am learning Italian and used to speak fluent Japanese.
10. I rarely drink but I love Baileys on ice.
11. I have only a couple of friends that I share my secrets with but I cherish their friendship so much (you know who you are!).
12. I am terrible at maths and science. Luckily I married someone that is brilliant at it.
13. I was born in Poland and came to Australia when I was five. Now I live in Italy.
14. I feel very privileged to be a godmother to two beautiful children.
15. I met my husband in a nightclub, we didn't exchange numbers and kept running into each other for the next week.
16. I have a love/hate relationship with aerobics and exercise.
17. I love watching re-runs of daggy shows like 'Will & Grace' & 'The Nanny'. In my pyjamas.
18. I don't believe in holding a grudge.
19. We never fall asleep angry at each other. Ever.
20. I believe that everyone should sponsor at least one child overseas or contribute to someone else less fortunate (if you can).
21. I had a snake under my desk at work in Karratha.
22. I miss my friends and family back at home and can't imagine life without email or dare I say it, facebook.
23. I hope to be a mother one day.
24. I eat chocolate every single day. Without fail. I would die for it. It is the reason for point number 16.
25. I love cooking and baking. My first thought of the day is usually 'what am I cooking for dinner tonight?'

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A White Christmas in Austria.

We just got back from a five night trip to Salzburg in Austria. It was by far, the best holiday we've ever had. EVER.

As soon as we drove into the Austrian alps, we gasped in awe of the beauty we could see (and I know that sounds corny but we really were speechless).

The highlight of our trip was taking a 2km cable car up to Untersberg Mountain for Jason's 29th birthday. It was -20 degrees celcius and I gave up after half an hour outside and retreated into the pub for a hot chocolate. Two hours later, he returned from hiking with a blue face and blue lips. He was as excited as a little kid on Christmas day but couldn't smile properly as his lips were so numb.
He didn't care though as this is what he saw up there:

And this. I love this photo he took and almost wished I had gone with him...but the hot chocolates were REALLY good.

We also took a side day trip to Munich and went for lunch at the original home of the Oktoberfest - the Hofrabrahaus. Before we even had a chance to say 'supersize me' the waiter ran over with our one litre beer.

But back to Salzburg. I mentioned one of the trip highlights was climbing the mountain (well some of us climbed, some people climbed, some people who remain nameless stayed inside and kept warm). But of course my personal highlight is always to do with food. We found Demel's chocolatiers on the first night. They had the most gorgeous selection of cakes I've ever seen. In 6 days, we visited there 7 times. It was so cold that you could only stay out for an hour or so and then had to retreat in for hot coffee. And we all know what goes well with coffee:

Growing up in Australia, Christmas Day meant 40 degree temperatures, wearing singlets and shorts around the pool and going to the beach. My father used to always say 'it doesn't feel like Christmas without snow and feeling cold'. I didn't know what he meant until now. When we walked out of our hotel on Christmas Day and headed out (probably to Demel's) snow flakes started falling on us. Real Christmas trees (not the plastic Australian K-mart ones) were all around us. Street side sellers were selling roasted chestnuts. An ice-skating rink was set up in the middle of the square with kids squealing in excitement as daggy 80's music played. And in the background were the Austrian alps glistening with gorgeous snow. Everything that I had seen in picture books when I was a child and then on the travel channel growing up.

We missed being back at home this year for the holiday season, but we could have not hoped for more of a perfect time than we had this week in Austria. A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!