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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Finding “Our” Place

When the Italian and I decided to get married, it was an automatic decision that the wedding was to be held in Italy.  Other than the obvious Italian luxuries like food, good wine, prosecco and extremely picturesque locations, the Italians Nonna, who was 90 at the time, had breast cancer and couldn’t travel.  So, we wanted to bring our wedding to her.

The location choice was really hard as the town where the Italian is from is literally forty minutes drive from everywhere, in every direction: mountains, sea and city.  I knew I wanted to try to aim for an English rose garden affair, but in Italy.  That wasnt going to be an easy feat.

We started scanning the internet for ideas and locations and when we found various places we liked the look of, the Italian called and enquired about prices, menus, catering etc.  however, the huge problem with wedding planning in Italy that we came across was that the Italians just don’t use the internet.  Websites are old and pictures are ancient.  You don’t get a good feel of how a place would look in reality.  It’s still very much a case of recommendation and word of mouth, which isn’t easy when you’re trying to arrange a wedding from another country.

We had a few trips to italy to view venues and after various trips back and forth I was in love with three places.  All were very different and offered us different things but we had a strict list of considerations to stick to.  Some  our guests were coming from England so we had to consider distance from the airport, local bars, transport from the hotel and transport from the wedding venue.  So, my (I say my, because the Italian really didn’t have a choice in this one!) first choice was out because it was too far from everywhere and a nightmare to transport everyone to and from.  I was heartbroken! Let me introduce your to Castle Brando:

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I think I actually shed a tear when we realised that this place was out of our reach.  I had never imagined getting married in a castle before.  I’m much more a jeans and flip-flops kind of girl so I was quite surprised at myself that I was so upset.  Alas, there was a plan B.

One one of our trips I had convinced the Italian to visit a place that I had found on the internet.  Their website was ancient and photographs were terrible so he was really reluctant.  However, when we got there it was amazing! It was a Venetion country palazzo adorned with old furniture and regal looking decor.  The gardens were breath-taking and again, I was in love. Let me introduce you to Villa Luppis:

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We were treated to a fabulous dinner at Villa Luppis and even today, I still remember how good the food was.  It was definitely the best food were tasted from all the venues we visited.  I loved everything about Villa Luppis but the only thing that we had an issue with was space for the children.  We had a handful of children at our wedding and this villa, although stunning, is a very grown up, very sophisticated kind of place.  That was the only thing that we stumbled on.  So, cue more tears and side step to plan C.

A neighbour of the Italian’s parents told us about a venue that their daughter had recently got married at and suggested that we definitely take a look.  I wasnt convinced.  Knowing his parents neighbours and their daughter, I wasnt sure her taste of venue was exactly and true match for my taste.  Nevertheless, we made a trip for a viewing.  How surprised we were!

We drove through a small town and followed the directions up a meandering hill, into and above the prosecco vineyards of Conegliano and then, there it was.  Let me introduce you to Casteletto.

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Turning the corner through the vineyards to discover the iron gates that led to a gravelled driveway was a surprise.  As we approached the top and walked forward we were totally blown away by the view.  It was stunning!. There it was, a tiny little castle with a chapel, on the hill, hidden amongst the trees.  From the outside it was perfect.

Was this really a castle fit for a princess?

Did you have the in love feeling when you found your venue?

X-O-X

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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Italia

 

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Bonding

Now that scare of Down Syndrome screening is behind us, it has finally dawned on me that in exactly twelve weeks time we will have a new-born in the house.

Until now it has all felt a bit surreal. Despite my ever-expanding stomach, I don’t think that I had actually accepted that I was pregnant. So, I have been making conscious efforts to try to bond with our new addition.  My last pregnancy with Bambina was such a different experience and in comparison I was carefree.  Now, have to work full time, keep house and look after a 15month old – she’s just a baby herself.  My time is completely full now compared to when I was expecting Bambina so I really have to make an effort to have some “me & you” time with the new one.  Its important.

When I was expecting Bambina I used to sing to her. She was quite partial to il Divo and would kick away frantically. I find that ironic really, what with her being half Italian. It was in her genes even in the womb! I danced with her, moving my stomach about. I listened to calming, birthing relaxation downloads on my iPod (that didn’t calm or relax me one iota) and let her listen via daddies headphones resting on my stomach. Even now, Bambina LOVES music!

Now I have to find out what stimulates this little’un. Music? Reading? Talking? I’ve started the bonding process by familiarising myself with what’s going on on the inside. Whats the little’un up to? How is she or he growing? Whats happening this week? My Pregnancy Week by Week book has been a God send, again.

What bonding tricks did you come up with when you were expecting? Do tell!

X-O-X

* Fotos mine, courtesy of http://www.jameslarkinphotography.com/

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in London

 

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A Decade

On Saturday we finally sold our stamp sized apartment!

It got me thinking what a difference a decade makes.

When I bought my little slice of heaven just over nine years ago, my requirements for a home were so different than what they are today. I wasn’t interested in parks or supermarkets, in coffee shops or quaint high streets. In fact, I distinctly remember that the cost of a black cab at 3am strongly determined the location in which I made the purchase.

My stamp sized apartment has served me well and as much as I am excited to be moving on, I will miss it a little. We’ve had fun together!

We’ve held parties at Christmas & served traditional dinner to friends. We’ve gotten drunk on Absinth and held dances in the living room. We’ve had hangovers from hell.  We’ve enjoyed fancy dress parties and Moroccan sisha nights. We’ve had sleep overs and SATC pyjama parties. We’ve had boyfriends come and go. We’ve had flings.  We’ve had arguments with neighbours. We’ve made friends with others

The best things that my little apartment and me have had is a marriage and a daughter! We made our second child in this home but we might already be gone by the time our new addition arrives.

Almost a decade later, my homely requirements have changed. I’m no longer concerned about black cab fairs.  I dont even remember the last time I was in one, let alone at 3am!

My new house and I won’t have raucous drunken, half forgotten, parties, we’ll have a family. We’ll have family dinners and picnics in the garden.  We’ll have BBQ’s and bouncy castles.  We’ll have birthday parties and egg hunts at Easter.  We’ll have first steps and tooth fairies.  We’ll have a guest room and down stairs loo.  We’ll have a dining table! We’ll have a parking space. We’ll be near good schools and parks.  We’ll have a home.

Our home.

What a difference a decade makes!

Does your house hold an array of memories for you?

X-O-X

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in London

 

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The Name Game

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When the Italian and I were choosing a name for Bambina, it was easy. I had always loved her name and luckily it was a perfect match for an English / Italian mix. We have an unusual Italian surname so finding a first name to match that could also have proven a task.

Now that the new addition is on the way, we are faced with the same challenge – what do we call it?? Will il Nonni be able to pronounce it if it’s an English name? How will it sound spoken with a Liverpudlian accent if it’s an Italian name?

I started in my quest a few evenings ago by googling the most popular Italian baby names of 2011 and 2012. The problem with Italian names is, well, they’re Italian and some of them sound completely ridiculous in English.  I just can’t imagine myself screaming across a busy playground, ‘Giuseppe, come on, we’re going home for our dinner now, get off that swing!”.

If you’re English and you’re male, with an Italian sounding name, it can tend to sound a bit cheesy.  I mean, there’s Gianni which conjures up images of a teenage, grease-backed hair Lothario that chats up anything in a skirt. Then, there’s Enzo, he could work in the local pizzeria – it makes me think of red and white checked table clothes.  What about Adolfo? No? Ok, me neither.

Whilst there are a few obvious Italian sounding choices, the ladies names aren’t much better to be frank.  The Italian likes the name Elisabetta (Elizabeth) which, said with an Italian accent sounds beautiful.  However, said in a Liverpudlian accent… sounds wrong! Then there’s Donnatella which conjures up female ninja turtle.

As you can see we are at a loss for both camps.  So this is where I urge you to provide advice! Do you know any European sounding names for a girl or a boy who might be a consideration? Think of your family and friends, celebrities etc, do they have Italian names that I may not think hideous? C’mon, the child’s life and school yard taunts depend on it!

X-O-X

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in London

 

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The Gift

So, yesterday, D-Day, I met with the consultant from Kings College to discuss the options of non-Down Syndrome screening.

I didn’t really know what to expect from her. I probably expected her to try to fob me off with rubbish or excuses. She didn’t.

The Dr was extremely frank, woman to woman. She thought I was a drama queen. I probably have been. She thought I was right to create a fuss. I know I was. She said my odds of having a Down Syndrome child, without having any screening tests at all, were extremely low. Lower than with Bambina. Based, purely on my age group and the overall healthy growth of the new addition!

After a few shed tears of relief, I hugged the life almost out of her and said my thank you’s. She said “now go home, have a cuppa and a huge slice if cake because you’re going to be very busy after that…bonding with your new son or daughter”. As she reached out to hold one hand, she looked me in the eye reassuringly, “just like your first one, this child truly is a gift!”.

Let the bonding commence…

I would also like to end this post by saying a massive thank you to everyone who showed concern, offered support and gave truly kind words. I really do appreciate it from the bottom of my heart! Mwwah!

*Foto my own.

X-O-X

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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in London

 

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A Bit Down

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The last few days, I have been feeling a bit down .

Finding out about a pregnancy five months into the gestation has proven somewhat of a chore so far. First, I missed all the required checks that are to be done at 12 weeks. Second, I missed all the required checks that are to be done at 20 weeks. Third, I have been wrongly advised about Down Syndrome screening by my hospital.

The first of the Down Syndrome screening is carried out between 11 and 14 weeks. This is the Nuchal scan when the build up of fluid at the back of the baby’s neck is measured. This test offers a 94% accuracy rate.

The second Down Syndrome screening is offered at 20 weeks via a simple blood test. This picks up the baby’s chromosomes through your blood but only offers a 60% accuracy rate.

Depending on the results of either of the above, you can go home happy knowing that the chance of delivering a baby with Downs is small, or, you will be offered an Amniocentesis test. This is the most intrusive and requires a slim needle through the stomach and into the womb to extract a sample of the fluid from the baby’s sack. The chromosomes in the fluid are tested and although invasive, this gives you the best result. However, if done earlier in the pregnancy it can cause miscarriage. The usual cut off for this is 20 weeks.

When I was pregnant with Bambina I didn’t endure any of this and perhaps quite ignorantly on my part, I didn’t do much research given that Bambina’s nuchal tests results were incredibly low risk.

Three weeks ago when I had my first, emergency, scan at 21 weeks and 2 days, I was told by the sonographer that I would do the blood test screening at my next visit.  I didn’t have any reason for concern at that point.

Two weeks went by and the time arrived for the next scan. On Thursday last week I was told that I had been misinformed and in fact, I had missed the national cut off for the blood test screening. I was horrified. Did this mean that I had to go through the next three months not knowing whether I am carrying a child with Down Syndrome? Why on earth didn’t the sonographer spot that I was on borrowed time but went ahead and booked me in for a bloody test two weeks past the deadline?

The Italian and I had obviously discussed our options.  Woman in their forties, late forties, give birth to bouncing healthy babies all the time.  But, we were not sure that our lives could afford looking after a child with Downs. But what was the alternative? Termination? Adoption?

A flurry of questions ensued: What if it is? How severe might it be? How do you find a child minder? Are there any? Would it face a life of constant investigation? Would the italian have to give up his job to look after it? What impact would it have on Bambina? Is that fair? What if something happened to us, what would happen to the child then? Surely we couldn’t ask an elderly grandparent to take the burden? “Burden”. Is that how we would feel, as parents, that our child was a burden?

The obvious reality is that many people with Down Syndrome grow into healthy, fun, fit children and progress into adulthood with independence. The average life expectancy is actually 50.  Some work and study, some live on their own. However, some need constant attention. Some have huge behavioral and health problems.

The sonographer advised me that the cut off for the blood test was at 21 weeks 6 days. That meant that I had only a four day window in which to do it. A four day window that the previous sonographer two weeks prior had failed to notice. A life long critical decision had been taken out of my hands and forced upon me in the blink of an eye.

I cried. I sat down. I cried. How could someone be so careless? I enquired about Amniocentesis and was told that an appointment would be booked for me to speak to a consultant.

I went home. I cried. Once I had wiped away the tears, I called Bupa to confirm the deadlines for the tests to be done privately.  However, all private hospitals are bound by the same national guidelines as the NHS.  However, my private consultant told me that according to the national NHS guideline, the cut off for the blood test is 20 weeks whilst the cut off for amniocentesis is 22 weeks. I had in fact missed everything!!  The original sonographer was wrong on two counts.

I spoke to Marie Stopes, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Spire Health Care, another private company.  All confirmed that at 23 weeks and 2 days there was nothing more I could do but hope for the best.

Eventually, after several heated and tearful phone calls from me to my hospital, I finally got to see the consultant on Friday morning. She reassured me that according to the scan and foetal measurements, everything looked fine but that she obviously couldn’t offer that as a true medical diagnosis “and anyway, the blood test is only 60% accurate”, she said. That would have been 60% more peace of mind that I would have had if they had not have taken the choice of having the blood test away from me!!

She continued, “We will not offer amniocentesis at this stage as the risk of damaging an otherwise healthy child by forcing pre-term labour far out ways the risk of a child being born with Downs. However, if at 32 weeks you are still dissatisfied we can carry out the amnio then and if you so wish, we can carry out a termination”.

Ok. After carrying a child for eight months, feeling it kick, move, breathe, hiccup, you would carry out a termination if I so wished?? Is that even legal?? Who on earth agrees to that? At 32 weeks, even now at 24 weeks, the decision has been made for me because your STUPID, incompetent staff didn’t do their jobs properly!!  How can I even consider anything else now but sit back and pray that God has gifted me with a healthy child?

I battled and fought and finally got an appointment next week with a Downs specialist from Kings College. She will check my scans and measurements and compare that to those of a Down foetus.  Again, this wont be a medical diagnosis but purely to set my mind at rest, as best as can be under these circumstances.

Apparently Down Syndrome can also be detected by a scan as Downs children do not have a nasal bone at this stage, the base of the neck is thicker and organs may appear displaced.

Speaking to the consultant won’t change anything but it may help me feel a bit more reassured, it may help me chill out a bit for the next three months and try to enjoy being pregnant with our second child. All I can literally do now is wait, hope and pray that this was all a big storm in a tea cup.

So yeah, you could say, I’ve been feeling a bit down.

Contacts:

Marie Stopes – 0044 845 300 8090

BPAS – 0044 845 30 40 30

Spire Health Care – 0044 208 950 9090

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in London

 

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A Band of Gold

When the Italian and I started to look at wedding rings he knew instantly that he wanted something Italian, traditional and durable. For him the choice was easy: a plain yellow gold band.

I on the other hand initially started out looking for all the flashy diamond bands: half bands, full bands, bands with filigree detail. I think I was so overcome at the absence of an engagement ring that I was trying to make up for it in the wedding band. How silly.

After walking inches off the Italians legs through Hatton Garden in London, I discovered that all the flashy bands didn’t suit me. And so plain Jane struck again, a simple gold band it was to be for me to.

However, on one of our wedding arranging trips to Italy, I was introduced to a jeweler in the Italian’s home town. He told me about Damiani. I fell in love. Their designs are so classic and understated yet elegant and pretty. Not at all plain.

Damiani are most famously known for being the wedding ring designer of choice for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Brad and Jen designed their own rings but Damiani controversially used the design without their permission (allegedly).

Although the rings didn’t hold much luck for Brad and Jen’s life time commitment, I wasn’t put off. I chose a simple gold band, squared at the edges, with one simple solitaire diamond embedded into the middle.

Here are a few pics I took of the latest Damiani collections on my last trip to Italy. You can also find them on my Pinterest board, La Mia Bella Matrimonio.

LOVE LOVE LOVE the Damiani bands!

And, if you’re going to have a diamond necklace, have a Damiani heart full of them!

Anyone for tennis….bracelet? Si Si SI!

Love diamonds, love Damiani!

Is your band of gold plain and simple?

*All fotos are mine

X-O-X

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Italia

 

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