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Halloween Pumpkin Soup

My mother in law taught me how to make this Italian style Zoppa di Zucca, pumpkin soup, so what better night to make it than Halloween?

I found the most perfect, cutest little mini pumpkins, British I may add, that would make an ideal size for Bambina.

All you need to do is chop up the pumpkin into small diced pieces, chop up a few sticks of celery into small bits, add a finely chopped onion and a small diced potato.

Throw that into enough boiling water to just about cover the veg and leave to simmer slowly for about thirty mins. Remember to not leave the pan to boil dry (like I did the first time I made this!).

As this was for Bambina’s supper, I didn’t add salt but did add a pinch of ground black pepper. To make it for adults you can add salt and garlic for flavour and for a twist on a meat version, add crispy pancetta. Delish!

Once all the veggies are soft, mash them down with a fork and stir in a good splash of olive oil.

Serve into a bowl and grate some fresh Parmesan ( like one we brought back from Italy last weekend, nothing like parmesan from a Lattaria!) to make the soup creamy. Enjoy with grissini or a nice piece of focaccia.

What could be more simple? Buon Appetito!!

Happy Halloween (btw, this is Bambina’s first ever scary craft! #proudmummy)

Have you got any pumpkin recipes to share? Do tell.

X-O-X

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in London

 

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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 Italian: All Too Much

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Sometimes being married to an Italian is HARD WORK!!

Usually I can’t fault him. He cleans (more than I do). He cooks (better than I do). He does the washing (not better than I do but at least he does it without me having to ask/remind him).

However, there are a few things lately, just a few, that are irritating me.

I apologise in advance for the rant but needs must.

In following the SatNav, I say to him “get in your right hand lane”. He doesn’t and in his refusal to believe for a split second that I might actually be right, he ignored me, took a wrong turning, got us lost and added half an hour to an already long journey!

I’m pregnant. Iwas tired. I needed to go to bed. I said to him “would you mind taking the washing out of the dryer and fold it before you come to bed”. He did take it out of the dryer, whilst it was still damp and left it in a pile on our spare bed. Not only was the duvet now damp but my work clothes were not dry and they were also now creased to high heaven!

I was at work. Busy. I said to him “please can you call the estate agent today and confirm the details”. He didnt’t. His excuse? Didn’t have time! What? In between afternoon snoozes, feeding the ducks and having coffee in the park with your daddy mates. So so busy! Funny how he can walk around the house wearing the floorboards out when he’s on the phone to his family or friends but as soon as he’s in the street he can’t walk and talk at all. Incredible.

It’s just all too muh! Is this the stubbornness of a foreign man or just men in general? I find Italian men to be particularly selective in the hearing department. This then causes their understanding of normal everyday concepts to be extremely difficult! Perhaps I should just stop moaning and sod off to the park, apparently life is much better there!

Men eh! Who needs’em?!

X-O-X

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in London

 

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Italian Men: Style Guru?

I have just spent the best part of an afternoon hunting in wardrobes, draws, suitcases and bags to find any item of clothing that fits me. When I say “fit”, I mean go over my leg higher than my knee or over my head lower than my neck!

The air was blue. That was until the Italian came into the room to see what the commotion was. I shed a tiny tear of frustration that my baby weight is trespassing wherever it can set up camp on my body and he burst into laughter explaining that his situation was far worse.

How so? (I won’t attempt to write in my usual take on an Italian accent).

“Well”, he said, “I’ve been a stay at home dad for twelve months, I’ve eaten far more than I should have and exercised far less than I should have. Money has been tight and the majority of my current wardrobe is from Primark.   I’m about to go to Italy where I know my family and friends will ridicule me for the weight gain and chastise me for the ill fitting ill suited outfits.
And you think that you have a problem?!”

Ok amore mio, point taken.

So it seems that the Italian is just as fearful as I am of rocking up in Venice looking like a beached whale in Bermuda shorts and flip flops. Here readers, is the reason for his concern. Italian men are generally very cool, well dressed and always matching. Always!

Just check out these average run if the mill fellas from my Pinterest board, La Mia Bella Moda.

I feel his pain, I really do! That said, I’m really looking forward to the eye candy *glances sheepishly through dark sunglasses as handsome men walk by*.

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Do we really beleive that these guys are on a lunch break from the office? Too cool for school. foto.

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The scarf.  LOVE.  The colours just add a litlte bit of umph.  Italian men, they can do it like this. foto.

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Now this is how you stand out in a crowd! My Italian would wear this, the brighter the better! foto.

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Every Italian man needs a Vespa as his main accessory! foto.

Even older Italian men look fabulous!  In Italy, age doesnt define when you become a slob – check out this old dudes shoes! I wouldnt mind strolling down the strada with him when i’m collecting my pension. foto.

As Shakespeare said, the clothes maketh the man!

X-O-X

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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Italia

 

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Quandary of a Working Mother

Today was my worst nightmare.

As I sat plugging away at gaping holes in my work schedule, my phone rang. The Italian, in a trying to stay calm tone, informed me that they were in the ambulance but all was ok.

Ambulance?? As he had reached for Bambina’s sippy cup, she had wriggled out of the high chair harness and went for an Olympic gold at floor diving, crashing her head into a marble floor. It took all of twenty seconds to happen but twenty seconds too long.

I gasped a breath. My daughter was in an ambulance on her way to hospital and I was on my way to an “appointment”. My mind raced. What should I do? I had always imagined my immediate reaction to such an incident would be to down tools and go straight home. To my surprise, I found myself in a quandary.

Go home, immediately my conscience told me. Yet, I reasoned with myself that this was the first of many falls and I can’t run home every time. So, I stayed put plugging away at my gaping holes of priority lists.

Then I had an attack of guilt. I had left my poor injured child to go it alone when she needed me!. Am I such a bad mother that I don’t put her at the top of my priority list?

I reasoned again that she wasn’t alone. She was perfectly fine, with her daddy. Perfectly safe, with her daddy. No, I’m not a bad mother for not rushing at every whim. Yet, I do wonder why I didn’t fall immediately into panic mode. Perhaps my motherly instinct told me that the Italian was right, all was actually ok. Bambina was alright, a minor bump to the head but still intact enough to give Dolly a finger-wagging telling off. It was probably Dolly’s fault anyway.

As a first time mum, a working mum, it’s difficult to find the right balance. What I came to accept today is that my decisions may not always be the right ones, that I need to let go of the control reigns a bit more and hand them over, without question or judgement, to the Italian.  That I can’t split myself into various forms in order to be everywhere and do everything that might be expected of me, or that I might expect of myself.

How do you do it? How do you find the balance between work and home? I’m sure the answer is practice and that’s what I’m intending to do.

It’s a topic that’s new to me and one that I’m sure I’ll always be in a quandary about.

X-O-X

*Credit

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in London

 

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Having It All

Last year in Britain, just over 66% of mothers worked. This could be due to policy changes that have helped women return to work over the past 15 years as well as employment laws that have introduced much improved parental leave, pay and the right to flexible working arrangements.

currently, I am a bi-product of such flexible work arrangements and whilst I would prefer to be a work-at-home-mum, my circumstances, at the moment, don’t allow for that.  I was intrigued therefore when I read about a Working Mother’s seminar being held in my local area.  With Cherry Blair slamming stay at home mum’s recently claiming that “yummy mummies” hinder the child’s independence, I wanted to hear what other women thought of their work/family ethic.

I just got home from the seminar which by and large concentrated on the women of today and how we can have it all! What I came away with was a confused understanding of what “all” actually means. After thinking about it for a millisecond I came to the conclusion that my interpretation of “all” suits me just fine.

Having watched Sarah Jessica Parker run herself into the ground as city slicker Kate Reddy I Don’t Know How She Does It, I felt half sane for having felt a few times like I can’t cope. There are times when the “W” word gets too much, when the washing pile is so huge that it doesn’t fit in the basket anymore, when I don’t have time (or money) to go food shopping and for that last week of the month we are eating all the not so yummy things in the cupboards.

The truth is, I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and an employee. I often feel the pressure to be all things at once and end up feeling that I haven’t delivered on any of them. This is because sometimes I forget to dedicate time to being ME. Which, if I did, would make all of the above so much easier to balance.

Not wanting to dwell too much on my job other than the fact that I have one and I do it full-time, I do it more out of necessity than choice. My choice , if it were that easy, would be to work for myself part-time and work as a mother the rest if the time. That would be my choice. However, my current circumstances don’t allow me that benefit.  Does this mean that I don’t have it all? Is my cup half empty?

At the seminar I was surrounded by women who think that they do “have it all“; nannies, tutors, home helps, gardeners, cooks. One lady referred to it being difficult to organize the “staff” let alone the children! Her and others meaning of “all” is having everyone else to manage the daily living whilst they climb the professional ladder. This is fine, for them. I’m sure that if/when my circumstances are different, I too could afford “help” and may find myself falling into that trap.  I honestly think that life is not for me but still, there is some kind of competitiveness to send your child/ren to the ‘right’ school, shop in the ‘right’ shops, work hard and play harder.  I’m not convinced that women, other than Kate Reddy (and that’s debatable) manage it.  Surely we all buckle under the pressure of balancing work and family responsibilities? The seminar led me to believe it was just me, everyone else seemed to cope and balance perfectly fine!

However, as I sat there I listened to the humdrum of not there for homework, “had” to hire a tutor for Benedict, the nanny didn’t have the dinner ready, I mean, ugh. I felt gifted. Simply gifted.

I am there to play with my daughter when she wakes up in the morning. I am there to play with her in the evening. I am there to bathe her, read her a story, every night, and kiss her tiny lips before settling her to bed. I am there.  I don’t work late, I don’t work weekends and I appear to have managed a good balance without the help of nannies or housekeepers (oh to afford them!).  What I do have is an amazing husband who juggles just as much as I do and although the stress of it all takes its toll on him sometimes, we manage.  Together.

I cook all of Bambina’s food, a shop bought ready-made meal has never passed her lips. I iron the clothes that require it. I sing to her. I teach her animal noises. I make her laugh.

I cook. I clean. I shop. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I don’t see my mother or my friends half as much as I would like to. Sometimes that’s lack of effort or money on my part, sometimes theirs; life happens and before you know it, it got in the way.

Sometimes I feel a bit frayed at the edges, grumpy, over tired and suffering from a serious case of CBA (Can’t Be Arsed, to coin my mothers phrase!). The reality is that instead of complaining about it, I get on with it. I don’t blame the nanny or housekeeper, I don’t ‘get someone in’ to fix the problem.  I get on with it.

These women today live in a totally different world to me and I’m not sure that world suits my requirements. I want to be home for my daughter, to take her to school, pick her up, drop her off at ballet lessons.

My mum had three jobs when I was growing up and she has beaten herself up ever since because she feels like she wasn’t there for me enough. She was! I always remember her there to do homework with me, studying for exams, having mother and daughter time. We spent a lot of time shopping together, going out for lunch to china town and to the movies. Other children where I grew up had never tasted Chinese food let alone went to lunch in restaurants. My mum was amazing to me, she is still amazing to me. She did the best job she could with what we had.

I am university educated to Master level. I had one parent. I didn’t have a nanny, or a home help, or a cook. My mother held all of those jobs, brilliantly.

She is my role model. A mother who affords time with her child/ren. Time is the one thing we claim not to have, that we can’t buy, but it’s the most precious gift we can give. I want to make time for my child. In doing that, I can have it “all”.

What do you consider to be your “all”? How do you juggle the fine art of work and family?

I’m glad I went to the seminar. I didn’t agree with a lot of what was said but it got me thinking. Thinking about how lucky I am to have a supportive employer, how lucky I am to have time with my daughter and how lucky I am that I can afford to be a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend – I just need to remind myself to be a bit more often to remember to be ME!

Do you have it “all“? I’d love to know.

X-O-X

Related Article:

The Guardian: Working Mothers

Forbes: Working Mother Magazine

Credit: Forbes.com

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in London

 

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IHeartCiambellone

A very VERY dear friend of ours is from Rome. She’s so dear that I nickname her “The Mistress” as my husband spends most of his not-with-me time with her.

She makes the most amazing lemony sponge cake with a sugar crust. Its called a Ciambellone because it resembles a huge donut. So with this week being National Donut Week in the UK, I thought what better to make for my Lavazza Wimbledon #CoffeeSetMatch challenge than a nice cake with a hole in it! The cake tin is especially made for making this cake and has a hole right through the centre. It’s so refreshing and light and lovely for breakfast with a steaming hot espresso. Apparently its a common cake and every household in Italy makes them.

Well, I’m sorry but I don’t “do” common.

I just made the Ciambellone posh!

I got to thinking… what if it wasnt light, what if it was heavy, or heavier? what if it was smooth and rich instead of light and airy? What if I used a Demerara sugar to crystallise the top? And so my Ciambellone di Caffe was born – Ciao Ciao Limone, buon giorno Lavazza!

What you need:

4 eggs

1 Lavazza espresso

1 espresso sized cup of olive oil

250g sugar

1 tbsp of baking soda

380g of plain flour

A greedy sprinkling of golden Demerara sugar

What you do:

Pre-heat the oven at 180c

Rub the cake mold with butter and sprinkle it with flour

Mix all the ingredients, everything together, all at once, in a big bowl and sprinkle the sugar over the gooey mix

When smooth add the mix to the cake mold and throw it in the oven for 40 minutes

Be patient and DO NO do what I usually do… DON’T open the over the door for a peak!

It will collapse if you do.

There  you have it, a posh coffee cake with a hole!

Whilst we’re on the subject of ‘posh’, let me tell you about Lavazza’s #CoffeeSetMatch campaign can be seen on take-away cups as well as a virtual cup promotion online which you can access here – it’s great, go ahead and and play- you have to in it to win it!  Prizes include six pairs of tickets to Wimbledon, 90 Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Plus Wimbledon Limited Edition coffee machines and 500 sets of four exclusive espresso cups created especially for the tournament.

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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Who’s the Daddy?

When I first start blogging, I didn’t have a clue about the acronyms but I’m slowly figuring out it out. It’s a language all of its own.

I figured out that my OH (Other Half) is a SAHD (Stay At Home Dad).  Only for a short while longer.  Hopefully.

Almost four years ago the Italian decided to change his career so that we could enjoy a better life.  I was eternally grateful that he was planning to go back to school and change everything he had ever known – for me!  He has graduated with amazing results from an education system that he wasn’t familiar with, studied in a language that isn’t his mother tongue and surround himself with students 15 years his junior.  This was no easy feat.

We stayed up late checking essays, correcting English.  Mentoring.  Motivating him to do just this last paragraph.  I know it wasn’t easy for him but he did it!  And I’m proud of him.

What we didn’t expect was for the country to be the way it is now – hard! No jobs.  No moral.  No support. No encouragement.  It’s not our situation of choice but at times when he’s feeling low and unmotivated and just totally fed up with the world, I reassure him of this one thing:

Cherish every moment you have with your daughter for these times are too precious.  She will never be this tiny again.  She’ll never utter her first words more than once. She’ll never do her first crawl more than once and she’ll never reach out and give you that first adorable mouth open baby kiss, more than once.

I should know. I met my dad for the first time when I was 24.  He missed out.  He missed out big time!  It was fine for a while but then he chose to opt out – again.  He’s missing out now – again.

So amidst the interviews and the CV’s,the frustration and the rants, I remind the Italian to be strong. To look at Bambina, our most treasured little gift.  To grab every single moment with both hands and never let it go. For these are the things that will pick you when you’re down – the joy that you were there, there to experience Bambina’s “firsts”.

When I look at them together my heart fills, mostly with happiness that they have each other, and a bit with sadness that I didn’t have what my daughter has.  I’m happy for her.   A mother always wants better for her child, right? I’m elated that Bambina has better, much much better, than I had.  I chose well chosing him because I could never have found a more loyal and dedicated man to his family. The Italian is an amazing father, I look at him with her and I get teary – teary with happiness.  I’m happy for him.  I’m happy he has had this time alone with her, without me.

It will all change soon. Hopefully.  But in the meantime, my husband, the Italian, the SAHD, has the best job in the whole world..  Who is he?

He’s the DADDY!!!!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in London

 

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