Posts filed under ‘Travel’

Waiting for Miss Panino

Ciao Bloggisti!

Hope you’ve been having a good summer. I got back a week ago from our holidays in Liguria. Lots of swimming, walking and, of course, eating! We went to quite a few sagre (village fairs featuring local gastronomical specialities, live music, etc.) and stuffed ourselves silly. And I discovered a heavenly ice cream parlour in the town where we stayed. It had the most decadent, delicious chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had. The shop also specializes in real Sicilian granita but I was too smitten with their ice cream to try one. Definitely next time!

So now I’m back at my unusually quiet home, organizing the last few things in the house while the kids are still at seaside with their nonni. My mom arrived from Canada this morning, laden with so many goodies that getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight will take a lot longer than expected. But how can I resist Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chocolate-covered almonds, cheddar cheese, banana chips, jackfruit chips, fluorescent orange cheese puffs, Sweet Tarts and my beloved Ketchup chips? My mouth is watering at the very thought! But I guess it’s a good thing to be distracted since tomorrow is D-day.

Yep, I’m still lugging that panino around. I know I haven’t been keeping you up to speed with my pregnancy but I’m no Dooce. I worked full-time up until the end of my eighth month and went on holiday soon afterwards. In the evenings I was too, too tired to have the energy to turn the computer on so I spent most of my time watching 30 Rock or reading (books such as the Baby Whisperer, Kurt Cobain’s biography, The Help, The Scarlet Letter, etc.). And just between you and me, I couldn’t really sit down for long periods in front of my computer because, ahem, my keister would hurt like mad. Blame it on the belly. But the hubster recently got me a new laptop so I can write anywhere now.

Another book I’ve been reading lately is the Canadian Medical Association’s book of Mother and Baby Care. Since I’m almost at Week 40, let’s see what they have to tell me:

By this stage, you will feel very ungainly, and will be bumping into objects. (Yes and yes)

Your skin will feel stretched and taut across your abdomen and may be itchy (oh yeah!)

Your belly will be so large that you have difficulty getting comfortable in bed (ok, I get it – I’m a freakin’ whale!)

But seriously, since I know that in max. 10 days my girl will be making her appearance, I’m enjoying my last days with the bump. It may be a pain sometimes but it’s by far the easiest way to carry a little ‘un. And there’s no way to describe the sensation of a baby moving around inside of you. I will miss it. For now, she seems to be in no hurry to move out. My mom, who used to be a maternity nurse, checked my belly today and said the baby’s head still hasn’t engaged. But tomorrow there will be a full moon and anything could happen.

Since I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write more in the next few days, here’s a very overdue and brief overview of my pregnancy.

FIRST TRIMESTER

Found out the big news on Xmas day. Was more nauseous than in the previous pregnancies. So much so it was hard to hide my condition at work. Started cleaning up the house to make room for baby. She’s going to take over the old kitchen. Had a bad stomach flu, which always happens when I’m expecting. I was also DOG-TIRED, all the time! But I did have enough energy to go on a trip to Liguria, Nice and Piedmont, where Bellie had her first skiing lesson.

SECOND TRIMESTER

Felt much better. No more nausea and my energy levels (and my appetite) went up. Could start to feel baby kicking! And found out we were expecting a little girl!! The search for a name began. Started explaining to Diggy that he was going to be a big brother. Was not immediately impressed. Asked if he could punch and pinch her. Must keep an eye on him. Major cleaning and renovation work at home.

Went on a lovely Easter vacation to Tuscany and Rome. Hubby turned 40 and we threw a big party for the old guy. Started doing yoga and prenatal exercises at home. Bump started to show and I was at that awkward stage: I could barely fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes but I wasn’t big enough for maternity wear.

THIRD TRIMESTER

Felt really good during most of this trimester except for one thing: my swollen feet! But it’s normal with the heat and humidity of Milan. I would get massages and do reflexology but it was only when I was in Liguria that my feet miraculously recovered. We finished up renovations and prepared the baby’s room. I forgot how annoying it is to wash and hang onesies, tiny socks and bibs. Bellie went away to summer camp for the first time and we travelled to Carnia to visit the site.

The still nameless baby was kicking up a storm, which would provoke cramps and other fun things but nothing serious. I still had enough strength to do some major spring cleaning all over the house. Doctor confirmed that baby was going to be a big girl! It was really busy at work in this period but I managed to wrap everything up before starting mat leave at the end of July. Little bro came to visit. And finally… the panino and me went on holiday!

Now we’re in the home stretch. I thought that with all the activity and travelling that went on over the last nine months, she’d make an early appearance. But it looks like she’s a late bloomer, just like her brother and sister before her. That’s ok. I don’t mind waiting a little bit longer.

Will keep you posted!

23 August 2010 at 10:51 pm 4 comments

Sorry, eh!

Ciao Bloggisti,

Yeah, it’s been a while. But I have a really good excuse. I’m working on a certain project which has temporarily diverted all my creativity into another worthy outlet. I can’t go into details right now but I’ll let you know soon enough ;).

But can I let something off my chest right now? WOOO HOOOO!!!! Here’s to my home and native land that did a SUPER job hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics!!

There were some weather issues, technical problems and tragedies. But Canada managed to overcome it all with characteristic hard work, spirit and sense of humour (did you see those inflatable beavers?). And we Owned the Gold, including the top spot in the hockey firmament! Because of Sid Crosby, Obama now owes Prime Minister Harper a case of beer. Hee hee! But our neighbours to the south did very well for themselves despite yesterday’s loss, earning 37 medals. The Russians, on the other hand, were still smarting from their less than stellar results when they bid Vancouver a “classy” farewell in this Pravda article: “Doesn’t it feel great to slam the door behind you as you walk out, stick up the middle finger using the palm of the left hand on the upper right forearm for extra leverage and blow a giant raspberry? That is exactly how it feels as Russia leaves Vancouver after disappointing Games with a question, was the Canadian ice hockey team on drugs?” Um, no, but perhaps the Editorial Staff of Pravda was.

But enough about them. What’s more tragic is the fact I missed my date with Clive Owen!! Well, I didn’t actually have a “date” date but he was in Milan over the weekend for Fashion Week and I had no idea till a few minutes ago when I read this! Does that man know how to wear a suit or what? And just look at those EYES! And where was I? Lying on the sofa watching the Canada vs. US hockey game in German. It was worth it in the end but “scheiße”!

What else is new in my corner of the world? It’s been a pretty busy year so far but we took a much-needed break over the Carnival period. We travelled to Liguria, the south of France and the mountains of Limone Piemonte where Bellie had her first skiing lessons. She was reluctant at first but was speeding down the slopes like a pro in no time. And here’s Diggy climbing his own personal Everest.

Limone Piemonte

So that’s what’s been going around here and in my mind. And what about you? I’d love to find out how your year has been so far and what you thought of the Olympics (or Clive Owen in a suit!).

Ciao ciao

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1 March 2010 at 10:50 pm 1 comment

Sant’Ambrogio Winterlude

Ciao Bloggisti!

Back from my self-imposed hiatus. I’ve been busy with the usual but I’ve also decided to relax more in the evenings and do things to help me wind down after a long day. So instead of blogging I’ve been obsessively watching  episodes of 30 Rock and reading books. Just finished The Namesake. Great up until the first half but the ending was a slight disappointment. Not that I didn’t feel guilty about not writing. Every evening I thought about it but you know, I decided not to get stressed about something that is essentially a hobby. I knew that when the moment was right, I’d start posting again.

So, it’s a good thing I got sick and am at home today. It means I can finally write! So without further ado, let me tell you about my recent mini holiday in Lombard Alps.

While the Milan area may not be as romantic and exciting as living in Rome or the Amalfi Coast, we do have one perk that makes us the “envy” of the Bel Paese: il ponte di Sant’Ambrogio, or the long weekend in commemoration of the St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan. What makes this holiday extra-special is that not only do we get St. Ambrose Day off (on December 7, also the traditional opening of the season at La Scala), the next day is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which just so happens to be a national holiday in Italy. And this year we were extra lucky because December 7 and 8 fell on a Monday and Tuesday. So we basically had a four-day weekend!!

We decided to make the most of it and take the kids to the mountains, in the Valsassina and Valchiavenna valleys, to be precise. The little ‘uns were thrilled because the day before we left it had snowed in the area. Us big ‘uns were thrilled because we slept lots and ate even more! Here’s the photographic evidence:

Mountains in Valsassina

A December afternoon in the lovely town of Chiavenna

A selection of local coldmeats, including Valtellina's world-famous bresaola

Two different types of pizzoccheri, a "light" pasta dish made cooked with different types of cheeses, potatoes, swiss chard or cabbage, garlic, sage and butter. The pizzoccheri on the left are made with traditional buckwheat tagliatelle while the ones on the right are made with a type of gnocchi from the Chiavenna area.

Lombards on ice! A skating rink in Chiavenna.

After our lovely holiday we were still hungry for more, so I baked cupcakes. First time ever!

So that’s how we spent our first long weekend of the season. Now I’m desperately trying to book a hotel in Val d’Aosta for New Year’s but it’s not looking promising. So if we don’t get lucky, it means that I’ll be ringing in 2010 with the in-laws. Can someone please help me? Anyone?!?

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16 December 2009 at 11:59 pm 4 comments

Tuscany or: how I learned to stop worrying and love nature

Ciao Bloggisti!

Just got back from a girls’ weekend in Dublin and will eventually post about that but for now I have a story about my Easter holiday in April…

Picture it: Tuscany – April 2009. I’m alone, sitting on the edge of the sofa bed in the agriturismo , nervously looking at the bucolic countryside from behind the comfort of the screen door. My family are somewhere frolicking outside and I’m trying to muster up the courage to go out and join them. Like Woody Allen, I’m not a big fan of the great outdoors. I grew up in Scarberia, for crying out loud! The closest I ever got to nature was cleaning the litter box. But that was a long time ago. I’m a grown woman now. I’ve backpacked around Europe and India, been through the joys of labour and childbirth, moved halfway across the globe and, most importantly, got through all the convoluted paperwork to get my Italian citizenship without losing my mind. No small feat. So, I can open the door and take on the rolling hills of Tuscany. I CAN DO THIS! SE PO’ FA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I slowly open the screen door and what do I see? A purty little kitty cat.

easter cat

Phew! It’s nice to see a familiar face. Me and cats, we’ve got a connection, see. I grew up with them and have two of my own now. But this kitty looks a bit on edge. It’s in pounce position, tail nervously flicking from side to side. All of a sudden I see a flash of fur shooting past. I lose sight of the cat for a second but then I notice it’s magically back in its original position. Something on the other side catches my eye. It’s a grey worm, twisting and writhing on the pavement. Strange. It didn’t rain last night. Why would there be worms around? Strange. I’ve never seen a grey worm before. Wait a minute! As the penny drops I look over at the cat and notice it’s chewing on something crunchy. OH MY GOD! A bony mouse  foot is sticking out of kitty’s mouth. That’s it! I’m outta here!!!!!! Cut to me sitting on the sofa bed once again, looking outside the screen door, calculating how many more hours I would have to endure before escaping to the comfort of big city smog.

Well, I may be exaggerating just a tad. Nature is actually growing on me in my old age. But that cat story is all true! I did manage to get over my initial hesitancy and ended up having a wonderful time in Tuscany, in the Maremma countryside to be precise. We stayed in a comfortable apartment inside an old but recently refurbished stone villa, surrounded by hills, olive groves and vineyards. It was heaven.

agriturismo easter 234

This agriturismo wasn’t an all-inclusive, luxury inn. But to me, it was a taste of the real Tuscany. It’s a little gem of a place,  close to Etruscan archaeological sites, medieval villages, hiking paths, Maremma’s famous horse ranches and seaside towns. It was also perfect for the kids. There was lots of space for them to run freely outside and they had a great time playing with the animals, especially the chickens and the aforementioned killer cats. The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves, so much so that my daughter wants to live in Tuscany now. That won’t be happening any time soon but we will definitely go back to the Maremma, grey worms and all.

diggy &dad easter 2009

20 May 2009 at 1:01 am 11 comments

Around the world in one city

Ciao Bloggisti!*
When I was back home in Toronto last August, the fam and I went to Centre Island for the afternoon. It’s a favourite summer destination as it has lovely picnic areas, an amusement park and one of the best views of the downtown skyline. Anyway, as I was waiting in line for the ferry, I started to get bored and had a look around me.  And what I saw was incredible. It was like a live-action ad for the United Colours of Benetton. There were Jamaicans, Chinese, South Asians, Koreans, Italians, North Africans, Hasidic Jews and, ahem, “mangiacakes”, all standing in line together for the Island Ferry, their coolers and backpacks bursting with goodies, just like so many Torontonians have done for generations. It was all so wonderfully Canadian!
Being the foodie freak that I am, I was just dying to take a peek at what all those people had in their culinary stash. And I also thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a communal picnic right then and there, passing around the bindaetteok , samosas and potato salad.  In my opinion, nothing brings a country together better than food. This summer I can safely say I was well-trained in the art of nation-building with all the great things I chowed down on during my trip to Toronto and Ottawa. I took pictures of most of the food I ate on my trip (much to the chagrin of friends and family) but here are just a few shots of the memorable dishes I had. And since October 14 is Election Day in Canada, I thought it would be a great reminder of how diversity has become as Canadian as the Nanaimo Bar.
Arugula salad – Torito Tapas Bar, Toronto
Arugula , manchego cheese , roasted almond salad with quince vinaigrette

Mini pappadums, Brampton

My aunt’s spicy barbequed fish

Kerala-style barbequed fish

Butter tarts! A Canadian classic.

Butter tarts

My favourite: chunky, greasy french fries

Fresh-cut fries and ketchup

Appetizers – Omonia Restaurant, Greektown, Toronto

Three-dip pita platter with tzatziki, humus and melitzanosalata

Canada, vote well!!! Mi raccomando!!!!!!

* Update: I just found out that today is Blog Action Day, an annual, non-profit event aimed at raising awareness on global issues. This years Blog Action Day is dedicated to Poverty. I didn’t have enough time to write a post about the poverty but I urge you to watch the video below and do whatever you can to spread the word.

15 October 2008 at 12:00 am 2 comments

Toronto’s Distillery District

Ciao Bloggisti!

Picture it: Toronto, August 2008.

I’m late for a very important date and to top it all off, I’m lost. I get off the bus and start walking east. All of a sudden I see a gateway leading to…. England? Looking at the cobblestone streets, the distinctive red bricks of the Victorian-era buildings and the noticable absence of cars, it seems as though I entered a time warp and stepped into Dickensian London. Instead, I’m in one of Toronto’s most unique neighbourhoods: the Distillery District.

The District’s old-world charm comes from the fact that it was once home to the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, founded in 1832 and the largest distillery in the British Empire by the 1860s. In the late 20th century, the Distillery’s operations came to a close and the area soon became a no-man’s land, surrounded by demolished buildings and vacant lots. But the Distillery’s buildings remained intact and “constitute the largest and best-preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America.” This made the area a big favourite with “Hollywood North” so it has often been used as a location for a number of major films, such as Chicago, X-Men, Cinderella Man and of course Brady Bunch in the White House.

A few years ago, the site was redeveloped and is now one of Toronto’s most fascinating tourist destinations. Its 40 plus buildings house art galleries, theatres, speciality shops, restaurants and cafés and what’s more, the spaces are never leased to franchises or chains. So if you’re in the area and are hankering for a Big Mac or Starbuck’s iced cappuccino, you’re outta luck!

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by my visit because even if I grew up in Toronto, I had no idea this District even existed. It truly was a hidden gem. And I just loved the relaxed vibe and slightly European feel of this pedestrian neighbourhood. There were a number of restaurants to choose from, such as the Boiler House and Perigee but we opted for the Mill St. Brew Pub, a microbrewery specializing in fresh organic beers, stouts and ales. They also served pub fare with a twist. I had a fancy shmancy meat loaf stuffed with asiago cheese and spinach and one of my friends ordered sweet potato fries. So delicious and gorgeous that I just had to take a picture!

I wish I had had enough time to discover more of the District, visit some artists’ studios and try the chocolates at Soma, but that will have to wait till my next visit to Toronto. And of course, you’re all invited!

Are there any hidden gems in your towns? What area would make a great movie location?

11 September 2008 at 1:08 am 3 comments

The centre of the universe, man!

 

Ciao Bloggisti!

The first thing I noticed was the sky. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it seemed different somehow. It was bigger, bluer, with a certain crispness about it that even made the usually drab colours of the cookie-cutter subdivision stand out. That was my first reflection upon arriving in Toronto, my hometown. Perhaps I’d gotten too used to the hazy Lombard air. Whatever it was, just looking at those open Canadian skies made me feel good. And it was a good omen of things to come. 

I’m still recovering from jet lag and my first day back at work but I just wanted to let you all know that I had a fantastic time in the town we Torontonians consider the centre of the universe. I spent less than a month there but I managed to meet up with so many old friends and relatives and got to relive so many childhood memories that I think I need another holiday just to recover. I stayed in the rockin’ suburb of Scarborough, visited the Beaches, the Distillery District, Kensington, Centre Island, Greektown on the Danforth, Davisville, Brampton, the St. Lawrence Market area, Ontario Place, the Yonge Street strip, the Ex and last but not least, the grand old STC (Scarborough Town Centre).

 

Once I settle in to my old routine I’m going to post a few stories about my stay in Canada but here’s a sneak preview of some of the beautiful and curious things I saw:

 

The ever-changing Toronto skyline

Scarborough Hinterland’s Who’s Who: a groundhog

 

The delightful Community Vehicular Reclamation Project in Kensington

The Beaches, Toronto

Parliament Hill (Ottawa, not Toronto)

 

To be continued, eh….

2 September 2008 at 6:59 pm 4 comments

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