Monday, August 31, 2015

Read, read, read.

Reading has always been an important part of my day with the girls since they were babies. Anything and everything was fair game. As they got older they liked picking the books out and while I thought I would go insane from reading the same book over and over, I didn't. I appreciated this even more when they began reciting the books from memory at young ages and I had the "this-is-why-we-read" moment.

So, the same has been done for my boy. From newborn, he has been read to and he's at a huge advantage now that there are 4 other readers in the house. Someone is usually willing to read to him one of his favorite books or even better, he'll sit through one of the books that his sister is presently flipping through. Good for her and good for him.

My girls pretty much 99.9% of the time always sat for me when reading.They were pretty interested in whatever was being read to them so imagine my surprise when at around one year old, little man would grab a book for me to read and bring it to me only to run off in the other direction. I was kind of hurt if I'm being honest. Did he not like how I read, was I not enthusiastic enough or did he not like being read to anymore? What a blow. I mentioned this to a very good friend and she said her kid sometime did the same but she continued reading anyway. He might be nearby with another toy but she read just the same.

So I have been doing just that since he's turned one. Continuing reading to him even if he's not cuddled on my lap or laying in bed with me. He'd ask for a book or I'll just start reading to him and he'll appear interested for a minute (if that long) and then run away to something else. I'll finish the book, maybe he'll ask for another one or I'll just grab one on my own and usually we get about 3-4 books in at a time. And you know what's begun happening this month again? Little man will ask for a book, bring it to me and get comfy on my lap. I'm not going to lie, I teared up the first time he did this and sat for the whole book.

Last week while I was putting clothes away in our bedroom, he grabbed a book and settled into his spot on our bed. He flipped through his little stack one page after another. It was amazing. After snapping up a few pictures, I settled into bed with him to read out loud to him.

Want to raise someone who might love books just as much as you do? Read to them everyday. Even if they're off playing with blocks, cars and dolls nearby. They're still listening.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

drying clothes au naturel

when in italy, we don't use a dryer. we don't use one because we don't have one to use. the good ol' lines on the roof or in the patio do the job for us. or rather the sun does the job for us. and thank goodness there is a lot of sun in southern italy in the summer.

it's a chore i remember very well as a child and one that i'm glad my girls are getting accustomed to when in italy. they help getting the clothespin in order and collecting the clothes in the basket to then later fold. and they have to put their own clothes away too.

ahh, chores for 6 and 8 year olds. got to love them getting older, gaining more responsibility around the house and the whining that come along with it. "do i have to?"

i actually love it because i remember hearing a lot of it...from my brothers growing up. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

breakfast of (Italian) champions

Breakfast is a definite favorite meal in our family. How could it not be when there's eggs, pancakes, sausages, waffles and more in the running for staple menu items? However, when breakfasting in Italy, it's a slightly different look. There's espresso, cappuccino, chocolate filled croissants and pastries galore. Definitely a lot more sugar, which makes for very big smiles.

Breakfast with Zio Antonio at one of our favorite cafes in Mesagne. One cappuccino for me please!

Yes, we have another sweet tooth in the house.

Naturally we're not eating like this every morning. At home we do whip up some eggs or pancakes and even the occasional bowl of cereal. But special mornings call for special treats for us.

Monday, August 24, 2015

More from Porto Cesareo

We visit this great little coastal town each year and it's no wonder why. Beautiful views of the sea, delicious gelato and sweets and adorable little shops. The kids enjoy the evening stroll, always helps to promise crepes or cotton candy too!

I love all the boats docked at this time of day. Visit during the morning and most boats are out to sea but at the evening hour the majority have returned home which make for nice shots for me.

The kids were excited to spot this little guy...

And each year I love getting our picture taken with the sea to our backs. The last link to a very early post in the blog is amazing. Blessed to have visited this beautiful town so many times with my little loves.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Santa Sabina, Puglia

Our first couple weeks in Italy were very mild in terms of the temperature. Light breezes during the day carried into stronger breezes at night especially on the beach. Which is where we spent an evening strolling around the small beach town of Santa Sabina. Vendors set up their stands selling their ware while restaurants, bars and cafes set up their tables in hopes of a good crowd.

Regardless of the weather, you can be sure there was gelato to be enjoyed.

37 years young

I turned 37 this past week and it feels...well, a lot like 36 actually. Another year older, hopefully getting wiser.

But the day started perfect with my husband picking me up some Starbucks, I made some sprinkly pancakes for the kids and myself and then I baked! It was a fantastic morning! I baked a chocolate chip cookie pie and then a chocolate birthday cake. The girls were in charge of the icing and decorations. I think they did a fabulous job. 

The key to letting your kids help in the kitchen is to steer them in the right direction but sometimes to look the other way to little spills and messes. This is a big turning point for me since I'm usually the one doing all the baking, decorating and cleaning. Now I have an 8 and 6 year old helping me too and with little hands doing things, most times there are big messes.

But there will be smiles!

How can there not be smiles when you give them a jar of sprinkles and tell them to decorate!?!

And in the end, there's always cake. So there's that too to keep you going and looking the other way.

Relaxing with my little loves, waiting for daddy to return from work.

No picture session is complete without the funny face pictures.

We had a fabulous family dinner at Max Brenner's. If you haven't been and are lucky enough to live near one, I suggest you try it out. Especially if you have kids. And if you love chocolate. Which we all do and hence the happy faces. Perfect restaurant to take kids with a fun atmosphere and an even more fun menu. Everything we had was delicious!

After dinner we went to see The Art of the Brick which was very cool. My girls love Lego's and little man is definitely enjoying hanging out with his sisters when they're building things, so I imagine we have a future Lego lover in him as well. It's a really interesting array of work and up close you really gain such an appreciation for his talent. And patience. A family favorite was the Liberty Bell...of course!

Outside the museum with the people who keep me girls that keep me movin' and groovin'...

and my little man that is just as sweet as can be.

And this guy? He's pretty cool too.  He's a good egg and I'm thankful each day for the love that we have and share with our kids.

Happy Birthday to me!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

farm fresh

One thing about being in Italy is that it's so very easy to eat well. A market occurs weekly in most towns where you can buy not only shoes, jewelry and the latest fashion trends, but also fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, herbs, legumes, nuts and fish. In addition to the weekly town market, there are numerous vendors throughout town that bring their product right to piazza for selling. A farmer can rise early that morning to pick fresh produce from their farm and make it back to town in time to sell to buyers prior to lunchtime. It's one of my absolute favorite things, buying right from the farmer!

Why don't I do that here now that we're home? Instead, I visit our local grocery store that is huge, overpriced and crowded. And I do this weekly. The convenience of driving right down the street to the grocery store has got to take a back seat at least when it comes to buying fruits and veggies. We did experiment with a CSA a couple years ago and while we enjoyed it enough, simple and reasonably priced, I stopped doing it. The produce we received on a weekly basis was enough for our family but it wasn't what I necessarily would have picked for us to enjoy. I think the several weeks we did it, we received so many bundles of kale and beets that we were running out of ways to consume them. And believe me, I'm a big fan of Pinterest and looking up new recipes.

So what do I need to do?

The feeling of eating fresh and supporting local has remained with me since we've returned from Italy and visiting Maple Acres Farm on Monday with the kids left an impression.  Made me feel almost like we were in a different part of the world and it felt good paying a farmer directly for our purchases. Maybe I work out a plan to go every other week while the girls are in school to buy my produce and continue doing meats, fish, etc. at our grocery store. Little man can run around the farm before helping me pick out fruits and veggies. I bet he would love that! Perhaps help out the grocery bill too leaving the produce for the farm. It's worth a try and I'll feel good about buying something directly from the farmer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A fun morning in Oria

We spent a morning taking a stroll in the nearby town of Oria. Gorgeous centro storico with great little alleys and cafes. Much like most towns in Italy. The girls enjoyed following me around taking pictures.

Olivia has found her future car.

My girls love exploring and I'm so glad since we all have that in us and hopefully we're doing much more of it in our future. Little alleys zigzag through the towns with little surprises around each corner. A decorated balcony, a great old door or even just a cute little cafe to get a gelato. I'll take it all.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A trip to the farm...Maple Acres Farm

I love exploring new places around our home with the kids. They're great in the car and excited to see new things. I'd been looking into a new pick-your-own farm to visit since we've been back from Italy and I believe we found another great one to add to our list. There's something about being in Italy, eating clean and seeing all the wholesome fresh produce around you that makes you want to return home and continue with the wholesome goodness. So that's what we did.

Maple Acres Farm and Market and just beautiful and the best thing too - not far from our house at all. As you approach the farm you notice the colorful zinnia fields and the barn in the distance. Not bad for first impressions. There's a sweet market with a great array of fresh produce at reasonable prices.

We'll definitely be back for more produce and definitely add it to our pumpkin patches to visit in the Fall.

The flowers the girls and I picked out. Mario picked out cucumbers (not pictured). 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's pasta making time!

I love my mom's pasta. What Italian kid hasn't said that? I know I did a million times growing up and still do as an adult (semi) with kids of my own. What I love most about my mom's pasta is when she makes it homemade. In Italy. With my kids right by her side. It makes the lunch that much sweeter when you hear the girls saying "I think I made this one!" throughout the meal.

Olivia hard at work making orecchiette. All you need is the dough, a knife and your thumb.

My big girl trying very hard to make hers just like Nonna Lisa.

And Mario. Well, this time he watched them make the pasta but he definitely helped eating later on! Everyone loves Nonna's pasta!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

a different kind of fun in italy

sure it looks like all gelato and beach time while we're in italy, but the girls do get some sort of schedule for reading and writing. we always bring a couple activity books for each girl plus an assortment of books. they get to pick out a few of their favorites from home to bring and i always buy a few new ones to surprise them with sporadically throughout our trip.

this year i also though it would be fun to set up a journal for each of the girls and have them write in it each day and tell about something fun or interesting we did that day. it turned out awesome! in the beginning they were very excited to be writing in them and knowing they could read them back to one another in the future. some days it was difficult getting them to sit down to do it and rather than force it, i would ask them to put it away and most of the time they would just sit and write in them knowing that if they didn't do it now, they'd have to do it later. some days the page is filled completely while other days there are only a couple of sentences. whatever it was, i'm so happy we did it and this will be something that we will hold onto forever.

and as far as completing the activity books, i just set up a station in the house with their books and pencil cases and whenever they felt like grabbing and doing some work they did. if i started to notice that a day or two would go by that they didn't grab one, i asked them to spend 15 minutes with an activity book. most of the time they were pretty good about just grabbing one, a pencil and finding a quiet spot.

i love olivia's quiet spot outside...

little man would get in on the reading action too. that face. he looks so innocent!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

my little bakers

Last year we started a nice tradition of having the girls bake a cake for one of our very dear friends and neighbors in Mesagne. The girls help me do everything from mixing and pouring to icing and sprinkles. And of course, singing and enjoying. It's an American Betty Crocker cake box mix that the Italians love which always makes me laugh since basically all the neighbors make the desserts from scratch and they are amazingly delicious. But the grass is always greener, right?

A great evening with friends and neighbors celebrating Nina's birthday.

Blessed with great people around us.

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