Touching the Venetian life: Design inspiration

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I’ve been staying in Venice for a glorious two weeks while my husband is busy studying for his masters. We’ll be here for three months and I’m crying tears of JEWELS as I walk through these streets and see fabrics hanging from the windows of stores like Venetia Stvdivm and Bevilacqua . The center of velvet, fabric, and artisians is where I’m at.img_5769

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Since October of last year I’ve been developing my art of handmade home decor. The process is long and tedious, especially the first phase of design where you’re trying to throw together a unique pattern for a product and you have to rip it out a thousand times because you’re type A when it comes to your work. Finally the design stage is over and now making samples of each product is where I’ve arrived. I decided to take a small break from making samples while here for these three months mostly because it’s very hard to move things to Venice as you have to pack everything into a boat, or several boats and then lift your things over every bridge and eventually up the stairs. Instead, these three months are going to be invested in design inspiration, collecting ideas and new fabrics to realize some over the top Christmas stockings. Well, I lied. I did bring one small bag of things from home to work on when it rains.

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Not only is Venice the center of fabric in Italy (which most people probably don’t even realize when they think of Venice) but also lace of course. There is a whole island dedicated to lace making, Burano. I’ll probably be dragging my husband there this weekend, I might just wear somthing lace for kicks…ma no, that would be a big vergogna!

I’m not surprised that I haven’t seen many modern shops or modern artists. This is good I guess, Venetian baroqueness and the minimalist mindset don’t mix? I think they can. Maybe I’ll have a niche. While walking along Strada Nuova in Cannaregio I found another great fabric store called G. Benevento. Here you’ll find much more affordable fabrics that are just as beautiful!img_5722img_5721Apart from fabrics, I’ve mainly been on the lookout for yarn shops. I came across a shop called Lellabella which is full of pretty yarns mostly for making clothing.img_5777

That wasn’t the genre that I was looking for, but then I happily stumbled across another store called Arcobaleno-Pigmenti which has pure dyes. A thought ran across my mind of hand dying white t-shirt yarn in order to have 1: a unique color that no one sells and 2: a dependent source of yarn that I can count on because I make it myself. One 3 oz bag of dye only costs 3 euros. The guy didn’t seem to be an expert on dye when asking him how much dye I would need for a liter of water…he mostly sells other artsy things like posters, pens, and painting supplies. That’s alright, I’m getting used to vendors not describing much in detail, almost like they don’t want to give away secrets.

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If stores don’t bring about enough ideas then talking to artists in smaller, mom-and-pop shops do. I walked by a booth near the Rialto bridge and saw these amazing wood Giuseppe, Jiminy Cricket, and Pinocchio puppets (which are everywhere but not as good as those) and talked to the seller about Made-In-Italy products. There’s a big certification process, a yearly tax, and quality checks involved as I could imagine. What an honor and dream it would be to one day have that authentication on my products I thought to myself.

Luxurious discoveries only two weeks in. What else will I stumble upon in these three months? Like I said in my last post, inspiration can be derrived from all forms of art and can transition into your work. Here is a piece of leather jewelry that I thought was gorgeous. I like the subtle sparkle and it gave me the idea of dip dying yarn with a slight shimmer to create a light effect.img_5667
Are there any places you’ve been to in Venice that have inspired you? Add them to my list!

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Posted in Business in Italy, crochet, Design, Design Inspiration, Life in Italy, Traveling Italy

LIFE in Italy, what’s happened in two years

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I’m back! A long absence is usually due to life happening. Well life has happened for me down in the South of Italy. I welcomed my son into the world on July 7th, 2015. My husband and I moved to Sicily twice for a temporary stay and now are moving to Venice for 3 months. We are in the process of building a house in our home town of Casarano (province di Lecce), and I’m starting an online business that will be up and running by the end of the year.

I hated to neglect my blog; I love to write; but alas priorities are priorities and now that my gelatos are in order I can write again.

I have so many new experiences to share with you all such as what it’s like to have un partorito naturale (natural birth) in Italy, moving to Sicily, and of course starting a business in Italy and the long, wonderful process of gathering inspiration from the masterminds of art themselves!

BUT before I get to all that I am ecstatic to say that I was nominated for the Creative Blogger Award by Il Gusto di Vivere who sports a fantastic blog on food and recipes in Italy. It’s always nice to know people intently read your stuff in the nooks of their houses somewhere around the world, but more notably a fellow blogger in Italy! Thank you Il Gusto di Vivere!

The rules for the Creative Blogger Award are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share five facts about yourself.
  • Nominate five bloggers and add their links.
  • Notify the bloggers you included.
  • Keep the rules in your post.

So, 5 facts about me are

  1. As much as I would love to live in one of the famous, big cities in Italy I am quite content in my little town in the South because it has pulled creativity out of me and has forced me to learn Italian as no one speaks English here. I would encourage all people thinking of making THE move to consider moving to a town off the beaten track because they will experience the REAL Italy.
  2. After four years of living in Italy it does get easier; and reverse culture shock is a real thing in my life. When I go home every year my head cocks sideways for many things that I would have never glanced at twice before.
  3.  My life motto in the last two years has been to “just do it”…I guess I stole that from Nike, but living in Italy makes you adapt that strategy really fast because no one here will do things for you, you have to create your life
  4. I’m a very factual person. All the books I read are factual books that are straight to the point. I buy my books in English from Amazon.co.uk or I bring them with me from the States every year. No E-Reader in these parts.
  5. Homesickness doesn’t ever go away. Staying positive is a life choice that I practice every day! There is always something to be happy about.

I’m pretty picky when it comes to liking something. With that in mind the 5 bloggers I’d like to nominate are those who in my opinion are truly unique

Surviving in Italy is hilarious to read as the writer doesn’t hold back her tongue and has a truly intriguing style of writing about her Italian experiences

Learn Italian With Lucrezia  is an awesome daily blog where Lucrezia teaches a word or expression per day by video.

Becoming Italian Word by Word  is an easy, poetic read where you can quickly pick up new vocabulary

Driving Like a Maniac is a narrative type blog where Kate shares her spin on life in Italy

and

Bleeding Espresso which is a fantastic food blog in Calabria


And now the quick overview of what’s happened the last 2 years of my life! 

Once becoming pregnant in October of 2014 and going to doctors’ appointments in a foreign language I quickly felt overwhelmed and stayed off the charts for a while. Being pregnant in Italy had lots of nice surprises such as the overwhelming sense of women are strong and capable being thrown in my face from gynecologists, my birth class, and local hospital which were all for natural birth and breastfeeding. Some strange differences did occur in the midst such as not being allowed to wear nail polish and having my beautician make sure I de-haired my body before the big day as it was most sterile. When the big day came I walked myself into the labor room where my doctor dressed in a checkered shirt like a cowboy threw on his coat, coddled my face for comfort and then jumped on my belly to get that baby out. Love and hate him, almost like the whole irony of Italy itself. BUT apart from all that drama, one of the most enjoyable parts of my whole baby experience was sharing the American tradition of a baby shower with my close friends and family.

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Italian Baby Shower

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Guess the baby food game

There were the nay-sayers that Italians wouldn’t get it, that they wouldn’t enjoy the games and things, but let me tell you from personal experience that they loved it and still talk about it. I’ll leave out the picture of my cake debacle having a queen-size bed cookie on top of the cake instead of a carrozzina (baby carriage) like I asked. Let’s just say idiot pastry chef ruined my cake lost in translation.

And then one month later there was my masterpiece, William.

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My little masterpiece. Che spettacolo il mio principino!

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our family

Everyone says he looks like his dad…

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recent photo taken in April

But let’s face it, he’s got my hair and eyes!

Like I said we moved to Sicily twice for months at a time as my husband was training for his new helicopter in Catania (yes, he’s the bomb diggity) and later to attend commanding school in Augusta. Here is a photo of William and me in Taormina.

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One night while it was pouring raining we decided to go out to eat regardless because we didn’t want to be constantly kept up in our 8th floor apartment…well I’m so glad we did because we found this wine and food gem in Catania- Ristorante Il Cantiniere.

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an amazing wine place in Catania

Sicily is known for certain foods as are all regions in Italy. One of the must tries is granita di mandorle e granita di pistachio (which are the classic shaved ice flavors to try, mandorla being almond)

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Eating some granita di mandorle

If you’re looking for the best burger in Italy you have to come here! FUD in Catania is a hilarious place where the menu is written out in English as Italians would pronounce it in their language. Hence “FUD” is food and “burgher” is burger.

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the best burger place in italy called FUD in Catania

Apart from moving back and forth to Sicily I’m also entertaining my design skills and have been trying out new yarns as an avid crocheter. Here I purchased some giant yarn from an Italian Etsy seller. There aren’t many.

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getting started on some new things

When I’m not crocheting I’m sewing. I love to make Christmas stockings and last year I had to make a baby version of a stocking that would suit my house style. I found some leftover white leather that I had from making pillows and cut out some bears which I then hand stitched on. Being surrounded by mom-and-pop shops all over the country it can feel like resources for homey makes are limited. I knew little 4 years ago, but now my world has been broadened to sites like www.tessuti.com for fabrics.

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playing around with a baby stocking design

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finished product

I have been in the beginning stages of developing my business since October of last year, part of that includes buying a camera and learning how to take good pictures. Here I am playing with a white background on one of my crochet baskets.

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One thing I love about Italy is its source of inspiration. I am inspired by so many things I see, and things like this concept of a bouquet of flowers speak volumes to me on thinking outside of the box. Every piece of art can transition into inspiration for what you’re currently working on. Italians have a vision and they’re teaching me to see.

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That about wraps up what has been going on with me over the last few years-babying, moving, and designing. Cheers and a dopo!

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Posted in Business in Italy, Culture, Design, Design Inspiration, Life in Italy

Everyday Italy in pictures

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It’s hard to get a real idea of what life is like in Italy when you only visit for vacation. Living here is very different than what I perceived Italy to be when I used to visit months at a time. Here is a glimpse of the little things about Italian life that I see everyday.

They have to-go cups for espressoIMG_0963-0.JPG

I hang dry my clothes and have to iron them everyday. It ends up being therapeutic.IMG_0968 

Tiramisu actually means pick me up. In Italy you have to whip the cream yourself, it doesn’t come pre-whipped!IMG_0967

Studying Italian, it’s definitely a tiramigiù at the momentIMG_1154-0

That car is parked there…IMG_1162

They created the seat belt to save lives. They then created the beeper to remind you to save your own life. Some don’t value their lives I suppose. I took it out and my friend was really curious as to why I would do that and gave me a strange look.IMG_0035

Making banana pancakes for the family. We all live together practically, so they just come right in😀IMG_1146

Teaching kids in an after school program.IMG_1163-0

Updating a handwritten list to the new modern way thanks to personal use of a computer give to us (Americans) since the 1980s. In Italy personalized computers were distributed later and the use of internet is still a fairly new tool when it comes to business. IMG_0964

I’ve accepted that I live in Italy and just do without.IMG_1155-0.JPG

When the shipping costs more than the product you know you’ll just have to wait till you go home for Christmas and stuff your suitcase. IMG_1156

Tiramisu with friends. It’s a common dessert especially for summertime. IMG_1153

Stuffing ourselves into a small elevator. IMG_1152

Picking up my husband from port after 3 1/2 months away!IMG_1149

Welcome home love. Unforgettable moments.IMG_1150

Teaching kids at English camp some geography. “America non è sopra Inghilterra?”  io: “nooo, è lontana!” Same conversation I have every year.😀IMG_1157

McDonalds in Italy is favoloso. If only they knew! Apart from the sweets, they serve pasta salad and panini! IMG_1164.JPG

Having fun with my hubs back in town. IMG_1145

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Posted in Culture, Life in Italy

The Journey to Success-Job hunting in Italy

Southern Italy is a hard place to live if you moved here right out of college, like I did. Straight into an economic crisis, no real experience besides my 3 month internship that had nothing to do with my degree. No English, no running websites or social media avenues that’s comparable to the US, no career counseling fairs or anything convenient like that, you’ve got to be joking. This is Italy, where people get jobs because they’re in the family even though they suck at what they do and aren’t qualified. If they’re not in the family then they get jobs because they’re friends of someone who has a connection. No one gets a job just because they deserve it or are best qualified in the area.  I thought my solid résumé and skills were enough. Little did I know about how Italy works or about where success really comes from.

I thought hey, at least I’m not ugly as sin, maybe that will help. WRONG. On my second interview I was told that I was TOO pretty and no one would take me seriously. Never heard that one. Then I said, hmmm, well at least I’m young, that means I’m moldable. WRONG AGAIN. In Italy being young is a fault not a benefit. Great, now what. Résumé check, skills check, appearance check, adaptability check. All that’s left is me.

My New Year’s resolution 2 years in a row has been to land the job that I rightfully deserve and have worked really hard for. I have a degree in comprehensive economics and I love that stuff. I wanted to work for the UN and combat human trafficking, or work in the export/import business. I’ve never cried so much or been so down about anything in my life but this problem of not finding a job and not feeling successful. It’s degrading, humiliating, and frustrating to work as a teacher just because I fit the job when I hate teaching and never saw myself as a teacher in my life. The only thing employers see in me is Madrelingua…”we want you because of your English skills, now can you translate the website and teach our daughter English on the side?” “I have to think about it” is often my reply, but “did you even look at my résumé? I fit the job description, I’m not here because I want to teach English…” The parts that are left of me after 2 years of this nonsense are all the bad parts probably. I go to interviews with a shield now.

To not cross off my resolutions list creates resentment and doubt about myself and what I’m worth and have to give. Imagine your husband coming home and telling you about his awesome job that he loves, a Special Forces helicopter pilot is pretty impressive. After hearing about his perfect day at his awesome job how can you even start to talk about your day as an English teacher and how you taught “to be” in 5 different ways when you see yourself as an economist solving world problems?

Countless résumés sent, not even a reply. Countless conversations had, but the story is always the same “you know, the economy is so bad right now, we’re still in a crisis, most people don’t have jobs, you’re lucky you’re teaching, and you’re so young and without experience.” I reply in my head “Yes, I do know very well, I have a degree in Economics and could explain to you with graphs why your country is in the %$^%* and could really help your business if you’d just give me a chance you a-hole, and I’m not lucky, I worked for what I have because I’m determined and not lazy.” But instead of saying what I think I just often say “I understand, thanks anyway.”

After this 2 year journey I started to look around and notice the successful people in my town. They’re all really determined people. They have what they have because they jump at opportunities, they’re very positive people, and have a vision. It’s then that I realized that I am successful because I have these qualities on the inside, it just hasn’t happened for me yet, in the order I had pictured. If I continue to be determined and keep trying something is bound to happen. Didn’t Thomas Edison try thousands of times to get the perfect lightbulb? That guy failed so many times and for some reason he just kept trying. If anyone was the master of determination it was him. I’m sure thousands of other people just gave up making the lightbulb, and so they weren’t given the credit. What’s the moral to the story? You don’t have to be the best at it, forget the other guy who always has straight A’s in life…you just have to have a bigger drive than him.

For me, the key factor of success is being determined, which down the line turns into numbers in which most people perceive success.When you’re in an environment that’s full of negativity and hopelessness in the job market you have to find a way to ignore it all and keep going despite what they say. It’s easy to quit or accept what you’re given, it’s hard to be determined. You have to do it for your own self-worth, not for competition between your peers, or to please your parents.

I’m now nearing 3 years of being in Italy. This year was a milestone for me in my job hunt. I was offered 3 opportunities at different schools, 1 opportunity at an engineering company, and 1 opportunity at an export company. All of this happened because I pushed and kept trying and made myself noticeable. I chose to decline all 3 school jobs, obviously teaching isn’t my field so I’m shutting doors. I tried out the engineering place and it didn’t work out, I’m now edging my way into an international exporting company. Even if it’s a slow process and there’s a chance it might fall through because, you know… “the economy” I still am happy and take it all as experience for the future.

So I’ve created a list of steps of how to be determined (which is a little ironic I know). I’ve never seen a list about being determined because it has to be something that comes from within. However, if you’re not born determined you can create a drive. If you want something bad enough you’ll do what it takes otherwise you never wanted it in the first place.

THE LIST~

1. Figure out who you are and what you really want. You can’t be determined about something that you feel so/so about.

2. Figure out your top priorities, organize your thoughts.

3. Be consistent. Success takes work. Most people who are at the beach every day are not successful people. Stay home and get your stuff done. Being consistent is a habit and takes practice.

4. Surround yourself with positive people who are also determined.

5. When you don’t feel like being determined read a book for encouragement from other people who have made it. If you don’t read then find another medium.

6.When you feel like you’ve lost your determination find something that inspires you to get back on track. For me, it’s reading about world affairs and traveling. This reminds me of how much I want to be involved and make changes.

7. Remember that success is a feeling from within, not numbers. A lot of being successful is having the ability to battle yourself, figure out who you are, and know what you want. Once you can do that it’s easy to be determined and achieve your goals.

8. Keep up with current times because it will make you feel like you’ve got an edge and will help you express determination physically. Learning new things is a great way to see your progress as well, and how determined you are. It’s not good enough to have average skills if you want to be successful. You need to continuously learn about social media mediums, technology, and cultural fads in the business world. It’s hard if you’re living in Italy and don’t know Italian. I use a lot of online sites to learn about things that aren’t accessible in Italy. Webucator is a great savvy place to keep yourself updated in technology. They teach all kinds of things like Microsoft programs, Linux, Quickbooks…you can choose how to learn either through an online class that’s live, through a skype-like platform, or through a self-paced course. Check it out http://www.webucator.com/

I know this post may seem clichè, determination is pretty predictable for a success factor. But, when loads of people and books say the same thing it’s because it’s true-many people have lived to tell how basic but fundamental it is. Determination translates into may other character traits, it can be hard to put into continuous practice, but easy if you truly care about reaching your goal.

Please share about your success stories in Italy with job hunting, your struggles, and what in your opinion is the key factor to success!

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Posted in Business in Italy, Culture, Life in Italy

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