Italy and me

It’s the beginning of October, which means we have been in Italy for three months. In this time we have had a wonderful holiday in Rome, moved to a small house in the foot hills of Florence, the boys have been home schooled in English, they then started Italian school, we have walked at least 80 km and counting, and we’ve even gone on a couple of day trips in the country. I think it is fair to say we have jammed quite a bit into the past couple of months and I thought I needed to give an honest account on how life is right now….something for me to look back on.

Whenever we decide to move countries, and we’ve done it a few times (Australia-Chicago-Italy-Chicago-West Virginia-Chicago-Sydney-Italy) I get all excited about the fabulous idea of the move and the excitement about eating new foods, walking new streets and meeting new people. Yet every time I move, once I’ve actually done the hideous flight, I feel the weight of reality on my shoulders and think ‘Shit, what have I done….again!??’

The reality hit was masked this time because it’s the first time we have taken a family holiday before moving into our new life and I really like this approach. We eat more gelato, drink more wine and relax on holidays so what’s there not to love? However, once we strip away the fun times and get down to the reality of everyday living, this is when you start to wonder why the hell you made this decision in the first place and secondly why the hell didn’t you study more Italian before you arrived!!

As daily life progresses, Nic goes to work, kids go to school (Italian) and I go……nowhere, that’s when I start to think about what am I doing, where am I going? The house work is done, I’ve walked a few km to do the shopping and yet I still have half a day to fill. Back at home, in the comfort of my own language and environment I had it all sorted out: this was going to be my year to do something new, find a new interest, maybe even change careers and do as many foodie things as I can….live the dream!

Three months into my ‘dream’ I have had more anxiety attacks that you can poke a stick at and I have asked myself more questions about me than anyone really needs or wants too! You see my WORKING life back home was full on: it was chaotic, busy, not enough hours in the day to do everything and yet what I now realise is that I have nothing in my day except what I do for my family to keep us ticking along. Don’t get me wrong this is important but what is more important for a healthy mind is not losing who you are and what you do in the world and I kind of feel that is what I have done.

Daily I have a freak out about not being good at Italian and feel everyone is judging my progress. I’ve taken classes, I have apps on my phone to teach me and the daily emersion with school and shops etc but I am pathetic at keeping it in my brain, it goes in and then straight out again. I’m starting to think I am not built for this, by the time the year is up I’ll be one step up from basic beginners!

The question is, what am I going to do about my anxiety? I can’t go through life letting it control me, especially not this year.

I’m actually sick of feeling hopeless and useless so I have decided to find some volunteer work around the city, surely some organisation can put my skills to good use?? Another choice I have made is to stop drinking coffee (not happy Jan!) until I feel more like myself again (insomnia is a bitch!). Coffee is a stimulant and I have noticed when I drink coffee it increases the chances of a freak out. Much to Nic’s disgust I haven’t had coffee for 5 days and I also haven’t had any major anxiety like I did the previous weeks. I’m not saying this is the cure but it sure makes me feel better and I don’t feel like my nerves are on high alert……a week ago was a dark place and not somewhere I intend to stay.

This week I feel good, I have finally talked about how I have been feeling with Nic and some friends instead of keeping it all within and trying to be strong (this doesn’t work….you just feel like you’re going mad!) and it has made a difference to me. There is nothing wrong with me, I just need a purpose for being here, something for me to offer or give back to the community and when I find it, living in Italy is going to become the reality I want it to be for me. Who knew working myself into a stupor all these years was the only thing keeping me together? I just thought I had bad management skills!

Banana cake calms nerves


I have an ache in the pit of my stomach and a fake smile on my face as I’m telling the boys, ‘every little thing’s gonna be all right’…… the song!

Max and Alex headed up to the local school this morning with all the other non-Italian kids who are starting school (about 8), they needed to sit their Italian exam. The exam (horrid word!) is to see how much they know in Italian. We have known this day was coming for a month now and have of put it in the backs of our mind until yesterday, when we had to start talking about it.

You could see the colour drain out of Alex’s face at the thought of the new school venture and to be honest, I knew exactly how he felt. I feel horrible now but I know within a few months they will be yelling and conversing in Italian just like the other kids in the neighbourhood; this week will be but a blip in their memory. With everything in life that seems a little hard and sickening you just have to take deep breaths and get through it……..but to look into those big blue eyes and see genuine fear of the unknown really does pull at your heart-strings and make you want to vomit.

One of the many delights the boys have is banana cake. I made it for each of their first birthdays and we make it together whenever the bananas look like they have seen better days. Over summer the bananas have been ripening at record speed so I have been throwing them in the freezer with the intention to make smoothies……alas I have no smoothie maker! So I decided with the looming day of the Italian exam approaching the least I could do was make the boys their beloved banana cake as a treat.

I wasn’t sure if our trusty oven was up for the job seeing as I have never baked in something so small before but I thought I could at least try.Image

I also haven’t made a cake entirely by hand in a VERY long time: I’m talking no mechanical devices to cream that butter and sugar! I pulled the butter out in the morning and let it warm up as much as possible and then guesstimated the weight of the sugar, flour and milk (lack of scales and measuring cups). I did forget to buy bi-carb (to help break down the bananas) as it is sold in the cleaning product aisle and it is not an aisle I frequent often, so I was hoping the defrosted banana would suffice.


I beat and whipped the butter and sugar until my arms felt like they were turning into tree trunks (about 3 minutes ha,haa). I seriously forgot how hard it is to ‘cream’ butter and sugar together, I mean we just pop the two into the mixer and usually forget about it until you see the fluffy consistency you’re after. It was good to go back to basics once again.

I have never used frozen bananas before and I was amazed at how runny they were which made me think I probably didn’t really need the bi-carb. I think they also gave the cake a caramelized flavour that I have never gotten before.


Once I folded the flour and milk through at the last-minute I could tell the batter was a little denser than I am used to seeing, however, I am guessing that was due to my lack of bicep power and no fault of the recipe!

I did the old butter and flour method for a non stick surface on the tin and then flattened the mixture out and popped it in the oven. I usually bake it on 180 degrees without a fan for 50 minutes and get excellent results every time. However, I had a feeling this wasn’t going to take quite so long. The banana intoxication started almost straight away (good sign) and the kids were all going crazy over the smell while playing Pokemon. I checked the cake after 20 minutes and it looked done but the top wasn’t quite springing back so I gave it another 8 minutes and I think that was about 4 minutes too long as it was a little too dark brown when I finally pulled it out…


I don’t know why I was disappointed with that. The kids inhaled pieces faster than I could pour some milk to go with!

I have just returned from collecting the boys from their two-hour exam and I am delighted to report they all came out looking relieved and happy it was all over. They were bursting with energy and we couldn’t get a word out of them. We found out the head teacher there today was in fact Alex’s new teacher and I couldn’t be more pleased. She is about two feet smaller than me, has a beautiful smile with a kind face and Alex had colour back in his cheeks- I’m feeling hopeful once again!

We arrived back home, I cut up the remaining banana cake and they finally talked about the exam; it was OK but hard. Max said it was hard to read in Italian and then translate into English, do the maths problem and then write it in Italian….Ummm I didn’t even know they could read Italian!!?

Take two is just about to take off

With 90% of the packing accomplished and all of the little bits and pieces finally finalized in Sydney I am happy to be able to say….I think I’m ready to go.

With only a few days left in Sydney a calm seems to have washed over me, I am looking forward to what next week will bring. I always love that about travel- one day you’re in Sydney complaining about the cold snap, the next your trying so very hard not to fall asleep at 1pm on the Spanish Steps in Rome!!

Alex, my very loving 7 year old is having a struggle as time ticks on. Today he almost looked sick with anxiety, we hug A LOT and just when you think there could be no more hugs he has one waiting to pounce on you. I’m trying to explain the beautiful smells, sounds and sights of Italy but it is really hard to put it into words that a 7 year old can comprehend, sometimes I think I make it worse!

My new approach is ‘relax, first we will holiday in Rome, you will have your birthday and then we will think about the rest….’ This is working!

We lost just about all of our photos from Italy due to being robbed when we moved back to Australia a few years back and I blame this on why my memory is so fuzzy, however, thanks to my sister and our beautiful friend Jo we took a trip down memory lane to the Italian life we left behind almost 8 years ago. After looking at these photos I am happy to tell you there are a few things we have changed this time around.

On top of my list is the furniture in our new accomodation!!

ImageAs you can see from the above photo, we only had outdoor seating indoors!

The first thing I noticed in our new furnished home was the beautiful, comfy leather couch- perfetto!

And while I don’t have these ratbags to entertain this time round……

ImageI am looking forward to showing the grown up version of these two monkeys the delights of living in another country where food and pride in family take first place. They are already talking about what we will be eating for dinner when we arrive in Rome, but I just need to get them off the ipad/pod/tunes blahh,blahh to see there are better things than electronics, however, hugs from their newly arrived cousin will be muchly missed.


See you all when we begin our year in Florence!!

Ciao a tutti!

Three weeks to go!!

I feel like two weeks have just up and left my memory, how can it really be only three weeks left for me to have everything ready and organized before we leave for the warm summer air of Italy??

It’s been a bit of a funky week- just when I was getting back into blogging again we get our first ever ‘you have reached full capacity of your Internet usage’. Translation, the boys have been hammering Skype, mine-craft and utube videos about mine-craft! A quick removal of wifi on their devices gives me little comfort as I patiently wait for our usage to boot up again which starts me thinking about Internet usage in Italy.

The boys (mostly Max) will want to stay in touch with Aussie mates more than ever, home schooling will be done via Internet a lot of the time and my daily trolling of websites will chew through the usage…..Hmmm how much will be enough?, how do you ask for meta, mega or whatever they are called bytes in Italian??? This is when I thank the stars Nic’s Italian is 1,000 times better than mine. He’ll be the one navigating the Italian wifi/phone situation….. I need to breath deeply.

I’d love to tell you it’s a walk in the park, the romantic notion of living in another country for a year is sheer bliss, however, I wake up nightly thinking of all the little things I haven’t done yet, things I should of done and the stuff I will need to do once we arrive. Not to mention I have just finished my last Italian lesson and feel like I need another months worth of lessons because the class on ‘phone calls’ wasn’t my best effort….OK I just won’t answer the phone- problem solved!

Sure there will be wonderful strolls along the Arno, delicious gelati, rolling Tuscan hills and beautiful people to gaze at but with a swift shake into reality the day to day life creeps into my memory; shopping with out a car, shopping in another language, scrubbing the many tiles of an Italian house (seriously I have never scrubbed as many tiles as I did when we last lived in Italy, I could feel all the Nonnas eyes on my little apartment making sure I was keeping up with the Jones).

SO, here we are three weeks to go and I have the storage all organised, visas ready, suitcases out blocking the hall because they are so big I can’t fit them in anywhere else and my sun spots burnt off my face ready for the Italian summer! Deep breaths and a few more yoga classes should keep me calm enough to finish everything off here….I just need to stop excepting the last minute teaching/cooking jobs too!