The heart of the home


As I may have mentioned a time or twenty, we bought a “house” (i.e. very, very old, falling apart, structure that vaguely resembles something one might one day live in) last year and are in the very long and articulated process of renovating it. And, though I’m very happy to finally call myself a homeowner at the ripe old age of ahem… mid thirties… I’ve recently realized that I’m going to miss the house we’ve been renting for the past seven years. Our first actual house, with a yard, where our two kids were born (one almost literally), where they learned to crawl, and walk, and talk… so I’ve been thinking about documenting it, for posterity, room by room, maybe a couple of posts a months from now until we move in to the new place. And in one of those lucky twists of fate that happen once in a blue moon MamaKat’s prompt: “show us your kitchen”, called to me like a much needed bell toll to get my procrastinating self into gear.

So here you have it, as the first post of a long goodbye to the house we’ve called home for seven years, my kitchen:




I have a love hate relationship with this kitchen. In Italy, when you move into a house all the rooms are generally empty, there’s no kitchen, no closets, the bathrooms come with the bare essentials plumbing, toilet, bidet, sink and shower or bath, nary a cabinet, mirror, or light to be found. This is so even if you’re renting, unless the house is said to be partially furnished (meaning it has grandma’s old kitchen from the 1940’s – with the original appliances). When we moved in we bought the kitchen and a few other things from the previous renters. I didn’t really like the kitchen, I’m not a huge fan of the red, I didn’t really like the layout, and I hated the counters, stove, and sink (I changed the last three), but we got it for a bargain and we didn’t know how long we’d be here so… eh…

Seven years later and I really, really, hate the red.

In fact, if I may presume to suggest anything to anyone, if you’re renovating or building, get a kitchen in the most neutral color you can imagine (I’m partial to white) and then just paint the walls, you can change the color of your walls however many times you want for a fraction of the cost and hassle of changing the color of your kitchen cabinets.

But I also love this kitchen, because the kitchen, often, is the heart of the home. And a lot of things happened in this kitchen.

Food gets cooked in this kitchen:
pasta stracotto  ravioli strudel

dishes and stuff get washed by little hands


and things get baked (by short people…)


birthdays are celebrated






and silliness happens

silliness happens

Turkeys are carved


and cakes decorated

car cake

children eat politely. yes, even that happens! (rarely, so rarely in fact three different moms ran for their cameras)


and old friends get togetherfriendsmingle

I may not like it anymore, and I may not want to admit it, but I’m going to miss this little red kitchen, a lot of heart happened here.

Linking up with MamaKat’s writer’s workshop.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Culture shock and the third grade

I don’t remember my third grade teacher’s name, and I no longer have the year books from that particular school to go check. I did third grade twice, though not because I failed the year or something tragic like that (tragic because it would have resulted in my mother actually killing me and being sentenced to death – since we lived in Texas). I repeated the third grade because I started school a year (or possibly two, it was a British school so things were a little different) early, we moved to the US from Italy in January, right smack in the middle of the fourth grade, and when my mom enrolled me in school I would have been at the youngest by far in my class, so I repeated the third grade, where I was still the youngest in my class but only by a few months, and could concentrate on getting over the culture shock rather than the actual school work. Incidentally, one of my first memories of America was sitting in the principal’s office taking a test to see where I measured up academically and one of the questions was about American coins, how much a nickel, a dime and a quarter where or something like that, and I had just seen a sesame street episode that morning that explained the whole thing to me (thank you PBS). I was also thoroughly confused by lockers, we didn’t have them in my old school and when the principal asked me if I needed to use the restroom (other completely foreign word to me then) I looked down the hall and all I noticed was the long rows of little doors and couldn’t figure out how on earth Americans went to the bathroom.

Anyway, back to my third grade teacher, I had a really hard time that year because I was different. I had a weird (British) accent, my parents had enrolled me in a (of all the ridiculous things) Baptist private school – I didn’t even know what “Baptist” meant, a lot of things were strange to me – like pb&j sandwiches. I had never learned cursive, rarely used a ballpoint pen, or a pencil since we used a fountain pen for everything at my old school and I had learned division the European way.

One day I get to class, and every kid in the whole entire school was wearing cowboy/cowgirl outfits, this completely shocked me… it was Go Texan Day, and there I was, in my regular clothes. I was so upset I ran to the teacher and buried my face in her navy blue skirt and she hugged me. Teachers didn’t hug at the British school I went to in Italy. She then explained to me what was going on, put a cowboy hat on my head and a bandana around my neck and there I was, a cowgirl, though without the boots.

It’s not a big deal, stuff like this happens daily to kids, it’s how they learn, we went to the gym and square-danced and it was all better, but even though I don’t remember her name, I will never forget her face and how she hugged me. Teachers are important. Teachers make a difference.

Mama’s Losin’ It

What women want, or this woman in any case

I wasn’t planning on posting today, but I chanced upon Mamakat’s prompts and couldn’t resist this one, though I’m obviously very, very late…

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

The answer seems so obvious to me I’m wondering if any of you will be surprised by it. But first a short premise. There are a lot of things I would change about myself, some serious and important, some trivial and fatuous. I’ve always considered myself a work in progress and part of my job, part of living life, is continuously changing and improving and tweaking at myself. I’d like to be more cultured, I’d like to be more patient, I’d like to be more active, I’d like to be more fearless, I’d like to be a better cook, I’d like to can my food and knit scarves and do crafts with my kids… the list is endless, all these things, though, I can work on and strive towards, over the years some I’ll conquer, some I won’t, goals will be forgotten or added along the way, but this is more of a snap my fingers and get a result kind of question and that would take all the fun out of the process. I’m healthy, so I don’t need to change my health, I’ve got a husband I love (most of the time) so I don’t need to change my love life… So, if there was one thing I could change about myself it would be my metabolism. That’s it. That’s the only thing I could think of, off the top of my head that I can’t change by sheer willpower.

The reasons are, I believe, obvious. I’d like to be thin and not have to work for it. Of course, I could be thin if I really wanted to, if it was really important to me (like scarf knitting, apparently), I could stop eating and start running or swimming or doing some other modern torture activity every day and I’d be thin. I’d also be unhappy. Because I like food, I like butter and full fat everything, I like sugar and sodas, and I love my couch and my tv. I’m not a complete sloth, I eat pretty well in fact, I certainly could stand to exercise more, but I’m reasonably fit. I haven’t changed anything since I was in my twenties, when I was impossibly thin and healthy and looked fantastic in a bikini. What’s changed? Well, I’m thirty-six now, my metabolism has changed (also, I had two kids, but mostly it’s my metabolism). This happens to most people, you get older, you gain a few pounds, nothing to do about it but exercise more and eat less; and therein lays my problem. I just need a faster metabolism. So, MamaKat, I’ve answered your question, now how do I go about getting it??

Mama’s Losin’ It

This time I was sleeping and….

The witching hour. That’s when the baby would wake up every night. Every night for what felt like eons but was actually only a couple of years. The witching hour in this case was 5.30am. He’d wake, have milk and a diaper change and go back to sleep till 8. So lucky, people would say, you get to sleep till eight with a baby! I didn’t feel all that lucky, never sleeping more than five hours in a row, interrupted, night after night after night. But that day, I think, I got really lucky.

The baby cried and I woke up, I stumbled down the hall to his room in the dark. I heard a noise and thought it was the cat. Damn cat.

I fed the baby, and changed him, and made my sleepy way back to bed. At seven a.m. the housekeeper burst into my room: I think someone was in the house, she said. I don’t remember how, but in the next instant I was standing in front of the baby’s room, not yet having really processed the information just given. I had my hand on the door and couldn’t go in, my husband, behind me, stepped in front and went in. The baby was fine, sleeping peacefully in his crib, and I regained the ability to breathe. Someone had, indeed been in the house; they’d come in for the car. Stupid car. They searched the house for the keys, they came upstairs and went through the husband’s pockets. Thankfully he left his clothes outside our room, they most likely heard the baby crying and went downstairs. That was the noise I heard. They took the spare, opened the gate, and left with the car and a watch that was just lying around. The police told us they were probably specialized thieves, they had targeted that car, the husband’s car had signaled a flat a few days earlier and that apparently is another method they use to take cars, create a slow flat, or the appearance of one, wait for the car to pull over and then they jack it. That didn’t work so they came looking at home.

I was lucky that day, because they chose to come searching at the witching hour. I’m a very light sleeper, had they come at any other time I would have heard them and woken up, I would have gone downstairs to kick the cat out for waking me and I would have run into the two guys searching for the keys instead. The police had an idea who they were, and they’re not known for being very nice. Efficient, yes, but not nice. I pretty much stopped complaining about the baby waking me every night after that. And we installed an alarm system.

Linking up with MamaKat’s pretty much world-famous writer’s workshop today, with the prompt “this time I was sleeping and…”

Mama’s Losin’ It

Temporary insanity due to extreme temperatures, or something along those lines.

Since starting this new blog I’ve been trying to flex my atrophied writing muscles by attempting to post at least thrice a week, which is apparently harder than it would seem, so I’m looking for inspiration out in the ether through some of my favorite bloggers’ weekly link-ups, and what better place to be on a Thursday than MamaKat’s pretty much world-famous writer’s workshop.

This week, one of the prompts was to “write about a time you stole something”, and a very old memory came to the surface…

When I was twelve my Dad decided to move us all up to Calgary (Canada) for about a year for work, as I was already an angsty preteen (i.e. massive pain in the ass) my parents decided to spare themselves the hell that would have been having me around for the move and shipped me off to spend the summer in Italy with my aunt. I had a grand time, I got to fly to Europe by myself, I even got to switch flights in Frankfurt, where, for some reason I wasn’t carted around by a flight attendant. In retrospect, I wonder what the hell my parents were thinking letting a twelve-year old traipse off to Europe on her own like that, but it was the eighties and everyone was more reckless.

But none of this is the point of this story.

I get back to Calgary after my summer on the Italian riviera, and the harshest of realities sets in. I’m away from my friends, it’s damn cold, the days start to get shorter and by the way my Mother loathes it there. And then it starts to snow. And snow, and snow, and… you get the point. Keep in mind that I grew up in Houston, Texas where cold is 65°F. I went to a tiny French school (tiny as in all of middle school fit into one classroom), so I resorted to making up an alternate Houston life for my new friends, in which I had a twin sister, who inexplicably was left behind to fend for herself in Texas, and a whole host of other inanities which I thought would make me seem more interesting in the circumstances. This entirely too long preamble to say that I wasn’t adjusting to the move very well.

Anyway, every day at lunch we were allowed to leave school and go to the nearby park, on the way we would stop at a small Korean convenience store for candy or ice cream or something. Again, not entirely sure why they let a group of thirteen year olds out of school unsupervised. And, I don’t know how it started, if on a dare or what, but every day we would steal stuff from the convenience store. A candy bar, a bag of chips, a soda… we would always buy something, but we stole more than we ever bought. We’d go outside and compare our loot and laugh at how unbelievably daring and cool we were. And the store owner knew. I still remember a look he gave me one day, I don’t know why he never said anything, but the simple memory of that look brings me shame to this day.

Soon after, we stopped going to that convenience store and maybe halfway into February when my Mother realized that the snow would just never stop falling and the days, it seemed, would never get longer, she threatened divorce and we moved back to Houston, to my old school and my old life.

I never, not once, stole anything again. I still wonder why I did it in the first place.

On a side note, Calgary is a lovely city, the weather is indeed abysmal but there are things that more than make up for it, but my Mom is Brazilian, she hadn’t even seen snow till well into her twenties, she simply isn’t built to live it subarctic climes.

Mama’s Losin’ It