Renew Your Hope for the New Year

As I was leaving the cafe here in almost always dampy-misty-drizzly Ireland, I first held open the door for an elderly lady.


She smiled up at me as she walked into the dreary outside and said, “Here’s hoping the rain stops soon and we get a burst of precious sunshine.”

I smiled back at her and nodded.  But inside my head was surprised. I thought a bit cynically, “Man, that lady must’ve been around for at least seventy years. She should be used to this perpetually grey weather…

…how funny she’s still making comments about hoping for sun.”

The lady at the café is like most of my Irish friends and acquaintances. They who keep, as they will tell you, “getting on with it.”  They who continue to take care of business, their families and their lives. One eye turned upward in hope of a glimpse of precious sun.

I am certain we have all had our share of emotional rain.  This year, in particular, with so many deadly shootings and terrorist attacks across the globe, it’s not overstating it to bemoan that we have endured more than our share.

And yet, there’s still hope.

Just a couple of days ago, as it began to roll out its holiday “year-ender” pieces,The New York Times took a moment to reflect on some of the brighter moments in 2015 in an expression of hope for sanguine things yet to come.  

So no. The lady’s sentiment was not funny at all.  After I considered that encounter a little longer, I realize hers is only way to be. Unceasingly hopeful.

Simple hope is not enough, of course.  We also have to take positive steps toward realizing the benefits that the vision of hope plants within us.

What are you hoping for? Great. Now in 2016, what are you going TO DO about it?  What active steps? Incremental successes toward a defined goal.  Now is the time to begin.  To achieve what you hope for.

No matter how much rain, we must remain hopeful that the sun is around the bend.

You know the saying,

You can’t have a rainbow without first some rain.

It seems especially true to me leaving here in Ireland.  The land of rain.  The land of rainbows.

Here’s to a 2016 full of hope and positive action!

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 


The Optimism of Daffodils

As it is Daffodil Day here in Ireland, a day to donate, volunteer and wear a daffodil in support of finding a cure for cancer, I am reminding us all of the grand optimism that resides in these buttery bright flowers! 

Amid lingering piles of snow, battering gusts of wind or, like here in Ireland, drenching torrents of rain, it may not yet feel like spring is at hand.  But some diligent stalwarts are already foretelling the new season’s arrival.

Like many of us, they have spent the winter  in dark solitude.  Unseen, they may have been largely forgotten. But they did not need to be recognized or rewarded or encouraged.  They are self-motivators, working steadily throughout the cold months driven by determination.

And now in our parks and along the green, grassy medians of our roadways, the rewarding results of their tireless  labors are emerging.

An old man in worn and shabby clothing meanders among the rows of bright yellow and looks out upon them.  An overly critical eye might predispose one to assume he should be given a wide berth; he is very likely a person not worth engaging.  But one would be wrong indeed.

This unassuming gentleman spoke and perfectly summed up the sentiment that rings through these dependable heralds with faces stretching upward toward an inconsistent sun:

Ah, the optimism of daffodils.”


How many times are we burdened by work or family or life and forget that a little dogged determination, or focused optimism – viewed as an action-word – not a simple state of being or emotion – will get us through?

Take a tip from the daffodils. The sun will come out again. Maybe not tomorrow. But it will.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Countdown to Departure from Italy: 16 days to go.

The Tuscan sun is not famous merely because author Frances Mayes featured it in the title of her best-selling book, Under the Tuscan you know what.  (She happens to be my neighbor over in the tiny town of Cortono here in Arezzo county; we follow each other on Twitter and have exchanged a few tweeted pleasantries, but unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet in person.)

The Tuscan sun has earned its place in the er, you know, because there truly is something different about it when you are here.  Perhaps it is because its light appears even richer when the amber, coral and peach colored buildings that surround you are absorbing it – making the colors even more remarkable if that’s possible.

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Its tingling rays don’t simply touch your skin, they kiss you passionately and deeply – all the way through to your heart – even your soul.

These girls have Tuscan souls!
These girls clearly have Tuscan souls!

I stand looking in one direction to the graceful, green hills spiked with cypress trees.  They’re even more radiant with the gold that is sparkling down on them.  I face the other direction and look up to Arezzo’s medieval stone wall which has encircled it for more than 500 years – successfully protecting it from ancient invaders (not the Florentines, but that’s another story) while it graciously welcomed the sun from above.

In fact, I think of Arezzo’s piazzas as sun-worship temples. Rooms without roofs to better celebrate the god.


I am no poet like Frances Mayes – who actually earned her living as a poetry and creative writing instructor in the US before she gloriously described her love affair with Italy – but I know something lyrical when I see it – and feel it.

And that’s why the sun is definitely something I will miss when I move to Ireland.  That, and everybody keeps telling me in Ireland it does nothing but rain. So I better get ready.

My friend Susan wisely says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.”   So, I’m determined to go buy a bright and cheery raincoat and matching umbrella.  And for the next couple of weeks we have left – to soak up the rays of our beloved Tuscan sun.

I’ll leave you with Lulu – singing an homage to those golden rays – when she was just three years old.

May it be bright and sunny wherever you are.  If not in the sky, then in your smile.

Ciao a tutti!


P.S. How’s the weather where you are? I have been seeing some freaky storms in the US?!  Other places?  Irish friends, tell me the truth!

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.


Winter means it’s Time for Soup!

It’s dark and cold outside as Lulu and I walk home after buying Christmas presents at Arezzo’s darling holiday mercato which just set-up this weekend.

Under a canopy of white, Italian leather purses  hang next to another kiosk which features fluffy robes and slippers.

“I want some new ciabatte,” Lulu cajoles.  “I don’t care if they’re not the right size,” she adds noticing that all the slippers on display are clearly for full-grown women.

We buy what we came for (not slippers/ciabatte) and trek up the steep Via Madonna del Prato up to our home.  Inside, we’re met by the savory aroma of the soup I made earlier this afternoon.  Scotty has been watching over it as it simmered. Making sure it didn’t dry out or burn – so hopefully it will taste as good as it smells right now.

It does!

The photo doesn’t do this justice: I promise this soup was amazingly delicious!

And since I am one of those people who rarely uses a recipe when I cook, I was so pleased with the flavor of tonight’s winter stew, I am going to write it down before I forget what I put in.  Hopefully I can make it again – and also successfully share its secrets with you!  Okay, so, I’ll call this:

Mamma Gina’s Hearty Rich Winter Beef Stew

1 pound of beef stew meat – chopped small (I have no idea if it was really a pound since beef here is, of course, sold by the kilo. About a couple of handfuls of cubed beef anyway.)

4 medium potatoes chunkily diced

2 carrots sliced

1 onion diced

2 minced cloves of garlic

2 stalks of celery sliced

5 or 6 mushrooms chopped

4 or 5 small plum tomatoes chopped

5 or 6 bay leaves

1T flour

1 bouillon cube (No,  I rarely make my own stock – shame, I know. Here in Italy, I use “Classico” bouillon cubes – they seem pretty chickeny actually)

5 cups or so of water.  This will need some monitoring.

2 T balsamic vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce.  (Yes, I get this here in Italy. Love it.)

2 T sugar

1 T coarse salt

1 T cinnamon (really!)

Red pepper flakes – a shake or two of the spice jar – depends on your personal spicy meter)

Black pepper and dried parsley flakes to taste

2 or 3 glugs of olive oil

All righty, that may seem like a lot of ingredients, but I just used what was in the fridge and the cupboards tonight.

First, I coated a large, deep pot with oil and tossed in the beef with the flour and stirred it up.  I then wantonly tossed in the rest of the ingredients.   Just like that.  I stirred it all up  – letting the onions and potatoes and carrots wilt a tad with the flame on pretty low – but I didn’t worry about it.

After about ten minutes, I added enough water to cover everything up – and brought the brew to a boil.  Immediately after it began to boil, I turned it down to a simmer, helped Lulu put on her coat – and went shopping!

Scotty manned the stove for the next two hours – adding a bit of water as needed and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.  By the time Lulu and I returned home, as I mentioned, the soup smelled delicious.  The meat was amazingly tender and the potatoes had thickened up the broth to a velvety texture.

Honestly, the layers of flavors in this stew are really something.  I sliced up some Tuscan bread and Lulu sopped up nearly everything in her bowl.

Cold winter night coming up? Don’t worry, now you can have my stew – and eat it too!

Baci, Gina





Advent Calendar- Christmas ITALIAN Style!



Since we live in Tuscany, starting today and for every day this month, I’ll endeavor to share a little Italian ho ho holiday spirit with you!

Today features the cobbled street of Via Cavour in Arezzo – with its first snow.

And that brave lady on her bicycle. Buone Feste!

Primavera Fever!

Spring! The calendar may officially announce it in March, but only you know when it truly arrives where you live.  Here in Arezzo, I’m marking this week as our official reawakening – of grass, flowers, trees and most important of all, our spirits!


Mr. Dreary Rainy Winter has finally relinquished the seasonal scepter to Sunny Miss Primavera.

Buds arrive on the trees and groups of tourists arrive on the steps of our famous churches.

St. Domenico
Our Duomo - St. Peter's and St. Donato's.
Our Duomo – St. Peter’s and St. Donato’s.

But it’s the warmer weather that is spring’s true royal herald.

Lulu and I walk to school every morning  through this very portal in the ancient medieval wall that surrounds the town.   And weather is always part of our conversation.


While I’m encouraging her to appreciate life-giving rain, mysterious fog and chilling wind, the warmth of a bright morning sun really gets us talking – and in Lulu’s case, singing.


“I love the sun. The sunny sun. The sunny, sunny, sunny, sun. Ooooh. Sun,” Lulu sang this week, “La-la-la-la,” she added.  As she scootered to school.

Not the most poetic lyrics ever, but the sentiment rings true.


When our Tuscan hills begin turning green – and the sun casts long shadows –



And a new crop of flowers from our neighbor Senora Dora’s giardino stretches upwards – 


– I may not crawl on a small side-street to try and imitate a cat – but I do join Lulu, in lifting a song of thanks to the promised return of spring.


My song, however, is internal.  Nobody wants to hear me sing!


To all of you, wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying or anticipating with relish – the hope that springs – with spring!

Love to you all,


P.S.  Where are you?  How’s the weather?  How’s your heart?

For more joyful and vivid descriptions of our beloved Tuscan town, please buy my new book, “Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me” available WORLDWIDE on, .UK .IT etc etc! Baci!