Make this YOUR year. Start your project NOW!

“My husband always said he wanted to write a book.  He collected and wrote massive amounts of materials and notes.  But he never did it.  He died two years ago.”

The man’s widow told me this – this week – as she sat next to me during lunch at Harry’s Bar in Florence.

Harry's Bar in Florence, Italy - turn around and there's the Arno.
Harry’s Bar in Florence, Italy – turn around and there’s the Arno.

 

It’s a delightful restaurant overlooking the River Arno.  She was an officer with the American International League in Florence where I had just delivered a presentation about the power of communications and story-telling toward promoting awareness and improving membership for their organization.

ailo_logo_overlay

I had also read a couple of excerpts from my  book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me, which is a collection of stories and adventures from my time living in Paris and here in Tuscany.

bookcover press release (2)

I related to the members that as a former journalist, I worked best under deadline.  My publisher, of course, established a deadline for me to write my book.   I am convinced that only through the combination of his encouragement and that all-important deadline hanging over my head, did I finish my book project on time.

The husband of that woman next to me at lunch, however, apparently had no such imposed deadline.   His project was never completed.  Now it was too late.

It’s still January. What have you been thinking about?  What idea you have been mulling about only inside your head?  What is it that you would like to do, but have not yet really begun?

Let's get going!
Let’s get going!

Find someone who will hold you accountable (and encourage you!).  Tell them about your intended project.  Set a deadline or a series of smaller deadlines for you to assess established milestone markers.   Maybe you are a solid self-starter and you don’t need someone looking over you.  Probably you do.  If you would like to announce it here, I am happy to be your “publisher.”

Let me know and together – with a deadline – let’s make it happen.

Don’t let it become too late for you!

 Baci tutti! Gina

P.S. Congratulations to the three people who reached out to me through my new website – GinaLondon.com – and won an hour of coaching FREE!

Check out GinaLondon.com. Here's my homepage!
Check out GinaLondon.com. Here’s my homepage!

I am happy to help you receive your goals this year! Tell me what they are and let’s get busy!

 

Advertisements

My Advent Calendar – Christmas ITALIAN Style! Too Much Pasta for Santa?!

Today’s delightful Advent Calendar Post features an excerpt from my bookBecause I’m Small Now and You Love Me —  just released this year and full of cross-cultural adventures in parenting and living in Italy.

This, from chapter twenty, is especially fitting for the Christmas season as it explores our daughter Lulu’s deep concern for what she believes is a potentially BIG problem with Santa Claus!

Image

Excerpted from “Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me”

IN THE UNITED STATES, of course, he’s known as Santa Claus. When we lived in France, Lulu called him Père Noël, and now here in Italy, he is adorably known as Babbo Natale. I say “adorably” because the word “babbo” is a very special Tuscan contribution that doesn’t translate simply as “father.” It has a more endearing and intimate meaning, like “daddy.” Therefore, the Italian holiday gift-giver isn’t “Father Christmas,” he’s “Daddy Christmas.”

“He’s also “extremely chubby,” Lulu said one December day. And it was true.

As Arezzo shopkeepers started putting up their holiday decorations around the Corso Italia and other roads within the town’s medieval historic center, all the red-costumed, white-bearded Babbos’ protruded, paunchy tummies were just like the image of our American, jolly old elf made famous by Clement Moore, Thomas Nast, and the Coca-Cola company. We were standing outside of the Rustica Bottega Toscana watching a large, animated Santa Claus, er, Babbo Natale, play the saxophone.

“He must eat a lot of pasta,” Lulu observed. “And gelato.” I had been working on Lulu to try to get her to eat more “healthy foods,” and I admit I had mentioned that a daily diet of ice cream or spaghetti with butter and parmesan would not help her grow fit and strong, but could make her become soft and “chubby.” I didn’t want to give her a complex, but I did want to stress “you are what you eat.” With her observation about the apparent poor eating habits of this robotic Santa, it appeared she’d received the message.

“Mama, is it true,” Lulu began, “that if you are too chubby, your heart will get squeezed and you will get dead?”

“Well, yes, Lulu,” I replied, not sure where I was going to go with this. I mean, I had never said that being overweight made someone a bad person, just that it was unhealthy. But, how do I balance the conflicting concepts that an obese old man—who obviously has not been making good eating choices—was still wise and wonderful enough to deliver toys to all the good little girls and boys of the world?

“It’s true that it can be dangerous for your heart if you are too chubby, and so I think Santa, er, Babbo Natale, is probably on a diet.”

“That’s good, Mama,” Lulu looked visibly relieved. “I don’t want Babbo Natale to die.”

I knew it. She was afraid the old man might keel over before he could fly around the world and bring her her loot.

“He’s not going to die, Lulu,” I said. “Santa Claus, er, sheesh, Babbo Natale, whatever his name is, is going to live for a long, long time. I don’t think he’ll ever die.”

“He will if he keeps eating everything bad for his body,” Lulu said.

That night Scotty helped Lulu write Babbo Natale a letter. Lulu dictated and Scotty wrote. First, she requested that Babbo bring her a snake, and then she asked, “Are you eating anything healthy to help you get skinny?”

*      *      * 

Image

—- We’ll stop for now… but burning questions remain!! Will obese Santa die an untimely death? Will he take Lulu’s advice and go on a diet?!? To find out what happens to Lulu and “Babbo Natale,” please zip over to Amazon and buy my new book, “Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me.”  Adventures in parenting – and Italy!

Buone Feste, Tutti,

Baci, Gina!

P.S.  If you buy my book, please let me know and I’ll mail you an autographed – by me and Lulu – bookmark! There’s still time to get them for thoughtful Christmas gift-giving! Grazie!!!

Advent Calendar – Christmas ITALIAN Style!

 Today’s Advent Calendar post is humble bragging about our six-year-old daughter Lulu.
Lulu dvd cover
She is the stella of a new inspirational short movie by Italian film-maker Irene Cascini that will be coming out in a couple of weeks.
I was going to keep the news about this under wraps until then, but I just received the cover art for the DVD, so I couldn’t wait!
Of course you will be hearing more about this one!!
Stay tuned and Buone Feste!!
baci, Gina

Like nothing you have tasted before: Tuscany’s New Oil!

Before we moved to Italy, I had never heard of olio nuovo. Literally translated it means “new oil” – from the first press of picked olives. But liberally translated – otherwise known as according to me – it means “get ready for the most amazing taste sensation ever!”

???????????????????????????????
This photo does not do justice to the vibrancy of the green!

Yesterday, Lulu and company could be seen climbing the olive trees at Il Pozzo, our friend Carla Veneri’s congenial country inn just outside of Arezzo.

???????????????????????????????
The silvery boughs are heavy with abundance. That’s fancy for “Man, that’s a lot of olives!”

???????????????????????????????

While the kids pick up in the branches..

Lulu takes a rest up in the tree
Lulu takes a rest up in the tree

..I reach out from my place firmly on the ground.

I'm working up an appetite. Wonder if there will be any food? ;)
I’m working up an appetite. Wonder if there will be any food? 😉

The nets and baskets below are quickly filled and refilled.

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Down the hillside, a cast of terrific cooks and helpers adds logs to the fire and drizzle grilled bruschetta with the freshest, greenest olive oil.

???????????????????????????????

A harvest feast is being prepared.

Carla's mom shows off the biggest porcini I have ever seen. Found in woods nearby.
Carla’s mom shows off the biggest porcini I have ever seen. Found in woods nearby.

It’s kicked off with an appetizer made from the biggest porcini mushroom I, and many of the other gathered guests, have ever seen. Carla’s mom, who is the head chef here at Il Pozzo, transformed it into fried slices of savory goodness.

Carla hands out the porcini appetizers. Che buona!
Carla hands out the porcini appetizers.
Che buona!
Che buona!

We’re next met by four plates of lasagne. Pumpkin and sage, vegetarian and a ragu of carne. But they’re only the primi or first course.

???????????????????????????????

Those of us gathered around Il Pozzo’s expansive garden table are also served mounds of grilled ribs and salsicce – the Tuscan-style flavorful sausage that my new German friends sitting to my right say are better than any bratwurst. There’s roasted potatoes, cauliflower and a garlic spinach.

Buon appetito!
Buon appetito!

Of course just look at those corks, there’s also plenty of Italian red wine.

???????????????????????????????

And after such a banquet, you might forget why you came here in the first place, but before we go home, each guest is handed a bottle of Il Pozzo olio nuovo.
You know it’s fresh, not just from the flavor, but because you can watch Carla’s dad press the olives right before your eyes.

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

The olive press machinery is on the same grounds as all the trees.

And I looked at the phosphorescent liquid streaming out from the pressing machine, I thought back to our first autumn in Tuscany. This excerpt is from my book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me:

It was October and Fabrizio and his wife Guisy had just bottled the first-press. He handed us a bottle of the brightest colored green liquid I had ever seen that wasn’t some kind of artificially mint-flavored alcohol. It was practically neon. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed this color could exist in nature.

I poured a little onto a white plate. It gleamed and glowed. ..The flavor was so pungently crisp and sharp; raw and original, that I was taken aback.

So was Lulu. “Blech. This tastes like grass,” she said.

Now, a year older, Lulu’s palate is more mature and she happily tried a slice of olive oiled bruschetta.

“Hmm.. It’s too forte (strong), I still don’t care for it. ” she says this time.  A little more refined language perhaps, but she’s not a convert. Yet.

Lulu still didn't like the sharp taste of olio nuovo. We'll have to try again next year!
Lulu still didn’t like the sharp taste of olio nuovo. We’ll have to try again next year!

“Maybe next year,” I say. I’m more than happy to think that perhaps we’ll still be in Italy next October. And Il Pozzo’s olive picking event is definitely something I would mark on the calendar.

Since you can’t lick this essay, you’ll have to fly here for your own taste!

Til then,

Baci, Gina

P.S.  How many of you have picked olives?  Tasted nuovo olio?  Been to Il Pozzo yet?  Let me know!

La Volpe Come Fa? (What Does The Fox Say?)

Apparently “What Does The Fox Say?” is quite the hit.  In the United States and perhaps other parts of the world, the song is going off the charts.

Here in Italy, I had never even heard of it.  Not until my hip-to-all-things-pop-culture sister Andrea wrote me an email and asked me if the song was as popular in Tuscany as it is in the US.   My unscientific survey consisted of asking my cool personal trainer Elena whether she had heard it (she had not), and an hour and a half review of power house Radio/Web/TV station “RTL 102.5” which also did not turn up the Fox.

I went on YouTube and watched the video and also watched the two Norwegian brothers singing their hit on Ellen.

They’re cute.  The dance is quirkily catchy like “Gangnam Style” – which did sweep Italy along with the rest of the world.  But the lyrical query the song poses was no question for Lulu.

“Everybody knows the fox barks like a dog,” she said after watching the official video.  “It doesn’t go ‘Pow-pow-pow!’”

The most famous animal here in Tuscany is the Cinghiale.  (Read this earlier post about how one visited Lulu and me at a birthday party!)

DSCN2508

The wild boar roams the countryside, makes for delicious stew, sauce and sausage and is a mascot for the region.

Yes, here's the Cinghiale Store!
Yes, here’s the Cinghiale Store!

There doesn’t appear to be a song for the wild boar, but Lulu does have its shirt.

Lulu yesterday in a cinghiale shirt next to its domesticated cousin. What does the cinghiale say?
Lulu yesterday in a cinghiale shirt next to its domesticated cousin. What does the cinghiale say?

But Italians do have their own famous version of an animal sound song:  “Il Coccodrillo Come Fa” “How does the Croccodile go?” is a song that every kid, including Lulu, knows well.

The song’s Italian composer, Pino Massura, passed away this summer at 82. While he wrote beloved children’s songs, Massura also had a string of famous grown-up hits throughout his lifetime, including some recorded by Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Elvis, (that American guy, not to be confused with the “Ylvis” guys from Norway who wrote the Fox).

Maybe the Norwegian brothers will go on to the same kind of enduring fame as Massura.  Or maybe not.

What does the Fox have to say about all of it?  I don’t know.  I live in Italy.

Until next time, Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

Gina

P.S.  Do you love the Fox?  What’s your favorite animal song?  Share please!

And for more stories of adventures between a mother and her child, you’re invited to buy my book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me” 

Is the Tooth Fairy a Girl?

Lulu wonders, “It’s not a boy, is it, Mama? The tooth fairy is a girl, right?”

I put that question in her head.

As a kid, I had a book about two children, Jack and Daisy, who try to trick the tooth fairies by making a replacement tooth out of flour and water when Daisy really loses her baby tooth.

tooth fairies

The book, aptly titled, What Happened When Jack and Daisy Tried to Fool the Tooth Fairies featured a team of two male tooth fairies – more like grouchy old curmudgeons than iridescent Tinker Bells.

I loved them and the book.  I read it a lot to Lulu when she was a toddler.

But now she is a full-fledged big girl – who just this weekend had her first baby tooth fall out.

IMG_0223

She was at a birthday party at her friend David’s house.  I was in the other room chatting with the grown-ups when she ran in with her mouth stuffed full of tissue.

“My toof fell out!” she cried, holding the dental evidence out in her hand.   There it was. Her tiny lower incisor.

I took the tooth and also took a picture of her proudly displaying the tissue hanging from her mouth covering the new gap in her smile – flanked by older and more toothily experienced friends, Alessio and Cassandra.

???????????????????????????????

To prepare for the arrival of the fairy, Lulu and her daddy sealed the tooth in a red envelope that she decorated and wrote “TO THE TOOTH FAIRY” along with her own name – so there would be no mistaking who should be the recipient and who was the sender when it was discovered under her pillow.

???????????????????????????????

At bedtime, she was a breathless string of questions – besides the one that I had planted previously about the fairy’s gender.

“Will I hear her wings?”

“Will I feel her reach under my pillow?”

“If I pretend to be asleep will she still come and maybe I can see her?”

I admitted I didn’t know any of the answers as I had never seen her (or him) myself.  Excitement woke her up before five o’clock this morning.

“Maa-maa!”

I jumped up and rushed into Lulu’s room.

“I think I heard her.” Lulu whispered. “Can I look under my pillow?”

“Of course,” I yawned. But I was excited with her, “Let’s see.”

Sure enough.  In place of her baby tooth were a couple of coins.  A two-Euro piece and an American Silver dollar.  Our fairy is an international kind of gal.

Lulu clutched her coins happily and (thankfully) went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

???????????????????????????????

I remembered back to when she was only nine months old and got her first baby tooth.   A little hard nub jutted out from her soft pink gums.   Now with a mouth full of teeth, her first one had come out.  To be replaced by a new version that should last for the rest of her life.

 Ah, our daughter.  Another rite of passage.

Time to buy her a new package of dental floss.

For all you parents out there, what’s the going rate for a tooth these days?  Are molars worth more? Any stories you’d like to share, I’d love to hear!

Baci,

Gina

For more adventures in parenting, and just in time for the holidays, you’ll enjoy Because I’m Small Now and You Love MeBuy it now! 

Copyright Gina London, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

A warm embrace from Mario

One of our favorite restaurants in Arezzo is underground.  Directly across from the Basilica San Francesco in the piazza of the same name, you’ll need to carefully step down four wide grey stone steps and duck your head to enter Ristorante Buca di San Francesco.

As your eyes adjust to the soft amber glow, you’ll be warmly welcomed by Mario de Filippis, who has been its gracious host for more than 40 years.   Now, look around you.  You’re seated in the cellar of a 14th century palazzo, surrounded by a frescoes on the walls and a resounding assortment of Italian artworks, artifacts, and tchotchkes.   It’s a delightful Tuscan curiosity shop.

??????????

Mario says the stones that make up the floor beneath your chairs are remnants of an ancient Etruscan road. Who knows if that’s true, but it’s all part of the restaurant’s – and Mario’s – immense charm.   Mario is like an indulgent nonno, grandpa.  He tells me to look the other way and “sneaks” little chocolates over to Lulu while my head is turned.  He sets before Lulu a plate of the softest, creamiest fresh Mozzarella I have ever tasted (because I did taste it).

DSCN3916

“Mario! Yey!” cries Lulu.

He urges me to try the Panzanella  -a popular Tuscan summer salad with olive oil crisped bread chunks mixed in. He also encourages me to a have a glass of wine, “on the house!”

“Mario! Yey!” I cry too.

Later, he surprises us both with free desserts.  A small slice of apple bread torta for me and gelato for Lulu, chocolate – ma certo¸ of course.

DSCN3920 ??????????

To me, the flavor of the place and its host almost exceeds that of the food.  At Buca di San Francesco, you’re in good hands.  Mario’s.

??????????

For more on Buca di San Francesco, visit their/his website at www.bucadisanfrancesco.com – Tell him Gina and Lulu sent you.

Baci,

Gina