My Advent Calendar: Christmas ITALIAN Style!

Arezzo's Porta San Lorentino this week.
Arezzo‘s Porta San Lorentino this week.

Let there be lights!!

Arezzo, our adopted hometown here in Tuscany, like so many other cities around the world, is now awash in festive holiday lights.

While our little medieval town may not have the budget, say, of a New York or London, its light display gets an added boost simply by the fact that the twinkling orbs are framed by 500-year-old stone buildings or archways.

Above you in the photo, is the ancient gateway into the town’s historic center – or just the same old same old path that Lulu and I walk to and from twice a week to get from our house to her dance lessons.  Just your run-of-the-mill-Medici portal!!! 😉

So, even though there may not be a myriad of colors or dazzling animatronic window displays, Arezzo’s quaint sparkles charm both Lulu and me and remind us of the long-held and wonderful holiday of which we are celebrating.

Lights, Lights, Luci!  And Lulu!
Lights, Lights, Luci! And Lulu!

Buone Feste, tutti!!

Baci, Gina

P.S.  I remember back in the States queuing and waiting.. to drive through certain spandangled neighborhoods…  Any special warm holiday light displays where you are?

 

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Another first.

Her first word was “button” (referring to those little things on a computer, not what helps you fasten a coat).

lulu walking

Her first steps were at Parc Georges Bressens  right outside our flat in Paris.

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Her first day of elementary school was this September here in Arezzo, Italy. And now, Lulu has achieved the latest milestone in her life – getting her ears pierced!

Our daughter has been asking (otherwise known as clamoring, begging and cajoling) for the past year  – ever since her friend Cassandra got her own ears pierced.

Lulu and Cassie. Two girls with four pierced ears.

Since we’ve been living in Tuscany for the past two and a half years now, I really don’t know what all the  little girls in the United States are up to.  But here in Italy, while It’s not quite the tradition to get their ears pierced in infancy like some countries,  it’s no big deal for very young girls to be sporting small post earrings in their little lobes.  Probably, it’s great training for the long swinging chandelier earrings many of these girls will wear when they grow up to be fashion-conscious Italian belle donne!

Ma certo!  Italian ladies do like these earrrings!
Ma certo! Italian ladies do like these earrrings!

And so, finally, as a present for Lulu’s sixth birthday – which was officially yesterday – we walked down the Corso Italia to a nearby Gioielli (jewelry) shop for the momentous occasion.

Daddy and Lulu walking to the jewelry shop..
Daddy and Lulu walking to the jewelry shop..

I had already inquired about the process with  the charming older couple who run the shop.  They assured me everything was sterile and “pharmaceutical.”   Meno male (thank goodness),” I thought.

Lulu picks out her earrings from the shop's selection
Lulu picks out her earrings from the shop’s selection

The wife drew little dots on Lulu’s soft pink ears and her husband prepared the dart gun.  (What do you call it exactly?)

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THOOP! The first teeny brilliant sparkly flower-shaped earring was in! Lulu shuddered and her eyes opened wide.

THOOP!
THOOP!

“Did that hurt?” I asked.

Un poco (a little),”  Lulu stiffly replied.

What our kind shopkeepers hadn’t explained to us -and what I hadn’t imagined – is the time it takes to load up the next dart gun can also become a time for the child victim, er customer, to reflect upon the pain.

Will she agree to the second hole?
Will she agree to the second hole?

“Sometimes the little girls decide not to get the second one done,”   the shop owner told me as he took the next earring shooter out of its plastic case.

“Uhm, Lulu,” I started, wondering how this would turn out, “are you okay to have the second one shot in?”

“Yes, of course!” Lulu looked at me as if I were crazy.  This kid had been asking to have earrings for the past year and she wasn’t about to stop at just one.

“Meno male,”  I thought.

And, then, with another quick THOOP!  it was all over.  Lulu had two little shiny flowers in her ears and we had experienced another first in her young life.

Ta-dah!  Another milestone achieved.
Ta-dah! Another milestone achieved.

Happy birthday, Lulu.

Happy birthday, Lulu!
Happy birthday, Lulu!

Although I confess I have the cartilage of my left ear as well as my belly button pierced (shh!), but – with the all the tongues and noses and eyebrows out there, I am crossing my fingers that Lulu’s first piercing will be her last – at least for a few more years!

Tell me about a recent (or not so recent) milestone in your child’s life.  Do you feel that mixture of joy and pang like I do during each of the steps along their way…?

Till next time,

Baci!

Gina

Till Death Us Do Part

Gracie arrives on stage, breathless, her arms full with a lovely bouquet.

GEORGE: “I like your flowers.”

GRACIE: “Thanks, they were your idea.”

GEORGE: “What do you mean?”

GRACIE: “Well, I went to the hospital today to visit Aunt Alice and you told me to take her flowers. So, when she wasn’t looking, I did.”

* * *

If you don’t already know, the “George and Gracie” featured in this dialogue were actual people:  comedy duo and real-life couple, George Burns and Gracie Allen who were American entertainment stars of Vaudeville, Radio and early Television.  Their partnership on-stage and off ran successfully for more than 40 years until Gracie’s untimely death from a heart attack in 1964.

George Burns and Gracie Allen
George Burns and Gracie Allen

George’s witty and droll set-ups and Gracie’s illogical and loveable punch-lines made the couple’s routines legendary.  If you’ve never seen them before, they live on – on YouTube.

Their brand of humor was so funny and endearing  it served as the starting point when my husband Scotty Walsh began preparing his final performance required to wrap up his Master of Fine Arts program here in Tuscany. (It’s this program that brought us to Italy, in case you didn’t know.)

So! Scotty conceptualized, wrote, directed and starred in a one-hour comedy magic show he titled, “MEET THE SILVERSTONES” – and, in a moment of inspiration or impulsiveness, he cast me as his on-stage partner!

The Show poster
The Show poster

Although we’ve been married for many years, this became the first time we ever actually worked together toward a performance.

It wasn’t always easy.

My husband is an artist. A perfectionist.  He looks at a draft of a script and sees a million different directions it can take.  He examines a prop or a bit of business and considers a myriad of subtleties.

Maybe because I worked for so many years in the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of TV News,  but I am a quintessential “thin-slicer.”  I go with my gut. I make quick decisions and never look back.

Needless to say, these two working styles sometimes resulted in the teensiest bits of tension during the two months that we worked together.

But last night’s first performance here in Arezzo before a standing-room only crowd, culminated in a wonderful evening.  The audience laughed in all the right places and the applause was heart-felt.

Tonight we have our second show and I think I can safely say, that while we may never become the next  Burns and Allen (although we did adapt their adorable “flowers” bit), we managed to work through our differences and create something to be proud of.

Scotty Walsh and Gina London - new comedy duo?
Scotty Walsh and Gina London – new comedy duo?

Thank you, Scotty, for this opportunity.  Another lesson that most things in life –take work.  And a little love and patience, too.

Have you ever worked with your spouse or partner? How did it go? Would you do it again? Do you still work with your spouse or partner?   How is it going? What do you do to make it work?  And it isn’t just working with loved ones that may prove challenging, is it?

Every work environment presents different styles, personalities and approaches.  What must you do to help make your next project a success?

Till then,

Gina

And P.S. When we get the video of the show back from our photographer, I’ll definitely post it for you!

Gratitude: A Good or Goofy thing?

One Thanksgiving Day, I asked everyone gathered around the table covered with turkey, wild rice stuffing, green bean casserole and both mashed and sweet potatoes, to say one thing they were thankful for.

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“Awww, No.  C’mon.”

“This is cheesy.”

“Let’s just eat.”

Although I was met with immediate resistance, finally, reluctantly, my request was fulfilled and each person seated at the heaping table named one thing for which he or she was grateful.

But I wondered.

Why was giving thanks considered “cheesy?”

CheeseAssortment

Was it the call for public declaration? Is it perceived as too soft or weak?  Is it embarrassing to utter thankfulness? What?

I don’t know. Maybe it was a combination of those things.

But, don’t worry.  You won’t have to interrupt your Thanksgiving meal – or if you’re not American, you won’t have to interrupt any meal, because I won’t be making this table-side request again.

Gratitude is personal and something you can only freely give.

I am in no way a perfect person, and admit there are times when I am grouchy and not at all grateful.  But right now, during November – when the US sets aside a day to give thanks – I would like to list just a few of the things for which I am thankful.

  1. Family – My daughter Lulu and my husband Scotty are here with me and I get to enjoy them  every day.  The rest of my family I see only occasionally through visits, Skype or their words on cards and letters. They all mean so much to me.??????????
  2. Italy – This wonderful country has welcomed us with open arms and given us a seemingly unending stream of enriching experiences including food, culture, music, language, and red wine!???????????????????????????????
  3. Friends – Italian, expat American, British, Romanian or Czech. You know who you are and I love each and every one of you!

    My friends are not limited to the "squadra" but I love these girls a lot!
    My friends are not limited to the “squadra” but I love these girls a lot!
  4. Clients – A job I love and clients who grow and become friends is truly a rich reward.post-it
  5. Health –  If you have your health, you have everything.

    healthy and happy!
    healthy and happy!

That’s only my top five. The list goes on and on.  Every ancient door I see in Arezzo‘s medieval town center.

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Basilica San Francesco

A smile from a dog each time I pass by.

Before the smile..
Before the smile..

The sun on the duomo as I walk home in the afternoon.

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In short: I am grateful for life!

And this month especially, I am not too shy or eager to dig in to the turkey (which is a few weeks away anyway), to let you all know!

With gratitude,

Gina

P.S. If it’s not too much trouble, tell me, what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving season?

Baci!

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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Near and Far away family

Suddenly. Already. Like any single event you plan for months, it’s over too soon.

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At the train station Sunday waiting for them to arrive.

My only sister, Andrea, her husband, Tony and their seven-year-old daughter Sophia arrived here in Arezzo on Sunday evening.

Our five-year-old daughter Lulu had been talking with Sophia pretty regularly on Skype, but only when I saw them again together playing like no time had lapsed, did it hit me how much time actually had come between these play dates and their last.

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It’s been two years!

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We walked hand-in-hand around Arezzo’s cobbled streets.

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Tasted wines together at the Podere di Pomaio vineyard while the girls played on the rolling hills of Tuscany.

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Visited Arezzo’s famous “Magic Tree!”

Andrea and Tony "keep the tree from falling" as Lulu and Sophia pretend to lose balance!
Andrea and Tony “keep the tree from falling” as Lulu and Sophia pretend to lose balance!

We even braved the sweltering heat and teeming crowds and took the train to Florence for the day.

In front of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio and.. Ah-choo!
In front of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and.. Ah-choo!

On the last night, Scotty and Tony helped the girls light a Rapunzel-like paper lantern on the steps of the Duomo.  It floated into the sky while Andrea called out, “Make a wish!”

Make a wish.
Make a wish.

I wish I could find a way to have the adventures of living in Italy – without having to live so far away from my family.

So, as the girls hugged goodbye yesterday in front of our house, we promised we won’t wait another two years before we see each other again.

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I love my Italian friends dearly, but I miss my American family.

Til next time, where are you in relation to your relations? Close by geographically and emotionally? Or worlds apart?  I’d invite you to share!

Love, Gina