A Christmas song going around in my head

I love how children are so easily infected with the Christmas spirit. My son has prepared for his Christmas play at school over the past couple of weeks, spontaneously bursting into song and looking forward to speaking his part at the microphone. He even made me download some songs, so we have been ‘jingle bell rocking’ and ‘Rudolph the red nose reindeering’ all week.

The music surrounding the festive season is so evocative and I’m sure everyone has their own personal favorite. I remember belting out Christmas carols at school in Australia and with my brother as we decorated our tree every year.

Christmas in Sicily for me is always tinged with homesickness, which is reflected by the Christmassy song I have going around in my head.

Christmas in Australia

I have been listening to the Australian singer/songwriters and living legends Neil Finn and Paul Kelly’s album Goin’ Your Way which relives the best of their poetry through the decades.

Excuse me if I’m being self-indulgent but I wanted to share Paul Kelly’s song ‘How to make gravy,’ with you. It’s a bitter-sweet recollection of Christmas in Australia from an outsiders point of view, if you don’t know it I won’t ruin it for you, it’s a bit folky, country, blues and one hundred percent Australian, which seems to be what I need now.

Be sure to share what song is stuck in your head.

Happy festive listening.

wcm0046

Blogging around the world with Karolyn from Distant Drumlin

I have been dipping into Distant Drumlin a blog by Karolyn Cooper for quite a while now as there is a fascinating journey behind it and Karolyn has led me into the world of many other excellent international expat experiences and bloggers.

The creator of Distant Drumlin returned to the UK after living in India and China for an extensive time a return journey which has open her eyes to many finer details of life back in her home. Today she splits her time between her city home in Marylebone, central London and her country home in County Down, Northern Ireland.

It was great to shoot a few question over about her experiences as an expat and blogger.

Karolyn's blog Camden Town

You have returned to the UK after living in India and China. How long where you living overseas? And how have you found this ‘reverse expat’ experience, was it difficult to get back into the swing of life in the UK?

My husband had a role in a large company managing software developers in China and India. I quit my job in London and joined him. We spent most of the last ten years overseas, first in Dalian (Liaoning Province, in the cold north­east of China), then Shanghai (warmer), then Bangalore (finally, blue skies and tropical sunshine in south India) . At the end of 2013 we came back to the UK. We’re happy to be back home.

Name five things we should see and do in India and China based on your experiences there?

See the fireworks at Diwali in India, and then see how they compare to the New Year fireworks in China. Do some yoga in India, compare with tai chi in China, see which makes your leg muscles ache more. Learn how to use chopsticks properly: it’s easy!

What should I defiantly taste/eat in India and China?

In India, you must taste the mangoes, bananas and cardamom. I thought I knew those flavours, but they were so much more intense in India.

In China, try everything unless it’s still alive (drunken prawns) or cruel (shark fin soup). You never know, you might love the jellyfish and Shanghai dumplings (I did) or the sea urchins and sea cucumbers (I really did not).

Now getting back to your present situation, if I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet and what would we be drinking?

Well that depends on whether you catch me in the city or the country. There’s nowhere finer in Northern Ireland than my own garden with a view of the County Down countryside and the Mourne Mountains, so I will make us a pot of tea. If we’re in London, let’s drink espressos at one of the trendy Marylebone cafes.

Do you ever miss your expat experience?

Only in mango season.

Did you have much of a problem with learning the language, what advice do you have for English speaking expats?

In India I didn’t learn anything, except to distinguish which of the local languages I was failing to understand. I am equally clueless in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi.

We were much better in China. My husband and I both took lessons in Chinese. Our first teacher gave us a good grounding in Pinyin. That allowed us to learn some basic vocabulary. Then we learned how to look up Chinese characters in a dictionary, using the radical and the number of strokes. Those skills demystify Chinese…slightly. It’s still a hard language for English­speakers to learn. I learned Chinese vocabulary best when it came as part of a whole phrase that I could repeat, parroting the correct tones….so I am a fan of DVDs and podcasts. And the words that stuck best came with some emotion. Play a sport, and you soon learn to count the score, ask for the right golf club, and call shots in or out, just because you really don’t want to lose the game.

What do you appreciate the most about the UK now that you’ve been away from it? And what do you dislike about the UK and would change in an instant?

After eight months back home, I still appreciate clean water and reliable electricity. What would I change in an instant? Dark, grey, damp days.

Karolyn's blog street sign

What kind of blogger are you is it all about having a zillion followers or is it therapy?

I only had a zillion followers on one day, when a London college publicised the blog to the zillions of students who attend the college. The excitement wore off when none of them came back for the next post, so now I’m back to blogging as therapy.

How would you describe your blog, tell us about it …

It started as an expat blog, as a way to keep in touch with family and friends when I moved to India. I was enjoying it too much to stop when the expat posting ended. Most of my posts are photo–heavy, light on text.

You always have the best shots on your blog, so tell us what camera do you use and perhaps a little advice on how to get a decent photo.

I love taking photos for the blog, because there’s no pressure. You’ve never seen my photos of the pheasants who live on our farm, because the birds flee from me every time. I only post photos on the blog when I’m proud of them….I don’t announce them in advance.

Sometimes the iPhone is good enough, but I also have a Panasonic Lumix G3 and a Nikon D90. The Lumix is the best for blogging because it’s so small, and easy to carry around. I often wish I had taken more time over my photos. If someone­ my driver in India, my family or friends – is waiting for me, I rush to take a few photos and move on. When I’m in London, I fear that people will think I’m odd if I stop in the street for too long with a camera. But I’ve learned the hard way that it’s always worth taking another minute to get a better shot. Unless you’re looking for pheasants, in which case it’s too late.

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favourite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.

I’m in the middle of reading “The Old Ways” by Robert MacFarlane – a wonderful book about walking.

For China, Peter Hessler’s “River Town” was my favourite.
For India, Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is impressive, but will make you cry in its depiction of life in the slums of Mumbai.
And the best recent book about London, with the longest title, is Craig Taylor’s “Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now ­ as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it” .

Have you discovered any other wonderful travel/expat blogs that we should be reading?

Kim is an American woman living in Fiji with her family, blogging about the animals, plants, people and culture of Fiji. The blog is called Flora and Fauna Weekly Report. The content is so much more interesting than the title! Weekly posts keep the whole thing fresh, and Kim’s photographs bring it all to life.

Karolyn on yoga mat in India

Cheers to Karolyn for taking a moment to answer some questions and the lovely images.

Be sure to pop over and see her at Distant Drumlin for some fine images and reflections on life in the UK.

If you want to see more of Karolyn check her out on Twitter and Flickr .

wcm0046

Blogging around the world with Tiana Kai in Florence

There is no doubt that expat blogs from Florence are probably the most popular around, there are literally hundreds of them, but there are few which are able to make themselves stand out and original like Tiana Kai in Florence. Tiana combines her love of travel with her curiosity and knack with photography to explore Tuscany, Italy and Europe at large.

I was surprised when she managed to find a moment in her busy schedule to answer my questions and I am happy to share our conversation with you all.

Ponte Vecchio and Valentina
Tiana’s faithful bike Valentina enjoying the a Florentine icon, the Ponte Vecchio.

 

Do you consider yourself an expat and if so did you make a conscious decision to live the expat life and how did you end up living in Florence Perhaps you can describe exactly where are you living in the city?

Well, I’m definitely not a local, so expat, immigrant, visitor all work! I have been living in Florence for two years now. I rekindled with my ex (a Florentine) whom I dated back in the US from 2001-2003. We got back in touch and next thing I knew he bought me a ticket to visit him for two weeks. The rest is history! 

How would you describe Italy to someone who has never visited? Are the people welcoming to foreigners?

Oh wow, what’s not to say? The coast, the mountains, the land, passion, food, wine, vineyards…I can go on and on. Every corner is picturesque and every passerby is a moving piece of art. I think Italians are very welcoming. I travel a lot around Italy and the people I meet are so incredible, open, fun and curious. Sure, Americans are easier to get to know, but so are Italians if you are willing to open yourself up. 

Name five things I should see and do in Florence?

Climb the Giotto tower to see the incredible view of the city and an up close shot of the Duomo.

Walk up to my favorite viewpoints: San Miniato al Monte Church and Piazzale Michelangelo. The best time is right before sunset—linger around for a few hours while the pink hues seep in. 

Tour the many gardens! My favorite is the small rose garden inside Boboli Gardens and the Rose Garden to the west of Piazzale Michelangelo. There are so many that I still have a few on my list to see.

Visit a fashion museum besides the Uffizi, I prefer Ferragamo’s museum to Gucci’s. 

Eat like crazy! Grab a panino at All’Antico Vinaio, snack on a lampredotto sandwich on the streets, rip your teeth into a bistecca fiorentina and have wine at Il Santino. 

What should I taste or eat in Florence?

As mentioned above you definitely need to eat a bistecca fiorentina. Juicy, raw and flavorful. Finish dinner with a light dessert like Vin Santo (dessert wine) and cantucci (tiny biscotti) dunking the cookies into the wine for an excellent finish to the evening. 

Gelato, yay! There are a handful of artisan gelaterias who always have a changing menu depending on the season, so you’ll sure find unique and unforgettable flavors. 

If I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet and what would we be drinking?

I would meet you at Il Santino. I have tried many bars around town, but this place feels like home to me. It’s small, the owners are cool and the quality of the food is unsurpassable.

You are originally from the States and are now living full time in Italy, is there a terrible culture shock or do you find your culture has something in common with your current adopted home?

I find a lot of things similar to life in Miami since Miami is not really “America”. That being said, Italians are still different from Latin Americans, so there was a bit getting used to. Getting things done, paying pills, stores closing for lunch where the main issues I noticed. I used to kiss everyone once when I said hi and bye, now I kiss twice when I say hi…not always goodbye. There are many tiny details that I have shifted in my life now that I live in Italy.

Do you ever suffer from homesickness and how do you cope with it?

As close as I am to my family I always enjoyed being away and doing my own thing. The main things I miss are close friends from the States (thank God for Skype and Facebook) and my two little brothers. I have two older brothers too, but my heart just melt for the youngsters—they’re practically my babies. 

Being married to someone I’ve known since I was 20 helps since I feel like I can talk to him about whatever’s on my mind and no one knows me better than he does. Having close girlfriends never hurts either when you need someone to listen to you and who knows what you’re going through (expat-wise or not). 

What’s been the most rewarding/high point and then the most frustrating/low part of your time in Florence?

High points have been settling in and feeling like myself here—routines can help! I’ve been busy getting to know people and traveling, so that’s kept me happy and busy. 

Low points were more in the beginning when I didn’t know which new “friend” to trust and spend my time with, and the let’s not forget the legal paperwork which is always a dream!

What do you think about the expat life? Why do you think so many people choose to be expats?

Some people may think that life is better somewhere else, that they need a change. Others see it as an adventure to share with their partner or on their own, living a life dream and good for them! I think everyone should live abroad at least once in their lives to see how other people live and gain other life experiences. 

Growing up in Miami I always met people from other countries and thought it was so amazing that they packed up and took a chance in a different country. 

Did you have much of a problem with learning the language, what advice do you have for English speaking expats? 

Ha, I’m bad at practicing! My husband and I speak English since he’s amazing at English and we met speaking English. I speak Italian to locals, but I find it incredibly odd to speak Italian to an American. 

What led you to the world of blogging?

I had a blog in Miami a year or so before I moved here focusing on my business and Miami happenings. Once I moved here I noticed an intense social media presence from other expats and travelers, so I wanted to share my story with them and most importantly with my family and friends back home. 

How would you describe your blog, tell us about it …

My blog is a place where you can find tips about Italy and my personal experiences with many many photos! When someone is coming to Florence I want to provide them with the best of what they can do and EAT, so that they have an incredible time here. Since I’m more than just someone living in Florence I like to focus on other travels and expat life in general, so you’ll find a few things that may connect to you on a personal level. 

Have you ever had negative experiences with blogging? Tell us about it, how did you handle it?

Maybe a few pompous comments, but I always think that they must not be very nice to anyone not just me. 

What kind of blogger are you, is it about getting a zillion visitors/subscribers, selling your books or is it all therapy?

I let blogging take me where it takes me. I don’t want a blog filled with advertising and I don’t want to over sell myself, so it’s more about my stories and photography. Many use it as a business and for now I use it as a great tool for work, travel, keeping in touch and sharing my tips and experience with whomever is reading. Who knows what future plans I may have for my blog down the road.

You have quite a good following on your blog, any advice for the rest of us?

Connect with others and be yourself! 

You always have the best shots on your blog, so tell us what camera do you use and perhaps a little advice on how to get a decent photo.

I have a Canon Rebel that doesn’t always see the light of day because of the size, so you’ll find me with my Canon Powershot and iPad mini. The mini takes pretty great shots, less pixelated (and lighter!) than the iPad 2. 

Complete this phrase: I travel because …

life without it is bleeh.

What are the five things you would never leave home without …

Camera, iPad mini, Tod aviators, comfy loafers/walking shoes, my grandpa’s gold bracelet.

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favourite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.

Born to Run made me want to explore more of the southwest of the States/Mexico. That book was incredible and if I didn’t give it to a friend I would read it several times over. The landscape in the book really spoke to me, I wouldn’t mind spending a few nights there in the middle of nothing with my husband, dog and camera. I grew up traveling a lot and no matter how fancy shmancy the hotel, my family always was extremely active, so I really love doing something sporty and getting dirty! 

So what’s coming up on Living in Florence that we can look forward to …. Have you discovered any other wonderful travel/expat or writing blogs that we should be reading?

I’m focusing on some side projects that let me be creative and challenge me a bit. As for blogs that I read, I actually read more about marketing and technology, but I find that I’m always cracking up when I read Married To Italy!

Tiana Kai in Florence
Tiana Kai in Florence

Tiana was born in Hawaii, raised in Miami and now lives and works as digital marketing consultant in Florence. TianaKai.com shares travel tips all over Italy and abroad plus expat experiences that are sure to make you laugh. Her main passions besides travel are photography (check out instagram.com/tianapix), her yellow labrador Macintosh and her husband who cooks some mean ribs. 

If you want to see more of Tiana check out her social media links: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and her really fun photographic project NOT MY NONNI which offers some candid images of elegant elderly people in Italy also on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

It was fabulous to have Tiana Kai from Living in Florence to visit on Unwilling Expat and I look forward to her insights on life from one of my favorite parts of Italy.

In bocco al lupo (good luck and happy blogging to you!)

wcm0046

Blogging around the world: Mozzarella Mamma

 

One of the most inspiring expat blogs I’ve come across in Italy must be Mozzarella Mamma which is the creation of Trisha, an American journalist who has been living and working in Rome for the past two decades. She’s an inspiration simply because she has managed to juggle being a professional, bringing up three children, life in the eternal city and has become fluent with Italy on many different levels. It was a real pleasure to fling a few questions at Trisha via email, here’s our interview.

Trisha the gal behind Mozzarella Mamma
Trisha the gal behind Mozzarella Mamma

Do you consider yourself an expat and if so did you make a conscious decision to live the expat life and how did you end up living in Rome?

I do consider myself an expat. I didn’t make a conscious decision to lead an expat life. I met my Italian husband while we were both in graduate school at Columbia University in New York. We met in the US and married in the US and agreed that we would live the first five years of our marriage in Rome and then spend the next five in the US and try to go back and forth. We figured we both had pretty movable careers. I am a journalist, he is a professor economics. When I moved to Italy with my new husband it was a bit of a culture shock. It was only then that I began to grasp the whole Italian men and their Mamma business. In the end we have remained for 20 years living in Rome (near his Mamma) and only returning to the US for holidays. I would love to spend a few years in living in the US, but I have finally accepted that that is not going to happen.

For a more colorful explanation, you can check out my blog post How I ended up in Italy.

How would you describe Italy to someone who has never visited? Are the people welcoming to foreigners?

Italy is a fabulous place ­­ filled with art and history, fantastic food, gorgeous cities (Florence, Venice, Ravello, Perugia etc etc). Italians are blessed with having both mountains and sea ­­ there is the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts with magnificent beaches (Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, etc etc), and the spectacular Italian Alps. The Italian people are probably the best part ­­ they are friendly and welcoming eager to share their language, culture, history, food and their country with anyone who is interested.

Name five things I should see and do in Rome?

Well there are the standard tourists spots that one must see: The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, The Campidoglio. I love all the Roman piazzas ­­ Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Campo Dei Fiori, Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps.

I also am a huge fan of Caravaggio, so I would suggest hunting down the Caravaggio masterpieces in the Roman churches. Here are a couple of my blog posts on that:

Cooling down with Caravaggio and Caravaggio and Women.

Of course you can’t visit Rome without seeing the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel. I suggest to people­­whether or not they are Catholic­­ that they try to catch the Pope’s Weekly audience on Wednesday’s or his Angelus from the window of the papal apartments on Sundays. It is fun to be a part of these events and to see the new Pope Francis.

 

St Peter's unmistakable dome, Roma
St Peter’s unmistakable dome, Roma

 

What should I taste/eat in Rome?

Oh gosh, everything. I guess I would start with the coffee ­­ espresso, cappuccino, Caffe Latte, and of course have a cornetto with that. Moving on to lunch ­­ pasta in a Roman Trattoria, then an apertivo sitting outdoors at sunset watching the pinks, orange colors on the ancient Roman monuments. For dinner there are so many restaurants ­­ Rome’s Ghetto has some fabulous places. One of my favorite restaurants is a bit out of the way, is called Ristorante Caprera and it has fantastic fish dishes.

 

If I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet and what would we be drinking?

We would meet at the Tree Bar ­­ a little restaurant/bar in a park near my home. I would be drinking a pro secco or an aperol spritz.

 

Do you suffer from (US/Italian) culture shock or do you find there is something common ground with your current adopted home?

I have suffered from much culture shock in Italy. I get frustrated at the insane traffic, the pharmacy, the food rigidity, the pressure on women to be beautiful and sexy, the constant need for bella figura. I will copy some blog posts of that below. I think the common ground is always humor. I laugh at myself, Italians laugh with me, not at me, and they are easily able to laugh at themselves.

See Nico’s Traffic Rules, Fumbling in the Pharmacy, Espresso, Corruption, Murder and the Bella Figura, Linguini and luscious legs, Something Fishy in Rome, The Fine Art of the Christmas Broth.

 

Do you ever suffer from homesickness and how do you cope with it?

I miss my family in the US a lot, but I talk to them regularly on the phone and communicate on email on a daily basis. But there is no time for homesickness. I have a job, an Italian husband and 3 Italian­American children plus a blog that occupy my every waking moment.

 

What do you think about the expat life? Why do you think so many people choose to be expats?

I am different from many expats in that I don’t lead an expat life, hanging out with other expats and doing American things. I am fully inserted with my Italian husband into an Italian lifestyle.

 

Did you have much of a problem with learning the language, what advice do you have for English speaking expats?

The great advantage in learning Italian is that Italian’s are so nice about it. They don’t care if you make mistakes, they are happy that you are trying. I have had a lot of difficulty with some aspects of the Italian language ­­ the subjunctive, the Lei formal tense, the imperative­­ still I always muddle through.

Here are some blog posts on that: Lei ­ Language Confusion and Swallowing Toads and Seeing Green Rats

 

What’s been the most rewarding/high point and then the most frustrating/low part of your time in Italy?

It has been very rewarding working as a journalist and covering events in Italy and the Vatican. The experience of traveling with Pope John Paul II, covering his death and funeral, traveling with Pope Benedict XVI, covering the election and the Papacy of Pope Francis has been extremely satisfying. In addition I have covered everything from Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi to immigrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Venice Film festival. I love all the news I get to cover. You can see from my blog that I often write about my experiences working in the field. I also have been given contracts with Italian television to serve as a political analyst during the US elections commenting on Italian TV explaining our the political system works in the US. It is satisfying to me to be able to explain US politics to Italians in their language.

You have been living in Italy for 16 years where you have worked as a journalist and brought up three children. How on earth have you managed that?

It is actually 20 years now, I came to Italy in November 1993. I don’t know how I’ve managed it. A couple of key things ­­ I’ve learned to drive in Italian traffic and don’t get upset when stupid jerks on mopeds yell and curse at me. I don’t let myself get cut off by people in fancy Mercedes of BMW’s­­ my little Fiat is a fighter. I’ve learned to argue and gesticulate in Italian. My life is a big juggling act and I always have a lot of balls in the air ­­ they fall all the time, but I try to laugh, pick them up and start again.

Do you feel more American or Italian these days?

I always feel American and very proud to be so. Many people say I speak more like an Italian now (talk fast and gesticulate a lot) and tend to be more argumentative, and I tend to dress more like an Italian (no sneakers and sweats), but my heart and soul will always be American.

See blog post: Sweats at the Supermarket.

 

Epic, timeless Colosseum of Rome.
Epic, timeless Colosseum of Rome.

Since you are a journalist and write about events in Italy I simply have to ask you a few quick questions about current affairs in Italy, if you don’t mind:

A) What do you think of Renzi?

I like Renzi. He is young and ambitious and doing everything he can to bring Italy out of its economic crisis and I hope he succeeds. I did not like the way he stabbed his fellow­party member and former Prime Minister Enrico Letta in the back to get where he is, but perhaps that is they way Italian politics works (a tad Machiavellian).

B) How do you think Italy will manage to come out of the Economic crisis?

No clue. You can ask my husband that question. He is a professor of economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. His blog is www.gustavopiga.it

However, my gut reaction is that Italians always muddle through ­­ as I said above they have great food, an amazing cultural patrimony, and a gorgeous country. There is also a combination of the black market business and traditional Italian attitudes of family safety net that help keep the economy from sinking.

C) Do you think there is a solution for the refugee problem? And why do the Italian and international press exchange the word ‘migrant’ for ‘refugee’ so easily?

I have no idea what the solution for the “refugee” problem is, but I think the way it is being handled right now is not working. Italian Navy and Coast Guard ships are fishing hundreds of “migrants” in rickety old boats out of the Mediterranean every day (I get their videos sent to me every day in this period when the weather is good). I think the key is giving more aid and investment directly in the countries that the migrants are coming from. “Migrants” and “refugees” are different. Migrants are people who are coming usually for economic reasons, refugees for political reasons. I have seen hundreds of North Africans arrive who are mostly looking for work, and hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese escaping from dangerous political situations. But among the North Africans some can be political refugees as well. It is impossible for a journalist or rescue workers to know in one boatload who is a migrant and who is a refugee­­ that takes days of interviews to sort out.

I have also done a lot of blog posts on Lampedusa and the refugee situation.

Ceramics Santo Stefano

Tell us about your book “Mozzarella Mamma: Deadlines, Diapers and the Dolce Vita,” how’s it coming along?

My book is now officially going nowhere. I’ve given up on it. Most of the best parts are already in my blog anyway. I’ve decided to dedicate myself to my blog and I will wait until I retire to write a book. However, if a publisher contacted me and offered to publish my book, I would re­work it, but that is highly unlikely to happen and I do not have any free time to get into the act of trying to find an agent and get published, that in itself is a full­time job.

What led you to the world of blogging?

I started my blog as a way to attract a publisher for my book, but as I said in the answer above I have now given up on the book and the blog has taken on a life of its own. I now consider my blog as a way to keep a diary of both my professional and personal interests and experiences ­­ this can all be eventual material for a new book.

How would you describe your blog, tell us about it …

Well, my blog is all over the map. It started out being funny tales about trying to be a working Mamma in Italy then it has evolved a bit into background descriptions of news stories I am covering. However, I think my best posts are the humorous accounts of trying to be a good Mamma and maintain the Bella Figura in Italy.

Have you ever had negative experiences with blogging? Tell us about it, how did you handle it?

I really have not had negative experiences with blogging, it has been all positive for me. I have had so many contacts with wonderful people from around the world ­­ Australia, India, Turkey, and the US ­­ to name a few. My blog has opened up a new world for me.

Actually there is one small negative aspect ­­ blog guilt. Once you start blogging you feel like you need to do it all the time and you start feeling guilty when you don’t post. Sometimes I am just too tired, or too wrapped up in personal things, or just don’t have anything to write about, but I still feel guilty for not posting. But there is also the reverse side of that, when I do a post that I feel is really good, the writing is sharp and the pictures are strong, it gives me enormous satisfaction.

What kind of blogger are you, is it about getting a zillion visitors or subscribers, selling your books or is it all therapy?

As I was saying above, I am not aiming for getting visitors or subscribers and am not aiming to sell books. It is not even therapy for me. I consider a diary of my life.

You have quite a good following on your blog, any advice for the rest of us?

I am not sure I have such a great following on my blog. My only advice to other bloggers would be try to enjoy it, do not give up, do not worry about who is following you or numbers of visitors or subscribers. One of the best parts of blogging is the friends you make­­ enjoy the comments on your blog, respond to them all, and try to read other blogs and comment on them. I have a lot of fellow­ blogger friends who I have never met in person but I feel fond of them, I enjoy reading their blogs and commenting on them, and I am pleased when they comment on mine. It is hard though, for many people blogging is a full­time job and they have more time to blog and comment on other people’s blogs­­ for me it is an effort, but an effort that is worthwhile.

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favorite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.

I am not really into travel books­­ I do love historical fiction and biographies that take me to another time and place. I just finished reading “Catherine the Great” by Robert K. Massie which I loved. One of my favorite books is Louis De Bernieres’ “Birds Without Wings” which takes place in Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. Another favorite about a childhood in Africa is Alessandra Fuller’s “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.”

As far as books on Italy are concerned, here are some of my favorites: “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone, “Umbertina” by Helen Barolini, Naples’ 44 by Norman Lewis and Alexandra Lapierre’s “Artemisa,” Lynn Rodolico’s “Two Seas” and the Italian classic Luigi Barzini’s “The Italians.”

So what’s coming up on Mozzarella Mamma that we can look forward to …

Yikes, not so sure what is coming up on Mozzarella Mamma. I am going on the Papal plane to the Mideast with Pope Francis at the end of May and I will definitely blog about that. I am also doing some research of Livia, the wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus and will eventually blog about her. I am also contemplating a couple of silly posts, the first on dealing with my teenage (now 19­year­old son) and the complicated questions of when the girlfriend sleeps over, and another one on Italian with­the­dog­in­the­park culture.

 

Have you discovered any other wonderful travel/expat or writing blogs that we should be reading?

About Turkey: http://archersofokcular.com/

About Renovating in Italy: http://www.renovatingitaly.com/

Hilarious accounts of being an expat in Italy: http://marriedtoitaly.com/

Stunning sunset in Rome bathing the monuments in golden light.
Stunning sunset in Rome bathing the monuments in golden light.

Thanks so much to Trisha for taking a moment to answer my questions. I wanted to thank her for her blog apart from being an inspiration for me Mozzarella Mamma is a wonderful mix of observation, current affairs and culture shock with a pinch of humor and irony.

Trisha has the answer to one of the most difficult questions a female expat can ask. Mainly: ‘how does a woman adapt and change to meet the demands of one society while trying to maintain her core beliefs, values and cultural traditions? [Her] own answer to this question has always been, with good friends, humility and a sense of humor.’

Words to live by.

Much gratitude and good karma to you Mozzarella Mamma, I look forward to hearing more about your journey in ‘Bella Italia.’

 

wcm0046

 

W​hat to do With 10 Days in Western Australia

Today we have a lovely guest post by Jessica from The Turquoise Compass

 

Western Australia
Conto Beach

After spending 6 weeks on Australia’s East Coast, I couldn’t leave without getting a taste of the West Coast as well. With only 3 months in Australia (relatively speaking), I can’t do it all (even though I want to), so I had to pick and choose. Australia is a gigantic country with so many exquisite destinations. I decided that I would spend most of my time on the East Coast, since most of my dream bucket list destinations are on the East including the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsundays, Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, Noosa Everglades, Sydney, and beyond. Although Eastern Australia is my focus on this first trip (I am hoping for more future trips), I decided to see other regions as well. Although I won’t have the same amount of time to explore the West Coast and South Eastern Australia I thought I should still get a taste.

 

Perth
Perth

Ten days in Western Australia doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but if planned correctly you can see quite a bit. As a hyperactive traveler I like to stay busy throughout most of my journey. Planning things to do in each destination that I visit is exciting for me. The more I can squeeze in the more excited I get to go and explore. I still try to make sure that I have some time to relax every few days, but generally speaking I stay quite busy bopping around each place of venture.

 

Sculptures by the Sea
Sculptures by the Sea

 

Cottesole
Cottesole

I didn’t know what to expect when I flew from Cairns to Perth. After spending so much time in Eastern Australia I think I was expecting to see a similar landscape. How much different can the West really be? The beaches can’t be that different can they? Boy was I in for a pleasant surprise when I landed in Perth. Western Australia has an entirely different look and feel. It’s refreshing to be able to travel within one country, yet get different experiences in each region of the country.

 

Rugged Coast
Desert Like Terrain

 

Sunset Coast
Sunset Coast

The dryer, Mediterranean-like temperature was a gift from heaven. The cities are slightly more spread out with more natural unspoiled views in between. Very few hotels line the sunset and turquoise coast as many do in Eastern Australia. The rough coast rests along the surprisingly crystal clear turquoise waters. The desert-like terrain greets the sand dunes along the beach with welcoming arms. A change of scenery was exactly what I needed to recharge my vagabond heart.

 

Rugged Coast
Rugged Coast

 

Wild Animals
Wild Animals

Although I don’t have to worry about deadly jelly fish in the ocean like I do on the East Coast. I now have to worry about encounters with deadly sharks (yes, that would include the Great White Shark among others) and snakes. While swimming at Conto beach outside of Margaret River, just shortly after my friend and I got out of the water all of the surfers were quickly swimming to shore and flagging down other surfers to get out of the water. I asked one of them if there was a shark and he responded casually with “yes, a big one“. Oh my goodness, and I was just in the water with a shark! To be in a beautiful destination means that there are risks to be taken to enjoy the environment. Knowing these risks I continually tempt fate by exploring more and more in Australia. Am I crazy?

 

 

Redgate Winery
Redgate Winery

 

Margaret River Landscape
Margaret River Landscape

10 Busy Days on the West Coast:
Fly into Perth
Kings Park
Perth CBD
East Perth
Northbridge
Fremantle
Cottesole
Sculptures by the Sea Art Display
Scarborough
Sunset Coast (beaches South of Perth)- Scarborough Beach, Brighton Beach
Turquoise Coast (beaches North of Perth)-Mullaloo Beach
Margaret River
Winery Tour
Gnarabub Beach
Surfers Point & Southside
Rivermouth
Eagle Bay
Meelup Bay
Conto Beach (we had to get out of the water because of the shark in the area)
Fly to South East Australia: Melbourne

Bucket List Adventures on the West-
See wild kangaroos for the first time
Bodyboarding at Redgate Beach
Spelunking in Giant’s Cave
Indian Ocean Beaches
Drink Australian wine at an Australian winery
Hamelin Bay to see the wild dolphins

Redgate Beach
Redgate Beach

Have you been to Western Australia or recently started planning your Western Ozzie adventure? I’d love to hear from you to know what you have done and plan to do!

About our most pleasant guest blogger:

Jessica from Turquoise Compass is a teacher at heart, but her true passion is traveling (especially to turquoise beaches), adventure, and trying new things. She has been to 17 countries and she is ready to see more. She has completed over a hundred items on her bucket and encourages others to live life to the fullest, while taking advantage of every opportunity that comes. As you can tell, this hyperactive traveler loves visiting beautiful turquoise destinations.

Thanks so much to Jess for this delightful guest post and her great ideas for visiting my home Australian state of  W.A. It makes me feel a little closer to home and some of the places she mentioned, I still haven’t visited yet!

Be sure to check out Jessica’s fab Travel Blog and also link up with her here on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

 

Jess from Turquoise Compass
Happy travelling to Jess from Turquoise Compass!

 

Dom Alessio is my Zio

It has been a little more than year since I’ve seen my family back home in Australia.

 

My son Matthias speaks to his grandmother via Skype but he doesn’t really see his Australian relatives much. I am always talking about them and showing him photo’s so he will recognize them. Such is the sin of living far away, Matty needs to memorize his family.

 

Quite frankly I hate it! But with most things Matthias helps me to see a lighter perspective.

 

The other day I was listening to a pod cast from Triple J an alternative Australian radio station that is hugely popular.

I was listening to a program called The unearthed five which literally unearths new bands around the country and gives them a chance to get play time on national radio.

I had my iTunes window opened and it had a picture of the host, Dom Alessio while all of a sudden Matthias shouted out:

‘Look it’s Zio Damian!’

 

In fact putting the image of Matty’s Uncle Damian and Dom Alessio together there is a slight resemblance. 

Image
My handsome talented brother Damian

 

 

 

 

Image
The talented Dom Alessio

 

 

I can see how Matty matched up the beard, haircut, glasses, smile and the flannel shirt look to make the connection.

 

So dearest Zio Damo you are associated with slim, bearded, thick rimmed glasses, flannel shirted men.

 

At least Matty is remembering in his own way!

 

Unwilling Expat

My favourite book to read when I’m feeling homesick

Image

One of my favourite Australian books of all time is Carolyn Polizzotto’s Pomegranate Season published by the Fremantle Arts Centre Press.

Pomegranate Season was probably the first book I packed with me when I moved overseas as I was sure it would remind of home thanks to its ability to evoke the changing seasons of the year in my native hometown of Perth, Western Australia.

Carolyn, whom I feel I am on a first name basis, keeps a loving diary which details the passing of the seasons in her house and backyard filled with the flora and fauna of this beautiful part of the earth.

The season’s are so intimate I can imagine myself in her garden sharing in the glow of the natural light and shifts which are also linked to her personal emotions in regards to her own son who was born with a handicap.

To quote the books jacket cover: ‘Combining personal reminiscence, detailed observation, meditation and lyrical description, Carolyn Polizzotto’s P.S is moving and enlightening.’

It warms my at times cold home-sickened soul.

Unwilling Expat

Here are some other things I miss about Australia