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I can tell Spring is really here despite the cold (actually freezing) mornings and the rain. My allergies are on a different level this year.  I do not approve.

It’s Easter weekend.  When I was very young this meant a new Easter outfit.  We’re talking the full enchilada – dress, shoes, gloves, and a HAT!!!  This also meant going to an extra long Easter Sunday service but usually the coffee hour after (Methodists don’t play) was outstanding.

Like many of our other traditions, this one ended once we moved to the suburbs.  I know one reason was because I was getting older and nobody really dressed up for Easter in our suburb after a certain age.

Another reason for the change was cultural.  Our church in Verona was the complete opposite of our church in New York City.  Very few people in our town would wear an Aretha Franklin type hat to church.

park_ave_tulips2_lg

In the mid 70′s my parents’ friends and relatives starting fleeing the economically devastated and crime ridden City.  Everyone was so spread out.  No longer could we walk, take a cab, or just hop on the subway to visit.  Now there were long car rides to Westchester County, Long Island, Bergen County, etc.

Occasionally, we did make it back into the City.  One of my favorite signs of Spring were the tulips on Park Avenue.  Years later, after college and career number one, I finally made it back to my hometown and would walk up Park as soon as the tulips were in bloom.

Recently I’ve become much more nostalgic during the holidays.  I think it’s because I live so far away from my family.  My siblings now have their own traditions with their families and I don’t.

The forecast calls for rain tomorrow.  I will buy some tulips.

Buon weekend e Buona Pasqua!

Photo: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Yesterday the UN, and people all over the world, celebrated International Day of Happiness.

Given all the horrible things happening here on planet Earth, it would be very easy to shrug and think there’s nothing to be happy about.

Sometimes when I’m in a very good mood, I get a little freaked out.  Why am I in a good mood?  I should be cynical, depressed, and anxious.   It’s as if I have no right to be happy.   I meet a lot of expats in Rome.  Many are not happy and are suspicious of those who are.  Being happy is not “keeping it real.”  We end up fueling each others’ fire.

One of my dear friends said I should avoid miserable people.  Why get sucked into their constant negativity and pessimism?   True, we all have bad days, weeks, even months, but as I get older I find I have less patience for people who complain ALL the time but never do anything to change/improve their situation.

I tend to worry a lot, mostly about my future.  How will I pay my bills?  Will my business continue to grow?  Will I ever be fluent in Italian? Why is Drake so popular?   I lie awake at night and dwell on things I have no control over.  This is not healthy and I’m working on it.

When I’m happy it’s not because anything has really changed.  I still have the same bills, worries, and issues.  However, sometimes I do remember that I am extremely fortunate in ways that cannot be measured in dollars or euros.

It won’t be easy but I’m going to try my best to do the opposite of what I normally do, which is to worry and complain.

Another friend proclaimed that this was going to be a great year.  Based on what?  Nothing.  She believes it and therefore is going to do everything in her power to make it so.

I like the why she thinks.

Buon weekend!

(I adore this video.  I have to restrain myself from dancing when I hear this song while jogging.)

Seven years ago I traveled to Rome for the second time.

The first time was a revelation and I fell hard for this crazy city.  It didn’t make sense.  Nobody in my family is Italian and I was not an Italophile by any stretch.

I loved London, Paris, and Amsterdam.  When I was in junior high and high school I just KNEW I would live in Paris or London one day.   I wasn’t thinking about Rome or Italy despite living in a town called Verona .

I thought maybe I had responded to Rome that way because of what was, or wasn’t, going on in my life at that moment.   I had to find out why that one trip had unsettled me so much.

I returned the following year and took a short trip to Florence and Positano.

ARLENEhillside

The view from my terrace.

It was a pain in the butt to get from Rome to Positano.  First the train to Naples (not bad), then the train to Sorrento (an hour on a local train with many stops), and then finally a bus to Positano.

I walked down the steep hill, followed by a million steps, to reach my hotel.  Once I stepped into the room and opened the large French doors, I saw that view.   My heart skipped a beat.  It was so beautiful it felt unreal, like a movie set.

There is a great hiking trail/path way up in the mountains, Sentiero degli Dei/Path of the Gods.  Early one morning, I went up the mountain.

It was quiet. I saw two German tourists hiking and that was it.  For the first time in years, my mind wasn’t racing a mile a minute, overwhelmed by the things I had not accomplished.

That walk changed everything.

I realized I had to make some serious changes in my life for my mental and physical health.  I wasn’t sure how at that time.

Eventually, I figured it out and moved to Italy two years later.

Buon weekend!

I was at a Rome Bloggers meet up a few months ago and one of my fellow bloggers told me she missed my old blog.

My former blog was more personal and a bit all over the place.  One day I would write about politics , or my friend’s big Italian wedding, and the next day about some silly pop-culture thing like the horrific “Kwanzaa Cake” made by Sandra Lee.

The blogging world has changed a great deal since 2005.  It’s become a big business and very niche.

When I first started this blog I felt a lot of pressure to keep it extremely focused.  I understood the advice from my social media savvy friends.  They would ask me questions like,”What’s the point of your blog? What are your goals for the blog?  What IS your blog, personal, design, lifestyle, expat?”

Something clicked when I read my friend Felicia’s recent post.

I should worry less about labeling my blog or trying to shoe-horn it into a very narrow space.

Design blogs are more than pretty pictures. The popular ones have a POV or narrative that’s engaging.  They have to be, thanks in part to the explosive success of Pinterest.

Interior design is influenced by many things… art, fashion, music, film, travel, the list goes on.   I like to write about those subjects as well and I will.

It’s a new year and time to loosen the strings a little.

 

 

 

A few days ago I met my friend Annie for a coffee.  She was super busy this year and we were finally able to get together and catch up during her low season.

I told Annie how since September I’ve spoken more Italian than in the previous three years.  I was joking when I said my “word” for 2013 should be “Si”.   Then we thought about it and realized it’s a perfect word.

When I mentioned this to another friend, she said, “Uhm, hello, wasn’t your word last year, ‘yes’?”

It was.  However, “si” is different.

Until recently, I was living in an English speaking bubble.  I do have Italian friends (all speak several languages), but I worked only in English.  I’m not married to an Italian and I had no reason to speak it everyday, which is bizarre given I live in Italy!

Now that I’m suddenly working in Italy, everything has changed.  My getting-by-Italian is fine for dinner parties and ordering food in restaurants.  It’s a problem when I have to order meters of fabric for custom drapes and sofas.  It’s important that I’m clear and able to communicate with the artisans I’m working with.

Already, I feel a whole new world is opening up to me because my language skills have improved. I dream in Italian sometimes.  In one of those dreams Idris Elba was also speaking Italian but I digress.

As I explained in my post last year, I tend to over think things.  In 2012, I said “yes” a lot more often and took some financial risks (going to the Salone, buying Photoshop, etc.)  It wasn’t easy to step out of my comfort zone but I’m glad I did.  2012, on a personal and professional level, was a much better year than 2011.

I’m excited about 2013 and hope that the momentum from the last few months carries over.

Am I the only person who finds it difficult to work when it’s blazing hot and there’s no a/c?

Earlier in the week it was so bad, I felt nauseous all day.  I couldn’t take it anymore and on Thursday went out to Santa Marinella for a day trip.  Finally, some relief.

Santa Marinella

I have never been during high season.  It was packed.

My favorite restaurant was closed so I tried L’Acqua Marina which my friend Elizabeth likes.  The food was delicious and the view wasn’t too bad either.

Sea view from the restaurant L’Acqua Marina

I think there are more tourists in town this August.  That is great news for the economy.  Not such great news if you are a local stuck in Rome.  Almost everything non touristy (e.g. dry cleaners, newsstand, favorite restaurants) is closed. It’s the worst of both worlds. I don’t get to enjoy “quiet Rome” because my area is packed with tourists.

The majority of my friends are out of town for weeks.  Many of my American expat friends to go the States to see family and my Italian friends are traveling all over.

Plus it’s too bloody hot to do anything outside from 9:30 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m.

I know I say it (I need to get out of Rome in August) every year, but this summer broke the camel’s back.  A law was passed recently allowing places that serve “food” to stay open as late as they want instead of closing at 2:00 a.m.  So now the obnoxious bar across my very narrow street, has drunk tourists singing/fighting/yelling until 5:00 a.m.

Even with my windows shut and a fan going I can hear these fools.  I don’t think I will be able to move to a new apartment when my contract is up next year, but I will rent a place in the mountains or by the sea next summer.  I am so done.

No sleep + 100 degree temperatures = one cranky person.

How do you cope with the heat?

 

 

 

My friend, Erica, has written a more in-depth post on Huffington Post about Rome based apps.  I’m writing about my top three.

I receive a lot of e-mails asking me where to eat in Rome.  I love to cook and have my favorite restaurants, but I’m by no means an expert.  Instead, I suggest people buy apps by Gillian McGuire, Katie Parla and Elizabeth Minchilli.  I’ve asked them why they decided to create their apps (which is a lot of work).  Thanks for responding, ladies!

Why buy an app?  For one, they are updated frequently.  Some guidebooks become outdated the moment they are published.  Also, these apps are written by people who really know this city.  They live here.  They see the vendors they write about, know the chef/cooks at the restaurants, and capture the city in a way that someone on short term assignment cannot do.

I think they are an invaluable resource.  There are a lot of restaurants, gelato places, coffee shops, etc. here and yes, it is possible to have a bad meal in Rome. With these apps, the chances of that happening are greatly reduced.

EAT ROME by Elizabeth Helman Minchilli.  When Elizabeth was twelve her family moved to Rome.  She returned for good while studying in Florence for her dissertation.  Elizabeth has written books on design and has been writing about food, design, and travel for various publications for twenty years.  One of my favorite features of her app is the comment section. It’s great to read everyone’s experiences at various restaurants.   Elizabeth does respond to feedback which helps keep the app up to date.

“I’m a big believer in embracing all of the technical innovations that are happening in publishing. While I’ve always been happy to write for magazines, newspapers and book publishers (and continue to do so) I love the possibility that blogs and apps present. They give me not only much more control over the content, but allow exciting and extremely helpful direct contact with my readers.”

ROME FOR FOODIES by Katie Parla.   Katie grew up in the Garden State (aka New Jersey).  She started working in restaurants from a young age and moved to Rome in 2003 after graduating from college. Since her move, Katie has earned a sommelier certificate (FISAR) and an MA in the Cultura Gastronomica Italiana (Universita’ degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”). Katie has has written several guide books and writes about food and travel for a number of publications. The Katie’s Picks section is great.  She has a very specific POV when it comes to food and doesn’t hold back her opinions.

“I decided to develop and app for a few reasons. I wanted to experiment with new media, find a new way to connect with readers, and monetize blog content. I had the app re-developed in order to introduce concepts of branding and improve user interface.”

ROME FOR EXPATS by Gillian McGuire.  Gillian has lived in Rome for seven years.  Prior to her move, she and her family lived in several African countries.  Her expats friends call her “The Source” for a reason.   I’ve included an expat app because there are people who travel to Rome and rent apartments and/or stay for an extended period.  If you need to know where to find an English speaking dentist, or a hairdresser, cilantro, or maybe you’re dying for a bagel, or looking for a personal trainer (to help burn off that bagel), this is the app for you.

“First, I love an assignment, so I found I was often asked the question “where can I find… x?

And second, in my seven years of living in Rome I had compiled quite a list. I partnered with the Sutro Media team and created Rome for Expats as an easy to access resource of all of that information”
Buon eating!
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