Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's Bright Green with Dandelions.

About 9 years ago John and I found a decent couch at a near by thrift store.  It was light-blue and cream striped.  We borrowed a friends truck and toted it home.  Shortly after Bouncing Boy turned two I decided the couch had seen better days and decided to recover it.  I found a great brown with light colored polka dots. I painted the wall a lovely color of blue and was very happy with the brown couch.  Our current house does not have a lovely blue wall.  This winter everything got a little too brown for my liking and I decided we needed a little color in our home...or a lot of color.  Today I finally finished the new cover! Our thrifty couch gets another make-over and lives to see another year.  

...that was then...
...this is now...

Couch tester approved!
And now I'm off to make new pillows...and perhaps think about changing the art on the wall...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Visit to Parco del Sojo

Burrowing Owl,  by Serverino Morlin, 2005
Perched on a hilltop, just outside of Covolo di Lusiana, you will find Parco del Sojo.  With over 80 sculptures created by artists from around the world, Parco del Sojo is an exciting blend art and the beauty of the natural world.  Trails wind across the hillside with sculptures sprinkled through the landscape.  

Looking out across the valley
Parco del Sojo was featured on a of the fold of one of the brochures I picked up a couple of years ago at a "get to know the Veneto region" fair.  I was immediately intrigued, but it wasn't until this Spring that the timing worked out and we were actually able to visit.  As we winded our way up, up, up into the hills I was very excited.  I absolutely love this region, it is so beautiful, especially in the Spring.  

Female Heads by Severino Morlin, 2004
There is a small parking lot near the cemetery in Covolo.   The remaining journey to Parco del Sojo is made on foot.  Just up the road, past the cemetery is a sign marking the path that leads to Parco del Sojo.  Just a few meters after the path begins the first sculpture is spotted.  Sculptures are located throughout the park, some blend in with the natural surrounds, while others standout in contrast.   

The Gnome by Serverino Morlin 2005
The trail leads up hill to a small cluster of buildings where visitors to Parco del Sojo can purchase admission tickets, for a very reasonable 4 euro.  Visitors receive a map of the park, which includes the names and locations of all of the sculptures.  

Seeds by Gianluca Morlin
On the day we visited Parco del Sojo a dark rain cloud rolled in and it began to sprinkle.  We sought shelter from the rain under the porch where we purchased our tickets.  Here we meet Gianluca, and learned a great deal about the history of Parco del Sojo.  Gianluca's brother, Diego Morlin purchased the land that is now Parco del Sojo just over a decade ago.  Together the two brothers, along with their father, restored historical buildings, created sculptures, and recruited sculptures from all of the world to create what is now Parco del Sojo.  

Divine Hands by Severino Morlin, 2006
After the rain subsided we finished our tour of the park and said our "thank yous" and "good-byes" to Gianluca.  We took an alternate route back into the little village of Covolo, equally as beautiful as the walk in.  We had a lovely visit, well worth the drive!  We hope to return again this summer.  

Satyr by Severino Morlin, 2000

These whimsical rocks were a big his with the wee ones. 

This was one of my personal favorites, created with rusty nails and wire. 

View through the basket. 

Bonus Carnivorous Plant!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Squirrels, Birds, and Butterflies! Party Like You're 5!

Welcome to the Squirrel, Bird, Butterfly Party Experience!

This  year was a big step for us.  Almost all of my daughter's American friends have left Bella Italia. So, when it came time to figure out who to invite to her 5th birthday party she was pretty clear about wanting to invite her friends from school...there are 28 in her class.  We settled on the park near her school.  

My first challenge was creating the invitations.   I borrowed a clever idea from an invitation my son had brought home and made the invitation using the child's name with a little "si" or "no" boxes to check in place of RSVP.  This kept me off the telephone, and gave me some idea of how many children would be there, I find it extremely difficult to understand Italian over the phone.  

The second challenge was the weather.  The first Saturday after her actual day of birth was right in the middle of a very rainy weather streak. So we fortunately postponed the party for a week.  This concept was a little hard for a recently turned 5 year old to grasp, but we managed.  When  the party day finally rolled around the weather was PERFECT FOR A PARTY! 

We arrived at the park about an hour before the party to set up and decorate! We kept the decorations fairly simple with lots of colorful balloons and our well loved Birthday Banner that we have used for 4 years now! For each birthday I add a new piece to the banner with the child's hand print and the age stitched onto the hand print. 

Baby Girl helped create a few fun games for her party.  The first game we played was "Fly the Bird Home." Which was essentially a bean bag...well actually it was rice....toss game.  An IKEA box proved to be the perfect shape and size for a tree.  I cut a hole in the tree and painted a quick trunk and sky. Baby Girl cut out leaves to decorate the tree.  I cut out a butterfly, which she was more than happy to color and add to the sky.  I sewed three bags out of bird fabric for the "birds."  I told the children, in my best Italian, that the birds wanted to fly home to the tree.  The children then took turns tossing the birds into the hole in the tree. This was a big hit at the party, especially among the boys, some played more than 10 times!  

Our next game was "Give the Squirrel a New Colored Tail."  I drew a tail-less squirrel in a tree.  My son said it looked evil, and I didn't disagree, but once Baby Girl was finished with the coloring and the decorating, the picture as a whole was certainly more cute than evil squirrel.  She added ants, butterflies, a bird, a bee, a small owl, the sun and some clouds.  

The game began with a brown tail taped to the squirrel.  Again, in my best Italian, I told the children the squirrel wanted a new tail, one with some color!  I removed the brown tail and one by one blind folded the children, and they got to try to add a new colored tail to the squirrel.  
Yes, it is essentially pin the tail on the squirrel....but isn't a little story more fun!  Again this was a big hit, we even had some of the older siblings wanting to play!  And as you can see it was a very colorful squirrel in the end.  

Our final game was "Help the Bird Take the Eggs to the Nest."  I placed a big pile of plastic Easter eggs on the ground several meters from the "nest" (a large round basket).  I gave the kids plastic spoons and told them to help the bird move the eggs to the nest, but they couldn't touch the eggs.  The kids loved this and took the task at hand very seriously.  There was no real organization to the game.  All the kids had spoons and they all worked at taking the big pile of eggs to the same nest.  It turned out to be a great game for this age group, no waiting for a turn and completely cooperative.  Once all the eggs were moved all the bird helpers were all "rewarded" with gummy worms.  

I also used the gummy worms in one of the snacks we served.  We had a fairly traditional Italian Birthday Party spread, with little panini (sandwiches) and different kinds of snack chips.  The big hit however was the "Bird Food" I made.  It consisted of roasted sunflower seeds with chocolate chips and gummy worms.  This was something different!  Apparently roasted sunflower seeds are not usually eaten here.  "Bird Food" as enjoyed by parents and children alike. 

As requested by Baby Girl the Birthday Cake was a squirrel in a pink shirt.

The cake was made using a 9"x13" rectangle and a 8" round cake.  The cake was made using my chocolate zucchini cake recipe, but I replaced the zucchini with pears.  I left the rectangular cake whole and cut up the round cake to make the squirrel.  I cut and layered pieces of the round cake until I was happy with the shape and dimensions of the little squirrel.  Sticking with family tradition the frosting is cream cheese frosting.  I began with a white layer of frosting just to hold all the pieces and crumbs in place.  I stuck the cake in the frig for a couple of hours before adding the colored frosting.  The browns were made by melting chocolate into the cream cheese frosting.  The squirrel had a purple jelly bean eye and was eating half of a fresh strawberry.  

Baby Girl and friends were very excited about cake!  

We sang "Happy Birthday" in both Italian and English! 

After the cake it was time for the PINATA!  I spent more hours than I care to admit making a giant red bird pinata.  Both of my children helped in the making.  


How many Papas does it take to hang a pinata?  Not quite as many as it takes to rehang a pinata after the hook breaks after the second child takes a swing!   Opps!

Our 5 year old taking the first swing!
At the end of it all we had one happy 5 year old with a chocolate cake smile!

Who was more than willing to share chocolate kisses with her Mama!  

...and fun was had by all. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy Spring Day in the Meadow

Just a 5 minute walk from our house is a beautiful little meadow.  With a picnic lunch and magnifying glasses in hand we head to the meadow.  On the way down the hill we pass the olive trees and the fruit trees that are bursting with blooms.  We walk past a small vineyard where the grape vines are still naked, waiting for even warmer, longer days. We walk down the cemetery road, my son reminisces about how this is where he learned to ride a bike.  Just beyond the cemetery is the meadow.  The children are at first surprised by how short the grass is.  Last time they were here they played hide and seek in the tall grass.  Short grass is not so good for hiding, but it is really the best for finding....

Once full bellies are rested a bit, a game of Monster in the Meadow is in order. Little monsters scatter, running and shrieking with glee as the big monster chases and tickles them. 

Monsters of all shapes and sizes love to play in the Monster in the Meadow.
 When the monsters settle down a little bit we find the magnifying glasses and look for details that spark our interest. 

The children lose themselves in the intricate details of the trees that boarder the meadow.  

There are whole worlds waiting to be discovered in  the spring blossoms.  

I, too, lose myself in detail of the meadow. On a warm spring day there is plenty of time and space to ponder the beauty of the spring flowers, the  modesty of an oak tree, hanging on to it's leaves all winter, and the symmetry of mating insects.  

As we are packing up and heading home my son asks if he can give the meadow a hug...of course you can hug the meadow.