Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creature of Habit! (easiest blog post ever)

I just looked back to my old blog and this is exactly what am I feeling today.  I am not sure why this almost surprises me each year, but it kind of does.  The only difference this year is that I will not be out in my shed soon, but I will be somewhere else creating that I know, and also, no cherry blossoms, I will miss this, but am excited by the blossoming of a new kind.  Knowing this is so helpful.  This too I know shall pass.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Road Less Travelled is not always Smooth

I realize this was our choice.  We chose to homeschool the four children, that we chose to have.  We chose to leave behind all we knew to move to a foreign country.  We chose to leave a job, and strike out on our own, try and make it as artists.  These were all choices and they were our choices, nobody else's.  But that doesn't make it all easy.  And I realize that we are living a dream we have dreamed for many years and even that doesn't make it all easy. There are days when I wonder if taking this road, the road less travelled was a prudent way to go, it is not always straight and it is down right bumpy in some areas.

Some days homeschooling is so daunting.  Not only the amount of work to try and organize four children of different ages and stages, but also the fear of failure.  Am I meeting their needs, are there things they are missing out on, socially as well as educationally.  Will they reach all of their goals, as well as mine.

Then there is the dream, this was the dream for Mark and I, was it the dream of our children?  No, they were happy where they were, they had their friends, their activities, their community and the ability to converse freely in their mother tongue.  And regardless of the time spent on a dream, you can't imagine how that dream will look until you are there, it will meet some expectations, it will fail to meet some and it will greatly exceed others.  You just don't know until you are in the middle.  There are days when I wonder what we were thinking, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, leaping, hoping the parachute would appear.

Then there are the days, when all four children sit quietly round the family table, listening about all the planets (or some other topic) and recording the information relevant to them, or when they work together to make a stop click animation, or come and experiment with cooking in the kitchen or come together in some other way.  There are days when it is like time slows down and everybody moves in unison, like a finely tuned machine.  When every bodies needs are being met.  And I remember, this is why we do what we do, why we took this road.  The unspoilt views are amazing.  The times when I think, this is time I can never recreate, time with my children I will never get back.  This experience good, bad, ugly or fantastic is an experience that you just can't put a value on.  And I have to believe we will all meet our goals.  That what they might miss by not going to school will be outweighed by some of the experiences they have being home schooled.  It is a balance, a careful balance and I have to trust in myself that this is the right decision for our family.

Time will tell how our journey will play out in terms of both mine and Mark's artwork, but right now I am enjoying this road, the bumpy, the crooked moments, but also where time is slowed, where the view is beautiful and we are all together as a family in this beautiful country.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For the Love of Schiacciata

I am not sure if I have fully described where we have landed in Italy.  We live on the edge of a lovely small Tuscan town with a population of about 850 people.  Being North Americans in the little village in the middle of winter, we are somewhat of a phenomena.  I have heard people in the Bar describing where I live, though I have never told them this information.  People just seem to know who we are.  Very few people speak any english, which for our learning experience is fantastic, we are forced to practice our Italian.  But this can also be intimidating.  Those who know me well, know I will strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere, so this language barrier is a bit like hobbling a race horse.  It is unusual for me to feel shy about approaching people, but little by little I am working on it.  If I don't practice and I don't make mistakes, I will never learn. 

There is a van that travels through the village honking his horn, selling fresh bread out of the back.  Some people even hang canvas bags on their fence posts or doors with their daily order.  I was not sure exactly how this all works, are they pre-ordered or do you just rock up to the van and see what he has.  How do you get him to come by your house, it is all a mystery to me.  So today we saw a gathering of donne (women) around his van and we decided we should swing by and try out this quaint little tradition.  Why today, why was I feeling courageous enough to try my limited Italian skills?  Well it is all about the schiacciata.

A couple of weeks back a friend here mentioned this bread called schiacciata (skee-ach-iata).  It is a traditional Tuscan flat bread, drizzled with olive oil and baked.  A bit like Focaccia by my reckoning, perhaps the same thing by a different name, but schiacciata seems flatter less bready more yummy.  (Schiacciata is an Italian word meaning flattened.)  Well we found it in the grocery store one day and it barely made it home, we ate so much of it in the car.  Then we even baked some of our own.  We have become lovers of schiacciata.

So this morning when we saw the bread van, my fear of approaching and trying to ask in Italian if we could buy some pane, was outweighed by my desire to have some fresh schiacciata.  The grouping of ladies looked on, chatting away in Italian, asking about our cane (dog).  And to my surprise the Van Bread Man spoke a wee bit of english.  So I practiced my Italian ordering 'schiacciata e mezzo chilo pane senza sale' and he practiced his english 'thank you very much'.  "Prego".

I was kind of giddy with excitement as I carried home my fresh bread, partially because I was excited about the yummy bread, but partly because I had negotiated one more Italian situation which until this time had me intimidated.  Baby steps, but steps all the same.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For the Love of Bagels

Being in Italy there is no shortage of really good bread.  Myself and the children have been joyfully trying many different varieties.  We have also begun to try our hand at baking some breads.  One delicious member of the bread family we have been missing is bagels.  Nice chewy bagels.  Mount Royal bagels to be exact.  So the other day Mieran asked if we could bake our own.  I figured why not.  We searched online and found this great recipe.

Today we gave it a go.

Here are the formed bagels, ready to be boiled.

Boiling the Bagels.

The finished product is the picture at the top, they didn't last long.  I think we will have to double the recipe next time, and definitely get our selves some smoked salmon!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cutting Myself a Little Slack

The day before yesterday, I was finding it challenging to be making lunch, in the middle of a somewhat busy day.  I thought to myself, this whole idea of homeschooling four children and trying to make lunch, it is a lot at once, I am not sure why I do it.  Then I took a look around and this is what I saw.

A pan of homemade schiacciata

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Peppers

Vegan black bean burgers from scratch.

I am missing a photo of the homemade cookies baking.

And I thought, seriously, cut yourself some slack, this is a pretty fantastic lunch with, in my opinion, four pretty fantastic children.  And I realized why I do this, because though it can be mind numbingly insane and exhausting at times, the special moments that are realized through out my day make up for all of that.  The number one reason I do this, is because I love it.  Being around my children, the freedom to educate outside the box, and cooking up yummy meals, it makes my heart sing.  This is my career.  I chose it and I think that sometimes I rock at it.  And this is one of those days that I was rocking at it!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Not your traditional images of Tuscany

This morning we woke to a carpet of white across the landscape.  Our children were so excited, they have been waiting all season for snow.  They were so upset when they missed the snow in Victoria a few weeks back.  It was quickly declared a Snow Day and the the children began to get dressed to head outside.  Finn and Pippa had actually laid out their snow gear a 5 days ago when they heard there was going to be snow.

I made a Snow Day to do List.

1. Update my blog
2. Knit a toque for Mark
3. Nap

Then, the power went out.  So, I decided to skip to number 3.

After a lovely nap, I headed out in the snow with the dog, for a walk, some attempts at tobogganing with a garbage bag and finished the whole excursion with making a snow angel.

 Here are some pictures from our day.

The View from my Snow Angel

My Snow Angel 

Olive Trees heavy with snow.