Off on a Tangent – finding my way back to you

off on a tangent

off on a tangent
I’ve been off on a tangent, and finding my way back to being here with you has been difficult.

Everytime I sit down to write a post it feels like I’ve been away too long, how will I catch up, what will I share, yet like an old friend here you are. Thank you for that, the responses to the little survey I sent out were both a kick up the rear end and a reaffirmation that this is where I need to be.

Sometimes life becomes a struggle even when creating a ‘Simple Life’….. it’s been a bit like that for us lately. We seem a bit fractured, drifting away in opposite directions, every word becomes a misunderstanding. Off on a tangent.

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I write about creating a Simple Life and yet I’m basically feeling burnt out and a little bit lost.

I feel a need to eat well, drink lots of water, breathe deeply, sleep well and walk in the sunshine.

I am slowly embracing a new rhythm and beginning to recreate the outline of our Simple Life and it feels good.

I have so many projects and ideas in my head, I’ve been off on a tangent learing (which I love) about ‘branding’ and ‘e – courses’ and driving myself mad trying to redesign the website, create two new websites, and oh yes enjoy life, play with the kids and get myself to Tai Chi once a week.

Although I have no idea how this will all work out or which project I’ll work on first (think it’s a Gemini thing lol) my priority right now is to reconnect with my husband, enjoy the sunshine and play with my kids.

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Pulling my hair out developing the Life Mapping Italy Project has helped me realise that the most important thing is our family. Making sure we’re ok is my first priority. Everything else is a bonus.

So it’s time to take stock, look at all we’ve accomplished and set some new goals for the year.

I’ll catch you up on all that has been happening here at Borgata Malpertus over the next few weeks, I hope everything is well with you and I’m looking forward to getting back in the groove, catch ya later, with love as always…..

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and the gang x










Fiume – a dog lost, our hearts broken


Fiume loved to prance.

In the afternoons I’d play with him on the ancient road outside our house. He’d pick up a stick and I’d chase him about, letting him race past me, growling at each other when I finally managed to grab the stick.

The last time I saw Fiume he was prancing. We’d been playing, and as I went inside he turned back to look at me with tail wagging before heading off for adventures unknown.

Such a boofy happy guy, and our first family dog, we saved him from certain death.

His previous owners kept him chained in the side alley, they had gone through five dogs in the eighteen months we’ve been here.

When they finally moved out we were offered Fiume for ten euro otherwise they were going to kill him.

Of course we took him

The photo of Carina in the lane way is the day he was given his freedom. Even after months with us he was still cowed down and would bark and grown at anyone walking through the Borgata carrying a stick. His previous owners were not kind.


He changed all our lives, especially Carina and Sam, of course he and Carina were instant best friends, and it made me smile to hear Sam talking with him when he thought nobody was around, just last night he said “I didn’t think I’d miss him but I really do” which is a big admission for my ‘No way are we getting a Dog’ husband.

When I was growing up my best friend and confident was our golden Cocker Spaniel Jamie. I wanted Carina and Luca to have the joy that only a dog can bring.

Fiume was that Joy.

I hope Fiume finds his way home but as the days pass it seems less and less likely.

Our neighbors Anna and Sergio have been out looking for him in the snow as have we. They love him and he often spends the day next door with their dog Lucky. When we go away in our campervan it’s Anna and Sergio that take care of Fiume.

They talk to us about cliffs, snow and wild boar when Carina isn’t here and don’t think he is still alive.

I hope that if he is dead that he didn’t suffer.

Our Valley is wild and  rugged, it’s not like a suburban backyard where you close the gate and your dog stays put all day.

Here dogs are often chained and I’d rather he have those six months of freedom than a lifetime on a chain cowed down and lacking all affection.

We gave him a glimpse of what life should be like.

He got to be a part of a family that love him. A much loved part of our ‘pack’…….come home Fiume, we all miss you x

and the heart broken gang x


Why move to Italy?

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‘Your life is made up of little moments, little efforts, little changes, big smiles, and all your hopes and dreams.’

Ritu Ghatourey

Last night sitting in bed with Luca asleep beside me, (he was having a nap to make it till midnight) I was reflecting back on the year past and our move to Italy. I’d started to fill in a flowery form sent from a friend listing all the achievements of the year and come up blank.

Not just blank, but totally blank and I have to say feeling a bit down, tired and in no way wanting to stay up till midnight only to go out into the freezing cold and watch the fireworks.

Lucky I had made a pinky promise with Luca to wake him up at eleven so he could see in the New Year.

Reading back through the blog reminded me of all that we have achieved this year, and why we decided to move to Italy.

I share my favorite moments of the year below and rejoice in each one.

We’ve been through some major illness, a trip to the hospital by helicopter for Carina which resulted in her having ongoing major panic attacks, Luca had pneumonia.

I got sick on my 50th birthday in June and ended up in hospital.  Of course  I recovered for the incredible trip to Paris for the portrait session with Carla Coulson in September.

We’ve had visitors come stay, and traveled with them to Liguria and France.

I started B-School, and ended up in complete overwhelm before screaming STOP and taking a time out from all the tech side of blogging. I am now back to ‘school’ and creating a new purpose for my writing.

I was invited to ‘A New Way of Seeing‘  photographic workshop in Genoa with Di Mackay and found a new best friend, she is like a soul sister and we laughed the entire time.

Both our camper van and our old blue tractor had maiden voyages.

We bought ‘Casa Bianca’ the white house next to ours and it’s out buildings. Doing so we gained a dog and another cat, our white cat Mishu died and some time later Carina came home with two half starved kittens from the village.

Our episode on House Hunters International went to air and the response was incredible, so many new readers and friends saying ciao.

We decided to create a place that visitors to our Borgata could stay and experience the simple life with us. Opening up our home and creating ‘Casa Bianca’ has been a work in progress and we have our first visitors coming to stay in May…..I’m so excited!

In order to be ready in time for visitors we have begun hosting people from Workaway, this is a wonderful system where you offer accommodation and full board in exchange for five hours of work a day. So far we have had Sean from England and Ice from Japan, and our family have benefited in so many ways from having them stay with us.

I am constantly reminded of why we decided to move to Italy and all we want to achieve, I still beat myself up and compare myself to other Mums I think of as perfect. We have a soon to be teenage daughter who is full of passion and our sweet boy who compensates for all the angst by going along with everyone.

Our little family is still working towards a less plugged in life, a life away from shopping centers and Ipads, Ipods, and the latest computer games and it’s working.

Growing our own food, raising animals to eat, picking wildflowers, drinking water fresh from the mountain, cutting wood, gathering fresh eggs from our chickens, sipping hot chocolate or cappuccino and eating freshly baked brioche in our favorite cafe, and always looking for ways to take things to the next level.

These are some favorite moments from our year and I share them with you as inspiration for your own dreams in 2015.

Upon reflection we have achieved much this past year.

In the small moments, the shared laughter, the struggles and the arguments, each has bought us closer together as a family and that is a gift beyond measure.

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I’d love to hear about your special moments, and wish you a Happy New Year……here we go 2015!

Signatureand the gang x







Hospital by Helicopter – I love you, I don’t want to die

hospital by helicopter


Those moments in our bedroom waiting for the ambulance as Carina struggled to breathe, tried to write ‘I love you’ and repeated over and over ‘I don’t want to die, I love you, I don’t want to die, get Daddy, tell Daddy I love him’ slurred like she was drunk, not knowing we were both right beside her, wild movements, then not breathing again, complete panic, desperation, and a sense of helplessness was with us in that room.

In our valley you can hear the ambulance coming from a distance, she struggled to get up, pulled over the bedside table, couldn’t stop screaming, then the ‘I love you, I don’t want to die’ started again. Our neighbor came in the room, my control broke, I’m the calm one, the one to take the kids for injections, the one to stay in the room at hospitals, Sam can’t cope with anything to do with the thought of choking.


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It took forever to strap her onto the board to load into the ambulance. Delirious she thought we were trying to choke her, she fought the straps. “She has to stay still” the ambo’s tell me, in the ambulance we are all standing holding her on the board, I brace myself for the ride down the mountain to the waiting helicopter. Sam is following in the car.

We drive straight out onto the football field, the gates held open. I am led to the helicopter by the kindest man, reassuring me all the way, such a calm soothing voice. In the helicopter I watch the expressions on their faces, I can’t hear what they are saying, Carina vomits.

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After multitudes of tests it’s confirmed that she has a severe concussion, we are admitted overnight. I hold her as she showers to wash the vomit from her hair. So fragile and vulnerable.

The nurse puts in a drip, we share the room with a five year old admitted with asthma, each time they try to put a ventolin mask on her she screams the place down. The night is filled with screaming, almost constant screaming, not crying it’s beyond that. In our ward we have maybe six children under five and Carina. We hold hands through the night when the screaming gets too bad.

She has my pillow from home, they used it to hold her legs still as they strapped her onto the stretcher. Sam arrives and I leave to find food, only one parent can stay in the room. I wander the hospital, sections seem abandoned, and when I return I can’t find the right floor, I take the lift to the eighth floor and walk down peering through each window trying to recognize something.

Lost, anxious, constantly to tears, I cry as I leave the cafe with two panini and bottles of water.

Later we share her dinner, the food is incredible, best mashed potatoes ever and the chicken so tender. I feed her tiny spoonfuls and she rests between each one. Those little girl moments are so precious, soon she will be a teen, things will change, but this closeness will always flow between us.

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Our first little boy Aaron was full term, ten pound and my pregnancy was perfect.

I went into labor Easter Sunday and Aaron was born alive, but critical.

We were transported to the Children’s Hospital by ambulance

and he died in the early hours of the Monday in the ambulance just as we reached the hospital.

I didn’t know he was already dead as we followed him into the hospital.

My world fell apart

I fell into the black hole that is grief, it took a long time to see the sunlight again.

Trying to get pregnant again with no result. I thought we’d never have children.

My world become about ‘trying’ with books and gizmo’s to tell me the exact right time to conceive.

Our next pregnancy with Carina was like walking on egg shells, I was so fearful that something would happen to her.

She was born almost exactly two years after Aaron, healthy and pink, and screaming her lungs out.

Luca came along two years later. By that time I had become paranoid and fearful that something bad would happen to Carina. I couldn’t let the kids out of my sight, if Sam wanted to take them with him to the shops I’d make sure I went along.

I didn’t even trust my husband to care for his own kids.

It consumed me, this fear.

I would have elaborate dreams about our daughter’s funeral,

what she would wear, and the toys she would have in the coffin, the music that would play.

I nearly sent myself over the edge.

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The sound of any ambulance  fills me with dread, still after fourteen years.

We both know how sudden loss can be, how it feels to have no control over the situation, the thought of loosing Carina was with us, a heavy weight in my heart, and Sam crying in our room hearing Carina saying ‘I don’t want to die, I love you’……it really never leaves you.


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Carina’s wonderful ‘Frozen’ cake was a gift from : l dolci di Dede 

Our community here in the valley has been wonderful, many people told us they heard or saw the helicopter. Some have little rituals they perform, others rang relatives to check they were okay, nobody knew it was Carina other than those in our village.

As I boarded the helicopter I glanced around to find Sam and the entire village seemed to be out, offering to help him with directions, just wishing us well, and sending a prayer our way.


In the week that has followed we have had visitors, phone calls, messages, and outpourings of concern and love. We are stopped in the street, Carina is given the once over, everyone asks after her.

Our home is now here in the Valley, and we have friends and family all over the world, we are so lucky to have found our home in the mountains of Piedmont, to have become part of such a warm community, and to continue creating a life we love.


Thank You…….

Today, one week later was spent with friends in the mountains, enjoying simple food, lots of laughs, cooking chestnuts on an open fire, eating cheese made from fresh milk, bread that is homemade, salami, tiramisu, strong coffee, and some strange kind of digestivo that almost blew my head off….

I’m now slightly tipsy, and rambling so I hope you feel the love,

who knows what the future will bring but I feel it will be Great things for all of us.

 and the gang x







Portrait in Paris – with Carla Coulson

portrait in paris

Portrait in Paris

For many years I have been missing, behind the camera instead of in front.

Convinced I didn’t deserve center stage,

Carla Coulson you helped me change all that.

portrait in paris

Not only did I find my inner sexy, adventurous, spirited, passionate sense of self again.

I also gave the gift of myself back to my daughter.

A Mum who wears red lipstick, high heels and knows how to navigate the Metro.

One full of laughter, confidence, glowing with happiness that we get to share these moments together.

From the absolute surprise on her face when she caught the first glimpse of my transformation I knew I’d cheated her a little.

Our portrait in Paris was a chance to change all that.

We laughed out loud feeding the pigeons at Notre Dame, splashed in the fountains, shopped, danced and sang together.

Total ‘Girl Time’

It was long overdue.

My own Mum and I have an incredible closeness, she raised us after my Dad died suddenly at only thirty nine. I’ve long had a thing for preserving memories, I only have a few photos of my Dad and I together, I was only five when he died.

By taking myself out of family photos I really see how I just disappeared.

How my kids don’t feel they smile the right way for photos.

If I could give you a gift from my heart it would be to let yourself always SHINE.

To not hit delete if you don’t look ‘just right’ and if you get a chance to have a portrait taken go and do it wholeheartedly.

The day we spent with Carla for our portrait in Paris really did change my life, in ways I didn’t see coming.

She has such a natural, humble. easy way, a clear vision that she brings to life, and she carries you along with her passion and enthusiasm.

I have never felt this way in front of a camera in my entire life.

Swirling, laughing, yep even a bit of strutting……people pausing to watch us, it all seemed on the edge of my joy, hugging my daughter, a bouquets of flowers with their own special meaning for us, feeling like a million dollars.

I even did a few quick outfit changes in a little courtyard, and Boobs…..who knew I had those!

Just Priceless.

A complete and total contrast to how I felt only a few short months ago when I found out I had won.
I turned the camera on to video my thanks and everything went sideways.
I know the video and the post I wrote touched many people who also hide from the camera.

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All photos copyright Carla Coulson

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To the only man in my Life,

we share so much, laughter tears Renovating (enough said), you are still and will always be my HERO!

I might not tell you enough that I love and adore you

yet I do

with all my heart x

Carina portrait Paris


My beautiful butterfly girl.

You are my heart,

I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way when we argue but it will forever be true.

I love you more than a million red M & M’s, more than anything in the world, to the moon and back.

My little girl you are becoming a young woman and I am so proud of you!

You have such a special grace, an inner beauty, a rare gift of resilience, creativity, laughter, cheekiness, and such a Spirit.

I love you Sweet Heart, you are my JOY xxx


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Dearest Carla,

You gave us so much more than you could ever know.

Way beyond a Portrait in Paris.

Such a beautiful moment in time together, the grace of a girl becoming a young woman.

I’m incredibly happy that you were the one to capture these moments. I can’t imagine anyone else behind the lens, you have such a gift.

At the end of the day shooting it felt like we had just wandered Paris, soaking it all in, all of us laughing together as girlfriends.

I don’t actually remember you pointing a camera at us, how weird is that?

I just remember Carina in my arms, laughing, relaxing, a feeling of twirling, sharing, her hand in mine as we walked, lots of laughter.

Yes Life Changing in so many ways!

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 “Freedom, Sensuality, Joy, Movement, Adventure”

thank you Carla from the bottom of my heart xxx

PS  Carla I will forever love your little cat, how clever he was to draw my name from that dish.
Give him a big kiss on the whiskers from us says Carina x

PPS Now the boys want to get in on the act….next time you’ll have the entire family LOL xx

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and the gang x









Rustic Italy – Stay with Us – an update

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Stay with Us

“Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary”

Robin Williams – Dead Poets Society


It feels like a new phase of our life here in the valley is underway at the moment.

A positive feeling of accomplishment, moving forward and creating new dreams.

Most of our concern to date has been creating an income of some kind. We are living on the funds from the sale of our last renovation in Australia, this won’t last much longer.

Our  aim is to create a way that we can travel and enjoy our life here in the valley using the internet to build an income.

I’d love to build a community of fellow dreamers, those who want to take the dream to reality.

I never thought we’d be able to come so far so fast, and with such little funds.

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We finally got to view our episode of House Hunters International.

The DVD arrived last week on Sam’s birthday which was perfect timing.

It’s such a strange experience seeing yourself on TV, we had no idea how they would edit the five days worth of filming into a half hour show. I’m happy to say they did a brilliant job, not missing anything and showing us in a good light.

We all cracked up at the end with Luca’s catch cry, just brilliant.

Yippeeeeee Dooodle………PRICELESS

If you didn’t get to see the episode leave a comment below and we’ll try to work something out.

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Although it’s been messy it looks fantastic.

Work has progressed on ‘Casa Bianca’ and so much has been happening here in the Borgata. Sam has removed the front of the building on one side. It was an awful job and parts were falling off, just tapping the surface showed how easily it would come down. Now the face of the building looks more authentic. Claudio is going to sandblast the remaining concrete away to expose the original rock.

Our lovely ‘Turin Guy’ who has bought part of the Borgata (including the small house directly opposite our big double gates) plans to take the exterior wall down and have it rebuilt in September. The original road will be closed for a short time while the work is done. At the moment it bows out a bit and needs some TLC.

It seems like the Borgata is coming to life, getting a little facelift and gathering new people.

In the meantime we continue cleaning out the sheds, the house and getting ready for future visitors.

We hope one day you’ll be able to stay with us.


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Why did we wait so Long?

Recently we bit the bullet and created a Host Page on Workaway. If you haven’t heard of Workaway it basically links up those wanting to work in exchange for three meals a day and a place to sleep. Our very first work away person arrived last Friday, we picked him up from the train station after having a brief conversation on Skype the night before. He will stay with us until September.

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He’s been fantastic, he and Sam have been out each day working in the borgata. Together they have built a wall, and pulled the front render from ‘Casa Bianca’. They have also done some cleaning inside ready for later painting, and done a bit of renovation work in the entrance. I wish we’d done this when we first arrived.

Workaway is a brilliant idea and one I would have used back in my 20’s when I was backpacking if only it were available then. I wonder how many people would like to stay with us here through Winter and experience the snow, celebrate with a white Christmas and really get the full idea of life in the mountains.

Our Workaway chap (I’ll pop his name in once he’s okay with that) helped Sam ‘dispatch’ the rabbits ready to go into the freezer. Funnily enough he adores animals and our cats and the dog just radiate towards him.

It’s been great having someone to chat with in English, and the locals in the Borgata are a bit perplexed by the whole idea. I can envision a whole team of Workaway people coming to stay once the locals cotton on.

We’ve got more done in the past few days than in the last six months.

It just helps to motivate us having someone here, Sam loves the company and I love the conversations at meal times.

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I’ve also continued with my love of ‘personal development’ and I’ve been rethinking how much time I give to the most important aspects of my life. Where I need to spend more time and where my passions are.

Now it’s more time for the kids, we take a walk together most days and I’ve been cutting back my time online. I now try to check in on our Renovating Italy facebook page (my big passion) only a few times through the day. I’d rather be out living life here with my family, creating new projects, and then connecting online again in the evening.

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How about you?

are you heading towards or away from your dreams?

What are they…… Carpe Diem xx

and the gang x




A New Way of Seeing – workshop

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A New Way of Seeing

‘My destination is no longer a place, but a New Way of Seeing’

Marcel Proust

Just over a week ago I received an Invitation from Di Mackey to attend a photography workshop in Genoa – A New Way of Seeing.

It felt like a ‘sign’

After much discussion regarding finances, and ‘who exactly are these women?’ with my dear husband, we agreed that I should go. Yep I’m officially menopausal so don’t mess with me. Luckily I have a great husband and he has a fantastic wife.

We packed up the campervan and headed to Turin with our friend Laura and the kids. Then spent a few wonderful days exploring the markets, listening to a fabulous jazz band in the park, and checking out the Egyptian Museum (which was the highlight for Luca).

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a new way of seeing

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Saturday morning at 4am Sam and I left Laura and the kids sleeping in the van and headed for the train station. My first solo trip since arriving back in Italy 18 months ago.

It’s been a long time since my backpacking days, I traveled all around Europe and America in my 20’s. A whole weekend to myself sounded like heaven, and it was. Sometimes a little solitude and ‘away time’ is just what the Doctor ordered. I navigated the metro, bought myself a cappuccino and brioche at Piazza di Ferrari and then set off to meet Di.

My weekend adventure had begun.

This is no ordinary workshop, A New Way of Seeing is such a unique combination of incredible women each complementing the other perfectly.

I am sure Di Mackey and I were sisters in another life, we just clicked, it felt like I’d know her forever. She gave me the gift of deep belly laughs, understanding, and freedom to be myself, each one I will treasure forever.

Helen Kerrison how can I thank you, every word was food for my soul.

Working with you over the weekend I reignited my passion for photography and regained a sense of my own place in the world. These were things I hadn’t realized I’d lost, your gentle guidance had me see for myself just how far I’d drifted away.

Together with Laura from Ciao Amalfi and Leah from Help! I Live with My Italian Mother in Law we laughed, shared, took a bus ride to Boccadasse for dinner on a terrace overlooking the ocean and even got a little tipsy on Limoncello.


Up until the weekend I’ve relied on my Fuji digital point and shoot camera, I take it with me everywhere and hadn’t used a SLR camera since studying photography (where I met Sam).

This was way before digital back when we processed our images in the darkroom, four years part time study and one year full time at RMIT and I felt like a total novice again.

I have to admit I was totally clueless and the number of times I had the instruction book out could have been embarrassing but it wasn’t. It was FUN, huge fun, I got to fiddle about with f-stops, and shutter speeds, depth of field, and ISO it was like remembering a lost language.

The main thing I discovered with A New Way of Seeing is that I have so much more to learn. That photography is an integral part of my language and it’s one I love sharing with you .

If you have passions follow them, keep dreaming, keep learning and keep laughing.


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Being invited to stay with Di and Helen in a gorgeous apartment right across from this charming Pizzeria and it’s very proud owners was a highlight. Thank you both for taking me under your wings and showing me how to fly solo. x


Please note that the images in this post were taken on my point and shoot Fuji digital camera. the photos I took for the exercises are pretty bad as I hadn’t worked out how to preview them. If you’d like to see some gorgeous shots of the kind of work we did take a look at these ones from Laura Thayer.

 and the gang x