portrait in paris

Portrait in Paris – with Carla Coulson

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.

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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

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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









Life is full of beautiful moments

Life is full of beautiful moments

 this is why we came to Italy

for our Children,
for a simpler lifestyle

to find ‘us’ again…..

I love messy, I love life and dirt and skinned knees, I love my kids playing outside, rounding up chickens, open hearts, a treasure hunt every day, joy in each simple thing, picking beans and eating them raw and crunchy, handfuls of blackberries the red juice staining our hands, brisk cold water from the fountain.

Wonderful, beautiful moments.

Winter is coming, the leaves are turning and falling in little drifts. Luca throws them in the air laughing as they fall around him, he knows they mean summer is coming to an end. It’s hard to imagine that soon enough we will have snow, that the valley will turn silent and white, the summer holiday makers will disappear and we will have the place to ourselves.

Three eggs, snails in the orto, a puppy with needle sharp teeth, a dead kitten, our friend Italo and his family raking the hay by hand, the river is the brightest blue green, the head of the sunflower needed to be brown before cutting, Claudio’s dog sneaks in to eat our dogs food, I hear the tractors coming in from the pasture below the borgata.

Winter is coming.

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Yet still I dream, of our house turned into a home, putting down roots and having a place where we belong.

Our gift is being able to see through the rubble, the chaos, and the mess to the beauty hidden within.

Our current reality and the dream…. one day the two will merge.

I’ll find that peaceful place, share vino with friends and family, sit back on my deck chair and start planning our next adventure.

Beautiful Moments

Keeping dreams alive, tending them carefully, moving them forward each day……that’s the secret.


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Our ‘Casa Bianca’ continues to reveal herself.

Sam and Sean (our workaway guy) have been working to clear the cellar of rubbish.  This will be the bathroom, with it’s vaulted ceiling and odd little alcoves.

With the doorway being so low we needed to raise it a little. Now you can walk down the few steps without stooping. It’s a little hard to show the actual room as it’s quite dark and only has a small light source.

Oh and that hole Sam is putting the stick down, that’s about a meter cubed of number two’s.

Luckily I don’t have to worry about that, a good job for the boys.

If you really want to see what it’s like inside then you can take a look at this little video I made.

I’ve been through many renovations but nothing like this, warning don’t watch right after eating.

The floor has been lowered a little to give some extra headroom, and yes I can already see past the mess.

This house will be gorgeous.

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Until next time

Beautiful Moments

Signatureand the gang x

dare to dream


simple life in italy

A Simple Life in Italy – stopping the overwhelm

This time last week I was in total overwhelm……writing, blogging, tweeting, facebook, B-School, linked in, pinterest, family, kids, house work, renovations, health issues, tired….run down…..and constantly close to tears. Ridiculous right…here I am creating a ‘Simple Life in Italy’ and falling into the overwhelm trap.

Throw in B-School with Marie Forleo and it’s incredible online community and all the fantastic things these wonderful people are sharing and I then added podcasts, you tube, opt in’s, pop ups, newsletters, e-books, and all kinds of other things that require a committed focus to learn. Arghhhh!

Rather than enjoying our Simple Life I was just sinking into overwhelm.

Well I’m happy to say that it’s over…..I’m not playing that game anymore.

I jumped on a coaching call with a fellow B-Schooler and an hour later felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I set a few priorities, created a time frame to complete them, put aside time just for writing and all this week I’ve stuck to it. No more going round and round the social media loop, I gave myself permission to just Stop.

You’ll still find me over at Facebook and Pinterest just a less overwhelmed version of me.

It’s time to step back and take a look at where I want to be, who I want to be, and where my dreams are at.

B-School has been the best gift and most intense learning environment, one that has given me clarity and focus. It’s an ongoing learning process and a bit like renovating a house, laying the right foundation, spending time on the preparation to get the best results. Painting a house is 90% preparation and 10% application.

Now that I’ve given myself permission to just stop I’ve actually been out enjoying life here in the valley. I’m still getting things done and using the morning for writing and then the afternoon is for getting outside, helping with the wood, soaking up the sun with the gang here at Malpertus, splashing the kids at the fountain,  and today helping Sam with the rabbits.

We are down in the stable trying to gather up seven very fast little bunnies to see if they are girls or boys. Mum has gone back in with Dad who is very happy….VERY happy! And we now realize we have no clue about figuring out the sex of a young rabbit. Either we have seven girls or we have no clue! My guess is we have NO clue!

Our Simple Life here is good….better than good and this is what I want to share with you. It is possible to chase your dream, to create your own version of a simpler life, to find your passion and follow it, to live with a little less yet gain so much more. It is possible to just stop the overwhelm, take a deep breath and refocus, really focus on what it is you want for your life. Find that, focus on that, live towards that each day…..

I’m creating my very first e-book, and it’s just flowing from me…..all that we did to actually get here not just once but twice. Starting with that initial dream of a simple life in Italy, how we kept it alive, and all the steps in between. A mixture of storytelling, practical steps and inspiring images, sharing with my best friend, answering all the questions and I hope inspiring you to Dare to Dream.

and the gang x

portrait in paris

Time to Shine – Carla Coulson, Paris and turning 50

Time to Shine with Carla Coulson

‘Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye’

H. Jackson Brown Jr

I turn 50 this year in June, and I will be celebrating in Paris.

I will also be in front of the lens of Carla Coulson

and the beauty of this is that she will show me what everyone else has always known

……that I am beautiful and that it is my time to Shine.

Congratulations started coming in, my face book page was beeping all day, and when I saw my name selected I couldn’t believe it.

Dance Like.. And The Winner(s) are…

Paris, March 28, 2014


I turned the camera on to say thank you to Carla Coulson and that was the end of me. It was all just too much, a life changing dream come true, my time to Shine. I almost deleted that little video clip, kept trying to compose myself to make another one without the raw emotion. But in the end I posted it to Carla on my facebook page, the response was overwhelming.

The reason I didn’t delete it is because I never want my daughter to feel like this.

I don’t want her growing up without photos to capture the moments of joy in her life. I want her free and certain and glowing in front of the camera, I want her to always know how beautiful she is both inside and out, good hair days or bad…..make up or no make up, laughing crying and just the way she is. Isn’t that what we all want, to be seen, to be heard, to make a difference.

I still don’t look in mirrors, I haven’t since I was a teenager, especially if anyone else is in the room. I have been known to wait in toilet cubicles until those applying fresh makeup leave the room. I don’t like getting my photo taken, and growing up my Mum would always light the house in the evening with candles and she was careful to sit in the ‘best light’ how funny I had totally forgotten about that until just this moment.

At school and into my early 30’s I had severe cystic acne, I tried everything to make it disappear but in the end I see now that I disappeared a little at a time. In my teens and 20’s I wouldn’t go out if I was having a bad skin day.

Friends and family would greet me with ‘Oh your skin looks better today’ and old ladies would stop me on the street to give me the ‘cure’……my closest friend in high school turned on me (as can happen in school) and her favorite taunt was about my skin, she enrolled the entire school into her chorus (or so it seemed to me).

Actually now I think about it my brother hated getting his photo taken as well and it was a family sport to try to get a photo of him. We have many of him with his hand up to his face or with the finger up, I wonder what his story was. I never thought to ask him and it’s too late now.

I notice that Carina doesn’t give her childish beaming smile when getting her photo taken, she thinks her teeth are too big….when I got my wedding photos I ‘fixed’ them….and on one favorite I even slightly straightened my nose (thanks to the wonder that is photoshop). My Mum rang to thank me for the photos I sent her saying she’d never had such a nice photo of us, she never knew that I tweaked it a little first.

I remember when I was working for a photographer in Melbourne, she took packages at school formals and a Mother came in to her office enraged that she’d ‘taken out’ her  son’s acne without asking first. I’ve been guilty of doing this same thing with photos of our children. Carina will think she never had a spot as a baby. We are so lucky to have this chance to put it right with Carla Coulson behind the lens.

How we see ourselves can become complicated

It’s time to give that story up…’s my time to SHINE with the wonderful Carla Coulson

and as always I will be sharing the journey with you x

Let’s SHINE together x

Post Update

click here to see the portraits from Paris

 and the gang x





our italian life

Our Italian Life – a work in progress

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A simple life

‘Have you ever longed for something, I mean really longed for it? Every part of me aches to be wandering cobbled lanes with antique doors and ornate lions head door knockers. To be soaking up the sunshine in a tiny piazza, while Carina and Luca splash each other in the nearby fountain. Wandering hand in hand with my very Italian husband who can relax at last, he has nowhere to get!’

I wrote these words before we left for Italy.

And whilst we still have a way to go creating our Italian life I know we are on the right track.

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I see it in our children, our home, our relationship (even when it’s awful and we are arguing) I know it in my heart, this feels right, we are where we should be, we are creating that simple life, 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.

With that in mind I’ve taken on a new challenge, and only three weeks in B-School is changing my life in ways I never expected. I’m sure you’ll see changes here and I’m sure you know I have you in mind as I make them.

I hope we can show our children that it is possible to live your dream, that they are a gift to the world, and we strive to be the best example of that no matter what the circumstances.

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To all my friends and family here and in my life…

I believe in you, all those dreams and plans and hopes you’ve given up on, the ones you’ve told yourself are too hard, or too expensive, or that you’re not worth it. It’s those that I am passionate about. You and your dreams, I believe they should come true.

I want you to know you can do it, it is possible, and you deserve it xx

Our Italian Life: An update on Luca, he has returned to school and is back to his bouncy chirpy self, Carina has the sniffles but is well and loves the baby rabbits (we have seven), I have very low blood pressure and am on a magnesium drink from the doctor, I went today for blood tests, (hope to be back to my version of normal soon lol ), Sam is good and has been chopping wood, cooking and looking at how we can make this all come together.

I am realizing how much I share on my Facebook page with photos and updates about our daily life, I’m planning to move this over to the blog and love your feedback and thoughts on the changes I’ll be making.

Sending love as always

and the gang x

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italian renovation

Italian Renovations – one step forward, two steps back and a big Dream

Italian Renovation

‘Remember why you Started’


Some days our Italian renovation,  even the dream home in Italy, has an overwhelming feel to it. Every single place I look something needs to be done. Where to start, what needs doing first, how’s the budget going? I find the best way to start is to visualize the end result. I have little visual areas in the house, places I can glance at through the day to give me a glimpse of how I imagine it will all be….one day soon.

On the day that Sam took these photos none of those little areas are in view, this is the reality of our house at this moment in time. Nothing changed, nothing moved for the photo or rearranged, just daily life in our rustic Italian renovation. It may never be glamorous, actually it’s highly unlikely that it will ever be glamorous, eclectic chic I like to call it.

So this is reality for now… imagination has plenty of room to play here, and I like to let it run wild.

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I’ll continue to update you all on our Italian renovation, and the ups and downs along the way.

Don’t forget to dream, share your dream with us here…..I’d love for 50 dreams to come true!

we will be in Paris for my 50th next year … you’re ALL invited x

Signature-00134 editand the gang x

dare to dream

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inspiration board images via home on pinterest

A simple Life

A Simple Life – the beginnings

 ‘Dreams come a size too big…so we can grow into them.’

Josie Bisset

I’ve been reading much lately about living ‘a ‘simple life‘ one not complicated by the expectations of society. Not the ‘declutter’ fad that seems to be growing as fast as Ikea can create imaginative ways to store it all. I’m not thinking of matching fabric covered boxes held in shelving units made especially for them or 100 ways to declutter your kitchen. It doesn’t mean giving away all our possessions and living in a teepee either,  I’m not certain what our version of a simple’ life will look like but it’s really starting to excite me.

The very beginning of “Renovating Italy” came about through a plan to one day  rebuild our dream village, to bring it back to life and recreate everything that was lost. We had no idea how we would achieve this and still don’t. The dream grew independently  from this point, everything we have worked toward has been with this idea in the back of our minds.

My husband Salvatore (Sam) saw the success of his Community garden project, one that had taken years to get off the ground and through council.We saw first hand how a community can come together and create something wonderful, what a rich source of knowledge the older members of the group were. It was a joy and a surprise for all of us to see the toddlers playing in the dirt and our own children eating vegetables straight from the garden.

This is partly what we want to bring to our house in Malpertus, a place for visitors to experience first hand the joys of living a ‘rustic’ life in the mountains. We have many plans and have sat up most nights talking and creating our dream, I’m sure we won’t be short on volunteers or visitors.

So what is a simple life and why does it have such appeal for so many? I asked this question on our Renovating Italy facebook page and the answers were varied yet all with the same theme…..time to just do nothing at all, home grown food, less time on computers and TV, moments to share with friends and family, even something as easy to achieve as a good book and a comfortable chair.

We have been unknowingly living a simple life for years now, it comes with renovating, our need for ‘things’ slowly released it’s strangle hold. I had no choice really as most of my treasures have been in boxes for numerous moves, this last big move to Italy has us pared down to a handful of stored boxes for each of our lives to date. We will head off with a few suitcases and the only thing that will follow later are Sam’s tools and Luca’s dinosaurs.

This is an adventure, we are stepping into the unknown….creating life as it happens!

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Signature-00134 editand the gang x

This is what you thought…..

Carla Ann Coulson Friends, food, fresh air and love…

Ingrid Christensen Doing what makes you happy

Catherine McNamara No machines, no cars, a piano, then a belly-laugh with a friend

Cathy Raso My simple life would be to going back to the roots, and live off the land like they used to. And watching the world go by without a care!

A Cook Not Mad Eating only what you can grow yourself.

Jeff Kerwin Focusing on the simple pleasures available all around us. Rather than big pleasures we’re taught to chase after and pay for.

Tracy Robinson Living a simple life, less social media, more books, enjoying and appreciating nature… Simple dinners with family and friends, long walks, less car time, holding hands with my fiance, snuggling with my pooch, laying on the grass watching the clouds go by, needing less material items… I already started practicing this over a year and a half ago, with the exception of social media and it has been amazing!

Sandy Birch Like Tracy, avoiding the need for social media is my goal, but spending time with friends and family is the most rewarding aspect of my life, plus trying new things, stretching the boundaries a little and moving out of my comfort zone!

Ryrie Wild Strolling on a beach; playing with my grandson; looking in second-hand stores; reading in a comfy chair in the shade; cooking a lovely meal for family or friends; wishing wells; taking photos of whatever takes my fancy……..

Lourayne Mahood Time with my sons, friends and cats. Beautiful food and wine. Good bread.Clean,crisp linen.Triple milled soap. Fresh flowers. Smiles

For The Love Of Italy Wild rosemary. A glass of wine. The setting sun. And soon afterward… fireflies. Soulful conversation with my best friend. A fresh breeze dancing amongst clothes decorating the clothesline. I’ve seen all these things at once. I don’t sound too demanding, do I?

Jos Parkinson To me it means finding joy in the simple things. Like taking time sit with a cup of tea & look at the beautiful flowers in my garden. Enjoying a walk along the beach with my family & thinking how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country.

Michelle M Burke Living a simple life, what does it mean to me? I’ve been searching for this and I think, maybe I’ve found it…to live in the country, and breath in the fresh air, the peace, the birds, the kids running around and just being themselves..loving each other and having appreciation for what we have been given x

Bronwyn Marquardt To be happy with the things I have rather than worried about what I don’t have. To be grateful for the joy and beauty in life, nature, my children and our world. To enjoy the simple things in life – good food, a roof over our heads, safe water to drink, each other, pets, friends, family and love. Oh and chocolate. It’s nice to have chocolate.

Sarah Ager For me, a simple life is being content with what you have and taking great pleasure in the small things even if it’s just a cup of tea after a long walk or extra froth on your cappuccino! If I have the opportunity in the future, I’d love to grow my own vegetables and herbs. I think growing your own food would make you really appreciate the taste & value because you put so much effort into it. I don’t know if others feel the same.

Susan Heslington As long as I’m happy inside, who cares that I have to cut my own hair, ride public transport, wear the same clothes for a few years…. just as long as I’m happy.. xxx

Judith A. Greenwood For me it is living within one’s means, not only financial, but physical and emotional as well. It’s never guaranteed, but when it is possible you have nothing to wish for but world peace and an end to hunger. Really.

Jeannie Marshall A simple life would be (if only I could achieve it) one without clutter and fridge magnets and  dust. It would have big stacks of books, comfortable leather chairs and good reading lamps. Doesn’t sound so hard to achieve once you write it down.

Karen-Louise Taylor The simple life is making the best of what you have & trying to be as self sufficient as possible. A life where possessions are not as important as friendships.

Monica Cesarato simple life is to take each day as a gift and treasure it!


I’d love to hear more about your idea’s for living a  ‘simple life”and if you are achieving them…leave us your thoughts x