11.9.14

Romanesco Cauliflower/Broccoli soup with almonds and cheese

Yesterday at the market I couldn't resist buying Romanesco cauliflower. I remember that the first time I bought years ago I did so because it looked so beautiful. I discovered since then that also tastes really good and is a super healthy vegetable!

One of my favourite recipe with this cauliflower is a simple soup that I think is perfect for the first days of autumn when the weather starts to get colder and you just want to eat something comforting.

You'll need:
vegetable stock (better if home made)
a large Romanesco cauliflower/broccoli cut into pieces
1 large diced potato
a few pealed almonds
some soft cheese, I love something like Swiss cheese in this.
olive oil
salt and pepper

It's pretty simple: 
Put a bit of olive oil in a heavy bottom pot and trow in all the cauliflower and potato. Stir and let cook for a few minutes on a medium heat. Cover the vegetables with the stock and put a lid on it.
It should simmer for about 25 minutes or until the veggies are cooked.
Meanwhile chop the almonds and the cheese in small bits.
When the veggies are done put them in a food processor. You want a creamy texture. Put it back in the pot and add the cheese and almonds, put the lid on so and let the cheese melt. Add salt and pepper and it's done!

It's very nice served with hot bread and some extra almonds.

Let me know how it goes :)







9.9.14

a new direction: I hope you're going to stay

I've been thinking about this for a while now. I came to the conclusion that to grow and go forward I need to change a few things here on the blog.
There have been days when I found it very difficult to share things here and nothing seemed to motivate me enough to actually sit down and write something. Why? I think is because I felt under pressure. I had the feeling I had to write a blog because that's what you do when you have a small handmade business and you try to advertise it.
This doesn't work anymore for me. I don't want to feel like I have to do something. So there are going to be some changes. Good ones I hope. I know I'll feel better and hopefully you will like them too.

In the next few weeks I'm going to work on the design part of this blog of mine that has been neglected for so long. I'll probably incorporated it with with my own site and I'll clean the look for sure. I hope it will be easier to navigate and find the different topics.

The most important thing thought will be the new content. Everything will rotate around my way of living in a big city while dreaming of living beside the sea or nearby a forest. I'm a city dweller dreaming of leaving it behind and embrace a simpler life. Unfortunately I can't do that right now, so I adjusted my lifestyle and decided a few years ago to try to have a simpler life while living in a city.
I want to share with you my everyday efforts, dreams and projects that help me to stay sane and keep dreaming.

So what should you aspect? Posts about home cooked food, second hand finds, DIY, recycling projects, crafts and scenes from our daily lives (my Irish husband Ed, Maggie and Lisa* and me).
My handmade line of goods is a part of my way of living so you'll see also a bit of that, especially works in progress and inspirations.
*our kittens!

I hope I didn't scare you off and that you're going to stay around!

A couple of days I found a very inspiring video on TED and I thought it would be the perfect thing to share with you today. It's about "how to grow a tiny forest anywhere" by Shubhendu Sharma.
It's only 5 minutes long and you can find it here.

4.9.14

Italian pickled onions

In this period I'm preparing lots of different pickles and these onions are perfect for the season.
They're super easy to make and the end result is delicious.

For 2 people you need:
500g of small flat onions (you can use normal ones too, just small ones)
1 table spoon of brown sugar
1 table spoon of white vinegar
1 table spoon of balsamic vinegar
1 table spoon of olive oil
50 ml of water
a pinch of salt

Peel the onions and put them in a large heavy bottom pan with the oil. Fry for a few minutes.
In a glass mix together the water, both vinegars and sugar. Then put the mixture in the pan on top of the onions and cover with a lid. It needs to simmer for 30-40 minutes depending of the size of the onions. They need to be very soft.

Take the lid off and raise the gas under it so they can caramalize for a couple of minutes.

They're better served cold, even better the day after. If you make more you can put them in a jar and serve them with goat's cheese.


3.9.14

back from Tuscany

Sorry for the silence over here, but we finally went on a short holiday and when we came back it just felt right to stay unplugged for a bit longer.
Ed and I went to Tuscany for a few days, the excuse was a wedding part. Those few days were spent eating amazing food, chatting with old friends and meeting new ones. We also walked a lot. But the main thing was just looking at the panoramas in amazement.

Every single thing I saw was just plain beautiful.
Rolling hills, dense forests, medieval villages. It felt so real and yet like a dream. I really needed that.

I'm sharing a few pics I took, but please excuse me I only had my phone with me and my eyes were so full of magic that I know I couldn't capture.

The swimming pool and the amazing view from the farm house 
The ancient farm house























My favourite part of the house, the informal dining area.
Another view of the house with a bush of rosemary and pink roses growing together.




































The view from the walls around Pienza town.

A piece of the walls around medieval village Monteriggioni.



























20.8.14

enjoy the little things

This week I've decided to slow down a bit in work and gave myself some free time everyday to just relax. This Friday I will close my Etsy shop for the first time since I opened it. I decided it is about time I do it so I can concentrate on the production of my new line of hand printed textiles that need to be ready at the beginning of October.
Also this weekend I'll be traveling to Tuscany for a wedding party and a little tour  of the hills with my husband. I'm really looking forward to this!

Lately I've been working really a lot thanks to incredible shops that believed in me and in my handmade line enough to order from me and also thanks to all the people that decided to buy something in my shop. I'm really so grateful for all this love. I can't believe that I'm able to do what I most love doing. Thank you!

Here a round up of little things I enjoyed lately. Those little things that made my days better. That made me smile and reminded me I am a lucky person.






























This beautiful brooch arrived in the post yesterday. Its made by super talented Mary who has a lovely shop on Etsy called My Hideaway (go and check it out) and a blog full of beautiful pics and original content that I follow regularly. I love the colours in the brooch and the little beads details. I bought it thinking of autumn and I can't wait it gets cold enough to wear my favourite chunky cardigan and pin this on it!






























This morning at a thrift market I bought this embroidered cotton piece. I think originally was a large table cloth cut down to a smaller piece. I couldn't resist to buy it thanks to my current obsession with hand stitching and blue. And at 50 cents was a steal!





























A few days ago my husband made this little wooden horse for Anna, our friends' daughter. It reminds me of a Dala Horse, it's a little bit chubbier. Ed loves working with wood and build things, I wish we could have more space for him to make more stuff.





























Tomatoes always make me happy! The tomatoes seasons is drawing to its end, so soon it will be time to make preserves with them. This little bowl in the pic is part of the traditional pottery from Puglia, a region in south Italy where we go on holidays and where we would love to move to.































I really enjoyed designing and making new hang tags for my cotton totes. On this note there will be some new entries in the coming months. I'm designing bigger totes made with screen printed linen using new patterns.

What are the little things that made you happy lately? I would love to know what makes you happy!

11.8.14

Dyeing fabric with natural dyes: a little DIY

Sunday I did a little experiment. I tried to dye a cute cotton doily I've found in a thrift shop a while back. To be gentle towards the environment I used food dye, the same one used to paint eggs for Easter. I picked a sachet of blue colour and I decided to try to obtain some effects with it. So I folded the piece and wrapped some string on it.
I boiled some water and then in a large bowl I mixed the water with the dye and rock salt. Rock salt (or vinegar) helps the colour to stay on the fabric.
I left it soak for a few minutes and then I rinsed the piece, unwrapped it and hang it to dry.
As you can see in the last pic the final colour is very pale and a bit minty compare to what the dye looked like in the water. 
I kind of like the effects on the fabric, the unevenness of the dye. Probably I should have pulled the string much tighter to obtain a stringer effect. 
So the final result is not at all as I imagined it but I had great fun in doing something very different. 
Did you ever try dyeing anything? Do you have any suggestions on how to?



5.8.14

almost time to relax


A couple of days ago I decided that this week is going to be my last full week of work in the studio.
This weekend I have to clean and reorganise my space so that I can fit in it my new screen printing tools. Oh yes, I bought a super amazing screen printing kit last week and I can't wait to try it out!
Until now for those few screen printed items I make I used an open studio, but that won't do anymore.
I have big big plans for this winter season, so I went all the way and bought myself one! This means I need to be more organised with my space so I can fit everything in it and be comfy and productive.

So from next week until the end of August I will take it slowly. I'm sure this will involved a lot of food (both cooked and eaten), lots of books, a few movies, a lot of walking or should I say wondering around. Probably a bit of sketching and surely lots of time with our furry friends. I'm pretty sure I wont be able to stay away from the studio for all the time, especially with the new screen printing gear there, but I'll do everything at my own pace.

One thing I decided to do is to try to do things I've never done before. This is something I've been thinking for a while and I decided I want to start doing it during this holiday. So to start I've picked a crochet project. Bear with me I've never done any crochet in my life. No idea where to start, but we all need a challenge once in a while, right? I picked mine: I'll crochet a water bottle. To be more precise I'll try to crochet a cover for my hot water bottle :)

Why among all the things I've never done I decided to try crochet? Because I saw a beautiful post in one of my favourite blogs (You can check it out here.) and simply I said to myself why not.
Just started to sketch ideas for Christmas
I'm going to enjoy some time with these two :)








1.8.14

Make a little wreath using herbs

This morning a made a little cute wreath using some herbs from my balcony. I used oregano and thyme because it's that moment of the year when I need to start collecting them to dry them, so I can then use them through winter in my cooking.

What I made is really simple and definitely not perfect, but it's a sweet way to let your herbs dry.
You'll need just some wire and a few pieces of herbs. I used a quite thin wire I already had in the house and it makes it look light and airy.
Simply create a circle with a longer piece of wire, I made mine turning the wire 3 times so it was sturdy enough. Then put the circle on a table and arrange the pieces of herbs around it. It's important that when you cut your herbs you live a bit of branch on them so you don't end up using the wire on the leaves.
Using short pieces of wire simply block in place the your herbs, as you can see in the pic below.




























Most of the oregano that I used is flowering and it makes the wreath even cuter. As you can see I didn't put too many pieces in it, so that I can do add more with time.




























When the herbs are dry you can simply snipped them off without taking the structure apart.
This is what it looks like on our kitchen's wall.
















31.7.14

It feels like a roller coaster

This morning I wake up to this amazing weather! So I felt full of energy and positivity. The weather really can make the difference, right?
Usually in this period of the year I slow down a lot, but this time is very different. I have so many new exciting projects coming in that need my full attention and so many ideas I want to try out that I feel a bit on a roller coaster. It's very nice to be full of projects and new ideas, but also a bit draining. I concentrate so much on work that yesterday I forgot to have lunch! And this to me is exceptional, I love food and I love cooking.

So at the moment I'm working on a new limited series of clutches. I found a lovely cotton a while back and when I saw it I knew I had to make small bags out of it. This is what they look like now.
I'll add a detachable strap so they can be used as cross-body bags too and I'm going to block print two of them and paint the other two. One of them is going to have a pineapple on it thanks to a special request from one of my clients who saw this pic on my Instagram (are you on Instagram?) and went for it. 

On a different note I'm not sure if you remember my little experiment with the avocado pit. Well he's doing great, look at this! It's so incredible to grow something from seeds, isn't it? It amaze me all the times. As a city dweller with only a balcony and terrace as outside space i do my best to grow as much as I can. We have many herbs and a potted lemon tree. Last year we had tomatoes and salad. Not much really, but the satisfaction is always huge! Do you grow any food? What's the best thing you ever grew yourself? 



28.7.14

Quick and healthy Italian pasta recipe

During the past weekend we spent most of our time at food markets. I did quite a bit of cooking and we read and relax a lot.
On Saturday for lunch I made one of my favourite pasta dishes for summer using aubergines (eggplants for my American friends) and fresh tomatoes. It's perfect in summer because both main ingredients are really tasty in this period and I love to eat "in season" food.
To make it for 2 people simply chop 1 red onion, one aubergine,  3/4 tomatoes and put them in a non sticking pan with a bit of extra-vergin olive oil for 20 minutes. If it looks it dries a bit to much add a bit of water. Cook the pasta in plenty do salted boiling water and when ready but still al dente add it to the sauce pan. Mix it together, add a bit of grated Parmesan cheese (or chopped mozzarella), a few olives and plenty of fresh basil. Ready!

A little secret: never cook Mediterreanean basil, add it always at the last moment and don't chop it with a knife. Simple tore it with your fingers. This prevents it from turning black and loosing some of the taste.


21.7.14

On a wall in my studio

I'm really lucky to have a small studio space thanks to my husband who very kindly offered me a room in his English school, I moved here in January and I can't believe the difference it made to me and my work to have a proper space for it instead of working from home. We live in a small apartment with our two furry friends who are great company, but not the best buddies to have around paper and ink.
I love the area of Milan (you can see it here) where the school is and I love the beautiful light that comes in my room.
When I settled down in my new studio space I decided to decorate one wall with handmade items and illustrations by friends and artists met on social medias and/or on Etsy.
Below I share with you a part of this wall and the talented people who made these pieces.





























1 & 7 Blue Eggs and Tea.
2 Elizabeth Pawle
3 Nikki Miles
4 and smile
Nugget Says
6 claire hartigan
8 LouiseNormaStudio (it came with my gorgeous books tote)

18.7.14

weekly round up

This week was quite intense. I laugh a lot and cried a little.
I worked on new designs and products to get ready for Christmas (yes I know it's July!) and I managed to find time to spend on the terrace with our lovely furry friends, especially early in the morning with a big cup of coffee.
Lisa looking lovely






























This morning I collected little flowers while walking to work and made this tiny floral arrangement that now sits on my desk.





























I ate a lot of gelato, but don't have any pics to document that. I slept little because it started to get hot again and living on the top floor underneath the roof doesn't help.
I made a batch of unique thank you mini cards to go out with my next 20 orders.




























This weekend is supposed to get even hotter so I'm planning to do as little as possible. This will involve a lot of reading, maybe some sketching, some more gelato and lots of cold showers.
What are you up to this weekend? Any plans?

17.7.14

Blog hop and a bit about what I do

I want to start off with a big thank you to Ruth from Blue Eggs and Tea who nominated me for a little blog hop. Ruth is an incredibly talented artist and an amazing human being. I met her on Twitter and I can say I found a new friend. I love her blog and her birds. You can find always something interesting over on her blog.

1. What am I working on?
At the moment I'm working on a few different things at the same time (I do this most of the time). Mainly I'm brainstorming ideas and sketching for a winter collection of patterns and prints and I'm block printing different fabrics to make new accessories for the shop.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is quite a difficult question. I think it has to do with my own sense of style and my inspiration. I like working with natural materials and combining unusual ones together with a minimal style. I draw inspiration from what surrounds me, especially small things, little details. Italy is a constant inspiration with its architecture, food and way of living.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?
First because it makes me happy.
I like to experiment with different materials and tools and to offer simple, durable and original designs. I want to show that something can be eco-friendly and have a minimal modern style at the same time. I love using old techniques like block printing to create modern prints.

4. How does your writing/ creating process work?
Usually, everything starts from a little sketch. Some doodles may become patterns that  I will then use to print on different materials or sell as original illustrations. 
Patterns come first, products after. Each pattern/print speaks to me about a different product or a small line. I hand carve the patterns on printing blocks and print each item by hand.





























For this blog hop I'm nominating Mary, a fellow creative with a beautiful blog. Check her shop here.












15.7.14

Our terrace is a jungle

I've always loved plants and even more so since moving to Milan.
The most important thing when we were looking for our first apartment to buy it was to have an outside space. Unfortunately gardens in the city are very rare and expensive so the next best thing was to have a terrace.

When we first moved to the house, we didn't have any money left to buy plants and all necessary stuff to make it nice. We saved and eventually started working on it.
I soon realised that there was not point in getting plants that needed shade or much water, so I turned to succulents, palm trees and Mediterranean shrubs. I wanted to make the best out of the conditions imposed by the climate. 

I sit on the terrace every morning (summer or winter) with a mug of Italian coffee. It's one of the things that make me really happy to do.

This morning I was sitting there as usual and I started sketching some of the leaves and plants I could see. Some of these sketches will become patterns for a new jungle themed collection of eco-friendly hand printed items: journals, totes, tea towels and more.




10.7.14

Enjoy the little things: myrtle branches, a traditional Italian little bowl and more.

This morning coming to the studio I passed by a florist kiosk and saw the guy trowing away some myrtle branches. Not sure what was wrong with them, I picked them up and now they look beautiful in my studio.



















My studio is starting to look like a garden and I love it! Among the plants there is also this tiny spiky cactus.




















One of the walls is starting to look like a tiny art gallery, I'm collecting different kind of handmade pieces made by some friends. This beautiful wooden disc (Nature is the best artist) is by NuggetSays and I love it so much!

A few days ago I bought some handmade paper, I'm planning to draw on this using some black ink, isn't gorgeous? It's an Himalayan Lokta Tissue. Amazing colour!



















In our weekly thrifts hunt last weekend, my friend Giulia and I came across this lovely traditional tiny bowl from South Italy. It's going to be in StoriesTellers shop really soon.


9.7.14

Launching a new product and some behind the scenes

Today is the day.
I've been working on this launch for over a month.
I sketched a lot, practiced my sewing skills, picked the perfect linen among many, created new printing blocks, picked the inks and made 4 different design scarves. All printed by my two hands.
They're finally here and I'm super excited!

At the moment I have only 2 scarves available for each design, then each one will be a pre-order item and will be available again from middle September.

I would love to have your opinion about them, so please go and have a proper look at here.

I want to thank you my friend Giulia for the precious help (as a photographer and model) and the laughs!
Here a bit of behind the scenes for our shooting.
Giulia pretending to be a serious person!





8.7.14

my love for the sea: a personal kind of post

I've always loved the sea.
I love the smell of the salty water and the noise of the waves.
I love the sea in any season, especially after a storm.
I love the Mediterranean Sea, but I also love the Oceans.

My memories of the sea:
Sitting on a wooden platform on the Kerala coast in the middle of the night with fishermen telling stories about the sea and life.
On old ferryboats going from one small Greek island to a tiny one, the sprays of sea water in my face, feeling so free like for the first time (every time).
In the car travelling south and then you look on the left and suddenly the sea is there beside us, this surprises me every single time.

I'm a better person when I'm close to the sea. Is that possible?

the Irish Sea


4.7.14

weekly round up

This week was made of never loosing hope on you plants, a short train trip, a surprise ice-cream and other lovely little things.
My friend Giulia and I found this group of wood toys at a thrift market, perfect for our vintage shop StoriesTellers.
I used to play with them as a kid. They're made in Italy by Sevi (these ones are from early '70s) and I have so many lovely memories about them. I wish contemporary toys could be a little more like the old ones.
a thrift find you can buy here


















A few weeks ago I discovered our lemon tree was under a serious attack by some really quite ugly insects. I decided to cut it down almost completely and I'm so happy it's coming back and looking beautiful! Never loose hope.
the flowers are going to smell gorgeous!


















On Tuesday I had to go to Pavia, the town where I grew up. I had a lovely train trip. I love travelling by train. Love to look outside, read and listen to music. I find it super relaxing.
the area is full of rice fields (and mosquitoes!)

Our prickly pear is surprising us with more growth.


















And a different but lovely kind of surprise was this ice-cream my husband brought me yesterday in the studio knowing that I was having a difficult long day.
YUM!