Wednesday, 1 February 2017

News From The Dutch Front.


 News From The Dutch Front ! A Golden Hour

So, I moved to the Netherlands. 

I have been meaning to update this blog for, well, about two months, but at first exams got in the way, and then preparing for the move got in the way. I really wanted to write the standard end-of-the-year post because 2016 was a big year for me, but I guess it's a bit late now. Who knows, maybe I will write something anyway. I make my own rules here.

But let's go back to what I was saying at the beginning - as of ten days ago I have been living in Leiden, a small town near Amsterdam. I will be staying here until June, for the whole of the Spring semester. After spending the first week at a friend's place, a couple of days ago I moved into my permanent accomodation. The previous tenant had left the place in an absolutely disgusting state and I spent almost two days deep cleaning it! It's only starting to feel like home now. I still feel like I'm on holiday and I haven't quite realized that I'm going to spend the next five months here. That might not seem like a lot but... it actually is. Half a year of my life. 

Last week we had our orientation week and it probably was the most exhausting week I have had in quite a long time, both physically and emotionally. Moving to a different country alone and having to interact with strangers every day, for the entire day was a lot for an introvert like me... but I am so happy I did it. I did feel a bit uncomfortable at times, yes, and sometimes there were awkward silences and sometimes I couldn't remember how to say something in English, but I never felt anxious or in extreme discomfort... and that was surprising to me. One night my group organized a potluck dinner; everyone brought something to eat and stories to tell. There we were, a bunch of young people from all around the world, sharing a meal and getting to know each other. That was the moment I realized how lucky I was to be sitting at that table.

I can't wait to see how this story unfolds.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Notes from the Hornbeam: November.

 photo DSC_0589 1_zpsgoxs4pnj.jpg

Funny how November was probably the most uneventful, least interesting and month of 2016 in my personal life, but it was the most beautiful in the life of this tree. November is the time of the year when the hornbeam turns bright yellow for a few weeks before starting to shed its leaves. It's truly a wonderful sight, especially when it's lit by the rising sun or at dusk, when it seems even more yellow in the blue light. I love looking at it from the window above my desk and God knows I've had to spend quite a lot of time sitting in front of it this past month.

For the past three years November has meant really getting down to study for the upcoming Winter exam session. I had planned to stay in Rome until the end of the month, but I quickly realised I would be so much more productive at home, so I came back around the middle of the month. I just don't find myself at ease in Rome and when it's time to study I cannot afford to feel unhappy. Home is the best place to be this time of the year - the fire is always lit in the evenings, Mum is always cooking something tasty and I can always count on my partner in crime -my brother, that is- to watch a movie together, snuggled under a blanket. I never thought I would have said it a few years ago but I love the tranquil life we live here. Life in Rome is the opposite.

As a response to having to study all morning and all afternoon, I have been really into crafting this month. During exam season I find that I either get too tired and I can't bear to do anything but sleep in that single hour of free time before going to bed, or on the complete opposite I get super creative. This past month I have really been trying to fill every spare minute doing things I love - in addition to finishing a shawl, I have been stitching like crazy to finish a cross stitch project before Christmas; even when I'm really tired and I inevitably end up miscounting the stitches. It's like a coping mechanism, I think - I feel the need to do something with my hands after spending hour after hour and day after day learning hundreds of pages by heart.

I feel kind of ready for Winter now. Past me would have never even thought of saying this! I used to dread Winter but this year I want to make the most of it. The fact that I am going to spend part of it in a different country definitely makes it more exciting (I'm moving to the Netherlands for a few months in January, but more on that in a future post!).
What about you? How was your November?  

Monday, 28 November 2016

Things I have made.

Things I have made. | A Golden Hour

During the month of November I have finally completed the crochet project I had been working on since September, the Nordic Shawl by Annette Ciccarelli. I have known how to crochet since I was thirteen or something, but this was my very first big project. The thought of making a sweater was a bit daunting and hats don't really suit me, so I opted for a shawl. 

 Things I have made. | A Golden Hour

I chose the wool carefully (it's undyed Bluefaced Leicester by West Yorkshire Spinners) and really thought about how I could make this shawl really mine. That meant choosing a muted colour palette as opposed to using six contrasting colours as the pattern called for, and skipping a few rows to make it a bit smaller. 

Things I have made. | A Golden Hour  Things I have made. | A Golden Hour

Of course it's not completely perfect - far from it, in fact. The DK yarn makes it a bit too bulky and slightly stiff; I bought the wool online and so I didn't realise two of the yarns I picked for the accent colours were almost identical, but as you can imagine my yarn budget is not unlimited so I had to roll with it. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I made tons of mistakes along the way... but it's so cosy and I made it. I absolutely love the fact that I was able to control everything about it, and most of all I love that it will make me think about all the hours spent making it every time I'll wear it. 

 Things I have made. | A Golden Hour

The other project definitely wasn't as time-consuming as the shawl; I'm pretty sure it didn't take more than an hour to make. I was inspired by this Flea and Bear post to make my own Autumn wreath, so a couple of weeks ago I used my very precious lunch break to go foraging around my neighbourhood. It didn't take long to find myself completely immersed in the moment, observing and not just looking, while I was trying to find the prettiest branches and leaves for my wreath. I shortly realised how little I know about even the most common plants and I definitely want to fix that in the future. I am already planning to do a Winter wreath... maybe with pinecones and dried orange slices. 

Have you made anything this month? Are you planning to do any Christmas DIYs? :)

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Things I'd like to do.

 A golden hour | Things I'd like to do

- Start some kind of daily embroidery project in 2017. I've been following Blue Peninsula's Stitch Journal on Instagram for months and lately I have stumbled upon Rachel Piso's tapestree project. Maybe a daily thing would be a bit too demanding, though. I'll think about it.

- Buy beautiful books. Books that are not only interesting but beautiful to look at, too. Right now on my wishlist there are A Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart (crafts, seasonal recipes, slow living... it has my name written all over it) and I doni di Irene. Irene owns a dreamy B&B near Florence, which is at the top of my travel wishlist, and recently published a beautiful recipe book. Her instagram is one of my absolute favourites.

- Make a quilt. I go through phases with Pinterest - right now I'm in a 'pin all the things' phase. My quilting board is bursting with beautiful patterns and palette ideas, but I have always been a bit scared of actually trying! Maybe it's because quilting almost seems like a science to me. Also, I don't have a sewing machine so I would be sewing everything by hand. I really want to make it happen though - I have some pretty fabrics in my stash that are desperate to be used!

- Give sustainable Christmas gifts. I really would prefer not to fill the Earth with rubbish this year. My friends and family already have everything. I was thinking of making a donation in their name to charity, but what if they don't understand? What if they feel offended that they bought me a 'physical' gift and I didn't? Then I thought I could give food as a gift, maybe some nice homemade jam or sweets. But I'm still dubious - for some reason I feel like 'perishable' gifts are considered less important.  I don't know. Another thing to think about.

- Find sewing patterns that are easy but don't make me look like a sack of potatoes. I've been stalking the #bpsewvember hashtag on Instagram all month to no avail! I just can't pull off the unstructured trend, my dresses need to have some shape to them. Have you got any tips for me?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Gratitude.

Today I want to share with you a few moments from last week where I felt truly grateful. Like, full to the brim with gratitude. Actually about to explode from gratitude. I'm sure you get what I mean!

On Thursday I woke up at 6.30 and like millions of other people I felt like the Earth had fallen apart. I felt my heart sink deep and my throat close up. After incredulously scrolling down Twitter for a while, trying to absorb everything and obviously not being able to go back to sleep, I rolled out of bed and opened the blinds. After three days of almost non-stop thunderstorms, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining. And I instantly started sobbing. The Earth always knows how to console us.

 Gratitude. | A golden hour

Fast forward a couple of days; I'd been experiencing some sharp pain in my ovaries all day, but the episodes were very short and far between (TMI? I don't care).  I've been having very painful ovulation at least once a year for the past three years. It's really, really bad. Go to the ER by ambulance bad. IV painkillers won't work bad. Incidentally last year's episode and the year before both happened around the beginning of November... I'm not superstitious, but when I started having these mild pains I began to think the worst things. I went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night with very distinct, sharp pangs. I thought 'This is it. The next three days are going to be a nightmare. The painkillers won't work and I'll have to go to the ER again'. When I woke up the next day feeling fresh as a rose and with zero pain anywhere I just couldn't believe it.  

  Gratitude. | A golden hour

I felt SO HAPPY and genuinely grateful for my health that I jumped out of bed at 7.30 with a huge smile on my face, and decided to go on a walk around a very pretty neighbourhood that's near to my house. I knew that in the afternoon I would have to leave the city to go back home, so I thought that would be the perfect way to say goodbye to the city. Especially considering I basically won't see it again for the next 6 months, as I'm leaving for my Erasmus in January! The inhabitants of the beautiful villas were still asleep on that crisp Saturday morning, so I felt like I had the whole area to myself. Despite having lived three whole years in Rome, I had never explored this part of the city that is so embarrassingly close to my house. I don't have a very good relationship with Rome and I am extremely excited to go live in another country for five months, but while I walked through these beautiful streets I was a bit sad to only have discovered them now.

  Gratitude. | A golden hour
  Gratitude. | A golden hour   Gratitude. | A golden hour
  Gratitude. | A golden hour

But the thing I am most grateful for is the overwhelming feeling of love and kindness and care all around me on the days following the elections. It's really true that every action has an opposite reaction, and it's heartwarming how people all around the world reacted to the hate that seems to have been at the root of the result of the election. There was an abundance of words of hope and solidarity everywhere. I have never seen so much beautiful poetry going around on social media as on Thursday morning! (Especially this one by Wendell Berry). How beautiful is that? Poetry against hate. We should do that more often, not just when catastrophes happen! I feel like people feel a bit more determined to fight for our future now. I surely do.

What are you grateful for right now?

Monday, 7 November 2016

This afternoon.

 This afternoon | A golden hour 


I couldn't focus anymore on what I was studying and was starting to feel a bit hopeless, 
so I closed the textbook and ran a bath.

I lit up a candle and made a playlist while the tub filled up.

and then Nude by Radiohead (no playlist is complete without a sad song.).

I danced the blues out.

My hair is soft and it smells of honey.

I take the dinner out of the oven and for once having to eat it alone doesn't weigh on me so much. 
I have a slice of the apple and raisin cake I made this afternoon. 

It's all good.

(I had another post planned which I've been writing for days, a minute here and a minute there, slowly adding word after word; then I sat down and wrote this thing in five minutes. I love when things like these happen) 

Monday, 31 October 2016

Notes from the hornbeam: October.

 Notes from the Hornbeam: October. |  A Golden Hour  
The tall hornbeam outside my bedroom window has always been one of my favourite subjects to photograph. On my computer's hard drive there are countless photos of this tree that I have taken over the years - at every time of the day, in every season. This will be the first post of a series I have called Notes from the hornbeam: the idea is to share a photo of the tree every month, accompanied by some thoughts about the month past.

October was extremely kind to me. It started off on a high note with a trip to London, which is my favourite city. I was talking with one of my best friends last night and she told me that when she visited New York she felt as safe as in the womb there, she felt like everything was in the right place; London has the same effect on me. I went with my brother, who is the perfect travel mate. We spent an amazing couple of days there and just thinking about it makes me so nostalgic. I discovered new favourite places, visited some old ones, ate great food and laughed a lot. We even met one of our idols! Incredible. How lucky were we?

I then spent about ten days in Rome, where I study (wow, I just realized I spent more time at home than in Rome this month.). Life there always goes by at a faster pace, between lectures, making sure there's food in the fridge and my room is tidy... and trying to fit some studying in there as well! The days I spend there are not my favourite to be completely honest - I always end up feeling a bit alone, although I have made a lot of progress in the past three years. My house mates and I often have very different schedules and even though I don't mind being by myself, sometimes it does weigh on me.

Thankfully those ten days went by fast and I came back home a few days before my dad's birthday. Our house is in a very quiet neighbourhood near the countryside and being so near to nature -unlike in Rome- feels so beneficial to my mood. I'm much more relaxed and serene when the only noise I can hear from my room is birdsong! On the 26th we finally saw Doctor Strange at the cinema (if you follow me on other social media you will know that I am a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan!) and it was AMAZING. I have been waiting to see it for over a year and finally being able to watch it was so exciting. We may be planning to go see it again in the next couple of days... ;)

As I said in my previous post, I have been pushing myself to enjoy Autumn a bit more. The weather has been great this month, and that has definitely helped: rainy days often make me a bit sad, so I'm glad we have had just a few of those. The next month won't be as exciting as the one that has just passed as I will have to spend a lot of time on my books, but nevertheless - I am ready for you, November.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunday.

 photo DSC_0146_zpsnwy2kdjm.jpg

Up until recently I used to dread Autumn. In my mind it was always connected it with the start of the school year, the cold weather coming and the trees taking their leafy clothes off. I have always been a Spring girl - partly because my birthday is in March, I'll admit it: it's the season that makes my heart feel about to burst with happiness. Autumn, on the other hand, not so much. I cannot help but feel sad when it starts to get dark at 5 in the afternoon! For the last couple of years, however, I have been trying my best to embrace this season; I've been trying not to fight it so much. To surrender to the shorter days and the chilly air, and the rain too! *gasps*

 photo DSC_0136_zpstdzuboo2.jpg

Sunny days make it very easy to enjoy the autumnal season. Today we visited my grandma, who lives in the countryside; near the mountains, actually. We pay her a visit every Sunday and when I was little we used to spend the entirety of the Summer holidays there, and got extremely bored by the time August rolled around, so going there always felt a bit of a chore. I was so silly when I was a teen, always complaining about the lack of internet connection! I'd like to punch my teen self sometimes. Now that I'm a little older, I study in a big polluted city with very little green areas, I very much enjoy the limited time I get to spend in my grandma's village.

 photo DSC_0142_zpsxq6ozurg.jpg

While I was taking these photos I was thinking about how photography is the ultimate way to practice mindfulness. If you want to take good photos you really have to open your eyes. It's like being in a state of constant alertness, of amplified consciousness. You have to be completely in the moment or you'll miss a great shot opportunity.

 photo DSC_0128_zpshpf23f8p.jpg

The light outside was very white and soft.

 photo DSC_0147_zps35gdzvgy.jpg

After frolicking in the field for a while, my brother and I went back to the house, where I devoured this pasta with mushrooms foraged in the mountains by my uncle, seasoned with oil made with olives from our trees.

 photo DSC_0151_zpsshtopylp.jpg

When my brother and I were little we used to spend the whole Sunday at grandma's, from morning to evening, but now that we both have to study even on weekends we usually go back home after lunch. On the way home we saw this very yellow tree.

We ended the day by roasting the first chestnuts of the season on the fire.

How did you spend your Sunday?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

An introduction.

Untitled

It's been a couple of years since I last had a proper blog. I had one ever since I was 11, and now I'm 22. And even before that, I have kept a journal ever since I knew how to hold a pen; I think I have always felt the need to write my thoughts down somewhere. To keep track of them, of course, and to understand them better. I kept a beauty blog for a couple of years, which I stopped posting on in 2015. I didn't feel like I had anything interesting to add to the table. I still don't, to be honest.

I feel like my outlook on life has really changed in the past year, as I have been trying to live more mindfully. It all began when I read an article about a woman who tried not to buy anything new for a year. I started reading and thinking about conscious consumerism, zero waste living, ethical fashion and slow living in general, and that really opened my eyes. I feel like nowadays we all tend to live life absent-mindedly and I have been trying my best to correct that.

So I want this place to be somewhere where I can keep track of the beautiful things that happen in the day-to-day life, the things you have to take time to notice or they'll just slip away. The morning light, the feeling of the first sip of hot tea in the morning, the scent of Spring in the air.

This is what I have been thinking lately: I don't want to let things just pass me by. This is my one life and I want to live every minute of it at the fullest.

More practically, I want to have somewhere to practice my writing and photography skills. I used to write lots and photograph lots in my high school years, before university got in the way, and I would like to change that. My only worry, if you can call it that, is that I don't live what can be considered a very exciting life; I'm a full-time student and sometimes I don't leave the house for days. I don't go to pretty coffee shops and drink lattes every day, and my house is not very 'instagrammable'. This is what makes me think that I don't have anything interesting to say or show in pictures - isn't that what people are interested in right now? I hope not.

Anyways, I feel inspired and have felt for a while. So I'm going with my feeling and we'll see what happens.

PS: I took that photo back in 2011! I remember that moment so vividly. It was the afternoon my dad began to teach me how to drive. I used to take pretty good photos back then and uploaded them on my Flickr account (the Instagram of the past, haha)