Last Friday morning I awoke with a mission. To paint a shelf and spruce up my office. The sprucing up of my office involved rearranging some books and tackling a dress form I had leaning against a wall because it was somehow broken in our move.

It wasn’t bothering me as you really couldn’t tell it was “leaning” because the skirt of the Book Fairy costume I had on it kept it up right. However it was taking up serious real estate and I knew I either had to fix it. Give it away, or find some new purpose for it. I chose the latter and I got to recycle my costume as well.

Book Fairy Costume One handmade Book Fairy costume and one beat up dress form…

532791_10151416762412797_1295499988_n Combined to become this lovely decorative addition that I love so much more.

DIY Decoupage Dress Form_

It was super easy to do.

Here’s how you can create your own DIY Decoupage Dress Form.

If you have a beat up dress form like I did, simply remove the soft fabric cover and foam. Scrape away as much if not all of the foam you can. I used a sharp knife for the areas that were glued on and wouldn’t just pull away. Once you’ve cleared away as much as the foam as possible you’re ready to begin decoupaging.

I didn’t have enough Modpodge left to complete this project, and waiting the 10-12 days for Amazon to deliver it to me just wasn’t an option. So I turned to Pinterest and discovered a ton of recipes for Modpodge, the one I used was so simple.  I can’t believe I’d not made some sooner.  I found the recipe on this delightful blog called Lulatastic.

To make your own decoupage glue you’ll need:

PVA Glue AKA Elmers Glue and water. That’s it. Nothing else.

I used 1 cup of Elmer’s Glue All and 1/3 cup of water. Mix them together in a jar via a vigorous shaking and voila! You’ve got your very own Modpodge glue to decoupage to your heart’s content! This formula produces a matte decoupage which is just how I prefer it.

Once you’ve got your glue you’re ready to begin to decoupage your dress form.

In addtion to the glue, you’ll need paper or fabric of your choosing to decoupage with, a brush and something to “smush” out the bubbles.

When decoupaging I prefer to use a sponge-brush but you can use whatever sort of brush you like and something to flatten out the air-bubbles. On this particular occasion I used my fingers but a silicone spatula works great too. If you don’t mind glue all over your fingers do it my way. If you’d rather not be taken back to elementary school, use gloves.

To decoupage:

Grab your paper dab the back with glue. Brush some glue onto your dress form, place the paper glue side down and brush the air bubbles away, any that don’t come out smooth with your fingers or what-ever device you choose. Continue in this manner until you’ve completed your project. Overlapping as you go.

Don’t have a dress form? You can make your own. Grab and friend and some duct tape and head over to this page for the instructions on how to make your own DIY Dress Form.

 

Often times here in Italy when you order a caffè you get a lovely shot of espresso. I usually order a caffè doppio (double shot) and always enjoy the piece of dark chocolate that is sometimes accompanied with the coffee. This recipe combines the two to create a brownie any dark chocolate lover would enjoy.

Chocolate Espresso Brownies Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons brewed espresso or extra-strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Espresso Brownies-3

Directions:

Heat oven to 350° F.

Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between the pieces to help them stick and leaving an overhang on all sides. Butter the top of the parchment.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.

Combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. Let cool slightly.

Whisk in the sugars, eggs, espresso, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.

Let cool completely in the pan.

Holding the paper overhang, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares. 

Recipe via Real Simple Magazine, September 2014

Living in Italy certainly has it’s perks… A short train ride to Venice, is unquestionably one. Last week, while meandering over canals and waxing poetic, I remembered this book shop I’d read about when I knew I’d be moving to Italy. Prior to researching the area we were to live in, or anything of significant importance, I Googled, “bookstores in Italy” or something equivalent because visiting every single “must see” bookstore or library in Europe is on my bucket list. Yes friends, I know where my priorities are.

On previous excursions to Venice my husband and I had no plan, except to “get lost”. In the excitement of being in Venice I forgot about this shop. I don’t know if it was the just bloomed wisteria which dappled balconies, the murky turquoise water sparkling in the afternoon sun, the memory of a novel that took me to Venice long before I set foot on it’s cobbled streets; which contributed to my remembering. Or my desire to walk into a bookshop and find a treasure… Preferably in English, because despite my six year study of the Italian language, when I read in Italian, it is slow going.

A not-so-quick Google + map search provided me the address to la “Libreria Acqua Alta”  which means “Library of High Water”, and my husband a mission: to get me to this book shop. A few hours and ninety percent of my iPhone’s battery life later, I was there.

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book ShopThe Liberia Aqua Alta, calls itself the “most beautiful bookshop in the world”. I wouldn’t vote it “most beautiful”, but it is a welcoming, eccentric, dusty store which makes it’s guests feel as though they’ve stumbled into a place that could only be found in a story.

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-8 Upon entering, visitors are cocooned in an cacophony of books, welcomed by feline guards who are remarkably tame and take no notice of all the store’s patrons. You will find a motley crew of genres ranging from new publications to old second hand books. I like to imagine how the books came to be at La Libreria “Acqua Alta” were they left behind by tourists in gondolas, found underneath hotel room beds, or left by distracted café goers? Oh the stories they could tell…

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-2You will find books in many languages, mostly in Italian of course, but don’t let that stop you. A book from this shop is a perfect memento of your visit to Venice. Pick a book that speaks to you and take it home as a special treasure. I discovered two books. The first, was The Allegory of Love by C.S. Lewis. It is a yellowed, 1958 copy, with notes by a former owner who was called Brigitte Rü-something. I can’t really read her handwriting, but she wrote Friuli, 1961 on the inside title page. The second treasure I took home was Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady, published by Penguin in 1074. It too is delightfully yellowed, but in otherwise excellent condition. I couldn’t help but wonder where these books have been, or how long they sat piled on the shelf waiting for me to find it.

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-7There are books on Venice, stacked high front and center in a gondola that takes up much of the floor in the center of the shop Yes. You read and see correct. Who needs a shelf when you can store your books in waterproof bins like a bathtub or gondola?

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-5On each side of the gondola that monopolizes much of the main room’s floor space, are narrow aisles. You’ll have to squeeze by other bibliophiles in rapture to get to the back of the store where you’ll discover a staircase made of old encyclopedias.

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-3You know the ones rendered useless by the Internet… They’ve been given a new purpose. I can think of far worse walls, and much sadder ends to a book’s life than that of delighting people from all over the world. It is exciting climbing the steps, wondering what you’ll discover…

Which as it turns out is just a canal. But it is a canal in Venice.

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-6Magic.

Libreria Acqua Alta Venice Book Shop-9If bookshops and libraries are on your “must see” list when traveling, you can find La Libreria “Acqua Alta” on Calle Longa S.M. Formosa 5176, Castello 30122.

This week on more than one occasion I was given wonderful compliments regarding my positive attitude. Having people tell you they appreciate your positivity, is awesome! It makes me feel like I’m doing life right. 

Let’s face it, life his hard, complicated, and messy and being your own personal sun, isn’t always the easiest thing to do; even for someone such as myself, who has a natural inclination to beliving her glass is always half-full. Do I get sad? Yes of course. I’ve even suffered from depression, but knowing this about myself is another reason why each day I must make a choice… I choose to be positive.

I do believe that having a positive outlook is a choice we all can make. I choose to be positive on purpose, because the alternative is unacceptable to me. Though my life is far from perfect, I am blessed. We, each of us has a light in us, that was meant to shine, so if I must be my own personal sun, then I’ll be the brightest star in the sky. 

 

I wanted to hate this book. I certainly disliked the characters, but in their absolute dysfunction, I found I had to keep reading. I guess I became the “rubbernecker” fascinated, even rooting for a good outcome for the main character Rachel, who all at once I disliked, felt sorry for, and wanted good things to happen to. She is a victim of circumstance, of life, and her own poor decisions. I wanted her to find her own redemption, and in the end, I think she did.

The story weaves itself in and out of three essential characters, where the reader gets glimpses into the days, and nights of what you think are random events. You’re taken on a train ride, each chapter like a stop on the line. The author takes its reader for a ride, stoping in the present and in  the past. It is this mixed up chronology that in the end, gets you to your destination in a way you wouldn’t have expected.

I don’t usually lean toward this genre and often choose to read books like these because I want to study how they were written, for plot purposes, for character studies and so forth.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel
by Paula Hawkins is very much in the wheelhouse of a Gillian Flynn where the story is character driven and often the outcome is tragic and morose.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins - Book Review

Aria - Nicole Olea

 

I have an aria

made up of words

like cells replicating within me.

My hands at the ready,

fingers tapping against the keys,

searching for the string

of perfect words, nouns, phrases,

to make up a sentence

that says it all.

My own perfect concerto

flat

on to a blank page.

 

I spent the better part of my day at my local Italian hospital waiting for and receiving an iron infusion (I’m very anemic). My husband was with me and we were sitting in the waiting room surrounded by the iconography of my religion when he said something that lit a spark in me that is burning like a bonfire in my brain.

I don’t know if it was divine intervention or the fact, that for the first time in a long time I, at present have adequate levels of iron in my system. (This was my third treatment).

10965736_10152618642482797_468398560_n

A photo’s worth a thousand words huh..? Despite what this photo looks like, my Beloved, isn’t praying he’d actually dozed off. That’s not blood, but iron in the IV. Promise.

 

 

I like to think it was a little bit of both.

For the first time in a long time I feel like I can actually think with some clarity with regards to telling a story, even if my brain is ablaze.

I have a lot of work to do and I’m thrilled.

I’m about to go all Big Bad Wolf, and huff and puff all over this story, until it’s a wild fire of words. I’ll worry about water hoses some other time…maybe never.