Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Napoli: Messy, Chaotic, but so Beautiful!

During our trip to Europe, we had the chance to visit Napoli: a real messy, exhilarating, but beautiful city!

Napoli is the third largest city of Italy and also one of the poorest places in Europe. It is not a very clean city, and possibly not very safe for tourists. Regardless of these issues, I place Napoli at the top of my list of all the European cities that we visited during our European family adventure. 

I am not certain where to start when describing Napoli because there is so much to say about it. If you are interested in history, the center of the city of Napoli is a UNESCO World Heritage site with numerous churches, ancient monuments, and historical places to visit. One other thing, Napoli has a whole city underground with incredible ancient Greek aqueducts and Christian catacombs. 

There is no question that the best Italian pizza comes from Napoli. This explains why Margherita and Marinara Pizzas were just amazing in Napoli. I should say that this is also true for gluten-free pizzas. My stepson has celiac disease, so we often ate in pizzerias that offered both gluten and gluten-free pizzas. According to my stepson, the gluten-free pizzas in Napoli were outstanding, simply delicious.
Napoli is also a city that never goes sleep. When walking on the streets of Napoli, I had the impression that I was part of one of those old Italian movies where chaos dominates each one of the scenes. The roads were filled with motorcycles or scooters carrying 2-3 people....even worse, most people were not wearing helmets!! You don't really see this in Canada...chaotic, unsafe, crazy!

Yes, traffic is completely crazy in Napoli. I am not certain why the have traffic lights since basically everybody appears to ignore them. You really have to be awake when crossing the streets in Napoli.  In Napoli, you need to be completely we often say, to be in the moment! Interestingly, however, we never saw any accident during the time that we stayed in Napoli. Perhaps, we were lucky...or perhaps, it is possible that a certain order can come out of the chaos that characterizes Napoli?

It is true that Napoli is loud, messy and chaotic...but, it is also a city that has a lot to offer for everybody. Whether you like history, culture, arts or good food, you would find something to please you in Napoli. You just have to be open-minded and remember that each place is different. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mercy Watson Series - A Porcine Wonder

Recently, my son and I read five of the six books (we are hoping to read "Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise " soon) in the Mercy Watson Series. The author of this series is Kate DiCamillo. She is a very talented and versatile author who wrote books such as "The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread " and "Because of Winn-Dixie ".

My son and I absolutely loved the Mercy Watson Series. We are both in complete love with Mercy, and we are certain that if you would also be in love with Mercy if you read one of her adventures too.  I sincerely hope that the author will consider to add more books to this series in the future. The stories are all hilarious. The books are organized in chapters with plenty of colourful and engaging illustrations.

From Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

The stories of this series are set on Deckawoo Drive where Mr. and Mrs. Watson live. They are the loving, albeit misguided owners of Mercy, their adorable pet pig. Since they don't have children, Mr. and Mrs. Watson lavish great attention and care on Mercy as if she were human; after all, she is a "porcine wonder"! 

Other important characters in the books are the two Lincoln sisters, Eugenia and Baby, as well as the various emergency personnel who are usually involved in rescuing Mercy from her adventures. This includes Police Officer Tomilello and two clumsy Firemen, Ned and Lorenzo. Each character plays a different role in each story’s plot, but are all consistently maladroit, naive and extremely funny. 

Mr. and Mrs. Watson like to believe that Mercy is a porcine wonder, but, it's this true?  Of course, she is not a porcine wonder...she is just a pig! Mercy doesn't talk...all that Mercy can say is "oink"! She is just a simple creature, a pet, who only thinks about having fun and eating "hot buttered toasts". 

My son and I have enjoyed and laughed a lot with each one of Mercy Watson Adventures's adventures. The stories evoke innocence, but also keep the reader entertained. All the books end with Mercy and all the human characters sitting down to eat "hot buttered toasts" prepared by Mrs. Watson. 

I very highly recommend this book series for young readers, but also for parents who read books to young children.

    Friday, July 10, 2015

    Digital Cameras Encourage Children's Creativity

    This is Elijah taking a cartoon picture of himself.

    One of the things that I did for our European trip was to purchase a small digital camera for my 5 1/2 year old son, Elijah. Although you may think that a child of that age would just point and click away when taking pictures, you may be surprised to see how creative children can be when given access to a digital camera. 

    Elijah's picture of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

    I bought a small, inexpensive and easy to use digital camera that I found at a local store. The camera was on clearance, so I did not pay much for it. It was a Samsung camera, so not really a bad quality camera even though I paid only $50 for it.

    The camera was an excellent investment. Elijah is in love with the camera. In Europe, he took many pictures and also recorded several short videos. He took some good, and many not so good pictures. What I found particularly interesting was his creativity when taking many of the pictures. I never realized that photography could really encourage my son's artistic side at his young age. But, it did. 

    In addition of taking pictures of people and places using the usual options, Elijah also decided to take "artistic pictures" using other options available in the camera. The result was fabulous with many of the pictures that he took being very creative, imaginative and cool. 

    In particular, I love the pictures that he took with the "cartoon" option of the camera.  Elijah is extremely proud of his work...and me too!
    A photo of the family at a Cafe in Madrid, Spain - taken by Elijah Opps

    Finding Time for Blogging

    I can't find time do all that I want, including blogging!

    Many things have happened in my life since the last time that I wrote a post in my blog. For example, I turned 50 years old in March, we went to Europe (Italy, Spain and France) in May, I received a teaching award in April. School is over for our kids...Oh! did I say that I have just started a 6-month sabbatical leave?

    I don't know if it is just a question of procrastination, too much work / responsibilities or just a question of daily survival. Let's face it, there is always something to do related to work, family, the house, the dog or our cottage. We are always so tired and are completely overwhelmed by our responsibilities and our long "to-do list". There is generally no time for anything else or very little time for ourselves. Most people face this problem, and many are capable to find time to live a balanced life. Unfortunately, this is not my case.

    Honestly, some days I feel that all that we (my husband and I) do is to survive the daily demands that life imposes to our lives. Other days, I wonder if it is really life that is doing this to us, or if is it us imposing these daily demands on ourselves? Many days, we just don't care much because we are simply too tired to think about solutions.

    The issue is that I know that there is so much to learn and to do in life. Finding time to live life to the fullest, to try different things and to enjoy every second of the day is so difficult, but it's so essential. I need to work on this.