1. On books
Sometimes I think there is nothing better than actual, physical books but I struggle because I also am extremely fond of all things technology based, including electronic books You can’t beat the convenience of electronic books. I’ve been reading e-books since 2000, long before they came into vogue. I would read them on my personal handheld devices. My absolute favourite device back then was my Sony Clie which had a large colour flip/ swivel screen! When I replaced it with a new device, I couldn’t let it go and I still have it tucked away. I also have long enjoyed audio books, which give me an additional level of convenience by letting me “read” and do other things simultaneously! Its hard to weigh these benefits against the joy of having shelf upon shelf of wonderful physical books that can be picked up and flipped though – I love the look of books, the feel of them and even the smell of them!
The Old Library of Trinity College Dublin
What a marvel it was when we first looked into the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin. It is about 65 metres in length and filled with 200,000 of the Library’s most precious and oldest books. Now that is what I mean … the visual and tactile impact of physical books is just so hard to give up!
2. On animals
I was lucky to grow up in a family that happily included animals. I learned so much from the companionship and responsibility that pets bring with them. I love animals and try hard to protect and take care of them. Recently, Brian, my husband, and I were rescued by a sweet west highland terrier who we named Hamish. A wonderful organization called Westies in Need, which operates out of the Greater Toronto Area, helped rescue him from a puppy mill. Hamish arrived, from Ohio, in Brian’s hometown of Hamilton on Brian’s birthday … it was meant to be! It would be great if we all embraced our role as caretakers of this planet to ensure we are leaving a legacy of compassion and caring we can be proud of – if we all do a little bit, we can achieve great things.
Dogs, cats, roosters, and horses ...
These and so many more animals have been discovered on our travels ... Here, a dog is taking a break on a very, very long staircase in Alaska. Proof that its true – cats are curious! From Key West, we have just another rooster roaming around. Finally, we have Rosie, the beautiful horse that helped us escape the Irish rain.
3. On puzzling
Who doesn’t like to take advantage of every opportunity to exercise their brain’s “puzzling things out” capacity? I do enjoy indulging in every puzzling opportunity that I can find … from all sorts of actual puzzles, to word games, to who-done-its, to what can I cook with these three ingredients, to anything that makes me stop, wonder and think … I’m in!
The golden spiral and our galaxy
What bigger puzzle is there than that of the universe itself? There is an interesting fact about galaxies and the mathematical ratio known as the Golden Ratio. This ratio is often found in nature in such things as sea shells, flowers, ferns, elephant tusks, hurricanes and, yes, even galaxies! Spiral galaxies make up approximately 60% of galaxies in today's universe.
4. On immigration
I was born in Italy and moved to Canada with my parents when I was 7 months old. My parents worked hard all their life so that their children would have a bright future. Their courage and the opportunities they gave my sister and I by immigrating to Canada are deeply woven into my psyche … everything I am and everything I do is influenced by their love and selflessness.
My home town and surrounding farmland
This is the small town I was born in - located in Sicily, Italy. Most folks from my home town made a living by farming. Looks lovely doesn't it?
A closer look ...
This image shows the actual room I was born in; the photo was taken almost 26 years after the fact. That’s my mom and me. The next image shows the house I was born in. No one really lived in the house once my parents emigrated from Italy. Speaking of emigrating ... the last image shows the whole family shortly before we came to Canada!
5. On cooking
I have been cooking since I was a child and learned so much from my mom and family! Cooking is great fun and such a good way to focus my energies and let everything else go for a while. I consider it a brilliant challenge to scavenge through the pantry, fridge and freezer and put together ingredients to make a delicious meal! I must admit that my favourite kind of cooking does not really involve recipes so much as research – I am often picking and choosing ingredients from several different recipes to make my own creation! So, given my propensity for non-regimented cooking, there should be no surprises when I admit that I do not enjoy baking, which comes with far too many rules!
Cooking vs. Baking!
✓ On one hand, lovely ingredients to make a meal!
✗ And, on the other, dreaded ingredients and tools of baking. Nope! Uh uh. No way!
6. On collecting
I collect things … so many things! I started when I was a young adult and my collections have grown ever since. My biggest collection is boxes! From tiny boxes to big boxes. I try to find a box whenever I visit a new city – sometimes, I just can’t decide, so I wind up with more than one. Sometimes, a box will remind me of someone special in my life, so, it makes me happy to have the box with me because it brings back wonderful memories. Sometimes, let’s face it, I just really, really like a box and it becomes part of my collection. I even make my own boxes now and then. How many boxes, you ask … over 100, and counting!
The incognito box
This is when my husband should have realized that I just might have a problem. We were visiting San Francisco and I was looking for a box, of course. We walked by a store front window but at first glance I didn’t see a box so we continued to walk by. Then my husband said the magic words “I think there’s a box” and I almost dislocated his shoulder as I grabbed him, turning back around so I could see this alleged box!
My first box
This is the box that started it all … I’ve done my own analysis … I am sure that it is when I bought this antique mother-of-pearl and brass pillbox that the collecting bug took over. Actually, not only did my love of boxes start then, but, my love of antiques and roaming through antiques markets!
7. On learning English
English is my second language. As I mentioned, my parents immigrated to Canada when I was an infant. They worked hard when they got here and, although they both made an effort to learn English, Italian was the language they spoke fluently and consequently, was the language they spoke at home. So, I really didn’t learn to speak English until I started attending school. I struggled in the first several years and found comfort in children’s picture storybooks. We all have vivid recollections from our childhood of certain events. One of my most cherished recollections is the arrival of the package that contained three Dr. Seuss books – The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. How I loved those books, and many more that came after them!
My first story books!
These books look pretty new, right? There’s a reason for that. The books I read when I was a child were handed down to my sister – long story short, they needed to be replaced! By the way, the little girl is the culprit – that’s my sister. She looks like trouble, right?
8. On all things vintage
I love to surround myself with things from the past. My home is more than a century old, I have many pieces around the house that are vintage, I have antique jewelry and vintage accessories … and, I am working towards becoming vintage myself! It’s amazing to think about the history of all these things. Who walked about, loved, laughed and cried in this house before us? Or, who wore that unique dress or piece of jewelry and to what special occasion? It’s thrilling to think of who lived with these things before and who will enjoy them long after. I remember the first time I walked into a vintage clothing store … I was fifteen and my best friend and I were riding the subway in Toronto heading downtown from the west end, where we lived. We saw the most interesting looking woman, wearing such amazing clothes and accessories we decided why not follow her and see what kind of adventure we could have. So, we did … she took many twists and turns after we surfaced from the underground, and, we finally ended up in Yorkville in the coolest shop we had ever seen, full of vintage everything!
This is the lovely Tower Bridge in London, England. It was built in the Victorian Era. Coming from a nation that is only 152 years old, this bridge seems pretty old to me! To Londoners, who live in a place with a history that spans many, many centuries, this bridge probably seems fairly new. One of the oldest bridges in London was the original London Bridge. There have actually been several bridges named London Bridge enabling crossings over the River Thames in central London. The current structure was opened in 1973. It replaced a 19th-century stone-arched bridge, which in turn had replaced a 600-year-old stone-built medieval bridge. This, in turn, was preceded by a number of timber bridges, the first of which was built long ago by the Romans that founded the city. So what is antique, vintage or old? I think it’s all about perspective!
Portobello Road in London
By the way, I’m not the only one who likes all things vintage – this is Portobello Road in London. It’s the world’s largest antiques market with a mile of antiques arcades and stalls. When my husband and I visited London, and asked what direction to take once we got off the bus, we were told to just follow the crowd. And what a crowd there was!
9. On travelling
Travelling makes me happy. I’ve been to over 20 countries, many of them more than once. It is so thrilling to visit new places and experience life differently from what I know at home. It’s especially interesting to see how different cultures approach life and family. The shear variety of places really impressed itself upon my husband and I during our last trip when we visited several countries that border on the Baltic Sea, and realized just how very different each was from all the others!
This is my first passport – sort of! This is the passport that brought me to my home in Canada. I think I was an honorary passport holder in this one.
10. On creativity
Creativity runs in both my mom and dad’s family. No surprise that it made its way to me as well. I have always enjoyed writing, drawing, painting, crafting and other creative undertakings. And, combining all these things together to create assemblage art is particularly gratifying, especially when I am able to take things that are old and used and repurpose them into something vibrant and new! And, of course, writing and illustrating children’s books holds a very special place in my heart!
So, why do I love creating stories for young readers? I can’t think of anything more rewarding than helping children grow into thoughtful, compassionate, and caring adults. Doing this while putting a smile on their face makes it that much better. I believe that what children learn from the stories they read becomes part of the foundation of who they are and consequently, the books that I create will, in some small way, become a part of them.