Good Reads & the Reigning Monarchy

Italian grandmothers are the reigning monarchy here. Do you want to know where to buy quality food? Watch the old ladies and learn where they shop.

They are all short and dressed in long coats. They talk to me at the bus stops about my children, but I don’t know what they are saying.

“Non capisco l’italiano.” I don’t understand Italian, I say. No matter, they keep talking to me in Italian anyway, probably about how beautiful my children are and why did I take them out in this weather?

My new habit is to listen to an Italian lesson every night after the children are in bed while I wash the dishes.“Buon giorno!” I practice over and over, trying to roll the r’s. I just can’t do all the swooping hand gestures when I’m elbow deep in soapy water.

Yesterday I took the kids to a playgroup and introduced myself to another expat mom.

“Have we met before?” she asked.

“I don’t think so, I’ve just been here a week.”

“Do you write online? I read your blog!” she said.

Isn’t that wild?


Suggested reading from around the internet for your weekend (and boy, have I been holding out on you, I have many good bookmarks):

Fighting the Tyranny of the Urgent at Home – Simple Mom

Enjoy Things As They Are – Remodeling This Life

Sometimes “Lame” Is Better Than “Best” – Inspired to Action

You Don’t Need an Extra Hour a Day – Simplify 101

I’m honored to be a regular writer at Alpha Mom, and I’ve shared these articles at Alpha Mom this month:

Becoming a Gluten-Free Family

Making Time for Marriage Too

Build a Felt Cupcake (this little craft has garnered significant play time)

What are you up to this weekend?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. It’s a small, small world. :-) Our week-end plans in a nutshell: Taxes.
    Carrie´s last post…You CaptureWarmth

  2. Thanks for the tip about the Italian grandmothers! This weekend we’re having friends over for sushi (my hubby makes killer sushi), and sorting, sorting, sorting in preparation for our move this summer. Whee!
    Damsel´s last post…Roasted Asparagus

  3. Italian is my favorite language. I love the way it sounds and the passion all Italian people seem to have. I speak Spanish (not that well, but I do ok) so I know some Italian as well. I wish I learned Italian though, even though there are many more people who speak Spanish. Have fun learning! If you really want to learn the language I recommend you completely indulge yourself in the language, which shouldn’t be that hard since you are already in Italy anyway ;).
    Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady´s last post…Declutter Challenge 3 – How to deal with the sentimental stuff

  4. I think the grandma thing is universal. In China, I would have elderly women chatter to me for hours on the bus, and I finally learned to give in and just pretend like I understood everything. I learned later it was because all the American T.V. shows are dubbed in Mandarin, and so many people truly thought the whole world spoke Chinese.

  5. My parents emigrated to Canada from the UK in the 50s to a town that was 75% Italian and despite having a population of only 10,000 had its own Italian consulate. The Italian women spoke only Italian and Mum only English but they use to have coffee together two or three times a week. They shared a common bond of being in strange land and “abandoned” all day while their husbands were at work. Don’t worry about the words they are saying – watch their body language. You’ll know then if they think you are a bad mother.

  6. LOL We lived in Germany for 3 years when my oldest son was small. I figured out the best thing to do is just smile and nod a lot. ;-) I did learn quite a bit of German this way. Have fun!

  7. You are so generous. Thank you for the link love, my friend.
    Kat´s last post…Hello Mornings! Winter ’11 Week 4

  8. I do believe that my new habit will be to sigh every time I read your blog and covet all your pictures and the fact that you get to see the space outside the camera as well.

    This weekend is when my husband and I are celebrating Valentine’s Day. We wanted a whole day instead of a few rushed hours after work on Monday. We’re going to a concert of my favorite! composer (Eric Whitacre) and the rest is a surprise, though apparently I have to change in the middle of the day: I need to dress for adventure and then fine dining. ;)
    Jennie´s last post…Overcoming Imaginary Fears

  9. What a small world!

    This weekend I’m cleaning. How much fun does that sound like? But today is hubby’s birthday and he’s picking me up after work to go to downtown Seattle for dinner. There’s not a whole lot of dining options in Renton, so we’re excited to EAT! I’ve only gained 2 lbs 18 weeks in my pregnancy which I interpret as “eat as much lobster as you want. And ice cream.” Now THAT sounds like fun!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Nearly 18 weeks

  10. Yes, it is a small world! However, I believe it becomes even smaller when we attract those with similar interests into our lives -thus, your meeting a reader all the way in Italy. I am excited to keep reading about your move overseas. My husband and I have been discussing ways to move overseas for a while and we were in Italy last year. So, I find it no coincidence that I am reading your blogs and that these posts came at a perfect time (when I was ready to hear it). Congratulations and thanks for the inspiration.

  11. I remember how the Italian grandmothers talked to me or scolded me for having my god daughter out in the hot sun in Rome in July. I was only there for a month but it reminded so much of the Russian grandmothers we interacted with in Krasnodar, Russia. Grandmothers are the reigning monarchy there as well!
    Alida´s last post…You know youre in Belize when

  12. My husband teaches Latin so he is pretty good in Italian as well. I’m not… We have a lot of Italian visitors and I have realized that I understand almost everything through body language and knowing a lot of French. Just listen a lot, with ears and eyes, and you’ll learn it so quick! Have a wonderful time in one of my favourite towns :)

  13. It is really funny you found a reader in Florence! Such a small world! I found an old friend on another blog by seeing her in a group picture. Had no idea she blogged too!
    I love how you talkabout italian grandmothers! My grandmother was half italian even though she was raised here!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…The world really is at our fingertips

  14. That is too funny! I love the photos and can’t wait to see more.
    Rana´s last post…Have you seen this

  15. Had a BIG laugh… Italian grandmothers are the reigning monarchy here too!

    Heather in New Jersey :)

  16. Oh lovely lovely lovely!!! I so love having a smallnotebook post in my newsreader!!! And Italy photo’s too!!! I am teaching my one son some Italian phrases… there is a little Italian granny at church, long coat even in the stifling African heat, and he likes to impress her with a new phrase each week… We have a stack of library books planned for the weekend… everyone reads while I do a major declutter and overhaul… but gotta finish in a day because guests are coming for dinner…. I like a project with a deadline!!!

  17. p.s. Be careful to make sure you endorse your train tickets. We went back and forth between Italy and Slovenia (in Slovenia you don’t always endorse your tickets – there isn’t even a machine for it). So, on our way back to Italy, an Italian officer asked for our tickets, then, took my husband to the back of the train booth. Next thing I know, my husband is taken off the train. I was so scared because neither of us spoke Italian and so, I was worried that I was going to be abandoned in some foreign country. Turns out, the officer was going to fine us 60 eu. because we didn’t endorse our tickets. So, he let my husband exit the train on the next exit to endorse. That was a SCARY MOMENT!

  18. On our agenda for the weekend: painting trim! It is in the 70’s here, so we can paint trim with the windows and doors open.

    That is crazy about running into someone in Italy who reads your blog! Small world.
    Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…I wish I could take credit for this

  19. What a small world! I love that!!

    One of my best friends is Italian (grew up there until she was 14 and goes back every summer for weeks on end). Between you and her, I am officially smitten and resolved to visit someday. It sounds lovely.

    Thank you for the link love, friend.

    My weekend plans? read books, enjoy the sunshine, go to the beach.

  20. no way. you met a reader?? in italy??? that is incredible!! :) glad you’re enjoying your time there and settling in :)
    ann @ my life as prose.´s last post…parenthesis


    I know what we are doing this weekend – FELT CUPCAKE! How precious is that?! Thanks for the fantastic reads.

    Baci e abbracci!
    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…Parenting Your Polar Opposite

  22. “Old ladies?” I like how Danielle phrased it as “elderly women.” Much more classy. We’re all gonna be there someday hopefully. Love your blog, though, and am enjoying reading about your adventure.

  23. Lovely photos…and I am enjoying your first days of adventure… many thanks for sharing the journey. :)
    Thanks for the links too…
    angelvalerie´s last post…living deliberately…

  24. Lily (from Italy) says:

    Be careful, old ladies shop only within walking distance and usually don’t drive, so they only go to small shops where they spend a lot – instead of cheaper supermarkets. Sorry for being over-practical and not very sentimental. :P

    Hai già mangiato una bella fiorentina? Do it!! Hehe.

  25. What a great adventure you are on!! Bellisimo! (not sure I spelled that right…lol!)

  26. That is so neat that you are Firenze :-) Italy is my home. I grew up there, my dad’s Italian and both my parents and younger brother still live there (up north though, nelle valli :)
    I have an aunt and uncle living in Florence, they teach for a university’s abroad program that hosts its international students in a villa in Scandicci. I love it there. Mi manca tantissimo infatti!
    You are right, you can learn a lot about good food from Italians, not necessarily fat free though! And older nonne italiane will always keep talking no matter you speak the language or not! and maybe squeezing the little ones cheeks saying “Ma che belli, che bravi bambini che ha signora!” (doesn’t matter if they are 12 years old as I recall!). That is how my sweet nonna was as well as my zie :)
    Miriam´s last post…Planning my Home Planning Journal

  27. So I just discovered your blog, and you have inspired me so much! I read through some of your No Spend Month articles, your article about paying off all your debt, and finally about your short-term move to Italy. I’m 23 and just got married in August. I’m the one that brought most of the debt into the marriage. We’ve been really struggling to learn how to avoid spending money and how to budget. We eat very differently, we haven’t found much common ground on what consists of a need vs a want, I tithe, he doesn’t… Well the biggest battle right now is that we have been back and forth about renting vs. buying a house. I’m not ready to be in even deeper debt or to give up my mobility/flexibility, and he insists that renting = throwing money away. I’ve always wanted to get up and live somewhere totally different for even a few months, and now that I’ve read your blog and see that you guys are managing it with kids, I feel so much less… hopeless! I thought I was going to be stuck in a house on an extreme budget eating the same left overs for 4 meals in a row (he doesn’t like leftovers and I won’t toss ‘em) for the rest of my life. I didn’t think it would ever be possible to go do something like your Italy trip some day. But now I have a glimmer of hope! There IS freedom in getting rid of debt and now I feel more motivated to save, budget, and get rid of that bondage thanks to your inspiring blog!

  28. Thanks for the great felt cupcake tutorial! We made these as favours for my four-year-old’s birthday party and they were a hit!
    Holly´s last post…Felt cupcakes as favours

  29. I was on alphamom and saw the cupcake craft, but I could not figure out how to leave a comment there. Wanted to let you know that I made them for my kids to play with and that I posted on my blog. They turned out really nice and my daughter was more than happy to play. Thank you!