Monday 25 June 2018

The Prayer Feed

There is a Christian app I have discovered a few months ago via Papemelroti. It is called One Touch - and that is exactly what it is. A one touch means of getting closer to God. In this day and age of completing tasks with a single click, how great it is to have an app that helps you to pray on the go, too!

For many Christians, including myself, prayer doesn't come easy. I find myself falling in and out of prayer - sometimes I feel that I'm in too deep in my faith that I cry upon hearing the first few notes from the church organ. Sometimes I feel too far out from my faith that I have this cocky confidence that I can fix things all by myself. God must be chuckling at how my 27-year-old self has the mindset of a 16-year-old know-it-all!

There is a nice feature in the app where you can submit prayer requests and read up on other people's prayers and help them pray for their intentions. You can also join them in thanksgiving for the good that has happened in their lives. I was scrolling through the prayers today and found it lovely that people are praying not just for themselves but also for others. How great it is to have friends who pray for you! Who are concerned of your welfare that they would like to bring it to the Lord. It's kind of nice to imagine our God scrolling through this feed, 'Liking' each of the posts or reacting with hearts or sending a reply. I wonder how he manages to get through all of it - there is simply a lot of praises and prayers going up every second. And then I come to think about all these people who pray for others. I think they are God's humble assistants who help Him provide for a request or give an answer to someone in doubt. I think we are all God's assistants and we have this duty to pray for our friends, to make sure that they don't disappear from God's priority or To Do List and to help Him keep them on tab. Although God is a one-man band, surely he appreciates audience participation?

Thank You, God, for everything. For giving us courage even in the mere act of sending a prayer Your way. You are my friend and I pray You will call me one of Yours. Thank You for the struggles that You help me to overcome each and everyday. Thank You for guiding our steps, for lighting our way. The world is not perfect and neither are we. But Your grace keeps us sane. I love You dearly.

Thursday 10 May 2018

Book Tour | Sass, Smarts and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary


Book Title: Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile

Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 201 pages

Genre: Travel / Arts / Fashion / Self-help

Publisher: Sumisura Publications

Release date: November 2017

Tour dates: April 23 to May 11, 2018

Content Rating: G (No violence. No swear words. No sex scenes.)


Ah, that inimitable Italian style. It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. Fashion doesn’t define her. She defines herself. She knows an extraordinary life is not about status, money, or achievement. The only mastery it requires is one her heritage has given her, the irrepressible passion to make art of life itself.

Ask an Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels. It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms.

Sass, Smarts and Stilettos takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence, and the humanistic business practices of Luisa Spagnoli, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Alberta Ferretti, from the emergence of Italy’s fashion industry after WWII, to slow food and sustainable fashion initiatives taking root around the world.

Life lessons echo in the words of the author’s mother and grandmother, in the voices of Italian film divas, designers, tastemakers, writers, and artisans across generations, from the first Sala Bianca in Florence to the game-changing design ethic of Franca Sozzani, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace.

Learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living. Say goodbye to mindless consumerism, emotional clutter, and others’ expectations. Create a personal style that fits like a custom blazer by FerrΓ¨ and enchants like the colors of a Sicilian sunset. Then go on to craft an extraordinary and empowering life made-to-measure for you alone.

To read reviews, please visit Gabriella Contestabile's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

Gabriella Contestabile is the author of the novel, The Artisan’s Star, and owner of Su Misura (Made to Measure) Journeys; a boutique travel concept for the female traveler who relishes off-the-beaten-track adventures that celebrate the Italian way of life.

The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.

One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn


I admit that I don't read a lot of non-fiction books (unless they're for work!) but the beautiful cover of Ms. Contestabile's new title didn't make me think twice about wanting to leaf through it. I read this book during my bus journeys, lunch periods, and also on my days off. Not out of duty but because I truly enjoyed it! Every page paints a picture of Italy, its roots, and just how lovely and respectable the Italian woman is.

I have been to Italy twice in my life - the first time was when I was about three years old and the next was when I was seven. These were back in the day when family holidays abroad weren't very common. Unfortunately, neither of these trips I can remember well. This book definitely made me see why our parents brought us there twice - because how can you not? As an adult, I definitely would love to come back again and experience it for myself (where I am actually aware of what's happening around me - haha!). The food, the sights, the clothing... the author has done very well in showing us what makes her proud about her roots.

I think this book is for everyone regardless of whether or not you have been to Italy. It is just so eloquently written to the point that you feel you are escaping into a holiday whenever you read it. I also feel that it has been well researched and all the facts about designers and the history of different places were very informative. I found myself Googling things along the way - such as palazzo pants! I see them everywhere these days but didn't know what they were called. This book will also make you want to try new things (for me, that would be the fish baked in salt crust. I found out that Gusto in Newcastle Quayside serves it, which is near where I am. Must try it soon!) and is that such a bad thing? Also, I think the book ties in very well with one of my favourite books of all time - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Praise for Ms. Contestabile's writing! I would give this all stars and more. If you can't get enough of her, I suggest checking out her blog where she writes just as lovely as if she were working on a book.

One of my favourite quotes from Sass, Smarts and Stilettos:
When we explore our heritage, via intention or impulse, we make unexpected connections. They come to us while we read a line in a novel or watch a mother roll up the sleeve of her child's sweater, when we catch a whiff of jasmine on a summer evening in Villa Borghese or rub a fabric that rustles the way it did when we were children.


1.What is your favourite restaurant in Italy?

There are so many, not only restaurants but tiny bars and trattorie that are either off the beaten tourist track or not highly publicized. That’s where you want to go.

Caffe' Canova Tadolini in Rome, once the neoclassical sculptor’s studio for a morning cappuccino, pastry, and a fresh pressed ‘spremuta d’arancio’ whilst surrounded by his preparatory models of world famous works of art.

For truly artisanal gelato and chocolate Vestri in Florence, also known as Vestri, Cioccolato d’Autore.

The outdoor terrazza of the JK Place Firenze for aperitivo and stuzzichini (small plates) in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

For a special dinner I might go to Ora D’Aria, Buca Lapi, or Borgo San Jacopo in Florence. All are outstanding, elegant, gracious, and serve a delicious cuisine. On a daily basis however I go where the locals go. I had the best pizza Napolitana I’ve ever eaten at a tiny bar in the port of Naples for example.

And the minute I step foot in Florence I go to a tiny bar on a side street off Piazza Santa Maria Novella for my favorite, a delicious pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan tomato and bread soup) with a glass of local wine and followed by the espresso I’d been dreaming of on my flight into Fiumicino.

2. What is one misconception about Italians?

That we eat voluminous amounts of over-sauced food and that there’s a single generic Italian cuisine. Each Italian region from north to south boasts its own distinctive cuisine based on microclimates, and what grows in the soil.

That said, the basics are non-negotiable; fresh, locally sourced ingredients simply prepared and savored slowly, preferably with a glass of the local wine. Think branzino (sea bass) baked with herbs and served with a simple drizzle of first press local olive oil in a restaurant by the navigli in Milan, spaghetti cacio e pepe or fried artichokes in Rome, a pappa al pomodoro (a Tuscan bread and tomato soup) and a bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine steak) in Florence.

Bad food for an Italian is never an option. You will find fresh, simply prepared, delicious food everywhere outside the commercial tourist areas, even in rest stops along the highway, at airports, ski resorts, beaches, in schools, or in the smallest trattoria in a residential neighborhood. No processed food. No bad coffee. If you encounter bad food in Italy it’s because you’ve ended up in a place no Italian would set foot in.

3. Can you tell us about your daily routine?

I get up early and do a 20-minute morning meditation to unravel the mental cobwebs. Then I write for thirty minutes in my journal. No editing, just a free write warm up. Espresso. A long walk or a gym work out which may end up at an espresso or a juice bar. I find getting out and about around people, activity, relatively fresh air (I live in NYC) energizes and inspires me. I try to write, first by hand, then on the computer, until early afternoon when I switch hats and work on my boutique travel business, and book marketing plans.

At night I unwind with a cup of tea and a good book. I find the more I read the better I write, and the more fun I have doing it. I’m also addicted to Netflix.

4. What is your writing inspiration?

Settings, people, dogs, flowers, a chance encounter, a setback. I believe that once a writer has a story she’s passionate about telling everything is material.

With Sass Smarts and Stilettos I started with a draft for the back cover copy (thank you to my publisher Julie Salisbury for helping me define the reader experience I wanted to create), and an outline. From there when influences were around me I could spot them; a lecture on sustainability at FIT, an exhibit on the Plains Indians, a childhood memory. My research came to me in the form of activities and experiences. I seized on every one. Research in motion as I call it. What was fascinating was how these events intertwined with the narrative of the story in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

5. Based on the above what advice would you give a new writer?

Writing can be isolating. Don’t let it be. A writer needs to get out as much as possible, walk for hours at a time, go to art exhibits, interact, take up a sport, a language, a new hobby. Inspiration is all around you so if the muse takes a vacation don’t stress until she comes back. Get up from your computer and get moving. And while you’re out when you least expect it you will see or experience something that sparks an idea, takes your story in a new direction, or helps you finally craft those critical lines of dialogue for an important scene.

Didn't I tell you? Her writing is delicious! Just her answers to this interview made me glow! 😍

Friday 6 April 2018

Airport Reading

Today I am a happy camper - comfortably sitting with my feet propped up on my luggage and reading Ang Nawawala to pass the time. Our flight to the Balearics is in a few hours and somehow I feel calm and content just leafing through this book and thinking about the stuff I want to get done when we get there - which is mostly snoozing and eating and enjoying the sights.

Really looking forward to the warm weather. Been battling the cold wintry weather for too long! 🌞⛱

Wednesday 28 February 2018

Snowed In

Today is a very very snowy day in the UK. I am on my annual leave and I thought it was a lovely coincidence that the worst of the weather is on my day off as there is no way I could get to work on these conditions. It looks very beautiful outside though! So bright and white.

I have been doing lots of reading today and it has been great! I really want to get past A Court of Mist and Fury already but I feel it is dragging on a bit. I came across this freebie from Filipina author Mina V. Esguerra and it was a nice, sweet and short read.

Gifted Little Creatures, I believe, is a short story based on the author's Interim Goddess of Love trilogy which I haven't read yet. After reading this story, I am considering getting a start on the trilogy at some point because honestly I couldn't really get the premise from the short story alone. I did find it interesting, however, and it really did catch my attention. Gods and goddesses walking among humans, anyone? And how cute is the illustration on the cover? πŸ’• I find it funny as well that I'm also reading ACOMAF which is about faeries getting themselves involved with the mortal world. I think in March I need to read a book that's more real-life and less dystopian/fantasy. I do love this genre - don't get me wrong. But maybe I need to switch things up a bit so I don't get into a reading slump.

Review: Gifted Little Creatures

Gifted Little Creatures Gifted Little Creatures by Mina V. Esguerra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Paper & Glam Book Club January 2018 Discussion Questions:

Ice breaker: Do you have a 2018 reading goal?
Yes! I am aiming to read at least 12 books this year. Hopefully I can incorporate all of the P&G book club picks into this goal plus my personal book choices.

1. What was your experience reading 'When Breath Becomes Air'? Star rating?
This was a very quick read for me. It was something I read consistently on the bus to and from work and during break times when I could. It was eye-opening, moving, and just - grounding. I got an insight into just how busy life is in the medical field and the commitment from doctors makes you realise how silly it is whenever we complain that we have been waiting long for our appointments and that our doctors just don't 'get' us or they're just after the money. I think that when you're a doctor, the line between personal life and career is blurred. They deserve much more than we give them credit for. I also have a greater appreciation for the staff non-directly involved in the diagnosis and treatment - the lab staff (such as myself!) who work behind the scenes to ensure lab tests are reported on time so that management of diseases can occur then and there. And of course, the rest of the healthcare professionals such as nurses and assistants who give aid even when they are in need of rest themselves.

Paul's illness has made me think that life is short but that is not the point - what's important is what you make of it. Despite the struggle, Paul wrote his book, shared what he knew and felt about life and death, and also started a family. I know that little Cady, even with the few moments shared with her father, is proud of him and forever will be.

I rate this book 5 out 5 stars.

2. What passages or sentences struck you as particularly profound or moving?
For much of his life, Paul wondered about death—and whether he could face it with integrity. In the end, the answer was yes. I was his wife and a witness.

3. What do you think of Paul and Lucy's decision to have a child, in the face of his illness? When Lucy asked him if he worried that having a child would make his death more painful, and Paul responded, "Wouldn't it be great if it did," how would that strike you? Do you agree that life should not be about avoiding suffering, but about creating meaning?
I think it was a wonderful decision for Paul and Lucy to have a child. Regardless of Paul's state at that time, giving Lucy the gift of motherhood was beautiful. I am sure that Lucy sees Paul in Cady every single day - she is a reminder of their love and their life together. The birth of Cady also made Paul, in his final days, happy and content and it makes me smile thinking how such a tiny baby, unaware of the world around her, can bring so much joy to someone without lifting a finger or saying a word. In my opinion Paul said those words about death being more painful because it gave him a sense of legacy - that his life and death would leave a mark in the world even after he has gone and that Cady would be an instrument of his passion for his work even if she doesn't necessarily choose the same career path.

Suffering in life is inevitable but despite this I hope we strive to create meaning the way Paul has set an example for us. Sometimes our daily routines keep us from seeing what is important in life and that's a shame. Paul allowed me to reflect on myself and to ask what it is I want to do in life and to make out of it.

4. Did you come away with any new insights into the meaning of life?
This book has made me think that circumstances in life do not necessarily get handed to us on a plate. Our choices bring about those circumstances and our hands are on the wheel. Sure, we are not always in control of where life leads us, but we have the ability to change variables such as speed, sights, and sounds if we need or want to. Speed - as in whether we want to live in the moment, or to let the days pass as quickly as possible; sights - as in whether we want to see what is before us and reflect why we are witnesses to it, or to turn a blind eye; and sounds - as in whether we want to hear words of thanks or comfort or praise, or to succumb to the noise of routine. I personally am still questioning what I am put in this earth for and I have a greater acceptance now, after reading this book, that I don't have to find the answers straight away but I am responsible and accountable to myself and to others to find the meaning for it.

5. If you loved 'When Breath Becomes Air' you'll also enjoy ___?
'The Notebook' by Nicholas Sparks. I love how the themes of selflessness and keeping to marriage vows are shared between these two books.