Travel

Looking back with gratitude

I enjoy writing about my travels very much and while somehow I didn’t find a moment to sit in front of my laptop and do so until now, I hope this post finds you well, healthy and safe wherever you are in this unsettled world at the present time. I promised to update you about where I had been these past few months so the simple answer is I took a gap-year from my life in Australia and found myself in Italy via Prague and Austria. If you had to put a label on it I suppose you could call it an extended holiday with the possibility to work as well, a “working holiday” – it’s a way to recharge my batteries and re-focus my energy and just find my happiest self again, which has always been when travelling. I have now called Italy my temporary home for nearly 7 months and everything was going reasonably well until the world got turned upside down over the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was devastatingly impacted by COVID-19 but now we are slowly starting to live a “new normal” type of lifestyle. One that includes wearing a face mask and gloves when interacting as a community and staying at a physical distance from one another.

Looking back on the past 8 months of travel that I have been very fortunate to do, it’s worth acknowledging that my memories of the trips I have taken and moments I experienced stand a tower above the anxieties and fears I felt during these past 2 months. What we’ve lived through and continue to live through is unprecedented and unnerving so let’s dive straight into the good moments, shall we?


Prague is a timeless, majestic city that impresses you from the first moment you step onto its streets. I had visited Prague one time before and on this occasion wanted to show my mum around the city I once fell in love with at age 19. Prague has so much charm and elegance and I could spend hours gazing up at the details in its architecture, with its intricately ornate facades and buildings straight out of a fairytale. There are so many more things I could tell you about Prague but thinking back to my visit in September feels like a lifetime ago, so let’s allow my photos to tell a better story…

Remaining in the Czech Republic, my mum and I travelled onto Cesky Krumlov by bus from Prague one afternoon for a short stay. It was love at first sight! I know I mentioned that I thought Prague was a fairytale city but this town was straight out of a classic children’s storybook! The town has a castle overlooking a river, picture-perfect squares with typically cute buildings, lots of green spaces and many spots to just stand still and admire the views of this incredible place.

We needed to make our way into Italy from the Czech Republic and Austria was the perfect place to spend a few more nights as we navigated south. The town we chose was Kufstein, “the pearl of the Tyrol”, a town so beautiful in autumn that I found myself thinking a lot about it during lockdown. Thinking about the heavenly mountain views and breathtaking vistas that opened up when we braced ourselves for dear life on the only single open-air chairlift remaining in Austria and reached an altitude of 1,256m for an experience I will never forget. Kufstein had some of the friendliest people and most amazing memories for me and from there it was a 6 hour direct train ride to Bologna, Italy.

If you allow me, I would like to devote more time to the Italian cities that I visited in future posts. I can just simply tell you that in 7 months I was fortunate enough to call 6 apartments my home in Bologna, Pistoia, Florence and now Viareggio. I have barely scratched the surface of this fascinating country when travel was halted but I have hope within myself that there’s still more discoveries just waiting to be made and I can see a few more cities before returning home around October this year. Nothing is for certain during this time but at least I have these incredible memories to look back on and be proud of. Hopefully we can make more travel memories together again very soon. Stay safe out there, dear friends!

If you enjoyed these photos, please feel free to follow me on Instagram where I post a lot more often. Cheers!

Illustration

Spreading Joy Through Illustration

14 Illustrated portraits in 35 days…

Hello! Welcome back to my blog. It has been quiet around here for these last few months for as some of you may know I set out on a trip of a lifetime last September. Beginning in Prague and through Austria entering Italy, it was in many ways a dream come true gap-year so far (I promise to share more about it soon) but right now I am living alone in a small flat in a Tuscan beachside town in a state of lockdown. It hasn’t been easy to put it mildly. There have been so many emotions and moments of pure defeat but little by little I’m pushing through. At the beginning of Italy’s tough quarantine measures over a month ago now I decided to connect with my most engaged Instagram followers in a different way. If I was going to survive this new lifestyle there had to be something creative for me to do within these four walls and I knew that I had everything available to me to undertake a new and creative project unlike anything I’ve ever done before. So I asked a select few followers to send me a photo of themselves that I could turn into an illustrated portrait of them. In an effort that spanned over 30 days I took up the challenge of sitting behind my laptop daily, stylus pen in hand, drawing tablet at the ready and Adobe Illustrator at my fingertips to create something meaningful for them to cherish and something that I hoped would take all our minds off the news headlines. Today I completed this project and I’m super proud of all 14 portraits I managed to create. It has been a true labour of love. The hashtag for this project was #spreadingjoythroughillustration and if you would like to head over to Instagram you’ll find lots of cool things about this project including a funky new process video I just uploaded. In reality I had so much fun bringing joy to people all around the world and I would consider myself truly blessed to have had this opportunity. Just as musicians are continuing to take to social media to entertain us during these difficult times with their voices, this was something I felt I could contribute to the world to hopefully bring a smile to someone’s face.

So here are all 14 portraits for you to see. Stay safe, keep thinking positively and together we will get through this. Lots of love to everyone.

DIY

Free Easter Colouring Pages!

We’ve got a special treat for you all to wish you a very Happy Easter! 

There are 3 designs available for free for you to print at home and enjoy.

These are difficult times and we hope that we can bring you at least some joy by providing something fun to do at home while we are all living under special circumstances.

Happy Easter from us to you!

Here is the link to download your colouring pages, enjoy:

https://gracefulavenue.wordpress.com/fun/

Handmade

DIY Washi Tape Swatch Sheet

I have been loving putting pen to paper for a few years now and really enjoy making beautiful friendships through the disappearing art of letter writing. With each letter I send out I simply love including a few extra things in the envelope such as stickers, die-cuts, gift tags, little cards or notes but have never really included washi tapes (since they are so bulky) until now.

For this mini DIY project you’ll need:

  • Polypropylene sheets
  • Washi tapes
  • Cutting mat
  • Craft knife
  • Corner cutter
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers (for optional decorating)

Step-by-step Process:

  • Cut the polypropylene sheets to the size you want. If you’re planning on sending this in your snail mail make sure you make it small enough to fit into your envelope!
    Round off the corners to eliminate sharp edges. Scissors may also be used to cut the corners.
    For this next step you can decorate the swatch with markers that are smudge-resistant for a creative touch! This is optional of course.
    Now the fun part – choose which washi tapes you’d like to stick on the swatch and wind the tape around as many times as you like. The more tape, the heavier your letter will be.
    And there you have it! Get as creative as you like, there really are no rules for this DIY.

Music

“Singing to Strangers” Review

It hasn’t been an easy road for singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti. He has been in the music industry for the better part of 15 years but it was with his sixth studio album, “Singing to Strangers” released in March 2019, that he reached the Number 1 spot on the UK album charts for the first time and has already seen the record go Silver in its first month. Savoretti credits his success to his loyal fan base and his incredibly hard-working team but the truth is he is one of the most gifted musicians of our generation and this feels like only just the beginning.

I have reviewed Jack’s other albums in the past (see here and here) and upon listening to “Singing to Strangers” it’s very evident that there is a whole new sound and atmosphere to this one, which pays homage to Savoretti’s Italian roots and the longing to return to the romance and splendour of Italian cinema of the 1960s and 70s. In fact Savoretti created this body of work to be viewed as a series of movie scenes forming one epic movie, one which aims to transform you to another time and place. Recorded in Ennio Morricone’s studio in Rome, the vibe of the music may be different but the result is a masterpiece of performances where it’s impossible not to feel something while listening to it.

The opening track “Candlelight” is the perfect introduction to the new direction Jack was striving to take this album. Many have described it as the ideal track for the next James Bond film as it’s mysterious, bold and unlike anything currently on the radio. “Love Is On The Line” and “Dying For Your Love” have an unmistakable Mediterranean flavour, while “Better Off Without Me” brings us back down to earth in the most heartbreaking of ways showing Jack’s vulnerability within songwriting. The next track “What More Can I Do” is the epitome of the sound from another era and Jack actually wrote the track based around the melodic violin part taking it to a whole new level.

The title track seems to be a glorious way of storytelling through song. The idea came from Jack’s little daughter Connie who was telling her friend that her dad “goes around the world singing to strangers” for a living. As a result the sincerity and honesty in “Singing to Strangers” is palpable from the first note to the last.

Next up is the true disco number of the whole album, “Youth and Love” with a catchy, upbeat instrumental backing track. What follows is an extraordinary collaboration with Bob Dylan in “Touchy Situation” in which Jack was sent Dylan’s lyrics and composed the music for the track. The result is a brilliant ballad with power and conviction, something to truly be proud of.

What transpired when a beautiful and melodic striking of the keys combines with Jack’s incredible vocals is heard in “Greatest Mistake”, a fan-favourite and an absolute gem. Here is everything we’ve come to love about Savoretti’s songwriting over the years but on a grander, more cinematic scale.

Perhaps my favourite track from this album is “Things I Thought I’d Never Do”. He wrote the song on the piano rather than hunched over a guitar and the result is spine-tingling and inspiring. His passion and determination in his “confessions” for this piece come from a place deep within Jack’s soul without a doubt. The result is a raw example of how far true talent can take you if given the chance.

Another piano-centric performance is the powerful “Going Home” about Jack’s journey as a musician and what it means to chase his dreams. The sacrifices, the blood, sweat and tears. He was close to giving up in the early days but thankfully he persevered and today he is a shining beacon of hope and positivity for so many struggling musicians in the world.

Next is “Symmetry” with its intriguing melody and catchy orchestral arrangements before “Beginning Of Us” gives us another soulful ballad with drive, meaning and heart. Then it’s onto the second collaboration of the album with Australia’s own Kylie Minogue lending her vocals to their duet together “Music’s Too Sad Without You”, recorded live in Venice along with Luigi Tenco’s “Vedrai Vedrai”, sung live in the Italian language, morphed with Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” to complete an album unlike any other.

In summary “Singing to Strangers” is different in sound to all of Jack’s other works but delivers track after track of pleasure-filled hits. We are entertained, enlightened and enthralled into another world with Jack’s pitch-perfect and passion-fused vocals mixed with some incredible instrumental performances by Jack’s very talented “band of brothers”.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jack at his “Acoustic Nights Live” series of shows in Milan, Italy, last year and it’s definitely safe to say that he was grounded, kind and humble. A true superstar in his own right. I have been a fan of his music for over 10 years and I’m so excited about what the future holds. Success has not defined him nor slowed him down. He is about to embark on a multi-city European tour across The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and the UK before perhaps the biggest achievement to date, playing a massive show at London’s Wembley Arena on May 31st. US tour dates supporting British superstar Dido have been confirmed for June and a series of festival line-ups have been scheduled across Europe this summer. All of us here in Australia will just have to wait our turn but Jack did say that a return Down Under is on the cards for 2019.

“Singing to Strangers” is available to purchase and stream right now and all of Jack’s tour dates and tickets can be found here.

Life, Stationery

InCoWriMo Challenge Completed

The idea of handwriting one letter for each day in February actually really scared me in the beginning but I’m proud to report that I’ve now completed the InCoWriMo challenge as of yesterday, and really enjoyed myself in the process. International Correspondence Writing Month connects hundreds of people from all around the world with a passion for the written word. You choose 28 people from the list to write to and post one letter each day. There was just something so relaxing about writing, engaging my mind with thoughts, and of course the creative part of decorating the envelopes and picking out which stationery to send alongside the letter.

Summary

I waited until I had a whole bunch of letters written before posting them so that I could take some cool photos first then release them out to friends and strangers in all corners of the world.

So let’s take a photographic look on the experience I had writing and sending 28 letters in February.

Day1Day2Day3Day4Day5Day6Day7Day8Day9Day10Day11Day12Day13Day14Day15Day16Day17Day18Day19Day20Day21Day22Day23Day24Day25Day26Day27Day28

I’ve had an absolute blast taking part in this challenge and would like to thank everyone that sent me some snail mail as well as the incredible postmen and postwomen who work so incredibly hard in all weather conditions to get our mail delivered. Thank you!

PostBox

 

Latest News, Stationery

Letter Writing Challenge

Happy 2019, dear readers! If you are wondering how we are almost at the end of January already, I’m shaking my head right beside you in disbelief. At least we are a few days away from February, which starts off “International Correspondence Writing Month” (InCoWriMo). The concept involves putting pen to paper and writing a letter a day for each day of February, resulting in 28 letters or postcards in total. I’ve signed up for my second year of this challenge and you can still sign up until January 31st right here.

For a stationery lover like me, I look forward to not only revisiting my own handwriting style, but also sending out cute stickers, postcards and illustrations along with my letters. While there are many different ways to choose your 28 recipients, I’m treating this as a way to make friends in countries that I love and virtually travel to my favourite cites. I hope you can join me in this InCoWriMo challenge for a much needed step away from technology and back to traditional ways of corresponding.

Australia, Melbourne

Photography tour of Fitzroy

Just a short tram ride from Melbourne’s CBD you’ll find a gem of an area filled with the artistic, music-loving types, the students, poets, foodies and bohemians. They have all found a place to belong in the leafy suburbs of Brunswick and Fitzroy where street art is plentiful and you can get completely lost wandering the hidden alleyways that weave their way around town. There are plenty of good restaurants, grungy clothing boutiques, funky music stores, quaint corner pubs and hip design markets to keep you entertained for hours. If you dig a little deeper you’ll soon discover that Fitzroy is easy to fall in love with and there’s certainly a lot to love about it.

While exploring this part of Melbourne on a typical spring day with beautiful sunshine and a lazy Sunday feel, here is what I saw…

Travel

Remembering the Amalfi Coast

It seems like an eternity ago now that my feet touched down on Italian soil after a dream Greek escapade. In reality it was only 5 months ago that our plane took off from Santorini and landed in Naples via Athens. All those memories come flooding back to me now. The ease of changing countries in Europe, the splendour of short flights and the eagerness to see everything that a country has to offer. I love to travel. To expand my horizons and explore new places with open eyes, a yearning soul and a refreshed mind. Every day to awaken and get excited for all that is planned as well as the unexpected surprises. To travel is to live.

Flashback to the end of March and the start of beautiful spring weather. We didn’t spend much time in Naples until after visiting the majestic Amalfi Coast so our first point of interest was finding the bus that would take us directly to Sorrento. That was our base for this leg of our trip and a glorious town where lemons grew in abundance and their scent filled the air. Specialty shops sold limoncello and you could walk down long, picturesque streets and shop for all the souvenirs your heart desires.

We took a guided tour of the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento in an 8-seater mini van and our extremely confident driver Massimo who navigated all the twists and turns of the road with great precision and confidence. Our first stop was Positano, the jewel of the Amalfi Coast, with its vast mountain vistas and multi-coloured houses stacked on top of each other like Rubik’s cubes. We were only given an hour to spend in that enchanting town with sparkling blue water but since we were there so early in the morning it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

Next on the tour was the thriving and extremely beautiful town of Amalfi. The crowds in late-March were plentiful and it would be crazy to imagine what goes on there in the peak of summer! Our driver gave us about 1.5 hours there so we quickly ran up the steps and entered the miraculous Duomo di Amalfi. The interiors of the cathedral were intricate and ornate and I highly recommend a visit even if you’re pressed for time. Amalfi had everything one could possibly want and more. For the brief amount of time I got to walk its streets I could already see that this town was pure gold in terms of lifestyle, shopping, food and relaxation.

For lunch our tour guide took us to the oldest and most marvellous hillside town of Scala where we devoured a light three-course meal. The views from that place were to die for!

Finally we made our last stop in gorgeous Ravello. The home of two lavish villas – Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo, though we only had enough time to visit the latter and what can I say, every square mile of that place was perfection. Our visit was just before the flowers started to bloom but nonetheless the views totally impressed us.

When researching which tours to take along the Amalfi Coast we were spoilt for choice. As it was low-season we waited until we got to Sorrento and then booked our tour from the Information Centre next to the main train station. The company we went with is Amalfi Coast Tour Select. Our driver was witty and charismatic, knowledgable, precise and with a great sense of humour. His driving along the winding roads was incredible. In my experience a tour is always the most memorable part of a trip and having the right tour guide is ultra important. On this occasion, we were thrilled with our tour even though it was a bit of a rush from start to finish. The more you see the better, right?

Stationery

AliExpress Stationery Haul

As a stationery designer it’s always such a treat to be able to order some cute stationery for my own ever-growing collection. I love to shop on AliExpress as there’s always a great variety of products at a great price, usually with free shipping to Australia. In recent years I bought lots of different items from this popular site that offers everything from technology to clothing, homewares to beauty and everything in between!

Just the other day an order arrived from the “house of novelty Official Store” in China and got me all excited for the totally adorable stickers I received. Let’s take a look:

These are probably my favourite stickers of all time and I just adore them! I’ll definitely use these to decorate my letters and envelopes as well as sending a bunch to snail mail friends.

These travel-themed stickers are giving me major wanderlust! Their small size makes them ideal for inclusion in my outgoing letters and their quality is simply great.

Cute animal stickers anyone? I can’t wait to send some of these to my friends with young children who are going to love them!

So there you have it. You can click on the images of these products to be taken to the ordering page on AliExpress. Happy shopping!

Disclaimer: I was not paid to post about these products. All opinions are my own.