5 things to accomplish in 2017

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I’ve never really made New Year’s resolutions. 1 January was just another day to me and until I was 23, my life followed the academic calendar anyway. However, as the years have gone by, and I’m supposed to be “adulting” (I totally missed out on the Adulting 101 course when it was being offered apparently), I’ve had to learn that the New Year doesn’t have to be full of silly resolutions like go to the gym 3 times a week and stop eating junk food cold turkey, but can be a time to reflect on what has happend over the last year (like deciding to not continue doing a job I hated and take my chances believing that I’m worth more!)  and choose some of the things I’d like to accomplish over the next trip around the sun. So, if you’re like me and you don’t like the idea of “resolutions”, but want some ideas of goals that you definitely can accomplish this year, here are 5 goals that I think are pretty damn attainable for 2017.

1 Travel more!
I was very fortunate to have travel opportunities throughout 3 continents before I finished high school, but I have to admit that since then I haven’t done as much travelling and I when I look back at my 18-year-old self, I imagined I would have travelled so much more by now. So, this year I’ve decided to take advantage of more travel opportunities and also use this as an opportunity to show my daughter more of the world we live in. I’m happy to say that our first mini vacation is lined up for just after New Years and will not only be a completely new experience for my daughter, but for me as well!

2 Start a savings plan… with a goal in mind!
Whether you already have a retirement plan or not, why not create your first or even a second or third savings plan.  I started my private pension plan late and I regret it, but at least I have it. If you don’t have one yet, start this year! If you already do, how about trying investing or another way of saving money for a future project… that trip to Thailand? Or a down payment on a house? If you start today, you’re one step closer than you were yesterday. So now that I have a retirement plan, I plan on establishing a second savings plan for some shorter-term projects.

3 Move your body
This does not mean you need to sign up for a marathon on New Year’s Day, all it means is move your body more than you usually do. Can you walk there? Do it. Is it raining? Ok, take the bus today and walk another day! And you don’t need any fancy gym memberships or expensive yoga classes. There are thousands of YouTube videos that you can check out for whatever you’re looking for. My favourite online yoga instructors are Yoga by Candace, who has an excellent blog and app to compliment her YouTube channel, and Yoga with Adriene, whose sense of humour makes even the most difficult poses worth laughing through. And we’ve all heard about HIIT, right? My DIY HIIT often involves good old jumping jacks or dancing around to music in my living room. Yes, that’s me dancing during work breaks! It’s a perk of working from home!

4 Drop the guilt!
Ok, this fits in well after what I’ve just suggested above. Ok, so you’ve decided to get more exercise, or try a plant-based diet for 2017 or some other more traditional “resolution”, but you sprain your ankle or eat cheese at a party. The world is still turning! Drop the guilt! It’s not worth it. Live your life. Plus, I like cheese!

5 Write more
Whether you journal, write short stories, poetry, are a seasoned journalist or are thinking about starting a blog, write more. For me writing is as essential as oxygen. And I can also tell when I haven’t been writing enough. I get very frustrated and no one wants a grumpy Roanna in the house. Even cutting edge antidepressants can’t fix that, only pen and paper.

Happy New Year! May 2017 be your best yet!

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at the Obei Obei Christmas market

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The Obei Obei (or Oh bej! Oh Bej!) Christmas market is the oldest traditional Christmas Market in Milan. The name, which comes from Milanese dialect, literally means “oh, how beautiful! or “oh, nice!”, just like we all say when we see something we really like at a market stall! Obei Obei takes place beginning on 7 December, the feast day of Milan’s patron saint, Ambrose, and lasts until Sunday. Although I hadn’t been since maybe 2007, I was happy to go back to experience a little bit of the atmosphere and just do what all other Milanese who remained in the city for the long weekend were doing on the 7th and 8th of December!

Il mercato dell’obei obei è il più vecchio mercato tradizionale a Milano. Il nome, che viene dal dialetto milanese, letteralmente significa “oh bello, oh bello!” come tutti noi dichiariamo quando vediamo qualcosa che ci piace a una bancarella. Il mercato inizia il 7 dicembre, la festa di Sant’Ambrogio, il patrono di Milano, e prosegue fino alla domenica. Anche se non ci ero andata da 2007, ero contenta di tornare e vivere un po’ dell’atmosfera e fare quello che fanno tutti i milanesi rimasti in città.

When I first arrived in Milan in 2005, the market was still being held at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, a place it had called home since 1886. In 2006, Obei Obei was transferred to the area around Castello Sforzesco, giving it much more space to accomodate the huge crowds attracted every year. I’d say going there on a rainy day sucks. I made that mistake ca. 2007 and never went back until this year. But this year I’m so happy I decided to go. Although I have to admit that I didn’t even buy anything, I really enjoyed just walking around and looking at the things for sale. It was like window shopping for things I had no interest in buying… but enjoyed looking at all the same. Like like kitsch little elves on mushrooms (see above!).

Quando sono arrivata a Milano in 2005, il mercato era ancora tenuto alla Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, la sua casa da 1886. In 2006, Obei Obei è stato spostato alla zona intorno al Castello Sforzesco per dare più spazio a questo mercato che attira tantissima gente ogni anno. Direi che andarci sotto la pioggia non è ideale. Ho fatto questo errore ca. 2007 e non ci ero mai tornata fino a quest’anno. Ma sono molto contenta che sono andata. Anche se devo ammettere che non ho comprato niente, mi sono divertita a girare il mercato guardando tutte le cose in vendita. Era come guardare le vetrine piene di cose che non volevo comprare… ma mi piaceva lo stesso. Come gli elfi sui funghi un po’ kitsch (vedi sopra!).

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And although I greatly enjoyed look at the stands full of colourful trinkets, I’ll admit I was more attracted to the food, because nothing says Christmas market more than local specialties, marzipan and Milan’s own panzerotti, a deepfried breadpocket traitionally filled with mozzarella and tomato, but which today you can find in a variety of savoury and sweet fillings.

E anche se guardare le bancarelle piene di cosine colorate è stato bello, ero più attirata dal cibo, perché un mercatino di natale non è un mercatino di natale senza le specialità locale, marzapane e i panzerotti milanesi!

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Although I wished I could find a place for that owl, an antique style candle holder or a good recipe for a bunt cake to bake in one of these pans, I just couldn’t justify adding anything to my new minimalist kitchen.

Avrei voluto trovare un posto per questo gufo, un portacandele antico o una buona ricetta per fare una torta in queste padelle, ma non potevo giustificare aggiungere qualcosa alla mia nuova cucina minimalista.

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However, if you’re interested in antique books, I’m sure there were some good finds in this stand. Unfortunately, we have no room on our many bookcases to buy anymore.

Però, se ti interessano i libri antichi, sono sicura che c’era qualcosa di buono a questa bancarella, ma purtroppo non abbiamo spazio sulle nostre librerie.

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I’d like to just finish by saying that regardless of the tragedy that took place at the Berlin Christmas Market this past week, don’t let it stop you from enjoying local events in your home town or while on holiday. These last few days, as we near 2017 and I think of my goals for this year, one of them is to travel more and not let anything hold me back. Don’t look for the enemy in someone who is different. Just live and focus on getting the most out of what opportunities life offers you despite any fears you  may have.

Vorrei solo dire che nonostante la tragedia al mercato natalizio di Berlino questa settimana, non lasciare che questo ti ferma da godere eventi locali nella tua città o mentre sei in vacanza. In questi giorni, man mano che avviciniamo al 2017 e penso ai miei obbietivi per il nuovo anno, uno è di viaggiare di più e non lasciare che nulla mi trattenga. Non cercare il nemico in qualcuno che è diverso di te. Vivi e punta su ottenere il massimo dalle opportunità che la vita ti dà nonostante le paura che forse avete.

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Interview: Michela Ameli, Illustrator

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This interview is the first in a series that I will be doing with people in my adopted homeland. Milan has given me some interesting opportunities and has led me to come in contact with every type of person from famous football players from the past to those in more artistic fields. In this first interview in a series I will be publishing here on Becoming Milanese, I’ve met with illustrator, Michela Ameli, someone who I have shared long email correspondence with for many years, a correspondence that has progressed from just regular girl chitchat to the overanalysis of everything that comes with being a first-time mother. Our friendship started out over the creation and subsequent redesign of my professional website and has grown into something more. We have stressed about our careers and the general economic situation in Italy, complained about the heat, humidity and mosquitos of summer and come to have a yearly Christmas party to celebrate what life is really about… eating cake and drinking wine while the kids play on floor. So if you’re wondering what it takes to become and illustrator or how that work-from-home mom really manages, read on!
(La versione in italiano segue dopo quella in inglese.)

RW: Ok, Michela, so tell me why did you decided to become an illustrator?
MA: I would have wanted to do so many things, everything creative or artistc: a scenographer (a job I did for a few years), an architect or an art historian! Then I saw the school I wanted to go to after high school and the idea of “telling a story through images” fascinated me. The possibility to enrich a text with my illustrations, with my vision of the story was what I wanted to do.

RW: What studies did you do to become an illustrator?
MA: I received my high school diploma from the artistic high school in my hometown of Casale Monferrato. Then I studied in the Illustration Department at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan. I didn’t live in Milan then, and I commuted for the duration of the course with 2 train changes each way. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed it!

RW: Can you tell me a bit about how you work and what instruments you use?
MA: When I started out I only used traditional drawing materials, mostly watercolours. However, for the last 10 years I’ve created my illustrations exclusively using a digital drawing software and a graphics tablet. The procedure is still the same: first, I go through an important phase of documentation and iconographic research, then a first digital draft and, after the client’s approval, I proceed to colouring it.

RW: You work from home and you’re also a mother of a little girl who has just started nursery school. How do you manage to balance your role as an illustrator and as a mother?
MA: By bending over backwards at times! But I think that’s the same for all mothers, even those who work in an office outside the home. Actually, I feel fortunate to be able to manage my working hours in the best way I feel I can and be able to dedicate more time to my daughter without having to respect rigidly imposed working hours. However, sometimes it can seem like holding a load of dishes and walking across a tightrope!
RW: I guess your illustration of our masked tightrope walker is really a mother in disguise!
MA: Yeah, maybe it is.

RW: What has been the biggest challenge in being a working mother?
MA: The daily challenge is trying to do everything in only 24 hours!

RW: How has your job changed throughout your career?
MA: For the first few years I worked almost exclusively for a single client who published manuals of all sorts… from dog care to reflexology, from tarot cards to Bach’s flowers! Then I began to collaborate with different Italian publishers on school textbooks and fiction. I have always loved the publishing world… of books, magazines… and over the years I’ve come to specialize in illustrating school textbooks, in particular those for middle school students.

RW: What advice would you give to young people who would like to become illustrators?
MA: I would say to work on developing your own personal unique style as soon as possible in order to be recognizable and have visibility on the internet by having your own online profile. Today, the internet is really the most effective way to make contacts.

To learn more about Michela’s work, you can visit her professional website or visit Sylvie Poggio Artists, the London illustration agency that represents Michela’s work abroad.

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Questa intervista è la prima di una serie che sto facendo con persone nel mio paese adottivo. Milano mi ha dato delle opportunità interessanti e mi ha permesso di incontrare delle persone più diverse dai giocatori di calcio alle persone nell’ambito delle arti. In questa prima intervista per la serie che sarà pubblicata qui su Becoming Milanese, ho incontrato un’illustratrice, Michela Ameli, qualcuno con la quale condivido una lunga correspondenza di email, una correspondenza che si è evoluta da chiacchiere tra donne all’enorme analisi di tutto che essere una mamma per la prima volta comporta. La nostra amicizia è iniziato durante la creazione e ridisegno del mio sito professionale ed è cresciuto in qualcosa più grande.  Ci siamo stressate sullo stato delle nostre carriere e la situazione economica generale in italia, ci siamo lamentate del caldo, l’umidità e le zanzare dell’estate e adesso abbiamo la festa di natale annuale per festeggiare il vero significato della vita… mangiare torta e bere vino mentre i bambini giocano. Se vi siete sempre chiesto come uno diventa un’illustratore e come quella mamma che lavora da casa veramente gestisce tutto, leggete!

RW: Allora, Michela, iniziamo con perché hai deciso di diventare un’illustratrice?
MA: Avrei voluto fare tante cose, tutte in campo creativo o comunque artistico: la scenografa (mestiere che ho intrapreso per qualche anno), l’architetto.. la storica dell’arte! poi ho visitato la scuola in cui mi sarei iscritta dopo le superiori e mi ha affascinato l’idea  del “raccontare per immagini”. La possibilità di arricchire un testo con le mie illustrazioni, le mie visioni della storia, era quello che volevo fare.

RW: Che studi hai fatto per diventare un’illustratrice?
MA: Mi sono diplomata al liceo artistico nella mia città natale, Casale Monferrato, e poi ho frequentato il dipartimento di illustrazione presso l’Istituto Europeo di Design a Milano. Non vivevo ancora a Milano, allora facevo la vita da pendolare con 2 cambi di treno. Guardando indietro, non so come l’ho fatto!

RW: Puoi spiegare un po’ come lavori e che tipo di attrezzi usi? (Lavori con entrambi carta e pastelli e anche il computer?)
MA: Quando ho iniziato la mia attività utilizzavo solo strumenti di disegno tradizionali, prevalentemente acquerelli. Da ormai più di 10 anni realizzo le mie illustrazioni esclusivamente in digitale utilizzando un software per il disegno e una tavoletta grafica. L’iter per arrivare alla tavola finita è sempre lo stesso: prima un’importante fase di documentazione e ricerca iconografica, poi un primo bozzetto, anche questo in digitale e, dopo l’approvazione da parte del Cliente, la colorazione.

RW: Tu hai il tuo ufficio in casa e se anche una mamma di una bambina alla scuola materna. Come riesci a equilibrare il tuo lavoro con il tuo ruolo da mamma?
MA: Facendo qualche salto mortale ogni tanto! Ma succede a tutte le mamme, anche quelle che lavorano fuori casa. Anzi, mi sento fortunata a poter gestire i tempi di lavoro come meglio credo potendo dedicare più tempo alla mia bimba senza il vincolo di orari imposti e prestabiliti.
RW: Suppongo che la tua illustrazione del funambolo mascherato è veramente una mamma in maschera!
MA: Sì, forse lo è.

RW: Qual’è stato la sfida più difficile in essere una mamma lavoratrice?
MA: La sfida è quotidiana e consiste nell’incastrare tutto facendosi bastare le 24 ore!

RW: Com’è cambiato il tuo lavoro durante tutta la tua carriera? (Hai cambiato tipologia di libri, ecc.?)
MA: Per i primi anni ho lavorato quasi esclusivamente per un singolo Cliente che pubblicava manuali di ogni sorta! Dalla cura del cane, alla riflessologia plantare, dai tarocchi ai fiori di Bach! Poi ho iniziato diverse collaborazioni con altri Editori italiani che si occupano di libri scolastici e narrativa. Ho sempre lavorato in ambito editoriale, per libri o riviste e negli anni mi sono specializzata proprio nell’illustrazione scolastica, in particolare per la scuola media.

RW: Quale consiglio daresti ai giovani che vogliono intraprendere il lavoro di illustratrice?
MA: Consiglierei di sviluppare il primo possibile uno stile personale e unico in modo da essere riconoscibili e cercare visibilità sul web (oggi davvero il canale più efficace per trovare contatti) mettendo on-line un proprio portfolio.

Per avere più informazioni sul lavoro di Michela, visitate il suo sito professionale. L’agenzia Londinese di illustratori che la rappresenta all’estero è Sylvie Poggio Artists.

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