My Nona’s Story

family, grandmas are both italian, happiness, inspiration, italy, Uncategorized

Last night out at dinner, my Nona opened up to me after me not knowing anything my whole life. She started talking, and I to know it all.

What I learned is something I live by everyday:

“when you know what you want to know, it’s just in you. You have to do it. ” Anita felt that with her art, and also her cooking. I was inspired by her past:

Anita grew up in Trieste for the first 18 years of her life. Through the bombings of her home, losing everything, and then following her father and family to America (because that’s what you did, she says).

Her beau and later husband joined her in America shortly after with his family, and the were married when she was 20. Anita was a secretary in an office in Italy, but couldn’t do that in America because of the language difference. Her father told her she could make a lot of money in America, which she didn’t want necessarily, but got a job working in a factory sewing. Her mother-in-law moved in with her family, and tought Anita how to sew. She was a very good sewer, and knew Anita since she was 8. She loved her a lot.

When she lost her mother in law, and her husband (who was 56) she still had one of five children still to put through college. She had to go back to work. Her daughter and husband had connections in restaurant services and catering, so that’s what Anita did. She said it was the one thing she really loved and enjoyed doing. She was 50 after all. She became a caterer and became very successful at it. And she was very fast. “I was always very quick and good in the kitchen” she says. I had no idea she ran a kitchen like that, and cooked day and night. She was able to get her last child through college, and then could retire at 60.

These days we are lucky if we can afford loans for college. I will never stop thanking my parents for college. I can understand how hard it must’ve been only now in hindsight. The world was my oyster, my parents said. I could pick any college I wanted to go to, and once accepted we’d figure it out from there.

My Nona reminded me of how important a skill such as listening can be so powerful. It is a gift, it keeps you connected, it fills you with hopes and dreams for someone else for a change.

You know, yesterday Pinwheel Books went to the Brookline Rotary Club to speak, and hearing the charitable work all those people do every since day really affected me. Its made me want to give so much more back than ever before in my life. I guess that’s part of growing up? Being more community oriented than self centered? Regardless, I know talking to my Nona made us other feel very special. She has always never quite clicked with my fathers sisters, and neither me or my sister ever got along with them so great. So in being outsiders, we formed an alliance. Hey, what family doesn’t have teams?!

Anita said she wanted to write all of this down, it’s never left her, she could write a book! Well, I hope this post is our start to doing so.

Remembering an idol

Today, Maurice Sendak passed away. And the children’s book world lost one of it’s innovators. 
I wrote about this on my blog over at Kidslit Musings on Pinwheel Books. Here’s a transcription of what I wrote:


Inside all of us is hope. love. fear. sadness. dreams. adventure. and so much more.
If it hadn’t been for Maurice Sendak, I don’t think a lot of us would remember that.
This morning, we are grieving the loss of a beloved icon in children’s literature. Most famously known for Where the Wild Things Are, author/illustrator Maurice Sendak passed away today. He was 83 years old.
But his career is so much more than that. He is the gold standard for some of the most highly praised children’s books. Some of his stories have caused controversy, but many of his stories embody the essence of childhood. Here’s just a taste of his career, as the New York Times surmises in an article written this morning (read the full version at


Among the other titles he wrote and illustrated, all from Harper & Row, are “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981), which together with “Where the Wild Things Are” form a trilogy; “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” (1960); “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1967); and “The Nutshell Library” (1962), a boxed set of four tiny volumes comprising “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny” and “Pierre.”
In September, a new picture book by Mr. Sendak, “Bumble-Ardy” — the first in 30 years for which he produced both text and illustrations — was issued by HarperCollins Publishers. The book…tells the not-altogether-lighthearted story of an orphaned pig (his parents are eaten) who gives himself a riotous birthday party.


These are not your typical Golden Books stories for children. They aren’t ‘cutesy’, but rather gritty, dark, sometimes scary, but so honest and true. Sendak was full of imagination, and seemed to just get what kids were all about in his stories. And for the most part, they were angry, annoying, bossy, snarky, crass, lonely, and introspective. We know our kids have these qualities, but rarely did books portray these characters as protagonists. Sendak didn’t shun from difficult stories to tell. Probably because he himself had a difficult life story to also tell.


As an artist/illustrator, I think how he portrayed himself and his life in his work is what has most deeply affected me as I have gotten to know him through his books. He was honest with himself, and honest in his characters. They were never mean, never hurtful, just not always happy-go-lucky. They were tinged with a bit of harsh reality that books tended to sugar coat throughout children’s literature of the 20th century.
I think this is why books today can tackle so many different issues. Why protagonists are flawed, have imperfections, have obstacles and have upset moments. They can get angry, or sad. They can also be completely happy and excited and alive. Even Sendak’s characters achieve this spectrum of emotion.
The fluidity of his characters speaks to his artistic talents, taking inspiration from traditional techniques and turn-of-the-century, Golden Age Illustrators. This book in particular has inspired a lot of my storytelling capabilities. The New York Times notes:


Mr. Sendak went on to illustrate books by other well-known children’s authors, including several by Ruth Krauss, notably “A Hole Is to Dig” (1952), and Else Holmelund Minarik’s “Little Bear” series. The first title he wrote and illustrated himself, “Kenny’s Window,” published in 1956, was a moody, dreamlike story about a lonely boy’s inner life.
“A Hole Is to Dig” may be another undiscovered gem in Sendak’s career, in this author’s opinion. What is remarkable about his body of work is this depth of personality his characters can emulate. One minute, there might be Max throwing a tantrum, but the next, they may appear in vignettes like “A Hole is To Dig”, where they are dancing, singing, or just playing.


These quieter stories are extremely provocative. The Moon Jumpers – for instance – is a tale about children in the night. Beautifully written and illustrated, there is a visceral energy in the mundanity of the adventure. And yet, in its mundanity is fantasy and adventure!


It’s so important for an author to have range. And by golly Sendak had it. He had a deep understanding of children throughout his life, combined with a need to reflect his own life stories. These gifts will always be treasured, and always be missed.


To me, he will always be just another big kid in a grownup world


Tonight though, I hope to go to where the wild things are. 



This is a picture of me at the age of four. Sunday was my birthday, and my family came to visit! My mom brought this picture, along with many other baby pictures to reminisce with:


I can’t believe that was twenty years ago. TWENTY!!!!!!!!

But I have to say – I still wear polka dots and bows. I probably still have that toy in the background. And I still smile just as big 🙂

new design


I’ve recently updated my portfolio, website, and blog design! Since my portfolio has definitely grown this year…

I’m hoping to get back into my collage and other fine art endeavors as I can finally relax for a few more weeks, just in time to enjoy the rest of the summer!!

Enjoy and all good things…

apples to apples


When I put together my Senior Show, I came across a fun little piece I made in the Fall, and forgot how much fun I had with apples!

I made these apple sketches in the fall as part of an 88 Series Project. It was really inspiring, and I’m feeling nostalgic in my final weeks of RISD…..

this one is kinda different, just me playing with my watercolors and a liner brush. it was so loose and free to draw with paint.

the rest are some character based sketches:

love, n